A MOST IMPRESSIVE PARADE

  • A MOST IMPRESSIVE PARADE
    army.jpg

    The Home Guard Legion of Army Group I, Lincoln's Hammer, parades before the President during
    the 1931 Remembrance Parade

    Joe Steele stood on the wood and steel platform overlooking the Pittsburgh Rally Grounds with a smile upon his face. It was Patriot-Saints Day Eve, 1931. It had been barely a month since the Masonic Purges. Since then, every Masonic lodge in the Union had been shut down, its treasures and records plundered, and the structures set alight or gutted. ORRA was doing a fine job, all around, and the purge had gone seamlessly. Without a doubt, following both that purge and his complete purification of the Economic Clans, nobody doubted his rule. His word was absolute, an unquestioned Strong Man of Pinnacle Blood, one who endured through the changes the modern world was bringing and sculpted that world, in turn, in his own image. Every street and every house had a picture of Joe Steele. You could get a free portrait to hang up in your home at any government or military building. Some people hung up a portrait in every room, even, just to be on the safe side and to show their enduring love and admiration for the Great Atheling. Like an Old Testament ruler, he had come down from the political mountains during the end of the Great World War to seize power for himself in the name of preserving and bringing the Union into a new era of unquestioned supremacy. Before the war, America had been one of many great powers, but now it stood with Europa and perhaps Russia as one of the three main superpowers. Their control over the hemisphere was unquestioned. The Neutrality Pact in South America constantly squabbled with Eduist Brazil, leaving them divided against the menace ever-encroaching from the North.

    As Steele pondered the global situation and took a puff of a Cuban cigar, Supreme Marshal Ambrose Jansen, the Hero of the Great War, approached and saluted. He had just marched up the podium to join the cluster of high commanders and politicians accompanying Steele to observe the annual Remembrance Parade. "All hail!" Jansen bellowed in his gallant Southron accent, clicking his heels together and extending his right arm. "My Atheling, my President, I assume you are well, sir?"

    Steele smiled and gingerly returned the salute. "All hail, Supreme Marshal. Yes, I am well and happy this Patriot-Saints Day Eve. Did you get that gift I sent you last night?"

    Jansen forced a smile and replied, "Oh, yes... of course! My family was ecstatic to receive a signed copy of your memoirs. I shall read them to my grandchildren at bedtime, so they may learn what it truly is to be a Pinnacle warrior of Christ, my Atheling."

    Pretending like he was holding an invisible grinder gun at the group of officials present, Steele made as if he was raking gunfire over dozens of enemies. "All the shooting in the chapters about my time in the Nippon War! I love that stuff. All the killing! TCH-TCH-TCH-TCH!" the President said, making popping noises with his cheeks while smiling broadly and genuinely. The nearby officials looked positively horrified but tried to pass off their nervousness as all in good fun.

    "Lotta killing, yessir," Jansen gave an awkward chuckle while checking his wristwatch nervously.

    "Don't worry, men," Steele said at the sheepish, quite unsettled big wigs he had been pretending to mow down like wild animals seconds before. He waved his hand disinterestedly and told them, "If I wanted to kill you, hah, I'd feed you to Castor and Pollux! You gentlemen ready to watch the best gosh-darn parade this side of the Pearly Gates?" Castor and Pollux were, of course, the famous Presidential Mansion mascot alligators. Descendants of alligators from Lake Toho kept by President Custer, there were never any totally reliable stories about Steele feeding anything but pork and beef to them, but there were still stories nonetheless, and Steele loved to build up his terrifying reputation.

    The men and women present all clicked their heels and saluted, shouting "Yes, my Atheling!" in unison.

    "How's the wife, Jansen?" Steele asked, chipper as the day he was born.

    "Susie is doing great. I trust Milli is fine?" Jansen replied.

    Steele nodded briskly, smiling. "Yes, yes indeed. Ever an Arkham, though. Crazy broad. I do very much love her dearly. All-American family, just like yours, eh, Jansen?"

    "My family could never hold a candle to yours, but we try, sir," Jansen said respectfully and tactfully, bowing his head slightly.

    Steele gave him a pat on the back. "Attaboy, Jansen. You know how I love family values... and how I expect my leading officers to set an example." Another eerie, almost godlike smile emerged from under that world-famous black mustache.

    Jansen's skin crawled as he knew Steele had his entire estate bugged for any evidence of breaking some moral standard by which Steele judged the world. Lucky for Jansen, his post-marriage dalliances were far in the past. He was a faithful husband to his wife, or so he hoped Steele thought.

    The Pittsburgh Rally Grounds were truly massive on a scale unseen even in Paris. There was room for easily a million troops and there were endless rows of seats for civilians and officials to take in the exhibition. The entrance to the Rally Grounds was located on the eastern side of the colossal structure, while the exit was on the western side, symbolizing Manifest Destiny itself. The outside walls were adorned with statues of great men and women from American and world history, such as the Prophet Burr, the Martyr Arnold, Richard the Lionheart, Queen Elizabeth, Acton Arkham, and Martin Luther. All spiritual predecessors to the current American regime... or at least, so the American government claimed. There were, by now, about as many Lutherans in America as Mexicans. The American Fundamentalist Church held a complete spiritual monopoly over the country. One statue was noticeably different, however. It was an eight-foot representation of someone in a military uniform, but who it was could not be made out, because a sheet covered his head. Another feature of Steele's purges, the statue would likely soon be ripped down from the alcove in which it sat and smashed apart with sledge hammers. No one looked at, or even remarked upon, the hidden statue, as it was par for the course of Steele's obsession with murder and destroying those he deemed anti-American. Inside the walls of the Rally Grounds, right under the seating, were dozens of little shops. Some offered donuts and hamburgers, while others sold trinkets, knickknacks, ash trays, and replica military items of varying scales. Every branch of the military also had a recruiting station, using the glamor of the parades to lure in young men and women to the service. It was all highly thought-out and organized to a letter. The Rally Grounds had gone up not long before the Turn of the Century, but the post-Great World War era saw massive changes and improvements.

    The platform on which Steele and his troupe of assorted jackboot-licking morons and ninnies stood was directly in front of the main seating area, just inside the entrance. All around the platform stood armed ORRA men, two with belt-fed grinders, ready to blast anyone who made a move against the President. Coming up the stairs of the platform was ORRA Supreme Chief Patton, in his his most flamboyant knee-length overcoat, medals pinned on him like lights on a Patriot-Saints Day Liberty Tree, probably to hide his legs strapped with braces and supports so he could make it up the steps of his own power. A faithful adjutant rolled his hated wheelchair not far behind, just in case, his expression blank as he watched Patton visibly struggle to even make it up the first few steps. As second-in-command of the Union, the last thing Patton wanted was to look weak.

    Steele walked over to the top of the steps and said to the crippled Supreme Chief, "Patriot-Comrade Patton, why don't you just let them carry you up the steps in your chair. We have seen you climb stairs before. It's a damn holiday, man, just enjoy yourself."

    Huffing and wheezing in the 30 degree temperature, the struggling Patton looked up and said, "With all due respect, my Atheling, I need the exercise. I will be up shortly."

    Steele looked up at the sky, rolled his eyes, and outstretched his arms, as if he couldn't understand his right-hand man's stubbornness. Without a moment's hesitation after that, he walked over to the steps and met Patton halfway, grabbing his arm like a viking of old and practically heaving him up the steps. The crowds went wild at the show of friendship. Patton was rather shocked and embarrassed but quickly turned to face the crowd and salute and wave, his eyes beaming under his dark blue pot helmet. "My Atheling..." he awkwardly said as he turned again to face Steele once more, "...thank you. I will never forget that. All hail!" Patton sprung his right arm out in salute. Steele responded to the salute and then motioned for Patton to join him over on the front of the platform. If he leaned against the railing and relied on his braces, Patton could easily stand for the two hours or so that the parade went on for. He had trained himself to do so, no matter how painful it was.

    Artie Mays, the voice of Uncle Sam's Talkiebox Station Evening News Report, was present and in full form to announce the different parts of the parade and address the crowd. His voiced boomed off the state of the art sound system wired in throughout the structure. It was a wonder the audio equipment along didn't cause a brown-out for the greater Pittsburgh metro area. "Gooddddddd evening, America! All hail! The Joint Supreme Chiefs of the Republican Union Armed Forces, Supreme Marshal Ambrose Jansen, and President Joseph Steele, Atheling of the Manifest Destiny Party and Defender of our Faith, welcome you all to another glorious night of family fun, music, marching, and revelry for the Betters of Society at the 39th Annual Pittsburgh Rally Grounds Remembrance Parade. Over 800,000 Pinnacle-blooded men and women will be present, representing every branch and service of our totally undefeated and valorous military. And remember to smile, because you're on camera! That's right, comrade-patriots! Director Benny Riechenthal of Lucky Duck Studios is here to shoot his masterpiece, Triumph Unending, and you will all play a part. Let your patriotic fervor take you to new heights tonight as we celebrate and mourn all those who have died in service to the homeland. All hail the Martyrs of the Union! All hail the Glorious Dead! All hail President Steel!"

    "ALL HAIL THE GLORIOUS DEAD! ALL HAIL PRESIDENT STEELE!" screamed the crowd, almost foaming at the mouth. Genuine joy was on their faces. Steele's popularity had never been higher. While Europe's economy had been going downhill lately, America's was stronger than ever. If anyone present was not feeling patriotic that day, they didn't dare let the mask slip. Later that night, many of the youngest would be drunk and going into the Infee ghettos dressed in their Nightstalker costumes, feverishly beating their victims with clubs and rocks and knives. It was the most wonderful time of the year once again.

    Shortly after the first announcement, Artie Mays again took to the loudspeakers to say, "Patriot-Comrades, please rise for the Living Word of the Voice of the Prophet, May He Rest In Peace." At that, a complete dead silence fell over everyone present, from the observation platform to the rows and rows of civilian onlookers. From the same door Patton had arrived from came two elderly men in full ORRA dress uniforms, their uniforms completely bedecked with medals going back decades. They were the Voice of the Prophet Honor Guard. Behind them, an AFC Zealot carrying the flag of the Church clicked his way forward. Next, behind even him, came Reverend Colonel Billy Sunday and his right hand, the Church Chief of Studies on the Other Side, Howard Lovecraft. The two elderly ORRA officers, likely veterans of some nearly forgotten war of conquest of a bygone decade, shuffled forward. In their hands, sharing the load between the two of them, was a box with red and white striped velvet pillows within. Resting on the cushion was a small strongbox, of ancient appearance and sporting a curious hole on one side. Reverend Colonel Sunday carried a small L-shaped rod in his left hand, and the AFC Standard Bible in the right.

    The procession finally made it to where Steele, Patton, Jansen, and the others were at, setting the package where Steele would normally speak, adjusting the microphone so it could pick up whatever noise was to emanate from the strange relic. With dramatic flair, Sunday inserted the rod into the side of the box, revealing it to be a crank. Slowly, he began to turn it, powering up the device. A small slat was moved away from the front of the relic, revealing a soundhole. The sound of a fresh needle meeting ancient wax crackled over the speakers of the Rally Grounds, finally breaking the silence. Sunday and Lovecraft stared at the device, their foreheads sweaty even in the cold, always terrified that the holy relic would break at the slightest wrong movement.

    "Manifest Destiny sha--*crackle*--heal our wounds and sorrows, *crackle* God our Lord has set us above all other nations!"

    As the recording ended, the dead silence returned. The voice of the Prophet, Aaron Burr, the fiery founder of the American Fundamentalist Christian Church and the Father of Manifest Destiny itself, the man to whom the Angel of Destiny had revealed Himself, had just spoke to America once more. Even to those who had heard the recording every Remembrance Parade, it still struck them with a feeling of near-divinity, almost as if Christ had spoken to them himself. Every single person there had their right arms high and proud as Sunday and Lovecraft gently withdrew the rod and closed the soundhole. A small American flag, one of ancient manufacture, was gently folded over the box. The two elderly ORRA men then went back from whence they came, descending the steps carefully and carrying the Voice of the Prophet back through their doorway. Way before any other part of the ceremony started, it was already loaded into an armored van and driven out under escort heavy enough to make a Europan Caesar blush.

    "AMENNNN!"

    Like a wave of rolling thunder, the cry erupted from the stands, going from one person to the next like a chain letter. The entire Rally Grounds shook. Joe Steele clasped his hands behind his back and faced the crowd, smiling again.

    As the crowd finally calmed down, Mays again spoke. "Patriot-Comrades, please remain standing for a word from our President, our Atheling, Patriot-Comrade Joseph Steele. All hail!"

    "ALL HAIL!" the crowd bellowed in response before going dead silent once more.

    Steele adjusted the microphone to once more reach his mouth. Sunday was supposed to have returned the microphone to its proper position after the Voice of the Prophet was over. He shot Sunday an evil look as he fixed it, feedback echoing throughout the Rally Grounds. Sunday bit his lower lip and tried to hide his horror. Patton smiled wickedly, knowing what was going on instantly. Finally, Steele spoke. "As your President! As your Atheling of the Manifest Destiny Party! As the Defender of the American Fundamentalist Christian Faith! I hereby announce the 39th Annual Pittsburgh Rally Grounds Remembrance Parade to be underway! All hail the Glorious Dead!"

    "ALL HAIL THE GLORIOUS DEAD!" chanted the people.

    Mays returned to the loudspeaker again. "Ladies and gentlemen, comrades and patriots, let's give a big hand to the 29th Flying Knights Squadron of the Republican Union Aeroforce! Representing the Aeroforce today on the observation platform is the noble Aeroforce Supreme Chief Charles Sutton! All hail!"

    "ALL HAIL!"


    A deep humming sound came from the horizon. Dark shapes on the gray winter sky turned into prop-jobs, flying low. Behind them streamed red, white, and blue smoke. The crowd went wild as 24 fighter planes, state of the art, buzzed the Rally Grounds, going directly from east to west, symbolically. The 29th Flying Knights were the most advanced unit in the Aeroforce, but hardly the only. While they opened the parade, they were followed by hundreds upon hundreds of droning biplanes, aeroships, bombers, and flyers of every shape and size. The sky was darkened by American might. Steele and the leadership on the platform applauded, clapping their gloved hands in unison.

    "Gentlemen and ladies, patriots and comrades, we are pleased to announce the first ground units of today's event. Coming from our nearby sister city of Philadelphia, our beloved nation's capital, hails the 30,000 brave souls of the Home Guard Legion, of Army Group I. The Pride of Lincoln's Hammer represents the best of the American Army, also represented on the platform today by the heroic Supreme Marshal Ambrose Jansen! The Home Guard Legion, and the rest of Lincoln's Hammer, fought in the bloodiest battles of the Great American War, Mexico, Holy Nippon, and the Great World War. They are led by the President's Own Musician Corps, and the song they are performing is a hit from the tenure of Strong Abe, our beloved dictator, We Are Coming Father Abraham! All hail!"

    "If you look across the hilltops that meet the Northern sky,

    Long moving lines of rising dust your vision may descry;

    And now the wind, an instant, tears the cloudy veil aside,

    And floats aloft our spangled flag in glory and in pride;

    And Eagle Banners in the sunlight gleam, and bands brave music pour,

    We are coming, Father Abraham, 300,000 more!"

    The people applauded as if their lives depended on it as the red-coat musicians, adorned with tri-cornered hats, led the Home Guard, who were sporting new-style olive drab uniforms, jackboots, and pot helmets. Each man sported a small red and white ribbon over his chest featuring a central button with the profiles of the Prophet, Lincoln, Custer, and Steele in a modern, embossed style. This matched banners draped all over the grounds and even on commemorative sweaters being sold in the gift shops. It was a new design for that year, and it was a big hit with Steele personally. On each side of the Home Guard procession gallant officers rode on massive warhorses, bred in the Kaintuck region of Appalachia. The officers, sporting the old-fashioned blue cavalry hats with double-breasted blue tunics, held out lances and sword to salute the leadership of the country on the platform. The rank-and-file young soldiers snapped their heads to the right as they marched past in a show of respect. Some had tears streaming down their cheeks at actually being able to see Steele so close.

    As the fife and drums pounded out their tune, Steele nudged Jansen and said with a laugh, "These boys haven't seen a real war. They are too young to remember my last pair of socks!"

    Jansen once again smiled politely and said, "Well, your excellency, if you wish to see them in combat, you may need only to point them at an enemy and tell them 'kill,' and you shall see their true mettle. They would all die for you, sir."

    Steele shrugged and asked, "What about you?"

    "Sir?" Jansen looked uncomfortable once more.

    "Would you die for me?" Steele asked, waving at the troops the whole time.

    Jansen cocked his head and said, "Of... of course, my Atheling. It is my duty as a soldier, a loyal Party man, and a patriot to lay down my life for my glorious leader if need be. I ask only for a place in Valhalla at the right hand of the God of War!" He seemed to grow more confident as he spoke.

    "Perhaps at the right hand of your father as well, eh, Ambrose?" Steele winked, an evil, mischievous look on his face. He was referring to Robert Ambrose Jansen, one of the Virginian commanders of the Great American War nearly 80 years before.

    Jansen looked disgusted. "Sir, my father is burning in Hellfire, where all enemies of the state shall spend eternity," he said with a sincere voice and an expression of absolute assurance.

    "It's a good thing I'm among the Saven, Jansen," Steele said.

    "Sir?"

    "Because if I weren't, and I was to be, how you say, hellbound, I would like to think I would take over Hell in short order. Satan's had a good run. Might be time for a Strong Man." Steele said these things with a straight face before busting out in a menacing laugh and then stroking his bushy black mustache. "By the way, Jansen, on the topic of Hell, I wish to eventually take over South America completely and purify our hemisphere. Please draw up plans for a conquest. The seed of that idea came to me earlier while I was in my sauna enjoying some puncture therapy. The seed wormed around awhile before fertilizing my mind's egg and developing into a fetus of Manifest Destiny. Jehovah works in mysterious ways, eh?"

    Cold sweat dripped down Jansen's face and onto his snowy eyebrows as he realized once more how absolutely violently psychotic his President was. He laughed once, quite awkwardly, before turning once more to face the troops and wave. "Yes, sir. I'll get the boys in the war room on it ASAP, sir."
     
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    PROJECT FOUNTAIN: PATTON'S QUEST
  • PROJECT FOUNTAIN:
    PATTON'S QUEST

    Lucas_Cranach_-_Der_Jungbrunnen_(Gemäldegalerie_Berlin).jpg

    Lucas Cranach the Elder's 1564 painting depicting the legendary and mythical Fountain of Youth

    Project Fountain's roots go back to the turn of the 20th century, when Custer still sat the Presidential throne in Philadelphia and the world war was just a shadowy threat on the horizon. In 1900, ORRA Supreme Chief George Dewey created the Artifacts and Antiquities Unit, comprised of about 400 ORRA officers from around the country selected for their epic knowledge of history, both esoteric and scholarly, and their mission's objective was to gather artifacts from conquered cultures, the ancient Holy Land, and sacred items and mementos of the American Fundamentalist Christian Faith. The reasoning behind the creation of this new task force within ORRA was the recent discovery and pilfering of the so-called Spear of Destiny, the pike which supposedly pierced Christ's side at the Crucifixion, by the Benedict Arnold University of Boston's archaeological team. Despite its dubious backstory, the spear was enshrined at the Martyr Benedict Arnold Memorial Museum at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, alongside other antiques and relics such as the Prophet Burr's original copies of the Books of Manifest Destiny (transferred back to the First Fundamentalist Church in 1910), Roman armor from Biblical times, and a mishmash and hodgepodge of assorted trinkets deemed worthy of public exhibition.

    The discovery of the Spear of Destiny and the subsequent hullabaloo about its arrival at the Martyr Arnold Memorial Museum revealed once more the power of mystical items for propaganda purposes. Wishing to see the government take a greater hand in contributing to the discovering, purchase, or capture of such items, Dewey created the ORRA Artifacts and Antiquities Unit to cover the earth and find more items of such magnitude. The new head of the AAU was Commander David Arthur Sanders, an English-born fascist who arrived in the Union as a child and worked his way up the ladder with ORRA. Sanders was on the same wave-length with Dewey, and continually located and retrieved relics and interesting artifacts to fill the national museums. Most of the items found by the AAU were simply on American soil and from the 18th and 19th centuries. Most of those items were happily sold or donated by the original owners, such as the Sword of Wolfe, the British Commander at the Battle of Quebec during the French & Indian Wars. The Sword of Wolfe was eagerly donated by the great-great-grandchildren of the Colonial rifleman who fought at the legendary battle. Other items, of more peculiar nature or origin, were significantly harder for the AAU to locate and retrieve.

    Of particular interest to Sanders was the long-running myth of an ancient Pinnacle Race in South America. Builders of temples and worshipers of Jehovah, this story grew in popularity after Theodore Kirk, a well-respected pastor and historian, published his 1890 magnum opus, The Case for an Ancient Pinnacle Civilization in Mesoamerica. Kirk proposed that a "crystal skull" in his possession, allegedly found by him while on a trip to Gran Colombia, was actually an extremely technically-advanced relic of a long-gone race of Pinnacle Blood from the tip of South America. He claimed that this "Primordial Anglo-Saxon Superman" was the basis for the Atlantis myths and that they had once built an empire stretching from Peru to the tip of Florida. Kirk also said that the destruction of the Primordial Anglo-Saxons was the arrival of the "Mongoloid Steppe Savages from Asia who, in the name of their sickening Feathered Serpent false-god crossed the Bering Strait in Alyaska and who then proceeded to desecrate and miscegenate the Pinnacle Blood of the Primordials by rape and seduction." The reason for this extermination of the Primordials was the fact that they angered Jehovah by worshiping the Crystal Skulls, items of unknown origin, and He let the "servants of Satan" destroy them for their idolatry. It is highly implied that the Feathered Serpent, Satan playing dress-up, created a total of 13 skulls and used their beauty and diabolical power to lead the Primordials away from Jehovah, weakening their culture for the arrival of the Mongoloids. At the same time, the Hebrews proved themselves loyal to Him and He freed them from their bondage in Egypt. This timeline of events also stated that all of the great South American structures, such as the Pyramids of Old Mexico and the like, were actually merely Inferiors dwelling in and modifying ancient Pinnacle temples, desecrating them in the name of the Feathered Serpent. Quite simply, Kirkists said that the Native Americans, lacking even the wheel, were incapable of advanced civilization or architecture without first stealing all of their know-how from Pinnacle Men with the help of Satan, the Mesoamerican Prometheus.

    Despite the fact that "Kirkism" had no solid foundation other than a pocketful of dreams and a crystal skull of dubious origin, Kirk's beliefs spread like wildfire among the American people. To them, this proved that not only was North America the New Jerusalem, but it also showed that South America once belonged to a proud race of Pinnacle Men who worshiped Jehovah and that it should once more. Like the popular Athurian myths of an ancient magickal England, far in the storied past, the Kirkist saga eventually became a tangled web of conspiracy theories and ancient myths combined into one enormous monster. CYB Headmaster-Marshal Theodore Roosevelt, before his demise, was a huge proponent of Kirkism, telling the Friday Evening Review in 1908: "Rev. Kirk's astounding tales of America's ancient past outline the precise reason why Manifest Destiny shall not stop at the Panama Canal, but shall inevitably and indubiously conquer all of this beautiful green hemisphere, a land set aside for the Chosen Race, a veritable Atlantis." Roosevelt was also particularly interested in what the AAU found out about Ponce de Leon's adventure to find the Fountain of Youth. Shortly before the Rise of Steele and Roosevelt's assassination, the AAU had begun investigating tales of a Fountain of Youth on the isle of Bimini, in the Union Bahamas. Upon Roosevelt's death and the subsequent Steele takeover, the research petered out as the AAU was ordered by Dewey and Steele to investigate other matters, as they viewed Kirkism as a nascent cult. Steele himself pondered for a brief time about purging the Kirk books utterly from the records as drivel, but other more pressing matters drew him away.

    It is an obvious question, then, to ask why Steele later chose George Patton to succeed George Dewey as Supreme Chief of ORRA, a heartbeat away from the Presidency, when Patton was always interested in Kirkist tales and frequently spoke of the legends. This was due in large part to Patton's personal and vocal support for Steele, his record of always getting his missions accomplished, and also his paralysis. Being paralyzed, this meant Patton was not exactly the Strongest Man around and could never properly challenge the bulky and imposing Steele. Being bound to a wheelchair also made Patton work ten times harder to prove himself. In short, Patton was the best possible choice to become Supreme Chief of ORRA, despite his rather eclectic belief system. In all, some fifteen percent of the American population expressed belief in the Kirkist legends, and Patton was in that tiny minority.

    Steele used his right-hand-man's paralysis to his constant advantage. He had Patton completely convinced that he was Steele's only friend in the whole world, empowering Patton and making him feel important, further deterring any insubordination or revolutionary thought. By the early 1930s, Patton was utterly loyal to Steele and would have marched to the ends of the earth in the name of the President. Patton orchestrated the 1927 Crackdown on the Clans and the 1931 Masonic Purges. As a reward for the tremendous success of both of these operations, as well as continued excellence for Project Percival, President Steele granted Patton a tidy sum to sink into his personal pet project, a search for the Fountain of Youth. According to Patton's research, picking up where the pre-war AAU had left off, Bimini was not actually the location of the Fountain of Youth, but it was actually all the way in Gran Colombia, at the site of the ancient Atlantis capital.

    Utilizing his new funding, Patton created the Office of Artifacts and Antiquities as an expanded AAU. He bought out the American Heritage Foundation, a group of historians and researchers numbering into the thousands, as well as several other smaller private groups and merged them with the AAU to create this new OAA. OOA functioned inside ORRA like the Marine Corps did in the Navy, marginally independent but still working hand-in-hand with its parent office. Instead of a Supreme Chief, the head of the OAA was Patton's personal choice of Lavinia Dunwich, one of the most capable female officers ORRA had ever seen. Patton revealed to Dunwich that he desired to find the Fountain of Youth and that he believed it would enable him to walk again. In reality, Patton thought that if he could bathe himself in the Fountain's waters and regain the vigor of his youth, he could topple Steele and take his place as the Eternal President of America, using the magickal power of the Fountain to keep himself forever young. Steele actually knew this, and he found the idea immensely entertaining. The President was so dismissive of any such Fountain of Youth, and of Kirkism in general, that he "let Patton have his fun." As long as the Supreme Chief kept purging anti-Steele elements and kept Project Percival running smoothly, Steele cared not for his silly quests to find mythical civilizations that never existed in the first place.

    This was the ticking time-bomb--the path to another war--that the Union now found itself winding up with vigor. In early 1933, Patton received word that OAA Team 77 had located underwater ruins in Lake Maracaibo, ruins which they believed could be of ancient Atlantis's capital. For months, Team 77 had been trawling the Colombian lake with submarines and using early radar for the first time to locate artifacts on the lakebed. When news of the discovery arrived to Patton he ordered Team 77 to await further aid from Teams 34, 67, and 71. Before long, several dozen ORRA ships were on the lake searching for lost treasures and any indications of the stories of the Fountain of Youth. Finding nothing of import, Patton doggedly insisted that they were on the verge of a great discovery. Commander Dunwich agreed that the area was certainly important in the quest and told Patton that a breakthrough would come at any time. In reality, Dunwich and the teams had found gold and were actively mining and panning it from the lake.

    As can be imagined, Fransisco Sanchez, Chancellor of Gran Colombia, was outraged at the presence of American troops on his soil, soil supposedly guaranteed sovereignty by its membership in the Neutrality Alliance with Peru and Argentina. Furious, he ordered the Colombian Navy to close the entrance to the Lake. On August 1, 1933, Commander Dunwich awoke to the sounds of her men frantically scuttling about their ships and on their campsite on the shore. She stepped out onto the deck of her personal submarine, the R.U.S. Thompson, to find out what was going on. To the north, the lake had been blocked by large freighters. Backing up the freighters were two submarines and an assortment of old Europan warships utilized by the Colombian Navy. Scoffing at this threat, Dunwich asked the Colombian crew if they really wanted to die over this. A warning shot was fired overhead, sending Dunwich scurrying back into her sub to contact Philadelphia.

    What ensued was one of the biggest disasters of all time for ORRA. ORRA's guiding principle was never surrender, so it could not be seen as weak or like they just let a tiny power push them around. However, fighting back could mean all-out war. Whatever course was taken, it would still be a terrible situation. Rather than spark a war before he was ready, however, Steele had Patton order the OAA research teams to stand down, as they were "but humble researchers, not professional warriors." The arrest of an ORRA commander and some 50-odd ORRA officers was a humiliation to which Steele was not accustomed to. When the research teams were led in chains through Bogota, Gran Colombia's capital, for the amusement of the Hispanic onlookers, Steele's absolute rage was palpable for 500 miles outside of Philadelphia. He was livid that Patton's little grail quest was causing the symbol of the American government to be embarrassed on a global scale. Newspapers from London to Delhi printed stories about ORRA officers being beaten with sticks and being pelted with fruit as they were paraded through the streets of Bogota.

    Steele's current timetable for a war against the Neutrality Alliance was set to 1938. Now, years ahead of time, he was looking a conflict straight in the face. In retaliation for the arrest of the research teams, Steele had RUMP shutter the Colombian embassy in Philadelphia and arrest its staff. With almost 60 ORRA officers languishing in a South American prison, Supreme Marshal of the Army Ambrose Jansen, Supreme Chief of the Aeroforce Chuck Sutton, and Supreme Admiral of the Navy Henry Moody were asked to plan an immediate war against the Alliance. At the last moment, in exchange for the safe return of its ambassador and with Union destroyers floating off his coast, Chancellor Sanchez released the ORRA prisoners and allowed them safe passage back to America in their own ships. But public opinion was still livid over the treatment of the ORRA officers. Rallies were being held in streets from Keybeck to Oxacre demanding revenge upon Gran Colombia. The Gran Colombian ambassador was recalled to his home country and all diplomatic ties between the Union and the Neutrality Alliance were severed.

    The Presidential Cabinet assured Steele that a war against the Alliance could be sped up on the timetables to 1936. While this would leave around two years to sit in shame over the capture of ORRA troops, the Cabinet said that the amount of firepower and destruction that would be brought to bear on those who dared imprison America's most elite troops would basically destroy the entire country of Gran Colombia. Steele agreed to wait.

    Patton, meanwhile, worried for his life after the Fountain fiasco and feared he would be purged. Instead, Steele told him that American troops had every right to be on the Lake and that the Alliance was a bug on their windshield. Soon, Steele told him, the Union flag would fly over the bombed-out ruins of Bogota and the humiliation would be undone. The reason for sparing Patton was two-fold: Steele would not and could not find someone as controllable as Patton to helm ORRA and the American people did not hold Patton to blame at all for the capture of the ORRA personnel. Rather than hold those responsible... responsible, the American people believed all the propaganda directed their way that told the story of some college professors in some ORRA research vessels being captured and tormented by Infee Papists. Steele grinned to himself when he realized he now had the American people fully supportive of a war against the Alliance. It was coming closer to his time to once again show the world that American might and bravado would steamroll any opponent....
     
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    THE RIGHTEOUS PATH: CONNECTING AMERICA
  • THE RIGHTEOUS PATH:
    CONNECTING AMERICA


    Without a doubt, the Destiny Road was Joe Steele's largest and most successful program while in office. Despite the bloody overnight killings, the ever-extending noose of ORRA on everyday life, and the slip-ups that led to the early launch of Operation Manifest Climax in 1936, the Destiny Road would remain a celebrated achievement for decades to come. It fully opened-up the entire country, even the newly-conquered parts such as Pacifica, Keybeck, and Canada, to the new class of Betters who considered owning an autocarriage not only a necessity, but also a tool for adventure. For almost a century and a half, the American people remained relatively stationary. It is not wrong to say that there were waves of immigration to conquered territories, but many of those were paid by the government or given other incentives to stake out new land. In 1920, Joe Steele announced the Homestead Act, promising twenty acres of land in the new Canadian states and northern Pacifica to any who dared commit to the trek. But the Destiny Road made moving from state to state easy for the first time ever.

    Before the Destiny Road, there were still highways and byways one could travel upon to criss-cross the country, but these often could turn to gravel or worse, old wagon routes, especially the farther west one went. There was also the danger of natural disasters, such as bridge collapses and rockslides. While the roads had built up on the state level back on the east coast, they were too small and constipated to afford a pleasant driving experience. Indeed, the roads into Philadelphia, known as the Philadelphia Paths and controlled by the Pennsylvania Transit Authority (a subdivision of the Office of Public Works), was so packed at all times that President Steele referred to it as "a hive of angry WASPS." The Office of Public Works, still under the control of an aging Supreme Chief Matilda Richardson, was particularly displeased with the state of America's roadways. According to Richardson, the fact the state governments utilized Inferior laborers to repave or lay roads was detrimental to the entire system, as the laborers worked for free but also had no pride in their work or were too stupid to properly utilize state-of-the-art concrete mixers and other apparatuses of the modern era. The fact that an Inferior work detail laying road near Elyton, Revere, rioted in 1919 and killed their RUMP overseers before rollicking through the state in one of the greatest crime sprees of the early 20th century didn't help opinions either. Clearly, a new solution was needed.

    Though Joe Steele would always claim and receive credit for coming up with the idea of the Destiny Road, he merely named it. In reality, the true honor should have gone to Bradley Walters, the Under-Chief of Public Works, and Ralph Polk, the Inspector General of Highways and Infrastructure. The two men developed the idea of a nation-wide interstate system monitored and maintained by the central government over the summer of 1920, during a two-month excursion across the country to investigate the state of the roadways. They reported back to Richardson that, "The roadways of America are a disgrace, some still shell-pocked and ravaged by the war, fully over a half a decade since its end." They went on to tell Steele's mother-figure that something needed to be done to improve the state of the roads lest foreign swing take advantage of this glaring weakness during any possible invasion scenario. The new system would need to be built by Betters to maintain quality control. They also said it would relieve congestion around the major cities, which was all Steele needed to hear when Richardson pitched the idea to him.

    In 1925, after years of round-the-clock planning and coordinating with state and local officials, Walters and Polk asked for the new Interstate National Highway System to be approved for central government funding. Steele remarked, "I like the entire concept very much. Everything but the name. It's so boring. It's not going to get people excited to go build it and do their best work. INHS? Bah, we can do better. It must carry the beckoning call of adventure and interest to get the public really on-board. The Destiny Road! That's it. Use that. Always use people's patriotic souls to stir them to hard tasks." With that, the Destiny Road was born. The choice of "Road" in the singular tense was a deliberate one, as it served to convey the idea of one enormous road connecting the country, rather than disparate and lonely stretches of paved paths. It was meant to be something truly grand, unlike anything in the world. When the public first was introduced to the concept via promotional reels and pamphlets, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. From February to June, 1925, over a million people signed up to work on the Destiny Road project.

