Tales From Another World: Three Amigos Vignettes and Details

I know I've probably asked before, but would it be too late to delay Walt Disney's death by a few years?
I don't object to that idea, though I think in this world he'd be avoiding some of his truly nuts ideas of the late life, namely the original plan for EPCOT being a prototype of a city of the future. Even his closest advisors in that situation thought he was completely out of his mind.
I don't object to that idea, though I think in this world he'd be avoiding some of his truly nuts ideas of the late life, namely the original plan for EPCOT being a prototype of a city of the future. Even his closest advisors in that situation thought he was completely out of his mind.
Indeed. I imagined his animated film output could be changed with him sticking around. For example, he planned a Beauty & The Beast film at various points, and @HeX's since cancelled Laughin' Place TL has him do just that.

I also imagined the idea that either him or a TTL son could adapt The Chronicles of Pyrdain in a live-action collab with Jim Henson Workshops. Replacing OTL's The Black Cauldron as a result.
I don't object to that idea, though I think in this world he'd be avoiding some of his truly nuts ideas of the late life, namely the original plan for EPCOT being a prototype of a city of the future. Even his closest advisors in that situation thought he was completely out of his mind.
If we're able to go back further in the TL, I could imagine an alternate take where Walt loses the rights to his Alice Comedies, and the hurt over that convinces him to include keeping the rights to Oswald The Lucky Rabbit as a condition of his later contracts.

Both ideas are ones I had detailed long ago in my test thread if you're interested in seeing those.
I also imagined the idea that either him or a TTL son could adapt The Chronicles of Pyrdain in a live-action collab with Jim Henson Workshops. Replacing OTL's The Black Cauldron as a result.
More accurately, @Geekhis Khan raised the idea when I was discussing some other ideas with him and @TheFaultsofAlts. He also suggested that if the above case of Walt keeping Oswald was to be followed, perhaps Warner Bros. would go for a mascot other than Bugs Bunny (personally I think Beans The Cat would be a good choice for an alternate WB mascot).
Reagan's Greatest Legacy
Tulare Lake, near Stratford, San Joaquin Valley, California
February 6, 2001
10:10 AM

To think, this once upon a time was entirely gone,
Ronald Reagan said to himself as he looked out over a place that had become later in his life one of his favorite accomplishments. The former California governor - and two-term President of the United States - only had to look out the window of the nice hotel that sat on the shores of Tulare Lake to see what a true success of combining technology with environmentalism could look like, in the form of a massive lake that was teeming with life, that being easily visible from his vantage point in the hotel room's balcony. The sight of it, and remembering what it had been when Reagan had stood near this very spot thirty-one years previously and proudly stated "To the World of California and the People who live in it, we give you your lake back!" He hadn't been sure it was the best decision then, but looking at it now....it was the best decision I could have made.

Tulare Lake, now one of the largest lakes in the United States west of the Mississippi, was a result of the truly-Herculean efforts of California's environmental authorities, water engineers, farmers and landowners, governments and private businesses to change the rules of water in the West. First begun to be refilled in 1970 as a result of the California Water Engineering Project, Tulare Lake was meant for two purposes, the first being to act as a percolator to refill the aquifers of the Central Valley, which had been draining - and with it, causing serious problems with the ground subsiding - for decades, as well as dramatically improving the environment of the heavily-agricultural Central Valleys. A result of the state's multiple nuclear power plants and their adjacent water desalination projects as well as the California Aqueduct, its federally-built counterparts and the Sierra Nevada Water Carrier along the edge of the Sierras, the result of the project had by 1970 been an excess of fresh water that had been allowed to drain back into Tulare Lake, and with it the waterways that connected it to the rivers of the San Joaquin Valley and eventually San Francisco Bay, which had been heavily dredged in the 1980s and 1990s to create the vast chains of parklands that lined the South Bay between San Bruno and Milpitas. The state's expense on the nuclear plants and the water projects in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s had been a source of considerable debate then, but history had vindicated those who pushed for the projects - and made them be the people everyone talked to for what to do in the future. California had more nuclear facilities than just about anywhere else in the world, but these facilities were today considered the state's lifelines, and for good reason. Population growth had been matched in the growth of the facilities, and by the 1990s Tulare Lake had grown back to its pre-Western civilization size, even as the rivers and the Fresno Slough had been made navigable for boats to reach all the way to Tulare Lake from the ocean. The new lake had been almost immediately claimed by the region's abundant wildlife, and today vast clouds of birds from further north loved to winter at the Lake, similar to the Salton Sea three hundred miles to the Southeast - a once-saline sea that, thanks to another water project, namely the recovery of vast quantities of wastewater from the Los Angeles Basin, had seen its salinity drop to a degree barely higher than many freshwater lakes, even as today its waters flowed into the Laguna Salada - another reservoir - before reaching the Gulf of California, the latter acting as a water source for Arizona and northwestern Mexico, even though Mexico had long since followed the American example and built nuclear power plants and desalination facilities of their own in Sonora.

It was hard not to be impressed. The region's daily highs rarely dropped below the mid-sixties, rising to the mid-nineties in the summer - temperatures that made sure that, just like just about everywhere in California, meant that the beaches and recreation facilities of the region were very, very busy pretty much year round. February was a slow month in the region, but that suited the former President, who despite being now ninety years old and with his health starting to fail him, still could proudly recognize an accomplishment when he saw one - and his state was full of them. He had come to Tulare from his home in Orange County on the California High Speed Rail system - another accomplishment of his time as Governor, which today was as important as any other piece of infrastructure in the state - and was able to see what had become of the city of Bakersfield and the many communities that dotted the San Joaquin Valley, and more successes. Orchards and farm fields butted right up against the urban limits of cities, saving vast quantities of some of the best farmland in the United States, and such forward thinking had allowed for population growth in the towns and cities while also allowing the additional water supplies to add to the prosperity of one of the world's truly great agricultural regions. People loved it here, and the massive numbers of hotels and resorts showed it, but so did the bustling downtowns of the towns and cities, vibrant residential districts, industrial regions and farm fields and orchards. The homes of the landowners were a sign of their prosperity, as were the roads, lined as most were with towering oak trees and dotted with impressive roadside works, bridges and signage. Reagan was old enough to remember living in California before the building of the nuclear plants and desalination facilities, and to see it become this was warming to his heart.

This is what success looks like, the former President told himself as he saw another of the vast collections of birds drop down into the lake, obviously looking for fish in the lake - there was lots, the President knew - and him being able to see the resort's artificial beach begin to fill up with visitors, as it was a very good day for it - the temperature was already nearly seventy degrees and was expected to rise to a high of seventy-six, comfortable temperatures for those diving into the waters of the Lake. Boats were visible in the distance, all smaller boats capable of enjoying boating on the lake - commercial fishing was banned, and the lake was on the shallow side for commercial vessels, but it was ideal for pleasure boating - being enjoyed by people who liked driving them there. As the President watched, a collection of young people made their way down the docks for the lake and hop on a collection of Jetskis waiting there, the sounds of the machines roaring into life mixing with the laughs and happy shouts of the collection of the young people.
"Like what you see, Darling?" It was, of course, the voice of the President's wife Nancy.
"Oh yes." He turned to smile to her. "I just have to think about what was once here."
"Farm fields and scorching heat." Nancy said with a smile. "This is better."
"You know, of all the things I was able to do here...." He paused. "I think I like this the best."
"Really?" Nancy was surprised by that. "Of all the things you were able to do in your life?"
Reagan smiled kindly. "What was once here is now replaced by the sort of paradise people deserve to have." He looked back out over the balcony. "And it will be here for a long time to come, creating memories for many more people than it already has."
Nancy couldn't argue that and didn't try. "I never expected you to be an environmentalist later in life, my dear." That drew a laugh from the former President.
"Maybe so." A pause. "But when my time comes, I will be able to point down to here and say 'I made that happen.' I suspect that'll be something that judgement approves of."

Reagan turned back to look down towards the beach and the docks, noticing one of the young men look back towards the building and the balcony. Both men saw each other, the young lion - who Reagan didn't know was a student at USC and a Navy reservist who knew quite well who the former President was - and the elderly former President. The young man looked up to see Reagan nod towards him. The young man immediately stood to attention and saluted in the direction of the balcony, which Reagan returned with a chuckle. The man quickly jumped onto his jetski as the former President watched, and he kept watching as the small watercraft powered off towards his friends on the lake. The scene drew a wide smile from him.

Enjoy, young man, and always remember who made this happen for you, to inspire you to great efforts of your own.
What Atlanta Means To The World
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Hapeville, Georgia
April 22, 2015
6:35 AM

The border guard couldn't help but smile at the young man in front of him, dressed as he was in his brightly-colored clothing. It was a very notable contrast to the black, all-business uniform of the United States Customs and Border Patrol officer and the shiny, polished interior of the massive International Passenger Terminal at Atlanta's international airport. But it wasn't the first time the officer had seen such a man - they had become increasingly common in modern Atlanta. The officer waved the man forward, who had a small carry-on bag and two large suitcases with him, noting that the man seemed intimidated but not scared. He wasn't sweating, but his eyes were moving around. This told the officer plenty about the traveler, and he decided to take the kind but strong approach.

For his part, William Sekunwe was indeed very nervous, but not for seeing the officer. It was his first time in America, and Atlanta, for all it offered the tourist, student, traveler and businessman alike, was not the easiest place for a newcomer to not be overwhelmed. Atlanta's airport was one of the world's largest, so much so that people who worked there regularly got lost in it. It wasn't hard from Hartsfield to see the towers of downtown Atlanta some ten miles to the north on a clear day, and it was such a clear April morning, and even at six-thirty in the morning the sun was up more than enough to see the collection of office and apartment towers that defined Atlanta's hill-top city center. The young man had been talent-scouted by a clothing design firm in Atlanta and had taken a paid internship, which was why the Namibian native had come all the way to Atlanta via Cape Town. Even in the wealthy Namibian capital of Windhoek of his birth and raising, the opportunities for such a designer had limits....but in Atlanta they didn't. Sekunwe was very well aware of the city's reputation as one of the world's fashion and design hubs, and even in distant southwestern Africa the ability for an artist or designer to say "I'm headed to Atlanta" meant they were a man of considerable talent and imagination, just as for the Amigos' something being made in the tailors and fashion houses of Griffin Street on the west side of Downtown Atlanta signified a man of great means, respectability and taste. Sekunwe walked up to the immigration desk at the officer's waving.
"Good Morning, Sir." The southern drawl was evident in the officer's voice, but he was kind, sensing the new arrival's unease. Sekunwe noticed this, too.
"Good Morning, Officer."
"Where have you come from today, young man?"
"Namibia, Sir, but my flight is from Cape Town."
"Ah, South Africa." A smile from the officer. "Business or pleasure?"
"An internship, Sir."
"Oh, you got a job here?"
"Yes, Sir, at a design house here." The officer had a smile come across his face for that.
"Which one, if I may ask?"
"Daulton, Jameson and Stewart, Sir." Sekunwe said it with pride, and the Customs Officer smiled right back at him, recognizing the name right away.
"Oh Wow, that's a big internship to have, one of the best design places in town." If not the world, the officer thought to himself.
"Yes, I'm very proud to have it, I admit." Sekunwe spoke good English, which surprised the officer a tad, but he knew South Africa was an English-speaking country so he wasn't that surprised.
"Do you have your work permit, young man?" Sekunwe nodded yes.
"In my carry-on. May I get it?"
"Please." Sekunwe grabbed his carry-on as the officer looked at the bags.
"If you don't mind, I'd like to look at your bags for a second." He paused. "We're just having to be cautious about food and plant matter and the like coming into the country."
"Of course, Sir." Sekunwe pulled an envelope out of his carry-on and then hefted one of the suitcases onto the table as the officer out on a pair of gloves to check out the bag.
"Anything in here to declare?"
"Nothing beyond my clothes, laptop, work portfolios, some personal items and such."
"No food from home?"
"No, Sir." The man cracked a joke. "I've been told the cooking of Georgia is excellent. I look forward to finding that out for myself." That comment got a hearty laugh from the Customs Officer.
"We do eat good down here." The officer opened up the bag to see a collection of good clothes, many like the ones he was wearing. "You got quite a style here. You make these?"
"I didn't, but a mill in Swakopmund, in my country, did. They did a great job, too."
"Yeah, looks like it." The officer closed up the bag and looked at the envelope. "This the letter?"
"Yes, Sir." The officer carefully opened it, the letter indeed being an offer of a paid internship at the design house, signed by one of its key design bosses, who signature the officer recognized.
"You got a friend in a high place, Good Sir."
"He liked my clothing work and wanted me to come here to work in Atlanta." A smile. "He came to see me at a show back home."
"In Namibia?"
"In Cape Town."
"Ah, I see." The officer folded the letter back into the envelope and scanned the man's passport, which immediately came back as having successfully applied for a work permit in the United States whose eligibility began the following Monday. There was no flags on the passport from American authorities, the Amigos - Mexican and Canadian warrants immediately showed up on American passport checks - or Interpol. Combined with the lack of anything resembling contraband, it satisfied the officer.
"All good here." The officer quickly stamped the passport and handed Sekunwe back the paperwork and passport. "Welcome to America, Mister Sekunwe, and welcome to Atlanta." A kind smile. "You enjoy your time here, and hopefully Mister Paulman will be impressed by your work."
"Thank You, Officer."

