In our world, the German Reich lost the war; Adolf Hitler committed suicide as Soviet tanks smashed their way through Berlin. But that was only one possibility…
In an alternate world, the Greater German Reich survived, conquering Britain in 1940, Russia in 1941, and the Middle East in 1942…and finally America in 1960. It has taken the world, taken the moon – and now it is experimenting with inter-dimensional travel. Our world is about to face a nightmare from the past, one more deadly than ever…
Author’s Notes This book represents a unique effort on my part; a book related to a preceding book without requiring the reader to read the first book, Carrier Wars. In that book, a number of ships were swept up by a powerful unknown force and lost at sea with all hands. This is what happened to the world that those ships left behind.
This may cause some confusion over the timeline. TimeLine A is our timeline. TimeLine B is the one that the ships were swept into. TimeLine C is the Nazi-dominated world that features within this book.
On a different note, I have decided to limit the German language used within the book to the bare minimum, simply to make life easier for the reader. German terms – with the exception of common well-understood terms – have all been translated into English. I apologise for any confusion that this might cause.
Once upon a time, in the very near future, a task force, comprised of vessels from many different nations, was swept into a dimensional shift and transported to a very different universe. The faction behind the transition intended to use them to force the world forward…so that their part of the Multiverse War could be won.
This isn’t their story.
This is the story of the world they left behind…and what happened to it.
Chapter One: Mirror Image
Reich MOS Research Laboratory
Cambridge, Britain (TimeLine C) The Republic of Great Britain, a loyal and obedient component of the Greater German Reich, had been free of partisans for at least thirty years. Long-standing habits of caution kept Standartenfuehrer Herman Roth wary as he drove through the roads of Britain, heading towards the research laboratory. He spared no glances for the historic streets of Cambridge, or the meetinghouse of the local British Union of Fascists, which received a regular 90% of the vote at the local elections.
Perhaps there was something to be said for allowing them the appearance of democracy, Roth thought, checking his GPS system. Space travel, a Germany monopoly, gave the Reich an utterly unparalleled control of the world; not even the British Empire had come close, before the Panzers had driven through London, Cairo, and Delhi…
Here, he thought, as he reached a secluded driveway. His portable security sensor bleeped, recording scanner beams that were already probing for his IFF transponder, the one implanted in his body. He cringed, despite nearly twenty years of service in the SS, knowing that one little error in the IFF and the automated guns would open fire.
No hail of bullets cut his life short. Breathing a sigh of relief, Roth drove up the driveway, weaving through trees that had a uniquely British feel, before pulling up in front of a large building. It was new, built in the grandiose style of Albert Speer; the Fuhrer’s architect. Before Speer’s death in 1970, he’d remodelled Berlin and Moscow, styles that were now duplicated all over the world.
“Heil Hitler,” he snapped, as he climbed out of the car. The guards, plain-clothed guards from the Skorzeny Regiment, kept their submachine guns trained on him, while a weak-chinned unarmed man checked his papers. Roth wasn’t fooled; the man might have looked puny, but he moved like a combat veteran.
“Heil Hitler,” the guard replied, after checking everything. Standartenfuehrer or no, the guards wouldn’t have hesitated to shoot him down if he’d managed to penetrate this far into the complex without permission. “Your papers seem to be in order.”
His voice was disappointed. Roth would have smiled under other circumstances. He knew better than to assume that the seven guards in the facility were the only defences around the base; he just didn’t understand why it was in Britain, rather than Germany or even the new settlements in what had once been Russia.
“Thank you,” he said. “StandartenfuehrerHerman Roth, reporting for duty.”
He’d assumed that he had been called to assist with the security around the complex. As one of the Reich’s foremost experts on subversive warfare and infiltration, even though there was so little to practice on these days, it would have been reasonable. The guard commander, who hadn’t bothered to share even his name, shook his head.
“Herr Doctor Rommel is inside,” he said. “He will brief you.”
