Friday, March 25, 2011

Lands of Red and Gold

It's been rather a while since I updated anything on Decades of Darkness. There will be the occasional Tales post still coming from time to time, but most of my writing is now on a new timeline I'm working on.

This is called "Lands of Red and Gold". It depicts a much-different Australia where the evolution of a different plant allows native agriculture to develop on the continent. When the Dutch first make visit the continent in 1619, what they find is a very different place...

I'll eventually work out whether to start posting all of the instalments here too, but in the meantime, it's being published on alternatehistory.com.

Check it out, if you like. The link is in the title to this post, or here.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Tales of the Decades of Darkness #3: Equal and Opposite Reactions

Credit for this post goes to tukk323, who wrote all of it apart from a few editorial additions.

* * *

“One man’s terrorist may be another’s freedom fighter, but a drug baron is always a drug baron, no matter where he is.”
- Michael Blunt, Australian Prime Minister, responding to the US ambassador, 1946

* * *

3 May 1942
Chapman [Tulagi], Solomon Islands Territory
Kingdom of Australia

Chapman: a decrepit, rundown slum of a city that had no business existing in Australia, a nation which prided itself as civilized. Arthur Rolton had his own thoughts about whether Australians could be considered civilized, even by non-American standards, but mostly he hated having to come to a place of teeming deprivation that should have belonged in Bharat or Africa.

Still, however much he hated the place, it suited his needs well. Very well.

As was his habit, Rolton had found out everything he could about Chapman before ever coming near the city. Knowledge could mean the difference between survival and capture, or even death.

The Kingslanders had moved into the Solomons during the middle of the previous century, acquiring them almost in spite of the wishes of the British crown. They had claimed these islands so that they could lure the natives to work on Kingsland sugar plantations in conditions that were only not slavery because they were given a different name.

While the Solomons were nominally part of the British Empire, in practice they had always been governed more locally, first by the Kingslanders and then Australia after the British united the continent. They had chosen Chapman as the centre of their administration, since it was largely free of the tropical diseases which plagued the rest of the islands.

Chapman had slowly grown into the major port of the Solomons. Most of the time, the Kingsland administrators and their Australian successors had governed from this town and been happy to leave the natives of the outlying islands to their own devices.

Eventually, British pressure had quashed the unofficial slave trade, leaving the Kingsland sugar planters to recruit East Indian labourers instead. Official interest in the islands waned, leaving the archipelago to be exploited by any native or white entrepreneurs who had the cojones to make use of them: fishing, coconuts, tropical timbers, palm oil, and more recently gold, copper and nickel. While the Solomons were not particularly wealthy, most of the resources they produced were traded through Chapman.

Chapman had become the preserve of palm planters, mining kings and timber barons, mostly white, some native, whose preferred form of government was benign neglect. Their wealth and influence saw to it that the government officials who were appointed here were not overly concerned with governing the islands, just making sure that laws were not being broken too openly. Most of the immigrants who came to Chapman were men of a similar bent to the planters, men who wanted wealth regardless of how it was acquired. The city earned a reputation as a port whose citizens were happy to conduct business and not ask inconvenient questions.

When the Solomons were made an official Australian territory after the war, not much changed in Chapman. A few more government officials were sent, but their main aims were to train the natives into government officials and police. They were given precious little funding, though, and most of what they received was spent on educating the natives in English, without the resources left over for much else. Which created a class of native administrators and police who had had their ambitions awakened, but were still trapped in poverty with an abundance of relatives clamouring for support. That made them easily bribed into looking the other way. The local planters had established the tradition, and Rolton would be happy to take advantage of it.

All of which made Chapmen perfect for his needs. Conveniently located for shipping, a relaxed approach to law enforcement, and sufficient poverty to allow him to subvert those few laws which were enforced. Personally Rolton thought that the Australians’ biggest mistake had been trying to put natives of lesser races into jobs which they were incapable of performing, all in pursuit of the lie of racial equality, but that was their problem, not his [1].

Of course, despite its unsavoury reputation, Chapman served as an important port for legitimate commerce, too. Rolton had arrived on a Nipponese vessel, the Shima. Several other Nipponese ships were docked here, too. Some used Chapman as a convenient stopping point before sailing on to Eden [Auckland] or Sydney. Some waited here until they could load cargoes of gold, nickel, palm oil or coconuts from within the Solomons.

Rolton had passed so many Nipponese sailors coming and going from their ships that it had seemed like an unofficial invasion; not that he could ever really imagine the Nipponese trying to invade Australia. Chapman was a popular liberty port for the Nipponese, with gambling establishments which were all but illegal at home, and alcohol which was much cheaper than Nippon or even mainland Australia, thanks to bar owners who found it cheaper to bribe local police than pay alcohol taxes.

He knew he cut an imposing figure, better than any of the wealthiest planters or other local ricos [2]. He wore an immaculately-tailored, double-breasted suit – made of light cotton, in this climate – and a broad-brimmed but equally elegant hat to keep the sun from his face. He doubted that anyone would try to interfere with him, even those who did not know his reputation. Though many of the locals openly went armed, few carried anything as large as an auto gun [submachine gun]. Street crime was rare in Chapman during daylight hours anyway; that was one of the few things which would make the native police bestir themselves from their stations. What happened after dark would be another story, but he knew better than to venture into the lawless parts of Chapman during night. Or not unescorted, at least.

Come to that, usually he would not venture out into the streets of Chapman at all, at least not for business. Face to face contact in this town was usually the responsibility of his lieutenants; theirs the risks, his the rewards.

Today, though, he needed to act on his own. Only one man in his organisation could be trusted with the job that Rolton had in mind. He had also made sure he was the only one in his organisation who had contact with the man. This man’s services were expensive, and one of the things which Rolton paid for was discretion.

Chapman made an ideal spot for both of them to meet; it meant less travel time, and freedom to meet without worrying about any eyes watching them. Even if the natives took any notice of them, they knew better than to attract the attention of any of the police.

Rolton’s course took him through one of the poorest slums in town, filled with ramshackle, run-down timber buildings that had started to crack or rot in the tropical heat and rain. He strode past groups of ill-dressed black children playing games with balls or chasing each other around the streets. He ignored them, and they ignored him. A well-dressed man was unusual here, but not unheard of, given what happened here, and in this town a question might be answered with a bullet.

He stopped at a sturdier building, made of concrete that stood out in this neighbourhood, but which otherwise had little to distinguish it. The door was painted metal, though, which conveyed its own meaning. He gave the door one loud knock, then waited.

A blurry-eyed man opened the door. His already troubled eyes went wide when he saw Rolton. “M... m... Mister, I mean... come in please, sir.” At least he had the wit not to say Rolton’s name aloud.

Rolton pushed past without bothering to respond. Only when he stood inside did he look a question at the blurry-eyed man.

“Through that door.”

Rolton walked through, but turned back to face the other man. “Leave a small line in yellow chalk outside the front door. Don’t come back for at least two hours.”

About twenty minutes later, the right man must have seen the chalk, since he entered the building. This man appeared, in almost all respects, the opposite of Rolton. His natural skin colour was perhaps lighter than Rolton’s, but his had turned bronze from unprotected exposure to the tropical sun. Where Rolton wore the finest of suits to announce his wealth, this man wore ragged pants and shirts which would not have looked out of place on any of the natives here. He did not look like one of the blacks, of course, but he did a very convincing imitation of a shiftless white man who had drifted here because he had no prospects elsewhere, and now lived a life little better than the blacks.

“You really do know how to dress like you live here, don’t you,” Rolton said, his face twisting.

The other man ignored that comment. “What do you need?”

“I need a message delivered,” Rolton said.

“Try the Royal Post,” the other man said.

“This one needs a more personal touch. I need to show people what happens if they interfere in my business.” He pulled an old newspaper article from his pocket and passed it across the table. “It needs to be a public lesson. Can you get it done?”

The man glanced at the article for a moment, then said, “Of course, provide that who I use and how it is done is at my discretion.”

“Yes. As long as it’s public and brutal. And you use someone good. This one must not be bungled.”

The other man shrugged.

“Also, I want to be informed of any other actions that may be in progress that threaten my interests.”

“That will take more effort,” the other man said, his voice carefully neutral.

Rolton opened his case and passed a wad of bills across the table. “Perhaps this will help motivate those efforts. The rest will be waiting when the job is done... and when I get some more information.”

The other man picked up the money, nodded, then quietly left.

Rolton lit a cigar – finest Nicaraguan – and finished it in silence, to give the other man time to leave the area. That man was purely professional, very accomplished... but he still made Rolton feel ill at ease whenever they met. No need for any unscheduled meetings.

* * *

17 June 1942
Exeter [Christchurch, New Zealand]
Kingdom of Australia

His eyes wanted to glaze over, but Royal Narcotics Bureau Agent Keith Cook forced himself to stay awake. He had been at the office far too long, he knew, but he did not like to leave things unfinished. Too much work to do and not enough people to do it, as always.

After about another twenty minutes, he finished the latest report. He put it on top of the rest of the stack of documents, clipped them into the file, then locked it into his desk drawer. He switched off the light at his desk, leaving the office nearly dark. The other desks were already empty, the reception long unmanned, but he knew this office well enough to find his way with minimal light.

He had to unlock the door, of course, with the receptionist and everyone else gone. He stepped out into the coolness of the winter air, and locked the door behind him.

As he turned around, he thought he heard a noise. He stood very still, straining his ears, but he heard only a faint whisper of night breeze and the low rumble of a few horsts on London St [Colombo St].

He shook his head. Maybe he was getting paranoid. He turned to start walking toward the horst park, but he caught a glimpse of a dark shape jumping out from the side of the building.

Keith’s reflexes had been honed in a country far deadlier than Australia. He quickly swung his leg through the air to kick his assailant. But it was too late. The attacker ducked past Keith’s leg, swinging an arm that slammed a blade into Keith’s stomach.

Keith kept some strength in his body, still, and he grabbed at the assailant’s neck. He did catch one hand around the other man’s throat, but he was pushed to the ground.

