APAGear II Archives Volume 4, Number 6 August, 2002


Alternate History

An exercise in what might have been

Harman Meyerhoff

Alternate history- a subject most often scorned by historians as merely fanciful speculation. But in truth, more often than not, it is far easier to understand what has happened by examining why another possibility did not.

For example, what would have happened had Alexander the Great been killed in one of his early skirmishes against the Persian Empire? In one long held argument, if not for the intervention of one of his guards, the young macedonian would've had his head split open like a melon long before he ever even dreamed of invading Asia Minor.

Similarly, to better understand the events of the last half-century of Terranovan history, one must look further back at the pressures and conflicts that lead to them.

If the Third World War had never happened...

Foremost among the colonial tale of woe is that of the NEC and its infamous Colonial Expeditionary Force, the military force behind the resubjugation of Caprice, Utopia, Atlantis, and perhaps other colony worlds. The New Earth Commonwealth was born from the strife and social collapse of the Age of Isolation, an organization that gained power by exploiting both the economic collapse resulting from abandoning the colonies, and later, using the Third World War and its' grim results as justification for renewed contact with the colony worlds. Intended to subjugate the Gateweb under a totalitarian occupational government dedicated to serving the mother world, the CEF hardly seems a sensible solution to repair the economically and ecologically ravaged catastrophe that was Earth at the end of the last Ice Age.

However, to the billions of homeless and destitute, living in the bombed-out husks of cities or massive refugee camps, it was a slim glimmer of hope- a united governement and massive military expedition taking compensation by force and restoring Earth to her former glories with riches torn from the greedy colonies in a long-overdue settling of scores.

In that respect, the early sucesses of the NEC resembles both the rise of the German National Socialist Party, the ill-fated Nazi regime that plunged most of eurasia into the Second World War, four millenia previously, and the rebellious nation of Kir Arya, destroyed late during the Ice Age.

Like the Nazis, (or for that matter, their neighboring Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) the fledgeling NEC built upon the postwar desolation and anger as fuel for the fires of expansion and retribution, blaming "lesser peoples" for the downfall of their "superior civilization." Also comparable are their shared military doctrines of lightning-warfare, combined arms, and technological superiority, which have evem displayed similar shortcomings even across thousands of years of technological and political progress.

The comparison to Kir Arya could be dismissed as erronious, as rather than a small nation surrounded by enemies and surviving only by technological superiority, the NEC quickly gained control of an entire solar system, and had no initial enemies beyond those it was preparing to make.

However, like Kir Arya and Germany, the NEC entered into an extremely rapid period of military expansion and spending, then launched a furious assault upon neighboring civilizations.

While the current stalemate between Earth and Terra Nova (and our allies on Caprice, as well as potential friends on Atlantis, Utopia, and the other colonies) seems anything but foreordained, looking back at these two prior attempts, it seems quite probable.

In both cases, the agressor nation was a previously opressed society where conditions had become so untenable that almost any party with the promise of a better life was accepted by someone. With conditions as grim as they were, even believing in an ideal that fell through could hardly worsen ones lot in life. When a powerful coalition siezed power and offered both a scapegoat and a structure for recovery, the populace eagerly accepted it.

And so was the CEF born, and sent out on its mission of subjugation and conquest. And like the German Army and the Prime Knights, opposition in directly adjacent territory was feeble and the leadership was spurred to further action by a populace overjoyed by the easy victory.

Unfortunately, the CEF encountered significantly more resistance as it progressed through the Gateweb, being handed a bloody defeat on Terra Nova, a grinding stalemate on Atlantis, resistance on Utopia, and constant Liberatti harrasment on their staging world of Caprice. There are even unconfirmed intelligence reports of a complete loss of contact with the Seventh Expeditionary Fleet, a dangerous piece of information that could mean the destruction of up to a ten percent of the total CEF fleet, in addition to the heavy casualties suffered by the repulsed Eighth Fleet during their abortive mission to the Helios system.

Many political and military analysts need not work hard to draw the rather obvious connection between these setbacks and the increased efforts the CEF has put into mass-destruction weapons like the humiliatingly destroyed Brimstone Massdriver and the rumored Doomsday Virus developed in case the CEF ever loses its' control over Caprice.

However, it did not have to be like this. Easy words to write, but suprisingly easy to base on historic fact, despite their unconventional concept.

In short, the Concordat government sowed the seeds of its' own destruction, and even refused to release its' hold on the reins that had become a noose in the final days of that governments' power.

In short, the Gateships.

It was perhaps an obvious mistake, but starting in the early days of Gate exploration and progressing all the way to the Age of Isolation, the Human Concordat maintained that all Gateships and Gatedrive technologies were semi-classified and restricted military technologies.

What if, as Jakob Herri (chairman of SynTek Industries in the latter half of the 52nd century) and countless others proposed, the Concordat had sold, rented, or leased use of the Gatedrive technology to the major colonial corporations, rather than the immensely difficult and expensive subsidation program allowing corporations the express use of many Concordat gateships?

Considering the fact that the Concordats' technological hoarding also encompassed maintainence, repair, and even crew and fuel costs, it is not hard to surmise that a single (then) multibillion-credit gateship would prove a strain on the Concordats finances, let alone a fleet that in its' heyday exceeded three-hundred-fifty first- and second-generation Gateships.

If the Concordat had simply forced colonial corporations to split costs evenly, rather than the massively discounted program used, the gateweb may have been developed more slowly, but with gradually building impetus rather than the slow attrition of popular support (and taxpayers) that resulted in the Earth First movement.

