The Napoléad: What if Napoléon won the war in Russia?

The World War: 1925
The World War: Part IV

Paris, France
4 January, 1925
3:00 PM

“Friedrich Wilhelm speaking.” The other side of the telephone said.
“Good day, Friedrich.” Empress Emma said. “How are things going in Prussia?”
“In the part of it that hasn’t been overrun by the Ivans, you mean?” The Prussian King said. “Not too badly. How’s it in France?”
“My dead brother’s son was born last night, and the nobles are freaking out about how he’s supposed to rule now.” Emma said. “They even named him Napoleon to try to confirm legitmacy or something. That can wait though, he won’t be of age until 1940.”
“Sounds like the mess you had to deal with in June.” Friedrich Wilhelm said.
“It is, and I’m going to do the same thing I did then: tell them all to forget about it. We can deal with it in 1940.” Emma said. “But enough of that, what’s your army like?”
“To be honest, it’s not good. Since the Bavarians reached the Rhine I’ve had to defend a rather long front. The Russians outnumber us a good two-to-one, so they can basically force themselves forward wherever along the line they feel like.” Friedrich Wilhelm explained.
“So can the Prussian Army hold out at all?” Emma asked.
“If we retreat to near Hamburg and the North Sea coast, we could probably hold them off there if they decide striking the Rhine is more important. If Russia wants Hamburg though, I think they’re strong enough to get it.”
“If you can’t hold them on that side of the Rhine, then I think we’ll have to hold them on this side. Even when Custer was rampaging through Paris in 1887, the Russians never got across the river. We can hold them there until we’re ready to push back. As soon as we do start pushing, the Tsar’s force will crumble. He’s fighting basically the whole world now.” Emma said.
Friedrich Wilhelm groaned. “That means handing over all of Prussia.”
“It does.” Emma admitted.
“And if we can’t push back, Prussia’s as good as done for.” Friedrich Wilhelm said. “Hamburg and the other cities will get razed. Berlin and Warsaw did.”
“Declare them open cities then.” Emma said. “Not much of medieval chivalry has survived this long, but as far as I’m aware no-one has sought fit to break that understanding yet. I need time to gather forces, and I need Prussia’s army as intact as it can be, but if I can assemble the force, I think we’ll be strong enough to push them all the way to Moscow.”
“Moscow?” If Friedrich Wilhelm had been sitting in a chair at that moment, Emma guessed he had just flown six feet away from it. “How?”
“My scientists have found a new type of gas. Its basically colourless, and when sprayed from a flier it looks not too different to mist or rain. It will be a few months before we have enough of it, but once we do there will be little the Russians can do to stop it. The stuff kills worse than mustard, and unlike mustard you can’t see it coming and get into one of those fancy suits.” Emma explained. “As long as Julius can hold the Alps and you can get your forces out of there alive, we can put an end to the Tsar’s crusade.”
“This had better work.” Friedrich Wilhelm warned.
“If it doesn’t, we’ll both be too dead to worry about it.” Emma said, putting down the phone. And my head will be put on a spike in Petersburg.

Indian Front, 1925

Tsar Alexander II had been surprised when the British and French put aside their differences after Emperor Jerome II was killed, and knew that a potential Franco-British alliance would be much more difficult to combat than if the World War had remained a three-sided affair as it had been after the coup d’etat in Poland. That left only one option: win the war before the French and British could combine their forces for a unified assault on the Russian homeland.

The first front to be reinforced was India. After the initial December Offensive in 1922 had taken the Russians to the gates of Delhi and Bombay, the Russian Army of India had stalled due to a combination of poor logistics and British reinforcements from Europe, with Delhi only falling in 1924. Now, with another million men and several squadrons of fliers backing it up, the Army of India was ready to advance again. The new attack was to take place in the north, far from British naval support and containing less difficult terrain than the south. Calcutta, at the other end of the subcontinent, was the capital of the British colony, and its fall could very well result in the collapse of British resistance all across India.

Beginning with the end of the monsoon in late 1924, the renewed offensive began by showing success not unlike the offensive two years prior. British lines east of Delhi were shattered by Russia’s armoured column, while brand new one-wing fliers shot and gassed their rivals. Although British fliers were not caught on the ground unprepared, every other face of victory seen in 1922 was seen again.

Such an offensive however, proved to be too much for the Russian logistic train, which had already been strained attempting to supply forces outside of Bombay and in Delhi. Regular Indian sabotage of railroads did not help the offensive, and before the Russians were even able to make half of the distance from Delhi to Calcutta, the supply line collapsed under its own weight. Attempts to airlift supplies to the army relieved the situation somewhat, but the offensive lost its momentum, never to regain it.

The British and their Indian allies, now reinforced by forces fresh from battling the French and two new classes of conscripts, were ready to take advantage of the Russian Army’s overextension. For two weeks, an intense battle was fought in the narrow wedge of land between the Himalayas and the Ganges, while massive swarms of fliers streaked across northern India trying to gain advantage. In the end, the British were able to claim victory, as the Russians began a long retreat westward. Every step of the way, they would be harried by the British Army and native partisans, and by the end of the campaigning season Britain had pushed their foes back beyond their lines at the beginning of the year. Delhi was liberated, Bombay was no longer in artillery range and General Andrews acquired the nickname “the Hero of India”.

European Front, 1925

All was not lost for Russia however. The Tsar’s Army enjoyed considerable numerical superiority over the Prussians and Italians, while the French were still scrambling to reassemble their forces after Jerome’s campaigns had left them dispersed along the Italian and Spanish frontiers. Although a defense along the Rhine River had held off the Bavarians, the future still looked grim for France, which once again faced the prospect of invasion by a nation that held a long-standing grudge against them (Russia had, after all, been humiliated and forced into almost client-state status by Napoleon after Vitebsk in 1812, and they had not forgotten).

At the urgent suggestion of Empress Emma, the Prussians retreated towards their northern coast, and in February the majority of the Prussian Army evacuated Prussia by sea, joining their allies on the west bank of the Rhine. The Russians were told that most towns in northern Prussia had been declared open cities, including the temporary capital in Hamburg. The Tsar reportedly scoffed, asking a reporter “is that halfwit king really handing over half of his country for nothing at all?” The Russians however respected the open city status, and Hamburg was spared the destruction that Berlin and Warsaw had suffered.

Not long after the evacuation was completed, the Russian Army reached the French border on the Rhine, finding a defiant Franco-Prussian Army waiting for them. The massive river would be a significant obstacle, and Emma resolved to defend the line as fiercely as the Canadians had defended the St Lawrence. Without the overwhelming majority of numbers that the Americans had enjoyed, the Russians, in theory, would not be able to break through, and once they had worn themselves out attacking the line, the French would take the offensive.

The Tsar’s generals noticed this strategy, and it took only a day for them to come to the same conclusion that the Empress had. In 1887, France had never lost control of the Rhine frontier, and with many more nations supporting them compared to the last war, it was fairly likely that they could hold it again. Thoughts in St Petersburg then turned towards the United Provinces, a small nation with hardly any army to speak of that could provide a route into France. The Rhine went through the United Provinces, but Russian commanders believed they could secure a crossing before the French would be able to rush to its defense. The plan was submitted to the Tsar, who approved it almost immediately.

The United Provinces was conquered in a few days, with the puny Dutch Army no match for the massive Russian force. Amsterdam and Antwerp were added to the list of cities ruined by the Russians, while the Tsar ordered his men to push on towards Paris.

Empress Emma was undeterred. Apart from a few bridges near Arnhem, the Russians were still unable to force themselves across the Rhine, and she refused any requests to pull back to make a shorter frontline. The bulk of the French and Prussian Armies would continue to hold the Rhine frontier, while a smaller force was quietly siphoned off to combat the new threat from the north.

But Emma wasn’t going to attack the Russians directly. As the fighting in India had demonstrated, the simple destruction of the enemy’s ability to supply itself would be enough to take an army out of the fighting. With that in mind, she ordered the beginning of an offensive aimed at the bridges in Arnhem. “Take those bridges,” she said, “and we control who crosses the Rhine.” In a symbolic gesture, she allowed the Prussian King, who had been maintaining a government-in-exile from Paris, to lead the operation, which took the bridges in late September. After securing a small but heavily fortified area on the east bank of the Rhine, French efforts turned towards the destruction of the Russian column that had broken into France, which eventually surrendered in early 1926.

The Baltic Raid, 1925

British success in India was still nothing more than a victory in a secondary theatre, that would be unlikely to have a decisive impact on outcome of the expanded war, and the British Government (no longer headed by Donleigh, who resigned in late 1924), sought a victory that would represent more than a successful defense of a colony or a mere evacuation.

After months of debating, what became known as the Carrier Plan was formed. Ever since the beginning of the war, the Royal Navy had seen success even when their army had been pushed back, wiping out first the Russian Fleets in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean, and then the Selimids once they joined the fighting. British naval support had been crucial in keeping Russian fliers from harrassing the evacuation efforts at Hamburg, but now the Royal Navy wanted another chance to strike at the enemy.

The Carrier Plan was ambitious, calling for a massive strike on an unsuspecting target far from the front lines: St Petersburg. The Danish, although friendly towards France since the Napoleonic Wars, had not joined in the fighting against Russia, and the British hoped that they would be supportive of the plan. The Danish king was notified and agreed to allow the British to pass through the narrow straits near Copenhagen.

The Russian Baltic Fleet was quickly found and sunk by the British broadships, and the Russians did not appear to find out about the presence of flier carriers until their fliers began the bombardment of the city.

The bombing of St Petersburg caught the Russians off guard in one of the most dramatic battles of the entire war. The port was reduced to a flaming ruin, while industrial districts were gassed and factories obliterated. A special effort was made against the Winter Palace, including the dropping of mustard gas, although the Tsar was in Moscow at the time. When the carriers departed the following day, several square kilometres had been smashed into rubble and nearly 20,000 civilians had been killed, largely due to the presence of mustard gas throughout the city. British losses totalled only seven fliers and their crews, a small price to pay for such a humiliating blow to the Tsar’s prestige.

North African Front, 1925

While France and Russia fought the great battles for control of Arnhem and the Rhine, the Spanish Army had been tasked with expelling the Selimids from Italian Tripolitania, although their efforts until this point had been relatively unsuccessful. The Selimids took Tunis in early 1925, and by the middle of the year they had pushed almost as far as the border to the Spanish colonies in northwestern Africa. The commanding general was forced into retirement, and a new soldier was chosen to replace him.

His name was Jose Franco, the latest in a long line of Francos that had served with distinction in Spain’s Navy. Jose however, had rejected his father’s demands that he too join the Navy from an early age, and instead had devoted himself to the Army, largely on the basis that the Army had more glory attached to it.

When Franco arrived in Africa, his first action was to demand more equipment. The Spanish Army in Africa had enough men and rifles, but was sorely lacking in armour and fliers, the majority of what the force had once had had been destroyed or abandoned during the retreat from Benghazi. The government, after considering sacking the troublesome general, agreed, sending three hundred ‘bricks’ and four hundred fliers.

As soon as he had them, Franco proceeded to do what he did best: disobey orders. His instructions had been to hold the line between the Atlas mountains and the Mediterranean coast at a point roughly along the Spanish-Italian colonial border. Instead, he left three divisions there under the command of a subordinate, and took the rest of his force across the Atlas mountains through a pair of passes, totally undetected. Once across, his forces surged out from the south, storming into Gabes in a lightning campaign, and Tripoli was retaken only a week later. The Selimid force in Tunis was destroyed in following months, while Franco regrouped his forces, knowing that the Selimids would send another force to hunt him down.

Spanish King Francisco IV was furious that Franco had so blatantly violated orders, and it is widely believed that had the general not been so stunningly successful, he would likely have lost his head. Franco however, was successful, and more supplies were sent his way. The King did not even bother issuing new orders, expecting that Franco would just do whatever he felt like anyway.

The World War: 1926-1927
The World War: Part V

North African Front, 1926

At the beginning of 1926, Franco’s armoured column was ready to move again. The port at Tripoli had been rebuilt enough for supplies to be unloaded there, and with the Selimid Navy nothing more than a few rusted hulks at the bottom of the Mediterranean, he had sent instructions back to Madrid requesting that the force be supplied entirely by sea rather than using the long and difficult road from Algiers.

The Selimids by now had reinforced their lines around El Aghelia and Benghazi, almost inviting Franco to overextend himself trying to push them out, and while they had an advantage in manpower, they could not call on nearly as much heavy equipment as Franco could.

Franco however, did not want to fight the Selimid force in a drawn-out battle. The Selimids were as deserving of the great power title as France was, and defeating them in a long war was beyond the abilities of his force. If Spain’s allies joined the fight, the Selimids would crumble, but they were busy in Europe. Instead, Franco came up with what became known as Operation Desert Hawk. Desert Hawk called for the Spanish flier force to be directed at Benghazi and El Aghelia, which would hopefully lead to the Selimids believing that Franco was intending to fight them directly.

Franco’s true advance was instead directed at Tobruk, a substantial port just within Selimid territory and the main supply centre for their efforts in Tripolitania. As they were at Gabes the previous year, the Selimids were caught off guard, rushing back to defend the port, only to find Spanish soldiers waiting for them when they got there. Spanish fliers had pounded the Selimids as they pulled back, and the force that actually made it to Tobruk was shattered before it could even give battle.

Franco’s next logical move was to move on Egypt itself, and both Spaniard and Selimid knew it. By this point however, Franco had acquired a legendary reputation, and his force was feared by his enemies. Franco, after receiving permission from the King (the only time he actually decided to listen to Madrid during the entire campaign), sent an ultimatum to the Selimid Sultan.

Selimids, my forces stand ready to wipe your Empire from the map forever. I crushed your army near Tunis and I have done it again at Tobruk. Nobody in this war doubts that I can do so a third time. Surrender now, and open the canal to our allies, and you may keep the rest of your lands. Refuse, and once I have defeated you nothing will be more certain than the total partition of your lands to the victors.

Selim V agreed to the Spanish demands in early March, surrendering control of the Suez Canal to Great Britain.

Indian Front, 1926

Unlike the Selimids, Tsar Alexander II was determined to never surrender an inch of land to the massive alliance that had formed against him, and was certain that if he could keep the fight limited to enemy soil (despite the fact that his capital has been bombed and gassed), that Russia would win in the end.

The British advance in India was also beginning to suffer from the same problems that had stalled the Russians, namely overextension and the difficult terrain in the area. After the liberation of Delhi, there were few major British Indian cities that were both intact and under Russian control, and General Andrews did not believe that a full-scale offensive to push the Russians back across the Indus and into Persia (which the British had little prospect of taking) would be worth the cost in lives.

Instead, Andrews opted to defeat the Russians by way of a series of much more limited offensives, striking at parts of Russia’s massive Empire in the western Indian Ocean, that could rely on massive British naval support and against small colonial forces. Each of these battles would be one that Britain could win more easily, and they would contribute as much to winning the war as a blood-stained offensive towards the Indus would.

Andrews’ first target was Basra on the Persian Gulf. Ever since the Russians had taken it during the War of 1881, the city had been a major link between the Russian homeland and her African possessions, while the nearby port of Kuwait had been the primary base for Russia’s Indian Ocean fleet. British forces stormed ashore and captured the cities from the unsuspecting Russians, and only the quick and total collapse of resistance, along with (so far baseless) rumours that oil might be found in the area, spared their inhabitants from destruction. A further offensive took Musqat from Russian control, effectively securing the entirety of southern Arabia for the British.

European Front, 1926

As the British invaded Basra, Empress Emma’s Minister of Gas Warfare finally sent her a notice saying that enough of the “new gas” that she had mentioned to the Prussians last year was finally available to be used in battle on a wide front.

This new weapon was called Nerve Gas I (to be more specific, OTL people call it tabun or GA). Nerve gases, they explained, stop the body from being able to produce enzymes that allow muscles to contract, and as a result a person affected by them effectively cramps up and gets strangled to death. Although an antidote had already been discovered (and the Russians had access to it), it was also extremely toxic, so applying it to a person who had not been gassed could kill them instead.

In the following days, Emma ordered the commencement of a new offensive, hoping to retake the majority of Prussia and even Poland if that proved to be within the abilities of the Franco-Prussian Army. Fliers and artillery laid down an immense bombardment of the Russian lines on the Rhine, while an armoured column, modelled on the one Franco had used to such effect in North Africa, burst out of the bridgehead that had been created at Arnhem.

Despite its promise, the offensive was not a continent-wide repeat of Franco’s decisive campaigns in Tripolitania, but a long, hard and bloody slog through Germany. The Russian army, although unprepared for the introduction of nerve gas, was still mighty, and fiercely resisted efforts to force it back. Although the French managed to force their way back over the Rhine and created several bridgeheads, the Russians and Bavarians effectively held them down for several weeks before they finally managed to break through in the late summer. Hamburg too was only taken after a fierce grinding effort through Northern Prussia, falling on September first. Although their claims could not be proven, several leading analysts believed that Russia either called up new conscription classes or pulled forces from India to bolster their ranks, leading to a much larger army than had been previously observed. If that was true, France and their allies would likely be brought to exhaustion before the Russians, with their much greater manpower, would be willing to cencede defeat.

Diplomatic Efforts, 1927

Emma eventually came to believe that the Russian bear would only be totally defeated if as many nations as possible were contributing forces to the fight in Europe, while British success in Arabia, India and Southern Persia had yet to yield a decisive advantage. Knowing this, she sent requests to the British government asking that they direct the main attention of their advances to the European theatre, leaving India to become a purely defensive campaign.

At the same time, the Empress was also interested in securing the help of Sweden and the Ottoman Empire, both of which had held substantial tracts of Russian land during the seventeenth and early eighteenth century (and were those old claims not as valid as the ones the British had pressed to form the French Protectorate in 1888?).

It is perhaps at this time when Emma’s image of being a great negotiator really began to become apparent. Sweden declared war on Russia in January 1927, and the Ottomans followed suit towards the end of winter. It was around this time that the Spanish also tranferred General Franco, along with his entire force from Africa, to the European front. If anyone could secure a decisive victory, he was thought to be that man.

Prussian Front, 1927

Although combat had been going on almost completely uninterrupted during the winter, the Spring Offensive of 1927 managed to escalate the fighting regardless. British scientists had developed an extremely flammable material that became known as liquid fire (OTL: napalm), and in the new offensive it was regularly poured from fliers straight into the middle of Russian units. Nerve gas was used once again to cripple the Russian Army, while more traditional weapons continued to carve even more holes out of the Russian line. The Russians fought back bravely, unloading several thousand tons of mustard gas on the French lines, but it wasn’t enough, and the French and Prussians were able to push them east, slowly but surely.

In the meantime, the Swedish Army began landing on the Baltic coast in several places including Stettin, Danzig and in the Courland. British naval forces by this time had been largely moved from the Indian Ocean (which was no longer accessible for the Russian Navy), and enemy concentrations along the Baltic coast could expect to be under almost continuous fire from British broadships, which were joined by the Swedish Navy, a formidable force in its own right. Another Swedish detachment landed on the Hanko Peninsula with the objective of retaking Finland.

Ottoman Front, 1927

The Ottomans also sought to take full advantage of Russian local weakness, and managed to recapture the Trebizond Protectorate. More importantly however was the offensive to retake Constantinople and the Straits of Marmara.

Unlike in the Trebizond Protectorate, the Russian Tsar placed serious value in control of Constantinople. Its capture, he knew, would be not only a blow to Russia’s international prestige, but it would also allow the British fleet to force its way into the Black Sea. Once they did that, it would be only a matter of time before cities close to the coast, such as Sevastopol, Rostov and Ekaterinoslav (OTL Dnepropetrovsk since the 1920s) would be facing bombing raids, including the feared liquid fire.

The Tsar sent nearly a quarter of a million men into Constantinople, but the arrival of the British fleet very quickly ensured that they would come under siege, from land and sea. Fliers that might one day be bombing Ukranian towns were directed against the city, while the Ottomans crossed the straits near Gallipoli and marched north to retake their old capital.

The siege lasted for nearly six months and reduced much of the historic city to rubble. Destruction was so great that it made the efforts of the Fourth Crusade look pathetic in comparison, and hardly a Russian soldier within the city was alive by the end of the battle. Those few that did were promptly executed by the Ottomans, who had a generation’s worth of anger to unleash on their larger rival.