The knife came back again, and again, each thrust closer to his heart. His vision got darker and darker, until with one more stab of pain, it went completely black.

* * *

Excerpts from “Addicted: The Empire’s Drug War”
By Jeffrey Harris

Chapter 4: The First Shots

Despite the Asian origin of many drugs used in the late 1930s, the truth is that an American was largely responsible for escalating the situation from a relatively restrained organised organised crime problem to a full-blown war between the drug rings [3] and police and specialist anti-drug agencies.

The Anaconda Ring [4] was a newcomer to the superin trade in East Asia, but Arthur Rolton brought with him immense wealth and influence, and vast experience in smuggling drugs from the USA to Europe. When the RNB managed to intercept one of his early large shipments to Exeter, Rolton lost the respect of many organised crime elements. In particular, one of his major superin suppliers in Indochina cut off all ties with him [5] and sold his superin to the Giap Ring.

Arthur Rolton was not a man who had reached his station in life by meekly accepting defeat. Also, he was well aware that to preserve his reputation amongst the Indonesian and Chinese gangs who acted as suppliers, he would have to show that he could solve problems. Using his agents in Sydney to gather information on RNB operations, he had an Exeter agent killed in a high-profile stabbing outside the local branch building. He expanded his Richmond [Brisbane] operations, and had several police officers killed when they tried to apprehend some of his dealers. In another stunning coup, he had one of his top dealers (Louis Mercury) broken out of custody, with several of his men attacking a prison transport to free Mercury, then leaving everyone else for dead in the Australian desert.

His daring exploits rebuilt his reputation. By the year’s end, Rolton controlled the most powerful drug supply and smuggling operation in Asia. This led to a superin epidemic hitting the streets of Palmerston [Darwin], Stirling [Perth], Richmond, Sydney, Exeter and Poneke [Wellington, NZ] in 1943. Previously quiet neighbourhoods became havens for dealers and users alike, and city police were tested to their limits. New criminal gangs appeared in the cities, with drug profits giving them resources on a scale which would have been unattainable before. Crime levels soared as drug addicts turned to theft and robbery to support their habits [6], and gangs fought each other for control of territory and distribution networks.

The RNB needed to expand to combat the new inflow of drugs. Minister of Health David Heath, the original driving force behind the creation of the RNB, persuaded the government to increase funding for the Bureau, and new offices were slowly established throughout Australia. His other main initiative was to ensure that further pressure was put on other nations of the Empire to clamp down on drugs, especially superin.

Funding for expanding the RNB was easily arranged, due to the large degree of public support. Efforts to secure international cooperation were much more difficult. Not until 1949 would the first Indonesian nation make superin and other drugs illegal, and the other nations took longer. Diplomatic pressure on the United States to stop its citizens’ involvement in the drug trade achieved precisely nothing, and the tension created by these efforts would contribute to the events of 1947.

The struggle with the drug gangs meant that local police agencies made major changes to their operations. Many of them formed special units to target drug smuggling and gang activities. However, much more than the RNB, the local police were susceptible to being corrupted by the very things they were meant to stop...

* * *

1 March 1944
Stirling
Kingdom of Australia

“How many have been named?” asked Terry Holder, Active Agent.

“Four. All decorated officers of SPD Narcotics,” said CIO [7] Martin Sullivan.

“Bring them all here. Separately.”

“We agreed that this was my case,” Martin said.

A little coldly, Terry thought, given that they were in Stirling’s new Bureau building. This was his turf, not Martin’s. Still, safest to be polite. “Yes, but they have to be isolated. I know you’d like to arrest them at interrogate them at their own stations, so that you can show you’re cracking down on corruption. If you do that, though, you’ll tip off everyone else. Arrest them at their homes, bring them here, and when we’ve questioned them properly, I can put my men into action. Then you can take them all to Stirling Central and call the media, if you like.”

Martin considered that, then nodded slowly. “Fine. I’ll have them here within an hour.”

The CIO was as good as his word. Almost exactly one hour later, Terry sat in an interrogation room, complete with the traditional two-way mirror. Across from him sat Senior Constable Edward Pierce, now under arrest for possession of superin, accepting bribes, and conspiracy to commit murder. Pierce had messed up dark hair, and his clothes looked as if they had been thrown on. Which was, after all, more or less the case, since Pierce had been woken up and arrested at one in the morning.

“Mr Pierce. You – and your colleagues – are in a great deal of trouble.”

Pierce stared blandly back. “I don’t know what you mean. And it’s senior constable, thank you.”

“Not for much longer, I’m afraid,” Terry said. “You have two choices: cooperate with me or go with CIO Sullivan to Stirling Central. Either way, you won’t be a senior constable.”

Terry sat back in his chair to let Pierce mull this over. When he judged that the corrupt officer had been left in silence for long enough, he said, “You’re just lucky I happened to be in town when you were arrested. Otherwise, you’d have no options at all. But unlike Sullivan, I’m not here to bring down dirty officers. What you’ve done is despicable, but I have a bigger target in mind.”

Pierce shrugged. “Is that right?”

“You’re the operational coordinator of your local anti-drug operations. I know that you’re behind most of the corrupt actions of your unit. And I also know that you’re on Rolton’s payroll.”

Terry held up his hand to forestall Pierce’s next protest.

“Don’t bother denying it. We both know it’s true, though I can’t use my evidence in this case [8]. Give me the time and location of his next incoming shipment, and I can have you off these charges and in a safehouse before morning.”

Pierce said, “Well, that sounds like a good deal, Agent Holder. “But I’ve got a better one. Take your deal and shove it up your ass! Sullivan can take me to Central; I’m sick of listening to you.”

“If you like,” Terry said, then stood and left to get Sullivan.

A few minutes later, the four arrested police officers left in two horsts, along with Sullivan. Terry stood at the window, watching them leave. When they were out of sight, he reached for the nearest phone and dialled a number. “In the blue horst. Pick up Pierce, and no-one else.”

* * *

2 March 1944
Stirling
Kingdom of Australia

“What the hell is this?” Pierce yelled. His voice had lost much of its power, though. He had been tied to a chair in this empty room for a night and a day, judging from the light that had filtered through the high windows. Some sort of warehouse, most likely.

His shouts went unanswered for far too long.

When the door finally opened, in walked Agent Holder, of all people. Pierce wanted to yell a few choice insults at Holder – or more than a few, really – but his throat was already sore. He settled for a long glare, which was unfortunately wasted. Holder refused to meet his gaze, dragging a small table and chair over next to him.

Only then did he deign to meet Pierce’s gaze.

“I gave you a generous offer yesterday, Mister Pierce. Since you turned me down, you’ve left me no choice but to take... alternative methods.”

“Well, aren’t you a good fucking policeman?” Pierce said. “Anything you find out from me will be thrown out of fucking court when you have to explain all of this bullshit.”

“I don’t plan on getting near a courtroom with this,” Holder said calmly. Too calmly.

“A lot of fucking use asking me for location and shipment time is going to be when you need to ask a judge for a bloody warrant, then,” Pierce said. “He’ll want to know how you got your fucking information.”

Holder shrugged. “I’ll lie.”

The calm way that was said made Pierce’s blood run cold. “You’re as corrupt as you accuse me of fucking being, then.”

“There’s all the difference in the world, Mister Pierce,” Holder said. “You break the law for your own gain. I do it because sometimes to serve the law, you have to break the law.”

“Oh, isn’t that just the perfect fucking excuse,” Pierce said.

“It’s one of the lessons of life,” Holder said. “Would you like to know the story of my life, Edward?”

Pierce laughed. “Sure. It’s not like I’m going anywhere at the moment.”

Holder said, “The Bureau has hardly been my life; I’ve only been here for a few years. I worked in intelligence before that.”

“A fucking coward’s career,” Pierce said. “Too bloody scared to join the police or the army. Too fucking frightened to serve in the front line.”

“Oh, I was a soldier in my time,” Holder said. “I still am, really. Our country may not be officially be at war, but the truth is that the Great War never really ended. Our enemies now are the same enemies we had then. All that happened was that we changed the theatre of war, and the weapons. Now, we fight in shadows, and our weapons are usually cunning and subterfuge instead of arlacs and artillery, but we are still at war.”

“Fancy justification for what you do, but why are you boring me with it?” Pierce said. “You’re a liar and a kidnapper, and you have the fucking gall to call me corrupt.”

Holder sighed. “You weren’t listening, Edward. Australia is at war. We have many enemies. Germany might be the most obvious, but it’s hardly our only foe. Rolton and the other drug lords have declared war on us, and now I am a soldier in this new war.”

“You’re no fucking soldier. Soldiers have laws of war, and they follow them,” Pierce said. “You’re breaking the law here, no matter how you try to spin it.”

“Laws only work if both sides play by them,” Holder said. “When one side spurns the law, well... Now I’m working by a different rulebook. One I learned in night and shadow.”

Pierce tried to keep his breathing quiet and even, but he knew he had failed when he saw Holder smile.

“Have you ever heard of the Pesadilla [9]?”

Pierce could only shake his head.

“It happened in Colombia, although it’s not widely-known. The Jackals kept it quiet, both to save face and to stop word of it encouraging rebels elsewhere. You see, the Jackals thought that their fire-squads had pacified Colombia. They didn’t realise that terror would only breed more terror.”

Holder chuckled, and the sound had ominous undertones. “The revolutionaries stopped forming into bands, but that didn’t stop individuals. It never does. Men – and one woman – with nothing to lose and full of hatred for the Jackals and everything they stand for. The survivors bided their time, waiting for the bigger war to come, and the Jackals to let their guard down. Then they struck.”

Holder shook his head. “This time, the Jackals were suffering terror, not inflicting it as they had done with the fire-squads. Jackals would get kidnapped at night. A few days later, their bodies would show up. Always mutilated, usually disembowelled, and left hanging from the top of one prominent building or another. No-one knew who was doing it, and burning farms wouldn’t stop them. After all, it was clearly a few individuals committing the murders. Ravaging the countryside wouldn’t deter them.”

Pierce said, “No matter what you think of me, you should know that I hate the Jackals as much as you do.”