While such a hands-off method of governing the sole method of interstellar travel could have placed Earth at a potential disadvantage, especially if Gatedrive technology was used without Concordat registration, charter, or similar method of taxation, it had the potential for immense gains. With cheap and constant intercolonial travel, there would have been admittedly modest but constant influx of tax monies from mundane sources like import and export, which would remain relatively unaffected even if the earthbound government restrictions on privately-owned Gatedrives were suddenly ignored by the distant colonies.

In fact, such a loss of control could even be beneficial. Despite the sudden trauma of being rendered "powerless," widespread privatization of Gatedrives could have spurred a land-rush diaspora, with colonies popping up throughout the gateweb, offering newly-discovered resources for sale in civilized space, flooding the Gates with trade and commerce, all of which the Concordat could tax or at least participate in.

In short, the lessons of the Human Concordat are true to the age old adage that "the one who tries hardest to hold on to power is surest to lose it, and everything else".

Making Neel Garner Fulham obsolete...

While the death of Second Follower Thor Hutchinson is still a traumatic subject to many norlights, and had shocked even non-Revisionists worldwide at the time of its occurance, consider the course of history had it never have had a chance to happen.

While most Terranovans recall the late Reverend Hutchinson as an imposing holy man with damnation in his voice and an eyepatch on his face, they fail to realize just how narrowly Hutchinson escaped death at the time he lost his right eye.

Imagine, if you will, that rather than striking and shattering the upper occipital ridge of his skull and losing much of its momentum, the ortillery shell fragment or flying chunk of rubble that cost Hutchinson his sight and redoubled his determination had instead deviated by a millimeter or two, perhaps tumbled slightly, and encountered only soft tissue as it penetrated upward into his eyesocket and from there into his brain.

Ushered in by a barely audible squishing noise, doubtless drowned out by the echoes of the dexplosion and the sounds of collapsing rubble, Terra Nova could potentially have entered a golden age of peace, or if not, at least stalled off the supposedly "inevitable" clash between North and South for several decades.

Without the charismatic reverend, unique in his combination of religious fervor, political orchestration, and broadcasts during War of the Alliance (for which the CEF chose to shell him from orbit), the direction of Northern religion would be drastically different.

Admittedly, the so-called Prophet's Shield had been in existance for the better part of three decades, but without his guidance, the secretive theocratic organization would have stood a much poorer chance at rising to such destructive power as it did during the final days before the Interpolar War. In fact, with Hutchinson dead and the Shield niether fully formed nor unified behind their martyr and figurehead (and thus perfectly placed to harness, ride, and steer the swell of public outrage), Revisionism could have abruptly reverted to pacificsm or directed its' anger at the CEF rather than an assassin supposedly brainwashed by the South.

Also, with Hutchinsons' death so near the end of the War, it seems likely that the tenative Joint Terranovan Space Initiative could well have been something far more trusting and effective than the feeble and eventually defunct political figurehead it became. With full northern support and the fresh wounds of the War still stinging, both hemispheres might well have entered into a polar alliance far more widely accepted and better-supported than the current Westphalia Cabinet and its Black Talon program, allowing Terra Nova to launch into a counteroffensive (or at least fortification) program without the need for the weakening and pointless destruction of the Interpolar War.

Vive le Sur!

While the Southern Republic has a distinct reputation for political intrigue and some of the bloodiest wars to take place on Terra Nova. And, while some claim it to be fate or even a genetic predisposition for intrigue and megalomania, it is undeniable that most aspects of the republican state and culture have resulted from the works of the famed Emile DeGarmo, the so-called Father of the South.

And, indirectly, the bane of its' growth.

Due to a single clause in his masterwork treatise "The Logic of Combination" and his innate stubborness, DeGarmo set in motion a chain of events that would topple city-states, hammer together a nation, and eventually unify the South as a rich empire precariously occupying half the planet with military or economic force.

In hindsight, (which is, as the saying goes, twenty-twenty) the clause "and any such nation formulated by and managed under my designs should and logically must be placed under my incontestible and supreme governance" may not have been such a good idea.

For it was that passage in both his book and the articles of allegiance sent to Siwa Oasis that confounded his dream of a unified Southern Republic. Many historians have argued wether or not its inclusion would actually have made a difference in later stages of the First Unificaton Campaign, but the undeniable fact is that Siwa Oasis had initially agreed to an alliance with Marabou, until the dread clause reared its ugly head and ground negotiations to an impasse.

Just minutes before the beginning of the Siege of Siwa in early 1535, Governor Gregor Montcalm was quoted as blaming the entire conflict on the deceased DeGarmo, and is quoted as saying "that damned visionary and his stubbornness, he could not abide by anyone steering his dream but him, and now it has come to this. Damn him".

So, imagine the implications of that single clause. Without it, negotiating an alliance between Marabou, Siwa Oasis, and Ashanti would have proved possible, leading to a strong combination of Marabouin and Siwan military and economic resources, rather than the grinding attrition and disillusionment that lead the finally-victorious Marauders to commit their legendary atrocities in Ashanti several cycles later.

Indeed DeGarmo himself would have benefitted, for without his stubborn leadership causing two ckewalk negotiations to fail utterly, assasins would not have been hired to take his life, and he doubtless would have lived for quite a while longer, still in control of the massive family munitions and engineering corporation and watching his dream grow, albeit without him at the helm.

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APAGear II Archives Volume 4, Number 6 August, 2002