With Constantinople secure, the Ottomans and a British detachment turned to the next stage of the plan for control of the Black Sea: Crimea. The fortress of Sevastopol had been built up over the course of the nineteenth century, holding off Ottoman attacks during both the War of Napoleonic Succession and the Second German War. Although it had seen little attention since the 1880s, when Russian command of Constantinople reduced its importance, it was still a fearsome obstacle.

The Ottoman landings in Crimea were a disaster, and all they really accomplished was to boost Russia’s morale at a time when they had seen few decisive victories. The troops that stormed ashore were cut down by rollbarrel fire and mustard gas, while Russian fliers tore up dozens of landing craft and supply ships. British naval support failed to wipe out the Sevastopol fortress (although the majority of guns large enough to severely damage broadships were knocked out). After two days of being butchered, the Ottoman survivors got back on their boats and fled back to Anatolia as fast as they possibly could.

The British however, remained in control of the Black Sea, despite the best efforts of the Russian fliers to stop them. Before long, the firebombing of cities that the Tsar had feared began to occur, with Rostov and Ekaterinoslav being two of their favourite targets. Civilians in those cities could expect round-the-clock bombardments that occasionally included the use of mustard gas (although nerve gas was restricted to front-line use only), while non-stop fires severely damaged their ability to produce weapons for the Tsar’s Army.

Austrian Front, 1927

Jose Franco’s aggressive fast-moving tactics were the ones that provided the greatest victories for the new alliance. Empress Emma had asked him where in the line he thought his veteran force could do the most damage, and his response was Italy: a front that had seen virtually no action from either side due to the difficult logistics of the area.

Franco however was an expert at dealing with poor logistics: he had championed a crossing of some of Africa’s largest mountains and travelled nearly 2000 kilometres in Africa without a reliable supply train. “As long as the fliers keep flying me ammo, I’ll raise holy hell with or without a railroad to support me.” He said, so Emma let him have his way.

Franco proceeded to fulfill his promise in yet another stunning campaign. His army surged out of Italy in late May, catching the Russians off guard, breaking through their lines and tearing into Austria, finding only rearguard units to oppose him there. Vienna was taken faster than Russia’s best analysts even dared consider as a possibility, and Franco secured a massive stock of supplies there. Austria surrendered the next day, and the Spaniards stormed northwards, securing Prague in a similar fashion. By this point, the Russians were aware of Franco’s plan, and had redirected a substantial force to defend Silesia against the bold general.

Or they thought they were. Among his numerous other talents, Franco had a good sense of what how enemy was likely to act and what they thought he might do, and as always, he decided to do something totally different, stealing the advantage of surprise once again. At this point, the Russians had good reason to expect a move into Prussian Silesia (after all, the efforts of France and Sweden had been to liberate Prussia, and it made sense for Franco to join in on that). Instead, Franco sharply wheeled around, leaving Prague a smouldering ruin, and headed for Hungary. The Hungarians too proved no match for Franco’s armoured spearhead, and they were quickly brought to defeat too. Fearing a Spanish invasion, the states of the Balkan League requested a ceasefire from France (on the assumption that it would apply to all countries in the European Alliance). Emma accepted, allowing them to return to the status quo ante bellum, with the sole condition that they formally cut ties with Russia.

The World War: 1928-1929
The World War: Part VI

Prussian Front, 1928

By 1928 the Russians had finally been pushed back to Berlin, albeit at hideous cost to the French, Prussian and Italian Armies. Most of Prussia had seen the war cross it twice, devastating the landscape and reducing cities to towns and towns to villages. Cities like Munich had been bombed so heavily that they hardly had a residential block without some sort of bomb damage, while industrial districts had been made into a moonscape.

Amongst all the devastation however, was the hope that total victory was on the horizon, a hope not entirely baseless. Franco’s rampage through Bohemia and Hungary had demonstrated that Russia, although strong on the frontlines, was weak once broken through. The key to defeating them then lay in the destruction of the Russian Army in Prussia. Once it was vanquished as a fighting force, the war would become a case of marching through Russia until the Tsar gave up.

Franco himself only commanded a couple of hundred thousand men, while the Russians still maintained somewhere between two and four million. The Spanish King also saw Franco as too politically unreliable and was unwilling to grant him command of any more troops, lest he attempt a coup similar to Napoleon I in 1799. The tactics that Franco had relied so heavily on, however, had no politics, and many of the world’s leaders came to believe that what became known as the Franco Doctrine was the strategy that was needed to defeat Russia. The Tsar’s flier force was all but utterly ruined, while the French and British had enough fliers to maintain the ‘air supply column’ that had been previously seen as utterly absurd. Several higher-ups in the Russian command chain went so far as to believe that Franco’s strategy relied on magic. They were wrong, of course, but the prospect still terrified them.

In May 1928 the new plan was put into action. Franco himself was directed towards the Bavarians, hoping to catch them in an unexpected advance out of Austria, despite the main Franco-Prussian lines being much further to the west. The other commanders in the line directed all their attention towards the Russian-held town of Rostock, which separated the main French line from the Swedes that had taken Stettin further east. The Prussian planners that drew up the advance were counting on the fact that Sweden had taken Stettin and Danzig so easily so that they could use the railroads and flierports of the area as a springboard for the second stage of the advance.

The Battle of Rostock was a bloody affair, due in no small part to the fact that the Russians held a continuous frontline from the Baltic coast to the Sudeten mountains. The French Army tasked with taking the town lost almost two-fifths of their effective strength, but a combination of round-the-clock air raids, firebombing and nerve gas finally saw the Russians evicted from the town and the combined Alliance Army meet up with the Swedes in Stettin.

The next logical target was Berlin, for obvious reasons. However, Rule #1 in the Franco Doctrine however was to strike at something that didn’t immediately make sense as a military objective, which ruled that and Warsaw out. Restoring Poland was a major priority for the Alliance, as it was Poland’s claims that would allow them to weaken Russia if they won the war, so the offensive would instead have to be aimed there.

Polish Front, 1928

In early September the great armoured column was finally assembled and ready for action. Starting out from the area between Stettin and Konigsberg, the force swarmed into Poland with nothing more than vague orders to take as much land and kill as many Russians as they could. Flier pilots worked tirelessly to supply the force and keep Russian forces from causing trouble. Officially the final objective was Lodz, an important town but not major enough for the Russians to be likely to have established a good defense.

The operation was a stunning success from the moment it began. The fragile Russian lines just out of naval gunnery range from the Baltic coast were quickly torn through by several thousand ‘bricks’, and the soldiers that manned them were completely overwhelmed. The town of Posen was captured after five days, and Lodz after nine. A desperate stand was made along the Bzura River, only for the Russian units to find themselves outflanked by forces that now included thousands of Poles who had volunteered to join the fighting.

After Lodz was taken, King Krzesimir was welcomed back to his country while the ‘Armoured Fist’ (as it was known in the press) veered west to strike at the rear of the main Russian line. Berlin was captured from the east, amd shortly afterwards the bulk of the Russian Army was encircled and then obliterated. After four days of intense battle, nearly a million Russian soldiers surrendered, three generals among them. Apart from Silesia and Konigsberg, Prussia was liberated, while Poland was hard at work building a new army for itself.

The End or The Elbe, 1928

As winter set in, the frontline roughly ran from Konigsberg to the Moldavian border, except for an enormous salient that plunged into Galicia and Silesia, which the Alliance armies had failed to pinch off in their ‘Armoured Fist’ Offensive. Russia’s army was beginning to collapse, and the Tsar began to worry that, if they could not secure a victory soon, he would be at risk of losing the war completely. With the example of the Treaty of Dijon to go by, he knew that would likely mean the end of Russia as a great power, if not as a united country entirely.

Russia could still count on local numerical superiority, even if that advantage was diminishing rapidly, in the immediate area of the Silesian salient, and that superiority was something that one bold Russian general planned to use to his ultimate advantage.

What he proposed was simple: Russia would gather the best of its remaining forces, including nine-tenths of its armour and all of its elite flamethrower-equipped units, in the Silesian salient. Then, when the weather was bad enough, as it was expected to be in late December, that force would storm west to take Hamburg, cut off the vast majority of the Franco-Prussian Army and then attempt to negotiate a favourable peace. If the Alliance refused, their army could then be destroyed.

Despite the fact that the plan seemed almost insane, Tsar Alexander II approved the operation, which began on Christmas Day. For the first few hours of the attack, the Russians appeared to be making some progress, but very quickly the Alliance gathered its strength and counterattacked. When the skies cleared on the twenty-seventh, fliers began a bombardment the size of which was yet unseen in warfare, decimating Russian ranks while the French hit them head-on. For good measure, the Poles attacked into Galicia, crippling any chances for Russia to resupply its forces in Silesia, and a few days into 1929 the Russian force in Silesia surrendered.

The Offensive of 1929

After the Elbe Offensive was crushed, Alliance efforts turned towards the Russian motherland itself. The country was vast, and there had been rumours since 1812 that said that even Napoleon I would have failed in his attempt to subdue the country if not for his lucky victory at Vitebsk. Even so, if Russia was to be defeated and the war brought to a close, its homeland had to be invaded.

The operation began in May once experts believed the ground hard enough for mechanised forces to move quickly through, and on the first day of combat the Russian lines crumbled. Behind them was a huge but poorly defended country, perfect grounds for the Franco Doctrine to prove its true power. All along the line, from the Baltic Sea to Hungary, Alliance forces stormed across the border, taking more land in ten days than had been captured in four years of fighting in Prussia.

On the eleventh day of the offensive, Empress Emma called a halt to the advance. She knew that Britain’s attempt to overrun and completely occupy France after the War of 1881 had only led to millions of deaths, and eventually an attempt to kick the British out of European affairs entirely. If Russia was to be brought into the European Alliance and become a respected great power rather than a mortal enemy, total occupation would not be the way to achieve it. With this in mind, she sent an offer of terms to the Tsar:

Europe is tired of war. Nothing is left of Prussia, half of India is charred rubble, the old Protectorate still smoulders even after nearly seven years. This war has gone on for as long and has cost as many lives, if not more, than the War of 1881. Europe has seen enough conflict, let us now work towards creating a peace. Not 'peace at gunpoint' as was seen at Dijon, but a lasting peace where great powers do not see the need to slaughter their neighbours every generation.

Politically, you have been defeated. The battle in Silesia and the fact that we have soldiers three hundred kilometres into your territory is proof of that. For a war that went on this long and was so devastating, there is no question regarding concessions. Finland and the Baltic Coast are to be Swedish, Minsk and Lithuania are to be Polish. Arabia and half of Persia are to be British and we will be keeping East Africa.

Beyond that though, if I receive your surrender within ninety-six hours, I am prepared to welcome Russia back to the family of great powers. In 1930 I will establish a Council of Great Powers, and a Russia that wishes to be part of the new European order will be welcome to join this, so that we may never see a major conflict on the continent again.

Should you refuse these terms, the offensive will resume. It will be brutal. It will be bloody. Most importantly, it will be decisive. When St Petersburg and Moscow have been reduced to firebombed craters filled with nerve and mustard gas, the war will still end. At that end, you will not be a defeated yet honourable great power. Russia will be a subject nation, and there will be no clemency shown by the Alliance.

This war has gone long enough, and its outcome now certain. The sole choice available to you now is whether Russia will be a respected power or a chlorinated ruin from this point forward. Choose wisely.

Tsar Alexander II announced his intention to surrender on the 3rd of June, 1929. The World War was over.

The Council of Great Powers, 1930

National Flags of the Eleven Council Powers. From the left: Great Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Prussia, Sweden, Poland, Russia, Selimids, United States and Mexico.

The Treaty of Minsk, signed in August 1929, included a provision relating to the formation of an international organisation through which the great powers of Europe and North America could establish a new order based around peace and prosperity. The organisation itself was founded on the first of January, 1930, as the ‘Council of Great Powers’, although it is much more commonly known by just “the Council”.

Membership was restricted to the eleven powers deemed strongest and most influential in the Western world, with future additions to the Council requiring both unanimous approval from the other members and the ejection of another power, the number eleven being specifically chosen so as to make tied votes impossible while also encompassing the majority of Europe’s powers without each country’s vote’s value being weakened too much. Each great power would send three representatives to the Council Headquarters in Paris, where they would serve for seven years. Their replacements would then be elected by the rest of the Council’s members, an idea put forward to prevent radical nationalists from controlling a majority of the votes. The Council would meet on the ninth day of every month, with sessions lasting for as long as there were issues that needed addressing.

According to the Paris Compact (the founding document for the Council), the Council’s main objectives were:
  • The prevention of major European or American wars through the use of negotiation and arbitration between great powers.
  • The continuation and guarantee of independence for minor nations across the Western world.
  • To form a governing system for territories considered especially important to trade, transport or communication. (eg the Suez Canal, which was placed under Council control).
  • To ensure European and North American interests are protected in dealings with South America and the Orient.

Although the Paris Compact did not include provisions for a stateless Council Army, Jose Franco formed the symbolic volunteer ‘Council Legion’ that eventually comprised of three divisions for the Council to use in times of crisis.

Instead, the Council drew most of its power from the idea that an attack on one Council Power as an attack on all, and while it was considered unlikely that in the event that two great powers fought that all nine powers would join forces with the defender, the mere threat of such a massive coalition being formed was enough to prevent many powers from behaving too aggressively.

Early Victories, 1931

The first meeting of the Council’s thirty-three representatives occurred in early 1931, and was marked by a determination on the part of all eleven great powers to make the new Council actually work as a peacekeeper. The first issue brought up was a territorial ambiguity that had been caused by the Treaty of Minsk, as to whether the city of Kiev belonged to either Poland or Russia, and when the vote was announced 8-3 in Russia’s favour (Poland, Sweden and Prussia voting against), King Krzesimir set an important precedent in following the League’s rulings.

The Council’s plan for the rebuilding of Europe was similarly successful, as it was able to manage the transfer of aid funding (largely from Mexico, the USA and Russia) between the parties most affected by the World War, and when it was announced that Prussia would receive 70% of the aid there was no objections from any other powers.

The formation of the Council immediately sparked interest within Gran Colombia and Brazil, who both had interest in keeping the new international order stable, if only because trade made up a large proportion of the reason why they had remained stable themselves. Although neither expressed interest in becoming part of the Council directly (largely due to their unwillingness to become a direct part of the conflicts that Europe had become notable for), regular contact was made between the Council and the South Americans, primarily through the Colombian and Brazilian embassies in Paris.

The Storm Eagle, 1932

In 1932 the United States announced another leap forward in flier technology when they announced the ‘Storm Eagle’, a new flier that was powered by the world’s first working jet engine. Able to cruise at 700 km/h without trouble, the Storm Eagle was far superior to any other flier currently being used.

The superiority of the jet-flier quickly caused envy within other countries, and it wasn’t long before they too were developing jet-fliers of their own. Thr British Sea Dog became available in 1933, and the Russian Simbirsk-23 (named after the city in which it was first manufactured) in 1934. Sea Dogs in particular saw extensive use, being used to crush a slave uprising in British Guinea, although they were shown to be less effective than slower propellor-driven fliers for gas spraying. These Sea Dogs were also the first to be launched from a carrier outside of testing conditions, and the next classes of carriers were given longer runways to better accomodate them.

The first-generation of jet-fliers came to an end when the United States built a new jet-flier, usually called the Demon Hawk, in 1940. Among other improvements over the first-generation jets, the Demon Hawk could theoretically fly at supersonic speeds, although no Demon Hawk ever did so.

The Far East Directive, 1932

One of the founding aims of the Council of Great Powers had been the restoration of trading rights with China and Japan, and with the rebuilding of Europe well underway by 1932, the great powers felt themselves ready to begin investigations of the Far East once more.

Before contact between Europe and the Far East could resume however, several obstacles had to be overcome, the largest of these being the language barrier. The last time Chinese and Europeans had interacted was in 1862, when Tsar Peter IV dismissed Chinese merchants, and only a small school in Siberia continued to study the Chinese Language.

Japan would pose an even greater challenge: for the most part contact had been severed in 1811, during the Napoleonic Wars, and the last time the Dutch outpost at Dejima had received a European ship at all was 1870. Except for the unlikely event that there was an old person living in Dejima (and if Dejima still existed), there would be no-one in either Europe or Japan that could speak Japanese and at least one European language. Furthermore, the Japanese had been known to search any ships entering Dejima, and the Council was adamant that the Japanese, if they had not yet developed modern technology, would never be given knowledge of it.

This gave rise to the “Far East Directive”, a Council order that called for a group of men to sail to Dejima and find out if re-establishing contact was possible. If they could speak with an elderly Dutchman or woman, and they had sufficient knowledge of what had occurred in the East since the 1860s, then Europe could take that knowledge back to the Council and plans could be drawn up for re-establishing contact.

The 1932 mission however would have to be small. The largest European base in the Pacific was Sydney, home to only around 20,000 people and nowhere near large enough to maintain a serious naval presence. Manila, a much better option for travelling to Japan, only held around 60,000, and its infrastructure was in similarly sparse amounts. It would be years before a true mission to China or Japan could be conducted, but information would be needed before such endeavours could even be properly planned.

Dejima, Nagasaki Harbour, Japan
30 September, 1933
5:50 AM

Captain Hans van der Linden paddled the tiny canoe into Nagasaki Harbour, wishing the British broadship that had taken him most of the distance to Japan had been allowed by the Council to sail straight into the Japanese harbour. Paddling was hard work, especially when you had to travel something like fifteen kilometres so that the broadship would not be visible on the horizon.
A pair of fancy-looking Japanese came up to him yelling in a tongue he did not understand. They want to search the canoe, he thought. He waved them on board – there wasn’t anything more interesting than a compass and half a loaf of bread on board. When they seemed satisfied, they let him proceed.
Dejima was a small place, probably not much larger than a schoolyard. Van der Linden doubted any more than perhaps fifty people actually lived there. Most of what he did see was terraced farms that looked like they were built off the sides of old houses.
A young boy ran up to the walled front of Dejima screaming “It’s a ship! It’s a ship!”. Van der Linden waved back, holding the Dutch flag proudly. “Where’s the anchor?” he shouted back.
The boy stopped, and then pointed to a weathered jetty. “Tie it up there and come up. We’ve waited years for this.”
“Thank you!” Van der Linden shouted back, before proceeding towards the jetty. Once the canoe was securely tied to it, he climbed up onto the island. A signpost that had probably stood for almost a century said Opperhoofd this way along with an arrow pointing forward. Van der Linden supposed that was the lord of the island, and if anyone would know of the “oldest man or lady” he had been told to find, the lord would be the one.
“My God, sir! You want someone who remembers the last time someone from Europe came here?” The lord said. “That’s got to have been seventy-odd years ago now!”
“I was given orders from the French,” Van der Linden didn’t want to bother explaining about the Council to the Dejiman lord, “saying that I was to find the oldest person that is still sane on the island. Europe wants to know what has changed since the last time anyone came to Japan.”
“Very well.” The lord said. He shouted to an orderly “bring me Gustav!”
The orderly came back no more than ten minutes later, with a short man who looked to be in exceptional shape considering he was eighty-six (or at least so the lord claimed). Well, except for his beard. Van der Linden thought.
“Good day to you, Captain.” Gustav said. “When the Russians came here in the early seventies, I thought it would be the last time I’d ever hear from the old Continent again.”
“The old Continent got tired of all of its wars.” Van der Linden said. “With that out of the way, they’re back to building empires elsewhere.”
“I’ll say what, it would be nice to have some company around here.” Gustav said. “What does Mr. Bonaparte want to know?”
“The Empress basically gave me instructions to find out everything that has happened in your lifetime. China, Japan, everything.” Van der Linden said.
“An empress! Things must have changed a lot in Europe then.” Gustav said. “But how much have they really changed if you’re coming here in a canoe as I have been told?”
“Quite a lot actually.” Van der Linden said. “We’ve built flying machines, broadships nowadays can hit out to fifteen kilometres, poison gas is so bad that a little drop on your skin will kill you. Women got the vote in England and America in my father’s day.”
Gustav shook his head. “I know that you aren’t lying to me, but I struggle to believe you regardless.”
“Why? What’s life like here?” Van der Linden asked.
“Every year or so a Chinese ship comes in and we buy their goods. We then sell them to the Japanese for twice the price so we have enough money to buy food. The rest of the time we just sit around wondering if we are going to all become Japanese one day. The locals don’t do much more than bring in girls occasionally, but apart from them it is just like being in exile.” Gustav explained. “Their stories are pretty good at least.”
Van der Linden raised an eyebrow, knowing the girls weren’t there for stories. Still, they might be one of the island’s only links to the mainland. “Stories about the rest of Japan, right?”
“Precisely.” Gustav said. “From what I can tell, exactly nothing has happened since those last Russian ships arrived. The shogun still rules in Edo, the daimyos still don’t like him but are too scared to do anything. Whatever the scholars learned in 1640, it still exists if you change the names a bit. Weapons too seem like that. If there is talk of weapons, they are always swords and knives. One time, about forty-odd years ago, I heard someone fire a musket somewhere in Nagasaki. I wasn’t around in the days of pike and shot, but I think it would fit in that era.”
“Have the Chinese fallen into that same time gap?” Van der Linden asked.
“I can’t be certain without going to China, but I think so. Their trading ships haven’t changed a bit since I was a child, and when a band of pirates hit just before the turn of the century they too used swords.” Gustav explained. “If Europe’s armies are as fearsome as you describe, I wouldn’t want to be a Chinese soldier trying to fight them.”
“Fearsome?” Van der Linden was trying not to laugh. “The war they just had a few years ago killed nearly a hundred million people!”
“That would have to be close to the entire population of Japan.” Gustav observed.
“It would, but if Europe is going to convince itself not to kill every Japanese alive, we’ll need some books to learn the language.” Van der Linden explained.
“We’ve got plenty. We’ve had sixty-odd years to write them with nothing else to do after all.” Gustav said. “I’ll get the opperhoofd to send a couple of scholars back with you to Europe too, and I expect he’ll want you to take some of the girls too. They can speak the language a lot better than we can, and the Japanese don't search ships on their way out any more.”
“I’ve only got the one canoe.” Van der Linden said. “But everything you have will be great.”

