IIRC, didn't the early Societists espouse workplace democracy?
The new honcho, Caribas, urged workers to quit their jobs working for ordinary capitalists and come work for a Sanchezite owned firm.

I don't believe that included a promise that the workers would be universally empowered with a vote in the firm's operations. As Sanchezite management supposedly believes in meritocracy, supposedly the workers can trust they will be evaluated and promoted on merit, meaning it is a better opportunity for them than working for a normally run firm. If they are good enough they can hope to be promoted to a managerial position, and meanwhile make enough wages to be able to buy in as a stockholder, and in these ways the door is open, not so much to workplace democracy as meritocracy. Also even if they are only mediocre workers they will still get a fair deal compared to other employers, and if they are reasonably loyal I suppose the deal is they won't get fired unless the whole firm goes under. Or downsizing is highly necessary I suppose.

I might be forgetting something but I gather one promise the Sanchezites are not so liable to make is democracy in any context whatsoever.
 
I might be forgetting something but I gather one promise the Sanchezites are not so liable to make is democracy in any context whatsoever.
Sanchez was disillusioned by democracy after the Popular Wars during which even 'the people' supported the bloodshed.
 
Sanchez was disillusioned by democracy after the Popular Wars during which even 'the people' supported the bloodshed.
So Sanchezite democracy only works if the Right People get the vote. Or Right Person, in extreme Vetinari-esque situations.
 
So Sanchezite democracy only works if the Right People get the vote. Or Right Person, in extreme Vetinari-esque situations.
Wasn't there some Asimov story where the electorate gets winnowed down to one "average guy" somewhere who is the only one who actually votes?
 
Wasn't there some Asimov story where the electorate gets winnowed down to one "average guy" somewhere who is the only one who actually votes?
It's from the I Robot book, IIRC. The world is actually run by an AI, which uses complex statistical analysis to work out how the people "would" have voted by asking someone. The man in question is old enough to remember the last election as we would understand, and is regaling this story to his grandchild.
 
I've finally made it to Volume V! It's nice to see more scientific and cultural updates again, I got exhausted and rather bored by the Great American War, the updates stopped having the globespanning variety I liked for a while.
 
I was just thinking: what would happen to biracial people in Diversitarian countries? I remember from an update that people were considered citizens of only their native, ethnic country, and that they couldn't be citizens of countries that conflicted with their own national identity. In an environment where everyone is considered 'Separate But Equal' would interracial or cultural mixing simply be heavily discouraged? What would be the fate of those people who are the products of such unions? Or, alternatively, would they be held up as an example of Diversity, with biracial simply being another identity? I would love to hear your thoughts, everyone.
 
I was just thinking: what would happen to biracial people in Diversitarian countries? I remember from an update that people were considered citizens of only their native, ethnic country, and that they couldn't be citizens of countries that conflicted with their own national identity. In an environment where everyone is considered 'Separate But Equal' would interracial or cultural mixing simply be heavily discouraged? What would be the fate of those people who are the products of such unions? Or, alternatively, would they be held up as an example of Diversity, with biracial simply being another identity? I would love to hear your thoughts, everyone.
I’m guessing they would have to choose their identity.
 
I was just thinking: what would happen to biracial people in Diversitarian countries? I remember from an update that people were considered citizens of only their native, ethnic country, and that they couldn't be citizens of countries that conflicted with their own national identity. In an environment where everyone is considered 'Separate But Equal' would interracial or cultural mixing simply be heavily discouraged? What would be the fate of those people who are the products of such unions? Or, alternatively, would they be held up as an example of Diversity, with biracial simply being another identity? I would love to hear your thoughts, everyone.
Wouldn't surprise me if there is much debate within Diversitarian circles about this, with more old school Diversitarians in general being against it on the ground that it is a backdoor for Societism, in that over time if the races and cultures continue to mix, it will all be the same, and Societism will have been accomplished, whereas new schools of Diversitarianism in contrast praise the practice, and argue that each and every interracial and intercultural marriage produces new unique blends and flavours, and so in fact makes the world more diverse, and not less.

Of course, that is assuming that kind of how Societism in many aspects parallel communism, so Diversitarianism in many aspects parallel capitalism. Societism has its Pablo Sanchez, as communism has its Karl Marx. Capitalism doesn't really have any such figure who in a sense "founded" the ideology, nor a book which explains how the world works and that must be studied intensely and never strayed from, and so ideologically is much more flexible. From what little Thande has conveyed of Diversitarianism, I get the impression that like capitalism first became defined as an ideology when communism arose (whereas prior to that, people were liberals or conservatives or populists or progressives and yada-yada-yada), so Diversitarianism became defined as an ideology when Societism became a major threat on the horizon. People started calling themselves that as a way of saying "I am opposed to Societism", and it was first then that people started trying to come up with theoretical models for the system. But since there never was this one defining figure at the beginning, there is no Absolute Authority to go for for consultation, and so, in Diversitarian circles, there is much less talk of guarding against "revisionism", and many conflicting authority figures with their own set of followers, like in capitalism we have Keynesians, Austrians, monetarists, Neo-classicists, etc.

If anything, I anticipate that most Diversitarians would point to this as a great strength of their ideology.
 

Thande

Donor
Right - I realise it's been a while due to my RL commitments, but I do always try to get at least one LTTW update out before Christmas every year, and this is it. I say this even though the subject matter is, shall we say, not very Christmassy this time (unlike that time when it was the end of the Unification War, I recall). However, it does include one scene that I have been waiting to write since I began this timeline almost eleven years ago, so there's that. I hope you enjoy it, a Merry Christmas to all my readers, and there will be more in the new year!


