Arrogance and Empire - An Alternate 7 Years' War Novel - Part 11 - 1890-1900

@Alt History Buff

This is a continuation of my previous TL based upon an alternate 7 Years' War.

Largely, these "parts" are in novel format rather than the historical chronical format I tend to use with my TL's.

Since the TL is so extensive, I break them up into book-sized novels based upon the year (otherwise, I'd be at chapter 630 and page 1804 by now) Someday, after heavy, heavy proofreading and rewrites, I may try to self-publish so any constructive criticism upon writing style, historical accuracy, flow, dialogue, etc would be appreciated.

Key POD's from the 5 Years' War (Book 1):
1. Great Britain wins "5 Years War" in North America (including Louisiana) but the Prussian/Hanoverian alliance sees the dismemberment of Prussia by her neighbors (and relegation to 3rd tier status) and seizure of Hanover by France.
2. Peter III regains his heritage in Holstein but gets overthrown in Russia. He later assumes the throne of Sweden.
3. Two fictional diseases - the Bleeding Death (akin to Ebola) and African Death (akin to AIDS) - ravage the world, with Africa as the epicenter. The slave trade effectively dies by the mid-1760's. This has a particularly terrible effect on large concentrations of men hailing from different regions...like soldiers and sailors who also enjoy the odd prostitute.
4. Great Britain's normal sources for "hired" mercenaries - Hesse, etc - are forbidden by treaty to lease Regiments of experienced sailors. This would cause a major handicap to the British war effort for the first year or two of the American Revolutionary War.
5. Robert Clive's exploitation of Bengal lead to a rebellion which evicts Britain from Bengal. This leads to the Circars and Madras falling to France and their allies.
6. Most of the French residents of Quebec are evicted after the "5 Years War" by a vengeful Britain and America but the Acadian population is largely intact.
7. With Britain's greater success in the 5 Years War in the Americas (seizing Louisiana and Guadeloupe in addition to OTL gains), the French and Spanish are increasingly nervous about the potential for British Hegemony in the west.
8. OTL crisis in the Falklands (OTL Spain backed down) and Corsica (OTL Britain backed down) flare up in violence.
9. Spanish/Portuguese rivalry continues in South America. However, in this TL, Portugal is successful in gaining British assistance due to increased importance of Portugal to maintaining British naval hegemony in the Mediterranean (Minorca is not returned to Britain after 5 Years War and Corsican-British alliance is firmer, thus contributing to the crisis). Great Britain offers modest support in Portugal and the Banda Oriental.

Key POD's from Alternate Revolutionary War (Books 2 to 4)
1. Robert Clive immigrates to Massachusetts in disgrace and eventually joins rebels.
2. "Continental" Congress becomes "Columbian" Congress and United States of America becomes United States of Columbia.
3. Shortage of British troops in the Americas leads to easy rebel seizures from Quebec to Savannah.
4. Through 1776 and 1777, most of the fighting takes place in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania (similar to OTL).
5. French Nova Scotia throws off the British with French and Columbian aid and returns as the colony of Acadia.
6. Gibraltar falls in 1777 after a massive land and sea siege. Great Britain loses only base in the Mediterranean.
7. Portugal's King demands British aid in border conflict in South America. King George agrees and Montevideo taken. However, Portugal, facing invasion from Spain and France, exit the war. In OTL, Great Britain offered little to no help to their longtime ally.
8. French direct financial aid given to Columbia a year earlier than OTL in 1776 and French troops/naval support a year earlier in 1777.
9. The fictional "Bleeding Death" and "African Death" claim thousands of military lives and tens of thousands of civilians, cutting off the slave trade.
10. Robert Clive is captured by the British in November, 1777. Numerous high-ranking British and American generals are killed in combat from 1776 to 1777.
11. By the end of 1777, Great Britain's North American empire has been reduced to e "Royal Islands" of Manhattan, Staten Island, "Nassau" Island (Long Island), Newfoundland, Bermuda and most of the West Indies.
12. Spain and the United States of Columbia, while co-belligerents against Britain and mutually allied with France, have yet to sign an alliance.
13. King Carlos III's heir in Naples, Prince Ferdinand, dies in December 1777 of Bleeding Death, leaving the King to seek to merge Naples/Sicily to Spain once again for his son, Infante Carlos, despite this being against previous European diplomatic convention.
14. King Louis XVI's brother, Louis Stanislas Xavier, who nominally ruled Hanover after the Electorate was seized in 1759, dies of African Death in December of 1777.
15. The childless Maximilian Joseph of Bavaria dies as in OTL in December of 1777 of Smallpox. Numerous potential inheritors take notice.

Book 5
1. A series of disease-wracked expeditions by Britain, France, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States Columbia cross the West Indies. Great Britain seizes Dominica, St. Eustatius and French/Dutch Guyana. Spain seizes Virgin Islands. Dutch seize Anguilla. United States of Columbia seize the Bahama Islands and Bermuda.
2. Henry Clinton commands an invasion of Virginia by 6000 British soldiers and 3000 Loyalists.
3. The British invasion of Virginia inspires a mass slave uprising. General James Wolfe makes for a particularly ruthless and efficient British commander.
4. Initial battles in Virginia lead to massive victories.
5. After Patrick Henry is defeated (and captured) at the Battle of Williamsburg and William Heath is defeated (and killed) at Richmond, Nathanial Greene is tasked to command the shattered Columbian army in Virginia. He wins several close battles near Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg.
6. His command denuded of many of his best soldiers for the Virginia and West Indies campaigns, William Howe lacks the resources to further his campaign in New York.
7. A ferocious civil war between the races emerges in Virginia, leading to a total failed harvest and massive racial violence. Tens of thousands are slaughtered and perish of disease or starvation.
8. Henry Clinton is appointed commander-in-chief of North America to replace William Howe. However, Clinton is killed by a ruptured British cannon.
9. Boston and several New England port towns are destroyed by a vengeful Admiral Augustus Keppel.
10. Mysore, Hyderabad and the French East Indies join forces against the Maratha Empire, the British East India Company and the Nawab of Arcot. With much of Arcot having fallen, a Maratha-EIC army assault Hyderabad on New Years Day.
11. Great Britain, like all affected nations, is rapidly approaching bankruptcy.
12. With the death of the Elector of Bavaria, Maria Theresa of the Habsburg Empire seizes the Electorate. Later, a political settlement is agreed in which French Hanover is ceded to the rightful claimant to Bavaria (Palatine) in return for ceding Bavaria to Austria. Austria then ceded the Southern Netherlands to France. This was a massive diplomatic development in Europe which will lead to many butterflies.

Book 6:
1. British Invasion of Virginia fails after two years of violent racial war. Virginia devastated. Half of slave population killed, died of disease, escaped or sold into slavery into the French West Indies.
2. Last ditch attempt by Washington to seize New York from William Howe occurs on New Year's Eve, 1779, with the Columbian Army marching across the frozen Hudson. The attack fails with heavy casualties.
3. The Treaty of Paris sees Great Britain ceded all of mainland America (including East Florida) to Columbia along with Bermuda and the Bahama/Turk/Caicos Islands. Great Britain retains Newfoundland, the "Royal Islands of New York" (Manhattan, Staten and Nassau (Long) Islands) as havens for Loyalists. Great Britain gains the Banda Oriental, the Guyana Territories, Roatan, St. Eustatius, the Swan Islands and the Bay Islands. Spain gains Gibraltar, the Falklands, the Belize River Colony, the British Virgin Islands and West Florida. The Dutch Republic gained Anguilla. France regained Nova Scotia (Acadia) and later traded Minorca to Spain for the return of Louisiana. Great Britain also recognized French control over Corsica and acquisition of the Austrian Netherlands.
4. Suffering a mental breakdown, King George III falls to his death from the heights of his home, leading a very young George IV to the throne.
5. The social upheaval in Virginia leads to a lower and middle class revolt which results in a law manumitting all slaves in Virginia by 1800. This would effectively guarantee the remainder of the United States of Columbia would likely follow in the ensuing years. As a result, North and South Carolina elect not to join the new nation and accept George IV as their Monarch, bringing the two new nations into Personal Union (but not direct political affiliation) with Great Britain. The western counties of North and South Carolina secede and join the United States as Western Carolina.
6. In 1785, Benjamin Franklin is elected the first President of the United States of Columbia. Only North Carolina, South Carolina and Rhode Island decline to join.
7. In 1791, fearing violence, King Louis XVI successfully flees to a Royalist Garrison at the border of France while his country convulses in Revolution.

Book 7:
1. Many of the events of the French Revolutionary War, Napoleonic War, Quasi-War and British impressment of Columbian sailors continues as in OTL.
2. Austria-Hungary torn apart by Napoleon while a coalition of Danish, Swedish-Prussian and Russian fleets defeats Horatio Nelson at Copenhagen resulting in a renewed League of Armed Neutrality. Portugal is invaded by France and Spain, dividing up the nation into three parts. Great Britain assumed control over Brazil.
3. Empress Catherine lives another decade longer than OTL and Czar Paul more interested in the Holy Lands than war with Napoleon.
4. Napoleon does not invade Egypt but seizes the last Kingdom of the Maghreb, southern Morocco, for the Franco-Spanish alliance and continues shipping the Moors to the West Indies as slaves, denuding North Africa for European settlement.
5. Alexander Hamilton makes public Thomas Jefferson's relationship with his slave and sister-in-law, Sally Hemmings, leading to a duel which ends in Jefferson's death and Hamilton's disgrace.
6. Aaron Burr is elected President in 1800 and 1805. War between Britain and Columbia is declared over the issue of impressment.
7. Taking advantage over a mutiny in the Royal Navy, Napoleon I dispatches armies to invade Britain and Ireland.
8. Aaron Burr, seeing the opportunity to evict Great Britain from North America, dispatches troops to seize the poorly defended, disease-ridden British possessions in the West Indies.

Book 8:
1. Weakened by their poor performance in the 7 Years' War, the Columbian Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Navy loses control over the English Channel for several months, allowing a large French Army to land in southern England. Eventually, this invasion is pushed back but southern England is ravaged.
2. Among the French Army is a Brigade of Columbians under Andrew Jackson.
3. Ireland also is invading by a Franco-Spanish Army inspiring an Irish Catholic rebellion. British forces are totally defeated and Ireland declared a Republic.
4. Portugal's Royal Family is captured by the Franco-Spanish and placed in French custody. Portugal is then broken up into component parts.
5. The government of the Portuguese colony of Brazil collapses and falls under British influence.
6. After years of impressments of their citizens at sea, Aaron Burr invades and conquers most of the Lesser Antilles Islands ruled by Britain or Britain's ally, the House of Bourbon now located in Acadia.
7. The British East India Company, long in bankruptcy, is cut off from Britain for years and its directors repudiate any debts and announce the resolvency of the institution with themselves as owners. The Company conquers Isle de France, Zanzibar, Mombasa, Aden and several of the East Indies Spice Islands.
8. The Maratha Empire conquers the French and Dutch colonies in eastern India.
9. British and Columbian forces cooperate in an attempt to force China to open to trade. The attempt fails to great loss of life.
10. President Aaron Burr orders the establishment of colonies in Eastern New Holland and South Zealand to support Asian trade and the Pacific whaling industry.
11. After an unprecedented two terms of office as President, Aaron Burr announces his intention to run for a third term. In a crowded election, no candidate wins the requisite electoral votes. The vote is then thrown to the House of Representatives where a coalition of Democratic-Republicans and Federalists agree to vote James Monroe as the new President.
12. Accused of planning to illegally cancel the election's results, Aaron Burr's own cabinet threaten to expose the President if he does not resign from office.
13. After several years of wandering, Aaron Burr happens upon Andrew Jackson in New Orleans and inquires of the General is familiar with the vast but largely unsettled Spanish colonies of Tejas and California.
14. Emperor Napoleon is killed suppressing another Portuguese rebellion. His elder brother Joseph assumes the throne.

