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For All Nails #146: Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)

Camp Adolfo Camacho, Ciudad Camacho, Kingdom of New Granada
26 December 1974

Prime Minister Alexander Elbittar was not a happy man as he looked upon the
steel door that sealed shut the only entrance to the Special Administrative
Building [1] in Camp Adolfo Camacho.  According to the guards on duty, the
building had been sealed three days before, after the last workers departed at
the end of the shift on the evening of 23 December.

"Was it unusual for the building to be sealed this way?" Elbittar had asked.

"Not on a holiday," the guard answered.

After finding the building sealed, Elbittar had sent for the Director of
Special Administrative Projects, the man in charge of Colonel Mercator's bomb
factory.  He could not be found.  Neither could any of his subordinates within
the Project, or any of the men from the Mexican army who were stationed here at
Camp Adolfo Camacho.  They had all gone home to Mexico for the holidays,
apparently.

No, Alexander Elbittar was not happy at all.

"Isn't there supposed to be a trap door on the roof?" asked Colonel Ortiz,
dressed as always in an immaculate uniform.  "On the vita, there's always a
trap door on the roof."

A bespectacled Captain shook his head.  "The only thing on the roof is the
building's central air plant."

"Could we enter through there?" asked Major Galdolfini, commander of the FANG
contingent that had accompanied Elbittar from Bogotá.

"Nonsense," Ortiz assured him.  "Nobody could pass through that unit.  It's
solid machinery."

"Well," Elbittar growled, "if there's no trap door now, we'll just have to make
one.  Colonel Ortiz, is there any way for us to reach the roof?"

The Colonel squinted up.  "I suppose I could have a fire engine sent over from
the city."

"Excellent," said Elbittar.  "Please do so.  Captain, we'll need a fully
equipped work detail here as soon as possible."

"I'll get right on it, Prime Minister," said the Captain with a salute.

As Ortiz and the Captain left on their respective errands, Elbittar glanced to
his right, where King Fernando had remained a silent presence since their
arrival in Ciudad Camacho an hour earlier.  This was the King's first visit to
Camp Adolfo Camacho, and he did not seem impressed.  In all honesty, Elbittar
couldn't blame him.

The Captain's work detail appeared on the scene an hour before the Colonel's
fire engine.  Elbittar found himself thinking that it might be time to find
Ortiz a posting at a less critical location; he'd have to remember to suggest
it to de la Cruz. [2]

Once up on the roof, the work detail quickly broke through to the interior of
the building.  Elbittar was eager to see for himself what was inside, but Major
Gandolfini proved adamant on the point.  In the end, the Captain led a squad of
men into the building, while Elbittar and King Fernando followed their progress
over the field radio.

The Captain proceeded cautiously, an attitude that paid off when one of his men
spotted a tripwire attached to a hand grenade hidden in a wall niche.  Elbittar
found the Captain's description of the building's interior disturbing.  The
walls, he reported, were paneled with pressboard done up to look like Norway
spruce.  Wall niches held reproductions of statuary, paintings, suits of armor,
and gold and silver objects.  The Captain recognized the Mona Lisa,
Gainsborough's Blue Boy, even the gold mask of King Tutankhamen. [3]

That was all, however.  There were no people within the building.  The Captain
methodically investigated several offices on the top floor, and found nothing
but empty desks and file cabinets.  All records of the Project had been
removed.

The last door the Captain opened did not lead into an office.  Instead, it
seemed to lead into what he described as "the foyer to a whorehouse".  The
Captain's words were spare, but Elbittar gathered that the place was
overflowing with sybaritic furnishings and decorations.

"There's a hall over to the left," the Captain reported.  "I don't see any more
booby traps.  The first room down seems to be a dressing room, somebody here
certainly was fond of elasto."  Elbittar exchanged a look with King Fernando. 
Ah, the Mexicans and their elasto!

"The next door down is, oh Lord, what a stink!  It smells . . . "

There was silence then, and Elbittar, fearing for the man's safety, called out,
"Captain!  Are you all right?"

"Ugh.  Sorry, sir.  There's a man on the bed, I think.  It looks like he was
tied to the bed, and then somebody . . . cut him apart.  It's not very pretty,
and from the smell and the way all the blood has dried I'd say he's been here
for days."

"Understood, Captain," said Elbittar.  "Continue with your investigation."

At last, Fernando spoke up.  "Prime Minister, why would they leave a murdered
man behind?  Who was he?"

"That would be Doctor Urquell, I imagine," he answered the King.  "Colonel
Mercator's prize catch.  A North American scientist with a weakness for
attractive women.  I suppose the Colonel didn't feel like bringing him along
with the rest of the Project."

"Monstrous," Fernando muttered.

Other things occupied Elbittar's mind, however.  It was becoming clear to him
that Mercator had timed his plot with exquisite care.  All along, obviously, he
had intended to decamp from New Granada just before striking against El Pulpo,
leaving behind nothing.

