Pieces Of Creation is an occasional recurring column at Campaign Mastery in which Mike offers game reference and other materials that he has created for his own campaigns.
All images used to illustrate this article are public-domain works hosted by Wikipedia, Wikipedia Commons, or derivations of such works, with the exception of the “fistful of dollars” which is public-domain clip art.
History continued its implacable march. The 1960s saw the rise of “pop” music and the overwhelming success of the Beatles.
1960-1962: Unhappy Developments
A U2 spy plane crashed in China, and the pilot was arrested. A planned summit meeting with the Mao had to be abandoned when they subsequently refused to attend unless the Empress delivered a personal apology; she refused. The cause of the crash was never ascertained; was it mechanical failure, despite the aircraft being inspected and judged airworthy before the mission? Or had the Mao learned to counter the primary Intelligence source deployed against them during the 1950s? Even the possibility of the latter cause was enough to accelerate demands for the conquest of “higher ground”, i.e., Space Travel.
In the Congo, local battalions of the Imperial Army mutinied against the government when they refused orders to conduct a wave of terror against the populace, which had rioted against Prime Minister Youlou only a week after his election following allegations of electoral fraud. Imperial peace-keeping troops had to be sent in to restore order, the beginning of an unhappy pattern in Africa. In response, the all-white government of South Africa banned all Black political groups and arrested the most vocal Black Leaders, including Nelson Mandela, on trumped-up charges. African politics would tear the continent apart for the next 20 years.
In October 1960, another case of internal disunity within the empire rose in significance as Cuba nationalized all USK-owned† industries in response to “Economic Aggression”; within 6 weeks the USK would establish an embargo on all freight to or from Cuba originating from their Kingdom and warned that any ships passing through their waters with a Cuban destination would be subject to seizure without reparation. A naval blockade by the US Coast Guard was immediately put in place to enforce these edicts and a military base established at Guantanamo Bay. On 3rd January of 1961 they would sever all diplomatic links to the Island nation, and in April an attempted invasion by US-based Cuban expatriates and sponsored by the USK branch of Imperial Intelligence was foiled. In response, the Cubans led a coalition of Central American Nations to secede from the Empire and form an independent Kingdom. King Castro welcomed alliances with other nation-states within the Empire; while most were cautious, a few opened negotiations without waiting to see the official Imperial Response.
†USK – Kingdom Of The United Stated Of America. Refer to previous chapters of this history for any further explanation.
The USK had made it difficult for the Empress to intervene directly against the new state, having compromised the reliability of the Intelligence Service on which she relied for accurate assessments, necessary for the formulation of effective and practical policies. The unilateral action taken in the Imperial name as good as announced that the USK was ready to go to war with the rest of the Empire over the issue; a circumstance that would undoubtedly trigger the attempted secession of a number of other disaffected nations.
Politically, the choice was between condoning the actions of a rogue state or of overseeing the disintegration of the entire Empire. She was reluctantly forced to choose the former option, but tasked IMAGE and the Intelligence services with the priority mission of bringing the USK to heel. This cost her much of the political credibility she had built up over the years; and she foresaw the Americans becoming the centre of political power within the Empire if they were not stopped.
Tristan da Cunha
Later that year, the island of Tristan da Cunha was destroyed by a volcanic eruption; the population had been successfully evacuated after a warning to the Empire was issued through diplomatic channels by the Mao. This was seen as a mixed blessing by the Empire; it was of great concern that the Mao knew of the impending eruption, but the issuance of the warning gave hopes that common ground for peaceful relations might be found in humanitarian considerations.
In October of 1963, a similar warning was sounded concerning the Shetland Islands; although not known to be volcanically active, the Empire evacuated them rather than taking a chance. The morning of the supposed “eruption” brought clear skies and a Chinese invasion force which appeared literally from thin air in front of the various instruments that had been emplaced by Imperial Scientists to monitor the situation. The Mao forces seized control of the island unopposed, in the process demonstrating that they had achieved a technological defense to the Empire’s nuclear capability.
After substantial saber-rattling by both sides, and having proven their capabilities, the Mao withdrew; before the island could be reoccupied by the Empire, it was destroyed by a volcanic eruption, revealing that the Mao, too, now had city-destroying capabilities.
Scientists studying the remains soon established that the volcano had not been generated through nuclear power; none of the signature characteristics were present and there was no radioactive residue. Mao science – like the Mao themselves – remained as inscrutable as ever. And, as usual when the Mao were involved, there was anguish amongst the Imperial Intelligence community.
John F. Kennedy & The Hippie Movement
In late 1963, the American President who had overseen the entire Cuban Crisis, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated while pursuing reelection. Conspiracy theories immediately began to surface, though none were ever proven – but not all could be disproven either.
Was it a Cuban-backed assassin? Or was Lee Harvey Oswald a patsy for an internal US revolt against the Kennedy Dynasty? Or had the Empress removed a leader who had become an official Embarrassment? This was also the year that had seen race relations within the USK come to a violent head; was there a connection? When the founder of the pro-violence Black Nationalist Group was assassinated over a year later, was it payback?
There were those who would never be convinced, and the truth (whatever it was) would never be known to anyone’s complete satisfaction.
The assassination of Kennedy was seen as a watershed event in Imperial History. Had he not embarrassed the Empress over the Cuban situation, instead of a second term as USK president, he was considered a sure bet for being the first colonial to become Prime Minister of The Empire. His natural charisma and the aura of hope and destiny that he manifested at will were tremendous assets, as was the undoubted ability to extract that little bit more enthusiasm and optimism in and for the Government. (Which gave the conspiracy theorists yet another possible solution to the mystery – had IMAGE “brought the USK to heel”?)
Although Kennedy had never announced such plans, it would later become public record that such a campaign had been in preparation before Cuba scuttled his chances. But more significant than might-have-beens was the impact of his passing; Kennedy had achieved substantial popular support throughout the Empire with his enthusiasm for the future, and when he was killed in Dallas, much of the public faith and trust in the Government seemed to die with him.
