Book: Bootstrap


(The Multiverse War – Book Five)

Bootstrap Cover Blurb

In 2100, humanity discovered the stars. In 2200, humanity met its end at the hands of the aliens…except a small force that was tossed back in time to 1942. Shocked at the trauma of the Final War, the survivors are delighted to take the opportunity to force the human race forward to prepare for the coming alien invasion.

Opposition from the Axis is swept aside within weeks…but the rest of the world is not so eager to change. As the struggle to force humanity forward meets powerful and determined opposition, can the coming alien invasion be defeated before all of humanity dies a second time?

Because the time travellers are not alone…

Author’s Note

As part of the Multiverse War, Bootstrap exists within the universe, but it is completely stand-alone. All the new reader really needs to know is that there is a war between one very powerful human group (the watchers) and an unknown Enemy. Bootstrap, while it has massive effects on the world of 1942, is nothing more than a minor skirmish in the Multiverse War, rather like World War Two’s Aegean Campaign.

Now read on…Prologue

Empires just don’t last very long.

An empire, by definition, is a very stable system, one that is incapable of dealing with initiative, self-determination or the natural desire among intelligent beings – certainly any beings worth worrying about – to rise as high as they can. An empire…is very dependent on everyone below a certain level – most of the population – staying in their place and not attempting to rock the boat…except intelligent beings are very bad at that, on the whole.

An empire that evolves to the point where it can accommodate the desire for freedom is doomed, at least as an empire. An empire that refuses to accommodate the desire for freedom will eventually be torn apart and destroyed by internal strife. None of the limiting factors that can be introduced by the inner circle will hold for very long; few human empires have lasted unchanged for more than a hundred years. Limit the education of the lower classes? The resulting workforce will be unable to cope with modern technology. Have attempts to co-opt the merchants? Eventually, they will begin calling the tune.

Almost all empires die, either through internal strife, evolution, or through an external enemy. An empire, in the long run, is no match for a democracy, one that can harness the creative power of all of its citizens. When an empire has to worry about promoting the underclass, the democracy has fewer worries along those lines. Empires do not – normally – manage to expand into interplanetary space.

Occasionally, however, something survives long enough to pose a threat to the rest of the universe.


Imagine a room that exists outside of reality. It defies description; an entire universe can be studied within the room, by entities that were once human. They’re not any longer. Imagine, for the sake of human sanity, that there are only two entities, a male and a female, within the room, talking.

“The Krank have completed their grizzly task,” the female said. Her voice, as far as the word ‘voice’ can be used, was grim. “In that timeline, soon humanity will not exist.”

The male stared up at the universe, hanging above his head. “I fear that you are correct,” he said. “Enemy interference?”

The female, a noted philosopher and researcher into the Enemy, gave an impression of a shrug. “It’s impossible to be sure, of course, but in this timeline it could just be an oddity. We shouldn’t fall into the trap of assuming that the Enemy is responsible for everything.”

“Nothing is never nothing,” the male said, cryptically. “The Krank were due to destroy themselves, long before they reached human space. Their civil war should have ended with the imperial faction detonating their Starbuster and shattering their solar system. It did not, which is curious – and suspicious.”

“All possibilities have some existence in the multiverse,” the female said. “Humanity will die out in that timeline.” She paused, considering. “We would have our time” – something of a null concept in the Vale - “better spent considering the report from TimeLine G; the curious events there and the effect they will have on the War.”

Her voice softened. “I’m sorry,” she said. She meant it too, somewhat to her surprise; sometimes, beings on their scale grew fond of the mortals bumbling around their footsteps. “Sometimes…you just lose one, or two.”

“I will not allow it,” the male said. His mental face assumed the impression of rigid determination. “Our agents…”

“Cannot give the humans help without breaking the rules,” the female said. Her voice became tart. “We have lost in that timeline; admit defeat, and move on. TimeLine K shows promise…”

“No,” the male said. A section of the universe jumped out at them both. “There are some humans left.”

“Barely fifty thousand,” the female said. Her voice was a mixture of hope and fear. “The Krank are in pursuit; it won’t be long before they are chased down and captured, and then…”

“The Krank will not be permitted to destroy the remains of humanity,” the male snapped. His mind went searching through the universe. “We must intervene…”

“There is no opportunity,” the female said. “We must keep our hand hidden.”

“Found one,” the male said. He sent a mental impression that was remarkably like a child sticking out his tongue. “The Krank use subspace warp weapons to force their targets out of warpspace.”

The female gave a flicker of disapproval. “A weapon that can tear a hole in the fabric of space and time,” she said. “They should never have been allowed to deploy them.”

“We all face the challenge of deciding when the prime directive applies,” the male said, referring to the long-held concept of non-intervention. All transcendent beings had to make that choice. “That the Elders and Ancients in that realm choose not to interfere is not our concern. Our concern is the opportunity those weapons present us with.”

The female considered. “A rift in space and time,” she said. “You propose, then, that we should redirect that rift through time?”

The male gave an impression of a smile. “If we want that timeline to survive, then yes; we must do exactly that.”

“Dangerous,” the female said. Her voice was the tone that wives used to reprimand their husbands, although she would have been horrified at the thought; their relationship was far more than a simple marriage. “It risks a split in the fabric of space and time. Is it wise?”

“Wise or not, we have little choice,” the male said. The universe expanded before his eyes; following the tracks of the fleeing human ships. “No choice at all, in the end.”

Chapter One: Hunted Animals

HDS John Howard/ISS Hunter

Deep Space

“I think they’ve found us, sir.”

Captain Andy Masterson lifted his head and looked up from his command chair at the sensor console. The grim tone of the sensor officer was more convincing than any shouted words; his tone shouted ‘defeat, defeat.’ He wanted to chew the sensor officer out, to scream at him, but in the end he knew that it would be useless.

“Report,” he said, peering down at his dark hands. They were scarred and burnt from the Battle of Alpha-A, when a human fleet had routed the Krank; one of humanity’s few victories in the ten-year long war. Earth itself was now a burning cinder; the Krank conquers seemingly uninterested in keeping any humans alive, even as slaves.

Lieutenant Robin Williston tapped his display. A touch of a button sent the holographic display to the command chair, hovering in front of Masterson’s face. There was a vague sensor contact, barely a light year behind the small fleet; but to be detected at all at that range it had to be monstrous, like a Krank fleet.

“The signature reads out as a Medusa,” Williston said. His tone was calm, professional; Masterson was proud of him. A single Medusa could take the fleet to pieces without even worrying about the human defenders. There were only twenty-seven surviving human warships in his little force…and none of them were large enough to stand up to a Krank superdreadnaught.

“I see,” he said, wondering if there was any point in continuing. He dismissed that thought with an angry grimace; where there was life, there was hope. “Communications; raise the fleet.”

“Yes, sir,” Lieutenant Isabella Hawthorne said. She worked her console for a long moment, putting him in touch with the commanding officers of the final fleet of humanity. “Channel open, sir.”

Masterson stood up, pacing over to the tactical display. It had been meant for an Admiral, but the last Admiral was dead, killed in the last stand near Procyon. They’d hoped that they’d lost the Krank in the sensor confusion after the battle, but the aliens had either had long-range scouts out or, of course, they might have simply gotten lucky.

Or, perhaps, they had enough ships to trace us down every possible vector, he thought coldly. Mankind’s technology, in many ways, was better than that possessed by the aliens, good enough to convince many that humanity could win the war the aliens had started. Ten years later, the overwhelming numbers of alien warships had ground down the defences and destroyed Earth, followed rapidly by the last human colony to be created. Humanity was dying.

“All ships, this is Captain Masterson,” he said. Normally, he would have taken the flag, declaring himself to be a provisional Admiral, but there was no point. There was also no point in trying to conceal the bad news. “We have been detected by the Krank.”

He took a breath, aware somehow of the horror and understanding, followed by grim resolve, spreading across the final fleet. “We know that surrender is not an option,” he continued. Ships that had attempted to surrender had simply been destroyed; the Krank themselves never surrendered to humans. “The only option left is to fight hard and take as many of them down with us as we can.”

He drew himself up, trying to place as much grim resolve as he could into his voice. “We will fight hard,” he said, as the glimmerings of a thought occurred to him. “We will remind those monsters that we don’t come cheap. We will make them fight and bleed for us, and if there are to be no more humans in this galaxy – if this is to be the last fight of the human race – then let it be one that will be remembered!”

He closed the channel, looking up at the main display. The Krank warship had been joined by several more, all clearly angling themselves along the same warpspace vector as the human fleet. There was no longer any point in trying to convince himself that it was coincidence; the Krank were on the right path, far too close to be a coincidence.

“They must have had someone lying under stealth,” he muttered, understanding how the trick had been done. The Krank seemed to take an unwholesome delight – like some humans – in cunning plans and being underhand, just for the sheer hell of it. Like humans, the Krank deployed their own fast scouts; unlike humans, they were in the habit of wasting power on stealth screens that were hardly capable of standing up to a sensor focus, but space was so large that it was impossible to sweep every cubic metre of it.

His lips twitched bitterly. The sheer amount of power wasted on stealth screens would have made the scouts ultra-vulnerable to his ship’s weapons, except they’d never seen it. The unknown vessel had scanned them, picked up their vector, and relayed it to the Krank fleet, allowing them to track the last survivors of humanity.

“Captain, there are now twelve Krank ships,” Commander Eileen Harper said. His first officer, a blonde officer who still turned heads as she walked, stood beside him. Her face twisted into a grimace as she surveyed the display; the aliens were catching up on the human ships. Once they got within firing range…

“It hardly matters,” Masterson said. “We need the Eighth Fleet. I don’t suppose that you have it tucked away in your breast pocket?”

Eileen shook her head grimly. “I have nothing up my sleeves, but my arms,” she said. Her eyes followed the Krank; their drives effortlessly pumping out the power to catch up with the human ships. “They must be wasting a lot of power in chasing us.”

“A stern chase is always a long one,” Masterson agreed. “I don’t suppose that any of the scouts found anything interesting?”

Eileen frowned. One of humanity’s handful of advantages over the Krank was FTL communications; the Krank never seemed to have thought of modulating a warp field to cause it to resonate with another warp field. It had saved humanity, more than once, from a defeat that would have shortened the war…but now the war was at an end anyway.

“Nothing,” she said. A handful of fast scouts had run ahead of the fleet, trying to find something that might save humanity, from an alien battle station to a whole new civilisation. They hadn’t found anything at all, nothing that might have saved the fleet, or even passed the Krank onto a bigger target. This part of the galaxy seemed to be remarkably free of intelligent beings; humanity and the Krank were the only ones that they knew about.

She sighed. “Those people who came up with the Drake Equation knew nothing, did they,” she said. Masterson sighed; he knew that Eileen, like many of the other younger Human Defence Force officers, believed that one reason that humanity had never found a third intelligent race was because of the Krank; exterminating all non-Krank life.

Masterson smiled. “Would we want to be remembered as the people who saved humanity by diving into the heart of yet another alien empire and setting the Krank on them?”

“I would like to have had the choice,” Eileen said tartly. “This way…we’re all going to die, nearly five hundred light years from Earth.”

Masterson thought of Earth and nearly cried. There had been so much there, from the stairways to the stars, the orbital towers, the terraformed Mars and Venus, the ring of asteroid habitats…and the homeworld of humanity, safe behind the Human Defence Force, except, in the end, it hadn’t been safe enough.

He sighed. “What would Admiral Ward have said?”

Eileen deepened her voice. “Get your head out of your ass, boy,” she snapped. Masterson smiled wryly. “There’s work to be done, boy!”

“A perfect copy,” Masterson said dryly. The hard-drinking, hard-fighting Admiral Ward had died with Home Fleet, defending the Earth to the last. He had been one of the few humans the Krank had actually respected. “It’s been an honour to have served with you.”

Eileen smiled. “You too, sir,” she said.

Masterson turned back to the display, looking for a long moment at the Admiral’s seat before lowering himself into it. He felt a moment of dull regret that he would die without being in his command chair, and then looked up at the display. A series of light codes marked out the position of each and every ship in the fleet; it would have had no trouble in coping with a fleet a thousand times the size of the final fleet.

“Take the command chair,” he said, wishing that he could promote Eileen in the final moments, then realised that it no longer mattered. “You are now promoted to Captain; congratulations, Captain Harper.”

A brief round of applause ran around the bridge. Eileen blushed slightly, and then took the command chair, staring out into the void. Masterson smiled slightly as the crew took their places, preparing for the final battle, and allowed himself a moment of pride, before beginning the long process of issuing orders to the ships.

I wish we had some fighters, he thought grimly, as the Krank ships grew closer. He knew, with a grim certainty, that the Krank would use one of their special weapons to force them out of warpspace…and if they’d had some fighters, they might have had a chance. The CCS John Simpson, an industrial ship built to support HDS Tarawa, an assault carrier, would have been able to build them – given a few months.

He shook his head. The lifetime of the human race had fallen to an hour, when the Krank would enter firing range.


Lord Admiral Macron sat in the centre of the command tower of his flagship, projecting an image of calm that revealed nothing of the churning emotions inside his heart. He knew, with a certainty that surprised even him, that the humans were almost gone, which would mean that his destruction of the human fleet would end the existence of yet another force that would eventually come into competition with the Imperial Empire.

He studied the crew as they worked, watching for treachery. The commander of the force that had been dispatched to enter human space – the fifth commander after the first four had been executed after running out of chances to score victories – had sent him to exterminate the remains of humanity – and he knew that it had been intended to get him out of the way. The Imperial Empire was based upon expanding the rule of the Emperor across the galaxy, and the rewards for conquest were high; Duke Rugad was likely to gain dominion over Earth itself, and its human population.

He scowled, twisting his face into an expression that would have suggested a heart attack to a human. A Lord Admiral, particularly one as capable as he knew himself to be, would have had a fair claim to one of the human colonies, perhaps even enough to rise to the inner nobility. Duke Rugad, unfortunately, wanted the same for himself; he had clearly contrived at allowing the humans to escape, just so Lord Admiral Macron wouldn’t be present when His Imperial Majesty’s Inspector divided up the loot.

He glared down at the display. The secret for running an empire – the first Emperor had decreed after the civil war ended – was to ensure that competence rose…and that the rewards were shared. His crew would have been rewarded bonuses, if nothing else; their long chase after the humans might have robbed them of anything, but their basic bonuses. They were mutinous…and, deep down inside, Lord Admiral Macron wasn’t sure that he blamed them.

We have to defeat the human force quickly, he thought. Surrender – accepting their surrender – was impossible; human soldiers were dangerous. Humans were taller and faster than the Krank, although the Krank foot soldiers were stronger. The Krank had invented space suits, but only humans would have thought of arming them and then adding combat systems, enough to allow a human soldier to take on a Krank, hand to hand. The Krank innovated – the Emperor offered vast rewards for usable innovations – but nothing like the degree that humans innovated. Give the humans a few years in the darkest wastes of space and they would come back with newer weapons.

I could have gotten my hands on some of their space industry, Lord Admiral Macron thought coldly, before turning his eyes onto his Captain, Jaca. “What is the status of the human ships?”

Jaca blinked his big eyes up at him. The Krank had often found human eyes to be quite disagreeable; they were far too small to be natural. “They are still attempting to run from us,” Jaca informed him. “Orders, My Lord?”

Lord Admiral Macron considered for one long moment. “We will force them out of warpspace,” he said. Jaca showed no reaction to an action that would effectively trap their fleet in one location for several days before the energy faded. “Once they are in normal space, we will capture some of their ships – and samples of their technology.”

He felt the change rippling across the bridge. Samples of human technology would please the Emperor, perhaps enough that he would reward the crew of the fleet. There would be no more thoughts of mutiny; even if they failed, the blame would not fall on him.

“Lock the weapons on target,” he said. “Prepare to fire.”

“The drive disrupters are locked on target,” the weapons officer said. “We can fire on your command.”

He watched as the human ships, still desperately trying to run, slowly entered firing range. “Fire,” he snapped. “Force them out of warpspace!”


“Missile separation,” Williston snapped. “Incoming missiles; seven of them.”

“They can’t score a hit at this range,” Eileen muttered. “They have to be disrupters.”

Masterson nodded grimly. The other main unpleasant surprise the Krank had had for mankind was the drive disruptor; a weapon that somehow generated a field that caused all of the warp fields in its vicinity to collapse, slamming the ship back into normal space. In some cases, the impact could be fatal; the drive might well overload.

“Launch counter-missiles,” he snapped. “Take them all down!”

He stared up at the display. The Krank had placed a powerful warp generator on each of the missiles, but they had neglected to provide it with a powerful enough power source; they would fly until they ran out of power, but the strain of holding a higher velocity than the human ships would make the missiles simply run through their power reserves much sooner.

He smiled. For one thing, they would be unable to manoeuvre at all.

“Counter-missiles away,” Commander Peterson, the weapons officer, reported. “Point defence is ready and waiting for them.”

Masterson shook his head. Point defence, using light-speed weapons, might be able to hit a missile as it punched into the target’s warp field, in the seconds before it detonated. Energy weapons were normally useless at FTL speeds, but they could be used inside a warp field…although if the missile carried an antimatter warhead, it was still fatal for the target.

He leant forward as the display followed the missiles. The Krank had fired five missiles, which might be their entire supply of drive disrupters…except they would be careful to keep a reserve. He scowled, wishing that they’d had better intelligence on the craft ONI had dubbed Medusa-class; they’d only been observed to deploy seven missiles at most, but…

“Four interceptions,” Commander Peterson reported. His voice darkened. “Captain, they’re launching a second salvo of missiles.”

“Disrupters or normal missiles?” Eileen demanded, clearly already thinking like a captain. Masterson allowed himself a flicker of amusement; the John Howard would go to its grave with a fine commanding officer. “Report!”

“Uncertain,” Commander Peterson said. “Fifth interception; we got them all.”

“All warships are to fall back slightly,” Masterson ordered. “We have to shield the colonist-carriers.”

There were no arguments over the FTL communicator; the Captains all knew the score. The colonist-carriers, all seventeen of them, carried the remains of what had once been intended to colonise a new world, well away from the Krank. They had to be protected, at all costs.

“Incoming missiles,” Williston reported. “They’re zeroing in on our ships, sir; they’re not disrupters.”

“Order all ships to concentrate on the disrupters,” Masterson snapped, feeling the pressure. “Stenos, come about and…”

In a flash of light, the destroyer Honour Harrington vanished from the display. Two more ships followed it quickly; the Krank were launching more weapons into the confusion. Masterson thought rapidly and issued orders, knowing that it would be futile; the Krank simply had more weapons than they did. For every missile he could launch, the Krank could launch more than five.

“Incoming disrupter,” Williston reported, in a voice like death. Masterson knew that it was a death sentence. “Energy surge...”

Masterson closed his eyes as the disrupter detonated, sending a wave across space towards the human ships…and all of space went crazy. The John Howard shook violently as the display blanked out; the gravity flickered on and off in quick succession. Masterson held onto his chair, praying that the compensators would hold; if they didn’t, the crew would be smashed flat before anyone could hope to react.

A dim thought penetrated his mind as new sensations fled across the ship. He had the uncomfortable feeling that he was falling, that the ship was falling down a long hole, before the main display activated itself, revealing a purple wave of light shimmering against the hull, and…

This isn’t what happens when a disruptor is used, part of his mind whispered. We should be in normal space by now and…

His stomach heaved as the ship spun violently…and then the purple haze vanished. Stars, the beautiful stars in the sky, appeared again; the ship seemed to be at rest. He closed his eyes, trying to focus, and the nanites in his body concentrated on dealing with the physical trauma.

“Report,” he snapped, remembering the Krank. “What the hell happened?”

“I don’t know,” Williston said. His face was green, but his eyes were puzzled. “Captain – Admiral – half of the fleet seems to be gone…and there’s no sign at all of the Krank. I don’t know what’s happened at all.”

Chapter Two: The Lost Children

HDS Lightning

Deep Space

“What the hell happened to us?”

Commander Sandra Churchill pulled herself to her feet, wishing that the small scout ship had been equipped with better compensators. The Human Defence Force had once invested heavily in scouts, but as the war drew closer and closer to Earth, they had become less interested in maintaining the fleet. Lightning might be the fastest ship in the fleet, but she was also one of the oldest.

She thumped the display key, ordering it to reset itself, mentally cursing the glitches that had clearly damaged the system. The entire Krank fleet could be outside, aiming their guns at the Lightning, just waiting for the humans to open their eyes before they fired. Only the grim thought that the aliens normally weren’t sadistic kept her from outright panic; she’d joined to explore the universe, not fight off aliens’ intent on destroying the Earth.

“Captain?” Ensign Hammond said. “I’m sorry, I was…”

He was holding his head; Sandra could see that it was bleeding, despite the best efforts of the young man’s nanites. It wouldn’t be long before the little machines could seal the cut, but for the moment he would be useless.

“Call up the relief,” she snapped. Lightning had a tiny crew, only thirty crewmen, but she was a good ship, despite all that. “Jack?”

Lieutenant Jack Robertson saluted her from the helm post. “I have some power, Captain,” he reported. His jaunty smile brought Sandra back to herself with a bump. “Half of the sensors seem to be fucked, but passives are only picking up human emissions.”

“Curious,” Sandra said. She lifted her wristcom, relieved to discover that that was still working. “Allen?”

“Well, I’m buggered if I know what caused it,” Allen Tideland, Engineer, said, “but I think I know what’s happened. A lot of the stored energy in the reactor storage just drained away.”

Sandra’s mind struggled with the concept. “That’s not possible,” she said, looking up at the darkened displays. “It’s not as if we were doing anything that required a massive power drain.”

“No, Captain,” Tideland agreed. “It is supposed to be impossible. Give me a few seconds and…ah.”

Sandra sighed in relief as the displays came back to life. “Jack, do me a full tactical scan,” she ordered. There was hardly any point in trying to hide; the Krank were out there somewhere, and active sensors could hardly make the situation worse. “Find out what the hell happened to the fleet.”

Robertson frowned. “Captain, most of the fleet is gone,” he said. “I’m only reading nine ships, scattered over several light months. If they weren’t radiating warp energies, we’d never be able to see them at all at this range…”

Sandra stared at him, then felt a flash of alarm. “The Krank,” she snapped. If the fleet was almost powerless, as seemed likely, then the Krank would have an easy time exterminating the remains of humanity. “Find them!”

There was a long pregnant pause. “Nothing, Captain,” Robertson said. He swept his dark hair out of his eyes with one hand. “They’re gone.”

Sandra almost giggled. “Destroyed by their own weapon?” She asked. If the Krank had somehow overshot the effect created by the drive disrupter, they would have to spend several years looking for the human fleet, particularly if the humans stepped down their drives and lurked in the vastness of space. “Nothing on passive?”

“There are no traces of any warp radiation at all, except for the fleet,” Robertson said. “Captain, it’s like we’ve fallen through a wormhole into a place where the Krank do not exist.”

Sandra felt her eyes narrow. Lightning, like the other scouts, carried the most advanced – and completely unnecessary – position-locating system that the human race had ever invented. The results of three hundred years of stargazing, using technologies that had steadily become more and more advanced, had allowed the human race to draw up a map of the entire quadrant. Exploration might have been curtailed, but the additional computer program took up very little space; she’d kept it, just as a memento of what might have been if…

“Bring up the positioning system,” she said, unable to believe her own voice. The positioning system was totally unnecessary – few ships used it more than once – but they still had it. Ever since computers with unlimited memory had been developed, people had been keeping junk they no longer needed for years. “Find out where the hell we are.”

“Yes, Captain,” Robertson said. She silently blessed him for keeping his voice level. “Program running now.”

Sandra stepped away from the helm, returning to a console that was hardly used; a system intended to provide a duplicate engineering system if the first one was knocked out. A brief check revealed that Commander Allen Tideland was right; the ship itself appeared to be undamaged, only some of the power cells had been drained, causing a sudden and unexpected power shortage.

She scowled. All of the events that should have drained the power cells…hadn’t happened. There had been no sudden demand for power; they hadn’t been under attack directly…so what had drained the power? A thought struck her and she cursed her inattention; what if the rest of the fleet was in a worse situation?

“Ensign, raise the John Howard,” she ordered. The flagship would have to be the first to be contacted; its communication systems were far more powerful than her ship possessed. “Use encrypted lasers; no FTL communications.”

Ensign Hammond nodded. “Transmitting now,” he said. There was a long pause. “I just got a carrier beam back; Captain Masterson will contact us as soon as possible.”

Sandra scowled. “At least he’s alive,” she said. Inwardly, she had been worried that they might be the only ones left in the fleet. “Check in with the other craft.”

Jack turned a laugh into an unconvincing cough. “You might want to make it more important, Captain,” he said. Sandra stared at the holographic display as it moved in front of him. “You’re really not going to believe this.”

Sandra looked down at him. “This had better not be a practical joke,” she said. She fancied herself a historian, but this was ridiculous. “Are you sure that this is for real?”

Jack met her eyes. “That’s the result of the program,” he said. “I ran it twice, just to be sure, Captain; I got the same result both times.”

Sandra rubbed her eyes. “This has to be a dream,” she said. She spun around to face Ensign Hammond. “Ensign, raise the John Howard,” she snapped. “This time, don’t take no for an answer; this is important!”


Captain Masterson felt his head spin as the John Howard came back to life. The ship had suffered from a massive power drain – something else unconnected with the normal weapons the Krank used – but she was repairing herself as he watched. The old battlecruiser had a good crew, men who had served on her for years; they would take care of their much-loved ship.

“I can find ten ships, counting ourselves,” Williston said. “There’s still no sign of the Krank at all.”

“Contact the other ships,” Masterson ordered. “Order them to step down their warp engines and lie silent; if they’ve somehow lost us, I don’t want them to find us again.”

“Yes, sir,” Lieutenant Isabella Hawthorne said. “Signal sent.”

Masterson scowled, and then turned back to the main display, trusting Eileen to get his – no, her ship now – back in working order. Passive sensors depended upon the target emitting energy to be of any use; only a handful of energy signatures could be seen. Four of them, he was relieved to see, were warships; the remainder were a handful of colonist vessels, and the prison ship.

“Those bastards,” he said, feeling genuine amusement. “Half the fleet wiped out and the prison barge survives.”

He scowled. The decision to bring the prison ship along hadn’t been made by him and he hadn’t approved at the time, although with the Admiral dead he supposed that he could have flung them all into vacuum without any comebacks. The ship held forty men and women, all convicted of varying degrees of criminal activity, although only one of them was a genuine psychopath.

“Getting an update from CCS Laura Wilder, colonist-carrier,” Isabella reported. “They’re scared to death, but the stasis fields held; all of the colonists are still alive.”

“Thank God,” Howard said, with genuine relief. “What about the others?”

A chime echoed up from the communications console. “Sir, I have Commander Churchill on the direct line for you,” Isabella said. “She says that it’s urgent; you have to take it privately.”

Masterson felt his blood run cold. The Lightning had the best sensors in the fleet. It might well have seen the enemy closing in on them before any sensor on the John Howard could see them. “Put her through,” he said, picking up the earpiece and slotting it back into his ear. “Commander Churchill?”

A woman’s voice echoed through his earpiece. He had never liked the system; the little speakers always gave him headaches. “Captain, are you sitting down?”

Masterson blinked, feeling a hot flash of rage. “Yes, I bloody am,” he snapped. “Commander, what the hell is going on?”

Sandra’s voice was grim. “It’s bad news, sir,” she said. “On the other hand, it could be very good news indeed.”

Masterson ran out of patience. “Commander, I don’t have time for this,” he snapped. “Are the Krank coming back to kill us?”

Sandra’s voice was amused. “I don’t think we’ll have to worry about them for some time,” she said. “Captain, we seem to have fallen back in time.”

Masterson felt his senses reel. “I beg your pardon?”

“We ran a full positioning check,” Sandra said, her tone serious now. “We’re roughly ten light years away from Earth, in what we think is early 1942.”

“I…see,” Masterson said. A sudden thought struck him; if they really had fallen back nearly three hundred years in time, it would be easy to travel directly to the Krank Empire and destroy it…except it wouldn’t be possible. The Krank had clearly been in the middle of a long expansion cycle when they had encountered humanity; they might be capable of defeating the four warships he still possessed.

He thought rapidly. The first priority was to check that Sandra was right; he snapped orders to the navigation officers, before turning back to the display. If Sandra were right, then…suddenly all manner of opportunities had opened up in front of them.

“I’ve got a nice fix on Tau Ceti and Wolf 359,” Williston injected into his thoughts. “I can confirm that we are roughly within ten light years of Sol.”

“Which means that we have somehow jumped six hundred-odd light years across space,” Masterson said, trying to concentrate. “Sandra, how sure are you of the year?”

“The stars have moved,” Sandra said. “That’s why the navigation systems are having problems; get them to build up the fix from scratch, instead of through previously stored data.”

“Working on it,” Williston said. There was a long pause. “Captain, I think she’s right.”

Masterson felt his head spin. He looked up, to see Eileen pacing across the deck to his command chair. “Admiral,” she said, “this universe might not have the Krank.”

Sandra’s voice was regretful. “The Krank are older than we are,” she said. Masterson remembered dimly that she was a historian in her spare time, a woman who had wanted to see what the universe held. “We know little about them, but that much is certain, I’m afraid.”

Eileen smiled. “Then we go wipe them out now,” she snapped. “We go now, start building; in ten years we can wipe them out of the universe.”

“It’s not going to happen,” Sandra said. Masterson almost winced at the bitterness in her voice. “The Krank clearly had a modern space infrastructure for that long ago – today, I mean.”

“You’re not following me,” Eileen said. Her smile grew wider. “This is 1942; a year or so either way makes no difference. The Earth is intact…and so are the people.”


Howard spent twenty minutes cataloguing what resources had been left to the small fleet, before planning their next move. There might have been no sign of the Krank, but there were plenty of other problems they could face, including a serious lack of resources. Given time, the John Simpson could be set up to manufacture anything they might need, but they would need time and resources.

“The asteroid belt, at least, will have plenty of heavy metals,” Captain Von Trapitz reported. The former native of Baden, the world colonised from Germany, was a qualified engineer as well as a Captain; the John Simpson had been designed to boost a colony’s independent industrial base as quickly as possible. “We do already know where they are.”

He frowned. “Part of the problem will be in training the humans on Earth to work in space,” he continued. “How will they take the training? We are all spacers; we have experience of space and space working, but they won’t have any.”

“Coming to think of it,” Captain Marian Hussian injected, “will they even believe in the Krank?”

“We can make them believe,” Masterson said. He kept his voice calm by sheer force of effort; inside he was jumping for joy. “With two hundred years of lead time, who knows what we might have developed? We’ll be able to kick the Krank back to hell where they belong!”

“There is a worse problem,” Sandra said. Her voice was grim. “This is 1942 – or 1941, or 1943. In either case, there’s a war on. The Second World War, with the West facing off against the dictatorships of Hitler and Japan.”

“And Stalin,” Marian said. “Weren’t they fighting Stalin?”

“No,” Sandra said grimly. “Stalin was allied with the West.”

“Does that not beat everything?” Brigadier Yuri Joseph asked rhetorically. Masterson remembered that Joseph was Russian; one of a handful of Earth-born to have survived the Battle of Earth. “We cannot even begin to consider sharing anything with Stalin!”

His voice grew more emotive as he spoke. “Captain – Admiral, as I guess we must call you now – we have to make a decision about what we do about Stalin – and Hitler as well,” he said. “My parents…they used to tell stories about Stalin and Putin and those who tormented Russia during the Age of Unrest and the War of Terror, let alone the Great Patriotic War. Our technology can control a man, make him a slave of someone unscrupulous; we cannot let that fall into Stalin’s hands!”

Marian’s voice was curiously unconcerned. “One might argue that the Prime Directive applies,” she said. “This is an obvious contact with a primitive culture…”

“No it fucking doesn’t,” Sandra snapped. “That law was only signed into power after thousands of people demanded it; that was when they all thought that the universe was sweetness and light incarnate. We have a moral duty to…”

“Quiet,” Masterson said, trying hard to stay calm. All of a sudden, he missed Admiral Ward badly. “We need their help, all of you; without additional manpower, we might even have problems feeding ourselves.”

Eileen nodded. “With hydroponics, we might be able to feed roughly half of the currently active crewmembers,” she said. “If we have to take any of the colonists out of stasis, the number of people we might have to feed will go up – sharply.”

Masterson tapped the table, trusting in the conference system to send the noise through the laser links to the other ships. “This is an opportunity we should not pass up,” he said, carefully noting who seemed to agree or disagree. “If we make contact with them, we can deal with Stalin, Hitler and Japan, and then work to develop a space-based industry. The Moon, at least, should be fairly easy to colonise.”

“True,” Eileen agreed.

Masterson looked down at his hands for a long moment, and then smiled at them all. “My Chief Engineer wants to take a few days for the trip to Earth,” he said. “The warp engines might need some nursing. Once we get into Earth Orbit, we can decide on our next move.”

He frowned. “Brigadier Joseph, I want you and Commander Churchill to work out a plan for contacting the…past humans,” he continued. “We’re going to have to think of a better term for them.”

“Contemporaries,” Sandra suggested.

“Contemporaries,” Masterson agreed. “Once that’s done, I want a plan for dealing with the three Axis powers and Stalin; one that will be as intimidating as possible.”

Eileen smiled. “You want to intimidate the Allies?”

Masterson frowned. “I have never claimed that might is right,” he said, a little frostily. “More to the point, I want to impress them with what the Krank might do to Earth, and this world is even more defenceless than they could possibly dream of.”

Brigadier Joseph glanced up. “My Marines can handle anything they could possibly throw at us,” he said. “We may have problems replacing some of the skimmer missiles and components, at least until the John Simpson is set up and producing stuff…”

“That will be a while,” Captain Von Trapitz said glumly. “Our first priority will be replicating the industrial modules.”

Masterson held up a hand. “Understood,” he said. “Captain Von Trapitz, Brigadier; confer on how we might best improve the weapons of the Contemporaries. Governor Rusholme, I want you to go through the lists of the colonists in stasis; find any of them who might have useful skills and who can be removed and put to work.”

Governor Sanjeet Rusholme nodded slowly. “It will be done,” he said. His dark eyes glittered. “There must be a lot of practical engineers in the colonists; it was one of the required skills.”

Masterson nodded, and then looked around the table. “This is an opportunity I do not intend to see wasted,” he said. “The Krank are only two hundred years off, after all.” There were some chuckles. “In the time we will have, we will have enough time to build up a war fleet with far more impressive technology and perhaps some additional developments of our own…all of which will make sure that Earth will abide in this timeline.”

He paused. “Dismissed!”

Chapter Three: You Are Not Alone

ISS Hunter

Deep Space

“Activate the stealth systems,” Lord Admiral Macron snapped, as the wave of energy slammed into the Hunter. The superdreadnaught screamed as it flipped over, end for end, before all of the lights and displays suddenly dimmed…and went out.

“My Lord, we are powerless,” Captain Jaca said. Macron could barely see his Flag Captain’s slight glow in the darkness. “We’re dead in space.”

Macron carefully placed his hand on the deck, feeling the vibration spreading through his fingers. “No,” he said. “We have some power and…”

“My Lord, we have only emergency power,” a helmsman reported.

“Sensors are completely down,” the sensor officer added. “The entire human fleet could be right on top of us.”

Macron thought rapidly. “Send a runner down to engineering,” he snapped. He doubted that the emergency partitions would have had time to slam shut; they would be on their own power supplies anyway. “He’s to send my compliments to the Engineering staff and would they fix the problem before I get seriously annoyed.”

Jaca saluted and rapidly detailed one of the security officers to act as a runner. Macron nodded to himself, mentally cursing his decision to choose an automatic ‘yes-Krank’ for his flag captain, before sitting back in the command throne and thinking. If it had been a human weapon, he was sure, there would have been missiles slamming into the hull…and without shields there would be no possible defence.

He frowned. Something was draining power…the shields, perhaps? Were they under such heavy attack that only the use of all of their resources could keep them safe? He didn’t believe it for a moment; the emergency systems would have failed long ago under such a bombardment – and there had been no ship close enough to administer it.

A dull thrumming ran through the ship and the displays came back to life. “We have some power,” the tactical officer reported. His skin paled down to brown; a sign of high alarm. “My Lord, there is no sign of the fleet.”

Macron tapped his own display, bringing up the near-space tactical display. One icon blinked the red of a friendly ship – which meant another Krank ship – but there were no other icons at all. The display flickered several times as the power started to fade again, and then stabilised.

“Engineering, report,” he snapped, as the intercom came back to life. “What is happening down there?”

“We lost the warp core,” Engineer Kraka reported. “We are dependent upon emergency power only.”

Krank were naturally cold blooded, but Macron felt his head spin. Without the warp core providing a constant rate of power, they would be unable to reach FTL speeds. They could be a very long way from the Imperial Empire – and they would take years to reach it. Without FTL, they would have to start a trip that would be completed by their descendants.

“I see,” he said. “Navigation; where are we?”

The navigation officer hesitated. Macron winced inwardly; one of the first Emperor’s precepts had been an instruction not to kill the messenger, but it still wasn’t easy to give bad news to one’s superiors. The news must be really bad.

“My Lord,” the navigation officer said, “we are within seven units of the home system of the humans.”

Macron felt a wave of pure relief. Seven units – nearly ten months with the STL drive fields – was nothing…except they had been over five hundred years from Earth. He couldn’t understand it; had they met a freak wormhole? He almost missed the next words the navigator said, but then they caught his attention.

“My Lord, the stars are not in the right place,” he said.

Jaca’s voice hissed with anger. “How can the stars not be in the right place?” He demanded. “Are they the right stars?”

“The spectroscopic imaging is precise,” the navigation officer said, swelling up at the suggestion that he could have possibly have made a mistake. His big eyes bulged towards his Captain in a plea for understanding. “They’re just not where they should be.”

Macron frowned as a nasty thought occurred to him. The Krank had observed a wormhole before, one that had apparently existed in several time zones simultaneously. The combined scientific genius of the entire Imperial Science Academy had attacked the problem for years, attempting to find a way to generate and stabilise wormholes for themselves, but they’d had no success at all. Neither, according to ongoing data mining probes, had the humans.

“Check the projections,” he said. Using stellar locations to find out their temporal location was a well-known trick. “Find out…when we are.”

Jaca’s eyes receded inside his head. “You think that we might have somehow dropped ourselves back in time?”

“It’s possible,” Macron said, without saying anything else. His eyes lit upon the other Krank contact, which was now under power and heading their way. It was a scout ship, he noted with some annoyance; it wasn’t another superdreadnaught, or even a battlecruiser. “Have that ship perform the same location checks as we have, and then see what they come up with.”

Jaca bobbled his head, leaving Macron with the navigation officer, whose skin had darkened almost too black. “Report,” he said, almost gently. A junior who showed promise would be able to climb high up to ladder, perhaps quicker than the senior would expect. “When are we?”

“Roughly three hundred standard time units ago,” the navigation officer said. “My Lord, what are we going to do?”

Macron waddled away from the navigation officer, back to his command console. His mind was racing; the Krank homeworld was closer to its primary than the human world, which would put them roughly two hundred human years in the past. That was interesting…as far as he knew; the humans had only been expanding into space properly for around one hundred of their years. Had they been expanding for longer, then they might have posed much more of a threat to the Imperial Empire than they had…and Macron knew that the war had been closer than any of the senior officers wanted to think about.

“Warp signatures,” the sensor officer snapped. “At least seven of them; heading towards Earth!”

Macron looked up at the main display, hanging above the heads of the command crew. Seven signatures – human signatures – had appeared on the display, heading away from them towards Earth. They’d clearly been tossed further from Earth than the crippled Hunter, although with the Hunter lacking its warp engines it would be a dark miracle if the humans saw them.

“Keep us under stealth,” he snapped. They should have enough power to maintain a basic stealth field around the superdreadnaught. “What about the scout?”

“It’s the Tamara,” the fleet control officer said, having suddenly been demoted to minding only one ship. “She’s in good condition, My Lord; she’s got her warp engines.”

“Really?” Macron said thoughtfully, and then stopped himself. Sending the Tamara to find help was tempting, except the humans would be bound to see her the minute she lit off her warp engines. Worse, it would still take the Tamara months to reach a forward base…and then the little scout would have to convince the Lord Admiral in command to send a battle squadron to Earth.

He scowled, smacking his lips. The Lord Admiral in command of the closest settled sector was known to come from an unimaginative family; it had been his grandson who’d set into motion the events that had led to first contact with the humans. If he refused to believe the scout’s crew – and it wasn’t as if the scout came from a future with far more advanced technology – there would be no battle squadron.

He smiled suddenly. There were always options.

“Captain,” he snapped. Jaca waddled over to meet him. “Keep the engineering crew working on restoring all power,” he ordered. “I’m going to my cabin. I have some planning to do.”

Jaca bowed. “Yes, My Lord,” he said. Macron smiled; a more imaginative officer might have wondered what the point was without their warp engines. How could they get home without them?


The designers hadn’t skimped on his cabin; it had just the right degree of comfort for an officer of his rank, without moving into the degree of luxury fitted to a wastrel son descended from someone who had earned their title. His title, he thought with some degree of pride, had been earned; he hadn’t had the advantage of coming from a line with heroes by the dozen.

He stepped into the breeding pond and sighed in contentment as the water automatically adjusted itself to simulate thought and concentration. If he had had a female in her season with him, the water would have driven them both into a frenzy of sexual excitement, but on his own all he could do was think. He leaned back in the pool, thinking; what would the humans do? They suddenly had no opponents…and a chance to alter the history that had been leading towards their total destruction. What would his counterpart do with it?

They had warp engines; they could have attacked the Krank homeworld before any warning could have reached their targets, assuming, of course, that they would have fought their way through an unprepared Home Fleet. That would, Macron decided, have been the better option from his point of view; Krank technology hadn’t evolved that much between the past – where they were now – and the moment of first contact with the humans. The humans would have inflicted damage, but they would have been destroyed.

He smiled for a moment. If his warp engines had been working, he could have annihilated the human fleet before it could have influenced history, and then proceeded to destroy Earth before the humans ever got into space. Without the warp engines…

He allowed himself to consider the possibility. They didn’t know for sure how many ships the humans had; they could have over a dozen, flying in formation to hide their warp signatures. More than one human ambush had been sprung simply by one ship towing another along behind it, doubling the human firepower without warning the Krank. If the human fleet were composed entirely of warships, they would have several advantages; they would be faster than the Hunter, and far more capable of manoeuvring out of the firing path.

He chuckled suddenly, coldly; remembering old battles the Krank had fought among themselves before reaching for the stars and expanding their empire. One tactic, one that was almost part of their blood, was to pick a target that the enemy would have to defend – and then attack it. The enemy would have to offer battle…or watch the target get destroyed. For the humans to attack him, they would have to come within firing range of their weapons – which meant firing range of his weapons.

He nodded to himself, considering. If he destroyed Earth, it would be easy to start the long process of terraforming the other worlds in Earth’s system…which would allow his ship with its monstrous crew a chance to set up an empire of their own…before they made contact with the Imperial Empire. Hell – what was to stop them setting up an Empire of their own? It would be nearly three hundred standard units before anyone from the Empire poked their nose into this section of space, and that was plenty of time to establish themselves. He smiled, allowing himself a moment to consider the thought of Emperor Macron; an emperor without having to go through the long torturous breeding program that created new monarchs.

He shook his head, dismissing the thought; the social structure of the Empire was what they needed. Besides, they had only ten thousand Krank; only a fourth of them were female. Establishing a breeding population would take time. Once they had staked their claim, however, they would contact the Homeworld and the Empire would reward them and send new colonists…and the name of Lord Admiral Macron would be remembered forever.


The meeting of the senior officers took place in a communal pool, one that kept its temperature deliberately cold, following the agreement that females could serve in the military as equals – although some were more equal than others. The thought of an entire command crew getting mad on sexual activity was amusing to some, but not to anyone who might have had to serve on a ship.

“The meeting will now come to attention,” Macron proclaimed. “Moderator?”

The Moderator, the Krank who was responsible for maintaining harmony stood and started a long prayer. “May the Higher Power of the universe maintain the Emperor in his wisdom, leading us towards the unity that is our fondest desire,” he concluded.

The assembled command crew sat back in the water with some relief. “I suppose one might argue that praying for an Emperor who is hardly alive might be constituted as…well, blasphemy,” the Moderator continued. “However, you have my dispensation; at least until the religious authorities can make a decision.”

Macron nodded. The Moderator wasn’t the worst he’d come across; he’d taken the decision to warn the crew of the theological problem on his own – and then to grant them dispensation; the blame, if the religious authorities decided that blame was called for, would fall on his head. It was, under the circumstances, a surprisingly courageous decision, although precedent would support his view. His prayer had also allowed the crew a chance to calm down, something they all needed; the news had spread through the ship and everyone was…nervous.

“You all know what’s happened to us,” he said, before anyone else could speak. By long tradition, meetings were a free-for-all; all officers got a chance to speak. “Is there any chance that the warp core can be repaired?”

“No,” Engineer Kraka said flatly. “The core has been almost totally fused; we suffered power shortages because of the core failure and the sudden demand for power from the systems. The source of the main power drain remains unknown; it is possible that it might have provided some of the push that got us dropped here.”

“I see,” Macron said. “So…we are limited to sublight flight only. That seems to leave us with only one option; proceed at once to Earth and destroy the human fleet.”

There was a long pause. Finally, the tactical officer spoke. “My Lord, Earth was the most heavily defended world they had,” he said. “It took almost a year to crack through the defences, and it cost nearly a thousand warships. We are one ship; one ship without its main power source.”

Macron smiled. “You’re forgetting,” he said. “The humans developed later than we did. At the moment, Earth is defenceless; we move up and drop several asteroids on them…and that will be the end of the human threat.”

“Changing time,” the Moderator mused. “If we can do it, is it godly?”

“Do we have a choice?” Macron asked, wondering if it was the right thing to say. “If that fleet catches a sniff of us, it will take us years to escape…while they could be building superdreadnaughts of their own. That’s what they must be thinking of; they must be planning to upgrade their ancestors to a point where they could take us on.”

The thought sank into their heads. Macron read the trembles in the water and understood. “We have no choice,” he said gently. “If we get to Earth before they get it set up to resist an attack, we can destroy it and the human ships, before setting up our own base. Once we can repair the warp core, or replace it, we can proceed in whatever way we want.”

The navigation officer twitched in awe. “We could boost forward the development of this sector,” he exclaimed. “We would all be province lords…”

“At the very least,” Macron agreed. “We know where all of the worlds that can be settled are, my friends. We know everything about this sector; we will have plenty of time to claim them all.”

Jaca smiled. “Count me in,” he said. Macron wasn’t surprised; Jaca had risen high by following him, rather than shaping a career for himself. “I want that for myself.”

The Moderator nodded. “We would be expanding the great work of building the empire.”

Macron smiled as they all made their commitments. It would be much easier with their willing cooperation; far better than just having him simply giving orders. With all of them working together, there would be far fewer disputes amongst themselves…let alone attempts at mutiny.

“Good,” he said. “I want the scout to proceed to Earth at once, under cloak. Once it reports back, we’ll make our decision…and start the long journey towards Earth.”

Chapter Four: Advancing to Earth

HDS Lightning

In Transit

“I’ll never get used to this,” Sandra said, as she stared out of the observation blister. The Lightning only had one blister, but it was perched right at the prow of the starship, allowing the crew to watch the strange lights of warpspace shimmering past.

“I know what you mean,” Brigadier Yuri Joseph said. She glanced up at his stubborn face, staring out at the lights. “This is always gorgeous, magnificent, outrageous and fantastic.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Sandra said, impishly poking out her tongue at him to quell the line of superlatives. “These stars - those stars that are contributing their light to the waves splashing into the warp field – haven’t shone like that for years. We’re the first humans to be looking upon the sun’s light from space, ever.”

Joseph shrugged. “There are Spacers who claim that they have walked out on asteroids without space suits and looked at the sun,” he said. “Compared to that…what’s the point of this?”

Sandra smiled. The Spacers, humans who had adapted themselves so completely for life in space, had been one of the Human Defence Force’s largest contributors. There were thousands of Spacers in the fleet, even though they were rarely willing to land directly on a planetary surface.

“Personally, I’ve never been sure about them,” she said. “They cut off everything they think that they won’t need in the future, using artificial wombs to develop more children. Are they really human if they mutilate themselves that far?”

Joseph frowned. “They might be the only humans to survive the Krank,” he said. Sandra nodded; there had always been rumours of hidden Spacer colonies, so far from Earth in systems that everyone else considered as junk. They might be able to hide themselves; the Krank wouldn’t be that interested in useless systems either.

She shook her head. She knew, just as he knew, why they were talking about nothing; neither of them wanted to face the truth of their situation. It had sunk in, after all of the preparations for ensuring that the fleet could make warpspace had been completed; they would never see their homeworld again. Radioactive cinders or no, Earth in the 1940s wouldn’t be the same.

She picked up a datapad and held it out to him, wondering what they would all do later. “As far as we can tell, we’re somewhere – some-when – in the early 1940s,” she said. “We might arrive before Pearl Harbour, or we might arrive just as the Soviets are about to grind down Berlin and defeat Hitler’s forces for the last time. It’s impossible to be sure until we reach orbit.”

“We should have gone ahead,” Joseph agreed. “Keeping the fleet together slows us down.”

“The Admiral made up his mind,” Sandra said firmly. Scouts were normally considered expendable – and there shouldn’t have been anything near Earth to shoot at them anyway – but keeping the fleet together made sense. “Our job is to decide what to do once we get to Earth.”

“Make contact,” Joseph said. His voice was choppy, blunt. “Get them to help us. Kick Fascist butt – and that will include Stalin.”

“That will be harder than you might think,” Sandra said, who’d been giving the matter some thought. “We can destroy their armies from orbit, but…what then? You may remember the long Age of Unrest, when the Coalition was slamming down the terrorists, but often reluctant to do the hard work of building democracy.”

Joseph nodded slowly, grimly. The Age of Unrest had lasted nearly a hundred years, when all of the fault lines in the global political scene had finally exploded. The Coalition, composed of the main democratic states, had attempted to cope with the disaster, but their reluctance to use their awesome military power to reshape the world had slowed down the defeat of the forces arrayed against him. By the time that the Coalition had ended that reluctance, several major cities had been destroyed – and there was still a lingering prejudice against Arabs.

“The innocent shouldn’t suffer under the weight of a dictatorship,” Joseph muttered, quoting the final President of the United States of America, before the Global Federation had been formed. “We don’t have the manpower to help them.”

“The Contemporaries will have that manpower,” Sandra said, as reassuringly as she could. “Once they have some soldiers ready, we can clear the way for them. Hell, a month or so would allow us time to deploy some really interesting weapons, ones from 2050 or later…”

“Tactical impact weapons,” Joseph agreed. He looked down at the datapad for a long moment. “Once we run out of ship-stored weapons, we’ll be down to plasma cannons; still awesomely destructive, but hardly as versatile.”

“That’s going to be a problem,” Sandra agreed. She scowled. “A month or so with an industrial module and we could really start churning out weapons from that era. We have all of the diagrams, after all.” She shook her head. “I’ll add that to the list of the million most essential things for us to build.”

Joseph sighed. “It’s not as if the Contemporaries could build plasma cannons or FTL warp missiles,” he said. “They don’t have jets, let alone anti-gravity systems.”

Sandra nodded. “Tell me,” she said, “have you been studying the data on the weapons we might face?”

“Yes,” Joseph said. “In the short run, it’s going to be easy. In the long run, it might prove a little harder; we have only ten companies, or one thousand Marines. We could whip Nazi Germany in a stand-up fight, perhaps without taking a single casualty, but what happens when we have to secure Germany, to say nothing of Japan and Russia?”

“We’ll have to rely on Contemporary manpower,” Sandra said grimly. She looked out at the flickering lights for a long moment. “They can’t be that bad at fighting.”

Joseph shrugged. “They’re not going to be anything like as professional as we are,” he said grimly. “They won’t have battlesuits; they were invented to fight in areas where high civilian casualties were frowned upon. These people could hardly care less; they nuked Japan in 1945.” He paused. “Coming to think of it, a nuclear warhead could really mess up even a battlesuit unit.”

Sandra snorted. “Have I ever told you that I admire your endless sense of optimism?” She asked. “The Nazis don’t invent nuclear weapons, ever.”

Joseph frowned. “It’s still going to take time to build up Contemporary forces to support us,” he said. “If they’re anything like the Planetary Militias that we used to have, they’ll demand lead roles for their men, which will cost them lives.”

“Time,” Sandra said thoughtfully. She took back the datapad and adjusted it, using it to display a holographic map, floating in the air. “This is the world as it was in early 1942,” she explained. “Japan will continue its rampage until the 5th of June, 1942; when the Battle of Midway will destroy the Japanese carrier fleet and forever cost them the initiative. Hitler’s forces will continue until 1943, when they will surrender in Stalingrad and end their grasp of the action. After Kursk, they would certainly be destroyed.”

“Except…we’re going to remove Stalin as well,” Joseph reminded her. “Will the Western allies be so keen on aiding us to do that?”

Sandra smiled. “According to his biographical file, Churchill – one of my distant ancestors – distrusted Stalin,” she said. She paused. “In time, we could train up some of the Contemporaries on our own, people who would be able to act as support troops.”

“Good point,” Joseph agreed. “There must be thousands of young men and women who would be interested in seeing the stars.”

“A lot will depend on what the Allies could provide,” Sandra said dryly, as the map spun in front of her. “If we can’t smash the Japanese fleet from orbit, we’re clearly too stupid to win, so they won’t be a problem for a while.”

“True,” Joseph agreed. “Once we get some kinetic impact weapons into orbit, we can shut the Japanese down for good.”

“Then we would be best advised, I think, to toss Rommel out of Africa,” Sandra said. “That sort of battle shouldn’t be a problem; we can put a hundred Marines down and sweep through the nation from end to end.”

“It’s not a united nation here,” Joseph reminded her. Sandra nodded. “That would free up Contemporary forces from Africa for occupation duty.”

“Yep,” Sandra agreed. “In fact, we’ll have to ensure that the entire region is rebuilt on democratic grounds, just to prevent the Age of Unrest from starting again.”

Joseph nodded. “There are a lot of things that we can do better, this time around,” he said. “With some effort, we might be able to ensure that humanity gets a united government nearly a century in advance.”

“It’s not a problem for the moment,” Sandra said. Her voice darkened. “Once Africa has been dealt with, we have other problems, starting with Germany. We could march all the way to Berlin, but that would just make life more miserable for the people there.”

“They elected the bastard,” Joseph snapped. “Let them suffer!”

Sandra shrugged. “I was thinking that we could take him alive, if we could,” she said. “It would hardly be difficult; the SS is hardly prepared for your people.”

“Adolf Hitler, in the dock,” Joseph said. “The same for Stalin?”

“Will you stop obsessing with Stalin?” Sandra snapped. “Yes; the same for Stalin, if we can get him as well.”

Joseph smiled. “If we lose a single life of ours, it will be though incompetence,” he said. “Their tanks don’t even carry proper armour-piercing shells; none of them could harm a battlesuit. Defeating the fascists will be easy.”

“I’m not worried about the war,” Sandra said slowly, wishing that she could share all of her concerns. “I’m worried about the world after the war is suddenly terminated.”


“So, Doctor, what is the status of the crew?” Masterson asked. “How are they taking the news?”

Doctor Phyllis Stoner stretched in her seat, allowing Masterson a good view. Rumour had it that she’d altered her own DNA to ensure that she would always appear young, even though her personal file listed her as being forty. She looked twenty-one, with long blonde hair and innocent blue eyes. She turned heads everywhere, just as much as her research had turned medical science upside down.

“They’re taking it very well,” Phyllis said, batting her eyelids just to see how it looked. Masterson, who knew her age, almost laughed. “It helps, of course, that everyone on board the ships had already adjusted themselves to losing Earth; getting it back has given everyone a real shot in the arm. The only problem, of course, are the colonists; all of whom remain in stasis until we reach a world where we can put them.”

“They’re going to have to remain on Earth for a while,” Masterson said grimly. He stared down at the display on his desk. “Doctor, how will the people on Earth respond to us?”

Phyllis considered. For all the impression she liked to give of being an airhead, she was known as one of the leaders in her field, one of the most capable researchers and medical professionals in the Global Federation. Her wide-ranging qualifications and experience had won her the post on the final colony fleet…before it had become merely the final fleet.

“It’s hard to be certain,” she admitted. “I rather imagine that we will be horrifying news to the Nazis, let alone the Japanese and the communists; we bear proof that their systems failed badly, a long time ago. That said, the same might well be said of every nation in 1940; the British Empire faded away, America gave up its independence to found the Global Federation, France became the plaything of maddened Jihadists until they forced them all out…the news we bear is not going to be welcome.

“And then there’s the news about how we never reached space properly until the late twenty-first century,” she continued. “That will be disappointing to many of them, let alone all the problems that our tradition of direct democracy will cause for them. We’re going to damage their economies; even if they start at once, they’re going to take years to catch up with us.”

Masterson gaped at her. “They’re not going to have to chase us, let alone fight us,” he said. “We’re here to help them get into space so that we can fight the Krank.”

Phyllis snorted. “They’re going to be scared to death of us,” she said. “We represent something so radical that they’re going to be wondering just what we might do to them. Captain these people only pay lip service to the rights of women of coloured people; we represent the worst news of all, as far as they are concerned.”

Masterson gazed down at his dark hand. The concept of racism wasn’t unknown, not after the Age of Unrest, but it was rare in space. “A good third of the crew is…not-white,” he said. “Are they going to be attacked?”

“It’s possible,” Phyllis conceded. “I know little about the history of racial relationships in this period, but there was little real success until forty-odd years afterwards.” She shrugged. “On the other hand, there will be thousands of discontented people who’ll want to join up with us.”

Masterson smiled. “That’s how Terra Nova began,” he said, meaning the first out-system world to be colonised. “They took thousands of people who wanted to try something new, helping them to set up a new home…but we don’t have room for them on the fleet.”

Phyllis grinned. “We don’t have to,” she said. “You know that I am a native of Mars?” Masterson nodded. “We could terraform Mars with ease, Captain; we know how to do it now and it would be easy to make the oxygen-generating bacteria and the other bio-engineered systems now.”

Masterson frowned. “It took around fifty years to terraform Mars the first time around,” he said. “You’re saying that you can do it in a year?”

“More like ten years,” Phyllis conceded. “Of course, this century doesn’t have any of the nutcases who ranted that we were interfering with nature – as if there had ever been anything natural about Mars. Once the bacteria has been produced, we inject it into the Martian atmosphere, along with some ice asteroids, and then we wait for a while. The progress is well understood, sir; it should be simple, if long-term.”

Masterson scowled. “See to it,” he ordered. The more he thought about it, the more the advantages started to develop in his mind. “I want us to have the capability ready to begin at once, as soon as we make contact with the Contemporaries. If nothing else, it should be bloody impressive through a ground-based telescope.”

Phyllis nodded. “I’ll start producing the bacteria at once,” she said. She paused. “You do know that President Roosevelt was trapped in a wheelchair?”

Masterson blinked. “No, I didn’t,” he said. “I have been a little busy, you know.”

“I know,” Phyllis said dryly. “Captain – Admiral – with our medical technology, we might have a real bargaining chip.”

Masterson yawned tidily. “To add to the dozen or so others,” he said. “It’s nearly five hours until we reach Earth, Doctor; please concentrate on the terraforming project.”

“You should get some sleep,” Phyllis said seriously. Masterson sighed inwardly at her Mother Hen tone. “Admiral, you’ve been working for too long.”

Masterson nodded. “All right,” he said, knowing that resistance would be futile. “I’ll catch some sleep here.”

Phyllis left without comment, leaving Masterson to find the small couch he used when he had to sleep in his office, and collapsing onto it. Sleep came quickly, thanks to the implant in his head; he set it precisely for four and a half hours, allowing him a chance to get a proper sleep. There was a long moment of…nothing, and then he was awake.

A chime rang in his room. “Admiral,” Eileen said, “it’s nearly twenty-five minutes to orbit.”

“Understood,” Masterson said, quickly changing into a fresh uniform. There was nothing that could be done about having a shower in the remaining time; he strode onto the bridge feeling haggard. Only the certain knowledge that everyone else felt the same way too kept him going.

“Admiral on the bridge,” the security guard said.

“As you were,” Masterson said, taking the Admiral’s chair. “Report?”

“Five minutes to reaching Earth’s limit,” Lieutenant Commander Syeda Johnston reported. Her voice changed as she examined the readouts. “The rest of the fleet is following us in.”

“Understood,” Masterson said, sitting back and taking a breath.

“Stand by to take us out of warp,” Eileen said. Her firm voice rippled around the bridge, every inch the perfect Captain. “Stand by…three, two, one, now!”

The flickering lights of warpspace faded, replaced by a green and blue orb floating in the distance. Masterson came to his feet without ever realising that he had done so, stepping closer to the display until he could see Earth clearly; untouched, unharmed.

“My God,” he breathed. There had always been something about Earth that took the breath away…and it was no different in the past. “Situation report?”

“There are no signs of active spacecraft within the region,” Williston said. Masterson shrugged; that, at least, was hardly surprising. “The ether is clear, Admiral; we are alone out here.”

Masterson took a long breath, and then deliberately turned away from the display. “Call all of the fleet senior officers to a conference call,” he said. “It’s time to plan out the final steps before we make contact.”

He took one final look at the image of Earth, hanging in space, and then turned to leave the bridge. Eileen followed him as the fleet settled into orbit, stepping into the conference room with him. Behind them, Earth glowed on the view screen; the crew watched it, their eyes open wide with awe.

Chapter Five: Storm Warning

Wilhelm Observatory

Near Baden, Germany

Herr Doctor Professor Rudolf Lusar cared little about politics; all he cared about was the stars. The benefits of Hitler’s rule had led to an increase in funding for all branches of science, particularly the ones that might have had military applications, and the Wilhelm Observatory had benefited as well.

He smiled absently as he examined the vast telescope that had been constructed before the war began. He hadn’t been following the war news closely, although his son-in-law had been busy with his SS post; it mattered very little to him what happened in the wider world. Although he would have never admitted it to himself, he would always be more comfortable with the stars than with people.

“Now, let’s see,” he said, as the telescope finished its elevation. He nodded in the direction of his youngest grandson, who would be starting with the Hitler Youth next spring; Fritz had asked to see the telescope before he went into the training camp. “We are looking for the star…Jesus Christ!

He was only dimly aware of his grandson’s giggle as he peered through the telescope; there were objects in orbit. He stared, peeling his eyes at them, trying to make out what they were. The scientific literature had been discussing the prospect of actually putting human constructions in orbit – the American Goddard had been quite vocal on the subject – but he was certain that even the Americans couldn’t have put something into orbit, not without the entire world being aware of them.

Fritz grew impatient, as boys did. “What’s happening?”

“I honestly have no idea,” Lusar said. He knew that his tone was weak; he felt faint. The telescope was revealing little about the objects, but he’d done a handful of estimates and it was clear that they were vast, huge beyond the dreams of the Kriegsmarine. They were clearly in orbit around Earth, pacing the planet’s spin…and they were clearly artificial.

“They can’t be asteroids,” he muttered, ignoring Fritz’s grumbles. He’d seen asteroids through telescopes before; they were irregular shaped objects, not pointed needles floating in orbit around the Earth. “They’re too…out of this world.”

A thought tried to form in the back of his mind. He dismissed it; it was impossible that such an event could ever happen. The Americans loved talking about monsters from outer space coming to steal American women – as if the rest of the world had only ugly women – but it was impossible. Nothing like that could ever happen.

“Fritz, run and fetch your father,” he said. “This…might interest him.”


Brigadefuehrer Johan Schriever worked directly for Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer-SS. Himmler, long ago, had charged him with following the progress of certain projects within the Reich, ones that might benefit the SS directly. Astronomy might offer very little in the way of a military advantage – although Schriever knew better than to assume that it offered no advantage – but it had other compensations. One of them was his wife’s father, Herr Doctor Professor Rudolf Lusar; the man was a genuine genius and genuinely interesting to talk to.

He smiled. Himmler had only reluctantly agreed to allow him a chance to spend Christmas with his wife’s family, but it had been worth the argument; he finally had some time alone with Anna, his wife. They had been walking out in the garden when Fritz, a young tearaway who reminded Schriever of himself as a child, had found them.

“Dad, Granddad’s found something,” Fritz said, gasping for breath. Schriever was very proud of his son; he would make a good Waffen-SS officer one day, perhaps after the Russians and the British were beaten. By Schriever’s admittedly offhand calculations, Fritz would be a Hauptsturmfuehrer by the time that America was invaded and made part of the Reich.

“Really?” Anna asked. At twenty she had been lovely; at thirty she was still a beauty, even if she was remorselessly practical. “What has my father found?”

“Something in space,” Fritz gasped, in between breaths. “He wants Dad to take a look at it.”

Schriever smiled. Himmler and the more…way-out factions in the SS believed devoutly that Aryans would one day visit them from beyond the sky, which meant that astronomy was suddenly very important to them. He personally didn’t believe in that, let alone the stories about Thule, the mythical Aryan version of Atlantis, but Himmler believed.

“I’m just coming,” he said, kissing Anna. Her resigned sigh, he realised, was put on; he kissed her again and then followed Fritz up the road to the observatory. His father-in-law had done well, he realised; the entire place was situated on a high hill, without any military bases nearby that might object to the plan.

“Johan,” his father-in-law called, as they entered the main room. Schriever’s eyes lit on the telescope, but then focused in on Lusar; the man was half-excited, half-utterly terrified. Schriever felt worried; Lusar’s heart wasn’t that good. “You have to look at this!”

“I’m here,” Schriever said, as reassuringly as he could. He carefully placed his eye to the telescope and peered out into the darkness, towards the stars…wait a minute, he suddenly realised; those weren’t stars!

“What the hell are they?” He demanded, for once not speaking gently. “What are they?”

“I was hoping that you could tell me,” his father said. “I don’t know where they came from; they’re just sitting in orbit.”

Schriever took a breath, and then returned to the telescope, peering back up at the strange objects. They were moving, he realised, inching around the globe…perhaps even spread out around the globe. His mind raced, trying to decide what to do; should he inform Himmler?

He remembered talking to Von Braun, sometime before America joined the war; Himmler had very high hopes for the no-longer-young rocket researcher. The rocket scientist had talked about sending manned vehicles into orbit, something that they could do after the war ended – just because of the fascinating military implications from the proposal. Had someone else actually managed to launch something into orbit?

“They came from elsewhere,” he gasped, and understood. Himmler had been right; there were people out among the stars. Perhaps they were friendly, perhaps not; but for the moment all they could do was wait…and see.

“Perhaps,” Lusar commented. “I can’t even begin to imagine what they are.”

“I can,” Schriever said. The thought refused to leave his mind; he knew he was right. “They’re spacecraft, just like in the American science-fiction magazines!”

HDS John Howard

Earth Orbit

“We seem to be in late 1941,” Sandra said. “We’ve been picking up radio broadcasts, some of them from Britain and America. It’s the 22nd of December, apparently.”

“We’re about to give them one hell of a Christmas present,” Masterson said. He looked over at the sensor board, then up at Williston. “Is there any sign that they’ve detected us?”

Williston shook his head. “None at all,” he said. “We’re picking up emissions from a handful of radars, mainly British, but it’s unlikely that they could actually get a return off our hulls.” He shrugged. “Even if they could, what could they do about it?”

Masterson frowned. “You’re certain that there’s no way they can reach us?” He asked. Despite logic, he was feeling concerned. “The fleet will be safe?”

Sandra nodded. “They might, if they pushed their engineering skills to the limit, be able to build a primitive rocket to reach orbit. We’d see it coming; point defence would have no trouble at all intercepting it.”

“Good,” Masterson said. He sighed softly, letting a long breath out. “What’s happening down there?”

Sandra read from a datapad. “It’s over a fortnight since Pearl Harbour,” she said. “Hitler has taken full command of the Wehrmacht, which is about to start the long march towards Stalingrad. MacArthur is holding out in the Philippines; they’re due to fall in early April. We’re tracking the Japanese ships now, although some of them are out of place.”

Masterson looked up, alarmed. “This might be a different universe?” He asked. “We’re not in our own history?”

“I don’t think so,” Sandra said. “We’ll have to do quantum scans to be sure, of course, but I’m fairly certain that all of the…differences are on the micro scale, caused by faulty records.” She shrugged. “The Japanese carriers are roughly five miles out of place, and their navigation was never perfect, so…”

“Something to bear in mind,” Masterson said. “So, what now?”

Sandra took a moment before replying. “There are several options,” she said, “but we have had a stroke of luck. The leaders of the Western Allies – Roosevelt and Churchill – are in Washington, meeting to discuss the plans for the war, now that America has joined in. If we send a shuttle down, we could meet them.”

Masterson saw the gleam in her eye and smiled. “You want to go meet them,” he said. “How do you plan to make contact?”

Sandra smiled openly. “We just take a shuttle down, orbit Washington, and land in front of the White House,” she said. “That will certainly save us trying to convince them that we’re not madmen; they won’t believe in the ships unless they see them through telescopes or something.”

Masterson nodded slowly. “Yes, that would work,” he said. “What do you want to tell them down there?”

“The truth, of course, but not all of it,” Sandra said. “Telling them everything will have to wait until they can be given a tour of the John Howard and then we can introduce them to the Krank.”

Masterson frowned. “Doctor Stoner was warning that we would shock them,” he said. “Are you sure that that is wise?”

“I think that we have to convince them of the seriousness of the situation,” Sandra said, very seriously. “If we fail to do that, then we will have serious problems later; they will have to be convinced to act against one of their allies, let alone…hell, we have to tell Churchill to dismantle the British Empire – carefully, very carefully.”

Masterson blinked. “Is that going to be a problem?”

“Oh, yes,” Sandra said. “He’s really not going to like that.”

Masterson shook his head. “It can wait,” he said. “Now, what about our intervention in the war?”

“It’s going to take some time,” Sandra said. “We can sink most of the Japanese Navy right now, ending the threat of them advancing across the Pacific, but that will drain almost all of our tactical impact weapons; all of them would be needed. We would be unable to provide more than a little support to the Marines, for example; we would have burnt through all of the advanced weapons in the first day!”

She paused. “Fortunately, we can get a production line set up fairly quickly,” she continued. “Give us a month and we’ll be able to blast a way to Berlin with an army composed of a one-legged man and a small poodle.”

“I see,” Masterson said. “They’re still going to want some help directly, just to convince them that we are as capable as we are boasting.”

“I know,” Sandra said. Her hand traced North Africa’s outline in the map. “We can send a group of Marines down there; if they lose anyone, it will be through simple incompetence.”

Masterson snorted. “The Marines are not incompetent,” he said. His voice darkened, remembering one of the desperate final battles of the war. The conflict raging down on Earth was a children’s tea party, compared to the Krank War. “They saved our arses at Desert World.”

Sandra smiled. “They will be if they lose anyone in the desert,” she said. “We could hardly have picked a better region to showcase our capabilities; the battlesuits will have almost no need to worry about civilian casualties. General Rommel has been reinforced, recently, which will only give us more targets to shoot at.”

She frowned. “I would advise, however, against allowing the Marines to use their HVM launchers or indeed anything more complex than a plasma gun. We can recharge a plasma gun; an HVM is irreplaceable and is going to be impossible to replace for years to come. Still, they won’t have heavy battle screen, let alone armour that could withstand more than a few plasma blasts. A single blast should kill one of their Panzers without any problems at all.”

Masterson nodded. “I assume that you and Brigadier Joseph have worked out a plan for their deployment,” he said. Sandra nodded. “Make the final preparations now…and then we can make contact with the leaders of the Western Powers.”

Sandra saluted. “It will be done, sir,” she said. “With two hundred years of warning, what could we not do to the Krank?”

“We will destroy them,” Masterson said, and watched her leave. He knew that he would have little time to himself, so he concentrated and called up the history documents on Roosevelt and Churchill, who was one of Sandra’s ancestors. He smiled ruefully; that little family connection might be very useful in the days to come.

“Admiral, Captain Von Trapitz is here to see you,” the AI said. The John Howard hadn’t carried an Admiral’s staff; it had seemed so unnecessary in the final years of the human race. “Would you like to see him?”

The honest answer to that was no; Masterson would have preferred more time to work on his plans, but he knew that he had little choice. There were so many things that needed to be done…and he had only a limited pair of hands – to say nothing of time.

“Send him in,” he said. The door hissed open, allowing Captain Von Trapitz to enter, carrying – Masterson noted with a mental sigh of dismay – a stack of datapads. “Ah, Captain,” he said. “You have the latest updates?”

“Yes, Admiral,” Captain Von Trapitz said. His voice was tired; like all of them, he had been working for hours over the recommended limit. Masterson would have been annoyed, if he’d had the energy; they were just too tired for their own good. “There are some minor problems, but we can handle most of them.”

“Splendid,” Masterson said. He paused, invitingly. Captain Von Trapitz, like the other construction crew he’d met, wasn’t keen on discussing the nuts and bolts of his work. “Details?”

Captain Von Trapitz passed over the top datapad. “We have been going through the supplies on the John Simpson,” he said. “We can set up some of the fabricators in Earth Orbit at once, if you command that; that would allow us to get started at once.” He sighed. “We’ll have to devote the Sutherland or perhaps the Lightning to carrying moon rock for the fabricators, at least until we get a proper space catapult set up, but it would work. It’s not like we have to use them for fighting anyway.”

“I suppose not,” Masterson said. If the Krank of this era sent in a battle squadron, the human race was as doomed as it had been in the previous timeline. The entire fleet could not have stood off a standard twelve-ship squadron. “What about putting them in lunar orbit?”

“I thought about that, but we’ll want something that could be reached by Contemporary spacecraft – once they start building them – and the moon might be too far for them,” Captain Von Trapitz explained. “They’ll also look very impressive from the ground; massive factories floating in orbit and something they won’t have a hope of hitting.”

Masterson frowned. “Primitive does not mean stupid,” he said, warningly. The attitude that the Contemporaries were primitive was growing through the fleet as people accessed old history files. “Are there any other reasons?”

“We might want the Moon for ourselves,” Captain Von Trapitz said bluntly. Masterson nodded. “Now, Admiral; what about the Mars project?”

“I think that we might be able to spare one of the cruisers,” Masterson said. “It’s not going to be a long project; kicking off the starting phase won’t take long at all, not given that we know where most of the ice asteroids can be found. We find them, point them towards Mars, and leave them to impact in their own good time.”

“So the good Doctor said,” Captain Von Trapitz agreed. “I think that we should be focusing more on the asteroids, rather than Mars, but that might be too much for everyone else to face.”

Masterson shrugged. “We have to prioritise,” he said. “Mars, if we get started now, can be left alone to simmer.” Captain Von Trapitz smiled at the weak joke. “The asteroids will require constant effort, and for the moment…we’re just going to have to keep thousands of different elements in the air at the same time.”

“There are options,” Captain Von Trapitz said. His voice became more active as he spoke. “The people here are not going to be producing warp engines anytime soon, but they could produce basic spacecraft.”

Masterson stared at him. “They could put ships into orbit?”

Captain Von Trapitz shook his head. “No, not that,” he said. “At least not yet, anyway. However, they could build craft like the first Spacers used; ones incapable of working within an atmosphere, but capable of working among the asteroids.” He smiled. “They’re not that complex; all they have to be is airtight and powered by gas reactions. All we’d have to do is transport them to orbit…and there you are.”

