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For All Nails #58: The Sweet Six

Flagler Grand Hotel [1]
South Beach, Georgia, SC, CNA
5 February 1973

The man known to the world as Colonel Henry Anson, RCNAAF,
late 14th Regiment (Air), Corps of Royal North American Marines [2],
was quietly beaming with pride.  This press conference was
the culmination of months of recruitment, training, and 
selection.  Finally the CNA and the world were being introduced
to the first six space pilots, the "Sweet Six", six young women
chosen by Anson as carefully as he would choose a new junior
wife for his own Family.

The Science Minister was speaking now -- since the new Defence
Minister was understandably preoccupied with the aftermath of
the Puerto Rican _debacle_ only two weeks ago, he was the senior 
Government official present.  For the People's Coalition, Anson 
thought, the publicity campaign surrounding of the Sweet Six was 
part of the last-ditch plan to salvage the election -- a reminder 
to the voters of the beauty and strength that the CNA, and the 
beleagured CNA military, could produce under Carter Monaghan's 
leadership.  Anson planned to vote for Monaghan himself next week.  
As something of an insider, he saw that the current Government did 
more good than harm in managing the activities of the real 
professionals like himself or like Joshua Abramowitz, the real
boss of the Science Ministry.  The space program would go on much
the same whether Monaghan stayed in or was replaced by Skinner.

Actually, though, the rest of the military needed some shaking up
after Moca, and the PC politicals at least had been around long enough
to get an idea where some of the skeletons were buried.  Put in a
bunch of new Liberal politicals and they'd be months just finding out
where the cloakrooms were.  Like every military man, Anson had an 
opinion about Moca.  He had no time for those in his own service 
who said that more air power would have made the difference.  You
could have blown hell out of the rocket sites, he thought wryly, but
without men with guns on the ground to control the aftermath you'd
never know what you'd blown up and what you hadn't.  There was no
substitute for the infantryman, no matter how technology moved forward.
And this time an overconfident commanding general had believed an
optimistic report of the enemy's strength, not brought enough of those
infantrymen, and then destroyed 1st and 2nd Marines against an impregnable
position trying to salvage an already lost situation.  Incompetence?  If
so, 'twere a grievous fault, and grievously had General Sir Francis Burns
answered for it, found last week clutching his revolver with his brains
spread across his carefully cleared desk [3].

He left this depressing subject to catch a few words from the next
speaker, his direct superior, General Sir Lyle MacDonald.  "These
young women, from every state of our Confederation, from across the
various services of our armed forces..."  Sir Lyle was a bit of a 
windbag when given a podium, but he had earned that knighthood by
modernizing the Air Force for the Atomic Age almost singlehandedly.
Now as the chief of the Space Service he was a reliable champion in
the bureaucratic struggle for resources, and a firm mentor and friend
to Anson.  Most importantly, perhaps, he was a fellow member of the 
Church of God's Universal Love, a Turnerite.  His True Name, like that
of "Henry Anson Long", was recorded in the Sacrament House in Excelsior
[4].  Born into the Monroe Family, the boy "Lyle Monroe" took his public 
name from his legal father, and had changed his True Name to "Lyle Monroe
MacDonald" on starting his own, so far monogamous, Family.  "Henry Anson"
had the same birth and legal name, as in those simpler days his legal 
father Brian Smith had simply become "Brian Anson" legally when he moved
from Boniface [5] to Excelsior to publicly marry Maureen Howard and 
secretly become the eighth spouse in the Anson Family.  Legally Henry had
remained an Anson when he Married into the Longs, and those Long children
born to his legal wife Virginia were legally Ansons though their True Name
would be Long until they Married for themselves.  Germ plasm was another 
matter -- Henry probably carried that of Daddy Ira rather than Daddy 
Brian, and had passed his on, he thought, to four of the Long children, 
only two of them Virginia's [6].  He supposed the Masquerade was almost as 
important for saving the trouble of explaining things to outsiders as for 
its main purpose of avoiding persecution.

What would his other colleagues on this podium think if they knew, Anson 
wondered?  Earl St. Laurent knew he was a rural Manitoban, and perhaps 
that he had been "raised by Turnerite perverts", and that was already 
enough for the Academy commandant to forever snub him socially.  The 
True Marriage that the Earl would call "bigamous" would no doubt drive
him to wreck Anson's career.  Dr. Charles Sterling and his lovely 
red-haired wife Shirley, now -- they _might_ accept him for what he was.  
A scientific outlook, and a willingness to try out new ideas -- working 
with Charles on radiative shielding for the space capsule had been a 
highlight of this past winter.  Abramowitz?  The bureaucrat would 
sympathize, but in the end regretfully ease him out before any negative 
publicity could affect his beloved space program.