From that point on, a growing element within the Imperial population would consider the Government their enemy, not their leaders. Over the next four years a counterculture amongst the youth of the Empire would begin, fueled by psychedelic drugs, alcohol, and disillusionment with “The Establishment”. The heirs of the Beatniks of the 60s, the ‘Flower Power’ movement would succeed where its predecessor had failed, becoming a universal element within most Imperial Nations rather than a cultural fringe.
1967 also saw a war in the Middle East narrowly averted, while in 1968, problems arose in Northern Ireland, where extremists demanded an Irish Kingdom within the Empire.
Peace, Love, and Anarchy
The Hippie Subculture rebellion was in full swing, and a growing faction centered in Germany but spreading throughout Europe advocated a united political front – “Youth Of The World, Unite” was the slogan – with the avowed intention of electing John Lennon to the position of Imperial Prime Minister in 1969 – for the purposes of disbanding the government once and for all.
Author’s side-comment: John F Kennedy vs. John Lennon – that would have been an election worth watching!
Despite the loss of support from areas of the US following the “bigger than Jesus” controversy, the prospects were enough to concern established politicians throughout the Empire. But when the leader of the movement, Rudi Dutschke, narrowly survived an assassination attempt, the “peace-loving” movement exploded into violence across Europe.
In many Kingdoms, especially France, the rioters were joined by workers and union officials who staged strikes in sympathy and in support of the cause. The Empire was teetering on the edge of total collapse; and in its defense, the students brought previously warring political factions together in a united front against the rebellion.
(It is worth noting that there is no evidence that Lennon was ever associated with the “Youth Of The World” movement; he was an anointed saint to the movement’s leaders, and horrified by many of the deeds committed in his name.)
A measure of influence?
As happens periodically, the rival political parties had grown so alike in policies and manner over the years that they were almost indistinguishable. They now formed an alliance with the Peerage to defend the privileges and powers that they had accumulated.
Radical changes in civil policies took place throughout the Empire in response to the agitation of the rioters. France banned all open-air demonstrations; Germany cut funding to the Universities, forcing many students out of their places; and gung-ho Americans lamented the lack of a good war to which they could send the protestors.
Author’s Note: the absence of the horrifying pictures which were televised into living rooms during the Korean & Vietnamese conflicts is a subtle influence on Imperial Society but one of incalculable power and significance, as will become evident later in this History. It continues to shape the Empire in 2055 and its perceptions and can be overlooked only at your peril.
Eventually, passions calmed; but the tension remained in the air. The specter of Youth Armies, denied any other recourse, staging revolutionary uprisings throughout the Empire, was one of the key background features of the next two years.
In January of 1969, Czech student Jan Palache burned himself to death in public to protest the “oppression of his age group” – ironically on the same day that the voting age throughout the Empire was reduced to 16 and made compulsory in all Kingdoms; and many of the political parties began strenuous efforts to recruit a younger constituency.
It was felt that by providing an outlet for the political passions, the threat of youth uprisings could be averted. But the change seemed to make little difference to the outcome of the US elections, the first to be held under the new voting rules, as Richard M Nixon was swept to power in an extremely narrow victory.
It wasn’t all grim tidings in 1969. The USK space programme made its spectacular landing on the moon with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, getting the space programme back on track, which gave the whole Empire a Morale boost. But this was followed by unhappier news, with the discovery that the Chinese were supplying Mao Technology to the Irish, and were probably behind the rebellion against the Empire, and by a military coup in Libya which installed Muammar Qadaffi as the new head of state.
Investigating The Mao
American spy planes launched from Korea had achieved only limited success in scouting out the Mao, and had revealed little more than was already known about their capabilities. It was known that China showed few of the characteristics of an industrialized nation; there were no signs of factories, the cities were sprawling, decentralized affairs, and the roads appeared to be relatively primitive. There was no sign of railroad tracks. To the outside observer, i.e. the Empire, China was at best a medieval culture; and yet, they had shown themselves to be a superpower equal, even superior in some respects, to the Empire.
Civil works had been achieved which clearly matched the best that the Empire could manage; whole mountains had been leveled, or raised, farming was as intensive and productive as the best the Empire could achieve. Scattered throughout the Chinese mainland were spires of mountainous rock hundreds of feet high, on which vast fortresses that watched over the lands below.
Imperial strategists were eagerly awaiting real-time imaging from orbiting satellites, in the hope of gaining some greater knowledge of how the elementary problems of production and distribution were handled without the necessary industrial infrastructure. How could they allocate acceptable targets in any future confrontation if they didn’t know what was vital and what was not? This would no doubt prove to be vital intelligence in understanding the Mao and their technology, and might even be useful ideas that could be applied within the Empire. But as yet, the state of the art was inadequate to build such devices.
The Irish Rebellion
In the meantime, the Irish situation presented a heaven-sent opportunity, which several Imperial advisors demanded to take full advantage of. If the Mao were giving the rebels technology, they had to be showing them how to use the weapons; and that gave Imperial Intelligence something to get their teeth into. A movement within the Empire even arose dedicated to stirring the Irish up further to prolong the opportunities presented, and sabotaging attempts to arrive at a peaceful resolution. They risked both careers and lives; treason was still a capital offence, after all.
Unfortunately, the first thing that the Imperial agents doing the investigating learned was that the Mao had also exported their “techno-elitist” political structure to the Shin Faen; not everyone was being shown how to work the technology, only specific individuals – perhaps one in 100. Most of the acts of violence were being perpetrated using conventional weapons.
What astonished the analysts most were the collateral effects on the Irish cultures, where conservatism, superstitions and “the old ways” began making inroads even amongst the general populace. A survey conducted in 1970 found that more Irish people believed in leprechauns than believed in the Moon landings.