“Something else to discuss with them,” Masterson said. He sighed. “The death rate is going to be high.”

“I know,” Captain Von Trapitz said. His Spacer-face leaned forwards, glinting in the light from the illumination panels. “It cannot be helped.”

Masterson nodded. “Draw up the plans for them,” he said. A chime rang from his console. “Excuse me,” he said. “Admiral Masterson.”

“Admiral, we have finished preparing the shuttle,” Sandra’s voice said. “Do you want us to proceed at once to Washington?”

Masterson nodded. “Yes,” he said, over the intercom. “Good luck, all of you.”

Chapter Six: First Contact

Washington DC

United States of America

The American leadership, Prime Minister Winston Churchill knew, hadn’t been entirely happy to see him and his entourage, but there hadn’t been any choice. America had entered the war, but the Americans had to understand, from him, that the main priority was to put Germany first. Japan had attacked them – and he felt a grim tremor in his heart when he thought of the Japanese troops advancing onto Hong Kong and down towards Malaya – but the Japanese were a limited power. They would wreak havoc for a few months, before the Americans could rebuild their fleet, and then they would be ground to powder.

He shuddered. He knew, just as clearly as he remembered the turmoil in Britain when Dunkirk had finally fallen, that Hitler might be working towards an atomic weapon. He hadn’t been able to believe the scientists when they had first outlined the dangers; only America could afford the full-scale program that the weapon needed, but would Hitler hesitate to try to build one if he felt that it could be done?

He stood his head. Walking about on the White House lawn was the only relief he had had from endless meetings and discussions, from Americans still reeling with shock after Pearl Harbour, to Americans already thinking about the post-war world. Britain’s position was fragile…and the Americans weren’t helping; they would be quite happy to watch the British Empire collapse, rather than save it.

“No,” he said, knowing that his oratory might be futile. The economic crisis was already biting; the loans from the Americans would be hampering the British economy for years to come. He wanted – needed – a silver bullet, something that might end the war on British teams, but there wasn’t even the glimmer of one. Instead…

He glared down at the grass under his feet, experiencing a sudden mad desire to take off his shoes and walk barefooted; it would have been better to be a child, than to be the helmsman of England during such terrible times. Hitler and Stalin were still locked in their death-grip, but whoever came out ahead would pose a terrible threat to Britain…and the Americans seemed unconcerned. They believed – chose to believe – Stalin’s propaganda about the Worker’s Paradise; they knew nothing of the reality of the Soviet Union. Had they forgotten who had cold-bloodedly agreed to share Poland with Hitler?

A noise rang across the city, a noise that seemed to defy description. Churchill, who had heard the noise of German aircraft bombing London, listened…and wondered; was it some kind of jet engine? He shook his head; the noise was more of a hum, hanging in the air…and coming closer. He peered up into the sky, too unconcerned any longer to run, and saw…a black dot, coming closer towards the White House.

The sounds of panic broke out over Washington, as Americans started screaming about German bombers. Churchill, who knew that America was well outside the range of most German bombers – with the possible exception of the rumoured German bomber that intelligence had heard about – remained calm, wishing for a pair of binoculars. An anti-aircraft gun began thumping, but the bursts of smoke in the sky were well away from the incoming craft, which was now flying lower around the White House.

He stared, feeling almost like the child he had been when humanity had launched the first aircraft. The craft seemed to have no propellers or jet intakes; it was a small boxy machine that hung in the sky, seemingly without any means of propulsion. It circled the White House again, dodging the shellfire without effort, before coming to a halt above the White House lawn.

“Mr Churchill, Prime Minister, we should get you out of sight,” a secret service officer said. Churchill shook his head; he had the feeling that the craft was important, somehow. “The President is inside the White House and…”

“It’s doesn’t matter,” Churchill said, as the craft lowered itself gently out of the sky, landing neatly on the lawn. A line of policemen, uncertain of what else to do, with trying to keep people away from the White House; a number of Secret Service men were pointing their guns at the craft.

“Sir, it’s a German craft,” the Secret Service said. His voice was harsh with fear. “They’ve come to harm you or the President.”

“No, they haven’t,” Churchill said. He was sure of that; there were English signs on the craft. “They’re…”

He was interrupted by a hatch hissing open and two people stepping out. He stared; one of them was a woman, dressed in a tight-fitting skin-suit and wearing a military uniform he didn’t recognise, the other was a man, hanging back behind the woman. She looked at the men pointing their guns at her and slowly lifted her hands; Churchill couldn’t help, but notice that they were very calm hands. The man, carrying a large briefcase in each hand, didn’t lift his hands.

“Good morning,” the woman said. Her voice was calm, very disciplined; almost a lighter form of the American accent. Her mouth spread out into a grin. “Take me to your leader.”


Inside, Sandra Churchill was reeling with culture shock, already. She’d visited Washington DC in their time and it had been nothing like the one she was looking at now; there was no massive collection of buildings, each holding upwards of ten thousand people, nor were there the defences that had surrounded the White House during the Age of Unrest. A single battlesuit could have crashed its way through the Secret Service agents who were gathering around the shuttle, holding their little popguns.

She smiled. One of those weapons might not even kill her, even without armour; the nanites in her bloodstream would make sure of that. The Secret Service men didn’t seem to know what to do with her and her ‘take me to your leader’ gag probably hadn’t helped. Behind them, the shuttle’s hatch hissed closed; they were now being watched carefully from orbit.

“The President is very busy at the moment,” the lead Secret Service agent said slowly. She recognised the sound of a man trying to cope with a world suddenly turned upside down and refrained from giggling, even though a giggle wanted to burst from her lips. “Ah…exactly who are you?”

The guns hadn’t exactly been lowered, she noted, but they were no longer being held as firmly. “I am Ambassador Sandra Churchill,” she said, keeping her voice calm. The people in this era were hardly used to women in positions of power, but it wasn’t time to spare them anything. “Please, take me to the President.”

Her eyes lit on a man walking towards them, with a Secret Service trying hard to convince him to stay back. The heavyset face and baldhead was instantly recognisable; Prime Minister Churchill himself. She felt her mouth fall open as Churchill came closer, bullying his way through the Secret Service agents by sheer force of personality.

“Prime Minister,” she said. She’d planned what she wanted to say, but the moment had overwhelmed her. “I’m your great-to-the-something granddaughter.”

Churchill seemed to take it all in stride. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Where exactly are you from?”

Sandra was working on instinct and loving it. “I’m from the future,” she said. “I was born in 2190AD.”

“Really?” Churchill said. His eyes lit on the shuttle, something he had to know had stepped out of…well, out of a page from a science-fiction magazine. “Why are you here?”

“It’s rather a long story,” Sandra said, regretfully. Up close, Churchill had a genuinely powerful personality; he reminded her, in some ways, of Admiral Ward. “I have to discuss it with both you and the President.”

“Right this way,” Churchill said, turning and leading them through the wall of Secret Service agents, who were clearly still stunned by their arrival. Some of them, she noted with grim amusement, were eyeing her; her clothes were far too revealing by this century’s standards. Inside, the White House wasn’t the museum it had been before Earth had been destroyed; it was clearly a working place.

“We have to search you for weapons,” a Secret Service agent said, recoiling as Churchill just barged past him. “I suppose you can’t hide anything in that.”

Sandra ignored him as she followed Churchill up the stairs, into the Oval Office. It was very old fashioned, she saw; there were no computers and only a handful of telephones. She laughed inwardly at herself; they were in 1941, not 2213. These people didn’t have computers, or even transistors.

“You made quite a stir,” a voice said. She looked at the desk, at the man sitting behind it, and reeled inwardly again. Only iron discipline kept her on her feet. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was clearly a good man; he radiated trustworthiness and other political virtues. He’d had an affair once, she remembered from the history files, but the public loved him. Historians, who loved a good argument more than most, loved him even more; he was the president they had never quite managed to pin down to a certain category.

“I can only apologise,” she said. “We wanted to make an impression.”

Churchill’s bass laugh echoed out behind her. “You certainly did that, young lady,” he said. “Now, how about some explanations?”

Sandra closed her eyes, considering. She’d agreed previously that there were details that were better concealed until afterwards, when the two leaders were on the John Howard, but there were other problems. Lieutenant Yates wouldn’t be any help; he was currently examining the office as if he’d never seen it before.

“Imagine…that you can travel between the planets,” she said, unsure of her ground for the first time in years. “Imagine that you can travel to the Moon, to Mars, further out. Imagine…”

“There are those magazines my assistant Sam reads,” Roosevelt said. “They have spacecraft in them, I believe.”

Sandra mentally kicked herself for forgetting that there was some concept of spaceships in this time period. “To cut a long story short,” she said, “some of those ships got knocked back in time to here. They are currently in orbit around your world.”

There was a long pause. “I see,” Roosevelt said finally. “Why are you back here?”

“It’s a long story,” Sandra said. She knew that refusing to explain would only annoy them, but there wasn’t any choice; not yet. “We can go into that later.”

“You might have to explain it all to Sam,” Roosevelt said. “Why have you come here?”

Sandra blinked at the question, then realised that Roosevelt meant the White House, not the year 1941. “We have some problems,” she said, deciding to be open. “You might be able to help with them. In exchange, we could be of help to you.”

Churchill had clearly been thinking. “You’re from the future…and you clearly know who we are,” he said. “You must know things that we can use to win the war.”

“Oh, we can do a lot more than just tell you things,” Sandra said, and was surprised to catch a hint of mischievousness in her ancestor’s face. He clearly had a similar sense of humour to her. “However, for the moment…”

She picked up one of Yates’s briefcases and opened it, removing the datapad it contained and allowing them to examine it. It wasn’t a complex device, unlike the ultra-advanced models that the fleet had been developing; a simple slate, powered by a tiny power cell. A person authorised to use it could access it; no one else could access any of the files it might store.

She took it back, watching it light up in her hands, much to their admiration. “This is a brief summary of what will happen – would have happened – in the next few months,” she said. “In two days, Christmas Day, Hong Kong will fall to the Japanese.”

Churchill’s face twisted with pain. “And you can do nothing?” He asked. He seemed to have decided to believe her without any hesitation at all. “That alone would earn you the gratitude of the British Empire.”

Roosevelt frowned. “And what about us?” He asked. “The Japanese won’t be idle.”

“No,” Sandra agreed, wishing that she could share more with them. “Tomorrow, the Japanese will land near Luzon, in the Philippines. MacArthur will bungle the campaign enough to ensure that the entire island chain will fall within four months. On the 20th of January, Germany will begin the ‘Final Solution,’ a program designed to rid Germany of all of the undesirable population.”

She allowed her voice to darken. “That program, gentlemen, will attempt to exterminate six million people before the war ends,” she said. “The day afterwards, Rommel will launch an attack in the desert that will chase the British forces back to an obscure little town in the desert.” She paused. “And, on the 15th of February, Singapore will be surrendered by the cowardly commanding officer.”

Churchill’s mouth fell open. “General Percival is going to surrender?”

Sandra held his eyes. “Yes,” she said flatly. “It’s hard to say why; historians still argue about that. The point is, Prime Minister; that man will simply send a large force of British soldiers into captivity, sending shockwaves through the Far East.”

“No, he won’t,” Churchill snarled. His face had lost its genial expression. “I’ll have the bastard – begging your pardon – relieved at once.”

“A very good idea,” Sandra said. She tapped a button on the datapad, and then passed it over to him. “There’s one of these for each of you,” she explained. “They hold a large collection of our files on the Second World War – the war you are fighting now. I would suggest that you started to make changes to prevent the worst disasters for the next couple of months; it won’t matter past then.”

“Really?” Roosevelt asked. He was playing with the datapad, running his hands over it, smiling almost like a teenager. “Why won’t it matter past then?”

Sandra smiled. “We hope to be able to help you at that point,” she said. She wished that she could go into details, but the White House was not a secure environment. There were, however, some promises she could make. “In fact, we hope to be able to defeat Hitler, Stalin and Japan within three to four months.”


Winston Churchill felt his mouth drop open as he looked at his young…descendent. She didn’t look like him, he conceded, although she was easier on the eye, but she had the same bull-headed confidence he possessed. It had come in handy when he’d been in opposition, during the long lead-up to war, but now…

“Are you serious?” He asked. He knew – the entire nation of Great Britain knew – that the might of the German Army was nothing to be trifled with. The next thing she’d said caught up with him and he recoiled, half in hope and half in fear. Would they finally be free of evil madmen, or not?

“Stalin?” Roosevelt asked. Churchill frowned; if Sandra were telling the truth, dealing with Stalin would be a very good thing to do indeed. It would just be far too costly, impossibly costly for Britain. “Why Stalin?”

Sandra looked up at the President, her face unreadable. “Comrade Stalin,” she said, her tone sneering, “is a madman. He will destroy thousands of lives in the years to come, Mr President; he will come very close to starting a war fought with atomic weapons.”

Churchill recoiled. “Ah…Ambassador, we need the Russian Army,” he said. “We cannot risk the remaining military power of the British Army in a clash against the Wehrmacht.”

Roosevelt made an odd snorting sound. There were times, Churchill knew, when it was hard to see the practiced and skilful politician behind his smile; they’d been going over that point for most of yesterday. The Americans, with almost unlimited manpower, didn’t understand that Britain no longer possessed unlimited manpower – had never, in fact, even come close to possessing it.

“It won’t be needed,” Sandra said, her voice perfectly confident. Churchill realised with a sudden shudder that she believed every word that she was saying; what did she know that made her so certain. “Believe me, Prime Minister; we could take out the entire Wehrmacht without taking a single casualty, once we’ve had a month to build up and prepare.”

This was too much. Churchill laughed out loud, smiling. “Ambassador, you must be mad,” he said. “You think that you can do that?”

“Yes,” Sandra said. She paused. “One of the things we intended to do within the next month was destroy Rommel’s force in North Africa and chase the Germans out of Africa, once and for all.”

Churchill wasn’t sure what to say. “That would be…very much appreciated,” he said finally, knowing that it wasn’t exactly what he should be saying. “If you can prove your claims…”

“We can do that,” Sandra said. “For the moment, I would like to extend an invitation to both of you; inviting you onto one of our ships, where we can brief you on the remaining details.”

Churchill narrowed his eyes. “There are some doubts about the security here?”

“Yes,” Sandra said. She tapped his datapad. “One of the files on that datapad contains a list of Soviet spies, along with the handful of German agents; I would get rid of them as quickly as you can.”

“It will be done,” Churchill said. He made up his mind on the spur of the moment. “I’ll come, even if Franklin won’t, or can’t; when do we leave?”

“Four days?” Sandra suggested. “That would give you time to see about some of our history files.”

“I’m coming,” Roosevelt said firmly. “A chance to travel in space, Ambassador; how could I turn that down?” He paused. “Can we bring an aide along?”

Sandra nodded. “Yes, if you want,” she said. “It won’t make any difference to the ship.”

“Thank you,” Roosevelt said. “Sam would never have forgiven me if I’d left him on the ground, after all this…Buck Rogers experience.”

Chapter Seven: Learning the World

Washington DC

United States of America

“My God,” Sam Turtledove breathed, examining the spacecraft. “She’s beautiful.”

He stared down at the strange metal – it felt more like plastic – that composed the spacecraft, running his hand gently along the side of the ship, right to what he thought was the prow of the shuttle. It was strangely shaped; it resembled two rowing boats pressed together, rather than the long sleek rockets of Astounding or the other science-fiction magazines, but it was indisputably more fantastic. It thrummed slightly under his touch; a sign that something out of his world was sitting on the White House lawn.

He wandered around to the cockpit and tried to peer inside, but saw only a slightly darker pigment on the plastic; it seemed to work on the same lines as a one-way mirror. It felt slightly different, smoother than the material on the main hull; perhaps it was a different material to the hull.

“I don’t think you should be doing so much,” Luke Foster said. Turtledove gave him an affronted look, and then returned to his study; there was so much to learn. “I mean it; look at those people.”

Turtledove looked up. There were thousands of people, men and women, staring at the shuttlecraft. They’d seen it come down…and now they wanted to watch what was going to happen next. He smiled and waved; he’d always wanted people to wave when he was a boy.

“Look at those reporters,” Foster continued, ignoring the wave. “They’re going to be blaming this on the Japanese before too long. Everyone knows that the Japanese have female white sex slaves.”

Turtledove shrugged. The funny papers had been very detailed on the subject of Japanese sexual conquests, somehow managing to endow them with tiny penises and an awesome series of unnatural lusts. The Japanese, apparently, didn’t let their shortcomings slow them down – at all. The plight of white women – and even Chinese women – was used to encourage people to fight.

“That woman wasn’t Japanese,” he said, without bothering to argue further. “She sounded American.”

Foster shrugged, and then straightened up. “Heads up,” he snapped. “Here comes the boss.”

Turtledove scrambled away from the shuttle as President Roosevelt, in his wheelchair, escorted the strange visitors back to the shuttle. He blinked; Roosevelt was normally reluctant to do anything that might make an issue of his walking problems. The British Prime Minister, a man who smoked foul cigars, followed them.

“Thank you for coming,” Roosevelt said, shaking the hand of the woman. Turtledove looked at her and felt awe; she was gorgeous! “You’ll come to pick us up in four days?”

The woman nodded. “Yes, Mr President,” she said. “You’ll have the communication devices now, so you and the Prime Minister can communicate with us afterwards.”

“Have a good flight then,” Roosevelt said, as the hatch on the shuttle hissed open. Turtledove stepped forward, half-intending to leap inside, but Foster held him back; saving him from disgrace. He tried to peer inside, but all he could see was a single comfortable chair.

“Please would everyone stand back,” Roosevelt said, as the hatch closed. Turtledove stepped backwards, expecting a blast of fire like in the magazines, but instead the craft simply lifted itself off the ground and flew into the air, vanishing into the blue sky before he could blink.

“Mr President,” a reporter shouted, from the gate. Turtledove frowned; all of them would have seen Roosevelt in his wheelchair. “Mr President, what happened here?”

Roosevelt smiled. “Believe me, that’s a very good question,” he said. “The end of the war, perhaps.” There was a long pause. “There’ll be a full statement later, gentlemen and ladies; until then, please be patient.”

Turtledove stood back as the President’s Secret Service agent wheeled him around. “Sam, I want to see you in the Oval Office,” Roosevelt said. Turtledove nodded and followed them back towards the White House, pausing from time to time to cast wistful looks up into the sky.


The Oval Office looked just the same as it had been that morning, with the exception of several small devices, placed on the table. Turtledove studied them thoughtfully as Roosevelt and Churchill discussed the matter briefly, then Churchill took four of the devices with him when he left.

“What do you make of them?” Roosevelt asked, coming back around the table. “I want your honest opinion.”

“They’re aliens?” Turtledove asked. “They’re like the people in some of the magazines…”

“People from the future, apparently,” Roosevelt said. His tone was dry, reassuring, as he outlined what had passed between them in the meeting. “If they can build that craft, they hardly need deception; we couldn’t do anything to impede them.”

“No, Mr President,” Turtledove agreed. Disagreeing with the President wasn’t always healthy, after all, and this time he was sure that Roosevelt was right. “What did they want?”

“They wanted to help us defeat the Nazis,” Roosevelt said. He pronounced the word ‘nasties,’ like many people in America after Hitler had declared war. The war against the U-boats, started within minutes of Hitler’s declaration, was going badly; the Americans hadn’t prepared enough for submarine attack. “That does rather leave the question of what they want to get out of it.”

Turtledove frowned. He had to admit that Roosevelt had a point, but…why would people so powerful need to worry about resistance from people on the ground. “They gave you no clues?” He hazarded. “They told you nothing at all about their long-term plans?”

“Nothing,” Roosevelt said. He frowned. “I have agreed to go to a meeting on their…starship.”

Turtledove stared at him in pure envy. “You’re going to space?”

Roosevelt grinned, like everyone’s favourite uncle. “You’re coming too,” he said. “Winston and whoever he brings with him will make up the rest of the party, travelling into space to see what the future holds.” He paused. “They also said that they would give us a briefing up there, a complete one.”

Turtledove felt a wave of conflicting emotions. He wanted to travel on one of those shuttles, wanted it so badly that he could almost taste it…and at the same time he was worried about the President. Roosevelt’s medical condition wasn’t anything like perfect; it was more fragile than the public at large guessed, although after today the vultures would start to gather.

Roosevelt picked up a flat board and passed it over to him. “You’re going to be my principal researcher into this,” he said. “I want you to see what you make of this.”

Turtledove took the board, examining it thoughtfully. It was made of some kind of thin dark material, so light that he was certain that it would have floated, so strong that he couldn’t even begin to make it bend. On one side, it was totally black, almost absorbing all of the light; on the other side it was lighter, almost like it was made of dark glass.

He pressed a finger to the glass and it lit up, revealing a movie-like screen. He yelped and almost dropped it, before watching what the screen was showing; a simple blue colour, which seemed to be serving as background to several…wonderfully small and detailed images on the screen.

“Wow,” he breathed, throwing caution to the winds. One of the…images was marked as WORLD WAR TWO GUIDE, so he pressed it; the screen unfolded into a picture of several men, including Roosevelt, Churchill, Hitler and Stalin, surrounding a picture of an exploding battleship. He recognised it with a shock; it was one of the pictures taken during the attack on Pearl Harbour.

“The Second World War began on 1st September 1939,” the device said, in a warm motherly female voice. This time, he did drop it; it landed on the floor and kept talking, just like a movie screen. “By 1945, when Hitler’s forces were defeated, followed rapidly by the defeat of Imperial Japan, almost the entire world had declared for one side or the other. It was the most devastating war in human history until the Age of Unrest began on 9th September, 2000.”

It stopped speaking. Wonderingly, Turtledove picked it up again, examining it; it now displayed the words it had spoken on its screen, allowing him to read them time and time again. The words ‘AGE OF UNREST’ were underlined, so he pushed them; a smaller screen appeared, revealing that THIS FILE IS NOT IN THE STORE. NO NET CONNECTION DETECTED.

“Strange,” he muttered, wondering exactly how the device worked. He stared down at the CLOSE option and then tapped it; the screen vanished, revealing the World War Two screen. “I wonder; this doesn’t seem to be complete. What is a net?”

“It’s a way of catching fish,” Roosevelt said dryly. “Sam, I want you to find out as much as you can about the future from it. In two hours, I want a report.”

Turtledove nodded. “Any restrictions on the device?”

“I would prefer that you didn’t take it out of here,” Roosevelt said. The President’s face twisted into a scowl. “Edger is going to think that they’re all electronic snoops.”

Turtledove frowned. “He might be right,” he said, without thinking. “If they can make something like this…”

“True,” Roosevelt agreed. “There are some other tools here, ones that might really make a difference to the war – if we could get them to the Philippines in time.” He frowned. “That’s something to discuss with Admiral King, later, but for the moment, I want you to find out as much as you can from that device.”

Turtledove paused. “Mr Churchill will also have some devices,” he said. “In the long run, what are we going to do?”

Roosevelt frowned. “If we last the next couple of months, then we’ll find out,” he said. “Start work, at once.”

Turtledove recognised the dismissal and left the room, still thinking furiously. He had a small office in the west wing, so he made his way there, still carrying the device. Everyone, from the staff to the visitors, seemed in high excitement; he suspected that the excitement would not die down for months.

As soon as he had locked the door, he started the device again, reading through the details of the future. The overview of the Second World War matched what had happened so far, from Hitler’s declaration of war to the Japanese advance…until it reached the end of December.

“This never happened,” he muttered, scribbling a note to himself on a pad of paper. The files made no mention of a visit from time travellers; instead, Japan would continue its advance until it attempted to take Midway, where a force of American ships would defeat it. The outline of the battle, which held gateways to far more detailed information, was astonishing; the Japanese would be defeated by their own overconfidence, as much as anything else.

He shook his head in awe as he read on, seeing the secrets spread open for anyone to read. He hadn’t known that German and Japanese codes were easy for the Allies to read, let alone that Stalin’s men were slaughtering plenty of their own people, just for daring to have minds of their own. The details on Manhattan, something that he’d only heard whispered rumours of, were chilling – and the list of Soviet spies far more terrifying.

“Dear God in heaven,” he breathed, studying the details. The files didn’t hold many details as to how the Atomic Bomb was supposed to be constructed, although it did note that seven other bombs had been used in war from 1945 to…the file didn’t say what had happened in the year the time travellers had left. “They must have been mad, serving Stalin.”

He made a second note and continued, learning how the war had ended; American troops had forced the Japanese back, island by island, until they’d finally used two nuclear weapons and thousands upon thousands of conventional bombs on Japan itself. Meanwhile, Allied troops had advanced into Germany; the Americans and British had invaded through France, while the Soviets had marched through Poland, burning out any trace of independence as they passed.

Bastards, he thought coldly. How could they have allowed Stalin to have completed Hitler’s work? The files were very detailed; they spoke of mass rapes and slaughters of Poles and other East Europeans, and an ongoing war that had held the world spellbound for nearly forty years, before Stalin’s Russia simply collapsed. The historical files ended at the year 2000, more or less; there were only a few fragments of what had happened since then.

He stood up, noticing with some surprise that several hours had passed, and headed back towards the Oval Office. He was expecting to have to wait, but apparently Roosevelt was waiting for him; he passed through the outer office very quickly, stepping into the darkened office and saluting.

“Ah, Sam,” Roosevelt said. “I was just talking to Winston on the phone; he’s going to send some of the devices back to Britain on the battleship he came here on. Some of them might be useful in the coming campaigns in the Western Desert.”

Turtledove shrugged. “I imagine that he wants some of the information in the hands of his own people,” he said, trying hard to remain calm. “Mr President, some of that information is…shocking.”

“I imagine it is,” Roosevelt said. “We defeat Hitler, then?”

Turtledove nodded. “Mr President, I don’t know where to begin,” he admitted. He held out the datapad, revealing the chronology of World War Two, as the datapad kept referring to it. “There are points that demand our attention, such as the Philippines, but…”

“One of the devices they gave us was a system that could see what was happening on the Earth,” Roosevelt said. “I wonder; was that a form of subtle threat? A device that can be used to spy on the Nazis could be used to spy on us, perhaps even easier than it would be to spy on the bad guys.”

Turtledove made a decision to leave such matters to Roosevelt, who had some genuine need to worry, and Hoover, who would stick his oar in anyway. “There are points where something like that could be very useful,” he said. “The Germans are advancing on Sevastopol and expect to take the city soon. They’ll be lucky – the last resistance, according to the original history, ended in July 1941.”

“Unless something changes,” Roosevelt said. His voice faded slightly, falling into a puzzled monotone. “I wonder…should I share any of this with Stalin?”

Turtledove hesitated; it wasn’t normally his place to offer suggestions on foreign policy, but there were the damning reports on Stalin and the suffering he would bring to everyone if he won the war. Roosevelt quirked an eyebrow, inviting him to speak, and Turtledove took a breath.

“He will know that something has happened, yes,” he said, remembering the report on Soviet spies in the United States, to say nothing of all of the endless reports on people working, knowingly or unknowingly, for Russia during the Cold War. “The question, as I see it, is do we tell him anything – particularly about our new visitors?”

Roosevelt nodded. “On the other hand, we do need him,” he said. “If the visitors can live up to their promises, then we can watch what happens when we cut ties with Stalin.”

“I don’t think that we can trust him as far as I can throw this building,” Turtledove said, wondering what the shocks would do to Roosevelt. He felt a flicker of grim concern; something he intended never to discuss was one important date – when President Roosevelt would die. “And, Mr President, how will the newcomers react if we tell him anything?”

“True,” Roosevelt said. He frowned. “I was expecting the Soviet Ambassador around here promptly, just to demand that I tell him what the hell is going on, but he seems to have been delayed.”

Turtledove smiled. The Soviet Ambassador to the United States was a man who combined refinement enough to please a Queen with a hidden brutality that he used with skill during negotiations. He would be bound to be coming around sooner or later, just as he had constantly pestered Roosevelt for help during the early stages of the German Invasion. He was almost as imprudent as the Chinese leader, although – it had to be admitted – with much more cause.

“It’s as if they blame me for causing the invasion,” Roosevelt had said at the time, not in the least amused. Stalin had trusted Hitler, perhaps the least trustworthy man in the world, and ignored the warnings from America and Britain. “They could have listened to the warning we sent them!”

“We’ll wait and see, then,” Roosevelt said. He suddenly looked a lot older. “Sam, continue your research into using that…device; find out, if you can, what details it might hold on technology and new weapons. We might need both of them before too long.”

“Yes, Mr President,” Turtledove said. He hesitated. “Mr President; the files made no mention of this happening, of them arriving. History has been altered…and we’re in uncharted territory.”

Roosevelt nodded. “Yes,” he said. “The point is, Sam; we have no right to expect a road map to the future, but we might as well learn what we can from this one.”

Turtledove nodded. “Yes, Mr President,” he said, trying hard to sound confident. The datapad, at least, was easy to use; almost as if it had been designed for idiots, or people who had never used one before. “I’ll start at once.”

“And then, I have something different for you to do,” Roosevelt continued. “I want you to work out what we could have done better or worse during the other history, something that will allow us to develop our war-effort better, this time around.” He frowned. “I have the strangest feeling that we might well have less time than we thought.”

Chapter Eight: Reactions

SS Headquarters

Berlin, Germany

“So tell me,” Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler said, “what exactly do you have for me?”

Brigadefuehrer Johan Schriever knew better than to be fooled by the genial tone. Unlike Goring, or the Fuhrer himself, for that matter, Himmler rarely had shouting fits; when his voice got cold, people knew to duck. He was cold and calm, always; reminding everyone of a schoolmaster…until it was too late.

He shivered inside, remembering the Night of the Long Knives; Himmler had calmly worked his way down a long list of suspected plotters to be purged – and then their wives, their children, the rest of their families…even their pet animals. Himmler had shown no reaction at all to the purge and the slaughter; even now, rumour had it, he was working on a plan to rid Germany once and for all of the Jews.

“A curious discovery,” he said, and outlined what his father-in-law had seen through his telescope. “I did some checking with Professor Von Braun, Herr Reichsführer, and he thinks that they really are spacecraft in orbit.”

Himmler’s face showed no reaction. “We managed to do some basic studies of them through telescopes,” Schriever continued, wondering why Himmler was seemingly unimpressed, let alone awed. “They’re large, Herr Reichsführer, and they’re clearly artificial, rather than asteroids; someone made them.”

“I suspect that they’re not from the Aryan nations among the stars,” Himmler said. The curious flatness in his tone nearly scared Schriever out of his skin; Himmler clearly knew something he didn’t know, which was worrying. Information was power, even in Nazi Germany; what you knew could save your life. “Apparently…”

His voice broke off for a long moment, and then resumed. “There was a curious report over some American channels,” Himmler said. His voice was hesitant, that of a man who didn’t believe himself when he was speaking. “Apparently, a flying craft of unknown origin landed at the White House yesterday, for a meeting with President Roosevelt.”

Schriever stared at him. “Are they serious?”

“The report was pulled from the channels almost at once,” Himmler said. “It certainly hasn’t been repeated, but according to a handful of agents within the United States, the newspapers have been reporting on it, although without much in the way of detail. Rumours are flying everywhere; the Americans haven’t yet learned that loose lips are an incentive for careless talk.”

Schriever thought of the thousands of Germans who were too scared to open their mouths, therefore revealing no secrets, and knew that Himmler was right. The Americans, on the other hand, knew very little about security; their freighters were still lit up brightly, even a fortnight after the Fuhrer declared war on them. The U-boat commanders were jumping for joy; some of them were even calling it the ‘happy-time.’

“I had originally dismissed the report,” Himmler continued, still speaking in a flat tone without inflection. “One of my agents recalled a time when an American radio station broadcast a report of an…alien invasion from Mars, which was in fact a dramatisation of a British novel. There was panic; thousands of Americans fled the cities in terror of non-existent aliens.”

Schriever chuckled, enjoying the joke. “I trust the people who were listening to their home towns being destroyed had the sense to look out of the windows,” he said.

Himmler showed his first flicker of emotion, a smile that flickered around his lips. “It hardly matters,” he said. “What have your telescopes been able to tell us about the craft?”

Schriever lifted an eyebrow. “They’re big, they’re hanging in orbit, and one of them is deploying something,” he said. “Other than that…nothing; one of my people wanted to try to bounce a radar pulse off them, but they’re too high to be sure of getting a result.”

“Interesting,” Himmler mused. The Reichsführer frowned as he paced over to the big windows, looking down over the SS compound. “What are they doing in orbit?”

“There is no way to be certain,” Schriever said. “Herr Reichsführer, they could be doing anything up there.”

“This has certain implications,” Himmler said. His tone darkened. “Did Herr Professor Von Braun have any ideas as to how we can deal with them?”

Schriever stared at him. Once his father-in-law had been convinced that they were really spacecraft, he’d been delighted at the thought of talking to beings who had observed the stars from outside the atmosphere. Schriever had known – suspected – that the rulers of the Reich would have wanted to be careful, but to actually consider a war? They weren’t insane, were they?

“I do not believe that we should start a war with them,” he said. “Their mere presence suggests horrifying things about their capabilities.”

Himmler’s voice softened – slightly, very slightly. “The strong shall dominate the weak,” he said, quoting the inner readings of Nazi doctrine. “It is the duty of the weak to submit.”

Schriever hesitated. There were things he had to say…but how could he say them without being taken for a traitor? Himmler liked hearing the truth, but this…was outside simply telling him that he could only have fewer weapons than he had expected, or demanded.

“They may not be the weak ones here,” he said finally. Himmler inclined his eyebrow, but said nothing, allowing Schriever to continue. “They are holding the high ground; Von Braun suggested that they could just…drop rocks on us until we were forced to submit.”

Himmler’s eyes glittered. “We will prevail, just as we would prevail against Stalin and the degenerate Russians,” he proclaimed. He ignored the fact that the Russians had given the Reich the hardest fight they’d had since…well, since never. “We do not want to be cast in the role of the weak, do we?”

There was only one answer. “No, Herr Reichsführer,” Schriever said. “It will be a long hard road to any kind of victory, however.”

“Ah,” Himmler said, suddenly the calculating schoolmaster again. Schriever felt a moment’s pity for any schoolchildren forced to face that gaze. “But…they went to talk with the Americans – why?”

Schriever hesitated again. On one hand, the Americans possessed the greatest industrial machine in the world; did the space aliens want the Americans as allies? Alternatively, had they gone to demand surrender? Had the Americans been offered the chance to join the aliens?

“Perhaps they were demanding surrender,” he said finally. It seemed the most likely explanation. “I wonder what the Americans said.”

“I have no idea,” Himmler said. His eyes darkened. “Could it be that the aliens wanted allies? If so, why would they want allies? Perhaps…they’re weaker than it seems.”

Schriever felt his blood run cold. Himmler – and the rest of the Nazi elite – would believe that…because it was the only scenario that gave them any hope at all of a victory. The Wehrmacht was the best army in the world; could it take on the aliens, particularly if the aliens needed human allies?

“It’s possible,” he conceded, reluctantly. He wished – oh, how he wished – that he could say something stronger. “However, it will be a long hard fight.”

“Indeed,” Himmler agreed. “Now…how might we take the fight to them?”

Schriever thought rapidly. “We cannot attack the ships in orbit,” he said flatly. Himmler wouldn’t be pleased, but there was no way that the Reich’s rocket program could produce such a weapon in time. “Von Braun thinks that we might manage to force forward development of a two-stage rocket within a year if we concentrated on it, but it would be almost impossible to aim properly.”

He paused. “Further, the ships have been observed to change their orbits,” he continued. “It’s unlikely that we will even have a hope of hitting any of them…and even if we do, we have no way of knowing what effect it will have. It might destroy them…or it might just make them mad.”

Himmler frowned. “So…we will have to wait for them to come down,” he said. “And then?”

Schriever sighed. “It’s impossible to say,” he said. “We might want to consider attempting to gather more information from America; they are bound to know what’s happening.”

Himmler’s eyes flashed. “No more…proactive suggestions?”

Schriever shook his head. “As long as they are up there, we cannot do anything to them,” he said, wishing that that were not true. “We could, I suppose, seek a peace with the Communists; they too would be under threat.”

Himmler, he knew, was practical enough to consider such a suggestion. “I think that suggestions like that would not prove popular with the Fuhrer,” Himmler said dryly. “He is determined that we will bring Stalin to defeat – and hang him from a tree – this year.”

Schriever stared at him. “We have a new threat,” he said. “We cannot…”

Don’t say anything else,” Himmler said, firmly. He held Schriever’s eyes until the younger man backed down. “The dictates of the Fuhrer are not to be questioned.”

Schriever saluted. “Heil Hitler,” he snapped.

“Good,” Himmler said, having restored his dominance. “Now, once they land…what should we do?”

A thought occurred to Schriever. “We could try to contact them,” he said. “We could ask them what they want.”

“They might consider us better allies,” Himmler agreed. “There is another possible solution; werewolves.”

“I beg your pardon,” Schriever said. “Werewolves?”

“Exactly,” Himmler said. “A secret group, responsible only to me – and the Fuhrer, of course – that will research the alien threat in total secrecy. If something should happen, to me or to Berlin, then the Werewolves will carry on the fight against the aliens.”

Schriever winced at the thought of anything happening to the city, even though it seemed astonishing that anything could; even determined British bombing hadn’t really damaged the city.

“An excellent idea,” he said. “Am I to command the group?”

“Yes,” Himmler said. “Good luck, Brigadefuehrer Schriever; you’ll need it.”

HDS John Howard

Earth Orbit

“I have a feeling that some of them know that we’re here,” Williston said. “There have been several attempts to bounce a radar signal off our hulls.”

Masterson frowned. “Where from?” He asked. “America?”

“America, Britain…and Nazi Germany,” Williston said. Masterson sucked in a breath, and then remembered that the John Howard was effectively indestructible by the technology that Nazi Germany possessed. “That is not good news.”

Eileen shrugged. “It hardly matters, Admiral; they would have been able to see us, particularly during the moments when we were crossing the horizon and light glinted off our hulls. We’re not tiny ships.”

“True,” Masterson agreed. “Take a note of where the German transmissions are coming from and include them in the list of targets when the war actually begins.”

He led the way into the main conference room, where Sandra already waited, along with two historians and a diplomat from the colony ships. “At ease,” he said shortly, and outlined what had happened with the German radar stations. “Does their foreknowledge pose a threat?”

“Probably not,” Sandra said. Her voice, Masterson was relieved to notice, was steady and unconcerned. “They could hardly guess at our weapons.”

“They might guess at orbital bombardment weapons,” Eileen said. Her voice was grimmer. “They’re probably thinking of us as super-tankers and ordinary infantry; how could they have any conception of battlesuits?”

“True,” Sandra agreed. “Admiral, the Americans and the British have been going through the files we gave them.”

Masterson nodded. The datapads they’d provided the Contemporaries had programs on them that permitted Sandra and her people access, just to see what the Contemporaries considered important. He wasn’t sure that he approved of the idea – data privacy was something sacred to citizens of Terra Nova – but under the circumstances they could hardly afford to make mistakes.

“I see,” he said. “What do they look up first?”

“Not dirty pictures,” Sandra said dryly. It was an old joke that a week after a new planetary network was created it was overloaded with pornography. “They’ve been concentrating on recent – well, near-future – histories, including the Philippines campaign. I suspect that MacArthur will be relieved, sooner rather than later.”

Masterson shrugged. “That won’t change much, until we get involved,” he said. “What else?”

“There has been a lot of interest in files that imply details about our own recent past,” Sandra said thoughtfully. “I suspect that some of them, at least, have worked out that we edited the files to prevent them from being read.”

“We shouldn’t tell them anything about the Krank until they come up here,” Masterson said firmly. “Have they come up with any idea that they exist?”

“Not as far as we can tell,” Sandra said. “They seem to suspect – quite rightly – that the datapads are also surveillance devices; they’ve been careful to keep them out of their high-level discussions. There’s been a lot of interest from their Navy in the satellite images of the pacific; I suspect that the British will be using it for the same purpose in North Africa.”

She paused. “So far, there seems to have been very little overt awareness of our existence,” she continued. “There has been one radio broadcast, and several newspapers, apparently – but Roosevelt seems to have decided to sit on a general broadcast for the moment. Doctor Phyllis Stoner thinks that that makes sense; he won’t want to commit himself too soon.”

Masterson smiled. “You sound impressed,” he said. She did too; she was grinning openly. “Did you like the President and your…ancestor?”

Sandra nodded. “Yes,” she said. Masterson grinned at the open enthusiasm in her voice. “We can work with them, sir; it will take time, but we can do it.”

“Good,” Masterson said. He looked down at a datapad in his hand. “They’re coming up here in three days, or the 27th, in local dating.” He frowned. “We’ll have to hold a Christmas celebration on Christmas Day ourselves, just to keep up the morale, but once they’re up here we can level with them and tell them everything about the Krank.”

“I think that we should be careful,” the diplomat said. Masterson frowned; Charles Roberson wasn’t someone he knew, someone who practiced what had once been an obsolete field. Humans couldn’t talk to the Krank, who were only interested in extermination, and the Global Federation had burned away the need for diplomacy between states.

Masterson lifted an eyebrow. “What exactly do you mean?”

“We know that in two hundred years, humanity is going to meet the Krank,” Roberson said. “They don’t; all they’ll know is that we are demanding things like planetary unification, a joint space program and a major effort to build a genuine defence fleet…except one won’t be needed.”

Masterson felt a wave of pure anger flaring through him. “Mr Roberson, there are the ruins of Earth back in our time, standing as proof that the fleet is needed,” he said icily. Roberson had been in stasis during the final battles around Earth; the Human Defence Force had died to allow the final survivors a chance to survive. “How can anyone doubt that?”

Roberson held his eyes, an impressive feat under the circumstances. “They don’t know,” he said. “The closest thing they will see to aliens are the Spacers, people with augmented bodies; they won’t believe in the Krank.” He frowned. “It’s not like we have bodies to show them.”

He stood up, pacing the deck. “If we come and tell them that they exist, they will suspect that we are acting on our own behalf, as much as anything else,” he continued. “Diplomacy is all about allowing the other side a chance to save face…and Churchill and Roosevelt will be in such an inferior position that they will almost have to dig in their heels and prevent trouble.”

“There isn’t time,” Masterson snapped. He stood up, glaring at the display. “We have to start work now, Mr Roberson; we need a fleet before something happens to make us regret that we don’t already have it.”

“There’s two hundred years,” Roberson replied calmly. His voice was disciplined, un-intimidated. “We have the time to build a space fleet that would make Darth Vader wet himself; there’s time to take it slowly.”

“Your opinions have been noted,” Masterson said. He spun around the room. “We need to move quickly, however; events will already have changed…and they may change more.”

“There is also the moral question,” Sandra said, a harder edge entering her voice. “This war will take thousands of lives, and thousands more will die afterwards, simply through the inferior medical technology these people have, or through the dictatorships they have saddled themselves with. We have a duty to interfere, Ambassador; we should do everything we can to help them towards true democracy.”

Masterson tapped the table. “I assume that you now have the final campaign plan for North Africa,” he said. Sandra nodded once. “Good,” he said. “Now…when Churchill and Roosevelt come up here, I want Brigadier Joseph to outline it for them, so that they may give us their permission to carry it out.” He smiled darkly. “That should allow them to save face, eh?”

“They want proof that we are as good as we claim,” Sandra injected, before Roberson could comment. Masterson nodded; it seemed a reasonable concern to him. “I can’t think of a better way to show them.”

“Me neither,” Roberson said, who clearly felt that he had some ground to make up. “After that, we can start working towards rebuilding links between the democratic nations, finally working them all into one global federation – or Global Federation.” He sighed. “It will…just take longer than everyone seems to think, particularly if we want to avoid the Age of Unrest.”

“You keep telling us that we have two hundred years,” Masterson said. He smiled at the weak joke; two hundred years would be plenty of time, but they could hardly afford to waste it. “Enjoy Christmas, people; it’s going to be the last holiday that you’ll have for some time.”

“Aye, Admiral,” Sandra said. “For Prime Minister Churchill, at least, it will be the best Christmas he ever had.”

Chapter Nine: Christmas Day

The White House

Washington DC, USA

It wasn’t the first time that Prime Minister Churchill had eaten at the White House, but it was the first time that he’d had Christmas Day there, eating with the President and a small number of invited guests, mainly military officers. He had planned to return to Britain for Christmas – some members of the Opposition might have tried to make political capital out of it – but the events with the time travellers had forced him to change his plans.

“The Japanese have mounted the invasion of Luzon, right on schedule,” Admiral King said. Churchill considered him to be a very even-tempered man; mad all the time. He disliked everyone, who generally returned that dislike; if he hadn’t been extremely competent, he would probably have lost his post years ago.

Churchill nodded. It wasn’t the first attack that the Japanese had mounted, but it would have been fatal…in the original history, winning the Japanese a firm toehold on the main island, but this time it would be different. With the images coming from the orbiting ships, the American and Filipino forces would find it easier to react to Japanese advances. This time, the Bataan Line would be held.

“They have also proven very useful, already, in antisubmarine work,” King continued, practically spitting out the words. The future data files had been quite detailed on the failures of the United States Navy during the first few months of American involvement in the war. “We have been able to use them to track some submarines, chasing and sinking them.”

He sounded a little happier as he continued. “The Germans won’t have the slightest idea what’s hit them,” he concluded. “We’re already coordinating our submarines, sending them after Japanese ships we can see from the…orbiting ships.”

Churchill smiled behind his wine glass. Admiral King was one of those who had a hard time getting used to the idea that they had visitors from the future. Churchill himself, having seen the records of events that had been classified for years in the future, no longer had that luxury.

Roosevelt smiled genially from his wheelchair at the head of the table. “That alone should make life more interesting,” he said. Churchill had to smile; so far, Roosevelt had avoided making more than ambiguous public statements, but he was sure that eventually the American President would have to tell the world everything.

“It is a serious problem,” Cordell Hull, the Secretary of State, said. “We know nothing about them, nothing at all. They have deliberately removed files from their systems…and they haven’t cared enough to even bother to hide the fact that they’ve done it.”

“They want to keep themselves to themselves,” Henry Stimson, Secretary of War, said. His tone was grim, disapproving. “They clearly want to limit the amount of pressure that we can bring on them.”

Roosevelt’s lips quirked. “Beware of spacemen and time travellers bearing gifts?”

Churchill chuckled. “They have promised us a fuller briefing when we visit their ship,” he said. “Perhaps they will tell us more then.”

Admiral King glared at him. “I trust that you are going to make sure that the guns at Singapore are pointing the right way?” He asked. Churchill winced inwardly; he had been shocked to read those files more closely. “After all, losing the fortress was embarrassing enough in the other…reality.”

Churchill nodded. General Wavell had been dispatched to Singapore post-haste; the current commander had been relieved ahead of time. One way or the other, Singapore would be held; the Japanese logistics were so poor – something that they had apparently never known in the other timeline – that they would collapse within weeks of a defeat.

“They must want something from us,” he said, and he knew that he had a good idea what. “They seem to want our help for some reason, and we may have more bargaining chips than we think.”

“It would be folly to press them too hard,” Stimson said. His voice was a mixture of disbelief and horror; Churchill realised that he didn’t want to believe himself. “If they can land in Washington, they can presumably drop things on Washington.”

Churchill nodded. The young Turtledove had been more than willing to outline some of the concepts from the pulp magazines, ranging from ray guns to massive falling rocks from space. It had made a horrifying read; some of the newspapers were even projecting worse, even that the shuttle had in fact been a Nazi secret weapon.

Admiral King snorted, but said nothing. It would have been out of even his obnoxious character to disagree when the person was clearly in the right; fighting the time travellers would be sheer folly, and yet…

“They are likely to dislodge a lot of political situations here,” Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior, said. The former director of the Public Works Administration and campaigner for civil rights frowned. “There are fewer files on the world after the war, but some of them will be…rather upsetting.”

Churchill nodded in grim agreement. The files had been very clear on what would happen to the British Empire, after the war. India, the Jewel in the Crown, would break away within six years; the rest would fall away over the coming forty years. Africa and the Middle East, for example, would become sinkholes of violence, bigotry and corruption until…something called the ‘Age of Unrest.’ Churchill knew that the files just…stopped there; there was nothing about the years that had led up to the time travellers’ departure from their own time.

“Hoover is going to be delighted,” Ickes continued, very sardonically. Churchill could detect his amused glee under his words; Hoover and Ickes were eternal enemies, but Ickes had so far not done anything that Hoover could use as a weapon against him. Their hidden duel was the talk of Washington…except that Hoover himself had been named in the files, as a possible homosexual.

“There will also be reactions from elsewhere,” Vice President Henry Wallace said. He’d been very quiet since reading some of the files on the Soviet Union, a system he had publicly admired and commended, but now…now there were even whispers that he had worked for them as a secret agent. “The Russians will not be pleased about the future.”

Churchill smiled to himself, puffing happily on a cigar. Roosevelt had insisted on keeping all of the details of the files under his personal control – and Churchill’s, of course – and very few details had been shared outside his control. The Russians might have picked up something, of course; they had thousands of spies around, including a nasty bunch in Cambridge. Churchill had already given the orders; Kim Philby and his men would be rounded up quickly.

“Who cares what they think?” Admiral King demanded, with his usual bluntness. “They’re going to stab us in the back anyway, Mr President; they would have destroyed Poland, just for the sake of their own security.”

Churchill winced inwardly. That would be a very sore spot in the future, he was certain; how would the Polish Government-in-exile respond to learning that they would be abandoned by the British and the Americans?

He ignored the Americans, still discussing in their peculiar manner, and thought rapidly, considering Stalin. He had met the man, dealt with him; he had no illusions about him. Stalin would quite happily continue the war until the entire world was on fire, unless he came out ahead. He had been worried, when the Germans were repulsed from Moscow, that the Soviets would be able to march back towards Poland themselves – perhaps even to Berlin, winning the entire continent before the western allies could land any forces.

He shuddered. Under such circumstances, what could possibly tempt Stalin into agreeing to leave half of Europe free? Except…according to the history files, Hitler’s armies wouldn’t come to grief until Stalingrad, as impossible as that seemed. What would Stalin do, if he knew about the time travellers?

“They want to wage war against the Soviet Union,” he mused, and only realised that he had spoken aloud when silence fell. “What effect would that have?”

There was a long pause. “I think that that should be encouraged,” Wallace said, very reluctantly. Churchill gave him some credit for facing facts, no matter how strange they were; his outspoken support for the Soviet Union was about to become a serious problem for him. “We – I – were lied to, all that time.”

Roosevelt, as always, seemed reluctant to commit himself openly. “They are also our allies,” he said. “Like it or not, we have an agreement with Uncle Joe Stalin; they are our allies. We have commitments…”

“They have made commitments to us, all of which will be refuted in the future,” Admiral King said. For once, his voice was very calm. “They will take all of Eastern Europe and spend sixty years grinding down any possible resistance. They will force us to make a long-term commitment to Europe, just to prevent them from taking it all. They will force us to make all manner of commitments, just to prevent them from ruling the world!”

Churchill wasn’t sure how he felt about that. He was determined to hold on to the British Empire, or at least as much of it could be held, but without some American support it would be impossible. The files made that clear; the British had to make some changes, and they had to make them as soon as possible, if not sooner. India, he knew, had to be convinced to remain within the Empire…or at least kept within a trading pact.

He thought rapidly. What would Stalin do? It was probably too soon for him to know exactly what had happened, or even rumours, but the NKVD was very efficient. What would he do, once he knew that time travellers had come back in time to overthrow him? One thing was sure; he knew very well that Stalin would not tamely surrender…

“He’ll make a peace with Hitler,” Churchill breathed. It made sense; British intelligence had suspected that there had in fact been peace talks as the Germans advanced on Moscow, ones that had apparently come to nothing. “That’s what he’ll do.”

Roosevelt blinked at him. “He’ll make peace with the enemies of Russia?”

“The man is a twisted statesman in his own way,” Churchill snarled. He felt a sudden flash of hot rage burning through him. “All of a sudden, the real threat is the one in orbit; the one that is preparing to…assist us in dealing with the Nazis, and then with Stalin and his Communists. He’ll make peace, just to allow Hitler and his legions to concentrate on the time travellers and us.”

He shivered inside, knowing that mad as Hitler was, Nazi Germany remained very formidable indeed. The British had been very lucky at Dunkirk; he didn’t even want to begin thinking about what might have happened if Hitler hadn’t ordered his men to stop their unstoppable advance. Would the time travellers really have the weapons that could defeat nothing less than the full power of the Wehrmacht?

“That might not be a bad thing,” Cordell Hull said. Churchill had to smile at his tone. “It would provide us with a good excuse for breaking relations with the Soviet Union, if not outright war with them.”

“Will the public support a war with the Soviet Union?” Ickes asked. A sensation of gloom ran around the table. “We were not attacked by them, were we? We are fighting the Japanese because they attacked us…”

“Little yellow bastards didn’t even have the guts to send a declaration of war first,” Admiral King growled.

“And we are fighting Germany because Hitler declared war on us,” Ickes continued, ignoring the Admiral. “Will Stalin be stupid enough to make the same mistake?”

Churchill shared a long look with Roosevelt. Both of them had worked, in secrecy, for an American entry into the war, but it had been Hitler who had solved one of their main problems – the American people just didn’t hate and fear the Germans. Hitler’s declaration of war and the attacks on American shipping had solved that problem…but it was unlikely that Stalin would make the same mistake.

“We’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it,” Churchill said. “Doubtless Stalin will find a way to betray us that will cause maximum ill feeling.”

Roosevelt gave him a dry look, but said little else. “Now, let us drink to the new year,” he said, as stewards brought in the glasses. They were filled with whisky; Churchill had brought some of the finest to the White House as a gift for Roosevelt. “It should be an interesting year indeed.”

“May you live in interesting times,” Ickes muttered, but he sipped his glass anyway.


President Roosevelt had offered him a day off for Christmas Day, even in the middle of the crisis, but Sam Turtledove was just too fascinated with the devices and the history files to leave the White House. He’d spent the last two days making notes on the future, from events such as the end of the war to the Civil Rights crisis that would erupt in the Sixties.

At the moment, however, he was watching over the shoulder of a Marine who had served in the Philippines before losing a leg to a mine, placed by one of the Filipino groups that hated Americans, or so they claimed. Turtledove had listened to Lieutenant Fury’s statements that it had really happened because of a Japanese raid in 1940, but dismissed them as lies; surely the Japanese wouldn’t have launched a tiny attack without the sucker punch they’d launched a year later at Pearl Harbour.

The image in front of them was clearer than any television screen he’d ever seen, and he’d only seen a couple since coming to Washington. It was coloured, in incredible detail, revealing the fighting raging over the Philippines.

“It even reveals what’s happening in the dark,” Lieutenant Fury said. He had been decorated by President Roosevelt himself, something that had probably played a role in him being asked to come assist with the satellite viewer. “One of these is on its way to the Philippines now, to Australia and then in a submarine to MacArthur. Once it gets there, we will be free of the attempt to coordinate actions at long distance.”

Turtledove smiled dryly. “We really need to get better communications systems,” he said, an idea forming in his mind. Would it be that hard to use the system to communicate directly with them? “Once that happens, we wouldn’t have to send radio signals from America to the Philippines.”

“We’re using undersea cables,” Lieutenant Fury informed him. “That makes it harder for the Japanese to read our messages. It’s not like we have time to encode them.”

Turtledove nodded and left the room, wandering back to his office. The datapad still sat on his desk, with a sheaf of notes surrounding it; outlining thoughts on the future. He couldn’t wait; it would only be a couple of days before he got on a spacecraft and rode into orbit. He looked down at his collection of magazines and books; how would they seem after actually being in orbit?

“I don’t know,” he said, and got back to work. Roosevelt had asked for a detailed briefing on MacArthur in the future history, and Turtledove had to work on it. There were other requests, from details on J. Edger Hoover to various civil rights leaders – and even a request that Turtledove look himself up in the files. He’d already tried that; he only got a couple of mentions – apparently he’d transferred to a base somewhere and that was that.

Chuckling, he returned to writing the report, wishing that he had more of the datapads. There were five secretaries going through what they had, never allowing the machines a chance to rest, hunting for information that might have made a difference in the coming weeks and months. He imaged that the British were doing the same thing on the Duke of York; Churchill had sent their share back with the battleship that had brought him to America.

He smiled to himself as he worked. He was going to space…and he couldn’t wait.


“I think it’s coming now,” the observer from the USAAF said, peering into the sky with his binoculars. Turtledove stood with Roosevelt, Churchill and a young woman introduced to him as Sally, watching the skies as the noise of the shuttle echoed through the air. He stared into the sky, finally seeing a black dot in the air, growing closer faster and faster, almost making him want to duck.

The shuttle came to a dead stop in the air, hanging over the White House, and then it lowered itself down to the ground. It was the first time that Turtledove had seen it land properly; it was an awesome sight, if a little disappointing. Where were the rocket blasts that were supposed to be expelled from the craft’s rear?

The door hissed open and he saw Sandra, standing there. “All aboard,” she called. Turtledove sensed the flicker of genuine concern from the Secret Service, just before Sandra laughed again. “Come on in, Mr President, Prime Minister; the waters fine.”

A ripple of laugher rang through the guests, before Turtledove started to push Roosevelt’s wheelchair up the ramp and into the shuttle. Churchill followed him, with Sally bringing up the rear. The seats, he was surprised to see, looked perfectly normal; there were no straps or massive cages to hold them in place. The interior of the shuttle was surprisingly basic; a handful of controls were stationed in front of the porthole, which was nothing like he’d been expecting; the controls themselves reminded him of the datapad’s strange touch-sensitive systems.

The hatch hissed closed, there was a long pause…and he took his first trip into space.

Chapter Ten: The Truth, and Nothing, but the Truth

HDS John Howard

Earth Orbit

Turtledove had been expecting the ship to shake violently. Nothing of the sort happened; the shuttle simply rose up into the air, heading upwards without doing more than humming slightly. He looked up, out of the porthole, to see the sky darkening as they rose higher and higher…and all the stars came out. Above the atmosphere, they didn’t twinkle; they just glowed. The sight took his breath away; he just stared at them without saying a word.

Churchill’s bass rumble broke the silence. “How fast are we travelling?” He asked. “What about the effects of Earth’s gravity on us?”

Turtledove lifted an eyebrow. Several rocket scientists had been consulted on the situation, but all of them had warned that there would be considerable acceleration pressure, something that might have proven fatal for the President. Apparently, the newcomers didn’t need to worry about such minor details as gravity.

“Roughly several times the speed of sound,” Sandra said. “This is actually quite a slow rise; we thought that it would be best not to shock you too much.”

The last wisps of the atmosphere faded away and they were rising up, into the endless black of space, dotted only with the lights of the stars. Ahead of them, he could see the Moon, larger than it had ever been; glowing in the darkness. The shuttle rotated and he saw the Earth, flying under or above the planet, glowing blue in the eternal darkness of space.

“My God,” he breathed. “It’s beautiful.”

“I never got tired of looking at this,” Sandra said. There was something in her voice that rang an alarm bell in his head. “You should have seen it in the future; there were hundreds of cables reaching down to the planet, allowing thousands of people to ride up to space as the whim struck them. There were three massive towers, each one the home of millions of people, allowing tons of goods to be shipped up and down to the Earth.”

She sighed. “By the time I was born, your early descendants had abandoned space for a few decades – stupid bastards – but we had returned to the moon finally, building massive domed cities and terraforming Mars and Venus. By the time we started heading out-system, there were millions of people in the outer solar system, living and working there.”

She tapped a button and the shuttle rotated, spinning away from Earth. “We are now in low Earth orbit, or LEO; as the people in the trade call it. They also call it LEO when orbiting other planets, despite the fact that it has been dangerous to do that from time to time.” She smiled. “A world with three moons has a very different orbit to a world without a single companion.”

She paused for a long moment. “Look ahead,” she said. “Look ahead and see the future.”

Turtledove leaned forward, feeling sorry for Roosevelt, who couldn’t move from his wheelchair. The little…objects he could see, floating in orbit, started out as silvery lights, and grew rapidly, becoming clearer and clearer as they grew closer. One silver needle expanded as they swooped in on it, growing into an object that reassembled a short roman sword. It was huge, nearly a kilometre long; it glittered against the darkness of space like a dagger floating above the Earth.

“The Human Defence Ship John Howard,” Sandra said. For once, there was no levity in her tone. “There’s quite a story behind how it got that name, but it hardly matters; all that matters is that it’s the flagship of our little fleet.”

Turtledove stared around, trying to make out the shapes of the other craft. Some of them were massive bulgy ships, seemingly capable of landing on a planet, even though they were nearly two kilometres long. Others were clearly designed only for space work; he was certain that one spidery ship could not hope to land. It would have broken up when it touched the ground.

“The construction ship John Simpson,” Sandra identified it, as the shuttle started to come about. They swooped around the ‘handle’ of the John Howard, before lifting over the starship’s hull and heading for a lighted square in the hull. The light grew closer and closer…and then all he could see was the shuttlebay, where the shuttle had just come to a stop, before lowering itself down to the ground.

No, he corrected himself. The deck.

“Right this way,” Sandra said, as the hatch hissed open. Turtledove felt a moment of absolutely primal panic as he saw open space ahead of him, before realising that it was a large section of clear glass or something; the air wasn’t rushing out. Sandra stepped past him, onto the deck; he followed her, noting that there was a strange sensation as he stepped onto the deck.

“That’s just the gravity field,” Sandra said. She sounded more serious than ever, speaking in a tone that expected trouble. “President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill, please could I present to you Admiral Masterson and Governor Rusholme.”

Turtledove looked up, staring at the two men waiting there. One of them, the captain, was very dark brown, almost completely black. His face was scarred, but he had a decent smile; he stepped forward and offered his hand to Roosevelt. He walked; Turtledove couldn’t help noticing, with a proper military bearing.

“Pleased to meet you,” he said, shaking Roosevelt’s hand. “Welcome on board the John Howard.”

“Pleased to meet you too,” Roosevelt said, shaking the hands of a black man without any apparent concern. The second man, Governor Rusholme, was clearly Indian; he had light brown skin and a very civilian bearing. “Are we to hear the truth now?”

“Oh yes,” Masterson said. “Tell me, do you want a tour first, or should we get down to business at once? Afterwards, the medical staff want to see what they can do about your condition, Mr President; would that be convenient?”

“I believe that my appointment book is empty,” Roosevelt said, seemingly perfectly at ease. “However, I think that I would like to hear the truth first, before seeing what you can do to me.”

“I second that,” Churchill said, shaking hands. “I am most interested in what you might have to say.”

“Then come right this way,” Masterson said, leading the way down a long corridor. “All your questions will soon be answered.”


Masterson was surprisingly impressed with both world leaders; neither of them had hesitated before shaking hands with either him or Rusholme. As he led the way to the main briefing room, he studied Roosevelt; the man was clearly still wheelchair-bound. A simple treatment would give him back his ability to walk without serious problems; it could even be done very quickly indeed. Churchill, he recognised, was clearly wary of them, but he would listen carefully.

The briefing room itself was intended for the senior staff; he allowed them to take their own seats before taking his place at the end of the table. One of the chairs had been removed, allowing Roosevelt to wheel his chair right up to the table; several stewards brought drinks and some snacks.

“Thank you for coming,” he began. “By now, you will have realised that we left out some details from the history record.”

“We noticed,” Roosevelt said, seemingly perfectly unconcerned. Masterson admired the act with considerable interest; the man seemed to be a good actor. Politics had never been the same since someone had invented a portable lie detector. “Am I to assume that you are about to fill us in on it?”

“We are,” Masterson said. “Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to say this; we’re from the year 2213, Mr President…and there is a fair chance that we are all that remains of humanity in that timeline.”

There was a long pause. Masterson tapped the control, allowing the holographic image of a Krank to appear, suspended above the table. He watched as they showed their astonishment and disgust; HG Wells had never imagined a creature as strange as the Krank, even if they were, in some ways, very human. They were far too much like humans for human comfort; it was something that humans preferred not to think about.

In appearance, they seemed almost comical; almost a source of fun. An adult Krank stood around three-quarters of the height of an adult human, reassembling nothing more than a humanoid frog, compete with arms that seemed weak and powerless. They weren’t, the Krank had strong muscles in that part of their bodies; in ground combat they were actually stronger than humans, although not quicker. Their eyes seemed almost cartoonish, big and bulgy, with massive blinking eyelids. They laid eggs, or so the biologists thought; stimulated by female hormones the males would spray their sperm everywhere.

Oh yes…and they had devoted themselves to building an empire that had no place for any other intelligent race, even humanity.

Churchill spoke first, almost a guffaw. “What the hell is that?”

“That, Prime Minister, is a Krank,” Masterson said, without taking offence. “They are the alien race that is currently several thousand light years away…and that will destroy humanity in the 23rd century.”

He tapped a display; the image of the Krank vanished. “We know more about them than we wanted to,” he said. “They seemed to have an empire; although projections were constantly indicating that it would collapse, they clearly lasted long enough to exterminate most of humanity. They’re accepting of women – females – in combat posts, just like we are; they’re apparently treated as equals.”

Roosevelt’s assistant frowned. “Why did they want to wipe you out?”

“We have no idea,” Masterson said. “It’s a long story; the short version is that they made contact with us ten years ago – or in 2203, from your point of view. They invited us to send a few ships to make contact at a neutral location; humans being humans, we were paranoid enough to send a small fleet. The ships arrived, to be confronted with a massive Krank fleet…that opened fire at once. No talks, no threats, no demands for surrender…nothing.”

He paused, displaying a star chart. “There were several months of probing, after that, until they just came across the border into our space, pounding hell out of us,” he continued. “Nine and a bit years of fighting later, they finally cracked through Earth’s defences and destroyed the planet. The colony ships in my fleet, the ones that came though, were intended to found a colony a very long way from the Krank, but they came after us. In the resulting battle, there was a rift in space…and we ended up here.”

He scowled. “There have been theories galore as to why they want to kill everyone who isn’t Krank,” he said. “In the absence of actually managing to talk to them properly, it’s hard to be sure; they never surrender, so taking prisoners is very difficult; after a few years we just started massacring them after they destroyed New Deutschland.”

“I beg your pardon,” Churchill said. “A German world?”

Masterson was impressed; Churchill seemed to have grasped the concept perfectly. “New Deutschland was founded in 2150, or thereabouts,” he said. “Fifty-five years later, its entire population was destroyed after the Krank deployed nuclear weapons against the world.

“As for why, well we have theories, as I said,” he concluded. “They might have a religious obligation to exterminate all non-Krank. They might just hate us. They might think that we’re to blame somehow. They might…but it hardly matters. The point is that they destroyed us.”

Roosevelt took a long breath. “So…what now?” He asked. “You’re here; what are you going to do now?”

Masterson looked down at him, and then began to explain. “We have two hundred years,” he said. “In that time, we could develop a fleet that would be actually capable of winning the war, instead of losing it. With the plans and technologies we have, we could develop newer and better weapons, ones that actually could defeat them…and prevent humanity from being exterminated.”

Churchill coughed. “There is the minor matter of defeating the Germans and the Japanese, if not the Soviets,” he said. “What are you going to do about that?”

Masterson smiled. “We can promise you victory over them within two months,” he said, and smiled at the expressions on their faces. Churchill was staring at him; his mouth open. Roosevelt seemed astonished. Only Roosevelt’s aide seemed unsurprised. “I’m quite serious,” Masterson said. “Victory…within two months.”

Churchill spoke in tones that suggested he still wasn’t sure if his leg was being pulled or not. “Within two months,” he repeated. “And exactly how is this miracle to be achieved?”

Masterson had expected that scepticism. “In a week, if you want, we will place a small group of our forces in the Western Desert,” he said, keeping his tone serious. “That force will march from one end of the battle zone to the other, systematically hunting down Rommel’s forces and crushing them. It won’t be a contest; it will be a slaughter.” He paused. “Our forces will have Rommel totally outmatched; he won’t have any time at all to adapt to us before it will be too late.”

He paused, displaying a map of the world in front of them. “In one month, we will have enough orbital kinetic bombs, each one capable of blowing a battleship out of the water, to exterminate the Japanese fleet and Merchant Marine. The Japanese Empire will collapse under its own weight; they won’t even be able to feed their people. That…will be the end of imperial Japan.

“In two months, we will have enough weapons to hammer the German army from orbit, before moving in on Berlin,” he continued. “That’s the problem, Prime Minister; we can smash their forces in the open, but we’ll need help securing the rear and building a new democratic government. Once Hitler has been defeated, we can march on into Moscow.”

“That…is rather impressive,” Churchill said. “I would be delighted if you…handled the Western Desert.”

Masterson smiled, recognising the challenge, and nodded, accepting it. “We’ll insert the Marines within a week,” he said. “If we landed you back at London, could you make the arrangements for their reception?”

Churchill nodded. “Of course,” he said. He looked down at the table, then up at the map of the world. “What – exactly – do you want from us?”


Churchill watched Masterson closely as he asked the question, perhaps even the most important question he had ever asked. The room seemed to hang still; no one even dared to breath. The Admiral’s dark face – Churchill was cosmopolitan enough to accept a black man commanding a fleet – seemed to reveal very little, even though he looked almost too young for the task.

“In the short term, we need food,” Masterson admitted. “We have around fifty thousand colonists who suddenly don’t have a colony world to go to, but instead have to help force forward your technology. They’re all held in stasis” – Churchill made a note to look that term up later – “but if we’re to get any use out of them we’ll have to put some of them down on the planet.”

He met Churchill’s eyes. “That will be our priority,” he continued. “We have little choice, but to develop Earth as quickly as we can.”

Roosevelt’s aide, Turtledove, interrupted. “Are you going to want people to help you?”

Masterson nodded. Roosevelt showed no reaction to the question. “We’re going to have to train many people in newer technology,” Masterson said. Churchill made a mental note to ensure that some of the people were working for Britain. “If we have a problem, its lack of manpower; we need people trained up, quickly.”

“Mr President, I want to volunteer,” Turtledove said. Churchill felt Sally – a young intelligence officer from the Embassy – shift beside him. “There’s bound to be thousands of volunteers.”

“I hope so,” Masterson said. “We have two hundred years…and we cannot waste them.”

“I have some concerns,” Roosevelt said, keeping his voice unconcerned. “You are talking about adding how many people to America?”

Churchill’s eyes flashed at the suggestion that all of them would go to America, but he showed no other reaction. “Not a large number there,” Masterson said. “It’s not been sorted out properly, yet, but we expect to put a small base in Arabia, and perhaps even one in Australia. Africa will need help from us, serious help, just to prevent the post-colonial collapse.”

Turtledove spoke quickly, jumping to cover a difficult subject. “Tell me, what was the Age of Unrest?”

Masterson smiled. It didn’t quite touch his eyes. “The Age of Unrest was all things to all men,” he said. “It was the reaction of anti-democratic forces against democracy. It was the reaction of evil Satan-worshippers against the believers. It was the reaction of the poor and oppressed against the rich. It was…but it hardly matters; all that matters is that we might have a chance to prevent it from happening again.” His face darkened, as impossible as that might have seemed. “That war locked us out of space for fifty years,” he snarled. “Just because we were too busy fighting and too cowardly to do what had to be done…”

He stood up; the rest of the table followed him. “I won’t lie to you,” he said, and Churchill realised that he meant it. “This is very likely to cause a great deal of upheaval in your society, at least in the short-term. In the longer term, we hope that you will benefit from this as much as we will – and, of course, humanity will not be destroyed by the Krank.”

He smiled. “Now, I’m going to give you a tour, and then the Doctors will see what they can do for the President,” he said. “It is, in fact, quite possible that he will be able to walk again before too long. Coming?”

Chapter Eleven: War in the Desert

British Army Headquarters

Egypt, North Africa

General Sir Claude John Eyre Auchinleck, commander-in-chief of the Allied Forces in the Middle East, had read the detailed letter from Churchill with nervous anticipation, followed by growing astonishment. He’d expected another long message demanding immediate results in the war against Rommel, the German commander, but instead the message – which had been hand-delivered by an aircraft pilot – had outlined the events in orbit.

“This has to be a joke,” he’d muttered, disbelievingly. His opinion of Churchill wasn’t high – the man had no grasp of military realities – and he knew that Churchill knew that. The man’s interference had prevented General Wavell from pulling off a strategic victory – the victory that Churchill now wanted from Auchinleck under worse conditions. Now…

Churchill had explained that there were time travellers in orbit – he’d had to ask one of the younger officers what that meant – and that they were going to send some units to destroy Rommel’s forces. If it hadn’t been for the item that had been conveyed with the message, the…television that showed what was happening on the ground, he would have wondered if the Prime Minister had gone mad.

He looked down again at the device on the desk in his tent. Normally, he commanded the army from Cairo, but in this case he had moved his headquarters to a small village and airbase closer to the front. If the…time travellers, as impossible as that seemed, were going to land here, he didn’t want the nest of spies in Cairo seeing them. In time, Churchill had said, everyone would know about then, but in this case Auchinleck was convinced that it was better to keep everything quiet.

If it was Churchill’s idea of a joke, as part of him still feared, then perhaps the Germans would never hear about it.

“General, I have something,” the young Desert Air Force officer called. Like Auchinleck, he wore the shorts and shirt that had become the official uniform; it was far too hot to wear the proper uniforms. Both Auchinleck and Wavell, who had served in the Indian Army, trusted their men to fight; Auchinleck knew that they had done well, even during the Crusader Campaign.

“What is it?” Auchinleck asked, coming to the tent’s entrance and peering out over the aerodrome. It had only a handful of aircraft, mainly older designs; the sudden entry of Japan into the war had caused the RAF to start shuttling aircraft down towards Singapore. It was the same old problem; too many fires, not enough firemen.

“There,” the officer said. Auchinleck followed his finger to a black dot that was falling out of the sky. “I’m…not sure what it is.”

Auchinleck stared. The dot was taking on shape and form, becoming a monstrous rectangular form, falling out of the sky. A noise, a strange thrumming echoing through the air, started, shaking the ground as it slowly came to a halt, hanging above the ground, before it gently lowered itself the rest of the way to the ground. Auchinleck realised suddenly, far too late, that it was falling…and then his mind caught up and he stared at it, as a hatch hissed open.

A man stood there, looking down at him, before stepping out of the massive craft and walking easily over towards Auchinleck. “Field Marshal Auchinleck?” He called. “I really hope this is the right place; the imager is here…”

Auchinleck had to laugh. “Yes,” he said, “although I am a general at the moment.”

The man smiled and extended a hand. “You will be promoted in the future,” he said. Up close, he was almost Russian, with silver-grey hair and a grim cast to his face that contrasted oddly with his smile. “I am Brigadier Yuri Joseph, commander of HDS Tarawa’s Marine force.”

Auchinleck shook the man’s hand firmly. “Pleased to meet you,” he said. “The Prime Minister informs me that you intend to attack Rommel and his forces.”

“Exactly,” Joseph said. His smile grew wider. “As soon as possible, if that’s fine with you?”

Auchinleck smiled back. “I think that I dare say that attacking at once would be fine with me,” he said. He paused. “How many men do you have?”

Joseph paused. “One hundred armoured soldiers,” he said. “How many do you have?”