Part #239: Glimpses


The country’s official name is: THE EMPIRE OF AYUTTHAYA (XANACAKR XYUTHYA); known abroad as SIAM or the SIAMESE EMPIRE.
The people are known as: SIAMESE or THAIS. ‘Ayutthais’ is sometimes used (slightly imprecisely) by Europeans to refer to ethnic Thais from the old core Ayutthaya Kingdom as opposed to the people of lands more recently acquired.
Capital: Ayutthaya City (0.5 million)
Largest city: Thonburi [OTL Bangkok] (0.6 million)
Flag: A red field defaced by a hollow yellow eight-pointed star containing a ring of eight yellow circles around a central circle.
Population: 29 million.
Land area: 96,000 lcf.
Economic ranking: Debatable due to disagreements over how integrated it is into the Hermandad. High compared to other Asian countries except Feng China.
Form of government: Absolute monarchy. This has become somewhat tempered by the necessity of ruling over a much larger and more diverse realm than in the past, but the approach to this problem still generally takes the form of centrally appointed royal governors (and a network of Optel and then Lectel communications tying the outer territories tightly to Ayutthaya City). The crown prince traditionally serves as the King-Emperor’s deputy and effective prime minister, being known by the euphemistic title Wang Sa or ‘Front Palace’; in recent years this title has sometimes been given to another (often an aristocrat who handles foreign relations), but with the crown prince still treated as an important and powerful figure in his own right.
Foreign relations: Siam’s policy is dominated by hostility to, and rivalry with, Feng China (despite the ten-to-one disparity in population). Siam has also sought to expand southwards to encompass the whole of the Malay Peninsula and more of the East Indies, but has met with opposition from the French and other European powers. In part due to the need to focus on other foes, Siam has pursued more peaceful relations with its former mortal enemy Burma. Siam has a close relationship with the UPSA and the deliberate ambiguity of its precise status in the Hermandad helped precipitate the Pandoric War.
Military: Siam modernised early on and was already successfully competing with European forces in the Watchful Peace era. With Feng China also modernising, Siam has endeavoured to stay at the cutting edge in order to keep a technological advantage to counter China’s much greater numbers. Fitting with this focus on asymmetric warfare, the Imperial Siamese Army has also created tactics based on using the difficult terrain of the border regions with China to their advantage. At the time of the Pandoric War, Siam had lost one war with the Feng (1832-1838) and won a second (1869-1871).[1]
Current head of state: King-Emperor Sanphet XII[2] (since 1882)
Current head of government: Front Palace Phon Singhanat (since 1893)

– 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)

*

From: The World At War: From The Pages of The Discerner VOLUME III: IN THE BALANCE (1984):

Yuexiu District, Hanjing, Feng China
September 4th 1897


Charles Grey woke up in a sweat, his hands reflexively snatching at a rifle that wasn’t there. He sat up, tension rippled across his muscled arms as the adrenaline wore off with an unpleasant prickling sensation.[3] His heart thudded in his chest, a counterpoint to the ever-present hissing of the erratic steam lift that served the shaky tenement building.

Cheung Amoy instantly awoke beside him. There was no wooziness or yawning to her awakening; she went straight from asleep to fully alert in a manner that would have impressed any sergeant-major Charles had ever served with. “Again, Caajisi?” she asked, her voice soft and soothing. He felt her small hands touch his bare shoulders, her flesh cool against his in the oppressive heat. He wished some clever blighter would come up with a better way to cool a building than vast steam-powered fans whose engines often more than counterbalanced any chilling factor their blades might achieve. Not that Amoy’s tenement could boast such a fan anyway, of course.

“Again,” he ground out, his throat thick with tension. His heartbeat was slowing, but that only made the throbbing in his head more noticeable. His hand scrabbled on the tiny bedside table for his glass of Villa Ouais beer—the weak local stuff, just enough alcohol to kill ’cules. He found it, and with his other hand grabbed a couple of Contrapyrex tablets from his trouser pocket.[4]

Amoy ineffectually tried to bat his hand away from the tablets, with the air of a woman who knew she would not win the latest round of this argument. “You should not fill yourself with those Meridian poisons,” she scolded him. “Why, I tell you, I know a very fine doctor…”

“You’re not sticking needles in me,” Charles said flatly.

“And yet you are vaccinated, no, Caajisi?” Amoy teased him.

“That’s…different,” Charles said. His resolve wavered as Amy’s cool little hands kneaded his shoulders with surprising strength, draining away some of the tension. He shook his head and swallowed the tablets anyway, gulping them down with a mouthful of Villa Ouais.

Amoy tutted but did not continue the argument. “Is it because of tomorrow?” she asked softly, her lips brushing his ear.

Charles smiled grimly at that. Some girls, he knew, would think the best way to comfort their man was to try to make him forget the fact that he would be back at the front line tomorrow. Amoy, Amy as he called her, was cut from a different cloth. She didn’t try to pull him into a different world, a safe little world, and then be angry when he could not forget the nightmares of the one he must return to. She shared those nightmares with him, as best she could. If she could, Charles knew, she would have joined him on the battlefield, fought beside him like Hua Mulan. Both Charles’ father and Amoy’s mother could talk for the Global Games when it came to reminiscing about the great soprano Zhen Liqiao playing the role twenty years earlier. Overused as the comparison therefore was, Charles knew Amoy had that same amazon mettle.

But that had been a different world, too. This was the end of the nineteenth century, when there were no more heroes, no more songs to be sung, no glory or honour. Just men bleeding and dying and women weeping and despairing. Just mud and bullets and horror.

Again, some boys would have tried to keep that from their woman, and believed they were either doing them a favour by shielding them from such horrors, or else arrogantly presuming that they could never understand them. Charles believed neither about Amoy. She would never take willing refuge in ignorance, and she had known the realities of the world long before some fool shot Colonel Braithwaite and sent that world to hell.

“Tomorrow is part of it,” he answered her at last. “I’m going back to the front.”

“But not back to front, hopefully,” Amoy teased him.

Charles smiled wanly. “Everything else is back to front in this war.”

Amoy nodded seriously, her black hair brushing his temple as she continued to massage his shoulders. The knots in his muscles were being worked out as effortlessly as Alexander the Great had at Gordias, and without any of the collateral damage. “Part of it,” she echoed, “but not all?”

Charles sighed, and with that sigh seemed to expel not just air but all that panic and sweat and tension. Amoy would have talked about qi. “Not all, Amy,” he repeated. “I keep thinking…I got picked for shore leave twice in one year. What are the chances of that…if I got lucky about that…”

“And you got very, very lucky,” Amoy said with a mischievous smile, kissing his cheek from behind.

Charles couldn’t help smiling, even as he continued with his sombre words. “And I keep thinking…what if that’s it? What if I’ve used up all my lucky chances? I’ve already had a few close shaves on the battlefield, bullets scraping past but only parting my uniform…”

“And those stitches were dreadful,” Amoy mockingly scolded him.

But she couldn’t divert him from his point. “What if next time, well, my number’s up? William of Orange once said every bullet has its billet, as though when they made those bullets in the foundry, the one that’ll kill you has your name on it, invisibly…what if next time it’s me?”

“Don’t talk such foolishness, Caajisi,” Amoy said, ending the soothing massage with a playful nip. “You westerners are all the same. A man can’t win a big fortune at mah-jong without you making a morality play about how it will all turn out dreadfully for him.” She shook her head again. “What was that line from that play you took me to once, by your country’s great writer, the one about the emperor of the Daqin…”

Julius Caesar?”

“Yes. That line… ‘the fault is not in our stars’. We are masters of our own destiny, Caajisi, unless we say otherwise. Unless we give up.”

For the first time he turned to look at her, her dark eyes glistening with the dim reflected gaslights of the street outside which never slept. There was fear there, honest fear, not concealed. But there was also resolve.

“You are right,” he said huskily. “Like you always are. Damn it all, Amy. I’ll come home to you again.”