“You hate them, no doubt, but only someone who’s lived there and seen what they’re capable of can hate them as much as I do. Especially when I had to pretend to be one of them.”

Pierce caught Holder’s gaze then, and gasped involuntarily.

“Pretending to be a Jackal was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I assumed the identity of a Jackal soldier rotated back into the country after, well, never mind how I managed it. I played the role of a garrison soldier, while feeding the pesadillos information on high-level targets and how to avoid capture. The Jackals lost over fifty officers and a hundred of their other citizens before they caught the last of the pesadillos. There were only five people behind it.”

Holder shook his head. “Five people, for all of that terror. Can you believe it? Well, I certainly could. You see, I happened to be one of the soldiers in the group that finally caught the first pesadillo. I had to interrogate him to keep up my cover. And I was ordered to use his own methods against him.”

Holder lifted up a paper bag and started pulling out items and placing them one by one on the table. A knife came first, then tongs, then a cigarette lighter, then a vial of something that looked clear, but surely wouldn’t be water.

“Anything you want to tell me, Edward?”

“You wouldn’t fucking use those,” Pierce said, as defiantly as he could manage.

“I’d prefer not to,” Holder said. “If I’ve done worse than this to someone I admired, though, you can bet your life that I’d do it to someone I hate. So, for the last time... anything you want to tell me, Edward?”

The words came out as fast as Pierce could speak. Everything he knew about Rolton’s operations in Stirling, and what he had heard about Rolton’s activities elsewhere.

When Pierce had finished, trying to recover his breath, Holder said, “Thank you, Edward.” He stood. “Good-bye.” He pulled a pistol from his side holster.

Pierce started to shout a begging protest, until the sound of twin gunshots stopped him from speaking ever again.

* * *

[1] Strictly speaking, the Australian actions in the Solomons are mostly due to lack of resources and other competing priorities, rather than any moral goals. Due to the many commitments, especially after the Great War, investment in the Solomons is limited, and government through the locals was seen as the easiest option. However, *Americans take a different view of this issue.

[2] Rico is a slang *American word for someone who is extremely rich, derived from a Spanish word for “wealthy.”

[3] “Drug ring” is used in TTL much as drug cartel is used in OTL, ie a large scale operation of drug-growers and runners (eg from China to Australia).

[4] The “Anaconda” name stuck after Rolton used a ruse where his men smuggled inside the bodies of several anacondas under the pretext of transporting them to an Australian museum. The drugs were successfully smuggled in; the police only found out about the trick after the snakes bodies were dumped and washed up on a beach near Richmond.

[5] In fact this supplier was the one whose superin was seized by the RNB in Exeter, and he made the decision out of fear of being caught or identified, rather than over the financial loss.

[6] This drug wave is similar to what happened in OTL when crack cocaine hit US cities in the mid-1980s, although the level of violent crime is generally lower.

[7] Corruption Investigation Officer. *Australia’s equivalent to an Internal Affairs officer.

[8] In other words, Terry is protecting a source in Rolton’s organisation. He doesn’t mind implying this to Pierce, because Pierce would be unlikely to reveal this information to anyone, for fear that rumours may get back to Rolton that he has talked.

[9] From the Spanish word for “nightmare.”

* * *

Thoughts?

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Tales of the Decades of Darkness #2: White Gold

Credit for this post goes to tukk323, who wrote all of it apart from the opening quotation and a few other editorial additions.

* * *

“It is difficult to live without opium after having known it because it is difficult, after knowing opium, to take earth seriously. And unless one is a saint, it is difficult to live without taking earth seriously.”
- Maurice Char, French dramatist

* * *

Extracts from “Superin [Heroin]”
Special report prepared for Minister of Health David Thomas
By Dr. Mark Franklin
The Richards Medical Institute
Sydney, Kingdom of Australia

History in Brief

Superin was first synthesised by German chemist Johann Bauer in 1880. Bauer was experimenting with morphine by mixing it with organic acids. He left some of his equipment to clean by soaking in alcohol overnight. When he returned the next morning, he noticed a white crystalline substance on the sides of a beaker. Intrigued, Bauer repeated his previous experiments, but left the entire batch of morphine to soak in alcohol. He obtained a large amount of white crystalline powder, which was an acetylated form of morphine.

Bauer had the backing of Klaus Pharmaceuticals, which was then as now one of Germany’s largest manufacturers of chemicals. With their support, he conducted a series of animal experiments, initially on rabbits and birds. These trials were extended to hospital patients, where they had remarkable effects. The drug was branded as Superin due to the ‘super’ feeling the patients felt...

Superin was used as an analgesic in Germany and elsewhere in Europe for more than a decade. However, its drawbacks gradually became apparent. While a powerful reliever of pain, it was extremely addictive, far more so than opium. Germany placed the first restrictions on the drug in 1898 and banned it entirely except for medical use in 1903. Britain, France and Italy were quick to follow...

Regulations prevented most domestic European manufacture of the drug, but non-European manufacture and illegal importation were much more difficult to stop. The largest source was China. The opium trade had begun in China under British auspices. It was temporarily suppressed during Taiping rule, but it re-emerged after central authority collapsed. Regional warlords and criminal gangs [1] turned to opium cultivation as a source of funds. Colonial authorities also participated in the trade, usually unofficially.

Superin’s manufacturing process is relatively simple, and this quickly spread to China. The opium trade turned into the superin trade. After this, most of the colonial governments (except Nippon) tried to prevent their administrators having any involvement in the drug trade. Their efforts were largely unsuccessful, although the Chinese Rebellion and the Great War stunted the trade for over a decade. However, when South China gained independence, the trade quickly returned...

Current Status

Collectively, the Chinas produce more than half of the world’s opium (mostly in South China). A significant amount of that production reaches Australian shores. Other expanding areas of opium production are Afghanistan and the Caribbean, but most of the opium and superin produced here is destined for other markets.

The primary concern for Australia is Chinese-produced superin smuggled via Indochina and Indonesia. Most of this is brought onto Australian soil in Timor or New Guinea. The abundant ports in the Indonesian archipelago make monitoring this trade difficult, especially with the short shipping times to the Australian mainland.

Organised crime syndicates earn immense profits from the superin trade. These allow them to suborn law enforcement officials within Australia and across Indonesia and Indochina, and purchase weapons to arm their enforcers. Their flagrant actions have demonstrated that they have no respect for Australian law, and they take full advantage of the logistical difficulties in patrolling the Java Sea and its many ports...

Recommendation

Prevention of the superin trade requires greater access and resources than those available to any individual police force. In addition, any law enforcement agency will require full jurisdiction to detain and arrest suspects anywhere in the nation. Assuming that it can be negotiated, such an agency would also need authority or location cooperation with all other Imperial states and associated nations.

Therefore, I recommend the creation of a national narcotics enforcement agency. This agency will require the resources to gather intelligence, monitor movements of illicit substances, conduct surveillance, and obtain the cooperation of all other law enforcement agencies.

* * *

4 March 1940
Exeter [Christchurch, New Zealand]
Kingdom of Australia

The skycraft touched down smoothly on the runway, and taxied slowly across the concrete. Glancing out the window, Terry Holder got his first glimpse of the Exeter skyport. It was much smaller than any skyport he had seen elsewhere in the country. Odd, given that Exeter was the main entry point to the South Island.

Especially since this skyport had recently been expanded. The newest part had been completed only three months ago. Bright new paint showed in an area fenced off from the commercial section of the skyport. The new section was designed for the new large transport skycraft to make supply drops to Shackleton Base [2] and other Antarctic sites.

Time stretched out interminably as the skycraft kept taxiing along the runway. Still, it was much quicker than the alternative; Terry marvelled at the progress that had been made in commercial aviation in the last few years. Even five years ago, he would have been more likely to travel from Sydney to Liverpool by rail, then take a ship to Exeter. Since the war’s end, though, military sky technology had entered the civilian world. Commercial sky travel was becoming routine. Now, he simply had a four and a half hour flight straight from Sydney to Exeter.

Of course, quicker transport brought problems, not just benefits. That had brought Terry to Exeter. He was an officer with the newly-formed Royal Narcotics Bureau. The Bureau had broad responsibility for preventing illegal drug shipments from entering the country, whether by interception or by finding and destroying drugs at their source.

Unfortunately, most illegal drugs came from or through countries were they were still legal, or poorly controlled. South China had enough problems with internal security that preventing drug exports was the last thing its government cared about. Black China was even worse. As for the Indonesian states, no amount of diplomatic pressure had persuaded them to prohibit superin. Nor could the Australian government push them too hard, unless it wanted them to turn from mostly friends to hostile powers sitting across the main shipping lanes to Asia.

Terry had not been long in the RNB; he had only started in January. The agency had attracted applicants from a variety of backgrounds. Terry’s own experience was in intelligence, firstly military and then civilian. At first he had worked in army intelligence. After the war’s end, he had spent seven years as a field officer, serving in Africa and more recently in South America. He had recruited informers and arranged some discreet smuggling of supplies to friendly groups, or at least ones who were less unfriendly to the Empire than to Germany or the United States.

Now he had to use that experience from the other side of the law. It was a role he had gladly adopted. He had not spent long on American soil, but it had been enough to rid him of any lingering vestige of camaraderie for having fought alongside them in France. The Jackals supplied cocaine and cannabis to the world, caring nothing for the harm they inflicted. He had been glad to join an agency where he could help to stop their actions.

Alas, the Jackals were no longer the only problem. Terry’s assignment in Exeter proved that. The local police had mostly been able to deal with the cocaine coming out of the States. In the last six months, though, superin had flooded Exeter’s streets. The Exeter police could not cope, and the local RNB branch had only five relatively junior agents. Terry had been handpicked by Director Jones to take over the branch and lead a crackdown on superin dealers.

Terry had only one small bag with him, and followed the line of people down the aisle. He flashed his best smile at the stewardess wearing the elegant Tasman Skyways uniform. He had heard a saying back in Sydney which mangled Tasman’s slogan: “Fly Tasman. Their planes may not be on time, but their crew are mighty fine.” So far, it looked like that saying held true.

