For All Nails #223: You Say Goodbye and I Say Hello
by Johnny Pez
The military band played the Imperial Anthem, "Cross of Gold", while the flag that was the song's subject was slowly lowered down the flagpole. Although Yvette Fanchon detested the song, she knew the words by heart in the song's original German.
- Cross of gold, cross of black
- Fly forever high
- Place of pride in our hearts
- Glory in the sky
Fanchon took refuge in the thought that the flag's glory was dimmed both by the steady downpour that drenched it and by the circumstances of its departure. The rain was a natural occurrence, but the withdrawal of the Channel Force FN1 was, indirectly, the work of a man.
To Yvette Fanchon's way of thinking, the United Empire's war on New Granada was simple madness. Clearly, Prime Minister Gold was intent on using the Bali attack as an excuse to extend the United Empire's sphere of influence in America. However, he had, in her opinion, consistently misjudged the situation. He had thought to cow Alexander Elbittar into submission, but Elbittar had refused to be cowed. Now the British, to say nothing of the Australians and the Taiwanese, had painted themselves into a corner. They had to make good on their threats, and thus found themselves fighting a war they hadn't intended to fight, while alienating opinion in both Mexico and North America.
For twenty years, there had been a standoff across the English Channel between Great Britain and the German Empire. Now the British men and airmobiles that had threatened France with invasion were off fighting in South America, and there was no need for the Germans to maintain their Channel Force to guard the French coast. And thus it was that Fanchon found herself standing on the soggy parade ground of the Germans' Amiens Base, observing the ceremony by which the last elements of the Channel Force withdrew from France and prepared for redeployment elsewhere in defense of the Empire.
As "Cross of Gold" reached its climax and its merciful conclusion, the Imperial German flag came down from the flagpole, to be reverently folded up and carried off by the German color guard. Then the French color guard marched up, and to the strains of "A Life for the Republic", the flag of the Republic of France -- including, ironically, a gold Cross of Lorraine -- rose to the top of the flagpole.
Standing beside her on the parade ground, under a hastily-erected pavilion to ward off the rain, General Eric von Gellmann raised his arm in salute while three uniformed French soldiers fired their rifles again and again. Then Gellmann turned and offered his hand to her. "I'm sure it's a sight neither of us expected to see so soon," he said.
"A happy sight for both of us, though, wouldn't you agree, Herr General?" said Fanchon as she briefly took his hand in hers.
"Certainly a happy one for you, Madame Premier," Gellmann answered, "and I will admit, in a way a happy one for myself as well."
On the far side of the flagpole, General von Bülow, the now former commandant of Amiens Base, stood in silence as the German color guard climbed into the back of their transport, and were driven off through the gate. Then he gave a final salute to the French flag and climbed into the back of his staff loke, which followed the transport out of the base. No doubt he was already preoccupied with the task of establishing his command in the Russias or Arabia, or wherever it was to which his force was being redeployed.
Fanchon and Gellmann watched as von Bülow's loke drove out of sight. Then Gellmann turned back to Fanchon and said, "The base is yours now, Madame Premier. Just out of curiosity, what do you plan on doing with it? Plow it under and sow the ground with salt? Use it for target practice? Turn it into a leper colony?"
Fanchon strongly suspected that the General was attempting humor. As usual when that happened, she ignored it. "As it happens, Herr General," she said, "the question was raised at the last Cabinet meeting. The possibility of destroying it was indeed mentioned, although I must confess that none of us thought of using it as a leper colony. In the end, it was Herr Lussier whose suggestion was finally adopted."
"Lussier?" Gellmann rhythmically tapped his fingers against his cane -- a mannerism he had adopted in the last six months, along with the cane itself. "I'm not quite sure -- wait, isn't he your Minister of Trade and Tourism?"
"Yes, Herr General. It was Herr Lussier who provided us with the statistics showing the economic losses suffered in the channel coast as a result of the withdrawal of the Channel Force."
Gellmann nodded. "Approximately twenty-five million reichsmarks per month."
Fanchon looked at him in surprise. "How did you know?"
He smiled. "That's how much it cost us to maintain the Channel Force."
Fanchon nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, of course. At any rate, Herr Lussier predicted hard times for the coast unless we found a way to make up for the lost revenue. He therefore proposed that Amiens Base and the other abandoned bases FN2 be remade into . . . " She frowned and said, "I'm not sure what the correct German phrase is. The English expression is 'holiday camps'."
Gellmann seemed astonished. "Vacation resorts? You mean vacation resorts?"
Fanchon nodded her appreciation. "Thank you, yes, that is the phrase. Vacation resorts."
"With all due respect, Madame Premier, who in his right mind would want to spend his vacation in an old army camp?"
Without a hint of a smile, she said, "The same men who have been living there for the last thirty-five years -- German soldiers. Or rather, former German soldiers. According to Herr Lussier, Normandy and Picardy are already popular vacation locales for former German soldiers who were stationed here. A considerable tourist trade already exists. Herr Lussier plans to refurbish the camp's buildings to provide guest amenities, a swimming pool, a game room, a gift shop, and so on."
To her annoyance, the General began to laugh. "Germans, come back!" he exclaimed. "And bring your money!"
"You think Herr Lussier's plan will fail?" she asked with a frown.
Gellmann managed to contain his mirth long enough to say, "Just the opposite, Madame Premier. I'm laughing because I think it will be a great success. You've turned the tables on us, making us pay good money for the privilege of occupying our own military bases. All this time we thought we'd conquered you, and now it turns out that you've conquered us instead." Then he began to laugh again.
(Forward to FAN #224: Houseguests.)
(Forward to 8 May 1975: Shootout at Black Rock.)
(Forward to Yvette Fanchon: Freedom.)
(Return to For All Nails.)