The posterity seems to assume that war ended in a "everyone lost" way, although Societist narratives would be probably different.
You know, I don't actually think this is going to be a war of 'sides', at least not to begin with; it seems to be very much a case of "let's everyone declare war, and then work out who we're supposed to not be fighting". I suspect the alliances will, in any case, be pretty fluid, and plenty of unrelated conflicts will get historiographed into one side or another for pretty arbitrary reasons (frex, the Maure will be considered part of whichever side is fighting against the Russians despite the fact they obviously aren't part of any alliance and their attempted conquest of Gavaji is at best only tangentially related to the Pandoric War).
You know, I don't actually think this is going to be a war of 'sides', at least not to begin with; it seems to be very much a case of "let's everyone declare war, and then work out who we're supposed to not be fighting". I suspect the alliances will, in any case, be pretty fluid, and plenty of unrelated conflicts will get historiographed into one side or another for pretty arbitrary reasons (frex, the Maure will be considered part of whichever side is fighting against the Russians despite the fact they obviously aren't part of any alliance and their attempted conquest of Gavaji is at best only tangentially related to the Pandoric War).
Not to mention who ended up in alliance after the war being retroactively extended to before it.
I get the feeling the alliance system will be:

ENA/Hannverian realms minus Britain, Scottish rebels, Feng China, France, Spain, Germany, Ottoman Empire, what is left of New Spain, Scandanavia vs. Hermandad, Russia (and its vassals), Britain, Danbuia, Poland, Corea

It would be nice to get an update on how the alliance system develops of course...

The Vitebsk (Custom) Union is likely the core of one of the European-dominated alliances.

Part #221: The Danish-Mended Emirate

The Scandinavians began working with the Russians more closely in the late nineteenth century for reasons both close to home (Germany increasingly being seen as a mutual enemy) and concerning trade at sea. Scandinavian and Russian trade concerns in different parts of Asia and Africa barely overlapped and complemented rather than competed with each other. When Claus arrived in Yemen in 1883, the Treaty of Trondheim had already been in force for three years, Scandinavia joining the Russian-led Vitebsk Customs Union which also incorporated Lithuania, Finland, Courland, Corea and eventually Beiqing China and Gavaji.
Why do people believe that neutral Poland will participate in this war?
One LTTW twist could be that TTL Poland won't be a battlefield in the great modern wars.


Interlude #20: Debriefings and Disclosures

Transcript of Thande Institute debriefing of TimeLine L exploration teams Alpha and Beta
Time: 10:30 hours
Date: 06/11/2019
Location: Thande Institute Quarantine Facility, Cambridge, United Kingdom, TimeLine A (a.k.a. Our TimeLine or OTL)

The material contained herein is classified as THANDE MOST SECRET.

DIRECTOR STEPHEN ROGERS (SR): So. Gentlemen. What do you have to say for yourselves?

CAPTAIN CHRISTOPHER G. NUTTALL (CGN): Well, sir, I can explain.

SR: can?

CGN: Well, perhaps what I actually mean is that I can delegate an explanation. Dr Lombardi—

DR BRUNO LOMBARDI (BL) (sotto voce): Oy vey...

SR: That can wait. First of all—

DR DAVID WOSTYN (DW): First of all, sir, is the bulletproof glass really necessary?

SR: Yes. It’s there to stop me shooting you all in the head. What the hell do you think you were playing at out there? You’ll make this Institute a laughing stock in all the known timelines.

CGN: To be fair, sir, that’s only like fifteen versions of Earth, not counting the nuke apocalypse one, the one where life never appeared, the—

BL: --the one where everyone lives in caves with specially trained dinosaurs instead of domestic appliances—

CGN: Fairly certain that’s a cartoon, Bruno.

BL: Sorry—side effect of that drug they put us on...

SR: Shut up, all of you, just shut up. Time is precious and the Institute needs to know what trouble you’ve gotten us into now. First of all, Captain Nuttall, kindly shed some bloody light on what happened to you back on the sixth of August.

DR THEODOROS PYLOS (TP): The sixth of ston koraka...and didn’t you say today’s date was the sixth of November? That was three months ago! We’ve been in captivity for three months! A quarter of a year!

BL: Feels like a lot longer to me. More like, ooh, six years or something.

TP: That’ll be that drug again—


CGN: That’s my line! Er, sir. Sorry. Yes, as I was saying.

SR: In your own time.

CGN: Sir. Well, as I believe I sent messages about, I was a bit alarmed with some of the questions we were getting from the police and the Gendarmery. You know we were going out and getting history books to digitise, well, there’s a paper trail for everything in this version of England—and I mean a literal paper trail for the most part, they’ve not really gone electronic much.