Nagasaki, Japan
5 October, 1933
1:15 PM

Okita Kiyoshi bowed before the Nagasaki bugyo, a man appointed by the shogun to administer the city. “I deeply regret to inform you that the nanban have abducted some of our people from their base in the harbour. My observations have discovered that around ten people and a lot of books and treasures have been stolen.”
The bugyo grunted. “The shogun will not be pleased.” He said eventually. “I presume you mean that Japanese people have been taken?”
“I have reason to believe that some of the tea ladies were taken, although some of the nanban themselves have left.” Okita said.
“And Japanese treasures?” The bugyo asked.
“And Japanese treasures.” Okita replied.
The bugyo sat and thought it over. Eventually, he came up with an idea. “I do not suppose that we will be able to catch the nanban ships now. That being the case, justice must instead be taken against the men they have left on the island. Bring me their master. He shall answer for his crimes.”
Okita bowed his head and left. When he returned an hour later, he had the opperhoofd with him, hands tied behind his back. Seeing the bugyo sitting, the opperhoofd attempted to do the same.
“No.” The bugyo ordered. “Sitting is for friends. You shall stand and bow to your lord.”
“Of course, master.” The opperhoofd said as he bowed. “What do you require of me?”
“You are to answer for your actions on the day that the barbarians came. Japanese people are forbidden from leaving the homeland, and you are responsible for the events of that day.”
“My answer to that is simple, master. My comrade from Europe arrived with instructions to gather knowledge about Japan, and I had the old books to give him. The women were taken because the man, Hans, his name was, believed it would be easier for Europeans to learn the language if they could talk with people who speak it naturally.”
“And what use does Hans have for people who can speak Japanese?” The bugyo demanded. “No-one from their land uses it.”
“Hans was following his mistress’ orders. I believe it is because the nations of Europe wish to eventually open negotiations with the shogun.”
“The shogun makes no deal with barbarians.” The bugyo said angrily. “He has no use for them. We have been a proud and independent state for three hundred years without them.”
“In this case, I feel that you would be unwise to ignore their offers. Europe has grown much stronger in the past three hundred years, and they wield power that has yet to be even approached in Japan.” The opperhoofd said. “Among other things, they have machines that -
“Enough!” The bugyo shouted. “I have heard enough of your threats. The martial spirit of the samurai will overcome all odds. Execute him, men.”
“Not against fliers and nerve gas they won’t.” The opperhoofd choked out in Dutch as three swords plunged into his back.
“Okita, prepare to travel to Edo immediately.” The bugyo ordered. “Inform the shogun that we may be facing thievery from the nanban in the future. Leave out the nonsense about machines or whatever that fool was on about.”
Okita bowed his head once more and fled the court.

News from Japan, 1934

Hans van der Linden’s report to the Council of Great Powers in 1934 firmly shifted Europe onto a course of intervention in Asia. If the Chinese and Japanese armies were as weak and backward as Van der Linden described, then opening the countries by force, or perhaps simply overawing their leaders, would be a realistic option now that had not existed in the 1830s, and the main difficulty would be logistics, not enemy resistance.

Throughout the later half of 1934, the Council approved a series of initiatives that would make East Asia more accessible to Europe. Among these was a Russian railroad project to go from St Petersburg to Irkutsk, with a further extension to the Pacific planned, and a resettlement plan that would see nearly 200,000 people made homeless during the World War be given new homes and land in the Philippines and Australia. Indigenous populations, which had largely been ignored in the past, would simply be slaughtered if they got in the way.

Initially plans were set for a mission to Japan and another to China to be conducted in the spring of 1938, but infrastructure would not be ready for that, and plans would repeatedly be delayed as the great powers attempted to shift their Empires from being purely European in focus (Africa was still seen as nothing more than a resource extraction area) to the global enterprises the world had begun adjusting to before the rise of the Bonapartes.

A Second Canal, 1935

Arguably the most important project that received Council funding was the proposal to build a canal through central America, to connect the Gulf of Mexico with the Pacific Ocean. Although the idea had been discussed as early as the days of the Spanish in the sixteenth century, it had been shelved first due to impossibility, and then once the technology came along to make it possible, because there was nothing worthwhile on the Pacific side to warrant the massive expenditure that such an undertaking would entail. Even now, there was hardly anything on the Pacific coast of North America worth serious acknowledgement. Only three ports of any real size existed:
- Poltorakgrad in Alaska, originally known as Novo Arkhangelsk, which was too large to be considered a fishing village but too small to handle a modern fleet. (OTL Sitka)
- San Francisco in Mexican California, which had been largely abandoned after the end of the Gold Rush and whose port facilities were hopelessly outdated.
- Guaymas in Mexico, which was a well-developed city but whose harbour district had seen little use.

Interest was driven towards the two Mexican ports, especially Guaymas, as Mexico was part of the Council and could call on many more resources than Alaska could. When Mexico said that it could develop the ports to the standards of ports in Europe, a joint Council delegation approached the government of Gran Colombia in the hopes of buying some land for a canal.

Their primary objective was to buy a strip of land in Panama at the narrowest point of the isthmus there. The Colombian government flatly refused, saying that they did not want Europe’s ships sailing through the “middle of their country” constantly, although they were prepared to sell part of Nicaragua, which was much closer to their northern border with Mexico. The Council agreed, and the strip of land became a territorial mandate administered directly by the Council similar to the Suez Canal. Most of the people that ended up working on the canal came from Poland, after a poor harvest in 1936 sparked a wave of emigration from the country. When the canal was completed, many of these Poles moved to Guyamas (with no small amount of prompting from the Mexican government), contributing greatly to the city’s unique culture that can still be observed today.

The Alaska Plan, 1935

In the few short years between the Louisiana Purchase and the Great Lakes War, a belief had risen in the United States that said that the country was favoured by God and should carry out its supposed destiny to secure all land between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Frequent wars with the British and the breakaway of Hampton’s League had strangled this idea out of the common American mindset, and by 1860, to say nothing of 1935, there were few Americans who had much interest in grabbing land as far as the Pacific Ocean. Most of that land was in the hands of Mexico, a trusted American ally, so there was little reason to take it from them, while taking land off of the Republic of Alaska (which was only a republic in name) would only give America a frosty wasteland that had little to no development. Alaska had no army beyond a token volunteer militia, but the efforts to take and then develop the land would be more costly than any American seriously considered worthwhile.

The idea of an American presence in the Pacific began to be examined again once construction of the Nicaragua Canal began, and unsurprisingly much of the attention was directed towards Alaska. The United States stood next to the Republic the way an elephant stands over a beetle, and in fact their army contained more than ten times as many people as the entire Republic had in its borders.

The US President, part of the Worker’s Party, however had no interest in invading Alaska. His force would have to cross the Rocky Mountains and then advance over several hundred kilometres of undeveloped land before it would even reach a populated village. Within his means, yes, but not really an operation that deserved serious consideration, to say nothing of the diplomatic shunning that the United States could receive from nations such as Russia.

Instead, the President asked to lease the port of Gollandskaya Gavan (Dutch Harbour), although not the surrounding town (the Americans would be permitted to develop the land on the town’s outskirts). The Alaskans agreed, as to them the port was nothing more than a fishing base and the Americans would not interrupt the fishing. If anything they would probably support it by serving as a new market. In subsequent years, Gollandskaya Gavan would be see its population increase eightfold, such that the native Alaskan village would be almost totally surrounded by the American base.

The College of Eastern Studies, 1936

In 1936 the Council of Great Powers finally decided that a professional diplomatic corps, with more specialised training, would be needed if Europe was ever to successfully negotiate with China or Japan. Europe’s most recent missions, notably Macartney’s in 1793 and Chad’s in 1836, had been marked by a refusal on the part of the European delegations to conform to the traditions of the Asian nations. The culmination of this was the founding of the College of Eastern Studies, which built off the information gained from the people who had left Dejima three years prior, as well as the small group of people that continued to study Chinese in Russia.

While the college itself was a success, training and educating nearly 1000 diplomats- and translators-to-be, it revealed a number of glaring issues that made a peaceful diplomatic mission less and less likely. At the height of these was the traditional Chinese view that ‘The Middle Kingdom’ was the centre of the world and that all other nations were expected to acknowledge the Emperor as their superior. That was of course totally unacceptable to Europe, which if the Japanese stories were to be believed, had an almost ridiculous military advantage over it. If anything, China would have to become Europe’s subject, not the other way around.

Japanese military code was also examined, and many Europeans were quite amused when they found out that they placed a lot of faith into the qualities of individual soldiers, on the basis that spirit and courage would eventually overcome all obstacles. “Nerve gas cares not a franc’s worth for courage” was Jose Franco’s response. Nonetheless, the college gave Europe a new angle to look through as they began to build up their strength in the Pacific.

Round-Wing Fliers, 1937

During the World War, a major limitation had been discovered in fixed-wing fliers, namely their inability to launch or land in a small area. More modern fliers, including jets, were beginning to need longer and longer runways, and the logistical challenges of building them became greater as the years wore on. Not so much more difficult to end fliers as a viable tool, but one large enough to deserve examination of an alternative.

Inspired by steam-powered experiments in the eighteenth century and afterwards, a group of four Polish engineers began attempting to build rotating-wing fliers (or more commonly called “round-wings”) as early as 1931, and by 1937 they had built a design that would eventually become the standard for all subsequent round-wings, namely a long, narrow metal ‘case’ with a huge set of four blades on the top and a smaller set of blades at the ‘tail’ that would steer it, all powered by a high-performance Harrison engine.

The invention of the round-wing was quickly noticed by the French military, which saw their potential as a weapon of war in their own right. Their first workable design was produced from 1940, able to carry twelve people and assorted cargo, as well as two large-calibre rollbarrels. On occasion, they would also be equipped with gas sprayers, liquid-fire tanks or even an artillery crew (although that attempt wasn’t very successful). Their invention also gave a new hope of life to older carriers that were made obsolete when it was found that jets could not be flown from their decks, as round-wings could easily be stored where larger fliers could not.

“March of the Huns”, 1938

Around this time a tradition of mounting huge speakers to fliers also emerged. In the 1938 midterm elections, members of the Nationalist Party in Pennsylvania flew over several major cities including Pittsburgh running advertisements for local candidates over a period of several days, and the tactic proved its worth when the Nationalists won several seats that were unexpected in a state that was previously considered to be a solid Worker’s Party vote.

The local Army airbase soon took notice of these events, and although nothing was done immediately, curiosity arose throughout the world. The Prussians, still attempting to rebuild from the devastation of the World War, had been struggling to combat a native revolt in their Kongo colonies, and decided that playing terrifying music from fliers might intimidate the natives where gas and bullets had been unable to. The song chosen was a piece from just after the World War called ‘The March of the Huns’, a name chosen simply because the writer believed that the war chants within it suited fifth-century barbarians better than anything else he could think of.

Although it remains unknown whether the ‘March of the Huns’ actually intimidated the natives or if they all simply died from the effects of nerve gas, the legend of the bombardment, just like the legend of the Nationalist propaganda, quickly became blown out of proportion to their actual worth, and many fliers produced after 1939 were equipped with speakers by design. Many of these would continue to play ‘March of the Huns’ and other chant-like music, although all sorts of other things were occasionally broadcast, the most famous of these being a commercial for baby clothes becoming a favourite among Russian pilots during the early 1950s.

The Krakow Incident, 1939

Before 1939, nobody outside of the city of Krakow had ever heard of Dawid Fedak. The only reason he was even able to become relevant in the world was because his father had been extraordinarily lucky at a casino (bankrupting them in the process) and then died shortly afterwards, causing Dawid to inherit nearly all of his fortune before he had a chance to waste it at another casino.

Dawid, unlike his father, had a working brain, and decided to use the money to buy some of the most advanced science equipment available. Although he had had little organised education, he had read widely and was determined to advance the world any way he could. No-one ever got an explanation out of him as to why he thought bombarding neutral sub-atoms (TTL’s name for neutrons) into a lump of uranium would do that, but he was likely inspired by experiments earlier in the century that did similar things to gold and contributed to the discovery of sub-atoms in the process.

Unlike the gold experiment, Fedak’s work caused some of the uranium to spark. He then investigated the chamber where the uranium had been held, finding several milligrams of barium and other materials that had not been there previously, along with a sizeable trace of a new heavy metal that had not been previously identified. Unsure of what to make of it, he wrote a report and sent the sample to the University of Krakow (which he later joined), where it was found that some of the uranium atoms had been split into the lighter materials, with the sparking being caused by an energy release. The new metal was identified as a new element and when the scientists at the university looked at the sample again the next week they found that the new element had disappeared and been largely replaced by yet another newer one. They assigned the names saturnium and jovium to the new elements, and very quickly the question arose as to whether or not it was possible to make a much larger lump of uranium spark to an extent that it could serve a useful purpose.

Transition of Power, 1940

Towards the end of 1939, the question of the succession of Jerome II returned to the fore of French political discussions. Jerome had produced a son almost seven months after his death, and the boy was now nearly old enough to rule in his own right, with his fifteenth birthday being three days into the new year. However Emma’s rule also brought into question the position that women could hold in relation to the throne. If she was an empress and women could rule for the exact same reasons that men could, then Jerome’s daughter Elisabeth was the next in line.

On her nephew’s fifteenth birthday, Emma decided to formally address the issue:

“Since my brother was killed during the World War, there has been a silly debate about who should be France’s ruler. Fifteen years have passed without a solution, because under the constitution of the Empire only a male-line descendant of Napoleon I may rule, but during 1924 there were no living ones and from 1925 we had only a child.
Now that child has grown up. As of the end of this statement, I am renouncing my claim to the throne. He shall be your new Emperor Napoleon IV, for I also wish to honour our Italian cousin who bore the name before he did. My rule is to be seen as an anomaly, not a precedent. I only took the reins of the Empire because in wartime a nation needs to be united behind a leader.
Our very first war between a united France and united England was fought for the traditional understandings of inheritance. After a hundred years, we confirmed the rules that were set by our Frankish ancestors. As we look to the future, we leave behind the history of fighting the British. Let us also leave behind this debate. Napoleon is now your Emperor, and when he has a son, that is who shall succeed him.”

As if to prove that the fighting between France and Britain was over, the British government never placed her head on a spike at Custer’s Wall Memorial Park after she died in 1944.

Two Germanies, 1941

In 1941 the young King Franz Karl II of Bohemia died without issue, with the throne passing to his cousin, King Otto II of Bavaria and placing the two nations in a personal union. Such an event was not uncommon in Europe, but the way that Otto II handled it was.

Otto II shared the same desire for a united Germany that Otto I had used to such violent effect in the 1840s, and saw the union as a chance to finally make a new German Empire. His plan for ‘Großdeutschland’ was ruined when the Prussians sent a rather undiplomatic note to Otto II telling him to become the victim of a Fourth Defenestration of Prague (despite the fact that Prague had very strict laws about not building high windows into buildings), and Otto knew that he would struggle to fight Prussia one-on-one, and would be ground into dust if the rest of the Council of Great Powers defended them.

Austria however was more receptive of the idea. Bavaria and Bohemia had both been close allies for decades, and the Austrian king knew that the three countries would be stronger as a united kingdom (Otto was wary of using the word ‘Empire’ as long as the stronger Prussia loomed over him) than as individual entities. Otto proposed that Austria become a vassal kingdom of Bavaria-Bohemia, and the Austrians accepted. In a symbolic gesture, Otto moved his court to Vienna, giving the image that the new Kingdom of Cisleithania (the name was chosen because it was easier to write than Bavaria-Bohemia-Austria) was indeed a union that Austria was an equal part of. If Germany could not be united completely, at least it had finally stabilised into a single Protestant and a single Catholic nation.

39 States, 1942

Ever since Canada had been defeated in the World War, the United States had always intended to eventually turn the Canadian provinces into states. During the 1920s and 1930s the old provinces had been held as territories, and they had been almost entirely peaceful from the moment the Green Line fell.

After nearly twenty years, President William Morris, grandson of Michael Morris, decided to grant the territories west of the Great Lakes statehood, an idea that passed through Congress with only two votes against it. To ease logistical challenges, it was decided to allow the new states of Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland their old provincial borders, while the state of Nova Scotia was a simple merging of Canadian Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

North and West of the Great Lakes, it was decided to keep the lands as territories. Great White, the state capital of Hudson, had a population of only 75,000 people, and the rest of the state only held half as many again. Further west, the territories so few people that Great White looked like a metropolis next to them, so there was no reason to hand 3 Electoral College votes over to a land that was almost entirely empty.

The Indian-majority territories of Apachea, Commanchea, Blackfoot and Sioux meanwhile had no interest in becoming states. The Indian tribes living there were perfectly content to maintain their largely traditional lifestyle with only limited US government intervention, and when they were offered statehood they refused the offer. Someone suggested that the Indians simply liked the look of a 39-star flag better than a 43-star one, a claim that several Indian chiefs have since joked about.

Barriers Broken, 1943

The unveiling of the Mikhailinsk-55, often nicknamed the ‘Mikka’, by the Russian Army represented the end of the propellor-driven era of fliers. The jet-powered Mikka had powerful enough engines to cruise at supersonic speeds, while mounting a pair of 52mm cannons that could hit and destroy fliers from ranges far further than older models could even hope for. While aiming at such high speeds was almost impossible (and guided weapons such as missiles were only a dream), it was heavily-enough armed to put more lead in the air than any likely opponent, and could easily outfly anything that its pilots thought they would lose to in a duel.

Apart from breaking the sound barrier, the Mikka was also the first flier to incorporate drop tanks into its design, and it could carry a half-ton canister of liquid-fire if conditions demanded it. While not a true “bomber”, it served well enough as one that people began to wonder whether the idea of a bomber was about to become as obsolete as the propellor-based flier.

Less than three months later, Prussian flier designers proved that bombers still had value when they unveiled the first ever all-jet six-engine bomber in the Buchholz-Hummel BH-30. Although it wasn’t supersonic, the BH-30 could nonetheless outfly most older fliers, and its 12-ton bomb load allowed it to drop nearly twice the amount of ordnance as the next largest bomber available. When nuclear researchers found that a theoretical weapon would require a mass of several tons in order to work, other nations got to work trying to develop their own versions of the BH-30.