Book 9:
1. Napoleon II of France plans a second invasion of Great Britain.
2. United States of Columbia purchases Alyeska from Russia.
3. Anglo immigration to Tejas results in rebellion amongst greater rebellion among the Spanish Empire.
4. France invests heavily in Navy.
5. Columbian influence expands in Australasia.
6. Mexico City (renamed Ciudad de Ferdando) is destroyed in rebellions by flooding.
7. Republic of Rio Grande destroyed in rebellion.
8. France's modern steamship navy gains control over Channel. French army invades.
9. Russian control over Levant leads to heavy forced migration of Russian (and later Polish) Jews, Old Believers and Copts. Arabs in southern Levant pushed out.
10. Khedive of Egypt declares Holy War on infidel. Russian forces seize lower Nile and eventually withdraw with most of Coptic (and Shi'a, Sufi, Jewish, Armenian, Greek) population of Egypt.
11.China rapidly modernizes (no Opium Wars, unequal treaties, etc).
12. France conquers England and eventually assumes control over Wales and Cornwall. Scotland becomes independent.
13. Irish mercenaries hired to help occupy England.
14. King George IV dies fleeing to Royal Islands of New York. Queen Charlotte coronated in New York. Several key members of Royal Family die defending England (Queen Caroline, Prince-consort Leopold, Prince Alfred and Prince Octavius).
15. British control over Portuguese Brazil (Portuguese royal family remains largely under house arrest in France) continues with heavy immigration. Eventually, Brazil's slaves were liberated upon fall of Great Britain by British Viceroy in hopes of maintaining control.
16. US buys rights to Tejas, Nuevo Mexico, California, Sonora and Tierra del Fuego from Ferdinand VII. US also later claims Patagonia (disputed by Spain). US also claims entire Amazon Basin (disputed by Britain).
17. Ferdinand VII dies in 1833, leaving Kingdoms of Spain, Naples and America to his three-year-old daughter. HIs brother Carlos was assassinated years before in the Spanish rebellions. He and his third wife raised his three nephews. He prepares a plan to make his nephews and cousins "Kings" in various American colonies with greater leeway to reform and govern than previous Viceroys.
18. Napoleon II expresses no desire to attack remaining British Empire: New York, Carolina and Newfoundland (like Bourbon Acadia) is too proximate to Columbia. British Jamaica, Barbados and Anglo-Bourbon St. Domingue no longer profitable amid slave manumission. Brazil believed likely to fall into rebellion. Banda Oriental too far and not particularly valuable. Napoleon II sees no reason to antagonize US and Spain. He only invaded Britain to ensure hegemony in Western and Central Europe and North Africa.
19. Napoleon II dies a few years into the occupation of Britain. Noble estates in the country are broken up among the tenants and a new English Republican Army is slowly developed to police the nation on behalf of those who benefited from the occupation. Britain allowed a free hand to trade and their people to travel. Large-scale emigration begins to British Empire (including Brazil) and Columbia. This particularly affects the urban population and upper classes.
20. US claims Sakhalin, Ezochi (Hokkaido), Kolyrma, and Kamchatka.
21. Rinderpest is introduced in early 1800's and, by 1830's, Sleeping sickness (both human and animal) spread throughout Africa.
22. The East India Company agrees to assume control over Subsaharan African colonies of the US, France, Portugal (held by France) and Britain (also held by France). Key "investors" would have a seat on the board which allows trade rights throughout the region. Also, the East India Company seizes parts of Arabia and is an investor with France and Russia in the Sinai Canal. East India Company rights are being reduced in Bombay and Gao by the Chhatrapati in Pune.

Book 10:
1. The French Emperor Charles X withdraws from Britain after three decades of occupation, leading to the exiled Queen Charlotte to order her exiled loyalist forces representing the old guard to reconquer Britain.
2. The English Republican Army's political wing, under Henry Gladstone, wishes the return of the Queen but not the old order.
3. An invasion force under the Duke of Cambridge (including James Longstreet) comprised of British colonials from New York, Newfoundland, the Carolinas, Jamaica and the Banda Oriental.
4. The invasion fails. Queen Charlotte dies at sea and her cousin, Queen Victoria, arrives to make peace. A tentative agreement to reascend to the throne is reached with Gladstone which prevents a return to the old British order (no further House of Lords, 100% male suffrage, no return of confiscated aristocratic land).
5. Unrest continues throughout New Spain (Mexico) as the Prince-Regent Carlos repeatedly clashes with rebels, leaving much of the country in ruins.
6. The old East India Company completes its transformation from a Company to a multi-national holding institution comprised of the USC, Spain, France, Russia, Egypt, Ethiopia, India and China that now controls sub-saharan Africa and most of Arabia.
7. Russia and China fight a border war, won by the rapidly industrializing China.
8. After a victory by the Shogunate faction in the 1850's, Nihon fails to modernize.
9. A minor conflict between Nihon and China over sovereignty in the Ryukyu Islands leads to war and an invasion by China.
10. After multiple threats, the US sends forces to assist Nihon. China overwhelms the US and Nihon on Honshu, forcing them to retreat to the southern islands of Shikoku and Kyushu. US/Chinese naval battles devastate both fleets.
11. Peace is made at the status quo. The US solidifies a series of alliances in Southeast Asia (ASEAN) to confront China (now including "Free Nihon").


Please see links to previous books below:

Arrogance and Empire: An Alternative 7 Years War Timeline

All, I've wrapped up my Fenians TL and am getting back to an old project. For several years, I've been writing a series of novels commencing with a POD at the 7 Years War, a conflict that could have gone very differently and had huge ramifications to the world. Throughout the next few months...
www.alternatehistory.com

Arrogance and Empire: An Alternate 7 Years War Novel - Part 2 - 1765-1775

Thanks to the readers of my previous TL, Arrogance and Empire: An Alternate 7 Years War (https://www.alternatehistory.com/fo...e-an-alternative-7-years-war-timeline.523847/) This is part of a series of novels I've been writing off and on over the past 15 years or so...
www.alternatehistory.com

Arrogance and Empire - An alternate 7 Years War Timeline - Part 3 - 1776

All, If you took the time to read my two previous novels (links below), much appreciated. https://www.alternatehistory.com/fo...e-an-alternative-7-years-war-timeline.523847/...
www.alternatehistory.com

Arrogance and Empire - An Alternative 7 Years War Novel - Part 4 - 1777

I appreciate any readers of my previous chapters (see links below of the 7 Years War novel and the first two books of the following American Revolutionary War). This will be the 4th chapter of 5. Unlike previous timeline's, these are intended to read as more of a novel in the Turtledove mode...
www.alternatehistory.com

Arrogance and Empire - An Alternate 7 Years War Novel - Part 5 - 1778

All, This is a continuation of my previous TL based upon an alternate 7 Years War. Largely, these "chapters" are in novel format rather than the historical chronical format I tend to use with my TL's. Since the TL is so extensive, I break them up into book-sized novels based upon the year...
www.alternatehistory.com

Arrogance and Empire - An Alternate 7 Years War Novel - Part 6 - 1779-1785

All, This is a continuation of my previous TL based upon an alternate 7 Years War. Largely, these "chapters" are in novel format rather than the historical chronical format I tend to use with my TL's. Since the TL is so extensive, I break them up into book-sized novels based upon the year...
www.alternatehistory.com

Arrogance and Empire - An Alternate 7 Years' War Novel - Part 7 - 1800-1808

All, This is a continuation of my previous TL based upon an alternate 7 Years War. Largely, these "chapters" are in novel format rather than the historical chronical format I tend to use with my TL's. Since the TL is so extensive, I break them up into book-sized novels based upon the year...
www.alternatehistory.com

Arrogance and Empire - An Alternate 7 Years' War Novel - Part 8 - 1809-1810

All, This is a continuation of my previous TL based upon an alternate 7 Years War. Largely, these "chapters" are in novel format rather than the historical chronical format I tend to use with my TL's. Since the TL is so extensive, I break them up into book-sized novels based upon the year...

Arrogance and Empire - An Alternate 7 Years' War Novel - Part 9 - 1821-1836

This is a continuation of my previous TL based upon an alternate 7 Years' War. Largely, these "parts" are in novel format rather than the historical chronical format I tend to use with my TL's. Since the TL is so extensive, I break them up into book-sized novels based upon the year (otherwise...
www.alternatehistory.com


 
Chapter 1
November, 1890

Philadelphia


Benjamin Harrison simply could not bring himself to believe the returns, throwing the documents back upon his cluttered desk. The cheery fire crackling in the background brought little warmth against the cold Philadelphia November evening nor did the four or five lamps staving off the oppressive gloom outside. For the first time in nearly a century, the Democratic-Republicans had lost a national election. Though the President had enjoyed…or endured…two full five-year terms of office, Harrison was exhausted and only pride (or perhaps vanity) allowed him to be talked into seeking an unprecedented third term in the Presidential Mansion.

On the surface, the prospects for the 1890 election were promising. The economy…with but a few hiccups…remained tolerably strong. The nation’s sphere of influence (Harrison was careful never to utilize the word “Empire”) in Asia continued to strengthen against the iron hegemony of Cathay. Railroads expanded as did industry and trade. While hordes of immigrants, lately including many Eastern and Southern Europeans, continually flowing in the country caused widespread religious and racial resentment, the fact remained that these Italians, Poles, Jews, Russians, Irish, Scandinavians and, yes, even Asiatics, considered the United States of Columbia to be a superior option for making a new life than their own homelands.

If Harrison had been doing such a bad job, would not these people remain at home?

The President recalled his esteemed grandfather’s words, well over half a century past. General William Henry Harrison, his grandson upon his knee, nodded knowingly to little “Bennie” and stated, “Boy, do you know the sad truth about politics?”

Naturally, the young child shook his head and the conquering General of half the Columbian West Indies elaborated, “When it comes down to it, the lives of politicians rot away like fruit. Some slow, some fast. In the ripeness of youth, everyone is excited about the flavor. But, eventually, no one will what you anymore, no matter what you say.”

Benjamin Harrison hadn’t changed much after ten years of office. But the electorate tired of the same speeches, the same platforms. He could not longer claim to be a “reformer” after a decade as the establishment. Accolades for accomplishments seemed to fade away as the public asked, “What next?”

“It seems the public just wanted something new?” The President murmured to himself, his words echoing slightly, almost incredulous. “A few new ideas, many of them bad, and the country cast me out like the contents of a chamber pot?!”

