And OTL's political discussions would make little sense to people from the LTTW timeline, of course. "This Trump chappie is a ...Republican? The "party of big business", you say? Looks more like some sort of Societist to me - I mean, he doesn't seem to have anything actually resembling an economic plan." :)
Oh I definitely disagree.

I think the Diversitarians would approve of both his appeals to ethnic identity and his low-brow approach to facts over emotional reactions. His big business background working globally might raise some eyebrows, but his us-versus-them nationalistic worldview would be more reassuring than OTL US norms would be.
 
Oh I definitely disagree.

I think the Diversitarians would approve of both his appeals to ethnic identity and his low-brow approach to facts over emotional reactions. His big business background working globally might raise some eyebrows, but his us-versus-them nationalistic worldview would be more reassuring than OTL US norms would be.
Not sure how an ideology that supports diversity quotas for cities would feel about Trump. People in LTTW would pretty easily slot him in as an old school Supremacist.

All caught up now, fell behind a bit after the Magyarab episode and trucked through a lot of updates in the last few weeks. What I'm looking forward to the most is seeing the specifics of Diversitarianism as its stupidities seem so human.

Not much of a fan of the ironies and the winks at the audience that crop up a lot in this TL but at this point they're hardly going away so I'll focus on the many aspects of LTTW that I do enjoy.
 
Last edited:

Thande

Donor
Part #227: First Strike

The country’s official name is: EMPIRE OF NORTH AMERICA (ENA).
The people are known as: AMERICANS (or, much more rarely, SEPTENTRIANS).
Capital: Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg Province, Confederation of Virginia
Largest city: New York City, Amsterdam Province, Confederation of New York (1.8 million)
Flag: The ‘Starry George’, a red cross on a dark blue field with five golden stars on the cross and nine small golden stars in the canton. The five stars represent the original five Confederations of New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Carolina; the nine stars represent the present-day nine Confederations of New England, New York, Pennsylvania, (“Old”) Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, Westernesse, Drakesland and Cygnia.
Population: 54 million (based on estimated growth since 1890 census).
Land area: ca. 1,000,000 lcf. Limited surveying of the far north, Greenland and the Antipodean interior introduce uncertainty to this figure.
Economic ranking: Generally ranked 2nd in the world, with some caveats about whether British interests should be considered separately.
Form of government: Federal Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy. Head of state: Emperor (also the King of Great Britain and Ireland). Head of government: Lord President (today generally just called President) who heads a government in the federal (or Imperial) Continental Parliament in Fredericksburg. The Continental Parliament has supreme sovereignty and exercises sole authority over foreign affairs, but many domestic issues are delegated to the Confederal governments which are considered the legal successors to the (larger number of) colonial governments predating the adoption of the American Constitution in 1788. Each Confederation is further divided into Provinces; the nature of provincial and municipal government is not constitutionally mandated and varies widely. Members of the Continental Parliament (MCPs) are elected from usually multi-member constituencies based on Provinces or cities (Burghs) within them by means of bloc vote first-past-the-post. This is centrally mandated but Confederations can decide their own electoral arrangements for their Confederal assemblies; in 1890 New England adopted the new electoral system of Modified American Percentage Representation (MAPR).
Foreign relations: The ENA heads up an informal ‘Hanoverian’ alliance including the kingdoms in personal union of Great Britain, Ireland and Iceland, as well as dynastically unconnected nations such as the Kingdom of Venezuela. Americans have also tended to take a dominant position in the (formerly British) East India Company from Natal westwards, although the Royal Africa Company retains more Britons on its board of directors.The ENA is generally disinterested in Old World affairs beyond trade, but seeks to dominate the Novamund, which means an opposition to colonialism by outside powers (in particular Russia’s activities in Alyeska, New Muscovy and New Siberia). This also means the ENA has historically had variable relations with the UPSA, which has the same ultimate goal of Novamundine domination. The two countries played a part in each others’ founding and have been inextricably linked through trade ever since, despite the ruptures of the Third Platinean War and, more seriously, the Great American War. In the 1870s the bitter aftermath of the latter was eased by the ‘Seventies Thaw’ and agreements to share influence over countries such as Cuba and Mexico, but more recently both Supremacist rhetoric in the ENA and struggles over corporate domination in the UPSA have begun to make the northern and southern powers regard each other with more suspicion.
Military: The ENA resisted the formation of a centralised Imperial army for some years due to public suspicion of a standing army (preferring the legal fiction that all American regiments were seconded parts of the British Army) but since the Inglorious Revolution in Great Britain, an American Army has existed with the Emperor as its formal commander-in –chief. The Imperial Navy’s formation was less controversial and it evolved naturally from the American Squadron of the Royal Navy. In 1877 the Imperial Aeroforce was split off as a separate service. America is also known for considering its Imperial Marines as an unofficial fourth service, stemming from filmish heroics in Admiral Warner’s West Indian campaign during the Great American War.
Current head of state: Emperor George IV (House of Hanover)
Current head of government: President Stuart Jamison (Supremacist Party)

– Taken from APPENDIX: GUIDE TO THE WORLD’S NATIONS AT THE EVE OF THE PANDORIC WAR, OCTOBER 1896, from
The World At War: From The Pages of The Discerner VOLUME I: THE GATHERING STORM (1981)

*

St. Lewis, Missouri Province, Confederation of Westernesse, Empire of North America
December 4th 1896


Ralph Nicholson resisted the urge to spit out his tobacco onto the street as he stepped down from the multicarriage, dodging a blast of steam from the engine. Not on the frontier anymore. If even Occidentalia could be called the frontier these days, come to that: it had railways, and immigrants with delicatessans, and nobs with stables of horses they rode out on high days and holidays, sure that there was no Indian or bandit to pop them within a hundred miles. It’d be enough to make father weep, if he hadn’t buried the old man two summers ago.

Still, civilisation came with its advantages, too. Ralph adjusted the lavender-coloured card in the hatband of his saybrook,[1] checking the large printed letter P for Press was visible. Out there on the real frontier, in the North-West, that would be nothing more than a target for a Superian Indian to aim his suspiciously Russian-looking rifle at. Here, though, it opened some doors – while closing others. Criminals and policeman alike said pressmen used lavender because it was similar to the modified tyrine dye the government used on modern banknotes to prevent forgery, claiming the journalists were dropping a subtle hint that they were willing to pay for stories. Ralph wasn’t entirely sure they were wrong, either.