Roth concealed his astonishment, saluted the guards again, and stepped inside. Herr Doctor Rommel was one of the Reich’s experts on higher-order sciences; his name was on a whole series of breakthroughs that had improved the life of Germans everywhere. He remembered the Wehrmacht’s complaints about how the third Rommel to serve Germany had gone into the sciences instead of the military, but he’d dismissed them. Herr Doctor Rommel might not have had the military skill of his father and grandfather, but he was a much respected professor in his field.
“Right this way,” a female voice said. Roth studied her with some interest; she held herself with a confidence that suggested that she was more than just a secretary. She was…well built, with jutting breasts, but her blue eyes glittered with intelligence and understanding.
“Thank you,” he said, looking around as he followed her down a long corridor. The building might have been new, but someone hadn’t skimped on the decorations; he saw paintings from several famous artists on the walls. One of them, he was sure, had once been in the Goring Collection; the portly head of the Luftwaffe had been a famous collector before his sudden and unexplained death.
“Herr Doctor Rommel is in here,” she said. “I look forward to you joining us.”
“Thank you,” Roth said again. “Might I enquire as to your name?”
It was almost as constant as a law of physics that every eligible woman– and she had no wedding ring on her finger – would fall into the arms of an SS man with open legs. The female professor – Roth was almost certain that that was what she was – just considered him for a long moment before nodding.
“Professor Madeline Richter,” she said. “I would suggest that you go right in; the professor is not known for respecting fools and sluggards.”
“Thank you,” Roth said, wondering if that was all he would ever be saying to her. He tapped once on the door and stepped inside when a gruff voice shouted for him to come inside. He took a quick moment to examine Doctor Rommel before he spoke, under the guise of removing his cap, and was pleased. The famous Rommel profile had come through in the lines of the man’s chin; his eyes burned with unspeakable determination.
This man would make one hell of a soldier, Roth thought, and saluted. “Heil Hitler,” he snapped. “Standartenfuehrer Herman Roth, reporting for duty!”
“Welcome to this research post,” Rommel said, without preliminaries. “Have you been informed as to the purpose of your mission?”
Mission? “No, Herr Rommel,” he said. “All I was told was to report to this place and report for duty.”
“Security,” Rommel said. It wasn’t the curse that many men would have made it, but then; scientists could be demons about security. They were scared about competition. “You have been selected for a special mission, Herr Standartenfuehrer. This is your only chance to back out.”
Roth said nothing. “Excellent,” Rommel said. “I will begin by explaining something about this base. In these halls, we have a very strange collection of professions; physicists, engineers, biologists, sociologists and historians. What does that suggest to you?”
Roth was honestly puzzled. “I don’t know, Herr Rommel,” he said. “Physicists and engineers make sense if you’re trying to build something, but why the others?”
Rommel held his gaze. “How much do you understand about the theory of multiple realities?” He asked. “Just how…aware of them are you?”
“I know nothing,” Roth said, automatically. “I’m not sure I understand the question.”
It wasn’t always safe in the Reich to know things, or to admit to knowing them. Rommel glowered at him anyway. No patience for fools, Roth reminded himself. The professor seemed…annoyed that Roth knew nothing, or at least that he had claimed to know nothing. Had he led that sheltered an existence, as a scion of one of the greater families?
“Imagine, for the sake of argument, that a certain battle was lost,” Rommel said. “Take our Fuhrer’s greatest gamble; the invasion of Britain. Are you aware, for instance, that it was war-gamed several times in the years after the war ended? In none of those games, admittedly run with the benefit of hindsight, was the invasion a success. In all of those games – but not reality – Sealion was a total disaster, with the loss of six divisions and almost all of the Kriegsmarine.”
Roth thought about the two hundred front-line divisions that the Reich maintained, even now, after nearly fifty years of peace. Losing six divisions would be annoying, but hardly fatal. “I’d heard something about that,” he said. “I had always assumed that that was a joke.”
“No joke,” Rommel said. “The same, more or less, goes for the Battle of Washington; General Hoth’s gamble could have failed really badly and utterly destroyed the Reich’s one main chance at taking Washington itself. What might have happened if the Japanese had stumbled into war with America in…say 1941? It looked quite likely; instead of striking north into Stalin’s rear, the Japanese would have headed south against the remaining British possessions and America.”