Auchinleck felt his mouth fall open. “One hundred soldiers,” he said, knowing that he sounded astonished. “I have over forty thousand and…I’ve barely been able to fight Rommel to a standstill.”

“It would have been worse in the coming year,” Joseph said. “Rommel would have been beaten eventually, but not by you.” He paused, allowing that to sink in. “Would you like me to parade my men?”

Auchinleck, reeling inside, nodded. “Yes, please,” he said. “You think that you can beat Rommel with one hundred men?”

“Yes,” Joseph said flatly. He sent no signal, not that Auchinleck could see, but the main hatch in the massive…aircraft hissed open, revealing only darkness inside. Seconds later, a black-clad figure appeared on the edge of the hatch, leading a line of similar black-clad figures, their faces completely hidden behind their suits of armour.

Auchinleck stared in awe; all of the men, he now saw, were actually wearing armour. It wasn’t a trick of the light; all of them were surrounded by their strange black armour, seeming to almost absorb the light of the sun. Ninety of them – he still retained enough presence of mind to count – wore what he suspected was light armour; the remaining ten wore…enough armour to practically qualify as a tank.

“The light armoured suits were optimised for infantry combat and space-boarding actions,” Joseph explained, as the…space marines lined up and saluted him. The salute, part of Auchinleck’s mind recognised, was more American than British; the men themselves were certainly more disciplined than all, but the most elite formations of the British Army. “They carry plasma weapons in their armour; enough firepower to seriously horrify any German of this era.”

“I see,” Auchinleck said, trying hard to remain as calm and as matter-of-fact as Joseph. “And the heavy suits.”

Joseph’s grin grew wider. “Now those, General, are something that we’re very proud of,” he said. “Have you ever thought of what warfare would look like, two centuries hence?”

Auchinleck shook his head. “No,” he said. “What does it look like?”

“We’ll have a full briefing session later,” Joseph said, suddenly very serious. “All of a sudden, it was important that casualties, both ours and theirs, were kept down; one death alone could really damage a campaign. At the same time, information technology was becoming more and more important; a lowly Private might need information that the commanding officers would prefer to keep to themselves.”

He smiled suddenly. “The net result was total confusion,” he continued. “It was possible for politicians to start issuing orders from literally light years away, expecting that they would be carried out…and they often lacked any real feeling for what was going on. Meanwhile, the people on the ground were losing any real sense of what was happening; they were starting to get more and more frustrated.”

He scowled. “I’ll go into more details later,” he said. “For the moment, in the words of our opponent, it’s time to find something…and go kill it.”

Auchinleck blinked. “You want to start at once?”

“Yes,” Joseph said. “I have been ordered to invite you to come watch; there’s a small German force that is heading towards one of your outposts…and we’re going to give it a hot reception.”

Auchinleck nodded. “I’d be delighted,” he said. “Shall we go?”


The desert, according to Private Singh’s battlesuit computers, was boiling hot, almost as hot as his own native India had been, before the temperature had grown to the heat of the sun. This Earth was a strange world indeed; the North African region seemed to be composed of sand and filthy cities, nothing like the great cities that had dotted the coast before the Krank arrived.

“This is totally fucked up,” Private Erica Yuppie snapped, her voice echoing through the shared computer reality that was being used for the mission briefing. The entire platoon, ten soldiers in their powered combat armour, was being briefed; Lieutenant Messenger had outlined the basic plan, and then asked for comments.

Singh sighed. Almost every soldier had wanted to complain about the battle plan…and he understood their point. Every platoon, from time to time, had generated such a completely lop-sided struggle for their drills before, even though the practice was officially banned, with very good reason. The platoon had expected to die facing the Krank, enemies who used the same kind of armour; there was little point in matching their armour against knights in armour.

“I understand your point, Yuppie,” Messenger snapped. His tone told everyone that the time for debate was over; even Erica shut up. The platoon had to function as a team, working together…and at the same time they had to maintain military discipline. None of them would have worked well as part of a Contemporary force, but as a team they worked together well; one of the most capable teams on the Tarawa.

“Yes, sir,” Erica said. Her tone was reluctantly regretful; Singh knew that she felt personally challenged by the new situation. Her hatred for the Krank was a legend; rumour had it that the Krank themselves knew her name and feared her. “I apologise.”

“We are also going to show off our capabilities,” Messenger said, as if she hadn’t spoken. A window intruded itself into the computer reality; they were going to land in five minutes. A shudder ran through the small transport as one of the pulsar cannons fired; perhaps a German aircraft had come too close for comfort.

The images from the satellites spread out in front of their minds, as if it were a perfect map; revealing the location of everything that the satellites could see. Singh watched and calculated; he knew that the system…wasn’t exactly reliable. A force that knew what the satellites could do could bugger the system, without much trouble – although the Germans should have no capabilities at all for even knowing what was happening.

“Observe,” Messenger said. The German force; a handful of Panzer III tanks, according to the library files, and several infantrymen was advancing towards an Eighth Army outpost, one that seemed unaware of the approaching threat. “That’s our target; we are to crush them with extreme violence, then start a long advance towards Tripoli, which is currently serving as the base for the German and Italian activities in this region.”

“I told you so,” Erica muttered. “We should just drop in on Tripoli…”

“They want to scare hell out of the Germans,” Messenger snapped. There was a second shudder running through the transports; a pop-up window displayed an Italian aircraft disintegrating under a pulsar blast. “One minute to landing…is everyone ready?”

There was a brief chorus of agreement; Singh joined in with the others. “Good,” Messenger said. “Let’s get on with it, then.”

Singh’s view snapped back to the transport’s troop deck, where he and his fellow soldiers waited. They’d been armoured up for hours, but they didn’t mind; their augmentations meant that they could handle being in the suits, without sleep, for days, while sleeping in the suits was possible. He smiled; at this rate, riding their hovercraft bikes, they would reach their final destination within a week.

He checked his suit one final time, and then checked their location; almost the entire 1st Brigade was deployed now, in nine separate places along the battle zone. The heavy platoon was bitching; they’d been held back for possible trouble, although Singh couldn’t think of anything that the Germans or Italians could field that could trouble even a light infantry suit.

The transport grounded with a thump, surprising him; they could have just jumped out and floated down on antigravity systems. It bothered him and he made a mental note to raise the issue; the mere fact that the transport was actually landing meant that they were dangerously overconfident. It was supposed to be impossible to damage a suit without high technology, but he knew that more than a few Marines had been killed though overconfidence – or desperate opponents.

The hatch opened and he moved, in perfect sequence with his nine comrades; heading out from the transport and away from it as fast as they could. It was possible, just barely, that the Germans might have managed to get some artillery within firing range…and while it wouldn’t kill them it might damage the transport, if they got lucky. Behind them, the transport rose into the air, running as fast as it could.

“Bloody dreadful terrain,” Erica commented. Singh nodded inside his suit; the desert seemed completely…well, desert-like. Without GPS, he dimly realised; they would find it far too easy to get lost. “Shall we get started?”

An arrow appeared in front of Singh’s eyes, pointing to a direction over the sand dunes. A window appeared in the side; revealing what the satellites were revealing, a line of German vehicles, heading over the sand towards them. Singh smiled; none of them had any idea of what was waiting for them.

“Remember, we want to scare hell out of them,” Messenger said, as the platoon took their positions. “There’s no real need to kill them all; we just want them scared and hurting. Once the proper advance begins, Contemporary forces can sweep the prisoners up.”

“Yes, sir,” Gates said. “Respectfully suggest, sir, that we get on with it.”


There wasn’t a day that passed without Unteroffizier Richard Wieland, 21st Panzer, silently thanking God that he had been assigned to the North African War, rather than the advance into Russia. While he believed that the Reich would eventually defeat the barbarians to the east, he’d heard enough whispered to know that a Wehrmacht officer could expect no mercy in Russian hands. The British, at least, treated prisoners well.

He smiled to himself. With a commander as skilled as Erwin Rommel, the British had been unable to make much headway against the Germans at all. The caldron of Crusader, the main offensive they’d faced, had been nasty, but the British had lacked the capability to force the Germans onto the defensive completely. They’d battered away at the Korps, harming them, but not enough to destroy them.

He lifted his binoculars to peer into the distance, and frowned. The roads in North Africa were almost non-existent…and even if they had been genuinely useful for rapid manoeuvre, both sides had developed the habit of mining them. More than once, the British soldiers had watched the road, apparently unaware of the Panzers travelling cross-country…although that had also doomed an Italian force during Crusader.

Herr Unteroffizier,” his driver said suddenly, “what is that?”

Wieland peered into the distance again. They were due to meet – and travel alongside – a road built by the Italians during one of their imperial periods. He stared…and saw, ahead of them, seven people waiting for them. Something rang an alarm bell at the back of his mind; they were just standing there, watching them. Occasionally, the fighting armies passed tribesmen, who cared nothing for them, but…

“They’re soldiers,” he said, understanding that somehow. “What the hell are they doing?”

The black figures – he could see now that there were nine of them – were advancing. He studied them as they grew closer…and he could tell that they were wearing armour of some kind, glinting in the sun. He frowned; what the hell were they?

The lead figure lifted a hand as unease sank deeper into the German ranks – pointing a finger towards a Panzer III tank. A streak of…something blasted from his hand, sending a flicker of red light into the Panzer…and it exploded. The blast sent Wieland sprawling from his Panzer, just as a second blast erupted behind him.

“Open fire,” he screamed, in sudden panic. The infantrymen, well trained and disciplined, took their positions and fired, sending long bursts towards the advancing armoured men. Sparks erupted around their armour, some of them were pushed backwards by the hail of bullets, but they just…kept coming!

A Panzer fired and – miracle of miracles – hit one of the figures. The blast sent the figure reeling over backwards, slammed into the ground…and then the figure stood up again, seemingly unharmed, unleashing another flurry of the strange red blasts from his hands. Several more Panzers blew up…and, as if that had been a signal, the remaining figures poured their fire into the heart of the German force. Twenty seconds later, Wieland had no force at all; just a group of burning vehicles.

“Cease fire,” he shouted, as some of the infantrymen kept firing, trying their best to hurt one of the figures. It wasn’t working; the figures just kept closing in, picking off the firing Germans with ease. “Cease fire; we surrender!”

The figures ignored him, completing the task of destroying the German force; allowing unarmed soldiers to run, but killing any who resisted. Wieland watched in horror, trying to get them to listen to him, but they said nothing until the entire force had been disarmed. Not a single figure had been harmed, let alone killed.

“You are our prisoners,” the lead figure said. Wieland could only guess that it – or he – was the leader; there was nothing to separate it from the others. “You will remain here. Contemporary forces will arrive soon to pick you up from here, or you may attempt to return to your lines. Any further attempt at resistance will be severally punished.”

With that, the figures turned and marched away; Wieland watched in disbelief as a group of unmanned motorcycles – except these were hovering above the ground – came up to them. The figures mounted…and rode of, without even a backwards glance. They’d utterly destroyed his force…and they had taken no casualties at all doing it.

In a moment, Wieland realised one thing; the war was lost.

Chapter Twelve: The Threatening Storm

SS Headquarters

Berlin, Germany

If there was one thing that all citizens of Germany had learned to dread, it was the knock on the door in the middle of the night; the SS, coming to investigate suspected Jews, or ferreting out disloyalty to the Fuhrer. Brigadefuehrer Johan Schriever had thought that his status would have protected him, but the knock had still come; a single ‘rap-tap’ that had shocked him awake.

“You have to come at once,” a junior SS officer said. Schriever, realising that he wasn’t about to be dragged off and interrogated at length, relaxed slightly…until he realised that the young Hauptsturmfuehrer was on the verge of total panic. Something must have gone very wrong…somewhere, and he had a nasty idea of exactly what it involved.

“Understood,” he said, as he pulled on his uniform. Like all of Himmler’s personal officers, he kept one ready at all times. “Do you have a car ready?”

The Hauptsturmfuehrer saluted; Schriever realised with a sudden shock that Anna had come into the room, her dark hair spilling down and her face a hard mask; one that he knew concealed fear. He smiled at her as reassuringly as he could; he knew, now, that he wasn’t in trouble.

“Yes, Herr Brigadefuehrer,” the Hauptsturmfuehrer said. “It’s waiting outside.”

“I’ll be along in one moment,” Schriever said. The Hauptsturmfuehrer saluted and left the house. “Don’t worry, love,” he said. “It’s not me.”

Anna’s face relaxed slightly. Even carrying two children hadn’t dimmed her beauty, but fear had; it had drained and warped her face. Schriever winced inwardly, holding her as close as he could for a long moment, and then he kissed her goodbye, picked up his overnight bag, and left the house.

Outside, it was cold and very chilly; the New Year celebrations had been muted after Moscow. The Fuhrer had spoken on the radio – he had, Schriever knew, painted a very rosy picture – but there had been fewer official celebrations. The streets were darkened, the few lights hidden behind blackout curtains, but the driver navigated his way through the streets without difficulty.

He wanted to ask what was happening, but he knew that the junior officer wouldn’t know; Himmler must have put the fear of God into him, but he wouldn’t have shared any state secrets. It had to be bad, however; he gazed up at the stars and wondered which of them was one of Earth’s new moons.

“He’s waiting for you right now,” the Hauptsturmfuehrer said, as they reached the headquarters. It was lit up; he could see chinks of light radiating out of the curtains, illuminating the entire building. That alone suggested it was serious; Himmler must have woken every SS officer in Germany.

“Thank you,” Schriever said, stepping out of the car towards the main entrance. The guards were clearly on alert; the number of guards he could see had been doubled – as if someone was expecting an attack. Had someone attempted to launch a coup?

“We have to search you,” the guard – a man whose face was living proof of the theory of evolution – said, as he said every time Schriever entered the headquarters. He didn’t bother to argue; it was quicker and safer to allow the guard to search him, before he was reluctantly waved through the checkpoint into the main compound.

There were dozens of armed officers around, some still blinking sleep from their eyes, some running around like headless chickens. It was a scene of absolute confusion; almost the entire staff was present. If the British came to bomb the building, they would wipe out the senior SS staff with ease.

“Good God,” he muttered, as he entered the building. A guard met him and directed him down towards the air raid shelter, rather than Himmler’s office. Surprised, Schriever followed him down the stairs, right into Himmler’s private bomb shelter; he knew that there had been plans to build a catacomb of shelters under Berlin, but he had no idea that even as much as he could see had been completed.

“Right this way, Herr Brigadefuehrer,” the guard said. Schriever blinked at him; he was distressed and worried – what had gone wrong? He couldn’t understand it; what could have had such an effect on the world’s most disciplined security service? The guard led him to a massive door; one that looked large enough to withstand a direct bomb hit, and passed him through yet another checkpoint, before allowing the door to open.

Inside, there was a simple office; one decorated only with pictures of the Fuhrer and the valiant martyrs who had died during the Nazis aborted attempt to seize power. Schriever, who had been there himself, knew that it hadn’t been anything like as glorious as the propaganda made it out to be, but it served as an inspiration to the world.

“Ah, Schriever,” Himmler said. Schriever turned and saw the Reichsführer; he was staring at a map, which was being hastily updated by a young and sweating SS officer. “Come on in.”

Herr Reichsführer,” Schriever said, slipping into the Nazi salute with ease. “I apologise for my delay…”

“No need to worry about it,” Himmler said. Schriever stared at him, trying hard to hide his reaction; there was a layer of sweat on Himmler’s brow, shining in the too-bright lights of the office. “There has been something of a development in Africa.”

For the first time, Schriever looked carefully at the map on the wall – and winced. Massive red arrows cut into the Reich lines, heading firmly westwards towards Tripoli, advancing into the teeth of Rommel’s defences. It took him a moment to grasp the scale of the map, but when it sank in he felt almost horrified. The red lines reached almost two hundred kilometres from the British lines, heading west.

He sucked in a breath sharply. Even against Russians, such a rate of advance should have been impossible; even the Italians would have been able to have mounted a stiff defence. The British simply weren’t capable of mounting such an offensive; even if they had suddenly developed the first-rate commanding officer they would have needed, they would have needed the time to develop the weapons…and there had been no sign of them deploying a new weapon.

In a sudden flash of insight, he connected it with the fleet in orbit; watching from on high, and shuddered.

“It took several hours to piece together what was happening,” Himmler said, keeping his voice calm by sheer force of will. “By the time that General Rommel had managed to grasp what was happening…well, a lot of the advancing forces had simply been smashed. We have almost no intelligence on anything within that area” – he tapped the area covered by the red lines – “the information we do have comes from isolated sightings and…simple guessing.”

Schriever stared at him. “What about the Luftwaffe?”

“Useless,” Himmler said, whose scorn for Going was legendary. “Oh, there have been some valiant pilots who have flown into the area…and they have never been seen again. Advancing scouts reported seeing them falling out of the sky or exploding; struck by what seem to be tiny rockets.”

Schriever took a long breath. “The British don’t have the tanks to do that,” he said, tapping the map. “Have our friends in orbit intervened?”

“It looks that way,” Himmler said. His voice shivered, almost broke. “There are reports; reports of men wearing armour or perhaps robots, immune to anything that the Wehrmacht could do to them.” He scowled. “Some of the Wehrmacht even showed their disloyalty by surrendering!”

Schriever said nothing. Himmler distrusted at best, hated and feared at worst, the Wehrmacht; it was his one real rival for power within Hitler’s Byzantine court. He had been working to create the Waffen-SS just to provide a counter to the Army, just to prevent a coup against the more…excessive parts of the Nazi regime.

“This cannot stand,” Himmler snapped, seeming almost Hitler-like. It was so out-of-character that Schriever watched him with growing concern. “Their disloyalty must be punished!”

Schriever tried to remain calm. “What else has been reported?”

Himmler’s voice calmed. “Massive transports, moving through the air; landing troops wherever they will,” he said. “They’re utterly immune to the Luftwaffe; they can swat our planes out of the sky like flies. Strange motorcycles, moving in the air; carrying armoured troopers from place to place like old-fashioned men on horseback. Weird weapons, sending sparks of light into Panzers; blowing them up whatever level of armour they have. An advance that…”

His voice darkened. “They’re pacing themselves,” he said, in sudden hatred. “They’re moving slowly, I think, to allow the British a chance to sweep up all of the prisoners; they could have been in Tripoli at this point, if they wanted to.”

Schriever stared up at the map. The Fuhrer had never been too interested in the Western Desert; he would have preferred for the entire region to remain quiet while he concentrated on the invasion and subjection of the Soviet Union. The region had been a transport hog, gobbling up transport capability that was desperately needed in Russia; there would be few in the Wehrmacht who would regret abandoning the region…

But if the…unknown enemy had intervened there, how long would it be before they sent their armoured soldiers to France, or Italy; marching up to Berlin? He started to pace the room…and then it struck him. In their place, he would have attacked Berlin at once; why hadn’t they done that?

“How many of them are there?” He asked, as he walked back to the map. “Hundreds? Thousands?”

“Around seventy,” Himmler said. “I know; it seems impossible, but they seem to move in groups of ten, attacking our units, often at several points simultaneously. Steiner informs me that that’s very bad military practice, but as we haven’t even managed to wound one, then…”

“They have hardly any numbers,” Schriever said thoughtfully. “If they had a thousand of those soldiers, they might be able to land right in Berlin itself; so there must be some reason why they are unable or unwilling to do that. If we were to start work now, we could start developing countermeasures; I wonder what a sandpit would do to a…battlesuit, if it were filled with quicksand.”

Himmler seemed to have returned to his normal self. “It would be very costly,” he said. “However, if they are few in number…”

“We might manage to trap them, or even to destroy a handful of suits,” Schriever said, growing more enthusiastic. “What about a direct shell hit to a transport; what will that do to them? What about their main ships; can they even land? If we take out all of their transports, what then?”

He paused. “What about areas that they manage to overrun? Do they have the technology and numbers to hold them down? The Werewolves could be emplaced all across the Reich; they could hamper the enemy’s lines of communication.” He smiled. “I wonder…what else could they do?”

“The British have already had some additional success against the Italian Navy,” Himmler said, remaining calm. “The Italians…we should just take the place over completely.”

Schriever was on a roll, spilling out ideas one by one. “Why not?” He asked. “The Italian mountains will make a great defensive line; we could start now and have a line finished before they come for us.”

“The British, in the last two days, have been having uncanny success against the Italian Navy,” Himmler continued, as if he hadn’t heard Schriever’s ideas. His voice was darkening again. “They have destroyed no less than seventeen transports, all packed with essential supplies and the best part of an Italian division.”

He smiled suddenly. “At least some good came out of it,” he said. “That force would have probably heard that the enemy were around two thousand kilometres away and tried to surrender.”

Schriever laughed. Officially, the Italians were Germany’s noble, loyal and competent allies. Unofficially…well there were people in the Wehrmacht that joked that whatever side had Italy was doomed…and then they demanded that the Fuhrer attack the Italians at once, just to remind them of who was boss.

“Or they might have tried to strike a bargain and stab us in the back,” Schriever said, still smiling. “I think that we had better start thinking about taking over Italy before they can betray us.”

Himmler frowned disapprovingly. “The Fuhrer still feels a personal fondness for Mussolini,” he said. “Do not question the Fuhrer’s acts.”

Schriever lowered his eyes. “I beg your pardon,” he said, remembering that Himmler was completely loyal to Hitler. He might sometimes conspire to hide elements from Hitler, including little details about Jews who were needed too much to be exterminated, but he was loyal.

“Good,” Himmler said. He stared at the map. “How are they doing it?”

Schriever, fortunately, had listened carefully to Von Braun’s briefing. “They’re looking down from orbit,” he said. He pointed to the map. “From orbit, it looks just like that,” he said, “except they can see ships moving all over the world. They see the ship – they radio directions to the British; the British then sink the ships.”

“That…might be bad news for the Japanese,” Himmler said. “I must discuss the matter with their Ambassador; he wanted to work towards a meeting in the Middle East.”

“That might be…tricky at the moment,” Schriever said. With the catastrophe growing in the desert, it would be impossible. “There must be some other options.”

“There are,” Himmler said. “General Rommel has been ordered to hold Tripoli; once the scientists have come up with some good counters, we can use Tripoli as a base for a counterattack.”

“It may take too long,” Schriever warned. Himmler, at least, didn’t kill people for bringing bad news. “We’re going to have to build new weapons – quickly – to start hurting their armoured suits…and that, Herr Reichsführer, is not a quick process.”

Himmler scowled, clearly unhappy with basic scientific facts. “Do you have any other ideas?”

“They must have some vulnerabilities,” Schriever said. “We need a program of experimentation; what about gas? They must breathe through the suit; can we poison them with gas? What about heavier artillery; we might manage to crack a suit with a battleship shell. What about…”

He paused. “But one thing is clear,” he said. “There has been a radical change in the balance of power.”

“So the Fuhrer said,” Himmler said. Schriever wondered who had suggested it to the Fuhrer; perhaps Himmler had mentioned it. “He was even wondering if we should not attempt to work with Roosevelt; the newcomers, whoever they really are, are bound to have their own agenda.”

Schriever blinked. If Hitler was prepared to say that, then his idea should be easy to suggested, if not necessarily easy to convince Himmler that it was a good idea. On the other hand, everyone would listen to Hitler, even if his idea were stark madness – just because he was the Fuhrer.

“That leads me to suggest something else,” he said, as calmly as he could. Men had been sent to the camps, or the Eastern Front, for less. “We should attempt to seek a truce with Stalin.”

Himmler’s face showed no reaction. Schriever wasn’t sure if that were a good thing or a bad thing. “Indeed,” he said, his voice as cold as the grave. “Why should we do that?”

Schriever took a breath and plunged onwards. “Stalin will learn about this, sooner rather than later,” he said. “At the moment, the situation in the Russian steppes is very fluid; it could go either way and Stalin knows it.”

“We will defeat him next year, so the Fuhrer says,” Himmler said.

“We would have done so without the newcomers,” Schriever said. Part of his mind was fascinated; what were the newcomers, really? Aliens? The mythical Thule? Something he couldn’t even begin to imagine? “Now…the balance of power has been shattered.”

Himmler quirked an eyebrow. It was a remarkably terrifying gesture. “Go on,” he said. “I listen with the greatest of attention and interest.”

“We may be attacked soon, within weeks,” Schriever said, refusing to allow the power games to demoralise him. “At the moment, it is going to take almost the entire power of the Reich to score a victory; assuming, of course, that that is possible. If Stalin knifes us in the back, he will win and the Russians will march on into Berlin themselves.”

He paused. “Nothing less than the full power of the Reich can give us even a hope of victory,” he continued. “If we are still trying to strangle Stalin, then the newcomers will destroy us…but at the same time, Stalin will be as desperate for information as we are. If we offer to trade information with them, perhaps even whatever intelligence we collect, perhaps even samples of their technology; he would have every motive towards agreeing to a truce.”

Himmler’s eyes glittered. “I will suggest such a course of action to the Fuhrer,” he said. Schriever wasn’t sure if he thought that he could convince Hitler of the need for a truce. “Of course, they might be communists from beyond the stars.” He shook his head. “No, whatever they are; they’re Aryan. No communists could have produced such ships.”

Schriever smiled. “Perhaps they stole them,” he said.

Himmler cleared his throat, ignoring Schriever’s jest. “I want you to move as fast as you can with the Werewolves,” he said. “You have my full authorisation to do whatever you need to produce a viable defence, including access to all of the information pouring out of North Africa.”

“Thank you, Herr Reichsführer,” Schriever said, although he didn’t feel like thanking Himmler at all. It would be like juggling too many eggs in the air – with the loss of even one egg fatal. “I’ll get started at once.”

“Just bring us victory,” Himmler said. “Bring us victory – and all will be forgotten.”

Chapter Thirteen: The Walking and Talking President

The White House

Washington DC, USA

There were dozens of doctors, covering all known medical fields, on call for the White House and the rest of official Washington. They had tried all manner of treatments for the President’s confinement to a wheelchair, but nothing had ever worked; Roosevelt had remained in his wheelchair, barely even able to walk for tiny steps.

Sam Turtledove smiled openly as the President walked across the room, moving with the uncertain pace of a child, but clearly growing more and more confident as the minutes passed. The doctors examined his legs as he moved, trying to understand how the newcomers had repaired the damage, but they were getting nowhere. They were having more luck with the bruise on the side of Roosevelt’s head; the president had fallen over on the first time he’d tried to walk properly.

“Thank you,” Roosevelt said finally. The newcomers had given them a massive chunk of medical data; that would be reproduced and spread around the entire world, with information on subjects as wide-ranging from broken bones to contraception. The newcomers had given them the information, seemingly unconcerned as to the effect it would have; apparently just as a gift.

“Thank you, Mr President,” Doctor Campbell said. The redheaded man had been experimenting with the datapad – loaned to him on condition that he saw to it that the information was spread around America – and he clearly loved it. There had been thousands of problems that doctors had never been able to cure…all of them could now be handled without problems.

Roosevelt smiled as Campbell left. “I assume that you have the latest briefing from the Western Desert,” he said, picking up his walking stick. “Has Colonel Richton been in touch?”

Turtledove nodded, following the President down the hallway. An orderly followed, pushing the empty wheelchair, but Roosevelt had already declared that he was never going to ride in it again. He looked almost twenty years younger; he was moving more like a sprightly thirty-year-old man. His one concession to the doctors concerns had been to carry a walking stick.

“Yes, Mr President,” Turtledove said. “Colonel Richton has sent back some information through the new communications system, using what…Admiral Masterson’s crew showed him. It’s…quite impressive.”

They reached a long corridor, long enough to allow Roosevelt to walk faster. “Really?” He asked, as he marched down the corridor. “What happened?”

“It’s a near-total rout of the enemy,” Turtledove said. Roosevelt sucked in his breath. “The time travellers have been sweeping up and down, from north to south, destroying German forces or even allowing the British to capture them. So far, they haven’t lost a single person.”

“Impressive,” Roosevelt said, still clearly concentrating on his walking. “What about General…ah, the British commander. What did he say?”

Turtledove glanced down at the datapad. “General Auchinleck was very impressed,” he said. “In fact, he has been using British forces to follow up, using the orbital cameras to round up Germans and transporting them to POW camps. So far, several thousand have been summarily transported into the camps without trying to resist – their only alternative, to be fair, is a horrible death from thirst.”

“That’s one good thing,” Roosevelt said. His voice darkened. “And exactly what happened to break their will to fight?”

“Apparently, the battlesuits were as capable as they claimed,” Turtledove said. “There is some video footage if you want to see it, but they just marched up and through the Germans, firing their death rays as they came.”

“Death rays,” Roosevelt said, shaking his head. “And now…we have to give the Press their briefing.”

Turtledove said nothing. For the week since their arrival, right up to New Year’s Day, the press had said little, respecting the secrecy laws. Everyone knew, however, that some…spacecraft had landed on the White House lawn…and the rumours were spreading through the rest of America. The British Press hadn’t noticed yet – and with more sense than the Americans of the imminence of the German threat – they had refrained from reporting what they did know, but it wouldn’t be long before the news finally got out.

“That will be later today,” Roosevelt continued. “I don’t think that we can keep this a secret for much longer; the Germans will certainly know that they have been attacked. I wonder…might they have seen the ships from the ground?”

Turtledove nodded. A handful of American astronomers had noticed the starships, sitting in orbit; they had only barely been prevented from publishing their findings. It wouldn’t be long before something slipped through the security blanket – something that would make both governments look very foolish.

“It’s possible that they have,” he conceded. “I don’t know what they’ll make of it, however; Stalin and his merry men might get even more panicky.”

Roosevelt nodded as they entered the Oval Office. “It has suddenly become important that we allow them to set up a…recruiting centre here,” he said. “They were talking about greening the Arabian Peninsula and Australia, so we might not get many of them coming here, but it is quite important that we have as much access to them as possible.”

He paused, inviting comment. Turtledove said nothing. “You said that you wanted to volunteer,” Roosevelt continued. Turtledove nodded. “I think I’ll appoint you my liaison to their base here, when they do it; you’ll have some time to spend with them, learning. Depending on the situation, it should also give you some degree of diplomatic immunity, although God alone knows how we are going to sort that one out.”

Turtledove smiled openly. “Thank you, Mr President,” he said. “I’ll make you proud.”

“I’m sure that you will, Sam,” Roosevelt said. “Now; I have to make a speech to Congress, and then announce everything to the reporters. Once they get the story, the entire world will know – and, coming after the series of German defeats, it will give us a boost forward.”

Turtledove hesitated, then took the plunge. “Has Hoover said anything yet?”

“Very little,” Roosevelt said. “It’s odd; I would have sworn that he would have started to make a serious fuss by now.”


William L. Shirer, currently working within official Washington for CBS, was puzzled, even as the news came that the President had organised a special broadcast to the nation. Shirer had broadcast directly from Berlin – before the Nazis started trying to build a case to use against him – but he had been astonished at the reaction from Washington to the landing of the spacecraft.

The story hadn’t been widely reported, largely because of efforts by the Government; ordering all information to be restricted until they gave permission to inform the public. Like the rest of the reporters, Shirer had been horrified; the story was already slipping out of their grasp – soon, everyone would know anyway. Learning that the President was about to give a proper conference had relieved him; he’d made his way to the White House at the proper time.

“My God, is that the President?” He heard someone mutter. Shirer looked up and stared; Roosevelt was walking on his legs, perfectly well. He carried a small walking cane, but he didn’t seem to need it. The Press had known that Roosevelt was confined to a wheelchair; they just hadn’t made an issue out of it because of respect for the President.

“Thank you for coming,” Roosevelt said. His voice was stronger than it had been, Shirer noted; what had happened? “There has been a remarkable development in the war.”

There was a brief flurry of muttering from the reporters. “We have been contacted by a group of visitors from the far future, refugees from a threat that would have destroyed us in the future,” Roosevelt continued. Only his voice echoed in the room; the reporters had been shocked silent, something of a minor miracle under the circumstances. “They have brought gifts, information…and a warning.”

Silence rose, grew and lengthened. “In the future,” Roosevelt continued, “the human race will be destroyed by an alien race. That future must not come to pass; we – the people of this great nation – must do everything in our power to prevent it from ever coming to pass. That has become our priority; that future must never come into being.”

Shirer wasn’t sure if he should believe his ears, but the President seemed sincere. Roosevelt wouldn’t have planned all of it as a joke, would he? “They have brought us gifts, including medical gifts,” the President continued, waving down at his legs. Shirer stared at them in awe; he knew thousands of people who would be delighted to have their legs back. “The advances in medical technology alone will save thousands of lives in the coming war – for the Nazis will not accept the need for humanity to walk towards unity, democracy, and the stars!”

His voice was growing, becoming more confident. “In the Western Desert, they have already assisted the British forces to win a strategic victory; defeating General Rommel and chasing his forces back towards their lifeline to Italy, Hitler’s poodle.” There were some chuckles from the Italian reporters, all of whom had fled Mussolini. “In less than a week, that theatre of war will be closed – and then we will proceed to defeating the remaining non-democratic nations.”

A reporter, from one of the conservative papers, shouted a question. “Does that include the communist nations?” He called. “What about Uncle Joe?”

Shirer smiled at the question. There was only one communist nation, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a nation whose commitment to socialism had best been displayed by Stalin’s pact with Hitler in 1939; they had split Poland between them. Shirer had tried to warn America of the threat of Stalin, but…it had been deemed as damaging to the Alliance. Polish representatives were asking hard questions about Poland, but the grim truth was that the United States had no power to influence events there – not yet. That might have changed, all of a sudden; if Rommel could be brought to the brink of defeat within a day.

“We will work hard to integrate the new technologies into our system,” Roosevelt continued, ignoring the question with a panache that Shirer could only admire. “Towards this end, we have agreed to play host to a number of the time travellers in America, so that we can learn from them as they will learn from us. I ask all of you, Americans all, to look into your hearts and welcome them, for they have brought us the second chance at life for all of humanity.”

He paused. The speech would have been broadcast already, right over all of America. Shirer frowned; by now, the NKVD and Hitler’s goons would have heard about it, as would the British and the Free French. The effects would be spinning around the world, changing and altering the fabric of human affairs. What would happen when the Japanese found out about it; the Japanese who were marching across the Pacific with nothing in their way? What would they do?

“I travelled with Prime Minister Churchill to one of their ships in low orbit,” Roosevelt said. “I can tell you, all of you, that this is deadly serious; it is no joke or game. Defeating the Nazis and the Japanese has become only the first step; we must defeat the other threats in the world for humanity to prosper – and survive.”

The President stepped off the podium. “There are some details of the future printed out for you all,” he said, speaking more conversationally now that the main speech had finished. “Publish them; the future won’t stop just because of the present.”

With that enigmatic remark, President Roosevelt walked out of the room, heading back into the White House. Shirer watched him go, and then picked up one of the sheets of paper, reading it quickly.

“My God,” he breathed, as he finished reading about the Civil Rights Era. “This is going to change everything…”


If there was one thing that Winston Churchill loved about the future technology, it was the small shuttles that they had been loaned; four little craft that could fly around the world in minutes. The pilot, a woman who said little, wasn’t good company, but that hardly mattered. To Churchill, all that mattered was that he could drop in to America any time he liked, let alone the rest of the British Empire.

He had to smile as they came in to the White House. He’d visited Australia, Canada and South Africa, in each case informing their Prime Ministers of what had happened, before calling in on the Viceroy of India. They’d transported General Wavell to Singapore, with a future brief of what the Japanese could do, then they’d set course for America.

“Coming in to land now,” the pilot said. There was the faintest suggestion of a bump as the craft arrived. “Good luck, Prime Minister.”

“Thank you,” Churchill said, doffing his hat. He stepped out of the shuttle and he wasn’t surprised to be met by Sam Turtledove, who saluted him. “Thank you,” he said. “Take me to your leader.”

Turtledove smiled at him; like all young men, he always reminded Churchill of an over-eager puppy. “Right this way, Prime Minister,” he said, leading Churchill into the White House. Churchill wasn’t surprised, when they finally reached the Oval Office, to be admitted at once, but seeing Roosevelt walking so quickly was a surprise.

Idiot, he thought, as he shook Roosevelt’s hand. He’d seen it happen himself; he’d seen the process that had allowed the lovely Doctor on the John Howard to start the repair process. It was just a shock, one of many.

“I’m pleased to see you again, Winston,” Roosevelt said, seriously. The President took Churchill’s hat himself, just for the sheer pleasure of walking. “How are your people taking it?”

“I made the formal announcement in Parliament only a few hours ago,” Churchill said, feeling suddenly dizzy as he realised just how much he’d somehow managed to do in a day. “Parliament, I suspect, will get around to signing a formal treaty of alliance with the time travellers in only a few days.”

“I see,” Roosevelt said. “And Egypt?”

Churchill shook his head. “General Auchinleck was very impressed,” he said. “I read a long secret note from him; the soldiers from the future have shattered Rommel’s lines. Within a few days, they expect to be in Tripoli, although…they didn’t seem too concerned about the German prisoners.”

“Odd,” Roosevelt said. “What happened?”

“Auchinleck insisted on sweeping them all up,” Churchill said. “I confess that I see both sides; part of me says that they should all be saved from dying in the sun, the other part says that we should just leave them, after…”

He broke off, feeling sick. “After seeing all of the material on what the Germans did to everyone they didn’t like,” he concluded. “That Holocaust and everything else…”

“And the Japanese treatment of the Chinese,” Roosevelt said. Churchill frowned; his opinion of the Chinese wasn’t high. Some of them had been making noises about recovering Hong Kong, now lost to the Japanese, before the war had spread to the Pacific. “Some of that information has already been released in America; the effects are starting to show already.”

Churchill shook his head. “How long has it been since you informed the world?”

“Five hours,” Roosevelt said. “Some of the information is quite…stunning in its implications. The material regarding race relations and civil rights…well, perhaps it won’t be as bad as it seems, but I very much doubt it.”

“You never said a truer word,” Churchill said flatly. One of the documents had covered the mass migration of Indians to the United Kingdom. He allowed his voice to darken. “Are you going to allow them to set up shop somewhere in America?”

Roosevelt tossed the question back at him. “Are you going to allow them to set up shop in the British Empire?”

Churchill took a moment to consider. Whatever his many splendid qualities, Roosevelt was not a fan of British imperialism, even though the future histories made it very clear that the British would be far better as rulers than most of the native rulers. The details of what had happened to Rhodesia or Nigeria had been shocking – and horrifying news for the world.

“I think that we don’t have a choice,” Churchill said, allowing his concern to show through. “We need them; have you seen their plan?”

Roosevelt nodded. “Invade Germany in two months, march on into Russia if Stalin doesn’t see sense,” he said. His face tightened suddenly. “Do you think that they could do it?”

Churchill felt a sick feeling of fear, something he hadn’t felt since it had seemed likely that Hitler would jump across the channel. “I think that it is a possibility,” he said. “In three days, they will end the North African Campaign; unless we want to deal with the Vichy French in Algeria. Before that, I would have said that it was impossible.”

“As would I,” Roosevelt said. “I have had no demands from Uncle Joe” – he used the nickname for Stalin with irony – “despite the information on the excesses of his regime. That won’t last.”

“He’s considering his options,” Churchill said. “In two to three months…who knows what he might come up with to serve his own ends.” He paused. “If simple devastation was all that Admiral Masterson and his men had intended, then they could have destroyed Germany by now. They are civilised people, after all.”

Roosevelt nodded. “I think we’ll have to play a waiting game,” he said. His face relaxed slightly. “Wait and see what happened with Germany and Japan – then we can worry about Russia.”

Churchill nodded. “We’ll also have to see how much of their technology we can get our hands on,” he said. “At the moment, we are very vulnerable to any hostile act from them…and that has to change.”

Chapter Fourteen: Russian Roulette

The Kremlin

Moscow, USSR

As part of his job as the Soviet Union’s Foreign Minister – which meant Stalin’s Foreign Minister - Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov was supposed to have access to all of the intelligence collected from across the world. The news from spies and agents, some open and some covert, might well affect the Soviet Union’s position in global negotiations, particularly after America entered the war.

America, in Molotov’s view, was a nation that had little idea of the struggle that it had had suddenly forced upon it. He would have been quite happy if all the Americans did was pour all of their marvellous productive capability into keeping the Soviet Union going, even though Stalin had been demanding a second front even before America entered the war. As disagreeing with Stalin wasn’t very conducive to a long life, Molotov kept that view to himself.

Unfortunately, it seemed that something had happened to radically reshape the world. The American claims to have been…contacted by people from the future would have been unbelievable – and at first Molotov himself hadn’t believed them – except a number of the most prominent and informed Soviet spies had vanished. The spies from Cambridge, in England, had vanished; there had almost been a clean sweep of Russian spies in America, including the ones from the Manhattan Project.

Molotov’s first thought had been that the FBI, which was controlled by the formidable Hoover, had had an incredible stroke of luck and somehow captured an agent who knew everything, but no such agent existed. The handful of NKVD officers who would have had access to all of the information were in Moscow; they could hardly have smuggled a message out, let alone slipped into the hands of the Americans. The news of the future, while still unbelievable, was starting to take on more credence.

He cast his eyes down to the American newspaper, sent over from Alaska; incredibly quickly. VICE PRESIDENT SLAMS REDS, the headline ran, and the story was hardly more reassuring. Published several days before President Roosevelt’s announcement, it informed the world that Vice President Wallace had changed his mind regarding the Soviet Union – and its place in the world following the end of the war. Wallace, who had been one of the most pro-Soviet Americans, seemed to have gone mad.

“We must stand firm against totalitarian rule in all of its forms,” Wallace had proclaimed, to a packed hall. “I have been shown information, evidence, proof that the Soviet Union, far from being the paradise of the Workers and peasants, is in fact a tyranny, under the rule of a madman from Georgia!”

Molotov read on in growing disbelief. Suddenly, a valued ally had changed his mind about them – and that was very bad indeed. If there truly was a future list of Soviet agents, then all of them were doomed, perhaps even people who hadn’t spied for the Soviet Union…yet. With a known socialist like Wallace speaking against them, they would lose much of their influence, the influence that had allowed them to come out of the Spanish Civil War with an almost-perfect result.

It should have been obvious, he knew, that the only home of real socialism was Russia; birthplace of the heirs of Marx, Lenin and Stalin. Any socialist who hadn’t been taught in Moscow was suspect, to say the least; he could never be trusted to work towards true socialism. Spain…would have been a communist country too far away from Russia for them to toe the proper line, as determined by Stalin. In the long run, establishing communist control was important – far more important than using the communist undergrounds to launch futile attacks against the Germans.

“Comrade Stalin will see you now,” Stalin’s orderly said. A short squat man with a horrendously scarred face, he served Stalin like a dog; loyal, obedient and unquestioning. “You may enter, Comrade Molotov.”

“Thank you,” Molotov said, politely. The orderly would have influence, if no formal power; the NKVD officers had searched Molotov first, but the orderly was the last line of defence. Moscow was armed to the teeth; the German lines might have been pushed back, but no one was in any real doubt that the Germans would try to take Moscow again, as soon as they could.

He folded up the American paper and stepped inside, allowing the orderly a chance to examine him before he entered the inner sanctum. Inside, Stalin was seated behind a desk, inking papers in front of him with green ink, sending people into the gulags or to face a firing squad, all without any real concern for them at all.

“Vyacheslav Mikhailovich,” Stalin said, waving Molotov to a chair. “I have something of interest for you.”

Molotov took the hard chair, refusing the offer of a pipe of tobacco. Stalin had to be in a good mood to offer tobacco, even the foul-smelling brand from his homeland that he liked and everyone else pretended to like. It was curious; Stalin would have heard through one of his agents about the events in the Western Desert, so why was he so pleased?

“There has been the most unusual statement from the Americans,” Stalin said. “The British, in fact, have issued a similar statement. Do you believe the statement?”

Molotov nodded. “I have been in contact with Georgy Konstantinovich,” he said, referring to General Zhukov, the commander of the Moscow defences. “He thinks that the Americans are telling the truth, simply because of the sudden and rapid collapse of the German positions in the Middle East.”

He watched Stalin’s moustache twitch with amusement. “It has been a remarkable few days, has it not?” Stalin asked. “What do you think this means for us?”

“Henry Wallace has switched sides,” Molotov said, overstating the case slightly. Wallace had been a fellow traveller, rather than an outright Russian agent, but losing his assistance would hurt. “That alone suggests that there is going to be trouble in the future.”

“The President’s broadcast was odd,” Stalin agreed. “He stated that he would push the world towards democracy, which means capitalism; the aspirations of the Workers and Peasants will not be fulfilled.”

Molotov allowed himself an inner sigh of relief. “I suspect that the newcomers intend to deal with us next,” he said, allowing just a little of his horror to show. “They have bombarded the American newspapers with reports about the punishments we have meted out to wreckers and spies; they have assisted the Americans to wipe out most of our networks.”

Stalin waved a hand dismissively. “Internal matters,” he said. “Do we make a fuss about how the Americans treat their blacks?”

The honest answer to that was yes, albeit one carried out through communist parties and communist-backed organisations, reaching out to black men and women who had nowhere else to go, but Molotov knew better than to say that. “No, Iosif Vissarionovich,” he said, “but wouldn’t we do that if we had the power to enforce it?”

He took a breath. “I think that they intend to deal with us after they deal with the Germans,” he said, and hoped that Stalin was in a good mood after all. “They clearly need the Americans and the British to help, and Churchill, at least, will be more than happy to help out.”

“That is true,” Stalin agreed, flatly. “Churchill, as an aristocrat, is a class enemy to his own workers, let alone ours.”

Molotov would have scowled if he had dared. “There may be opportunities for local victories if the Germans have to take forces to the west,” he said. “They will have to defend their western borders against attack. Georgy Konstantinovich might be able to force our way back to Poland, which might not be a good idea.”

Stalin’s eyes were cold slits. “Explain,” he ordered, his voice like ice.

Molotov kept his voice even. “The American newspapers are screaming about what we did to those unregenerate Polish officers,” he said. “They are also screaming about what we will do – would have done – to all of the class enemies in Poland, after we beat the fascists. We have such a tattered network now that it’s hard to pick up on more information, but Poland is going to be a major sticking point.”

Stalin’s face twisted. “Then the fascists will bear the brunt of their first attack,” he said. Molotov nodded; using the Germans as cannon fodder cost him no qualms at all. The Germans had invaded Russia; they deserved nothing, but death. “We will use the time wisely.”

Molotov relaxed inside; Stalin was clearly acting like a statesman today. “I think that we should concentrate on recovering our borders in 1939,” he said. “That shouldn’t be that difficult, particularly if the Germans suddenly have to face a new foe from the west. In fact…”

Stalin laughed at him, interrupting him. “Oh, no, Comrade,” he said, grinning almost like a very unpleasant child. “We do not want to…distract the fascists, do we?”

Molotov lifted one quizzical eyebrow. “There has been an…event,” Stalin said, his tone almost mischievous. “The Germans sent a white flag into our lines; Georgy Konstantinovich was kind enough to accept the German without shooting him.” He laughed, as if it were the funniest joke in the world. “The German officer, it appears, was bearing a message for me – for me!”

Molotov smiled, although he wasn’t sure what the joke was at all. “Peter,” Stalin called. “Show in the man, would you?”

The orderly entered, leading a man who seemed disgustingly healthy; despite having fought – Molotov assumed – in the savagery of the Eastern Front. Molotov felt an almost visceral repulsion; the soldier wore the uniform of an SS officer, black, with silver insignia. Stalin had issued orders – not a single SS officer was to be taken alive – and yet…here this one was, right in the heart of Moscow.

“This is SS-Obergruppenfuehrer Felix Kortig,” Stalin said, his tone light. “He was carrying the message for me.”

Kortig spoke in Russian, with a slight German accent. It was an almost perfect mastery of the language; Molotov made a note not to underestimate him. “I bring you an offer from the Fuhrer,” he said. “I have been empowered to negotiate in his name, although the power of final approval rests with Berlin.”

Molotov nodded, shaking hands with Kortig as if it were the most natural thing in the world. He wasn’t surprised at Berlin keeping the power of final approval; the Russians might have tried to threaten Kortig physically to force him to agree to unfavourable terms.

“It’s…interesting to meet you,” he said finally. “I was under the impression that it was Herr Ribbentrop who handled all of the face-to-face meetings at such a high level.”

The SS man took a seat, managing to make it seem completely natural to sit in such a fashion, even though it looked actually painful. “I should explain,” Kortig said, “that my presence here is not known to the Reich Foreign Ministry, only to one or two of his subordinates. My mission is only known, in fact, to five people within Germany; and, of course, your people here.”

Molotov met Stalin’s eyes, who motioned for him to continue. “That’s…interesting,” he said, wishing that it had been Ribbentrop instead. The jumped-up champagne salesman’s incompetence would have been a welcome relief, rather than the young and earnest SS officer. “Might I ask, then; what is your mission?”

Kortig leaned forward, looking directly at Molotov. “You may be aware, now, that events have taken a sudden and completely unexpected turn,” he said. “The Americans seem to have decided to wage war against you as well – with the aid of super-advanced people from the future.”

Molotov lifted an eyebrow. “I was unaware that the Americans had made any firm decisions about us,” he said. “They have done nothing to us, such as declaring war or closing down the embassy; they have done nothing at all.”

“They have been wiping out your intelligence networks,” Kortig said, his voice dryly amused. “We, however, have a source within their power structure that seemed to have remained completely undetected; our man’s assistance to us clearly remained undetected, following the defeat in the future.”

“Then you know that you would have lost the war,” Molotov said. “Why should we do anything, but continue the fight?”

Kortig’s expression confirmed that he had deduced exactly what the Germans wanted. “The…time travellers, for want of a better term, are pressing us hard in Libya,” he said. “They are making faster progress than we did against you, or the French; within a few days at most, Tripoli will fall. We may have killed four of them, at most; several thousand of our men lie dead.”

Molotov frowned. If that were true, it would have proved that the time travellers could be harmed, if not killed. Still, it would have befitted Kortig to have…altered the truth a little, just to convince Molotov that the Reich was still strong enough to make the Russians fear.

“We expect that they will move into Europe soon,” Kortig continued, apparently unaware of Molotov’s thoughts. “When that happens, we will fight to the death, but we may not be able to stop them. As they have decided to come deal with you after us, you will be their third target.”

Molotov exchanged a long glance with Stalin, who seemed willing to allow Molotov to keep doing the talking, and then looked back at the German. Kortig seemed as calm as Molotov himself; was he thinking as furiously inside his head?

“I see,” he said finally. “So, why are you here?”

Kortig showed nothing at the sudden end to the diplomatic manoeuvring, no surprise, and no concern. “The Reich has a proposal to put to the Soviet Union,” he said, turning to face Stalin. “We offer you a truce, while we deal with the new threat.”

“Indeed?” Molotov asked. “Might I ask what exactly the terms would be? A German withdrawal back to the 1941 borders?”

For the first time, Kortig showed a real flicker of emotion; a grimace. “That would not meet with Berlin’s approval,” he said. “For the moment, we would ask for a ceasefire across the front, followed by a phased withdrawal back to the borders between Russia and Belarus. That would take place over three months, with security forces from both sides sweeping the region and making sure that neither side is planning a surprise.”

Molotov frowned. “And if we chose to refuse?” He asked. “What would you do then?”

Kortig smiled. “A great deal of your strength, and our strength, would be burned away as we both tried to force the other back enough to allow us to face the new threat,” he said. “Your forces have improved, but you’re hardly capable of defeating us in the field…and we have the ability to move to a quick victory now…which would still weaken us for dealing with the newcomers.”

“It would mean betraying our allies,” Molotov said, tossing the bone out. “We do have commitments to them, you know; we are fighting you and they are sending us support.”

Kortig picked it up. “Your allies have betrayed you already,” he said. Molotov made a mental note to be careful with that assertion; the Americans, at least, would be reluctant to strike first, no matter how necessary it was. “They will assist the time travellers in invading Russia.”

“The vastness of our land will help to defeat them, just as it helped to defeat you,” Stalin said.

Kortig’s voice darkened. “These people moved over three hundred miles in a couple of days,” he said. “That would get them right across Russia in two to three months, depending upon your resistance.”

“True,” Stalin agreed. He moved forward slightly, taking control of the discussion. “There would, of course, be conditions.”

Molotov smiled; he’d been the hard man, now it was time for Stalin to negotiate. “I’m willing to listen,” Kortig said.

Stalin smiled, expelling a cloud of blue tobacco smoke. “The first one is that you will make a public commitment to the peace agreement,” he said. Kortig nodded. “The second one is that you will share any…captured technology with us, as soon as you capture it.”

Kortig frowned. “Your scientists would have to come to Germany,” he said.

“A joint research site, somewhere in the neutral ground,” Stalin said.

Kortig nodded. “I expect that Berlin will agree,” he said. “Anything else?”

“I will want to send observers to the battle zone,” Stalin said. “I also want some shipments of machine tools and other components.”

Kortig paused to consider. “That would only be possible if you supplied us with materials,” he said. “I have a list of possible bargaining chips.”

Stalin smiled wolfishly. “Then I believe that we have a deal,” he said. “Please wait outside, Comrade Kortig” – Molotov saw Kortig’s lips flare at the use of the ‘Comrade’ – “my Foreign Minister and I have some things to discuss.”

Molotov waited until Kortig had been shown out of the door, and then turned to Stalin. “A masterful performance,” he said. For once, it wasn’t simple protective colouration. “Can we trust them?”

Stalin frowned. It was something of a sore subject with him; the only person he’d ever met who outdid him in ruthlessness was Hitler, who’d attacked the Soviet Union only six months ago. Molotov knew that Stalin had been preparing an attack to be launched at Germany…but Finland had proven just what a bad idea that would have been.

“We can trust them as long as they need us quiet,” Stalin said. “A few months of breathing space…and then, well, we’ll see.”

Molotov smiled. A great deal could be accomplished in two months. “That should work, Iosif Vissarionovich,” he said. “I’ll get a carbon copy at once, and then send him back to the land of the fascists.”

Stalin smiled. “Be polite to him,” he said. “We want the fascists soaking up time traveller bullets, while we make our own preparations.”

Chapter Fifteen: The Last Stand of General Rommel



The sun hid below the horizon, as if it were reluctant to rise up and shed light on the world. General Erwin Rommel, standing on a balcony, understood it; he would have preferred to have been somewhere else, anywhere else.

Herr General, there has been another outburst of rioting,” his aide said. Rommel, staring out into the darkness, didn’t respond. “Herr General?”

“It’s not important,” Rommel said. He had started the war in Africa with two large Panzer groups and dozens of Italian formations, most of which were hardly worth the expenditure in feeding them. After the series of attacks against his forces, ones that shocked even the disciplined Wehrmacht to the core, he was finally facing the end.

“I can have them all disarmed and sent to work on the defence lines,” Steekel suggested. Rommel nodded slowly, wishing that the Italians could have been dumped onto the enemy, trying to bury the oncoming tide with their dead bodies. It didn’t look as if they would manage to last out the day.

“Do so,” he said, knowing that morale was at rock bottom. If it hadn’t been for the orders from the Fuhrer, Rommel would have considered surrender; as it was, the population of the city was in a state of high unrest. The Libyans didn’t like the Italians very much, and with the Italian Empire collapsing around their heads, radical men were plotting and fighting.

Jawohl,” Steekel said, snapping his heels and leaving him alone. Rommel took one last look towards the horizon, taking a final sight at the burning tanker in the harbour, struck by the RAF, and walked back into his command room. The maps on the table, frequently updated, showed impending doom; the red arrows were drawing closer and closer. Infrequent jamming – and Rommel didn’t understand why the newcomers, whoever they were, didn’t jam all the time – made it harder to build up a coherent picture of what was happening.

Rommel shook his head bitterly. He knew what was happening; the enemy was using the same stormtrooper tactics he had developed when fighting in the Great War, except they had vastly superior technology. The Luftwaffe had given up after losing almost every plane that tried to fly against the enemy; one of the infantrymen had reported that the enemy’s armoured suits could actually blow planes out of the air.

He looked down again at the map of Tripoli. The city was a filthy place – the natives knew very little about remaining clean, or at least keeping their city clean – although the uncharitable part of his mind blamed it all on the Italians. There were nearly a hundred thousand Italian soldiers dug in around the city, with the Germans dug in behind them; Panzers and his remaining artillery positioned within buildings, hopefully concealed from the observers in the sky.

He’d issued strict orders; if the Italians tried to surrender, they were to be shot in the back, but he found it hard to blame them. He knew, perhaps even more than the Italians who had run the city before he took over, that the war in the desert was over.

A ray of light fell into the room. Rommel stood up and walked to the balcony again. He shook his head as he saw what was waiting for his people; one hundred armoured soldiers, spread out around the city. Their armour glittered in the sun; it was silver now, not black. A silence fell all across the city.

Rommel walked back inside, as calmly as he could, and picked up the field telephone. “Commence firing,” he said. “You can see your targets; open fire with all weapons.”


“Did people really use to live in dumps like that?” Private Singh asked, as the sun rose above Tripoli. It was a city on the sea, which was one thing in its favour; the defenders would have no place to run. He thought, but he couldn’t think of anything else in its favour at all; the city was just a dump, a confusing mixture of styles that was utterly disgraceful.

“Yes,” Messenger said dryly. “It’s quite possible that one of the people there was – is – your ancestor.”

“I think that my ancestors would have had better taste,” Singh said, as the information on the city started to compile itself in their shared databanks. “That place is a haven for flees and disease and…”

“Enough,” Messenger said. “You see your targets?”

Singh nodded. The enemy, according to the orbital reconnaissance, had been digging in, creating a careful line of defences. Houses, massive tower blocks so rickety that it seemed that a breeze would blow them down, some manors; all had been worked into a network that would have been intimidating to the locals, with clear fields of fire and hundreds of armed defenders.

He smiled. They might as well have placed an advert in the starship’s communications network; come and get me.

“Incoming fire,” Erica snapped, as red warning lights blinked on in his helmet. He reacted automatically, snapping his hand up to fire a plasma bolt at the incoming missile, and realised that it was a burst of shellfire. He started to fire, spraying plasma bolts into the sky, but there were too many shells…and several landed near the suits.

“Fuck,” he swore, as the blast knocked him to the ground. A second hail of shells crashed into them; several suits were hit directly, showing a handful of warning signs. The suits themselves were undamaged, he realised, but the personnel inside them were being hurt; not badly, but enough to be a problem.

“Charge,” Messenger snapped, and led the way towards the defenders. Singh followed him, with all, but one of the remaining soldiers following him. Warning lights, far less alarming, blinked on and off as bullets slammed into the suit; they just didn’t have the force needed to penetrate his suit.

“Opening fire,” he snapped, firing a burst of plasma fire towards one of the bunkers. It must have taken them several hours to build; a handful of plasma blasts destroyed it in less than a second. He moved forward, firing all the time, and was thrown to the ground by a shell blast, right behind him.

“They’re adjusting to target us,” he snapped into the communicator, looking up to see the face of a German soldier, dropping a grenade – still on a belt of grenades – on his suit. He reached out on instinct, crushing the German’s leg with ease, and then realised that the pin had been pulled. There was a shattering explosion…but he survived.

“Abdul, are you all right?” Erica snapped, as she came up. He wasn’t amused to realise that she had blood all over her suit. “Speak to me!”

“Shaken, not stirred,” Singh said, pulling himself to his feet. The warning lights were fading as the suit’s computers rerouted everything; already beginning a long list of minor repairs that had to be done. “Come on; we can’t stay still.”

“Right behind you,” Erica said, as a hail of fire came out of a small hovel, right ahead of them. Singh leapt for the window, crashing right through the wall; slamming a hand into the head of an Italian, who seemed to have gone mad. A handful of dark-skinned women were cowering in the corner, trying to hide from him; the body of the man of the house was lying on the ground.

“The bastards must have killed him,” Singh muttered, seeing the tunnel that had been dug under the hovel. The Germans had linked the house to the sewers – he was astonished to discover that Tripoli had sewers – and they were using it to move men and supplies around. He jumped down into the sewer, glad for the purification filters in the suit, and used his infrared sensors to peer ahead.

A voice called a question in German. His battlesuit translated automatically; the German was demanding to know what was going on. He could see them now, as the sensors adapted; the Germans were coming up the sewer towards him. His suit had adapted, using its circuits to darken the silver they had used to scare the defenders, and they didn’t know what he was.

He lifted his hand and fired a single plasma bolt down the tunnel. In the momentary flickering light, he saw them; a force of Germans advancing towards him. They stared at him, then opened fire; blasting his suit with hundreds of tiny bullets. They didn’t even begin to have the firepower needed to hurt him; they were just wasting their fire.

“Goodbye,” he said, and fired several bursts at them. The reminder of the Germans got the message and dropped their weapons, lifting their hands above their heads. Singh melted the weapons with his plasma gun, before leaping out of the sewer, leaving the disarmed Germans there.

“There you are,” Erica said. “What the hell is that?”

“Tunnel,” Singh said, as several other troopers came down to meet them. The battlesuits were already working to build up a picture of the tunnel system, launching small drones down to locate and map out the sewers. “We could get right into the heart of the German defences from here.”

Messenger’s voice came over the communicator. “You four; deal with it,” he said. “The rest of the advance has stalled.”


Rommel felt the ground shake from his room, where so far no enemy gunner had put a shell – or whatever they used in place of shells. It had been a gamble, placing so many explosives under the building in the lines, but it seemed to have worked. The thunderous explosion had destroyed the building…and taken out at least three of the enemy. Morale had been shaky, but it was rising again; Rommel allowed himself a moment of hope.

“They’re preparing to advance again,” Steekel said. Rommel sighed as Steekel updated the map on his desk. The enemy forces were regrouping; spreading out to prevent them all from being hit by shellfire, but they were clearly preparing to launch another attack.

“Understood,” he said. “I think we’d better send in the Panzers, using the techniques we planned earlier.”

Steekel nodded. “Jawohl,” he snapped. “It will be done.”

Rommel stepped back to the balcony, looking down at the carnage. He could see very little; there were explosions and fire all over the city, sending smoke into the air. A tiny…something zipped past him; he stared at it as it flashed down back towards the city.

“What the hell was that?” He asked, as another explosion shook the building. “Steekel?”

Another aide looked up at him. “Sir, they’re advancing on the gunner’s park,” he said. “The commander of the battery wants orders.”

Rommel closed his eyes, hating himself. “He’s to fight to the last,” he said. Another series of explosions blasted out in the docks. “He’s to fight to the last bullet or shell.”


The remains of some kind of car flew past Lieutenant Messenger, so fast that he barely saw it before it exploded into the general confusion. The Germans and their Italian allies seemed to be determined to protect one very specific park…and the targeting computers had a good idea of exactly why. Another explosion shattered his mind for a long second, before he pulled himself back together.

“I have a thirty percent charge,” he said, more to remind himself than anything else. “Does anyone else have less?”

There was a long moment of comparison. The Germans also seemed to be taking a breath; the volley of shells they were trying to pour onto the Marines was slacking slightly. They didn’t have any means of resupply, he realised; they might just be running out of shells.

“I have twenty percent,” one young Marine said. He had the lowest charge of plasma power in the group; the combat group had been reformed in the wake of the explosion. He scowled; it had been a sudden and unpleasant lesson in the power of Contemporary weapons. “I can still carry on, sir.”

“Understood,” Messenger said, quickly detailing assignments. If he and three others went directly up the road, the Germans would concentrate on them, to the exclusion of the others, who would be making their own way around and through the German lines. He waited until everyone had signalled their agreement, and then gave the order.

“Go,” he snapped.

He jumped forward, out of cover; his suit ringing with bullet impacts. Ahead of him, a line of Germans and Italians held the road, firing at him with thousands of machine gun blasts, not even coming close to penetrating his suit. He lifted his hand as he staggered back under the impact, firing several plasma charges right into the heart of the enemy position, sending up massive explosions.

“Move,” he snapped, running forward as the enemy position disintegrated. Germans fought, some of them trying to fight when they were even on fire when petrol drums exploded; Italians tried to run. Mortar shells landed near them, but it was too late; he kept moving forwards, around the corner, and saw what once might have been a beautiful park.

“Guns,” someone said. He was too busy staring at them to take note of who had said it, although the speaker had been quite right; dozens of guns were positioned in the park, still trying to fire at his forces.

“Lots of guns,” he said, lifting his arm. A single pulse of plasma slammed into a pile of shells, starting a chain reaction that blew the guns to hell in a towering series of explosions. The shellfire that the displays were warning him about stopped; the other advances into the city wouldn’t be hammered any more.

“Wow,” a pyromaniac Marine muttered. “I want to do that again.”

“Shut up, Strudel,” Messenger said, without malice. “We have more work to do.”


The sewers sunk, Singh was sure, thanking God for his suit’s filters. They passed and captured several groups of Germans as they made their way through the sewers; all of them seemed utterly disgusted by their surroundings. Small animals feasted on dead bodies; the natives had simply been shoving bodies into the sewers. Or perhaps it was the Germans, trying to spread disease.

“We’re going to need some powerful lasers,” he commented, as they reached what seemed to be the main German base. Ahead of them, the Germans had widened the sewers; widening it enough to allow dozens of soldiers to move at once. “Those bodies cannot be allowed to remain here.”

“It’s not our problem,” Erica said, as they prepared themselves. Silently, the suits crept closer to the German base; it seemed impossible that they wouldn’t have left a guard. Something rumbled…and Singh forgot all caution, running forward as fast as he could, just as the roof crumbled.

“Move,” he snapped, in absolute panic. The suit’s legs boosted them forwards, moving faster than any normal human could have moved, throwing them just past the rock fall. “Everyone all right?”

“Sandy’s not,” Erica said. Singh winced; the icon that represented Sandy on his display was coloured a dim red. She’d been caught by the rock fall and trapped, her suit damaged. “How the hell do we get her out of there?”

“Go into sleep,” Singh ordered Sandy, hoping that she could still do that. The nanites would keep her alive, although it wouldn’t be pleasant; asleep, she would be safe for the moment. Her icon faded towards the sedated state; he sent a command into the combat net to warn people to rescue her, after the battle had been concluded.

A hail of bullets brought him back to reality. Several Germans were firing madly, attempting to kill them. Angrily, he fired upwards, killing them before leaping up with all the power in his suit. The Germans had moved into one of the finer buildings in Tripoli, something almost strong enough to take a blast.

“Infrared scan reveals that there are people upstairs,” Erica said. “That’s the only stairway.”

“No reason why they can’t jump out of the window,” Singh muttered, taking command. “Erica; you’re with me. Gordon, guard the bottom of the stairs.”

Gordon, bless him, didn’t argue. Singh led the way up the stairs, feeling relieved that they were the light infantry; a heavy infantry suit would have smashed through the stairs. His lips quirked as he ran into a German, still desperately reaching for his pistol before he shot him through the head with a plasma burst.

“In there,” he snapped, leading the way into a large room, almost palatial. A handful of German officers stared up at them as they crashed their way in; one solider reached for a sidearm. Singh shot him quickly with a plasma burst; the blast tore his body apart, scattering blood and gore everywhere.

“You can surrender or you can die,” he snapped, remembering that Sandy was still buried under the building. A wave of hatred ran through him; he forced it down with an effort. “Choose now!”

A tall disciplined officer stepped forward. His hands were held high. “I am General Erwin Rommel,” he said. An explosion in the distance underlined his words. “What guarantees will you give me for the safety of my men?”

Singh bit down the first word that came to mind, then concentrated his mind on the matter at hand. There were standing orders for a general surrender. “We won’t shoot them out of hand, General,” he snapped. “That is the only guarantee we will give.”

He paused. “I am obliged to warn you, General Von Rommel, that any war criminals will be fully investigated and punished,” he said. “Choose.”

Rommel’s eyes peered at the suit for a long moment. Singh waited, wishing that he could simply shoot now. The moment was too tense; they’d lost several Marines in the battle and that was worrying – he was sure that the Germans would spend as many lives as they needed to spend, just to crack a few more suits.

“In that case,” Rommel said, “I will surrender my force to you.”

Chapter Sixteen: The Best is Yet to Come

HDS John Howard

Earth Orbit

“Not a bad five days’ work, in all,” Masterson said.

Brigadier Joseph smiled dryly at him. “We live to serve,” he said. “I have several requests for commendations for my people. Normally, they would be forwarded to Quantico, but as that’s not even built here yet…”

“I’ll see to them,” Masterson said. “Everyone deserves reward for their actions in the fighting.”

“Some leave would probably be good,” Joseph said. “Is there any progress on planet-side bases?”

“We’re not yet settled on the precise locations,” Masterson said, understanding Joseph’s concerns. “I think, however, that shore leave will not be that much of a problem.”

Joseph nodded. “I’m sorry,” he said, an unusual thing for him to say. “It’s just been a hectic week.”

Masterson frowned. “We’ll need a full debrief later,” he said, “but what happened to the five people we lost?”

“Three people,” Joseph said. “Two of them were merely injured; they’re being healed now and should be back to take their part within a week. As for the three we lost, one of the suits was cracked in a very large explosion; the others were killed when the suit’s internal compensators were overloaded.”

He frowned. “We went in expecting an easy victory and got our fingers burned,” he admitted. “It’s not going to get any easier, unless Hitler does the sensible thing and surrenders.”

“He won’t,” Masterson predicted grimly. His face twisted with sudden pain. “On the other hand, do you remember Terra Nova?”

Joseph nodded slowly. The planet of Terra Nova, the first extra-solar world to be colonised from Earth, had been the site of a battle. Both sides had fought the war in space to a stalemate, but the ground battles had been decisive; the humans had fought long enough for refugee ships to escape…but the death toll had been horrific.

“Three deaths,” he said. “The Germans and their allies lost, according to Rommel, upwards of twenty thousand people in the fighting, but it’s only going to get worse.”

Masterson sighed. “I know,” he said, pacing around the table to the display. “What’s happening on the ground at the moment?”

Joseph shrugged expressively. “Oh, we had some problems with the surrendering Italians; the natives wanted to kill then. Hard to blame them, but…the Germans seem to have earned less hatred for themselves. Anyway, we managed to shove them all into prison camps and the Contemporaries have taken over security for the region.”

“That’s good,” Masterson said. “That won’t keep our forces tied down somewhere.”

“We’re going to have to recruit more people for our own forces,” Joseph said. “The British soldiers aren’t bad, but they’re completely unprepared for the high-intensity conflicts that we are going to be fighting. We need support troops, quite a lot of them.”

Masterson sighed. “That will have political implications,” he said. “Neither of the two leaders will be happy with us training some of their people, whatever the reason.”

Joseph slammed his hand down on the desk. “We have no choice,” he snapped. “I have one thousand Marines; five hundred support staff who are hardly capable of taking an active role in combat! We might manage to recruit more Marines from the colonists, but…”

“We need the colonists in four different places at once,” Masterson finished. “I understand the problem, Brigadier, but it will take some time to arrange.”

Joseph nodded slowly. “I know, Admiral,” he said. “When are we going to head into Germany?”

“It looks like that will be in February, depending upon the production of orbital weapons,” Masterson said, holding up a hand to forestall comment. “Having seen what the Japanese are going to do in the Pacific, the Contemporaries want to handle them first, or at least to cripple their navy. That won’t take too long with orbital weapons, but there are political implications as well…”

“Indonesia being one of the flashpoints in the Age of Unrest,” Joseph concluded.

Masterson nodded. “Exactly,” he said. “That particular can of worms has to be opened carefully, Brigadier; we cannot afford to fight that particular war again.”

Joseph nodded. “I see,” he said. “So…where will my Marines be going next?”

“I’m not certain yet,” Masterson said. “Part of me – part of the planning committee – wants to send you into Berlin, just to snatch Hitler in the hopes of getting a working government that we can actually negotiate something short of smashing them to rubble with. Another part wants to use Rommel – good work on capturing him, by the way – as a provisional government-in-exile for Germany.”

“I would be careful about that,” Joseph said. “He’s a soldier; he won’t want to have too much to do with politics.”

Masterson shrugged. “It doesn’t help that Roosevelt and Churchill had privately agreed with Stalin, beforehand, that the war would be fought out to Germany’s unconditional surrender. It’s not as public as it would have been – apparently we’re more newsworthy – but it’s still going to be a sticking point.”

Joseph sighed. “I would have thought that any agreement with Stalin could be considered null and void,” he said. “They know what he would be like in the future.”

“Now, yes,” Masterson said. He stood up, looking at the map of Earth as it was now. “We have Earth back again, Brigadier; it behoves us not to wreck the place too much.”

Joseph smiled. “Once Stalin is removed, we could help the Russians to become more democratic,” he said. “Hell, we could do that for everyone.”

“In the last planetary election,” Masterson said, “all of the voters voted via the computer system. What sort of effect would that have for this world? Think of the benefits of truly anonymous voting, the benefits that we have claimed for ourselves, and think what they might do here.”

Joseph grinned. “Soldiers stay out of politics,” he said. “I just said that.”

Masterson glared at him, a glare that melted into a wry smile. “It’s not going to be the same, this time around,” he said. “Mars will be colonised properly within ten to twenty years, even if we have to go as far back as bridge ships and asteroid colonies. By then, humanity will be spreading all across the Solar System, using fusion-powered ships rather than the primitive rockets they’re experimenting with down below…and the world will be changing.

“It’ll probably take at least a decade before we have spare productive capability to start producing drive field ships, but once we do that the population of the Solar System will expand sharply,” he continued. “What sort of effects is that going to have, down there?”

He jerked a thumb down, towards the planet. “We’re knocking over all sorts of anthills,” he said. “We’re going to have to ask for some form of…legal status for our people, something that will spare our people their idea of justice. That’s not going to sit well, no matter what we do.”

Joseph shrugged. “I think that the important thing is getting ready to take the war to the Krank,” he said. “Past that…who cares what they think, so long as the Krank are defeated?”


Captain Von Trapitz was enjoying himself more than he had since his first days in the Human Defence Force Construction unit. The challenge to adapt what they had in their records – fortunately, almost everything the human race had learned how to build was stored within the John Simpson’s computer databanks – was fascinating. It almost made up for being dumped in a world where his very name would make him an object of suspicion.

He scowled. He remembered, as much as anyone else, the day that New Deutschland was killed. The word ‘destroyed’ didn’t seem to fit properly; the Krank had attacked the planet with the hatred of a living person fighting another person. The Germans who had colonised the world had fought to the death; they had been as far from Hitler and his goons as anyone else in the 23rd Century.

“The bastards will have to live with me,” he said firmly, dismissing any Contemporary concerned. It didn’t seem likely that they would have anyone on board who would be mad enough to go running for Nazi Germany; Hitler was clearly on the ropes and nothing that could have been taken from the John Simpson would have changed that.

He looked down at his datapad one final time, then marched into the Admiral’s office. It was smaller, he’d often thought, than an office an Admiral should have – and by rights it should have been Captain Eileen Harper’s office. Still, the irregularities of their promotions excused some minor confusion – and Masterson had done all right, as far as he was concerned.

“Captain Von Trapitz,” Masterson said, as he entered. “One moment.”

Von Trapitz nodded and concentrated on squirting the information from his databank into the room’s processor. Masterson was clearly talking to someone on the planet, the discussion going backwards and forewords at high speed. Von Trapitz ignored this as best as he could, only looking up when Masterson closed the communications channel and nodded to him.

“Stalin has just announced that he will – and I quote – sign a peace treaty with the Germans,” Masterson said, his voice cold and hard. “That is likely to worry some of the people on the planet.”

