This account is a storage spot for my alternate history maps. I also have started putting up "Alien Space Bat scenario" (fantasy settings) writings in a seperate "ASB" folder, and more recently some doodles.
PS - to see all the map deviations in my gallery, hit "browse": for some reason some don't show up otherwise, although they aren't in seperate folders.
|Have neglected putting anything here, so I thought I'd start adding: alternate history maps by others, some Anime pics, odds and ends...|
OK, a commission for GranAdmiralofBRTX. Props to Sregan and Edelstein, from whose "Revolutionary World" and "Male Rising" I got some inspiration.
This world, which diverges from ours in the 18th century (in some places perhaps as early as the 17th) is not too alien to our own, but is generally speaking a bit more backwards. Technology, depending on field, varies from the 1930s to the 1950s, and nobody has developed an atomic bomb yet: some theorists predict such a device would set the Earth’s atmosphere on fire, which does not encourage further investment in the concept.
It’s also more politically backwards: although there was an American revolution, there was no French one, and absolute monarchy has held on a lot longer in a number of places. Although there are quite a few republics, and constitutional monarchies, they are also a bit on the backwards side, often rather elitist and class-divided, like Britain before our first world war, or rather oligarchic, like Gilded Age America. Spain tried to spin off its American possessions as sub-kingdoms loyal to Spain, but the result was the Catholic autocracy of Peru, while Mexico ended up kicking out It’s sub-king anyway. The fact that there was a less radical Russian revolution is a net plus, though: the Russian Federation is a working republic, if a rather turbulent one with more political parties than you can shake a stick at. Also, women have the vote in most more-or-less democracies.
Still, at long last, an age of Revolution has finally arrived, beginning in the colonial territories of the European powers, and now, worryingly, spreading to more “developed” nations in Latin America and beyond. A cold war of sorts has developed between the rather disparate collection of nations in the anti-revolutionary block, and the “Alliance of Free Nations”, or “The Revolutionary Wave” or the “Radicals”, as the anti-revolutionary forces mostly call them. The anti-revolutionaries have mostly withdrawn from their colonies or handed over power to conservative local elites, rather than getting drawn into an extended bloody struggle to maintain control which might radicalize their own troops or the population back at home.
The Revolutionaries are generally Leftist by our standards but lack a critique of Capitalism as complete as that of OTL Communism, although worker Councils and Combines are populr, and their approach to how much state power over the populace and economy vary widely, from essentially anarchist Cambodia to the war-forged autocracy of India. What is generally agreed on is that colonialism, foreign control of your economy, monarchism and “comprador capitalism” is bad, and that The People are good, as is revolutionary overthrow of the Bad. (There was also a strong sentiment of Europeans Are Bad, but the recent outbreak of revolution in France has led to some changes in theory).
The anti-revolutionaries are rather more badly split, with the old-school absolute monarchies barely getting along with the Republics and the more genuinely constitutional monarchies. Indeed, the current situation in France is greatly complicated by the fact that the Germans would like to see the French taken down a peg , and would like to “liberate” the catholic Germans of French Flanders. The Peruvians consider the United States of Columbia a greater ideological threat than the South Mexicans, while the rather decentralized United States (without civil or world wars, or even our Constitution – they’re working on an “improved” articles of Confederation) is divided as whether they should spend blood and treasure to help out dictatorships and semi-dictatorships with their revolutionary problems.
However, events in France have served as a wake-up call. Even after Mexico, it could still be argued that revolution was a problem for really poor and backwards countries, or ones driven to folly by colonial oppression – the spread to Europe and relatively prosperous (if terribly elitist and economically unequal) France of the Revolutionary Wave is leading to an increased perception of existential peril. Now if the major powers can only avoid fighting over the fate of France…
A less immediately threatening problem, but possibly of even greater relevance to the future, is arising in China. The Qing (Manchu) dynasty failed to conquer all of the south, and the wars of North and South created big enough gunpowder armies to delay any European meddling: but now things are collapsing, as first the southern Jinse (“golden”) and then the northern Qing dynasties were struck by revolution as popular aspirations ran into the limitations of dynastic decay and the economic situation was rendered ever worse by overpopulation. Currently, the bulk of China proper is divided in four pieces, and Europeans are jockeying for influence: the one thing all agree on is that the radical-republican, Revolutionary Wave-aligned Yellow River Republic must _not_ be allowed to get hold of all the marbles and unify all China under it’s rule: there is already one rising Revolutionary megastate in India, and that’s more than enough. As Russia sends aid to the Qing, the French assist the (nominally) catholic-led southern revolutionaries, the Indians send aid to the Yellow River Republic, and the remaining Jinse struggle to find a patron, that situation, too, threatens to spiral out of control.
Other items of interest:
The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was rather more successful than in our world, and has absorbed Tuscany and the Papal states, to the annoyance of the more conservative Catholics.
Vienna is the third largest city in Europe after London and Moscow.
Japan was less successful in modernizing, while Korea was opened up earlier and did pretty well, even to the point of snagging some Pacific islands. Japanese revolutionaries overthrew the ruling military Junta recently and have set about nationalizing industries and such: they have left the powerless Emperor (who never got out from under the Shogun’s thumb in this world) be as a human “cultural inheritance artifact.”
Thanks to a more militarized China/Chinas, Europeans treaded more cautiously in SE Asia, allowing both North Vietnam and Thailand to avoid colonization: they have since set about creating their own little power block.
Egypt did rather better: they’ve held onto the Sudan after breaking with the Ottomans, avoided European invasion, kept a 51% share in their canal, and are now a major light industry producer rich enough that they have to import labor from other parts of Africa and such Arab heckholes as Yemen.
Switzerland’s neutrality shields fell at a critical moment.
Britain got rid of its monarchy, but not by violent revolution: back in the 1950s, The Symbol of His Nation was caught in flagrante with a bunch of young boys and leather fetishwear, and the second in line was a magnificent portrait of the perils of inbreeding. All but the most fervent royalists decided it was best to pack it in, and Britain is now a republic, albeit one with a lot of monarchy-era institutions still in place. In recent decades they’ve gone a bit mad with the “preservation of traditional cultures” thing as a part of finding non-monarchic traditions to unify the often fractious isles.
The French managed to hold onto Louisiana, at least the southern bits: eventually pressure from several powers unhappy with France having a ‘forward base’ in the Americas led to it being spun off under a junior branch of the royal French family. Since then, influence from the democratic English-speaking neighbors has led to political liberalization, and the Kingdom of Louisiana is more democratic and egalitarian than France proper.
Spain managed to regain control of Portugal (the Portuguese claimant was fobbed off with Brazil) and has had a better 19th and early 20th century than in our world. The United Kingdoms of Iberia isn’t a Top Power, but they’re hardly negligible.
Serbia had a harder time breaking from the Ottoman Empire and ended up being absorbed by Bulgaria, which went on to dominate the Balkans. The Bulgarians have fallen out rather badly with their former Russian allies, whose turbulent democracy the Czar of Bulgaria looks upon with a great deal of suspicion.
 France tried to make itself the leader of Catholic conservative Europe: when Iberia and the Holy Roman Empire failed to provide sufficient ass-kissing, France flounced off and made deals with the North Germans and the Russians.
A map/scenario for
In 1995, the Universal Mutagen (Also known as the Blue Taint, Der Blaue Tod, ohyde indygo, Aoi Jigoku, etc.)arrived on Earth, in the area where Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic intersect, in the form of a meteor shower of unknown origin (not associated with any known source within the solar system) which deposited chunks large enough to reach the ground along a line some 120 miles long from near Chemnitz to the outskirts of Chojnow, where one took out the vegetable garden of one Maja Smolek, retired forklift operator. Most fell in Poland or Germany, with only one landing on Czech land. Nobody was killed, although some windows were broken by the concussions and a few automobile fender-benders were caused by startled drivers.
As with many meteorites, their passage through the atmosphere had been fast enough that while the outer layers had vaporized in transit, the cores of the meteors remained almost as cold as space, preserving an icy blue substance, which quickly turned into a blue, slimy fluid as the meteors thawed. In a number of cases meteor hunters found them before this happened, and in others the blue pockets of fluid remained contained with the carbonaceous matrix in which they had arrived, but in others the fluid leaked into the surrounding soil.
Various scientists and investigators soon got their hands on the mysterious meteors, and were soon entranced. Some others, mostly meteor hunters with a lack of appreciation for scientific procedures and the dangers of contamination, got their hands on the meteors – and the mysterious blue slime they contained – rather more literally. They would before long be rather worse than entranced.
