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JSmith
November 15th, 2009, 04:11 AM
Red Inferno 1945

http://www.amazon.com/Red-Inferno-Novel-Robert-Conroy/dp/0345506065/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1258258124&sr=1-1

The War that came early : West and East

http://www.amazon.com/War-That-Came-Early-West/dp/034549184X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1258258210&sr=1-1

After America

http://www.amazon.com/After-America-John-Birmingham/dp/0345502914/ref=pd_sim_b_2

Archangel Michael
November 15th, 2009, 04:14 AM
The War that came early : West and East

http://www.amazon.com/War-That-Came-Early-West/dp/034549184X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1258258210&sr=1-1

Wasn't Hitler's War supposed to be a stand alone?

JSmith
November 15th, 2009, 04:17 AM
Wasn't Hitler's War supposed to be a stand alone?

No I think that was the man with the iron heart. this is suppose to be an alternate WW2-not sure how many books though.

Archangel Michael
November 15th, 2009, 04:27 AM
No I think that was the man with the iron heart. this is suppose to be an alternate WW2-not sure how many books though.

The sudden addition of a series title at the beginning has me doubtful.

Amerigo Vespucci
November 15th, 2009, 12:23 PM
Don't forget the latest edition of Tsouras' new series, which is sure to ignite another 20-page argument about the virtues and vices of American and British ironclad warships of the mid 19th century:

http://www.amazon.com/Rainbow-Blood-Union-Alternate-History/dp/1597972118/ref=pd_sim_b_5

Amerigo Vespucci
November 15th, 2009, 12:25 PM
The sudden addition of a series title at the beginning has me doubtful.

Agreed. It's really rather sad. Turtledove introduced me to Alternate History with the WorldWar series, and now he's devolved into an author I only check out from the library.

stirlingdraka
November 15th, 2009, 04:54 PM
I will probably buy all of these in paperback in 2011.

B_Munro
November 15th, 2009, 10:29 PM
Red Inferno 1945


Did someone bet Conroy he couldn't get a dumber concept than "1901" published?


After America



I presume this is a sequel to "Without Warning?"


Bruce

JSmith
November 15th, 2009, 11:29 PM
I presume this is a sequel to "Without Warning?"


Bruce


Yes it is.

Campbell1004
November 15th, 2009, 11:33 PM
1901 was a pretty good story if you can see past the implausibility.

For other upcomings check out Uchronia.

Snowman23
November 15th, 2009, 11:51 PM
Red Inferno 1945

http://www.amazon.com/Red-Inferno-Novel-Robert-Conroy/dp/0345506065/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1258258124&sr=1-1




Ahh Conroy, my guilty pleasure. Looks fun. Is it a sequel to his 1st 1945, which did leave for a sequel in the style this is very obviously going to be, or a new story entirely?

Leistungsfähiger Amerikan
November 16th, 2009, 01:41 AM
Should I check the Tsouras novels? They look really interesting, I like that AH scenario.

Onyx
November 16th, 2009, 01:48 AM
Agreed. It's really rather sad. Turtledove introduced me to Alternate History with the WorldWar series, and now he's devolved into an author I only check out from the library.

I don't like HT anymore

After going through that horrific shit on the awkward sex, inability of the outside world, and historical inaccuracies in TL-191, I just had enough.....

lothaw
November 16th, 2009, 02:05 AM
Any word on if Eric Flint's writing a sequel to the 1812/24 books?

Amerigo Vespucci
November 16th, 2009, 11:49 AM
Should I check the Tsouras novels? They look really interesting, I like that AH scenario.

I've got the first one. It's not a Trent War scenario -- it's something that develops later, but I can't tell if that's a knowing nod to the horrible state of American organization in the early war or merely his way of ensuring the most advanced weapons heading into his world war.

I'd suggest getting the first from the library. That way, if you like it, you can pick up the second one from the bookstore when it comes out in March.

Petike
November 16th, 2009, 02:07 PM
I will probably buy all of these in parperback in 2011.

You old bloody pulp-addict ! :D ;)

stirlingdraka
November 16th, 2009, 03:20 PM
You old bloody pulp-addict ! :D ;)

Why yes I am.;):)

Number three
November 18th, 2009, 03:59 PM
Ahh Conroy, my guilty pleasure. Looks fun. Is it a sequel to his 1st 1945, which did leave for a sequel in the style this is very obviously going to be, or a new story entirely?

This is a completely different story. In it Truman orders troops to enter Berlin as the Soviets are invading. Stalin freaks and orders operations against the Western Alies.

servo
May 8th, 2010, 06:42 PM
Don't forget the latest edition of Tsouras' new series, which is sure to ignite another 20-page argument about the virtues and vices of American and British ironclad warships of the mid 19th century:

http://www.amazon.com/Rainbow-Blood-Union-Alternate-History/dp/1597972118/ref=pd_sim_b_5

I just got a notice from Amazon that the book is shipping late; the release date is shown both there and at bn.com as June 30. (I forget what the original date was.)

Andrew Hudson
May 10th, 2010, 04:20 PM
Wasn't Hitler's War supposed to be a stand alone?

No its is the first part of a series. The stories are left hanging and the blurb says so

Amerigo Vespucci
May 12th, 2010, 03:59 AM
I just got a notice from Amazon that the book is shipping late; the release date is shown both there and at bn.com as June 30. (I forget what the original date was.)

Thank you for the heads-up on that.

edvader
May 12th, 2010, 02:42 PM
Got Mammoth Book of Alternate History in a fat paperback.Got A James Morrow story about WI Titanic's passengers got off the ship and survived?LOL!There is a Steven Baxter story at the end and a Ken MacCloud story called Sidewinders.THAT is pretty good.There is a Silverberg story called Tales from Venia Woods as well.Ordered this though Barnes and Noble.Check the content of this at uchronia.net.It is one of the main books shown on front page.:oBTW Zeppelin lovers like Eckener Fritz Leiber's Catch That Zeppelin is present.Interesting cover!

GreatScottMarty
May 12th, 2010, 04:58 PM
Any word on if Eric Flint's writing a sequel to the 1812/24 books?

I have heard nothing, but I am hoping for one as well. He seems to be one of the few AH writers who appreciates the butterfly effect and the general workings of chaos theory. As well as being a half way decent writer too. I remember reading in a foreword that he was spending a lot of time on the 1632 universe basically writing 3 series based on it or around it. I don't know if 1812/24 where a diversion or another attempt to spawn some fanfiction that he could then publish and make some money on... So who knows?

B_Munro
May 13th, 2010, 04:40 AM
Got Mammoth Book of Alternate History in a fat paperback.Got A James Morrow story about WI Titanic's passengers got off the ship and survived?LOL!There is a Steven Baxter story at the end and a Ken MacCloud story called Sidewinders.THAT is pretty good.There is a Silverberg story called Tales from Venia Woods as well.Ordered this though Barnes and Noble.Check the content of this at uchronia.net.It is one of the main books shown on front page.:oBTW Zeppelin lovers like Eckener Fritz Leiber's Catch That Zeppelin is present.Interesting cover!

Hmm - a lot of the stories were already in the Benford "What Might Have Been" series - some 12 of them, in fact. And I've read 5 of the remaining: not that much original material. I think I'll wait till I can get a cheap used one.

Bruce

Amerigo Vespucci
May 13th, 2010, 04:46 AM
I have heard nothing, but I am hoping for one as well. He seems to be one of the few AH writers who appreciates the butterfly effect and the general workings of chaos theory. As well as being a half way decent writer too. I remember reading in a foreword that he was spending a lot of time on the 1632 universe basically writing 3 series based on it or around it. I don't know if 1812/24 where a diversion or another attempt to spawn some fanfiction that he could then publish and make some money on... So who knows?

Looking at Baen's schedule, there's 1635: Eastern Front scheduled for October. IIRC, that one deals with Poland, Saxony, Brandenburg, et al.

edvader
May 14th, 2010, 02:21 PM
B.Munro-beg to differ with you a little bit.Several of the stories like the Titanic , Sidewinders , and possibly the Baxter story are new.Ive read only 9 of the stories and love the Leiber one.:)No offense, Bruce!BTW Amazon has new copies for slightly over 10 dollars.There may be cheaper used copies.

servo
June 28th, 2010, 12:52 AM
I just got a notice from Amazon that the book is shipping late; the release date is shown both there and at bn.com as June 30. (I forget what the original date was.)

The Tsouras book has been delayed again, this time until July 31 http://www.amazon.com/Rainbow-Blood-Union-Alternate-History/dp/1597972118/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1277682359&sr=8-1

BOOOO!!!

The Kiat
June 28th, 2010, 03:27 AM
Grrrrr. :mad: I so totally don't like Amazon.com. Why couldn't you use BN.com?

DaleCoz
June 28th, 2010, 04:50 AM
(Shameless self-promotion mode on) My AH novel Exchange will be out on July 6th, so it is upcoming for another week or so. Actually Amazon says it's in stock now.

http://www.amazon.com/Exchange-Dale-R-Cozort/dp/0975431471/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_2

(SSP mode off)

fortyseven
June 28th, 2010, 05:59 AM
(Shameless self-promotion mode on) My AH novel Exchange will be out on July 6th, so it is upcoming for another week or so. Actually Amazon says it's in stock now.

http://www.amazon.com/Exchange-Dale-R-Cozort/dp/0975431471/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_2

(SSP mode off)

Congrats! Can you tell us more about it?

Mark 4 Morrel Barrel
June 28th, 2010, 06:11 AM
Wait were you the dude writing the the writers section. Did nt know that was being made into a novel
CONGRATS!

mtk1701
June 28th, 2010, 11:34 AM
I have heard nothing, but I am hoping for one as well. He seems to be one of the few AH writers who appreciates the butterfly effect and the general workings of chaos theory. As well as being a half way decent writer too. I remember reading in a foreword that he was spending a lot of time on the 1632 universe basically writing 3 series based on it or around it. I don't know if 1812/24 where a diversion or another attempt to spawn some fanfiction that he could then publish and make some money on... So who knows?

Last I knew, Eric's website had said that one of the series splintering off from 1632 had been canceled. It was the 1781 story with George Washington, Frederick the Great and their full armies ISOTed to Roman Empire times. I had been quite interested in that one. But if it was subjected to the same slipshod editing job that Time Spike got, it may not have been worth it.

DaleCoz
June 28th, 2010, 08:41 PM
In Exchange, random hunks of our world, sometimes city-sized get ISOTed into an alternate reality on a fairly regular basis. They stay in the alternate universe for a week or two, and then come back. We know where and when an Exchange is coming about three hours before it happens. In those three hours, authorities scramble to get as many people as possible out and supplies for the rest in.

As you can imagine, there are hundreds of complications involved in getting ready for an Exchange. Power lines are going to get cut, along with water, sewer, natural gas, cable, phone, etc. The Exchange may cut prisons, hospitals, houses, and highways in half.

To make matters worse: the alternate reality is empty of human level intelligence, but full of animals that are subtly "better" than ours--faster, smarter, quicker-breeding. One character refers to the alternate reality as "Ice Age North America on steroids".

It's a nice playground, and I worked hard to populate it with characters and a plot that do it justice.

I posted the first several chapters over in the writers' area:

http://www.alternatehistory.com/Discussion/showthread.php?t=146053 (http://www.alternatehistory.com/Discussion/showthread.php?t=146053)

It's there for you to check out. The first taste is free.:D

servo
July 21st, 2010, 03:06 PM
The Tsouras book has been delayed again, this time until July 31 http://www.amazon.com/Rainbow-Blood-Union-Alternate-History/dp/1597972118/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1277682359&sr=8-1



Good news! Amazon delivered mine yesterday.

Petike
July 21st, 2010, 03:46 PM
Hey, I have humble suggestion ! Could we have this stickied and use it as an official "Upcoming AH titles" thread ? It would be far more elegant than starting a million separate threads on the same subject over the years, IMHO. :)

JSmith
July 22nd, 2010, 12:13 AM
Hey, I have humble suggestion ! Could we have this stickied and use it as an official "Upcoming AH titles" thread ? It would be far more elegant than starting a million separate threads on the same subject over the years, IMHO. :)


I'm all for it.

NoOneFamous
July 22nd, 2010, 01:56 PM
I give you The American World War series by me:

http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-american-world-war-the-coming-storm/11776465?productTrackingContext=search_results/search_shelf/center/3

servo
July 23rd, 2010, 12:26 AM
I give you The American World War series by me:

http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-american-world-war-the-coming-storm/11776465?productTrackingContext=search_results/search_shelf/center/3

I enjoyed the preview :)

NoOneFamous
July 23rd, 2010, 04:03 AM
thanks. now buy some books:)

edvader
July 24th, 2010, 05:47 PM
Dale-congratulations.I will take a closer gander at some of the things you put on this site elsewhere.BTW Enjoyed your site when it was up over at Uchronia.net.

servo
July 25th, 2010, 07:39 PM
I have heard nothing, but I am hoping for one as well. He seems to be one of the few AH writers who appreciates the butterfly effect and the general workings of chaos theory. As well as being a half way decent writer too. I remember reading in a foreword that he was spending a lot of time on the 1632 universe basically writing 3 series based on it or around it. I don't know if 1812/24 where a diversion or another attempt to spawn some fanfiction that he could then publish and make some money on... So who knows?

Just looked on Eric Flint's "Forthcoming" page http://www.ericflint.net/index.php/forthcoming/ (last updated in December) and there's no sign of any work-in-progress related to 1812/24. The last I see of any discussion of this series was a May 2007 post on his main page http://www.ericflint.net/ stating that Baen was taking over the series from Del Ray and that he had signed a contract for two additional novels in the series.

servo
July 25th, 2010, 07:47 PM
The War that came early : West and East

http://www.amazon.com/War-That-Came-Early-West/dp/034549184X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1258258210&sr=1-1



Apparently still coming out on Tuesday (July 27) in the U.S.

joea64
September 28th, 2010, 04:02 PM
Just looked on Eric Flint's "Forthcoming" page http://www.ericflint.net/index.php/forthcoming/ (last updated in December) and there's no sign of any work-in-progress related to 1812/24. The last I see of any discussion of this series was a May 2007 post on his main page http://www.ericflint.net/ stating that Baen was taking over the series from Del Ray and that he had signed a contract for two additional novels in the series.

Saw this while checking for news on 1635: The Eastern Front. If you didn't know, a big part of the reason that there hasn't been any movement on the 1812/1824 series and that progress in the 1632verse has been so slow is that Flint has been seriously ill in the past year; he had to have bypass surgery, in fact. However, Eastern Front has just come out - official release date is Oct. 5th but at least one forum member already glommed onto the book, and Amazon has a listing for an upcoming book, possibly another anthology, titled 1636: the Saxon Uprising.

JSmith
March 8th, 2011, 09:53 PM
These arent all AH but some have an AH flavor:

Alaska Republik
http://www.amazon.com/Alaska-Republik-N-Stoney-Compton/dp/1439134170/ref=wl_it_dp_o?ie=UTF8&coliid=I2AKYTG034X2JN&colid=1C8QUYXANVJZ8


Invasion: Book One of the Secret World Chronicle
http://www.amazon.com/Invasion-Book-Secret-World-Chronicle/dp/1439134197/ref=wl_it_dp_o?ie=UTF8&coliid=I2LV7K66J6ZKYN&colid=1C8QUYXANVJZ8

Blood Oath
http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Oath-Christopher-Farnsworth/dp/0515149039/ref=wl_it_dp_o?ie=UTF8&coliid=I34ZFEQJEKFMCO&colid=1C8QUYXANVJZ8


Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection
http://www.amazon.com/Zombies-Record-Infection-Don-Roff/dp/0811871002/ref=wl_it_dp_o?ie=UTF8&coliid=I2KOUA777SWIYE&colid=1C8QUYXANVJZ8

JSmith
March 10th, 2011, 02:40 AM
Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan

http://www.amazon.com/Then-Everything-Changed-Alternate-Histories/dp/0399157069/ref=reg_hu-rd_add_1_dp_T2

edvader
March 12th, 2011, 03:00 PM
Damn!Just post that one.Looks good otherwise.;)Shame on me.

JSmith
March 15th, 2011, 03:15 AM
Homefront: The Voice of Freedom
http://www.amazon.com/Homefront-Voice-Freedom-John-Milius/dp/0345527151/ref=reg_hu-rd_add_1_dp_T2

JSmith
May 10th, 2011, 11:12 PM
The Stempunk Bible( more of a reference book)
http://www.amazon.com/Steampunk-Bible-Illustrated-Scientists-Literature/dp/0810989581/ref=reg_hu-rd_add_1_dp

JSmith
August 17th, 2011, 12:38 AM
This is finally out!



http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0553593579/uchroniathealter

http://www.uchronia.com/covers/g/glen0553593579.jpg
Glenn, Alan. Amerikan Eagle. Bantam 2011.
Glenn, Alan. Amerikan Eagle
Divergence: 1933 CE
What if: Franklin Roosevelt was assassinated by Giuseppe Zangara in Miami.
Summary: Murder mystery set in the 1943 New Hampshie of a world in which Huey Long became president and the isolationist U.S. stayed out of the war.
Comments: Alan Glenn is a pseudonym for Brendan DuBois.
Published: Bantam 2011 (0553593579BUY (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0553593579/uchroniathealter)).

JSmith
August 17th, 2011, 12:44 AM
Jericho Closure !

http://www.amazon.com/Jericho-Season-TP-Robert-Levine/dp/160010939X/ref=wl_it_dp_o?ie=UTF8&coliid=I2P0YCNOWFL9M4&colid=1C8QUYXANVJZ8

Jericho Season 3 TP [Comic]

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51cxruElK4L._SL500_AA300_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/160010939X/ref=dp_image_z_0?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books)





Robert Levine (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&sort=relevancerank&search-alias=books&field-author=Robert%20Levine) (Author), Jason M Burns (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_2?_encoding=UTF8&sort=relevancerank&search-alias=books&field-author=Jason%20M%20Burns) (Author), Matthew Federman (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_3?_encoding=UTF8&sort=relevancerank&search-alias=books&field-author=Matthew%20Federman) (Author), Dan Shotz (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_4?_encoding=UTF8&sort=relevancerank&search-alias=books&field-author=Dan%20Shotz) (Author), Alejandro F. Giraldo (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_5?_encoding=UTF8&sort=relevancerank&search-alias=books&field-author=Alejandro%20%20F.%20Giraldo) (Author), Matt Merhoff (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_6?_encoding=UTF8&sort=relevancerank&search-alias=books&field-author=Matt%20Merhoff) (Author)

4.7 out of 5 stars (http://www.amazon.com/Jericho-Season-TP-Robert-Levine/product-reviews/160010939X/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_img?ie=UTF8&coliid=I2P0YCNOWFL9M4&showViewpoints=1&colid=1C8QUYXANVJZ8)See all reviews (http://www.amazon.com/Jericho-Season-TP-Robert-Levine/product-reviews/160010939X/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_img?ie=UTF8&coliid=I2P0YCNOWFL9M4&showViewpoints=1&colid=1C8QUYXANVJZ8)(23 customer reviews (http://www.amazon.com/Jericho-Season-TP-Robert-Levine/product-reviews/160010939X/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&coliid=I2P0YCNOWFL9M4&showViewpoints=1&colid=1C8QUYXANVJZ8)) 23 Reviews








\
Book Description

Series: Jericho | Publication Date: August 2, 2011
Continuing right where the Jericho Season 2 television cliffhanger ended! Jake Green and Robert Hawkins are in the safe haven of Texas with the last remaining bomb from the first attack. From amidst the chaos, they're contacted by John Smith, the mastermind behind the first strike, seeking aid. As the Cheyenne army bears down on them, they must decide whether to side with their former enemy to fight a greater one...

JSmith
August 17th, 2011, 12:59 AM
Not new but interesting!


http://www.amazon.com/Columbia-Britannia-Adam-Chamberlain/dp/0615333273/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1313538878&sr=1-1






http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51QJODz-3sL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0615333273/ref=sib_dp_pt#reader-link)



Book Description

Publication Date: November 4, 2009
14 September 1766. Prime Minister William Pitt proposes the Columbia Compromise, unifying the Kingdom of Great Britain and her colonies and establishing a framework for North American representation in Parliament. The American War of Independence is over before it begins. This is the history of British North America. This anthology includes nine original stories from six authors. Each delves into events along the timeline between this point of divergence from established history up to the present day, from the uncertainty of early colonial conflicts to the devastation on the front line of the War of Wars, from the politics underpinning a British mission to land a man on the moon to rivalry on the cricket grounds of New England. Accompanied by extensive appendices including maps, biographies, letters and diaries, they collectively describe an alternate history of the sisterhood between a very British North America and Great Britain, the story of Columbia and Britannia

NoOneFamous
August 17th, 2011, 01:10 AM
Spike TV is going to be showing a new Alternate History show come next week

JSmith
August 17th, 2011, 01:36 AM
Spike TV is going to be showing a new Alternate History show come next week

You have any info or a link?

paddbear
August 17th, 2011, 08:05 PM
I couldn't find a link, but the TV info from Comcast shows it starting at 10pm eastern on Wed, the 24th of August. first episode is "What if the Nazis won WWII?" I wonder if there will be space bats?

TheGingerninja41
August 17th, 2011, 08:13 PM
I really wish someone would write an AH book with actual good writing. The best you can find in the genre is only okay compared to other types of fiction.

Mitro
August 17th, 2011, 08:18 PM
I couldn't find a link, but the TV info from Comcast shows it starting at 10pm eastern on Wed, the 24th of August. first episode is "What if the Nazis won WWII?" I wonder if there will be space bats?

Yeah what is up with this? I could barely find anything when I ran a Google search. I did find the press release, but that is it really. This show is coming in under the radar.

B_Munro
August 17th, 2011, 11:17 PM
Anyone seen this one yet?

http://www.amazon.com/When-Angels-Wept-What-If-History/dp/1597975176

(Cuban missile crisis WWIII)

Bruce

JSmith
August 18th, 2011, 12:18 AM
Anyone seen this one yet?

http://www.amazon.com/When-Angels-Wept-What-If-History/dp/1597975176

(Cuban missile crisis WWIII)

Bruce

I own it. Its not as good as Resurrection Day but I liked it.

Bored Accountant
August 18th, 2011, 02:50 AM
Not new but interesting!


http://www.amazon.com/Columbia-Britannia-Adam-Chamberlain/dp/0615333273/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1313538878&sr=1-1






http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51QJODz-3sL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0615333273/ref=sib_dp_pt#reader-link)



Book Description

Publication Date: November 4, 2009
14 September 1766. Prime Minister William Pitt proposes the Columbia Compromise, unifying the Kingdom of Great Britain and her colonies and establishing a framework for North American representation in Parliament. The American War of Independence is over before it begins. This is the history of British North America. This anthology includes nine original stories from six authors. Each delves into events along the timeline between this point of divergence from established history up to the present day, from the uncertainty of early colonial conflicts to the devastation on the front line of the War of Wars, from the politics underpinning a British mission to land a man on the moon to rivalry on the cricket grounds of New England. Accompanied by extensive appendices including maps, biographies, letters and diaries, they collectively describe an alternate history of the sisterhood between a very British North America and Great Britain, the story of Columbia and Britannia

Looked through it, I liked it. Its pretty divergent for an ATL (none of the Prime Ministers are OTL figures for example) not to mention heavy detail and funny references (ie AH novelist HP Abendsen)

paddbear
August 18th, 2011, 03:10 AM
Not new but interesting!


http://www.amazon.com/Columbia-Britannia-Adam-Chamberlain/dp/0615333273/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1313538878&sr=1-1



Wish it was Nook'd or Kindle'd.

Readman
August 18th, 2011, 03:54 AM
I too, also, have heard of this Spike TV rumored AH show and am intrigued to say the least. Everyone ready to sit in front of the TV yelling "ASB! ASB!" ;):D

Archangel Michael
August 18th, 2011, 04:02 AM
Not new but interesting!


http://www.amazon.com/Columbia-Britannia-Adam-Chamberlain/dp/0615333273/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1313538878&sr=1-1






http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51QJODz-3sL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0615333273/ref=sib_dp_pt#reader-link)



Book Description

Publication Date: November 4, 2009
14 September 1766. Prime Minister William Pitt proposes the Columbia Compromise, unifying the Kingdom of Great Britain and her colonies and establishing a framework for North American representation in Parliament. The American War of Independence is over before it begins. This is the history of British North America. This anthology includes nine original stories from six authors. Each delves into events along the timeline between this point of divergence from established history up to the present day, from the uncertainty of early colonial conflicts to the devastation on the front line of the War of Wars, from the politics underpinning a British mission to land a man on the moon to rivalry on the cricket grounds of New England. Accompanied by extensive appendices including maps, biographies, letters and diaries, they collectively describe an alternate history of the sisterhood between a very British North America and Great Britain, the story of Columbia and Britannia

That is so totally Angelina Jolie.

JSmith
August 19th, 2011, 12:15 AM
Wish it was Nook'd or Kindle'd.
It also seems that no libraries in the US have it in sotck :(

JSmith
September 1st, 2011, 12:06 AM
Anyone seen this one yet?

http://www.amazon.com/When-Angels-Wept-What-If-History/dp/1597975176

(Cuban missile crisis WWIII)

Bruce

BTW some in the AH community apparently like it

Sidewise Award Winners Announced

August 21, 2011

The winners of the Sidewise Awards for Alternate History have been announced. The winners were announced at Renovation, the 69th Annual World Science Fiction Convention the weekend of August 17-21, 2011, in Reno, Nevada. Here are the winners:

Short-Form Alternate History: Alan Smale. "A Clash of Eagles" in Panverse Two (ed. Dario Ciriello), Panverse Publishing.
Long-Form Alternate History: Eric Swedin. When Angels Wept: A What-If History of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Potomac Books 2010.
You can see the books and stories that were nominated here (http://www.uchronia.net/sidewise/).

Mitro
September 1st, 2011, 12:31 AM
BTW some in the AH community apparently like it

Sidewise Award Winners Announced

August 21, 2011


The winners of the Sidewise Awards for Alternate History have been announced. The winners were announced at Renovation, the 69th Annual World Science Fiction Convention the weekend of August 17-21, 2011, in Reno, Nevada. Here are the winners:

Short-Form Alternate History: Alan Smale. "A Clash of Eagles" in Panverse Two (ed. Dario Ciriello), Panverse Publishing.
Long-Form Alternate History: Eric Swedin. When Angels Wept: A What-If History of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Potomac Books 2010.
You can see the books and stories that were nominated here (http://www.uchronia.net/sidewise/).

It is an excellent book, but it is not a narrative. It reads like an actual history book. I plan to write a more thorough review on my blog later next week.

JSmith
October 25th, 2011, 01:43 AM
Heard about this a while back and its almost here.


http://www.amazon.com/Supervolcano-Eruption-Trilogy-Harry-Turtledove/dp/0451464206/ref=reg_hu-rd_add_1_dp
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51cGYEd8q4L._SL500_AA300_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/0451464206/ref=dp_image_0?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books)






Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The New York Times bestselling author and "maven of alternate history" (San Diego Union-Tribune) presents a near- future thriller.
A supervolcanic eruption in Yellowstone Park sends lava and mud flowing toward populated areas, and clouds of ash drifting across the country. The fallout destroys crops and livestock, clogs machinery, and makes cities uninhabitable. Those who survive find themselves caught in an apocalyptic catastrophe in which humanity has no choice but to rise from the ashes and recreate the world...


About the Author

Harry Turtledove, the New York Times bestselling author of numerous alternate history novels, has a Ph.D. in Byzantine history.



Product Details


Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Roc Hardcover (December 6, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0451464206
ISBN-13: 978-0451464200
Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies (http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/seller/shipping.html/ref=dp_pd_shipping?ie=UTF8&asin=0451464206&seller=ATVPDKIKX0DER))
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books (http://www.amazon.com/best-sellers-books-Amazon/zgbs/books/ref=pd_dp_ts_b_1)) .zg_hrsr { margin: 0; padding: 0; list-style-type: none; }.zg_hrsr_item { margin: 0 0 0 20px; }.zg_hrsr_rank { display: inline-block; width: 50px; text-align: right; }

#21 in Books (http://www.amazon.com/best-sellers-books-Amazon/zgbs/books/ref=pd_zg_hrsr_b_1_1) > Science Fiction & Fantasy (http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/25/ref=pd_zg_hrsr_b_1_2) > Fantasy (http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/16190/ref=pd_zg_hrsr_b_1_3) > Alternate History (http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/16275/ref=pd_zg_hrsr_b_1_4_last)

JSmith
October 25th, 2011, 01:50 AM
Brief Review
http://genregoroundreviews.blogspot.com/2011/10/supervolcano-eruption-harry-turtledove.html








Supervolcano: Eruption-Harry Turtledove

By harstan
Supervolcano: Eruption
Harry Turtledove
Roc, Dec 6 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780451464200

In the Los Angeles suburb San Atanasio, livid police lieutenant Colin Ferguson needs to get over the fact that his wife divorced him for a younger man. Bitter and ready to erupt in a meltdown, Colin decides to take a trip to Yellowstone Park. There he meets geologist Kelly Birnbaum who is studying unusual seismic activity when an earthquake hits. She tells him the possibility of a Supervolcano: Eruption is high.

They exchange phone numbers and email addresses; as Colin intends to call her as he wants to date her. Her predictions prove correct when she is flying away from the area: the sky is dark and particles mess up the engines and everything on the ground. All the nearby states are devastated with Wyoming obliterated and the rest of the lower 48 impacted. As the skies remain perpetually dark, while the romance between Colin and Kelly heats up, he keeps track of his three adult children spread across the country. Rob and his band members Squirt Frog and the Evolving Tadpoles are stranded in Northern Maine where gas is unavailable. Vanessa got out of Nevada only to stop at a Kansas FEMA relief camp which she calls is another world for hell. Perpetual student Marshall, on the verge of a degree after a couple of almost a decade at school, is trapped at home in Southern California.

Although life dramatically changes due to the impact of a Supervolcano: Eruption, this engaging tale is not a post apocalyptic thriller at least in the grand scale. Instead the entertaining story line focuses on a family before and after the blast so that the reader feels they have been in several states across the nation. With a nod to Krakatoa but on a continental scale rather than an island, known for his alternate history sagas, Harry Turtledove writes a fabulous near future survival tale (of the Ferguson family).

Harriet Klausner

RamscoopRaider
October 25th, 2011, 01:56 AM
Oh Heavens, another one, how does he keep this up.

Oh well, guess when I come home I'll check this out of the local library, somehow that get every single new Turtledove book when it comes out.

edvader
October 25th, 2011, 02:30 PM
The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen.Time travellers from a "perfect"future come back to ensure the Great Conflagration happens so their future happens.Possible spoiler:this may be part of a series.

Dave Howery
October 25th, 2011, 05:24 PM
All the nearby states are devastated with Wyoming obliterated
now even Turtledove is out to get me.. :(

Aussie Dingbat
October 25th, 2011, 06:53 PM
Angels of Vengeance, the third installment in the John Birmingham's "Without Warning" series, is due to release next Tuesday.


http://images.contentreserve.com/ImageType-200/2283-1/%7B1F764FC9-CDB6-445C-8B9D-DD7C2E6C2980%7DImg200.jpg
This is the New World. Born of chaos and madness. Remember that if nothing else.

Jed Culver, President Kipper's sword and shield, knows that what is right and what is best are rarely the same thing.

To some, Mad Jackson Blackstone, rogue governor of the Republic of Texas, is slowly but surely destroying the United States.

In New York, Caitlin Monroe's one shot at vengeance may lie buried beneath the rubble of the city, but she has to be certain.

Unknown killers hunt Lady Julianne Balwyn in the anarchic, violent freeport of Darwin.

Sofia Pieraro is all alone in the empty heart of a haunted land, revenge her only reason to keep moving.

After many years the long trail of the dead will bring them all together.

The final battle for America and the new world will not be fought with armies, but in the quiet and the dark, by individuals, driven towards vengeance and annihilation.

JSmith
October 25th, 2011, 07:37 PM
Angels of Vengeance, the third installment in the John Birmingham's "Without Warning" series, is due to release next Tuesday.
Its apparently not released in the US until April :(

Aussie Dingbat
October 25th, 2011, 08:01 PM
Its apparently not released in the US until April :(

Yeah, one of the few cases we get something earlier than the yanks. :D

No doubt you could order it from down under earlier if you wanted, I often do the opposite when I can't be bothered waiting months for a local release.

Kaiphranos
October 25th, 2011, 08:31 PM
Supervolcano: Eruption-Harry Turtledove


This does not sound like a very exciting book. The utterly bland title only makes it worse.

Aussie Dingbat
October 25th, 2011, 09:37 PM
This does not sound like a very exciting book. The utterly bland title only makes it worse.

Probably not going to win any "Turtledoves" then eh. ;):p

Dave Howery
October 27th, 2011, 03:17 AM
according to a flyer in my Science Fiction Book Club mailing, Stephen Baxter is starting a new AH trilogy, beginning with "Stone Spring", due for release on Nov. 1. It's all about how a girl in prehistoric England (when it was still connected to France by land) gets the idea to build a giant wall to stop the sea from engulfing the land bridge (?!) and 'history is changed forever.' Apparently, because early man relies on such an engineering feat, the great religions don't arise (not sure how that comes about), and the trilogy will carry on past prehistoric times into the alternate modern world...

MadMc
October 27th, 2011, 07:24 PM
looks like i'm gonna have to buy more books soon!

David S Poepoe
October 28th, 2011, 12:33 AM
Supervolcano: Eruption-Harry Turtledove

By harstan
Supervolcano: Eruption
Harry Turtledove
Roc, Dec 6 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780451464200

In the Los Angeles suburb San Atanasio, livid police lieutenant Colin Ferguson needs to get over the fact that his wife divorced him for a younger man. Bitter and ready to erupt in a meltdown, Colin decides to take a trip to Yellowstone Park. There he meets geologist Kelly Birnbaum who is studying unusual seismic activity when an earthquake hits. She tells him the possibility of a Supervolcano: Eruption is high.

A 'livid police lieutenant' named Colin Ferguson?! Can you say Eureka!

Number three
October 28th, 2011, 02:56 PM
according to a flyer in my Science Fiction Book Club mailing, Stephen Baxter is starting a new AH trilogy, beginning with "Stone Spring", due for release on Nov. 1. It's all about how a girl in prehistoric England (when it was still connected to France by land) gets the idea to build a giant wall to stop the sea from engulfing the land bridge (?!) and 'history is changed forever.' Apparently, because early man relies on such an engineering feat, the great religions don't arise (not sure how that comes about), and the trilogy will carry on past prehistoric times into the alternate modern world...

"Stone Spring" takes place entirely during the last ice age. The setting is in the English Channel before it is flooded. Well mostly, there are a couple of out of area settings that bring in major characters. There is nothing that is truly impossible for the given technological level of the period. This is the set up for the change that will be more evident in future volumes.

The discussion in the afterward describing the underlying history is interesting.

This is pretty typical Baxter writing.

Archangel Michael
October 28th, 2011, 05:38 PM
Wild Cards II: Aces High (http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Cards-II-Aces-High/dp/0765326167/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1319759807&sr=1-1) is being re-released in December. I'm so happy that the old Wild Card anthologies are being re-released.

Number three
October 31st, 2011, 01:06 PM
Wild Cards II: Aces High (http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Cards-II-Aces-High/dp/0765326167/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1319759807&sr=1-1) is being re-released in December. I'm so happy that the old Wild Card anthologies are being re-released.

Wild Cards has been optioned by SYFy/Universal as well...http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/game-of-thrones-george-rr-martin-wild-cards-254382

Sicarius
November 3rd, 2011, 01:58 AM
I don't suppose anyone has picked up 1Q84? It's supposed to be quite good, though I'm unsure how heavily the alternate history elements are focused on.

Himpdahak@aol.com
November 16th, 2011, 09:36 AM
Apparently Ian Dale and Duncan Brack have a third political AH book out called
Prime Minister Boris: and other things that never happened"

from the publishers web site
http://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/Prime%20Minister%20Boris/
This book imagines such tantalising political questions and scenarios as what if Lloyd George had joined Kitchener on that fateful boat to Russia in
1917? What if Nixon had beaten JFK in 1960? What if Margaret Thatcher had won the 1990 leadership election? What if Arnold Schwarzenegger had been
able to run for President? What if Pope Benedict had been assassinated during his visit to the UK in 2010? What if Gordon Brown had called an election in October 2007? And, of course, What if Boris Johnson were to become Prime Minister in 2016?

Anticlimacus
November 16th, 2011, 11:49 AM
I don't suppose anyone has picked up 1Q84? It's supposed to be quite good, though I'm unsure how heavily the alternate history elements are focused on.
More fantasy than alternate history...

JSmith
November 23rd, 2011, 07:53 PM
Only on Kindle :(

http://www.amazon.com/Castros-Bomb-ebook/dp/B005ORV3IM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322077833&sr=1-1


http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51l3f11rumL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-43,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/B005ORV3IM/ref=sib_dp_kd#reader-link)




Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Set in 1963 after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Castro and his army use weapons left behind by the Russians to seize the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay and then plan missile strikes against the U.S. From the corridors of power -- with John F. Kennedy trying desperately to retain his leadership and keep the war from escalating -- to soldiers and civilians both American and Cuban, this high-voltage novel follows the bloody fighting and struggles on the ground while never losing sight of how war can transform people and set in motion some highly unexpected consequences. Winner of the Sidewise Award for Best Alternate History Novel, bestselling author William R. Forstchen wrote, "Conroy's work is the type of book you simply can't put down."

“Robert Conroy is truly one of the top players in the field when it comes to imaginative well written tales. Be ready for some sleepless nights when you argue with yourself "I'll just read one more chapter," because Conroy's work is the type of book you simply can't put down.”
- William R. Forstchen, author of NYTimes bestseller ONE SECOND AFTER

JSmith
November 23rd, 2011, 07:57 PM
This one to :(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51DN%2BriCG5L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-39,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/B005CR7PNQ/ref=sib_dp_kd#reader-link)
http://www.amazon.com/Crossing-the-Line-ebook/dp/B005CR7PNQ/ref=pd_sim_b_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2
Share your own customer images (http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-media/upload/B005CR7PNQ/ref=cm_ciu_pdp_add?ie=UTF8&rnd=1322078179)

Crossing the Line [Kindle Edition]

Peter Pauzé (http://www.amazon.com/Peter-Pauzé/e/B005CXWJWW/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1)
Peter Pauzé (Author)
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4.2 (http://www.amazon.com/Crossing-the-Line-ebook/product-reviews/B005CR7PNQ/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_img?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1)Editorial Reviews
Product Description

Crossing the Line is a cold war espionage thriller—with a twist. The novel takes place in a world where the South won the Civil War and two nations now share the American continent: the USA and the CSA.

It’s been a hundred years since the end of the Civil War—what the Confederates call the War of Independence—and US Federal Intelligence agent Northrup McLean has little patience for those of his countrymen who still whine about reunifying North and South. That includes the petulant and mysterious government scientist he’s been assigned to escort across the Line, into the CSA, for a secret rendezvous—a rendezvous that very quickly goes very sour. With the meeting ambushed, the scientist killed, his own cover blown, and the brutal Ministry of State Servitude hot on his trail, McLean has no choice but to join forces with the brave but reckless Thaddeus Lynch, an Engineer for the modern Underground Railroad. McLean soon learns that Lynch and his Railroad colleagues have more ambitious plans for their far-reaching organization than their time-honored mission of helping runaway state servants cross the Line, plans that somehow intersect with the dead scientist’s secret mission and point to conspiracy at the highest levels of both governments. With the unexpected assistance of brilliant FIA analyst Ansley Mason, a beautiful refugee Southern belle from his past, McLean sets out to expose a violent international plot that could easily turn the American cold war into a very hot world war.

From the Author

Some other things you might want to know about Crossing the Line, and some thoughts about alternate history stories.

Crossing the Line is 111,203 words long.
Which means, if it were an ink and paper hardback book it would be about 400 pages.
In other words, it's a full-length novel.

It is not a Civil War novel, although it is obviously predicated on the notion that the American Civil War was the point of departure (POD in alternate history speak) for an altered history. The entire novel takes place in the mid to late 20th century, the bulk of it in the year 1967.

The novel neither bashes the South nor commends the Confederacy, and it has no particular historical, political, or ideological agenda, at least none of which I'm consciously aware. The purpose of the book is neither to say "Oh my God, wouldn't it have been horrible if the South had won," nor to say "Oh my God, wouldn't it have been wonderful if the South had won," but simply to say "Hmmm....wouldn't it have been interesting if the South had won." How would the world and culture of the 20th century be different? How would they be the same? Like it or not. And for the record, I wouldn't rather live in the world postulated in Crossing the Line. But I do find it fascinating.

Not to give too much away, but the novel operates on the assumption (which many historians share) that slavery was not a viable economic institution in the industrial age and that it wouldn't have lasted long no matter what the outcome of the Civil War. In the novel, raced-based slavery has long since been abolished, replaced by a massive penal labor system which is supervised by the notorious Ministry of State Servitude, an equal opportunity incarcerator. Sort of a cross between a national chain gang and the KGB.

Crossing the Line is both "fun" alternate history and "real" alternate history. While I took pains to make the alternate historical events both plausible and fascinating, there is one way in which I knowingly created a world that couldn't possibly exist: I had some fun with famous people. In this alternate 1967 Jack Kennedy is president of the USA, young Jimmy Carter is president of the CSA, Joseph McCarthy teaches political science at Marquette University, and Benjamin Goodman is conductor of the Chicago Symphony...to mention but a few. None of these folks are major characters (or even appear) in the story, they are merely part of the cultural environment in which the story takes place. For the most part they are either unimportant or unknown to the story's main characters. I shouldn't have done it, I know, but I couldn't resist. After all, exploring what might have become of famous people is one of the guilty pleasures of "fun" alternate history.

But, of course, all that "Hitler became a commercial artist" stuff, while fun, is historical nonsense. If the South had really succeeded in seceding and the Confederacy still existed in 1967, JFK and Jimmy Carter and Joe McCarthy and Benny Goodman...and you and I and everyone we know...would not exist. Okay, well it's possible that some of you, if you live in some part of the world that's been entirely unaffected by what has happen in America for the past 130 years, would exist. But 99% of us would not.

Think about it. You're not only not inevitable, you're not even statistically probable. You only exist because a specific spermatozoa of the 700 million your father ejaculated happened to win the race and fertilized the one specific egg your mother's fallopian tubes happen to have ready and waiting the night (morning? afternoon?) you were conceived. And the same goes for JFK, Benny Goodman and me. So maybe your great-great-grandparents were alive during the Civil War era, and maybe they still got together even though the South won. Then what? If a two degree drop in the ambient temperature or a slight shift in the viscosity of the bed sheets could prevent the conception of the DNA-specific humans who became your great-grandparents, certainly a change as significant as the dissolution of the USA would be enough to do so. And it is even more unlikely that your grandparents or parents would have been conceived, let alone you. The fragile web of circumstances that led to your conception never would have happened. So, while playing the "what would have become of JFK" game is great fun, the fact is if the South had won the Civil War these past three generations of humans (with perhaps a very few exceptions) would not exist. Three generations of strangers would exist in our place because all our quantum webs would have been made impossible by such a massive alteration in history.

The good news is, with Crossing the Line you can have your cake and eat it too. While I have some nudge-nudge, wink-wink fun (mostly between chapters) exploring what became of some folks who are famous in our history, all of the main characters in the story are entirely fictional, products of their history, a history that was decisively altered by the South's victory.

I've tried to create an exciting and intriguing story, well told, with protagonists who are admirable without being super heroes and antagonists who are criminally malicious without being cartoon demons. There's plenty of espionage skullduggery and action, a little romance, a little fun, and lots of alternate history brain candy. I hope it's your cup of tea and you enjoy reading it as much I as enjoyed writing it.

JSmith
November 23rd, 2011, 07:59 PM
Another :(http://www.amazon.com/Neue-Europa-ebook/dp/B004MYFSCU/ref=pd_sim_kinc_4?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41D1KAfbxOL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-46,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/B004MYFSCU/ref=sib_dp_kd#reader-link)




Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Neue Europa

The new dark age.
It is the year 1949. Across the continent of Europe, a new dark age has come. From Britain to the Russian steppes, the swastika reigns supreme. The extermination camps stain the skies with ash, while in the schools the children learn the litanies of a new world order.

It is the new dark age. It is the age of Neue Europa.

The remnants of the Free World have gathered. European exiles, Free Russian and Commonwealth stand beside the USA as America strives to turn the tide.

Democracy against fascism. Light against dark. Mankind’s last, most desperate crusade.

The year is 1949 -
And World War Three has finally begun.

JSmith
November 23rd, 2011, 08:22 PM
Each Kindle book has a pretty long sample chater though :)

JSmith
December 14th, 2011, 08:30 PM
Angels of Vengeance, the third installment in the John Birmingham's "Without Warning" series, is due to release next Tuesday.

Angels of Vengeance, the third installment in the John Birmingham's "Without Warning" series, is due to release next Tuesday.

http://www.amazon.com/Angels-of-Vengeance-ebook/dp/B005DB6N2U (http://www.amazon.com/Angels-of-Vengeance-ebook/dp/B005DB6N2U)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for Without Warning (Book 1 of the 'Without Warning' series):

''Brilliant, nail-biting, thoughtful, and excruciatingly pertinent to our times.'' --James Rollins, New York Times bestselling author

''Delivers all the action and techno-detail that any Clancy fan could wish for.'' --Robert Buettner, bestselling author of Orphanage

Product Description

When an inexplicable wave of energy slammed into North America, millions died. In the rest of the world, wars erupted, borders vanished, and the powerful lost their grip on power. Against this backdrop, with a conflicted U.S. president struggling to make momentous decisions in Seattle and a madman fomenting rebellion in Texas, three women are fighting their own battles—for survival, justice, and revenge.

Special agent Caitlin Monroe moves stealthily through a South American jungle. Her target: a former French official now held prisoner by a ruthless despot. To free the prisoner, Caitlin will kill anyone who gets in her way. And then she will get the truth about how a master terrorist escaped a secret detention center in French Guadeloupe to strike a fatal blow in New York City.

Sofia Peiraro is a teenage girl who witnessed firsthand the murder and mayhem of Texas under the rule of General Mad Jack Blackstone. Sofia might have tried to build a life with her father in the struggling remnants of Kansas City—if a vicious murder hadn’t set her on another course altogether: back to Texas, even to Blackstone himself.

Julianne Balwyn is a British-born aristocrat turned smuggler. Shopping in the most fashionable neighborhood of Darwin, Australia—now a fantastic neo-urban frontier—Jules has a pistol holstered in the small of her lovely back. She is playing the most dangerous game of all: waiting for the person who is hunting her to show his face—so she can kill him first.

Three women in three corners of a world plunged into electrifying chaos. Nation-states struggling for their survival. Immigrants struggling for new lives. John Birmingham’s astounding new novel—the conclusion to the series begun in Without Warning and After America—is an intense adventure that races from the halls of power to shattered streets to gleaming new cities, as humanity struggles to grasp its better angels—and purge its worst demons.







http://www.cheeseburgergothic.com/ (http://www.cheeseburgergothic.com/)

US cover. (http://www.cheeseburgergothic.com/archives/2862)

Posted on December 10, 2011 (http://www.cheeseburgergothic.com/archives/2862) by johnbirmingham (http://www.cheeseburgergothic.com/archives/author/johnbirmingham)
Cos you can never destroy New York too many times.

JSmith
December 14th, 2011, 08:33 PM
Sample

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/sunday-heraldsun/angels-of-vengeance-by-john-birmingham/story-e6frf92f-1226170804842


Angels of Vengeance, by John Birmingham

CAITLIN fast-roped down to the clearing floor, which squelched under the tread of her canvas-sided jungle boots. She scanned the tree line for any hint of enemy presence without expecting to find it. If they were going to be fired on, chances were she'd have seen the tracers arcing in while she was dangling, all but defenceless, in midair. Releasing the rope, she signalled to Staff Sergeant Royse that she was clear and hurried off to find cover as the chopper increased power and clawed up into the humid night.

A flick of the wrist revealed the time: 01.26 hours.
She had four hours of movement before she would have to lay up for the day. It wouldn't take her all the way to her objective, but she planned to be well within observation range by the time the sun rose.
The Echelon field agent moved quickly away from the drop zone, heading north by north-east, following the track programmed into her mil-grade Navman GPS unit. The brush wrapped itself around her, slowing her down as soon as she'd passed under the first tree canopy. Night-vision goggles resolved the environment into a flat, eerily phosphorescent landscape of sinuous roots and vines, of fat, nodding leaves, thick snarls of creeper, of rot and genesis. The smell of decay and of new life growing over the top of older, worn-out vegetation was strong, almost cloying. Clusters of such flora dotted the grassland steppe behind her during this, the height of the South American summer. It combined the worst of all possible worlds: a main course of humidity with a side platter of wide-open kill zones, topped off with jungle-like collections of trees, brush and other plant life.



Caitlin was familiar with the fecund crush of the jungle. She'd spent a good year and a half tracking two targets through the old-growth forests of Sumatra and Aceh, long before the Disappearance, while posing as a Peace Corps volunteer helping to build schools. She knew the jungle. They had come to terms.
But the problem now was more than one of terrain all in all, this was a tactical nightmare. She proceeded to the nearest point of cover and pushed further inside the forest.
Two hundred yards in, she came to a small stream, a couple of feet across and easily forded. The stream led most of the distance to her objective, covered by varying degrees of thick vegetation: it was the best bet for a concealed approach in the dark. It was also probably the most obvious ... She pushed that thought away. Nothing could be done about it. Traipsing through open grassland in full gear was a sure way to get a third eye drilled into her forehead.
Hundreds of bugs scuttled away as she laid her HK-417 against the rock. A giant centipede reared up as if to strike. Caitlin swiftly killed the insect with one slash of a spring-loaded wrist blade, flicking the two halves away with gloved fingers. The last thing she needed was to call in an extraction because of a bug sting.
Time to move on herself. Quickly setting the GPS unit to vibrate when she had covered 2 1/2 kilometres, Caitlin carefully stepped down on to the sandy creek bank from the small, grassy bend on which she'd been resting.
She was her own point and cover, responsible for her flanks and rearguard. She was alone; her natural state of being. Consciously pushing away thoughts of her husband and baby back at the safe house in Scotland, wilfully forgetting the life they had tried to make for themselves on the farm in Wiltshire, Caitlin Monroe, Echelon's senior surviving field agent, let her true nature take over.
A predator, she stalked through the primordial heat - teeth out, fangs ready, all of her senses twitching and straining, searching for prey.
She advanced in a creeping crouch, her knees bent, her thigh muscles and core strength tested by the weight of her equipment and the unnatural movement. Her body had recovered well from pregnancy and childbirth, however, and from the rigours of hunting and fighting in the huge, open mausoleum of New York last spring. Three months back home with Bret and Monique had helped with that. Three months in which she regained her strength, and bound it tightly with new layers of resolution, and a fierce will to lay her hands on the man she blamed for nearly destroying her family.
Bilal Hans Baumer. Al Banna.
Or whatever he was calling himself these days. In Manhattan he had been known as the Emir. Now he was "the target". Her target. As he had been for a year before the old world had fallen.
The barrel of Caitlin's 417 swept back and forth in a tight arc as she moved up the creek like some nightmare black arachnid. The burbling splash of the stream covered the sound of her boots. She took care to step where the flow of water would quickly erase any sign of her passage. Mosquitoes hovered around her in a cloud, drawn by the opportunity to feed, but thwarted at the last moment by the odourless insect repellent she wore.
After 40 minutes the Navman on her forearm began to vibrate ever so slightly, warning her that the stream was about to veer away from her intended heading. She slowed to a stop and took her time absorbing the signs ... She listened for the slightest fluctuation in the wall of sound thrown up by the insects in her immediate vicinity, the splash of water across the creek-bed, slightly rockier here.
Satisfied she remained alone, the Echelon agent moved off, carefully climbing the northern bank of the stream.
Old mineral survey maps had indicated that the soil was thinner here and the vegetation less dense. It was still thick enough to slow her progress. With no natural track for her to follow, she was forced to push and occasionally hack her way through, while trying to keep all noise to a minimum. As much as she could, she traded caution for speed, keen to make as much ground as possible on her objective before the sun climbed over the horizon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Aussie John Birmingham is the author of the popular memoir He Died with a Felafel in His Hand and the thrillers Without Warning and After America.
Edited extract from Angels of Vengeance, by John Birmingham, Macmillan, RRP $32.99. Buy the book at the special Sunday Herald Sun reader price including delivery anywhere in Australia. Visit heraldsun.com.au/shop (http://heraldsun.com.au/shop) or post a cheque or money order to: Book Offers, PO Box 14730, Melbourne, Vic, 8001.

Sean Mulligan
December 15th, 2011, 01:59 AM
Only on Kindle :(

http://www.amazon.com/Castros-Bomb-ebook/dp/B005ORV3IM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322077833&sr=1-1


http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51l3f11rumL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-43,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/B005ORV3IM/ref=sib_dp_kd#reader-link)




Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Set in 1963 after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Castro and his army use weapons left behind by the Russians to seize the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay and then plan missile strikes against the U.S. From the corridors of power -- with John F. Kennedy trying desperately to retain his leadership and keep the war from escalating -- to soldiers and civilians both American and Cuban, this high-voltage novel follows the bloody fighting and struggles on the ground while never losing sight of how war can transform people and set in motion some highly unexpected consequences. Winner of the Sidewise Award for Best Alternate History Novel, bestselling author William R. Forstchen wrote, "Conroy's work is the type of book you simply can't put down."

“Robert Conroy is truly one of the top players in the field when it comes to imaginative well written tales. Be ready for some sleepless nights when you argue with yourself "I'll just read one more chapter," because Conroy's work is the type of book you simply can't put down.”
- William R. Forstchen, author of NYTimes bestseller ONE SECOND AFTER

This makes no sense. Conroy has become a complete hack. Does the author meant that the Russians left behind nuclear weapons in Cuba? Did they forget them? :rolleyes:

Castro isn't a madman. Their is no chance that he would try anything like this after the Cuban Missile Crisis. He knew something like that would have no chance of success. Castro would have gotten no support from the Soviet Union and the U.S. would have wiped Cuba off the map.

gladiator8085
December 15th, 2011, 02:15 AM
Castro isn't a madman. Their is no chance that he would try anything like this after the Cuban Missile Crisis. He knew something like that would have no chance of success. Castro would have gotten no support from the Soviet Union and the U.S. would have wiped Cuba off the map.

Castro would not be stupid enough to try and attack the US. That would be like somebody sticking their head in a bee's nest after running away from one bee. It would be committing suicide.:eek:

Greg Grant
December 25th, 2011, 01:41 AM
This makes no sense. Conroy has become a complete hack. Does the author meant that the Russians left behind nuclear weapons in Cuba? Did they forget them? :rolleyes:
Considering Forstchen is a hack, it makes total sense for him to endorse another hack. Implausible and ridiculous, but my main question is: what exactly is Castro's arsenal, and where along the timeline does the book take place? Is there a snappy epilogue? Will there be war? Or a reset button and things stay the same, but for the differences to a few lives of some historical figures?

JSmith
December 28th, 2011, 12:51 AM
Number 14 in the Ring of Fire series
http://www.amazon.com/1636-Kremlin-Games-Ring-Fire/dp/1451637764/ref=reg_hu-rd_add_1_dp


http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51D-q0xtCNL._SL500_AA300_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/1451637764/ref=dp_image_z_0?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books)







1636: The Kremlin Games (Ring of Fire) [Hardcover]

Eric Flint (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&sort=relevancerank&search-alias=books&ie=UTF8&field-author=Eric%20Flint) (Author), Gorg Huff (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_2?_encoding=UTF8&sort=relevancerank&search-alias=books&ie=UTF8&field-author=Gorg%20Huff) (Author), Paula Goodlett (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_3?_encoding=UTF8&sort=relevancerank&search-alias=books&ie=UTF8&field-author=Paula%20Goodlett) (Author)
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List Price:$25.00Price:$16.33 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25. Details (http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=mk_sss_dp_1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=527692&pop-up=1) Deal Price: You Save:$8.67 (35%) Pre-order Price Guarantee. Learn more (http://www.amazon.com/1636-Kremlin-Games-Ring-Fire/dp/1451637764/ref=reg_hu-rd_add_1_dp#productPromotions).
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
This title will be released on June 5, 2012.
Pre-order now!

Book Description

Series: Ring of Fire | Publication Date: June 5, 2012
#14 in the multiply bestselling Ring of Fire Series. After carving a place for itself among the struggling powers of 17th century Western Europe, the out-of-time modern town of Grantville, West Virginia must fight for its life in a war-torn Europe just emerging from medieval skullduggery.
1636. Grantville has bounced back and established its new mission and identity, but it seems some have been left behind—people like Bernie Zeppi, courageous in the battle, but unable to figure out what to do with himself in a world that’s utterly changed. Then Russian emissary Vladimir Gorchacov arrives in Grantville and hires Bernie to journey to Moscow and bring the future to a Russia mired in slavish serfdom and byzantine imperial plots. Bernie jumps at the chance. He figures it to be an easy gig, complete with high pay and hot-and-cold running women.
But one thing Bernie hasn’t counted on is the chance to find his purpose in Mother Russia, from fighting the needless death of children from typhoid to building the first dirigible in Russian history. And then there’s love. Just as Bernie realizes his feeling for a certain Russian noblewoman may have gone way beyond respect, he finds them both enmeshed in the deadly politics of Kremlin power struggles.
War with Poland is afoot and Russia itself is about to get a revolution from within–three centuries early. Bernie Zeppi, former Grantville auto mechanic, is going to have the chance to prove he’s not the loser he believed himself to be. For now Bernie’s task is to save the woman he loves and the country he has come to call his own from collapse into a new Dark Age. About Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire series:

JSmith
December 28th, 2011, 12:53 AM
At least 2 more in the The War That Came Early series http://www.uchronia.net/bib.cgi/label.html?id=turtwarcam#4

http://www.uchronia.com/covers/t/turt0345491823.jpg
Turtledove, Harry. Hitler's War. Ballantine/Del Rey 2009.http://www.uchronia.com/covers/t/turt034549184X.jpg
Turtledove, Harry. West and East. Ballantine/Del Rey 2010.http://www.uchronia.com/covers/t/turt0345491866.jpg
Turtledove, Harry. The Big Switch. Ballantine/Del Rey 2011.
Turtledove, Harry. The War that Came Early
Divergence: 1938 CE
What if: World War II broke out a year earlier, over Czechoslovakia rather than Poland.
Series note: Series including Hitler's War, West and East, The Big Switch, and the forthcoming Coup d'Etat and Two Fronts. A sixth volume, as yet unannounced, is also expected.

Turtledove, Harry. Hitler's War [vt The War that Came Early: Hitler's War]
Divergence: 1938 CE
Series note: First volume of The War that Came Early.
Comments: Was apparently briefly called Appeasement by its UK publisher prior to publication.
Published: Ballantine/Del Rey 2009 (0345491823BUY (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0345491823/uchroniathealter)), 2010 (0345491831BUY (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0345491831/uchroniathealter)); and Hodder & Stoughton 2009 (0340921811), 2010 (034092182X).

Turtledove, Harry. The War That Came Early: West and East
Divergence: 1938 CE
Series note: Second volume of The War that Came Early.
Published: Ballantine/Del Rey 2010 (034549184XBUY (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/034549184X/uchroniathealter)), 2011 (0345491858BUY (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0345491858/uchroniathealter)).

Turtledove, Harry. The War That Came Early: The Big Switch
Divergence: 1938 CE
Series note: Third volume of The War that Came Early.
Published: Ballantine/Del Rey 2011 (0345491866BUY (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0345491866/uchroniathealter)), 2012 (0345491874BUY (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0345491874/uchroniathealter)).

Turtledove, Harry. The War That Came Early: Coup d'Etat
Divergence: 1938 CE
Series note: Fourth volume of The War that Came Early.
Published: Not yet published; expected from Ballantine/Del Rey on July 30, 2012 (0345524659BUY (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0345524659/uchroniathealter)).

Turtledove, Harry. The War That Came Early: Two Fronts
Divergence: 1938 CE
Series note: Fifth volume of The War that Came Early.
Published: Not yet published; expected from Ballantine/Del Rey in late summer 2013.

Readman
December 28th, 2011, 02:02 AM
Are you Effing kidding me? There's going to be 2 MORE Hitler's War books? :confused: Man that is just terrible. The last book I read had the French join with the Germans and Polish against the USSR :rolleyes: I wouldn't mind reading the new Eric Flint one though, would be cool to see a Russian angle

edvader
December 29th, 2011, 03:02 PM
Reading IQ84 on my Nook.Damn its good.Bad news-1084 pages!Get it!Good news-Neue Europa is on Nook.The Confederate novel is not -yet.Birmingham's book is due in april.Number 3, Hi!Is the Wild cards going to be a mini series or TV?BTW I got from library an audio of Wild Cards book-#2.

JSmith
February 23rd, 2012, 06:26 PM
http://www.amazon.com/Angels-Vengeance-Without-Warning-ebook/dp/B005DB6N2U#reader_B005DB6N2U




http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/516AiiuO1%2BL._SX35_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005DB6N2U/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb) Angels of Vengeance (Without Warning) (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005DB6N2U/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb)(Kindle Edition)
by John Birmingham (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_aut?_encoding=UTF8&index=books&field-author=John%20Birmingham)

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Kindle Edition (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005DB6N2U) $12.99 Deliver To
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Jed Culver, President Kipper’s sword and shield, knows that what is right and what is best are rarely the same thing. Can he serve the President by defying him?

Mad Jack Blackstone, rogue governor of the Republic of Texas. To some he is slowly but surely destroying the United States. To others, he is an American saviour.

Their time has come.

In New York, Caitlin Monroe’s one shot at vengeance may lie buried beneath the rubble of the city. Is her nemesis still alive somewhere?

Unknown killers hunt Lady Julianne Balwyn in the anarchic, violent freeport of Darwin. Can she survive long enough to save her friends?

Sofia Pieraro is all alone in the empty heart of a haunted land, revenge her only reason to keep moving.

After many years the long trail of the dead will bring them all together.

The final battle for America and the new world will not be fought with armies, but in the quiet and the dark, by individuals, driven towards vengeance and annihilation.



For Jane.
‘Beside every great man . . .’
Well, I’m not that great, but she is, and she’s always there beside me.

CHARACTER LIST


URUGUAY, SOUTH AMERICAN FEDERATION


Staff Sergeant Michelle Royse: squad leader, 160th Special Operations Aviation Battalion, US Army

Caitlin Monroe: Echelon senior field agent

Ramón Lupérico: former prison governor on Guadeloupe, Leeward Islands

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON AND VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA


James Kipper: forty-fourth President of the United States

Jed Culver: White House Chief of Staff

Barney Tench: Secretary, Department of Reconstruction and Resettlement

Paul McAuley: Secretary, Department of the Treasury

Sarah Humboldt: Secretary, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Admiral James Ritchie: National Security Advisor

Barbara Kipper: America’s First Lady

Henry Cesky: CEO, Cesky Enterprises

Wales Larrison: Echelon deputy director and US liaison to Echelon Secretariat

SYDNEY AND DARWIN


Lady Julianne Balwyn: erstwhile smuggler and reluctant fugitive

Rhino A. Ross: part-time fishing boat operator

Narayan Shah: CEO, Shah Security

Piers Downing: lawyer to Mr Shah

Paras Birendra: operations manager, Shah Security

Nick Pappas: security consultant, former Australian Army SAS operative

Norman Parmenter: contract killer

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI


Miguel Pieraro: stockyard foreman

Maive Aronson: community college teacher

Sofia Pieraro: high school student, part-time hospital worker

Cindy French: interstate truck driver

Dave Bowman: interstate truck driver

Special Agent Dan Colvin: FBI inter-agency liaison, Kansas City field office

TEMPLE AND FORT HOOD, TEXAS ADMINISTRATIVE DIVISION


General Tusk Musso (retd): the US President’s special representative in Texas

Master Sergeant Fryderyk Milosz: squad leader, US Army Rangers

Tyrone McCutcheon: aide to Governor Blackstone

Corporal Amy Summers: junior NCO, US Army Rangers

General Jackson Blackstone (retd): Governor of Texas

Bilal Baumer (aka al Banna; the Emir): fugitive terrorist leader

ANGUS AND WILTSHIRE


Bret Melton: gentleman farmer and full-time parent

Francis Dalby: Echelon UK field supervisor


1


FORMER URUGUAYAN–ARGENTINIAN BORDER REGION, SOUTH AMERICAN FEDERATION


Staff Sergeant Michelle Royse, of the United States Army’s much diminished 160th Special Operations Aviation Battalion, scanned the northern banks of the river delta as the Black Hawk pounded up the narrowing channel over dark, choppy waters. Through her night-vision goggles, the slightly fuzzy green imagery of heavily wooded banks was blurred even further by the shuddering of the helicopter as it roared along above the wave tops. A solid nor’easter was blowing directly up the mouth of the river, adding an extra thirty knots to their airspeed, but demanding extreme levels of concentration from Captain Tim Lindell and his co-pilot as they guided the chopper through hostile, if poorly guarded airspace. Far behind them, no one paid their improvised helicopter carrier much mind – a battered and rusty container vessel salvaged from Mexico. Royse didn’t like to ponder on what would have happened if the vessel had been detected by the South American Federation Navy.

Hey, probably not much to worry about, she consoled herself. It’s just a paper navy, at best, with most of their top ships laid up in docks rusting away.

A bit like the US Navy nowadays, she thought, with grim humour.

Lindell had not spoken for five minutes, which still made him a hell of a lot chattier than their passenger. The spook. Michelle knew the woman had to be a spook, because in spite of the faded, summer-weight BDUs she wore, the kit they had loaded for her was all high-spec, exotic stuff. The sort of gear the military simply couldn’t afford nowadays. No way the army or SOCOM was running this operation. They were just providing a bus service for some ghost recon superwoman who’d drifted down from far above the upper reaches of the tier-one food chain.

Michelle snuck a sideways glance at the passenger. The woman wasn’t unfriendly, not like some of the ego monsters she had met while shuttling T1 operators around. But she was entirely self-contained; she spoke only when necessary and had a way of discouraging questions without actually asking you to mind your own business. She stood maybe an inch taller than Michelle, but even in her BDUs, body armour, webbing and equipment, she seemed . . . well, not slighter – perhaps more wiry. There was a tightly wound intensity about this spook that made being in her presence distinctly uncomfortable. Impossible to guess her age, under all that kit, but Michelle thought maybe early to mid thirties. The woman’s physique looked totally ripped, but her eyes were old beneath a stray lock of dirty blonde hair.

Royse looked away quickly as their mystery passenger shifted position. She was happy enough to attend to her duties while Jane Bond here sat in a furious still-life study of cold, impacted rage.

For the moment, those duties mostly involved scanning the shoreline north of the river. Nothing appeared to move out there, on what had once been the Uruguayan side of the border. Not now, though. Now it was all part of la Federación. A few bright emerald pinpricks of light burned in a cluster about ten miles inland, but the shoreline was dark. The Black Hawk banked gently a few degrees to the north-east, taking them over land for the first time. Michelle craned around to peer over her shoulder into the cabin, which glowed like a child’s idea of a fairy cave in her night-vision goggles. Far ahead of them, she could make out a faint dome of opalescent light on the very horizon, marking the location of the Federation Navy’s fleet base.

She would have sneered at the vanity of the pompous title ‘fleet base’, were it not for the fact that their own aircraft was held together with hundred-mile-an-hour tape, bailing wire, and promises. And that most of the US military bases she’d flown out of in the close-to-five years since March 2003 had all suffered from the same air of neglect and making do. Salvaged gear, left exposed to the elements or in compromised warehouses and storage depots, only took you so far.

Yep, two paper tigers staring each other down in a burning barn – that’s the world of tomorrow. What a fucking joke.

‘Five minutes to insertion.’

Captain Lindell’s voice barely registered in her earphones over the roar of the engine and the deep, thrumming bass note of the chopper blades. It was as though the tension had strangled his voice down to a clenched murmur. Royse held up her hand with all five fingers splayed and nodded at the spook. She was already preparing herself, but nodded back anyway. Michelle had watched the woman take inventory of her load before they lifted off from the container ship, three hundred miles off the coast. She watched her repeat the performance now that they were almost at their destination.

A minute later, obviously having reassured herself she had not forgotten her passport, wallet or Gerber Mark II fighting knife, the woman closed her eyes and let her head loll back until her helmet touched the bulkhead behind her. It was the first human gesture, the first intimation of weakness, or fear, or exhaustion that Michelle had seen her make, and as quickly as it came, it passed. Her head snapped back up. Her eyes blinked once.

‘Two minutes out.’

The woman chambered a round in her HK-417, a metallic kerrchung that never failed to lay a cold finger at the base of Royse’s spine. The 5.56 mm HK-416s she had seen here and there, but the 417, with the heavier 7.62 mm round, had been a rumour until tonight. The spook’s brand-new Heckler & Koch was another sign that she wasn’t your standard-issue self-loving, spec-ops asshole, whispering, ‘For I am the baddest motherfucker in the Valley.’ No piece-of-shit M16 or M4 for this chick.

Fuck it, she figured. Another day, another dollar.

Michelle readied herself at the door, training the electric M134 minigun over the treetops, which rippled beneath her feet at a hundred and forty knots. Her knees bent to compensate for the sudden twisting, diving flight path as Lindell began to track the nap of the earth, heading for a small clearing marked on their maps as Objective Underwood.

‘Thirty seconds.’

The Black Hawk pivoted, seeming to turn on a dime, as if Lindell were trying to throw them both out the rear hatch by way of momentum. The woman braced herself against the bulkhead, holding tight to a grab bar over her right shoulder. Royse sank deeper into a squat, until her knees were bent almost at right angles. Then the inertia bled away swiftly as they came to hover over a patch of field between two clusters of trees. Michelle checked the ground beneath them and reported that the aircraft was clear. She signalled to the woman to step forward and hook up.

The spook needed no help attaching herself to the fast-rope apparatus. Royse had one second to look into her eyes before she stepped out and dropped away into the night. The woman did not look scared, but there was something haunting her eyes. Something in the back of the deep, clenched lines which made her face appear unusually long and drawn in the low-light amplification of the NVGs.

One brief nod.

A thumbs-up gesture, and she was gone, dropping down into the darkness.

*

Caitlin fast-roped down to the clearing floor, which squelched under the tread of her canvas-sided jungle boots. She scanned the tree line for any hint of enemy presence without expecting to find it. If they were going to be fired on, chances were she’d have seen the tracers arcing in while she was dangling, all but defenceless, in midair. Releasing the rope, she signalled to Staff Sergeant Royse that she was clear and hurried off to find cover as the chopper increased power and clawed up into the humid night.

A flick of the wrist revealed the time: 0126 hours.

She had four hours of movement before she would have to lay up for the day. It wouldn’t take her all the way to her objective but she planned to be well within observation range by the time the sun rose.

The Echelon field agent moved quickly away from the drop zone, heading north by north-east, following the track programmed into her mil-grade Navman GPS unit. The brush wrapped itself around her, slowing her down as soon as she’d passed under the first tree canopy. Night-vision goggles resolved the environment into a flat, eerily phosphorescent landscape of sinuous roots and vines, of fat, nodding leaves, thick snarls of creeper, of rot and genesis. The smell of decay and of new life growing over the top of older, worn-out vegetation was strong, almost cloying. Clusters of such flora dotted the grassland steppe behind her during this, the height of the South American summer. It combined the worst of all possible worlds: a main course of humidity with a side platter of wide-open kill zones, topped off with jungle-like collections of trees, brush and other plant life.

Caitlin was familiar with the fecund crush of the jungle. She’d spent a good year and a half tracking two targets through the old-growth forests of Sumatra and Aceh, long before the Disappearance, while posing as a Peace Corps volunteer helping to build schools. She knew the jungle. They had come to terms.

But the problem now was more than one of terrain – all in all, this was a tactical nightmare. She proceeded to the nearest point of cover and pushed further inside the forest.

Two hundred yards in, she came to a small stream, a couple of feet across and easily forded. Shallow water gurgled down a slight but noticeable slope, where Caitlin spied a small animal drinking upstream from her, a squat, barrel-shaped grazer of some sort. It sniffed the air cautiously a moment after she’d spotted it, but returned to drinking when no obvious threat came charging out of the night. A couple of boulders, huge moss-covered menhirs, formed a natural fort. She decided to lay up there for a minute.

The stream led most of the distance to her objective, covered by varying degrees of thick vegetation: it was the best bet for a concealed approach in the dark. It was also probably the most obvious . . . She pushed that thought away. Nothing could be done about it. Traipsing through open grassland in full gear was a sure way to get a third eye drilled into her forehead.

Hundreds of bugs scuttled away as she laid her HK-417 against the rock. A giant centipede reared up as if to strike. Caitlin swiftly killed the insect with one slash of a spring-loaded wrist blade, flicking the two halves away with gloved fingers. The last thing she needed was to call in an extraction because of a bug sting.

She let her senses expand out into the surrounding landscape, listening for human speech, or footfall, the clink and rattle of poorly secured equipment; sniffing the air just as the animal had done, tasting it for the scent of man, or the last meal he’d eaten, or the soap he had washed with, or not, as might be. When she was certain no immediate danger existed, she relaxed fractionally. Or rather, she redirected her energy to her first lay-up procedure.

Again she inventoried her equipment. Nobody wants to be the guy who turned up at the beach without his towel, or the state-sponsored killer who forgot her ninja throwing stars . . . Okay, she conceded, I don’t have ninja throwing stars. But it would be totally badass if I did.

Caitlin flipped up the monocular night sight on her PVS-14s to check the digital map velcroed to her left arm. As was so often the case nowadays, Echelon resources didn’t stretch to a live overwatch link. No one had that – not even the Russian SVR had the resources for live overwatch anymore. She was on her own, which was not entirely a bad thing. Nobody was recording her every move for an embarrassing moment with the media further on down the road. Nobody was barking at her through a headset, telling her to do shit that made no sense. She had good data, though, and with that and her experience, there wasn’t much else Caitlin really needed.

The little stream beside which she’d laid up ran through the centre of the dimly illuminated screen. Her own position was marked with a blue dot. She hoped to follow the stream up-slope for at least three klicks before it began to veer away from her intended destination, one of Roberto’s many detention facilities, this one tucked away in an old police station about ten kilometres inland. The best intelligence they had, placed her target there. Wales had called it a ‘memory hole’: a dark place where the regime stuffed away its mistakes, embarrassments and occasional secrets. Caitlin wondered if they understood the nature of the secret they had stashed down here in the back forty of the former Uruguayan Republic.

She picked up the 417, resettled her pack a little more comfortably, and took a mouthful of chilled Gatorade from the camel-back bladder woven into it. The brush reappeared in eldritch green as she snapped the PVS-14 back down over her dominant eye. The potbellied beast (was it a tapir – was that what they were called?) scuttled into the undergrowth as she began to move.

You’re a long way south, Caitlin thought of the tapir. Maybe it had got loose from a zoo or something.

Time to move on herself. Quickly setting the GPS unit to vibrate when she had covered two-and-a-half kilometres, Caitlin carefully stepped down onto the sandy creek bank from the small grassy bend on which she’d been resting.

She was her own point and cover, responsible for her flanks and rearguard. She was alone; her natural state of being. Consciously pushing away thoughts of her husband and baby back at the safe house in Scotland, wilfully forgetting the life they had tried to make for themselves on the farm in Wiltshire, Caitlin Monroe, Echelon’s senior surviving field agent, let her true nature take over. A predator, she stalked through the primordial heat – teeth out, fangs ready, all of her senses twitching and straining, searching for prey.

It didn’t matter to her that this part of the country, thinly populated before the Disappearance, was even more sparsely peopled now. She had been trained to assume the worst, to prepare for ill chance and disaster as a certainty. There were no large townships within thirty kilometres, and the terrain between here and the objective was undoubtedly deserted. La colapso had emptied it, and Roberto Morales’ regime kept it that way. But still, she would move forward as though snares blocked her path at every turn.

She advanced in a creeping crouch, her knees bent, her thigh muscles and core strength tested by the weight of her equipment and the unnatural movement. Her body had recovered well from pregnancy and childbirth, however, and from the rigours of hunting and fighting in the huge, open mausoleum of New York last spring. Three months back home with Bret and Monique had helped with that. Three months in which she regained her strength, and bound it tightly with new layers of resolution, and a fierce will to lay her hands on the man she blamed for nearly destroying her family.

Bilal Hans Baumer. Al Banna.

Or whatever he was calling himself these days. In Manhattan he had been known as the Emir. Now he was ‘the target’. Her target. As he had been for a year before the old world had fallen.

The barrel of Caitlin’s 417 swept back and forth in a tight arc as she moved up the creek like some nightmare black arachnid. The burbling splash of the stream covered the sound of her boots. She took care to step where the flow of water would quickly erase any sign of her passage. Mosquitoes hovered around her in a cloud, drawn by the opportunity to feed, but thwarted at the last moment by the odourless insect repellent she wore. As the environment adapted to her presence, it also disguised her advance, enfolding her in the shrill, creaking chirrup of a billion insects, the shriek of bats and nocturnal birds of prey, the rustle of larger animals moving through the undergrowth, and once, as she ducked under the limb of a half-fallen tree, the dry hiss of a viper slithering languidly along.

Caitlin dropped a hand to the knife at her hip and, with one fluid motion, threw it at the snake, spearing it to the branch. While it was fixed in place, she crushed the skull with a swift stroke of the Heckler & Koch’s butt stock. Pythons didn’t worry her, but vipers were incredibly foul-tempered. Best not to take chances.

After forty minutes the Navman on her forearm began to vibrate ever so slightly, warning her that the stream was about to veer away from her intended heading. She slowed to a stop and took her time absorbing the signs . . . She listened for the slightest fluctuation in the wall of sound thrown up by the insects in her immediate vicinity, the splash of water across the creek-bed, slightly rockier here. Her eyes took in the noticeable brightening of the world in her goggles under a thinner canopy, as a strengthening breeze opened a hole in the silver-grey cloud cover to let moon and star light spill through.

But nothing human.

Still she waited. The slight delay gave her an opportunity to measure her endurance against the task at hand. She ignored the humidity, which lay on the landscape like a wet woollen blanket, making breathing difficult and leaving her with a clammy sweat on the back of her thighs. No one in their right mind would’ve been out in this, Caitlin realised – but it was a thought that neither eroded her attention to detail nor made her lower her guard, even marginally.

Satisfied she remained alone, the Echelon agent moved off, carefully climbing the northern bank of the stream. Old mineral survey maps had indicated that the soil was thinner here and the vegetation less dense. It was still thick enough to slow her progress. With no natural track for her to follow, she was forced to push and occasionally hack her way through, while trying to keep all noise to a minimum. As much as she could, she traded caution for speed, keen to make as much ground as possible on her objective before the sun climbed over the horizon.

*

Screaming.

The screaming began sometime before dawn as a feeble, plaintive wailing, a trembling warble of utter hopelessness. Caitlin recognised the exhausted protests of a man who thought he was close to the limit of what he might endure. She knew from personal experience that he was wrong. In the hands of a capable torturer, you could endure far beyond the point where you’d first thought you wanted to die to escape the pain and humiliation.

The humiliation of torture was the surprise for most people. They expected the pain, at least intellectually – although, unless they’d been trained for it, the shock was still enough to send most over the edge very quickly. The humiliation and shame, however, clung to them for years after the pain had subsided. And that was the jangling note she recognised in the screaming: the shame of someone who’d already broken and given up whatever they had, to no avail. The torture had continued.

It was no concern of hers, save from a tactical viewpoint. She didn’t want her target, Ramón Lupérico, checking out before she’d had a chance to interrogate him.

She exhaled slowly, took a sip from her camel-back, and peeled the wrapping from a mocha-flavoured protein bar. Breakfast of champions.

The detention facility – a grand name for an adobe hut at a straggling, muddy crossing of the two main local roads – was a single-storey, off-white building fronted by a slumping, shaded porch. A high stone wall ran around a compound at the rear. From her position on a small hill two hundred metres back into the woods, overlooking the site, Caitlin couldn’t see the prisoners’ enclosure, but she’d studied the satellite images closely at the pre-op briefing. A well appeared to provide drinking water, and a beaten-down path marked the circuit the inmates were allowed to walk during their exercise each day.

Assuming they were allowed any, of course. She’d half expected to see wooden poles driven into the earth for the traditional blindfold and last cigarette, complete with bloodstains from the coup de grace, but there were none. The guards most likely executed their victims in the cells and ordered any surviving captives to clean out the mess.

The wailing spiralled up through the old familiar stages.

Horror.

Denial.

Rejection.

Pleading.

Shock.

Then the abject surrender.

All in less than two minutes.

There was no way of knowing if the screamer was Lupérico. A quick recon of the former police station confirmed the position of two guards outside: only half dressed in uniform, sipping some sort of drink – probably coffee – under the portico. She thought she could even smell the brew.

Hard to get good coffee these days . . . She made a note to snag a bag of beans if the opportunity availed itself. Black tea with milk and sugar at four in the afternoon with a fistful of cucumber sandwiches just didn’t cut it. She was sure the guys on her extraction chopper wouldn’t object to a little extra cargo.

So, two men outside, at least four inside. Possibly six. Plus the three prisoners that intel said were inside, only one of whom was of interest to her.

All of Caitlin’s training, all of her experience, everything told her to wait this out, to lay up until nightfall, then strike under the cover of darkness. But she had reason to ignore the training and experience. Somewhere down there was Ramón Lupérico, the man who had released Baumer from imprisonment in Guadeloupe. A prisoner now himself, it was a righteous certainty he could tell her how al Banna had effected that release from his custody, possibly even how he then came to control the pirate gangs and jihadist militia that had infested Manhattan back in April ’07.

She did not fool herself that Lupérico would know how or why Baumer had chosen to reach out and lay his malign touch on her family, but that hardly mattered. She was here because Echelon had tasked her with securing whatever information she could extract from the target. The coincidence of her personal and professional interests created an impetus towards immediate action.

The South American Federation was little better than a mafia state, but it was the only reliable authority south of the Panama Canal Zone. It would no sooner collaborate with Seattle than its self-proclaimed President for Life, Roberto Morales, would present himself in The Hague to answer the many charges of crimes against humanity that now stood against his name. In the anarchic, violent world that arose in the wake of the Disappearance, such diplomatic impasses proved less frustrating than they had once been. The states that survived tended to be those that acted to secure their interests directly, expediently and swiftly. It was a perfectly complete return to Hobbes’s state of nature, and Caitlin Monroe, a survivor and a killer, was an instrument of that universe.

She crouched down, motionless and unseen in her hiding spot on the small rise overlooking the crossroads, and resolved to give herself one hour to gather as much intelligence about the situation on the ground here as she could. And then she would act.


2


NORTH KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI


‘Drinking coffee? Perhaps the least of your sins, woman! But Elohim punishes all, and you have given him –’

Whatever the man had intended to say was choked off as Miguel Pieraro’s fingers closed around his throat. With one thrust of an arm, the former vaquero threw Maive Aronson’s tormentor from the stoop. A thin, wiry man, with the severe intensity of a fanatic sustained almost entirely by his beliefs, the Mormon witness flew backward on a slight angle – luckily for him. His bony ass landed on the soft turf bordering the hard concrete path that wound from East 23rd Street up to the front door of Maive’s small home.

‘Oomph!’

The impact punched all the air out of him and rolled him onto the grass in a tangle of muddied elbows and knees. Miguel moved quickly to drive a boot into his guts, intending to kick him a considerable distance back towards the pavement from where he had come to torment the poor widow.

‘Miguel, no,’ she said in a sharp voice. ‘You’ll hurt him.’

‘Yes, I shall,’ he replied. But Maive had him by the arm, digging her fingernails into his bicep, pulling him back towards her.

She seemed unsure of what to do with the cup of coffee she’d been drinking when the witness knocked on the front door. Miguel hoped she might throw it over him now, scalding the crazy bastard, but that was not her way. Once the Mexican had made it clear that he was not about to launch himself at this fool, Maive carefully balanced the cup on the wooden rail running around the small, decorative porch. She left Miguel on the top step, clenching and unclenching his fists, as she hurried down to help the man to his feet and out of the gate.

The Mormon doorknocker shrugged her off, cursing her sinfulness, her muddy lawn, her coffee and her offer of help. He scowled briefly at Pieraro and looked as though he might like to curse him too, but the prospect of more rough handling saw him scurrying down the path and out onto the street.

A light rain was starting to fall, beading icily on Miguel’s face. The cowboy watched him make his way towards North Kansas City High School, just a block down the road. Once the man had disappeared around the corner, he relaxed a little, although the high school did remind him of another difficult matter, prompting his temper to flare again.

Sofia.

It took him another deep breath of cold morning air to douse the fire in his breast.

Maive stood with her back to Miguel, watching the Mormon go. Her shoulders began to hitch and he could hear her fighting for breath as the tears came. He wanted to place a hand on her shoulder, merely so that she might feel the reassurance of human contact. But it would not be right. Not with both of them still mourning. Instead he clasped his hands together and stood on the ridiculously small front porch waiting for her to regain her composure. He felt hemmed in here, and awkward, as though he might knock something over at any moment. The lack of space was made worse by a wheelchair ramp that Maive obviously did not need. It had probably been fitted for the benefit of the previous occupants. There was barely room for the two of them to stand in the drizzle and wind. He could see fog condensing on the window behind the screen door, a sign of the warmth awaiting them inside.

The day had dawned bitterly cold, although ‘dawn’ was a poor way to describe the wet, freezing, almost funereal grey shroud that seemed to blanket Kansas City in the morning at this time of year. Dawn here did not feel like the start of something new and vital; more like a case of the night having simply exhausted its darkness and passed.

Miguel was dressed for the damp chill that pressed against him like a blade. He’d arrived not long before the Mormon caller. It was almost as if the man had been waiting, watching. He was most unlike the Saints he and Sofia had travelled with through Texas. Altogether more . . . what was the word? Biblical – that wasn’t right, and yet it seemed right.

With his sunken, staring eyes and haggard demeanour, the man looked like some sort of disturbed prophet from the Old Testament. He had been hounding Maive Aronson for the better part of a week now, wearing her down. Miguel was furious when he’d found out just yesterday, and had reacted with intemperate rage at the first opportunity. That is, a minute earlier, when he’d first laid eyes and hands on the parásito.

There were more of these Mormons in town every week, as they made their way to Kansas City to reclaim lost land and property. Maive told him the community in KC had been second only to Salt Lake City for her people. That was a pity, he thought, very quietly. Not all of her fellow worshippers that he’d encountered of late seemed to have the same, good common sense of Cooper and Maive Aronson, William D’Age, Ben Randall and the others. So many were like the fool he had just ejected from her stoop. Touched by fervent madness.

Gooseflesh stood out on Maive’s unprotected arms while she sobbed and hugged herself in front of the little house the government had let her move into.

‘Maive, you should come inside now,’ said Miguel. ‘It is too cold to be standing out here. Forget that crazy man. Come inside and have your coffee, warm up.’

She hugged herself a little tighter and bobbed her head up and down a few times before spinning around; her chin tucked down into her chest so she wouldn’t have to look Miguel in the eye as she hurried past him. She forgot the cup she’d perched on the handrail. He retrieved it for her, not surprised that the coffee had lost most of its heat in the brief minute they had been outside. Kansas City was like that, a place of . . . what was the word again? Fickle? Yes, fickle extremes. Like a difficult woman, it was only predictable in the way that you knew things would get worse.

He was certain he hated this city. Surely Seattle had to be a better place, even with the rain, but the resettlement authorities rarely let anyone move there from the frontier lands.

Miguel followed her through the door, careful not to crowd the widow, giving her enough space and time to compose herself. Eight months after losing her husband and most of her friends in that flash flood on the Johnson Grasslands of northern Texas, she was still subject to unpredictable mood swings and periods of terrible sadness. There were days where she seemed to be healing, but it didn’t take much to set her back. Still, he did not judge. His own wounds and losses remained open and raw.

The home provided by the settlement authorities was an old bungalow, with dark wooden floors, plaster ceilings, and some fine carpentry that Miguel admired very much. Window seats, book shelving, a particularly impressive-looking mantelpiece above a fireplace in the living room, all spoke of a home that had been built by craftsmen who cared that their work would outlive them by many years, possibly centuries. It was not a large house by American standards – only three bedrooms, and two of them quite small, obviously meant for children – but it was very comfortable and well insulated. Miguel did not concern himself with the fate of its previous occupants. They had obviously Disappeared.

He’d wondered initially whether the very simple furnishings and effects such as linen and cutlery had belonged to those same unfortunate people, but then he discovered upon being placed in his own residence that such things were drawn from one of the city resource stores scattered throughout the reclaimed areas. All one had to do was present a copy of their housing assignment and they would be allowed to wander through and select the basics. There were even food vouchers for those who agreed to scour the unclaimed areas for useable materials on behalf of the city, and for a week or so, Miguel and Sofia had worked on that detail until they found better employment. He didn’t miss that job at all. It was just one step above shovelling up the remains, sometimes dried, sometimes still thickly gelatinous, of the Disappeared.

People, it turned out, did not like to be surrounded by the leavings of the dead whose homes they had taken. Although, when he thought about it, the clean sheets and towels and simple items of clothing provided by the federales had almost certainly come from dead people as well, even if they were simply the owners of department stores whose stocks had been salvaged.

‘Thank you, Miguel,’ said Maive, so quietly that he had to strain to hear her as he followed her into the kitchen at the rear of the house.

‘It is okay,’ he replied. ‘It is lucky I had come around, I think.’

The kitchen was warm and smelled of wood smoke from an old-fashioned stove. It was too dangerous to operate the gas lines, and electricity supply could be sporadic. Wood stoves replaced electric in many homes. If there was one thing Kansas City was blessed with, it was wood. A city in the forest.

Maive had been baking. A tray of muffins sat cooling on a scarred wooden table, resting atop a folded tea towel. She gestured for him to sit down while she splashed some water on her face, drying off with an apron hanging from the handle of the kitchen cupboard. Miguel considered the cup of lukewarm coffee he still held in his hands: the beans were carefully rationed and very expensive, and he didn’t like the idea of it going to waste. All the same, he poured out the dregs, rinsed the cup and set it in the drainer.

‘I’m sorry . . . my manners,’ she said. ‘Please sit down, and let me pour you a hot drink. I could do with one myself.’

‘So you will not be attending to the advice of your friend, about the sinful coffee?’

Maive answered that with a sour grimace. ‘He’s no friend of mine. He only turned up here after I registered with the tabernacle. They’ve had trouble with him too. Harassing people, new arrivals mostly. I suspect he has a mental illness.’

She poured him a mug of coffee, offered cream and sugar, both of which he declined. After retrieving her own cup from the sink, Maive poured herself a full measure, took a sip to taste, and topped it up with another slug, as if to make a point.

‘Cooper never was one for superstitions,’ she said, struggling somewhat. ‘His faith was . . . practical. My husband just wanted to help people. That was his idea of how to live your life the right way. I’m sorry . . .’ Her face suddenly folded into contrary panes of anguish as grief threatened to get the better of her again.

‘You have nothing to apologise for, Maive,’ he said in a gentle voice. ‘I, on the other hand, should not be so quick with my fists. This is your home. I am sorry if I was too rough with him. Do you mind? These look very good . . .’ He indicated the tray of muffins, trying to change the subject.

‘Not at all,’ she sniffed. ‘I baked them for you and Sofia.’

He teased one of the golden-brown treats from the tray. She had topped them with crumble and brown sugar, creating a hard, sweet crust that he very much enjoyed. It was all Miguel could do to resist dunking the muffin top into his coffee. His beloved Mariela used to scold him for such poor manners, and he couldn’t imagine Maive Aronson would approve of it either.

‘I am afraid Sofia is not very happy with me at the moment, Maive. The school has suspended her for fighting again and I have grounded her.’ He really wasn’t very happy with her either. He had been called during his shift at the stockyards in the West Bottoms to deal with it, which meant losing a day’s pay while he took the city bus to the high school at Northtown.

Throwing caution to the wind, he broke off a large chunk of crusty muffin top and dunked it quickly into his coffee. The glazed crumble retained its crunch while the cakey centre soaked up the warm liquid, becoming almost liquid-soft itself. Maive did not approve, but she seemed more concerned about Sofia.

