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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...


A Win in the West by QuantumBranching
A Win in the West
Request map for SeaPuppy1

A world where things went somewhat differently in the 19th and 20th centuries, most notably in the case of the USA, where a successful Confederate secession exhausted and distracted [1] the Union to the extent where the western native American tribes managed to successfully organize themselves for defense, aided by the British Empire and the Mormons, which ended up in the Pacific NW in this world and had no interest in seeing the Gentile government catch up with them.

[1] The Confederates managed to convince themselves pretty quick that they had been "cheated" in the peace treaty rather than being really, really lucky
Easternized World by QuantumBranching
Easternized World
A cover of this scenario on the alternate history wiki:…

Ok, this is for Nick Griffalco: a map cover for the alternate history wiki's "Easternized World", with various changes reflecting my personal views and prejudices. 

It’s a hot, humid, post-global warming world, the sky shimmering with the diamond dust of weather-control mirror arrays, space habitats, and automated robot factories powered by sunshine. It’s crowded, a bit malodorous, glowing with holographic displays and a-scuttle with weak-AI machines in a rainbow of colors.

It’s an Asian-dominated world, deriving from a China that took a sharp turn towards expansionism back in Tang times, helping spur outward the even more expansionist powers of Nihon and Swirijaya, a world where Europe was beaten to the Americas and the Mongol Empire never existed. Buddhism is the world’s most wide-spread religion, and Islam is rather more restricted in range and influence. Butterflies from events in Asia saw Catharism survive in Europe – indeed, it almost became the French state religion at a time Papal/royal relations were at a nadir – and helped keep the Khazars (Alans) in business. 

The Americas were settled initially west to east by Japan (Nihon) and China (nowadays the Central Republic), and is very alien from our world’s POV. On the other hand, longer and often close communications between Asia and the rest of the world have led to some interesting cultural backflow, so to speak: the European equivalent of the Renaissance had effects as far east as China, creating the first new Classical-Chinese artistic and architectural fusions since the Hellenistic age. Asian colonialism and semi-colonialism in Europe tied Europe to the Asian Americas, and brought a great outflow of European immigrants.

Technology is more advanced than OTL, with atomic weapons first developed in the 19th century. Lifespans in advanced countries are now over 100, although mutated new diseases continue to develop and there are still occasional scares with much of the population wearing full-body antibacterial/viral protection when venturing outside. 

There are colonies on the Moon, Mars, and some bodies in the asteroid belt, and there have been expeditions to the Moons of Jupiter, with primitive life being discovered beneath the ice of Europa. North India or Bharat is particularly keen on space colonization, having failed to participate in the era of colonization on Earth, and they have managed to achieve a number of “firsts” in space.Even the relatively minor states have gotten into the act, with Arabia establishing mining colonies on the Moon and more recently starting to build an enormous radio transmitter to broadcast the Koran (with the Great Sage’s amendations and glosses) to any aliens out there. (More traditionalist Muslims in Ifriqiya and Morocco have started work on a transmitter of their own, to send aliens the _correct_ version of Islam). 

Increasingly, society, at least in the richer nations, is moving towards a sort of “rentier” society in which people own shares in the robots which do an ever increasing share of the world’s work. People grumble about the death of the Dignity of Labor, but work for work’s sake has never been as big a thing in this Asian, non-Christian world as in ours, and there is certainly a huge explosion in artistic work and the more intellectually challenging forms of service work. True AI is still an experimental thing, but there are a variety of weak-AI semi-autonomous machines. Oddly, due to different developments in economic and social structures, combined with the very different Malay, Japanese, Chinese, and Indian languages and approaches to an “internet”, what we would call the “web” and “social media” have been rather late bloomers compared to OTL, although by now things have become quite immersive: indeed, direct machine-brain link virtual reality now exists, although it is restricted by most governments in fear that people will become addicted to virtual existence. Since most full-immersion virtual realities tend to still be rather uncanny-valleyesque (as they say, the devil is in the details, and the human body has a _lot_ of senses we rarely notice), this is unlikely to be a big problem for a while yet. 

The closest thing to a universal language is the Standard Kanji System, a set of symbols put together a couple centuries back and amended several times since by Nihonese, Chinese and Swirijayan scholars to create a universal written system of communications not dependent on differences in language, and now that memory drugs are widely available, pretty much everyone _can_ pick it up fairly quickly. Of course, now that weak AI translators are getting so efficient, it may become obsolescent even as it reaches its widest global reach…

Europe has largely caught up with Asia and their colonies in the Americas (or the Yoddericks, as they are called by Europeans mangling the original Asian term), but remains a continent of relatively small nations not capable of matching the giants of India, China, or the unified blocks of Nihonese or Malay-speaking states. A unified Europe is one of those things which is constantly in the air, but never quite brought to full realization, and the splits between the Orthodox east and the west, between the former allies of Swirijaya and their former enemies, Catholic and Cathar, north and south, remain problematic. 

Atomic weapons are closely regulated since the clash with the East Romans (at the time the the People's Eastern Roman Democratic Republic) nearly consumed half the planet in nuclear fire (fortunately someone had the good sense to shoot the Supreme Leader at the right time) , but there are many more subtle threats nowadays – biological, cybernetic, even memetic – which can be employed for various possibly catastrophic effects. Supposedly the world is “post-ideological”, but there are still religious hardliners, neo-Levelers (“all we needed was better computers and data-gathering methods!”), Nihonese Yamato Supremacists, Chinese who are resentful of brash newcomers like the north Indians or the Miechi, post-humanists, and odder groups, plus vast “underground” societies with their own and often not exactly legal agendas. Many young see the world as a seamless whole, but there are darker stirrings: people look to the rest of the X century (mostly likely a Chinese calendar) with hope, but also trepidation.
Footfall by QuantumBranching
Doing a scenario for Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's SF story, Footfall. 

The ones known as the Predecessors ruled the Alpha Centauri system of suns some three million years ago, but although their technology reached great heights, they never managed to create a unified planetary government or a certain racial tendency towards paranoia. Through runaway global warming, disastrous misapplied planetary engineering (several competing programs didn’t help) and brutal warfare over dwindling resources the Predecessors managed to wreck their planetary ecology to the point where an advanced civilization really wasn’t maintainable any longer. 

Some managed to get away into space with shaky hopes of creating a self-sustaining society off-world. Earth and the Australopithecines narrowly avoided colonization, the Predecessor travelers deciding it would be unsafe to pitch their tent so near to their own solar system while other factions still survived in space habitats back home. Before the final implosion of technological civilization on planet and the departure of the last spaceships an effort was made to make things easier for any future civilization that emerged from the wreckage: rectangular stone blocks some 30X30X15 feet, with pictorial step-by-step guides to science and technology carved meters deep into them with energy weapons, so the entire block would have to erode away before the message would be lost. Blocks carrying simpler information, such as how to make the wheel or fire, were placed in easily accessed places, while stuff their theoretical descendants would need later, such as atomic power, were placed in hard to reach areas such as mountain tops, barren wastelands, polar deserts, etc.

As it turned out, those Predecessors who survived the collapse ended up dying off as a result of major climate change and new diseases, and the difficulties of learning to become hunter-gatherers on the fly, so the stones ended up benefitting another species entirely. The Predecessors had already tampered with their genetics, to make them a more useful and intelligent beast of burden…

On Earth, history diverged after 1984. Mikhail Gorbachev never took the top spot in the USSR, and the Soviet Union under intelligent hardliners managed to keep economic collapse at bay until 1995, in the meantime retaking the lead in space from the US. Russia and the US both established bases on the Moon, but the Soviets had the only real permanent orbiting space station, and had responded to the US “Star Wars” program by putting an awful load of suspicious crap in orbit (when the US complained about their “aggressive” postures, the Soviets just said “you started it.” By 1995, the Soviets had a clearly superior presence in space from orbit to the Moon. The US tried to compensate for the Soviets new orbiting ion beam weapons and other fun toys with a major push in commercial space development, building the first orbiting solar power satellite array, a square mile of solar power panels able to send 1000 megawatts of power back to earth (cooking birds daily) by 1996.

The European Community , now Union, moved towards neutrality. US forces were tied down in Honduras fighting rebels based in Nicaragua (tit for tat for the Contras) and after an ill-fated intervention, occupying Lebanon. The Soviets continued to support third world rebellion and started building a canal to refill the Aral. Whether the Soviets could have managed to keep all the plates spinning much beyond 1995 remains unknown, since at that time Earth was attacked by aliens from the Alpha Centauri system.

The Fith’p (racial name, individuals named Fi’) resemble small (around 1000-1600 pounds each), tuskless, short-eared elephants with broad, paddle-shaped tails, clawed feet, and trunks which branch and branch again, giving them eight “finger-equivalents” to grasp and manipulate things with, albeit more clumsily than human hands. Their eyes have grey pupils and black or dark brown irises. Natives of a hot, humid climate and with a smaller ratio of surface area to volume than humans, they do not lose heat easily and normally do not wear more than a decorated harness and a cloth over the genital area, with pouches to carry things behind their heads. Unlike Earth elephants, they are omnivorous, although vegetarian fare predominates and they eat much of their food uncooked. 

