Last month, I was part of a quasi-military patrol force. I'm still part of that force, but the real bosses are showing up now. And they've got new instructions for me.
- One Saturday afternoon in the Lansing, Michigan barracks, I get orders to go to a certain address in south Chicago for extended duty. Transportation is thoughtfully being provided... via Greyhound bus to South Bend, Indiana, then commuter rail.
- I do the travel and show up on Sunday afternoon... and find a supermarket! Okaaaay. Orders are orders, so I go in.
- I get shown to a back room - and it's luxurious! Fancy people are lounging there, and more are coming in through the back door - from out of limousines! They're eating fancy treats served from... isn't that puppy skin, complete with legs? At any rate, some of the dessert cups are spotted like dalmatians, others are fuzzy like terriers, and they all have little heads that bob. I hear a chef's gone public with those recipies. (14 Jun)
- The Governor of Illinois is there, and I recognize some of the other dignitaries. Malcolm Dunevoy is there; I know him from Tennessee Battle Chess.
- But of greater interest to me, Russell Anvernacht and Rupert Mafekinger are both there. They're a couple of political wackos that I recently got in the way of. For all I know, they brought me here to be executed... but they know I can evade them. I wonder what's up?
The governor of Illinois opens the session by welcoming his fellow Secret Masters. Then a briefing starts, with a status report from 1862. Someone's spreadsheet can't make the Federal siege of Raleigh go any faster, because it doesn't actually do the job, it just reports on it. (20 May)
A lot of questions follow. Apparently most of the room is as confused about this statement as I am.
- What siege of Raleigh? The answer is, "alternate past". Virginia on the Union side (it could have happened!) and Robert E. Lee as supreme Union commander, but Virginia general Joe Johnston is in charge of the eastern Army of the James. Hence, Raleigh as the first target, and a good deal of slowness in taking it. General Johnston was pretty good on defense but unproven on offense.
- What do spreadsheets have to do with it? Some modern technology seems to have leaked out to the U.S. Corps of Quartermasters. They're finding it useful for tracking supplies.
- How'd the modern stuff get to 1862? Apparently some "entrepreneurs" got control of a time machine, and used it to try to break the United States during its Civil War. These people were "freelancers" from the Middle East, linked to al-Qaeda. Not exactly "terrorists", though. These people aren't trying to sow indiscriminate terror; they're a bit smarter than that. They're actually political strategists - the kind who command the stupid terrorists.
There's one more big question: What's changed?
- The al-Qaeda faction seems to have obtained a functioning United Nations time machine from the old reality. They decided... The U.S. is messing with Islamic civil wars. Why not mess with the American Civil War? So...
- Some Virginians got suspicious when Mohammedan agents came to Richmond in early 1861, promising to bankroll the secession movement, and throwing money like they worked for the Sultan of Turkey and Americans were godless moneygrubbers.
- Apparently some time travellers didn't do their research. For one thing, the United States of America got its start as a breeding ground for Christian religious splinter factions, and it was extremely religious during the 19th century. So was its major political splinter faction, the Confederate States of America. (Obviously, someone's prayers in 1862 didn't get answered. But anyway...)
- For another thing, the Confederate Gov wasn't in Virginia yet. Through much of 1861, Virginia was still deciding whether to secede. When Virginians noticed agents of a foreign religion trying to influence the situation in a particularly obnoxious manner, Virginia declared for the Union! And they grabbed one of al-Qaeda's computers.
- The pseudo-Turks went on south, and bankrolled the Confederates. But it didn't help much. When the campaigns of 1862 started, Union General Joe Johnston ponderously advanced from Virginia toward Raleigh, North Carolina, and drew attention... but then Union supreme commander Robert E. Lee unleashed amphibious assaults everywhere else. General Lee personally led the Army and Navy up the Chattahoochee River and took Atlanta in 1862! General Grant helped out in the West too.
- When Montgomery, Alabama and Columbia, South Carolina both fell in 1863, that was pretty much the end for the official Confederate gov.
- Resistance continued at least until 1865, because the Confederate population couldn't believe they'd been defeated so quickly. Most of our timeline's Civil War battles had small-scale analogs after the real Confederacy fell, like raids into Gettysburg and Appomattox. In response, slavery got abolished in 1865.
- Then President Lincoln got assassinated, right on schedule... which actually makes more sense in this timeline than in the other.
- Afterward, the Reconstruction was kind of brutal, and General Lee spoke out against it. That's why some Southerners still sympathize with him.
- Our present seems unchanged, aside from history books. And even those are arguing over the evidence, because it seems fragmentary.
- The lesson here is, it doesn't pay for people to $#@! with time. As well I know and have seen, but some people have to learn for themselves.