    Now, in order to procure enough experienced construction managers, proper equipment, and asphalt and concrete, the Economic Clans had to be wrangled and cajoled into line. Phoenix Oil immediately offered to supply all needed gasoline and oil for a magnificent discount. Chief negotiator for that deal was none other than Joseph Oswald, Sr., and this deal followed his glory days of forging Law Meat and Dairy, one of Phoenix's most popular subsidiaries, from the war-torn remnants of Canadian farms and ranches. On July 3, 1925, Joseph Oswald met with Joe Steele at the Presidential Mansion and posed for the press as Oswald wrote the pledge down on official Presidential Mansion stationary. This also marked the first time that Chuck Oswald, then 8 years of age, met his future wife, Wyetta Arkham Custer-Steele, the president's 8 year-old daughter. The two children can be spotted in a few photographs conversing and Chuck proudly gave her his finest Zap Zephyr comic book. Wyetta would keep the comic for the rest of her life. Next on the agenda was the needed machinery, which the Industrial Clan and the Agricultural Clan was pleased to lend out. However, their prices were far steeper than Phoenix's, something which would not be forgotten during Steele's 1927 Yankee Stadium Purge. Both Abner Williams, who negotiated on behalf of the Agricultural Clan at the 1925 Philadelphia Sit-Down, and Wilhelm Montgomery, negotiator for the Industrial Clan, were executed per Steele's request by ORRA at Yankee Stadium.

    1919.jpg

    1919 Col. Ford Workhorse trucks, donated using funds from Colonel Henry Ford's personal fortune, carried thousands of crews to their worksites during the construction of the Destiny Road in the 1920s and 30s. They would always be remembered as "The Truck that Built America."

    Finally, in the summer of 1926, ground was broken some twenty miles south of Philadelphia. Thousands of people gathered to cheer on the first stretch of work. President Steele and his cabinet attended the hour-long ceremony marking the start of construction. And then it was off to the races. Though it would take years upon years to fully coordinate and build the Destiny Road, effectively a never-ending job, true progress was quickly made. Calling upon the sweat of its people's brows, the Church, Clans, and State all worked together in this massive project and by early 1927, the Martyr Arnold Memorial Highway ran from Boston, Massachusetts to New York City, New York. From there, one could travel the Pt.-St. Washington Memorial Highway to Philadelphia. Once in Philadelphia, drivers in mid-1928 could take their Rollarites and Colonel Fords for drives on the truly monstrous Pt.-St. Custer Memorial Highway, which wound its way through the Appalachian foothills to Centralia, capital of Iowai. Centralia was not as large as its younger Iowai sister-city Shicagwa, but it was nonetheless very much a focal point for the Destiny Road, acting as a junction from which the early travelers of the Destiny Road could go north, to the Canadian states, or west to Dakota, Redemption, Pacifica, and the Pacific Ocean. Shicagwa was not to be left out, however, as tourism boomed and freight from the Great Lakes now had easier ways to traverse and disperse throughout the country.

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    A 1930 photograph of an autocarriage venturing down the Martyr Arnold Memorial Highway

    In 1930, a deal struck with Carolinian Chancellor Johnny Gamble enabled the construction of the Southron Circuit, a massive branch of the Destiny Road sometimes nicknamed the "Donut," it began in Frankfort, Appalachia, went across the international border through Nashville and Memphis, West Carolina, back into the union with a junction at Elyton, Revere. From there, the Circuit would take a driver east to Atlanta, Georgia, back into the scenic Confederation at Columbia at Columbia, South Carolina, and tourists would flock north to Charlotte, the CoCaro capital. Many a Yankee visitor would pose for photographs before the Chancellery, the House of Citizens, and the famous statues of Andrew Jackson that dotted the byways of the massive city. Next up, the Southron Circuit officially became the Wade Hampton Brigade Memorial Highway until it hit Richmond, Virginia. From there one could go to Prophetstown, Burrland, (formerly Baltimore, Maryland,) and then the circuit would be made whole by traveling west through Appalachia and back into Frankfort.

    Whereas the economy around the world was balanced on a knife's edge, the boom in construction enabled the Union to continue the Roaring 20s into the Booming 30s. Hundreds of new companies would be founded along the Destiny Road, millions of people had lives directly affected by the construction, and it brought the fascist super-state a new, ever-deepening sense of unity and belonging. Memorials, Pleasure Parks, and State Parks entered a golden age of success and visitors were coming from all over the League of Nations to witness this spectacular achievement. Never before in human history had such a massive system of well-maintained and illuminated highways been constructed. Sales in autocarriages were never higher at any other point in history. The motorcycle, invented by Wilbur Wright's Daedalus Motorworks, saw new styles, with less emphasis on speed and more on reliability, safety, and comfort, such as the 1930 Zephyr Model-A1, one of the most revolutionary vehicle designs of the time, which promised the every-day Better of Society a sleek and stylish bike for 500 silver eagles. Designed by Daedalus Creative Chief Isaac Wexford, a Jewish-American, the Zephyr would spark a frenzy of futuristic designs by other companies, eventually even sending clothing designers into a creative tizzy. The style of the Booming 30s would become known as "Wexford Modern," or the "Wexford Look." Isaac himself would leave Daedalus in 1935, founding his own company called Icarus Designs, which would craft vehicles and buildings for decades to come. When Isaac finally died in 1968, he was one of the richest designers to ever live. His death would lead to an to the modest Wexford styles and open the gates to the wild and garish styles of the so-called "Super-Pinnacle Future."

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    The revolutionary Daedalus Motorworks Zephyr M-A1, 1930

    One of the biggest aspects of change that the Destiny Road brought was in the way that Americans ate. Fresh produce and meat could be trucked in from all across the superstate, enabling endless meal variety. From New England, the Puritan backbone of Yankeedom, came clams, shrimp, crabs, lobsters, maple syrup. From Lewisiana came the famous gumbo dish, competing with Texas and New Canaan's famed chili soup as the dish of the southwest. In the deep south, Cokie cuisine bled over into American cuisine, with the hamburger, a dish popular with Cokie troops fighting against Illuminists in Europe, becoming sensationally popular, though it had long been around under other names. From Keybeck came the almost religiously-cherished universal symbol of 20th century America: the Keybeck Fry. Small strips of potato deep-fried in lard, essentially what Americans knew as "phinnies," this was quite palatable to the American tongue, long-accustomed to the greasy, salty flavor of SPUD, but the selling point was the revolutionary addition of gravy and cheede curds to the top, forming a truly remarkable trip to flavor town. As the Destiny Road allowed for this wildly interesting diet, so too did it enable the ease in which fast, cheap food could be attained. In fact, low quality hamburgers and Keybeck Fries from the increasingly numerous "greasy-spoon" fast food joints competed with the store-bought convenience and artery-clogging sludge that was SPUD.

    The first restaurant to open up along the Destiny Road was founded in 1926 to cater to the exhausted and hungry road-crews and tourists along the Martyr Arnold Memorial Highway. Herb van Vleet, a Dutch immigrant to America and veteran of the Great World War, realized potential when he saw it, creating his first "Vanvleet Family Diner," with the motto "At Vanvleet, we are fleet on our feet!" He promised food on the table, hot and ready, in six minutes or less. This was a revolution in the service industry. Eating establishments had always been a place of atmosphere and relaxation, a spot for meeting with friends and having rich conversation, but now it became a quick stop to fill yourself up with as many calories as possible and then hit the road once more. One of the dining industry Old Guard, Wendel's--which had been established by Orel Wendel in 1867 near Lewis City, Osage--was then under the ownership of Orel's remaining sons, Levin and and Humphrey (youngest brother Horatio had passed in a car accident in 1923), who condemned the new chain in an all-out war to feed and serve the folks puttering along the Martyr Arnold. What would stop them, and finally drive them out of the east coast altogether, would be the meteoric rise of Daygone Inn, the Providence, Rhode Island, institution.

    While Wendel's offered attractive female wait staff, their iconic symbol, and delicious food, it also was a hotel and depended upon their rent fees as bread-and-butter of daily business. As workers and motorists alike struggled to find room and board, many did not want to pay Wendel's higher prices for their nice rooms, opting instead for the standardized mediocrity of the growing Daygone Inn, which offered a free bar of New England staples such as tuna sandwiches and clam chowder in the hotel lobby. Cornelius Chambers, founder of Daygone, envisioned his business as the future of the lodging industry and the stiff-lipped grandson of Pilgrims and distant relative of the Arkhams wanted to leave a legacy of a Daygone Inn once every 100 miles along the Destiny Road. It was in 1931 when Chambers and Herb van Vleet met to discuss a joint business strategy to finally drive the Wendel's chain out of the coast and off the Martyr Arnold. The deal was that whatever town or roadstop that one company planned to build at, a lengthy period of notice would be given to the other. For example, the small town of Alberttown, New York allowed for van Vleet to build a diner, and three months before construction was to begin, Daygone Inn was notified. The pairing of cheap, quick food and cheap lodging with free snacks was enough to draw almost the entirety of Wendel's client base away from their establishments. Despite rumors of Herb van Vleet being the notorious European serial killer Herbert van Vleet, the "Butcher of Brussels," 1933 saw the last Wendel's on the eastern seaboard closed its doors forever. Herb van Vleet would go on to die of a heart attack in 1942, at the top of his game as the operator of one of the most successful chains in history. He would, in a posthumous honor, be named Colonel by the AFC Church in 1943.

    As down and out as Wendel's seemed to be in its handling of the increasing and often-times surprising changes of the modern world, and even as it closed its doors for good at its last east coast location in New York City, the Wendel brothers were not done yet. Naming it after the older brother on a coin flip, they would open the first Levin's Grocery Store in Lewis City, Osage, in 1934, the same city where Wendel's itself had been founded so many decades before. This new kind of shopping experience offered friendly, uniformed staff, well-organized shelves and displays, and the motto was "every store the same." Levin Wendel said in a 1935 interview with the Lewis City Inquirer:

    "As President Steele has so aptly put it before, different is not good. Breaking from the norm is not good. At Levin's, we offer a new kind of shopping environment, carrying a wide variety of goods at rock bottom prices, but in stores that are photographic replicas of our other stores. The uniforms are the same for our hard-working employees. The front desk is laid out in exactly the same position. Canned corn is in row 8. It's always in row 8. No matter what. Nails and screws are in row 3. They are always in row 3. No matter what. Our aspiration at Levin's is to offer an easy shopping experience, catering to the new, face-paced American lifestyle of the Booming 30s. As Americans grow up shopping with their parents, we hope that little Jimmy will need a nail, 20, 30, or even 40 years from now, and he'll know they are in row 3 at his neighborhood Levin's, 'Where Everything's the Same!'"

    By 1940, the Levin's chain would stretch out to the Pacific and as far east as western Pennsylvania. It's first competition came in the form of Huey Long, a bombastic grocery store operator from New Antioch who had been, years before, heavily involved in organized crime. After serving time in a Redemption Legion for three years and serving meritoriously in Operation Manifest Climax, he returned with a wound discharge to his old stomping grounds and "went legit" by taking control of his aging father's grocery stores, numbering around six at the time. Through greasing palms and using his wildly spastic and aggressive personality to his advantage, he renamed the chain as "Kingfish Supermarket" in 1936, hoping to emulate the new Levin's up north that he had recently visited. By 1938, dozens of Kingfish Supermarkets were opened across the Old South, becoming a celebrated cultural commonality with the Southron American people and cutting off Levin's inroad to the area. On the east coast, two large grocery chains rose up to also curtail further expansion by Levin's. One was Better-Mart, sometimes shortened to B-Mart, which started as a rural supply company in Virginia and expanded its offerings to typical grocery fare, with presentation not unlike Levin's and Kingfish. Meanwhile, Vermont would see the launch of the new Green Mountain Grocery in 1937, later to be known as GMG by the general public. By the mid-1940s, its stores would be all over New England.

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    Huey Long, CEO of Kingfish Supermarkets

    As can be seen above, the Destiny Road very much changed the American way of life. From sleeping to eating to purchasing necessities and luxuries, never before had the Yankee Better been offered so much variety and choice. For the first time, the Booming 30s saw virtually every single man, woman, and child within the Union have access to all major needed nutrients. On the flip side, it also launched the country's life-long romance with fast food and greasy slop. And above all, it prepared the country to be able to maneuver needed resources quickly during Operation Manifest Climax and all following conflicts. While the Road would never stop in its production, what had been built so far was changing everything. To the everyday Yankee on the Destiny Road in the Booming 30s, the future looked interesting indeed.

    "Today I stopped and tasted one of these "hamburger things" I have heard so much about on campus lately. It was at a place called Vanvleet's, and they promise a meal in six minutes or less. Amused, I just had to give it a try. I was just passing by, merely puttering and rousting about
    along the Martyr Arnold in my Roadfuhrer, and my curiosity was much too roused to not give it the ol' college try. My God. It was delicious on an entirely new level, almost unutterably blasphemous in its singular quality. The grease was succulent, dribbling down my chin with each tender, meaty bite, and I desired nothing more than to devour each and every morsel with total and complete satisfaction. This strange and heavenly foodstuff was not greasy like SPUD, in that famed dish's own porcine, starchy way, but rather like the delicious nectar of the slaughtered cattle of Elysian fields, ground up by Rhadamanthus himself and formed into a compacted, fried puck for my personal enjoyment. I felt not only fuller with each bite, but also renewed in spirit. As the juices still streaked my smiling face, lips smacking and belly full, I headed back to my car. I knew I had discovered love as true as any woman's. I discovered fast food. And I will be back for more."

    -Charles Oswald's personal diary, 1936
     
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    THE NIGHTMARE DELIVERY SERVICE
  • THE NIGHTMARE DELIVERY SERVICE
    SWAMP.jpg

    The rumble of the truck and the ever-present crunch of the gravel under its tires was seemingly the only sound for miles that night as I, Amos Goodman, drove my delivery of rather strange cargo to the New Antioch address my boss had given me. The boxes, small and brown and about a foot in length, width, and height, were completely bereft of marking. Being a delivery driver for years, I sometimes had the chance of hauling rather strange items, and so gave the mystery little thought. I merely wanted to get this route done and go back to my little girl, Mary. Since her mother died of fever two years ago, it has been absolute hell leaving home for work. I make decent money and I'm one of the best drivers in the state, but leaving my little darling daughter with sitters for sometimes a week at a time was a surefire way to level me to the deepest recesses of depression. I put the wheel of the truck between my knees and grabbed the canteen from the passenger seat. I know it's irresponsible, but I've been driving since I could walk and it was a straight road in the middle of a swampland. Nothing but me and the mosquitoes and alligators.

    As I took a sip of water from the canteen, I thought about home, as humble as it was, and about telling my little girl a bedtime story. She was becoming just old enough to really appreciate a good yarn, and sometimes my adventures on the road, traveling the country as I did, thrilled her more than a storybook ever could. There was the one time when a mountain lion stood between my truck and the roadside restroom I found myself trapped in. And Mary always loved the one about me fending off an escaped convict who was trying to break into my cab. But most days excitement was few and far between. I flipped the canteen's lid closed and tossed it back onto the passenger seat, put my hands back on the wheel, and gazed out at the surrounding countryside. In the far distance, an ancient barn stood on a hill, dim lanterns illuminating it like a carved pumpkin, its loose boards jutting like jagged teeth of some horrible monster. At least, that was the beginning of a story I wanted to tell Mary. It was just another barn in the south, one of innumerable thousands in the same condition. Nothing to see there. I drove on.

    About ten minutes later, I could see a dim light on the horizon, obscured by the low-hanging branches of the mesquite trees. As I grew nearer, it became more visible. It was a roadblock of some four trucks, barely squeezing onto the narrow country lane. I slowly came to a halt, wary of bandits, and my Ford Workhorse squealed a little as its aging brakes kicked in. I thought it must be some sort of military police roadblock, searching for some wanted criminals or the like. When the shotgun-wielding figures moved away from the obscuring light of their headlights, my stomach dropped. It was the Office of Racial and Religious Affairs. Each man wore a light sandy-blue wool uniform, a pinch-crown hat, and every single one sported a breathing or gas mask of some sort.

    A large man who appeared to be in charge stepped toward my driver's side window, motioning for me to roll it down with a calm gesture of his leather-gloved hand. "What is the matter, sir? Has there been some sort of disease outbreak?" I asked, putting up a show of confidence that wasn't very convincing in the slightest. I didn't think I did anything to piss them off, but you would sound pretty nervous too if you were staring down a government agent with a gas mask on and the only eye contact you are making is the reflection of your own in his lenses.

    The man appeared to have close-cropped sandy blonde hair, high and tight, hidden under the brimmed hat and mask. The ORRA logo shone on the front of his hat in the moonlight. He heaved his well-worn but reliable-looking shotgun against his hip and asked in a monotone voice, "What are you haulin' here, citizen?"

    I shrugged and answered truthfully, "I don't rightly know, sir."

    I could sense him frowning from inside his mask. He reached for my door handle and said, once again without emotion of any sort, "Son, I'm gonna need to ask you to step out of the truck."

    I complied instantly. Growing up in this country, I knew full well to instantly follow orders of law enforcement. "Alright, but could you please tell me what's going on? Am I being arrested?"

    As he watched me descend from the cab, he tilted his head and said, "You got a reason to be arrested? Please step over to the barrel and hold your position while my men search the truck."

    I nervously watched about five men immediately go into action. Two took to the cab, one on each side, while another man heaved two others into the back of the truck after they knocked the rusting lock off. It didn't take long for them to rip the strange brown boxes open. I could hear their surprise all the way over by the blockade barrel I sat upon, held at gunpoint by the remaining man.

    "We got a hot one, sir!" one of the men shouted from inside the truck. "I think this is what we have been looking for!"

    The officer looked over at me, the moonlight shining in his mask lenses. "Well, well, aren't we an interesting delivery boy? What do you know about your cargo?"

    Growing more and more anxious by the second I shook my head in disbelief and said, once more truthfully, "I haven't the slightest, really, sir. I picked up a delivery manifest and the cargo from a rather... odd fellow... in Lewis City. It just said to deliver the boxes to a gentleman in New Antioch. Look, the boxes were taped and tied up so they'd know if someone busted into one to get an eyeful of the contents, so I wouldn't know even if I wanted to. I do so many deliveries I barely ask questions."

    "Well maybe you should, sometime, pardner," his bayou accent audible as he chuckled.

    I grimaced as the men quickly tossed the boxes down to the gravel, packing paper flying everywhere. What ever was inside them must have been quite resilient, as I doubt the ORRA ruffians would have dared abuse precious cargo if there was any chance of breakage. I grew more and more worried that I was involved in something incredibly illegal. Perhaps stolen jewelry, taken by gangsters in some horrible hold-up? Or maybe it was contraband papers, speaking against the government, God forbid. I didn't know, but my wild imagination was vividly conjuring up the worst possible scenarios of what would be inside those five plain brown boxes.

    One of the men, a thin fellow, pulled something out of one of the boxes and inspected it. "Commander! We have them! Praise Jehovah."

    The commander waved the underling over with another gesture of his gloved hand. In a moment he was holding a small statue of carving of some sort, made out of a greenish, almost phosphorescent stone of a like which I have never seen before or since. It appeared to depict a squamous figure of immensely horrifying features, almost too terrible to describe, blasphemous to God and Man, sitting atop a seat or throne of some sorts. It's face was ghastly and singularly disgusting in its nature, with a mass of tentacles along it face. I didn't know what it was, but I knew it was not my typical cargo. It was not typical anything!

    As I sat there, still atop the barrel, I extended my arms in a desperate attempt to make it clear I was not involved in any way with the sickening totemic objects in the back of my Workhorse. "Look, I really am just a delivery driver. I get paid by whoever wants to send an item to whoever they want. I don't know what thing is and I don't want anything to do with it."

    Not half a second later, I felt the cold steel of the butt of the commander's shotgun against my face, sending me crashing backward into the swampy muck of a roadside ditch. I imagine the Commander thought I was quite unconscious, but a stint in the local fisticuffs league back home ensured my ability to withstand hefty blows to the cranium. It hurt like hellfire, but I laid completely motionless and still in the runoff ditch, desperate to overhear what was going on.

    "So it's all true, Commander?" one officer asked, his Southern accent muffled through his mask.

    I heard the Commander reply solemnly, "Yes." He paused for a moment before the sound of him placing the statue in a leather satchel hit my ears. "The Supreme Chief will be delighted. The Black Rites can be performed. We must hurry now. Grab the other totems and put them in my car. We have to bring these immediately to the Supreme Chief. Let's move!"

    I laid there in the ditch for several moments, desperately hoping they'd leave me be. But it was not to be. As I heard the car doors open and engines turn over, I also heard the slow, plodding steps of the Commander's boots in the Southern mud. He racked a shell into the chamber as he stood over me before leveling it to my face. I stared at those moonbeams dancing in his mask lenses as the cold barrel graced the tip of my nose. One terrifying last sight before getting my brains blown out for reasons I knew not. I thought of my little Mary, alone in the world. I muttered a prayer.

    Click.

    His gun misfired. In a flash I was upon him, ripping the shotgun from his hand and beating his face with the butt of it as he struggled to grasp for his sidearm. In the seconds-long scuffle, the satchel no doubt containing the totem fell into the mire. With a ghastly crack, the left lens of his mask exploded, and blood and viscera exploded out of the hole with one more solid blow to the back of his head. The other men were now aware of the shocking scene unfolding in the ditch and I felt the hot sting of a pistol bullet graze my right shoulder. I ducked, grabbed the satchel, and headed into the woods at a frantic pace, bullets whizzing past in every direction. Almost hopeless, I threw myself into a ravine filled with brambles and thorns. As I desperately rolled and tumbled my way through the prickly foliage, I heard the curses and lamentations of the men behind me, struggling to see where I was going and desperately searching for any way in which to cut me off or capture me.

    An hour later, after a short jump in a creek to throw them off the trail, I saw a rather quaint looking cabin nestled in a grove of weeping willows, no lights on. Hoping it was abandoned or unoccupied, I stormed in, breathing a sigh of relief at the sight of a thick layer of dust completely saturating the interior in a heavy shroud. I slunk to the floor, still clutching that infernal satchel which held the most diabolical and sinister item which I had ever seen. I slowly took it from the bag and placed it at my mud-caked feet. It seemed to glow of its own accord, unlike anything I had ever seen before. It's hollow, almost hypnotic gaze seemed to speak to me of unimaginable eons of unutterable antiquity. I swear it told me things, things which no mortal man was ever meant to hear. I swear it talks to me even now. It needs the other four totems. It needs to complete the Black Rites. I must find them. I must find them. I must find them. Shurn i'lry nox'n rely'g. I must find them. I must find them. I must find them. Mary. I must go hom-I must find them. I must find them. I must find them. I must find them. I must find them. I must find them. I must find them. I must find them. E'de wo rely'g. I must find them. I must find them. I must find them. I must find them. Mar-I must find them. I must find them.

    The Black Rites must be performed.


    This story was first printed in Histoires Bizarres Bensuelles (Bizarre Tales Monthly) by the noted Europan author Joseph Goebbels, on June 2, 1936. This was one of the first stories of his Eldritch Saga to be set in America, and it was the first to see the appearance of the swamp-dwelling, tentacle-bearded ancient alien deity, Shurn, worshipped by ORRA and it's Supreme Chief, a never seen but often talked-about stand-in for Patton. It was meant to both entertain and mock Yankee superstition, while at the same time showcasing Americans as devil-worshiping sorcerers. A vocal critic of the American government and fascism in general, Goebbel's most famous quote is often thought to be:

    "A lie told once remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes truth for Americans."

    384full-joseph-goebbels.jpg

     
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    AN UNHAPPY PASSENGER
  • I was absolutely exhausted last night when I wrote the last chapter, but here is a vastly expanded and improved version!

    AN UNHAPPY PASSENGER


    A stubble-faced aerotraffic director sat at his post on that cold, windy 20th day of December, 1935. He inhaled a puff of a Morton and took a sip of the fresh-brewed coffee from his mug as he waited for the next inbound flight to comm in their anticipated arrival. He mindlessly clicked a pen and stared at the wall in boredom before he doused out the cigarette in the Goodyear-branded ashtray to his left. It was another long, boring shift at the Pt.-St. Benjamin Franklin Memorial Aerodrome, but Bill Snow didn't expect too much excitement that or any day, quite simply because most every day he had ever had since he started working there three years prior was mindbogglingly snooze-inducing in the highest order. Sure, plenty of planes and aeroships would land throughout the shift, but the novelty of working in the control tower got old quite fast, and he desired nothing more than to hear that end-of-shift whistle let loose a mighty toot. There would occasionally be a Party big-wig or a governor or something coming in, but that was rare. All the really interesting traffic went to Pt.-St. Crawford Memorial in New York City, or just straight to Philadelphia. Bill sighed and took another sip of the black brew in the well-worn pastel blue mug that was an ever-present companion throughout his working career, following him on almost as many 8 hour stretches as his ashtray.

    Just as he sat back in his chair for the next wait, a bulb lit up like the Fourth of July on the alert system. The siren-like apparatus mounted on the wall before him strobe red and a buzzer sounded, indicating the Aerodrome Commander expected an emergency landing. This was bad. This was really bad. Seeing flights come down hard stressed Bill out beyond the pale, as could be expected from any sane man, and fiery crashes were not his idea of a spicing up his work day. He lightly slapped himself a couple times to help focus and then readjusted his silver microphone and receiver before him. "Here we go," Bill sighed. "Jehovah preserve us all...." He already was having flashbacks to the wreck of '33, when a passenger craft with an engine failure touched down so hard it ripped the undercarriage off and killed 23 people. A shudder ran down his spine at the thought of their ghastly, mangled corpses strewn across the runway.

    All over the aerodrome, staff, passengers, and crewmen were scurrying about to clear the runway. If there was going to be a rough landing, no one wanted to be in the vicinity of it. As everyone waited and watched, something strange began to happen. Large trucks, Ford Workhorses by the looks of them, were screeching onto the landing strip at break-neck speed. The diesel-chugging monsters parked in various locations and ORRA officers began to deploy from the tailgates, bayonets fixed and helmets on. Within seconds, they were rounding people up and forcing them into the trucks at gunpoint before the trucks sped off with their new passengers, leaving the ORRA men standing there.

    All over the control tower, Bill's coworkers eyed each other with no small amount of fear. Whatever was coming down was something really, really important. The obvious question hanging unspoken in the air was finally popped by Greg Stone, the snarky, balding paper-pusher from downstairs who had been passing out memos to the control crew when the alarms first went off and who still unfortunately graced Bill with his disgusting presence. "Gee, guys, are they gonna leave us up here?" Stone's voice cracked as he asked the question.

    On cue, the wooden door of the control tower smashed open and ORRA troops rushed in and began to grab the control crew by their arms and lead them away faster than should be humanly possible. A surly-looking chap with gold piping and a drawn service pistol bellowed, "My fellow citizens, the state appreciates your hard work, and as a reward, you may have the rest of today off with full pay. Enjoy and please follow all orders from my men or consequences shall be suffered. All hail." He dryly raised his right hand to chest height and the waved it, motioning for the civilians--and Bill--to be lead out.

    Bill never knew true fear more than when two ORRA officers grabbed him by an arm apiece and hauled him, feet dragging, out of the control tower. His heart was pounding out of his chest and he could hardly breathe from the rush of it all. Once again, the only excitement in a working day at a control tower was not any form of excitement anyone but a sadist could enjoy. A few seconds later and he and the other crew were on the sidewalk outside the Aerodrome entrance, the gates slamming shut right after an armored military car sped in.

    "What do you think all of this is about?" someone asked as the group of men began to head for the staff parking lot, and their autocarriages. The afternoon sun shined down on the men as they searched pockets for car keys, their brightly-polished spectators and wingtips tapping the pavement with each step.

    Bill took another Morton out of his pocket and quickly lit it with a shaky hand. "I don't know, pal. And I'll tell you I for sure ain't gonna stand around and find out. I'm gonna go have lunch with my family. See you all tomorrow I guess, if ORRA doesn't burn the aerodrome down with whatever they are doing in there. More power to 'em, I guess."

    "They got quite a bit of power already, if you ask me," Greg Stone said, the fat bastard's shoulders shrugging.

    Bill stopped halfway through putting his lighter back in his short-sleeve white dress shirt pocket and raised an eyebrow. Holding the cigarette between his lips he shot Stone, that paper-pushing ninny, a filthy look. "What did you just say, Stone? Did I just hear you criticize those who put all on the line to protect our freedom? After they gave you the rest of the day off with pay?"

    Stone recoiled visibly and replied, voice shaking, "I didn't say anything."

    A long drag of Morton. "S'what I thought, Stone."

    The rest of the walk to the staff parking was quiet as a funeral, save from the tapping of their shoes.


    ***


    Midas Goldstein looked out a window of the mighty Eagle Airlines C-32 as it came in, balls to the wall, turbulence be damned. He was standing in the main passenger seating area, the floor shaking beneath his feet as the plane came roaring in for the landing. While they were well inside American aerospace control, their orders were to get the "special guest" of Midas' to a secured ground location as quickly as possible. Aside from his "special guest" and a handful of ORRA men, the plane was empty, lending an eerie silence to the whole ride in from Europe. He used a handkerchief embroidered with a Star of David to wipe the sweat from his totally hairless head and then tucked it back into his white trouser pocket. "Well, my dear friend," he said to the man who was handcuffed and strapped into a seat nearby, "we're almost there." The "Black Jew's" pale, portly frame came closer to the prisoner, a wild-eyed man with a look of sheer terror on his own sweaty face. "Soon," Midas continued, stooping over the man, "we're going to make history, you and I. We are going to change the world."

    The middle-aged man in cuffs and a blue knit sweater-vest soaked in sweat frowned the deepest frown, the hope draining from his eyes as he realized they were about to touch down. He would have happily died in a crash if it had meant the demise of his Yankee kidnappers as well. "Fick dich!" the man spat in Goldstein's face in a thick German accent. "I have told you a thousand times, I will never help you or your pathetic country, you fat Jude. Burn in hell!"

    Goldstein sat down in the seat next to him, bracing for the landing to come, and strapped himself in on the seat directly to his victim's right. He playfully patted the man's hand, laughing at his resistance. "You say this, as if you have chutzpa, but we both know you have no balls." As Midas laughed the handcuffed man turned his head to face away. "Look at me, Meitner." To his great annoyance, the man still looked away. He grabbed the man's chin with his plump, pudgy fingers and forced his head back around. "Look at me, you dumb schmuck! I could snuff you out like a fucking candle right now." The man trembled. That was better. "Good. You know, Otto, I think we could get along. We are both smart men, of Pinnacle Blood. My country is the blessed Kingdom of God and your Holland is a Protestant bastion as well. You have already switched sides once. I fail to understand the loyalty to the Dutch. We offered you a handsome sum to do a little side work for us, and you turned us down. That made President Steele very unhappy. And when President Steele is unhappy, he makes me do very uncomfortable things for all of us, Otto, as you can now plainly see."

    Professor Otto Meitner of Munich University made dead eye-contact with Midas and replied, trying to mask the fear in his voice, "You people are all crazy. All the same. Verdammte Juden und Kultisten, all of you! I will never betray my adopted Heimat to your kind, you Hebrew bastard. The Papist dogs took the Rhineland away from me and persecuted me for my Lutheran faith. Queen Louise Napoleona is a saint, and Joe Steele can burn in the darkest pits of Hell."

    A cold, harsh laugh came from the American. "We offered you money and fame to work for us. You would be more famous than even I. But if you won't publicly or willingly join us, we'll learn the secrets of the atom from you one way or another, my Rhenish friend. One way or another America shall march headlong into the future, leaving your pitiful Old World in the dustbin of history. We are approaching a new age, Professor. Can you feel it? Can't you just almost taste the victory and triumph of God's Children that is to come?"

    An ORRA officer in a plainclothes suit, one of the men who had helped pull off the abduction of Professor Meitner from his home in Arnhem, walked down the pathway between the seats of the passenger area. "Comrade-Patriot Goldstein, sir!" he saluted and snapped to attention. "Comms on the ground report we are clear for a landing. No witnesses are left in the aerodrome, sir."

    Goldstein shot Meitner a wicked smile with his perfectly white teeth. "Good! Good, Sinclair. Tell them to bring us in. And do we have adequate transportation and protection on the ground? This man's brain is one of the most valuable things in the Union's possession."

    "Yessir," Sinclair, the plainclothesman, knodded and replied. "We have an armored warwagon ready to move out with our special guest and yourself. A convoy of ORRA workhorses will be your entourage tonight, sir."

    "Lovely," said the Black Jew. He turned his head back to Meitner and told him with a voice full of sheer glee at his discomfort, "We'll be writing those theories down before you know it, Meitner. Our friend Supreme Chief Patton will be very happy to see you."

    With a loud roar and a thud, the C-32 touched down at the Boston Aerodrome. The voice of the plane captain sounded over the plane's intercom, "Hallelujah, we have arrived, gentlemen."

    Midas clapped his hands and said in a chipper tone, "Hallelujah, Meitner. God is good."

    "Fick."


    Flew in from Europa, overnight, y'see
    Didn't get to bed last night
    All the way the paper bag was on my knee
    Man, I had a dreadful flight
    I'm back in the R.U. of A.
    You don't know how lucky you are, hey
    Back in the R.U. of A., yeah

    Been away so long I hardly knew the place
    Praise be! Grand to be back home
    Leave it till tomorrow to unpack my case
    Honey, disconnect the phone
    I'm back in the R.U. of A.
    You don't know how lucky you are, hey
    Back in the R.U.
    Back in the R.U.
    Back in the R.U. of A.

    Well Kissimmee sunshine just knocks me out
    It leaves the cold behind
    But Or'gon phinnies make me sing and shout
    And Georgia's always on my my my my my my my my my mind
    Oh, come on
    I'm back in the R.U. of A.
    You don't know how lucky you are, hey
    Back in the R.U. of A.

    Oh, show me round the snow peaked
    Rockies way out west
    Take me to Grand Panama
    Where adventures to be had are just the best
    Come and join the bonanza
    I'm back in the R.U. of A.
    You don't know how lucky you are, hey
    Back in the R.U.
    Back in the R.U.
    Back in the R.U. of A.

