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For All Nails #177: North To Alaska

Fort Romanov, Alaska, Russian Empire
North of the Alaska/California border
February 22, 1898

Major Ivan Pavlovich Federov sat at the dinner table
with his family.  It was the last night he had with
them before going out on maneuvers with his men.  Word
had it there was tension between the Imperial
government and the Kramer Associates, and the
government didn't want the tension to extend to the
USM government too.  If you believed everything you
heard about the Mexicans, Kramer had had Hermion
installed in office.  So Prince Sviatopolk-Mirsky, the
Foreign Minister (1), had talked the Defense Minister
into some show-the-flag operations.  Let them know we
won't be pushed around easily, with plenty of bravado.

He enjoyed this time with his wife and sons.  The
housing on base for officers had a lot to be desired,
but he couldn't afford a home for four off the base. 
If he was a general, he could easily, or even a
colonel.  But not as a major.

His older boy, Andrei, chose to ask a question just as
Ivan had his mouth full, just like always at dinner. 
Ivan had just put a forkful of venison into his mouth
when ten-year-old Andrei said, "Papa, are we going to
war with the Mexicantsi?"

"Andrei, let your father finish chewing before you ask
him something," admonished his wife, Olga.  As she
said this she wiped food from two-year old Misha's
face.

Ivan took advantage of that to chew a few more times
while sending her a grateful look.  Swallowing, he
looked at Andrei.  "I suppose that's for the Tsar and
the Mexicantsi to decide, son.  But I certainly hope
not.  Things have been peaceful here until the last
few weeks, and I like them peaceful."  _So long as my
family is here, I do._

Privately, he wondered the same question.  Rumors
about what was really going on were all he had.  While
the people weren't meant to know, he had serious
doubts about whether Russia could win a war against
the USM, or fight to a draw.  _Will my family be safe
here?_  Federov wasn't sure if Nikolaevsk was safe
(2), or Novaya Odessa, or even Beringgrad (3). 
Anywhere on the coast was a potential target, or
anywhere not sufficiently north.  What sufficiently
north was, he had no idea.

The next day

Federov looked at his men as they moved through the
muck.  It was just above freezing, and it was muddy. 
The mud was just liquid enough to be sticky, gooey,
and unexpectedly deep.  Every time he put his foot
down, he fully expected it to sink to his ankle.  It
only did so once out of every five steps or so, but
that was bad enough.

He turned to his aide, Captain Antonio Gomez.  "What's
the name of that captain in charge of the border
again?"

"Tschakev, sir.  Captain Boris Tschakev." (4)

"I've heard he isn't on the best of terms with the
Mexicans."

Gomez nodded.  "He's most uncooperative with them in
some things, I gather, sir."

"How close to the border are we?  I imagine we're
almost right on top of it."

Gomez pulled out a map and read it while walking.  "We
may be within a quarter mile.  Their border guards can
see us, sir."

"Then we've made our point.  Let's head back north." 
Federov paused, then asked, "Antonio, what are you
doing in the Russian Army, anyway?  I'd be willing to
bet that you're the only Mexican officer, or at least
the only one serving in Alaska."

"Well, for one thing sir, I figured not many Mexicans
join because they don't see any others in the Army. 
Or the Navy, for that matter.  If I do, others might. 
There's also the same reason others join militaries
all over the world."

Antonio didn't explain any further, so Ivan had to
prod him.  "What reason is that?"

Gomez's reply was simple.  "I got drunk."

Federov couldn't stop laughing for several minutes.



1. Sobel, p. 236.

2. OTL Astoria, Oregon.   The city's full name is
Nikolaevsk-na-Novoyvolge (Nikolaevsk on the New Volga,
which is the Columbia River).  Most Alaskans just call
it Nikolaevsk.  Mentioned in Sobel by the short name,
p. 239.  The e at the end is not silent; it is a short
e.

3. OTL Sitka, Alaska.

4. Sobel, p. 238.