One agent in particular managed to get further than any before in assessing the Mao technology; this was 00C‡ of MI6, who would go on to become a legend within the Intelligence community.
He was so convincing an infiltrator that he was sponsored for testing by the Mao trainers to see if he had “The Knack”, as the Irish had come to call whatever the difference was that the Mao were looking for. This test was conducted as a mixture of an ancient religious ceremony (which predated Christianity by several centuries), Tantric Meditation, a Buddhist ceremony, a few neo-military exercises, and an interrogation under the influence of some form of truth serum.
00C had mastered tantric meditation some years earlier, and was able to use the abilities so learned to delay the influence of the truth serum long enough to pass what he viewed as the only significant test, and of course he was in superb physical shape, and so had no problem proving his fitness. But for some reason he could not understand, he was turned down by the Mao for training. He didn’t have “The Knack”. He could only conclude that there had been some other subtle test carried out under the cover of the religious smokescreen and that he had failed that test.
‡ In the late 1990s My superhero campaign developed a spinoff based around an elite team of UNTIL agents, UNTIL being the United Nations police force in the Champions milieu. They had a number of spectacular successes against a variety of opposition – Viper, Genocide, Demon, and other Intelligence agencies. One of their key members was Agent Falcon, formerly Agent 00C of the British Secret Service – a ‘James Bond’-meets-Batman character. After the spin-off campaign wound up, the character (now an NPC) was seconded to the primary superhero team of the Campaign World – he was that good – to hunt down a suspected traitor within the team.
Since this is an Alternate History of that campaign world, significant individuals from that suite of Superhero campaigns will get name-checked or even play significant roles from time to time. When it happens, I’ll pop in one of these sidebars to offer a spot of context.
The Green Earth Treaty
But even while the Mao were sponsoring terrorist uprisings in Ulster, they were negotiating with the Empire on a number of different issues.
Two topics of particular attention were trade, and Major Weapons. Although unable to make much headway in the former area, the summit talks did at least have a beneficial result as both parties agreed that germ warfare, and biological weapons in general, were barbaric and should be outlawed by both.
This agreement cost the Empire more than it cost the Mao; China’s technology was not the type to develop a germ warfare weapon, so far as could be determined; but the Empire was happy to dispense with them nevertheless. They were always a risky business, quite capable of striking wielder as severely as target, and the ever-present risk of accidental release was unconscionable. The “Green Earth Treaty” was coached in generalities, but with some specific issues which benefitted both sides, essentially forbidding any form of “scorched earth” defense.
Whatever happened, any territories captured from the other side in future conflict were to be left in a condition to support the local populace and economy. The treaty, in effect, traded the volcanic weapon of the Mao for the Germ Warfare factories of the Empire, and both sides felt the more secure for the agreement. The Mao negotiators hinted that this was not their only weapon capable of widespread destruction, but the Empire still had its nuclear arsenals, so parity was maintained.
It was also tentatively agreed that on another occasion that this arsenal might also be placed on the negotiating table; “When you know what other weapons we can employ,” replied the Mao representative, insightfully.
The 1970s Begin
Through the 1970s, “Pop” would become subdivided into “Rock”, “Heavy Metal”, “Disco”, and a swarm of other musical sub-styles.
Author’s note: You may be wondering why I keep heading each decade with a spot-check on popular culture, especially musically. All will be revealed, eventually!
The decade began with further declines in the stability of the Middle East and Africa; the trouble started in March of 1970 as Rhodesia declared itself a republic and severed all ties with the Empire.
Even as a military force was being prepared to reclaim it, and show the other member nations that “this is not a gentleman’s club from which one can come and go at one’s whim”, Israeli and Syrian forces met in violent conflict, which in turn edged Jordan and Egypt closer to hostilities with Israel. To make matters worse, the Empire was considered by the Arab nations to be biased and partisan in the matter, as shown by its creation of Israel in the first place, and none of the participants was particularly willing to accept Imperial mediation as a result.
This gave the Imperial strategists a new conundrum to unravel – if they used military force to keep the Arab States in line, it suggested the Arabs were correct in both the claims of partisanship, and that they needed to be independent in order to have any say in their own futures; while if the Empire did nothing, they would be shown as unwilling to aid a member state under attack by self-proclaimed independent forces. It was Central America all over again.
Ultimately, they found they had no choice at all; the troops that had been intended for Rhodesia were instead dispatched to defend Israel, and the Empire gave up its territorial claims in the Middle East in return for a cessation of hostilities. This was felt to be the only viable solution in the short term; and it meant that the Empress had to decide, once and for all – was the Empire to be a military state, in which freedoms were begrudgingly granted in exchange for loyalty to the throne, or was it to be a Commonwealth of independent states with a central Government, as it had slowly been becoming?
It was clear that it had been the audacious move to independence by Central America that had inspired the Arab nations; if American bungling had not forced the Empire’s hand, politically, the Cuban revolt would have been suppressed and the issue would not have arisen.
Again, the Empire had no real choice; this new pattern had to be nipped in the bud or there would BE no empire a century hence. But the answer was not as clear-cut as it first appeared; there was little support amongst the populace for a war of aggression, and acting to preserve the Empire might well condemn it to a more protracted and violent death. So inflamed were passions that in May, four students at Kent State University in Ohio were shot dead by troops while taking part in an Anti-War demonstration.
Now, more than ever, the experts of IMAGE needed to find a third answer, a way out of the corner into which the Empire had painted itself. They could scarcely believe it when the rebelling nations furnished the solution of their own volition – but that’s getting ahead of the story.
A costly victory
It would be repeating a common error in perspective to consider the Arab nations of the Middle East as a single unified voice, or even as capable of presenting such. They may stem from a common racial stock – the former Persian Empire – but they consist of numerous tribes who hate each other with a passion, and each tribal leader generally considers it his Allah-given right to speak, and act, for all. This disunity was a direct outgrowth of the essentially medieval cultural level of the societies, which perpetuated the old ways, the old religions, and the old hatreds. Now it played into Imperial Hands.