‘Oh, I am sorry to hear that, Miguel. I thought she was past the acting-out phase.’

He put more food in his mouth, chewed and swallowed mechanically, before taking another sip of coffee. All to give him time to think. It was difficult. He knew how his daughter felt, just how much pain she was in every day. But he also knew she could not allow that suffering to take over her life, and she could not take it out on other people. And yet . . .

There was a part of Miguel Pieraro that remained fiercely proud of his daughter and her refusal to bow under the heavy burden fate had laid upon her. Witness to the murder of their family in east Texas; survivor of a journey that took the lives of so many others, Cooper Aronson among them, of course. And a fighter, an avenger indeed. One who had saved his life during the gunfight at Crockett, when they’d rescued Maive and her five female companions from the depredations of the road agents. Sofia had grown up beyond her years on the trail. And he could not deny that, in many ways, although young, she was now a formidable woman in her own right.

‘I do not know what to do, Maive,’ he admitted finally. ‘Honestly, some days it seems beyond me without the help my wife.’

Mentioning Mariela aloud was enough to tighten the band of grief that seemed to sit permanently around his chest. He felt his throat closing on a lump that had not been there a few seconds ago. Another sip of coffee and a deep breath were what he needed to regain the reins on his feelings. Maive, who had no children of her own, but who had mothered and, yes, loved his daughter and the other youngsters on the long exodus from Texas, reached across the table and gave his arm a reassuring squeeze. Unlike him, she seemed to have no compunction about reaching out and touching people.

‘You are a good father, Miguel. You would give up your life for her. She knows that. And you will not let her give up on her own. She knows that too.’ The Mormon woman smiled, but not happily. ‘That’s why she knows she can test you, and push you, and drive you mad.’

He stood up to rinse out his coffee cup, determined to avoid the temptation of another sugary treat. Since they had come off the trail, he had put on a few too many pounds.

‘It is hard,’ he said. ‘I must punish her because the school requires it. I understand that. I have been a boss of the vaquero – I understand the need to maintain your rule. And yet, I do not think she was wrong. I understand why she was fighting. She was insulted. Our family was insulted. By some dog, some . . . boy, at the school. The son of a man who is too important to upset.’

A few lonesome flakes of sleet, grey and wet, smeared themselves against the kitchen window over the sink as Miguel washed out the cup. None of the trees retained more than a couple of brown leaves, and their branches resembled the withered hands of dead men reaching up from the grave.

‘But does this boy get punished?’ he went on. ‘Oh no. I am the parent who is called in to explain himself. Sofia is the one upon whom correction must fall. While this smirking little puta . . .’ He paused. ‘Again, I am sorry.’

He found Maive Aronson shaking her head when he turned away from the bleak view out of the window. ‘That poor child has been through so much, Miguel. I suppose that’s what makes her such an attractive target to some. All of that pain, out on display.’

‘If that is so, they are foolish,’ replied Miguel. ‘Great pain she has in abundance, but great strength with it. As this foolish boy discovered while he spat his broken teeth out on the ground.’

‘Oh dear,’ said Maive, although she did not seem particularly disapproving. ‘So she’s at home now, studying, I suppose?’

‘Studying, yes,’ he answered. ‘Or sulking.’

‘Well, that is a pity. But it is important that you’re seen to do the right thing, even if you disagree with it.’

She began clearing up the table. Using the tea towel under the cooling muffin tray to brush up the crumbs. Pouring the remains of her drink, more than half again, down the sink after the dregs of Miguel’s.

‘Will you still want to go to the mid-week markets this morning?’ she asked.

He nodded. ‘We will need groceries before the weekend.’

It was also true that he looked forward to spending time with Maive, particularly since Trudi Jessup had transferred back to Seattle with her government job. Apart from Maive and Sofia, he knew nobody in Kansas City. Adam, the teenager who had impressed him so much, was now with relatives in Canada. Miguel missed him more than he might have imagined. He had come to regard the boy almost as a son over the long months on the trail. And a friend, if a young one.

He had no friends here, save for Maive, of course. The men he worked with at the railway cattle yards were mostly Indians, and he found them difficult to get on with. They spoke English, true, but sometimes it seemed like they spoke a very different version of the language. Even the Americans had trouble with them from time to time. Mostly he did his job there and came home. It was only a temporary position, at any rate; a place the government had put him so that he’d be available for interviews by investigators, agents and the small army of men and women who seemed to want to know everything about his time in Texas. Even if they never did anything about what had happened there.

‘I should get my bag, then,’ said Maive. ‘Shall we walk or drive? The weather isn’t that nice, but the radio said it probably wouldn’t get much worse either.’

‘We shall walk, I think,’ Miguel decided, mindful of the fact that the federales were cutting back on the paltry gas ration again, as well as increasing the price to twenty new dollars a gallon. Maive’s salvaged Jeep Wrangler was not the most fuel-efficient vehicle, in any case. ‘I shall carry your groceries for you,’ he added gallantly.

‘Thank you, Miguel. You’re a very good friend.’


3


DEARBORN HOUSE, SEATTLE, WASHINGTON


‘I don’t think you should go to Texas, Mr President. The precedents aren’t good.’

James Kipper made a show of furrowing his brow and mashing up his lips. Culver had learned to think of this as his I’m-not-happy face. It was getting an Olympic-standard workout this morning. The White House Chief of Staff absorbed his boss’s displeasure with the unflappable air of a man who knew he was right. Because he was. Jed Culver was always right.

‘I think the longer I stay out of Texas, Jed,’ Kipper protested, ‘the more it looks like I’m too frightened to show my face down there. He hasn’t seceded, despite all his Republic of Texas bullshit. We’re all still living in the same country. And I really think it’s time I went down there. After all, with the election coming up . . .’ The President left the statement hanging there, dropping his chin and regarding Culver with an expression that said: Ha! What d’you think of them apples, fella?

They were alone and the Chief of Staff actually allowed himself a small snicker of amusement. Kip was at his funniest when he was trying to play politics. It just didn’t suit the man at all.

‘The last thing we need before the election, Mr President, is Mad Jack Blackstone kicking your ass from one end of his snaggletooth republic to the other.’ That’s what I think o’ them apples, fella.

He could see the boss looked even more put out than before – a common occurrence whenever Culver had reason to remind him of his naïveté. That happened less frequently these days, especially after New York. But for a politician, even one press-ganged into high office, Kip could still be maddeningly childlike in the way he viewed the world. Jed felt the need to explain. They still had a few minutes before the cabinet members arrived for the morning meeting.

‘Right now, sir, Blackstone is looking for any excuse to paint you as a weak, soft-hearted fool. And he’s very carefully picking his fights to make himself look like the Great White Hope, quite literally. There are so many things we need from him right now that if you fly down to Fort Hood, you’ll have no choice but to lay our demands on the table and he’ll have no qualms about laughing in your face. He won’t even be cruel about it. He’ll do it in such a way as to make it obvious that you don’t know what you’re talking about, you can’t possibly be trusted to run the country, you’re a lovely man, but soft and weak, and the sooner we get rid of you the better.’

Kipper narrowed his eyes and leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers and frowning at Culver over the top of them. The first real frost of the winter lay hard against the windows of Dearborn House, sheathed in Christmas decorations just that morning. Outside the big picture window that framed Kipper at his desk, dirty grey clouds scudded slowly across the sky, obscuring the upper floors of Seattle’s taller buildings. The President seemed to lose himself for moment, staring at a picture of his daughter, Suzie, in a small silver frame on his desk. He sighed.

‘Why am I here, Jed?’

‘I’m sorry, Mr President?’

‘No, really. Why am I here? I just wonder some days, that’s all. There’s so much that needs doing to rebuild this country. We all know what’s needed. You, me, Blackstone, Congress, Sarah Palin, Sandra Harvey – Abe, the guy down the market who sells me my sausages. We all know what needs to be done. So why the hell can’t we just get on and do it? Why can’t I do my job? Pass my budget, get my tax law through, the migration bill, the energy bill – any of it? At every single step of the way, I got somebody telling me what I can’t do. Even though we all agree what has to be done . . .’

He swivelled his chair around to stare out the window. His mood was as bleak as the weather.

‘I’m just wondering what the point is,’ Kip added resignedly. ‘That’s all.’

He’d been like this since the Battle of New York. Or rather, since he returned to the Big Apple a couple of weeks after the last of the diehards were killed or run off. It was as though James Kipper had decided to assume responsibility for every death, for every piece of rubble. It didn’t matter how many times Jed, Barbara or anybody else told him he had done what needed doing, that he had seen off an unexpected but deadly serious threat to the republic, and shown the world that an America laid low would still not countenance the designs of any foe upon her land or her sovereignty.

Kip had been the most reluctant of warrior kings, and having seen the cost of taking up sword and shield to expel the so-called Emir and his pirate allies from Manhattan, he seemed to have lost the stomach for any kind of fight. He was a tinkerer, a builder, an engineer; not a destroyer. Even his impacted rage at the attacks on settlers in the Texas Federal Mandate had abated as those attacks tapered off. He was a problem-solver by nature, and once a problem went away, his interest shifted elsewhere.

Culver, who had been comfortably reclined in a dark leather club chair that had become known as ‘his’ whenever he was in the Oval Office, put aside the folder of papers he’d been holding and heaved himself up to his feet. A one-time college wrestler, he’d always been a big guy, and he found the constant round of state dinners and cocktail parties in the new national capital ruinous to his waistline. Kipper was a lean and hungry-looking wraith in comparison. Jed grunted as he stood up. He was really going to have to start that walking routine his doctor and Marilyn, his wife, were forever hassling him about.

‘You’re here because you’re here, Kip,’ he said.

That got his attention. Jed almost never called him by his nickname. The President turned away from the window with its melancholy view of leafless trees and a slate-grey sky.

‘Somebody has to do this job,’ the former Louisiana attorney continued, ‘and it’s better done by a good man like you than an asshole like Blackstone or a feral, crazy eco-nazi like Sandra fucking Harvey. It’s not much fun, but someone’s gotta do it. So man up, buddy. You’re the guy.’

The President smiled as if conceding a pawn in a long game of chess. ‘Suppose you’re right,’ he admitted. ‘Nobody held a gun to my head and told me to do this. Although, you know, I think Barbara might have. She really surprised me back then.’

She had. Culver well remembered Kipper’s shock upon discovering that his wife had been quietly working with the resistance to the then General Blackstone’s martial law regime, imposed upon the Pacific Northwest in the panic and chaos of spring 2003. She hadn’t surprised Culver, however. As soon as he’d met Barbara Kipper he’d judged her capable of reaching hard conclusions and acting upon them in a way that her husband wasn’t. Not immediately, anyway. Kip was just too trusting of people. He wanted to think the best of them and it often stayed his hand when he needed to do his worst.

‘Guess we better bring them on in, if they’re ready,’ said the President.

He started to straighten up his tie before thinking otherwise and loosening it further instead. A fire blazed and crackled in the small hearth, adding its warmth to the under-floor heating. As always, Kipper had discarded his jacket as soon as he sat down that morning. He worked with his sleeves rolled up, citing the Kennedy precedent if anyone questioned him. ‘Anyone’ usually being his wife, and occasionally his Chief of Staff. If they didn’t keep a close watch on him, he’d turn up to work in jeans, boots and one of his old hiking shirts.

Jed buzzed Kipper’s secretary, Ronnie, to check whether the Cabinet group were ready yet, and when she answered yes, told her to send them in. Barney Tench was first through the door, still licking his fingers from the small tray of pastries set out for visitors in the anteroom, and looking only marginally guilty. Like Barbara, Kip’s old pal Tench had thrown in his lot with the resistance; but unlike her, he had suffered for it. Blackstone had issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of sedition. That had been enough to convince Kipper, then a mere city engineer working closely with Blackstone, that the man had to go.

It was tempting to imagine they’d all moved on such a long way from those first horrible days. Barney would seem to be living proof of that, thought Jed. Instead of being arrested and possibly hung or shot under martial law, Tench was now the chief of Kipper’s national reconstruction efforts, a job that brought him into regular contact with Blackstone, who’d gone on to become the Governor of Texas. But they hadn’t moved on that far, had they? Because Blackstone was still a gigantic pain in the ass, still the most dangerous man in America, at least to Jed’s way of thinking. But to a lot of other people, he was a hero.

Kipper and Barney greeted each other as old friends and co-conspirators, with smiles and handshakes devoid of any pro forma posturing. For one brief moment they really were just a couple of old college buds who didn’t get to see each other nearly enough. Not outside of the crushing demands of their respective jobs, anyway. Tench was frequently away from Seattle, either supervising some project out in the boonies, or overseas wrangling aid and redevelopment funds out of the small coterie of allied nations willing and able to lend a hand.

Behind him entered the Treasury Secretary, Paul McAuley, followed by the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Sarah Humboldt, and the country’s newly minted National Security Advisor, Admiral James Ritchie. Jed was happy to have the old salt on board. Were it not for Ritchie, the chances were pretty good that Jed himself wouldn’t be standing here. They’d met in Honolulu during the first hours after the Wave had swept across the continental US, when Culver had understood the importance of attaching himself to what was left of the nation’s power structure. He believed that Ritchie’s leadership had been one of the main reasons the remnant population of America hadn’t turned on each other in a snarling tangle of fear and madness. He lobbied Kip hard to rescue the man from the backwater he’d been lost in for the last couple of years, securing the military’s stock of WMDs; important work, for sure, but not the best use of Ritchie’s talents.

‘Admiral, good to see you,’ said Culver. ‘Pull up a pew, and let’s get started, shall we. The President’s not one for standing on ceremony.’

‘So I’ve learned,’ replied Ritchie, who still insisted on the formalities. A little like Jed, in fact.

As everyone distributed themselves around the room, Kipper’s secretary wheeled in a trolley bearing coffee pots and plates of cookies.

‘Thanks, Ronnie,’ said Kip.

In a nod to his constant reading of presidential history, Kip referred to the informal working group as his ‘Garage Cabinet’, riffing off Andrew Jackson’s Kitchen Cabinet. They met in this form once a month. If Kip could’ve pulled it off, they would have met in greasy Levi’s in a garage with a fully stocked beer fridge. His Chief of Staff, ever the crusher of dreams, killed that one off but allowed the name to stand. Andrew Jackson might have had Culver shot for such a thing, whereas Kip merely sighed and agreed. A sign of the times.

Full Cabinet meetings were scheduled as frequently, but Jed programmed them to run two weeks out from the small meetings. It meant he had to endure constant grumbling from the other Cabinet secretaries, who felt themselves locked out of the more important decision-making group, but bottom line, this was a much more efficient arrangement. They had everybody at the table – in this case a coffee table – whom Jed thought necessary to deal with the most pressing problems and rolling crises.

When everybody had found their places, settled themselves into chairs, and in most cases poured themselves a coffee and grabbed a cookie – peanut butter and chocolate chip, a specialty of the First Lady – Chief of Staff Culver got the meeting under way.

‘Thanks, everyone. It’s not much fun travelling through this weather, I know. And I know you’re all up to your eyeballs in work. You’ll have seen on your agenda papers that we have just a couple of things to get through today, but it’d be good to shake these out before we take them to the Cabinet in a fortnight. The President’s not looking to lock down a caucus position today. But we’ve been kicking some of these issues around for a couple of months now, and the time is coming to deal with them so we can move on to our next end-of-the-world crisis. Mr President?’

‘Thanks, Jed,’ said Kipper, examining his fingernails. The presidency had not entirely removed the calluses or the stains of engineering work from his hands. He had a single sheet of paper with the meeting agenda sitting in front of him, held down by a mug of coffee and covered in crumbs from one of his wife’s cookies. ‘What Jed said . . . Miserable weather, and it’s only getting worse. Gonna be a snowed-in Christmas, I reckon.’

Kipper brushed the crumbs away, folded his arms to hide his hands, and leaned forward over the large teak desk, looking like a student worrying over a term paper.

‘So, let’s get it done. Two items today are related, I think. The budget deficit and Texas. So I think we should deal with the other item first – the prisoners from New York.’

Jed could see Paul McAuley consciously subdivide his attention, the Treasury man listening closely enough to be able to follow any discussion about the captured enemy aliens in Manhattan, while leaving most of his thoughts swirling madly around the Gordian knot of the budget deficit. Sarah Humboldt, naturally, sat forward, putting aside her coffee and fetching a sheaf of documents from the tote bag she had carried into the room with her. The National Security Advisor nodded slowly, but his expression remained masked.

‘Jed tells me we have just under four-and-a-half thousand people in detention on the East Coast,’ the President continued. ‘Most of them women and children, relatives of the jihadists who fought for that asshole Baumer.’

‘I believe his formal title is “the Emir”,’ deadpanned Barney Tench.

‘Okay, that asshole the Emir . . . Anyway, we have thousands of displaced people, and about three hundred of his former soldiers, or fighters, or whatever you want to call them.’

‘“Assholes” works for me,’ said Tench.

Because of Kipper’s almost pathological informality, anybody in the room could probably get away with talking like that. But only Barney, his oldest living friend, felt comfortable enough to do so. The President answered his interruption with a lopsided grin, before carrying on.

‘Question is, as it’s always been, what are we going to do with them? I don’t want to force repatriations on women and kids, when we’d be sending most of them back to a radiated wasteland. Thank you, Israel. On the other hand, having tried to take something by force, these people shouldn’t be rewarded by being given what they tried to take. In this case, the right to settle. So, suggestions?’

Jed had one, but it involved putting them all on a garbage scow and towing it out into the mid Atlantic at the height of hurricane season. Perhaps if he’d been working for Mad Jack Blackstone he’d have put it forward, but having tried a few times in this forum, he knew it wouldn’t float. So to speak. Instead, he picked a few pieces of lint from the cuffs of his trousers.

JSmith
February 29th, 2012, 01:20 AM
Ok so its out already but not for too long

http://www.amazon.com/Mirage-Novel-Matt-Ruff/dp/0061976229/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330478237&sr=1-1



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THE MIRAGE


Matt Ruff


http://d188rgcu4zozwl.cloudfront.net/content/B005HF9CCU/images/302486366.jpg





Dedication (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

FOR

MY PARENTS



Epigraph (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))


When God wants to punish you,
He grants your wish.



—AMERICAN PROVERB
Contents


Cover (http://www.amazon.com/The-Mirage-ebook/dp/B005HF9CCU/images/988529311.jpg)



Title Page (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))


Dedication (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))



Epigraph (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))


Prologue: 11/9 (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))



Book One: The Mirage (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))



Book Two: The Republic of Nebuchadnezzar (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))



Book Three: The Glory and the Kingdom (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))



Book Four: The Stone (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))



Epilogue: The City of the Future (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))


Acknowledgments (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))


About the Author (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))



Also by Matt Ruff (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))



Credits (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))



Copyright (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))



About the Publisher (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))


Prologue (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

11/9 (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))


This is the day the world changes.

It’s 21 Shaban, year 1422 after the Hijra. Or as the international trade calendar would have it: November 9, 2001. Sunrise in Baghdad is at 6:25, and as the first rays strike the Tigris and Euphrates twin towers, an old man stands in the main dining room of the Windows on the World restaurant, gazing out at the city.

The morning commute is well under way, cars streaming in along the expressways from Fallujah, Samarra, Baqubah, and Karbala. Across the Tigris, the 6:30 Basra Limited loops around the old World’s Fair grounds and runs briefly parallel to the Sadr City El before both trains plunge underground into the central station. There’s traffic on the river, too: passenger and cargo barges, water taxis, the racing shells of the Baghdad U rowing team, the hydrofoil ferry from Kut.

Looking down at it all, the old man feels a sense of vertigo that has nothing to do with fear of heights. He tells himself it’s the motion, the city’s ceaseless motion, which the rush hour only amplifies.

The old man grew up in Yemen. His family owned a bakery, and he and his brothers all worked there. It was hard work, long hours, but every day, five times a day, everything stopped, employees and customers alike stepping out to go to mosque, leaving only a Christian behind to mind the ovens. It wasn’t just the town’s businesses that shut down: A witness viewing that landscape from above would have seen the roads empty too, even long-distance travelers pulling over to pray.

Baghdad, city of the future, doesn’t pull over for anything. Here when the old man steps out of the kitchen for dawn prayer, it’s not just Christians who stay behind working. Here attendance at mosque varies, as if it were the world’s schedule, not God’s, that needed to be accommodated. Here the traffic flows round the clock, pausing only for accidents and gridlock. Little wonder that the sight of it disorients him, producing the flutter in his chest and inner ear that says This is not the place you were made for.

Or so he tells himself. But really, what else could it be?

Someone calls his name from the kitchen. It’s time to get back to work. There’s another round of pastries to get out before breakfast service starts at seven, and then he needs to begin prepping for lunch.

A helicopter buzzes past the windows, and the sun continues to rise, revealing a sky streaked by contrails. The heavens are in motion, too.

7:15 a.m. In a broadcast studio just blocks from the towers, Baghdad’s mayor, Anmar al Maysani, is appearing on the Jazeera & Friends morning talk show. Today’s topic is the skyrocketing murder rate: 463 people have been killed in Baghdad since January, and the year’s final tally is expected to top five hundred. It’s the worst violence the city has seen since the mob wars of the early ’90s.

The mayor has some explaining to do. After being introduced as a “noted feminist,” she’s braced to spend the allotted time discussing whether some jobs aren’t better left to men after all, and is surprised when the host’s first question is about another subject entirely.

“Madam Mayor, there are many who believe that the increase in lawlessness we are seeing is an inevitable consequence of the secularization of society, and that what’s needed is a new Awakening, a rejection of modernity and a return to traditional religious values. What do you say to this?”

“Well,” the mayor replies, “the first thing I would say is that God is great, and nothing is more important than the struggle to live righteously. If citizens are inspired to rededicate themselves to that struggle, that’s the best news that could come out of this unfortunate situation. But I don’t agree with the connection you’re trying to draw between so-called secularization and lawlessness. If you look closely at the statistics, you’ll find that the increase in murders is being driven by a rise in organized crime activity. When men turn to violence in their pursuit of illegal profits, the problem isn’t that they’ve failed to submit to God; the problem is that they’re gangsters.”

A dry cough from the show’s other guest, the publisher of the Baghdad Post, gets the host’s attention. “Mr. Aziz? You have a comment?”

“I’m just a poor Christian,” Tariq Aziz says, “and I wouldn’t dream of lecturing my Muslim brothers and sisters on the struggle to be righteous, but if men are choosing to become gangsters, that would seem to me a clear sign that they are not submitting to God . . .”

“Madam Mayor? Your response?”

“If Tariq Aziz feels he’s a poor Christian, I won’t argue with him,” the mayor says. “Perhaps it would benefit Mr. Aziz to contemplate a line from the Psalms of David: ‘I will not have an evildoer for a friend.’ There are several verses from chapter 63 of Holy Quran that I might also recommend to him . . .”

“I’d recommend the mayor review the laws against slander,” Aziz shoots back.

“I’m only too happy to focus on the law,” the mayor says. “It’s through law and order that we’ll solve this problem, God willing.”

“But that raises another issue, doesn’t it?” says the host. “For several years now, you’ve been the public face of the law in this city. And yet things have gotten worse.”

“Recently they have, but—”

“Yes, recently, even as you’ve been given greater authority by the city council. Some people might say that’s a sign you’ve been given too much authority, that you’re not up to the responsibilities of your office. Some might go farther, and say that God has placed a natural limit on how much responsibility any woman can handle, and that you’ve tried to exceed that limit, with predictable results. Madam Mayor . . . Your thoughts?”

7:59. Down by the river, it’s time for another round in the War on Drugs: A young boat pilot, having just tied up to a pier under the July 14th Bridge, finds himself surrounded, not by the smugglers he was expecting, but by uniformed agents of Halal Enforcement.

The lead agent is a big man named Samir with a bodybuilder’s physique. “Before you lie to me,” he says, wagging a warning finger in the youth’s face, “I want you to think about something. We know your name is Khalil Noufan. We knew you were coming here, and we know what your cargo is. We know you have an uncle Ziad who’s up to his ears in gambling debts. We know all that, so ask yourself: What else do we know?”

The boy blinks slowly, his expression suggesting he’ll never win any science prizes. When he speaks, it’s as if he’s reading off a cue card: “I’m transporting fruit.”

“Right.” Another agent has boarded the boat and is prodding a pile of boxes whose labeling indicates they contain bananas. Hearing a telltale clink, he jokes: “It must have been very cold out on the water this morning.” He tears open a box at the top of the pile and extracts a glass container. “Look at that, frozen in the shape of a wine bottle. What are the odds?”

The boat pilot blinks a bit faster and switches to his fallback story: “It’s for the Jews. To use in the main synagogue.”

Samir laughs. “You hear that, Isaac?” he says to the agent in the boat. “Your grand rabbi’s smuggling Sabbath wine again.”

“Ah, I hate it when he does that.”

Samir turns his attention back to the boy: “Why would Jews smuggle wine when they can import it legally?”

“To, to save on the taxes . . .”

“What, they’re going to risk jail for a few riyals?”

“They’re Jews!”

All of the agents laugh at this. On the boat, Isaac breaks the seal on the “wine” bottle and extracts the cork. He sniffs, then sips, the contents.

“Well?” Samir says.

“A fine Scottish vintage.” Isaac takes a more substantial swallow from the bottle. “Around eighty proof, I’d say.”

“ ‘Proof?’ ” The boat pilot is beyond his prepared script now. “What’s ‘proof’?”

“Hard liquor, asshole,” Samir tells him. “That’s a class-A felony charge. Multiple felony charges, if we decide to count each box as a separate shipment. How many boxes, Isaac?”

“At least forty. And it looks like there are two dozen bottles per box, so if you really want to be a hard-ass you could count them double.”

Samir whistles. “Eighty felony charges . . . And that’s with a mandatory five-year sentence per charge. I know you’re probably no good at math, but do you understand how fucked that makes you?”

“No! It’s wine! They told me—”

“ ‘They’ who? Hey!” Samir grabs him by the chin. “Look at me. Who hired you?”

“No one . . . The Jews.”

“The Jews!” Samir snorts in disgust. Still gripping the boy’s chin, he leans in close: “Eighty felony charges. That’s as good as a life sentence, you get that?”

“I . . . I . . .”

“Oh, that’s good, start crying. That’ll really help, where you’re going . . .” Leaning in even closer, as if for a kiss, his voice dropping to a seductive whisper: “You have beautiful eyes, you know that? The other prisoners at Abu Ghraib—I bet they’ll love those eyes . . .”

8:23. At Baghdad International Airport, a pair of ABI agents have set up a surveillance post on the roof of the air traffic control tower. The object of their interest is a palatial estate to the east, located on an island in the middle of an artificial lake. A causeway lined with other, lesser mansions links the island to the lakeshore, and the control tower offers an excellent vantage for recording the license plates of vehicles on the causeway.

While the male agent, Rafi, peers through a camera-equipped telescope at the estate, the woman, Amal, chats with an airport manager who’s followed them up here. Ostensibly the conversation is about a baggage-theft ring the manager claims to have knowledge of, but Amal suspects what he’s really after is her phone number.

“. . . Persians with forged work visas,” the manager is saying. “They sneak across the border through the marshlands and pay the local riffraff to provide them with fake papers.”

“Persians.” Amal grasps the subtext readily enough. The manager’s southern accent and dialect mark him as a native of the Gulf peninsula, and because Amal and Rafi are federal agents, he has apparently concluded that they are at least honorary Riyadhis—and Sunnis. As opposed to the no-good Persians and Iraqi marshlanders, who are Shia. “You know, we’re pretty familiar with the local riffraff,” she says, gesturing towards the lake estate, “and I have to tell you, he’s not so fond of Persians. Or the people of the marshes.”

“Ah, that’s not the riffraff I’m talking about. He’s a wicked man, it’s true, but the criminals you should be investigating are the ones in city hall.”

Amal feigns astonishment. “You’re saying the Baghdad mayor’s office is corrupt?”

“Are you kidding? That incompetent woman comes from the same swamp that the Persians are always sneaking through, so what does that tell you?” The manager pauses, momentarily entranced as the breeze stirs a loose strand of Amal’s hair. “You know,” he continues, “you look a bit like her.”

“Well, that’s flattering!”

The manager smiles. “I said she was corrupt and incompetent, not ugly! And of course you’re much younger than she is.”

“Yes,” Amal says. “Young enough to be her daughter, in fact.” Behind her she hears a sound that she at first takes to be Rafi snickering, but it’s actually the camera shutter. “Something happening?”

“One of the sons is on the move,” Rafi says. “Uday, I think.”

Amal takes a look. A yellow sports car has just exited the front gate of the estate and is racing down the causeway. “That’s Uday all right. Qusay drives the red one.” She turns back to the manager, who’s still smiling in a way that makes her wish she’d worn a bigger headscarf. “Anyway . . .”

“Please.” The manager stops her. “I can see you’re busy. Perhaps . . . we could talk more later?”

Amal has to make an effort not to roll her eyes. “I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you give me your card, and I’ll see if—”

He’s already reaching for his wallet. But before he can fumble out a business card, his cell phone rings. “Yes . . . ?” As he listens to the caller, his smile fades.

“What is it?” Amal asks, after he hangs up. His face gone grave, he ignores the question, reaching past Amal to tug at Rafi’s sleeve.

“Excuse me . . .”

“What?” says Rafi, annoyed.

“I’m afraid there’s a problem.”

“Yes, we know. Give Amal your card, like she said, and we’ll—”

“No,” the manager says. “This is something else. Something serious. An Arabian Airlines flight out of Kuwait City has been—”

His phone rings again. More bad news.

“What’s going on?” says Amal. “Has the plane been hijacked?”

No response. It’s like she’s suddenly invisible. The manager stares at Rafi, but Rafi stares right back, waiting for the guy to answer Amal’s question.

“Two,” he finally says. “Two planes . . . At least two.”

8:41. Another Halal agent, a thin, wiry man with a mustache, arrives at the riverbank. The agents already on scene have opened up additional bottles of “evidence,” and the gathering now seems less like an arrest and more like a party, with everyone except the handcuffed guest of honor in a festive mood.

“Hey, Mustafa!” Samir calls to the new arrival. “About time you got here!”

“What do we have?”

“Another Jewish wine-smuggling conspiracy.” Samir laughs and offers him an open bottle, but Mustafa waves it away.

“What is it really? More Scotch whiskey?”

“A mixed assortment. Whiskey mostly, looks like, but also some vodka, and some horrible cherry concoction.”

“This one tastes like coffee!” Isaac calls from the boat.

“I’m hoping for a nice arak, myself,” Samir says.

“Just the thing, with Ramadan coming up,” says Mustafa, his tone more than his words causing Samir to raise an eyebrow. Mustafa nods at the weeping boat pilot. “This is our smuggler?”

“Yes,” Samir says, still reacting to the Ramadan comment. “A real hard case, as you can see.”

“I suppose you didn’t wait to see if anyone would show up to meet him.”

“Why bother? If we know about this shipment, you can bet Saddam knows we know. The real shipment’s probably being unloaded upriver somewhere while we’re busy with this decoy.”

“Busy.” Mustafa shakes his head. “You’d better hope no one with a camera catches you being ‘busy’ with that bottle.”

“What’s gotten into you this morning, Mustafa? Why are you late?”

“My car wouldn’t start.”

“And for that you’re being an asshole? You’ve been fighting with the wives again, haven’t you? Which one, Noor?”

Mustafa points to the dusty hatchback he drove to the pier. “Does that look like something I’d borrow from Noor?”

“Ah,” Samir says. “Fadwa then. That’s a shame. Still, no need to take it out on me.”

“Let’s just knock this off before the Post does an exposé on corruption at Halal.”

“Fine, fine,” Samir says. “All right everybody, let’s start wrapping things up—”

The other agents, clustered by the boat, are all staring at something in the sky to the south. Even the boat pilot has stopped crying and raised his head to look.

“What . . . ,” Samir says, turning. “Huh. He’s awfully low . . .”

Mustafa is the last to look around. He catches only the briefest glimpse of the jet before it passes overhead, engines screaming. The impact is hidden from view by the structure of the bridge; they’ll watch it later, of course, replayed endlessly on television, but in the moment it’s only a loud boom, followed by the screams of people who can see it.

Then for just a second there is silence, a pocket of stillness during which some instinct makes Mustafa look not towards the hidden tower but at the car that brought him here. “Fadwa,” he says, and a shockwave passes beneath his feet, leaving a different world in its wake.



Book One (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
The Mirage (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))



THE LIBRARY OF ALEXANDRIA

A USER-EDITED REFERENCE SOURCE

United Arab States

This page is currently protected from editing to deal with repeated acts of vandalism. To suggest changes, please contact an administrator.
The United Arab States is a federal constitutional republic made up of 22 states, one federal district, two religious districts, and several territories. Situated largely in the Eastern Hemisphere, it occupies the entirety of the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant, most of Mesopotamia, North Africa, and Northeast Africa, and numerous islands in the surrounding waters. It shares land borders with Turkey, Kurdistan, Persia, and various African nations.

At over 14 million square kilometers and with more than 360 million people, the United Arab States is the world’s second largest country by total area and third largest by population . . .

HISTORY

Birth of a nation

The UAS was born from the ashes of the Arab League, a loose federation of Middle Eastern states that broke away from the Ottoman Empire near the end of the 19th century. Having successfully—if tentatively—declared independence from the Empire, the members of the League fell almost immediately to fighting amongst themselves along clan and sectarian lines. The bloody civil war continued until an attempt at reconquest by the Ottomans caused the League to once again unite against a common foe. Supported by a newly independent Egypt and the armies of the House of Saud, the League routed the Ottoman invasion force.

Following the armistice, the victors gathered in Egypt to discuss their future. In what became known as the miracle of Alexandria, the various parties managed to set aside their differences and agree on a plan to form a new and more lasting union, “One nation under God.”

At its founding the UAS consisted of thirteen states—Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, the Emirates, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Syria, and Yemen—and the religious district of Mecca-Medina. The nation’s capital was initially at Cairo, but within a few years, during the presidency of Abd al Aziz ibn Saud, it was moved to Riyadh.

Early growth

The new nation’s geographic location made it a nexus of international trade, and despite an ongoing feud between Egypt and the federal government over control of the Suez Canal, the economy grew rapidly. The discovery of major petroleum reserves in the 1910s added further to the economic boom. While Christian Europe tore itself apart in war, the UAS embarked on an ambitious project of industrialization . . .

The world at war

Towards the end of the 1930s, war broke out again in Europe and Asia. The UAS attempted to remain neutral, but German and Italian threats against the Muslims of North Africa, and Japanese aggression in Malaya and Indonesia, made this impossible . . . In 1941 the UAS unleashed its military might against the Axis . . . By 1943, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Mauritania had all been liberated, and joined the union . . . In July 1944 a newly armed and trained Maghrebi invasion force stormed the beaches of southern France while allied Arab, Persian, Turkish, and Kurdish forces captured Rome and the Russian Orthodox Army launched its own series of offensives against the German eastern front . . . In the Southeast Asian Theater, Arab and Indian marines liberated the last of the Indonesian archipelago and struck north into the Philippines . . . In August 1945, after a third atomic bomb was dropped on Tokyo, Japan surrendered, ending the war . . . In December 1946, Adolf Hitler was beheaded at Nuremberg . . .

1948: Israel, the Orthodox Union, and the beginning of the Cold Crusade . . . President Nasser and the Arab Unity Party . . . “One small step for a Muslim . . .” The Islamic Awakening and the war in Afghanistan . . . “Black Arabs”: Somalia and Sudan join the Union . . . The Mexican Gulf War . . .

11/9 and the War on Terror

On November 9, 2001, Christian fundamentalists hijacked four commercial passenger jetliners. They crashed two of them into the Tigris and Euphrates World Trade Towers in downtown Baghdad, Iraq, and a third into the Arab Defense Ministry headquarters in the federal district of Riyadh. The fourth plane, which is believed to have been bound for either the Presidential Palace in Riyadh or, possibly, Mecca (see Controversies and Myths of 11/9), crashed in Arabia’s Empty Quarter after its passengers attempted to retake control from the hijackers.

Responsibility for the attacks was claimed by the World Christian Alliance, a North American white supremacist group based in the Rocky Mountain Independent Territories. In retaliation, UAS airborne troops captured the city of Denver, and UAS Special Forces backed by strike aircraft launched raids against Alliance strongholds in the surrounding countryside. Thousands of Alliance troops were captured or killed, but the Alliance leadership remained at large.

Even as the fighting in the Rockies continued, President Bandar used his 2002 State of the Union address to announce a broader War on Terror that would include preemptive attacks against “regimes that aid, harbor, or sponsor terrorists.” The president made special mention of America, the United Kingdom, and North Korea, branding them “an Axis of Evil” whose attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction would no longer be tolerated . . .

In March of 2003, Coalition forces launched a successful invasion of America . . . A provisional government was established in the so-called “Green Zone” in Washington, D.C. . . . Hopes for a quick transition to a stable democracy were dashed by outbreaks of violence between rival American factions and by the rise of an anti-Arab insurgency . . . In 2006, with Coalition casualties mounting and no end to the war in sight, the National Party of God suffered heavy losses during the midterm Congressional elections. Candidates closely affiliated with the House of Saud fared especially poorly . . .

Now, with the Arab Unity Party once again in control of both Congress and the executive branch, there is hope that the War in America will soon be over. But even as the first troops return home, there are rumors of new terror threats against the Arab homeland, and fears that Arabia’s most challenging days still lie ahead . . .



The crusader was staying on the eleventh floor of the Rasheed Hotel. He’d arrived in Baghdad in the early afternoon and registered under the name John Huss. Among his possessions was a five-kilogram box of plastic explosives stolen from the army base at Kufah.

Arab Homeland Security knew all about him, or thought they did. His real name was James Travis. A citizen of Texas, he was in the UAS on a student visa that had expired nine months ago. During his last year of medical school, he had fallen in with a band of Protestant fanatics and was now working as their courier. Tomorrow he would meet with the leader of a sleeper cell to deliver the explosives.

AHS headquarters in Riyadh wanted to capture the whole cell, so rather than arrest Travis immediately, a plan had been hatched to disarm him. An agent dressed as a hotel maid waited down the hall from Travis’s room with a dummy munitions box filled with harmless clay. When Travis went to get dinner, the agent would swap out the real plastique and plant tracking devices in Travis’s other luggage.

It was a decent plan, but it did require Travis to leave the room, something that, as of 7 p.m., he showed no sign of doing. As the clock crept towards eight, one of the men staking out the lobby grew bored and began making prank radio calls to the eleventh-floor maid station.

“Amal, room 1169 needs fresh towels.”

“Very funny, Samir.”

“Amal, the gentleman in 1124 would like his pillows fluffed.”

“Very funny, Samir.”

“Amal—”

“Very funny, Samir.”

Silence for a bit. At quarter to eight, Mustafa asked: “Do we know if he’s awake?”

A member of the surveillance team watching the hotel room from across the street clicked in: “He’s still got the window shades drawn, but it looks like the lights are on.”

“His television’s on, too,” added Amal. “I can hear it from here.”

“You know what would be great?” Samir said. “If we had a working camera and microphone inside the room.”

“Very funny, Samir”—this time from the surveillance man. “I told you twice already, the equipment worked fine when we were testing it.”

“Do you want me to knock on the door?” Amal asked. “I could tell him the other guests are complaining about the TV noise.”

“No,” said Mustafa, “I just want him to get hungry. Abdullah? Anything?”

Abdullah was monitoring the hotel switchboard. “He hasn’t tried to call room service. No other landline calls in or out either, and e-comm unit says he hasn’t used a cell phone . . . What if he’s too nervous to eat?”

“A nervous terrorist, that’s just what we need.”

“Maybe his conscience is bothering him,” Samir suggested. “What kind of Christian did you say he was, Mustafa?”

“Methodist.”

“Are those the ones who handle snakes?”

“Hey,” Amal said. “The TV just switched off . . . He’s coming out.”

“All right, everyone check in,” said Mustafa. They were supposed to respond in sequence, but excited by the prospect of something finally happening, everyone spoke at once, and a confusion of voices filled the radio channel.

“He just stepped on the elevator,” Amal announced as the babble subsided. “I’m inside the room . . . Oh, damn it.”

“Amal?”

“Damn it, damn it, damn it . . .” Breathless now, as if she were running: “He’s not a courier.”

On the ground floor, Samir and three other agents made a dash for the elevator bank, arriving just in time to see the descending car pass the lobby without stopping. All the other cars were engaged on upper floors; Samir pounded the down button uselessly, then barked a warning into his radio as he and his companions scrambled to find the stairs.

The crusader, unaware of the flurry of activity above him, stepped out into the quiet of the hotel’s underground parking garage. Although it was a hot summer night, he wore a heavy, oversized sport jacket and kept his left hand tucked inside it.

As he walked across the garage, he recited under his breath: “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible . . . And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God . . .”

A spark from the shadows to his right brought him up short. A thin man with a mustache, cigarette dangling from his lips, stood beside a black van, trying to coax a flame from an ancient brass lighter. The man looked up at the crusader staring at him. “My friend,” he said, “can you help me?”

The crusader didn’t answer. The man took a step towards him, gesturing with the cigarette: “Please, sir. Can I have a light?” He repeated this entreaty in Hebrew and French, and then, when the crusader still didn’t respond, in fractured English. At last the crusader’s left hand came out from inside his jacket. As the crusader reached into his front pants pocket, the man with the mustache took another step forward and punched him in the throat.

The crusader ended up belly-down on the ground, his left hand still trapped in his pocket, his right arm flung up and out, fingers splayed against the concrete. His assailant straddled him, pointing a gun at his sideways-turned head as he gasped for air.

“Easy, Mr. Travis,” Mustafa said, his English dramatically improved. “The only person you can kill now is yourself, and Jesus won’t reward you for that.”

The crusader finally caught his breath, but instead of relaxing he tensed, his face turning an even darker shade of red.

“Don’t . . . ” Mustafa warned, then hesitated, smelling something. Smoke? With a cry the crusader reared up underneath him. Mustafa pulled the trigger but the gun misfired, and then he was bucked off. He scrambled up into a crouch, but the crusader was up too, something shiny and bright appearing in his hand; as Mustafa wielded the gun like a brick, the crusader leaned in and drew a line along the side of Mustafa’s neck. The pain was sharp, simultaneously searing and cold, and Mustafa’s collarbone was suddenly wet. He dropped his gun and clapped both hands to the wound.

He swooned, falling onto his back. The crusader stood over him, arms raised, a wire trailing from his left hand into his jacket. Nearby voices were shouting orders—“Stop! Drop it!”—but the crusader began his recitation again, his own voice rising to drown them out: “And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church, I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the—”

Two shots rang out, and something ugly happened to the back of the crusader’s head. Mustafa, his field of vision starting to narrow, watched fascinated as the dead man swayed a moment more on his feet, left thumb twitching spasmodically.

“God willing,” Mustafa whispered. Travis’s knees buckled and his corpse fell forward. The world grew dim but did not disappear, and then a woman in a maid’s uniform was leaning over Mustafa with a still-smoking pistol in her hand. She called his name.

The next Mustafa knew he was in a hospital bed, shading his eyes against the light from a window whose curtains had just been thrust open. A dark figure stood at the bed’s foot, and in the moment before his vision adjusted Mustafa had the fleeting thought that it might be Satan. Of course that was foolish. Satan doesn’t stand in the light; Satan comes from behind and whispers in your ear.

The figure spoke: “Have you been watching Al Jazeera?”

Not Satan, no. Just Mustafa’s boss. “Hello, Farouk,” he said, his voice a dry whisper. He raised a hand to his neck and felt a thick bandage covering the place where he’d been cut.

“The reason I ask,” Farouk continued, “is that Jazeera’s newscasters have picked up this habit, lately, of referring to our crusader friends as ‘homicide bombers.’ ” He shook his head. “Homicide bombers . . . What does that even mean? A man builds a bomb, of course he wants to kill someone. It’s the suicide part that makes them special.”

A water pitcher and two glasses sat on the bedside table. Mustafa took his time pouring himself a drink. “I thought I could take him alive,” he said finally.

“You say that as if it were a sane idea.”

“I had him on the ground with a gun to his head, Farouk. He should have surrendered.”

“Yes, that’s what a rational criminal would have done.” Farouk fished a small object from his suit jacket. “Here,” he said, offering it to Mustafa. “A souvenir.”

Mustafa turned the slender bit of polished steel over in his hands several times before recognizing it as a lighter.

“Taken from his pocket,” Farouk said.

“How did you know—”

“That you’d asked him for a light? I know all things. I gather the idea was to get his hand away from the bomb trigger. That would have been genuinely smart, if you’d followed up by shooting him in the face.”

Mustafa found the igniter button, and a focused jet of blue flame hissed from the side of the lighter. “He tried to set the explosive on fire?”

“No, himself. The autopsy found burns on his inner thigh and genitals.” Mustafa glanced up sharply at this, and Farouk shrugged. “Maybe he was fighting the temptation to surrender. Maybe he just wanted a burst of adrenaline. The point is, you were trying to reason with a man who’d sooner burn off his dick than be taken alive . . . Tell me this isn’t about Fadwa.”

“Farouk . . .”

“Because I know all things, I know the official declaration finally came through last month. In light of that, I could overlook a certain amount of idiocy. But a death wish is out of bounds.”

“I’m not trying to get myself killed because of Fadwa, Farouk.”

“No? What is it about then, the other wife?”

“You called Noor.”

“Of course I called Noor. Do you know what she said when I told her you were in the hospital?”

“She asked if I was dying. When you said no, she told you to call her back if that changed.”

“That’s it almost word for word. What kind of woman talks that way about her husband?”

“You said it yourself: the other wife.”

Farouk shook his head again. “The more I learn about plural marriage, the more I thank God for making me a Christian.”

Mustafa smiled gamely at the jest, but the reminder that Farouk belonged to the suspect class concerned him: “Is Riyadh giving you a hard time about the mission?”

“They’d like to,” Farouk said. “Unfortunately it was their bad information that screwed things up. The outcome was as good as could be expected, considering. Of course my report glossed over a few details.”

“If you need someone to blame—”

“What I need is the rest of that terror cell. And no more nonsense.” He sighed. “It appears you were right about Amal, at least.”

Amal, a recent transfer to Homeland Security, was the newest member of their team. As a politician’s daughter, she came with two strikes against her, and Farouk had only accepted her under protest. He’d wanted to keep her out of the field, but Mustafa, after reviewing her personnel file, had argued that she deserved a chance.

“How is she?” Mustafa asked. Because he’d seen her records, he knew she’d never killed a man before.

“Quite pleased with herself,” Farouk said. “As she should be. Two head shots from fifteen meters is impressive.” He studied Mustafa’s expression as he said this and didn’t like what he saw. “You’d rather she’d just wounded him? Shot the detonator out of his hand, maybe, like on TV?”

“I’m happy to be alive.”

“You’re lucky to be alive. For that matter so is Amal. Fifteen meters is still well within the lethal radius of a suicide vest. And in case you were too busy bleeding to notice, there were four other agents within blast range as well.”

Readman
February 29th, 2012, 01:58 AM
Whoaaaa ho ho ho wait a bloody tick here. Arab forces clearing out the Axis from N.Africa, landing in Southern France......whooo hoo haaa. That is freakin' rich. :rolleyes:

JSmith
February 29th, 2012, 02:02 AM
Blonde Roots-Quite the map
:eek:

http://www.amazon.com/Blonde-Roots-ebook/dp/B001QIGZEA/ref=sr_1_1_title_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330480708&sr=1-1#reader_B001QIGZEA

Table of Contents

Title Page (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Copyright Page (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Epigraph (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))


Book One (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

OH LORD, TAKE ME HOME (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
THE GOSPEL TRAIN (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
IT (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
DAYLIGHT ROBBERY (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
DOKLANDA (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
THE MIDDLE PASSAGE (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
OH LITTLE MIRACLE (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
WHERE AM I? (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))


Book Two (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

HUMBLE ORIGINS—PERSONAL TRAGEDY (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
SOME ARE MORE HUMAN THAN OTHERS (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
HEART OF GRAYNESS (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
THE SAVING OF SOULS (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
SAILING THE SEAS OF SUCCESS (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
THE BETRAYAL OF KINDNESS (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))


Book Three (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

OH SWEET CHARIOT (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
EENY MEENY MINY MO (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
JUSTICE IS SERVED (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
PARADISE ISLAND (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
A BALM IN GILEAD (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
IN MY MASTER’S HOUSE (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
WADE IN THE WATER (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
POSTSCRIPT (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))


Acknowledgements (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

ALSO BY BERNARDINE EVARISTO

Lara


The Emperor’s Babe
Soul Tourists

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RIVERHEAD BOOKS


Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York
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Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson
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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices:
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Copyright © 2009 by Bernardine Evaristo


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Evaristo, Bernardine, date.
Blonde roots/Bernardine Evaristo.—1st American ed.
p. cm.
eISBN : 978-1-440-69759-3
1. Slave trade-Fiction. 2. Satire. I. Title.
PR6055.V25B
823’.914-dc22














MAP BY ALAN GILLILAND




This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
http://us.penguingroup.com (http://us.penguingroup.com/)

REMEMBERING THE TEN TO TWELVE MILLION AFRICANS
TAKEN TO EUROPE AND THE AMERICAS AS SLAVES
... AND THEIR DESCENDANTS




1444-1888
All things are subject to interpretation: whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.

—FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE




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Book One




OH LORD, TAKE ME HOME


So while my boss, Bwana, and his family are out clinking rum-and-Coke glasses and shaking their wobbly backsides at fancy parties down the road, I’ve been assigned duties in his office to sort through his ledgers. I used to hope that the celebration of Voodoomass would be the one day off in the year for us slaves—but oh no, it’s business as usual.

Outside the window the palm trees that line the avenues are decorated with gold and silver streamers. They are tall, sleek, snooty with the deportment of those who grow up balancing the precious milk of coconuts on their heads; dangling from their glossy green fronds are flickering oil lamps sitting in red-painted cassava gourds.

The cobblestone pavement has been swept smooth of yesterday’s sandstorm, and the hawkers selling takeaways have been sent packing.

Frogs and crickets provide a drunken nighttime chorus while camel-drawn carriages deliver stoosh party guests to our neighboring compounds. The men wear flamboyant kaftans and their glamorously fat women try to outdo one another with peacock-print headscarves tied up into the most extravagant girlie bows.

All the houses are freshly whitewashed, with stained-glass windows depicting the gods: Oshan, Shangira, Yemonja. Stone sphinxes guard porches, and stationed by doorways are torch lamps on tall marble plinths—their flames are slippery blue fingers grasping out at the sticky nighttime air.

From the upper rooms of the houses blast the hectic electronic beats of the young, and from downstairs comes the mellow music of the marimba, amid the laughter and bantering of people who have every reason to celebrate this season of goodwill, because they are free men and free women in the heart of the most expensive piece of real estate in the known world: Mayfah.





CHIEF KAGA KONATA KATAMBA I is the Bwana in question. He made his fortune in the import-export game, the notorious transatlantic slave run, before settling down to life in polite society as an absentee sugar baron, part-time husband, freelance father, retired decent human being and, it goes without saying, sacked soul.

My boss is also a full-time anti-abolitionist, publishing his pro-slavery rants in his mouthpiece, The Flame—a pamphlet distributed far and wide—as a freebie.

In spite of myself, I’d just begun to flick through the latest god-awful issue, feeling my stomach constrict and my throat tighten, when a hand shoved a folded note through the open office window and vanished before I could see who it was attached to.

I opened the note, read the magic words and felt my head suddenly drowning.

Waves crashed and thundered inside my skull.

I let out the most almighty, silent howl.

Then I passed out.

How long for, I’ve no idea, maybe a few minutes, but when I came to I was slumped in my seat, my head dropped forward,the note still in my hand.

I read it again through a film of water.

It was real and it was true—I was being given the chance to escape.

Oh Lord.

After so many years on the waiting list, the thing I most desired was in the palm of my hand. Yet it was all too quick. I sat there frozen. A thousand what ifs ran through my mind. In returning my life to its rightful owner—me—I would also be putting my life at stake. If I wasn’t careful or lucky, I’d end up at the local whipping post or chopping block.

Then my survival instincts kicked in.

My head cleared.

I was back again.

I ripped the note to shreds.

I stood up and looked at the wooden mask of Bwana’ s face on the wall.

And I gave it the right, royal one-finger salute.





THE NOTE TOLD ME THAT the Underground Railroad was operating again after service had been suspended owing to derailment. It was often the case when energy couldn’ t be filched from the city’ power station or the train broke down due to the overload of escaping slaves wanting to cadge a safe ride out of the city, to begin the long journey back to the Motherland.

I hoped I could trust the message because the Resistance was often infiltrated by sleepers who eventually went operational to betray whole rebel cells.

Deep down I knew that the slave traders were never going to give up their cash cow. It was, after all, one of the most lucrative international businesses ever, involving the large-scale transport of whytes, shipped in our millions from the continent of Europa to the West Japanese Islands, so called because when the “great” explorer and adventurer Chinua Chikwuemeka was trying to find a new route to Asia, he mistook those islands for the legendary isles of Japan, and the name stuck.

So here I am in the United Kingdom of Great Ambossa (UK or GA for short), which is part of the continent of Aphrika. The mainland lies just over the Ambossan Channel. It’s also known as the Sunny Continent, of course, on account of it being so flaming hot here.

Great Ambossa is actually a very small island with a growing population to feed, and so it stretches its greedy little fingers all over the globe, stealing countries and stealing people.

Me included. I’m one of the Stolen Ones.

That’s why I’m here.

The note gave me only one hour to get to the disused Paddinto Station and directions on how to find the manhole hidden behind some bushes through which I could slip down into the subway. There I would be met by a member of the Resistance who would lead me through its dank subterranean tunnels. That was the promise, anyway, and if it wasn’ t the practice, I’d be done for.

But I am a firm believer in hope. I am still alive, after all.

The city of Londolo’s Tube trains had officially stopped burrowing many years ago when the tunnels started collapsing under the weight of the buildings above them. The city returned to the slower but more reliable modes of transport: carriages, horses, carts, camels, elephants, stagecoaches and, for the really nutty fitness fanatics, velocipedes. The only vehicle we slaves owned was called Shanks’ Pony.

But here’s the thing: at some point, a bright spark in the Resistance had a brainwave and the disused subway was put to use, enabling many to make their way out of the heavily guarded city of Londolo as far as the docks, where they began the long, hazardous trip back to Europa.

For the first time since I had been taken away, I could seriously consider that I might be returning home. Was it possible? I still had such vivid memories of my parents, my three sisters, our little flint cottage on the estate, and my beloved cocker spaniel, Rory. My family were probably all dead now, if they had survived the raids by the Border Lander men who had been my first captors.

The Ambossans called us tribes, but we were many nations, each with our own language and funny old customs, like the Border Landers, whose men wore tartan skirts with no knickers underneath.



The Ambossans also called Europa the Gray Continent, on account of the skies always being overcast.

But oh, how I longed for those cloudy gray skies.

How I longed for the incessant drizzle and harsh wind slapping my ears.

How I longed for my snug winter woollies and sturdy wooden clogs.

How I longed for Mam’s warm dripping sandwiches and thick pumpkin broth.

How I longed for the fire crackling in the hearth and our family singsong around it.

How I longed for the far northern district from whence I was taken.

How I longed for England.

How I longed for home.





I AM PROUD TO DECLARE that I come from a long line of cabbage farmers.

My people were honest peasants who worked the land and never turned to theft even when it snowed in summer or rained all winter so that the crops miscarried in their pods and turned to mulch.

We weren’t landowners, oh no, we were serfs, the bottom link in the agricultural food chain, although no actual chains clinked on the ground when we walked around. Nor were we property, exactly, but our roots went deep into the soil because when the land changed hands through death, marriage or even war, so did we, and so tied we remained, for generation upon generation.

The deal was that we were leased some fields by our master, Lord Perceval Montague (Percy, behind his back), the umpteenth eldest son in the family to whom my family had an umbilical bond. In return all male serfs were conscripted to be foot soldiers in his battles, and believe you me it was a lawless society back then. It was pretty wild in the far north in those days. If someone wanted to raid your land or steal your flock, they did it through brute force, unless you were able to meet fire with gun-powder, or rally a private army to defend yourself, even if it was just a motley crew of shambolic farmhands.

So we worked our patch of land, as well as Percy’s.

Whatever we harvested, we had to give half to him.

He was supposed to offer poor relief, but rarely did.

We were charged for extras such as taking his cart to go to market or using his grain mill or bread oven, which, if we had poor harvests, meant a debt carried over on our annual accounts for several years.

Montague Manor was an imposing pile of granite, tomblike slabs framed against skies that shuddered beneath the chain mail of the north’s daily bout of rain.

It proved an irresistible attraction to us kids, yet I was the only one of my sisters with enough derring-do to risk succumbing to the lure of the big house.

Once, when everyone was at the annual summer fayre on the estate, my sisters peeping through some bushes as cowardly witnesses, I sneaked in through the manor’s heavy wooden door into the cavernous Grand Hall. I tried to tiptoe, but my clogs echoed around the high ceiling.

The walls were hung with tapestries of fair maidens stroking the horns of unicorns, reindeer antlers spread out like the branches of trees, and a massive bear’s head with salivating gnashers was stuck up directly opposite the front door. Its wet, limpid eyes followed my every move.

When I heard moans coming from deep underneath the ground, I panicked, about-turned and charged out, bumping into a stuffed wolf by the front door, which looked ready to lurch and take a bite. The moans must have come from Percy’s s legendary dungeons where he imprisoned poachers and captives from the Border skirmishes. Eventually they’d be packed off for the long trek through the forests to the next ship docked on the coast bound for the New World—or so we’d heard.

To us peasants, the New World was a distant land far across the seas about which we knew nothing, except that no one wanted to go there, because those that did never came back.

Home was Apple Tree Cottage on the edge of the estate. A hotchpotch of timber beams and earth-packed walls. It was infested with rustling insects. Indeed the whole house was alive with vermin-from the wasps nesting in the straw-thatched roof to the body-hopping fleas for whom our blood was the elixir of life. A front door opened onto a tiny parlor with an earthen floor and a peat fire. Two sleeping spaces were separated by heavy green woolen drapes either side of the corridor that served as the kitchen. We couldn’t afford window glass because of the tax, and so with the shutters closed it was always winter inside.

Madge, Sharon, Alice and I shared a straw mattress. We slept under a multicolored quilt made out of cast-offs stitched by two great-aunts who’d died before we were born. I bagsyed the middle, kept warm by my sisters during those freezing northeasterly nights.

Then there was Rory the dog, who was always bounding around knocking things over even though he wasn’t “a puppy no more,” as Mam’d shout. Her foot would send him on an impromptu long jump from which he’d land with a squeal, legs comically splayed flat.

Our Pa and our Mam were Mr. Jack and Eliza Scagglethorpe.

Pa’s muscles clung to him in hard sinews because there was little fat to shelter his bones. He had a bushy scrag-end of a beard that he “couldn’t be arsed” to trim, and his cheeks were blistered from where the bitter winds had rubbed them raw. He had the stoop of a thin tree blown forward by a gale, because he’d been planting and digging up cabbages since he was a tiny kid.

Pa’s hair was the dark ginger of the folk from the Border Lands. It fell to his shoulders in spirals beneath the wide-brimmed farmer’ s hat he always wore when outdoors.

Before I was old enough to know better, he’d roll up his smock, instruct me to put a finger to the throbbing pulse of the veins on his arms and tell me centipedes lived inside them. I’d run away shrieking with him chasing me, both of us knocking over stools, pails and my sisters in the process.

Pa was passionate about his cabbages, said they had to be treated lovingly, like children. What didn’t I know about flaming cabbages! January King was “crispy and full of flavor,” the Autumn Queen was dark green and the Savoy King was “a tough little bugger.” What didn’t I know about the Cabbage Wars of old, when the Scagglethorpes had fought victoriously for the Montagues against the Paldergraves?

I hated eating cabbage in those BS (Before Slavery) days.

What I’d give for one now.





PA NEVER ONCE COMPLAINED about not having a son, but we all knew what was on his mind, because sometimes when he looked at us, his disappointment was undisguised.

Who was going to carry on the Scagglethorpe cabbage farming tradition?

He’d always shake it off, though.

“Go on,” he’d urge us girls. “Tell me I have one wish.”

“What wish?”



“Don’t be so stupid. Tell me I have a wish. That you can grant me.”

“But we don’t have special powers; we’re not fairy god-mothers.”



“It’s a game, you silly lot. Give me one wish or I’ ll throw a cabbage at your thick skulls.”

“All right then, Pa, you have one wish.”

“Well, now, let’s see. What would I want? Oh, I know what I’d wish for,” he’d say, scratching his chin like the thought was just coming to him.

“To see my girls in those crinolines with expensive whalebones that those ladies up there wear, pretty paste on your cheeks, pearls around your swanlike necks; to see you swirling around at dances with kindly gentlemen on your arms, winning smiles on your lips and glass slippers on your feet.”

“Oooh, don’t be so soppy,” I’d say, before going to fetch the looking glass to see if my neck really was “swanlike.”

That night I dreamed of a lacy yellow crinoline with puffed-up sleeves. My gown was so exquisite, my glass slippers so dainty, that when I ran across the meadows, hair flowing in the wind, everyone gasped at how elegant I’d turned out.

Then I ruined it by getting bunions because the slippers were too tight and one of them cracked and the glass cut into my foot, waking me up with the pain of it.





PA WOULD RISE BEFORE DAYLIGHT had kicked nighttime into touch. He’d return after dark, when he’d be mardy until he’d eaten.

He liked a tankard of ale (only ever admitted the one) of a Friday night after dinner when he’d go to Johnny Johnson’s barn over at None-Go-By Farm for a “wee session” with “the lads”—all old men pushing forty. He’d come home reeking of the barley and herbs in his ale, singing a bawdy song, which we could hear from fields off, then catching his breath as he leaned against the opened door frame blasting cold air into our parlor, ranting on about how “the working man will have his day,” before staggering inside in his manure-caked boots and collapsing into his chair, legs sprawled open, head thrown back so that his bristly Adam’s apple stuck out and quivered.

“How are the lads?” Mam would say out loud once he was snoring, not looking up from her knitting needles, which clacked like warring swords.

I’ ll never forget the first time it was my turn to take Pa hot bread and dripping for lunch.

The clouds had sunk so low from the heavens I couldn’ t find him for ages, until there he was, looming out of the fog, one hand rested on his pitchfork, looking for all the world like a scarecrow, and I suddenly saw how all the backbreaking work had drained him.

He was singing, but not one of his usual smutty songs that made us girls giggle and our mam scowl. Instead he sounded like one of the choir boys at church whose voices hadn’t become coarse and mud-filled and angry from years of breaking up icy ground with shovels, slopping out donkey shit or chopping wood for hours in freezing winter dressed in rough sackcloth, with their bare feet shod only in clogs.

It was the voice of the boy inside the man. The child inside my father.

His heart was full of yearning, for something he’d lost or wanted to have.

My heart crumbled like stale bread.

Are you going to Scarborough Fayre?



Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,


Remember me to one who lives there,


She once was a true love of mine.



On my tenth birthday it was my turn to go out onto the fields blindfolded to pull up the first cabbage of the season. Aged ten you’d already survived the pox, the sweat and just about every other disease that spirited children away early, so it was likely you might grow to adulthood. If the cabbage came up with a lot of earth attached, it meant you’d be rich; if not then you’d be poor.

That spring dawn we all trekked across the damp grass and past trees beginning to unfurl the tiny lavender-colored petals of blossom.

I’d already decided on my career path. I was going to become one of those rare silk-trading women, like that young Margaret Roper from the village at Duddingley who went off on the back of a cart and came back in her own carriage. Like her I’d be apprenticed for seven years; then I’d run my own business. First I had to persuade Pa to persuade Percy to let me go. I knew Pa would scoff at the idea of one of his silly daughters becoming a proper businesswoman.

It didn’t put me off.

The debt would take many years to pay off but eventually I’d be rich enough to settle it myself.

I had it all sorted.

As you do, when you’re ten.

The cabbage came up with a huge clump of sod attached.

I did a cartwheel, singing out, “Wey, hey, hey, the cat and fiddle and the cow jumped over the moon.”

Oh, so it really sodding worked then, didn’t it?





MEMORIES WOULD NOT GET ME to the station on time.

I flew out of Bwana’s office like a leopard on kola nuts and rushed across the compound, the largest in the city. Across the freshly sprinkled, squeaky-green lawn, past the rockery studded with cacti, past the wide-hipped, big-mama palms of the pineapple grove, past the orange and pink slides and roundabouts of the adventure playground, past the saccharine scent of the mangosteen, pawpaw and vanilla trees, past the open-air swimming pool with mosquitoes buzzing over its stagnant surface, past the camel paddocks, and behind all that, finally, to the secreted slave quarters, which had been considerately built next to the sewage dump and pigs’ pen.

There I entered the tiny hut I shared with my roommates: Yomisi and Sitembile.

Yomisi was in her thirties, like me. Only she’d been born Gertraude Shultz on a wheat farm in Bavaria. Aged eighteen she was kidnapped by slave catchers as she made her way back from church one chilly Sunday morning, foolishly taking the shortcut across the graveyard. She eventually ended up in Londolo, sleeping side by side with yours truly. It was an unlikely bonding: I was the optimist, she the pessimist. I clutched my return ticket to my chest, always dreaming of escape; she’d ripped hers to shreds the very first time she was gang-raped by her three kidnappers shortly after capture.

She’d been hell-bent on revenge ever since.

Yomisi was Bwana’s cook. Steel-thin, green-eyed, heavy-lidded, she was forced to wear an iron muzzle in the kitchen to prevent her eating on the job. It encaged her face in metal bands that clamped a perforated plate over her mouth. A lock secured this contraption at the back.

Her lips cracked. Her mouth dehydrated. Her tongue swelled. Her gums bled.

Even when the muzzle was removed at night she spoke through gritted teeth.

Sometimes Bwana vomited the night away or one of his children ran a fever. The runs were commonplace. Bwana’s regular hallucinations bordered on insanity, and the entire family frequently broke out in rashes so unbearable they could be seen clawing off layers of skin in a communal frenzy.

All fingers pointed to the juju of Bwana’ s business enemies, none at the passive, sticklike cook.

Crushed glass.

Rotten meat disguised by strong herbs and spices.

Fungi.

Plants she would not name.

It was the only thing that gave her pleasure.

My second roommate was the cheery young Sitembile, who was in her early twenties. She liked to remind us lesser mortals that she was born Princess Olivia de Champfleur-Saxe-Coburg-Grimaldi-Bourbon-Orleans-Hapsburg in a palace in the ancient land of Monaco. Taken hostage in a war with the French, she was sold into captivity when her father, the king, wouldn’t pay for the release of a girl child when he already had five sons in line to inherit the crown.

Sitembile held the honored position of household toilet cleaner, emptying approximately fifty toilet pots each morning, before spending the rest of the day scooping out the bog holes and hosing them down with lime disinfectant to deter bugs and flies.

When time allowed, and it rarely did, she sat on our stoop, chattering away, embarking on a conversation in her head, letting the listener in halfway through and then being surprised when we complained we didn’ t have a clue what she was going on about.

She’d sit there twisting her hair into pigtails mixed with clay, rubbing ocher into her skin to darken its pigment in the hope that she might be spotted by one of Bwana’ s nicer, younger, more handsome business associates and be whisked away to a new life as a favored mistress. With substantial curves either side of a naturally tiny waist, it was just possible.

Yomisi tried to dampen Sitembile’ s enthusiasm with her oft-declared dictum that dreams and disappointment were inseparable bedfellows.

I helped rub ocher into Sitembile’s smooth, undamaged back, countering that dreams kept our spirits buoyant.

We three women had slipped into one another’s lives and found a way to be together.

Now I was slipping out.

Without saying a word.



OUR SHACK WAS CONSTRUCTED out of corrugated iron that was boiling on summer nights. Not for us the fancy, cool, whitewashed wattle-and-daub residences spread out at the top end of the compound with palm-thatched roofs and mangrove posts and windows and wraparound verandas. No, we either roasted or we froze in our grubby tin boxes, and our neighbor next door was a twelve-foot-high termite mound, which we daren’t disturb as it would most likely rebuild itself inside our dwelling.

As I entered our hut, I knew that the others would be occupied elsewhere in the compound because we never stopped working. Even when it seemed that every job was completed, Madama Blessing, Bwana’s imperious Number One wife, kept everyone busy. The story goes that she was once the sweetest young virgin in town, but that after years of marriage to Bwana, and his accumulation of more and more wives for her to control, the power had gone to her head and she had turned into the gargoyle we all knew and hated.

That day she had been wearing a chunky gold chain, which hung from the folds of her neck, with a ruby-and-diamond-studded Akua’ ba fertility doll as pendant. It was quite ridiculous when she was obviously postmenopausal. A gold ring in the shape of a snarling lion’s head leaped from her manicured hands, so that even when she was trying to be nice, you were reminded that she wasn’ t. A beautiful glared ‘ivory bone shot through her nose, and a lip plug pierced through her bottom lip showed she was a woman with a husband (like anyone needed reminding).

On this most festive of days, she had woken up in one of her charming early-morning moods and ordered every available slave to get down on their hands and knees and scrub the immeasurable lengths of her cherished beige flagstone floors—with soap and a nailbrush. To get deep into the grooves, she explained, sweeping her eyes at the assembled bare feet of her staff before propelling her bulk from the hips and shoulders down the hallway with all the grace of a three-legged, half-blind, three-thousand-pound hippo.

As the eyes are the window of the soul, if she had bothered to look into ours, she would have seen an ax murderer in each and every one of them.

Madama Blessing herself had large startled eyes that dominated her face, and when they swooped and swerved, you prayed they would not rest on you, because if they did it would be with shocked outrage at a crime for which you had to be punished, even though you had not committed it yet. At the same time she had bucket-loads of self-pity, which was often the case with our masters—they were the injured ones, not us. She wore her favorite outfit made out of Adinkra cloth. It was stamped with the design known as Atamfo Atwameho, which means “Enemies Surround Me.”

I gathered up a bundle of my clothing and threw it into a basket, grabbed a wrappa and whipped it over my shoulders. It would hide the nice personalized tattoos that ran across my shoulders. As was the fashion with slave society, the name of my first mistress, Panyin Ige Ghika—PIG—was inscribed.

I was once the companion of PIG’s daughter—Little Miracle.

Oh Little Miracle—more about her later.

When Bwana bought me he had me tattooed with his initials too-KKK.

Can you imagine having a red-hot poker searing into your skin? Twice? The delayed shock reaction as it sizzles and smokes, then the warm bloody tears streaming down your arms and spine?



I DIDN’T HAVE MUCH to take with me. We didn’t wear much because of the heat, which I never did get used to, nor to the Ambossan dress code—the wraparound wrappas—or having to go barefoot, which felt so uncomfortable, especially when I had such fond memories of wearing clogs. How I longed for their cool molded insoles, to feel a mild shudder when the wood impacted on hard ground. And going topless is no joke when you’ve had three children and your breasts swing like soggy butternut squash. And don’t get me started on the hairstyle Madama Blessing insisted I adopt as the household’s most high-status slave. My long straight blonde hair was threaded through with wire and put into plaited hoops all over my head. I wanted to protest that we whytes just didn’t have the bone structure to carry it off. But she expected me to look respectable when I opened the door to her distinguished guests and not like some uncouth wretch from Europa. The guests were usually Members of the House of Governors, the UK’s ruling body, many of them fellow plantation owners who had purchased a seat in the House.

All these thoughts were whirring around in my brain as I raked through the sandy ground beneath my sleeping pallet and brought up an old goatskin pouch filled with forty-six cowrie-pounds.

Kaiphranos
February 29th, 2012, 02:07 AM
Blonde Roots-Quite the map
:eek:

Yeah, that was my thought too...

B_Munro
February 29th, 2012, 02:29 AM
Tryin'-to-be-literary AH mutants, not really my thing...

Anyhoo, a query for Kindle users. A book in Kindle edition can only be read with one of those Kindle E-book readers, correct? the ones that cost over $80?

Bruce

benjamin
February 29th, 2012, 02:50 AM
Tryin'-to-be-literary AH mutants, not really my thing...

Anyhoo, a query for Kindle users. A book in Kindle edition can only be read with one of those Kindle E-book readers, correct? the ones that cost over $80?

Bruce

No. You can download free Kindle reader software to almost any computer. After that just purchase the book through Amazon and download it. I can read mine on my iPhone, iPad, and laptop; while my wife reads hers on a net book.
She also has an older kindle but really with the right software they all become e-readers.

Benjamin

JSmith
February 29th, 2012, 07:02 PM
Tryin'-to-be-literary AH mutants, not really my thing...

Bruce
Darn,I was hoping you might do a a scenarion or a map for these 2 eventually.

stirlingdraka
February 29th, 2012, 07:42 PM
I read Blonde Roots. Hated it it was so terrible.:mad::(:mad:

B_Munro
March 1st, 2012, 06:59 AM
Darn,I was hoping you might do a a scenarion or a map for these 2 eventually.

Well, I might do a "Why do they hate us for our freedom" modern Islam, backward Christendom reverse-world one of these days, but on my own terms, not using the world-as-illusion silliness of "Mirage."

As for "Blonde Roots", that map was so, so stupid.... :eek:

(I did have a notion for a scenario once, in which a group of adventurers from a Steampunk Africa have to go rescue a heiress whose blimp crashed in the heart of Darkest Europe, land of superstitious fanaticism, black magic, and bloodthirsty armored warriors on horseback... :D )

Bruce

B_Munro
March 1st, 2012, 06:59 AM
No. You can download free Kindle reader software to almost any computer. After that just purchase the book through Amazon and download it. I can read mine on my iPhone, iPad, and laptop; while my wife reads hers on a net book.
She also has an older kindle but really with the right software they all become e-readers.

Benjamin

Do you know where one can safely download such software? The internet is full of traps...

Bruce

Mitro
March 1st, 2012, 02:37 PM
Do you know where one can safely download such software? The internet is full of traps...

Bruce

I'm pretty sure you can download the app for free from Amazon itself.

JSmith
March 1st, 2012, 08:18 PM
As for "Blonde Roots", that map was so, so stupid.... :eek:


Bruce
Well you could fix it. the other ideas sound good too.

benjamin
March 2nd, 2012, 01:05 AM
I'm pretty sure you can download the app for free from Amazon itself.

Yes. Go to Amazon.com. Then select Kindle from the left hand menu bar. The ninth option from the top is "Free Kindle Reading Apps." Clicking that will take you to a page which has numerous options for software that allows reading Kindle books on nearly any device.

It's all directly from Amazon.com so its as safe as you can get on the Internet.

Hope that helps.

Benjamin

B_Munro
March 2nd, 2012, 02:22 AM
Thanks!

Bruce

edvader
March 3rd, 2012, 02:35 PM
Company of the Dead-a Titanic AH novel is coming 13 March.Writer's name is Kowalski.Someone is trying to change history as apparently the ship survived.Writer's name is Kowalski.Believe it is not an e book yet.

The Kiat
March 3rd, 2012, 06:47 PM
Lot of self-published stuff for the dataslates, huh? Maybe I should give it a try.

B_Munro
March 4th, 2012, 07:20 AM
Company of the Dead-a Titanic AH novel is coming 13 March.Writer's name is Kowalski.Someone is trying to change history as apparently the ship survived.Writer's name is Kowalski.Believe it is not an e book yet.

That one has been out for a couple years in Australia, I believe. It has a website... http://thecompanyofthedead.com/main.html

Bruce

Petike
March 4th, 2012, 01:44 PM
This thread should really get stickied.

JSmith
March 4th, 2012, 08:22 PM
This thread should really get stickied.
I'm all for it :)

Wolfpaw
March 4th, 2012, 08:36 PM
Company of the Dead-a Titanic AH novel is coming 13 March.Writer's name is Kowalski.Someone is trying to change history as apparently the ship survived.Writer's name is Kowalski.Believe it is not an e book yet.Oh wow. The TL on the book's website is so ASB that I can actually hear the butterflies screaming while I read it :eek:

edvader
March 7th, 2012, 02:33 PM
Thanks B.Munro.Is the book available in paperback-trade.

Mitro
March 7th, 2012, 02:47 PM
Oh wow. The TL on the book's website is so ASB that I can actually hear the butterflies screaming while I read it :eek:

I got a review copy from the publisher, and yes the altered TL is very ASB. The space-filling empires trope is used for example. Nevertheless, the story is not bad and I am enjoying it. I wouldn't call it the greatest AH ever written, but enjoyable. I am hoping to post a more detailed review later.

edvader
March 12th, 2012, 02:28 PM
It is due out in trade paperback tomorrow at Barnes and Noble.BTW it is over 800 pages and an ebook-on Nook at least.

CandyDragon
March 12th, 2012, 05:05 PM
That one has been out for a couple years in Australia, I believe. It has a website... http://thecompanyofthedead.com/main.html

Bruce

Dear god, that's the ugliest map I've ever seen. :eek:

Emperor Norton I
March 12th, 2012, 05:37 PM
Company of the Dead has made me declare fuck it, we really should form an AH book publishing corporation. The people don't need perfection, but they do deserve better than insanity.

Rognvald
March 12th, 2012, 05:39 PM
Yeah, let's make a publishing company!

Mitro
March 12th, 2012, 05:48 PM
Yeah, let's make a publishing company!

Hasn't this already been discussed before? An AH publishing company being successful is not impossible, but it would be very difficult. Consider how small of a market alternate history really is. To reach a wider audience the company would probably need to offer steampunk and historical fantasy works as well.

paddbear
March 13th, 2012, 11:17 AM
Hasn't this already been discussed before? An AH publishing company being successful is not impossible, but it would be very difficult. Consider how small of a market alternate history really is. To reach a wider audience the company would probably need to offer steampunk and historical fantasy works as well.

It's a lot easier these days. We publish our user guides separately as ebooks and as print manuals. We use Lightning Source to do print-on-demand for the hard copy. There's a small setup fee, and after that the buyer shoulders the cost. The costs are low and the quality is good.

I think you'd want to start small with a defined genre and grow from there.

Mitro
March 13th, 2012, 01:48 PM
It's a lot easier these days. We publish our user guides separately as ebooks and as print manuals. We use Lightning Source to do print-on-demand for the hard copy. There's a small setup fee, and after that the buyer shoulders the cost. The costs are low and the quality is good.

I think you'd want to start small with a defined genre and grow from there.

Ah yes, it has been discussed before (http://www.alternatehistory.com/discussion/showthread.php?t=225277).

I would love to promote this proposed publishing company on Weekly Update, but if I am going to spend my own money I rather do it as a writer before I do it as a publisher. Good luck to anyone who wants to do it.

edvader
March 14th, 2012, 02:44 PM
Mitro:Got the paperback yesterday.Quite good so far.I'd like to know about something late in the book but don't want to spoil it.Should I PM you?

Mitro
March 14th, 2012, 03:11 PM
Mitro:Got the paperback yesterday.Quite good so far.I'd like to know about something late in the book but don't want to spoil it.Should I PM you?

Sure go ahead.

TannerBoyle
March 20th, 2012, 09:40 PM
This one to :(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51DN%2BriCG5L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-39,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/B005CR7PNQ/ref=sib_dp_kd#reader-link)
http://www.amazon.com/Crossing-the-Line-ebook/dp/B005CR7PNQ/ref=pd_sim_b_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2
Share your own customer images (http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-media/upload/B005CR7PNQ/ref=cm_ciu_pdp_add?ie=UTF8&rnd=1322078179)

Crossing the Line [Kindle Edition]

Peter Pauzé (http://www.amazon.com/Peter-Pauz%C3%A9/e/B005CXWJWW/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1)
Peter Pauzé (Author)
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4.2 (http://www.amazon.com/Crossing-the-Line-ebook/product-reviews/B005CR7PNQ/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_img?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1)Editorial Reviews
Product Description

Crossing the Line is a cold war espionage thriller—with a twist. The novel takes place in a world where the South won the Civil War and two nations now share the American continent: the USA and the CSA.

It’s been a hundred years since the end of the Civil War—what the Confederates call the War of Independence—and US Federal Intelligence agent Northrup McLean has little patience for those of his countrymen who still whine about reunifying North and South. That includes the petulant and mysterious government scientist he’s been assigned to escort across the Line, into the CSA, for a secret rendezvous—a rendezvous that very quickly goes very sour. With the meeting ambushed, the scientist killed, his own cover blown, and the brutal Ministry of State Servitude hot on his trail, McLean has no choice but to join forces with the brave but reckless Thaddeus Lynch, an Engineer for the modern Underground Railroad. McLean soon learns that Lynch and his Railroad colleagues have more ambitious plans for their far-reaching organization than their time-honored mission of helping runaway state servants cross the Line, plans that somehow intersect with the dead scientist’s secret mission and point to conspiracy at the highest levels of both governments. With the unexpected assistance of brilliant FIA analyst Ansley Mason, a beautiful refugee Southern belle from his past, McLean sets out to expose a violent international plot that could easily turn the American cold war into a very hot world war.

From the Author

Some other things you might want to know about Crossing the Line, and some thoughts about alternate history stories.

Crossing the Line is 111,203 words long.
Which means, if it were an ink and paper hardback book it would be about 400 pages.
In other words, it's a full-length novel.

It is not a Civil War novel, although it is obviously predicated on the notion that the American Civil War was the point of departure (POD in alternate history speak) for an altered history. The entire novel takes place in the mid to late 20th century, the bulk of it in the year 1967.

The novel neither bashes the South nor commends the Confederacy, and it has no particular historical, political, or ideological agenda, at least none of which I'm consciously aware. The purpose of the book is neither to say "Oh my God, wouldn't it have been horrible if the South had won," nor to say "Oh my God, wouldn't it have been wonderful if the South had won," but simply to say "Hmmm....wouldn't it have been interesting if the South had won." How would the world and culture of the 20th century be different? How would they be the same? Like it or not. And for the record, I wouldn't rather live in the world postulated in Crossing the Line. But I do find it fascinating.

Not to give too much away, but the novel operates on the assumption (which many historians share) that slavery was not a viable economic institution in the industrial age and that it wouldn't have lasted long no matter what the outcome of the Civil War. In the novel, raced-based slavery has long since been abolished, replaced by a massive penal labor system which is supervised by the notorious Ministry of State Servitude, an equal opportunity incarcerator. Sort of a cross between a national chain gang and the KGB.

Crossing the Line is both "fun" alternate history and "real" alternate history. While I took pains to make the alternate historical events both plausible and fascinating, there is one way in which I knowingly created a world that couldn't possibly exist: I had some fun with famous people. In this alternate 1967 Jack Kennedy is president of the USA, young Jimmy Carter is president of the CSA, Joseph McCarthy teaches political science at Marquette University, and Benjamin Goodman is conductor of the Chicago Symphony...to mention but a few. None of these folks are major characters (or even appear) in the story, they are merely part of the cultural environment in which the story takes place. For the most part they are either unimportant or unknown to the story's main characters. I shouldn't have done it, I know, but I couldn't resist. After all, exploring what might have become of famous people is one of the guilty pleasures of "fun" alternate history.

But, of course, all that "Hitler became a commercial artist" stuff, while fun, is historical nonsense. If the South had really succeeded in seceding and the Confederacy still existed in 1967, JFK and Jimmy Carter and Joe McCarthy and Benny Goodman...and you and I and everyone we know...would not exist. Okay, well it's possible that some of you, if you live in some part of the world that's been entirely unaffected by what has happen in America for the past 130 years, would exist. But 99% of us would not.

Think about it. You're not only not inevitable, you're not even statistically probable. You only exist because a specific spermatozoa of the 700 million your father ejaculated happened to win the race and fertilized the one specific egg your mother's fallopian tubes happen to have ready and waiting the night (morning? afternoon?) you were conceived. And the same goes for JFK, Benny Goodman and me. So maybe your great-great-grandparents were alive during the Civil War era, and maybe they still got together even though the South won. Then what? If a two degree drop in the ambient temperature or a slight shift in the viscosity of the bed sheets could prevent the conception of the DNA-specific humans who became your great-grandparents, certainly a change as significant as the dissolution of the USA would be enough to do so. And it is even more unlikely that your grandparents or parents would have been conceived, let alone you. The fragile web of circumstances that led to your conception never would have happened. So, while playing the "what would have become of JFK" game is great fun, the fact is if the South had won the Civil War these past three generations of humans (with perhaps a very few exceptions) would not exist. Three generations of strangers would exist in our place because all our quantum webs would have been made impossible by such a massive alteration in history.

The good news is, with Crossing the Line you can have your cake and eat it too. While I have some nudge-nudge, wink-wink fun (mostly between chapters) exploring what became of some folks who are famous in our history, all of the main characters in the story are entirely fictional, products of their history, a history that was decisively altered by the South's victory.

I've tried to create an exciting and intriguing story, well told, with protagonists who are admirable without being super heroes and antagonists who are criminally malicious without being cartoon demons. There's plenty of espionage skullduggery and action, a little romance, a little fun, and lots of alternate history brain candy. I hope it's your cup of tea and you enjoy reading it as much I as enjoyed writing it.


I'm about halfway through this and it's a pretty fun read. Nothing groundbreaking but interesting.

The author does get a little cute when it comes to throwing in random bits of alt history at the beginning of each chapter (Hitler, a low level anarchist, is detained at Castle Garden by immigration official G.S Patton etc).

This book is really more of a spy-thriller-action story than anything. There are more than a few far-fetched 'how did he get out of that mess?' moments that make it hard to take things seriously.

I found the POD and butterflies interesting but probably not in-depth enough to give it a higher recommendation.

toby53
March 20th, 2012, 10:32 PM
Link to the UK Kindle edition of "Crossing the Line"

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Crossing-the-Line-ebook/dp/B005CR7PNQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1332279053&sr=1-1

JSmith
April 5th, 2012, 02:12 AM
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Any Day Now: A Novel [Hardcover]

Terry Bisson (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&sort=relevancerank&search-alias=books&ie=UTF8&field-author=Terry%20Bisson) (Author)
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Book Description
Publication Date: March 1, 2012
Publishers Weekly has called Bisson's prose "a wonder of seemingly effortless control and precision," and John Crowley hails Bisson as a "national treasure!" Any Day Now is truly a literary tour de force. It is a poignant excursion into the last days of the Beats and the emerging radicalized culture of the sixties from Kentucky to New York City and daringly unique. This road movie of a novel, which begins as a fifties coming-of-age story and ends in an isolated hippy commune under threat of revolution, provides a transcendent commentary on America then and now.








Editorial Reviews

Review

"An unsettling, funny, freaky reimagining of America, impeccably written, by one of our most consistently interesting transgressors of literary boundaries."
(-Michael Chabon )

"He writes like a man who invented language . . . Treat yourself to this book."
(-Peter Coyote, author of Sleeping Where I Fall )

"Someone once said everybody has a book inside them, but it takes a writer to get it out. The truth is, not many writers ever even manage it like this. Bisson just wrote his personal masterpiece, a book which will drop you through the floor of your assumptions about coming of age inside the politics and counterculture of the Vietnam era and into a fresh new-old world, in which you''ll live, for the duration of this book, as your own."
(-Jonathan Lethem )

"The author, a writer of (probably under-appreciated) sf and fantasy novels, here deftly resurrects Sixties America. As history is gradually subverted and chronology reshuffled, the reader is slightly jarred and then fascinated by the dramatic world presented. Highly recommended for its literary quality and creativity of vision."
(--Library Journal

)

"In this unsettling but always interesting alternate-history novel, which offers much subversive commentary on contemporary society, Bisson''s jazz-like prose summons a utopia whose adherents seek personal freedom only to find that their basic civil liberties can vanish in an instant."
(--Booklist )

About the Author

TERRY BISSON is an award-winning writer. He is the author of seven novels, and his short fiction has appeared in Playboy and Harper's, among other magazines. He previously worked as an auto mechanic and as a magazine and book editor. Bisson lives in Oakland, California.

JSmith
July 20th, 2012, 12:01 AM
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http://www.amazon.com/Impeachment-Abraham-Lincoln-Stephen-Carter/dp/030727263X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1342738816&sr=8-1&keywords=impeachment+of+abraham+lincoln

Book Description

Publication Date: July 10, 2012
From the best-selling author of The Emperor of Ocean Park and New England White, a daring reimagining of one of the most tumultuous moments in our nation’s past

Stephen L. Carter’s thrilling new novel takes as its starting point an alternate history: President Abraham Lincoln survives the assassination attempt at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865. Two years later he is charged with overstepping his constitutional authority, both during and after the Civil War, and faces an impeachment trial . . .

Twenty-one-year-old Abigail Canner is a young black woman with a degree from Oberlin, a letter of employment from the law firm that has undertaken Lincoln’s defense, and the iron-strong conviction, learned from her late mother, that “whatever limitations society might place on ordinary negroes, they would never apply to her.” And so Abigail embarks on a life that defies the norms of every stratum of Washington society: working side by side with a white clerk, meeting the great and powerful of the nation, including the president himself. But when Lincoln’s lead counsel is found brutally murdered on the eve of the trial, Abigail is plunged into a treacherous web of intrigue and conspiracy reaching the highest levels of the divided government.

Here is a vividly imagined work of historical fiction that captures the emotional tenor of post–Civil War America, a brilliantly realized courtroom drama that explores the always contentious question of the nature of presidential authority, and a galvanizing story of political suspense.




Editorial Reviews

Review

“With an encyclopedic command of period detail . . . Carter has created an entertaining story rooted in the legal, political and racial conflicts of 19th-century America. . . . Carter’s delight in all this material is infectious. He’s a fantastic legal dramatist, and there’s the constant pleasure of seeing his creation of Washington City in 1867, alive with sounds and smells. . . . History buffs can test their mettle by trying to unwind Carter’s entangling of fact and fiction, but anyone should enjoy this rich political thriller that dares to imagine how events might have ricocheted in a different direction after the Civil War.”
—Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“[T]he best legal thriller so far this year . . . I’ve liked Carter’s four previous forays into fiction. This one, I loved.”
—Patrik Henry Bass, Essence Magazine

“Washington readers will get a kick out of comparing Carter’s vivid portrait of late-19th-century DC with the city they know today. . . . But the best thing about sitting down with this rich, often thrilling novel is watching its alternative history unfold.”
—John Wilwol, The Washingtonian

“[T]he streets come alive in his vision of Washington . . . Carter’s tale comes to a conclusion as thrilling and untidy as the actual events that unfolded during the turbulent postwar years.”
—Andrew Dunn, Bloomberg.com

“A smart and engaging what-if that has the virtue of being plausible . . . Abigail makes for a grandly entertaining sleuth.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“This novel has all the juicy stew of post–Civil War Washington, with the complexities of race, class, and sex mixed in. Carter draws on historical documents and a vivid imagination to render a fascinating mix of murder mystery, political thriller, and courtroom drama . . . Imaginatively conceived.”
—Vanessa Bush, Booklist (starred)

About the Author

Stephen L. Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale University, where he has taught since 1982. He is the author of eight books of nonfiction, writes a column for Bloomberg View, and is a frequent contributor to The Daily Beast and Newsweek. The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln is his fifth novel.

JSmith
July 20th, 2012, 12:03 AM
Im reading the below right now and I think its quite good-it would make an excellent AH themed movie movie.





http://www.amazon.com/The-Impeachment-Abraham-Lincoln-ebook/dp/B006XWYGUY/ref=tmm_kin_title_0#reader_B006XWYGUY

http://d188rgcu4zozwl.cloudfront.net/content/B006XWYGUY/images/cover.jpg


This is a work of fiction. I have played games with far more history than even the title suggests; and yet many parts of the story are truer to the historical narrative than, at first blush, the reader might suppose. A compendium of my changes may be found in the author’s note at the end of the book.

—S.L.C.





“I conceive that I may in an emergency do things on military grounds which cannot be done constitutionally by Congress.”

—Abraham Lincoln, July 4, 1864, as recorded in the diary of his secretary, John Hay


“Mr. Lincoln has four long years of strife before him; and as he seems little inclined to change his advisers, his course of action, or his generals, we do not believe that the termination of his second period of government will find him President of the United States.”