Disembarking from the craft meant walking down the steps into the autumn cold, across the runway, then into the main skyport building. Luggage collection was easy enough. When he stepped onto the plush carpets of the arrival lounge, he saw three men standing a few yards away. They all recognised him, and the nearest one stepped forward smartly with his hand extended.

“Agent Vaughn,” the agent said. He was short, with messy black hair that looked out of place given the neatness of his suit.

They shook hands, and the agent continued, “Pleased to meet you, Active Agent Holder [3]. This is Agent Kittle” – a tall, skinny man – “and this is Agent-”

“Keith Cook,” Terry said, finishing the sentence for Vaughn, then stepped forward to shake hands with the well-muscled, blond-haired man. They matched each other inch for inch, and smile for vigorous smile.

“Good to see you again,” Holder said. “If rather unexpected. Haven’t seen you since that mess in...” He let his voice trail off when he saw Cook’s slight headshake.

“I’d heard you got out, but you know how these things go. Left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing and all that,” Cook said.

“Glad you made it, anyway,” Holder said.

“We both had jobs to do. We’d have finished them, too, if it wasn’t for that damned Greek selling us out.”

Damned Hellene, Holder would have said, but Cook had always been surprisingly old-fashioned for such a young man. “Never can be sure it was him; their government assured us he was on our side.”

“For all they know he could have been a German puppet... Oh, never mind. All ancient history. New job now, and new problems.”

“Quite,” Vaughn said. “Agent Cook mentioned that you two knew each other, but refused to say how.”

Terry said, “It was a long time ago, in another country.” It had been over four years ago, in North Somaliland, but these agents did not need to know about that. “Forget it. Why don’t we had to your office, and you can run me through what you have on these new superin dealers.”

Terry followed them out of the skyport. The horst that awaited them was a Billabong model, with all that implied: functional, comfortable, reliable, and not the slightest hint of style. At least this one looked brand new. Vaughn took the wheel, and steered them out through the traffic.

The skyport had been built in the countryside south of Exeter. They passed what seemed like farm after farm, mostly with dairy cattle and occasional flocks of sheep. The fields here seemed greener than anything he had seen on the mainland in a long time.

New Zealand had always had a reputation as a cold, wet, dreary place. It was colder than in Sydney, certainly. Wet was obvious, at least by mainland standards. Terry had heard that they did not even have restrictions on water usage over here. As to dreary, he would have to reserve his judgement, but so far it did not look too bad.

After a while, the road started to fill up with traffic, and the farms were replaced by buildings.

Keith said, “You haven’t been here before, right?”

“No.”

“Don’t be fooled. Much of the city looks like old England, but this place is really booming. Construction has been going apace since the war. Exeter is attracting people from everywhere, and they’re changing the face of our city. We even have a cloudscraper.”

Keith pointed to a building off in the distance, which looked about ten storeys. It stood out, mostly because it was the only place so tall in the whole city.

“I see,” Terry said, carefully keeping the smile from his face. Ten storeys was not a cloudscraper; it was a footnote, as far as he was concerned. In Richmond [Brisbane] or even Eden [Auckland], it would not rate a mention. In Sydney or Liverpool [Melbourne] it would not even be noticed.

A few minutes later, Vaughn pulled the horst into a parking bay outside a small, ground-level building. Not a second storey in sight here, either. The building had RNB written in large, white letters above the front doors, but otherwise had nothing to distinguish it.

Vaughn led them past the desk officer and down a long corridor. He said, “We’ve been operating here for three months. I transferred from the Eden regulars [ie police] to lead the team here. Cocaine and marijuana were pouring in. Still are, unfortunately, but our work has reduced shipments by at least a third, we hope.”

Vaughn unlocked a large door, and ushered everyone through into a room dominated by a solid oak table. It looked old and magnificent, and rather out of place with the rest of the building. Probably a story there, but Terry did not bother to ask; he just took a seat along with the others.

Vaughn said, “Superin has really started hitting the streets in the last few weeks. We’ve worked with the local police and cracked down on the street dealers, but we haven’t found their suppliers. Other New Zealand cities are starting to report large increases in superin use, too. Usage picked up here first, so it looks like the suppliers are bringing it in here and then transporting it throughout both islands.”

“Strange. Wouldn’t it be easier to go through Eden first?” Terry asked. Superin came south from Asia, and Eden was a larger market and further north, too.

“I’d have thought so, but the KNB presence is much stronger there. Besides, the marijuana trade is flourishing in Eden. Exeter must look like a softer target.”

“Who are they selling it to?” Terry asked.

Vaughn nodded at Keith Cook, who said, “The biggest users are veterans. Many of them picked up the habit during the war. But the dealers have been selling to anyone they can, trying to expand their market.”

“Do we have any reliable intelligence about suppliers?” Terry asked.

Keith handed over a large manila folder.

Terry opened the folder to reveal a poor-quality photograph of a man stepping into a horst.

Keith said, “One of our recent suspects named him as the main supplier. Arthur Rolton. Born Arturo Rojas in Mexico City, sometime around the turn of the century.”

“Rolton is here?” Terry said. “We’ve been trying to catch that scum-sucking goat turd since the Bureau was founded. He always manages to slip through our grasp. When he does show his face in public, like here” - he held up the photo - “he makes sure he can’t be connected to anything illegal. He’s one of the Jackal’s biggest traders [4], but we’ve never been able to lay a single charge on him.”

Keith said, “Well, the Bureau’s made a dent in his cocaine profits of late. Word is that he’s been making deals in South China, the Moluccas and elsewhere in Indonesia.”

“What?”

Vaughn said, “Yes. He isn’t using his old contacts to bring superin via the Scrapes [5]. He’s found new friends in Indonesia and bringing it from China.”

Terry drummed his fingers on the table. Maybe the Exeter team was better than they had been given credit for back in Sydney. “How do you know all this?”

Vaughn said, “We have an informer who’s gotten close to Rolton.”

Terry said, “I remember a time when another agent made the same claim in Richmond. Rolton got away clean, taking all his cocaine with him, and left behind a shootout which finished four dead police officers and another six critically injured.”

Vaughn said, “So I’ve heard. But it’ll be different this time.” He sounded calmly confident, at least. “Why don’t you take that back to your hotel, look over everything at your leisure, and then let me know what you think. We can continue this at nine o’clock tomorrow morning. Agent Cook can drive you to your accommodation.”

Terry remained quiet in the horst, but Keith tried to start a conversation.

“Maybe the chances of catching Rolton aren’t good, but we have to try. If he gets a superin market established here, he’ll have the money to expand over the whole country. Give it a year, maybe two, and superin will be in every city in Australia.”

Terry nodded reluctantly. “I suppose so, but Rolton won’t stay in the country for very long. Give him a chance, and he’ll be out of our hands.”

Keith had nothing to say to that, so the rest of the drive passed in silence until they reached the hotel.

“This is the Canterbury Hotel. If nothing else, you’ll have a good view of the city and the Avon. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

After the other agent left, Terry looked up at the four-storey hotel, then shook his head. Only a South Islander could think that there would be a good view from that height.

* * *

13 April 1940
Exeter
Kingdom of Australia

Two men, meeting in a disused Riccarton factory. During the war it had been used to manufacture artillery shells. Now it was a home for rats and disused machinery, while its owners decided how to get rid of it. Two other derelict munitions factories were in the same area, separated from the city by the large expanse of Deans Park [6]. That should have made it a perfect place to meet.

One of the men put a briefcase on the table and opened it. “One hundred thousand pounds in cash, Mr Carver.” He waited for the second man to riffle through a few of the notes, then said, “You’ve seen the money. Now show me the merchandise.”

Carver opened a crate next to him, then stepped back. “See for yourself.” He waited for the other man to look at the contents, then added, “Pleasure doing business with you, Gideon. Let me know when you need more.”

Gideon smiled, then handed the briefcase to Carver. “I’ll make sure to do that.” He whistled loudly. Two hulking men came through one of the side-doors onto the factory floor. They started loading packages of white powder into bags.

Carver turned and started walking toward the far door. He had only taken a few steps when a dozen armed men emerged from all sides, yelling for him to freeze. He dropped the case and raised his hands over his head. Gideon and his men were doing the same.

Carver knew better than to move, but he spared Gideon a look of disgust. Rolton would not be happy. And when Rolton felt unhappiness, he loved nothing better than to spread it around.

The police separated them. A few moments later, another man came up to him. He wore a suit, not a uniform, but he did not have the look of a detective. “Where’s Rolton?” the man asked, in a harsh tone.

Carver just smirked, and said nothing. As if he would talk. Cops would not shoot him for not talking, but prison walls were no protection from Rolton’s long reach.

The not-detective – probably a Bureau agent – used a few more colourful phrases than Carver would have expected from an officer. He finished by saying, “Get him out of my sight.”

*

Terry Holder kicked at one of the looming bits of nameless machinery. “God dammit, I thought we had Rolton this time.”

“Still looks like we hit the motherlode here,” Keith said. “Gideon caught red-handed, and God knows how much superin.”

“I wanted the organ grinder, not the monkey,” Terry said.

“He can’t avoid us forever,” Keith said. “We’ve hurt him here, too. Arrested his best superin dealer, and stripped him of his profits.”

Terry stared at the drugs, then at the money. It was a major breakthrough, but still, he felt like an Olympic athlete who kept getting pipped for the gold.

Keith patted his shoulder. “Let’s get things wrapped up here, then we can hit Kings Tavern tonight and celebrate a job well done.”

“I suppose so,” Terry said. I’ll get you next time, Rolton.

* * *

From the Exeter Mail
15 April 1940

RNB INTERCEPTS MASSIVE SUPERIN HAUL

In a major operation, the Exeter branch of the new Royal Narcotics Bureau seized over twenty pounds of superin. This is a considerable blow against the insidious suppliers who have been smuggling this drug into our fair city. So far five men have been arrested in connection with this drug haul, including the drug ring leader, Gideon Onahui.

