Saturday, November 14, 2015

For All Nails #319: Strategic Alliance by Johnny Pez

For All Nails #319: Strategic Alliance
by Johnny Pez

Gallivan Airfield
Michigan City, Indiana, CNA
14 November 1935

More than once as he flew across the continent, John Jackson found himself sympathizing with Governor-General Douglas Watson. Like Watson, Jackson had faced considerable resistance from his staff to his plan to travel by airmobile. Too dangerous, they kept telling him. If he died unexpectedly, the company would find itself paralyzed as the heads of the various subsidiaries intrigued to replace him.

Unlike Watson, Jackson had refused to let himself be talked out of his decision. Watson could spare the time; he could not. It would take three days to travel from San Francisco to Michigan City by train or locomobile, and he didn't have three days to spare. With refueling stops in Conyers and St. Louis, the trip would only require 20 hours by airmobile, so airmobile it had to be.

Jackson and his aide Sandoval were only at Gallivan Airfield long enough to go through an abbreviated version of customs before a waiting livery took them out to Galloway Point. Normally, the two men would have spent the forty-minute ride working, but he had yielded to his staff to the point of not bringing any sensitive documents with him into the C.N.A. The C.B.I. was known to be rather suspicious where Kramer Associates was concerned, the fruit of his predecessors' sometimes injudicious attempts to influence North American elections results. While it was unlikely that they would attempt anything as crude as a search of his possessions, there was no point in tempting fate. Instead, Jackson spent his time looking out through the livery's back window at the passing landscape, and conversing with Sandoval.

Sandoval's position as Jackson's chief assistant made him one of the top men in the company, and along with Aikens and Salazar he was in the running to succeed Jackson as president of the company. In the running, but not certain to do so. Like Jackson himself under Benedict, Sandoval would have to prove he had the right mix of daring, prudence, vision, and business acumen if he wanted the top spot. Jackson would have been lying if he had denied taking a certain amount of enjoyment from the competition. Salazar was off in the Philippines paving the way for the upcoming move; Aikens was in Honolulu overseeing the university; and Sandoval was here with him. Only time would tell which of the three had chosen the right path to the presidency.

"Ever been to Michigan City before, Sandoval?"

"No, sir, it's my first time here."

Jackson knew that perfectly well, of course. "I've been here twice before," he continued. "It's a little odd. At first, you think you might be in San Francisco or Henrytown, but then you start noticing differences."

Sandoval nodded. "All of the signs are in English," he noted.

"That's the first thing you notice," Jackson agreed. He nodded toward the passing lokes in the other traffic lane.

Sandoval peered at them for a long moment before saying, "Well, most of them are North American, obviously."

Jackson said, "And the drivers?"

He could practically see the Edison lamp going off over Sandoval's head. "A lot of them are Negroes," he said.

"About a third, I'd say," said Jackson.

"That is a big difference," Sandoval admitted. Back in Mexico, ownership of locomobiles was still mostly confined to Anglos and Hispanos, though the number of Mexicano drivers was growing steadily. Jackson doubted whether there were more than a thousand Negroes in all of Mexico who owned locomobiles. As he always did when he contemplated the racial divisions in his native land, Jackson felt relieved at the company's impending departure for the Far East.

The blocks of flats, row houses, duplexes, and single-family homes they were passing through suddenly gave way to spacious estates, most of them well-fenced. "I take it we've entered Galloway Point," said Sandoval.

Jackson nodded again. "They all look like they've been transplanted from the English countryside. A few of them have been. You can tell the North Americans still look to the British for their notions of gracious living."

At last the livery turned right onto a gravel drive (of course!) leading up to an imposing wrought-iron gate with a uniformed attendant. A brief conversation between attendant and driver, and the gate swung ponderously open. The gravel drive meandered through meticulously-kept grounds to the front entrance of an imposing faux-English-manor. The livery halted, and the driver opened the door for Jackson and Sandoval, then stood at a fair approximation of attention as they emerged.

An elderly, immaculately-dressed Negro came down the steps from the front doors to welcome them. "Good afternoon Mr. Jackson, Mr. Sandoval," he said. "I am Mr. Billington. Mr. Galloway has been expecting you." Jackson recognized the man: Ferdinand Billington, a member of one of the most prominent Negro families in the C.N.A. Forty-two years before, his father had been the first Negro from the Northern Confederation to be elected to the Grand Council; two years ago, Billington's son had been elected to the same seat. Billington himself served as chief counsel for North American Motors, and was one of Owen Galloway's closest friends. He led them up the steps, where two formally-dressed servants, one Negro and one white, opened the doors for them.