—London Gazette, commenting on Lincoln’s re-election in 1864



Prologue


April 14–16, 1865
TURMOIL.
The President was dying.
As the grim news spread through Washington City, angry crowds spilled into the cold, muddy night. Abraham Lincoln had been shot at Ford’s Theatre, on Tenth Street. The wounds were mortal, people were saying. There was no way he could survive. The war was over, the South utterly vanquished, yet somehow its withered hand had reached up into the nation’s capital and extracted this bitter revenge. The crowds became mobs, looking for somebody to hang. Some wanted to burn Ford’s to the ground. Others marched toward Old Capitol Prison, where many leaders of the late rebellion were still being held. Rumors passed from mouth to mouth: The Vice-President had been murdered in his rooms at Kirkwood House. The Secretary of State had been stabbed to death in his mansion on Lafayette Square. Confederate troops were advancing on the city. Or Union troops: nobody seemed to know for sure, and a coup d’état had been rumored for years. Outside Ford’s Theatre, a man in the blood-spattered uniform of an army major and a doctor carrying a candle fought their way into the street. A group bearing Lincoln’s unmoving body followed behind. Mrs. Lincoln, face like chalk, clutched her husband’s stiff hand. People leaned in, trying to see or touch. Men groaned. Women wept. A soldier banged on the door of a row house across the way. They carried the President inside and shut the door. People craned to peer in the windows. Minutes later, Secretary of War Stanton, the most feared man in Washington, arrived in an unguarded carriage and raced inside. Other officials followed. Furious soldiers took up positions on the sidewalk but seemed to have no clear orders. They battered members of the crowd for practice. Other men went in. The people who had been closest to the body passed on the story: the President’s head was a mass of blood.
Meanwhile, the hue and cry had been raised. That actor fellow. Wilkes Booth. He had shot the President and leaped to the stage, then escaped on horseback. Somehow the mob was armed now, looking for someone to whom they might do mayhem. Booth would be best, but any Southern sympathizer or paroled Confederate soldier would do, or, in the absence of so obvious a target, any man dressed in gray, or a Catholic, or a darkie. In the confusion, Stanton took command. He ordered the city sealed. Trains were stopped. Guards allowed no one across the bridges. Telegrams were sent to military commanders in Virginia and Maryland, warning them to watch for men on horses fleeing Washington. On the Potomac River, a steamer was prepared as a floating prison should any of the conspirators be apprehended, the better to protect them from the mob: good order required that they be hanged swiftly by soldiers rather than by citizens.
The Union had been struck a hard blow, and wanted revenge.
From Philadelphia to New York to Chicago, newspapers were out with special late editions, their entire front pages devoted to the shooting. Some headlines pronounced the President already dead. Editors who had been Lincoln’s sworn foes eulogized him as the nation’s savior; others, who had openly despised Mrs. Lincoln, assured the nation that they stood beside the First Lady in her impending widowhood. In the war-ravaged South, where few telegraph lines were intact, the news moved more slowly. Lincoln’s longtime bodyguard, Allan Pinkerton, was in New Orleans, and would not learn of the shooting for several days. In the cities of the North, vengeful citizens marched. Church doors were flung open so that people might pray for the President’s recovery. But the prayers, like the mobs, seemed fruitless. Everybody knew that it was too late. Little squares of black crepe began to appear in windows, signaling a nation already mourning.
That was Friday. By Saturday, however, the rumors began to change. Perhaps all was not lost. The doctors had cleaned the wound repeatedly and removed the clotting blood. And a miracle was occurring. The President’s indomitable will was asserting itself. He was breathing strongly on his own, his eyes were fluttering open, and the damage to his brain appeared less severe than first thought. The telegraph flashed the news across the country: Lincoln lives! True, Vice-President Andrew Johnson was dead, and the Secretary of State so badly wounded that he might not see another day, but Abraham Lincoln, savior of the nation, seemed to be improving.
He had been shot on Good Friday. On Easter Sunday, he rose.
By the middle of the week, the President was sitting up, meeting with his staff, once again in charge of the affairs of the nation. Across the country, people cheered. Those who felt otherwise kept their disappointment to themselves, content to bide their time.
November 19, 1866
The night riders were gaining.
Bending low, the black man spurred his tiring horse down the tangled leaf-strewn lane. On either side, fields thick with brightleaf tobacco stretched into the chilly Virginia darkness. Just a few miles ahead loomed the lower slopes of the Shenandoah, with its welcoming forest. If he could only reach the tree belt, he would be safe. A few miles to the north, an entire brigade of Union troops garrisoned the town of Winchester, but with three hooded pursuers only a few hundred yards behind, his chances of reaching either sanctuary were small. He had a pistol in his saddlebag and a knife in his belt, and he knew that if he slowed to draw either, the night riders would have him.
That would be bad.
In a hidden pocket sewn beneath the lining of his right boot was the message. If he was caught and searched, the night riders might find it.
That would be worse.
He rode faster. The autumn drizzle turned to steam on the horse’s burning flanks. He heard a low crackle that might have been distant lightning or a nearby gunshot. He rounded a bend, jumped a fallen tree, nearly spilled on the other side. Very soon his mount would collapse.
Pounding hooves and shouting voices carried across the night air. The riders were close behind. He searched for a turnoff but found none. Had he possessed a sense of irony, he might have considered that not far to the south was Appomattox Court House, where, a year and a half earlier, Lee had surrendered the Army of Virginia, ending the Civil War but setting off the more secretive conflict in which he himself was now playing so carefully scripted a part. But there was no time for such musings. The moon had burst from the clouds, and lighted the path to escape.
Up ahead, the road split into two branches. He took the southmost fork, which led, if he remembered correctly, to a shattered plantation and an old church. His pursuers, he reasoned, would break into two groups to make sure that they did not lose him. He could make his stand in the church, or even the plantation house, if he just got there ahead of them. He was not a great shot, but from hiding he could certainly handle one or two men coming up the road toward—
The sudden hard burning in his leg, followed by the horse’s shriek, told him that bullets were being fired. He heard the flat clap of the gun as the horse threw him. He hit the frozen earth hard. More shots followed. Just before he passed out, he realized that he had been chased into a trap, forgetting, in his desperation to escape the men behind him, to worry about what might be waiting out front.
HE OPENED HIS eyes, and was aware at once that the burning in his leg was worse. He groaned and tried to shift, only to realize that a boot was pressing into the wound. He was propped against a tree, hands bound behind him. Through the haze of pain, he was able to make out a small group of men, all of them hooded. The man with his foot on the wound was thickset, and wore a blue mask. Beside him was a taller and thinner man, head covered by a burlap sack with eyeholes cut into it. “He’s awake,” said the man in blue.
“Course he is,” said the man in burlap, “seeing as how you’re pretty much breaking his leg.”
The heavy man stooped. He was sodden with sweat. “Whatcha doin out here, boy? There’s a curfew.”
The black man grimaced, and dropped his eyes. “Sorry, suh.”
“Say that again.”
“Sorry, suh.”
The man in the blue mask stood up and walked over to the others. The black man laid his head against the tree, glad to be free of the pain. His eyes were glazed, but his hearing was fine.
“I don’t like how he sounds,” said the man in blue, who seemed to be the leader. “He’s faking. He’s not one of ours. He’s one of them Northern niggers.”
“I’ve seen this boy,” said the man in brown burlap. “He’s a Dempsey boy.”
The leader’s face was invisible inside the blue hood, but, even so, his posture seemed to communicate disappointment. He leaned close to the prisoner. “Is that true, boy? Do you work for Mr. Dempsey?”
“Mrs. Dempsey, suh. Yassuh.”
“Mrs. Claire Dempsey up Warrenton way?”
“Suh, I don’t know a Missus Claire. I works for Missus Henrietta, at Heddon Hills.”
The release of tension was general. Heddon Hills was indeed the Dempsey family plantation: fallen on hard times, to be sure, since the Yankees came through, but still in Dempsey hands. The man in burlap put his hand on the leader’s shoulder. “Satisfied?”
“No.”
“He’s a Dempsey boy, I told you—”
“Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t,” said the leader. He shook himself free of the other’s grip. “I say he’s educated.”
All five hoods turned his way.
“He’s an educated nigger,” he continued, eyes fairly glowing through the slits. “He’ll ‘Yassuh’ and ‘Nossuh’ till Judgment Day, but behind that black face he’s laughing at us. He’s one of those educated niggers, he’s been to some nigger school somewhere, and now he thinks he’s better than we are.” With a movement of sublime laziness, he tucked the muzzle of his shotgun up against the black man’s chin. “Is that right, boy? You’ve been to some nigger school, haven’t you?”
“Nossuh,” said the prisoner, eyes wide in the smooth brown face.
“You’re a Dempsey boy.”
“Yassuh.”
“Search him.”
Immediately the black man felt his bound hands drawn farther behind him. The pain would have doubled him over but for the shotgun pressing into his neck. One of his captors was going through his pockets, and another through his saddlebags. He heard an exclamation and knew they had found his little supply of greenbacks. Another, and he knew they had found the weapons.
“There’s a letter,” somebody said, and handed it to the thin man who had tried to protect him. He tore open the envelope. “It’s from Mrs. Dempsey all right. It says this here is Royal, and he’s been loyal to her since he was a boy. He never ran off with the Yankees. It says he’s carrying a message down to a Mr. Toombs in Snickers Gap.” He gave the paper to the leader. “That’s Mrs. Dempsey’s signature. She does some of her banking with me.”
The leader sneered. “And now this boy knows who you are.”
Silence.
The gun barrel prodded the black man’s neck. “What’s the message?”
“Suh?”
“What message does Mrs. Dempsey have you sending to Mr. Toombs?”
“Suh, Mrs. Dempsey wants to invite her goddaughter to spend the holidays at Heddon Hills.”
“That’s the whole message?”
“Yassuh.”
“Enough,” said the man in burlap. “This ain’t who we’re looking for. Let him go, Bill.”
The leader turned his way. “And now he knows who I am, too.” He lowered the shotgun and, without warning, pulled the trigger.
The black man cried out in agony. Wounded now in both thigh and foot, he collapsed against the tree.
Bill crouched beside the prisoner. “Do you think we’re stupid, boy? You think we’re illiterate crackers? I was with Jubal Early for two years. I was a colonel. My friend Jedediah here—since we’re telling names—was a captain. He was with Whiting at Fort Fisher. Now, let me tell you something.” The gun caressed the wounded man’s thigh. “I know who you are. I know what you’re doing. You are a courier for the Yankee secret service.” The black man was shaking his head frantically. “You are a courier, and you are carrying a secret message. Tell us the truth, and tell us where the message is hidden, or I’ll blow your balls off and let you bleed to death, and meanwhile we’ll find the message anyway.”
The man called Jedediah tugged at his arm. The others were already inching toward their mounts. “Come on, Bill. Let’s get out of here.”
“Get him up.”
“What?”
“Get him up. I want him on his horse.”
“Why?”
“Because we’re gonna have us a hanging.”
“But—”
“He’s a spy, Jedediah. Spies get hanged.”
The man in burlap shook his head. “The war’s over.”
“Not for me.”
THE BODY WAS found two days later by a Union patrol. The night riders had left him in a ditch, after stealing his horse, his weapons, and his money. The soldiers made nothing of it. The night riders were killing colored men all over the South, and there was not much to be done about it. There was no way of investigating, even if anybody had wanted to. Nobody talked to the Yankees.
The soldiers took the corpse up to Winchester and turned it over to the colored Benevolent Association, who would bury the remains somewhere. But before the soldiers surrendered the body, they took the boots, because supplies were still short, and if they didn’t fit you, you could always trade with somebody they did. And the boots were passed a good way down the line before somebody found the false lining, and the wad of paper hidden inside. He thought it was money, but it turned out to be just a list of names. The private told his sergeant, who said the dead man was probably in the black market. The names were his customers. The sergeant told the private to deliver the paper to the office of the adjutant general, just in case military personnel were involved. The soldier meant to do just that in the morning, but that night he went drinking in town, got into a bar fight, and wound up with his head smashed in. He died the next morning.
The sergeant took his duties seriously. He asked the dead private’s tentmates to go through the man’s things and bring him the letter with the list of names. When they came back an hour later to say they couldn’t find it, the sergeant looked for himself.
The letter was gone.
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CHAPTER 1


http://d188rgcu4zozwl.cloudfront.net/content/B006XWYGUY/images/1909734637.jpg
Clerk


I
THEY WERE HANGING white folks in Louisiana and shooting black folks in Richmond. Union troops had invaded Mexico, Canada, Cuba, and every brothel in the South. Confederate troops were holed up in the Smoky Mountains, waiting for the signal to attack. The casket of the First Lady, who had drowned last year while visiting relations in Illinois, had been exhumed, and found empty. Meanwhile, Abe Lincoln, facing an impeachment trial, was sneaking off to see a medium in New York, and Jefferson Davis, onetime leader of the rebellion and supposedly locked up in Fort Monroe, was actually in Philadelphia, sipping champagne with his rich friends.
None of this was true, but all of it was in the newspapers.
It was late winter of 1867, nearly two years after the end of the war, and reporters were inventing rumors almost faster than their editors could print them. The nation, everyone agreed, was a mess. If only it had been old Abe who was shot dead that night instead of Andy Johnson, his Vice-President. If Johnson were President now—so moaned the editorial writers—the nation would be in considerably better shape.
All of which helped explain why Abigail Canner had finally given up on reading the papers. She was smarter than any five reporters put together, and perfectly capable of making up her own stories. But she didn’t want to be a reporter: she had a brother and a distant cousin in that business already. She wanted to be a lawyer. This was impossible, she was told, given her color and her sex. But she was determined to try, unaware of how her ambition would carry her to the center of great events.
The romance, like the violence, came later.
II
On the first Monday in February, in the Year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred sixty-seven—or, in the larger history, one month exactly before the trial of the sixteenth President of the United States was to begin—Abigail set out upon her journey. Ignoring her mad brother’s derisive insistence that nothing good would come of the effort, she rode the horse-drawn streetcars through the filthy snow to prove to the world that she was indeed the woman she claimed. She had her college degree and her letter of employment and the stony conviction, learned from her late mother, that, whatever limitations the society might place on ordinary negroes, they would never apply to her.
Abigail boarded the Seventh Street line, which passed near her home, then changed at Pennsylvania Avenue, choosing the second row to avoid a squabble with the white citizens of Washington City, who seemed to consider the rear of the car their own private preserve, but also to avoid the ignominy that came of riding up front with the driver, where nowadays most men and women of her race tucked themselves without a second thought: a discrimination until recently enshrined in city law. The war was over, the slaves were free, and the government of the United States guaranteed the rights of the colored race, but here in the nation’s triumphant capital, in the midst of the most frigid winter in years, everybody was at pains to establish who was who.
Abigail was a tall young woman, unfashionably slender, with smooth mahogany skin that bespoke more than one dallying slavemaster in her ancestral tree. The hooded coat she wore against the cold was a product of the finest dressmaker in Boston, a gift from her uncle, a physician. The trim was silver fur. The face that peered out suggested a woman who pondered a great deal over the issues of the day, and very deeply, but frowned on most forms of fun. Her gray eyes were sharp and probing; her dimpled chin seemed confident and disapproving. Men tended to find her reasonably pretty, even if not so vivacious as her older sister, Judith, or so innocently beautiful as her younger sister, Louisa. They also tended to find her too distant, too judgmental, too intelligent altogether, for Abigail would always rather read another book than have another dance. Nanny Pork, who ran the Canner household, preached the evils of dancing and carousing and most forms of enjoyment, and although Abigail was not precisely the sort to do what she was told, she regarded Nanny with the sort of awe usually reserved for less visible agents of divinity.
Abigail was twenty-one years old, and parentless, and black, and expecting, somehow, to affect the course of history.
Maybe even starting today.
The streetcar pulled up at the carriage block on the corner of Fourteenth Street, near the Willard Hotel, where negroes were not welcome except in service. Abigail stepped carefully down onto the broken stone. Neither the driver nor any of the gentlemen passing on the street made any effort to assist her, but she had not expected them to. The newsboy was the only one who paid her any attention, shouting that Senator Wade was predicting that at least forty of the fifty-four members of the Senate would vote to remove the President from office, and forty, she knew, was more than enough. The boy thrust a newspaper at her with one hand and held out the other for a coin. Abigail ignored him. She stood in the swirling snow and checked the address she had written in her commonplace book. Actually, she had the address marked down firmly in her memory, but her late mother had always taught her to make assurance double sure. Abigail folded the book into her handbag and walked north. The tiny flakes were like pinpricks on her bright cheeks. She took care not to slip on the ice, but a wall of wind still almost knocked her from the cobbled sidewalk into the frozen mud of Fourteenth Street. As she regained her footing, two white women, heading the other way, began a very loud conversation about how, since the war, half the negroes in town seemed to be drunk from breakfast on.
Abigail ignored them, too.
She found the address at the corner of G Street. A policeman patrolled out front, resplendent and shivering in blue serge and brass buttons. The policeman was an unexpected obstacle, but Abigail chose to deal with him the way her late mother had taught her to deal with most barriers. She walked straight past him, head held high.
He scarcely gave her a glance.
The narrow lobby was dark after the glare of the snow. She took the creaking stairs to the second floor, where the bronze plaque read DENNARD & MCSHANE, and knocked on the door. Waiting, she was surprised to find herself nervous. She hated uneasiness as she hated most signs of human weakness, most of all in herself. Fear is a test, her late mother used to say. Fear is how God challenges us.
Accepting the challenge, she knocked again.
The door swung open, and there stood a gangly young man in high-collared shirt and black necktie. He was missing the jacket that doubtless completed his working attire. Straw-colored hair was pressed back in fashionable waves against a long, slim head. Even standing still, he displayed an economy of movement that implied a life lived without challenges. He was white, of course, and about her age, and Abigail could tell at once that he was ill at ease around women. Nevertheless, he found an awkward smile somewhere, and glanced, she noted, at her hands. Perhaps he thought she was carrying a delivery.
“May I help you?” the young man said.
“My name is Abigail Canner,” she said. “I have an appointment.” The man said nothing, so she tried again. “About the job.”
“Job?” he repeated doubtfully, as if she were speaking Greek. In his shy earnestness, he gave the impression of a man trying desperately to live up to something terribly difficult.
“The job as a law clerk.” She tilted her head toward the plaque. “For Dennard & McShane.”
“Ah.” Nodding firmly, more sure of his ground. “That would be Mr. Dennard. His clerk left. I’m Hilliman. I’m Mr. McShane’s clerk. The partners are out just now, but if you would leave your employer’s card, one of the messengers will be round to set up an appointment.” When she said nothing, his smile began to fade. He gestured, vaguely. Peering past him, Abigail saw a long, narrow room dominated by a heavy wooden table heaped with papers and books. Shelves lined every wall, and the heavy volumes looked well used. In one corner, numbers were scribbled on a blackboard. In another, an elderly colored man tended a weak coal fire. “I’m afraid we are rather busy right now—”
“I imagine you are, Mr. Hilliman. Preparing for the impeachment trial.”
“Well, yes.” He looked at her with new respect, or at least growing curiosity, perhaps because she did not speak in the manner of the colored people to whom he was accustomed. Abigail Canner had provoked this reaction in others. She worked at it. “That’s right. The trial. I’m sorry,” he added, although, as yet, he had done nothing to apologize for.
Almost nothing.
“I find it most intriguing,” said Abigail, “that the Congress would attempt such a thing.”
“Yes, well, if you would just—”
“The committee has proposed four counts of impeachment, has it not? Half relating to the conduct of the war, and half relating to events since the war ended.”
“How do you know that?” His tone suggested that she could not possibly have read a newspaper. He caught her expression, and realized his error. “I mean—well, that is very impressive.”
“I try to be prepared,” she said, unable to keep the sarcasm from her voice. She had faced silly boys like this at college, too, unable to believe the evidence of their eyes and ears. No colored girl could possibly be their equal. “Do you know yet whether the House will adopt all four counts?”
“There has been no vote as yet—”
“They will vote in two weeks.” A prim smile. “I am here,” she said, “to help.”
“To help what?”
“Help you, Mr. Hilliman. With the impeachment trial.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“I am the new law clerk.” She drew the letter confirming her employment from her commonplace book. “Mr. Dennard hired me.”
III
There are in life moments that are irretrievable, and one opportunity fate never grants twice is making a first impression. Jonathan Hilliman, confronted with the least likely of all the possible explanations for this peculiar woman’s presence at Dennard & McShane, spoke out of utter confusion, and therefore from the heart:
“That is not possible,” he said, jaw agape.
Abigail’s eyes went very wide. They were wide enough already, gray and flecked and watchful, eyes that neither overlooked nor forgot. But, as Jonathan would come to learn, when Abigail was angry, those eyes could grow wide enough to swallow a room. Now, as he fumbled for the words to repair his mistake, Abigail, unbidden, stepped past him into the foyer. A long sooty window dominated one wall. Four inner doors were closed, two presumably leading to the partners’ offices. The old colored man got to his feet, bowed, touched his cap.
“My name is Little,” he said, with an affecting grin. He was nearly toothless. “I’se been with the Dennards going on sixty years now.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Little,” she said, extending a hand.
He hesitated, then shook. “Just Little, miss.”
“I’m sorry?”
“My name is Little, miss. Just Little.”
“Excuse me,” said Mr. Hilliman, having recovered his composure. “Perhaps I could see that letter.”
The black woman smiled blandly, the way Jonathan’s mother smiled at the servants when about to berate them. “Of course, Mr. Hilliman.”
He took the page in his hands and read it slowly, then again, mouthing the words as if reading were new to him. At last he raised his eyes. “You are the new clerk.”
“I believe I told you that.”
“You are Miss Abigail Canner.”
“Yes.”
“I’m sorry.” He glanced around the messy room. It was obvious to them both what he wanted to say and could not. Instead, he retreated into a show of confusion. “I understood that Mr. Dennard was planning to hire a new clerk. I had no idea that he had—I mean, that he—that you were—um, that you were coming today.”
“I understand, Mr. Hilliman,” said Abigail, standing there with bag in hand. There were, as yet, fewer than a dozen lawyers of African descent practicing in American courts. There were no women of any color. The Supreme Court had admitted the first colored attorney to its bar only a year and a half ago, and he had promptly gone into a wasting decline, from which he was not expected to recover. The wags said the Court’s members knew of his illness in advance, and wanted the credit for having admitted him without ever having to allow him to argue before them. “But I assume that there is plenty of work to do.”
“Well, yes—”
The door burst open, and in swept Arthur McShane, Jonathan’s boss, accompanied by a tough-looking man Jonathan did not recognize.
“We’re thirteen votes down,” McShane growled, unwrapping himself. He was a diminutive man, small and trim and almost boyish except for the weathered face, all hollows and valleys. He handed his scarf to Little. “Thirteen votes. I don’t believe it. If the vote were held today, it would be fourteen for acquittal, twenty-seven for conviction. The rest are undecided so far—”
“That’s still short of two-thirds,” soothed the stranger. He was paunchy and confident, and sported a magnificent black beard. He had just laid his coat across Little’s waiting arms. “They need two-thirds.”
McShane ignored him. “One bit of good news”—eyeing Abigail suddenly, obviously not sure who she might be, but, after a moment’s hesitation, plunging on—“good news, that is, for our side. They won’t vote on admitting Nebraska to the Union until after the trial. You remember what happened with Nevada last year. The price of statehood was sending two anti-Lincoln men to the Senate, bound to vote for conviction. Well, that bit of skulduggery embarrassed the Radicals, so they’ve agreed not to admit Nebraska just yet. This is Mr. Baker.”
“Jonathan Hilliman.” He thrust out a hand, which Baker seemed to examine for traps before grabbing. The stranger’s shake was perfunctory, an unappealing duty to be gotten over with. “And this”—Jonathan hesitated; names had never been his forte. “This is, um, Mr. Dennard’s new clerk—”
“Abigail Canner,” she said, lifting a white-gloved hand. Baker barely bowed his head, but McShane took her fingers as he would do for any lady, and lightly kissed her knuckles.
“Welcome, Miss Canner,” said the lawyer. He smiled. He was shorter than Abigail, and so was smiling up at her. He said, innocently, what Jonathan had been afraid of saying awkwardly. “Dennard did tell me that he had hired a woman. He made no mention of your race. He says that Dr. Charles Finney wrote him on your behalf. Dr. Finney still running things at Oberlin, is he?”
“He is on in years, sir, but in spirit he is strong.”
“I believe Dennard and Finney knew each other in the old days, at the Broadway Tabernacle. Well, never mind. Little, clear a space at the table. Jonathan, I’m afraid there is a bit of a crisis. You will come with me to see the President.”
Abigail said, “What should I—”
McShane continued to smile. “You should wait here until Mr. Dennard returns.” Jonathan had stepped to the blackboard and was using a cloth to wipe off the numbers inscribed there. He wrote: 14–27–11. Abigail realized that he was recording the likely votes in the Senate for acquittal and conviction and those undecided. Now, hearing his employer’s comment, Jonathan turned and was about to speak, but the lawyer silenced him with a look. “Wait. Let me see your letter.”
She handed it over. The lawyer took it in at a glance. “This says you are a clerk. Not a law clerk.”
“Is there a difference, Mr. McShane?”
His face remained gentle but his voice hardened. “You have never met Dennard, have you?”
“No, sir. Our interview was entirely via correspondence.”
“Did you inform him that you are colored?”
Abigail began to feel as if she had somehow wandered in the wrong door. The way Finney had explained things, it all seemed so simple. “The issue never arose.”
“I suspected as much.” McShane nodded, evidently in confirmation of a private theory. “A law clerk,” he explained, “is a young man who works in an attorney’s office while studying the law, in the hope of being called to the bar. A clerk, on the other hand—not a law clerk, just a plain clerk—is a sort of an assistant. A secretary. To take notes, as it were. Do filing. Make deliveries. Copy out documents. Answer correspondence.” He could not possibly miss the mortification on her face. Yet his smile actually broadened. “You should be proud of yourself, Miss Canner. I do not believe that there are five female clerks in the entire city working for lawyers. And none of them are colored.”
“But it is 1867!”
“Perhaps in 1967 things will be different. What I have told you is the way things are now.”
“Mr. McShane,” she managed, surprised to find herself fighting tears, “I—I want to read law.”
The lawyer was crisp. “That is not the purpose for which you were hired.”
“Yes, but—but surely we could arrange—”
“You are of course free to discuss the matter with Mr. Dennard when he returns. You seem a fairly intelligent young woman. I am sure you know how to bargain. Perhaps you and Dennard can reach some arrangement.”
The lasciviousness in his voice was impossible to miss; and impossible to prove.
Abigail swallowed. Her brother always said that even the most liberal of white folks gave only when the giving benefitted them. She had lived her young life in the teeth of that dictum, but now, in this room thick with coal smoke, she stood face-to-face with the evidence of its truth. “When will Mr. Dennard be returning?”
“A week from now,” said McShane, with satisfaction. Baker looked on in amusement. “He is in California. Until that time, you will work for me. You may start by helping Little with his chores.” Nodding toward the old man. “Is that clear?”
“But, sir! I am a graduate of Oberlin!”
“I have told you the way things are. If you wish to work for the firm of Dennard & McShane, you will be a clerk and a copyist. You will not train as a lawyer.”
Abigail calculated fast. “Perhaps I can do both—”
“We will keep you busy, I assure you.”
“I am willing to work as late as necessary.”
McShane was exasperated. “Fine. You want to read law? There are books everywhere.” His hand swept the room. “Read as many as you like, as long as you do your chores. You can start with Blackstone. Over there—the brown one, see? Commentaries on the Laws of England. Four volumes. Start at page one of volume one, and read all four. When you are through, we can discuss your further ambitions.”
Jonathan had found his voice. “Sir, that is nearly three thousand pages.”
“So what? The young lady is a graduate of Oberlin. Presumably, she can read. Little, show her where to sit.”
Abigail made one final try, even though her voice wavered in a way that she hated. “Sir, if I am to work as a—a secretary—well, then, perhaps I should come to the White House with you. To—to take notes.”
McShane was aghast. “Under no circumstances. You are Dennard’s clerk, not mine. You will not be working on the impeachment at all.” He nodded toward her hand, where she still clutched her commonplace book. “I see you have a diary. So have I. So has Mr. Hilliman. Every lawyer keeps one. But I doubt you shall be needing yours. Little, I told you to show her where to sit. Hilliman, come.”
“What about Mr. Baker?” the young man asked.
“He can talk to Miss Canner.”
They were out the door.
As they descended the stair, McShane shook his head. “Unbelievable,” he muttered. “The man is unbelievable. Hiring that woman without telling me. I am going to strangle him.”
Jonathan said nothing, and was annoyed with himself for this failure; but a part of him was also amused, because Dennard, although on in years, was a heavy, powerful man, and McShane’s tiny hands could not possibly have reached around his neck.
They exited onto Fourteenth Street, and the lawyer let out a purr of pleasure at the sight of his waiting horses. McShane could have had a driver but preferred to hold the reins of his own carriage, a very beautiful rig of dark polished wood with gleaming brass highlights. They climbed up for the short ride to the Executive Mansion, and a porter borrowed from the Willard handed the lawyer the reins.
Jonathan said, suddenly, “Why did we leave Mr. Baker behind?”
McShane called to the horses and gently rippled the reins. They moved off. “In case she is a spy,” he said.
“I beg your pardon.”
“The letter from Dennard might be a forgery. A colored woman. We would never suspect her. Mr. Lincoln’s opponents will stop at nothing.”
Jonathan could not quite get his mind around such nonsense. The pending impeachment trial, as he had recently written to his fiancée, Meg, seemed to have driven every man in Washington City mad.
And McShane was not done. “We have received information that a partial record of our deliberations—our strategy, if you will, for the trial—has made its way into unfriendly hands.”
Jonathan forgot all about Meg. “Do you mean—you mean the Radicals?”
“Exactly. The Radical Republicans, and some of their associates, seem to have obtained notes of some of our confidential discussions.” The hollowed eyes were grave. “That is why Mr. Baker is here.”
“And exactly how will Mr. Baker know whether Miss Canner is a spy?”
“You didn’t recognize him, did you, Hilliman? That was Lafayette Baker, formerly General Lafayette Baker. The chief of the Union Intelligence Services and the federal police. The man who caught Booth, and saw to it that he did not survive for trial.” A curt nod. “He’ll get the truth out of her.”
CHAPTER 2


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Caution


I
“DO YOU THINK he’s going to resign? Mary Henry says he is, and she is not nearly so crazy as they say. And of course Horace Greeley says it would be the best and most patriotic thing for the country. His name would go down in history. Lincoln’s, not Greeley’s, thank God. But Lucretia Garfield says Mr. Lincoln is going to stand for re-election in 1868. A third term! You know the Garfields, don’t you, Mr. Hilliman? They are fabulously pro-Lincoln. And, as I am sure you are aware, Lucretia is given to the most vivid imaginings. But the idea! Even Father Washington only served twice! And Mr. Lincoln could be President for the rest of his life. Lucretia Garfield says—well, she asked me to keep her confidence, but telling you is not the same as telling the world—Lucretia says Mr. Lincoln has not been the same since Mrs. Lincoln passed. He has nothing to go home to. Why not live out his days here in the President’s House? That’s what Lucretia says. I think it is all so fabulously exciting, don’t you? That’s why I left Madrid. I can’t believe that my father left the Senate to be minister to Spain. I had to come back. Spain is hot and wet and boring, and Washington City is so fabulously exciting. And then running into you here, at the Mansion—well, it has to be destiny, don’t you think? Delivering the Minister’s letter on the very day of your visit. Leaving Mr. Lincoln’s office at the very hour of your arrival. Destiny. It can be nothing else. Still. Sometimes life’s griefs arrive for a reason. And life’s pleasures. Such pleasures as encountering each other here, today, in this hallway. Destiny, Mr. Hilliman. Just as it is destiny that you are staying with the Bannermans, on D Street, and I at the National Hotel. Only two blocks away. We should dine. Yes. We must set a date. But before Mr. Lincoln announces his intentions, don’t you think? Because after that, I would imagine, you shall be rather busy.”
The author of this breathless rumoresque stepped away from him at last, for she had been inching closer with every whispered word. Lucy Lambert Hale, known as Bessie, possessed a trick of dropping her voice toward the end of a sentence, at least when talking to a man, forcing her listener to lean ever nearer her ample chest; or, if he did not lean toward her, she would often lean toward him. As she had been leaning toward Jonathan here in the dank, shadowy corridor outside the President’s office, where, as usual, McShane had ordered Jonathan to wait; sometimes he waited for hours without ever entering the sanctum. As soon as the door closed, Bessie’s plump body had sprung at him, seizing him in an unsought and unladylike hug right before the bemused eyes of Noah Brooks, the President’s private secretary, who sat at a creaky desk behind a hardwood barrier badly in need of varnish.
“Surely you do not believe any of that nonsense,” said Jonathan when Bessie finally paused. He had learned to affect a certain sternness with her, in order to keep her at a distance. “Mr. Lincoln is a fine man. He will do what is best for the country.”
Bessie was carrying a small fan. It was the middle of winter, but she had the fan nevertheless, an affectation that had become popular among Washington City’s more fashionable ladies. Now she fluttered it before her face. “And exactly which part of it is nonsense, Mr. Hilliman? The part where Mr. Lincoln stays or the part where Mr. Lincoln goes? Because both can’t be false, you know.”
Her logic was so absurd that Jonathan had to smile, as no doubt he was meant to. “I believe that Mr. Lincoln will serve out his term and then retire.”
“Now, that is a fascinating notion, Mr. Hilliman.” She had the fan going again. “Because I thought you said a moment ago that Mr. Lincoln would do what is best for the country.”
“As I am certain he will.”
Her smile widened. Bessie Hale was one of the city’s great belles. If wagging tongues were to be believed, her charms had snared, over the past few years alone, such men as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., son of the great poet; John Hay, Noah Brooks’s predecessor as Lincoln’s private secretary; and even Robert Lincoln, the President’s eldest son. There were other stories, too, some of them more sinister, but nobody dared repeat them, because her father, John Parker Hale, American minister to Spain, remained enormously influential in politics at home. It was said that he had stepped down from the Senate and requested the appointment to Madrid in order to remove his headstrong daughter from the moral swamp that all New Englanders believed Washington City to be; but somehow Bessie had managed to escape Madrid; and it had been Jonathan’s bad luck to encounter her leaving Lincoln’s office just as he and his employer had arrived.
“Then you see my point, Mr. Hilliman. That is what will be so fabulously exciting. Waiting to hear whether Mr. Lincoln has decided that the best interest of the country requires him to remain in this mansion beyond his term.” Bessie looked supremely satisfied with herself. She touched his arm. “Now I must be off. I have another engagement. But we shall fix a date for dinner, shan’t we?”
“I believe—”
“Shall we say Thursday, at eight? At the National?”
And then she was gone down the hallway, not waiting to hear his response. As usual, Bessie Hale got her way. The commitment was unavoidable, he told himself. He could not risk offending Bessie, whose father still influenced votes in the Senate; votes Mr. Lincoln might need at trial. Yet he shuddered to imagine what his fiancée, Margaret Felix, would say were she to learn that he was to dine with the egregious Miss Hale. When Meg warned him about the wiles of Washington’s women, it was Bessie she had in mind.
Jonathan glanced nervously at Noah Brooks, who was busily writing away, pretending to have heard nothing. Although not much more than thirty, Brooks was already balding, and his muttonchop whiskers made him appear older still.
The Executive Mansion, it was said, aged its occupants.
Mr. Lincoln has not been the same since Mrs. Lincoln passed.
The door to the President’s office remained firmly shut. Aside from McShane, Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of War, was inside. So was Attorney General James Speed. Jonathan wondered how long he would be waiting. Some days he had remained in the hallway for three or four hours, against the possibility that he might be summoned to record a letter or other document.
Why not live out his days here in the President’s House?
Jonathan sank onto one of the sagging wooden benches provided for petitioners hoping to see the President. The Executive Mansion was falling apart. Many of the great rooms downstairs had been refurbished beautifully by Mrs. Lincoln, at an expense so fabulous that the Congress had opened an investigation. But the second floor—the puny family apartments, and this rabbit warren of offices for the President and his tiny staff—remained as they had been for most of the century: cramped, dingy, ill lighted.
As recently as a year ago, the shadowed hallway, decrepit or not, would have been full of petitioners, waiting their chance to beg for government jobs, or special exemptions from some law that applied to everyone else, or pardons for nephews who had deserted the army. But those who wanted favors gravitated to power, and nowadays the power was on Capitol Hill. Hardly anyone believed that Lincoln had any favors left to bestow. The newspapers were predicting that Benjamin Wade would be occupying this house in another six weeks. Indeed, rumor had it that even here in the Mansion a goodly number of the staff were already Wade’s men.
According to Arthur McShane, someone was giving information about their deliberations to the Radicals. Sitting in the dingy corridor with only Noah Brooks for company, Jonathan found himself wondering who was left at the White House that Lincoln could trust.
II
“So you want to be a lawyer,” said General Lafayette Baker. “Well, well.”
“I do,” said Abigail, fighting to keep her voice steady. Baker had seated himself on the edge of the long conference table that dominated the common room. This forced Abigail to stand. She had chosen the corner nearest one of the two windows. The involute leading in the glass was trimmed with dainty snow.
Baker had his powerful arms folded. His glare had been known to reduce prisoners to babbling incoherence. “Do you know why Mr. McShane left us alone?”
A tight nod. “He wants you to test my … bona fides.”
“Correct. Do you have any objection to answering a few questions?”
“Would it matter if I did?”
“Not really.” He coughed. “I’d like a cup of water.”
Abigail never budged. “I am afraid I don’t know where they keep the jug.”
“Why don’t you look for it?”
“Because if I begin to open cabinets and so forth, you will no doubt decide that I am here to snoop.”
Baker smiled. His teeth were yellow and uneven, a sharp contrast with so smoothly handsome a countenance. “I’ve never heard of you,” he said amiably. When Abigail, in an abundance of caution, chose not to answer, he continued: “It’s bloody odd, isn’t it? An alleged law clerk for Dennard shows up while that esteemed gentleman is in California and cannot be reached? And, by coincidence, just as Mr. Lincoln’s lawyers are formulating their strategy for trial?” He gave her no opportunity to interrupt. It was clear that he was the sort of man who wanted to be told only what he had already decided was true. She supposed this might make him a successful detective, if the goal was only to obtain a confession, whether or not it was a true one. “There is no way to check your story, you see. You could be anybody. You could be a spy. You could even be another assassin.”
Abigail fought a shudder. She could hear Nanny Pork, asking her why she wanted to go off and work with white mens. She could hear her younger sister’s teasing lilt, warning that nobody would want to marry a woman who pursued a profession. And she could hear her brother, Michael, whispering that no white man could ever be trusted.
“A spy for whom?” Abigail managed.
“The Radicals. All the colored people love the Radicals, I hear. All of you think the North should keep its boot on the neck of the South. Mr. Lincoln wants to let ’em up easy, as he puts it. The Radicals want to punish them hard. I myself have no position in the matter. But I should imagine that you’d agree with the Radicals.”
She had trouble meeting his eyes. At the Oberlin Collegiate Institute she had been the equal of any young man. But this was different. If she put a word wrong, Baker had the power to throw her into Old Capitol Prison, where many an inmate was known to vanish into the dank, lice-ridden cells and never again see the light of day; and the fact that she was a protégée of the great Charles Finney, evangelist and abolitionist, would mean nothing.
“I have no objection to further punishment of the South,” she finally said, gaze on the dusty floor and her tightly laced shoes. “But I also do not see its necessity. In any case, Mr. Dennard did not hire me to work on the impeachment trial. He hired me to be his legal secretary.” Her head came back up. “Now, if you will excuse me, I have chores.”
Baker had no intention of letting her go so easily. “Do you know what the charges against the President are? Suspending habeas corpus, shutting down newspapers, locking up critics? Are you telling me that none of that bothers you?”
From somewhere Abigail found just a bit of the sauciness that had characterized her attitude back at Oberlin. “You sound, General Baker, as if it bothers you.”
This won her another baring of yellow teeth. “What about the charge that he means to overthrow the Congress? That he tried to establish a military district—the Department of the Atlantic—to run the government? How does that one strike you?”
“As a patent absurdity.”
“Ever met Mr. Lincoln?”
“No.”
“Know any member of his family? Any of his friends?”
“No.”
“Then how can you know what is in his head? And whether or not the charge is absurd?” Baker sighed, then hopped nimbly to his feet. Without warning, he stepped very close to her, crowding her back against the bookshelves. For a mad moment she thought he meant to kiss her. “We live in difficult times, Miss Canner. No Congress has dared act in this manner against a President. No one is above suspicion. Do you understand?” Once more he did not wait to hear her response. “If you choose to remain at Dennard & McShane, I shall have no choice but to continue to look into your story, finding all the holes. I shall poke and prod until there are only holes, and no longer any story at all. And at that point”—leaning so close that she could smell this morning’s garlic on his hot breath—“at that point, Miss Canner, you are mine.”
Alone again, Abigail found herself unable to move. She was still on her feet. Her body began to tremble, then to shudder, until her entire being, physical and mental, jerked in uncontrolled spasms. The fear she felt was sharp and raw and red and deep. The hateful tears were but the smallest manifestation of her terror. She leaned over and put her hands on the table. Her late mother always said that God would get you through, and so she tried her best to pray; but in her fear and humiliation had no idea what she was praying for.
She was standing in the same position when Little came in from whatever errand he had been running; although it was also possible that he had just been waiting outside for the general to leave. The old man glanced at her, hastily looked away, went to the cupboard. He took down the water jug, poured some into a glass, handed it to her. She drained it, and with movement came fluency. Her thoughts began to run clearly again. She found a smile, if a shaky one; thanked him; truly meant it.
Little handed her the broom.
“You gots chores, Miss Canner.”
III
McShane dropped his clerk at the carriage block twenty yards from the building entrance. He had a meeting, the lawyer said, and had to hurry. Jonathan was exhausted: worn out, like the man in his uncle Brighton’s favorite story, from doing nothing all day. He and McShane had arrived at the Mansion at eleven in the morning. Now it was past six in the evening, and nearly full dark. In the months since the firm’s retention to represent the President, Jonathan had attended five White House meetings with his employer, and had been invited into Lincoln’s office only twice, both times to write out a document that one of the others in the room dictated. Neither time had he stayed for more than a few minutes.
Back at Fourteenth and G, peering up at the second-story windows, Jonathan was surprised to see lanterns burning. Old Little was usually more careful when he closed up. Unlocking the lobby door, Jonathan felt watched. He turned and saw, on the other side of the street, a tethered wagon, the horse resting while the negro driver stroked its flanks and glared at Jonathan with a fury that the young man could not fathom.
Washington City these days.
Upstairs at last, Jonathan stepped into the office, drawing a startled gasp from Abigail Canner, who sat at the long table, a heavy book open before her, flickery lamplight playing across the pages.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, very surprised.
“Reading Blackstone, volume one,” she said, calmly. She put down the pencil with which she had been making notes. “I am on page thirty-four.”
IV
“Thank you for waiting,” said Abigail to her brother, Michael, as the wagon moved slowly through the snow. “I had extra work. There was no way to let you know.”
Michael considered this pitiful excuse as he drew the horse around left, turning onto Pennsylvania Avenue. “So, what do you think? Are they going to impeach Old Abe or not?”
“They will impeach him next week.”
“Who’ll be the President then?”
Abigail shut her eyes, never sure when her brother was baiting her. She spoke as tonelessly as possible, because Michael, when offended, was unpredictable. “To impeach him only means to charge him with high crimes and misdemeanors. There is still a trial in the Senate to decide whether to remove him from office.”
“So who’ll be President? The Vice-President is dead.”
“If Mr. Lincoln is convicted, his successor will be Senator Wade from Ohio. He is what they call the president pro tempore of the Senate, and under the statutes—”
“President pro tempore?”
“He is in charge of the Senate.”
A cruel laugh. “White folks.”
“I’m sorry?”
They rolled past trees and houses and the occasional hotel or bar. Here and there a federal building stood like a lone sentry.
“Let me understand this,” said Michael. “This Wade gets to vote on whether to kick Old Abe out of the White House, and then he also gets to move in and take his place? Who dreamed that up?”
“The gentlemen who wrote the Constitution,” she said sleepily.
“The white gentlemen.”
An ornate carriage passed, traveling much too fast the other way, spattering them both with the freezing Washington mud. The horse shied, but Michael eased it back on course. The trees thickened as they approached the canal. Dozing, Abigail let her hand drift to the seat cushion. She encountered a lump. Delving, she touched a metal cylinder. It felt like—
“Michael, why is there a pistol in the wagon?”
“The city is dangerous at night. Especially for our people.”
She digested this. “If the police should stop you—”
“Then I’ll protect myself.”
CHAPTER 3


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Vote


I
“SO I HEAR they’ll be impeaching your man in the morning,” said Fielding Bannerman, swirling his brandy sourly as he lounged before the grate. “Pity, I suppose.” He brightened. “I say. Is that why there are so many soldiers about? On the way back from the club I was all but run over by a troop of cavalry.”
Jonathan was toying with the cigar that he would never have touched except that as a man he was expected to. The fire, unreasonably hot, reminded him of the spectacular blazes of his Rhode Island youth, when his dying father complained constantly of cold, and his mother discharged on the spot any servant who let the flames die. It was the late evening of Monday, February 18; or, as Jonathan had come to measure the days, two weeks since the arrival of Abigail Canner at Dennard & McShane.
“Even if the impeachment succeeds,” he said woodenly, “the trial is yet ahead of us.”
“Where your man is bound to lose.”
“I would not say that.”
“Then why are there so many soldiers about? Somebody was saying at the club that your man would arrest the Speaker of the House rather than allow himself to be impeached.” He shut his eyes. “I say. That would be rather thrilling, wouldn’t it?” Fielding chuckled self-importantly. He was grinning and, as usual, drunk. He was a short man, with sloppy black hair and the early paunch of the leisured life. He was, like Jonathan, the heir apparent to his family business; although, to be sure, whereas the Hillimans were decently off, the Bannermans with their banking fortune rivaled the Astors and the Cookes. They were friends because Elise Hilliman expected her children to have wealthy friends; and because Fielding was some sort of distant cousin of Meg Felix, Jonathan’s fiancée. Still, he had agreed to take rooms in the Bannerman mansion on Ninth Street only because he was assured that Fielding would be in Europe with his parents, who were trying to marry off the three dreadfully plain Bannerman sisters to minor princelings. Had Jonathan known that Fielding would be in residence, he might have chosen to live somewhere else.
“That is the silliest thing I have ever heard,” said Jonathan.
“Is it? Didn’t I hear somewhere that one of the articles of the impeachment accuses your man of seeking to overthrow the Congress by force?” He laughed, spilling his brandy. He took no notice. Spills were what servants were for. Ellenborough, the mulatto butler, materialized at once with a napkin and a fresh glass. “But it doesn’t matter what Lincoln does,” Fielding continued. “Know why? Because the price of gold rose today. Henry Foreman told me at the club. He’s with Jay Cooke & Co. If the price of gold is rising, that means the dollar is falling, which means that the bankers believe that Mr. Lincoln will be removed. And you know what my father says. Never bet against the bankers.”
Jonathan stirred, perceiving through the haze of spirits and smoke that he was about to be subjected to another of his friend’s wild theories about what malevolent forces lay behind the impeachment. “Your father is a banker.”
But Fielding preferred his own arguments. “I say. When am I going to meet this negress of yours?”
“I beg your pardon.”
“The Canner woman. We were talking about the impeachment down at the club, and Tubby Longchamps is sharing a few secrets, and he mentions her. Do you know Tubby at all? No? He was in my year at Harvard, you know, and he’s deputy to the sergeant-at-arms now. At the House of Representatives. Good old Tubby. He always did know where there was nice clean graft to be found, didn’t he? Goodness me. Why, once, right in the middle of the Yard, he had this idea that we might put one over on old Connie Felton. This was before Felton was made president of the college. In those days he taught freshman Greek. And Tubby, bless him, suggested that we—”

JSmith
July 20th, 2012, 11:49 PM
So does anyone want to read The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln now?

JSmith
July 22nd, 2012, 09:29 PM
http://www.amazon.com/Jack-1939-Francine-Mathews/dp/1594487197/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1342988911&sr=1-1&keywords=jack+1939

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Book Description

Publication Date: July 5, 2012
Charming. Reckless. Brilliant. Deadly.

A young Jack Kennedy travels to Europe on a secret mission for Franklin Roosevelt as the world braces for war.

It’s the spring of 1939, and the prospect of war in Europe looms large. The United States has no intelligence service. In Washington, D.C., President Franklin Roosevelt may run for an unprecedented third term and needs someone he can trust to find out what the Nazis are up to. His choice: John F. Kennedy.

It’s a surprising selection. At twenty-two, Jack Kennedy is the attractive but unpromising second son of Joseph P. Kennedy, Roosevelt’s ambassador to Britain (and occasional political adversary). But when Jack decides to travel through Europe to gather research for his Harvard senior thesis, Roosevelt takes the opportunity to use him as his personal spy. The president’s goal: to stop the flow of German money that has been flooding the United States to buy the 1940 election—an election that Adolf Hitler intends Roosevelt lose.

In a deft mosaic of fact and fiction, Francine Mathews has written a gripping espionage tale that explores what might have happened when a young Jack Kennedy is let loose in Europe as the world careens toward war. A potent combination of history and storytelling, Jack 1939 is a sexy, entertaining read.





Editorial Reviews

Review

“The pace is so propulsive that you’ll read every word… Mathews’s ability to weave fact into her tale is nothing short of remarkable… there are precious few entertainments this captivating.”
—The Washington Post

“A brisk thriller that defies the odds… It's no small feat to take a historic figure who looms as large in real life as John F. Kennedy, place him in an improbable fantasy and not strain credulity. But in this case, Mathews has accomplished her mission.”
—USA Today

“Francine Mathews has a way of making you believe that improbable situations just might be true…Jack 1939 is a complicated thriller, filled with trust and betrayal.”
—The Denver Post

“Deliciously inventive.”
—MORE Magazine

“A highly entertaining cocktail of 20th century political history and sexy-spy-novel tropes.”
—The Daily Beast

“A triumph: an exciting thriller, an intriguing exploration of a troubled time, and an absorbing take on the early history of one of America’s most iconic figures. Highly recommended.”

-Iain Pears, bestselling author of An Instance of the Fingerpost

“Francine Mathews delivers a marvel: a thriller with genuine heart. This is a delicious imagining of one of the 20th century’s most fascinating figures, wrapped up in a gripping story of espionage.”
– Eleanor Brown, bestselling author of The Weird Sisters

“Like JFK himself, this book is smart, sexy and unafraid of taking risks. With nimble prose and easy charm, Francine Mathews leads us beyond the frontiers of history to make us believe in her vision of a young Kennedy at large in a dark world of prewar spies and secrets.”
– Dan Fesperman, author of Lie in the Dark

“A brilliantly conceived, riveting tightrope race across Europe in the predawn of World War II."
– Stephen White, author of Line of Fire and The Last Lie


About the Author

Francine Mathews is the author of more than twenty novels of mystery, history, and suspense. Her historical thriller The Alibi Club was named one of the fifteen best novels of 2006 by Publishers Weekly. A graduate of Princeton and Stanford, she spent four years as an intelligence analyst at the CIA and presently lives and works in Colorado.

JSmith
July 22nd, 2012, 09:31 PM
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JACK 1939
Francine Mathews

RIVERHEAD BOOKS A MEMBER OF PENGUIN GROUP (USA) INC.
NEW YORK 2012



PROLOGUE


The Boy in Room 110
“. . . patient’s 6000 cell count at intake,” Dr. George Taylor wrote, “has dropped to 3500. The persistent loss of white blood cells may indicate septicemia. Color and texture of skin are suggestive of jaundice.”
He didn’t bother to note that if the count dropped to 1500, the patient would die. Any doctor reading the Mayo Clinic chart would know that.
Taylor rubbed his eyes; it was after eleven, and he’d been poring over these files for hours while a snowstorm raged beyond his office window. The black-and-white Minnesota landscape was desolate in early February. But in the quiet of the hospital he should have been able to figure out why a good-looking, privileged college kid was wasting away in a bed down the hall. The patient’s charts and files told him little. Every doctor who’d dealt with the case over the past five years had been as baffled as he was. One man’s handwriting broke off, and another’s picked up, while the 1930s wore away. The boy waned and recovered, waned and recovered; but nobody could put a name to his illness—or explain his curious knack for survival.
“Weight has dropped to 148 pounds, a loss of twelve pounds in six days, possibly due to eliminative diet of rice and potatoes.” Taylor had weaned the boy from wheat—it was just conceivable that he couldn’t tolerate it—but there’d been no improvement in the painful stomach cramps that made most meals an agony. It wasn’t bread that was killing his patient.
“Eight enemas have been administered in the previous twenty-four hours, and contents of the bowels examined; a significant quantity of blood is observable in the stool.” Maybe it’s a duodenal ulcer, Taylor thought. That could explain the drop in white blood cells. Or maybe it was simply acute colitis. A spastic colon, resulting in persistent diarrhea and the inevitable emaciation. Or even more worrying: What if the free fall in the boy’s white blood cell count meant he had leukemia?
Taylor threw down his pen and thrust himself away from his desk. At this hour of the night, Mayo was a locked cloister; on their rubber-soled shoes the nurses were hushed as nuns. He didn’t know what was wrong with the patient, but he knew he was missing a critical fact—the puzzle piece that would solve his problem. He was missing it.
He strode down the half-lit corridor, his heels clacking obscenely—a tall, stooping, hawk-nosed man with a thin carapace of black hair on his skull. His patient was invariably restless; a confirmed night owl, he’d still be awake. Taylor halted in the doorway of room 110.
“Jack.”
“Hey, Doc!” The boy closed the book he was reading. “You’re up way past your bedtime.”
Taylor ran his eyes over the six-foot frame, cadaverously thin under the sheet. Sweat beaded Jack’s upper lip, and his shock of unruly hair needed cutting. But his eyes were alight and a wave of energy seemed to flow from his body. It was uncanny, Taylor thought, how this sick boy could fill a room—even as he threatened to leave it behind forever.
The doctor cocked his head sideways to examine Jack’s book. Young Melbourne, by somebody named David Cecil.
“What happened to The Good Society?”
“Finished it this afternoon.” Jack tossed Melbourne aside. “So what’ll it take to get me out of here?”
“A higher blood count.”
Taylor shifted the pile of books at the foot of the bed, frowning at the titles. History of Political Philosophy. Recent Political Thought. Dictatorship in the Modern World. Germany Enters the Third Reich.
He hefted this last one in his hands. “You a Nazi fan?”
“Oh, that’s from last year.” Jack was a junior in college now. “But I’m planning to drive through Hitler’s backyard in a few weeks. I figured I’d better reread it.”
Taylor set the book down as though it burned his fingers. “About that trip—”
“The Queen Mary’s got a stateroom with my name on it, Doc. She sails February twenty-fourth.” Jack’s jaundiced face was suddenly flushed. “If you try to keep me here, I’ll bring in the big guns. Which means my dad. He’ll spring me from this place.”
“It’s a hospital, not a prison. We’re trying to save your life.”
“Sorry.” Jack glanced away. “I just hate to be touched. Always have, ever since I was a kid. It drives me nuts when you guys turn me inside out and come up with nothing. Can’t we just accept that nobody knows what’s wrong?”
“Not if it means you die,” Taylor said quietly. “What if you take a turn for the worse, all the way across the Atlantic?”
“My family’s in London. So are a lot of doctors. I’ll be fine.”
Taylor doubted it. He’d never met Jack’s parents, but their lack of concern about him was legendary at Mayo. Neither his father nor mother had set foot in Rochester; they communicated with Jack’s doctors by telegram. Taylor had never treated a kid who was so profoundly sick and so completely alone.
“Look,” Jack persisted, “I’ve been sick all my life. You name it, I’ve had it. The last rites of the Catholic Church at age two. My body’s screwed up every plan I’ve ever made. I’m not going to let it screw my senior thesis.”
“That’s why you’re going to Europe?” Taylor was surprised. “To write a thesis?”
“Oh, there’ll be some parties, too.”
“Parties will kill you.”
“I’m dying anyway.” The boy gave a snort of laughter. “Don’t worry. I’m more interested in research than booze.”
Taylor sat down on the bed and looked at him. “If you remember, four years ago, after you graduated from boarding school, you took another boat to London.”
“Yeah. I was supposed to study with Harold Laski at the London School of Economics.”
“What happened?”
“I got sick.” His eyes flicked uneasily away from Taylor’s. “Had to come home.”
“What was the diagnosis then?”
Jack shrugged. “Agranulo-something. I was supposed to shoot up a liver extract. But it was hard to find in London. By the time I got back to the States, my blood count was higher and I never took the stuff anyway.”
“Agranulocytosis?” Taylor suggested, his thoughts racing. “Was that the word?”
“Could be.”
Agranulocytosis was a disease of the bone marrow, akin to leukemia; it would explain Jack’s plummeting white blood cell count. It would explain a lot of things, in fact—his constant susceptibility to colds and infections, his sudden bouts of hives. The boy’s immune system was shot to hell. “Who diagnosed it?”
“Some Harvard prof my dad telegrammed.” Jack was studying Taylor’s face curiously. “He didn’t entirely trust British doctors, so he wired this guy named Murphy.”
“William Murphy? The Nobel laureate?”
“I have no idea.”
“That’s not in your file,” Taylor said irritably.
“Maybe Murphy doesn’t write to Mayo.”
Taylor stood up and began to pace along the side of Jack’s bed, stepping carefully around the piles of books. He’d have to contact William Murphy and find out why he’d diagnosed agranulocytosis—but that could take weeks, and Jack didn’t have that much time. Not with his white cell count dropping hourly.
“I think we need to deal with your problem colon first.” Taylor was thinking out loud. “If we could get that under control, you might regain some strength—keep some food under your belt, keep some weight on—and then your white blood cell count might rise. Ever heard of DOCA?”
Jack shook his head.
“Desoxycorticosterone acetate,” Taylor said. “It’s an adrenal extract—highly experimental, like Murphy’s liver dose. It seems to control a spastic colon. The problem is, you’d have to administer it yourself.”
“In Europe, you mean?”
“Anywhere.”
“I can do that.” Jack sounded confident, but Taylor wasn’t buying.
“You wouldn’t do it four years ago, in London. Afraid of needles?”
“No!” He looked insulted. “I told you. The liver stuff was hard to find.”
“I couldn’t release you until I was sure the treatment was working.”
“How long will that take?” Jack demanded.
Taylor considered. “Two or three days.”
“If it means going to Europe, I’ll stay another week.”
There was so much hope in the boy’s ravaged face that Taylor bit his lip.
“You’d have to keep in touch,” he warned. “I’d need reports on your condition.”
“My friends will tell you I’m a devoted correspondent.”
It was true—the nurses were constantly mailing out reams of Jack’s illegible handwriting. Letters, like books, seemed to keep his loneliness at bay.
“Roll up your pajama leg,” Taylor said. “I’ll be right back.”
He almost ran from room 110. The idea was crazy; it was irresponsible; it might not even work.
When he got back, Jack’s right leg, thin and vulnerable, was stretched nakedly on the bed.
“Play any sports?” Taylor asked as he readied his tools.
“I swim for Harvard.” Jack sounded almost embarrassed; real men played football. “We went undefeated last year. And I box pretty well.”
“Good.” Taylor held a scalpel in front of Jack’s nose. “I assume that means you don’t faint at the sight of blood.”
He grinned. “I had to get twenty-eight stitches once. Head-on collision between two bikes.”
“What’d the other guy look like?”
“That’d be my brother. Not a scratch on him.”
“You’re going to have to cut yourself, Jack, if you want to go to Europe.”
The smile faded slightly. “I can take it, Doc.”
With a single quick movement, Taylor sliced open a quarter-inch flap of skin over the boy’s right calf muscle.
A hiss of indrawn breath. But when Taylor glanced up, Jack’s face betrayed nothing.
“See this?” The doctor held up a pellet.
“DOCA?”
“DOCA. You tuck it into the cut, Jack. Then cover it with a bandage. It should dissolve slowly into your system.”
Jack nodded, his eyes fixed on Taylor’s fingers. “How often should I do it?”
“We’ll figure that out,” the doctor said, “before you leave Rochester—”
“By how much my colon improves, or my blood count fluctuates over time?”
“Exactly.” The kid wasn’t stupid. He could analyze the data and draw his own conclusions. That might be a problem, Taylor thought, if the data worsened. . . .
“And if the DOCA doesn’t help?”
Taylor avoided Jack’s eye as he twisted the bandage around the wad of cotton. “Let’s hope it will.”



Part One
WINTER



ONE. PLATFORM 61


A BITTER COLD WEDNESDAY in February, nearly midnight. Jack strolled out of Grand Central Terminal and up Park Avenue to the Waldorf-Astoria, carrying his ancient suitcase. Seventeen hours on the 20th Century Limited, the most exclusive and luxurious train in America, and he felt as battered as if he’d traveled by camel. He hadn’t eaten much more than a Parker House roll. He hadn’t slept, either. His skin was drawn tight across his cheekbones and his eyes had the feeling of August on the Cape—too much sun and salt ripping across the Wianno’s bow.
The hotel doorman was looking at him as though he were a Bowery bum in search of a heating grate. His clothes were a rumpled mess—they always were; his mother was constantly nagging him about it—but the Waldorf was Kennedy territory. His father had lived here for a year when Jack was a kid, and he still stayed at the hotel whenever he came to New York. His mother preferred the Plaza—and booked it whether Dad was at the Waldorf or not. It was a metaphor for their marriage. Never mind separate beds; Joe and Rose got separate hotels.
“Checking in, sir?” the doorman inquired frigidly.
Jack handed him the suitcase. The man’s arm sagged from the weight of his books.
“I think my father already has a suite. Ambassador Kennedy?”
“Of course.” The doorman snapped his fingers for a bellboy, his relief obvious. “Welcome to the Waldorf-Astoria.”
“Thanks.” He thought about tipping the guy, but before he could find a quarter in his pants pocket, a hand came down on his shoulder. A surprisingly heavy hand. Like a cop’s.
“Mr. Kennedy?”
He turned around. “Yes?”
There were three of them—Foscarello, Casey, and Schwartz, as he would learn later. They wore trench coats and snap-brim fedoras, and although they bore no relation to one another, their faces had a blunt-featured sameness. Schwartz was in charge of this cutting-out expedition and it was he who’d clapped his hand on Jack’s shoulder. He was four inches shorter than Jack but his hips and chest had the centered mass of a wrestler.
Jack could feel the doorman watching him; he saw the bellboy halt in his tracks. And so he flashed his smile at the men who were not cops, and said, “Gentlemen. What can I do for you?”
* * *
THE MAN IN THE WHEELCHAIR couldn’t sleep, but that was nothing new. Because his days were filled with too much talk and competing bids for attention, he’d made a habit of insomnia; he thought more clearly in the emptiness of midnight. Four hours of peace were his as the train rolled north from Washington, and he’d spent some of it reading the manila file that Ed Hoover had sent over from the Bureau that morning. When his eyes grew tired, he stared blankly at the protective steel louvers that striped his private Pullman’s windows, thinking. He was pulled up in the lee of a desk bolted to the train car’s floor. It was covered with cables from Europe.
He had owned this job for nearly eight years now, and the insomnia was building with the threat of war, a continuous adrenaline feed into his bloodstream. It was sapping his strength and his life, but he could no more give it up—this excitement like a second pulse throbbing beneath his skin—than he could choose to walk again. He knew, better than any man in America, just how critical the work was and how little time he might have to control it. The work was more vital than legs or sleep or even living a few years longer. It was defining the shape of the coming world—he was defining the shape, he and a few other people on the opposite side of the ocean, and the crooks they tried to contain, and the sheer variability of facts and impulses that collided each day as randomly as a boy’s marbles. He could not sleep because he could not stop watching the world as it gathered itself to explode.
A year ago—1938—Adolf Hitler had seized Austria, although the term he used was “annexed,” without firing a shot. A few months later, he’d screamed for the German slice of Czechoslovakia, the Sudetenland, when what he really wanted was the country’s munitions factories and uranium mines and a clear passage to the Russian border. Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, had flown to Germany twice to tell Hitler he was welcome to the Czechs, if only he’d leave England alone. Hitler had shaken on the deal and promised to be a good boy. The British public cheered with relief and called Chamberlain a savior.
The man in the wheelchair thought Chamberlain was an egotistical ass.
He squinted through his spectacles at the most recent cable—it was from Poland, the next prize in Hitler’s sights—then set it down in favor of the manila file he’d practically memorized.
Believed to be dying at age seventeen . . . misdiagnosed with leukemia . . . possible blood or liver disease . . . damaged vertebrae while playing football at Harvard . . . spends several weeks each year at the Mayo Clinic, with additional tests at Brigham Hospital . . . medical consensus: unlikely to thrive . . .
A slight sound from the doorway drew his head around; Missy was leaning there, the perfect personal aide, a cup of tea in her hands.
“Like some?” she asked.
“Please.” He took the cup from her, scenting the rum-spiked tea. As he drank, he tapped the manila file. “Ever meet this boy?”
She shook her head.
“Supposed to be a charmer.” Roosevelt peered at her over his spectacles. “The Black Sheep of the family. Hang around and say hello, if you want.”
Missy had a soft spot for black sheep. She came over to his chair and planted a kiss on his head. “My book’s too good.”
He eyed her critically. His wife would be reading an improving work filled with labor statistics. But Missy . . . “Is it something by Jane Austen?”
“Dashiell Hammett. Tell me about Jack in the morning.”
* * *
THEY LED HIM THROUGH a part of the Waldorf few guests ever saw and exited a service door into the hotel garage, pulling up eventually before a freight elevator. By this time Schwartz had flipped open his badge.
“Secret Service,” Jack mused. The Treasury department’s special force. Which might mean he’d been dragged out of the lobby because Dad had overplayed the markets again. Why not talk to his father, then? Why buttonhole Jack? It was important, he figured, to look unconcerned. To stay calm, even if his heart was racing. His eyes met Schwartz’s and held them.
“Is my father in some kind of trouble?”
He didn’t need to remind the Secret Service that Joe Kennedy had made a fortune manipulating stock in ways the Treasury department had never been able to prosecute. Franklin Roosevelt had made Jack’s father his first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission as a reward for his cunning. Set a thief to catch a thief, Roosevelt had said—or so Dad once told Jack, smiling his thin smile at the head of the dinner table. Dad found the President’s cynicism funny. How could Treasury have caught up with Joe Kennedy now?
“Last I heard,” the man named Foscarello said, “your old man was just swell. Out dancing with a hatcheck girl.”
Jack flushed and almost went for Foscarello, but at that moment the doors of the freight elevator opened and Schwartz’s hand was on his shoulder again, guiding him into the steel cage.
“Mr. Kennedy,” Schwartz said soothingly, “we’re President Roosevelt’s bodyguards. He wants to see you. He’s waiting below in his Pullman.”
Foscarello stared at Jack without blinking and there was a definite challenge in the man’s stolid face. The elevator lurched like a tin can on a string and Jack’s stomach dropped sickly.
“Below?” he repeated. “The President’s Pullman is in the hotel’s basement?”
Schwartz sighed. “There’s a track beneath us, Mr. Kennedy. The Waldorf was built over some old train yards connected to Grand Central. Platform 61 belongs to the hotel. Public trains don’t stop here—you can’t actually find the platform unless you know where to look. The President uses it on his way to Hyde Park.”
Jack ran a hand tentatively over his hair. “You’re sure Mr. Roosevelt didn’t ask for Joe Kennedy?”
“He asked for Jack.”
“How’d he know I’d be here tonight?”
Schwartz almost smiled. “I have no idea, Mr. Kennedy.”
The elevator doors opened.
“Hey,” Jack said urgently. “Anybody got a comb?”
* * *
ROOSEVELT WAS PRETENDING to read the file when the boy slid through the doorway, ducking his head in deference to the occasion, one finger working at his tie. His clothes were a mess; so was his hair. It was remarkable hair: springy and barely tamed with pomade that’d been applied a day and a half ago. Roosevelt dismissed Schwartz with a nod.
“Ah. Jack. Good of you to come. Sit down, won’t you?”
“Mr. President.”
It was all visitors ever said, as though the title implied whole layers of meaning—I’m honored, I’m bewildered, I’m waiting to find out what I did wrong—and for a moment Roosevelt was disappointed. He’d expected more from the Black Sheep.
“I didn’t exactly have a choice,” Jack went on, with a sudden grin. “Those boys of yours are very persuasive. But I like my nose unbroken. So I came along quietly.”
There it was: The jauntiness. The inveterate curiosity. Roosevelt had guessed right about this one.
Jack sank into one of the Pullman’s seats with unconscious grace. His face was gaunt, his frame as thin as a teenager’s. But Roosevelt caught a whiff of cordite on the air—the scent of a fired gun, a burnt match. It came from the kid in front him. Jack crackled with energy.
J. Edgar Hoover thought the boy was an embarrassment, the expendable Kennedy.
He’s the kind who never finishes anything, the FBI chief had insisted as he’d handed Roosevelt the file that morning. The kid who comes in second, the one who drops out, who trades on his daddy’s name. He was nearly expelled from Choate, for God’s sake, he was such a discipline problem. He quit the London School of Economics. And Princeton.
But Roosevelt never relied on a single source of information. He knew more about Jack than Hoover or his files would ever hold. Jack might be sick and his record might be checkered, but he was one of those rare souls completely at home in the world. It didn’t matter that he was Irish or Catholic or that his father was regarded as an unprincipled cad; Jack slouched into the most breathless of WASP bastions in his careless clothes and threw his legs over armchairs like he’d owned them from birth. His ease was admired and slavishly imitated; his quips and sarcasm circulated like a kissing disease. He was voted into Harvard’s exclusive Spee Club when no Kennedy had ever made a final club at Harvard before—because his friends categorically refused to join without him.
Hoover loved to tick off the ways Jack slid by: the standing account at the Hyannis Port gas station, where the convertible’s tank was always filled and the owner never paid; the clothes strewn all over the floor of his college suite; the string of girls he picked up and dropped. But those things meant nothing to Franklin Roosevelt. He’d been privileged and young once, too. He was much more interested in the ways Jack didn’t conform to type. His love of risk. His analytic brain. His need to argue. His willingness to ditch the pack and go it alone.
His refusal to admit he probably wouldn’t see thirty.
The man in the wheelchair looked at Jack Kennedy, and saw something he recognized. Something he’d learned to respect. Something he was himself.
A survivor.
* * *
“YOU’RE WONDERING WHY you’re here,” the President said.
The smile flashed again. “I told Mr. Schwartz it was probably Dad you wanted to see.”
“I saw your father in Washington. He’s a fine man. I’m proud of the job he’s doing for us over there in London.”
Roosevelt kept his voice light as he mouthed the lies; nobody ever won a boy’s heart by insulting his father. He disliked Joe Kennedy more than most of the men who hung on his coattails; and he’d never trusted him, even when Joe’s money and Democratic contacts had helped win the ’32 election. Roosevelt had sent Joe to London mostly to get him out of his hair. He preferred to leave the Atlantic between them; if Roosevelt had his way, Joe would stay in England until after the 1940 election.
“That’s kind of you to say, sir.” It was the correct response, of course—but Roosevelt saw Jack’s slight frown; he was wary, now. He’d know, of course, that Roosevelt was forcing his father to return to London early—two weeks before Jack sailed—because he was fed up with Kennedy idling by his pool in Palm Beach, with his detective novels and his easy women and his fawning reporters drinking his whiskey, while they assessed Joe’s chances of winning the presidency. Joe Kennedy actually thought he was Roosevelt’s heir apparent. His ambition, Roosevelt thought, was childlike; for a crook he had very little guile. It was as though all his craftiness was reserved for making money. In the game of politics, Roosevelt could run circles around somebody like Joe. Even in a wheelchair.
He took a sip of Missy’s tea. “You know I was a Harvard man, of course.”
“Yes, sir.”
“I put in a call today to Bruce Hopper. I believe you two are acquainted?”
Jack sat up, on alert. “Professor Hopper’s my thesis adviser.”
“He’s a fine man. Fought in the War, you know.”
“Have you heard his Armistice Day lecture?” the boy asked eagerly. “It’s something I’ll never forget.”
“I’ve heard it. Hopper tells me you’re taking the spring semester off, and sailing to Europe to research your senior thesis.”
“Yes, sir. I leave in two weeks. Dad was supposed to travel with me, but—”
“I ordered him back to London.” Roosevelt bared his teeth in a smile. “Hopper says you mean to tour Germany this spring. Aren’t you afraid of heading into a war zone?”
“Begging your pardon, sir—but it’s not my war.”
“Yet.”
Again, a slight frown creased Jack’s forehead.
“Dad says the American public will never accept another European war. The polls look pretty solid on that point.”
“You care about polls?” Roosevelt asked genially.
Jack shrugged. “They’re a moment frozen in time. One piece of information. And opinions change, of course.”
“According to circumstances. If we were attacked, for instance. And had no choice but to go to war.”
“Exactly. Dad insists we can simply choose to stay out.”
“What do you think?”
“I’m not so sure.” The boy studied Roosevelt. “My dad doesn’t really understand politics, sir. I shouldn’t say this, but—”
“No, no. Go ahead. Please.”
“He understands business. Nobody makes money like he can. But he looks at the world as a series of markets—markets we have to protect. Markets we need, or don’t. The Germans are good trading partners. War is bad for business. But the war that’s coming, it has nothing to do with trade. On the German side it’s about history—and revenge. For the rest of us, it’s about standing up to bullies. Give Hitler the Czechs, and he’ll take the Poles.”
“And after the Poles?” Roosevelt asked softly.
“He’ll take whomever he damn well pleases.”
To Jack, it was obvious, Roosevelt thought—and yet most of the world refused to believe it. No wonder Professor Hopper had agreed to work with the boy. He could think for himself.
“Your father and Neville Chamberlain say Hitler’s reasonable. Chamberlain thinks he can strike a deal.”
“It won’t be an honorable one. Do you know Winston Churchill, sir?” Jack asked suddenly.
“We’ve met.” The question startled Roosevelt. Churchill was shunned by most people in power, including Joe Kennedy.
“He said something at the embassy’s Fourth of July party last summer that I’ve never forgotten.” The boy smiled crookedly. “It seems we will be offered a choice between dishonor and war. I suspect we shall take dishonor—and get war afterward, as a kind of dessert.”
Roosevelt sighed. He would like to talk to Churchill—get a different picture of Britain than the one Joe Kennedy usually gave him—but Churchill was viewed as a warmonger in the United States, and Roosevelt had to distance himself. But Jack, now . . . that was why Jack was here.
“Is that how you intend to research this thesis— By talking to people?”
“If they’ll make time for me. Sure.”
“In London? Berlin?”
“I’ve got to get to Poland, too,” Jack said thoughtfully. “Danzig is the next target. Hitler wants a North Sea port, and what he wants. . . . Have you heard Ray Buell talk about his new book Poland—Key to Europe? It’s due out in a few months. Lays out the whole thing.”
Roosevelt blinked. Raymond Leslie Buell was chairman of the Foreign Policy Association and an ardent interventionist. Not the sort of expert a Kennedy should admire. “I haven’t had the pleasure.”
“Most people haven’t,” Jack assured him kindly. “I’ve already got a copy of the book on order.”
“And after Danzig?”
“Moscow, if I’ve got time. Mother expects me in Cannes for August.”
Roosevelt conjured a picture of Rose Kennedy: her tight little figure, her tight little mouth. Her bottomless respect for rules and convention. Mother expects me in Cannes for August. Jack with his careless wit, dancing with debutantes. His frame too thin and his face too tan, thinking furiously about Danzig while he talked nonsense into the night.
“How will you travel?” Roosevelt demanded abruptly.
“I thought I’d drive.”
Hoover’s file noted that Jack was a wicked driver, with more traffic tickets in a month than most cops wrote in a year. Roosevelt could see it now: Jack alone at the wheel of an Austin or Lanchester, with only a diplomatic passport between himself and the Gestapo.
“Take a friend,” he suggested, “and stay at our embassies. It’ll be safer.”
“Thank you, sir, but I’ve driven through Europe before. A few Panzers here or there won’t make much difference.”
Because if your days are numbered, you live every one, Roosevelt thought. Risk doesn’t scare you—it just makes death more interesting.
He came to a decision.
“Professor Hopper says you have a first-class brain. That your writing is masterful and your analysis far more sophisticated than most men of your age. He says you’re a rare bird at Harvard—an independent thinker. Is that true?”
Jack glanced away, suddenly embarrassed. Praise from Hopper was unexpected, and when delivered by the President, impossible to take. “I don’t work that hard, sir. I mean, it’s not like I’m a grind.”
“Understood. But that’s not what I asked.”
Jack hesitated. “Of course I’m an independent thinker. What’s the point of being anything else?”
“The world is full of men who repeat what they’re told.”
“I know! How do you lead a country like ours, sir?” Jack asked curiously. “Where most people don’t read, and think even less? It’s like living among the deaf and blind.”
“I think I was deaf and blind myself when I was your age,” Roosevelt said. “I had the use of my legs then. I took them—and everything else—for granted. Before I was forced to decide what to live for. Or whether to live at all.”
It was far more than he’d intended to say. He stopped before he told the boy the unforgivable thing: that in his dreams at night, he walked tirelessly for miles down a thousand sidewalks, the campaign crowds awed to silence.
Jack was looking at him intently, his mobile features arrested. He was thinking about what Roosevelt had said; Roosevelt, knew, suddenly, that he understood it in his gut and in his blood, where his illness lived.
“Sir,” Jack said carefully. “You still haven’t told me why I’m here.”
Franklin leaned toward him. “Can you keep a secret, Jack Kennedy?”



TWO. THE SPIDER


THE WOMAN PERCHED ON the black stool was perfectly dressed for the Stork Club, even if she was parked in the cloakroom instead of onstage. Silk draped the generous curves of her body, her platinum hair was swept high in a shining pouf, and her lips were painted crimson. Her name was Katie O’Donohue and she was twenty-six years old. She earned five dollars a week checking coats, and lived in a fourth-floor walkup somewhere in Hell’s Kitchen.
Her teeth were sharp and white as a cat’s, the man thought as he watched her from the curtained doorway. Her tongue darted over her painted red lips as though a drop of cream lingered there. The man read greed and lust in that tongue, Katie’s chief weaknesses; he planned to capitalize on them tonight. He glanced at his watch, then back at the girl. Nearly two a.m., the end of her shift. It was time.
His gloved fingers tightened on the handle of the plain black satchel he held close to his coat. He stepped out of the shadows.
Her eyes widened as she saw him; her lips parted in a false smile. “You’re making a late night of it, Mr. Saunders. Are you alone, or meeting someone?”
It was the prearranged code phrase and she had it down pat; but instead of answering her with the correct phrase—Unfortunately I’m alone, Miss O’Donohue—he moved swiftly round the coat-check counter and swept her into his arms. The satchel dropped at his feet.
She stiffened beneath him, but when he kissed her roughly on the painted mouth something in her relaxed; Katie understood men and sex. That was her other weakness.
“Aren’t we all hot and bothered tonight,” she murmured, as he eased away from her.
“I am,” he agreed. “Let us go. There is a back entrance, yes?”
“There is a back entrance, yes,” she repeated, mocking his foreign accent. “What about your bag?”
He placed the satchel on the cloakroom’s bottom shelf; it was empty, but Katie didn’t need to know that. Her friend Jimmy Riordan had been picking the satchel’s lock for the past three weeks, thinking nobody would notice. Jimmy was swimming in fifty feet of East River tonight, with a stone tied where his balls used to be.
Katie shrugged herself into a smart red coat.
“Don’t button it,” he said. “I want to be able to feel you.”
Her false smile again; the catlike teeth. The orchestra surged from the dining room, a triumphal blast before the break—and he wanted the cover of noise. He’d have to move fast.
He grasped her arm and propelled her toward the rear door.
“Ow,” she said irritably. “Hold your horses, Loverboy. What I’ve got’ll keep.”
The door gave out into darkness, a single streetlight shining where the alley met 53rd. He turned his back on it and stared down at Katie.

American Centrist
July 23rd, 2012, 04:14 AM
Does anyone know when the sequel to "Britannia's Fist" and a "Rainbow of Blood" will come out??
I think that's my favorite AltHis series ever:D:D

The Kiat
July 23rd, 2012, 04:23 AM
Hasn't this already been discussed before? An AH publishing company being successful is not impossible,

If it's ran by a bunch of Socialists, it might just be impossible. :)

JSmith
August 5th, 2012, 08:31 PM
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North Reich [Kindle Edition]

Robert Conroy (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Robert%20Conroy) (Author)
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Book Description

Publication Date:June 14, 2012
American military forces are focused on fighting Japan after Pearl Harbor. Hitler's army has taken Stalingrad, defeated opposing countries in Western Europe, England has surrendered, and German troops, including the terrifying Gestapo, now control Canada, with a puppet government in Ottawa.

Many historians consider Hitler's greatest blunder was declaring war on the United States in 1941. Award-winning author Robert Conroy presents an exciting alternate history scenario, where Hitler did not declare war on the U.S. and American armed forces stayed out of the European conflict, focusing its military might on the Pacific.

In NORTH REICH, border skirmishes with Nazi-occupied Canada and saboteur efforts within U.S. escalate into a Nazi invasion. This novel presents a moving picture of Nazi-occupied Canada, what the U.S. response might have been, and how warfare on American soil could have played out.



http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008BVXZXO/ref=rdr_ext_sb_ti_sims_3#_

JSmith
August 5th, 2012, 08:37 PM
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The Second Great War - North Africa [Kindle Edition]

Alex Night (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Alex%20Night) (Author)




Book Description

Publication Date:December 20, 2011
What if the Central Powers, Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire had been victorious in the First World War, originally known as The Great War?

The Second Great War - North Africa is a novel that speculates how the Second World War could have unfolded had the Central Powers not been defeated.

From the arid wastes of North Africa, to the dark seas of the Mediterranean, and elsewhere, this alternative history novel follows an army officer and a nurse as they are swept up in the events of this Second Great War.

The Kiat
August 5th, 2012, 09:01 PM
One of these days(years?) one of my own AltHist books will be here...

JSmith
August 17th, 2012, 09:27 PM
Ok this one is already here but sounds good

http://www.amazon.com/Destination-Dealey-Countdown-Kennedy-Conspiracy/dp/0983747318/ref=reg_hu-rd_dp_img

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Book Description

Publication Date: August 8, 2011
<!-- @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } --> Read the daring new novel that flips the JFK assassination on its head!
The story opens in a world where KGB snipers botched the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dealey Plaza fifty years ago, killing his wife Jackie instead. The heinous crime enrages Americans and triggers a chronic war with Russia. In present day, the two superpowers are hell-bent on annihilating each other.
A team of outlaws time-travels back to 1963 to fix history. To save the future, they must right the wrongs of the past.
But, their plans may go awry . . .
All the events count down in a ticking clock to November 22, 1963. To ground zero of the assassination: Dealey Plaza in Dallas.

JSmith
September 19th, 2012, 01:41 AM
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43*: When Gore Beat Bush-A Political Fable (Kindle Single) [Kindle Edition]

Jeff Greenfield (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&field-author=Jeff%20Greenfield&search-alias=books) (Author)
3.7 out of 5 stars (http://www.amazon.com/43-Bush-A-Political-Kindle-ebook/product-reviews/B009B11D2S/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_img?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1)See all reviews (http://www.amazon.com/43-Bush-A-Political-Kindle-ebook/product-reviews/B009B11D2S/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_img?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1)(3 customer (http://www.amazon.com/43-Bush-A-Political-Kindle-ebook/product-reviews/B009B11D2S/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1)Book Description
Publication Date:September 13, 2012
At 5:00 p.m. on September 11, 2001, an ashen-faced but composed President Al Gore stepped into the East Room of the White House to deliver a televised address to the nation. With him were former presidents Clinton and Bush, as well as Texas governor George W. Bush—flown to Washington from Dallas on a military jet, his first visit back to the capital after the close race that lost him the presidency just months before.

That’s not how you remember it?

Imagine if the 2000 presidential election had turned out differently and Al Gore had defeated George W. Bush to become the 43rd president of the United States. How might events have played out? Would Osama bin Laden have loomed as large? Would the 9/11 attacks have been even worse? Would we have invaded Iraq? Would the economy have plunged into recession?

This is the provocative alternate universe of "43*," a riveting thriller by veteran political commentator Jeff Greenfield. Richly reported and anchored in actual events, “43*: When Gore Beat Bush” is the fascinating follow-up to Greenfield’s bestselling “Then Everything Changed,” which imagined what-if scenarios for the Kennedy, Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations.

Greenfield takes readers deep inside the Gore administration and reveals high-level meetings, top-secret programs, and ego-fueled battles that forever altered the global landscape. And in Greenfield’s hauntingly plausible parallel universe, the law of unintended consequences has a dramatic effect on the fate of the United States.

“It’s the ‘butterfly effect,’” writes Greenfield, “where one dead butterfly millions of years ago leads to a contemporary world immeasurably more coarse, less kind. It’s the notion of the old nursery rhyme: ‘For want of a nail the kingdom was lost.’”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

One of America’s most respected political analysts, Jeff Greenfield has spent more than thirty years in network television, including as a commentator on CNN, ABC News, and CBS and currently as an anchor on PBS’s “Need to Know.” A five-time Emmy Award winner, he is a political columnist for Yahoo! News and the author of more than a dozen books, including the bestseller “Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics—JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan.” He divides his time between New York and Santa Barbara.


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Product Details


File Size: 319 KB
Publisher: Byliner Inc. (September 13, 2012)
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Abhakhazia
September 19th, 2012, 01:46 AM
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North Reich [Kindle Edition]

Robert Conroy (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Robert%20Conroy) (Author)
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Book Description

Publication Date:June 14, 2012
American military forces are focused on fighting Japan after Pearl Harbor. Hitler's army has taken Stalingrad, defeated opposing countries in Western Europe, England has surrendered, and German troops, including the terrifying Gestapo, now control Canada, with a puppet government in Ottawa.

Many historians consider Hitler's greatest blunder was declaring war on the United States in 1941. Award-winning author Robert Conroy presents an exciting alternate history scenario, where Hitler did not declare war on the U.S. and American armed forces stayed out of the European conflict, focusing its military might on the Pacific.

In NORTH REICH, border skirmishes with Nazi-occupied Canada and saboteur efforts within U.S. escalate into a Nazi invasion. This novel presents a moving picture of Nazi-occupied Canada, what the U.S. response might have been, and how warfare on American soil could have played out.



http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008BVXZXO/ref=rdr_ext_sb_ti_sims_3#_

There was a time when I respected, even liked Conroy as an author.

Then I saw a Maple leaf pasted over a swastika.

Then everything changed.

:(

CaliBoy1990
September 19th, 2012, 02:15 AM
There was a time when I respected, even liked Conroy as an author.

Then I saw a Maple leaf pasted over a swastika.

Then everything changed.

:(

I've heard of this, too. It makes For Want of a Nail's Kramer Industries look slightly plausible.......and that's not a good thing. :(

Darth_Kiryan
September 19th, 2012, 01:57 PM
Haven't seen this one mentioned yet.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51KiggvaugL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-64,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg
By Force of Arms [Kindle Edition]

Billy Bennett (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&field-author=Billy%20Bennett&search-alias=books) (Author)

North America 1869: It has been six years since the South won the Civil War on the bloody fields of Gettysburg. An icy peace has descended across the continent. In the economically devastated North, war hero William Tecumseh Sherman has just been elected President of the United States. He is determined to pick up where the North left off six years ago, and restore the Union no matter the cost.

Using Confederate and French military involvement in Mexico as a pretext for war, Sherman lights the fuse that once again causes America to explode into the fires of battle. The fragile peace is shattered and armies in blue and gray once again slaughter one another on an epic scale. In the South, the aging Confederate President Robert E Lee once again summons his daring strategic mind, his audacious spirit and his last reserves of strength to once again lead the embattled Confederacy. But the weapons of war have grown evermore terrible. The introduction of breech loading rifles and lethal Gatling Guns has made the battle field deadlier and more horrendous than ever before in history.

By Force of Arms is an epic novel of the Second American Civil War. From Ironclads battling in the Gulf of California to the horrors of trench warfare in Virginia, from black Buffalo soldiers fighting for the Union in the wild west to Confederate partisans in Missouri led by the notorious and daring outlaw Jesse James, By Force of Arms shows the most horrible war in American history through the eyes of those forced to fight it. With the fate of a nation, a continent and ultimately the world itself in the balance, both sides struggle to win the victory by force of arms.

*-* *-* *-*

What?:confused:

edvader
September 19th, 2012, 02:16 PM
Got at Barnes and Noble-The Lincoln Conspiracy.A detective in post Lincoln assasination in 1865 uncovers two books which lead to a massive conspiracy and cover up.Looks good.It is what if there was a conspiracy.Writer's name is Timothy O'brien.

Mitro
September 19th, 2012, 02:47 PM
The Madman Theory (http://www.amazon.com/The-Madman-Theory-Harvey-Simon/dp/0985516607/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1347971817&sr=1-22) (Nixon beats JFK), All Timelines Lead to Rome (http://www.amazon.com/All-Timelines-Lead-Rome-ebook/dp/B009BWKF30/ref=sr_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347971783&sr=1-8) (Dale Cozort's parallel universe murder mystery) and The Eternal Empire (http://www.amazon.com/The-Eternal-Empire-ebook/dp/B009AIEJ14/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347722747&sr=1-5) (another Rome never falls) also came out last week.

Dave Howery
September 22nd, 2012, 07:19 PM
In NORTH REICH, border skirmishes with Nazi-occupied Canada and saboteur efforts within U.S. escalate into a Nazi invasion. This novel presents a moving picture of Nazi-occupied Canada, what the U.S. response might have been, and how warfare on American soil could have played out.
_

if somehow the Nazis did beat and occupy Britain, you would think that first, Canada is where the RN, what's left of the British Army, and the royals and government would flee to, and second, if the Nazis did intend to occupy Canada, the US would say 'hell no!', and the USN has the power to enforce that...

Georgepatton
September 22nd, 2012, 07:21 PM
if somehow the Nazis did beat and occupy Britain, you would think that first, Canada is where the RN, what's left of the British Army, and the royals and government would flee to, and second, if the Nazis did intend to occupy Canada, the US would say 'hell no!', and the USN has the power to enforce that...

FDR was against the Nazis scooping up the Dutch and French islands in the New World, can't imagine he'd be okay with Canada going Reich.

Kaiphranos
September 22nd, 2012, 10:24 PM
FDR was against the Nazis scooping up the Butch and French islands in the New World, can't imagine he'd be okay with Canada going Reich.

It took me a moment to realize who you meant by the "Butch"...

(New challenge: come up with a ATL where that's an actual demonym...)

B_Munro
September 23rd, 2012, 07:41 AM
It took me a moment to realize who you meant by the "Butch"...

(New challenge: come up with a ATL where that's an actual demonym...)

Mispronunciation of "Boche?" :)

Bruce

History_Man68
September 23rd, 2012, 05:09 PM
There was a time when I respected, even liked Conroy as an author.

Then I saw a Maple leaf pasted over a swastika.

Then everything changed.

:(
Conroy has lost the plot.His sole aim now seems to be churning out as many AH books as possible, regardless of how good they are.

Petike
October 16th, 2012, 07:33 PM
Chris Nutall's fantasy AH The Royal Sorceress has come out and it sounds rather good:

http://alternatehistoryweeklyupdate.blogspot.sk/2012/10/interview-chris-nuttall.html

(P.S. Yes, that Chris Nutall.)

JSmith
October 16th, 2012, 07:50 PM
http://d188rgcu4zozwl.cloudfront.net/content/B0073XV2K4/images/cover.jpg
JACK 1939
Francine Mathews

RIVERHEAD BOOKS A MEMBER OF PENGUIN GROUP (USA) INC.
NEW YORK 2012



PROLOGUE


.
Im reading this right now actually-pretty good so far.

JSmith
November 6th, 2012, 12:08 AM
A teaser


http://afrikareich.com/book2.html


‘I hope the concept of the Jews will be completely extinguished through the possibility of a large emigration to Madagascar.’
- Heinrich Himmler, May 1940

http://afrikareich.com/img/madagascar.png

Astrodragon
November 15th, 2012, 06:29 PM
Conroy has lost the plot.His sole aim now seems to be churning out as many AH books as possible, regardless of how good they are.


