Oh Blast - Clive-Less World in Puritan World

By David bar Elias

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This (incomplete) story is based on the Tony Jones ATLs Clive-Less World and Puritan World. It also borrows elements from S.M. Stirling's Conquistador.


Click on the chapter headings to return to the top of the page.

Chapter One: This Can't be Good

Birmingham, England, the Union
September 2007

Richard Offenbach hated September. The heat waves felt most discomforting and the large crowds milling about the fountains and at the public pools were enough to drive him man. Offenbach, a twenty-five year old bureaucrat like his father and grandfather before him, worked at the Ministry of Agriculture and also served on the Unionsphrache Ungig Klub [Union-Speak Unity Club] in London. Now, the Klub was out of session and he was forced into a designated three weak vacation from the Ministry while some snot-nosed young trottel interned as part of his or her National Service.

Around him, Birmingham's, lush greenery embroidered by rows of trees and hanging gardens, clashed with the faint brown hue that hung over the metropolis in the summer months; despite the growing hype over the advent of green architecture (spreading from the French Indian states), the cities of the Union in particular remained some of the most polluted in the world. Birmingham's municipal government, at least, was trying to rectify the problem, unlike London, which was even worse.

Arriving home at his flat in the Union District, which was adjacent to the metropolitan gardens and reflecting pools, Offenbach opened the door. A blast of cool air from the building's Kuhlsystem gave him instantaneous relief.

"Gud day, Richard," said Hortentia Merriwinks, the matron who operated this flat. "Bit of a affenhitz today." He padded her plump face for show, even though it was likely she never took a step outside with her massive gait.

"Indeid, fraulein," said Offenbach, nodding in a polite Hanoverian bow. It was a process he repeated every day without fail. And with no further hesitation, he boarded the Aufvader that would take him to his floor, which was located underground; having a room underground these days was particularly advantageous for avoiding the scorching weather that permeated Britain most of the year nowadays.

There were a few families that shared this part of the flat. There were the Kleins (new arrivals from Berlin), the Lermans (a Jewish family staying at their summer home before heading back for Israel), and the Browns (a libertine group of folks who grew their hair long and smoked opium all the livelong day--Offenbach cordially despised them). But Offenbach had the most space out of all the tenements of this level.

His room was very light, and coloured in the gold, red, blue, black, and white of the Union flag. Offenbach had a love of the Union that was deep and fierce. He spoke only Unionsprace, and always admonished his assistants at the Ministry if they lapsed into mere English or German.

Sitting on his bed, Offenbach took out what was rapidly becoming his pride and joy; it was what he hoped would prove to be a translation device. Let the ficken Frenchies blather about how 'the future is now.' Progress will save us all, and free us from Paris' shadow. He imagined himself with his completed machine, a fusion of the natural and mechanical, heralding a new era for the Union and its people, from New Wales to Calcutta and back again. The praise (and marks) would flow liberally from Boston, London, Berlin, and, of course, Hanover itself. He would go down in history alongside the Union's pantheon of military, political, and scientific minds. Schoolchildren would be forced to memorize his name, for all time.

But enough day-dreaming, he thought. Time to get back to work. He was almost done.

It had all started three years ago, when Offenbach had done some travelling to Zululand; the Zulus were known for their mechanical aptitude, and Offenbach wanted to find out as much as he could (officially, it had been as a business trip on the part of the Klub).

He had made the acquaintance of one Ctantawayo, a scientist on leave from Shakaland, in the Antarctic. They became genuine friends--to a point. Offenbach had been granted a gift before he had left.

"A small toy I've been working on," Ctantawayo had said, handing him the metal box. "Have yourself some fun." Then, the Zulu had winked at him and strode off back to his foundry.

The rectangular metal box didn't do anything; it was a hollow shell. Offenbach had eagerly decided to tinker with it.

Now, after these long years of work, it was ready. He placed the machine on his bed, and pressed a blue knob. The machine began to whirl. The tubular systems gave off their whooshing sensation as bio-luminescent fluid infused with the circuitry he had ordered from Zululand.

Excited, he pressed a red knob. A mechanical voice spoke out a speaker in Unionsprace: "READY TO TRANSLATE; CHOOSE A PHRASE OR PHRASES DESIRED TO KNOW." The phrase repeated itself in English and German.

Success!!!! Richard Offenbach knew just what to say: "You're going to make me a lot of marks."

Then, something strange happened. It must have been a broken tube; the machine sputtered, cackled, and began to smoke. Then, a rapid clicking began.

"What the frick--" snarled Offenbach, before he was interrupted. Interrupted violently.

A large crack split the machine in two, and seemingly split the air in half as well. Offenbach hurled himself backwards into his gold wall in panic. What he saw next amazed him.

Whatever it was, it was the size of a door. The thing sparkled and shimmered. Offenbach, trembling, slowly walked towards it.

Hesitantly, his hand trembling violently, Offenbach stuck his hand towards the thing ... and his hand went through. Offenbach froze. He could feel very cold air on the other side. He withdrew hastily.

Without further hesitation, he retreated from his room, all hubris gone. Even in his panic, he knew just who to contact - someone had to know. He locked his door and rushed towards the Aufvader.

Chapter Two: Of Empires and Things

Birmingham, England, the Union

"There Hans! Put your hands through it!"

"Don't rush me, mieser," grumbled Hans Ironburg jokingly. Offenbach and Ironburg had met during their National Service days at the Ministry of Agriculture, and had become fast friends. Nowadays Ironburg was a Councillor on the Birmingham Direktorate, who spent most of his spare time chasing girls and beer, often at the same time. Ironburg, an amiable giant of a man (of Prussian extraction) brushed his brown hair out of his face and stuck not just his hands, but an entire arm through the Doorway. He withdrew.

"Pretty damned kalde on the other side," he remarked. He then suddenly thrust his head into the Doorway. Then he withdrew it. "You're not going to believe this, Richie old boy."

"What? Spit it out!"

"There's nothing there!"

"What in the helle do you mean, Hans?!" demanded Richard Offenbach.

"I mean it's just forest," said Ironburg. "I caught a glimpse of a small village down on the slope from where your Doorway popped up, but I can't be sure."