They love their mudrooms, and the carpeting in their ships oozes water to keep their feet moist. If they are in mud or water, it is considered a friendly greeting to spray someone with your trunk. (They only have one set of nostrils, at the first branching of the trunks). 

Like many terrestrial animals, they have mating cycles, although they are rather better at controlling themselves during breeding season than a certain race of dumb lizards you may have heard of. They mate for life, and while males usually hold the top positions in their society, their wives generally have a very strong influence over them: female rationality is considered necessary to rein in more impulsive males, and the lack of sexual dimorphism means that females cannot be easily pushed around. Rape (which could only happen in breeding season anyway) is so rare there isn’t even a specific word for it. Females keep otherwise unstable males from going rogue or overly dedicated males from dangerous folly in pursuit of what they see as the good of the herd. Marriage is generally for influence and connections: marrying due to passion is considered foolish. 

The Fith’p are a herd species, with all that implies. They cannot exist in isolation any more than termites can: a Fith’p on its own, cut off from any other member of its herd, will go insane sooner rather than later, and will join up with any other herd – even one of non-Fith’p – to avoid that fate. Normally they move in groups of six or more, and for a Fith’p to go places unaccompanied is usually either a sign something is seriously wrong or an indication that they’re going to make sweet, sweet love with their mate. 

Their society is hierarchical, and obedience to the herd leaders is a close to instinctive thing: however, somewhat paradoxically, Fith’p do not deify individuals the way humans do. The Herdmaster leads the herd, but is also subordinate to it: although a Herdmaster has dictatorial power, he (usually a he) is expected to have a personal advisor who will challenge his decisions, and to listen to the advice and views of other high-ranked Fi’. Rebellion against a Herdmaster is rare, but if the mass get the idea that the Herdmaster has, so to speak, lost the mandate of heaven by endangering the herd as a whole, it can be swift and violent. Murder in Fith’p society is rare, and when it does happen, it usually indicates a sudden change in top leadership is about to take place.

One of the most important rituals in Fith’p society is the act of surrender, in which a Fi’ lies on their back and their conqueror places their foot on their chest. This is an act of submission on the instinctive level, and after a Fi’ has so submitted they will find it very psychologically difficult to rebel again. It is used almost always in warfare: to ensure the loyalty of another Fi’ of high but lesser rank from your own herd by making them turn belly up is considered a shocking breach of trust and terribly Bad Form. 

It is used in war because Fith’p wars are generally about the assimilation of one herd to another. Fith’p tend to be paranoid about other herds and will conquer and assimilate them if they can: Fith’p herd instinct and the instinct towards submission to a conqueror means that this is easier for Fith’p than for human nations. They tend to aim for unconditional surrender, since anything else would allow for the continued existence of a separate herd. A Fi’ which has submitted to the foot on the belly will rarely if ever rebel afterwards: they have been psychologically shackled to some extent. The conquered herd will be essentially slaves to the victorious herd, with the next generation born becoming members with full privileges and rights. Yesterday’s enemy is today’s slave and tomorrow’s citizen. In a way, the Fith’p win all their wars: after all, the only herds which exist are winning ones. 

Assimilation is also helped by the fact that the Fith’p have had a common language across most of their planet for a long time, derived from early efforts at making sense of the Predecessor language from their pictographs, and nowadays considered by most linguists to be phonetically almost completely wrong. Their voices are sibilant, and have been described by humans as “a leaking balloon talking”, although they can manage human speech fairly well.

The Fith’p are not, by human standards, a particularly imaginative race. They have myths and legends, but they do not see the point of fiction, stories which are known to be not true, as entertainment. (They do appreciate a nice exciting documentary). Their society is mostly secular nowadays: they used to worship the Precursors as gods, and even fought wars over points of doctrine (in one of them, the actual appearance of the Precursors seems to have been lost due to the destruction of certain “demonic” artifacts) but nowadays generally think of the Precursors as admirable and holy ancestors, but unlikely to perform any miracles on their behalf, although the old priesthood maintains their position as historians and protectors and interpreters of the message stones. The Cycle of Life remains a holy thing to them, and that they return to the soil and fertilize new growth is to the Fith’p a fine thing – so much so that they tend to mix in their dead with the compost. 

They also tend to not be very creative thinkers – but with the stone carvings of the Predecessors guiding their technological progress for tens of thousands of years, they have never had to be. 

Until they came to our solar system, the Fith'p expected other civilized life forms would be herd animals, as well. A paranoid people, and also a people capable of embarrassment, the Predecessors explained what they had done wrong, but didn’t really explain why, and didn’t really try to describe what they had been like. This led perhaps to the Fith’p making some unwarranted assumptions about intelligent life in general, for lack of other examples.

They are in some ways more _rational_ than humans: Fith’p see no point in dying in the last ditch, and will surrender when they see their situation as hopeless. After all, the enemy is not planning to eat them, kill them, or rape them. Fith’p wars often open with demonstrations of strength and ruthlessness (shock and awe, baby) to convince the other side of their superior power and the necessity of surrender: negotiations before relative positions have been established is a bit pointless, especially since there are to be no terms save surrender.

If an enemy breaks their surrender, it means one of two things: if an individual does, it is sick, insane. If multiple enemies defy the surrender of their leaders, it indicates a mass revolt, and massive collective punishment is the normal reaction. Such things are rare when dealing with conquered Fith’p populations.
Human beings, on the other hand…

The Thuktun Flishithy arrived in the solar system after a 70 year trip by modified ramjet (collect interstellar hydrogen with magnetic fields for fuel). It carried in cold sleep the former leadership of one of the two remaining dominant powers on the Fith’p homeworld. To prevent a planet-killing war with nuclear weaponry and bioweapons, it had been agreed to merge the herds, with the leadership of one side leaving the Centauri system to establish a new state elsewhere (and the other side’s leadership financing the building of a ship to take them). Earth had been observed by automated probes passing through Earth’s solar system in the mid-19th century, so it was known to be a habitable world: the probes had also taken pictures of what appeared to be large cities and detected what appeared to be early signs of industrial pollution in the air, so the Thuktun Flishithycame armed for bear, the three-quarter mile long ship carrying with it some 64 aircraft-carrier sized fusion-drive propelled fighters, massively powerful laser weapons, loads of missiles and anti-missiles, and computer-driven kinetic weapons (AKA “rods from God” to the Star Wars program enthusiast), etc. Arriving in the solar system near the end of the 1970s, after a brief change in leadership with hardly any violence needed (those in suspended animation woke to find that the children and grandchildren of their subordinates no longer considered 70 years out of touch former Herdmasters to be credible leaders), the Fith’p took up orbit around Saturn, to study the earth closely from a distance and make preparations. 

Things did not go well. Total command of space after quickly annihilating US and Soviet space defenses, and unobstructed bombardment of highways, rails, dams, shipping, non-nuclear power plants (the Fith’p did not want to render their new planet radioactive) and anything looking like a military base with unguided kinetics (Rocks From Space) failed to bring about human offers of surrender: it seemed humans were unable to grasp the essentials of the situation. After the Americans cooperated with the Soviets in reducing a large chunk of their own nation to radioactive heck to drive an advance landing force back into space, it became necessary to make a more definitive demonstration.

The Foot, formerly a largish chunk of space rock and valuable volatiles, now reduced to its rocky bare bones, was propelled Earthward, landing in the Indian ocean with millions of megatons of force. [1]The colossal waves destroyed coastal cities and lowlands all around the Indian Ocean, and smaller waves bouncing off the coasts of Antarctica drowned low-lying settlements as far away as Brazil. Close to 100 million people died. However, this was only the start of the dying.

The enormous amount of boiled ocean and bits of sea floor thrown into the atmosphere meant many months of rain and cold and dark: any harvests waiting to come in were spoiled, a dreadful winter was followed by a cold wet spring and a summer hardly worthy of the name: it would be more than a year before the weather began to return to normal.

In the process, some four hundred million people, mostly in the poorer and more vulnerable parts of the globe, would die of famine and the diseases associated with being nearly starved to death.

This was Footfall.

The Fith’p then went on to invade southern Africa as a relatively “soft” target: Africa would serve as a base from which to subjugate the rest of the world, which would either surrender or starve in the cold as their control of space allowed them to continue to interdict shipping, rails, roads, etc. and cut their enemy’s territories into smaller isolated areas, with the threat of another Footfall always over their heads. The Fith’p learned the concept of a negotiated surrender, and the business of puppet rulers and allowing humans to operate under their own laws where they did not contradict Fith’p priorities. They expanded as far north as the Congo, and things seemed to be going well… it was a bit of a surprise, really, when a nuclear Orion ship armed to the teeth took off from US territory: the Predecessor cubes hadn’t mentioned such a thing was possible. (Hadn’t mentioned nuclear bomb-powered gamma ray lasers, either: the Predecessors had examined both ideas and considered them not worth the investment.)