Though outraged…and a bit embarrassed…that the ninety-year reign of the Democratic-Republicans was about to end on his watch, Harrison comforted himself that the new political party fused from the long-feuding opposition factions of the “Columbian Party”, including most of the old Populists and Socialists under Debs, were unlikely to remain unified for long. The structural differences were likely to tear them apart after the victory-induced “honeymoon” phase inexorably wore thin. With the Columbian Party’s divergent interests, regional divisions and occasionally contradictory platforms left Grover Cleveland’s administration impotent to control the government, the Democratic-Republicans would likely regain the Presidential Mansion in 1895.

Leaning back in his chair with a sigh, Harrison complained to the empty Presidential Office, “If only the damned “Know-Nothings” hadn’t gained such a voice in my party. For every vote gained for those bigoted idiots, we lost three among the immigrants. Are we truly to be shocked that New York, New Jersey, Minnesota and Upper California fell to the opposition when our own platform called for restricting the arrival of the kinfolk of half their citizens upon these shores?!”

The Catholic vote fell heavily to the “Columbian Party” as did the Orthodox and Jews. That was enough to cost the Democratic-Republicans the election. No longer could the Democratic-Republicans count upon New England and the south to carry them to victory when immigrants, Unions and increasing dissatisfaction of Midwestern farmers grew in influence. In truth, the years of overwork and disappointment took their toll. The running joke upon his election in 1880, the nation’s centennial, in fact, that “In one hundred short years, the leadership of the nation has sadly degenerated from the genius of Benjamin Franklin to the quagmire of Benjamin Harrison!” grew old a long…very long…time ago.

“Damn it to hell!” Harrison cursed…before breaking out into a bitter laugh. “Remember the old adage, Cleveland, that no man who had ever borne this office would congratulate a friend upon obtaining it. And you most certainly aren’t my friend!”

Pulling a bottle of bourbon from a convenient drawer, Harrison looked about for a glass. Spying one upon a table across the room, he shrugged, quite disinclined to get up. Uncorking the bottle, he raised it to the imagined presence of Grover Cleveland opposite his desk.

With a feral grin, Harrison snidely intoned, “Congratulations, Cleveland! May the office bring you as much joy as I.”

The outgoing President of the United States of Columbia laughed aloud once more and treated himself to a very, very deep swig.

Had Harrison known Grover Cleveland, that very day, received a shocking diagnosis from his doctor confirming his fears of oral cancer desperately in need of surgery, Harrison might have expressed a tinge of sympathy. Instead, though, the lame-duck President finished his bottle…and then called for another.
 
Chapter 2
January, 1891

New Orleans


Hans Czinka, of middling height and build, bearing piercing blue eyes and a scrabble of unkempt reddish hair, raised his right hand and, in his imperfect English, recited the oath of service to the United States Army. To his surprise, snow fell upon his shoulders throughout the day, delighting the young Roma. After eight years of residence in this city, the Czinkas had never witnessed the phenomenon. In their years of exile, captivity and forced servitude in Santo Domingo, Hans’ place of birth, the Roma family never imagined such a sight. Some of his new comrades from the north, places as exotic as St. Louis or Minnehaha, swore snow came every year.

The twenty-year-old didn’t believe them. The white miracle powdering the ground could not be so common everywhere.

Born into effective bondage…though not technically slavery…Hans was the scion of a Hungarian Roma mother and her German Roma (known as Sinta) lover. Throughout the late 18th through mid-19th centuries, Roma were persecuted the length of Europe. First, France and Spain sought to exile their unwanted itinerant population across the sea, deeming them a threat to the peace and a likely source of disease spreading like wildfire across the Continent. That the Sub-Saharan Africa slave trade had been effectively shattered by these same diseases…thus threatening the labor force producing tropical goods like sugarcane and coffee in the West Indies…led the colonial powers to seize upon any source of labor available. France and Spain first sought conquest of North Africa not only to eliminate Barbary piracy, but to exploit the Maghreb’s perceived immunity to disease. Decades of expensive conquest would wipe the Berbers from North Africa and see the survivors forced into the cane fields of the West Indies.

But even this was not enough for the greedy colonial powers. Criminals were “transported” on the flimsiest of pretexts and lightest of offenses, forced to serve their “sentences” in the pestilential tropics. And, of course, all Roma were considered criminals. France and Spain’s armies and constabularies seized every “Gypsy” within their borders…but even this wasn’t enough. Hatred for Roma ran deep throughout Europe and soon other nations obliged the Bonapartian and Bourbon calls for the unwanted non-citizens of the Dutch Republic, Germany, Hungary, Romania and other states. Hundreds of thousands of Roma were forced upon vessels bound for the hellish West Indies. Even the loss of control of the French Empire by the Bonapartian regime (the colonies remained Bourbonist) during the Revolution did little to slow the exodus as Spain’s neglected and dilapidated colonies of Cuba, Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo craved able bodies to work the fields.

Hans’ parents met in this form of pseudo-bondage (technically not slavery but possessing all relevant facets of the institution) and produced four healthy children, something of an accomplishment given the harsh nature of the environment.

Shortly after the boy’s eleventh birthday (he was uncertain of the exact day as “prisoners” were rarely given calendars), the Prince-Regent of the West Indies (Cuba, Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo plus an assortment of smaller possessions like the Virgin Islands) announced that, after years of pressure by Columbia, the “sentences and apprenticeships” of the Roma and any other “prisoners” were to be lifted. The black slaves who labored adjacent the Roma and Berbers were similarly liberated. After two years of desperate labor, the extended Czinka family of twenty-two members managed to bribe a Columbian fisherman to carry them away from Santo Domingo to wherever the captain was bound.

New Orleans.

Hans still recalled the glory of sailing up the Mississippi River to the beautiful city among the swamps. It was the first time the youth truly felt free in his life and the experience proved intoxicating. Ancient French, Spanish and African influence contested with more recent Anglo, Nihonjin and Italian migration to create a polyglot society bustling with energy. No one attempted to force the Czinkas to do anything…indeed, the Roma family discovered no one CARED that they were Roma. Generations of forced sedentary lifestyles in the mountains of the Caribbean, trapped upon plantations, bled most of the wanderlust of historical Roma society. In some ways, the Roma were a race without a culture.

The Roma boy virtually drowned in the freedom. That his family was forced into residing in a pair of shacks little different from Santo Domingo mattered not at all. No one FORCED them to do anything. Naturally, the men of the family sought out work as day laborers while the women challenged the Nihonjin launderers dominating the washing trade. At fourteen, Hans received an apprenticeship on a barge steaming up and down the Mississippi…until the vessel sank near Baton Rouge, forcing Hans to walk back to New Orleans in shame.

The family struggled…as did so many of the Roma, Maghreb and African migrants fleeing the West Indies to Columbia throughout the 1890’s, mostly through the portal of New Orleans…but Hans didn’t care. No one could force him to do anything…well, excluding his parents.

Though he loved his family, Hans swore to escape those measly “shotgun” shacks on the outskirts of town and, upon his eighteenth birthday, announced he was joining the United States Army. Soldiering had rarely been in fashion in this country, but the youth longed for adventure. To his surprise, his parents readily agreed to his decision. He wasn’t really carrying his weight anyway, his father explained with his common brutal forthrightness. Having spent a few years in school greatly constrained the money Hans might have earned for the family, despite his mother’s pleas for father to give the boy time to learn to read, a first in their family in generations.

Though his English remained imperfect, the Roma youth’s body was strong and that was good enough for the recruiting sergeant. After taking the oath to defend the Constitution, Hans Czinka took the enlistment bonus and handed it to his parents. It would keep them fed a few weeks, maybe a month.

It was the best Hans could do for them. He had greater aspirations now as a soldier of the United States of Columbia.
 
Chapter 3
March, 1891

Coburg, Principality of Coburg, German Confederation


The elderly Prince read one dispatch after another from allies the length of the German Confederation, running his hand through his balding pate. The news was hardly good. Political radicals abounded from adherents of Socialism and Marxism, the various reactionary German Princes still living in 1811, German Unificationists, neighbors bearing long-held grudges…

None of it looked good.

A century of French domination over Europe had, ever so gradually, released the iron-handed grip of Napoleon I and II towards the more dovish policies of Charles X and Napoleon III. Where once the crowned heads of Spain-Naples, the Dutch Republic, the myriad German states, Poland and Hungary looked to France not only in fear but in hopes of protection from their enemies and their own rebellious peoples. Europe convulsed in revolution and, for once, France was disinclined to provide leadership or assistance. Even the French people, exhausted after a century of Bonapartist sham democracy, demanded true representation. Spain, if anything, was in worse shape as the House of Bourbon mixed incompetence with their oppression.

The Prince shook his head. Europe was about to explode. When the Czar of all the Russias proved among the most ardent of Europe’s crowned heads for expanding freedom and democracy…well, that boded poorly for the Continent.

Exhausted, Prince Albert of Coburg threw down his correspondence and stalked out of his office. The evening was already late and the elderly man brushed aside his half-asleep servant, announcing he wished to take a walk about the “Palace”. Though Albert knew he should be grateful his patrimony had not been annexed by larger, more powerful enemies over the past century as so many petty German states had, the Prince nevertheless wished the burden had fallen to someone else after the death of his cherished but childless elder brother.

I should not have left my children, the seventy-three-year-old German thought, his mind drifting back to his long residence in New York and England. Arthur would have been a good Prince…well, good enough. I could have abdicated in his favor…

But, in truth, the old man knew remaining in England was not an option…and not just because his eldest son Bertie would resent his father’s meddling presence. Upon his wife’s…untimely death…at the hands of an ERA assassin, Albert simply could not bring himself to remain in his adopted homeland without his dear Victoria. Brought together as a semi-arranged dynastic marriage while the British Royal Family remained mired in exile in New York as France occupied England for a generation and a half, Victoria and Albert developed into a love match under the careful watch of her cousin Charlotte. Yes, they were very different people. Victoria was always so…sensual…physically…in a way Albert wasn’t. She enjoyed her food and drink (to the detriment of her figure in middle-age) as much as exulting in physical delights with her husband. While the soft-spoken Albert was not averse…well, the nine children could mainly be attributed to Victoria’s appetites.

Upon the death of Queen Charlotte and Victoria’s ascension to the throne during the hideously divisive “English Civil War”, the little Queen somehow managed to charm her rebellious subjects with her dignity, earnestness, work ethic and, perhaps most of all, her vulnerability. Forgetting the blood of Charlotte’s ill-fated attempt to reclaim Britain from the grips of the English Republican Army’s political wing under Henry Gladstone, the people of Great Britain agreed to return the House of Hanover to the throne…under their own terms, of course. The old Great Britain was dead…but the little Queen would lead her nation into a new day.

Until that damned fanatic thought he could end the monarchy by assassinating a fifty-year-old woman!

Oddly, the murder of Albert’s wife brough the House of Hanover newfound sympathy among the people of England and Wales and only solidified their previously weak grip upon the throne. Even Gladstone wept openly at Victoria’s funeral and the Prime Minister personally led a purge of the radical antimonarchists from the ranks of the recently renamed “National Party” (as the term “Republican” didn’t fit with a monarchy). The term “English Republican Army” became synonymous with treason.