Roth shivered. The study of history wasn’t popular – no one in the Reich liked thinking about how badly it could have gone – but he knew some details. After the fall of Britain, the Japanese had seized the Dutch East Indies…and managed to secure themselves enough resources to power their campaign for the icy wastes of Siberia. If Stalin had been able to spare the forces that had fought the Japanese in the winter of 1941 for the Battle of Moscow…well, who was to say how it would have gone?
Rommel smiled at his expression. “For each of those choices, there were a number of ways it could have gone,” he said. “Take the simplest; heads or tails?” He pulled an old British coin out of his pocket and passed it over. “If you’ll flip that coin, you’ll see that there are two possible outcomes.”
Roth tossed the coin in the air and examined it. “Heads,” he said.
“And now there is also a universe where it was tails,” Rommel said. “What you have to understand is that there are universes where the war went very differently; either the war of 1960 or the Second Great War. In some of those universes, the Reich would have lost the war.”
“That’s…not exactly what I expected to hear,” Roth admitted. He wasn’t sure what he should do; such words were rather…treasonous. “You mean, Stalin might have conquered the world instead of us?”
Rommel read his thoughts. “The Reich Council are fully aware of our activities here,” he reassured him. “They did, in fact, provide most of the funding.” Roth relaxed. “As you may or may not be aware, we did considerable research into heavy-duty physics as part of an investigation into the possibilities of an advanced space drive for the space program. I can’t tell you everything – security again – but we accidentally started to displace things through universes.”
He smiled suddenly. “It took us a while to work out what was happening,” he said. “The maths were perfect, the items…didn’t go. It wasn’t until we saw a scratch in a slightly different place that we realised that we were just sending ours to one universe, and at the same time receiving one from a different universe. Eventually, we worked out that that was what was happening – and then we worked out how to start searching for other timelines that weren’t so closely related to ours.”
Roth lifted an eyebrow. “Didn’t it occur to you to…ah, displace a living person?”
Rommel hesitated. “Yes,” he said. “Fortunately, we ended up with a replacement from a different universe, which is why we now have two versions of Professor Madeline Richter.”
Roth felt his jaw fall open in astonishment. “Are you telling me that she has a twin from another universe?”
“Oh, yes,” Rommel said. “You’ll meet them both later.” He picked a photograph out of a drawer and passed it over to Roth. “Examine that.”
Roth stared at the photograph. The two women on it were identical. “How are they different?” He asked finally. “They look the same.”
“Apparently, they ate a different breakfast that day,” Rommel said. “However, we are now getting ahead of ourselves; we continued to experiment…and we finally managed to open a portal to an alternate universe that was…well, more alternate than the one from where Mad – we call her Mad to tell them apart – came from.”
Roth shook his head. “I see,” he said. “And what, exactly, does this have to do with me?”
Rommel smiled. “I would have thought that that was obvious,” he said. “Why do you think that the Reich Council was so interested?”
Roth flushed slightly. “We’re going to invade them, aren’t we,” he said. Inside, he felt a flicker of delight at the prospect of a real war, something that would finally allow his unit to be tested in action. “That’s why I’m here.”
“Intelligence is the one thing we must have before launching any invasion,” Brigadefuehrer Johan Schmitt said. He seemed absurdly young for the rank he held; Roth wondered if he had a relative on the Reich Council. “That will be the task of your people.”
He waved a hand at the map on the wall. Roth took the invitation and studied it carefully, remembering the details he’d been taught in his lessons. From the Atlantic to the Urals, the deep red of the Greater German Reich bestrode the continent like a colossus, matched by red sections in Britain itself and America. Algeria, controlled by the Vichy French, and South Africa, controlled by the Afrikaners, were coloured the pink of puppet states; the remains of Africa were either German or Italian colonies.
What had once been the British Empire was being broken to German or Japanese control, from the Raj in India – controlled by the British Union of Fascists – to the Japanese protectorate over Australia. The former United States of America had been broken, some of the states controlled by parties who supported the Nazi ideology, others directly occupied by German forces. Partisan activity, Roth remembered, was on the rise in northern America; the Wehrmacht had been making additional kill-sweeps for Americans who somehow believed that their nation had a chance of returning to its sleep…the sleep that had left them unprepared for the German-Japanese invasion of 1960.