Sir Lyle was finally finished!  They were ready to introduce each of the 
Sweet Six in turn, whereupon they would ceremonially take off their 
old regimental jackets and don the new silver jacket of the Space Service.

"Major Christine Lillehammer, late North Vandalia Dragoons!"  The best of
the best, the obvious choice to be the first human in Outer Space.  (Unless
that Kramer launch in December had really... but they were pretty sure it
hadn't.)  Christine was simultaneously a big sister to the other girls and
a battle-hardened competitor -- he remembered the stories of her football [7]
games with the male cadets at the Academy.  St. Laurent might consider her
another "hayseed", but Anson could not imagine better "breeding" than her
father, a career enlisted Dragoon who had retired as RSM and "bought the 
farm" in the Missouri valley in the pleasantly non-metaphorical sense.

"Captain Patricia Shaeffer, late Royal Confederation of North America 
Coast Guard!"  His fellow Manitoban in the Six, though her home town of
Harmony [8] was closer to Michigan City than to Excelsior.  Her mother had
brought her north after her divorce from her father, a New Orleans musician
now apparently making a name for himself on vitavision someplace.  She'd
reconnected with him after being stationed in the Mississippi Delta.  Quite
a pilot -- she'd had to be because the USM Air Force _vaqueros_ were 
somehow able to pick out the airmobile with the girl pilot and loved to 
play "chicken" with her.  Last year she'd maneuvered one into such trouble 
that he'd ejected over the Gulf, and our Coast Guard had even picked up 
what was left of his craft after rescuing him.  Some of the alienists had 
worried about her "deprived childhood" with only one parent.  Nonsense!  
How much more crippling was one parent compared to two?  Eight parents 
hadn't always seemed like enough for him...

"Captain Caroline Hamilton, late Southern Confederation Light Horse!"  A 
clear winner in the selection process, smart, tough, and able, but not his 
favorite.  Her head was filled with the same prescientific notions of 
"breeding" as St. Laurent's.  Her father was a successful doctor, the 
honorary mayor of her little town in North Carolina, a sire to be proud
of, but Caroline was more worried that her aristocratic friends not know
that _his_ grandfather carried the "vulgar taint of trade".

"Captain Lysistrata Weathers, late 6th Regiment Corps of Royal CNA Marines!"
Here was real "breeding" for you!  Lizzie was a Negro from Southern Vandalia.
You could never generalize about races, but it was obvious to a casual 
reader of Darwin that the average CNA Negro had _better_ germ plasm than
the average white.  After all, you combined hybrid vigor (of course nearly
all of them had at least some white blood) with the brutal selection applied
to them during the passage from Africa and the shameful history of slavery.
He'd personally tested Lizzie's body, mind, and character in the second-best
possible way, on the fencing _piste_.  Wielding a sabre, despite being barely
half his size, she'd used her skill and quickness to beat him on points, he
who had slowed down quite a bit but still had been Academy champion thirty 
years ago.  Lizzie would do -- a fine woman and a fine Marine.

"Captain Lynne Januszewicz, late 34th Regiment Royal North American Engineers!"
The daughter of Polish immigrants from some industrial town west of Michigan
City.  Everyone acknowledged the importance of the unglamorous Engineers and 
their logistic functions, but no one thought of their air arm as containing 
crack pilots.  Unless, of course, they thought for a moment about the 
difficulty of wrestling an Airwaggon, laden (perhaps very hastily) with 
fifty tonnes of vital materiel, on or off an inadequate-length runway.  
Lynne had tested near the top for reflexes in all their simulations.  She'd 
also stood out in that she shared a hobby with him and with Virginia, as a 
competitive ice-acrobat [9].  Normally Anson was able to keep his natural 
affection and admiration for his charges from crossing the line into outright 
desire.  But the sight of Lynne in her short-skirted skating dress, those 
powerful legs surging across the ice, propelling her into a perfect full-twist
jump--

