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For All Nails #91-c
Hidden Menaces,
or, Lesistance is Futire

Owre kynge went forth to Normandy
With grace and myght of chyvalry;
Ther God for hym wrought mervelusly;
Wherfore Englonde may calle and cry,
Deo gracias, Deo gracias
Anglia redde pro Victoria.

--Traditional, "The Agincourt Carol"

Theodore Army Air Station, California
2000 Hours July 13, 1974

Ev clicked the channel into the middle of some kind of police
procedural drama, hoping against hope something good might turn up. A
handsome, crew-cut man clad in the scarlet serge of a captain in the
Indiana Militia is standing in a tidy, wood-wainscotted police
interrogation room with a large framed photo of the King behind him.
The captain is standing erect, while next to him is a thin-haired,
slightly greasy Italianate man--very clearly a Mexican--in incredibly
garish plainclothes: a flashy white suit and a loud shirt open at the
neck, the worst of the U.S.M.'s men's casual fashion. The camera cues
to a miscreant in a cloth cap, a typical petty criminal. "Come on,
Captain, there's gotta be a logical reason you're going around on duty
with a bl--dy Mexie millie." Sweet Lord, he's even got a cockney
accent, dropped somewhere in the middle of Indiana. And a bl--dy awful
cockney accent, too.

"Curious, possibly, logical no. Anyway, Mr. Timson, that does not
directly apportion to the matter in question."

"We got evidence placing you at the crime scene," says the Mexican in
a nasal whine. "Y stop calling me Milly."

"Ramón, chap, you really must understand it is a North American
idiomatic expression, deriving from the word militia, which most
certainly shares a kinship with your own /miliciano/, in turn
deriving--"

"Can it, Captain Thesaurus."

"Dictionary, Ramón."

"Whatever."

"As you wish," he says crisply. Is this a comedy or a drama? Typical
Mexicans, can't make up their mind. But the Indiana Millie wasn't so
bad, very scrubbed, officer and a gentleman type. I wonder what he's
doing inside this Mexican vita set.

"Look, I'd be crackers to leave ev-ee-dence of me self at the scene,
you know 'at."

"The brightest bulbs occasionally burn out, Timson."

"Captain, wha' is this Yank doing here, ennyway?"

The Yank got in the criminal's face. "Look, punk, it's none of your
business, but I came to Michigan City because one of your no-good
criminal scum mató mí papa--"

"Allow me, Ramón. For reasons too complicated to explain at this
juncture, he has remained, as a liaison for the U.S.M. Consulate
General--"

"Oh, cállate, amigo. Let's get somewhere with this punk. Interrogation
is a contact sport, and all suspects are guilty of something."

"Stangely, I think I should probably write that down," said the
Captain.  "Thank you kindly, Ramón...I think."

The show continued for another half hour, a strange mélange of humor
and bullets and tension. The plot she didn't quite get, something
involving a female CNA airmobile pilot, a retired Mexican general, a
pretzel vendor and a big pile of rocks from Manitoba called an
inukshuk. Or something. In the process, it seemed to unconventionally
parody every stereotype of Mexican and C.N.A., though Ev did not pick
up on all the satirical notes. She did like the doughnut-stealing
German shepherd named Galloway--these Mexicans do read our history
books, don't they--that belonged to the by-the-book Militia captain,
who boasted the improbable upper-crust name of Frasier Benton. Though
if the producer expected anyone to believe that a back lot and on-site
footage shot in Novidessa were supposed to be Michigan City, he had to
be, as the ridiculous displaced cockney had said, crackers. [1]

She let her mind wander through the commercials. It had been a good
day, hadn't it? Lacroix--Lacroy, she couldn't stand his inability to
pronounce his own name.
He said it was a perfectly good name; what sort of name is Evangeline?
he had responded pointedly.  Ev, for reasons, like the millie had
said, too complicated to explain at this juncture, did not like her
name at all [2].  She always signed her name E.A. Gilmore, and hoped
that people thought Ev stood for Eve.  Something about her own name
set her teeth on edge.  Lacroy had touched a nerve.  But she could
forgive him that, at least for the moment... It's a perfectly good
name, she had responded, her voice wobbling.