    "Back in the R.U. of A." (1955, Wildcat Records)


    ***

    The kidnapping of Professor Otto Meitner (born 1902) from his home in Arnhem, Holland, was one of the boldest acts of espionage ever committed by ORRA. Meitner was a Rhenish Protestant who had fled the persecutions of his native homeland for the Protestant bastion of Holland, where Queen Louise Napoleona now reigned since her father's death in 1923 at age 82. Shortly before the Great World War, Louis Napoleon II had converted to Dutch Reformed Protestantism shortly after his late-in-life heir and only-child Louise Napoleona had married the Dutch Reformed General Rutger Roeland, now Prince Consort. During the intense Catholic persecution of Protestants along the Rhine, thousands of German-speaking Lutherans and Calvinists were welcomed with open arms by a Holland trying to rebuild after the King's triumphant return from his English exile at the end of the war. Among them, brought by his widower father, was young Otto Meitner.

    Young Otto showed a propensity for scientific pursuits at an early age, frequently conducting crude experiments in the shed of his father's humble Arnhem home. At the age of 18 in 1920, Otto bid his father farewell and left for the Royal Academy of the Sciences in Utrecht, where he would quickly become the star pupil and assistant of the famed nuclear theorist Professor Huig Biljardt. Throughout the 1920s, Otto would watch as Biljardt and another R.A.S. professor, Dr. Sieb Buterman, the longest-tenured faculty member at Utrecht conducted their headline-making experiments with nuclear physics. It had been Buterman who had first proposed Quantum Theory. It would be Biljardt and Buterman who would discover nuclear fission, and thus the potential for energy and armament opportunities. And it had been Meitner along for the entire ride, learning and soaking up their knowledge like a sponge, filling countless notebooks and easels with matter so complex as to break the ordinary man's mind just a few pages in.

    In 1929, Meitner earned his Ph.D. and began to publish he results of his own experiments and some of his own theories. He was very much against the idea of a nuclear bomb of any sort and begged Queen Louise Napoleona to shut down the Dutch Royal Nuclear Research Committee in 1932 following the formal opening of the Imperial Nuclear Institute in Paris shortly before. He saw the potential for nuclear energy to help humanity, but also saw its incredible potential for destruction. Much to his horror, Professor Philibert Pomeroy had already made great strides in the research of nuclear weapons and Queen Louise Napoleona personally begged Otto to continue research lest Europa become the world's sole future superpower. With a great sense of dread he continued his work, mostly at his adopted hometown of Arnhem, where he owned a large, two story house that he shared with a cat named Niggerman. Through crippling depression and a growing sense of hatred for all of his work, he pushed on valiantly.

    When the knock on his door came on that cold night of December 18, 1935, the gaunt, prematurely-aged scientist slowly picked up Niggerman in his arms and headed for the door. He was anticipating it being the the neighbor lady, Elise, who frequently was his only human company. She would bring him brownies and strudel that reminded him of simpler days. Looking forward to a delicious snack and good company, Otto swung the door open with a smile on his face and exclaimed, "Ah, Elise! Good--" Rather than the lovely young widow next door, he was confronted with a smiling man in a gray trenchcoat and a navy blue fedora. Two more men flanked him, clearly subordinates despite nothing to give it away other than their body language.

    "Guten tag, Herr Doktor," said the man in the gray coat in a bizarre accented and butchered German that could only belong to someone from the American South. "Uh, you speak English, correct?"

    Meitner eyed them up and down. He very much disliked where this was going. "Yes... One does not teach at Utrecht without knowing a passable amount of your tongue. What can I do for you?"

    The Southron smiled once more. "Ah," he said, raising a gloved finger, "What can't you do?! Pardon my manners, my name is Augustus Sinclair, of the Atlanta Sinclairs. I work for the American government. I have been flown here, under the President's own orders, to offer you a salary of two million dollars a year to work for the Union. You have my respect, sir. Any man whom Joseph Steele would pay two million eagles a year for must be quite the intellect. My father, Horatio Sinclair, was a bit of a scientist himself you see, back home in Atl-"

    "Yes, yes," Otto cut them off, starting to push the door closed again. "I'm sorry but I am quite comfortable working here and, as it says in the Good Book you people claim to know so well, 'It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.' I bid you farewell. Goodnight, sirs."

    A boot shot out and blocked the door as Sinclair stopped the scientist from brushing them off. "Am I to understand, sir," the Southron began to question in his debonair and overly-polite way, "that you are casting aside an offer from my President and Atheling, the Defender of the Faith?"

    A cold sweat began to drip down Meitner's face and he instinctively clutched Niggerman tighter to his chest. "I will never work for America. You Kultisten are something else."

    With that, the door was slammed wide open. Otto's cat leaped from his arms and dashed for a hiding spot as the three men entered the house. The two men each grabbed an arm tightly and smiled as Sinclair got within an inch of the professor's face. "Midas Goldstein wants to have a word with you, doctor," he said, the flecks of saliva splattering across the German's face. "I hate to be pushy, sir, but I fear this teatime is quite mandatory. Put him in the car, men."


     
    Last edited:
    SEPTEMBER 11, 1936
  • Reposting this to put it in its proper threadmark order. One of the issues with the scope of the TL is me constantly telling myself, "Oh Yeah! I should write about this even though it is set before the last chapter." lol


    SEPTEMBER 11, 1936


    The R.U.S. Sweetwater slips beneath the waves at Port Pierce

    Edgar Fishlove smiled to himself as he pinned up a picture of Juliet Bradshaw in his locker. The Kissimmee starlet was wearing a tasseled red evening gown and the hand-tinting of the picture really brought out the green in her eyes. Fishlove was one of many lonely young American marines and seamen stationed around the world with a locker full of actress pin-ups and chocolate bars. He grabbed one of the bars, a Sweet Victory-produced Bacco Bits, gingerly unwrapped the silver foil, and broke off a chunk of the real tobacco-infused chocolate. The smell of his hometown candy store back in Smithville, New Canaan, drifted into his nostrils. He sighed and took a bite, still staring at the actress' snapshot. Fishlove was never the ladies' man, and didn't even have a girl to write letters to every night like some of the other guys on the 600 foot long R.U.S. Vulture, stationed at Port Pierce, still known by some of the gangly, local Infee laborers as "Santiago de Cuba," or at least, those of the foul prisoners on the penal colony that still spoke or even remembered their ancient Spanish tongue. The R.U.S. Vulture was one of the two Innsmouth-class "pinnacle dreadnought" vessels in Navy Group V, the main arm of American strength in the Caribbean. Fishlove was a Marine private who had joined up in 1934, and had been serving on the Vulture since his graduation from boot camp. The other Innsmouth-class pinnacle dreadnought battleship in Navy Group V, the R.U.S. Peabody, with its likewise accompaniment of 14 inch Mach II triple guns--45 in caliber and with a range of over 20,000 yards--was anchored just a hop, skip, and a jump away, with its full compliment of 1,000 sailors, 100 marines, and 60 officers. The entrance to Port Pierce was defended by the very tip of Cuban landmass at Promontory Point, a shore battery and base forged from the ruins of the centuries-old Morro Castle. Promontory Point oversaw all traffic in and out of Port Pierce, and its excellent placement was ideal for the massive big-bore heavy cannons and howitzers stationed along its walls.

    The Vulture and the Peabody were hardly alone in the harbor, however. Backing up the two pinnacle dreadnoughts were six battleships, namely the Sweetwater, Galveston, Ford, and Virginia, with a further accompaniment of three submarines (Donkey, Galahad, and Talon), and 30 destroyers, as well as 35 smaller vessels. Navy Group V was in full form that day, September 11, 1936. While a young Chuck Oswald was studying away in a Benedict Arnold University dormitory, one day away from his fateful enlistment in the Navy, Ed Fishlove took another bite of his Bacco Bits bar. He smiled again, enjoying the pleasant pick-me-up. He had spent another boring day manning the radio room. The time was 3 pm when the buzz of foreign planes could be heard by the young marine.

    At the same time that Edgar Fishlove was enjoying his afternoon snack, a 28 year-old Aeroforce Captain Franklin Mathew Johnson, son of long-time New Canaan Governor and Steele-supporter Sam Johnson, was overseeing the daily maintenance on the planes at the aerodrome inside Promontory Point. Franklin, known as Jumbo to his associates, was calmly sipping a coffee and enjoying the tropic sun. There were roughly 200 planes there, mostly M-1935 Hatchets, produced by Colonel Ford. Like the massive amount of navy ships present, the reason for the large buildup of planes at Port Pierce was the impending launch of Operation Manifest Climax, the Steele-ordered plan drawn up by Supreme Marshal Ambrose Jansen and the rest of the cabinet focusing on invading Colombia as a punishment for the humiliation of ORRA during the 1933 Maracaibo Incident and as the beginning of Steele's full occupation of the Americas. Little did they know that General Stanley Dale had betrayed the Republican Union and gave the Neutrality Pact a complete copy of Operation Manifest Climax in exchange for substantial economic reward. On July 31, General Dale, one of the foremost veterans of Lincoln's Hammer, had handed the files over to a Colombian spy in Philadelphia and from there the Neutrality Pact had drawn up their own plans of attack and defense.

    According to the doctrine agreed upon by the Pact High Council, defeat was almost certain. They were well aware that defeat to the American people was a concept unheard of since 1812. With America as the New Jerusalem, victory in any conflict was certain and divinely-ordained. However, a crippling attack, fast and quick, and/or a never-ending guerrilla operation possibly force a truce, as seen in Ireland at the end of the Great World War. In fact, many of the Neutrality Pact nations, especially Colombia, saw Irish expatriates and exchange officers leading the way in military doctrine. War had been certain since Maracaibo, and Catholics and anti-Americans the world over had found their way to South America. Even a tiny surviving fragment of the old Mexican race served in the army of Gran Colombia. With all this mind, the main goal of the Neutrality Pact was to smash Navy Group V at Port Pierce with an overwhelming and devastating aerial assault. With many squadrons of M35 Hussars purchased from Europa, the light and nimble craft could prove deadly in the right circumstances. When paired with the M36 Cuirassier dive bombers, also purchased from the Empire and decked out in the yellow-blue-and-red and the Gran Colombian Republican Aeroforce, an assault on Navy Group V looked promising indeed. The Colombian Navy sported only one aerocarrier, the native-designed and rather slip-shod Vitoria, but the Colombian planes were also carried to the point of operation by Peru's two carriers, the Andes and the Magnifico. With dozens of other smaller vessels in tow, the Neutrality Pact's Central Fleet Command would steam to Port Pierce and assault it with everything it had. While the attack commenced, highly-trained squads of paratrooper commandos would jump behind American lines and raise hell at the many, many Infee prisons and work yards on the island penal colony. With Cuba in full disarray and Navy Group V ablaze, it would possibly give just enough momentum to halt any Yankee advance along the Panama border. If the Pact could advance and take Georgetown, Panama, immediately, they could seize control over the canal. They would then rig the canal for detonation and leave it in ruins, crippling the ability of the American Navy to respond to further attacks.

    And so we venture back to September 11, 1936, as the first Hussars and Cuirassiers buzzed across the horizon toward the anchored American warships. Ed Fishlove stopped chewing his Bacco Bits as he finally took notice of the unexpected din. Over the next twenty seconds, the drone of the engines grew only louder until finally they sounded as if they were right overhead. A massive explosion ripped through the Vulture, sending Fishlove and hundreds of his fellow crewmen flying to the floor as debris shook from the ceiling and furniture and equipment overturned. As Fishlove pulled himself to his feet, he could tell the ship had not fully recovered from the blast. It was listing ever so slightly to the right. An Innsmouth-class was taking on water. Immediately, the claxons rang out and the petty officers took to the ship's intercom to announce:

    "ATTENTION ALL CREW! ATTENTION ALL CREW! WE ARE UNDER ATTACK. REPEAT: WE ARE UNDER ATTACK. MAN YOUR BATTLE STATIONS! MAN YOUR BATTLE STATIONS! MAY JEHOVAH PROTECT US ALL AND TO HIM BE THE GLORY!"
    As Fishlove grabbed his green-painted helmet and sidearm and ran into the hallway of the crew quarters and up to the deck, he could hear the gasps, cries, and howls of injured and dying sailors and marines all about. One sailor, wearing nothing but his boxers and a t shirt, came flying down the stairs from the deck, blood flowing like a fountain from the side of his head. Even more followed, pushing Fishlove out of the way as they scrambled for safety, some carrying the dead and dying. At the same time, however, a detachment of Marines were headed the opposite way, right behind Fishlove. When they all reached the deck, a horrific sight greeted them. A massive crater had been blown in the rear end of the Vulture and water was pouring in. Overhead, like swarms of wasps, the Europan-made Pact planes buzzed and danced about, guns blazing. Bullets raked the deck of the Vulture as a squadron zipped by in a strafing run. Not ten feet away, dozens of bullets eviscerated a group of sailors, turning their crisp white uniforms a pulpy red. As Fishlove tried to figure out where to go, he could see similar incidents unfolding all over the harbor. "Oh God," he muttered to himself as he saw a direct hit from a Cuirassier send a small Yankee patrol boat to the locker, its crew--what survived--screaming and sputtering in the seaweed-tinted water.

    "Fishlove, man, snap out of it! We need to man these AA grinders!" bellowed Private Henry Lincoln Johnston, one fellow marine from Appalachia whom the New Canaan-born Fishlove did not particularly care for. While before they had been rivals and had even thrown hands at each other, they were now brothers in arms. Fishlove raced to Johnston's side and the blonde-haired marine yelled out, "Feed me, Fishlove! Let's show these Infees what pure fluidation looks like!" Without hesitations, Fishlove began feeding ammunition into the heavy anti-aero grinder. Within seconds, they had scored their first hit, downing a Hussar and sending it smashing into the sea, its inexperienced Colombian pilot bailing out, parachute deployed.

    Just a few seconds' walk down the length of the ship, another Hussar, plummeting aimlessly with its left wing gone, slammed into the central smokestack, another smashing blow to the Vulture. Pillars of smoke and flame rose from the beautiful ship as it fought back with all it had against the foreign hordes. But it was not enough. Just ten minutes later, another Cuirassier bomb hit the forward end of the ship. With water pouring in from both ends, the captain of the Vulture, Frank Falconburg, announced over the remaining ship speakers:

    "ATTENTION ALL CREW! WE ARE GOING UNDER! I REPEAT: WE ARE GOING UNDER. ABANDON SHIP, BUT CONTINUE THE FIGHT! ALL HAIL!"


    The R.U.S. Vulture slips to the seabed at 3:45 pm

    As Fishlove and the other surviving sailors and marines headed for the lifeboats amidst the hail of gunfire and bombs, Captain Falconburg stood watching in the conning tower, just behind the fiery, crippled smokestack. With debris and wreckage blocking the way out, Falconburg, a 28-year veteran of the Union Navy and a veteran of the Great World War, drew his cutlass from his belt, saluted the flag that still raggedly hung in the breeze before him, screamed out "VIA, VERITAS, VITA!" and then forced the cutlass into his own guts. The white-and-gold uniform, propped against the command table, soon was set alight by the fires. The R.U.S. Vulture was gone. As the crew scrambled to the hopeful safety of the nearby Peabody pinnacle dreadnought and as the destroyer Sweetwater steamed over to deliver covering fire for the escaping Vulture crew, the Colombian aerocarrier Vitoria opened up an intense barrage from its deck guns, sending more shells raining down on the shocked Yankees.

    While the Vulture sank beneath the gentle Cuban waves, Captain Jumbo Johnson was frantically ordering every available plane into the air. The atrocity unfolding before him was unbelievable, and he knew he had to do something and do it right now. Leaving Colonel Buford Lang in charge of the ground operations, Jumbo Johnson sprinted aboard a state-of-the-art CGE A-12 Soaring Eagle, a beefy bomber and aerial gun platorm, and ordered the crew to fly straight for the Vitoria. Ed Fishlove and his mates watched in awe as the Soaring Eagle and its squadron of M-35 Hatchets rocketed off toward the enemy, guns blazing.

    Within thirty minutes of the beginning of the attack, the control of the skies had shifted toward the Union, blowing the untrained and young Colombian pilots out of the air by the score. Thirty-five minutes after the Vulture dipped below the waves, Johnson's Soaring Eagle was dropping its full compliment of bombs onto the Vitoria, detonating its ammo cache and forcing the poorly-made ship into a retreat, flanked by several gunboats and a destroyer. Johnson was well aware that two more Peruvian aerocarriers, the Andes and Magnifico, were still steaming about, but was unsure of their locations. With bullet holes peppered throughout the plane and his right gunner slumped over the belt-fed coffee grinder, Johnson, manning the left gun, ordered his pilot to fly him back toward the harbor. On their way back, another American plane was struck by enemy fire and slammed into the side of the A-12, killing its pilot. Saying his last prayers, Johnson, the last surviving crewman, headed for the exit and jumped out, deploying his parachute ten seconds after. As he drifted through the smoke and clouds, he saw dozens of planes in every direction. Plumes of smoke and flame rose from Promontory Point and the aerodrome. a quarter of the American planes within were destroyed. To the left, the Peabody, Galveston, and Sweetwater circled around the lifeboats of the Vulture, desperately trying to rescue their patriot-comrades. Seemingly out of nowhere, the Sweetwater's hull tore open like a can of soda, sending water gushing in. A Peruvian submarine had just blasted a hole in the destroyer's side. The Sweetwater would be the second major vessel to be destroyed that day. All about, gunboats and support vessels were strewn about like bath toys, tipped every which way. Bodies drifted on the water like ragdolls, some missing more pieces than others. Colombian pilots and American seamen both were washing up on the sunny shoreline. Just before Johnson hit the water, he saw a Yankee minelayer, the Tea Party, detonate with all hands aboard. Jumbo had tried his best to turn the tide of battle, but things were still grim.


    The American Aerodrome at Promontory Point erupts into a gigantic fireball

    Fishlove saw a bullet tear through Johnston's head beside him in their lifeboat. With a grimace, he tossed the dead weight of his comrade overboard. Seconds later, an Aeroforce officer splashed down into the sea, his parachute wrapping around some wreckage. After some short work with a knife to cut his cords, the officer extended a hand to Fishlove, who heaved him up to take Johnston's place. "Are you all right, sir?" Fishlove asked, his voice hoarse from screaming.

    The captain drew his sidearm, a silver revolver, looked up at the sky, and replied, "No, marine, I am not 'all right.'" Jumbo Johnson raised his pistol and fired a bullet at a passing Colombian plane. Like an act of God, the bullet passed clean through the canopy and into the pilot's head, sending the plane sputtering into the Caribbean. Fishlove and the other men in the lifeboat sat, mouths agape at the trick shot. Johnson turned to Fishlove "I have had a hell of a fucking day, in fact, marine. But in New Canaan we always say when the going gets tough, the tough get tougher."

    For a split second, Fishlove's morale raised. "You're from New Canaan, sir? Me too! I'm a Smithville boy, myself."

    Johnson fired a few more stray shots before turning and saying, "My daddy's the governor. Sam Johnson. Good to see a fellow New Canaanite in this shitshow!"

    As the lifeboat finally knocked against the hull of the Peabody and the crew began ascending the rope ladders, Fishlove and Johnson grimaced and followed suit. The two were soon on the deck of the remaining Innsmouth-class. The Neutrality Pact planes appeared to be pulling back to their own fleet, the few remaining American planes nipping at their heels. The attack seemed to be winding down. The Andes had been spotted, swooping in from the southeast to allow the Hussars and Cuirassiers to land. The Magnifico still remained sight-unseen since the beginning of the attack. As one of the Aeroforce commanders on duty, Jumbo Johnson soon found himself in the conning tower of the Peabody, blanket draped over his shoulders as Admiral William Huggins, the supreme commander of Navy Group V, asked him questions about the whereabouts of the Magnifico. Telling Admiral Huggins he had no clue, both men feared another wave was coming. Little did they know that the Magnifico had evaded the Yankee warships and had gone west, slinking along the coast. Every so often, shore batteries opened up and reported sighting a large foreign vessel, but it remained relatively stealthy. That night, several transport planes took off from the deck of the Peruvian ship and flew over areas well-known for forced labor camps and prisons. Commandos made the sign of the cross and the bailed out, on a mission from God to liberate the oppressed Infees of the Cuban Penal Colony. All hell was about to break loose.

    "Citizens of the Republican Union! A great travesty has taken place upon our soil. This day, at roughly three in the afternoon in beautiful, sunny Cuba, swarms of South American planes, bombers, and ships descended upon Navy Group V, stationed at Port Pierce and our base at Promontory Point. Thousands of American lives have, in the span of just a couple of hours, been snuffed out like candles. Young men in their prime, cut down like rabid animals by Inferior mongoloid Hispanic gauchos and savages. Equipped with Europan planes and Europan bombers, the forces of Satan have leveled a devastating blow upon the New Jerusalem. Knowing that our victory is divinely ordained, Lucifer has turned the so-called Neutrality Pact, a gaggle of Inferior demons, against us! September 11, 1936: a day which will live forever in the hearts and minds of our countrymen! But we do not sit and reflect on the losses we have just sustained! We do not weep and gnash our teeth over our fallen sons! Rather we must meet the enemy, the forces of evil, with bayonets fixed! Full steam ahead! Mark the words of your President, Atheling, and Commander-in-Chief: The subhumans who did this to us, we God's Chosen Few, shall be hearing from all of us very, very soon! Enlist now! We will smash the Pact and bring glory to our memory. May the Blessings of Almighty Jehovah be showered upon our homeland. All hail!"

    - Joe Steele's September 11 Address to the Nation

     
    THE CUBAN INSURRECTION

  • THE CUBAN INSURRECTION
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    Neutrality Pact paratroopers touch down in Cuba

    A parrot's harsh caw sounded over the dense jungle foliage. The tropic air was thick and muggy that morning, and Reilly Fergus, Inmate Number 129B of the Elberton Camp, wiped the sweat from his brow with his yellowed sackcloth of a shirt sleeve. This was his daily life, chopping down sugar cane for the Yankee overlords. This was all he had ever know. Ever since the Beckie Flu of the 1910s, most Inferiors of Society were concentrated on the island prison, far and away from the Betters of Society who had now outgrown their use for the Inferiors in the factories and assembly lines. With new Clan regulations in effect, Betters gladly did their old jobs, and with more skill and precision than mere slaves, or, as the American government liked to call Inferiors in the factories, "compensated laborers." Reilly was paid for his work. One dollar a month. Food was also free, and it consisted of stale bread, water, a ration of citrus-infused rum to ward off scurvy, and some sort of horrible gruel that was an odd pinkish color, a color seemingly nonexistent in nature but somehow quite readily available in the Union camp counselor's kitchens. "Not a man shall be a slave," said the American songs and chants. That was true. Reilly was not a slave. He was paid. That meager one dollar was what kept him a "free man."

    Reilly was illiterate, almost entirely lacking in any sort of education, and his pasty-white Irish skin burned to a crisp every day under the scorching rays of the Cuban sun. Mosquitoes and gnats gnawed at him every second. Many of his fellow camp inmates had breathed their last laboring to the bone in the tropic heat, some dying in his arms before ORRA men beat him off the corpses with the butts of their guns and their nightsticks. Reilly had more than a few scars from "counselor correctional action."

    As for why he was here, Reilly knew little. He knew the great big country to the north hated him, and so did the Camp Counselors, but that was all he knew. Sometimes he saw big planes taxi down the nearby runway. These planes would be emblazoned with strange logos. Sometimes the logos said, according to the few inmates who could read, "FORD." Sometimes "GOODYEAR." According to the elder inmates, these were huge "companies" in the mainland and they liked to use Inferior inmates to test products and to use in horrific working conditions where no Better dared to tread. Some of the older Inmates even said they, at one time, worked for these "companies," before the big war and the Beckie Flu ended their inglorious working careers. Of what little Reilly remembered of his father, who died when he was very young, he definitely recalled Horace Fergus mentioning the filthy, disgusting "factories" where he worked for those Goodyear people. He said after the outbreak of the Flu and the subsequent Inferior revolts, he was sent to Cuba to labor out the rest of his days, which would only be a year or two before a counselor shot him while trying to escape a work detail in the jungle. Supposedly, Reilly himself worked for a company called "Sweet Victory," and the sugar he cut down was shipped to candy and soda factories

    Our protagonist took a sip of water from his rusty metal canteen, desperately trying to avoid overheating.

    "Yo, 129B!" bellowed an obnoxious voice from behind him. "Pick up the pace, you piece of Satanspawn. We don't have time for a teaparty!"

    "Oi, I'm fookin' dyin' o're here, lad!" Reilly shouted back.

    Clack. A live round moved into position inside the chamber of the ORRA "Camp Counselor's" shotgun.

    "Right! Movin' on, then, dammit," Reilly slung the canteen back over his shoulder and once again picked up the dangerously thin and rusty machete. It had lost its handle years ago, and in its place was some simple packing tape. Not exactly ideal, but it worked to cut the sugarcane down, which Reilly once again began to do, sweat streaming from every inch of body.

    The ORRA man, a stout black fellow with brown knee-high lace-up boots, a khaki Tropic-issue service uniform, and a pinch-crown hat, moved forward and yelled, "You talkin' back to your Better, son?"

    "Nosir," Reilly answered, glowering and boiling inside. Every day was the same. He had been alive for 19 years, and every single one featured an ORRA man yelling obscenities and threats his way while chambering rounds in a gun. He sighed and kept cutting.

    Little did Reilly, the other members of the work detail, or the counselors know that Port Pierce had just been attacked by a massive force of Neutrality Pact ships and planes last night. Navy Group V lay in ruins, crippling American might around Cuba. Despite the inevitable American counter-attack that had pushed the Neutrality Pact away from the port, the game was just beginning. High over the sugarcane and the jungle trees, M36 Cuirassiers, painted in Colombian livery, flew with bellies full of elite "Condor Commandos." They had flown off the decks of the Magnifico, the one and only remaining aeorcarrier in the Peruvian arsenal that had now slunk its way along the Cuban coast. Its mission was simple: while America tried to regroup following the attack on Port Pierce, the planes on the Magnifico would drop the commandos over Inferior camps and liberate them, causing chaos and mayhem behind enemy lines. The Pact had little hope for victory in this war, but its one strategy was to cause as much discord and anarchy behind American lines as possible. Little did Reilly and the other inmates at Camp Elberton know that this would be their last day as prisoners. War had begun, and they were pawns about to be craftily and violently thrust to the front of the board.

    A low hum sounded in distant sky. The sound of planes. They probably were company planes coming to pick up more laborers. But they sounded different to Reilly. As the noise grew closer, Reilly definitely knew it wasn't the typical vessel. That was when the alarm sounded.

    Brrrrrr-ooommmmmm.

    Brrrrrr-ooommmmmm.

    Brrrrrr-ooommmmmm.

    The arrogant ORRA man who had just yelled insults at Reilly was suddenly of a very different tone and bearing. "By the Prophet! What's going on?!" the Yankee exclaimed with a hoarse voice, the cigarette dropping from his lips and onto the muddy jungle floor. The sounds of the parrots and animals grew silent as the alarm rang out. In the distance, more Yankee screams and shouts could be heard. The camp was under attack. Reilly looked up, squinting through the sunlight as little white sheets with men attached came tumbling out of the planes like daredevils. Anti-aircraft guns located along the coast to the southeast began to open fire on the unwelcome guests. One shell ripped right through one of the strange-looking planes, tearing it in half with a fiery burst. Debris, men, corpses, and equipment came screeching out of the new breech in the hull as the plane began its descent.

    All hell broke loose. The guards who were supposed to watch their work detail were now in a state of sheer panic. Someone threw a punch. A guard went down. Another guard fired a shotgun, blasting an Italian man's head off his shoulders. General mayhem ensued. The guard who killed the man was ripped apart and his gun was used on the fat man who had been accosting Reilly. A full riot was breaking out.

    "Get the fuck back, Satanspawn! Get the fuck back or I will send every damn one of you to the void!" shrieked a blonde-haired ORRA officer wearing an envelope hat. Not a second later, he opened up with a Pierce Automatic Rifle, maiming and killing several more inmates. Reilly knew he had to do something. Shocked by his own courage, he sprinted toward the man with the PAR and drove his machete into his skull. As the gunfire fell silent and the last guard was overpowered, Reilly picked up the PAR and threw Blondie's ammo belt over his shoulder. Hoisting the gun over his head, he cried out, "Freedom! We are free, brothers and sisters!"

    Raising their machetes and few captured guns over their heads, the ragtag group of bloodied rioters let loose a loud cheer that chilled Reilly to his core. This was it. The day of reckoning had arrived. Reilly had lived through several attempted riots, but nothing came close to this. They were being helped from outside now. There was a chance, however slim, of taking control of the camp.

    As the group celebrated their freedom and began to march toward the camp, the first of the paratroopers began to touch down. With skullcap helmets and Hispanic faces, they were a welcome sight from the Anglo-Saxon and Black guards. They wore odd uniforms with a pattern Reilly had never seen before. Tiny flag patches on their sleeves showed a yellow-red-blue banner and a red-and-white one. As long as they weren't sporting red-white-and-blue they could have been pink with purple polka dots for all the inmates cared. They cheered as each one rained down like angels from above. Some of them were caught in the trees and were busy cutting themselves down while others landed in the small clearings of the sugarcane fields and were already on the move, snub-nose grinders hammering away. More shells burst overhead, but the planes seemed to be heading back to wherever they came from.

    "¡Viva la liberación!" one paratrooper shouted over the din of the battle. What few camp guards that remained outside of the camp quickly began to buckle under the strain of the assault and fell back, many to be shot in the back by the attackers and the rioters. "Madre María, protégeme!" came another scream. Reilly had known enough Spanish-speaking inmates to know Spanish when he heard it.

    Camp Elberton, run by Chief Counselor Robert P. Anderson, was now bristling with guns and troops. The camp loudspeakers came to life with the sound of Anderson's voice. "

    "This is your commander, Chief Counselor Anderson! All inmates will hold their positions or face immediate termination! All ORRA personnel are expected to hold their ground at all costs. Not one step back to the Papist aggressors! All hail!"

    The Neutrality Pact commandos conveyed essential ideas to Reilly and the rest of the angry mob headed toward the camp, enough at least to form a cohesive strategy. While Reilly and the other rioters provided covering fire, the commandos blasted their way up to the gates of the prison before throwing little gray balls at the iron-and-wood doors. Yankee troops up on top of the walls picked off many of the commandos, but the damage was already done.

    "Granada fuera!"

    "They threw grena-"

    BOOM.

    The mighty doors to Camp Elberton came crashing down. Whooping and hollering, the rebels and the commandos entered the facility, guns blazing. He loaded another magazine into the PAR. Reilly Fergus was going to war.

    ***

    Location: R.U. High Command, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Republican Union
    Date: September 13, 1936


    The Supreme Marshal of the Grand Army of the Republic, Ambrose Jansen, took another drag of his fourth cigarette that hour as he read the report of the Neutrality Pact's assault on Cuba. To put it simply, the last few days had not exactly shown great promise for his Operation Manifest Climax.

    "...Inmates at the Camp Elberton Reeducation Facility, otherwise known as Camp 457, utilized support from N.P. aeroborne commandos to take control of the facility and execute the staff. Every single ORRA officer and member of personnel present was brutally murdered and given no quarter, aside from three survivors who were lucky enough to escape in time. The American flag was cut down from the pole over the Chief Counselor's office and was replaced with a bloody rag the inmates are apparently rallying around. Survivors believe it is the shirt of an Inferior Irishman who was killed in the final assault. Chief Counselor Anderson ran himself through with his short sword before they were able to storm his quarters. His body was cut in two and impaled on spikes before the camp entrance."


    "Hell of a mess," muttered Jansen, tossing the paper onto his desk and leaning forward to take another frantic puff of cigarette. "And you say this was from eyewitness testimony by these three survivors?"

    The junior officer standing at attention on the black-and-white marble floor before him and knodded, answering with a shaky voice, "Yessir." Dozens of men and high-ranking officers were dancing about a huge map of Cuba in the other side of the large room. They were trying to quickly figure out a solution and a way to effectively counter the Neutrality Pact's surprise attack. The public demanded swift retribution at all costs. An eye for any eye and a genocide for a tooth.

    "Have them executed," Jansen said coldly.

    "Sir?"

    "The three survivors. Execute them immediately. ORRA men under siege fight to the last man, even if escape is available. If we let these men live, then that sets a rather poor example for the rest of our boys in blue. I am sure Supreme Chief Patton would agree with my command. Have them shot immediately for cowardice."

    Tight-lipped and pale, the officer clicked his heels, saluted, and scurried off.

    Jansen sat and watched the men pushing toy soldiers and boats around the huge map. They were trying to manage a conventional war. But with the Inferiors rising up, this was clearly going to be anything but. Phone calls were just coming in about a Neutrality Pact assault on the Panama Canal, as well. Jansen sighed, snuffed out his cigarette, and rose from his chair. "I can't believe this shitshow," he said to himself as he walked toward the table to inform the generals about the latest happenings. "Steele is gonna have my throat slit if I don't get this under control."
     
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    NECESSARY STEPS: THE MAKING OF A CAESAR

  • NECESSARY STEPS:
    THE MAKING OF A CAESAR
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    His Imperial Majesty, Caesar Napoleon V


    "To protect democracy, we must first make the world safe for it."

    Like most Bonapartes, Napoleon Lucien Adolphe Bonaparte, Prince of Bombay, was born into a world of lavish wealth and grandeur. His father, Napoleon IV, had been Caesar for four years prior to his son's birth, ever since his Napoleon III's undignified dining room exit from the realm of the living. Interestingly, Napoleon V was born late, having been preceded in birth by his older sisters Jaqueline Louise, Cassandra Cecile, and Alexandra Laetitia. Indeed, one of Napoleon V's greatest concerns during his early years was an absence of a male heir. When young Napoleon V was born in 1894, he was able to breathe a sigh of relief. The newborn heir was one of the last children to grow up in the era of Imperial Splendor, the last of the babies of the Pax Napeolonica. He would barely be in his teens and still suffering from a long-time speech impediment when the world was plunged headfirst into the chaos of the Great World War, which would see the demise of his father from stress and cancer and the tarnishing of Imperial rule and the Napoleonic system. When his father passed in 1914 and he became Caesar, his nickname became "Napoleon the Figurehead." After his father's wasteful conflict and millions dead, few wanted to bow the knee to the Imperial family. Indeed, many feared open revolt and civil war.