Opening the Pacific, 1946

After more than a decade in construction, the Nicaragua Canal was announced complete in 1945 to a Council ready to finally begin settling the issues they had with China and Japan. The very first ship to completely travel the canal was the USS Destiny, the newest and most advanced flier carrier in the world, and within days the rest of what would become the US Pacific Fleet followed, ready to be rebased in a greatly expanded Dutch Harbour in the Aleutian islands.

Elsewhere in the Pacific, the European great powers were also preparing to exert their influence over the region. In the Philippines, Manila had grown from housing sixty thousand inhabitants in 1935 to nearly half a million a decade later, while an enormous airstrip was built in a flat region of northern Luzon, large enough to host nearly two thousand fliers and more than a megaton of ordnance and gas filled the storage sheds surrounding it. The docks had been upgraded from being some poorly maintained wooden jetties to a port larger than Portsmouth or Brest.

The Council meanwhile oversaw the creation of an international army comprising of 295,000 men (each great power roughly contributing an equal number), along with enough modern equipment to supply a force four times its size. When they arrived in Manila, the locals feared that they would all be pushed out of their homes, only for the soldiers to say that there wouldn’t be enough houses in the city for all of them. The army would instead camp in a new district just north of the city, which would be handed over to the locals when the army left.

Another attempt to make contact with the outpost in Dejima (again by a rather backwards-looking canoe) was made towards the end of 1946. The Japanese officials guarding Nagasaki harbour simply turned them away, and one of the people sent on the mission noted that Dejima had been razed to the ground. When word got back to the Council Army Base in the Philippines and was then radioed back to Europe, the world leaders were not pleased. Why would Japan destroy the outpost now if they had left it operating until 1933?

On March 1st, 1947, the order was given to ‘Force Japan Open’.

The Four Day War: 1947
Edo, Japan
5 March, 1947
8:00 AM

Colonel Francis Collins clambered out of the round-wing flier and jumped to the ground. He looked around at the massive city he was now right in the middle of. He had been briefed that Japan was backwards, but he had not been expecting to see a city that would have resembled Ancient Rome if the Romans had decided to build walls around their temples instead of simple stone columns. Behind him, another ten men (one for each member of the Council) were also shocked by the sheer scope and splendour of the city. Unlike him though, nine of them each carried an Armstrong gun, which was a mix between a rifle and a rollbarrel cannon. Accurate out to two hundred metres, and able to empty its seventy-round drum in under a minute, there was no better weapon for close-quarters fighting. If the Japanese did indeed still use swords as was claimed, they were almost the best thing around that could be carried by one man. The soldier representing the French Empire instead carried a flamethrower.
An important-looking Japanese rushed up to them, sword in hand. “What are you doing here?” he demanded. “How did you pass the city guards?”
One of the soldiers burst out laughing. “We just flew over them.” He said in between chuckles.
“Ignore him.” Collins said calmly. “My men have come to speak with the shogun.”
“The shogun does not speak with barbarians. Your kind is forbidden to set foot on the sacred soil of Japan. You are even more forbidden to be in Edo.” The official was very insistent.
“I do not care whether we are forbidden or not, we will speak with the shogun before I leave this square.” Collins said.
“I repeat, you shall not speak with the shogun, for he will not receive your kind. Leave at once, or we will be forced to expel you.” The Japanese man was starting to seriously get on Collins’ nerves.
“Raise your guns, men.” Collins ordered. “Abdul, can you radio in for the round-wing to fly back over us?” To the official, he said “You may try to expel us, but I can assure you we have more than enough power to repel your attempts. The ten men behind me have enough firepower to kill seven hundred soldiers within a minute, and they can hit out to the end of that road there. Let me remind you that this is not an idle threat. Refusing to receive us will result in your city’s annihilation. Now I ask you one final time, may we speak with the shogun?”
The Japanese official’s eyes opened so widely that they almost popped right out of his head. “You really think you have the power to do such a thing?”
The question answered itself when the round-wing returned, blaring out a fierce martial tune out of a film of the World War. Collins could see two huge rollbarrel cannons mounted to tripods at the machine’s doors, and possibly twelve men crowded up inside of it.
“See for yourself.” Collins said. “Now bring me the shogun.”
“Very well, I shall do as you insist.” The official said. “He will not be pleased to see you though.”
Collins did not even bother telling the official how little he cared for the shogun’s opinion of him.

Shogun Tokugawa Ietsumo was not a happy man. “Why, Takeda, should I waste my time with the barbarians?” he demanded. “If there’s only ten of them like you say, execute them you blind fool!”
“I threatened them with that, Master Shogun, but their leader threatened to burn Edo down if we tried. Worse, I’m pretty sure he meant it. He looked sure of himself.” Takeda said.
“Ten men cannot destroy a city of a million.” Tokugawa said. “Not even the Mongols could do that.”
“These men are sneaky, Master Shogun. They evaded the city guards in a manner I do not understand.” Takeda said. “I believe it is in our interest to at least talk with them.”
The shogun spent a good minute thinking it over before making a decision. “Then I shall talk with them. If I do not like what they have to say, they will be killed.”
As soon as he walked out of the palace, his eyes were drawn to the eleven men standing in the square outside. How in the name of the Emperor did they manage to get through so much of the city? The noises he had heard earlier couldn’t have meant anything, could they?
“State your business.” The shogun demanded. “I am the shogun.”
“My name is Colonel Francis G. Collins, 5th Air Corps, United States Army. I come as a representative of the Council of Great Powers with orders to see Japanese ports open to foreign vessels for the purposes of trading with the Empire of Japan. As you are the effective ruler of Japan, it comes down to you to decide whether the policy of isolation will end with or without a war.” The shogun could not doubt for a moment the man’s total belief in everything that he said. Whatever this council and united state was supposed to be, they had picked an excellent man for the job.
“Japan has no need for foreign trade. We have stood proudly alone for centuries, and have no need of your worthless trinkets. Nor do I feel compelled to listen to anyone who believes that marching into lands prohibited to their kind to be the correct way to behave.” The shogun said.
“Isolation is over.” Collins said. “The sole choice available to you is whether you will submit to the Council’s authority or whether we shall have to fight for it.”
The shogun looked around to see an enormous crowd having gathered around the square. Many loyal locals looked ready to back their leader. He shouted “Repel the Barbarians!”

Francis Collins was glad that all of the men with him had the instincts to start shooting into the crowd as soon as they began charging. He had no idea how many people were there, but they had to number hundreds, if not a couple thousand. More men than his force was likely to kill anyway.
He grabbed the radio that was attached to the Selimid soldier’s belt.
“Shogun chose war! I repeat, Shogun chose war! We’re going to be killed by a mob in a few seconds, but send the army in! The shogun is a stubborn prick!”
Collins had no idea whether the message would get through to the carriers stationed just outside Edo Bay. If they didn’t he was screwed. If they did, he was still screwed. What did it matter in the end?

It turned out to matter a lot. The message did get through, and a couple of round-wings were close enough to bail them out. At the last possible moment, a rope dropped in front of him. He grabbed at it and looked down. There wouldn’t be time to save the rest of the soldiers. As he clambered up the rope, he did his best to salute what were now certainly his fallen comrades.
“Ten good men, all gone now.” Was the limit to their funeral service.
“Get the hell up here!” Someone on the round-wing shouted down. “We want to open up with the guns before this mob disperses.”
Collins doubted that the Japanese would do anything but stare at the round-wings. By now he was certain that they were indeed still stuck in the Middle Ages, and if he had lived in the Middle Ages he knew that he too would have stared at the round-wings. The fact that they could fly was shocking enough, but the fact that they could just yank a man off the ground like that had to be the most astonishing thing anyone in Edo had ever seen before.
As Colonel Collins climbed up onto the ‘ground’ inside the round-wing, he looked around at the rollbarrel crews and everyone else in the flier. “You guys ready to shoot?”
“Hang on.” The driver said. “3... 2... 1...”

The shogun looked around at the square in front of the palace. The citizens of Edo had paid a bloody price for killing the barbarians. It looked like hundreds of them had perished as a result of that horrible fire-making machine that one of the barbarians had used. Worse still, three of those barbarian flying machines were hovering over the city. The shogun wished his men could have killed the last man that got away and was now safe on his flying machine.
Then a horrible cocaphony of gun shots and other sounds that the shogun did not recognise erupted. Streams of fire flew out of the flying machines, massacring Japanese in numbers that dwarfed even what that one barbarian had done earlier. Buildings were set on fire like they were paper (although some of them were, so it wasn’t too surprising). For some reason, one of the flying machines started spraying misty clouds, some of them yellow and others almost like a fine rain.
The shogun turned to rush back into his palace to avoid the chaos, but before he made it he felt three sharp objects slam into his back. He fell to the ground without ever finding out what they were.

“Great job, Robbie! I think you just took out the shogun!” Colonel Collins shouted. “I sure as hell won’t miss the bastard.”
“I don’t think anyone will. Maybe not even his wife if he has one.” Robbie said.
“True that. How much longer we going to keep fighting, driver?” Collins asked.
“We’re nearly out of liquid fire. Dump that and let’s get out of here.” The driver said. “The orders said we go back to the carrier. Now that the shogun is gone, the Council thinks the rest of everyone in Japan is going to rise up and claim their own worthless chunks of land. If we come back in a month’s time and they have, we force each one to submit to one of the Council powers. If we come back and they haven’t, we kill Japs until either they do or some new idiot replaces the shogun and surrenders.”
“Sounds good. I’ll let the carrier know we’re coming back.”

Rise of the Daimyos, 1947

Within days, word of the Battle of Edo and the death of Tokugawa Ietsumo spread across Japan. Talk of flying machines and ‘fire guns’ so powerful they could destroy a city block in seconds quickly followed, and throughout the rest of March a massive panic spread across the country. No-one was quite sure why the barbarians had returned or how they had advanced so far beyond Japan technologically, but they were here, and the Japanese people were scared.

Or, some of them were. Tokugawa Ietsumo’s son Ietsuchi was declared shogun, and he proved to be just as defiant as his father. Orders were sent across Japan to assemble the samurai army to combat the invaders, and loyal forces gathered near the major cities to defend them. Ietsuchi vowed that the foreigners would be expelled forever, with the Emperor’s silent approval.

In Kyushu and Shikoku, the story was different. Local lords there had chafed under the shogun’s iron-fisted rule for centuries, and saw the arrival of the barbarians as a way to break free. When the foreign delegations landed in the cities (European leaders decided that dramatic entrances would allow them to demonstrate the Council’s power far better than marching up to the gates and asking for an audience), the lords of the Satsuma, Choshu and Tosa domains were more than happy to open their ports if the foreigners were willing to support their claims for independence. The Council met in an emergency session on the 24th of March, and decided to back a daimyo uprising officially (in an unprecedented 11-0 vote). Word of this was sent via radio to Japan, and shortly after the daimyos sent declarations of independence to Edo. Tokugawa merely raised another army further west, saying that he could battle both threats at the same time.

As April dawned, the Council sent the shogun an ultimatum, giving him one last chance to change Japan’s course away from what his father had been so insistent on. Ietsuchi ignored it.

Sendai, Japan
4 April, 1947
5:30 AM

Okuda Hikari was shaken awake by the droning noises of what had to be dozens, possibly even hundreds, of the flying machines she had heard stories about a couple of weeks earlier. The people at the market had talked of three landing in the middle of Edo and wrecking the city, so much so that the shogun had been killed in the battle.
She rushed to the window and looked up. Sure enough, there were flying machines of some sort in the sky. Higher up than Mount Fuji stood for sure, and moving faster than the fastest man in the world could move if he was trying to escape being set on fire. Though they looked almost cross-shaped, if the short arms of a cross had been bent backwards, and sounds that reminded Hikari of bloodthirsty Mongol hordes (not that those had been around for seven centuries) were roaring out of them.
The flying machines started dropping things. Fire-boxes, Hikari realised. Then she jumped out of the window (it was on the ground floor) and ran. Lots of other people in the city looked to be doing the same.
“How much fire can those things start?” One of the other women in the city asked, as fires started bursting throughout the city.
“A lot, Kiku.” Hikari said. “Three of those machines killed a thousand in Edo.”
Fires turned out not to be their only problem. Moments later, another stream of flying machines, these ones much faster and lower roared in. One of them was going so fast that it made a large cracking sound as it burst through a cloud that appeared in front of it. Those machines too were shooting up everything they could see, and when they couldn’t see anything they kept firing regardless. Behind them, a stream of fire poured out.
Hikari realised she couldn’t hear anything any more. That exploding cloud noise had deafened her, and she stumbled to the ground. She looked up to see a third set of flying machines, these ones spraying a thick yellow gas. Then she collapsed into a heap as the gas fell all around her.

The Four Day War, 1947

As soon as the Council realised that the shogun was bent on war, the final order to attack Japan was given. Fliers were launched from twenty of the carriers in the waters south of Japan, while bombers, including the fearsome BH-30s, came from as far as the Philippines to rain death and destruction on the Japanese. Every major city that was loyal to the shogun save Kyoto was targeted, Kyoto only being saved because the daimyos had cautioned against attacking the Emperor’s home as it risked an even more complete uprising against the Europeans and Americans.

The bombings were then backed up by a landing of nearly the entire Council Army on the beaches of the Boso peninsula near Edo. Behind them, broadships gave fire support while others sailed directly into Edo Bay to begin bombarding the city. The shogun’s army arrived hours later in a sorry state, having been constantly harassed by the fliers on its march south and east, only to be roundly defeated in a pitched battle, where hundreds of rollbarrels mowed down the samurai in droves.

In western Honshu, the ‘Southern Alliance’ (comprised of the Satsuma, Choshu and Tosa) attacked the shogunate’s holdings and attempted to force their way towards Kyoto and Edo. The shogun’s army that had been sent to crush the rebels was found by a patrol of fliers and was quickly gassed and incinerated, so no major battle occurred before the war ended.

After two days of incessant bombings, the northern clans of Honshu and southern Ezochi had had enough. The shogun was rather obviously failing to defend his people, so they decided that the best way to end the war and save the Japanese people from being exterminated was to do the unthinkable and surrender. Messages were written into the sands outside Fukushima saying that the Aizu clan (which held power over much of northern Honshu) was willing to negotiate an end to the war.

The defection of the Aizu meant the end of the Shogunate. Edo fell the next day and the shogun was taken hostage (he would later be executed), while his supporters began to look to get out of the catastrophe that was engulfing the country. The Council ordered representatives of the four clans that had declared loyalty to them to meet in the ruins of Edo to negotiate terms. The war had lasted only eighty hours, but Japan’s military capabilities were conclusively ruined.

The Peace of Edo, 1947

The treaty that ended the war in Japan was less of a treaty and more of a carving up of the country. The clans that had supported the Council (not that they played much of a role beyond declaring against the shogun) were granted their independence, along with most of the lands that the shogun had once held. Edo itself, along with a sizeable chuck of the Kanto plain, was made a Council Mandate, while the northern two-thirds of Ezochi (which was only sparsely populated) was given to Russia. Ports were to be fully opened to all Council members, although the massive disparity in power meant that the Japanese clans were effectively vassals of the Council until decades later.

In the long run however, the Four Day War probably worked to the benefit of the surviving Japanese people (although half a million had perished). Trade with Europe and America allowed the country to finally escape its medieval past, while the country was so traumatised by the events that they vowed to become a Western-style nation as quickly as possible, to ensure such a tragedy could not affect them ever again.

Old Summer Palace, Peking
17 August, 1947
10:35 AM

The Xianxi Emperor looked on as the Japanese man opposite him paid his respects to the Imperial Office. Some days ago, the Son of Heaven had been told that the man was coming, and the man apparently believed his message to be of the utmost urgency. Xianxi, who had little else to do today apart from picking some new concubines, had decided to receive him. If he did not care for the man’s message, he could very easily ignore it afterwards.
“Now speak.” The Son of Heaven said.
The Japanese knew proper court procedure, for he did not raise his head to look at the Emperor directly. “Your Imperial Majesty, imagine a war so brutal as the Mongol invasions in the days of Genghis Khan.” The man said.
“I have been told of its horrors.” The Son of Heaven said. “They were not pleasant.”
“No, they were not. What the nanban have done to Japan exceeds them by an awful amount, and they have done so in a period of time not measured in decades, but in hours.”
“Hours? The yin and yang must have been dangerously out of balance for such an event to occur.” The Son of Heaven seemed worried.
“They may be, but if that is the case, they are just as out of balance in the Middle Kingdom too.” The Japanese said.
“I hope that is not a threat.” Xianxi said.
“It is not. I am here to warn you of a threat, and to do my best to ensure you can become safe from it. My father was an official who worked in the shogun’s court. He was killed by the nanban. I have much reason to hate the nanban.”
“So the barbarians are going to attack China like the Mongols did?” The Son of Heaven wondered. “No, they wouldn’t dare.”
“Your Imperial Majesty, Chinese pride has its place, and is well deserving of it. Right now however, is not the time for pride. The nanban have grown extremely powerful and violent. They used flying machines to drop ten men in front of the shogun to order him to surrender, and when he did not, those flying machines shot fire all across Japan. Unless you too wish to submit to their demands, and when those demands come they will be harsh, they will attack. I say this as someone who has seen with my own eyes what they will do.”
“Every word that comes out of your mouth sounds more and more like a threat.” The Son of Heaven said. “I do not appreciate it.”
“Your Imperial Majesty, please excuse me but I have no other way to warn you. When the Mongols attacked, I expect someone came to warn the Emperor then. He did not listen, and China was destroyed. Please do not make the same mistake.” The Japanese official was begging. “Unlike the Mongols, the nanban are not here to rule, but to destroy.”
“You are quite serious about this, I see.” The Son of Heaven observed.
“I do not want your Empire to see the same fate mine did.” The Japanese said. “If that fate is to be avoided, use this time to prepare.”
“How am I to prepare? China has an army, the men are ready, swords are polished, banners ready to be raised.” The Son of Heaven said. “Raise your head.”
The Japanese did as he was ordered. “Japan had an army too. The samurai were ready, swords in hand. The nanban did not care for honour. They used these to kill all the samurai before the samurai could be close enough to fight them.” He then slid a weapon across the floor to the Emperor’s feet.
“That is a gun. We have guns.” The Son of Heaven said.
“You have the arquebus.” The Japanese said. “We too had that, but as your men know it is only effective to the hundredth pace. These guns, a trained soldier can kill out to five hundred with ease.”
“But if you are holding one now, why did Japan not use them during the war?” The Son of Heaven asked.
“I stole these from the nanban army.” The Japanese said. “That gun is what they call a ‘rifle’. Most men carry those, and I was able to grab three. However I also have a more advanced weapon, known as a rollbarrel. It can shoot more than three hundred bullets in a minute, and these are the guns that kill the most people. I don’t have many bullets for them, but they look like this.”
The Emperor looked at what was in the Japanese’s other hand. “A piece of paper with bullets in it?”
“They feed the paper in one side, bullets are shot out and what is left passes out the other side.” The Japanese explained. “You would be wise to have some engineers look at these and make as many of them as possible. I cannot bring a way to fight the flying machines, but without guns, China will certainly die.”
“The Empire is grateful.” Xianxi said. “I shall do my best to have these made.”
“You are doing your Empire an enormous favour.” The Japanese said as he bowed his head for the final time, before walking out of the palace. He left behind the four guns and handful of bullets.

Second to Fall, 1948

Before the Council would confront China directly however, they would first pick off as many of China’s vassals as possible. After Japan (which was a questionable Qing vassal at best), their next target was the Siamese Kingdom, which had expanded considerably since Europe had last visited it to encompass all of Vietnam as well. The Council did not care how big a state they would have to tear down to open the Asian markets. Vietnam was too close to the best routes between China or Japan and Europe.

Once they were confident that Japan would remain loyal, the Council ordered most of their naval forces into the Gulf of Siam. A heavily armed delegation was sent into the Siamese capital of Bangkok with orders to force King Rama VIII to abandon China and instead align his kingdom with the interests of the Council.

King Rama VIII had heard the stories of Japan’s effective destruction and chose to submit without a fight. The Council, who had expected to have to burn Bangkok to the ground, decided to be more leniant than they had originally intended, deciding to allow Rama full independence (without even Council observers in the government) for as long as he remained loyal. His navy, after all, would not pose a serious threat to the shipping lanes, and with him on the Council’s side now, China’s prestige suffered a significant blow.