Libya began construction of a nuclear reactor, with the avowed intention of making itself a Nuclear Power, able to dictate terms to the Empire as an equal; while Palestinian guerrillas hijacked four passenger aircraft to obtain the release of Palestinian “freedom fighters” (terrorists) being held in Israel, Switzerland, Germany, and Britain.
When negotiations reached an impasse, the Imperial Army moved in to recapture the aircraft. The stumbling block might have been overcome with persistence and patience, but the Empire was on a short fuse and had little tolerance for delays and games. Rather than be captured, the Palestinians blew up the aircraft and all aboard.
By deliberately painting all Arabs with the same collective brush, the Empire was able to rapidly generate a pro-War sentiment where none had existed only months before; and in September of 1970 the Empire began what would be a decade-long and struggle to recapture the Middle East – and, not coincidentally, to recapture the oilfields that were critical to its long-term future.
It was a victory of sorts in the short-term, breaking the deadlock blocking military mobilization into the region; but ultimately it would backfire, turning allies into enemies and moderates into zealots.
In the meantime, Rhodesia was in an uproar. The controlling white minority refused to concede control to a Black Prime Minister under any circumstances; and furthermore, the entire peerage was exclusively white – and determined to keep it that way. These two issues prompted the formation of two rival Guerilla movements, each of which opposed each other as much as they did the white rulers of the Kingdom.
Once the decision was made to let Rhodesia get away with secession, at least for a time, it was obvious that there would be imitators. The first was a blending of Qadaffi’s rise to power and the Rhodesian coup, as Major-General Idi Amin ousted the existing government and established himself as dictator and absolute ruler of Uganda. Amin was more cunning than these revolutionary predecessors; after ensuring that the available public records supported his claim of needing to take office in such a forceful manner to restore order to a nation that had grown corrupt and greedy, he petitioned for Imperial Recognition of his government.
He knew that while independence would in theory give him more freedom, it was an open invitation to the Empire to treat his power-base as they saw fit; whereas, by appearing to be a member in good standing, he would have almost as much freedom, guaranteed trade, the protection of the Imperial Military in the event that his neighbors got out of hand – and sapped much of the political will to oppose him.
All these things were important, because Amin was a sociopath who had navigated his way to supreme power, where he could give vent to the desires and urges he had spent decades hiding, suppressing, and cultivating; a monster who deliberately invoked the protection of society for his own benefit.
Middle Eastern Strategy
But these facts would not emerge for some time. At that time, Imperial focus was very definitely somewhat to the north of Uganda. The Empire’s conduct of the war puzzled many; the best public explanation was that too many cooks were trying to run the show, producing a wildly haphazard approach.
In reality, IMAGE was dictating the military objectives, and had customized the approach to each of the targets. In particular, they were using diplomatic carrots to appeal to the more moderate countries while throwing military sticks at the ones they wanted to “chastise”.
This multipronged policy began to bear fruit after only a few months, as Egypt and Jordan renewed their vows of fealty to the Empire, and opened negotiations with Israel concerning the disposition of the Palestinian West Bank. The military aspects of the campaign were in more serious trouble; the invasion of Afghanistan had met with something less than success, the country being rocky and full of passes in which “a grandmother with a broom could hold off an army”, to quote one Russian general.
The Arabic reaction was not all that swift, but was brutal when it eventually came, as Palestinian terrorists assassinated the Prime Minister of Jordan, prompting King Husain to rule out further talks; Jordan would henceforth try to steer a passage between the two factions that would neither offend nor satisfy either.
The Pakistan Solution
At about the same time, other minor conflicts were threatening to escalate; In particular, India and Pakistan had become embroiled in a conflict over the autonomy of Bangladesh, where religious separatists had attempted to form a separate nation within the Empire.
The Imperial government was inclined to recognize Bangladesh; it followed the precedents established in the Middle East, and it was hoped that tensions could be prevented from escalating into a new conflict with the Mao, who had so far resisted being drawn into what was essentially a local matter on the fringes of both Empires. Pakistan, however, threatened to secede from the Empire if its borders were not guaranteed – in other words, if they didn’t get to keep Bangladesh.
The Empress was not impressed. She doubted that Pakistan truly wished to be an independent state trapped between two Empires; and she doubted even more strongly that even if the Government wanted to try, that the populace at large would want to go along.
She ordered all Pakistani citizens at large within the Empire to be rounded up, detained for 24 hours, and then deported – the last 747s permitted to enter or leave Pakistan airspace. At the same time, all non-Pakistani Imperial Citizens within the Kingdom – including the diplomatic teams – were evacuated, severing all diplomatic ties. It’s important in understanding her response to note that no notice was given to the Pakistani government of the return of their citizens, and that as members of the Empire, immigration checks were desultory at best.
The returned citizens were thus released into the general population to explain the reasons they had been sent home. Even as they were doing so, all trade with Pakistan was stopped and all shipping blockaded, effective immediately the last diplomat was evacuated. Bangladesh was recognized and the food shipments on which Pakistan proper relied were diverted there, as were a substantial contingent of Australian Special Forces, ready to react strongly to any attempted incursion. In effect, the Empress called the Pakistani bluff and put in place – forcibly – the very situation that Pakistan had threatened.
Central America was a long way from the Chinese boarders; that, and its general lack of importance in the greater scheme of things was sufficient to enable it to get away with secession. Pakistan was right next door to the captive state of India (which had been a Mao posession since its capture during the Third Global War), and had received enough people fleeing across the borders to understand the limitations on personal freedom and opportunity that conquest by the Mao would entail. The result was a mass uprising against the Pakistan government, which fell within a week. If rogue states could use revolutions to get their way, so could the Empire!
