HOME NOVELS CINEMA SCREENWRITING WORKS IN PROGRESS CONTACT
World Enough
Second extract. From Quaque's Take, in chapter 5
Californians waking to customary tequila hangovers hear news reports on Radiofono Los Angeles of Japanese landings at various points along the coast, taken as another laughable government ploy to goad the citizenry to work (unless it’s Sunday, in which case replace work by church), until after an audible scuffle and the sounds of gunfire over the air a Nipponese-accented voice announces that from henceforth and for ever the colony will be subject to the Sun God’s imperial rule. The spokesperson concludes, in bad Spanish, “Thank you for inviting us over.”
A little exaggeration here, but no question Jap paras have taken LA City Hall and media installations and established bridgeheads at several strategic points along the lightly defended coast. By the time the Governor comes on the air around midday, speaking from a secret location, to urge principled resistance against the invader, Japanese commando units backed by air assaults have occupied the main government base north of the capital. With this prize in enemy hands, the morale of local militia and police tends to run into the sand, and within forty-eight hours the whole colony is indeed under Japanese control.
From Madrid, the premier promises the dispatch of a task force via the Malvinas and Cabo de Hornos to restore freedom to the Golden State, but with the Republican government’s work cut out to maintain control in Spain after the civil war, this is largely dismissed as face-saving rhetoric. So if his Imperial Majesty Hirohito had left it like that, with California in the bag, he could probably have come to an arrangement with the British to the north and the French and Germans to the east of the Rockies. But he’s out for continental domination. Two days after the Californian landings a second wave of assault troops hit the British Columbian coast. This time it doesn’t go all their way, partly because of the mountainous terrain, a lot tougher than surfing their amphibious vehicles in onto the Malibu sands, partly because the forewarned and heavily armed Canadians are expecting them.
From fogbound London, the government reacts with its time-honoured blend of arrogance and pragmatism, denouncing the invasion of British Canada as an impudent outrage that unless checked will engulf north-northwest American civilisation with Asiatic barbarism, while making rapid overtures to Madrid and other weightier capitals about forging a grand European alliance to defend their New World colonies.
Within hours of the attack on Canada, Britain and Spain declare war on Japan. This is where things get complicated geopolitically.
“Bad things were happening to me. It’s easier to talk about the big picture”, Quaque will say to Dr. Poisson.
The USA’s history makes it no friend to European colonialism. The five-year-long armed struggle following the Declaration of Freedom created a lasting hatred for colonial oppression. When finally the Boer and British settlers with their tribal allies defeated the British forces, principles of national self-determination were enshrined in the new Constitution. Though subsequently the United States of Africa would fall short of its ideals, the suspicion towards European expansion remained. As the original States enlarged through expansion northwards, further anti-colonial wars were fought with the Portuguese in Angola and Mozambique, which were added to the Union in the early part of the 19th century. Later in the century the African Civil War between the southern Union and the loose northern confederacy of states along the Congo river gave the USA its modern form, with the slave-owning states finally capitulating to the more industrially advanced south, where political power was increasingly passing into the hands of the indigenous African majority. Further expansion occurred as settlers moved into the game-rich grasslands beyond the Rift Valley, the so-called Wild East, though they were at times fiercely resisted by the tribal peoples already living there. A succession of wars and unequal treaties with the Masai and others led finally to their subjugation, and by the turn of the century the USA covered the whole of southern Africa from Ityopya and Soudan in the east and Afrique Francophone in the west, where the border was marked by the 2000-mile great curve of the Congo river. With the acquisition of Madagascar from the overstretched French and the annexation of the previously British Seychelles that same year and its later elevation to statehood, at the outbreak of the American-Japanese war, as it was then known, the number of states in the USA stood at thirty-nine.
In the ensuing silence Dr. Poisson will inspect her nails, newly painted vermilion. Eventually Quaque will say, “And then there was Russia.”
Apart from Alaska, purchased off the British Canadians for a derisory price at the end of the last century, and governed as part of Eastern Siberia, Russia had no American territories. Successive Czars made their reputations by gobbling up chunks of Asia, some compensation for seeing the Americas, India and southeast Asia disappear down the even more voracious gullets of western European powers. But, it soon became clear that Kazahkstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and the rest couildn’t compare in terms of raw materials and agricultural produce with the western powers’ colonies. Despite forced industrialisation under Djugashvili, Russia was lagging behind Germany, France and Britain, while to the east, Japan emerged as a heavyweight industrial and military power, destabilising the balance of forces on the northern Pacific Rim to Russia’s disadvantage. It’s only a matter of time, Russia’s political analysts agree, before Japan spills out of the home islands, though which way they’ll head is anybody’s guess.