Outside the Old Summer Palace, Peking
8 June, 1949
1:20 PM

The day that the Japanese official had been warning of was finally here. In front of the Son of Heaven stood three representatives of the Council of Great Powers. Their flying machines surrounded the Old Summer Palace, and they had threatened to destroy the palace if the Emperor did not come out to meet them. If he did, he was guaranteed safety for the next twelve hours. Even if he chose war, they had promised not to attack until tomorrow unless the lives of their men were placed in danger. It was a great insult, but the Emperor knew it was no empty threat.
“I am Colonel Francis G. Collins, 5th Air Corps, United States Army. My men and I come as representatives of the Council of Great Powers. 113 years ago, your ancestors told our ancestors that China would not trade with Europe. Now you are no longer in a position to continue this insulting policy. Open China’s ports and allow trade on our terms, or it will be war. I expect you have been told of what happened to Japan when they resisted.”
“I have been told of exactly what happened in Japan. So have my people. We refuse to do business with anyone who believes in business at gunpoint.” Xianxi said.
“How the hell do you idiots know about guns? Good guns at least?” Colonel Collins knew that the Emperor would not have used that saying if he was talking about a musket.
“A defector of yours warned me two years ago. My people are ready to resist your threats.” The Emperor said. “I rule over 500,000,000 people. Every single one of them is loyal to the Celestial Empire. Japan was weak. We most assuredly are not.”
Something on Collins’ chest began to vibrate. “One second.” He said, as he picked the device off his chest.
“Collins here.” Collins said.
“You’re the bastard sent to the Emperor, right?” Whoever was at the other end asked.
“Damn yes. Who the hell are you?” Collins asked.
“It’s George. You’ve been briefed on Operation Open Sun right?” George said.
“Open Sun? Good God in the foothills, have they made that bloody thing work?” Collins asked.
“Dunno yet, but they’re pretty confident. Might be wise to warn the little chimp about it though.” George said. “Out.”
Colonel Collins attached the radio to his belt. “That was my general.” He said to the Emperor. “He tells me that we have just completed a new weapon that will make everything else ever used look pathetic in comparison. I give you one last chance to surrender. Your only alternative is prompt and utter destruction, the likes of which have never before been seen. Not even in Japan.”
Xianxi thought the colonel was bluffing. “Get out. I have no more need of your lies.”

Operation Open Sun, 1949

After nearly a decade of research and hundreds of millions of francs being spent on reactors and uranium mines, Napoleon IV announced to the Council that his was the first nation to have constructed an atomic bomb from a core of jovium, uranium being deemed too expensive and difficult to refine to make a serious number of bombs out of.

There were many however that were uncertain of whether the jovium bomb would actually work, and many more were interested in just how powerful the weapon would be, with estimates wildly varying but all within the range of thousands of tons of TNT. In late May 1949, Napoleon IV gave the order to detonate an atomic bomb (dropped from a flier) in French East Africa to measure just how powerful the device was, and whether it would even work.

Codenamed ‘Open Sun’, the test was conducted on June 8, 1949, in an empty field in French East Africa. A couple of natives had refused to leave the land that they believed was their hunting ground. Going against the usual policy of forced expulsion, the French simply said “Oh well, your loss then”, and left them there.

An hour later, the bomb was dropped, creating a massive crater and an even more massive fireball, which was soon followed by a mushroom cloud that reached kilometres into the air. Engineers and Researchers who flew over the test site found no trace of the natives who had been there, or really any trace that anything at all had ever existed. What was left behind was largely a glass-like substance, as if the grass and weeds had all fused together.

When the man who dropped the bomb, Lt. Colonel Hugh Audibert, first stepped off the flier, he said:
“Open Sun is a fitting name for the operation. We have opened the sun, and now we had better use its power wisely, lest we too become engulfed in its fury.”

Qing War: 1949-1951
Blood and Burning, 1949

The Council’s invasion of Qing China began in a manner no different to the first day of the war in Japan. Most cities along China’s coast were hit by round-the-clock bombing raids incorporating both conventional bombs, liquid fire and gas in an effort to break the will of the people, while the main unit of the Council Army landed near Canton, while broadships sailed into the city’s harbour in an effort to force the Chinese defenders to surrender quickly.

The Chinese efforts to provide modern arms to their people however had borne fruit. While there were not enough guns to arm everyone, dozens and then hundreds of workshops were making them. Ammunition proved more difficult, and it had been decided late in 1947 to instead use black powder in place of the smokeless powders the Europeans used, and rifling was often crude at best. Even crude guns however, were better than no guns at all. Canton was known to be a likely target (if the Japanese War was anything to go by), and efforts to arm its population had progressed further than anywhere else in China. When the Council Army invaded the city, they were met by a force with power they had not expected.

At Canton, the difference between civilian and soldier was blurred to the point that it virtually ceased to exist. Most of the city’s inhabitants held some kind of weapon, whether it be a rifle or simple a sharpened pole of bamboo to try to hold the Council powers out. After a few days of heavy fighting, the Council decided to pull out and sprayed the city with a flier bombardment of mustard gas and liquid fire until they were convinced that the remaining defenders would prove easier to dislodge. Dislodge them they eventually did, and the city of Canton was razed to the ground in anger.

Never Surrender, 1949

Word of the destruction of Canton very quickly spread around the rest of China, and it provoked a response no less complete than the destruction of London nearly seventy years ago had spawned from the British. China was suffering horribly, as cities across the country endured bombing raids as often as the Council could have fliers in the air. But, terrible as these raids may have been (and they had been absolutely awful), the Chinese people came to the realisation that surrendering to these new enemies would be a fate worse than anything previously imaginable. Cities would be destroyed on the slightest pretext if these people became their new overlords. The Qing, although very insistent on ideas of subservience and Manchu superiority, were the best of friends by comparison.

One quick look at a map would be all it needed for the Chinese to grow confident. Their country was huge, and the barbarians could not possibly control all of it. There were too many cities for all to come under attack, and when cities did come under attack, they could retreat to the hills and continue the fight from there. The barbarians could not possibly occupy every nook and cranny of the Empire, so all that China had to do was wait until the barbarians exhausted themselves and left. The Chinese people would never surrender.

This newfound determination did not go unnoticed by the Council. The battle of Canton had cost them no fewer than 20,000 lives, a large part of that due to the unexpected use of firearms by the Chinese. In Europe, the response was unrelenting fury towards the Chinese. Loud protests from the armies of the great powers resulted in many more volunteer units being shipped out to the Canton area to join the Council’s Army, while Russia began mobilising its forces east of Lake Baikal and in central Asia.

It was around this time that the Council lost focus of its original mission of opening up the Far East to trade with Europe and America. With the Qing refusing to negotiate, attacks on China became more and more violent as increasing the intensity of the war was seen as the only way to bring the Chinese to the table. In October 1949, matters finally passed the point of no return, when the Council gave the orders to begin dropping atomic bombs on China. Launched from bases in the Philippines, northern Russia and a new airstrip in Japan, atomic bombs were detonated over the cities of Tianjin, Shanghai, Mukden, Wuhan and Nanning, causing a loss of life numbering untold millions. But all that did was increase the fury that the Chinese felt towards the invaders.

From Land and Sea, 1950

In 1950, Russia launched a campaign that the Chinese had previously thought to be unthinkable: an invasion of the Manchu homeland. More than two million men poured across first the border in the far north and then, days later, the Amur river. What was left of the Manchu Banner Army was eliminated outside the otherwise insignificant town of Harbin, and mere days later the Russians had penetrated as far as Changchun. Changchun was burned to the ground after a Russian colonel was killed by a Chinese peasant, as Russia was determined to continue trying to crush Chinese morale. By the end of May, they had pushed as far as Lushun, and prepared to advance into Korea.

In the south, the combined Council Army (now numbering nearly a million) pushed into Jiangxi, with the objective of taking Nanchang. While the army itself was successful, the Chinese peasantry would revolt the moment that they would leave any location, making total occupation of China almost impossible. The ruins of Canton were reoccupied by Banner Army forces in early 1950, and were not pushed out until further landings were made and a permanent army was stationed in the city. That situation was repeated wherever China was supposedly occupied, and jokes about a ‘Chinese ulcer’ in the vein of the Spanish one of 1810-13 became common amongst Europeans.

The resistance only continued to anger European leaders, who collectively feared a loss of prestige if China was able to wear down the Council to the point of making a negotiated peace that was not absolutely in the Council’s favour. More and more bombers were sent to the Philippines, allowing the bombing campaign to reach such an intensity that more bombs and gas was dropped in China in 1950 than had been dropped across Europe during the entire World War. Foochow, Changsha, Hangzhou, Zhengzhou, Xuzhou, Guiyang, Kunming and more than twenty smaller cities were also hit by atomic bombs, while Peking was hit by three.

In Korea and Formosa, the Council Powers met a more friendly welcome. A Qing saying for the latter was “every three years an uprising, every five a rebellion”, and when French troops stormed ashore the Qing government was met by both. The campaign to take Formosa lasted only a week before the Qing government surrendered to the French marshal. The reaction in Korea was more muted, as while the Koreans did not attempt to defend their lands with the fanaticism seen in China proper, they were just as hesitant to actively aid the Russians. The Banner Army that defended Korea gathered outside Seoul, only for the Russians to drop atomic bombs over it.

Snapping the Dragon’s Neck, 1951

As the war entered its eighteenth month, most of eastern China had been occupied and beaten into submission. What remained of the Qing government after the atomic bombing of Peking had fled behind the mountains to Chengdu, while the last Banners of the once proud Army hunkered down for a final battle along the rivers in front of Chungking. Air strikes were hitting Sichuan with devastating effect, ripping apart what infrastructure the Qing could still call upon.

To the peasant classes in the east, the policies of unrelenting defense of China were not working. The invader was too powerful, while the Emperor had undoubtedly lost the Mandate of Heaven. Areas that the Qing still claimed to be their own ceased resisting throughout early 1951, to find that the barbarians were not so hostile as the propaganda had led them to believe, and in April there were even calls amongst the peasant classes to overthrow the Qing, and replace them with a new dynasty that would not invite such chaos and devastation to the country.

When atomic bombs were dropped on Chengdu (although missing the government district) and Chungking, the Qing government had had enough. The defiant Xianxi Emperor still refused to seek terms, and his ministers turned on him. The Xianxi Emperor was murdered by members of his court, while one of his ex-advisors declared a new Han Chinese dynasty: the Li Dynasty, with him as the new Fangtung Emperor.

Taipeh-fu, Formosa
8 July, 1951
11:20 AM

Napoleon IV looked on as the new Fangtung Emperor walked into the room. The expression the Chinese wore was a mix of horror, shock and possibly mental collapse. Very clearly, he was in pain seeing his country, triumphant since the Mongols were kicked out, made a mockery of.
“Welcome, Emperor.” Napoleon said. The rest of the Council had already agreed on what terms would be sought from China, and there was seen to be no need to send eleven sets of translators and diplomats. This conference would be between the two men and an interpreter only. Napoleon had a radio if the rest of the Council needed to be asked anything.
“I would be lying if I felt you to be welcome to Formosa, Emperor.” The Chinese Emperor said. “But in light of what has happened to my country, I’m sure you understand.”
“The war only happened because your people continued to resist. We warned Xianxi of what happened to Japan, and he was warned again of the atom bomb.” Napoleon IV explained. “You could have surrendered in 1949.”
“Surrender does not come easily to people here. China has had six centuries of unending success.” Fangtung said. “The old Emperor was also led to believe that resistance was possible.”
“He was wrong.” Napoleon IV said. “Shall we get to the Council’s terms?”
“You’re going to dictate the peace.” Fangtung observed.
“We are.” Napoleon IV admitted. “We have won, and there are more atomic bombs waiting if you do not believe me.”
“I understand.” Fangtung said.
“All right. Korea will be released as a free state, Manchuria, Mongolia and Xinjiang go to Russia, we keep Formosa and the Council will manage some of the ports not hit by atom bombs.” Napoleon IV passed a list of ports to the Fangtung Emperor. “These ports, and all others, will be open to free trade for all European and American merchants.”
“That, I cannot do. Land, yes, but I cannot do trade.” Fangtung said.
“And why not?” Napoleon IV demanded.
The Emperor spread his hands outward. “There’s nothing left to trade. Our country is in ashes. There’s famine across the countryside, with bandits stealing everything they can get their hands on. The atom bombs have wiped out people on such a scale that we cannot levy the taxes needed to repair everything immediately. Silk cannot be grown if no-one mans the plantations, and your fliers have killed everyone who used to be there.”
“Very well.” Napoleon IV said, wondering what the point of the war was if there was no trade to be had. “But we shall have the rights to trade when your country has recovered.”
“That seems acceptable.” Fangtung said. “I don’t like it, but I was expecting you to demand all of China.”
“If we have smashed it as thoroughly as you describe, I’m not sure the people back home will want it.” Napoleon said. “Here’s the treaty, you sign on the line at the bottom.”
Fangtung looked at the treaty, and when he decided that it said what Napoleon claimed it did, he signed on the line at the bottom. As he signed, he looked up at Napoleon. “When I leave here, I want your people to take a good look at what has just happened to my nation. War conducted in this manner is barbaric, and the atom bomb threatens to destroy everything. Just think that if a nation got ahold of a thousand of those menaces. What would be left of an empire then? Today the fight has wrecked China. Tomorrow, if you do not attempt to fix things, it could be your homeland that gets ruined.”
Napoleon looked back in shock. He had no words.

The Ruin of an Empire, 1951

Li China in the aftermath of the war with the Council was in even worse trouble than the Emperor had made it out to be to Napoleon IV. Atomic bombs had destroyed many provincial governments, opening the path for individuals, usually rich ones, to form their own governments, officially to serve the Fangtung Emperor. More often than not, these governments became extremely corrupt and parts of China, especially the areas of Hubei, Hunan and Jiangxi, where the most atomic bombs had been dropped, descended into warlordism. While no attempt to work directly against the Emperor was made (Fangtung had been reasonably popular and trusted during his twenty-year time as an imperial advisor), at the local level authority all but collapsed as rival claimants attempted to seize control of whatever regions they could. Official estimates suggest that perhaps three-fifths of all surviving civil service degree holders attempted to claim some sort of power for themselves or their families.

None of this helped reconstruction of China in the slightest. Famine had hurt the nation since the middle of the war, while skilled craftsmen and other people needed to rebuild had largely been killed. To make matters worse, the Qing had maintained a policy of extremely low taxes (usually around 1% of a person’s income). Fangtung knew that raising taxes, to say nothing of whether they would actually reach the government (hardly a guaranteed thing), would anger an already traumatised population that already questioned whether he held the Mandate of Heaven. If he didn’t raise taxes however, the government wouldn’t have close to the amount of money needed to finance the building projects that would bring the country back to working order At least initially, Fangtung kept the taxes low to avoid starving the populace any more than he had to.

Nor was relief rushing in from outside of China. The Europeans were wary of trading away their enormous technological advantage over the Orient, and so while railroads did eventually make it into China (the first kilometre of track was laid in 1955), they were slow and poorly financed. Fangtung however did take notice of this, and realised that if Europe wanted the trade they had used as a reason to start the war, they would have to pay with something. If railroads and machinery wasn’t considered an option, then silver and gold would have to be. Fangtung latched on to the idea of rebuilding the plantations that grew silk and tea and other luxuries, hoping to use them as a way to bring in cash to China, even ordering the plantations’ reconstruction before the new Imperial Palace. His plans worked well enough for trade to bring a steady income back to the Li government. While not totally solving China’s many problems, Fangtung at least managed to prevent total collapse of the country. Tibet did break away in the later months of 1951, but that was only a small issue to the Emperor.

The Lutjens Collection, 1952

The Fangtung Emperor’s request that the European leaders take a good look at the devastation China had suffered was never honoured by any leaders of the great powers, much to his disappointment. However one Prussian photographer, Markus Lutjens, was interested in the war, and after raising a considerable fuss, he was flown over to China to investigate the area closest to the Council Mandates near Foochow.

Lutjens took just over one hundred photos during his three weeks in China, showing all manner of life in the ruined country. What became known as the Lutjens Collection showed everything from mass starvation to the glassy crater that covered a sizeable area in Nanchang to images of victims of massive burns and one of the graveyard pits that surrounded the city.

The images were shockingly horrific, and when they were developed, copied, and presented to the Council, the European powers were stunned. Death estimates for the war had come in at somewhere between three and four of every ten people in China, and with tens of thousands dying daily even into the summer of 1952, the Council began to seriously rethink their actions since the end of the World War.

Council of Great Powers, Paris
9 May, 1952
10:00 AM

“Surely by now all of you have seen the Lutjens images. Nearly a quarter million killed, whether by bullet, gas or atomic fire. For what purpose, I ask?” Herbert Henry, one of the US representatives to the Council said. “None of you can answer to what purpose, and that is the paradox of the war with China.”
“We went in to Japan with the mission to open the country to trade. Brute force was to be all that was needed, and in that regard, we were right. So we went in to China with the same mentality, and when China didn’t cave after four days like Japan did, we kept applying force. Japan was lucky in that it didn’t have to suffer the wrath of the atomic bomb. China had to suffer forty-six of them, and at the end of it all, there was no trade to be had. The Emperor sells us silk and tea now, but he sells very little of each. There’s nothing left of the country to trade with. If we went to war for trade and did not leave the peace conference with trade, then that makes the war on China a failed war. Forty-six atomic bombs and we failed in the war. The difference between the military success and the political failure here are very, very shallow indeed.
I wish, however, to draw your attention back to the founding tenets of this Council. At the end of the War of 1881, it was realised that the wars between the Coalition and Alliance needed to end. After France lost, it got its neck stepped on, until the World War made it evident that that was not enough. Empress Emma then had the idea to form this Council, so that we would not see war again. War may not have been in Europe, and I do fear what might have happened had those forty-six atomic bombs gone off in Europe instead of China, but we still had war. It took just eighteen years.
I do not believe that Emma, had she been alive and standing here today, would be very proud to see her fantastic idea shake off its founding ideas and let us continue down the path of killing off the new generation as soon as it has come of age and had a child or two. When she called for peace, she did not imagine that war would just be fought elsewhere. She called for lasting peace. We should be doing that, and a good way to start would be getting rid of the atomic bomb.”

A Path to Disarmament, 1952

Lutjens’ images and Henry’s speech proved to be a catalyst that would eventually change the entire face of Europe. The United States, upon defeating Hampton in 1881, had been horrified to learn of the treatment of its citizens under the semi-feudal state that was the Southern League. After the atomic bombings and other devastations of the war with the Qing, the Chinese people were suffering immeasurably more. Combined with the fact that the Council had proven unable to actually achieve its aims in anything more than a theoretical state, the entire war became thoroughly discredited and calls began to emerge for change.

After a long period of talks within the Council, the USA was able to sway the necessary six powers within the Council (such that a majority could be formed) towards its beliefs in regards to permanently disarming Europe and America. While armies were still maintained, especially to protect against Cisleithania and the Ottomans (neither of which were even remotely happy with the fact that they were excluded from the Council), the days of multi-million-man armies were brought to an end. When the Act of Disarmament was brought to the Council for voting on, it was passed in a 10-1 vote. The only vote against was cast by Russia, who possessed the largest atomic stockpile by a considerable margin.

The Tsar however saw the merit in acting in the interests of the Council, and agreed to abide by the Act’s conditions. All nuclear research was to be halted, funding cut and reactors closed down. The atomic bombs were dismantled and no new ones were to be rebuilt. Stockpiles of nerve, mustard and phosgene gas were cut to only 5% of their pre-war levels and chlorine to 20%. Conscription was ended by all great powers except Prussia (who feared an attack from its angry Catholic neighbour), while volunteer forces were limited to 400,000 men and encouraged to be kept well below that. All of this was to be complete by the beginning of 1953, and this goal was more-or-less achieved.

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The Twenty Million Angry Men, 1953

The rapid disarmament of Europe quickly spawned an unexpected crisis as close to twenty million men were discharged from the various armies of the Council: where would they all go? Ever since the War of Napoleonic Succession, most of the great powers had directed men who were unqualified for other jobs towards the army, a system that had become further ingrained into their economies with each generation. Other industries had then restructured themselves around this idea, as a nation operating on a war economy (or at least the near-war economy that every great power practised) was very different to one whose main priority was something other than keeping millions of men in uniform supplied.