To Albert’s surprise, their eldest son, hereto an indifferent student prone to embarrassing public behavior, proved a capable King. Like Victoria, Albert I of Great Britain accepted the abrogation of so many the British monarch’s historical privileges, but threw himself into the symbolic duties of the position with a relish his grieving father never expected. Within a few years, Bertie partnered with the government to make alliances and friendships among the other crowned heads of Europe. Within the following decades, Bertie travelled more extensively than any monarch in history, visiting old friends in Columbia and Brazil…and enemies in Ireland and France, each time seeking to salve ancient open wounds. Bertie travelled to Pune and the Forbidden City…to Natal and Bangkok…proving to be the perfect ambassador of a slowly rebuilding Great Britain.

Albert himself?

Once his youngest children reached their majorities, he departed London for Coburg, now mourning the death of his brother, sensing that his son no longer desired the father’s nagging presence. Bertie, for better or worse, was King of Great Britain (minus the Republic of Scotland, of course), the self-governing Dominions of New York, Newfoundland, Carolina, Jamaica, Barbados, and the Banda Oriental.

An embarrassment to his son, Albert returned to Germany after a forty-year absence to find himself a stranger. Throwing himself into his duties with his customary vigor, Albert rapidly accelerated his brother’s reforms, expanding suffrage, making domestic infrastructure improvements and the like. But Albert’s temper grew short and a series of meetings of the past few days resulted in atypical outbursts upon startled functionaries. The Warden of the unpretentious “Royal Museum” appeared baffled why the Prince berated him for failing to keep its doors open more than once a week. An engineer was summoned to the Palace to explain why a bridge was a month late in completion. An electrician was forced to personally demonstrate to his monarch why the Palace’s wiring continued to fail.

Always gentlemanly even when angered, Albert’s outbursts stunned all present…until they realized he was approaching the twenty-year anniversary…of Victoria’s death. Every year at this time, his mood soured, making Albert almost unbearable for his subjects, friends and family.

Slowly ambling through the grounds of the modest Coburg “Palace”, the old man longed for his wife’s presence once more to satiate his loneliness. But Albert could not countenance taking a second wife…or even a mistress. So many years after Vicky’s death, Albert doubted anyone could replace her in his heart. Only in hindsight did Albert realize the true depth of their devotion to one another.

A chill wind tearing through his jacket reminded Albert that winter had yet to releases its icy grip despite the recent melting of the February snows.

Chiding himself for morosely skulking about his Palace grounds, no doubt providing fuel for the rumors of his growing eccentricities, the Prince determined to cease taking his frustrations and grief out on others unlucky enough to suffer proximity.

Albert was losing weight in old age and the resulting loss of padding left him prone to illness. His appetite reduced to the point that he frequently forgot to eat…or simply didn’t want to. Only his youngest daughter’s admonishments (the Princess was on extensive visit to the Continent from London…and to seek out a second husband after the death of her first the previous year) forced Albert to eat on a semi-regular basis.

Sighing, the Prince of Coburg turned towards the warmth of the Palace, intent on doing…something…about the impending chaos soon to be unleashed upon the denizens of Europe.

Exactly what the crowned head of a tiny German Principality without influence in the rapidly disintegrating German Confederation MIGHT DO about the matter, he simply could not say.

Maybe in the spring, he’d go visit his son.
 
Chapter 4
February, 1891

Philadelphia


“What do you mean…dead?!” The Senator from the state of Illinois and Vice-President-Elect sputtered, knocking over the bowl of soup kindly provided by his housekeeper to stave off the bitter February cold. Seated adjacent a roaring fire in his den, the Senator leaned back in his chair in shock.

Having served only two years in the House of Representatives followed by two in the Senate, the Illinoisan was respected for his intellect but hardly considered among the powerbrokers of Congress. The offer by Grover Cleveland for Adlai Stevenson to serve as his Vice-Presidential candidate came out of nowhere, though Illinois being a hotly contested state (one which Stevenson delivered) in the election probably had something to do with it. In truth, Stevenson doubted the Columbian-Populist ticket had a chance against the ninety-year hegemony of the Democratic-Republican Party. But history was made and Benjamin Harrison conceded defeat…though only by eighteen electoral votes.

The last thing he expected that evening was a knock on the door. Who would be out in this godawful snowstorm?

In marched one of the most influential members of Cleveland’s campaign (the Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates traditionally seldom interacted), the somewhat radical but clever William Jennings Bryan, presumably to be granted a high position in the government.

Stevenson’s butler took Bryan’s hat and ushered him into Stevenson’s study where Bryan accepted a sherry before finally breaking the news.

“I’m afraid so, Senator Stevenson…” Bryan replied mournfully. “Apparently, Cleveland had contracted oral cancer…and the man died upon the operating table yesterday.”

The younger man allowed Stevenson a moment to absorb the import of the tragedy. Only belatedly did the Vice-Present-Elect realize, “Does this mean…?”

“Yes, sir. On April fifteenth, you shall take the oath of office as the President of the United States.”

“Don’t I need to take the oath as Vice-President first?” Stevenson inquired, constitutional law hardly being his specialty.

“Not to my understanding, sir. You simply become President.”

“Good God!” The thought simply never crossed Stevenson’s mind. No Vice-President had ever ascended to the Presidency before much less before either man even took the Oath of Office. “Is there some manner in which Harrison might contest the election now?”

“None remotely legal. In truth, I’m not certain Harrison would even desire another five years,” Bryan shook his head. “The man seems careworn and beaten-down after ten years.”

It would take days before Stevenson reconciled himself to the new reality and publicly addressed the public with a speech commemorating the life of Grover Cleveland.
 
Chapter 5
May, 1891

Moscow


Prince Alexander, for seemingly the thousandth time, bit his tongue as he read through the latest list of dispatches from the Diet. Naturally, they legislation included more “reforms” encouraged by his brother Nicholas II and enacted by his followers. Exactly why Nicholas continued to insist upon allowing this democratic farce to continue, Alexander could not comprehend. In less than three decades, Alexander II and Nicholas II had repudiated the God-granted right to the Romanovs to rule Russia.

Though the Prince loved his bookish elder brother, he feared for his nation’s future. Father freed the serfs…and no Nicholas empowered them. Land continued to be distributed to the lower classes, yet the rapidly expanding population continued to flock to the cities and newfound mining boomtowns in the Urals. Despite every reform and concession…civil unrest only grew as political agitators from anarchists, Marxists, republicans, and even more esoteric groups encouraged dissent.

And Nicholas has abolished the Secret Police! The Prince shook his head in astonishment. Fool!

At least the man is finally pushing back on those Chinese, Alexander determined. The Mandarins has pushed our settlements north of Lake Baikal!

This effectively meant that Russian Far East was but a distant memory. COLUMBIA actively controlled more territory in Eastern Siberia and the Romanov Empire!

Holding the office of Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army, Alexander at least possessed some power to influence Russia’s future in THAT direction. Nicholas…begrudgingly…agreed to slowly build up the forces in Central Siberia now that the railroads had reached that far, making warfare against China at least logistically POSSIBLE. It may take a year or two to consolidate…but the damned Chinks would suffer the same humiliation they’d inflicted upon Alexander’s father and grandfather so many years prior!

Much to the Prince’s chagrin, the buildup would prove much, much slower than expected. Indeed, years would pass before Alexander’s dream would approach reality…and by that point the entire world would be at war.
 
Chapter 6
August, 1891

Natal, United Nations of Africa


Governor Abraham Galloway of the esteemed Natal Province (capital of the United Nations of Africa) had yet to settle into his new role, despite the comfortable Governor’s Offices provided for his use, featuring an enormous baobab-wood desk, a powered ceiling fan, and efficient secretaries. The sheer scale of paperwork and political obligations proved daunting for the veteran administrator. Even in the theoretically “egalitarian” government emerging from the old East India Company, few black men received promotion to such august offices. Whites still predominated in high capacities after decades of expansion across the whole of sub-Saharan Africa and most of Arabia. The nine-nation “governing council” selected the local officials and most non-white appointed functionaries in the past decades had been overwhelmingly Chinese and Indian.

That a black man, born a slave in Carolina, should be promoted from his longtime base in Kongoville to the capital…well, it was almost unprecedented. Galloway vowed to utilize his position to encourage both the better educated freedmen returning from the Americas AND the often-exploited native Africans to seek political power as tens of millions of Asiatic, European and other “foreign” peoples flooded the Dark Continent’s shorelines in the wake of new measures to oppose rinderpest, the Sleeping Sickness, the Bleeding Death, the African Death, malaria and a host of other diseases endemic to these cursed lands. While a true continental-wide census had yet to be taken given the remoteness of so many African tribes from the rapidly expanding railways and roadways, it was already suggested that the population of sub-Saharan Africans was a plurality, not a majority, same as the war-ravaged Arabian Peninsula (also under United Nations of Africa control) now counted white, Asian and African (mostly Ethiopians escaping the epidemics) immigrants to outnumber the local Arabs.

Society remained in flux throughout the Continent. Among Galloway’s greatest challenges were controlling the multi-ethic and lingual cultures constantly on the edge of tearing one another apart. Rapidly expanding cities like Natal boasted huge ethnic enclaves – Chinatown, Little Pune, the Latin Quarter, Versailles, New Philadelphia – which lent a rich diversity…and complexity…to the region.

Unfortunately, the legal disputes proved endless. Galloway was forced to hire an army of solicitors to adjudicate sectional disputes.

A quiet knock on the door was quickly followed by his Secretary timidly poking in his head. “Sir,” the dark-skinned native African inquired, “Are you ready to receive Mr. G…”

“Yes, yes,” the elderly man replied, already exhausted with the upcoming conversation. “Show him in.”

Moments later, a dapper trim Indian (most tended to use that term these days rather than “Maratha”) donning western garb no doubt stemming from his years of study in London entered the Governor’s office. “Governor Galloway,” the youthful figure solemnly intoned, the very picture of courtesy, “Thank you for seeing me on such short notice.”

Mohandes Gandhi had been summoned from the Inner Temple in London by a group of Indian traders in Natal seeking “one of them” to represent them in their affairs. Galloway’s predecessor, in the final days of his tenure, hired the suave Indian to assist in government litigation. Still in his early twenties, Gandhi was already forming a reputation as an elite solicitor.

“Of course, Mr. Gandhi,” Galloway gestured towards the chair opposite his desk. “Please sit. May Mutumbo bring you a cup of tea or coffee?”

“No, thank you, sir.” Though always impeccably polite, it was well known that Gandhi thought little of Africans, both native and repatriated, deeming them less civilized and intelligent than Asians and Europeans. Fortunately for the young man, he was wise enough to hold his tongue in mixed company and Galloway had yet to find a suitable pretext to terminate the solicitor’s contract with the government.

“I understand you wish to address the mining concessions?”

“Yes, sir,” Gandhi, ever formal in person, mewled, “I fear that my investigation verifies the complaints. Far, far too often, white and Chinese miners received preferred access to staking claims over Indian, southeast Asian and…”

“African?”

“Yes, and African miners, sir,” Gandhi smoothly conceded.

“What do you propose?”

“I fear a commission…”

Galloway groaned, “God, not ANOTHER commission!”

“Yes, sir, yet another independent…multi-ethnic…commission must take responsibility to oversee the granting of these deeds.”