The interior of the Galloway mansion matched the exterior in mimicking an English country manor. There was oak paneling everywhere, portraits of various ancestral Galloways hanging from the walls, and even suits of armor. A visitor could be forgiven for thinking the building was centuries old, but Jackson happened to know that it had been built only twenty-five years before, by Owen Galloway's father, who was the first member of the prestigious family to reside in Michigan City.

Mr. Billington led them into a library, currently unoccupied, and told them, "Mr. Galloway with be with you momentarily," before backing out of the room and closing the doors behind him.

Sandoval was looking around the library. He said, "I have the oddest feeling that I've been here before."

"You've probably seen it hundreds of times," Jackson told him. "This is where Mr. Galloway broadcasts his weekly homilies. He has a full set of vitavision equipment stowed in the next room."

"You seem quite well-informed, sir," said a voice behind them. It was the most familiar voice in the English-speaking world, more familiar than any political leader or entertainer. Jackson and Sandoval turned and saw Owen Galloway standing just inside the library's doorway, with Billington standing discreetly behind him.

Galloway was far and away the most popular public figure in the C.N.A. Had he wished it, he could have been Governor-General; indeed, on more than one occasion it had been necessary for him to act to prevent the Grand Council from elevating him to the office. With one speech, he had transformed Governor-General Watson from a political mastermind to a pariah fighting to stay in office. He was the architect of the Galloway Plan, which had arguably prevented civil war from breaking out in the C.N.A. twelve years before. He was also the president of North American Motors, the largest corporation in the C.N.A., and the second largest in the world, and thus in a sense the closest thing Jackson had to a business rival.

"I try to be, sir," Jackson responded.

Galloway gestured for the four of them to seat themselves at the far end of the library, in seats ranged around a low table near a fireplace where a fire burned low. Servants entered and placed plates of pâté, caviar, and other delicacies on the table, and Galloway invited his guests to help themselves.To Jackson's surprise, Galloway's voice was quite animated, and precisely modulated, in startling contrast to the dull monotone in which he gave his weekly speeches to the nation. He supposed that the other man must simply be bad at reciting prepared speeches.

Jackson would have preferred to get right to the point, but he knew that when dealing with North Americans, the formalities had to be observed. Galloway was their host, and it was a host's duty to provide refreshments. So Galloway and Jackson discussed trivialities while they ate together, and Jackson endured it with as much patience as he could muster.

Once they had eaten, and the servants had returned to clear away the plates, Galloway said, "Now then, Mr. Jackson, to what do I owe the honor of your presence in my home? Your representatives assured me that it was not related to business, and I admit I am unsure what other common interests we might share."

"Mr. Galloway," Jackson answered, "we share the same common interest that all men of good will share: the cause of world peace."

Galloway raised a skeptical eyebrow. "You, Mr. Jackson? An idealist?"

"I'll level with you, sir," said Jackson. "My firm seeks to expand into the Far East. For that, I need stable business conditions. And I happen to know that President Silva has plans to wage a war of conquest in that part of the world. The last thing I need is the U.S. Pacific Fleet attacking my business partners, so you and I share a common interest in keeping the peace, even if our motives might differ."

Galloway's face still exhibited skepticism. "And how do you propose that we should pursue this common interest?"

"We each have our own preferred means of influencing opinion," Jackson said. "For you, it is your weekly addresses to your nation. And not just to your own nation, I might add. They are also broadcast in my own country, and I understand that recordings of your speeches are broadcast in other nations around the world, often in translation in those countries where English is not commonly spoken."

"I believe I know what your own preferred method is," Galloway responded. "I understand your Mr. Fuentes took exception to it, and sought to put an end to it. Unsuccessfully, I might add."

Jackson allowed himself a thin smile. "Think of it as an old company tradition. I believe that together, we have sufficient resources at our command to identify those men who represent a threat to world peace, and to see to it that they are not allowed to influence policy in their respective nations. A strategic alliance, as it were."

Galloway shook his head. "Mr. Jackson, I see that you mean well, or at least you mean something. It is my belief, however, that efforts to corrupt the political process, even in the cause of peace, would prove to be a cure that was worse than the disease." He stood up from his seat and added, "I believe that we have nothing more to say to one another. Good day, sir. Mr. Billington, if you would be so kind?"

Billington politely escorted the two visitors to the front door, where they found their livery still waiting. As the vehicle pulled away from the front entrance, Jackson sighed.  "Well, Sandoval," he said, "now you see what idealism will get you."

"Are you certain he was wrong, sir?" Sandoval replied. "Isn't that the reason we're leaving Mexico? Seventy years of buying politicians has left the country with a completely dysfunctional political system, so we're moving to the Philippines. And what then? Will we keep jumping from country to country, buying politicians as we go, and then leaving when the political culture becomes too corrupt to function?"

Jackson made no answer, but he knew then and there that when he finally stepped down as head of the company, Sandoval would not be replacing him.

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