Cleared through customs, Sekunwe made his way through the International Arrivals section of the terminal, marveling at the vast collection of people of all backgrounds who were passing through the airport. The Duty-Free shops that inhabited every airport in the world had their usual collections of wares, though in wealthy, cosmopolitan Atlanta this tended much more towards the high end. The restaurants of the mall had many kinds of wares on offer but leaned towards the dishes of the American South. Despite the hour, most of these places were open - in an airport as busy as Hartsfield-Jackson was, the business was always available. It added up to a scene that was more than a little intimidating even for an experienced urban visitor, but Sekunwe still dragged his suitcases behind him through the mass of people, both excited and intimidated at the same time but looking forward to the opportunities ahead of him. He'd just made a stop at a restaurant for breakfast - a BLT sandwich on a biscuit - when he spotted a brown-skinned woman holding up a sign with his name on it. He quickly walked over.
"I am William Sekunwe." He smiled to the woman, who smiled back.
"Allison White." A smile. "I work for Mister Paulman. He's expecting you."
"I had figured he would be." Sekunwe said. "I would like to get a shower at my hotel before I go meet with him, if that is alright."
"It is. He's not expecting you until ten-thirty."
"Excellent." A smile. "Miss White, where do I catch a cab at this airport?" He was surprised when that got a chuckle.
"We have transportation for you, Good Sir. Mister Paulson would have nothing less." A grin. "Follow me."

Waiting outside the airport was their transportation. As befitting a design house, their transport was a Renault passenger van that had been converted into a VIP transport - complete with four moving captain's chairs, a table and a television in the back. The dark blue paintwork and aftermarket wheels told the story clearly. Allison and William had just made it to the van when another voice spoke up.
"Talk about good timing." A tall, handsome white man walked up, a young Japanese woman following him. "We don't have to wait for each other."
"You mean you won't make us late, Alex." Allison ribbed him with a chuckle. He rose to the bait.
"I may be late but I'm always on time." Alex turned his Carolina drawl up to maximum for that statement, knowing it would make Allison chuckle. "So, this is the star to be from South Africa, I presume?"
"You guess correctly." Sekunwe chuckled. "William Sekunwe."
"Alex Marshall, Mister Daniels' personal assistant." He waved to the smaller woman. "This is Kaiyo Shinomura, who is our other newcomer." She spoke up with a chuckle.
"Oh, I see how it is, I can't even introduce myself now?" She said with a good-natured laugh which got one back from Sekunwe and White.
"You have a sense of humor." A smile from White. "I think you two are both going to go far."
"Thank you for the vote of confidence." A toothy grin. "But for now I'd just like to go take a shower after a long flight."
"That makes two of us." William spoke.
"Alright then, off we go."

Three Hours Later

Griffin Street was a fairly typical street for the west side of Central Atlanta, with many medium-sized buildings, some built before the North American War and many afterwards, with older warehouses and mills converted into galleries and offices mixing with built for the purpose structures, older ones often displaying huge ceremonial entrances done often in Antebellum or Gothic style and newer ones shamelessly displaying their Art Deco or Post-modern designs. Despite the varying styles and the smaller establishments taking up every bit of space possible, there was no mistaking the street for anything other than the playground of the wealthy and the creative, who in Atlanta mixed as often as not. Such streets, designs and the establishments that went with them - trendy restaurants and coffee shops, art galleries, lounges, clothing stores and artists' spaces - dominated this part of Atlanta, desires to be closer to the action resulting in a neighborhood that calling it dense was a massive understatement.

Daulton, Jameson and Stewart occupied a nine-story structure at Griffin and North Avenue, the structure built in the late 1930s as a management building for a collection of textile mills that had long since moved away from the center of Atlanta. It fit well with the neighborhood, and like many such places the bottom two floors of the building were a display of the company's products and projects, which in this case was mostly clothing and accessories. The many well-heeled customers for the region, many of whom came from the "Black Wall Street" of Washington Avenue to the South, made the roads of the neighborhood lined with expensive luxury and sports cars, and this being the South everyone in sight was dressed well indeed - few in Atlanta would dare leave their home otherwise, especially in this part of Atlanta.

The same Renault van came to a halt outside of the building and its occupants were quick to hop out of it, knowing who was waiting for them on the Ninth Floor. Alex and Allison, who had years of experience working at the company, were at ease with who they were going to meet, while William and Kaiyo were more than a little nervous. Both the new arrivals had showered in their hotel rooms in downtown Atlanta and changed their clothes - for Kaiyo it meant a cheongsam dress of her own design while for William it meant a lightweight wool designer suit that he had had tailored to fit him perfectly. Both despite their cases of nerves fit like a glove in the neighborhood and didn't look the least bit out of place. The four took a brief moment to check out the company's products before heading to the elevator. Moments later, they were on the Ninth Floor and headed into the office of the company's Chief Design Director, Stefan Paulman, and the company's Chief Stylist, Adam Robinson.

It would have surprised both William and Kaiyo to know that their cases of nerves were shared by the two higher-ups at the firm. Both had agreed on offering William and Kaiyo positions at the company out of fear somebody else in Atlanta - or for that matter Charlotte, London, Milan, Paris, Toronto, Melbourne, Guadalajara, Tokyo or Los Angeles - would. Paulman had seen what Sekunwe was capable of creating and wanted it, while Robinson and his wife Stacey had seen Kaiyo's work thanks to a contact at her alma mater in Nagoya, Japan, and had tracked her down before somebody else could. Such was the world of artistic talent in modern times that those of great ability could make their trade work almost anywhere, and both men were sure that the man from Windhoek, Namibia and the woman from Nagano, Japan, would be aces among the staff of an Atlanta design house. As they were expected, the four walked right in, the newcomers each carrying a portfolio of their work. Both had been having a conversation about their work when the newcomers came in. All four quickly moved to introduce themselves, and Robinson spoke first.
"Ah, excellent, you both made it here." Kaiyo responded first.
"For an opportunity like this, how could I not?" She said with a smile. "Kaiyo Shinomura." She offered a hand that Robinson took, gently kissing the back of her hand.
"Adam Robinson."
"It's good to meet you, Mister Robinson." Kaiyo said gently. "Kenichi-san speaks very highly of you."
"It was he who told me about your work while at Nanzan." Robinson smiled. "You have a flair for it."
"Thank you, Sir." A smile and a nod towards William. "I doubt it is as good as his, though." William blushed a bit at that, though he hid it well.
"Oh, I can vouch for that one myself." Stefan offered a hand to William. "We meet once again, Mister Sekunwe." William shook hands with Stefan and smiled.
"Thank you for the invitation and the opportunity, Mister Paulman." He was surprised to see Stefan shake his head and smile.
"Stefan, please." A wave of the hand. "The Mister Paulman stuff can be saved for when it is most appropriate." William smiled shyly.
"In that case, Good Sir, William is plenty enough for me."
"Excellent." A wide, friendly smile. "Your work at Van Helsing in Cape Town was most impressive, William."
"I've been a creative person my whole life, Sir, and Meneer Van Helsing just gave me the opportunity to show it off."
"An opportunity you absolutely made the most of, I see." William smiled.
"Even people in Namibia know what Atlanta is to the world of style and design, Mister....Stefan, excuse me." His catch drew a chuckle from Paulman.
"You need not be excused. Being formal is a good habit to have." Stefan looked at the portfolio. "Examples of your work?"
"Yes, Sir, and some other work of mine that I haven't taken beyond the concept stage yet."
"Oh? Stuff I haven't seen before?"
"Most definitely, Sir." He proudly opened the portfolio. "May I show you?"
"Please do, Sir."
Nope. It was what got the US into World War II. The Twin Towers are still around ITTL. 🙂
That's good to know. Would it be possible to upgrade the towers in TTL though? As in, maybe over the year the building has its design modified to be stronger?

BTW if you're open I can share some more on the ideas I had for Walt Disney sticking around longer.
Would Amtrak's continuation of the Super Chief use the original ATSF Transcon over Raton Pass, or be rerouted via the Belen Cutoff? I know that in OTL there have been proposals to reroute Amtrak's Southwest Chief over the Belen Cutoff, so I thought it was a question worth asking.
The City Of God, Three Amigos Style
Jaffa Road, International Zone
Jerusalem, Israel/Palestine
November 18, 2022
3:22 PM

Michael was right,
David Marchkent thought to himself as he walked along the sidewalk of busy Jaffa Road. This place does feel different even to a visitor. He couldn't help but stop momentarily to absent-mindedly look through the windows of a shop on the north side of Jaffa Road, his mind more focused on the sense of history around him even as the faces of modernity were very much in evidence along the road. This place has so much history that it lingers in the air....he smiled. No wonder so many people fought over this place in past times....

Jaffa Road was one of the modern city of Jerusalem's main streets, the road that led from the walls of the old city all the way to the port city of which gave it its name. It had been the main road through the more modern city and as such was lined with structures built mostly in the 18th and 19th Centuries, though a few modern ones were along it as well. The road passed through the squares of the city. One of these had been a place with three names - first named Allenby Square (after the British Field Marshal who led the forces who took Jerusalem in 1917), it had been renamed IDF Square in 1967 by the Israelis. After the Treaty of Asheville the IDF had moved out and, after some debate, the Square had been renamed the Biltmore Square, after the place where the Treaty of Asheville had been signed in 1976. Likewise, Freedom Square had seen its monument to the Davidka mortars removed (notably, this hadn't been done because of a demand by the Palestinians but as a show of good faith by the Israelis - an act that would be reciprocated many times over in the years to come) along with many more of the more overt monuments to Jewish victories over Arabs - once again, something reciprocated by the Palestinians. It wasn't that the history would ever be totally forgotten - this was Jerusalem after all - but it had long since been decided that ruminating over the past was less important than the embrace of the future.