Scientists soon observed the blue fluid to be an extremely complex compound, comparable to advanced biological life on Earth, although without anything resembling cell structures, and with something resembling not so much as a genetic structure as several hundred seemingly incompatible but constantly recombining information-bearing strings based on a variety of sugars and bases and “proteinoids.” It was homogeneous and holographic, any small sample mirroring the structure of a larger one. It was viscous, but rapidly spread to coat any exposed surface. It also tended to aggressively combine with any terrestrial organic material: the creation in Petri dishes of a new breed of dark blue fungi was alarming, but when some lab mice started turning blue as well, alarms were sounded, but by that time it was getting rather late.
Around the same time reports began to come in about grasses turning dark blue around meteor craters, and the first case of a human being checking into the hospital with extensive blue patches on his hands, twitching eyes and slurred speech came in a week later. Alarmingly, it was a hospital in New York: the victim had been on a trip to Germany three weeks earlier when he had handled one of the meteors.
The news media got ahold of enough details a week later to cause a panic by the start of the second month.
The Blue Taint was, unlike most zombie-generating diseases (not that it was exactly a disease), highly eclectic in its choice of hosts, indifferently contaminating plants and people, herbs and hedgehogs, beets and badgers, trees and trinocular shrimp. Bacteria and the even more primitive Archaea seemed to lack enough living space, so to speak, for the Taint, but most terrestrial life on Earth proved susceptible to infection (sea life remained largely unaffected, the Taint not surviving well in high-saline conditions.) It was also highly contagious, with near-microscopic quantities coming in contact with the skim being enough to begin contagion, with (depending on the amount of the Taint originally absorbed) the appearance of visible symptoms varying from a couple weeks to as much as a month in human beings. It spread in fine capillary lines through the soil, and was produced as a byproduct of the metabolism of infected life, so about 10% of the mass of fully infected animal life and about 5% of infected plant life being the Taint itself, all bodily fluids and secretions and oils being contagious.
If the Taint had been a mere symbiote, existing peacefully within its victims, it would be tolerable, but the Taint did far more than turn its victims various shades of blue. The fact that plant and animal life became inedible and toxic after full infection was in fact a plus, in that untainted animals who ate them dropped dead of poisoning rather than spreading the Taint further : no, the real problem was the mutations. Tainted life forms began to genetically change, physically and behaviorally modifying in ways almost never beneficial to human beings. Plants, aside from growing larger than normal, tend to develop luxurious new sets of thorns, hooks, spikes and sharp-edged leaves, and a variety of new toxins to supplement the existing toxicity of the Taint itself (Tainted poison ivy will give you rather more than an itech) and the pollen of Tainted plants has been known to cause massive anaphylactic shock in people previously free from any allergy problems. Animals also grow larger, and become toothier, spinier, faster, and far more aggressive.
A certain percentage tend to become aggressive towards everything, even other Tainted animals of their own species: such breeds tend to naturally die out rather quickly, but also tend to act as “berserkers” emerging from Tainted areas to violently attack anything that moves. (Most Tainted animals tend to remain in areas where Tainted life predominates, and if they become Tainted outside such an area tend to seek them out, which does help slow the spread of infection a bit.)
Infected human beings themselves undergo mutation, their intelligence declining to little more than that of gorillas and chimpanzees, and becoming, like most Tainted animal life, utterly hostile towards the non-Tainted. (The Tainted are far more dangerous than your standard movie rage-Zombie: besides being quite infectious through sweat or saliva, they’re smart enough to use knives and clubs, throw rocks a hell of a lot better than chimps do, and generally are faster and stronger than normal humans. And they understand hiding and ambushes).
Writing After The Fact, a number of talking heads have suggested a sufficiently rapid and energetic application of atomic weapons to the area would have been effective in stopping the Taint from spreading. This is probably correct, but it would have required action well before the full danger of the threat became clear, and in those times, as a result of the recently ended Cold War, there was a level of fear and hostility to the use of atomic weapons which may now seem quaint. (And in any event, the sheer megatonnage required would have exposed roughly twenty million people to lethal levels of fallout, which even in these days, when the full existential peril is well known, might lead to some casting around for alternate solutions).
Attempts were made to contain the problem through quarantine methods were largely useless: unknowing infected humans had travelled far and wide, and infected birds and insects spread it more slowly but far more unstoppably. (Fortunately, insect life, aside from an inexplicable tendency to swarm regardless of species, did not change its behavior much, probably due to the primitive nature of their brains: Tainted ants and wasps and mosquitoes as savagely aggressive as, say, Tainted squirrels, probably would have Tainted almost all the human race within a year). A new, hostile and alien ecosystem had established itself on Earth, and was slowly but steadily assimilating it to itself. The task of decontamination was quickly taken on by the initially infected nations plus concerned neighboring states and the US armed forces, but it would not be long before new outbreaks elsewhere in Europe, the US and elsewhere soon left Germany, Poland and the Czechs largely dependent on their own resources. In a year’s time the Taint had made its appearance on every continent: in five years, it had appeared in every major nation.
The Taint spread more slowly in deserts and polar regions, due to the combination of a lower density of targets of infection with Tainted organisms requiring a higher level of energy inputs than native life forms in resource-deprived areas, and fastest in tropical zones, in part due to the abundance of insect life. Infected mosquitoes largely depopulated large areas of Africa, while blackfly and similar nasty little biters had devastating effects on Canada, the northernmost US, and much of Siberia. (If insects were no more aggressive than normal, normal aggression levels were quite enough. About the only good part of it was that the smallest biting flies and mosquitoes often failed to transmit enough of the Taint to cause a full blown infection, so your odds of surviving a single bite were good. Much of the globe has been practically bathed in DDT and worse by this point, and a wide variety of extinct bird species is considered merely acceptable casualties. Swamp-draining has wiped out the majority of the world’s wetlands, and not a solitary rubber tire lies on its side with water pooling in the gaps for mosquito larvae to breed in. Having a potential mosquito breeding spot in your yard is something people have beenshot for. )
Early on, tests showed that the Taint tended to shrink under intense heat into tiny, resistant pellets each protecting a fleck of the Taint from breakdown: only very high temperatures or extended heating would finish the job. Poor communications between lab and field meant that for quite a while (and much longer in third-world countries largely outside the information loop) Tainted plants and animals were disposed of through outdoor burning, “cleanup” crews unaware that the smoke and ash contained countless specks of “encysted” Taint small enough to be carried off on a moderately strong wind, and often simply spreading the Taint further. (Modern disposal methods call for “cooking” Tainted organics so to maintain internal temperatures of over 300 degrees for multiple hours, or flash-burning with copious quantities of white phosphorous).
The early prosperity of the early 90s soon yielded to an increasingly grim recession as hundreds of thousands and then millions of Germans were forced to move ever further from the expanded core area of the Taint, stalling the German economy and with it Europe’s economic engines. Ever-increasing shares of national economic output had to be plowed into looking for signs of Taint outbreaks, evacuation, sterilization, disposal, etc. as well as dealing with the expanding national panics as the Taint continued to spread and crop up in an ever-increasing number of locations. As huge swathes of contaminated farmland went up in (counterproductive) flame, food prices soared.
At the end of four years, in spite of all efforts, the Tainted area in Central Europe covered over 45,000 square miles, and more than 50 daughter Tainted Zones covering over 100 square miles dotted the face of the globe like a pox, while “small” zones no larger than, say, a few hundred acres were almost uncountable (given the appearance of the Taint in poorly surveyed areas such as the Siberian Taiga and the Amazon Jungle, probably actually uncounted/uncountable.) Something Had to Be Done, if only to be seen as Doing Something.
In a project only comparable to the Maoist Four Pests campaign, and on almost six times the scale, 2000 was the “wack-a-blue” effort, in which governments from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe armed their population with DDT sprayers, nets, birdshot rifles, and other minor-league weapons of destruction to kill as many as possible of the infected small birds, animals, and insects that were the Taint’s main spreaders: there was some degree of success in wiping out Tainted birds and(including, alas, a great many non-Tainted birds of a dangerously blue complexion, or simply laying blue eggs)small mammals, outside of areas so completely rotten with the Taint that citizens not wearing full biohazard warfare wear would only go in with government guns pointing at their backs , but insect life, with its prodigious breeding rate, was another issue, aside from high-vulnerability species (such as many butterflies) inhabiting narrow, localized niches (again, a great many normal but Too Blue bugs suffered for their Tainted kin’s sins). Within a few months popular enthusiasm flagged, at least in part due to the increased risk of being contaminated in going out after Tainted life rather than staying home with the windows shut. Wack-a-Blue temporarily raised popular hope and enthusiasm through the scale of the effort and mass participation, and produced a great many cultural products, such as the best-selling My Apocalyptic Year , but in the end at best slowed the growth of Tainted areas. In the subsequent pause, or drawing of breath, before a new panic could set in, the US government made the decision to bring Project Pluto into full deployment.