Thats using AH rather broadly, mind...:)

I just read Himmlers War. This doesn't just jump the shark, it polevaults over enough of them to cross the Channel on..

In four months, in the middle of a bomb-ravaged germany, Heisenberg designs, develops and builds an atomic bomb. Something the Allies, with vastly superior resources in every area, took five years to do...:mad::mad::mad:

Wolfpaw
November 15th, 2012, 06:57 PM
In four months, in the middle of a bomb-ravaged germany, Heisenberg designs, develops and builds an atomic bomb. Something the Allies, with vastly superior resources in every area, took five years to do...:mad::mad::mad:SCIENCE!!!

I seem to be one of the few that never liked Conroy, who had one or two nifty ideas that were wretchedly executed.

servo
December 20th, 2012, 05:01 PM
http://www.amazon.com/DISASTER-AT-STALINGRAD-Alternate-History/dp/1848326637/

Unfortunately (for me, at least) it's not the next entry in the Britannia's Fist/Rainbow of Blood series.

edvader
January 12th, 2013, 02:15 PM
Doktor Glass-by Tom(?)Brennan.This is a world where the transatlantic bridge is built from London to America.It involves a detective inspector who lost his wife is now involved in a strange case of which YOU must read the book.It is definitely AH!

JSmith
January 29th, 2013, 09:04 PM
Something new from the Axis of Time !


http://www.amazon.com/Stalins-Hammer-Rome-Novella-ebook/dp/B00AP2VRNW/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1359492973&sr=1-3&keywords=john+birmingham#reader_B00AP2VRNW
Book Description

Publication Date:February 25, 2013
Alternate history master John Birmingham unleashes an astounding new installment in his Axis of Time series: an original eBook novella that begins when the future and the past collide.

The year is 1955, ten years after a battle fleet from 2021 exploded through a wormhole in space—straight into the Battle of Midway. A staggered, war-torn world catches its balance. Uptimers, with their extraordinary technology and strange styles, mingle with the real timers. Universities study the effects on the future. And men like Prince Harry of England find themselves playing pivotal roles in a history that has already happened.

Or has it?

In the starkly partitioned city of Rome, spies, killers, and mafia foot soldiers cross the dividing line between Allied and Russian Zones. Somewhere in the ancient, underground catacombs two men hunt for one another. One is Stalin’s personal assassin, the other a murderous, disillusioned acolyte of the Communist ideal, allied by fate and history with the OSS, MI6, and England’s swashbuckling Prince Harry. Harry’s own mission takes him to a glittering dinner party and a prize over which the two Russian killers are fighting—a factory owner with a terrifying secret. As the forces of West and East are locked in a stalemate, what this man knows could change everything: Josef Stalin, hiding in a Siberian bunker, is ready to hit the world with a thunderous blow.











-}http://d188rgcu4zozwl.cloudfront.net/content/B00ABQ0L3E/images/cover.jpg
About Stalin’s Hammer: Rome





Ten years have passed since Admiral Kolhammer’s 21st century battlefleet was dragged into a wormhole and thrown across oceans of time, emerging with disastrous consequences and shattering the history of the Second World War.





Hitler and the Nazis have fallen, Kolhammer sits in the White House, but Stalin rules half of Europe and Asia. The great Soviet engines of state power turn and burn to ‘set history right’. Not just of the war, but of all future time.





In Rome with his lover Julia Duffy, an older, mellower Prince Harry is drawn into Stalin’s plans when a simple game of spies goes horribly wrong, while underneath the eternal city, former Spetsnaz officer Pavel Ivanov fights a running battle with the NKVDs executioner in chief as Stalin’s minions fight to preserve the secret of a weapon which could destroy the West with one, fearsome blow.





In Stalin's Hammer: Rome, the first of a series of ebooks, John Birmingham returns to the world he destroyed along with the US Fleet at Midway in Weapons of Choice.







http://d188rgcu4zozwl.cloudfront.net/content/B00ABQ0L3E/images/273349348.jpg




Prologue




April 13, 1955: central Siberia


Joseph Stalin knew he was being watched. He closed his eyes and adjusted the soft, red blanket that covered his legs, like a child hiding under his bed covers, thinking that if he could not see the monster, the monster could not see him. The sun was warm on his face, and bright, through his paper-thin eyelids. Sitting there in his wheelchair, his face turned up, eyes closed, it was possible to imagine the whole world was a pink, warm womb.

He let his chin slowly fall to his chest before opening his eyes and turning his glare on Beria. “We are delayed, Lavrenty Pavlovich. To what end?”

Stalin patted his pockets, looking for his old pipe, forgetting that he had not smoked in years. The doctors had said it would kill him. Frustrated at the delay, frustrated at the doctors, angry that he could not enjoy a simple pipe, his scowl grew darker. Once upon a time the hardest men in Russia had quailed at the sight of him playing with that pipe. To turn it this way and that, to stroke the bowl with his thumb while never moving to pack even one shred of tobacco in there – that was enough to signal his displeasure. Enough to make strong men quiver with fear. Now when he patted his pockets, he just looked like an old cripple, forgetful and failing.

Still, what little colour Beria had in his face leached away at the thunderous look on Stalin’s. That was something.

“No delay. There is no delay, comrade. Everything is running to schedule.”

The chief of the Functional Projects Bureau stammered over his last words and nervously checked the iPad he carried. A rare and valuable working model, an Apple original, one of the last before the ‘flex’ models debuted, and salvaged from the emergence of the British stealth destroyer way back in 1942, it was still sleeker and more powerful than anything Functional Projects had managed to produce. Then again, it was also vastly more elegant and powerful than any of the cheaper Samsung or Google flexipads they had also salvaged.

Stalin waved him off with a backhanded gesture. “Gah. Enough excuses, Lavrenty Pavlovich. Begin the demonstration. I have many days of travel to return to Moscow. Push your buttons. Bring down the sky. Be done with it.”

“The satellite is almost in position now,” Beria assured him. “We must retire inside.”

His bodyguard leaned forward. “Vozhd?” he asked, seeking permission to move him.

“Yes, yes,” said Stalin, who did not really want to give up his place in the sun. The winters grew longer as he grew older. He was certain of it. He enjoyed the mild spring weather, but soon enough, too soon, the leaves on the small stand of trees outside his apartment back in the Kremlin would turn red again, then gold, then brown as winter stalked back into the land. What did those books say? The ones his daughter loved, from the broken future. Winter was coming? His last perhaps. He adjusted the blanket again – an old habit, it had not moved – and tried to not let his disappointment show as his guard wheeled him off the terrace out of the sun and back inside the bunker.

He felt the chill as soon as they passed into the shadows of the deep concrete passageway. Solid iron blast doors rumbled behind him as the small party of high officials, bureaucrats and technicians filed in, trudging in procession to the bunker from which they would monitor the test. Moisture leaked from the thick concrete walls, giving Stalin pause to worry about his arthritis. He regretted having insisted on traveling all the way out here to witness the test firing for himself. Then he smiled. Beria undoubtedly regretted it more, and that was cause for some mild amusement. Stalin knew his deputy premier would be fretting now, squirming inside like a greasy little weasel, anxious that nothing should go wrong.

The tension in the control room was tangible. He could feel it on his skin, taste it even at the back of his mouth. It was a familiar taste, of a fine vintage. He had been supping on men’s fear for so long now he believed he could take some nourishment from it. The scientists and military officers – no, they were NKVD Spetsnaz; Beria’s thralls, not Red Army, he reminded himself – all did their best to avoid catching his gaze. Beria scuttled about, snapping and hissing at the technical staff, his spidery white fingers stabbing so hard at the screen of the iPad that Stalin thought he might punch it to the floor. That would be amusing.

His bodyguard – it was Yagi today – wheeled him past banks of computer terminals, monitoring screens, and control boards dense with flashing lights and illuminated buttons. The supreme leader of the Soviet Union understood none of it. The technology was all plundered from the far and impossible future, the world that could not be.

He would never see that particular future. He knew that, of course. Accepted it. Life ebbed away from him now – in spite of all the new “miracle” medical treatments and organ therapies, life itself retreated from Joseph Stalin on a quickening tide of years and minutes. But nobody else would see the future from whence Kolhammer and his international fleet had Emerged either, because he would not let it come to pass. He would not let it be, this false future where Putinist thugs and bandits ruled the Rodina, where the revolution was mocked and mourned. And dead.

It would not be.

At a word from him, as long as Beria had done his job, the sky would fall in on the world outside this bunker, and the real future would draw that much closer. Yagi brought him to a stop a few feet from the viewing port created especially for him. The armored glass was 7 inches thick, they had told him, and the reinforced concrete wall of the bunker at least 3 feet deep. Peering through this personal viewport was a little like looking down a short tunnel. The glass distorted the view somewhat, and gave it a dark green tinge. Steel shutters stood ready to slam down if needed, but he could not see them. Nobody could. Only a wheelchair-bound Stalin and one of the technicians, who was a dwarf, were of a height to have an unimpeded view through the port. Everybody else had to make do with the viewing screens. There were dozens of them about, but the two largest ones hung from the wall directly in front of him, above the viewing slit.

The room was chilly, because of all the infernal computers, which always seemed to be in danger of overheating. The cold, stale, recycled air irritated his eyes and seeped into his bones, but it awoke his senses, and he did want to see this. It was why he had traveled so far east, beyond the natural barrier of the mountains.

Involuntarily he glanced upwards, imagining American satellites prowling overhead, peering down on him. But there was only the low ceiling of unrendered cement. And above that – tons of rock.

“You are sure Kolhammer is not watching this on some television in the White House?” he growled at Beria. “They are always watching us.”

Startled out of some reverie, the NKVD boss jumped a little, and even squeaked. He was more nervous than usual. “We have done our best, our utmost, to draw their attention away from the proving grounds,” he said, stammering as before. “Ten Red Army divisions and fraternal bloc forces are exercising as close to the Oder as we dare. There have been incidents. I made sure of that personally. What satellite cover they do not have watching us there will be trained on Admiral Koniev’s newly unmasked fleet base. Our strategic forces are ready to test fire a fusion warhead to mask the geologic signal. This is all settled, Vozhd. By your very self.”

Stalin waved him away again, a stock gesture when dealing with Beria. He knew everything the man had just said, but he wanted him to repeat it. If Beria’s plan to mask the Hammer Fall test failed, Comrade Beria would pay the price. Not Stalin.

Klaxons and sirens began to sound all around them, and somewhere in the distance he heard the deep, bass rumble of more blast doors sliding into place. The countdown clock between the two large viewing screens clicked over to ten minutes.

In spite of his weariness and his age – he should have been dead two years now – in spite of all that he had done and seen, Joseph Stalin could not help but feel a flicker of excitement in his chest. Well, hopefully it was just excitement … After his last heart attack, the doctors had told him (or rather suggested, very mildly) that he might need to think about cutting back to one serving each day of his favorite lamb stew. He wiggled his fingers now, marveling at how old his hands looked, how skeletal and heavily veined.

1953, he thought.

These hands through which his blood still flowed, with which he could still touch the world, they should have clawed at the last moments of life in 1953. On March 5 – as a massive stroke shredded his brain and twisted his body into a crippled, piss-stained mess.

He smiled at the thought. He was still here. For now. Inside, he still felt like a twenty-year-old revolutionary, but his body was failing him. Even with his blood washed clean by a fresh, transplanted liver, even with improbably tiny machines regulating his heartbeat and sweeping toxins from his body, it was failing him. He should have been used to it, he supposed. So many had failed him over the decades. Their bodies, at least, he could pile up like cordwood. His own, he was stuck with, mostly, despite the efforts of his transplant surgeons and pharmacists.

The Vozhd had simply given too much to the struggle over the years. That was why he was so excited and intrigued by the possibilities of today’s test. Since the reactionary Kolhammer forces had Emerged from the Gordian knot of history at the Battle of Midway, Joseph Stalin had lived every day with the knowledge that he had limited time to set history right, to secure the revolution, and his place in it.

Emerged from history, and destroyed it, he thought. Destroyed the settled history of the twentieth century, and the twenty-first century after that. It was still a wonder to him how nobody in the West could see the obvious truth of it. How the very impossibility of Admiral Kolhammer’s arrival from the year 2021 through this ‘wormhole’ spoke to the impossibility of the future from which he had come.

He grunted in frustration, setting off a momentary panic amongst his hangers-on, but he ignored them.

The forces of history operate like a machine, he thought, as technicians and dogsbodies fussed about him. History: driving human progress from barbarity to civilization, from the feudal to the capitalist, and then inevitably on to the final socialist stages. A history in which the USSR fell was simply not possible. Reality was not engineered in such a fashion. Thus history had righted itself with the destructive miracle of the Emergence.

Or rather, it had started to right itself. The revolutionary work of men was in the hands of men, of course. Stalin hoped that today they would come one crucial step closer to completing that work.

“Two minutes, Vozhd,” said Beria, surprising him.

Where had the time gone? Stalin shook his head, disgusted. He had been daydreaming again. He leaned forward to peer out through the armored glass. A nameless valley fell away from them hundreds of feet below, disappearing into the haze. Ten miles away, hundreds of obsolete tanks and trucks, many of them salvaged from the battlefields of the Great Patriotic War, waited on the valley floor. He was aware of increased tension behind him as the technicians hurried through their last-minute procedures. Literally – the last-minute procedures. The countdown clock had reached sixty seconds. Beria really had nothing to do, setting himself to annoy everyone with his pestering and interference as he did it.

“Leave them alone, Lavrenty Pavlovich!” Stalin ordered. “Let them do their duty.”

JSmith
January 29th, 2013, 09:14 PM
Another one from John Birmingham

http://www.amazon.com/A-Captain-Gate-ebook/dp/B005WLQ7Y0/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_t#reader_B005WLQ7Y0
Book Description

Publication Date:November 1, 2011
A ′What if′ story of the Cold War ... a small piece of alternate history of the period told via a biography of one of its players, Lieutenant Branch McKinnon, an adventurer in a different post-WWII world of American isolationism.
This alternate history from a very popular and bestselling Australian writer gives the reader a different perspective on history and where we are now!










}http://d188rgcu4zozwl.cloudfront.net/content/B005WLQ7Y0/images/cover.jpg








Then out spake brave Horatius, the Captain of the Gate, ‘To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods?’

Thomas Babington, first Baron Macauley.



PROLOGUE (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))




Branch McKinnon exhaled, and with the hot, stale breath, went some of the tension cramping his arms and shoulders. Not that he relaxed. That would have been impossible. But as he saw the end coming, with no chance of escape or redemption, he accepted it for the first time, and some of the fear and the strain of the last few weeks ebbed away.
He waited. The muzzle of his Thompson gun tracked the small group of North Koreans as they cautiously rounded the huge mound of burning rubble at the end of the street. It had been a seafood warehouse, and the stench of burned and rotting fish guts was vile enough to blot out the smells of the harbour city as it died around him. Spoiled meat, slumping piles of garbage alive with carpets of black flies, the unwashed bodies of his platoon, napalm smoke and festering wounds; the evil stink of the warehouse blotted them all out.
Pusan was dying. The little port city that had held out for so long would be overrun, probably in the next few hours, and his small band of brothers was sure to die with her. He was aware, without turning to look at them, of his men in the firing pit next to him. Nate Lundquist was hunkered down over the platoon’s thirty cal. Jimbo Jamieson held a belt of shiny cartridges off the rubble and ash. He had another two boxes of ammo and, most precious of all, a spare barrel ready to go. Never taking his eyes off the enemy as they crept closer, he could still sense the rest of the guys. A patch of red hair peeking out beneath the curve of a helmet. The unnaturally straight line of a bayonet. A muted cough in the next foxhole, barely audible under the freight train scream of sixteen-inch shells arcing overhead. As long as they’d had the Navy at their backs McKinnon had felt there might be a small chance of surviving. But even the brightest optimist couldn’t ignore how thin the cover from the big guns had grown.
Word was, two of the battlewagons had been sunk in the last six hours. McKinnon had heard more than a dozen different rumours as to how, but he paid none of them a scrap of notice. All that mattered was the stone cold reality of those Koreans, or maybe Chinese, down the end of the street. Even yesterday they’d have been blown to pieces miles away from the edge of town. Now they were right in the heart of it. The docks, where the promised evac had descended into an unholy clusterfuck, were only two miles away. Thousands of people were trapped down there — Americans, Koreans, soldiers and civilians — none of them willing to wait anymore. When the captain had detailed Branch and his men as a rearguard he’d given it to them straight. Everything had gone to shit. Friendlies had turned their guns on each other. ROK forces had shot down women and children to clear a path to the barges for themselves. Marines, our marines, had poured fire on them in turn. It was, said the captain, an unmitigated horror. But what choice did they have? As long as they held the docks, they at least had to try and get some people away. They had to try.

JSmith
February 1st, 2013, 05:42 PM
http://www.amazon.com/Invasion-Alaska-America-Series-ebook/dp/B006KHGWAO/ref=pd_sim_b_1#reader_B006KHGWAO

Book Description

Publication Date:December 9, 2011
The invasion of Alaska has begun. And the Third World War may not be far behind.

In this controversial book, Vaughn Heppner explores the theme of a shattered America facing the onslaught of the new colossus in the East: Greater China.

The time is 2032, and the Chinese are crossing the polar ice and steaming through the Gulf of Alaska. They have conquered oil-rich Siberia and turned Japan into a satellite state. Now a new glacial period has begun, devastating the world’s food supply. China plans to corner the world’s oil market and buy the needed food for their hungry masses.

A weakened America uses old technology against the next generation of military hardware. The invasion unleashes the Hell of battle as two armies turn the snowfields of Alaska red with blood.

INVASION: ALASKA is a thundering techno-thriller of vast scope, written by bestselling author Vaughn Heppner.

http://d188rgcu4zozwl.cloudfront.net/content/B006KHGWAO/images/cover.jpg
Invasion: Alaska

(Invasion America Series)


by Vaughn Heppner



“China? There lies a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world.”


-- Napoleon Bonaparte



Copyright © 2011 by the author


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.



Timeline to War


1997: The British return Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China.


2011: China reviews its one-child per family policy begun in 1978 and decides to continue it. This increasingly creates an imbalance of boys, as families abort a higher percentage of girls.


2012: China carries much of the U.S. National Debt and continues to sell America a vast surplus of finished goods.


2015: Decreasing European and Russian population trends continue. Birthrates have plummeted well below replacement values, resulting in a shrinking number of Frenchmen, Germans, Finns and Russians.


2016: The American banking system and stock market crashes as the Chinese unload their U.S. Bonds. The ripple effect creates the Sovereign Debt Depression throughout the world.


2017: Siberia secedes from a bankrupt Russia.


2018: Scientists detect the beginning of a new glacial period that is similar to the chilly temperatures that occurred during the Black Death in the Middle Ages.


2019: The Marriage Act is passed. As the Chinese men greatly outnumber the women, special government permits are needed before a man is allowed to marry a woman.


2020: Due to new glaciation, there are repeated low yields and crop failures in China and elsewhere. It brings severe political unrest to an already economically destabilized world.


2021: An expansion-minded Socialist-Nationalist government emerges in China. It demands that Siberia return the Great Northeastern Area stolen during Tsarist times. It also calls for a reunification with Taiwan.


2022: The Sovereign Debt Depression—and an ongoing civil war in Mexico—creates political turmoil in America, particularly in the Southwest. There is an increase in terrorism, secessionist movements and a plummeting Federal budget. All American military forces return home to the U.S.


2023: The Mukden Incident sparks the Sino-Siberian War. Chinese armies invade. The ailing Russian government ignores Siberian cries for military aid. America’s new isolationism prevents any overseas interference.


2023: Modernized equipment and an excessive pool of recruits eager to win marriage permits bring swift victory to Chinese arms over Siberia. It annexes the Great Northeastern Area. Siberia becomes a client state.


2024: Aggressive posturing and long-range aircraft stationed on the Chinese coast cause the aging U.S. Fleet to retreat from Taiwan. China invades and captures Taiwan. Its navy now rivals the shrunken USN.


2026: Newly discovered deep oilfields in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska prove among the world’s largest.


2027: The civil war in Mexico worsens. The bulk of America’s Homeland Security Forces now stand guard on the Rio Grande.


2028: The continuing modernization of the oil industry in Siberia, the Great Northeastern Area and in the South China Sea turns Greater China into the largest oil-producing nation in the world. China begins to dictate OPEC policies.


2030: The cooling trend worsens, bringing record winter temperatures. New energy sources cannot keep pace with increasing demand. American energy hunger sweeps away the last environmental concerns. All possible energy sources are exploited.


2031: Harsher weather patterns and growing world population causes greater food rationing in more countries. The main grain exporting nations—Canada, America, Argentina and Australia—form a union along similar lines as OPEC. China warns it may cut America off from all oil supplies unless it is given priority status for grain shipments.


2032: China experiences the worst rice harvest of the Twenty-first century. New rationing laws are instituted. Internal unrest rises to dangerous levels as Party officials seek new food sources.



-1-

Upheaval



PRCN PAO FENG


I do not belong in this submarine, Commando First Rank Ru thought to himself. He sat on a metal bench inside the nuclear attack submarine Pao Feng. It was the quietest boat in the Chinese Fleet, and it was less than sixty kilometers from coastal Los Angeles.

Three other Bai Hu Tezhongbing—White Tiger Commandos—sat on the benches beside Ru. They were a stern-faced Underwater Demolition Team, an elite group of combat divers. Ru had the unfortunate privilege of being hailed as the best combat diver in Greater China. It was the reason the government had revoked his exemption and returned him to active service with this UDT.

The deckplates vibrated under his feet as a water droplet condensed on a pipe above. The droplet fell near his flippers, which were stacked against his bundle of CHKR-57 high explosives. Red light bathed the Commandos, and the softest of lurches told Ru that the submarine had begun to rise.

This tightened his stomach. He did not belong here. He had already served his time.

Ru’s eyes narrowed. He was an athletic man with compact muscles and thick wrists. His face was unremarkable, save that it was flatter than average and indicated Vietnamese heritage. That was a taint in the Socialist-Nationalist China of 2032, but he had proven himself in Taiwan and seldom had to worry about such things now.

There was a soft click to his left. Ru and the other three Commandos looked up as a flat computer-scroll flickered with life. The face of the submarine captain filled the scroll. He wore a white officer’s hat, had narrow features and sucked on a cigarette stub. A thin ribbon of smoke curled from the stub and drifted before the captain’s eyes. His had the eerie deadliness of a hammerhead shark. Behind him, a sailor moved to a different station.

“We are approaching the designated area,” the captain said. He had a raspy voice and he was known for his strict discipline. “I wish you men luck.” Nicotine-stained fingertips plucked the cigarette from his mouth as on-scroll he leaned toward them. “First Rank Ru, I am grateful that you came out of retirement to lead the assault. Your patriotism humbles us. You are a true Chinese fighter and I salute you.”

Mashing the cigarette into an unseen ashtray, the captain saluted. A second later, the computer-scroll went blank.

The four Commandos lurched to their feet. As they did, Ru became aware of Soldier Rank Kwan’s stare. Ru glanced at the man, the largest among them and thickly muscled from too much time on the weight machines. Kwan had a mustache and dark skin like a Turk of the outer provinces.

“Your patriotism humbles us all,” Kwan said.

The others nodded or mumbled agreement. Maybe only Ru heard the bite in Kwan’s words. In the red glow of the compartment their eyes locked, and Ru understood that Kwan knew his secret.

Like the others, Ru wore a wetsuit and a web-belt with a combat knife and a TOZ-2 underwater pistol attached. He now lifted the rebreather that rested against his high explosives and shouldered it onto his back. After securing the rebreather, he attached the high explosives to his chest, settling the CHKR-57 so it wouldn’t restrict his breathing.

“I know your patriotism is as strong as mine,” Ru said. “What I ask now is that you each remember your training.” They had been brought together a mere four weeks ago, intensely rehearsing their attack ever since. Ru was surprised he spoke with such confidence. The fact he did so made him glad. Maybe Soldier Rank Kwan understood his secret anger, but it would be better if the others didn’t realize.

Ru inhaled, tasting the boat’s oil-tainted air. He had forgotten how narrow a submarine’s compartments and passageways could be. He forced himself to grin and to glance at each of the White Tigers in turn. Each was younger than him, most by nine years. None was married and none had sisters because there was only one child per family—the one child per family policy being law, one of Greater China’s most strictly enforced.

“After this,” Ru said, “after we are successful, each of you shall win marriage permits. So I hope each of you has a chosen girl to pursue back home.”

The others stared at him, their features expressionless. These younger men coming out of the training camps were different than those Ru had known when he’d first joined. These men seemed more puritanical, almost like the Shaolin monks of the history books.

Soldier Rank Kwan spoke up. “We do this for the honor of China.”

Not wanting to get into an argument over it, Ru began to don his full-face diving mask. It was bigger than an ordinary sport mask. As the name implied, the full-face mask covered his entire face, protecting it from cold water and from possible pollution. Because his lips were free, he could talk inside the mask. Sometimes they used modulated ultrasound comm-units for talking to each other underwater. Today, they would use speaker units, but only for talking above the water. They didn’t want to use the ultrasound and risk having the Americans pick up their voices. Ru appreciated full-face masks because he no longer had to clench a mouthpiece. That made a difference during a long-distance swim.

He fastened several straps around his head. Then he clicked the set/air valve, breathing the submarine’s atmosphere. The switch was on the mask but out of the way, so he wouldn’t accidentally bump it during the dive. The rest of the mask was smooth around his face and head. That would keep it from brushing against something underwater and dislodging it—a flooded full-face mask was harder to clear of water than an ordinary sport mask.

The mask’s window or faceplate was a modern polymer instead of glass. Because the inside of the faceplate could become fogged during a dive, Ru’s mask had a special design feature: whenever he breathed, the inflow of air blew over the polymer. That air evaporated any mist on the inner faceplate, giving Ru clear sight.

With his rebreather hooked to the fitted mask, Ru moved past Kwan and the others. He squeezed through the hatch into the airlock chamber. He carried ninety pounds of CHKR-57 explosive. Another White Tiger followed him into the airlock, making it a tight fit. Ru pressed a button, and the chamber rotated, sealing them within.

In seconds, cold saltwater gurgled around their ankles. It rose quickly, reaching their thighs, their waist, and heading up for their chest. Ru half-turned from his partner. As the water swirled around him, he raised his right hand and touched a plastic pouch secured to the strap crossing his left pectoral. Curled within the pouch was a photograph of his pregnant wife, Lu May. Ru’s fingertips rested on the hidden photograph. Reflexively, his teeth ground together as the muscles that hinged his jaws tightened.

I should be in my favorite chair in our apartment in Shanghai. I should be listening to my wife sing lullabies to our unborn daughter.

Ru leaned his head against the chamber’s wall. The unfairness of this seethed within him. He had served his time and had risked his life for the State in order to earn the fabulous reward of marriage. Now he was supposed to enjoy marital bliss, not risk his hard-won happiness in order to harm Americans.

Years ago, he had become a White Tiger for a reason, and that reason wasn’t patriotism. It was because of Lu May, the only one for him. Since puberty, Ru had longed for her. He had never used a prostitute as many men did these days. Prostitutes were far too expensive and he found the idea repulsive. The first time he lay with a woman, he’d vowed, it would be Lu May—and he would never lay with another. He believed a woman was meant for one man alone. In trade school during his teens, he had thought it out carefully. At seventeen, he’d volunteered for the Army, passed the rigorous physical and mental tests, and gained admittance to the famed White Tigers. They were the elite Special Forces of China and considered the fastest way for a man to earn marriage rights, not to mention one of the few ways for a Chinese man to gain such rights while he was still in his twenties. The only trick was remaining alive throughout the hazardous duty.

Much to his disgust, Ru had still been in training when the war with Siberia started and ended. Fortunately, the war with Taiwan occurred a year and a half later. Ru had gone in with the second-wave UDT-attack into Taipei Harbor. Each White Tiger had carried a limpet mine, named for a type of mollusk. By activating powerful magnets, each diver was to attach his mine to an enemy hull and then swim to safety; a ticking fuse would blow the mine shortly thereafter. Every member of the first wave had died. Every member of Ru’s team had died too…except for him.

Soldier Rank Kwan’s favorite cousin, Mengyao, had been Ru’s best friend then. Mengyao had died in Taipei Harbor, and Ru was certain Soldier Rank Kwan blamed him for surviving. Second cousins were rare and therefore cherished in China.

Ru’s limpet mine had destroyed the Light Cruiser Quicken. He still had nightmares of that time. Both his eardrums had burst and he still experienced nosebleeds much too easily. The government had publicly hailed his performance. Not only had he gained the Medal of Excellence for the successful assault, but he’d also won a coveted marriage permit, a jiehunzheng. He had been paraded on TV as a Hero of the People.

That had been eight years ago. It had taken three of those years to woo Lu May. A woman in China had many suitors. Many richer men had sought out Lu May, a beauty, a rare and wonderful prize. In the end, she had chosen him, although he was only a First Rank Commando.

In the submarine’s diving chamber, the cold saltwater surrounded Ru. A clang sounded. Reaching up, Ru turned the wheel until he heard a click. He pushed, and the hatch opened into the Pacific Ocean one hundred meters below the surface.

Kicking his fins, Ru swam through the hatch. Even after years of training, this was an eerie experience. The attack submarine was the only visible thing in the darkness. Lights shined on the hull, allowing enough visibility to see the numbers painted below his fins.

First checking to see that his partner followed, Ru headed toward the bow. He kicked smoothly, expertly using his muscles to propel himself through the murky underworld. The trick was to relax, to pretend he was a shark or a barracuda. Soldier Rank Kwan was bigger, stronger and tougher, but none of his men was a better swimmer. It had been the key to Ru’s success.

The submarine’s hull shuddered and a mass of bubbles rose ahead of him. Ru slowed. He was near the bow, by the torpedo tubes. The captain ejected a T-9 SDV, or Swimmer Delivery Vehicle. It was torpedo-shaped, made of ceramic-plate so it had a negligible radar signature, and ran on Japanese batteries. There was a cage around the propeller so none of the White Tigers could accidentally cut themselves on it. Hydroplanes would guide the vehicle.

Ru kicked his fins, moving away from the submarine so the yawning darkness of the deep spread out below him. The SDV floated in the murk at neutral buoyancy, with an emitter guiding Ru to it. Soon, he was straddling the T-9. What looked like a small motorcycle-screen protected the controls and compass. Through his thighs, he felt the other White Tiger securing himself to the saddle-seat behind him. Ru switched on the power, and green lights blinked into life. He checked the panel. A red light appeared—the other T-9 was ready.

Ru fed power to the propeller and adjusted the T-9’s hydroplanes. He moved away from the submarine and toward the Californian coast almost sixty kilometers away. The vehicle’s vibration was slight and water rushed against him, as he was only partially protected by the forward screen.

Ru twisted back. The Commando seated behind him leaned out of the way. Farther behind followed Kwan and his partner on their T-9. Nodding, Ru faced forward as he felt the rush of water against his chest. He peered about the dark world, with millions of tons of water surrounding him. It was nearly silent with his rebreather and full-face mask. Even with a man right behind him, he felt terribly alone in the vast Pacific Ocean.

This was possibly the longest distance combat swim in Chinese history. It would have been impossible without rebreathers. They were a marvel of marine technology and were a closed-circuit scuba, almost akin to a space suit’s tanks. As a person breathed, his lungs used-up oxygen and created carbon dioxide as waste gas. With open-circuit scuba or the familiar aqua-lung, a diver only used some of the oxygen in each of his breaths. He breathed out unused oxygen together with nitrogen and carbon dioxide waste, blowing the bubbles of gas into the surrounding water. That meant oxygen escaped that he could have used, and it meant he needed to carry extra diving cylinders.

The rebreather, on the other hand, re-circulated the exhaled gas for re-use. It did not discharge the unused oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide waste into the water as bubbles. Instead, the rebreather absorbed the carbon dioxide by scrubbing it. The rebreather also added oxygen to replace the consumed gas. Because of this, a diver only needed a fraction of the gas he would have used in an open-circuit system. Ultimately, what it meant was that he needed to carry fewer cylinders on his back.

The rewards of using a rebreather were many. Because a diver needed less gas, he could swim longer at one time and go deeper. And, during an ascent, rebreathers produced no bubbles, which could give away a diver’s position while swimming in enemy territory. Bubbles also created noise, making it harder to listen as closely. Further, the rebreather minimized the amount of inert gases in the mix and therefore minimized the decompression needed later, reducing the likelihood of getting the bends.

There were other rewards, too. In an open-circuit cylinder, the cold breathable gas became uncomfortable over time and caused dehydration. The rebreather air was warmer and moister. Lastly, as a regular scuba diver inhaled, the expanding gas entering his lungs caused him to rise slightly and then lower as he breathed out. He lost his neutral buoyancy. In a rebreather, this occurred less.

Keeping a constant speed on the T-9 and straining to see in the darkness, Ru endured the lonely voyage. He understood the mission’s parameters. The Siberian oilfields under China’s control, combined with offshore drilling and domestic production, had turned her into the largest oil-producing nation in the world. China had more than enough energy, but with her teeming population, she lacked enough food. Despite her superpower status, stiff rationing was practiced throughout the country. Ru had listened to lectures concerning the return of a small ice age and harsher weather patterns, but he’d usually fallen into a daze during them. Crop yields were down all over the world, although a few southern countries had increased food exports. America was the leader of the new Grain Union of Canada, Argentina, Australia and others, and China demanded preferred status. Her chief bargaining chip was oil, the limited resource that still ran much of the world’s industries and the majority of the transportation systems.

America had grain and China needed more. The Party leaders would do whatever they had to in order to feed China’s hordes. Ru shook his head in disgust. Grain. Oil. What else did he need to know other than the government had lied to him? Men with marriage permits were supposed to be exempt from frontline service. They had told him he was the best frogman and China now desperately needed her favored son to save the nation in this bleak hour.

Ru wanted to curse. Instead, he checked the instruments. Then he brought the T-9 toward the surface. He had been doing so slowly throughout the voyage. Even with rebreathers, their bodies needed time to adjust to the nitrogen levels in their bloodstreams.

Finally, Ru’s masked head broke the surface—and then his body—as the T-9 moved through the ocean like a fast-floating log. He switched the set/air valve and breathed the cold atmosphere around him. With a flick of his fingers, he shut down the caged propeller so they glided to a halt.

The torpedo-shaped vehicle soon rode a mighty swell. The mass of water hissed around him, while the stars glittered above in amazing profusion. After a week underwater in the submarine, the stars were a glorious sight. In Shanghai, Lu May and he liked to walk in the park at night gazing at the constellations.

A pang squeezed Ru’s chest. He had the terrible feeling that he would never see his wife again. His wife would remarry. A Chinese woman had no choice about that. If his unborn daughter wasn’t aborted first, she would gain a stepfather and she would never know he’d existed.

Ru tried to control his anguish. He was the best frogman in China. He would survive and he would return to Shanghai. In several weeks, he would hold Lu May and shower her face with kisses.

Ru shifted in his saddle-seat as Soldier Rank Kwan slowly drove his T-9 near.

A big ocean swell passed underneath him and Ru’s T-9 sank into a watery trough. Another swell barreled toward him, with tiny phosphorescent plankton glowing like ghosts in the water. It was so peaceful here, almost surreal. Yet he had come to attach explosives to an oil platform.

The Americans had sonar and radar on their oil platforms. Secessionist terrorists had attempted sabotage on various oil rigs in the past. Security details now accompanied the deep-sea workmen. It was the reason the attack submarine had released the White Tigers so far from target. It was why they used ceramic-plate T-9s, and it was the reason they would swim the rest of the way. No one must ever realize that Chinese soldiers had attacked Americans.

By hand, Ru signaled Kwan. They hadn’t attached any communication wires to each other yet, nor did Ru use his mask’s speaker. He liked the silence and the four of them knew what to do.

Shutting down his T-9, Ru set the timer to the directional emitter. If they were to survive the combat swim, they would have to return and find the T-9s. He switched the set/air valve back, tasting the rebreather’s warm mixture again, and slid into the water.

The four of them shoved and dragged the vehicles beside each other, using clamps and lines to attach them. When they were finished, the others gathered around Ru.

Kwan held up his hand. Ru frowned. Kwan pointed north. Ru heard a motorboat then. At this distance, he didn’t know how big the boat was or who it belonged to. They watched, seeing lights. The motorboat headed west. Had someone spotted the submarine? That was bad, but there was nothing they could do about it now.

Ru pulled out his compass. The others knew what it meant. They must continue with the operation. Ru submerged and reentered the dark waters, a human seal in the womb of the endless sea. After riding for so long, it felt good to use his thighs. Ru kicked in a steady rhythm, propelling himself to the target. Every time he glanced back, he saw the other White Tigers following, their faceplates aimed at him. He glanced several times into Kwan’s hard eyes. That tightened the muscles in Kwan’s face.

The White Tiger Commandos were unique to the Socialist-Nationalist government ruling China. That government had risen to power in 2021 under the present Chairman. The White Tigers had been the first to implement the new enlisted rankings. They had dispensed with the old order of private, corporal and sergeant. Instead, it went Fighter Rank, Soldier Rank and First Rank. After several years, the Chinese Army, Navy and National Militia had incorporated the new enlisted rankings. In everything military, the Bai Hu led the way.

Many kilometers later, Ru’s head and shoulders broke out of the water. Like sea otters, the others soon surfaced around him. Ru pointed. There in the distance was the giant oil platform, with its bright lights shining in the night. The Americans had built it several years ago. According to the briefing, it had taken a special act of Congress and fierce debates among the environmentalists of the country. The Americans needed oil, and they were breaking long-held taboos to acquire it wherever they could. The new platform was supposed to be the first of many in the Californian coastal region.

Ru took out his binoculars, which could switch to infrared scan. A dark chopper swooped around the platform, and he spotted a patrol boat. The Americans took security seriously, and the oil companies used reliable Blacksand mercenaries for the job.

First signaling to the others, Ru submerged once more. It was a long swim. He heard the motor first as a tiny sound. The sound grew as he neared the giant oil rig. According to his briefing, the patrol boats carried armed mercenaries and heavy machine guns. In addition, the patrol boats were equipped with APS radar. Normally it was used as a fish-finder, but for a short distance, it could detect swimmers.

Ru headed down into the darkness: down, down, down. Flicking on a heel-light, Ru looked back. Other heel-lights appeared, three of them. With a nod, Ru resumed his dive. The temperature became steadily colder. Even after years of training, this was an uneasy experience, the knowledge that hired killers patrolled above, seeking to find and destroy him.

Ru and the others carried high explosives, and they each had a TOZ-2 underwater pistol, which was similar in design to the SPP-1 pistol developed in the old USSR. Ordinary-shaped bullets were inaccurate underwater and extremely short-ranged. Therefore, their pistols fired a round-based 4.5mm steel dart 115mm long. Each dart weighted 12.8 grams, and each dart had a longer range and greater penetrating power than a speargun’s spear.

The TOZ-2 had four barrels, each holding one cartridge. None of the barrels was rifled. Each dart was kept in line by hydrodynamic effects, meaning that the TOZ-2 was inaccurate when fired out of the water. The deeper one dove, the less range their pistols had. The effective range out of water was fifty to sixty-six feet. In water twenty feet deep, a steel dart could kill at one hundred and thirty feet. In water fifty-six feet deep, the steel dart’s range shrank to sixteen feet.

By using his compass and rangefinder, Ru unerringly reached the oil rig. He switched on a lamp and used the light to scan the darkness. A wahoo darted before him, a scombrid fish like mackerel or tuna. Fish densities around an oil or gas platform were twenty to fifty times higher than the open water. It told Ru he was near. Then a great stanchion appeared. Although the oil rig was new, the stanchion was already encrusted with sea-growth.

Using a depth-gauge, Ru adjusted his range and used his combat knife to scrap and pry away marine-growth from the metal stanchion. Each time the blade touched, he heard a click and a scraping sound. Once he had a big enough area, Ru slipped the CHKR-57 from his chest and secured it to the stanchion. Finished, he set the timer.

They did this four times, the others securing their explosives to different stanchions.

Ru grinned. He imagined that even Kwan could manage a soft smile of victory for their success. They swam away, keeping at this deep level but heading for the rendezvous point. It was easier swimming without the explosives. Now Ru merely had to find the T-9s and then the submarine. Afterward, he would be on his way home to Shanghai and Lu May.

The sound of the American patrol boat dwindled. When all he could hear was the sound of his breathing, Ru slowly surfaced. He used his compass and rangefinder, and in time, he turned on the directional device. He waited, watching. There—a pulse from the T-9’s emitter showed on his tiny screen. With joy in his heart, Ru swam near the surface all the way there.

Soon, the four Commandos unclamped the T-9s, climbed onto the saddle-seats, and started up the propellers. The T-9s sped into the Pacific Ocean for the rendezvous point with the Pao Feng.

This time they remained on the surface, riding over the swells. The kilometers dropped away as Ru followed the compass toward the chosen heading. He was going to see Lu May again. He would see his baby girl being born and watch her grow into a fine young woman. Surely after this, the military could not ask more from him.

Lost in his thoughts, Ru was surprised as his partner dug a knuckle in his back. It took a moment as Ru turned on the speaking unit attached to his mask.

“Wei?” he shouted over his shoulder.

The man pointed left. Soldier Rank Kwan drove his T-9 beside them, water splashing up from the nosecone.

“Where’s the buoy signal?” shouted Kwan.

Ru checked his rangefinder. His eyebrows shot up. How could he have missed this? He checked the receiver set to the buoy’s signal. The captain of the submarine was supposed to have launched a buoy twenty minutes ago to guide them back. Ru double-checked the receiver. There was no light, no signal, no nothing.

“We should be over it!” Kwan shouted through his speaker.

“Cut your drive,” said Ru.

Soon, the T-9s floated together. It was still dark, the stars shining brightly overhead. It was 2:14 A.M., Pacific Time. Ru checked battery power. It was low, with maybe another thirty minutes left of drive power. As great as they were, the Japanese batteries had been the major limiting factor of their range. And despite years of low funding and neglect, the American Navy was still dangerous, one would think especially so in their territorial waters. There must be no hint of Chinese involvement to their terrorist act, the key reason why the Pao Feng had tried to remain well out of American sight.

“How long do we wait here?” a Commando asked.

“An hour and eighteen minutes,” Kwan said. “Then we must head deeper into the ocean.”

“What happened?” Ru’s partner asked.

“The patrol boat we saw earlier,” said Kwan. “The captain has strict orders not to let anyone detect the submarine. He might have left.”

Ru understood the logic to Kwan’s answer. They had all been instructed on the importance of remaining hidden. If they failed to make pick-up, they were supposed to sink the T-9s and divest themselves of every article of Chinese manufacture. That meant the TOZ-2 underwater pistols, knives, rebreathers—everything that could link them to the White Tigers. Then each Commando was supposed to swim west into deeper waters, drowning rather than accepting possible rescue from the Americans. A White Tiger Commando gave his life to China as his final act of obedience and love for his country.

Not caring for such logic, Ru repeatedly flicked the switch to the receiver. He tapped the console with his finger. “You will work, damn you,” he declared.

After shutting off the T-9s, they sat there for an hour and eighteen minutes, no one talking, all of them dreading the possibility that Kwan was right.

After the time has passed, Kwan shouted through his full-face mask’s speaker, “We are White Tigers!”

Ru looked up in desperation.

“For the greater glory of China,” said Kwan, “we must take the T-9s and drive until the batteries die. Then we will sink them and drop our tanks, belts and—”

“Bu!” shouted Ru, using his speaker.

“We serve China!” shouted Kwan. “We are White Tigers, the greatest soldiers of history!”

The fervency of Kwan’s words shocked Ru. The drill instructors of the training camps and the propagandists had done their jobs too well. China seethed with a vast population of men that was seldom softened or civilized by the presence of women. Among those teeming numbers, the White Tigers had found a fertile field for their heady notions of martial glory and devotion to country. Soldier Rank Kwan had supped deeply on those ideals as had many warriors of the past: Gurkhas, Samurais, Ninjas, Janissaries, Napoleonic Old Guards, Roman Legionaries, Spartans….

Soldier Rank Kwan drew his TOZ-2. Seeing that, Ru threw himself away from Kwan and into the sea. The pistol barked. A steel dart whizzed over Ru and slapped the water.

As he floated, Ru drew his TOZ-2 and steadied his arm over the saddle-seat of his T-9. His partner on the back seat made muffled shouts within his mask. Ru glanced up. The Commando reached over and ripped the underwater pistol out of Ru’s grasp, tossing it into the sea.

In a great Pacific Ocean swell, Ru saw Kwan rise up as the Soldier Rank balanced on his T-9. The White Tiger took aim. Then the other Commando on Kwan’s T-9 jostled the Soldier Rank’s elbow as Kwan attempted another shot. The TOZ-2 plopped into the sea.

With a roar of frustration and desperation, Ru kicked his fins, surging upward. He grasped his partner by the straps of his wetsuit. As Ru sank back into the sea—and as the swell barreled toward them—he pulled the Commando. Within his mask, the White Tiger shouted in surprise. Ru dragged his partner off the T-9, which rolled now with the power of the swell. Releasing his partner—who drifted farther away—Ru frantically fought for a purchase on the T-9. With a growl of noise within his mask, Ru heaved himself onto the vehicle.

Kwan and his partner were arguing on their T-9.

“Lu May,” whispered Ru, his chest hurting with the thought of never seeing his wife again. He pressed the starter button. With a lurch, he drove the T-9 away from Kwan and away from his own partner floating in the sea, watching him. Ru crouched low as he headed back toward the American oil rig. One way or another, he would survive. He would find a way to either slip into China or sneak Lu May out. They would be together again, a family.

A white plume splashed near. Ru twisted around. Kwan was giving chase, plowing down a swell and into the trough after him. Little flares of flame emitted from a pistol. Kwan must have taken his partner’s gun and then shoved the Commando off his T-9. Despite the pistol’s inaccuracy above water, two steel darts struck Ru’s vehicle. The darts shattered the tough ceramic-plate, and one of them must have hit something vital. Ru’s vehicle lost power.

Ru swiveled around as his T-9 slowed. Staring through the full-face mask, Kwan looked stern and resolved. He brought his T-9 closer. Then Kwan pulled the trigger…but nothing happened.

He’d already shot his last dart.

Kwan holstered his pistol, clutched the controls and aimed his T-9 at Ru’s wallowing vehicle. Ru slid off on the other side, entering the water and submerging as Kwan hit. With a cracking sound above Ru’s head, his T-9 skidded away. A bulky object showed where Soldier Rank Kwan fell in.

Ru judged the distance between them. It was too far. Kwan was already drawing his pistol to reload. Ru jackknifed and kicked down toward the depths. He propelled himself through the nearly silent sea, and he glanced back. Near the surface, Kwan shoved a fresh clip into the pistol. With fierce resolve, Ru kicked harder. He needed more depth in order to shorten the underwater pistol’s range. Looking again, Ru saw that Kwan came after him.

Something flashed past him into the depths—Ru assumed it was a steel dart. What else could it be? Two more went past. Then fiery pain burned in Ru’s thigh. He felt there with his hand, and plucked out a dart.

He’s fired four!

Ru reversed direction, kicking upward toward the silvery surface. Kwan was a blot of darkness.

He must be reloading.

Ru drew his combat knife and kicked his fins, straining to reach the White Tiger Commando. As Ru neared, a thrill of fear surged through him. Kwan snapped the underwater pistol shut. As Kwan aligned it, Ru came out of the depths like a shark. His razor-sharp knife sliced Kwan’s hand as the trigger-finger pulled. The retort was a sharp noise underwater. The steel dart hissed past Ru’s head. Then the TOZ-2 floated in a swirl of blood. Ru let go of the knife, beat Kwan to the neutral buoyancy pistol, and kicked out of the Commando’s grasp. In a moment, Ru aimed the pistol at Kwan.

Three sharp retorts sent three steel darts puncturing into Kwan. Pain creased the White Tiger’s face. Then Kwan relaxed as blood oozed from his floating, twitching corpse.

In moments, Ru surfaced. He’d hurt his arm, probably when Kwan had struck his T-9. He swam to Kwan’s wallowing craft, climbed aboard, and then continued heading east for the oil rig. He didn’t know what had happened to the others. At this point, he didn’t care.

When the T-9 ran out of battery power and stopped running, Ru slid into the water for the last time. He used his compass and rangefinder, and he began the journey back to the platform. He was under a severe time constraint. He needed to return and take the Americans down to the stanchions in order to remove the CHKR-57 before the high explosives destroyed the platform. Surely, the oil people would reward him for saving their precious product and saving their American environment. Americans were frightened of spilling oil into the sea. He had heard more than his share of “ethnic” American jokes on the subject.

His injured thigh began to throb, but it was mere pain. By enduring, he would return home to Lu May and his unborn baby. Well, he could never go home again, but there would be a way to secret her out of the country. Greater China was huge and filled with teeming millions—no one would miss a single woman.

A beep alerted him. Ru stopped and shook his head. He didn’t need the locator now. The large oil platform glittered in the darkness. He checked his watch, but it had stopped working. Kwan must have damaged it during the fight.

Ru wrinkled his brow. Would it be better to bypass the oil rig and attempt swimming all the way to the American coast? No—he was too tired. Despite his training, he had swum too far tonight to try a marathon journey to Los Angeles. So he headed for the oil rig.

Three quarters of the way there, he heard a motorboat. Ru stopped and waved his good arm. The dark blot of a boat threw up whitish-colored waves in the moonlight. They had already spotted him, or someone had. That was the reason why the Commandos had come in so deep before.

In time, as outboard engines gurgled and as a large barn-sized object thumped slowly toward him, mercenaries with automatic weapons shouted orders. Ru shouted through his speaker in Chinese, understanding their anger but not knowing their barbaric language. As they looked down at him, the mercenaries jabbered among themselves before two threw down a scaling net. Ru needed help, but with it, he soon flopped onto the boat’s deck.

A heavy man with good boots shoved him onto his back. Another used a knife and cut away the full-face mask. The heavy man placed a heel on Ru’s chest. The mercenary poked him with the barrel-tip of an automatic weapon. The man spoke more gibberish.

“Hong!” said Ru, and he used his good hand, trying to pantomime what would happen. Didn’t anyone here speak Chinese? Ru found their lack amazing.

The mercenaries jabbered again, angrily, as the patrol boat moved faster. It thumped across the seawater, a bumpy ride and loud, too, as they headed for the oil rig. The man with the automatic weapon poked it harder against Ru’s sternum as he repeated his words. Ru heard certain similarities now in the barbaric speech, but still couldn’t understand what they asked.

“Hong!” said Ru, sweeping his arm. “Hong, hong—baozha. Wo hui shuoming nin na zhe tingzhi.” He needed to let them know while there was still time to save the platform. Surely they could understand what he was trying to say.

Several of the Anglo mercenaries traded glances with each other. Two of them stared at the nearing platform.

“Baozha,” said Ru.

With a steel-toed boot, the heavy man with the automatic weapon kicked him in the head. The next thing Ru knew, the patrol boat motored toward a large elevator in the oil platform. The thing was like a Shanghai skyscraper in its towering monstrosity. It throbbed with life, big wheels and gears moving. To Ru it seemed like a hungry dragon, waiting to devour him. He groaned. He was trying to save the Americans and they attacked him. How could they be so stupid?

“Baozha,” Ru said weakly.

That started the mercenaries arguing again. To Ru, they were pointing fingers everywhere. He wanted to sleep, but if he did that, he’d never see Lu May again. Why had the Party leaders who preached about honor broken their word and sent him back onto the frontline? That was wrong. Lu May—

It was then the CHKR-57 detonated. Water geysered upward. Anglo mercenaries howled, bringing up their weapons. Ru lay on the patrol boat’s deck, his head hurting. It looked to him as if the entire oil rig was leaning, as if it was moving and toppling.

Then he realized it was.

“Lu May,” he whispered. “I love you, my—”

Ru never finished his words, as his world ended with the destruction of Platform Number Seven. Falling jagged metal pierced his chest. He knew a moment of scalding pain, and then everything went blank as he died. The same metallic shard tore a hole in the patrol boat.

The boat sank as Blacksand mercenaries jumped into the water, shouting and thrashing to get away. They didn’t. Mighty Platform Seven crashed on them, sucking many under as it sank down into the sea. Several years ago, Platform Seven had been heralded as the new, great hope for California Oil and America’s insatiable energy appetite. Now the great hope was gushing crude, blazing fire and spreading death.



-2-

Desperation



LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA


The mall was a bad idea, Paul Kavanagh told himself. There were too many people around. It was the reason his ex had chosen to come here. It would make her feel safer: the mall cops, the crowds…and a place where there was merchandise. Buying things always made his ex feel better.

Thinking about that—the clothes for the little man, the washer and dryer she needed and tires for her rundown Ford—Paul nodded. He had to do this. His ex wouldn’t understand. She never had, but the state of the economy meant he had no choice. The Sovereign Debt Depression had supposedly eased several years ago, but tell that to a man whose Marine record ended with a dishonorable discharge. Who had a hard time finding a job. Tell that to someone whom the shrinks said had a difficult time with authority. It wasn’t authority he had trouble with, but assholes.

Paul shoved his hands into his old leather jacket and turned around, scanning the crowds. He was surprised at how many teenagers there were, seeing as it was one-fifteen in the afternoon. Weren’t they supposed to be in school? Was it a holiday now because that oil rig had exploded?

Paul ran a hand through his short brown hair. There was something dangerous in his eyes that made the obvious gang-members look away—at least the intelligent ones and those who thrived by trusting their concrete-sharpened instincts. Paul was a little over six feet, with a linebacker’s shoulders and the trim hips of his college days when he used to slam running backs into the turf. He’d tried out for the pros ten years ago, but had been too light, too small for the steroid-pumped gladiators. Marine Recon had been the next best thing—while it had lasted.

Paul sighed. Cheri was always late. So he didn’t know why he was letting it bother him. She would come, and she’d bring Mikey. She had promised over the phone.

A worried look entered Paul’s eyes. The expression didn’t fit on his tanned features. It seemed wrong, incongruous, an anomaly. What if she didn’t come? Even worse, what if she came but left Mikey home?

Paul sat abruptly on the yellow tiles of the built-up pond near the main mall entrance. His elbow hit his motorcycle helmet, which rested there. The helmet scraped against the tiles as it shot toward the water. Paul barely twisted around in time to catch the helmet, an exhibition of speed and reflexes wasted on the passing crowds. Catching his helmet made him look at the water it had nearly fallen into. Now he saw the pennies, nickels, and dimes glittering there.

I could use a little luck.

He stood again, keeping hold of his helmet, and dug in his jeans pocket. There was a quarter. He made his wish and flipped the coin. It plopped into the water and swayed back and forth until it settled onto the cement.

“Paul?”

Kavanagh spun around, surprised at the quick granting of the wish. His face creased into a smile. It changed him, taking years off his features and showing a sense of vulnerability that had been missing until now.

Little Mikey held onto his mother’s hand. Mikey was six, wore an oversized SF Giant’s baseball cap and had mischievous blue eyes.

“Daddy!” he shouted, ripping his hand from Cheri’s grasp.

Mikey ran full tilt and launched himself as Paul squatted. He caught his boy, surprised at the kid’s weight and the strength of the leap. It knocked Paul back so he bumped against the tiled pond.

“I knocked you back, Daddy!” Mikey shouted.

Paul grinned, straightening himself and taking off the little man’s cap. He messed up sweaty blond hair as Mikey laughed. The peculiar odor of unwashed boy knifed Paul in the heart. In a wave of love, he clutched his son.

“Squeeze me harder, Daddy.”

Paul squeezed, and he put his nose in Mikey’s hair. What had he ever done to help make a wonder like this? By everything holy, he loved this little man.

“Are you going to move back home, Daddy?” The words were muffled in his jacket, but they were loud in Paul’s heart.

“Not just yet,” Paul heard himself say.

“When?” asked Mikey.

Paul wanted to say, “That will depend on your mother,” but he knew that wasn’t fair. It had been just as much his fault as Cheri’s.

He released Mikey and looked up at his ex-wife. She hugged herself, and for a moment, she looked so sad, almost like a lost little girl. She was beautiful, a small woman with long dark hair and a gymnast’s grace.

Long hair—she must be using extensions again. Those cost an easy three hundred. No wonder she couldn’t stay within her budget.

Maybe she saw the change in him as he thought about her spending too much money. Her shoulders stiffened. He’d wished more than once that his tracking instincts were as sharp.

“Hello, Paul,” she said.

Her voice dried the emotions in him. They let him know where he stood with her. He had known. It was just…the hope in Mikey must have transferred into him. Irrationally, he thought about taking the little that was left in his account, changing it into coins, and tossing them one after another into the wishing pond. If the quarter had worked, why not throw in more and fix his life?

He stood, and he found himself clutching the bottom rim of his motorcycle helmet. He wished he could roar like a linebacker and charge into the crowd, flailing right and left with his helmet. If he could knock everyone down, he’d get his old life back. Just the chance to try would be good enough. It was knowing he had absolutely no chance of fixing things that was so galling.

“I’m here just like I said I’d be,” Cheri told him, with her arms crossed. She wasn’t hugging herself anymore. The crossed arms were a shield.

Her tone of voice made it a struggle. Paul scowled. He looked down and saw the little man staring up at him. The shiny face, the smile, they crumpled so fast it startled Paul. Mikey’s lower lip quivered and tears welled in his eyes.

“Hey,” Paul said. He squatted, set his helmet on the scuffed floor and hugged his boy. The poor fellow bit back his sobs and he started hiccupping.

“I won’t cry, Daddy,” Mikey whispered.

“No, no, you’re a tough guy,” Paul said as he patted Mikey on the back.

The little man shoved his face against Paul’s upper chest and began to bawl, the sounds muffled against leather.

“Is this what you wanted?” Cheri asked.

Paul looked up helplessly at his ex-wife.

“No,” she said. “You’re not going to make this my fault.”

Paul stared at the floor as he continued to pat his son on the back. What a lousy world. It wasn’t supposed to work like this. A man grew up, got married, had kids and barbecued on weekends. Maybe he took his kid to a ball game on Sunday. Paul sighed as the mall crowds passed. What made it worse was feeling how threadbare Mikey’s shirt was. That shot a bolt of anger into him. Cheri must have chosen this shirt on purpose, to rub his nose in their lack of money.

Don’t lose your temper. Show your son how to act. Leave him something good to remember about you until next time.

“Hey, it’s okay.” Paul gently pried Mikey from his chest. He grinned, and used the end of his sleeve to wipe the little man’s runny nose. “I wanted you to come to the mall so I could tell you goodbye.”

“Goodbye?” Mikey asked in a lost voice. “Are you leaving us forever, Daddy?”

“Hey buddy, don’t give me that shit.”

“Don’t swear in front of him,” Cheri said.

A scowl flashed across Paul’s face before he nodded. “Yeah, you’re right,” he said, as he looked down at his boy. “Don’t swear, okay?”

“I won’t,” Mikey said.

“And listen to your mother.”

“I will.”

“Did you lose your job again?” Cheri asked, with just the right touch to her voice to make it a deep-cutting question.

Paul looked up slowly, even as he kept squatting beside his son.

“Yeah, it figures,” she said, but not in the same tone as before. These words had more deadness to them.

“I’ll still make the payments,” he said.

Cheri made a soft sound through her nose as she looked away.

“I already have a new job.”

“Is it selling shoes this time?” Cheri asked.

Instead of getting angry, he kept his tone light. “I’m not a salesman, baby. You know that.”

Her head whipped around, and her brown eyes were wide as she stared at him. “Paul,” she said reproachfully.

How did she do that? How could she know he was about to do something dangerous? “Look,” he said. “I didn’t have any choice. No one’s hiring guys like me around here.”

“You’re going to use a gun again, aren’t you?”

“Lighten up,” he said. “Guns are what I know.”

“Didn’t the Marines teach you anything?” she asked. “The military wants brownnosing more than anyone. You said so yourself.”

“Peacetime military does, yeah.”

“Paul, what are you getting yourself into?”

He heard the worry in her voice. It surprised him. He noticed that Mikey had quit sniffling and was watching his mother.

“You said—” she began.

“Wait,” he said, standing. He extracted a rumpled envelope from his back pocket. It was far too skinny and it had almost cleaned out his account. That showed how pathetically small his account was. He held it out to her.

Cheri stared at the envelope and then looked up at him.

“Two thousand,” he said.

“Is it blood money?”

“Come on, Cheri. What do you think I am?”

“You lost your job again. You only had this one a month. What happened? Why couldn’t you keep it this time?”

“It doesn’t matter now,” he said. “I’ll send more later. I know it sounds—”

“What have you gotten yourself into?” she asked, as she took the envelope.

He shrugged, making leathery crinkling sounds with his jacket.

“Are you a bodyguard to one of the corporate clones?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’d last real long doing that.”

“You’re not going into collections with the repo companies, are you?”

That was a tough job in the big cities. Cops only went into some areas with tracked vehicles or in armored choppers, and then only in packs.

“What do you think my discharge means?” he asked. “Around here I can’t do anything that involves guns.”

“Then I don’t get it. How can you be giving me two thousand?” Her eyes widened again. “Unless you’re selling drugs. I hope you’re not selling drugs.” She hesitated, gripping the envelope, obviously thinking about handing it back, but dearly needing the money.

Paul sighed. She’d never understood his stint with the Marines and had positively hated Marine Recon. The funny thing was it had been their best time together, especially with the crazy action in Quebec when his battalion and a few others had been on loan to the Canadian Government. It had been the best because he’d been gone and they’d written emails and texted. She’d been pregnant then, too, and that might have helped.

“You’ve been watching the news about the oil rig?” he asked.

“The one that exploded?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s screwing up the coast,” she said, “killing seals and otters.”

“Well, it didn’t just explode,” he said.

“Terrorists?” she asked.

“People are saying there are three candidates. Al-Qaeda, Iran or the Aztlan separatists.”

“Aztlan? You mean the Aztec people?”

“Yeah, them,” he said. Aztlan separatists were still big in L.A. Too many places here had huge graffiti signs showing their support. However, since the civil war in Mexico had ended, the big Mexican separatist movement in the southwestern U.S. had died down. Fortunately for California, it had never gotten as bad here as it had with the French-speaking separatists in Canada. That had been full-blown combat, the start of civil war in their northern neighbor.

“The Aztecs blew up the oil rig?” Cheri asked.

“No one’s claiming responsibility. They’re just one of the suspects. The thing is, most commentators doubt they would have caused such environmental damage to their own coast. Whoever it was must have used some pretty sophisticated equipment.”

“What does any of this have to do with you?” Cheri asked.

“Security,” he said.

“You better not be thinking of doing something crazy.”

Paul shook Mikey’s shoulder and pointed at a candy wagon about thirty feet away. As he dug out his wallet and took out a five, he said, “Why don’t you ask that old lady by the wagon to get you some gummy bears?”

“Yeah!” said Mikey, speaking the word with the same inflection Paul would have used. Mikey snatched the five and ran to the candy wagon.

Paul kept his eye on Mikey as he spoke to Cheri. “Blacksand runs security for most of the Western oil companies. The blogs say they lost some people in the explosion.”

“You can’t work for Blacksand,” Cheri said. “I remember when you wanted to work for them before—Blacksand demands a clean record.”

“Right, normally a dishonorable would stop them from hiring a real soldier. But there are two reasons why they’re willing to take me on a provisional basis now.”

“What are they?”

Paul still watched his son. Mikey was talking to the old candy lady with a dress that went all the way to the floor. His boy pointed back at him. The old woman looked over. She was wearing dark sunglasses. Was the candy lady blind? Paul waved. The old woman smiled and waved back. Then she bent down to Mikey, spoke to him, accepted the five-dollar bill and examined the candy wagon.

“With this latest terrorist act,” Paul said, “working security on an oil rig has turned into hazardous duty. That means more than a few people who would normally do it are getting jittery. That’s good, though, because Blacksand just raised their rates. The oil companies want beefed security on all their rigs. They don’t want this happening again.”

“There must be tons of people eager for security work,” Cheri said, “especially if it pays well.”

“So why hire an ace like me?” Paul asked. “Is that what you’re saying?”

“You know that isn’t what I mean.”

“Yeah?”

“Paul, I don’t want you to die.”

“Me neither,” he said after a moment.

“What’s the second reason?” Cheri asked. “The real reason Blacksand is willing to overlook your discharge?”

“That’s the funny thing—the kicker. They want a snow-weather veteran.”

“You mean that time you fought in the Canadian Shield?”

The Canadian Shield was a huge geological region that curved around Hudson Bay like a giant horseshoe. Few people lived in the region, as it was unsuitable for agriculture. The Shield was dotted with lakes, famous resorts, vast forests and gold, copper, iron, nickel and uranium mines.

“It was northern Quebec, where it was as cold as Hell,” he said.

“Hell is hot. You fought in blizzards and snowstorms. Where do people have oil rigs in places like that? I thought most oil derricks were found in deserts.”

Paul hesitated to tell her.

“Is it going to be cold where you’re going?” she asked.

“I’m flying to the Arctic Circle,” he said.

The energy crunch meant the oil companies were hunting for crude wherever they could find it. The new bonanza was the Arctic Circle and Antarctica.

“Do you mean Alaska?” Cheri asked.

“I wish I did. No. The Arctic Circle…the rig is in the Arctic Ocean.”

“Isn’t it icy up there all the time?”

“Yeah,” he said. He remembered reading somewhere that the ice used to melt in summer, or a lot of it did. That must have been before it had gotten cold again. A new glacial period, they called it. He remembered watching a history show about the Black Death in the Middle Ages. There had been harsher weather back then, too. It had hurt the crops and vineyards just as it did these days. The whole thing went in cycles, apparently. Now it was their turn, and according to what he’d looked up, it made the Arctic almost as cold as space.

“I’m going to the closest rig to the North Pole,” he said. “I’ll be knocking on Santa Claus’s door.”

“Is it dangerous?”

It had to be dangerous if they were willing to hire him. Near the North Pole—did the wind howl all night long? It was supposed to be dark half of the year.

“I can’t see how,” he lied.

“So why do they need you then?”

“It’s all about insurance. If you look at things deeply enough it always goes back to the money.” Had that been true about them? Once the government had kicked him out of the Marines, he’d had one job after another, and they’d steadily been crappier jobs each time. The money had started drying up and so had their marriage.

Cheri glanced at the envelope in her hand. Looking thoughtful, she slid her purse off a shoulder, clicked it open and buried the two thousand in it. As she slid the loops back onto her shoulder, she looked into his eyes. “Take care of yourself up there, and try to keep this one, okay? We need the money.”

He forced himself to nod. “Are you and Mikey doing okay?”

“I’m almost finished with Beauty College. I’m already cutting hair on the side.”

“Are you seeing anyone?” he asked.

Her lips firmed. “We agreed you weren’t supposed to ask that.”

A stab of heat burned in his chest. She’d laid that down as a condition for him seeing Mikey. The courts had screwed him, giving her full custody. He supposed none of that mattered now that he was headed for the Arctic Circle.

“I’ll call you when I get there,” he said.

“Mikey will like that.”

“I’m glad you came,” he said.

She cocked her head, and her lips parted. “Try to get along more at work, okay? You’re too much of a loner.”

He hated when she said that. “I’ll tell him goodbye.”

“Don’t leave mad,” she said.

“I’m not.”

“Okay,” she said, her face tightening, “if that’s the way you want it, I’m fine with that.”

He took a deep breath and counted to three. “I’m not mad. I’m glad you came.”

Cheri studied his face. He waited for a smile to break out as it used to in the beginning. Instead, she said, “Goodbye, Paul.”

The way she said it—he paused. There was something final in her words, something almost fated. He picked up his helmet, managed to give her a nod and turned toward the candy wagon. Mikey was racing back with a bag of gummy bears clutched in his fist. His son was laughing. He liked that.

“Run harder, little man!” shouted Paul.

Mikey put his head down and he ran full out. The tennis shoes slapped the floor as he approached. Paul dropped his helmet, grabbed Mikey under the armpits and threw him into the air above his head. Mikey squealed with delight. Cheri had never liked him doing that, but who knew when he’d see his boy again. Paul caught Mikey and hugged him tightly.

“I love you, big guy.”

“Me too,” Mikey said, breathlessly.

Paul set him down and knelt on one knee. “You take care of your mother, okay?”

“I will.”

“I’ll visit you in a few months when I have some time off.”

“Promise?” Mikey asked with something close to desperation.

“Of course I promise,” Paul said.

“And call, Daddy.”

“I will,” Paul said, standing up.

“Wait, Daddy!” Mikey said. He opened his striped bag of gummy bears. “You have to eat one of these with me first.”

Paul recognized the delaying tactic, and for a moment, there was a stab of pain in his heart. If he were a better person, things might have worked between Cheri and him.

“Thanks,” Paul said, smiling at his son as he took an orange gummy bear.

“Eat it, Daddy.”

Paul did, hardly tasting a thing.

“Take some with you for the road,” Mikey said.

“You be a good boy,” Paul whispered.

Mikey nodded.

The striped bag crinkled as Paul dug out some more gummy bears. Then he turned away, heading out. He couldn’t take any more of this.

“Bye, Daddy!” Mikey shouted.

Paul turned back one last time, lifting his motorcycle helmet, waving goodbye. He waved an extra time for Cheri, as she stepped up to Mikey. Then Paul Kavanagh was stumbling for the mall entrance, oblivious to the gang members he brushed out of the way.

Someday, he was going to do things right.



HANZHONG, P.R.C.


The growing, seething mob chanted angrily. Many waved their fists at the video cameras, the ubiquitous cams that hung from streetlights, buildings, and sometimes from tethered balloons. A few of the rioters shook rocks or sticks. The glass buildings surrounding the street reverberated with their chants. A packed mob, they filled the street and sidewalks like rush-hour pedestrians in any major Chinese city. Chest-to-chest, shoulder-to-shoulder, they swayed with repressed power. They were hungry, cold and bitter.

It was blustery, and most of the crowd wore gray overcoats. Over eighty percent were men under thirty and they were uniformly thin. They pressed against each other, shoving at times, often asking if it was true:

Were the trucks leaving with their rice?

The front of the shuffling horde stood before the main gate to the massive rice processing plant. Several years ago, the institute had installed an iron fence, bars ten feet tall and with barbed points on top. Some chanters thrust their arms between the bars, shaking their fists at the militiamen on guard or recording them on their cell phones.

The thin line of militia behind the main gate stirred uneasily. It was supposed to be a routine shipment. The militiamen had arrived early this morning to provide security during transport and hadn’t expected anything like this. The eighteen soldiers gripped shiny rifles. Despite the chill, most of their faces glistened with sweat. Behind them rumbled a fleet of hidden semis—big ultra-modern haulers filled to capacity—that planned to transport the rice to the coastal region.

There was another man listening to the semis rumble. He was a former American, and he stood at the front of the mob. At times the pressure from behind pushed him against the gate. He didn’t know it, but more people kept arriving. They joined the throng and packed the street as they added their chants. The echoing sounds were like thunder to others in the city, drawing the curious and frightening the rest, particularly the police and local Party members.

The former American, Henry Wu, gripped cold bars as bodies pressed against him. He grunted and pushed with his arms, straining as he shoved his back against the men behind, trying to gain breathing room. Henry had immigrated to China four years ago in 2028. He was a tractor driver, and had been living in the city his father had escaped twenty-five years ago. Most of the Chinese in Hanzhong were Han, but Henry was Manchu—a trifle taller than those around him and possessed of a singular difference: a gun.

Gaining space, Henry released the bars and shoved his hands into his coat pockets. In the left pocket his fingers curled around a Glock 19, an old semiautomatic smuggled into China when he’d immigrated. Henry was sick of being hungry, and along with everyone else he was angry that their rice was being shipped to the coast. He knew he shouldn’t have brought the Glock, but he had it just the same.

He’d left America to find work. In China, there were jobs, but since the glaciation had worsened several years ago, there wasn’t enough food. A week ago, he’d talked to his sister over the phone. She lived in Detroit. There was food in the U.S., she said, but after the Sovereign Debt Depression, there was seldom enough work.

Is it too much to ask for both? Henry thought to himself.

A burly militiaman blew a whistle, the normally piercing blast barely audible over the mass chanting. The militiaman stepped out of the line of guards, bringing a rifle-butt to his shoulder. The other militia stared at him, some with amazement. They were young men and clearly frightened by today’s events.

Henry craned his neck, looking to see what the commotion was about. Oh. A pimple-faced teenager shimmied up the bars. Reaching hands shoved him higher. The teenager moved carefully over the barbs, trying not to stick himself.

The aiming militiaman opened his mouth, letting the silver whistle drop to his chest. He shouted, or at least it looked like he did; the volume from the chanting horde drowned out his words. Regardless, his actions spoke loudly enough. Something must have made the militiaman pause. He glanced back at his companions. None of them had dared raise a rifle. The militiaman gestured angrily at them, berating his fellows. Was he the First Rank? He looked older than the rest, and the marks on his uniform were different.

A militiaman in the line shook his head at the First Rank. The others just looked at the older man.

Snarling, the First Rank took two steps toward the gate. He aimed his rifle at the teenager and fired. The sound was loud. Those nearest quit chanting and the teenager slumped onto the barbs. He twitched in death, snared on the iron fence.

While others shifted their cell phones, recording this, Henry found himself aiming his Glock. He squeezed off a shot. The banging retort hurt his ears. It made men around him flinch. The gun bucking in Henry’s hands shocked him.

The First Rank staggered backward as the bullet plowed through his stomach, blowing out cloth, flesh and intestines. The rifle fell as the First Rank hit the pavement, his head pointed away from the mob and toward the hidden semis.

The crowd went wild as it watched the hooked teenager. Men clutched the bars and madly rattled the fence. It groaned, leaning inward.

The remaining militia backed away from the enraged chanters. Then the militiaman on the left end of the line hurled his rifle away. Spinning around as his rifle bounced across the cement, the young man sprinted for the depths of the rice-processing plant. The panic was contagious as the example routed through sixteen numbed and frightened brains. Two other militiamen followed the deserter. That must have wilted whatever courage remained among the others. They rest turned to run, although several kept their weapons.

As the last militia disappeared around the nearest building, the crowd surged against the iron bars. The bars groaned and leaned farther inward. The front rank, including Henry, scrambled over bars, causing many of the poles to crash to the ground. Henry raced at the front of the horde, determined to grab several bags of rice.

The flight of the militia spread back through the mob like wildfire. It emboldened the horde, and the chanting increased in volume. Like a living beast, the mob surged forward.

Ten minutes later and at the rear of the mob, ninety Hanzhong policemen arrived. Jumping out of armored carriers, they drew batons and tasers. Blowing whistles, the police charged into the crowd, swinging batons and shocking people.

It should have worked. This was China, and the normally cowed populace had generations of obedience trained into them. Today it was different, because the mob had tasted victory. It was like a tiger drinking human blood. It liked the taste and wanted more. Perhaps as importantly, several of the dropped rifles made it into the rioters’ hands.

Shots rang out. Policemen fell to the pavement. Buoyed by success, young men in the mob picked up rocks, bottles—anything. They rained debris onto the surprised police as popping shots sounded. More baton-wielders fell dead. Young men howled and they charged en mass. They bowled over policemen and ripped away batons. The beatings began immediately, as did the merciless tasing of their former tormentors.

Some police made it back to the carriers. They climbed aboard, managing to fight off their attackers and drive for the nearest police headquarters. It was a massive building with two gleaming lion statues in front. There the police barricaded themselves behind heavy doors and the latest security systems.

Eighteen policemen died on the street. They were clubbed, tased until heart failure, or shot. It was a heady feeling for the rioting masses, and they wanted more, much more.

The police in the station radioed for outside help, and news of the trouble quickly reached the highest levels. As the police in the barricaded headquarters passed out rifles and took positions at the windows, a convoy of heavy trucks left the city of Guangyuan forty kilometers away. A different convoy roared from Baoji. Together, the two convoys raced three thousand riot police toward Hanzhong and its gigantic rice processing plant.

By now, the Hanzhong police were phoning one another, wondering what to do. They were frightened by the boldness of the rioters. They dreaded the looting and reached a quick consensus: to wait for reinforcements.

The first convoy reached Hanzhong at three twenty-four in the afternoon. The second arrived forty-three minutes later. A phone call from a raving police general in Baoji convinced the Hanzhong chief of police to begin riot suppression.

The Army cut city communication cables. Rushed electronic warfare (EW) units landed via helicopter and jammed satellite connections three hours later. Hanzhong was blacked out as the riot police, Army MPs, and revitalized Hanzhong police began to suppress looters, rioters, and subversives.

The police turned brutal then, wanting retribution. Nothing angered a master like a revolting slave. China was an ordered society, and the police gave the orders. The shooting began in earnest.

Then the higher powers began to arrive: The Dong Dianshan—East Lightning. They were the Party Security Service and landed at Hanzhong Airport at 7:19 PM. They wore brown uniforms with red straps running from the right shoulder to the red belt around their waist. An armband on their left arm showed a three-pronged lightning bolt. Each was a card-carrying member of the Socialist-Nationalist Party—what the former Communist Party had transformed into. Among their varied talents, East Lightning was practiced at rooting out ringleaders and enemy saboteurs.

By then, the police had imprisoned thousands, but had only interrogated a handful. East Lightning took over. Agents compared the video evidence, combing files from hundreds of webcams, looking for the perpetrators.

The next morning, around 10:15 AM—as Henry Wu cowered in his apartment—police smashed through his door with a four-man pulverizer.

Henry already lay on the floor, with his hands behind his head. “I’m innocent!” he shouted. He’d trashed the Glock early that morning.

A police officer kicked him in the side. Another shot a taser into his back, the prongs piercing Henry’s bathrobe and sticking in his flesh.

“You’re making a mistake!” Henry shouted.

The police shocked him into unconsciousness.

Henry awoke on the ride to Police Headquarters, Fifth District. He was handcuffed and sitting beside a large Korean officer in the back of a van. It was Chinese policy to use policemen of varying heritage. For instance, Han Chinese police worked in predominantly Manchu territory.

“Please,” Henry whispered. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

The Korean policeman pointed at the bags of looted rice found in Henry’s apartment.

“Is it a crime to eat enough to live?” Henry asked.

The Korean smirked, rolling his eyes.

After a bewildering set of twists and turns, the van entered the Fifth District Police Headquarters. When the vehicle came to a halt, the side door rolled open. Two Mongolians in brown uniforms with red belts entered the vehicle, causing the van to tilt their way.

Henry’s stomach curdled. “Please,” he whispered. Then his mouth became so dry that he could no longer speak.

The two East Lightning operatives hustled Henry through the cargo entrance and to a large elevator. Once inside the elevator, it went down to the basement. When the door slid open, Henry’s knees buckled, and he might have pitched onto the cement.

Fortunately or not, the two operatives each gripped Henry by his arms, marching him through the underground garage as his feet dragged. They entered a lit room with a bloodstained chair in the center. The chair had strange drill-like devices around it, much like a twentieth century dentist’s chair.

Henry twisted, trying to free himself. The left operative touched a stun rod to Henry’s neck. A numbing shock ended Henry’s resistance. They dumped him in the chair and tightened leather straps around his legs, arms, chest and one around his forehead, pinning him in place.

“I’m a loyal Party member,” Henry said.

A new operative appeared, a small man with large ears. He, too, wore the brown uniform with red belts and the armband with the three-pronged lightning bolt. He smiled, and his eyes seemed reptilian.

“You are Henry Wu,” the man said, checking a computer-slate.

“I am, but I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“You shot a soldier yesterday,” the small officer said.

The words shocked Henry worse than the stun device. East Lightning knew everything. “No,” he said. “That was someone else. You have the wrong man.”

“We shall see,” said the operative. “In case you wish to confess immediately, I will now explain the procedure. First, we shall inject you with a sense enhancer.” The man took a body-sized apron from a hook and tied it so it protected the front of his uniform. Next, he produced a large hypodermic needle. A sludge-like yellow solution moved within.

Henry tried to twist free, but the straps held him immobile.

The officer dabbed Henry’s neck with a cold, wet swab.

“Please,” Henry wept. “I just wanted some rice. I was so hungry. I was tired of the ache in my stomach.”

“Ah,” said the officer, as he stabbed the needle into Henry’s neck. The man pressed the plunger, squeezing the solution into Henry.

“All right!” shouted Henry. Spit flew from his mouth as he said, “I shot the militiaman. He killed the teenager. I had to do something.”

“Excellent,” the officer said. “It is most healthy that you admit to the truth.” He reached up for a drill and lowered it toward Henry’s face as he sat down on a stool.

“What else do you want to know?” Henry asked, squirming to free himself.

“Many things,” the officer said. He tied a cloth over his mouth and nose, set aside his hat, and slipped on a doctor’s cap. He flipped a switch and the drill began to whine. “First, Henry Wu, do you work for the CIA?”

“What?” Henry asked, bewildered.

“Open your mouth,” the officer said coldly.

Instead of opening his mouth, Henry clamped his jaws shut.

The two Mongolian operatives moved to the chair. They used thick fingers, prying open Henry’s mouth. One inserted a bracer to keep his teeth apart. The other inserted a tongue suppressor, to keep it out of the way.

“You will talk to me, Henry Wu. You will tell me what I want to know.”

An hour and twenty-four minutes later, it was over. The small officer switched off his recording device. Then he used a cloth to wipe the bloody specks from his hands. “Dump the body in the incinerator. Then give me several minutes before you bring in the next patient.”

“Sir?” asked the larger Mongolian.

“Hmm, is that too imprecise for you?” asked the officer. He took off the mask and sipped from a water bottle. “Make it fifteen minutes. Afterward, bring in the next one.”

The two operatives unbuckled the straps holding down Henry Wu’s contorted corpse. Each grabbed a shoulders and hip, lifting the body out of the chair. They carried Henry Wu to the mobile Security Incinerator they had brought along for the task. It looked like it was going to be a long day before they were through. At least the position paid well, and they were able to eat enough to keep their normal weight. Not everyone could say that these days. Therefore, they went about their task with quiet resignation, looking forward to tonight’s meal.

Meanwhile, the small officer who had interrogated Henry sat in his chair. He stared into space and smoked a cigarette. For his brief fifteen minutes, he blanked his mind, trying not to think about anything.



-3-

Plans



ANCHORAGE, ALASKA


Two old friends played ping-pong downstairs in a basement. They’d first met in college many years ago, both of them highly competitive at intramural sports. They had double-dated then and ended up marrying their girls. Both had stayed in Alaska where they had gone on many hunting and fishing trips together. They were like brothers, and even in their early forties, they were just as competitive as they had been two decades ago.

Stan Higgins was a high school history teacher. He supplemented his sparse income as a captain in the Alaskan National Guard. His nickname was Professor, and he had read far too much military history for his own good.

Besides being a pastor, the second man, Bill Harris, was a sergeant in the local Militia. The Militia was a recent development due to limited Federal funding and the continuing shrinkage of the U.S. military. The Militia was voluntary, the men paying for their own weapons and uniforms. They mustered under their state’s control and had National Guard drill instruction every summer for those who wished for advanced training. Bill was one of those. The states with the largest Militias per capita were Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Alaska. The three southern states had large Militias due to the proximity of the Mexican border; Alaska did because so many of the state’s population were hunters and fishermen.

Stan used his ping-pong paddle and bounced an orange ball up and down. Bill stood at the other end of the green table, waiting. The single bulb above the middle of the table flickered as the light dimmed. Brownouts were common these days and electrical grid repairs constant.

“Think the lights will stay on tonight?” Bill asked.

Stan grunted noncommittally. They had played four games of ping-pong already, tying at two wins each. Their wives talked upstairs as the children played board games.

“Just a minute,” Bill said. He moved to a shelf and checked his cell phone. “It’s getting late. Should we call it?”

The bulb stopped flickering then as the light strengthened.

“We can’t leave the series at a tie,” Stan said.

Bill nodded. “It’s more fun with a winner. Since this is the last game, should we volley for serve?”

“I lost the last game. Loser gets first serve next game.”

“Oh, okay,” said Bill, with an at-least-I-tried grin.

Stan kept bouncing the ball on his paddle. There was a distracted look on his face. He had been trying to forget about his dilemma all night. Trying to beat Bill had done that, but now…

“Is anything wrong?” asked Bill.

Stan nodded. “It’s Sergeant Jackson.”

“The police officer?”

“I think he wants to bust my dad.” Then the words gushed out as Stan asked, “Is it wrong to hold a grudge?”

“Do you mean is it wrong for the officer to hold a grudge against your dad? Or is it wrong for you to hold a grudge against the officer?”

Stan looked up, letting the ping-pong ball bounce off the table and onto the floor.

“Bitterness never helps anyone,” Bill said.

“I know.”

“You need to forgive Sergeant Jackson for what he did to your dad.”

Stan scowled. “I understand what you’re saying….” He shook his head.

“Well, think of it like—”

“I’m sorry,” said Stan, as the bulb flickered again. “It’s late. We’d better finish the series before the power cuts off.” He retrieved the orange ball and took his serving stance.

“I know this can be a hard topic,” Bill said.

Stan didn’t want to think about it anymore. He should have known Bill would tell him to give his worry to God. Now Bill would start talking about it. Stan decided to put an end to the lecture by serving the ball, using a crafty spin.

Surprised by the serve, Bill moved too late. He still managed to hit the ball, but it zoomed into the net.

“One to zero,” Stan said.

Bill glanced at him. “One to zero,” he said, his voice changing from its reflective pastor’s tone to his competitive voice. Then the two friends began to play in earnest.



BEIJING, P.R.C.


Jian Hong rode in the back of a limousine as he passed big Chinese cars. City traffic moved past massive buildings in the heart of Beijing. The construction boom had altered the city. The rich lived in palaces, sprawling villas with gold inlaid marble, redwood furniture and magnificent gardens. The latest craze was having a zoo on one’s property, with tigers, leopards, pandas, baboons—Jian had recently purchased a polar bear. He was inordinately proud of it and hoped to buy a male so he could mate them.

The heart of Beijing possessed titanic structures, showing the opulence of oil-rich China. It was a tribute to the nation’s greatness, to its power. Above the massive structures was the even larger Mao Square with the Politburo Building and the Chairman’s quarters. Glass towers reflected the sun’s light, while gigantic statues beggared the imagination. The Chairman had a mania for architecture. He wanted to show the world and China’s millions that nothing could compare with the present government. The construction boom flowered throughout China’s coastal region, particularly here in Beijing.

The big cars manufactured in Chinese automotive plants moved along wide avenues as hordes surged along the extra-large sidewalks. Beijing had become the mightiest city on Earth.

Jian witnessed this, but he enjoyed none of it as his security personnel escorted him to Mao Square. He was late for a meeting with the Chairman, a meeting that could well decide his fate in the world.

***

Jian Hong hurried into a large room on the third floor of the Chairman’s governmental quarters. Huge paintings of former chairmen hung on the walls, beginning with Mao Zedong and ending with the present ruler of Greater China. They were painted in a heroic style. The portrait of the present Chairman showed a strong, youthful man with a wild shock of hair and an outthrust chin. It had little in common with the old man in the wheelchair sitting at the head of the table.

Jian nodded a greeting to the Minister of the Navy, an old admiral with a bald dome. Compared to the Chairman, the admiral was an example of youthful vigor.

The Chairman’s chin presently touched his chest and his eyes were closed. His withered hands rested on his lap, one covered by a plaid blanket. The formerly wild hair was combed to the right, and it was much thinner, showing patches of skull. A degenerative disease had been eating away at his strength for years now, radically altering a once hard-charging dictator. In earlier days, the Chairman had re-forged the old Communist Party into the Socialist-Nationalist organ that now swelled with the pride of nearly two billion Chinese. His vision had led the country through the terrible crises of 2019—the fact that it had been the Chairman’s guiding hand in 2016 that caused China to unload her U.S. Bonds had been carefully weeded from the history books. That maneuver had brought about the American banking and stock market collapse, which in turn had started the Sovereign Debt Depression throughout the world. That worldwide shock had, in turn, brought about the crises of 2019 in China.

Despite his role in causing it, under the Chairman’s brilliance, China had emerged from the Sovereign Debt Depression as the most powerful nation on Earth. He had led them in the swift but profitable war against Siberia, then in the orgasmic Invasion of Taiwan, and lastly in forging the Pan Asian League. Wresting Japan from America’s military orbit had been his greatest diplomatic coup.

The Chairman snored softly at the head of the table, gnome-like in appearance, but still holding the reins of power in his arthritic hands. His security personnel surrounded the building, hard-eyed killers chosen for their loyalty and willingness to murder anyone that the Chairman indicated. Ruthless secret policemen backed them. Those policemen used computers, truth serums and secret chambers to tear needed information from suspects. In the majority of cases, however, the Chairman used a velvet glove in his dealings. His deftness had won him much. But the iron was still there, as was the willingness to crush any opponent.

Like the others, Jian Hong feared the Chairman. Jian wondered, as surely the others must, if the degenerative disease might one day cause the Chairman to institute a bloodbath as Mao had done during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. Despite the fear, Jian and the others attempted to maneuver the dying old man toward their particular projects. The Chairmen had become like an emperor from a bygone era, with Deng Fong as his prime minister and the others vying to gain the Chairman’s ear.

“Your tardiness surely indicates the contempt you feel toward the rest of us, Agricultural Minister,” Deng said.

“I beg your pardon,” Jian said. He’d had trouble at one of the checkpoints. It dawned on him that Deng might have engineered the trouble. The possibility put an icicle of renewed fear through Jian. Had Deng corrupted the Chairman’s bodyguards? Was Deng broadcasting his ability to assassinate the Chairman at his leisure? Jian wondered if he might have been wiser going to Deng in secret, falling on his knees and begging to become one of his followers.

Who am I to race with tigers? Jian thought to himself. These past weeks had been torture, as two more rice-riots had occurred in different parts of the country. Jian had maneuvered hard to keep his post, secretly using the last of his hidden food reserves to bolster stocks in the cities. In several months, real famine would stalk the inner provinces. They must find more sources of food.

In the old days before the new glacial period, the Earth’s food supply had come from two major areas: the great Euro-Russian plains and the American wheat-fields. China’s rice paddies had helped, as had other regions. But the bulk of the food supply to feed the masses, the world’s billions, came from the two key areas. With the new glaciation, the Gulf Stream had changed its flow, causing massive freezing on the Euro-Russian plains, but America was still blessed with warm enough weather to produce bumper crops. It meant that a starving world looked to America and to its Grain Union allies. It meant that Chinese wealth could only scrape up so much food on the open market—then it needed the Grain Union’s storehouses, which meant China needed American permission to buy.

Deng Fong stirred. He did not look like a tiger. He was in his mid-seventies and had a weak left eye that he could barely keep open. He wore a black suit of the finest make and had strangely smooth skin. It was one of Deng’s vanities—skin-tucks. Stories about his sexual exploits were legendary, as were the amounts of his testosterone injections and Viagra with which he was said to indulge himself. He looked old, but still acted with vitality.

Jian turned on his computer, the machine built into the table. He knew that one of the Chairman’s people would analyze everything he brought up, everything he read. The Chairman loved psychological profiles, placing an inordinate trust in them. Therefore, Jian had memorized a list of “safe” items he would look up here, items given to him by his staff.

Deng cleared his throat, the sound aimed toward the head of the table. He sat nearest the Chairman. The Chairman snorted, and his eyelids flickered. Slowly, the old man opened his eyes, and just as slowly, the Chairman straightened his body. Everyone here knew it pained the old man to sit up straight. They could see it on his face. But he did it anyway, refusing to hunch, and that frightened Jian. The Chairman examined each of them in turn. There were four other Politburo members in the room. They belonged to the Ruling Committee, the Chairman’s inner circle of advisors. When the old man’s eyes fell on him, Jian felt the gaze like hot pokers in his soul.

Jian’s key ally was the Minister of the Navy, Admiral Qiang—tall, handsome, and still athletic at seventy-one. He was easily the most adventuresome personality in the room in terms of military action.

Qiang and Deng were bitter enemies.

“Sir,” Deng told the Chairman. “I’m afraid that I have terrible news to report.”

The Chairman swiveled his head so those hot eyes locked onto Deng Fong.

