For All Nails #69: Waiting for the Chancellor
by Johnny Pez
- Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
- 28 June 1974
Ex-Colonel Joao Pedro Vieira was a very happy man. All the years spent building up a coterie of like-minded officers had finally paid off the month before, and now he gloried in the title of President of Angola. Though time-consuming, it hadn't been a particularly arduous process. Vieira's predecessor, the late Ex-President-for-Life Fernao de Almeida, had gotten sloppy in his old age, and allowed his cronies to embezzle too much Mason Program money. A threat from Monaghan to cut Angola off completely had provided the perfect flash point, and Vieira's colleagues had been able to seize power almost without bloodshed.
Vieira's subsequent steps had been the obvious ones. Release all the Old Man's political prisoners and round up a new set. Ease up on censorship of the press a bit and promise free and fair elections in the not-too-distant future. Finally, his current trip to Berlin to see Chancellor Markstein, just to let Carter Monaghan know that there were other fish in the sea. Of course, Vieira had no illusions about the depth of the Chancellor's pockets. Everyone knew that the Germans were too busy trying to keep control of their Global War conquests to bother much with foreign aid. Still, it never hurt to ask, and Vieira had always wanted to see Berlin anyway.
Although he was too young to have seen action himself in the Global War, Vieira was old enough to remember the German troops landing in Luanda to seize Angola from Britain's Portuguese allies. Just before they left five years later, the Germans had granted Angola independence, and the war-weary Portuguese had been able to do no more than protest. It hadn't taken too long for Angola's first and only popularly elected president to alienate his Mbundu and Congo constituents to the point where the Old Man had been able to overthrow him. After that, de Almeida had kept himself afloat on a sea of North American pounds, till the tide began to go out and the flow of funds threatened to dry up.
And now here he was, sipping coffee in a well-appointed waiting room until Chancellor Markstein had time to see him. Vieira had just added two lumps of sugar to his second cup when the door to the waiting room opened to reveal a middle-aged European of average height with dark hair cut in an old-fashioned scalp-lock. FN1 The man was dressed very formally in tastefully expensive morning clothes, accented with a handful of military decorations and a red-and-white sash.
"Goodness gracious," the European said in German, "I had no idea there was anyone in here. I hope I'm not disturbing you."
"Not at all," Vieira answered in the same language. "I'm waiting to see Chancellor Markstein."
"And I as well," the European said. "Do you mind terribly if I join you? Misery loves company, as they say."
"Please do," said Vieira, motioning for the other man to sit. "Would you like some coffee?"
"What I'd like is a good stiff shot of brandy, but coffee will do. I'm the King of Poland, by the way. And you are?"
"The President of Angola, your majesty," Vieira answered, still savoring the phrase. He poured the monarch half a cup.
"That's in, errm, Africa, isn't it?" said the King of Poland. "And please, call me Frederick, no need for us fellow heads of state to stand on formality, eh?"
"Thank you very much, Frederick, and please call me Joao Pedro." Inwardly, Vieira was floating on cloud nine. Only President for a month, and already he was hobnobbing with the crowned heads of Europe. One crowned head, at any rate. "Indeed, er, Frederick, we're in the south, between the Congo Republic and Ovamboland."
"What brings you to Berlin, then, Joao Pedro?" said Frederick.
"Ah, well, I only became President last month, and I thought I'd pay a courtesy call on Chancellor Markstein. He's actually the first foreign ruler I've visited."
"I'm sure he'll be quite honored," said Frederick before draining his cup.
"Another cup?" offered Vieira.
"Thank you, Joao Pedro, but no. I'll be nervous enough as it is. I've come seeking the Chancellor's advice on this edict I'm thinking of issuing."
Vieira knew quite a lot about how the German Empire functioned, so when King Frederick said he was seeking Markstein's advice, the Angolan knew that the King was actually seeking the Chancellor's permission. "What sort of edict, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Not at all," Frederick assured him. "You see, I've been thinking lately how, um, well I suppose you could say how unfair it is that citizens of the Inner Empire can vote for different parties, but my own subjects can't. I was hoping to issue an edict legalizing political parties in Poland and allowing for multicandidate elections."
"Ah, I can see why you're so nervous about meeting the Chancellor, then," said Vieira. "After all, there's not a chance in, er, what I mean is, he'll certainly advise against any such edict. In the strongest possible terms."
"But why?" wondered the King. Vieira couldn't help feeling sorry for the poor man.
"Let's put it this way, Frederick," the Angolan explained. "How many Poles are there in the Inner Empire?"
"In the Inner Empire?" Frederick frowned in concentration. "Oh, eleven million I think was the figure in the last census. Most of them live in the Kingdom of Prussia. FN2 But what's that got to do with anything?"
"Everything, I'm afraid. Given the choice, where would those Poles rather live, in Prussia or Poland?"
"Poland, I'd imagine. They are Poles, after all."
"Certainly," Vieira said. "In Prussia they have to speak German, and they're a minority among the Prussians. In Poland they could speak Polish, and be part of the national majority. Yet, they are content to stay in Prussia. And the reason they are content to stay in Prussia is that there, they are full citizens of the Empire. They can read what they like, say what they like, and vote for whomever they choose to represent them in the Imperial Diet. If they lived in Poland, they could do none of those things.
"But if you allow your subjects in Poland to have the same rights as the citizens of the Inner Empire, then the Poles in the Inner Empire will have no reason to prefer being part of the Inner Empire, and every reason to prefer being part of Poland. They will cease to be content.
"And believe me, the last thing Chancellor Markstein wants is another group of discontented citizens to deal with."
The King remained silent after Vieira concluded his explanation. He was clearly mulling over the Angolan President's words, and Vieira hated to interrupt his thinking, but the coffee he had drunk was making certain demands upon him, so he said, "Ah, Frederick, if you wouldn't mind, could you direct me to the washroom?"
With a start, Frederick looked up at Vieira and said, "What? Oh, yes, there's one down the corridor, just off the cabinet room. I'll show you the way."
"Oh, no need for that," Vieira assured him.
"It's a bit tricky to find if you don't know your way around," Frederick said. "Anyway, I could stand to make a stop there myself."
As he led Vieira out of the waiting room, the King added, "I just hope nobody's already using it."
(Forward to FAN #70: "Call Me Judge Lancito".)
(Forward to 28 June 1974: Surprise!.)
(Return to For All Nails.)