From early on efforts were made to find ways of neutralizing the Taint, using a variety of agents organic and inorganic, and it soon became clear that while only the most flesh-eating of chemicals could neutralize Taint-infected organics, atomic radiation caused it to break down rapidly. This was no relief to those in the process of infection, since enough radiation to penetrate the body core and eradicate the Taint usually killed the patient, but it offered some promise for fighting the spread of the Taint in the wild, limited by the supply of radioactives. (Atomic weapons by this time had been employed by the Russian government on an experimental basis on Siberian Tainted areas: the main difficulty was that unless the blast was powerful enough to irradiate the entire area, the heat flash and shock wave some distance from Ground Zero might simply distribute Tainted material to new areas).
The Taint did not flourish in salt water, either, but again curing patients by adjusting their electrolytes tended to be even more lethal than using radioactives. Flooding with huge amounts of salt water needed engineering on a massive scale, unless you already lived below sea level; the Dutch cleared off several areas of their country with controlled flooding, but the salt-soaked soil would take years to recover. The Israelis developed a remarkable “anti-irrigation” system using Dead Sea water, although this proved rather more effective at decontaminating Taint-infected soil and preventing new Tainted growths establishing themselves than dealing with existing Tainted vegetation, let alone Tainted animal life.
The US government had responded with some alacrity to the problem, even as the US government was shaken by Republican efforts to impeach Bill Clinton on a combination of being Weak On Taint and Lying About Sexytimes, with an all-out scientific-industrial assault on the problem, and a big military buildup (much of it entirely useless) directed at eliminating dangerous Tainted animal life. The most important was a huge effort to produce synthetic radioactive materials (which incidentally gave a massive boost in the arm to the nuclear industry), which although initially opposed by many of the political left-of-center, soon became a lot more acceptable as Tainted regions continued to sprout up like mushrooms in the rain. Project Pluto’s exact objectives were kept quiet, and it is widely accepted by modern historians that its implementation was delayed until it became clear that Wack-a-Blue was largely a bust, thereby making it politically possible to do what nobody could have conceived  before 2000: the deliberate exposure of large parts of US (and allied) soil to massive quantities of artificially generated atomic fallout.
The next decade saw a global war in which the governments of the world launched an ongoing atomic assault on their own soil, and often torn apart by unrest as their populations reacted poorly to atomic contamination of their own homes and farms, mass evacuations with no tolerance for those unwilling to move. Many simply refused to believe there were no better solutions: others decided it was the Apocalypse and it was simply useless and even a defiance of God’s will to try to stop the Taint by such methods: others were gloomily sure that the radiation would kill the world even faster than the Taint. Some Deep Green types even decided that the Taint was nature’s revenge on human civilization, and Project Pluto and it’s children merely the “From Hell’s Heart I Stab at Thee” of a sore loser willing to take the whole world with them rather than surrender gracefully.
And there was some truth to their argument: if the mass use of radioactives failed to kill off the Taint faster than it could spread to new locations, the end game would be nothing left but radioactive wastelands.
Although it would not be statistically confirmed until later, a turning point was reached in 2007: the Tainted areas were being destroyed faster than they could spread. One element in this was the steady out-competing of Tainted insects by regular insects, which aside from being rather more radiation-resistant than their so very blue counterparts, had a simple metabolic advantage in expending energy more slowly, and therefore being better prepared for situations of food shortage or necessarily enforced low mobility and activity. Another was one of the blackest events of the era: Project Zdravyy Smysl, or “Common Sense”: a joint Russian-Chinese project to forcibly export large amounts of fine powdered radioactive to neighboring countries unwilling to accept voluntary assistance of that sort with their Taint problems. The exact truth of what President McCain knew remains unknown to this day, but it is clear that Soviet and Chinese long-range bombing technology had received a great deal of assistance upgrading from the US 2002-2004, and that the US knew well beforehand what was being planned: it would provide US political cover for similar action, carried out with the justification that they if they didn’t do it, the Chinese and the Russians would – with far more brutality and less concern for dangers to civilian populations.
No less than eleven brutal wars took place to smash the capacity of local dictatorships to fight back against “taking their medicine.” It is still widely argued to this day that this was unavoidable: no country without the capacity and/or will to stop its own Taint infections could be allowed to remain a growing center of infection through some fooling attachment to local sovereignty and not having its citizens irradiated by foreigners: this would be more convincing if such brutal methods were not usually applied to third-world nations, with developed nations getting a much more velvet-glove approach. (Atomics-phobic Norway was bullied into accepting the irradiation of the Trondelag forests with an embargo, not smart missiles).
Of course, the Third World was disproportionately hit in a variety of ways, notably by hunger: large scale destruction of any Tainted crops (often accompanied by the contamination of further areas due to uncontrolled burning) cut into global food supply, and food prices rose sharply through the later 90s. As food tends to follow money, what surplus there was tended to move towards, or simply stay in, the wealthier nations. Third world states that exported food closed town trade to keep the food at home, only to fail to pay their own farmers enough to make up for the loss of the foreign market (enough, in other words, to make it worth selling the food to the cities rather than eating it themselves).
Famines had begun in Africa by the end of the 20th century, and would over the next decade ravage that continent, and inflect lesser but still dreadful suffering in Latin America, most of Asia, and the Middle East. Even Russia would suffer outright famine for the first time since 1947, leading to the rise of the Lebed dictatorship. (Hi there, Pellegrino!)
In 2017, the Taint has been reduced to scattered areas too small to make large-scale radioactive dumping rational, not since new neutralizing chemicals have come into mass production: although more lethal varieties are available, varieties which only slowly kill Tainted life are preferred so there is time for plant life to take it up through their vascular systems and allow for the full breakdown of the Universal Mutagen throughout. After a careful initial application of nerve gasses to kill off larger animal life, chemical sprayer trucks follow massive plant-cutting machines which slice paths through the thorny tangle of Tainted plants. The ongoing cleanup remains dangerous, and expensive: in 2016 130 square miles underwent initial-stage decontamination at a cost of around $300 billion USA.
Initial-stage, you say? The fact is that chemically breaking down the Taint by soaking an area in neutralizing chemicals doesn’t mean that there aren’t deep underground pockets of the deadly blue goo that is still untouched: intensive surveying and digging and sinking deep sampling rods will go on for years before a formerly tainted area is cleared for human re-settlement.
And of course the situation is worse in the large areas where radiation was employed to kill off the Taint. Although the US and imitators tried to use quick-decaying isotopes with half-lives short enough to decay to harmless levels in not many years, there were always other isotopes as bi-products of the creation of desired isotopes, some slow-decaying, and too expensive to separate out given the already horrendous costs of the mass production of the radioactives. Indeed, in early years there wasn’t that much consideration to separating out even unwanted different elements. Combined with the sheer quantity of radioactives used, it will be decades longer before many areas are again habitable: it is estimated that it will be the early 22nd century by the time the European Dead Zone is again habitable.
(Of course, some countries have different standards on what is “habitable.” The Chinese government generally declares its radioactively contaminated areas “safe” far sooner than seems plausible,  and independent use of Geiger counters and such is a crime against the state. In many of the poorer and more wretched parts of the Earth, peasants faced with the choice of farming radioactive soil or starving choose the greatly heightened long-term probability of death by cancer, etc. over the short-term certainty of extinction.)
The Taint is now curable, more or less. A combination of the new neutralizing chemicals and radioactive titration can slowly eliminate the Universal Mutagen from the body of the Tainted with a probability of death less than 20%, but if the treatment is delayed until after physical changes have taken place, the biological modifications are irreversible. Most countries do not allow their citizens to opt out of treatment if infected.
Europe is a wounded land. Vast regions of Germany and Poland and some of Slovakia are an uninhabited radioactive wasteland (wind and water runoff have spread the damage of radioactive toxins well beyond the former Tainted area), while so much of the Czech republic is gone that it largely has ceased to exist as a country, most of its people living outside of the small rump “official” state. As the center of the original infection, Europe suffered from a density of outbreaks beyond anything elsewhere, only partly compensated by a greater economic and technological capacity to respond. What is left of Germany, along with France, northern Italy, etc. is blotched and pockmarked with radioactive no-go zones. France – a left-authoritarian, technocratic, Neo-Gaullist (the neo being for the left wing tendencies) – dominates what’s left of the EC. Fearful of Tainted refugees, fearful of being forced to pay, in the midst of a deep global recession, for much of the struggle to keep Central Europe afloat, and just generally associating the European mainland as a whole with the Taint (if mostly on a subconscious level), the UK broke with the EC in 1999. The post-2000 expansion of OTL largely did not take place, with only Malta, Hungary and Slovenia joining (Slovakia and the Czech republic have a special “free association” status as essentially EC protectorates, while Poland is kept afloat by the USA). With nobody really giving a crap, the Yugoslavs held onto Kosovo by expelling two-thirds of the population, a minor humanitarian crisis among a hundred larger ones. With Europe devastated for the third time in under a century, there is a morose and nihilistic mood, with black jokes about WWIII being too popular to have been derailed by merely the collapse of one side of the Cold War.