When all of the men came home at once however, this system broke down almost immediately. Not only did armament factories and chemical plants close, but in some countries there were now three or four million people unemployed, and hardly more than a few of them had a wide range of skills. While governments did attempt to push construction industries, there was no need for another twenty million builders and carpenters in the world. A lucky few did score new jobs there, and a few more moved to Africa to work in mines or plantations.

For the vast majority of the ex-soldiers however, such was not an option, and Europe was soon faced with millions of homeless people, who were soon joined by their families. These events soon made many of the soldiers very angry with their governments, and the failure of state welfare support services didn’t help matters in the slightest. The monarchs of Europe began to fear that an outbreak of open revolution, possibly under the Buhlist model, was imminent.

Chinese Warlords, 1953

For some however, an outlet emerged that gave them a chance to return to their careers as soldiers: fighting with the warlords that ravaged most of eastern China. After the British and French governments began sponsoring ships to travel to the Council Mandates along the Chinese coast, and Russia began expanding the Siberian railroad (primarily built by other ex-soldiers), travelling to China became a relatively cheap affair that nearly a million ex-soldiers decided to attempt.

The warlord situation in China, like the rest of the rest of the country, was an absolute mess. While the majority of the warlords claimed to be acting in the Fangtung Emperor’s name, the Emperor regularly condemned many of their actions. Without many intact centres of official government, the warlords were largely able to ignore what the Emperor said anyway, and concentrated their efforts towards securing control of the areas of China where atomic bombs hadn’t just killed everything. The Emperor was able to maintain a fair degree of control over Sichuan and the mountainous west, where damage had been the lightest, but his authority was in name only further east.

In the areas that warlords controlled, famine became an even greater problem as the most conflict was directed towards the areas of greatest food production, which unsurprisingly made those areas the most likely to be ruined. When Europeans began pouring in, the situation only became worse. After the warlords themselves, it was the Europeans, not the Chinese, that got the best shares of the spoils, largely due to the threats of atomic bombs that most Chinese associated with the Europeans. Neither the Europeans nor the Chinese really held any loyalty towards warlords unless they had personally known them before the war, and the situation became very confused and disorderly, as Chinese peasants would move from one band to another depending on who was winning locally at that time.

Imperial Consolidation, 1954

With every passing month, the warlord situation was spiralling more and more out of control, and by 1954 the Fangtung Emperor had grown quite tired of it. While he was doing everything in his power to rebuild the country (and in Sichuan, he was having some success), the warlords were doing little more than destroying it further. His advisors began suggesting that a move be made against the warlords directly, but with the Banner Armies disbanded and their replacement too weak to project power so far from Chengdu, simply reconquering the country was out of the picture.

Fangtung instead decided to ask for help from the United States and Mexico. His advisors believed the decision to be foolish, as both nations were part of the Council that had caused the war in the first place, but Fangtung noticed that they had been a lot less involved in the war than Europeans had been, and they had not backed any warlords the way Russia or France or Britain had (although this was due more to the fact that both countries possessed vast swathes of land that could be settled by the ex-soldiers). Requests were sent to Washington and Mexico City asking for those nations’ help in pushing the warlords out and restoring order. Word came back days later, offering the combined support of nearly half a million men.

Fangtung meanwhile ordered twenty-two of the most influential warlord leaders to Chengdu, where he had them executed in the hopes that some of their bands would break apart. In some places this was the case, while the others, notably the especially troublesome area near Wuhan, just found new warlords to replace them. The Mexicans and Americans were then directed against these new warlords, and they were wiped out after a short and brutal, but notably one-sided series of battles. The US and Mexican Armies then instituted military rule over the provinces while the Emperor found replacements to govern them.

Perhaps more important to the rehabilitation of China however, was the fact that the Americans and Mexicans brought radio and railroads to China, and especially that they were kept in Imperial-friendly control while Fangtung reclaimed the rest of China for his government. Radio allowed his forces a communication advantage that the warlords did not enjoy, and the new Imperial Army could be redeployed to trouble spots a lot faster by rail (at least in the areas where railroads were built) than the warlords could travel by foot or horse. Because the Americans and Mexicans refused to send documents explaining how to build radios, they also gained an advantage in trade over the Europeans until the Chinese were able to reverse-engineer a radio in the 1960s, long enough for warlord power to be permanently crippled.

The Constantinople Pact, 1955

Ever since the founding of the Council of Great Powers in 1930, the nations excluded from having a seat on the Council had become more and more angry with the Council powers. This was especially true of the Ottomans, who still held a deep grudge against the Selimids (a Council member) and Cisleithania, who was unhappy that their rival Prussia had scored a position. Although the threat of the Council uniting against them had staved off calls for war, the recent disarmament and now the chaos that had resulted from said disarmament provided them with an opportunity.

Initially, it did not appear that they would do anything about it, but when Sultan Mehmed VII took over from his late father in 1955, he decided to push the issue. What he proposed was a combined effort between Hungary and the Ottoman Empire to dismember the Balkan League, splitting its constituent states between them. The Hungarian King, keen to retake Croatia and parts of Serbia, agreed. The Balkan League was handily defeated in the following war, although Wallachia and Moldavia managed to hold Ottoman forces at the Danube. Wallachia and Moldavia, along with a small piece of Bulgaria, merged into the Kingdom of the Danube in the hopes that a united state would protect them in the event of further Ottoman or Hungarian aggression, but the rest of the Balkan League was carved up between the victors.

The Council issued a strongly worded protest, which included threats of atomic strikes on Pest and Constantinople, to the Ottomans and Hungarians. Mehmed VII, having achieved what he wanted, promised not to cause any more trouble (although he continued to maintain claims against the Selimids), and the Council did nothing more.

In Vienna however, the war sparked interest in a three-party alliance between Cisleithania, Hungary and the Ottomans, if only as a counter against the Council. This eventually became formalised as the Constantinople Pact, or officially, “the Alliance of the Excluded Powers”. The Kingdom of the Danube, hoping to mend relations with its recent enemy, offered to join in 1956 and became the fourth member not long afterwards.

The Great Roads Project, 1956

Towards the end of 1955 King Krzesimir II of Poland finally came up with a solution to the problem of ex-soldier homelessness: a massive, kingdom-wide road building project that would connect Poland’s major cities even more thoroughly than the railroads had a century earlier.

From the shoveling of the first lump of dirt, the Great Roads project was quite successful, eventually employing nearly two-thirds of the country’s ex-soldiers to eventually build nearly 20,000 km of roads over the following eight years. The massive “tent cities” surrounding Warsaw, Lodz, Wilno and Minsk also disappeared, with much of the land they stood on replaced by the first miles of the new roads. To pay for the enormous project, petrol was heavily taxed, but this failed to deter many people from testing new-model autos on the country’s first good quality roads outside of congested cities.

By the program’s seventh month, its success had attracted the notice of many other European nations that were still looking for a way to end the “Soldier’s Depression”, and throughout 1957 road-building programs spawned across Europe, eventually employing around six million people. Although conditions for the workers were rough in the early years (many new towns were built along the roads to house them eventually), there is no doubt that the workers were far better off as a result of the initiatives, and the economic boom in the late 1960s would have been impossible without them.

Land of the Rising Sun, 1957

Ten years after the Four Days War, the time for a divided Japan was already coming to an end. European trade with the independent ex-daimyos had proven nearly worthless as none of them had enough things to sell to Europe to bring a great profit in. Dividing the nation also weakened industrialisation and modernisation efforts as the governments could not bring together enough funds for resources or people from Europe and America. The mentality of the ex-daimyos also worked against the division, as all four nations claimed the Emperor as their head of state at least in name.

An appeal to the Council was made in early 1957 with the hopes of restoring a united Japan that could work to become an equal of the great powers. Their efforts were shut down in a 4-7 vote against, as most of the Council was more interested in continuing to treat the Japanese as a semi-independent colonial state than giving them the means to present a possible future opponent. While an anti-European mindset did not exist to nearly the same extent in Japan as it did in China, there were many Japanese that grew quite angry at the continuing poor treatment of their country.

The Japanese however noticed that the United States had been working against the major Council ideas in China and hoped to see the same measure of aid in their own land. The US delegation had voted in favour of Japanese reunification (minus Edo and Ezochi of course) at the Council meeting and gave an uncommitting message of implied support for the movement.

The real efforts did not begin however until the head of the Choshu clan died in the summer of 1957. All of his sons had died, and his heir should have been his grandson through one of his daughters or one of his second cousins. On his deathbed however, he ignored their claims (the grandson was still a boy and the cousins had basically been ignored all their life), and declared his neighbour, the head of the powerful Aizu clan, as his successor. The Emperor approved of this and had one of his ministers announce an official union between the clans. The Satsuma and Tosa leaders quickly worked to swear fealty to the Aizu.

This of course greatly angered the Council, which had a week-long debate about a second intervention in Japan. However with the Qing War becoming nicknamed “the Pointless War” more and more frequently, and the US threat to fight on behalf of the Japanese (and with them sitting on the largest known uranium deposits, their threats were not to be taken lightly), the Council decided to eventually recognise the new Japanese government as a sovereign nation. As the 1950s passed into the 1960s, the Japanese looked to the United States as a model for their government, with each of the former clan domains sending representatives to Kyoto, albeit on a hereditary rather than elective basis.

Scramble for Antarctica, 1958

Although the world’s southernmost continent had been noticed by European explorers as early as 1839, it had been ignored almost completely since then as the Europeans turned their attention back to Europe, leaving the Pacific region to fend for itself.

After the construction of the Nicaragua Canal and the Qing War however, the Council of Great Powers was once again willing to take another look at what lay below the sixtieth parallel, while flier technology had finally advanced to a point that they could be seriously considered as an alternative to sending men on wooden ships to walk around for a while until they eventually froze to death (in the century after Antarctica’s discovery, all four people to have walked on its surface had died there).

In a Council meeting in 1957, the possibility of exploiting Antarctica’s resources, if there was gold or coal or oil to be found there, was brought up. Sure, the icy continent would lack a native population to be used as labour like in Africa, but if resources did exist below the ice then the money they would generate would make the importing of labour more than worth it. In 1958, Antarctica was arbitrarily divided into eleven equal parts, with the peninsula between 100°W and 50°W, 60°S and 80°S made a Council mandate where a large naval base was to eventually be built.

These plans only survived for a year before governments gave up on them. The ice cover was much thicker than even the largest predictions even considered, and attempted drilling for oil also quickly failed as machinery froze up. Efforts were not helped by the 35% mortality rate (which eventually gave the continent its now-common nickname of ‘the Icy Coffin’), and the expedition to locate and plant a flag on the South Pole, considered the easiest task, was just as big a disaster. The planned Antarctic Naval Base was also cancelled as sea ice formed around its location during the winter, stranding workers tens of miles from their ships.

Despite the fact that it was a total failure, the Scramble for Antarctica did bring the Council together in a time when divisions were growing at an alarming rate, undoubtedly to the benefit of all.

The Yangtze Flooding, 1959

China meanwhile, was suffering a disaster much closer to home. Unusually wet conditions throughout the summer of 1958 resulted in major flooding across large parts of the already devastated country, especially in the populated areas on the banks of the Yellow and Yangtze rivers. Whatever efforts to rebuild these areas in the aftermath of the Qing War were literally washed away, and millions more were left homeless in a region that did not even pretend that it had a government any more.

For many Chinese, this was the final straw. The Li, and especially the Fangtung Emperor, very clearly did not have the Mandate of Heaven. The eight years they had been in power had seen a repeating cycle of disaster, warlordism, violence and famine, and China had grown no stronger than it had been in 1951. American and Mexican armies were watching over Chinese people, a gross violation of Chinese imperial sovereignty, and the people wanted change.

1959 also saw the return of the European mercenaries, a market more profitable than ever. Warlords rose out of the glassy ruins of Peking and the sodden remains of Wuhan in the hopes of carving out their own kingdoms, robbing each other to pay Europeans to shoot at basically anything that moved.

Fangtung attempted to raise an army to take the regions back from the warlords, only to find that many of them defected to the mercenaries (who bribed them with pieces of aluminium, still considered more valuable than gold in China but as cheap as grain in Europe). While none of the warlords dared cross into mountainous Sichuan, they virtually ruled the rest of China.

Luckily for the Emperor, the United States and Mexico (unlike the rest of the Council) saw continued disorder in China as detrimental to their own ambitions in the region, and when the Emperor once again reached out for help, they were quick to provide it. A war was declared against “all forces hostile to the rightful Emperor of the Great Li”, and airstrikes rained poison gas into as many warlord hideouts as could be found. New leaders were found by the Americans and Mexicans (loyal not just to the Emperor but also to them) to reinstate imperial control over the eastern provinces. The warlords again disbanded, only to be hunted down and executed, and threats were made that any new uprisings would be hit by atomic weapons (the Chinese people were not aware that the United States had destroyed its stockpile entirely). The Fangtung Emperor was given the powers of an absolute monarch, to be enforced at the point of a Mexican bayonet if necessary.

Transition of Power, 1961

The Fangtung Emperor died late in 1960, and his son, the Huisung Emperor, was eager to shed the popular international image of China becoming a puppet state of Mexico (which was both far away and much less populated than China). Luckily for him, the harvest of 1960 was good, and local powers in eastern China were, if not happy, then at least moderately content with current events.

Huisung seized on this by creating a new, personal army that become known as the Imperial Warriors. This was a group of hand-picked imperial loyalists, equipped with Mexican (obsolescent) arms and at least initially trained by the Mexican officer corps. Each province had its own corps, eventually totalling 600,000 men.

The Imperial Warriors were more than just a second Banner Army (which was still a going concern, although a heavily discredited one). Huisung very quickly realised that he had created a weapon that he could use to beat the warlords over the head with, and before long they were more like a secret police force than anything else. Because they had foreign backing, they had a tremendous advantage over their opponents, and secessionist ideas across China were quickly crushed.

The Emperor still had old grudges to settle: not only were the warlords hunted down and shot, but he also made an effort to wipe out the ‘volunteer’ bands and mercenary camps that the Europeans had been funding for years. Their members were taken prisoner or shot, the survivors relocated to old mountain fortresses where they were then abandoned to die. Once the mercenaries were cleared out, the old administrations of the cities and provinces were also removed from their positions and exiled, their replacements picked more for their loyalty than their competence.

By the end of 1962, Huisung asked the Mexican government to remove their troops from Chinese soil, which they did, and a law was passed banning foreigners from entering China without swearing an oath of loyalty to the Emperor. The imperial government had now finally and totally wrested control of the country once more, allowing recovery and trade to really begin in earnest. But behind the scenes, the Chinese began drawing up plans for the chance to finally get even with Europe.

The Alaskan Disaster, 1964

Around 5:30 PM, Good Friday 1964, a massive earthquake struck near Alaska, causing dozens of tsunamis and hundreds (perhaps thousands) of deaths. While losing several percentage points of its population was itself catastrophic for the fledgling ‘republic’, the loss of infrastructure was so great that many Alaskans were left wondering if their entire country had just been washed away. Matters were not helped by the terrible weather (including an unexpected snowstorm), and the fact that the country’s largest settlements were nothing more than oversized fishing villages.

Within hours, it became readily apparent that Alaska simply did not have the resources or the population to recover on its own, and someone else would have to prop up the country. The Council called an emergency session, only to find that eight of the eleven great powers had no interest in spending tens of millions of francs on a country that they quite simply had nothing to do with. Luckily for the Alaskans, the United States and Russia decided to send aid even if the rest of the great powers would not, and eventually it was agreed to split the bill evenly between them.

Within the United States, people began to wonder if perhaps Alaska should become the fortieth state in the Union, and although these were eventually shut down the by the President (who had no interest in angering Russia), they spawned a third party in American politics that would become a serious movement before long.

The Three Party System, 1965

This third party was the ‘America First’ party, or as renamed themselves in 1966, the Protectionists. Ever since the 1830s, American politics had been divided between the Nationalists and the Worker’s Party. Nationalists leaned to the right and believed in American expansion and superiority over their neighbours, complete with a large military and a strong manufacturing-based industry, hoping to re-ignite the dream of manifest destiny that had lay dead for a century and a half. The Worker’s Party meanwhile sat slightly to the left, believing that government funds should be fed back to the people, sponsoring labour unions, a heavy focus on agriculture and a more peaceful diplomatic agenda, trying to encourage other countries to also empower their lower classes.

When the Alaskan issue came up, both parties immediately took a stance. The Nationalists clamoured for an outright annexation of the Republic, as very clearly they weren’t capable of governing themselves and depended on American money to exist (the bill for the United States ended up at nearly $100 million). The Worker’s Party, who controlled the White House and Congress at the time, believed that rebuilding Alaska would eventually help the US economy, as Alaska had had a healthy fishing-based economy and recreating that would allow trade to resume.

The people that eventually formed the AFP or Protectionists however believed that Alaska was none of Washington’s business, and argued for a much more isolationist policy. Much of the rest of their ideals were taken from the Worker’s Party, but with a heavy emphasis on only backing American workers. Indeed, a large proportion of their support came from ex-Workers Party members, which helped them secure nearly 10% of Congress in the 1964 elections, a figure that rose to 17% in 1966.

With the rise of the Protectionists came a rise of calls for the United States to stop being a part of the efforts to rebuild China, which many of them saw as simply “feeding the enemy” (one propaganda poster even showed Uncle Sam literally handing the state of Kentucky to an oversized Chinaman, who was visibly chewing on Tennessee). In 1967, these calls were finally noticed by the White House, and the funding for China was cut by four-fifths, effectively ending America’s presence in the Western Pacific.

Reform in Russia, 1967

Although the peasants in Russia were no longer serfs, real reform in the country beyond the policy of ‘freedom for fighting’ had been very slow, at times nonexistant, ever since the War of 1881, and while several monarchies in Europe had been moving towards parliamentary rule, the nation of the tsar remained mostly stuck in the age of absolutism, except for Peter IV’s great “sweep” of the aristocracy in the 1860s. No doubt it had worked (the unfortunate events of 1924-30 being ignored), but with the economic boom currently boosting Europe’s economies, there was surely a better way.

That “better way” came with the ascension of Tsar Grigory I in 1967. The new Tsar, within days of taking the crown, had begun restructuring Russia’s territories into fifty-five new provinces, and then allowed “the people” to vote for their provincial representative to what was officially a cabinet of advisors. In practise, this cabinet was then allowed to make all of the decisions unless the Tsar directly overruled them, and voting was limited to anyone who had served in the Russian Army, as well as his wife if he had one. For a nation that was only really pretending it was beyond the feudal age, this was quite a progressive new change, and it was welcomed by the people.

Strangely though, it does not appear as though Grigory was so much trying to help his people as it was a massive act of laziness. After the first six months of tsarist activity, the cabinet was basically the sole decision maker in Russia (and the voting system ensured that anyone who knew how to use a gun would support it), while the Tsar was free to smoke, feast, sleep and have affairs. Whatever his motives at the time though, Grigory’s decision did help the Russian people in a major way.

Isolationism, 1969

The US election of 1968 was bitterly contested right from the beginning. The debate on what to do about Alaska (and to a much lesser extent, China) had divided the nation more deeply than anything since the fall of Hampton’s Southern League, and many Americans questioned what role their nation should be playing in the increasingly unsteady climate of politics that was building up around them.

The results reflected this division, as while the Nationalists ended up taking the White House and there was no dispute that their candidate, Markus Sweynsson, would be the new President, his victory was extremely narrow. No party had managed to claim an absolute majority of either the Electoral College or Congress, and indeed Sweynsson’s followers only made up 44% of Congress, with the remaining seats roughly equally spread between the Workers Party and the Protectionists.

Sweynsson, unlike the three presidents before him, was at least a good negotiator. Despite the fact that the Protectionists shared more in common with the Workers Party than with his, he was able to bring many of their support base into voting for the bills he proposed, while also uniting with the Workers Party to boost industrial output while the markets were doing well.