Modern Jerusalem showed this very clearly. The holy sites, the historical monuments - they all remained, guarded by the city's policemen and lovingly cared for by the city's "monument keepers", both of whom had developed a reputation for being even handed to all in the city - the policemen had distinctive uniforms and their shoulders bore a triangular patch with the symbols of the three great Abrahamic religions, with an exactly equal number of each religion at the bottom of the patch so as to maintain an impression of neutrality down to the smallest detail. Such had been the way of the world with the Treaty that had redefined this city's relations with its neighbors and the world....but fourty-five years of time had made that world look very different indeed.

Today, Israel was one of the most prosperous societies on Earth, a fact that Israelis overwhelmingly felt had everything to do with the people they shared it with. Over three-quarters of Israel's population were Jews, of course, but today the Arabs who lived among them - as many of them Christian as Muslim, though few cared about that these days - lived in harmony with them. A member of both the European Union and Central Commonwealth, Israelis had the explicit right to travel to and live in over 50 other nations with few restrictions, rights that were well reciprocated. Israel's Mediterranean Coast from Gaza to Lebanon was lined with beach resorts that catered not only to locals but also large numbers of Europeans and North African Arabs, offering warm beaches and sun to millions of travelers a year. Beyond the beaches and the white-washed and glass towers of Tel Aviv, Haifa and Ashkelon lay vast industrial parks, office complexes and laboratories, their skylights showing off Israel's advancement in the fields of technology. Israel relative to its size probably had a larger tech sector in its economy than anywhere else in the world, and it showed in the state of the art computers, smartphones, audio equipment, imaging technology and aerospace electronics that the country had become globally known for. Multiple massive aluminum mills in the Negev refined bauxite from Australia into aluminum alloys for semiconductors while mines in Israel itself produced the silicon for them, allowing the whole process to be done in Israel by Israelis themselves. Israel's agricultural scientists had done vast work into the development of better desalination technologies, allowing even the dry land of the Negev to have agricultural potential, potential fully taken advantage of by the kibbutzim of Israel.

All of this was substantially mirrored by the people they shared the land with. Having lived for centuries at one of the world's great trading points the Palestinians had since the Treaty become the Arab world's business geniuses and concierges. They shared the beach resorts - theirs were on the Red Sea rather than the Mediterranean, but their beaches and pools and weather mirrored that of their neighbors - and vast irrigated fields supplied by nuclear-powered desalination plants with the Israelis. Palestine's ports had been grown repeatedly over the years to handle their growth, as the Palestinians had developed a knack for buying goods from Europe and the Americas and reselling them to the Middle East and Africa, and they now also regularly dealt as agents for agricultural producers and industrial firms in North Africa as well. Their sense of entrepreneurialism had long impressed the Israelis, as had their mastery of the finances. Mosques replaced synagogues, but the sense of enjoying life through personal advancement was the same across both peoples, and time, entrepreneurial spirit and lots of hard work had brought the Palestinians' standard of living to within a spitting distance of that of Israel. Palestinians of old in some cases still held grudges, but for the younger generation, the sins of the past were just that - the past. They cared about the future.

And what that future looked like could be very clearly seen on the streets of Jerusalem and its city scape. The Palestinian center of government, including its Parliament Buildings and Supreme Court, had been built in the 1980s at Ras Al-Amud overlooking the Old City - it had been the product of an international competition that had drawn over 500 qualified proposals - and as a result the areas south of the Old City had become filled with international missions and embassies, several of the largest of which - the United States, Canada, Mexico, Egypt, Iran, Britain, France, India, the European Union's mission - were all architectural marvels in their own right. Having two countries' civil services based in one city in addition to those services unique to Jerusalem meant that the number of bureaucrats in the city would have impressed anyone of such persuasion, except here the bureaucrats, Israeli or Palestinian and of many different faiths, shared a lot of things in common in their styles of dress - stylish but meant for the warm weather of the region - and many mannerisms. They regularly interacted with one another, and often as not what nation they worked for didn't matter when it came to agreements. Virtually all deals between Israelis and Palestinians began over a lunch somewhere where people who represented their various sides talked out what needed to happen and how to make it happen.

Over the decades, these agreements had also long since changed the mindsets of each other over the other. The borderline-brutal eradication of terror groups in North Africa and the Levant in the 1970s and 1980s after the Treaty - these groups had rapidly become as hated as anyone because of violence committed against Arabs - had led the Israelis to help these nations willing to find peace with them, and with the Palestinians having their homeland the Israelis rapidly discovered that the Treaty had given them the opportunity to work with the Arabs rather than against them. The end of the Islamist terror threats and the growth in the sophistication of Arab societies had broken countless molds, and while Israel had a rise in bigotry-driven hate incidents in the early 1980s thanks to the likes of Meir Kahane, these Jewish murderers had had even less success and even more anger directed at them from their own sides than the Arabs had had, a fact the Arabs had noticed - and so Kahane's open desire to derail peace had been an abject failure. The 1980s in the Holy Land had been dominated by both sides seeing that their sacrifices in the 1970s negotiations would earn then far more than they could have given up, and when the hammer finally fell on the Soviet-aligned states of the Middle East in the 1990s, the Israelis and Palestinians found themselves as brothers in arms against the Arabian fundamentalists and the simple-minded thuggery of the Turks and Iraqis, joined by the Jordanians, Egyptians and much of the Middle East. Israel's huge help to the Jordanians in their successful repelling of the Saudis' invasion of Jordan had seen the once-unimaginable sight of the white-and-blue Star of David flag being flown in support of them in multiple Arab countries, and the Israelis had been impressed with the Palestinians being fully prepared to use their armed forces to back up the Israelis in that conflict, leading to round after round of deals and agreements in the years after the war that allowed something else once unimaginable - the return of those who had left or been expelled from their homes in the 1940s to return to the places they had come from.

This hadn't been without conditions of course, but Israel had begun granting selected Palestinians the right to permanent residency in Israel in 1998, with Palestine returning the favor to Israelis the following year. The 21st Century had just steadily opened those borders up further, particularly after Israel had joined the European Union in 2004. Palestine had been allowed to join three years later and had taken full advantage of the opportunities that in entailed, both because of the Palestinians' vast connections but also because Europe had every desire to see them succeed. Over time, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians had built lives in Israel and tens of thousands of Jews had returned to or built homes in Palestine - and every one added to the interconnected nature of the two nations.

Of course, there had always been and would always be those who had a problem with such arrangements, on both sides of the argument. But for all but the tiniest minority of both nations, the way of the world was a good one. Palestinians old enough to remember the poverty of the years before the Treaty were among its loudest proponents - they remembered being stateless and had no desire to ever go back to that - followed closely behind by the veterans of Israel's wars, who had no wish to see another generation face what they'd had to. The business community of the two sides also wanted the more open borders - they could (and did) recruit from both countries and sell their wares to both countries, and plenty of Israel's tech and sciences sectors used Palestinian trading houses to sell their wares abroad. The mosques of Palestine and the synagogues of Israel openly prayed for the successes of the other, secure in the knowledge that such success would lead directly to benefits for them.

Jerusalem's streets showed more of the characters that went with it. Orthodox Jews with their kippahs and long beards were a common sight (even though in modern times their numbers were slipping as younger generations wanted wider lives than the Orthodox could provide) and Israel's Right of Return to any and all Jews meant that Israelis came in all colors of humanity. Descendants of those saved by the Men of Honour in the Amigos (and those who came to North America in the post-war era) were a key part of these people, and having meshed into Canadian society their descendants were often very different looking than others, and black Jews, most of whom were from or were descendants of the Beta Israel communities brought from Ethiopia and Eritrea in the 1970s and 1980s. Israel prided itself on being a land for all Jews and so even ones that were as far apart in physical as one could get were still very welcome, these people bringing their own contributions to Israel's society. In modern times the styles of these newcomers were warmly received by the Israelis and plenty of Palestinians alike, leading to more recent trends towards African clothing styles and even colors and prints among them.

For David, it was very much an exotic world, far different from the Chicago of his upbringing, and one that gave the young visitor a sense of belonging even in a place that before three days before he'd never been. It wasn't as if he'd never met Arabs before - there were plenty of them in Chicago's West Side, too - but things just different here. And he couldn't even just chalk it up to the weather, as warm weather was certainly not unheard of in Chicago either. But here....David felt at home.
Canada's Jet Fighter Legend


Monthly Donor
The conclusion of my post here: https://www.alternatehistory.com/fo...mann-and-isayyo2.523009/page-12#post-23837047

The History of the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow, Part II (Service History, Variants)

The Debut of the Arrow marked a new era of collaboration and cooperation between members of the Commonwealth of Nations, starting with the Central Commonwealth members. Individually, each member of the Commonwealth was nowhere near the strength and influence of the United States and the Soviet Union, but together, the Commonwealth would be heard on the world stage.

While the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile became the primary nuclear threat, Soviet bombers continued to test the resolve of the Western Bloc. In joint exercises, the Arrow proved surprisingly agile for its size. While it would never out-rate a dogfighter, the Arrow could hold its own against other interceptors and some fighter-bombers. Given the original intent as a high-speed interceptor, its missile armament was respectable, though military engineers and officers noted that the Arrow could benefit from additional external hardpoints for additional air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.

With the Arrow entering service as a viable combat aircraft, engineers across the Commonwealth and other partners began to seek ways to improve the aircraft. Even as the first Mark IIs left the assembly lines and were being prepared for delivery, work on the next version already commenced. The Mk.III was developed in the early 1960s following the debut of the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. In a sign of things to come, the Mk.III variant would see drastic changes to the Arrow, inside and outside. As the West and Eastern Blocs began to mass ICBMs and nuclear bombers, the need for versatility over dedicated interception saw the new version of the Arrow continue the trend of making the aircraft better suited for more than intercepting bombers.

The most visible change was the replacement of the angular canopy with a bubble-style canopy; this sacrificed high-speed performance for a significantly improved field of view for the pilot. The tail was also larger, improving the Arrow's flight handling and maneuverability. Rounding out the major external changes, the Mk.III Arrow was fitted with small bulges on either side of the forward fuselage to accommodate two 20mm M39 cannons. While some RCAF officers believed that missiles made the dogfight obsolete, many others believed that while missile technology has matured, there could be times when the aircraft needed to defend itself at close range. The bulges and integral cannons again sacrificed some of the aircraft's performance as an interceptor but allowed the aircraft to defend itself within visual range. The avionics and flight systems were given iterative upgrades and improvements inside the aircraft. While NATO and Commonwealth members generally used the same avionics suite, some modularity allowed some customers to use their own indigenous systems.