"Well then move over." Offenbach pushed his friend out of the way and stuck his head into the Doorway.

Hans had been right; there wasn't much out here. The air was crisp and cold, which almost caused Offenbach to withdraw his head in shock. Indeed, the Doorway was located at the top of a slope, looking downwards. From his vantage point behind some barren bushes and trees, Offenbach could see a small town (that looked nothing like the Union District) on the plain below. The town was dominated by a very austere-looking church, as well as a shorter building that looked like a factory. The skies were a leaden grey. Here and there, red beams of sunlight cast their spots on the forest floor and on what looked to be a village green.

Offenbach withdrew his head. "A pretty depressing place," he said simply. "The question is, what to do now."

"You have a doubt, dumbkopf?!" belted out Hans, as Offenbach tried (in vain) to shush him. "This is the discovery of a lifetime!"

"You're quite korekt," said Offenbach. "Say," he said, turning to Ironburg. "Doesn't your brother work directly for the Hanover Defence Direktorate? We could work our path through him--"

"Not anymore," interrupted his friend, more subdued. "They caught him smoking some hempf on the job, and kanned his arseloch. He's living with me at the moment ... doesn't have a fricken care in the world."

"Shiite," snapped Offenbach. "I suppose there's only one thing left to do."

"And ... .?" said Ironburg pregnantly.

"We're off to London to see the Defence Direktorate," said Offenbach. "If anyone knows how to take advantage of this wundar, it's the Brust Tumpars themselves."

"You want to bring them into this?!" said Ironburg, disappointed. "We could run off and form our own little empire. That village didn't exactly look much of a challenge."

"Ya," said Offenbach, drawing the shades to his room. "But that was one village. And besides," he said softly. "Our duty is to the Union, and nothing but the Union. For too long, Paris has looked down on us ... trying to stop our progress, lecturing us about ethics and morality. But, Godt in His Heven willing, this is our chance to seize a place in the Sone." He turned to walk out, before turning back to his friend. "Even if it happens to be someone else's Sone."

Ironburg nodded solemnly; he had no love for the French either, and knew his friend's nationalism was true and total.

"Right," he said. "To London."

And with that, the two friends walked out of the flat, locking the door firmly behind them.

Chapter Three: Here Be Cromwells

London, England, the Union
October 2007

Sir Sidney Weber, the Direktor of the British Defence Direktorate, loved collecting historical artefacts. His office, located in the upper levels of the sprawling steel pile that had recently been completed, was decorated with portraits, weapons, and literary works from dozens of figures from the history of the Union. Two massive portraits of George III of Britain and Frederick the Great of Prussia dominated the office from either side. Bookshelves groaned under the weight of the literary accomplishments of Truxel, Hoss, Darjeeling, and the other scholars whose works helped (in his view) to integrate Britain, Hanover, and Prussia together even further.

Behind his oaken desk hung his most prized possession. It was the bloodstained sword that had been used to cut off the head of King Charles I--a gift from his good friend Queen Louise I. Preserved in its glass case, it served as his personal reminder of the balance between the Monarchy and the people.

His personal secretary, Katerine Feldspar, knocked on his door.

"Kom in!" he belted. He was very busy at the moment confirming an important Ermach Dokument relating to the shipment of arms to Israel. Although it had been decades since the last Pogrom War with Mexico, he couldn't blame them one bit for staying on their toes--not after the damage that had been done.

"Herer," she said respectfully. "Your appointment with Councillor Ironburg and Herr Offenbach--"

"Do they have the proper Klearance Dokuments?"

"Ja, Herer," she said. "Do you want to confirm them yourself? They insisted it's urgent."

"Hmmf," snorted Weber. It was probably just another dumkopf design for a new gun. Most of them turned out to be utter failures on the testing ranges. The last testing he had bothered to authorize had ended up with the would-be inventor replaced with a small crater.

But then again, this one might work ... .

"Very well, send them in," gestured Weber roughly.

In strode councillor Ironburg and this Offenbach character. They looked relieved. They should be, thought the Direktor. They only had to wait a month for a meeting.

"Good herer," began Hans Ironburg, nodding his head respectfully. "I come with the most exciting of news. My friend--"

"Is that a recorder?!" interrupted Weber incredulously, pointing to the Zulu-made device that Offenbach was carrying. "Mein Godt, what will the Zulus think of next? They advance any faster, on us, and the planet will spiral into the Sone. Hah!" Both Offenbach and Ironburg laughed politely. Sir Sidney Weber had a notorious reputation as a horrific joker.

Weber turned to face Offenbach. "Now let me guess, Herr Offenbach. You have a new weapon that you think will make you a lot of marks."

"Nien, Direktor," said Offenbach, flipping open the Recorder's small screen. "You won't believe your eyes when you see this. He pressed the start knob.

Barely fifteen minutes later, Sir Sidney Offenbach rattled off orders to his subordinates in the Ministry. Hans Ironburg and Richard Offenbach were to be kept under constant "protektion." A squad from the elite London Trupors would accompany the two men to Birmingham (discreetly), where they were to cordon off a certain flat near the Union District, and arrange for the swift departure of the buildings other occupants. They were to await further instructions at his whim.

And he also requested an urgent meeting with the Prime Minister, the United Defence Direktorate, and the Queen as well. He also placed calls to his counterparts from throughout the Union. He was arranging a major meeting in Hanover, and it was extremely necessary for all to attend.

Virtue, North England, New Commonwealth of the Americas
December 2007

Jeffrey Bell knew one fundamental principle. All children are to be seen and not heard. That was the fundamental law of the mysterious world of the adults.

That rule, of course, applied in the classroom as well. Seated with his fellow 10-year-old boys in a simple classroom in the stone-walled schoolhouse, it was almost time for a new day to begin. Underneath the dark sky, the mining town of Virtue sat silent in the night. If any Godless heretics were out there, they'd be preparing to celebrate the illegal (and, Lord forbid, decadent) Christmas holiday ... the sort of celebrations that had been quite common when Britain had been ruled by the filthy Papists.

Jeffrey sat by the window, which was frosted in the early morning light. On a nearby hill, he could see the strange shimmering light that the Town Elders had ordered everyone not to talk about. This was after Albert Tunn, the town baker, had mysteriously vanished after going to take a walk in the nearby woods.