************************************************** **

Ten years after Footfall, nine years and some since the Michael intercepted the Thuktun Flishithy in space and forced a surrender in the face of mutual annihilation, the US now has a quarter of a million Fith’p slaves. The word isn’t used, but the Fith’p do not have full citizenship rights, such as being able to protect their intellectual property, decide where they will live or where they will work, and various other things. In many ways they are permanent prisoners of war, and the reconstructed Supreme Court had to come up with a special legal status for them. The Fith’p themselves are fairly accepting of this, since slave status is normal for new Fith’p that have joined a herd by conquest, and their children will be US citizens.

It hasn’t been accepted by a lot of US civil libertarians, who find the situation distinctly immoral, although they face an uphill battle in getting things changed, given the deep hostility of many Americans towards the Fith’p. Over 250,000 Americans died from Fith’p attacks or in the nuclear bombardment which drove them out of Kansas and Nebraska, many more suffered long-term radiation damage, and while the US managed to avoid famine on any real scale, before the Fith’p surrendered and the nation could actually turn its full remaining industrial and scientific capital on feeding the population, most of the country’s population faced shortages, hunger, or at least really boring eating, not to mention cold, lack of water, etc. The exact number of “surplus deaths” from normally avoidable disease, lack of vital medicines, abnormal physical stress, etc. has never been exactly calculated. 

(Of course, compared to say, Indians or Indonesians, what Americans feel is rather mild. India and other Indian Ocean Rim nations continue to call for the extradition of the entire former Fith’p leadership for trial (and execution) and don’t find much sympathy with the US saying it would be seen by “their” Fith’p as a betrayal). 

The US is currently carrying out a major industrial and military buildup in space through the medium of the Fith’p, with solar power satellites and space-based factories and asteroid bases multiplying. Eventually the plan is to gain independence from Fith’p made-hardware, but US construction of D-T fusion drive spaceships has been slowed by engineering difficulties: Fith’p tech is not that much in advance of terrestrial state of the art, but there are still materials and engineering issues requiring the creation of entirely new industries to supply parts and so on. Still, growth is back on track, with the massive Keynsian stimulus of rebuilding war damage (the US finally getting a real motivation to modernize its infrastructure) now being supplemented by the growth of new high-tech industries, cheap power from space, and space construction. The US may not be able yet to build Deuterium-Tritium drive ships quite on the level of the Fith’p (and the Fith’p ships they own are being supplemented only slowly by new Fith’p built ones – it will be another six years before their losses from the war are fully made up), but two new Orion-type ships bristling with Fith’p knock off weapons have been built on a just-in-case basis, and two-thirds of the Fith’p fighter ships have been rebuilt for human pilots. (The original Orion, the Michael, was towed back to Earth by the Thuktun Flishithy, and remains in orbit as a combination museum and training base: having built in a hurry, the complexities of landing it again were not given much priority). 

The Thuktun Flishithy now has more humans – heavily armed ones – on board than Fith’p, the majority of which now live on earth, mostly in “gated communities” near industrial centers and research facilities, under guard by human troops mostly to protect them from bitter victims of the war, and serving to some extent as hostages to those who work in space. At least the mud baths are prime quality. The US government and various “friends of the Fith’p”, many of them in the science fiction community, continues with a TV and increasingly internet (less developed than OTL 2005 due to different priorities) based charm offensive to get people to accept the Fith’p as new Americans, with a fair degree of success – among people who didn’t live in the invasion zone, anyway.

Many Fith’p stuck on Earth want to go into space: it is after all where all non-Sleepers were born and lived their lives, and they are dubious about planets. (Even before the war, there were those who felt that colonizing the solar systems moons, asteroids, etc. would be a better deal than trying to domesticate a bunch of ugly alien groundlings). But the US is reluctant to have too many Fith’p buzzing around the solar system without close human monitoring: American officials may accept the absolute nature of the Fith’p surrender on an intellectual level, but they have trouble feeling it on a gut level.

New technologies, aside from new weapons and propulsion systems, include high-temperature superconductors, a wide variety of new synthetics and new material sciences, working fusion power reactors, at least a two decade jump in computer hardware (the Fith’p are not the most imaginative programmers), very sophisticated closed-cycle ecosystems science, and genetic engineering tech well in advance of OTL 2015 state of art – not enough to, say, give you a pair of working gills, but enough to develop a rich variety of deadly germs and crop-destroying fungi, or on the positive side create rice able to tolerate temperatures ten to twenty Fahrenheit cooler. There is also hibernation tech, but researchers have been slow to start human testing, given that seventy years of cold sleep tends to be hard on the Fith’p body, does nasty things to their skin, and tended to kill those already elderly. 

For the 70 year trip the Fith’p brought along not only elaborate hydroponic farms, but a whole mini-ecosystem, including a variety of decorative and food animals as well as plants, including their odd birds with their neck-canards and upturned-tip wings and trees with leaves like sails or giant banners. A number of these have been successfully bred for zoological parks, and two species of insect-equivalents have prospered enough after escaping captivity to become a pest in certain areas. 

US politics has been stormy since the invasion. President Coffey failed to get much credit for winning the war, having been fairly invisible for security reasons during the building of the Michael, and was persistently haunted by a rumor that he had nearly given away the store to the aliens and had to be overridden by Admiral Carrell. The President vehemently denied this, but the Admiral’s refusal to give a simple yes or no (“The President is my commander-in-chief and as such his authority overrides my own”) fueled the fire, as did President Coffey’s vehement effort to destroy Admiral Carrell’s career without ever giving an adequate answer why: it was probably not surprising he lost the post-war election to a Republican champ of huge military budgets and US supremacy.

The next eight years saw the US lay down the law to the rest of the world: with the Soviets crippled by a civil war as well as Fith’p bombardment, and the US having absolute dominance of the high frontier thanks to the fact that the Fith’p and all their hardware were now under American orders, the rest of the world had largely to suck it up. The Soviet civil war, which rapidly moved to a conclusion once the Fith’p no longer interdicted movement of troops and equipment, ended in a military victory, with a largely neutered Communist Party kept around as a figleaf to avoid the appearance of a pure junta: the KGB was thoroughly purged and replaced by a new military-dominated organization. However, recovery of the various SSRs which had broken off (or simply drifted away while the Fith’p destroyed the capability for internal movement) was nixed by the US, save for here solidly Russian-majority Kazakhstan, loyal Belarus, and never-lost eastern Ukraine. This was not pleasing, but with the Soviet nuclear arsenal largely depleted and the US/Fith’p union being able to shoot down 99% of anything they shot off (and obliterate Russian cities at will) there wasn’t much they could do. The US has also made it clear they will not stand for re-militarization of space by anyone but themselves, and have shot down a couple new Soviet “weather satellites” to underline the point. 

Regime change came to Cuba and Nicaragua, and US predominance in areas from Europe to the Pacific was reaffirmed. However, US predominance proved to have its limits: bombardment from space didn’t help keep third-world governments, and many non-third world, from collapsing from famine and climate disaster and tidal destruction and radical movements from taking control in the wreckage: struggling to feed itself in the Year Without a Summer, the US had little surplus to help out, and sending large numbers of troops abroad to occupy large, chaotic countries was neither popular with an American public wanting to return to normality nor with a military struggling to restore order at home and committed in sizable numbers in central American, the Caribbean, and for a while in much of Mexico. So, ironically, in spite of US “global dominance”, there are at least as many Marxist nations in 2005 as there were before the Fith’p arrived. 

Canada got _really_ cold for a while after Footfall, and the country much north of the US border was largely depopulated for a while: the Yukon essentially lacked anything resembling a government for two years. There has been considerable mutual aid between Canada and the northern US states, leading to something of an Era of Good Feeling in spite of the US administration’s clear tendencies to think of Canada as the US’s hat. Canada has, for its size and GNP, been a major contributor of aid to the many countries devastated in the year after Footfall

Europe, as the third major global industrial center, was also heavily targeted by the Fith’p, and suffered harshly from the global weather change, although technological and industrial capacity helped moderate the effects, as in the US, with lots of greenhouses, trees processed for nutrients, etc. Unfortunately there was a bit of a “our people first” attitude in the more developed north, and the Mediterranean countries were hit harder by famine: the fairly recently democratized and still poor countries of Greece and Portugal suffered leftist rebellions as things spiraled downhill, while the Right returned to power in a Spain descending into chaos. Catalonia broke off, and the Basques tried to. In Italy, the south suffered worse than the north, but it was the north, with its powerful Communist party and large industrial population, where the revolution actually succeeded. The eastern Communist regimes collapsed like dominoes, usually replaced by nationalist coalitions, although the Bulgarian Party remained in control until 1999. The European Union however survived, and has revived economically and politically. European gratitude to the US for defeating the Fith’p is still strong, but has cooled a bit due to the US’s very limited sharing of new technology and insistence on indefinite continuation of basing rights in spite of the crippled nature of the Soviets. Eurocommunists haven’t done very well lately, given the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, and the rather bad new examples: the Italian regime is mellowing, but Greece has been unpleasant from the start and sheer survival considerations have driven the Portuguese to wackiness. (The rumors about the US arming the Spanish dictatorship in secret are in fact quite true).

