For All Nails # 87: Springtime for Ferdi and Elbittar
Aruba , New Granada
3 July 1974
Astrid Jackson was a woman in love with the Caribbean. This
beachside bar, for example, where she was enjoying a rum punch
as she watched the sun approach the ocean and the swimmers in the
half-meter waves -- this was the life she loved. Her husband Felipe was
out there somewhere, trying out some experimental contraption with
a sail of polyamide cloth  attached to a Hawaiian oloboard. He'd
actually learned by now to keep it upright for several seconds at a
time. Astrid preferred simple bodysurfing -- that, and enjoying the
complexities of the people around her.
The bar contained a typical assortment of locals and white tourists,
the latter numbering two German couples and a North American woman.
What was she doing here? Wedding ring, probably recent, a honeymooner?
If so she might well be stuck here for the time being -- airmobile
flights had been suspended even to the New Granadan mainland as soon
as fighting had started on Trinidad.
And how was _that_ going, she wondered? The local papers were of course
reporting an unbroken string of victories for the Fuerzas Armadas de
Nueva Granada, part of what they called _La Primavera del Rey_. Could
you have springtime in July? She supposed that European seasons didn't
make much sense in the tropics at all.
In any case, there was no reason to doubt these particular victory
claims. The United Empire seemed determined to stay out of the conflict,
leaving only the small and rather amateur T&T army to face one of the
finest militaries in the world. If she and Felipe were there, she'd be very
interested in the strength of civilian resistance, the severity of the
occupation, and so forth. But Felipe's superiors in the Mexican Army
wanted him elsewhere -- they were skirting those orders by visiting
New Granada at all. Their excuse was quite sincere -- it was time they
took a break from Cuba.
Cuba was a mess if ever there was one -- four heavily armed factions 
each with at least one covert outside backer. It was natural that
the Germans, Tories, and other powers would want a sympathetic government
on the island. But why were the Mexicans (as she and Felipe had
established without doubt) backing _all four_ factions? There were
divisions among Mexican policy-makers, to say the least, but Mercator's
own personal dirty-tricks man Martin Falcone was _delivering_ the aid to
all four, naturally using four different identities. What was the old
Mapmaker up to?
Astrid knew her Caribbean had been smoldering for some time, and now the
fires in T&T, Cuba, and Boricua were threatening to send it up in flames
entirely. And that was before considering the crisis involving her own
country -- a German Chancellor shot by a Scandinavian-trained lunatic, a
trigger-happy Kriegsmarine trying to get a bead on all six atomic-rocket
submersibles (or was it seven or eight?) at the same time, and a German
rocket base on Boricua with a mechanized brigade ready to repel boarders --
_any_ boarders. She shuddered at the prospect of Charlotte Amelie being
vaporized -- the first Caribbean town she'd seen, the harbor where she'd
met her beloved...
Back to the presumably stranded Tory bride. Probably of no professional
interest, but what could be more natural than to strike up a conversation?
Astrid finished her rum punch and walked over close enough to see what
she was reading. Spanish? Some sort of legal history, it looked like.
But she _was_ a Tory -- she'd ordered a drink in English with a New Orleans
accent. And a skirted swimdress on a pretty young woman? Tory. Of course,
no need to advertise that she'd figured that out...
"_Bon bini_!  Or should I say _buenos tardes_? Do you speak English?"
She gestured at the book.
"Oh, hello! Yes, I speak English, I'm North American, at least I was, but
I work in Mexico, and my husband's from Mexico, so maybe I'm Mexican, it's
very confusing I guess." New Orleans, definitely, educated Italian...
"Not at all -- I'm Scandinavian by birth and I suppose I'm North American
by marriage. Astrid Jackson." She held out her hand to shake, in a slight
parody of the formal North American style.
"Anna Di-- Anna Contreras. Almost forgot my new name! It's only been a
couple of weeks. Pleased to meet you!"
"It's not fair, we should make the men change, no?" When speaking as
Astrid, she tended to exaggerate the Scandinavian accent. If you tended
to go around in disguise, it was always a good habit to give people a trait
to remember in each _persona_, so they wouldn't think too hard about any
similarities between different _personas_.
"Or we could all keep our own names, I guess, but that would be confusing
for the children."
"So you're on your honeymoon? Congratulations! How long are you on Aruba?"