With that thought, a terrible suspicion came to Elbittar.  "Colonel," he said
to Ortiz, "where are the devices kept?"

"Not here," Ortiz assured him.  "We keep them in another part of the base."

"Take me there," said Elbittar.

Together with the Colonel, Elbittar and the King entered Ortiz's loke and were
driven to another cinder block building.  This one, at least, was not sealed
off, and Ortiz himself conducted his two guests on a tour.  Most of the
building was taken up by a vast warehouse, within which were ten large, solid
ovoid objects, along with room for at least a hundred more.

"Is the maintenance staff still on duty?" Elbittar asked Ortiz.

"Twenty-four hours around the clock," the Colonel said confidently.

The King gazed raptly at the objects.  "Is there any chance that they could go
off?"

"Oh, no, Your Majesty," Ortiz assured him.  "Without the deurium-tritium slurry
in place, these are simply oversized Kramer bombs.  We keep that in a separate
facility, away from the uranium."

Fernando nodded.  "Of course.  I take it that the atomic plant where the
tritium is manufactured is also located here on the base."

"Yes, Your Majesty, it is located to the east of here, by the river."

Elbittar was momentarily taken aback by the King's question, before remembering
that he had been educated in the CNA, and so was well-versed in scientific
matters.

Leading Fernando aside from Ortiz, he asked, "Do you understand these things,
Your Majesty?"

"I believe I can still recall the basics from school," Fernando answered.

Elbittar nodded.  These were deep waters they were treading, made all the more
dangerous by the unexpected sudden departure of all of Mercator's people.  Once
again, Elbittar found himself unsure of just who he could trust, and once again
he decided that the only man in New Granada he trusted was the man he had made
King.

"Explain to me, then, about this tritium."

Fernando said, "You would be better advised to read one of Albert Macklin's
articles on the subject.  He has a gift for lucid explanations of scientific
matters."

"I do not have this Macklin on hand," Elbittar said.  "I have you."

"True," Fernando admitted, and he went on to explain to Elbittar how the
Mercator bombs worked, and why it was necessary to sift through the hydrogen
atoms found in water for those called deurium [4] that had a second particle in
their cores, and how it was further necessary to expose the deurium to the
radiation from an atomic furnace to produce tritium, which had a third particle
in its core.  "It is only when enough tritium atoms are added to the deurium,"
Fernando concluded, "that the whole can be ignited using a Kramer bomb."

"So," said Elbittar, "without these tritium atoms, the Mercator bombs will not
work."

"That is correct, Prime Minister."

Elbittar did not like the directions his thoughts were leading, but the logic
was inescapable.

"And the more tritium Mercator leaves us, the less he will have for the use of
his own bombs."

"That is also correct, Prime Minister," said Fernando.

Elbittar turned back to Ortiz.  "Colonel, we will now inspect the tritium
storage facility."

"Yes, Prime Minister," said the dapper Colonel.

Another trip across the base in Ortiz's loke brought them to a facility on the
banks of the Orinoco that seemed to Elbittar to resemble a small chemical
works.  When Elbittar asked to be shown the tritium, Ortiz led him to a storage
tank that looked like all the other storage tanks.

"How do you know that there is tritium in the tank?" Elbittar asked him.

"What?" said Ortiz.

"I said, how do you know that there is tritium in the tank?"

Ortiz continued to look confused.  Definitely time to find him a new post.

"What the Prime Minister is asking," Fernando interceded, "is what control
process you use to monitor the material."

"Ah, I see," said Ortiz.  He pointed to one of the control consoles.  "The
scintillation counters detect the characteristic signature radiation."

Fernando nodded.  Elbittar hoped to God that the King knew what Ortiz was
talking about, because he certainly didn't.

"And when was the last time the scintillation counters were tested?" the King
asked.

"Um, I'm not certain, Your Majesty."  Ortiz motioned to one of the technicians.
 "Bartinelli, when was the last time the scintillation counters were tested?"

Bartinelli frowned in thought.  "Tested, Colonel?   When they were installed, I
suppose."

"And not since then?" said Fernando.

"I don't believe so," said the technician.

"Please do so now."

The technician looked at the Colonel, who looked at Elbittar, who nodded.

It took half an hour for Bartinelli and his men to perform their test, and when
they were done, the technician was scratching his head.

"Colonel," he said to Ortiz, "I'm not sure I understand these readings. 
According to the scintillation counters, the sample we just sent through shows
the same energy signature as the tritium.  But that can't be right.  Can it?"

Alexander Elbittar was not a happy man.

Not happy at all.

Notes:

[1]  This is the building that Timothy Liddy nicknamed "the Gun Room" in FAN
#104d.

[2]  Cristóbal de la Cruz, the Neogranadan Minister of Defense.

[3]  Tutankhamen's tomb was discovered in 1877 by the British archeologist
Richard Francis Burton.

[4]  The Kramer scientists who built the first atom bomb called this isotope
neutro-hydrogen, for the extra neutron in its core.  Fernando uses the North
American name coined by the scientists in Michigan City.