And so, Jeffrey did his best to stifle his curiosity. To do this, he put his complete attention on the banner of the New Commonwealth, a black field emblazoned with a white cross, which hung on the front wall over a portrait of Matthew Cromwell, the Lord Protector.

All twenty boys stood straight in their black and white school uniforms when their teacher, Mrs. Tennyson, came in. Tennyson was an severe woman who looked as though she'd stepped straight out of a Parish painting.

After leading them in Morning Prayer, Mrs. Tennyson began the usual announcements about the latest fighting against the Papist forces in France.

"Our Blessed troops have successfully beaten back yet another Papist thrust against our strongholds in Paris. Our Blessed troops continue to purge the last of the Papist evil from the newly liberated and acquired lands of the Commonwealth." She then led them in a prayer for their troops, for the Cromwells, and for the New Commonwealth.

"Now," said their teacher, brandishing a willow switch that met the rear end of any child who didn't measure up to the standard expectations. "Who can tell me the answer to--"

Suddenly, all of the children heard a sound. A series of sounds. It sounded like popping.

All of the boys piqued in curiosity. Mrs. Tennyson, by contrast, found her face going cold with fear.

Before anyone could react, there was a loud splintering and a crash; somebody had kicked the door being kicked in.

Outside, the sun was beginning to rise; it shone down on a strange sight indeed. A long line of soldiers, dressed in the distinctive feld grune of the Union's elite London Trupors, rushed out of the trees into the town, where several buildings had caught fire; the only causalities suffered that morning were the local policemen who rashly opened fire at the first sign of trouble.

The townsfolk were herded unceremoniously into the Meeting Hall. Meanwhile, the London Trupers pulled down the flag of the New Commonwealth from the Town Green, and raised the banner of the Union in triumph.

From their vantage points in the trees, Richard Offenbach and Hans Ironburg smiled in triumph.

The sun peeked over the trees.

Chapter Four: New Horizons

Mercrik Eiine [Mercy District One]; Birmingham, England, the Union
December 2007

During the course of the 19th century, as millions flocked to the industrial centres throughout the Union, overcrowding, poverty, and malnourishment soared to new heights. In the aftermath of the Second Societal Wars, in 1893, an enterprising New Englander (and sociologist), Charles Tamric, introduced the idea of "Mercriks," where the unemployed and malnourished could come for charity and food. As medical technology steadily advanced in the 20th century, free medicine became available as well.

Almost everyone found some reason to support it; the local Direktorates were eager to get as much rifraff off of the streets as possible (and to avoid the rioting and looting that the Second Societal Wars had been infamous for); the farmers were eager to find yet another use for their bumper crops; and, of course, the poor and starving masses themselves were eager to extract themselves from the pain and humiliation of begging along the public highways and avenues.

From Boston, New England, where the first Mercrik was established in 1900, the Mercriks spread steadily across the Union; by 1910, London, Hanover, Berlin, Dublin, New York, and Calcutta all boasted multiple Mercriks.

Birmingham's had been established in 1914. Birmingham now had six Mercrik Districts, which were crammed with, in the words of one observer from the Trabune put it: " ... the depressed, the diseased, the dank, and the dispirited."

Paul Drukmann was one such man. For three years, he had worked his father's shift in a factory that made machine parts for a shipping stchaftration; then the factory had gone belly up in an investment scheme gone horribly wrong (involving the company Sachbeiter Offizor, an Afrikaner diamond exporter, a Kalifornyian genetics company, and a Columbian oilman, from what the Trabune had reported). Suddenly, Drukmann found himself out of the job as a construction company from New Wales bought out the plant and fired most of the workers.

Relying on his unemployment pension from the Wohlfare Direktorate, Drukmann had desperately tried to find work. But unemployment was a perpetual problem in the Union's crowded cities, and soon, Drukmann and his wife, Marissa (along with their two small children) were forced into Mercrik Eiine.

It was a dark and horrible place, as far as Drukmann was concerned; many people in their neighbourhood had a mental condition of some kind, and didn't take their medication on the required basis. Petty theft thrived in Mercrik Eiine, on a level that would never have been tolerated in the outside world. The run-down tenement houses were crowded with other families down on their luck. From what the Trabune was reporting, there were plans to build yet another Mercrik on the outskirts of the city, where all such districts were located.

The Mercriks were located like this as to provide some relief to the chronic congestion; in the long spring and summer months, countless young men and women from the Mercriks began a long journey of tramping to the local farms to act as temporary aids; the growing agricultural displacement caused by this "Globulur Temperming" aside, it was a pleasant experience ... if you could get a trusted friend or relative to watch your apartment while you were away.

Now, it was the depth of December, and the temperature hung at a steady fifty degrees as midnight approached. The Drukmanns were fast asleep in their two-room apartment.

All of a sudden, there was a knock at the door. Paul Drukmann raised his shabby bulk and stumbled over piles of clothes and toys to answer the door.

"Who the frick is it?" he murmured at the door.

"Offen aup, Paul," said a deep voice.

"Jimmy?!" started Paul in pure amazement; behind him, his family was starting to stir. James "Jimmy" Hauptman had been his supervisor in the factory before their employment had been terminated. He quickly unlocked the door.

Sure enough, there was Jimmy Hauptman. Hauptman, a very fat widower in his early fifties, burst out smiling.

"To what do I have the honour--" began Drukmann.

"Grab your things Paul," said Jimmy Hauptman. "They said I could hire everyone from my station, and that's what I intend to do."

"Employment? From who? What's going--?"

"Jimmy, there's no time to explain," grinned Hauptman. "We're back in buischaft, and that's all that counts. But get ready. We have to be there by tiree at the very least."


"A new factory they're opening in the Union Disterik," beamed his boss. "For some odd reason, they want us to come in the Bezau Iour. But they're paying a real wage, and that's what fricken counts." At this, Marissa Druckmann hissed visibly.

"Ahh, Guten Morn, Marissa." He turned back to Drukmann. "Seriously, grab your things. We're going back to work. I'll be waiting downstairs with the rest of the old krewschaft." At this, he close the door quietly.