But this plot is still going on, courtesy of the Secret Masters. The 100 most evil people in the world are behind it - right here, right now, in the back of this grocery store. And I'm one of them, ever since I channelled Luciferpower once - and again this year! They say, the plot's gone far enough, and someone needs to rein it in. That someone would be me. (21 May)
- I'm the one who inspired them to work together, ever since I gathered the 100 most evil people in the world in one place back in 2001. The world has changed greatly since then, but the concept still works.
- I'm obviously evil enough; they know I've channelled the power of Satan this year (thank you so very much Satan)... Philippe St. Joseph Lateran says this. He's dressed like a Catholic cardinal with a monk's cowl, but ever since he held me prisoner, I'd recognize that voice anywhere. (I've long suspected the organized Church of Satan is not the only vessel for Satanic power in the world. )
- I'm obviously capable enough, judging from how I disrupted one of their own evil ceremonies. And expendable for that same reason... Russell Anvernacht himself says this.
- I'm obviously influential enough. Osama bin Laden is one of the 100 most evil people in the world, so he was supposed to show up at this meeting. But he's still in hiding wherever he hides, supposedly Pakistan. Still, he showed up when I held the meeting once, so I must have some call upon him... A Russian militarist says this.
- And, I've worked for this conclave of evil, ever since I got drafted by the U.S. Gov into the Patriotic Homeland Patrol. I'm simply reporting a bit further up the chain of command... Rupert Mafekinger himself says this.
As an agent of the 100 most evil people in the world, I have access to the same time machine that Osama bin Laden is abusing. They still have it; they sensibly sent him a future remote-controlled version! And they can make it not respond to him any more if they need to. Wow, evil thinking at its best.
But first, they need to know he's not going to $#@! anything up wherever he is right now. That's what I get to go find out. That Russian militarist is coming along, because they're not trusting me on my own. And we get to tell Osama bin Laden, we're from the Secret Masters and we're there to help!
Another Decision at Potsdam. Now that Osama bin Laden has a time machine, he's not to be found in Pakistan or even Indonesia 2007; he's blending in with the Jewish population of New Jersey, USA, fifty years before anyone's expecting him! (The more I hang around evil masterminds, the more I appreciate evil thinking at its best.) Since I've been assigned to track bin Laden down, here I am in 1945.
- Why 1945? Well, that would be a good time to nip Zionism before it blooms into the State of Israel in 1948.
- Viktor the Russian advisor and I have been assigned as double agents! We're figuring out how to tell Osama that he needs to get treats ready on a certain date, because kids are coming trick-or-treating later this year. In 1945, kids still take the "Trick" part of "Trick or Treat" seriously, which could be ugly at an al-Qaeda safehouse. (21 May)
- Osama's certainly evil enough, but he's actually soft-spoken and congenial to get along with. Of course he speaks English, because he's a multimillionaire international businessman. That's how he funds that terrorist side business. He's even hospitable... though he cuts us off after two cups of tea in the morning, because Allah says that's all the stimulant beverage we should need. (25 Jul)
- Per instructions from the Secret Masters, Viktor and I have said we're here to help. So we're off to influence a war conference - the famous one in Potsdam, Germany! Osama bin Laden really appreciates having a Russian and an American to help him out with this, thank you the Secret Masters of Evil.
- But someone's miscalculated, because we're not on the political staff, we're on the support staff. As part of the American support staff at Potsdam that August, I have to decide whether to make Churchill and Stalin walk five houses away. And it's beastly hot, because it's 1945 and air conditioning hasn't been invented yet. (21 May)
- At one point, I get to wear a special cassock at a set of church services. The U.S. Army has a problem getting enough acolytes for an international audience including Anglicans, and I know something of Anglicans, so I volunteer. Can I get downstairs for refreshments - and to cool off a bit? (22 May)
But it's not quite the Potsdam conference I know. Stalin's sick, but Trotsky's his friend and has a 4-hour drive past Hooters to join him! E-mail says he's coming; the U.S. has domain 19.*, U.S.S.R. 20.*, and U.K. 159.* ... What are Leon Trotsky, e-mail, and Hooters all doing in 1945?
It took me a while to find out, because it's kind of suspicious for a time traveller to just start asking questions. But here's what I eventually discovered. (18 Jun)
- The Soviet Union was #2 on al-Qaeda's Great Satan List, after the United States. So on the way back from Virginia 1862, the al-Qaeda time machine decided to weaken Russia's most powerful dictator: Josef Stalin.
- In the old timeline, Leon Trotsky was forced from Soviet power in the 1920s, and assassinated in the 1930s. Here he stayed on, because Stalin is a bit less vigorous. A bit of anthrax in the right place, but with a poor delivery system, as often happens with anthrax.
- With Trotsky in power and Stalin less vigorous, international socialism is more vigorous - and has a need to organize. The Soviet Union came up with a teletype device that could send electronic mail via telegraph lines. That is to say, Russia invented the Internet!