The Middle East is a mess, as usual: there has been an Arab Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter again. The religious extremists have taken over in Algeria, the Military in Egypt (which was very lucky the Fith’p ran some mortality projections before deciding whether to smash the Aswan dam or not), while Saddam Hussein (who here avoided the Kuwait woopsie) is still in power and a US ally against an Iran that mass death has only made more radical. Saudi Arabia, which suffered a combined disaster of destroyed oil fields and shipping facilities, mass famine due to weather change and collapse of infrastructure combined with a cutoff of exports, and Islamicist rebellion, has broken into pieces. Morocco is … not doing too badly, actually. 

In Africa, new communist regimes have arisen and others collapsed, the bits of Somalia are the middle ages with AK-47s, and warlord regimes are only now going out of fashion. South Africa went a bit oddly, with some rebellious Fith’p holding on and refusing to join in the surrender, until driven out by US command of space and lavish arming of rebels, who then turned their guns on local rivals: the interaction between the African national congress, the Zulu, the Boers and other whites which had collaborated, and the Boers and other whites which had joined the rebellion, was…messy, leading to the very odd anti-Communist Boer remnant/Zulu alliance, the left-wing-but-not-hardline-Marxist cape-SW Africa union, and the thoroughly nasty People’s Republic of Azania (De Clerk never came to power here, and Mandela died in his cell: Apartheid just kept tightening the screws). Much of east Africa remains a crumbling blanket of dried mud and salt blowing in the wind and covering flattened cities and millions of corpses, a few straggling dirt roads and improvised railroads reaching improvised harbors built with the aid of the US, Europe, Canada, and various international aid organizations. 

Turkmenistan’s leader is as impressively crazy as his gold-statue building OTL equivalent: he has maintained Marxism since it fits the nature of his regime better than mere authoritarianism. 

China was hit hard by the Fith’p attack, famine as bad or worse than Mao’s little effort, chaos, etc. but the Party never lost control of the Chinese heartland to the extent where the US could recognize, say, a “free republic of Canton” (although some regional revolts led hawks to call for this), and lost only peripheral bits. The move towards a capitalist economy was interrupted for some years, but the leadership eventually swallowed their bile and moved back towards a role as supplier of cheap crap to the US and other states. The economy is once again growing fast, although influence in the US economy is substantially less than OTL 2005.

The Indian subcontinent. Oy. At times it’s useful to believe in reincarnation. 

Japan did better than OTL, economically speaking, in the early 90s, and the massive investment in rebuilding post-Fith’p surrender has prevented a descent into recession as OTL. The frankly bungling incompetence of the ruling party’s efforts to deal with the Fith’p attacks and the post-Footfall weather (several million Japanese died of hunger, cold, and disease) has led to the rise of a right-wing splinter faction, which now is the biggest party in the Diet and holds the Prime Minister spot. There is an angry air of Never Again, and a great deal of resentment to the military presence of a triumphal US and tendency to act as if the Japan That Can Say No is once again the US’s Lil’ Asian Sidekick. Japan is (cautiously) funding a major research program in high-power laser weapons and other missile interceptor tech – for self-defense purposes only, of course, and those rumors about secret tech exchanges with the Soviets are of course mere Korean propaganda. 

Australia and New Zealand are to some extent US dependencies, and are happy for any help with reconstructing their economies. New Zealand is slowly rebuilding its sheep flocks, most of its sheep having been eaten during the hard times after Footfall, while the current Australian government insists that the Perth Reconstruction Project doesn’t conceal a massively corrupt deal between said government and a conglomerate of US corporations. Indonesia has (mostly) pulled itself together: the US is not quite sure whether to support or deny the current dictatorship in its ambitions to regain its lost territories. The enlarged Papuan state is supported by Australia (which has never really like the Indonesians that much) and its government is lobbying the US hard for protection. The Republic of Sulawesi is probably too unknown to Americans to have much of a chance.

The US has recently seen the Presidency return to the Democrats, partly due to a split in the Republicans between those who felt that the country needed continued rebuilding and investment and those who felt things were fine now and it was time to get back to smaller non-military budgets and cutting taxes on the rich. The new President is hoping to patch up US relations with the Soviets and other states somewhat put out by the former administrations “we rule, you drool” attitude, and to brings some of the US’s closer allies into a partnership to develop space, which has already led to accusations of him planning to give away the US’s technological advantage. The President however feels that US technological superiority, derived from Fith’p tech, can only be temporary whatever the US does: once other nations know what is possible, they will duplicate it in time, and US total dominance will only be maintainable if the US is willing to drop asteroids of its own on its competitors heads. He has bigger plans: he wants to start humanity on the way to the stars. The Fith’p dropped the ramjet that had brought them from the Centauri system when they braked into the solar system, and it is now lost in deep space: they had done this not merely because it would be a huge fuel expense to brake its mass as well (it was), but also so they could keep the tech secret as a bargaining chip. There is no more bargaining, all Fith’p tech secrets belong to the USA, but building a new ramjet will be a massive, more-than-manhattan-project scale projects, even without the expenses of building a starship able to keep its crew alive across decades of space travel. The first human starship should not be a US project, but a global one, and should represent all of humanity.

************************************************** **

Light years away, the Fith’p homeworld spins. A warmer, wetter world than Earth – closer to its sun – it is also a one nation world. After the unification of the great powers which had built the Thuktun Flishithy, the few remaining small independents were soon rounded up. The global society is peaceable, lawful, and quite oppressive – the Herdmasters have the Predecessor blocks which said what went wrong last time, and they have no intention of letting that happen. The world must remain unified, resources must be self-sustaining, reproduction regulated for zero population growth. Cities are massive and dense to spare wilderness and farmland – the Fith’p don’t mind so much, they like crowds. The ecosystem is somewhat thin on diversity and heavy in weed species – the legacy of the Predecessor era, in which many gaps were left which three million years of evolutionary radiation have not yet filled. In spite of many calls for large-scale space colonization, off-planet settlements remain small and heavily automated: they exist for resource extraction and production of necessary goods, not for those desirous of large families. Any space colony that grows too large might become a focus of rebellion and the creation of a new, separate herd. This is not to be allowed. The Fith’p people must be preserved, and the planet kept safe from attack from outside.

The leadership is worried. There are few Predecessor stone monoliths left. Once antimatter creation and manipulation and the more sophisticated forms of cybernetics and near-AI systems are mastered, there will be no new technology: the Fith’p are now approaching the final technological level of the Predecessors. A largely hidden search project is under way, hunting for more advanced technology described on stones placed on distant Moons and asteroids, but it has proven futile so far. What will happen to Fith’p science once the Predecessors no longer have any knowledge to give? 

And then there is the other solar system. Some decades ago the first radio signals, the loud calls of the terrestrial military’s most powerful radar, were detected. Apparently the other solar system was further advanced than early inspection had indicated. Would the Traveler Herd achieve victory, or would they be defeated and forced into an alien herd? And if the aliens could do that – what was to prevent them from duplicating the Thuktun Flishithy and returning to conquer the home world? In the century since its departure, Fith’p technology had progressed, but not at any great speed. And while joining an alien herd might have its advantages, and traditionally going belly up to the stronger was simply a fact of life – could the aliens be, well, alien? Lacking the traditions of the Predecessors, would they have the wisdom to preserve the world? Or might they destroy it? Slower than light probes have been dispatched: they will pass close enough to the Solar system to pick up the feeble messages of radio and television, but not so close that they will be detected as they fly by. The first signals will arrive in a decade or so. 

The Predecessors did not die out, not entirely. Some survived in space. And after three million years, they have undergone evolutionary radiation.
Some of their descendants are no longer sapient. Others are extinct. Some have evolved to the point where they have moved to other dimensions more convenient for the shopping and such. And a few still hang around, in the spaces between. They on occasion look in on their accidental heirs. Not long ago, they gave some hunter-gatherer upright apes a little tweak, and quite recently a little prod to the descendants of those apes when they started wondering if the planets moved when angels weren’t pushing them.

After all, if their accidental heirs reached Earth and the most advanced weapon they encountered was the pointy stick, what would they learn? 

[1] I diverge from the text here in that the 4,000 megatons the Americans estimate is nowhere near enough to cause the sort of damage the book describes: to wash India “clear of life to the foot of the Himalayas” would require many millions of megatons of force, a full-blown dinosaur killer that would collapse the climate temporarily so badly that advanced human society could not survive at all and rain fiery chunks of planetary crust down again all over the planet. So I’m going for a bit of a compromise.

In 1963 Allan Maxwell, a brilliant radio expert and electronics engineer, developed a way to transmit microwaves through the fourth spatial axis, thereby allowing for effective faster than light communications, and established contact with a blue-glowing dimensionally transcendent nitrogen-cycle radiation eater from the Andromeda galaxy. [1] Unfortunately, due to poor hiring choices (a little ambition makes for a dangerous temp) a certain unfortunate equipment-based decision was made, and said entity was accidentally drawn onto Earth. Emitting flesh-burning microwave radiation and creating violent local atmospheric disruption merely by existing and moving around, the alien’s encounters with human beings in a desperate (and failed) effort to find equipment with which to reverse the process were not happy-making ones, and eventually It ended up back in at the radio station surrounded by police and local army elements.