"What the frick is he doing her?" mumbled his wife. She hadn't been enamoured of the boisterous Hauptman while he's been their guest for (too) many dinners, most of which he had invited himself to.

"Apparently to give me a new job," said Paul. He turned on the lights. His two children, Otto and Alice, moaned. "Grab your things, kendars," he said gently. "We're moving."

Reluctantly, but curious at Paul's sudden change in fortune, his family began putting their few remaining possessions in some shabby bags.

"Is this the factory?" asked Paul incredulously. It looked more like an apartment flat than anything else. It was only then that he noticed the two Grenadiers standing guard at the front entrance. The Grenadiers, the elite heavy infantry units of the Union armies, wore inexpressive masks on their faces.

"Ignore them," said Hauptman, hustling his old work station into the dark building. There were around fifteen workers and their families who went in.

Of course, none would ever come out. They were followed by the Grenadiers.

The hallway was lighted in a faint blue glow from bio-luminescent fluid streaming through transparent chords. The former factory workers followed their foreman down the passage, curious at just what was to come next.

"Now," said Hauptman, leading them to a waiting Aufvader. "You'll be starting work later today. This 'vader will take us to the processing area; the facility, they tell me, will take us in afterwards. There are plenty of comfortable sleeping arrangements set up already.

And so, pair by pair, the factory workers were ushered to the Aufvader, starting with their boss. They were, of course, covered at all times by the two Grenadiers from behind, with their J-99s close at hand, in case any of the new Arbates tried to run for it.

Outside, the first workmen roused themselves from sleep for an early morning shift; milkmen made their deliveries, college students continued to study for their first round of Civil Service exams, and copies of the Trabune were delivered.

And the day wore on in front of the silent flat.

Chapter Five: Brave New World

New Birmingham, Fortung Eiine [Fortress One], the Union
December 2007

In the five days since the fall of this Puritan settlement, another 750 London Trupors and 1,000 Grenadiers had arrived to bolster the initial first wave of 300 Trupors.

The commander of the Spesondere Sondorce was Colonel Conrad Feltz. Feltz, a hard-nosed man of fifty with angry blue eyes and a violent shock of white hair, had been especially happy to here of this miraculous appearance.

Over the last five years, the French Empire and the Union had detonated their first atomic bombs. Modelled after the terrible Swedish weapon that had wiped out an entire invading Danish army in 1999 at the conclusion of the Incorporation War.

Feltz was deeply afraid of what those bombs would do if France and the Union ever came to blows (or if the Dutch, Ottomans, Zulus, Northern System, etc.) ever managed to procure them. The world would die by fire, and humanity, and his beloved Union, would go down with the ship.

Now, the ultimate refuge had been found. The fact that he got to have some fun with these primitive Puritans only made things all the more enjoyable. His family was scheduled to come here, after the area had been completely secured, of course.

Satisfied, he went back to drawing up the final draft of his Bittlefeld Repricht for dealing with the imprisoned Puritans, as two mobile artillery pieces were erected on the site of what had once been home to the town stocks.

The noise of construction equipment rattled pleasantly in his ear as he stood up and stretched. The old munitions factory of this village was being converted into a Cossack-producing facility, where the Prussian-designed Kreegerd would roll off the lines.

The kink in his shoulder relieved, he picked up his notes, rattled them off to his aid to take back to Birmingham through the Doorway, and began preparing his remarks to the imprisoned Puritans in the Meeting Hall.

Jeffrey Bell was one of the few children not crying. His tears had been forced out of him in the first few hours of their imprisonment. The Reverend Biggles had led the town in prayer countless times for their deliverance from these strange devils.

But what kind of devils were these strangers? They lacked the horns, hoofs, and tails of the Papists, the fangs and chalky skin of the Jews, the greedy rolls of fat and thin moustaches of the Dutch, and the rollicking lewd drunkenness of the Russians.

Bell turned over these images from his schoolbooks in his mind. The men were giants, and they talked amongst themselves loudly. Their accents suggested they had crammed marbles in their mouths. Bell only really saw them when they brought baskets (crammed with unusually green and yellow vegetables) and stacks of cooked beef and pork. All offers of chocolate and alcohol were of course spurned. They were all allowed outside to bizarre-looking green structures outside when they needed relief. Bell had noticed a number of people swarming over the Munitions factory, and strange machines expanding the roads and cutting down the trees.

Even as the townsfolk prayed, it seemed as though the Lord's heart had hardened. More and more of these strange men were arriving every day, and once or twice Bell had seen what looked like one of their women walking past the Hall, clad in scandalous clothing of bright colours and uncovered hair. The noise from the construction outside only grew louder.

Not everyone was in despair. Noah Clayton, the Foreman at the Munitions factory, was looking from side to side rapidly. He was a fat man of forty whose wife had died in childbirth a long time ago.

He had a notorious reputation as a drinker, oath-taker, and womanizer. But he was always able to weasel his way out of all charges when confronted.

Jeffrey Bell had always been warned to stay away from Brother Clayton. "Sooner or later the authorities will catch him in the act," Oliver Bell had remarked simply.

Now, there were new authorities in town. And they were frightening beyond even what the local toughs from London were rumoured to be like.

Suddenly, as Bell was about to launch into another prayer, the doors to the Meeting Hall swung open violently. Two of the giant soldiers, dressed into their green-grey-brown uniforms and carrying their strangely small weapons, marched on either side of another man. It was an even taller man with thick white hair and a hard look on his face.

Four more soldiers came in behind them, and shut the doors; they stood with their guns ready, as though daring the Puritans to try to break through.

But the attention of the townsfolk remained focused on the terrible-looking officer standing on the Speaker's Platform. He cleared his voice.

"Good day," said the man in a guttural accent; his English sounded rusty and forced. "I am Colonel Conrad Feltz of Her Majesty Queen Louise's Armed Forces. We are here on a mission of peace."

Jeffrey Bell remembered the soldiers roaring at his classmates as they were rushed into the Meeting Hall. He was disgusted enough at the Colonel's declaration to almost lapse into an oath.

"I have come, after confirmations from my Commanding Officer, to state that you are free to return to your homes; however, any attempt to leave this town will be met with the harshest force."

There was a sudden upsurge in mumbling from the Puritans.