“Sir,” Deng said, “I am afraid that we have taken a viper amongst us. We have trusted a warmonger who plans to tread on the charred remains of a billion corpses so he can climb to supreme power.”

“Elaborate,” whispered the Chairman.

The whispery dry words tightened Jian’s stomach, and suddenly, the room felt much too warm.

Deng bowed his head and turned toward Jian, staring at him fixedly. “There is one among us who sabotaged my talks in Sydney. I believe he did it in hopes of stirring war. This war will cover his negligent mistakes in the agricultural sector. He would rather see millions die in a nuclear exchange than have his corrupt mishandling brought to light.”

“These are serious charges,” the Chairman whispered.

Jian now felt limp with fear as Deng turned to the old man in the wheelchair. Jian hadn’t expected a direct and personal assault today. Even more, he hadn’t expected Deng to bypass Admiral Qiang in his admonishments. That had been part of the genius of Jian’s plan, or so he’d told himself more than once. Admiral Qiang had authorized the commando mission against the American oil well. Jian had hoped to use the admiral as a shield as Qiang bore the brunt of Deng’s verbal assault. Now—

“The Agricultural Minister used his insidious and occult powers to warp Admiral Qiang’s good judgment,” Deng was saying. “He lured the admiral and tricked him into committing an adventurous and foolhardy act at precisely the wrong moment. The destruction of the American oil well occurred in the early morning, twelve hours before I would speak alone with the American Secretary of State. It sabotaged what I believe would have been a healing accord between our two nations. The Americans have grain. We have oil. The Americans need oil and we need grain. What better way to bring harmony between our two nations than trading oil for grain?”

You didn’t count on me learning about your plan, you cunning snake, Jian thought. Deng would have been the hero, bringing grain to a hungry nation. He would die as the failed Agricultural Minister. No, he had a different plan, one he worked hard to implement.

“Please excuse my interruption,” Jian said. “With your permission, sir,” he said to the Chairman, “I would like to point out certain salient points that Minister Fong has conveniently forgotten.”

The Chairman’s head swiveled slightly so those ancient eyes fell onto Jian. Again, Jian felt the power there, and knew now that his life was in peril.

“Speak,” the Chairman whispered in his ancient voice, “but make it brief.”

“Thank you, sir,” Jian said. His voice sounded weak. He would never convince anyone if he came across as timid. Sitting straighter, clearing his throat, he spoke in a deeper tone, trying to come across as assured. “Three years ago, at Minister Fong’s insistence, I took over the Agricultural Ministry.”

“You snatched at the opportunity for power,” Deng said. “You acted like a monkey in a panda tree.”

“Let him speak,” said the Chairman.

Deng bowed his head.

Jian blinked in amazement. Deng’s inappropriate words gave him confidence, and with the rebuff from the Chairman—Jian felt his hopes soar. Then he wondered if the rebuff might have been engineered beforehand to give the appearance of fairness on the Chairman’s part. The thought was sobering, and it constricted his throat.

Jian lifted a glass of water, sipping, trying to marshal his thoughts. “As I was saying, sir—gentlemen—I took over the Agricultural Ministry at Minister Fong’s insistence. It was hoped I could turn around the disastrous failures of the previous years. I worked with painstaking zeal, routinely putting in sixteen-hour workdays. I tried many experiments. The sad truth is that nature has conspired against China. Glaciation combined with our great population has made self-sufficiency in foodstuffs an impossibility. It is the same everywhere as famine stalks the planet. Only a few nations export grain or other foods. Occidentals of European origin control each of the grain-exporting nations. They have formed a union—”

“These things are known to us,” Deng said. “Sir—”

“Let him speak,” the Chairman said. “You have laid the charge. Now let him defend himself—if he can.”

“Thank you, sir,” Jian said. “My point is that these barbarians have long conspired against China. In our days of weakness, they carved our glorious nation into separate spheres of influence. It was you, sir, who finally brought the last of our stolen lands home. We are strong again, the strongest nation on Earth. Can any of us truly believe that the Anglo nations will accept this and roll onto their backs for us?”

“You are deluded,” Deng said. “The Western powers gave up their chauvinism long ago. This is the nuclear age—”

“China needs fear no nuclear attack!” Jian said forcefully, banging his fist on the table. “We have the most modern anti-ballistic missile and laser defense system in the world. If the Americans dare launch their ballistic missiles, our defensive systems will knock them down. Then they would lie supine before us, dreading our missiles that could rain upon them with impunity.”

“How does destroying the American breadbasket help China?” Deng asked.

“It doesn’t,” admitted Jian. “I merely point out the ludicrous idea that America, or any other nation, can threaten China with nuclear weapons.” He pointedly glanced at Admiral Qiang and the Police Minister, yearning for their verbal support.

Xiao Yang, the Police Minister, was lean. He wore thick glasses and possessed strangely staring eyes. He gave Jian a nearly imperceptible nod of encouragement. The man’s eyes seemed to shine behind the thick glasses, but he didn’t say anything. Admiral Qiang seemed lost in thought, perhaps not even listening to the argument.

“You viper,” Deng said. “You mouth war when peace can serve us better. The Americans were about to increase their grain exports as we ship them more oil.”

“Do you trust these Americans?” Jian asked. “Aren’t you aware of their new space program? They aren’t foolishly attempting to land men on Mars or return to the Moon. Instead, they are building a laser launch-site. They are on the cusp of building a system to put items into space at a cheap cost per ton. With it, they will build a Solar Powered Satellite that collects the sun’s rays and micro-beam the free energy to Earth. It is the next step in industrial power.”

“It already changes our weather patterns,” Police Minister Xiao said.

Deng glanced at the Police Minister before he said, “You both spout folly.”

“Do you deny the fact of their space program?” asked Jian. He hoped Xiao didn’t say anything about Henry Wu, the supposed CIA agent. It had helped sway Admiral Qiang earlier, but it wouldn’t help here.

“Our technologists are hard at work on a similar space system,” Deng said. “This is all beside the point.”

“If the Americans build enough of these satellites,” Jian said, “they will no longer need our oil. What then shall we trade for their badly needed grain?”

Deng stared at Jian before he turned to the Chairman. “He confuses the issue, a tactic he has perfected as Agricultural Minister.”

The Chairman nodded slowly. “Make your point, Jian Hong.”

Even as the small hairs prickled on the back of Jian’s neck, he spoke out strongly. “Now is the moment to strike, sir. Now is the time to fix the American food market in our favor—forever.”

“By destroying oil platforms?” the Chairman asked sarcastically.

The old man’s eyes seemed like twin lasers stabbing into Jian’s heart. He took a deep breath. This was coming on much faster than he had planned. Jian wished Admiral Qiang or Xiao would speak up in his defense. Unfortunately, like everyone else, they were afraid of the Chairman. Maybe they were also afraid of Deng Fong. In that moment, Jian realized that he must lead the other two, and to lead them, he would have to persuade the old man in the wheelchair.

“Sir, if I may,” Jian said, “I’d like to point out the example of Cheng Ho.” He knew the Chairman loved the history of Cheng Ho. The dictator kept a large model of one of the medieval sailing ships on the bottom floor of the Politburo Building.

Cheng Ho had been an admiral in Chinese history. He had explored the Indian Ocean and the eastern coast of Africa several decades before the Europeans crawled down the African coast in the other direction. Cheng Ho’s ships and fleet had been huge, especially when compared to the Portuguese ships of the day. Due to Chinese inwardness and other political factors, the emperor recalled Cheng Ho and forbade further marine exploration. Thus, the Europeans had “discovered” and eventually conquered the East instead of the East discovering the West.

Deng laughed. It was a triumphant sound. He glanced at the Chairman. “I believe that our Agricultural Minister has become unhinged. What does medieval history have to do with blowing up oil wells or hoping to start a nuclear war?”

“You are incorrect,” Jian said. “The oil rig was destroyed in order to strengthen China’s hand.”

“Do you believe we are fools?” Deng said. “You did it to sabotage my talks. Can you truly think the Americans will back down as we destroy their oil industry? If you want historical examples, I will give you one from the last century: Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and thereby brought about their empire’s destruction.”

“Are you so afraid of the Americans that you fear they will destroy China?” Jian asked.

Xiao gave another of his nearly imperceptible nods of encouragement.

If only the Police Minister would speak openly, leaving out any of his fantastical nonsense, Jian thought.

“Once the Americans discover we destroyed the platform,” Deng said, “they may begin destroying our offshore wells in turn.”

“Our navy is superior to the deteriorated American Fleet,” Jian said. “If they dared such attacks, we would hunt down their ships and sink them on sight.”

“You are quite wrong,” Deng said. “Study history. No English-speaking nation has lost a naval war in five hundred years.”

Admiral Qiang frowned as he began to shake his head.

Xiao’s nostrils flared.

Seeing these things, Jian asked in seeming disbelief, “Do you truly pour such contempt upon the Chinese Navy?”

“It is not a matter of contempt,” Deng said. “Reality must guide us. American submarines are still better than ours. Yes, the Debt Depression and secessionist unrest has hurt them. Their defense expenditures are but a ghost of their former outlays. But their navy is still formidable, quite possibly a match for ours.”












http://www.amazon.com/Invasion-California-America-ebook/dp/B00AAKQX10/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1359740370&sr=1-1&keywords=invasion+california#reader_B00AAKQX10

Book Description

Publication Date:November 19, 2012
The invasion of California has begun, threatening to trigger World War III.

Greater China and its South American allies control Mexico, and their armies are poised on the Rio Grande, ready for the next phase of the North American conquest.

It is 2039. The Chinese are launching their secret weapon against the American border fortifications. At the same time, an amphibious fleet steams toward San Francisco. The Chinese have formed the Pan Asian Alliance and signed a war-pact with the South American Federation. Glacial cooling has brought the Earth to the brink of starvation. Now, U.S. soil is the most valuable commodity in the world, and the aggressor powers plan to divide it amongst themselves.

America is down but she is not out. The military has some deadly surprises for the invaders, but it may not be enough. Enemy wave assaults, vast armor battles and new drone fighters turn the war into a seething cauldron of mass destruction.

INVASION: CALIFORNIA is a disturbing and controversial technothriller vast in scope, written by bestselling author Vaughn Heppner.



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Novels by Vaughn Heppner


Invasion: Alaska

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Visit www.Vaughnheppner.com (http://www.Vaughnheppner.com) for more information.



Invasion: California


(Invasion America Series)


by Vaughn Heppner



“All war is based on deception.”


-- From: The Art of War, by Sun Tzu (c. 544-496 B.C.)



Copyright © 2012 by the author.


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.



Preface


Invasion: California is a story about disastrous events. It postulates a world teetering on the brink of starvation due to glacial cooling.

It is a “what if” story. What if the farmable land in the world shrank dramatically, and what if American earth became one of the most precious commodities left? What if other countries—led by Greater China and its Pan-Asian Alliance—decided it was going to conquer U.S. soil? Lastly, what if America no longer dominated world affairs due to a sovereign debt depression and other, mostly self-inflicted, wounds?

Interestingly, there is a historical precedent for continental-sized conquest fought with the latest technology. The Third Reich made the attempt a little over seventy years ago in World War II.

At the start of Operation Barbarossa in 1941, Germany set out to conquer European Russian. In terms of depth, the final objectives were just short of the Ural Mountains. In America, that would be the distance from the East Coast to Kansas City, Missouri.

The Germans’ gigantic conquest began along a 1,720-mile front stretching from the Barents Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south. Again, in American terms, that would be from the northern border of Maine all the way down to the southern tip of Florida.

The Germans invaded with approximately three million soldiers, while the Russians defended in the theater with slightly fewer. By 1943, Germany fielded almost four million troops there, while Russia had put over 6.7 million soldiers in place. Incredible as it may seem, by war’s end, the Russians had lost 14.7 million military dead. Some people estimate that their total dead and missing—military and civilian—was 35 million. Those are horrifying numbers, beginning to sound like nuclear war casualties.

What does any of that have to do with Invasion: California?In attempting to envision foreign powers invading North America, I used as one of my guides the titanic conflict of World War II, particularly between Germany and Soviet Russia. I suspect that in a future war of such scale, millions of soldiers would march to battle once again.

Invasion: California is fiction about a future I hope none of us ever has to face. Nevertheless, if present trends continue…who knows what will happen by 2039.



Timeline to War


1997: The British return Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China.


2011: China reviews its one-child per family policy begun in 1978 and decides to continue it. This increasingly creates an overabundance of boys as families abort a higher percentage of girls.


2012: China carries much of the U.S. National Debt and continues to sell America a vast surplus of finished goods.


2016: The American banking system and stock market crashes as the Chinese unload their U.S. Bonds. The ripple effect creates the Sovereign Debt Depression throughout the world.


2017: Siberia secedes from a bankrupt Russia.


2018: Scientists detect the beginning of a new glacial period that is similar to the chilly temperatures that occurred during the Black Death period of the Middle Ages.


2019: The Marriage Act is passed. As the Chinese men greatly outnumber the women, special government permits are needed before a man is allowed to marry a woman.


2020: Due to new glaciation, there are repeated low yields and crop failures in China and elsewhere. It brings severe political unrest to an already economically destabilized world.


2021: An expansion-minded Socialist-Nationalist government emerges in China. It demands that Siberia return the Great Northeastern Area stolen during Tsarist times. It also renews calls for reunification with Taiwan.


2022: The Sovereign Debt Depression—and an ongoing civil war in Mexico—create political turmoil in America, particularly in the Southwest. There is an increase in terrorism, secessionist movements and a plummeting Federal budget. All American military forces return home as the U.S. grows isolationist.


2023: The Mukden Incident sparks the Sino-Siberian War. Chinese armies invade. The ailing Russian government ignores Siberian cries for military aid. America’s new isolationism prevents any overseas interference.

Modernized equipment and an excessive pool of recruits eager to win marriage permits bring swift victory to Chinese arms over Siberia. It annexes the Great Northeastern Area. Siberia becomes a client state.


2024: Aggressive posturing and long-range aircraft stationed on the Chinese coast cause the aging U.S. Fleet to retreat from Taiwan. China invades and captures Taiwan. Its navy now rivals the shrunken USN.


2026: Newly discovered deep oilfields in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska prove among the world’s largest.


2027: The civil war in Mexico worsens. The bulk of America’s Homeland Security Forces now stand guard on the Rio Grande.


2028: The continuing modernization of the oil industry in Siberia, the Great Northeastern Area and in the South China Sea turns Greater China into the largest oil-producing nation in the world. China begins to dictate OPEC policies.


2030: The cooling trend worsens, bringing record winter temperatures. New energy sources cannot keep pace with increasing demand. American energy hunger sweeps away the last environmental concerns. All possible energy sources are exploited.


2031: Harsher weather patterns and growing world population causes greater food rationing in more countries. The main grain exporting nations—Canada, America, Argentina and Australia—form a union along similar lines as OPEC. China warns it may cut America off from all oil supplies unless it is given priority status for grain shipments.


2032: China experiences the worst rice harvest of the Twenty-first century. New rationing laws are instituted. Internal unrest rises to dangerous levels as Party officials seek new food sources. Invasion: Alaska. The Chinese attack in order to cut off America’s main oil source and force the U.S. into favorable food-for-oil trades.

After the armistice, there is growing world furor over the nuclear-tipped torpedoes used in the Alaskan War. Greater China places harsh economic sanctions on the U.S. The German Dominion, the Brazilian-led South American Federation and the Iranian Hegemony soon follow suit.


2033: The Mexican civil war reignites. The SNP—the Socialist-Nationalist Party—seeks Chinese help. Chinese military advisors arrive.

Glacial cooling continues to devastate worldwide crop yields. Led by Brazil and backed by Greater China, the South American Federation declares war on Argentina, a Grain Union member.


2034: Hostilities end with Buenos Aires’s capture by Brazilian forces. Argentina leaves the Grain Union and joins the South American Federation.

Continuing sanctions cripple U.S. recovery efforts. Domestic terrorism and secessionist threats increase as political turmoil worsens—the Democrats and Republicans demonize each other, bringing gridlock.

With increasing Chinese military support, the SNP rapidly gains ground in the Mexican Civil War.


2035: Colonel Cesar Valdez seeks American assistance and safe havens for his Free Mexico Army. Mexican President Felipe asks for greater Chinese assistance. China accelerates its troop buildup in Mexico.

Continuing poor crop yields and increasing starvation leads to the creation of the Pan Asian Alliance (PAA). This includes Greater China and most of Southeast Asia. Military preparations are begun for an Australian Invasion.

Hawaii now erupts with racial violence. The Hawaiian Nativist Party seeks independence from “supremacist” America.


2036: China’s Thirteen Demands are read in the U.N. Amid the worsening glaciation, they find massive appeal. Demand # 1: America and its Grain Union allies must distribute their abundance equally throughout the world. Demand #2: America must accept third party nutrition inspectors at its granaries and warehouses.

The Hawaiian rebel government seeks foreign help. China sends an invasion fleet. America sends its carriers. The Chinese launch a surprise attack on American satellites and other space assets, combining it with a massive cyber-assault on the U.S. Crippled by the cyber-attack on their datalinks, the American fleet is destroyed in the Battle of Oahu.

General Sims—the former Joint Forces Commander in Alaska during the Chinese invasion—runs as an Independent and wins the Presidency. He signs the Non-Nuclear Use Treaty, pledging that America will never again use nuclear weapons first. He also agrees to begin food shipments through the Chinese-dominated U.N. Some economic sanctions against America are lifted. At the same time, the President declares a state of emergency and begins construction of the Rio Grande Defensive Line due to the 700,000 PAA troops in Mexico.


2037: Seeking to escape forced induction into the South American Federation, the Cuban dictator asks for German Dominion military assistance. The first GD airmobile brigade arrives in Cuba.

Terrorists detonate a low-yield nuclear weapon in Silicon Valley, destroying much of the critical American high-technology center. Evidence points to Chinese involvement.

By the end of the year, the PAA’s Mexico-occupation troops number two and a half million. Free Mexico Army assassins kill Mexican President Felipe.


2038: Claiming American provocations, China accelerates its troop buildup. Over four million soldiers occupy Mexico. The first South American Federation troops arrive.

President Sims orders a preemptive satellite assault, using the strategic ABM lasers to knock out all foreign objects that enter American space. He cuts off all grain tribute to the U.N.

The PAA, the SAF and the GD sign a secret accord against America.


2039: Nearly six million PAA troops occupy Mexico, combined with three million SAF troops. The GD moves the bulk of its long-range hovers into Cuba.



-1-

The Stumble



SAN JUAN BASE, MEXICO


The stumble into war began in the bedroom of Colonel Peng of the Fifth Transport Division. He lay naked on top of Donna Cruz, a Mexican teenager with raven-colored hair and the sensual moves of a serpent. The moment of ecstasy quickly arrived and Peng cried out in release.

He rolled off her, yawned and closed his eyes. No wonder soldiers volunteered for duty in Mexico. Yes, war loomed, but the abundance of willing and attractive females in this land was truly staggering. Peng had never won a marriage permit as Chinese law dictated. He wondered if that had been a mistake.

“Colonel?” the girl asked. “Are you asleep?”

He opened his eyes. She sat beside him. What marvelous breasts and such a flat stomach with its outie bellybutton. Oh. The flatness of the stomach was because she seldom had enough to eat.

The rationing in Mexico was strict. The country’s painfully-grown crops first fed the “invited” soldiers protecting the Socialist-Nationalist Revolution. That meant nearly ten million mouths, ten million hungry foreigners. Afterward, the Mexican government employees took precedence, the Mexican Home Army and then munitions workers. Every Mexican possessed a ration card. Peng’s young temptress had a third class card, no doubt why she supplemented her lifestyle as his girlfriend.

Does she have other “boyfriends?”

“Colonel?” she asked again.

It was atrocious Chinese, but at least she could speak it. Actually, it was much better than most Mexicans achieved.

Peng yawned, idly wondering why he became so sleepy after doing it.

“Do you have a present for me, Colonel?” she asked, smiling as she batted her eyelashes.

“Yes. It’s in the third drawer, my dear. I have a package for you. Why don’t you get it?”

She scooted off the bed. Peng raised his head to examine her wonderful butt. It swayed seductively as she padded across the floor. Only in Mexico could he have won such a beauty.

She opened the third drawer and squealed with delight, taking out a large package wrapped in red paper.

“It’s heavy,” she said.

“I have sausages, whiskey for your father and other delicacies for you. There are also several hundred pesos within.”

“You are kind to me.”

He closed his eyes and lay back. Kindness had nothing to do with it. He was a supply officer and had learned a long time ago that spreading delicacies around solved many problems, including a loveless life. Let the fighters win glory on the battlefield. He would use his position to “buy” what he needed.

“I can return four days from now,” she said. It was a long bicycle ride from Mexico City where she lived. He had been thinking about purchasing a room for her nearby. Many officers did that, but Peng had been saving his money, sending it to his aging mother in China.

Peng smiled as he became increasingly sleepy. Four days from now and he would neigh like a stallion as he enjoyed another night with this amazing creature. Yes, four days and—he frowned.

“Is something wrong?” she asked.

Through the mattress, he felt her climb back onto the bed. Her warm hands rubbed his chest. She always told him how she loved his smooth skin. It wasn’t hairy like a gorilla.

“I’m going to be busy four days from now,” Peng told her.

“Oh,” she pouted, taking away her hands.

Peng yawned. It was getting hard to stay awake. “I’m going to be very busy moving Blue Swan. Another shipment arrives, from Japan this time.”

“Couldn’t you get away for just a little while?” she asked. “I really want to see you again, Colonel.”

Peng smiled faintly. The girl was amazing in bed but otherwise unimaginative. She never seemed to understand he had tasks to perform.

“No, my dear,” he mumbled, beginning to fade away. “I have to oversee everything.” She probably couldn’t understand that. “Blue Swan is critical,” he explained. “It is the can opener that will pry apart American defenses. It would be my death to slip away to see you, delightful as that would be. I…”

Colonel Peng’s head tilted until his right cheek sank against the pillow. He drifted to sleep. Thus he never saw Donna Cruz stare at him in amazement.



MEXICO CITY, MEXICO


The next night, Daniel Cruz stared bleary-eyed at his teenaged daughter. She paraded through their tiny living room in a red dress. She was stunning, his daughter. It amazed Daniel that he had ever produced such a pretty girl with such long, raven hair.

“Where did you find the money to buy that?” he asked.

She frowned.

It hurt Daniel’s heart to see that. He should have told her how beautiful she looked. It’s what he would have told his wife. She had died three years ago. Everything had gone sour afterward: his wife dying and his daughter learning to whore herself out to the Chinese. He knew where she’d “earned” the money to buy a red dress like that.

Daniel picked up a glass, swirling the brown-colored whiskey at the bottom. He sipped, letting the alcohol slide down his throat. A moment later, the pleasant burn and the numbing in his mind began. This was good whiskey, better than he’d had in a long time.

“You’re pretty,” he muttered.

Donna swirled on her toes. She had such slender legs, perfectly muscled from all the bicycling she did. Wherever she rode, Daniel knew his daughter turned heads.

“Do you sleep with them?” he asked bitterly.

Anger flashed in her eyes. She strode to the nightstand and grabbed the whiskey bottle by the neck. “I brought you this! Drink it and drown your sorrows. But do not ask me what I do as if you’re a shocked priest. You work for them, Papa! I work for them! So do not judge me.”

Daniel wanted to surge up and slap her across the face. He had bad knees, hobbling like an old man wherever he went. Bicycling to the office every day only made his knees worse. They popped and crackled horribly when he pedaled. He held out his glass to her, deciding silence would be his whip.

She poured, slammed the bottle onto the nightstand and strode across the living room. Before leaving, she whirled around. “You should thank me and you should thank Colonel Peng for his generous gifts.”

Daniel sipped whiskey, looking away. He would ignore her. She knew better; thus, he would let her own conscience whip her.

“The colonel is an important man!” she declared.

Daniel snorted. They were always important.

“He’s in charge of Blue Swan,” Donna said.

“Birds?” asked Daniel, letting his voice drip with mockery.

“No! Blue Swan is the can opener that will pry apart the American defenses.”

Daniel’s head swung around. With the whiskey in him, it felt like a long journey. He stared at Donna, standing there so fiery, with her fists on her hips.

“What did you say?” he asked.

“They’re from Japan,” she declared. “He’s moving them. He is very important, Papa, and he loves me.”

Daniel blinked heavy eyelids. He knew this Colonel Peng. His office in the city had dealings with Chinese supply, in charge of traffic control. Daniel worked in the Mexican government, what had become the puppet régime for the foreigners. Once he had believed in the SNP. Now his wife was dead and his daughter slept with the enemy. She had become little more than a whore. Even though he loved her dearly, he recognized the truth. Because he made too little money and drank too much, he couldn’t give her what she needed and had to take what she gave.

“Drink your whiskey,” she said, interpreting his silence the wrong way.

“Donna,” he whispered.

She ran from the living room. Seconds later, the front door slammed as she fled the apartment.

Daniel stared at the glass with the brown-colored whiskey. It was Japanese, too, the alcohol. What his daughter had just told him…if it was true…

He grabbed the bottle from the nightstand and as carefully as possible, he poured the whiskey in his glass back where it belonged. A few drops spilled onto the carpet, but that couldn’t be helped. He corked the bottle, set it on the nightstand and went to the fridge. He drew two bottled waters, opening the first and beginning to guzzle. Tomorrow, he needed to be as sober as possible.

Afterward and in a daze, he went to bed. Sleep proved difficult. Five times, he woke up, shuffled to the bathroom and dribbled into the toilet. He hated being old.

In the morning he ate a tasteless burrito, shaved his face with a shaking hand and chose his cleanest uniform.

He pedaled through the city, listening to his knees crackle and pop. He had to ride slowly; otherwise, the pain became too intense. Thousands pedaled with him, hordes on two wheels. At a thirty-story glass tower, Daniel parked his bike in an outer rack, locking it with a chain.

He took an elevator to the twelfth floor. There he worked diligently in his office, only later finding an excuse to head to the fourteenth floor and speak there with Pedro, who was in charge of scheduled routes in the countryside. Pedro was an old friend from elementary school, so many decades ago.

In a storeroom with a single bulb in the ceiling they played checkers. The ivory pieces had an unusual heft to them and were always cool to the touch. The design etched onto the backs showed the ancient Castilian crown from the old country. The ivory pieces came from Daniel’s grandfather, inherited at his death. Pedro and Daniel usually played around this time.

After moving a piece, Daniel looked up and told Pedro, “I had forgotten, my friend, that you introduced me to my wife.”

“That was long ago,” Pedro said as he eyed the board.

“Hmm. It is our anniversary today.” That was a lie, but Pedro would never know. “Since my wife is gone, I wanted to celebrate with someone. Would you share this with me?” Daniel asked. He produced the whiskey bottle, which was three-fifths full.

Pedro looked up and his eyes widened. He grinned. He had a silver-colored crown among his yellowed teeth. Pedro was an alcoholic, although he’d never admitted that to anyone, certainly not to himself. “Just a quick sip, si?” Pedro asked.

“Yes, a quick one,” Daniel agreed.

A half hour later, the bottle was empty, Pedro having consumed most of it.

“Oh,” Daniel said, as he shelved the game in its hiding spot. “I just remembered. Senor Franco is planning a surprise inspection today.”

“You lie!” Pedro said.

“I’m only wish it were so.”

“He’ll smell the whiskey on me.”

“I’m sorry, my friend,” Daniel said. “If Franco is coming, I must leave for an early lunch.”

“Yes, yes, an excellent idea,” Pedro said.

The two men departed from the storeroom. Pedro hurried to his office down the hall. Daniel went in the other direction, turned the corner and waited. After ten minutes had passed, Daniel headed for Pedro’s office. Upon his entrance the secretary looked up, an old lady whose son, Senor Franco, ran the department.

“I forgot my keys in Pedro’s office,” Daniel said. He meant the keys to his bike-chain and apartment.

Mrs. Franco indicated that he could go in and retrieve his keys.

Daniel entered the office, leaving the door ajar so she wouldn’t become suspicious. Despite her inquisitive nature, old Mrs. Franco was absent-minded and would likely forget about him soon. She was playing a computer game and she often spent hours at it, building her internet farm.

After a short wait and taking a deep breath, Daniel sat down at Pedro’s desk. The swivel chair creaked and Daniel paused, but Mrs. Franco did not come in to investigate.

As he’d hoped, Pedro’s computer was still on. Daniel pressed a key and the screen awoke. For the next twenty minutes, Daniel examined scheduled route shutdowns. Pedro was in charge of them, meaning certain routes and roads were closed to civilian and sometimes to Mexican Home Army usage. During those times the Chinese Army used the roads and routes, often for “secret” convoys.

Daniel searched, and he discovered a route from the main port at Baja Bay to the First Front on the Californian-Mexican border. The route used a code word. From experience, Daniel knew the Chinese often used the main article being ferried as the code. This route word or code was “Blue Swan.”

Daniel’s heart thudded. According to Donna, this was a secret weapon, one critical to smashing the vaunted American defenses on the border.

With shaking hands, Daniel took out a pencil and paper, copying the route information. Several minutes later, he shut off the computer, said good-bye to Mrs. Franco and headed to his office one floor down.

He would compose a carefully worded report and leave it at a letter-drop near Santa Anna Park. His control was a Swiss national in the ambassador’s office. Daniel believed the man was actually a CIA case officer. Whoever he was, the man paid well for good information, which helped Daniel buy cheap whiskey. More importantly, with this he hoped to hurt the Chinese, to strike back at the foreigners who had corrupted his beautiful young daughter.



LANGLEY, VIRGINIA


Anna Chen rubbed her eyes. They were gritty from too much reading and too little sleep. She sat in front of an e-reader in a cubicle in the Central Intelligence Agency, one of the analysts working the night shift.

She had come down a long way in the world since President Clark’s reelection defeat after the Alaskan War seven long years ago. From working on the President’s staff Anna had fallen into unemployment. This was due to her membership in a new undesirable caste in America: those of half-Chinese ancestry. It had been a rude shock.

Years ago, she had written the tome on the Chinese: Socialist-National China. It had been a bestseller, had won her a professorship at Harvard and then a spot on President Clark’s staff. None of that mattered now. She was half-Chinese. In besieged America that made her suspect. It didn’t help that Tanaka—her former bodyguard/lover—had died defending her in Obama Park. Tanaka had killed three muggers, shooting two in the head and breaking the neck of the third. The fourth had stepped out from behind a bush, shot Tanaka in the back and stolen Anna’s purse.

Sitting in her CIA cubicle, Anna rubbed her eyes harder, blinked several times and concentrated on the reports. A lamp provided light and several computer scrolls waited for her use. If there was anything in a report she didn’t understand, Anna looked it up.

Her life had spiraled from one tragedy to another. After her mother’s death, Anna had begun a blog on Chinese affairs, winning syndication on National News Internet (NNI). The mass Chinese cyber-assault three years ago in 2036 had ended that. The nuclear terrorist attack in Silicon Valley had ripened the latent Chinese racism into ugly fruit indeed. The only bright spot had been the election of President Sims. They said he was superstitious, in a baseball sort of way. Keep everything the same, if you could, when you won the big game. She had been in the government during the Alaskan War that Sims had won. Therefore, after gaining an interview with him, Anna had received employment with the CIA, as a lower grade analyst. It was better than unemployment and she was good at analyzing and interpreting data.

Anna sipped tea and leaned back so her chair squealed. She reached up and undid her hair. It was long and dark. She opened a drawer and took out a brush, letting the bristles run through the long strands.

She was seven years older since the Alaskan War. Yet she was still slender, keeping fit primarily because of her sparse diet and her pedal-power plan. In her apartment, she supplemented the energy requirement—provided by a nearby coal station—through stationary cycling. She also practiced the martial arts techniques Tanaka had taught her, which kept her amazingly limber.

She missed Tanaka. It was a hole in her heart. Would there ever be a man like him again for her?

Her brushing hand froze. Anna sat up, removed the brush from her hair and set it on the desk with a soft clunk. She concentrated on the report.

Clicking the e-reader, going back two pages, she noticed it came from Mexico City. From the beginning now, Anna read the report slowly. Was this right? The Chinese were moving a convoy to the front near the Californian border. The convoy carried Blue Swan.

“Blue Swan,” Anna whispered. “Where have I seen that before?”

She continued reading and wondered how this person code-named “Spartacus” had known “Blue Swan” was important to the Chinese. There was something missing in the report. She could feel it. It was rated “Yellow.” That meant it was considered third class and only slightly reliable.

Anna swiveled her chair and used a computer scroll’s touch screen. America was a land of great contrasts these days. Coal fed much of the nation’s energy needs and yet some places used the latest technology. Anna put in Spartacus’ name and read other reports written by him.

Why is this one coded “yellow?” Spartacus had proven reliable in the past.

Anna typed in “Blue Swan,” watching the words build on the screen. After typing the “n,” a little yellow note-symbol appeared in the left-hand corner. She moved the cursor over the “note” and clicked. Hmm, it was a reference saying “Blue Swan” concerned Chinese R&D. Where had the note originated?

She attempted to find out. Seconds later, her screen flashed red and the words appeared, sorry, classification exceeds user clearance level.

Anna sat back, picked up her teacup, sipped and grimaced. The tea had become cool. She liked hers hot.

So, what do I do? Let this go or make waves trying to find out what this “Blue Swan” is?

Anna sat staring at the e-reader. Slowly, she clicked back to the beginning of the report. She wished Spartacus had been more honest and put in exactly how he’d come to suspect Blue Swan.

How important is this?

If it proved to be insignificant, eyes might raise and suspicions become whetted. Why did the half-Chinese woman seek higher clearance? Her position in the CIA was tenuous at best.

“I’m an American,” Anna whispered to herself. “This is my country.” Each person had to fight his or her personal battles in life. Some had physical ailments, others fought psychological problems and some had to walk uphill against racism or ageism. She had found it better to do and struggle than to accept these limitations.

Standing, blowing out her checks, Anna picked up the e-reader and headed for her boss’s office. She passed others in their cubicles, reading reports, typing or eating a snack. A few looked up. Two nodded a greeting.

Anna reached the door, hesitated and let her delicate knuckles rap against wood.

“Enter,” a man said. Ed Johnson was the chief analyst of the nightshift. He had gray hair and wore a white shirt and tie, one of the old guard. She had heard others say before that Johnson didn’t like her.

“Yes?” Johnson asked, scowling up at her.

Anna hesitated.

Johnson’s scowl grew, and he eyed her up and down.

Anna felt soiled by it, remembering how Tanaka’s killer had looked her up and down that night in the park. With the smoking gun in his hand—the one that had shot Tanaka in the back—the murderer had stepped up and snatched her purse. His eyes had lingered hungrily. She’d seen his desire to rape. It had frozen her. For months afterward, she had stood before a full-length mirror at home, practicing what she should have done.

At his desk, Ed Johnson scowled, eyeing her as if she was a piece of meat to devour. She wasn’t going to accept it.

With a force that surprised her, Anna slapped the e-reader onto Johnson’s desk. “I’d like you to read this,” she said.

His gray eyebrows lifted. Maybe he hadn’t expected such forcefulness. He took the e-reader and went through the report. When he was done, he set the e-reader down, turned it to face her and shoved it across the desk to her.

“Did you see the reporter’s grade?” he asked.

“Third, yes,” she said. Anna explained about the “Blue Swan” reference to Chinese R&D and that its classification was higher than her clearance.

“What am I supposed to do about it?” Johnson asked.

“Give me higher clearance so I can properly analyze the data.”

He folded his thick fingers together, staring at her. He shook his head. “I can’t do that, Ms. Chen.”

“Then phone someone who can.”

“Are you trying to tell me how to do my job?”

“I’m trying to do what’s best for my country. I think this could be important. Obviously, Spartacus left out a critical piece of information. It’s the R&D information that I need to see in order to make a better-informed judgment on what he is telling us. This is time-sensitive data.”

Johnson’s scowl intensified, and he nodded now. “You’re gambling. You have the guts to back up your gamble, to barge in here and try to face me down. Okay, little girl, I call and raise your stakes. You want to burn yourself, go right ahead.”

Ed Johnson, Chief CIA Analyst of the nightshift, put a call through to his superior. He told him the pertinent information, nodded, saying “yes, sir,” and handed the phone to Anna.

She found herself talking to the Director himself. Anna stared at Johnson. He grinned like a shark.

“I’m hope this is important,” the Director said. “Sleep is a precious commodity, and Johnson’s call has just stolen some of mine.”

“Yes, sir,” Anna said. She explained the situation once again.

“Anna Chen,” the Director said, “the Anna Chen on Clark’s staff, the one who tried to warn him about the Alaskan Invasion?”

“Yes, sir,” Anna said.

“I’ve read your file. You have good instincts. Hand the phone back to Johnson.”

Anna did.

Johnson listened, and his eyebrows thundered. “Yes, sir,” he said, hanging up afterward.

“Round one goes to you, Ms. Chen,” Johnson said. “You have provisional clearance until I say otherwise. I’m adding the condition that you can only look at it here with me.”

Soon, in a chair to the side, Anna read the Chinese R&D report. Johnson informed her it came from the Yuan Ring, a spy high in the Chinese military. The informant didn’t know what “Blue Swan” was specifically, but it was supposed to be a weapon of special significance against American defenses.

Anna looked up. “Sir, I think you’d better listen to what I have to say.”

“Is that so?” Johnson asked.

“If you don’t think so,” she said, “call up the Director again.”

Johnson decided to listen to Anna. Afterward, he told her, “Are you sure you want to raise the stakes again?”

“Aren’t you?” she countered.

Johnson shrugged, and he called the Director. The Director listened to Anna and then asked to speak to Johnson. Shortly thereafter, two security officers escorted Anna to a waiting car. They drove to Special Operations Command (SOCOM) so Anna could speak to General Ochoa. All American commandos fell under his orders. That included Green Berets, Rangers, Delta, SEALs, Air Commandos, Psyops, and Marine, Force Recon and Civil Affairs and special aviation units.

Rain struck the windshield of Anna’s car. The water distorted the street lights shining into the darkened vehicle as the tires hissed over wet pavement. One of the security officials drove, allowing Anna to read more about the Yuan Spy Ring in Beijing. After speaking with the Director a second time, she’d gained a higher security clearance.

The clock was ticking on Spartacus’ data and the Director wanted to make a stab at finding out what made “Blue Swan” so important.



BAJA PENINSULA, MEXICO


In the swelter of an unusually hot Mexican night, Paul Kavanagh’s shoulders ached because of his heavy rucksack. His thighs burned as he stormed up a stony hill. With the ruck, special weapons, extra ammo, canteens and equipment, he lugged over eighty-seven pounds. It had been a grueling march since the insertion, sixteen miles of rough terrain and a Chinese patrol they’d had to avoid.

I’m getting too old for this.

The stars shone like hot gems, made more prominent by the moon’s absence. The air was raw going down Paul’s throat and sweat kept trickling under his night vision goggles. He lifted the device and wiped his stinging eyes.

Because of that, Paul tripped over a hidden rock. He stumbled, his equipment clattering, and he went to one knee at the top of the hill. He sucked air and shifted his rucksack, trying to ease the straps. Putting the goggles back over his eyes, he studied the situation. The twisting ribbon of blacktop down there was empty. The road snaked past boulders and a parallel ditch.

Had the Chinese convoy already come and gone?

This felt too much like Hawaii three years ago, which had been a series of disasters and dead commandos. Paul had the dubious honor of being one of the last Americans to slip away from the islands. He’d fled while under Chinese machine gun fire, tracers slapping the water as he gunned their inflatable over an incoming wave. Lieutenant Diggs had pitched overboard, leaving only two of them to reach the waiting submarine three miles offshore.

As Paul knelt on the Mexican hill, his lips peeled back, revealing a chip in the right-hand upper front tooth. He’d gotten that in Hawaii while banging his face against a rock. With his short blond hair and angular features, it gave him a wolfish cast. Despite his years, he still had broad shoulders and trim hips. In his youth he’d been a terror on the football field, slamming running backs and receivers with bone-crushing force. As he knelt, Paul listened for the enemy, straining, cocking his head.

He heard something in the distance that could have been a big engine. Rocks and boulders littered these hills, with crooked trees and yellow grass. If he could already hear the Chinese convoy—

Paul twisted around. William Lee moved up the hill. He belonged to the 75th Ranger Regiment and was the other American on the mission, although neither Paul nor Lee was in uniform. It meant if captured they could be shot as spies or saboteurs, which Paul figured would never happen. If they survived a firefight, Chinese Intelligence would torture them until they’d extracted every piece of useful information from their brutalized bodies.

Because of that, their CIA officer—who remained safely in the States—had given each of them a cyanide capsule. Lee had asked for a false tooth to hold his, explaining that he might be knocked unconscious during a firefight. The Chinese would confiscate the capsule, therefore, before he could swallow it. Paul had quietly accepted his cyanide, pocketing it and later crushing the capsule with his boot heel on the sidewalk outside the mess hall.

Paul had promised his wife Cheri a long time ago that he would come home to her no matter what happened. It was the only way she had agreed to his reenlistment with the Marines after Alaska. Paul had also vowed after Hawaii that he was going to die in bed of old age. He’d seen too many good men butchered on the battlefield. There was nothing heroic about it, just the ugly mutilation of flesh and the pulverizing of bones. His vows meant he couldn’t die here on this mission. He certainly couldn’t take his own life.

He snorted bitterly. If only it was that easy. Likely, the vows meant he had cursed himself to a young and violent death. Well, not so young, but brutal, he was certain.

A Mexican woman followed Lee. She was thin like the others and she carried a heavy pack like them too. They were guerillas of Colonel Valdez’s Free Mexico Army. The girl, the woman, she was the colonel’s daughter, Maria, a legend among the resistance. That she was here showed the importance of the mission. The CIA officer had objected via satellite phone, saying it would be a terrible propaganda blow is she died or was captured. Besides, the mission called for Colonel Valdez’s best men, not his daughter.

If they wanted the best, why am I here?

Paul knew the answer, but he didn’t buy it. Maria was here because she believed in the romance of her existence, in the great cause. She was also here because according to Colonel Valdez she had the best small unit tactical mind of anyone in his army. Calling these ragtag people Paul had seen an army was stretching it. They were all so thin.

It was due to the Chinese occupation. Those like Maria and her six guerillas possessed fifth-class cards, if they owned a card at all. It meant they ate enough to keep breathing, but moving or working, that was another matter.

The world was starving to death due to glaciation. Because of it, the population was knocking on America’s door, demanding food.

Lee reached the top of the hill and crouched beside Paul. He mopped sweat with his sleeve and his nostrils made whistling noises. Lee was too tough to open his mouth and pant, at least beside a Marine who had beaten him up the hill.

William Lee, aka “Wolverine” to his 75th Ranger Regiment buddies. He was shorter than Paul and built like a pit bull. Those muscles were all useful, even the ones bunched on the side of his jaw. In Hawaii, Lee had bitten off the nose of a White Tiger commando, giving Lee time to draw his knife and gut the Chinese killer.

Probably because of his fanatical attitudes, Lee consistently produced results. In Hawaii, he had been the sole survivor of the “Night of the Generals.” It had been a daring mission behind enemy lines, putting five Rangers of Chinese extraction into a conference room of high-ranking enemy commanders. All the generals had died, according to Lee, one bayoneted in the throat. Since only Lee had made it back, his version of the story had become official history.

Paul and Lee were here because of General Ochoa, who ran SOCOM. Ochoa believed in an old pro football adage: get big playmakers on your team, men who excel under pressure during playoff or Super Bowl performances and let them play a lot. Guided by his theorem, Ochoa had handpicked Paul and Lee for this off-the-cuff mission.

“You two have achieved the biggest successes to date. Paul, you helped slow the enemy on the North Slope of Alaska. And Lee, killing those Chinese generals in Hawaii—it makes me smile every time I think about you sticking one of those bastards in the throat. Your task this time is straightforward. We need to find out what ‘Blue Swan’ is and why the Chinese think it’s so important. You’re going into Mexico and getting our country a Blue Swan to study.”

As they crouched on the dark hilltop in Mexico, Lee’s whistling lessened. Paul hoisted his rucksack higher on his shoulders so the straps eased some of their pressure.

Lee leaned forward like an eager bloodhound. “I hear them,” he said, meaning the Chinese.

“Be good to get an air-visual,” Paul said, “and know how they’re deployed.”

“Next you’ll be asking for a quad to drive down to the road.”

“Better get going,” Paul said.

Lee grunted as he forced himself upright. Gripping his rucksack’s straps, he began stiff-legged down the hill.

Paul could hear the convoy easily now, the roar of approaching trucks. The Chinese were coming, the Chinese who ran Mexico with an iron fist, the Chinese who had invaded Alaska seven years ago and swept every American satellite from space three years ago and who had launched a cyber-attack on his country. The U.S. had never been the same since.

Maria Valdez climbed beside him, crouching onto one knee. Sweat streaked her thin face. She never wore a helmet or a hat and she’d tied her long dark hair into a ponytail. She was pretty with those intense black eyes, but she never smiled and her voice was like a whiplash. She panted with an open mouth. In that regard, she wasn’t proud like Lee. Her eyes narrowed and she turned to Paul.

“They’re almost here,” she said.

The mission had called for plenty of time to deploy. But there had been a patrol in the way. The nine of them had detoured, eating up too much precious time.

Thinking about it made Paul weary. If they couldn’t even get this part of it right, he doubted the extraction would work.

Maria looked back the way she’d climbed. Cupping her hands around her mouth, she shouted, “Jose, Lupe, Jorge, hurry! Set up the machine gun.”

She meant the .50 caliber Browning. She would man it, as she was the best shot among the guerillas.

“Luis, Benito and Freddy,” she said, “get your RPGs ready. I want you in the ditch with the Marine.”

The six guerillas toiled up the hill. Although thin and malnourished, they were hard-eyed partisans, Mexicans dedicated to throwing off the hated oppressor. Each of them had his own harrowing tale of abuse, of soul-crushing horror that usually involved a lost wife, daughter or sister, sometimes all three. The enemy avidly sought female companions, as their country had the worst man-to-woman imbalance in the world. More than one U.S. commentator said the Chinese lust for conquest was simply a primal urge belonging to the Stone Age—a hunt for wives. The Chinese had an ironclad law, permitting a family a single child only. Too many of them yearned for a male offspring, meaning they aborted the girls, the reason for the great imbalance.

Maria turned back to Paul, blowing her breath in his face. It smelled of sunflower seeds. She had littered the spent shells on the way here like an old time baseball player.

“We must kill every one of them,” Maria said, with her eyes flashing as she spoke.

Paul cocked his head. He heard grinding gears. The big vehicles downshifted as they toiled uphill. General Ochoa’s people had chosen this location with care.

Kill every one of them.

Lee was two-thirds of the way down the hill. The Ranger had a custom-built mine to deploy. He had two, but by the sounds, Lee would be lucky to get one emplaced.

“Over there,” Paul said, pointing halfway down the hill. “That position will give you—”

“I know where to put my machine gun!” Maria snapped.

Sure, lady. “Wait until Lee explodes the first mine before you begin firing,” Paul said.

Maria grabbed a fistful of his jacket and leaned close so their lips almost touched. “We’ve gone over the plan, amigo. Now you’re wasting time because you insist on treating me like a child. Go! Get set up so we can kill Chinese.”

This wasn’t about killing Chinese, although Paul didn’t tell Maria. “Good luck,” he said.

Maria sneered. “I am not a pagan. I do not desire luck.” She pulled a gold chain from around her neck with a small crucifix on the end. She kissed it. “I pray that Christos bless us against the atheist invaders. Tonight, let us send them all to Hell!”

“Works for me,” Paul said. He gripped his AT4, grunted as he stood and started down the hill.

Behind him, three guerillas followed, each of them carrying a Chinese RPG, long ago patterned off the successful Russian RPG-7. Maria and her team started for a position midway down the slope.

Lee had already dumped his rucksack in the ditch and knelt on the road. With a drill, he bored into the blacktop.

Can he get two mines in? We need two if we’re to have a hope.

Long yellow grass rustled against Paul’s jeans, while his boots scraped over half-buried rocks. He was dressed like a civilian, but it would fool no one. He’d declined regular body armor. It would give him away as an American but more importantly, it would rob him of mobility, maybe the ability to have made the 16-mile march this quickly.

In the darkness, gears ground once more as trucks downshifted yet again. It was an ominous sound. The convoy, the armored trucks and IFVs, were almost up into sight from their steep climb. In their entire route, it was steepest over that lip, meaning the convoy would be down to a crawl once they reached this location.

Paul raised his AT4 and broke into something resembling a sprint. The rucksack bounced up and down, causing brutal agony to his shoulders.

The AT4 was an 84mm unguided, portable, single-shot recoilless smoothbore weapon, a successor to the old LAW rocket. It weighed nearly fifteen pounds and his fired a HEAT projectile that could penetrate up to 16.5 inches of steel. The tactical trick tonight was going to be a simple one. The mine would blow the first vehicle. Paul’s AT4 would take out the last one, trapping the rest between them on the narrow road. The guerillas, Maria with the Browning, and U.S. Air Force drones would kill the rest. It was a KISS plan: Keep It Simple, Stupid. That was the best kind of plan in battle where the simple became difficult.

The air burned down Paul’s throat as he ran down the slope and his legs wobbled. Damn, he was tired. He needed to get into position. He—

The first Chinese vehicle climbed over the lip, appearing on the road below. It was an armored hover and by the mass of antenna on top, Paul bet it was a drone. The hover would be worthless off-road, but it had come quietly and faster than any truck or IFV. What a balls-up. Chinese convoy operations called for a drone crusher to lead. Everyone knew that. The planners had expected a crusher, not a hover.

No! Lee was still on the road. The hover likely had motion sensors, as much a robotic vehicle as an operator-driven drone.

Paul dove and he splayed his legs, dragging his feet, hoping to keep from tumbling. He grunted as the slanted ground slammed against him and his rucksack drove him down harder. He bounced and his steel-toed boots dragged in the dirt, kicking up stones.

Lee sprinted for the ditch. The Ranger pumped his arms as his feet flew. The hover’s heavy machine gun opened up with a stream of red tracers. Lee dove and jerked in the air as bullets ripped into him. The dive became a ragged tumble. He hit the ground and more tracers riddled his corpse, each one like a giant repeatedly slapping a doll, turning him over, and over.

Why had the Chinese brought a hover drone?

Paul didn’t have time to shake his head. The answer was too obvious. The mine was now out of play, as Lee had the activation-switch. Maybe one of the operators in Arizona could trigger it. First, the stealth drones would have to be in position. Paul hadn’t seen nor heard anything in the starry sky, nor had he communicated with the operators lately. Chinese detection gear was among the best and they therefore had decided to keep talk to a minimum.

Letting go of the AT4, Paul jerked quick-releases, shifted his shoulders and rolled the rucksack onto the ground. His fingers roved over pockets. He’d practiced this drill a thousand times. He ripped open a zipper and dragged out a laser-designator.

One of the guerillas crashed onto the ground beside him, readying a RPG. On the road, the drone raced for Lee’s corpse.

Cursing silently, Paul shoved the designator against his shoulder. It was built like a small carbine. He dug out a satellite phone and jammed it against his right ear. He punched the auto-dial, hearing it buzz.

“Echo one?” an operator asked.

The hover slowed as a port opened. Was it going to collect Lee? Before Paul could learn the answer, Lee rolled over so he faced his killer.

No way. Paul watched. It was ghastly. Lee smiled with red teeth. That’s blood. His mouth is full of blood.

Lee gripped something with both hands. His thumbs jammed down. The mine he’d planted in the road did its job as a coiled spring launched it airborne.

Paul thrust his face into the ground. An explosion rocked the world. Seconds later, debris rained with heavy pelting sounds.

After counting to three, Paul lifted his head and spotted the drone. It burned, flipped onto its side, a pile of junk now. Of Sergeant Lee of the 75th Ranger Regiment, there was no sign. In the end, Lee hadn’t needed the false tooth and cyanide capsule. The Ranger, he’d never have to worry about torture.

Paul blinked several times, hating the suddenness of the loss. Then he realized he heard heavy trucks braking, doing it out of sight. Did they stop on the steep part of the road just out of visual? He heard a clang. It sounded an awful lot like an IFV’s ramp crashing down. The shouts of Chinese infantry confirmed Paul’s suspicion.

The IEDs and the RPGs, together with the AT4 and Hellfire III missiles—

The first Chinese soldier climbed into view onto the road. He moved in that crouched-over manner of cautious soldiery. Helmet, body armor and cradling a QBZ-95 assault rifle—it used a caseless cartridge, the propellant a part of the bullet. That meant more ammo per magazine.

A second soldier appeared. They scanned the road and began eyeing the stony, grassy slopes on either side. Surely, they could see how beautiful of an ambush site this was. A third soldier appeared over the lip.

How many were there? Six per Infantry Fighting Vehicle meant—

The game changed then. Maybe opening communication with the operators—the drone pilots—in Arizona did it. How long had the American stealth drones been waiting? The CIA officer had told them the ones for this mission were super-quiet. But Paul figured he should have at least heard something up in the darkness if the drones were here. The Marine Corps used drones and Paul always heard them long before he’d seen them. Tonight, it was different, very different, a good surprise.

Maybe America finally had a few secret weapons of its own.

The first that Paul, and likely those soldiers down there, knew about the drones was the flare of a launching Hellfire III missile as it appeared in the dark sky. It blossomed into existence like a shooting star. There was a streak as the missile sped earthward and then out of sight. Paul figured the Chinese vehicles had stopped on the steepest part of the road, warned by the hover that enemy combatants waited for them here. A terrific explosion illuminated the night as if a giant had lit an arc welder. It was brightly white and hurt Paul’s eyes. The Chinese that Paul could see—their bulky armor with the oversized chest plates starkly visible now—glanced back and then hit the ground. They crawled away from the strike.

Another Hellfire III erupted into existence. Did that mean there was a second circling stealth drone, or did the missile come from the same craft that had fired the first? One thing was certain, the Air Force had made it here without a hitch. It was good to know something worked right on their side.

Several new Chinese soldiers appeared on the road. They ran up over the lip at speed. Two of them dropped their assault rifles and leaned over as they gripped their knees, panting. A different soldier appeared, striding into view. He blew a whistle. The noise was sharp and commanding. The others straightened, the two picking up their dropped weapons.

On the other side of the lip, out of Paul’s sight, Chinese anti-air rockets fire-balled upward into the darkness. Maybe to show them who had the biggest balls tonight, two more Hellfire missiles appeared, streaking down.

An explosion in the starry sky—brief but deadly illumination—showed a Chinese hit.

“Sergeant Lee?” the operator asked.

Paul realized he still held the satellite phone against his ear. “Gunnery Sergeant Kavanagh here,” he said. It always surprised him how calm his voice sounded during these things.

“You blew the mine too soon,” the operator said.

Did they have a higher drone up there watching the proceedings? Just how many drones had the Air Force been able to slip through the Chinese defenses? The enemy border bristled with radar, missiles, lasers, flak guns, AWACS planes and jet fighters and even with “distant” satellite recon. If the Air Force could get all these stealth drones through, why had they used only two commandos?

“Looks like you’re right about the mine,” Paul said.

“Is your screen up?”

“Just a minute,” Paul said. This felt too surreal, it always did. He pulled a computer scroll out of the rucksack, flicking a switch that stiffened it. A second later he viewed the situation from one of the drones that used night vision. Trucks burned on the steep road. Chinese infantry fired assault rifles into the air. Each shot looked like a spark on the screen. Paul spotted a Marauder-sized light tank. No, not a tank. The vehicle swiveled a pair of anti-air cannons and began chugging radar-guided flak into the sky. Out of the corner of Paul’s eye, he witnessed an explosion, which indicated a hit, another dead American UCAV: Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle. A different drone targeted the enemy. Paul watched his screen as crosshairs centered on the Chinese vehicle and as a Hellfire streaked down and obliterated the cannons.

“Do you have visual?” the operator asked.

“Sure do,” Paul said.

“We’re putting down another barrage,” the operator said. “Then you have to go in, finish them and find the Blue Swan container. We have to take care of some enemy air headed your way.”

Oh yeah, sure, no problem. “Have you counted the number of enemy infantry?” Paul asked.

“That’s going to change right now,” the operator said. “Keep your head down.”

Several things happened at once. Maria Valdez on her midway position on the hill opened up with the .50 caliber Browning. She was four football-field lengths away from the nearest enemy. The Chinese officer with the whistle went down in a heap. The others hit the dirt a second time and swiveled on their bellies toward the machine gun. Several crawled like mad for shielding rocks. Others opened up, firing back at Maria.

That’s a mistake. The Chinese were pinned on the road, easy targets for the Browning, which had greater accuracy at range than the assault rifles. In the next eight seconds, Maria killed two more enemy as her slugs ripped through body armor like pencils through paper.

Then the sun appeared—a monstrous light half-hidden by the steep slope. Paul clawed the earth, pressing his body against its protective soil. Concussion arrived with the sound. It lifted Paul, flipped and threw him against the soil so he rolled. Thunder boomed and shook the bones in his body.

No one had told him about this. Was the Air Force using nukes? Or was this one of their nifty fuel-air bombs, the kind that sprayed a mist of explosive gassy liquid and ignited?

“They’re all yours now,” a gloating man said into his ringing ear.

Paul was only vaguely aware that he still held onto the satellite phone. All mine? What do I want with them? “Roger,” he said. “How about keeping the spy plane up there so I can see what they’re doing?”

“We still have to extract you,” the operator said.

Paul scowled. That wasn’t an answer. Then he realized it was. The spy plane—the drone—would stay to guide the extraction vehicles. They had to get “Blue Swan” back into America so the techs could pull it apart and figure out its great secret.

Maria’s Browning kept chugging. Every fifth bullet was a tracer—a red light—helping guide the thin deadly line into desperate Chinese.

That was a problem, as desperate soldiers made dangerous ones. Several fired back from rocks near the lip. One of them, probably more, had radios. They would summon help, which might be helos, enemy drones or even jets to lay down old-fashioned napalm.

Paul checked the screen and choked on what he saw. While coughing, he saw movement among the burning Chinese vehicles on the steep part of the road. That was the problem with resorting only to bombs. The earth was a big place, with many folds and seams for anxious men to hide. It meant, as it always had, that infantry needed to go in to finish a task. Trouble was, his infantry was six skeletal guerillas and one bloodthirsty chick against—Paul counted at least ten more Chinese on the screen. Those in the rocks made another four. Fourteen alerted, body-armored enemies against their eight were poor odds.

It was only a matter of seconds before the Chinese in the rocks spotted him out here in the open. Some of them, at least, must have night vision equipment.

“Yeah,” Paul said.

He dragged the fifteen-pound AT4 to him. It had a HEAT round, made to disable an armored vehicle. He removed the safety pin at the rear of the tube. That unblocked the firing rod. He lifted it over his shoulder, moving his legs to the side. Otherwise, the back-blast would burn them. He moved back the front and rear covers so the iron sights popped into firing position. With quick precision, he moved the firing rod, cocking the lever forward and over the top to the right side. He sighted the largest boulder behind which the four Chinese hid. Taking a breath and holding it, Paul used his thumb and pressed the forward red firing button.

With a whoosh and the heat of back-blast, the round blew out of the tube. Time seemed to stand still. The 84mm round struck the boulder, exploding it and killing several Chinese.

Maria swung the tripod-mounted Browning and worked over the dead. She caught one man crawling for new cover.

“Let’s go!” Paul shouted. “We have to beat the others who are trying to climb up to the lip. If we do, we can pick them off.”

He grabbed his assault rifle and ripped open a flap on his belt as he ran. Lee had loved bayonets fixed to the end of his assault rifle. The idea of sticking the enemy had always seemed to excite the Ranger. Paul had read studies. Less than one percent of combat deaths were due to bayonet. The gleaming blade on the end looked fierce, but that was about it.

Paul drew a long sound suppressor out of his pouch. On the run, he screwed it onto his assault rifle. The “silencer” tonight had little to do with quiet shots and everything toward hiding muzzle flash. If he used full auto-fire, the sound suppressor would quickly overheat and become useless. His idea was aimed fire while keeping hidden from the enemy, hopefully long enough to kill all of them before they figured out his position.

Paul heard his own labored breathing and the crunch of his boots. Behind him followed three guerillas. He glanced over his shoulder. Two carried their RPGs. The smart one had a submachine gun out. Could he count on them to help him? A further twist showed him Maria on the slope. Her team dismantled the .50 caliber. That was a mistake. He could have used her to give fallback cover. She wanted to kill Chinese, however, and that meant moving the heavy machine gun forward. It was hard to fault her desire.

With his mouth open, as hot air burned down his throat, Paul sprinted for the lip, the edge that would show him the steep road and the burning vehicles. Ten Chinese soldiers were coming up, and he was sure that reinforcements were on their way from somewhere. He had to get this “Blue Swan” and be long gone, or he was going to end up in a torture chamber, worked over by experts.

He failed to win the footrace. A Chinese soldier stumbled over the lip and onto the visible road. If Maria still had her position, she could have killed the man.

Paul slid to a halt while still on the slope, tore off the night vision goggles and brought the assault rifle’s butt to his shoulder. He panted, knelt and winced as a stone pressed painfully against his kneecap. He shifted his position and peered through the night vision scope. The man kept moving in his scope, in and out of sight because Pau’s hard breathing moved his rifle too much. Paul took a deep breath, let it halfway out and held it, feeling as if he was underwater while trying to do it and while desperately needing air.

Concentrate. Squeeze the trigger.

The kick slammed against his shoulder. The soldier went down. Paul strained to see through the scope. The soldier crawled for cover. He’d just knocked the man down, likely hitting body armor.

Like a basketball player taking his second free throw—one who had missed the first shot—Paul aimed with greater deliberation and squeezed the trigger.

The Chinese soldier jerked and sagged, and half his face was missing as he lay on the ground.

War is Hell.

Paul glanced back at his help. The three guerillas lay on the ground. They must have stopped when he stopped, which was a natural reaction. That wasn’t going to win them the needed position, nor garner them the “Blue Swan” whatever it proved to be.

“Go, go, go!” Paul shouted at the three.

Time was everything now. Forgetting to pick up his night vision goggles, Paul stood and ran for the road and for the lip. After four steps, he realized his mistake, but it was too late to go back. He had nine Chinese soldiers to kill if he was going to get home to Cheri and his son Mike.

Enemy gunfire erupted from the lip, each barrel blazing flame as several Chinese shot at once. They had to be on their bellies, wisely using cover.

Paul dove for the second time tonight. This time, he was hardly aware of striking the ground. Without the rucksack, it was like jumping onto a mattress. Behind him, a guerilla cried out in mortal agony. Paul didn’t need to look back to know one of the guerillas was down.

Paul crawled and the dirt around him spit. A bullet whined past his head. Paul jumped up and ran crouched-over, yearning to reach a half-buried boulder. Something hot struck his left leg. He stumbled, but managed to keep his feet. Then he jumped, pulled the assault rifle close to his chest and shoulder, and rolled. More bullets hissed like wasps. Chips of rock struck his face.

He looked back and couldn’t see the three guerillas. He lay stretched out behind his boulder, momentarily safe from Chinese fire. He checked himself, but couldn’t find the satellite phone. He must have dropped it somewhere. Fortunately, he still had the scroll. Rolling it open, he studied the situation from the vantage of the patrolling drone. The nine Chinese were lying in a line on the lip, using it like a trench. Each wore body armor and each fired a QBZ-95. The only good thing was Maria. She’d set up the Browning again.

Paul glanced behind him just as the Browning opened up. The .50 caliber had much greater range, greater reach, than the enemy weapons.

“Okay,” Paul whispered to himself, looking at the screen again. His three guerillas were down. By the angle and stillness of their bodies, they each looked dead.

How much ammo did Maria have? The answer would be the same every time: not enough.

“You have to use her Browning while you can,” he told himself.

Paul pressed his forehead against the hard-packed ground. He had to think. He had to use what he had, which was what exactly? He had intel on the enemy, suppressing fire for a few more minutes and some night vision with his scope. The enemy must have night vision, too, but they couldn’t see him here behind the rock. For the moment, they didn’t have any UAVs. He had to use that against them. What made the most sense?

It came to him. It was obvious.

Paul took a deep breath, rolled the scroll and jammed it back into a pouch. Then he began to slither on his belly, using the rocks and boulders as a shield. His goal was simplicity. He had to get behind the Chinese and pick them off.

The next few minutes strained Paul’s stamina. Sweat kept dripping into his eyes. The rough ground tore through the fabric of his shirt at the elbows. The stony ground did the same to his flesh. He bled, but that didn’t matter now. Maybe in some future life it would matter. In the here and now, he kept using his elbows as he slithered for his destination.

Fortunately, Maria kept the enemy busy. Her team had carried extra ammo, which she now used prodigiously. Maybe she was smart after all. Maybe the colonel had known what he was doing sending his little girl.

Did Colonel Valdez love America? Paul had his doubts. Instead, the colonel’s logic must have been cold and inflexible. On her own, Mexico could never free herself from the Chinese. The country was prostrate and shackled: a victim to the world’s greatest power. To gain freedom, Mexico needed America as strong as possible. If the Chinese could breach the US’s “Maginot Line” on the border and begin tearing chunks of agricultural land from the U.S., it would show the rest of the world it was possible. The South American Federation would join in the attack. The German Dominion would likely drop airmobile brigades to secure an eastern state for itself as it launched its hovers from Cuba. If “Blue Swan” really was a weapon that could allow the Chinese to breach the world’s strongest defensive line, Colonel Valdez would want the Americans to find out about it so they could fix the problem. That would be enough of a reason to send his little girl into the fray.

Victory can’t come down to this little firefight, can it?

Paul gripped his assault rifle as he eased onto his feet. Blood dripped from his elbows. Below him to the left, he spied the burning vehicles on the steep hill road. They were all in a line, and they illuminated the nine Chinese prone on the road’s lip and to the right and left of the road. Straight below Paul were rocks and shale. He was roughly three hundred yards away from the Chinese.

Gripping the assault rifle, Paul began to climb down the rough slope. He should have kept his night vision goggles. Instead, he had to move slowly, testing rocks with his feet, pulling back when one shifted. If one clattered too loudly, one of the Chinese might look over and see him.

How long did he have until enemy reinforcements showed up? The fact this was a “Blue Swan” convoy probably meant not long. He might already be out of time.

Paul blinked sweat out of his eyes. He wasn’t going to get it done like this. He was going to have risk to win. First taking a deep breath, he propelled himself off his rock, jumping down. He strained to see in the darkness, using the distant firelight as best he could.

He landed on a boulder and almost pitched off it. He couldn’t windmill his arms to keep his balance—they gripped his rifle—so he jumped again, sailing downward. He landed and a rock slipped out from under his left foot. His ankle twisted and he let himself go limp, crumpling onto the boulders, landing on his side. He crawled, panting, expecting bullets to rain against him. When they failed to materialize, he climbed to his feet. His left ankle throbbed. He set down the rifle and untied the boot’s laces. His fingers felt thick and useless. His heart hammered.

You have to keep moving. You can’t stand out here exposed like this.

With stiff fingers, he jerked the laces tighter, knotting them quickly. He grabbed the assault rifle, jumped down ten feet and landed hard on a flat boulder. He winced at the pain shooting up his left leg. He plopped onto his butt and slid over the boulder’s side, landing on dirt. Using the night vision scope, he examined the terrain. Okay. He began trotting. Each time he put pressure on the left foot, his ankle flared with agony. Sweat streaked his face and his left hip began to hurt.

Finally, Paul lay behind a boulder, below and to the side of the nine Chinese by about one hundred and fifty yards. His mouth was bone dry so that his tongue felt raspy against the roof of his mouth.

He climbed to a crouch behind a boulder, unhooked a canteen and guzzled. He waited, and he guzzled again. Sweat drenched his clothes. He was shaking. The idea of crawling away and getting the hell out of here kept appearing more appealing by the second. White Tiger commandos were surely on their way. Enemy jets could drop napalm on everything. The Chinese were ruthless that way.

“Bastards,” he muttered, picking up the assault rifle.

He rested his bloody elbows on the boulder, bringing up the scope and taking several deep breaths. He needed calm. He needed steadiness. He put two extra magazines beside him. He didn’t want to waste time later unhooking them from his belt. He peered through the scope, judging the situation. Maria must almost be out of ammo by now. Once he started firing…

“Get it done,” he whispered.

Through his night vision scope, Paul Kavanagh sighted the leftmost Chinese lying on the ground. The soldier had pulled back from the lip, clutching his QBZ-95 between his knees.

Carefully, slowly, Paul squeezed the trigger. The assault rifle kicked, and the Chinese soldier lay back, his throat obliterated.

Paul was in the zone and continued firing with deliberate precision. When the third Chinese soldier shouted, standing up before Paul’s second shot put him down forever, the others finally noticed. The fourth went down with shattered teeth and a gaping hole in the back of his neck. The rest began firing downslope, spraying bullets, seeking Paul. It was a good thing he’d screwed on the sound suppressor, hiding his muzzle flashes.

It took the entire second magazine to kill the fifth and sixth soldiers.

Maybe the remaining three Chinese had enough of the silent killer who hid behind them. One bolted up over the lip. Maria’s Browning chattered a long burst and there came a terrible scream. She still had bullets.

The last two Chinese took off running away from Paul. He stood up and fired fast, sending bullet after bullet, chipping rock beside them and spitting dirt by their feet, but failing to nail either. They got away and both of them carried weapons.

Will they double back to fight?

Paul shook his head. He didn’t know, but he felt soiled by the encounter. Sniper-fire killing always did that to him. The day he truly began to enjoy deliberate butchery, he felt, would be the day he was a destroyer and no longer a soldier simply doing his duty.

Blue Swan. It was time to search for the miracle weapon.

Slinging the rifle’s strap over his shoulder, Paul limped toward the burning vehicles. It would be just his luck that this was the wrong convoy. There was only one way to find out.

By the time he reached the Chinese vehicles, his bad ankle made walking an act of pure will. He didn’t need to check the IFVs or the big troop trucks. The smell of cooked flesh coming from them nauseated him. He’d never gotten used to that, or the look of the dead, some with melted faces or bone sticking up around blackened flesh.

Whatever bomb the Air Force had used was brutal. Likely, it was one of the new secret weapons people blogged about these days. America had lost the Arctic Circle oil rigs and Hawaii, but they weren’t going to lose the mainland. Soon now, the world and the Chinese in particular were going to learn what old-fashioned Yankee ingenuity meant. That was one of the problems, however. The East—meaning the PAA and sometimes India—had greater manufacturing ability than the rest of the world. The East had also shown the niftiest battlefield hardware in both Alaska and Hawaii.

Paul limped toward a long-bed vehicle, what looked like a big missile carrier. This must be “Blue Swan,” a new kind of missile. Pulling out a digital camera, Paul began taking pictures. The thing was huge.

A shout brought him around.

He spied Maria on the lip of the road. She waved, and Paul realized the last burning vehicles illuminated him. It showed, at least, that the two surviving Chinese hadn’t doubled back. Only one of the original six guerillas stood with Maria. The two of them began down the road toward him.

Paul heard approaching helicopters then, a loud whomp-whomp sound. Those couldn’t be the Air Force, at least not the American Air Force.

Biting his lower lip with indecision, Paul stood beside the damaged missile carrier for three seconds. Then he bolted toward the carrier bed. Despite his ankle, he climbed the flatbed and took close-up shots of the crumpled nosecone, the warhead. Fluids leaked from it. He poured water out of a canteen and collected some of the warhead fluid. He also aimed the camera at Chinese characters on the warhead, clicking like mad.

Maria’s shout brought him around. She cupped her hands, yelling, “The White Tigers are coming!” Then she pointed up into the air.

Paul needed the satellite phone. Did America have any more air-fighting drones here? What was he supposed to do now?

Then Paul received the greatest shock of the night. He looked up sharply as he heard a faint sound. The strangest helicopter he’d ever seen hovered about sixty feet above him. It had four rotors at four equidistant points. Did it have a cloaking device? Or had it moved soundlessly? He heard it now, a whispering noise. This was incredible.

It dropped lower so he could see an undercarriage bay door open. A rope ladder slithered down toward him.

The CIA officer hadn’t said anything about this. Was he supposed to climb up into the helicopter?

The rope ladder almost struck his shoulder the first time. The craft maneuvered into a better position and now the ladder touched his shoulder. Paul didn’t need any more invitation. He grabbed rope, hoisted up and got a foot onto a rung. He climbed toward the bay door. It took him a second to realize that as he climbed the craft lifted higher.

“What about Maria?” he shouted.

No one poked a head out of the bay door to look down and answer. There was only the whistling wind and the dropping ground. It was too late to let go, so Paul kept climbing. He looked down and saw Maria staring at him. She turned to the guerilla. They talked, and they ran back up the road.

Paul saw the first enemy helicopter. It was small and black, with a machine gunner sitting with his weapon to the side. The vehicle belonged to the White Tigers. Paul knew because he’d seen these in Hawaii hunting American commandos.

A second helo appeared. The machine gunners didn’t blaze at Maria. She kept sprinting for safety as the guerilla beside her stopped, knelt and aimed his assault rifle at a helo. The two gunners opened up then. One of them at least proved himself a marksman. The guerilla pitched violently to the ground, riddled with exploding bullets as his body turned into gory ruin.

Do they know it’s Colonel Valdez’s daughter?

Paul shuddered and he kept climbing. He stopped just before reaching the bay door, because he spied Chinese characters painted on the bottom of this machine.

They tricked me.

He went cold inside until he wondered if Americans had painted that on the drone in order to fool the enemy.

Paul stared at the ground. It was a long drop. The wind whistled past his face, making his eyes water. It wasn’t hot anymore, but getting cold.

I guess there’s only one way to find out. Paul climbed the last few rungs of the ladder and reached the door. He pulled himself within.

The rope ladder coiled in fast, a roller whizzing with automated speed. His last sight was a concussion grenade knocking Maria off her feet. Then the hatch shut with a clang and a light appeared. Paul spied three small seats and little else, no windows, no speakers, just walls. He secured himself in a seat, buckling in. Either this was a clever enemy trick or the newest American extraction drone. The idea of waiting to find out made Paul’s gut seethe.

“How about telling me what’s going on?” he said in the cramped area.

No one answered.

Scowling, Paul folded his arms and tried to make himself comfortable. It was impossible. He kept thinking about Maria Valdez in the hands of Chinese Intelligence.



-2-

The Darkness



MEXICO CITY, MEXICO


Captain Wei sat in his office, smoking an American cigarette as he stared into space. The smoke curled from the glowing tip, adding to the office’s fumes. As he smoked, Wei blanked his mind, trying not to think about anything.

He was an interrogator for Dong Dianshan—East Lightning. Originally, they had been China’s Party Security Service. With the creation of the Pan Asian Alliance, their powers had broadened. They were particularly apt at extracting information from reluctant individuals and getting to the root of a matter.

Wei was a small man with large ears and careworn lines on his face. He’d practiced his trade for uncounted years. He wore the customary brown uniform with red belts and an armband with a three-pronged lightning bolt.

A buzzer on the littered desk sounded. Captain Wei checked his cell phone and sighed. His ten minutes of solitude was over. He sucked on the cigarette a last time, inhaling deeply. The American cigarettes were good. He exhaled while mashing the cigarette into an overflowing ashtray.

He opened a drawer and reached to the back, unhooking a hidden container. He opened it, staring at five blue pills. It was going to be a long interrogation, and according to the information he had received, Maria Valdez was a tough-minded partisan. Captain Wei sighed, shaking his head. He was weary beyond endurance with his tasks. Yes, he was good at it, perhaps the best in Mexico. But it was so tedious and predictable. Worse, his tasks had begun to bother him. This mutilation of flesh and twisting a person’s psyche, it hurt the soul—

Wei had been reaching for a pill. Now, his hand froze. Did humans possess souls? It was a preposterous notion. Humans were like any other animal, a mass of biological tissue with electrical nerve endings, a meat-sack of noxious fumes. People excreted, vomited, sweated and urinated, a wretched pile of filth that groveled under too much pain. Everyone broke. It used to be intriguing figuring out how to do it.

“No,” Wei whispered. His dark eyes had been reflective. Now the reptilian look appeared, revealing him as the predator he was.

The tips of his thumb and forefinger pinched a blue pill. He deposited the pill onto the tip of his tongue, using his tongue to roll the pill back. He gulped, swallowing. A tiny smile played on the edges of mouth. Soon, the drug would numb the pestering qualms that had become stronger this last year. One patient had told him these qualms were his conscience. As he aged—the patient had said—he must realize the end of this existence was much nearer than, say, seven years ago.

“Seven?” Wei had snapped. He’d wanted to know why the patient had picked the number seven. Seven years ago, he’d interrogated Henry Wu, who had been an insignificant worm, a former American caught on video during a Chinese food riot. It had been then that the first glimmer of…unease, yes, unease had begun with his various interrogations. Seven years ago, Wei had increased the number of cigarettes he smoked and the number of whiskey shots he gulped. These days, whiskey was not enough. He needed the blue pills to ease him through each tedious day. Unfortunately, these cost cash and he had begun taking more of them lately.

The desk buzzer sounded a second time.

Captain Wei straightened his uniform and marched for the door. It was time to fix the little traitor and pry information out of her.

He strode down a long corridor, a flight of stairs and passed several open windows. Mexico City seethed with traffic, with small cars thirty years out of date, with thousands of bicyclists and tens of thousands of pedestrians. Smoke stacks chugged black fumes into the air from coal furnaces. Yet farther away in the center of the city gleamed new glass towers, thanks to the latest construction boom with the influx of Chinese troops. Mexico was a land of extremes, with the basest poverty and the most incredible wealth.

Captain Wei left the windows behind, opening a door and descending to the basement. The first tendrils of drugged numbing soothed his bad mood. By the time he reached the patient’s door, the feeling had changed his mood altogether.

You are a meat-sack, Maria Valdez, one I will turn into a quivering hulk, a fountain of information.

Wei opened the door, expecting a number of quite predictable possibilities. The patient lay strapped to a table, naked, defenseless and primed for interrogation. An operative—a man—had shaved off every particle of the patient’s hair. Wei found that most effective with females. The operative had also attached a host of leads to sensitive body-areas. Maria Valdez should have pleaded with him now or glared in defiance or stared into space, in shock, or sobbed uncontrollably. She did none of these things. Instead, with eyes closed, the patient whispered, speaking to an imaginary entity, it appeared.

Wei scowled, with his good feeling evaporating. Invisible entities did not exist. There was only power and the scramble to be the inflictor of pain instead of the receiver. It was the law of the jungle, of tooth and claw.

“Leave us,” Wei told the operative.

The man bowed his head, hurrying for the door, never once lifting his gaze off the floor.

Wei listened for and heard the snick of the closing door. “Maria Valdez,” he said sharply.

The patient ignored him as she kept on whispering.

That would not do, no, no. Wei strode to the controls and tapped a pain inducer.

The patient grunted and her eyes bulged open. She twisted on the table. She was shapely, if too thin and bony for Wei’s tastes. She was also too tall, taller than he was—something he intensely disliked.

“Do I have your attention?” Wei asked in a considerate tone. It unbalanced and often unhinged patients to hear the solicitude in his voice and yet receive agony from his hands.

“I’m here,” she said, whatever that was supposed to mean.

They both spoke English, as Wei had taken language courses and become proficient in the American usage.

Wei now forced himself to smile. “I’m sure you understand the situation.”

“Yes! You’re one of the pigs invading my country.”

“My dear, please allow me to interject a factual point. You are the one who exudes a noxious odor. I refer to your sweat. We Chinese do not possess the same pig-like glands that you do.”

“Go to Hell!”

Captain Wei smiled, stepping away from the controls. He put a gentle hand on her left thigh, causing the patient to stiffen.

“You are in Hell, my dear,” he said.

“Wrong! In Hell, no one drinks beer.”

Wei frowned. What an odd statement. Was she already unhinged? “I do not care for your attitude.”

“That’s because you’re an invading hog,” she said.

“Maria,” he said, squeezing her thigh. It made her stiffen. He would teach her respect. Oh, she would learn to curb her tongue. First, he would begin her disorientation through soft speech. “You must not think of me as your enemy. I am here to help you.”

“You’re a worthless liar.”

A flicker of annoyance entered his eyes. “I can make your existence gruesome or I can ease your suffering. It is my choice. Fortunately for you, my dear, I am easy to please. All I ask is for a few tidbits of information from you.”

“I understand. I have what you want. But you have nothing I want except for your death, and I don’t think you’ll do me the favor of slitting your ugly throat.”

Wei smiled faintly. “You are a veritable she-tiger, but you are also a liar.”

“I curse you in the name of God.”

Wei’s smile slipped as he removed his hand from her thigh. Scowling, he went to the controls. He looked up at her. She grinned viciously, mocking him.

No, that would not do. He was in charge here. He would show her.

Captain Wei began to tap the controls hard with his fingertips. He winced once because he’d cut the nail down too much the other day on his left-hand middle finger. Then Maria Valdez screamed and thrashed on the table, causing him to forget about his own discomfort. Wei continued to inflict pain for some time, delighting in her various octaves. Finally, Maria slumped, unconscious.

Turning away, Wei stared up at the ceiling. What had overcome him? He’d never lost control of his emotions like this before. He was an interrogator, one of the best—no, the best in Mexico. He had a long list of questions his superiors wanted answered, yet now he’d needlessly tired out his patient. He should have already received a litany of her lies so he could compare her later answers and begin to pry out the truth. Never once during the torment had she cried out, offering to speak to end the pain. Obviously, the direct approach was the wrong method with this one. He must practice subtlety.

Wei cracked his knuckles and stepped beside a medical board. He selected a hypodermic needle and a vial of AE7. She was stubborn, possessing a core belief system that added to her rigid worldview. A double dose, yes, she would need a greater dosage to force her thoughts into a fantasy delusion. Then she would begin to tell him what he needed to learn.

Dave Howery
February 2nd, 2013, 06:24 PM
nice previews there. However... I gotta wonder at the whole "The USA land is so valuable because it still produces food". In the event of a new Ice Age coming down upon us, wouldn't weather patterns across the world be screwed up far and wide? I'd think drought would be hitting the USA hard. And Canada would be royally screwed as it's farming regions got colder and colder. And Australia... it always hovers on the edge of drought, and this scenario would mean that it would really be suffering...

edvader
February 6th, 2013, 02:40 PM
Got this on my Nook.It deals with an agnostic who is thrown back in time to the Holy Land at the time of YOUNG Jesus and becomes a pal to him.Yikes.Haven't read it but it looks interesting.Not sure about Birmingham, though.

edvader
March 1st, 2013, 08:31 PM
Afrika Reich by Guy Saville is now available at Barnes and Noble.I reserved my copy.Americans, now is time to read it.Brits and others:what do you think of it?NO SPOILERS.Saw the book when I was buying March EMPIRE with Superman oon cover.YAY!:D

CoomerREC7
March 3rd, 2013, 12:46 AM
The Birmingham books are probably going to see some of my cash soon.

Dave Howery
April 18th, 2013, 05:07 AM
this is the cover of an upcoming book by Robert Conroy. There are zilch details on it. It probably isn't, but it looks like it could be a sequel to "1901"... and I'd love to read that...

JSmith
April 19th, 2013, 06:20 PM
A frequent topic here. I think this will be good-not out till October though :(

http://www.amazon.com/If-Kennedy-Lived-President-Alternate/dp/0399166963/ref=reg_hu-rd_add_1_dp



Book Description

Release date: October 22, 2013
From one of the country’s most brilliant political commentators, the bestselling author of Then Everything Changed, an extraordinary, thought-provoking look at Kennedy’s presidency—after November 22, 1963.

November 22, 1963: JFK does not die. What would happen to his life, his presidency, his country, his world?

In Then Everything Changed, Jeff Greenfield created an “utterly compelling” (Joe Klein), “riveting” (The New York Times), “eye-opening” (Peggy Noonan), “captivating” (Doris Kearns Goodwin) exploration of three modern alternate histories, “with the kind of political insight and imagination only he possesses” (David Gregory). Based on memoirs, histories, oral histories, fresh reporting, and his own knowledge of the players, the book looked at the tiny hinges of history—and the extraordinary changes that would have resulted if they had gone another way.

Now he presents his most compelling narrative of all about the historical event that has riveted us for fifty years. What if Kennedy were not killed that fateful day? What would the 1964 campaign have looked like? Would changes have been made to the ticket? How would Kennedy, in his second term, have approached Vietnam, civil rights, the Cold War? With Hoover as an enemy, would his indiscreet private life finally have become public? Would his health issues have become so severe as to literally cripple his presidency? And what small turns of fate in the days and years before Dallas might have kept him from ever reaching the White House in the first place?

As with Then Everything Changed, the answers Greenfield provides and the scenarios he develops are startlingly realistic, rich in detail, shocking in their projections, but always deeply, remarkably plausible. It is a tour de force of American political history.







http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/81U015IPIlL._SL1500_.jpg

JSmith
April 25th, 2013, 03:11 AM
More asb-looks interesting

http://www.amazon.com/ReDeus-Divine-Tales-Aaron-Rosenberg/dp/1892544032/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1366855740&sr=1-1&keywords=redeus



Book Description

Publication Date: July 19, 2012
The gods have returned. All of them! The change promised by the ending of the Mayan Calendar in 2012 manifested itself in an unexpected manner. Every pantheon of gods and goddesses, from every belief the world over, has returned ... changing the world forever. As the pantheons settle into their ancestral lands, they vie for worshippers, gaining or losing power along the way. They find the world of man a bewildering, crazy quilt, and each wishes to remake their lands in their own image. Come and meet some of the inhabitants of this strangely familiar world in eleven new tales that explore what it means to worship in this new reality. A Knight Templar hunting mysteries. A rookie pitcher with a unique belief system. A wounded solider returned to battle by a goddess. A reporter who isn’t sure what to believe. A homicide detective on the Manhattan beat. A man out to kill the gods. A single father trying to survive in a world without Santa Claus. And many more! Chronicling this new tomorrow are Dave Galanter, Allyn Gibson, Phil Giunta, Robert Greenberger, Paul Kupperberg, William Leisner, Scott Pearson, Aaron Rosenberg, Lawrence M. Schoen, Dayton Ward, and Steven H. Wilson. Join them and discover a world where everything old is new again—even the gods themselves.



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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Aaron Rosenberg is an award-winning, bestselling novelist, children’s book author, and game designer. His novels include the humorous science fiction novel No Small Bills, the historical dark fantasy For This Is Hell, the Dread Remora space-opera series, and the O.C.L.T. supernatural thriller series, plus novels for Star Trek, Warhammer, WarCraft, and Eureka. His children’s books include Bandslam: The Novel, books for iCarly, PowerPuff Girls, and Transformers Animated, and the original series Pete and Penny’s Pizza Puzzles. His RPG work includes Asylum, Spookshow, the Origins Award-winning Gamemastering Secrets, The Supernatural Roleplaying Game, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and The Deryni Roleplaying Game. You can visit him online at gryphonrose.com or follow him on Twitter @gryphonrose. Having grown up on fantasy, science fiction, and comic books, Robert Greenberger has reveled working in these fields as an adult. He has worked as an editor or executive for DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Starlog Press, Gist Communications, and Weekly World News. As a freelance writer, he has written for all ages and numerous genres, notably the media tie-in field with several Star Trek novels to his credit. He won the Scribe Award for his novelization of Hellboy II: The Golden Army and has gone on to co-found Crazy 8 Press. Recent releases include The Art of Howard Chaykin, co-writing Stan Lee’s How to Write Comics, and co-writing The Essential Superman Encyclopedia. He makes his home in Connecticut where he has been training to become a high school English teacher. For more, see www.bobgreenberger.com (http://www.bobgreenberger.com).



Product Details


Paperback: 330 pages
Publisher: Clockworks (July 19, 2012)




http://d188rgcu4zozwl.cloudfront.net/content/B008XJFHWQ/images/cover.jpg
Crazy Eight Press is an imprint of Clockworks.

Copyright © 2012 by ReDeus, LLC
Cover illustration by Anton Kokarev
Interior illustrations by Carmen Nuñez Carnero
Design by Aaron Rosenberg
ISBN 978-1-892544-03-2
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any
manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief
quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address
Clockworks at 5034 63rd Street, Woodside, NY 11377.
www.crazy8press.com (http://www.crazy8press.com)
First edition

Contents
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INTRODUCTION
by Robert Greenberger and Aaron Rosenberg

THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS
by William Leisner

THERE BE IN DREAMS NO WAR
by Phil Giunta

AXEL’S SONG
by Steven H. Wilson

THE TALE OF THE NOUVEAU TEMPLAR
by Scott Pearson

TRICKS OF THE TRADE
by Dave Galanter

CONSCRIPT
by Dayton Ward

THE GINGER KID
by Allyn Gibson

BALANCING THE SCALES
by Aaron Rosenberg

COCA XOCOLaTL
by Lawrence M. Schoen

A GOD WALKS INTO A BAR
by Robert Greenberger

NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME
by Paul Kupperberg

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Introduction
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Some writers talk about their stories being acts of divine inspiration. Well, that would certainly be appropriate here! It’s hard to say where the initial spark came from, honestly. Especially since the three of us (Bob, Paul, and Aaron) had already been friends for years. But somehow we got to talking about how much fun it would be to come up with a project together. We wanted it to be something big, something bold, and something both familiar and unique. Somewhere in there, we had the idea of a modern-day setting that involved the ancient gods. Part of the fascination was in how those gods would react to this new world, with all its cars and plane and computers and cell phones and social media sites and so on. How would such things mesh with the old ways of sacrifice and ritual and observance? And what would become of faith when the gods walked among humanity openly?
Thus was ReDeus born. The three of us bashed the idea around, worked out a basic framework, and come up with a game plan. We would each create a main character, and a story arc, and then gradually interweave them. We had grand ambitions, and noble ones.
But time and tide wait for no man, nor for any collaborative project. We each had other work to do, and somehow we couldn’t quite find the time to pull ReDeus together. Paul had to bow out due to other commitments, and rather than shoulder the whole creative burden by ourselves we brought in another buddy, Steve Savile, who Aaron was working on some other projects with. Still things progressed slowly. Eventually Steve found he was overworked and had to step back, but then Paul freed up some time and rejoined us. And we agreed to forge ahead with all due speed.
But at this point we decided to start things a little differently. We were each writing an initial story with our main characters, but we wanted more—more variety, more of a look at this brave new world, more exploration of its people and its themes. So we turned to some friends, each of them talented writers themselves. We told them about ReDeus, and we invited them to take up quill or keyboard and pen a story of their own to add to the fun.
And, luckily for us, many of them chose to take us up on our offer.
What you hold is the result of that. This is the first collection of ReDeus stories. If you enjoy them, it will not be the last.
—Robert Greenberger and Aaron Rosenberg

The Year Without a Santa Claus
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by William Leisner
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When I was eight years old, my parents took me to the big Dayton’s department store downtown one snowy Saturday afternoon, so I could give Santa my Christmas wish list. I was at the age when I still believed, but based on the teasing of other kids and my own logical inferences, I’d begun to have doubts. So I asked him point blank as I sat on his knee, “Are you really real?”
The bearded old man dropped his jolly smile, looked me straight in the eye, and told me, “Well, that’s for you to decide for yourself, isn’t it?”
I recall that long-ago visit as I sit on a bench just beyond the mall court outside Macy’s, my bags set at my feet, watching the line of children and parents here to pay their holiday respects.
“I don’ wanna see the Easter Bunny,” one little blond-headed boy whines to his mother. “I wanna see Santa!”
“It’s not the Easter Bunny,” his mother tells him, in that clench-jawed, please-stop-embarrassing-me-in-public voice my own mother so often used with me. “It’s Jiibayaabooz, the Spirit Rabbit. He’s the one who will be giving us presents and blessings this year.”
She’s lying to the boy, of course. The guy sitting in what traditionally has been Santa’s throne is indeed wearing the same bunny costume the mall drags out at Easter time. He’s missing his basket of colored eggs, and the ribbon around his neck has been replaced by a necklace of beads and animal teeth. It’s not even a good likeness of the Jiibayaabooz who manifested, along with all the other pantheons of gods, shortly after the Olympians’ disruption of the Olympics open ceremonies in July. But the mall’s management, bless their capitalistic little hearts, are determined to save the holiday formerly known as Christmas, now renamed the Winter Solstice Celebratory Season.
The boy, who’s about six, is having none of it, though. “No! I wanna see Santa!” he says again, his face turning red, and his eyes just on the verge of flooding over. The other parents in line stare at these two with nervous expressions. They’ve come to pay homage to our new god, and are clearly worried about how he will react to this child’s unholy outburst.
My heart, though, goes out to the poor kid. I would far rather see Santa here, too. But he’s been outlawed along with the Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It seems silly to me. Yes, Santa is based on the Christian Saint Nicholas, and yes, flying all around the globe in a single night bestowing gifts on all the children with whom he finds favor is pretty god-like behavior. But everyone over the age of ten understands that he’s just a symbol, a myth.
Then again, up until a couple of months ago, so were the gods.
As the mother tries desperately to calm her son, a pair of mall security officers approach, one man and one woman, moving with the kind of urgency you don’t normally see from rent-a-cops. “Ma’am,” the man says, “we’re going to have to ask you to leave.”
“No, everything’s all right,” she says as she pulls her child close, burying his tear-streaked face against her stomach. “He’s just tired and cranky, that’s all.”
The guard shakes his head, and reaches to put a hand on her shoulder. “You’re causing a disruption, and disturbing the other patrons.”
“No, everything’s fine,” she says, cringing in on herself as she tries to shrink away. Seeing that she’s not going to go along quietly, the second guard circles around behind. As the woman backs away from the one guard, the other grabs her wrist and twists back and up, causing her to cry out in pain. “You have to let me pay homage!” she shouts as she’s lead away by the female guard, with her partner carrying the now hysterical child behind her. “We are believers, Jiibayaabooz!” she shouts back over her shoulder. “I pledge myself to you!”
“What’s going on, Dad?”
I’ve been so absorbed in the drama I didn’t even notice my own kid rejoin me. At fourteen, Abby is already nearly as tall as me, and with her long chestnut hair pulled back away from her face in a ponytail, she’s almost the spitting image of her mother at her age. “Oh, nothing,” I tell her as I stand and start to gather up my stuff. “Did you find everything you were looking for?”
“Pffft,” she answers, and punctuates it with an eye roll. “None of these stores have anything.” This, in spite of the fact that I count four full shopping bags in her two hands. Then she drops her voice and adds, “Stupid foreign gods.”
I know that this sentiment is not only due to the fact that the Jade Emperor has declared a trade embargo, causing a shortage of cheap imported goods. Abby’s best friend, Sue Bakken, had left town just before the start of the school year for Oslo, along with her whole family and almost half a million other members of Minnesota’s Norwegian-American population. Of course, it’s not only the Norse gods calling the descendants of their former followers home; the same holds true for the Southern Europeans, Asian-Americans, African-Americans, and so on. They’re saying that the U.S. population has dropped more than ten percent due to emigration over the past four months, and might fall as much as thirty percent by the end of 2013.
We head out toward the parking garage, past darkened storefronts covered over with oversized posters of generic winter scenes. Overhead, hidden speakers play the same non-season-specific pop music they did all year round. Once out the door, it’s a short walk to our car. No one would ever guess that this was what the Mall of America was like on Black Friday.

