For All Nails 118: Black September
Campo Calles, Chapultapec Hills, México Central
21 September 1974
"Mercator to Moctezuma: Fuck You!" read the headline on the
three-day-old copy of _EUM Hoy_. Sebastian Quezadas read the story
with some interest. The Mapmaker had refused to be fired --- "I'm
sorry, Mr. President," the paper quoted him as saying, "But
circumstances force me to reject your dismissal notice at the present
time." Impeachment articles were introduced into the Assembly the
next day. The paper seemed to think that they had a pretty good
chance of passing: apparently almost the entire Congressional
delegation from Guadalajara --- securely under Governor Rickover's
thumb --- was going to vote for it, along with a big chunk of Mexico
"Hey, Sebo! Gimme a hand here with these overlays, willya?" yelled
Major Hermión Brady. 
"No problem, Herm. Gimme a second." Quezadas dropped the paper into
the trash. He felt a momentary pang of guilt. Discipline might be lax
in a reserve unit, but he was supposedly an officer. Hadda set an
example for the troops, right? His pockets were buttoned ... but that
newspaper had just screamed to be read, and there were more
lieutenants than sergeants in his unit anyway. 
Brady was wrestling with a giant map of Cuba. Overlaid on the map was
a large ripped block of transparent plastic. The block had been all
marked out with supply routes and unit markings, but now half of it
was missing. "What the fuck happened?" asked Quezadas.
Brady snorted. He was a short little guy, a rapidvend owner in real
life. "Some brokepenny privado decided to load the map onto an open
camioneta, y the wind ripped the plastic right off. We found it when
the camioneta went descompuso on the Periférico." 
Quezadas blinked. "The camioneta broke down?"
"Yeah. You know how old those things are. Hey, move this over there,
okay?" Quezadas went to the other end of the huge map, and helped
Brady lift it off the ground. "Yeah, that's it. The Colonel wants it
in the briefing room, don't let it rip any more." Segueing back into
the conversation, Brady added, "Camioneta broke down. We were driving
>from Coyoacán up here, loaded up with stuff for the Simex.  I'm
in my little Jefferson, right behind the camioneta. Well, suddenly my
windshield gets all foggy. I turn on the wipers, shit gets worse. So
much for mist, right? No, wait, go left." Quezadas turned left,
maneuvering the map through the cluttered command room on the bottom
floor of the barracks building. "I think its my loke. I mean, it's a
Jefferson, right? You expect strange oil leaks. So I'm watching the
gauges when there's this BLAM y the camioneta starts pouring smoke.
Damn bang was so loud I thought it was my engine!" Quezadas laughed
Brady shrugged. "Here, let's put the damn thing up against the wall
"Who was driving?" asked Quezadas.
Brady snorted. "Laos y Mahabir. Pair of idiotas. They know they're
driving a twenty-year-old camioneta made by _Jefferson Motors_ y they
still think it's reasonable to do eighty on the locopista." 
Quezadas thought, but didn't ask, _Then why didn't you stop 'em y
order them to slow down? You were following them._ But this was a
reserve unit --- incompetence was par for the course. No, that
wasn't fair: incompetence was par for the course in _this_ reserve
Quezadas looked at the map. "Fuck. Fuck. I suppose we'll have to
fill in the friendly positions all over again?"
"That's right. Damn. Hey, Andría!" TCO Andría was a young college
kid, the HHD's information maven. "You got a copy of the op order
over there?" 
Andría looked up from where Lt. Malone had set him filing the endless
amount of paperwork that needed to be filed before the Simex could get
under way. "Yessir, I've got it right over on that desk, sir."
"Good," said Brady. He scratched his coco. "Drop that filing for a
second. Get the op order, make us a list of all the units in and
around LSA Carlos, y find out which of these goddamned supply routes
is the main one." Brady was a good infantry officer, but his
map-reading skills were not what they should be. He had other things
to do, anyway, trying to get this bunch of brokepenny civilians into
some semblance of military discipline before the Simex actually got
Andría nodded. "Se puede, sir. Tan facil, sir." Quezadas smiled.
