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For All Nails #81e: Mistaken Identity

Bogotá, Kingdom of New Granada
15 June 1974

Captain the Honorable Evangeline Adrienne Gilmore stood alone in a starlit
ornamental garden on the grounds of the Royal (formerly the Presidential)
Palace, a flute glass of champagne in one hand, a plate holding half a dozen
canapes in the other.  Some time during the last hour, spent listening to
multilingual banalities and avoiding New Granada's new monarch, the
festivities inside had crossed the line from amusing to annoying, and she had
conducted a strategic withdrawal.  Her nominal date for the evening had
finally become alarmed at her ambiguously worded advances, and was off
somewhere trying to seduce one of the waiters.  Captain Gilmore was starting
to regret accepting His Grace's invitation to Ferdie's coronation, and was
now wishing she was back at the Space Agency compound in the Georgia
Peninsula.

Topiary had never been one of her enthusiasms, but there was little else to
draw her attention at the moment, so she was moving slowly through the
fragrant garden, finding flaws in the work of the Palace's gardening staff.
An image came to her mind of a flight of Dragons dive-bombing the Royal
Palace with incendiaries, and the ornamental garden going up in flames.  Now
/that/ was an amusing thought.  She could just see Ferdie standing stubbornly
atop the Palace, using a bullhorn to explain to the airmobile pilots that
their attack was contrary to the Rules of War, and calling upon them to cease
and desist.

Gilmore was rounding a forsythia bush that had been shaped to resemble a
rhinoceros, when she nearly ran into a woman who was standing beside it.  The
Captain was opening her mouth to deliver a cutting remark when she noticed
two things.  First, the woman was holding a hand-rolled marihuana cigarillo,
and second, the woman was her one-time friend from the Air Force Academy.  So
what she actually ended up saying was, "Alex!  What are you doing here?"

The woman didn't react the way Alexandra Stapleton would have, though.
Instead of trying to hide the cigarillo from Gilmore and unleashing a torrent
of profanity, she simply raised one eyebrow and said in an exquisite English
accent, "I beg your pardon?"

That was when Gilmore realized her mistake.  The woman was a dead ringer for
Alex Stapleton (apart from her hair, which was much longer than the severe
Manitoban ever wore it), but she was /not/ Alex Stapleton.  "I'm, I'm sorry,"
Gilmore stammered, "I thought you were someone else."  Gilmore decided then
and there that she hated the woman in front of her more than she hated anyone
else in the whole world.  Captain the Honorable Evangeline Adrienne Gilmore
never apologized, and never /ever/ stammered, and this hideous English b-tch
had just made her do both.

Well, the best defense was a good offense.  "By any chance," Gilmore
continued with a faint sneer in her voice, "do you have any . . . family
. . . in Fort Benton, Manitoba?"  Of course, the suggestion that one /had/
family (or whatever passed for family) in Manitoba was insulting to anyone
other than an actual Manitoban, implying as it did the presence of utopians
and/or sexual deviants among one's relations.

Instead of being offended, though, the English doxy simply laughed and said,
"Perhaps.  My uncles have sired so many bastards in so many places it's
difficult to keep track.  But please, I'm interested to hear more about this
Alex person you've mistaken me for.  Does she also fly round the world in a
little tin cup?"

Gilmore began mentally cursing.  The b-tch had recognized her!  Worse and
worse!  But Captain the Honorable Evangeline Adrienne Gilmore wasn't about to
lose a battle of wits to some tarted-up English dope fiend.  Still with the
sneer in her voice, she answered, "Her mother was an adulteress and her
father was a murderer.  Perhaps you /are/ related."

The tramp didn't bat an eye, d-mn her!  Pausing to take a pull on her yanqui
weed, she said, "Sweety, I've more adulterers and murderers in my family than
the Borgias and the Osmanlis put together.  We are the darkest, most tainted
royal house in Europe.  Your friend Alex doesn't hold a candle to us!"

Then Gilmore finally realized that she had been trading poisoned barbs with
Princess Sophia of Great Britain.  Hell's apes!  Time for another strategic
withdrawal.  Offering the whey-faced princess an insultingly elaborate
curtsy, Gilmore said, "I'll be certain to let her know the next time I see
her, Your Highness.  I'm sure she'll be pleased to learn that Fort Benton has
so much in common with London."  Still hunched obsequiously over, Gilmore
backed around behind the mutilated shrubbery before straightening and walking
away.

The windows of the Palace blazed with light, and dance music was coming from
the ballroom.  Perhaps little Ferdie was still around.  Gilmore found herself
looking forward to meeting him again.  She was in the mood to torment and
humiliate a member of royalty, and Ferdie would be a perfect choice.