For All Nails #91C: Hidden Menaces, or, Lesistance is Futire
by M. G. Alderman and Johnny Pez
- 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"
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," the criminal says, "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 appertain 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."
"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 doughboy-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. FN1
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, as the millie had said, too complicated to explain at this juncture, did not like her name at all. FN2 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.
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's 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, 13 July 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?
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.
Forward to FAN #91D (13 July 1974): Sábado Gigante.
Return to For All Nails.