Yeah, college boy was right out of Basic. Been a long time since he'd
heard those expressions! Well, he'd learn. When things really were
too easy, there was no point in saying so, and when they weren't there
was no return to faking it …
23 September 1974
Ernesto Nuche was a happy man. A very happy man, actually. The best
story of his life had just been dropped in his lap. Right over his
pancita and into his lap. Literally. A shaven-head courier had
walked into the newsroom, beelined right for his desk, and just poosed
the thick envelop into his lap.
Oh yeah, this was good stuff.
He flipped through the folder. Documents. Notarized copies. Birth
certificates, job registries, escape warrants. Damn. God damn.
The return address was just one word: Coyoacán. He knew what that
meant. This was reliable. And … yes. The cash was right where
he expected it to be. Not that it was even necessary, not with stuff
God damn. Well, what the f--k was he waiting for? He leapt to his
feet, hysterically waving the envelope, and shouted what every
reporter secretly hoped he or she would get a chance to shout:
"STOP THE PRESSES!!!!!!!"
Mexico City, C.D.
25 September 1974
"Black Day for El Popo," read the headline on the _Puerto Hancock
News-Intelligencer_, and it was one of the more sedate papers. Ever
since the _Henrytown Mercury-Reporter_ broke the story, all the
papers, and more importantly, the vita had discussed nothing else
besides the revelations about the President's ancestry.
"This is bad," said Andy Gendrop.
"Yes, this is very bad," added Osterman.
"Definitely not good," chimed in the President's press secretary,
"Extremely bad, in fact," said a fourth member of the President's
kitchen cabinet, Moctezuma's triple-carlos, Flavio Ávila.  Flavio
was a stocky man, about as blanco as they got, who wore a little hip
goatee like the one Juan Bailleres had recently begun to sport.
Chewy tried not to roll his eyes. "Gentlemen … y damas," he
said, glancing over to Anita Stevens, the President's congressional
liaison, who had been brought into this meeting, "We know that the
stories about the President's ancestry aren't good. But let me ask a
village idiot question here: from the point of view of the vote,
_why_ aren't they good?"
Stevens leaned forward in her chair. She had dressed demurely for
this meeting. She knew that Enciso didn't trust her, and she knew
that he was right not to. She really represented María del Rey, and
Del Rey, despite her position as Mexico's representative to the world
and second-in line to the presidency, was the recognized leader of the
country's nascent opposition party. But Stevens knew Congress, and
she knew Del Rey, and short of inviting Del Rey herself to this
meeting --- which would have been highly inappropriate --- they needed
"You've got three problems from these revelations. First y foremost,
a big chunk of the electorate is not happy to discover that their
President is a Negro." Ávila looked like he was about to interrupt,
but she cut him off. "Half-Negro. Whatever. There are a lot of
people happy to vote for a patriotic good Mexicano, but not for some
evil Rainbow-hating Negro." She paused. "I'm just being blunt."
Stevens paused again to tick off a second finger. "Second, a lot of
Assembly members now have an excuse to vote for impeachment, not
because the President is black, but because he lied to the Mexican
people about his ancestry."
Ávila interrupted. "El Popo didn't lie about it, he simply didn't
Stevens cut him off. "Stop thinking like an abogado y start thinking
like a político. It doesn't matter what he did. It does matter that
now they can say that they're voting to impeach because the President
lied to the Mexican people."
Gendrop broke in here. "Y it also draws attention away from the real
issue, which is that the President wants to fire the Secretary of
"Right," said Stevens, clearly irritated at the interruption. That
had been her third point. Which is why Andy had interrupted, more to
keep the perrita off-balance than to give his opinion.
"It doesn't really matter, since the Assembly vote is a foregone
conclusion, right, Flavio?" said the Chief of Staff.
"That's right," answered Ávila. "See, the Constitution doesn't really
specify that the Assembly brings impeachment charges: it just
mentions that the Senate tries them. The Assembly's right to do so is
implicit. They want to keep that power, so the easiest thing for them
to do right now is vote to impeach y dump things into the Senate's
Osterman spoke. "The President has to address this directly, people.