By late 1962, the first Mk.III were nearly ready for delivery to the RCAF and would be initially assigned to squadrons based in Europe. The remaining unfulfilled Mark II orders would be converted to the Mk.III, as the need for dedicated interceptors continued to decline. Many of the older Mark IIs from the RCAF and RAF would be returned to Avro Canada or Hawker Siddeley factories. Some would be converted into trainer aircraft, which were designated as the CF-105 Mk.II(T), with many of these delivered to training squadrons of the major Arrow operators. Others would be prepared for export, as several nations became interested in second-hand Arrow Mark IIs. All rebuilt Mark IIs had been given the option of being retrofitted with a rounded canopy similar to the one used on the Mirage III, with the option of adding a 20 mm cannon for additional cost.

By 1963, India would be granted the license to manufacture their own production Arrows, with Orenda and Rolls Royce establishing a plant in India to manufacture and service the Iroquois turbojets for India and Australia, though soon other operators would use these facilities. However, they had to source an alternate radar and some other avionics due to concerns over the US blocking the sale of the Hughes fire control systems. India would instead implement the slightly older Cyrano RA 423, which would soon prove itself aboard Israeli Mirage IIIs. As a result, they would be designed Mark IIIAs, to differentiate from the standard variant equipped with the Hughes fire control units.

In 1964, the Coalition intervention in Vietnam began with the amphibious landings at Vinh. During combat for the next three years, the Arrows operated by the RCAF, RAF, and RAAF would see extensive service where its strengths and weaknesses were found. Issues with the AIM-7 Sparrows led to emergency work to correct their poor success rates. Older Mark IIs were found to be less ideal for engaging North Vietnamese MiGs, and most would be relegated to fighter-bomber duties or to escort high-speed bombers like the Avro Vulcan. The Arrows, while having respectable payloads thanks to the large internal weapons bays and wingtip missile rails, were outperformed by other aircraft with more external hardpoints. As a result, Canada would order CF-4 Phantom IIs as the new fighter bomber for the RCAF, largely relegating the Arrow to its primary roles as an interceptor and air superiority fighter.

Despite this, the Arrows saw an impressive kill-to-loss ratio, especially as Arrows fitted with the 20 mm guns were more prepared to engage targets within visual range as a last resort. Commonwealth aircraft worked closely with AWACS and IFF; they were not restricted to requiring visual identification, allowing most Arrows to fire missiles at range instead of trying to dogfight more agile opponents. By the end of the war, veteran pilots would be sent to Avro Canada for extensive debriefings, discussing what could be improved for the next generation of Arrows. Yet even as Vietnam was embroiled in war, developments in the Middle East also would influence the Arrow program.

In late 1965, Israel was surrounded by hostile neighbours, all fully aligned with the Soviet Union. Thus the Israelis would purchase 24 Arrow Mark IIs (partially paid via donations from private interests and the US DoD to counter the Soviet-backed Arabs), and would also purchase 48 Mirage IIIOCJs, based on the Australian Mirage IIIs with the Orenda Iroquois engine. The Israelis had ordered their Arrows with some systems not fitted, allowing them to install their own. This led to the Israeli units being designed the Mk.IIB. The Israeli order would lead to intrigue, as the Israelis had been talking with the Jordanian government-in-exile under King Hussein, and through the 60s, secret agreements between King Hussein and the Israeli government were made. Israel promised to support the restoration of the Hashemite dynasty, endorsed by NATO members as a way to break the Soviet hold over the Arabian peninsula. During the 60s, Jordanian Royalist pilots were allowed to train aboard the Arrow in Canada and the UK, and tentative agreements were made between Avro Canada and King Hussein.

In 1967, Israel launched the Six-Day War after the Soviet-backed Arab nations began to mass forces along the Israeli borders. The larger but fewer Arrows (named the Hetz in Israeli service) complemented the Mirage IIIOCJs, patrolling the skies for any Arab aircraft that survived Operation Focus. As it became clear that most of the opposing air forces were wiped out, the Arrows delivered airstrikes, their ability to carry a massive payload of bombs helping take out enemy positions and concentrations. While the war was brief, the utter humiliation of the Soviet-backed Arabs would have long-term implications. Cracks began to form, with the respective governments beginning to lose their tight control over their peoples, as well as their armed forces. Ultimately, a desire to restore control led to the gamble by the governments of Jordan, Egypt, and Syria to attack in 1971, following four years of crash rebuilding. The surprise attack ultimately failed and heralded their undoing; the Communist regime in Jordan rapidly fell to a Royalist coup in 1972 that saw the return of King Hussein. Consequently, this led to a major shift as parts of the Arab world decided to reconcile with Israel and helped establish a two-state solution with the Treaty of Asheville.

For Avro Canada, while Israel only had a handful of Arrows compared to the Mirages, their ability to dominate the skies and deliver heavy air strikes on Arab positions gained media attention, as well as more calls from various nations. The lessons from the Israelis would significantly impact the next generation of the venerable Canadian-designed aircraft.

In 1968, the Canadian Forces would see a slight reorganization to improve cooperation and standardization. While the three services maintained their separate identities, the defence staff was unified, along with aircraft designations. The rank structures, while not standardizing rank titles, were adjusted to maintain consistency across the three services, and some training programs were merged to reduce redundancies. The Original Arrow Mark II aircraft were redesignated the CF-105A, with rebuilt Mark II trainers becoming the CF-105B, and the Mark IIIs were now the CF-105C Arrows.


In the early 1960s, Hughes Aircraft would purchase four surplus CF-105A/B aircraft as testbeds. Hughes would radically modify two Arrows to use an improved derivative of the AN/ASG-18 radar, which became the prototype of the AN/AWG-9. While the Arrow was too large and no serious plans were made for a carrier-based variant, the Arrow's performance with the weapon formed the benchmark of the US Navy's evaluation for a fleet interceptor. Ultimately, Hughes Aircraft's research and testing would lead to the F-14 Tomcat, which was slower than the Arrow but surprisingly agile for its size and could carry up to 6 AIM-54 Phoenix missiles. Yet, it also led to the next major variant of the Canadian-designed interceptor/fighter aircraft, though another project across the Atlantic would play a role.

Around the same time, the British were developing their own X-band Doppler radar for the P.1154 and P.1127 programs. Marconi-Elliott developed the new radar based on the FMICW project, originally designed for a new AEW carrier aircraft for the RN. To test the new radar, two older RAF Arrow Mk.II aircraft were used by Marconi, with engineers working out bugs and issues within the prototypes. This would lead to modifications made that would allow the new Radar to recognize and interface with the Phoenix missile. The test flights would prove successful, and the early model of Foxhunter would see adoption on the new P.1154 Osprey and the Harrier "jump-jets." However, this would lead to both Hughes and Marconi becoming aware of their rival's project. By 1968, members of the Arrow Development program were already working on the next iteration of the aircraft, including the choice of radar and associated avionics. This led to what some news reporters dubbed the "Trans-Atlantic Arrow Rumble."

Over the next five years, Hughes and Marconi-Elliott would send their Arrows to participate in exercises around NATO and other Western-aligned nations. Hughes would take advantage of the large volume inside the Arrow to use a larger receiver, as well as work on adding ground-attack capabilities. Marconi-Elliot, having initially tested the smaller Foxhunter units meant for the jump jets on the Arrow, introduced a much larger radar as well as an experimental infrared search and track, and more curiously, an electro-optical camera system similar to the one carried by the upcoming F-14. During an experimental joint exercise among the Amigos in 1969, the rivalry continued between the Radar developers, demonstrating that both offerings were surprisingly similar in capabilities.

Both systems demonstrated outstanding radar range for fire control, outclassing anything else from NATO or the Warsaw Pact. In fact, the biggest limitation was that there was no air-to-air missile in the world that could fully utilize the radar range, both able to detect a fighter aircraft at well over 90 nautical miles. Both demonstrated the ability to track multiple targets as well as generate simultaneous firing solutions for BVR launches. The Hughes radar had a much longer maximum range (rumoured to reach up to 200 nautical miles), but the Foxhunter was a digital system, significantly reducing maintenance and probability of malfunctions, and allowing for further improvements to be made. At the inaugural Excercise RIMPAC in 1971, the Arrows would again be pitted against one another, along with the still brand-new F-14 Tomcats, whose surprising agility led to interest from Canada for the upcoming Commonwealth Carrier program. In 1972, the inaugural William Tell aerial gunnery competition would see the rival companies again send the Arrows out to demonstrate their capabilities. The competition proved to be surprisingly spirited yet civil, as choices would ultimately be made by a number of countries.

The Arrow Mk.IV, known in the RCAF as the CF-105D, would enter service in 1974. While previous variants could be fitted with bombs and early-generation ground-attack guided munitions, the Mk.IV was the first version fully designed as a multirole jet. Additional weapon hardpoints were fitted to the airframe and wings compared to earlier variants. It also featured some minor changes to the aircraft to further improve flight performance. But the biggest change was a universal mount for the radar and fire control avionics, allowing the choice of the Hughes AN/AWG-9 or the Marconi-Elliott Foxhunter AI.24-B to be fitted. Able to equip the latest avionics for both air-to-air and air-to-ground, the Mk.IV could carry the majority of contemporary NATO munitions, including the Canadian Wolf series of Air-to-surface weapons.

The Mk.IV was thus able to accommodate a number of radar sets, accommodating US restrictions on high-end systems. India could only choose Foxhunter but would be pleased to see the vast improvement in performance over the aged Cyrano radars in their Mark IIIA aircraft. For most operators, the brand new Foxhunter AI.24 radar was selected, after engineers made the system compatible with the latest missiles within the NATO arsenal. The Mk.IVs operated by Iran were fitted as standard with the Hughes AN/AWG-9(V)2, a version of the F-14 Tomcat's radar adapted for the Arrow.

The Mk.IV was also the first Arrow variant that could carry the brand new AIM-54 Phoenix missile, with two carried internally and two mounted on hardpoints under the wing. The CF-105D became the backbone of Canada's NORAD operations and would be regularly seen intercepting Soviet bombers probing Canadian and American airspace. Among the launch customers of the Arrow Mk.IV was Jordan, who acquired 36 of the new Arrows, forming the core of the reborn Royal Jordanian Air Force. The Israeli Air Force would also procure a limited run of the Arrow Mk.IV as the Hetz II, supplementing the IAI Kfir, a development of the Mirage 5 which took in lessons from the Mirage IIIs.

The Mk. V, known as the CF-105E in RCAF service, would in many ways become the zenith for the Arrow lineage. In a major change from the older variants, the Mark V would replace the venerable PS.13 Iroquois turbojet engines with the Rolls-Royce Orenda Turbofan, shared with the CF-111. The Mk. V would also be fitted with conformal fuel tanks, further extending the aircraft's endurance. As a result, the aircraft was much longer-legged than even the Mk.IVs, but further reduced the maximum speed of the aircraft. Debuting in 1985, the ultimate variant of the Arrow became the first aircraft certified to use the brand-new AIM-120 AMRAAM. Like the abortive Sparrow II, the AMRAAM was an active radar homing missile, with the same length, though thinner and lighter. The new missile would be paired with an improved AI.24-C Foxhunter radar system, based on the system used on the Tornado ADV. A subvariant of the Mk.V, designed Mk.VG (or CF-105DG) had additional avionics that allowed the aircraft to use the AGM-88 HARM and ALARM anti-radar missiles, allowing for effective SEAD operations.

A more significant derivative of the Mk. V was the Mark VI (CF-105F) Sea Arrows, used by the Canadian and Royal Navy Fleet Air Arms. The Mk.VI was optimized for anti-ship duties and thus carried Harpoon anti-ship missiles and many standoff weapons. They too could carry anti-radiation missiles, but their focus was to neutralize enemy warships and interdict amphibious assaults.

