It was shortly before two in the afternoon and three of Parliament's more conservative members were sharing a table at Rules. The lunch plates had been cleared away and the men now sat drinking coffee as they discussed, in semi-hushed tones, the matter at hand.
"We need to do something about this and dam'd quick. The highest scoring ace in our own air service and he's not British, not even a Colonial, but a bloody American volunteer. And now they want to pin the VC on him? Well I'm not having it!"
"Keep it down George. If we're going to put a stop to this we need it to stay between ourselves, at least for now."
"I agree with Robert. However, as much as we may despise the idea, if he's awarded the Victoria Cross it would make it far easier to pull this fellow away from the front and keep him away so that one of our own can pass him up. And isn't that what we really want to have accomplished? As you say George, it should be a son of England holding the honour of our highest ace."
"You're dam'd right it should be, Henry. Bloody American upstart."
"Maybe he'll get himself killed before then George, that would turn the trick for you."
"Bah, he'd be even more likely to get the commendation then, posthumous medals play so well with the public you know. It would put an end to his victories though, and then one of our lads would certainly rise to the top."
"There you are George, silver lining. But assuming he survives we need to whisper in the right ears and get this Swanson fellow reassigned to Home Defence for the duration."
"Exactly right Henry, and we can then put him to good use in our propaganda mill, once we have him here and under our thumb. We could puff him up for the Americans if we choose to, paint him a shining example as to why they should enter the war. Their very own hero who volunteered to serve valiantly in the Royal Flying Corps even before his own country realized the urgency to be in the fight - that sort of thing."
"I like that. Fine then, I'll stand down from opposing the commendation as long as it's understood that once we have this character back here we keep him here and use the hell out of him."
"I'm on board, George. Henry?"
"Of course Robert, you know you gentlemen can always count on my support."
The three MPs, feeling most pleased with themselves, ordered dessert and shifted their conversation on to more frivolous things. While somewhere in France Captain Randolph Swanson was going about his own business, oblivious to the fact that his future was being determined for him, and not by God.