RNB Agent Martin Vaughn issued the following statement: “Onahui’s arrest represents what we can achieve with proper cooperation between the Bureau and local police forces. We are confident that we have caused a major cut to the supply of superin on Exeter’s streets...”

The investigation included one of the RNB’s active agents. This role caused considerable controversy when it was first introduced, but not it appears to be yielding benefits. The active agent declined any interview and is now reportedly headed back to Sydney to take on a new assignment.

* * *

[1] Which were often synonymous.

[2] Named after Sir John Henry Shackleton, British-Australian explorer, ATL brother of Ernest Shackleton.

[3] Active Agents are RNB officers who have higher rank and no permanent jurisdiction, although most are based in Sydney.

[4] Trader is a colloquial term for a drug trafficker who deals in very large quantities. While not exclusively used for *American drug dealers, it originated with them.

[5] Scrapes: a derogatory misnaming of States, ie the *USA.

[6] OTL Hagley Park in central Christchurch

* * *

Thoughts?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tales of the Decades of Darkness #1: An Old Eagle

Credit for this post goes to Rekjavik, who wrote all of it apart from a few editorial additions.

* * *

25 November 1941
Brugg, Duchy of Aargau
German Empire

Karl Eymer knocked at the rather plain door, and waited patiently for someone to answer it. The time dragged on for longer than he would have expected, but he could wait. Der Adler had carried several of his interviews with famous people; his personal favourite was his revealing chat with the actress Liesa Graebsch.

This, though, was something altogether different. He had never interviewed someone of such importance. A sign of his boss’s trust, he hoped.

After a few moments, he knocked again. This time, a maid came to answer the door. She looked barely thirty, if that. “Who are you?” she demanded.

“Karl Eymer. I have an appointment with Herr Schulthess.”

The maid looked coolly at him, as if to say, “And so?”

Eymer cleared his throat. “I’m a reporter from Frankfurt, for Der Adler. Herr Schulthess has agreed to an interview to discuss recent events... and anything else of interest.”

The woman nodded. “Please come with me.” She led Karl through the house.

The décor was much simpler than he had expected for the man who won the greatest war in history and redrew the map of the world. He would have expected that such a man would decorate his house with treasures of conquest, or at least some ornate signs of wealth. Edmund Schulthess was far from a poor man, but his house did not show it. Karl caught glimpses of a few rooms as he passed: a study with a full bookshelf that filled an entire wall; a dining room dominated by a single large table; and a conservatory with large windows that revealed a stunning landscape beyond.

The maid brought him through to the garden. Schulthess sat there, wheelchair-bound, reading a book. The former Chancellor looked to be on – or rather, off – his last legs. Hardly unexpected for the man who led Germany through its darkest days since the Second Napoleonic Wars. The weight of that struggle would have taken its toll on any man. Karl had done his research; he knew that Schulthess was 73 years old. It was a miracle that the man had lived for so long.

When Schulthess slowly raised his head from the pages of his book, he seemed more like a grandfather than a world leader. Yet appearances could so often deceive. This was the man who had overseen the Great War, and in its aftermath founded the Greater European Economic Union and overseen the breakup of France, the ancient enemy. Most infamously, he had signed the Treaty of Warsaw.

“Ah, Herr Eymer, I hope you had a comfortable journey. Fresh air never hurt anyone, and it must be a change from the air you find in Frankfurt these days.”

“A very pleasant journey, thank you, sir. I hope I’m not interrupting anything important.”

“Nonsense,” said Schulthess. “These days, I have all the time in the world. Retirement has its privileges. Can you imagine me having time to read anything by Goethe in 1929? Now, I have his whole collected works on my shelves, waiting to be discovered one by one. And many other authors await my pleasure. I’ve only recently discovered Grillparzer’s works. I never found time to read the War of the Clouds in my childhood.”

Schulthess paused, then said, “Anyway, let us begin.”

Karl took out his notebook and pen, ready to write quickly when he needed. Shorthand was so useful. He glanced over at the River Reuss while he collected his thoughts.

“Firstly, I would like to thank you for agreeing to this interview. It is an honour to be here speaking with you, Herr Schulthess.”

“Think nothing of it, Herr Eymer. I have plenty of time on my hands. I welcome the departure from my usual routine.”

Karl said, “I’d like to start with some historical questions. Helps to set the scene, I find. And it’s Adler policy, too.”

Schulthess gestured for him to continue.

Karl said, “People nowadays mostly recognise your actions in the Great War. You led the Reich to victory over the Bouclier, and brought Britain to its knees. But the human toll of the war was without parallel in the history of the world. Over thirty million people died in the war years. How could this happen? Was the Great War inevitable?”

A difficult question, but it had to be asked, and best soonest. The first paragraph of any article needed to capture the reader’s attention. And what better than an answer to one of the world’s more difficult questions? Schulthess had been at the heart of the diplomatic crises in Hungary and Croatia; many historians (though few in Germany) blamed him alone for starting the war.

Schulthess said, “With hindsight... yes, I would have to say that the war was inevitable.”

Karl had not expected that answer, but he knew better than to interrupt.

Schulthess continued, “Envy, it came down to. Britain had grown jealous of Germany and her achievements. When Britain dominated the world, she was happy to let Germany carry on. What mattered was who had the greater power. Britain was happy to use Germany for her own advantage. Take the second war we fought against a Bonaparte. Germany suffered more than any other nation. Britain was content to sit on the sidelines and do the building, while we did the dying.

“When Germany’s full power began to be realised, Britain feared that her throne at the top of the world might be usurped. They could have allowed Germany to blossom, and stood beside us as friends. Yet this was unacceptable in London, for they believed that Britain alone should rule the world. So she spurned the spirit of our alliance, forcing her will upon nations that dared to ask for change. Look at what they did in South Africa! Indeed, Britain’s new temper led to her own humiliation at the Americans’ hands.”

Karl tried to use the lull in the speech to move things closer to 1929. “If Britain had failed once, then why did they keep using imperialistic diplomacy in 1929, when their last experience should have told them the likely outcome?”

“Ah, by then she had gone too far down the path. In 1906, Britain could have curbed her aggression and embraced a more cooperative policy. But London feared looking weak more than they feared defeat. So the British kept on doing what they had, hoping that it would work, despite previous evidence to the contrary. Witness her hypocrisy over Hungary and Croatia. Britain had crushed free will in South Africa before us, and then demanded that we “acknowledge the wishes of the people” in the illegitimate governments in our Verein partners.”

“Why do you think that Britain interfered in the Verein, when it was clearly in our sphere of influence?”

Schulthess sighed. “She still believed that she ruled the world. Britain did not recognise that there were bounds to her power, and interfered in matters of state which was none of her affair. When we would not bow to Britain’s demands, she kept escalating the situation, closing the Suez Canal and starting the war. At the time it was not clear how foolish the British would be, but with hindsight it all comes together.”

Karl wondered whether he fully agreed with that, although it made a strange kind of sense. Britain had been the pre-eminent power of the nineteenth century, and would not accept that its status had changed in the twentieth.

“Well, that explains the origins of the war. What about its conduct? Your government guided Germany through that war, but your critics have said that the Treaty of Warsaw was a major blunder.”

Schulthess sipped tea for a moment, as if contemplating the question. After the pause, he said, “It is always easier to criticise than it is to govern. Critics find it easy to blame others for a decision which they did not have to take. It is another matter entirely if the critic found himself in a situation where he had to make that decision himself.”

“What were your reasons for signing the Warsaw Treaty, then?”

“Signing that treaty was not something I decided easily, but it was a necessary concession. We had more urgent matters to deal with. I regret the loss of Courland and the territory which Poland had to yield, but you cannot deny that what we gained far exceeded what we lost. And above all, we needed a secure eastern border. We had to fight one war at a time.”

“What do you mean?” Karl asked.

“A war on two fronts would have doomed us. Look at the Americans. They tried to fight two wars at once, in South America and in Europe. They could not win either, until they conceded defeat in one war to concentrate on the other. Thanks to the treaty, though, Germany had only one front. That gained us victory over the Bouclier. I think that the results speak for themselves.”

“Indeed they do, Herr Schulthess. But when we relieved Russia of the pressure on their western border, they went on to conquer most of Asia. Some have argued that the Treaty of Warsaw simply removed one power only to replace them with an even more dangerous foe. What do you think about the creation of the Russian Federation?”

Schulthess frowned. “Federation or Empire, what they call themselves does not matter. They have the same desire to dominate the globe which they always had. Their desire for land and conquest cannot be sated. It is only Germany’s clear strength which stops them from striking against us today. However, they were not shooting our soldiers or bombing our cities at the time. Better to make peace with them for a time, so that we could deal with Russia at an occasion of our choosing. I am sure that we will deal with them in due course.”

That last sentence worried Karl more than a little. He had been fortunately too young to fight in the Great War, but his father had fought in Italy and the south of France. While his father did not talk much about what happened there, it did not sound pleasant. If it came to a war with Russia now, Karl might find himself in the frontlines. The devastation that had been wrought on Europe a decade ago might be revisited. He hoped that vom Rath’s new government would avoid war at all costs.

“Let’s move on from the enemy created to the ones we defeated: France and Britain. Britain divided itself, so its fate was in its own hands. France, though, you dismantled. That choice has attracted some criticism.” This included most of the people in the French states, of course, but also some elements within Germany. “It does seem to be quite a... drastic measure, to split France into shards, and to recreate small states which have not existed for centuries.”

Schulthess sat straight up, his agitation clear. “France tried to strangle Germany when our nation first reunited, and she never abandoned her intentions. The Confederation War, the Swiss and Italian War, the Second Napoleonic Wars... Is it any wonder that by the time of the Great War, I could not allow France to remain united? Our nation’s security required nothing less than the break-up of the French state, a move which was in truth long overdue.”

Karl nodded, and moved on to the next question. “What of Britain’s fate, then? Was it in truth worth the cost of the war? We broke their home islands and England, Scotland and Cymru emerged from their ruin. Yet what of their colonies, who ignored the peace settlement we had negotiated with Britain, conquered many of our own colonies, and who now call themselves the Restored Empire? We have not stopped them; witness their recent activities in Rashidi Arabia.”

