The USS George Washington and the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle were engaged in a joint mission when they were swept up by an unknown power and swept across the timelines to a different reality – where the American Revolution failed and the British Empire still exists…
But the Empire is at war with the other two powers, the French and the Russians. Even as the crew of the George Washington attempt to adjust to the strange world that never held a United States of America, the French crew see an opportunity to strike a blow for France…by using their advanced ship to spearhead a powerful attack on the British Empire. All of the sudden, the Americans have to decide which side they’re on…before a peaceful world is destroyed by modern war.
Ever since the Civil War, when the British Isles had nearly torn themselves apart through epidemic fighting between the Cavaliers and Roundheads, the nation of Great Britain had been governed from the small complex called Ten Downing Street. It was not as simple as it looked – inside, it was one complex – but it was the centre of an empire that covered nearly a third of the world – and ruled the waves.
Most of the time, the Prime Minister reminded himself. The Honourable Lord Harriman Grey, Prime Minister of Great Britain, watched as the rain sleeted down from the grey sky, pouring down over London. The handful of patrolling fighters over the capital of the United Empire had been withdrawn; they couldn’t fly in this weather and nor could the handful of bombers possessed by the Bourbon Empire, just across the Channel.
The French Empire, the Prime Minister thought. Unlike the British Empire, which had evolved into accepting the natives as equals, the French had absorbed the Spanish Empire into their own, then sections of the Ottoman Empire, creating an empire that was almost equal to the British Empire. In New Spain, the French waited, holding the line against the North American Union – part of the United Empire.
“One year since the war began,” Grey muttered to himself. It had been a year since the ongoing dispute over China had blossomed into a three-way war; the United Empire fighting the French fighting the Russians…with the Japanese and Brazilians on the side-lines. The three major superpowers, tearing into each other…and none of them had the ability to win. In North America…stalemate. In Iran…stalemate. In the Prussian-Polish region…stalemate. The war was draining all three powers, and none of them would back down. They couldn’t.
The telephone rang. It was one of the new landlines, one linked directly to Admiralty House. He picked it up. “Grey,” he said. “Admiral Benson?”
Admiral Sir Martin Benson, First Sea Lord and effective commander of the navies that made up the united fleet of the United Empire, coughed. “It’s bad news,” he said, without preamble. “The French have taken the Falklands.”
Grey cursed. The strategic situation was grim. The various Empire navies, between them, were stronger than either the Russian or French navies. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had been delighted; it was a way of paying less for enough ships, or so they had thought. Instead, with some of the new developments in radar and range-finding technologies, the Royal Navy had been forced to spend more money and develop new tactics…and it wasn’t large enough for all the burdens that the war placed upon it. The French Navy lurked in the Baltic and the Mediterranean, waiting for an opportunity to sneak out and crush a squadron or two, while the Russians waited in the Far East for an opportunity of their own.
He allowed himself a moment to stare at the map, wondering if he would find a new solution. The Royal North American Navy had two major fleets; the east force and the west force. In contrast, the French had one fleet in New Spain, which they could move through the canal to combine and crush one of the North American fleets. If they held the Falklands, they would force the North Americans to respond, which would mean weakening one of the fleets and risking a decisive battle.
“Just by sitting there, they’re threatening our trade,” the Prime Minister muttered. Ships had put in at the Falklands for coal before, and some still did even with the war on.
“And scoring a propaganda victory,” Benson added. Grey nodded; the United Empire was made up of several different groups, not all of which were interested in the war, or had different motives for fighting the war. The French and the Russians had to know that; counter-intelligence had been turning up spies for years.
Grey sighed. “Options?”
“Only a thought,” Benson said. “We could put together a scratch force, BatCruDiv Seventeen and some units that can be spared from Joseph’s force in New Orleans. Like those units the French have, they would be able to outrun anything that could kill them, and handle anything fast enough to catch them.”
Grey smiled. “Have them probe the Falklands?”
Benson’s voice grew more animated as he thought through the plans. “In fact, we could have the west coast forces make their own moves, which would alarm the French enough to force them to move their own forces through the canal and give Vice-Admiral Felix Anderson a fair shot at the bastards in the Falklands.”
The Prime Minister smiled. “See to it,” he said. “But warn Porter; we cannot risk a major defeat.”
Benson’s voice sobered. “Yes, Prime Minister,” he said, and put the phone down. The Prime Minister returned to staring at the map.
“Bastards,” he commented. Peace – even on the lines of a return to the status quo – was acceptable; the problem was that neither the Emperor Napoleon XI nor Tsar Nicolas XX were interested in such a peace. Convinced that they would win the war, convinced that they held supreme power in their countries – and they did, as far as anyone could tell – they would bleed their countries to the last drop of blood to win a war that Harriman Grey suspected was futile.
The world is too large these days, he thought bitterly. For all the blood poured out in the first year of the war, since 2008, the gains had been minimal. Technology favoured the defender, and none of the major empires had anything seriously at risk. He knew, of course, the theories relating to massive bomber forces, but the development of radar – almost as soon as the war broke out – meant that the defender still had advantages.
“We need a miracle,” he muttered, and left the office. It was time for his interview with King-Emperor George X, who at least kept out of military operations. He sighed; without a miracle, the war might have to come to an end within a couple of years.
…And if we fall, the Russians will dominate the world, he thought grimly, turning out the light. Centuries of progress would be blown apart in a matter of months.