He's got to make it clear to the Senate that the Mexican people
_don't_ importa his ancestry."
Stevens snorted. "Only problem is they _do_."
"Have we commissioned a poll, yet?" asked Osterman.
"Not yet," admitted Chewy. "There is no way, you understand, that the
President would authorize one."
Osterman and Gendrop both nodded. "Te explico," they said, almost
simultaneously. Osterman continued that thought. "That's my job.
I'll call George Montaño. He's discreet."
Arazi spoke up for the first time. "Will that be useful? I mean,
c'mon, are people gonna answer honestly?"
Chewy answered the question. "Well, Montaño is a genius in designing
poll questions. He'll figure something out. Anyway _some_
information is always better than none." He sighed. "Plus, if the
results say what I think they will, it'll give me some ammo in
convincing the President that he needs to address this issue."
Osterman added, "Okay, then, we'll commission a poll."
Gendrop nodded, but also said, "I agree, but Stevens is right. We
know what the poll is gonna say. How do we convince El Popo that he
has to address the issue?"
"C'mon, Andy, the President's not suicidal --- if an address to the
nation is warranted, then he'll do it. It might not be the address we
want, but it'll be an address. Beats the f--king silence."
Stevens broke in. "You might have a problem, you realize … El
Popo isn't exactly the most charasmatic man on the vita."
Chewy smiled. "No, not when he's a talking head he's not. But he
does well with audiences. Joe?"
"Oh, I can arrange a good one, exactly the kind of forum the President
likes. You sure you can get him to talk?"
"I don't really know," said Chewy. "This is El Popo. Look, let's
wait until the poll results come in. Stevens, I'm counting on you to
keep us abreast of Congressional thinking." That translated to _keep
us abreast of what Del Rey's congressional cronies are thinking_, but
they all knew that. "Andy, you talk to the President, y see what
levers we can pull. Joe, meanwhile, you get the dirt that El Popo
gave me about Mercator out to the press, y see about a forum for an
address. What are you thinking, anyway?"
Osterman smiled. "Chewy, have I got the forum for you …"
26 September 1974
Ernesto Nuche was a happy man. An even happier man than the last
time, actually. Yet again a courier had waltzed by his desk and
handed him an envelop full of everything he could have hoped for. Not
just one, but _two_ chingón stories in his hands in two days.
The return address read only "Chapultepec." Chapultepec-with-two-E's.
Nuche knew what that meant. They weren't quite as old hands at this
as the boys over in Coyoacán --- there was no money in the envelope
--- but Nuche didn't care. This was good shit.
Huh, maybe they were _more-_ sophisticated than the fellas down south.
 He would have published that one without the cash, just as he
was gonna publish this one without the cash.
Of course, the fellas down south won't be happy about him running with
this story. But Nuche knew that other reporters would be offered this
scoop, and at least one of them would take it, so it might as well be
him. Plus, who could resist the lure of fame? The man who broke not
one, but _two_ major political scandals within a week? God damn.
And what the f--k was he waiting for this time? This was every
reporter's _wet_ dream, to get two chances to stand up, wave your
arms, and holler:
"STOP THE PRESSES!!!!!!!"
30 September 1974
Vicente Mercator inhaled his puro. He was a real man, he could
inhale. And it made him happy.
"So, Captain Reynolds, do these revelations affect our timetable?"
"The timetable, sir?" Ah, that was right. _I must be getting old_
thought the Secretary of War, _Even though I am more virile than men
half my age, I forgot that Captain Reynolds is not fully informed of
the Plan I have mapped out._ "You mean the upcoming elections?"
Mercator nodded, sagely. "Yes. Does this change anything?"
Reynolds looked at his notes, then up at the Secretary. "Probably
not, sir, depending on how your testimony goes before Congress. If
you stonewall, then you might be able to drag out the impeachment
proceedings past the election, which is what most diputados want,
anyway. Then Congress will recess, and throw the problem into the
lap of the next Assembly."
"Good. Good. Leave us, would you please, captain?" The young
captain nodded and stood up. After he left the room, Mercator turned
back to the three other men gathered in this windowless office high up
in the central tower of the Department of War complex. "Gentlemen?