Schulthess chuckled, but before he could respond more fully, the maid reappeared. He nodded in her direction, then said, “Forgive an old man his habits, but I always take lunch at the same time. But I’d be delighted if you would join me. We could talk about less formal matters.”

“I would be delighted,” Karl said, and followed the maid as she wheeled Schulthess inside.

The lunch turned out to have much in common with Schulthess’s house: pleasant, comfortable, and altogether ordinary. The maid brought soup, bread, cold meat, and a hefty dose of tea.

While they ate, they talked at length about the Alps, Genoa – which both had visited and enjoyed, it turned out – and even at one point about trains, about which Schulthess had developed a recent interest. During the meal, Schulthess steered the conversation away from politics with a simple: “never mix business with pleasure.”

To continue the interview, they went back outside. “What were you asking me about?” Schulthess asked.

“The Restored Empire, and what it means for Germany,” Karl said.

“Ah, yes, that motley collection of disparate states. Their Empire is naught but a doomed experiment. Its constituent members are too varied, separated by geography, language, and heritage. Each has their own interests, which are much too divergent for them to hold together in the longer term. Given time, the Empire will collapse.”

“If that is so, does the same fate await our own Union?”

Schulthess said, “The GEEU has many nationalities, but it is distinct from the Empire. The Union is an economic and mutual defence pact. Its member states work together, but they remain separate states. The Empire, though, wants to be a single country. It is an impossibility to merge so many separate peoples into one state. I knew that when I set up the Union after the war. The Empire’s leaders should have known better, but they will learn their lesson soon enough.”

Karl hurriedly finished writing down Schulthess’s answer, then turned to his next question. “What, then, of our lost colonies? The Orient is lost to us, as is so much of Africa. What do you think that Germany should do about them?”

Schulthess took his time before answering that question. Eventually, he said, “I do not generally like to make statements about Germany should do now. I have already helped Germany with deeds; I have no need to meddle now with words. But I will say this: there is no need to hurry the reacquisition of our sundered colonies. The Empire will fall in time. Germany can address her lost colonies at a time of her choosing.”

Karl nodded, and considered how to phrase the next question. He doubted very much that Schulthess would like it, but it had to be asked. “Germany’s successes in the war are easy to recognise. We won the war in Europe and North Africa. Yet our allies in South America fell to the United States one by one. Even valiant Chile could not hold out forever. Now they are under the American yoke. Should Germany not have done more to save them?”

Schulthess frowned. “The Americans’ methods are deplorable; no civilized nation could endorse them. What other nation would elect a leader who proclaims “There are no innocent civilians”? Fire-squads are their most visible evil, but never forget that they threaten bondage for all the peoples of South America. The Brazilians suffer, the Peruvians are enslaved, the Chileans are persecuted, and the Argentines live in perpetual fear of the day the Americans will invade.”

His voice rose as he kept speaking. “Yet how could we have stopped the Americans? We needed to deal with Britain first, for they were the greater threat to us. We could do nothing to save South America with our homeland threatened with invasion. The blame, if it must be laid anywhere, lies with Britain and France. They made common cause with the Americans. They stopped us from helping our friends.”

Karl tried to calm the other man down. “I’m not questioning what we could do or not do. I was just asking for your thoughts.”

Schulthess took a deep breath, and visibly composed himself. “I understand. It’s just worth remembering that criticising decisions is easier than making them. Carry on, Herr Eymer.”

Karl said, “You’ve already said that you believe the GEEU will endure. But is its fate not bound to the event which created it? As you say, the Union is not an individual nation and does not try to be, but it was created in the aftermath of war, and it still needs soldiers to endure.”

Schulthess said, “Germany paid in blood to secure peace and stability in Europe. We will do whatever we need to do to maintain that peace. We cannot let our actions be dictated to us by terrorists.”

“Is it just terrorists, though? How many people in the former French states still think of themselves as French?”

“The majority, except perhaps for Brittany,” Schulthess said. Karl had to give him credit for honesty, at least.

“From such resentment, will terrorism not always spring? Almost from the moment that France was divided, organisations emerged and proclaimed their goal of French unification. The UMF and SNF are well-known for both their political and military efforts to regain French independence [1]. We had thought that they were the worst, until the Organisation Armée Secrète started bombing Frankfurt itself last year. Even if their bombs have stopped for now, their supporters still plaster their motto, “France is eternal,” on government buildings across the former France. Do you think that these French nationalists can ever be subdued?”

“Herr Eymer, one cannot expect new national identities to form overnight. Given time, people will consider themselves Burgundians, Gascons or Normans, rather than French. When that day comes, those nationalists and terrorists will fade away. They are a problem for now, but a manageable one, not an eternal one.”

Karl nodded. Schulthess had certainty in his beliefs, whatever else might be said of him. That led quite neatly to his next question. “While discussing current difficulties, we can hardly avoid mentioning some more international difficulties. What is your opinion of Germany’s conduct about those situations, particularly about the recent... events in Rashidi Arabia?”

Karl thought he could already guess the answer to this question. Schulthess had rarely spoken publicly, but it was no secret that he had always disagreed with the policies of then-Chancellor Karl-Heinz Blucher. Blucher’s leftist views were a considerable contrast with Schulthess’s, and indeed with the new Chancellor, Werner Wolfgang vom Rath.

Schulthess said, “Arabia can best be described as a fiasco. Blucher’s inability to stand up for German interests cost us dearly.”

Strong words, but not misplaced, Karl thought. The Rashidi Crisis had started with the death of Abdullah bin Hamud, the king of Rashidi Arabia, three years before. With no direct male heirs to his name, a disputed succession was inevitable in a nation so finely balanced between competing power blocs. Rashidi Arabia had been recognised as neutral territory between Germany and Russia after the war, but then neutrality meant very little in a world in the grips of a Silent War. What meant more was that Arabia sat atop the largest reserves of petroleum in the world.

Indeed, Arabian neutrality had been merely an excuse for the Powers to diplome more openly. Within Rashidi Arabia, the pro-German factions had coalesced around Mithab bin Adbul Aziz, while the pro-Restored Empire faction had coalesced around Mohammad bin Bandar. Both of those candidates were nephews of the late king. Mithab was elder, but a son of the king’s youngest brother. Mohammad was younger, but was the son of the elder of the late king’s surviving brothers. It had made for a fine mess, and gave the Powers plenty of scope for diplomatic intervention. Unfortunately, the pro-Empire faction won the struggle and placed Mohammad on the throne, not least thanks to Blucher’s unwillingness to commit German forces to oppose them [2].

Schulthess continued, “Blucher simply refused to give the necessary support to our friends within Arabia. The whole thing finished very badly; Germany should have ended up with a friendlier government there. Blucher lacked the credibility or the will to negotiate effectively with the superpowers. That hindered Germany’s global influence for the remainder of Blucher’s term in office.”

Karl had reached the end of his scripted questions, but he decided that now was the perfect opportunity to ask an unscripted question. Most of his questions had needed the tacit approval of the Der Adler executives, but those were also ones which Schulthess would expect. Perhaps an unexpected question would show more of the man’s character.

“What about the very peculiar diplomacy during the Crisis? At the time – and even since – I found it very strange that America would work with Germany to oppose Russia and Australia. Did you anticipate that would happen?”

Schulthess said, “An unusual situation, certainly, but then great nations do not have friends, only interests. It suited Germany’s priorities to accept O’Brien’s diplomatic assistance, for Russia is a direct threat where the United States is not. America can be dealt with by-and-by, but Russia is the only nation whose armies can threaten Germany’s heartland. As for Australia and her ‘Restored Empire,’ if it does not dissolve of its own accord, Germany can address that matter once Russia has been dealt with.”

Karl nodded. The questions were over now, except for ones about the future. Futurology had never been a successful science, but it would be interesting to hear what Schulthess thought. “I would like to ask one more question before we finish. The times we live in now are perilous, and the world is unpredictable. What do you think the future holds for Germany and the world?”

Schulthess went quiet for a long moment while he considered the question. “The future can never be certain, of course, but I believe that the modern world was shaped by the war. Or, more precisely, how the war ended. The Great War ended with each of the victors – including Germany – achieving their greatest goal, but not all of their goals. Now the superpowers dominate the world, but their ambitions are unsated. So, ever since, we have had the Silent War.”

Schulthess coughed, then continued, “The silence will not last forever, though. Russia has never abandoned its desire to dominate the globe. Germany must remain strong in preparation for that moment. As for the rest of the world, the Restored Empire, as I have said, will take care of itself. And some day, the United States will pay the price for their crimes and the bondage they have inflicted on the nations.”

Karl nodded, rose, and said, “Thank you for your time, Herr Schulthess.”

“It was my pleasure, Herr Eymer.”

Karl bowed, then followed the maid to the front door. It was a pity that the interview had to end, really. The afternoon had been far too brief, and Karl doubted that he would ever have the pleasure of a second interview. Given how old the former Chancellor looked, this interview might even be the last one he ever gave.

He stepped outside onto the road. The road had gone dark quickly, as always happened so close to winter. Karl checked that his briefcase was properly closed, tucked his overcoat close around him, and started to walk to the train station. He had a slight smile on his face, although he was only barely aware of it. He knew that this interview would sell well with the German people, and probably even the whole of Europe. It would certainly be interesting to find out what one of the most important men in history thought.

* * *

[1] The Union Militaire Française and Solidarité Nationale Française are two of the more well-known groups of terrorists (or freedom fighters, depending on who you ask) in France.

[2] The pro-German faction had weaker support within Rashidi Arabia, although neither Schulthess nor Eymer would admit that, even to themselves.

* * *

Thoughts?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Decades of Darkness #190: New Horizons

“Your violent and chaotic society, even when it calls for peace, when it seems to be in a state of calm, still carries war within itself just as the slumbering thunder-cloud contains the storm.”
- Australian ambassador Wiremu Panapa addressing the United States Congress, 1947

* * *

1 September 1932

*

Columbia City, Federal District
United States of America

Senator Plutarco Bautista willed his face to composure. This meeting promised to be one of the least pleasant experiences of his life. He had conducted only one private meeting with Alvar O’Brien in his entire life, and he had never thought that he would need to agree to another.

