For All Nails
Some rival has stolen my true love away,
So I in old England no longer can stay.
I will swim the wide ocean around my fair breast,
To find out my true love, the one I love the best.
Marlborough City, June 2, 1972
It is a warm Manitoba summer morning, a slight breeze stirring the
regimental colors. The sound of cloth rippling against cloth, the
gleam of the sun high overhead through the seventeen scarlet and white
stripes of the North American flag. The immense parade ground of the
Royal Confederation of North America Air Force Academy is framed by
the great pinnacled blocks of classrooms and drill halls, their yellow
brick turned golden by the sun. The great pointed-fifth dome of the
main hall, its golden skin blazing in the morning light, soars
overhead, crowned with a great statue of warlike Athene, helmeted and
brandishing a long-shafted spear.
Bleachers, crowded with ecstatic parents and relatives and draped with
scarlet broadcloth, obscure the steps of the domed hall. An expectant
hush falls over the crowd. Arrayed in impressive ranks of
horizon-blue, the graduates stand at attention behind the color guard,
their white dress solar helmets, spiked and badged, seeming a great
glittering sea of spearheads. Braid gleams on their shoulders and
across the bands of their cartridge-pouches. In a few more days, they
will no longer wear the cerulean dragoon tunic faced with the
Academy's white, no longer will their brass collar dogs bear the
winged lightning-bolt. They will all soon be cornets and then
lieutenants and captains and even generals and field marshals. No
longer cadets. Their scarlet parade uniforms will be emblazoned with
the crown and lion of the elite 19th Burgoyne Aerial Hussars, the
bursting grenade of the Bombardment Corps, the insignia of the air
wing of Tarleton's Legion, the Royal Manitobans, the somber engineers
and stolid military police and even the unfashionable signaling
If one looks ahead to next year's class, it is this insignia that a
certain Manitoba girl, cut off from her fellow female cadets who will
stand mostly in the top twenty percent of the class, will wear when
she fulfills the orders assigning her to the 10th/12th South Vandalia
Borderers (14th Signal Battalion) at a godforsaken listening post on
the mountainous Mexican frontier.
But that is in the future.
Cadet First Class Evangeline Gilmore had graduated third over all.
She stood, rifle shouldered smartly, copper hair gleaming, the single
woman in the color guard, head cocked back proudly. Next to her, the
confederation flag and the blue-fielded colors of the RCNAAF catch the
wind, at her back the gold and green and red banners of the academy's
battalions. The massed bands of several Manitoban regiments break
into a clamorous, blood-rushing rendition of God Save the King and the
Confederation's anthem, and then the march past begins. Standing on
the reviewing platform, Earl St. Laurent, resplendent in his blue
brass-buttoned frock coat and cock-feathered bicorne, watches each
passing rank, nodding absently, eyes narrowed with stoic officialness.
And then his eye finds her for an instant, and then loses its focus.
She wonders if he has noticed her.
But on the reviewing platform, there is one man who clearly has
noticed her, an unfamiliar colonel in the green-faced scarlet uniform
of the Ministry of War. His name is Henry Anson and he is attached to
the Confederation's program towards the conquest of the final
frontier, the immense blackness of Outer Space.
There are more ceremonies to come, a high-Anglican baccalaureate
service in the chapel, a lavish ball where each cadet will try on the
mess uniform of the regiment that will now be sponsoring his--or
her--training, and then, finally, the graduation ceremonies in the
auditorium beneath the great golden arc of Athena's dome.
One year from now, there will be a man who will notice Alexandra
Stapleton when, at the final commencement ceremonies, her name is
called last of all and she steps up to the podium to receive her
diploma. His name, however, is Martín Falcón and he will be
anonymously watching from the crowd.
However, like Henry Anson, he, too, has a weighty job.
He is a colonel in the intelligence services of the United States of
University of Notre Dame,
Notre Dame, Indiana
+Ash Wednesday 2002