Reforming An Empire
But when Pakistan petitioned for forgiveness and readmission into the Empire a week later, it was not restored to full citizenship.
IMAGE had been studying the larger problem handed them by the Empress, and had arrived at a modern redefinition of the concept of Empire. During the interim of the Pakistan Revolution, a progressive ten-tier level of Imperial Citizenship had been defined in the interim; at each stage, greater local autonomy was granted and less Imperial control mandated. Each stage was calculated to take progressively longer; Class 10 members could be recognized as Class 9 in only 1½ months, Class 8 could be attained in an additional 3 months, and so on. In effect, Class X members were on probation for almost 64 years.
Pakistan was readmitted as a Class IV member – capable of limited self-government, but not fully trusted, and with direct Imperial controls over their military and economy, with some travel restrictions, and with some trade penalties. It would require satisfactory membership within the Empire for 56 years before they were restored to their old status, though that could be reduced in certain circumstances.
This was the real Pakistani Solution – the development of an entirely new Imperial Model which defined an avenue for nations to transition from Imperial Subject Nation to an independant member of a great community of nations. The reformation of Empire which had begun with the American Revolition was now complete – at least in theory.
Wheels Within Wheels
To ensure that Pakistan did not feel that it was being singled out, a full-scale review of all other Imperial nations was carried out. The Empire had been relatively stable for well over 100 years, the results made zero difference to the typical Imperial Citizen.
The unusual timescales involved had been carefully chosen; Germany, the last great source of political instability within the Empire, had been forcibly brought to heel some 26 years earlier, and hence would have received a Citizenship upgrade to what was now designated Level VIII status some years earlier; the immediate effects was of a reduction in the restrictions on their citizens that had been imposed following the Third Global War and an increase in their level of freedom. In 8 years, they could be expected to qualify for level 9 status, and in 2010, all going well, they would be returned to full independent membership within the Empire.
Importantly, those countries whose membership had been forcibly interrupted, like France, but who had refused to cooperate with the invaders, would be unaffected. It went completely unnoticed that this placed yet another aspect of Imperial Policy within the purview of the Civil Service, who now held considerably greater powers than they had possessed at the founding of the Empire, when their bungling had brought about the American War Of Independence.
Decimal Currency & The Metric System
In 1971 coinage throughout the Empire was decimalized, an action which the French and Americans had long advocated, and the metric system was imposed throughout the Empire, which the Americans had long opposed.
The archaic Imperial weights-and-measures system of pounds, feet, and miles, had long been a stumbling block in the growth of the Empire, but the fact remained that a lot of people found it difficult to understand the new scales. Weights and lengths were not a huge problem, volumes were reasonably easy to cope with after a period of adjustment; the problems stemmed from the larger units of area. The “Hectare” was a unit that people had trouble getting a grip on, and the older “Acre” remained dominant in popular usage.
NB: This is a reflection of the author’s personal biases and limits!
1972 brought no relief to the Empire from the problems besetting it. The year began with a strike by coal miners which led to large-scale power cuts.
The union movement, which had been skating on thin ice for many years, had finally gone too far. There was already an Oil Crisis, due to the ongoing problems in the Middle East; as a consequence Coal Mining was currently defined as an Essential Industry. The striking workers were arrested and charged with treason and sabotage, crimes of such magnitude that many of their normal civil rights were reduced or suspended entirely.
Interrogations established three scales of penalty:
- Those who merely obeyed the vote were acquitted;
- those who actively voted in favor of the strike action were found guilty and given suspended sentences – which banned them from working in any sensitive or essential industry, prohibited them from running for political office, and placed a permanent black mark on their records which would aggravate any subsequent appearances before the Magistrates;
- and those who actually planned and led the strike action, who had stated publicly that the current need for their industry’s services meant that they had the Government “over a barrel”, and hence had known the severity of their actions, were imprisoned for 12 years, and permanently reduced in Citizenship classification. They were banned from ever holding positions of leadership again, prohibited from certain careers, and placed in punitive taxation brackets.
A special grant of child and spousal support was made to the families of those affected – to be paid on the date that their divorces from those affected were decreed final.
These decrees, promulgated by the Empress at the instigation of the Civil Service with the support of the House Of Lords, were enforced by the Military, and marked a turning point in Imperial Society, introducing some aspects of Martial Law into the day-to-day lives of the citizens.
The Middle East Nightmare
The bloody stalemate in the Middle East continued to devour the Imperial Military. It was recognized that before a final Victory could be achieved, someone would have to develop an entirely new military doctrine, the equivalent of the leap forward taken by the Australians in the Jungles of GW3.
Terrorism continued to grow in intensity and frequency, culminating in the murder of Eleven Israeli athletes in the Games Village near Munich during the course of the 4-yearly Empire Games, and the hijacking of a Lufthansa airliner in a bid to secure the release of three terrorists being held over the Empire Games assassinations. This resulted in the implementation of strict anti-hijacking measures internationally, especially at airports.
A lesson in Economics
This was also the year in which Inflation became the economic buzzword. Economics is never easily understood and frequently seems to adopt positions contrary to common sense – a favorite example being that a strong dollar is bad for an economy. Inflation is all about the rate of growth of an economy, and in particular, the rate of growth in comparison to the manufacturing costs of the items that are on offer within the economy. If inflation goes up, it means that the manufacturing costs of the average commodity have increased by more than the real-world value of the pound, the dollar, the yen, or whatever. This of course means that it costs more of those units of currency to pay for the item in question.
When costs are dominated by factors other than the labor required, inflation is stable and largely irrelevant; but when the labor cost is the dominant factor it can create a feedback loop, a runaway chain reaction. The cost of living goes up, which creates pressure to put wages up so that people can continue to live the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed, but that puts costs up by almost as big a percentage as wages went up, so prices go up – raising the cost of living and starting the whole cycle over again.