“You had better,” she whispered indistinctly as their lips met. “Or, like Orpheus in that other play, I shall travel to the depths of Diyu to find your hun-soul.” She grinned at him. “And then kill you all over again.”

And after those words, there was nothing more. There was no need for language, not in that form at least. In five hours Charles would be on a train back to the bitter fighting around Hanoi. Five short hours, but they might as well have been five centuries…

*

Mount Royal, Mount Royal Province, Confederation of New England, Empire of North America
September 15th 1897


The ferrule of George Furrier’s stick scraped sparks from the metallic side of the bar as he performed an organised collapse onto his favourite bar stool. By now the Crown’s landlord, Philippe, was used to this and had given up trying to oil the springs. “Thou again, M. Leverrier,” he grunted, wiping a glass with a cloth that seemed to redistribute the dirt rather than remove it.

“None of that froggie claptrap,” said George, whose great-grandfather and namesake had indeed been Georges Leverrier before it became politic to go English. There was little malice to George’s words, though: this was an old game they played. “Pint of messenrudge and make it snappy. Last time I was here thy new barmaid was quite the ditherer.”

“Oui, how dare the young girl Jeanette actually wait to see thy silver before she serves thee,” Philippe said sarcastically. “And speaking of which, maintain?”

George muttered ‘tabernac’ under his breath; curses lived on long after the rest of the dictionary had grown cobwebbed. “Icy, damn thee.” He fumbled in his pockets before extracting a rather soiled two-imperial promissory note.

Philippe examined it with the concentration of an expert at Leigh’s approving the veracity of a work of art before the auction.[5] The landlord grunted in half-disappointment, tucked the battered note away and reluctantly poured George a pint of the house red. It was crude, vinegary stuff, but drinkers like George did not discriminate. “Je doute qu’il touche les côtés,” Philippe muttered under his breath as George knocked back a mouthful of wine. He moved off to serve another customer.

The ache in George’s hip and leg receded slightly as the wine bloomed sourly in his stomach. But it seemed to take more and more these days. Wasn’t that what that old play The Addict had said about laudanum? As though alcohol was just another drug. George stared disconsolately at his glass, almost empty already. And then what?

There was a silky sound as a younger man sat down next to him. No, he didn’t sit, he insinuated himself onto a stool. He was a regular at the Crown himself, albeit perhaps not quite as regular as George, but he had not selected any stool at the bar as his own: he sat somewhere different every time, wearing his surroundings lightly, never setting down roots. George thought of the ratiocinic fiction story he’d read a year or two ago, the one by Edwin Chandler Clarke, what had it been called? The detective in that had said that you could tell a lot about a man’s general character from little habits like that. Maybe there was something to that. Maybe. George hadn’t read any other ratiocinic stories since then; those had been the days when the pain had receded enough for him to be able to spend his meagre army pension on things besides necessities, of which alcohol was right at the top.

“Here again, George?” the newcomer asked, genteelly sipping a gin and soda. Some hotheads had been swearing off soda water since the war broke out, calling it helping the enemy, as though the fact that the PAWC had invented the stuff meant that they actually made it all rather than it being bottled in an American-owned factory just down the road. The younger man blew droplets of his tipple off his impressive red moustache. “I thought I might find you here.”

Here, not icy. Perfect Emperor’s English, Fredericksburg English with its characteristic mixture of native Virginian drawl and Hederan Fraternity vowels.[6] Not the slightest trace of the local pidgin that men dismissively called Cubwickwa. No sign that this man had been born one street away from the house George had grown up in, the house that had been owned by George’s older brother Johnbaptist before he had died in an industrial accident. “Go away, Lucian.”

Lucian showed his teeth in what was technically a smile. “Now now, Uncle George, none of that. I have a little job you might be interested in.”

“I don’t need your petty jobs,” George grunted. Now the glass really was empty. He fumbled in his pocket as though a florin, a few farthings and a button he needed to sew back on would magically be transmogrified into another two royals.

Lucian, one hand keeping his stylish saybrook hat from touching the wine-stained bar, also looked at the empty glass. He looked back at George, and raised an eyebrow.

Lucian, George thought, was always at his most eloquent when he fermied his bush and kept quiet. “Alright, damn thee, maybe I do. What is it that it is?”

His nephew diplomatically managed to suppress a smile at that particularly stereotypical bit of Cubwickwa. “Seen this?” he asked, slapping a newspaper on the bar.

It was already in sorry shape even before the wine stains began to spread themselves to it: printed on reused paper with watered ink, it showed all the signs of cutting corners that more than a year of war had led to. The Mount-Royal Gazette. George’s somewhat blurry vision took a moment to focus. He passed over the front page of adverts and looked at the page Lucian was indicating. “Well, I had heard that Heriott has been forced to resign over in roast-beef land after those soldiers shot those protestors and the Duke had to apologise, but what is it that has to do with us?”

“No, not that, you – not that,” Lucian said, swallowing what he had been about to say. He shifted George’s finger to another story. “This. About the western front.”

The western front. George almost laughed at that. “Call that a front? A few of ours and a few Russians stomping about a frozen wilderness half the size of Europe? They’re doing well to even find each other, never mind kill each other.”

“Well, some of them have managed it,” Lucian said sourly, lighting a thin cigar. Uncharacteristically sloppy of him; at this point of the war, men might well wonder how he was obtaining his tobacco. “Though as you said, Uncle, precious few of ours being sent up to New Siberia.”

“Not surprised,” George said. “Not when they can feed ’em into the same meat grinder where some cotton-pickin’ épais put this bullet into my hip before thou was even born.” He glanced at the war stories filling most of the page. “Though that was north of Ultima, and we’re in and out of Ultima now. They say they’re closing on Maubela.” He shook his head in wonder. “That used to be a joke in our company, we’ll be in Maubela by Christmas…”

“You’re out of it now, Uncle,” Lucian said, as though he needed reminding. “But, well, you know our boys—what few of them there are—up in New Siberia, they’re being based out of the Superior Republic, and a fair few of the Métis types, they’re…”

“Not happy?” George asked dryly. “I know, we get fur traders coming through here still, though they’re always complaining the big companies are starting to put them out of business these days. They always want the Republic to close its borders to our traders, as though they could survive without them.”

“You’re well-informed, Uncle,” Lucian said, trying hard to conceal his surprise. He stubbed out the remnant of his cigar in a pool of spilled wine and discarded it: sloppy, again, when in these tough times many men would keep what was left in the hope of combining several stubs to produce a new cigar. “You’re right: and some of those angry young men, whether they’re white, red or some mixture of the two—they think they can do a trade deal with our Russkie friends instead, and cut the Empire out altogether.”

George snorted. “Young fools. The only way that could be possible is if the Empire really lost badly in the w…” he fell silent. “They want to collaborate with the Russians now? The enemy?