For the first time, there are no leftovers in the house this weekend after Thanksgiving—our new divine overlords decreed that, if the holiday was meant as a celebration of a bountiful harvest, then any excess should be offered up to them. So tonight, we dine on franks and beans. Abby texts with her friends throughout the meal—I’d long ago given up the battle to keep the phone away from the dinner table. While she chats about whatever it is teenage girls chat about, I absently watch CNN. Riots have broken out across Germany, in protest of the huge influx of immigrants answering Odin’s call to return to the fatherland. The Vatican issued a statement claiming Pope Benedict is recovering from a bad case of the flu, and calling reports from the Italian press that he was on his deathbed “pagan propaganda.” And Washington is still in chaos, just as it has been since the Constitution was suspended and the November 6th elections cancelled. It’s almost funny to see some of the same people who spent four straight years disparaging Barack Obama now raging over the way he was driven from the White House.
Then, with the headlines out of the way, they switch back to the interview set, where the pretty young host is sitting and chatting with a Manitou, who she introduces as Curly Hair, the gods’ emissary to what’s left of the U.S. government. The spirit being has the head of a buffalo, and the body of a lean but muscular man covered in brown fur.
“Well, Sierra,” he says in response to a softball question, “most modern Americans have forgotten that your Founding Fathers, as they were forming their new nation, were influenced far more by the example of the Iroquois Confederacy than they were by any Greek model of democracy…” Curly Hair speaks in a strong, clear voice that demands respect, but watching him, I can’t help but think he looks more like a Pixar CGI-rendered character than anything else.
“What about those who are concerned about the loss of religious freedom,” the interviewer asks next.
Curly Hair chuckles at that. “Religious freedom was a fine concept for a time when the gods were hidden, and you humans had to guess what it was we required of you. But now that we have returned and reestablished our rule, to allow individuals the right to deny reality would be—”
Suddenly, the television goes dark. My immediate thought is another power outage, but the lights remain on, and at the same time, Abby mutters an annoyed “What the—?” as she pokes at the darkened screen of her phone. Before I can stand up or do anything else, I feel a sudden change in the air, like an electrical storm had suddenly rolled in from the living room. Then the kitchen fills with an unearthly light, and once it fades, we are in the presence of a goddess.
“Greetings from the gods of Olympus, David Anderson and Abigail Anderson,” says Iris, herald of Hera, in a voice like the purest music. She is tall and dark-haired, with an olive complexion and a pair of golden wings. She gestures with her caduceus as she tells us, “I come to offer you blessings in this season of celebration and renewal.”
I sigh and tell her, “Not interested.”
Her beatific smile turns a bit venomous at that. “It’s rather disrespectful to dismiss a message from the gods so,” she says. “To say nothing of the dismissal of a goddess herself.”
I start to shiver in spite of myself. There is no questioning the power this being and her kind wield, and there have been more than enough stories about the inventive ways they have exercised those powers since their arrival. But, dammit, I am a 21st century man, and I refuse to simply swallow this shit whole. “With respect, Iris, I’m only trying to make this easier for you. You want me and my daughter to leave our home, move to the Mediterranean, and to worship Zeus and his pantheon.” We’d been offered similar invitations from the Asgardians, the Tuatha de Danaan, Ukko, et cetera. The Anderson family tree has roots all over the planet (even Africa, as I recently learned from Anansi when he let me know great-great-great-grandma was a light-skinned runaway from Virginia), and that being the case, we showed up on the radar screens of all these old gods looking for new adherents. By the same token, we didn’t feel the kind of irresistible pull they exerted on so many others.
“You are bold to speak so bluntly,” Iris tells me. “And bold men make for strong nations. This is why I come to you here today. May I?” Iris gestures to one of the two empty chairs at the kitchen table, and it takes my brain an extra second to realize this goddess is asking my permission to take a seat. At last I nod, and Iris slides gracefully into the chair. She folds her wings in and her luminosity dims ever so slightly. She even seems to shrink a bit, and I realize she’s making an effort to come down to our mortal level, and present herself as “just folks.”
“You are mistaken in guessing the purpose of my visit,” she tells me, laying her staff on the table and leaning forward on her elbows. “Until now, yes, we gods have been calling our followers together, gathering and consolidating our strength. But, these actions have had consequences that we did not foresee.”
“I thought gods were supposed to be all-knowing,” Abby pipes in, apparently following her old man’s example. I wish, not for the first time, I wasn’t such a lousy role model.
Luckily, Iris shows some indulgence. “If you’ve ever read any of your so-called ‘myths’, you’d know that we are far from omniscient or omnipotent. Those kind of impossible abilities are only ascribed to the imaginary gods of monotheistic fairy tales.”
Then she turns back to me. “We have been gone a long time, and the world has changed in ways we never anticipated. That so many of our children would cross the ocean to this continent, and so completely overwhelm it? And come to think of it as their own? It would have been unthinkable in the old times, when only the bravest of men would ever dream of wandering far beyond their own village. And even if they had, we never would have foreseen how thoroughly our children would decimate the savages born of this land.” She smiles at me, as if she thinks she’s paying me an immense compliment. “Though there was a necessity to calling our followers back to their ancestral home, we realize now that it would be imprudent to completely abandon the Americas and relinquish it to those from whom you had wrested control.”
“So, you mean to say—”
“If you would,” she interrupts sharply, “let me tell you what I mean to say, without trying to outguess me.” After a challenging pause which I decide not to accept, she continues. “What I mean to say is, the gods of Olympus see no reason, in this world as it is today, to limit ourselves to such a small territory. We mean to have these lands as well.”
“Even though the Indian gods have reclaimed them?” Abby asks.
Iris looks like she may actually laugh. “While I understand how any immortal being must seem as gods to you, let me assure you that we do not consider Coyote and Rabbit to be at the same level as Zeus and Hera.”
I’m tempted to ask what they think of Santa, but better sense prevails. Instead, I ask the bigger question: “And what does all of this have to do with us?”
“As I said before, it takes bold men to build a strong nation. Those whose will cannot be easily swayed, but who also have the wisdom to see reason, and to make proper judgments on that basis. An Olympian nation in America will need such men.”
Iris stands then, taking up her staff and letting her wings spread wide once again. “The time is coming soon, when your wisdom and courage will be tested. And if you prove yourself to have these qualities, David Anderson,” she says, her arms upraised in a kind of benediction, “you will find yourself greatly rewarded.”

“Greatly rewarded, huh?” My ex-wife Victoria gives me an oddly disconcerted look from the computer flatscreen. “And what does that mean, exactly?”
“No idea,” I tell her.
“You didn’t ask?” she replies, using her cross examination voice. In the five years since the split, we haven’t spoken directly to one another more than a dozen times, and that voice is a big reason why I try to avoid it. But, when Abby mentioned our visitor to her mother during their weekly Skype chat, she wanted to hear the details from me.
“Yes, I asked, but all she would say is ‘In time, in time.’ Just the typical cryptic god-speak.”
“But you’re not considering it, are you?”
I put my hands up and shrug at her. “I don’t even know what ‘it’ is I’m supposed to consider.”
“Does it matter?” She leans forward, closer to the webcam lens. “David, these so-called gods are not to be trusted.”
It’s more than slightly ironic, having this woman advise me on whom to trust. But, something in her tone catches my attention. “Why do you say that?”
“Open your eyes, David. Look at the absolute chaos these beings have created all over the planet. These are not benevolent gods. They don’t give a shit about you or any of the rest of us.”
Like the excellent lawyer she is, she builds a good case. After the divorce, her firm offered a promotion and transfer to their main offices in New York, and she’s become one of their fastest rising stars since then.
“And they’re obviously only trying to play on your ego to pull you to their side,” she continues. “I mean, come on. You’re a forty-year-old middle manager. What makes you so special to them?”
It’s a perfectly fair and legitimate question, but Tori can’t help but put that little extra personal dig at me in there. “Well, maybe the gods see something in me others can’t,” I shoot back, just a tad too defensive.
“David, seriously, do not trust them. You need to think of Abby here. If you let her get tangled up in this unholy spider’s web they’re weaving for you, I swear to every god there is, I will challenge for custody, and you will never see her again.”
I glower at her and try to hold back an angry sputtering retort which I know I’ll only regret later. In the end, though, I have to click the “end call” icon without a goodbye, just before I let loose a stream of obscenities at the blank screen.

For whatever reason, the gods seem befuddled by the internet. They’ve managed to take solid control of television and the newspapers, and make sure their version of any news story is presented as truth, and any others as rumor. The situation at the Vatican is a perfect example: it’s been over four months since the Pope’s last public appearance, and now the news channels are reporting Roman police have arrested over a hundred Catholic cardinals trying to sneak into the Papal enclave, presumably to choose his successor.
But if you go online, you’ll find reports that it’s all a complete fabrication by Zeus and friends, to demoralize the Christian community. Blurry camera phone videos claim to show Benedict alive and well, and giving his blessing to a near-empty Saint Peter’s Square. CNN and the BBC are prevented from reporting it, they say, and it’s only because of a few determined members of the faithful that the truth is able to get out. Whether these are legitimate or not, the thing that surprises me most is that they manage to get out on the Web at all.
And then there’s the even more suspicious stuff. “Did you know the Hopis believed the end of the world is coming December 21st?” Abby asks without looking up from her phone’s internet browser screen.
“You mean the Mayans, don’t you?”
“No, the Hopis, too,” she says. “There’s a prophecy that predicted all the stuff that happened since the whites came over, and then the final sign is that a ‘dwelling-place in the heavens’ falls to earth. This site says that dwelling-place in the heavens is where all the old gods have been living all these years.”
I tilt my head and give her a look. “And what do we say about believing something just because it’s posted to the internet?”
“But there’s also a link to NASA’s website,” she persists. “The convergence that the Mayans predicted? With the sun and the equator of the Milky Way? There’s also going to be an increase in sunspots then! And there are other predictions that the world is ending this year, too, by the Egyptians, and the Bible, and Nostradamus…”
“That I know is wrong,” I say. “Nostradamus predicted the world would end in 1999. And there was all this same kind of doomsday garbage circulating then, too, with planetary alignments and the panic over Y2K…”
“What’s Y2K?” Abby asks.
Before I can launch into my wise old man lecture on the history of the late 20th century, an explosion rattles the windows. We both jump up to look outside, and see the house across the street engulfed in flames.
We quickly pull on our boots and jackets and rush out, as do most of the neighbors up and down Washburn Avenue. It’s well below freezing with the sun down, and oddly, the burning house doesn’t seem to be giving off any heat. The McArdle family stands at the end of their driveway watching the conflagration. Off to one side, a seven-foot-tall black bear stands, forelegs crossed over its chest, giving them a reproachful glare. The Manitou says something to them I can’t hear, until we’ve gotten halfway across the street. “…and such disobedience cannot be tolerated,” the bear spirit growls nastily at them. “From anyone!” it then adds loudly for the benefit of the gathering neighbors.
“We weren’t doing anything wrong,” Peter McArdle says, his voice almost cracking in restrained anger. Pete is, without exception, the nicest guy in the neighborhood. He’s the guy who’ll offer to come over with his snow blower right after a big storm, or volunteer to serve as mediator for any kind of petty property disputes. Any time there’s a birth or death in the family of anyone on the block, he and Kay are on their doorstep the following day with a big casserole dish or full Tupperware container. They are the last people on Earth who deserve to be burnt out of their house two weeks before Christmas. “We were just watching a video in our own home. Honestly, what kind of god is so threatened by Santa Claus?!”
“Observance of the Christian winter holiday has been forbidden,” the bear says, “as has any form of veneration of the gift-bearing Christian saint.”
“You’re burning their house down for watching a fucking Christmas movie?” It’s not until I see the shocked look from Abby and the others in the crowd that I realize I’m the one who just shouted this.
Then I notice their shocked looks shift, and when I follow their eyes, I see the bear is marching deliberately towards me. Its big rear paws stop less than a foot away, and I have to crane my neck to see its head and great slathering maw. “Do you question the power of the great spirits?” it demanded through a set of large sharp teeth.
“Shouldn’t I?” Up close and in person, I can definitely tell this animal spirit is no Pixar movie character. But something keeps me from shrinking away in abject terror and continuing. “Pete is right: why are you so scared of Santa Claus that you have to burn these people out of their home for watching…”
“Rudolph,” Tricia, the older McArdle child fills in for me. Her little brother, Michael, has his thumb jammed tight into his mouth to keep himself from crying.
“An animated special about a flying reindeer with a light-up nose who works for a fat man at the North Pole.” I actually hear myself laugh, and what’s more, I also hear a few scattered titters from the rest of the crowd. “If you can consider that to be such a threat to your power and authority, you’re hardly even worthy of being considered gods, are you?”
There’s a silence then that you can only hear on a winter’s night, when the snow seems to absorb every sound around you. The bear spirit stares directly at me with red-glowing eyes. Somehow, I stare back without flinching.
Then it raises its head and roars into the sky. I’m shocked backward on my heels, which slide out from under me on the icy pavement, and I drop hard on my tailbone. The roar coincides with a brilliant flash, and when I turn my head, I see the flames from the McArdles’ house jump impossibly high. An instant later, the fire has extinguished itself, as if a giant hand had crumpled a sheet of red-orange paper. When I’m able to blink the colored blobs from my vision and my eyes adjust to the suddenly dimmed light, the bear is gone, and nothing is left of the McArdle house but the scorched concrete and cinderblocks of the basement.
“Oh my God, Dad…!”
“You all right, Dave…?”
“Anderson, you crazy son of a…”
“…bravest thing I’ve ever seen…”
I must be in a slight daze, because the next thing I know, I’m back inside, laying on the couch, with my boots off and a blanket thrown over me. Abby is seated beside me, squeezing my hand tight, with Pete standing over her shoulder. “Hey, pal, you doing okay, now?” he asks. Even after losing everything he owns, he’s the first one to offer his help to a friend in need.
“Yeah. Fine,” I say, sitting up. “My ass’ll probably be black and blue tomorrow, but besides that…”
Pete shakes his head at me. “I thought for sure that thing was going to rip your head off!” he tells me. “What in the world got into you?”
I have no answer for him. But Abby beams at me, and tells Pete, with undisguised pride, “My dad is just a very bold man.”

I ask the McArdles to stay for the night, and after repeatedly telling me they don’t want to be a bother, and insisting it will only be for one night, they accept. We order a pizza, which goes a long way towards getting the kids’ spirits back up. After dinner, Abby takes the younger ones out to the other room to play video games while the adults have coffee in the kitchen. In contrast to their children, Pete and Kay have grown more morose as the evening’s worn on, and the reality of their situation has had a chance to sink in. “God,” Pete mutters to himself, head in his hands, staring into his half-empty mug. “What have I done?”
“You can’t blame yourself, Pete,” Kay tells him. “You were just trying to give the kids some little bit of a normal Christmas…”
“I should have known better.” Pete looks up at me and explains, “The kids have been so disappointed that they aren’t running any of the old classic specials on TV this year. And a friend of mine, he had this old VHS he’d saved from years ago when he taped them off the TV.” Then he surprises us by laughing. “And we thought the movie studios were tough on illegal video pirates, right?”
Kay and I also laugh at this bit of dark humor, but the moment of amusement is short-lived. “I keep praying that this all turns out like one of those shows,” Kay says. “That, maybe, Jiibayaabooz’s heart will grow three sizes and Christmas will be saved in the end.”
“Or,” I say, “maybe we won’t have to deal with Jiibayaabooz for a lot longer.”
Pete’s head jerks up. “What do you mean?” he asks.
Now it’s my turn to hesitate. Both Pete and Kay are both very religious—not in an in-your-face kind of way, but their church and the charity work they did was always a very central part of their lives. That old church had been ripped apart stone by stone by a powerful, highly localized whirlwind earlier this summer, the same fate that had befallen every other house of worship in the Twin Cities, most spectacularly the Cathedral of Saint Paul across the river, in the city now called East Minneapolis. I’m fairly certain that they’ll have an even stronger reaction to hearing about my little tête-à-tête with Iris than Tori did.
But I tell them anyhow, though I play down the whole “greatly rewarded” part. To my surprise, rather than being shocked or alarmed, they actually seem excited.
“What, you don’t see what this means?” Pete asks when I express my confusion. “There’s a civil war brewing amongst these different groups of immortals. We’ve been seeing glimpses of it for months over in Europe, with all the immigration from America and old borders starting to break down. Now, finally, it’s all coming to a head!”
“And that’s a good thing?”
“Well, no, not a good thing,” Pete allows. “But…it’s what we’ve known is coming. What God has willed.”
I look from one glowing face to the other. “Shit,” I whisper. “You’re talking about Armageddon…and you’re looking forward to it!”
“David, understand,” Kay says. “The Battle of Armageddon doesn’t mean nuclear annihilation or human extinction. It means God’s final triumph over the forces of evil.”
“We know you’re not a believer,” Pete says in a slightly condescending tone that I’d always admired him for never using when talking about his religion. “But look at what Revelation says: ‘Satan will be released from his prison, and will go out to deceive the nations of the four corners of the world, to gather them for battle. And they surrounded the camp of God’s people, the beloved city.’ That’s pretty clearly what we’ve seen since Olympic Day, and with the siege of the Vatican.”
“You’re not Catholic,” I say.
“That doesn’t matter anymore,” he says, shaking his head. “We’re all Christians, and Vatican City is our last stronghold.”
Kay then says, “But the prophecy goes on to say, ‘And fire came down from God and devoured them, and the one who deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.’“
Pete nods with an almost frightening fervor. “This is it, I know it now. This is the time of the Savior’s return.” And then he smiles at me. “This will be our Christmas miracle.”

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I don’t feel fine at all.
It’s Thursday night, December the 20th. If the Mayans were right, the world ends at 11:11 tomorrow morning. If Pete and Kay are right, Jesus will make his return appearance on the anniversary of his first.
Like Pete said, I’m not a believer. The last time I set foot inside a church was my wedding day, and given the way that turned out, I’d never been in any hurry to go back. And normally, the demented scribbling of some first-century madman about seven-headed, ten-horned beasts holds no more truck with me than the work of Stone Age astronomers does. But it was kind of hard not to see the correlations with the world around us.
The news from the Vatican is getting more and more confusing. The networks announced the Pope’s death at least three times in the week that followed the fire at the McArdles’, only to retract those reports each time. The BBC World Service reported that the Catholic cardinals arrested in Rome had been sacrificed into the mouth of Mount Vesuvius, an accusation the Italian deiocracy vehemently denied. Curly Hair appeared daily on CNN, first condemning the Olympians for their inhumanity, then the Celt-run Beeb for running baseless rumors, all while maintaining his unwavering contempt for the Church. And through all this, more and more videos have appeared online of the Pope issuing messages of encouragement and hope in multiple languages (including Latin, probably as a deliberate poke in the eye to the Roman gods). Every time they tried to stamp out one video-hosting site, two more would pop up—like they were battling a digital Hydra, ironically enough.
But tonight, I try to force all other thoughts from my mind, and think of this simply as our traditional holiday celebration come four days early. Abby and I sit together at the foot of the secularly adorned evergreen and exchange our gifts. For her, a pair of boots which she had informed me weeks earlier were the most awesome boots ever. They were horribly overpriced, and not at all practical for the Minnesota winter, but this year I found I didn’t care so much about such things. For me, she picked a very lovely silver and turquoise tie tack, in the shape of a four-pointed star. “It’s the morning star,” she tells me, “a symbol of courageous spirit.” I thank her and hug her, and we spend the next few minutes sitting there watching the lights on the tree blink. Without carols to sing as we do so, though, the illusion of normality falls apart.
“What do you think is going to happen tomorrow?” She asks this in the small, scared voice that, once upon a time, I’d heard asking me to check for monsters in the closet.
I wanted to tell her now again that no, there was nothing in the closet, nothing would come to get her in the dark while she slept. “I don’t know,” I tell her instead.
“What if something does happen…?”
“What if we knew a year ago that the whole world was going to change during the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games? What would knowing that, and worrying about it ahead of time, have changed?” I give her what I hope is an encouraging smile. “Whatever happens—if anything happens—we’ll just find a way to deal with it, just like we did with this.”
She nods, but I can tell she’s far from satisfied. I reach over and rub my hand in small circles between her shoulder blades. “Okay?” I ask.
That’s when the tears start rolling. She throws both arms around me and sobs into my shoulder, “I love you, Dad. If anything does happen, and I don’t get a chance to say it then…”
She trails off, and I feel my eyes getting hot, too. “I love you too, Abs,” I whisper, and squeeze with as much force as I dare use. We sit embracing like that for I don’t know how long, until her sobs finally subside, and then a while longer. The tree lights continue to blink silently above us.
Then she lifts her face and whispers, “I need to call Mom.” I nod, and reluctantly release her. She heads to the back of the house and I stay there on the floor, staring out the windows into the night. I repeat to myself that it does no good to worry about things that are out of our control…yet continue to do so.

All night, CNN runs a perverse little countdown clock in the lower left-hand corner of their screen showing the time to the second until 11:11 A.M. GMT, when the sun reaches its lowest point in the winter sky. Without actually making a decision to do so, Abby and I spend the night sitting up together. We both camp out on the couch, occasionally nodding off for maybe ten or fifteen minutes at a time, while the overnight anchors report on the various Winter Solstice Celebrations taking place across the Eastern Hemisphere.
Just after four o’clock local time, the tone of the programming shifts, and the anchors spend the next hour breathlessly speculating what will happen when the solstice sun reaches the galactic equator. An insert box on the screen shows a camera shot from the grounds of the Royal Observatory in London, focused on the mid-morning sun, as if they expect it to suddenly jump down and start dancing a jig on the horizon. Who knows, maybe I dozed through the point where they did predict it would do just that. It wouldn’t be any more unbelievable than anything else.
Finally, the countdown clock clicks to zero.
The sun stays just where it is, as if it were just any other day.
After what sounds like a collective sigh of relief from the television, the anchor team begins to laugh and joke, and expresses amusement that anyone could have made such a big deal over a simple astronomical event.
Then the screen bursts into static.
“What is it?” Abby asks as I grab the remote and scan through the other channels, and only find more of the same.
“Could just be the cable,” I say, even though neither of us believes that. “Or maybe sunspots.”
Abby jumps up, runs to her bedroom, and comes back with her smartphone. “Twitter is still up,” she tells me as her fingers play expertly over the small screen. “They’re saying all the TV went out in Los Angeles, too.”
I briefly wonder which of the celebrities she follows is up at this hour watching TV and Tweeting, then push that question aside. “Can you get on any of the news sites?”
She manipulates the touchscreen for several minutes, scowling, until she finds something that works. “Here’s NYTimes.com…no big breaking news headlines though…”
Maybe it is something as simple as sunspots, then, interfering with satellite transmission. Or even simpler, an odd coincidence. For the first time in at least twenty-four hours, I feel as if I could almost relax.
And then the static on the television clears, and is filled with the image of a man-sized Raven. “Peoples of America: be it known that the great Odin, ruler of Asgard, has laid claim to your lands. You shall from this day forward worship only the gods of Valhalla. As for those weak spirits who have previously claimed this continent, they too will be made to bend down on their knees and—” The screen returns to static once again.
“Oh, holy shit,” I mutter.
The civil war has begun.

Thick black clouds fill the sky well before the sun rises over America, turning the shortest day of the year into an unending night. The darkness is only broken by near continuous bolts of lightning firing back and forth across the sky. Gale force winds shake the walls, and fist-sized hailstones, followed by frogs, pound the roof. Abby and I spend the majority of the day huddled down in our semi-finished basement. The one time I dare to look out the front windows while running up and down stairs, I witness a Cerberus chasing after a police car. The city cops all had to swear oaths to the Native gods in order to keep their jobs; I don’t want to think what will happen to the poor bastards once the hellhound inevitably catches them.
Once I get our old analog set plugged back in and hooked back to the cable, we get to watch control of the media change hands more than a dozen times over the course of the morning. The couple of times the Native gods regain the upper hand, Curly Hair acts as their spokesman, and each time, his calm and polished demeanor slips further. “Our kind has shown exceptional generosity and restraint in the days since our return,” he rages in his latest on-air address. “We have been forgiving of those who came to this land and slaughtered our original worshippers; all we have asked is that you now pay us the obeisance they once did. This benevolence ends now!”
At another point, for just a few seconds, we see an actual human woman appear on camera. The video quality makes me think she is using a cheap webcam, and the audio is even worse. “My brothers and sisters in Christ, you must stay—” is what I think I hear her say, before she is cut off.
Amazingly, the internet is still up and running, though it’s slowed down to the point where it seems as if we’re using dial-up service again. There’s no more streaming video, and any kind of graphics take a painfully long time to load, but we’re at least getting information. How much of it is accurate, though, and what it all adds up to, is hard to say.
At some point in the mid-afternoon, we lose power, and the basement turns pitch black. But only for a moment, before a brilliant light fills the space, at the center of which is Iris. “Greetings from the gods of Olympus.”
“I wasn’t sure I’d see you again,” I tell her.
“Gods do not take oaths and promises lightly.”
Abby jumps up from her seat. “What the hell is happening? What are you people doing?”
“The celestial alignment has opened wide the door which allowed our return five moons ago,” the goddess explains. “Our power has now reached its zenith, and soon all the pretenders to godhood shall be vanquished. The time is here, and I will have your answer now, David Anderson. Will you swear your devotion to us?”
So here it is. I stand up from the old futon we’d been sitting on, walk up directly in front of Iris, and say, “What happens if I do…and you lose?”
“We will not,” she decrees. “We have conquered their kind before, in the days of Alexander and Caesar, and we shall do so again.”
I shake my head. “This has been going on all day, this war of yours. Whatever door opened for you, it seems like it’s opened for all of you immortals. You’re all evenly matched.”
“Our victory is certain,” Iris insists. But somehow, I sense that the divine confidence she exudes is a bit forced.
“Really?” I reply, and then ask her, “What’s going on in New York?”
“Why are you concerned with that city above your own?” God or no, I have no trouble telling that I just struck a very raw nerve.
“Because I noticed something a while back,” I tell her. “All those viral videos from out of the Vatican? All of them go back to IP addresses located in New York City. And now this morning. Before CNN first went off the air, they were broadcasting from Atlanta. Since then, they’ve been airing exclusively out of their New York studio. Same with all the other networks, and the BBC. Nothing from Washington or London or anywhere else. The whole world is under assault, but New York is like this relative calm in the eye of the storm. Almost like you’re powerless to do anything there.”
“This one city is of no import!” she says, protesting too much. “We will not be defeated. In this, you must have faith!”
“‘Faith,’ my ass,” I shout back. “‘Faith’ is believing in a thing there’s no good reason to believe in. If your victory is certain, then what does faith have to do with it?”
“A great deal more than you can ever realize.” Her anger at being challenged is gone now, replaced by a deeply haunted expression. After a moment, she continues in a more desperate sounding tone. “David Anderson, we have not made this offer to you lightly. We know your potential. The gods need men like you to help them rule other men.” Then, having pained herself enough with this pleading of a mortal, she pulls herself up higher, so that her head is touching the floor joists overhead, and wields her staff at me like a sword. “This war will be over soon, and your future depends on the choice you make now. Will you swear your faith to the gods of Olympus?”
I look over to where Abby is still sitting, wide eyed and breath held, then turn back to Iris. “I will swear my allegiance and my loyalty. I cannot promise my faith.”
Iris takes a second to consider. “That is acceptable.”
“Under one condition,” I add.
“Do not test me, mortal…” Iris warns me, scowling.
But I stand firm and say, “I want my daughter safe with her mother in New York before I do anything for you.”
“What?!” Abby jumps up from the futon and puts herself between Iris and me. “Dad, no!!”
The betrayal in her eyes kills me, but I know this needs to be done. “Abby, you understand the danger I’m putting myself in here, and the danger I’d be putting you in.”
“Yes, I understand! But…”
“No buts,” I say, cutting off her protest. “Once the dust settles and things are back to…well, ‘normal’ would be optimistic, I guess…but when things are calmed down, we’ll bring you back.” I look back to Iris. “Do we have a deal?”
Iris nods and says, “I will see to the girl’s safe passage. Give me your vow.”
“I swear myself to Zeus and the gods of Olympus.”
And with that, both Iris and my daughter disappear in another brilliant flash of light.
I let out a hard, shuddering breath and collapse back onto the futon. “Oh, Christ,” I mutter, then correct myself: “Oh, Zeus.” It’s not exactly what they wanted of me, but I’m going to need to put some faith in these immortal sons of bitches, after all.

Three days later, word comes from the Vatican that Pope Benedict has abdicated. He is still alive, but given his failing health and the threat to the Christian faith, he has decided “after many hard days of prayer” that he needed to step aside for a younger, stronger leader. The new pontiff, Pope Boniface X, is expected to make his first public appearance sometime tomorrow morning. My new bosses try to spin this into a victory, since the Church is essentially giving up hope on the Second Coming. It’s far easier to win adherents for gods who walk the earth along with us, they say, than one who remains unknown.
I’m not sure how true this is, though. Like the old saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt. I’ve become way too familiar with gods of late. I am one of the few mortals who has been made privy to the frustration the Olympians are feeling, not only because of their continued inability to breach the Papal Compound, but also the stalemate that has developed in their civil war, particularly in the battle for Manhattan. They seem utterly perplexed by whatever has made them so ineffectual within the boundaries of the city, but I for one could not be happier. Abby has refused to speak to me since I’ve sent her there, but having her pissed at me is a small price to pay for having her safe.
But I need to push these blasphemous thoughts aside for now. Like it or not, these are my gods now, and I need to do my utmost in my service to them.
The Mall of America is mobbed tonight, with crowds not seen since last Christmastime, all of them squeezed into the Main Rotunda area. I am positioned far above, standing on the platform atop the towering video screen, my own image being projected three stories high. I look down at the mob of the un-Called, former non-believers like me who, before the start of the Solstice War, thought they could go on with their everyday lives while paying only passing attention to the world that had changed. And now that they couldn’t, they needed someone to tell them what to do, and how to find favor with the gods.
They need me, the new High Priest of Zeus.
Gods help us all.
I take a deep breath, and smooth down my tie, my fingers brushing against the silver-and-turquoise star tie tack hidden under the jacket flaps. Then I put my hands up, and words come out of my mouth:
“Greetings from the gods of Olympus!”

I have no memory of what else I said, only that the crowd had cheered and chanted, and in the end had declared as a mass their full-throated devotion to Zeus and his pantheon. The bosses are pleased, even though a similar rally held by the Asgardians at Target Center had drawn more of the region’s Scandinavian and Germanic population. There are other similar rallies taking place all over the country, the gods building their number of worshippers, drawing their strength from them. There will be a new offensive before 2012 is out, and not even the gods know how that will turn out in the end.
It’s past midnight now, and the mall is empty once again. As I walk alone through its wide echoing corridors, I notice in the dim light that all the Solstice decorations have already been torn down. The traditional days-long celebration had been cut short, so as not to invite the connection with Christmas. The twenty-fifth comes without ribbons, tags, boxes or bags, and will go the same way.
I sigh as I step out into the silent night. Turns out there is no Santa Claus, after all.

There Be In Dreams No War
http://d188rgcu4zozwl.cloudfront.net/content/B008XJFHWQ/images/1468576404.jpg
by Phil Giunta
http://d188rgcu4zozwl.cloudfront.net/content/B008XJFHWQ/images/1932579322.jpg

Ireland
2250 B.C.
The people of the Tuatha de Danann had been divided by their Fomorian oppressors. The cliff top overlooking the western shore was their last stronghold. Others had scattered to the east, leaving this particular group sorely outnumbered.
Far below, aboard the Wave Sweeper, Manannan fixed his gaze on the three hundred foot sandstone wall that met the water just ahead. As he willed his ship to a full stop, the god of the sea turned toward the stern and raised his silver spear. Four smaller boats, each carrying twenty armed men, fell in line with Manannan’s vessel and dropped anchors of rock.
Of course, the Wave Sweeper no more required an anchor than she did sails or oars. The vessel moved and stopped at the whim of her master.
The sounds of shuffling and knocking on the deck drew Manannan’s attention. He made his way forward and reached out to the armored horse, running his hand along its side and neck to soothe its restlessness. Enbarr of the Flowing Mane bowed his head as Manannan began inspecting his armor.
“It will be a brutal day, my friend. The odds are not in our favor, but where the Fomorians are savage, we are clever. Though I am not so certain the Dagda will take my advice seriously.”
Manannan levitated off the deck and lowered himself gracefully onto Enbarr’s saddle. “But we shall see. Onward!”
Enbarr reared up on his hind legs and leapt from the ship, carrying Manannan atop the waves on a full gallop to the thin shoreline. From the clearing high above, several of the Dagda’s men shouted and cheered.
Manannan raised his spear. “Make way!”
The throng parted as eighty men carrying clubs, swords, and axes floated skyward, led by a sea god and his horse.

“Father, the Fomorians are nearly upon us. We are outnumbered. I suggest we withdraw.”
The Dagda, all-father and king of the Tuatha de Danann, hefted his club and pointed it toward the sea. His bass voice shook the trees. “Withdraw to where, Cermait? There is naught but water to our backs and I would see it turn crimson with our blood before letting the ogres take this land.”
“I fear both may happen within the hour, Father.”
“I would thank you to keep your blood where it belongs and out of my ocean.”
The Dagda turned just as Manannan leapt from his horse. “A most timely arrival, sea god.” The king’s dark gray beard and hair were matted in sweat and dried blood, as was his cloak. His club, able to slay a dozen Fomorians in one blow, was nearly as long as Manannan’s spear and thick as an oak tree.
Manannan bowed his head and gazed up at the Dagda, the tallest and most imposing of all the de Danann people. “I bring eighty men with me, but we—”
“The Fomorians are in sight!” All heads turned toward a middle aged man in a cloak and bronze breastplate running toward them from the opposite side of the clearing.
“How many?” The Dagda asked.
“Nearly six hundred, my lord. They are in the forest now.”
Cermait turned to Manannan. “Even with your men, we remain severely outnumbered.”
Manannan ignored him. “As I was about to say, my lord, the rest of our people are in battle with the Fomorians at Magh Tuiredh. They are led by Lugh.”
“Lugh! I do not trust him. He’s part Fomorian.”
“He has slain Balor,” Manannan noted.
“His own grandfather? King of the Fomorians?”
“Their queen, Cethlenn, now commands his forces,” Manannan said. “Our men are needed there as is your leadership. My boats stand ready.”
“It will take time to gather everyone,” Cermait said. “Many are wounded and the Fomorians will be upon us in moments. Some will need to sacrifice themselves to permit our escape. I volunteer, Father.”
Manannan held up a hand. “Might I make a suggestion?”
The Dagda nodded. “Go on.”
“Play the Uaithne.”
Cermait stepped forward, brow furrowed. “You wish our king to play a harp in the middle of a bloodbath?”
The Dadga put a hand on his son’s shoulder and the boy fell silent. As the king’s youngest, Cermait seemed compelled to overcompensate for his slight stature and effeminate appearance. A head of strawberry curls and a maiden’s waistline do not a fearsome warrior make.
“On the contrary, I hope to prevent one. Sire, you of all people know the power of the Uaithne. Its song can inspire joy where none exists, plunge the most jovial into the depths of sorrow—”
“—or put the most alert minded into a state of deep sleep.” The Dagda’s face brightened.
“Exactly, my lord, but only you and your harper can play the Uaithne. It will sing for no other and your harper is at Magh Tuiredh.”
“It is the sworn duty of a king to protect his people. Cermait, fetch the Uaithne. I will meet the monsters in the clearing, alone. As for you, Manannan, you’re quite clever for a ruler of fish.”
A grin lit the sea god’s face. “Well, you know what they say, sire. Fish is brain food.”

Twenty minutes later, the Fomorians reached the edge of the tree line, sweat glistening on their otherwise dull gray skin. They started forward, weapons at the ready. Abruptly, they halted and stared in confusion.
Seated on a rock in the center of the clearing, the Dagda plucked and strummed his harp of oak and gold. Its song was slow and soothing. The trees swayed to the melody. All the while, the king’s stomach lurched with a fear he would never admit to.
Finally, the Fomorians overcame their disbelief. Blades and blunt weapons were raised above hairless heads that shrieked a horrific battle cry. They charged forward—
—and toppled to the ground unconscious.
The Dagda exhaled and reached behind the rock to retrieve his club. He tucked it under his massive arm and resumed the song of slumber as he made his way out of the clearing. One of the Fomorians stirred as the Dagda stepped over him.
He smashed its skull with his club.

Fragarach never missed its mark. At Magh Turiedh, Manannan’s famous sword slashed, decapitated, and eviscerated one Fomorian after another. Across the battlefield to his left, Lugh plowed through a contingent with a sweep of his enormous axe. To the right, the Dagda’s brother Ogma wielded two swords, one formerly the property of Balor.
The Tuatha de Danann were no longer outnumbered.
As he gutted what was probably his hundredth Fomorian, Manannan gazed up at the top of a nearby hill. The Dagda swung his club to the left, felling ten ogres. Bringing the club around to the right, a dozen more were sent tumbling down the steep rocky slope.
He is in his glory, Manannan thought. No harp’s magic will be needed this day.
His wry smile faded as a cloaked figure coalesced out of thin air behind the Dagda. The figure twisted in mid-air and thrust a dagger into the back of his neck. Its blade pierced straight though. Blood sprayed from the king’s throat.
With a howl of rage, Manannan threw his silver spear but the figure vanished as quickly as it had appeared. The spear continued through the air, impaling two Fomorian soldiers as they descended on the fallen king.
Manannan leapt the impossible distance, landing atop the hill beside the Dagda’s supine form. There were no Fomorians in sight now. Blood spurted from the Dagda’s throat with every breath.
Reaching beneath his armor, Manannan tore a strip of cloth from his cloak. “Forgive me, my lord.” Gently, he turned the Dagda’s head to the side and yanked the dagger. Swiftly, he wrapped the cloth around the king’s neck.
“They are retreating!”
“The Fomorians are retreating!”
“We are victorious!”
Manannan ignored the cheers and shouts from below. His king was dying.
The Dagda reached up and pulled Manannan close. He whispered one word before passing out.
Cethlenn.

The Dagda survived the six-day journey east to Brú na Boinne where the Tuatha de Danann had settled years before. All the while, three physicians tended to the king, attempting to stop the persistent bleeding, administering medicines and otherwise fretting. Cermait remained at his father’s side during the journey.
Reaching out with his mind, Manannan had sent word to Ogma and Bodb Derg, the Dagda’s eldest son. After the battle, they had pursued the remaining few Fomorians to the coast to cast them out of the land.
By nightfall, the king had developed a fever. His breath came in shallow gasps. The physicians feared that the dagger’s blade might have been coated in poison but they could not determine its nature.
“Cermait, where is the Uaithne?” Manannan asked in a hushed tone.
“With the harper in his tent.”
“Why don’t you bring him here? Have him play softly to soothe your father.”
Wordlessly, Cermait left the tent. A moment later, there was shouting from across the camp. Manannan pointed to the physicians. “Remain with the king.”
He hurried over to a mob surrounding a small tent. “Report.”
Inside, Cermait stood over the body of the harper. Blood seeped down his chest from a wound in the center of his throat. He was a mere boy, perhaps a year older than Cermait. His eyes and mouth were opened wide. Manannan reached for a nearby blanket of cowhide and draped it over the body.
“No Fomorian has set foot in this camp.”
“None that you saw,” Manannan growled.

The following morning, the Dagda was buried beside a massive oak tree, the grave marked with his club and surrounded by white stones. The Tuatha de Danann sang an ancient song of brave warriors, bloody battles, and the triumph of gods.
But there was no music.

Under a crescent moon and a canopy of stars, the Dagda waited aboard Wave Sweeper. At the bow, Manannan leapt from his horse and paused before making his way astern. There, two gods stared at the sea in silence.
“I never thought I would see this day,” Manannan said finally.
“Nor did I.” The Dagda smiled. “I had hoped to outlive all of you. We have won the war and our people are safe, though I fear their trials are not over. Still, I am prepared to go home.”
Escorting the spirits of kings to the otherworld was a task for which Manannan had volunteered centuries before. He had never regretted it.
Until now.
“You are the greatest king our people have ever known,” Manannan solemnly informed his former liege. “It was an honor to fight by your side. Be assured, sire, I will avenge you if it takes all eternity.”
The Dagda nodded. “I will listen for the song of the Uaithne. Perhaps one day, it will bring me back to this land.”
Manannan said no more as Wave Sweeper turned toward the open sea and sailed into the night.

Cethlenn plucked at the gold strings of the Uaithne, ran her dagger across them, slammed the harp against the side of her boat. Aside from the thud of wood against wood, it made no other sound.
“Useless,” she seethed.
“What are your orders, your highness?”
Cethlenn whirled on her personal guard. “You will keep rowing!”
She stood the harp on the edge of the boat. “As for this thing…” The queen plunged her dagger between the strings, slashing every one of them. Satisfied, she tossed it overboard and watched until it disappeared into the cold darkness.
“…it will never be played again.”

Irish Sea
2018 A.D.
Aboard the Daly Treasure, Captain Sean Daly watched the monitor with mild fascination. Five hundred feet below the surface of the Irish Sea, his daughter and her future husband had recovered a baffling artifact.
“Almost there, dad.”
Sean removed his headset, ruffling his thinning gray hair. He limped out onto the open deck, wincing at the pain in his right knee. Were it not for the bullet wound that had caused his discharge two decades ago, he might still be serving in the Navy. But then, I’d be working for demons now. It was the knee that forced him to keep his weight in check. That and his love of diving. At fifty-one, Sean enjoyed looking trim in a wet suit.
The Ladybird broke the surface to port. After a moment, the bubble hatch atop the submersible flipped open and Meghan Daly stood up. She stretched toned, freckled arms over a head of saffron hair before pointing to the object clutched in the claws of the robotic arm, “Check that out.”
“Hold on.” Sean retrieved a pike pole from the deck and leaned over the edge of the boat. “Bring it here.”
Sitting beside Meghan, Connor Maguire rotated the robotic arm, bringing the open triangle of wood and gold closer to the boat.
Sean threaded the pole through the artifact. “OK, got it. Let it go.” The claw opened and Sean pulled it in. “Has some weight to it.”
“It’s a medieval style harp, isn’t it?” Meghan asked.
He lowered it gently to the deck. “Certainly seems like it.”
“Wonder how old it is?”
“Hard to say. It’s in fairly good shape—minus the strings, of course. Could be a fairly new reproduction. We should get it inside and—”
“Dad!”
Sean looked up to see Meghan pointing to starboard.
Closing rapidly, a silver superyacht glided across the water in absolute silence. Sean estimated it at one hundred and fifty feet long, just over twice the size of his own boat. Its bow came to a sharp narrow point. Two pylons extended from either side amidships and curved downward, ending in long struts. It resembled a sleek spacecraft more than a seagoing vessel.
The most striking aspect, however, was the man standing motionless on the bow. He was tall and thin with a long dark coat. In one hand, he held a spear that glinted in the morning sun and his eyes were fixed on the Daly Treasure.
Sean grabbed two mooring lines and tossed them to Meghan and Connor. “Tie her off and get aboard, quickly!”
“Dad, what’s wrong?”
“Just do it!”
Less than a minute later, Meghan and Connor were climbing aboard when the yacht came to a stop about sixty feet away. The man’s hair and trimmed beard were auburn and he was dressed completely in black. He raised his silver spear in greeting before leaping from the bow. Meghan gasped as the man landed with ease atop the water and strolled over to the Daly Treasure.
With an affable smile, the man bowed his head. “Captain Sean Daly, I presume.”
“That’s right.”
“Permission to come aboard?”
Sean knew the request was a mere courtesy. This man—no, this being—was one of the ‘gods’. Do I have a choice?
“Uh, permission granted.”
With that, the man levitated off the water and touched down gracefully on the deck.
“Forgive my intrusion, explorers. My name is Manny and I believe you have just found something that belongs to my people.”
“And what would that be?”
“The Uaithne.”
“The what?” Connor asked.
“The harp,” Sean replied, never averting his gaze. So maybe it’s a relic after all. Manny, Manny…there’s something familiar about him. “Everything we find must be brought back to the government of Southern Ireland for inspection. We’re not thieves, sir.”
Manny spread his arms wide, his smile brightening. “I accuse no one, children. You live under Fomorian rule and are thus indentured servants. Give to Ireland what is Ireland’s. Give to the Tuatha de Danann what is ours.”
“The Fomos won’t see it that way,” Connor said.
“The Fomorians were the ones who discarded the instrument ages ago,” Manny said. “Those animals wouldn’t know what to do with it.”
“How would you know?”
“Connor!” Sean snapped. The boy was well built and always ready for a fight, a combination that sometimes gave his mouth more liberty than it should have. In other words, a typical Irishman.
“Let’s just say I’ve been around for a very long time,” Manny replied.
“Oh my God,” Sean blurted as realization struck. “You’re Manannan.”
Manny pointed at Sean. “You’re very perceptive but Manny has a more modern sound. Don’t you think?”
Silent up to this point, Meghan moved beside her father. “Who is this?”
“Manannan mac Lir. He was the god of the Isle of Man and of the sea,” Sean explained.
Meghan and Connor looked from Sean to Manny. Almost in unison, they took a step back.
“And I am again, that’s the beauty of it,” Manny winked. “Though I dare say I treat the Manx people far better than Cethlenn treats you. Now, I would love to stay and regale you with exhilarating tales of yore but I must be off. The harp, if you please. It would be most unpleasant if I had to take it by force.”
“If the Fomos find out we turned it over to you, they’ll kill us.”
Manny extended a hand. “Then come with me. Live free in my kingdom with open access to the internet, television, telecommunications, unrestricted travel. The Tuatha de Danann are beneficent gods. You should see the parties we throw.”
“Uh, give us a moment, please.” Sean ushered the others into the cabin. “I know a bit about this man and his kind. If this harp is what I think it is, it supposedly belonged to one of their kings and has magical powers.”
“Are you turning it over to him?” Connor asked, running a hand through his walnut brown hair.
“You heard his offer.”
Meghan’s hazel eyes widened. “Dad, you can’t be serious. Leave with him? You don’t really believe he’s a god.”
“There is only one God for me, you know that, but the Fomos have taken everything from the people since all of these so-called gods returned six years ago. It kills me to abandon my home but I don’t want to see my grandchildren raised in the realm of monsters who cull the human population for food! Think about it, we’re the only family we have. Connor’s is scattered around the globe. None of us have any real attachments in the south anymore. If your mother were still alive today, she’d agree with me. This is our chance!”
Meghan and Connor looked at one another. She reached for his hand. He took it without hesitation.
“That’s the spirit,” Manannan called.
“Aren’t you also the god that escorted the dead to the afterlife?” Sean asked.
“That was one of the many services I provided, but fear not, my children. I’m saving that for one who is far more deserving.”

It was the largest castle Sean had ever visited. Large, perhaps, but not old. Until now, there had never been a castle in Port Erin, let alone a seventy thousand square meter fortress. While it was constructed in ancient style, complete with battlements around the roof, the ashlar veneer was not at all weathered and the electronic surveillance blended in as if planned rather than retrofitted.
“It even has central air,” Manannan was saying. “The marvels your people have created!”
“This is amazing,” Connor said. “What do you call this place?”
“Castle Dagda.”
“How long did it take to build?” Meghan asked.
“Oh, it’s still under construction, but we were able to move in after the first year.”
“Where did you stay before that?” Connor wondered aloud.
Manannan grinned. “Bay Hotel. Lovely place.”
Just then, a large white bird with feathers of silver and blue swooped over them and landed on the path ahead. After a moment, it began to grow and contort until it transformed into the most gorgeous woman Sean had ever set eyes on. She was barefoot, in form fitting jeans and a shimmering silver blouse. She stood a head shorter than Manannan.
“You found the Dagda’s harp?” she asked in a soft voice.
Perhaps it was her long wavy hair of sky blue that matched her eyes, or the curves of her perfect figure, or her smooth, unblemished skin. Now that I could worship.
“Actually, my love, the credit goes to these intrepid explorers.” Manannan introduced the divers to his wife, Fand. “I merely convinced them that we needed it more than the Fomorians.”
Fand held out her hand. Sean took it and gently kissed her knuckles. “You truly are a goddess of the sea.”
She graced him with a breathtakingly sweet smile. “Well, aren’t you the flatterer?”
Meghan and Connor merely bowed their heads nervously. Fand returned a smile before glancing at the harp. “It is in rather pathetic condition.”
Manannan ran his fingers along the ancient engravings in the harp’s body. “I shall have it restored by the finest craftsman on the island.”
“Even still, you must find someone to play it. You must still locate the Uaithne.”
“Pardon me, ma’am, but I thought we did,” Sean said.
“You have found the instrument,” she explained, “yet all instruments require a player. Without one, the other is useless. Yet only two can play this harp. When the Dagda was unavailable to do so, he appointed another whose talents were equal to his own. The young man and the harp were as one, both called Uaithne.”
“Some say the Uaithne’s talents surpassed that of the king,” Manannan added. “But such remarks were usually uttered in hushed tones. The Dagda carried a big stick.”
“Where is the Dagda?”
Sorrow clouded the sea god’s face. “Dead, I’m afraid. He died from a wound inflicted by Cethlenn many centuries ago. The saddest day of my life was escorting the Dagda to the otherworld. I swore that I would avenge him. With your help, children, I am one step closer.”
“With a harp?”
“The Uaithne’s music can inspire joy, inflict sorrow, or send its listeners into a state of deep sleep,” Fand explained. “But as I said, it will sing only for the Dagda or Uaithne.”
Her mate brightened. “And thanks to your remarkable internet, my children, I may have found her.”
“Oh, Manannan. Uaithne was a young man. Don’t you remember?”
“At one time perhaps, but I believe he has been reincarnated as a young woman, an extremely gifted musician with golden hair and eyes of violet. She does not merely play the harp, she makes love to it like no other I’ve witnessed since ages past.”
Fand crossed her arms. “And just how did you discover this woman?”
Manannan laughed. “YouTube.”
A stocky young man approached, dressed in Manx military uniform. He stopped before god and goddess and bowed deeply. “We have received a call from Ogma, my lord. He wishes to speak with you.”
“Very well, I’ll take it in the war room. Thank you, lieutenant.” Manannan turned to his guests. “Fand will show you to your temporary living quarters. You are guests here at the castle and she loves giving tours.” With that, the god of the sea hurried off.

JSmith
June 6th, 2013, 05:51 PM
http://www.amazon.com/Eyeball-Final-Failure-ebook/dp/B009UPQO38/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1370538019&sr=1-1&keywords=final+failure+eyeball+to+eyeballhttp://www.amazon.com/Eyeball-Final-Failure-ebook/dp/B009UPQO38/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1370538019&sr=1-1&keywords=final+failure+eyeball+to+eyeball (http://www.amazon.com/Eyeball-Final-Failure-ebook/dp/B009UPQO38/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1370538019&sr=1-1&keywords=final+failure+eyeball+to+eyeballhttp://www.amazon.com/Eyeball-Final-Failure-ebook/dp/B009UPQO38/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1370538019&sr=1-1&keywords=final+failure+eyeball+to+eyeball)http://d188rgcu4zozwl.cloudfront.net/content/B009UPQO38/images/cover.jpg
Final Failure


Eyeball to Eyeball

Book 1 of an Alternate
Cuban Missile Crisis

by Douglas Niles

.






Contents


Prologue: P-Hour (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

One: Operation Anadyr (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Two: Mission 3101 (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Three: ExComm (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Four: Countdown to Quarantine (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Five: DEFCON 2 (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Six: Foxtrot B-59 (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))



Pre-Crisis Timeline (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Author’s Note (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Acknowledgements (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Selected Bibliography (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

About the Author (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))







“Now the question really is what action we take which lessens the chance of a nuclear exchange, which obviously is the final failure.”



President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

ExComm Meeting, 18 October 1962

White House, Washington D.C.



Final Failure is a five-book story of alternate history, set during a fictional Cuban Nuclear War of 1962. Some of the characters are actual historical figures, while others are the creations of the author. In each case, the narrative follows the conventions of historical fiction with regard to accurate portrayal of events…until a fictional incident on October 27, 1962, becomes the point of departure into alternate history.

In other words, this is a true tale of What Might Have Been.



For additional details, and updates regarding upcoming books in the Final Failure series, please visit douglasniles.com (http://www.douglasniles.com/) or facebook.com/AuthorDouglasNiles (http://www.facebook.com/AuthorDouglasNiles).



To Michael S. Dobson,



In sincere remembrance of all the history, both actual and “alternate,” we’ve shared over the years





Prologue: P-Hour


“Let every nation know…that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”



President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Inaugural Address, 20 January 1961





22 October 1962

1852 hours EST (Monday Evening)

Oval Office, The White House

Washington D.C.



The Oval Office had been transformed into a reasonable approximation of a television studio. Sound and power cables snaked across the floor, which had been covered with a tarpaulin to protect the carpet. The massive wooden desk, constructed from timbers once part of the warship HMS Resolute, was now draped in black felt, with a backdrop of similar material, decorated only by the Presidential flag, hanging behind. Furniture was shunted aside to make room for multiple microphones, two cameras, recording equipment, and large banks of lights.

Now that all was ready, the technicians and publicity people withdrew. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy and the President’s secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, were the only people in the Oval Office as the President entered from the side door, walking stiffly as he approached his chair. With one hand propped on the corner of the desk, John Fitzgerald Kennedy limped to the seat and collapsed, wincing in pain.

His younger brother offered no reaction. Jack Kennedy’s back pain was a daily feature of his life, and the President resented any attempts at sympathy or what he described as coddling. Eventually, he would accept a shot or two of pain medication, but as the clock approached the moment that the administration had designated as P-Hour—7:00 PM on this crucial evening—such steroid and narcotic relief would have to wait.

The television cameras were already focused, hulking robots with glass eyes trained on the massive desk and the man sitting behind it. Bobby adjusted a pillow behind his brother’s back, helping him to sit straight in the chair.

“How’s that, Jack?” he asked. “Do you want another pillow? Should I move the chair back a bit?”

“No, it’s fine—thanks. Let’s get going,” the chief executive replied curtly.

Evelyn Lincoln reached a brush toward the President’s slightly mussed brown hair, but he waved her away and straightened it using his hand.

With a glance at the clock, JFK nodded his readiness.

“Better send them in,” he said.

Bobby went to the door and opened it, allowing Press Secretary Pierre Salinger to lead the cameramen and several sound and lighting technicians, all of them men dressed in suits, into the office. Each took up his station, the sound men kneeling before the black-draped platform as the bright lights came on one by one, washing the desk and its occupant in a bright arc of illumination. Bobby saw that Jack’s face was already composed, free of any evidence of pain. Instead, he looked stern, serious…Presidential.

With an eye on the clock, Salinger nodded at the President. “Alright, Sir. We’re on in ten seconds.” He paused, hand upraised, and counted down with his fingers.

“Three, two, one.”

John F. Kennedy stared squarely into the camera and began to speak, his familiar New England twang clipping each word with earnest intensity.

“Good evening, my fellow citizens.

“This government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the Soviet military buildup on the island of Cuba. Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere.

“Upon receiving the first preliminary hard information of this nature last Tuesday morning at 9 A.M., I directed that our surveillance be stepped up. And having now confirmed and completed our evaluation of the evidence and our decision on a course of action, this government feels obliged to report this new crisis to you in fullest detail.”





1901 hours EST (Monday Evening)

Harry S. Truman Annex

Key West Naval Air Station

Key West, Florida



Commander Alex Widener stood on the tarmac just outside of the pilots’ ready room and watched the last of his F6A Skyrays, turbojet engine roaring as the afterburner spewed yellow flame, shoot down the runway. The powerful delta-wing fighter rose swiftly into the sunset shimmering over the Florida Strait.

At last: the base’s entire fighter squadron, twelve aircraft, was aloft. The mission was combat air patrol, or CAP. The Skyray was a high-speed fighter capable of aerial combat at altitudes of 50,000 feet or more. Patrolling in pairs, the dozen planes of Widener’s squadron already approached their stations, circling lazily, strung out along the Keys and ready to intercept any threat from the south.

And the commander knew that, for the first time in a long, long time, those pilots on the CAP mission faced the possibility of actual combat. Key West was the US territory closest to the island of Cuba, and Cuba had been the focus of an awful lot of American scrutiny over the last few months—scrutiny that had been immensely heightened in this past week. Widener, the base CO, was certain that the President’s speech tonight, the television address announced only earlier in the day, would deal with the crisis.

Having seen the last of his charges into the sky, the commander looked at the hangars and the still-crowded assembly areas on the tarmac. Key West had never hosted so many planes, he knew: In addition to the fighter squadron, he’d been tasked with housing a squadron of RF8A Crusader low-range reconnaissance aircraft and a detachment of large, modern F4 Phantom fighters. He had just learned that a battery of Hawk antiaircraft missiles was on the way from Fort Meade, Maryland, and he been ordered to find space for a full Marine Air Group, fighters and ground-attack planes, that could be ordered here any day from California.

As he returned to the ready room, he was fully aware that something big was going on. Inside the steamy quonset hut, Chief Petty Officer Sullivan adjusted the rabbit ears on the little black-and-white television set, and by the time Widener had reached his desk, the picture was at least recognizable as the President. That Bostonian voice, flat and distinctive, was unmistakable even over the slight hiss of the feeble reception, and as he listened Widener immediately realized that things were every bit as serious as he had suspected.

“The characteristics of these new missile sites indicate two distinct types of installations,” Kennedy said. “Several of them include medium-range ballistic missiles, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead for a distance of more than 1,000 nautical miles. Each of these missiles, in short, is capable of striking Washington, D.C., the Panama Canal, Cape Canaveral, Mexico City, or any other city in the southeastern part of the United States, in Central America, or in the Caribbean area.”

The commander nodded his head in appreciation of the tactic. The President was making it clear that this was not just a problem for the United States, but a threat to the entire hemisphere. Widener had voted for Nixon in the ’60 election, and had been vocally skeptical of the young Democratic Chief Executive following the debacle at the Bay of Pigs—when JFK had refused to authorize the air and naval support that might have given the anti-Castro Cubans of the invasion force a chance at survival. But he could only approve of Kennedy’s resolute approach to the current situation.

He squinted as a picture, a photo reconnaissance shot with labels indicating various installations, replaced the President’s face on the screen. The picture was too fuzzy to make out the details, but he knew he was looking at a missile base on the island nation just ninety miles to the south.

“Additional sites not yet completed appear to be designed for intermediate-range ballistic missiles—capable of traveling more than twice as far—and thus capable of striking most of the major cities in the Western Hemisphere, ranging as far north as Hudson Bay, Canada, and as far south as Lima, Peru,” the President continued, ticking off facts like a prosecutor.

“In addition, jet bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, are now being uncrated and assembled in Cuba, while the necessary air bases are being prepared.…”

1902 hours EST (Monday evening)

Newsroom

NBC Washington Bureau

Washington, D.C.



The reporters clustered around the large TV monitor and watched the address in uncharacteristic silence. Each was aware of history in the making. Each knew that this was a major story, and each mentally ticked off every source that might provide a unique vantage. Each journalist planned phone calls, envisioned interviews, thought about hypothetical assignments.

And each of them, but one, was a man.

Stella Widener didn’t take notes. The President’s address to the nation was being recorded right here in the newsroom, and she would consult the film record—probably many times—before writing her story. In fact, she had written the story, had pieced together the situation before anyone else at her network. But when she’d presented it to her news director just this morning, he’d order her to kill it—because of pressure from the White House. Now, she could only stare at the screen, at that handsome, grim face. She listened to the chilling words in a room that was otherwise silent until, finally, her cynical and worldly colleagues could no longer restrain the need to comment.

“Damn, I thought for sure it was going to be Berlin again,” one veteran newsman finally remarked, when JFK paused to take a breath.

“Nah, this year it’s all about Castro,” another replied knowingly. “And the Russians—this is some serious stuff.”

“Hey, Stella,” said a third. “Good thing you got out of Moscow when you did—they’d probably be sending you to a gulag if you hadn’t finished filming two months ago!”

The gallows humor got a good laugh, heartened by the professional jealousy these men felt for the woman who had scooped them all with the first American film footage shot inside the Kremlin. Since her return to D.C. in late September, Stella had endured a constant barrage of suggestive remarks as veteran newshounds badgered her about how she had gotten Khrushchev to allow her to film the documentary. They wouldn’t believe the truth—that it was good old-fashioned stubbornness and perseverance. She was a good reporter who relied on her skills and professional acumen to get the story.

But, she remembered, there was one dramatic exception. She flushed at a private memory: herself as a young reporter for the Boston Globe…a visit to a hotel suite to interview Massachusetts’ young, handsome, and recently married senator…the interview that had propelled her career to undreamed of heights…the closeness of that familiar voice, and face, that filled the television screen before her now.

“Shh!” she said impatiently, trying to hear the speech—and to will herself away from the guilty memory. The men complied, no doubt because they, too, were fascinated by the portentous address. The President looked tired, Stella thought, as JFK continued. And kind of angry, as well.

“This urgent transformation of Cuba into an important strategic base—by the presence of these large, long-range, and clearly offensive weapons of sudden mass destruction—constitutes an explicit threat to the peace and security of all the Americas, in flagrant and deliberate defiance of the Rio Pact of 1947, the traditions of this nation and hemisphere, the joint resolution of the 87th Congress, the Charter of the United Nations, and my own public warnings to the Soviets on September 4 and 13. This action also contradicts the repeated assurances of Soviet spokesmen, both publicly and privately delivered, that the arms buildup in Cuba would retain its original defensive character, and that the Soviet Union had no need or desire to station strategic missiles on the territory of any other nation.”

One reporter dashed to a typewriter at the back of the room, and seconds later the machine’s keys chattered loudly, a frantic cadence underlying the urgency of the speech. No one else tore himself away, at least not yet.

“Do you suppose it’s war?” someone mused rhetorically.

“No,” Stella replied. “He wouldn’t be announcing it like this if it was.” She couldn’t help thinking of her brother and father, and knew that if it came to war, they would both be on the front lines.

“The size of this undertaking makes clear that it has been planned for some months,” the President accused. “Yet, only last month, after I had made clear the distinction between any introduction of ground-to-ground missiles and the existence of defensive antiaircraft missiles, the Soviet Government publicly stated on September 11 that, and I quote, ‘the armaments and military equipment sent to Cuba are designed exclusively for defensive purposes,’ that there is, and I quote the Soviet Government, ‘there is no need for the Soviet Government to shift its weapons for a retaliatory blow to any other country, for instance Cuba,’ and that, and I quote their government, ‘the Soviet Union has so powerful rockets to carry these nuclear warheads that there is no need to search for sites for them beyond the boundaries of the Soviet Union.’

“That statement was false.”





1905 hours EST (Monday Evening)

Bachelor Officers’ Quarters

82nd Airborne Division

Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Second Lieutenant Greg Hartley was drunk, but not drunk enough. It seemed that the 82nd Airborne was going to war: all leaves cancelled for the entire unit, new orders coming down practically by the hour, a general stir of excitement permeating the ranks of officers and men. Still, the division’s junior officers had been issued one last allotment of two beers apiece—just for today. Hartley had quickly consumed his own pair of Old Milwaukees, and since late afternoon had been buying bottles from his fellow officers. The going rate was $2.00 apiece.

In Hartley’s somewhat fog-shrouded mind, it had been a good use of $14.00. Now, however, although he had money in his wallet and thirst in his throat, the supply seemed to have dried up. Having struck out on his last pass through the hall, he staggered slightly as he entered the BOQ’s common room, standing behind a dozen or so other junior officers who all had their attention glued to the television set.

President Kennedy was talking. Hartley didn’t want to watch, or listen, but like a moth drawn to some horrible, consuming flame, he found himself paying attention to his Commander in Chief’s stark, frightening words.

“Only last Thursday, as evidence of this rapid offensive buildup was already in my hand, Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko told me in my office that he was instructed to make it clear once again, as he said his government had already done, that Soviet assistance to Cuba, and I quote, ‘pursued solely the purpose of contributing to the defense capabilities of Cuba,’ that, and I quote him, ‘training by Soviet specialists of Cuban nationals in handling defensive armaments was by no means offensive, and if it were otherwise,’ Mr. Gromyko went on, ‘the Soviet Government would never become involved in rendering such assistance.’

“That statement also was false.”

1910 hours EST (Tuesday very early morning)

Chairman’s Office, Kremlin

Moscow, Russian SSR

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics



Communist Party Chairman Nikita Khrushchev, his fist clenched so tightly that the paper crumpled in his hand, read a translated version of the speech as the actual broadcast—carried to Europe by America’s imperial communications satellite, Telstar—droned from a radio speaker nearby. The translation had been delivered to him just during the last hour, courtesy of the American ambassador to the USSR.

In the large but Spartan office with the chairman was Foreign Minister Gromyko, recently returned from the United States, as well as Khrushchev’s military adviser, Defense Minister Rodion Malinovsky. Gromyko’s round face was beet red, his flabby jaw clenched as tightly as possible. Malinovsky’s eyes remained downcast.

The other two men read from their own copies of the speech, and they understood the challenge that Kennedy was presenting them all. Both studiously avoided looking at the chairman.

“Acting, therefore, in the defense of our own security and of the entire Western Hemisphere, and under the authority entrusted to me by the Constitution as endorsed by the Resolution of the Congress, I have directed that the following initial steps be taken immediately,” declared the American Commander in Chief.

“First: To halt this offensive buildup, a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being initiated. All ships of any kind bound for Cuba from whatever nation or port will, if found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons, be turned back. This quarantine will be extended, if needed, to other types of cargo and carriers. We are not at this time, however, denying the necessities of life as the Soviets attempted to do in their Berlin blockade of 1948.”

“How dare he!” Khrushchev demanded hoarsely. “We will destroy him! He will not—he cannot—an impudent neophyte—a mere boy wearing man’s pants!” But the bombast sounded hollow even in his own ears, and the familiar fears rose up.

Have I made a terrible mistake? If only they had discovered the missiles a week, two weeks, from now! All the launchers would be in place, ready to fire! What if…? His thoughts were jumbled, chaotic. He needed to think, to decide, to act! But all he could do was read, and listen, and feel a growing sickness in the pit of his stomach.

The President of the United States continued. “Second: I have directed the continued and increased close surveillance of Cuba and its military buildup. The foreign ministers of the Organization of American States, in their communiqué of October 6, rejected secrecy on such matters in this hemisphere. Should these offensive military preparations continue, thus increasing the threat to the hemisphere, further action will be justified. I have directed the Armed Forces to prepare for any eventualities; and I trust that in the interest of both the Cuban people and the Soviet technicians at the sites, the hazards to all concerned of continuing this threat will be recognized.

“Third: It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.”

1914 hours EST (Monday evening)

“The Tank:” Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting Room

E-Ring, Pentagon, Washington D.C.



Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis LeMay chomped down hard on his cigar, then eased the grip of his jaw so that he could furiously puff the faint coal back into fire. All the while he glowered at the man on the television screen. After a few minutes, he couldn’t stand it any longer, pulling the cigar from his mouth and glaring at the Joint Chiefs of Staff seated around him at the table.

Clearly the chairman, General Maxwell Taylor, wasn’t going to say anything. Taylor had parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, had finally risen to be the highest ranking office in the United States Armed Services. Yet now, at the whim of this piss-ant politician from New England, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff seemed frozen and helpless.

It was too much for LeMay. “This is goddamn appeasement! That’s what it is! Christ, we should have bombed the crap out of those sites last week, when we first found out they were there! Instead, we’re pissing around with this ‘quarantine’ bullshit. We may never get another chance like this again!”

LeMay viewed the world from a soldier’s perspective, and he was one hell of a soldier. A man of immense physical courage, he had led waves of bombers in dangerous, low-level raids during World War Two, until he was promoted to command the devastating strategic bombing campaign that finally brought Japan to her knees. He had famously declared “All war is immoral…if you let that bother you, you’re not a good soldier.” Now his job, one he viewed with intense and singular focus, was to see that if the next war came, the United States of America would prevail.

“And how a blockade is going to help, when the missiles are already there, is beyond me,” Army Chief of Staff Earle Wheeler noted glumly.

“Doesn’t he understand that we have ten times as many nukes as Khrushchev?” LeMay demanded in exasperation, realizing that Kennedy knew that fact very well. “That we have a bomber force that can hit the Russkis upside and down, without even launching our rockets? Hell, they don’t have a single bomber that can reach our territory with enough fuel left to turn around and fly home again!”

An Air Force colonel entered the room without knocking. “Sorry to interrupt, Sir,” he said, reporting to LeMay. “But you should know that all units have confirmed Secretary of Defense McNamara’s order raising our readiness level to DEFCON 3.”

“About goddamn time,” the Air Force chief of staff replied, stuffing his cigar back into his mouth. DEFCON 3 was still two levels short of launching the nuclear strike that Strategic Air Command had been preparing for, but at least it was a step in the right direction. The President had ordered the increase in readiness about an hour before his speech. Now additional strategic bombers were being fueled and armed, leaves canceled for airmen and officers alike, and on each base some of the pilots went to their ready rooms, standing by for orders that might come through at any time.

But DEFCON 3 was too small of a step, for all that. Grimly, LeMay hunched forward, planting his elbows on the table as his eyes tried to bore a hole through the television screen. Kennedy had changed tacks now, directing his words—which, in Florida, were translated into Spanish and simultaneously broadcast southward from some dozen different television and radio towers—to the citizens of Fidel Castro’s island nation.

“Finally, I want to say a few words to the captive people of Cuba, to whom this speech is being directly carried by special radio facilities. I speak to you as a friend, as one who knows of your deep attachment to your fatherland, as one who shares your aspirations for liberty and justice for all. And I have watched and the American people have watched with deep sorrow how your nationalist revolution was betrayed—and how your fatherland fell under foreign domination. Now your leaders are no longer Cuban leaders inspired by Cuban ideals. They are puppets and agents of an international conspiracy which has turned Cuba against your friends and neighbors in the Americas, and turned it into the first Latin American country to become a target for nuclear war—the first Latin American country to have these weapons on its soil.

“These new weapons are not in your interest. They contribute nothing to your peace and well-being. They can only undermine it. But this country has no wish to cause you to suffer or to impose any system upon you. We know that your lives and land are being used as pawns by those who deny your freedom. Many times in the past, the Cuban people have risen to throw out tyrants who destroyed their liberty. And I have no doubt that most Cubans today look forward to the time when they will be truly free—free from foreign domination, free to choose their own leaders, free to select their own system, free to own their own land, free to speak and write and worship without fear or degradation. And then shall Cuba be welcomed back to the society of free nations and to the associations of this hemisphere.”





1915 hours EST (Monday night)

Casa Uno, Government Headquarters

El Chico, Cuba

The Spanish-language broadcast of the address had quite a few listeners across the “imprisoned island,” with none paying more attention than a quartet of men seated around a bare wooden table on the second floor of this palatial villa. Cigar smoke clouded the air, much of it emanating from the tall, bearded figure at the head of the table.

Fidel Castro’s eyes were narrowed and his lips compressed in an expression of unconcealed anger. To his right sat his brother, Raul, who listened with a somber air of resignation.

“Eso es basura!” snapped the Cuban leader. “What bullshit! He accuses us of aggression! And all the while his spyplanes fly back and forth above me!”

The third man at the table wore the uniform of a Soviet Army officer. He was Major General Issa Pliyev, commanding officer of Operation Anadyr, the Soviet project to install missiles in Cuba. In addition to the missile batteries, Pliyev commanded some 40,000 highly trained, well-equipped Red Army troops, some of them support units for the missles and supply chain. No less than 10,000 of those men were combat soldiers of the first class, organized into four motorized rifle regiments and deployed around Cuba. A squadron of IL-28 Ilyushin bombers—capable of carrying nuclear bombs—and MiG 21 fighters, the front-line Soviet interceptor, had also been delivered to the island.

Still, Pliyev was widely known to be skeptical of the mission and its prospects, and his dour expression indicated that nothing he was hearing now did anything to improve his outlook.

“And don’t forget la Bahia de Cochinas!” snapped the fourth man, brooding and handsome, clad in an unmarked fatigue shirt and wearing a black beret on his head. Ernesto “Che” Guevara was widely known to be Castro’s right hand man, and had been instrumental in bringing the Soviets and Cubans together for the breathtakingly ambitious Operation Anadyr. Now he inflamed El Máximo Lider’s mind as he invoked the abortive landing at the Bay of Pigs, a year and a half earlier.

“Yes!” Castro agreed with a shout. “This President has the audacity to send our own traitors against us—only to abandon them on our shores! We know he is a coward. But is he a madman as well?”

“Perhaps he is crazy like a fox, mi lider,” Che suggested. “The Americans are ever striving to get their lackeys to do their fighting for them—in their war against the Nazis, and too at the Bay of Pigs.”

Castro nodded, absorbing the famed guerilla’s words, knowing of Che’s long service to the socialist cause. Now, Guevera’s eyes were bright, but he watched the Soviet general through narrowed eyes, as if wary of imminent betrayal. If Pliyev noticed the revolutionary’s attention, he gave no sign, merely scowling as he strained to make out Kennedy’s words.

“My fellow citizens, let no one doubt that this is a difficult and dangerous effort on which we have set out. No one can foresee precisely what course it will take or what costs or casualties will be incurred. Many months of sacrifice and self-discipline lie ahead—months in which both our patience and our will shall be tested, months in which many threats and denunciations will keep us aware of our dangers. But the greatest danger of all would be to do nothing.”

Abruptly, Fidel pushed back his chair so hard that it toppled over. Standing up, waving his cigar like it was a weapon, he stalked around the room. “Eso hijo de puta!” he cursed. “That son of a bitch! This means war! I will mobilize my army tonight! Let the yanquis come! They have no idea of the hellstorm that will greet them on our beaches!”

1917 hours EST (Monday night)

Flight Deck

CVN-65 USS Enterprise

Caribbean Sea



A night landing on an aircraft carrier was never an easy task. Now, as Lieutenant Derek Widener maneuvered his F4 “Phantom” toward the stern of the massive ship, he felt the added complexity of martial tension. The tingling sense of alertness had permeated his two-hour flight, a combat air patrol over Enterprise and her supporting vessels.

Ensign King, in the second seat, fed him altitude and bearing information as the pilot kept his eyes on his airspeed indicator, and on that broad flight deck before and below him. The Big E’s landing lights burned low, a security precaution. The presence of the dark island of Cuba—the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay lay 150 miles to the north—seemed to exert a dark gravitational pull far in excess of any natural physical force. Too, Soviet submarines were reported to be in nearby waters. Their torpedoes represented a lethal threat even to the mighty vessel.

Still, Widener was a gifted pilot, and his skills and training took over as the big jet settled and slowed, the flight deck growing gradually larger in his field of view. The world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was a massive ship, the largest warship ever launched, and he should sure as hell be able to land on it! He watched the landing officer, and cut his engine at the man’s throat-slash sign.

The Phantom, with its phenomenally powerful twin jet engines and ridiculously small, swept wings, thumped to the deck, and the tailhook snagged the arresting gear. With a sudden shock of deceleration, the lieutenant jerked forward, restrained by his safety harness as he felt the aircraft come to a sudden halt.

Quickly his crew chief approached, wheeling up a ladder as Widener popped the canopy and stiffly climbed out of the seat. Ensign King followed him out of the cockpit to step onto the platform atop the large, rolling ladder.

“Nice landing, LT,” said Petty Officer Tuttle from below, with an enthusiastic thumbs up. “You might want to hurry into the briefing compartment. The President is still giving his speech, and the comm guys have managed to pull in a live feed.”

“Thanks, Sam, I will,” Widener replied, scooting down the ladder by sliding his hands along the twin railings. On the deck, he unstrapped his helmet as he jogged to the hatch leading into the pilots’ compartment. Inside, several dozen fliers were gathered on the bench seats of the briefing room, watching a fuzzy signal on the television set up at the podium. Widener realized he’d arrived just in time to hear the conclusion of the address.

“The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are; but it is the one most consistent with our character and courage as a nation and our commitments around the world,” President Kennedy said. For the first time in Widener’s memory, JFK look rather old and tired. His demeanor on the small screen remained stern and unwavering.

“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.

“Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right; not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and, we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved.

“Thank you and good night.”

1918 hours EST (Monday evening)

Oval Office, The White House

Washington D.C.



The bright klieg lights went out, and the President blinked, squinting into the sudden semi-darkness. He pulled out a handkerchief and wiped the sweat from his forehead as the technicians quickly began to gather up their equipment. Bobby stepped forward to offer a hand, but Jack curtly shook his head, pushing himself to his feet with only a small grimace.

“How do you think it went?” he asked, as the two brothers and Press Secretary Salinger started for the side door.

“It was perfect,” Bobby said sincerely. “The right tone, tough and steady—a solid, measured response.”

“You said exactly what needed to be said,” Salinger chimed in.

“Well, that’s it then, unless the son of a bitch fouls it up,” JFK said, holding up a hand to brace himself against the frame as he passed through the office door.

Secret Service agent Bob Morris reached out to open the next door, and the President nodded his thanks as he passed through. Morris fell in behind the Chief Executive as he moved toward the elevator.

“I’m going to look in on Jackie and the kids,” Jack announced, finally leaving his brother and his press secretary behind. The Secret Service agent followed him to the elevator but stopped outside the car.

“Good night, Mr. President,” he said.

“Good night, Bob. And thanks,” JFK said wearily, before the door closed and the elevator carried him up to the Residence, where his wife and two children were waiting.



* * *



The sound room resembled a closet, wedged into a small space between the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room. Though the speech had ended several minutes earlier, two reels of tape still rolled, steadily spooling duplicate copies of dead air. Finally, Ron Pickett reached out and turned the knobs, shutting the recorders down.

He was sweating, slightly. Even though the speech had been broadcast on all the networks and was recorded by countless agencies both official and private, he felt the burden of making sure that his recordings were perfect. The taping machines that almost filled this small room would provide the official documentation of the President’s speech. Perhaps nobody would ever know about them, or hear them, but even so Rickett felt the pressure of that responsibility like a physical weight.

It was a weight he bore willingly, even eagerly, because he could do it so well. Now he checked the needles, reassured that they all rested at “0,” accurately indicating that there was no sound reaching the microphones in the Presidential office. The needles monitoring the mics in the conference room flickered slightly, and Pickett knew that the cleaning crew was in there, quietly dusting, moving the chairs around. A vacuum cleaner suddenly started to whine, and the needles flickered upward.

Good. All was as it should be. Pickett boxed up the two duplicate tapes of the speech, labeled each in his precise, neatly blocked hand, and placed them on the shelf next to the tapes of all that month’s eventful discussion. History had been made, was still being made, in this building, across the city, the nation, and the world—but that reality was far from his mind.

Instead, as he left the room, closed the door, and locked it under the watchful eyes of Secret Service agent Morris, Ron Pickett merely felt the calm satisfaction of a job well done.



2300 hours

Soviet Submarine B-59, Submerged

1300 miles NE of Cuba, Atlantic Ocean



The vast, rolling expanse of black ocean waters parted suddenly, churning into froth as a metallic prow and sleek, tapered sail emerged from the sea to glisten in the night air. Waves spilled to port and starboard as the rest of the boat broke the surface. Immediately the three diesel engines chugged into life, propelled the submarine even as they spun additional energy into the dynamos that began to reenergize the exhausted batteries.

Captain (2nd Rank) Valentin Savitsky, as usual, was the first one up through the hatch into the small observation platform atop the sail. He couldn’t see stars through the overcast skies above, but at least the ocean surface was reasonably calm. The long, narrow deck below him remained above the waves, and he immediately opened the speaking tube and addressed his executive officer, in the command compartment directly below.

“Send the men up to the surface in shifts. Every man gets thirty minutes of fresh air. We will submerge as soon as the batteries are recharged.”

“Da, captain,” replied Commander Vasily Arkhipov, gratitude in his voice.

Indeed, that gratitude would soon permeate the entire boat, Savitsky knew. The submarine, a diesel-powered boat of the Foxtrot class, had been designed for the defense of the Soviet coasts and nearby ocean waters. It was a fairly reliable vessel, only four years old, but the design lacked several features of more modern submarines—in fact, except for the fact that it was larger, the Foxtrots were not very different from late WW2-era German U-boats.

And they had never been intended for a mission like this. Savitsky and his crew had been at sea for more than three weeks, running submerged except when they needed to surface to recharge the sub’s powerful batteries by running the diesel engines—and then only in the dead of night. They had already crossed some ten thousand miles of ocean, venturing farther from Mother Russia than any Soviet submarine had ever done before. And for weeks, now, the problems had been mounting.

The submarine was one of four Foxtrots dispatched toward Cuba as part of Operation Anadyr, but Savitsky had no means of communicating directly with the other boats. Contact and orders from Soviet Naval headquarters, in Murmansk, was spotty, with a few long-range instructions reaching the submarine when it was on the surface. But those orders had contained precious little information, and absolutely nothing about the rest of the submarines, or anything else involving Cuba or the Americans. And constrained by the need for radio silence, Savitsky had been unable to send any reports back to the USSR, or to any other Soviet Bloc ships at sea. Secrecy in this mission was paramount: the Americans were not to have any clue that the Soviet navy was venturing into the western Atlantic Ocean.

He and his crew existed in their own little claustrophobic universe, and it was a universe growing more uninhabitable by the day. Forty-eight hours ago the boat’s ventilation system had failed, and nothing the crew had done had been able to get the central fan unit to operate again. The captain suspected that the culprit was the high humidity, a corrosive effect of the steamy air caused by the warmth of these tropical waters. To compensate, they kept the hatches open between compartments, but even so the temperature in the boat was running at a steady 110 degrees Fahrenheit. In the engine room, where the diesel’s were not cooling properly, it was even worse, ranging 20 or 30 degrees warmer than the rest of the boat—a virtual oven.

And the air quality was going from bad to worse. Carbon dioxide concentrations had risen to dangerous levels, and it was not uncommon for one or more of Savitsky’s sailors to faint at his post. The diesel coolers had become completely inoperative, probably clogged with salt, so the overheating engines continued to raise the temperature in the hull. The only respite from the poisonous air were these precious minutes atop the water, concealed only by the cloak of darkness.

The previous night they had surfaced into stormy seas. The B-59 had churned along, charging her batteries, but the thunderous waves sweeping over the deck had prevented the captain from allowing any of his crewmen to come up for a breath of fresh air. So they had sweltered and gasped through another day.

Wiping the spray from his forehead with an oily rag, the captain looked down to the foredeck, where sailors were already emerging from the forward hatch, stretching and breathing deeply as they escaped the stale air inside the hull.

“Captain?” Arkhipov’s voice echoed in the speaking tube.

“What is it, Vasily Andreivich?”

“Feklisov, sir. He asks for permission to forego his deck time. He doesn’t want to leave his baby.”

Savitsky uttered a bark of laughter. “Permission granted,” he said.

He thought of Lt. Commander Anatoly Feklisov and his charge, which was the one piece of modern equipment on this old-fashioned boat. The “baby” was a very special weapon, a type 53-58 torpedo. Like the other twenty-one torpedoes of B-59’s weapon complement, it was capable of running for more than six miles under the ocean while it sought the metal hull of an enemy ship. It could be pre-set before launch to curve through an arc, to climb or to dive, as it sought a target. Unlike the other torpedoes, however, it was not equipped with a standard TNT-explosive warhead. Instead, Feklisov’s torpedo was capped by the RDS-9 warhead, a 10-kiloton nuclear bomb. The weapon was nearly as powerful as the one the Americans had dropped on Hiroshima during WW2. It was this torpedo that made the B-59 a truly powerful ship of war. Feksilov would do well to keep a close eye on that device.

An hour later, again below decks, the captain made his way to the forward torpedo room, where he found the lieutenant commander, as usual, stationed right beside the nuclear-armed torpedo, encased as it was in its shiny gray tube. Eleven of the submarine’s twelve torpedo tubes were loaded with conventional weapons, but the twelfth tube was empty, merely waiting for this lethal device to be activated and slipped into firing position. Once that had been done, a process that took only about five minutes, the B-59 could unleash hell against any American warship, or even devastate a small fleet.

“How fares the boat, Comrade Captain?” asked the bookish younger officer. Lieutenant Commander Anatoly Feklisov was not so much a sailor as an engineer, in the captain’s eyes. It was his job to tend the nuclear warhead, to maintain it, and to make sure that it would work if Savitsky ever ordered it to be fired. But the captain liked and trusted the young man, who sometimes seemed scarcely older than a boy.

“Not so good, Anatoly Yakovlivich,” Savitsky replied glumly. “The air is shit, and getting shittier.” He looked at the sleek gray container next to Feklisov, and thought about the power there. “But at least we can kick the Americans in the ass if they try to give us any trouble, eh?” he added, forcing a laugh.

“That we can, Captain. That we can,” Feklisov agreed.

Meanwhile, the temperature in the engine room continued to climb, and the air grew even more stale, heavy with CO2. The duty engineer, feeling dizzy, had to step forward for a moment, to get a few breaths of the comparably “fresh” air from the command compartment in the middle of the boat. He didn’t hear the noise, only a small snap really, that emanated from the rear of the engine room.

There, in the very farthest aft part of the boat, a tired roller bearing had been turning relentlessly for more than three weeks, cradling the steady rotation of the starboard propeller shaft. Now, suddenly, a tiny fatigue crack broke the perfect seal where the shaft passed through the outer hull of the submarine. Unseen and unsensed by any crewmember, the crack was so small that only the tiniest trickle of water, at first, could force its way into the boat.






One: Operation Anadyr




“What if we throw a hedgehog down Uncle Sam’s pants?”



Communist Party Chairman Nikita Khrushchev

JSmith
July 4th, 2013, 04:07 AM
Looks like the book is only in Polish at this point

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51rc7vEMraL._SY300_.jpg






Pakt Ribbentrop Beck [Paperback]

Piotr Zychowicz (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&field-author=Piotr%20Zychowicz&search-alias=books&sort=relevancerank) (Author)
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Available from these sellers (http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/8375109215/ref=dp_olp_0?ie=UTF8&condition=all).



1 new (http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/8375109215/ref=dp_olp_new?ie=UTF8&condition=new) from $41.57




Book Description

Publication Date: 2012
W dziejach narodow sa chwile, gdy trzeba zacisnac zeby i isc na bolesne koncesje. Ustapic, aby ratowac panstwo przed zniszczeniem, a obywateli przed zaglada. W takiej sytuacji znalazla sie Polska w 1939 roku. Piotr Zychowicz konsekwentnie dowodzi w tej ksiazce, ze decyzja o przystapieniu do wojny z Niemcami w iluzorycznym sojuszu z Wielka Brytania i Francja byla fatalnym bledem, za ktory zaplacilismy straszliwa cene. Historia mogla sie jednak potoczyc inaczej. Zamiast porywac sie z motyka na slonce, twierdzi autor, powinnismy byli prowadzic Realpolitik. Ustapic Hitlerowi i zgodzic sie na wlaczenie Gdanska do Rzeszy oraz wytyczenie eksterytorialnej autostrady przez Pomorze. A nastepnie razem z Niemcami wziac udzial w ataku na Zwiazek Sowiecki. 40 bitnych polskich dywizji na froncie wschodnim przypieczetowaloby los imperium Stalina. Czy w 1939 roku na Zamku Krolewskim w Warszawie nalezalo podpisac pakt Ribbentrop-Beck...?