After saving Maxwell’s wife from bleeding to death through a hole in her throat by cauterizing the injury (one of the police officers surrounding the station was a wee bit trigger-happy), the alien demonstrated its ability to psychokinetically stop machine gun bullets and issued a stern warning to terrestrials about the dangers of dealing with alien life forms through violence, given the immeasurable power and low tolerance for violent fools of some of the civilizations out there. It then somewhat confusingly disintegrated the radio tower, because what says superior civilization like the random destruction of other people’s way of making a living?

The alien would then go on to dissolve itself, so it wouldn’t be tracked to Earth by the authorities of its own world – personal contact with unknown aliens from beyond civilized space was strictly forbidden, and personal contact with warlike unknown aliens was double dog forbidden. (What it did not mention was that the “illegal contact clean-up crew” often used fairly extreme methods to eliminate knowledge of the contact from the alien world. It felt it had brought Allan Maxwell enough trouble already).

The government line was that a crazed scientist in a spaceman costume full of radioactives had run amuck, and although there were a lot of witnesses there wasn’t too much physical evidence (photos were badly blurred by radiation), there weren’t so many that the US government couldn’t afford bribes, the internet didn’t exist yet, the alien had left no body, and eventually the Culver City Spaceman furore died down. The government of course didn’t buy its own line – too many stories in agreement, too many indications of strange radiation, the fine molecular dust of the radio tower scattered miles downwind. Although Maxwell wasn’t too agreeable about helping – he feared that without adequate precautions, further attempts at communications with things Out There might have even worse consequences – the Army forces seized control of the radio station once there was no longer any signs of the alien, and although Maxwell had taken the precaution of taking his equipment apart, the officer in charge refused to let him take any of it away.

Having lost the radio station, and somewhat tainted by the whole “spaceman scandal” and the deaths, in spite of a US government influenced investigation clearing him of responsibility, Maxwell eventually found a place teaching electronics at a small Pacific northwest university, puttered around in his shed with ever more sensitive electronic detection equipment and writing some philosophical articles based on some of the things the alien told him. Were the underlying electromagnetic forces sustaining the universe conscious in some way? Did the electrical forces of the brain somehow persist after death? God, energy, matter, infinity – in some way the same? His writings would be fairly successful with the counter-culture crowd of the late 60s and 70s, somewhat to his wife’s embarrassment – although one might note to her credit that she was never quick to blame protesters for being shot by policemen.

And then in 1977 US government researchers established contact with the Web of Hercules [2], and shit got real.

Contact with alien civilizations has not destroyed human civilization, but there have been a couple close calls: the Chinese had to nuke that research ship in the Pacific when the machinery started merging with the crew, the Imskian effort to turn their microwave link into a matter transmitter facilitating an invasion of Earth by way of France only failed due to a mutual misunderstanding of image standards and optical wavelengths which prevented the Imskians from taking the necessary precautions their being less than one inch tall would call for, [3] and nobody is sure what happened in Siberia that converted nearly a cubic mile of Siberian Tundra into neutrinos. Of course, there are problems with even the more beneficent species: The Web of Hercules gave a fine demonstration how a moderately dickish alien superintelligence can string a less developed species along for years and years with scattered bits of most useless knowledge and alien science while carrying out a thorough scientific investigation of their culture, biology, thought, etc. But then if they hadn't been jerks humanity might have been less prepared for contact with the Exchange, which nowadays is only allowed contact with people having little or no authority, to prevent them from selling the planet for the alien equivalent of magic beans.

In any event, it seems most alien races aren’t interested in picking up the phone. There have been only a couple dozen sustained contacts, many aliens apparently cutting contact once they got a basic gander at humanity, and quite a few others being so alien as to make communication efforts largely futile. (Although some are persistent. After twenty years, we have managed to agree on the meanings of “yes”, “no”, and “maybe” with a six-dimensional swarm of dark-matter intelligences somewhere on the edge of the local cluster).

Due to the clear risks, communication with aliens is strictly regulated, and certain forms of advanced electronic equipment are even more tightly regulated than high explosives in our world, and there is nowhere on Earth one can erect a radio station without the government and an international inspection team getting a look in. Although most aliens aren’t interested in accelerating the progress of a race as backwards and aggressive as ourselves, thanks to a few alien do-gooders there has been considerable technological progress beyond OTL. Energy is cheap, as is synthetic food, and computers have developed to the stage of weak AI (which eliminated so many jobs that most western governments have made a 30 hour work week mandatory to avoid putting a third of the population on the dole). There have been a few technological whoopsies, such as the Great Unfolding’s providing humanity with a means of preventing atomic explosions, which led to the third world war of 1993-1996. (As a result the Soviet Union is now the Federated Russian Republics, while the north/south Chinese border still remains somewhat fluid).

With the existence of contact with alien life becoming public knowledge in the 80s (the need to make sure no private accidental messing around with microwaves led to disaster made it inevitable) made the Culver City Spaceman story come back into public consciousness, and although the government was very reluctant to admit that they had been bullshitting the public on such as scale, the full story finally came out, and Allan Maxwell was honored with a belated Nobel prize in 1990.

There is a strong push to cut all contact with aliens, due to risks physical and mental both. Aside from the odds of some small-scale illegal station letting something Very Bad into the computer networks or failing to master by now the very comprehensive protocols meant to prevent it being used as a teleportation system, helpful-minded aliens have noted that while the odds of our getting in contact with aggressive races physically close enough to come visiting by non-transmitter means are low, they aren’t zero, either: aiming our transmissions entirely outside the galaxy is probably the safer bet. And there’s always the possibility that some alien superintelligence might just talk us into exterminating ourselves or completely modifying our culture for “our own good”: it’s certainly the case that contact has been culturally disruptive. The fact that a number of alien intelligences claim to have “proof” of some sort of mind being inherent to the structure of the universe itself has shaken up religion, not helped by the fact they seem unclear as to whether it can be described as good, bad or indifferent (further clouded by the fact that such categories are often orthogonal to alien thinking). Others claim to be in contact with some sort of afterlife, although whether such a thing exists for all races is again unclear: opinions on humans differ, and nearly half of aliens either won’t talk about such matters or claim to not understand. At least one race claims to be part of God, if only in the sense that liver cells are part of a human being.

The Brightly Shining invaded and colonized Earth a while ago, but since they are a non-material race, nobody has noticed.

Nobody can explain the incomprehensible equations professor Takajuo wrote all over the walls of his room before he committed suicide. Hopefully nobody will ever dig the data storage stick out of the dump and find it still usable: the aliens meant well, but the human processing system can in fact be crashed.

The Eppawa Rzong fleet will arrive in eighty-seven years. Much depends on how lucky humans are in their communications in the meantime.


Another Outer Limits short. Please excuse the Red China demonization, it comes with the era.  

The non-OTL Chinese Communist Party leader Lee Chin Sung takes over from Mao in 1963, in the wake of the disastrous Great Leap Forward. Mao dies in a “tragic airplane accident” shortly afterward. Lee pursues a program of limited free enterprise and Stalinist heavy industrialization with a fair degree of success, raising China to rough co-equivalence to the Soviet Union in terms of economic/military power by the mid-80s, building a nuclear ICBM force sufficient to inflict crippling damage on either the US or USSR, although not as huge as the bloated arsenals of those nations, and heavily investing in scientific R&D combined with extensive scientific and industrial espionage abroad. He strengthens his hand at home with a heavy dose of aggressive Chinese nationalism, taking a hard line on Taiwan, giving North Vietnam the sort of military backing it needed to allow it successfully overrun the South before the US could build up the necessary forces to stop them, and with a combination of terrorism and military threat forces the UK and Portugal to abandon Hong Kong and Macau years early.

With the US and USSR in this world moving into a form of Détente more sincere than OTLs, China is increasingly seen as the main threat to world peace and security, and the US election of 1984 sees the election of popular candidate William Lyons Selby, who (among other things) pushes for international containment of what he politely refuses to call “the yellow peril”, no matter the term’s resurgence. However, President Selby’s early policy moves seem oddly out of character…

The Proteus formula, developed by Chinese biochemists originally in search of something quite different, makes human flesh, cartilage, etc., all but the solid bones itself, temporarily as malleable as clay, and easily reshaped to exact specifications. It allows one to replace ones face with any of a million other faces, to change fingerprints, to remove or add scars, to modify a voice box and change the timbre of a voice, and much more. It allowed the attempted Chinese takeover of the US government in 1984.

It probably not would have happened if US security was tighter (and was never tried against the Soviet Union), but then this was ironically a happier US than ours – the cultural and social shocks of the 60s and 70s were less violent, and no US president or presidential candidate would be assassinated between 1901 and 1984. Security remained light, public access easy, because who would be crazy enough to assassinate a US president in these enlightened days?