“Don’t be naïve, Uncle,” Lucian said. George was privately surprised he dared use such a French word given his career in leaving his roots behind. “The Superior Republic has never been our ally, not really: at best they’re the enemy we can never quite be bothered to go after and clean up. Who else wants that frozen wasteland you mentioned, after all?”

“The Russians, maybe,” George muttered. “Imagine that. Calisse! An arm of the Tsar’s bloody empire thrust deep into the heart of this continent…”

“You’ve got the idea,” Lucian said, patting his arm. “And for them to achieve their goals, some of the supply convoys the army is conveying to its troops through Superior territory need to, ahem, go astray. Of course, we would need someone who still has contacts in the army, someone who would be able to find out codes and procedures…”

George almost leapt to his feet, stopping himself only when he remembered he wasn’t twenty and in a trench outside Ultima anymore, and that his leg might collapse from under him. “How – how dare thee, thou—thou wouldst have me turn traitor to my Emperor?!”

“Settle down, Uncle,” Lucian said warningly, one eye on the distant Philippe as the landlord heard the outburst and glanced up from serving another customer. He lowered his voice. “You think they still deserve your loyalty? You, to whom the Emperor never gave anything but an ounce of lead in your hip and a miserable monthly stipend?” He tapped the empty glass meaningfully. “What does it matter to you or I whether a chunk of Godforsaken tundra flies the Starry George or the white, blue and red?”

“It matters to me,” George muttered. “Maybe not because of the Emperor, or honour, or country, or any of that. Maybe you’re right about that, maybe they don’t deserve my loyalty…”

“Then why?” Lucian asked, looking honestly curious. One hand idly played with the end of his moustache. He had got that red colour from his mother. She had been an Irish exile, one of the few to take the talk of American Catholic emancipation seriously during the potato famine and come here rather than New Spain or the UPSA.

“Why?” George asked rhetorically. He tapped another story in the paper. “Because of those boys fighting and dying in their bitter petty trenches on Noochaland. Viarge! I’m not having any more corpses on my conscience. Too bowcoo of those in the derner round.”

Lucian held his gaze. “Alright, Uncle. You’ve convinced me.” He frowned.

“Then the plan is off?” George asked. Despite himself, his gaze treacherously tracked back to his empty glass.

Lucian smiled thinly. “Hardly. We’ll just double-cross the brave little Superians before they can get the weapons to the Tsar’s men. We’ll be patriotic heroes for thwarting a vile enemy scheme. Rich patriotic heroes.”

George grinned and raised his glass. “I’ll drink to that, jun. I’ll drink to that.”

*

Undisclosed location, Corrientes Province, United Provinces of South America
October 14th, 1897


Bartolomé Jaimes shifted uncomfortably in his rickety seat, his old bones protesting more at this treatment than he would like to admit. It could not be helped. Even without any grandiose ideological commitment to the fundamental equality of mankind, there would simply have not been the space to pack cushions on the convoys that had brought their equipment here. It had been done subtly, gradually, smuggling seemingly mundane items like these mass-produced chairs a few at a time at the back of someone else’s Standard Crate. With the military watchful for American saboteurs everywhere and Monterroso becoming increasingly paranoid about public meetings, the Societists had thought it best to avoid unnecessary risks.

Hence this venue, and hence the patient work that had gone into preparing it. This ramshackle structure had been a factory once, two decades ago, owned by another industrialist like Jaimes who had flirted with Societism in his youth, then pretended to – hah – society that he had moved beyond that rage. It had been abandoned when new canals were dug and new roads were laid, and suddenly it became more economically feasible to shift production to a different part of the province. ‘The wind changed’, as the callous Carltonist economists put it, and what Person of Quality cared if the men, women and children of the towns and villages that had grown up around the former boom were now left to starve?

Jaimes shook his head. The UPSA had been founded on the principle of equality, thousands upon thousands of Criollo voices calling out against the injustice that just because a man had been born in the Iberian Peninsula, it somehow gave him a right to rule that even overruled any sort of Racist or aristocratic-bloodline justification. It was, Jaimes believed, the very blatant absurdity of that geographic claim to superiority which had energised the first revolution, when the idea of accepting the equality of black men or red men or poor men had taken so long and been so contentious.

Or, for that matter, wo-men, he thought wryly, glancing to one side of the room, cast into shadows by the dancing flames of the gaslights: that other industrialist had claimed he had cleared out the factory and was using it as a tennis court, and had even played a few games there by gaslight to assuage the suspicions of any of the few remaining locals. Sometimes eccentricity was the best cover. But despite those shadows, he could nonetheless make out that perhaps one-quarter of the rickety seats were occupied by females of the species, themselves scorning any attempt by the men to provide additional comfort for them as the rules of society (again, hah!) demanded. Some of them would not stand out on a street by their dress, though it was from all classes, but others sported the divided skirts of Cythereans. Jaimes hoped to God that they had at least concealed them with more conventional dresses when they arrived, or all that secrecy might go up in smoke. Twenty Cythereans out here in the sticks, some of them smoking cigarettes (the last of the Carolinian tobacco, doubtless) would be talked about for a year, even in the middle of a global war.

Then Jaimes shook his head once again. No. I am being unfair. He was an old man, and the idea of women in politics was still new to him. Part of the great epiphany of Sanchezism was accepting the knowledge of one’s own prejudices, and not having unrealistic ideas that one could entirely eliminate them: but by being aware of one’s unconscious biases, one could avoid them harming others. Perhaps they could truly be eliminated in a future generation, a perfected generation raised in the absence of any of the corrosive influences of nationhood. Jaimes personally doubted it; he suspected humanity would require permanent vigilance to maintain the utopia once it arrived.

Raúl Caraíbas took the stage, if that was the right word for a bunch of packing cases pushed together. Behind him hung two great posters depicting an idealised cameo of Pablo Sanchez, each assembled from sheets that had been sent here separately. The authorities still seemed to regard the Societists as a bit of harmless background noise amid the deteriorating conflict between the old corporate establishment and Monterroso’s Mentians, but there was no such thing as being too careful. Quedling had long proved that the only thing that might cause two warring sides to unite against it was one man crying ‘peace!’