All the men in the room were blancos. All wore military uniforms.
Two wore Army uniforms. The third was the highest ranking Naval
officer in the Navy of the United States of Mexico.
The shorter Army officer, a stocky man who, unusually, grew his hair
to visible length, spoke first. "Sir, I'm still not sure I understand
why we passed on such compromising information to President Moctezuma.
Its appearance in the newspapers does shorten our timetable."
The taller Army officer disagreed. "December is still more than
enough time. The meeting is scheduled between Christmas and New
Year's. And even if that meeting doesn't occur, we will be prepared
for another opportunity."
Mercator interjected. "Are you sure that the meeting is our best
chance? It is not that I am opposed to the death of innocents now if
fewer will die in the future. I am, however, opposed to the
unnecessary death of innocents."
The tall officer nodded. "I understand, sir, but any other time would
be too risky. Waiting until the meeting actually minimizes collateral
The Naval officer spoke up. "I don't know, sir. It still seems
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, Admiral," said the
Secretary of War. He then turned his attention to the taller Army
The taller officer spoke again. "Meetings like this are rarely held
in the middle of nowhere. The December reunion is as
middle-of-nowhere as it gets. But we won't be able to get as close as
we'd need to for alternate methods to work."
"Still, what about a demonstration?" asked the Admiral.
Mercator sighed. "As we have discussed before, a demonstration is
simply another way of making a bluff, and our enemies will not respond
to a bluff. It would be called, and in the long-run more would die.
This way, we can strike at the head of the Pulpo. The tentacles,
disorganized, can then be smitten one at a time."
The Admiral nodded. There was still doubt in his eyes. That was
fine. Mercator knew that he would not betray them. Not without
bringing down wrath upon himself and his family. Anyway, like many,
the Admiral itched to test himself in battle. His opportunity would
come, if not necessarily for the country of his birth.
The stocky major spoke up. "If Congress decides to move in December,
things could get dicey. They might even decide to seat the incoming
Mercator smiled. "They won't, Major. You see, you are assuming that
I want to damage our president. I do not. We have hurt him, not
killed him, and what does not kill you makes you stronger. When he is
strong, he will be secure, and secure men can afford to wait."
"I'm afraid I do not understand, sir," said the Major, who had
authority within the Department of War far in excess of that implied
by his rank.
"My apologies, Major, but you are not need-to-know regarding this
element of the Plan. Broadly speaking, a few years ago I realized
that our new President was far more willful than I had imagined. He
was a man with a Plan of his own. I contemplated breaking him, but
then I realized that we could use that strength to serve a higher
goal. His plan, in fact, dovetailed very nicely with our own. El
Popo's strength will not protect our souls, gentlemen, but we can use
it to protect the lives of our countrymen." The Mapmaker paused and
took a drag off his cigar. "Watch the news channels. Viva Mexico."
"Viva Mexico," they responded. The meeting was over.
 In the USM, the rank "Major" sounds like "meyer," whereas
"Colonel" is pronounced "coronel," not "kernel," although Brady's
accent would make it come out sounding more like "Crohnl."
"Lieutenant" is elided to something which sounds roughly like "tenent"
or "tenente" in Mexico City: Brady makes the latter into "chnentee."
The ranks are spelled the same as in OTL, however. Read carefully for
clues as to Brady's state of origin, as revealed in previous posts by
 Both the AUSM and the NUSM (pronounced "new-some") tend to be
over-officered. The reason is that nobody really put two-and-two
together when universal military service was combined with
near-universal higher education in the 1950s. The result has been a
proliferation of regular officers, and a massive proliferation of
warrant officers. Warrant officers, for example, are only 3% of the
OTL U.S. Army --- but around 12% of the AUSM.
The resulting rank structure (thanks again to Henrik) is downright
byzantine, with privates third, second and first class, corporals
technical and command, sergeants in huge variety, and a wide range of
commissioned and non-commissioned warrant officers. (If a
"commissioned warrant officer" sounds like an oxymoron, it is, but
such an animal exists in the current U.S. Army.) In addition, there
are "second-class" college-graduate draftee officers, like Quezadas,
clearly distinguished from professional and extended active service
reservists. I'm not sure, but I suspect that Carmen Valenzuela was a
non-commissioned warrant officer back in the day.