Still, the European Community can count a few triumphs as well. Although there was much grumbling, the resettlement of tens of millions of refugees from one part of Europe to another took place with remarkable good will, within families from Lisbon to Venice taking in as temporary house guests displaced families and children, and largely unused office space throughout being commandeered by the government to make into new housing. Europe managed to actually take in several million non-European refugees potentially contaminated with the Taint with less freaking out than OTL Europeans taking in refugees potentially contaminated with salafism. (The cynical might point out that while the Tainted will turn blue in the quarantine camps before long, Secrit Musleems never turn green no matter how long you watch them.)
Even more importantly, Europe was at the heart of hunger-fighting efforts during the Famine years. While many of the technological and scientific innovations behind the creation of new, relatively Taint-proof food supply were pioneered in the US, the combination of greater need arising from early and more extensive infection combined with a greater degree of comfort with socialized costs meant that in terms of actually application and production, the European Union was well ahead of the US until late in the struggle. Indoor tower farms, extensive hydroponics, sealed aquaculture growing tanks, yeast vats, etc. all were developed to a high degree, and by 2002 European scientists were able to announce the creation of the world’s first purely synthetic food of non-organic origin. Containing all necessary nutrients (well, you’d have to eat it and only it for over a year before problems began to crop up) and tasting, in the words of a connoisseur, like “sweetened library paste”, the Omnifood Bar never became cheap enough to make to be sold without government subsidy, but it meant to many people more than a mere way of enriching manufacturers: it was a proclamation that no matter how bad things got, Europeans would at least not starve to death. (And Europe would help other nations: synthetics less expensive, if less universal in their ability to replace regular food, began to be exported in large quantities to starving nations within a few years. Germany began producing a variant made from its own coal, which some considered to be sort of cheating).
The US, the world’s greatest agricultural exporter, an ocean away from the origin of the Taint, the world’s greatest industrial power, with capacities no other nation could match, was best positioned to ride out the bad years with a minimum of trouble. Unfortunately, it was initially slow in preparing a response due to overconfidence in that Ocean, and by the time the gravity of the situation really sank in the Taint, brought by human travelers, insects aboard ships, migrating birds, etc. was making itself at home in the farms and fields of North America. While the US never saw true famine, there was a long period of rationing and belt-tightening and “alternative food”, and among the poor and already food-insecure, a fair number _did_ die of hunger, but gradually enough that most people weren’t too exercised about it. Still, there was a great fear abroad in the land, and President McCain’s Tough Guy act wasn’t really enough to convince people everything would be alright. The Religious right became quite convinced, understandably, that the End of Days was at hand, and while they were willing to put up with McCain, when in 2008 the vote was split by the theocratic candidate being too radical for the Republican party and the Democrats made a comeback, it was clear the Antichrist had arrived.
(Thing had reached a turning point by then in the battle with the Taint, and government experts were saying so by the time the election rolled around, but perceptions are important, and from the point of view of many things were getting worse, not better. Background radiation kept going up, as did the amount of synthetic food (“guaranteed untainted and nutritious!”) in people’s diets.)
Combined with an already smouldering and increasingly violent anger in the countryside (the government’s efforts to make sure everyone Shared Alike the limited food supply necessarily ended up with a lot of farmers having “excess surplus” they were keeping back for themselves confiscated), the results of the 2008 election triggered what officially are known as the Troubles, but among many is referred to as The Second Civil War or even The Second American Revolution. The fighting, which did not really come to an end until 2014, was heavily downplayed by the media (heavily government-influenced thank to the many “emergency powers” the government had taken on since 1995), but still ended up killing over 250,000 Americans, with several cities virtually wrecked by fighting between government and rebel groups, and local units of the national guard, police, and even units of the military joining the rebellion: even parts of New England, not really sympathetic to the fundamentalist and “strong constitutionalist” groups, rose against the government in protest against the massive restriction on civil liberties. The National State of Emergency was not (partially) put to an end until 2016, when in a move of heroic principle (or sheer stupidity, some said) the Democrat-dominated government allowed free national elections. To the surprise of many, Americans were tired of fighting, aware that the Taint was more or less under control, and really didn’t want to start Round Two of a civil war: in spite of a plethora of deeply insane candidates, the winner was a Republican who could speak coherent sentences and was willing to let Jesus arrive in his own time. (He has been taking legislative steps to screw over the cities in a favor of the country, though).
The world has seen a slow recovery from the late 2000s as the Taint slowly withdrew, but much of the world remains a mess. Large areas of Africa, Latin America, and SE Asia are still under foreign occupation due to the collapse of local authority in the face of populations ravaged by insect-borne Taint. Civil war and other disorders which might give the Taint a chance to reestablish itself are strongly frowned upon, and people are not picky about how order is maintained. In some parts of Africa regional warlords essentially have been confirmed in power by the international community as long as they keep an eye out for new Taint outbreaks and don’t complain about the background radiation level. If they keep order, it is fine: nobody feels like questioning how it is kept.
Famine, death, and government incapacity in dealing with the same provoked civil wars and the breakup of some nations: in some areas regimes survived because the populace was too busy starving to revolt. Massive population relocations have taken place as people fled from heavily Tainted areas to regions of safety (or assumed safety). Population distributions have changed, in some places radically; in Peru, almost everyone lives on the nose-bleedingly elevatedAltiplano nowadays. The Amazon jungle is currently having a breather from deforestation in those areas not toxic with radiation: most of the population fled the area when it became the government couldn’t handle the many fast-growing and hard to access Tainted regions, and the US started the large-scale deployment of Project Pluto.
(Since the return to more-or-less normalcy, much of the third world has seen the rise of the Union of the Global South, an international political movement driven by anger at the high handed way the developed nations handled bringing the Taint under control in poor nations, often involving invasions, occupations, or simply dumping thousands of tons of radioactive materials from twenty thousand feet. The US, China, etc. argue this was simply necessary, but it is hard for people who have seen entire families die of radiation poisoning be objective. The spread of the Union has been limited by the fact that vast stretches of the Third world are simply still too dependent on the global North, or are simply run by warlords in foreign pay. Still, the Union of the Global South is influential in a number of countries, including, to First World unease, three countries with developed nuclear industries.)
The Saudi Civil War  made a fragmented mess of the Arabian Peninsula. (Saddam Hussein is doing alright, thank you: he managed to wiggle out of most of the sanctions regime while people were way too busy with Taint-related affairs to pay much attention).
China has at least in part returned to its socialist roots, mass mobilization politics and state run anti-taint mass manufacturing both having been needed in a situation where things could hardly be run on a normal for profit basis and the capitalist part of the economy having been hurt by a sharp reduction in foreign trade. (The Taint had arrived, after all, only six years after Tiananmin Square). Much of the old rhetoric returned during the long struggle, and China in 2017 is an alarmingly mobilized state: while over the last decade, as the global economy slowly revived, China has moved energetically back into the world capitalist system, it seems unlike to become the pseudo-gilded age economy of OTL anytime soon.
North Korea, ravaged by famine 1995-1998, with outbreaks of the Taint from 1999, and increasingly little aid available from abroad, essentially invaded South Korea and collapsed simultaneously in 2001, with the country divided up between China and South Korea.
Japan essentially turned Tokyo and a few other cities into giant clean-room sealed environments: following the airtight connecting tubes and tunnels, one can now walk from one end of Tokyo to the other without ever seeing sunlight. Some of the new generation are positively terrified of the idea of going outside, and there are projects to extend the city further by going deeper underground.
SE Asia, hit hard by insect-driven Taint spread, is a mess and until recently was mostly occupied by foreign forces, with the exception of Vietnam, which managed to maintain control at the cost of a countryside so chemically poisoned that 1 in 5 children born has some sort of visible malformation. Many of Indonesia’s smaller islands are covered with slowly cooling radioactive dust, and most of the Chinese minority has been expelled. Strict quarantine and isolation kept the Taint out of New Zealand until the Murder Sheep outbreak of 2002.