Besides the posters, flapping occasionally in the warm draft from the hissing gaslights, were several Societist flags. They had once been plain black banners—and, Jaimes knew, Señor Sanchez had objected even to that—but now bore a symbol that had recently caught on among the Chapters. It combined the Eye of Providence, a near-universal symbol found in many cultures, with the trick some disciple of Sanchez had once coined at a meeting in a pub, the three matchsticks all supporting the pea above the rim of the glass, unity through society. No-one agreed on whom had been responsible for it, even those like Caraíbas who had been there almost since the start. But everyone agreed it was a good symbol. It was white on these flags, but would look better if it was yellow on black, Jaimes thought. Maybe with the middle of the triangle coloured red…[7]

Twin electride lamps burned to life; their actinic white beams turned Caraíbas into a glowing figure, throwing sharp-edged shadows left and right where they partially obscured the icons of Sanchez even as the lamps better lit them. Sanchez had a strong chin and was looking up and to the right, his eyes fixed on the distance as though on the future he had glimpsed. Jaimes had never met Sanchez in the flesh, but he had seen enough asimcons to know that the man would have been more likely to have his eyes turned down to the floor, distractedly searching for the notes he had just misplaced. But it was hard for an artist to depict inner vision, of course.

“Ladies and gentlemen who have seen the light,” Caraíbas began. His voice echoed through the old factory, its acoustics complicated by the rusting old machines that had been hastily shoved to the side by the industrialist’s workers.

Caraíbas had not retained the full strength of the powerful orator’s voice had had as a young man, but he still immediately drew the attention of every man and woman in the factory. “We stand here on the precipice of destiny. When each and every one of us realised that Señor Sanchez had seen the only future that would save the human race, when we decided with resolve that we would be part of that future…” Caraíbas’ eyes swept the irregular ranks of chairs. His gaze was no less penetrating for the wrinkles that the electride lamps cast into sharp relief about those eyes. “I ask you in honesty. How many of us thought we would ever be in this position? How many of us might genuinely hope we would live to see the day when the Dream came true, but secretly suspected with the worldly eyes of cynicism that in our lives we would be called upon to do nothing but distribute pamphlets, make lectures, pay our contributions, fight the good fight…”

Caraíbas waved a hand dismissively. “All of those were worthy things, do not mistake me. But many of us, and I admit that sometimes I was among them, felt our only role was to prepare a future generation for the coming struggle. A future generation that would finally face a situation where we could bring down the nations and lead the human race into that glorious future.” He shook his head. “We did not realise that it is not our task merely to wait for that situation.” He slapped a fist into his other hand. “It is our job to CREATE it!” He scanned the audience again, his eyes this time showing promise and anticipation rather than accusation. “We must create the right circumstances for the first green shoots of the Final Society to emerge. And events, whether through Providence or random chance, have helped us.”

A man, whom Jaimes recognised as MaKe López, the Gwayese-Californian professor at the University of Lima in Peru, took the stage alongside Caraíbas. López was holding a complex arrangement of metal wires. In the centre of the wire frame was a large paper sphere, folded by some cunning art of the Yapontsi, which had been erratically but recognisably daubed with outlines suggesting the continents of the world.

But Caraíbas was speaking again: “For long years now, I have been faced with the question from the nationalistically blinded—Señor Sanchez said war would never end, but behold! We have had peace for a decade, two decades, three! Surely it must continue forever, as the cartels would never allow otherwise!” His voice dripped with sarcasm. “Even if they had been right, the ‘peace’ that the world knew was a peace that allowed the folk who once worked at this factory to starve for the sake of profit motive. It was a peace that enslaved the less fortunate regions and classes of the world to enrich a few who enjoyed an accident of birth.”

Caraíbas shook his head. “The Meridian Revolution, the French Revolution, they tried to strike down the idea of hereditary succession, of entrenched aristocracy. And what has happened? The descendants of those revolutions recreate the very system they fought against! But now it is their children undeservedly benefiting from their inheritance, so that is now all right!” He spat, prompting shocked murmurs from some of the older men and the Cytherean women. “We see the limitations of those revolutions, of any revolution that sets its blinkered eyes on only the fate of one so-called nation. So long as nations, and the men who would build nations, exist in the world, mankind shall never know equity.”

He nodded to López and his globe. “And, as we have now sadly seen proved, mankind shall also never know a lasting peace.” Caraíbas reached into his pocket and withdrew a matchbox, striking a phosphorus match. Its flickering yellow flame looked tiny and lost amid the brilliant glow of the electride lamps illuminating López’s globe, to say nothing of the softer but more omnipresent amber flames of the gaslights. “For the sake of one man being shot in a region few men could point to on a map…” Caraíbas theatrically stabbed at the flapping globe a few times, amid titters from the otherwise spellbound audience, before finding the Siamese-Chinese borders. He held up the match again, which had already burned halfway down. “One man.” He dropped the little flame onto the globe.

The globe flashed to flame with a high-pitched whumph noise. López, with the inscrutability of his race (Jaimes immediately felt guilty of that thought) didn’t even flinch. When Jaimes had blinked the afterimage from his eyes, there was nothing left beyond a wisp of smoke, a few scraps of burning paper, and the wire. Xylofortex, he realised, a great fluffy ball of xylofortex inside the paper of the globe to bulk it out. One little flame and it would vanish in a clean ignition.

A murmur ran through the audience. Caraíbas turned back to them, his eyes thoughtful. “But you know and I know that it was not really about that one man. If he had survived, a month, a year, five years later they would have found another excuse. The forces in the world that are at work in the heart of every man, yes, and every woman—the forces that seek to tear down everything we build, to destroy all our achievements, to make them as though they had never existed.” He paused. “I have come here tonight to tell you of the hope, the good news that we may at last have a real weapon against them.” He glanced into the shadows beneath the electride beams. “But first, there is someone here who wishes to speak more of the struggle we face.”

The electride lamps were moved by assistants as a new figure took the stage. He, presuming it was a he, was tall, but any other characteristics were concealed by the thick hooded robe he wore. The lights were put at his back, ensuring that his face could not be seen even by a chance gleam of light within his cowl. If anything, the audience’s attention on this mysterious newcomer was even more rapt than it had been on Caraíbas.

“In the beginning,” the man intoned, his voice rich and measured, an experienced speaker. “In the beginning the human race was created, then fell from perfection to a corrupted state. Despite being cut off from God, humans were still the children of God, created in God’s own image. So just as God is a Creator, so too are all humans. But we are all, like sheep, gone astray, and our corrupt nature tries to strike down what we create.

“We persist nonetheless. In the early times, the Antediluvian folk were what the archaeologists call hunter-gatherers. They had no clothes but Adam and Eve’s animal skins; they had not the plough or the tiller. They fed on what they could find, what they could dig up, what they could hunt. It was a cruel and brutal life. As soon as a man hurt himself, a simple injury we would think nothing of today—a twisted ankle, perhaps—he might as well be dead. Only the fittest survived, yet even they had nothing to look forward to save a few miserable years of hunting, a woman taken by force against her will, children who would barely remember their father’s name, if they did not stove his head in themselves.