President Selby’s first 102 days in office, later to be referred to (inaccurately) by historians as the “100 days of the dragon” saw a breakdown in détente with the USSR, an unprecedented outreach to the People’s Republic, and half a dozen deaths the details of which the US public would not learn of until years later. In the end, a man dental records would determine was not, in fact, William Selby Lions would commit suicide in prison before revealing any larger detail of what had been planned, the Chinese government blandly disclaimed any knowledge of the acts of what it called “radical renegades in Soviet pay” and US politics came very close to boiling over as the very legitimacy of the 1984 election was called into question, along with the identity of the dead man in his cell, the identity of a Chinese “assassin” cremated beyond any identification shortly after his death, the loyalties of the Vice President, now US president, and why were weren’t going to war with China, already.

The last one had a clear if unsatisfying answer: the paranoid Chinese regime had a large nuclear arsenal on hair-trigger alert, and a successful nuclear first strike, even with Soviet support, seemed a gamble unlikely to “pay off” without the deaths of tens of millions of US citizens. The best that could be done was to create a solid US-Soviet alliance to “contain” China and as extensive a technological and economic embargo as could be assembled. There would be no war, just an ongoing struggle.

China was forced to turn inwards after 1985, forced to increasingly depend on its own resources and spend heavily to deter enemies unified, at least for now, against it. His popularity with the masses shaken, Lee Chin Sung turned more brutal, more despotic, reviving the Death of Ten Thousand Cuts, now greatly extended in duration by Science, for all “traitors” against the regime – an ever-broadening category. Strange stories emerged of underground atomic cities, horrible failed experiments in nuclear breeder reactions in the western deserts, giant crèches of children born from artificial wombs and never seeing the sun, curious genetically engineered fungi spreading vastly over square miles of ground.

In the Year of the Snake, 2001 to westerners, the aged and reportedly ill Lee launched his final scheme, a false-flag operation which would draw the Soviet Union and the US into atomic war (the US and Soviet Union détente had become a lot friendly in the 90s with the Soviet economy tanking and the US supposedly “meddling” in the revolt of much of Eastern Europe). Replicant bodies – not merely reshaped Chinese, but clones of actual Americans and Russians then “pressed” into shape – at the right locations, secret tunnels dug under hundreds of miles of Soviet land with atomic lasers, cleverly faked satellite signals and messages and imaginary rockets seen to be launched. Although half the population of China might die – the Soviets at least would not China alone when they grappled with the other - with atomic and laser antimissile systems, deep underground cities with built in food supplies, nuclear breeder reactor power and the ability to rapidly repopulated, China would survive and inherit the Earth.

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, and as it turns out neither did the Chinese expect Israeli intelligence, which kept a close eye on all powers with Israel-glassing capacities as a matter of course. The balloon went up but the world failed to blow up, the Soviets demonstrated the limitations of Chinese survival plans by demonstration-dusting part of Gansu with their new super-anthrax (spores guaranteed lethal for up to 200 years!). Lee threatened to unleash even more horrible threats if attacked, but it’s hard to top nearly destroying the world. Fortunately, a coup took place and both the Forbidden City and the small town in Sichuan from with Lee was actually running things [1] went up in flames. The succeeding war between regime loyalists and revolutionaries quite convinced the US and Soviets that the threat was ended and that sticking their softer appendages in the hornet’s nest would be a bad idea.

Today, the New Chinese People’s Combine, if not very democratic is at least a much less aggressive nation than Lee’s People’s Republic. The economy having been largely wrecked by the civil war and the lengthy dedication of most national resources to surviving a nuclear holocaust while hiding the details from outsiders (a bunch of cities were essentially _roofed over_ as a security measure), much is being rebuilt as it were from scratch, and since under such circumstances simple addition of inputs can make a big difference, growth rates are high. Of course, the current leadership has bigger ambitions: dominated by the children of the crèches and the underground cities, the new generation of elites has a technocratic and utopian vision which is bold, daring, and frankly a bit creepy to outsiders. It does not help that the inner governing council, in their fanatical dedication to preventing a “cult of personality” from ever arising again, are not only nameless, but faceless (thank to Proteus, very close to literally so).

The US in the year 2015 is still a somewhat paranoid nation, pardonably so due to their nation nearly being destroyed by Sinister Plots twice in fifty years. US presidents remain even more heavily guarded than OTL, and advanced genetic and biometric identification techniques remain SOP for all individuals in positions of government and military authority. People expect the US government to have Secret Scientific Projects, and aren’t so much annoyed by that as by the government protestations that no, they don’t. Smoking remains common on TV and the movies, thanks to the development of cancer-free (well, mostly) tobacco by genetic engineers in the 1980s. Race relations are more complex than ever (see below).

Fashions nowadays are fashions in faces as well as in dress; although identity issues and the problem of freaking out your family means most people will stick with the same face for decades (aside from reshaping it into a more youthful version as they age), many of the young and trendy/disgruntled or the variously-aged criminal [2] change their faces often better than annually. (Among the young and female, the Brazilian-Polynesian Fusion Look is in this year). Further developments of Proteus means scar-and-stretch free plastic surgery is a relative snap, fat removal is generally easy, soft body parts are more often enhanced than not (nudge nudge wink wink) and countless idiots with a homebrew batch of Proteus and a Teach Yourself Body Modification book mangle themselves horribly every year to the point of requiring extensive surgery and the aid of master body-shaping artisans to fix. Really effective means of changing skin color as well as body and face shape have really _seriously_ complicated the issue of racial definitions and boundaries, and led to some really nasty family fights in both minority and majority ethnicity families. And then are the SERIOUS rebels and punks, who rebuild themselves into genuinely non-human forms, limited only by the underlying bone structure (and some wacky biologists are working on ways to modify bone growth, so don't depend on that remaining a constant).

US colonization of the solar system is ongoing in partnership with Japan and the European nations. There's a certain amount on "eggs in multiple baskets" thinking: the Almost Apocalypse failed to come off, but the "false flag" operations still killed some millions of Americans and Soviets, and the Chinese civil war killed more people than all the deaths of WWII. The Soviet Union, without the Chinese Menace to help hold it together, slowly dissolved 2002-2012, although the Slavic core has managed to hold together: the New Russian Union is trying to get back into the Space game, but getting the funding together remains difficult.

[1] Nobody is entirely sure if Lee Chin Sung was actually in either place, and loyalists rallied behind three different “Lees” all of which turned out to be Proteus-modified doubles. Nobody is sure how many doubles there were during Lee Chin Sung’s last, paranoid days, but there were dozens at least. Some loyalists claim that Lee had been replaced years before 2001 and it was a crazy _double_ who planned Armageddon. Others claim that the real Lee is still alive, sustained by Unnatural Science at the age of 94 plus and wearing a new face, planning his return to power.

[2] There are laws in various places preventing known felons from changing their faces without notifying the government of their new look, but they are widely disregarded.


The Thetan (Beta Hydri Theta) was a strange and fearsome invader. Only vaguely humanoid, bidpedal, with backwards-jointed bird legs ending in fierce (if shaggy) claws, long, double-jointed arms with which it knuckle-walked when in a hurry, covered in black, oily scales. Its torso was broad and flat, as was its head. Its blood was copper-based, it metabolized nitrogen rather than oxygen. Two slits for a nose and two slits in a conical muzzle for a mouth – back home it’s ancestors did not so much eat as suck in the floating microlife of its dense atmosphere – reptilian eyes with a spectrum shifted deep into the infrared, and a skull-topping dome of fine bony latticework that did not hold its brain but rather processed nitrogen and expelled digestive gasses [1]. A being most alien. A being which, however, did not exist.

In the year 1999, the cold war raged on, although the cast had changed a bit, with the United Asian Collective pushing a stagnating Soviet union out of Red Menace No.1 spot, a genuinely united western Europe (sans Britain, but what you gonna do?) taking a more equal position to the US in the Anti-Red coalition, and to everyone’s surprise India and its allies actually emerging as a genuine third power rather than a running gag. With ever more sophisticated space-based weapons systems getting increasingly hard to keep track of, the dangers of an accidental nuclear war were higher than ever, and after an accidental firing of an automated orbital “second-strike” rocket nearly vaporized Los Angeles (it was rerouted just in time to the Nevada desert), a group of dedicated and brilliant scientists decided that humanity needed a common enemy. This was the fourth “near miss” since the start of the thermonuclear age and the third since the Cuban crisis: the odds of humanity making it through a fifth, a sixth, and so on, decreased exponentially.

A push to militarize space from the start had as one beneficial consequence the earlier development of powerful space-based telescopes, and by the late 90s a multitude of extra-solar planets had been discovered and many had undergone close spectroscopic analysis. One of the most interesting cases was Beta Hydri Theta [2], which while having less water than Earth and a mostly Carbon Dioxide and Nitrogen atmosphere, appeared to have a lot of complex organic molecules in said atmosphere, and thermal analysis indicated quite livable temperatures. Theta was therefore much in the news as the likeliest location for off-Earth life yet found.