In case all efforts to stop the Taint ended in failure, some emergency backup options were explored during the long war against the Taint: the US explored the possibility of establishing self-sustaining colonies off Earth, leading to the successful launch in 2009 of the only sort of spaceship getting enough stuff off the Earth fast enough, an Orion atomic push-plate ship. (By that time it was becoming clear the fight was being won, but bureaucratic inertia is a powerful thing, as are long-term contracts with lots of state pork attached). There are plans for sending model 2.0 to Mars (the first design unfortunately hadn’t quite mastered the whole landing thing): the issues of a spaceship design which depends on a steady stream of nuclear explosions are much less in a world where everyone is pretty much resigned to alarmingly high background radiation levels. The Europeans, on the other hand, noting the Taint’s poor survival rates in sea water, got to work on a sea-floor settlement program: there is substantial debate whether the 5,000 people currently occupying the shallower parts of the Bay of Biscay are a terribly expensive boondoggle or The Future.
The Russians tried to do some settlement in the interior of Antarctica, where no Taint-carrying life form could survive. They tend to be rather close-mouthed about the results of this effort.
Radiation, like the occasional Tainted rat trying to gnaw your face off, is a fact of life. Expensive homes have elaborate filtration systems to clear the air: poor ones do the best they gain with fine-weave cloth and wishful thinking. A breathing mask worn outside is de rigeur, and goggles for that annoying bit of radioactive grit landing in your eye. The more paranoid go for full radiological warfare suits if they can afford them, if not they fix up something with plastic bags and duck tape. The public bath house has returned to Europe: thorough washing, showering, cleaning off the dust, is life, is health: clean uncontaminated water is precious. Some YOLO types scorn such measures, claiming that where _they_ live is clearly not too badly contaminated. The plants and so on look fine, right? And indeed a fair amount of the globe isn’t too badly contaminated, and the radiation level is dropping steadily – but perhaps half the world’s population when it dies will die of cancer or some other radiation-related illness, and some places are much worse off than others. In North Burma, where the Chinese were ruthless in stopping the spread of the Taint through the jungles when the Junta proved incapable, lifespans are brutally short. In central Europe, a vast swathe of cities stand empty, abandoned: some have burned down. Extensive areas in the tropics are almost human – baseline human- free.
Humor tends to be black, and artwork has tended to take on an obsessive interest in death and morbidity, as in the days after the black plague. (With exceptions: Russia, for instance, has banned all such manifestations of “morbid, anti-human art.”) People tend to nervously watch the skies, and the US government recently passed the budget for a multi-billion, decade-long program of obsessively scanning said skies for alien radio signals, the flare of interstellar starship drives, the infrared glow of Dyson spheres, etc.
The world is poorer, even in the most advanced nations, and rather more authoritarian and police-statey even in the most democratic of states. It is by necessity more socialized, as governments are forced to take responsibility for millions of displaced internal refugees the free market is incapable of handling fast enough. Everyone gets their ration of (synthetic) government cheese, the world is full of hastily thrown up and already crumbling “people storage” apartment complexes, (where the government hasn’t simply split people’s houses in two to make room for refugees) and it seems nowadays that every family has at least one person working for the government. However, it’s also a bustling time for the small entrepreneur as people scramble to Make Do and require all sorts of services that aren’t immediately available where they’ve turned up.
Blue is no longer a boy’s color, or for that matter anyone’s color: only edgy assholes wear dark blue colors, and only the suicidal use blue makeup or hair dye. (There’s always at least one idiot who gets shot every Halloween).
The most hated and feared of terrorists (Muslim terrorists aren’t really looked upon any worse than Christian fundamentalist terrorists or national separatist terrorists ) are those who try to spread the Taint: the Taint growing out of control again is the one great existential terror of the era. Some have “normal” objectives, and simply are using the Taint as the ultimate terror weapon while simply assuming that it won’t get out of control nowadays: they are looked as dangerous fools but not pure monsters. That is reserved for those who want it to get out of control again: Deep Green and related Humans Will Kill the World loons who see the Taint as nature’s solution to the Human Problem, apocalyptic thinkers who think destruction by the Taint as God’s Will or at least think it needs to kill a lot more people before Jesus/The Mahdi/One Punch Buddha comes back. And then there are the real weirdoes, starting with the Church of Oblivion and going downhill from there. (At least the Disciples of Jeff always greet you with a big smile.)
Religion certainly has received a bit of a shakeup, although the Catholic Church remaining quite firm on refusing to predict when God might decide to wind things up has ultimately strengthened its position. New religions have sprouted weird and wonderful (if occasionally horrible) and many people have turned to religion for reassurance in a poorer, more dangerous world where so much that seemed certain and solid has been thrown into chaos. Religious devotion is in, millenarianism is to some extent out (the world did not in fact end, and people are now somewhat resentful towards those who looked forward to it or even took steps to speed it along) although among Hindus a strong movement that claims this is now the Age of Kali Yuga for sure. (Since it theoretically could last for billions of years, it’s hard to call them on this). Jews are happy that at least during this last global catastrophe very few people actually blamed them for it (although of course they were blamed for profiting off it or directing which areas got the heaviest unwanted radiological deliveries).
Tainted humans remain a problem. While the great majority had been killed, some still survive in deep forests and wilderness, spreading the Taint and murdering any humans that they may stumble across. While that is a problem that is being solved with hounds and semi-automatic weapons, a less tractable problem is those which have been captured alive. As already mentioned, by the point they have become visibly transformed, the biological modifications are irreversible: although after months of treatment they may return to a normal coloration, and the skin (after some horrendous peeling) becomes less leathery, those enlarged bones, deformed jaws, and gruesome teeth aren’t going away. Higher brain functions don’t return, and they remain abnormally fast, aggressive and strong, if no longer universally murderous towards non-Tainted animate life. All surviving captured specimens, even after decontamination, must be kept in high-security institutions under the most stringent security. They are usually sterilized or at least separated by sexes: the children of the “cured” will be (mostly) genetically normal humans, and will not live long in the care of their parents, while those still Tainted and blue will produce children Tainted from birth (not something anyone wants to allow).
There are advocates for those who have been permanently damaged by the Taint, but they have a hard row to hoe. The tragic case of Dr. Clayton, who taught one of the “decontaminated” inmates sign language and established what she considered to be a close rapport, only to be murdered and partially cannibalized when she and a security guard grew trustingly careless, has only recently departed from the air waves, and probably will be refreshed in people’s memories when the movie comes out next year. Many countries exterminate human Tainted outright, denying that they are, in fact, human, or anything than very dangerous animals. In those countries which keep them alive, much lobbying for their continued preservation comes from surviving relatives, who hope their humanity may be restored some day.
This hope is fed by the advances in genetic engineering that have come from the study of the Universal Mutagen, the blue goo which is the active agent of the Taint. Dangerous as it is, it’s bizarre mutagenic properties make it too fascinating as a subject of study to simply mix it with some polonium and destroy it: even though a dozen or more researchers worldwide are infected annually, some incurably so, the struggle to interpret its mysteries continues. Genetic therapy is rather more advanced than OTL, and in those countries which haven’t been scared by the mutagenic nature of the Taint to ban genetic manipulation altogether, new “improved” plants and animals are coming onto the market with increased frequency, and a Taint “vaccine” is promised by the year 2020 (not that most people, when polled, trust the idea enough to take it). It is a Brave New Future out there, and there have emerged a number of post-Humanist lobbies that proclaim genetic engineering to make a superior, Taint-proof human is the only way that the human race will be ready to take on the challenges that no doubt await us out in space.
(The Taint at the very least proves life, or something like it, exists beyond the Earth, and some say it proves intelligence as well. That the Taint is someone, or something’s, artificial creation is a view roughly equal in popularity to the idea that it represents a sort of ultra-parasite that infects entire ecosystems rather than individual species. That it was deliberately targeted at Earth is a more contentious idea; after all, if destruction was the aim, no more than a dozen or so source infections on the scale of the European one would have been enough to bring down civilization and doom humanity before it could rally. A cynical sub-sub group suggests that it was just a weapons experiment: whether humanity lived or died was a mere datum, genocide no more than the intent of the experiment than testing a germ on lab animals is a deliberate attempt to wipe said animals out. )
 Animals who ate a fair amount, anyway. A small quantity of Tainted plant or animal tissue, taken orally, won’t kill you: it will make you violently ill and convert you into a Tainted in a week, but it won’t kill you!
 Aside from “Jackass” contestants. Russia was the only country to come close to the US in “drunken, heavily armed idiot tries to single-handedly take on the Tainted ecosystem” incidents.
 Outside the “the government created AIDS and faked the Moon landing and will turn us all over to the tender mercies of the UN” crowd, of course.
 Admittedly, even the US in this timeline rates “safe” levels of radiation rather higher than in our world. Necessity is the mother of bare-faced invention.
 Partly set off by the Saudi government importing large numbers of infidels to help deal with their own Taint problems. Wasn’t it obvious that the Taint was a divine test of faith and calling on the aid of polytheists instead clearly blasphemy?