The other half of the inflation story comes from the difference between economic growth and fiscal growth. Economic wealth comes from increasing the total value of possessions under control in the economy. Discovering a new oil well or mineral deposit adds real value to the economy. Simply printing more money produces the superficial appearance of economic growth, without actually increasing the wealth in the economy – which means that the wealth represented by a unit of currency shrinks. In terms of goods, the value of the currency shrinks, which means that it costs more to buy something.
In the early part of the 20th century, currency values were fixed – a dollar represented so much gold, or whatever standard the currency was pegged to. But after World War II it was decided that this was unrealistic and inflexible, and that the currency should have an unspecified but fixed worth, with the amount of a given commodity that you could buy with a dollar changing.
In theory, this meant that the economy was not forced to grow only by the amount of resources discovered during the year; “soft growth” like increased employment, new materials, new manufacturing techniques, new products, or whatever, could be taken into account. In theory, this was all well and good; it was only when married to another economic reality that the new evil became inevitable. That economic reality was the growth in employment vs. the growth in resources, and allied with a floating currency, this spelt trouble.
If the population grows 5%, and the level of employment stays at the same level, it means that there are more jobs than there were this time last year. That demands that the amount of cash circulating through the economy is a certain amount per head of population – regardless of the increase in wealth. This produces inevitable fiscal growth, regardless of the economic growth, which shrinks the resources represented by a single unit of currency – and sparks the endless cycle of rising prices and shrinking value of the Pound – in other words, inflation.
Prior to the 1920s, economic growth from new resources vastly exceeded the fiscal growth. Even afterwards, up until the 1950s and 60s, the economic growth that resulted from adding more workers equaled or outstripped the fiscal growth of the economy, so inflation still wasn’t a problem. But as it became harder to discover and exploit new resources, that began to change. If the population growth is 5%, the value of resources discovered and mined has to grow by at least 5%, or the economy begins to inflate. If 1,000,000 tons of wheat were grown this year, 1,050,000 tons have to be grown next year, and 1,276,281½ five years from now – and so on. The laws of compound interest demand that all economies begin to suffer from inflation as the worlds on which they live are fully exploited and their populations rise. It was an inevitability from the moment of the invention of currency.
Economic high fever
But in the 1970s, much of this simple progression of cause-and-effect was poorly understood, if at all; Inflation was seen as inherently bad, to be stopped at any cost. The economy was perceived as out of control, and like anything in that condition, was a train wreck looking to happen. The result was a growing lack of public confidence in the economy, and the 1930s had already shown the consequences of that – the economic disaster predicted by the doomsayers.
To keep the economy running, it was necessary for governments to print more and more money, representing wealth that the economy just didn’t have. The alternative was a 1930s-style crash, followed by another great depression – something that was in no-one’s best interests. To provide the illusion of health, and shore up that public confidence, national governments began borrowing vast sums of fictitious money from each other, and running up huge deficits. This cushioned and slowed the crash – at the cost of rampaging inflation.
Meanwhile, bank interest rates, which in theory were pegged to the growth in wealth, but in reality reflected fiscal growth, had gone through the roof. It was not impossible to reap an interest rate of 25% per annum.
The New Entrepreneurs
Added to this was the growth in new industries driven by and servicing new technologies, which made it possible to acquire a fortune seemingly overnight. Just as in the 1920s, there was a get-rich-quick mentality in the air, and a new breed of entrepreneurs emerged from it. It was these entrepreneurs who were the ultimate accumulators of the fictitious “wealth” that the governments were pumping into their economies.
These colorful figures quickly found their existence reflected in the entertainment media. The programme that most reflected their influence – and the levels of underhandedness to which they had to stoop to keep their business empires intact against the ravenous appetites of others of their ilk – was “Dallas”. The soap-opera lives, trials, and tribulations of the Ewing family more closely reflected the reality of the world around them than even those living in that era appreciated.
It was in November of 1972 that the Empire, whose Civil Servants were the only ones in a position to be able to perceive the looming disaster of the overall international economy, imposed a 90-day freeze on wages, rents, and prices. This was the first of a number of attempts aimed at reigning in the impossible levels of inflation. If they had been able to maintain it for years – and reduce the birth rate at the same time – it would probably have succeeded. But because it could not be held long enough, and did nothing to address the population growth vs. wealth growth issue in the long term, it was doomed to failure. The great unknown was when the Crash would occur – and how bad it would be.
Revelations in the 70s
The weather has generally unreasonably cold through the latter half of the 20th century so far, a period of twenty-odd years. In 1962-3 there had been no frost-free nights in the northern hemisphere from Dec 22 through to March 5th; in January, cold weather forced the cancellation of virtually all sports.
It was through the use of weather satellites in attempting to understand the global weather patterns that the first significant breakthrough came in understanding Mao technology, when in 1972 an enterprising meteorologist attempted to chart the entire “life-cycle” of a single weather front.
Of course, this meant using satellites to track the front beyond the Imperial Borders, into Mao-controlled territory, and furthermore, involved the combining of data from multiple different satellites.
His report created a huge storm within the defense and intelligence communities, as it was shown that the Mao had clearly mastered some form of weather control. Severe weather fronts seemed to break apart as soon as they crossed into Mao territories, becoming mild and regulated. Simultaneous with this effect, a new weather-front formed off the coast of Japan, without perceptible cause, whose growth precisely correlated in timing and intensity over time with the diminution of the original front. This new front would then make it’s way through the normal climatic channels, picking up moisture from the Pacific and chilling in the arctic air, before sweeping south to engulf the rest of the northern hemisphere. In effect, the Mao were shipping their bad weather to the rest of the world.
Was this an act of War? It clearly benefitted the Chinese at the expense of the Empire, so at the very least it was an unfriendly act; but since there were demonstrable benefits for the Chinese, and there were no regulations within the law that were directly comparable, it was not an easy debate to resolve.