Though Galloway still loathed the young Indian, the Governor had to admit Gandhi was ruthlessly efficient in rooting out injustice and corruption. Scrupulously honest, the man could at least be counted upon to do his duties with fairness…even if he complained of the boorish “Kaffirs” behind closed doors with his countrymen.

One of these days, Gandhi, Galloway vowed, your mouth will finish your career…at least your public career.

“I shall review your brief by tomorrow and bring the issue to the attention of the Provincial Council,” he promised. “Anything else?”

“Only the usual concerns of ethnic violence, sir. Oddly enough, this time it was a group of Indians who mobbed a Chinese grocer last week,” the young lawyer seemed embarrassed at the admission. “Most unsavory and uncivilized. I’ve already taken the liberty to speak to the local police commissioner. He agreed to dispatch additional patrols in the…border…neighborhoods. I pray I did not overstep my bounds.”

“No, of course not, Mr. Gandhi,” Galloway replied through gritted teeth in a poor affectation of a smile. “Of course not.”
 
Chapter 7
January, 1892

Sonora Desert, State of Sonora


As the ungainly animal jerked convulsively from side to side as the procession meandered through the arid mountain passes of Sonora, Private Hans Czinka struggled to prevent his breakfast from making an unwanted reappearance. Over the past days, his ill-mannered mount seemed to derive the greatest of pleasure in nipping at the rider at every opportunity and, on more than one occasion, spitting directly into the soldier’s face.

Having enlisted in the United States Army the previous year, the Santo Domingo-born Roma expected to travel to exotic places, perhaps even as far as Asia.

The youth was allocated to the Davis Camel Corps instead, patrolling the remote southwest for renegades, smugglers and their ilk proliferated by the omni-factional morass battling for control over New Spain…as apparently it had been ongoing for the better part of a century. Poorly educated (Czinka didn’t really learn to read English until late into his teens), the youth’s only information on the conflict deepened his confusion. Apparently, the Prince-Regent of New Spain…was rebelling against the Queen of Spain. Meanwhile, two major factions of republican revolutionaries, one representing the local ruling classes and the other emerging from the southern Indians and Mestizos, contested for control as well.

The whole situation smacked of a hideous mess Czinka prayed he might avoid. Yet, here he was, riding about a damned camel through the Sonoran mountains under the inhuman heat of the desert plateaus.

What I can’t imagine is what the damned heat would be like in the SUMMER! Czinka thought acidly. Even New Orleans and Santo Domingo were never THIS damned hot!

Well, they were…but…well, he’d been accustomed to it there. Lacking the humidity seemed to make the heat worse, not better, in his mind if not his colleagues.

“Is little Betty still nipping at you, Czinka?” inquired a low, jocular voice in Czinka’s native Spanish. Passing the long line of camels was a short Mestizo on horseback, his own mount apparently a local breed accustomed to the climate. Jose Doroteo was a Sonoran, believed to have been born in New Spain, but educated in the State of Mexico with the intension of joining the clergy. Instead, the young man sought adventure and joined the Scouting Division of the Columbian Army. Now a Sergeant, Doroteo had wisely been deployed towards the border with his homeland.

“Not at all, Sergeant,” the Roma replied breezily even as Czinka adjusted his position in the ungainly saddle. Like the Sergeant, Czinka donned the new standard khaki uniform, black boots and a surprisingly regulation (for the region) cowboy hat. Doroteo laughed, witnessing his friend awkwardly attempting to find a position in the saddle which would not crush his balls. “Anything ahead of us?”

Doroteo nodded, “I scouted ahead. Several camps, recently abandoned…VERY recently. Impossible to say if it is local rebels…or just the endless number of bandits plaguing New Spain.”

“Will we catch up with them?” Czinka inquired, staring southwards towards the border and the vanishing head of the camel column circling a series of low stone crests dotting the landscape. Only a few miles further, it looked like the trail closed up again between two mountains. It looked like a good place for an ambush.

Catching Czinka’s tone, Doroteo stated bluntly, “I think so. They are up to no good here…and probably much worse in Durango or Zacatecas. Best to kill them now before they cross the border.”

“Not for us, Jose,” Czinka’s voice lowered as the younger man confessed his fears. “Over a dozen Columbian soldiers have been killed in the past month, Jose.”

“And thousands of civilians in New Spain in that time, Hans,” Doroteo retorted. “Maybe tens of thousands. People are being slaughtered left and right. The situation keeps getting worse…” The stories making their way across the border from his extended family terrified even the stoic Mestizo.

“We have to do something, Hans…anything.” In their months of acquaintance, Hans Czinka had never heard such…dread in his friend’s voice.

Straightening up in his saddle, Doroteo continued in their mutual native Spanish, fearful of being overheard by his compatriots, “We shall do our best, Jose…but I don’t know what a few hundred Camel Jockeys can do about the matter.”

Biting his lip in frustration, the Sergeant grunted and nudged his mount southwards once more, kicking the horse in the ribs to pass the plodding procession of camels moving inexorably into danger.

Not for the first time did Czinka curse the memory of Jefferson Davis, apparently some functionary decades past who conceived the idiot idea of the Columbian Camel Corps.
 
Chapter 8
August, 1893

Paris


The funeral procession of Napoleon III, having reigned but three years after near six decades under his father, Emperor Charles X of France (Charles Bonaparte opted to follow the numerals of the French Kings, making him Charles X instead of Charles I as some suggested), mobbed the streets of Paris for hours as French commoners grieved for their young Emperor, laid low by heart disease at the age of forty-three.

Modestly popular in his own right after forty years as the “King of Rome”, the nominal title of the heir to the thrones of France and northern Italy, Napoleon III nevertheless faced heavy dissent domestically and abroad throughout his short reign as the inexorable decline of the French Empire grew ever more apparent. Once viewed as the “dominant power of western and central Europe”, the iron grip of the Bonapartist dynasty over European affairs had degenerated to the point of non-existence. Seldom did the Emperor’s government even comment upon the repeated civil insurrections among the German states, the revanchism talk of Austria-Bavaria, the brutal repression of Poland’s (once a paradigm of European democracy) Jewish and Protestant minorities and the obvious friction among the Balkan nations only held in touch by the Czar’s “disapproval” of a fratricidal conflict in Nicholas II’s sphere of influence.

Spain didn’t even bother informing France of its ongoing conflict in New Spain, underscoring the drastic reduction in influence even among nominal French allies.

This was not fully a reflection of Charles X’s policies of “hands-off” but the continued unrest within the metropolis itself. Radical revolutionaries of every political stripe abounded throughout the country demanding the abolition of the “farcical” pretense of democracy in the Assembly barely altered from the days of Napoleon I who received “Majorities” in Parliament of 99.999%. Though France had vastly reformed land distribution, provided freedom of religion, open most sectors of the economy to modernization, encouraged technological, scientific and educational advances, built the finest network of roadways, rail and ports in Europe, etc, etc…the sad truth of the matter was that France was probably less of a true democracy than Russia.

Though prosperous, the burgeoning population of France seethed with discontent. The latter years of the doddering Charles X’s reign were exemplified by a government of “centralists” and “modernists”…which possessed little interest in expanding true democracy lest it affect their hold on government. The chronically weak and unhealthy Napoleon III offered little more guidance…or challenge to their power.

Now, the amused and confident cadre of politicians selecting their puppets for the Assembly doubted the dissolute, womanizing and drunken Napoleon IV would prove a threat.

They continued writing legislation intended to further consolidate all power within their hands down to the village level. While not exactly “reactionaries” or beholden to some ancient ruling, aristocratic class, these men frequently emerged from the peasant classes under Charles X. But the French political machine, like so many governments before them, thought only of furthering their own control.

Among the threats to the nation, in their eyes, were the apparent refusal by the Kingdom of Italy (the northern half of the Italian Peninsula held in personal union to France’s Emperor) for further political integration with France itself. Similarly, the new educational reforms intended to improve the rustic southern countryside by making French the uniform language of the land (as of opposed to regional languages like Norman, Alsatian, Catalan and, most of all, the Occitan tongue of the south) would elicit a surprising level of resistance. Long allowed to speak their own regional tongues, the provincials saw the “shaming” of their children by teachers appointed from the north as the last straw. The Kingdom of Italy, already reading the writing on the wall that they would be next, rapidly fell into unrest bordering on rebellion.

While many would-be revolutionaries in Paris held little mor interest regarding the sensitivities of country bumpkins…and Italians…they realized that this may prove fertile ground for rebellion. At least momentarily consolidating their disparate banners under one unwieldy movement, the assortment of reformers, Republicans, Marxists, oppressed provincials and Italians would rise up in a series of riots throughout the nation(s) spewing forth a litany of long-buried resentments against a political machine which failed to modernize with the rest of the country.

Expecting this to be yet another modest series of strikes and protests, the government’s powerbrokers would prove shocked to find a massive uprising stretching from the Adriatic to the English Channel…and they had no idea from whence it came.
 
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Chapter 9
October, 1893

Spain and Naples


Like France, Spain’s Monarchy possessed an intricate system of regional influences made even more complex by the continuation of the Spanish Empire abroad (though most of the former Spanish realms were now largely self-governing under Prince-Regents). However, unlike their northern neighbor, Spain’s domestic government had never managed anything resembling France’s economic, social, educations and technological advances.

By 1893, Spain’s Navy would have lost a war with Denmark. The rail system was unreliable and might be compared unfavorable to Greece’s notoriously ill-managed national railroad. Despite literally CENTURIES of pleas for reform, there remained not a single educational institution training capable engineers nor a national bank capable of going a full decade without a complete and utter collapse. Poorly paid, half-naked conscripted soldiers could be seen begging for food in the streets of Madrid and Cadiz.

Perhaps most humiliatingly, Spain’s economy was now dwarfed by the now self-governing Franco-Spanish Maghreb and the quality of life for Spanish subjects in Prince-Regencies like the Rio Plata and Chile (and, to a lesser extent, New Granada and Peru) vastly exceeded their counterparts in the home country.

In hopes of rectifying…or just concealing…the problems at home, the minions of the little Queen of Spain and her heir, Infante Alfonzo, sought to follow France’s example by abolishing long-held “freedoms and privileges” granted to regions of Spain, Naples, Sicily, Malta and the rest of Bourbon Europe.

The aging Queen Isabella agreed, in a moment of desperation, to close the regional Cortes of the Basque Country, Andalucía, Catalonia, the lands seized from Portugal a century prior, etc.

While many impartial foreign political observers and economic experts would strongly agree that the silly internal barriers hindering internal trade and government would best be discarded for Spain to emerge from the relative dark ages, these fellows would not understand the context of internal opposition. These concessions to regional governments were often the only methods to maintain fealty to the Crown. Spain was, in fact, not one nation, but many only creaking forward through the centuries by allowing a certain regional federalism. Abolishing these rights not only assaulted the power of local gentry but the clergy and peasants as well.

When had the Crown of Spain ever proven worthy of the nation’s trust?

Never, it was generally agreed.

Isabella, in fact, was alternately lampooned for her love affair with a commoner (she bore a former officer in her guard many illegitimate children) and her weight. Having lost any semblance of respect from her subjects, it might have been best to abdicate in favor of her son. Instead, the round little Queen maintained her grip on power by sheer will, leaving the government to a small cadre of favorites (of hers, not the country’s).