She didn't get angry with him over that, but in any other instance she
would have been furious over a remark like that.  But she was almost
starting to--starting to like him, actually. He had style--even when
he teased. Not the most sensible person in the world, but men seldom
were. She smiled to herself, remembering the afternoon test flight.
She wasn't supposed to fly the F-30, the latest thing in Mexican
aerodynamic design, he was, she was supposed to sit and be a good
observer. But then he'd suddenly turned it over to her.

She thought he was crazy, and then, abruptly, she said to herself, why
not? It had been a contest of wills at first, giving the ace pilot a
bit of a shakedown, but she had mellowed as the afternoon had passed.
She had had her fun giving Lacroix a bit of a rattle, it was time to
do some serious flying. She hadn't had this much fun, devious or
non-devious, in months... It was different from orbiting the earth,
really; the rough-and-tumble spin in the cockpit lacked the sublimity
of her silent evening with her feet resting on a floor of
cloud-swathed blue ocean. But it was warm, and human, and real. And it
was comradely, not solitary.

But now she was alone again.

She checked her watch. It was about ten o'clock. Well, that wasn't so
bad, was it? Well, it was, admit it, Ev, it was. Galloway the dog
could not redeem that horrible cockney accent. Good Lord.

Over the South Vandalia-Mexico del Norte Border
1800 Hours, July 13, 1974

G-dd--mn you, Hawke--no--I can't think of you now, not now, for bl--dy
chrissakes get out of my mind. I have to fly this plane. You've given
me a conscience. It was all in my hands now. The Jeffersonistas had to
be awakened; someone had to show the United States the way back to the
ideals that had formed it. Someone had to tell Mexico the danger. The
United Empire was aligning with the despot, the dictator of New
Granada, Elbittar. What if the Tory militarists, the soft-headed
Anglophile sentimentalists in Burgoyne, what if they joined the
alliance? It wasn't even for Mexico's sake, but for the struggling
Jeffersonists of Boricua, the perpetual underdogs--they would soon be
crushed between the Spanish tyrants of New Granada on the south and
the Tories she so despised from the north. North America was no longer
North America. It had become a place where the rights of Englishmen
were trampled daily--the core ideal of the Rebellion, long forgotten.
At least Mexico could be restored to its Jeffersonist roots. D-mn you,
Martin Hawke. I can't be thinking of this now.

Theodore Army Air Station, California
2030 Hours, July 13, 1974

The evening, despite a moderately entertaining start, was growing into
an ever-growing list of acting disasters, starting with the evening
showing of a situation vita called /Chico y el Hombre/. She could
barely stomach sitvits in English, let alone Mexico's pseudo-Spanish
gibberish.

If she had had anything else to occupy her time, anything at all, Ev
would long since have switched off the vita. There was nothing,
however, so she forced herself to endure the seemingly endless
succession of advertisements for locomobiles and beer, and waited with
what patience she could muster for whatever came next. What came next
was something called The Big Picture, apparently a vitavised showing
of a motion picture. Or so she gathered from the turtlenecked
announcer's breathless insistence that viewers were privileged to
behold the WORLD VITAVISION PREMIERE of some film that she had never
heard of.

It was called The Hidden Menace and it seemed to be a fantascience
action picture, by some nobody named Lucas Jorge. The copyright in the
opening credits was for 1972, so clearly nobody had been in any great
hurry to premier this particular film on vitavision. Five minutes into
it, Ev could understand why. The film seemed to be set in the near
future; a written prologue scrolling up the screen to the
accompaniment of badly recorded and extremely annoying brass fanfares
announced that Kramer Associates had sent a fleet of warships to
blockade Cape Town in an effort to blackmail the Cape Kingdom into
granting KA certain unspecified trade privileges.