Von Trapitz shrugged. Politics were beyond him. “I have finished working to attempt to determine what local manufactories can produce to assist us,” he said. “It’s more hopeful than we dared believe, although there will be some basic problems that we will have to solve. One of them is building a proper shuttle fleet; drive fields will, of course, be out of our reach for some time, although we could create tiny drive field producers.”

He scowled. “They would only be good for starfighters, though,” he warned. “Once we ran out of stored components, we would be back to the drawing board.”

“And therefore very little lifting capability,” Masterson concluded. “It might be worth creating a small fighter wing anyway. It would give us some ships to train the Contemporaries on.”

Von Trapitz made a note of that on his datapad, and then continued. “There are two basic areas we have to work within,” he said. “The first one is components that can be produced at once, which include habitation modules and the components for tiny spacecraft, which can be used for asteroid mining and trans-lunar travel. Within a few months, we might be able to start them on basic computers, pushing that forward as fast as we can.”

“We can’t go for anything more advanced?” Masterson asked. “The old computers were…well, rather flaky.”

“They’ll do,” Von Trapitz said. “We can push forward manufacturing so that they’ll be at around the 2010AD level in 1950AD; they just need to make the tools to make the tools…and so on for quite some time. The problem remains, however, that we’ll have to lift the stuff into orbit ourselves.”

He grinned. “If we’re willing to risk it, we could strap boosters on and launch them into orbit, but it might be a bit risky,” he said. “At worst, we might end up losing rather a lot of components.”

“Something to think about,” Masterson agreed. “How long do you think it will be before we can start producing that kind of equipment?”

Von Trapitz smiled. “They could do it now if they had the plans,” he said. “In many ways, it’s a lot less complicated than – say – an atomic bomb, or even bombers and carriers. If they stop building aircraft carriers, the productive capability could be used to help build rockets and spacecraft.”

He paused. “That would leave much of our own productive capability to be focused on items they cannot build for themselves, such as skyhooks to winch the massive items they’ll build on the ground into orbit. Their main problem is that they lack the materials science to build genuine ground-to-space craft; that will take them several years to develop, even with the roadmap. We have that as the second part of the deployment plan; boosting forwards their background technology to produce a greater technological base.”

He adjusted the display. “Power will be one of the worse problems,” he said, “although we can move directly to fusion power once we have the system set up. We can cannibalise one of the generators from a destroyer, just to get the first power units in place, but once we have a production line…we’ll have enough fusion plants to light up the entire planet.”

“There are political considerations, again,” Masterson said. His lips twitched. “I seem to be making a habit of telling people that today. They want a lot of their own workers working on plants, even if we establish them on Earth; that will, at least, help us to spread the technology across the world.”

“And to Nazi Germany,” Von Trapitz frowned. “What could they do with our knowledge?”

“That’s the same thing that Joseph said,” Masterson said. He nodded. “What about production of weapons for deployment on the surface?”

Von Trapitz altered the display again. “The process of making kinetic orbital bombardment devices, all of which go under the term THOR, is well understood,” he said. “Sometimes I think that the only worthwhile things that came out of the Age of Unrest were the United Government of the Global Federation and the orbital weapons. Under our production limitations here, we should have a production of one thousand this month, ten thousand the following month and then a steady run of ten thousand, perhaps more if you want to expand the production by transferring additional fabricators to the task.”

Masterson winced with dismay. “The process cannot be speeded up?” He asked. “Only one thousand this January?”

“It’s the old problem,” Von Trapitz admitted. “The fabricators are designed to produce 23rd Century technology, not 21st. We’re actually downgrading some of the fabricators now to produce basic systems that George Bush or President Drache would have found familiar, but that will take time.”

He shrugged. “At the same time, we have to meet all of our other requirements,” he continued. “We could quadruple our production in the first month…at the cost of limiting our production in other fields.”

“It’ll take the Contemporaries time to prepare the follow-on forces,” Masterson said, unhappily. “Keep me updated on production.”

Von Trapitz recognised the dismissal. “I will, sir,” he said. “When are you going to make the arrangements with the local authorities?”

He smiled at Masterson’s expression. “We seem to have won ourselves some credit,” Masterson said. “I intend to visit Washington myself in the next few days, once we have sorted out the production plan. That will, hopefully, lead to us having permission to set up the bases within a week – and then we can get started.”

Von Trapitz bowed slightly. “Good day, Admiral,” he said. “I’ll keep you informed.”


Masterson smiled dryly as Von Trapitz left his office, and then returned to reading through the endless reports. There might, Von Trapitz had noted, be some limited additional fabrication capability; the starships had very small machine shops on board. They would never be used normally, but under the circumstances they would have to be pressed into service.

A chime at the door brought him back to reality. “Come in,” he called, looking up.

Eileen stepped inside. “Admiral,” she said. Masterson smiled; she wore her new Captain’s uniform with genuine panache, better than he had ever looked in it. “Have you seen the news from the surface?”

Masterson lifted an eyebrow as she took one of the chairs. “Which piece of news?” He asked. “Stalin’s decision to sign an agreement with Hitler?”

Eileen nodded. “That is not good news,” she said, with commendable understatement. “That will only mean that we’ll have to face the full power of Nazi Germany.”

“I know,” Masterson said, wondering if the Germans knew that they had killed several Marines. Three Marines for God alone knew how many Germans was a bad trade, but it might work for Germany. If the Germans knew what they had done…well, Hitler and his goons wouldn’t hesitate to sacrifice as many people as they had to, just to prevent their overthrow.

“There is a second problem,” Eileen continued. “What about the Holocaust?”

Masterson nodded. Historically, the real Holocaust wouldn’t have started until February, with the development of the extermination program, but that might change in the following weeks. Nazi Germany would be scared…and scared men did stupid things.

“I know,” he said. “I have been wondering about broadcasting a series of threats to the German Government.”

Eileen scowled. “We need to do more,” she said. “If we can save their lives, we’ll have thousands of people who will do anything for us.”

“I have considered attempting to rescue them,” Masterson admitted. “We don’t have the resources to attempt to do so.”

Eileen glared at him. “I don’t think that we have a choice,” she snapped. “Admiral, the Nazis might go ahead anyway!”

“I know,” Masterson snapped, refusing to give into the flicker of anger that burned through him. “Eileen, we cannot simply throw away lives, just for a handful of lives. We don’t have the recourses!”

He paused, thinking. “We could start asking Churchill to start bombing the railway lines leading to where the camps would have been,” he said, trying to remember history lessons. “However, we just don’t have the resources to save them all.”

Eileen sighed. “Then the message you send had better be very threatening,” she said. “Something like a promise to hang every SS man if the process – such a bloodless word – goes ahead.”

“It will be,” Masterson said. “Has Charles Roberson been established in Washington?”

“I just got an update,” Eileen said. “He’s settling in. He says that the quarters are gaudy, but hardly luxury.”

“These people haven’t invented What’s Porn Bars,” Masterson said. “I think it’s time for me to go to Washington, Captain; we have to start moving faster now.”

Chapter Seventeen: Mr Masterson Goes to Washington

The White House

Washington DC, USA

There had been a great deal of argument, Sam Turtledove knew, over just how much formality should be extended to Admiral Masterson. One school of thought, led by the Secretary of War, was that Masterson was a Head of State, more or less, and should be received in the same manner. The most vocal opponent of this line of thought, Admiral King, held that Masterson was a military officer, and should therefore be received with little formality.

“I hate formality,” King had proclaimed, “and I’m sure that he will feel the same way.”

Finally, discussions with Ambassador Charles Roberson had established that Masterson would have preferred little formality, finally agreeing to a simple state dinner at the White House. Turtledove had been invited for his first real state dinner and felt very out of place, although he was relieved to find that Sally was in the same boat as him.

“I think it’s the Titanic,” he muttered to her, as they sat at their table. There were four tables, placed in the main dining room in the White House; they had been seated on the most junior table. They were still the lowest-ranking people in the room.

“I know,” she said. He smiled; she wore a long black dress that had been hastily fitted to her by the Ambassador’s wife. It looked very neat on her, almost French-style. “Look; there are several reporters, here as well.”

He smiled. One reporter, an older man, was trying to eavesdrop on the discussion at the High Table, which held no less than four Heads of State; Roosevelt, Churchill Prime Minister Mackenzie King and Prime Minister John Curtin. Prime Minister King – who seemed less than amused at sharing a name with a notoriously anti-British Admiral – was genuinely interested in the discussion about the future; Prime Minister Curtin seemed relieved.

“The Australians would give their left legs to have them in their country,” he muttered to Sally who nodded absently. Her blonde hair seemed to glow in the light as she turned her head slightly towards him. “They were terrified of the Japanese, even before the bastards hit us at Pearl Harbour.”

“They’re still terrified of the Japanese,” Sally said. They’d been assigned to work together, something that had caused many lifted eyebrows in Washington; that meant sharing information. Turtledove had nearly punched a soldier who had asked if it meant sharing anything else. “The Prime Minister, our Prime Minister, was talking to Curtin last night, trying to reassure him that Britain would be sending troops from Africa to Australia, perhaps even in one of the new shuttles.”

Turtledove nodded. “They’re talking about using the shuttles we have been loaned to attack the Japanese,” he said. “Someone heard about the Doolittle Raid in the Original TimeLine; Colonel Doolittle wanted to launch it again, anyway.”

There was a burst of laughter from the high table. “I think that that story about the Giant Sheep religion was a joke,” Sally said, changing the subject. “Prime Minister Curtin doesn’t seem amused.”

“I’m not surprised,” Turtledove said. “Has your government come up with any plans for the next few months?”

Sally smiled. “They’re still reeling,” she said. On their level, such discussions could be permitted; they would have to brief their political lords and masters before any discussions could become official. “We thought – feared – that Rommel would punch through to Cairo; we even broke up an Egyptian cell of fascists who would have caused real trouble in the future.”

Turtledove shrugged. Who would have thought that a man called Nasser would have been important, in the future that might have been? He certainly hadn’t – and the changes were still rippling out across the body politic. In the original future, Africa would have become a sinkhole of violence and hatred; would they do any better this time around.

“It’s having all manner of effects,” she continued. “I imagine that your south is having problems coming to grips with the materials as well.”

Turtledove nodded. “We’re already having a handful of racial incidents,” he remarked. In one sense, they happened all the time – but there was a new and disturbing violence to the incidents. “What about India.”

“They’re…thinking over the issues caused by the future split,” Sally replied. “I dare say that some manner of agreement will be reached, but for the moment…well, it’s hard being a politician in India, let alone South Africa.”

“Prime Minister Smuts isn’t here,” Turtledove said. “I know he was invited, so where is he?”

“I think he and Churchill had a blazing row over something,” Sally said. “I wasn’t privy to that diplomatic shouting match, but apparently South Africa is ‘evaluating its options’ or something like that.”

Turtledove wasn’t listening. “Look at that,” he said, carefully indicating a man sitting at the third table, looking up at Masterson with hatred and barely concerned desperation. “That’s Hoover himself…and he’s not happy.”

Sally snorted. “With all the rumours that have been flying around lately?” She asked. “It can’t be easy for him, can it?”

“My sympathy is limited,” Turtledove muttered. Hoover’s attempts to penetrate and/or to control the researchers going through the mass of historical data hadn’t amused Roosevelt at all, particularly after the President had realised that Hoover had been spying on people close to him, including his wife.

“He’s a desperate man,” Sally said. “Desperate men do desperate things.”

Roosevelt stood up at the head of his table and silence fell. Many people had been fascinated to see the President walking again; Turtledove knew that dozens of quacks had appeared in Washington, claiming to be able to duplicate the President’s cure.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Roosevelt said, sounding younger than he had in years. “I would like to propose a toast. Please would you raise your glasses to the future?”

“The future,” the crowd echoed back. Turtledove watched carefully; Churchill and his fellow Prime Ministers drank carefully, Admiral King drank as if the wine was something disgusting. A handful of Southern Democrats, with Hoover amongst them, didn’t drink at all.

Bastards, Turtledove thought coldly, and prepared himself. The worst was yet to come.


Subconsciously, Admiral Masterson had been expecting undercooked food, but the food in the White House was very good, if more filling than he had expected. He knew that poison wouldn’t have affected him, but there was always the danger of discovering that he was allergic to something that had died out between 1942 and 2213. It was with a pleasant sense of repletion, therefore, that he moved with Roosevelt and the others to a more private room.

Several of the men lit up cigarettes or pipes, including Churchill; Masterson felt a flicker of disgust. Tobacco smoking had nearly died out in his time; filters and nanites had cured most of the ills, and pleasure drugs had filled the niche that tobacco had once occupied. The smell was disgusting, even though he knew that it would be harmless to him; he didn’t understand how they could smoke knowing that it would harm them.

President Roosevelt seemed almost a different man, glorying in the ability to walk again. Masterson had seen it before, on people wounded during the war; they often took delight when medical science returned their missing limbs. It had happened less and less often during the final years; the Krank killed humans, rather than attempting to take them prisoner.

“Splendid,” Roosevelt said, sipping a cup of coffee that Masterson would have sworn was anything, but coffee. “I must say, Admiral, that your people have more than proved themselves in the Middle East.”

“Thank you, Mr President,” Masterson said. He smiled, inwardly. “Not too badly done, eh?”

Churchill’s smile broadened around his famous cigar. “Not badly done at all, Admiral,” he said. “There will be many relieved people in London over the next few weeks; we can start the long process of building up forces in Australia and Britain to march to Berlin.”

“The matter of defending Australia against the Japanese must come first,” Prime Minister Curtin said. His voice was weaker than Churchill’s, who never seemed to doubt himself, but it was firm. “The news of Japanese atrocities has…unnerved people who think that we should attempt to secure a separate peace.”

There was a long pause. Masterson observed, part of his mind amused at the petty concerns; part of his mind horrified that such concerns were distracting them from the all-important concern of preparing to fight against the Krank. He understood, at an intellectual level, their concerns – but they were tiny parts of a vast planet he’d been brought up to think of as a united world.

Admiral King broke the silence. “For the moment, we are holding the little yellow bastards at the Philippines,” he said. “The aid of the orbital spies for tracking Japanese ships has proven very useful. With that assistance, we are already scoring some local successes against the Japanese – and the submarines are already heading in to continue the war.”

Masterson wondered as King continued. What would the Japanese do? In their place, he would have offered a surrender, but the Japanese were fanatics. Would they try to continue against Australia?

“That’s not an important issue at the moment,” Prime Minister King said. “I believe that the important issue is arranging for the…upgrading of our technology to the point where we can oppose these…Krank.”

Masterson nodded as all eyes turned to him. “We have been working on ways to build a space industry as quickly as possible,” he said. “That will require the construction of several bases on the surface of Earth, which will serve as both primary building locations and training centres.”

“I see,” Curtin said. “How many people are you going to train?”

Masterson frowned slightly. “As many as we can,” he said. “The old Human Defence Force used to have far more volunteers than it needed, although during the War the demands for manpower skyrocketed. Ideally, we would be setting up a number of factories on the ground; people could come and apply to work there, and we would pick out the best for future training.”

“Clever,” Roosevelt said, his face slipping into a smile. “What would the stages be?”

Masterson silently blessed Captain Von Trapitz’s hard work. “The first stage would be building the components on Earth that you can build and lifting them into space, through our shuttles,” he said. “Later, we would set up a skyhook system; one that would allow us to move thousands of tons of material to orbit quickly.

“During that period we would be training your people on space techniques, which would hopefully end with thousands of your people working on Earth and the Moon, to say nothing of the asteroids. That would give us a pool of experienced workers, which could be used to expand the whole industry; Mars could be terraformed.”

“It might make a good place to send the Jews,” Sally injected, from her seat at the corner of the room. Churchill showed no reaction to his aide’s comment, which was interesting; he might have primed her to make it. “They’re going to be looking for a home country – and Israel would have been a disaster in the original timeline.”

Masterson nodded. “The thought has crossed our mind,” he said. “Once Mars is terraformed, we would have a growing population off world; within forty years the entire Solar System would be colonised. Earth itself would benefit; orbital industries could build all manner of items for you, from fusion power cores to computer chips that would only expand your capabilities. You wouldn’t have to pollute the world, or become dependent upon oil; your cars would be powered by safer systems.”

He allowed his voice to become more enthusiastic. “Democracy as a system works, gentlemen,” he said. “You would, within your lifetimes, see the first interstellar ships built here, which would allow the human race to move into a new solar system. We know where the good real estate is…and we can find it well ahead of the Krank.”

There was a long pause. “That is an interesting concept,” Churchill said, finally. “Now tell me; who has command authority?”

Masterson had expected that question. It was, unfortunately, a difficult question to answer to anyone’s satisfaction. “For the moment,” he said, reluctantly, “command authority would remain part of the Human Defence Force, with laws and regulations as they existed for the Human Defence Force.” He held up a hand. “I know that this represents a political problem for you…”

“Yes, it does,” Admiral King growled. Masterson wondered if he were supposed to be playing the bad cop in the meeting. “You are asking us to sign our people over to you…”

“There’s more,” Masterson admitted, knowing that King wouldn’t like the next part of the agreement. “We would need to treat the training camps and factories as part of…well, our territory, for want of a better term. Our laws would apply there…”

“Out of the question,” King snapped. Roosevelt said nothing, watching the byplay. “You are demanding that we…surrender our territory to you!”

Masterson met King’s eyes. “With all due respect, Admiral you have a whole series of stupid laws covering the use of over two-thirds of your population,” he said, holding up a single black hand. “We expect all humans to be equals; my men will not tolerate disrespect based on their skin colour, from black to brown to yellow to green…”

Roosevelt snorted. Several other people in the room laughed. “Green?”

“Don’t ask,” Masterson said. The story was still an embarrassing one. “Mr President, we have to have all humans working together, whatever their race or creed or sex.”

“You would put a woman in a spaceship?” Churchill asked, nodding grimly to Sally, who ignored it. “Is that…safe?”

“Roughly half of my crewmen are female,” Masterson said. “I don’t even have a racial breakdown, Prime Minister; it’s just not the sort of thing we do.” He paused. “We grew out of it a long time ago, Prime Minister.”

Churchill’s eyes held his for a long moment. Masterson wondered what he was thinking; did he appreciate the suggestion that his world was…primitive compared to the world that the Krank had destroyed? Masterson didn’t know; all he knew was that the world had to be prepared for the Krank.

“We would consider that acceptable if you wished to set up one of your centres within Britain,” Churchill said finally. His voice showed no trace of reluctance, which was odd. “We would, however, insist on the trainees having the right to leave whenever they wanted, and all criminal proceedings to be held in our courts.”

Masterson blinked. “If all parties agree,” he said, remembering the briefings. Southern courts had been a by-word for oppression, at least to the black population. “I won’t have my people facing a court without lie detectors and a jury.”

They got down to haggling. Masterson rather enjoyed it; Australia was willing to sign over several hundred square kilometres, in exchange for a commitment to their defence, development, and some assistance with greening the desert. The United States and Britain made similar agreement, although neither of them were quite sure who owned Arabia.

“It doesn’t matter,” Masterson said, after the argument stalemated. “The people who live there – who rule the place – would have done more than anyone else to trigger off the Age of Unrest. It really doesn’t matter what they think; we are going to impose democracy on them.”

Sally frowned prettily from her position in the room. “Ah, Admiral,” she asked. Her voice was calm and controlled, with an undertone of excitement. “Are you going to accept female recruits?”

Masterson nodded. “Yes,” he said. “They’ll be accepted under the same terms as the men, however; we don’t smooth their path. That didn’t work so well the last time we tried it.”

He smiled, wondering how he could explain the entire radical feminist movement and the radical male movements that had arisen to counter it. If the Age of Unrest hadn’t chosen that year to get more…active, then there might have been a sexual war, as well as a semi-state system war. Contraception, the draft and the war had done a lot for ending that part of the war, although the foundation of a woman-only world had helped as well.

He winced. That world had been destroyed twice, first by social unrest, and then by the Krank, who hadn’t cared. Some women had been working on techniques for influencing other women and men, starting a low-level civil war. The worst of them had vanished, and then came the Krank. Some people had wondered if the Krank knew anything about the difference between the two human sexes – the Krank sexes looked almost alike – but it hadn’t mattered. The Krank had come to Suffragette…and destroyed.

“I know a lot of WAAFS who would be quite happy to sign up,” Sally said. “I have just one question, however; how can you be sure that the Krank don’t know about you?”

Masterson frowned at her. It was a surprisingly good question, but in the end it was immaterial. “The Krank seem to colonise every world they find,” he said. “If they knew about Earth, they would have sent a colony force out here by now, I think.”

Churchill lifted an eyebrow. “How did they find Earth in the first place?”

“We don’t know,” Masterson admitted. “We think that they tracked our warp signatures, which told them about us, and after they jumped the welcoming fleet they might have been able to decipher a database. They’re supposed to be wiped, rewritten and destroyed in the event of a ship being lost, but it wouldn’t be the first time that something failed with the system.”

Sally looked up at him. “Another point,” she said. “What’s to stop a Krank ship from your time being sucked back with you? They might be out there now, waiting…and plotting.”

Chapter Eighteen: Big Brother is Watching YOU!

ISS Tamara

Near Earth

The little scout ship hung near Earth, all of its active sensor stepped down to the minimum necessary for the safety of the ship itself. Lord Admiral Macron knew that it was unlikely that they would be detected, but he also knew that if there were a single leak of betraying energy, the human starships would be on top of his scout before the Tamara could hope to escape.

He frowned, wishing that the scout’s sensors were better; the Tamara might have carried a stealth intelligence suite of sensors, but they didn’t have anything like the power he needed to gather intelligence. Slipping closer to Earth wasn’t an option; the human commanders would be using active sensors to navigate, and the slightest problem with the cloaking device would betray them.

“I have several active station-keeping sensors,” the tactical officer muttered. Humans had deployed starfighters during the war; the Krank had up-gunned their scouts rather than build fighters themselves. “No real communications, which means that they must be using lasers.”

“That was not unexpected,” Macron said. There was something about sneaking close to so much firepower that made them both want to whisper. “Show me.”

The display expanded in front of him, shimmering slightly in the humid air. Macron examined it thoughtfully, noting the expanding production stations orbiting the Earth and the limited activity on the moon. It didn’t take much thinking to guess what the humans were doing; transferring goods from the Moon to Earth.

He frowned. “Any sign of colonies on the moon?”

“None,” the sensor officer said. Macron felt his mouth open wide into a smile; that meant that they had indeed arrived before Earth developed space travel. The victory would only depend on shooting their way past the fleet that had come back in time. “There’s also no sign of any orbital systems, apart from the ones deployed by the fleet we were chasing.”

Macron nodded. That gave them time; it would take the humans’ years to build up a sizable force in the Earth system – years that he didn’t intend to let them have. How long would it take to develop Earth? He didn’t know, but the limited radio signals suggested that Earth was just at the dawn of radio.

“Can you build up a picture of their technical development?” He asked, as the Earth came a fraction closer. “What sort of systems are they developing at the moment?”

“It’s hard to tell,” the sensor officer said. “From comparison with our own world, they’re at the dawn of the jet age; we aren’t tracking anything more powerful apart from shuttles from the refugees.”

Macron nodded slowly, wishing that they had a better basis for comparison. The Krank had been in space at this point, but they had developed along a different technological path. Humans were capable of developing astonishing surprises; what might they come up with, even in the ten months before the Hunter arrived?”

“I’m picking up a warp field,” the sensor officer said suddenly. Macron felt his blood temperature drop; had they been seen? “It’s a human ship, heading back from the fourth world in the system.”

“It’s not been reformed yet,” Macron said. “Would they have the resources to develop that world into a second homeworld?”

He looked up at the fleet intelligence officer, who lifted her hands in a shrug. “It’s impossible to say, My Lord,” she said. She would have been attractive, except she was in the part of her cycle that made her unattractive to males, on a very basic level. Macron would have sooner bitten himself than engaged in the mating dance with her.

She tapped the display. “We don’t know what they were carrying on the bigger ships,” she said. “They could have been carrying whatever equipment one would need to reform a planet; it’s not something we’ve ever done for ourselves.”

Macron frowned. That was true; the Krank had developed FTL before they even started thinking about developing the other worlds within their home system. They had never carried out such a procedure on their own, which limited their understanding of the process. Macron knew that some would-be lords had considered data-mining human databases on the subject, but that didn’t help him.

“And if they do, they might set up a second base,” he muttered. “Transmit that back to the Hunter on the laser link.”

“Yes, My Lord,” the communications officer said. “Transmission sent.”

“Good,” Macron said. He’d left his Flag Captain in command of the superdreadnaught; he would bring the superdreadnaught into Earth’s system while Macron himself worked on spying out the human defences. So far, it looked as if the humans had no defences, except for the time-lost ships.

He turned back to the intelligence officer. “Can you pick up anything on the politics down below?”

She shook her head, her drooping fronds waving in the slight breeze. “Nothing at all, My Lord,” she said. “The radio reports are verbal only, some of them in human languages that have never been loaded into the translator. We will make process eventually, but it will be a slow process.”

“Indeed,” Macron said, drawing the word out just out of spite. Attempting to ally with a human faction had been a wild unrealistic hope. “Concentrate on trying anyway; it might lead us somewhere.”

She bowed. “I would also like to request permission to deploy the stealthed sensor arrays,” she said. “We would be able to learn much more about their positions within their system, perhaps even track them as they expand for later hunting.”

Macron considered for a long moment. “It’s a good idea,” he conceded, wondering if it was trying to be too clever. A stealthed platform was hard to find, but it wasn’t impossible; the humans might just stumble over it and wonder…

“Deploy them,” he ordered. “Set them for self-destruct if discovered; that might just confuse the human defenders of the Earth.”

“Yes, My Lord,” she said. “I’ll do the programming at once.”

The White House

Washington DC, USA

Sam Turtledove frowned as the meeting was interrupted; the President’s secretary had come in to warn them that Hoover had called ahead, demanding an urgent meeting. They’d been discussing the provisions for the base areas, in preparation for the meeting with Henry Kaiser, and Roosevelt wasn’t happy at all.

“Cheek,” he muttered, as he closed several of the files. “I wonder what bee he’s got in his bonnet this time.”

Turtledove frowned inwardly; Roosevelt had considered simply firing Hoover, but he had powerful friends in Congress and the Senate. The man might have been exposed – perhaps – as a homosexual, but he still had powerful friends and his legendary files on political and private misdeeds, enough to keep all of official Washington very uncomfortable.

He scowled. Wounded, crippled, Hoover was still very dangerous – and had to be treated with kid gloves, even by the President. He looked down at the datapad he’d been using to store his notes, assembling his thoughts in case Roosevelt called on him.

“Stay there,” Roosevelt ordered, as Hoover’s voice could be heard. “I may need your facts and figures.”

“Good afternoon, Mr President,” Hoover said, as he entered. He hadn’t – quite – barged in, but there was more than a little impression of it, pinstripe suit and trademark hat and all. His assistant – and rumoured sexual partner – Clive Tolson followed, walking behind Hoover.

Almost like an Indian wife, Turtledove thought nastily, and sniggered inwardly. He kept his face blank as Hoover went through the motions, enquiring after the President’s health and that of his wife.

“I would have thought that you would have known that better than I,” Roosevelt answered, for once without his customary politeness. “You have been watching her over the past few years, have you not?”

Hoover puffed himself up like a hopping toad. “There are subversives and enemies of America everywhere, Mr President,” he said. “The files from the future reveal how the Communists and Fascists would have infiltrated our centres of power, working through groups such as those patronised by your wife.”

Roosevelt lifted an eyebrow. “Which ones?” He asked. “The organisations for taking care of wounded soldiers? The black unions? The groups that press for racial equality…?”

“That smacks of Communism to me and to many on the Hill,” Hoover said, with his normal fury. His face slid down, becoming more…confidential. “Mr President, there is grave concern in the corridors of power.”

Roosevelt seemed unmoved. “Over my wife?” He asked. “With all due respect to my esteemed colleagues, Eleanor has been doing that sort of work for years.”

Hoover seemed unaffected by the jibe. Instead, he leaned forward, as if he were trying to take the President into his confidence. Turtledove felt his blood boil; here was Hoover, with his disreputable life, attempting to coerce the President! Honeyed words or outright threats, the man was a bastard, no doubt about it.

“I submit, Mr President,” he said, his voice hushed, “that the coming of the future people represents a challenge that none of us were…quite prepared to deal with. It certainly never happened in their history books; we should be still reeling from Japanese blows at the moment.”

Roosevelt smiled pleasantly. “And instead we’re striking some blows against them now and talking about ending the entire war within two months,” he said. “I don’t know about you, Director Hoover, but I consider that an improvement.”

“We would have won the war in the…original timeline,” Hoover said. “Instead, we have help from people we know very little about.”

“They have been open and honest with us,” Roosevelt said.

Hoover shook his head. “Have they?” He asked. “They have told us almost nothing about their system of government. What sort of rights do they have? For all we know, they could be Communists!”

Roosevelt quirked an eyebrow at Turtledove, who recognised his cue. “They practice a form of direct democracy,” he said. “In effect, they have votes on every major issue that comes up in their settlements; everyone above the age of eighteen is allowed a vote. The will of the majority passes the bill, as it were.”

“Communism,” Hoover snapped. “The will of the majority over the few.”

“America was founded on similar principles,” Roosevelt said softly. “What concerns do your men on the Hill have, apart from that one?”

Hoover’s face twisted into a dog-like look. “You do not regard that one as threatening?”

Roosevelt met his eyes. “You do not believe that the people of America are competent enough to vote on their own lives?” He asked. “If I go and object on those grounds, I will become a laughing stock, to say nothing of very unpopular.”

“There are other concerns,” Hoover said. “What about the knowledge from the future? The knowledge of political…indiscretions that were never committed in our time?”

“I think that we have little choice, but to accept that,” Roosevelt said. “I myself had a very uncomfortable discussion with my wife, simply because of that. Are you, perhaps, referring to the rumours about yourself and Mr Tolson?”

“Slander,” Hoover said, his eyes like slits. “By what rights do they tell such…lies about Clive and me?”

“They may not think that they are lies,” Roosevelt said. “Does it really matter?”

Hoover took a long breath. “There is grave concern on the Hill,” he said.

“So you have said, several times,” Roosevelt said. “What about this time?”

“This is not a game,” Hoover said. He pulled a briefcase from Tolson, riffled though it, and dumped a small printed book on the President’s desk. “There are objections to you effectively signing away United States authority over large parts of America.”

“Hardly a large part,” Roosevelt said. “One hundred square miles, in Nevada, Mr Hoover. In exchange, we get to develop our own technology, perhaps even to the extent that we won’t need them anymore.”

Hoover picked up the booklet and waved it. “There are…provisions here that contravene United States law,” he said. “It is apparently legal to have all manner of perverted sexual escapades within their territory; their police don’t seem to care. They have laws that make divorce, abortion and contraception easy; they don’t even seem to have God in their lives!”

He paused. “Do you know, if one of our people joins them, and is a convict from here, but not under their laws, he cannot be tried?”

Roosevelt frowned. “What – exactly – are your…backers concerned about?” He enquired. “They hate murderers as much as we do. They frown on muggings and lynching…ah, that’s it, right?”

Hoover ignored the comment. “There are laws against interracial relations in some of our states,” he said. “In their territory, such relations will flourish. It is often illegal to marry without your parents’ consent…but not in their territory.”

Turtledove injected a comment. “Many young couples just cross the state line,” he said.

Hoover paused to give him an icy look, and then turned back to Roosevelt. “There will be a strong coalition in the House against it,” he warned. “There will be a breakdown of society if that goes ahead.”

Roosevelt frowned. “I see no such danger,” he said. “The world will change, Mr Hoover; the only question is how and why. If we can steer the change, we might end up with a nation that we can all be proud of.”

“Or the nation might shatter,” Hoover warned.

“It might,” Roosevelt said. He smiled suddenly, brilliantly. “They said the same about the New Deal, didn’t they?”


Hoover snorted and stormed out, pausing only to pick up his coat. Roosevelt watched him go, shaking his head; Turtledove looked up, concerned. He’d never seen the President so angry, not even when the Japanese sent their declaration of war – several hours after Pearl Harbour.

“We will return to our notes on production,” Roosevelt said. Turtledove knew better than to argue with that tone; they spent half an hour going through the information before Henry J. Kaiser arrived, all cheerful and bright.

“Good news, Mr President,” he said. “We’re launching the liberty ships at a higher rate now.”

“They might not be needed,” Roosevelt said, after the exchange of pleasantries. He passed over the datapad. “Can your people build those?”

Kaiser, Turtledove noted, didn’t seem surprised at suddenly having most of the Liberty Ship program cancelled. The industrial genius ran his eyes down the datapad, examining every detail with considerable interest. Turtledove watched his eyes; they brightened and dimmed as he read onwards.

“Challenging, but not that challenging,” Kaiser said finally. Turtledove relaxed slightly. “These are components for the ships in orbit?”

“For new ships, I believe,” Roosevelt said. Turtledove nodded firmly; the newcomers intended to go into asteroid mining in a big way, using designs that were very simple, and easy for them to understand. “Can you build them?”

“Of course,” Kaiser said, his voice very confident. Turtledove could only hope that he was right. “In many ways, these are easier than the liberty ships; they’re smaller, but obviously can be fitted together.” He frowned. “Perhaps they’re designed to be fitted together by the newcomers.”

Turtledove nodded, impressed. It had taken him several minutes to work that out. “Yes, in orbit,” he said. “They’re habitation modules, very basic, at least from their point of view. The idea, as I understand it, is to establish a series of bases in orbit, and then to use them to build larger ships that can reach the Moon and Mars.”

Kaiser kept flipping through the datapad’s information. “Some of these look as if they’re meant for a planetary situation,” he said. “I guess they’re supposed to be fitted together, and then lowered to the ground.”

He put the datapad aside and leaned forward. “So…what’s in it for me?”

Roosevelt chuckled. “The thanks of a grateful nation?”

Kaiser laughed. “Perhaps,” he said. “However, I was thinking more of access to the future technology.”

“There will be thousands of Americans working in factories they are going to set up on the ground, including some of your people,” Roosevelt said. His voice darkened. “That would allow you to have a look at the future technology, while at the same time spreading the information further across the United States.”

He paused. “There is an additional requirement, however,” he said. “One that in fact is insisted upon by our friends from the future.”

Kaiser lifted one eyebrow, sharply. “Oh?” He asked. “For this, if you’re asking for a campaign contribution, or they are…”

“It’s worse than that,” Roosevelt said. Kaiser looked oddly alarmed. “You will have to hire black labour, at equal terms to white labour.”

Kaiser frowned. “You make it sound dreadful,” he said. “For this, I would appoint black managers; it would be worth it.”

“I’m glad you feel that way,” Roosevelt said. Turtledove smiled at the way that the discussion was handled. “Now; let’s get down to cases.”

Chapter Nineteen: The Dawning of a New Age

Victory Town

Nevada, USA

The town had actually existed for several years before the Depression, Charles Roberson had been informed, under the name of Boondocks. It had been abandoned as the Depression began; the handful of families had had little hope of survival in the wastelands of the desert. Several dozen study houses and several longhouses – and a small Church – were all that remained of the town. Within twenty years, Roberson suspected, it would have collapsed and been buried under the sand.

And yet, it had potential. A deep well had been dug to water the land, one that could be extended quite easily by modern technology. It was isolated, allowing room to expand into the future, and it had several cities not too far away, close enough to allow for rail links to be created. Thousands of workmen, already hired by the United States Government, were working on the road link, which would allow them to bring in thousands of people, if they needed more workers.

He glanced down at his watch as it began to bleep. Unlike most of his people, he disdained wristcoms; he preferred to have a portable system that he could carry on his belt. He pulled it off his belt and glanced down at it; the timer was swiftly counting down towards zero.

“It’s time,” he said, heading out of the damaged house and looking up into the blue sky. Sam Turtledove followed him, shading his eyes; he lacked any form of implant to protect himself from the glare of the sun. A noise began, a dull throbbing that echoed across the sky; he smiled as he heard a noise that Earth itself wouldn’t have heard for years into the future.

“They’re coming,” he said, when Turtledove threw him a questioning look. He stared up into the sky as the noise grew louder, finally rewarded with a glimpse of the first Mayflower-class lander; a large landing craft almost a kilometre long. He scowled as the noise expanded; Mayflowers were only designed to land in one place and then never move again. If the commander picked the wrong spot, rather than the place the advance teams had picked out…

“My God,” Turtledove breathed, as the roiling shimmering of antigravity, a sense of extreme wrongness to any human unlucky enough to feel it directly, reached them. “My ears!”

“Cover your ears,” Roberson snapped, as the noise started to settle; the massive shape of the lander drifting over to the east slightly. The commander was bringing her down carefully, but the ship was designed for a hard landing; it wasn’t as if it were important that it took off again. “Sam, keep your ears covered!”

He didn’t have to cover his own ears, but he covered them anyway, hoping that Turtledove would take the hint. The young man did as he was told, shielding his ears from the awesome pounding of the engines, as the lander finally settled to the ground, towering over Victory Town. Its black rectangular form dominated the sky; it was monstrous, something that stood out for miles.

He smiled. Three of the landers would be landing in the Middle East; one in Britain and two in Australia. The others would be set up on the Moon and Mars, providing a core base for expansion. The people inside the ships, the colonists, would be still held in stasis; the first priority would be to remove them from stasis and then explain what had happened to the ship.

Turtledove’s young face was grinning. “Should we not go see them?” He asked, as the noise of cooling metal echoed over the land. “Won’t they want to be welcomed to America?”

“Young puppy,” Roberson said, with genuine affection. Turtledove was an innocent; someone who had never known what it was like to be in a war. They’d lost all of theirs during the Krank War, when both sides had ramped the conflict up to genocidal status. “Yes, I think that we better had.”

He pointed one long hand towards the transport, which was opening its hatches. A number of automated building robots were already spilling out, towing supplies that had been meant for a world thousands of light years from Earth; instead, they would be used to make a proper factory colony. Several people were wandering around, wearing powered civilian armour; mandatory for heavy building programs.

“Come on,” he said, recognising one of the figures. “Let’s go meet the neighbours.”

They passed several robots on the way down towards the ship, feeling the waves of heat spinning off it, but already fading as the ship cooled. Its drive fields would have absorbed much of the heat – something without drive fields would have hit the ground and exploded – but enough was still present to be noticed. One robot, a large spider, marched past them, much to Turtledove’s fascination.

He asked a quick question. “Why don’t you build robots in the shape of humans?”

“We did,” Roberson said, as they reached the side of the ship. He knew better than to try to touch it. “They were very popular at first, particularly the ones made in the shape of human females – and males too, to be fair. Then they started to have unsafe social effects, and…well, to cut a long story short, they were banned.”

Turtledove frowned. “Unsafe social effects?”

Roberson wondered, absently, if he had ever been that innocent. “Young men were falling in love with robots, rather than real women,” he said. “It wasn’t healthy, and that was just the start of the problem.” He laughed. “There are some things that it is literally…unsafe to develop a taste for, up to and including extreme bondage and pain-creating. Once some idiot developed the perfect female robot, people started to have the chance to act out their fantasies…that they sometimes tried to transfer onto real women.”

He sighed. “The same, pretty much, happened to women; some of them actually wanted to marry the robots, which would have been permitted, except they wanted to have children with the robots. They wanted to have the robots given the capability to make them pregnant and…”

He noticed that Turtledove was blushing slightly. “Really?” He asked. “Are you just pulling my leg?”

Roberson laughed. “The rule of the future, kid,” he said, without malice, “is that the perverts and the…weirdoes will be the first to use new technology to its best advantage. When you have time, look up the Giant Sheep Religion; that couldn’t have existed without the Internet.”

“I will,” Turtledove said. They reached the men waiting for them. “Welcome to America,” he called.

“Thank you,” Governor Rusholme said, seriously. “I think we’d better get started; the Admiral is in one of his moods.”


The first week, Turtledove found, went by quicker than he would have imagined possible. The robots had stockpiled the components for building a colony centre before the fleet had fled Earth for the final time, and they were quickly brought out and fitted together. Other robots, aided by agricultural specialists from the fleet, worked on drilling wells and using the water to start the long process of preparing the land to grow food.

At the end of the second day, the first researchers, scientists and workers from various companies arrived, only to be swept into the whirlwind of activity. New factories were constructed, often by thousands of people brought in by road and even air, working quicker than Turtledove would have imagined possible. The first recruits, mainly young men of all colours, arrived, looking for a place where their skin colour – or sexuality – would mean nothing.

“I don’t believe it,” he said, as he stood on top of the lander, on the end of the fifth day. “It looks like it’s been here for years.”

“It always does,” Lieutenant Gwen Shakari said. Despite her name, she was white and a redheaded woman, one of the pilots for the shuttles that landed on top of the transport, and then on the airport as it was constructed. She was so pretty that Turtledove was often tongue-tied in her presence. She seemed to like him, although he couldn’t tell why.

She smiled at him dryly; almost making his heart melt with…some emotion he couldn’t even begin to name. “The record is setting up an entire colony in a month,” she said. “The principles are well understood, Sam, and this is a lot easier than setting up on…Seagoon, for example. That world was a nightmare; this time around, we should just toss a few missiles at it instead.”

Turtledove blinked at her very un-ladylike attitude. “What was that like?” He asked. “Monsters from the comic books?”

“There might well have been,” she said. “The entire planet was one giant swamp. The Krank would have loved it; they have the right build for it. We, on the other hand, spent ten years trying to colonise the dump before giving up.”

Turtledove laughed. “That must have been embarrassing,” he said.

“You’re telling me,” Gwen said. She looked down at one of the worker gangs; Roberson had told Turtledove in confidence that the hundreds of volunteers were, at the moment, getting more and more in the way of real work. Black, brown, Chinese and white men worked together, willingly if not entirely comfortably. “Why are there so few women?”

“I don’t know,” Turtledove said. He knew that the women had been invited; several dozen had come. “They might be having problems getting permission to come here from their fathers.”

Gwen shook her head. “This place is like the dark ages,” she said. Turtledove wasn’t sure if he should be angry or amused. “No sex, no play; hide yourself and obey your husband.”

Turtledove felt awkward. “It is what happens, most of the time,” he said. “The father is in charge until the daughter gets married.”

Gwen winked at him. “No sex before marriage?” She asked. Turtledove blushed. “Oh, you’re a virgin?”

Turtledove nodded. “I was never the type to risk attempting a liaison,” he said, trying to seem suave. He tapped the glasses he no longer needed, after having his eyesight fixed; they were still part of him. “I never had the confidence to play the games with girls that might – just – have led to a marriage.”

“You get them pregnant, you have to marry them,” Gwen said. She shook her head slowly. “The sooner I get back in space, the better.”

Turtledove frowned. “You don’t like it here?”

“I think that it’s going to be a pain in my ass,” Gwen said. She smiled as Turtledove blushed. “Changing the subject; give us a month and we’ll have thousands of factories here, producing all manner of material for space work. Once we have a few asteroids in orbit, being melted down and turned into habitats and ships, we can really start moving.”

Turtledove nodded as the sun finally slipped below the horizon and the stars came out to play. Some of them were moving; the ships in orbit catching the light from the sun and reflecting it down onto the Earth. It was fascinating; he wanted nothing more than to fly up there and explore Mars, or the Moon.

He turned to Gwen, to see her staring up at the Moon. “It’s so different here,” she breathed, her face softer than normal. Down below, an outbreak of cursing broke out as someone overloaded the light generator and burned it out. “There are no cities.”

Turtledove followed her gaze and was surprised when she snuggled against him. Acting on instinct, he put his arm around her, feeling her body as she leant against him. Her eyes were tearing up; he realised that she had suddenly realised that everything was real.

“I was born up there,” she said. “Once they worked out the genetic sequencing that allowed lunar babies to work at normal gravity without problems, although nanites rather made that redundant, humans started having proper families there. There were a handful from before then; they became the first spacers.” She paused. “Have you met one of them yet?”

Turtledove shook her head, enjoying the feel of her against him. “I won’t spoil the surprise,” she said. “You’ll either like them or hate them; even we have problems with them sometimes. Only a handful of them with the fleet and only a few capable of living on the ground, so there won’t be many around here.” She sighed. “My family would have died when they bombed the Moon.”

“I’m sorry,” Turtledove said, holding her closer. “I wish I could bring them back.”

Gwen shook her head. “There were massive cities,” she said. “Monstrous constructions, holding millions of people. We thought that there were no longer any limits to human expansion, until we met them.”

“It’ll be different this time,” Turtledove said, as a cold wind blew across the desert. The temperature was dropping rapidly; the tempo of the activity below was slowing. “We can best them…”

She stood up, pulling him with her. “I know,” she said, as they stepped down into the living quarters on the transport, she escorted him to her room. As soon as they crossed the door, she kissed him. “I know,” she said. “I know you will.”

Turtledove wanted to object, but a rush of sensation swept all cares away. As her hands worked over him, he found himself responding to her…and then joining with her in the oldest dance of all.


“I must say that I’m quite impressed,” William Shirer said. He hadn’t expected the interview with Ambassador Roberson, but apparently he would write a whole series of famous books in the future, something that had earned him respect in the eyes of future historians, who were in the past from Roberson’s point of view.

“Thank you,” Roberson said wryly. “Any part in particular?”

Shirer considered, and then decided to duck the question. “Pretty much all of it,” he said. “Thank you for agreeing to grant me the interview.”

Roberson shrugged, as if to say it didn’t matter. “You and your fellows have been prowling around here for several days,” he said. “It was politic to agree to at least one interview, and you’re quite famous, even in our time.”

“I read my own book,” Shirer said. He paused. “Do you ever have the odd feeling that you’re living in a dream?”

“It’s better than the reality,” Roberson said seriously. “The Krank were on their way to making humanity as dead as the Dodo, before we came here.”

“That was my first question,” Shirer said. “Are the Krank really that dangerous?”

Roberson nodded. “Oh, yes,” he said. “If a single Krank battle squadron from this era, two hundred years from our first contact with them, should come here for any reason at all, humanity is doomed.”

The matter-of-fact tone he used was more convincing than hysterics. “So,” Shirer said, “your long-term plan is to mobilise the entire world?”

“That’s pretty much what we want to do,” he said. “If the Krank come, we have to be ready to deal with them.”

Shirer lifted an eyebrow. “And if we don’t want to be…prepared for dealing with the Krank?”

Roberson smiled. “You would sooner die?”

Shirer smiled. “There is that, I suppose,” he said. “I think I’d better change the subject; the yellow press has been raving about acts of sexual immorality being conducted here. What do you have to say to that?”

Roberson laughed. “It’s been a week,” he said. “Give us a month; then we’ll have time to relax and commit some acts of sexual immorality.” Shirer chuckled. “More seriously, Mr Shirer, we do not stand in judgement. If people are willing to take part in sexual acts, we do not object.”

“Not a view that many will find popular,” Shirer said. Roberson shrugged. “The next question is simple; when will you start training people to work in space?”

Roberson frowned. “At this rate, we expect to have the main part of the construction program completed at the end of the second week; one week from now,” he said. “That will give us a base of operations, one that can be used as a training centre. The first trainees will be the ones who came here while we were setting up, then people on a first-come, first-served basis.”

“It seems fair,” Shirer said. “What about the suggestion that some states are prohibiting black men from coming here?”

“It makes me mad,” Roberson said. “I would suggest that black men fought for their rights; it will save so much trouble in the long run.”

Shirer, for once, was silent. Roberson pressed his advantage. “You’ve seen the black heart of Nazi Germany,” Roberson said. “How different is Hitler from what people are trying to do to the black population?”

“A nasty question,” Shirer said, after a moment’s thought. “What about factories from companies that own copyrights to some technologies?”

Roberson shook his head. “God alone knows,” he said. “I think that the copyright issue is one that is going to need some effort to determine. Who owns the rights to Star Wars, for example?” He smiled. “What about the highly-controversial 2100AD remake, which had numerous sex scenes and a nude dance by Princess Leia.”

“I shall pretend that I understood what that meant,” Shirer said, with great dignity. “What about the copyright issue?”

“Quite frankly, I don’t care,” Roberson said. “I am tempted to rule that profits within our areas will be shared out among the actors and producers, at least those who are alive today. It won’t be what happened back then, but at least it will be fair.”

Shirer grinned. “That won’t please Hollywood,” he said. “And the factories?”

“We expect that they will begin work around the third week, which should give us some local productive capability within a month,” Roberson said. “They will have full access to their patents and several rights over them, although no monopolies.”

“That makes sense,” Shirer said, reeling inside. “Anyway, I believe that you mentioned a tour?”

Roberson stood up. “Right this way,” he said. “Let’s go see the future – today.”

Chapter Twenty: Planning for Annihilation


Berlin, Germany

“And this will not stand in our way towards the destruction of the Jews and the establishment of living space for every German,” Adolf Hitler declared, his voice ringing out over the room. It would have been even more impressive, Brigadefuehrer Johan Schriever thought, if Hitler hadn’t repeated himself several times already, denouncing everything from Rommel to Roosevelt.

“The actions of the traitor in the Middle East” – Hitler refused to speak Rommel’s name; Himmler had privately warned Schriever that the Fuhrer had taken Rommel’s surrender hard – “will not distract us from the mission of the German people! His new conspiracy of Judeo-Communists from beyond the stars merely provides us with an opportunity to focus ourselves on the challenge of defeating them and claiming their technology for ourselves and pushing us endlessly forwards towards our glorious destiny in the east!”

With that, Hitler sat down, while everyone applauded. “Mein Fuhrer, there are hopeful signs,” Kesselring said, before anyone else could speak. Germany’s master strategist, Schriever knew, had been very involved with the study of the newcomers, even before their real identity had been discovered. “The Abwehr’s main agent and several spy rings within the United States remain active – and that has given us clues that can be used to defeat them.”

Hitler’s moustache twitched. “Exactly,” he proclaimed, his voice rising and falling. “What have the spies found out?”

Schriever felt Himmler twitch beside him. He had waged a private war with Admiral Canaris for control over the Abwehr, something that Hitler had privately encouraged. Now, it seemed as if the Abwehr was going to rise in Hitler’s estimation…and the SS would fall, at least in that department – which was, of course, suddenly the most important department.

“It’s been nearly two weeks since North Africa fell,” Kesselring said. Schriever smiled inwardly, keeping his face blank; Kesselring had clearly read his brief on the subject. “Combined with their actions in America, and to a lesser extent in Australia and Britain, it is clear that they are in fact very short of manpower. That alone means that they will have to take the time to build up their forces before they can invade.”

He tapped the map on the wall. “That gives us two windows of opportunity,” he said, nodding to the Japanese officer sitting at the table. Schriever frowned; he would never have expected a Japanese man to share a table with the Fuhrer – even he had been denied that honour. “The first is time, something we need; time to incorporate the lessons from North Africa.”

He paused. “The second is a chance to seize one of their bases,” he said. “They are clearly sensitive to casualties; if one of their bases can be taken, it is unlikely that they will simply destroy it with their armoured troopers. That would give us some samples of their technology – and bargaining chips for the future.”

Himmler coughed. “Correct me if I’m wrong,” he said, the light glinting off his glasses, “but your office concluded that an invasion of Britain would be impossible. I imagine that an invasion of the United States would be even more so.”

“You are quite correct,” Kesselring agreed. “I speak of the base in Australia.”

There was a long moment of stunned silence, and then all eyes turned to the Japanese officer, who Schriever recognised now; Lieutenant General Oshima Hiroshi. The man who was Japan’s foremost advocate of the Pact of Steel; the man who had urged Hitler to attempt a link-up between German and Japanese forces in the Middle East.

“We have been discussing options,” Oshima said. His voice spoke perfect German; seemingly unaware that he was in a room with many people who would one day attempt to exterminate his race. Schriever was impressed; Oshima seemed very much the perfect ambassador. “There seems to be a window of opportunity and we will jump through with both feet.”

His hand traced the Philippines on the map. “The battle there has been going badly, along with the battle for Singapore,” he said. “Apparently, my friend General Kesselring tells me that Churchill now knows that we would have taken the fortress in the other world…and he has sent in a better general.” There were some chuckles. “However, we are confident of victory; confident enough to risk a bold masterstroke.”

“Boldness is always the way forward,” Hitler said, his voice bringing instant silence in its wake. “Together, Ambassador Oshima; we will triumph over the new foe.”

Oshima inclined his head in a form of bow. “Yes,” he said. Alone among the group, he used no title for Hitler. “We have discovered, from interrogation of captured American prisoners, that we are being watched from orbit; they have given the Americans a sensor that allows them to see what we are doing, as we do it. The fog of war, my friends, no longer exists – at least for them.”

There was a long appalled silence. Schriever, who had suspected that from the beginning, wasn’t surprised; for many around the table it was the first sound of the approaching wolf. The irony wasn’t lost on him; they, the generals, had seen something that could render them completely useless. What was the point of being a field commander if HQ could watch over your shoulder all the time?

“This does, however, offer us a chance at mounting a raid on Australia,” Oshima continued, keeping his voice calm. “The Americans would be too busy watching the fighting in the Philippines, which will become more violent when the fleet sets off, to notice that our main fleet is heading towards Australia. Even if the Americans do notice, they will have to sortie with their battered fleet out to fight the Combined Fleet – a battle that will result in the destruction of the remains of the United States Navy.”

Schriever felt a rush of concern rushing through him. It seemed unlikely that the newcomers would do nothing to save Australia, even though their main forces were still in North Africa. How long would it take to move a few dozen armoured soldiers to Australia?

Himmler’s eyes met his, conveying an unmistakable message; keep quiet. Schriever obeyed; he listened as Oshima outlined the plan, before turning to the German role in the entire affair.

“We will need some support from you,” Oshima admitted. “The first one is largely diplomatic; the Russians are shifting forces to their far eastern regions, which threatens us. We need them to agree not to start a war with us at the same time, which will make our position insupportable and lead to us having to exit the war – basically – for the best terms that we could get.”

Hitler’s eyes glittered. “I will make it a matter of urgency with Stalin,” the Fuhrer said. “You must realise, however, that Stalin is unlikely to listen to anything short of threats, ones we are not in a position to make.” His face twisted. “While we would certainly defeat the Communists, particularly with the short breathing space we have gained, it will be costly.”

Oshima frowned delicately. “The second item we will need is some scientific aid,” he continued. “There are some areas of science that we are weaker in than others; we will need your support for analysing the items we will capture.”

“I foresee no problems,” Hitler said, with a sharp glance at Albert Speer. The Minister of Production bit down whatever protest had been forming on his lips. “We can probably spare a few people; the problem will be transferring them to you.”

“Perhaps Stalin would be willing to allow them to cross the Soviet Union,” Oshima suggested, his tone absent. “Perhaps…”

“Out of the question,” Hitler snapped. His face twisted into a view of rage. “Stalin will attempt to take advantage of them!”

“Then a submarine,” Oshima said. “That would be acceptable.”

“Excellent,” Hitler said, making the decision. “Now, General; what about the defence of the Reich?”

Kesselring looked up at the map. “At the moment, our best estimate is that we will first face a possible attack in a month,” he said. “They seem to have abandoned the chance to sweep across the Mediterranean and strike into Italy, which means that they are clearly needing to build up forces from America and Britain. Their warnings about the aliens…which are doubtless the Aryans that we know to exist among the stars…means that they will be partly concentrating on the alien threat, rather than us.

“That gives us some time to prepare,” he continued. “We now know that their suits are not invincible; they can be broken if they are hit hard enough. The primary task will be building as many guns and as much high explosive as we can, which will then be deployed in the defence of our cities and bases.”

Hitler’s eyes fixed on Kesselring. “You do not wish to defend the countryside?” He demanded. “You do not wish to build walls along the coastline?”

“We will naturally devote some resources towards that,” Kesselring said, his expression suggesting that those resources would be as little as he could get away with. “However, they will have tactical mobility; if they catch a Panzer battalion in the open, that force will be destroyed.”

Hitler looked as if he had bitten into something unpleasant. Schriever understood; he rather shared the Fuhrer’s concerns. Giving up the land, even if it were impossible to hold, would be a devastating blow to their morale…even if his Werewolves would be present to raid the enemy’s supply lines.

“We must force them to fight on our terms,” Kesselring continued. “The only way to do that is force them into close-quarters combat, right out in the middle of our cities, including Paris and the other occupied cities. In fact, perhaps it is time to accept that Vichy and the other governments like that have served their purpose.”

“It did keep the French quiet,” Speer said. As Minister for Production, he would have to work to integrate the French factories into the German factories. “That will be important, seeing that we will have to use them as labour to build the defences.”

“Vichy is having second thoughts about staying with us,” Himmler injected. His face darkened as he spoke. “The loss of North Africa has made them worried about the future of their own North African colonies. In many ways, they are considering attempting to assert their independence.”

“The same goes for Italy,” SS-Obergruppenfuehrer Felix Kortig said. He had received the Iron Cross from Hitler after convincing Stalin to sign the peace treaty; it now shone on his breast. “They are…considering their options.”

“Then we have to shut them down, now,” Kesselring said. “We cannot afford a sore spot.”

Hitler frowned. “Benito was a great support to me in the early days,” he said, clearly having forgotten the debacle that Greece had become, thanks to Mussolini. “On the other hand…”

Mein Fuhrer, we dare not risk them attempting to switch sides,” Himmler said. “We can keep him in control; we just have to keep him in control.”

“Then see to it, Heinrich,” Hitler said. “I leave it all in your hands.”

Himmler’s eyes glittered. Goring, his rival, glared at him. “And what about the Luftwaffe?” He asked. “We have a vitally important part to play in the defence of the Reich.”

There was a long silence. “They have almost total air superiority,” Kesselring said, finally. Goring stared at him. “If we build more aircraft, they will just wipe them out of the sky. Your pilots would have to be used somewhere more useful.”

Goring banged his hand down on the table. “My pilots are the bravest men in the Reich,” he thundered. “They will fly against anything!”

“And they will die,” Kesselring said. “Not a single pilot from the forces in the Middle East survived the experience.”

“I must agree,” Himmler said. “Good Aryans should not be wasted.”

It was an argument to appeal to the Fuhrer. “I must agree,” he said. “Place the men in units more suited for the task at hand.”

Kesselring nodded. “The remaining battleships will have to be converted into fortresses,” he said. “They will provide powerful fire support.”

The meeting degenerated into a series of discussions, all over how much could be produced and where it could be used. Schriever watched Himmler arguing with Kesselring over the use of certain formations to move into Vichy France and Italy, securing both of them for German use. It was, on the whole, an interesting meeting.

“Remember, we are strong,” Hitler said, at the end. “It is our destiny to prevail!”


Himmler’s eyes seemed to glitter in their spectacles as he considered Goring’s discomfort. Schriever waited patiently for him to finish his private gloating session, before continuing their private discussion. Himmler had asked him to remain in the private room while he discussed ‘matters’ with people; he’d waited for nearly an hour before the Reichsführer-SS returned.

“Well, that was interesting,” Himmler said. His eyes seemed to be glowing. “What did you think of the plan?”

Schriever considered. “It would seem to offer us our best chance for victory,” he said. “If we can wear them down…”

“If,” Himmler agreed. “I managed to get the Fuhrer to agree to order the intelligence on the bases in the United States to be transferred to the Werewolves; in the event of the Aryans arriving, we want to show willing.”

Schriever blinked. “You do not believe the newcomers when they talk about an alien threat?” He asked. “It might well be real.”

“An imaginary threat is a very good thing to have sometimes,” Himmler said. Schriever knew that he was paraphrasing Hitler. “They will use it to influence and then control the Western Powers, while they try to crush us with extreme force.” He scowled. “What is the latest on the Werewolves?”

Schriever checked his notes. “There are almost two hundred action teams being prepared now,” he said. “Work on supply dumps is continuing; we should be able to supply all of the action teams soon enough.”

“That would be good,” Himmler said, his eyes pictures of fire and blood. “The final battle; the Volk against those who would destroy it. A genuine People’s war.”

“Indeed,” Schriever said, having learnt that it was better to agree with Himmler and move on. “It will be very hard on the people, however; it will cost them lives.”

“Everyone must be prepared to lay down their lives for the Fuhrer,” Himmler said. “It is the duty of the Germanic people!”

“We have also begun preparing cells within the cities,” Schriever continued. “They won’t take part in any fight for the cities themselves, but emerge afterwards, prepared to continue the fight. That will form the second tier of the Werewolves.”

“Splendid,” Himmler said. “I do, however, have a second mission for them.”

Schriever lifted an eyebrow. “Yes, Herr Reichsführer?”

“It may become necessary to operate against the bases the newcomers have established in America and Britain,” Himmler said. “America would make the easiest target – Americans have little concept of security – but we will have to attempt to link into Britain as well.”

Schriever stared at him. “You want me to put together a team to go into America and attack the newcomer base there?”

Himmler nodded. “Yes, it will be difficult,” he conceded. “However, when the star-Aryans come, it will convince them that we will make them good allies.”

Schriever reluctantly surrendered to the inevitable. “Jawohl, Herr Reichsführer,” he said. He allowed his voice to darken. “Herr Reichsführer, the Japanese will be destroyed, completely.”

Himmler lifted a mocking eyebrow. “Oh really?”

“Yes, Herr Reichsführer,” Schriever said. “Ambassador Oshima talked well, but it couldn’t hide the fact that the newcomers would almost certainly see the Japanese moving towards Australia. Who knows what other weapons they might have to deploy against the Japanese? Rockets? Jet fighters?”

Himmler smiled. “It hardly matters,” he said. “We know that one day we and the Japanese will go to war. If the Japanese make themselves into the primary target for the newcomers – and that wimp governing Australia would be certain to raise a stink if the newcomers didn’t get involved – it will buy time for us.”

Schriever stared at him. “At the cost of thousands of Japanese lives?”

“Indeed,” Himmler said, smiling coldly. He seemed very pleased with himself. “If the Japanese succeed, either in their raid or the plans to invade Australia that they think we don’t know about, then well and good. If not, it still buys us the time we need.”

Schriever frowned. He knew more than a little about logistics; the Japanese logistics were weaker than any part of their armed forces, even their army, which was very under-gunned compared to the Wehrmacht. It beggared belief that they were even thinking about an invasion; even a raid would have stretched their capabilities past the breaking point.

“They don’t have anything like the logistics to invade Australia,” he said. “A raid, yes; they can do that. An invasion? Not a chance. It would tie up much more shipping than they have; they would have to take the East Indies first, and even that would be problematic.”

Himmler shrugged. “As I said,” he said, “it hardly matters. Whatever happens, we come out ahead. The newcomers lose, or have to make a major commitment to the Pacific; we win. The Japanese lose; we win. How can we lose?”

Interlude One: Watchers

What happens to destroy a culture?

There are many things – events – that can do that. A primitive society might bump into one that is technically more capable – and be destroyed by it. A society might become prey to a disease or – worse – an invasion of cultural memes, including nihilism and what humans call fascism, although it takes on many forms. In many cases, societies tend to shudder when change appears…and it is the mark of democracy that it can handle the changes better than any other society.

Of course, few invaders have allowed their targets a chance to vote on whether or not they’re joining the Empire. The Krank never did, but then; they were uninterested in subjects or slaves as such. All they wanted was to be in a universe where they could continue to expand their own empire – regardless of any rights other races might have to share the galaxy with them.

Eventually, the watchers knew, the Krank Empire would have collapsed under its own weight, as the cultural balances that allowed it to survive as long as it had finally caught up with its people. By then, however, it would span half the galaxy – unless something happened to force change upon it.


“The conflict indicators are within reasonable levels,” the male said. He sounded pleased with himself; his companion noted that he was almost entering a primitive human mating dance. At their level, it should be noted, sex meant very little; they could have easily have changed places. “While the western powers will face the cracks in their society, it is unlikely that they will suffer a social collapse.”

The female sent the impression of a frown. The damage caused to space-time by the Krank weapons allowed them to watch without disrupting the space-time continuum – without disrupting it further – and should have allowed them to have remained undetected by the Enemy, should one of their probes have stumbled across their remote station.

“I fear that humans are still capable of doing considerable damage to themselves,” she said, as she had originated from a different race. “The Nazis are pushing their own conflict indicators through the roof.”

Her companion smiled at the analogy. “They will remain a contained problem,” he said. “The main problem remains with the social conflict that will develop within the western world. That will inevitably affect the rest of the human war – and then the war with the Krank.”

“We may be asking too much,” the female said. “Their attitudes are not ones that will fade quickly, or easily.”

“They faded before,” the male said. “Given the advantages that the Bootstrap Fleet has given them, bootstrapping past the Age of Unrest should be possible. It’s quite possible that that set of mistakes will not be repeated.”

“The old question,” the female said. “To intervene or not to intervene. Do you think that the Enemy faces the same problem?”

The male sent a complicated series of emotions at her, reflecting the confusingly endless war, when it was sometimes possible for one side to be accidentally firing on its own side, despite all the attempts to make sure that that didn’t happen. He suspected that the enemy had done the same, more than once, but so had they. Certain patterns repeated themselves, time and time again, and no one knew just what that meant.

The female was staring at the display. “I think that there is a problem,” she said.

The male looked up. The display had defocused, taking in the entire section of space. A single red icon, clearly now part of the timeline, glowed as it moved forward, heading firmly towards Earth. It would take it near to nine months, local time, to reach Earth, but it was clearly capable of doing just that.

The male frowned. “Ah,” he said. There didn’t seem to be anything else to say; mentally, he cursed the unpredictable nature of the Krank weapons, banned by all sensible races, and with good reason. “Ah.”

Chapter Twenty-One: It’s Quiet….Too Quiet

Victory TownNevada, USA

“You’ve done well, in the three weeks you’ve had,” Admiral Masterson observed, as the shuttle glided around Victory Town. It had been utterly transformed; thousands of people and hundreds of vehicles swarmed around, building the factories that would lead the human race into the future. “This is quite amazing.”

Governor Rusholme smiled. “You should have seen how quickly these people can work,” he said. “We thought that construction robots were fast, but these people know skills that we have forgotten, including housing skills.” He waved a hand towards a set of long barracks. “Given time, all of this will be skyscrapers and rebuilt, but for the moment…well, you can see.”

Masterson shook his head as the shuttle came in to land, following the new railroads right into Victory Town. “It’s amazing,” he repeated. “What about working between groups?”

“Our people aren’t getting along badly with them,” Governor Rusholme said. “There are three thousand of us here now, mainly the people who were intended to do much of the colonising efforts. There are people who don’t think that the Contemporaries pay much attention to health and safety, but hell, sir; it’s their bodies.”

He smiled. “Bottom line, however, is that we’re well ahead of the planned schedule,” he continued. “Companies and corporations have been sending in their people to help out, at least to build the first factories; they’re that desperate to get their hands on our knowledge. We’re working hard on developing additional designs for them, ones that can be built everywhere – or else this town is going to burst under the seams.”

Masterson laughed. “What about the main town in Saudi Arabia?”

“The natives didn’t attempt to resist,” Rusholme said. “We caught up with the main Saudi tribesmen and broke them; there won’t be any more problems from that quarter. The only problem is that we’ll have to help them develop to our level, and that is going to be a pain, even though the fresh water should help to green the desert.”

Masterson sighed. “Eventually, we’ll have to open it up,” he said. “For the moment, however, they can lump it; they had too vile an effect in the first history to allow them to continue to corrupt the region.”

“Yes, sir,” Rusholme said. “On a different note, Egypt and Iraq – or what remains of the local governments – have requested that we assist them to develop their own agriculture, perhaps even sparing them the need to build the dams – including the ones that the terrorists destroyed in 2021. The British mandate administrators in Palestine have asked the same, although Sandra will have to deal with Churchill directly on that one.”

Masterson nodded. “I think that if we can help them, we should,” he said. “What about the bases in North Africa?”

Rusholme laughed. “Now that is a loaded political problem,” he said. “I think that some part of Libyan opinion would be delighted to have desalination plants, but they want to be sure that they don’t get handed back to Italy.”

“The Germans have moved into Italy,” Masterson said. It was a problem he knew they could do little to scratch until the orbital bombardment weapons were ready. “I think that they don’t have anything to worry about.”

“I suppose,” Rusholme said, changing the subject. “We’re going to have to get more builders and farmers out here, sir; we’re expanding the population at an astonishing rate. Everyone who wants to go to space, or to have a life free from racial prejudice, wants to come here.”

Masterson took a long breath. “That’s something else I meant to ask you,” he said. “How are the races getting along?”

“There have been a handful of incidents,” Rusholme said. “The perpetrators, all white in the first incident, didn’t believe that we meant it about equality. The second was over a Hispanic girl dating a black man – and the two families started to fight.”

“I see what you mean,” Masterson said, shaking his head. “Where are we going to put all of them?”

Rusholme pointed towards one of the massive construction robots as the shuttle landed. “That and its friends are building new homes now, according to the basic colonial template.”

Masterson snorted. “Cramped, uncomfortable, too cold or too hot, smelly, limited computer access…as per regulations.”

Rusholme joined in on the last line. It was an old joke among colonists. “It was a lot harder on some other worlds,” he pointed out. “We never had willing help before.”

Masterson sighed. “We never had to fight a war before,” he said. “Do you remember when one of the survey ships stumbled across that primitive world? The Krank have probably destroyed them by now, alas.”

“I remember,” Rusholme said. He sighed aloud. “There were people who wanted to land and reshape their lives, but everyone else waved the Prime Directive at them and it was never settled…until the Krank did for us, and them as well.”

“The old problem,” Masterson said. “Speaking of such matters, what’s happening with the medical staff?”

Rusholme snorted. “We’re having some problems in explaining the concept of nanites to them,” he said. “Of course, nanites are in short supply until we get a zero-gee manufacturing plant open, so we’re having to extend the lives of the nanites we do have – which hasn’t been helped by dozens of fakers opening clinics claiming to have some of their own. For the moment, the ship’s doctors have been working to teach new medical information to the doctors on the ground, some of whom don’t want to believe it.” He sniggered. “Can you believe that one of the doctors – a real medical doctor – thought that black people hatched from eggs?”

Masterson, who didn’t think that the joke was that funny, scowled at him. “Very funny,” he said. “I assume that that was a joke?”

Rusholme met his eyes. “I was quite serious,” he said.

“God help us,” Masterson said, his eyes lifting to the heavens. He shook his head. “Were there any other issues?”

“Only one,” Rusholme said. He pulled a crumpled leaflet out of his pocket. “Have a look at this.”


Beware of the people from the stars! In the name of justice and equality, they will mingle the races and creeds until our Christian civilisation will collapse and the dreams of Washington and Jefferson lost in the mists of time! Black men will lie down with white women and the women will dare not refuse. White men will be castrated; their seed will be tossed on the ground and lost forever more! Even now, some of them seek to destroy Germany – to use it as the foundation for their new world order – a world where the white race no longer exists!

Masterson read it in growing disbelief. As soon as he had finished reading it, he turned it over, to be confronted with a page of directions on how to reach Victory Town – and a cartoon of himself ravishing a southern belle. He couldn’t give vent to his feelings; the rage was almost overpowering.

He calmed himself down by sheer force of will. “I see,” he said, as calmly as he could. “Where have these been found?”

“Scattered about all over the town,” Rusholme said. “The security staff keep picking them up – and some of our people have reported seeing them in the nearby cities as well. This is a propaganda campaign, aimed at us.”

“I don’t believe it,” he snapped. “How can they believe such claptrap?”

“They’re scared,” Rusholme said softly. “They blame us for all of the radical changes in the last month – and they fear our power.”

Masterson sighed. “Find out who’s spreading these things,” he snapped. “When you find him – or her – I want to have a long talk with them.”

“Yes, Admiral,” Rusholme said, opening the shuttle’s hatch. “Will you be taking dinner with the Contemporaries? A lot of the young black men would like to share a table with you; you’re quite a hero here.”

Masterson nodded. “I’m due to meet with Sam Turtledove here,” he said. “It’s something that Roosevelt wanted discussed in private, so naturally it happens here.”


Turtledove pulled himself out of the small bed he was starting to share with Gwen, whose shift began several hours later. Already, they were transporting some material to orbit, starting with food and drink for the starship crew. Gwen had been semi-permanently assigned to Victory Town, which allowed them to share a bed.

He kissed her goodbye and dressed quickly, enjoying the aftermath of a proper hot shower as he dressed. The newcomers were obsessed with being clean, he’d noticed; a lot of their rooms were unimaginably luxurious to his eyes. Gwen had laughed when he’d pointed that out; she’d explained that what he saw was the bare minimum, as far as she was concerned.

“One day, someone will establish a Pleasure Bar here,” she’d said. “I’ll take you there.”

Turtledove picked up his datapad, kissed her goodbye again, and slipped out of the door. He wasn’t sure what he felt about her; he enjoyed being with her, to be sure, but he had been brought up to feel…unhappy about sex before marriage. He’d tried broaching the question to Gwen, but she’d laughed and told him to wait until they’d spent a few months together.

Sighing, he stepped through the long corridors, which were nothing like as…homely as the corridors on the John Howard. Gwen had explained that the colony ship was originally intended to be broken down after it landed; in a few years it would have been dismantled completely. The battlecruiser, on the other hand, would be required to support human life for years. It had to look comfortable, if not luxurious; human sanity demanded more than steel corridors.

Feeling almost like he belonged on the ship, he found his way to the command deck, stepping into the main conference room with ease. He’d become used to the ship, he felt; Roosevelt and many of the other politicians were ill at ease so close to the advanced technology. Turtledove suspected that it scared them, on some level; just as the American ships had scared the Japanese, so long ago.

“Mr Turtledove,” Admiral Masterson said. The black admiral looked unchanged; his black hair hadn’t started to shade towards grey, as he’d joked when they’d last met. “I trust that you are enjoying your…relationship with one of my people?”

Turtledove’s first inclination was shame; he’d been caught at it, and then anger. What possible business of Masterson’s was it who he slept with? He shuddered inwardly, suddenly wondering if he’d broken a rule – and how he’d been found out.

Something of his thoughts must have shown on his face, for Masterson laughed. “I’m not angry at you,” he said, as reassuringly as he could. For a man who didn’t do reassuring, it was surprisingly comforting. “She’s a grown woman; as long as you both agree to it freely, I don’t care.”

Knowing that he was blushing, Turtledove stammered out an apology, before Masterson passed him a cup of coffee. “Don’t worry about it,” the Admiral said. “You’re a grown man too, so I assume that you weren’t raped.” Turtledove’s face grew redder; he wanted to cringe. “As I said, don’t worry about it.”

Turtledove took refuge in anger. “We’re both very happy, thank you,” he ground out.

“That’s good,” Masterson said, his dark eyes watching Turtledove closely. “What do you think of this place?”

Turtledove smiled openly, relaxing. “It’s amazing, Admiral,” he said. “This is going to be a great city before the end of the year.”

“We try,” Masterson said. “It’s not normal to have a native population, but it should allow us to help you at the same time. God alone knows where most of us will live, Sam, but it should do some good.” He paused. “So, what did FDR want from me, that he sent you here rather than use the secured communications links?”

Turtledove sighed inwardly. “The Japanese are up to something,” he said. “They’re being much more careful about their communications security than they were.”

Masterson nodded slowly, clearly refusing to throw some of his cards on the table. “A lot of information about the future – about the original timeline – has been broadcast on your radio stations,” he said. Turtledove nodded grimly; it was contributing to some of the ongoing racial unrest. “They might well have picked up on your communications interceptions through that.”

“They certainly won’t be trying to invade Midway,” Turtledove agreed. “However, there are much less communications than there should be.”