Making matters worse was the frustrating expensive war in New Spain, a conflict which had apparently been ongoing in one guise or another for almost seventy years straight, weakening the Empire greatly. Despite Spain’s faltering attempts to reestablish control, only a small portion of New Spain remained under the Queen’s authority. The rest remained in the hands of the traitor, Prince-Regent Carlos and his thrice-damned son, and at least two discernable rebel Republican factions, once comprising of influential colonial gentry led by a local army officer named Pontifiro Diaz, and another supported by southern Mestizos of more humble station. The dry plains of northwest New Spain and the once-lush Valley of Fernando (formerly Valley of Mexico) had been utterly depopulated after a series of wars, the latter left to nature’s hand, the destruction of the ancient canals and dykes allowing for the reformation of huge lakes not seen since the days of the Aztec.

While the Crowned heads of Spain had long since sought to restrict regional authority through the Iberian Peninsula (mostly to no effect other than irritating their subjects), the rapid series of pronouncements proclaiming the closure of the Cortes…and, of course, a raise in taxes…turned Spain into a powder keg.
 
Chapter 10
April, 1894

Yerba Buena


“I still don’t understand,” complained Private Hans Czinka of the 4th Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment, 5th Infantry Brigade of the Columbian Army to his friend. “You say this…this...under?”

“Over,” laughed Oscar Wagner, another young Columbian soldier adjacent the Santo Domingo-born Roma. “In an over, the batsman gets six balls provided he isn’t called out…either by the bowler hitting the posts…or the ball getting caught in the air…or the batter being run out…”

The rules of cricket remained stubbornly elusive for the Roma. Having only alight upon Columbian soil less than a decade prior, Czinka soon came to realize that his adolescent rearing in New Orleans did not prepare him for the game of cricket as his adopted home state was one of the last bastions in Columbian to embrace the game in any major manner. Louisiana preferred Rugby (another British-born sport), a game born within the barren fields of some school in England during the French occupation. A second code, Columbian Rules, had diverged greatly over the past decades and was more popular in the north. Czinka understood that sport well enough…but cricket’s code absolutely baffled him.

“Oscar, you give me a headache.”

The tall, strapping blond Wagner was the scion of a German farming family somewhere in Ohio, Czinka couldn’t recall where. Of similar age, the two had formed a close friendship over the past months upon Czinka’s reassignment to Upper California. The city of Yerba Buena, adjacent the impressively expansive San Francisco Harbor, had apparently been a gold boomtown half a century prior…not that one could tell today. Along the steep hillsides of the city, hundreds of beautiful mansions augmented by lush foliage bespoke of wealth.

Across the bay, the city of Oakland was similarly expanding, buoyed by the railroad terminal conveniently connected to the vast dockyards. Oakland also apparently possessed the largest Asian population in mainland Columbia. “Little Siams”, “New Saigons” and “Nihon-towns” abounded. Even the Emperor of Nihon and his family resided in Oakland, the old man apparently deciding it safer…and more dignified…to hold court in Oakland rather than perpetuate the fiction that any entity other than the United States of Columbia dominated Shikoku and Kyushu (even as China commanded Honshu).

Though the weather of Yerba Buena (the soldiers were billeted just outside of town in the local barracks) could be…unpleasant, particularly in the winter when Czinka arrived…spring was shaping up nicely. After a year in the Davis Camel Corps in Sonora, Mexico and Pecos, the last thing the young Roma was going to do was complain about some fog or clouds. California was a paradise compared to Sonora…or New Orleans…and God knew Santo Domingo. Secretly, Czinka wondered if he might get reassigned someday even further north. Alyeska sounded nice.

Idly, the soldier wondered how his friend Jose Dorateo was doing. The New Spain-born Sergeant and scout was certain things south of the border would get worse before they got better.

Picking at their somewhat rancid sausage rolls pawned from a disreputable vender in the stands, the two soldiers remained for another hour, witnessing the pulse of the game ebb and flow, before Wagner mercifully offered to call it a day. Exiting the fairgrounds (and tossing their inedible sausage rolls into the rubbish bin), the two soldiers leisurely ambled northwards towards the Presidio, the ancient Spanish fortification now serving as the Columbia Army Base), their tan uniforms eliciting little notice from the civilian population. Soldiers…and Columbian Navy sailors…were common in Yerba Buena these days. On the balmy spring Saturday, the soldiers had been granted a day’s pass to enjoy the city and neither were in a hurry to return to the barracks.

Czinka noted the neighborhoods seemed to be stratified: there were Jewish neighborhoods, Mormon neighborhoods, black neighborhoods, Irish neighborhoods, Asian neighborhoods…residents tended to stick to their own. The Roma felt a pang of nostalgia for New Orleans. Where there were plenty of ethnic enclaves – French, Spanish, Italian, Irish, German, black, mulatto, even Siamese – there seemed to be less rigid social boundaries.

“Oscar,” Czinka asked, “what does this mean…a “prophet”? I do not know this word.”

“Ah,” the youth replied in a slight German accent. Though born in Ohio, he’d been raised on a Mennonite farm before deciding to leave the community in search of adventure. “A prophet is a…a Holy Man who’d been spoken to by God…like Moses and Abraham”.

“Why would the Yerba Buena Cricket team be called this?”

Laughing, Wagner paused a few seconds to restrain himself. “Well, you know the Mormon Church set up shop in Upper California long ago after being kicked out of the East?”

“Yes…they took many wives, I believe?”

“Exactly,” Wagner nodded, glad he wouldn’t have to go too deep in this. “They had this self-proclaimed “Prophet” called Joseph Smith who said he’d received a revelation from God, formed the whole religion in which a man could have more than one wife. Well, the government was about to wipe them out a few years back until their new leader finally agreed to ban polygamy. Any Mormons who refused to obey were thrown out of the church. That bunch mainly sailed for Western Australasia, I think. And good riddance.”

He continued, “Anyway, after the army stopped standing on their throats, what was left of the Mormon Church here in Upper California formed a cricket team and joined the Pacific League. They still revere Joseph Smith, though, and named the team the “Yerba Buena Prophets”. Won the Pacific League two years running, in fact. Not terribly popular outside the city, though. I think the Prophets have to travel with armed security to assure their safety on away test matches.”

While Czinka was pleased at his growing command of English (many of his friends commented his grammar was superior to their own), the young Roma’s vocabulary remained a work in progress and there were vast gaps in esoteric cultural information (like cricket rules, geography and politics, issues seldom discussed by his extended family in New Orleans).

“Do you think they’ll play cricket or rugby in Kyushu?” Czinka wondered aloud. He’d come to appreciate rugby but cricket just seemed so…boring.

His friend shook his head, admonishing, “No word has been given, Hans, stating we’ll sail for Asia. Don’t worry about something before it happens. Even if 5th Brigade does ship out…well, we both wanted to see the world, right?”

Czinka nodded, seeing no reason to share his own anxieties with his friend. After seeing so many bodies in Sonora, the idea of serving in another undeclared warzone (the damned Chinese continued to slaughter Nihonjin wholesale the length of occupied Honshu) did not appeal. Almost physically brushing off his fears, the young Roma attempted to plaster on a happy face, if only for his ever-optimistic and positive friend’s sake.
 
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Chapter 11
April, 1894

Guangzhou


The slender young woman picked her way through the crowds of Guangzhou’s residential district, her perpetual scowl of irritation etched across her face.

Why the hell did father agree to see this?! She wondered in irritation. The man will get us all killed!

The retired General of the Southern Bannerman Army, Shi Dakai, continued to treat with these insurrectionists, something beyond the twenty-seven-year-old woman’s ken. While the God-Worshiping Society, the religion founded by the legendary Hong Xiuquan, upon receiving a vision from Christ instructing Hong of his own semi-divinity as Christ’s brother. Years later, while struggling to create a coherent liturgy, Hong further confused his followers by announcing that Mani, the founder of a similar religion, formed the third triad of the God-Worshiping Society’s “Holy Trinity”. Perhaps fortunately, Hong died shortly thereafter, leaving his followers Shi Dakai and Feng Yunshan. The latter pair proceeded to negotiate with the repressive (and hated) Manchu regime, leveraging their loyalty during a moment of Chinese weakness, facing war with Russia, Nihon and Columbia. The Manchu only grudgingly conceded religious…toleration…upon the formation of a southern army comprised of God-Worshiper volunteers in the 1860’s.

Three decades later, the movement expanded exponentially under the far more pragmatic hand of Feng Yunshan who not only consolidated Hong’s exasperatingly disjointed excuse for theology into something resembling a rational theology no longer mocked by both east and west. Tens of millions of Chinese had converted, almost entirely in the south of China (the faith remained repressed north of the Yangtze) primary among the Cantonese-speaking Han and related peoples like the Hakka, Ping’s own southern ethnic group.

Growing up in a time of great tension, technological evolution and economic change, Shi Ping sought to speak on behalf of the women of the God-Worshipers, who demanded not only their rights among their faith (a cornerstone of Hong and Feng’s reforms) but within China as a whole. Naturally, this attracted huge numbers of female converts throughout the nation…which created double the alarm among the Manchu. The Middle Kingdom was not a place to welcome religious or social reform. Only the constant friction with Russia, Columbia and Columbia’s puppet states in the south prevented the Mandarin’s minions from cracking down upon the religion with every scrap of its iron will.

And now my father and Feng are baiting the Mandarin’s tolerance!

Picking her way through the crowds, ignoring street venders hawking their vegetables, rice and pork, and dodging the ubiquitous horse dung littering the streets, finally reach her father’s home. Like many leaders of the God-Worshipers under Feng’s tutelage, Shi Dakai kept a modest establishment with only two servants to tend to the old man’s needs. In truth, the great General Shi was slowly losing his wits…something Ping was certain had something to do with his change of heart.

Bursting through her father’s door without invitation, Shi Ping ignored his servant’s protests and sought out the inner courtyards, her father’s preferred place of repose these past years. The tiny, wizened man, predictably reclining in his favorite chair, would look over his shoulder towards his daughter and visibly sigh. No doubt he found these discussions as trying as Ping.

“What is Feng thinking?” She demanded, showing neither respect for the old General’s age or experience. “I would have expected this of YOU…but FENG?!!!”

“Feng has led our faith these many years, my daughter,” the old man murmured calmly. “If he says our men and women are no longer to serve the Emperor…then it must be done.”

“The Manchu pig inhabiting the throne…and his lackeys…have been waiting for us to step out of line for decades!” Ping retorted, baffled why the men who’d shaped the God-Worshiping Society into what it was today would commit their followers to extinction. “You know damned well the Reformed Army will march south without a moment’s hesitation and massacre our people!”

“Perhaps…perhaps not, daughter,” Dakai grinned, exposing several missing teeth. “I find it likely that the Emperor shall soon find his attention garnered elsewhere.”

“What do you mean?”

“The Czar.”
 
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Chapter 12
July, 1894

Hangzhou, Zhejiang


The procession of wagons and hand-drawn carts bearing the possessions of the Plain Blue Banner of the Manchu Eight Banner Army passed through the streets of Hangzhou, along the coast of China, almost without break. However, the assorted merchants and denizens of the ancient city made no attempt to break up the monotony and simply watched in grim silence.