Yes, of course, that makes perfect sense. Kramer was Kramer, yes, but
Kramer was not stupid either. Two Mexican diplomats autogyro onto the
flagship of the KA fleet, talking in Heroic, Macho and Wooden
sentences all the while. Mexicans? I mean, Mexicans? Why are they
here?

The fleet's commander orders the diplomats killed, and naturally, of
course, the heroes somehow manage not to be killed. Instead, they
fight their way down to the flagship's hold, where an invasion fleet
is being readied..and engage in more heroic derring-do, or something.

And then...the icing on the cake.  Good grief. The commander receives
a vita transmission from Cape Town.

"It is Queen Arexandla helserf," the second-in-command announces with
a bad Japanese accent to the accompaniment of ominously gonged music.
Which also made no sense, the Kramerites worked out of Taiwan, not
Japan. Emperor Meiji had modernized quickly enough on his own without
any help, not at all like the Philippines, and actually a lot earlier.

The two of them were played by heavily made-up Anglo Mexican actors
dressed in ridiculous naval uniforms swathed in cheap gold braid and a
sinister reinterpretation of the Kramer Associates symbol. Sorry, a
sinistel leintelpletation of the Klamel Associates symbor, in this
case. "At rast," the commander says with malicious and badly-acted
glee, "We ale getting lesults!" A large vita screen shows the
Queen--That's Queen Alexandra? Good God. She's got to be twenty-four,
at the most, with a complexion to kill for and a wall of blonde hair
under a cheap crown. She thought she recognized a fading Mexican
singer in the role off a rather dubious poster in one of the hangers.

Cheap crown. Oh my. Did the Cape Kingdom even have a real set of crown
jewels? She couldn't recall. It certainly didn't look like that one,
which seemed to had come out of a Christmas cracker. She knew what
Alexandra looked like, she /had/ met the Queen after all. While she
was what journalists liked to call a handsome woman, dark haired,
dark-browed, sharp-featured, she was getting a bit past it to be
portrayed by someone--wait, what's this? Oh God, it's sucking me in to
its world.

The fleet commander approaches the vita screen and says in oleaginous
tones, "Again you come befole us, Youl Highness. You now behord the
might of Klamel Associates. We have oldeled the entile freet to
ploceed as pranned, unress you concede. Whlat do you say to that?"

"You wiyull not be so pleasyesd when you hear what Ah hayuve to say,
Commayundar," Alexandra replies. Her Majesty Alexandra, Queen of the
Cape, speaking Dutch with a Jeffersonian drawl.

It was the Queen's accent that did it. Ev decided to switch to the
Spanish-language station. It couldn't possibly be worse than this.
Could it?

Click.

A flourish of  brassy mariachi trumpets, and the deep Spanish voice of
a garishly blue-evening suited and be-hairpieced  Francisco "Don
Francisco" Kreutzenberger exclaiming, arms outstretched, /"En vivo
directo de la ciudad de México, es el noche de Sábado Gigante!"/ The
vast purple velvet curtain as it swept across the stage, horns
gyrating like a vaguely tipsy bumblebee.

H'mmm.  We shall see.

-------------------------------------------------------------------
[1] The vita show in question is the Mexican police comedy-drama /Due
North/ which has become something of a cross-border cult favorite,
probably because the Mexicans assume it is making fun of the North
Americans and the North Americans assume it is making fun of the
Mexicans.  It has been dubbed into Spanish for some stations, where it
is called /Directo al Norte/.  Any similarities to a recent Canadian
TV program about a cop, a Mountie, a wolf and a woman named Margaret
Thatcher (not /that/ Margaret Thatcher) may be intentional. Or may not
be.

[2] I'll just say they /are/ indeed incredibly complicated and leave
it at that for the time being.