The Middle East War would be one of the final conflicts for the Cold War era design, and become one of many symbols of cooperation among the nations that fought the Turks, Saudis and Baathists. The Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, Indian Air Force, Imperial Iranian Air Force, the Israeli Air Force, and the Royal Jordanian Air Force would deploy their Arrows en masse to dominate the skies and attack opposing positions. CF-105F Arrows of the Canadian Fleet Air Arm along with the Arrow Mk.VIs of the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm would join Allied anti-surface operations, clearing the seas for the Allied navies. They would play a decisive role in the Naval Battle of Cyprus, supporting the French Navy and allied forces in sinking the Turkish amphibious fleet as it attempted to land on Cyprus. The Canadians would also deploy CF-105F Sea Arrows from Iran to patrol the Persian Gulf, looking for remnants of the Iraqi and Saudi navies.

The Mark V and Mark VI would remain in Canadian Service into the new millennium, with both variants finally seeing retirement in the 2000s. The Canadian Fleet Air Arm would retain their fleet of CF-14 Tomcats until the late 2010s, which would be replaced by the Naval variant of the Eurofighter Typhoon, carrying the potent CAPTOR radar, itself descended from the Arrow-specific Foxhunter radar. The Arrow would be succeeded by the Lockheed Martin/Avro Canada CF-22 Raptor, which many considered a worthy successor as well as a symbol of the strong ties between Canada and the United States. However, the Arrow would continue to see some service with several nations into the 2020s.
The Great Miniature America
The Great Miniature America, Second Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard, Detroit, Michigan
December 2, 2023
10:34 AM

"Whoa, Dad, this place is amazing!" Nine-year-old Alexander "Alex" Grayson looked around in awe at the great hall of The Great Miniature America, the year-old attraction focused on interactive model exhibits of many different parts of America, highlighting many aspects of its cultural landscape. "Look at all the trains, Dad!" The young boy scampered over to one of the exhibits at the edge of the main hall, which was an HO scale model of a famous Pennsylvania Railroad steam engine of the 1940s, pulling a train of period coaches. He had barely laid eyes on it before out from a wall behind main exhibit was another model of an HO scale train, this one a famous Union Pacific railroad locomotive with a string of freight cars behind it. The boy looked on fascinated as the two trains passed one another, his eyes wide with wonder.
"How do they do this, Dad?"

For his part, Keyshawn Grayson chuckled, loving the fact this his son was at a place he'd wanted to go himself. A long-time model railroader, Keyshawn himself enjoyed all facets of modeling and had his whole life, ever since his father had introduced him to a Lionel train set when he was six years old. The bug had never gone away, and he doubted it ever would, and he was glad to see his son barely had to walk in the door before he was slack-jawed in wonder. But then again, this place isn't like any model railroad I've ever worked on....

The Great Miniature America was a new attraction, directly inspired both by the incredible Miniatur Wonderland in Hamburg, Germany, and the almost-as-impressive Little Canada in Toronto, several of whose model makers had been part of the building of The Great Miniature America. Housed in a five-story former industrial plant north of Downtown Detroit, the attraction had once been planned to only occupy part of the building, but over time it's plans had grown to such a degree that it now occupied the entire building, and had modified the building to have a rooftop cafe for visitors. The back of the building was the model shop, where what couldn't be bought or made by others for the attraction - and a vast collection of toy and model makers had done just that - could be made for the purpose, as well as the attraction's command center, which included the dozens of computers used to run the many interactive elements of the many exhibits.

Like Little Canada was about its native country, The Great Miniature America was focused on everything that was great about the United States that could be modeled, and with it several of America's greatest cities - New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, Las Vegas, Havana, New Orleans, Miami and Detroit - had been modeled in as many parts and detail as could be arranged. Everything was in HO Scale, which roughly translated to 3.5 millimeters to the foot or roughly 1/87th of the originals, a scale that allowed considerable detail but still meant some big, big structures - the model of the Empire State Building, for example, was still nearly seventeen feet tall, while the United States Capitol model was nearly nine feet long and over four feet wide, not counting its base. Beyond the cities, the modelers had made a point of modeling many of America's natural wonders - the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone Park, Niagara Falls, Monument Valley, Stone Mountain, Mount Denali, Kilauea, Yosemite Park, the Giant Redwoods - as well as plenty of other attractions, including Disney World's Magic Kingdom and Epcot, Knott's Berry Farm, Gateway Arch, the Aspen Ski Resorts, Hearst Castle, Kennedy Space Center, the Panama Canal and Pike Place Market, as well as skillfully integrating many great examples of American architecture and designs outside of the above cities with models of the likes of the Hoover Dam, Fallingwater, the Ahwahnee Hotel, Monticello, Lambeau Field and the Biltmore Estate. As if all of that wasn't enough, further models and dioramas were meant to show off various sections of America's rural regions, from the South to the Great Plains to the Alaskan Tundra.

As befitting a place built by a collection of model train enthusiasts, there was over 150 miles - real miles, that is - of tracks, and hundreds of trains ran around on it. Each floor had a "America's Train" that zoomed around the various models, but all other trains were unique to their individual layouts, displays and models. The city models included their moving forms of public rail transportation - streetcars, subways and commuter trains, of course, but also unique ones like San Francisco's cable cars - and thousands of cars moved around on layouts, their paths controlled by computers with sophisticated software that tracked each car's movements. The Great Miniature America even included a working airport exhibit whose buildings were based on John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Los Angeles International Airport which included aircraft moving around the airport as well as all of its vehicles, this one being particularly notable as employees of several airlines had made models of airliners for the exhibit with the support of their employers, with the two giant Boeing 747-8s that were a part of that model, both nearly three feet long and three feet in wingspan, being among the stars of the show. The Panama Canal and Pearl Harbor exhibits were particularly notable for being made with real water and real moving vessels, including a twelve-and-a-half foot long replica of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier that could be seen moving in and out of its port, while the Panama Canal exhibit featured real working Canal locks, showing how they lifted ships. That wasn't even the end of it, as every single model had many moving parts - drawbridges to port cranes, rollercoasters to ski chairlifts, dam spillways to cable cars - and so many individual details to look out for it was hard to even count them all. A vast number of famous people had been a part of the making of the project and virtually all of these people had been immortalized in tiny versions of themselves in their chosen places on the models, and at various times the models were changed to suit various times and events. It all added up to a place that could be enjoyed by people of all ages and a labor of love for its creators, who had put in hundreds of thousands of man-hours making the whole thing exist in the first place.

And while a labor of love, it was also a busy place at the worst of times. It had been featured on television news broadcasts from around the world as well as countless other shows, and it had quickly become one of Detroit's biggest tourist destinations almost immediately after its opening. While it had been expensive to make, it had already proven to be more than capable of making back what it had cost to build, and in fun-loving Detroit, it was never short of visitors or volunteers to help maintain it. Many companies involved in the making of model railroads were only too happy to test out and display their creations at The Great Miniature America.

If The Great Miniature America was a symbol of anything more than the modeling world itself, it was what could happen when thr clubs and enthusiasts of a particular field could do when they collectively wanted to make something happen. Like any city of size, Detroit was filled with clubs, teams, guilds and organizations of people of all sizes, and while many cities' real estate prices made these clubs having gathering places more tricky, Detroit was relatively cheap in that regard, filled as it was with buildings from the city's heavy industrial past that had long since been transformed into new buildings for new purposes. Like many other places in what was once derisively referred to as the "Rust Belt" of America, making old buildings into new ones and then wedging the new ones alongside the old was a way of life in the Motor City, and it showed. This excess of room meant that clubs for any description of activity imaginable existed here, and this physical infrastructure in a lot of ways set the city apart from others.

It even showed in The Great Miniature America. The building itself had been donated to the project by the Chessie System railroad, and while it was a modeler's paradise, local unions representing metalworkers and industrial woodworkers had contributed time and money to building the benchwork for the model layouts and had contributed to the building itself and its decorations. Perhaps the other parts of the city's greatest contribution, however, stood our front of the building, under the canopy that marked the main entrance to the attraction, that being a preserved Union Pacific Railroad 0-6-0 steam switcher locomotive, fastidiously restored to a true showpiece by the engineering students at Wayne State University, a plaque on the display recognizing the donation by the UPRR and the efforts of the students at Wayne State, as well as the Michigan National Guard's heavy engineering units, who had moved the locomotive to its showplace. It was just one of countless examples of making an effort to help a worthy cause that paid off in spades.

"Dad, check that out!" Alex scampered across the room to the Panama Canal exhibit, which was surrounded by a waist-high plexiglass shield to prevent the very real water of the exhibit from being splashed all over visitors. He had noticed a model of a container ship reach one of the locks. His dad reached him as the robotic arms swung up to attach cables to the ship, allowing four small locomotives on the sides of the canal to pull the big container boat snugly into the canal lock, which then closed behind the ship. The water rose in the lock, causing the floating ship to rise up in the lock before it reached the right height and the exit door opened, allowing the little locomotives to pull the ship out of the lock - just as how the Panama Canal did it in real life, but it was never the less amazing to a nine year old.
"How do they do that, Dad?" He excitedly asked his father. "Do they really pull it through like that?" Unbeknownst to him, a young man standing at the same model with his twin daughters was saying the same thing to them, and he chimed in to the wide-eyed boy.
"That is how they do that." The young man smiled to the boy and his father. "I spent twelve years on Navy destroyers, and I passed through the canal several times."
"Ahhh, I see." Keyshawn smiled. "Do they really use little trains like that to pull ships?"
"Yep, they need to." He smiled. "The Navy has ships where there is inches between the ship and the edges of the canal, and nobody wants them to hit the edges." A smile.
"So this is an actual display of how its done, huh?"
"Yep, and a remarkably accurate one, too." The young man offered his hand. "Stephen Mitcham, one upon a time Petty Officer First Class Mitcham." Keyshawn took it with a smile.
"Keyshawn Grayson." A smile. "I never had a rank, if I'm honest, but I do have a post nominal on my resume."
"You do?"
"Ah, a professional engineer." He smiled. "Cars, I'm guessing?"
"Buildings, actually."
"Ah, I see." The man smiled. "You work on this one?" Keyshawn chuckled.
"I wish." He smiled. "Most of my work right now is on the Roger Penske Bridge." That bridge was the project of the third span across the Detroit River, located further to the southwest, connecting Wyandotte on the American side of the river with Ville LaSalle on the Canadian side, the bridge named for the famed American auto entrepreneur and racing team owner.
"I'll bet that one is a touch tricky, with an island in the way and all."
"That island is saving our butts, honestly." Keyshawn commented. "And if the Canucks are as they usually are, it'll look real nice when it's all done." He smiled. "What does a former petty officer of the Navy do for a living, anyways?"
"Detroit Police Department, or will be in a couple months."
"Ah, nice." Keyshawn smiled. "Those your girls?"
"My whole world, man." He grinned. "Why I left the Navy, I couldn't leave my wife with them any more, I needed to be around more."
"I can't say I disagree with the logic, Mr. Mitcham." A grin. "Or should I refer to you as Officer Mitcham?" Stephen chuckled at that.
"Soon, Good Sir, very soon."
"Does that mean I get out of my first speeding ticket?" That turned the chuckle into a full-blown laugh.
"For that, you just might get a break."
"I drive a fun car in the summer, I'll take all the breaks I can get."
"Fun car?"
"Are we gonna take the Torino out, Dad?"
"You have a Torino?"
"Yep." Keyshawn pulled his wallet and showed off a pic, showing off a wine-red muscle car. "1970 Ford Torino GT Sports Roof. My Dad bought it brand new, and I have every intention of having my boy take it for a drive one day."
"After he learns to drive responsibly, I presume." It was Keyshawn's turn to laugh.
"Oh God yes, he's not taking that to his driver's test." Both men laughed. "Sounds like you have an interest."
"I have a '01 Mustang GT, a Bullitt edition."
"You had my interest, Sir, now you have my attention." Stephen laughed.
"She's been built some." A knowing smile. "This is Detroit, after all."
"True that." Both men saw both Stephen's girls and Alex watching with more wide-eyed amazement as the Panama Canal model once again moved to let another of its ships in, this one a warship model.
"Even have a Canuck warship for it."
"That's a Canadian ship design?"
"Yep." Stephen looked at it. "Halifax class, their Navy's escort ship backbone."
"How much you wanna bet a modeler in Windsor made that one?"
"I don't bet to lose money, Sir." Keyshawn chuckled once again. "Your boy is really into it, isn't he?"
"Like father, like son, they say." Stephen walked right through that open door.
"Oh, a modeler yourself?"
"Since the Lionel set up the tree when I was a kid."
"Nice." Stephen commented. "A layout of your own here?"
"Oh no, I could never build stuff like this."
"A P.Eng? I think you're selling yourself a little short there, Sir."
"Oh, alright, you got me there." A laugh. "I do have a bit of a layout, built on top of a 4x8 sheet of plywood and table legs in my basement." He paused. "It ain't running yet, but it's track is laid. I just gotta wire it up."
"A project for the winter, then."
"Yeah, when I can get around to it." Keyshawn was about to be surprised by the other man.
"My commanding officer used to say to me 'There are some things for which one should make time.' If you want your boy to be able to show off the layout he has and understand just how fun it can be, you gotta make the time."
Man's got a point there, Keyshawn thought to himself. "I even have the equipment for it already, too."
"Ha, now you gotta make it happen!"
Qatar Of The Commonwealth
Commonwealth Air Base Al-Udeid, Al Rayyan, Qatar
May 21, 2012
9:26 AM