"However, none of you may leave until you have taken an oath of loyalty to the Crown and the Union." He snapped his fingers. Almost out of nowhere, the two soldiers standing behind him unfurled a flag, which they draped over the Speaker's Platform.

It was a white cross, with gold, blue, red, and black squares in the different corners. Jeffrey Bell had never seen a more blasphemous symbol in his life.

"Those who wish to leave, please stand and raise your right arm."

Around twenty-five people stood; not surprisingly, Noah Clayton was among them.

"Do you swear by the Grace of the Almighty to defend the Union and its Crown on the word of your tongue and the soil of your land?"

"Aye," said the twenty-five. Jeffrey's father, Oliver, was murmuring angrily underneath his breath at the display.

"Very good," said Colonel Feltz. Suddenly he barked. "MAANE!" he roared; the Puritans flinched as the soldiers straightened.

"Take the new citizens to their homes, and bar the doors of the Hall behind you. As for the rest of you," growled Feltz at the crowd. "You'll have another opportunity tomorrow." He turned to the soldiers and the new citizens of the Union. "Kom!" he snapped.

Noah Clayton was among the last to leave. He looked at the remaining townsfolk and gave them a haughty grin of triumph. Then he rushed out into the cold winter day, as the door was barred shut behind him.

Jeffrey's parents, and his seven-year-old sister Clarissa, began to cry again. They weren't alone, as Jeffrey could see.

It truly seemed that God was deserting them.

Chapter Six: Reaction

London, South England, New Commonwealth of the Americas
January 2008

Paul Windebanke, the Governor-General of Britain, was in a very angry mood. Even as the Papists were driven from Paris, and the forces of Satan (who acted, as always, through the Octuple Alliance) were beaten down by the forces of righteousness, something always had to come up to spoil the occasion. Windebanke was sitting at his dark brown desk. He was sixty years old, with a bald head save for a few wisps of hair that hung down to his shoulders. He looked like a young child's favourite grandfather.

But it was that same grandfatherly man who always ordered the harshest retaliation for any act of terror that erupted from the un-Reclaimed Papists and Royalists. When the Organization of Revolutionary Justice had killed his daughter Susana in an attack on Glasgow (back in 2006), he had unceremoniously ordered the liquidation of Aberdeen, which had served as the launching point for the attack ... save for those who could demonstrate their loyalties to God and the New Commonwealth.

The report was lying at his desk, which was meticulously organized. His office in Westminster Palace was painted stark white, and was only broken in places by portraits of his predecessors. A larger portrait of the current Lord Protector, Matthew Cromwell, hung over the entranceway. Cromwell's round face and stern glare was a powerful motive, even on the most lethargic days.

But now, he had this report to deal with; and it was rather unsettling, to say the least.

It had all started three weeks ago. The Courier Service out of North England was suddenly cut off from the small manufacturing town of Virtue. The Couriers who entered the area suddenly vanished.

A routine matter for the local Security Police to investigate. So it came as a surprise when the SP detachment sent to probe the area itself vanished.

Windebanke sent another SP detachment, which also failed to return.

Could it be the heathen terrorists who continued to permeate the area, even long after Reclamation? The local area wasn't exactly a major hotbed of seditious activity ... at least compared to the fens of East England. He sighed to himself.

A small annoyance, but nothing that can take away from our Final Triumph, thought Windebanke. The Lord will see us through; though we walk through the valley of the shadow, we shall fear no evil.

Satisfied, he summoned his aid, Hosea Dinkins. An aeroplane could surely be spared to see what had happened in North England.

Allowing himself to smile as Hosea went to report these latest orders and authorizations, Windebanke stood and looked out the wide glass windows; the smoke from the factories outside London, producing the bullets, bombs, and land ironclads necessary to see to the Reclamation of the World, continued to pour out unabated. The January sun hung low, casting deep shadows throughout the city.

New Birmingham, Fortung Eiine [Fortress One], the Union
January 2008

Richard Offenbach was proud as any man could have possibly been. He watched with a grin on his thin face as a work team began pulling up the frames of his house, which would be among the more prominent of what would soon become a brand new city.

In the week since the last Puritans had come out of the Meeting Hall (coerced through drugging, from the rumours Offenbach had heard), the settlement had continued to blossom. Another factory was being constructed at the opposite end of New Birmingham. One Cossack had already been assembled, and was now stationed on the highway leading to the heart of Fortung Eiine. Another three hundred workmen had been recruited from the Mercriks of Birmingham, and the men and women went about their jobs in a joyous attitude; some hadn't worked in months. The workers, dressed in their typical tunics and trousers (coloured depending on who they worked for) jauntily sang work songs, and walked with a spring in their step.

The Puritans, by contrast, avoided their new masters with a single-minded devotion that made even a trained bureaucrat like Offenbach sit up and take notice. They stayed mostly at home. They were forbidden their school books, which read like a crude version of a de Lamartine novel ... only superiority was judged by creed, rather than race. Offenbach found it very easy to look down on them. The Konstabul Direktorate, assembled for the time being by the military barracks, kept a close eye on them.

My road to glory passes through the molecules of the air; my road to remembrance passes through the growing of New Birmingham; the future of the Union burns bright. When not conferring with the Defence Direktorate or with Hans (who was being tapped as the future Direktor of New Birmingham), he often took long walks in the rapidly disappearing woods, gloating at his incredibly good fortune.

His thoughts were interrupted by a long column of soldiers running across the frozen ground, coming back from a patrol. Their last several patrols had been more eventful; besides capturing the hapless Couriers, they had broken the backs of two detachments of the "Security Police," with most of the Puritans taken prisoner. They were being held in the newly constructed prison adjacent to the Konstubul Direktorate.

Offenbach looked on with pride; another two thousand troops, from Her Majesty's Third, Fifth, and Seventh Grenadiers, had also arrived, and they were now in their hastily assembled barracks when they weren't helping with the assembly of new buildings and fortifications.

Then there were the folks that no one (save for the ultra paranoid Konstabuls) really had to worry about. Several Puritans had eagerly cast off their former faith, and were now walking around in the gold, red, blue, black, and white tunic/trouser set so common amongst the ordinary folks of the Union. They revelled in their new freedom; they smoke and drank to excess, and they embraced every foul-mouthed joke that they managed to learn from the workmen and soldiers. They were, of course, doing their best to learn Unionsprache.