“It was a horrible existence, the one that the Lord had warned Adam and Eve of in the Garden of Eden if they disobeyed him. But there were always some who did their best to try to work their way back to God. There was a man: perhaps he was Noah, perhaps another whose name we do not know. He had the idea that men should not just be individuals, hurling themselves senselessly against the cruelty of the Fallen World, ready to stab one another in the back with their blades of crude flint as soon as they saw the opportunity. They should work together. First as families, then as tribes. A tribe could do more together than its members could alone. The best hunters could bring down more as a group than as loners, while the slower men guarded their women and children—and elders, those who had knowledge and experience, who could pass it down to the next generation, so each generation did not have to start over again at square one. Every generation built on the achievements of the last. Those who stubbornly remained as individuals were driven away, defeated by the superiority of the tribe. The tribe was the First Society. But of course it was still limited by what a man or a woman could remember, and it was still dependent on what they could hunt, what they could gather. It was still an existence on the edge.

“Then another man, perhaps Nimrod of the Bible, had another idea. If men learned to till and sow the soil, to harvest its bounty, not merely happen across plants they could eat—if women learned to grind grain to flour to make bread—if people learned to keep animals in captivity, safe from predators, as they grew to maturity—then they could feed themselves, and not be subject to the whims of nature. But they must stick close to their fields and their pastures, no longer roam about. So build houses, and a wall to protect them against other tribes. Build a place where not every man had to be a hunter or a warrior. Protected and fed by the rest, others could become scholars and priests and merchants. With time to think of things beyond the next meal, they invented writing, and suddenly knowledge could exist outside of a human mind. All the wisdom of past generations could be passed on without the limits of human memory. They found they sometimes had a surplus of food when their neighbours lacked it, but had other things they might want. They invented mathematics and banking to allow these trades. They had created something new. They had invented the city. And the superior city dwellers defeated those who stubbornly remained as tribes. The tribe was the Second Society. But a city could still starve, a city could still be burned out by plague, and none would come to help it.

“Then came another, perhaps the Sargon of whom the archaeologists speak. He realised that several cities could be joined together, by agreement or by conquest, and then could be kept together by a common tongue, a common law, a common faith and shared values. If one city caught fire or succumbed to plague, its neighbours could send help. If enemies attacked one city, the others would send their soldiers to protect it, in the knowledge that they would have done the same for them. He was the first king, the first emperor, and he brought the Third Society: he had invented the nation.”

The cloaked figure sent his invisible gaze about the room. Tension mounted high in the air. He took a book from the sleeve of his robe and opened it. “A later king, Hammurabi, wrote in his code of laws what a nation should be, what a king should do: to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, so that the strong should not harm the weak. To destroy the wicked and the evil-doer, but to bring about the wellbeing of the oppressed.”[8]

The cloaked man shut the book with a snap like a pistol-shot. “That was over three thousand years ago, yet the words are still true today. It is what all nations, all kings strive to do. Yet each and every one of them has failed, because so long as there are many nations, many codes of law, they will all conflict with one another and lead to the same misery and bloodshed that they try to prevent within their own borders. True order, true peace, true security can never exist so long as there are borders. And, just as there were those deviant atavists who rejected the tribe, and tried to live on as inferior individuals; and there were those who rejected the city, and tried to live on as an inferior tribe; and those who rejected the nation, and tried to live on as an inferior city—now, ladies and gentlemen, we live in a time when the Third Society, the Society of the Nation, is finally passing, to be replaced by a superior system at long last, a Fourth and Final Society. The Society of the Earth.

“Thus endeth the lesson.”

Though the tears burned on Jaimes’ cheeks, he almost laughed at that. Certainly the man had sounded like a priest, but a very good one. Except, one moment, they were moving the electride lamps again, he blinked the tears away and forced his vision to focus, now the man was dropping his dark robes to reveal white ones beneath…

Jaimes sucked in a breath, and he was not alone. Stood there on the stage was Antonio Ramírez, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. (Not the Roman archbishop appointed by Pius IX, of course, but the proper archbishop, the Jansenist one). If a man like he had joined their cause…

“I thank the Most Reverend Señor Ramírez for his wonderful expounding of the human story, now the next chapter is beginning,” said Caraíbas, slightly mangling the proper form of address, but no-one seemed to care. “And now, you are impatiently asking yourselves ‘but what is the change we were promised? Why do we now have hope that there will be an opportunity to see the Final Society in our lifetimes?’”

Caraíbas raised a hand theatrically. “Señor Sanchez taught us that it will be that same flawed nature of nations that shall be their downfall. Even as they exhaust each other in their pointless fights, we are waiting to seize the day for peace.” That sounded more like Caraíbas’ own ‘Doctrine of the Last Throw’ than anything Pablo Sanchez had written, Jaimes thought, but then Caraíbas had always been a bit vague on keeping his own thoughts separate from Sanchez’s. “The world is now engulfed by the biggest and bloodiest war it has ever seen, yet out of this darkness we can bring light—if we do not shirk the narrow and perilous path we must leave. We must seize the day, with the right tool. And fate, or providence, has placed that tool in the hands of one of our own brothers.” He closed all but his index finger on his outstretched hand. “And Señor Jaimes will now tell us all about it.”

Bartolomé Jaimes shivered, rose from his seat, and began painstakingly picking his way through the rickety seats to the stage. He felt the eyes on him, and they felt like not merely the eyes of this audience, or even of the whole of the UPSA, but of the whole world. Past and future. All the men and women who had ever lived, stuck in that cycle of the inferior Societies.

Today history would be made, and hopefully, one day before too long history itself would come to an end.

He cleared his throat.

*

South of Vinh, Annam, Siamese Empire (Feng Chinese occupied)
October 31st, 1897


For what felt like the tenth time that day, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Grey restlessly wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. Sweat streaked the green and brown paint on his face and he made a mental note to re-apply it. Again. He remembered, not that long ago, when some officers, both Chinese and occidental, had sneered at that practice, called it savage and ungentlemanly. Several shallow graves later, Charles had a lieutenant-colonel’s five blue buttons, each beautifully engraved with the figure of a bear, on his shoulder—where they had been unofficially moved from his sleeve once enemy snipers had started targeting them.[9] Not wishing to join those fools, he painted his face and wore a hat to which freshly sprouting twigs had been attached. Strips of green and brown cloth had been attached to his muddied uniform. His men did the same.

Despite all of that, they were still rank amateurs compared to the enemy. Oh, not the Siamese—they were a bit better at it, perhaps, but still hapless before the real foe. Back up north of Hanoi, Charles had thought he understood the war. They had been fighting in Tonkin lands which had been Chinese in between the earlier wars of this century, and where some of the Viet locals had preferred Chinese rule to Siamese. That had seemed complicated enough, with a man never sure if the lovely Viet girl bringing him tea or offering her bed was going to poison him out of loyalty to the Siamese Emperor, though at least the same reportedly happened to his opposite numbers on the Siamese side. But it hadn’t been like this.