He hadn’t been back to St. Lewis in a few months. That didn’t sound like much, but in all his thirty-five years he’d never known the city be anything but a perpetual building site. Railways snaked away from it (or toward it, depending on your perspective) in all directions, seemingly at random, for St. Lewis was the nexus for travellers heading westwards. Reflecting this, Ralph saw the new ironwork Pioneer Memorial they had built on the waterfront. Inspired by the Westernesse flag, it showed a giant weather vane pointing perpetually westward, the vane itself in the shape of a covered wagon with horses. Just like on the yellow flag of the Confederation that flew from countless poles around the Memorial. Ralph had always thought that a bit romantic for romanticism’s sake, ignoring the fact that even in the early days a lot of the wagons had been pulled by steam tractors.

Anyway, what with the city changing at a bewildering rate, Ralph wasn’t sure how to get to his destination. He resorted to the reliable option of collaring an urchin and waving money at him. “You, boy—tell me where I can get a taxi-car to Pontiac Square, and there’ll be a nice new shiny penny in it for you.”

“Couldn’t you make it a dirty ol’ tuppence, mister?” the boy asked with a cheeky grin.

Despite himself, Ralph couldn’t help returning it. He liked the boy’s attitude. “All right, you drive a hard bargain.” He pulled out a copper coin bearing Emperor Henry X’s profile on one side and an image of Septentria with her five-pronged spear on the other. “Now where’s this taxi-car?”

“If you want to get there fast and cheap, mister, don’t waste your silver on those cutthroats – try the new tram,” the boy told him, gesturing with one hand while quite unselfconsciously using the second to hold the coin while he bit it suspiciously.

“The tram?” Ralph asked. He’d heard of the little in-city railways but regarded them with a little trepidation. Considering how many railway accidents there were out in the middle of nowhere with practically nothing to hit, transposing that to a crowded, busy city seemed like madness.

“Over there, sir. Perficktly safe,” the boy said indistinctly as he slipped the coin under his tongue, likely to hide it from his gang leader.

Ralph shrugged. “AW. Thanks, kid.”

He walked in the direction the boy had indicated. Sure enough, there were signs of recent construction work and what looked like a multicarriage stop sign, but with a logo he didn’t recognise. Shining new iron rails had been laid in the road. He looked at them sceptically, but judging by the practiced way in which the local Louies queued up in place with cash in hand, he guessed they must have survived a fair few journeys. Even as he completed the thought, a tram rolled up with a hand-painted sign in its window reading ‘PONTIAC SQUARE’. Well, that was simple enough.

The conductor charged him one dixie and four cents[2] for his ticket, which to be fair was considerably less than he’d been prepared to offer to a taxi-car driver. The tram was a bit cramped and the steam engine coughed and spluttered when negotiating a difficult incline, but on the whole Ralph was impressed with the experience. The tram wasn’t fast in the sense a racehorse was fast, but its route had been cleverly laid and it circumvented a lot of the traffic jams which the central streets had suffered of late.

At least Pontiac Square hadn’t changed much. The office buildings here had been cutting-edge architecture when they were built only two or three years ago, but now they already looked old-fashioned compared to the Cloudtouchers they were building in the Arc of Power cities. Signs were becoming bigger and bolder too as entrepreneurs recognised the power of advertising brands. Colossus shutterboards still advertised products in blocky text and images with their black and white iotas, possessing the advantage that they could easily be reprogrammed for a new campaign, but looked old-fashioned now compared to the printed posters with their new colourful dyes. Some of them had a certain unnatural regularity to them which made them look as though they had been ypologetically printed. Ralph wondered if they actually had been, or if human artists were just carefully replicating the look of a machine print because they were in fashion in the Arc. He shook his head at that thought.

His own building wasn’t quite that desperate. The sign for the St. Lewis Herald, showing the iconic logo with fleet-winged Mercury speeding around the globe of the world, hadn’t changed its style. Pleased, Ralph doffed his hat and walked through the doors, nodding to the doorman in his bottle-green coat. He drew a few looks from those in the foyer who saw his workmanlike, unstylish and above all travel-stained clothes. He’d much rather wash and change before arriving here, but he knew Rob Dayes didn’t care if his pressmen turned up in their birthday suits if it meant they got there an hour earlier.

Speak of the devil – there was his boss’ name now, in black and white on a new, professional-looking plan of the building. Ralph sized up the equally new elevator, decided one transport experiment was enough for the day and climbed two flights of stairs instead. Panting a little, he barely had ten seconds to cool his heels before Rob’s secretary glanced at the little shutterbox on her desk linked to Rob’s office and nodded to him. “The Editor will see you now.” No condemned French nob being shoved into a phlogisticateur had ever heard words so sinister.

As always, Rob seemed to be impatience personified. A dozen spikes on his desk—bearing suspicious brown stains on their trips according to the more impressionable new hires—were thick with spiked stories, and Rob added another one even as he looked up. The stub of a cigar was guttering away in a ceramic ashtray; it was another legend that nobody had ever actually see Rob smoke a cigar, as though he did everything so rapidly that there was no visible intervening state between the cigar in its box and the dregs slowly quenching in that ashtray.

“Nicholson. Sit.” Rob said as though words were being rationed, scratching his beard absently. “Look at this.” He pushed a piece of off-white paper in Ralph’s face.

Ralph scanned it briefly. A Lectel message, or rather a copy of one from the look of it. “Where did you get this from?” he asked half-absently as he took it in.

“Contact in the Charlotte Observer,” Rob grunted. “Leak over the border from the Cotton Kingdom. You know the torchies have got a submarine Lectel cable there now.”

“Goes all the way to the South American mainland without any intervening awkward countries, yeah,” Ralph said, still reading.

“Right. Looks like the torchy military’s got its pants in a twist over this news, telling their pals in the Lost Lands.”

“Not that I think the Meridian Army exactly likes the alternative, either,” Ralph said. “The big companies blurring the lines with the military’s exactly where this whole trouble started...”