What they need is a translation machine, thought Offenbach ironically. He then burst out laughing at his clever joke; he'd have to remember to tell Hans.

Suddenly, over the din of the never-ending construction and drilling, a piercing sound filled the air. The military men began moving towards their barracks, and the workers stopped whatever it was they were doing and moved towards the nearest shelter or building.

The three anti-aircraft pieces assembled in the town green were swivelled towards the source of the threat, as directed by the just-completed ELOR system installed near the airfield that was still under construction.

Richard Offenbach fled into a nearby shelter with a group of New Citizens (the former Puritans) and workmen. Oh blast, it looks like real company, he thought; not like those pathetic policemen and couriers had counted for anything.

Charlie Thomas' ancestors had eagerly converted to Puritanism in 1923 in order to save their skins when the New Commonwealth had overrun Northumbria. Now, he was just another pawn in the battlefield of life; sure, he prayed loudly in public, and nodded his head during the sermons ... all while sipping his alcohol-laced "coffee" at home.

Now, however, he was merely doing his job. An former soldier and among the first to try out for the Cromwell Aero-Squadrons (also known as the Avengers), his assignment as a Major of the Security Police was to survey the town of Virtue (which had lost contact with the outside world). Thomas tried to keep things in his life as impersonal as possible....but he had several friends who had vanished in the area.

As he flew low over the barren landscape of North England, his propellers droning on, he noticed a bustling of activity up ahead.

It was Virtue all right. He was about loop around to get a better look (before departing back to Home-Base Eight) when he saw yellow dots flying in the direction of his machine.

Oh bother, he thought, before his plane was incinerated by tracer fire from the strategically placed Union anti-aircraft guns.

The Grenadiers would later survey the debris field; of course, they would find very little of Charlie Thomas.

However, the game would soon expand beyond the moors, forests, and farms of North England onto the new world stage. That much was certain.

Chapter Seven: The Expansion Era

Hanover, Hanover, the Union
January 2008

Sir Sidney Weber loved Hanover; the city, the centre of the Union, maintained a picturesque composure, and had the fewest Mercriks of any major city in the Union this side of Georgesland. The city was marked by the dignified buildings styles of Halder, Blum, and Yancy, and was even more insistent on the principles of "Freid aund Ordat" than the rest of the Union combined.

Arriving at the Uneint Direktorate, a new structure completed in 2001 with atomic bombs in mind, he nodded to the various aids that scrambled out of his way. A brisk five-minute walk took him to the Halle dere Vimmen, where his counterparts from throughout the Union would be waiting.

This was the third meeting that the Uneint Drektorate had dared to hold since the discovery of the Doorway; the French, Northern System, and the Dutch were starting to get suspicious. Hanover had done its best to spin the meetings as meetings dealing with "Splatz Issaus." But Weber knew that this wouldn't hold out for long; unsurprisingly, this was the last meeting that would be held on the part of the Uneint Direktorate.

Then again, the Uneint Direktorate was known to meet numerous times every time minute changes were made in the Unions' Uneint Millartry Doktrine; that gave some cover, at least. And none of the aids had any idea what the meetings were about; as far as they knew, it was relating to a change in rocketry designs for a prospective manned mission to orbit the planet.

The Hallle dere Vimmen, built in a gilded fashion, was already mostly full. There was Willy Malone, from Sierra Leone, dressed in a turquoise business tunic and wearing a more-or-less typical Leonese gold hoop earring; they were very garish about such things down there.

There was Saul Marmelstein from Hudsonia, the descendent of Jewish immigrants who'd left Israel after the Second Pogrom War to join their relatives in Philadelphia. Not to mention Albrooke from New England, Johnstone from Mosquitia, and the folks from Sophiasland, Williamsland, Newfoundland, Neues Prussia, Neuer Hanover, Honduras, New Wales, Calcutta, and Georgesland ... none of whom Weber had much of a personal relationship with. And O'Dere from Ireland and Pipkin from Scotland, both of whom nodded once to Weber, grinning slightly. Even after all these centuries, they never ceased to remind their London-based counterpart that they were still free states of England ... albeit completely tied economically and politically through the Union.

Weber took his seat next to Malone, a descendent of freed slaves, who grinned widely and slapped him on the back. Weber nodded politely. The Leonese might have been very friendly, but they were known for their oddities.

The meeting began when the current Direktor of the UD, Wilhelm Stellach of Prussia, entered the room. All Defence Direktors stood. Stellach took his seat at the head of the round table.

"Be seated!" he barked, and the Direktors sat. Behind them, the doors were closed. The room being soundproof (through a genetically-engineered sponge-like material in between layers in the walls), the men had very little to worry about.

"Now," said Stellach, lowering his voice. "As we know, we have recently engaged the enemy, and they are ours. Further course of action must one of consolidation and expansion. Any and all suggestions will be valued to the highest level."

Willy Malone pressed a knob on his desk, turning it green.

"Ja, herer Malone?"

"Herer Direktor," said Malone. "Even as more of soldiers are dispatched through the Doorway, we have an even bigger issue to deal with. The other powers will only believe our story about Splatz development for so long."

"Get to the point, herer Malone."

"Well, herer Direktor," continued Malone. "Sierra Leone is well prepared with a solution." He then pulled something out of his kofface. "Gut herren," he said. "I give you the Uneint Splatz Konsortium." He held out what looked to be a high-tech logo, combining the colours of the Union flag with a high-tech logo; like something you would see in Zululand or Cape Colony. It was rather daring.

"Will this be a detreil to our prospective profins?" inquired Wilhelm Stellach.

"Of course not, herer Direktor," said Malone. "The Uneint Splatz Konsortium will be a way to pool our R & D regarding the Doorway into one, high tech Firma. The French have been rumoured to be developing something like this themselves with the Ottomans for their Splatz Programm, and we could involve our allies in this Kosortium � the Israelis, the New Israelis, the Portuguese, the whole lot. In other words, a way to increase our Splatz Programm while utilizing some of the profins from the other side of the Doorway."

At this, there was plenty of appreciative murmuring. Direktor Stellach pounded his gravel onto the podium to silence the talking.