Of the remaining independent states in the world, all of them knew that they were independent as long as the Reich Council decreed that they were more useful to the Reich as independents, rather than occupied or puppet states.
“That map will be very different in the other timeline,” Schmitt said. “It may have the entire world held by us, in which case we stay well out of it. If not, particularly if it’s a world ruled by Stalin’s heirs, your orders are to prepare to engage in some limited espionage, learning the lie of the land.”
He smiled at his pun. “Your first priority is to establish a link into their computer network, assuming they have one,” he said. “Then…we can start to make long term plans.” He smiled again. “Any questions?”
“Yes, Herr Brigadefuehrer,” Roth said. “Am I allowed to recruit assistance from the rest of my force?”
Schmitt nodded. “That was the plan in assigning them to the training base here,” he said. “That, and convincing the British that their interests are best supported by working with us, instead of wasting time.”
Roth blinked. “I thought that partisans were on the fall here,” he said.
“Oh, there hasn’t been any trace of Gubbins’ little army for nearly four decades, ever since America fell,” Schmitt said. “The problem is political; the Union of Fascists here wants a bigger say in how the Reich is run.”
Roth snorted. “They should have taken over the British Empire before Churchill committed them to war,” he said. “Like Italy did.”
“And they were hardly worth the effort,” Schmitt pointed out. “The first generation, Mosley and his chums” – he smiled as he used the British term – “were too grateful to us for letting them out of Dartmoor to make a fuss. The second generation saw the nuclear weapons in America and knew better than to try to make a fuss. The third generation was too occupied with rebuilding India. The fourth…well, they’re the ones we have now.”
He smiled darkly. “And that’s not the only problem,” he said. “Do you know why this complex was built here?”
Roth shook his head. “That puzzled me before,” he said. “Why here? Why not the heart of our defences?”
Schmitt snorted. “Herr Doctor Rommel doesn’t think that anyone can do better than us on the sciences,” he said. “What happens…if we bump into a reality where the Americans rule the world?” He tapped the map. “Or…what about a reality where the British Empire never lost the American colonies? In both of those cases, we can expect them to have greater understanding of technology than we do…and if something gets back to the Reich, we have plans to nuke a large section of Britain, rather than lose the Reich as a whole.”
It took two weeks to focus the portal on a reality that was accessible. For reasons even Doctor Rommel didn’t even try to consider within his understanding, some realities were further away from others. Roth, who had only one suggestion to make, spent most of the time trying to court Professor Madeline Richter – both of them. Finally, however, they succeeded in locking a portal to a world’s individual quantum signature. It was then that the problems began.
“Why can’t you open the portal at any point?” Roth asked, puzzled. The scientists, at least, had managed to accept him as a human, rather than an omnipotent SS officer. “If we could start opening portals in space, we could start reading their transmissions before stepping through.”
Rommel shook his head slowly. “It can’t be done,” he said. He tapped his computer, which was attempting to read the quantum signature of the new universe. “The portal has to be precisely attuned to the new universe; we don’t have the slightest idea which of these figures” – he nodded to the constantly scrolling list – “represents location within the new universe.”
Madeline coughed. Beside her, Mad made to speak as well. Their double-act was eerie to watch. “Perhaps,” they said together, and then glared at one another. Rommel impatiently waved at Madeline to speak. “Perhaps we could move a station to the moon,” she said. “If we did that, we could read their communications at leisure.”
“That’s a good idea,” Schmitt said. “However, we need to know what’s beyond the portal.” He looked across at Rommel. “Are you ready, Doctor?”
Rommel checked his equipment once, and then nodded. “Let’s proceed,” he said. He tapped a button on his computer, and then stood to watch. A shimmering light appeared in front of them, forming rapidly into a square of shimmering white light hanging ahead of them. The shimmering faded and the portal stabilised.
“We have an open portal,” Rommel said. Roth sighed; he’d wanted to have the experiments conducted by remote control. “Herman?”
Roth nodded, took a deep breath, and stepped into the light.