“Whatever. Point is, Santos has lost.” Rob raised a finger as though making a remarkably profound point. “So Monterroso has won.”

Ralph frowned. “I mean, it does say they’re still waiting on some votes...”

“From where? Mato Grosso, Magallenes, Malvinas?” Rob also enjoyed alliteration. “Not enough to sway it even if they all went for Santos. Which they won’t.”

“They’re not above rigging it, we know that,” Ralph argued.

“Too late now,” Rob said. “They did try, we think. But it backfired.”

Ralph nodded. “Lots of Meridians probably didn’t much care about the corporations takin’ control, so long as they got a good economy, but something as blatant as that turned them to Monterroso...”

“That’s good,” Rob said, “make sure you use it in the article.”

Ralph wasn’t even slightly surprised. He’d already been scratching notes in his notebook, almost unconsciously (if the new alienist theories were right). “OK. So we break the story that Álvaro Monterroso of the so-called People’s Party is the new President-General of the UPSA. Analysis of why, speculation about what his premiership will be like...”

“All that, yeah,” Rob said, “but lead with him declaring war on the ENA.”

Ralph just stared at him for an uncomfortably long moment, blinking. “What?!”

“He’s said so in all his speeches,” Rob said. “If we continue impounding Meridian ships, which President Jamison has said he’ll keep doing until we get an apology and indemnity, Monterroso’s said loads of times he doesn’t see it’s their responsibility, and if we keep doing it he’ll declare war.”

“Yeah, but...” Ralph clutched his saybrook so tight he almost crumpled the velour. “There’s a difference between that and actually doing it! A lot of politicians walk back on their rhetoric once they’ve...”

He trailed off. Rob was giving him The Look. “Declaration of war on the ENA,” he said firmly. “It’ll be the ultimate scoop. We’ll report it before it happens. Which it will.”

Ralph hesitated. Rob was probably right, after all. Almost certainly. It was reckless, but how many reckless things had he done in pursuit of a scoop? Unconsciously, he curled his left hand tight and felt the absence of the first joint of his little finger.

“All right,” he said. “Show me a desk.”

Rob allowed him a rare grin. “This’ll make history.”

*

Bight of Biafra, off the coast of British Cameroon
December 18th 1896


Corvette Captain Ernesto Corsini surveyed the cramped bridge of the Meridian Armada ironshark General Ayala. He couldn’t exactly describe himself as happy, but he was satisfied that his crew was doing the best they could. Ironsharks weren’t quite the deathtraps they had been twenty years before, when any crew going to war would have been resigned to the thought that they were several times as likely to kill themselves as any of the enemy, but they were still not a craft that lent themselves towards a strain-free life for their commanders.

General Ayala was a Castelli Class ship, one of the newest craft built at the shipyards on Santa Catarina.[3] She incorporated many innovations that, to Corsini’s knowledge, had not been seen in any other navy to this date—though, naturally, the admiralties of the world kept their cards close to their chests. The ironshark was equipped with two pairs of steam engines, a standard set for surface cruising and a smaller, more specialised set for submarine attack. The steam exhaust from the latter was carefully channelled through a network of pipes close to the surface of the iron hull, cooling it from contact with sea water before it was released, reducing the chances of it being visible on the surface. At least that was the theory—turned out that the warm seas of the Tropics weren’t as effective at cooling as the iron-grey waters of the South Atlantic in which the Armada had done the tests.

Nonetheless, Corsini felt more capable than he had on any previous submarine boat. He was responsible for one of the most effective weapons in the Meridian arsenal. And now he was going to use it to strike a blow for his country.

Si, my country. Not the Priestley Aereated Water Company, not García & Denoailles. For the United Provinces and for liberty. “We won’t be pushed around by the Americans,” he grunted.

His first officer, Lieutenant-Commander Felipe Vallejo, overheard him and nodded. “They seem to have forgotten that we gave them a hiding the last time we tangled,” he said. “Time to give them a reminder, sir.”

Corsini nodded absently. He didn’t much care for Vallejo, a scion of a wealthy family who had clearly helped him up the ranks at a young age by the application of the Almighty Dollar. He never stopped going on about his (clearly rather tenuous) connection to the Vallejo who had been President in Corsini’s grandfather’s day. And what of Corsini himself? Like many Meridians of Italian descent, many saw him through the prism of the controversial and divisive President Castelli who had got the UPSA into the Third Platinean War. And now, after fighting that impression all his life and struggling to remain apolitical in the Armada, Corsini found himself commanding a Castelli Class ironshark. The irony would have been delicious if it had happened to someone else.

That class name was well chosen—though few Meridians had sympathised with Resnais’ Underwater Prohibition attempts thirty years before, there remained the almost omnipresent stigma of the ‘ungentlemanly’ underwater weapon. The Armada had therefore assigned the names of controversial figures, those who were too significant to be written out of history but unsuitable to be honoured directly, to the vessels. Other nations had copied the practice. Now, though, what was acceptable and what wasn’t had been turned upside down.

Corsini glanced behind him at Ensign[4] Rodrigo Galeano, the helmsman. Galeano’s keen eyes were fixed on his instruments, his hands equally steady on the wheel. Corsini had never had any cause to doubt the Cisplatine officer’s competence, but had always had suspicions about his political soundness. And indeed, now that President Monterroso had single-handedly tossed aside the Sanción Roja laws, a much-creased leaflet quoting a radical Mentian work by a German writer was protruding prominently from one of Galeano’s pockets. A deliberate challenge, no doubt, and one which made Vallejo turn almost as red as the leaflet itself. “The boot is on the other foot now,” Corsini murmured to himself. Now, it was those too close to the corporations who were having to hide their sympathies—at least, those who didn’t think Monterroso would be overthrown any day now. About the only people who could display their politics on their sleeves were the Sanchezistas, who were considered harmlessly eccentric by both sides (and were unlikely to join the armed forces anyway given their founder’s pacifism).

“It should be visible now, Captain,” said Ensign Carlos Giménez, looking up from the clattering solution engine whose noise was audible even over the background thrum of the engines.