"Is there any agreement with this proposal?"

Sidney Weber pressed his Sphrechan Knobf. Stellach bid him to talk.

"Ja, herer Direktor, it is an excellent way to utilize the profins. Look," he said, turning to his counterparts. "From what I've heard of what we've explored, this world's a bluudy korb kase. Not only is the technology far behind our own, but also all of the mineral deposits from our Britain haven't been properly exploited ... Birmingham didn't even exist! Who knows how many marks in resources alone we can take! We can expect a great deal of wealth in our coffers, and an erosion of our trade debt with the other powers. Not to mention the expenses saved by putting the unemployed through the Doorway." There was even more appreciative murmuring at this; Stellach pounded the podium again.

"There has been an agreement," said Stellach. "We will now vote on whether or not to recommend this idea to our respective governments. All those in favour press the 'Ja' on your absting knobfs."

The vote was unanimous, something that wasn't particularly common on major issues such as this. Willy Malone grinned, showing his alarmingly white teeth.

"Very well," said Wilhelm Stellach. "Now, we must absting on a military strategy against these Puritans." At this, Stellach pulled back a curtain on the back wall to show a copy of a map that had been taken from an atlas in the town that had been seized.

Every Defence Direktor grinned as widely as Willy Malone; this campaign was going to be very fun, in almost an alarming way. After all, all of them had seen what these religious fanatics taught their youngest ... it would be a pleasure breaking their power for all time.

Interlude One: Raising the Roof

New Birmingham, Fortung Eiine [Fortress One], the Union
December 2007

It was Christmas Eve, and almost everyone was eager to celebrate. A mock stase [stage] was set up in the new square that was planned near the refitted factory, and the workers, having assembled yet another Cossack, were given the evening off, since there didn't appear to be much in the way of threats in the area. Jimmy Haptman, dressed as Santer Kalus (an invention from the Netherlands increasingly embraced by many nations) handed out chokolades and other sweets to the children; the former Puritan children had always been forbidden sweets--they eagerly guzzled them up, side effects be damned!

Mounting the stage, Paul Drukmann and his counterparts belted out a Christmas song that had been developed in Hudsonia in the latter part of the 19th century:

"Oh we've stack up all our tulz [tools],
And collected our just rewungs [rewards]!

It's time again to give again and drink again!
Glub, glub, glub, glub!"

At this, Drukmann took a gigantic swig of Leonese rum and burped loudly, which caused the crowd to explode with laughter.

Jeffrey Bell, sitting in his plain sitting two houses away with his family trying to recite prayers, looked in the direction of the celebration with a scowl.

Their family had stayed in the Meeting Hall until the very end, when the soldiers had retuned for a final time. They were wearing masks that made them look like insects.

"Last chance," one of them had murmured. "If you don' come out, we'll have no choice but to pull the plugsel." Of course, not one of the remaining twelve Puritans volunteered. Then, unceremoniously, the men had pulled the pins off of what looked like two cannon balls and dropped them.

A blue mist had been emitted from the strange devices. That was all Bell had remembered. He had vague memories of telling a very nice looking lady in a green tunic where his home was, and how he promised never to run away or discriminate because of creed.

His father, Oliver, looked rather worse. He looked as though the sun would never rise again. He recited his prayers without any of the lustre that he once had.

When they finished, his mother, Tabitha, shooed Jeffrey and Clarissa off to bed; Jeffrey thought he could hear sobs from his father, but he couldn't be sure.

His room remained intact, at least. Except for the pictures of Matthew Cromwell and Oliver Cromwell himself. They were missing.

Jeffrey was about to doze off, when he heard a tapping at his window.

He opened the window to see who it was.

"Jeffrey!" A small boy about his age, bouncing up and down,

"Clyde?" Clyde Stuart was a former classmate of his; ever since the soldiers had seized the village, all Puritan children who remained true to their faith had been educated at home.

Clyde's parents, however, obviously hadn't opted for that route. Clyde was dressed in a bright green coat ... obviously something the Strangers (as the mysterious people were known) had given him.

"What in the Lord's name happened to-"

"It's the chokolade! The Strangers are handing them all out to the children! It's the most incredible thing I've ever eaten! Try some!" Clyde attempted to shove a grimy hand full of half-melted "chokolade" at Jeffrey, who shut the window down hard, narrowly missing Clyde. Clyde, however, didn't seem to care. He acted like was ... possessed!

The small boy ran off, cackling like a witch.

Jeffrey Bell then felt something that he had never felt before. His breath shortened, the blood drained from his face, and his pupils dilated.

These Strangers had shattered the backbone of his faith, defiled the Lord's Name eagerly, and were now possessing the children, turning them to the path of Satan. And, worse of all, they had shattered his father's gentle spirit; even now, Bell could hear the loud sobs from the sitting room, as Goody Bell tried in vain to console her husband.

Bell bit down, hard. He would strike a blow for all that had been taken away ... for his family, for the Commonwealth ... for those who still kept the Puritan faith.

Now, all he had to do was think of a plan.

Chapter Eight: The Fall

London, South England, New Commonwealth of the Americas
May 1, 2008

"Sir! We have to leave! Our forward positions are on the verge of collapse!"

Paul Windebanke, his face long with the strain of dealing with this great calamity, pushed away the poor lieutenant with a gaunt hand. "No," he gasped. "This failure is mine own. Save all that you can."

A dull boom echoed above, causing some of plaster to disintegrate. The bunker, housed deep beneath Westminster Palace, shook violently.

Windebanke looked like a man on his deathbed. His eyes were reddened (both from a lack of sleep and tears), and the skin on his face was stretched and gray.

The Security Police Lieutenant, Simon Crew, pulled at Windebanke's sleeve. Frustrated, he called in the two other SP auxiliaries. "Grab him," he ordered. "We leave now!"

The two men rushed to do as they were told. The Governor-General of Britain made no effort to resist. He stood, as though in a daze, muttering prayers (for all it was worth now). The quartet rushed in the gloom to find the stairs.

Beneath a gray spring sky, London was burning; the Invaders had launched a bombardment of the metropolis two days ago, causing the old medieval core of the centre of Puritan Britain to vanish in a sea of flames.