- With international socialism more vigorous, the United States has changed again. Harry Truman is still president in 1945, and Franklin D. Roosevelt still came before him, but Huey Long came in between! Apparently he avoided being killed in the 1930s too, and came to power on a radical populist platform. President Long got along better with Trotsky than with any of the British prime ministers; U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. are the two main sponsors of the world e-mail system!
- With the United States more populist, the concept of waitresses dressing like pin-up girls caught on early. I think the 1940s Hooters girls here are really sweet. President Truman apparently does too; he brought some in on the support staff.
- With Trotsky in power and the United States more socialist, World War II changed. The Soviet Union avoided military purges and remained firmly anti-Hitler - but Britain didn't! France got the usual treatment from Germany, but Britain only got drawn into the war when Japan attacked.
- Still, Stalin has the final word in Russia... especially after Trotsky falls at the Potsdam conference to an axe-wielding German, despite all that Russian security. I'm pretty sure the Arabic enemies of the world had nothing to do with that. More likely, Stalin wanted his own chance on the world stage, as more than a figurehead.
- So despite all the changes to the past, here we have Churchill, Stalin and Truman sitting in defeated Germany, ready to decide the fate of the world. And Churchill's still setting Stalin and Truman against each other. Can you say, "Cold War"?
... Whatever. I'm on missions: one for Osama bin Laden, and one against him. It's about time for the second. And the best way seems to be a bit of disinformation. So I start spreading a rumor that the hypothetical state of Israel and some of the small Arab emirates are so certain of their independence and their alliance with Western intruder-powers, they've registered to become associate members of the NCAA. (23 May)
- But my mischief costs me. The young U.S. patriotic hero "S.O.S." breaks down a door to get at me, but women run screaming from him, so he surrenders like any gallant hero would. Our bodyguard in captured "Scudbuster" armor (the kind that drives its users crazy, but it can bust two skyscrapers) then sends a scratchy symbiotic probe somewhere unmentionable on his person. I make sure S.O.S. gets out alive (because the world will need him in 2006), but I'm surely not going to watch. (31 May)
- The next day, I try to catch the 2 pm news from U.S. Armed Forces Radio, but somehow it's a religious show that's concerned about one Professor Scratch in Poland. Apparently he's trying to suppress God's-Chosen-People-The-Jews (phrase trademarked by some Christian fundamentalists, or at least it ought to be). I wonder if Osama's made it to Poland under an alias, in reaction to my rumor? (1 Jun)
- But then, some of the British delegation start saying, if Jews can't be guaranteed safety in Europe, maybe they will need their own homeland in Palestine.
In my judgment, this time-machine operation bears all the signs of another al-Qaeda plot - because it's shooting itself in the foot as usual.
- Al-Qaeda's always been good at making their enemies do the opposite of what al-Qaeda ultimately wants. For instance, if they ever get the U.S. forces out of Iraq, the "War on Terror" will still be a tie, albeit with many more dead Arabs than Americans.
- Al-Qaeda with a time machine hasn't been any more successful. So far, they've made the U.S. and Russia both stronger , and ensured the creation of the modern State of Israel. They're not just 0 for 3, they're negative 2 for 3. And it's all thanks to two people who turned out not to be the enemies of al-Qaeda's enemies: Leon Trotsky and Robert E. Lee.
- 1945 doesn't hold out a lot of promise for al-Qaeda. It isn't their kind of year, because people are kind of desensitized to body counts. In 2007, ten U.S. soldiers dead throughout the world in one day is big news. In 1945, that sort of casualty count still happens in one cave in one corner of one very small island.
- Besides, I happen to know, the world is a lot less prone to reality shifts than it used to be. Or at least the New Present is. Which explains how so much has changed, but the end of World War II is still very much the same. So, Osama bin Laden has become like one of those helpless time travellers in a science fiction story, who can't change what is to be.
I think this operation's over. Let's just leave Osama bin Laden stranded in 1945!
Viktor my Russian fellow agent agrees.
- Viktor and I work pretty well together, ever since I showed him how well I liked pepper vodka. We had plenty of chances to find that out, because with Nazi Germany freshly defeated and Russians hosting the meeting, there was much celebratory drinking of vodka in Potsdam that year. (WWII fact: Most of the high-level meetings of the Potsdam Conference started in the afternoon!)
- Viktor's own background of evil involves getting stoned and then fleeing an armed assault through poppy fields in Afghanistan, at a time when Russian forces were the ones who fought the militias there. Apparently there was some collateral damage involved, and some rapine and pillage (to use a euphemism the same way the historians do).
- I can't say "Thumbs Up for Evil" in this case, but I can say, it was war in a manner that is not fought for the benefit of TV cameras. Most war always has been, as Viktor correctly points out.
Viktor and I catch our ride back to the future. But the time machine won't be coming back. The world really has seen the last of Osama bin Laden.