In this part of Annam, the locals had never fully submitted to Siamese rule. And they weren’t even one unified group. Back when Daiviet had been independent, the Viets had tried to conquer and assimilate other peoples in this region, in the mountains and the forests: the Cham were the only one whose name Charles knew, but he was aware there were others. It had gone on for hundreds of years and got more and more complex, like the wars of the English in Ireland that Charles’ father had told him of in between drinks. Settle, invade, conquer, assimilate, then the last lot of settlers went half native, so push them out as well, then a religious difference entered in, then Scotland sent its own settlers as well who were from a third creed, then a rebellion and a divided crown to add yet more factions…he was glad Ireland now seemed to be at peace from what he had heard. Somewhere should be in this madhouse of a world.

Now, the Chams were fighting the Viets, the Viets were fighting them and the other ethnic groups whom Charles didn’t know the names of, both were fighting the Feng Chinese ‘invaders’ and the Siamese ‘occupiers’, and any clashes between the Feng and the Siamese seemed a bit of background noise in this charnel house. Neither the Feng nor the Siamese really understood this kind of jungle warfare (though the Siamese seemed to know a bit more) and both were suffering at the hands of killers in the night who would vanish into the trees wiping their knives. How did you fight that? Some of the Siamese officers (and, Charles, suspected, a few on his own side) seemed to think the answer was massive retaliations, burning native villages for the sake of one attack that might or might not have come from there. Which, of course, had only made matters worse. No, not Ireland – this was like they said Bavaria had been during the Popular Wars, when the Saxons and the Danubians had tried to thrust their swords out at each other and ended up having their hands bitten off at the wrist by the insanity of the Kleinkriegers.[10]

He sighed, checked the mechanism on his rifle again, and resisted the urge to take out a cigarette he didn’t have. Some men had turned to laudanum instead, but there were enough cautionary tales of that walking about for any number of scary Feng government information campaigns. Many men who had been brutally wounded had been given laudanum by the surgeons and had become addicted. Some said that the surgeons could sometimes cure the wounds of the body, but were helpless before those of the soul. Charles had seen men come out of some of those burning villages with eyes wide and haunted, then deteriorate over weeks and months eating opium to try to take their memories away. But ironically the drug kept their eyes just as wide as they had been in that moment. They would shamble about, half-men, away with the fairies. Jungle dreamers, some of the Chinese officers called them. Zambees, preferred Captain Boyton, who had fought rebels in Old Virginia’s Hispaniola province.

Whatever they were, Charles didn’t want to end up like them. So he kept his wits sharp, his eyes fixed on the thrice-damned mystery of the enclosing jungle, and tried not to think of when—or if—he would ever see Amy again.

“Cheer up, Chazza,” said Major Wei, his second-in-command. “All be over by Christmas, you know what they say.” He grinned in a moment of black humour, showing a couple of missing teeth.

Charles returned the grin. Though Wei was entirely of Han Chinese blood so far as anyone knew, his father had sent him to be educated at Oxford in Great Britain—a risky proposition, as not everyone liked the radical direction the university had been sent in after the Inglorious Revolution. Whatever else he might have learned there, he had certainly picked up the slang. “Certainly, but which Christmas?” They both laughed bitterly at the old, weak joke.

A young ensign ran up and saluted smartly, handing Charles a distinctive blue envelope. He opened it, knowing what would be inside: a scribbled transcript of a Lectel message from headquarters, now hastily moved from Hanoi to Vinh following its capture a week before. PROCEED TO OBJECTIVE ZHUQUE-12 AND SECURE; ARTILLERY SUPPORT AT 13:15.

Charles showed it to Wei and, after they memorised the numbers, he crumpled the message up and tore it to shreds. “Thank you, ensign.” The fresh-faced young Han lad saluted again and left. Charles met Wei’s eyes. “We’ve got to get a better code system.”

Wei nodded ruefully. “Zhuque, the Vermilion Bird of the South. Not terribly subtle.”

“Especially as the Viets have their own version of that, don’t they?” Charles asked.

“Indeed. At least they don’t know the grid system.” Wei shook his head. “And that twenty-four hour clock system they’ve started using confuses me, never mind the enemy.”

“They’ve started using it in the Novamundine war, or so I hear,” Charles said. “Our children might grow up thinking it’s normal. There’s a legacy of war for you…”

Wei shook his head. “Can’t afford to think about that. Come on, let’s tell the men.” Charles nodded.

Grid square 12 turned out to be a daunting-looking hill whose approach was—of course—largely concealed by jungle, despite a valley cutting its way through it. That was no protection from snipers, though. Charles looked at the map, two questions on his mind: one, would they be able to reach the hill before they were all killed by the Viet and Cham Kleinkriegers,[11] and two, if they did, would all the Siamese have been killed by them before the Chinese force arrived. It had been a while since had felt as though he could afford to waste any worry on the outcome of any actual clash with the Siamese themselves.

In the end, though, the Kleinkriegers did not make their presence known, miracle of miracles. Charles’ battalion approached the fortified hill through the jungle, picking their way through the trees and carefully avoiding the occasional concealed torpedo. Wei tapped his shoulder and pointed at something gleaming dully in the sunlight. “Spiked-wire,” he whispered. “That French stuff.” He sounded angry.

Charles agreed. “Damn the froggies, all that sanctimonious guff about how awful the war is, but it doesn’t stop them selling arms to both sides. You know what a fellow in the mess called ’em the other day – the French Vultures.”[12]

Wei nodded. “Too right. Let’s hope they pay for it one day.”

“Let’s hope we live to see it,” Charles retorted.

The artillery fire actually began on cue for once. A combination of waves of shells and occasional banging rockets rained down on the hill, the slight unpredictability of the rockets helping fill gaps in the predictable pattern of the falling shells. Trees did not so much fall as vanish, blooming into expanding clouds of shredded leaves and flaming fragments of bark. Not for the first time, Charles shook his head, both awed and terrified at what modern warfare had wrought.

It seemed impossible that anyone could possibly have lived through that small-scale apocalypse of destruction, but Charles had too much rueful experience on that score as well. As his own men charged the trenches the Siamese had dug in the moist soil, cingular-gun fire rattled away and brought down soldier after soldier, most of them young Han Chinese boys. Charles’ heart was squeezed in his chest by the loss of every man, but in this kind of war one could not stop to consider individual lives—well not now, at least—or one would never start again. And perhaps the quedlings and that obscure group in South America were right, and they should do just that.