 There was no 9/11: although the Taint seems to have done wonders for his health, it rather shortened the terrorism career of one Osama Bin Laden, last seen chewing the face off a fellow jihadist. However, the effort by one extremist splinter group within Hamas to use the Taint as a terror weapon against Israel led to the Great Expulsion of 2011, in which the Israelis simply expelled most of the Arab population of Gaza and the West Bank into surrounding Arab states.
When the US campaign against Japan in the Pacific began, relatively few recruits were familiar with the South Seas, so their expectations did not extend beyond the vague images drawn from Hollywood and popular novels. Most were therefore not taken aback that the sun occasionally seemed a bit too large, thinking it a feature of the tropics, and although the sky acquiring a slightly greenish tint was strange, it could be dismissed as an atmospheric phenomenon. The giant floating seaweeds stretching as much as a thousand feet across the tropical waters were more disquieting, especially to experienced sailors. But things really went undeniably wrong when the dinosaurs showed up.
On June 26, 1942, only three weeks after the battle of Midway, reports began coming in of US ships and planes operating in the South Pacific going out of radio contact. Similar reports were reaching the Japanese military, and confusion and alarm reigned for some time. When some of the missing finally began broadcasting again, the reports coming in mostly created further confusion. Violent storms coming out of out of nowhere. Reports of empty sea where there should be islands. Reports of islands, some very large, where there should have been nothing but sea. Reports of islands there one second, and not there the next. Long periods when nothing but static could be received on the radio. And monster attacks. Attacks from the air, from the sea, and on land when landing parties were sent to investigate islands that shouldn’t have been there. Monsters resembling dinosaurs, but often ungodly huge and ungodly tough, to the extent where some could only be dispatched by a battleship’s main guns.
A number of ships and planes failed to return at all.
Modern scientific theory holds that the Pacific Anomaly is a major interdimensional incursion, or a “cross-rip” as described by brane theorist Egon Spengler, author of popular science books Why We May Be Doomed and Further Evidence We’re Doomed. At the time, however, there was no scientific theory to account for events, and for some time governments on both sides of the Pacific went into denial mode, even after some ships returned with gruesome specimens abroad, particularly on the Japanese side, where several captains were executed for insisting their losses were due to monster (or Kaiju, as they would later become known in Japan) attacks rather than enemy action. Denial was initially made easier to the initially highly unstable nature of the incursion, with islands often appearing and then transitioning back to their own space-time (usually with a large section of the Ocean) in a matter of hours.
However, it soon became undeniable that some sort of impossible barrier had been thrown across the Pacific Ocean, extending thousands of miles from just south of Japan’s Bonin isles to a bit northwest of Fiji. Attempts to cross the area by sea inevitably running into land masses at variable and uncertain locations, massive tidal and atmospheric disturbances, and, of course, monsters. Crossing was first achieved by air: at heights over 50,000 feet atmospheric disturbances seemed to decrease, and none of the monsters seemed to fly that high. But only a few specialized planes could reach that height, and mass transportation of men and equipment over that route was impossible. The US strategy of island-hopping would now have to change: with the central Pacific now inaccessible, US forces would now move towards Japan by way of the Indonesian archipelago: and if practicable, by way of the Aleutians from the north.
And the US would have at the same time have to fight a second campaign: while the land monsters were at least confined to the mysteriously shifting islands of what would be termed (officially) as the Pacific Anomalous Zone, and (popularly) The Lost World, the marine and flying monsters would not be so considerate of lines drawn on the map. Small island nations lying deep within the zone were often simply gone or scoured clean of human life by massive tidal forces released in the initial dimensional displacement, while others remained intermittently, shifting back and forth between this world and the unknown other side. Even the most stable had to be evacuated, as monster attacks from sea and sky increased multiplied: although initially fighting to defend the islands on the fringes of the Anomaly, many would be evacuated as too much trouble to defend in the long run – it was not considered practical for, say, a coral atoll with a couple thousand inhabitants to house the staff, supplies and equipment necessary for the combination of heavy artillery and flak required to defend them.
The situation grew more complicated in 1943, when increasing reports of Japanese activity within the Zone began to cross desks in Washington. The Japanese had decided to make a purse out of the sows ear of the Zone by establishing bases from which to launch attacks on US forces from within the Zone, clearing small islands with incendiaries, capital ship’s guns, and expendable troops laden with high explosives with little concern for human costs. Which bases would have to be located within the Transition Zone and even in the kaleidoscopically shifting madness of the Unstable Zone, destroyed, and US forces based to prevent the Japanese from returning: “island jumping” had returned with a vengeance, in an environment a thousand times deadlier.
The costs to Tokyo in men and above all material were so high that by many measures they would more than cancel out any gains to the Japanese Empire, if it were not for certain discoveries that the Japanese would call the Unknown Ones and the Americans, thanks to an officer who was a pulp fan, The Elder Things. Shattered masses of shiny black not-stone blocks big as small cottages, eroded pillars a thousand feet or more high, and partly melted structures of titanic metal rods that seemed to have grown like plants, all sunk in seething, monster-haunted jungle. Nothing else remained: of the builders, not a single bone was ever to be found, although some careful measurement of what appeared to be collapsed passages and staircases of stone seemed to indicate proportions as anomalously gigantic as everything else in the Zone. The chance, the desperate chance, of finding some trace of ancient science that would allow Japan to gain an edge over the Americans, drew Japanese soldiers and sailors and scientists deeper into the zone, often to their death.
In the end, something was found by the Japanese. But the Americans did too.
The combat situation for troops both American and Japanese (and some Australian, etc.) was quite unprecedented. Radio communications over distance was unreliable, landing sites were occasionally (and worse than occasionally in the Unstable Zone) absent, airplane scouting could end up with plane and ship literally in different worlds, and all that before even making a landing. Movement on the Zone islands was impeded in some areas by dense jungle growth, with some trees exceeding 600 feet in height, while other places relatively open ground was overgrown with grasses too high to see over even in the turret of a tank. Weather was often violent and unpredictable as air masses shifted and clashed, the only good part of the frequent violent gales that they occasionally cleared the usually low-lying cloud cover long enough for planes to ascend and take pictures.
Of course, the main problem was the local life, especially a plethora of “mega-dinosaurs” often only vaguely like their extinct terrestrial equivalents, huge lizard and salamander like things, giant arthropods, and in coastal waters, colossal crustaceans and immense octopi. Interestingly, a variety of mammalian species coexisted with the dinosaur-creatures, many tiny fast breeding eaters of fruit or leaves, but others giant creatures able to compete with the mega-dinos on an almost equal level (See “notes on Zone life forms”, below), or, equally, threaten human beings on an almost equal level, greater intelligence compensating for small sizes.
Combat with local life was often complicated in early days (and remains so, to this day, in the Unstable Zone) by the dimensional instability of the region, which made some of the great beasts semi-intangible at times, still lethally dangerous to humans outside an armored vehicle, but unsubstantial enough for machine gun bullets to pass right through with minimal damage, and shells to penetrate without detonating. (There are a few reported cases of airplanes in mid-air combat actually flying right through giant Pseudo-Pterosaurs). Fortunately creatures in this state were more than usually susceptible to disruption by high explosives, satchel charges and grenades doing considerably better work than they would have done with a similar beast in a fully materialized condition. On the positive side, none of the local bacteria and viruses have adapted to the human body, and local insects generally disliked the taste of human beings, although certain aggressive local fungi did lead to extensive mandated chemical assaults on various human body creases and folds.
The land itself became an enemy in the most unstable regions, at times allowing individual soldiers (or, in one case, an entire armored convoy) to sink helplessly into semi-dematerialized ground, while violent earth tremors and massive landslides took place as dimensional shifts radically changed the level of the ground. Fortunately, as the Zone effect does not appear to extend too far above the Earth, it also does not seem to extend too far beneath it: large scale new volcanic activity does not appear to be taking place within the Zone as a result of ground shifts.
In spite of all the challenges, Allied and Japanese soldiers struggled on, human ingenuity, technology, planning, and sheer-bloody mindedness winning out over the brute power of monsters of all sizes and types. As US trooped struggled, there emerged the legend of the “Suicide Squad”: small, disposable units sent into the teeth of the monsters to win or die, badly equipped, treated as disposable as tissue paper by the brass, but somehow managing to survive just another day. Tales were spread and embellished, and the real joke was that there were no “suicide squads”: it was just a blackly comical commentary on the situation the GIs found themselves in, facing menaces on a scale never seen before, battling monsters whose nature, weaknesses and capacities were as yet only dimly understood back in the States.
Before long new allies would arrive in the field.