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    Napoleon V, circa 1914, shortly before his coronation

    It would be that old patriarch of the army Fabian Perrault who would come to the rescue, defusing the situation by demanding a new constitution and the ousting of Prime Minister Othmar Derichs. Derichs would become known by historians as "the man who caused the war." Derichs had been a longtime confidant and hanger-on of Napoleon IV, and his persistent lying and flattery combined with his over-the-top bravado for conflict and conquest, was the final push Napoleon IV needed to run the Empire into the ground. Napoleon V hated Derichs anyway and was more than happy to demand his removal and exile. Meanwhile, the new constitution that was drawn up severely limited Caesar's power and removed it entirely in the matters of making war and peace. The Imperial Diet, now helmed by Perrault as Prime Minister, took full control of the government and began the slow road to recovery.

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    Napoleon V, circa 1925

    Napoleon V knew that, as the 1920s arrived, he needed to really step up to the plate and commit himself to the nation's well-being or risk the end of the monarchy. As civil war erupted in Russia and Germania, Caesar saw Illuminism as a dire threat to Western Civilization and culture. He desired peace and prosperity for his people, a golden age of a new Pax Napoleonica with him and Perrault fighting for a new way of life for the Europan people. This new revolutionary ideology could very well have spelled the end for the monarchies still standing if not for the calm and even-handed rule of Napoleon V and Prime Minister Perrault.

    Then came the assassination of the Hapsburgs and the Great Depression. Employment soared, inflation skyrocketed, and the government's approval numbers went into the toilet as workers took to the streets. To counter these radicals, a new political force dubbing itself "Perraultists" appeared at the end of the decade, campaigning under posters of the Prime Minister and using rabidly anti-Semitic slogans. Despite his own personal anti-Semitism, Perrault was none too happy about this new branch of the growing Supercatholic tree marching through the streets in his name.

    By 1932, Perrault was a very frail man indeed, almost certainly dying of an undisclosed intestinal disorder related to alcoholism, and his Christian Conservative Party was on the ropes against the far-right Supercatholic Party, the center-right National Front Party, and the dangerously left-wing Freedom Party (despite the constant meddling and investigations into the Freedom Party by Perrault's government). Inflation was still high, jobless rates were still abysmal, and street battles between violent political mobs were common sights in Paris. Two assassination attempts were conducted against Caesar. The first was at a Perrault campaign event on January 2, 1932, where a waiter tried to stab him to death while screaming "Every man a God!" The second attempt came on March 3 of the same year, just two months before the Imperial Diet elections, when a car-bomb detonated near his personal limousine, killing three Imperial Guards and sending shrapnel flying for over a block in radius. It was sheer luck that Caesar escaped unscathed. But the March 3 attempt would practically be buried in the news by a similar incident the day after.

    The fateful day of March 4, 1932, is one of the most important in the history of Europa. Perrault campaign headquarters in Paris was hosting a luncheon for several of the Empire's most influential wheeler-dealers. Jean Caron, the head of the Caron Armaments Company, the producer of Europa's landships, was in attendance, as was the head of the French India Company, Henri Moreau. As the chandeliers shined down from the ornately-decorated rococo ceiling and the red carpet matted under the feet of dozens of the wealthiest and most influential citizens and nobles, a time bomb was ticking away on a waiter's service cart. As the Illuminist terrorist arrived at the Prime Minister's table with champagne, he suddenly ripped the sheet of the cart, revealing the explosive. "Every man a God!" was the last thing Perrault ever heard as the bomb detonated, tearing him to ribbons and killing everyone for a ten foot radius. As the the nobles and wealthy attendees shrieked and cried and headed for the exits, more terrorists, some posing as doorman, drew pistols and began to empty into the crowd. As blood turned the red carpet crimson, Imperial Guards and police returned fire, killing most of the attackers. Out of the ten men involved with the attack, only two survived long enough to be arrested and brought to trial. Twenty-six people lost their lives in the attack, and Caron and Moreau were among them.

    The Conservative Christian Party was in shambles. Without their wizened old leader Perrault, the mantle of the party head and the emergency Prime Minister position now fell to his right-hand man, the 50 year-old Jean Ponte. With a country who barely recognized his name, he now had to run an election against all comers and secure the Empire's fate from falling into the hands of the Supercatholics, under Henri Mullins, or the Freedom Party under Adolphe Lopez-Molinero. The Supercatholics took the death of their one-time idol Perrault very badly, rampaging through the streets and holding up portraits of the dead Prime Minister outside Fontainebleau and the Diet. Blaming the attack on "Godless Loomie Jews," they marched through the Jewish district of Paris and began smashing windows and pulling Jewish citizens out onto the blacktop. Over 200 Jews would be lynched during the "Night of the Falling Tears," March 6, 1932.

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    Prime Minister Fabian Perrault's body lies in state at the Imperial Diet

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    Henri Mullins, Chief of the Supercatholic Party of Europa


    Napoleon V was disgusted by the conduct of the Supercatholics murdering innocent people in the streets and ordered the Imperial Guard to disperse the mobs currently congregating in the ghetto. The mobs were led by Auguste Gagne, a veteran of the Great World War and a loud voice calling for the extermination of the Jew from the "Western Homeland." Gagne marched his men to face the mustering Imperial Guard and proclaimed to his followers this would be their moment to seize the day and demand the abdication of the monarchy in favor of a "Serene Catholic Republic." Gagne appealed to the Guard to join him, facing the ranks of heavily-armed men down with nothing but a flag in his left hand and a pistol in his right.

    "Gentlemen! Fellow Europans! Today is the day we restore God's blessings upon this, our homeland! Join our march and together we shall end the monarchy and establish a bright future for our people. Men of the Imperial Guard, join us!"

    - Auguste Gagne

    The crackle of rifle fire could be heard across the city as the Imperial Guard opened up on the Supercatholic would-be revolutionaries. Gagne was shot three times in the chest. Stumbling backward, he collapsed in a sewer gutter, choking on his own blood. The mobs dispersed quickly, standing no chance against the Guard, the most elite element of the Europan Army. Landships rattled through the ghetto, followed by armored trucks with grinders mounted in the back. More mobs of Supercatholics, many in mid-lynching of Jews, were blown away by the Guard as order was reestablished. Napoleon V carefully monitored the situation with acting Prime Minister Jean Ponte from his bunker under Fontainebleau. When word reached him that Gagne had been killed, Caesar worried that this could be a double-edged sword. The crushing of the attempted revolution and the death of Gagne could calm things down or it could whip the remaining Supercatholics, of which there were many, into a frenzy of violence and potential civil war. Ponte took Caesar aside and asked him, quite famously:

    "Your Imperial Majesty, the country needs you. I need you. We are on the precipice of destruction. As we speak, men and women plot the end of your dynasty. An end of Europa. We are less than 60 days away from the Diet elections. We do not have a Prime Minister. The Great Old Statesman is dead. You are going to address the people in one hour. What will you say to the people?"

    Napoleon V took a deep breath and answered that question exactly one hour later:

    "Citizens of the Empire! My people, whom I love dearly! Earlier today, mobs draping themselves with the livery of the Supercatholic Party stormed the Jewish district of Paris and began slaughtering innocents. They ripped babies from their cribs, they bashed in the heads of old women, and they hanged old men from streetlights, all in response to the assassination of our beloved Prime Minister Fabian Perrault. They thought this anarchy and bloodshed would help ease the pain and torment of losing our most famous soldier. They thought, above all, that by trampling on the rights of innocent men, women, and children that they could honor Perrault's name. This is a disgusting lie and a total and complete slap in the face to his memory. While he had mixed feelings about the Jewish people, with which I do not agree, the Fabian Perrault I know, and know him well I did, would never ask his supporters to murder the innocents of Paris in his name. Fabian Perrault would never lead mobs into nurseries to snatch infants from cribs.

    With these actions, the Supercatholics have proven themselves little better than the Illuminist terrorists who so brutally murdered our Prime Minister. Seeing such disgusting actions take place in my city, my beloved Paris, sickens me and turns my stomach beyond all measure. I asked General Rodriguez this morning to lead a detachment of the Imperial Guard to the Jewish District and halt these atrocities. Auguste Gagne, a well-known Supercatholic advocate and supporter of that party's candidate, Henri Mullins, was asked to stand down and surrender himself to the authorities. Instead, he tried to convince my Imperial Guard, the most loyal patriots I have ever met, to overthrow the Imperial government and help create a fascist Supercatholic state. Not thirty seconds later, my Guards gave Gagne and his barbarians their answer. Gagne breathes no more.

    "We are now in a full state of emergency. Due to the present situation and the dire circumstances we now face, the elections scheduled for this June have been postponed. Let me be very clear. I do not wish to reign with absolute power nor shall I. But bold action is required to prevent the slipping of this Empire into totalitarian insanity. I love democracy. To protect democracy, we must first make the world safe for it. Not only are we in a period of economic stagnation, we are one step away from civil war.

    "That is why today I call upon the citizens of the Empire, many people united as one into our beautiful homeland, to rise to the occasion and come together to face the dangers before us together. Over France, Spain, Italy, Africa, the Levant, and India, let our voices, as one, say this to radicalism: not today. Not ever! My great-great grandfather once said, 'A leader is a dealer in hope.' I speak to you today not to discourage you or make you fear the future, but to ask you to unite as one to forge our own future, as we have done so many times before since Martel crushed the Moors. For as Napoleon the Great also said, 'The truest wisdom is resolute determination.' Let us determine not to fall to the radical fascism or Illuminism of our opponents, both within and without, but let us resolve to conquer in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity. When the day comes that my people are safe from these threats inside their own country, Acting Prime Minister Ponte and myself will surrender our emergency powers back to the Imperial Diet. May God help us and bless us in this, our hour of need. Hail Mary, full of Grace. Thank you."

    "The Caesar's Speech" was something which no other Bonaparte would have ever dreamed of delivering. Never before had a Bonaparte so eloquently called for freedom, liberty, and equality. While he was essentially resuming the absolute power wielded by his father and grandfathers, he vowed to surrender it the moment it was safe to do so. Joseph Goebbels, a German fiction author living in Paris and one of the chief editors for the Imperial Times, who also happened to be one of the most well-known pro-democracy voices in the Empire, said of Caesar's Speech in the morning edition of the Times:

    "The speech touched me to my very core. While I lament the return of Imperial power, a strong hand is needed to restore stability before true democratic elections can be held. While I greatly admire our usually soft-spoken Caesar and am fully convinced that he his a good man, through and through, I only hope that the taste of power does not corrupt him. But that remains to be seen. What I do know for sure is that the Supercatholic mobs cannot be allowed to carry out their mayhems any longer in Europa, anymore than can the Illuminist terrorist be allowed to carry out their heinous and atrocious acts. May God bless the Homeland."

    Over the next several weeks, the outpouring of support for Caesar and Ponte was tremendous. Membership in the Supercatholic Party dropped over 50 percent overnight. Two days later an official ban on the party would see its leader, Henri Mullins, arrested in Madrid. When the secret police bureau DISI (Direction Impériale de la Sécurité Intérieure "Imperial Directorate for Internal Security") discovered that Pope Peter II was attempting to help Mullins escape the country, the merde hit the fan. Caesar told Ponte that, "I will be damned if I let that gangster of a pope try to help wanted fugitives escape justice!" Among those fuming over Caesar's treatment of the Supercatholics was none other than Austrian war hero and founder of the Pope-blessed Superkatholisch Partei of Austria, who had just ascended to the position of Prime Minister of the Kingdom. Many historians have said that if the Austrian elections were held in June, like Europa, and not March, that the Austrian people would never have voted for the toothbrush-mustached Baron of Braunau.

    This was merely the beginning of a long series of disagreements and increased tensions in Western and Central Europe. Diplomatic ties began to break down. Many Supercatholics fled Europa for the Bund and Austria. Ruthenia, behind on reparation payments due from the Great World War, would be the proving ground for the Austrian Royal Army under von Braunau. In 1934, he would use his growing popularity to proclaim himself Holy Roman Emperor, Defender of the Faith, with the blessing of Pope Peter II in a direct slap in Caesar's face, taking away the Defender title held by every Napoleon since the first. All this and more would lead to the Second Catholic Schism in 1934, as a new Avignon Papacy was proclaimed and Europe sat on the precipice of another total war.

    Napoleon V, once a small child with a speech impediment and of a rather bookish persuasion, now saw himself as the sole guardian of justice and democracy. He would make the world safe for democracy. And a safe world did not include Pope Peter II....
     
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    IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD HALLOWEEN SPECIAL: THE VOID POURS FORTH
  • Sorry for the wait guys! I hope you guys enjoy this spoopy holiday special a day late. lol

    IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD HALLOWEEN SPECIAL:
    THE VOID POURS FORTH

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    Philadelphia, the capital of the once mighty Republican Union, was in tattered ruins, it's shell-pocked avenues and streets cluttered and covered with the debris of countless collapsing buildings. The gunfire could only barely suppress the the horrific cacophony of countless screams of the dying and the yet to die. From the Capital Dome, where angry flickering flames licked up to the Heaven which had yet to answer the fervent and needy prayers of countless Fundamentalist patriots, to the Great World War Memorial on Fleet Street, where the dying and wounded huddled before its mirror-finish surface emblazoned with the names of those gone so long. As the battle raged on, thousands of survivors all over the city clutched at their children and their Bibles, desperate for hope. Desperate for it all to stop. Hell had unleashed. It was Armageddon, and the Final Battle was raging.

    To the east, out of the shroud of fog that hung like funeral drapes over the mighty Delaware River, strode the Leviathan. It's head was a mass of writhing pollops and tentacles unlike anything ever imagined in the wildest fever-dreams of a mortal man. On its back were two enormous bat-like wings, festooned with algae and muck from the sea. It's green skin consisted of innumerable scales covering its entire body until the hands and feet descended into mighty claws. As it stepped onto the sacred soil of the New Jerusalem, it reared back its hideous approximation of a head, opened its monstrous, tendril-covered mouth, and let loose a scream which shook the stars. Windows burst from the booming of its thunderous voice. Soldier and civilian alike clenched their teeth to the point of shattering as the sonic blast hit them. Many stumbled through the streets, clutching bleeding ears. Others held aloft crosses, begging for Jehovah to finally intervene and end this madness. The Leviathan took another step forward, crushing buildings like twigs underneath those claws.

    From the south came the Valkyries, hideous screeching winged creatures with the bodies of apes and adorned with bat-like wings, like the Leviathan, but featuring monstrous beaks where the mouths should have been. Their eyes were bright, other-worldly blue and their skin was a sickly, washed-out hue of gray. They swooped down over the city, snatching up civilians and soldiers alike with their wicked hands, tearing them to pieces before dropping the corpse parts over the city. Where there was only one Leviathan, there were thousands of Valkyries. They howled and bayed gleefully as they tore a swathe of destruction to the very heart of the city. Ad-hoc defenses formed out of rubble and autos and manned by ORRA and RUMP troopers were useless. Anti-aircraft batteries opened up on the infernal nightmares, barely phasing them. They came lunging down to earth, grabbing the defenders of the walls and hurling them like baseballs into the air. Even the landships were almost useless, the treaded war-machines bogged down in the rubble and could no longer easily maneuvre through the streets. Most of them were abandoned by their crews as the formerly eternally-loyal ORRA boys could no longer withstand the ferocious and other-worldly assault on their senses.

    How had it all happened? It could be all traced to the disgusting rituals and macabre longings of the Council of Jehovah to open up a gateway to the "Other Side." That mysterious Order had done the unthinkable, summoning up the great beasts with the power of Enochian magick and now they were paying the price. The balance had been upended. The lines which separated the spiritual from the physical were gone. Like a dam bursting, the forces of monstrous evil now flooded the world with unceasing terror and destruction. Society was collapsing in an instant. A once proud and mighty empire was being torn to ribbons in mere seconds. All the greatest efforts of a boastful and conceited nation were turning to dust.

    Joe Steele watched the madness unfolding from the porch of the Presidential Mansion. He had earlier refused to cower in a bunker, as it would merely serve to trap him underground to die a long, terrible death. If death was to come, it should take him now, as a man standing in the open, accepting the inevitable fate that lay before him. He was not alone. Next to him was the Supreme Chief of ORRA, George Patton, proudly standing on his braces, ready to die upright. They were joined by a few more hardliners, such as Ryan Harvey Hendrick. But they weren't dying without some modicum of revenge. Earlier, Steele had given the orders to ORRA Task Force 6, a secret unit he himself established just for one special purpose: to eradicate the Council of Jehovah and the Reverend-Colonel on his order if they ever showed signs of disloyalty or recklessness. Hopefully they had murdered those cultist bastards as soon as this all began.

    Rather than be at their priory in the Poconos, at the Tobias Institute, the Council was in town for the ceremonies which had broken the Veil and opened up the shamanic gateways to the Void. Rather than the Angels of the Lord, these "Voidlings" had sprung forth. They had performed the Enochian Rites of the Prophet in the basement sepulcher of the First Fundamentalist Church in downtown Philadelphia, not far from Independence Hall. They had use the mummified heart of the Prophet himself in the sacrament, burning it within a bowl forged into the likeness of a crown of thorns that sat upon an altar draped in purple silk and black muslin. Voices, ethereal and wretched, had risen from the dank, musty tombs of the embalmed Patriot-Saints, from Washington to Arnold. As the Councilmen chanted the Rites, sealed doors opened and shamblers from the dark stepped forth, darting back and forth in the shadows not pierced by the mere flickering candlelight of the altar. The Fathers of the Union had returned to Life. The Council chanted and danced in a circle about Reverend-Colonel Sunday. Barechested and covered in tattooed Enochian script, he bowed before the burning heart of the Prophet, muttering obscene blasphemies to God and Man as the dark forces of the Void consumed his being. His eyes glowed the same daemoniac blue of the Valkyries, and his bones seemed to creak in a most unnatural fashion as he hunched over ever further to the stone floor.

    The shamblers from the shadows stepped forth into the light as the chanting grew louder. The withered, skeletal body of Father Washington maneuvered through the dancing circle, his musty blue uniform still adorned and festooned with medals and laurels of centuries past. He was soon joined by Daniel Shays, Father Abraham, and the Martyr Arnold. Each moldy, moth-eaten corpse staggered into position around the Reverend-Colonel. Insidious words and guttural noise emanated from mouths of the undead. Sunday took a black book, of a wretched and surely ancient origin, and began to read from it, still huddled before the altar.

    "Dominus enim magni haud-ut-esse-nominavit, invocamus nomen tuum, ut mundent terram potestas!"

    What followed was a screeching that sent even the most wicked and hardline Councilmen to the floor in shock and horror. The sound peeled through the sepulcher like a blast from the unholiest pit of Hell itself and the Fathers of the Union descended upon the Reverend-Colonel like starving hyenas, ripping his flesh and forking it into their skeletal mouths, blood and his Pinnacle Fluids running down their funeral garb.

    At that moment, as the Reverend-Colonel clutched his ancient tome and accepted his fate, the doors of the sepulcher flew open with a bang, and the bodies of Church Zealots hit the floor, riddled with bullets. Task Force 6 stormed in, rifles blasting. As the brass casings clattered on the floor, the Councilmen began to fountain red streams, streaking and soaking the stone floor. Once they saw the living dead, however, the guns fell silent. Over the bodies of the Councilmen stood the Fathers of the Union, covered in the blood of the Reverend-Colonel.

    "Fall back! Fall back!" shrieked an officer with a shrill and piercing voice. Several men, hardened veterans and executioners all, collapsed from the shock of such an unholy sight. The rest turned tail and ran as fast as they could. Seconds later, the tomb filled with an unearthly sound, as if millions of clambering demons and apes were congregating and shrieking into the darkness. A sonic blast hit the capital, its epicenter at the First Fundamentalist Church. The Fathers of the Union stepped into the sunlight, arms outstretched. Washington and Lincoln together hurled a ball of color unlike any on earth into the sky, an explosive orb of ectoplasm, and it ruptured into the noontime sky.

    That was when it began. When that monstrous claw of the Leviathan snapped a destroyer in the harbor like a twig. When the Valkyries descended. When the dead walked the earth. The Martyr Arnold carried with him that black book out of the tomb. The Book of Eibon was the most vile and charnel of all the tomes Mr. Tobias had procured in his lifetime. Daniel Shays followed suit, carrying the flaming crown of thorns bearing the heart of the Prophet. This was the day of reckoning. The day the world would end. The day all the mightiest efforts of the Pinnacle Race would be destroyed and obliterated like a sandcastle at high tide. The day the tenebrous barriers ruptured and let the Void pour forth its horrors upon the mightiest works of man.

    Joe Steele watched as the swarms of Valkyries approached, heading right for him and his loyalists. They raised their sidearms and rifles and let loose volley after volley. In seconds, they were upon them. Patton's head was ripped from his shoulders and his body rolled down the steps of the Mansion. Hendrick drew his officer's saber and thrust it directly through the skull of one of the squamous abominations, bringing it down with a thud on top of him. Others descended down, ripping him apart as he laid trapped under the beast. At long last, Joe Steele felt his pistol's magazine empty, and he drew his ceremonial dagger and charged forward. He felt a claw rip through his throat. The dagger, emblazoned with inscriptions of his greatest victories, fell to the ground with indignity, another soon to be forgotten relic of the human race.

    Joe Steele woke with a scream before jumping out of bed, drenched in sweat, heart pounding out of his chest. He was in his striped nightgown, inside the safety of the Presidential Mansion. His wife Millicent looked horrified and terrified as she woke and asked what was wrong with the utmost urgency in her voice. Three guards, members of Steele's Wolf Pack, stormed into the bedroom, weapons drawn.

    "Your excellency!" bellowed a guard, waving his sidearm rabidly around the room, looking for threats. "Are you and the missus safe?!"

    Steele collected himself. He was the man of steel. No mere nightmare would reduce him to this level. "Yes... yes, I am fine. Just a... bad dream. Horrible dream. It's nothing, soldier. You may return to your duties."

    The soldiers looked skeptical, having never seen the President bothered by anything. Slowly, they saluted, backed out of the room, and closed the mighty double oak doors to the suite.

    Joe Steele didn't get anymore sleep that night. It was already almost 5 am. Today was Thanksgiving, October 31st, and he'd be expected at the Union Banquet Hall in Plymouth soon. Later he'd give a radio address to the nation, the first Thanksgiving of Operation Manifest Climax. But as he sat in the Banquet Hall, nibbling on a turkey leg, he kept shifting his eyes to that lecherous weasel Sunday, who sat directly to his left, Patton being on his right. What secrets might the Church withhold from the government? Was this nightmare a warning from the paranormal? His Pinnacle Fluids speaking to him of degenerate activity among the clergy? He would find out, by damn. He would bring it up to Patton later. The Church was about to be purged....
     
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    THE THING ON THE DOORSTEP

  • THE THING ON THE DOORSTEP
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    Supreme Marshal Ambrose Jansen, circa Operation Manifest Climax

    Ambrose Jansen sighed as he pulled up to his mansion in the suburbs of Philadelphia. It was half-past midnight, November 1, 1936. He had just sat at the right hand of Joe Steele at the Union Banquet Hall, observing National Thanksgiving in the face of incredible debacles unfolding across the Caribbean and Panama. Tomorrow he would be back at the slog in the situation room of the Capitol Building. He would smoke multiple packs of cigarettes and he would imbibe frequently. He would curse and blaspheme. He would pound his fist into the tables like a jackhammer. Orderlies and advisors would frown at his manners. What had once been a noble Southron gentleman, hero of the Great World War, was reduced to a lump of quivering, shaking flesh by the unbelievable military disasters caused by the Neutrality League. He buttoned up his wool overcoat to be ready to brace against the wind as his Rollarite pulled up to the gate of his estate.

    The black iron gate doors, some twelve feet tall, swung open as rain drizzled overhead. The tips of the bars came to razor-like points, intended to ward off trespassers, spies, and assassins. The entire estate was encircled by a massive brick wall topped with iron spikes, which didn't help to make the Lincoln-era five story mansion any less foreboding perched on the hill some 100 yards beyond the entrance to the property, where the Rollarite idled as his driver waited for the doors to stop moving. The antique gaslights that hung on the hands of angelic gargoyles to either side of the monstrous gate were also a tad bit eerie in the midnight rain, and the soldier operating the door controls looked rather miserable and wet. It was quite chilly out, and guard duty in November rain wasn't the Cuban Front, but it wasn't the most fun to be had. Another guard in an olive drab raincoat stood guard stood on the opposite side of the gate, clutching a rifle as his eyes, shining in the moonlight and gaslights, peaked out from under his pot helmet. The gates finally swung open. The guard with the rifle motioned for the Rollarite to proceed.

    The Supreme Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic watched the statues and gardens pass by out his window as the autocarriage sped to the mansion. He glanced over at his wife of thirty years. Susie was bundled up in a stole made from the finest furs from Keybeck. The flame of true romance had died long ago, but he still cared for her. They had been through a lot together, not the least of which was a world war. But the disasters unfolding in the current war had been putting an even bigger strain on their relationship.

    "Susie," Jansen said in quiet tone, "Are you okay?"

    His wife looked back at him, smiling slightly. "Yes, the dinner was excellent. President Steele delivered a charming speech. Your toast was well-delivered as well, dear."

    Jansen smiled back. He been the second to offer a toast to President Steele and the War Effort, directly following that mystical cripple Patton. Patton had been smug. The ongoing boondoggles made any chance of Steele picking Jansen as a successor in the eventuality of Patton's demise or dismissal nonexistent, unless the war suddenly completely turned around and victory was quickly achieved. Since Steele had so abruptly ordered a takeover of South America in 1931, Jansen had been the one to water and grow the flower of conquest. It had been Jansen who had assured Steele that all was well before the surprise attack. It had been his trusted adjutant, General Stanley Dale, who had turned traitor, defiling his Pinnacle Blood, sold out the war plans to the League and enabled their preemptive strike on Cuba. Dale had disappeared while on a "fishing trip" near Panama a few days before the attack on Port Pierce, no doubt having been whisked away by his Colombian handlers. Jansen's smile faded quickly as the depressing gravity of the situation sank in once more. "Are you tired, dear?" he asked Susie.

    She nodded, her thick gray hair bobbing slightly as she did. "Quite. I am getting a bit old for these large events and flights zipping me to and from all in one day. It really takes it out of you. We're not getting any younger, Ambrose."

    The car pulled up and stopped in front of the house. A butler gingerly opened the front door while another stood ready to take their coats. They got out of the Rollarite and proceeded up the gray stone portico to the doorway, thanking their servants. A rush of warm air filled their lungs. The furnaces were on. It did their old bones good.

    "You know, dear, I have been meaning to talk to you about that matter," said Jansen.

    Susie looked over at him as she removed the strapped high heels from her stocking feet and sighed. She raised an eyebrow. "About us not getting any younger?"

    He nodded and his face took on a look of surrender. "Yes... I have been strongly considering handing the President my retirement notice. I think... I think it's time. I'm not what I once was, and I feel that I am bringing more shame than honor upon my name by further continuing to lead our misadventure in South America."

    She looked very concerned. He was occasionally grim but never this depressed or defeated. He was a strong Southron Pinnacle Man, always headstrong and confident, but she could see how badly the last few weeks had leveled him. "You don't believe in our inevitable conquest, darling? Jehovah has always brought us victory, even during the darkest days of the last war."

    He looked down at the black and white tiled floor and shook his head glumly. "I don't believe I will be the one to lead us to that victory. While I'm sure Jehovah provides for us, sometimes it is through the narrow path, not the wide, that the Righteous Man must trod. It isn't an easy decision, but I think I've made up my mind. I'll go see the President tomorrow and hand him my resignation. We can retire away from the public eye and one day, when this damned war is over and won, I can write my memoirs and heap praise upon my younger self and beg for forgiveness for my strategic mind in my old age."

    They hadn't been intimate in years, or even very affectionate beyond "dear" and "darling," but Susie stepped over to him and wrapped her arm around the back of his head, running her fingers through his stern-looking military haircut. "Ambrose, it will be all right. You have served your country with more honor and with more courage than any man alive, save maybe the President himself. Just because one of your generals betrayed his country and sold off your war plans doesn't mean you failed. You are trying to make the best of a bad situation that would be an Atlas-like burden for any man of pure fluidation. But if you think it is right, then I will support you. You've lived life your way, and I know you always will, darling."

    He smiled softly and kissed her forehead. "All these years, and occasionally I still see that girl I met in Elyton so long ago."

    She giggled quietly and kissed his cheek. "I can still remember you thinking you were the cock of the walk, straddling that obnoxious big-wheeled bicycle."

    "Hey, those were all the rage, I can assure you, Miss Walters." Ambrose laughed his first genuine laugh in weeks. She hugged him tightly and rested her head against the five pounds of brass that was pinned to his jacket.

    A knock came at the front door a moment later. Ambrose had heard the sound of an engine out front but had figured it for a servant leaving for the day. Perhaps it was a visitor. Most likely an urgent update about the war. He sighed. The pounding grew louder and he forced himself to push his wife away, like he always found himself doing. She looked disheartened but not surprised. "I'm sorry, dear. It's probably something important. Damned war."

    The knocking grew louder and a butler briskly walked to the door. He swung it open just as lightning lit up the midnight sky. On the threshold, he expected to see a messenger boy with a telegram in hand or an officer holding a file with pressing information within. Instead he saw the odd silhouette of a wheelchair in the lightning's flash, flanked on either side by imposing young men.

    "Oh... George. Pleasure, but what on earth are you doing out this time of night in my neck of the woods, man? Do come in and warm up!" he said with as much enthusiasm as he could muster. In reality, he would have rather Satan himself stomped through his manor than the odd, bizarre cripple before him.

    Patton smiled, his teeth clenched around a cigar. "Thank you, Ambrose! It's a right bit damn nippy out there, yessiree!" the ORRA Supreme Chief's voice boomed as the two men pushed his wheelchair over the threshold with great speed. Ambrose knew they would have done the same regardless of his invitation or not. If the Supreme Chief of ORRA showed up at your porch in the middle of the night, it was probably not a great sign of fun things to follow. Patton was probably there to discuss war strategy. He was a notable insomniac and high energy individual as well as a practiced back-seat driver for tactics that the Supreme Marshal was supposed to be in charge of.

    "What can I do for you, George?" Jansen asked with a weak false smile plastered on his face. What made him uncomfortable was that Patton's smile seemed extremely sincere. When George Patton was happy someone else was probably not going to be happy ever again.

    Patton puffed away on his cigar as his ORRA adjutants brushed the raindrops off his chair and trenchcoat. Jansen's butler awkwardly assisted as well. "Mind if we step into your den, Ambrose? I'd like to warm up a bit in front of your fireplace and tell you some news." Susie coughed awkwardly, bringing herself to his attention. Patton's head turned like an owl to her direction, where she stood by the spiral stairway banister. "Miss Jansen! Do give us the honor of your company as well! The news will be of interest to you, too."

    The group proceeded through the hallway toward the main den area and the roaring fireplace therein. All along the blue-and-white papered walls hung various portraits of historical figures and family members of the distant past, including Ambrose's father Wilkerson Jansen II, Virginian commander during the Great War. Further down was a mighty boar head, hunted down in Texas in 1909. The swine had taken a gouge out of Jansen's left leg, giving him his permanent limp. After that were dozens of photographs taken during the Great World War of Jansen leading the Dixie Legions of Army Group V, prior to his installation as Supreme Marshal.

    "Quite a life you've lived, old boy," Patton said as he took passing glances at the hallway museum's artifacts as he rolled along the dark red rug that ran the length of the oak floor, drops of rain still pattering the floor.

    Jansen sighed and replied, "Yes, indeed. Haven't we all. Every day has been quite the adventure. A Pinnacle Man's life is never dull."

    "Blessing and a curse!" Patton said in his gravelly voice. "Yessiree, you're a regular character out of the pulps. You done good, Ambrose. Lovely wife, lovely life, and a lovely home. That's the life to live. Wouldn't mind living here myself, by gum."

    "Thank you, George," said Ambrose as they strolled into the den. A butler stoked the flames and then placed the iron poker back in its place. A buffalo head hung high on the brickwork over the mantle. On the mantle was an array of objects from across Jansen's life. At the dead center, next to a framed letter from President Custer, was his original kepi he had first worn upon enlisting in the military so many years before. Next to that was his father's wide-brimmed gray hat with a majestic red plume of the Virginian cavalry. Patton pulled up to the fireplace and began to warm his hands. The two officers stood at either side of the fireplace, arms behind their backs, faces dull and expressionless. "So what's the matter you came to discuss, good man?"

    Patton laughed. "Oh, nothing much. Just wanted to share with you some intelligence I have about the situation in Cuba."

    Jansen nodded, unsurprised. He plopped down in the overstuffed leather chair across from Patton and said, "Do tell, old boy."

    Patton's smile immediately vanished, leaving only the squint-eyed, pale scowl Ambrose was all too used to. "Or I should say... my lack thereof."

    Ambrose poured a glass of scotch into a tiny glass on the endtable next to him and took a sip before simply replying, "Pardon, George?" Susie looked uncomfortable and sat on the next nearest chair to Ambrose's right.

    Patton turned slightly in his chair, his jackboots sliding off the footrests. His scowl turned into a look of rage as he explained the source of his aggravation. "I lost valuable intelligence. Thanks to you. You killed my boys, Ambrose."

    Shocked and distraught, the Supreme Marshal almost dropped his glass of scotch. "Pardon me, George? What the devil are you talking about?"

    Patton pointed a meaty finger at Jansen and continued. "My boys brought us intel. They survived the attack on Cuba, where their unit fought under circumstances that made victory impossible. And you had them executed like dogs, Ambrose, like a bunch of cotton-pickin' dogs, man."

    Ambrose suddenly recalled ordering their executions. He had expected every ORRA unit to fight to the death. That was the example they were supposed to set as "America's Finest." "I understand what you are talking about now, George, but I assure you I did not do anything you would not do yourself! You've always expressed belief that every ORRA man should fight to the death and go down with his unit rather than surrender or run."

    Patton raised an outstretched hand not in salute but to hush the Supreme Marshal of the Grand Army of the Republic up like a misbehaving child. "Plot twist, Ambrose, but those were designated survivors, you Southron piece of trash."

    "I'm sorry, what do you mean?" Ambrose's and Susie's faces turned white as sheets. This was not going as expected.

    Patton explained. "Every ORRA unit draws lots every week. The 'lucky' winners are to escape enemy capture or death at all cost to deliver valuable intelligence. Those men you had shot were 'lucky winners,' man. They were supposed to run, you fool."

    Ambrose stood up from his chair, fists clenched. "None of this information was brought to me. I had no idea of your units practicing this tactic, and I will not be held responsible for executing cowards."