Ultimately, it fell to the Empress Elizabeth to make the decision and set the precedent. She considered, and then determined that “…insofar as The Empire at no stage takes into account the consequences on, and well-being of, the Chinese Peoples in determining its policies (other those which directly relate to relations between our Empire and theirs), the Empire has no right to demand this consideration of the Chinese and their rulers. This is, of course, an issue of some sensitivity, and we should all strive in future negotiations with the representatives of China to ensure that the welfare of all becomes such a consideration.”
It’s important to bear in mind the context of the times when considering this decree. It was the early 1970s and the unwanted byproducts of their industrial culture were only beginning to show as problems on the Imperial Agenda. Concerns about the environment and pollution were beginning to rise for the first time, although these were still seen as regional issues; this waterway being affected by that factory, and so on. By generalizing and aggregating these into a global perspective, Elizabeth showed publicly for the first time just how sharp a mind resided on the throne at Buckingham Palace; it would be decades before Imperial politicians and policymakers would reach the same perspective.
With the determination that this was not to be considered an act of aggression, the focus shifted on tracking and analyzing Mao climate-control and its impact on their society and capabilities. These studies focused into two areas; one group studying the effects of an absence of severe climate, and the other analyzing the way the Mao utilized less severe weather.
The first group came in with their results quickly; they already had considerable raw data (thanks to the enterprising Meteorologist, who was given a Nobel Physics Prize for his discovery). The first question was how long this had been going on? It was decided that because there was no evidence to the contrary, it would have to be assumed that this had been the cause of the unusually chill winters that had been experienced in the Empire periodically over the last several centuries. Any impacts on Chinese society would be firmly entrenched by the modern era.
The basic principle of insurance is to prepare for the statistically improbable by collectively paying a fraction of the costs of repairing the damages that result from an incident.
An insurance insight
If, in a year, 1 home out of 1000 insured homes will burn down, for example, then the fundamental cost of a year’s insurance against fire is 1/1000th the cost of a new home. If the home costs 100,000 Pounds, the policy would cost 100 pounds a year, plus a fair share of the administrative overheads, and any profit margin. This imparts a degree of stability to life that is otherwise impossible to achieve. Insurance companies generally only run into trouble when they lose sight of the need to build up adequate capital reserves to meet future needs and begin disbursing their reserves as increased payouts to stockholders, increasing the paper value of their worth without increasing the funds available for their use. The fact that the people who stand to gain the most from this shortsightedness are also the people who select the corporate leaders of an insurance firm would lead to problems in the 90s.
The biggest problems in assessing the risk in the 70′s came from those statistically remote threats that generate multiple claims – floods, bushfires, earthquakes, and the like – and the assumption that the countdown to such events is set at zero at the time insurance first comes into effect. If there is a 1-in-100-million chance that an entire suburb will be wiped out by a flood in any given year, then simply dividing the rebuilding cost up over 100 million years produces a very low component – less than a penny per year. But if such an event happens after only 10 years of the insurance being in operation, then only ten one-hundred millionths of the cost have been saved towards such an unlikely event. Living and existing in an uncertain world mandates awareness of risk and of forward planning that arises directly from the need to be ready for the improbable.
Insurance companies soon learned to absolve themselves of these risks, passing the responsibility for dealing with “Acts Of God” to the Government. Slowly, over time, the reduction in capitol reserves would introduce more and more restrictions into the coverage provided. No conspiracy was required; one company would make a small restriction, others would imitate it, and then another would inch the line of coverage lower still. Corporate greed can overturn the principle of competition for a customer’s trade with no need for secret negotiations.
A Glimpse Into Mao Society
But the Mao were not faced with those risks. In fact, they were not faced with any environmental dangers to property. Without those risks, spontaneity and flexibly and a willingness to take risks would become far more prominent. The Chinese would be far more inclined to react to the here-and-now and not to the possible problems of tomorrow. To Imperial eyes, they would be tragically short-sighted; this not only explained much of their military conduct, but their reasons for war, and their conduct at the negotiating table. There would be a trend towards fatalism and a belief in destiny – that events would have a life of their own which could not be set aside – and a trend to react, not act. Awareness of these psychological elements would potentially be of huge benefit in future relations with the Mao.
The other primary effect of preventing serious climatic effects over a long period, it was determined, would be another side of the same coin: the Chinese would have no need to hold resources back in preparation for such unwanted occurrences, permitting a greater utilization of what they already had. Since the need to concentrate resources and then direct that concentration to the areas in which it is currently needed is one of the triggering factors for the growth of centralized communities, this began to explain some of the geopolitical landscaping within the Mao regime.
These results were also indicative of the social consequences of Mao technology. Unlike that of the West, Mao science was clearly an elite study, with few individuals able to understand and utilize the technology effectively – facts that had been known since the Second Global War. This implied a feudal structure to their society, with a poorly-educated underclass dominated by a specialist human middle-class and a well-educated alien upper class. This lower class would have little civil liberty; their lives would be tightly regulated. A Caste system was also distinctly possible.
There was a clear resonance in these findings with Eastern Philosophy and religion, with its concepts of reincarnation in the material world, acceptance of the status quo, and pre-destiny.
Further revelations in that area followed the analyses of the other group. They found that even minor weather systems were regulated and controlled by the Mao, travelling down restricted passages which fed into a series of dams and waterways. The entire Mao Empire received its water supply through irrigation. Again, the most significant aspect was the lack of wastage; in most countries, a significant percentage of rainfall takes place in areas outside the catchment zones for the domestic water supplies. By regulating where it rained, and how much, the Chinese were able to utilize virtually 100% of the available supply.