The real change to America’s policy however, did not even come from Sweynsson’s party at all. The Protectionists had been quite noisy about how much money and effort was being sent to China, which they viewed as nothing more than a medieval wreck, and in September 1969 Sweynsson cut the aid to China out of the American budget entirely, with half of the money instead going to Alaska and the other half into railroad construction.

This move angered the Mexicans a lot more than Sweynsson had anticipated, as they began to feel that they were being unfairly burdened with the load of rebuilding China. Relations soured, and while the situation never came close to war, Mexico did begin looking warily at its northern neighbour. Sweynsson did however fear that Mexico would try to lobby the Council into cutting America’s right to access the Nicaragua Canal (not that this was likely to pass anyway, as the USA was still closely aligned with three other Council members), and as a preventive measure he secretly funded a revolution in the area, which he then used as a pretext for outright annexing the canal into the USA.

At this point, the Council did react, and a vote was called demanding that the USA release the canal as a Council mandate once more. Mexico was then outvoted, as not only did America’s old allies France, Prusia and Poland vote with them, but Russia and Britain also jumped at the chance to cripple China’s reconstruction efforts, and the canal stayed under American control, becoming a formal territory of the Union in 1971.

Fire in the Eyes of the Dragon, 1970

Using the money from the resurgent tea and silk trades, the Huisung Emperor had spent much of the 1960s clearing up the worst of the damage from the Qing War and the 1958 floods. The Imperial Warriors had cleared out the last of the warlords, before going on a general rampage through China, executing all that were believed to be disloyal to the Emperor, with estimates suggesting that a million people were executed for crimes never fully justified by the government. At the end of the decade, Huisung’s control was absolute, and he had more personal power than any previous Emperor. Stories from the time suggest that even members of his own court feared him, worried that they would be the next victims of the black-powder rifles that had become synonymous with the Li Empire.

While the Emperor may have regained control over his country, his country had yet to regain control over its fate. The United States’ abandonment of its support efforts had left China with only Mexico as a true ally (Japan was friendly, but their modernisation efforts were even further behind than China’s), and in a world with nine Council members breathing fire down China’s neck, he knew that China needed to industrialise, and rapidly. Railroads by this point connected most of the main cities and his scientists had reverse-engineered a radio, but industrial machinery was still rare.

Huisung set out to change that. In 1970, he sponsored a massive effort to expand mines in China’s west, hoping to achieve a multifold increase in iron production. Huge smelting mills were opened in Chengdu and Chungking, producing steel and then aluminium once electric power became available on a large enough scale. Millions of displaced workers abandoned the tent cities in central China for the new jobs in the west, and within three years Chinese metals production was beginning to rival that of some of the smaller European powers.

Backpedal on Protectionism?, 1972

In the months leading up to the presidential election of 1972, the American public was even less sure of its position in the world than it had been in 1968. President Sweynsson had died of a stroke in 1971, and the Nationalists had spent much of the following year arguing about his successor (ex-VP Arnolds was in his sixties and had no interest in running for a full term of his own).

The Protectionist support base was even more fragmented: not only was America still paying millions of dollars to keep Alaska afloat (although fewer millions than in 1968), but many were quite angry that the government had all but thrown away the century-old alliance with Mexico and the end of the economic boom from 1965-71 was also blamed on the taxes that had been imposed on shipping through the Nicaragua Canal, which had driven up petrol prices in parts of the world.

China remained a fiercely debated topic, as the Huisung Emperor was turning the old imperial system into a full-blown autocratic state backed up with a ruthless secret police force, which was very much against the traditional American values of freedom and liberty. Combine that with the fact that Chinese industry was ramping up production dramatically, and many feared that China would do to the world what the Tsar had done in the 1920s. At the same time though, why did the government see the need to interfere with Mexico in order to shut China down?

Through all of the chaos, it was the Workers’ Party that secured the White House with a handy majority of the Electoral College, although only 44% of Congress. In foreign policy matters the new government tried to do as little as possible to damage the status quo further, but no attempt was made to really improve things either. The budget, after all, was better spent on stopping the economic slump from getting worse.

Edo Revolts, 1973

By 1972, Edo, for a long time Japan’s largest city, had spent a generation as a Council Mandate, separated from its homeland. While this had made sense in the immediate aftermath of the Four Day War (when Japan was split in four), post-reunification the Council had refused all demands, hoping, if nothing else, to keep a military base in Northeast Asia that wasn’t under direct Russia, French or British control. Within the Japanese populace (which was to say, nearly everyone), this division was very unpopular and the calls went out again for Edo to rejoin Japan.

When the Council once again ignored them, the Japanese government secretly began arming the residents of Edo. Black-powder rifles were seriously outmatched by European rollbarrels, but compared to the swords used a generation earlier they were an improvement of immense magnitude. On February 11, 1973 (the traditional anniversary of the founding of Japan), the people of Edo rose up in revolt against the Council.

The Council’s militia, although severely outnumbered, was in no danger of being seriously pushed out, and unless the rest of Japan joined in the fighting, the revolt would eventually be crushed. What the Council didn’t have on hand in Edo was fliers, and discussions in Paris on who would pay for their airforce to go into action quickly stalled.

The government of Japan quickly sensed that the Council was divided, and increased the amount of support that was being secretly sent to Edo, slowly wearing away at the Council’s superiority in the region. The Council militia acted by trying to fight its way into the centre of the city, to take the city’s governor (who was Japanese) hostage. That too failed when the rebels cut the Council force in two, of which only one part was ever able to evacuate the city with its numbers mostly intact.

Back in Paris, the Europeans were furious, unwilling to lose two Council Mandates in the space of a couple of years. While before the question had been fliers, now there was a debate on whether or not an atomic bomb would be dropped on Edo to quell the rebellion. The three atomic powers of the 1950s – France, Russia and the United States all volunteered to build a bomb and drop it. Before long, everyone had worked out that those three all wanted the chance to have a nuclear industry set up again officially, which would give them an enormous advantage, at least until another power also assembled another A-bomb. The eight non-ex-nuclear powers were also divided between supporting their traditional allies and the need to avoid a repeat of the Qing War, which was looking more and more likely to be fought on European soil. An attempt to vote was made, only for the session to fall into an angry shouting match. Russia eventually used its airforce to firebomb Edo into submission, but in the process the Council had fractured. As one observer put it, “The council is now nothing more than eleven vicious dogs chained up in a circle, all trying to kill each other over the rights to build A-bombs, and one day those chains are going to break.”

Somehow, the Council did manage to hold itself together once the Edo Revolt was crushed, and no A-bombs were built. But the incident highlighted that despite their best efforts to convince everyone otherwise, the Council members still held decades-old grudges against each other, and for the first time since 1930, the peace did not look like it would last forever.

Scares in the Pacific, 1974

In the days following the firebombing of Edo, the world’s focus was on Japan. If the Japanese felt that Edo truly was their city, there was a significant risk that they would declare war on the Council to reclaim it, an event that would likely bring the Chinese in to the fight too. The Council meanwhile remained divided against itself: the United States was actively ignoring Council requests for the return of the Nicaragua Canal, France and Russia wanted the other to let them build A-bombs, Mexico wanted more influence in the Pacific while everyone else wanted China to remain weak. If Japan had attacked in 1973, there was a fair chance that they could have grabbed Edo before the Council even reacted.

For whatever reason, they didn’t. Perhaps they feared that the Russian bombers would hit their other cities again. Perhaps they weren’t aware of just how divided the Europeans were. But their delay gave the Europeans the time to react to the Edo revolt, and those with a stake in the region began to mobilise and arm the area before the trouble spread across the oceans. Russia sent more bombers to Manchuria and Ezochi, France deployed another two divisions to Formosa, Britain raised the alert level in the Philippines and transfered part of the Australian Guard to Manila.

In the Council Headquarters in Paris, the situation was more tense than it had ever been since the end of the World War. Most of the painfully built up unity between the eleven great powers had been shattered, and it was only in their mutual desire not to see another hundred million Europeans perish that kept them from going after each other. Of the twelve meetings held by the Council in 1974, only two of them focussed on routine issues such as world trade. The other ten simply consisted of thirty-three panicked representatives trying to keep the world from throwing itself into an abyss.

The Sultan is Dead, Long Live the Caliphshah, 1976

The death of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed VII late in 1975 was an event of great importance to the Ottoman Empire, but went largely unnoticed by the rest of the world, which was still trying to come to an agreement on what the post-Edo world would look like.

Mehmed VII took power in 1955, dismantling the Balkan League and reclaiming much of the old European territories for his Empire. After founding the Constantinople Pact with Cisleithania and Hungary, he had turned his attention inward, modernising and improving the Empire to the point that, had the Council of Great Powers not had an arbitrary eleven-nation limit, it would have likely been considered for membership. He managed to turn the various Balkan peoples into loyal subjects of the Empire, and his greatest legacy would be the fact that he turned a financial cripple of a nation into one that could boast of a large treasury. Indeed his final words were spoken to his son: “use the money well”.

His son was Mehmed VIII, who had murdered seven brothers and two nephews to become the heir to the Empire. Mehmed VIII was enigmatic: he was an exceptionally able, if cruel, ruler and knew how to get exactly what he wanted. Everyone said that the man needed to be watched: his friends would say this because he was very skilled, while his enemies would say it because he was dangerous. But he was also extremely ambitious, possibly delusional, and within the court he was known as a troublemaker. As a child, he had stolen the coat off of a Hungarian diplomat’s back, and now that he was in his thirties not much had changed.

Mehmed VIII’s rule began with a boastful declaration that he was not merely a Sultan, but ‘Caliphshah’: a title he made up to mean ‘king of the caliph’, or basically a short step below calling himself a god. This was a direct challenge to the Selimids (who he hated), and luckily for him they were too busy worrying about the shambles that was the Council of Great Powers to pay attention to him. The Ottoman court very quickly became accustomed to his two obsessions: women and weapons. The former were “recruited” easily enough, but it was the latter that he would eventually become most famous for.

Ottoman Royal Court, Constantinople
18 July, 1976
2:00 AM

Mehmed VIII looked down at the plump little man he had ordered into the court. He was well aware that it was the middle of the night, but this was important business. More to the point, it was secret business, and the fewer that knew about it the better.
“Murad,” he said. “My father told me that you are a trustworthy man. Are you prepared to prove that to me for the good of the Empire.”
Murad looked up at his lord. “Of course, my Caliphshah. What reason do you have to doubt that I would do my duty to the Empire and to Allah?”
“I have an urgent matter that we must take care of before that Council remembers that we exist.” Mehmed whispered. “If they find out about this, there won’t be a man alive in this city by the time they are done with us.”
“My lord, you can trust me on this. No words will pass through this mouth. What do you need?” Murad asked.
“When the sun comes up, a cruise ship is to leave here for Brazil. You are to travel there to the port of Rio de Janeiro. Once there, you are to locate a short man, maybe three and a half feet, named Paolo. He’s a dealer, and he’s also the most wanted man in Brazil. He won’t blab to anyone.”
Murad nodded his head.
Mehmed reached into his pocket and pulled out a cheque. “Here’s a billion francs, straight out of the treasury. My father told me to use the money well, so I expect you to do the same. From Paolo, you will obtain eighty kilograms of refined jovium. Enough for a dozen bombs or so. A week from there, you will board the only Ottoman ship in Rio harbour, it will be a disguised fishing boat. The crew will be more of our agents though, so do not worry. Bring the jovium back, and we can hit the Council a harder one than anyone other than China has ever seen.”
Murad nodded his head once more. “Is that all you require of me, my lord?”
“Yes.” Mehmed VIII said, before correcting himself. “No, one other thing. If you sneak off with that money, I will have you hunted down. You are not buying this jovium for yourself, you’re buying it for your country. You may, however tell Paolo that you are buying for yourself. Now go, I expect you back in three months.”
Murad bowed once more and then left. Mehmed took a look at one of the maps hanging on the wall. Some of those places, he thought, they won’t be around for much longer.

Anger ex machina, 1978

At this point in this account of our history, it would be wise to take a moment to realise that despite every piece of evidence suggesting otherwise, the Council of Great Powers was able to maintain enough unity to allow it to maintain peace in Europe and prevent atomic weapons from being constructed within the borders of any of the member states.

It would however, be folly to assume that the later 1970s were an era of any sort of pleasant diplomacy. Even five years after the Edo revolts, diplomats in Paris still stared at each other warily. Where once an appointment to the Council was seen as a great honour, now it was seen in a light similar to how a legendary gladiator might have viewed his twentieth visit to the Colosseum. Sure, he would make a pretty big impact and be well respected, but one wrong move and he was as dead as a man whose intestines were feeding a lion.

Matters came to a head once again in 1978, when China ramped up its efforts to industrialise once more. Mexico had been supplying parts and engineers for decades, but when Italy, Spain and Sweden caught on to just how valuable the market for machinery was in Asia, the other great powers were once again angered. China, and to a lesser extent Japan, were after all a nation that had gone so blatantly against the wishes of the Council despite not having close to enough power to actually back up their desires with force. Now that they had moved beyond the feudal era, there was no reason to expect them to suddenly start acting to the dreams of Europeans.

Were the Italians and Swedes foolish? Of course not. Their economies had suffered during the “slump of the 70s” and machinery was both an easily accessible and valuable commodity that they could trade away to restart their nations during a rather stressful time. The timing of their actions however, was most unfortunate. For too long, the Constantinople Pact had been ignored, Europe confident that Mehmed VII would act rationally and peacefully. Mehmed VIII however, was not his father, and when unity was most desperately needed within the Council, the Council had never been more divided.

The End War: 1979
The “End War”: Part I

Invasion of the Selimids, 1979

The Ottoman atomic bombings of major Selimid cities appear to have only had one reason: to destabilise the Selimid government enough that they could not bring their full potential to bear on the Ottomans. Mehmed VIII knew that while the Constantinople Pact had a great advantage coming into the war with armies mobilised, it would only last as long as it took the majority of Council members to restart conscription and bring millions of men into uniform once more.

The conventional attack that followed the A-bombs was split into two parts: one aiming for southern Mesopotamia (Baghdad was now nothing more than a worthless ruin) and the oilfields there, while the second, stronger, arm travelled along the Mediterranean coast, with Egypt and the Holy Land as their ultimate objective. Fliers pounded the cities that had not been hit by the A-bombs with gas and liquid fire, while infantry and armour poured across the border.

What remained of the Selimid Army was in chaos – most of its leadership (except for Selim VI, who had luckily chosen that time to go on the Hajj to Mecca) had been killed, and communications had been shattered. Without any clear instructions, most of the Selimid Army headed in the general direction of Jerusalem, which was a likely target for the Ottoman Army and had not been hit by an A-bomb. By the time they arrived there, the Ottomans were in the city, and the battle that resulted confirmed the destruction of the Selimid Empire. Selim VI himself withdrew into obscurity in Mecca, but everything that had once answered to his rule, including the Suez Canal, was now part of his cousin’s regime once more.

German Fury, 1979

To say that Cisleithanian King Otto III and Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm VI hated each other would be an understatement. Where the other Council powers had demobilised, Prussia and Cisleithania remained armed to the teeth, knowing that one day, the religious conflict that had continued ever since the Thirty Years’ War would flare up again. When the Ottomans and Selimids went to war, Otto seized the chance to take advantage of the situation.

Not four hours after the A-bombs fell on the Selimids, King Otto sent a list of demands to Berlin, effectively demanding that Prussia become a vassal state of their smaller neighbour. Friedrich Wilhelm unsurprisingly refused the demands, before quietly leaving Berlin with most of his court. This move proved to be wise, as King Otto too had a small supply of A-bombs (it is thought that he was given them by the Ottomans, but no-one has ever confirmed this). They fell on Berlin and Hamburg, Stettin and Dresden, Hannover and Stuttgart.

Otto had expected that the shock of six atomic strikes would be enough to force a Prussian surrender, and he was very surprised when Prussia responded with flier raids (including extensive use of nerve and mustard gas) on as many Cisleithanian cities as they could reach. The armies were ordered forward into each others’ territories, and while Cisleithania appeared to have the upper hand in these battles, their advantage was never great enough to be ruthlessly exploited the way the Ottomans had so dramatically done, and by the end of the year, the front lines were only fifty kilometres into Prussian territory.

A Council Divided, 1979

In the wake of these attacks, the Council of Great Powers was shaken, and if its unity could be compared to a house of cards before the war, the same analogy applied afterwards if the table was shaken with the force of twelve atomic strikes. Britain was reluctant to support the Selimids, who effectively controlled the Suez Canal in spite of British wishes. Italy did not want to fight the Ottomans as it would likely mean that they would lose control of Tripolitania. Mexico simply wanted nothing at all to do with the Council, which had opposed their plans to help China.

At the October meeting, the Council fractured. France and Poland, Prussia’s allies since the days of the First Empire, were calling for a united response against the Constantinople Pact, which they would declare war on early in 1980 (once they had rebuilt functioning armies). Russia supported the move (although did not directly attack the Ottomans), and rearmed as fast as it possibly could. The United States also began sending money and arms to the French and Prussians. The rest of the Council just left the building. Where eleven members had once met in desire to prevent war, one had been vanquished and five more were abandoning it in favour of their own interests.

The question of the remaining Council Mandates was then solved by what was becoming known as the “Fragment of the Council”. The Suez Canal had fallen to the Ottomans, while Nicaragua had been part of the United States for years now. Edo in Japan was handed to Russia, which had maintained the largest presence there ever since the revolt of 1973. France grabbed the South China Mandate, justifying it as more easily handled by them from their base in Formosa. Antarctic claims were simply ignored (no-one had visited the continent since the early 1960s), as were the other worthless uninhabited islands discovered throughout the 1930s in the Pacific.

Second Strike, 1979

With his campaign against the Selimids completed, Mehmed VIII turned his attention to the other country he felt had done his the most wrong in the past: Russia. Despite the Ottomans having signed away their claims to it in the days of Napoleon I, Mehmed still believed that the Caucasus rightfully belonged to him, and only two months after attacking his neighbour to the south, he was ready for a go against his neighbour in the north.

The attack began with the expenditure of what appears to have been the rest of the Ottoman atomic arsenal. The citizens of Tehran, Kiev and Sevastopol all became intimately familiar with fiery mushroom clouds, and those who lived in Moscow were spared only by the fact that the bomber’s engines malfunctioned.

Mehmed was undeterred, ordering his army to sweep into Persia and the Caucasus, while his Hungarian allies launched an assault into the Ukraine. Both made substantial progress in spite of the winter weather, and the former was aided by the quick capitulation of Georgia and Armenia (who feared that they too, would be hit by A-bombs).

Tsar Grigory was not surprised, and calls for the defense of the Motherland were made all across the massive country. Factories opened almost overnight, cranking out fliers, autos, gas shells and other essential tools. But more importantly, the few remaining scientists who had been a part of the nuclear program in the 1940s and ‘50s were called back to give their knowledge to the younger generation, which began working on new atomic bombs. This newfound demand for nuclear scientists was common all across Europe and America, as nations sought to be the first to use them (other than the 1979 strikes), in a war that would likely be defined by who could drop the most, and the biggest, nuclear bombs.

The Tsar of course, was kind enough to return the A-bomb aimed at Moscow to the 'Caliphshah' as a Christmas present. On December 25th, 1979, it returned to the Ottoman Empire, providing some instant sunshine to western Constantinople in the process. Luckily for Mehmed, the bomb missed his court by a couple of kilometres and the city remained a going concern.

The End War: 1980-Early 1981
The “End War”: Part II

Prussian Collapse, 1980

As a new year dawned, the strain of fighting a war with huge holes in the middle of six of their largest cities finally took a toll on the Prussians. While the front lines were holding for the moment, many units were low on supplies, while the ammunition plants had been largely wiped out by atomic fire. France was desperately trying to make up for the shortfall, but their heavy industry was still not fully mobilised.

When the Prussian line in Silesia was broken in February, the problem became a disaster. King Otto was quick to order as many of his troops through the gap as he possibly could, leaving his western lines only enough forces to hold their positions. But without the Silesian coalfields, Prussia would die. Napoleon IV knew as much, and declared war on Cisleithania and Hungary, even though his nation wasn’t totally ready. But even a half-mobilised force could mean the difference between the survival of his ally and its destruction. When Breslau was taken, Poland too joined in.