Masterson nodded. “Yes,” he said flatly. Turtledove lifted an eyebrow. “They’re actually sending out less radio transmissions than they would under any circumstances, which is…interesting.”

Turtledove frowned. “Can they not be deciphered?”

“Oh, yes,” Masterson said. “With some of our computers, they don’t last more than a few minutes.” Turtledove frowned inwardly; the same would be true, therefore, of American codes. “The transmissions we are breaking speak of a major attempt to reinforce the Philippines.”

Turtledove nodded. “That fits into what the various intelligence groups are reporting,” he said. “MacArthur is pressing them hard on the main island, particularly with your help in steering ships around their naval units; they’ll certainly want to get that over with before they move anywhere else.”

“I do wonder,” Masterson admitted. “If I was in their place, I would surrender, but the Japanese mentality of that era doesn’t really lend itself to rational action. They must know that they don’t stand a chance.”

Turtledove shrugged. “Admiral King thinks that they’re going to do something drastic before they can be stopped,” he said. “The President wanted to know what you thought of that.”

Masterson paused to consider. “It’s possible,” he said. “It’s hard to think of a target they could hit that would really hurt us, particularly in the time span they have left. Hell, we could wipe out most of their fleet now; I just want to make a clean sweep.”

Turtledove frowned. “Pearl Harbour?”

“Logistics,” Masterson said. “They might send in another air raid, but it would be rather pointless; it would only upset a few people. The same goes for almost anywhere else, with the possible exception of the Dutch East Indies. They might consider attempting to take them and use them for their resources, but…”

He shook his head. “I honestly don’t understand,” he said.

Turtledove shrugged. There were more important matters. “If they do come south, will you be engaging them?”

“I think that we would have no choice,” Masterson said. He frowned, anticipating the slaughter. “We’ll offer them a chance to surrender first, of course, but if they refuse…we will have little choice, but to slaughter them.”

“Understood,” Turtledove said. He smiled, knowing that that would please many people. “That’s the aim from every American sailor from King on downwards.”

Masterson regarded him sadly. “That’s how we felt about the Krank,” he said. “We lost that war.”

Turtledove shook his head. “The second issue is a little more serious,” he said. “As you know, several thousand Japanese-Americans are due to be interred, but many of them are heading out here. What do you intend to do about that?”

“History records show that many of them were innocent – well, at least of spying for Japan,” Masterson said. “I won’t persecute them for nothing.”

Turtledove held his eyes. “You know that many won’t be happy about that,” he said. “It’s not going to please people.”

“I know,” Masterson said. “But…how much can they tell Japan, from here, even assuming that our security missed them, that could change the outcome? There isn’t anything, Mr Turtledove, that they could tell Japan that would give them even half a chance against us.”

“I hope you’re right,” Turtledove said, wishing that he could convey the depths of concern that some people were feeling. “They’re worrying people.”

Masterson shrugged. “It doesn’t matter,” he said, changing the subject. Turtledove was very grateful. “What’s happening with the Soviet Union?”

“They’re not exactly at war with us, or with Germany,” Turtledove said. He had anticipated that line of questioning. “Churchill wanted to declare war on them after they made peace with Hitler, but the President talked him out of it; Molotov has been in Washington, telling everyone who would listen that the Soviet Union has been frozen out of the tech transfers and they won’t go back to war – ‘doing our heavy lifting,’ as Molotov put it – until we share.”

“That will be a cold day down below,” Masterson snarled. “Stalin is a man who will take any opportunity, no matter how squalid, just like Hitler; we have to remove his regime, just for the sake of humanity.”

“I saw the files,” Turtledove said. He wished that he understood more. “I completely agree with you.”

Masterson smiled. “How much success did Molotov have?”

“It’s hard to say,” Turtledove said. Roosevelt had provided him with a political brief, but it wasn’t complete; how could it have been complete? “Some Senators and Congressmen, having learned about all the Red spies, want a major effort made against the Soviet Union. Others want to leave it all to you and your people.”

“That would be tricky,” Masterson muttered. “We would have to recruit some of your people to help with the effort. Carry on.”

“Some just want to ensure that Poland is freed,” Turtledove concluded. “As you can tell, it’s a nightmare.”

“You’re telling me,” Masterson said. He stared up at the wall, decorated with a picture of an alien world. “Sandra” – it took Turtledove a moment to realise who he meant – “is going to London, to discuss matters with Churchill. After that, then we’ll have to decide about the future.”

“Hitler is still there,” Turtledove reminded him. After North Africa, it was surprisingly easy to forget. “Should he not come first?”

“True,” Masterson agreed. There was something in his tone that Turtledove didn’t like. “Very true.”

Chapter Twenty-Two: Little England


United Kingdom

The shuttle was greeted by a flight of Spitfires as it descended through the atmosphere, heading from the west towards London. Sandra stared at them as the shuttle pilot slowed the craft to allow the Spitfires a chance to surround them; they looked very different in reality to what she’d seen in movies.

“Wow,” she breathed. The British air defences had come under a new attack, following the defeat of German forces in North Africa. Fortunately, they’d had help; the Marines had provided a basic sensor network that had no problems at all tracking German aircraft. Still, the Spitfires were clearly unwilling to let their guard down; Hitler might even have been thinking about trying to jump the channel again.

“They are impressive, aren’t they?” The pilot agreed. His dark face brightened into a smile. “Do you think they’d let me fly one?”

Sandra smiled back. “I think they’d be delighted,” she said. “How long until we land?”

“We’re just coming over London now,” the pilot said. “Have a look down.”

Sandra peered through the porthole, waving to one of the pilots as he looked at the shuttle, to see the path of the River Thames moving east. That was familiar; everything else was not. Where were the massive domes that had been constructed all around the landmarks? Where were the mega-manors that held thousands of people; their London had had four massive buildings holding nearly three-fourths of the population.

“It’s beautiful,” she said, as she gazed down. “This place is far…simpler than anything in our world.”

“That river is more polluted,” the pilot said dryly, as they swooped over the palace, heading towards the park. Churchill had apparently overridden concerns from his own security people, inviting them to land right in Hyde Park. It hadn’t posed a problem to the shuttle, but she knew that the Spitfires would have had trouble if they had tried to land there.

“It hardly matters,” she said, too excited to care. “Taking us down now?”

“Yep,” the pilot said, adjusting his controls. Sandra waved at the Spitfires, which waggled their wings at them, as the shuttle began to descend. The greenery of the park, slightly spoiled by trenches and stakes designed to make life hellish for German aircraft, rose up towards them as they descended, finally landing near a fountain. The small welcoming committee, led by Churchill himself, started to walk towards them.

“Good luck,” the pilot said. “I’ll hide behind you until you’re finished with the boring part.”

Sandra glared at him, and then pasted a diplomatic smile on her face as the hatch opened. The air…wasn’t as clean as she had expected, but it was breathable; far more so than on several planets she’d visited. Churchill came up to her and shook hands firmly; his famous cigar stuffed into one corner of his mouth.

“Welcome to England,” he said, his voice somehow firmer than it had been when they had met in Washington. “Did you have a pleasant flight?”

Sandra smiled and allowed him to lead her towards the other men, waiting for her. “This is Clement Attlee, the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Prime Minister,” Churchill said, introducing him. “Anthony Eden, Foreign Minister, and General Ironsides, commander of the forces stationed within the home islands.”

Sandra shook hands with each of them in turn. “Thank you,” she said. “It’s a pleasure to meet all of you.”

Attlee grinned openly. “It’s always a pleasure to discover that you’re going to be the next prime minister,” he said dryly. “I think that all of us, with the exception of the General, are going to have that honour.”

“Never say never,” Churchill said, taking her arm and leading the way towards a black car, parked neatly in the park itself. Sandra frowned, seeing all of the armed guards planted around, just to keep Churchill safe. “You and yours have really confused people, great-to-the-twentieth great-granddaughter.”

Sandra had to smile. “We didn’t mean to come,” she said.

“General Auchienleck speaks highly of your people,” Churchill said seriously. “He was delighted by your successes in North Africa. Now that that region has been closed down as a theatre of war, we can prepare for the invasion of Italy.”

Sandra frowned as they stepped into the car. “I would have thought that such matters could have waited,” she said carefully. “What about the effects of the…recent revelations on your people?”

Churchill muttered an instruction to the driver, too low to catch. “It’s been an interesting period,” he said. “We swept up a lot of the Soviet spies – we had most of the German spies already – and locked all of them up for a long time. The same went for most of the members of the IRA; we threatened the Irish Republic until they agreed – reluctantly – to do the same.”

He shook his big head. “It’s been interesting,” he said again. “India, for example, seems completely uncertain of what to do.”

“We will probably end up granting them independence anyway,” Attlee injected. “The point remains, however, that Pakistan was a failure in the original history – and will almost certainly be the same in the new one. A united India, a friend to Britain, has become our priority.”

“You will have to invest in their education,” Sandra said. “I think that that was what got the original Pakistan; they allowed the wrong people to do too much of their educational work, creating hordes of foot-soldiers for the so-called Jihad.”

“It will be taken care of,” Eden assured her. He had a slightly disdainful air about him; as if he cared nothing for her, or even actively disliked her. “The further problem, however, is Africa; Smuts seemed to have almost decided to withdraw from the war.”

Churchill nodded heavily. “The news of the future did not set well with him,” he said, as the car drew to a halt outside Ten Downing Street. Sandra stared around her as she stepped out of the car; it was nothing like the museum that she remembered. The collapse of the European Union had led directly to the foundation of the Global Federation; placing only internal affairs in the hands of the English politicians.

“Right this way,” Churchill said, as the air raid sirens began again. He glanced up into the skies, and then winked at Sandra, smiling unpleasantly. “Those plasma cannons your people loaned us are worth their weight in gold.”

“They’re worth a lot more than that,” Sally said, seriously. “What happened when they were first deployed?”

Ironsides’ voice was dark. “The Germans changed all of their codes, so we were surprised by the sudden resumption of major raids on us,” he said. “That day was bad, so we asked for your support – and we got the cannons. The day after they were set up, the Germans came again…and we wiped them out of the sky. Only a handful of planes escaped; your cannon just fired and fired into the sky.”

Churchill’s voice was delighted, almost like a child with a new toy. “They must have been terrified out of their minds,” he said. “Just think about it!”

Sandra could. Ground-mounted plasma cannons had been meant for opposing battlesuits; with heavy batteries to support their sustained burst capability. Against Contemporary aircraft, only tiny bursts would be needed…and millions could be fired into the air within minutes. It would have been a slaughter.

“But enough of such discussions,” Churchill said, as they entered the dining room. “It’s time for lunch.”


The food was roast beef and dumplings, almost stereotypically English. Sandra ate slowly, enjoying every bite; the meat was cooked to perfection. She remembered that many people in the upper crust had continued to eat well, even during the blitz, and felt almost disgusted with herself, but the food was too good to let it bother her.

“We set up the compound up in the highlands,” Churchill said. “That’s close to Aberdeen and Glasgow, both of which do a lot of manufacturing, and far away enough for us to handle everything without thousands of people descending on you, looking for work. We’re still collecting volunteers, but this way we have the entire process firmly under control.”

“The Americans are acting in a rather chaotic manner,” Sandra agreed calmly, sipping her wine. “Eventually, however, we hope to have some manner of control over the process, and then we can begin selecting the best and brightest of them to become trainees.”

“That is understood,” Churchill said. “I must ask a delicate question.”

Sandra lifted an eyebrow. “That sounds bad,” she said, wryly. “What is the question?”

Churchill’s eyes met hers. “Exactly what is your…official policy towards the British Empire?” He asked. “Your ambassador in Washington has tended to avoid that question, when it was asked; it was as if you didn’t have one.”

“We don’t,” Sandra said. “Our main concern is avoiding some of the mistakes that were made in the future that would have been, or the alternate past, or…” She waved a hand to indicate that it didn’t matter. “What do you intend to do with it?”

Churchill’s hands shifted, moving over the table. “We have been discussing that for the last two weeks,” he said. “It has a strong emotive effect, as I’m sure that you are aware; there is a great deal of support for trying to hang on to as much as possible of the Empire. Now, financially, that would be very bad for us – and if you or the Americans opposed it, it would be impossible.”

He paused. Sandra said nothing, uncertain of her ground. “At the same time,” Churchill continued, “we have access to resource maps from the future, which show us that colonies…might be able to pay for themselves, or at least for their own development. Places like Iran, which is currently under our occupation, might just be able to pay for their own further development.”

Sandra nodded slowly. “Our main concern is that we work hard to establish democratic roots,” she said. “A place like Iran, which has a very strong sense of national identity, would be a risky place to deal with unfairly. That’s what happened in the original history, and the net result of that was sowing seeds that led to the Age of Unrest.

“At the same time, we would not object to further investment and development of Africa, provided that you were actually trying to introduce democracy,” she continued. “We do not want, Prime Minister, a repeat of the disasters that occurred during decolonisation, but at the same time we do not want you to spark of a war of national liberation by staying too long.”

Churchill smiled. “In short, you have no policy,” he said.

Sandra smiled. “Only a few thoughts,” she said. “Quite frankly, our main concern is preparing to deal with the Krank, nothing else.”

Churchill nodded. “That makes sense,” he said. “In a month, there will be an imperial conference here, where we will discuss the future. I have a nasty suspicion that the Smuts Government will declare independence, but that’s a problem for the future. They don’t like the thought of emancipating all of those black men, you see; they would be swarmed under by the unprepared black voters voting themselves bread and circuses.”

“They will have to work towards it, or they will be swept aside by their own people,” Sandra said dryly. “Prime Minister, the results of working to power the African continent alone would be impressive.”

“True,” Churchill agreed. He led the way into the drawing room; Sandra’s nose twitched. It smelt strongly of tobacco. “Now, I believe that you intended to discuss the future with us.”

Sandra nodded. “In a month, more or less, we plan to start hammering Nazi Germany from orbit,” she said. “In a week at most, we will have stripped them of most of their defences, which will allow us to move forces into France, and then into Germany, almost without opposition.”

She smiled. “It probably won’t be as easy as I’ve just made it sound,” she said. “The German Panzers can all be destroyed from orbit, but each little soldier cannot be swatted with orbital weapons. On the other hand, that sort of bombardment would be utterly destructive to their morale, which alone would make it worthwhile.”

“True,” Churchill agreed. “However, I would like to discuss an invasion of Italy.”

Sandra blinked at him. “There’s no point,” she said. “Fighting there would only waste our time and resources. Why?”

Churchill held her eyes for a long moment. “We have one army,” he said. “If that army is destroyed, it will finish Britain.”

“It won’t be destroyed,” Sandra said. “At worst, you’d be going up against Germans with no Panzers or air cover, while you would have all the air cover you could want.”

“I hope you’re right,” Churchill said. “Still, we will insist on an American army standing beside us as well.”

Sandra nodded. “Are there any problems with an attack through France?”

Churchill laughed. “Political ones,” he said. “How familiar are you with the current French political situation?”

Sandra shook her head. “I know hardly anything,” she said. “I’ve been busy in orbit.”

“It’s simple,” Eden said, leaning forwards and speaking with his utterly infuriating accent. “After their last government fell, after losing to Germany, Vichy France took over running the part of the country that the Germans didn’t occupy, with the Communists backing them because of the agreement between Stalin and Hitler.”

He paused for breath. “At the same time, General DE Gaulle came here, leading the Free French, which was never as big as his ego made it out to be,” he continued. “The net result is that some colonies remained firmly in the Vichy camp, along with most of the French Navy…”

“Which we destroyed at Oran,” Churchill injected.

“Exactly,” Eden said. “The dangers of allowing Hitler to get his grubby little hands on it were obvious. Now, however, Hitler decided that he wanted to close Vichy down and occupy the entire country – apparently because Vichy was plotting against him after you tossed his forces out of Libya. The net result was that a large portion of the remaining French Navy and the Vichy Government fled to North Africa, where they too claim to be the legitimate government.”

Churchill smiled grimly. “A claim also made by DE Gaulle,” he said. “For the record, both of them have demanded equal access to your technology and an important role in shaping the post-war world.”

Sandra had to laugh. “Does it really matter to us?” She asked. “Their pretentious claims aside, are either of them in a position to help us?”

“It’s possible that either of them could be useful,” Churchill admitted, grudgingly. “However, we do not want to create an enemy – and yet, it seems that we have little choice. Which one of them is the government of France?”

It dawned on Sandra that she was literally being asked to make that decision. “I have no idea,” she said. “DE Gaulle is at least free of being a collaborator, which would taint Vichy, right?”

“At the same time, Vichy controls a larger army,” Ironsides said. “Using that army in the invasion of France would be politically useful and quite good from a military point of view. Not least, of course, because it would save British lives. However, place Vichy forward and DE Gaulle has a fit…”

“Good God save us,” Sandra said. She shook her head. “We might as well toss a coin in the air.”

Churchill laughed. “For myself, I am disposed towards Vichy,” he said. “However, simply dumping DE Gaulle would be embarrassing.”

Sandra sighed. “I don’t get paid enough for this,” she said. “Could you not simply force them to form a combined government? Hell, they’ll have to modify their government, once the war is finished, just to prevent the social collapse they suffered in 2022. Less immigration and they’d almost certainly last longer.” She smiled. “Form a combined government, shove out the worst of the fascists, and then get them to commit themselves to proper elections…say, around six months after the liberation. Let the people of France choose their own government.”

“It’s the best idea that we’ve had so far,” Churchill said. Sandra laughed at the comment. “Naturally, both of them will hate it. Now, about the invasion…”


Afterwards, Churchill sat on his old armchair, staring into the fire. The members of his cabinet had gone to their homes; Sandra herself had gone to her hotel. Churchill was alone, wondering about the future. It seemed bleak…and yet there were signs of hope deep inside. Britain was on the brink, but she might yet pull through – particularly if the signs of social unrest in America grew darker.

He shook his head slowly. Everything would depend upon their ability to handle the coming shifts in Africa and the Middle East. Creating a democratic government in Iran would hurt – he knew that the oil companies would complain – but there was little choice. The rebellion had to be averted, whatever it took. In African it would be harder; they would have to build a modern infrastructure, while working towards a genuine democratic government – one that would avoid the social collapse that had destroyed the African Dream.

“The colonists will object,” he muttered to himself, knowing what they would call him. It didn’t matter; Africa had to be turned into a developed continent, or Britain would have to simply abandon it – and the colonists – to their fate. There would be no point in wasting resources on something that would one day be used against them.

He sighed. That made the space program far more important. British scientists were working on the technical details now, sparing no effort to work with the newcomers, just for a look at how they did things. That – and that alone – would make Britain a power to be reckoned with. Space had been almost abandoned by the future Americans, during the Age of Unrest; Churchill would see to it that Britain did not forget.

Chapter Twenty-Three: Rising Sun

IJS Yamato

Hashirajima Anchorage, Japan

Without false modesty, Commander Minoru Genda knew that he was one of Japan’s greatest strategists; he had plotted out the Pearl Harbour attack, which had proven to be one of the most successful surprise attacks of the war. The way that the war was going, however, ever since the newcomers had arrived, had been…disturbing.

“We can launch the attack on Australia as a raid,” he assured Admiral Yamamoto, who had taken personal command of Operation Sho. “We cannot, however, hope to occupy the continent, or even to guarantee supplying a permanent base there.”

Yamamoto, shorter than Genda, but towering over him in stature, nodded slowly. “The Army has pressed for this as part of the campaign,” he said. Only someone who knew him well, like Genda, could have heard the disdain in his voice. “They want to ensure a permanent base on Australia.”

“We cannot supply that base,” Genda said, allowing some urgency to enter his tone. “Admiral, we will be hard-pressed to mount the original plan, let alone the expanded army plan…”

“I know,” Yamamoto said, his tone harsher than Genda had expected. The Japanese Army, which was starting to become more than a little frustrated over the Philippines and Malaya, had presented the Navy with a plan that owed more – Genda suspected – to heavy drinking than any relation to reality. The Army had wanted a major land invasion of Australia, as well as invasions of the Dutch East Indies and the American islands – all at the same time!

“I have burnt up precious political capital,” Yamamoto said. “The plan has been restricted to raiding Australia.”

Genda sighed in relief. “In that case, do we go with Sho-one?”

Yamamoto nodded. Genda knew that Yamamoto was insistent that Japan could not survive a long war with the Americans, therefore the Japanese had to win quickly. If the American fleet – or what was left of it after Pearl Harbour – could be destroyed, Japan would have plenty of time to secure its conquests. The decisive battle would secure Japan a victory – one that would come at a high cost.

“That would be putting all of our strength in one basket,” Genda said, using the western expression to remind Yamamoto of what the Japanese intelligence services had picked up from America, particularly the news of the future. Genda himself knew that armoured suits would be useless against ships – and battleships carried guns heavy enough to crack open a suit – but he was certain that that wasn’t the limits of their unknown opponent’s capabilities.

“We have little choice,” Yamamoto said. The Japanese intelligence network had been fragmented; clearly some parts had never made it into the history books. There was enough remaining, however, to know that Australia would be playing host to one of the newcomers’ bases. As a potential source of technology, it would be invaluable.

Genda hesitated. He knew that Yamamoto was willing to listen to plans that sounded crazy – on the face of it – but this plan was so radical that it might earn him an immediate beheading instead of promotion. Yamamoto sensed his hesitation; he looked up and quirked an eyebrow.

“Admiral, why do we not attempt to make peace with the Americans?” He asked. Yamamoto’s face twisted. “We have a new threat; the alien Krank,” he said. The Americans had been quite free with that titbit of information. “Japan needs to take part in that defence program, and for that we need peace.”

He left part of the argument un-stated; it was a part that could never be mentioned. The Japanese could save face by making peace on those terms, rather than on victorious terms; victory, he knew, would be a pipedream. The only sort of victory Japan could hope for would be a partial one at best.

“I discussed the matter with the Cabinet,” Yamamoto said. Genda relaxed slightly inwardly, keeping his face impassive; a beheading didn’t look to be in his future. “It is their belief that the Krank are a fake.”

Genda felt his mouth drop open, a terrible breach of etiquette. Yamamoto didn’t seem to notice. “Admiral…we have seen the reports from Germany,” he protested. “What could possibly be the reason to lie? If they have that sort of power…”

“Enough,” Yamamoto said. Genda understood; the War Cabinet, the Army at least, didn’t want to believe in the Krank threat. It would mean giving up some of their conquests, which would mean giving up some of their power. They wanted – desperately – to believe what the Germans had told them, even though Genda found it unbelievable.

He remembered, grimly, the German argument. “There are only a handful of them,” the German officer had said, during the briefing. “If we can kill one of them at the cost of a thousand lives, we come out ahead. Their technology is impressive, but it can be beaten.”

“The fleet will sail tomorrow,” Yamamoto said. “Naturally, they will see us from orbit; the Americans will have to come face us or they will have to watch Australia being invaded.”

Genda felt his heart sink. “Hai,” he said, trying to look like he believed him. “It will be a glorious battle.”

Yamamoto looked up. “I feel that it will be tricky,” he said. Genda silently admired his Admiral’s grasp of understatement. “If we fail, we will be risking every ship in the Combined Fleet; only a handful of the older battleships are remaining behind.”

“We have to look impressive,” Genda protested. “They won’t be impressed by one single ship, even a carrier.”

Yamamoto nodded slowly. “We also want to be free of interference from American submarines,” he agreed. “A large fleet, oilers and all, will be needed.”

They shared a long glance. They both knew just how low the oil reserves were. If the Japanese failed to secure the Dutch East Indies, the war effort was doomed. They were risking more than just the fleet’s battle line; losing the oil tankers could doom the fleet as surely as losing the carriers. The British had lost two battleships to air attack; without the fleet’s carriers, even the tiny Australian air force would be capable of wrecking havoc.

“We have that fleet,” Genda said. “The reinforcements to the Philippines will keep the Americans looking in the wrong direction, until it’s too late.”

Yamamoto nodded slowly. “For the Emperor,” he said. “For the Emperor; we will bear any burden.”

Duty is heavier than a mountain, death is lighter than a feather, Genda reminded himself. “For the Emperor,” he said.


The Combined Fleet put to sea the day afterwards, led by the Yamato. Genda watched the fleet from the battleship’s observation tower; the Japanese force was very impressive. Six large fleet carriers, several smaller carriers, were the main striking force, backed up by twelve battleships and dozens of smaller ships. It looked invincible.

“I have ordered a constant air patrol over the fleet, even in the night,” Yamamoto said. Genda showed no reaction; the night-time patrols would be very dangerous for the pilots. “If the Americans intend to attempt a sneak attack, we will always have a force ready to meet them.”

Genda bowed, staring up at the map on the Yamato’s plotting table. They were proceeding south, travelling on a wide dogleg around the Philippines, moving through the endless wastes of the Pacific towards Australia. Under normal circumstances, they could have hoped to remain undetected until after they had circumvented the Dutch East Indies; with spies in the sky…Genda knew that they could be being watched right now.

He peered out of the porthole, into the sky, but saw nothing. Japanese astronomers had been trying to track the fleet in orbit, but the ships kept changing positions; it was impossible to predict with any certainty where they would be while the Japanese fleet made its transit. The fleet itself would be tiny against the scale of the ocean, but they had some evidence to suggest that the satellites could pick up individual men.

“The troops are handling themselves well,” he said, just to make conversation as the hours drifted on. “They’re in high spirits.”

“That’s good,” Yamamoto said. He seemed distracted; Genda knew that he was worrying about the safety of the fleet. Yamamoto had said some harsh things about Admiral Nagumo, the current second in command; the Admiral had failed to press the attack against Pearl Harbour hard enough to suit Yamamoto.

“They’re looking forward to invading Australia,” he said. The Japanese Army had won the commitment to the beachhead, in exchange for allowing the Navy tactical command. It would be a problem, but Genda wasn’t that worried; the Army was confident that it could live off the land. In the very likely event that the Army was wrong, it would certainly be blamed for it.

“They’re unlikely to have the chance,” Yamamoto said, as the skies began to darken. It would take them several days to reach attack range of Australia. “Go get some sleep, Commander; you’ll need it.”

He left Yamamoto on the bridge, looking into the darkening skies, and silently praying to himself. The image was so…tragic that he almost cried.

HDS John Howard

Earth Orbit

There was hardly any need for the most advanced sensors in their current situation, Lieutenant Robin Williston knew; Earth itself didn’t possess anything like the capability to hide anything from the active sensors. There were no Krank or any other race nearby; the only deep-space activity for humans to watch was the ongoing effort to add water to the Martian atmosphere, mainly by dropping ice asteroids onto the planet. The effects were spectacular, but hardly special; Williston spent a lot of his time researching the past – or the present, as it was now.

He knew that he was lucky to be remaining on the bridge, even though conning a battlecruiser wasn’t what it once had been. It hadn’t been standard practice to keep an active duty crew on the bridge in Earth orbit – until Earth became a strange place from the past. With half of the crew occupied on Earth, or the Moon; he was lucky to have only monitoring the space activity of the project to build new space stations to do. The Contemporary-produced components were dumped into space, using crewmen in suits to assemble them, building space stations from the dawn of the space age.

He smiled as his sensors revealed them in every little detail. It hardly mattered; at any time, the effort was impressive. Some of the modules were being pushed onwards to the Moon, where they would be used as habitation bases for turning the Moon into a supply base, while others would be converted into ongoing bridge ships for deep-space work. They would be primitive, compared to the John Howard, but they would do the work and…

A chime on the console alerted him. The monitoring program was sounding an alert; it monitored all of the Contemporary naval activity. He lifted an eyebrow, surprised that anything large enough to disturb the AI monitoring the process would be taking place, and accessed the data stream directly.

“Fuck me,” he said aloud, as the satellites started feeding the information directly onto his console. “That’s…impossible.”

“I’d sooner not, if it’s all the same to you,” Lieutenant Belinda Kitson said. Her voice was richly amused; Williston glared at her. “What’s happening?”

Williston adjusted his voice with an effort. “Oh, nothing much,” he said. “Only a Japanese fleet, larger than anyone’s worst nightmare, sailing out towards the Dutch East Indies or somewhere.”

“I see,” Belinda said, as she peered over his shoulder. “That’s…not good.”

Williston nodded. “Admiral,” he said, lifting his wristcom to his mouth. “I think you’d better take a look at this.”

Masterson strode onto the bridge five minutes later, followed rapidly by Captain Eileen Harper. Both of them looked tired; it had clearly been a harder negotiation session than they had expected. The AI announced their arrival, welcoming them to the bridge; the two junior officers saluted.

“We’re here,” Masterson said. He sounded far too tired for anyone’s comfort. “What’s the situation?”

Williston tapped the display. “Nearly a hundred Japanese ships, heading for the Dutch East Indies,” he said. “They’ll be there in four days, at that rate; they’re fairly moving quickly, sir.”

“No,” Masterson said absently. Williston glanced up at him sharply. “They’re not heading for the Dutch East Indies.”

Williston frowned. “Admiral?” He asked. “The course is fairly clear.”

“They wouldn’t take carriers into those waters,” Masterson said. His voice was still tired, but growing stronger. “There’s nothing there worth the effort; they could secure the oil with the troopships and one carrier alone.”

Eileen looked up at him. “Admiral, if they’re not heading to the Dutch East Indies, then where?”

Masterson tapped one specific location on the display. “Australia,” he said. “One of our bases is there. That’s their target.”

Eileen cursed. “There are nearly ten thousand people there,” she hissed. “If they can destroy our base.”

“But they don’t stand a chance,” Williston protested. “Admiral; we could load firing orders into the kinetic weapons right now and sink that fleet.”

“Not yet,” Masterson said thoughtfully. Williston stared at him. “We have four days, do we not?”

Williston nodded. “Yes, Admiral,” he said. The Japanese might even have to slow down at some point, he saw; he didn’t think that they could maintain that speed for long. “However, they might disperse the fleet…”

“That won’t matter,” Masterson said. “Prepare a bombardment plan; target the big ships and their support ships first. The others will run out of fuel before they can become a threat, so they can be left to starve or surrender.” He shrugged. “No point in wasting good ammunition.”

“Yes, Admiral,” Williston said. They had only a limited amount of projectiles, after all, but it was unlikely that even a Japanese battleship would survive one hit, let alone a carrier with its flat top and fuel storage tanks. “We won’t have a single miss.”

“Continue to monitor the situation,” Masterson ordered, ignoring the last comment. He seemed to have a plan, Williston realised, but he couldn’t even begin to work out what it was. What was the point of leaving the Japanese alone for so long? “I’ll have orders soon.”

Masterson left the bridge, heading back into his office. Williston stared after him until Eileen poked him in the shoulder. “You have your orders, Lieutenant,” she said firmly. Her tone wasn’t one to disobey. “Carry them out.”

“Yes, Captain,” Williston said. He drew up an image of the Japanese fleet and began selecting targets. The carriers, as the most dangerous ships, would be the first targets; he had to admit that he was looking forwards to watching the effects. “Targets are being designated now.”


Masterson stepped into his cabin, already dictating instructions into the communications network. The Japanese fleet could have been engaged at once, but he wanted to do more; he wanted to deliver a shocking lesson. If the Japanese could be convinced to surrender, well and good; if not, they had to be made to hurt.

“Communications link with Prime Minister Curtin established,” the AI said, as Curtin’s face, permanently tired and drawn, appeared in the display. “Standard encryption protocols now in effect; level one.”

Masterson nodded politely to the Australian. They’d met several times; the man had impressed him with his grasp of the future, if less with his worries about Japanese attack. He might have had a point, Masterson realised, as he pulled up the current image of the Japanese fleet. Williston was doing a good job of selecting targets, but there were so many Japanese ships. What would a kinetic bomb do to a battleship? No one, as far as he could remember, had ever tried the experiment.

“Good morning, Admiral,” Curtin said. “I assume that this is not a social call?”

“You assume correctly,” Masterson said. “There is a very large Japanese fleet heading your way. We suspect that its main target is our base on your territory, perhaps even to attempt an invasion.”

Curtin’s face paled so quickly that Masterson wondered if the man was going to have a stroke. “You said that you would protect us,” he said, his voice hoarse. “Will you keep your word?”

“Of course,” Masterson said. He smiled openly at Curtin’s relief. “I merely want to ask you one question.”

Curtin looked up hopefully. “Anything,” he said. Masterson had known that Curtin had dreaded a Japanese invasion, but this was becoming ridiculous. He was almost grovelling, for God’s sake. “What do you want?”

Masterson smiled. “I want to know if you would assist in rescuing them after we sink the ships,” he said. Curtin stared at him. “The Japanese might have useful intelligence,” Masterson explained.

“How long do we have?” Curtin asked. His face was a mixture of relief and concern; he had been a proponent of the ‘white Australia’ policy. “I’ll have to give some orders for preparing POW camps.”

“Around three days until we engage them,” Masterson said. The ships could have been engaged at once, as Williston had pointed out; he wondered if Curtin would have noticed. “That will at least keep them out of striking range of you when we attack.”

Curtin nodded. “Thank you,” he said. “I’ll give the orders at once.”

Masterson shrugged. “They might surrender,” he said. “It’s unlikely, but if they do, you can have the ships.”

“Thank you,” Curtin said again. Masterson nodded to himself; it was unlikely, but just in case… “I’ll see to preparing the camps.”

The connection broke. Masterson sat back in his chair and thought; it was just possible that they might capture someone important in the attack, or that the shocking defeat might break Japan. It was just impossible to be sure…and that meant that the Japanese would have to be handled at gunpoint.

“Damn all fanatics anyway,” he muttered, and headed down to his cabin to sleep. There would be time enough to give the other orders tomorrow.

Chapter Twenty-Four: Black and White

Victory Town

Nevada, USA

The hall bore what was becoming the typical air of Victory Town; a sense that it was still a work in process. Like most of the other buildings in the town, it was built out of the odd bricks one of the future machines built, lit up by Contemporary lamps, powered by a nuclear powered plant. It was massive, large enough to hold upwards of two thousand people, and it was packed.

Frederick Jackson, late of Texas, looked along the room, trying to understand what had happened. Like several hundred other black men and boys – and not a few women from Texas – he had been getting used to working in the strange place. He’d come in hopes of a job and somewhere where what he was would be determined by more than just his skin colour, and he suspected that he’d found it. The supervisors were more than willing to evict anyone, black, white or anything else, who caused a racial incident.

As for those who caused a sexual incident…he shook his head, not even wanting to think about it. The future people had lie detectors, ones that were impossible to fool. A girl who had lied was evicted; a boy who had raped was jailed and placed on the hardest duty. It was a strange place, but seeing black and white men treated equally made up for it.

The room itself was packed with men and women of all colours and creeds. He could see a pretty Japanese-American girl talking to a white boy; a black woman talking to an Irishman. The supervisors forced black and white men to work together, forging them into a team. Hatred…sometimes still existed, but everyone was learning to get along, somehow.

A loud whistle drew everyone’s attention. “Good afternoon,” a man said. Jackson wondered if his eyes were going funny; the man had green skin. He wasn’t an oddly tinted white man; he was green. His eyes, he could see, were yellow, almost like a cat’s eye. He was clearly one of the future crewmen – there was no one on Earth with that skin colour – but he’d never seen such a man before.

His skin started to crawl. There was something…inhuman about the man, a sign perhaps that he hadn’t been born on Earth. He wondered, absently, if the man was in fact an alien, perhaps even one of the Krank, but he looked human. The Krank looked like massive frogs. He walked and talked human, to be fair, but there was something odd about him.

“To answer what I suspect will be your first question, I and the others like me were adjusted to cope with conditions on a certain miserable planet,” the man said. “I am Colonel Paris; former Marine colonel, hoping to have somewhere safe to sit and allow flowers to grow up around the door.” He paused. “But instead I’m here,” he said. “That puts us all together.”

There were some chuckles. “I have been charged with making an offer to you all,” he said. “We have been watching you for some time – don’t stare, you weren’t meant to notice – and you are some of the most…adaptable people who have come here. We have finally reached the point where we are going to need ground troops and several other different kinds of specialities – and you would be the most capable of adapting to the role.”

He paused. “You know something of how we work,” he said. “We will be putting you all through an intensive training course, one that will push you to your limits. If you get through that, you will be ready for active duty in Germany, perhaps even Japan. Occupation duty is a bitch, but it can be done.”

Jackson winced inwardly at the thought of someone using that sort of language near women. His grandmother would have smacked him for that. If Colonel Paris had ever had any such scruples, he had clearly lost them long ago. It seemed to be how the newcomers worked; they refused to admit that there were any differences, and somehow there weren’t any.

He smiled. A number of couples had sprung up already in the town, some of whom were going to get married in one of the new churches that were already being built within the regions of Victory Town. Some of the couples were mixed race; others were people who would never have met, outside the strange melting pot of Victory Town. The blue papers, some of which were smuggled into the town, ranted and raved about mixed race relationships, but he knew what he liked; anything that pissed off the Ku Klux Klan was fine by him.

Colonel Paris was still speaking, he realised, and he dragged himself back to listen. “It won’t be easy,” Paris admitted. “We will be pushing you hard, and all we can promise in return is high pay and settlement rights to a place in the outer solar system. You might not want that…well, at least not the money.” There were some chuckles. “That said, you would also get full medical benefits.”

There was a long pause. “Any questions?”

An anonymous voice from the back spoke up. “Colonel Paris…you are going to put women in a combat situation? You want them to fight the bastards?”

Jackson winced. A girl standing near the speaker had kneed him in the unmentionables. “I think that proves our point,” Colonel Paris said. “Yes, we will be putting women – and men – in the line of fire. Any more questions?”

A burly black man shouted up from the front. “Will we be getting battlesuits of our own?”

There was a chorus of agreement. Every man there – and not a few of the women – would have loved to have been able to walk around in a battlesuit, ignoring racial taunts and attacks with ease. That alone would attract them to military duty; the battlesuits were, in the words of the future, cool.

“Perhaps, is the short answer,” Colonel Paris said. “We hope to start making new battlesuits within a year, but our modern industrial base is only a small one. We hope to be able to pass more and more tasks onto yours – onto the one we’re building here – which will allow us to replace the battlesuits we do have. We have a handful of spare suits, but most of them will have to be held back for trained Marines.”

There was a mutter of disappointment. “We will have you earmarked for the first new suits,” Colonel Paris said, perhaps understanding their point. “However, we can make no promises as to when we will even get a stepped-down version.” He paused. “If you want to volunteer, stay in this hall. If you don’t want to volunteer, you may leave.”

He sat down. There was a long uncomfortable pause; several dozen people, mainly younger girls, left the room. More remained, glaring defiantly at their male counterparts. Five minutes passed, and then Colonel Paris stood up again.

“This is the last chance,” he said. “If you don’t leave now, you are committed.”

Jackson waited. Two more people, both men, left; the remainder stayed in place, waiting. “Welcome to the service of humanity,” Colonel Paris said. “Raise your right arm and repeat after me…”

Jackson lifted his arm. “I, insert my own name here…”

Paris laughed as the entire group dissolved into laughter. “Everyone does that,” he said. Jackson realised that nearly half the group had taken him literally. “Let’s try it again, shall we?”

Jackson lifted his arm again. “I, Frederick Jackson, do solemnly swear to serve humanity all my days, forsaking all ties to anything below the service of humanity as a whole. To this cause, I pledge my life, my soul, and my honour; I serve humanity, nothing below the cause of humanity as a whole.”

“The oath took several years for everyone to agree on,” Colonel Paris said, conversationally. Jackson felt…strange; it felt as if a weight had lifted from his mind, but at the same time he felt – knew that he was – committed. “A lot of people wanted references to God, or to religion, but then they started asking…which religion? Do they pray to God, or Allah, or Yahweh…and then, what about the religions that have several gods?

“And then there were other problems,” he continued. “All of the original Human Defence Force was committed to all of humanity, not to any single world. They would always have the strongest military force, but its very diversity was what made sure that it could not be used as a weapon against humanity or any individual planet. Something you may not grasp – at first – is that you are no longer Americans, but citizens of Earth and the Solar System. You have to act with that in mind, always.”

He shrugged. “You can look up the details in the library computers any time you like,” he said. “I would advise you to study the regulations as well; you are now bound by them.” He paused. “Now…the worst part of all.”

Jackson looked up, almost dismayed. “The medical check,” Paris said. “Report at once to the medical centre and don’t delay; you’re in the Human Defence Force now!”


A. Philip Randolph, called a hero by some and a troublemaker by others, was a surprisingly competent man, Governor Rusholme thought, studying the man as he examined the recruitment session. Randolph’s face was almost unreadable, but Rusholme had plenty of practice watching faces; the man was pleased.

Of course, he hadn’t yet deigned to explain what the ‘A’ stood for; Rusholme had been surprised enough to make a mental note to look it up in the files. He amused himself by wondering if it were something embarrassing, or perhaps simply unsuited to his role as defender of black American rights.

“I trust that you are enjoying yourself,” he said, as the ceremony finished. “They’re going to be the first of many, we hope.”

Randolph looked at him, his face astonished. “That man was green,” he said. His voice was stunned. “He had green skin.”

“There was an accident with a great deal of dye,” Rusholme snapped, lying. “I trust both you and the NAACP are happy with the arrangements here?”

“It’s quite impressive, particularly compared to the remainder of the country,” Randolph said, his tone a mixture of bitterness and admiration. He had planned to lead a march on Washington demanding civil rights, before the war had begun. Now he was helping black men to find their way towards Victory Town. “Will you be holding the newer factories to the same rules?”

Rusholme nodded. “Yes, Mr Randolph,” he said. Damn it, what did that ‘A’ stand for? “We will be having mixed race courses on every subject, from medicine to practical computing. The knowledge will be dispersed across the nation, and – in time – the world.”

“And the black man will be equal at last,” Randolph said. “That’s worth fighting for, I think.”

“He always was,” Rusholme said. “He was just…unwilling to stand up and claim his right.”

Randolph frowned. “I have another matter to discuss with you,” he said. “Are you aware that certain people are refusing to allow black men to travel here?”

Rusholme had heard something along those lines, but he kept his face blank. “Some elements of black labour unions have been trying to insist that they get preference,” he commented. “Is it not the same thing?”

“No, it isn’t,” Randolph snapped. “There are people who have been refusing to allow black men to leave, despite wanting to be rid of them all the time!”

Rusholme sighed. “I have heard about that,” he admitted. “However, my practical authority is limited to Victory Town and the other bases, the ones spread around the world. I cannot influence the decision of southern courts.”

“There are black men trapped in the south, unable to leave,” Randolph snapped. “Some of them are talking about violence; ‘we’re not going to take it anymore’ is the current motto, and it’s being whispered everywhere.”

Rusholme thought for a long moment. “What do you suggest I do?” He asked. “We do not have the ability to accept them all – all however-many-millions there are – in Victory Town. We’re having trouble barely keeping ahead of the inflow as it is.” He paused. “We might have to have an overflow place…”

“I have many contacts in Washington,” Randolph said. “You’re upsetting a lot of people, Governor; they want to shut you down!”

“That is worrying,” Rusholme agreed. “However, we don’t have any authority outside the Victory Town.”

Randolph waved a hand around the room. “You took in hundreds of Japanese-Americans,” he accused. “What about the black men?”

“We take in everyone who comes to us and is willing to work,” Rusholme said. He held Randolph’s eyes until the man wilted. “We do not have authority outside, for the third time.”

“The country is on the verge of exploding,” Randolph said, his voice softening. “Is there nothing that you can do?”

Rusholme considered. “I can discuss the matter with Admiral Masterson,” he said. “However, there is little practically that we can do.”

“You have influence,” Randolph said. “Use it.”

“Not enough,” Rusholme said, shaking his head. “It would take more influence than President Roosevelt has to deal with the problem…and we don’t have that much. Raw threats, Mr Randolph, would only make the problem worse.” He sighed. “We will take care of the people who come here, Mr Randolph, but that’s as far as we can go.”


George Taylor had been born George Forest, in Alabama. His father, who claimed a descent from General Forest, had taught him that everyone had their place in the world – and black men were on the bottom. A white man, he had informed his son, could sleep with a black woman – a black man who slept with a white woman was to be lynched. George had absorbed the hatred with his mother’s milk.

By the time he was eighteen, he had taken part in several race riots, learning how easy it was to kill someone who didn’t fight back. Black men rarely fought back; some would-be lynchers had been killed, but George had never been hurt, let alone killed. He’d been looking forward to joining the army and killing some Japanese – the race just above the black man, in his father’s view – when the starships from the future arrived.

“The black men will become uppity,” his father had predicted. Just as he had said, there were more clashes with black men in the month since the fleet arrived, and his father, a Ku Klux Klan grandmaster, had encouraged him to take part. However, his chapter of the KKK had found a different use for George; he had, after all, shown promise on the acting stage.

“It is nearly time for us to take back our country,” a man hidden in a white hood had informed him. His father had been undisguised; he had been proud of his son. “To do that, we need information; we have to know what is happening inside the compounds where black men go so freely, along with misguided white men.”

“I see,” George had said, bursting with eagerness. “You want me to burst some niggers?”

“No,” the man had said. “We want you to go there and pretend to be one of them, collecting information. You must do nothing to arouse suspicion.”

“Remember, sleeping with black women is permitted,” his father had injected, with a strange look that George didn’t understand. “Good luck, son.”

A week later, he had arrived at Victory Town. He had been astonished with its rapid growth, even as he took note of the number of coloured people walking around; some of them even hand in hand. Sexual freedom, he soon discovered, existed here; men could have sexual relations with other men and go unpunished.

Father Thomas would have had a fit, he thought, remembering the fiery old preacher who had preached at his church. He had been death on homosexuality, just as he had been death on abortion, contraception and pre-marital sex. His baleful influence accounted for more bastard children than anything else in his home village; boys and girls had still played together, their ignorance contributing to little ‘accidents.’

It hadn’t taken him long to find work; there was always a need for skilled workers, and George was willing to learn. There were dozens of small businesses starting up in Victory Town, somehow cashing in on the rapid growth of the town, and he found work as a store clerk. It was a good place to work; he got to meet everyone, from the black men who worked as builders, to some of the white men seeking ‘artistic freedom.’

“It’s disgusting,” he burst out to his handler, one evening. He had noted that he had relatives nearby when he applied for citizenship in Victory Town; every weekend, he went to stay with them. His uncle, it happened, was simply part of a different chapter of the KKK than his father. “They’re worse than niggers!”

His uncle shrugged. “I want you to focus on collecting the information,” he warned, tapping his belt meaningfully. “What does the village look like now?”

“Very different every week,” George said, although it was starting to take on a more coherent form. The massive shape of the transport still dominated the town – which was starting to become more of a city – but it seemed that genuine town planners were now becoming involved. “It’s settling down, though.”

“Good,” his uncle said. “What about soldiers?”

“They got several hundred niggers to work as soldiers,” George said. That news had been all around the town. “They’re supposed to be being trained somewhere else.”

“Black men are not supposed to have guns,” his uncle said, in the same mild tone his father used when telling George to bend over and lower his trousers. “We will have to do something about that, won’t we?”

George nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, uncle,” he said. “When can we start?”

Chapter Twenty-Five: Setting Sun

IJS Yamato

Pacific Ocean

It was quiet. Too quiet.

Commander Genda looked into the horizon as the sun rose for the fourth day of their trip. They had paused long enough to transfer some supplies from some of the support ships to the warships – sending the supply ships back towards Japan, where they would be needed desperately – before resuming their course at a more reasonable rate of speed.

He scowled inwardly, careful not to show any of his thoughts on his face. They would be pushing the very limits of their logistics; everything would depend on their ability to break contact when they needed to break contact. They could win the battle, but lose the war, just by fighting longer than they could stand.

“Commander,” Yamamoto said, as he entered the bridge. The Admiral, Genda was pleased to note, looked rested. He was less pleased to see Colonel Nishma, General Homma’s aide, following the Admiral; Nishma was utterly fanatical, the type of man who would have attacked an enemy fortress clad only in his nightclothes.

“Admiral,” Genda replied, bowing. “There has been no change in our status.”

Yamamoto looked down at the map. They had been cut off completely from contact with Japan; they knew – or suspected – that the Americans were reading their codes. The Home Islands might have surrendered – and the fleet would never know about it. The Philippines might have finally fallen…and they would never hear until they returned to Japan.

“Nearly a day still to go,” Yamamoto said. The question wasn’t rhetorical; he needed to know. Genda nodded; they would enter engagement range within a day, unless they were discovered beforehand. If the Americans came out to do battle, then they would test the mettle of their pilots against the Americans, who were brave, but with inferior aircraft.

He shook his head. The Japanese Office of Shipping had worked hard, before the war, charting out the normal shipping lanes, even the ones that were no longer active; Australia would no longer be sending supplies to Japan. Even so, the fleet was moving well away from the shipping lanes; there was no need to risk everything through carelessness, or wishful thinking.

He snorted inwardly. Wishful thinking, he now understood, had been what had gotten Japan into the war in the first place – and American wishful thinking had only made the matter worse. Between both sets of leaders, the nations were now locked in a death-grip; the loser would be determined soon.

“We could push through right there,” Nishma proclaimed, his hand tracing out a course on the map. It was the course of a typical amateur, or that of a fleet during peacetime; it was not a realistic course at all. “We could have shaved a day off the trip.”

Genda sighed inwardly. The course would have been quicker, yes, but it would have taken them through the Dutch East Indies, into waters infested with submarines and Allied patrols. They might well have blown their way through, but at a high cost; they would be unlikely to be able to achieve the advantage of surprise. Worse, the battle might have drained their supplies so far that pressing the attack would be impossible.

“I ordered it,” Yamamoto said, his voice like ice. Shorter than the Colonel, he still dominated him; he dominated the bridge. He’d served in the navy during the time that Admiral Togo had defeated the Russians; he’d even served on the flagship. “Now, what about the long-range patrols?”

Genda unfurled a folder of reports. The patrols were risky, he knew; they ran the risk of having the aircraft seen by the Americans or their allies. At the same time, a strike against a loaded carrier would be a disaster; no one had yet fought a carrier-to-carrier engagement. If the Americans got one of their own carriers close enough to launch a strike, the Japanese would be in serious trouble.

“They’re still flying out,” he said. They’d used seaplanes; it was just possible that someone would see one of them and dismiss it. “They have seen nothing at all.”

“Good,” Yamamoto said. He’d issued orders that any merchant ships were to be sunk on sight, but he took no pleasure in slaughter. “Now, I want…”

A noise echoed across the horizon, cutting him off. Genda jumped to the porthole, staring out as a black spot raced across the sky, looping from side to side in a series of impossible manoeuvres, dodging the combat air patrol with ease. The shape – it seemed to be almost a hovering box – hung in the air, then raced down towards the Japanese fleet.

“Deploy antiaircraft guns,” the Captain of the Yamato snapped. His voice was hard; he was worried about Yamamoto’s safety. He had even attempted to convince the Admiral to fly his flag from a carrier. “Shoot that thing down.”

“Belay that order,” Yamamoto said, his voice remaining calm. Genda was impressed; he had the unpleasant feeling that they were badly outmatched. “Launch the ready flight; I want that thing forced down.”

“Signal sent,” the signaller said, after signalling the carriers with his lighted sticks. “They’re responding.”

The noise of the strange aircraft, a sound that rattled him down to his bones, was joined by the more familiar racket of Japanese aircraft launching themselves into the sky. Genda smiled to himself as the Zeros rose above the carrier decks; how could the valiant flyers fail to bring down their foe?

The radio operator coughed. “Ah, Admiral,” he said, as if he expected Yamamoto to draw his sword and behead him at once. “There is a signal coming in, for you.”

Yamamoto blinked at him. “For me personally?”

“They’re asking to speak with Admiral Yamamoto,” the radio operator said, remaining at attention. “It’s a very powerful signal; it’s masking everything else, even the Australian radio transmissions.”

Yamamoto stepped over to the radio station. “Pass me the headphones,” he ordered. The radio operator passed them to him without comment. “This is Admiral Yamamoto,” he said. “I understand that you want to talk to me.”


The Assault Carrier Tarawa, ironically enough, had been named for a battle during the Second World War, one that would never now be fought. The carrier wasn’t a carrier in the sense that the Japanese ships were carriers; it carried the fleet’s Marine complement and their supplies, not starfighters.

Admiral Masterson had insisted on flying the coordination mission himself; he just wanted to get off the John Howard and back to some simple fighting. He would have welcomed an attack by a Krank battlecruiser, just to break the monotony; if they’d had a few more assault carriers along, Hitler could have been dealt with by now, instead of having to wait for a month to build up local forces.

“I see some ships, Admiral,” Gwen said. The redheaded pilot seemed, like all pilots, to be utterly confident in herself; Masterson wished Sam Turtledove well. “That’s the Japanese fleet.”

Masterson shifted in his seat, adjusting the display. The Japanese fleet was impressive, he had to admit; it dominated the seas around it by sheer force. If it had faced the American Navy as it was at the moment, he suspected that it would have won; Midway had been an impressive collection of mistakes and bad luck. The Japanese should have won – as they did on every replay of the game in war studies institutes the world over.

“Opening communications,” he said, almost laughing at the situation. The Japanese were dead; they just didn’t realise it yet. “This is the commander of the force that has got you in its sights,” he said, words calculated to infuriate the Japanese. “I would like to talk to Admiral Yamamoto.”

There was a long pause, and then a new voice came on, speaking careful words. The computers checked the voiceprint and confirmed that it was indeed Yamamoto. Masterson took the opportunity to designate two targets as a demonstration strike, and then started to talk to the Japanese man properly.

“Good afternoon,” he said, relying on the computers to translate. “I am Admiral Masterson, the commanding officer of what has become known as the Newcomer Fleet, a group of starships from the future.”

Yamamoto’s voice was careful, but firm. “I am the commanding officer of the fleet below you,” he said. “Land your ship on the carriers at once.”

Masterson laughed out loud. The Japanese aircraft would be unable to reach them; Yamamoto was trying to bluff him. “No, Admiral,” he said. “That won’t do at all.” He paused for dramatic effect. “I am hereby demanding your unconditional surrender, Admiral; you will surrender your fleet at once to Allied authorities.”

Yamamoto’s voice faded, then strengthened. Masterson checked the display; it wasn’t a problem with the transmitter, but Yamamoto’s voice. “You are one little aircraft and you are demanding the surrender of the entire fleet?”

Masterson tapped a command into his console. “You are hopelessly outgunned, Admiral,” he said. It wasn’t an exaggeration; the Japanese fleet could have been wiped out at once. “Observe.”

High overhead, a little projectile fell out of orbit, blazing through the air, already targeted perfectly on its target; a Japanese destroyer that Masterson had picked at random. The destroyer might have been a capable ship, but it was no match for the small projectile; the destroyer simply exploded in a blast of light.

“Now that’s impressive,” Gwen muttered, as the display showed the remains of the ship. Only a few pieces of wreckage lay on the water. “They’re fucked.”

Masterson was disgusted at himself; disgusted with the pleasure he had taken in the act of slaughtering the Japanese sailors. “It’s like shooting tied up foxes, or beating up children,” he said. “There’s no glory in this.”

“Some children can be right bastards,” Gwen said, practically. “There’s always a kid who could only be improved by a sound thrashing.”

Masterson snorted and activated the radio. “Admiral Yamamoto, your force is in a hopeless position,” he said. He wasn’t in the mood to be polite. “Surrender, now.”

“You are one aircraft,” Yamamoto said. His tone darkened with a strange form of hope; Masterson knew that it was a false hope. “You can be brought down.”

The air seemed to explode around them as the Japanese fleet opened fire with its antiaircraft weapons. Few of the shells even came anywhere near the shuttle; those few that did exploded harmlessly against the drive field. Masterson scowled; Yamamoto had pulled a good trick, but one limited enough to proving that he didn’t have any idea what orbital weapons can do.

The shuttle rocked. “They punched us one in the bum,” Gwen said. “No damage, but…”

Masterson knew. The damaged suits hadn’t lost their users through their shells being broken open, but by the user being banged around inside the suits. Eventually, the damage had defeated even the most capable of implants, the ones provided to Marines and starship officers.

“I’m activating firing sequence one,” Masterson said. That firing sequence held the Japanese carriers and two of the battleships as their main targets. “Take us up higher; we don’t want to be in the track of the weapons.”

“Aye, sir,” Gwen said. The shuttle rose higher, above the Japanese fleet, looking down at it from so high that the individual ships were harder to make out. Even the largest ships couldn’t be made out by the naked eye; the displays still tracked them with perfect precision. “Recommend that you open fire at once.”

Masterson tapped the authorisation sequence into the console. “Weapons away,” he said. “May God have mercy on their souls.”


The bridge was very quiet; the only noise was that of the Yamato’s antiaircraft guns, trying to shoot down the future ship. Genda watched Yamamoto, who looked pale and worn, and he watched Colonel Nishma watching Yamamoto.

“Look,” he said suddenly, as he saw them falling. A streak of red fire was falling from the sky, followed by more and more; he counted eighteen as they fell further, right towards the Japanese fleet. “They’re not coming from that aircraft.”

“I know,” Yamamoto said. His face was tight. “Commander, I think…”

A thunderous roar split the skies…and then the carrier Kaga simply exploded, blown clear out of the water. The wave of the explosion passed right across the battleship, washing right across them, and another thunderclap followed, and another…

“The carriers are gone,” someone shouted, his voice giving in to panic. Genda wanted to join him as the smoke cleared; the carriers had indeed been sunk. The only floating ship of those struck seemed to be the battleship Kongo, and it had been badly damaged. Seconds later, a tearing explosion blew the battleship apart.

Yamamoto was breathing hard, almost in shock; Genda wasn’t sure what to do at all. Colonel Nishma was staring at the ruined ships, at the fleet he knew was doomed, and he looked as if he were going to panic too. His hand was on his pistol belt, almost as if he were going to shoot himself rather than…face the unthinkable.

“Admiral?” He asked. “Admiral!”

“They’re calling us again,” the radio operator said. His voice was weak and shaky; under other circumstances, Genda knew that he would have been lucky not to be relieved for cowardliness under fire, if not shot out of hand. “Admiral?”

Yamamoto shuffled, almost like an old man, over to the radio station. “Here,” he said. He listened to whatever was being said on the radio. “What guarantees will you give for the safety of my men?”

The answer, whatever it was, didn’t please him at all. “You want me to surrender unconditionally?”

Genda winced inwardly. Surrender went against everything he had been taught, but there didn’t seem to be any other choice at all. Colonel Nishma seemed less happy; his face was scowling and he was glaring at the Admiral.

“There seems to be no choice,” Yamamoto said, his face a mask of pain. Genda wished that he could hear the other side of the conversation. “What are your instructions?”

No,” Colonel Nishma said. “You must not surrender! The honour of Japan demands that…”

“There is no choice,” Yamamoto said, as he looked up at the army officer. “It’s that, or the entire fleet dies – for nothing.”

“Better dead that a prisoner,” Colonel Nishma snapped, drawing his pistol. Genda grabbed for his own pistol as Nishma targeted Yamamoto, pointing his weapon right at the Admiral’s heart. “You traitor…”

He fired. Yamamoto was still standing there, a sad little smile on his face, when the bullet slammed into his head, scattering it all over the bridge. Genda fired once, the bullet taking the back of Nishma’s head off, adding him to the bloody wreckage on the deck.

“Bastard,” Genda snarled. The entire bridge was silent, uncertain of what to do. “Captain?”

“His orders were to surrender,” the Captain said. His face was torn between obeying Yamamoto’s final order or to fight his ship to the death. “The crew are to take to the lifeboats,” he ordered. “I will go down with my ship.”


The situation was remarkable, even from Masterson’s god’s-eye view high above the Earth. The Japanese had started to abandon their warships, taking the crews onto the supply ships, and they were scuttling the warships. It was astonishing; the Japanese crewmen were often just standing on the deck, singing as the ships slipped below the waves.

“All right, now they’re just mocking me,” he muttered, watching in horror as a cruiser sank, the crew having tied themselves to the deck first. He had seen death before, death dealt out by a vastly superior enemy, but nothing like that. The Japanese were killing themselves by the thousands; the pride of the Japanese Navy going down with its ships.

He lifted the communicator. “I think we’re going to have to encourage the Australians to move quicker with their rescue efforts,” he said. Prime Minister Curtin had been less than eager to help out with a rescue, but he had finally been convinced that SAR efforts were worthwhile in the long run. “Shit!”

“Admiral?” Eileen asked, over the communicator. She’d attempted to talk him out of going on the shuttle himself. “What’s happening?”

“There’s a boat with Japanese soldiers, firing on the survivors,” Masterson snarled. He stared at the display, wondering how undisciplined Contemporary troopers could be. He didn’t even understand how the Japanese could tolerate as much as they did from their leaders. “I’m designating that one for a strike.”

He watched as the Japanese troopship exploded into fire. The others seemed to get the message, although thousands of Japanese were swimming off in the direction of the Dutch East Indies rather than risk the ships. Masterson sighed; he knew better than to think that any of them would make it, even without the sharks.

Gwen smiled. “We could probably detail some of the Marine transports to lifting them out,” she said. “If we sent them in with a few Marines, they would have far more survivors.”

Masterson nodded. “Good thought,” he said. “Eileen, can you see to it? I want armoured guards with them, just in case; the last thing we want or need is a prison riot.”

“Yes, Admiral,” Eileen said. “Brigadier Joseph will be horrified, but it can be done.”

“Good,” Masterson said. He deactivated the display and covered his eyes for a long moment. “I want you to copy the records to the equipment we’ve loaned the world leaders,” he said. “They’ll want to know what’s happened here.”

“They’ll be delighted,” Eileen assured him. Masterson knew that she was right. “They’ll be calling it the greatest battle in the world.”

“Certainly the most one-sided,” Masterson said. The Japanese had stood no chance at all. “I suppose…”

“They’ll call it a success,” Eileen said. “That’s the important thing.”

“I think that we can call this a success,” Masterson agreed grimly. “The only thing costlier than a battle lost is a battle won.”

Chapter Twenty-Six: The View from the West

The White House

Washington DC, USA

“Well,” President Roosevelt said, as the display reached its conclusion. “That was impressive, wasn’t it?”

Sam Turtledove nodded. He was the only one in the room to look enthusiastic; the remainder of the room looked concerned, if not worried. Admiral King looked green; the Navy had been preparing to destroy Japan after Pearl Harbour, and now the Japanese were suddenly no longer a threat.

Turtledove smiled inwardly. The Americans wouldn’t have to send a force to defeat the Japanese fleet on their own now; thousands of lives had been saved. What did it matter, who had killed the Japanese fleet; the fleet was gone! The Japanese could be strangled at leisure now; the American and British submarines could close in on their shipping and start a long program of sinking it.

“The news has already broken,” Cordell Hull, Secretary of State, said. “The world seems to be still stunned; there are people who are celebrating the defeat of the Japanese, but they’re worried over how the defeat was achieved.”

“Oh, yes,” King growled. The Admiral’s permanent chip on his shoulder seemed to have grown larger overnight. “That report, Mr President, proves only one thing; the United States Navy is no longer a creditable force in the world.”

There was a dead silence. Everyone knew that King lived, breathed and slept the Navy; for him to be conceding such a massive concession was astonishing. The world had changed beyond the belief of official Washington; accepting the defeat of the Japanese would be easier.

King pressed onwards. “The fleet could be destroyed from orbit at any moment,” he said. “The Japanese didn’t have to be faced with a shuttle flying so close to them – and in any case they totally failed to even begin to damage it. If it comes to a war against an enemy with such technology, then we are doomed; the navy, at least, is doomed.”

Turtledove frowned, uncertain of how to react. Gwen, who had flown the combat mission, had been pleased with the result, but she’d also said that Admiral Masterson hadn’t been happy with the slaughter; it had been unnecessary. He understood the fear underlying King’s words; if there was a clash between the Contemporaries and the Newcomers, they would lose – badly.

Roosevelt lifted an eyebrow. “Is that not good news?” He asked. “The defeat of Nazi Germany is now certain, is it not?”

There was a long pause. Finally, General Eisenhower, appointed overall commander of Allied forces on the grounds he had done a good job in the original timeline, spoke up. His voice was firm and capable, a politician’s voice, but he was what they needed. He would have been President later, Turtledove had read in the future files; his chance at the Presidency would depend on what happened when the long-awaited invasion of Europe began.

“It certainly seems that way,” he said. “I have been talking regularly with Brigadier Joseph; he thinks that defeating Nazi Germany through the use of similar weapons will be easy. Indeed, we are limiting the construction of heavy weapons, expecting their weapons to serve as mobile artillery. If everything goes to plan, their forces will do most of the hard work – and we will be keeping the peace.”

His lips twitched. “Quite frankly, I don’t envy Churchill one bit, with two different French factions in his camp,” he said. “The Germans have done a good job of purging the French Resistance, which has left the Communists holding most of the line. They seem to have split; some are continuing the anti-German war, some are clearly obeying orders from Moscow.”

“Those communist bastards are always following the orders from Moscow,” King snarled, changing the target for his permanent rage. “They sat on their butts until Hitler invaded Russia, and then they started to oppose the Germans. Anyone would think they took no pride in their country.”

“Enough,” Roosevelt said. His face looked older than it had before the meeting had started. “Admiral King, how do you intend to conclude the war with Japan?”

King’s face changed again. “Assuming that they don’t pull another surprise out of their hats?” He asked. Turtledove winced at the bile in his tone. “We’re rushing through more convoys to the Philippines now, particularly with the Japanese suddenly all in a tizzy. Once those men get into position, we can chase the Japanese of Luzon and defeat them entirely.”

“That would be useful,” Claude A. Swanson, Secretary of the Navy, said dryly. “What about defeating Japan completely?”

King coughed. “That is…something of a problem,” he said. “We and the British have been sending submarines up into their waters, raiding them quite badly. The British are still using Singapore as a submarine base, which will allow them to start picking off Japanese ships near the area. As we get better at it, we are hammering them and forcing them to the brink of starvation.”

“That still leaves us a serious problem,” Stimson said, his voice icy. “In fact, there are two; the Japanese Army in China and the Japanese Home Islands. What happens if they refuse to surrender?”

Roosevelt looked at Turtledove, who frowned. “In the original history,” he said, “Japan was crushed from the air – and then hit with two nuclear weapons. The Japanese Army in China was defeated by the Russians, who launched a major invasion on the eve of the Japanese surrender in the original timeline. It’s possible that they will see sense, Mr President…”

“Not a chance,” King barked. “Mr President, we have to begin preparations for a campaign directed against their island fortresses and then Japan itself. We have to force them to surrender; the little yellow bastards have no sense of…knowing when they’re beaten.”

Turtledove frowned. Using such language inside the Victory Towns could get someone tossed out; racism was forbidden. Slowly, but surely, blacks, whites, and every other colour under the rainbow were being made to work together. He had been worried, back when the idea had been mooted, but in the weeks since the establishment of Victory Town, it had seemed to work perfectly.

“It will take us some time to build up the capability to do that,” Stimson said. His voice was warning. “It would be much simpler to move against Europe; three of the new divisions are being prepared for transport now, and they’ll be there in another week or so.”

King snorted. “The Germans have been raiding our convoys,” he said. “There’s a lot more escorts, now that the French have finally brought some of their fleet over to our side, but it’s still a problem. The satellites from the Newcomers are good, but they’re not perfect.”

Vice President Wallace coughed. “That leads to a new problem,” he said. “Who rules France?”

“I seem to remember that France was a democratic state,” Roosevelt said. “They can choose for themselves, after the liberation.”

Wallace frowned. Turtledove remembered, with a sudden flicker of concern, that Wallace had been given the job of meditating negotiations between the Vichy French and the Free French, mainly to keep him out of the public eye. He might have become a fervent convert to the doctrine of anti-communism, or at least anti-Stalinism, but there were still question marks raised over him.

“Time has run out,” Wallace said. “The Free French claim to be untainted by collaborating with the Germans. The Vichy French have, more or less, classed them as…deserters. The Free French have a small, but capable force; Vichy has a larger force and is demanding that we rearm them. They also control most of the French Navy.”

Roosevelt shook his head. “And exactly what do they want from us?” He asked. “What do they think that we can do for them? Do they want us to keep score, or what?”

Wallace laughed. “Both sides, Mr President, want us to confirm them as the actual authority in France when we invade,” he said. “Both of them have…not exactly threatened, but hinted, that their armed forces will only participate in the invasion if the guarantees are made beforehand. They also want considerable support, post-invasion, from us and the British.”

“Damned impudence,” King thundered. Turtledove found it hard to disagree. “They don’t even have a nation!”

“It would also be costly to give them the support they will need,” Henry Morgenthau injected. The Secretary of the Treasury looked grim. “The economy, Mr President, is in a rather delicate state at the moment, just because of the influx of future ideas. There is no certainty any longer; no one knows if we are to be building the massive carrier force we had planned, or if we are going to junk the plans. No one knows, and that damages the economy.

“If we give them what they want, it will mean limiting what we can arm our own forces with.”

“Tell them to go to hell,” King urged. “We don’t need them.”

Roosevelt held up a hand. “Can they help us?”

Eisenhower frowned. “It’s hard to say, Mr President,” he admitted. “Both sides claim to have ties with resistance fighters in France, but they’re unable to provide proof. Bottom line, sir; if we want additional soldiers, we’d be better off picking Vichy, but that would mean that the French would almost certainly blunder into a civil war.”

Roosevelt shook his head slowly. “I don’t believe it,” he said. “What possible relevance do their claims have to defeating Germany?”

“None,” King said. His face twisted into a sneer. “We can do that without either of them.”

Roosevelt sighed. “I’m tired of this,” he said, suddenly looking older than even his years. “Henry, tell the French this; we insist on them forming a united government before we make any promises regarding the short-term future of France, but in the long term – they are to commit themselves to democratic elections. We will issue no support unless they agree to these terms; if they don’t agree, we will set up a simple government in France of our own.”

Wallace smiled. “I will repeat your exact words, Mr President,” he said. “That should concentrate a few minds.”

Roosevelt smiled. “For the moment, our priority is in defeating Germany,” he said. “Admiral, continue the submarine offensive against Japan, just to weaken them further. They’re penned up; they can’t do much harm.”

Turtledove coughed. “Yes, Sam?” Roosevelt asked. “Can they harm us?”

“Only two thoughts,” Turtledove said, shaking his head. “First, are the Newcomers going to attack Japanese shipping? Second, what about China?”

General Marshal frowned. “I have been in contact with General Stilwell,” he said, before Roosevelt could say anything. “It is the opinion of him – and those who read the future histories – that China is a waste of resources. It would be far more effective to use the weapons to raise more divisions of our own here.”

Roosevelt nodded. “I’ll discuss the other matter with their ambassador later,” he said. “For the moment, Gentlemen, we can rest content that Japan’s sword has been broken; they can’t do much more to harm anyone.”

It sounded far too much like famous last words to Turtledove, but it seemed as if the President was right; how could the Japanese break out of their prison now? They would slowly starve to death, unless they saw sense and surrendered. Unfortunately, he knew that the Japanese High Command didn’t seem to have any sense at all.


Roosevelt summoned him back to the Oval Office later that day. “I’ve been speaking to Admiral Masterson,” he said. “The Newcomers have agreed to add their weapons to hunting down the remainder of the Japanese Navy. They refused to fire on civilian ships, for some strange reason, but our submarines can do that.”

“Yes, Mr President,” Turtledove said, puzzled. There was no reason for the President to be reporting to him like this. “They’re reluctant to kill more people than they have to.”

Roosevelt nodded, absently. “Forcing Japan to surrender is going to take some time,” he said. “For the moment, however, Hoover is coming to see me – and I want you there.”

Turtledove didn’t have to ask why. It almost certainly concerned the Newcomers. “I live to serve,” he said, wondering when he could head back to Victory Town. He missed Gwen. “When’s he coming?”

“Now,” Roosevelt said wryly, as his secretary showed Hoover – this time without Tolson – into the office. “Mr Hoover,” he said. “Good afternoon.”

“And to you,” Hoover said, surprisingly respectfully. Turtledove felt a flicker of alarm; Hoover sounded…worried about something. “There has been an unusual series of incidents in the south?”

Roosevelt winced. “More racial problems?” He asked. “Another riot?”

“More or less,” Hoover said. “Several southern politicians have been attempting to forbid Negroes from moving to Nevada, to the Victory Town there. Several dozen black men were lynched, but then…more black men attacked those trying to lynch them, killing several.”

“Good for them,” Turtledove said, before he could stop himself. “They deserved it.”

“Maybe they did,” Hoover said. Turtledove frowned; Roosevelt seemed oddly amused. “However, there are rumours of real trouble being planned.”

Roosevelt leaned forward. “What manner of trouble?”

“I’m not certain,” Hoover admitted. “There has been far more anti-Newcomer propaganda being passed around; enough to drown us all in hatred. There are more and more riots, and…”

He passed over a sheet of paper. Roosevelt read aloud. “Why should we, men born only with black skin, fight for a country that treats us like dirt?” He read. “What does it benefit us to fight for those who try to shove us into the dirt? Why should we fight for their so-called right to lynch black men? Why should we not fight for our rights?”

“It’s treason,” Hoover snapped. “There are similar…statements from those on the other side, and that’s even worse.”

Turtledove smiled suddenly, openly. He understood Hoover’s actions; the FBI Director had to be feeling the pressure from his supporters. Those whose patronage kept him in his office, those who believed in him, were suddenly demanding results. All of a sudden, Hoover’s position, already shaken by the suggestions that he was homosexual – which, ironically, he could have been in the Victory Town – was starting to look like a disaster.

“Treason?” Roosevelt asked, keeping his tone mild. Turtledove would have used a harsher tone, in his place; Hoover was the most arrogant man he had ever met. “How is it treason?”

Hoover’s face bulged out. “They’re…advocating that black men should refuse to fight for America,” he said. “That is treason!”

“I have enough problems convincing the War Department that black men should be enlisted,” Roosevelt said. He sighed, remembering old battles. He’d once told Turtledove that he hadn’t expected to live past 1942 – and would have died only a few years after that in the original history. “It’s becoming easier to see their point. Why should black men fight for us?”

“Because it is everyone’s duty to serve America,” Hoover said firmly. His voice held few doubts. “They were born here, they are American citizens…”

“And they are denied the rights of American citizens,” Turtledove said. “I saw, in the Victory Town, that they were human to, and…”

“Quiet,” Roosevelt said, without malice. “Director, what is the other side saying?”

“There’s a lot of talk about it,” Hoover conceded, uncomfortably. “It ranges all the way from driving the Negroes out, perhaps even to the Victory Town or back to Africa, to a second attempt at secession from the United States. They talk about sexual immorality, about people who had modified themselves recklessly, about everything that they see as going wrong in their lives.

“Even now, the Governors and Congressmen are wondering – and desperate men will not wait!”

Roosevelt looked down at the table. “I think…that we are paying for past sins, Director Hoover,” he said. “Perhaps I should have done more for them, in the past.”

“That was the past,” Hoover said. “We have to do something now!” His voice lowered. “There are subversives out there, among the black men and the others; we have to root them out before the nation explodes into unrest. Remove them, Mr President, and we can save the nation from itself!”

Roosevelt frowned. “You would have me declare martial law over the United States?” He asked. “People would not stand for that; Congress would not stand for that! The Army cannot fight the whole country, even if I did become that insane; we have a war to fight with Germany as well.”