In some ways, then, the AUSM the opposite of the FANG: where FANG
enlisted men often have responsibilities associated with officers,
AUSM officers often do tasks normally associated with NCOs,
_especially-_ in Group Two and Three units. See footnote  for a
 "Brokepenny" is an obscene way of calling someone incompetent in
the USM. It is similar to "duck-kicker," but much more vulgar and
with a connotation of sexual impotence. The term originated in
California, where the Spanish word for "penis" is pronounced
identically to the English "penny." The rest follows.
 Locopista is a Californian term for supercalzada. No points for
guessing where 1LT Brady is from.
 Simex = simulation exercise. This particular simex is an
intervention in Cuba, where the 56th Battalion of the Capital District
Militia will be responsible for guarding Logistical Supply Area Carlos
>from guerrillas and hostile civilians.
Despite the name, the C.D. Militia is part of the federal Army
reserves. While state governors have a tightly-circumscribed
authority to activate certain reserve units, _all_ funding for the
reserves comes from the federal War Department. (This is rather
different from OTL's National Guard, although, like the ARNG, Mexico's
reserves are tightly integrated into the nation's war-fighting plans.)
Not every state's reserve component is called the "militia."
According to Sobel, California's reserve component is called the
"California Guard." México del Norte's reserve units are called
Mexican Army units are rarely all-Regular or all-Reserve. (Thanks to
Henrik Kiertzner for the following, which he will hopefully flesh out
in the future in an essay on the various FANTL militaries.) There is
a small cadre of all-Regular units, primarily high-tech intervention
forces, extreme readiness Marine Corps landing units, specialist
troops (EW, engineers, radar, that kind of thing) and special forces,
but the bulk of the Army is mixed..
Mexican Army units above the size of a battalion are divided into
Group One, Group Two, and Group Three readiness levels. A Group One
motorized rifle battalion, for example, has a mixed Regular-draftee HQ
Company, a mixed Regular-draftee rifle company with Regular officers
and senior NCOs, a draftee rifle company with a Regular commander and
Serjeant Major and draftee junior officers and NCOs, and two reserve
rifle companies, manned by predesignated former draftees who had
completed their terms in the previous two years. A Group Two
battalion has three reserve companies and one draftee company, with a
scattering of Regulars or reservists less than 5 years since their
separation from active duty. Regular formations are mixed Group One
and Group Two. Group One units would be fully deployable within 72
hours, Group Two units within two weeks. All-reserve formations make
up Group Three, with troops and officers more than 5 years from their
active service. Combat support and combat service support units in
Group Three are deployable within 30-to-45 days. Group Three combat
units are _expected_ to be deployable within 30 days, but their
military value is questionable for at least six months after
Quezadas's unit is in Group Three. Quezadas completed his active duty
eight years previously, before going to college and graduate school.
He is 28 years old.
 Not that incompetent, seeing as this unit is based on an OTL
reserve-component combat support battalion that served with
distinction in a rather well-known dust-up in 1990-91. But this ATL
unit, like its OTL counterpart, likes to think of itself as
incompetent. Morale works in mysterious ways.
 TCO = technical corporal. Roughly the equivalent of OTL's
 The "triple-carlos" stands for "Chapultepec Castle consejero,"
the equivalent of OTL's White House counsel.
 "Down south" refers to the southern suburbs of Mexico City more
than the southern region of country. Although Nuche is located in
Henrytown, political reporters in the USM tend to develop a very
"inside-the-Periférico" perspective regardless of where they are
 "Viva Mexico" is not a Mercatorism, but a hail dating back to
the Hermión period. During the 1880s it had fascistic overtones, but
is now nothing more than conversational filler, little used outside
the military. The lack of an accent mark in "Mexico" is deliberate:
they are saying "Viva Mexico" with an English "x" sound, not "Viva