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For All Nails #90: The Wrath of Kahn

Brooklyn City, New York, Northern Confederation, CNA
22 April 1974

Joan Kahn was in a state of despair, and had been for over three months.  She
was sitting at her writing desk, staring hopelessly at the blank sheet of
paper lodged within her dactylograph.  When her apartment's buzzer sounded,
she barely noticed.  It wasn't until the alarm sounded a second time that she
mustered enough energy to get up and shuffle over to the door.  Leaving the
chain on, she opened it a crack.  It was Steven Taylor.

"Oh.  Hello," she said.

When nothing more happened after a few seconds, Taylor said, "Joan could you
please let me in?"

Kahn turned the request over in her sluggish mind for a while, then closed
the door, unchained it, and opened it again.  She turned and shuffled back to
her writing desk.  The presence of her friend and publisher led her to
consider the state of her apartment with a critical eye.

At the best of times, her apartment could most charitably be described as
cluttered.  For the last three months, she had neglected even the minimal
housekeeping she was accustomed to performing.  Now, it looked very much like
one of those photos taken of London after the last German invasion fleet was
driven off.

She turned to look at Taylor, and his reaction was every bit as appalled as
she had expected.  He stood a few steps from the door, looking around at the
mess.  His mouth opened, then closed again.  Clearly, words had failed him.
He finally looked at her, and pleaded silently for an explanation.

"You don't want to know," she mumbled.

That seemed to unblock his vocal cords.  "Like hell I don't," he insisted.
"Joan, what's going on?"

Sitting back down at her desk, Joan sighed.  "I found out about the wrong
conspiracy."

"And what's that supposed to mean?"

Her head seemed to weigh a ton.  She propped an elbow on her desk and let her
head rest on her hand.  "Remember last year after the coup in New Granada?  I
thought Liddy and the CBI were behind it."

"So you talked me into paying your way there when you should have been out
trying to sell your last book," said Taylor.  "Yes, I remember.  I also
remember that you didn't find anything."

"Three months ago I went back," she continued.  "And I found out that Liddy
didn't have anything to do with the coup.  It was the Mexicans the whole
time."

"The Mexicans?"  Taylor seemed dumbfounded, which was reasonable enough.
Everyone knew how much President Moctezuma and Colonel Elbittar hated each
other.  "La Puta" was one of Elbittar's more polite nicknames for the
President of Mexico, and the government press organs in the USM had rung all
sorts of uncomplimentary and borderline obscene changes on the Colonel's
official title of Temporary Maximum Leader.

"It's all been a put-up job," Kahn continued, "a fraud to disguise the fact
that the Mexicans are transferring their atomic bomb project to New Granada.
Now we know why Moctezuma was so eager to let in those inspection teams from
the CNA.  He knew they wouldn't find any atom bombs, because all of his atom
bombs are in New Granada."

Taylor's eyes were blinking much more frequently than they normally did,
which usually only happened when he was having relationship problems with his
boyfriend.  Kahn knew exactly how he felt, because she had felt the same way
for the last three months.  "Are you sure?" Taylor finally managed.

Now the anger that had been buried beneath the depression all this time
finally pushed its way to the surface of her mind.  "Of course I'm not
fucking sure, you twit!  Do you think I could go up to El Popo and ask him if
he's really building a secret bomb factory in Ciudad Camacho?  All I've got
to go on is a sheet of carbon paper that I burned in my hotel room in San
Cristóbal!  Moctezuma is pulling the biggest, most dangerous put-up job in
history, and I'm the only one who knows it, and I haven't got a single
fucking piece of evidence!"

There was a long, long silence after that, while Kahn sat with her fists
clenched and Taylor stood motionless, his blank face framed by the red and
black Jefferson poster on the wall behind him.

At last, Taylor spoke quietly.  "So what are you going to do about it?"

Kahn's fists unclenched, and she sagged down into her chair.  "What can I
do?"

Taylor's face finally moved: his eyebrows drew together, and his lips
thinned.  He began to stalk towards Kahn, shoving aside a stack of newspapers
that stood in his way.  "I'll tell you what you're going to do," he growled.
"You're going to stop acting like a little daddy's girl and start acting like
the relentless fucking monster you are.  You're going to go back down to New
Granada, and you're going to keep digging until you've got enough evidence to
prove to the whole world what's happening."  He was standing over her, now.
Kahn had never realized before just how tall he was.  "And when you get
back," he finished, "we're both going to make a ton of money shouting the
news from the rooftops.  /That's/ what you're going to do."

For the first time, Kahn found herself wishing that her publisher was
interested in women.  She wanted to grab him and give him the hottest kiss
he'd ever gotten in his life.  Instead, she said, "You call the airpark.
I'll go pack.  Book me on the next flight to Bogotá."

In her bedroom, throwing clothing into a suitcase, it felt as though her
recent depression was nothing more than a distant, fading dream.  Her old,
familiar rage at all the hidden injustice in the world was back, and burning
hotter than ever.

Before she was done with them, those bastards in Bogotá and Mexico City were
going to wish they'd never heard of Joan Kahn.