So below is the wikipedia page :)


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pact_Ribbentrop_-_Beck_(novel)

Pact Ribbentrop - Beck (novel)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pact_Ribbentrop_-_Beck_(novel)#mw-navigation), search (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pact_Ribbentrop_-_Beck_(novel)#p-search)
Pact Ribbentrop - Beck (Polish (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_language): Pakt Ribbentrop - Beck) is an alternative history (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternate_history) novel by a Polish writer and historian Piotr Zychowicz. The book, whose full title is Pact Ribbentrop - Beck, or How Poles could have defeated the Soviet Union (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_Union) alongside the Third Reich (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Reich) (Polish: Pakt Ribbentrop - Beck czyli jak Polacy mogli u boku III Rzeszy pokonać Związek Radziecki), was published in 2012 by Dom Wydawniczy Rebis from Poznań (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pozna%C5%84). The author argues that the government of the Second Polish Republic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Polish_Republic) should have accepted Adolf Hitler (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler)'s offer of a joint Polish - German attack on the Soviet Union, together capturing Moscow (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moscow). As Piotr Zychowicz stated in a November 2012 interview: "This book is my answer to the question that all Poles ask. And the question is: did we have to bungle up World War Two (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_Two) so badly? Did we have to lose half of our territory, together with Wilno (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilno) and Lwów (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lw%C3%B3w)? Did we have to lose our elites, which were slaughtered? Did we have to lose millions of our citizens, murdered by totalitarian occupiers, the Germans and the Soviets? Did we have to lose our independence for 50 years? The answer to these questions is politically incorrect, because Poland was not doomed to fail. And the answer is included in my book, in which I write that history could have been different".[1] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pact_Ribbentrop_-_Beck_(novel)#cite_note-1)
The webpage of the book states the following: "In the history of nations there are moments when one has to bite the bullet and allow for painful concessions. To give up in order to save the nation from destruction, and its citizens from slaughter. This was the situation of Poland in 1939. Piotr Zychowicz claims in his book that the decision to enter the war against Nazi Germany (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_Germany) in an illusive alliance with France and Great Britain, was a grave mistake, for which we paid a horrible price. History could have turned in a different way. Instead of biting off more than we could chew, we should have used realpolitik (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Realpolitik). We should have made concessions to Hitler, and agreed for annexation of the Free City of Danzig (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_City_of_Danzig) into the Third Reich (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Reich), as well as for the construction of an extraterritorial highway across the Polish Corridor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_Corridor). And then, together with the Germans, we should have attacked the Soviet Union. Forty valiant divisions of the Polish Army (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_Army), fighting on the Eastern Front (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Front) would have sealed the fate of Stalin's empire".[2] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pact_Ribbentrop_-_Beck_(novel)#cite_note-2)
The book was met with mixed opinions among Polish historians. Professor Andrzej Nowak (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrzej_Nowak_(historian)) called it "harmful and unwise", adding that it "fulfills the wish of Russian and other propagandists, who claim that Poland dreamed of joining Hitler to murder Jews, but did not do it because of her own stupidity".[3] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pact_Ribbentrop_-_Beck_(novel)#cite_note-3) Adam Stohnij of the military portal www.1939.pl (http://www.1939.pl) calles the book a "military Blitzkrieg (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blitzkrieg)", writing that Zychowicz "comes up with a daring argument. In the situation that Poland found itself right before the war, the only chance to survive was an alliance with the Third Reich".[4] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pact_Ribbentrop_-_Beck_(novel)#cite_note-4) Piotr A. Maciążek, a publicist of portal politykawschodnia.pl calls the book "a Polish Icebreaker (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icebreaker_(Suvorov))", writing that Pakt Ribbentrop - Beck is "undoubtedly one of the most interesting and controversial books, published in Poland in 2012. A heated discussion that ensued after its publication shows that this book was much needed".[5] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pact_Ribbentrop_-_Beck_(novel)#cite_note-5)
In the book, Zychowicz quotes a number of historians and publicists, such as Paweł Wieczorkiewicz (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pawe%C5%82_Wieczorkiewicz&action=edit&redlink=1), Andrzej Wielowieyski (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Andrzej_Wielowieyski&action=edit&redlink=1), Adolf Bocheński (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Adolf_Boche%C5%84ski&action=edit&redlink=1), Stanisław Mackiewicz (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanis%C5%82aw_Mackiewicz), Władysław Studnicki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W%C5%82adys%C5%82aw_Studnicki), Jerzy Łojek (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerzy_%C5%81ojek), Grzegorz Górski (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Grzegorz_G%C3%B3rski&action=edit&redlink=1), Rafał Ziemkiewicz (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rafa%C5%82_Ziemkiewicz), Stanisław Żerko (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Stanis%C5%82aw_%C5%BBerko&action=edit&redlink=1), Mieczysław Pruszyński (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mieczys%C5%82aw_Pruszy%C5%84ski&action=edit&redlink=1), Stanisław Swianiewicz (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanis%C5%82aw_Swianiewicz). He also provides citations from memoirs of such persons, as Władysław Anders (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W%C5%82adys%C5%82aw_Anders), Józef Beck (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%B3zef_Beck), Jan Szembek (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Szembek), Juliusz Łukasiewicz (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juliusz_%C5%81ukasiewicz), Clara Petacci (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Petacci), Kazimierz Sosnkowski (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazimierz_Sosnkowski), Edward Raczyński (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Raczy%C5%84ski), August Zaleski (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/August_Zaleski).
Contents



[hide (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pact_Ribbentrop_-_Beck_(novel)#)]

1 Plot summary (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pact_Ribbentrop_-_Beck_(novel)#Plot_summary)
2 See also (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pact_Ribbentrop_-_Beck_(novel)#See_also)
3 References (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pact_Ribbentrop_-_Beck_(novel)#References)
4 External links (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pact_Ribbentrop_-_Beck_(novel)#External_links)
Plot summary[edit (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pact_Ribbentrop_-_Beck_(novel)&action=edit&section=1)]

The author writes that if Poland had not opposed Adolf Hitler (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler) in September 1939, World War Two (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_Two) would have started on April 9, 1940, with a German attack on Western Europe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Europe). After capturing Paris (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris), and defeating Belgium (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgium), the Netherlands (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netherlands), Norway (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norway), Denmark (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denmark) and France (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/France), on June 21, 1941, the Wehrmacht (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wehrmacht), together with the Polish Army (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_Army), attacked the Soviet Union. In the winter of 1941/42, Soviet Empire ceases to exist. Poland and Germany divide its territory, but soon afterwards, mutual relationships deteriorate. At the same time, Germany keeps fighting Great Britain (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Britain), and its American ally. This war is costly, and by 1944, all main units of the Wehrmacht are in Western Europe, fighting the Anglo-Saxons, who had landed in France in summer 1944. In those circumstances, Warsaw (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw) begins secret negotiations with London (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London) and Washington (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington,_D.C.), eventually switching sides, and attacking the Third Reich (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Reich) in 1945. As Zychowicz writes: "At this point, Poland should have acted like Romania and Hungary in late stages of World War Two. Noticing German problems in the West, both countries initiated secret negotiations with the Allies. The British and the Americans gladly accepted the offer, understanding that it would weaken the potential of the Axis powers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axis_powers)". (page 82)
Finally, when the Third Reich prepares for a decisive battle in the West, Polish Army invades Germany. Surprised Wehrmacht does not fight the Poles, who capture Silesia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silesia), Eastern Prussia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Prussia), and Western Pomerania (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Pomerania), cutting off all lines of communication with German units which had remained in occupied Soviet Union. In August 1945, Western Allies capture Berlin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin), Adolf Hitler commits suicide, while Polish armored divisions clear Baltic States (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltic_States). Lithuania (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithuania), Latvia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latvia), and Estonia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estonia) join the federation of Poland, Belarus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belarus) and Ukraine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukraine): "The dream of Marshall Józef Piłsudski (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%B3zef_Pi%C5%82sudski) has become reality. Poland emerges as a great power. During a peace conference, which takes place at Polish Baltic Sea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltic_Sea) spa of Jurata (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jurata), Winston Churchill (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winston_Churchill), Harry Truman (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Truman) and Edward Śmigły-Rydz (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_%C5%9Amig%C5%82y-Rydz) discuss the future of Europe". (pages 22 - 23)

JSmith
July 4th, 2013, 04:17 AM
http://www.amazon.com/Christian-Nation-Frederic-C-Rich/dp/0393240118/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1372790429&sr=8-1


http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/5138esEL3HL._SX35_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00A3IZHHK/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb) Christian Nation: A Novel (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00A3IZHHK/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb)(Kindle Edition)
by Frederic C. Rich (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_aut?_encoding=UTF8&index=books&field-author=Frederic%20C.%20Rich)

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Kindle Edition (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00A3IZHHK)
$15.31
Deliver To

http://d188rgcu4zozwl.cloudfront.net/content/B00A3IZHHK/images/cover.jpg
CHRISTIAN NATION


— A Novel —

FREDERIC C. RICH
http://d188rgcu4zozwl.cloudfront.net/content/B00A3IZHHK/images/881878540.jpg
CONTENTS

Author’s Note (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

CHAPTER ONE (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

What They Said They Would Do (2029) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER TWO (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Indian Lake (2029) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER THREE (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Sanjay (1998) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER FOUR (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Tomorrow Belongs to Me (2005) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER FIVE (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Striving (2007) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER SIX (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Sarah (2008) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER SEVEN (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Passionate Intensity (2009) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER EIGHT (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Currents (2011–2012) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER NINE (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
It Can’t Happen Here (2012) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER TEN (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
The End of Law (2013) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER ELEVEN (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Not So Bad (2015) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER TWELVE (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
New Freedom (2016–2017) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER THIRTEEN (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Secession (2017) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER FOURTEEN (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Holy War (2018) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER FIFTEEN (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Siege (2019–2020) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER SIXTEEN (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Camp Purity (2020) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Assembly (2020–2022) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
October 9, 2022 (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER NINETEEN (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Born Again (2022) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER TWENTY (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Christian Nation (2024–2029) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Ripples (2029) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Afterword (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Acknowledgments (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Credits (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Copyright (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
AUTHOR’S NOTE (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

THIS NOVEL IS a work of speculative fiction. The speculation is about one possible course of American history had the McCain/Palin campaign won the 2008 election. Except for certain historical events and statements by public figures prior to election night 2008, the narrative is entirely fictional. Accordingly, all statements and actions of actual public figures and organizations following election night 2008 are the product of the author’s imagination; the appearance of such statements and actions in a work of fiction does not constitute an assertion that such person or entity would speak or act in that way in those circumstances.
In contrast to the actual public figures and organizations appearing in the novel, the other characters and organizations are purely fictional, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual organizations, is entirely coincidental. As Evelyn Waugh put it so well, “I am not I: thou art not he or she: they are not they.”

Religion begins by offering magical aid to harassed and bewildered men; it culminates by giving to a people that unity of morals and belief which seems so favorable to statesmanship and art; it ends by fighting suicidally in the lost cause of the past. For as knowledge grows or alters continually, it clashes with mythology and theology, which change with geological leisureliness.

—Will and Ariel Durant,
The Story of Civilization

CHAPTER ONE (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

What They Said They Would Do (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

2029 (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))


The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.

—Milan Kundera,

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting


[W]ould-be totalitarian rulers usually start their careers by boasting of their past crimes and carefully outlining their future ones.

—Hannah Arendt,

The Origins of Totalitarianism

ADAM TOLD ME TO START by writing about what I feel now. Sitting here, I don’t feel much except the faint phantom ache of a wound long since healed. It was only six weeks ago that I met Adam Brown. He and his wife, Sarah, are downstairs asleep. In front of me is a beige IBM Selectric II typewriter, disconnected and without memory, immune from the insatiable probings of the Purity Web, and thus the ultimate contraband. A man I hardly know has seated me in front of a typewriter and told me to remember and write. I’ve spent a long time staring at the egg-like ball of little letters wondering why I am here and what they really want from me.
Here are the facts. I was a lawyer and then a fighter for the secular side in the Holy War that ended in 2020 following the siege of Manhattan. Like so many others, I earned my release from three years of rehabilitation on Governors Island by accepting Jesus Christ as my savior. For the past five years I have lived as a free citizen of the Christian Nation. This is the only truth I have allowed myself. Can I really now think and write the words that express a different truth? Here they are then: I am no longer chained in my cell, but for five years I have been bound even more firmly by the fifty commandments of The Blessing and the suffocating surveillance of the Purity Web. The cloak of collective righteousness lies heavy on the land.
Before coming here, I did not ask myself how it happened. I have neither remembered nor grieved. But now I discover that recollection is there, a paper’s edge from consciousness. When I close my eyes I find flickers of memory: Emilie’s empty martini glass on our terrace, drinking in the sun, the day after we broke up. And I remember looking at the hard empty glass and remembering her skin soft and warm and full of the same sun only the day before. Hard and soft. Stone and skin. Memories flicker and stutter, old film freezing in the projector, slipping, lurching forward. Dissolving.
Before, I was a lawyer. I was good with words. I was organized. I was not, frankly, much interested in my feelings, although I was pretty good at telling a story. A story should start at the beginning, but exactly where this one began is still a mystery to me.
What is clear to me is that they did what they said they would do. This morning, Adam pulled from the wall of old-fashioned gray metal file cabinets a tattered manila folder marked “2006” filled with clippings. In the folder I found a small glossy pamphlet from a group promoting “Christian Political Action.” An affable-looking man stares back at me from the cover. Inside is a letter dated November 2006, just a year after I started at the law firm.
When the Christian majority takes over this country, there will be no satanic churches, no more free distribution of pornography, no more talk of rights for homosexuals. After the Christian majority takes control, pluralism will be seen as immoral and evil, and the state will not permit anybody the right to practice evil.
That certainly is clear. I have read this little brochure over and over, trying to remember when I first heard this message, this promise. Was I listening? I was twenty-five in 2006. I was not very good at listening at that age, at least to things I didn’t want to hear. But what about the people who should have been listening? My parents, for example. I try to imagine my father picking up this brochure from the table in the foyer of our little wooden Catholic church in Madison, New Jersey. What would he have thought when reading these words? Closing my eyes, I can see him, still sandy haired at fifty, his athletic frame softened by scotch and a desk job. A decent man, reading a letter from a fellow Christian threatening to remake his world. He would have looked up, a shadow crossing his handsome face, then thrown the brochure in the little box where people neatly discarded the copies of hymn lyrics. He would have gone to play golf.
They promised, in 2006, that if they succeeded in acquiring political power, “the state will not permit anybody the right to practice evil.” In 2006 I was a first-year associate at the law firm. I try to remember. Had I ever heard of Rushdoony, North, Coe, Dobson, Perkins, or Farris? Did I know anything about Brownback, Palin, Bachmann, DeMint, Santorum, Coburn, or Perry? I do remember watching maudlin confessions of adultery from buffoonish TV preachers, stoic big-haired wives at their sides. I knew vaguely that out there somewhere in America, in an America that was to me a dimly understood foreign land, there existed people—lots of people—who called themselves “born again” or “evangelical.” I wonder what I thought that meant. Something ridiculous about believers flying up to heaven in a longed-for event called “the rapture,” leaving behind those not saved to endure the tribulations of the apocalypse. But I do remember being surprised when a banker client told me that the Left Behind series of apocalyptic novels and films had a US audience not so far behind that of the Harry Potter franchise. Both were fantastic stories of magic and miracles—one benign and one that proved to be an early symptom of something far darker.
It was 2009, I think, after President McCain’s sudden death, that my best friend, Sanjay, first explained to me that behind the public face of the Christian right was a strange mix of fundamentalist theologies, all different and often at odds with one another but aligned in supporting the election of politicians who believe they speak to and for God, aligned in seeking to have their religiously based morals adopted into law, and aligned in rejecting the traditional notion of a “wall of separation” between church and state. Of these fundamentalist theologies, the most extreme, and in many ways most influential, were dominionism and reconstructionism.
“Dominionism,” Sanjay explained, “holds that Christians need to establish a Christian reign on earth before Jesus returns for the second coming. Dominionists also believe that Christians in general have a God-given right to rule, but more particularly, in preparation for the second coming of Christ, that Christians have the responsibility to take over every aspect of political and civil society. And dominionism is often associated with a fringe theology called reconstructionism, which emphasizes that this reconstructed Christian-led society should be governed strictly accordingly to biblical law.”
How bored we were at first with Sanjay’s preoccupation with this dark strain of American belief. I didn’t know, and Sanjay only later discovered, that this dominionist outlook had influenced not only the Wasilla Assembly of God, the Pentecostal church attended by Sarah Palin in Alaska, but many thousands of others around the country. What had once been a fringe of exotic beliefs and schismatic sects had entered the religious mainstream in America.
Before the start of the Holy War, I delivered dozens of speeches warning of the political ambitions of the fundamentalists. Most of the time, I illustrated the meaning of dominionism with a single quote from a prominent evangelical “educator” from Tennessee, George Grant. I still remember it:
Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ—to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and Godliness. But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice. It is dominion we are after. Not just influence. It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time. It is dominion we are after…. Thus, Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land—of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ.
Of course, it was only later that I made those speeches. After I made my choice. Before, for many years, I just couldn’t take it seriously. Closing my eyes again, I can hear Sanjay’s voice at a dinner at the East Side apartment I then shared with my girlfriend Emilie.
“It is serious,” he said, leaning forward. “What I am telling you, Greg, is that when they speak of turning America into a Christian Nation ruled in accordance with the Bible by those who purport to speak for God, this is not just rhetoric. It needs to be taken at face value. Right now, tens of millions of your fellow citizens believe—fanatically believe—there is nothing more important, and have been working for decades to acquire the political power to make it happen.”
“San,” my girlfriend Emilie replied, “I love you dearly,” which was not exactly true, “but on this you’re seriously off base. We’ve always had big religious revivals. Think of the Great Awakening. It’s just mass hysteria—it flares up when people feel anxious about change, and then it burns out. And the evangelicals are, what, only a quarter of the population? Fact is, most of the people are drugged out on shopping and reality TV and couldn’t give a crap. It’s just not going to happen, San.”
I agreed with her.
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THE TYPEWRITER SITS on a table directly in front of a large picture window that frames a view of three overgrown rhododendrons in the foreground, the narrow lake below, and the rocky shore opposite, dominated by a single large gray-green granite boulder. A dense oak forest punctuated with tall hemlocks rises sharply behind it. The lake is flat, so free of ripple or blemish that every cloud is rendered perfectly on its surface. I hear no sound other than the unfamiliar mechanical hum of the typewriter, in which—I suddenly hear—the dominant note is G, with strong overtones. Secular music has been missing from my life since the end of the Holy War. All we had at Governors Island were Church of God in America hymns, which were so insipid as to kill the joy that I normally found in any music. I listen to the hum of the IBM. It isn’t Bach, but it isn’t Walk with Jesus Mild either. I hum a fifth interval, over and over, harmonizing with the IBM, then stop when I suddenly remember the face of the redheaded kid I killed with a grenade. He ran at my position in Battery Park, alone, screaming, his face twisted in hate. I couldn’t hear him, but his mouth suggested, “Die faggot.” They called everyone left in Manhattan “faggot.” He exploded in a fine red mist.
This was not the first time that the world didn’t listen. In college I read Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Fourteen years before the first shot was fired, Hitler announced his plan to destroy the parliamentary system in Germany, to attack France and Eastern Europe, and to eliminate the Jews. Why, I asked the professor, did neither ordinary Germans voting in the Reichstag elections in July 1932, nor foreign leaders reacting to the rise of Nazism, believe him? Why was anyone surprised when he simply did what he said he would do? She had no answer.
The fall of my senior year at Princeton, nineteen deeply religious young men flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. During the decade before 9/11, Osama Bin Laden had shouted out his warnings of mass murder using all the means of modern communication. And still we were surprised when he did what he said he would do.
So I suppose what happened here is that they said what they would do, and we did not listen. Then they did what they said they would do.

CHAPTER TWO (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Indian Lake (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

2029 (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))


An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin…. Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? … And suddenly the memory revealed itself.

—Marcel Proust,

À la recherche du temps perdu

SITTING HERE OVERLOOKING INDIAN LAKE, it feels strange to be outside New York City for the first time in ten years. For the past five years, I have worked at the Christian Nation Archives in New York, in what formerly was the Bobst Library of New York University. The old libraries are closed, of course, but not all the collections have been destroyed. As “indexers,” we are charged with the task of coding the remaining books for preservation or destruction, and occasionally retrieving books requested by public officials or scholars whose research has been sanctioned by the Church of God in America, universally referred to as COGA. All academic and cultural organizations operate under the supervision of COGA, a sprawling enterprise. Most of us from Governors Island were placed with COGA-affiliated employers, which allows them to keep a close eye on our progress. GI has faith in its graduates, but even for them there are limits to faith. I find the physical presence of the books to be a comfort. We are constantly reminded that the eradication of evil is vital work entrusted only to those of us who know Christ and thus have the fortitude for the task.
Six months ago, a new indexer named Adam settled in to work at a table two rows behind mine. He is the only African American in our group, and his rimless glasses, tweedy garb, and strong vocabulary immediately suggested to me that he had been a scholar. For the first two weeks he ignored me, nearly to the point of rudeness. Then, during his third week, seeing that I was heading to Washington Square Park for lunch, Adam casually asked if he could join me. He chose a remote bench facing a dense stand of shrubs. He asked lots of questions about work and dodged most of my questions about him. When we finished our sandwiches and rose from the bench, he glanced to see that no one was near and then said simply, “Greg, you need to know that I am here because of you.” Before I could respond, he shook my hand, giving it that distinctive extra squeeze I had felt from a few others, and then turned to walk back to the library by himself.
Two weeks later, Adam and I had become friends, which is what we now call the sort of superficial acquaintance that is the only relationship possible when people are unable to discuss anything important. I know that Adam is married, has no children, and had spent his career before the siege as a lay professor of theology at the General Theological Seminary in Chelsea. I knew from that first day in the park that he wanted something from me, but I waited patiently for him to ask. He would ask when he was ready. When he proposed the risky enterprise of a long vacation during which I should write a memoir, I refused.
“Why, Adam?” I asked. “You’ve got to tell me why you want me to write this thing and what you plan to do with it.”
“You need to trust me.”
“How the hell can I trust you? I hardly know you.”
“You trust me enough to have this conversation. You know we’re careful,” he replied.
“True. But talking to you is something I might survive if they found out. But leaving town, somehow going off the Purity Web—which by the way I sincerely doubt is possible—and then writing everything that happened, telling the truth … That’s entirely different.” I paused. “And by the way, who is ‘we’? Are you telling me that Free Minds is real?”
“No. I’m not saying that.” He looked annoyed with me. “Please, Greg. I know about you. I know what you did. I know he was your friend. We need you to tell your story. That’s all I’m asking.”
“You’re asking me to commit suicide. No.”
A few days later, I changed my mind. You may think that I harbor some kind of self-destructive urge. Perhaps so. Not sure what I was going to do or why, I decided to do what Adam had asked. It had been a long time since anyone had asked me to do anything, and it felt odd to be asked, for someone to suggest that I was needed. Saying yes suddenly seemed easier than saying no. You should know that. Coming here was not an act of courage.
Adam and I departed Manhattan by train. We were met at the station in the Hudson Valley town of Peekskill by the owner of a small inn located in the nearby hamlet of Putnam Valley. After both of us scanned in as guests, Adam wordlessly handed his Device across the counter to the innkeeper. They both looked at me, silently indicating that I should do the same. The day I left Governors Island, the outplacement officer informed me that I was required to have my Device with me at all times. In the five years since then, I have obeyed. So I hesitated. Although not a suspicious word passed between them, the owners of the inn, Adam said, were “friends.” I had stopped asking about FM. The feds denied the existence of the Free Minds movement, and even I, on balance, assumed it was more secret longing than reality. After all, with the Purity Web encompassing every possible means of communication, observing every meeting and movement, analyzing everything one read or wrote—with the big machines knowing us better than we knew ourselves—how could a movement like that organize or function? But Adam was real, and Adam had “friends.” I handed over my Device and immediately felt more abandoned than liberated.
We walked out the back door of the inn and entered the woods on an old dirt road, now a narrow path kept open by deer. I was overwhelmed by the smell. The woodsy air, damp and infused with the dusty fluff kicked up by our steps, carried odors of mold, decay, fungus, and scat. The only nature I had known after Governors Island was the little wild garden behind our communal house on Commerce Street. It had been sunny and dry. When had I last smelled the woods? I couldn’t remember. I inhaled deeply, and my head felt light. Adam gave me an odd look.
“You OK?” he asked. “Don’t worry about your Device. I’ve gone up to five weeks without touching, and didn’t go pink. My friend knows what he’s doing. He’ll take care of us.”
I nodded, distracted. The smells of the woods told a story, the story of an approaching hemlock stand, of a distant carcass, and of granite ledge rock radiating back the heat of the morning sun. I had forgotten how rich, complex, and without judgment were the smells of nature. For the moment, I was glad I had come.
We hiked for three miles, until the path ended abruptly. The rocky cut, through which the old road crested the hill, had been blasted closed. It appeared impassable. Adam led me through dense brush down along the ridge to an ominous-looking gap between two large boulders. We squeezed through, crawled under the corner of another enormous rock, and emerged on the far side of the ridge, where I saw a gem-like lake at the bottom of a steep valley.
We scrambled down the boulder-strewn slope to the lake’s edge. The water was clear. I could see the algae-covered stones on the bottom, and tadpoles swimming erratically among them. We walked along the shore for about a half mile and suddenly came upon a decrepit two-story cedar cottage, set into the side of the hill, with a partially collapsed covered porch running along the water side of the building. From the outside, it gave every appearance of being abandoned. Inside, it was clean and dry, powered silently by solar panels that looked at least twenty years old.
This is the second day I have sat in front of this machine staring out at the lake. I have underestimated the difficulty of this project. A great stone seems to have been rolled across the only door to that part of my brain in which the past resides, and I don’t have the strength to push it aside. It protects me from memory, keeping the demons behind it from penetrating my consciousness. It even keeps them out of my dreams. I realize that not once have I dreamt of the past. And now Adam says I must remember. Recollection, synthesis, and meaning he repeats like a mantra.
I close my eyes. This time I suddenly remember opening them that warm summer day in August 2020. Only nine years ago. The feds had finally ended the siege of Manhattan and invaded through Battery Park. When I came to I was lying facedown on a lawn. My eyes and cheeks were caked with dried blood, and I could see only a few blurry blades of grass beside my nose. I could hear the sound of the harbor waves, and knew that I was still in the park. My wrists were secured behind my back with a thick plastic zip tie. My shoulders ached, and I surmised that I had been lying there, hands tied, for at least a few hours. My ankles were also secured with a zip tie, but I didn’t care. I was too exhausted to move in any case, and quickly slipped back out of consciousness.
When next I woke it was nighttime. A soft warm August night. I hadn’t been moved, but this time my eyes could focus. I later learned that almost six thousand secular fighters had been captured and brought to the Battery. During the day, teams of army medics had performed triage, evacuating the seriously wounded to hospital ships in the harbor. While I was passed out, my shallow but bloody scalp wound had been cleaned and bandaged and the blood wiped off my face. My arms by this time were numb, and the pain in my shoulder had disappeared, replaced by a sharp headache centered on the place where the bullet had gouged a neat pencil-thin groove in my skull. I shifted my legs and managed to roll onto my side. I could see only bodies. Seventeen acres of bodies. The white plastic zip ties shone with a weird iridescence in the moonlight, an effect that was oddly decorative. Some of the prisoners had managed to turn over and sit upright, arms behind their back and legs stretched out front, but most remained facedown and still. Other than the sound of the harbor waves against the Battery breakwater, all I could hear was the occasional stifled sob. No one screamed. No one spoke. Regular fed army and marines stood casually on guard, looking bored. When I closed my eyes, I daydreamed that I was an African deep in the hold of a slave ship. Shackled. The sound of waves slapping against the hull. Silent stinking African bodies my companions and only comfort.
My mind was sluggish, like an agonizingly slow computer. Churning and churning, and ultimately failing to put the thoughts and words into coherent order. I should be dead. These four words repeated themselves in a demented feedback loop. I should be dead. I, a corporate lawyer with no aptitude for violence, stood up and shot at a company of charging US Marines. They wanted me dead. I stood up to die. I should be dead. And now they had bandaged my wound.
Later that night, civilian Red Cross volunteers were allowed into the Battery with drinking water. A solidly built Chinese lady who looked about seventy years old squatted beside me and dipped a battered paper coffee cup into a large bucket of water. She gently lifted my head and gave me a drink and a sad smile. On the side of the blue coffee cup I saw the familiar white Greek key rim and the large gold letters “WE ARE HAPPY TO SERVE YOU.” This offbeat symbol of New York City’s cheesy, ironic culture reminded me of all that we had just lost; and bound and facedown on the ground, for the first time since the shooting started, I wept.

CHAPTER THREE (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Sanjay (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

1998 (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))


[S]incerity becomes apparent. From being apparent, it becomes manifest. From being manifest, it becomes brilliant. Brilliant, it affects others. Affecting others, they are changed by it. Changed by it, they are transformed. It is only he who is possessed of the most complete sincerity that can exist under heaven, who can transform.

—Confucius,

Doctrine of the Mean, chapter XXIII


It is characteristic of the most entire sincerity to be able to foreknow.

—Confucius,

Doctrine of the Mean, chapter XXIV

“THIS IS GOOD,” ADAM SAID. The “but” was left unspoken. It has become clear that I am not to have the usual privacy enjoyed by a memoirist at work. Adam is careful not to interrupt when I am typing, but if I leave the desk he picks up the typed pages and reads them. If catharsis is what Adam is pushing, erupting memories and sudden insights should be just the thing. But he is insistent in his call for order.
“One thing leads to another,” he said. “Think dominoes.” Order is hard for me to find. The last twenty-five years sometimes seem to be a singular moment, the beginning not appreciably more distant than the end, like a single point of collapsed time. Like time suspended during an intense conversation, or immersion in a poem. That single point of collapsed time is dense and heavy, like a netsuke with tightly wound grains, turning and looping in three dimensions, its superficial features providing only subtle clues to its inner meaning. It is not, for me, a thing easily deconstructed. But deconstruction is what I must do.
Looking out the window, I see Adam standing on the shore of the small lake, which he tells me is named Indian Lake. He is casually skipping stones across its calm surface and then staring at the ripples as if they tell a riveting story accessible only to him. For the first time in over five years, I force myself to activate that part of my mind that sits apart, and observe the wisps of recollection as they arise and drift across the rest of my brain. And for the first time in a long while, I allow myself to think about my best friend, and the finest person I ever knew, Sanjay Sharma.
We met on my first day of college in 1998, moving into the freshmen dorm room we shared. I could tell that my parents had doubts. Not that they were prone to racial prejudice, but aristocratic Indians were simply outside the scope of their experience. Sanjay’s mother wore a beautiful purple sari. His father’s English tweeds seemed not very practical for hauling in boxes from the Land Rover parked outside. We quickly learned that this task was delegated to a darker-skinned Indian man introduced only as “our helper.” I think my dad, who was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, felt outclassed. But Sanjay himself—putting aside his Indian ethnicity and striking good looks—seemed to me like an ordinary eighteen-year-old American, his choice in brand of jeans, polo shirt, and sneakers the same as mine. As I soon discovered, there was nothing ordinary about him.
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MY FINGERS HAVE hovered over the keyboard now for a good five minutes. I am surprised at how much the Sanjay I met that day in Princeton was the same as the Sanjay who, fourteen years later, I worked with, fought with, and then did not die with. He was the same person at ages eighteen and thirty-two. I used to try to imagine him as a child—thinking he may have been one of those bizarre old-men children, a Little Father Time from Jude the Obscure, unnaturally wise, scarily seeming to know what children should not know. But he assured me he was not like that as a child, and I believed him. He was not that sort of saint.
Sanjay spent most of his childhood in the United States. His English was unaccented but slightly formal in the manner of his parents, including an aversion to contractions. He retained a ghostly trace of the Indian head wobble and a more pronounced shadow of the typical Indian mannerism in which the head is slightly cocked to one side when considering a question. Few people noticed these habits in Sanjay, but everyone noticed how he looked at you. He had an unusual gaze that was completely attentive. His eyes were a deep warm amniotic brown, and these soft liquid eyes stared out at you as if you were the focus of his world. And you were, at that moment. This is easy to misunderstand. Sometimes attentive people seem to skewer you with their eyes. It can feel aggressive and unnerving. Not so with Sanjay. Although his focus was complete, his attention was tender, neither judgmental nor threatening. I don’t know anyone who ever met him who was not affected by the way he looked at them.
I didn’t have the words when we first met, but I later realized that these qualities—of being present, focused, and “mindful”—were not natural attributes of his character but qualities carefully cultivated over his short lifetime. When he was a child, his immigrant parents urged him to shun all things Indian and become completely American. So with the typical contrarianism of precocious children, he insisted on taking up yoga at age ten. By thirteen he had mastered the full Ashtanga series of yoga poses.
One night early during freshman year, a female friend called and asked if Sanjay wanted to join her for a drink after an evening lecture. He demurred, and she asked why. I overheard his strange reply: “I hope you will forgive me, Patricia, but your conversation, although entertaining, I generally do not find intellectually stimulating. It may be selfish of me, but tonight I am looking to be intellectually stimulated, not simply entertained.”
“San, buddy, you can’t say things like that,” I admonished him after he hung up.
“Like what?”
“Like telling a friend that you don’t find her conversation stimulating and that’s the reason you won’t go have a drink with her.”
“But it is absolutely true.”
He eventually learned that minor falsehood is a lubricant without which social life cannot run smoothly, and he mastered it to that minimum extent. But Sanjay remained a natural truth teller. This complete sincerity, more than anything else, was what later made him such an effective leader at Theocracy Watch. And, as it turned out, his enveloping focus and obvious sincerity survived the intermediation of the television camera. He was spectacular on TV.
It didn’t hurt, of course, that unless someone was the type who could never see beauty in a person of another race, people usually thought that Sanjay was one of the most handsome men they had ever seen. Over the years a great deal of airtime was devoted by the media to the subject of Sanjay’s extraordinary face, in which all elements were in perfect harmony—“super-symmetry,” joked one of our physicist friends at Princeton. His skin was the color of warm polished cinnamon except below the perfectly defined edge of his beard, where a fine pixilated black shadow was visible even though he was always clean shaven. His jaw and cheeks were strong and slightly wider than usual for a Brahmin. The resulting face straddled, or perhaps combined, the elegance that Indians celebrated in their aristocratic men and the more robust masculine qualities that were considered desirable in the West. His hair was a black so luminous that all other colors were visibly collected up in each strand.
For our fundamentalist opponents, this perfect face was evidence of dark forces at work. This was because the Antichrist, according to prophecy, would take the form of a handsome young man. Sanjay was the popular champion standing against the establishment of the Godly Kingdom. The fact that he was also Indian (which they always referred to as “pagan”), and gay, certainly seemed to them to complete the satanic profile.
Before the time that President Palin first cited Sanjay’s physical appearance as evidence of his demonic nature, it was a feature that he wore lightly, neither viewing it as a burden nor deliberately wielding it for effect. He never denied he was good-looking, but neither did he use his looks to charm or flirt or persuade. He was too honest and too confident of the power of his words for that. This unself-conscious innocence merely magnified his appeal to women and men alike.
Sanjay told me the first night we met that he was gay. It was news he delivered without drama as we got to know each other over a beer. I told him about my sister and my parents, my undistinguished career as a high school jock, and the casual high school girlfriend I had sensibly broken up with over the summer. He told me about his family’s life in India, why his parents emigrated, what it was like to be an only child, that he was gay, and that he did yoga. I confess that I worried for a few days that having a gay roommate might impair my own social life. To my shame, I felt compelled to have a very public fling with a cute girl in the next entryway to ensure there would be no room for speculation about my own sexual preference.
In a few days, I realized how stupid I had been. Sanjay was extraordinarily popular with men and women alike. He had an ease that allowed him to circulate among the different circles of college social life in a way few other students could. And from freshman year on, it was I who was carried along in the wave of friends and fans who gathered around my roommate.
I’ve often wondered why Sanjay chose me for his most intense and long-lasting friendship. After freshman year he could have switched to any number of accomplished and fascinating roommates. But he never waivered. By October we were best friends, and no one—neither the occasional boyfriend of his nor my girlfriend Emilie, with whom I lived for six painful years—changed that. Ultimately, that is. Emilie came close.
One thing about me that I know did interest Sanjay was this odd gift that I have. In another age, I might have thought of myself as some sort of seer or clairvoyant. But it really is just a knack for sudden, sometimes extreme situational awareness. It’s not a habit of mind that I can call up at will; it just happens.
“It feels like a kind of out-of-body experience,” I told Sanjay one night in the dorm after we had watched Saturday Night Live and had a few beers. Thinking about it today, I remember the sounds of the campus on a late Saturday night floating in through our open casement window.
“The first time it happened, at least that I can remember, was the day of my first middle school football game,” I told Sanjay. “We were in the locker room, dressed in brand-new uniforms. I was excited, but mostly just scared—not that we would lose, but scared that I would do something stupid or embarrassing, like run down the field in the wrong direction or fumble. You know how it is.” Sanjay looked empathetic, but he was too honest to signal that he did indeed have experience with that type of anxiety. It seemed clear that he didn’t. Anyway, I continued.
“Just before we ran onto the field, San, the coach told us to get down on our knees. We all knelt. Then he said a prayer.” I did a bad imitation of the coach’s flat midwestern accent:
“Lord, as we prepare to join the field of battle, we ask you for strength, we ask you to lead us to victory. Victory in your name, and in the name of your son, Je-sus. Help us to vanquish our foe, to defeat our enemy, to …, you know, to defeat evil. Take the field with us, Je-sus. Well, you know. Screw the other bastards. Amen.”
“And you know what happened then, San? Suddenly in my mind’s eye I was looking down at the locker room from somewhere up in the air, looking down on twenty scrawny teenagers, dressed ridiculously, on their knees, invoking the personal intervention of the deity—the deity responsible for the spinning galaxies and the quantum flux—to take their side in a pissant football game. I had absolute situational clarity. I didn’t have the vocabulary at the time to articulate it, but I completely and profoundly understood what I was seeing. I felt—so strongly that I had trouble keeping my composure—the absurdity, futility, humanity, and pathos of the moment. I … Let’s say I didn’t play very well that day.”

Emperor Norton I
July 29th, 2013, 02:19 AM
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http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0425259749/sfsi0c-20
V-S Day: A Novel of Alternate History

With a gift for visionary fiction that “would make Robert A. Heinlein proud” (Entertainment Weekly) three-time Hugo Award-winning author Allen Steele now imagines an alternate history rooted in an actual historical possibility: what if the race to space had occurred in the early days of WWII?

It's 1941, and Wernher von Braun is ordered by his Fuehrer to abandon the V2 rocket and turn German resources in a daring new direction: construction of a manned orbital spacecraft capable of attacking the U.S. Work on the rocket—called Silbervogel—begins at Peenemunde. Though it is top secret, British intelligence discovers the plan, and brings word to Franklin Roosevelt. The American President determines that there is only one logical response: the U.S. must build a spacecraft capable of intercepting Silbervogel and destroying it. Robert Goddard, inventor of the liquid-fuel rocket, agrees to head the classified project.

So begins a race against time—between two secret military programs and two brilliant scientists whose high-stakes competition will spiral into a deadly game of political intrigue and unforeseen catastrophes played to the death in the brutal skies above America.

B_Munro
July 29th, 2013, 02:45 AM
This appears to be an expansion of a short story he did for the "what might have been" series back in the 80s/90s (checks) yes, this appears to go back to "Goddard's People", What Might Have Been: Alternate wars, 1991.

Bruce

Mysterion
July 29th, 2013, 10:13 PM
This appears to be an expansion of a short story he did for the "what might have been" series back in the 80s/90s (checks) yes, this appears to go back to "Goddard's People", What Might Have Been: Alternate wars, 1991.

Bruce

One of his earlier books, The Tranquility Alternative also feeds off of the Goddard's People storyline. The short-story John Harper Wilson, which appears in the Rude Astronauts collection also takes place in this history.

Dave Howery
July 29th, 2013, 11:29 PM
I recently downloaded and read the three "Invasion America" novels by Vaughn Heppner that were previewed upthread. They are entertaining, but lord, the Americans seem to be a hapless bunch, constantly getting outmaneuvered/pocketed/trapped. As you might expect, the novels all end with American 'victories', but all of them seem to leave the enemies still in control of vast swathes of US territory, so these 'victories' seem to be more 'setbacks' for the enemy than real defeats. Still, I look forward to reading any more he writes in the series...

JSmith
July 30th, 2013, 02:07 AM
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51iBAgxk50L._SY300_.jpg

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V-S Day: A Novel of Alternate History


I shall read this.

JSmith
July 31st, 2013, 03:00 AM
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The United States of Vinland: The Landing (The Markland Trilogy) (Volume 1) [Paperback]





Book Description

Publication Date: March 13, 2013 | Series: The Markland Trilogy
What if?

What if the descendants of the Vikings who settled Greenland and went on to reach North America around the end of the first millennium had stayed?

Five hundred years later, would Christopher Columbus have arrived to the south of an eastern seaboard dotted with centuries old settlements and towns hosting devotees to Odin and Thor?

Might the Norse have gone on to build a nation as dominant as the United States of our own world?

A thousand years after reaching Greenland, Vinland and Markland, would we still have had two world wars? What might the world look like? Where might the political and religious divides be drawn?

This is the New World.

***

At the turn of the first millennium:

Eskil, orphaned in war, but now a man, is leading his followers to found a settlement in the west dedicated to Odin and Asgard's gods. There he will build a new realm, and after tests, adventures and trials, he will leave a legacy that will grow to be the strongest nation the world has ever seen.

The Landing is the first book in The United States of Vinland series and is an alternate history that begins the saga with the establishment of the first Markland halls. Join the adventure!

Welcome to Norse America.







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The United States of Vinland: The Landing




The Markland Trilogy, Volume 1


by Colin Taber


Published by Thought Stream Creative Services, 2013.


Table of Contents


Title Page (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Dedication (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Chapter 1 | - | The Landing Squall (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Chapter 2 | - | Markland (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Chapter 3 | - | Godsland (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Chapter 4 | - | The Wolf (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Part II (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Chapter 5 | - | Smoke (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Chapter 6 | - | Lakeland (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Chapter 7 | - | Welcomed (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Part III (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Chapter 8 | - | Spring (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Chapter 9 | - | Alfvin (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Chapter 10 | - | Ari (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Part IV (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Chapter 11 | - | The Lonely Vales (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Chapter 12 | - | Torrador & Seta (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Chapter 13 | - | Back to Lakeland (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Chapter 14 | - | A Mournful Cry (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Part V (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Chapter 15 | - | To Guldale (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Chapter 16 | - | The Beach (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Epilogue (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Epilogue | - | Smoke on the Horizon (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Loki’s Rage (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
The Landing: | A Note From the Author (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
The Landing: | Characters (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
The Landing: | Locations & Terms (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
The Ossard Trilogy (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
About the Author (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))



For Mum & Dad
Thanks for believing



Chapter 1



-



The Landing Squall


All Eskil knew was the smothering chill of the embracing sea. As the waves passed, they rhythmically lifted and lowered him and the broken mast to which he clung. But he was not able to focus on any of that; his body was numb, his thoughts slow and thick.
Death beckoned.
A storm had come from nowhere, to darken the sky and push their two ships off course. Fierce winds and mountainous waves had driven them well away from their Greenland heading, and then, after what seemed an eternity of battling the tempest, both had stolen the other ship out of sight. At that point, with a prayer to Odin, Eskil could only focus on his own ship and people.
They struggled with exhaustion, until their limbs ached, hoping to handle the protesting ship through the heaving seas. But it was finally swamped by a monstrous wave. His last memories of the chaos were of his crew’s desperate attempts to hold the craft together, until a final wall of brine had come to tear it all apart. Eskil found himself alone in the water, not remembering where he had last seen his expecting wife, Gudrid.
The worst of the weather then dissipated, as if its job was complete.
To lose out at the end of such an elemental fight was maddening, but rage was an emotion Eskil could no longer conjure. Not now, for he was drained and battered, overcome by the chill of the sea.
He knew it would not be long before the cold would claim him, stealing his last breath as it kissed his shivering lips.
He dimly noted the clouds beginning to break up, although the rain continued. Such a thing at least declared that the storm was well and truly past.
Maybe it was a victory of sorts that he had survived such a vile tempest.
He clung to the ruin of the ship’s mast and sail, still bound to the rigging, the best manoeuvre he had been able to manage after finding himself in the sea. Once secured, he had begun calling out, seeking his beloved Gudrid. But because of the continuing rain, he had neither seen nor heard her or any of the others.
Bound to the floating timbers, he was relatively safe from the threat of the sea finding his lungs, although it left him with only one other task – trying to stay awake. If he did not, he would die. He knew the icy water was far more likely to kill him than anything else.
He seemed otherwise alone, if not for the ship’s ruin, the soft call of the wind, and the grey curtain of rain.
Eskil faded, his fatigue rising to overwhelm him, as the rhythmic motion of the waves continued to gently lift and drop him. Around him the wind droned on and the rain eased.
Jerking awake, thus setting his sodden blonde hair to flick about his face, Eskil realised he had blacked out for a moment, or perhaps longer; he was not certain. He tried to curse, but his voice failed him, coming out as a shivering rasp. He should have been frightened, but instead lay his forehead back down against the timber of the mast.
A feeling stirred in him; perhaps his spirit was trying to rally whatever remained. Finally roused, he hissed out across the waves, “Odin, help me! Take me to this new land you have led me to seek!”
There was no answer.
Eskil’s grip began to slacken and his mind began to fall to grim and dark thoughts.
Then he heard a sound, a sound not of the wind or the waves, or even of the gods. The noise grabbed his attention.
What could it be?
It sounded again: the call of a bird, the caw of a raven.
A raven meant land!
He fought to awaken himself, to focus, as he tightened his grip.
The raven sounded again, this time joined by another’s call.
Land!
And then, after that sweet chorus, came the crash of rolling surf.
Land was near!
He lifted his head to look about, seeing nothing but the tight, blue-grey valleys of water between the passing waves. Once it moved on, he roused in time to make a new discovery: beneath the waterline, his numb feet briefly stirred gravel as they dragged along the seabed.
Shallows!
He looked past the mast and tangled lines, and the cloth of the ship’s sail in front of him, to the overcast western sky, where the grey shroud of rain was brighter because it hid the sun.
To the west, where yet more land was reputed to be.
His feet then found the shallows again.
While still hugging the mast and up to his neck in the chilled sea, Eskil took a step forward, only to find yet more rising seabed.
The curtain of rain continued to fade, revealing huge but distant silhouettes. The dark, steep-sided forms loomed as if they mouthed a great fjord. With each moment, more land became visible, in shades of grey, as a rugged coastline opened up in front of him.
“By Odin!” he whispered through chattering teeth.
Eskil took another step on the stones of the seabed, only to find the water so shallow that he stumbled to his knees. His spirit soared as he worked with numb and awkward fingers to untangle himself from the rigging that had bound him to the mast. Finally breaking free, he rose and stepped forward as he sought to escape the water.
He would live!
He looked at the land emerging from the receding drizzle as he stumbled forward. His mind, still half lost, began to stir, but for now he noted the green of grass and grey of rock ahead; he realized he remained alone. Gazing up and down the shoreline, he searched for a sign that the others had also made it to land.
Anyone, but most especially his Gudrid!
The thought overcame him, setting him to shake and shiver as he staggered out of the foaming surf. He had promised his thirty followers a new life of land and freedom, a life away from the rising kings and the creeping influence of the White Christ.
They would only honour the old gods!
Just ahead of him, the rocky shore ascended to a narrow pasture, a few shrubs and a tumble of larger stones before the side of a low green hill began. The steeper entry into the fjord rose farther along the shore as it ran away to meet with other valleys. Yet, much remained lost in the colourless haze of drizzle.
After a few more exhausted steps, he was out of the water, across the stony shore, and onto the pasture.
He dropped to his knees.
Here he was alone in the wilds, lost on the rugged shores of Markland, or another place beyond Greenland.
But he had survived!
Behind him, debris from the ship washed up, stranded next to a large, already-beached section of the hull. He could also see one of his people bobbing face down in the water.
He got up and stumbled back to the surf, reaching Drifa’s body. He pulled her up to the gravel – but to no avail – she was still and dead.
“Damn you, Odin,” he growled, “I was doing this for you! To bring your faith to a new land, away from those who have turned from your might!” Exhausted, verging on delirium, he collapsed onto the rocks leading up to the pasture, his spirit all but broken. “You led me here, you whispered to me in my dreams of a westerly land that I should seek. Well, I did as you directed; now I am here!”
And then the wind died, as the last of the squall’s clouds and rain parted, allowing the mid-afternoon sun to shine down from over the distant heart of the fjord. The light washed over him, golden, generous and warm.
Eskil slowly rose back to his feet as he called out, “Odin, give me this land and I shall give it back to you a thousand-fold!”
A raven called, drawing his attention.
Amidst the golden glare, briefly highlighted by the departing showers, Eskil saw a raven perched on a tall stone rising straight and true by the tumbled boulders at the base of the hill.
He stepped forward, drawn to it.
The raven watched his approach.
He slowed, with each step, not believing what he saw: a stone, taller than a man, marked by the runes of his people.
The runes read: "The Landing".
“By the gods!”
He then heard another voice, the sound of which made his heart jump.
“Eskil?” It was his wife, Gudrid.
He looked down at the base of the standing stone and noticed wet cloth on the grass, trailing away behind it. Putting a hand to the runestone, he leaned on it for support as he stepped around it, holding his breath.
There she sat, with her back to the stone, her woollens still damp from the sea, but lit by the warm sunlight. Already her long blonde hair was mostly dry.
“Gudda!” he whispered in disbelief, using his pet name for her.
She looked up to him, her hands over the small bulge of her expectant belly, her blue eyes sparkling with relief. “Oh, Eskil!”
He dropped to his knees beside her and took her into his arms.
“I thought I had lost you!”
“And I you. But Odin has spared us.” Pulling away from her, he surveyed the green slopes of the hill in front of them and then turned to the steep sides and rocky crests at the entry to the fjord rising farther down the coast. “He has brought us here.”
“But where are we?”
“I’m not sure, perhaps Markland.”
“Markland?”
“I think we passed Greenland.” He pointed to the distant fjord. “And I can see thickets of trees farther down the sound. They might simply be willow and birch, but others will be deeper inland, where they are better sheltered from the fury of the sea. Markland is named after the trees.”
“Markland?” she whispered again.
“Yes. The sailors in Iceland described it as a rugged and harsh land said to be beyond Greenland, but a place with more timber.”
They both turned to take in the view – low green hills behind the beach, running west onto a deep and wide sound along the coast. The steep sides of the fjord rose in the far distance, occasionally edged by narrow, sun-warmed pastures. Glimpses of waterfalls spilled down like white ribbons between exposed rocks and thin woodlands. By the golden light of a summer afternoon, Markland seemed a land of rugged beauty and promise.
Eskil stood and offered his hand to Gudrid; she took it and rose. “Are you hurt?”
She smiled. “Merely tired and cold, although I feel sickly.” One of her hands went to her belly again as she spoke, “I think I swallowed a lot of seawater.”
He nodded as he put an arm about her. “And how long have you been here, sitting against this runestone?”
They both turned to examine the etchings, the raven watching them from above.
“Not long, although to be truthful, I find it hard to think of how it all came about. I grabbed at some wood from the ship and was brought here by the waves. I do not think I was in the water for long, and I did not realise this stone was special until now. I simply came ashore and sought to escape the last of the rain and wind.”
Eskil ran his hand over the stone’s weathered face, his fingers tracing over the rough runes. The stone faced out towards the open sea as a marker.
The raven watched them for a moment, and then jumped into the air, spreading its black wings. The bird flew above their heads and dove down towards the shore. It did not land, instead gliding to pass over the breaking waves. The raven then rose again and turned to land on the broken timbers of the beached hull lying in the shallows. It looked back at them and cried out.
The wet sounds of splashing came to Eskil and Gudrid as something stirred the water nearby. Another part of the ruined ship drifted into view. A small, partially hidden section of timbers emerged from behind the bulk of the beached hull the raven was using as a perch.
Eskil and Gudrid could see three of their people clinging to the timbers as they tried to get to shore, their kicks and strokes heavy with exhaustion.
“Quickly!” Eskil called out as he led Gudrid racing down to the water, wading into the chilly surf to reach them.
They grabbed the three men, one by one, and dragged them to the gravel beach.
The men collapsed. Torrador coughed up water while the blonde brothers, Steinarr and Samr, both gasped for breath.
The raven called out again before leaving the hull, flying up and over them. It turned and dove again, down towards the breakers, as it headed along the shallows and towards the distant fjord. With another call, it flew towards the glare of the sun, but not before drawing Gudrid’s attention up the beach.
Two figures, silhouettes against the golden glare, waved as they staggered towards them.
“More of our people!” Gudrid exclaimed as she left Eskil with the recovering men.
Torrador began a fresh round of choking and retching, ending with a hoarse gasp. “By Odin, thank you, Eskil!”
Eskil knelt beside the big man, relieved to hear his voice. “Only concentrate on getting the sea out and some air in.” He patted the big man firmly on the back, setting his brown hair to jiggle.
Beside them, Steinarr was now on all fours, as was Samr, who was trying to rise.
Gudrid called from down the beach. “Erik is over here!”
Eskil watched the silhouette of the Dane as he crawled from the water, amongst the bobbing timbers and other debris from their ship.
She went to the wretching man who was slumped onto the gravel. As he gathered himself, she called back to Eskil and the others, “There is much here we can use, including the rigging and sail.”
Eskil patted Torrador on the back again as he looked at his wife and whispered, “Thank you, Odin.”
Gudrid remained with Erik as he recovered.
Beyond her, a man and woman approached from down the beach, both moving heavily with fatigue.
Before turning to face the newcomers, she called back to Eskil, “Get the wood and rope, and the sail as well. We will need it for shelter.”
Torrador paused in his recovery and let out a chuckle, despite trying to stifle his mirth in case he embarrassed his leader.
Eskil grinned. That was his Gudda; she was never shy in voicing her opinion. He stood and said, “Come, she talks to you, too!” He glanced at the other men and added, “Steinarr and Samr, we have work to do!”
His friends, coughing to clear their lungs, did as bidden and got to their feet. The four of them began grabbing at any useful debris they found in the surf, pulling it up onto the beach.
Gudrid moved on and met the other survivors, bringing them back to Erik.
Eskil could see it was the Icelandic couple, Ballr and Halla. He liked them; Ballr was a resourceful and trustworthy man.
When Erik the Dane recovered and was on his feet, Gudrid sent him and the Icelanders back to Eskil, as she continued to walk along the beach, looking for more survivors and salvage. Occasionally, she would turn and call back, telling of particular items washed up on shore. After a good while, she turned and made her way back to them, holding a box in her arms.
The survivors reunited; Gudrid returned to Eskil, Torrador and Erik, the brothers Steinarr and young Samr, and Ballr and his wife, Halla. As the afternoon waned, they also collected much of the salvage and began sorting it into piles on the pasture. At one end of their work lay Drifa, her body waiting for their tending.
Eskil looked at his wife, her face now pale, as she cradled the small and familiar wooden box in her arms. “Come, my Gudda, you have done well, but you are exhausting yourself.”
“I shall be alright.”
“No, come and let me sit you back in the sun, against the runestone.”
“There is so much to be done.”
“You can direct us from the runestone, and you can even grumble at me if you like when I do it all wrong, but I will not have you risking your health and that of our unborn.” He led her back up the gravel beach and onto the green pasture before reaching the runestone.
“What of Drifa? She must be put to rest.”
“We will tend to her, but first we must get the salvage before the tide takes it away.”
She nodded, accepting his wisdom.
He added, “We also need to get a shelter up while we have light.”
“Yes; the needs of the living first.”
Helping her down, he knelt beside her. “We will set Drifa to rest when our work is done, after sunset if we must.”
She nodded. “Where will we build?”
“Here.”
“It is too exposed.”
“Yes, but it will do for now. Tomorrow we will look for a better site.”
She gave a weak nod and leaned back against the runestone. “If you build it here, use the stone: It called us here.”
He nodded. “I was going to. Now rest.”
“Eskil?” Her eyes were growing heavy, the lids drooping as she tried to make one last command.
“Yes, my wife?”
She weakly offered the wooden box up to him. “I found these; put them in pride of place, as they are what kept us safe.”
He took the offered box, handling it with care, as it had been handed-down to her by her mother. He unlatched the lid and looked inside, checking that the wood-carved statuettes of the gods remained intact. “I will, my wife, for the gods brought us here after testing us.”
“Yes, to here; to a gods’ land.”
“Yes, to Godsland.”
She nodded and then let her eyes close as she sought sleep.
Gudrid slept, weary first from her own near drowning, and then from her efforts to revive friends and crew. In a slumber bathed in the glow of the afternoon’s summer sun, she dreamt of her babe due to be born in autumn, feeling the innocent’s eagerness to come into this new world. She found comfort in those dreams, watching her child grow in both wisdom and strength. In them, she witnessed a son’s coming of age, of his own fatherhood, and of him finally leading the people of Markland into a grand, god-gifted age.
Here, by the runestone, they would birth a mighty future!

Chapter 2



-



Markland


While Gudrid slept, the men fashioned a simple tent from salvaged rigging, timber and sailcloth. The shelter, pitched at the runestone, was basic, but it would do.
When Gudrid awoke, it was to find her new world falling into twilight, the distant view one of silhouettes and gloom. A good fire burned half-a-dozen paces away, at the edge of the tumbled rocks, much of its light and warmth reaching her while also illuminating the rising hillside behind. The flames’ flickering light also reached the pasture that separated them from the gravel beach. Scattered across the space were piles of salvage – mostly bits of timber, some cloth, rope and other items – all of it helpful, if but basic. A few baskets and three small chests were stacked aside of this. Gudrid felt great relief to see them, for in them should be a mix of blades, tools and seed stock.
Eskil stepped out of the shadows, his stride purposeful as he came to kneel beside her. “How are you?”
She smiled. “Well.”
He took her hands and cupped them in his own. “We have finished the shelter and Halla is preparing some fish.”
“Are we safe?”
“Not from the weather, no; not as safe as I would like us to be. A wind is blowing up and more clouds are appearing, but at sunset, it did not look too bad. We should be alright for one night.”
She asked, “And what of the skraelings?” All of them knew of the tales to come out of Greenland; they had heard of them in Iceland before sailing, of new lands and new peoples.
“We have seen no one. I have sent Steinarr and Samr to walk the beaches and climb the nearest hills. They will be back soon to tell us what they have seen.” He looked out into the dusk. “Or they should be; I need to check on them.”
“And what of the others we dragged from the sea?”
“They are alright, but busy with tasks.”
As he spoke, Halla appeared out of the darkness and walked with a basket in hand. She turned to Gudrid, smiling to see her awake. “I am here if you need anything.”
Gudrid gave a grateful nod and then turned back to Eskil as he continued, “We have also found a few tools and gear amongst the timber salvage, as well as some clothes, cloth and rope. The real problem is that we are mostly unarmed, without any means of going back to sea. I think we will be staying here.”
“That might not be so bad.”
He nodded, but his jaw firmed; he was holding something back.
“What is wrong?”
He grimaced before answering, “We found one of the men, dead.”
“Who?”
“Manni.”
She nodded.
“He was missing a leg, gone just over the knee. A bite was taken out of him.”
“A serpent?”
“I suppose; the lesson is we should be wary of the water.”
She nodded again. “And what of the others?”
“No sign, not yet. Nor any of Leif’s ship.”
She pursed her lips. “Perhaps they have also survived?”
“It is possible, but more likely the sea has taken them.”
“We need him and his people.”
Eskil nodded. “He is a good man, the kind you want by your side.” He shivered, thinking back to how close he had also come to death. “Yes.” He considered his next words before continuing, “We were all lucky. We should be dead.”
“Yet here we are, at the foot of a runestone?”
“It seems the gods wanted us spared.”
She nodded.
“Come, let us get you into the tent. The air is getting cold.” He helped her up and then led her around the runestone and into the shelter, the structure aglow by a small fire within.
Halla was inside tending the fire, a basket by her side.
Eskil said, “I need to check on the others. I will be back soon.” He turned and walked out into the deepening night.
Gudrid overheard Torrador ask Eskil after her health.
Her husband answered him, before asking, “What of Steinarr and Samr?”
“The brothers have gone onto the stream to get some water. The others should also be back soon.”
As Gudrid listened, she realised she had missed out on yet more discoveries. The thought faded though, quickly lost to the smell of cooking fish.
Halla said, “Gudrid, just get comfortable, the fish will be ready soon enough.”
“Who caught the fish?”
“Me, would you believe? I caught them myself!”
“Really?” Gudrid laughed as she stepped towards the Icelander, ready to help, and to also share the fire’s heat.
“I saw some of our baskets floating in the surf, swamped by the waves. When I went to fetch them, I discovered two fish trapped inside one of them.”
Gudrid laughed as she looked down at the fire, the low flames held within a skirting circle of rocks. Two gutted fish lay to the side, spread across a flat stone, surrounded by glowing coals. “You are a fine fisherwoman!”
“A good piece of luck.”
“Or a gift?”
Halla gave a nod before turning back to check on the fish. “We have received more than one gift. Every one of us is alive because the gods want us to be.”
Gudrid nodded.
“How are you feeling?”
“Tired, but better, and hungry, after smelling your fish.”
Halla sighed. “If only there was more to eat!”
“Do not fret.”
“And what of this place; Markland, your Eskil calls it? It is not far removed from Vinland, and it is also bound to harbour skraelings.”
“We will simply have to see. We are camping by a runestone, a marker carved by our own kind. This place is already given; not to the skraelings, but to our own people.”
Halla smiled. “Do you think they are here?”
“Our own kind?”
“Yes.”
“They have at least passed through, and most likely would not have carved a runestone if they were just exploring. Maybe farms are farther up the fjord, or maybe they come here in the summer, perhaps for furs or iron, or maybe even timber. Greenland is supposedly not rich in any of those things.”
“Yes, that is why they were supposedly excited about Vinland.”
Gudrid went on, “Let us hope the others are back soon so we can eat. It will be good to bed down for what at least will be a dry night, better than what the storm gave us.”
Halla looked out into the night, through a gap in the sail. A weak breeze stirred, its song backed by the regular crash of surf. “Yes, a dry night and, thanks be to Freya, one during which we will be warm and sheltered. But we will need to head farther up the fjord tomorrow and seek a better place.”
“Have Drifa and Manni been tended to?”
“No, we ran out of light. We laid them out just beyond the salvage. I think the men mean to deal with them soon.”
Gudrid turned her back to the fire to feel its warmth. “And where are the others?”
“They are checking over what has washed up. With the light nearly gone, they all shall be back soon enough.”
Gudrid hoped so.
The weak wind died at last, bringing an almost complete silence to the night. The fire crackled occasionally, but the crash of the surf, as the low waves came to skirmish with the rocks and gravel of the shoreline, was the only other sound.
The world seemed to slip into a sleepier calm, but the silent women were suddenly roused by a slapping thud from somewhere in the gloom.
They tensed and turned to the dark beyond the tent’s opening.
“What was that?” Halla asked.
Gudrid stepped across to look outside, trying to make out what might cause such a sound. She wondered; perhaps a boulder coming to rest after it rolled down the hill that climbed up over the beach? Or perhaps the landing of a beast after bounding down from the same hillside?
With a soft voice, Halla asked, “Can you see anything down along the beach?”
“No.”
Halla stepped across to join her.
Both women stared out into the night.
The light was weak as dusk faded away. They could discern little, with any certainty, particularly on an unfamiliar shoreline littered with rocks, piles of salvage, and other shadowed shapes, either real or imagined.
From the rhythm of crashing waves came a sudden splash at the water’s edge, about sixty paces away, a sound so stark that Halla gave out a gasp. “Something is there!”
Gudrid silenced her with a hand. “Hush, Halla. Do we have any weapons?”
“Only the fire and a small knife...I have the blade here.” She was clutching it tightly in her white-knuckled fist, the blade still slick from gutting the fish.
“Give it to me.”
Halla passed it across, releasing the blade from her shaking grip.
Staring into the night, Gudrid asked, “Can you lift any brands from the fire?”
“There is one long enough.”
“Get it.”
Another series of splashes sounded, these quieter, but coming steadily closer, as whatever lurked came towards the camp from along the beach.
“There,” Gudrid hissed, pointing down to where an indistinct but large silhouette moved from the edge of the surf to the pasture, and slunk closer.
“What is it?”
“I do not know, but it must be a hunter, as it is not shy about closing in.”
“What is it doing?”
“Watching, I think.”
“Why?”
“Perhaps the smell of the fish attracted it?”
Next came the sounds of timber and rock being pushed aside.
Gudrid stepped out into the night, leaving the tent behind.
Halla followed, raising the flaming torch.
“It has found what it seeks. What is down there besides the salvage we dragged from the sea?”
Halla cursed, “Gods, it will have found Manni and Drifa!”
“No!” Gudrid hissed.
A low and guttural rumble sounded as the beast began tearing at the bodies.
Gudrid continued forward, with the knife held out in front of her. “Is it a wolf or could it be a bear?”
Halla also took another step, but grabbed at Gudrid, “No, you cannot go any farther!”
“We have to stop it.”
Then came more sounds of wet and hungry feeding.
Halla’s eyes dropped down for a moment, to the swell of Gudrid’s belly, before she said, “You stay here; I will go and send it on its way,” but a tremor in her voice betrayed her.
“We will both go, together.”
Halla hesitated, but finally gave a nod.
After a deep breath, they stepped forward.
Slowly, one step after another, they closed on where the beast loomed. While they advanced, the dark silhouette continued to feed, choosing to ignore them.
They closed to within ten paces of it.
The creature finally stopped its meal to lift its head and stare. A rumbling growl rose from deep within its chest. It was a wolf, a powerfully large and ragged beast.
It was hard to see anything in the gloom, apart from its size and the glint of its eyes as they reflected the flame of Halla’s brand.
She moved the torch, lowering it to hold it in front of them. Beside her, Gudrid gripped the knife, both feeling braver for having weapons in their hands.
One thing was certain; the beast had come for meat. The creature tensed, lowering its head as it continued to rumble in anger at the two women for disturbing its bloody feast.
Gudrid cursed, realising that having come so close, they now could not back up. At the very least, they should have brought another burning brand – not merely for light, but also to bolster their meagre armoury.
The wolf blinked, the reflected light of its eyes winking out, then reappearing half a pace away. It happened so quickly, showing Gudrid and Halla that this thing, despite its size, could move with speed.
Side by side, they stood both tense and still.
Halla whispered, “We need the others; we never should have left the tent.”
Gudrid nodded, but neither could take her gaze from the gleaming eyes in front of them.
The reek of one of the bodies reached them, its belly torn open to release the rankness of its guts. Manni, his corpse already missing a limb, had been astink with the richness of blood, drawing the wild beast.
Gudrid looked for any advantage, but only noticed that far out to the east, the horizon sported a rising glow that hinted at the rising moon.
The giant wolf brought its head down and tensed its haunches.
Both Halla and Gudrid sensed the dark beast was about to strike.
A patter then came to them, one with rhythm, as if something rushed along the hilltop to their side. But a rising wind quickly drowned out the new sound.
The breeze whistled as it flew over rocks, danced through pasture, and even worked to take off the tops of waves. A moment later, flaring lightning lit the land, finally revealing their adversary.
Large, but rangy, with a dishevelled, dark coat, the wolf looked half-starved. Most of all, the beast looked desperate.
The dazzling cloud display faded, replaced by the deep crack and rumble of thunder.
Halla started.
Gudrid said, “Be steady; that is Thor’s hammer. The gods are with us.”
“What should we do?”
“We must back away. We have to move slowly and not turn our backs. If we can get to the fire, we can get some more torches that might keep it from coming at us.”
Halla nodded. “Let us try.”
The wolf suddenly turned its head to the side and sniffed the air. A voice came to them at the same time, rising above the wind from the hillside to their right.
“Gudda, Halla, stay still and do not move. Keep your weapons in front of you!” It was Eskil.
Gudrid’s heart fluttered at the sound.
Halla sighed with relief.
From behind them, to their left, perhaps only twenty paces away, another voice called out, “You are not alone; we are here.” It was Ballr.
His voice was followed by others from the hillside – the brothers Steinarr and Samr.
“What should we do?” Gudrid called out.
Eskil answered, “Nothing sudden, let us force it to turn.”
Steinarr said, “I have no axe or blade, as the sea has taken them, but I have plenty of stones.” And, with that, a rock the size of a fist landed between the women and the beast, causing all three to start.
The animal took a step back, its voice rumbling again.
Another stone landed in front of it, followed by one that hit it in the side, and finally one that smacked it squarely on its head.
The great wolf whined as it fell back, skipping to the side. The beast moved away from the bodies to go behind some brush, trying to shelter its too-large form. With a throaty growl, it raised its head and looked for a moment as if it would stand its ground, but another hail of stones came at it, one again hitting it on the head.
The beast yelped, and then turned and ran.
Ballr arrived beside the women, followed by Eskil, as well as Steinarr and Samr. The men let fly with another round of stones as the beast disappeared into the gloom down the beach.
Steinarr growled after it, “Markland is ours, not yours, ragged beast!”
Lightning flashed, and a heartbeat later, a loud clap of thunder hammered the air, as if punctuating the end of the encounter.
Eskil laughed. “A land that is indeed ours, given to us by the gods themselves; first Odin this afternoon, and now Thor, to protect us by calling us together in a moment of need.”
Gudrid smiled. “Godsland it is, and that is what you called it earlier.”
Eskil nodded. “Godsland, indeed.”
Halla turned back to their camp, the tent aglow because of the fire, reminding her of their meal. “Oh, the fish!” She hurried to check on their food.
Gudrid chuckled and followed.
Eskil turned to the other men. “Drifa and Manni will draw back the beast. We need to tend to them now.”
Steinarr offered, “We can bury them with stone. They need a cairn.”
Ballr gave a nod. “You are right that it cannot wait, although it is a shame we lack enough timber to build a pyre. I think that is what they would have preferred.”
Eskil said, “Anything, over flame or under rock, would be better than being feasted upon by that ragged beast.”
The men agreed.
Eskil announced, “We have plenty of rocks, so a cairn is what we will build to mark their passing.”
Torrador and Erik soon returned to join in the toil.
As they worked, gathering loose stones to pile atop the two bodies, Ballr said, “This is no burning ship, nor blazing pyre, but still fitting in its own way, as they shall live on in this new land by joining the soil.”
Eskil nodded. “Those are fine words. Let us hope their burial brings their spirits peace.”
The others agreed.
Before long, it was done.
The men returned to the tent and a meal of fish, which they hungrily devoured. Divided eight ways the food did not stretch far, but it was enough.
After they ate, Steinarr shook out a cloth he had rolled up, its importance clear only when it was unfurled and free. He stood there proudly, letting the firelight show its truth – a black raven, on a blue field – the banner salvaged from their wreck. He announced, “The raven flies over Godsland, having beaten off the wolf!”
A cheer rang around them.
Erik the Dane laughed and offered, “We need something to drink!”
The others murmured in agreement.
Steinarr nodded and offered the banner to Eskil.
Sharing a smile, with Gudrid beside him, Eskil stood and took the banner. “A drink would be good, but that will have to wait for another day. For now, let us celebrate that we sailed under the raven, the symbol of Odin, who delivered us here. We came looking for a new home, one free from the influence of the White Christ and rising kings, and we have found it. Together, we will build a great land to honour him!”
They called out their agreement.

Chapter 3



-



Godsland


Exploration and discovery, under cool and mostly dry skies, filled the next few days. In that time, it seemed the wolf was unwilling to face them again, although they often found fresh signs of its passing. Those days also brought sorrowful moments often paired with hope: The bodies of three more of their crew were found, along with the half-eaten remains of some of their livestock; three drowned and savaged sheep. They also happened upon more salvage, including a chest holding a small iron axe – and that, at least, was welcome.
Much of the debris from their ship was close to the site of their beaching, but the farther west they ranged from the runestone, the better the land. With every step they took from the open sea, the more the low, rock-studded hills, along the windswept and stony coast gained shelter from the nearby islands edging a broad channel that seemed to funnel them towards the fjord’s mouth.
Away from the beach, areas of the hills often revealed sheltered gullies with pastures, streams and even struggling copses of trees. They were unlike the steeper, western shores, where the fjord cut into Markland’s rugged interior. But they were close, and more welcoming than the harsh land about the runestone.
They also noticed how the shore curved around, beginning to head north. Eventually, when another channel ran into the one beside them, they realised they were on a large, sea battered island at the fjord’s mouth. The slopes and vales across the water were tighter and deeper, with occasional woodland-cover. It looked to be not only birch and willow, but also taller timbers such as pine and larch. To see this range of terrain and timber was a comfort, even if it was unreachable – at least for now.
The island promised to be a harsh place. Thin soils hid under the turf, but improved in the gullies, similar to those inland along the fjord. The summer weather was cool, as was the water, but they had expected Greenland and the adjacent new lands to be as such. The long, white winter would be their real challenge. Nonetheless, the vales, woods and pastures they saw about them had potential.
They spent their second night at a more sheltered campsite featuring deep stone overhangs, along one side of a gully, as well as several small caves. Here they feasted on the meat from the sheep carcasses they had recovered, and smoked what they could of the rest.
Eskil spoke as they sat around a noisy fire fed by driftwood and timber gathered from a nearby copse. “It looks as if we have found all we are going to, in the way of survivors and salvage, though we must keep watch for whatever else may come. Yet, a question remains. Should we stay on this island or take to the mainland that from a distance looks promising, with better pastures and thicker woods? If any of you have concerns on this matter, now is the time to voice them.”
No one immediately answered since they were busy with their mutton. In truth, Eskil had planned it that way; he wanted his people to consider their words carefully.
Halla spoke first, not surprising anyone, as she had again worked to cook and serve, and was still cutting her own portion of meat with one of their few blades. “What of the wolf? If we are on the island, then so is the beast.”
Eskil nodded as others murmured their own concerns. After swallowing a mouthful of meat, he said, “The wolf is a danger, I agree. The huge beast looked crazed and half starved. Perhaps it crossed ice to the island during the winter and became stranded at the thaw. Regardless, we will need better weapons, as one wood axe, a few knives and a generous supply of stones may work against the wolf when we are together, but not if any of us are caught out alone. We will have to watch for signs of it, to see if we can find its lair. As for our meagre arms, we need to improve them, since they will not do against the skraelings.”
“Skraelings?” Torrador asked with a frown.
“They may not be on the island, but we know they are in Greenland and also most certainly in Vinland. Some must be nearby, even if they are in the depths of the fjords. Eventually we will run into them.”
Halla finally sat, with her own serving of meat, but instead of eating, she asked, “How would we stand against them?”
“We are too few to wage any meaningful war with them, regardless of how many of them Markland hides. For now, we must be armed and ready as best we can, and that means creating a home we can defend.”
Gudrid spoke up. “Staying on the island may keep them at bay.”
Eskil smiled at her with pride, for she was right. “For a while, at least.”
“Should we work to build a boat and sail for Greenland,” Erik asked, “thus seeking the company of our own kind?”
“They are giving themselves to the White Christ. They are no longer our kind!” Torrador snapped, drawing sharp nods of agreement.
Eskil agreed. “That is reason enough to stay here, on the land Odin chose for us.”
Steinarr sat beside his younger brother, Samr, both men nodding as they ate. The older man swallowed some mutton before saying, “We will need to build a boat in any case – and eventually a ship.”
Gudrid answered him, “Yes, we have the skills, but the tools are gone, stolen away by the sea. We could still build a ship, but such a thing would take more time than we can give it before winter settles in.”
Many of them considered her words before turning to Eskil, who gave a nod. “While we lack the tools to easily make a ship capable of crossing to Greenland or back to Iceland, we will be able to create them in time. We first need a boat for the local waterways. And we need to consider the winter, for it will be long and harsh.”
Steinarr shrugged. “Winter will be hard, but it is almost two full seasons away.”
Gudrid grimaced. “If we had Manni or Leif here with their tools and skills, we might finish a ship over summer, but not by ourselves. It will take longer. At the same time, we will need to be hunting and gathering food, as there is no farm yard here to harvest.”
Eskil nodded, pleased with how sound a thought it was. “Yes, we must consider our other needs as well.”
“We need iron,” Steinarr grumbled. “A few knives and a poor wood axe will win us no skraeling war.”
Erik the Dane agreed. “We will not find iron on this island. In order to make the tools and weapons needed to defend ourselves, we will need to go to the mainland and find a bog that will provide the necessary metal for smelting.” Murmurs of agreement rose from the group.
Eskil announced, “So, Godsland is our home for now.”
Many about the fire nodded.
Gudrid said, “You men have spoken of our need for weapons, and for that I should not be surprised. But we also need to build up a store of foods and better shelter. We arrived here in early summer, so none of us know what the winter will be like; it would be wise to plan for it to be long and hard, perhaps worse than in Iceland. It will be a hungry and barren time. If we do not work on gathering stores now, we will starve before we face any skraelings, despite how many weapons we have.”

JSmith
August 3rd, 2013, 06:00 PM
So do you ask a moderator to have a thread stickied ?

Kaiphranos
August 3rd, 2013, 06:16 PM
So do you ask a moderator to have a thread stickied ?

Yep, you can just report the thread and request it.

JSmith
August 3rd, 2013, 06:23 PM
Yep, you can just report the thread and request it.
and besides Ian its CalBear and Burton K Wheeler?

JSmith
August 5th, 2013, 05:11 PM
and besides Ian its CalBear and Burton K Wheeler?
Thanks for the sticky.

Now lets all endeavor to fill 'er up :)

JSmith
August 15th, 2013, 07:31 PM
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http://www.amazon.com/The-Boleyn-King-Novel-Trilogy/dp/0345534093/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

The Boleyn King is a work of historical fiction. Apart from the well-known actual people, events, and locales that figure in the narrative, all names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to current events, or locales, or to living persons, is entirely coincidental.



AUTHOR’S NOTE


ON JANUARY 29, 1536, Anne Boleyn, Queen of England, miscarried a baby boy of approximately four months’ gestation. It was the beginning of the end for Henry VIII’s second queen, for Henry was forty-five years old and desperately needed a son. Although his passion for Anne had been both strong and enduring—sufficient to separate the English Church from the Pope’s authority—the miscarriage was the final blow in an already wavering marriage.
Anne’s fall was swift and brutal. On May 2 she was arrested on charges of adultery and treason. On May 17 five men were executed for having allegedly committed adultery with her—including her brother, George, Lord Rochford. On May 19 Anne was beheaded by a French swordsman on Tower Green. On May 30 Henry married Jane Seymour.
What if Anne Boleyn had not miscarried? What if she had brought the pregnancy to term and delivered a healthy boy in the summer of 1536? What if Henry only ever had two wives and Anne’s son, not Jane Seymour’s, became King of England?
And what if, in the end, Elizabeth Tudor still became queen?
PRELUDE


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28 June 1536
FOR ANNE BOLEYN, the world had narrowed in the last twenty hours to this: candle flame and darkness, stifling heat aggravated by leaded window glass and heavy draperies, bed linens that could not be kept clean, and the familiar pain of a child wanting out of her body.
And overriding it all, a terrible, clutching panic.
Anne was no stranger to childbirth; she had borne a whole and healthy daughter not quite three years ago. But she had not been afraid that time. She had been newly crowned, had finally taken her place openly at Henry’s side, had seen her rival banished and her own family promoted. And she had been absolutely certain that the child she carried then was a boy.
The wrenching disappointment of Elizabeth’s birth had faded slightly with the girl’s obvious health and intelligence. No one could doubt the little girl was Henry Tudor’s daughter—not only her red-gold hair but her entire presence shouted the assurance of her father’s blood.
But Henry already had a daughter. He had not divorced the popular Catherine of Aragon, defied the Holy Roman Emperor, and wrested control of the Church from papal hands in order to have a second daughter. He needed a son. A son Anne had been meant to give him. She had already failed not once but twice: there had been a boy a year after Elizabeth … a boy who never even breathed.
Anne moaned with a mix of pain and fear—fear of the pale, blonde Jane Seymour, whom Henry had plucked out of Anne’s own household to make his mistress. There’s the black humour of fate, Anne thought. Doing to me what we did to Catherine.
And now Catherine was dead these five months, and as far as most of Europe was concerned, Henry was legally single. Anne’s enemies scented blood. If this child was not a living boy …
“Your Majesty,” the midwife said, “it’s time to push. It shouldn’t be long now.”
“That’s what you said at noon,” Anne snapped back. At dawn, when her pains began, they had closed the single window she’d been allowed to open this last month and now she had no clear idea of just what hour it was. After sunset at the least.
She stifled a scream as the midwife pulled her legs apart and two of Anne’s ladies held them back.
“Push, milady,” the midwife instructed from the stool where she sat with skirts tucked between her legs, ready to guide the child out.
Anne focused all her power and managed to push twice before the pain eased and the midwife allowed her a brief respite.
Please let it be quick, she intoned silently to God, and please let it be a son.
She felt the rising wave of another contraction and braced herself, wishing passionately that Marie were with her. But her favorite lady-in-waiting had been caught unaware mere hours ago by her own childbirth pains. Anne spared a moment’s thought for the Frenchwoman’s too-early labor—she should ask after her; her own ladies were in and out of the room bearing news to the king, whispering to the midwife and each other in a way that made Anne want to scream. But then she was overwhelmed by her own body and forgot about Marie.
This time she let the sound of her effort leak out, half push and half sob. Then a swift burning and the midwife exclaimed, “Slowly, milady, the head is out.”
But Anne could not go slowly. She gave one mighty push and felt a rush of relief as she could, for the first time in months, take a deep breath.
She lay back, exhausted and wanting only to sleep.
The midwife bundled up the screaming child—at least it was alive—after a quick check and handed it to a waiting maid. Then, without speaking, the midwife stood and walked over to the drapes. She pulled back on one and then opened the casement window to let the air in.
Anne squeezed her eyes shut. Had it been a boy, everyone would have been shouting the joy of it to the heavens. No, no, no! she wailed inwardly. Another girl. Behind closed eyes, she could see Henry and Jane and knew she was in the greatest trouble of her life.
“Your Majesty,” the midwife said softly. “Open your eyes.”
Anne made herself look. It wasn’t the baby the midwife was indicating—it was the dark skies through the window.
“Not an hour ago, there was a rush of falling stars—one of the women told me. Do you know what that means?”
Anne didn’t have the energy for any reply, let alone the furious one she wanted to make.
The midwife smiled brilliantly. “It is a sign, Your Majesty. A sign of God’s good pleasure on you and all England. He has given us a prince. A Prince of Wales to follow in his great father’s footsteps.”
Anne’s heart stuttered. “Truly?”
“Truly, milady. We will wash him and then take him to the king. His Majesty will be well pleased.”
Anne shut her eyes again, so as not to weep openly. Henry will be pleased, she thought. And I …
I will remain queen.
CHAPTER ONE


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28 June 1553
Hampton Court
I am seventeen today and have decided that, although I shall never be a scholar like Elizabeth, I can at least keep a diary. My history is quickly told—daughter of a French mother and an English gentleman, no siblings, and no parents since I was eight. My full name is Genevieve Antoinette Wyatt. It was Elizabeth who first called me Minuette. I was born more than a month before I was expected, and the first time she saw me, Elizabeth thought me too little for the name my French mother had given me. She attempted to call me Mignonette—meaning dainty and darling—but her three-year-old tongue did not pronounce it properly. I have been Minuette to my friends ever since.
The importance of this day goes beyond just my seventeenth birthday—today I return to Elizabeth’s household after an absence of two years. Queen Anne has been my guardian since my mother’s death nearly nine years ago, and I spent my childhood with Elizabeth. But when I turned fifteen, the queen took me into her own household in order to train me properly for Elizabeth’s service. I have learnt to stand quietly when necessary, so that I am almost forgotten. I have learnt to remember names and faces, to know the habits of noblemen and the idiosyncrasies of ambassadors. And I have learnt to lock away secrets, for a lady of the privy chamber must be able to keep her own counsel.
Elizabeth has come to Hampton Court not only to reclaim me but also to join in the weeklong celebrations for William’s birthday. There will be feasting and dancing tonight, and I will pretend, as I always have, that the celebrations are half for me. But today the only celebration I truly care about is seeing my friends. Although Queen Anne spends much of her time with her children, I have not seen either of them for a year. Last summer the queen decided I was too dependent on others, and so I was left behind every time she joined the court at Whitehall or Greenwich or Richmond. I spent six months at Hever and six months at Blickling Hall as her resident lady. A great privilege, to be sure—but I would have given up any privilege to see my friends!
Dominic has come as well. A waiting woman told me that Master Courtenay rode in after dark last night and is even now with the king. I have not seen him for a full sixteen months, not since he was named Lieutenant of the March along the Welsh border. I am sure he could have managed to visit at least once in all that time, but his letters always pleaded duty, a virtue to which he is too much wed. I wonder what he has brought me for my birthday. I hope it is fabric—velvet or satin or shot silk. But it is probably only a book. Dominic has always thought it his calling to teach me to be wise.
Minuette closed the diary, pristine vellum pages bound by soft calfskin, and marked her place with a bit of burgundy velvet ribbon.
The sharp, familiar voice of Alyce de Clare came from the open doorway behind her. “Are you still here? I was looking forward to having the chamber to myself for once.”
Minuette swiveled on her stool and smiled. “You know you will miss me as much as I’m going to miss you.”
Alyce was nearly three years older, and she, like Minuette, came from a relatively unimportant family. Alyce had come to Queen Anne because her father had been a secretary in Lord Rochford’s household. The queen’s brother could be as difficult to please as Anne herself, but both of them were quick to reward loyalty. Alyce’s father had served Rochford long and well (and discreetly), and his daughter had been rewarded with a place at court where she might be expected to make a good marriage. She and Minuette had been steady chambermates for the last two years.
Alyce attempted a smile, but it didn’t touch more than the corners of her mouth. “You will be too busy being important in Princess Elizabeth’s household to remember to miss me.”
“Of course I’ll remember.” Minuette stood, which meant the shorter Alyce had to look up a little. “I just wish …”
“Wish what?”
Minuette hesitated, but she knew that this might be her last chance to speak her worries. “Alyce, I’m worried about you. I think … I think you are in trouble. I would help you if I could.”
Alyce’s brown eyes blanked—a skill most women picked up rapidly in the queen’s household. On Alyce, it had the effect of sharpening her generous mouth and rounded cheeks, so she looked more like a statue of a woman rather than her usual vivacious, warm self. With distant courtesy, she said, “I can’t imagine what you mean.”
“You should speak to the queen,” Minuette said firmly, letting her eyes linger on Alyce’s waist. Though still tightly cinched beneath a yellow-and-black-patterned stomacher, it had been growing thicker over the last eight weeks. “Someone will tell her soon enough, and you know how she hates gossip.”
For a heartbeat Alyce seemed to teeter on complete denial, then with a rush of emotion she said, “And you know very well that the queen will be angry no matter who tells her.”
Minuette did know. But she put a hand on the stiffly embroidered sleeve of Alyce’s yellow dress and said gently, “You will have to act very soon. If I can help in any way—perhaps I could speak to Elizabeth—”
“No!” Alyce jerked away, her waist-length brown hair swirling. “Don’t tell anyone. Certainly not the princess. She is the very last person who would help me.”
“Elizabeth is my dearest friend, she would—”
“Princess Elizabeth is her mother’s daughter.” Alyce smiled fully this time, a bitter and twisted smile that broke Minuette’s heart. “The rising star and the setting sun … but both of them can burn.”
“Who is the father?” Minuette asked quietly. It was a question she had pondered often the last few weeks. One would think that, in the close quarters of the court, she would know whom Alyce had been dallying with. But her friend also knew how to keep secrets.
Alyce shook her head. “You are not meant for these sorts of games, Minuette. You are too trusting and too generous. Those qualities will hurt you one day—but not through any action of mine. Forget what you have guessed. I can take care of myself.”
She turned away with the grace of a sylph and vanished as suddenly as she’d come. Minuette sighed, knowing she would hold her tongue, as Alyce had asked. For now.
Dominic Courtenay fingered the necklace he had bought at the abbey fair in Shrewsbury: cabochon-cut sapphires and pearls to circle the neck, with a filigree star pendant. Neither exotic nor terribly expensive, but Minuette had little jewelry of her own and she delighted in impractical gifts.
He had just finished tying up the pendant in a square of fabric when William opened the door without knocking and shut it in the faces of those who followed him everywhere. He was dressed for sport, in a linen shirt and leather jerkin.
“Why is it,” William said accusingly, “that you are the only man in England who keeps me waiting?”
Dominic gave him a wry smile. “Because I’m the only man in England who still thinks of you as Will rather than as the king.”
William snorted and crossed the room. Picking up a sheet of heavy paper from the desk, he read a few words aloud. “ ‘Once there were four stars’ … you wrote down the star story for Minuette?”
Dominic pulled the letter away and said, “It’s not easy to share your birthday with a king, especially not one whose birth was attended by such signs as stars falling from the sky.”
“It’s a fair enough gift.”
“What did you get her?” Even as he asked, he wondered why it sounded like a challenge.
“It’s a surprise. And speaking of gifts …” William’s voice trailed off meaningfully.
Dominic shook his head. “I thought you were anxious for sparring practice.”
“Only to prove that my reach is longer than it was when you left—you might find it harder to disarm me.”
Dominic cast a measuring eye over the boy he had known since birth. It was true that he had gone some way to matching his father’s height. Still, Dominic was five years older and a natural swordsman. He didn’t think William was his equal yet; they would find out soon enough in a fair sparring bout.
Only once had Dominic made the mistake of going easy. When William was ten and had been king just six months, he and Dominic had spent the morning fighting with wooden practice swords. But William grew impatient with the clumsy replicas and demanded real swords. The swordmaster hesitated, but a nod from Lord Rochford, who was watching their practice, sent him scurrying off.
William caught the implied permission from the Lord Protector. He said nothing, but Dominic saw the set of his still-childish jaw as they were laced into the bulky, padded jerkins that would be some measure of protection against blunted steel.
For the first time ever, Dominic allowed himself to make mistakes as they sparred—nothing obvious, or so he thought. Just a misstep here and a delayed feint there, enough to give the younger boy the edge.
But he had miscalculated. Without warning, William threw his sword straight at Dominic’s head. Only a quick duck saved him from being hit squarely by the hilt. Too surprised to move further, Dominic stood silent as William marched up to him, the command in his voice making up for the fact that he was six inches shorter. “Don’t you ever do that again.”
“Do what?” Dominic asked.
William struck him once, hard on the cheek. “Don’t ever lower your guard. I will be the best because I’ve earned it. I don’t need you to hand me my victories.”
He turned and walked out of the practice arena. He had not raised his voice or lost control of his colour, but Dominic had felt the force of his anger whipping through the air.
If William’s skill had increased as much as his height, he might earn a victory today, and Dominic had just the weapon for him to use. He opened his trunk and removed a layer of neatly folded clothing—plain tunics and jerkins, as befitted a soldier in the field—to uncover the gift that lay beneath.
There was really no way to make a sword unrecognizable. With a grin of delight, William pulled it free from its scabbard and took a few enthusiastic swings before holding it horizontally in one hand to test the balance.
Dominic turned the sword so that William could see clearly the four star-shaped gems laid in the gold hilt. “Now there’s one place where the four of us are always together.”
William laughed. “You sound as though you’re dying. Or perhaps you’ve met an accommodating Welsh miss and wish to change allegiance?”
With a grin, Dominic shrugged off his sentimentality. “You’ll be the first to know.”
As she entered her mother’s outer chamber, Elizabeth straightened her shoulders, ensuring that the green and gold brocade of her dress did not ripple across the stomacher but flared perfectly from tiny waist to wide skirts. Elizabeth had heard her mother cut a lady to shreds with her tongue for an uneven hem or a slight stain, and she did not doubt that Anne would subject her own daughter to the same.
A dozen of her mother’s ladies were grouped in threes and fours around the ornate presence chamber. Several were working on a tapestry while others wrote letters or talked quietly amongst themselves. One lady, with a straight fall of rich brown hair, played lightly on a lute. As Elizabeth passed her, the young woman looked up and her fingers missed a chord.
She returned to playing almost at once, but not before giving Elizabeth a hostile glance. What was her name? One of the de Clares, she thought, but not from an important branch or Elizabeth would know her better. Almost she stopped to speak to the woman, but her mother was waiting.
Queen Anne sat in a gilded wooden chair placed next to a tall window, a Tyndale Bible open on her lap. As Elizabeth curtsied, she wondered how much longer her mother would be able to see the fine print of the books she loved so well. These days she could read only in brightest sunlight.
Rising with a seductive grace that was still the envy of every woman in England, her mother said, “Will you join me within, Elizabeth?” Despite the intonation, it was not a question.
She followed her mother to the door in the north wall that led to the intimate but no less elegant privy chamber. Only one lady of the privy chamber was inside—one who flung herself at Elizabeth in a most inelegant manner.
“Elizabeth!”
Minuette hugged Elizabeth with unrestrained delight while the queen, who would have frozen any other woman with a stare of ice for such behaviour, smiled upon the pair. Beneath her own delight, Elizabeth felt a brief spasm of pain. Minuette had always had charm—not the studied, showy type, but natural as breath and as much a part of her as her honey-coloured hair. Elizabeth could clearly remember her father visiting the schoolroom in the year before his death. She had spent an hour translating Latin and Greek for him, doing mathematics, and discussing theology. Though he’d complimented Elizabeth’s mind, it was nine-year-old Minuette who had disarmed him. When the formidable, enormous King Henry had left, it had been Minuette whom he’d hugged goodbye.
Elizabeth might have hated her for that charm, if Minuette weren’t so utterly without guile.
Queen Anne’s beautiful voice broke into Elizabeth’s memory. “I take it that you are both pleased.”
Beneath the words lay a hint of perplexity, as though she could not imagine why. Truthfully, Elizabeth would have been hard-pressed to name a single woman whom her mother considered a friend. She had always preferred men.
Feeling almost sorry for her mother, Elizabeth said, “I could not be more pleased. It is generous of you to allow her to return to my household.”
Her mother might like flattery, but she was never stupid. “Considering that you have been pressing the king for months, you cannot be surprised. She is a trifle young still—as are you, Elizabeth.”
“I will be twenty in September,” Elizabeth said mildly.
As if she hadn’t heard, her mother went on, “But your brother is determined to allow you an unusual measure of independence.”
It was Minuette, naturally, who had something complimentary to say. “And how could he do otherwise, with the example of his great father before him? Did not King Henry give you the right of femme sole over the objections of his council?”
Anne smiled slightly. “And I trust he never had cause to regret it. See to it, Elizabeth, that your brother never has cause to regret your independence.”
Elizabeth met her mother’s eyes, biting back the impulse to argue. Independent? She couldn’t even sell one of her farms without the council’s approval, let alone travel abroad or marry whom she liked.
With a steadiness to match her mother’s, Elizabeth said, “I will act in all ways as you would.”
And then came one of those rare and disconcerting flashes from her mother, as though she could read every shade of meaning in Elizabeth’s careful words. “That is what worries me.” Then Anne waved her hand at the girls. “You may go,” she said. “I will see you both this evening.”
Elizabeth drew a deep breath as they left her mother’s rooms, unsure if it was regret or relief that she felt. She looked at Minuette, walking beside her in a passable imitation of demure restraint, and said, “Do you think there will be any difference between being my friend and being my attendant?”
“Do you?” Minuette’s directness was disarmed by her smile. Without waiting for a reply, she tossed her head. “At least it means that I am finished with tutors and teaching. Now my duties will be considerably more to my taste.”
Elizabeth could not resist teasing. “Your duties will be at my discretion. Perhaps I will require you to translate a page of Greek each day.”
But Minuette knew her too well to take her seriously. “I am to translate people, not books—to discern who is making a bid for power, which diplomat should be seen and which snubbed, who amongst your ladies can be trusted in the privy chamber. And, perhaps, who is in the best position to claim you as a bride.”
“You think me incapable of seeing such things for myself?”
With a look of mingled amusement and scorn, Minuette said, “Of course not. Everyone knows you are far more clever and subtle than I am. I’ve no doubt you see things that go by most of the men at court. I am to be your foil. The lighthearted, merrymaking girl who is thought to be less discreet than her mistress.”
Elizabeth laughed from the heady sense of mischief that Minuette carried with her. “I think you and I will do very well together.”
William was annoyed to find his uncle and the Duke of Northumberland waiting for him when he returned from the morning’s exercise. He was sweating after two hours in the practice yard, but when he asked sharply, “Can’t this wait?” his uncle merely gave him a measuring look and answered, “If this were a courtesy call, Your Majesty … but we must discuss the French situation.”
He changed clothes rapidly, wincing at the bruise on his upper arm. Though he had forced Dominic to work hard, William had still been disarmed in the end by a spectacular and unexpected kick to his hand that had sent his wooden practice sword flying. Afterward he had made Dominic show him just how he’d done it, and then practiced the move himself for twenty minutes.
Dominic had always been sought after as a sparring partner, and he’d had plenty of competition this morning aside from William. After more than a year spent honing his skills against the Welsh, he had faced little serious competition from the men at court, some of whom were not as careful as they should have been. Giles Howard, Lord Norfolk’s youngest son, had suffered both a clout to the head and a slash to his doublet.
William rejoined his uncle and Northumberland in his privy chamber, where he once again picked up his sword. No matter what palace he stayed in, the privy chamber was always his favorite, because he could keep out the hordes that buzzed around in the more public rooms. While listening to his councilors discuss the latest proposed treaty with France, he paced the room, refighting the morning’s exercise and perfecting each move. It wouldn’t be long, he vowed, before he and Dominic were evenly matched.
Northumberland flinched when the sword came within a foot of him and, as was his custom, spoke bluntly. “Your Majesty, if you could stop roaming and pay attention … This is serious.”
William came to a dead stop and stared at him. “Do you imagine I can do only one thing at a time?”
Rochford intervened with a touch of amusement. “Lord Northumberland imagines that he can persuade you out of this treaty, or at least the provision for your sister’s marriage.”
William had been expecting this from the staunchly Protestant Northumberland, and his reply came easily. “King Henri and I meet in Calais in September. I support France against the Hapsburgs in exchange for a thousand pounds in gold and French support of England against Spain. This to be sealed by the betrothal of my sister, Elizabeth, to Henri’s brother, Charles.”
William locked eyes with Northumberland and went on quietly, “Are you saying you would rather ally with the emperor? Because it’s one or the other. And Elizabeth married to Philip of Spain would be far more dangerous.”
A man of both great temper and high humour, Northumberland was not easily cowed. He looked like what he was—a newcomer to noble ranks—and standing next to the sleek, elegant Rochford only highlighted his imposing figure. “I would rather that an English princess honour her father’s legacy and not tie herself to a Catholic prince.”
“My father’s—” William made himself stop until he was sure he could go on without anger leaking through. “My father’s legacy is practicality. When Elizabeth marries Charles, English Catholics are appeased and my choice of a bride widens.”
Though Northumberland was less subtle than Rochford, he was no less clever. More, possibly, except that he always let people see what he was calculating. “So Princess Elizabeth marries a Catholic and you marry …”
“Whomever I wish,” William said shortly. “Which is also my father’s legacy.”
He could practically hear the turning of Northumberland’s mind. If he could persuade the king to marry the partly royal and wholly Protestant Jane Grey … well, that would be worth sacrificing Elizabeth for.
Even if Northumberland’s son, Robert Dudley, objected.
The door to his privy chamber opened and William saw Dominic hesitating beyond the guards. “We’re finished,” William said. “The French treaty must be presented to the full council. But not today.”
He turned away as they bowed themselves out of the room. Dominic spoke behind him. “You really shouldn’t bait them.”
“Do you think my father would have put up with insolence?”
“Your father wasn’t ten years old when he became king. The regency council is to help you learn, Will, and to protect England while you do.”
William replaced his sword in the scabbard and tossed it on a table. “I’m not ten years old anymore.”
He stalked past Dominic, ignoring the pressing crowds in the presence chamber. His guards could read his moods and kept the people well back. William was aware of Dominic following him down the arched corridor, but his friend had the good sense to keep quiet. Even in his anger, William knew he was acting in precisely the childish manner that his councilors seemed to expect.
Dominic caught up to him and spoke carefully. “I’m sorry, Your Majesty. Sometimes I forget which one of you I’m addressing. I speak to my friend when I should be speaking to my king.”
That brought William to a halt. Shaking off his injured pride, he turned back to Dominic, glad that the guards had closed off the ends of the corridor so that the two of them were briefly alone. “Don’t you know that’s why I value you? Because you I can always trust to speak honestly—even when you shouldn’t. That’s more than I can say for any of my councilors. They speak what they think I want to hear, or only as much as they want me to know.”
Pausing for breath, William grinned. “One year, Dom. Then I can dispose of the regency, if not of councils altogether. When I am eighteen, they’ll see I’ve been paying a good deal of attention. They think they are molding me to be biddable when older. They will learn better.”
Throwing an arm around his friend’s shoulders, he pulled him forward. “Let’s go see what the women are up to. You must have missed them this last year.”
As they reached the stairs that led down to Clock Court, they heard voices drifting up from below. Amongst the chatter of the court, two voices were nearer and damningly clear. “So the king’s agreed to your marriage with the Wyatt girl?”