"That's sort of the problem, we don't know. We were supposed to leave last
Saturday, but there aren't any flights."
"Ah, yes, the fighting. Did they tell you when they might start up again?"
"Nothing. They're polite, in English or Spanish, but they won't say a
word. Suspension of operations for the duration of the emergency, they
say. And even if they start flying to Caracas or somewhere, it looks like
both my countries have put on economic sanctions. I wonder if we could
get a flight to Guatemala or someplace, and then _drive_ to Mexico?"
Unfortunately, Astrid thought, the Mexican influence on Guatemala had
never extended to a modern highway system. "Hmm... I don't really know
much about Guatemala." The lie came easily to a professional spy, of
course. But she didn't _want_ to know much about Guatemala, after a rather
unpleasant business visit there three years ago...
"Maybe I should write to the King."
Astrid's surprise was unfeigned. "The King?"
"Yes, I know him, sort of. We didn't overlap at UNO, but he worked for
my father for a while when he was a student. Nice boy, cute too. I wonder
if he could help?"
A social connection to the King of New Granada? Suddenly this woman
_was_ of professional interest. The character of Fernando Rey was much
on her mind lately, and on those of her superiors. It might be the key
to how far New Granada planned to go, and more importantly how they planned
to treat their conquests. (Aruba was doing pretty well, actually, but
things had been very rough for the Surinamese just after the Global War.)
Time to make a decision. As the false Tory "Phil", Felipe preferred to
avoid real Tories, as well as real Mexicans from whom he would have to
hide his own Mexican origins. (Silly of him, as his acting skills were
almost on the level of her own.) And she hadn't yet met Anna's Mexican
husband. But this could be a real opportunity to learn something about
the King, not to mention get to spend some time with nice people who
weren't professional killers...
She decided. "You know, _we_ might be able to help you out. You see,
we've got a boat..."
Privy Council Chamber, Royal Palace
Bogota, New Granada
3 July 1974
Admiral of the Fleet Nelson Soplador de la Bocina surveyed the chamber
as the young King called the Privy Council to order. A new name and a
new presiding officer, he thought, but mostly the same personnel as the
military _junta_ that had ruled New Granada for a year and a half.
Not that the new additions weren't welcome -- the Maximum Leader (now
Prime Minister) had it right. Running a country wasn't just a matter of
suppressing opposition and guarding against foreign enemies. They
_needed_ the banker, the archbishop, and the lawyers that had now joined
the soldiers and sailors.
Did they also need a boy King? Nelson had been quite skeptical at first,
but seeing the boy in action he was beginning to come around. Somewhere,
it seemed, he had learned how to run a meeting. He largely deferred to
Elbittar and the other experts, but his occasional questions were deeply
probing and had even caused him to rethink some positions. Almost as if
he had been born to the job. Humph.
"Gentlemen, I think we're ready to begin. Prime Minister?"
"Thank you, Your Majesty. The first item on the agenda is the overall
military situation, particularly the territorial expansion program.
Admiral, would you please summarize the status of Phase One?"
It was Nelson's turn as Navy commander to act as chief of staff for
the entire FANG. "Our forces are now in control of 90 percent of the
land area of the island of Trinidad and 60 percent of Tobago. We
estimate 600 armed resisters still in the field on Trinidad and 1200
on Tobago, but both groups are now surrounded and cut off from any
outside supply. We can finish them within a week and announce our
annexation of both islands."
The King cut in. "So the resisters no longer pose any threat to our
"Hardly, Your Majesty, as I said, since they are surrounded."
"In that case I suggest that the question of what to do next has
become a political and a diplomatic as well as a military one. I'd
like to take it up later in the meeting if we might."
What was this about? "Are you suggesting we should suspend operations
before total victory has been achieved?"
"Not at all, Admiral. I merely point out that the _manner_ in which we
complete our victory has diplomatic and political implications, which I
hope to discuss later. Please continue. What about Phase Two?"
"Er, Phase Two is proceeding according to plan, with a current scheduled
implementation date of Saturday 20 July. Defense Minister De La Cruz is
prepared to announce the resignation of President Aguinaga and the union
of Quito with New Granada . At that point our forces, with the help of
key members of the Quito officer corps, will supervise the integration of
their armed forces with ours."
The King again. "What about the Tortoise Islands ?"