They had a planet: now they just needed a Thetan.

Needless to say, the “rebuild a human being into a mock-Thetan, have him land on the UN building terrace in a “scout ship” [3] and threaten the UN with a “death ray” while making it clear he was only the first scout, and then be killed so he could be dissected and shown to be most likely a Thetan” plan didn’t go off flawlessly, with something going wrong with the lander’s steering mechanism so it ended up in a swamp in New Jersey rather than in Manhattan. The “Thetan” made it back to the New York research lab where he had been rebuilt on an entirely inadequate supply of nitrogen and with a load of duck shot in his back, and perished right in front of his wife, who had been kinda left out of the whole “we’re going to turn your husband into a space monster and send him on a suicide mission For The Good of Mankind” thing.

(The self-destruct mechanism for the lander, designed to keep Earthlings from discovering the too-terrestrial nature of most of its equipment, did in fact work flawlessly, and blew to bits three duck hunters. Their dog, which had sensibly gotten lost, survived.)

It proved impossible to keep the whole thing quiet, especially since the rather angry wife blabbed and the scientists were too bummed and in any event uncertain about what to do next to, say, dissolve her in acid. It became a national furore, and the consequent call for close monitoring of scientists and their work, allowing only those who took loyalty oaths and were properly patriotic to work on major projects, etc. would eventually cripple US scientific development for over a generation, but that’s another story. [4] Things were not helped by one of the scientists sharing some of the technology they had secretly developed for the project with the Reds, feeling it might destabilize the Cold War if the US alone had access (most notably a hand-held laser with 100 times the punch of anything available to the armed forces, and a spaceship hull alloy lighter than aluminum and stronger than steel). Purges of academia and government institutions followed.

Ironically, even if everything had worked exactly as planned, the "Scarecrow" would have only worked for three years at most: genetic studies unknown to the project members, being carried out by scientists entirely uninvolved in the conspiracy would have made the Thetan's human origins impossible to conceal by 2003.

The modified Rhesus monkey which had been the initial "proof of concept" for the project survived until 2005, creeping out millions of schoolchildren which came to see it in its new home at the New York Museum of natural history.

Although the project and its scientists were roundly condemned, one man was not: Dr. Allen Leighton, the man who had become the Thetan. Whatever people’s concerns about the unpatriotic, internationalist and probably commie-inspired “project scarecrow”, the fact that a man would face death and physical torture and body horror worse than death in the name of world peace was admirable enough for most to forgive him. The head surgeon on the project promoted the notion, in interviews, magazine articles, and a hastily written book, that if one man could sacrifice so much, could not the rest of us try a little harder to live in peace? The response was tepid, not helped by the fact that Leighton’s widow refused to give interviews on what she called “the idiocy” and protected her fatherless daughter from reporters with the fury of a she-bear. [5] But, in the end, the project did change the world, just not in the ways its architects had hoped.

The surgical, biochemical and biological innovations of the project have been adopted and added to. In 2015, both East and West blocks have settlers on Mars, modified to survive the cold and thin air, adaptations less extreme than those required to make a man a Thetan. Other projects are underway to make men and women capable of surviving in zero gravity indefinitely, and to survive in vacuum for extended periods: the asteroids beckon. Still other projects, generally kept secret from the general public, seek to make people who can survive high levels of radiation, lowered oxygen and high ozone, and live off weeds and bugs. The Thetan’s “death ray” has been adapted to create a new system of laser anti-missile defenses, which made the fifth “near miss” quite survivable. Of course, the eternal race of offense vs. defense continues, but between the inward turn of most governments in the post-Thetan “OMG INTERNATIONALISTS” panic and the slowdown in technological progress, humanity has been given a breathing space.

Telepathy is also in the news: the existence of psychic abilities had been proven finally in the 1970s by the Rhine Research Center after some new leadership hired a few professional magicians to weed out the obvious (to magicians, not psychic researchers) fakes, but proved to be so weak a phenomenon as to be largely useless for effective long-range communication or weaponizing (much to the military's regret, and in spite of initially apparently successful work with goats [6]). Occasionally a strong link would arise between two psychically talented individuals, allowing them to know over a distance of thousands of miles if the other was alive or dead or suffering, but this did not extend to more elaborate communications, and also required the forming of a close emotional bond between the two first, which led to much awkwardness in government-mandated experiments.

Only recently have techniques to rework the brain by surgery and cybernetics (mostly in Japan) finally reached the point where the telepathic ability can be enhanced. As yet there have been no true mind-readers created, let alone mind-controllers (which some argue is an SF trope having nothing to do with how telepathy actually works) but there are now several "star subjects" which can establish empathic relations with almost anyone. Unfortunately from the point of view of military men, this just makes them emotionally involved with their contacts: it apparently works both ways.

************************************************** ****

Perhaps, as eyes turn to the planets and stars, a new generation arises in Asia, and the Soviet Union undergoes slow internal convulsions, the Cold War will finally grind to a stop. Perhaps new links from mind to mind will create a sense of fellowship that even oceans between cannot break. And even if the unspeakable does still happen, the techniques created to build a global scarecrow give the children of humanity a fighting chance, a chance that even if the world burns, on other planets and drifting space rocks, and in the barren and lonely parts of a ravaged earth, something of us will survive, even if it does not quite fit the definition of “human” any longer.

[1] Yes, it farts from the top of its head. Deal with it.

[2] Seventh planet, yes, but Beta Hydri is hotter than the sun, there are a couple more extra-close “Mercurys” and the dense atmosphere of Theta retains heat.

[3] Sent up disguised as a new weather satellite

[4] In any event, the Asians, fearing similar disloyalty among its own scientists, launched their own purges, which helped even things out a little. Japan, where most people thought the whole thing had been pretty cool, ended up world leader in R&D for a while.

[5] With the sort of contrived coincidence one might expect from cheap melodrama, Mrs. Leighton didn’t inform her husband that her seemingly incurable fertility problem had resolved itself in the happiest manner until _after_ the initial modifications had passed the “irreversible” stage.

[6] It turns out some goats are just really, really sensitive to telepathic energies.


The future, for the first time in quite a while, is looking somewhat hopeful. Although much of Europe, the former Soviet Union, and the United States lie in ruin, while sinister super-beings lurk in hiding, the new cosmic energy condensers have at last brought the promised dream of the nuclear age to reality – power, limitless and almost too cheap to meter. The resource crunch has been greatly alleviated by the fact that if power is cheap and abundant, recycling is far more practical. Beams of cosmic energy send ships flying to the Moon, the asteroid belt – and beyond. Now as long as someone doesn’t do something crazy like try and use the power cosmic [1] to drag one of those asteroids down from the sky…

It was in some ways a more successful world than ours. The Soviet plans for computerized “red plenty” were successful: the third world successfully broke out of the slow-grow trap which so much of it was mired in OTL before the 90s: China found its own somewhat peculiar path to growth. Unfortunately, the accelerated global growth also led to more pollution, more global warming, and a rapid exhaustion of rare elements. Atomic power was energetically tackled as a substitute for the coal and shale-oil that was poisoning the skies and choking the planet, but the atomic fuels were limited in quantity, and breeder reactors were politically infeasible after a couple truly unfortunate fast-breeder failures. Due to a different technological development path, solar panels remained pricey and fusion as usual twenty to thirty years into the future. The world demanded more clean energy [2], more raw materials, but where were they to come from? Space held promise: the Moon was poor in heavy elements, but probes sent to the asteroid belt located great tumbling masses of rock and iron rich in rare earths and atomic fuel elements. However, as the 21st century got under way, the technology did not yet exist to send ships out there, and return to earth with raw materials, all while keeping costs per unit retrieved lower than those where such elements were extracted from poor and scanty ores back on earth.

And then a man called Harold J. Finley, a physics teacher at a small California college, came up with a solution. Of sorts.

The Link-Gate, an electronic implant built directly into the frontal lobe, allowed the human mind to do what technology could not do alone – focus the infinite sea of cosmic energy on which all reality floated, and of which the known electromagnetic spectrum was only a tiny part. With it the mind could exert the force to move and manipulate matter on a massive scale, to mine the asteroids or move them into more useful orbits without the use of equipment too bulky and massive to be economically moved between Earth and the Asteroid belt. The US space program seized upon this new technology and paid for an operation which made Finley himself (who would permit nobody else to take the risk) the guinea pig. Things went a bit pear-shaped after it turned out that 1. The amount of energy that could be channeled had no clear upper limit and 2. The subconscious mind also had access to the steering wheel on the jalopy. A number of people disintegrated [3] later, including Mr. Finely himself and the only other working model of the Link-Gate, the project was put on the back burner.

“What one man can do, another can do.” – Various.