ENSIGN HENRY KAYE (HK): Which is of course the legacy of their delayed discovery of the Voltaic pile and applications for electricity.

SR: Wha – who the bloody hell are you?

HK: Ensign Kaye, sir. One of the seven members of Team Alpha.

SR: Oh yes. Is there a reason why four of you never seemed to speak in those updates?

HK: Well sir, essentially it was a matter of getting a word in—

BL: Come on, tell the story, Chris!

CGN: Ahem. We all needed ID cards, which are a bugger to fake—

DW: Tell me about it. We only got by because we had the Irish ones and they’re—

CGN: Yes, well, we didn’t have that option. They seem to work on a flag system like a lot of national security forces in all timelines. Every time your ID card fails or you take a book on a list out of a library, you get a little flag on a record somewhere...if I’m honest, I think we got complacent.

BL: It was the way all the systems were dead-tree, I think—

TP: Yes, you just sort of assume that they can’t be communicating with each other well if they don’t all have a joint database they can access on smartphones with an app.

SR: Who’s ‘they’?

TP: The security services. There’s the Royal National Police, then there’s the London and Middlesex Constabulary, uh, the Gendarmery—

BL: Don’t forget the English Security Directorate—

TP: Are you sure those aren’t the same thing under a different name? We never quite worked it out.

CGN: Anyway, turns out these services do talk to each other, a bit more than the ones we have in OTL probably do to be honest. It’s the whole Black Scare thing I think...

BL: Yes, there’s the fear of Societism, but their Diversitarian ideology means they can’t just keep people who they think look dodgy out of the country without being called intolerant or xenophobic.

CGN: Exactly. So they keep tabs on everyone who’s around. Especially since the Olympics are on this year.

TP: Well, the Global Games.

CGN: Whatever. They’re wary of terrorist attacks and subversive demonstrations and the like.

SR: You make this version of Britain sound like a rather dark place.

CGN: England, sir. And, well, I think we didn’t see its best side.

DW: Yes; we generally found Liverpool to be far more pleasant. I guess no city all tense when hosting a major event and worried about being embarrassed before the world television cameras is ever entirely hospitable, ironically.

CGN: It felt a lot more authoritarian to me than I think it really was – all the ID cards and Gendarmery and stuff we don’t have in our Britain.

DW: But we’d say that’s all normal over in France in OTL.

BL: And ironically I think the France of TimeLine L might say the opposite, though I’m not sure. All these edited books telling deliberately different and biased versions of the truth...the only way to be sure would be to go there.

SR: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. So what happened when you realised you were raising too many flags?

CGN: I moved our headquarters to a new apartment, one in Southwark. I think in retrospect that may have been a mistake.

HK: We got a cancellation. But generally, everywhere was rented out or booked up because of the Olymp – the Global Games. So we probably stuck out like a sore thumb.

TP: Yeah, like ‘man with cello case books room in book depository just before the President’s car goes past’ sort of sore thumb.

CGN: I guess not only did that raise an even bigger flag, but the ESD or whoever must have realised that we were together—which they might not have done before. Then all those little flags reinforced themselves and we got shuffled straight onto the Potential Enemies of the Nations list.

SR: And that was when they broke into your apartment and shot the place up.

CGN: Yes. Well – rubber bullets.

TP: Technically more like plastic or ceramic bullets with a knockout gas inside.

BL: But they still wrecked our digitiser when they shot it.

(indistinct noise)

SR: Shut up you – not you, you – I’ll come to you later.

BL: What with the digitiser and radio gone, we couldn’t call for a Portal to be opened.

CGN: No time anyway. Probably just as well for the Institute as a whole.

SR: You haven’t finished yet. Get to the part where you blabbed everything about Thandean Physics to this planet of lunatics who fling nukes around with gay abandon.

TP: I think that’s a slight exaggeration, sir...

DW (muttering): They haven’t nuked anyone in, ooh, at least twenty years.

CGN: Actually sir I’m fairly confident they didn’t find out anything about Portals or how to generate them from us.

SR: I – what? Why not? They had you for three months with all the red-hot needles under the fingernails and all that jazz!

BL: Oh no, they didn’t torture us.

TP: Very bad form to torture somebody from another country.

BL: To be fair I think even the stuff about doing it to English people is mostly just tough-on-crime rhetoric.

SR: So what did they do to you?

CGN: Ah, well, that’s how we come to the drugs.

TP: What did they call that stuff – Veritaxo?

BL: Something like that. Some word derived from veritas, anyway.

CGN: I would wager it’s more effective than any truth drug we have in TimeLine A, from what I remember from my interrogation resistance training. You keep much more consciousness when they ask you questions, there’s less babble and so on, it’s harder to hide secrets in the mess.