His words startled Corsini out of his reverie. “Acknowledged, Ensign. Up periscope.” Vallejo helped Corsini raise the periscope to eye level, ensuring the other end of the tube would now emerge from the waves. It was a risk, or so said all the theorists, for most of this was still theory: advanced nations hadn’t fought enough between themselves lately, thank God. Corsini had to hope nobody would look long enough at a little bow wave which surely was just a big fish or something.

The captain wasted precious seconds focusing the optics. There! Giménez had been right. The familiar silhouette burned into Corsini’s brain from a dozen intelligence briefings back in Fernando Pó. He thought back to the Lectel orders that had arrived from one of the newest submarine cables, just yesterday. The American papers are full of claims of a declaration of war. Their government is clearly attempting to justify an imminent attack on top of their existing outrages. We shall strike first...

Corsini had to admit that HMS Conqueror certainly didn’t look as if she was expecting an imminent war. The Parker Class armourclad was not the newest vessel in the Royal British Navy and had been surpassed even by other armourclads, never mind the new lionhearts. But she could still fight, and according to Corsini’s briefings she had been upgraded with the standard package to fight ironsharks: she had been equipped with dive bombs[5] and she had rapid-fire cannon ready to chew apart the more fragile superstructure of an ironshark once she had been forced to surface. Corsini did not think that General Ayala could win a fair fight with Conqueror; but then, he had no intention of giving his British counterpart one.

“Distance: three French leagues,” he reported, carefully measuring the parallax through his periscope. “Enemy course: north-east by east. Estimated speed...ten point two knots...” A reminder that the Conqueror could easily catch the General Ayala if she was alerted to her presence. The element of surprise was Corsini’s only advantage.

“Acknowledged, sir,” Giménez said, his hands flying over the solution engine like those of a skilled concert pianist, clicking switches up or down. As the machine rattled, he glanced across at the chief petty officer serving him as a computer. The man’s pencil scribbled away on damp sheets of standard-issue Meridian Armada paper, checking figures. Then he got out his protractor and began sketching triangles, replicating the information Corsini had given Giménez. He couldn’t keep up with the machine, but he could check some of its sums and give Corsini a visual idea of what the watery battlefield would look like from above. Solution engines hadn’t got that far, not unless you were willing to sit there for an hour and wait for an output to be printed or woven.

A bell rang on the solution engine. Corsini winced. Yes, they were distant from their target, but there were rumours that every nation was working on improving its aquauditor capabilities,[6] and a little paranoia was never unhealthy for an ironshark captain. “Done, sir,” Giménez told him, scribbling away, converting the switch readout into ordinary numbers. “Two firing solutions.” The ensign handed him his bit of paper.

Corsini scanned it briefly and nodded. “Two chances,” he said, ignoring the fact that a miss could still produce a visible surface wake that would alert the Conqueror’s crew and scupper the second chance. “We will try the first one. Load submarine missile tubes one and two and set the fuze on missile one accordingly.” Captain Corsini was one of the last stubborn souls to still use the official Admiralty name of ‘submarine missile’ rather than the nickname ‘steeltooth’.

“Yes, sir,” Giménez said, filling out a more official-looking form and handing it to a crewman to take down to the firing room.

Vallejo stepped a little closer to Corsini. “Only the first one?” he murmured. “What about the second firing solution?”

“It might be obsoleted by events and I don’t want us to have a fuze set too long on missile two if things change,” Corsini explained.

Vallejo didn’t look like he agreed, but reluctantly nodded. “As you wish, sir.”

They said the worst part of war was the waiting. Corsini had always retorted that he though the being-blown-up-and-killed part sounded worse to him, but he began to understand what the greybeard veterans had meant as the General Ayala slowly, painstakingly converged on the firing position Giménez and his solution engine had worked out. Occasional glances through the periscope confirmed that the Conqueror remained on course, though they only served to highlight just how much faster the British ship was. Corsini’s hand remained on the smaller of his two engine-room telegraphs, the one which operated the smaller submarine steam engines rather than the main surface ones. He occasionally eyed the lever beside them, the manual override that would instantly blow the ballast tanks and cause the ironshark to suddenly, violently surface. That would be suicide here and now, but he feared he might have to use it before the day was out.

Bad choice of words. The view through his periscope grew ever darker. Corsini’s fob-watch said the time was coming up to 18:00 hours. Here, so close to the equator, the length of the day barely varied, and the sun set almost as regular as clockwork. Now it hung like some great orange diamondball in the sky to the west, seemingly about to dive into the Atlantic Ocean. If the General Ayala was to strike, it would have to be fast.

Finally they reached their appointed position. Corsini made a few last observations of the Conqueror, still keeping to her standard patrol pattern. Giménez’s calculations, or rather his solution engine’s calculations, appeared to be correct to within a close margin of error. They made a few minor adjustments. Everything was ready.

The Conqueror was barely more than a silhouette by the time it came. “Fire on mark,” Corsini ordered. That crewmen ran forward to the firing room again. The steeltooth men had a clock more accurate than Corsini’s fob watch, carefully synchronised to the solution engine’s definition of time earlier that day. The perfect synchronisation inevitably would not last as components in one device lost or gained time, but hopefully it should work for long enough.

It seemed unnatural for not even the captain of the General Ayala to know when she would fire. Without warning, the ironshark trembled and there was a loud, bubbling whoosh as the steeltooth sped away from the flooded tube, its motor roaring to life. Corsini hoped that Giménez’s calculations had taken the time needed to accelerate to full speed into account. His head filled with numbers impossible to entirely quantify: had Giménez used assumptions based on the cold seas of the South Atlantic, did temperature and viscosity have an impact, what if the steeltooth grew too cold for its fuze mechanism to operate...

But Corsini only allowed the back of his mind such doubts. His eyes remained glued to the indistinct picture in his periscope as Giménez counted down the numbers. Everyone on the bridge whispered them under their breath along with him. “Ocho...siete...seis...cinco...

When Giménez was still on dos, though, something happened. Corsini was only able to make sense of what he saw in retrospect, given the dimness of his view, but the steeltooth—already leaving a visible white wake on the surface—actually left the water altogether and began speeding incoherently through the air. The captain groaned: this was scarcely unprecedented, but more common with older steeltooth models. He had hoped they had ironed this design flaw out, but evidently not. “Missile has surfaced,” he told his crew, who sighed in annoyance.