Although the exact design of the Link Gate was kept secret by Finley to keep his ideas from being stolen (a life of being put upon had left him somewhat paranoid), he had been forced to give enough away when first convincing people he wasn’t a kook that given a large number of very intelligent people working very hard on the problem, getting the rest of it wasn’t too hard. And in spite of the unfortunate results of the Mark One model, essentially infinite free energy (not to mention the potential of possibly moving mountains with ones mind) was too much of a carrot for people to not convince themselves that the Mark Two would be all better. And the same reasoning of course applied to the Soviets when their spies reported back on what the Americans had been working on. Control issues? Well, are there no tamper-proof explosive collars in the Worker’s paradise? No mind-altering drugs? No implantable explosives, if the collar thing didn’t work out? No hypnotic compulsions?

The Mind Wars were brought on by several things: increasing degradation of the world environment with attendant food shortages, famines, civil unrest, etc.; raw material shortages: the contest for control of the asteroids, which were supposed to solve many of these problems, (but it would be cooler if one power controlled access to them, wouldn't it); and fear that the other side’s mind-controlled, bomb-implanted, drug-pacified super-soldiers would get out of control (or, worse, would be _effectively_ controlled). Not to mention various mysterious earthquakes, explosions, massive land slips, etc. that each accused the other side of triggering. Things got ugly very fast.

(The planned use of carefully drugged and lobotomized human brains connected to Link-Gates as sources of power for industry and urban centers was a project still in the process of “getting the bugs out” when the war started, and was not continued afterwards).

The Super-Soldiers or H-Womds (from Human Weapons of Mass Destruction) both wrecked half the planet and also saved it from even worse, striking down atomic bombs with their minds in flight, burying or tossing into space burning and shattered nuclear reactors, and in other ways minimizing the amount of radioactive death that would linger after. They also, across distances of hundreds of miles, burned cities, shattered mountains, set off volcanoes, created earthquakes, and out in space some of them threw asteroids at the Earth (fortunately they either had poor aim over distances of millions of miles or other H-Womds deflected them). And some went rogue, one way or another: some went mad beyond the abilities of any control protocols to manage them; some destroyed themselves and everyone around them; others managed to somehow survive destroying the elaborate mechanisms designed to kill them if they deviated at all from orders. The mechanisms designed to keep them from drawing more than a certain amount of power didn’t always work the way they were supposed to, either. A quarter of a million square miles of Canada is still only slowly stabilizing as rock molten all the way down to the asthenosphere slowly cools from the top down.

Powerful as they were, they were still human and mortal and as easily injured as anyone else. A H-Womd could throw a screen of destroying energies miles high over a city to stop bombs and planes and missiles, but that didn’t help if he (mostly he: for some reason, sexism ran rather high in deciding who got god-like powers) stepped on a rusty nail and got tetanus. The development of methods to detect other H-Womds by their exertion of power brought the war to a rapid mutual-destruction close. Nobody won: neither the US or USSR
were in any shape to do anything aside from starting to clear up the rubble afterwards, and Europe, China, and various other countries had been drawn in due to alliances, Super-Soldier programs of their own or just became “innocent bystanders” as various mentally unstable supermen wrecked havoc across the planet.

On the positive side, after the large scale dieoff from the war and some very nasty winters, and a serious reduction in planetary industrial production, the resource shortages weren’t as bad for a while.

In the year 2045, thirty years after the war, things are looking up. New centers of power have arisen in India, S. America, and Africa, a new functional government has arisen in South China, and something fairly sizable is assembling itself out of bits and pieces of the former US, Canada, and Mexico. The human element has been eliminated from the project of drawing power from the cosmic energy substrate, and while you could still use it to write your name on the Moon, that requires bulky,complex and not universally available equipment, so unfortunate personal impulses are not so easily given form. Of course, new and destructive weapons could be built as dangerous as any Super-Soldier, but after the Mind Wars, who would be so silly? (Or at least that’s what say placating politicos pontificating on public programming.)

Most of the H-Womds died in the war or were murdered in one way or another soon after: only a few elderly, carefully monitored specimens still exist under the jurisdiction of the New League of Nations, using their powers in aid of various public works (H-Womds are still capable of focusing and manipulating the cosmic energies in more complex ways than any single machine can): all are individuals very carefully psychological vetted back in the day, and also usually on a regimen of drugs that keeps them in deep dreamless sleep or cheerful daylight euphoria. No more than can be counted on the fingers of one hand have managed to gain the public and government trust to the extent where they are trusted on a regimen free of happy pills of some sort. Far more worrisomely, frequent blips on the screens of sensitive detectors indicate there are people manipulating the energy field without government remit or monitoring: such incidents never continue for long enough to pin them down closer than a single city, and wartime “draw them out by flattening the city” methods are of course not practical. The existence of hidden people with terrifying power is a constant sour note in the public consciousness: more worrying to governments is that these people may not be simply hiding but may be working for agents of other governments or secret societies of various sorts: still worse is the possibility that it’s not just survivors of the war - someone may be again building new direct-brain-link interfaces, something illegal in every recognized state and carrying the death penalty in a majority of them. Suspicion has fallen on the various Transhumanist churches, which have mushroomed into existence with the clear evidence that a little technological meddling can indeed make humans as Gods.

In the deeps of space, a spherical mass of rock some miles in diameter flies on through the void. Inside are air, water, and life: energy for light, power, and recirculation of air and water come from the mad god of this place, a particularly adept manipulator of cosmic energy who got rid of his control implants at the cost of a chunk of his brain. He fled into space from enemies real and imagined, but not without taking a large chunk of landscape rolled into a ball, and a few thousand humans to keep him company (now several hundred: he didn’t think through the details of farming very well). Current survivors are cautiously hopeful: he hasn’t killed anyone for suggesting it might be getting to be time to get back to Earth in a while. And they really need to get back: the “Mindlord” is getting shockingly aged and often given to rambling, and if he dies while they are still in space it will not be long before everyone else faces death, whether through freezing, suffocation or starvation.

In a church buried deep in an old salt mine, a man stands, most of his broken body replaced by mechanical parts controlled and powered by a trickle of cosmic energy. The chorus breaks into a hymn of praise for the God which will be.

More pleasant space settlements now are beginning to dot the inner solar system, propelled by harnessed cosmic forces: they would reach further and be more numerous if it were not for the fact that the cutting edge in life support technology kinda dropped back to pre-NASA days when the global economy and R&D spending cratered in the post Mind-Wars mess and jobs for life support systems specialists kinda dried up. Many governments secretly feel the human race needs to spread far and fast: even without transhumanists and other idiots trying once again to put the cosmic power directly into the hands of mentally disturbed people (on some level, most human beings), it’s possible in theory to create a wide-open mechanical gate to the infinite energy sea which in the nanosecond of its existence would create an energy flow capable of vaporizing the Earth.

The underlying energy field extends to the most distant stars, and is bounded neither by space nor time. The energies drawn from it during the Mind Wars, although relatively miniscule on pan-Galactic level, set up vibrations that could be detected across many light years by those in the know, while the steadier and steadily increasing draw in consequent years allows for triangulation, so to speak. The guardians of universal safety and order close in slowly, but steadily.

[1] Self-conscious Silver Surfer reference.
[2] For various reasons this world never developed as big a phobia towards nuclear waste as OTL.
[3] Think the entire output of the NE United states electrical grid passed through the volume of a human body.
The Outer Limits, I
Some "what happened next" plots for the old-school Outer Limits show. 


Bruce Munro
Current Residence: Where the rabbit shoulda made a turn
Hmm. No comments on the new map. Is it a dull map? Am I no longer "hot" on Deviantart? :) Or have I simply produced a map so densely annotated that there simply are no questions to be asked? 

Edit - so it is I simply produced a map so densely annotated that there simply are no questions to be asked 

Guess I shall have to make my maps more obscure in the future! :D

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Dain-Siegfried Featured By Owner 13 hours ago  Student Writer
This might sound stupid but has anyone ever actually done a 'what if Hitler wasn't born' map. Though that is a key example of alternate history I've never actually seen a map where that was the POD. Axis victory; countless. Different Allied victory; not uncommon. But one specifically where lil' baby Adolf never came to be? I don't think so.

I'd do it myself if I had any confidence in my knowledge of the interwar period.
dorg1 Featured By Owner 22 hours ago
Did you get my message? I almost never use Deviantart and I'm not sure what if it went through.
Hayaba1 Featured By Owner 3 days ago  New Deviant
You should do your take on what Earth was like on the eve of the UNS Unity's launch.
HeliosMegistos Featured By Owner May 11, 2015
I think I may have asked once before but I can't remember... do you take map/scenario request or challenges if they interest you ?
QuantumBranching Featured By Owner May 16, 2015
Free for stuff that inspires me, and $25 a map for stuff less up my alley but not downright yecch or beyond my abilities. 
HeliosMegistos Featured By Owner May 17, 2015
Ahh good to know.

I Hope I didn't bother you, I was just curious.

I better get back to work on my own Dawnverse project shortly, Telepathic dystopian-alternate historical fantasy doesn't write itself.
eclipse-paladin Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2015
Happy Birthday!
MrCaptainA Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2015
Happy Birthday, Bruce!
bI777 Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2015  Student
Happy Birthday!
The-Polybius Featured By Owner Edited Apr 30, 2015
Happy B-Day BM!
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