"We announce to the Mexicans that we intend to continue their lease
of the islands on identical terms."
Elbittar cut in, a bit condescendingly, Nelson thought. "I have many
ambitions for our country, Your Majesty, but they do not as yet include
any challenge to the Mexican Navy in the Pacific."
The King was not yet done. "Are we planning on any sort of a plebiscite
in Quito on the annexation? I'm sorry, I suppose that's another political
and diplomatic question, and we should wait -- do you think so, Prime
"Quite so, Your Majesty. Admiral, if you could summarize the general
military and naval situation in the Caribbean?"
"Gladly, Prime Minister. The North American and United Empire fleets
are still in a defensive posture around their own islands in the Lesser
Antilles. A quite strong defensive posture, if I may say so. The Mexican
Navy has only observer ships out of port at the moment. There is
considerable movement of both German and Scandinavian units, in a number
of directions. The Scandinavian submersibles are attempting to evade
German pursuit, and surface units are concentrating to threaten and defend
the Virgin Islands and northwestern Boricua, respectively. We have no
evidence of any actual firing between those two forces, but the situation
is obviously quite unstable."
"Indeed." The Prime Minister sighed. "It's gratifying that they haven't
set off any atomics yet, at any rate. What do we hear from Russia?"
That was a question for the Foreign Secretary, Dr. Carlos Quintana. "It's
inconclusive, but the Scandinavians seem to be distancing themselves from
their proxies for the most part. If we believe that they weren't behind the
shooting of Markstein themselves, then the Novgorod faction's uprising
may actually have been some sort of mistake to begin with. The problem
for both the Germans and Scandinavians is that Novgorod is so far doing
rather well on its own."
"Thank you, Foreign Secretary. Are there any new diplomatic events
on this side of the world?"
"Not really, Prime Minister. Both Mexico and North America have imposed
temporary economic sanctions on us. I defer to my colleague here to assess
"My Lord Chancellor?"
There really should be _some_ limits to Elbittar's Anglophilia, Nelson
thought. The banker Alvaro Espinosa was now the Chancellor of the Exchequer,
of all things. At least so far Nelson himself remained Admiral of the
Fleet rather than First Sea Lord. What was Espinosa saying?
"...the Mexican trade policy toward us was already so hostile that the
announced sanctions are purely cosmetic. On the other hand, the loss of
aid and trade from the CNA _is_ significant. I can't promise _any_ economic
growth in the next few quarters without it, though resources from the new
territorial acquisitions will help us."
The economic wisdom of the expansion plan had been discussed to death enough
times already. Elbittar seemed anxious to move on. "Any further
developments in the domestic military situation? Admiral?"
"The situation is stable, small guerrilla actions only. We had ten killed
and fifteen wounded last week, compared with thirty confirmed insurgent
dead. We're planning a major strike on one of the Jeffersonista leaders
in Antioquia province soon -- shall we keep the details of that on a
need-to-know basis?" He automatically addressed this, a military question,
to Elbittar, but the King didn't seem to mind.
"Certainly, Admiral, we look forward to the result. Now, Your Majesty,
with your approval I think we may turn to the diplomatic and political
issues you propose to raise."
"Thank you, Prime Minister. Gentlemen, let me first commend you on the
discipline and professionalism shown by the FANG so far in Phase One,
as I've read in these reports." Those reports didn't tell everything,
Soplador de la Bocina knew, but they were accurate enough. The FANG
soldier as a rule fought for pride -- in himself, his unit, and in the FANG.
That made them far sharper instruments of their leaders' will than those
who fought for bloodlust or plunder. Now what was the King saying? He
seemed to be building into a full-fledged speech.
"--for that reason we have the option of being merciful in victory. Our
troops are just in their means, but it is we their leaders who must ensure
that they are just in their ends. The Archbishop can tell us what
constitutes a just war according to God's law. In Phase One we have acted
to right a wrong nearly a century old and restore Trinidad and Tobago to
our nation. In the next phases, however, we will be extending our rule
to areas that have never before been under it. This must be justified in
each case, and in each case the countries in question either suffer under
corrupt and ineffective governments, or suffer the chaos of civil war. We
are intervening for the benefit of the peoples of these countries, not
merely for our own aggrandizement."
"We have shown as a nation that we are capable of integrating new peoples,
of different races and speaking different languages, into a single state.