The steeltooth travelled faster through the air than the water, and had reached the Conqueror before its fuze had ran down: so much for any hope it would still hit and detonate. However, much to Corsini’s surprise, the steeltooth hit the armourclad’s side at just the right angle to glance off and ride up the curved hull of the British ship. He was struck by a fleeting comparison to a circus performer he had seen as a boy who had rode up a curved wall on roller-skates to wow his audience.

The steeltooth bounced again off a spur connecting the armourclad’s main hull to what looked like an outrigger nacelle. In fact, as Corsini knew, what the steeltooth now landed in the midst of was the Conqueror’s starboard rocket pod.

A moment later, as Giménez said “...cero,” the steeltooth’s fuze ran down and its neoxyl warhead detonated.[7] The explosion instantly touched off all the rockets loaded in the pod, which promptly blew apart as the rockets shrieked away, trailing streaks of fire that filled the entire periscope field of view. Corsini almost wanted to cheer the spectacular blast, but—as he reported it to his crew—he knew better. It wasn’t as though rockets were a new weapon, they had routinely been used on ships since his grandfather’s day, and like most even vaguely modern warships, the Conqueror had been designed with the risks in mind. The outrigger rocket pods ensured that any explosion was held away from the main hull of the ship, and the armour cladding was strongest at those points on the flank to direct that explosion away from the hull. The magazines were positioned fore and aft to prevent any rocket explosion from spreading to those, as well.

So when the eruption of flame and sparks faded, as the last distant rocket detonated with a faint echo and doubtless startled some poor fish out there in the Atlantic, the Conqueror emerged from the faint wisps of smoke with no damage other than possessing a splintered steel spar where her rocket pod had been and some dents and burn marks on her starboard side.

And now she knew she was under attack.

Corsini instantly knew the time for stealth was over. “Full ahead, brace brace brace,” he shouted as he pulled the smaller engine-room telegraph over to its ‘FULL SPEED AHEAD’ position. “Plot new intercept course and feed to helm, ready missile two, stand by for short-length fuze.” This was Plan B, every ironshark captain’s crazily risky Plan B, just close to point-blank range and pretend you still had a spar torpedo like Señor Watson rather than a steeltooth. Try to take down your enemy without blowing yourself up in the process, and most probably fail.

The Conqueror’s captain—Richard Halford, according to the possibly incomplete intelligence reports—was clearly no fool. He instantly reacted to the unexpected attack. The Conqueror came about, bearing almost straight on the General Ayala’s position. Halford’s observers must have spotted the steeltooth’s wake and traced it back to guess at the ironshark’s position. Now what would he do? Hope Corsini was still at periscope depth and try to ride him down with the Conqueror’s hull, then maybe drop dive bombs off his stern deck? If that was his plan, Corsini would surprise him with the second steeltooth before he could reach them...

Then came something else which Corsini had been told that war held a lot of: a surprise. A loud CHUFF! noise echoed down the periscope and Corsini dimly saw a silhouette shoot up from the stern of the Conqueror, though not accompanied by any flash of light. Not a cannon shot then. That name sounded naggingly familiar, and he thought of the pneumatic tubes some banks in Buenos Aires were now using to shoot message cylinders from the front desk to their managers’ offices. The Armada was considering using them on the new larger lionheart ships too, he knew. But that was a louder version of the sound than he’d ever heard.

Almost as if compressed air was being used to shoot, not a message cylinder, but...

SPLASH!

BOOM!

The shock wave hit the General Ayala a few seconds later, making the deck rock and Corsini hang on for dear life to his periscope. Vallejo almost went sprawling and was grabbed by Galeano at the helm, any political rivalries forgotten in the heat of the moment. “What was that?!” Vallejo demanded.

“I think it was a dive bomb,” Corsini said grimly. “They’ve got some kind of launcher that can fling them ahead of the ship as well as behind...”

CHUFF! SPLASH! BOOM!

Corsini saw the second dive bomb more clearly through his periscope. It wasn’t a simple cylinder like the dive bombs he’d seen before, but was a bulbous bomb with an elongated, pointed shape at one end and fins at the other. Those features were probably to ensure it knifed through the water and reached the appropriate depth before the fuze activated; he guessed the pointed end was weighed down so the dive bomb would always hit with that end downwards.

Of course, seeing it more clearly was not a good thing, because that meant it was a lot closer.

Indeed, the second shock wave was far harsher than the first. The crew were braced this time, but Corsini heard an alarming shrieking noise: metal, not man, under pressure. That dive bomb had hit close enough to put the General Ayala’s hull under strain. “Damage report!” Vallejo barked.

Corsini heard the reply with one ear. They were taking on water. Not much, but the pressure would build up and enlarge the crack unless they surfaced soon to repair it. The wheels spun in his mind far faster than those ones in Giménez’s machine. If they surfaced, they were dead: the General Ayala had a toy of a deck gun, but it would struggle to intimidate a brave merchantman. The Conqueror’s rapid-fire cannon alone could chew the ironshark to shreds on the surface.

Which meant they had one chance. “No chance to close further!” he said. “Get me a fuze time on steeltooth—” oh, hell, call it what you want, “—number two!”

“We don’t have time, sir—” Giménez said nervously, his hands on his solution engine.

“Never mind the machine! Give me a number! Estimate!” the captain barked.

Giménez blinked, bent over his paper with his computer assistant for a moment, and then cried “Ten seconds – no, eleven – from mark time 18:04:35!” A crewman grabbed the paper for the firing room. Corsini hoped they had allowed enough time for them to set the fuze and flood the tube. One shot.

Thank God that at least the British seemed to only have two of their compressed-air dive bomb launchers and they took time to reload. But Halford clearly knew what he was doing. Those first two shots had not been random ones out of panic: staring at the sketch map in front of Giménez, Corsini guessed they had been intended to bracket the General Ayala and narrow down her position. If they hadn’t already spotted the General Ayala’s periscope, then that calculation alone should see the next dive bomb hit. For the first time in longer than he cared to admit, Corsini muttered a prayer. He had never cared for the predestination element of Jansenism. A man’s deeds should mean something.