    "Those were my boys, you Virginian, slaving bastard!" Patton bellowed, his eyes bulging out of their sockets and the veins popping along his forehead. Susie sank even further into her chair, quivering in fear.

    "Don't you insult the memory of my family, George! Not in my house! We fought with honor for Old Virginia and we gladly fought for the Union! My father did more in his life than you do in a thousand years in that chair, you ignorant cripple. And if it would please you, you may be the first to know that I was already planning to submit my resignation to the President tomorrow! Then you shall never have to step foot in this slaving Virginian bastard's house ever again. Correction: I should have said wheel, since your feet don't really step, do they, 'Pinnacle Man?'"

    An officer behind them moved with clockwork precision and without any warning, striking Jansen in the spine with the still-hot fireplace poker. Jansen let out a howling scream as he hit the floor, barely keeping himself up on the palms of his hands. "What the hell are you doing?!"

    Patton laughed as Susie screamed in horror. "Teaching you a lesson, Jansen. President Steele send his regards. We came here to purge you, Ambrose. From the moment I rolled through that door on this damn chair, I came here to kill you. Not only did you kill my boys but you fucked up the whole shebang of this whole damn war, Ambrose. You let the President down for the last damn time, Southron."

    "I'll have you shot for this, you piece of shit!" Jansen suddenly rose to his feet and lunged at Patton, his hands closing about the ORRA Supreme Chief's throat. Gurgling and wretching, hands flailing wildly, Patton's already wild-eyed frenzy reached a new zenith. But within two seconds, the ORRA man struck Jansen in the spine once more with the poker. The aging Supreme Marshal hit the floor once again, falling onto his side. He could feel blood soaking the back of his uniform. He watched as the second ORRA man raised a service pistol and blasted Susie in the head, point blank. Blood and brain matter sprayed the floor. Tears filled Ambrose's eyes as his wife of over 30 years sat dripping in her own blood in his father's old smoking chair. In the background of it all, he could hear that front door being kicked in. Rather than his personal guards coming to save him, it was a squad of ORRA troopers, moving room to room to exterminate the staff. Ambrose whimpered as the ORRA officer with the poker kicked him onto his back.

    The officer was a large young black man, he now noticed for the first time. "My grandfather sends his regards, comrade-patriot!" the negro shrieked, bringing the poker down upon the Supreme Marshal. Jansen's last thoughts were of his son Ambrose II, and his beautiful grandchildren. Another tear ran down his face as he knew what would happen to them. The negro proceeded to cave Jansen's head in with the tool until the iron almost broke. Shaking with rage, he finally brought the poker down into Jansen's chest. Blood gushed all over the five pounds of brass and ribbons.

    Patton smiled and recovered himself from Jansen's attack as he looked at the Supreme Marshal's corpse lying before the flickering flames. "Such a nice house, Jansen. I think I will be quite happy here, once I get the stains scrubbed out."


    Supreme Chief George Patton enjoys some time off in the privacy of his spacious new Lincoln era estate in the suburbs of Philadelphia (photo taken Patriot-Saints Day Eve, 1936).
     
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    A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN: THE REPUBLIC OF NORWAY
  • This chapter is largely inspired by or directly adapting the work of Zoid in his excellent Norwegian additions in the Star-Spangled Expanded Universe. I hope to quickly bring readers up to speed on the different members of the League of Nations and why they joined, and Zoid's terrific history of Norway makes an excellent opportunity to cover such a minor power in detail while remaining interesting to where we are right now ITTL, the outbreak of Operation Manifest Climax. There will be "A League of Their Own" chapter for each member of the LoN. Also, we are still getting a rounders chapter afterward, because a rounders superstar is going to end up becoming a war criminal when he leaves the sport to enlist in the military. Expect him to be a key character. Hold onto your hats!


    A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN:
    THE REPUBLIC OF NORWAY
    Norge-1600x1200.jpg

    The Norwegian warship Strand steams into Port Pierce, Cuba, to provide relief for the crippled American base

    The situation in the Western Hemisphere in 1936 following the attack by the Neutrality Pact upon the Union could best be described by a time-worn adage: "When an unstoppable force meets an unmovable object." The Pact had great reasons to land the first blow. If allowed further time to build up to strength needed for Operation Manifest Climax, the Yankee Navy would have decimated the coastlines of Gran Colombia, Peru, and Chile, cutting off supplies from Europa and other forces backing the Pact as a meatshield against American conquest. The Pact would have been foolish to have not acted first following General Dale's treasonous paperwork theft. But the Pact also shot itself in the foot by acting first. While this is largely a "damned either way" situation for the Latin American dictatorships, the fact they fired the first bullet hurt their perception abroad. Indeed, the very name "Neutrality Pact" seemed farcical following the surprise attack on the heart of the American Navy at Point Pierce.

    In response to the attack on America, much of the fascist world was in an uproar. Despite the stern and honest radio broadcasts coming from Pact stations that they had valuable intelligence showing for a fact that America was building up for an assault on the entirety of South America after Joe Steele had a whimsy to do so, the kidnapping of General Dale by ORRA agents in late October, 1936, took away their only real evidence. The Union government declared the documents Dale had sold Caracas to be a forgery, and that Dale had died in a tragic yachting accident in early September, directly before the Point Pierce attack. This left the Pact fuming, as it desired above all else to stand upon moral high ground against the Yanks, wanting assistance from Europa and the fair and honest Napoleon V. But now Europa was both impressed by their sheer guts to attack the Union head on while also being certain Steele would crush them like a vice in retaliation. While the "Free World" was going to support virtually any direct foe of the Union, and Europan planes and equipment continued to pour into the Pact, the fascist world was none too pleased with the situation currently unfolding.

    Indeed, the attack upon Point Pierce did something beyond just landing a crushing blow to the Yankee fleet: it guaranteed intervention on the part of the League of Nations. The League had been created at the 1934 London Conference. The League found members in Norway, the Britannic Union, the Republican Union, the Confederation of the Carolinas, West Germania, the Mittelafrikan Reich, Holy Nippon, and the Commonwealth of Australia. As Sweden was a monarchy, it was granted an "Honorary League Membership," allowing them to reap trade benefits without any promises of defense upon a foreign attack. The Kingdom of Holland was also offered the chance to become an Honorary League Member, which the Queen turned down. This would interestingly be followed by the abduction of nuclear theorist Professor Otto Meitner from Holland in 1935. Some historians believe this was Steele retaliating for Holland's "disrespect" and refusal to join the League.

    To understand the cultural climate of these fascist powers, and why they reacted to Operation Manifest Climax as they did, we must examine them in turn.

    -THE REPUBLIC OF NORWAY-


    Flag of the Republic of Norway

    Following its declaration of independence from Denmark on May 17, 1844, Norway became a republic with a semi-presidential system with a unicameral parliament and legislature known as the Storting, with a capital in the mighty city of Oslo. Two men are considered by historians to be the fathers of Norway: Espen Kjell Halvorsen, the bombastic and charismatic mayor of the city of Kongsburg, and General Thorlief Strand, the self-proclaimed "Provisional President of the Republic." In many ways, the War for Norwegian Independence (1844-1852) was a crude but visible seed for the Fascist Co-Prosperity Sphere and the League of Nations that would take its place. It featured an outpouring of "volunteer brigades" from countries such as the Republican Union, England, Sweden, and Prussia. Reverend Milo Miles led American Fundamentalist Volunteer Brigades into battle in the name of Protestant kinship, much as he had done during the overthrow of the House of Hanover in Britain. General Thomas Foxbridge led the "Cromwellite Volunteer Republican Army" to represent the English in the same way. Unlike many members of the League, however, Norway had not started out as a hardline dictatorship basing itself off Yankee fascism, but rather as an actual republic, more akin to the original United States Old Republic. The Storting was largely divided between the Liberal Party (Liberale partiet). Throughout the 1850s and 1860s, the Liberal Party continued to be the dominant party within the realm of Norwegian politics, and the party managed to uphold the liberal, republican and secular values of the republic. Under President Frederik Due, a number of land reform bills were passed in the Norwegian Storting and then implemented throughout the rural regions of Norway. All of this changed with the election of 1864, which saw the defeat of President Due and the election of Georg Sibbern, the leader of the Norwegian Conservative Party (Konservative partiet). The Sibbern presidency was to last for eight years and saw the passing of new tariffs in an effort to improve the Norwegian economy and the increasing of the budgets for the Norwegian armed forces. It was also during his presidency that military advisers and officers were invited from numerous foreign nations, such as Prussia, Sweden, Russia, France-Spain and Austria, to help improve the fighting capability and tactics of Norwegian military. In the election of 1872, the Liberal Party returned to power under the rule of President Ole Jørgensen Richter, who defeated President Sibbern rather easily as most Norwegians had begun to tire of eight years of conservative leadership. One of the first acts of Richter's presidency was to remove most of the Sibbern-era tariffs. However, Richter continued to keep the same amount of funding for the Norwegian Army and Navy that President Sibbern had first set up.


    Thorlief Strand (February 5, 1806-October 24, 1880)
    First President of Norway


    Espen Kjell Halvorsen (August 4, 1799-April 30, 1868)
    Founding Father of Norway



    Frederik Due


    Georg Sibbern


    Ole Jørgensen Richter

    By the 1870s and 1880s, in spite of being a quite minor power on both the European and world stages, the Republic of Norway was one of the great success stories among the European nations. During the last decades of the 19th century, Norway gained a reputation as being one of the most liberal and progressive nations on the continent of Europe. Norway had a republican and enlightenment-inspired constitution which enshrined numerous egalitarian and humanitarian values such as freedom of speech, religion, press, rights for all citizens regardless of race, nationality, gender, or religion, separation of church and state, among others.

    In the decades after its independence, Norway experienced the Norwegian Cultural Renaissance (Norsk kulturell gjenfødelse). This was a new birth of Norwegian culture in the form of literature, art and music, much of which was done in the style of Norwegian romantic nationalism (Norsk Nasjonalromantikken), a style which emphasized a Norwegian aesthetic of liberty and of a bright outlook for the future. For centuries, during the personal-union between Denmark and Norway with Denmark as the major partner of the union, Norway became a cultural backwater, mocked as "a country of fishmongers and drunkards." With a large amount of artisans, craftsmen, and intelligentsia leaving Norway for Denmark during those long years of Danish rule, a distinctive Norwegian culture was largely found only among the farmers and peasants in the rural regions of Norway. After the War for Independence, the creation and maintaining of a new and distinct Norwegian cultural identity became a major priority for the Norwegian government and society. As a result, the governments of numerous Norwegian presidents, along with numerous Norwegian cultural institutions in Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, Trondheim, among other cities, began promoting the arts and collecting artifacts and cultural practices from the rural regions of the country. This was all in an effort to preserve a distinct, identifiable Norwegian identity and culture, not just for Norwegians themselves but for the rest of the world as well. This resulted in the creation of new works of art, literature, theater and music within Norway.

    Some off the main figures of the Norwegian Cultural Renaissance were writers, be they novelists, poets or playwrights, such as Henrik Ibsen, called by the Virginian-born author Samuel Clemens as "the Norwegian Shakespeare", Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Jonas Lie, Johan Sebastian Welhaven, Amalie Skram and Henrik Wergeland, linguists such as Ivar Aasen, artists such as Adolph Tidemand, Hans Gude, J.C. Dahl and August Cappelen, and composers such as Edvard Greig, the violinist and composer Ole Bull and the composer, conductor and violinist Johan Halvorsen, who made a well-publicized debut playing violin at a theater in Oslo at the age of twenty-one in 1885. In particular, Edvard Greig produced a number of pieces of classical music that became world famous, such as "In the Hall of the Mountain King" (I Dovregubbens hall) and "Morning Mood" (Morgenstemning), both written for the 1867 play Peer Gynt by the aforementioned Henrik Ibsen. The music of Greig would also become popular within the Republican Union, where it was held up as an example of "fine, Protestant-inspired music", as stated as such by Union Supreme Chief of Education Thomas Edison. It was also during this period that new Norwegian patriotic songs were written and composed. One of the most popular of these was "Ja, vi elsker dette landet" (Yes, we love this country), written in 1862 by the aforementioned Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, with music by a young Norwegian composer named Rikard Nordraak. Another one of these songs was "Gud signe vårt dyre fedreland" (God bless our precious fatherland), written in 1891 by the professor, theologian, church councilor, hymn writer and Liberal Party politician and unsuccessful 1880 presidential-candidate Elias Blix. In 1894, his name would be given to the Blix Prize, a prize presented by the Norwegian Literacy Society for the best writer and the best novel written and published within Norway.


    Brudeferden I Hardanger (Bridal party in Hardanger), Hans Gude and Adolph Tidemand, 1848


    A Painting by Hans Gude, 1847



    Fra Vossevangen, Hans Gude, 1860
    In the election of 1888, with the popularity of the Liberal Party at an all-time high among the Norwegian people, Ole Anton Qvam was elected President of Norway. Under President Qvam, progressive policies would continue to be implemented alongside new ones. In 1890, under Qvam, Norway became the second nation in the world (after the Republican Union) to give women suffrage and the right vote, much to the chagrin of most members of the Conservative Party and the Christian Democracy Party. Thus, Norway continued to maintain its worldwide reputation as a liberal, open and progressive country and, in the words of the Spanish-born Carolinian philosopher, historian and Duke University professor George Augustus Santayana, "an island of prosperity and calm alone in a sea of massive, jingoistic and expansive empires." It was also during the Presidency of Qvam that relations between Norway and its old patrong the Republican Union began to worsen. It was the result of alarming reports of massacres and killings during the Yankee conquest of Mexico coming from Norwegian journalists who traveled through and reported about disturbing developments (all of which the Union government of President Custer vehemently denied), as well as the ongoing Union wars of expansion in islands of the Pacific Ocean, which President Qvam stated were "unjust and unnecessary." While President Qvam tolerated and allowed AFC missionaries to stay and conduct activities within Norway, there was a lot of tension between the missionaries and the clergymen of the many traditional Norwegian Protestant churches. As a result, in an effort to prevent further such problems and a potential religious conflict, in 1888, in one of his last acts as President, Qvam helped to pass a number of laws which would prevent any AFC Missionaries, as well as most other foreign religious missionaries, from coming into the country and proselytizing their religions within the Republic of Norway.


    Ole Anton Qvam
    However, as one who knows that Norway happily joined the League of Nations that fateful day in 1934, all was not well. The 1890s saw a period of poor harvests and decreasing trade revenue, as well as large-scale immigration to the Republican Union. The RU happily welcomed Norwegians as Betters, and it would be many Norwegian "carpetbaggers" who would settle the vast, sprawling, depopulated lands of Old Mexico. Back in Norway, the election of Otto Blehr in 1892 saw the Centrist Party come to power as the divide between the Left and Right within Norway began to escalate and the economy continued its course of stagnation. In 1898, the fifty-four year-long era of liberalism, egalitarianism, pluralism, freedom and liberty within the Republic of Norway would come to a sudden, ironic and utterly tragic end. When the new President and God Leder (Good Leader) Thorvald Njord Holgersen came to power in Norway, many within the nation, both in the intelligentsia and the public at large, began to ask themselves how such a thing could ever happen and how a country and a people that once valued freedom so much could give it all up in favor of what was essentially fascism. This was all the work of “the Norwegian Custer”, Thorvald Njord Holgersen. A radical believer in the Strong Man Theory and Survival of the Fittest, Holgersen's views of cultural dynamics were shaped by his fateful years spent in the Republican Union learning from Custer loyalist and Mexican Campaign veteran Hans Heg, who became a father figure to Holgersen. Heg and Holgersen developed the idea of a fascist Norway together, wishing to bring their shared ancestral homeland "into the light." Thus, in the "Little Norway" neighborhood of Oshkosh, Michigania, the two men formed the seed that would grow into the Norwegian People's Fascist Party (Norsk Folksfascistparti) or NFFP. They saw Europa and Catholicism as a growing threat to the Norwegian nation, and were very concerned that a conflict with the gloryhound Caesar Napoleon IV was inevitable.

    But it would not be a quick ride to the top for the NFFP, and they would have to wait until the time was right to take over the government. The economy continued to stagnate, and conditions between the Norwegian government and the Republican Union erupted into the so-called Tariff War of 1896, which saw many prominent Norwegian businesses go bankrupt. Also in in 1896, the presidential elections would prove to be one of the most contentious to date. President Otto Blehr of the Centrist Party was facing off against Conrad Mohr of the Conservative Party, Jørgen Gunnarsson Løvland of the Liberal Party and Christian Holtermann Knudsen of the Workers Party (which desperately tired to distance itself from the numerous radical left-wing groups, oftentimes with mixed results) and finally, Thorvald Njord Holgersen of the NFFP. Going into the election, most agreed that President Blehr was sure to lose, with Blehr himself not even bothering to campaign. Thus, the election was mostly a contest between the other four parties. On July 25, 1896, the election was held and the fate of the country was to be decided. After the ballots came in on the next day, it was found out that the election was won narrowly by the Conservative Party of Conrad Mohr, with the Liberal Party coming in second, the Workers Party third, the NFFP fourth, and the Centrists dead last. With Mohr running on a platform of law and order and return to normalcy and prosperity within Norway, many hoped that this would be the end of both left-wing and right-wing radical agitation within the nation, and that now things could finally go back to the way they were before the economic crisis and see a new Cultural Renaissance. Sadly, this was not to be.

    While the first years of the Mohr presidency were mostly quiet, the NFFP continued to quietly build up a base of support. In 1897, Holgersen ordered the creation of a new paramilitary wing of the party known as the Foot Soldiers (fot soldater) or FS, which he established in an effort to work with businessmen, such as shipping magnate Johan Ludwig Mowinckel, to help suppress workers strikes, combat radical left-wing paramilitary groups in the major cities, fight banditry in the countryside and to intimidate members of the public into following their cause. All in all, President Mohr was powerless to stop any of these paramilitary groups from operating. Although he considered having the military take temporary control over the government in an effort to restore order, he ultimately decided against this, as he did not want to be known as the man who destroyed democracy within Norway.

    In 1898, elections wereheld from May 16 to May 24, 1898, and in the elections, no one party gained a clear majority of seats, but the NFFP gained a plurality of seats. Thus, in an effort for his party to have a clear majority within the government, President Mohr reluctantly decided to enter into a coalition with NFFP and appointed Thorvald Njord Holgersen as the new Prime Minister of Norway, much to the shock and anger of many within the political establishment of Norway, both inside and outside of the Conservative Party. Nevertheless, Mohr defended his decision as merely a temporary measure. Mohr even stated in private that "In two years time our party will either win the elections and be rid of Thorvald or the Liberals will win the elections and get rid of Thorvald themselves."


    A Militia of the Foot Soldiers in Sogndal, Norway in 1897

    In less than a month, the unexpected happened. On June 20, 1898, President Conrad Mohr, known to be in declining health for some time, died of a sudden heart attack in his bedroom in the Presidential Palace in Oslo at the age of 49. The government of Norway was then thrown into a panic, as a President had never before died in office and they now needed to find a new President for the nation. According to the constitution, in the event of the death of a President in office, the Prime Minister would then become the interim President until new elections could be held. As a result, much to the horror of many within the government, Thorvald Njord Holgersen of the NFFP legally became the interim President of Norway while still being the Prime Minister of Norway. Truly, it was the beginning of the end for the era of democracy in the Republic of Norway.

    On June 20, 1898, Norwegian President Conrad Mohr died of a heart attack in his bedroom in the Presidential Palace in Oslo. Thorvald Njord Holgersen then became both the interim President and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Norway. Using this momentum, President and Prime Minister Holgersen began a large-scale program of consolidation of power within the Norwegian government, which included using corrupt means, from intimidation to bribery, to get members of the Storting to support his policies. On March 23, 1899, with the passing of the Emergency Acts of 1899, the offices of both the President and Prime Minister were legally combined into the sole office of President. Holgersen would now act as both the head of state and government. On October 15, 1899, President Holgersen passed the Salvation Act into law, "temporarily" banning all political parties within the Republic of Norway except for the NFFP. The act also forbade any parties except for the NFFP to run in parliamentary elections.


    The official Presidential Photograph of Thorvald Njord Holgersen, 1900

    From 1899 and 1903, a series of purges took place against the old guard of the Norwegian Armed Forces, many of which were vocal Liberals. Several high ranking generals and officers were either imprisoned or exiled, with a very few even being executed for treason. Thus, with a lot of the old guard having been purged from the Norwegian military, a new, younger generation of officers, whose loyalty to the fascist government was unquestioned, began to forge "bold new careers." This would come to have some interesting consequences during the Great War over a decade later.

    On New Year's Day of 1900, a new Norwegian secret police known as the Norwegian State Police (Norsk Statens politi) was established. This new secret police, known colloquially amongst Norwegians as the "Stasi", became infamous for their brutality, including methods of torture, it displayed in its treatment towards political dissidents such as leftists, syndicalists, monarchists, trade unionists, Freemasons, Roman Catholics and certain resident foreigners, mainly Europans of various ethnicities, Italians, and Russians, among others, suspected of so-called "subversive activities". As a result of the political repression that took place within Norway, many political dissidents emigrated overseas to places such as the Carolinas, Dutch South Africa, French Australia, Brazil-Argentina, Gran Colombia, Peru, French Saint-Domingue and French Puerto Rico. On June 8, 1900, a series of laws were passed, known as the Communication Laws, that nationalized most newspapers and radio stations within Norway, with those not owned by the government not allowed to publish or air "subversive and false news." With many of the big businesses in Norway now supporting the new government, Holgersen passed a series of laws from 1900 to 1904 which gave state grants to friendly businesses and companies, all in an effort to help these numerous different businesses and companies against their competitors (many of which had questionable loyalty to the new government). On November 30, 1900, the Norwegian People's Labor Union (Norsk Folke Arbeidsunion) was established as the only legal trade union within Norway, with all others being banned. Those that did not disband immediately had their offices raided and their members arrested.

    On February 7, 1901, the Norwegian Constitution of 1901 was officially ratified by the Storting of Norway. This new constitution officially established Norway as a fascist state in the form of a fascist republic and a "fascist people's democracy". The new fascist state allowed for both Presidential and Parliamentary elections within Norway, both every four years, where all citizens would be allowed to vote, but only different members of the Norwegian People's Fascist Party were allowed to participate and run in these elections, with the NFFP being the only legal political party within Norway. Holgersen would retire from politics to "live in the shade of the tree I have planted," and his protege Knute Ralf Danielsen would win the 1906 one-party election.


    Knute Ralf Danielsen

    In 1910, Sweden parlayed with Norway, desiring an alliance in the face of a looming war. Danielsen desired to fight alongside Protestant Europe against the "Bully Cad Napoleon IV." Norway joined the Central Powers not long before the outbreak of the Great World War. He said to the Swedish Prime Minister Hjalmar Hammarskjöld, "We do not have the same philosophy or politics. But we do have the same faith in a God of the Lutheran variety. And hundreds of years ago, our glorious Norse forefathers sailed the fjords together and raided the cities of Charlemagne's sons, decimating the coastal cities of the Franks, destroying the very concept of a united Europe. God willing, the men of the North will fight together again, and die if need be, to free Europe. All hail the Men of the North!"

    While Norway would not experience unimaginable gains from the Great World War, its industries boomed. While Sweden took Denmark with their aid, the actual nation of Norway was shielded from most of the frontline fighting. Rather, instead of countless waves of suicidal infantrymen, the Republic provided in a different way. It was Norwegian fish that fed the army and navy of the Britannic Union. It was Norwegian doctors and sailors who assisted the English coast following the devastating anthrax disaster. It was Norwegian shipyards who built the transport boats and ships utilized by many of the Central Powers. It was a hub of industry, and the fascist tycoons running the country were smoking cigars in backrooms as the war came to an end. Norway was granted full control over the Faroe Islands and Iceland by the Versailles Concordat. Seeing as it was a vital hub for resources and industry for the war effort, it was also one of the first locations to be given Beckie Flu vaccines by the Republican Union. A new Norwegian Renaissance had arrived.

    ClarenceMartin_260.jpg

    President Otto Bergland

    In the years since the end of the Great World War, business was never better. As a reliable ally of the Republican and Britannic Unions, Norwegian iron and fish was a hot commodity. Even better was the "Baby Boom" of the 1910s and 20s in America. More Yankees meant more people to sell to. In addition, Colonel Goodyear Enterprises was very active in Norway, as was Colonel Ford, whose vehicles would become the autocarriage of choice for the growing Norwegian middle class. When it joined the League of Nations in 1935, under Great World War veteran and business mogul President Otto Bergland, the future still seemed bright. However, when news hit Oslo of the Neutrality Pact's "treachery" and the massacre at Point Pierce, protests erupted in the streets. A large number of Norwegian-Americans worked in Cuba for the America megacorporations, and several Norwegian vessels delivering fish and trade goods to Point Pierce were sunk on the day of the attack. President Bergland addressed the nation by state radio station on September 13, two days after the attack and a day after the news reached home of the Norwegian deaths.

    "This was an attack not on only America, our oldest ally who fought for our independence in 1844, but upon the entire Free World. Let us answer the call of the League! Let us show them the power of the Men of the Fjords!"

    The Storting declared war upon the Neutrality Pact at high noon on September 14, 1936. Within weeks, ships bearing ammunition, food, and supplies were steaming toward Cuba to help relieve the embattled ORRA and privately hired mercenary forces dealing with the Inferior rebellion and the landing of the paratrooper commandos from the Pact. While President Bergland hoped for a quick war, it would prove to be anything but, and Norwegian involvement, however small, would long outlast his presidency. Norwegian expertise on mountainous climates, in particular, was of special use to the Union. While direct military intervention was not really possible, many Fascist Norwegian citizens joined "Milo Miles Brigades," determined to pay back the Union for their help almost a century prior. When bedraggled ORRA officers and Union Navy sailors welcomed the arrival of the first Milo Miles Brigade in Point Pierce on Patriot-Saints Day Eve, 1936, the shout from the Norwegians was loud:

    "REVEREND MILES, WE ARE HERE!"

    norway.jpg

    The outdated uniforms worn by Norwegian volunteers during the opening days of Manifest Climax.
    These uniforms would be discarded quickly in favor of American style uniforms and pot helmets. GWW-era rifles would be largely phased out in favor of Norwegian knock-offs of the Europan Compact Grinder 35.

    mp40.jpg

    Norwegian-produced copy of the Europan CG-35, as used by Norwegian forces in Cuba and South America during Manifest Climax
     
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    A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN: THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA
  • Apologies for any typos. I'm absolutely exhausted and will proof-read the chapter tomorrow. lol A decent bit of this chapter is based on Time Enough's Australian GWW chapter in the Star Spangled Expanded Universe, but most all of it is wholly fresh and new. Enjoy!

    A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN:
    THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

    It has been said that God made the Yankee cowboys, and then he thought they weren't boorish enough and so he made Australians. Upon examining Australian history up to their entry into the League of Nations and their role in Operation Manifest Climax, this old adage appears to be quite true. A land of dusty backroads, harsh deserts, dense forests, and thriving seaports, Australian "Kanga Roughnecks" built up a reputation as the Yankees' rougher-hewed cousins. But the stereotype of a bent-brim hat-wearing Kanga with an crocodile in one hand and a grinder in the other--however accurate it mostly was to conjure that image in the mind's eye--does little to show the business and military skills of that most strange and far-off fascist realm. While most of Australia was a rural community of farmers, trappers, hunters, and fishermen, the larger cities were booming by the 1930s, capitalizing on the reunification of the continent since the seizure of Europan West Australia in the Great World War. Not only had the Kangas fought like devils in the Great World War, they had also fought loyally alongside the American cousins they so often sought to emulate in Holy Nippon, during the 1914 Crisis there which saw Kangas and Yanks alike butcher untold thousands of rebels and civilians who refused to cooperate with the new rule of Dictator-General Arthur MacArthur.

    Whereas in the last century Australia was viewed as a relative backwater by most of the world, only actually presiding over former British East Australia, their quick victory against the Europans in the west and their willingness to fight and die as a member of the Greater Fascist Co-Prosperity Sphere in Holy Nippon proved to Joe Steele and the American government that a new power was rising. To properly understand their situation in the 1930s, we must first look back upon their history leading up to this pivotal time in world history.

    -THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA-


    Flag of the Commonwealth of Australia

    Some historians say that, following the Eureka Gold Rush of 1845 and the civil war of 1846, Australia became a place for the roughest and wildest Yankees to go in search of adventure and fortune. While the Gold Rushes of the Kingdom of California lured in Catholic, Chinese, and other exotic spelunkers to their lands, the Eureka Gold Rush and all subsequent mining crazes in Australia saw shiploads of Protestant and Yankee roughnecks and cowboys. Their influence would be felt for centuries to come.

    The Australia of the 1850s was the first nation beyond America to adopt the fascist ideals as its core principles. The explosive events unfolding in America shortly after the Kangas struck out on their own were no small inspiration for their own version of manifest destiny. The Union was still under the power of the Consul System at this point, with John P. Hale and Levi Woodbury, both Republicans from New Hampshire, in the positions of First Chief Consul and Second Chief Consul respectively. The cracks in this system were growing very, very obvious, and rather than adopt the consular system themselves, Australians opted to follow the example of the English Commonwealth and created the Commonwealth of Australia under a Protector of the Realm and a Congress of the Realm. With the rise of A. A. Lincoln's Second Sons of Liberty movement in America before the beginning of the Great American War, American visitors and migrants brought with them the awe-inspiring words of Strong Abe, the Strong Man Theory, and Scientific Marxism. Lincoln himself was quick to offer words of advice to the fledgling nation which many Americans considered to be of Pinnacle Anglo-Saxon Blood, and trade was strong, despite the long distance and then lack of a Panama Canal and California.

    aussiepres.jpg

    Michael Allen Johnson, first Protector of the Realm

    The first Protector of the Realm was Michael Allen Johnson, a seasoned explorer, bushranger, Aboriginal-fighter and militia commander. He had actually come from a long line of English Puritans. He would come to office by a vote of Congress in the inaugural year of 1846. His ancestor Abercrombie Johnson was convicted of petty crimes and exiled to Australia. Johnson's story was the story of many Australians: they were the children of the dregs of old British society, almost all of a hearty mix of Welsh, Scottish, and English society, many with a great disdain for non-Protestant or Irish people. Exiling so many criminals and ne'er-do-wells had the opposite effect the Crown had intended, and it simply produced a mutant derivative of the Anglo-Saxon, one with only the shirt on his back and the thirst for adventure in his heart. Protector Johnson was did not wish to become a dictator and he was not a fascist by any means, but he would react with brutality to the rebelling miners of the Eureka area. In order to sustain the government, Congress voted to levy harsh taxes upon miners. Only a few out of the thousands actually found gold and struck it rich, and now those who found little to none were being forced to pay what they could not afford. The miners were not working for a business paying wages, but using the sweat of their own brow to desperately search for gold. The result was the Australian Civil War 1846. The government defeated the rebel miners, but it still needed to sort out its economy.

    Enter one Steed Perry, Secretary of the Treasury, who would personally drag Australia out of financial ruin. In 1852, Perry would establish the Bank of Australia in an effort to control the inflation of the Australian Dollar. He would lessen taxes on miners finding little gold, but those who did strike ore were required to tithe 10% of the value to the Bank of Australia in the name of "national security." With a bit of gold now in reserve, Perry would next move to get rid of the independent miners altogether. A company called Price and Hall Spelunking Incorporated operated out of Sydney, and in a lucrative deal the gold fields of Eureka were sold in entirety to Price and Hall. Instead of ordering the miners out of their new territory, the Board voted to offer them paying jobs, digging for two dollars an hour, a veritable fortune in those days. Gold was abundant enough that these wages were tolerable. It also had the intended side effect of Eureka proper opening up countless new stores, businesses, and other ventures as the miners now had a place to spend their reliable paychecks. One miner, Josephus Bradley, said of it:

    "We might have bowed to the corporation. It might have ended the dream of keeping the gold you found and building your own plantation. But it was needed. The anarchy of the gold fields was an era of lawless shootouts and violence. The corporation brought order. Security. And for the first time I felt like I was secure in my finances. God bless the Board."

    A second gold rush of sorts erupted as many came from all over to get the well-paying jobs. Cattle, mostly of a variety imported from Dutch South Africa, became another thriving industry. The expanding population needed meat and food. New farms went up. Rivers were bridged. Emus were slaughtered for meat and in retaliation for their aggressive attacks on cattle herds. Above all, the dark-skinned Aboriginal peoples of Australia were pushed farther and farther into the inland desert and often across the border into the Bonapartist West Australia.

    This would see Australia finally stand on its own two feet with a bright future seemingly ahead. However, all was not well. Skirmishes were frequent and bloody with the natives, and it caused a very heated anti-Aboriginal view to be adopted by most of the whites. Many American businessmen were participating in the land-rush and wanted the natives gone. They viewed them as Inferiors of mongoloid descent, unworthy of owning any land at all. This suited many Australian farmers and miners who merely saw the tribes as a stumbling block on their way to their very own trademarked brand of manifest destiny. American Fundamentalist Mercenaries frequently visited Australia, even going so far as to create an Australian Fundamentalist Church. It taught that it was inevitable for the Anglo-Saxon Australian Pinnacle Man to sweep over the rest of the continent and drive out the forces of pagan and Papist idolatry. As to whether this was a popular and successful offshoot of Aaron Burr's cult or not was to be decided by the march of time: by 1935, 57% of Australia self-professed belief in Fundamentalist Christianity. Not unlike the common practice of snakehandling as practiced by their American cousins, the Australians often handled tarantulas during revivals, whipping themselves into berserk frenzies as the spiders crawled all over their bodies and sometimes even into their mouths. In 1893, Harvey Clarke Turner was appointed as "Supreme Deacon of the Australian Church" by AFC Reverend-Colonel Dwight L. Moody.