SR: So, again, why do you think they didn’t get it out of you?

CGN: A downside of the whole more consciousness thing is that they have to ask quite specific questions and I found it was possible for me to be as unhelpful as possible in how I gave my answers, even though I couldn’t actually lie or refuse to answer.

HK: I found the same.

(further murmurs of agreement)

CGN: So for example if they asked me where I came from, I said Scotland, which is true. And then they went into a tizzy about whether they might have offended the Scottish Government by taking me in.

TP: Of course, they found it slightly suspicious that we were such a multi-national group together.

BL: And I had to say I was from Canada. There isn’t a country called Canada in TimeLine L. They just decided I was some sort of die-hard Canajun nationalist, especially when I kept calling Mount-Royal Montréal.

TP: Of course, being a die-hard nationalist is considered a good point to those people.

CGN: Most of them, yes. I think we lucked out there, frankly.

BL: But obviously it helped that these people didn’t even consider the option of people from another timeline. The concept doesn’t really exist to them.

SR: I thought you sent that thing about romantic speculation or whatever they call it—

BL: Speculative romance, yes, sir. Sort of like what we would call alternate history. But they don’t approach the literary genre the way we do.

DW: They don’t really have the many-worlds hypothesis in quantum science—they’re a bit behind us in physics in general and what physics they do have, they tend to express in different ways. So there’s no real theoretical background to the idea of other timelines actually being real places you could travel to.

BL: That’s right—when they write a speculative romance, the people in TimeLine L still think of it like an old time travel story, the old history destroyed and replaced by the new history, not that there are now two parallel versions of history. Only one world and all that.

TP: And of course I doubt speculative romance novels are that popular with our friends at the ESD or the Gendarmery, anyway.

SR: Interesting. So because they never asked you questions along those lines, you were able to exploit the drug’s nature to avoid telling them anything about the Institute or Portals?

CGN: Well – sort of. We had to tell them there was a research institute called the Thande Institute and it was in Cambridge.

SR: (groans)

BL: I think that’s why they decided to release us to be honest, they decided we were mad after asking specific enough questions to be sure we were describing a place that didn’t exist in their Cambridge.

TP: It took a while for them to be sure, of course. I think they thought we were some sort of really hardcore role-players or something.

BL: Method actors, I think I heard that bearded bastard call us.

SR: But – didn’t they ask you what you do at the Thande Institute?

CGN (a bit proudly): Transport research, I told them.

BL: Same here. You know, let them think I mean solar-powered mobiles or carytic dromes or whatever.

TP: I said we ‘open doors to new worlds’.


TP: But I made it sound like, you know, a metaphor. Like one of those awful research grant proposals I used to have to write to get funding--

SR: Ugh. Well, no wonder they thought you were off your heads. I’m not sure I don’t agree with them.

CGN: We did our best, sir. They’d probably have let us out a month ago, but there was the usual interservice rivalry, as far as I could tell.

BL: Yes – after they decided we were probably harmless, all the services started blaming each other for being the one to drag us in and waste security time.

TP: Especially since I think there was some big black-flag demo crashed one of the medal – uh, laurel – ceremonies. Or so I heard.

BL: That’s right. They were all scrambling for excuses when, I assume, all the Burgesses and Knights started demanding why they were wasting time on us when they could have stopped those Societists.

DW: Ugh, don’t talk to me about Burgesses.

SR: So. In summary. You’ve completely blown your mission, but at least we might not have TimeLine L-made Portals open over our beds tomorrow night and nukes fall through them.

BL: That’s hardly fair sir – they may have the technical knowhow to make the equipment to generate Portals, but as we said, their understanding of quantum theory—

SR: Shut up. I’m still not quite willing to believe this. Even if you did manage to persuade them you were nuts, I heard what you said about paper trails in that UK – that England. You’ll all be in a database somewhere. Some bright spark is going to look into it one day, when they have better physics than they do now. We can’t close them off forever now. We can only delay first contact.

BL: Ooh, first contact.

SR: That’s what I’m going to tell the bloody UN Security Council. This is the first time we’re going to have to deal with another timeline on anything like equal terms. We’d better get it right.

CGN: But sir – doesn’t that mean we’ll need more information about them? Our job is still far from complete.

SR: In this particular case, Captain Nuttall, you happen not to be grotesquely wrong. We need to find a way of doing further research but without raising any more flags. In particular, I will give Dr Wostyn and Lieutenant Tindale limited credit for continuing to supply us with some data while they waited—

DW & LT. JACK TINDALE (JT): Thank you sir.

SR: Shut up—but your information left us effectively on the threshold of the Pandora’s Box War—

CGN: Pandoric War.