As the clock reached 18:04:35, the General Ayala trembled—probably not helping with that leak—and the second steeltooth sped away. Corsini stared at the Conqueror through his periscope as though he could burn a hole through her hull with his gaze alone. Presumably she had accelerated to full speed, and assuming the spies were right about her full speed...assuming they didn’t miss something like they missed that new dive bomb launcher technology...

A blast of white water erupted before the Conqueror, a moment later joined by a loud underwater explosion. “DIRECT HIT!” Corsini roared.

The bridge crew cheered, but he was already giving further orders: “Hard-a-port, three-quarters speed ahead, stand by to surface.” There was always the possibility that the dive bomb crew on Conqueror were still ready to fire, and better not to give them a target moving at a constant speed.

But there was no third dive bomb. The Conqueror listed drunkenly to port, a hole in her hull visible even in the dim twilight by yellow flames from within. A moment later, those flames found her forward magazine. The General Ayala was tossed about anew and her hull groaned under the pressure again as the stem of the Conqueror blew away in a great explosion, probably killing dozens of her crew.

They were the lucky ones. As Corsini watched, ignoring the increasingly urgent reports from the damage control stations about leaks and struggling pumps, he kept his eyes fixed on the silhouette of the Conqueror. Slowly, she slipped beneath the waves, managing to eject a few lifeboats as she did. Corsini couldn’t imagine the survivors would have a much happier time of it, with the African coast a day’s row away and most of the area coloured as Royal Africa Company on the map still being decidedly lawless.

Corsini briefly considered taking some of them on board, but dismissed the idea. The General Ayala was small and could not physically contain more than a handful of British sailors as prisoners on top of her existing crew, even if they could be trusted not to turn violent. That was bitter, but it was modern warfare. He began to see what old Resnais had been talking about.

“Prepare to surface,” he said finally, prompting sighs of relief from the bridge crew. There was no threat now. Moments later, as the periscope became superfluous and water gushed from the General Ayala’s wounded side, he saw an image that would stay with him for the rest of his life. The descending stern of the Conqueror, a stark shape against the setting sun as it turned the western seas into molten gold, still proudly flying the Purple Ensign of the People’s Kingdom on her last voyage to Davy Jones’ Locker.

*

New Palace of Westminster, London, Kingdom of the Britons (Great Britain)
December 20th 1896


Sir Peter Carruthers glanced around the Combined House. In his career as a member of the House of Knights, not counting King’s Speeches he had only seen the Houses Combined three times before. New Westminster had been designed and redesigned so that seemingly solid-looking partitions could be slid aside, columns, frescoes and all, to permit the House of Representatives to combine with the House of Knights. The benches, made of greenish Iona marble in the Representatives and pink Portuguese marble (imported before the Fall) in the Knights, were festooned with velvet cushions in party colours, each bearing an MP or Knight. Carruthers himself was sat on a dark blue cushion, for like his father Simon he was a member of the Regressive Party. Elected at the head of a general ticket across Nottinghamshire, the name recognition he had inherited from his father meant his seat was one of the safest in the House even when Nottinghamshire as a whole flirted with Moderates, New Populists or the Mankind Party.

Despite this, though, he was finding his seat uncomfortable for reasons other than his cushion growing a little threadbare. The Regressive Party was in government, albeit in one of those shaky obligatory coalitions with the New Populists who seemed satisfied to be fobbed off with the Ministry for Social Authority and Heritage Fundamentals (or, as the wags at The Ringleader redefined the acronym as, the Ministry for Stopping Anyone Having Fun). Carruthers should be happy. But he wasn’t.

“...an outrage, and it will not stand!” Randolph Heriott pronounced, thumping the lectern with one hand and adjusting his magnificent moustaches with the other. The President of the Council of Government swept the vast, temple-like interior of the Palace with a steely-blue gaze. “The cowardly and unprovoked sinking of His Majesty’s Ship Conqueror by ironshark is only the latest provocation by the Meridian Armada in response to President Jamison’s demands for restitution, and—”

“Yet!” cried a voice from the backbenches. Murmurs immediately broke out among the assembled crowd, and it was quite a crowd: even after the last set of timid reforms aimed at reducing the vast numbers the Constitution of 1836 had lumbered them with, there were still 820 MPs and 340 Knights in the Palace. Not to mention all the security personnel, led by the Security Commissioner (Representatives) and Security Commissioner (Knights). Carruthers, who had a little knowledge of history, knew that before the French invasion the equivalent offices had been held by gentlemen with the gloriously atavistic titles of Serjeant-at-Arms and Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod. It was an astonishing thought to think such things had been allowed to exist as recently as 1807, though he supposed that the late William Wyndham would challenge him to a duel at the mere suggestion that a Regressive might not want to bring anything from that era back again.

“Order! Order!” cried the two Presiding Officers. The room quieted, but now an MP was standing up. It was, Carruthers knew, the one who had spoken before. Alistair Black, one of the many grandsons of Donald Black now to represent the Scottish Parliamentary Party in either Westminster or the Amalgamated Scottish County Corporations in Holyroodhouse which claimed to function as a Scottish assembly in all but name.

“Yet,” Black said, more quietly now. “Yet. The sinking of the Conqueror is an outrage, aye, ye’ll have no argument from me on that one, Mr. Heriott.” Carruthers had once amused himself with an old book that had detailed all the silly little fancies they had once had in the building which had once stood here: ‘my honourable friend’ this and ‘the noble lord’ that. How on earth had anyone got any government business done?

The President folded his arms. “Why, then, good sir, do you propose to interrupt my speech to the Combined House? Speak swiftly, before you are expelled for contempt of parliament,” he added. Did he just make that term up? Carruthers wondered.

“I speak as I find, Mr. Heriott. But, I say yet. Yet. Yet, for all the horrors Captain Grosvenor and his crew met with, good old President Jamison did not see fit tae mention their bloody mur-dah in his own speech tae th’ Continental Parliament!” Black produced a document from inside his jacket pocket and unfolded it. “I have in mah hand a piece of paper sent via Lectel detailing the said speech Mr. Jamison made but twa hours ago. He goes intae great detail aboot the Meridian outrages committed against American shipping, aye, he does. Why, the port authorities at Veracruz did impound a Yankee clipper for all of twa days, he says, under pressure from the Meridian resident.” Black screwed up the piece of paper and tossed it disdainfully away. “With such shockin’ criminal acts against his own people, I’m sure we can forgive Mr. Jamison for forgetting our own losses, aye?”