    It would be Turner who would rally support for the RU on a scale never before seen in Australia. The true birth of Australian Fundamentalism was matched by the rise of the revanchist Australian Commonsense Party (ACP) of radical Custer acolyte and "Aboriginal Hunter" David Campbell. Campbell was a man so violent and murderous that he was quoted as saying, "Custer hunts buffalo. I hunt Abbies. They are disgusting Inferiors and Pan-Indochinese mongrels, the byproduct of African, Indian, and Mongoloid Chinamen breeding a race of cultureless cave-dwellers worthy of the mercy of destruction. My rifle isn't named Mercy because I like to thank people in French. I'm doing them a favor." Abbies, of course, being the slur of choice for the black natives. Campbell was a Scotchman through and through, and he saw in Custer a well of inspiration. In 1892, the ACP attained a majority of the seats in Congress and unseated the Australian Liberal Party for the first time in its history. Campbell was declared the new Protector of the Realm and he went to work aligning himself much more closely with Custer, including joined the Greater Fascist Co-Prosperity Sphere and sending soldiers to fight in the conquest of Imperial Japan. His views of Japanese people were changed by John Splendidfaith, who he called a "brother in Christ," and he referred to the populace of what was now known as Holy Nippon as "true Lost Jews and the only other men of Pinnacle Blood in Australasia." In 1895, the first concentration camps were built in the Australian desert, largely inspired by what Australian strategists had witnessed the Union do during the Immolation of Mexico.

    The Great World War would see Australia fight doggedly for the Central Powers, attaining rapid victories against Europan West Australia. Never having been the focus of much true colonization effort by the French and with fascist-sympathizers all throughout their lands, the Imperial government in Bonaparte, West Australia's capital, concentrated mostly on evacuating as many people as possible to India and Africa. Out of West Australia's 1.5 million people, 800,000 were evacuated in one of the largest exoduses in human history. Ships of all sorts and from all over the world poured in to help rescue the people from the claws of Protector Campbell and New Zealand-born General Alfred "The Butcher" Hindmarsh. Europan and Aboriginal troops fought bravely, but the tide of thousands of fascist Commonwealth troops headed to them on a mission of annihilation was too much to stand. Bonaparte, and the rest of the Europan-majority cities, were burned to the ground with what Hindmarsh called "the wrath of an angry and triumphant God." Over 200,000 Europan prisoners of war, Aboriginal freedom fighters, and other anti-Commonwealth factions and peoples were sent to concentration camps, where many were beaten to death, starved, raped, and worse.


    Remains of the Bonaparte Telegraph Exchange, 1912




    Commonwealth Soldiers advance, 1911


    Europan Artillery tries to holds back Commonwealth Forces, 1911


    Imperial Aboriginal troops prepare for a last stand against the ferocious Australian assault

    The aftermath of the Great World War saw a massive era of unprecedented prosperity for Australia. West Australia was almost totally abandoned, opening up a massive new area of coastline for settlement. Recruitment call went out to Protestant realms across the globe that Protector Campbell was implementing the Homestead Acts of 1920, his last act as Protector before retiring in 1921. He was succeeded by Alfred Hindmarsh, who bent even further before the Republican Union. Some say Campbell was too Custerian for the post-GWW era, and that Joe Steele had engineered a silent coup against him in favor of the whip-cracking Hindmarsh, who he apparently shared a rare friendship with, or at least as far as "friendship" went for Steele.


    General Alfred "The Butcher" Hindmarsh

    Hindmarsh would preside over a new era for unified Australia, building hydroelectric damns to power the growing metropolitan regions like Sydney and Eureka. The military was modernized and equipped with updated gear. The Australian Navy became the third most powerful in the Pacific, after Russia and the Republican Union. Buffalo were brought in from North America and bred in huge numbers on massive sprawling ranches in former Aboriginal lands. This helped offset the over-hunting of the species by the Americans while still sating their desire for Buffalo products, becoming a lucrative trade item. Rich people from around the world would come to go on safaris in Australia and have the "Cowboy Experience" in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The corporations were growing in power as well. Price and Hall, the original Australian megacorporation, would be acquired by Colonel Goodyear Enterprises in 1932, forever bringing the two nations even further together. When the time came for the London Conference, Protector Hindmarsh was eager to further cement his nation's ties with America and further ingratiate himself with Steele. He referred to the League of Nations as "a modern Knights of the Round Table" in the Sydney Herald in 1935. As to who was "King Arthur," it was clear it was Steele.

    When news broke of the Neutrality Pact's attack on Port Pierce, public opinion was strongly on the side of the Union, and war on the Pact was declared on September 14, 1936. A more successful Union meant a more successful Australia. A crippled Cuba, the main source for cheap Inferior labor for the megacorporations, meant a poorer economy for the entire League, especially with Australia's already close economic ties to their Yankee cousins. Colonel Goodyear Enterprises Australia helped offset the crippling blow of Cuba in revolt by shipping Aboriginals from concentration camps across the Pacific to American factories that still utilized them. Many also became victims of Project Percival and the machinations and whims of ORRA scientists, who considered them "the ultimate subhuman." Lastly, the Australian Expeditionary Force was established in January of 1937 with a goal of shipping 20,000 Kangas to reinforce the Panama Canal Zone.


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    A.E.F. volunteers march through Sydney before shipping off for Panama, 1937
     
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    A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN: THE CONFEDERATION OF THE CAROLINAS

  • A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN:
    THE CONFEDERATION OF THE CAROLINAS


    The New Model Carolinian Army parades down Jackson Street in downtown Charlotte, 1936

    Without a doubt, the most faithful friend the Union ever saw was the Confederation of the Carolinas. By the 20th century, it was the personal empire of the Gamble Family. Chancellor Adelbert Upjohn "Johnny" Gamble VI ruled with a gentrified fist over the mainland states of North, South, and West Carolina, while massive parties were the rule of the day in the increasingly urbanized East Carolina, formerly know as St. Domingue. Across the seas in Africa, the colonies of Jacksonland, the Carolinian Corridor, and Yonderland proved to the world that the Confederation would respond to jokes and demeaning comments about their nation with a heavy dosage of wanton imperialism, interventionism, and military saber-rattling. Some said that CoCaro and its Chancellor always felt inferior to the Union, and stories abounded of "Joe Steele's cuckhold in Charlotte," but whatever the reason for the Southron nation's constant war-mongering and expansionism, it couldn't be said that it wasn't working. When the time came to join the League of Nations, Johnny Gamble was the first to put pen to paper and sign his nation up. It had already long been a semi-official member of the Fascist Prosperity Sphere, and had officially allied itself to the Union with the 1911 Metropolis Pact, but the new League of Nations promised increased trade revenue and more money coming in, and continued growth of the "Donut" portion of the Destiny Road running through the Confederation. It could be said that CoCaro gained nothing militarily, as anyone foolish enough to war on them would already almost certainly have to go through the Union first. But everyone knew that if the Union went to war, so did Carolina. No one was certain what might happen if Charlotte disobeyed Philadelphia, and no one wanted to find out. By the 1930s, one thing was certain: the Union could snuff Ol' Caroline out like a candle in the wind at the first sign of disloyalty.

    When news of the Neutrality Pact's attack came to Charlotte just hours after it occurred, Johnny Gamble called for an emergency session of the House of Citizens.

    "My fellow countrymen, Citizens of the House, and to all the peoples of the Free World! Our closest ally, the Republican Union, was attacked by the savage horde of the so-called Neutrality Pact just hours ago. Not far from East Carolina, on the shores of sunny, tropic Cuba, Republican Union Navy Group V was ambushed in port. Many ships have been lost, and many good boys sleep with the fishes, murdered in their prime by Papist dogs. The good people of this most Sovereign Confederation have been called upon by the Union government to join them in a just war of retaliation. However, this will not occur. Rather, we are already at war. Just moments ago, I signed a declaration of war upon all members of the Neutrality Pact. The Confederation does not wait for the Union to call upon us. It does not wait for the League to ask us to fulfill our solemn oaths. The Confederation goes forth of its own accord and strikes down the serpents and villains who lurk in the shadows! Today, at 6 am on a bright and sunny morning of September 12, nineteen-hundred and thirty-six, the Confederation of the Carolinas went to war! Do your part, as we did in 1911! Stand tall and let the world hark the sound of free men's voices! Huzzah!"

    The Confederation was at war.

    - THE CONFEDERATION OF THE CAROLINAS -


    Flag of the Confederation of the Carolinas since the Great World War


    Flag of Carolinian Jacksonland, and used for all Carolinian African holdings until 1944

    Despite its size, the amount of foreign interventions and wars the Carolinas participated in truly boggles the mind of many historians. Since the illustrious debacle and member-measuring contest with Virginia in the Cuba War of 1826-28, it had fought in the Great American War of 1858-61, constant and never-ending intertribal and ethnic genocides in its African holdings since they were first established in 1870, the Missionary "Interventions" in Corea from throughout the tail-end of the 19th century and well into the 20th, the Great World War of 1911 and the ensuing conflicts in Britain and Germania all the way into the 1920s. The Carolinians Armed Forces was actually very underrated and was one of the most seasoned in all the world at fighting in different climates, and their expertise at jungle warfare would prove to be invaluable to the League of Nations battle plans during Operation Manifest Climax. The Cokies had actually never lost a war since their initial disastrous outing under their idolized Founding Father, Andrew Jackson. Morale was high in 1936 when war once again declared.

    The Carolinian Army had never been the most modern, and it was through sheer pluck and guts that they had achieved so many victories in the Great World War, but this was not to continue forever. In 1928, Chancellor Gamble signed the House of Citizens Bill 976, authorizing the Departments of the Army, Navy, and the Aeroforce to spend millions Carolinian greenbacks to modernize the armed forces. From helmets, to uniforms, from backpacks to rifles, from artillery to knives, men worked around the clock in Newport News, the headquarters of the Confederation Military Research Initiative, in designing the new look and gear. In the end, a very Yankee-style uniform was adopted. A brown pot helmet almost identical to the olive drab and navy blue ones of the GAR and ORRA, sat on the soldiers' heads, while medium gray uniforms proved versatile for any region and weather. A khaki set was produced with shorts for desert service in Africa. Cokie manufacturers produced thousands of M-29 General Service Carbines, a clone of the trusty American M-25 General Infantry Rifle, even chambering the same .30-06 clip ammunition Billy Yankee was all-too familiar with. This was deliberate, as it made it easy to buy necessary ammunition in a time of crisis from America. New planes were built, such as the 1932 Mitchum Motors Zed-11 Fighter, produced right there in Newport News and in Africa at a town called McCormick's Crossing. The Zed-11 Fighter was designed as a maneuverable attack dog, while the 1933 Mitchum Motors Alpha-4 Aerobomber was the destroyer of the skies, able to rain death in the form of massive bombs upon its targets from high above the clouds. The Aeroforce's aeroships, the massive steel beasts of the skies, were coming to an end of their era, and most of them were either sold to civilian companies or American paramilitaries or to Mittelafrika. The Navy, while not as outdated by any means due to the country's dependence upon it to retain control of their far-flung holdings, also saw massive expansion. Much of this change was funded by the nationalization of the Vanderburgh Family Mining Company in Jacksonland. One of Carolina's biggest businesses was seized by the government when its patriarch, Jeremiah Vanderburgh, was convicted of tax fraud and all his assets were seized. American jewelry stores would sell Carolinian diamonds and other rare minerals and during Manifest Climax they were advertised with the slogan, "Buy Cokie diamonds! Fund our Southron Allies!"

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    Anatomy of a Cokie M-29 General Service Carbine, virtually identical to the Colonel Pierce M-25 General Infantry Rifle

    plane.jpg


    B-10.jpg

    Mitchum Alpha-4 bombers were even sold to and utilized by the Union during Manifest Climax, such as this one photographed with Yankee colors somewhere in Oxacre, RU in the late 1930s

    Meanwhile, while everything was unfolding back in the Western Hemisphere, Carolinian Africa saw rapid expansion and settlement since the Great War. Some of the original Portuguese colonists were utilized for labor, quickly building up the rail network damaged by the war and years of conflict with the natives. By the 1930s, indigenous Africans from Jacksonland, through the Corridor, and into Yonderland were fully under control of the Carolinian government. In fact, things had gone so well that they offered assistance to the Mittelafrikan Reich in the late 1920s in taming their newly independent nation. It would even be the rather insane Carolinian scientist and geologist Dr. Herman William "Big Bill" Jennings who would first propose the "Congo Sea Project" to the Mittelafrikan government. Jennings wished to flood the Congo basin via an elaborate system of dams and create a "Mittelafrikan Sea." Not only would this supposedly provide a more temperate climate for the Dark Continent and enrich agriculture (as well as eliminate those pesky Congo tribes in a truly Biblical fashion), it would generate enough electricity to make the Reich and the Cokie African colonies energy self-sufficient forever. The Congo Sea Project will be covered in depth in a later chapter. The point is that something very big was about to happen in Africa, with potentially catastrophic results, and it had Cokie fingerprints all over it.

    In Asia, Corea was, through extensive missionary efforts over the past lifetime, divided 50-50 between Confucian and traditionalist Coreans against the every-increasing numbers of Protestant and Presbyterian Coreans. While viewed in a more negative light by the Union and Holy Nippon, Carolina's Presbyterians viewed the nation as fully human and Betters of Society, simply living under the repressive jackboot of China. With China is a state of chaos since the Great World War, and with warlords in seemingly every city in the former Qing Empire declaring themselves a living god, spawn of a deity, or whatever was the messianic flavor of the week, this greatly destabilized Corea. The north, especially Pyongyang, was especially receptive to Christianity, while the south remained neutral or bitter about the new way of life and the rampant Cokie military misadventures on their soil. The Pacification of Corea in 1908 kicked the can down the road until 1932, when full on war erupted on the peninsula. The South and the traditionalists were crushed for a final time in 1934 and Carolinian troops helped to set up a "Corean Confederation with Cokie characteristics." An Office of Public Virtue protected the public from subversive propaganda and crime, a House of Citizens legislated laws, while a Chancellor, the newly-elected war hero Kim Hyong-jik, led the country.


    Flag of the Confederation of Corea


    A portrait of a young Kim Hyong-jik in traditional garb. Upon assuming the Chancellorship, he would adopt Western style suits.


    Corean Christian Patriots advance during a winter offensive in 1933

    The Confederation of the Carolinas was, at the outbreak of the war against the Neutrality Pact, heading to unprecedented prosperity and prestige. While still technologically behind most great powers and a mere blip on the radar of the Union, they were quickly becoming less a joke and more of a key player on the world stage. Chancellor Gamble was confident in his decisions and was certain victory against the Pact would be easy. However, General of the Army Tim Bacon and Navarch of the Fleet Reginald Smith warned Gamble that, in the words of Bacon:

    "We must handle this situation with the utmost care and caution. It has always been the Cokie way to act first with a big stick and throw yourself upon the enemy and beat him to death. However, we have never fought an equal since the Cuba War that took the life of our beloved Eternal Chancellor. The Union has virtually never fought an equal. Joe Steele thinks this will be over in a year or two, but he is mad. This war is going to go on forever. The enemy knows it is fighting for its existence, like a cornered tiger, and it will bite and kick over every square inch of Godforsaken, mosquito-infested, malaria-rich soil. Victory is not impossible, improbable, or even unlikely. The Pact cannot withstand the entire League of Nations acting against it. But it can fight to the death. To the last man, woman, and child. This is going to be a nightmare."
    Gamble would ask for Bacon's resignation two days later.
     
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    A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN: THE BRITANNIC UNION

  • A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN:
    THE BRITANNIC UNION


    "Can you feel it, Doctor Finch?" asked the bloated Britannic Director General, chomping at one of his signature Cuban cigars. Hand-rolled by Betters of Society, they were the best cigar in the fascist bloc and his personal trademark accessory. Winston Churchill was standing in the middle of a great white room, sterile and neutral of any designs or decorations whatsoever. Table after table of test tubes lay before him. Each table saw multiple men and women in lab coats scurrying about it every which-way, clipboards in hand, quietly chattering to each other as they worked uneasily in the presence of the Director General and his cadre of government visitors.

    Dr. Joseph K. Finch, the world-famous Chief Patron of the London Medical Society and co-creator of the Beckie Flu vaccine, raised a white eyebrow. "Feel what, Director General?" he asked in his typical dry manner. Finch was a droll man, and ever droller with age. He had little use for Churchill's typical Shakespearean dramatics, and he was certain Churchill's question was heading into the realms of melodrama.

    "Fate, Doctor," replied Churchill, taking the cigar from his mouth and leaning against the table before them as he watched various fluids flow through tubes and into beakers.

    Finch wanted to finish the tour of the Ullapool Chemical Command and get back to work. Sure enough, the English Bulldog was fancying himself the Bard again. "I beg your pardon, Director General?" he said monotone, since not playing along could end with upsetting Churchill, something he did not want to see in his lifetime.

    Churchill smiled slightly, his fat lips showing a smile of smug satisfaction. "Fate. As if a millennium of Anglo-Saxon history has brought us to this point. The moment when we shall finally erase the Irish savage from existence. I can almost taste it. Soon, the British Isles will be united under one banner, and only one. Operation Cromwell is the answer to every true Pinnacle Man's prayers. A blessing from God."

    Finch shot Churchill a cold smile, plastered on with as much joy as he could muster. "Your Excellency, need I remind you of the possible risks of Operation Cromwell, inherent to this type of weapon as it may be, and of the possible disastrous consequences that could befall us if something rather unfortunate were to occur here? Op-Crom must continue to be tested for at least another two years before we could even consider deployment against the Irish."

    The jowls on the Director General's chin vibrated flaccidly, like gelatinous folds of grease and lard, as he shook his head. "Doctor, we have the blessing of Almighty God in this endeavor. We need not fear the unfortunate. As your spectacular work exhibited during the Great War, no disease or disaster cannot be set packing by the Strong Man of Blessed Britannia."

    It was Finch's turn to shake his head. Extending his arms out in a gesture of futility he replied, "Sire, we cannot rush headlong into this. Not everything is so simple when we are talking about weaponized diseases. Need I also jog your memory to the fact that we are still cleaning up the anthrax disaster on the southern coast, sire?"

    Churchill sighed and raised the cigar to his lips for another drag. He remembered the Channel Disaster like it was yesterday. A day of infamy and dread in the heart of every Englishman. "I am well aware, Doctor. I am well aware. But the anthrax was carried by Irish vessels, a work of the Devil. In fact, is it now not just and morally forthright of us to respond to the horrid devastation wrought upon our Christian land by summoning all of our scientific intellect and visit a blight upon the Emerald Isle in turn? This is revenge! Revenge for all of our war widows and revenge for the children sick along the Thames, their lives snuffed out by an invisible poison. Doctor, as I have said time and time again, full-steam ahead on Op-Crom. You are cordially invited to take whatever worries you have and put your trust in God. I order Op-Crom to be ready within one year, Doctor Finch. To hell with '38. I want it ready for '37."

    Finch couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Sire...? That is madness! Op-Crom won't be ready for two more years! 1938 is the absolute minimum length of time we need here. My staff and assistants are overworked as it is, sire! Surely you realize utilizing the disease in one year could spell disaster." A deep, rising sense of panic overflowed the normally stoic Finch, bubbling out in his words like acid.

    With another shake of his mighty head, the half-Yankee Bulldog took a step toward Finch and shoved a meaty finger into his sternum. All the scientists nearby instantly stopped what they were doing and watched in horror as the Director General prepared to once again raise hell. The smell of whiskey and Cuban tobacco overwhelmed the doctor as Churchill stared him down with fiery eyes and said in a low, gutteral, "Look here, Finch, I am not exactly at teatime myself, you see. Every day the Dregs gain more support. Every day I hope and I pray and I beg God to keep Steele from strangling me in my sleep with a spool of piano wire and dumping my ample innards into the Thames. When Steele and the other fashy boys came to visit for the London Conference I had very real fears that I was going to be removed from office and this plane of existence, do you hear me, Doctor? I worked and labored and slaved over cleaning up London for the Conference and keeping our little terrorist robber-bandit problem a secret from ORRA and Steele. Look at America now! Going to war against South America, and if their luck is as good as it has been, then we are probably about to see them achieve their manifest destiny!" Churchill grew so close to Finch's gaunt, thin, horrified face that the doctor could see every pore on the Englishman's red, bulbous nose. "Where is Britannia in all this? Where is our manifest destiny, as promised for decades! Ireland will be ours, by hook or by crook, Doctor! We cannot fall behind! We cannot allow a manifest destiny gap! Rule Britannia!"

    As if robots, all the staff within earshot snapped their heels and joined both hands together over their heads in the traditional BU salute. "NOW AND FOREVER!" they cried.

    Finch stood like a statue as the other scientists and staff waited awkwardly and uneasily for him to also perform the mandatory salute. The old doctor squinted slightly through his spectacles at the corpulent chieftain before him. Churchill's post-war years had not been kind for the former Yankee Marine. He was a bloated, disgusting, alcoholic mess. But he also was completely and totally in charge of every aspect of life in Britannia. "Uncle Winnie," as the newsreels and posters called him, was definitely not a man to be trifled with if continued breathing was something found enjoyable. Even a man like Finch was not safe from the often irrational and easily enraged Director General. Slowly, he clicked the heels of his brogues together, raised his arms, joined his left hand with his right, and shouted, "NOW... AND FOREVER!"

    "At ease!" Churchill spat as he reached for his pocketwatch. The ornate but well-worn little device bore a Yankee eagle and a Britannic lion on the face, and the cover was engraved with the phrase, "With love to my daring husband. - Loretta." Finch had seen it many times and Churchill never went anywhere without it. He flipped it closed with care, put it back into his scarlet vest pocket and donned his bowler hat once more. The Director General turned and motioned to his two State Security officers to follow him out. Pausing one last time and looking over his shoulder, he said in a calmer but still certain tone of voice, "One year, Doctor Finch. By hook or by crook."

    Joseph K. Finch ran his unsteady fingers through his short white hair as the anxiety flowed freely. "So let it be written, sire...."


    - THE BRITANNIC UNION -
    640px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg.png

    Despite the fact that no frontline combat had occurred on Britannic soil during the entirety of the Great World War, perhaps no country outside of the Rhineland needed more repair and rebuilding than the BU. The anthrax disaster was an unending terror in the Channel. While the Europan side of the water was also still tainted, the Europans could simply fish elsewhere. Paris was largely unharmed. London, however, was built right on the Thames. Every year, people were still dying of anthrax and very little could be done about it. The Channel would still be an ecological disaster for the foreseeable future. Ulster, as they had dubbed the new member of the BU in northern Ireland made up of what little conquered land had been gained in the war, was now vital for its fishing waters. Norway, too, steamed in a constant delivery of fresh fish and foodstuffs to London to help the ravaged capital city back onto its feet. Nearly two decades since the cessation of hostilities, Britannia was still trying to recover from the war and was still dealing with constant acts of terror in Ulster from the few remaining Catholics, all of whom had to live in hiding.

    So bad had been the situation when the guns fell silent in Ulster at the end of the war that a movement gained momentum to overthrow Churchill and dissolve the Union. Wales, also a member of the BU, was still frequently the site of riots and terrorist attacks. The destruction wrought upon Scotland by Irish bombardment and general upheaval sent many Scots packing for the Republican Union and still more down south to England, where refugee camps overflowed and eventually turned into large semi-permanent ghettos. Many more, however, joined their Presbyterian brothers in the Carolinas, particularly in Carolinian Africa where thousands of Scots received free ranches and farms and many went to work on the Congo Sea project.

    scots.jpg

    Members of the 1st Scottish Expatriate Infantry Regiment pose for a photo in the Carolinian Corridor, circa 1925. Membership in the Cokie military tripled allotted free territory and farmland that could be claimed by new colonists

    The only reason the angry mobs had not successfully ousted Churchill was largely due to the presence of the so-called Anglo-American Solidarity Legions. Fearing Illuminist traction in the decimated British Isles, Steele wanted to maintain fascism there to keep holy the homeland of the Anglo-Saxons and to keep an eye on mainland Europe. Britannia could never fall. It could not be allowed. Thus, thousands of A-ASL troops patrolled London under the guise of "peacekeeping and deliverance of aid," whilst actually brutally repressing any anti-Churchill sentiment. Joe Steele liked to keep Churchill in a state of permanent paranoia, constantly worrying an ORRA agent was going to slit his throat in his sleep, and this paranoia did nothing for Churchill's mental or physical health. But by turning Churchill into a shell of his former self, he had produced a lapdog who bowed to his every whim. Even Johnny Gamble was not as laughable or as much of a bootlicker as Winston Churchill.

    Before long, the A-ASL had trained a new cadre of "State Security," or "SS," a force of secret police that fought day and night against the ever-present resistance movement that wished to depose the Director General. It was not an easy task, however, as the resistance movement had unified into something called "The Dregs." Instead of different anti-fascist, separatist, Illuminist, or Beutelist factions all struggling to topple the government, they had joined together for the time being into the Dregs to better focus on the main task of removing Churchill and the Nationalist Party (frequently nicknamed NatPar). The Dregs got their name in 1925, when a miner's strike in Grimsby soon drew in loggers, railyard workers, and Scottish refugees and ended with police brutally beating them with batons and deploying gas canisters. Many of the strikers were veterans of the Great World War, and now they found themselves facing gas attacks at home. Churchill told the state-run paper The Vow:

    "These terrorists are no freedom-fighters or noble heroes. They are the dregs of society. And like the vermin in the sewers of London, we shall flush them out and cleanse our fair country of their degeneracy."

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    "Dregs" on the march, circa 1929

    Prior to the Great War, Britannia had been a hotbed of medical and scientific advancement. Indeed, it was Dr. Joseph K. Finch, of the London Medical Society, who had birthed the Beckie Flue Vaccine and its accompanying Cleansing "Vaccine" that had wiped out millions of Inferiors in months back in America. London had slowly been regaining its place as one of the most important cultural cities in all the world. But the disastrous anticlimax of the Great World War had set London back decades. When the time came for them to host the 1934 London Conference that would establish the League of Nations, it was designed to be a triumphal return of the city to greatness. In reality, it was the SS cleaning up town for a week or two while the visitors were present, a bandage slapped on a gaping, festering wound. The Conference which created the League of Nations went off without a hitch, but violence resumed as soon as the circus had left town. The blood-thirst of the Dregs could only be stymied for so long.

    The best thing the Dregs had going for them was the fact that their disparate and wildly varied internal factions were too independent and widespread to be stamped out easily. However, it was also the worst aspect, as its leadership was practically nonexistent, meaning there was no great central figure which the Dregs could offer as a replacement for Churchill. There were no other parties allowed in the BU aside from the Nationalist Party, either, so any sort of populist movement was impossible. So instead the Dregs turned to terrorism. From drive-by shootings of government officials to blowing up post offices to setting fire to police autos, the Dregs fought the government with everything they had. But the greatest irony was that the Dregs had also so contributed to Churchill's mental decline that they ended up making things worse. In response to every terrorist act, Churchill would execute entire groups of political prisoners. For every fallen Nationalist Party member put six feet under, the SS would publicly execute a Dreg. Posters blanketed the country, bearing only a simple design of Churchill's face on a white background and the phrase "Uncle Winston is Watching You!" These posters became one of the most iconic symbols of Britannic fascism.

    Deputy Director Clement Attlee was in charge of the day-to-day running of the SS, and kept detailed lists of every citizen considered a threat to Churchill's rule. It had been Attlee who had first formulated the idea of Operation Cromwell, the Chemical Weapon Command's bioweapon project. Attlee drew up the plan for using weaponized smallpox on Ireland, getting the League of Nations to institute a travel ban under the name of keeping the world safe from the next Beckie Flu, and then letting the entire Kingdom eat itself in an apocalyptic death spiral. When Irish society was properly broken down, the Britannic Union would simply march on the ashes. There had never even been a true peace signed between Ireland and the BU, meaning renewed hostilities could not be seen as an act of war in the legal sense. Dr. Joseph K. Finch, the legend who had developed the Beckie Flue vaccine, was brought aboard to develop Op-Crom and mastermind its implementation... on Churchill's schedule. In 1936, with the beginning of Operation Manifest Destiny, Churchill demanded the bioweapon be ready by the end of 1937, while Finch insisted that it wait till the end of 1938. While American troops moved against the Neutrality Pact, in the Old World Britannic scientists readied to unleash a terrible and horrifying blight upon their western neighbors.

    Clement-Attlee_3285654k.jpg

    Deputy Director Clement Attlee speaking before the NatPar Annual Worker's March in 1934

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    Deputy Director Attlee joins General Director Churchill for a NatPar official function, circa 1930s

    church-jer21s.jpg

    Churchill and Attlee are greeted by loyalists near Ullapool, Scotland, site of Operation Cromwell

    The culture of the Britannic Union was extremely dependent on American entertainment media and styles. Clothing was very similar to American fashion, and most theaters showed American films, cartoons, and shorts, bookended by propaganda reels. It was clear to anyone living in Britannia in the 1930s that the country was poor, very poor, and even the most devout fascist would have admitted so. The reels promised month after month, year after year, that the hard times would soon be over. Even as London festered in anthrax outbreaks and poverty, Churchill vowed that, through their united faith in God, Britannia would one day again rule the waves.

    One of the reasons Britannia was the least stable of all the fascist powers was that the people were the least religious of any fascist population. The collapse of Anglicanism in the 19th century following the overthrow of the monarchy had gained many followers for Lutheranism, Presbyterianism, Baptistry, and even American Fundamentalist Christianity. But still many more were skeptical or even outright atheistic. The hard times brought by the war and the following economic hardship had not been kind. Churchill himself was a registered member of both the AFC Church and the spin-off Britannic Fundamentalist Church (BFC) and he frequently made his religious views known. He dared not crack down upon other Protestant denominations like in America, knowing that would be the death of him and a certain departure of Scotland from the Union. Instead he made it very difficult for non-BFC members to join the upper echelons of NatPar. Nevertheless, Philip Kent, his Director of Propaganda and the designer of the "Uncle Winston" posters, was a practicing Lutheran.

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    Director of Propaganda Philip Edgar Kent

    It would be Philip Kent who would discover "Executive Order 78," quite by accident, when some of Churchill's papers were left on a table during a cabinet meeting in 1936, shortly after the Director General toured Ullapool Chemical Command. Daring a quick glance, Order 78 was a detailed plan for the handing over of Britannic sovereignty to the Republican Union in the event of a total breakdown of government or Churchill's demise. Kent was horrified at the thought of "direct rule from Philadelphia" and began to realize just how far up the Yank's rear Churchill had crawled. Kent was fine with an alliance to the RU, but to actually hand over ancient Britannia to them was treasonous in his eyes. This terrifying discovery was something Kent had to keep to himself, lest he risk execution. Above all, he knew that if Operation Cromwell did not succeed then Joe Steele would almost certainly come knocking. He was stuck in a very precarious situation: he wanted to remove Churchill for treason, but he also rooted for the Director General's success to stave off Yankee ships steaming up the Thames. The 1930s were a hard time for Britannia, and they were about to get harder....
     
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    THIS IS THE WAR ROOM
  • THIS IS THE WAR ROOM
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    A Yankee soldier guards the Republican Union Capitol Building, home of the War Room, 1936


    Joe Steele stormed into the chambers of the Capitol Building's War Room that morning of December 25, 1936, like a raging bear. He shoved open the massive double-doors and stood there, an arm on each knob, shaking violently, veins bulging on his graying forehead. "What in the name of the Prophet is going on, damn it?!" he shrieked, finally letting the doors close behind him. Two junior officers, terrified out of their minds, reluctantly moved back into guard position on the other side of the doors. It was the day after Patriot-Saints Day, but all was not quiet all through the house.

    The War Room occupied the west wing of the Capitol Building. It had once been a conference room for Custer and his adjutants so many years ago. In 1929, it had seen a massive overall. One side of the room was a colossal map of the New World on a huge mahogany table trimmed with brass eagles and stars, while the other side of the War Room mostly consisted of various desks, telephones, and filing cabinets. The hardwood floors showed age but still gave off almost a mirror shine. Large MDP banners hung from the walls, spaced between the windows that allowed one to look into the Capitol Gardens. The Gardens both gave a pleasant view and also prevented would-be spies from photographing through the windows. But the only view anyone was getting right now was Joe Steele, in living color, about to have a stroke from pure boiling rage over the terrible news he had just received.

    Acme Ashton, the 74 year-old Yale man and former Legate General of Lincoln's Hammer, had been promoted to Supreme Marshal by Steele following the "stress-induced murder-suicide" of Ambrose Jansen and his wife. While far beyond his glory years of torching entire swathes of Canada during the Great World War, Ashton still cut an imposing figure in his dress greens and khaki trousers, his peaked visored cap with a massive brass eagle badge on the front, and the white hair that framed his square face. But even the man behind the Kawartha Lakes campaign didn't know what to say to the enraged President without risking his own neck. About twenty other officers all stood silent, arms outstretched in salute, faces pale as sheets.

    "Mr. President, we are honored with your presen-" began Ashton, also raising his arm, before he was promptly cut off by Steele.

    "-Spare me, Ashton! This isn't a tea party, this is a war! Please tell me, right now, that the report I was just handed at the Presidential Mansion was incorrect."

    The Supreme Marshal looked down at the floor a brief moment and licked his flat, cracked lips. The bags under his eyes were quite visible and the stress of playing pick-up in the middle of a war was clearly getting to the old man. "Mr. President, I am afraid it is true. The Canal... has been breached."

    Steele reacted to this horrific news by running his fingers through his mane of slicked, greased hair and walking over to a chair near Ashton, where he promptly collapsed into the red velveteen cushion. "Ashton... this is unacceptable. The Canal is the lifeblood of this country." With a motion of his hand, two adjutants pushed his chair against the table where he slowly took out a simple pipe and began to pack it with Morton's Finest Pipe Tobacco. Steele smoked infrequently, remembering the lessons of his adopted father's demise, but he especially was prone to the habit in times of great stress.

    The aging Supreme Marshal of the Grand Army of the Republic nodded his head in reluctant agreement. "Yes, quite, sir. I received news myself only moments before you did. I cannot possibly express my shock and dismay at this current turn of events, but I have my trust in Jehovah that we shall quickly prevail." The smoke puffing out of the President's pipe irritated his passageways, but he was just grateful Steele was having one of his "pocket breakfasts." He had seen the man take greasy, hours-old strips of bacon out of his jacket pocket, wrapped in a handkerchief, and start munching.

    "It is disgusting beyond all measure that those Neuties hold our own damn canal, the most vital trade hub in the hemisphere. What the hell happened to our boys at the border?" Steele asked in a depressed, quiet tone, as he was clearly trying to keep his blood pressure under control. "Legion XX is a Rock of Gibraltar. One of the finest units in the whole GAR and damn sure the best Army Group VI has to offer."

    "Mr. President, if I may answer that question?" came the voice of a sturdy, middle-aged officer in the uniform of the Republican Union Military Police. His light blue eyes and youthful face stood in stark contrast to the sagging, bagging scowls of the older officers around him. He was probably about 40, but more than a little bit young to wear the rank of general on his sleeves.

    Joe Steele raised an eyebrow and asked, "Who are you, my man? I don't recall meeting you before."