It wasn't hard to see the sun rise in Qatar, as the relatively low peninsula that stuck out into the Persian Gulf was such that the hot sun wouldn't take long to rise over the peninsula that was, geographically speaking, a pretty normal looking peninsula in the middle of the desert, the brackish, salty water of the Gulf surrounding land that once upon a time would have been impressive in its lack of settlement....but the politics of man had dramatically changed that, of course. The sun's rise also signalled to those who lived there about a rapid change in the temperature, as the air's warmth rose from nightly lows in the comfortable mid-twenties to the blistering daily highs that regularly soared into the high thirties. The wind wasn't always welcome here, either - the wind regularly brought with it massive dust storms, and when it didn't do that it often meant that the wind brought humidity instead, but today, thankfully the humidity wasn't as bad as it could have been. No, today was going to be sunny and hot but relatively dry, which made the heat rather more bearable for many of the people who lived and worked at the substantial base.

Al-Udeid's position was made by man. Created during the Middle East Wars of fifteen years earlier by the young Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, as a hedge against the dangerous House of Saud to the south and the Iranians, long feared by the Arabs of the Gulf, to the north. Sheikh Hamad had been only too well aware of what the world around him could be like, and while it hadn't escaped anyone's notice that Iran had changed much over the previous decades in a way that made it rather less threatening to the Arabs of the region, old habits died hard, and the Shi'a-Sunni division of Islam that had divided them hadn't helped matters. Regardless, the Sheikh had chosen to ally with the Commonwealth nations in large part because he felt they would be less threatening than the Americans, but fate had soon proven that wrong - but the Commonwealth had then gone to considerable lengths to defend his country, and when they couldn't they took the Qataris with them, promising to return - and a year later they had returned, their spectacular return led by the guns of two British battleships, the aircraft of multiple nations' aircraft carriers, the bombers of the Indian Air Force and a whole division of Canadian, Australian and New Zealander paratroopers dropping directly onto Al Udeid, backed up by hundreds of attack aircraft and attack helicopters. The massive show of force had the effect of making the Saudis run like the devil, though the retreating troops' decisions to act like locusts had ended up coming back to haunt more than a few, as Canadian, Australian, British, French and Indian jet fighters, attack aircraft and helicopters had proceeded to sweep the Royal Saudi Air Force from the sky and then mercilessly bomb and strafe running Saudi soldiers, leaving such a mess behind that it had taken literally years to clean it all up. No sooner had the Saudis run from Qatar and Sheikh Hamad and his people return to their country that vast amounts of men and materiel had come to Qatar aboard the warships and cargo ships of dozens of nations, intent on building Qatar back into a new form, the form that its young, British and Canadian educated leader wanted, the land of the Persian Gulf that led the way on human progress.

And so it had become. Doha, Qatar's capital, now hosted a vast Commonwealth naval base in addition to the Al-Udeid Air Base, and the Sheikh's proclamations of the building of infrastructure to not only gather up Qatar's vast natural gas reserves but also turn it into resources for vast petrochemical complexes. Powered by American nuclear reactors, the Qatari facilities turned seawater into fresh and turned natural gas into lubricants, plastics, carbon fiber and synthetic fuels along with many other products. The contamination problems of much of the sand and seawater around Qatar - partly brought on the by the War and the Saudis being less than considerate to the environment - had led to the 2000s being the decade of environmental remediation and vast projects that had turned Doha's port into a massive facility and led to countless man-made islands and lagoons, which both the Qataris themselves and many foreign residents quickly took as a gold-plated opportunity to get involved in boating. The skyline of the city grew faster than its land area did, particularly as the gas projects went online and the tiny country quickly became extraordinarily wealthy, leading to a vast number of newcomers, particularly those of South Asian descent.

While Sheikh Hamad was well aware of his society's being on the conservative side with regards to social customs, it hadn't taken him or anyone else long to figure out that the future lay with those who accepted new ideas into their lives, and over the years after the Middle East Wars the society of Qatar opened up enormously. The vast majority of Qataris were Muslims of course, but today places of worship for other faiths were quite welcome, even encouraged, and the Modern Islam interpretations common among Muslim communities in the West and also in the Levant, Turkey and North Africa were rapidly taking hold in Qatar. Younger people, of course, tended to go in this direction more quickly. While it was legal to wear a bikini on a beach in Qatar, few locals did out of concern over their peers thinking of them, though one-piece bathing suits were now common. Women wearing hijabs did exist but face coverings were almost unheard of and many Qatari Arabs chose to have nicely-trimmed facial hair or simply shave it all off. Many aspects of Western clothing existed here now, though with their own spins put onto it by the locals - men frequently wore blue jeans and button-up shirts as an option to more traditional dress, women wearing power suits was quite common. Lighter-weight clothing was very much appreciated by locals in the summer, as air conditioning couldn't - and didn't - entirely deal with the sweltering heat and humidity. In other ways, Qataris and the many foreigners who lived here lived like Westerners in many other ways - they had their own massive shopping malls, restaurants, gyms and fitness facilities, sports venues, clubs and lounges. Qatar had become almost paradise for lovers of speed, as they raced just about anything that could be raced here, from traditional camel and horse racing to anything that had an engine, from go-karts and motorcycles to cars, trucks and boats. The country hosted a round of the World Superboat Series - and had been responsible for developing hydrogen fuels specifically for boat racing that had subsequently been adopted by races and championships the world over - and was in the process of building a racing circuit capable of hosting Formula One and World Sportscar Championship races and had, along with promoters in Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran, Dubai, Jordan and Socotra, developed a "Gulf Trophy" racing series, which was focused on developing home-grown talent in several different kinds of cars. The country was also talking with its neighbors of hosting big events like the FIFA World Cup or the Olympics, but all agreed that was likely to be some way off yet, but the mere fact they were talking about it got local sports nuts excited.

Since the fall of the House of Saud in 1997 the region had gotten much safer, but that didn't stop everyone involved from having sizable armed forces and the Qataris were no exception. Technically the Qataris owned the air base at Al-Udeid but it was widely used as a Commonwealth base and thus aircraft from many nations regularly made visits from all over the Commonwealth. British and Canadian aircraft were the most common visitors, though arrivals from Australia, India, South Africa, France and the United States were regular visitors as well, either using Al-Udeid as a transit point or as a support point. A sizable collection of British and Canadian aerial refueling tankers and air freighters graced Al-Udeid at any given time, and on this day a squadron of Royal Canadian Air Force air superiority fighters were on hand, the Qataris having little difficultly being awed by the incredible Lockheed Martin-built CF-220A Raptor fighters that were, when combined with their CE-194B Vision airborne radar aircraft - and two of those hydrogen-fueled monsters were at Al-Udeid at that point, too - the varsity of the Royal Canadian Air Force and easily as good as any air defense aircraft on the planet. Two squadrons of Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons were at that point at Al-Udeid as well, the larger, stealthy Raptors a real contrast to the sleek, agile Typhoons. The Qataris themselves operated two squadrons of French Dassault Rafale fighters that were closer to the Typhoons than the Rafales, but all three nations' pilots had a healthy respect for each other. Each squadron had their own facilities, and the Qataris, bent on making sure they never got caught out again, had spared to no expense at these - hardened concrete shelters and hangars, underground fuel storage and piping, halon fire suppression systems where fire was more likely, huge ramps with shelters for crews and aircraft alike and tons of room to maneuver. The base's facilities were equally impressive - the Barracks for the enlisted men all had their own storage lockers, all NCOs had their own rooms, everyone had access to first-class facilities. The base exchanges and commissaries were impressive because the Qataris wanted them to be, adding to the idea of hospitality to visitors that was a part of the culture of the trading Arabs who had lived for millennia in this part of the world, and the Qataris themselves made sure they were always very well stocked indeed as well as being quite happy to take payment for goods in a variety of currencies - Qatari dinars, British pounds, Canadian, Australian and American dollars, Euros, even Indian rupees. The base had vast command centers both for regular operational use as well as for show purposes for press conferences and media attention, and the Qataris made these as impressive as possible as well. No one would ever call Al-Udeid anything other than operating base - the Qatari base guards armed with assault rifles, their wheeled armored vehicles and the Patriot air defense batteries would make quite sure of that - but while the base was a working space, with everything that entailed, it was a very comfortable working space indeed.
Ponte City Visions
Ponte City Apartments, Saratoga Avenue, Johannesburg, South Africa
January 16, 2021
10:30 AM

"And I couldn't be prouder to show off the new face of one of South Africa's landmarks, a true fusion of the past and the present, a place that will once again become famous for being one of the best addresses, a true place of legend in the City of Gold!" Nyaniso Makepula spoke loudly, his enthusiasm for the massive, painstakingly-refurbished structure that towered behind him, many of its new residents being only too happy to be the backdrop of its owner's press conference to open the structure and listen to him speak of the place that they called home and how truly amazing its new form was. Always one of the greatest landmarks of Johannesburg, its evolution and that of the Berea neighborhood it was the marker of was indeed very much in line with the progress Johannesburg itself had made, going from a white-dominated businessman's hub to the 24-hours-a-day-hopping, racially and ethnically diverse, prosperous and energetic center of the arts, sciences, learning and discovery that the city known as eGoli - the "City of Gold" in the Zulu language - had become. While the old money had long since moved north to Sandton and the rich suburbs that marked most of the terrain between Johannesburg and Pretoria, Africa had begun to reclaim its largest city in the 1970s, and South Africa's transition to democracy and then its remarkable economic growth in the 1980s and 1990s had kick-started truly vast changes, and Africa's reclaiming of Johannesburg, while not without its own challenges, had by the 21st Century meant that while Johannesburg's central core wasn't now the place one went to do business deals, it was where one went to do many other things, filled as it was with designers, stylists, artists, musicians, teachers and many other kinds of creative people, the young mixing with the old who themselves had in many cases become very, very impressed with what the newcomers did to the neighborhood.

