For All Nails #5: Out of Uniform
by David Mix Barrington
"Alright,chico, let's hear it again." The skinny black youth flinched at an expected blow that didn't come -- this time -- then answered in a grunt.
"Southern Vandalia Special Militia my left cojon. You expect me to believe that anybody over the line is going to admit to having anything to do with you chicos? You're expecting maybe you're POW's or something, that the laws of war hold here? You're out of uniform, negro, and so are your buddies here. We can string you up right here, we can work you over the Comanche way, we can do whatever we want. You're sixteen miles inside Mexican territory, with five sticks of dynamite and guns that don't quite fit your little hunting story. Now I want to know two things. What were you going to blow up, and what part of your damned government sent you?"
"Swazey Patrick, Lieutenant, 3rd Fremont's -- uuh!"
"Save it, tenente. Standing Bear!"
"Bring the wounded negro over here. It's time for Tenente Patrick to get a taste of the responsibilities of command. Alright, kid, how far do we have to go? We do have a doctor, and as soon as we have some answers your compadre here can see her. FN2 In the meantime, Corporal Standing Bear here has been reading about how the Comanches did things back in the old days..."
Constable Dwight Dudley of the Royal Manitoba Constabulary was out of uniform. The dress reds looked smashing on parade, and they were quite practical in his usual line of work, when he wanted to be noticed. But here, hundreds of miles within Mexican territory, with a flaky spook and a few dogs for company, he was very happy not to be noticed. He and Huggins were supposed to be prospectors, and they had tools and even Mexican passports to match. But Dudley wasn't anxious to meet anybody, particularly not the Inuit FN3 who "kept order" here for the USM. At least Huggins knew what to do with the prospector's tools... Huggins came away from the small hut, which he had called a "passivemonitoring station".
"Like I thought, it was a good-sized TNT explosion, and there's some radioactivity around, but overall it was another big dud for Mercator. We'll know more when I get this mag tape back home. You know, if they ever get their act together we're going to have just a beautiful picture of the geology of the whole polar region. I think there's a lot more oil here than the USM knows about -- the question is whether it stretches into Manitoba as well."
"I hope you don't have any more rocks to carry. We've got a long way to go, and barely food for the dogs."
"Relax, I've got samples of all the major formations around here. Mostly Silurian, with a bit of -- holy sh-t!". A flash lit up the northern sky.
"Should we take cover? We've got a minute or two for the blast, right?"
"It's not another bomb, it can't be. Besides, it's in the wrong place, the bomb test site is over that way. They've got a whole 'nother site for something else, that we never knew about -- at least nobody told me. There, look!" The flash had not gone out, but was moving upward. Huggins pulled out his surveying compass and began sighting on it.
"Ok, here we go. We'll get the seismic before we go, but the main thing is to find out where it's going. I hope someone else is going to pick it up, because it'll be a while before we can report. God, that thing is big. Do you suppose it's going all the way to earth orbit? By the way,there's no blast to worry about, but we're going to have a hell of a noise in a few minutes. The exact time'll give us range, and we have bearing..." Dudley pulled out a pad of paper and Huggins began reading off numbers.
Forward to FAN #6: Two Angry Citizens Per Distant Unit Per City.
Forward to 1970: Necessity is the Mother Of . . . .
Forward to Carmen Valenzuela: A Chingazo.
Return to For All Nails.