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For All Nails #54: Some Rival

by M. G. Alderman


Some rival has stolen my true love away,
So I in old England no longer can stay.
I will swim the wide ocean around my fair breast,
To find out my true love, the one I love the best.

--Traditional


Marlborough City, Manitoba, CNA
2 June 1972

It is a warm Manitoba summer morning, a slight breeze stirring the regimental colors. The sound of cloth rippling against cloth, the gleam of the sun high overhead through the seventeen scarlet and white stripes of the North American flag. The immense parade ground of the Royal Confederation of North America Air Force Academy is framed by the great pinnacled blocks of classrooms and drill halls, their yellow brick turned golden by the sun. The great pointed-fifth dome of the main hall, its golden skin blazing in the morning light, soars overhead, crowned with a great statue of warlike Athene, helmeted and brandishing a long-shafted spear.

Bleachers, crowded with ecstatic parents and relatives and draped with scarlet broadcloth, obscure the steps of the domed hall. An expectant hush falls over the crowd. Arrayed in impressive ranks of horizon-blue, the graduates stand at attention behind the color guard, their white dress solar helmets, spiked and badged, seeming a great glittering sea of spearheads. Braid gleams on their shoulders and across the bands of their cartridge-pouches. In a few more days, they will no longer wear the cerulean dragoon tunic faced with the Academy's white, no longer will their brass collar dogs bear the winged lightning-bolt. They will all soon be cornets and then lieutenants and captains and even generals and field marshals. No longer cadets. Their scarlet parade uniforms will be emblazoned with the crown and lion of the elite 19th Burgoyne Aerial Hussars, the bursting grenade of the Bombardment Corps, the insignia of the air wing of Tarleton's Legion, the Royal Manitobans, the somber engineers and stolid military police and even the unfashionable signaling troops.

If one looks ahead to next year's class, it is this insignia that a certain Manitoba girl, cut off from her fellow female cadets who will stand mostly in the top twenty percent of the class, will wear when she fulfills the orders assigning her to the 10th/12th South Vandalia Borderers (14th Signal Battalion) at a godforsaken listening post on the mountainous Mexican frontier.

But that is in the future.

Cadet First Class Evangeline Gilmore had graduated third over all. She stood, rifle shouldered smartly, copper hair gleaming, the single woman in the color guard, head cocked back proudly. Next to her, the confederation flag and the blue-fielded colors of the RCNAAF catch the wind, at her back the gold and green and red banners of the academy's battalions. The massed bands of several Manitoban regiments break into a clamorous, blood-rushing rendition of God Save the King and the Confederation's anthem, and then the march past begins. Standing on the reviewing platform, Earl St. Laurent, resplendent in his blue brass-buttoned frock coat and cock-feathered bicorne, watches each passing rank, nodding absently, eyes narrowed with stoic officialness. And then his eye finds her for an instant, and then loses its focus. She wonders if he has noticed her.

But on the reviewing platform, there is one man who clearly has noticed her, an unfamiliar colonel in the green-faced scarlet uniform of the Ministry of War. His name is Henry Anson and he is attached to the Confederation's program towards the conquest of the final frontier, the immense blackness of Outer Space.

There are more ceremonies to come, a high-Anglican baccalaureate service in the chapel, a lavish ball where each cadet will try on the mess uniform of the regiment that will now be sponsoring his--or her--training, and then, finally, the graduation ceremonies in the auditorium beneath the great golden arc of Athena's dome.

One year from now, there will be a man who will notice Alexandra Stapleton when, at the final commencement ceremonies, her name is called last of all and she steps up to the podium to receive her diploma. His name, however, is Martín Falcón and he will be anonymously watching from the crowd.

However, like Henry Anson, he, too, has a weighty job.

He is a colonel in the intelligence services of the United States of Mexico.


(Forward to FAN #55: Triestine Livers.)

(Forward to 8 July 1972: City of Angels.)

(Forward to Ev and Alex: The Sweet Six.)

(Return to For All Nails.)

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