Now the Invaders themselves were moving into the collapsing city; clearing away the hastily assembled barricades with implausible ease. With their metal monsters and alien aero-planes, they were unstoppable.

It was into this nightmare that the quartet emerged into from the broken shell of Westminster Palace.

Lieutenant Crew prayed with all the energy that could possibly be spared that there was a ship that could still be commandeered somewhere along the Thames. Before he could mentally plan an escape route to the river, he noticed around a dozen figures scurrying into Westminster Square from the direction of the burning Factory District, alongside a darkened behemoth.

My God, my God, why have You forsaken us?

It wasn't long before the Invaders noticed the quartet. They began a brisk run towards the Puritans.

Crew was frightened out of his wits, but he was determined to go to the Lord as a man who had done his duty.

"Men! Take the Governor to the Thames! Quickly!" The two Security Policemen, none too eager to face the Invaders, dragged the hapless Windebanke towards a different direction out of the Square.

To buy his men time, Crew calmly kneeled, and prepared to fire. Before he could, however, the party of giant soldiers halted, and fired a burst in his direction.

Crew felt a flash of pain, accompanied by a brutal sledgehammer blow along his firing arm. Collapsing onto the cobblestones, he saw the soldiers calmly walk in his direction. One of them spoke into bulky box.

Moaning, Simon Crew slipped into darkness, as one of the Invaders kicked away his rifle.

Fald Quartiers [Field Quarters]
Hanover Base, Neues London, Neues Britain [New London, New Britain], Union
May 2, 2008

Major General Conrad Feltz arrived at the front line Quartiers with a slight spring to his step. Only two hours ago, the remaining Puritan units in Neues London (as Hanover had officially designated the soon to be Unionized-urban heap) had been captured by Second Luft Trupors [Airborne Troopers]. He had also received an order from Marshall Hasslein, the Commander of all Union armies this side of the Doorway to appear in person for an important notice.

It had been a long campaign for Feltz, although he was rather sorry that there were few Puritans left in this alternate Britain left to deal with. He had earned his promotion in the heroic destruction of a Puritan relief column in Wales, two months previously, which would have cut off advance units of the Ninth Grenadiers. Walking through the narrow warrens of the camp, past the jubilant soldiers who saluted his march past them.

Soon afterwards, he arrived at the imposing tent of the Marshall himself. The two guards, from the Queen's Own Prussian Marines, dressed in their Feld Grau field uniforms, saluted Feltz smartly. Raising his riding crop in return, he watched calmly as one of them went to inform the Marshall of his presence.

"Kom!" bellowed the voice from inside the tent. Feltz entered slowly; he knew Marshall Hasslein to be an intense man, given to wild mood swings at the slightest provocation (or none at all�he had heard many stories of what happened to senior officers who inadvertently said the wrong thing in his presence).

Feltz quickly saluted.

"Ja, Ja, as you were," said the Marshall. "Please, sit."

Conrad Feltz did as he was told, sitting himself on a stool.

Marshall Otto Hasslein was a thin, rather gawky man, with an old fashioned Berlin-style moustache and wavy, brown hair. Unlike most frontline officers in the Union armies, he was dressed in his finest attire, complete with a scarlet cloak, knee high polished boots, and a light gray tunic-trouser combination. A golden scabbard hung over his chair.

Hasslein poured some brandy into a tall glass, and handed it to Feltz. He raised his own vessel high, as the Major General did likewise.

"Veig!" ["Victory!"]

The two men drank deeply. Feltz waited for the Marshall to tell him the important news that he had been summoned to hear.

"We have him."

"Who, Marshall?"

"The brust tumpar ["breast thumper"�a rather common nickname throughout the Union for important government officials] that the Puritans had in charge here; we captured him along the Thames an hour ago, and he's in a field hospital as we speak."

"It's over then, is it Marshall?"

At this, Hasslein abruptly frowned. Inwardly, Feltz kicked himself, waiting for an eruption of volcanic temper. "Nein, I wish it were so," the Marshall said, grating his voice. "Our scouts say that they still have an entire army along the Channel Coast."

"The one that they withdrew from the Continent?"

"Ja," said Hasslein. "Not that they'll be able to threaten our hold on Neues Britain�once we get more reinforcements, of course�but it will be some time yet before they can be eliminated. To say nothing of the other lands they control in this world."

Feltz shifted on his stool. "Is there more that you wish to inform me of, Marshall?" This was the sort of briefing that Hasslein gave weekly to his General Staab [General Staff].

Hasslein suddenly split into a wide grin. "Two things, Feltz. First, I received a new notice from Hanover: you're the Commander General of Special Operations in the Neues Britain Millitarsh Disterik. Gluck to you." ["...Military District. Congratulations to you."]

Feltz couldn't believe his ears. He was now in charge of all counter-insurgency activities in Neues Britain. I suppose I did a better job in Neues Birmingham than I thought he reflected, remembering his quick suppression of a riot in the big prisoner's camp in the settlement during the military's Glasgow Drive.

"The other news, Marshall?" he asked, trying to contain his enthusiasm for his new assignment. Not the hardest job in the world ... most of the fricken people here are no more Puritan than we are now!

With this question, Marshall Hasslein raised his right arm. From the other side of the tent, two men stepped in.

They were both very exotic looking; they both wore lushly embroidered outfits burnished with dozens of medals apiece. Both looked very well fed, and one even had a giant gold hoop earring to complete the spectacle.

"Commander, may I introduce you to Heers van Damm and Frank, of the Dutch Empire."

Some things don't change between universes thought Feltz to himself sardonically, though the Dutchmen of his world looked nothing like these two.

Hasslein's smile grew wider as he continued. "They are both interested in increasing diplomatic relations with the Union. You are to escort them home. The prospects for this missions are of vital importance to our mission here."

"Ja sir!" said Feltz, rather loudly.

If this leads where I think it's leading, we may not need to worry about the other forces back home!

Outside the tent, more and more soldiers from the Union's Doorway Expeditionary Korps poured into the soon to be remade Neues London as special units began to put out the fires throughout the city. Soldiers danced and sang in celebration of their titanic victory, and work crews began the process of pulling down the massive statue of Oliver Cromwell overlooking the newly renamed Union Square.

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