Ponte City, built in the early 1970s as a prestigious address for well-to-do Johannesburg residents in what was then a city dominated by whites, had seen a notable decay as the whites fled the downtown core in the 1970s, but the black Africans who had taken up all of the space of the departing Afrikaner and English South Africans had been quick to make the area both their own and what they wanted it to be. Co-operatives took over whole blocks, buildings got refurbished, what was once block after block of concrete tower blocks was now a brightly-colored metropolis, its open areas lined with many kinds of African trees, the local artists making vast collections of street art, what had been office towers becoming markets and artist studios and galleries. The inexpensive rents of the area meant people of all means could move in, and a vast collection of them did, these people initially being others from South Africa's various tribes and backgrounds, but by the 1980s others from Africa came, as well as Indians and even some adventurous whites both from South Africa and even other countries. Students at the adjacent University of Johannesburg took up whole apartment buildings, artists took up others, the sportsmen who played at the nearby Ellis Park Stadium took up more places still. The Hillbrow Tower, whose famous rotating restaurants had been abandoned in the late 1970s, had been brought back to life with new tenants a decade later, the new restaurant there quickly becoming one of the city's best.

By the 1990s these people had the ability to build new buildings from scratch on their own, and where some smaller buildings had been now rose some new office, hotel and apartment towers. Over time, these people gained their own swagger, both from their accomplishments and from their desire to add to them in every way possible. Well remembering many of the social supports that had kept South Africa moving in past times - some of these dating from tribal times and others to deal with the relative neglect that the whites-only era had left behind - these supports remained very much alive and well. Homelessness simply didn't exist in Johannesburg in modern times, neighborhood watch programs made sure the area was kept safe even when Johannesburg's police weren't around, few people had the nerve to even litter, much less engage in other forms of antisocial behaviour. Churches, mosques and now a Jewish Synagogue existed in the neighborhood, and both the city's famous (or infamous, depending on one's perspective, as they tended to drive like lunatics at the best of times) minivan taxis and trolleybus services meant those who couldn't drive or didn't want to use their cars or motorcycles didn't have to. The bottom floors of pretty much every building were made up of shops, restaurants and galleries, these places advertising their wares on the sidewalks as often as not, adding to the sidewalk congestion but being an effective way of a shop selling their wares. A developer of a new building had made a point of the building's lower podium having a field for soccer built on top of it for it for local residents to play on, a good idea that had subsequently been copied by several others for playgrounds and rugby fields, while a number of larger spaces had become fitness centers and gyms, added to by several public parks in downtown Johannesburg having outdoor workout equipment installed, this leading to the local jargon gaining the phrase "hitting the pit", that being going to work out, the temperature of the region in summer and Johannesburg's near-6000-foot altitude combining to make sure the locals had very good cardiovascular fitness indeed. In a land where race had once been one of its greatest dividers the whites who lived here now shared beers and braais and banter with their black neighbors, who often came from other parts of both South Africa and the rest of the continent to seek better futures for themselves, the whites quickly joining in in the communal atmosphere that contributed so much to life in this place and finding that the racial animus of the past was just that - the past.

Ponte City was merely now the newest of the impressive works of both art and design in this city that was becoming famous for both. Built in a cylindrical shape to work around Johannesburg's bylaws at the time that meant that bathrooms and kitchens both had to have windows, The center of the building was today a vast tropical aviary, Residents looking into this aviary having windows meant specifically to allow a good view of the towering central hub, that had gained a vast vertical collection of wildlife, complete with a waterfall and pond in the middle of it that had been dug out from the bare rock base in the center of the tower. The elevators on one side had been rebuilt with glass walls to allow residents views of the place on their way up, and additional ones built. The massive advertisement that had once sat on top of the tower was now gone, replaced by a vast rooftop patio and communal space for most of it - much of this in itself shadowed by solar panels - and one side of the massive building now had a sizable square addition, adding living space into an already-huge building but also making it look even more stylish than it already was. It's concrete exterior was now covered by blue glass and stylish exterior detailing, the newly-refurbished building was almost certain to be a popular spot in an already-popular city, its residents all too ready to make everyone forget about the times part where this tower had been a sign of all that was wrong with South Africa.

For Nyaniso, it was a day he'd dreamed of for years, when over twenty-four years previous when he, armed with a loan, a business degree, a sense of purpose and a dream, had begun buying up buildings in Johannesburg as the city came back into popularity in a big way, joining the black investors who had bought up so much of Johannesburg and brought a place once left behind with the growing pains brought on by the advent of democracy in South Africa in the early 1980s very much back from a nadir. They treated the place like a canvas that first needed to be prepared - a challenge in itself in many places, this being one of them - and then created on. Nyaniso, who now owned over a dozen buildings and had leveraged himself to the limit to be able to not only make Ponte City his and give it the rebirth he felt it deserved, had pushed himself hard to make it work, enduring more than a few sleepless nights and troubles along the way.

But now, having done it, he needed to only look up at the building to know what he had done, as personally and financially difficult for him as it had been, had been absolutely worth every hardship. He had, of course, gotten one of the units for himself - a 52nd floor penthouse - and he only needed to look out from the windows to the bouncing city below and feel a sense of pride, a sense of accomplishment. He knew that the job wasn't over yet - it never entirely would be, and he was at peace with that - but it was a day to be savoured, a day to be enjoyed, even as the oppressive heat of South Africa at the height of summer fought to make it one which one couldn't enjoy. But for him, and the people behind him, what was behind him was another creation in a city defined by them. Where there had once been white mining engineers and accountants and businessmen, there was now a vast collection of people from all over Africa, black, white and everything in between, creating food, music, paintings, sculptures, books and movies, along with those who helped them to do so and those who were learning to be the next ones to do so, filling up the buildings the old order had created as monuments to their hard work and then left behind out of fear of what could well have been had the better angels of so many natures not intervened.

Africa had reclaimed one of its most important places, taken what had been left behind and made it into something completely different - a different that was dramatically different from what had been before, no doubt, but a different that today drew visitors in their thousands, drew in those from the flowering northern suburbs who wanted a taste of the authentic experience that was modern South Africa, an experience that manifested itself in the many skin colours that wore their dramatically-different styles of clothing with pride, who lived their different but intertwined lives with a sense that what was possible was only defined by one's imagination. South Africans had seen a vast number of people travel to the other nations of the Central Commonwealth after South Africa's return to the organization and its rise to the Central Commonwealth nations in 1989, and that alone had brought a lot of changes back that filled in gaps in the culture, leading to such situations as the massive ice rink that occupied part of the Carlton Center in downtown Johannesburg that was home to multiple clubs of ice hockey players - one of the best of these, Andrew Khayalethu, was now one of the alternate captains of the Vancouver Canucks of the NHL and was feared as a fast-shooting right winger - and the appearance in South Africa of chains and foods of many Commonwealth nations inevitably followed its citizens, more than a few of whom now called Johannesburg home. They tended to congregate in individual buildings or neighborhoods - Canadians in Yeoville and North Hillbrow, Australians and New Zealanders in Troyeville and Turffontein, Brits in Berea and Kensington - but they brought with them and gave to the locals more than a few additions - not a few South Africans learned to speak French from a Quebecer transplanted to the highveld, any rugby match at Ellis Park where the Wallabies or All Blacks played was sure to have plenty of supporters for both sides in the crowd, South African pubs had many of their own traditions as well as those of the British.

But all of that was merely additions to an already-extraordinary world that existed, and was lovingly nurtured in the hearts, minds and arms of Johannesburg's modern residents, of all levels of wealth and all classes. It wasn't everyone's cup of tea, of course, but time and effort had made the City of Gold into a place that boasted not only great wealth and knowledge, a rich culture and a sense of pride in their accomplishments, a place that truly was unlike any other and, for those who loved it, a place that its residents called their own, not wanting to be anywhere else, and that manifesting in the fact that the wealthy of the city didn't choose to follow their forebears to the northern suburbs - they bought or built places to live commensurate to their wealth and status and went right on enjoying the place they loved. Their tailored suits, stylish dresses, expensive watches and English-, German- or American-built luxury cars didn't become signs of ostentatiousness but rather a highly-visible signal of what could be accomplished by one who put their all into their learning and creativity, a sign from the Gods in finely-wrought cotton or exquisitely-painted metal, a message received by many in this place, the people who had built a new city using the remnants of the old.
Canada Of The Amigos
Canada Of The Amigos, Part 2

Canada maybe the smallest of the Three Amigos countries, but its proud traditions remain very much a part of its lore and its name still evokes responses from people around the world, that despite its closeness to the United States, Mexico and the United Kingdom, it retains its own identity that influences its allies, its own powerful economy and corporate sectors, many elements of its society that are quintessentially Canadian and unique. It's a country built from a massively diverse collection of people built on a truly vast landscape that varies as much as any in the world and includes a love of all of the peoples and all of the lands that fly the famous red-and-white maple leaf over them. To Canadians in modern times, the differences between those people and their backgrounds pretty much don't exist except as the place where hails from with all of the benefits that come from that, and over time there have become many of all the kinds of people who have gone to the other places and brought their knowledge, skills and experiences with them, adding to a massive mosaic that defines a lot of Canada to the world.

Canada's earliest cultures - the First Nations, then the French and finally the English - started much of this off. Divided into over 650 different groups, the First Nations have many different tongues and many different traditions and in many cases look very different from each other, this being most pronounced among the indigenous tribes of the Caribbean provinces, which Canada considers a part of the First Nations aside from the Mayans, who won a landmark legal case in 1991 to be considered a different group by the Canadian government outside of the First Nations, though today the proud Mayans themselves will often call themselves indigenous Canadians of Mayan descent. The largest groups of these are the ground-breaking Iroquois, whose relations with the Europeans go back to the 17th Century and today many of their own influences, with them having their own 'shadow government' in the Iroquois Confederacy that acts as a liaison between Canada, the provinces and the tribes as well as also acting as a mediator between the various tribes and bands and as an economic development engine for all of them, a position few governments have ever had an issue with. The Iroquois' actions have led to similar organizations among the Anishinaabe, Cree, Inuit, Dene, Blackfoot, Nakoda and many groups of the Salish Sea region Native Canadians, something that has been beneficial for the tribes themselves as well as governments, who frequently use these groups as a way of more easily working with the First Nations when involving them in land development issues, something made a constitutional requirement after a Supreme Court ruling in 1977.