This in turn permitted extremely intensive agriculture – just add fertilizer. It went a long way to explaining some of the patterns that had been observed but not understood in Chinese agriculture; crop-intensive areas alternated in vertical strips down the map with livestock-intensive areas. The Chinese clearly practiced empire-wide crop rotation with natural fertilizers being provided in off-seasons by cattle, buffalo, and other domesticated animals. This was indicative of a tightly-regulated society, one which changed only slightly from one generation to the next; but (as was revealed by the earlier analysis), one capable of rapid and total response to changing circumstance. Once again, the pattern of being reactive, as apposed to being active, was revealed.
At last, thought the Imperial analysts, they were beginning to understand their enemy. They were learning the right questions to ask – and why some of their earlier questions had failed to yield answers of value.
Reality Check: You didn’t think it would be that easy, do you?
In the early 1970s, satellite technology at last achieved the breakthrough that the strategists had been waiting for.
Not only would real-time imaging – or even rapid-time-slice photography – give valuable information about the technology and society of the Mao, it would also provide the intelligence community with a vital reality check of the deductions made from the weather control analyses.
The scientists and spooks were intently interested in the first images, of a farm being prepared for spring planting. They expected to see simple ploughs being drawn by cattle or buffalo.
Instead, they saw furrows being ploughed with no visible agent other than a single individual standing at one end of the field. This person pointed, and a furrow began at his feet and extended the length of the field; he would then take a step to one side and repeat the process. In the meantime, other people – who appeared to be dressed as simple farmers – walked along the newly-ploughed furrow and dropped seeds. When the entire field was ploughed, a gesture from the specialist brought rain clouds from the nearest weather-channels to provide a good covering of rain for the field, and he moved on to the next field in sequence. This evidence confirmed the broader speculations and deductions of the analysts while at the same time showing the potential for error in detailed forecasting of the impact on Chinese society. No oxen, no ploughs; but an essentially medieval/feudal social structure, with a technological elite.
As I said last time, if it’s not clear to any Gamer reading this that the Mao are using magic, you aren’t trying hard enough. Unfortunately, science doesn’t admit that magic exists…
A rude shock for Physics
The physicists were more outraged than anyone else.
One of the sacred cows of modern physics is that action at a distance, without some transmitting medium through which an effect can travel, is impossible. One of the hallmarks of Einsteinian Relativity is that it describes space itself as the medium which carries gravitational effects, eliminating one of the major examples that appear to contradict this belief. Yet the Mao ploughman violated this principle with a casual gesture.
Their fundamental assumptions had to be completely wrong to permit this to occur. They immediately linked this phenomenon with the other impossible things the Mao were clearly achieving – weather control, volcanic eruptions, some manner of instantaneous travel – and decided that the only way to avoid abandoning every principle on which all western technology was based was to assume that there was some previously-unknown medium which Mao technology manipulated.
In other words, just because they couldn’t see it, didn’t mean that there was nothing there to see – they just had to develop the right sensors, was all.
Vitally, this gave them a means of identifying – eventually – the nature of Mao science. All that was needed to identify a field of research as the one which the Mao had mastered was to look at a spring planting, (or probably a harvest, for that matter). If a sensor saw something, it was the right field of study; if not, it was something the Mao weren’t using – and hence, something that might give an advantage against them if applied to military technology.
Either way, the late 1970s set the stage for what was hoped to be a new boom in military technology. That meant funding, and the only thing that matters more to a physical scientist than his or her scientific principles is the funding which gives the opportunity to explore those principles. (Some would argue that funding is less important, overlooking that observations are expected to defy incomplete scientific theories, necessitating the revision of scientific principle – but without funding there are neither observations nor ability to revise. A problem with the science can always be corrected, if the funding is there.)
Personal Side-comment: This is the great danger posed by the ideological determination of what scientific should be funded and what should not. Modern religious, social, and political zealots are great at setting up “scientific” research that can only find the answers that the research was designed to find in the first place, confirming predetermined ideas and carefully eliminating results that do not conform. True science studies the actual data and uses it to test the best understanding of actual reality in hopes of discovering a new avenue of insight. “Research” which is not conducted in this fashion is not science. It was true of Lysenkoism, It’s true of most “Christian Science”, and it’s true of Global Warming.
There’s a parallel to the early reception of the theory of Continental Drift, which is now widely accepted, but was initially rejected for reasons both good and bad. Because the advocate of the theory, Wegener, was not a Geologist, many dismissed his findings. The fact that Wegener had no explanation for the motive force and didn’t try to invent one should have made his observation of the fact that continents DO drift more compelling, not less. But it contradicted the accepted dogma of the time. It was only in 1958, fourty-six years after Wegener’s proposal, when the theory of plate tectonics was introduced, that the ‘scientists’ involved began to accept the theory. You can read more on the story at this Wikipedia page.
Right now, we are in the situation in which Global Warming is accepted dogma and attempts to disprove it are stifled. The theory that it is NOT happening is the equivalent of the theory of Continental Drift. It might be happening, it might not – but the evidence is so biased by the dogma that it’s hard to accept it at face value.
I’m a skeptic on the subject because political ideology is being used to cut funding to attempts to disprove the theory – I’d be far more willing to accept the possibility if those in power were not so intent on shutting down any opposing view. It’s not science, it’s dogma. Feel free to disagree.
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part I: The Middle Ages – 1189-1220
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 2: The Road To Empire – 1220-1782
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 3: Birth Of An Empire – 1782-1910
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 4: An Empire At War – 1910-1945
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 5: The Cold War Begins – 1945-1959
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 6: Coming Apart At The Seams – 1960-1972
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 7: Disintegration And Repair – 1973-75
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 8: The Ascendancy Of The Peerage – 1978-1979
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 9: Peter Pan, The Saint, & The Fairy Princess – 1980-1997
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 10: The Crumbling Of Icons – 1980-1997 continued
- The Imperial History Of Earth-Regency, Part 11: The Post-Modernist Dark Age – 1998-2015
- The Imperial History Of Earth-Regency Part 12: 1998