Robotics, in the US, Japan, and Germany had made great steps forward in the 30s, building on the work of the brilliant if erratic Rotwang , but robots at the start of WWII were limited by the inability of the state of the art to create a true mechanical “brain”, making even the most sophisticated designs unable to deal with any challenges beyond the limits of their programming. Still, the purveyors of robots, hoping to sell their machines on the basis of preserving human troops by substituting machines in situations where brains weren’t particularly important – say charging right at a mega-dinosaur with a couple 100-pound satchels of explosives. The first prototypes of the “GI Robot” line arrived for due in the Zone in the fall of 1943.
The Machine Virus appears only patchily in the Zone, and is associated with large crystalline growths appearing on certain types of exposed rock. The contagion mechanism remains obscure, since such crystals show no activity under examination: however, their structure is too similar to the crystalline encrustations that begin to form in areas of intense activity within any sophisticated electronic device. In the early stages this can be cleared off with commercial electronic cleaning solutions, but becomes more difficult in later stages: in any event doing so in a full-blown infection has been legally murder in the US since the 1970s.
The effect of the Machine Virus was first detected by US soldiers serving in the Zone, when they began to note that the “metal morons” and “tin twits” were beginning to show signs of higher thought: a capacity for planning, for abstract thinking, and for…self sacrifice. Even heroism. It would be quite a while before the brass really took these reports from the field seriously, ascribing it to (1) the machines operating better than predicted, something Rossum’s representatives were eager to suggest, and (2), the human tendency towards the pathetic fallacy, especially towards useful and helpful machines such as planes, ships and now man-shaped machines. It would take a lot more interactions in the field, and some quite odd human-machine alliances, before what was actually going on was forced upon the attention of Washington.
The Japanese didn’t discover the Machine Virus during the war, but they did discover certain metals and ores which did not seem to operate on any rules learned from the periodic table, and learned that while forgeable at temperatures 1940s technology could attain, when cooled hardened into metals whose strength under compression and tension greatly exceeded even the best steels. The serious constraints on Japanese efforts to create an industrial base (with masses of expendable slave labor) prevented the construction of more than one “unsinkable” battleship, the Yamato (which would indeed remain afloat, even after chemical fire unleashed by the US airforce had burned to ash all its crew), but did produce, in combination with the discovery of the “black bells”  the basis of Project Mecha, to fight both monsters and US marines. The first models encountered by US troops in mid-1944 were only about 50 feet tall, but so heavily armored that tanks shells did little to stop them: in the end it was the transmitted concussion of massive explosions, not a breach of their armor, that killed their human crews.
Boobytrapped (their power sources would overheat and melt their way out of the Mecha and then down through the ground), no Mecha would be seized relatively intact until well into 1945, not long before the first atomic mushrooms began to bloom over Japan. The last and greatest Mecha ever built, Tetsujin, stood over 300 feet tall, could defeat even the largest mega-dinosaurs, was radio remote controlled, and was widely proclaimed by its builders to be unbeatable: three days before it was to be recalled to Japan to defend against the expected US invasion, it crossed paths with a small force of US troops and one GI Robot, and ended its operating life ignominiously wedged helplessly upside down in a narrow canyon.
Today, of course, Mecha, Combat Armor Suits, and robots of all types, intelligent or not, are a part of daily life. Although neither the Black Bells or the Machine Virus have as yet been duplicated by human science, enough clues were obtained to create the crystal cores of modern AI and the less powerful but far safer nuclear engines of modern ultra-heavy machinery. Zone super-metals remain a limited product: all mining takes place on only two small islands on the edge of the Transition zone, risks in establishing mining operations further within the Zone being too high for any rational government to countenance. (In the case of irrational governments, the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea’s efforts to start up a mining operation actually with the Unstable Zone failed so utterly that many suspect even the Koreans themselves have no real idea what happened).
A divide exists between old-school robots enhanced by the Machine Virus (which in older robots often leads to something like senility weirdly combined with genius as the crystals multiply exuberantly within their brain cases) and modern AI, each side considering the other somehow Other and somewhat hostile to eachother. The GI Robots and their kin have developed their own odd form of reproduction, building deliberately retro “children” and then going on pilgrimage to certain regions of the Zone for the long, chancy wait for infection to take hold: it does not always happen, and at times in spite of all precautions the “pilgrims” are destroyed (or “killed”, as it is polite to say nowadays). (The US government no longer officially disapproves of its robotic citizens reproducing themselves, but refuses to underwrite it by providing military protection: several veterans groups do what they can).
The Pacific Anomalous Zone is divided into several concentric areas: the outermost is the Stable Zone, where activity has (mostly) ceased and the islands, whether terrestrial or otherworldly, generally stay in place and rarely shift interdimensionally anymore. Within is a more active transition zone, and then the so-called “unstable zone” within that, where the landscape (and sea scape) rarely remains fixed for more than a day or so and in fact may become partially “phased” and not entirely material. There are of course no fixed borders, the level of activity being a continuous function, and the division lines being fairly arbitrary conventions drawn (and redrawn, as borders slowly shift over time) according to electromagnetic activity readings recorded by buoys and satellites. The outer edge of the Zone is a bit arbitrary as well, some odd EM activity being occasionally detected as much as a hundred miles beyond the “official” border, although normally activity at the outer edge of the “stable zone” is close enough to zero for all practical purposes. The outer edges may shift by as much as fifty miles over a period of months, but the total area of the Anomalous Zone never changes by more than plus or minus five percent. Aerial visibility within the Zone is usually rather less than outside of it, with most of its area normally obscured by thick, low-lying cloud cover.
Not arbitrary at all is the Central or Forbidden Zone (also known as the Void), the borders of which are demarked by a continuous wall of storms, with violent, random winds and currents of ocean water occasionally being sucked in or jetted out. No manned ship or probe has remained in radio contact for over 15 seconds after passing through what is parsimoniously referred to as the “death line”, although on a couple occasions there has been time for brief screams. It is generally supposed to be an area of such extreme dimensional stability that no object of any size can long exist with all of it in one dimension at once. Studies continue, especially in the light of the fact that since the Zone was finally mapped with a fair degree of accuracy in the 1960s, the Anomalous Zone as a whole has decreased in size by about 3%, but the Void has increased in size by 10%. 
Land claims within the Zone have been a knotty problem since the start, with various nations extending claims to territories equivalent to former Pacific possessions, and some simply “squatting” in spite of UN directives (the last Japanese holdouts weren’t winkled out until the 1990s). Fortunately, the sheer difficulty of establishing any sort of secure human presence in the area eventually made the major powers agreeable to a UN mandate over the territory, with territorial arrangements made on a case by case basis. (The Soviets made a terrible fuss about the ex post facto recognition of many US footholds in the area established while fighting monster invasions of inhabited islands and pursuing Japanese secret projects in the area: the US remains the largest “landowner” by far in the area, although most of its bases are on surviving our world Pacific isles within the Stable Zone.)
Multiple nations retain “interests” and national footholds in the Zone in 2017, continued idealistic efforts to bring the whole area under UN control nowithstanding, with US predominance challenged by the Russian Union , France, the UK, North China, and the Lunar Reich, although by the 2003 Treaty of Minsk the Russians have allowed foreign corporations mining rights in their super-metal ore regions in exchange for equivalent rights in the US “new territories.” There are private actors as well: as well as the occasional billionaire SOB with his own rocket launcher and a desire to hunt the Most Dangerous Game (I’ll take unarmed human over 100 foot flesh eating pseudo-tyrannosaur with aggression issues, thank you) there is an issue with various private cranks trying to “homestead” in the Zone and create their own free/holy/whatever society. The unreliability of long-range radar and sonar in the Zone has meant that a fair number of boat-owners have managed to sneak in, and while most such efforts end as lunch, a few groups of the more clever and cautious have succeeded in finding ways to coexist with the monsters, on some islands not too rich in aggressive species, atop colossal trees, underground in the tunnels of the giant worms, nocturnally, growing local fungi on their skins to mask their smell and body odor. US and other forces forcibly evict them “for their own safety” when they are found, but some experts estimate there may be now as many as a couple dozen groups of hardscrabble survivors making a go of it in a place most people would consider insanity to live in.
Island bases, established either by killing all the larger animals on the islands through high explosive and incendiaries bombing or by using an our-world Pacific island evacuated of its inhabitants if any, remain hardship posts: islands are usually surrounded by floating mines to discourage the basketball court sized crabs and other creepy sea things, and extensive ground to air missile systems remain on 24 hour alert in case some colossal thing of the air decides to sweep in. And in those cases where the island has “non-terrestrial” fauna, there’s always the chance the bombs missed a cow-sized spider in a cave or something equally unpleasant.