So when Togo launches his ‘ war of liberation’ against America, ignoring militarily softer options in Asia, President Djugashvili’s first response is a 150° proof celebration – filtering down the echelons in a kidney-crunching Kremlin piss-up – that Japanese crack units aren’t heading up Kamkatchka or zapping Vladivostok. Sobering up, badly hung over, his earlier euphoria gives way to a glum realisation that a Japanese occupation of the North American colonies, conceivably followed by an encroachment into South America, will further tilt the balance of power against Russia in the Greater Pacific region, as well as giving Japan huge advantages in terms of raw materials and markets. Letting the West Europeans and Japanese slug it out is the obvious move, with prospects of different tactical alliances, ententes or trade deals according to how the war pans out. However, the big question Djugashvili must figure out is what his USA counterpart President Roosevelt is planning to do.
“The deranged cunning of the Orthodox seminarian versus the principled manoeuvring of the patrician Boer”, Quaque, pleased, will improvise.
“Zzziaoowww! Splaaatt! Krrrooomph!” terrified aides manage to hear, ears flattened against the bullet-proof door of Djugashvili’s Kremlin sanctum, as he pushes coloured counters around a big map of the world spread out on the floor, shaping policy. “Anything is possible! Anything!”
Djugashvili figures it’s only a matter of days before the remaining European powers with North American colonies are drawn into the war, if only because they expect the Japanese not to stop at the Spanish and British possessions of the Rockies. And he’s right: when Japanese armour, backed by total air supremacy, begins advancing through the deserts of Nuevo Mexico and towards French Louisiana and German Mittel-West, the Reichstag and the Quai d’Orsay hurriedly join Spain and Britain to form the European American Defence Alliance. He’s right again in supposing that the USA will limit its disapproval of Japanese imperialism to words of condemnation and the provision of easy-term credit to the hard-pressed allies, none of which have seen any reason for re-arming in the twenty years since the statesmanlike conclusion of the Treaty of Versailles. African gold begins to have its effect: newly purchased or loaned ordnance pours over the Atlantic into the ports of the Gulf of Mexico. Led by Field Marshal Rommel, the allies mount their brilliant ‘groundhog’ campaign against Japanese armour in the Mojave desert, rolling them back over terrain previously captured from the Spanish. Things begin to look bad for the invaders.
At this point, figuring that whatever happens the USA will maintain its official neutrality, Djugashvili puts his notorious ‘fifty-fifty’ proposal to Tokyo: we sponsor your war, he proposes, supply you with weapons, ships, logistical support, military advisors, everything but combat troops, and you, in return hand us over, when you’ve won the war, 50 per cent by area of all your conquests. Half of something, he tells Emperor Hirohito at their rendezvous on Shikotan, Japan’s northernmost island, is better than all of nothing. After due consultation of the I Ching, the Japanese high command agrees. Within weeks Togo’s army, re-equipped with newly arrived Russian T34 tanks manned by Japanese crews, is again storming eastwards. Rommel in the southwest and Montgomery in Canada are unable to stem the advance. The two-pronged campaign looks set to converge on the mid-western breadbasket, to be followed by a triumphal assault on the French and German colonial capitals, resplendent rivals on opposite sides of the Mississippi river, the twin cities of Saint-Louis and Frederiksburg.
Just when jubilant Djugashvili is contentedly plonking counters onto the choicer parts of the north and south American continents – the small print of the 50-50 accord specifies Russia decides how the spoils of war are distributed – a transcript of a broadcast Roosevelt speech is eased under his door, none of his staff being brave enough or dumb enough to hand it to him in person. Djugashvili picks up the note, turns it this way and that, sniffs it, rubs the ink with his thumb, holds it up to the light, then finally, suspicions quieted if not allayed, put on his glasses and reads the thing. Outside his sanctum the hovering handful of aides hear a long rallentando of oaths terminated by a thud as the Great Gardener collapses foaming at the mouth onto his Bokhara carpet.
“Just as I thought”, mutters Beria, removing his ear from the door, “not happy”.
Roosevelt’s announcement declares that in view of the globalisation of the American war, henceforth the wealth and resources of the United States of Africa, together with an unspecified number of non-combatant “military advisers”, will be freely available to the Allies until such time as all Japanese forces have returned to their home islands and the status quo ante restored.
“Puritan!” Djugashvili storms when he comes round. “A typical African puritan. Christ, any normal man would be in it for what he can get. Do you realise the guy's motivated by virtue? How can you do a deal with someone like that?”
Beria quips, earning his pay as court jester, “You could always raise the status quo ante, ha ha.”
Djugashvili’s eyes narrow. “Meaning?”
“We-ell”, calculating whether to risk being specific, “you could call his bluff.” Beria likes poker talk, though he never plays for more than kopeks.
“Like how?”
“By sending troops to help the slit-eyes.”
“And if Roosevelt commits troops too?”
Excitedly, his chance to play the great game, Beria says, “Then you declare war on the USA”.
Djugashvili stares at his sidekick with cold contempt. “Do me a favour. That’s about the dumbest suggestion I ever heard, and I’ve heard some crap. You think I’m about to get into a shooting war with the USA? They’d kick the living shit out of us. Beria, you are a jerk.”
Beria twitters his agreement with his boss’s assessment, then dives out of the room backwards, leaving Djugashvili alone, a tiny menacing figure prowling the perimeter of his densely complex carpet like it was a cage.