They know any expression of joy would likely fall upon their heads! These acidic thoughts emerged from a trim, solitary figure bearing witness to the spectacle, hidden by the huddled crowds.

The plain-faced twenty-eight-year-old Shi Ping arrived in Hangzhou several days prior, intent upon coordinating the God Worshipper’s campaign against the foot-binding of women. The practice had been banned by parishioners since the inception of the religion though, in the southern provinces, it had never been universally applied as it was elsewhere in China. Virtually all upper-class Han women had suffered the indignity of foot-binding from an early age in order to create the deformities deemed “beautiful” by Chinese men. Lower-class families and peasants might only bind the feet of the eldest daughter in hopes of finding a marriage match, leaving the younger ones to their lives as servants of field hands.

Only by happenstance did Shi Ping stand witness to the withdrawal of the Plain Blue Banner Army, the Manchu socio-military organization which had helped the Qing overthrow the Ming centuries prior and bring the hated dynasty to power in China. In recent decades, the Bannermen had grown decadent and corrupt, these theoretical “Manchu” military formations degenerating from the elite of the Chinese forces to a backwards organization inferior in capacity to the greater Green Standard Army comprised mainly of Han Chinese. As the Russian Empire continued to threaten the frontier, the Mandarin elected to counteract centuries of tradition and ordered the Manchu BACK to their original homeland of Manchuria. Long accustomed to lives of leisure in China, the Manchu were reportedly only on the march by direct threat from the Emperor.

Though elated to see any of the Mandarin’s servants withdraw from a southern city (south of the Yangtze, that is, where the God-Worshiping Society was tolerated), the Chinese woman knew it was inevitable these forces would be substituted with the superior trained and armed regulars of the Green Standard Army. Slowly, the Emperor was positioning his most effective soldiers south of the Yangtze.

It is only a matter of time until the Tongzhi Emperor finally suppresses the “infectious western religion” as he’d threatened for so many years.

So intent upon her own thoughts that Shi Ping failed to noticed the soft approach of a tiny figure among the bustle of the procession until the elderly hag nudged her sleeve. “Shi Ping…it is best that you remain out of sight in Hangzhou. The Emperor’s spies are everywhere.” The older woman’s regional “Wu” tongue of the Chinese language was somewhat difficult to parse by Ping, whose southern upbringing consisted of “Hakka” and “Yue” dialects.

“Of course, Chen Liu,” Ping nodded grudgingly. The young woman travelled northward under an assumed name for fear of arrest. “Perhaps some tea?”

“My home is nearby, Shi Ping. Let us seek privacy.” Without a glance behind, the aged woman stumbled forward between a pair of carts bearing solemn-looking Manchu women, no doubt the wives and daughters of Banner soldiers unhappy to be forced from the comfortable urban existence enjoyed for centuries by Manchu and forced to retire to their ancient homelands. As the bulk of the Manchu people followed the new Dynasty to China (leading to the bannerman system) in which the bulk of the Manchu remained in service to the Emperor with their families throughout the Empire.

Presently, Shi Ping followed her compatriot through the crowds. The younger woman noted the awkward gait of Chen. Having been born to a minor noble family, her feet had been bound from an early age. Many such woman were effectively crippled by middle-age and even those still ambulatory can seldom work remotely as effectively as those bearing ugly, “non-Lotus” feet. This was yet another incentive for Chinese women of all ethnic groups to lend their fealty to the rapidly-growing religion…and granted their families the advantage of additional labor.

Ignoring the constant entreaties of merchants hawking their wares, Chen Liu led the southern woman into her family home. Like many traditional Chinese dwellings of the well-to-do, the Chens (her husband was long dead) owned a large, wooden home in the heart of the old quarter bearing an inner courtyard common to their class. Safely ensconced behind closed doors, Shi Ping breathed a sharp sigh of relief.

Clapping her hands, Chen Liu called for her servants to bring tea as she gestured her guest into a chair before struggling into her own. “Damned feet!” the old woman groaned, reflecting Ping’s previous thoughts on the subject. “I curse my father every day.”

Presently, a pair of young women (their own feet being unbound, Ping noted) brought forth a tea service and retreated without a word. Noting Shi Ping’s interest, Chen shook her head, “Their loyalty is absolute, I can assure you. There are no Imperial spies in my household.”

Ping nodded, accepting her host’s words. Really, she really lacked any choice.

“What have our friends in Shanghai learned?” Ping inquired as her lips tested the scalding tea. For the past several months, Chen Liu, bearing an impressive array of contacts throughout the middle provinces, proved an invaluable source of information on Imperial military movements.

“I believe that you just witnessed the latest, Lady Shi,” the old woman replied calmly. “The Green Standard Army continues to move south, bearing new weapons, looking better trained and healthier than any troops I’ve seen in my life, to replace the loathsome but largely harmless Bannermen. These are hard men, many having served against the Russians or in the occupation of Honshu.”

“And you believe the reports that the Emperor intends to order the closure of our Churches?”

“Of course,” Chen frowned, apparently finding the tea a bit too bitter…or simply the information she passed. “It was inevitable. I was sure the Tongzhi Emperor would do so years ago…but the threat of Russian attack stayed his hand.”

“The Russians continue to build up their forces along the border,” Ping pointed out.

“True…but the Emperor cannot wait forever. Millions have been converted just in the past few years. Wait any longer and the Mandarin might not prove able to crush us as he did so many others over the decades.”

A long, uncomfortable silence followed. Finally, Chen Liu leaned forward, flecks of tea scattered from between her browning teeth, “What in Hong’s name were Feng and your father thinking in forbidding God-Worshipers to enlist in the army?! They’ve not only incensed Beijing but stripped our faith of protection!”

That Shi Ping herself demanded the same of her father years prior did little to dissuade the younger woman from coming to the great General Shi Dakai’s defense, “Both our revered leaders dwelled on the matter for some time and…” After a few seconds, Ping couldn’t even bring herself to continue. It was a crucially stupid…and potentially fatal…decision upon the part of the leader of the Church, Feng Yunshan, and his military advisor, the retired Shi Dakai.

Seeing the young woman’s resignation, Chen Liu scowled momentarily before continuing, “This is not the China of the past. We cannot simply rise in rebellion as our ancestors might have done. An army today…it requires huge quantities of modern weapons, money and organization in order to face the Green Standard Army…and this could only come FROM THE FAITHFUL WITHIN THE GREEN STANDARD ARMY itself! Stripped of our own volunteers in the Army, the God-Worshipers will be defenseless!”

For a long time, the two women, one of the old generation, one of the new, sat in silence, contemplating the grim future of their faith. If the Emperor had finally decided to put an end to the God-Worshiping Society having grown so uncomfortably prevalent the southern provinces of China, they feared nothing could save them.

After another long silence, Chen Liu inquired hesitantly, as if uncomfortable to even form the words, “Shi Peng, have Shi Dakai and Feng Yunshan considered…contacting the Columbians?”
 
Chapter 13
September, 1894

Yerba Buena


His hand clenched upon the trigger, Private Hans Czinka was awed by the apparently endless stream of bullets emerging from the muzzle of the 1893 Browning machine gun towards the helpless man-shaped straw targets a hundred paces down the firing range. The poor figures were torn asunder within moments.

“Dear God,” murmured his friend Oscar Wagner, the blonde Ohioan shaking his head. His own ears ringing by the cacophony, Czinka was oblivious to the words. To the left and right, other members of their platoon were given their own baptism with the new weapons. Though heavy at roughly thirty-five pounds, the Brownings would almost certainly be welcome among the ranks.

Though the poorly educated Roma suspected his English remained inadequate for the explanation of the weapon, Czinka was certain he lacked the technical knowledge to understand the “air-cooled”, “gas-operated” and other esoteric terms spewed forward by the officers and non-com presentation of the new weapons rapidly dispersed through the army over the past year. Though new to the institution, even the Domingan-born Czinta knew the Springfields and Maxim guns long held as army-standard were pitifully obsolete. Czinka recalled his “employer” (the common phrase for the defacto ownership of Roma “prisoners” in Santo Domingo) possessed a superior rifle in his youth. To find the black smoke producing, single-shot Springfields in regular circulation decades after their obsolescence proved quite a shock. Apparently, rumors of the Chinese Army upgrading their weaponry was finally enough to spur the United States Army into action.

The M1892 Mauser, designed a Wurttemberg-based company, was blatantly superior to even the latest model Springfields and the army rapidly ordered a hundred thousand…only to find that China ordered five hundred thousand from the same source. However, the Brownings proved an even greater shock.

“Hans,” the Mennonite-born Wagner looked on in horror, “this could…kill…and entire Company in moments!”

Czinka looked up towards his friend, the young soldier in stark relief against the grim Upper California sky. “Yes,” he nodded, slowly rising to his feet, leaving the steaming weapon upon its tripod. The firing range was now silent except for a few barking orders of the sergeant offering advice to the neophyte “gunnery crews”. “I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the civilians down the road might think we are being invaded.”

The attempt at levity fell flat as Wagner frowned in distaste. Though Czinka knew little of Mennonite traditions, he suspected the implementation of new manners to kill men en masse might prove unsettling. Not for the first time did Czinka wonder why Oscar Wagner hadn’t simply elected to satiate his wanderlust by joining some merchant vessel. He’d see far more of the world without having to kill anyone.

Presently, the non-coms collected the weapons and placed them in the back of an old donkey-led cart. Against, Czinka wondered at the utility of the new weapons. Obviously superior to the Maxims and certainly the handful of Gatlings still in service, the ease of transporting these guns would make them far more useful in the field. Sergeant Taylor, commanding 4th Company’s “A” Squad (of which Czinka and Wagner were assigned), ordered the men back to the barracks for the day. After a few hours of obligatory marching about in formation, cleaning out some privies and the like, the soldiers had been surprised by the pronouncement that they would be testing out the new weapons. The Army tended to be rather stingy with ammunition and the expenditure of hundreds of rounds from the Brownings and Mausers was unprecedented.

“Sarge?” Called Lester Wilkens, a young volunteer fresh from boot, the skinny recruit hailed from somewhere in the Great Plains though Czinka could not swear as to where. “Why we shootin’ off so many bullets?”

Taylor, a short and stocky black man in his forties, pursed his lips as the soldiers of “A” Squad continued their march in formation through the bustling fortifications of Yerba Buena Army Base. Only in the past few years had the army been reformed to abolish the old “white” and “black” Regiments and allowing black officers and non-coms to command whites. This had not gone entirely smoothly. On more than one occasion in recent months, common soldiers throughout the 5th Regiment had objected to the new reality. One particularly irate private from Boston informed Taylor directly that “he’d never take an order from a nigger!”

The fellow woke up three hours later in the stockade…minus several teeth. Though Lieutenant McMahon was suspected of holding similar reservations with the new arrangement, the officer knew enough to keep this to himself. Soon, any common soldier seeking a transfer out of Taylor’s unit learned to speak to the Lieutenant privately. Apparently, after three or four such requests, McMahon simply ceased placating the soldiers and told them to “shut the hell up and do their duty. No one cares what they want!”.