Heriott had turned as purple as the Asterisk of Liberty. “Whether President Jamison has made such a speech is unknown to myself, and the idea that any man could have received word before myself, his opposite and equal number, is anathema!” he roared. The words echoed displeasingly from the Persepolitan columns of the opposite wall. Despite multiple attempts over the years to do things with tapestries and suitably-shaped artwork, the New Westminster estates staff had never quite managed to fix the awful acoustics which Sir David Fellowes’ design had left them with.

Predictably, Carruthers felt, Heriott’s response was misjudged. There were chuckles at his ego-stroking even from those MPs and Knights sitting on blue cushions: none but the most idealistic would dream that the President of Great Britain was an equal partner to the President of North America these days. Heriott should have said that Jamison simply would not have heard of the sinking of the Conqueror in time, which was likely true (and the conniving Black doubtless knew). As it was, by deliberately accusing an MP of dishonesty, he invoked some of the rules of the old Westminster which had survived the destruction of old London. “I would ask Mr. Heriott to withdraw that remark for its implications,” the Presiding Officer (Representatives) said dryly, glancing down at the sleeve of the white suit that was his badge of office.

Heriott steamed for a moment, then muttered a withdrawal. “Nonetheless, the point stands,” he said pettily. “Whom do you trust to convey the words of President Jamison to you—myself, his partner and stout ally, or a tra – or someone who seeks to dissolve this Kingdom itself?”

The President got his words under control just in time, but enough people had heard. “A traitor, is it?” snapped another SPP member, this one a Knight: Sir William Sinclair, representing Caithness-shire. His aristocratic Highland tones contrasted with Black’s more proletarian background, yet the two were united in their cause. “Whit be a traitor but a man wha sells oot his ain country for a mess o’ pottage frae a foreign throne?” He folded his arms pointedly. “Wuild the President be sae kind as to confirm or deny th’ rumour that has lang circulated aboot London toon and beyond, that he keeps a wee popish icon of Mr. Jamison beside his bed?”

Heriott’s colour went from the Asterisk of Liberty to the blood-red of a Portuguese flag. “Commissioner, remove that man, he is out of order,” he bit out. “I will not have this country’s response to this outrage undermined by Caledonian perfidy!”

“Do you then contend, President Heriott, that there be no men of England ready to oppose you?” asked Frederick Wells, rising from his yellow cushion. The maverick Moderate MP for Swindon East gave the Combined House a measuring look, as security staff went to escort the furious Sinclair away. “My colleagues from the Scottish Parliamentary Party are not noted for their fine words, but by thunder, for once their cause is just.” He stroked his beard. “There has been no question of Fredericksburg asking for British aid. No call for invocation of old treaties of friendship, reminders of the ties we share.” He shook his head. “It seems President Jamison simply expects us to hop to it, remember our place, like one of the Negro slaves his ancestors may have held.”

“That is out of order!” cried the Foreign Secretary, rising from his blue cushion. “I cannot condone such grotesque attacks on President Jamison!”

“Let him come here to defend himself,” Wells said glibly. “Perhaps the King can tell him the way, if he has not forgotten himself.”

There was a sudden intake of breath across the house, and for a moment it was as silent as that moment, long ago, when Bloody Blandford had looked at the black voting bats facing him and realised the choice that lay before him. Wells had hinted, however indirectly, at the great simmering cauldron of public anger that had build up since King George had taken the Lionheart for America, not returned to Britain since, and generally adopted a policy of ferdinandisme.[8] Some now openly spoke of rallying around the Duke of York, who had dwelt at Kensington in political exile—but at the centre of social events—since resigning in protest as Regent over the Lionheart affair. In Parliament, everyone nodded pointedly at the rumours, but to actually voice them...

“I will have no talk of treason from any quarter,” Heriott said flatly. His anger had faded now, replaced with cold determination. “Our American brothers have been attacked and it is our duty to respond. This Meridian outrage in slaying the former President’s son only underlines that duty of honour. It shall not go unanswered.”

He looked around the House, silent again. Like Blandford, Carruthers thought, he faced a choice.

Oddly, for some reason, Carruthers’ gaze was drawn to the one member of the Combined House, a man named Henry Palliser (Hastings East) who sat on the bare bench rather than on a cushion—though Carruthers had once offered to buy him a black one. He got along well with Palliser, despite his eccentric views, for the man was a hard worker and an excellent conversationalist—doubtless why the good folk of Sussex kept voting him back in. At his club the night before, Palliser had reminisced with Carruthers about his father and how a speech by the latter in the Seventies had helped inspire Palliser to enter politics. “Your father once said he thought there was a field of, what was his phrase, patient industry and rational science whose goal was to attempt to remove the last bit of glory or personal heroism from the art of warfare.[9] I mean, he was wrong, of course, because warfare has never had any of those things to begin with. But perhaps it is fair to say that modern technology has made them more obvious.”

Now, Palliser was sitting there quietly, subtly a few inches below everyone else on his bench thanks to the lack of cushion, his eyes closed. While others raged at the justice or injustice of the war, Palliser simply sat back and waited for what he believed would be an inevitable revolution as Sanchez had predicted. He would wait for a long time, Carruthers thought, not unkindly. Nothing was inevitable, in his view: countless consequences turned on a single decision...

“It is for that reason,” Heriott said finally, “that His Majesty’s Government will shortly seek to introduce a Defence of the Realm Bill...”






[1] A term for a style of hat, not unlike OTL’s homburg but with a taller crown. It is debated in TTL whether the term comes from Saybrook College in Yale (the hat style popularised by students?) or is an anglicisation of ‘Zeebrugge’ in Belgium (brought by Belgian immigrants?)

[2] Note that the American Imperial is divided into ten dixies which are in turn divided into ten cents; however, the latter are still often referred to informally as ‘pennies’, especially when talking about three or fewer.

[3] An island in OTL Brazil today forming part of the city of Florianópolis; among the territories ceded by Brazil after the Brazilian War to form the Riograndense Republic which later joined the UPSA.