“Remember, stay calm,” said Faith, his wife. She was not even looking at him; her eyes were focused on the door. After eighteen years of marriage – where had the time gone? – she usually knew what he was thinking without needing to look. As he did with her, come to that. “Too much depends on this choice.”

This choice between the devil and the dragon, Plutarco thought, but he held his peace.

The knock at the door was firm, but not overly loud. Precisely calculated to be just at the right volume, Plutarco thought. Everything about O’Brien was carefully calculated, carefully weighed and planned. A great pity indeed that none of that calculation included listening to the still, small voice of his conscience. He raised his voice. “Come in, General.”

Alvar O’Brien did not formally hold the rank of general any longer, of course. Better to use that title rather than any alternative, though.

O’Brien entered the room in a measured pace. More calculation, of course. He gave a short bow first to Plutarco, then to Faith. Clever of him. He must have known that Plutarco would refuse to shake the hand which had signed the order to enslave white men.

Plutarco had to think for a moment what he wanted to say. He could not say that O’Brien was welcome, since that would be blatant hypocrisy. Only at Faith’s absolute insistence had he agreed to the request for a private meeting, and even then he had demanded that Faith remain as a witness. “Would you like some tea?”

“Thank you, but no,” O’Brien said. “I don’t believe that either of us wants this meeting to last any longer than necessary.”

“It would be a long meeting indeed, for you to convince me to support your bid for the presidential nomination,” Plutarco said. The Unionist delegates met in less than two weeks, and O’Brien was the frontrunner.

“I’m not here to ask for your support,” O’Brien said.

Plutarco raised an eyebrow.

O’Brien said, “I do not ask for your support. I ask only that you agree not to oppose me or speak out against me during the nomination and the election.”

“You expect me to forget what you’ve done?” Plutarco said, but he could understand why O’Brien had made the request. Jefferson Caden, that most notorious backer of the fire-squads, the man who had dragged the United States into the Great War, had effectively won the Democratic nomination. O’Brien had more votes than any other Unionist contender, but not a solid majority. Plutarco was the most senior Unionist Senator not to express his support for any candidate, and many members of the party were waiting for him to commit to a candidate.

“If you speak out against me, you will split the Unionists. That is in your power,” O’Brien said. “HP Long would welcome the excuse to run an independent campaign. You will then hand the presidency to Caden. Do you want that man as president?”

“Do I want you, either?” Plutarco said. “I have not forgotten what you’ve done. I will not back a man who made slaves out of white men.”

O’Brien said, “I know what I’ve done, and I make no apologies for it. I did what I deemed best to save American lives and to protect my country’s interests. But regardless of what you think of me, do you deny that Caden would be worse?”

Plutarco thought about Caden, a man who had endorsed the fire-squads as a legitimate government policy. Indeed, Caden had spoken of them as being useful as a common tool, not even a method of last resort. What would that man do if given control of the United States and ultimate responsibility for subduing South America? Still, he could not make himself say aloud that O’Brien would be a better presidential candidate than anyone.

O’Brien waited for his reply, then eventually said, “I do not ask for your friendship. I do not think that we could ever be friends. I ask only that you agree that I am less of an enemy than Caden.”

Plutarco paused for a long moment, then he eventually nodded. He said, “If you win, expect me to dog your every move as president.”

“Of course. I would expect nothing else,” O’Brien said. “And if I lose, I expect that we will both dog Caden’s every move, if for different reasons.”

*

Federal House
Hartford, Connecticut
Republic of New England

Shane Mullins, President of New England, remembered times of fear in the last war. Times of hiding in dugouts in trenches for days on end, never knowing when an artillery shell would land near enough to bring the end of life. No man could live through those times and not know fear. Yet what he faced now was a different kind of fear. Not quite the same fear of imminent death. Rather, fear that everything he had built in New England was crashing down into ruin.

The war was over. Formal terms had not yet been announced, but they amounted to Yankee soldiers staying in Ireland to protect it, while Germany was left to finish crushing Britain. The peace deal was in effect a return to status quo ante bellum; neither side would demand reparations or anything else. In theory, this war was a draw.

Except that it was a defeat, and he saw no way to portray it otherwise. Not even Terry’s genius at public relations [1] could conceal that. He had led New England into this war expecting a share of the glory and of the rewards of victory, but Russian betrayal and the incompetence of his allies had seen his country cheated of its gains. Now he had spent so much of New England’s blood and treasure, and he had nothing to show for it.

Well, everyone made mistakes, even if he would never admit any of his errors publicly. He needed time to set things right, time to get New England back on track to its proper future. He may have been betrayed once, but he would be ready next time. There would be more opportunities, of that he was sure. Some fools were already speaking of this as the “war to end war,” but he could see the seeds being planted for future conflicts. The United States was trying to hold down South America, Germany was trying to hold down Europe, Russia was trying to hold down Asia, and all of them would want to meddle in Africa. With their inevitable disagreements would come opportunities. Mullins would make sure he was ready for those opportunities.

If he could survive politically, that was. The next few months would be critical. The people were feeling angry, and he had to make sure that they blamed the right people. England deserved its fair share of the blame, for its incompetence and its unconscionable decision to use chemical weapons. Wood should have known better. Russia would get its share of the blame too, for not honouring its alliance with France, although that was old news.

Yes, there were opportunities. Of course, there were decisions to be made too. Foreign players would take their share of the blame, but should he launch a cleansing of some of his own government members? Charges of incompetence would be easy enough to make, and some of them would even be genuine. There were advantages to keeping a few incompetent people around; they would not become a threat, and it meant that they could be removed at the proper time. Was this the proper time to clean house?

No, Mullins decided, after some thought. Removing incompetent people might be popular, but it might also start people thinking that perhaps he should be removed, too, if cleansings were to be made. Besides, the people could be controlled, one way or another. His greatest fear came from his own party, since they controlled the government. If they became too concerned by the cleansings, they might try to remove him out of desperation. Better, for now, to present an image of unity and camaraderie. And then make sure that this image lasted until the next election.

The next presidential election, in fact. That had long been arranged. No meaningful opposition existed, after all, and whichever candidate he named would win. The Constitution forbade him from standing again, but that was easily worked around. He was assured of re-election to the Senate, where he would remain as Majority Leader, and be nominated as President pro tempore. That would make him third in line for presidential succession. Since the new president and vice-president would both be resigning on inauguration day, he would be returned as president in short order.

Yes, he decided, there was still hope to rebuild New England. He would have to be careful for the next few months, and have Ingersoll keep a very close eye on the Army, but the future was not without hope.

* * *

4 March 1933

*

Puerto Covadonga
Antarctic Peninsula

Cold blew the wind, with the hint of ice never far from its breath. Sunlight glimmered above the horizon, but for how long would that last? Colonel William Walker had never been anywhere this far south in his life, and rarely anywhere as cold. The Jaguars could be sent almost anywhere, but given his choice, he would rather have been sent somewhere warm.

Of course, when the President-elect asked for you by name, then you went where you were sent. Besides, this mission was an honour which no other American soldier would ever be granted. Symbolic, of course; the Chileans and Argentines had both made vague claims on this God-forsaken stretch of ice and rock, but neither had bothered to base any military forces here. Yet symbolic or not, sending soldiers here amounted to a claim which would never be forgotten.

Walker unfurled the American flag himself. Other soldiers and sailors stood nearby, but no-one else would share this honour with him. When he planted it into the soil of this land, he claimed it for the United States. Apart from his fellow Americans, only penguins and petrels were around to hear him, but he still enjoyed being able to utter a few words. “America now stretches from Pole to Pole.”

*


Lone Star Vineyards
Near Packer, Washington [Branson, Missouri]
United States of America

The sun beat down in what was unseasonably hot weather for the early days of spring. Amber Jarrett ambled past the rows of grapes toward the great house which had been her childhood home, but which now seemed like a lifetime ago. It had been only three and a half years since she had left home, firstly imitating her brother as a soldier in France, and then living in hiding with distant friends on Cuba until the war was over. She could have come home before, if she had really wanted, but she had wanted to see the world.

The United States was now officially at war only with Chile, some people seemed to think that peace would soon come. Her own father was among them, judging from his last letter. She knew better. Even once the last South American resistance had been subdued, there would be another war. There would always be another war. “There will always be wars, so long as men are men,” she murmured.

* * *

Columbia, Federal District
United States of America

Oliver Bird, Industrial Commissioner, stared once more at the neatly-typed title of the document in front of him. It read: “Application for a Machine to Automate the Picking of Cotton.” Hardly the most imaginative of titles, but then it didn’t need to be. Not if it was genuine.

“You’re going to approve this, I take it,” he said. You’d better be going to approve it, his tone added. His time was too valuable to be wasted with any more of the dozens of failed attempts for mechanical cotton-pickers which had been lodged over the years.

The patent clerk nodded. “I’ve watched his machine. It works, all right. He’ll sell every one he can make, and still have orders for five times the number. Cotton-picking will never be the same again.”

The U.S. economy will never be the same again, you mean, Bird thought. The clerk did not see the implications, or not well enough. No point educating him; there were much bigger things to worry about. Still, a hint wouldn’t go astray. “Might be a good time to sell any slaves you own,” Bird murmured.

“Commissioner?” the clerk asked, obviously not catching his meaning.

“Never mind,” Bird said. His thoughts were elsewhere. A machine to pick cotton had been the holy grail of planters for the better part of a century. Reaping wheat was easy, but cotton had been another matter. Which had been very good news for anyone who owned slaves. Cotton made money, lots of money, and growing it needed slaves. For all the boll weevil had made things more expensive, for all that insecticides were needed now, for all that fertiliser needed to be obtained, for all of the long price decline, cotton had still been a solid way to make money. Solid enough to set the reserve price for slaves; they would only be bought by people who could make comparable money off their labour than those who would be planting cotton. And that limit, in turn, had set peon prices, since peons could not be made to work in cotton, and could not be worked as hard even in other areas... but were still available for other forms of work.

