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For All Nails #66b: Diplomacy

Ciudad Tómas Jefferson, Boricua
6 April 1973

The German consulate in Ciudad Tómas Jefferson was a fairly small building,
as might be expected in a tropical island that was no more than a backwater
remnant of the former Spanish colonial empire.  That made it far too small to
comfortably hold Exterior Minister Joshua Merkel and his official entourage,
so Merkel had booked himself and his staff a set of rooms in the Ambassador
Hotel, which was the setting for the current negotiations between Germany,
North America, Mexico and Boricua.

The day's frustrating round of negotiations had ended, and evening was
drawing on.  Merkel was relaxing out on the balcony, puffing away on a Cuban
cigar and enjoying the sight of the crescent moon shining across the sea,
when his aide Johann Gerstenzang joined him.

"Excuse the interruption, Herr Minister, but there is a gentleman here who
wishes to speak with you."

Merkel was annoyed, but he suppressed the feeling.  Johann had been working
for him long enough to know when he should and should not interrupt him.
Merkel turned away from the moon and asked, "Who is it, Johann?"

"President Moctezuma, sir."

Merkel blinked.  "Moctezuma's /here/?"

"Yes, sir."  Merkel envied Johann his equanimity.  Of course, why shouldn't
the aide be calm?  Moctezuma wasn't here to see /him/.  Setting down his
cigar with a sigh of regret, Merkel followed Johann out to the suite's common
room where there were two men waiting for him.  He had no trouble recognizing
Moctezuma, but was brought short by the realization that he did not recognize
the other man, which was very odd, since it ought to have been Moctezuma's
Secretary of State, Benedict Denison.  That, combined with the fact that
Moctezuma had appeared in Boricua without advance notice, let Merkel know
that there was something unusual going on.

Merkel was aware that Moctezuma spoke English and Spanish, but no German.
Merkel himself spoke both Mexican languages, and he knew from reports out of
the German embassy in Mexico City that Moctezuma's English was more
comprehensible than his Spanish.  So he greeted the Mexican president in that
language while shaking his hand.  "President Moctezuma, this is an unexpected
pleasure."

"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Merkel," said Moctezuma, as his huge hand enveloped
Merkel's.  "This is my assistant, Guillermo Enciso."

Merkel greeted Enciso, then said, "I wasn't aware that you were coming to
Boricua, Mr. President."

"It's a surprise," said Moctezuma with a chuckle.

His mind whirling, Merkel said, "Would I be correct in assuming that
Secretary Denison is not in on the surprise?"

Moctezuma gave Merkel a sly smile.  "A clever guess, Mr. Merkel.  I want to
conduct a little high diplomacy, and I'm afraid a diplomat would only get in
the way."

"Please, have a seat, Mr. President," said Merkel, "and tell me what sort of
diplomacy you had in mind."

"Please, Mr. Merkel, call me Popo," said Moctezuma as he settled his
considerable bulk in one of the suite's sofas.  "As for the diplomacy, I want
to see if you and I can resolve the question of these North American soldiers
that the Boricuans are holding prisoner."

"I'm afraid the local revolutionaries intend to derive the maximum advantage
possible from the prisoners," Merkel explained.  "The position of my own
government is that the prisoners ought to be returned and relations between
the CNA and Boricua should be placed on a stable footing as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, your Mr. Denison has resisted my efforts to bring about such a
settlement."

"He's not /my/ Mr. Denison," Moctezuma muttered.

"Ah," said Merkel.  This explained much.  And if Merkel remembered his
Mexican history correctly, the Secretary of State was second in line for the
Presidency.  At least one of Moctezuma's predecessors had been a Secretary of
State who succeeded an assassinated President.  "Perhaps," Merkel finally
said, "something can be arranged.  Johann, could you put a call through to
the Boricuan Foreign Commission?  I'd like to speak with Commissioner Mola.
And please put it on the speakerphone."

It took some time for Gerstenzang to locate Commissioner Mola, but at last
the Boricuan official was on the phone, and the conversation resumed in
Spanish.

"What is it you wish, Señor Merkel?"  Even over the speakerphone, Merkel
could recognize Mola's colorless voice.

"I have a visitor here who wishes to speak with you, Commissioner Mola,"
Merkel answered with a certain amount of relish.  "His name is Immanuel
Moctezuma."

"Hello, Señor Mola," said Moctezuma in his unmistakable basso profundo voice.
"I hear you've been dragging your feet about these North American prisoners."
Now that he heard Moctezuma using Spanish, Merkel understood the reports from
the Mexico City embassy.  It took a distinct effort to understand the man's
thick rural accent.

"Ah, yes, ah, ah, I mean, yes, Señor President," said Mola, sounding
flustered and unsure of himself for the first time Merkel could recall.  He
didn't even object to the way Moctezuma called him "señor", a title which had
fallen out of favor in Boricua after the revolution.  The Commissioner
continued, "I understood from Secretary Denison that, er, that the bandits,
er, prisoners were to remain in Boricua and perhaps be placed on trial."

"We've changed our minds," said Moctezuma.  "We want you to let them all go."

Merkel's only regret was that he couldn't see Mola's face.  "What?
Impossible!"

"Did I just hear you say the word 'impossible' to the President of the United
fucking States of Mexico?"  Moctezuma's voice was rising in volume.

"But, but, but, I /can't/ let them all go!  I'd be dragged off by the Liberty
Guards before nightfall!"  Mola's formerly expressionless voice was now
broadcasting panic.

"If I might offer a suggestion," said Merkel.  "Perhaps President Moctezuma
would be willing to accept the release of /some/ of the prisoners.  Half of
them, say?"

"That would still be too many," Mola insisted.  "Maybe I could manage to have
five hundred released."

"A thousand," Moctezuma declared.  "No less."

"A thousand seems like a reasonable number to me," Merkel interjected.

There was a long pause before Mola finally said in a quiet voice, "All right,
we'll let a thousand go."

"Good," pronounced Moctezuma.  "And just to make sure you don't get any funny
ideas, we're all going to make a joint statement to the press in one hour.
You, me, Señor Merkel, Señor Bakersfield," and now Moctezuma grinned like a
lunatic, "and Secretary Denison."