[4] As in the OTL Spanish Navy, the rank in question is strictly ‘Ship-of-the-line Ensign’ (Alférez de Navío) which technically corresponds better to Lieutenant (junior grade) in Anglophone navies.

[5] Confusingly, this is the TTL name for depth charges.

[6] The TTL term for hydrophones.

[7] Neoxyl is similar to OTL cordite: a trade name here deriving from it being one of many new explosives using xylofortex (guncotton) among other components.

[8] I.e. regarding the New World as superior to the old, a reference to Ferdinand VII of New Spain.

[9] See Interlude #13.
 
Last edited:

Thande

Donor
Apologies for there being a bit of a wait on this one, these segments tend to be longer and work has been busy lately - I ended up writing half of this last weekend and the other half this weekend, which is rare for me, I usually write the whole segment in one go.
 

Perfidious Albion

Gone Fishin'
I really don't think authors should feel that they have to apologise for a long wait in delivering content. It's not as though you're being paid for this; you're not obliged to produce content for us, and we the readers should be grateful for whatever authors choose to write, for free, taking a great amount of your own time, for our enjoyment.

That especially applies when it's content as fantastic as this. This idea of presenting the war in narrative prose is excellent.
 

Thande

Donor
I really don't think authors should feel that they have to apologise for a long wait in delivering content. It's not as though you're being paid for this; you're not obliged to produce content for us, and we the readers should be grateful for whatever authors choose to write, for free, taking a great amount of your own time, for our enjoyment.

That especially applies when it's content as fantastic as this. This idea of presenting the war in narrative prose is excellent.
Thank you - I more felt the need to say it because I was annoyed myself at not having time to complete it last week.
 
The clouds grow darker... Thanks for another great update!

Head of state: Emperor (also the King of Great Britain and Ireland).
Shouldn't Iceland be mentioned here as well? Since it is mentioned later.

“Leak over the border from the Cotton Kingdom. You know the torchies have got a submarine Lectel cable there now.”
Don't know why, but I chuckled at the 'Cotton Kingdom' and 'the Torchies'. :D

“Declaration of war on the ENA,” he said firmly. “It’ll be the ultimate scoop. We’ll report it before it happens. Which it will.”
Yeah, announcing declaration of war before it is declared sounds like a brilliant idea!

Mankind Party
Societists?

[insert Marx puns here]
This leaflet Marx a true Mentian revolutionary! So don't be Stalin and go for it, comrade!
 
Last edited:

Thande

Donor
Shouldn't Iceland be mentioned here as well? Since it is mentioned later.
It's more of a minor possession--I felt it made more sense here to just name the big ones.


Don't know why, but I chuckled at the 'Cotton Kingdom' and 'the Torchies'. :D
I think a commenter actually coined Cotton Kingdom so credit to them (can't remember who sadly).


Societists?
No, the Mankind Party are the same group as the Mentians in other countries (i.e. essentially non-racist or not-very-racist democratic socialists to use OTL terminology), it's just a different rendering of the name (translating the German 'menschen' rather than imperfectly transliterating it).
 
What is the biggest economy in 1896, Feng China or the Hermandad?

This leaflet Marx a true Mentian reavolutionary! So don't be Stalin and go for it, comrade!
No, the Mankind Party are the same group as the Mentians in other countries (i.e. essentially non-racist or not-very-racist democratic socialists to use OTL terminology), it's just a different rendering of the name (translating the German 'menschen' rather than imperfectly transliterating it).
 
Always a pleasure to read new LTTW; the Turtledovian narrative segments are working very well.

One tiny thing - the intro mentions a Confederation of 'Kentucky'; should this be Ohio, or has that been retconned?
 

Thande

Donor
Always a pleasure to read new LTTW; the Turtledovian narrative segments are working very well.

One tiny thing - the intro mentions a Confederation of 'Kentucky'; should this be Ohio, or has that been retconned?
Nope, that's me misremembering. To the edit-mobile!
 
I really enjoying the narrtive bits, they work better here than in a lot of other TLs since we already know the setting well there's less of a need for exposition which keeps the story moving well.
 
[1] A term for a style of hat, not unlike OTL’s homburg but with a taller crown. It is debated in TTL whether the term comes from Saybrook College in Yale (the hat style popularised by students?) or is an anglicisation of ‘Zeebrugge’ in Belgium (brought by Belgian immigrants?)
I do love this TL's focus on the fabric of life beyond explosions and elections - science, social movements, architecture and even fashion. Have we seen anything else on the evolution of clothing in Look to the West? Surely the lack of a Beau Brummell-esque character would lead to dramatic divergences in men's formal wear...
 
Part #227: First Strike

The country’s official name is: EMPIRE OF NORTH AMERICA (ENA)...
Largest city: New York City, Amsterdam Province, Confederation of New York (1.8 million)....
I seem to recall, way back when the narrative was around the late 18th, turn of the 19th century and the Jacobin wars were raging, that you did not believe NY would dominate, because major immigration as well as trade into the Mississippi Valley would flow up the Saint Lawrence to Mount Royal, which would become the Big....Maple I guess. That NYC of OTL was a fluke of chance, nothing deterministic about the Hudson Valley to the Great Lakes being some sort of predetermined optimal regional channel. Rather it only looked that way OTL due to Yankees not having the Saint Lawrence in their borders, so Montreal (OTL spelling) was deprived of its natural flow with most immigration being diverted south of the US/British possessions border, so the second-best channel westward was favored.

At the same time, I seem to recall someone or other arguing that meanwhile Fredericksburg would also divert, or preempt, which ever term is better, more of OTL's concentration on NY to itself, and we'd wind up with New York being a decidedly second or third rate city, taking a back seat to Mount Royal, Fredericksburg, probably behind both Philadelphia and Boston, maybe even Baltimore or Charleston.

It has been many years since this discussion and maybe my mind is playing tricks? But whatever happened to all that then? How come NYC is still the Apple here?
 
Yeah, announcing declaration of war before it is declared sounds like a brilliant idea!
Shades of Hearst and the Spanish-American war, but given how much worse this is going to be than that "Glorious little war", I suspect Rob Dayes had better keep an eye peeled for angry men with revolvers in future years.
 
Top