Charles pushed the thought aside as he leapt into an enemy trench. Ahead of him, the burly Haccahan, Fung Kongkap (as he called himself; the Han preferred to pronounce his name as ‘Feng Guangjia’) was going into action with his signature weapon. A jet of compressed illuftium sprayed naphtha at the foe even as a pilot light ignited it. The Siamese soldiers shrieked in terror as flame raced over them, but mercifully it spread to the small magazine behind them and the screams were cut short. Fung was knocked back by the blast, but rose to his feet, his face blackened but split by a grin. Charles shook his head; that one was going to be trouble if he survived the war, he predicted. All he said was “Good shooting with your zhulong, Corporal Fung!” Torch-dragon had been an obvious nickname for the new flame weapon.

Not every trench was so easily cleared out as that one. Grenades were flung by both sides, and at one point a determined counter-attack by a Siamese reserve almost threw Charles’ dwindling men off the hill. But they rallied behind Charles and Major Wei, who had both learned that the only way to lead in this war was from the front, and damn the consequences. It was monstrous to send men into this hell if one was not willing to share it with them. “They’re cut off!” Wei shouted. “Flank them!”

The enemy, realising all was lost, made a game attempt to break out from their command trench. Charles himself took over one of the enemy cingular guns, spun it around and sprayed the fleeing Siamese with bullets. Any honourable notion of taking officers’ surrenders was long dead, and it had been looking a bit peaky ever since John Alexander had had General Boulanger shot down almost a hundred years ago.

The last Siamese were gone, dead or fled. A ragged cheer came from the throats of his men. His surviving men. No. Think about that later. The soldiers of the battalion began to chant that song they all loved, the one from an opera of a few years ago, the one sang by Lady Sun Shangxiang and her army of amazon bodyguards to impress Liu Bei. “Certainly a catchy tune,” Charles said to Major Wei, aware that his words were inane as the adrenaline drained from his system and left him feeling hollow inside. “But I always wonder, have our boys ever read the end of the story?”

Wei nodded. “You mean how she drowned herself in the Yangtze when she heard Liu Bei had been killed at the Battle of Xiaoting? Yes, it does rather undermine all those boastful words.” He laughed and shuddered slightly, clearly coming down from that adrenaline height himself. His hand shook on his pistol holster. “But maybe that’s the secret to a happy ending, Chazza—stop reading the book before you get to the part you don’t like!”

Charles laughed. “I think you may be on to something th—”

Charles just had enough time to wonder how a red circle had suddenly appeared in the middle of Wei’s forehead, neatly matching the four red buttons with panthers on he wore on each shoulder.

Then a very small but very strong man punched him in the shoulder blade, it felt like.

Then, for a long time, he felt no more.












[1] This is slightly misleadingly phrased—‘Siam’ as an entity only formed in response to the defeat of the looser ‘Threefold Harmonious Accord’ in the First Sino-Siamese War.

[2] OTL the Thai Kings are often known in Western historiography by personal names rather than their numbered regnal titles, which are actually desirable Buddhist qualities rather than names as such – ‘Sanphet’ means ‘omniscient’. In TTL, partly due to a deliberate policy by the Siamese to present a sense of continuity and stability to their European rivals, one could be forgiven for thinking the Siamese king-emperor is a single person who just periodically adds more numbers to his name, much like France’s endless chain of Louises.

[3] The author is being a bit anachronistic with their choice of language; adrenaline would not be discovered for another decade in TTL. (Note that it has the same name as OTL, as the adrenal glands had already been named over a century earlier).

[4] Another slight anachronism – abbreviating animalcules (i.e. bacteria and similar) to ’cules would not enter common use for a few more years. Contrapyrex on the other hand is period appropriate, being a painkiller discovered in TTL a few years before OTL (where it was discovered in 1887 as the first ever fully synthetic drug, originally called antipyrine but today better known as phenazone).

[5] The auction house which became Sotheby’s in OTL was founded in both OTL and TTL in 1744 as Baker and Leigh, with John Sotheby being Samuel Baker’s nephew. It has survived in TTL but has taken a somewhat different path through the family ownership, hence the different name.

[6] The Hederan Fraternity is the term used in TTL for what we would call the Ivy League, and means the same thing, just using the Latin word for ivy. Although the term Ivy League only dates from the twentieth century, the old colleges of the North-eastern American colonies were associated with the ivy growing on their walls from at least the start of the nineteenth.

[7] This is probably the author of this segment being a little too cute, as the Societist flag did indeed eventually take the form that Jaimes is here depicted as concocting as part of an idle train of thought.

[8] A paraphrase of the opening paragraph of the Code of Hammurabi combined with part of a later one. Note that in OTL the stele containing the Code was only discovered in 1901, but in TTL there has been considerable earlier interest in Babylonian archaeology at the expense of Egypt, and it was discovered in 1883.

[9] The Feng military rank insignia system is a peculiar mixture of traditional Chinese practice and western imports, in particular from France. Under the Qing dynasty a mandarin showed his seniority by a colour-coded button on his hat, and under both Ming and Qing, mandarins, scholars and soldiers wore a large embroidered patch of a different animal to show their seniority. The constraints of modern warfare have turned this into a button engraved with the appropriate animal as a military rank insignia, but as the animal is not visible from a distance, the Feng army has begun using multiple buttons after the European practice of using multiple stripes and stars to show rank.

[10] Either Grey or the author has committed an anachronism—Hapsburg Austria would, of course, not become Danubia until years after the Popular Wars.

[11] They might not actually be Cham in this region, but as noted above, Grey is basically using them as a shorthand for all non-Vietnamese ethnic groups in Vietnam.

[12] Another bit of authorial cuteness, as France would indeed be popularly dubbed ‘the French Vulture’ after the war for, but it is very unlikely the name had already been coined at this point.
 
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So, Societists about to rise in the UPSA- still rhetorically sounding quite pleasant there, I suspect that the actions of taking power will see some shifts between words and deed.

And the Chinese are 'winning' in Vietnam, but it looks more like Annam will just slip loose of everyone much as Bavaria did.

And it looks like it's about to get very interesting in Superior.
 
I assume the archbishop's speech was the secene you've been wanting to write since you started this? Very good it was to.

Somewhat surprised that the socieists are talking so much about the poor working classes and the evils of elites, I'd got a different impression of them before that.
 
I assume the archbishop's speech was the secene you've been wanting to write since you started this? Very good it was to.

Somewhat surprised that the socieists are talking so much about the poor working classes and the evils of elites, I'd got a different impression of them before that.
They can be basically compared to OTL MLM demagogues who sell the supposed benefits of networking to them, I suppose.
 
"What is it that it is?" Really? In the five years I lived in OTL Montreal, I never heard any Francophones translate "Qu'est-ce que c'est?" into English that literally. Although maybe TTL Mount-Royal had less examples of good English around them than OTL Quebec (since everyone was forced to learn English much earlier before English-language media was widespread). Although maybe the in-TL author is writing a really bad stereotype of Cubwickwa rather than accuratr Cubwickwa because the dialect has mostly disappeared by TTL's 1984....??
 
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