    The young general clicked his heels and bowed slightly, replying in quiet dignity, "General Albrecht Durer Sanders, Iowai RUMP. We have not met before, Excellency, as I have been only recently promoted after the most... unfortunate-but well deserved!- demise of General John Harrison."

    Steele raised a finger as if remembering everything. "Ah yes! Harrison. Good fighting man. Shame he ran around on his wife like that. You may proceed, General Sanders."

    Sanders nodded. "Legion XX reported heavy Neuty presence along the border since the war began two months ago, but they had yet to see any real action beyond a few skirmishes." The General stepped over to the strategic map, picked up a stick, and pointed it at the toy soldier labeled "Legion XX," which was placed over the Panama Canal. Steele pulled a pair of glasses out of his pocket to see more clearly on the huge map. "Now, we thought that the main fight was probably going to be in the Caribbean but we all could have guessed that the Neuties second target would be the canal. Multiple attempts at sabotage have been halted by the XXth and remnants of Navy Group V that are currently running protection routes in and around the canal area. It appeared perhaps the attack on Point Pierce was the best they had for us, and the Infee threat to the south was a paper tiger. Unfortunately, last night several thousand Peruvian and Colombian paratroopers dropped over the Canal Zone. We destroyed dozens of planes, but there were enough that got through that they were able to cause mayhem at Camp Gilbert, the Canal Zone chief fortification. They also utilized small, civilian aerocraft to more easily dodge our A-A grinders. The airdrop was preceded by a devastating full-on assault on the front line defenses on the border itself. The XXth boys were pushing on, full-steam, against the Neuties infantry assault. Unfortunately, with paratroops wreaking havoc in the rear and dismantling our antenna array, communication became difficult. A few paratroops got lucky and took over a few batteries of ours and used them to decimate our boys from behind. Split in two and with an estimated 70 percent of Legion XX's ranking officers dead, a rout ensued." Sanders knocked the American toy soldier out of the way and positioned a toy soldier carrying a Neutrality Pact flag over the Panama Canal. "That is where we are now."

    Steele bit his lip from anxiety and said, with pain in his voice, "This is disgusting beyond all imagination. You say 70 percent of Legion XX's ranking officers are out. What are the casualties in total? What is the status of their Legionary Eagle?"

    Ashton fielded that question and said, with a bitter somberness, "Mr. President, they appeared to be targeting our officers deliberately and those who were captured were strung upside down on walls and are being beaten mercilessly and used for bayonet practice."

    "Jehovah-damned savages! These animals will pay for this atrocity!" shouted one nearby colonel, with a chorus of hearty cheers and table-smacks following his battle cry.

    Ashton lightly tapped the table in discouraged agreement. "With Jehovah's help, yes. But back to your question, sir... Legion XX is reporting 5 cohorts captured or killed. Their Legionary Eagle's whereabouts are currently unknown. It was last seen at 0400 hours."

    Steele's mouth dropped in shock. "No... That's impossible. That's 10,000 men! What the actual hell is going on? Have Legate General Stein bring up his men in reserve at Headerburg, and order all RUMP officers in the region to answer to him. That's just fifteen miles north of the Canal. That should be enough to push back against these vermin. They've got to be running low on manpower and ammunition after killing 10,000 of our damn boys."

    Ashton paused for a moment before answering, his expression not unlike the one of a man about to punt a puppy into an oncoming truck. He knew the blood-curdling rage that was about to be unleashed. He crossed his hands behind his back, stood as straight as a board, and answered his Commander-In-Chief. "Mr. President... yesterday... yesterday was our holiday, as you are well-aware. Stein... Stein... Stein has already pushed ahead. Stein... Stein was drunk. Most of our boys were. It was a Patriot-Saints Day celebration that got a bit out of control. Stein... Stein is dead, sir. He was killed almost instantly. Legion XX does not have a commander." With that, he gestured at Sanders who removed the XXth Legion marker from the map.

    Joe Steele shot Ashton a look that even the Supreme Marshal had never seen before. It was a look of such pure rage that it almost appeared calm. Slowly, a shaking hand gave away the anger as it moved to grab the arm of the glasses. With a slow, stuttering motion the glasses were removed and sat on the table. "Everyone but the following, leave the room. Ashton. Sanders. Harris. Cochran. Rockwell."

    With an uncomfortable silence, all the men who were in the room, besides the few designated by the President, shuffled out, leaving an eerie silence in the great chamber. As soon as the door closed, like a bolt of lightning, Steele shot to his feet, grabbed the chair he had been sitting in, and began to frantically smash it against the map table, shrieking, "This! Is! Fucked!" with every swing of the disintegrating, splintering antique. He finally broke it down to just two remaining legs held together with a single piece of trim before hurling that across the room, striking a large painting of Strong Father Abe and sending it crashing down onto the floor, glass shattering everywhere. "This is fucked to the Void and back! What the actual fuck is going on with this man's military, Ashton?! I put you in charge of this shitshow, hoping you would do a better job than that Southron aristocratic hillbilly before you, and what do I get? A dead, drunk legate and a dead, drunk legion right on the fucking doorstep of the New Jerusalem! And those who aren't dead and drunk are fucking captured and hanging by their bootlaces off of MY canal, my fucking canal, gentlemen! Now tell me, Ashton, in no uncertain terms, exactly how and by what time today, and I mean this very literally, we will once again plant our flag over the most valuable real-estate on the planet!"

    The remaining officers in the room were shaking in their boots (aside from Cochran, who almost seemed to be enjoying the show). Steele had never gone this far off the deep end before. Ashton spoke haltingly but did his best to reassure and calm the savage beast. "Your excellency... do not be without hope, for I... I have already received confirmation from Legate General Fleetwood that the entirety of Army Group VI is on the move to the canal and should be in the combat zone within three hours. You are welcome to remain in the War Room until we take it back, which we will. Due to obvious reasons we cannot use air power to push our assault forward, but we will take it back through the might and power of an entire Army Group bearing down up it. We will take it back and when we do no mercy shall be given to the Infee Voidmonkeys who desecrated our soil. And we shall retrieve the Legionary Eagle and have it cleansed by the Council. We shall rebuild Legion XX stronger than ever, and we shall redeem its legacy, Mr. President."

    Suddenly, Ser. Bill Cochran, the AFC representative in the War Room and in Steele's clique of advisors, spoke up in a calm tone from the small table he sat at, arms crossed over his crimson uniform, a cup of coffee steaming next to him. He seemed entirely unaffected by the President's breakdown. "Mr. President, Supreme Marshal," he began, raising his right arm slightly, "If I may suggest that you call upon the Church to do its part in this fight to retake our sacred soil, I recommend Order 12 be implemented."

    "Order 12?" Ashton raised an eyebrow. Cochran gave him the creeps, yet he couldn't figure out what it was that was so off-putting about the man. He was black, but Ashton wasn't a racist, of course. Maybe it was just his constantly calm demeanor which gave off the air of a serial killer in the Kissimmee flicks.

    Steele suddenly seemed to calm himself as he recalled what Cochran was talking about. "Order 12... Yes. Yes. Order 12, my prerogative to nationalize HOST and send them to war. Excellent. We shall see how these vermin like it when the Holy Order of the Sons of Tobias are knocking on their door. I shall take everything from these animals. Everything!"

    Ser. Cochran smiled wickedly. "I shall ring up the Reverend-Colonel immediately and inform him Order 12 is a go, then, Mr. President?"

    Steele smiled back, coldly replying, "Yes. Give him a call for me."

    Dammit. Ashton quietly cursed under his breath. Now the Church was interfering with his strategy. Just terrific.
     
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    THE 2019 MADNESSVERSE HOLIDAY SPECIAL: "IT'S PATRIOT-SAINTS DAY, ZAP ZEPHYR!"
  • I have been UNBELIEVABLY stressed and busy, but I hope you guys enjoy this goofy holiday special! It's deliberately written from a biased and an hilariously double-think and double-speech style, clearly showing negative traits about Zap Zephyr yet praising him for those same traits. I'll go over and improve/work on this short story some more, but for now here it is. Happy New Year, everyone!



    "ZAP ZEPHYR: TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY PINNACLE MAN" AND ALL RELATED CHARACTERS AND SETTINGS COPYRIGHT ZEPHYR ENTERTAINMENT 1973
    "IT'S PATRIOT-SAINT'S DAY, ZAP ZEPHYR!" COPYRIGHT Z.E. 1973 FIRST PUBLISHED 1936

    It is the TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY!
    From the heart of the NEW JERUSALEM
    to the far-flung stars of OUTER SPACE,
    GENERAL ZAP ZEPHYR and his hearty
    ZED FORCE CREW defend the virtues of
    AMERICAN CIVILIZATION against the
    corrupt mores of the sinister MARTIAN
    HORDES, INFERIORS OF THE STARS!

    Striking from a CESSPIT hideout on the
    RED PLANET MARS, the vile Martians
    have scored a pyrrhic victory against
    the VALIANT SPACE FORCE on PATRIOT-
    SAINTS DAY itself. SPACE FORCE believes
    insidious MARTIAN INFEES managed to
    steal secret plans to the SPACE FORCE's
    ULTIMATE WEAPON, the devastating
    EAGLE STATON, a weapons platform
    capable of rendering planets
    uninhabitable .

    Pursued by the PINNACLE PATRIOT, ZAP
    ZEPHYR, the MARTIAN INFEE PRINCESS
    MOMODO is trying to escape the forces
    of TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND THE AMERICAN
    WAY and bring about a GODLESS era of
    debauched ANARCHY AND HEDONISM.
    OUR HERO must act QUICKLY and
    DECISIVELY to SAVE THE EARTH from
    Martian use of the superweapon
    and restore peace to the
    HAPPIEST DAY OF THE YEAR....

    *AHOOGA*

    *AHOOGA*

    *AHOOGA*


    Dozens of green Martian Inferiors ran to the central corridor of Princess Momodo's aging starfreighter, Momodo's Pride, as the ship's central alarm klaxons reverberated their warning of the enemy's approach. The Pride was a vile, decrepit ship of Zalkor Shipyards design, one of the oldest Martian companies in existence. The Pride was 30 years old, but actually one of the last ships ever built by the Martians, following the 2030 Treaty of the Oculus. The Excelsior, the state-of-the-art flagship rocket of General Zap Zephyr of Zed Force Command, had stopped the Martian vessel not far from one of the ice moons of Saturn in a daring attempt to recollect the plans for Eagle Station. Eagle Station was a daring new step for mankind's continued dominance of the stars and could potentially end the Martian insurrection forever by exterminating their species from existence. With all the Martian scum dead, the dusty red planet could be terraformed to make room for more of God's Chosen Betters to go forth and multiply.

    Martian space marines took spots all around the corridor, hiding behind crates and piles of garbage and waste as they awaited the imminent arrival of the American heroes. Guns ready, they muttered prayers to the Red Gods and hoped they would yet escape the horrible death that almost certainly and justly awaited them all. Besides the blare of the klaxon, the whole freighter was silent.

    *BOOM*

    In an instant, the double doors at the end of the Martian ship's corridor erupted in a ball of fire and light as an explosive charge blew them off their hinges. In came dozens of blue-uniformed young men and women, eyes fiery behind the glass domes of their spacesuits, all desperate to hand out God's justice sand the wrath of Christ and Prophet upon the Martian Inferiors. Ray gun blasts flew through the air, streaking beams of white-hot energy, burning holes right through the enemy or sending them reeling backward. Martians fell left and right. One vile creature's face vaporized as it was hit and it fell to the slippery, moldy floor shrieking in agony, its mouth tendrils unable to form coherent words. If it could have been understood through its torment, it was begging its comrades to put it out of its misery.

    "Happy Patriot-Saints Day, Martian scum!" cheered Skip Hancock, First Mate of the Excelsior, as he beamed an Infee Martian with every step of a gravity boot he took deeper inside the Momodo's Pride. "Zed Force comes bearing gifts! And Father Abe says you all have been very naughty!"

    As the Martian horde withdrew deeper into the ship, a tall man with chiseled features and keen green eyes stepped into the corridor, a ray gun at his side and a cocaine-infused cigarette dangling nonchalantly from his lips, the smoke filling his glass dome helmet and slightly obscuring his features. Squeezing off a few shots at the retreating foe, he joined Skip as they gallantly brought up the rear. Zap Zephyr cut an intimidating figure, to be sure, in his red space suit with blue trim. On his jacket sleeve was the flag of the Republican Union, God's Chosen New Jerusalem. His boots were made of the finest Skeeper-hide from Uranus, and his golden-brown hair was messy and yet somehow impeccable in its style and flow. The men wanted to be him, the women wanted him. Zap Zephyr truly was the complete and bulging full package of the American ideal of the Pinnacle Race of the Future.

    "First Mate Hancock! Report on the situation!" Zap ordered in a cool, commanding tone of voice as the gingerly stepped over the bodies and filth of the rickety freighter hallway.

    Skip Hancock had been at Zap's side for ten years, through thick and thin, and they had studied together at the New Philadelphia Space Academy. He fired another shot over the fleeing foes' heads before cocking his head at Zap and answering. "Well, General," he said calmly, "Princess Momodo should be just down the hall in the central command chamber. And with her, the plans for Eagle Station!"

    "Excellent, First Mate," Zap said with a smile spreading across his steely face. "I want the Martian broodwhore alive. No disintegrations. Also, tell Stareena I expect Patriot-Saints Day dinner to be done by the time we get back to our command bridge. This won't take long!"

    "I think the Colonel Goodyear HelperBots can manage the cooking tonight, Zap," came the sound a sultry voice from behind the two officers. They turned around and beheld a dazzling sight in the wreckage of the double-doors: Princess Stareena, the blonde buxom former heir to the throne of Titan. Despite her light blue skin, the Titanians were of Pinnacle Blood, as laid down by the Council of Jehovah's 2067 Galactic Decree, and Stareena was Zap's one true love. Dressed in her white bodysuit, short white skirt, and with her bleached hair styled perfectly under her glass dome helmet, she was a vision of beauty and carnal pleasure. She pulled a chrome ray gun from her brown leather belt holster and gave a smirk. "I think it's time for a battle of the Princesses. I don't want some Martian whore around my man."

    Zap laughed heartily and said, "My darling, I wouldn't worry about competition from Momodo. I don't think I want to kiss a cluster of tendrils."

    Stareena approached him and let him grab her under her thigh, raising her leg up to his waist as they embraced. With a thunk, their glass dome helmets touched and their eyes locked, illuminated by their helmet collar lights. "My dashing husband, hero of the galaxy!" she said with a soft sigh, smiling at him once more. In the distance, the ungodly death-cries and gurgles of perishing Martian space marines could be heard as he caressed her shoulder tenderly. "I think the little girls of the galaxy need a role-model, as well, so it might as well be me," she said, tongue-in-cheek but not altogether joking.

    "Alright, darling," Zap agreed, letting go of his voluptuous lover and advancing down the hall with Skip, Stareena following behind. "Stick close, because you never know what vile traps these rapscallions can set up in these disgusting vessels. I can't wait to turn this thing's autopilot on and send it hurtling into the nearest black hole."

    "Aye aye, skip," agreed a disgusted Skip. "The sooner we're off this sorry excuse for a starship, the better. Come on, Momodo should be just up ahead. I'm sure the boys are having a field day blasting these green goons."

    They approached the end of the corridor finally and stepped into a large central chamber from where the ship was controlled. Instead of a victorious American force resting on its laurels, however, the three heroes saw many of their Zed Force crewmates dead on the floor. The rest were in a frenzy of fear and adrenaline as a a massive spider-like creature, ripped its way through the entrails of many a Star-Spangled boy and let out ungodly and otherworldly howls of pain as the ray blasts from the American spacers hit its lobster-like armor plating.

    "By the Prophet!" swore Zap as he heroically dragged Stareena out of harm's way and hid behind a nearby crate. Skip fired a few shots off before also diving under a piece of detritus. "They have a Red Beast on board! Probably taking it to one of their game reserves on the moons of Jupiter. Hancock! We need to take this thing down! It might be big, but there isn't anything alive that can stand up to American ingenuity!"

    "MY LEGS, OH MY GOD, MY LEGS!" came the ear-piercing death-cries of an American spacer as his legless body flew through the air like a ragdoll before crashing into a ceiling light, sending sparks cascading down like the Fourth of July upon our intrepid adventurers.

    Blood from the maimed trooper flecked onto Skip's helmet and his glass dome's wiper blades brushed it off. Another ingenious development from Colonel Goodyear, purveyors of all true-blue American Space Force equipment. Skip winced as the man's body plopped onto the ground next to him like a sack of potatoes. "Aye, General! What is your plan?" he cried from across the way behind his makeshift barricade. "If we don't do this just right, this could be the end of our run, Zap!" As if to prove a point, the Red Beast grabbed a brave young Yank in its front claw and proceeded to smash his glass dome helmet against the wall, his suit decompressing in the toxic atmosphere of the inside of the ship. With one final move, the creature howled and gutted the man with its other claw and raised the corpse up in victory. Another stroke of the wiper blades cleaned Skip's helmet of blood and juices.

    Zap took a deep breath of the cocaine infused air supply, his eyes dilating and his trigger-finger itching. "Space Force heroes live forever in the hearts of their countrymen! Come on, you damn dirty apes, do you want to go to Heaven?!"

    The remaining American spacers roared and cheered as they made a final desperate assault on the Red Beast, blasting away with everything they had. Using their surging attack as covering fire, Zap, Skip, and Stareena advanced behind the maze-like piles of trash and offal that adorned the floor. They quickly found themselves almost directly underneath the carapace of the Red Beast, its chest cavity dripping with mucus and covered in writhing tendrils.

    "This requires a woman's touch, Zap," whispered Stareena, drawing a grenade from her belt pouch and fingering the activator switch.

    Zap Zephyr clutched tenderly at his lover's arm. "Stareena, no! You are my most precious love, I cannot allow you to sacrifice yourself!"

    She held him tightly before springing up from the wreckage, grenade ready. In a few frantic seconds, she thrust herself into the beast's chest cavity, the writhing tendrils sending chills down her spine. She forced the grenade in as deep as possible before frantically worming her way out. Not two seconds later, the grenade erupted, turning the creature into a shell full of jelly. The creature immediately fell over, a sea of fluids and liquefied organs flowing from its orifices. A moment passed but then Stareena pulled herself out of the nastiness, standing tall once again.

    "My God!" Zap exclaimed. "That's one hell of a woman, by jing!" He scurried over to embrace her, their pristine uniforms covered in gore as they embraced under the shadow of the monster's slumped-over corpse.

    "You're one hell of a man, Zap Zephyr," she purred as he stroked her back.

    ***

    30 minutes later...

    Princess Momodo, the heir of the Martian throne, felt the weight of the chains dragging her down. She was bound hand and foot but was being roughly carried by two American Space Forcers to the main control bridge of the Excelsior. This wasn't the first time she had been on an American vessel, but she had a good idea that would likely be her last before she experienced the vast, unfathomable emptiness of the Void.

    Zap Zephyr stood tall at the helm of the ship, this time free of his breathing apparatus and glass helmet, and Skip was nearby activating switches and getting ready to warp back to Earth once the stolen Eagle Station plans were recovered from the Pride. "Well, well, if it isn't the green queen herself," Zap spat with righteous fury in his voice.

    "This is outrageous, General Zephyr!" Momodo cried, her tendrils twitching with rage almost equal to our hero's. "We were on a transport mission bringing wild game to stock my father's hunting reserves and you dared assault us and murder my men and cargo! This is a violation of the Treaty of Oculus! My government will not stand for this."

    Our valiant Yankee general moved close to her face, standing toe-to-toe, eye-to-eye. "We know you have the secret plans and we will get them one way or another, I'm afraid. Where are the Eagle Station plans."

    "Eagle Station? What are you talking about, you shub-monger?" she spat.

    With a loud smack that echoed through the bridge, Zap rebuked her. "You dare use such vile profanity addressing a general of the Republican Union Space Force? I ought to kill you where you stand, Infee scum. Now, for the last time, where are the plans? Don't make me take you to the brig interrogation for some special time alone, if you pick up what I'm putting down, you dumb broad."

    Another tendril twitch. "I don't know what in the name of the Red Gods you are talking about, General."

    Zap's nostrils flared and Skip shook his head in disgust. Zap told her, "Well, don't worry, my dear friend. When my men finish searching your pathetic excuse for a ship, they'll find the plans. And then I'll bring you back to earth with me to drag the Princess of Mars through the streets to wallow in shame before the President orders your execution. Then Zed Force shall use the power of Eagle Station to reduce your home to dust and embers. We shall turn your world into a new living space for the Chosen Race of the New Jerusalem, Treaty of Oculus be damned! Guards! Take her away, and let me know as soon as the plans are found!"

    As the prisoner was dragged off, Princess Stareena entered the bridge, her long flowing locks adoring her bare blue shoulders. She had changed to a revealing white blouse and and also sported an apron. "Zap, honey, Patriot-Saints Day dinner is almost ready. Will you be joining me in our quarters?"

    Before Zap could answer, Marty Carter, one of the chief engineers, burst into the bridge and interrupted in a frantic tone. "General Zephyr, sir! The men just discovered Momodo transmitted the Eagle Station plans to Mars itself! Likely to her father!"

    "Son of a bugaboo," muttered Zephyr. "Drat and double drat! Looks like we're launching a little miniature invasion of the Red capital. We'll get our plans back, one way or another, damn it. Skip, take us to Mars! Carter, tell the men to prepare to warp into a combat zone. I'm sure Momodo's green pig of an old man won't be happy to see us."

    Skip looked a bit down as he punched in the coordinates into the Excelsior's central tabulatics. Noticing his morose composure, Zap put a hand on his first mate and best friend's shoulder, he asked, "What's the matter, Skip? Did losing so many boys earlier get to you?"

    Skip shook his head. "Nah, Zap. I just wish I could be home for Patriot-Saints Day, not on some godforsaken Martian crater."

    Zap laid a finger on the Republican Union flag patch on Skip's sleeve. "You see that?" he asked him.

    Skip looked puzzled. "I mean, it's our flag, all hail. What about it?"

    Zap put his hands on his hips, puffed his chest out, and said in his charismatic tone, "That patch is America. This ship is America. Skip, Patriot-Saints Day isn't about being at the heart of Philadelphia, or singing songs around the Liberty Tree with the creature comforts of a luxury home. Patriot-Saints Day isn't reserved for home or earth. Deep inside us all waves the Star-Spangled Banner, and wherever the grav-boots of Pinnacle Men may trod, so too does America. This galaxy is American, set aside by Jehovah. And by the Prophet, we'll celebrate our national day no matter how far we fly among the stars."

    Skip looked up, in awe of his commander and loyal friend. "Thank you, sir. I realize how truly blessed I am to be here with you. It's Patriot-Saints Day, Zap Zephyr. And a Happy New Year, also, sir!" The two men locked forearms and hands together in a meaty, manly handshake.

    Zap released his first mate's hand and gave him another pat on the back before oozing his way over to Stareena, grabbing her around the waist and nibbling at her ear.

    "Oh, and shall I give the order to execute all prisoners from Momodo's ship, sir?" Skip asked, matter-of-factually.

    Zap breathed in the aroma of his lover's exotic perfume and the scents of apple pie and green bean casserole from her apron. It made him glad to be a man. He gingerly kissed her supple blue lips. "Oh, yes, of course, Skip. Whatever you say," he muttered, waving his hand as he danced into his private quarters with his wife.

    Skip shook his head and showed a crooked, knowing smile. He was glad such a true hero could have time to unwind between missions. "Right," he said, pulling himself back to the tabulatic system, turning a few green blips on the screen red. "Out the airlock with the lot of you. Happy Patriot-Saints Day, Infee Scum!"


    EDITOR'S NOTE: The preceding story was taken from the 1936 issue of Zap Zephyr Monthly, and was distributed as propaganda to increase morale among American troops participating in Operation Manifest Climax who were unable to spend the holiday stateside with their families. The story was wildly popular with American troops. Among them was a long-time avid Zap Zephyr fan named Chuck Oswald, soon to prove himself in some of the worst fighting ever seen in American history. The impact of Zap Zephyr upon the future President cannot be understated, and the similarities between the two men, both possessing heroic levels of bravery, voluptuous wives, and movie star looks, is obvious to any student of American history. All hail President Oswald, Hail to the Chief!










     
    THE BIGGEST HOSTAGE OF ALL
  • THE BIGGEST HOSTAGE OF ALL
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    Members of Army Group VI dig in outside the Panama Canal

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    Legate General Michael Fleetwood, Army Group VI
    "The Gentleman Cowboy"

    "President Steele expects every man to do his duty!" roared Legate General Michael Fleetwood through a loudspeaker. He was standing up in the back of his autobuggy, his personal driver motoring him alongside the advancing Army Group VI. Group VI was made up of troops from all across Old Mexico, but mostly was made up of Metropolis boys from New Canaan, and Fleetwood was one of the most popular men in the entirety of the GAR.

    "We'll lick 'em, General!" cheered one of the boots over the roar of machinery and plodding, adrenaline-fueled footsteps.

    "Yeah!" voiced another private, "We'll chase 'em all the way to the Andes, sir!"

    Fleetwood smiled and saluted his men before again raising the speaker to his mouth. "That we will, boys! Let's go whup 'em, cowboy style!"

    "YEE-HOO!" came the yodeling brays of the troops as his buggy sped on by and further up the column.

    Army Group VI was making great usage of the Destiny Road to quickly move into position to retake the Panama Canal, which had been captured three hours prior by forces of the Neutrality Pact. Fleetwood had momentarily spoken with President Steele via field phone and reassured the Commander-in-Chief that, "The Inferior rabble currently occupying the Canal will soon be put to my holy sword. None shall survive." Fleetwood thought of his family, back on his farming estate in New Canaan, and of his little children who were no doubt sprawled in front of their talkieboxes listening for good news coming from the south. No doubt President Steele was also eagerly awaiting success. Fleetwood was a good man, a family man, and surely God and Fortune were on his side this day.

    Boom.

    From way on up the line came a loud explosion, sending debris flying and smoke and flames licking and crackling up into the beautiful sunny noon-time sky. Fleetwood's heart dropped and he knew full well what it was. Dreading confirmation but knowing he needed to take quick action to deal with the new problem, he slapped his driver on the back, gesturing for him to speed up and reach the front of their militant caravan. He pulled his service pistol from his holster and put his hand over his envelope hat to keep it on and hunkered down in case of ambush.

    The front of the column was devastation. It was the McClellan Memorial Bridge, the main thoroughfare to the Canal Zone, and it was a smoking heap of wreckage and rubble. Roughly half the bridge was still intact, but it was far from usable. Rather than stretching over a waterway or the like, the McClellan Memorial Bridge had been made to easily overcome the hostile jungles of the canyon below. Making matters even worse, the bodies of khaki-uniformed troopers and the smashed-up wreckage of several valuable landships dotted the jungle canopy below in fiery craters.

    "By the Prophet..." muttered Fleetwood as he surveyed the carnage. Several more autobuggy's carrying Group VI command staff were on scene as well.

    "Legate General!" cried out a nearby colonel, his shoulder patch showing him to be the commander of the 320th Cohort, the cohort that was at the front of the march when the bridge explosives were detonated. "Sir, what are your orders? Should we take the DR Scenic Route 1? My estimates put at least another two hours onto our schedule till we reach the Canal."

    "No, no, that is unacceptable," decreed Fleetwood, nervously running a hand over his Steele-style brown mustache. He had sported the facial hair long before it was mainstream, but everyone assumed he simply copied the President. "No, we cannot take the Scenic Route. That's no doubt exactly what the enemy wants of us. I'm sure they have laced that path with explosives as well. Besides, we need to help the wounded survivors down below."

    The other commanders looked confused. "Well, what are your orders, sir?" the tubby, blonde Major General Mal Wurst asked with a desperate and confused tone of voice. "We already have wounded in train from the routing survivors of the Canal. If we rescue these men, it will set us behind just as much as a if we took the Scenic Route, which I am all for, traps be damned."

    Fleetwood struck an indignant pose and replied with a quick, "That will be enough, Major General Wurst." Wurst in turn looked shocked at the quick shut-down. "Wurst, tell me, what does our army consist of? Who fights on the frontline?"

    Wurst looked confused and annoyed that he would be asked such a question in such a circumstance. "Sir? Men?"

    "That's where you are wrong again, General Wurst," Fleetwood answered. "These men, unlike us, never fought in the Great War. These men are not men, but boys. American boys. And we're nothing but a bunch of old blowhards in fancy uniforms without our boys. We will advance into the McClellan Canyon and rescue those we are able and we will push the attack directly across the jungle. We are only a handful of miles away from the Canal. We will push forward, gentlemen. Order the advance. And get some more medics up here, for God's sake!"

    The following push by some 90,000 men of Army Group VI would go down as one of the first things that went right for the Union during the war. Under their inspired leadership, the soldiers braved a perilous descent into the jungle below, rescuing and rendering aid where needed with survivors of the bridge explosion. The landship crews were ironically the worst off, as the fall and ensuing crash and turn most of their internal organs to jelly. But a significant number of troops who would have been abandoned with the Scenic Route strategy were saved and would later return to service. Fleetwood himself would venture on foot into the jungle with his men, as vehicles were having a hard time cutting it. A decent portion of the Group stayed behind with the caravan of trucks, landships, autobuggies, and wounded. Despite a protest from the crews, the landships were deemed unnecessary as they could potentially damage the Canal. It took two hours to get across the mile and a half of dense foliage, but a scout crew of the 322nd Cohort reported back to the command that it was a smart strategy, as the Scenic Route had indeed been prepped with explosives along the roadway, which could have potentially stalled the entire advance.

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    Members of Army Group VI take a break during their incredible and daring push through dense jungle

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    Yankee troops of the 320th Cohort on the move near the Panama Canal

    Fleetwood and most of his men reached the other side of the canyon at approximately 2:23 pm, and were greeted by badly roughed-up survivors of Legion XX, who recounted the tale of the Neutrality Pact's advance on the Canal. Following the debriefing, those deemed still fit to fight were drafted into the fresh units and Fleetwood ordered the march to continue.

    Encountering numerous small scout parties on the way to the Canal, Army Group VI experienced its first firefights of the war, with the enemy troops quickly fleeing back to their main lines. This encouraged the men, most of whom were indeed boys and were still intimidated and upset by the bridge collapse. By 5:30 pm that evening, the Canal Zone was in sight. A Neutrality Pact flag fluttered in the breeze on its tallest parapet, and the Legionary Eagle of Legion XX was positioned over the main entrance, its cloth ripped and defaced, with a man's entrails tossed over its brass bird haphazardly.

    The Neutrality Pact forces were not stupid or blind, and General Diego Rivera, of the Peruvian Army, ordered a mortars to rain down on the encroaching Yankees. As suddenly as the barrage started, however, it stopped. An eerie silence fell over the Canal Zone as a white flag was waved from above the main thoroughfare. In a shocking moment, a Peruvian colonel rode a horse out to meet the Americans, a lance bearing a white banner in his hand. Fleetwood ordered his men to respect the ceasefire. "Let's see what these vermin want, men!"

    A brief conversation ensued between the Peruvian officer and the Yankee commanders.

    "Greetings, my enemy," the Peruvian spoke first, in a mostly acceptable yet still broken English while raising his right hand to his forehead in salute. It made Fleetwood's blood boil to hear such an Inferior dog even speak the tongue of the Chosen Race. "I am Colonel Ricardo Gonzales, Peruvian Cavalry. I am here to, how you say, carry a message from His Excellency, General Diego Rivera. The General wishes to inform you that he has no intention of repatriating the Canal back to you, under any circumstances other than 'gifting you a pile of rubble made from its cornerstone.'"

    Blood boiling in a blind rage, Fleetwood snapped, "Well, maybe General Rivera would appreciate me gifting him your pecker in a box, Ricky!"

    The Peruvian officer shot him a disgusted look before continuing. "Sir, I don't think they make big enough boxes for it where you from. In any event, my general wishes to inform you as well that the Canal is laced with explosives. As our commandos did with your bridge, so too shall we do with the Canal. It's worthless to you destroyed."

    "Son, if they don't make a box big enough for your pecker in this man's Union I'll send Rivera your brain in a pickle jar, 'cause I know that'll fit," Fleetwood spat.

    "YEEEEEE-HAW!" jeered the nearby Yankee troops.

    "So," Fleetwood continued, "I suppose there is more to this hoe-down than just shooting the breeze and member-measuring, isn't there, Colonel?"

    The Peruvian smiled menacingly and replied, "Si. His Excellency also wishes to inform you that any advance or attack made upon the Canal will result in its immediate destruction. We have only a small force garrisoning it, but we still have more than enough men to blow it to hell. It seems we are at an impasse. The General is at leisure with the ruling governments in the Pact to negotiate a quick end to this war. If the Union, how you say, relinquishes control of Cuba, which should not be difficult, judging by the news reports, and pledges to never again invade South America or station troops in the regions of Old Mexico, we shall return the Canal to you and we shall have peace."

    The command staff of Army Group VI shot each other looks of pure horror. General Wurst interjected, "You cannot be serious! America will never negotiate with terrorists!"

    "Indubitably!" Fleetwood found himself agreeing with Wurst, which shocked them both. "The Republican Union will not forget this day, guttersnipe! Ride back to your generalissimo and inform him that, come hell or high water, he's gonna taste my boot down his arrogant, greasy little throat. Go now, before I change my mind and have you crucified!"

    Gonzales spat on the ground before Fleetwood's boots and shouted, "Buenos noches, pendejo!" This prompted the American troops to point guns his way before his wheeled about on his horse and galloped back to his lines.

    Fleetwood frowned and cursed the Peruvian's mother as the rider took off. Then he turned to Wurst and said, "General, get me President Steele on the field phone. He needs to make the decision here. One way or another, we're getting our damned Canal back, and I'll put Rivera's head on the Eagle of Legion XX as an example to all who attempt to mock or control the mightiest nation in the history of the planet! And I would hate to be these Infee Spaniards when he tells me his decision. In the meantime, have the men take up defensive positions and get scouts to photograph every part of the Zone they can possibly see."
     
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    "THE WHOLE WORLD HEARS YOU!"
  • Pictures and proofreading tomorrow! I gotta go to bed!

    "THE WHOLE WORLD HEARS YOU!"