Now, that whole system teetered on the brink. How many slaves would the new cotton-pickers replace? Five? Ten? Twenty? Slave prices would fall, and fall hard. Worse, this came at just the time when America’s latest conquests would start to bring in peons and slaves from South America. How much would be a peon be worth in a year or two?

Despite the warmth of his office, Oliver Bird, architect of the American economy, shivered.

*

Hartford, Connecticut
Republic of New England

James Ingersoll, Secretary of War, should probably have been more concerned by what was about to happen in the United States. A new president was being inaugurated today, one who would write a new chapter on foreign policy in an already troubled world. The ramifications of that would touch New England, as they always had; no matter how much good Yankees tried to forget it, their country was shaped in part by the tides moving from the United States.

Yet he could not make himself care. Much larger things were afoot. Thing set in motion a little over a month ago, when Mullins carried out his plan to make himself the eternal president of New England [2]. The Chief had complied with the letter of the constitution, but Pickering would be turning in his grave.

He glanced up at the clock. Five minutes past eleven. Terry Rundle was due to arrive five minutes before, to discuss what reaction should be taken to events south of the border. Those orders used to come direct from the Chief, but these days Rundle acted as the conduit for most instructions from Mullins. Ingersoll had not been able to work out if the Chief did that to mark Rundle’s elevation in status, or as an implicit demotion by turning him into a messenger boy. It said much about Mullins’ approach to government that it could be both of those things at once; the battle for primacy amongst Mullins’ subordinates was an ongoing one, and the Chief liked to keep people guessing.

“Strange for him to be late,” Ingersoll muttered. Rundle was usually punctual to a fault. One of his many faults. He opened the door to his office. “Mary, have you heard-”

He stopped at the sight before him. Armed soldiers were hardly an uncommon sight in the War Department offices, but armed soldiers with rifles lowered and aimed at people were another story. Five men waited in the lobby. Four soldiers carrying rifles, two guarding the outer door and two waiting for him to leave his office. The fifth man was also a soldier, this one in the uniform of a three-star general.

Lieutenant General William Donovan had a fatherly appearance to him, as he always did. He had recently turned fifty – Ingersoll had been at the celebrations – but he had probably had the same fatherly manner for decades. The pistol resting in his hand looked incongruous with his usual manner, but Donovan knew how to use it.

Ingersoll ventured a small smile. “If you wanted to see me, general, you only needed to ask for an appointment.”

“Your secretary said you were busy,” Donovan said. “But my business was most pressing.”

“Of course it was, but it took you long enough to organise it,” Ingersoll said. “I was beginning to wonder if you’d ever get around to this... although I did think that you’d come in person, Bill. You always knew that you owed me that much.”

Donovan raised an eyebrow. “You knew this coup was coming?”

Ingersoll shrugged. “Of course I knew it was coming. You think I don’t know what’s happening in my army?”

“My army, now,” the general said, with a slight wave of the pistol. “I think I know bluster when I hear it.”

“You know nothing of the sort,” Ingersoll said coldly. “Do you know how much work I had to do to ensure that all news of your plans was reported to me instead of directly to the Chief?”

“If you knew, you would either have stopped us, or helped us. Don’t think that you can sweet talk me into sparing you.”

Ingersoll said, “Nothing do I expect from you, general, except to turn into the next Blackwood.”

Donovan’s eyes narrowed, and his voice contained a hint of anger for the first time. “Do not mistake me for that power-hungry maniac. I do what I do because I swore an oath to uphold the constitution and defend New England against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.”

“And once the Chief has been deposed, you will be the only one in a position to rule in his place,” Ingersoll said. “As Duvalier has done and Blackwood will do.”

“Nothing of the sort,” Donovan said. “I’ll be handing power back to a civilian government as soon as one is stable enough to stand on its own. Then I’ll be leaving New England, and likely never return.”

“You really plan to just go meekly into exile?” Ingersoll asked.

“That’s the only way I can fulfill my oath to New England,” Donovan said. He sounded sincere. “So long as I live here, no new civilian government will be secure. No-one would feel safe under the rule of law. Our country has reached a place where the regular law has failed us, and I needed to work outside the law for a time, but I want the rule of law to return. Which it will not, while I abide here.”

“I swore an oath, too,” Ingersoll said. “An oath of personal loyalty to the Chief. I would not raise my hand against him. I knew what Mullins was doing to New England, but while I could make myself stand aside, I could not work against him. If that means you kill me... Well, if I have no honour, then I am nothing.”

“For now, you are under arrest. Your ultimate fate will rest with our new government, not with me,” Donovan said.

“And the Chief?”

Donovan’s smile did not reach his eyes.

*

North West River
Labrador Territory
Republic of New England

Leroy Abbard, former Senator, former presidential candidate, former head of the Christian Socialists and then the Socialist Alliance, and current inmate of the badly-misnamed liberty camp of North West River, could not remember the last time he had had a full stomach. Or a taste of true liberty. Imprisoned on manufactured charges, left here to watch while his most valued political ally David Rubin and fellow inmate wasted away into death, he had long felt numb inside. He existed, nothing more; he felt as if all hopes and fears were likewise placed on hold.

So, then, why this summons to the camp commander’s office? Kendall Weston was a thug, nothing more, and he had probably offended someone important in the vitalist hierarchy to be sent here. Although he usually reserved the main demonstrations of his anger for other inmates; he probably feared that overt violence against Abbard would rouse too much anger.

Abbard was escorted into the commander’s office, and the guards withdrew.

Weston did not turn to look; the commander’s gaze was fixed out the window.

Abbard waited for a few moments, then said, “You asked to see me, commander?”

Weston keep staring out the window. “Only thanks to external request.”

“I don’t follow you,” Abbard said.

Weston sighed. “This camp has been surrounded. By soldiers under, well, I’m not sure who their local commander is, but they’re operating under orders of General Donovan. They’ve offered me and my men safe-conduct and transport to Iceland if we surrender peacefully, with certain conditions.”

The sense of numbness returned. For a long moment, Abbard could not gather his thoughts. “You’re leaving this camp?”

“Yes. Leaving it under your personal control. That is one of the conditions for the safe-conduct.”

“The army has risen up?” Abbard said. He’d never dared allow himself to hope for something like that.

“Details have been sketchy, but I know that Donovan’s forces control the streets in Hartford, New York and Boston.”

“And what does the ‘Chief’ have to say about that?”

Weston spoke softly. “Mullins is dead. Shot while resisting arrest, according to the reports.”

Mullins dead? No proper Christian should show glee over a man’s death, but he could not keep the grin from his face.

Abbard settled into the chair so recently occupied by Weston. He remained in the office while Weston left, remained in place while the camp guards evacuated and men in soldiers’ uniforms came into the camp. He remained in place when they came up to the door.

When the soldiers came into the room, they saluted him. Abbard managed to speak, then. “Soldiers shouldn’t salute civilians,” he said.

Their commander, a corporal from his uniform, grinned. “Soldiers should always salute their commander-in-chief... Acting President Abbard.”

* * *

“Think carefully of what you say and do in these chambers. Your task is to shape a new constitution, and a new nation. Our founding fathers wrote a constitution which they hoped would guide our nation forever. It is not our constitution which failed us, nor our founding fathers. It is we as a people who allowed to remain in office those who violated the spirit of the constitution while upholding the letter. It is our solemn duty to write a new constitution which embodies the continued wisdom of our forefathers, but where the spirit and the letter have both been buttressed into a fortress which will protect our nation until the end of days.”

- Acting President Leroy Abbard, as he then was, addressing the opening of the New England constitutional convention, 19 July 1933. Abbard would be elected unopposed as the first Governor-General of the Commonwealth of New England on 4 June of the following year.

* * *

4 March 1933
Columbia City, Federal District
United States of America

How many men and women crowded the ground between the Capitol and the Washington Monument? Half a million? Three-quarters of a million? The President-elect could not tell, and right now it hardly mattered. Celebrations were already underway from Philadelphia to Quito. A new era dawned. The election had been close, but he had never doubted the result.

He placed one hand on the Bible, and placed the other over his heart. He allowed the Chief Justice to speak the words first, and then he repeated them. “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” He paused for a moment, then added, “So help me God.”

The cheers went on for a long, long time. He waited in silence until they subsided, and then stepped up to the podium. He knew he should have a long speech ready, but most of the crowd would not hear it, so why bother? He knew what he wanted to say. He knew what needed to be said. Anything further would have been vanity or insanity.

“Let’s get this country working,” said President Alvar O’Brien.

* * *

[1] Terry Rundle, the New England Secretary for Public Relations (i.e. propaganda).

[2] New England’s presidents are inaugurated on the last Tuesday in January in the year following their election; Mullins was re-inaugurated as president on 31 January 1933. This was a result of the Third Amendment to the New England constitution. Prior to that, New England’s presidents were inaugurated on 4 March, a date which is still maintained in the United States.

* * *

Thoughts?

Jared

P.S. Well, folks, it’s been a long, long time, but the main part of Decades of Darkness is now over. The history of the timeline has reached where I was always planning on stopping it. History goes on, of course, and so any ending is always going to feel incomplete in some respects, but I hope that at least this ending gave a certain sense of closure.

So, is this the end of DoD? Not quite. After allowing a few days for comments, I’ll be taking a sabbatical for a month or so. I need a break. When I get back, well, as I’ve mentioned on some previous occasions, there is some scope for epilogue posts, in a series which I’m planning on calling “Tales of the Decades of Darkness.” This is mostly open to any other contributors who think that they might have tales they want to tell. If you’ve got some ideas along those lines, drop me a line and we can discuss things. For obvious reasons, I need to reserve the final right to approve or decline any proposals for posts.

In the long run, I’m going to do some revision of the main timeline of Decades of Darkness and publish a new version. I’m also working on a novel set in the same universe, and I’ve also started work on a new timeline called Lands of Red and Gold. Those will be completed, well, when they’re finished.

Hope everyone enjoyed this timeline. Writing it has been fun.