“It might be too late, soon,” Hoover said. His voice, as far as Turtledove could tell, sounded sincere. “There are a lot of people stockpiling guns, preparing for trouble. Someone is funding massive propaganda efforts, from telling people that black men are going to take their jobs to massive robots from the future are going to take their jobs.”

“They’re going to send the robots to the moon,” Turtledove injected. Gwen had been very excited about it; it would be a start on building – or rebuilding – her old home city. “They’re going to be needed there more, now that Victory Town is working as a single city now.”

Hoover gave him an icy look. “It’s one thousand square miles,” he said. “What happens when the region is stuffed full to bursting?”

Roosevelt lifted a hand. “That hasn’t happened yet,” he said. “There seems to be no action that I can take, without offending someone, is there?”

“It will happen sooner than you think,” Hoover said. “I have my agents within the Victory Town; it’s expanding far faster than anyone dreamed would happen. At this rate, within a month or two, it will have reached the borders.” His voice lowered. “And tell me; do you think that it’s going to stop there?”

Chapter Twenty-Seven: The View From The East

SS Headquarters

Berlin, Germany

The Japanese Ambassador had been…astonished by the information, which Himmler had informed Brigadefuehrer Johan Schriever had been kept from most of the Japanese population. All the information the Japanese had was limited, in any case; all they really knew was that there had been a catastrophic naval defeat. They didn’t – yet – know how it had happened.

Schriever did. The Abwehr had found it surprisingly easy to get plugged into the rumours sweeping America; the news about Victory Town was alarming many Americans, some of whom were advocating Nazi-like methods for their black population. Sorting out fact from fiction was difficult – one American rumour said that death rays had wiped out the Japanese fleet – but they knew what had happened.

“They dropped rocks on them,” Schriever said. He was old enough to remember the first attempts at bombing people from the air, using heavy metal constructions that were just dropped over the side of the aircraft; the Newcomers had simply added a powerful refinement to the process. It was an elegant concept; he was almost impressed.

“Very clever,” Himmler muttered. His spectacles glittered with evil light. “The yellow men lasted what? A week? Perhaps they could have been destroyed at any moment, had they, but proved themselves a nuisance.”

Schriever nodded slowly. “The Newcomers are expanding their capabilities,” he said. “They never used such weapons in North Africa.”

“Perhaps they are only useful against ships,” Himmler mused. “Perhaps they are less accurate.”

“My father-in-law speculated along those lines,” Schriever said. “Unfortunately, we lack any knowledge of how they guide the projectiles into their targets.”

“They cannot be that accurate,” Himmler said. “Our plans will have to proceed.”

Schriever frowned. He was loyal…but there were limits. “Herr Reichsführer, the fight will be long and costly; we would end up destroying much of Germany in the war.”

“There are…problems in North America,” Himmler said. “Britain seems more immune to such problems, worse luck, but it won’t be long before North America collapses into race war – where the true Aryans there will prevail.” His voice took on a harder tone. “So the Fuhrer has declared!”

Heil Hitler,” Schriever said automatically. The plan seemed workable, but it would cost Germany dear; God, it would cost Germany dear indeed. “If we can hold out long enough for the North Americans to collapse, then we might just come out ahead?”

“They never deployed the weapons against our forces in North Africa,” Himmler said. “That suggests that they have limited targeting abilities and some reluctance to use them in a civilian area. That is why we have been proceeding with total mobilisation in Germany, and expanding our forces into France and Italy. They will have to fight us in the cities – and what will the French say to one of their cities, Paris perhaps, being torn apart by the fighting?”

Schriever frowned. “With all of the current infighting” – which German propaganda had played upon to worry the French – “how do we know that they have any influence at all?”

Himmler smiled. He had personally designed the latest series of cartoons passing through France, that of DE Gaulle and Laval bidding away France’s future to the Allies, in exchange for the crown of France. It was hard to say how much effect they were having, but the only resistance had come from a faction of the French Communists, who were in the middle of a civil war within a civil war within a war.

Schriever shook his head, which was beginning to hurt. French politics made no sense to him at all. One faction hated Moscow now, after having taken their orders for so long; the other was very loyal indeed to Moscow. The first faction fought Germans; the second fellow communists. In the meantime, the Allies bombed Germany and France from time to time, just to remind them that they existed.

“We still have some agents within the Laval Government,” Himmler said. “They’re currently discussing France’s future within a planetary defence alliance, in exchange for French support. Apparently, Roosevelt has issued the French a deadline, but the French are likely to ignore it.”

Schriever shrugged. “I have Werewolf cells throughout Germany now,” he said. “They’re getting into their positions, so if they come within the next month or so, we will be ready for them.”

“They’re getting their own forces ready now, we think,” Himmler said. “The intelligence network within Britain itself has been compromised; aerial reconnaissance has been made impossible.”

“Goring was very unhappy,” Schriever said, remembering the horrific attack on Britain, launched soon after the Russians had declared peace with them. Only a handful of aircraft had survived the experience; they told tales of lightning and being swept out of the skies like a charwoman used her broom on spiders.

“He’ll live,” Himmler said. “I wonder; the Wehrmacht has its forces deployed within France, but have you any thoughts on how the deployments can be improved in light of what happened to the Japanese?”

Schriever nodded thoughtfully. “We cannot expect that any isolated strategic target will be spared,” he said. “We can also expect to lose the railways, fairly quickly; the British have been bombing them anyway. We may also lose radio communications and most of our supply lines.”

Himmler frowned. “German soldiers will fight to the end,” he said. “Hitler has demanded nothing less than a total effort!”

“And he will have it,” Schriever said, knowing that it was likely to be their final effort. “However, we can expect garrisons to be cut off, just as we did to the French in 1870 and 1940. If they run out of supplies, they will not be able to offer any defence against the enemy.”

“True,” Himmler said. “We might have a few weeks; long enough to start stockpiling additional food by stripping it from the French and the Italians. They don’t need the food anyway, do they?”

“No, Herr Reichsführer,” Schriever said. The more of either nation who died in the war, the weaker they would be in the future. “Perhaps if we were to…”

There was a sudden urgent knocking at the door. “I gave orders that we weren’t to be disturbed,” Himmler said. He shouted out a command at the door. “This had better be important.”

The door opened, revealing a young SS officer. “Herr Reichsführer, you have to hear this,” he said, carrying a small radio with him. “It repeated; several times.”

He placed the radio on the desk and fiddled with it. “What is it?” Himmler demanded. “Young man…”

“There,” the young officer said. “You have to listen.”

The radio cracked and then cleared. “…Admiral Masterson of the Newcomer fleet,” it said. The voice was oddly American-like, but not a perfect accent; it was stranger than Schriever would have expected. “Your nation has claimed that we do not exist; look up into the sky with a telescope and see for yourselves. We exist…and we are present in your world.

“Your government has lied to you repeatedly,” Masterson’s voice continued. “You have been used as tools to wreck the most horrible crimes imaginable on your path to destruction. Your soldiers have raped, looted and pillaged on their long march into Russia; in two years, in the original timeline, it would have been what happened to you. The Russians would have shown no mercy; they would have raped their way across Europe.”

Schriever saw Himmler’s fist clench. “Find a way to jam this transmission,” he snapped at the young officer, who saluted. “This will not go down well with the Fuhrer.”

“Your Fuhrer is a madman,” Masterson’s voice said, almost on cue. “He will lead you into destruction; Germany itself will be split into two sections, for eighty years – in the original timeline. In the five years history gave to you, your people would have slaughtered millions of innocents; deliberately intending to exterminate them from the world. That…will not be allowed to happen in this world.”

There was a long pause. Only the hiss of the carrier wave proved that it was still broadcasting. “Now, however, it will be different,” Masterson’s voice said. “You may have heard about the total destruction of the Japanese fleet; we did that – and we suffered no casualties ourselves. You may have heard about the defeat in North Africa; we gave that to you – and we suffered only three deaths in our force. One hundred of our people took on General Rommel’s army…and we destroyed it.

“Within a month, we will be coming to remove the Nazis from power and impose a democratic government on Germany, one fit to assist in the defeat of the alien threat. That fight will have only one possible outcome; it will depend on you and your fellow citizens how…painful it will be. We will come, but first we will stomp any resistance flat from orbit; thousands – millions – of your soldiers will die, as many as are necessary to end the war.”

There was a second pause. “This is the choice you have,” Masterson concluded. “If you act now, overthrowing the Nazi Regime and ending the killing of the innocents, there will be no need for an occupation, no need to humiliate Germany as happened at the end of the last war. If you do not act, we will have to fight it out on your soil – and millions of you will die in the fighting. The choice is yours.”

There was a hiss, and then the signal began to repeat. “This is Admiral Masterson of the Newcomer fleet…”

“Shut it off,” Himmler snapped. The young officer leapt to obey. “Schriever; thoughts?”

Schriever hesitated. He would have preferred to have had a few hours to have thought about it properly, but Himmler wasn’t going to give them to him. He needed time to compose a proper report – one that wasn’t self-incriminating – but he wasn’t going to have the time. He could only hope that Himmler would allow for the speed that he was thinking.

“It’s designed to hammer away at our morale,” he said. “If we surrendered, they wouldn’t have to fight us, would they?”

“No,” Himmler said, smiling. Schriever realised that he’d said exactly what Himmler had wanted to hear. “They must be weaker than we assumed.”

Schriever turned to the young officer, trying to remember his name. “How many channels is it on?”

The young officer was clearly frightened. “All of them,” he said. “The signal is blanketing all of the channels.”

Schriever exchanged a long look with Himmler. “That means that we can no longer use the radio to communicate,” he said, in growing horror. The Newcomers could cut the telephone lines and all of Germany would be out of communication. “They could be attacking us now!”

“We will proceed to the war room,” Himmler said, keeping his voice calm. Schriever was very impressed. “Herman; I want you to call the other bases around Germany, and then around the occupied lands. Report any unusual activity.”

The corridors were full of people arguing. Himmler barked orders and the crowds dispersed slowly, returning to their offices. The news was already all over Berlin, Schriever was certain; the people would be turning on their radios for the daily broadcasts and instead…hearing propaganda. He had to admire the trick; not only was it hammering the message into German ears, but it had deprived them of radio communications.

“I’ve got through to bases in France,” a telephone operator said. His face was worried, but clearly calming down. “They report no unusual activity.”

“Then it’s not an invasion,” Himmler said. His face showed a hint of relief as he led Schriever into a private office. “I have to go see the Fuhrer at once,” he said. “I want you to concentrate on seeing what we can slip into America.”

Schriever stared at him. “Herr Reichsführer?”

“I think that if American elements are against the Newcomers, we should try to help them,” Himmler said. “See to it, would you.”

Schriever saluted. “Jawohl, Herr Reichsführer,” he said. It would be easy to land the team, he knew; Americans had no concept of security. Having the team meet up with people who would be willing to help them, however, would be harder. He smiled grimly; it would ensure that he remained useful, if nothing else.


The room was cold and quiet, completely isolated from the world. It served as the headquarters of Wilhelm Canaris, the Head of Military Intelligence, and as such was one of the most secure bases in the Reich. Even the SS, it was widely believed, lacked the authority to enter the building without Hitler’s permission, although Canaris knew that some of his officers also worked for Himmler. They had, one by one, been assigned to aiding the defence-planners in other cities around the Reich.

He smiled to himself. The only spy left – the only known spy, he corrected himself – was a man who could not have hoped to have advanced, without some under-the-table help. He was mindlessly loyal to the Reich, but hardly worth a second thought; even so, he was on business when the meeting was conducted.

There were four men in the room, not counting him; five people very much on the fringes of the Nazi state. General Ludwig Beck, now recalled to duty after resigning, dominated the room. Hans Oster, Canaris’s Deputy Head of Military Intelligence, sat next to him; one of Hitler’s most determined opponents. He had tried to kill Hitler in 1938 – and failed.

The other two men were less interesting, but they were still important; Heinrich von Stülpnagel, Military governor of France, was perhaps the most important man in the room. Beside him, Major-General Henning von Tresckow, a former officer on the Eastern Front, looked nervous. All of them knew that Hitler wouldn’t even bother with a fair trial, should they be caught.

“The Fuhrer grows more and more unwell,” Oster said, his voice very calm. “That leaves us with a few problems.”

As the man with the strongest credentials, Oster could speak first. Beck seemed un-amused; he wasn’t one of Hitler’s biggest fans. He had resigned his commission in 1938, over Hitler’s plans to invade Czechoslovakia, and had only recently been recalled to the army. He was supposed to have command of an army group, but Canaris knew that it was unlikely that the group would be formed in time.

“It does,” Beck snapped, his voice harsh. “Why are we all here?”

“The Reich is in a desperate situation,” Canaris said flatly. Beck, whatever else he was, had no sense of subtly. Army generals rarely had, in his experience; they were all bulls in china shops. “If the war continues, we will meet the fate of the Japanese.”

Major-General Henning von Tresckow frowned. “We have a far more capable army than the Japanese,” he said. “We won’t be defeated as easily.”

“Yes, I’m afraid that we will,” Oster said. His voice shaded. “A highly-classified report on what happened to the Japanese passed across my desk; we are just as vulnerable as they are to such an attack. The combination of those armoured suits and weapons falling from the sky will prove just as fatal.”

There was a long chilling pause. Canaris took a breath; all of the men here held dissident views, which had brought them all together, but it was a long jump from dissidence to open…treachery. The SS had been claiming more and more power since the truce with Stalin and the loss of North Africa; any one man could bring them all down.

“The war is lost,” Canaris said. “It behoves us to ensure that Germany comes out of the war…intact.”

“The Fuhrer will not countenance a surrender,” Beck said, his voice as cold as ice. “Am I to assume that that is what this meeting is for?”

Oster showed nothing of the care he had to have learnt to have survived after 1938. Canaris has never understood why the SS had missed him; perhaps they weren’t even aware that the plot had taken place. “The Fuhrer has led us into disaster,” he said. “He is personally responsible for the defeats we have suffered, the defeats that the Italians have suffered, and the horrific losses the Japanese have suffered. We have no choice, but to kill him.”

Von Tresckow stared at him. “You are suggesting that we betray him?” He demanded. “We swore an oath to him personally.”

“That was an illegal oath,” Beck said. “I’m not happy at all, Admiral; I just don’t see any other course of action.”

“We could arrest him,” Von Tresckow protested. “I understand why, you understand, but to kill him…”

“If we arrest him, his supporters will have a figurehead to rally around,” Oster said flatly. “The SS has been assembling army units of its own; if we don’t move soon, we will face a civil war, rather than a quick coup.”

“There won’t be time for that,” Canaris said. He looked around the table. “The broadcast, which is still going on, said a month. That’s our time limit; we move before then, or we will have to watch Germany going into the fire. They will crush us and then dictate a settlement on their terms and we will have no say in what happens to us!”

Oster nodded. “There will also be other problems,” he said. “We will have to prepare a strike unit, perhaps even a bomb, to take him out. The SS has been assuming more and more control over the Fuhrer – we might promote the coup as one against Himmler – and they allow us no access to their plans. Speed is an urgent requirement, Gentlemen; once the SS has total control, a coup will become impossible.

“Worse, they will continue the program that we have been hearing whispers about,” he continued. “They will slaughter thousands of people – and we, Germans, will get the blame. The time is up, Gentlemen; we have to move now!”

Canaris nodded. “Are we in agreement, then?”

Chapter Twenty-Eight: Interludes and Examinations

ISS Hunter

Deep Space

The laser link with the scoutship was very unreliable at the distance they were forced to work, even with the advanced sensors on board the superdreadnaught, but enough was clear to allow the signals to be deciphered quite easily. The stream of information, forwarded through several relay drones, was grim.

Sitting in his pool, Lord Admiral Macron read through the latest information, analysing the results of the human fighting on the surface. Not for the first time, he wished that he knew more about human culture and civilisation; the humans were clearly fighting one another, but over what? Why?

He skimmed though the notes again. The Hunter was beginning to pick up a little speed now that the engineers had expanded upon the drive field generators, allowing it to move a little faster. It wasn’t that fast, not in the sense of FTL drive, but it would accelerate their journey towards Earth. The humans were developing the native space industry – or at least it seemed that way – and Lord Admiral Macron knew just how quickly humans could innovate.

He croaked an odd note as he read onwards. The humans had concentrated on developing Mars, to the extent of dropping several ice asteroids into the planet’s atmosphere, all apparently loaded with some form of biological material. The bacteria, his scientists suspected from interception of human radio, would be working to generate oxygen. It had been the only useful information from the human native radio; the rest was confusing.

He shook his great head, trying to puzzle it out. The Krank believed that all non-Krank were hardly worth the effort of trying to understand; they all existed only as barriers to the progress of the Krank, but humans were different. They had been in space, using FTL travel, for around one hundred of their years, but they had expanded faster than the Krank had done; their greater colonised region had only happened because they had been expanding for over a thousand years before encountering humanity.

But Earth, the human homeworld, was a confusing place. One faction was at war with another, or several human factions were at war, and it was more confused than the civil war that the Krank had fought, after making their way into space. Who was Hitler? Why was he so hated and yet so derided? Who was Stalin? Why had he switched sides? Why was this so bad? Who were the Newcomers?

He thought he understood that, at least; the Newcomers had to be the time-lost humans, just as the Hunter itself was lost in time. Earth seemed to be a confusing hodgepodge of competing powers; what was the British Empire and why was it trying to readjust itself?

The only human language the Krank had bothered to learn was their Standard, which seemed to be called English here; it hadn’t changed that much in the two centuries between the past and his home time. That made sense; humans, like the Krank, had recording devices, and they would make language more static than it would have otherwise been. The other languages…were giving the most powerful computers the Krank had ever built headaches; English was just…not the main language in this timeline. It didn’t even seem to be related to the other languages!

He shook his head and returned to the tactical display on the screen. The humans, at least, were not expanding that far into the outer solar system; their native-built base orbiting Mars and the colonies they were creating on the Moon seemed to be the limit. So far, he reminded himself; humans were actually more adaptable than the Krank. They might well, by the time the Hunter arrived, have expanded to the rest of the solar system; in that case, it would be harder to hunt down and destroy the remaining humans.

He allowed himself a smile. By his most favourable – to the humans – projection, the humans would need at least two years before they could construct more starships. By then, the human race would be fourteen months dead – and Earth would be his for the taking.

HDS John Howard

Earth Orbit

“It was an interesting battle,” Masterson said, addressing his assembled command staff. No Contemporary people had been invited to the meeting, high above the Earth; they wouldn’t even know that the meeting was taking place. “The Japanese had no chance at all.”

He paused to gauge their reactions. “That wasn’t something for us to be proud of,” he said. “We killed thousands then, and thousands more died because of their decision to scuttle the fleet, rather than surrender it to us.”

“It’s hardly a problem,” Brigadier Joseph said. His voice was calm and composed, but there was an undercurrent of pure triumph running through it. “Now that they’ve lost almost all of their navy, the Japanese are no longer a threat to the world at large.”

“They’re a threat to China,” Sandra said. “They seem to be attempting to reinforce their forces in China, which is insane unless they intend to attempt to secure more of China.”

“Or they could be preparing to attempt to engage Stalin,” Lieutenant Robin Williston said. His voice darkened. “We have been watching the Soviets closely; while they seem to be mimicking the German defence preparations, they’ll also working on new defence lines in the west and sending troops to the Far East. Stalin might just have decided to attempt to deal with the Japanese while he has a chance.”

“That would not be much of a problem for him,” Brigadier Joseph said. His voice was pleased. “Let them kill one another off, killing all of their soldiers and destroying their infrastructure; it saves us the trouble.”

Masterson nodded. “It seems the best idea,” he said. “We can deal with a Soviet occupation of North China later; with any luck the Chinese forces will be destroyed at the same time, saving us the effort of reforming China by force.” He paused. “Sandra, what’s happening in Britain?”

Sandra looked remarkably pleased with herself, Masterson noted; meeting her famous ancestor had clearly challenged her to rise to new heights. “Winston and I have been busy,” she said. “Although he was…rather less than keen on attempting to break up the British Empire at first, he finally came around to working towards a democratic federation, with considerable input from us. The British position as one of the more successful countries to adapt to what we have brought will give them leverage – and he won’t be afraid to use it.

“Bottom line; India will get Dominion status in two months, once the Indians work out a basic power-sharing agreement,” she continued. “The same, more or less, goes for the other colonies; they will be working towards a federal commonwealth, with considerable investment and development. The British will provide the investment, more or less, in exchange for some guaranteed preferences. It works out in their favour.”

She adjusted the map. “Now that the Japanese force that landed in Malaya and Thailand is being destroyed, we hope to be able to ship those troops back to Britain for the invasion of Europe,” she continued. “The plan is to start moving all, but a handful within the next two weeks, using our transports to speed the process up a lot. That will give the British a sizeable army to take into Germany behind the marines; hopefully, all they will have to do is garrison duty.”

“The Germans do not seem to have responded to our calls for surrender,” Masterson said, his voice very dry. “Apparently, listening to my recorded speech is punishable by hard labour, nor is there any sign that they’re listening to our threats about the extermination program. Rounding up Jews to help build defences is almost as bad as simply gassing them.”

He sighed. “Still, that’s a problem for when we have the Allies ready to help us,” he said. “What about America?”

“I honestly don’t know what to say,” Charles Roberson said. Masterson didn’t miss the look that passed between him and Governor Rusholme. “To some extent, we hope to have upwards of five divisions of American troops in Europe; the defeat of Japan will make shifting forces to Britain easier. However…”

His voice broke off for a moment, and then resumed. “The Americans are having political problems,” he continued. “We may have underestimated the effects that we would have on their political system; there is a growing…well, anti-us feeling, up to and including race riots. That is starting to have a grim effect on us; a lot of people are starting to come to Victory Town as refugees, rather than genuine willing workers.”

“It’s worse than he suggests,” Governor Rusholme said. “The number of racial incidents in America has skyrocketed, largely due to black factions deciding that they’re going to fight the racists directly, rather than just taking it. The net result is that America is in political trouble.”

Masterson placed his head in his hands. “Just how bad is it likely to be?”

“I don’t know,” Roberson said. “We lack even the rudiments of a basic intelligence network; all we can really gather is information from the datapads and other equipment we’ve loaned out. The short-term problem is likely to be the worst; we’ve been buggering up their economy, just by existing.”

“Now I’m really confused,” Sandra said. “Why has that not happened to the British economy?”

“It’s complicated,” Roberson said. “The British found it a relief to be able to stop building warships, even though they needed them; they were having problems paying for all of them. Worse, they owed money to everyone – debts that Churchill managed to arrange to have forgiven in exchange for sharing some of our…inputs with the debtors. The British economy got a shot in the arm, just when it needed it most.

“The Americans, however, were coming out of the depression when the war began,” he continued. “Their system was…reeling from the shock; there was a great deal of spare labour around, such as the people who made such a success of Victory Town. The war and the sudden flurry of contracts from the War Department on down made the situation improve, just through actually paying for material. These, as a basic example, included a massive shipping program.

“Unfortunately, as we have just proven, a navy is no longer a viable weapon. Churchill was delighted; Britain would have an advantage in the new space race. The Americans were not; suddenly the War Department wanted their money back, or at least they didn’t want more than a handful of new ships to handle short-term needs. That damaged the expansion plans, many of which were already part-completed, leaving thousands of workers high and dry.”

He waved a datapad forward. “I could go on, but why bother?” He asked. “The problem was that, all of a sudden, they were faced with a surplus of labour – and equipment that could do a lot of the work that the workers could do. In many ways, their perception of the situation, is worse than it actually is, is driving the economy towards collapse.”

Rusholme took a breath. “A lot of people are scared,” he said. “They’re blaming us, they’re blaming black men; they think that you’re behind it all, Admiral.”

“I wish I was quite that capable,” Masterson said. There were some sniggers. “All right, worst case; what is the worst that could happen?”

“It depends on how you define worse,” Rusholme said. “There are two possibilities; a government enters office in 1944, one pledged to end all contacts with us and a clamp down on ‘uppity niggers’ – or, perhaps worse, open civil insurrection, perhaps even a civil war.”

Masterson shook his head slowly. “It won’t be the first option,” Roberson said. His voice was confident. “The feedback trends are already in place; it will hurt, but they will be able to come out of the sudden depression as they learn to build more and more components that we can use for the development of Mars and the space industry.”

“It will take longer than two years,” Rusholme snapped. “In fact…”

Masterson rubbed his eyes. “Understood,” he said. “What can we do about it?”

There was a long pause. “We need to work – hard – on developing a local intelligence network,” Roberson said. “We have equipment designed for use against Krank, but these people do not use any of the equipment that a Krank insertion team would use. They have never heard of compressed encrypted algorithms, or invisibility shields, or…well, you get the idea. We need, desperately, human intelligence.”

Rusholme snorted. “I know that we need it,” he admitted, “but Hoover and many of his allies already think that we are a den of spies and communists. Do we want to risk a spying incident?”

“I don’t think that we have a choice,” Masterson said. He gazed at the display for a long moment. “Start building your network, Ambassador; one that stretches everywhere in the world.”

“Yes, Admiral,” Roberson said.

“Good,” Masterson said. “Now, Brigadier; what is the status of the soldiers we’re training at the Victory Camps?”

Joseph smiled. The Victory Camps, training centres set up near the Victory Towns, were intended to train a force of Contemporary soldiers who could back up the Marines. Many of them, Masterson knew, were black, or women; people who wanted a chance to be more than the prevailing social mores would allow them to be. The Arabs, in particular, had contributed a large number of women; the Saudi tribesmen had been destroyed.

Masterson smiled inwardly. In ten years, the Middle East would be a democracy, one where all religions and creeds and colours mixed freely. They would be free of the pain caused by oil; they would be poorer, but happier.

“They’re coming along,” he said. “We have them on the same intensive course that we had during the latter stages of the war, harder and unfortunately shorter. We’re pressing them hard, which means that we have more drop-outs and people falling back to an easier level, but at the end we should have upwards of forty thousand soldiers.”

He smiled. “Compared to most of the soldiers washing around America and Britain,” he said, “they’ll be perfection incarnate.”

Masterson nodded. “Will the first force be ready for use in Europe?” He asked. “I need an honest opinion on this.”

“As if I would give you anything else,” Joseph said. “Honestly, I don’t think so; a month and a half simply won’t be long enough. I would be much happier with three months, perhaps even four; they would be ready to take on Stalin when that time comes.”

Masterson nodded. “The final issue, then,” he said. “What about production?”

Captain Von Trapitz spoke with growing enthusiasm. “The production levels are expanding,” he said. “We should have upwards of three to four thousand heavy projectiles for the invasion of Germany, and thousands more light projectiles for tactical strikes against tanks. If we have another month, we should have the entire network deployed and ready for action.”

He smiled. “We’ve been putting together the first starfighters, as you insisted,” he continued. “They should be ready for deployment in a week or thereabouts, although we are limited to only one hundred of them. Quite frankly, I see little tactical use for them, but we can press them into service as survey vehicles if we have to.”

Masterson sighed inwardly. “It’s important to allow the Contemporaries an important role in the defence of Earth,” he said seriously. “They have plenty of excellent pilots, men who would sell their own mothers for a chance to fly such a craft. It’s just politics.”

Captain Von Trapitz nodded. “There are no other concerns from me,” he said. “Production will slow down once we get the last fabricator on line, while we build more fabricators from the old ones, and then it should start to rise steadily.”

Masterson smiled. “I think that’s everything,” he said. There were no arguments. “I think that we have all earned a good diner, don’t you?”


Afterwards, Masterson returned, not to his cabin, but to one of the John Howard’s observation blisters, looking down at the Earth below. It seemed so unspoiled to him; almost perfect, nothing like the polluted disaster it would have become during the Age of Unrest. The clean-up operation had been cancelled during the Krank War; the Krank had hammered Earth badly in the final stages of the war.

“I thought I’d find you here,” Eileen said, stepped into the blister behind him. “Are you all right?”

Masterson smiled at the question. “I survive,” he said. “We all survive; you know what I mean?”

She nodded, her long blonde hair falling down over her shoulders. “We’re here,” she said. “We have a second chance to ensure that humanity survives; we shouldn’t waste it.”

Masterson sighed. “Down there, there are people who keep wasting it,” he said. “Why can’t the Germans make an arrangement with us, instead of defying us?”

Eileen laughed. “You can’t expect people who have hardly any conception of space travel to start thinking in terms of a united world,” she said. “All they see is that we’re disrupting their lives, for our own reasons.”

“Power is resented,” Masterson said. It had been a saying that had existed long before the Human Defence Fleet had come into existence. “I would have given my soul for a few more construction ships; we could have started work on the fleet by now.”

Eileen placed a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t let it worry you,” she said. “We have two hundred years, with a tech base that’s actually more advanced than the Krank have in this era. In twenty years, we’ll have reached all of the old Federation space, and then we’ll be on our way to the Krank homeworld.”

Masterson nodded. “You’re right,” he said. “We have time; time to make sure that we do a proper job of changing the world.”

Interlude Two: Wondering

In a very real sense, the image of the Krank superdreadnaught was the Krank superdreadnaught, a copy that resonated with the original to such an extent that damage to it would have affected the original as well. It was a technology that normally served the watchers well, for they could look at the copy and spy out the weaknesses for their agents, but now…it was frustrating.

“Eight local months,” the female said. Time was practically meaningless to creatures that lived within the Vale; they could have fast-forwarded at any moment, at the price of losing their slight ability to interfere. “Eight local months and the experiment fails.”

“Humans are adaptable creatures,” the male said, turning the image of the superdreadnaught over and over in his mind. “If they could be warned…”

“We have almost no ability to interfere within that timeline without tipping our hand,” the female warned. “The greater our interference, the greater the interference that the Enemy could do, without us noticing.”

The male said nothing. On a purely human scale, they were next to all-powerful; creatures that extended through all of time and space, but on the scale of the Vale, they were almost nothing. They hid in their little corners of space, watching for the Enemy; the knowledge that the Enemy was almost certainly doing the same thing was no comfort.

They could have reached into the new reality, the second timeline they had created from the first, in a region of the human-timeline where there were dozens of possible Points of Divergence. They could have taken the Krank ship and broken it down into fragments; they could have destroyed it utterly, made the Krank stars go supernova, wipe out every non-human race…

Except doing that would warp time and space so much that it would almost certainly draw the Enemy into direct conflict. They had fought the Enemy before, face-to-face; every time that happened, both parties lost. Neither side dared lose one of their number as a prisoner; it would be far too revealing. The conflict remained in the shadows, played out by their agents; it was far safer.

They never died, except outside the Vale.

The male smiled suddenly. There was one tiny little change they could make, one tiny change that would alter the probabilities slightly towards humanity. He made the change without thinking, without consulting his partner; she made no move to stop him. Space flickered once, in a very delicate place, in a very delicate time.

“I see,” the female said. “It may still not work.”

“It may pass unnoticed,” the male countered. “I have no better plan; have you?”

“No,” the female said. “We place everything on one tiny little change; how very human.”

“We are human,” the male said, reminding her. “It’s time we remembered that.”

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Final Hours

Earth Orbit

He would have led a raid on the German dams in the future, or he had had, or he would have done if time had not intervened, or…it made Guy Gibson’s head hurt even to think about the possibilities. The RAF had been having a very easy time of it lately, ever since the Newcomers had loaned them a number of plasma cannons; the Luftwaffe had been almost destroyed. Fighter Command had been very relieved at the chance for a rest; the pilots had been very hard pressed over the last year.

Gibson couldn’t have cared less. There was still work to do; he’d volunteered for Fighter Command to fight, not to spend his days in endless training on suddenly obsolete aircraft. The entire RAF was in a state of shock; the pilots loved the rest, but all of them now knew that the RAF was no longer the fighting force it had been. Plasma cannons had proven that; the RAF was just as vulnerable as the German aircraft.

Gibson had been quick to volunteer for service in the new Human Defence Force, which was recruiting Contemporaries to fight in combat posts. He hadn’t expected much – there was very heavy competition in the allied services – but his past/future record spoke for itself; he had been accepted, and pushed through the training course for the Chimera-class starfighter; a small and very manoeuvrable spacecraft with a small warp engine of its own. He had been astonished by how easy they were to fly; it was a very forgiving machine.

“We had to make them simple to learn,” Captain Tennent had informed him, as they had begun their first simulator lessons. He loved the simulators as well; they were far more effective than just jumping into a plane and risking life and limb. They duplicated the experience perfectly; he almost felt that he was really flying. Now…

“This is Gibson,” he said, into his communicator. “I am ready to launch.”

There was a mutter of agreement from the other pilots. The Newcomers had used the old American method; twelve ships to a squadron, six squadrons to a wing. They had worked hard to deploy all of the starfighters, hampered by the fact that they had no true carrier of their own. Gibson didn’t understand why they couldn’t simply be launched from the battlecruiser, but instead, they were launching from one of the transports.

“All craft, launch on sequence,” Captain Tennent ordered. Like many RAF squadron commanders, Captain Tennent led his men into battle – although it didn’t seem that there would be anyone for them to fight. “Lead one; go!”

Gibson placed his hands on the control panel and triggered the starfighters drive. The modified shuttlebay was opening ahead of them; he moved the starfighter forward and straight out of the bay. The sudden immensity of space stunned him; it was an awesome sight from a starfighter cockpit. The Earth, a blue globe, turned ahead of them; spinning under their eyes.

“All ships, form up on me,” Captain Tennent snapped. Gibson didn’t hesitate; he swooped the fighter into a complicated series of law-defying twists and turns, before coming up behind Captain Tennent’s starfighter. It reminded him inanely of learning how to canoe, or the mother hen and her chicks. “Stand by for practicing tactical assault manoeuvre one.”

Gibson felt the display alter in front of him. There was no Krank battlecruiser in Earth orbit, of course; it was just another simulation. The shape was still impressive, however; the Krank had clearly taken a much more aggressive attitude to their starship designs than the Newcomers had.

He shook his head in awe as the display filled out; tactical scanners filling in the details of the Krank starship. It was nearly a kilometre long, with dozens of weapons designed for anti-starfighter point defence. It was a long flat cylinder, with wings stretching out from either side of the hull; it was almost beautiful, in its way.

“Form up on me,” Captain Tennent repeated, as the starfighters slipped into assault position. The Krank ship came forward, charging into the teeth of the human defences; its weapons clearly already primed to start sweeping fighters from the heavens as soon as it entered weapons range. “Stand by…now!”

They had practiced the manoeuvre in the simulations, but there was no contest to reality. The fighters split apart as the Krank started to fire, sending thousands of plasma bursts through where the human fighters had been, swooping down on the Krank ship. Its drive field tried to repel or destroy them, but the starfighter drive fields countered the effect, pushing them through the field.

A pity that no one thought that it was cost effective to do this with missiles, he thought, as the starfighters broke through the drive field and swooped down on the hull. The display recorded several deaths in the human forces; the Krank gunners were clearly very motivated to score hits. Another human fighter ‘died;’ the pilot had crashed directly into the Krank ship.

“All craft, launch missiles,” Captain Tennent ordered. “Engage at will.”

“Engaging,” Gibson said, locking his missiles on the preferred targets. The Krank ship was too large for his fighter to affect it, unless the missiles punched right into the hull – and the missiles were designed to do just that. “Launching now.”

He swooped up from the hull, spraying a burst of plasma fire all over the Krank ship, as the missiles struck the Krank ship. Space had become a maelstrom of plasma fire as the Krank suddenly redirected their efforts onto the incoming missiles; Gibson blazed away at their point defence units as they revealed themselves, wishing that he’d had the starfighter in the Battle of Britain.

He shook his head in awe. Sixty-five missiles had been launched; thirty-two had made their way through the defences and impacted with the hull, detonated inside the ship. One pilot had punched through the covering securing the Krank’s drive field generators, destroying them and starting a chain reaction. Gibson watched the display in awe as the Krank ship tore itself apart – and then looked out of the cockpit. Nothing had happened.

“Anyone would think that it hadn’t happened,” he observed, to general amusement. “I see no ships.”

“Enough joking,” Captain Tennent snapped. “It’s time to return to the transport. Drinks are on me.”

Gibson cheered, along with the rest of the wing, as they fell back into formation; the ‘killed’ pilots re-joining the force without any real deaths, although they were very embarrassed. The surviving pilots mocked them mercilessly.

Ten Downing Street

London, United Kingdom

There were more famous men in the room than Sandra had expected, ranging from Americans such as General – later President – Eisenhower and General Patton, to British commanders such as General Wavell, who would be serving as part of Operation Suppression. The Newcomers weren’t badly represented either; apart from herself, there was Brigadier Joseph and several other officers, all looking vaguely shocked at being in the past.

She smiled. The astonished reaction of General Eisenhower to one of the Marines, one of the handful of Spacers to volunteer to serve in a ground combat capability, had delighted her. The Spacer had been almost seventy years old; he had replaced a great deal of his body with electronic substitutes, including – he had claimed – his penis. Eisenhower had remarked that it didn’t seem worth the effort, and the discussion had gone downhill from there.

“If I could have your attention please,” Churchill said, at once the centre of the room. Churchill looked pleased; Britain had been recovering from the war, not threatening to slip into social anarchy like America. The influx of new ideas was pushing Britain forward; Churchill confidently predicted that Britain would be a new superpower in the new world, allied with the rest of the Commonwealth.

She nodded to herself, slowly and thoughtfully. The Commonwealth would be a step towards building the united world that would be needed to defeat the Krank. Even with the unsettled issues of the French colonies in Africa remaining to haunt the world, Africa was already heading towards self-government, perhaps even independence. Churchill had learnt an interesting lesson; economic ties and fair dealing won friends – and Britain would need friends.

“This meeting is to confirm that everything is in readiness for the invasion of Europe,” Churchill said. “We will sweep through France to Germany, and then on to Moscow. Hitler’s evil regime will not last another month!” He paused. “We have everything ready to move…and put an end to the war, do we not?”

He nodded once to Brigadier Joseph. Sandra smiled; it had taken all of her considerable charm to convince Joseph that he should deign to report to the Contemporaries, rather than just getting on with it. Joseph had said, loudly, that they were wasting time; Hitler was still building his defences while they prepared their own forces. In the meantime, many of their transports were tied up with assisting the Contemporaries to build their own forces in Britain; to the point, he claimed, that they might not be able to respond to a sudden opportunity, if it arrived.

“We have finally disembarked all of the Marines in Britain,” he said. He had wanted to use the transports to move the Marines to Germany; Masterson had been forced to overrule him. The Marines would use the transports to land in France, and then make the march to Germany. “That’s one thousand armoured soldiers, with fifty of them heavy battlesuits, capable of withstanding a tactical nuclear weapon, should Hitler have managed to deploy one.”

There was a long silence. Everyone now knew about nuclear weapons; Churchill had privately informed her that Britain intended to develop nuclear power, using the safe diagrams from the early 21st century, as quickly as possible. In the meantime, there was always the danger that Hitler would deploy nuclear weapons of his own – as impossible as that seemed.

“The damage that we will inflict on the Germans during the early stages of the attack will ensure that they are unable to respond,” he continued. “We have a complete breakdown of all of their forces; we have spent the last week carefully spying out their forces, targeting all of their forces, and assigning targeting priority to them. Tomorrow, Gentlemen, the German armed forces in France, Germany, and the rest of the occupied territories will be crippled.”

He scowled around the room. He had opposed, loudly, the use of radio Jammers on Germany - at least until the invasion had begun. Masterson’s propaganda broadcasts, joined by broadcasts from Rommel and other captured German soldiers, might have been having an effect on the Germans, but they had also warned the Germans that it was possible that their radios could be stolen at any moment.

“The Marines will land in France, near Calais,” he continued. “They will secure a pocket of territory, which will be used for landing your forces, and then we will – reluctantly – advanced towards Paris.”

Sandra sighed. Joseph had wanted to land in the Netherlands, if a direct attack on Germany was out of the question, leaving the question of who ruled France for the future. Churchill had insisted, however; he had made plans for liberating Paris, which would allow the British considerable influence in settling the post-war French government. Sandra had privately thought that he was wasting his time, but…

“Once Paris has fallen, we will hunt down the remaining German forces between France and Germany, and then advance directly towards Berlin. It shouldn’t take us more than a month to establish supply lines to Berlin; German forces out of the direct path can be ignored or destroyed from orbit. If the Germans see sense and surrender, we will be an army of occupation, with the objectives of destroying the Nazis and liberating their subject nations.”

He paused. “None of this poses a serious problem,” he assured them. “Our superiority is absolute. We have spent a month placing the orbital bombardment projectiles in orbit; we will use them and utterly destroy German forces that attempt to resist. Once Germany has been secured, we will begin a long program of striking against Soviet forces, weakening them so that we can march quickly to Moscow – or perhaps they’ll see sense instead.”

There were some chuckles. Everyone present knew what sort of man Stalin was; none believed that he would simply give up power, whatever it took to hold it. Sandra knew that perhaps it would be better to simply attack the Kremlin; it would have saved them time and effort.

“A very ambitious plan,” Churchill said. He’d seen the plan before, of course, and had even approved it; it was simply politics. Britain was risking a large portion of her army in the invasion; thousands of British men were at risk. America too had a large force, one largely untrained, at risk; defeat would be catastrophic. “General Eisenhower?”

The American looked confident. Sandra remembered that he was a political general and shuddered; he would tell them what he thought they wanted to hear, not necessarily the truth. Beside him, Patton looked eager to get to grips with the foe; he had been agitating for a battlesuit for himself.

“We have twenty divisions in the United Kingdom now,” Eisenhower said. “The shipping remains the main problem, but we have pressed almost every ship we can find into the breach, so transport is not going to be a major problem. However, if there is a German counterattack within the first day or so…we are going to be in serious trouble.”

“There won’t be,” Joseph assured him. His voice was very confident. “We know where all of the Germans are, General Eisenhower; the worst they could do is send in an infantry charge.”

Eisenhower nodded. An infantry charge might be nasty, but more for the Germans than the Allied forces; they were armed to the teeth against just such an occurrence, “Depending on the weather, then, we can move at twenty-four hours’ notice,” he said. “I know that you don’t need to worry about the weather, but we do.”

Sandra nodded. “It’s not a problem,” she said. “The weather forecasters believe that tomorrow will be fine, along with the rest of the week. The attack can begin as planned.”

“Excellent,” Churchill said. He stepped to the window and peered out over London. The city was more relaxed and confident than it had been; the end of the German bombing and the improved economic situation had brought some relief to the citizens. Even so, it was a strange place, with flower gardens replaced with food gardens and parks torn up to be replaced with victory gardens.

The people were happier too, Sandra knew; in part thanks to some of the food that food producers could create, from any form of biological matter. The machines were hated on board the starships – the food they produced always tasted funny, as far as the crews were concerned – but to the people of Britain they were wonderful. Admiral Masterson, black man or no, could have run for Prime Minister the week after they were supplied – and won.

“This is a gamble,” Churchill mused. His voice was softer than it normally was; in private, Churchill didn’t speak with the vigour he addressed the House. “If we lose, we lose it all.”

Sandra saw Sally, sitting at the side of the room, and smiled at her. “If we fail, Hitler and Stalin might carve up the world between them,” Churchill continued. His voice was almost a whisper. “We cannot fail; we will not fail!” His voice was becoming stronger. “We shall not fail!”

He turned to face General Eisenhower. “General, has the President given his approval of the attack?”

“He has,” Eisenhower said. “He has ordered that it be commenced as the situation permits.”

“Then I give my approval as well,” Churchill said. His voice grew more into the great oration she had expected from him, when they’d first met. “England expects, Ladies and Gentlemen, that all of us will do our duty!”

Abwehr Headquarters

Berlin, Germany

Admiral Canaris disliked the new headquarters, even though he understood the concern; weapons like the ones that had destroyed the Japanese fleet could have destroyed the headquarters with ease. As he worked on his papers, an explosion echoed across the city; he glanced up, expecting a telephone call, but none came.

Some time later, Oster entered the room. “It failed,” he said shortly. Canaris didn’t have to ask what had failed. “The street is a mess, but the Fuhrer was unhurt; wasn’t even close to the blast.”

Canaris sighed. “What happened?”

“I think that Willi intended to blow up the entire compound,” Oster said. “There was enough explosive in that car of his to wreck a street – and the SS came for him.”

Canaris rubbed his eyes. “That’s the second failure,” he said. “We’re running out of time.”

“I know,” Oster said. “You hear the broadcasts as much as I do; it won’t be long now before they come for us.”

Canaris shook his head slowly. The SS were growing more and more active every day; ever since they had taken over the protection of the Fuhrer. He had suggested, in certain ears, that Hitler was a prisoner of Himmler, but no one was inclined to test the concept too far. It would have been far too dangerous.

He paced slowly around the room. Oster said nothing. Berlin was a dangerous place these days; it had been prepared to resist an invasion. Schoolchildren, teenagers, old men…all of them had been armed and prepared to spend their blood to protect the Fuhrer. If they launched their coup and failed, then they would lose – badly.

“We need another option,” he said, trying hard to think of one. His head felt as if it were full of cotton wool; how could anyone think in such an environment? “What happens to Germany if we fail – and they destroy us?”

Chapter Thirty: The Die is Cast

HDS John Howard

Earth Orbit

Masterson gazed down at the tactical map; the result of nearly a week’s probing and prodding at the German defences. Orbital reconnaissance had spied out many of the German defences; there was no way that they could have hidden even a single Panzer from their sight. Every tank they saw was carefully noted, filed away and earmarked for later attention; if it moved, it was tracked. If it didn’t move, on the other hand, it was included in the list of targets.

The Germans had done an impressive job, he had to admit; it was very professional. Under a less capable observation, or against even the force that had landed during the original D-Day, they might have been able to pull off a tactical surprise or two; perhaps even defeat the landings. Under the observation they were under, they wouldn’t be able to do anything with their feared Panzer forces, let alone their navy.

He smiled. The Germans had clearly done some preparation for an attack from someone armed with future knowledge; they had been moving everything about, almost completely at random, but there were items they couldn’t move. Factories, research bases, railway lines, mines, dams…all of them were immoveable objects. Almost all of them were recorded deep within the massive computer databanks on the Newcomer Fleet; they had already been confirmed and marked for destruction.

He frowned. Tactical logic dictated firing on the concentration camps; the Germans were using Jewish labour to expand their own defences, but simple humanity forbade it. He had already had discussions with Jewish leaders in America, Britain and Palestine; they were willing to assist with the ongoing project to develop Mars. Avoiding a conflict of nearly one hundred years with Arab factions, he was sure, hadn’t really played a role in their decision…

“As long as the Germans find them useful,” he muttered. The Germans hadn’t been due to start the extermination program for another few months, but they had found a use for them in the changed timeline – as brute slaves. It wasn’t nice, or pretty…but it kept them alive longer.

Eileen smiled grimly. “It’s time,” she said. “We have to start the bombardment.”

“I know,” Masterson said, placing his hand on the control console. It recognised his bioelectric signature, unlocking the command codes for the orbiting weapons. He checked quickly; the main firing plan had already been loaded into the processors governing the weapons. All that was needed was permission to fire.

He took a breath – and said a single word. “Fire.”

Nothing else was needed. He knew what was happening already; the processors were waking all of the projectiles, a process that wouldn’t take longer than a few seconds, and then checking their location. Checking and rechecking wouldn’t take longer than five extra seconds…and then they would start to fall.

Eileen was talking into her wristcom. “Brigadier, the weapons have been armed,” she said. “They’re checking their targets now.”

Masterson looked up at the big display as a wave of targeting indicators swept over the map, targeting German targets from Berlin to France. German targets in the USSR had been spared, just for the moment; Stalin had to be dissuaded from trying something clever. Past the east Polish border, hardly any German military target would be spared.

“They’re moving,” he said. “The weapons are inbound now.”

Battle zone

Near Calais, North France

The night of France was warm, but the heart of General Heinz Guderian was cold; Hitler’s recall of him to service had happened only after Japan had been defeated – and Germany was in a desperate condition. The starving Japanese, according to Hitler, were on the verge of asking for peace terms; their eyes would be watching what happened to Germany in the next few weeks. Guderian knew that the weapons that had destroyed the Japanese fleet could be used against his own bases – and he knew that that would mean that the war was within shouting distance of being lost.

He had tried to explain that to Hitler, but the Fuhrer hadn’t listened; he had simply dispatched Guderian to France, where he had won victories beforehand. Guderian had had time to study the reports from North Africa and had been horrified, even asking permission to fall back to Paris, or at least to a place where it might be possible to make a stand. Hitler, again, had refused.

Guderian had deployed his forces with care, knowing that everything he did was being watched from orbit. It hadn’t been difficult to hide much of his equipment; he’d taken the precaution of moving much of the local population out of the battle zone, therefore crippling any human intelligence the Allies would have possessed. Vichy might have been chased out of France, but there would be still Frenchmen with pride enough to fight – the common French soldier, Guderian knew, could fight well.

Shame about their leaders, he thought dryly, and then looked up. Something had alerted him to trouble; not the faint noise of an Allied aircraft, but something new and strange. There was a…noise in the air, and then he saw them; the stars were falling. For a long moment, he was gripped with pure terror, and then he started shouting at his people…and then it was too late.

The ground came up to meet him as the projectile struck the headquarters directly. Guderian blanked out for a long moment, then pulled himself to his feet, not even understanding what had happened. Understanding came slowly as he looked at the church he had been using for a command base; it was utterly wrecked. Flames arose from the tank park, half a mile away; the Panzers had been under cover, but clearly not enough cover. Bangs and other explosions sounded through the air, shattering his forces and crushing them.

Herr General,” Colonel Richhofen snapped. Guderian remembered grimly that the young colonel had a French mistress; he had been going to see her every night. “Herr General, what happened?”

“They hit us,” Guderian snapped. He thought that that was obvious. “Find the secondary telephone network, quickly; we have to check in with every post, everywhere!”


The transport fired its guns several times as they crossed over into France, adding its fire to the damage already wrecked by the orbital weapons. Singh could tell that the Germans were in serious trouble; he accessed the transport’s sensors and saw the damage caused by the bombardment. Fires were burning everywhere, showing up brightly even through the growing dawn. The attack had been perfectly timed; it had been planned for just before dawn. By now, the Germans would be reeling; they might not have any idea of how far back the campaign had stretched into Germany.

“Stand by to jump,” Lieutenant Messenger snapped. “Remember; we’re on clean-up duty, we’re to destroy all the remaining German equipment in this zone.”

A map blinked to life in front of Singh’s eyes. “Understood,” he said. There were nearly a thousand Marines going into the landing zone, with the same orders; the Germans would be hunted down like dogs. “Any news on resistance?”

“Unknown as yet,” Lieutenant Messenger said. “Some German guns seem to have assumed that they’re under aircraft attack; they’ve all been destroyed in the second wave of orbital attacks. If they try to surrender, accept it; if they resist, kill them all.”

There was a mutter of agreement. The Marines knew just how much mercy they could expect if they fell into German hands; Hitler had issued orders that they were to be shot at once, without any formalities at all. It wasn’t exactly the historical commando order, but it was bad enough; the Marines weren’t feeling merciful.

“Stand by,” the pilot of the transport said, as the hatch opened. “Jump!”

Singh leapt out of the transport, feeling gravity take hold of his suit, pulling him down towards Earth. His suit’s antigravity unit took control, slowing the fall enough to allow him to land gently, if roughly, just outside a German base. The base was in ruins, but there were no signs of Germans.

“Secure the base,” Lieutenant Messenger snapped, over the communicator. “Scans?”

Erica’s voice was concerned. “There’s no sign of life at all,” she said. “They might well be hiding somewhere.”

“Advance, slowly,” Lieutenant Messenger ordered. “Singh; take point.”

Singh nodded, then started to march into the German base. It had been clobbered hard from orbit; the three barracks, looking old enough to have dated from the First World War, had been shattered. There were dozens of bodies around, but no sign of life. He reported in, before checking for tunnels; the base had clearly had a basement, which had been torn open and exposed, but no real tunnel system.

“Nothing, sir,” he reported, as the other battlesuits made their own checks. “They’re all gone.”

“Good, I think,” Lieutenant Messenger said. His battlesuit started off down towards the local town. “Follow us, at a distance,” he said. “We might find something.”

Singh nodded and started advancing along the road. It was surprisingly beautiful, more like very early spring than winter. All it needed was some butterflies, and then it would have been almost English…

“I’m under attack,” Corporal Loomis snapped. Singh sped up; Loomis had been with Lieutenant Messenger, whose icon was also blinking red for ‘under attack.’ “They’re trying to hold us and…”

The road collapsed under Singh; he fell into a pit with sharpened sticks inside. They were unable to break through the suit; they smashed against his armour. “I’m all right,” he snapped. “Cover me as…”

A hail of fire swept over the other four suits. Singh cursed and concentrated on standing up; the Germans had clearly prepared a careful ambush, using the French terrain to good advantage. They were fighting as disciplined troops, using rockets to force the suits to hold back; they might have gotten lucky with them while the suits were dispersed.

“I’m coming,” he said, wishing that the antigravity unit had enough power for him to fly. He crouched down and jumped, using the suit’s servomotors to force him up and out of the pit; a hail of German fire cracked against the suit, then faded. This close to the forest, he could barely see the Germans on his sensors; they had picked a very good location…and they were retreating.

“Die, damn you,” Erica snapped, firing burst after burst of plasma into the forest. Singh allowed himself a moment of admiration; the Germans had picked a very strong position and used it perfectly, but why? They hadn’t mined the pit enough to crack his suit; had they expected them to be unarmoured.

“They’re trying to get us to waste our power,” he snapped, trying to inform Lieutenant Messenger. The Lieutenant was still alive, he saw, but he was under attack; the Germans were still trying to press them. Enough information had been released in America to give the Germans a fair chance, particularly seeing they could move faster than the suits in the undergrowth.

“I worked that out,” Lieutenant Messenger said. His voice was concerned; his force was still under attack. “I think…if you make your way through the forest to here…”

A map appeared in Singh’s suit. He made a loose plan and shared it with the other four soldiers, then charged forward through the undergrowth. The Germans had done well again, he saw; the heavy undergrowth was slowing the soldiers down. They smashed through tree branches and stakes, but their legs were becoming entangled in weeds and roots.

“There,” he snapped, as they smashed through the final wall of trees. The Germans had set up a mobile artillery post, using mortars to bombard Lieutenant Messenger and his force. The Germans hadn’t noticed them until it was too late; he fired madly at the German shells, causing a massive explosion. The remaining Germans surrendered; lifting their hands high.

“Line up over there,” he ordered. “You will be escorted back to secure accommodation.”

He checked his display as the two portions of the 1st Platoon met up again. The Germans had been hammered badly – the suits had, on the whole, met with success – but they had been more successful than anyone liked at slowing down the whole process.

“3rd Platoon, move on to cover the landing of Contemporary forces,” Brigadier Joseph ordered. “The Germans appear to be falling back towards a little city; we will pursue them as fast as possible.”


General Guderian was trying hard to coordinate his forces from Amiens, which – as a city – had been spared the majority of the bombardment effort that had started the war. It had taken him several hours to reach the city, relieving two other senior commanders along the way, and he suspected that the enemy was in hot pursuit. They were certainly advancing faster than even a German force could move, slashing time and time again into German soldiers, slicing right through them as if they weren’t even a serious threat.

He stared down at the map. His communications with Germany were broken; all he had was some communication within France itself. Units that had been within the main landing zone had been destroyed, or forced to surrender; he no longer had any communication with them at all. The line of advancing armoured soldiers was getting closer…and he knew that he couldn’t stop them from reaching the city.

Another explosion, towards the direction of the battle zone, marked the death of another German unit. He had never seen – never even imagined – weapons like the orbital projectiles before; he had seen a handful shatter a Panzer division. He no longer had any Panzers…and other vehicles were death traps. He had seen a driving lorry simply explode, destroyed from orbit with ease.

Herr General,” Colonel Richhofen said. “They’re getting closer…”

Another explosion, far closer, broke across the sky. That one had been inside the city itself; the orbital watchers clearly had only a limited tolerance for military action within the city. One of the defence lines, with thousands of Frenchmen drafted to help build it, had been shattered in a moment. He shuddered; without the massive presence of German soldiers in the city, the French would have risen by now.

“I noticed,” Guderian said. His voice, he knew, was weaker than a German general’s should be; not even 1940 and the march through France had been anything like this. More explosions followed, hammering the city and the defence lines; he heard the rattling of machine gun fire as the defenders found something to shoot at.

“Let’s see,” he said, picking up his binoculars and peering down from the large building towards the city limits. Smoke was drifting across the suburbs, but it was clear that there was a major fight going on; the Germans were taking a pounding. He smiled as he saw one of the hover-bikes; it had been hit by a German rocket and destroyed…and then he lost his smile as the battlesuit picked itself up and advanced back to the fight.

“They’re not trying to push their way in,” he observed. The battlesuits could have moved forwards much quicker; it was more like they were trying to avoid smashing through the city. “They’re trying to trap us here.”

“Perhaps they just want to avoid destroying the city,” Colonel Richhofen suggested. “This city has quite a past, even for the British; they launched one of their campaigns against us from here.”

Guderian shrugged. He had studied that war extensively, while the British, it seemed, had forgotten about it. They had pilloried Haig as a bad commander; the Germans had learnt from his battles. He himself had learnt from his battles. The Hundred Days Campaign had served as a template for his own thoughts; thoughts that he had been able to convince Hitler were worth using for the entire German Army.

“Perhaps,” he said. A radio operator came into the room. “Yes?”

Herr General, there is a radio message for you,” the operator said. “They are demanding that you surrender – or else. That’s the exact message.”

The firing seemed to be tailing off. Guderian risked a look through his binoculars – and realised that most of the outer row of defenders had been killed. A line of armoured soldiers stood there, just outside the city, waiting. It didn’t need much imagination to know what the ‘or else’ was; they had the power to march into the city and destroy it all, without taking more than a handful of casualties.

Herr General,” Colonel Richhofen said. His voice was grim and horrified, the voice of a haunted man. “I don’t think that we can hold this place.”

“Several hours,” Guderian said. “Several hours…and almost our entire defence position is on the verge of collapsing completely. We never succeeded that well in France; they had at least a chance against us.”

Colonel Richhofen nodded. He looked as stunned as Guderian felt; they had known that it was going to be bad, but they hadn’t known how bad – no one in Germany had realised that. No one had even come close to understanding it.

“We have no choice,” Guderian said. “If you want to object, say so now; I will make a note of it.”

Colonel Richhofen laughed bitterly. “I cannot object,” he said. “There are no other options.”

“Send them a signal,” Guderian ordered flatly, turning back to the young officer. “Tell them…that we will surrender.”

Chapter Thirty-One: Armageddon Rising

SS (Underground) Headquarters

Berlin, Germany

It had taken nearly four days to gather an accurate picture of what was happening in France, days that Brigadefuehrer Johan Schriever knew they didn’t have. The damage all over the Reich was terrible beyond belief; factories and construction sites had been completely shut down. The Reich had lost communication between Berlin and many other cities; the Kriegsmarine had lost all of its submarine pens. France was apparently in a state of foment; the surrender of General Guderian had started a chain reaction.

And Himmler was no longer smiling. “They are closing in on Paris,” he said. Restoring the telephone lines alone had taken two days; even now, they were damaged or destroyed again, simply at random. Precision targeting had wiped out all of Germany’s official government buildings, even exposing parts of the Fuhrerbunker itself to the air.

Schriever took a breath. He understood, now, that the conventional war was over. He felt as if he – all of Germany – had been slapped several times in the face; the shock had left them reeling. Four days in, and there were hardly any Panzers left, west of the former border with the Soviet Union. The forces in the east, under Hoth, had been left alone – Himmler had pronounced that that had been to prevent Stalin from coming east.

But the war was over, he knew. Germany would need years to recover – hell, they didn’t even have a good idea of what was damaged, let alone what needed to be repaired. The population no longer heard Nazi information broadcasts – Goebbels had been killed in one of the strikes he’d claimed were only enemy propaganda – but they heard the statements from Admiral Masterson…and they saw the evidence of their eyes.

“They will take Paris,” he said, wishing them well of the French problems. In their place, he would have shot both sets of leaders and allowed the French a chance to get out from under their baleful influence. Paris might have already fallen; at the last report, it was coming under heavy attack.

“They may well,” Himmler agreed. “It has become time to use the Werewolves.”

Schriever nodded slowly, concealing his real thoughts. Allied propaganda claimed that Allied troops would only remain long enough to ensure a democratic government, but he knew that that would take as long as the Allies wanted it to take. There was no longer any choice, anyway; the conventional war was lost.

“I will go into hiding,” he said. Anna – his wife – knew nothing about the Werewolves; he could take her and his son and go to stay with her father, using the false identity papers he had taken the precaution of preparing. “What about the Fuhrer?”

“I have attempted to convince him to leave for Switzerland,” Himmler conceded. Schriever was shocked; Hitler had declared that he would be sooner killed in Berlin at the hands of the allies, rather than go into hiding or surrender. “Unfortunately, he is determined to remain in Berlin to the last.”

Schriever took a breath. “And yourself?”

“The Swedes, a nation with Aryan sympathies, have agreed to take me into exile,” Himmler said. Only a lifetime of careful control kept Schriever’s face blank; inside, he was horrified – Himmler was running from defeat, from the enemy. “From there, I will direct the Werewolves.”

And how long will they keep you if they demand that you be handed over, or else? Schriever thought. He didn’t say it out loud; for the first time, he saw Himmler as he really was – a coward. Himmler would have allowed him – and his family – to bear the brunt of any counterinsurgency effort, while he hid in Sweden. A sudden tide of hatred washed over him, kept from his face; how dare he do anything like that?

“An excellent plan,” he said, keeping his voice calm. “That will ensure continuity of government, once the Allies are installed in Berlin.”

“I’m glad that you agree,” Himmler said. “I have one final mission for you, however; you are to ensure that the American agents have their authorisation to advance the plans as fast as they can move. We have to do something, anything, to distract the Americans from the war. The British will not have the strength to push the offensive against us on their own.”

“True,” Schriever agreed. His voice, he was pleased to notice, remained calm. A young SS officer looked in with an update; he winced as he saw that armoured soldiers had been seen in Belgium, rather than advancing into Paris as expected. “That’s interesting.”

Himmler shrugged. He tried to look as if it didn’t matter, all part of the bonhomie, but Schriever could see him clearly now; he was scared. Four days of very heavy fighting…and the Reich was on the very verge of collapse. People would be starving, people would be becoming desperate…and they might even start off a civil war. It had happened before, during 1918 and afterwards, and it might well happen again.

“All the more reason to move faster,” he said. “I will leave Berlin tonight and move to Sweden.”

Schriever smiled. Himmler clearly didn’t trust the Swedish ambassador to guarantee his safety in Berlin. It wasn’t a surprise; how would the rank and file react to Himmler fleeing for his life? Schriever would have been surprised if the embassy hadn’t been raided by angry soldiers, signalling the collapse of German order.

“Will you be taking some of the SS units with you?” He asked, laying it on with a towel. “Your safety is of paramount importance to the Reich.”

“It would only call attention to everything,” Himmler said, unwilling to speak clearly of what he was planning. “No, I will travel with a small guard.”

Schriever nodded. “Jawohl,” he snapped, saluting. Himmler returned the statue, rather weakly. “It will all be done as you command!”

With that, he left the office, his mind already racing ahead. The map update carried grim news; perhaps the Allies could be halted on the Rhine…or perhaps they would simply ignore the Rhineland, just as they had ignored Paris. He had to admire the common sense Admiral Masterson had displayed; starving Paris and its defenders out was a better idea than attempting to force them out by main force.

He shook his head, trying to decide what to do. There was no one to trust in all of the Reich; no one who could make the right decisions. Who could he trust? He took one last look around the underground bunker and left, heading back to his home. After the war was finished, he would make the decision for himself; Himmler and those like him could go hang.


I wonder if I’m being foolish, Admiral Canaris thought, and knew that he was being very foolish indeed. There was no choice, however; time had suddenly run out…which might at least make some people more inclined to listen to him. The SS had worked hard to keep all information on the war classified – and it was clear that to some extent they’d succeeded, although the people were clearly starting to believe Masterson more than Adolf Hitler.

He walked through the streets of Berlin, surveying the damage. He knew from his own service that the Allies, spearheaded by those damned armoured soldiers, had smashed their way through the defences of Calais, of Belgium, of…well, he suspected that Bonn would be next on the list. The SS had a large garrison there, but there were also a large number of Wehrmacht officers, including some of his people.

He felt like crying as he looked up at what had once been the Reichstag. A single weapon had smashed it from orbit, killing almost everyone inside. SS guards stood there, waving away people who came too close, but they couldn’t conceal the scale of the devastation. Their faces were not the emotionless supermen of Himmler’s dreams – and everyone else’s nightmares; they seemed almost panicky.

“I have permission to visit,” he snapped, as one of the guards turned to point his weapon at him. The guard took a look at his uniform, gulped, and waved him past. Inside the cordon, it seemed very quiet…even though he could hear the sounds of the war going on and on. He walked past the piles of rubble, noting that the SS hadn’t even attempted to clear the rubble, and saw his quarry ahead of him.

“Field Marshall,” he called, as the figure turned. Kesselring had never been as fat as Goring, who was known as ‘iron fatty’ everywhere outside his earshot, but he had clearly lost weight in the last month. Even his rewards from Hitler paled compared to the devastation that had been wrecked on Germany; there was little point in attempting to run a modern war when the infrastructure had been wrecked beyond repair.

“Admiral,” Kesselring said. His voice was thinner than Kesselring remembered; his face paler. “I came here to meditate.”

“And so did I,” Canaris said. “What conclusions did you reach?”

“There’s little point in me remaining in my office,” Kesselring said. Canaris smiled at the comment. “Our war now hangs in the balance – and in the hands of every officer in place, now that we’ve lost most of the telephone lines again.”

Canaris frowned. He hadn’t known that. “I need to ask you a question,” he said, sitting down on a large stone that had once been part of a wall. “Can we win this war?”

Kesselring gave him a hard look. “What do you think?” He asked. “We have lost upwards of twenty thousand soldiers, and God alone knows how many civilians were under the dams when they burst. Our losses might well be a lot higher; there is no way to know for sure.”

Canaris frowned. Kesselring had chosen to remain standing. “And have you informed the Fuhrer of this?”

Kesselring’s face went blank. “The Fuhrer is living in his own world,” he said.

“But the rest of us must live in this world,” Canaris said. “Albert, what is likely to happen when they reach Bonn?” Kesselring said nothing. “According to the reports, they may just encircle the city, rather than be drawn into city-fighting. We may not have killed any of them, so far; certainly there are no confirmed reports.”

He paced. “The Poles are restless,” he said. “The French…well, they have dozens of little factions who want to secure some…say in the future of France. The Italians are on the verge of revolt.”

“Let them have them,” Kesselring said, bitterly. “Did any of us imagine that it would come to this?”

“No,” Canaris said. “What can we do about it?”

Kesselring sighed. “There are no longer any Panzers in Germany,” he said. “The Wehrmacht is breaking apart. The Kriegsmarine is in tatters. The Luftwaffe is grounded. The only thing we can do is surrender – and the Fuhrer will not listen.”

“Then we must remove him,” Canaris said. He kept his voice firm. “Albert, Germany is on the verge of being destroyed, completely! We have to act now!”

Kesselring glanced back towards where the SS guards had been patrolling. No force of outraged guards came their way. “He is the Fuhrer,” he said. “He is our leader…”

“Who has killed us all,” Canaris said sharply. “We have to act, now.”

Kesselring waved his hand to indicate the guards. “I can’t get in there,” he said. “The guards just won’t let me past.”

“I have some friends who can help,” Canaris said. “I just need you to ensure that they have papers to get into the Fuhrerbunker.”

Kesselring nodded. “Tonight?”

Canaris smiled. “Tonight,” he agreed. “Can you have the papers by then?”

“Yes,” Kesselring said. “Just don’t…”

He broke off. “I understand,” Canaris said. “Really; does it matter now?”


Hans Oster moved quickly through the streets of Berlin, noting how all of the city lights had failed completely, even through the blackout curtains. Some of the generators powering the city had been hit; the power supply had been drained to the bare minimum. Behind him, his allies followed; men who had believed in him and the cause from the start.

I should have risked more in 1938, he thought, remembering the failure than that had seemed to be passed unnoticed. Hitler had won at Munich; no one had seemed to understand that he could simply try again for higher stakes. Even the fall of France had not allayed his fears; the failure to invade Britain and the ill-prepared advance into Russia had convinced him that it was time to move again.

He checked the papers that Kesselring had given him, knowing that it was risky; the SS might have their suspicions right from the start. There wasn’t time to smuggle in a bomb; the SS were checking every package that entered the Fuhrerbunker these days. He knew that attempting to kill the Fuhrer face-to-face was the most dangerous method of operations, but what other choice was there?

There were fewer SS men than he would have expected as they entered the apparently innocent building in Berlin; they seemed to have been withdrawn to somewhere else. Had Hitler left? He wondered. If that had happened, they would be utterly defeated – and Germany would go into the fire. The remaining guards checked their papers, however, and their permission to go armed into the bunker.

“Pass,” the lead guard muttered. He had said nothing else; his face a mixture of worry and fear. Oster nodded and slipped past him, knowing that they had passed the first hurdle. The second was still to come. The dark corridors of the Fuhrerbunker slipped past as they moved onwards, heading down towards Kesselring’s office.

“You’re here,” Kesselring said, as they arrived. “Please will you come with me?”

Oster nodded, allowing Kesselring to lead them through more corridors and down through shafts, down to the deepest level of the bunker. It was surprisingly luxurious, with art works from all over Europe concentrated within the large room; two SS guards guarded the door.

Oster didn’t bother with being subtle. “Hands up,” he snapped, lifting his pistol. He had put a silencer on, but he knew that they were not as reliable as most people believed. “Do not move.”

The first guard reached for his weapon. One of Oster’s men leapt past him and pistol-whipped the guard hard, causing him to fall to the floor. Oster swore; that noise would have been audible inside the inner bunker. He shot the second guard through the head, before opening the door and peering inside. Hitler’s office was gaudy, but there was no sign of Hitler himself.

He looked up at Kesselring. “Where is he?”

Kesselring pointed to a door. Oster moved forward quickly, kicking the door open, and jumped inside, weapon raised. A light burned on the side of the bed, allowing him to see Hitler and a blonde woman beside him. The Fuhrer stammered a question in a halting voice; he didn’t look well at all.

Oster said nothing; he simply fired once and put the Fuhrer out of Germany’s misery.


As soon as Hitler died, the blonde started to scream. Oster motioned for one of his men to secure her, and then led Kesselring back into the main office. “That was easier than I thought it would be,” he said. “What’s happened?”

“Himmler has fled,” Kesselring said flatly. “A lot of SS men were sent off somewhere.”

Oster shook his head, dismissing it. “You are the new Fuhrer,” he said. Kesselring’s mouth opened wide with shock. “You have to order a surrender.”

“I can’t be,” Kesselring said. “I just committed treason.”

Oster bit down several unhelpful comments. “You are the senior surviving military officer,” he said. “You are the commander of the remaining army, the only one it will listen to. If you don’t do it, now, who can?”

Kesselring nodded, heading over to the Fuhrer’s radio set. It had been linked to an antenna several miles away, just in case. “Masterson told us that any transmissions on this frequency would be unjammed, provided we behaved ourselves,” he said, activating the radio. “Calling Admiral Masterson, calling Admiral Masterson…”

There was a long pause. “Perhaps they have to wake him up,” Oster commented, when Kesselring began to look nervous. “Perhaps…”

A new voice, one familiar from the broadcasts, came on the air. “This is Admiral Masterson,” it said. “What can we do for you?”

Kesselring took a long breath. The disinterest in the voice was horrifying. “I would like to discuss a ceasefire,” he said. “Pending formal discussions…”

“You have our terms,” Masterson’s voice said. “You may choose to accept them, now, or the attacks will continue.”

“You will honour the terms you stated on the broadcasts?” Kesselring asked. “All of them?”

Masterson’s voice sounded tired. “We will do exactly as we promised,” he said. “Will you accept the terms?”

Kesselring looked defeated. “We will accept the terms,” he said. “If you would terminate the jamming, we could order the formal surrender.”

“Please do,” Masterson said. “Remember; all of your units are to surrender to our forces, not break up and desert. Soldiers who desert will be considered insurgents and dealt with accordingly.”

“I will inform my people of that,” Kesselring said. “What about Berlin?”

“An occupation force will be there tomorrow,” Masterson said. “They will secure the city. Do not attempt to resist.”

“We will accept your terms,” Kesselring repeated. Oster placed a hand on his shoulder. “As soon as you end the jamming, we will send the orders.”

“Thank you,” Masterson said. “The jamming has been terminated.”

The connection broke. Kesselring tuned the radio to the main Wehrmacht frequency, and discovered that Masterson had told the truth. “All units, this is General Kesselring,” he said. “By order of the Fuhrer, the Greater German Reich will surrender to the enemy, who has promised to treat all of you with honour. You are to cease fire at once and surrender, or remain in place if not engaged by enemy forces.”

He paused and took a long breath. “You have been the finest soldiers that I or any other German has ever commanded,” he said. “Germany will need you, in the days ahead; please do not throw your lives away. Surrender – and prepare to work to rebuild Germany into a nation we can all be proud of.”

Chapter Thirty-Two: The Brave New World

The White House

Washington DC, USA

The sight of a shuttle falling out of the sky to land on the White House lawn passed almost unnoticed, proving just how quickly humans could become accustomed to the unusual. Churchill suspected, sometimes, that if the Krank or another race arrived on Earth, within a week humans would hardly notice them; aliens or no.

The streets of Washington were packed with people celebrating the surrender of Germany, but there was a grim undercurrent running through the streets, as if the people were girding themselves for future trouble. Churchill understood; he suspected that the Americans knew, deep down inside, that the world had changed. They had been preparing to destroy Japan – and they hadn’t accomplished that task. Japan was slowly being starved out, but many expected that the Newcomers would find a way to defeat them as well.

“Good luck, Mr Prime Minister,” the pilot said. He seemed amused by something; Churchill didn’t understand the joke. “Will you be needing me, or can I just go join the party?”

Churchill laughed grimly. “Go party if you want,” he said, wondering what it had been like to be that young. He knew that he had been young once, back during the Boer War, but that had been so long ago. He had seen the rise of the British Empire, its decline…and now perhaps its chance to be something greater than it had been.

He stepped out of the shuttle’s hatch, allowing the Secret Service men to check him with the new sensors the Newcomers had provided, before walking past them to the main doors. He swept inside and walked towards the Oval Office, noticing how…deserted the White House felt. It was a bright and welcoming as ever, but it felt different.

Churchill shuddered inwardly. America, ever since the War of 1812, hadn’t been really threatened. The Japanese had caused panic and rage, but they hadn’t been a real problem; the Newcomer history files made that clear. Without their help, Roosevelt and Churchill – and Stalin, he thought uncomfortably – would have put Hitler down like the dog he was…and they wouldn’t have needed the help of German resistance men either.

He shook his head as he reached the main door to the Oval Office. He knew what he needed; Roosevelt’s support for some elements of the post-war world. He knew that Roosevelt would be interested in some of the proposals, but not with others; it would take a long session before they could make the proper decisions.