My proposal is that we make this integration the central thrust of our
expansion plan, both as a matter of policy and in our public stance. We
should not declare an immediate annexation of Trinidad and Tobago, for
example. We should grant amnesty to any supporters of the former
government who will lay down their weapons, and allow them gradually to
participate in the administration of the territory. As we bring the Prime
Minister's proposed Popular Assemblies into being in Bogota and Caracas,
so should we bring them into being in Puerta Hispana . As we implement
Phase Two, we should announce an eventual referendum on the union of Quito
with New Granada."
"I am happy to call myself an idealist, but there are very practical reasons
for such a policy. By the time we reach Phase Five or Six, the attitudes
toward us in Mexico and North America could be crucial to our success. We
are strong, but we are not strong enough to face either northern power in
war. As you know, I've lived in North America for many years. The Tories
love elections, so much that they're embarking on a completely unnecessary
one right now. If we show them that we welcome elections, that we are
confident that the people's eventual verdict will be in our favor, they
will not stand in our way."
"For all that Mexico has been our ally for many years, under President
"President Moctezuma is a whore." There was a long silence and a noticable
turn of heads toward Elbittar. No question who was really in charge, Nelson
thought. Had the Prime Minister decided that the King needed a reminder?
The King seemed to recover his aplomb. "Prime Minister?"
"I said that Moctezuma is a whore. He will commit any indecent act for
money, or for the votes that money can buy. The trade policy the
Chancellor just mentioned? Moctezuma falling on his knees before Maria
del Rey and her purchased votes in the Mexican Senate ."
Another silence. The King seemed disinclined to resume his speech. All
eyes were now on Elbittar, who might be winding up for a speech of his
own. But the Prime Minister's face suddenly softened as he turned toward
"On the other hand, I think His Majesty's general point is well taken."
Nelson exhaled, and noted that he had not been the only one holding his
breath. Elbittar continued.
"Popular elections indeed have their place, and that place may soon be
Trinidad or Quito. We will delay any announcement of the annexation of
the islands. In the meantime, I would like the Intelligence Service to
determine whether we can be assured of _winning_ these elections."
"I agree with His Majesty that North American sentiment toward us is
important, and that it can be manipulated. I am thinking that perhaps
a royal visit to that nation is in order soon, to present our cause to
the North American people as well as to its government. When I was last
there I saw an interesting vitavision program, hosted by a football player..."
 A Dutch posession until the Global War, when it fell with
little resistance to the German-allied Republica de Nueva
Granada. The same was true of the other OTL-Dutch islands except
for St. Maarten which has been USM territory since the Hundred
Day War with France.
 Nylon, developed during the Global War for fallscreens and
afterward for civilian applications. Windsurfing in OTL was
invented in California in 1968 -- see
this site, for
example. In the FANTL surfing spread throughout Mexico from
Hawaii -- an "olo" is the largest of the three traditional
Hawaiian board types.
 The Hijos del Futuro are a coalition of students and planters,
officially Jeffersonista but actually free-market pragmatists
for the most part. The Jeffersonista Brigades in Oriente
Province are the real article like their brethren in Boricua,
Liberty Squads and all. The Royalists are the newest revolutionary
force, looking fondly back to the days when Cuba was nominally under
the Spanish king but essentially independent. Last and pretty well
least, the internationally recognized Republica Cubana controls
large portions of the capital city of La Habana but little else,
owing to its general inability to pay its army. [Thanks to Noel
for background here.]
 "Welcome" in Papiemento, the creole that is the mother tongue of
Aruba in both timelines.
 The Republic of Quito (similar in extent to OTL's Ecuador) is
a military dictatorship with republican forms not unlike New
Granada under the Hermion hereditary presidency. Sobel reports
that was independent in 1890. Quito was part of the pre-PoD
Viceroyalty of Peru rather than of New Granada. In OTL it was
for a time part of Bolivar's Union of Gran Colombia, but was
apparently never united with New Granada in the FANTL.
 OTL's Galapagos, of course -- the Spanish name means "Tortoise"
but it's been a USM military preserve since the 1880's and the
largely English-speaking USM military uses the English name.
 OTL Port of Spain, capital of and largest city in Trinidad and
 See FAN #68, "She's Got Legs". Maria del Rey is now the USM's
Secretary of State.