    By the time news of the Canal being held hostage reached the War Room in Philadelphia, the sun was finally setting on Joe Steele's worst day ever. December 25, 1936, was an absolute nightmare from beginning to end, and December 26 could wind up being just as bad if proper actions were not taken. When Steele was confronted with the situation, rather than fly into a rage he knew he had to focus like never before to keep America's most valuable asset, the Panama Canal, from blowing sky high. Never before had such an indignity been perpetrated on the American people since the War of 1812. The Great World War had seen smashing successes all around, despite a few setbacks and lost battles, but the Neutrality Pact's occupation of the Canal was not just a lost battle, it was a slap in the face to every American. Steele gave the go-ahead to the talkiebox news stations to report on the crisis, and toward the end of the night the official Presidential Spokesman, Rodney Clark, told the press that:

    "Tonight, the American people need to pray for our commanders and our soldiers, and for our canal. With the help of Almighty God and the spirit of the Prophet Burr within us all, we will surely prevail. All hail the President and All hail the gallant heroes of the Republican Union military forces."

    To say the mood across the nation was tense would say nothing. From Keybeck to Pacifica, from Florida to New Canaan, mobs of angry and upset citizens marched in the streets, carrying signs and waving flags. Many were burning Neutrality Pact flags and chanting "Death to the Pact!" and "May God kill the Neuties!" To keep the peace, ORRA and RUMP were forced to deploy against their own citizens on the widest scale since the Inferior uprisings of the Cleansing Month, something which upset many officials, as many cities and states were being ordered to also prepare to send their forces south to Panama. The public wasn't protesting the government or assaulting officers of the law, but the rage boiling within the crowds, combined with backing up traffic, was out of control.

    This event in Yankee history is a great time to address Joe Steele's National Crisis Leveling System. In 1930, he had drawn up a scheme wherein various outside and internal forces and events would move the military into greater levels of caution and harshness.

    STAGES OF THE NATIONAL CRISIS LEVELING SYSTEM
    • LEVEL ONE: General societal unease or unrest. Minor marches, demonstrations, and small-scale violence. Small-scale or regional food or fuel shortages. Up until the attack on Point Pierce, the NCL system never went beyond this.
    • LEVEL TWO: Nation-wide civil disobedience or the murder of a national political figure. Also used if a small-scale war broke out.
    • LEVEL THREE: Major fuel or food shortages, economic calamity, violent street action or regional rebellion
    • LEVEL FOUR: All-out major war with a foreign power, attempted assassination of the President, or rebellion from within the military or government.
    • LEVEL FIVE: Putsch attempt or total breakdown of society. Civil war. Death of a President.

    For the first time since the institution of the NCL system, Steele raised the level to Four. This caused major alarm all across the country. The world also was watching with keen awareness. In Europa, many were rooting for the Neutrality Pact to "blow up the Canal and be done with it," and they already had good working relationships with the Pact. After all, Europan weapons and vehicles were the main backbone of the Pact. Some American pundits were even calling the war a shadow operation by Caesar to hamper American growth. In other nations, however, the reception to the news varied greatly. The Dutch were quite fond of shipping trade goods through the Canal and their deals with America were some of the most mutually profitable in the entire world. The Confederation of the Carolinas also looked on with indignity, as they used the Canal as a route to the riches of the Orient and as a connection to their puppet government in Corea. It can be truthfully said that the entire world held its breath and waited to see what Steele would do.

    It would not be until the early hours of the next morning that the President arrived at a possible answer. Rather than take any of the options available, he was going to make his own option. "There is a third way of going about this, and it could potentially still end in disaster. But it may be the only option available that is acceptable in any way," the President told the High Command. Rather than push an all-out attack, which would be almost certainly frivolously stupid, and rather than agreeing to the asinine whims of the Neutrality Pact, which would likely end with his own head on the pike, the third way was the way of espionage. This third option was very dangerous, but it was the only thing he could do in good conscience. He summoned Hodag Squad, an elite ORRA team from Michigania that had built a reputation as the first-ever "special forces" outfit. They were named after a legendary Michiganian monster, and only numbered about 30 men. They trained hard and lived harder. Many of them trained under arctic conditions up north and they also saw time in Dutch Indochina training with the Dutch West Indies Company troops in jungle operations in preparation for Manifest Climax. Hodag Squad's current location was Metropolis, where they had been moved a year prior to become accustomed to the dry heat of the region. This put them mere hours away from the Canal.

    And so it was that Supreme Marshal Ashton called up Captain Bartholomew "Black Bart" Steiner, commander of Hodag Squad, and briefed him on his mission. Within 48 hours, his squad would be in the jungles just outside of the Canal Zone. They would be airdropped to the back of Fleetwood's Army Group VI wearing medic uniforms to hide their true purpose from Neutie scouts and spies. Once in the jungle, however, they would slowly approach the Canal, casing the entire place and determining where the enemy had planted their explosives.

    It would not be long before Hodag Squad and Steiner were on the job, covered head-to-foot in leaves and mud to blend in with the jungle. They crawled on their bellies most of the time, rarely standing lest Neutrality Pact snipers inside the Canal open fire and ruin their operation. Steiner quickly realized that a patrol boat full of dynamite was centered in the inside of the Canal, and appeared to have detonation wires leading elsewhere . Surely, he deduced, there was likely a one or two man suicide team onboard the boat, fingers on the plungers the whole time. The Squad agreed that if they could get to the boat and take out the operators, they could potentially run the boat out of the narrow opening at the end of the Canal and dump the explosives out to sea. It was as potentially suicidal as the jobs of the explosive crew on the patrol boat itself, but it seemed to be their only option. Steiner believed it could work, and knowing the fate of the country potentially rested on his shoulders he made the grave decision to act. He prayed to Jehovah under his breath and gave the orders.

    Like many things in the war so far, this was not going to go the way it was supposed to. Despite safely getting ten squad members into the Canal and facing very little security (the Pact saw little use in sacrificing a lot of men if the explosives went off), the approach to the boat was incredibly difficult to avoid being spotted. They did not have diving gear and their weapons had to be kept above water. In the end, Steiner had his men split up to look for the explosives wired through the facility while he and one other trooper, Sergeant David Muller, attempted to board the vessel at the heart of it all. They made it to the boat and Steiner was climbing up the side when his foot slipped and caused a splash. Immediately, all hell broke loose. Steiner and Muller knew the gig was up and that they had to act immediately. Steiner blasted a hole with his pistol directly through the first enemy's face, sending the corpse plunking into the Canal. The other horrified Peruvian frantically reached for his detonator. Just as his fingers neared the plunger handle, he tripped in his own sheer panic, knocking the detonator off the table onto the floor. He took a desperate stretch to grab the device just as Muller grabbed his legs. Pulling him away just in the nick of time, he gave Steiner a chance to aim carefully and blow the man's brains out from behind. Alarms were sounding all over the Canal Zone after the first gunshot, and now the barking of dogs and the sounds of more gunshots from inside the facility meant the cover was up. Moving as fast as possible, Steiner and Muller piloted the boat through the calm water to the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.

    This is the point where many action movies would see Hodag Squad heroically dispose of the bomb-boat in time to save the day. They did reach open water, but they did not save the day. It would never be known to the world, but a member of Hodag Squad had been caught just as Muller and Steiner first boarded the boat. When the guards heard the gunshots from the boat too, they knew it was now or never. Just as the boat cleared the Canal, a secondary detonator was used from inside the facility. It was not the full explosive potential possible without the patrol boat stockpile, but it was still enough. In a fiery, thunderous daemoniac dance of death and fire, rubble spewed high into the air, lighting up the night sky like the Second Coming. Army Group VI watched in horror and disbelief as the Panama Canal went up in flames and smoke. The explosion was so immense that it could be felt many miles away, carrying the news quickly. Steiner and Muller turned around and watched the lightshow with tears streaking their muddy faces. They had tried their best, but it hadn't been enough. The rest of Hodag Squad, aside from five men who remained outside the Canal on watch duty, was wiped out in the explosion. The impossible had happened. The Panama Canal was gone.

    As soon as the last chained explosions stopped, Fleetwood ordered a mass advance on the wrecked facility. In between trying to combat the flames and digging their way through the rubble to assess the damage, Pact troops were pouring in to meet them. Despite the overwhelming numerical advantage, the morale shock and general disorder caused the Americans to bog down quickly. Fleetwood himself led the attack, sword drawn, cutting down Neuties at every turn but still watching his men struggle to comprehend what had just happened. The Battle of the Crater ensued and would last a solid week as both sides threw everything they had at each other. The Yankee landships finally arrived and could barrage the enemy, but they could not surmount the rubble or engage in close quarters. It was a bloodbath. In one week, Army Group VI reported 10,000 casualties. At long last, General Rivera himself was killed in a mortar strike and the Pact forces finally crumbled and began to draw back. The battle was over. The government refused to admit they had sent in a special forces unit or had attempted at all to retake the Canal, instead blaming the destruction entirely on the Pact and labeling it a wanton act of violence and a breaking of their own promises.

    "I have never seen anything like it, and I hope to never see it again. It was like Satan vomited up his fire and brimstone onto a tropical paradise. And the brown-skinned demons were running every which way, picking us off and ambushing us as we tried to scramble through the rubble. It was a horror show, and I shall never forget it, not as long as I breathe."

    - Diary of Richard Fink, 320th Cohort

    "The cowardly Inferior swine have done the unthinkable! They acted with malice and treachery, defying the terms of their own ceasefire, and willingly destroyed the Panama Canal, the emblem of American economic and logistical might. This is the greatest insult to the American people since the War of 1812. Never before have we fought an enemy more wild-eyed and Satanic than the Neutrality Pact. The Pact has destroyed not just an American staple, but a key trade center for much of the Free World! Today I received word from the Dutch government that a declaration of war upon the Neutrality Pact is about to be drafted in Amsterdam. The people of the Free World will never forget the injustice that the servants of Lucifer carried out last night. We will never forget, and we will never forgive! An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. America has always tried to fight with valor and honor, but these Neutral dogs instead fight with treachery and sneak-attacks. If they wish to bring the art of war down to their level, if they wish for the Grand Army and Navy of the Republic to stoop to their cesspit strategies, we will do exactly that! We shall utterly destroy all who stand before us! The Star-Spangled Banner with fly over South America even if it means flying it over a burnt wasteland. We will set fire to the jungles and raze their monuments. We shall chase them into the mountains like the pests they are and we shall exterminate them with prejudice of the Old Testament variety as they beg for the mountains to collapse upon them, as in the Book of Revelation and the Book of Fati. The Republican Union's Manifest Destiny shall be realized, and the Canal shall be rebuilt greater than ever. America today is on bended knee in prayer for God's righteous fury to pour fourth upon our enemy. I hear you. The whole world hears you. And the subhuman scum who did this to us will be hearing from us very soon! Jehovah bless the Republican Union! All Hail Victory!"


    - President Joseph Steele's address to the nation, December 27, 1936
     
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    OSWALD: AUTHOR OF HIS OWN DESTINY
  • OSWALD: AUTHOR OF HIS OWN DESTINY
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    Chuck Oswald, circa 1937

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    Reginald Hubbard, circa 1935
    Chuck Oswald woke with a ragged breath, face-down in the sandy muck of South American soil, the smell of tropic air and gunpowder heavy in his nostrils. The bold and brash son of Phoenix Oil tycoon Joseph Oswald, Sr., had volunteered for the Navy the day after the attack on Point Pierce. It had shocked and upset his father, at first. After all, he was the only remaining heir to the Oswald fortune following the untimely and unceremonious hunting trip-gone-wrong of his brother Joe Jr., but he was an adult and there was little his father could do to stop him. For some godforsaken reason, Chuck got it in his head that he needed to "serve his country." His father begged him to stay and told him he could serve his country by helping to run the family business and manage fundraisers and bond drives with his charismatic personality and fame as the suitor to Wyetta Arkham Custer-Steele, the daughter of the President. Indeed, Joe Sr. saw it as his ultimate political ambition to marry his son to the Steele girl and thus give birth to the ultimate Yankee Pinnacle family. In truth, Joe constantly worried himself that one day, sooner or later, someone would find out about his actual Irish Catholic heritage, but if his family married into the Steeles then he could crush any such rumor like a bug.

    The origins of Chuck Oswald's fateful enlistment in the Republican Union Navy actually lies with his love the science-fiction adventure hero Zap Zephyr, the "21st Century Pinnacle Man" whose cigar-chomping, laser-blasting, womanizing grand exploits in the far reaches of space inspired Chuck from a young age. Second was his friendship, and only real companion during his formative years, Reginald Eugene Hubbard, son of Navy Commander Eustace Eugene Hubbard. While Reggie was several years older than Chuck, they had been friends ever since meeting at a ball hosted by the Banking Clan in Philadelphia. Reggie had tapped on Chuck's shoulder during a dance with Wyetta and asked to cut in, which Chuck surprisingly obliged. During the after-party, Chuck introduced himself to Reggie and told him, "I gotta say, Ensign Hubbard, that is mighty bold of you to assume you can cut in on me with the President's daughter, you G**-damned queer. Don't you know who I am?"

    Hubbard tried to disarm Chuck with his own charm and mentioned how he had heard that Chuck was obsessed with Zap Zephyr. As it turned out, Hubbard was a massive fan himself, owning every comic book that was ever released. He even had each one autographed by their respective writers. This delighted Oswald, who immediately began asking a gauntlet of questions about the collection. To the surprise of everyone, the two became inseparable chums, spending lots of time together and even touring the studio where the Zap Zephyr talkiebox dramas were filmed, down at SPUD Studios in Kissimmee, Florida. They also began to write their own Zap Zephyr adventure stories and read them to each other, asking for genuine feedback. Surprisingly, one of Oswald's original works, "The Trouble with Gorlax," was published in Zap Zephyr Monthly, a collection of short stories set in the "Zephyrverse." The story received a positive reception from readers who asked for more from the author. Oswald published "Gorlax" under the pen name "Gene Lucas." The reason for the trickery was because Joe Sr. did not wish his son to be famous for "writing a bunch of hoo-hah tomfoolery about men from Mars." This greatly upset Oswald, who had been writing for some time and had ambitions to become a published novelist. When 1934 arrived and a 17 year-old Oswald had to choose a major from Benedict Arnold University of Boston, he told his father he wanted to get a degree in creative writing. Joe despised this vehemently and shut down the idea. Nevertheless, Chuck kept pushing for it, even sending copies of some of his best works to the BAUB creative writing program. Unbeknownst to Chuck, Joe intercepted a letter of keen acceptance from BAUB and doctored the letter to become a denial, mocking Chuck's writing abilities.

    Chuck was incredibly unhappy about the business management degree his father had chosen for him and he longed to escape Boston and his father's control. When war broke out in 1936, he finally saw his chance. At the age of 19, Chuck Oswald joined the Grand Navy of the Republic, specifically requesting to be put on the battleship R.U.S. Cape Cod, which was under the command of Eustace Hubbard and was also the vessel on which Reggie served. To say Joe despised this vehemently and tried to shut it down would be an understatement. Joe tried to ship his son off to Port Halifax, home of Navy Group I, often considered the cream of the crop of the entire Navy, which would almost certainly mean no action for the entire war. Navy Group I was stationed at Halifax to guard the North Atlantic, a position which could not be left vacant. By now, however, Chuck was far past the age of majority and demanded to ship out from Boston with his chum and fellow BAUB classmates who had flocked to the colors.

    Following a brief few weeks of training, the Cape Cod steamed off for the sunny tropic waters of the Caribbean to reinforce the shivering wreck that Navy Group V had become. They arrived shortly before the Panama Canal Campaign at the end of '36, seeing little action outside of a few skirmishes with Neutie scout planes. During these small firefights, Oswald distinguished himself in battle, relishing his first confirmed kill when he shot down a Europan-made fighter plane on December 12. Oswald wrote down in his personal diary, dated that same day:

    "Today I dispatched an Inferior from this earthly realm into the darkest caverns of hell. We were having an uneventful patrol when several enemy planes elected to strafe our area to feel us out for weakness. I showed them the steely resolve of a man of such Pinnacle breeding as I and fired all four barrels at the harpee-spawn, sending one of their lot crashing down into the ocean in a beautiful pyrotechnic display, my offering to the God of War. I was awarded a commendation for my aim, the first of what I can only hope to be a surplus of awards and medals to bring home to my old man. I believe this is the start of a most excellent chapter of my life. I am the author of my own destiny, and I shall make it manifest. Hail the Victory."

    Little did our young hero know that his life was about to be upended in the most literal sense. On January 6, 1937, a week into Steele's retaliation for the destruction of the Canal, the Cape Code and its battle squadron were running offensive along the Colombian coast, near Los Cordobas. The Neutrality Pact army in Panama was trapped at the Darien Gap, a hellhole swampland that made their general retreat almost impossible with Legate General Fleetwood nipping at their heels the entire time. The Neutral navy was using quick gunboats and civilian vessels to ferry pockets of troops back to the homeland, and it was the responsibility of Commander Hubbard's squadron to terminate such ships. Thinking they spotted easy prey in the form of three gunboats laden with men and supplies, the American ships moved in for the kill, guns blazing. It was, in reality, a trap. Three Brazilian-made battleships (an early contribution from the Eduist government to the Neutral cause) appeared from around a small island and attacked swiftly and without hesitation. Within a half-hour, the Cape Code was taking on a deluge of seawater in its aft-end, and two of its support vessels were destroyed. One of the Brazilian-made vessels was also sunk, but the damage had been done. While the Neuties steamed off to fight another day, satisfied with the damage they had done, the Cape Cod began to violently list to the starboard side. That was when it became really interesting. A Neutral submarine arrived to deliver a final blow to the American ship, firing two torpedoes and slinking off under the waves. The magazine was hit, rupturing the hull of the Cape Cod completely and sending debris and no longer able-bodied seamen cascading into the ocean. Through all the screams and cries and explosions, one Seaman Oswald was busy at work.

    Oswald was going room-to-room, using an ax to clear wreckage, and was attempting to save as many of his fellow crew as possible. After helping set up a team system for retrieving the wounded and loading them onto life boats, Oswald found Reggie trapped under a fallen beam and pulled him to safety. Together, the two chums pressed on to the command bridge, knowing they had very little time left before the entire ship would sink. They found who they were looking for. Commander Hubbard was laying across the floor of the Bridge, shrapnel lodged in his chest, the dark crimson stain displaying itself vulgarly against his crisp white dress uniform. Knowing he was too far gone, the men paid their respects and moved on, taking the Commander's dress saber and promising the dying man they would give it to President Steele in tribute.

    The flotilla of lifeboats was ready to depart the sinking ship, and the surviving ship of the squadron, the destroyer tender R.U.S. Paul Revere, was nearby ready to receive the survivors. Suddenly, out of the smokey haze, another enemy ship appeared. It was a massive destroyer, fresh from port. It apparently was a delayed reinforcement for the first Neutral ships, the battle-damaged remains of which brought up its rear. With thunderous volleys, the deck guns opened up, hammering away the Paul Revere. To the shock of Oswald, Reggie, and the rest of the lifeboat survivors, the Paul Revere began to flee the battle, outmatched and outgunned. Despite cries begging for salvation, the American ship was turning and running away.

    Chuck and Reggie watched from their lifeboat as their only hope steamed away into the fog. Thinking they would soon be prisoners, they made plans on what they would do when the Neuties hauled them out of the water. Several moments later their plans were dashed when a shell slammed into a nearby lifeboat, killing all aboard in an instant. Severed limbs fell splashing into the water. Another shell suddenly burst directly to their left, tipping their boat over. Oswald, Reggie, and five other men all went sprawling into the blood-soaked ocean, struggling to tread water with their bodies in shock. Grinders opened up on the deck of the Neutral ships, executing many more survivors en masse. it was a massacre. It was also when Charles Oswald was about to earn a Medal of Valor. Reggie was now unconscious and rapidly sinking below the waves. Despite a large chunk of shrapnel in his back, Oswald swam below the water and clutched Reggie's kerchief to pull him back. All around, sailors were being shot where they floated, screaming and crying. Chuck realized their only hope was to hide underneath the overturned lifeboat and hope to avoid stray bullets. Like a turtle engaging its defenses, Oswald and Hubbard went under the lifeboat, joined by several others who also picked up on the idea. Soon the Neutral ships were off after the Paul Revere. From their lifeboat shell, they could hear the laughs of the Hispanic sailors. They had enjoyed it. They had been having fun. Oswald was now clutching Reggie's kerchief between his teeth while trying to treat other sailors' wounds right where they were.

    They finally found the courage to flip their boat over and they climbed back on board. Chuck remembered little else after this point, as he collapsed from exhaustion and shock. When he woke up, he was where our story began, face-down in sand. He slowly opened his eyes and attempted to rub the salt and sand out of them. Then he tested himself to see if any of his bones were broken. To his surprise, none were. The shrapnel in his back hurt like hellfire, though, and he knew that would probably have some lasting effects. The young sailor carefully stood himself up on the sandy shore and looked around, taking in his new surroundings. All over the beach were the bodies of American crewmen, in various states of dismemberment. Others were the lucky survivors. Some of them crawled while others were already up and about.

    "Where's Reggie?" Chuck asked himself, panic hitting hard as he came to his senses.

    Hubbard was nearby, as luck would have it, but still unconscious. Oswald quickly found him and used a lifeboat and some sticks to form a makeshift shelter to keep Hubbard dry and protected. He was his only friend, and he didn't intend to lose him. As he saw it, Hubbard was his "Skip Hancock," the first mate to Zap Zephyr in the comics. How could he be like Zap Zephyr without a trusty sidekick? He sat watchfully by his "sidekick," drying out and cleaning his service pistol. A few other survivors began to plan an expedition into the jungle, maybe to find a town where they could steal supplies. Oswald liked this idea, as striking out and plundering a civilian population center could go a bit toward repaying the Neuties for their barbaric slaughter of American sailors. Pretty soon, Oswald was their de facto leader, purely through his own initiative and self-confidence, as well as his wearing of the Commander's sword. By nightfall, they spotted lights on the horizon, a small town, no doubt. Oswald voted to march to the distant village and attack and take what was needed, maybe even take over the town if they could. Executing some Infee savages would surely look good on his resume once they got out of this nightmare.

    With a low groan, Reginald Hubbard finally woke from his coma as the moon rose over the shoreline. Oswald thought he might have been on death's door or possibly a vegetative state.

    "Lazarus come forth!" Oswald exclaimed, glad to see Hubbard back in the land of the living. The nickname would stick.
     
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    THE GREAT EUROPEAN SCHISM: RISE OF THE NEW HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE

  • THE GREAT EUROPEAN SCHISM:
    THE RISE OF THE NEW HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE

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    Banner of Adolf von Braunau's New Holy Roman Empire, founded on the principles of Evolist Supercatholicism

    The Old World was experiencing a tumultuous period of uncertainty, the worst since the Great World War. The Great Depression was raging on since the 1931 assassination of the Hapsburg family and the subsequent economic chaos that followed. Queen Ingrid of the Kingdom of Austria-Hungary was the only surviving child of Crown Prince Johann, and she was less than ten years old in 1934 when her own Reichsminister, Adolf von Braunau, would commit treason against her with the help of none other than the Holy Father, the controlling and egotistical Pope Peter II. The conspiracy to remove the child queen stretched back several years, to the fateful 1932 meeting of von Braunau and Peter II. Many in the media credited Reichsminister von Braunau as the "shadow monarch" and "defacto regent," but the real matters of import were largely handled by Julius Evola, the "Official Advisor to the Prime Minister." The Italian author of Deus Vult was one of the most influential men in the world, and he saw the rule of Ingrid as the last dying gasps of an ancient family line which had sold out to the Bonapartists long ago. The nearest cousin of Queen Ingrid, Duke Hans von Hapsburg, accused von Braunau and Evola of plotting against the Queen following dark rumors in the Royal Court. Hans aspired to marry his son Friedrich, Ingrid's second cousin, to the Queen. He used Ingrid as a tool and demanded the ouster of Count von Braunau and the arrest of Evola for treason. When the general strike of the armed forces occurred in April of 1934 in support of the Father of Supercatholicism and the Prime Minister, it was clear to all that it was make-or-break for the Supercatholic movement.

    The loyalty of the troops to von Braunau was nearly unquestionable. In October of 1933, the Tsardom of Ruthenia fell behind on its reparation payments for the final time. Without consulting the Queen or the Hapsburgs, the Reichsminister and the Parliament declared war on Ruthenia. Not only was the Tsardom a starving backwater, it had increasingly alienated itself from the League of Tsars in a weak attempt by the feeble-minded Tsar Alexi to prevent war with the Illuminists in Poland and Ukraine. Now devoid of any real allies and with nowhere to turn for money to pay the bills, it was a target for Austria-Hungary. The war was over in a matter of months in one of the speediest conflicts of the last two centuries. By February, 1934, the Austro-Hungarian Royal Airforce had bombed almost all static fortifications along the border and decimated the entrenched Ruthenian troops, encountering only meager resistance from the almost nonexistant Ruthenian Airforce. Rather than fighting a stand-up ground war, the carpet-bombing campaign succeeded in leveling Stanislau, the Ruthenian capital, and the final Austro-Hungarian land invasion sent the Tsar fleeing to the Viceroyalty of Constantinople, begging for help. There, rather than risk upsetting their old enemies, the League of Tsars voted to arrest the Tsar and the surviving members of his government and hand them over to Vienna, as they had supposedly caused the war in the first place by not keeping up on their payments. According to the 1914 treaty, if reparations were not steadily payed, military force could be used. The Illuminists bristled at this turn of events but held their troops back, not desiring to fight a war over the nearly-useless backwater meatshield of a country that the Tsardom had become.

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    Ruthenian troops take cover as Austro-Hungarian planes bomb their position (January, 1934)

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    Civilians take cover in Stanislau, capital of Ruthenia, during a Hapsburg bombing, circa 1934

    On April 24, 1934, two days into the strike of the armed forces, it became clear that the army and most of the people no longer viewed the Hapsburgs as credible rulers. Gone was the good-will they had had for the Queen's grandmother and father. The surviving members of the family clearly cared only for themselves while the people starved or festered in unemployment lines, even despite the steady flow of gold and goods from conquered Ruthenia. While the commoner was just trying to scrape by, Hans was throwing lavish balls for his friends and carrying on with friends from Europa who were just as lackadaisical with their time and money, and Ingrid spent most of her time, like most children, playing tea party with her dolls and servants. Much like the French Revolution well over a century prior, it became clear to the world that revolution was on the horizon. April 28 would be the fateful day. After being ordered out of the Royal Palace in Vienna a week prior by Hans and the Household Guard, von Braunau was ready to make his move. He took to the radiowaves to address the people and the armed forces from a hotel on the other side of town:

    "People of Austria! Soldiers and patriots! Today is the day we embark on a crusade for God. The inept royal family of this realm has abused their power for the final time. Seven days ago, the little girl that currently sits the throne ordered me to vacate my office, carrying out the orders of her foppish and deceitful cousin Hans von Hapsburg. I obeyed the royal command, on my honor as a gentleman. They then arrested Julius Evola, my right-hand man and one of the most brilliant Catholic minds currently alive. This is, quite simply, an insult to injury. As your Prime Minister, I attempted to help the people, to show them the love of Christ and to ease their suffering in such a perilous time. I led them through the Ruthenian conflict and into victory, taking what was ours by right. The people are still hurting, financially, spiritually, even physically, as the traitors in the Schönbrunn Palace live the high life, partying with their allies from the decadent Europa, an Empire which has rejected the rising tide of true Christianity, a movement which this nation has embraced wholeheartedly and of its own accord. The Hapsburgs no longer hear you, People of Austria! The Hapsburgs no longer care for you, my countrymen! But, surely as God does reign in Heaven, so too does the Holy Father, Pope Peter II, reign in Rome, and he DOES hears you. And he seeks to bestow infinite blessings upon you. The Pope has asked me, in this time of upheaval and disruption, to demand the ousting of the Hapsburgs from the throne of Austria. But we do not stand alone. To the contrary, we stand united with our brothers in the Bund! In Hungary! In Italy! In all the realms where the true faith reigns in the hearts of the people! In the name of God the Father, God the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the Pope, let us take what is ours once more! Let this be the start of a True Crusade! Let us forge a new path, united under the banner of a New Empire, the Second Reich!"

    The reaction was immediate. The people joined the military in the streets outside Schönbrunn and demanded the Hapsburgs leave. In a rare moment of self-control, the Supercatholics refused to become violent against the Hapsburgs, but simply asked them to leave. After all, it was quite clear they would not be ruling anything anymore, and Ingrid was a mere child. For two days the Royal Family, secured by their Household Guards, tried to decide what to do. Hans von Hapsburg used their one remaining phone line to contact Napoleon V to beg for assistance. Caesar was infuriated at what was unfolding but was uncertain of how to handle it. Quite simply, he offered his Hapsburg cousins safe harbor in Paris, rather than launch an invasion of an only-recently emancipated nation. On May 1, 1934, the Flight of the Hapsburgs began. Surrounded on all sides by cheering rebels, the ancient dynasty rolled out of the palace in several armored cars, heading straight for the Vienna Airport. All along the route to the airport throngs of citizens watched with glee as the last remnant of Bonapartist rule was purged from their kingdom. Ingrid, Hans, and their assorted cousins and minions boarded a custom silver 1932 passenger plane, painted in the yellow and gold livery of their family, double-headed eagled festooned on the wings, and took off for Paris. Von Braunau, with Evola at his side once more, rode triumphantly through the crowds on the back of a white stallion, waving his cap and shaking hands the entire way to the Palace. The Hapsburg banner was ripped down and the red and white tricolor was hoisted to the joy of thousands. The Days of May had begun.

    All over Europe, streets were alive with protestors, rebels, and rioters. In the Bund, High King Rupprecht followed orders from the Pope and dispatched Chancellor Goering to Vienna to meet with the new government. In Italy, the Bonaparte King Carlo III found himself facing exuberant and emboldened Supercatholic mobs led by Pompeo Salvato and Crescente Galla, who demanded that the Bonapartes leave Italia once and for all. In Hungary, crowds gathered to sing old songs of the Crusades and days of yore, celebrating a rebirth of European culture without Bonaparte control. The Continental system, after a century of success, was finally breaking down. And Napoleon V could do nothing as the economy of Europa plunged into an abyss and trade broke down by the day. But the worst was yet to come. On Jun 12, 1934, in a grand ceremony in Vienna, Count von Braunau was crowned Emperor (Kaiser) Adolf of the New Holy Roman Empire, Defender of the Faith (a title stolen from Caesar). Hungary, the Rheinbund, the rebel government of Italy, and Austria were to merge into this Second Reich to face the perils of the future together, in a bond not from politics or family dynasties but through their shared radical Catholic faith.


    Emperor Adolf of the New Holy Roman Empire

    As parties raged on through the night in Rome and Vienna, Italy was on fire. The Italian Civil War had begun. Fearing all-out war, which they would almost certainly lose, Europa was forced to limit military involvement in the affair as the King, Giovanni, struggled to maintain his control. His grandfather, Carlo II, had united Italy and saw it through the devastating days of the Great World War, but he was not such a brilliant mind. The sheer momentum of the Supercatholic onslaught was pulverizing his forces, many of whom were deserting in favor of their loyalty to the Pope, who had declared him illegitimate. In fact, Jun 20 saw Pope Peter II excommunicate the entire Bonaparte family. This was the final straw for some members of the Church, especially those living in Europa. Signs and banners depicting Peter as the Antichrist became widespread. Effigies were burned in Paris and Madrid. Even in the Republican Union, some feared the sudden rise of the charismatic and manipulative Peter II as a sign of the End Times. Reverend-Colonel Billy Sunday himself said in the summer of '34 that:

    "I believe Peter II may well be the very same Antichrist prophesied by the Bible and the Books of Manifest Destiny. It takes little imagination to see Adolf as the Beast and Evola as the False Prophet. The Whore of Babylon could be the coming-together of the Catholic realms into this New Holy Roman Empire. As true Fundamentalist Christians, we need to be on our guard for the Final Battle. But believe you me, if anyone can survive Armageddon bring about the New World Order it's some God-fearin', Bible-thumpin' damnyankees from the Republican Union."
    The excommunication of the Bonapartes was a final match to set fire to whole of Europe. Lines were drawn, families were torn apart, and allies became enemies. The Great Schism of 1934 had arrived. All over Europa, Catholic churches saw government agents and police at their doors, arresting those deemed to be in league with the Pope. In October, Napoleon V met with rebelling members of the Church hierarchy in the ancient and historic city of Avignon, France, to discuss how to better combat the rise of the "Devil-Pope." Multiple cardinals viewed Peter as a scheming snake, not to be trusted, and they gladly threw their lot in with the bookish and reasonable Caesar. Together, they announced a the Second Avignon Papacy, voting to anoint Rafael Ramirez, a Spanish-born Cardinal, as the new Anti-Pope, Valentine II. The first thing on the agenda of the new Anti-Pope was to excommunicate Pope Peter II, von Braunau, and Evola. The Church in Rome then declared, not shockingly, that the Second Avignon Papacy was heretical, excommunicated everyone involved, and declared those excommunicated by Valentine II to be servants of God. One Parisian journalist said of the situation at the time, "He excommunicates him, then gets excommunicated right back. Personally, I worry I'll be double-reverse excommunicated and then be entirely unsure of the state of my soul altogether."

    To be sure, the Avignon Papacy was a puppet and tool of Napoleon V, but it was created in the aftermath of increasing losses in Italy against the Supercatholic rebellion and increased uncertainty in the future of Europa. He accomplished his goal of uniting his people one last time in the face of adversity. Napoleon V, at least in his home country, was becoming very well regarded and was highly respected as a considerate, caring Caesar, likely the most compassionate for his people since Napoleon I, and his stirring speeches and radio broadcasts kept the morale of the country high in the face of economic disaster. In the summer of 1935, Europan volunteer brigades stormed the coast of Sicily, where loyalty to Peter II was at its shakiest, and liberated the island. Whereas the boot went solidly Supercatholic and joined the New Holy Roman Empire, Sicily became the Protectorate of Sicily, and the "emergency revolutionary government" asked Caesar to reign as Lord Protector. If they tried to retake Sicily now, the NHRE would almost certainly face total war. And now that the Avignon Papacy was up and running and the people were uniting under Caesar against the totalitarian rule of Emperor Adolf I, the time for a tidal wave assault on Paris was gone. Now all that Vienna and Rome could do was dig in. In the north, King Giovanni still held out with a group of loyalists in Liguria, but in the winter of 1935, they finally pulled out and headed to Avignon. The borders were stabilizing, people were deciding where they stood, and the whole world watched with bated breath to see if someone would finally start the Second Great World War....

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    Map of the World in 1936
     
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