Wilkens, though (like Czinka and Wagner), had never crossed Taylor in any manner and the Sergeant deigned to answer. “Well, Private,” the Bronx-born non-com replied, “I suspect the saber-rattling with China over the border with Burma…or maybe Siam…has something to do with it.”

“But would we really go to war over…where are these places?”

Taylor gritted his teeth, biting back a harsh retort, recognizing that the farm boy wasn’t mouthing off.

“In the end,” he added with a sigh, “I think that the US and China have some unfinished business from thirty or forty years ago. Sometimes, it is just that simple.”

To the squad’s relief, Wilkins held his tongue before really irritating the Sergeant. In truth, Czinka always found Taylor a bit stiff but fair. He was an experienced soldier, having served in the Negro Cavalry years before (and many pounds ago). So long as you did what the New Yorker told you to do, Taylor left you be. In many cases, the Sergeant was even generous with requesting leave for his men…and even granting the entire squad an afternoon off on a birthday or holiday. Having been born into a situation where the freedmen of Santo Domingo were a step UP in the social ladder over the Roma for many decades, Czinka held no particular objection to serving under the command of a black man.

The squad continued on to showers without stopping in the barracks. After cleaning the latrines, Taylor informed them he didn’t want “that stench in his billet”.
 
Chapter 14
November, 1894

Saigon


Wondering if the potential benefits of the meeting were worth the theatrics, Dr. Sun Yat-sen kept his own council as he followed the tall Eurasian adjutant through the rear entrance of the Saigon headquarters of the Alliance of Southeast Asian Nations, the political faction forged by the United States of Columbia between the often-feuding polities bordering the increasingly aggressive Chinese Empire.

Donning western clothes, the young Chinese doctor sought to make a good impression. He’d long-since abandoned the traditional “queue” hairstyle enforced upon the male Han population of China and, having studied medicine in Hawaii, proved an able mouthpiece for the God-Worshipping Society, to which he’d converted nearly a decade prior. Unfortunately, the educated Chinese’ resistance to the Manchu Emperor’s policies (or those of his court) led to the threat of arrest. Yat-sen fled his native Guangdong for the safety of Saigon, where his elder brother set up shop as a merchant. As one of the more radical leaders of the southern China-based God-Worshippers Society, who frequently called for massive governmental reform, Yat-sen as advised by the religion’s leaders to “travel abroad”.

Ironically, the God-Worshipper Society was gaining adherents throughout southeastern Asia and Yat-sen discovered a supportive community in Saigon. As an enemy of the Manchu Emperor, the Doctor was also privately welcomed by the leaders of ASEAN as a possible “unofficial” liaison with the opposition within China.

Finally, after passing through a series of corridors deep in the bowels of the expansive “Georgian”-style building, Yat-sen was admitted into the presence of the Columbian political and military leaders of the loose organization. A tall, gangly figure rose from behind a cherrywood desk, circling the room to firmly grip Yat-sen’s hand. Bearing a long nose (by Asian standards) upon his oval face, the leader of the ASEAN committee was perhaps forty years old. Dark eyes and a slightly receding hairline completed the Columbian’s visage. The Chinese knew this man’s father, a former Colonial and Territorial Secretary, had been the true architect of the ASEAN organization, the product of years of skilled diplomacy and economic hegemony.

“Dr. Yat-sen, thank you for your time, sir,” Thomas “Tad” Lincoln expressed sincerely in passable Chinese before switching back to English. “I do hope you are settling into our fair Saigon well.”

Though Yat-sen was not terribly well versed upon Columbian politics, he knew that the Lincoln family had remained in high office in ASEAN for the majority of the organization’s existence. Abraham Lincoln not only bound the local nations politically to his own but even kept the peace among the divisive Southeast Asians who’d spent much of the past centuries massacring one another. The old Viet Empire remained divided into three parts due to Lincoln diplomacy while The elder Lincoln even negotiated the peaceful independence of the Khmer Kingdom and Kingdom of Laos from their former feudal lords, Siam, and integrated them into ASEAN. Even when the opposition political party (Imagine the very idea of such a thing!) assumed control of Columbia in 1891, Tad Lincoln was not removed from this vital position. Reportedly, the man spoke fluent Viet and passable Thai and Nihon. Plainly, he knew enough Chinese to be polite.

In his own expansive but heavily-accented English, Yat-sen slowly replied, “The honor is mine, sir.”

Both men turned to the third occupant of the room, this one donning the uniform of a Columbian General. Lincoln nodded towards the soldier, “And I believe you have met General John Meigs, sir.”

The elder man, probably nearing sixty rose and offered a short bow in lieu of a handshake. Yat-sen had crossed paths with the Columbian on occasion, usually at parties. The Chinese found the sharp-chinned man humorless but honorable in his own way. Rumored to be somewhat temperamental, Meigs seemed an odd choice for such a politically sensitive position required to coordinate (and improve) the armies of Columbia’s southeast Asian allies. However, the man received widespread support for his efforts and, like Lincoln, remained in his position even after the change of government in Philadelphia.

“Doctor,” the General inserted laconically. Yat-sen nodded in return, happy enough that the soldier was not one to speak for the sole purpose of hearing his own voice. He was a man with whom the Chinese could negotiate.

“Shall I bring tea, sir?” inquired the young adjutant.

“Yes, Abe, a pot and three cups, please.”

Abe? Yat-sen frowned. Either it was a coincidence or the Eurasian youth was one of Lincoln’s numerous bastard children with his stable of Viet mistresses. While never publicly discussed, the Columbian reportedly had sired at least ten children by four local lovers and servants. It was enough for polite Columbian society to turn against Lincoln but no one else cared.

Gesturing Yat-sen into a comfortable chair opposite his desk (the soldier falling into an adjacent seat), Lincoln himself settled down to pour the tea. After a few quiet gulps, the Columbian inquired directly, “So, Doctor…what is the temper of our friends in the God-Worshipping Society to the north?”

With a coy smile, the Chinese Doctor proceeded to list the items “requested” by the increasingly beleaguered religious minority in China.
 
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Chapter 15
January, 1895

Pecos Territory, Rio Grande


Sergeant-Major Jose Doroteo of the United States Cavalry witnessed the grim procession of Spanish colonials (mostly Mestizos with the odd pureblood European or Indian) marching towards the southern Columbian border in hopes of sanctuary in Pecos or Tejas…just as Doroteo had seen west in Sonora and Chihuahua. The ongoing omni-directional civil war in New Spain had, contrary to any expectations, grown even MORE violent as four major political factions (Loyalists to Queen Isabella, supporters of the Prince-Regent Carlos, a Republican clique led by local autocrats and a mestizo-backed faction in southern New Spain) vied for control of the enormous territory with local warlords, gangs and Indian nations.

The result was entirely predictable: chaos…and death.

The northwest of New Spain along the Rio Grande had been virtually depopulated, as had the Valley of Mexico, once the center of wealth and power in the colony. Armies raided one another’s territory not for conquest but simply to acquire provisions. Responsible government effectively collapsed as war and disease shattered the economy of New Spain.

Queen Isabella (rather her son and regent, the infante Alfonso) dispatched Spanish regulars to New Spain to little effect. Calls for assistance from the other Prince-Regents of the Empire – the Indies (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, etc) Peru, Rio Plata, New Granada, Chile and the newest, Central America and Tierra del Maya – offered little tangible assistance despite repeated pleas and demands. Often the Prince-Regents openly condemned Spanish “repression”. Given the singular failure for the Crown of Spain over the coarse of a century to regain effective control over New Spain, pressing the other Vice-Royalties was plainly impossible. For all intents and purposes, most of the Vice-Royalties were independent, only granting tepid lip-service to the Crown.

However, eight decades of continues unrest along the southern Columbian border was finally prompting the government to do something. After years of refugees and banditry emerging across the Rio Grande, President Stevenson agreed to expand the military and build up a substantial force across the border with the intent of “intervening” should circumstances demand.

Unfortunately, the nation’s mood for jingoism and war was already satiated by the buildup in Asia. Volunteers were few. Rumors abounded that Stevenson had approved a Bill allowing for aristocrats to “raise regiments for rank”, namely funding the formation of a military units in exchange for being named their commanding officer. While common throughout the past, regular army officers and non-coms found the practice distasteful and resented men without experience effectively “buying” a high commission it often took even graduates of West Point decades to earn.

As the refugees slowly crossed the Rio Grande by ferry one small group at a time, Doroteo wondered as to the type of jackass President Stevenson intended to straddle the US Army.



Philadelphia


“Mr. President!” Exclaimed the junior Senator from New York as he heartily pumped Adlai Stevenson’s hand, “I am honored you have seen fit to grant me command of the 1st Volunteer Cavalry Regiment! I can assure you that you will not regret this!”

“Of course, Senator Roosevelt,” the older man retorted, already regretting his decision to grant an opposition Senator a command in the army. However, Roosevelt was proving a pain in the ass in Congress and more than a few of his own party leaders begged Stevenson to remove the man from their midst. “But, as you recall, the Colonelcy will go to Colonel Wood. You are granted the office of Lieutenant Colonel of Volunteers…”

“Yes, yes,” Roosevelt waved his off, his monocle falling from his face, only avoiding hitting the floor via the string affixed to his lapel. “However, I have assured Colonel Wood that the volunteer process is already well along…”

Stevenson somehow managed to keep a straight face. While the 1st Volunteer Cavalry Regiment was intended to be salted with a core of regulars, the initial intent to recruit Tejas, Pecos and Sonoran “cowboys” and “Indian” scouts was already being flouted by Roosevelt who was actively recruiting polo players, aristocrats and, if rumors are to be believed, a Bronx glee club into his (Wood’s) Regiment. The President could not imagine the bizarre conglomeration sure to congeal into existence.

Finally ushering the enthusiastic young “Lt. Colonel” out of his office, the exhausted Stevenson (was it really only 9:30?) returned to his desk. The Secretary of State, Walter Gresham, was due in a few more minutes and would undoubtedly bring additional bad news from the international scene. Riots were spreading the length of Europe including protests across France and Spain against the repressive governments. Wurttemberg, Westphalia and the Habsburg Realms were facing unrest from German nationalists, Republicans and supporters of esoteric radicals ranging from anarchists, Marxists, Socialists and political-economic ideologies even Stevenson couldn’t comprehend.

Then China was saber-rattling again, this time along the Russian border (or maybe it was the Russians saber-rattling, it was difficult to say), along the mountains of Burma and Siam, and along the border of the northmost Das Viet state. Worse, the Mandarin also apparently claimed the remnant of “free” Nihon (Shikoku and Kyushu) and the Ryukyu Islands again.

While having little interest in intervention across an ocean (in either east or west), Stevenson was obliged to dispatch several regiments to the orient…with many more to come…as well as a huge share of the United States Navy.

At enormous expense! He concluded silently, his gut churning with the reported costs of even this modest deployment.

In the end, war was simply too expensive. Stevenson prayed his diplomats may avoid another costly conflict in Asia.

And now, New Spain has utterly collapsed! Again!

With the influx of refugees and assorted chaos, Stevenson was obligated to protect the border. But, without a plan to end the war south of the Rio Grande, there seemed little point. Intervention appeared almost inevitable despite his greatest hopes.
 
Map of North America - 1895
Arrogance and Empire - Status of War in North America - 1895 - JPEG.jpg
 
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