Like the other Amigos, the relationship between the First Nations and those of European descent was very much a paternalistic one in the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries, though the events that began with the North American War in 1861-1864 and the many cases of agreements between the tribes and new arrivals as the Americans and Canadians spread westwards in the 19th Century changed that, leading directly to Canada's landmark Treaty of Orillia in 1920, which ended forever Canada's desire to assimilate the Natives into Canada and instead led to the First Nations rapidly growing in number during the 20th Century as well as contributing to a massive revival of their cultural traditions, language, their own education and social systems and many other benefits as the 20th Century went on. While the Treaty was superseded by the repatriated Canadian Constitution in 1972, the vast majority of its contents were kept or made a part of the Constitution itself (including a twelve-person contingent of Canadian Senators chosen by the First Nations themselves) and as a result very little changed with the Constitution in place. While many elements of the communal lifestyle of many of the tribes with regards to land ownership and personal property disappeared in the 20th Century, this as often as not had positive effects for many tribes as Canada's wealth in the post-WWI era led to many of these tribes using their land as collateral for businesses or better homes, contributing to a massive growth in their living standards in the years after the Treaty of Orillia. Today, Canada's First Nations number over seven million and they are present in every province of the Federation, and they have particularly high-profile communities in the cities of the West and British Columbia as well as Montreal, which has two of the wealthiest - and most famous, for good reason - tribal territories in its metropolitan area and as such has become a center of the Iroquois life, so much so that more than a few Montrealers will call the city Hochelaga - the name the Iroquois gave it in their name - and there are neighborhoods named for Iroquois names.

French Canadians, who are distant descendants to the first European arrivals to this part of the new world in the early 1600s and who today make up an outright majority in Quebec and New Brunswick and have large presences in Prince Edward Island and Northern Ontario, are the second of what Canada often refers to as its "distinct societies". Overwhelmingly Roman Catholic (as opposed to the English, who were are mostly Anglicans), they were at time one of the most devout and conservative peoples in Canada but during the 20th Century have flipped that 180 degrees, in the process taking Quebec (which was the last of metropolitan Canada's provinces to grant women the right to vote in 1927, nearly a decade after all of the others) from being Canada's most socially conservative province to being one of its most liberal. Much of this can be traced back to a dramatic change in the thinking of Canada that began to occur in the 1920s, as the very-loyalist Canadian governments outside of Quebec would beginning in the Roaring Twenties to openly advocate for the massive changes to the societies of the rest of Canada, one of these being the French language, which began to be a required subject for school students in Ontario in 1921 and after World War II became hugely popular across much of Canada. Today, the overwhelming majority of Canadians are bilingual and can converse in French as well as in English, and starting in 1946 Quebec returned the favor, teaching English proficiency in all of its schools. There were many other elements, but the upshot was that Canada's image of itself shifting from being Britain's North American outpost to its own nation with its three "foundational peoples" (as defined in Canada's Constitution in 1972) basically wiped out "The Survival" that had been a key part of social norms among the French Canadians since the British victory at the Plains of Abraham in 1759, which led to many of the French Canadians both becoming as proud of their country as anyone else and spreading out both across Canada, the Amigos and further afield as well as the Baby Boomer generation creating an entire generation of French-speaking businessmen that quickly took over much of Montreal's business world starting in 1960s and which today are known across the entire world in many fields. This expansion of the personal pride and knowledge led to many of the French Canadians of the Atlantic provinces referring to themselves as 'Acadians', the spiritual successors of the French-speaking peoples the British expelled from the region in 1755 (though many of the descendants of which found their way back after Canada's independence in 1860) and a popular view to separate the Atlantic Canada peoples from the Quebecers.

The third foundational people, of course, are the English, though many of those of Scottish and Irish descent will openly say they influenced Canada as much as the English, something that isn't entirely untruthful. The British conquered the entirety of the east coast of North America with the defeat of the French at the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City in 1759 (today, the site is a National Historic Landmark) but held it for just fifteen years before the American Revolution led directly to the loss of what the British referred to as the Thirteen Colonies, which in itself led directly to a massive number of refugees to Canada, these people often colloquially known as the United Empire Loyalists, who formed much of the first wave of the population of Ontario. While the British continued to maintain the colonies in Canada and had no trouble with lots of immigrants going here in the 18th and 19th Centuries (and defeated the American attempt to conquer them in the War of 1812), it wasn't long before the native tribes so instrumental in the Canadian victory over the Americans found themselves pushed into Canada by the none-too-impressed Americans (though the issues presented with this and Canada's dramatic relationship changes with its First Nations did not go unnoticed in Washington), this ultimately leading to Upper Canada becoming the larger of the two colonies by the 1840s. The Rebellions of 1837 led directly to changes in the government that in themselves led ultimately to Canada's independence in 1860, but the British remained one of Canada's closest relationships.

Canada's involvement in the North American War rewrote the relationship between Washington and their new neighbor to the North - the countries have be staunch allies ever since, and rare was the American politician even in the 19th Century who advocated for Manifest Destiny to be extended into Canada after their success in the North American War. Canada rapidly spread its wings after the Continent in the years after that, the Canadian Pacific Railway's being completed in 1881 basically ending any possibility of Canada not being a transcontinental nation. While Canada would remain a loyal member of the British Empire for the rest of that Empire's existence, Canada took its independence to heart, and while the country's complete identity as a nation wouldn't fully blossom until the 20th Century, Canada became one of the fastest growing nations in the World between 1865 and 1914, this booted along by the settling of lands as Canada spread West. While the country would have a few remaining vestiges of political connections to England until its Constitution repatriation in 1972, the legacy of the English stretched far beyond the colonial remnants - even today the King of the United Kingdom is still Canada's head of state (as of 2024 this is Charles III, who inherited the throne from his legendary mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in 2022) and many of the symbols of Canada continue to be descended from the British, though many of these today have a distinctly Canadian flavor.

In comparison to the United States, whose "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" ethos has become something of a rallying cry for its own people, Canada's somewhat-contrasting "Peace, Order and Good Government" ethos hasn't stropped the country from developing a deep set of personal rights, though Canadians tend to be more tolerant of restrictions on said rights to maintain the greater good than the other two Amigos countries, but it also has led to Canada's governments being watched quite closely by its citizens. Canada hasn't had a government with an outright majority of votes or seats in Canada's Parliament since 1988, and while this reality has meant that multiple party coalitions are today more the rule than the exception, these alliances and governments work inside a variety of principles, the most important of which is the 'Good Government' part of the ethos. Corruption is almost unheard of in Canadian governments (and those guilty of such malfeasance tend to be treated quite harshly) and the government's police forces also tend to follow a greater service to the population ethos than in some other parts of the world, this ethos also manifesting in the fame of many of their symbols - the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's famous red dress uniforms are a famous sight in Canada (though in regular duties these uniforms are rarely used), the Canadian Armed Forces are treated with a great amount of respect and those involved in other civil services also earn similar respect, but are expected to act in a manner befitting that respect. For the most part this is indeed the case, and the Armed Forces and RCMP in particular have a deep disdain for those guilty of misconduct from their own ranks.

Canada's historical tendency to "Do Things Right, The First Time" has been a hallmark of its history since colonial times. Then, the colonies of Upper and Lower Canada alike invested heavily in the building of better transportation corridors, first in canals and waterways (virtually all of which remain in operation, though most today are much too small for use by commercial vessels, though pleasure boating is a popular tradition in Canada and these canals are a large part of the reason why) and then in railroads, though the railroads weren't alone thanks to the building of the Georgian Bay Ship Canal, which was built between 1898 and 1913 and was the most expensive public works project in Canadian history at the time, but which had the effect of rewriting the rules of trade in the Great Lakes as the canal, built to identical dimensions to the quite-similar Panama Canal, took hundreds of kilometres off of the travel distance for a ship heading to Thunder Bay, massively expanding the grain exports to Europe after the First World War and ultimately being the impetus for the rebuilding of the Welland Canal and the St. Lawrence Seaway, which were rebuilt to similar size, this project being completed in 1937.

Canada's first transcontinental railroad in the Canadian Pacific, completed in 1881, remains very much in operation, while the Canadian National Railways system, formed by the Canadian government in 1921 from the bankrupt Canadian Northern and Grand Trunk systems as well as the already government-owned National Transcontinental, Intercolonial, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland systems, became the country's largest railroad almost overnight and would spend the next few decades locked into a stiff rivalry with the Canadian Pacific. But even this event was the subject of some intelligent thinking by the government, as the Grand Trunk Pacific was split off from the Grand Trunk and sold off to new owners out of a desire to avoid CNR having a virtual monopoly across freight shipments in the northern portions of the Prairie provinces. This line ended up in the control of the same owners as the "Hill Lines" in the United States (the Great Northern, Northern Pacific, Burlington Route and Spokane, Portland and Seattle), a position that led to them ultimately becoming the Canadian connection for these lines and the line ultimately becoming part of the Burlington Northern railroad in 1976. Meanwhile, the friendly-but-intense rivalry between the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National ultimately turned both companies into some of the largest firms in the country and gave Canada a transportation system with few rivals. With the completion of the Trans-Canada Highway in 1929, road transportation followed a similar ethos, complete with Canada and Mexico both being active parts of the all-Amigos Interstate Highway System, which began construction after the agreements between American President Marshall Kirk, his Mexican counterpart, Juan Martín Sarmiento and Canadian Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent in September 1955, saw the road network gain similar improvements, even if the 1957-58 Energy Crisis and the years after it changed much for the country's development patterns.

Canada's development patterns after World War II shifted dramatically with its massive baby boom and the growth of new regions and industries. The completion of rail service to the Bay of Ungava in 1962 and the opening of Port Nelson in 1964 led to the growth of shipping in the Canadian Arctic and multiple subsequent resource discoveries there, while Canada's North became the center of a lot of attention in the post-war years, particularly as the completion of the massive James Bay and Ontario North hydroelectric projects in the 1950s and 1960s led to vast industries locating in the north, with the long-struggling Clay Belt of Northern Ontario and Quebec becoming a major center for ranching in the years after World War II (and raising some of the world's finest horses starting in the early 1970s - since then, horses from the region have won five Kentucky Derbys, three Ascot Gold Cups and many other races around the world) and the mining industries were quickly followed by metal refining industries, while the monster Dofasco Sept-Iles steel mill, the largest in the world when completed in 1959, became a sign of Canada's future plans for its industrial sectors, as the desire to grow the northern regions (and avoid overcrowding the great cities further cities further south) led to many industrial developments and infrastructure and power projects, while the First Nations of these once-isolated places rapidly became part of these societies. The explosion of nuclear energy around the world in the 1960s and 1970s and its subsequent growth in demand for uranium led to northern Saskatchewan becoming one of the world's hubs for uranium mining starting in the 1950s, and since the 1980s nuclear reprocessing industries have operated here as well. (Canada's nuclear weapons program also operated out of Uranium City as well out of the famed Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario, and today most of Canada's weapons use plutonium made from reprocessed fuel at Uranium City.) The country's highly-advanced heavy-water reactor designs are used in almost all Canadian nuclear power plants and many variants of them have been sold to over 20 countries abroad.
Nope, still part of Virginia. There is no reason for them to be broken off here. The US here is the Lower Fourty-Seven plus Alaska, Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Panama for a total of 52 states.
Excellent. I asked because was making some flag ideas I had for the US states in TTL as part of a just for fun project. If you guys are interested I can offer them as contributions.
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