SR: Yes, that—which I understand is one of the most important events in this timeline’s history.

BL: Oh yes. It shaped the modern world. You can’t understand TimeLine L without it.

TP: No question.

SR: So that’s really a prerequisite for the now inevitable first contact. We need to learn more about the Pandoric War. But how the hell are we going to do that without provoking a response?

CAPTAIN BEN MACCAULEY (BM): Ah, I think this is where I come in.

SR: Will you be quiet? I haven’t even started on what you’ve done to compound their errors! What kind of rescue team needs rescuing!

BM: Well, sir, if Captain Nuttall’s team had been quicker to let us know they had just been released, all of this could have been avoided.

CGN: They insisted on giving us free apology souvenir bags with tourist knickknacks in, in case we badmouthed them to our home governments. Sorry.

BM: Look, Operation The Thande Institute Invasion Of Croydon, 2019 would have been perfectly successful except for one slight oversight, for which I take full responsibility on Lieutenant Black’s behalf.


BM: The plan was fundamentally dependent on Snowdrop House still having the same floor plan as Bluebell House opposite where we were based.

TB: We always knew that was a risk!

BM: Yes – and to be fair we lucked out in many ways. We meant to Portal into a broom cupboard, and we did Portal into a broom cupboard.

SR: So what was the problem?

BM: Well – Snowdrop House is a government facility, and you know what government workers are like for, um, mislaying things, and—

TB: They had plastered over the door from the outside and forgot it existed.

BM: I mean, brilliant if we wanted to plant a bomb and blow the place up, but not so great if we wanted to rescue people.

SR: You Portalled into a broom cupboard with no door?

BM: No door we could open. We looked at trying to dig our way out, but I did have to veto the helpful suggestion that we use our C4 to blow the door open.

SERGEANT ROBERT MUMBY (RM): That plan would totally have worked.

TB: So we were stood there like lemons for an hour and a half or so till the rescue Portal opened and we could leave.

RM: But it wasn’t entirely wasted time!

TB: I don’t think singing thirty rounds of ‘twelve green bottles’ exactly constitutes a productive time.

RM: While you lot were blaming each other, no offence, sir, I had a look around what had been bricked up in that broom cupboard—

TB: Plastered up.

RM: --and I found these beauties!

SR (pause): What are those books?

BM: I had a chance to look at them while the others were having that preliminary med-check, sir. They’re a collection of stories—

RM: Well, stories extracted from a magazine called The Discerner. I think it’s a bit like the Reader’s Digest from OTL, all sorts of slice-of-life stuff and chapters of ongoing stories.

BM: Yes, and they did lots of stories about the Pandoric War over the years, it’s a popular time to set them in of course.

RM: So some bright spark in the 1970s and 80s decided to compile all the stories they’d put out in these big five compendiums.

BM: They put them together so they tell a nearly coherent version of the narrative, all the way from Zhangqihe to the Revolution and beyond.

RM: That’s right, it’s continuous. The writing’s a bit variable in quality, mind you.

SR (slowly): But if it’s historically accurate...

DW: As historically accurate as all the textbooks we used are, I think, given all the deliberate Diversitarian biases.

SR: Then we can use these books to better understand the Pandoric War!

TP: Quite so sir. Be a bit odd to work in prose narrative, but never mind.

BM: It’ll take time for us to analyse them, time for those flags to lose a bit of their urgency on the ESD’s system, perhaps?

CGN: Good thought. Imagine writing all those stories. Imagine if we did that with the Second World War. Hmm...

RM: And that’s not all! There’s this guide to all the countries in the back at the outbreak of war...

DW: Maybe we could use that for the quotes in front of the sections, since somebody apparently doesn’t know how to do that properly.

RM: And also, folded in the front of Volume I is a world map showing the situation before the war started!

DW: Hmm, that is useful...

SR: Very well. We will proceed with this analysis. You can begin immediately.

BL: Uh, us, sir? I thought you might assign perhaps Dr Pataki, or Dr Cassimaty, or Dr Lister—

DW: Don’t talk about Dr Lister, I still haven’t forgiven him for pasting all those bits of a certain Burgess’s ephemera at the start of all those digitised files I sent you.

SR: Be quiet. No, you’re doing this yourselves, on the other side of that quarantine glass. (pause) After all, we can’t be entirely certain what you might have brought back from TimeLine L.

CGN: Oh, here we go again...
SR: You haven’t finished yet. Get to the part where you blabbed everything about Thandean Physics to this planet of lunatics who fling nukes around with gay abandon.

TP: I think that’s a slight exaggeration, sir...

DW (muttering): They haven’t nuked anyone in, ooh, at least twenty years.

Oh, shit.