The Secret Service agent waved him in and he stepped inside the office. It was darker than he would have expected; only one lamp burned on the side of the room. Roosevelt could be seen, sitting against the window, staring out into the stars. For a long chilling moment, Churchill wondered if it had all been a dream; Roosevelt was sitting in his wheelchair again. He caught his breath…

And then Roosevelt stood up and the nightmare vanished. Churchill smiled as the President tapped the light switch, bringing brighter lights into the room, and then he scowled as he caught sight of the President’s face. It was drawn and worn; he looked tired, as if he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. He waved Churchill to a seat; Churchill sat reluctantly, wondering what was wrong.

“It’s good of you to come, Winston,” Roosevelt said. His voice was tired; Churchill wondered inanely if the President had been drinking. “It would be good, once or twice, to talk to someone without an agenda.”

“I have an agenda,” Churchill said, lightly. It didn’t seem right somehow. “Franklin…?”

Roosevelt shook his head slowly. “I was trying to remember what it felt like to be in the wheelchair,” he said. Churchill lifted a puzzled eyebrow. “They gave me back my health, more or less…but they have disrupted my country completely.”

Churchill drew in a breath. “Just how bad is it?”

“Bad,” Roosevelt said flatly. “We are producing components for their space work, and we can see the space stations in our telescopes, but…how much good does it do us? We don’t have spacecraft of our own, do we?”

“They loaned us a few shuttles,” Churchill reminded him. “Given time, we will learn to build our own.”

Roosevelt shook his head. “There is too much social unrest in America for the time to be taken,” he said. Churchill frowned; that statement had been too confusing for a master of the English language. “We don’t have the time, Winston; it’s been a wild ride for us.”

Churchill kept his voice calm. “Two months ago, the Japanese were slashing through the Pacific,” he said. “Hitler was still strong and Stalin was a possible menace in the future. We’re much better off now.”

“Perhaps you are,” Roosevelt said. He seemed to be smiling bitterly. A firework bursting in the sky over Washington illuminated the room for a long moment. “I don’t know about us. There are half a dozen smouldering trouble spots within America, and more elsewhere. The Philippines want us to provide more economic aid…and at the same time we have to deal with Japan.”

“And Stalin,” Churchill said. “That’s becoming a matter of more urgency.”

“Congress is starting to suggest that – perhaps – we should start to concentrate on the future,” Roosevelt said. “That wasn’t a pun; there are congressmen who are thinking that it’s time to crack down hard on internal troublemakers.” He paused. “That means black men.”

Churchill said nothing. “Negroes don’t vote in the south, most places, except they will be voting in the coming years,” Roosevelt said. “There’s this new slogan going around; ‘we’re not going to take it anymore.’ The Ku Klux Klan and its allies are fighting back, of course, and the death toll is rising. Some of them see their power fading away, and they start to panic; what happens when a black man stands for election?”

He stood up, pacing. “Normally, any such man would be lynched,” he said, sounding…as if he wasn’t concerned. “Now, however, it might lead to open race war.”

“And to think that you lectured me on our treatment of the Indians,” Churchill said, unable to resist. Years of knowing that the Americans wanted the British Empire dismantled surged up in him. “Welcome to the problems of world power!”

Roosevelt shook his head. “It’s impossible to choose a course of action,” he said. “What side do I take?”

Churchill frowned. “You could always take the solution that we have incorporated for the Indians, slightly modified,” he said. “Black men are American citizens, ergo they have a right to vote, therefore let them vote.”

Roosevelt smiled. “That right may be in the law, but few honour it,” he said. He shook his head. “You’re right,” he said. He sounded a little happier. “Why did you ask for the meeting?”

Churchill opened his briefcase and pulled out a map. “Question; are you going to join with the Newcomers in defeating the Soviet Union?”

Roosevelt hesitated. “There are factions that would love to take on the Soviet Union,” he said. “In the present climate, however, I don’t know if we can – or even if we should. Now that Germany has been defeated, there are people who want the boys back home.”

Churchill felt his heart sink. “We need your forces there for at least five years,” he said. “Both Germany and France need garrison forces.”

Roosevelt looked at him sharply. “Do you have any ulterior motives in disarming both French factions?”

Churchill shrugged. “A stable France is in our interests,” he said. “We will have to complete the task of destroying the French communists who are pro-Moscow, but the anti-Moscow communists are helping with that. It’s not a perfect solution, but we should be able to supervise a proper French election within a year or so.”

He sighed. “Germany remains a problem, however,” he said. “The new government, or rather the one we have permitted to remain in place, is effectively a military government. We have failed to catch Himmler; apparently he fled from Berlin and hasn’t been seen since.” He shrugged. “Perhaps he’ll turn up dead in a ditch somewhere.

“That does, of course, leave us with the problem of Stalin,” he continued. “We have a large German force on the border with the Russians, as we may not have your help for launching the campaign. Several of them are SS divisions, however, and they tried to resist; several of the higher-ups slipped into Russia. The Wehrmacht, to be fair, is obeying orders.”

“And the Newcomers intend to deal with Stalin,” Roosevelt said. His voice darkened. “I wish that we could avoid taking part in the campaign; we really are having too many problems right here.”

Churchill frowned. “If your forces take over some of the garrisoning duties, then that would at least help,” he said. “The Germans don’t like us very much, you see; we have to maintain a show of force.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Roosevelt said. He looked up at Churchill. “Do you trust them?”

“The Newcomers?” Churchill asked. “I think they’re telling the truth about the Krank – and about spreading democracy. Past that…they can be annoying, can’t they?”

Roosevelt smiled. “Yes, they can be,” he said. “I think that between us we had better keep a careful eye on them, just to see what they might do in the future.”


Somewhat to Sam Turtledove’s surprise, the Victory Town hadn’t celebrated the defeat of Germany as much as he would have expected; the Newcomers themselves knew just how unbalanced the fight had been. They were certainly becoming far more capable of dealing with the new world; the Victory Town was still expanding. The complex in Saudi Arabia was far larger, absorbing dozens of people, including adopted children.

He shook his head as he entered the Oval Office. He wasn’t sure how he felt about the Saudis simply being brushed aside by the Newcomers; the fight had been short, but very savage. The simple tribesmen, he’d been told, had achieved the impossible; they’d hampered global progress all during the Age of Unrest. The sheer hatred the Newcomers had shown, in one moment of pure rage, had shocked him. He wouldn’t have treated the Japanese like that!

“Good Morning, Sam,” Roosevelt said. The President looked far more cheerful. “What’s the latest from Victory Town?”

“They’re still preparing for Stalin,” Turtledove said. “I think they’ve rather run out of their projectiles for hammering the Earth, and they’re working hard to build them up again for the campaign in April.”

“Good, good,” Roosevelt said. He sounded more than a little distracted. “Sam, what would you say the national situation is?”

Turtledove hesitated…and finally settled on the truth. “Not as good as it could be, sir,” he said. “There are more and more refugees coming to Victory Town.”

“I have made a decision,” the President said. His voice was stronger than before; Turtledove allowed himself a moment of relief. “I have decided that I will embrace the Civil Rights Act, including an end to segregation in all of its forms.”

Turtledove smiled. He’d learnt from Gwen that all humans were basically equal; she’d explained that all humans had a right to equality of opportunity, although outcome, she’d remarked with a wry smile, couldn’t be guaranteed. Victory Town was living proof of that; all of the colours of the rainbow worked together in harmony.

He realised that Roosevelt was still speaking and hastened to catch up. “Sir?”

Roosevelt regarded him with tolerant patience. “I have been spending the morning rounding up support,” he said. “The most important matter, however, remains the situation in the South; there are far too many riots occurring.”

Turtledove could not disagree. “Yes, Mr President,” he said. He hesitated, then decided to ask anyway. “Sir, what does this have to do with me?”

“I have asked Hoover to come over,” Roosevelt said. “I merely wish you to observe.”

Turtledove sat back as Roosevelt’s aide announced Hoover’s entry. The FBI Director looked…more concerned than the last time Turtledove had seen him, but at the same time he looked more peaceful.

“Good Morning, Mr Hoover,” Roosevelt said. Hoover nodded in reply. “I apologise for calling you here at the moment.”

“My time is yours,” Hoover said. Turtledove realised that he already knew what Roosevelt wanted. “What can I do for you?”

“You have been building up a map of those on both sides of the race issue,” Roosevelt said. “How quickly could you arrest the leaders, if I gave the order?”

Hoover blinked at the question. “We could sweep them all up in a week,” he said, confidently. “Mr President…”

“The Civil Rights Act is going to pass and it is going to be enforced,” Roosevelt said, steel in his voice. Turtledove understood in a glint of inspiration; this was going to be Roosevelt’s last act as President. “Groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, which you yourself have spoken against, are going to be declared terrorist groups – and so are the black groups. Every last ounce of my political capital is going to be directed towards ensuring that racial hatred is swept from the land.”

Hoover was starting to look like a fish out of water. “Mr President…I…ah, I predict serious political difficulties,” he said. “I really don’t think that…”

Roosevelt lifted a piece of paper and waved it at him. “This is the agreement of several senators and congressmen, Director Hoover,” he said. “The Republicans have been working towards this for nearly a month, intending to capture the black vote. My Party…will have to move fast to catch up, and within a month this bill will pass.”

He paused. “You have a month to lay your plans, Director,” he said. “At the end of that, I want to wipe out the Klan, completely.”

Hoover stared at him. It took Turtledove a moment to recognise the look on his face; it was fear. Fear of failure, not of Roosevelt; fear of failing. Fear, perhaps, of doing something that might ruin his career completely – if it failed. Hoover took a long breath, and then let it out.

“It will take a month to get everything into place,” he said. “Mr President, some of the Klan’s supporters are…highly-placed.”

“Then remove them,” Roosevelt said. “I know; this has more political implications than you like, but it’s time we saw what hides under the stupid white dress.”


Nevada, USA

“I’m going to have to blindfold you,” his uncle said, as he led George Forest towards an old warehouse. Austin had far too many of them for this one to be easily found. “The person in this…place is too important to risk exposing to the eyes of the traitors. The niggers have started trying to scare white men by killing people who speak against them…and this man is more important than most.”

George submitted tamely as his uncle blindfolded him, and then led him into the warehouse. He was soon totally disorientated; without his uncle holding onto his arm, he would have been hopelessly lost. It was like playing that old game when he was a child, except this one was serious.

“If you lose that blindfold, they’ll have to kill you,” his uncle said, in a tone too serious to ignore. George felt his body tremble as his uncle pushed open a door and helped him into another room. It smelt of tobacco, of harsh cigars and pipe smoke; it smelt disgusting.

“Young Forest,” a voice said. There was nothing of warmth, or the South, in the voice; it was clipped and precise. George recognised it as another actor’s voice. “Do you know who I am?”

“No, sir,” George said. There was the brief sound of a gun being cocked. “No, sir; I don’t know who you are.”

“Good,” the voice said. It sounded faintly sinister now. “Do you know why you are here?”

George thought about it. “I thought that you wanted to hear my report directly,” he said. “I’ve been present within the Victory Town for two months now, sir; I thought you might want some information from me directly.”

“In part,” the voice said. It sounded richly amused. “However, events have moved onto a new and dangerous path…can you keep a secret?”

George almost laughed; only a developed sense of self-preservation kept it from his lips. “Yes, sir,” he said. “I have been within the town for some time now.”

“True,” the voice agreed. George tried to think what sort of face might go with the voice and couldn’t think of one. There was a long sound as the man drew on a cigar. “The fat man in Washington has finally given in to the pressures of the Jew financers and started to prepare a move against us. Us!”

There was a hint of anger in the voice now. “You can imagine what that means for the world,” the man continued. “Roosevelt will sell us out to the Newcomers, the niggers, and the Jews!”

George sucked in a breath. “Sir, how do you know that?”

Someone – he hoped it was his uncle – landed a firm slap across his buttocks. The assembled men laughed as he clutched at his rear in a flurry of pain and shame. “Never you mind,” the voice said. “That’s something you don’t need to know; I told you as much as I did because you needed to understand what was happening – and why.”

George rubbed his behind. “I see, sir,” he said.

“Good,” the man said. “Now…that gives us a limit as to how long we have to deal with Victory Town; it is our intention to attack it as soon as possible. You will have two tasks, George; are you willing to carry them out.”

“Yes,” George said. “What do you want me to do?”

“The first one is to spy out the defences,” the man said. “The second is far more dangerous, we have acquired – never mind from where – a great deal of sophisticated explosive and timers. As they are clockwork, they should be invisible to the scanners the Newcomers keep boasting about. Your task will be to place some of them around Victory Town.”

There was a long pause. “Do you accept the mission?”

George didn’t hesitate. “Yes, sir,” he said. “It will be my pleasure.”

Chapter Thirty-Three: Unidentified Space Object

HDS Sutherland

In Transit

Captain Marian Hussian cared nothing for politics; all she cared about was space flight. She had joined the Human Defence Force largely by accident; she had applied for the Survey Service, before the service was merged into the Human Defence Force for the duration of the conflict. Incapable of offering anything less than her best, Marian had served faithfully and well, waiting for the day that she could return to survey duty…before it became clear the humanity was doomed.

She peered down at the display as the Sutherland accelerated away from Earth, towing a series of life support pods for the new asteroid miners. They were all Contemporary personnel; people who had volunteered to work as asteroid miners, rather than return to Earth. Her crew called the pods barges; it certainly kept her ship back from travelling as fast as it could, simply by towing them.

She glanced down at the engineering panel, checking the ship’s integrity. It was impossible to extend the drive field – even the sublight drive field – too far away from the ship without the drive field losing cohesion – which would be very bad for the ship. Instead, they had secured all of the barges together, and then run a long cable to the Sutherland, allowing the ship to tow the barges along.

“Enjoying the trip, Doctor Goddard?” She called. The Contemporary rocket scientist had been astonished to discover how much he was lionised by the future Newcomers; he had been more than willing to accept a complete rejuvenation treatment. Looking far younger than he had ever been while on the Earth, Goddard had insisted on travelling to the asteroids.

“It’s fascinating,” Goddard said. He had freely admitted that he was mystified by the drive field generator – let alone the warp drive – but he was willing and eager to learn. He had been delighted at the chance to work in space, along with the younger crew; their first priority would be creating a proper asteroid habitat for future development.

He smiled over at her, his face developing into a truly delighted smile. “I’m still not quite sure what makes it all go, but…”

There were some chuckles from the crew. Goddard was very popular with the Newcomer crew; the original human rockets had been built by Goddard and the other pioneers. They had been delighted to have a chance to show Goddard around the Solar System; it seemed that all they had been doing was working to lay the stages for the future.

She smiled to herself. It would be a trip of several days to the asteroids, simply because they would be carrying the barges along with them, but it was hardly a problem. They were moving faster than any speed Goddard could have anticipated; he was already demanding a fuller commitment to lunar colonisation and Mars. The Jewish pioneers were already starting to work on Mars, although it would be years before they were self-sufficient.

“It works,” she said. The equations behind the drive fields had been known to drive scientists mad. “I wouldn’t worry about it past that, Doctor; it’s bad for the head.”

Goddard rubbed his head, just as an alarm sounded. Marian felt a flicker of alarm; that sound was only played for one specific event. “Red alert,” she ordered automatically. “Mr Sato, report.”

Lieutenant Sato, her sensor officer, worked his console, his face becoming more concerned as he probed through the records. “Captain, there was an energy pulse several light seconds away; it reads out as a cloaking device failure.”

Marian felt her blood run cold. Who could be out there now, probing the solar system? Her mind supplied one answer and she shivered; they couldn’t afford to allow this to slip past. It might be a mistake, but they had to be sure.

“Slip the cable and move us,” she snapped to Lieutenant Commander Hawking, her helm officer. “Mr Sato; perform a full sensor focus.”

The display shifted as the Sutherland separated itself from the cable, moving quickly away from the barges, which remained bound by the laws of physics. They would continue to move towards the asteroids, delaying them; trying to take them back into tow would be impossible. They would just have to wait an additional few days to reach the asteroid belt.

“I’m scanning,” Lieutenant Sato reported. “Captain, there are very definite indications of a cloaking device being deployed, not too far from us at all.”

Marian took a moment to check that the ship was at full battle stations, and then sat back in her chair. “Helm, take us in pursuit,” she said. She wondered; the Krank might have been the only space-faring civilisation that humanity had encountered, but it wasn’t impossible that there were others running around. She remembered some of the reports of little grey aliens that had been reported from the 20th Century; several prominent researchers had claimed that they were real indications of alien contact. Could they be about to discover potential allies?

“Lieutenant Vishnu, bring up the first contact protocols,” she ordered, dreading the possibility of having to explain their presence on Earth to a puzzled alien race. Humanity had no idea how good the protocols were; the brief discussions with the Krank had all been started by them, not humanity. “Stand by to transmit.”

Commander Ami Homchoudhury, her first officer, glanced up from her console. “All stations report that they’re ready,” she said. The Sutherland moved faster as its drive fields flared back up to full power. “We’re ready for action.”

“Good,” Marian said. “Lieutenant Sato?”

“I have a definite track on the unknown now,” Lieutenant Sato reported. “Captain, I think it’s trying to move away from us without being noticed, but I have a firm lock. They’re not going to slip away.”

Marian frowned inwardly. This was starting to look more and more suspicious; not first contact, but first conflict. Endless realms of paper and millions of terabytes had been produced on that subject…before the Krank were discovered. The military science-fact writers had been conspired into the tactical planning department – which might explain something about the war.

“Good,” she said. “Pulse them.”

Lieutenant Sato nodded. “Pulse away,” he said. Marian watched grimly; a pulse was a sensor probe so powerful that it could hardly avoid being noticed, the interstellar equivalent of ‘hold it right there!’ Few cloaking devices could adjust to compensate for the probe; that alone would confirm that the target wasn’t friendly.

“A real alien craft,” Goddard breathed. Marian sucked down a curse; she’d forgotten about him in all the excitement. “Captain, we have to make peaceful contact…”

“Captain,” Lieutenant Sato snapped, his voice suddenly high with excitement…and terror. “Captain; look!”

Marian looked up at the display. The cloaking device had indeed proven unable to cope with the sensor pulse; it had shimmered out of existence, revealing…a Krank scoutship. It hovered there, trying hard to escape without being noticed; as she watched, it started to surge forward as power was diverted away from the useless cloaking device. The pilot, whoever he or she was, had clearly realised that the system was no longer needed.

“Tactical, lock weapons on target,” she snapped. She barely heard Lieutenant Young’s acknowledgement. It wasn’t fair; they thought that they had escaped the Krank for a very long time. “Prepare to fire!”

“Captain…” Goddard began. His face was troubled; she remembered that he had been fascinated with the thought of meeting real aliens out among the stars. She’d had that delusion too once. “You can’t…”

“Go below, Doctor,” Marian snapped. “Lieutenant Sato, can you identify that ship.”

There was just a hope that…yes, perhaps… “Yes, Captain,” Lieutenant Sato said, his voice confused. “We’ve seen it before; it was part of the fleet that engaged us before we came here…”

Marian thought rapidly. “If that’s true, then why is it here?” She asked aloud. No one tried to answer. “Tactical…”

“Energy spike,” Lieutenant Sato snapped. The display altered as the Krank starship turned the darker red of ‘very hostile.’ “They’re launching missiles!”

“Point defence, online,” Marian snapped, as two tiny missiles lanced away from the Krank ship. Neither of them could hope to harm her ship – the scoutship was tiny compared to the cruiser – but they were clearly intended as…

The display flickered as both missiles detonated, shielding the Krank ship, which had gone to warp. “Helm, pursuit course – now,” Marian snapped. The Sutherland leapt forward as Lieutenant Commander Hawking laid in the course. “Lieutenant Vishnu, transmit a full copy of our records to the John Howard.”

“Completed, Captain,” Lieutenant Vishnu reported. “They have full details of the encounter.”

“Commander Hawking, take us into warp,” Marian snapped. Under other circumstances, she would have loved to return to the flickering lights of warpspace – that strange form space took when travelling at warp speeds – but it was too serious. The Krank ship had a lead – and it might be able to move quicker than the Sutherland over a short distance – but there was no way that it could have reached the Krank homeworld.

She tapped a quick question into the library files and relaxed – only slightly. The closest Krank world in their time was over a thousand light years away, several weeks at maximum warp. Even assuming that the Krank scout could have maintained its drive for so long, its crew would have been going stir-crazy after such a long voyage. It could have been done, she supposed; the Krank did have stasis, after all. If so, why had they stayed around, except... Except…

“Commander,” she said, over their private channel, “would you say that that ship has no chance against us?”

She watched the tactical display while waiting for Commander Ami Homchoudhury’s reply. If the Krank ship continued at its current course and speed, they would enter firing range within a few hours – and then start burning up warp missiles until they scored a hit. The Krank ship was small enough for one hit to be lethal, but that also meant that it was a tiny target. Hitting it would be a pain.

“I don’t think so,” Homchoudhury said. Her voice was puzzled. “They could hardly hope to beat any ship in our fleet.”

“I know,” Marian said. She sat back and steepled her fingers. “Why would that ship have stayed here?”

She talked for a moment, trying to sort it out. “That’s a scout, so it can’t do anything to Earth in this timeline, unless they try to shove asteroids towards the planet and we would notice that, wouldn’t we? Why not set out at once for the Krank homeworld? What other options would they have?”

“The journey would be risky,” Homchoudhury said, thoughtfully. “Perhaps they just decided to wait for an opportunity.”

“Perhaps,” Marian said. It didn’t seem right for her. “Perhaps…they’re not alone.”

“If something bigger came through, then why haven’t we heard anything from them?” Homchoudhury asked. “They’re not too likely to have allowed us so long unmolested.”

“True,” Marian said. Time passed; more time than she felt comfortable with. FTL communications weren’t workable at warp speeds, for some reason she didn’t understand; there was no way to know what Admiral Masterson was doing. “I don’t understand at all…”

“Entering firing range,” Lieutenant Young reported. Marian felt her heart beginning to race faster. “Request permission to open fire.”

Marian stood up, assuming command pose. The fleet command course taught some little details, something she’d always thought meant that certain people had much more influence than they should have had. “Open fire,” she said. “You may fire at will.”

The Sutherland shuddered as two warp missiles, each with their own tiny warp generator, raced ahead of the ship. Marian watched as the Krank scoutship started to dodge, which she knew was a dangerous tactic; the odds were vastly in favour of the ship accidentally losing enough of its lead to come close enough for the Sutherland to almost guarantee a shot.

“One missile missed,” Lieutenant Young reported, grimly. Marian cursed inwardly, even though the gap between the two ships was narrowing rapidly. “The second has lost power and…”

“They’ve dropped out of warp,” Lieutenant Sato snapped.

“Take us out after them,” Marian ordered. The flickering lights of warpspace vanished, replaced by…

Lieutenant Commander Hawking didn’t wait for orders; he flung the Sutherland into a series of evasive turns, spinning away from the Krank superdreadnaught that had appeared, almost directly right in front of them. The shape of the Krank superdreadnaught came close enough to be seen with the naked eye; the Sutherland suddenly looked very small indeed as the two ships passed within meters of one another.

Marian clutched onto her chair as the two drive fields collided, before the AIs adapted, holding them safety away from the Krank ship. The Krank seemed equally surprised; she wondered absently if they had seen the Sutherland coming or not. They should have seen her…but had they expected her to come blazing out of warp like that?

My God, she thought absently. If they had expected it, would they not have flung everything they had at the starship? They must think we’re on a Kamikaze mission…

“They’re locking on to us,” Lieutenant Sato reported, as the Sutherland flashed past the stern of the Krank superdreadnaught, spinning madly away into space. A hail of plasma fire lashed out at them, scoring hits directly onto the starship’s shields. Lieutenant Young flipped them through a long series of manoeuvres, dodging blasts of plasma and a hail of missiles with equal abandon.

“Deploy one ECM drone,” Marian ordered, keeping her voice calm by sheer force of will. She knew that half of her crew would have to change their pants – and she was fairly certain that the same would be true of the Krank as well. “Where’s that scout?”

“Hiding behind the superdreadnaught,” Lieutenant Sato said. His voice was shaken, but intact; Marian glanced down at the timer and realised that the entire engagement – if such a word could be used – had lasted less than two minutes. “I don’t think that we can engage it.”

Marian let out a sigh of relief as they cannoned out of the superdreadnaught’s engagement range. Warp missiles could still have been launched at them, but the Krank wouldn’t waste their missiles; a quick check of their course and speed proved that they knew exactly where they were going.

The superdreadnaught was heading towards Earth.

She stared as the…inconsistency caught up with her. “Why the hell isn’t it using warp drive?”

“I don’t know,” Lieutenant Sato admitted. “It has warp shields, but no warp signature; it’s possible that it doesn’t have a warp drive.”

Marian shook her head in disbelief. “It must have,” she said, studying the display. The superdreadnaught was moving off towards Earth, hardly sparing a thought for the human cruiser that it had attempted to destroy. “How else could it have reached here?”

“It might have arrived here far closer to Earth, perhaps even later than we did,” Lieutenant Sato suggested. She ran a track on the superdreadnaught; it’ll be at Earth within eight months at that speed – it’s wearing a permanent groove in the fabric of space-time.”

“I thought that was impossible,” Homchoudhury said. Her brown face was creased with worry. “I think we need better theories.” She paused. “They do have warp shields, though.”

Marian scowled; warp shields, shields that prevented something being dropped into the ship from warpspace, weren’t always connected to the warp drive. Her ship – and most ships outside the line of battle – did have the two systems connected, but a superdreadnaught could afford to keep them separate, just for redundancy. A human ship could have used one system to replace the other – but it seemed that the Krank could not, or would not. Why?

“I know,” she said, thinking hard. If the Krank superdreadnaught really did have no warp drive – and with its surprise blown away, there was no longer any reason to hide – then they could outrace the ship with ease. At the same time, however, it was heading towards the one target they had to defend; they would have to make a stand at some point.

She felt sick. Everything had looked so hopeful, with Hitler dead and the Japanese penned up in their Home Islands…but now, the world had changed again, and not for the better. Everything they had worked for would be lost, unless they could destroy the superdreadnaught somehow. But how?

Her duty reasserted itself. There was only one course of action now; all the plans she had been contemplating for attempting to destroy the scoutship would have to be abandoned. They had to ensure that Admiral Masterson knew what was coming towards Earth – and that meant ensuring that they survived.

“Lieutenant Young” – and her voice was that of a stranger – “take us on a dogleg back towards Earth,” she ordered. “Maximum warp.”

Chapter Thirty-Four: We Are SO Screwed

HDS John Howard

Earth Orbit

“It’s the same superdreadnaught we tangled with…before we came here,” Eileen said. Masterson said nothing; he had been staring at the display, his mind a blank. “It doesn’t have a warp signature, but the markings are identical, right down to the carbon scoring on the hull.”

“Thank heaven for small mercies,” Masterson growled. “It all looked so hopeful, didn’t it?”

Eileen looked down at him for a long moment. “It still does,” she said gently. “We have eight months, assuming that its speed remains constant; hell, you never know – that sort of build-up has to be bad for the drive motivators.”

Masterson glared at her. He knew that he was blaming her, but he was just…he shook his head in silent apology. “Eight months,” he said. “In that time, we cannot build a fleet of our own, or even enough missiles to take that fucker down. We need…what? A miracle?”

“We do have the starfighters,” Eileen said. “I wonder…could we build more starfighters?”

“Perhaps,” Masterson said. He sighed deeply. “We have three effective warships, one assault carrier and a scout,” he said. “That’s a multi-million ton superdreadnaught. At best, we’re outnumbered – outgunned, rather – six to one. We can’t even run; not unless we want to leave the Earth to ruin.”

“It cannot go FTL,” Eileen said. “I wonder…for all its power, that makes it incredibly vulnerable.”

Masterson steepled his fingers. “I think we’d better discuss the information with Churchill and Roosevelt,” he said. “I’ll invite them both up here. In the meantime, I want you to consult with the engineers and see how many missiles and starfighters we can produce.”

“Starfighters,” Eileen said. “If we sent them out to attack the superdreadnaught…”

“They won’t be able to destroy it,” Masterson said. His eyes lit up. “But they could clear away enough of its weapons to give everyone else a chance against her.”

Eileen nodded. “I’ll get working on the simulations at once,” she said. “They’re going to have to train as they’ve never trained before.” She smiled. “It’s a fair bet that they cannot repair any of their damage, so we can attack again and again before risking the starships against it.”

Masterson nodded. “And we might have to leave Japan and the Soviet Union until afterwards,” he said. “We can’t waste productive capability on bombardment projectiles now.”

“We could expend the ones we do have at the moment, just to scare hell out of them,” Eileen suggested.

Masterson shook his head. “Not, I think, a wise idea. They may decide to cause trouble somehow and we wouldn’t have any way of shutting them down.”


The summons – for that was how Churchill was beginning to think of it – had been very peremptory; Sandra had come directly to Ten Downing Street and asked him to come with her to the John Howard. Her face had been pale; pale enough to convince Churchill that whatever had happened was serious. The ship itself seemed less…hopeful than it had been, the last time he’d visited; the crew were speaking in hushed voices.

He’d wondered if Masterson had died, somehow, but he saw the Admiral standing by the conference table. An image of a starship – nothing like the John Howard – hung in front of him; his eyes were bleak. Churchill took his seat, staring at the starship; it was a flattened cylinder, bristling with weapons and defences. It looked somehow…intimidating; as if it was death incarnate. He met Sally’s eyes; she shrugged.

“It’s a travelling killer,” Masterson said. His voice was grimmer than Churchill had ever heard before; the voice of a man who has just concluded that there was no God. “She’s two kilometres long, armed to the teeth, and coming to Earth.”

Churchill felt his mouth drop open. “It’s not one of yours, is it?”

“Sally was right,” Masterson said grimly. He gave Sally a look of deep respect, mixed with a certain grim amusement. “That…and its scoutship were part of the fleet that chased us out towards Procyon, back before we came here. It lacks FTL drive, which is why we missed it for so long, but…there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with its weapons. It’s coming to Earth and…”

“Why the hell did you miss it for so long?” Churchill demanded, as the news sank in. Masterson didn’t react to the rage in his tone. “Why didn’t you see it before?”

“It must have arrived in a different place, perhaps even a different time,” Masterson said. His voice was grim; shaken. “If it had appeared at the same place we did, it would be travelling for years before it reached Earth.”

Roosevelt cleared his throat. “Leaving aside the question of who is to blame,” he said, “how long do we have?”

He’s just giving up? Churchill thought, disbelievingly. “What are our chances of attacking that ship successfully?”

“Successfully?” Masterson asked. “As in surviving in one piece?”

Churchill chuckled. “That would be a bonus, yes,” he said.

Masterson smiled weakly. “We’re working on tactics now,” he said. “Every inch of our productive capability – and the starfighter pilots we borrowed from you – will be devoted to destroying that ship before it comes within firing range of Earth.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” Roosevelt said. “How long do we have?”

“Around eight months,” Masterson said. “Its speed is not consistent; I think they must be varying their drive harmonics to produce additional speed, at the cost of a great deal of manoeuvrability. It’s risky – if they burn out the drive they’re dead in space – but it makes predicting their arrival time…difficult.”

He shook his head. “That’s our problem, however,” he said. “The question for you gentlemen is simple; how much do you want to tell your people?”

Churchill hesitated. The question was truly a problem. “They would need time,” he said. “Time to prepare…if the attack failed.”

Roosevelt frowned. “My country is on the verge of boiling over,” he said. “If we tell everyone about this, it might just explode.”

Masterson studied the shape of the enemy superdreadnaught. “You could hold back until you know what’s happened in space,” he said. “That would save you some time.”

“I think I’ll do that,” Roosevelt said. His face was careworn; almost as if the medical treatments had worn off. “Winston?”

Churchill nodded. “I’ll do that as well,” he said. “Good luck, Admiral.”

Masterson laughed bitterly. “Thanks,” he said. “We will do what we can. For the moment, however, we have to deal with Russia – and Japan.”



Officially, at least as far as Comrade Stalin was concerned, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov had come to Finland to inform the Finns that their recent attacks against the Soviet Union would not go unpunished – and in fact it was time for their punishment. Stalin had been concentrating soldiers and tanks for weeks near the border with the Finnish forces, which had remained in place since Germany fell, and he was preparing to extract revenge.

Molotov shivered inwardly. Comrade Stalin had lost all sense of reality; ever since Hitler had been defeated, Stalin had acted as if the Newcomers didn’t exist, let alone the Allied army massing on the borders with Russia. His determination to recover all that had been lost, from the Ukraine to the regions of Poland that the Red Army had occupied in 1939, was all-consuming; it also bore no relation to reality. The Wehrmacht had been smashed from orbit; the same, Molotov knew, would happen to the Red Army.

He scowled inwardly, keeping his face blank as the Finnish Foreign Minister led him into the meeting room. The Soviet spy rings in Germany remained basically intact – although many had been killed during the bombardment – and they painted a grim picture. If it hadn’t been for emergency food shipments from the Allies, the Germans would be starving; their infrastructure was in ruins.

The Soviet Union wouldn’t survive such an attack, Molotov had concluded; the Muslim regions were already in open revolt. The Provisional Governments in Belarus and the Ukraine had already declared independence – despite Soviet claims that they were merely puppets – and it wouldn’t be long until the Soviet Union collapsed. Stalin’s war – the one he was planning now with the aid of Beria and Marshal Kliment Voroshilov – would only make the collapse complete. Nothing could be salvaged.

The man sitting on the other side of the room, munching a Finnish chocolate with every sign of enjoyment, was black. Somehow, that surprised Molotov; the Soviet Union played lip service to the equality of the races under communism, but few Russians would have accepted a black commander. He was waiting patiently, but his face was absently thinking about something; something unpleasant from the grim look that flickered across his face.

Molotov took a breath. The Finns had assured him that no NKVD agent had followed him, but it wouldn’t take much to arouse Stalin’s paranoia; he had been jumping at shadows ever since Hitler had come crashing into Russia like a barbarian from the founding days of the Rodina.

“Admiral Masterson, I presume?”

The man stood up, holding himself like a soldier, although not with a style Molotov recognised. “Foreign Minister Molotov, I presume,” he said in reply. His voice was languid, almost unconcerned. His head tilted like a bird’s head; curious and unconcerned at the same time. “I was fascinated when the Finns informed me that you had asked for a meeting.”

Molotov took a breath. “Can I ask what the position of your government” – knowing that Masterson was pretty much the government of the Newcomers – “is regarding the legitimate claims of the workers and peasants of the Soviet Union over Finland?”

Masterson’s eyes glittered. “Our position is simple; we have recognised the Finnish Government as a democratic state, and we will assist them to maintain their 1939 borders.” He paused. “But that wasn’t why you came to see me, was it?”

Molotov, for a long moment, felt his face crack. “You’re right,” he said. Stalin would not be pleased – or would not have been, had he known that this meeting was happening. “I have another motive in meeting you today.”

Masterson lifted a quizzical eyebrow. “There are people within the Soviet Union who seek…a chance to take our place in the new world order, rather than be held back by other people,” Molotov said. “They want to take advantage of the new opportunities, not remain locked away in a tiny corner of the Earth.”

Masterson frowned. “Spare me the pretence,” he said. “The Communist Party is run for itself and by itself; the workers and peasants have no say.”

Molotov was nothing if not adaptable, but he still found himself floundering for breath. “That is true,” he conceded. “However, it has happened that way because of one man; Comrade Stalin.”

“Would you have managed any better without him?” Masterson asked. “Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? What do you want, Comrade Molotov?”

“Comrade Stalin is mad,” Molotov said, taking his life in his hands. “He is determined to press ahead with independence for himself and the Soviet Union, whatever the cost.”

“Hitler also thought that way,” Masterson said, his voice flat. “Look what happened to him.”

“Yes, exactly,” Molotov said. “We are planning to remove Stalin from power…”

“Then do it,” Masterson said. “Why delay?”

“We want some guarantees from you,” Molotov said. Some of his conspirators had demanded them; Molotov himself would be delighted just to have an end to the problem. “We want…”

Masterson leaned forward. “Out of the question,” he said flatly. “Comrade Molotov, we are not in the business of compromising with evil; that’s why your nation was allowed to be such a problem for so long. The only guarantee we can offer is that if you start working towards a free economic policy and democracy, under the rule of law – of law, not that of dictators – then we won’t attack you.”

He paused. “In fact, we will do a great deal to help you,” he said. “You must know how many changes there have already been in Australia; they will soon be as green as the grass, rather than deserts. We won’t help a non-democratic state, however; it would be…irresponsible.”

“Listen,” Molotov said, his voice sharp. “We are willing to accept all of that. We are willing to accept the loss of the other states. We are even willing to accept some degree of supervision. However, we cannot remove Stalin!”

Masterson’s eyes widened. “He is one man,” he said. “You are…well, how many of you are there?”

Molotov ignored the question. “Stalin has friends and allies,” he said. “Beria, who controls the NKVD, is still on his side; he knows that he will survive only a few minutes if Stalin falls. Half of his own people hate him; the Army and much of the Party hate him. Kliment Voroshilov, the gross incompetent, still remains loyal to Stalin; he commands the forces within Moscow itself. We cannot get soldiers into Moscow to strike at Stalin; we cannot slip someone through his security screen. As long as Stalin holds Moscow, we cannot push our own claim to power forward.”

Masterson considered. “You want us to destroy Moscow?”

Molotov fought hard to keep any reaction from his face. “No,” he said. “We want you to take out Comrade Stalin.”

“Indeed,” Masterson said. His voice remained disciplined, but there was an undertone of…excitement. “You want us to land a force in Moscow, kill Stalin, and escape intact?”

Molotov nodded. “Yes, Admiral,” he said. “I know that it would be difficult, but it could be done.” He passed over his briefcase. “I brought as much as I could on the security arrangements within Moscow, although they keep changing.”

“Professional,” Masterson muttered. Molotov wasn’t sure if he was being needled or not. “And you? Where will you be?”

“I’m supposed to be dictating terms to the Finns for a week,” Molotov said. “Admiral, if you will do this, please will you do it quickly. Stalin is getting impatient for action on one of the fronts.”

“I would have thought that Manchuria and North China was enough,” Masterson muttered. “The Chinese somehow like the Russians even less than they liked the Japanese.”

“Stalin ordered it,” Molotov said, showing for the first time the bleak hopelessness that affected everyone within Stalin’s court. Even their lives were not their own. “We had no choice.”

Masterson stood up. “I will discuss the matter with my people,” he said. Molotov recognised the dismissal and frowned inwardly. It bespoke of arrogance – and the grim knowledge that it was deserved was worse. “Until then, Foreign Minister.”

“Until then,” Molotov said, standing up. They didn’t shake hands. “Thank you for everything.”


Masterson didn’t go far after Molotov left; he stepped into the room that the Finns had provided for him and lay down on the bed, activating his wristcom. “I assume that you were listening,” he said. It was standard procedure when going into a possibility hostile situation. “Eileen; what do you think?”

“I think it’s the best chance we are going to have to end the war without major bloodshed,” Eileen said. “Should I inform Brigadier Joseph?”

Masterson smiled. “Yes, please,” he said. He waited until Joseph joined the conversation and ran through the details of the discussion with Molotov. “Brigadier, you heard the conversation; what do you think?”

There was a long pause. “Moscow is going to be a hard nut to crack,” Joseph said finally. “However, if we were to drop directly into the Kremlin, we would be able to carry out the mission.” He muttered to himself for a long moment. “How long do I have to prepare?”

“Two days,” Masterson said, after a moment’s thought. He frowned; bad things happened on operations that hadn’t been planned carefully enough. “Will that be long enough?”

“I think so,” Joseph said. His voice, at least, was confident; Masterson was almost relieved. “I’m going to have to use some of the remaining bombardment projectiles.”

“That’s fine,” Masterson said. “I think we can afford it.”

Eileen coughed. “Is it worth trying to take Stalin alive?” She asked. “If we did, it might make the exchange of power much easier.”

“Too dangerous for my people,” Joseph snapped. “Trying to take someone prisoner is harder than just killing them, and then we would have to perform an extraction under fire; much harder still.”

“No,” Masterson said, before an argument could break out. “We’ll kill him – and hope.” He sighed. “With a Krank superdreadnaught eight months away, then it’s no longer time to let the apples fall into our hand one by one.”

“That is a terribly mixed metaphor, but I get the point,” Eileen said. “So; two days, and then we risk half of our Marines in a fight for the centre of Moscow. It’s going to be tight.”

“My people can do it,” Joseph said. “It just…won’t be bloodless. We lost four Marines in the battles in France and Germany; we might well lose more in this environment.” He sighed. “I might even lead it personally.”

Masterson smiled to himself. “You have my permission,” he said. “Start the planning now, Yuri; we are running out of time.”

Chapter Thirty-Five: The Moscow Option

HDS Tarawa

Earth Orbit

“All right, people, listen up,” Brigadier Yuri Joseph said. The assembled force of Marines looked up at him; they’d all heard about the approaching Krank superdreadnaught. The news had passed quickly through the fleet; everyone knew that it would be a fight for everything. Earth had no defences, except the fleet.

“It has been decided that we are going to take down Stalin, quickly,” Joseph continued. “Our mission is simple; we are going to land in the middle of Red Square, fight our way into the Kremlin, and kill the bastard!” There was an undeniable note of satisfaction in his voice. “I will be leading the mission personally.”

“Now that’s something you don’t want to hear,” Singh muttered to Erica, who nodded in agreement. “The big boss always blames the fuck-ups on the normal people.”

“Pay attention,” Joseph snapped. Singh straightened up as the display of the Kremlin appeared in front of them. “You will notice that there are several tank parks near the Kremlin and thousands of soldiers; the former will be destroyed from orbit, the latter will have to be killed on the streets. We will be landing inside their defences, which should give us a few additional moments before they can start targeting us; in that moment, I want the streets swept clear of enemy soldiers.”

He paused. “The 1st Platoon” – Singh straightened up again as his unit was mentioned – “will spearhead the advance into the Kremlin itself. The target is supposed to have an office on the upper floor, but it is expected that he will head down to the bunker when the attack begins. The priority will be to block the entrance to the bunker – a kinetic strike has been targeted for destroying the subway tunnels that might be used for escape – and then to search the building. Don’t worry about damaging the building; it holds no hopeful signs for the world.”

There were some chuckles. “The 2nd and 3rd Platoons will cover the outer battle zone,” he continued. “We expect that the Russians will attempt a counterattack, one that will probably consist only of infantry, as we will have destroyed most of their tanks. The perimeter will be secured and then held; we can hold out forever…”

“At least until the suits run out of power,” a wag muttered. Singh smiled at the comment. “Once that happens…”

“We all die,” Joseph agreed. “That won’t happen. Once the target has been confirmed killed, we will withdraw in good order; a series of shuttles will arrive to help lift us out of the battle zone. Any questions?”

Erica stuck up her hand. “Is it too late to take my sick leave?”

“Yes,” Joseph said. “Any serious questions?”

There were none. “Excellent,” Joseph said. “We leave for the mission in five hours; local midnight, so get some sleep.” He paused. “We have a long day ahead of us.”

Red Square

Moscow, USSR

Matvey Igor ignored the brooding shape of the Red Army Commissioner as best as he could, holding his weapon firmly in one hand. The patrol was marching around Red Square, trying to look alert, despite their growing boredom. Igor remembered fighting the Germans when they had reached the outskirts of Moscow, but in the few months since the Great Stalin had signed a peace treaty with the Germans – that made the USSR supreme among civilised nations, Pravda had claimed – life had almost gone back to normal…until something had changed.

All of a sudden, Igor and his men were joined by several Red Army battalions and an NVKD enforcement group, digging in to protect the Great Stalin – indeed, all of Moscow. Many citizens, seeing that another attack seemed to be expected, had voted with their feet and fled the city – before the NKVD had sealed the city. Igor had heard all manner of crazy rumours, from the Americans joining the Germans, to the Germans having been destroyed by monsters.

“Keep on alert,” he ordered, knowing that it was a waste of breath. This close to the Kremlin, any soldier who showed the slightest sign of slacking, even to the point of wiping his brow, would be spending the rest of his life in Siberia. His people knew; they kept their weapons on full alert and looked alert. Even so, what was the danger? No one believed the radio broadcasts; no one at all.

Something was wrong. He felt it somehow; a sense that all was not right with the world. Carefully, he looked around, wondering if he should order the squadron to deploy, when he looked up. He stared; there was an entire line of strange…lights in the sky, falling.

“Get down,” he shouted, remembering German air raids. He hit the ground just as the ground shook violently; explosions blasted up all over Moscow. He felt the ground shake time and time again, clinging to the ground and praying silently to himself; flashes of light snapped across the sky.

Suddenly, the attack seemed to be over; but the damage remained. The anti-aircraft weapons were firing madly into the sky, but they didn’t seem to be having any effect; there were no signs of enemy aircraft. Fires were blazing brightly all of a sudden; he pulled himself to his feet, looking around to see where they were, and swore. He wasn’t sure, but it looked as if the tank parks had been hit, along with…

Something fell out of the sky, something shaped like a man. “Germans,” he shouted, lifting his rifle and firing madly at the figure. German paratroopers had been one of Stalin’s dreads; the Kremlin was well equipped to deal with them. “They’re Germans!”

The bullets weren’t killing the German, he realised in disbelief; they were sparking off the form, sending off showers of sparks. The figure turned, still only half-visible in the dark, lifting an arm. Igor couldn’t believe it; the German was covered completely in armour.

There was a flash of brilliant orange light and Igor felt a long moment of pain, and then nothing.


The battle zone was collapsing into chaos already, Singh realised, but the armoured troopers had the advantage. The Russians were in complete disarray; they didn’t even have the slightest idea of what was coming their way. Bullets were fired, often hitting their own people instead of the Newcomers, but those that did hit the Newcomers were useless. They just glinted off the armour.

“Squads one and two, move out to secure that building,” Joseph’s voice ordered, from his command suit. Singh leapt to obey, running forward to what had once been a Russian antiaircraft position. The Russians were attempting to get the remaining guns to bear on the armoured soldiers, but it was too late; bursts of plasma fire detonated the guns and destroyed them. Streaks of light flashed past him as he crouched down, avoiding the friendly fire; the Russian tank – perhaps the only surviving tank – was destroyed.

“Madness to use tanks in a region like this,” he muttered, as a building exploded. The Russian snipers, who had been pouring machine gun fire onto the armoured soldiers, jumped out of the windows, often falling to their deaths as the building collapsed. Fires and explosions were detonating all over Moscow as the Marines worked to secure their landing zone, chasing the Russians back.

“They’re brave, though,” Erica said, covering his back. It was basic procedure, even though the Russians didn’t seem prepared for their arrival. A hail of shellfire came in towards them, perhaps a Russian uncertain of who he hated more; them – or Comrade Stalin. In any case, the shells missed.

“Fall back towards the Kremlin,” Joseph ordered, as the 2nd Platoon marched past them, taking up defensive positions. The Russians hadn’t broken, Singh realised; some had fought to the death, others had retreated in fairly good order, under the circumstances. He would have been happier if they had fled like little girls; they might not have had a counter attack in mind.

“Moving,” he acknowledged, sprinting back up the street. The icons for the rest of his force were gathered around the Kremlin; only Erica and he were separate from the rest of their people. “We’re on our way.”

“Keep your weapons toned down,” Lieutenant Messenger reminded them, as they prepared their entrance. The Kremlin, Singh had long decided, really needed some renovation. A nuclear strike would only improve the place. “We don’t want it burning down around our ears.”

“We don’t?” Erica said. She sounded astonished. “You mean, we don’t get to burn, rape and pillage?”

“Shut up,” Lieutenant Messenger snapped. “We have to confirm Stalin’s death; are you ready?” There was a chorus of affirmations. “Then…go!”

Singh kicked out once at the door, which he noted had been secured with other materials; the suit-enhanced strength still broke it down with ease. A hail of machine gun and rocket fire caught him, tossing him over backwards, but his suit was undamaged. Erica fired low-powered bursts of plasma into the lobby, followed by a stun grenade; the flash of light would disrupt the defenders neural structures.

Singh shuddered. The weapon was truly unpleasant; even the Krank had never deployed anything like it. He picked himself off the ground and followed the others into the building, pausing only to check on the Russian guards. The interior of the Kremlin was dark and dank – at least in his imagination – but it was clear that the guards had been…neutralised.

“Poor bastards,” he muttered. One of the guards was drooling; the others weren’t even that aware of themselves. He lifted his arm and fired quick bursts into their heads, putting them out of their misery. “I’m sorry – I’m so sorry.”

“Come on,” Erica said. For once, her voice was gentle. “We have to press on.”

The interior of the Kremlin was gaudy, even in the flickering half-light of the suits. The building had its own emergency generator, he recalled, but it was clearly having problems; the lights were flickering in and out. They moved forward, detailing off men to secure the staircases and the elevator, before checking the entrance to the bunker. It was closed.

“We’ll have to burn through that,” Lieutenant Messenger muttered. He detailed two men to begin the task. “Everyone else, with me.”

Singh followed him to the upper levels, towards Comrade Stalin’s office and bedchamber. It was decorated, he realised with some very real amusement, with a massive portrait of Stalin, doing strange things. He was willing to bet that Stalin had never worked as a soldier, or as a construction yard worker; the portraits had him working, surrounded by admiring workers and peasants.

“I’d do her in a heartbeat,” Erica said, pointing to the picture of a single babushka who appeared in all of the portraits. “There has to be some good in all of this.”

“I don’t get it,” Singh said, as Messenger kicked down the door to Stalin’s bedchamber. Unsurprisingly, it was unoccupied; Stalin having clearly decided that discretion was the better part of valour. They tore the room to pieces anyway, just to confirm that he wasn’t hiding under the bed, finding nothing.

“He must be in the bunker,” Messenger said, as they headed down, searching through the Kremlin. Staff and guards attempted to fight and were swept aside; some attempted to surrender, but were ignored. “Joe, have you gotten us in yet?”

“I’m midway through the second door,” Joe said. “It’s starting to drain my weapon.”

“What the hell is that door made of?” Singh asked. “Solid steel?”

“It’s possible,” Erica conceded, as they smashed through a long room filled with typewriters and filing cabinets, ruining the lives of thousands of millions of Soviet citizens. “Perhaps he actually got something stronger – and then kept the process for himself, rather than anyone else.”

They reached the main stairwell and headed down, watching as the map of the Kremlin updated itself; some details and rooms had been missed. There was still no sign of Stalin; if he wasn’t in the bunker, Singh had no idea where he could be. As they passed the guards at the bottom of the stairwell, he nodded to them, before running to the entrance to the bunker.

“I’m running out of power,” Joe said, burning through the fourth door. “What the hell was he doing?”

“It’s designed to slow us down,” Messenger snapped. “Joe, return to the landing zone; you cannot run out of power down here. Erica; carry on.”

Joe left, muttering under his breath. Erica aimed and fired a line of plasma pulses, and then kicked the door hard. It bent out of shape; a second kick sent it crashing backwards. A hail of machine gun fire greeted them, along with a line of grenades; they fired back madly, trying to clear the corridor before the roof could come tumbling in. It was a massacre.

“Seventeen guards, without cover,” he muttered to Erica. “What was he thinking?”

“We should go carefully,” she said, more practically. “They might have rigged the roof.”

“Keep your sensors up high,” Messenger said, leading the way. The corridor went lower and lower, then finally branched out at the entrance to a second door, which was half-open. Messenger unhooked a grenade from his belt and tossed it through neatly; it exploded on the inside, clearing the room with its strange energies.

“I really hate that,” Singh muttered, as they stepped inside the bunker. It was unbelievably luxurious, with enough artworks and gold to almost buy more suits. The small pile of bodies had been armed with enough grenades to bring down the roof, but they had had no guns – not that that would have done them any good.

“Performing echolocation now,” Messenger said. “Erica; secure this exit. Singh, come with me.”

Singh followed him as they reached the other door. It looked more like a fancy door from a rich man’s estate; it was curiously out of place within the bunker. He peered through the door and saw another room, with a terrified girl staring at him, shaking.

“Stay there,” he ordered, as he led the way into the room. “Where is he?”

“We don’t want to split up further,” Messenger said. They stepped through into yet another room, one that was occupied with communications equipment, linked to the entire Soviet Union. A man with very unwholesome eyes looked up at them; Singh recognised him as Beria. Beria stared at them, and then grabbed for his pistol.

Singh shot him once, though the head, and then smashed the equipment with his hand. “That should make organising a counter-attack a little more difficult,” he said. The final door before the subway train was locked; he kicked it and it shattered. Seconds later, a bullet snapped off his suit and ricocheted away.

Stalin himself stood there, firing at them. His face was pale with sweat; his eyes were very bright, he fired time and time again, missing them half the time. The ruins of the subway stood behind him; the kinetic strike had clearly had a harder effect than the computers had anticipated, perhaps due to shoddy Soviet construction work.

“This is the sort of moment that demands a dramatic quip,” Messenger said, “but I can’t think of one.”

He fired once. A scream from behind him told them that the girl had followed them; her eyes wide with horror. “Come with us or die,” Singh snapped, as they turned to leave the bunker. “If you stay here, you will die.”

The girl shrank back. Messenger was talking on the communicator, informing the commander that they had killed Stalin; Singh swept up the girl in one armoured hand and carried her back with them through the bunker and then back up the long corridor into the Kremlin. The sounds of explosions greeted them as they came into the open air; Singh held the girl low to avoid her being hit by firing bullets.

“They’re counter-attacking in force,” Brigadier Joseph snapped. “Have you killed him?”

“He’s dead,” Messenger snapped. “She was with him; she’s important, so I’m bringing her with us.”

“Fine, you can explain it to the Admiral,” Joseph snapped. Singh refused to think about that; there was no excuse for leaving a little girl to die in agony. “Everyone; it’s time to leave!”

There were some cheers. The shuttles fell out of the sky, firing their weapons down into the city, sending the attacking forces reeling back in confusion. Singh wondered if the shuttles were going to start shouting about Stalin’s death, but they just scrambled on board as quickly as they could, firing bursts of energy to distract the opponents from attempting to hit them. Wave after wave of plasma fire crashed out across the city, burning parts of it down to the ground; the civilians would have to keep their heads down – and pray.

“Take off,” the pilot snapped. The girl screamed again as the shuttle launched itself into the air, grabbing for as much space as it could before the Russians thought of bringing up artillery. That would have really upset them. “We’re heading back to base now!”

“Wonderful,” Singh said. He meant it too; the effect of the rush of fighting was starting to wear off. He looked down at the girl for a moment, taking her in; she was barely a teenager, perhaps younger. He ordered the computer to translate automatically, and then asked her a question. “Who are you?”

Her voice stammered as she tried to reply. “Svetlana,” she said. Her voice showed hints of a good education. “Who are you?”

Singh shook his head. The name meant nothing to him. “She’s Stalin’s daughter,” Erica said. She had always known more about history than he had. “You’ve just saved Stalin’s daughter.”

Singh laughed. He accessed the history files from his suit and frowned; Svetlana Aliluyeva would have fled the Soviet Union, after her father had died; it would have shocked and amused the entire world.

“Welcome to the future,” he said. “It’s here to stay.”

Chapter Thirty-Six: Rioting Acts


Nevada, USA

“We have to move at once,” the man said. Even a week after meeting him for the first time, George had no idea who he was; the strange voice should have been a clue, but he couldn’t tell at all. “You will have to carry the bombs back today and the attack will begin tonight.”

George hesitated. There was a question he wanted to ask, but he knew that asking questions could be dangerous. Grimly, he took his life in his hands and asked – the question was important, after all.

“Why now?” He asked. “Why not…”

His uncle slapped his buttocks again. “It’s a reasonable question,” the strange man said. His voice seemed…concerned; it was hard to tell what he was feeling at any moment. “The Newcomers are suddenly very engaged in Russia, young man; they have started their attack directly into the heart of Russia itself.”

He sounded almost impressed. “That gives us a chance to get our own blows in,” he continued. “The soldiers are prepared; thanks to you, we have a good idea of where the defenders would be, the nigger soldiers they have been training.” His voice became harder. “Once we have destroyed Victory Town, we will be able to seize power and restore the United States as it was intended to be!”

“Everyone knows niggers can’t fight,” George’s uncle said. His voice was heavy with satisfaction. “Without those damned armoured soldiers, the Victory Town will be defenceless.”

“Yes,” George said. He allowed himself a smile; at last! Action! “When do I go?”

“Now,” the man said. “We will give you the explosives; you will smuggle them in and then start dispersing them around. The timers are pre-set; all you have to do is leave them in places.”

“Good,” George said. He knew exactly where to leave them, too; there were plenty of people who collected boxes from the general store he worked at, people who never looked inside for several days. He could easily ensure that there were more boxes than they expected; he was supposed to deliver them, after all. “I’ll do it all, sir.”

“Splendid,” the man said. “Good luck, kid.”

Victory Town

Nevada, USA

The railroad to Victory Town had been expanded massively in the months since the town had been established, going from a single track to a railroad suitable for Washington DC or another large city. Dozens of people, young hopefuls, businessmen, researchers, scientists, politicians…all of them came to Victory Town each day, looking for work or information. The library, established with a handful of computer terminals, was already working hard; donations of books from individual Newcomers only made the matter worse.

George shrugged to himself as he boarded the train, carrying his heavy suitcase with him. He’d carried it back and forwards along the track for several weeks, leaving with it empty and returning with it full – loaded with goodies from his aunt. It was there to absorb suspicion, but the handful of future cops had never looked into the suitcase; they had shown no interest in it whatsoever. It was a security flaw, one that he intended to make them pay for.

The train was steam-powered, although he knew that there were already plans to move directly to electric-powered trains, rather than passing through fuel-powered trains first. The Newcomers seemed very keen on avoiding the use of oil, for some reason; it was almost an obsession with them. The train puffed its way towards Victory Town, passing the thousands of shacks that hopefuls had constructed while they waited for accommodation, and the new building zones where the factories were being built. It was fascinating.

The train station itself had been massively expanded, along with the railroad; it could now hold several trains at a time. He disembarked from the train, stepping onto the platform with a sigh of relief, and headed out towards the station. All of a sudden, a brown arm fell on his shoulder.

“Excuse me, young man,” the figure said. He – or it, George had never been certain – was wearing the uniform of a cop, but half of his face was made out of metal. The Spacers gave him the creeps far more than the green-skinned people did, although he didn’t understand why anyone would change their own skin colour; the Spacers were partly metal, a monstrous hybrid of metal and flesh. They smelt funny to him; a strange mix of burning flesh and oil.

“Yes, sir,” George said, using all of his acting skill to keep his voice calm. Did the guard know something, or did he just have a question. “Is there something wrong?”

The guard’s eyes were electronic, a chilling parody of human eyes. “Yes, there is,” he said. “You will accompany me.”

George knew that he should run. He turned, still clutching his briefcase, and a flash of blue-white light struck him. His muscles locked and relaxed; he fell to the ground hard enough to hurt. He wanted to scream, but he couldn’t move; only drool was coming out of his mouth. The Spacer guard bent over him, his eyes glowing, and George blacked out.


The young man – hardly more than a boy – was sitting firmly secured to a chair in the interrogation room when Governor Rusholme arrived. He was young and blonde, his flesh unmarked by the passage of time; seeing him in that situation stirred no mercy in Rusholme’s heart. The young man…had intended to destroy his world…and for that, there would never be any forgiveness.

“Report,” he ordered. Chief Brooks looked up; his electronic eye implants flickering as they took in the sight. “What the hell is he?”

“A spy, a traitor, a terrorist,” Brooks said. His voice, at least, was human; some Spacers chose to always use voders to speak, or only communication channels. “I don’t know which he was, but I do know what he was carrying.”

He pointed his human hand at the table. “Those are detonators designed to be undetectable by our systems,” he said. “Fortunately, explosives always leave traces behind them, ones from the components that go into making them, and we’ve seen this stuff during the Age of Unrest. We have sensors everywhere, sir; this muck set off several different alarms. Fairly common make of explosives, in fact; the timers are not.”

“I see,” Rusholme said. “How much damage could he have done?”

Brooks seemed to consider. “Oh, I’d say that he could have blown up a block or two, if all of that explosive had gone off together,” he said. His voice wasn’t reassuring at all, Rusholme noted; he seemed rather amused by the whole affair. “I think he was intending to make sure that he hit several buildings; there are eight timers, all clockwork. In his place, I would have aimed for four targets, with two timers to each, just in case.”

Rusholme glared at him. “Quit telling me how you would do it and answer me a different question,” he snapped. “Who is he? Who is he working for?”

“He’s George Taylor, according to the DNA check,” Brooks said. “He was carrying an ID card in that name, as well, which means that he was one of our people, not someone who knobbed one of our people and took his place.”

“Shit,” Rusholme said. “Do you have anything else for me?”

Brooks tapped the timers. “These are actually quite impressive, giving the conditions of the times,” he said. “We could have done better, of course, but they would have sufficed; they were counting down already, to roughly five o’clock this evening.”

Rusholme felt his blood run cold. “You mean…this…person was going to detonate four to eight bombs at five o’clock tonight?”

“I think that that would only be the beginning,” Brooks said. “The first thing you need to know is that the timers, I think, are German; the Americans don’t have as capable an industrial base. The designs, at least, are German. I used a deep-scanner to take one to pieces and found hints of German designs, which gives us a second problem.”

He paused. “They might well be planning an attack,” he concluded. “These blasts to keep us worrying about the wrong problem, the attack to finish the job.”

“And the Marines are in Russia,” Rusholme said. He winced; with the attack on Stalin going ahead, it would be impossible to convince them to spare some armoured soldiers for a possible attack, unless some could be spared once the attack was completed. “Keep your force on alert.”

“Always,” Brooks said. Rusholme smiled; Brooks was known to be a hard-ass when it came to force-protection. “If I get anything else out of him, I’ll let you know.”

Rusholme lifted his wristcom to his mouth. “Colonel Paris, meet me in my office,” he said. “I’ll be there in five minutes.”


Private Frederick Jackson heard the briefing with some disbelief. “We may be about to be attacked,” Colonel Paris had informed them, after securing them all in the briefing room. “The Germans might have infiltrated a squadron into America, which they intend to use to attack us, or they might have another source of help. If that happens, it will be up to us to defend the town.”

There was a long pause. Jackson had heard news from his hometown; the city was on the verge of exploding, along with the rest of America. It was unlikely that any help would be spared to help them, even if the Nevada National Guard had been willing to help out. He felt a shimmer of pure anger, even as Colonel Paris heard a message from his communicator.

“They’re Klansmen,” he said, his voice disdainful. Jackson scowled; fighting the Klan, the people who had tried to make his life hell, would be a real pleasure. “Pay attention; they are almost certainly going to come over the ground, rather than take the railroad. That would be far too risky. Apparently, the attack is laid on for five o’clock, so we will remain within the warehouses until the satellites see them coming. Move out!”

Jackson snapped to attention, wondering; the Newcomers seemed to pay less attention to military formality, but at the same time they paid much more attention to discipline. The Articles of War might demand immediate field punishment for insurgents, but it also ordered heavy labour for soldiers who raped or looted. As the soldiers, male and female, formed up into their combat groups and were issued their weapons, Jackson felt grim determination spreading through him.

“This is my home,” he muttered to Sanchez, one of his fellow soldiers and a genuine friend. The races were mixed; the hard training program forced them together as nothing else could have done. “I am not going to let them destroy it.”


“Look at this,” Buck snarled. His three chins jiggled as he spoke. “They even have new roads. What about the roads we have needed for years, eh? The niggers get them and their cocksuckers get them and…”

Harvey ignored Buck, as best as he could. Like Buck, he had been devoted to one thing; keeping the nigger in his place. Who knew what would happen if the nigger actually started walking like man? Haiti, a shit-tip of a nation, showed what happened if you let the nigger rule; they tore the place apart. They had to be kept in their place, for their own good; they were unable to think, unable to fight, and…they whined.

Harvey thought rapidly. He had studied the constantly updated maps of Victory Town and knew that it would be very different from fighting on the Western Front during the First World War, where the niggers had run like rabbits. Instead of trenches, there was an undefended border; they could just walk in with their three hundred men in trucks.

“Buck, keep us moving to this point,” he ordered, ignoring the younger man’s ranting. He might be brave enough to throw rocks at old black woman, but he was something of a coward; a boastful coward. He had never seen military service, although Harvey had hoped that he would have been drafted into the Army, after the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbour.

He felt his face twist. There were thousands of Japanese-Americans living within the Victory Town, hiding from the law. He would burn them out; he had had his men building homemade flamethrowers just for that purpose alone. His force wasn’t equipped for a long war, but it didn’t have to be; without the armoured soldiers, the Newcomers lickspittles would be easy to destroy.

“Here we are, boss,” Buck said. He pulled the truck over, bringing it to a halt; the dozens of Klansmen, wearing masks, but no robes, poured out. They were sharing bottles of alcohol between them, drinking with no thought for the effects on their fighting; it was just a big adventure to them.

“Form up,” he snapped. The Klansmen formed into a rough semblance of a combat line; the ones with military experience acting as sergeants. “We are going in there to kill them all; show no mercy.”

The Klansmen cheered. “Follow me,” he snapped, and led them towards the Victory Town. He lifted his machine gun, an older Tommy gun, into position as he marched, directly towards the shacks that marked the outside of the Victory Town. Some of the dwellers, poor men and women of every colour and creed, were coming out to look at them. Some, he realised in a moment of horror, were drawing guns.

“Fire,” he snapped, spraying a wave of bullets across them. They folded under the blast of machine gun fire. “Kill them all.”


“Go, go, go,” Colonel Paris snapped, as the firing burst out. A wave of flames could be seen, rising up from the shantytown on the very edge of the town. Jackson moved forward, calling upon all of his discipline; he wanted to run forward and get stuck into the Klansmen. His weapon, a simple plasma rifle, had never seemed so heavy; he wanted to kill them all.

They ran through the streets as the alarms sounded, sending echoes of fear down everyone’s spines. A loudspeaker was advising citizens to make their way towards the original transport, where they would be safe; dozens of citizens were running past them. Jackson knew that he had nearly shot one, more than once; how many of them would be truly safe?

“There,” Colonel Paris snapped, as they entered the shantytown. It was burning brightly; the shanties had been made from wood and rocks, debris from the ongoing building operations. The smoke and fumes were almost overpowering, but he could see a figure torching a house…with a black woman hanging from the window.

“Die,” he snapped, lifting his weapon and firing a single shot. The others soldiers advanced behind him, firing as they came; the streaks of light from plasma fire flashed through the smoke and haze. It was impossible to see more than a few feet; it was like a giant and horrific movie stage. A figure loomed up in front of him, weapon already raised, and he fired on instinct.

There was a scream behind him. “Die, you fuckers…”

“Spread out,” Colonel Paris snapped. He’d led them into battle; Jackson was impressed, not every officer, he’d been told, would do that. “Don’t stay still…”

A hail of fire raced up at them. Jackson threw himself to the ground as a figure advanced, carrying a Tommy gun; he fired a single shot, and then another at a figure he saw behind the first. The second figure exploded into flame; he realised with sudden horror than he had carried a flamethrower. The first figure was dead on the ground; the second one screamed until someone put him out of his misery.

“Fall back to the main road,” Colonel Paris snapped. It took Jackson several seconds to understand him; the noise was so loud. It wasn’t a real battle, just a series of confusing incidents; he followed Paris backwards to the road, firing down towards the Klansmen as they advanced.

He frowned. “Why the hell are we here?” He asked, as he saw the defence line. He took a place behind a block of concrete, firing at two figures who were clearly not soldiers. The Klansmen toppled over as the plasma bolts struck them, wiping them from the battle zone with ease. “Why…”

A wave of water crashed down as the fire engine went to work. He’d seen the water cannon before and loved it; it sent a massive wave of water into any blaze, or once into a park for a celebration. The Klansmen hadn’t been expecting that, let along the sudden switch to a powder than literally washed the fire away. Some fires were still blazing, but much of their cover was gone.

“Open fire,” Paris ordered, his tone low and deadly. Some of the Klansmen died in the wave of plasma fire, others threw themselves to the ground and tried to advance towards their position. Some tried to flee from the battle zone, but the soldiers saw no reason to be merciful; they were swept out of the way with ease.

Paris lifted his voice, using a megaphone to be heard over the racket. “Surrender now, and we’ll let you live,” he bellowed. “Surrender now, and…”

“Go to hell, nigger-lover,” someone shouted back from the damaged region. The soldiers opened fire again, sweeping their plasma blasts through any remaining cover. When they advanced forwards carefully, there were no survivors; the Klansmen had been wiped out.

Jackson smiled. “We won,” he said, delightedly. They’d taken on the might of the Klan and defeated it. “We had a jihad on their arse!”

Sanchez laughed. “All praise the Holy Sheep!”

“It was a mistake to have introduced that television program to you,” Colonel Paris said. He pointed a long hand towards the fires, some of which had spread into the main compound. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

Chapter Thirty-Six: Rioting Acts


Nevada, USA

“We have to move at once,” the man said. Even a week after meeting him for the first time, George had no idea who he was; the strange voice should have been a clue, but he couldn’t tell at all. “You will have to carry the bombs back today and the attack will begin tonight.”

George hesitated. There was a question he wanted to ask, but he knew that asking questions could be dangerous. Grimly, he took his life in his hands and asked – the question was important, after all.

“Why now?” He asked. “Why not…”

His uncle slapped his buttocks again. “It’s a reasonable question,” the strange man said. His voice seemed…concerned; it was hard to tell what he was feeling at any moment. “The Newcomers are suddenly very engaged in Russia, young man; they have started their attack directly into the heart of Russia itself.”

He sounded almost impressed. “That gives us a chance to get our own blows in,” he continued. “The soldiers are prepared; thanks to you, we have a good idea of where the defenders would be, the nigger soldiers they have been training.” His voice became harder. “Once we have destroyed Victory Town, we will be able to seize power and restore the United States as it was intended to be!”

“Everyone knows niggers can’t fight,” George’s uncle said. His voice was heavy with satisfaction. “Without those damned armoured soldiers, the Victory Town will be defenceless.”

“Yes,” George said. He allowed himself a smile; at last! Action! “When do I go?”

“Now,” the man said. “We will give you the explosives; you will smuggle them in and then start dispersing them around. The timers are pre-set; all you have to do is leave them in places.”

“Good,” George said. He knew exactly where to leave them, too; there were plenty of people who collected boxes from the general store he worked at, people who never looked inside for several days. He could easily ensure that there were more boxes than they expected; he was supposed to deliver them, after all. “I’ll do it all, sir.”

“Splendid,” the man said. “Good luck, kid.”

Victory Town

Nevada, USA

The railroad to Victory Town had been expanded massively in the months since the town had been established, going from a single track to a railroad suitable for Washington DC or another large city. Dozens of people, young hopefuls, businessmen, researchers, scientists, politicians…all of them came to Victory Town each day, looking for work or information. The library, established with a handful of computer terminals, was already working hard; donations of books from individual Newcomers only made the matter worse.

George shrugged to himself as he boarded the train, carrying his heavy suitcase with him. He’d carried it back and forwards along the track for several weeks, leaving with it empty and returning with it full – loaded with goodies from his aunt. It was there to absorb suspicion, but the handful of future cops had never looked into the suitcase; they had shown no interest in it whatsoever. It was a security flaw, one that he intended to make them pay for.

The train was steam-powered, although he knew that there were already plans to move directly to electric-powered trains, rather than passing through fuel-powered trains first. The Newcomers seemed very keen on avoiding the use of oil, for some reason; it was almost an obsession with them. The train puffed its way towards Victory Town, passing the thousands of shacks that hopefuls had constructed while they waited for accommodation, and the new building zones where the factories were being built. It was fascinating.

The train station itself had been massively expanded, along with the railroad; it could now hold several trains at a time. He disembarked from the train, stepping onto the platform with a sigh of relief, and headed out towards the station. All of a sudden, a brown arm fell on his shoulder.

“Excuse me, young man,” the figure said. He – or it, George had never been certain – was wearing the uniform of a cop, but half of his face was made out of metal. The Spacers gave him the creeps far more than the green-skinned people did, although he didn’t understand why anyone would change their own skin colour; the Spacers were partly metal, a monstrous hybrid of metal and flesh. They smelt funny to him; a strange mix of burning flesh and oil.

“Yes, sir,” George said, using all of his acting skill to keep his voice calm. Did the guard know something, or did he just have a question. “Is there something wrong?”

The guard’s eyes were electronic, a chilling parody of human eyes. “Yes, there is,” he said. “You will accompany me.”

George knew that he should run. He turned, still clutching his briefcase, and a flash of blue-white light struck him. His muscles locked and relaxed; he fell to the ground hard enough to hurt. He wanted to scream, but he couldn’t move; only drool was coming out of his mouth. The Spacer guard bent over him, his eyes glowing, and George blacked out.


The young man – hardly more than a boy – was sitting firmly secured to a chair in the interrogation room when Governor Rusholme arrived. He was young and blonde, his flesh unmarked by the passage of time; seeing him in that situation stirred no mercy in Rusholme’s heart. The young man…had intended to destroy his world…and for that, there would never be any forgiveness.

“Report,” he ordered. Chief Brooks looked up; his electronic eye implants flickering as they took in the sight. “What the hell is he?”

“A spy, a traitor, a terrorist,” Brooks said. His voice, at least, was human; some Spacers chose to always use voders to speak, or only communication channels. “I don’t know which he was, but I do know what he was carrying.”

He pointed his human hand at the table. “Those are detonators designed to be undetectable by our systems,” he said. “Fortunately, explosives always leave traces behind them, ones from the components that go into making them, and we’ve seen this stuff during the Age of Unrest. We have sensors everywhere, sir; this muck set off several different alarms. Fairly common make of explosives, in fact; the timers are not.”

“I see,” Rusholme said. “How much damage could he have done?”

Brooks seemed to consider. “Oh, I’d say that he could have blown up a block or two, if all of that explosive had gone off together,” he said. His voice wasn’t reassuring at all, Rusholme noted; he seemed rather amused by the whole affair. “I think he was intending to make sure that he hit several buildings; there are eight timers, all clockwork. In his place, I would have aimed for four targets, with two timers to each, just in case.”

Rusholme glared at him. “Quit telling me how you would do it and answer me a different question,” he snapped. “Who is he? Who is he working for?”

“He’s George Taylor, according to the DNA check,” Brooks said. “He was carrying an ID card in that name, as well, which means that he was one of our people, not someone who knobbed one of our people and took his place.”

“Shit,” Rusholme said. “Do you have anything else for me?”

Brooks tapped the timers. “These are actually quite impressive, giving the conditions of the times,” he said. “We could have done better, of course, but they would have sufficed; they were counting down already, to roughly five o’clock this evening.”

Rusholme felt his blood run cold. “You mean…this…person was going to detonate four to eight bombs at five o’clock tonight?”

“I think that that would only be the beginning,” Brooks said. “The first thing you need to know is that the timers, I think, are German; the Americans don’t have as capable an industrial base. The designs, at least, are German. I used a deep-scanner to take one to pieces and found hints of German designs, which gives us a second problem.”

He paused. “They might well be planning an attack,” he concluded. “These blasts to keep us worrying about the wrong problem, the attack to finish the job.”

“And the Marines are in Russia,” Rusholme said. He winced; with the attack on Stalin going ahead, it would be impossible to convince them to spare some armoured soldiers for a possible attack, unless some could be spared once the attack was completed. “Keep your force on alert.”

“Always,” Brooks said. Rusholme smiled; Brooks was known to be a hard-ass when it came to force-protection. “If I get anything else out of him, I’ll let you know.”