King Otto was undeterred. He knew it would be another three months before France could do anything more than put poorly-equipped batallions in the way of his own army, and Poland could be dealt with by the Hungarians. He ordered his forces to continue marching into Silesia, which was overrun by the end of the month, before aiming them at the new Prussian capital of Leipzig.

The Prussian Army practically disintegrated as a result. Barely half of the army’s ammunition requirement could be met by the factories in the Rhineland (which Cisleithanian bombers were regularly pounding), while French factories were struggling to provide for both armies. Luckily, morale did not collapse and when production was expanded the line eventually stabilised, but when it did, Prussia was considerably smaller than it had once been.

Into Russia, 1980

The rest of the Constantinople Pact was doing just as well with its invasion of Russia. The oilfields of the Caucasus were overrun not long after the Ottomans swept through the mountains, while Russian Persia became Ottoman Persia as Mehmed’s men paraded through the glassy crater that had once been Tehran. The Crimea was taken in an amphibious assault in the spring (made considerably easier by the fact that the Sevastopol defenses had been destroyed by an A-bomb). At the same time, Hungary and the Kingdom of the Danube were able to push deep into the Ukraine, destroying all manner of mines, industry and railroads in the process.

One look at a map however, would tell you that no matter how far the ConstPact forces marched, there would always be more Russia. Within the first six months of the invasion, they had marched a staggering distance, but they were still hundreds of kilometres away from Moscow and even further from St Petersburg. Ottoman bombers did not have the range to even get especially close to the northern cities (unless they were willing to lose a crew and a plane in the process), so the Tsar merely ordered the construction of new factories, especially in Novgorod and St Petersburg. The Russian Army meanwhile, continued to grow.

Despite this, the situation remained precarious. With Baku under the red star and crescent and Prussian synthetics plants radioactive ruins, the Fragment’s (this was fast becoming the name of the impromptu alliance opposing the ConstPact) only source of oil lay in their various African colonies, along with some American oil that was being shipped to France. While the navies of the Constantinople Pact were not especially large, a great many of their ships had parked themselves along the main shipping lanes, and supplies were regularly interdicted. It was a problem that would only continue to grow as the war dragged on.

The Election of 1980

Where the 1968 and 1972 elections had been dominated by Protectionism (and the 1976 one was rather uneventful), in 1980 the votes were dominated by what the American policy should be regarding the war. America had so far remained neutral, although it had much stronger ties to the Fragment than the ConstPact. The Nationalist Party unsurprisingly supported intervention, including the probable deployment of some of the US Army to France and Prussia. The Workers Party (which the Protectionists were backing rather than run their own candidate) instead opted for continuing neutrality, which was a policy more likely to be favourable to the Mexican government (although it remained very unlikely that Mexico would ever fully support the ConstPact).

The Workers Party had the advantage of incumbency, and their government had been popular ever since they were able to mostly repair tensions with Mexico. But even that was not enough. War was by now a popular subject in America, as every one that the country had participated in since 1881 had been a tremendous victory. Most Americans also reasoned that because the A-bombs had stopped falling, and also because the East Coast was so far from Europe, that they had nothing to fear. And on that note, Nationalist Joseph P. Takacs entered the White House in 1981.

For the first few months of his presidency however, Takacs maintained American neutrality, hoping that the threat of US entry would be enough to deter Cisleithania from advancing any further than they already had into Prussia, while attempting to begin talks for peace. King Otto ignored all of these attempts, confident (with good reason) that Prussia was on the edge of total collapse. With that plan ruined, Takacs gave the order to begin mobilising for war.

Old Enemies to Clash Once More, 1981

Behind the facade of international co-operation in the World War and the Council, Britain and France still hated each other as strongly as any eight hundred year-old rivalry could, and with Europe going up in flames and the Council dissolved, the rules of 1923 were back in play.

Prime Minister Harold Harding was also aware that now that France and Russia were both involved, they would likely be able to eventually turn the tide against the Constantinople Pact, which would mean that Britain’s two greatest rivals would be masters of a continent unfriendly to British interests. The election of President Takacs only made this worse, as the entry of the United States, when it happened, would allow the Fragment an almost ridiculous advantage over the ConstPact, forever ending Britain’s chances of regaining the glory it had held before Napoleon.

Harding knew that the only thing he could do to change this was to strike the French while they were distracted, and with the British nuclear program working at full pace, he knew he had the advantage. Three months to the day after President Takacs was sworn into office, Britain declared war on France, Prussia and Russia. Within minutes, the sounds of flier engines could be heard all across northern France. Atomic bombs were dropped on Boulogne, Le Havre, Cherbourg, Brest, St Nazaire and Bordeaux.

The attacks almost instantly incapacitated the entire French Navy. Whatever ships had been in port were now either sunk, molten or glowing in the dark. Those ships in the Atlantic or the Mediterranean could count only on Marseilles for resupply, which would force many of them to cross the Straits of Gibraltar, where British cannons waited to sink them. Because he had not wanted to provoke the French before starting the war, Harding had refrained from marching into his side of the DMZ, but he wasted no time in doing so now that the treaty that had established it was in tatters (while Napoleon IV did the same). People criticise him to this day for not also hitting Paris with the first wave of bombs, but Harding remains convinced that preventing the French from pulling off another invasion similar to 1881 was far more important than hitting the capital would have been.

The End War: Late 1981-1982
The “End War”: Part III

Breakthrough, 1981

Britain’s entry into the war meant the end for Prussia. With its entire coastline devastated by the British A-bombs, France had no choice but to pull troops from the German front to guard the west, and as soon as they were gone, the already overstretched Prussians were quickly ruined by a massive Cisleithanian attack. Leipzig was captured, the Baltic coast reached and the Rhineland overrun. King Friedrich Wilhelm fled to Paris, never to return to his country.

Otto was meanwhile put into a difficult position: with the obvious target gone, he was now in the middle of two powerful enemies. France was the closest, just across the Rhine from where the bulk of his forces now stood, but the Rhine had twice proven to be extremely difficult to cross in face of a determined enemy, and the French would not respond well to an invasion of their homeland (not that the Prussians had, but at least both countries there were still Germans). Alternatively, he could sweep through Poland, which was considered the weakest of the Fragment nations, and join his allies in the great invasion of Russia. That would be more of a logistical challenge than a military one (Russia was still very much distracted by the Ottomans and Hungarians), and one that would provide little direct benefit to his country even if it helped the Pact more as a whole, but it also risked leaving his western flank exposed to a possible French offensive, while Poland was not likely to do much attacking on their own.

Otto chose to head west, ordering his army across the Rhine before the French had fully organised their defenses along the river. As he did this, offers were sent to Spain and Italy, suggesting that they join the Constantinople Pact in exchange for French colonies after the war. The two countries were unsure of how soon France was likely to begin making atomic bombs, but when Otto pointed out that a four-way invasion could defeat the Empire before the bombs could be built, they agreed, ordering their forces into southern France in September 1981.

The planned four-way invasion quickly became a three-way embarrassment. After Otto’s men crossed the Rhine, volunteer numbers for the French Army rose dramatically, as millions of Frenchmen resolved to kick the attackers out for good. These new forces were rushed to the frontline, halting Otto’s advance before it got deep into French territory, crucially protecting the mining regions in the northeast. Spain and Italy meanwhile struggled against defenses that had been prepared over the last century. Britain refused to land troops at all, citing the fact that northern France no longer had any ports through which supplies could pass. Fliers were sent over France on an almost daily basis, but French fliers proved their worth as they fought hard to protect their homes from gas and liquid fire.

The Great Crawl, 1981

The invasion of Russia had begun as a great surge into Persia, the Caucasus and the Ukraine. Ottoman and Pact forces had stormed across hundreds of miles of Russian land, sweeping through without much trouble. But as the war entered its third year, that surge had lost its momentum. The ConstPact was still technically winning, as each day the front still moved north, but where it would have once moved by five or ten kilometres, now it only moved one or two. Part of this appears to have been due to the fact that the Ottomans especially were now operating so far from their supply bases (trains had to cross the Caucasus to even get close to the armies), but no doubt a large part is also due to the fact that Russian resistance was hardening. Gone were the days of surprise and unpreparedness. The factories were in high gear, churning out weapons and ammunition as fast as they possibly could.

The Great Crawl presented a problem for the Pact’s leaders. Mehmed VIII knew that if the Russians kept slowing him down, eventually they would slow him down to zero, and possibly start turning back the tide. More atomic bombs were in the works, but with the uranium mines only opening in 1980 it would be at least another eighteen months before he had a working bomb. Another solution had to be found.

It was the Hungarians that came up with the solution he needed: a quick campaign to knock out Poland and tear a massive hole in Russia’s western flank. Mehmed gave his approval, also asking King Otto to invade with his army on Poland’s border. Two unfinished atomic bombs were also found in occupied Prussia, which were completed and used against Warsaw and Lodz, signalling a beginning to the operation.

Poland’s abilities had been massively underestimated by the Constantinople Pact. As soon as it became apparent what their enemies were attempting to do, Poland's leaders decided to conduct a fighting retreat into the deep interior of the country, where they could shorten the frontline and link up with the Russians. Although this meant abandoning Poland proper, they would keep Lithuania and it would likely prevent an atomic strike against any more Polish cities. Amazingly, the fighting retreat was a great success, and the outnumbered Poles were able to inflict disproportionate casualties on their enemies.

American Entry, 1982

The long-awaited entry of the United States into the war finally came a few days into the new year of 1982. President Takacs announced that the US Army was now ready for action, and it was time for them to make their presence felt. The Navy meanwhile flooded into the Atlantic, putting a halt to the submarine campaign that had been used to such crippling effect against France’s oil supplies. Apart from the area near Gibraltar, the Fragment had control of the waves.

No matter how much they controlled the Atlantic however, the Americans couldn’t actually do anything much to help in Europe directly. The British destruction of French ports meant that, apart from a few low-capacity ports such as Dunkirk, nothing could enter France by way of the sea anywhere between the Pyrenees and the Rhine, while ‘Sub Alley’ made sure that no-one would dare send troopships into the Mediterranean. (Oil tankers were less valuable than transport ships filled with soldiers, so those were permitted to take the risk).

The same strategy that the British used against France now became the best way for the United States to hit back against Britain. Over the years, the US Navy had slowly outbuilt the Royal Navy, until now when they held a substantial advantage. Takacs knew that he would never be able to invade Britain (the majority of the British Army was still in the Isles), but if he could isolate them there, they were as much good as if they were never in the war at all. Over a three month period, the US Navy fought several engagements with their British counterparts, wearing away the RN in a massive battle of attrition. Then, once he was confident that the RN was no longer a serious threat to his forces, he ordered into the seas west of Ireland the largest carrier the world had yet seen: USS Lake Erie. On board were eight six-engined bombers, each one carrying an atomic bomb. On the 206th anniversary of the United States’ independence, the Americans launched an all-out attack against their former colonial masters. By the end of the day, Plymouth, Cork, Dublin, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Norwich had all been incinerated.

Bombslinging, 1982

This devastating attack heralded the beginning of a new stage of the war, and the one that it would later become most famous for (and indeed, the one that spawned the war’s name). Nicknamed the (A-)‘bombslinging era’ as a reference to the American outlaws in the 1840s, the months following July 1982 became known for the tendency of the great powers to repeatedly drop atomic bombs on each other as soon as they were built, often with no clear aim beyond the effectively random destruction of an arbitrarily chosen enemy city in the hopes that it would bring their side closer to winning the war.

Apart from the British, the first victims of this new strategy were the Ottomans and Hungarians, which the Russians were desperate to start pushing back. Pest and Debrecen were targetted in Hungary, as were Sofia, Ankara and Adrianople. An attempt at hitting Adana was also made, although the bomber was shot down (luckily for the Russians, the bomb was ruined when the flier crashed).

Britain retaliated against the American strike with new bombs of their own, hitting Paris with two, as well as Caen, Amiens, Strasbourg, Dijon, Toulouse and Dieppe. In addition, an A-bomb was loaded onto a submarine and detonated in the middle of the Nicaragua canal, destroying the locks and rendering the canal useless. The fact that the canal has not finished repairs even today is proof of just how destructive the bomb was to plans relying on the canal.

France too had begun acquiring a stockpile, and Napoleon IV decided that it would be best used against the Spanish and Italians rather than a second attack against the British. Venice was literally erased from the map entirely, while Rome and Turin added craters to their list of historical monument. Barcelona, Zaragoza and Madrid were destroyed in Spain, while the same trick used against the Nicaragua Canal was applied with devastating effect to Gibraltar, as the French submarine was sailed straight into the harbour. ‘Sub Alley’ was no more, and Harold Harding handed over the rest of the now-useless territory to Spain (which had continued to claim it as theirs since the 1700s).

The End War: 1983
The “End War”: Part IV

Americans in Europe, 1983

Gibraltar’s destruction tore open the Mediterranean to ships from the Council Fragment, as the subs that had once prowled the area were either sunk by the bomb or too far from their supply bases to maintain a permanent presence. As 1982 gave way to 1983, the United States was finally able to aid its ally France, unloading hundreds of thousands of troops in the ports of Toulon and Marseilles. With many of their cities ruined by atomic bombs, this, and then very quickly American arms and supplies, were essential in keeping the war effort going.

The immediate impact was obvious. In the spring of 1983, ‘Plan Liberation’ was launched by the combined US-French armies, pushing King Otto’s forces back across the Rhine and securing most of the Rhineland for the Fragment. Officially, the Rhineland belonged to Prussia, but with Cisleithania controlling nearly all of Prussia’s territory and the Prussian King unwilling to return to his domains, in practice it belonged to France.

The US Navy also faced a problem: they were too far from their home bases to maintain an effective blockade against the British Isles, and without a it, an invasion, or total nuclear annihilation, there was no sure way to force Newcastle to surrender. The Fourth of July attacks had done a lot of damage to the country, but when the British Indian Fleet was transferred to the Irish Sea, the British people breathed a sigh of relief. They could remain in the war, and continue to punish their hated French enemies.

A Nuclear Arms Race, 1983

In the eyes of many experts, it was clear that this war would depend less on the actions of infantrymen, ships or armour. Unless a country was totally overrun (as was still effectively the case in Prussia), the true measure of victory would lie in the A-bomb. Except for Great Britain and the United States, most nuclear powers based their strategies around the idea that as soon as an A-bomb came off the production line, it was loaded up onto the first four- or six-engined bomber that could be found, and dropped on the enemy lines. Because France and Russia had got their atomics programs running first, they held a significant advantage, and for the first seven months of 1983, the Constantinople Pact took a beating.

Russia’s main priority was to attempt to knock out the Ottoman Empire, and their bombs mostly fell there – Trebizond, Sinope, Plovdiv, Thessalonika, Zonguldak, Konya, Samsun, Sivas and Erzerum were all hit, while the Ploesti oilfields in the Kingdom of the Danube were obliterated twice (once in 1982, and then a second time in early 1984 after they were rebuilt).

France instead focused on Cisleithania, smashing Innsbruck, Vienna, Prague, Brunn, Pressburg, Regensburg, Munich and Nuremburg. In Italy, Florence’s crater became an ironic subject of art, as did Naples and Syracuse. Bilbao, Seville and Cordoba also joined the list of victim cities in Spain.

On July 3rd, 1983, the USS Lake Erie had returned to the Western Approaches with another eight A-bomb loaded bombers ready to unleash a repeat of the Fourth of July attack against Great Britain, with targets including Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool and the capital of Newcastle in mind. Before they could launch it however, a British submarine found the carrier, launching four torpedoes. One hit the store of aviation fuel, obliterating the carrier in a massive fireball and saving millions of British lives in the process. The British King personally congratulated the submarine’s captain, awarding him ten million pounds (enough to buy an A-bomb’s worth of uranium on the black market) as a national thank you.

Turning Back the Clock, 1983

The Constantinople Pact was eager to reverse the balance that was beginning to turn against them. Around the start of the year, the “great crawl” of their forces in Russia was finally halted, and the frontline began to move backwards. Poland, having heavily wounded the Cisleithanian invaders in their fighting retreat, was able to push back into their oldest lands, retaking Bialystok and in places approaching the Bug river. It would take another massive campaign if they hoped to retake the smoking ruins of Warsaw, but the country had proven that it would not be conquered easily.

In a meeting on the Greek island of Lesbos (which Russia tried unsuccessfully to interrupt with an A-bomb) in 1982, King Otto III and Caliphshah Mehmed VIII had agreed to combine their efforts to build an A-bomb production line. The facility would be made in the mountains of Turkey (where they would be able to survive even a direct atomic attack), and both German and Ottoman scientists and engineers would work to build the Pact’s bombs. Once completed, the A-bombs would be evenly shared between the two nations, but ultimately all would be used against Poland and Russia, with the assumption that the British (which was only loosely aligned with the Pact) would continue to target France and the USA.

The plan bore fruit in August 1983, as the ‘Office Supplies Factory’ produced its first A-bomb for the Pact using local jovium. It wasn’t in Ottoman hands for long before Moscow was finally turned into glass. Mehmed VIII made a speech that this was final proof that the Council was weak, but all that earned him was the destruction of Van.

A month later, King Otto was able to destroy the Polish cities of Vilna and Minsk, while Mehmed attacked Smolensk. From then, the Pact and Russia continued an exchange of bombs in an attempt to force the other to the negotiating table, but the front did not move substantially either way.

Opportunity for Revenge, 1983

If ever there was a country to have a true reason to hate another, that country would have to be China. Even thirty years after the Qing were forced from power, the Chinese people had the same burning desire for revenge against the Europeans as they had held when Fangtung took over the country. Now, with A-bombs turning large swaths of Europe into glass-filled holes, an opportunity for revenge looked like it had presented itself.

The Huisung Emperor had watched the situation closely, and only after four years of war in Europe was he ready to commit his country to the fight. His principal enemies were France, which held the entire South China mandate, and Russia, which had dropped by far the most A-bombs on China during the Qing War and now held a third of China’s pre-war borders. Because they were on the same side now, it made sense to join the opposing side, and as Moscow went up in a mushroom cloud, the Emperor aligned himself with the Constantinople Pact. Days later, Japan joined their fellow Asian power.

When it came to pushing the Russians out of Edo or the French out of the South China mandate, Japanese and Chinese forces found considerable success. In both cases, the colonial administrations had only a very light garrison that relied on the threat of atomic bombings to keep order. But that was as far as the technologically inferior Asian powers could get. China attempted invasions of Formosa, which was shattered by the remnant French fleet (which could call on broadships and other powerful, if dated, designs), and the Manchu homeland, where black-powder rifles once more proved inferior to rollbarrels and armoured autos. Apart from the fliers captured at Edo, Japan had no airforce and no trained pilots, while China’s would only have been modern if the year was before 1910.

What China could do however, was stir up trouble. With most European navies in the Atlantic and the British aligned with China, Chinese ships departing Hainan island could safely travel to the East coast of Africa untroubled, and while they lacked the ability to take over the French colonies there for themselves, they did have the ability to ship a few guns and other weapons to the natives.

This sparked the Great African Revolt of 1984, where nearly 100,000 native Africans turned on their colonial masters and attempted to reclaim the continent for themselves. Plantations were put to the torch, oil wells abandoned and local overlords attacked. But these resources were very important to France, which was relying on the oil to stay alive in the European theatre. The colonies had to be reclaimed.

The same problem that had hurt Asia in the 1950s and even in this war was now hurting the native Africans: where there is significant technological disparity, the power with the better technology will always win. Black powder rifles were at best equal to the weapons of 1881, and everything below them was only worse. France quickly ordered that natives were to be hunted down and captured. Those unwilling to work as slaves would be executed outright, while random acts of terror were to be unleashed on the local villages. For the most part this meant mustard gas bombings, but when the leader of one particular village literally told Napoleon IV to do immoral things with a snake (by way of a letter to the local governor), an American A-bomb wiped any trace that his large village had ever existed off the map.

In the most essential areas, the revolt was quickly brought under control, and Napoleon IV gave an order to worry about the rest of the colony after the main war was over. In the meantime, the natives set up a variety of local governments, declaring themselves as free from French (or in some cases Prussian or Portuguese) rule. They received no official recognition from any outside powers, and only in the newspapers did they receive informal recognition. But even that was limited to them being called the ‘Alliance of Men with Pointy Sticks’, which if not altogther true, was at least closer to the mark than the names they gave themselves.