Friday, December 31, 2010

For All Nails #304: Look Both Ways Before Crossing

This is the latest entry in the For All Nails project, a continuation of the alternate history of Robert Sobel's For Want of a Nail: If Burgoyne Had Won at Saratoga. The following vignette is a direct sequel to For All Nails #300: Descendants, which can be found here at the Sobel Wiki FAN archive.

From Newstime
14 April 1980

After all the rhetoric attending the French referendum on union with Ghana, the final results have been anticlimactic. By an overwhelming majority approaching 90%, the French people have rejected the proposed union. French Premier Yvette Fanchon, who was careful to distance herself from the referendum, appears to have sustained no political damage from the results. "The people of France have spoken," she stated after the final results had been announced. "As much as we might respect and admire our African cousins, it is best that we continue on our separate paths."

How the results will play in Ghana is less certain. Paramount King Victor Fontaine must return to the nation over which he reigns and tell his subjects that their French "mother" (as Fanchon's great-grandfather once put it) has rejected them. The vote cannot help but be seen as a rebuke, and Victor, whose power over his subjects is more theoretical than real, may find himself facing a backlash that could conceivably topple him from his throne.

14 April 1980

"What the devil do you mean by this?" an annoyed Justin McIntee inquired of his uninvited guest.

"I must apologize for the irregular nature of this visit," said the dark man in heavily accented English. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Count Moussa Traoré, and I am Ghana's Minister to the Court of St. James."

McIntee wasn't quite certain whether he believed the fellow, but if he was telling the truth, then the nature of his visit was not difficult to guess, nor the reason why he had turned up at his home and not at his office in the Colonial and Empire Ministry. "Very well. Will you have a seat, Minister Traoré?"

"Thank you, Minister, you are most kind."

"I assume," McIntee began after seating himself across from Traoré, "that your visit has something to do with the recent referendum in France."

"My visit has everything to do with the referendum," Traoré said with a smile. "My sovereign had an ulterior motive in seeking it. He knew well enough, you see, what the outcome would be. He felt that he could count on the French people to reject his overtures, and reject them overwhelmingly. He wanted to make it clear to his subjects just where they actually stood with respect to France, and the French have obliged him. There is now a great deal of anti-French feeling in Ghana. The people wish to make those feelings known in some concrete fashion, and that is why I have come to you."

McIntee nodded. "Am I correct in supposing that King Victor wishes to come to some sort of arrangement with the United Empire?"

"You are, sir, quite correct. If Lord Sidney were to extend an offer of membership in the Empire, my sovereign would be quite happy to oblige, and my people would as well."

"Yes, I can certainly see how this would benefit King Victor," said McIntee. "Tell me now how it would benefit the United Empire."

"The Empire is currently suffering a surfeit of what your people call 'bad publicity'. The American War did not turn out well, the North Americans have severed their ties with you and moved closer to your German enemies, and five years on, Vincent Mercator still remains at large, despite Sir Geoffrey Gold's emphatic promises to bring him to justice. If my people need to celebrate a triumph, so do yours. If my people would like to see the French discomfited, so would yours."

McIntee had to admit, Traoré made sense. It was the fiasco over the American War that had cost his predecessor his post as Colonial and Empire Secretary. Over half the cabinet had followed Gold into political oblivion in the shakeup following the war. As well, the NRP had lost nearly thirty seats in the last election, giving them a bare 3-seat majority in the Commons. With a by-election in Bolton coming up, they needed something to point to to convince the voters that the NRP still had a viable vision for the future. If King Victor had planned all this in advance, then his sense of timing was exquisite.

Cautiously, he said, "If, speaking hypothetically, we were to agree to the admission of Ghana to the United Empire, what sort of terms would you be asking?"

The other man's smile grew wider.

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