Readman
September 3rd, 2013, 02:37 AM
Admittedly not really much to add to the thread *but* I've rpe ordeed Greenfield's Kennedy Lives book...if when I get it you're interested at all in a review it'd be my pleasure to do so ;):D

B_Munro
September 3rd, 2013, 04:12 AM
This might be of interest....

http://www.amazon.com/Neither-Victor-nor-Vanquished-America/dp/1612346073

in 1812, less than forty years after breaking from Britain, the United States found itself in another war with its former colonial master. Now, during the two hundredth anniversary of the War of 1812 comes Neither Victor nor Vanquished, William Weber’s reappraisal of this critical but frequently misunderstood conflict.

In the first half of the book, Weber reexamines the war’s military aspects, highlighting the asymmetric nature of the conflict as the world’s foremost naval power with a credible professional army stood against an idealist republic with commercial and agricultural aspirations but without an adequate navy and army. Weber also attempts to recalibrate popular conceptions of the U.S. forces’ generally poor performance during “Mr. Madison’s War,” and frames the War of 1812 in the context of both the Jeffersonian Revolution that preceded the war and the accelerated territorial expansion and consolidation of the United States that eventually led to the American Civil War.

The book’s thought-provoking second half presents alternative outcomes for the War of 1812, reminding us that history is made, not predetermined. Various scenarios arise from differences in two key factors—the quality of generalship in both armies and the direction of the Napoleonic Wars, which Britain was simultaneously fighting. Weber imagines a worst case scenario for the young republic, an ending worse than a simple military defeat. Indeed, history might have provided a different answer to Francis Scott Key’s central question, “O, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave / O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” A final what-if explores a nineteenth-century America that chooses to avoid the War of 1812 and, consequently, the rise of Andrew Jackson.

cubefreak123
September 3rd, 2013, 04:44 AM
Oh boy, everyone's favorite AH author is at it again:

http://www.amazon.com/1920-Americas-Great-Robert-Conroy/dp/1451639317/ref=pd_sim_b_5


1920: America's Great War

By the author of breakout WW II era alternate history Himmler’s War and Rising Sun, a compelling alternate history thriller. After winning WW I, Germany invades America in 1920, marching through California and Texas as a desperate nation resists.Consider another 1920: Imperial Germany has become the most powerful nation in the world. In 1914, she had crushed England, France, and Russia in a war that was short but entirely devastating.

By 1920, Kaiser Wilhelm II is looking for new lands to devour. The United States is fast becoming an economic super-power and the only nation that can conceivably threaten Germany. The U.S. is militarily inept, however, and is led by a sick and delusional president who wanted to avoid war at any price. Thus, Germany is able to ship a huge army to Mexico to support a puppet government.

Her real goal: the invasion and permanent conquest of California and Texas.

America desperately resists as the mightiest and most brutal army in the world in a battle fought on land, at sea, and in the air as enemy armies savagely marched up on California, and move north towards a second Battle of the Alamo. Only the indomitable spirit of freedom can answer the Kaiser's challenge.

JSmith
September 3rd, 2013, 07:01 PM
Admittedly not really much to add to the thread *but* I've rpe ordeed Greenfield's Kennedy Lives book...if when I get it you're interested at all in a review it'd be my pleasure to do so ;):D
I would love to have a review here. I plan on reading this myself when I can but please review away :)

JSmith
September 3rd, 2013, 07:02 PM
This might be of interest....

http://www.amazon.com/Neither-Victor-nor-Vanquished-America/dp/1612346073


It definitely is and another one added to my to read list :)

JSmith
September 3rd, 2013, 07:04 PM
Oh boy, everyone's favorite AH author is at it again:

http://www.amazon.com/1920-Americas-Great-Robert-Conroy/dp/1451639317/ref=pd_sim_b_5




Conroy is trying to give Turtledove a run for his money. but I would think everyone here likes at least the concept of a prolific alternate history writer :)

JSmith
September 11th, 2013, 02:10 AM
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The Windsor Faction [Kindle Edition]

D. J. Taylor (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&field-author=D.%20J.%20Taylor&search-alias=digital-text&sort=relevancerank) (Author)




Book Description

Publication Date: September 3, 2013
If Wallis Simpson had not died on the operating table in December 1936, Edward VIII would not have been King of England three years later. He would have abdicated for “the woman he loves,” but now, the throne beckons. If Henry Bannister’s car had not careered off the Colombo back-road in the summer before the war, Cynthia Kirkpatrick would never have found out about The Faction.

It is autumn 1939, and everything in history is just as it was. Except, that is, for the identity of the man in Buckingham Palace and the existence of a secret organization operating at the highest levels of society and determined to derail the war effort against Nazi Germany.

From the staff of the newly founded literary magazine, Duration, hunkered down in their Bloomsbury square, and the country house parties full of renegade Tory MPs, to Tyler Kent, the Embassy cipher clerk with his sheaf of stolen presidential telegrams, the journalist Beverley Nichols deviously at work on an alternative King’s Speech, while a Lancashire lad named Rodney nervously runs errands from his Maida Vale antiques shop to the House of Commons.

The Windsor Faction is an ingenious exercise in might-have-been, which assembles a cast of real and imaginary people in a horrifyingly plausible reinvention of history.

Greg Grant
September 12th, 2013, 02:30 AM
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http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E88GLT4/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb




The Windsor Faction [Kindle Edition]

D. J. Taylor (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&field-author=D.%20J.%20Taylor&search-alias=digital-text&sort=relevancerank) (Author)




Book Description

Publication Date: September 3, 2013
If Wallis Simpson had not died on the operating table in December 1936, Edward VIII would not have been King of England three years later. He would have abdicated for “the woman he loves,” but now, the throne beckons. If Henry Bannister’s car had not careered off the Colombo back-road in the summer before the war, Cynthia Kirkpatrick would never have found out about The Faction.

It is autumn 1939, and everything in history is just as it was. Except, that is, for the identity of the man in Buckingham Palace and the existence of a secret organization operating at the highest levels of society and determined to derail the war effort against Nazi Germany.

From the staff of the newly founded literary magazine, Duration, hunkered down in their Bloomsbury square, and the country house parties full of renegade Tory MPs, to Tyler Kent, the Embassy cipher clerk with his sheaf of stolen presidential telegrams, the journalist Beverley Nichols deviously at work on an alternative King’s Speech, while a Lancashire lad named Rodney nervously runs errands from his Maida Vale antiques shop to the House of Commons.

The Windsor Faction is an ingenious exercise in might-have-been, which assembles a cast of real and imaginary people in a horrifyingly plausible reinvention of history.
The premise is not much, but the pedigree of the writer intrigues. This might be a good novel.

Himpdahak@aol.com
September 13th, 2013, 10:15 PM
Anyone here remember that Kennedy survives and is impeached book Turtledove started writing. Apparently it was finished by the coauthor Bryce Zabel. Is titled Surrounded by Enemies: What if Kennedy Survived Dallas. Published as a kindle ebook.From a sample, the author states he believes the assassination was a conspiricie. However Turtledove did write a forward for the book. Also Turtledove has edited Blue Vs Gray:Alternate History Tales From the Front Lines of the American Civil War.

JSmith
September 13th, 2013, 11:11 PM
Anyone here remember that Kennedy survives and is impeached book Turtledove started writing. Apparently it was finished by the coauthor Bryce Zabel. Is titled Surrounded by Enemies: What if Kennedy Survived Dallas. Published as a kindle ebook.From a sample, the author states he believes the assassination was a conspiricie. However Turtledove did write a forward for the book. Also Turtledove has edited Blue Vs Gray:Alternate History Tales From the Front Lines of the American Civil War.
Thanks I always wondered about what happened with that :) Seems a good year for Kennedy books-50th anniversary on November 22 and all. Also Uchronia.net needs to update their page on this :o




http://www.amazon.com/Surrounded-Enemies-Kennedy-Survived-ebook/dp/B00E881Z2M/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1379110379&sr=1-1&keywords=bryce+zabel#reader_B00E881Z2M
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What if Kennedy Survived Dallas?


Bryce Zabel



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Surrounded by Enemies: What if Kennedy Survived Dallas? [Kindle Edition]

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Book Description

Publication Date:July 29, 2013
If President John Kennedy had survived the ambush at Dealey Plaza in Dallas a half-century ago, what other twists might history have taken? In his meticulously researched novel, "Surrounded by Enemies: What If Kennedy Survived Dallas?”, author Bryce Zabel delivers a supercharged but plausible alternative narrative of the turbulent 1960s after our charismatic president escapes unscathed on November 22, 1963.

Since the assassination, other writers have speculated about the important work for peace and equality that President Kennedy could have done had his life been spared. Instead, Zabel -- a Writers Guild award-winning Hollywood writer/producer -- boldly re-imagines a shocking post-1963 political scenario that is painfully disruptive to the nation, culminating in a Constitutional crisis and even calls for the president’s impeachment. Without resorting to sci-fi gimmicks, Zabel instead investigates and explores what we now know about the underbelly of JFK’s presidency to portray him returning to a very different Washington, D.C. where the stakes are high on so many fronts. After all, someone had just tried to execute him in broad daylight on a public street in front of a national television audience. The President and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, essentially become the first conspiracy theorists, determined to strike back at their formidable and determined enemies. This is not a time-travel story with a protagonist sent back to save JFK. It is not a rose-colored glasses look at an idealized “what if.” Instead we get a hard look at the dark secrets of the Kennedy administration -- and of those who have the motive and means to brutally remove him from office, including government insiders at the CIA, FBI, Secret Service and even suspects such as Vice President Lyndon Johnson.

The provocative and compelling narrative covers the period from Kennedy’s near-miss in Dallas through the subsequent political earthquake of 1964-1966. We witness the president interact with his family and close circle of famous friends and colleagues, with the colorful politicians and government leaders of that era, and with such Sixties icons as the Beatles, Marilyn Monroe, boxer Cassius Clay and astronaut Neil Armstrong. Zabel’s novel is cleverly presented as a commemorative retrospective assembled by contemporaneous journalists on the staff of a fictitious newsmagazine, Top Story -- and incorporates into the narrative realistically designed faux-magazine covers depicting JFK with those luminaries he gets to meet only in Zabel’s parallel universe. "Surrounded by Enemies" literally breathes new life into the Kennedy years, and intimately portrays a decade even more surreal than the one found in conventional history books. "Surrounded by Enemies: What If Kennedy Survived Dallas?" is widely available as an eBook through all major sellers; as a trade paperback; and as an audiobook narrated by Edd Hall (The Tonight Show). It is the first in a series of alternate history novels under the alt.Worlds imprint from Stellar Productions.

Bryce Zabel is the creator of NBC’s Emmy Award-winning Dark Skies which dramatized the UFO cover-up through the perspective of the Kennedy years. He is the winner of the 2008 Writers Guild of America award for “Outstanding Original Longform” for his Hallmark miniseries Pandemic, and has writing credits on Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Blackbeard and The Poseidon Adventure. Zabel has created five primetime television series, including Fox’s M.A.N.T.I.S. and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. He served as the elected Chairman/CEO of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and he has taught producing for the USC School of Cinematic Arts. His book, A.D. After Disclosure: When the Government Finally Reveals the Truth about Alien Contact (Career Press, 2012), now in its fourth printing, was a Barnes & Noble “new and noteworthy” selection.




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Table of Contents




Foreword (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Preface (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Introduction (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Chapter 1: Seven Days in November (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

November 22, 1963 - November 28, 1963 (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
From the Editors of Top Story (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
"The Day JFK Dodged a Bullet" (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Dealey Plaza (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Hickory Hill (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Parkland Memorial (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Love Field (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Dallas Police Department (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Andrews Air Force Base (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

First Brothers (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
The Morning After (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Ground Truth in Dallas (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
The Fortress at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
On the Record (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Thanking God (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Johnson Agonizes (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Change of Plans (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
A Tale of Two Funerals (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Another Profile in Courage (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Chapter 2: Battle Lines Being Drawn (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

November 28, 1963 - December 31, 1963 (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Giving Thanks (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Web of Suspicion (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Lee Harvey Oswald (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
The Soviet Union (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Cuba (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Organized Crime (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Joint Chiefs of Staff (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Secret Service (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Vice President Lyndon Johnson (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
All Or Some Of The Above (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Fight for Jurisdiction (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

The Three Bad Options (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Sounds of Silence (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

The Warren Omission (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Oswald Casts a Shadow (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Christmas Truce (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))


Chapter 3: An Election With Consequences (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

January 1, 1964 - December 31, 1964 (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
A Family Retreat (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

State of Whose Union? (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Life in a Foxhole (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

To Run or Not to Run? (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Parallel Tracks (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Back Channels (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Till There Was You (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
The Primary Thing (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Rebalancing the Ticket (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

The State of Texas vs. Lee Harvey Oswald (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Opening Arguments (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Nowhere to Hide (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
A Plea to Leave (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Stroke of Midnight (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Choices and Echoes (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

All the Way With LBJ (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Cursed (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Split Decisions (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Tiebreaker (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Distant Thunder (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
General Anxiety (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
The Arguments (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Now What? (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))


Chapter 4: Proxy Wars (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

January 1, 1965 - August 23, 1965 (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Second Chances (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Night Vision (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Moving On (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Shadow Voices (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Whispers in the Dark (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Justice Delayed (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Flashpoints (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Strangelove Leaks (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Assassination Theater (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Changing the Subject (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Mission to Moscow (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

The Secret Life of the President (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

The Debate (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
The Final Hours (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
The Top Story at Top Story (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Better Late Than Never (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Ground Zero (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
The Day After (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Blowback (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Catch-25 (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
A Tale of Two Committees (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Chapter 5: Impeachment and Trial (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

August 23, 1965 - February 25, 1966 (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
The War Not at Home (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Impeachment (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

The People’s Grand Jury (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
House Politics (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Blackout (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Tale of the Tapes (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

The Case for Impeachment (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Article One: Abuse of Power (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Article Two: Obstruction of Justice (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Article Three: Contempt of Congress (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Coal for Christmas (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Failure to Launch (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Go Away, LBJ (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Trial (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

The Winter of Our Discontent (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
The Century Club (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Dallas on Trial Again (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
New York Stake (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Clean-Slaters (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

The End (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

The Long Count (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Fall from Grace (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))


Chapter 6: Life After (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Closing the Book (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Justice Swerved (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Lyndon Baines Johnson (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
The Conspirators (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
David Powers (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Aftermath (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

The Ex-President and the Ex-First Lady (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Politics Continue (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
End of an Era (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Whodunit? (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Strangelove’s Identity Revealed (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Another Torch Is Passed (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

The Unmaking of the President (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))

Acknowledgements (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
About the Author (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
Coming Up from alt.Worlds (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie —deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.
President John F. Kennedy
Commencement Address at Yale University
June 11, 1962



Foreword


By Harry Turtledove


When I was a kid, I noticed that my parents — and everyone else of their generation — could (and, at the slightest excuse, would) tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. I thought that was pretty strange... until November 22, 1963.
I was a high school sophomore that November. It was not quite half past eleven in the morning. I was walking from Spanish to PE when a guy who’d snuck a transistor radio into school (for those too young to remember them, tiny transistor radios were what the benighted ’60s had to use instead of iPods) told me John Kennedy had been shot. I said the first thing that popped into my head: “You’re crazy.” But maybe a minute later, I heard somebody coming the other way say the same thing. I started to think Frank wasn’t crazy — I only wished he were. I turned out to be right about that, worse luck.
Anybody my age can tell you a story like that. As with my folks’ generation all those years before, it won’t take much to get people my age to tell you what they were doing when they heard Kennedy was killed.
Eventually, I had three kids of my own. For a long time, they didn’t understand how every so often my mind would slip back to that dark day in fall, 1963. Then September 11, 2001 rolled around. Two of them were in high school at the time, the youngest still in middle school. Now they get it, and their kids (I just had my first grandchild) will wonder what they’re going on about... till those kids have their own black day on the calendar. And I’m afraid they will. Such horrible things do happen, however much we wish they wouldn’t.
Even after half a century, we remember — or, if we aren’t old enough to remember, we think about — John Kennedy’s brief presidency with fondness. Those of us with white beards (guilty) recall that we were young then, and had seen and been through a lot less sorrow. We remember the Kennedys’ own youth, their vigor, their flair, their style.
And we remember their beauty. Has a more photogenic couple with prettier children ever graced the White House? I don’t think so. One of the reasons JFK won the election in 1960 is quite simply that he was better-looking than Richard Nixon. Not a high standard to meet, I know, but he flew high over the bar.
Because we remember the times and the handsome martyred man with such affection, to this day we don’t want to hear anything bad about him. We didn’t hear much bad about him then. The press was different in those days, and cozied up to people in power. Reporters didn’t try to catch them with their pants down; they mostly didn’t write or say anything when they did catch them like that.
All of which went a long way toward keeping John Kennedy’s reputation burnished bright. By what’s come out since his death, he made later philanderers like Bill Clinton seem pikers by comparison. He would and did screw anything that moved, and gave it an experimental shake to see if he could get it moving in case it didn’t. Some of the ladies of his intimate acquaintance had other intimate acquaintances who could easily have embarrassed or wanted to kill the President because he was boffing their women.
He and his brother Bobby, the attorney general, weren’t always the Constitution’s best friends either. Bobby, let it not be forgotten, was appointed by Joe McCarthy as assistant counsel for the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 1951. Bobby had also served as John’s campaign manager in 1960. He was, perhaps, not completely objective about everything he did in the attorney general’s office. After all these years, we still remember the Kennedys as ruthless, too.
So we could wonder whether John Kennedy’s reputation shines so bright precisely because he was assassinated so early in his presidency. We could wonder what it would look like had he lived past that day in Dallas, campaigned for reelection in 1964, and gone on to a second term with all that added time for his excesses to become visible to the power brokers in Washington and to the American people as a whole.
We could, and Bryce Zabel has. That’s what Surrounded by Enemies is all about. It’s an alarmingly believable look at what might have happened had Lee Harvey Oswald missed. Some of you will know that I’ve written a lot of alternate history, which is the usual name for this what-might-have-been kind of story. One of the things about which you need to warn readers, and especially readers unfamiliar with this sort of story, is that people don’t write them to tell you what would have come next had the world turned left instead of right. By the nature of things, what would have come next is unknowable unless you happen to be God. People write alternate histories for two main reasons. One is to tell you what plausibly could have come next in a world after a particular kind of change. The other, and closely related to the first, is to make you think in a whole new way about what did come next. Imagine alternate history as a funhouse mirror, squeezing this and stretching that, and giving you a different picture of the way things did work and all the myriad way they might have.
Plausible development, building from what we know about what really did go on, and a whacking good story are the two things you can reasonably expect from a good alternate history. Surrounded by Enemies delivers on both, big-time. So hold on to your hats, folks. You’re in for quite a ride.
Harry Turtledove
Chatsworth, California
June 7, 2013




Preface


By Richard M. Dolan


My first encounter with Bryce Zabel occurred years before I met him. That, of course, was when I followed his TV show, Dark Skies, along with millions of other Americans, back in 1996 and 1997. It was, and remains, a great moment in American television history.
Indeed, it was a show that beautifully integrated two of America's most classic cover-ups: JFK and UFOs. What made it work was a combination of courageous historical imagination, reasoned analysis, and a great script. Bryce, along with his co-producer Brent Friedman, had the guts and moxie to envision a plausible scenario that connected two of the biggest secrets of our era.
A few years ago, I was fortunate to work with Bryce on one of the great intellectual adventures of both our lives: a vision of the future in which the UFO reality is openly acknowledged. This was the book, A.D. After Disclosure. It wasn't easy to undertake this. How, we wondered, might such secrecy even end, considering that it appears to be so deeply entrenched within the black budget, national security apparatus in which a supine and subservient corporate media does nothing to expose it, and in which the intelligence community has placed key individuals as gatekeepers?
Next, we asked, after such a seemingly insurmountable obstacle has been cleared, how would such a revelation transform our world? That was when our real adventure began. Throwing as much objectivity, imagination, and courage as we could muster into the mix, we came to understand that the end of such a secret would affect everything: politics, economy and finance, culture, religion, science, energy, infrastructure and ultimately, global geopolitics. It was a sobering exercise, one that made it easy for us to understand why such secrecy might have begun all those years ago, and why certain groups would want it to continue indefinitely. For the changes brought about would be like a strong wind, blowing away so many lies, so much detritus.
I learned that one of Bryce's many gifts as a writing partner was his ability to see things. That is, to see them concretely, vividly, and to have real human beings react to the events we envisioned in our book. This came from his years of experience as a screenwriter. After all, if you can't portray people acting and reacting to complex situations realistically, you have no business being in the game. One of his key contributions to A.D., in my view, was his ability to make the reader experience "disclosure," to see it and feel it, almost viscerally.
Now, Bryce Zabel has done it again, with an extraordinary and thought-provoking scenario. What if President Kennedy had survived Dallas?
Many people have wondered how our world might have been different had JFK not been assassinated. Writers and pundits have occasionally tried their hand at this, usually arriving at some feel-good conclusion, such as Kennedy helping America to exit the Vietnam debacle sooner, or taking on the Federal Reserve, or even ending UFO secrecy. Who knows, perhaps such things could have happened.
But Bryce Zabel asks a much more interesting question, one with greater realism and nuance. For John F. Kennedy had powerful enemies. After all, this was why he was assassinated to begin with. Eliminating such nefarious elements from an analysis of his presidency and assassination, as most of these other alternative what ifs do, amounts to little more than an exercise in fantasy. JFK was taken out precisely because he turned out to be a threat to powerful interests on a full spectrum of issues. Indeed, he seems to have been the last President in American history who tried to act as President on behalf of The People, not simply a shadowy elite that has sought to continue and strengthen its chokehold over the global political and financial system.
In Surrounded by Enemies, Bryce asks a much better question: What if JFK had survived the assassination attempt of November 22, 1963? What if he had lived?
This is a question to ponder. For JFK already had a confrontational relationship with the intelligence establishment. He had tried to clean house at the CIA in the aftermath of the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion. He and his brother Bobby were flat-out enemies of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, the greatest blackmailer in American history. Kennedy had already shown that he had no intention of being the tool of America's intelligence establishment. He was the President, and he was determined to make the intel chiefs know who was boss.
Had he survived Dallas, he would have demanded — and gotten — answers. Kennedy was many things, but he was no fool. He would not have been satisfied with the pieties and lies that would have been offered to him. Can anyone honestly think he would have been satisfied with an explanation that pinned it on a lone gunman? Such simplistic lies might satisfy a patriotic public too trusting and distracted to offer a challenge, but they would not have satisfied John F. Kennedy.
Bryce takes us through this dramatic aftermath. Of all the what-if scenarios ever written about JFK, this is the one that rings true. It is an account that takes us deeper into the clandestine world that JFK himself tried, and ultimately failed, to gain control over during his life in our timeline. In the parallel history of Surrounded by Enemies, Kennedy’s struggle only intensified after Dallas, and the entire nation bore witness.
Richard M. Dolan
June 10, 2013
Rochester, New York




Introduction


By Bryce Zabel


It’s now been half a century since the shots rang out in Dealey Plaza. To admit you lived through their shock and fury is to be of a certain age. Those of us who were children then, at the end of America's great Baby Boom, have forged countless different paths, but we share in common a question that, over the years, has haunted almost all of us:
What if Kennedy lived?
Almost since the assassination, writers have speculated about the great things President Kennedy would have done for the country and the world had his life been spared in Dallas. It’s commonly assumed he would have rolled back our Vietnam involvement, enacted landmark civil rights policy, made peace with the Soviets and even finished the attack on organized crime.
That upbeat scenario is probably wishful thinking. Kennedy had a definite to-do list for a second term, yes, but the forces in opposition to his presidency in 1963 were organized and powerful. Let’s shade the question just a bit differently:
What if Kennedy survived Dallas?
This new question puts front-and-center the plain fact that Kennedy's survival could not exist in a story vacuum, as if November 22, 1963 were just another day. After all, whether or not Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, the President of the United States still had been targeted for execution in broad daylight on a public street before a global television audience. Life would not have pinged back to normal if the assassin's bullets had missed their target.
Investigations would have been launched to determine if what just happened was an attempted professional hit, a failed political assassination, or the work of a crazed, lone gunman. In any case, the world would have been turned upside down during this period, raising an avalanche of questions and blowback on multiple fronts, particularly since the President would have been alive and asking these questions himself, along with some of the world’s most powerful allies, including a brother in charge of the U.S. Justice Department.
If there were conspirators, they and their target would have regarded each other like scorpions in a bottle. In a cascade of post-ambush cause and effect, these traitors who had plotted to achieve a coup d'état by public murder would have found President Kennedy now physically impossible to get at, protected by enhanced security. In this telling, the system comes unhinged, and the conspirators go after Kennedy by other means after their bullets fail.
There is no doubt that John Kennedy’s presidency was a high point in our nation’s history. What we did not know when we were living through it, however, was that President Kennedy's reckless behavior behind the scenes kept him always one headline away from disaster. Surviving a well-planned assassination attempt could not have made JFK’s personal weaknesses any easier to disguise. He also had enemies with the means to lay bare the most intimate secrets of his private life. Had they done so, the President’s dark side clearly had the potential to destroy any second term the voters might have granted him.
This alternative history, then, is not a time-travel story with a protagonist sent back to save JFK (a continuing fascination right up through last year’s Stephen King book 11/22/63). That kind of political science-fiction usually sees an idealized and heroic JFK through rose-colored glasses. Rather, this narrative sheds light on the shadowy events of late 1963 in the context of the constitutional crisis they easily could have triggered. To the best of my knowledge, this is a new way to examine the what if of JFK and ends up illuminating what the stakes were in our own timeline.
Because Kennedy was the most mediagenic political figure of his time, and possibly of all time, I have created a media vehicle uniquely suited to tell his story. Top Story magazine was, in this alternative historical reality, a struggling newsweekly routinely getting its lunch eaten by the publishing powers-that-used-to-be until it hitched its wagon to the charismatic young President’s star-crossed descent into scandal. A story as big as this demands all the resources a full-fledged news outlet like Top Story would have at its command: teams of reporters, exhaustive research capabilities, a definitive Rolodex. As it happens, all these elements already existed in my own imagination.
So JFK's epic tragedy is also, tangentially, the chronicle of how one media outlet at the brink of obscurity clawed its way to prominence on the Kennedy coattails. It only makes sense then that I’ve chosen to write Surrounded by Enemies as a book published by Top Story magazine on the anniversary of JFK’s survival of the shootout at Dealey Plaza.
Here’s a world where, fifty years earlier, history’s tree grew another branch. Where journalism and the counter-culture ignited a political explosion over Watergate in the 1970s and led to Nixon's impeachment in our world, Kennedy's battle with the treasonous forces of conspiracy in the 1960s in the alternative scenario probably would have triggered an implosion in JFK's reputation. Rather than the steady drip of scandal we’ve experienced over the past five decades, the events surrounding a failed JFK assassination might have gotten seriously out-of-hand, and fast.
Many people now see The Warren Commission Report as the greatest work of American fiction published in the twentieth century. Still, it’s been impossible to ignore the importance and validity of the “Oswald acted alone” pushback we've seen recently, from Stephen King’s book to Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Kennedy to legendary prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History. And it’s nothing new. Even back in the immediate aftermath, the Byrds rewrote the popular folk song “He Was a Friend of Mine” to say, “His killing had no purpose / No reason, no rhyme.” In my opinion, that is the wrong sentiment wrapped up in a classic melody.
After a lifetime of casual reading on the topic compounded by this recent intensity of research, I’m simply swayed that whatever role Lee Harvey Oswald actually played on history's grand stage, his was not a one-man show but one populated by and synchronized with multiple unseen actors. That is the point of view from which I’ve written this fictional account.
Since we live in a time of often bitter polarization, it is also worth noting that I’m a lifelong Democrat who remembers when America's two great political parties at least tried to work together for the good of the country. I write this book because, to me, its scenario is a fascinating what if, not because of any agenda involving President Kennedy. This alternative history depicts Kennedy — accurately, I believe — as an enormously charismatic man whose intelligence, political mastery and legendary charm could not, ultimately, disguise his deeply human flaws.
Surrounded by Enemies is not a research book. I have changed names, compressed events and, in the interest of presenting an alternative history, made up some things completely. I have tried to do all of this with a healthy respect for the actual facts of the matter, but there is no question that I have taken many liberties. On the other hand, I also ask that everyone who sees a real name in this piece of fiction understand that the person in question is a character in a story that takes place in a parallel universe. In a world that accepts stories about Abe Lincoln as a vampire hunter, this story should not offend, but intrigue.
In several instances, I have taken existing documents and quotes from the Nixon and Clinton impeachments, lines from past State of the Union speeches, etc., and modified them to fit this story. In this context, I hardly think this sampling is a literary sin, but a device to show just how possible it is to see JFK in a similar context. In any case, very little of this book contains this type of historical transposition. I have not footnoted my work with tedious accounts of its accuracy or fabrication, because it is meant to be read as an immersive piece of fiction; to undertake such an academic challenge would only distract the reader. Those engaged by the events of this story are encouraged to begin their own research and draw their own conclusions.
The plain reality is that Jack Kennedy had a lot of things he was hiding and there were numerous powerful men who wanted him dead. If those conspirators had taken their shots and missed, President Kennedy would have come back at them not only with a vengeance, but also with a carefully constructed strategy. The very existence of Attorney General Robert Kennedy and his family loyalty guarantees that. I’ve come to see this entire story, despite its many working parts and vastly different points-of-view, as the story of two brothers. Had the shots fired in Dallas, Texas missed their target on November 22, 1963, they still would have set the 1960s ablaze, turning John and Robert Kennedy into the original conspiracy theorists. Their story from this alternate world needed to be told and I've enjoyed telling it.
Bryce Zabel
Los Angeles, California
June 10, 2013




http://d188rgcu4zozwl.cloudfront.net/content/B00E881Z2M/images/883886393.jpg



Chapter 1:
Seven Days in November
_______________


November 22, 1963 - November 28, 1963



From the Editors of Top Story


This book about the fate of America’s thirty-fifth President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, takes its inspiration from the Top Story newsweekly coverage of the 1960s. That breaking news “instant history” has been revised and updated by our 2013 editorial staff to provide a perspective to the events of the 1961-1966 Kennedy administration, and make it feel fresh again.
This endeavor draws heavily from the work of Top Story reporters Frank Altman and Steve Berkowitz and their journalistic efforts throughout the national crisis that began in Dallas and continued for years through Washington's corridors, forever changing our national identity. On November 22, 1963, at the time those shots cracked through America's sense of well-being, Top Story had been publishing for barely a year and was teetering near bankruptcy. It's fair to say that behind some acknowledged journalistic bright spots, this magazine was mired behind the two leading newsweeklies of that era, Time and Newsweek, in both circulation and gravitas. While those publications were headquartered in New York, Top Story was then, as now, based in Washington, D.C., and was more heavily tilted toward American policy issues and the people behind them.
This special fiftieth anniversary compilation clearly shows that times of extreme danger and uncertainty do not preclude politics but intensify its practice. In addition to our own archives, the dramatic scope of this endeavor draws on the accumulation of five decades of history and journalistic digging, tell-all books from those who were involved and even some private papers released in 1998 by the Kennedy family, following the death of Robert Kennedy at the age of seventy-two.
Responding to a French journalist's question with characteristic élan at a historic, 1965 press conference, John Fitzgerald Kennedy gave the world some insight into why it all mattered. “Forgive your enemies,” he said, “but never forget their names.”

“The Day JFK Dodged a Bullet”


Our nation and the world breathed a sigh of relief upon learning President Kennedy had miraculously avoided the bullets targeting him in Dallas, but that feeling was overshadowed by an almost unthinkable fact: Someone had tried to murder our President. That thought proved to be so unnerving that country music populist Jimmy Dean scored a December 1963 instant hit with his upbeat ballad, “The Day JFK Dodged a Bullet.” The phrasing fit right in with the mythos that had been so carefully cultivated since a young, brave, PT boat officer named John F. Kennedy began seeking office almost twenty years earlier. It was a way to see the unnerving current circumstances as proof of the President’s charmed life rather than a shattering of our national calm.
As the events broke that day, however, there was fear and confusion among all the President’s men working in his White House. Many of their stories of shock and panic in Dallas have been told now, but other accounts have been lost in the fog of conspiracy. We know the number of bullets but continue to argue about who fired them and from where. We also know now that their intended target, President Kennedy, quickly recovered from his minor injuries and sprang into action.
In retrospect, it is clear that within the first hour after the event, both the President of the United States and the attorney general felt the government they represented was under siege and their civilian authority was in serious jeopardy. How they came to that conclusion, and what they said to those working in the White House in those first days set the stage for an epic confrontation.
Dealey Plaza


As the presidential motorcade turned into Dealey Plaza, Secret Service Special Agent Clinton J. Hill did not like what he saw. To the left of the President’s car was an open, landscaped area at the western end of downtown Dallas. Hill, riding on the left running board of the follow-up car, felt his stomach tighten at the sight of so much open space. On the right, he saw the Texas School Book Depository, toward which the President was waving. Hill glanced up to the building’s higher floors. The bodyguard’s reflex changed the course of history.
A glint of metal in the midday sun flashed from a window on the sixth floor. It is not clear whether Hill saw only the rifle barrel or also, perhaps, the man who was holding it. Either way, there was no time to look, only to act. He launched himself from the running board of his own vehicle and sprinted toward the President’s car, screaming, “Go! Go!” as he leaped on the trunk and scrambled forward.
The driver, Secret Service Special Agent William Greer, inexplicably had hesitated and nearly slowed to a stop, a reaction opposite from what he had been trained to do. Hill screamed, “Greer! Now!”
Greer mashed his foot down on the gas, swerving out of his lane in an evasive pattern. Even as he did, multiple shots were fired, seemingly from a variety of directions, according to numerous witnesses. The presidential motorcade had entered what would come to be called the “Kill Zone.”
Hill was the agent assigned to the First Lady but, in an instant like this, he was trained to cover the President, particularly when he saw that the agent in the passenger seat, Roy Kellerman, whose job it was to protect the President, was frozen, just as Greer initially had been.
Hill tried to push the President down, but Kennedy’s body was stiff; it wouldn’t bend even under Hill’s muscle. The Secret Service agent instantly readjusted so he could move both President Kennedy and the First Lady into prone positions across the seat. He supported his body over them with both arms.
The President, by his own testimony under oath before his interrogators at his U.S. Senate trial, screamed, “Jesus Christ! They’re trying to kill all of us!” His advisers Kenneth O’Donnell and Dave Powers reacted similarly. O’Donnell was JFK’s appointments secretary and political sounding board and Powers was the President’s long-time close friend. Because of their White House importance, the two men were riding in the car immediately behind Kennedy, and they, too, felt they were being targeted from at least two directions and that everyone was going to die.
Agent Hill was hit twice, one bullet shattering his spinal cord and the other ripping through his left temple. The amateur film of Dallas resident Abraham Zapruder caught the action, including a spray of blood and brains that appeared to knock Hill’s head back and to the left. For many observers, the head shot did seem to indicate that at least one bullet was fired from a grassy knoll area nearby and not from the upper window of the book depository, the likely origin of the first spine-shattering explosion.
Later testimony from witnesses told a tale of Secret Service agents in other cars who seemed asleep or operating in slow motion. All that can be stated for certain is that the heroic Agent Hill’s instant action had forced Greer to react quickly enough to make up for any other neglect that may have been in operation. Kellerman had similarly snapped into delayed response and had climbed back to the jump seats that Governor Connally and his wife were using. Connally was bleeding badly but he wasn’t Kellerman’s concern. The Secret Service’s job is to protect the President first and the First Lady second, at all costs. The description says nothing about the governor of Texas. And so, even as Kellerman lay across the Connallys, he looked directly past them to Kennedy. “Mr. President, are you hit?”
The President and First Lady were covered in blood and brains that had been splattered from the shots that had nearly taken off an entire side of agent Hill’s head and broken his back into pieces. Kennedy answered honestly, “I don’t know.”
Historians continue to debate whether four or five total shots were fired and from where. What is known with certainty is that the salvo was aimed at a fast-moving car. That it was a conspiracy seems clear to most today, even though the confessed or convicted participants — now in their eighties and nineties, with many others dead or still at large — have continued to contradict each other about their roles and obfuscate the facts time and again.
What mattered at the instant of what would gruesomely be called the “turkey shoot,” was that bullets were fired from at least two locations. Greer’s evasive driving of the Lincoln made the car difficult to hit, no matter how many shooters were involved. Bullets were flying but most, seemingly, were fired out of desperation by would-be assassins who knew their chance at the target was nearly over.
Even so, Hill was down, Governor Connally had been hit once, and the President’s condition was unknown. That left Jacqueline Kennedy and Idanell "Nellie" Connally still to account for.
Two more shots appear to have hit the Kennedy vehicle in its furious escape. One shattered Agent Kellerman’s shoulder, and entered Governor Connally’s chest, causing severe internal bleeding and collapsing his right lung.
With three confirmed victims and the status of the Kennedys uncertain, Greer zoomed the Lincoln toward Parkland Memorial at speeds approaching eighty miles per hour.
Later asked who “they” were, in response to his statement, “They’re trying to kill us all,” President Kennedy famously told the investigators deposing him, “How much time do you have?”

Hickory Hill


At his suburban McLean, Virginia, Hickory Hill estate, purchased years earlier from JFK, the President’s brother, thirty-eight-year-old Attorney General Robert Kennedy, was lunching with U.S. Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who represented the southern district of New York. They ate hot clam chowder and tuna fish sandwiches.
The younger Kennedy had just finished a swim and was still wet. He appeared to be trying to relax and not succeeding, according to Morgenthau. “He had a lot on his mind but he could only share a tiny bit with me. I could see he was frustrated.”
The outside phone rang at about 1:45 p.m. on the other end of the pool and was picked up by Kennedy’s wife, Ethel. “You can never get away from this damn job,” said Kennedy as he took the call.
On the other end of the line was FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, someone who never called his ostensible boss at home. Neither man had ever had the slightest positive regard for the other. Never much of a conversationalist, Hoover said simply: “I have news for you.”
The attorney general asked the first thing to come to mind: “How is the President?” Hoover delivered a two-sentence précis of the news, and the two men hung up. In later years, each claimed to be the one to have ended the conversation.
Kennedy asked his guest Morgenthau to excuse him, explaining only that the President’s motorcade had been attacked, adding as an afterthought that the governor of Texas and at least one Secret Service agent were wounded. Morgenthau offered his help in any way. “Call everyone you know today,” said RFK. “Let me know what they’re saying.”
Morgenthau nodded his understanding but added his own reassurance: “They’re praying for your brother and our country.” The New Yorker was escorted to the downstairs living room in the house, where he was left to watch the news on television. “I felt a sense of great dread in those moments,” said Morgenthau in a December 2, 1963 Altman and Berkowitz piece for Top Story. “I could not bear to stay in this sadness and terror, but I could not leave without permission.” Eventually, however, Morgenthau did leave. With no one else in the room and Bobby still rolling from one urgent phone call to another, the New York attorney simply walked from the house, determined to get to his office and roll his own calls so he could give the attorney general the information he had requested.
Bobby Kennedy’s first telephone call, revealed during the future hearings of the Joint Committee on the Attempted Assassination of the President (JCAAP), was not to his brother but to national security adviser McGeorge Bundy. “Have the combinations on the President’s locked files changed right away,” the attorney general said. Kennedy continued to work the phones from his upstairs bedroom so feverishly that he would not change his wet swim suit for more than two hours and only then when his wife demanded it.
There was concern that whoever was behind the Dallas ambush might be coming to Hickory Hill next. Because of this fear, the Fairfax County police surrounded the grounds of the RFK compound without being asked, and Kennedy did not object. Normally opposed to strict security, he instructed Justice Department spokesman Edwin Guthman who had rushed to be by his boss’ side, to replace the police with federal marshals.
Under the supervision of Chief U.S. Marshal Jim McShane, Kennedy’s estate was immediately encircled. As McShane testified in late 1964, “If someone was coming to kill that man, we were prepared to make them kill us first.”

Parkland Memorial


Parkland Memorial Hospital’s Margaret Hinchcliffe, working the emergency desk, had been told to assign teams to handle the injuries that were on the way in. When the President’s appointments scheduler and close friend Kenneth O’Donnell approached her with two Secret Service agents, revolvers drawn, he instructed her to assign the best doctor to the President immediately. Hinchcliffe protested this breach of established triage protocol. Seeing her confronted by armed men, Doctor Robert Shaw, senior ER physician then on duty at Parkland Memorial, approached O’Donnell. “I am in charge," he said, "and I will save the President if he needs saving. Follow me.”
With that, Dr. Shaw, O’Donnell and the agents found President Kennedy, accompanied by his wife and even more Secret Service agents, and directed them all into Trauma One. Dr. Shaw took one look at the commander-in-chief and said, “Sir, lie down on this gurney here. Immediately."
Kennedy refused, pointing to Connally and Hill, who both had just been wheeled in, unconscious, on gurneys of their own, blood staining the crisp white linens. “They need help first.”
Shaw, however, focused on the President. “I can personally vouch for the teams working on both of them, sir, but you are my concern, and the country’s. I need you to lie down and let me examine you." Kennedy looked at the First Lady, who nodded that he should do as he was told.
Kennedy looked around at the pale tile, sterile instruments, and the clock that read 12:37 p.m. Then he flashed his famous charm. “Well, Doctor, I can assure you I would like very much to lie down on that gurney, but I can’t right now.” Kennedy removed his blood-caked suit coat, then began to unbutton his shirt, which was heavily splattered with blood from Connally and Hill.
As Shaw watched, President Kennedy removed his tie and dress shirt, revealing an unusually constrictive shoulder-to-groin brace. “I'm afraid my back needs support occasionally,” he told the doctor. In subsequent interviews, Shaw remembered being startled by the President's compromised appearance, which was so uncharacteristic of his normal image. In truth, Kennedy had aggravated his back during a sexual encounter in the White House pool nearly two months earlier.
As Shaw helped him out of his back supports, Kennedy indicated Trauma Two, where Texas Governor John Connally was fighting for his life. Inside, Dr. Charles J. Carrico, only two years a practicing physician, and two nurses were using surgical shears to cut the clothes away from the Texas governor. What they saw was not good; he had been hit three times, most grievously through the chest. Carrico checked for a pulse and blood pressure, and pronounced both “palpable.”
Shaw explained the scene to the Kennedy party. “The governor’s in the care of Doctor Carrico. He’s on his way to the OR any minute.”
From the side of the room, Jacqueline Kennedy spoke softly. “What about the agents? Where are they?”
Without taking his eyes off the President’s body, now prone on the exam table, Shaw answered. “One of the agents was alert and is being attended in an OR. The other agent, Agent Hill, suffered extensive head trauma and spinal damage and has not survived his wounds. I’m very sorry.” As those words were spoken, the First Lady gasped, looked as if she might faint, and was given a chair by a nurse. His death made Secret Service Special Agent Clint Hill only the second member of the organization to be killed while protecting a United States President during an assassination attempt, along with Leslie Coffelt, who had died protecting President Harry Truman in 1950.
Shaw carefully examined the President’s body, looking for wounds, as everyone watched. In a few cases, he used cotton gauze and alcohol to wipe away blood in order to satisfy himself that it had not originated from the President himself. After several minutes, Shaw offered his initial conclusion, spoken to the nurse assisting him: “I see no entry wounds.”
President Kennedy was allowed to dress and did so in the same bloody clothes that he had entered with. He had discussed trading shirts and jackets with O’Donnell, but Jackie was most adamant that he not do that: “Let them see what they’ve done.” The Kennedys resolved then to wear these clothes until this day was over.
Shaw instructed the President to remain in Trauma One for at least an hour for observation. Kennedy said he wanted to meet privately with Nellie Connally but was told such a conversation would have to wait. She was at her husband’s side, moving with the trauma team to the OR. Kennedy nodded, turned to O’Donnell: “Right before this happened, Kenny, she said to us, ‘You can’t say Texas doesn’t love you, Mr. President.’”
At Parkland Memorial, chaos reigned. Dallas police officers, FBI agents, and Secret Service agents were everywhere, most of them with guns drawn. An intern was nearly shot when he tried to hide in a linen closet to deal with a panic attack. Meanwhile, Agent Hill was dead, and Governor Connally was near death. Only agent Kellerman looked like he would survive. Yet, despite the blood and carnage, the President of the United States and the First Lady had been physically untouched.
In the middle of this, Kennedy, scheduler Kenneth O’Donnell, and presidential factotum David Powers commandeered Trauma One as a temporary Oval Office, given Dr. Shaw’s instructions that the President must stay for medical reasons. Finally, Jack Kennedy heard what he wanted to hear: “Your brother is on the phone.”
“They fucking tried to kill us,” the President told the attorney general, based on the testimony of Doctor Shaw, who had refused to leave Kennedy’s side in case he went into shock. He later said, “It was odd. Aside from the curse word, which hardly surprised me under the circumstances, it was the way he phrased it. They tried to kill us.”
Even though Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s phone line was thought to be secure, the FBI later disclosed it had transcripts of that call. The fact that the Kennedy brothers were speaking on a line that had been wiretapped without their knowledge would later prove to be more shocking than what was actually said. RFK responded, “I want to know if Sam Giancana is behind this. I need to know right now. Can you say yes or no?”
The President responded, “You’re prosecuting him, what do you think?”
In fact, that very day the attorney general was waiting to hear about a verdict in the Giancana case. “He’s got motive and he’s got the resources,” said Bobby.
While Jackie distracted Dr. Shaw with conversation about Agent Hill, the President responded, “We both know plenty of people with motives and resources to put me in the ground.” Powers and O’Donnell, who would be called to testify before JCAAP as well as the House Committee on the Judiciary, each remembered the President's words exactly the same way.
“I have people checking,” said Bobby, “but we can’t count on Hoover or McCone for a straight take.” He was referring to the FBI director, a notorious thorn in the side of the Kennedys and other Presidents, and the CIA’s leader, John McCone. Jack and Bobby agreed to meet that night in the Oval Office, as soon as possible after JFK came back to Washington. The Kennedys had begun the search for suspects.
Less than two hours after his arrival at Parkland Memorial Hospital, Governor John Connally died in the main OR. President Kennedy, who had refused to leave while Connally was alive for fear he would be seen as uncaring toward the man who hosted him in Texas, agreed to his advisers’ demand that it was time to go. President Kennedy and Mrs. Kennedy were driven in separate cars to Love Field, the public airport in Dallas, where they would reunite for the trip home on Air Force One.

Love Field


Still grounded six miles northwest of the downtown on the tarmac at Love Field, Air Force One was a hotbed of paranoia. It was jammed full, with speculation of all manner underway. Vice President Johnson had arrived minutes before and was arguing with the assistant special agent in charge, Emory P. Roberts, who had taken over leadership duties for the Secret Service detail since Roy Kellerman was still in surgery at Parkland Memorial Hospital. Roberts was trying to get Johnson to leave the plane immediately but having no luck.
Seeing President Kennedy entering, Johnson pushed through the crowded plane to intercept him, grabbed him by the collar and pulled him close (the so-called “Johnson Treatment”). “It’s your goddamned friend Khrushchev,” he growled. “We may be at war. We need to get our heads together on this right now.” Calling the leader of the Soviet Union the United States President’s “friend” seemed inappropriate and revealing at the same time, but this was hardly the time to take offense.
Agent Roberts literally pulled Johnson away from Kennedy. His training made clear that no one is allowed to touch the President without permission, something that was particularly important under the existing conditions. The agent spoke directly to President Kennedy: “Mr. President, I’ve told the Vice President that he cannot be on this plane, that he must depart on Air Force Two. Particularly now that you are here, sir, we need you two separated to assure continuity of authority.” Looking between the President and the Vice President, the agent made his case crystal clear: “You can’t fly together. He needs to leave now.”
President Kennedy nodded to Johnson. “Lyndon, stay in Texas. I have to get back. People will need to see that happen.”
Johnson processed the political implications of sticking around Dallas surrounded by death and shame against the idea of returning to Washington to assure the continuity of the government. “Mr. President, that seems ill-advised.”
Kennedy leaned forward, collared Johnson somewhat more gently than Johnson had just collared him and so many others, pulled close to his ear and said, “We can’t fuck around here, Lyndon.”
Kennedy let go, and simply nodded to Roberts. Within seconds, Secret Service agents Jack Ready and Donald Lawton lifted a humiliated Lyndon Johnson almost off his feet and escorted him from the plane. Using a long-distance lens, AP photographer Ralph Philpott captured the scene. It was a necessary moment to secure national leadership but, to Lyndon Johnson, it always looked as if he was being treated like “a two-bit poker cheat.”
Indeed, in the time that followed, Johnson told practically anyone who would listen about this “ball-crushing” moment, confiding to them that this was when he knew his fate on the 1964 Democratic ticket was sealed. That Johnson would even be engaging in such political speculation on the day that the President of the United States had been targeted for murder is perhaps egocentric on his part. But the truth is that both Jack and Bobby Kennedy were thinking the same thing.
President Kennedy knew something else for certain while standing on that plane surrounded by key members of the government and his wife. He knew these men who had challenged him and tried to undermine his authority these past few years had crossed a line. And he knew he would make them pay.

Dallas Police Department


News of the events out of Dallas rocketed around the world. Nothing since Pearl Harbor seemed to have touched the American nation as powerfully. This was the first true breaking news television event of the modern age, driving audiences to record numbers and beyond, both in the United States and abroad. And, as is true for all good television dramas, it had a hero people could root for and a villain they could jeer.
Inside the Dallas police building, the suspect, Lee Harvey Oswald was advised that anything he said could be used against him and that he was entitled to an attorney. He made several telephone calls seeking representation. He also spoke with the head of the Dallas Bar Association, who offered to find a lawyer for him. He declined, saying he preferred to secure one himself.
Under questioning, Oswald denied shooting Governor Connally, Agent Hill or Officer J.D. Tippit, a Dallas policeman found dead at the scene. He claimed he was eating lunch when the Dealey Plaza gunfire took place. When he was placed in a lineup, several eyewitnesses identified him as the man responsible for killing Tippit.
“I didn’t shoot anybody,” Oswald stated forcefully.
“Maybe it would be smart for you to come clean, Mr. Oswald. Maybe you don’t understand how much trouble you’re in,” Captain Will Fritz said. The Dallas Police Department veteran had been on duty at the Trade Mart when the shots were fired and immediately reported to Dealey Plaza, where he had been part of the team that had found a rifle on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Police Chief Jesse Curry picked Fritz, who had a reputation as an effective interrogator, to speak to Lee Oswald first. “We’ve got witnesses who saw you shoot a police officer. And we’ve got strong evidence that you shot the governor and the Secret Service man, too. Those are all capital crimes. If you’re convicted, you’ll go to the electric chair.”
Although no stenographer was present at those early interrogations and no tape recorder was used, police officer Dan Selkirk took notes. These were later compared to a report written afterwards by Captain Fritz, who noted that Oswald, already pale, turned “white as a sheet” when the death penalty was mentioned. Nevertheless, the suspect repeated, “I didn’t do any of that stuff, so what can I say about it?”
“Why would you want to kill the President of the United States?” Fritz asked, ignoring his plea of innocence.
Lee Harvey Oswald refused to answer any further questions during that session. While trying to lead the suspect to his secure location for safekeeping, two Dallas cops unwittingly led him into a sea of reporters instead. The scene, already chaotic, became threatening to the physical safety of the prisoner as well as the news reporters and the officers.
Top Story’s Steve Berkowitz, a reporter with just three years' experience, was covering his first major news event for the magazine. No shrinking violet, Berkowitz summoned his most authoritative voice to rise above the cacophony: “Did you do it, Mr. Oswald?”
Oswald stopped, allowing the reporters clogging the hallway to quickly close ranks around him and the officers, trapping them for questions. He looked straight at Berkowitz and said, “I didn’t do anything except go to work today.”
“Was it your job to kill the President?” Berkowitz was not above using sarcasm to address his sources, a trait that had gotten him dressed down by both editors and press secretaries. In this case, however, it seemed more appropriate than usual.
“The truth on that matter will come out if they will let it, I assure you,” said Oswald, looking angry and offended. “But me? I’m just a patsy.”
Meanwhile, with President and Mrs. Kennedy in mid-flight, Bobby Kennedy was still working the phone feverishly from his Virginia home office. Although he rarely smoked, he had taken a stale pack of Kents from his drawer and was on his fifth cigarette. Like everyone else in America, he was watching the television and making his assessment of Oswald. The attorney general thought the alleged killer looked smaller than he had imagined, expecting his assassins big and threatening. RFK allowed himself a momentary smile. Of course, people often underestimated him as well.
Close on the heels of the Oswald proclamation of innocence, Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade put on his jacket, straightened his tie, and went out to the press area, where reporters and photographers and TV crews were standing mob vigil in the hallway outside, having been whipped into near-hysteria by Oswald’s walk-by. Wade started by acknowledging that there were already calls for turning the whole thing over to federal authorities. That was what the FBI agents in Washington, D.C. wanted.
“This crime may or may not have national implications, but it took place in Dallas,” Henry Wade declared. “We know how to prosecute murder down here, and I expect we can handle this case, wherever the facts take us.”
Asked why he should trump federal authority in an attack on the President of the United States, Wade replied, “The only public official who was murdered here earlier today was the governor, who was, last I checked, a Texas resident.”
Robert Kennedy could not believe what he was seeing. He hurled his ashtray across the room, furious that people from Lyndon Johnson’s home state were sticking their noses where they had no real business. He left for the White House to greet his brother.

Andrews Air Force Base


When President Kennedy landed in Washington D.C., he felt compelled to respond to the rapidly changing story. Reporters had gathered near Air Force One, buzzing with the day’s news, oblivious to both the temperature and the chill wind. One of them, Top Story’s Frank Altman, noted how this story would have changed if the President were coming back in a casket. Then he reminded himself that if JFK had died that day, Texas authorities would not have released his body until they’d had a chance to perform an autopsy. Those were rules, almost universally respected.
Emerging from Air Force One with his wife Jacqueline, John Kennedy shrugged up his jacket. Both had on the same bloody clothes they had worn all day long, resolved that the nation and the guilty parties should face what had happened in Dallas.
So, looking more like he’d come in off a battlefield than a cross-country flight, Kennedy was uncharacteristically terse with the freezing press corps: “The government is secure. Our prayers are with the Connally, Hill and Tippit families. And, of course, agent Kellerman.” At this point, the President was supposed to walk away but instead went off his talking points, taking a question from the Washington Post’s Bart Barnes and replying: “I want whoever did this to know that last night was the last good night of sleep they’ll ever have.” It was angry and aggressive, spoken like a surrounded general, who had decided to fight rather than surrender.
As Kennedy moved toward a waiting limo, Top Story’s Altman maneuvered himself into a position directly in the President’s line of sight and shouted out the question on everyone's mind: “Mr. President! Does that mean you think someone besides this Oswald was involved?” Although softer-spoken than Berkowitz, Altman knew how to command attention.
Kennedy paused as if he hadn’t quite heard the question, buying time to decide the exact tenor of his answer: “We don’t know who is involved just yet. The attorney general is in contact with Mr. Hoover at the FBI. I presume that investigation has only just begun. Good night.” The President of the United States stiffly got into the limo

Mysterion
September 13th, 2013, 11:17 PM
^^^^
Indeed. we're also soon getting Jeff Greenfield's If Kennedy Lived: http://www.amazon.com/If-Kennedy-Lived-President-Alternate/dp/0399166963/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1379110542&sr=1-1&keywords=jeff+greenfield

I really liked Then Things Changed, and am looking forward to this one quite a bit.

JSmith
September 13th, 2013, 11:22 PM
^^^^
Indeed. we're also soon getting Jeff Greenfield's If Kennedy Lived: http://www.amazon.com/If-Kennedy-Lived-President-Alternate/dp/0399166963/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1379110542&sr=1-1&keywords=jeff+greenfield

I really liked Then Things Changed, and am looking forward to this one quite a bit.
Same here- want it in my hands !

Thande
September 16th, 2013, 10:41 AM
So I was just in London and there were loads of posters for a work called "Dominion" by CJ Sansom (the bloke who does the Shardlake Tudor detective novels). From what I hear it's your usual not well thought through Axis victory with Churchill's heroic resistance in Nazi occupied Britain and controversy over the portrayal of Enoch Powell as a quisling. Still I suppose if it makes AH more mainstream...

Greg Grant
September 17th, 2013, 05:17 AM
So I was just in London and there were loads of posters for a work called "Dominion" by CJ Sansom (the bloke who does the Shardlake Tudor detective novels). From what I hear it's your usual not well thought through Axis victory with Churchill's heroic resistance in Nazi occupied Britain and controversy over the portrayal of Enoch Powell as a quisling. Still I suppose if it makes AH more mainstream...
I actually have it, and it's not bad. Although I am not into it-into it, and clocking it at 600 pages, it's a slog.

CJ Sansom broke into mainstream with books about a hunchback lawyer/detective operating in England during the reign of Henry VIII, and wrote well enough from that to try a couple of other projects. One is a tad over-ambitious tale set during the Spanish Civil War, where he tries a bit too hard to le Carre. The other is this.

Churchill does not get to be PM. Halifax the Surrender Monkey takes power and pisses it all away. But is soon replaced by an Evil Surrender Monkey Lord Beaverbrook, who gets in bed with the Nazis not out of any delusions of necessity, but because he enjoys it. SS-GB and Fatherland then have a party, and it's well written, but a bit too dense and lacks any kind of sense of urgency, so I am not sure I am going to finish it.

This is neither the place, not really the ideal right time to discuss Enoch Powell OTL, but considering Enoch Powell's political eccentricities, I cannot see him joining the Nazis if for nothing else but because they are on the winning side. Enoch Powell is a man who:
1) entered politics because he wanted to be Viceroy of the Indian Raj, but
2) once India was made independent, he became an anti-imperialist, arguing that if India is gone, there is no point to holding unto the rest,

3) promoted Teddy Heath's bid to become PM when every Tory was running from Teddy and thinking he was going to lose the election, but
4) turned on Teddy Heath at the height of Teddy's power and swung the election for Labour out of perverse joy (technically he opposed Teddy's entry of Britain into the Common Market, but at one point he was actually pro-Common Market),

5) thought he was going to be the next Tory Leader despite switching parties (!) and costing Tories the general election and actively campaigning for Labour (!)

6) was the poster boy for the right-wing-fringe, but campaigned for unilateral nuclear disarmament with hard-left activists.

And I haven't even gotten to his racial views.

I can see Enoch Powell supporting the Nazis under only one set of circumstances: A) Nazis lose WW2, but hold unto a region of West Africa, B) United States opposes the aforementioned Nazi remnant, C) Teddy Heath opposes it, D) Margaret Thatcher calls for the invasion of Nazi West Africa, E) Nazi West African government's policies cause a mass exodus of people of East Asian descent living there to try to come to England, and F) he is told he will be made Deputy Prime Minister if he denounces the Nazis.

Then, and only then would Enoch Powell go out of his way to be pro-Nazi, just for the lulz.

TR1
October 10th, 2013, 10:47 PM
Also Turtledove has edited Blue Vs Gray:Alternate History Tales From the Front Lines of the American Civil War.

Actually, no he has not. According Steven Silver, the person who runs Turtledove's web site, this was entered into someone's database in error. Harry knows nothing about it, and is certainly not working on it.

You'll notice that the release date listed at Amazon is for the year 2030.

JSmith
October 22nd, 2013, 08:08 PM
A frequent topic here. I think this will be good-not out till October though :(

http://www.amazon.com/If-Kennedy-Lived-President-Alternate/dp/0399166963/ref=reg_hu-rd_add_1_dp



Book Description

Release date: October 22, 2013
From one of the country’s most brilliant political commentators, the bestselling author of Then Everything Changed, an extraordinary, thought-provoking look at Kennedy’s presidency—after November 22, 1963.

November 22, 1963: JFK does not die. What would happen to his life, his presidency, his country, his world?

In Then Everything Changed, Jeff Greenfield created an “utterly compelling” (Joe Klein), “riveting” (The New York Times), “eye-opening” (Peggy Noonan), “captivating” (Doris Kearns Goodwin) exploration of three modern alternate histories, “with the kind of political insight and imagination only he possesses” (David Gregory). Based on memoirs, histories, oral histories, fresh reporting, and his own knowledge of the players, the book looked at the tiny hinges of history—and the extraordinary changes that would have resulted if they had gone another way.

Now he presents his most compelling narrative of all about the historical event that has riveted us for fifty years. What if Kennedy were not killed that fateful day? What would the 1964 campaign have looked like? Would changes have been made to the ticket? How would Kennedy, in his second term, have approached Vietnam, civil rights, the Cold War? With Hoover as an enemy, would his indiscreet private life finally have become public? Would his health issues have become so severe as to literally cripple his presidency? And what small turns of fate in the days and years before Dallas might have kept him from ever reaching the White House in the first place?

As with Then Everything Changed, the answers Greenfield provides and the scenarios he develops are startlingly realistic, rich in detail, shocking in their projections, but always deeply, remarkably plausible. It is a tour de force of American political history.







http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/81U015IPIlL._SL1500_.jpg


Its out.

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G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
Publishers Since 1838
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) LLC
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New York, New York 10014

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Copyright © 2013 by Jeff Greenfield
Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Greenfield, Jeff.
If Kennedy lived : the first and second terms of President John F. Kennedy : an alternate history / Jeff Greenfield.
p. cm.
ISBN 978-0-698-13844-5
1. Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917–1963. 2. Imaginary histories. I. Title.
E841.G653 2013 2013030929
973.922092—dc23
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


FOR DENA


CONTENTS



ALSO BY JEFF GREENFIELD (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
TITLE PAGE (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
COPYRIGHT (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
DEDICATION (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
PREFACE (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
THE LIVES AND DEATHS OF JOHN F. KENNEDY (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER ONE (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
DALLAS, TEXAS, NOVEMBER 22, 1963, 7:30 A.M. CENTRAL STANDARD TIME (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER TWO (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
DEALEY PLAZA, DALLAS, TEXAS, 12:30 P.M. CENTRAL STANDARD TIME (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER THREE (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
THE SECOND CASUALTY (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER FOUR (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
THE FIGHT FOR A SECOND TERM (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER FIVE (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
THE OTHER CAMPAIGN: RESOLVING THE VIETNAM DILEMMA (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER SIX (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
A DIFFERENT COUNTRY—BUT HOW DIFFERENT? (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER SEVEN (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
THE THREAT (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
CHAPTER EIGHT (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
THE LAST CHAPTER (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
AFTERWORD (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
THE SOURCES OF SPECULATION (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (http://javascript<b></b>:void(0))


PREFACE

THE LIVES AND DEATHS OF JOHN F. KENNEDY



It was Thursday, July 14, 1960, in Room 9333 of the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, and Kenny O’Donnell was furious at the man he had just helped nominate for president of the United States.
Again and again, John Kennedy had assured the unions, the civil rights leaders, the liberals and intellectuals whose support he needed, that Texas senator Lyndon Johnson would not be his choice for vice president. For those constituencies, the majority leader of the Senate was too tied to the corporate interests of his home state, too willing to weaken or abandon strong civil rights legislation, too much the symbol of wheeler-dealer insider politics.
Yet now, little more than twelve hours after Kennedy had won a first ballot nomination with a razor-thin margin of five delegates, he had offered the second slot on the ticket to Johnson—and Johnson had accepted.
“I was so furious I could hardly talk,” O’Donnell remembered years later. “I thought of the promises we had made . . . the assurances we had given. I felt that we had been double-crossed.”
So O’Donnell demanded to confront Kennedy face-to-face, and the nominee complied, taking O’Donnell into the bathroom for a private conversation and assuring him that the job would actually diminish Johnson’s power by placing him in a powerless, impotent job.
“I’m forty-three years old,” Kennedy said, “and I’m the healthiest candidate for president in the United States. You’ve traveled with me enough to know that I’m not going to die in office. So the vice presidency doesn’t mean anything.”
The man who gave his disaffected aide this reassurance had already lost a brother and a sister in airplane crashes; had almost died when his ship was destroyed in the South Pacific during World War II; had been stricken with an illness so serious in 1947 that he had been given the last rites of his church; had undergone a life-threatening operation in 1954 to save him from invalidism—an operation so serious that he was away from his Senate seat for nine months; and had been living with a form of Addison’s disease—hidden from the press and public—that required a regular dose of powerful medicine and made him live virtually every day in pain.
For a man so often described as “fatalistic”—who on the day of his murder mused to his wife, and to that same Kenny O’Donnell, about the ease with which “a man with a rifle” could kill him—Kennedy’s blithe assurance about his invulnerability to fate seems astonishing. If nothing else, his immersion in history must have taught him that seven presidents had died in office, three violently; that FDR had barely escaped assassination in 1933; and that Harry Truman had been the target of assassins in 1950. Kennedy himself would escape death at the hands of a suicide bomber less than five months after speaking those comforting words.
Maybe, though, Kennedy’s words are not so astonishing. They reflect an impulse deep within the human spirit: to push aside the power of random chance in favor of a more orderly, less chaotic universe. Even someone like John Kennedy, who had come close to death more than once, could casually dismiss the whole idea of considering that possibility when choosing the man to stand “a heartbeat away.”
Many historians take the same approach in dealing with the what-ifs that drive excursions into “alternate history.” For them, it is at best a parlor game, at worst a nuisance. “What did happen,” they argue, “is what matters. Playing the alternate history game is like asking, ‘What if Spartacus had had a jet?’”
I take a different view. Historian H. R. Trevor-Roper wrote:
“At any given moment in history, there are real alternatives . . . How can we ‘explain what happened and why’ if we only look at what happened and never consider the alternatives . . . ?”
The alternatives, however, are not boundless. Asking “What if JFK had become a born-again evangelical?” or “What if a Soviet scientist had invented the Internet in 1965?” might make for an entertaining piece of fiction, but it violates the single most critical element of alternative history: plausibility. Harvard historian Niall Ferguson (who prefers the term “virtual history”) says, “By narrowing down the historical alternatives we consider to those which are plausible . . . we solve the dilemma of choosing between a single deterministic past and an unmanageably infinite number of possible pasts.”
If you’re going to argue that history would have been very different if someone else had occupied the White House in a time of crisis, you have to show why: what in this individual’s character, beliefs, impulses, and past actions would have made the difference. In Then Everything Changed,my previous excursion into alternate histories, the small twists of fate that would have seen John Kennedy killed before ever taking office, or that would have saved Robert Kennedy from assassination, or that would have seen Gerald Ford keep the presidency in 1976, were all rooted in hard facts. And the hugely consequential changes that would have flowed from those small twists of fate were based on the beliefs, impulses, and character traits of these men and their contemporaries, gathered from biographies, oral histories, interviews, and memoirs.
I’ve brought this same approach to a question that is as prominent in the what-if realm as any: What if John Kennedy had not died in Dallas? The very small alteration of meteorological history that would have saved his life is well-known already—indeed, many in Dallas were painfully aware of it within minutes of the shots—and it is completely, deeply plausible.
And after that tiny twist of fate saves the President? I’ve sought to keep that plausibility as my polestar. As I did in Then Everything Changed, I’ve consulted biographies, oral histories, and memoirs (my debt to them is explained specifically in the afterword). I’ve also conducted interviews, in person, on the telephone, and via e-mail, with a variety of observers, including Dick and Doris Goodwin, Michael Beschloss, Norm Ornstein, Walter Shapiro, Meryl Gordon, Tom Hayden, Fred Kaplan, David Talbot, and Todd Gitlin (though they bear no responsibility for the speculative history I offer). Most of the fictional events presented have their origins in reality: the “facts on the ground,” as they existed in November 1963. The opinions, the speeches, the conversations I recount from the days and months and years leading up to November 22 did in fact occur. More broadly, the political currents that shape the 1964 Kennedy reelection campaign, the decisions about Vietnam and the cold war, the forces that reshape America’s culture, the threats to Kennedy’s political survival and reputation, all were in place before Kennedy went to Texas. The question I try to answer is: How might John Kennedy’s instincts, his understanding of history, his core impulses, have led him to deal with these forces? For instance, John Kennedy tended toward a dispassionate, detached, analytical approach to issues; he was in this sense the polar opposite of Lyndon Johnson, who saw political threats and opportunities through an intensely personal prism. A detached, dispassionate president might not have had the commitment to fight hard for a civil rights bill or commit the nation to “war on poverty.” But that same detached, dispassionate approach might have prevented a president from escalating a war out of a refusal to be “the first president to lose a war” (as LBJ once famously put it). This does not mean that my version of what happens is “right,” but it does mean that it starts from what is known.
Two final notes: First, I essentially put aside the question of whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted as part of a conspiracy. For what it’s worth, I’ve always thought that the evidence of Oswald’s guilt is strong, but to plunge back into decades of speculation would simply overwhelm everything else. This book is about what happens after the assassination attempt fails.
Second, the story I tell here is neither hagiography nor pathography. Anyone seeking to imagine an eight-year Kennedy presidency has to come to grips with his strengths and weaknesses, his admirable and deplorable character traits. My intention here is to do just that, and to suggest how that mix of traits might have altered one of the most turbulent periods in our history.


CHAPTER ONE

DALLAS, TEXAS, NOVEMBER 22, 1963, 7:30 A.M. CENTRAL STANDARD TIME



It’s raining, Mr. President.”
“I’m up,” he said to his valet, George Thomas, through the door of the master bedroom of Suite 850, and walked to the window. His hosts had borrowed priceless paintings from local museums—a Monet, a Picasso, a Van Gogh—but his eyes were drawn to the gloomy weather, and to a large crowd gathered on the sidewalk eight stories below: a fitting blend of bad and good news for this trip.
He’d come to Texas because it had seemed a state crucial to his reelection next year. Its twenty-four electoral votes, won with a margin of only 46,000 votes, had provided a badly needed cushion three years earlier—without them, his election would have rested on a highly questionable 8,000-vote margin in Illinois—and with twenty-five votes this time around, Texas might well have to be his firewall in the South, where his embrace of sweeping civil rights legislation had made his prospects below the Mason-Dixon Line thin at best. It was important enough that he’d persuaded Jackie to join him: her first political trip since 1960, and one that came just three and a half months after the death of their infant son.
At every stage of the visit so far—from the dedication of the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine in San Antonio, to a Houston dinner for Congressman Albert Thomas, to the motorcade route to and from the airports—the crowds had been large and enthusiastic. If we get a break in the weather, he thought, we can let the crowds get a good look at us here and in Dallas and Austin; maybe that’ll shake some cash loose from the big-money boys.
Only . . . there were clouds hanging over this Texas visit that had nothing to do with the weather.
For one thing, the Democratic Party was in the middle of a full-fledged civil war between conservative Democrats, led by Governor John Connally, and liberals led by Senator Ralph Yarborough. Just before leaving Washington to join the President on Air Force One, Yarborough had learned that he’d been denied a seat at the head table at the big $100-a-plate fund-raiser in Austin and had not been invited to the Governor’s reception later that evening. He’d taken his anger out on Vice President Lyndon Johnson, a key Connally ally, repeatedly refusing increasingly desperate requests from the President’s political team to ride in the motorcades with Johnson.
That had produced exactly the kind of headline John Kennedy did not want to see, splashed across the front pages of the Dallas papers: YARBOROUGH SNUBS LBJ, with others inside no better: PRESIDENT’S VISIT SEEN WIDENING STATE DEMOCRATIC SPLIT.
What is it with Lyndon? he wondered. He’d put him on the ticket in 1960 in the face of puzzlement, even anger, from his liberal and labor supporters, not to mention some of his closest political aides. Kenny O’Donnell had been in shock; Bobby, whose contempt for the Texan didn’t just border on outright hatred but had crossed that border years ago, had tried three times to talk Johnson off the ticket. Thank God he hadn’t. Johnson, riding the “Cornpone Special” across the South, had kept Texas in the Democratic column, and had likely made the difference in the Carolinas and maybe even Missouri. As for rumors that Kennedy might dump Johnson in ’64, he’d brushed them aside: just this week, on a swing through Florida, he’d told his old friend Senator George Smathers, “Lyndon’s going to be my vice president because I need him!” But if Lyndon didn’t even have the power to hold Texas Democrats together, and if the civil rights issue was going to make the South a lost cause, then just how much did he need him? Last night he’d summoned Johnson to his suite and told him in no uncertain terms that this public spat between Connally and Yarborough had to be healed, and healed now.
Besides, there were these rumors out of Washington and New York that might turn out to be more than just rumors. Johnson’s longtime protégé, Senate secretary Bobby Baker, had just resigned, and the rumors suggested that some of the stories about payoffs and kickbacks were getting very close to the Vice President. And some of the stories were about more than money: they were about prostitutes—“party girls” used to win the favor of important politicians. (He was more than familiar with that side of the story—uncomfortably so.) And one of his reporter friends in the Time-Life empire had passed along to Pierre Salinger another unsettling rumor: Life magazine was looking into Johnson’s money—how had a man on the public payroll all his life become a multi-millionaire?
I wonder which one of my geniuses decided to end this trip with a barbecue and an overnight at the LBJ ranch . . . Maybe I can get Rusk or McNamara to gin up a crisis and get me the hell out of there.
He walked across the living room into Jackie’s bedroom, where there was a better view of the crowd on the street below. Her presence was a gift, he knew; the crowd was here as much for her as for him, and he thought he’d rephrase the line he’d used on their European trip: “I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris.” She and the kids were potent political weapons, and those photo spreads in Look magazine—John-John frolicking in the Oval Office, Caroline and her cousins at Hyannis, piling into a golf cart as he drove them for ice cream—were pure gold. God knows, he was going to need the affection of the voters next year . . . because the track record of his administration was something less than overwhelming.
Yes, the economy was good—no inflation, unemployment under 5 percent—but there was a real concern from his economic team that things could be slowing down without a tax cut, and in Congress his own Democratic committee chairs were spooked by the idea that a tax cut was a liberal gimmick that would mean deficits. The civil rights bill he’d embraced was going nowhere; even that huge, peaceful March on Washington last summer hadn’t budged the Southerners who ran the Congress, and the country still told the pollsters that Negroes were pushing too hard, too fast. Things in D.C. were so paralyzed that the press corps had begun to use terms like “gridlock,” “breakdown,” even “constitutional crisis.”
And while there’d been real progress on the foreign front—the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, signs of a thaw in the cold war after the Cuban missile crisis of a year ago—there were troubles from one side of the globe to the other. The CIA’s attempts at covert action in Cuba had been as futile as that insane Bay of Pigs invasion; Bobby had been up in their face for two years, and all they’d come up with was to try and depose or kill Castro with the help of American gangsters. He’d begun to think it was time for something different, some kind of live-and-let-live understanding with Castro. That French journalist, Jean Daniel, was meeting with Fidel now; he’d asked Daniel to get back to him and let him know what Castro was thinking.
And South Vietnam? For almost three years, his advisors had been giving him such conflicting advice that he’d once asked two of them, “Are you sure you went to the same country?” Is the South Vietnamese army, with the help of 15,000 American advisors, making any headway against the Viet Cong guerrillas? Is the government of Ngo Dinh Diem “winning the hearts and minds of the people”? Diem and his brother had seemed more interested in suppressing the Buddhist majority than in dealing with the corruption and incompetence in their government; which is why, three weeks ago, a band of generals (with U.S. support) had overthrown the brothers in a coup—a coup that was supposed to leave Diem and Nhu unharmed. Instead, they’d been shot to death in the back of a truck.
And while his Joint Chiefs, and Rusk at State, and Bundy in the White House were telling him, “We can’t let South Vietnam fall; it will endanger all of Southeast Asia,”others—Ken Galbraith, his Indian ambassador; Senator Mike Mansfield, who knew the region; and General de Gaulle—were telling him, It’s a quagmire, if you go in with an army, you’ll never get out. His own George Ball had said flatly, that if the United States went in with ground troops, it would have 300,000 or more in a year or two. (That idea was nuts, of course—he’d told George that—but still . . .) As for his own instincts? Well, just yesterday in Washington, at the end of a meeting with a young State Department aide, Mike Forrestal, he’d beckoned him back into the Oval Office.
“Wait a minute,” he’d said. “After the first of the year, I want you to organize an in-depth study of every possible option we’ve got in Vietnam, including how to get out. We have to review this whole thing from the bottom to the top.”
But he was also a man of finely honed political instincts, and they told him he couldn’t cut his losses now, even if he wanted to—not with an election coming up, not with the prospect that the Republicans would yell “Who lost Vietnam?” just the way they—and a lot of Democrats—had yelled “Who lost China?” at Truman back in ’49 (hell, as a young congressman, he’d been one of them). That’s why he’d told O’Donnell, Mansfield, and everyone else that nothing was going to happen until after he was reelected. For God’s sake, all anyone had to do was look at the full-page ad in the Dallas Morning News, bordered in black, paid for by H. L. Hunt and a group of Dallas businessmen on the far right, more or less accusing him of treason.
“We’re heading into nut country today,” he’d said to Jackie, not mentioning to her that his UN ambassador, Adlai Stevenson, had been met with such a violent demonstration at a recent speech that Adlai had passed the word to the White House that it might be just as well for the President not to go to that city. But there was no way he was going to Texas without a stop in its second biggest city.
And as for that reelection? He knew what the polls were saying: that his job approval rating had dropped sharply, from 76 to 59 percent, most of it coming from the South’s response to civil rights. He knew that racial splits were opening up—over jobs, housing, crime—in the big cities of the North, dividing white working-class voters from blacks and thus cleaving the old Roosevelt-Truman coalition further. (Was Alabama’s segregationist governor George Wallace serious about running against him in Democratic primaries outside the South?)
And he also knew that he could not count on the Republicans to nominate Arizona senator Barry Goldwater, the conservative hero whose pronouncements about nuclear weapons were bound to paint him as a figure outside the mainstream. “If Barry’s the nominee,” he’d said a week ago to his political team, “I won’t have to leave Washington.” A candidate like New York’s Nelson Rockefeller or Michigan’s George Romney, though . . . that could be a problem.
But if he was concerned that his hold on the White House was not as firm as he might wish it to be, there was comfort, a kind of reassurance, in remembering how often pure, random chance had governed his life; so many times in the past, going back years—even decades—a small turn of fate would have ensured that he never made it to the White House at all.
IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE JOE

Joe was the firstborn son of one of the country’s wealthiest men, who had once pondered the presidency for himself before his ally turned nemesis Franklin Roosevelt ran for a third term. No less than a nobleman of other times and realms, Joe Kennedy Sr. embraced primogeniture, and in his namesake son, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., it seemed as if the gods had agreed. Tall, muscular, strikingly handsome, he projected assurance, confidence, command. At Choate, he’d been a leader in the classroom and on the field and earned the Harvard Cup, given to the student who embraced excellence in scholastics and athletics. At Harvard, he’d been a star in football, rugby, crew. And he made no secret of his intentions, telling one of his tutors—a young economist named John Kenneth Galbraith—“When I get to the White House, I’m taking you with me.”
His father’s counsel to him over the years had always been given with an eye on the main prize. He’d persuaded Joe to switch his major from philosophy to government. When Joe was at Harvard Law School, he wrote: “Get yourself signed up and possibly make some speeches in the fall in the campaign throughout Massachusetts. It would be a very interesting experience and you could work up two or three subjects you wanted to discuss throughout the state.” When Joe Sr.’s father-in-law, John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald entered a primary battle for the U.S. Senate in 1942, father wrote son that Fitz’s primary opponent was facing “a lot of criticism by the Catholic women that [he’d] married a Protestant . . . I am thoroughly convinced that an Irish Catholic with a name like yours, and your record, married to an Irish Catholic girl, would be a pushover in this State for a political office.”

bugwar
November 4th, 2013, 05:04 PM
Why do people post the entire sample text to a book?

It clutters the page.

Would it not be simpler to just write why people should check out a book and post a link to the Amazon page selling the novel?

Dave Howery
November 5th, 2013, 01:03 AM
Why do people post the entire sample text to a book?

It clutters the page.

Would it not be simpler to just write why people should check out a book and post a link to the Amazon page selling the novel?

that's very logical and a fine idea.

We're against things like that on here though.

;)

bugwar
November 16th, 2013, 04:13 AM
Anyone else looking forward to “Mother Earth, Bloody Ground”?
It is the second book in the series that started with “Stonewall Goes West:” by R. E. Thomas.
It is due out supposedly in spring of ’14.

Northland
November 28th, 2013, 04:28 PM
I'm quite new to the forum, so apologies if I get this a bit wrong, but wanted to post about my novel, due for release on the 13th December, The Hidden Crown, published by Top Hat Books.


http://davidhaworth.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/jhp52134ccaa9f731.jpg?w=421&h=644
The Hidden Crown (website) (http://www.thehiddencrown.com)
The Hidden Crown (Amazon) (http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1782791973)

Book Description

Publication Date: 13 Dec 2013


What would have happened if William of Normandy had lost the Battle of Hastings? What kind of nation would have been born if King Harald of Norway had conquered England instead? How different our history could have been if the wind had blown in the other direction for just one day in the summer of 1066.

The Hidden Crown is an alternate-history adventure that takes place a hundred years after such events. The country that would have become Norman England has split in two: the Anglo-Norse kingdom of Northland and the Saxon realm of Ængland. The two nations have been at peace for nearly a century, that is until the dying king of Ængland unexpectedly names his nine-year-old granddaughter, Adelise, as his heir. During her journey home to Ængland through the wilds of Northland, the child-queen is rescued from a bloody assassination attempt by the young Northlandic soldier, Thurstan Ælfsson. Now the two sole survivors of the attack must find safety and allies in a desperate flight across the two kingdoms, never knowing whether they are about to encounter friend or foe.



The website, www.thehiddencrown.com (http://www.alternatehistory.com/discussion/www.thehiddencrown.com) has further information, including maps and other background information. I believe Amazon will be providing the 'have a look inside' function as well - I've not been dealing with them directly, so am a bit out of the loop as to when and where things will show up.

Apologies if the self-promotion seems a bit crass - I have one day off work, with my girls at nursery, so it's all go, posting when and where I can, phoning and mailing people who might be interested!

I am happy to discuss elements of the book, though I think this won't be the thread for it; save to say only that the alternate-universe caters for the fiction as opposed to the other way round. I don't linger too long on the moment of divergence. The novel is set 100 years later and is essentially an adventure story, with the alternate-history and its differences referred to throughout the story. I didn't want to spell everything out in this first book, as there are more to come and I haven't quite decided yet myself how the world is going to be.

Thank you for reading and any advice welcome on where to post further on the board.

bugwar
November 28th, 2013, 04:53 PM
I will put the book on my Amazon wish list.

Grey Wolf
November 28th, 2013, 08:34 PM
I will put the book on my Amazon wish list.

I agree, it looks good!

I need to read more outside my usual time period

Best Regards
Grey Wolf

bugwar
November 28th, 2013, 10:34 PM
The next installment of the alternate future history of Supervolcano is due out 3 Dec.

http://img818.imageshack.us/img818/4365/mg91.png (http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/818/mg91.png/)

Even though I consider Turtledove’s latest WWII book trash, I will get this one, simply to see if I can notice a difference between his disaster and the one the ‘Change, whether you want to or not’ crowd is putting us thru now. ;)

JSmith
December 1st, 2013, 11:50 PM
The next installment of the alternate future history of Supervolcano is due out 3 Dec.





Thanks for the reminder, I'm behind on these .

JSmith
December 1st, 2013, 11:51 PM
Something new from Robert Charles Wilson .


Book Description

Publication Date: November 5, 2013

From Robert Charles Wilson, the author of the Hugo-winning Spin, comes Burning Paradise, a new tale of humans coming to grips with a universe of implacable strangeness. Cassie Klyne, nineteen years old, lives in the United States in the year 2015—but it’s not our United States, and it’s not our 2015.

Cassie’s world has been at peace since the Great Armistice of 1918. There was no World War II, no Great Depression. Poverty is declining, prosperity is increasing everywhere; social instability is rare. But Cassie knows the world isn’t what it seems. Her parents were part of a group who gradually discovered the awful truth: that for decades—back to the dawn of radio communications—human progress has been interfered with, made more peaceful and benign, by an extraterrestrial entity. That by interfering with our communications, this entity has tweaked history in massive and subtle ways. That humanity is, for purposes unknown, being farmed.

Cassie’s parents were killed for this knowledge, along with most of the other members of their group. Since then, the survivors have scattered and gone into hiding. Cassie and her younger brother Thomas now live with her aunt Nerissa, who shares these dangerous secrets. Others live nearby. For eight years they have attempted to lead unexceptional lives in order to escape detection. The tactic has worked.

Until now. Because the killers are back. And they’re not human.












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About the Author

Born in California, ROBERT CHARLES WILSON grew up in Canada. He is the author of many acclaimed SF novels, including Darwinia, Blind Lake, Julian Comstock, and the Hugo Award–winning Spin.









Product Details


File Size: 1005 KB
Print Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Tor Books (November 5, 2013)
Sold by: Macmillan
Language: English
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The author and publisher have provided this e-book to you without Digital Rights Manageme