"Captain the Honorable Evangeline Gilmore, late Governor-General's Own
Light Horse".  The youngest, the only _bona fide_ aristocrat in the group,
and a puzzle to the alienists.  Two of the panel of four had actually given
her a downcheck as psychically unfit, while the other two said she was the
most stable of them all.  They worried about the "psychic trauma" she'd
suffered when her father was killed, and when her friend's father had shot
up the Academy dinner a few years ago.  Psychic trauma!  Did they think
violent death was something a military officer should find unusual?  When
he was Ev's age he'd been dumping high explosive into the North Atlantic,
where it hadn't helped those German submersible crews that it was "neutral", 
"non-combatent" high explosive.  Twice he'd seen the pieces come up -- had
he killed fifty men?  A hundred? [10]  God put challenges in front of every
man and every woman -- the important thing was how they met them.  Ev had
responded to her father's murder by being the best student and the best 
cadet possible.  When that Stapleton fellow snapped before her eyes, she'd
taken action that had prevented him from killing God knows how many more
victims.  (He'd met Stapleton once, at some sort of school board meeting for 
his daughter Carol in Fort Benton.  Something had seemed wrong even then --
his mind was a weak vessel that had burst when put to the challenge.)  Ev
was different, ready for whatever space flight might require of her.  She
had less experience than the others, but he'd observed some of it carefully.
In the observer seat of her charger [11] at Pax River, he'd seen her through
three simulated dogfights.  She was a natural, with a killer instinct but 
also the poise to get out of whatever she got into.

There they were, his girls, yet another Family of sorts.  They and their
successors to come would lead the CNA to the stars. 

Notes:

[1] The career of Henry Flagler (1830-1913), OTL associate of John D. 
    Rockefeller and pioneer developer of the Florida coast, was roughly 
    parallel in the FANTL.  South Beach and Flaglerville are the large
    cities on the site of OTL's Miami -- Phil Jackson's home port of 
    Miami is a small town mostly known as a base for sport fishing.

[2] CNA military personnel concerned with airmobiles and gyropters
    are largely members of the Air Force and serve under officers
    trained at the single Air Force Academy in Marlborough City.  But
    the fundamental unit of land and air forces, both operationally
    and socially, is the regiment.  Anson began his career as what
    the OTL USA calls a "naval aviator", but was a member of the Air
    Force in a Marine regiment serving on a Navy ship (with an effective
    Navy rank when relevant).  Now a staff officer serving directly 
    with the Ministry of Defence, he retains a purely social connection 
    to the 14th Marines.

[3] For more detail on the Boricua Intervention see FAN #45.

[4] OTL Edmonton, center of the utopian and "free-loving" Turnerites 
    who (Sobel tells us) migrated to Manitoba in the 1880's.

[5] Boniface is OTL Winnipeg, once "St. Boniface" in OTL, a major city.

[6] Blood typing at this point in the FANTL is often but not always
    sufficient to determine paternity -- the Turnerites aren't overly
    concerned with it as Families for the most part raise children in
    common.

[7] Details of what the CNA calls "football" remain to be specified.  It
    is a secondary sport to cricket, of course, and might be anything from
    soccer to (unpadded, OTL pre-WWI) American football.  Academy pickup
    games are no doubt particularly violent.

[8] OTL Thunder Bay, ON, as in OTL formed by the merger of Fort William
    and Port Arthur.  Larger and older than in OTL, since the earlier
    development of Manitoba made the Lake Superior ports more important.
    The name is a typically Manitoban but not particularly Turnerite one.

[9] Though no one has mentioned any revival of the ancient summer Olympics,
    much less winter games, all manner of winter sports are popular in the 
    CNA and especially frozen Manitoba.  Ice-acrobatics are rather primitive
    without the intense development of OTL -- think Sonja Henie rather than
    Michelle Kwan.

[10] Sobel reports that the CNA's non-involvement in the Global War included
    some 30,000 combat deaths, "military on detached service or civilians",
    most presumably having volunteered to serve a combatent nation.  But
    I'm positing that the CNA armed forces acted to protect the CNA merchant
    marine as it delivered supplies to Britain, particularly late in the
    war when the CNA's sympathies were clear.

[11] A "charger" is a combat airmobile, what in OTL is called a "fighter
    plane".  Most of the Air Force derived from the cavalry in the CNA,
    and equine imagery (not to mention breeches, boots, and even spurs)
    is common.  As in OTL, Patuxent River, MD (in the NC of the CNA) is 
    a site for training in, and high-performance testing of, airmobiles.

Dave MB