Rusholme lifted his wristcom to his mouth. “Colonel Paris, meet me in my office,” he said. “I’ll be there in five minutes.”


Private Frederick Jackson heard the briefing with some disbelief. “We may be about to be attacked,” Colonel Paris had informed them, after securing them all in the briefing room. “The Germans might have infiltrated a squadron into America, which they intend to use to attack us, or they might have another source of help. If that happens, it will be up to us to defend the town.”

There was a long pause. Jackson had heard news from his hometown; the city was on the verge of exploding, along with the rest of America. It was unlikely that any help would be spared to help them, even if the Nevada National Guard had been willing to help out. He felt a shimmer of pure anger, even as Colonel Paris heard a message from his communicator.

“They’re Klansmen,” he said, his voice disdainful. Jackson scowled; fighting the Klan, the people who had tried to make his life hell, would be a real pleasure. “Pay attention; they are almost certainly going to come over the ground, rather than take the railroad. That would be far too risky. Apparently, the attack is laid on for five o’clock, so we will remain within the warehouses until the satellites see them coming. Move out!”

Jackson snapped to attention, wondering; the Newcomers seemed to pay less attention to military formality, but at the same time they paid much more attention to discipline. The Articles of War might demand immediate field punishment for insurgents, but it also ordered heavy labour for soldiers who raped or looted. As the soldiers, male and female, formed up into their combat groups and were issued their weapons, Jackson felt grim determination spreading through him.

“This is my home,” he muttered to Sanchez, one of his fellow soldiers and a genuine friend. The races were mixed; the hard training program forced them together as nothing else could have done. “I am not going to let them destroy it.”


“Look at this,” Buck snarled. His three chins jiggled as he spoke. “They even have new roads. What about the roads we have needed for years, eh? The niggers get them and their cocksuckers get them and…”

Harvey ignored Buck, as best as he could. Like Buck, he had been devoted to one thing; keeping the nigger in his place. Who knew what would happen if the nigger actually started walking like man? Haiti, a shit-tip of a nation, showed what happened if you let the nigger rule; they tore the place apart. They had to be kept in their place, for their own good; they were unable to think, unable to fight, and…they whined.

Harvey thought rapidly. He had studied the constantly updated maps of Victory Town and knew that it would be very different from fighting on the Western Front during the First World War, where the niggers had run like rabbits. Instead of trenches, there was an undefended border; they could just walk in with their three hundred men in trucks.

“Buck, keep us moving to this point,” he ordered, ignoring the younger man’s ranting. He might be brave enough to throw rocks at old black woman, but he was something of a coward; a boastful coward. He had never seen military service, although Harvey had hoped that he would have been drafted into the Army, after the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbour.

He felt his face twist. There were thousands of Japanese-Americans living within the Victory Town, hiding from the law. He would burn them out; he had had his men building homemade flamethrowers just for that purpose alone. His force wasn’t equipped for a long war, but it didn’t have to be; without the armoured soldiers, the Newcomers lickspittles would be easy to destroy.

“Here we are, boss,” Buck said. He pulled the truck over, bringing it to a halt; the dozens of Klansmen, wearing masks, but no ropes, poured out. They were sharing bottles of alcohol between them, drinking with no thought for the effects on their fighting; it was just a big adventure to them.

“Form up,” he snapped. The Klansmen formed into a rough semblance of a combat line; the ones with military experience acting as sergeants. “We are going in there to kill them all; show no mercy.”

The Klansmen cheered. “Follow me,” he snapped, and led them towards the Victory Town. He lifted his machine gun, an older Tommy gun, into position as he marched, directly towards the shacks that marked the outside of the Victory Town. Some of the dwellers, poor men and women of every colour and creed, were coming out to look at them. Some, he realised in a moment of horror, were drawing guns.

“Fire,” he snapped, spraying a wave of bullets across them. They folded under the blast of machine gun fire. “Kill them all.”


“Go, go, go,” Colonel Paris snapped, as the firing burst out. A wave of flames could be seen, rising up from the shantytown on the very edge of the town. Jackson moved forward, calling upon all of his discipline; he wanted to run forward and get stuck into the Klansmen. His weapon, a simple plasma rifle, had never seemed so heavy; he wanted to kill them all.

They ran through the streets as the alarms sounded, sending echoes of fear down everyone’s spines. A loudspeaker was advising citizens to make their way towards the original transport, where they would be safe; dozens of citizens were running past them. Jackson knew that he had nearly shot one, more than once; how many of them would be truly safe?

“There,” Colonel Paris snapped, as they entered the shantytown. It was burning brightly; the shanties had been made from wood and rocks, debris from the ongoing building operations. The smoke and fumes were almost overpowering, but he could see a figure torching a house…with a black woman hanging from the window.

“Die,” he snapped, lifting his weapon and firing a single shot. The others soldiers advanced behind him, firing as they came; the streaks of light from plasma fire flashed through the smoke and haze. It was impossible to see more than a few feet; it was like a giant and horrific movie stage. A figure loomed up in front of him, weapon already raised, and he fired on instinct.

There was a scream behind him. “Die, you fuckers…”

“Spread out,” Colonel Paris snapped. He’d led them into battle; Jackson was impressed, not every officer, he’d been told, would do that. “Don’t stay still…”

A hail of fire raced up at them. Jackson threw himself to the ground as a figure advanced, carrying a Tommy gun; he fired a single shot, and then another at a figure he saw behind the first. The second figure exploded into flame; he realised with sudden horror than he had carried a flamethrower. The first figure was dead on the ground; the second one screamed until someone put him out of his misery.

“Fall back to the main road,” Colonel Paris snapped. It took Jackson several seconds to understand him; the noise was so loud. It wasn’t a real battle, just a series of confusing incidents; he followed Paris backwards to the road, firing down towards the Klansmen as they advanced.

He frowned. “Why the hell are we here?” He asked, as he saw the defence line. He took a place behind a block of concrete, firing at two figures who were clearly not soldiers. The Klansmen toppled over as the plasma bolts struck them, wiping them from the battle zone with ease. “Why…”

A wave of water crashed down as the fire engine went to work. He’d seen the water cannon before and loved it; it sent a massive wave of water into any blaze, or once into a park for a celebration. The Klansmen hadn’t been expecting that, let along the sudden switch to a powder than literally washed the fire away. Some fires were still blazing, but much of their cover was gone.

“Open fire,” Paris ordered, his tone low and deadly. Some of the Klansmen died in the wave of plasma fire, others threw themselves to the ground and tried to advance towards their position. Some tried to flee from the battle zone, but the soldiers saw no reason to be merciful; they were swept out of the way with ease.

Paris lifted his voice, using a megaphone to be heard over the racket. “Surrender now, and we’ll let you live,” he bellowed. “Surrender now, and…”

“Go to hell, nigger-lover,” someone shouted back from the damaged region. The soldiers opened fire again, sweeping their plasma blasts through any remaining cover. When they advanced forwards carefully, there were no survivors; the Klansmen had been wiped out.

Jackson smiled. “We won,” he said, delightedly. They’d taken on the might of the Klan and defeated it. “We had a jihad on their arse!”

Sanchez laughed. “All praise the Holy Sheep!”

“It was a mistake to have introduced that television program to you,” Colonel Paris said. He pointed a long hand towards the fires, some of which had spread into the main compound. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

Chapter Thirty-Seven: All Well That Ends Well – At Least For Eight Months

HDS John Howard

Earth Orbit

“Who the hell is he?” Masterson asked. “He’s nothing!”

“That,” Ambassador Roberson said, “is the Grand High Master of the Ku Klux Klan.”

Masterson examined the image thoughtfully. The FBI had tracked the man down and attempted to take him alive, but he had fired at them and they had fired back. He’d died of blood loss before he could be transported to the hospital. The face wasn’t damaged, however, it was a strikingly ordinary face.

“I repeat my question,” Masterson said, puzzled. He didn’t understand how the man had dominated the KKK for so long. “Who is he?”

“There’s the mystery,” Roberson said. “We don’t know. A lot of highly placed Southerners were implicated in the KKK, once we and Hoover’s men started to interrogate the captured members, but no one knew who he had been. He could have been a Congressman, or a Senator, but…we don’t know. He wasn’t in any public post; he was…just a man.”

“Strange,” Masterson said. “So, what is happening in America?”

Roberson smiled tiredly. “Apparently, the destruction of Victory Town was intended as a signal to start a general uprising,” he said. “They believed, for some reason, that they would be able to kill Roosevelt and Wallace, and in the confusion they expected that most of the Army and Congress would go along with them. They had a few Congressmen who were committed; a lot more were sitting on the fence, waiting to see who came out ahead.”

He laughed. “Anyway, the attack on Victory Town was defeated, and that panicked Hoover into moving first,” he continued. “The FBI moved in and rounded up a lot of people; our lie detector systems helped to sort out the guilty from the merely unfortunate enough to be in the wrong manner of company. There was some resistance, but everything had awaited only the destruction of the town.

“So…once the attack had failed, almost everyone sat on their hands, uncertain of whom they could trust,” he concluded. “Hoover certainly swept up some of the black organisations as well, but…on the whole, the German connection has broken the Ku Klux Klan. It’s hard to know for certain, Admiral, but Roosevelt is confident that they will no longer be a serious threat.”

“Thank God,” Masterson said, sincerely. “And so…what were the Germans doing?”

Sandra frowned. “Himmler has surfaced, in Sweden,” she said. “The Swedes have him under house arrest; apparently he surrendered himself to them on a promise of protection. From what we have been able to deduce from going through captured German records, however, they were clearly playing a large role in the American unrest; they were attempting to make the pot boil over before Germany was crushed.”

“Too late, really,” Masterson observed. He smiled. “Is the German Government playing ball?”

Sandra nodded. “They’re working towards democracy as fast as they can,” she said. “There’s a lot of mistrust of the Nazis at the moment, even without the records of the Final Solution; thousands of them have been turned in to the tribunals. Our lie detectors are preventing it from being a real witch hunt, but…boy: it’s going to be an interesting few years for them. They’ve declared Himmler an outcast and a coward, by the way, so he won’t be able to cause real trouble.”

“We can deal with him at our leisure,” Masterson concluded. “What about the French?”

“It’s the French that are going to be the real problem,” Sandra predicted. “We might have aided Churchill to disarm both of the main factions, but…hell, we should really execute the entire government of both parties and let the people vote. In the meantime, the Algerians are looking at the ongoing program in Libya and are starting to ask why they need the French, so…”

Masterson sighed. “If Churchill wants to turn them into a puppet state, that’s fine,” he said. “We have no position on the matter. So, now we have a proper chance to talk, what happened in Moscow?”

Brigadier Joseph coughed. “We won,” he said. “We fought our way into Moscow, killed a lot of Russian soldiers, killed Stalin, and fought our way back out again. Somewhere along the way, one of my people rescued Stalin’s daughter; she’s currently on the Tarawa. We had only three deaths, after all that concern; there was a pile of explosives in a building and it smacked three Marines around, too hard for their safely.”

“Just three,” Masterson said. “Good, I suppose. Now, what is happening in Moscow?”

He looked up at Joseph, who had convinced him to give him the job of supervising Russia. Masterson had agreed, although not without some misgivings; Joseph knew just how badly Russia had been hampered by the Communist Party in the original timeline, and could be relied upon to work to prevent a repeat of that tragedy.

“Molotov has been declared General Secretary by the remains of the Party Congress, and also – with more importance – the support of Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov, Commander-In-Chief of the Red Army, now that the remains of STAVKA have vanished without trace,” Joseph said. “In the three days since he took office, a lot of prisoners have been released, along with promises of economic liberalism.”

He smiled. “Such promises have already been kept in Byelorussia and the Ukraine,” he said. “The new governments, all provisional at the moment, just ended collectivism. The farmers are taking back what they lost to the Communists, so I expect that it will spread across Russia anyway. There are a lot of people who remember Lenin’s attempt at an economic policy; it might just work.”

He tapped the display. “Molotov has promised, in effect, a five-year transition period to democracy, starting with giving the Duma some real teeth at once,” he concluded. “It’s going to be harder than it sounds – there are a lot of people from Stalin’s regime out there – but five years should give them plenty of time to lay proper foundations for democracy.”

Masterson nodded. “It won’t be long until Japan gives up,” he said. “That should, at least, give us a proper foundation for establishing democracy everywhere. Give us ten years and we’ll have a working world government…except there’s still the Krank. They can still destroy us.”

“I’ve been looking at the problem,” Eileen said. Masterson felt a flicker of guilt; he’d had to leave that problem in her hands while he grappled with the problems of helping the Earth. “It can be done, if we fight hard; we might just be able to do it.”

She took control of the display, bringing the image of the superdreadnaught into view. “This is the enemy,” she said. “It’s armed to the teeth, with both missile and energy weapons, and it has few vulnerabilities. Normally, we would need one superdreadnaught of our own; it could spit out equal numbers of missiles, or at least engage the target in an energy-weapon duel. If we tried that, we would be blown apart.”

Masterson nodded grimly. Battlecruisers were built for raiding, not going toe-to-toe with enemy superdreadnaughts. “At the same time,” Eileen continued, “we have FTL drive and they – apparently – do not. If they had the drive, would they not have used it by now, just to reach Earth or their homeworld? The only explanation that makes sense is that they don’t have a working drive.”

She sighed, running her hand through her long blonde hair. “That does give us an opportunity,” she said. “We can transport starfighters to fight it in deep space; we can actually build a handful more starfighters – and plenty of conventional missiles. It cannot outrun them; it will have to rely on its point defence. That gives us a chance.”

Joseph frowned. “I thought that starfighters couldn’t pose a threat to superdreadnaughts,” he said. “That’s in the manual.”

“The starfighter missiles are too small to have a serious effect and plasma bolts will just glance off its hull,” Eileen agreed. “However, they can knock out its weapons; we launch the starfighters, wear down their defences, bit by bit, and then hammer them to death with capital missiles.”

“Wear them down, and then move in for a slugging match,” Masterson commented. “I like the thought, if not the possible dangers…”

“We know where all of their weapons are mounted,” Eileen said. “If that thing had warp drive, we’d be screwed, but it doesn’t…and we have new starfighter pilots.”

Masterson smiled. “So it can be done,” he said. “With a little effort, we can wear them down enough to give us a chance against her.”

Eileen nodded. “It will be costly,” she said. “We will need to take other measures as well, just to ensure that we can survive in one form or another.” She paused. “One possible outcome is that we and they will kill one another off; we take out its drive field, its dead anyway.”

“It’s worth it,” Masterson said. “We have eight months; when do you want to engage?”

“I’m tempted to wait until the last month, but I think we would be better off starting in two months,” Eileen said. “That would give us maximum time to make a real impact on the bastard.”

“Understood,” Masterson said. “Any other comments?”

“They have a scoutship,” Sandra said. “That does have warp drive. Destroying that is an absolute priority; if we don’t, it’ll set off back to the Krank homeworlds and we’d be in the same mess again.”

“That’s included on the first strike plan,” Eileen said. “I think we can do that with the starfighters; hell, crippling it would be enough.”

Masterson sat back. “We have a lot of work to do,” he said, standing up in his chair. “Let’s get started.”

The White HouseWashington DC, USA

President Roosevelt looked a lot better now than he had a week ago, Sam Turtledove realised; he seemed almost invigorated by the sudden collapse of the factions preparing to move against him. The discovery that the Ku Klux Klan had been in bed with Nazi Germany had disrupted the group badly; it might never recover, not with almost all of its top leadership either in hiding or awaiting trial for high treason.

“The Civil Rights Act will pass,” Roosevelt assured a congressman, who had been looking nervous after his own investigation. Several Congressmen in the south had been lynched by people who suspected that they had taken German blood money; many had in fact been innocent. “In fact, I don’t think that it will be long before we see the first black congressman.”

Turtledove followed Roosevelt through the room as he spoke to individual people, from the activist Randolph to several FBI officers. One of them was detailed to inform Hoover that the President would see him later; the other had enthused about the lie detectors, asking the President to ensure that they were put on the urgent list for production.

They passed Henry Wallace, who had just recently announced his intention to leave politics, once Roosevelt had found a new running mate. The Vice President made conversation, although he was clearly worried by something; the collapse of the Soviet Union had released all manner of embarrassing files.

Turtledove waved at Churchill, who was smoking a large cigar and discussing future opportunities with American companies, following Roosevelt. The President exchanged a few brief words with Churchill, asking for a private discussion later, and then headed onwards. Dozens of people were coming to the President, asking for a moment of his time; Turtledove was amazed at how well he handed them all.

“Naturally, I will work towards encouraging the colonisation of Mars as fast as possible,” Roosevelt assured a Jewish leader. The Germans might not have been able to progress as fast as they had in the original timeline with their final solution, but they had still worked thousands of Jews to death, building defences. “Unfortunately, I cannot in good conscience support more than the right of access to the Holy Cities; certainly I cannot support a major emigration to Palestine.”

Turtledove winced inwardly. The Jews didn’t want, by and large, to remain in Germany, but they all wanted to go to Israel – or what would have been Israel, in the other timeline. Australia had offered to take a few thousand, now that they finally had the capability to develop their deserts into productive land, but that wasn’t where they had wanted to go.

“Yes, I understand,” Roosevelt said, overriding the protests. “However, it would be safer for all concerned if you were on Mars, where no nation on Earth has claims.”

Turtledove smiled. The small fleet of inter-solar spacecraft were going rapidly; the Moon held a small, but growing colony already; one that would soon be what Gwen had remembered from her past. Mars’s terraforming was proceeding; the Newcomers said that in ten years the planet would have a breathable atmosphere.

Roosevelt passed the Jewish leader as he saw Hoover. The FBI Director looked uncomfortable at the party, which was both a celebration and a sigh of relief that real trouble had been avoided. Roosevelt walked over to Hoover, shaking his hand with genuine feeling.

“Can we talk in private?” Hoover asked. “I found out some little bits of information that are for your ears alone.”

“I need my Boswell,” Roosevelt said, waving to Turtledove to follow him. “Sam is cleared for everything, from Newcomer information and on down.”

Hoover said nothing until they stepped into a private room. “I found out who in Washington was helping the mystery man,” he said. “It’s…not pleasant.”

“No,” Roosevelt said. The President found a seat and sat down firmly. “Who was it?”

Hoover’s eyes were haunted. “Clive Tolson,” he said, bitterly. Turtledove felt his eyes go wide. “He…didn’t take the rumours about…him and I well, Mr President, and…”

“I’m sorry,” Roosevelt said. “You did very good work…”

“I had a spy right under my nose and I missed it,” Hoover said. He drew himself up into a firm stance. “Mr President, please would you accept my resignation?”

Roosevelt looked up at him for a long moment. “You did good work in the last week,” he said. “You weren’t to blame for that…”

Turtledove saw Hoover’s expression flicker. Like it or not, he would be blamed; the whispers would even say that he had planned it all…and then sacrificed Tolson as a pawn. He hadn’t liked Hoover, but he felt almost sorry for him. The man was looking at the ruin of everything he had ever worked for – gone in a flash.

“I would like to submit my resignation,” Hoover repeated. “I think my time is over.”

Roosevelt sighed. “One last question, then,” he said. “Do you have any idea who the mystery man was?”

Hoover shook his head. “It’s still a blank,” he said. “We published the picture in every newspaper; no one has come forward and admitted to knowing him. He might have been a German agent, but interrogation suggests that he was known for years before we ever looked at Germany as a serious threat.”

“I wonder if we will ever know,” Roosevelt said. “He failed, anyway; that’s the important thing. He was nobody; and perhaps that is the best ending the Ku Klux Klan could have.”


Later that evening, Roosevelt met with Churchill and Sandra in his office, at Sandra’s request. She had called down from her ship, asking for a meeting with the pair of them, and Roosevelt had agreed. He’d actually invited Masterson to the meeting, but the Admiral had declined; he had far too much preparation to do for the coming Krank superdreadnaught.

Turtledove stood behind Roosevelt, watching as she spoke quickly, with urgency. “We believe – now – that we can take out that craft,” she said. “However, it will require a great deal of luck and careful planning; we have the plan and we intend to spend the next two months training for the coming fight.”

She sighed. “That will involve your people, the starfighter pilots, fighting alongside us,” she continued. “If you have any objections to that, now would be a good time to express them.”

“None,” Churchill said. “The pilots from Britain, at least, all volunteered for the mission. Some of them, the Poles for example, would die for you; you gave them back their home nation.”

Sandra smiled. “That’s something to be proud of,” she said. “Still, it’s going to be tricky, so we’re taking a handful of precautions.”

She passed the two world leaders a datachip each. “That chip contains a complete technical tree,” she said. “It lacks any theoretical information – you’ll have to work on developing the principles behind the technology for yourself using just that chip – but it should take you to our level before we got sent back here within twenty years. We’ll be making more of those, more complete sets of information, but those are the important sections.”

She paused, running a hand over her hair. “It’s…possible,” she said, “that the result could be mutual destruction. We might kill them, at the cost of all of our own ships. If that happens, then…you will be able to use that to build up, because the Krank are still out there, somewhere.”

She leaned forwards, meeting their eyes. “Please, whatever you do, don’t lose this opportunity,” she said. “The Age of Unrest kept us back fifty-sixty years, enough time to master technology that could defeat the Krank. If we fail, then it’s up to you.”

She stood up to leave. Churchill stopped her. “Sandra,” he said, “how will we know if you have failed?”

Sandra’s face twisted sharply. “If the Krank superdreadnaught arrives here, and bombs Earth out of existence, you can assume that we lost,” she said dryly. “We have two months to prepare…and then we will fly against them. Two months of preparation; we are going to be cutting it very tight.”

She stood up and smiled bitterly. “In a very real sense, all of you, failure is not an option.”

Chapter Thirty-Eight: Armageddon (I)

Combat Zone

Deep Space

“Lord Admiral, we have four warp signatures, heading towards us from Earth,” the sensor officer said. “They are preparing to engage us.”

Lord Admiral Macron sat up as the Hunter snapped into battle-readiness, preparing for action. It had been longer than he had expected since the humans had discovered his craft; he had expected them to have launched an attack by now – or to have fled for their lives. They had done neither, which meant that they had to be preparing at Earth; he had started to wonder if they had some surprise up their sleeves.

“Sound the alert,” he ordered. Captain Jaca hopped to obey. “Stand by to repel attack.”

“Yes, My Lord,” the tactical officer said. “Weapons primed and ready to fire…”

“Emergence,” the sensor officer snapped. Four new icons blinked onto the display as the human starships returned to normal space, their drives already flickering into life. They had taken care, he noticed with some amusement, to emerge well outside the Hunter’s weapon’s range; they could have fled for their lives at any moment.

Except they can’t, he thought. Part of him was relieved by the coming battle; at least it would end. They have to engage me before I enter weapons range of Earth.

“They’re scanning us,” the sensor officer reported. “Powerful scans; all blocked.”

Lord Admiral Macron looked up at the display. All of the human starships – apart from the transport – could outrun the Hunter in normal space; superdreadnaughts were built for firepower, not speed. Even so, they would have to enter his engagement range to launch missiles; he could hit them at the same time.

“They would have to be insane to enter energy range,” he muttered to Jaca, who croaked an agreement. “Humans aren’t stupid, so…”

“Contacts,” the sensor officer snapped, interrupting his musings. “I have several new signatures.”

Lord Admiral Macron allowed his eyes to bulge. “So that’s their plan,” he said. “All point defence weapons, prepare to engage!”


Admiral Masterson had wanted to take his ship into combat personally, but he knew that he would have to command the entire fleet; Eileen would have to command the John Howard. It didn’t seem right, somehow, but he knew that he had promoted her to Captain, after all.

“We have emergence,” Lieutenant Commander Syeda Johnston reported. “Now bringing up the drive field and moving into position.”

Masterson nodded. Any ship that dropped out of warp would be vulnerable for a horrifyingly brief period; more than a few ships had been lost to quick computer-aided reactions by enemy ships, blasting them apart before they could raise the drive field to interdict incoming fire. He’d planned their emergence so that they would have plenty of time to prepare before engaging the Krank; the superdreadnaught was exactly where it was supposed to be.

He frowned inwardly, refusing to allow his concern to show on his face. The Krank ship had no warp signature; it could have changed its course without even alerting any of his sensors. It was proceeding along the same course, however; why? Were they that unconcerned about his fleet, or did they have a cunning plan?

“All weapons report ready,” Commander Peterson reported. The tactical officer was looking forward to the battle, something that made him unique on the ship; everyone knew the odds. “We’re ready to engage.”

Masterson checked the display and then issued the order. “Launch fighters,” he snapped. “Launch weapons; tactical engagement plot one!”

“Weapons firing,” Commander Peterson said, as the starship shuddered, launching a spread of missiles towards the superdreadnaught. They wouldn’t have the range to actually hit the superdreadnaught, but they would do for the purpose he had in mind. “All missiles away.”

“Reload bays, spin ships,” Eileen snapped, from the command chair. “Helm, stand by to move us if they try to close.”

“Aye, Captain,” Syeda said. “Course laid in.”

Masterson looked up at the display. The missiles were flaring in towards the Krank ship. They themselves were just outside of Krank firing range, which meant that the missiles would flare out before they reached the Krank, except…

“Detonations beginning,” Williston said. “All missiles detonated.”

Masterson felt his heart tremble. Everything now depended upon a squadron made up of legends from the past. “Stand by to fire a second volley,” he ordered. “Keep us at this range.”


“Sensors are having problems,” the sensor operator reported. “The detonation of the human weapons has confused the sensors.”

Lord Admiral Macron hissed a curse. The humans had deployed starfighters – and then they’d used their own missiles to counter the Krank sensors. “Reboot the sensors,” he snapped. There wasn’t the time to purge the system as they would normally do. “Activate back-up sensors; find those starfighters!”

“Working, My Lord,” the sensor operator said. “I’m picking up partial tracks now.”

Lord Admiral Macron swore aloud. “Engage them,” he snapped at the weapons officer. “Even if they miss, they’ll alarm the humans.”

“Yes, My Lord,” the weapons officer said. “Weapons fire…and firing.”


The shape of the Krank superdreadnaught swooped up at Guy Gibson faster than he had expected, even though the cockpit; the lingering sensor haze confusing their sensors as much as – he hoped – it had confused the Krank. Acting on instinct, he rolled his fighter as he plunged down towards the Krank ship, seeing it drawing larger and larger like a wall in the sky.

“My God,” he said. It took on detail terrifyingly quickly, moving from a smooth hull to one that was studded with bumps and bruises, including weapons towers. He fired a burst of plasma at one of the towers, noticing how it had only been slightly damaged, and moved sharply to dodge a burst of counter-fire. The Krank ship had come to life, spitting out wave after wave of plasma fire, except…

“They can’t hit us too low,” he carolled delightedly. Simulations had hinted that that would be a problem for the Krank, but the simulations hadn’t been trying to make it easy for them. He jammed his hand down on the plasma cannon triggers as he dodged firing towers, heading towards the target of the mission; the Krank ship’s main missile batteries.

“Form up and prepare to engage,” the squadron leader said. His voice was firm and calm; Gibson felt merely delighted. This was the way to fight; forget Spitfires and those ugly German bombers! Ahead of them, something the size of the Battleship Bismarck swept up to them, protected by dozens of little cannons that were spitting out waves of fire.

“Engagement target locked,” the fighter’s computer said. Gibson had considered it very annoying at first, and then he’d gotten used to it; now, he didn’t know what he would have done without it. “Weapons free; engaging.”

The fighter shivered as it launched both of the missiles it carried. The entire flight was pouring fire towards the Krank ship, nearly a hundred missiles heading into the Krank ship’s launchers. Some of them were targeted on the missile launchers; others were targeted on the plasma cannons trying to defend it. Gibson swung the fighter into a wild spin, watching as one of his comrades was wiped from the sky by a blast larger than his fighter, and cursed; the Krank were starting to find their range.

“Missile detonation,” the computer said. Gibson risked a glance; it didn’t look that impressive, but half of the plasma cannons weren’t firing any more. The dull metal of the Krank ship, illuminated only by its own light sources, was glowing an evil red. He tried to form a picture of a chain reaction spreading through the entire ship, but the hull material seemed to have managed to contain the blast.

“Warning, Krank targeting sensors locking on,” the computer informed him. Gibson yanked the fighter into a drop directly towards the superdreadnaught, levelling up seconds before slamming into the Krank ship. The Krank point defence had problems trying to hit a starfighter flying among the mushroom-like structures on the ship’s hull; they had to be going mad with rage – at least he hoped that they were.

“Tally-ho,” he shouted, as he reached the end of the Krank ship, flipping past its drive. “Back to base, what?”


“The Krank ship has suffered considerable damage to the port missile batteries,” Williston reported. “They’re showing distinctly less energy release than they were previously.”

“We need a way to test that,” Masterson said. The obvious one was to enter missile range and see if the Krank fired from those batteries, but he was reluctant to risk that one if it could be avoided. “What about the starfighters?”

“Seventeen were lost,” Williston reported. “The others are returning to base now.”

“Launch missiles to cover them,” Masterson ordered, wishing that he knew what the Krank were thinking. If they had been a rational foe, he would have asked for surrender; everything humanity had learnt about the Krank suggested that they were anything, but a rational foe. “Order them to reload and prepare to fly out again.”

“Yes, sir,” Lieutenant Isabella Hawthorne said. The communications officer was working her console. “There is some considerable activity between the Krank superdreadnaught and its scout.”

“That will have to be the next target,” Eileen said. “Now they know about the starfighters, then…”

Masterson nodded, acknowledging her point. Someone less…decent than her would have said ‘I told you so;’ and she had. He’d gambled that the starfighters would be able to damage the Krank enough for them to destroy it completely – and they hadn’t. They’d done well, better than he had dared hope, but…not enough.

“Prepare the second stage of the engagement,” he said. “Helm, set course for the dumping ground. Communications, inform the cruisers to follow us.”

“Yes, sir,” Lieutenant Isabella Hawthorne said. “They’re coming.”

Masterson looked up at the shape of the transport that had been adapted to a starfighter carrier. The commander would know to remain well out of weapons range; or starfighter range, just in case. He hadn’t been fighting in the war without developing a healthy respect for Krank tactical skills.

“Helm, take us out,” he said. He smiled to himself; it did feel good to be out among the stars again. “Maximum warp.”


Lord Admiral Macron studied the damage report with a critical eye. The humans hadn’t done as well as he had feared, but it was quite extensive. Their missiles had burnt through the main missile batteries, which meant that their port offensive capability would be smaller than he would have liked.

“The humans have dropped out of warp,” the sensor officer reported. Lord Admiral Macron looked up at the display, calculating their speeds; the humans had returned to Earth as fast as they could go, which was…interesting. It would still take the Hunter six months to reach Earth, so…what was their need to hurry? Did they think that he did have warp drive – but was still hanging around for some crazy reason?

“Drop us down to manoeuvring speed,” he ordered. The helm officer leapt to obey. Lord Admiral Macron thought quickly; moving a little slower, they might be able to lunge into engagement range of the human starships when they returned. The human starfighter transport wasn’t a proper carrier, a single missile would wreck it, but it was taking care to remain out of his weapons range.

Clever, he thought, as the human ships slipped back into warp, racing towards his ship. They had probably taken the opportunity to rearm their ships; they hadn’t managed to take any damage. His own crew were working hard on rearming their ships – just as the display warned of the launch of more human starfighters, flashing in towards the Hunter. They could travel faster in normal space than his ship, except…

“Angle all point defence to engage the starfighters,” he ordered, as he saw the course projection of the human starships. They looked as if they were going to try for a close engagement – except that would be suicidal. “Lock prow weapons; full spread on human starships as they enter normal space…”

The display changed…and he felt his body hop as he got his second surprise of the day. The humans were launching missiles! A wave of missiles! More missiles than a superdreadnaught could launch in one attack! How?

“All point defence to the prow,” he snapped. Worrying about how the humans had pulled off the impossible could wait; it was a problem that could be solved if they survived the final battle. The weight of missiles was enough to blow the superdreadnaught apart – if they could blow though the shields. “Adjust course; now!”


It had been a Contemporary, Sam Turtledove, who had discovered the trick, though the age-old technique of asking someone who knew nothing about what couldn’t be done to look at it. It was impossible to extend a drive field too far outside the hull of a starship, but there was no reason why a warp field could not be extended; anything caught in the John Howard’s warp field would end up being pulled along by the starship – including dozens of freshly-made missiles.

“Launch all missiles,” Masterson snapped. Commander Peterson was already acting; the missiles had had their orders programmed directly into their processors. Their warheads might be inferior productions, made by Contemporary technology, but they would still do serious damage to the superdreadnaught. For one bright shining moment, the John Howard would have the firepower of an entire superdreadnaught squadron.

The display adjusted, tracking the wave of missiles as they lanced towards the Krank ship, which was spitting its own missiles at the human ships. Syeda knew what to do; she flipped the starship through warp long enough to escape the missiles, before popping out again close enough to observe the effects. The Krank ship had cut some of its speed, Masterson noted, but not enough to escape the coming wave of missiles.

He checked the download from the starfighter transport; the starfighters were inbound. Hopefully, the Krank would do the correct tactical move in a situation like the one they faced; all guns would be ordered to defend the main target, rather than worry about little nuisances like the starfighters. Blasts of plasma were already sweeping missiles out of the sky, but there were too many of them to sweep…

“Impacts, at least thirty impacts on the Krank shields,” Williston reported. His voice was tight with excitement; the Krank ship would be risking massive instability to its drives, right now, with all of the power they were devoting towards protecting themselves. If God was with them…

He allowed his eyes to jump to the feed from the cameras. The Krank ship was surrounded by a glowing wave of energy as it fought to resist the impact of several nuclear detonations, trying to redirect the energy somewhere harmless. Some of it would be bleeding into the Krank ship’s drives, even now; damaging the drive. If they lost their drive, the battle would be over…

“They have successfully compensated,” Williston reported. A mutter of disappointment ran around the bridge. “They have lost shield power by around forty percent.”

“They’re going to have to cut their speed,” Masterson said, hoping that he was right. He had to be; the Krank had some advantages, but they weren’t magicians. Their ships used the same technology as human ships. That meant, he hoped, that they shared the same limitations. “They’re going to do that, or risk losing everything…”

“The starfighters are preparing to engage,” Williston said, interrupting his musings. Masterson felt his hands clench; if they failed to destroy the scoutship, they might well win the battle…only to lose the war. “They’re going in…now!”


The starfighter jumped and bounced as it impacted with the waves of disrupted space, caused by the problems that the Krank ship was having. Space seemed to be a wave of blue energy; the Krank ship was glowing in the darkness. Gibson watched with awe; for a moment, the Krank ship was no longer an enemy, but a stricken craft in desperate trouble.

“That’s our cue,” the squadron leader said, and Gibson snapped back to awareness. They had a mission and they were going to carry it out. “All ships; follow me in!”

The Krank seemed almost unaware of the starfighters; they were clearly having problems elsewhere. The starfighters were inching through the Krank shields, but the waves of energy were making that difficult; it was with a sigh of relief that Gibson flew through the shield unharmed.

“Incoming Krank fire,” the computer said. The Krank were clearly recovering; their weapons were starting to respond to the incoming threat. Gibson flashed down towards the superdreadnaught, only to have to dodge madly as the Krank ship fired at them; they had adapted to that technique. He swept from side to side as the ship flashed along the hull, noting how some parts of the hull were damaged from the wars that the ship had fought, before ending up in another time, another space.

“There,” he hissed, as he saw it. A tiny starship, hanging near the superdreadnaught; a little child hiding behind his mother’s skirts. It was tiny, but still large compared to the starfighters; it was close enough to make attacking it difficult, unless…

“Follow me down,” he snapped, twisting madly into the blind spot above the scoutship, the one place that it would be hard for the superdreadnaught to hit them. The scoutship didn’t seem to have any firepower of its own; it was trying to move, but too slowly to do any good. “Firing!”

“Missiles away,” the computer reported. Was he imagining it, or was there a note of delight, of satisfaction, in its voice? “Entering target now.”

Seconds later, a sudden sharp explosion marked the death of the Krank scoutship. Gibson flew through the cloud of expanding plasma, dodging madly as the Krank fired time and time again…and flashed out into the darkness of interstellar space. Behind them, the wreckage of the scout faded away into nothing.

Chapter Thirty-Nine: Armageddon (II)

Combat Zone

Deep Space

“Do those repairs, now,” Jaca snapped.

“Yes, My Captain,” the engineering officer said, his voice trembling. “The damage is extensive, however…”

Lord Admiral Macron glared down at the damage report, allowing some of his displeasure to show on his face, ignoring Jaca’s rage at the damage to his ship. He might only have been commander in name, but it was his ship; there might have been no chance at all of facing the fleet commanders over the damage, but it still looked bad. The damage was extensive, just as the officer said; it looked bad.

The displays were flicking the brown of ‘heavy damage,’ suggesting that the Hunter should withdraw from the battle. Under normal circumstances, Lord Admiral Macron wouldn’t have hesitated; it was easier to repair a superdreadnaught than build a new one. However, the closest yard was one thousand light years away; over three thousand years of travel at their best speed. The humans would have plenty of time to destroy the Krank before they reached home.

He studied the progress of the repairs, wondering absently where the humans were. Their scoutship wasn’t trailing them; their ships just seemed to have returned to Earth. It wouldn’t be long before they returned, with more missiles in their warp fields; it wouldn’t be long before they wore the Hunter down completely. The warheads were…primitive, the sensors had reported, but they would do their job.

“My Lord, we will have to cut speed to do some repairs,” the engineering officer warned. Lord Admiral Macron nodded absently, thinking hard; the delay wouldn’t affect the final outcome. It was like a horde of Jaffa fighting a Strak; they could be killed under the Strak’s nose if they got too close, but as long as they had the speed advantage…

A shame we have no drive disrupters left, he thought. If they had had, the battle could have been brought to an end, quite quickly. They could have locked the humans out of warpspace and…

He snarled a curse. This was no time to think of what might have been if – it was time to think of the future. A thought had occurred to him, one that might at least allow them to get in a solid hit on the human ships.

“Drop our speed still further and flip us,” he ordered, tapping commands into the display. The image of the Hunter moved, aligning the starship with its starboard missile launchers facing Earth; if they had had missiles capable of reaching Earth, they could have hit the planet. “Start launching un-powered missiles into space; shimmer the drive to push them away from the ship.”

The tactical officer understood at once. “Yes, My Lord,” he said. “Missiles being released now.”

Jaca did not. “My Lord, that will expend some of our missiles for nothing,” he protested. “If we run out of missiles.”

“We have more missiles than we can possibly fire,” Lord Admiral Macron reminded him. “We can use a few missiles on this…experiment.”


It had taken longer than Masterson had wanted to reload the starfighters and collect more missiles within the warp fields. Some of the pilots, including Guy Gibson, he noted with amusement, had insisted on continuing to fly; the pilot implants had done a good job of holding them together. Others had been worn out; Doctor Stoner had insisted on relieving them and sending in the second rank of pilots.

The delay had been worthwhile in some ways, he knew; they had been able to update their simulations of the enemy ship and run the new pilots through a series of simulations. The Krank ship seemed to have better gunners on the starboard side, or so the tactical computers insisted; the sub-units of the Krank computers seemed to be better at picking off the tiny starfighters. Several pilots had rammed the superdreadnaught – no one knew if they had done it on purpose or if they had lost control of their craft – but the effects had been minimal.

He studied the display as – finally – the missiles were enveloped within the warp field. The Contemporary missiles might have the dreaded – and overrated – nuclear warheads; they didn’t have them adapted for the express purpose of burning out the Krank ship’s shields. The energy release would harm the shields; it would still take many hits to actually burn the generators out.

He smiled inwardly. This attack would have a difference; he intended to launch modern missiles at the Krank at the same time, using the Contemporary missiles as shields. The impacts would be much more effective – and the Krank would – hopefully – be unable to differentiate between the two sets of missiles; perhaps they wouldn’t catch on until it was too late. If the starfighters could take out the remaining heavy missile batteries, then perhaps…

“Take us out,” he ordered. Syeda had only been waiting for the command; the flight path had been programmed into the helm for hours. She tapped the button and the human starships shot forwards, heading into warpspace. They were moving slower than before, just to confuse the Krank, but they would be there in moments…

“Emergence,” Syeda said.

“Launch missiles,” Masterson snapped. Even now, the firing command would be loaded into thousands of tiny missile brains, igniting their drives and sending them plunging towards the Krank ship. “Stand by…”

“Jesus Christ,” Williston snapped. Masterson’s eyes snapped up to the main display, which was spreading out a line of impossible icons; Krank missile launches, too close for comfort! “Evasive action, now!”

“Point defence online,” Commander Peterson snapped. The John Howard started to shudder as counter-missiles and close-in plasma cannons began to lash out at the incoming missiles. “There’s too many to take them all down!”

“All decks, brace for impact,” Eileen snapped, as the Krank missiles closed in. Masterson’s mind worked rapidly as the battlecruiser suddenly pushed all of its power into evading the incoming missiles; the Krank had fired the missiles outside their drive fields, without using the missile drives, which meant…

The John Howard rocked rapidly, shaking as three missiles impacted on the shields. Power levels flickered all over the ship as the battlecruiser rolled with the blasts; the displays flickered and faded as power was rerouted to the shields and the drive. The shaking ended; red damage indicators flickered on the display. They had survived.

“Thank God,” Masterson breathed. Eileen was snapping out orders – as part of the display changed sharply. Masterson looked up…and felt numbing horror; the HDS General Zhukov – an ironic name under the circumstances – was in serious trouble, its power readings flickering all over the display.

“Get to the life pods,” he muttered, seeing the starship’s fate in the twisting, poisoned drive fields. The waves of energy, clinging to the fields, meant only one thing; the field was very unstable. “Get to the life…”

In a blinding flash of light, the HDS General Zhukov vanished from space.

Masterson sat back in his seat. “Damage report,” he ordered. “What’s the news?”

“Minor damage to several decks; our main port missile launcher is down,” Eileen said. She was bleeding from a cut when she’d been thrown to the deck. “We’re alive, but battered.”

Masterson looked up at the Krank ship. They hadn’t had the chance to launch modern missiles into the maelstrom surrounding the superdreadnaught; as he watched, it moved forward through the blasts, moving onwards towards the Sutherland. The human cruiser was damaged, but intact; it was moving away sluggishly.

Too sluggishly.

“Communications,” Masterson snapped. “Get me a damage report for the Sutherland!”

“She’s suffered considerable engineering casualties,” Lieutenant Isabella Hawthorne reported. Her voice was grim. “She’ll need time to rig basic repairs.”

Masterson and Eileen shared a long glance. They couldn’t afford to lose the second cruiser. “Take us into engagement range,” Masterson ordered. He knew that he was being unfair to Eileen, but there wasn’t a choice. “Order the starfighters to engage; the first group are to attack the missile launchers, the second are to cover us.”

“Yes, Admiral,” Syeda said. “Engagement range; twenty seconds.”

Masterson sat back in his chair, steeping his fingers. They were risking everything by attempting a missile duel, but the Sutherland needed time; time to make the bare minimum of repairs that they would need to escape.

“Entering missile range,” Syeda said. “Holding at outer edge of enemy missile range; we’re on their port side.”

Masterson nodded; the starfighters had damaged the enemy missile launchers on that side of the superdreadnaught. The ship was too large for them all to be knocked out of commission, but they would be far safer keeping that side of the enemy ship facing them.

“Keep us on that side of the ship,” he ordered. “Hold us steady.”

Eileen looked up at Commander Peterson. “All batteries; commence firing!”


“The enemy battlecruiser has opened fire,” the sensor officer said. Lord Admiral Macron stared down at the display; the humans had finally come within range of his main weapons, except…most of the launchers on that side had been destroyed.

“Commence firing with the remaining launchers,” he ordered. “Destroy that ship!”

“Yes, My Lord,” the tactical officer said. His hands moved rapidly over the console, setting up the firing sequence. “Weapons locked…and firing!”

The Hunter shuddered as it launched the first spread of missiles since it had fallen back in time. Lord Admiral Macron felt his mouth spread into a smile; the humans were doomed now, even with…he felt his delight become disbelief; their starfighters were intercepting the missiles!

“Spin us,” he snapped. “Keep spinning us; fire all batteries as they come into firing position.”

“Yes, My Lord,” the helm officer said. “My Lord; if we do that, we will have to give up pursuit of the human cruiser.”

Which is exactly why they’re risking themselves like that, Lord Admiral Macron thought coldly, knowing just how cunning humans could be. If he failed to destroy the battlecruiser, both of his targets would slip out of firing range, but…it was too tempting to pass up.

“Spin ships,” he ordered. “Fire as you bear.”


Masterson forced himself to remain calm as the first wave of human missiles slashed in towards the superdreadnaught, following the starfighters as they closed in on their target. He’d ordered them to concentrate on the superdreadnaught’s missile launchers again; anything to improve their chances against the superdreadnaught in the missile duel.

“Incoming fire,” Williston reported. His tone was grim; “at least fifty missiles, coming directly towards us.”

“Point defence, activate,” Eileen snapped. Masterson sat back with an effort, allowing her to fight her ship without interference. “Helm, move us backwards and forewords, in and out of their range.”

Masterson nodded slowly; battles at sublight speeds were rare, but they had no choice, but to fight this one as such a slow contest. The John Howard’s missiles were firing, hacking away at the incoming missiles; another round of capital missiles was launched towards the superdreadnaught, and…

“The starfighters are intercepting,” Williston said. On the display, the starfighters danced and weaved, firing burst after burst at the missiles. “The bastard is starting to spin ships.”

Masterson winced inwardly; the Krank in command had clearly given up on the Sutherland, which was a good thing…except spinning the ship would bring the rest of its batteries into firing position, tripling the amount of missiles that could be fired at them. It wasn’t good news, he knew; the point defence was already in trouble trying to handle all of the incoming attacks.

“Moving to counter,” Syeda said. “Adjusting course and speed now…”

“Missile flare-outs,” Williston snapped. “Impact in five…four…”

The John Howard bounced rapidly as four missiles slammed into the shields in quick succession. The shock was much greater than the first time the ship had been hit; damage reports flickered up from all over the ship. Eileen barked orders, holding the ship together; even through it might be too late.

“Sir, the starfighters,” Williston called. “They’ve had…”

Masterson swung back to stare at the display…and felt his mouth open into a smile.


The Krank ship was just as unpleasant as it had been the first time, Guy Gibson realised, with the added complication that its weapons were clearly more prepared for starfighters. If the missile exchange with the battlecruiser hadn’t been going on, he wasn’t prepared to swear that any of them would have survived the experience; the Krank had clearly been analysing them as quickly and carefully as the humans had studied their defences.

“Move in,” the squadron commander ordered, and then his ship was wiped from the sky. Gibson knew that he would never hate the Germans again; they, at least, hadn’t fought the British with the same unthinking viciousness the Krank displayed. Space was becoming full of purple blasts of light; he corkscrewed the craft down towards the superdreadnaught, dodging blasts by the skin of his teeth.

A flicker on the display marked the end of one of his former friends, a squadron mate from the battle of Britain; his spacecraft hadn’t managed to avert a collision with the hull in time. The hull itself was made out of some kind of material that was incredibly strong; even a nuclear weapon had to be specially modified to do more than dent it. The crash of a starfighter wasn’t even noticed.

He took a breath, trying to sort out what was happening; flying on pure instinct. The starfighter, by some miracle, had made it into the blind spot on the superdreadnaught; he was flying too low for the point defence to hit him. No human in their right mind, after all, would place guns in a position where they could hit their own ship – and the Krank seemed to agree; they had no way of hitting him, but…what was he to do?

He swept past damage to the hull as the strange light of missile impacts on the Krank shields flickered over the hull, his computers trying hard to track his position. He was on the starboard side of the hull, heading directly towards his target; the ship’s main missile launchers. He pulled the craft into a swoop, seeing the blocky shape of the main missile launchers…and then yanked the craft aside as a bolt of plasma swept past him.

They can hit me, he realised in sudden horror, seeing what the Krank had done. They had rigged up a plasma cannon, like the ones that had defended Britain, on their own hull. He fired a burst of energy at it, destroying it…and then he saw the launchers. They were massive, firing missiles that were bigger than his starfighter; opening the hatches, launching the missile, and then closing the hatch before a human missile could slip inside. The missiles were launching in sequence; he carefully targeted the next launcher to open, and then…

“Krank sensors locking on,” the computer warned. He risked a glance at the display; the Krank ship had him, there was no escape. “Krank weapons charging…”

“For Queen and Country,” he said, and rammed the starfighter down into the opening hatch. He had a single glimpse of the interior of the Krank superdreadnaught, seconds before everything was washed away in a blast of fire.


The Krank warheads weren’t designed to detonate inside the ship, but there was enough explosive in them to be triggered by the blast; a million-to-one hit that overloaded the safety systems. The main warheads might not have detonated, but the chain of explosions was devastating as the primers and other supplies detonated, burning out a large part of the interior of the hull.

Lord Admiral Macron felt himself thrown out of his command throne as the superdreadnaught shuddered and broke. Power shorted out; consoles and systems exploded or went black. Some emergency power still worked, but it was hopeless; he could see from even the slightest look around the bridge that the battle was lost. It would have taken years to repair all of the damage; years they didn’t have.

He suddenly felt…a deep sense of futility; the battle was over. The humans would return and destroy his ship, and then they would destroy the Krank completely. Their race would never have its time on the galactic stage; they would be utterly destroyed as history was rewritten around them.

He remembered, dimly, that the human communications protocols were still stored in the communications systems; they had just never been used since one side or the other began destroying entire planets. Both sides had committed shameful acts in the war; now the war would end without the Krank ever having a real chance to fight.

”Raise the human ships,” he said, calling on every ounce of his mind to formulate a plan. They themselves knew enough; they could use what they knew to bargain for the rest of their race. “Inform them…that we surrender.”


The Krank ship’s drive field vanished moments after the first explosion, blowing through the main missile batteries. Guy Gibson had rammed the Krank somehow, Masterson had realised; perhaps a warhead had detonated inside the ship. It didn’t matter, he realised, as the Krank ship’s drive field vanished; the battle was over.

“Lock weapons on target,” he said. There would no longer be any Krank drive field to interdict; the rate of point defence was fading as they tried to divert power towards preserving their lives. “Prepare to fire.”

“Captain, Admiral, we’re receiving a communication from the superdreadnaught,” Lieutenant Isabella Hawthorne said. Masterson’s head whipped around to face her. “They’re…offering to surrender.”

Masterson met Eileen’s eyes; they both came to the same conclusion. The Krank and humans seemed destined to be inevitable enemies, ever since the Contact Fleet had been destroyed, thirteen years ago or two hundred and fifty years in the future. The war had been merciless; billions of lives on both sides had been wiped from existence.

There could be no mercy, not now, not ever; the Krank could never be trusted. There was no hope for peace; thirteen years of war had taught them that, years that had culminated with the destruction of Earth. There was no choice at all, after all; none at all.

“Fire,” he ordered.

Chapter Forty: The Battle for the Future



There were two new watchers today, Himmler noted, as he sat outside the hotel, reading his newspaper in a perfect impression of English geniality. The agents – he suspected that they were British or American – were taking up their own positions, ordering tea with an arrogance that was indisputably English. Their eyes never left him; one of them was always watching, just to ensure that he didn’t…what? Run back to Germany?

Himmler smiled inwardly. The Swedish Government was in an awkward position; they had agreed to give him asylum before the truth behind the Holocaust and the real balance of military power sank in. After that, they had been forced to negotiate with the Allies, even though they had offered their solemn promise that they would keep him safe. The safest thing to do would have been to have surrendered him at the first demand from Rommel’s Government, but they had given their word…and no one would ever trust them again if they broke it.

He grinned, dunking his biscuit in his tea; reading an article about the trial of four SS officers in Germany. They hadn’t been Werewolves; as per the plans he’d made, the Werewolves were lying low until he issued the orders to begin the campaign against the traitor government. So far, it seemed, the Allies hadn’t even had the slightest idea that they existed – which was exactly how Himmler liked it.

He allowed himself a moment of annoyance; he hadn’t believed for a moment the lies about the alien threat. The news of the defeat had been widely celebrated on Earth, cheering the destruction of the Krank ship, but Himmler knew better; the Newcomers had fired on the Aryans from the stars. One day, he was sure; they would come…and then the Jews, the communists and their allies would be punished.

One day…

A man, wearing a bowler hat that had gone out of style years ago, jabbed him with an umbrella as he walked past. Himmler scowled at him, hoping to extract an apology, but the man was walking on, ignoring him. Himmler had a good mind to run after him and demand that he apologise, but…

A cold feeling ran along his body. He felt his heart shiver as he grew colder, feeling it start to shudder inside him. He felt a wave of panic as he appraised what had happened; someone, one of the intelligence agencies, someone, had ordered him assassinated. The umbrella had carried a poison needle – the SS had used the same technique on more than one occasion. His vision was starting to black out and…

He opened his mouth, trying to scream, but it was too late. The darkness washed up at him and carried him onwards to an unknown destination. His last thought was that the agents hadn’t even bothered to try to help him.


Secure in his hotel room, Brigadefuehrer Johan Schriever, now plain Johan Schriever, removed his bowler hat and suit, quickly changing his outfit into a plain suit. The suit itself, he hoped, would have attracted all of the attention; he himself would be nicely inconspicuous. As soon as he had changed, he left the hotel, leaving the poison umbrella behind him. It wasn’t a long walk to the train station; he had a ticket booked already for Malmo, where he would board a boat for Germany.

He sighed as the train moved away from the station. There had been no hue and cry, even though he’d prepared an escape that would have been used if there had been; the Swedish Government had found Himmler’s presence a major liability. They would probably get the blame for his death, something that would probably please the rest of the world; the Swedes had been getting a lot of hassle over giving him shelter. They would probably be very relieved that he was dead.

“And so am I,” he muttered. He’d seem Himmler and the other Nazis revealed for what they were; cowards. The cowards had tried to flee Germany; only a handful had fallen into the hands of the Rommel Government, which had replaced the Kesselring Government. The occupation was a pain, but it wasn’t ultra-burdensome; they would survive it. The Werewolves…wouldn’t be needed; he had already ordered them to remain in hiding. Removing Himmler would remove the last danger that they would come to life on their own.

He smiled as the train continued on towards its destination. His wife was with child again; it was surprisingly decent to have something to look forward to, along with his work in the observatory. His father-in-law had spoken eagerly of the observatory that was being set up on the far side of the moon; he had tried to interest Schriever in trying to apply to join its staff.

Schriever shook his head, amused; Anna had not been amused at the thought. He didn’t want it anyway; he wanted, for the rest of his life, to be happy and distant and small. The sun shone down on a world that was free of Himmler…and Schriever thought that he had never been happier.

The White House

Washington DC, USA

“So I understand that you and that young lady are to wed,” Roosevelt said. The President seemed calmer than Sam Turtledove had ever seen him; Gwen had seemed oddly shy at the thought of meeting the President. “My congratulations.”

“Thank you, Mr President,” Turtledove said. “And thank you also for my promotion.”

Roosevelt’s smile was pure mischief. “Think nothing of it,” he said. “We have a lot of technology to integrate into our global system, Sam; you might be the most capable person to work to oversee how it gets fitted in to the world.”

Turtledove nodded. Only a few months after the Krank ship had been blown into smithereens, the Earth was already a very different place; an American force had knocked over the Cuban dictatorship and started the long task of replacing it with a democratic republic, while new desalination techniques had started to green the southern regions of America. In high orbit, the new space stations were still growing, while the Newcomers had high hopes of building new starships within a year or two. All of the new concepts, from the Internet to space travel, were catching the imagination of thousands of people – for once, the world looked a hopeful place.

“But I won’t be the President then,” Roosevelt continued. He had remained determined to avoid a fourth term in office, whatever anyone said; he knew that he would have died during his final term in the original history. “You’ll have to learn to play politics, which isn’t always easy.”

Turtledove nodded. “I know,” he said. “I’ll do my best to serve the country.”

Roosevelt smiled. “I have a meeting with Churchill in five minutes,” he said. Turtledove looked around the small party and smiled wryly; almost every new world leader was represented in the group. “Good luck, Sam.”

Turtledove extended his hand. Roosevelt took it. “Thank you for everything,” he said. Gwen shook Roosevelt’s hand as well, seeming awed; he’d never seen her impressed by anyone before. “I’ll make you proud.”


Winston Churchill knew, without false modesty, that elements of the British Empire would survive into the future, although he held out little hope for the African colonies. South Africa had declared independence; followed rapidly by most of the sub-Saharan colonies, which would create a problem for another time. Churchill knew that as much as he might have wished to intervene, the United Kingdom didn’t have the resources to integrate the new technology and deal with South Africa at the same time.

He smiled inwardly as he followed Roosevelt into the main briefing room. The use of British economic strength would place Britain in position to claim the leadership of both the British Commonwealth and Europe, allied with Rommel’s Germany. The French Government was almost a client state; the remains of Vichy, in Algeria, had declared independence. In the years to come, he was certain, the massive economic booms that would affect the countries around Algeria would drive the Algerians into revolution, but it wasn’t a problem for the moment. Churchill puffed contentedly on his cigar as he took his seat, nodding to the other three men sitting there.

The press, both the newspapers and the new-fangled television reporters, had no idea that all five men were in the room together. Churchill himself, of course; Roosevelt, Molotov, Rommel and Curtin, leaders all of their countries. Four of them were democratic leaders, the remaining member, Molotov, would be facing an election within a year or two. The Newcomers were determined to introduce representative democracy, according to their own Global Federation; Churchill knew that their world was much more united than his world, at least at the moment.

The meeting had been his idea; he spoke first. “I think we all know why we’re here,” he said, keeping his voice calm and level. “The Newcomers destroyed a starship in the process of trying to surrender.”

“I see little wrong with that,” Molotov said. Churchill, who knew that Molotov had purged the NKVD so badly that it was traumatised, said nothing. “They would have destroyed the Earth, had they had a chance.”

“Perhaps,” Churchill conceded. “However, one of the things they told us, back when all of this started, was that the Krank never tried to surrender – but this ship did.” There was a pause; he allowed it to stretch to just the right moment. “Why?”

Rommel’s face twisted into a smile; his eyes were hard. “Perhaps it simply saw the futility of further resistance,” he said. “Its position, thanks to your pilot, was hopeless.”

Churchill smiled; Guy Gibson now had a massive statue of himself near Nelson’s Column. It had been the least he could do; the man might just have saved the entire world on his own.

“True, but it has disturbing implications for the future,” he said. He noted Roosevelt’s frown; Molotov’s blank face. “They have proven very single-minded on the need to prepare for war, even to the point of allowing Japan to starve until they surrendered.”

Roosevelt smiled. “There are few Americans, at the moment, who object to that,” he said. “Do you?”

“They have ridden roughshod over our concerns,” Churchill said. “They allowed the United States to come to the brink of civil war. They slaughtered millions in Germany. They destroyed much of Moscow when they killed Stalin. They have destroyed the Saudi tribesmen – some of your businessmen are screaming about that – and they have taken their land.

“In short, gentlemen, what will they do next?” He continued. “They have started to create a new colony on Mars, one that will have a largely Jewish population. They have started forming a belt civilisation, using some of our people to help run it; they have even started the longer process of terraforming Venus, which will give them more real estate around the Solar System.”

“It seems that they will have to continue to integrate our people,” Roosevelt said. He sounded troubled. “They do have manpower limitations, Winston.”

“I know,” Churchill said. “Tell me; what do you think would happen if we refused to aid them in preparing for the Krank?”

Molotov’s voice was flat, very certain. “The Great Stalin” – he looked around him, almost nervously – “built up Russia for the war against the Germans, and he brooked no dissent. They would be just the same.”

“Exactly,” Churchill said. “Oh, they mean well, of that I am confident. My technical experts, even now, are working to understand the basis behind some of their technology; I have hopes that I will be able to launch the first human-built spacecraft in this timeline within five years. By that time, they will have permanent space…cables connecting them to the ground; do you see my point? They might well be the new ruling power, one focused only on one thing; destroying the Krank.”

Rommel’s voice was grimly amused. “That was the nightmare that the Fuhrer was forced to face,” he said. “You know what happened to Germany; none of your states are any less vulnerable, are they?”

Molotov shrugged heavily; Curtin looked uncomfortable. “But what can we do?” He asked. “They…are very popular with farmers in Australia; they would rise up against me if I suggested refusing any of the technology they have provided us with.”

“The same, more or less, goes for farmers in America,” Roosevelt said. His voice was dry. “Harry Truman has Views on the subject.”

Churchill looked around the table. “Knowledge,” he said flatly. “It is knowledge that provides us with any hope at all of having…some influence over the future. I agree – the fight against the Krank is important, but so is having a voice in our own future. We must work towards learning everything about their technology, mastering it…and using it. They will even help us to do that.”

He sighed. “We must also work towards the global government of their dreams,” he said, silently bidding farewell to some of his dreams. “That alone will give us the power necessary to…bargain with them successfully.”

“It would also coordinate all of humanity against the Krank,” Roosevelt said. “I think I can agree.”

“As can I,” Rommel said. “We have already started to lay the foundations in Europe, after all.”

Churchill nodded. Foreknowledge of some of the worst trouble spots in Europe, such as the Balkans, had helped them to start cleaning them up ahead of time. As Molotov and Curtin added their agreements, he allowed himself a smile; it could work.

“Thank you, all of you,” he said. A lot more needed to be done; details had to be organised, but it could be done now that the first stones of agreement had been laid. “May God help us all.”


The White House lawn was surprisingly quiet as Masterson stepped outside, wandering into the rose gardens and looking up at the stars. He knew that the Secret Service had wrapped a cordon tight around the President, after the assassination plot had been discovered, but for the moment he could pretend that he was alone. He found a bench and sat down, looking up into the sky; his enhanced vision allowing him to track the progress of one of the new space stations across the sky.

He smiled. The progress would be slow at first, simply because of the technology they were working with, but it would improve rapidly. All it would require was effort and more effort, all bent towards uniting the Earth. He was sure, somehow, that the Krank hadn’t been able to send a message back to their homeworld, but he knew that there was no way that they could ever be truly certain of that. An FTL message, assuming that some of the reports had been true, would be missed – if they could get one that far – but if even a destroyer had come through, then…a Krank battle squadron could be already on its way.

He shook his head…and then looked up. He hadn’t realised that he wasn’t alone; Sally, Churchill’s aide, was standing nearby, staring up at the sky. As she realised that she was being noticed, she came over and sat on the bench, next to him. She was very pretty, he realised absently; a woman who was both bright and intelligent.

“You were right,” he conceded. It had been Sally who had suggested that a Krank ship might have come back in time with them. “I wish that you hadn’t been, but…”

The moment the words were out of his mouth, he wished that he could have taken them back, but he knew that that was impossible. Sally’s giggle put his mind at rest; she wasn’t unhappy – perhaps she even shared his sentiments.

“I wish I had been wrong too,” she said. An idle thought, something that had been mentioned in a classified report, surfaced at the back of Masterson’s mind. “That ship could have killed us all.”

Masterson nodded. He knew that some Contemporaries were uncomfortable with the destruction of the Krank ship, after it had surrendered, but there was no other choice – there had been no other choice. He wondered if Sally would have agreed; he asked her.

“I don’t know,” she said. The suspicion flickering in his mind powered his memory; a name surfaced from a report, something that had been classified since 2100. “They were still dangerous, but…I don’t know, Admiral.”

“You know,” Masterson said carefully, “I don’t believe that I’ve ever caught your surname…”

Sally smiled. “It’s nothing important,” she said. Her voice was droll. “The boss never uses it.”

Masterson lifted an eyebrow. “Indulge me,” he said. “I’m curious now.”

Sally hesitated. “Fletcher,” she said. Masterson felt a crushing sense of disappointment. “Sally Fletcher.”

The name wasn’t the same, Masterson noted; perhaps it wasn’t the same person. Rumours and legends only went so far; the classified files would have been lost along with Admiral Ward. Whatever had really happened in 2100 would remain forever lost in time.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said, and smiled at her. “Look up at that.”

His finger pointed out a moving light in the sky. Sally followed his finger. “What’s that?” She asked. “It’s beautiful.”

Masterson smiled down at her. “It’s the future,” he said. “The battle for the future has begun.”


It was over.

The male closed the aperture with a mental sigh of relief, looking down at the final images as space and time unfolded in the pocket within the Vale. It had taken more time and energy than he had felt comfortable with to create the pocket, but it had to be done. The Enemy had noticed, he saw in the last moments of connection, but they had already been defeated…

Or would be defeated…

Or were being defeated…

“It has been completed, then,” the female said. The male nodded once to her; allowing his form to mimic a human man’s for a long moment. Perhaps he would have looked like that, had he been born before part of humanity transcended. “They will survive.”

“They will survive,” the male said. The waves of time and space raged around the humans; in the Vale, they were immune to such little matters. “They may or may not meet the Krank in the future, but the force of the throwback will probably ensure that they will be on the same time track.”

“Good,” the female said. “There has been a report, from one of the Time Agents; Loke Magnesten. Remarkable events have happened; they have a bearing on the entire War.”

The male allowed the events to spill out in his mind, examining them all carefully. The shock was horrifying; he knew, now, what the Enemy was really doing. They had played games with humanity for a reason, he understood; it was humans who would provide the key to…

“It’s time to go on the offensive,” he said, knowing that the same conclusion would be drawn by the remainder of their race. “We need a full convocation. We need to plan a course of action, quickly.”

“Yes,” the female said. “We have to act now – or we will lose.”

The male stepped away from the chamber, heading back towards their main base, threading himself through the Vale at speeds that made light look slow. Time was short, however, even in the timeless Vale. This was the Vale, the place of no time – and now time was running out. The War itself was in the balance and there was no time to answer all the questions.

But all questions would be answered.

In time…

The End


In many ways, Bootstrap was intended to be two different parts of the Multiverse War; it would showcase a minor intervention and it would allow a link between powerful starships on one hand (way cool) and World War Two on the other (even cooler). This imposes certain problems, starting with – as one character and some of my readers have suggested – the arrogance of the Newcomers.

Imagine this as a thought experiment; you have been taken back in time to 1840, before the American Civil War, and you have the power to make changes. You could end the evils of slavery, you could ensure that women (and black people) got the vote, you could ensure that the Africans got a fair deal and…

Of course, doing all of this would cause some MAJOR short-term disruption and pain. The example would be worse than the World War Two situation, in fact; black unpaid labour was very important to the South before the American Civil War, afterwards the limits placed/enforced upon the black population by Jim Crow was actually retarding the South. Ending slavery, in such a way that resistance would be futile, would hurt the South…but in the long run they would be better off.

Which one would you choose?

Me? I’d do it. I do know better.

Arrogant, or what?

The presence of the Krank, of course, only complicates matters. Part of the Multiverse War canon is that there will be a war in 2200ish between humanity and an alien race, which in one reality is the Krank. The existence of the Krank, like a time traveller sent back to 1933, focuses the Newcomers; defeating the future threat becomes all-important. The same, more or less, goes for the Age of Unrest (aka War on Terror, the Jihad, the War of Western Imperialism, the good-evil war, etc.); preventing it is possible, but again…it will cause major short-term disruption.

This is not actually a bad thing for Britain; the United Kingdom faces several decades of hardship whatever they do. Churchill – having seen Germany smashed – would be cooperative, and he – one of those who worked hard to prepare for the German Threat – would see the need to prepare to fight the Krank. At the same time, he would be more than a little alarmed at their…arrogance.

This is bad news, at least in the short term, for America. At the risk of starting a political argument, FDR manipulated world finance to keep the UK under control and open the world to American companies, with some good effects and more bad ones. Done again, now, we would make sure that everything went better – can we blame the Newcomers for trying? And can we blame the Contemporaries for resisting?

Open resistance is, of course, impossible. Twenty years down the line…who knows? That, my readers and friends, will be the subject of another Multiverse War book; you want to read it, you let me know.


There are a few other details that need mentioning, responding to reader comments, starting with Sally. As alert long-time readers might have noticed, this was a red herring; this is not the same Sally who appears in three of the five books, most notably in The War After Roswell. I wanted people looking in the wrong direction and…bwahahahahahaha…<coughing fit>

(This is also a hint towards another book in the series, one that will feature Thande and Sally…and a ghost from another timeline…)

The other detail is the Sheepist Faith, which has several names, and (probably) has no existence in reality. The Holy Sheep began as a joke on the AH.COM message board, along with the AH.COM television show; it basically consists of people worshipping a Giant Sheep the size of a VW camper van and getting wasted/stoned on hard drugs. Though a long process of communal joking, mockery and flame-warring, it evolved into a living religion, with Orthodox Sheepists, Reformist Sheepists, Goat Followers (who are the eternal enemy of the Sheepists – don’t ask), the Sheep Papacy and their own world in the Multiverse. They also shout ‘jihad on your/their arse’ a lot.

(And before anyone asks, I may have agreed to give them a role, but I’m not sending Thande and Sally to their world. Of course not. Perish the thought. Etc.)

This volume, as it happens, ends the first phase of the series; hang on to your hats…because the Multiverse War is about to explode into open war…

And…no dragons were harmed in the making of this story. Their part was taken by the Loch Ness Monster, which was played by the Yeti…only kidding.

Christopher G. Nuttall

Edinburgh, Scotland


Appendix: The Human-Krank War - A Short History

In a very real sense, the Krank Empire had survived, not unlike Germany and Italy, by sending its discontents out into space to trouble someone else. As the Empire expanded, so too did the forces that powered the empire; a massive industry devoted to producing more starships, weapons of war and the other requirements; pure research was simply not as important to them as was the need to expand. By the time of First Contact, the Krank were already spread over nearly ten thousand light years; in many ways, they were reaching the limits of their expansion phase and were trying to take a breather.

Upon a slightly nervous Imperial Court, which was trying to balance the need to build a genuine colonial infrastructure in deep space, particularly in the recently colonised regions, with a growing population of warriors (the effective acceptance of formal equality for females had doubled the fighting population) who wanted a chance to win their own glory, the discovery of a new spacefaring race fell. They were not pleased; humanity was clearly an expanding race on its own – and they didn’t need the competition.

The Court decided, in effect, that the best course of action was a ‘short victorious war,’ one intended to force the humans into accepting permanent subordination. Humans would be treated reasonably well, by Krank standards; they would just be treated as permanent second-class citizens. It was at this point that the Krank made a serious misjudgement; they assumed that humans were…if not primitive, then certainly less advanced than themselves.

In fact, the human race had built up a formidable knowledge base of pure research, conducted during the Age of Unrest and the later Spacer Insurrection. In the years since the Warp Drive was discovered, humanity had been putting some of that knowledge into practical effect, which was in fact forcing forward more and more research. The Global Federation had united humanity under a loose central government; there was already a limited Human Defence Force in existence. When the first signs that there was someone big out there, humanity began a crash program to prepare for war.

A year after learning what they could of humanity, including capturing a survey ship and dissecting it, the Krank were ready to make their move. A small ship visited a human world, inviting the humans to send a fleet to a neutral star. While humanity accepted the offer, it was with some care; the fleet was larger and more powerful than the Krank had expected. Despite this, the Krank jumped the fleet – intending to score a shattering victory – and started a savage fight. They won, in the end, having suffered far more losses than they had expected. The remains of the human fleet escaped back to the nearest base.

The news galvanised the Krank, who spent a year preparing for war; it would have the effect of helping to control the more aggressive members of their society. Several new research programs were initiated, although it took several years to start the process rolling forward properly, and a new strategy was shaped. Humanity had to be hammered hard enough to make them submit.

Meanwhile, the Global Federation was almost in a state of panic. The Krank clearly knew a great deal about human space, while the Humans knew very little of Krank space. The humans began expanding the military build-up, while sending teams out to investigate possible Krank worlds, leading to a whole series of skirmishes along the border. While there were attempts to talk peace, few Krank were prepared to concede the possibility of getting along as equals.

A year after First Contact, the Krank opened a major attack on the main human world in the sector, New Greece; a world colonised largely by Greek immigrants. The fighting was savage, with heavy losses on both sides, but with one unpleasant effect; an antimatter weapon (neither power used antimatter for starships, for fear of an accident, but both used it for attacks against orbiting fortresses) accidentally struck the planet. Although no one knows who was to blame, the catastrophe led rapidly to human retaliation; two Krank worlds were toasted within the month.

The Krank were horrified, particularly as it sank in that humans were innovating faster than they were. While humans had no intrinsic advantage in the field of intelligence (most species in that stage of their development have a similar level of intelligence), the Global Federation was far better equipped to accept a new idea, study it, and turn it into real hardware. The Krank system, one devoted to refining the ideas they already had, needed to struggle harder to catch up. There was a very real danger, they concluded, that humanity would invent a weapon that would make all of their fleet obsolete.

This coincided, as it happened, with a human counterattack against Krank positions within human space. The resulting panic was enough to convince the hard-liners in Court that they were right; humans were simply too dangerous to have around. This was not an unknown practice among the Krank, but the other races they had encountered had all submitted; direct extermination (as opposed to treating them not unlike the Native Americans) was unusual.

The war went backwards and forwards for three years, before the human high command blundered, sending a major fleet into a position where it was cut off and trapped by one of the handful of new Krank weapons; the warp drive disruptor. Trapped in normal space, the fleet was destroyed in a victory not unlike Midway 1942, although a large number of the attackers went down with them.

Spurred on by their victory, the Krank launched a major attack into the inner regions of human space, while the high command reeled. It was at this point when Admiral Ward, a human the Krank commanders swiftly learnt to hate, took command of the Main Strike Force, cutting off smaller Krank forces and annihilating them. Despite Ward’s victories, and the use of a human-designed bio-weapon on several captured worlds, the Krank were forcing their way in towards Earth.

The problem, of course, was that humanity needed time – and time was one thing it didn’t have. Several thousand human starships, all colony vessels, were dispatched to flee well beyond the outer edge of explored space, while all the strength of humanity was mustered to defend Mother Earth. In a daring move, the Krank pinched off Earth, placing the Solar System under siege.

At that point, the outcome was no longer in doubt; human forces that had been trapped outside Earth by the Krank were not strong enough to raise the siege. They spent themselves on attacking and destroying Krank worlds, including use of the bio-weapon, or in fleeing for unexplored space. The Krank, unprepared for such fury, reeled themselves, but refused to let go of Earth.

Admiral Ward fought the war for two years in the Solar System, slapping back attack after attack, until finally the walls broke and the Krank poured into the system. In a final desperate attack, the Krank were forced back…but it was too late. Missiles were already impacting on Earth, Mars and Venus, exterminating most of the population. The human fleet were collectively mad, tearing the Krank apart, but raw valour could no longer suffice. One by one, they died.

The Krank returned home to a devastated Empire. The bio-weapon had slaughtered billions of Krank; it had spread through several dozen large star systems before anyone thought to look for it. Human missile attacks had slaughtered more; countless worlds had to be quarantined without any hope that they could ever be opened again. The war was over…pity the victors.

Appendix: The Bootstrap Fleet

HDS John Howard, battlecruiser

HDS Tarawa, assault carrier. 1000marines.

HDS Sutherland, cruiser

HDS General Zhukov, cruiser

HDS Lightning, fast scout

CCS Homestead, colonist-carrier

CCS Laura Wilder, colonist-carrier

CCS Amsterdam, colonist-carrier

CCS John Simpson, industrial ship

HPS Botany Bay, prison ship

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