The so-called “thin grey line” of ships and aircraft carriers that patrol the borders of the Zone to shoot down flying monsters and depth charge marine monsters continues its endless vigilance, but is considered by many a boondoggle: it killed off a lot of whales before more accurate detection methods were developed, generally failed and continues to fail to intercept a not insignificant number of sea creatures (especially sea floor crawlers and small juveniles) and is ultimately not needed to prevent monsters from taking over the Earth: given their subtly different molecular structure, the Zone monsters are unable to successfully incorporate terrestrial food molecules into their bodies, and essentially die of starvation within a few weeks at most of living on terrestrial rations. It is however too much of a public opinion third rail to be gotten rid of it: it does decrease monster attacks on civilian populations in the Pacific zone, and no politician ever wants to look weak on “preventing constituents from being eaten alive.”
By careful timing and navigation, it is possible to navigate the dimension shifts with the Unstable Zone and the Transitional Zone to reach the stable zones beyond the equivalent area on what has become known as Primordial Earth. Exploration since it began at the end of the 1980s has been slow and cautious, and as yet only about a third of Primordial Earth has been mapped, mostly by extreme high altitude planes, due to the rather severe difficulties involved in setting up a satellite launching facility. Exploration is carried out by specialized purpose-built carrier/destroyers heavily armored, heavily armed, and equipped with a cellular internal structure that makes them almost impossible to sink if the hull is pierced (and odds are that the hull will be pierced at some time during the ships operating life, in spite of sonar and depth charges: if nothing else goes wrong, there are the giant acid-secreting barnacles). US ships carry with them one  “Behemoth” class heavy Mecha to help defend landing parties human and (sentient) robotic.
Primordial Earth is almost exactly the same size as Earth, although the atmosphere is a bit denser and richer and oxygen (the faint green tint to the sky is actually biological in origin: there are some odd floating life forms above the 20,000 foot level): the sun is a bit brighter, and why the planet hasn’t gone into runaway greenhouse is mainly due to a fearsomely active biological system sequestering carbon at an accelerated rate. It does appear to be a near-duplicate of our solar systems, eight planets and a ringer as OTL, although Jupiter also has rings and Mars appears to have some small seas: the constellations are not the same, though, although long range observation of the deep sky indicates it’s still in the right galaxy. Some speculate that this is an Earth-equivalent a few hundred million years further along in its evolution: some speculate it is our Earth, although such people are generally in the Kook class, given that most life and most of the matter of (at least the outer layers) the planet consists is made of “macromolecules” subtly different from anything known in our own universe. (They are also lacking in non-handwavy explanations for dinosaurs reappearing. Cyclical history has been a bit out of fashion since around the presidency of Millard Fillmore). As yet, no terrestrial state has advanced claims on the other side of the dimensional rift.
The deepest part of the Ocean south of the main continental mass is now avoided by exploration parties, after the last images from the accompanying survey drone showed what appeared to be approximately thousand-foot long tentacles emerging from the sea and dragging the Russian carrier Slava under the waves in a matter of seconds.
That something bad happened a while back does seem clear: large areas of the moon appear to have been resurfaced, and the nearest continent is peppered with suspiciously round lakes and downright alarming long, thousand-foot deep, perfectly straight “canyons”. Monstrous life swarms everywhere, even more bizarre and diverse than on the islands, and the scattered and mostly ruined state of artifacts found on the isles is duplicated by what cautious (i.e., no more than 5% fatalities) exploration has uncovered on the mainland.
Recent careful analysis of high-altitude observation data from the smaller eastern continent has revealed something rather exciting (or alarming, depending on who you ask): an area of some hundreds of thousands of square miles in the north which has a thermal profile inconsistent with observed geography. There are no other anomalous readings or signs of electromagnetic activity, but closer examination of visual data shows what appear to be immense shafts descending deep into the planetary crust. Currently most of this has been kept under wraps by the two terrestrial governments who know about it as the leadership argue about what should be done: there is a strong faction which argues that the only rational response is to stay the hell away from the eastern continent from now on, with a smaller sub-faction which calls for shutting down exploration of Primordial Earth altogether.
NOTES ON ZONE LIFEFORMS
It is generally accepted that in spite of similarities the giant reptilian beasts of the Zone and Primordial Earth are not actually dinosaurs: they appear ordered in clades and groupings dissimilar to the dinosaurs of OTL, and the bipedal giants are not in any way related to birds. (Birds, as such, do not exist in the Zone). Thanks to an alien molecular structure, life in this world can grow far larger than in ours before succumbing to the cube-squared law, and the largest species can be as much as ten times the size of the largest dinosaurs of OTL, with proportional gigantism among marine species. Some of the Mega-dinosaurs resemble giant sized versions of such terrestrial species as the Tyrannosaurus or the Triceratops: others are of almost phantasmagorical grotesquerie. An unusually high percentage of the species, ecologically speaking, are either carnivores or omnivores, which may in part be explained by the rather extraordinary intestinal flora of the larger omnivores, which allow them to digest both wild grasses and meat with no difficult. Herbivores in turn are prone to extreme defensive aggression: the cautious explorer should keep in mind that pretty much all Mega-Dinosaurs will want to either eat them or trample them.
Phyla paralleling the arthropods and crustacean of our world grow even more disproportionately large, with the pseudo-arachnids growing as large as terrestrial cattle, literally thousands of times larger than terrestrial types (oddly, the closest equivalent to insects are little larger if at all than our terrestrial species; having found their ecosystem “size niche”, they have apparently never had an evolutionary incentive to leave it). While the Zone lacks bird equivalents (although “birds of passage” from our world occasionally appear, the lack of digestible food prevents them from becoming established), it does have mammals. Many are small fruit and leaf eaters, burrowers and insect eaters, too small to attract any attention from most of the Mega-dinosaurs, some are quite huge and formidable: the bear-sized Titan Rat has been known to attack and swarm quite large Mega-dinosaurs, the Thundercloud Bat is not much smaller than the largest Pseudo-Pterosaurs, while there is little that can harm the heavily armored, building-sized God Sloth. The most notable mammalian species by far is of course the giant white ape, named rather inescapably as the “Kong” (Kong Rex). A highly intelligent animal, it has on multiple occasions proven able to cooperate with human troops and explorers in the Zone against its mortal enemies, the Mega-dinosaurs. Exactly how intelligent the Kongs are was not really determined until the 1970s, when a Soviet experiment to create a force of cyberneticized Kongs as a sort of mostly-organic Mecha force went rather disastrously wrong and led to the near destruction of Aldan in Siberia: whatever else they were,  the Kongs were intelligent enough to trick Soviet security officers into thinking them a lot more cowed and obedient than they actually were.
There are also a variety of mammals which have adopted to parasitize the larger mammal and Mega-dinosaur species, which has led to some unusual morphological changes: although rarely aggressive towards human-sized prey, the Tick Bat has a rather strong tendency to induce nightmares in those who get a good look at it.
The automatic savagery of many local lifeforms, even vegetarian species which in theory should not feel either threatened or hungry at the presence of tiny humans, and their occasional oddly cooperative heavier in attacking them, has been somewhat explained by the discovery of certain parasitic fungi, which seem to infect the brains of a sizable percentage of the local Mega-dinosaurs. These fungi appear to induce increased aggression and a tendency towards violent attack in the infected, especially towards things the dinosauroids see as new and unknown. As yet, the adaptive and evolutionary explanation of this remains unclear: although the fungi do grow well on the corpses of dead beasts of all types, their behavioral influence does not seem to be part of their reproductive life cycle, like the fungi which infect ants or the dreaded cat poop protozoan.
The first reported case of the fungal infection spreading to humans, turning a hidden settler colony into a band of bloodthirsty cannibals, was reported in 2016.
 Believed to have died in 1935, when his house was devastated by a peculiar fire after several SS troops entered it to arrest Rotwang due to his “uncooperative behavior.” Three of them were found later, reduced to ash but oddly still maintaining human form until poked: Rotwang’s body was never found, but assumed crumbled.
 Discovered through the investigation of some mysterious “hot spots” and much dangerous digging, the Bells were energy sources of immense power, if also so radioactive that any human Mecha-pilot had an operating lifetime of under a week in spite of intervening armor. There is now some doubt if they were originally power sources at all, but most of what is known of the Elder Things is doubtful.
 See, Egon Spengler, Further Evidence We’re Doomed, pp. 72-193 inclusive.
 Includes east Ukraine, Belarus, and northern Kazakhstan. The fall of the USSR was longer and more drawn out than OTL, and involved giant robot battles.
 More than one wouldn’t leave enough room on the boat for other essential cargo.
 A certain overly romantic view of the Kongs exists and should be discouraged. They do not automatically warm up to human beings, and a Kong encountering humans for the first time may take them for quick snacks rather than potential allies.