Armageddon Rising and Trial of Strength were parts one and two of a planned series entitled The Third World War, which was basically an attempt to write about ... the third world war. (Well, what else?) The series was never completed, for various reasons. I did have a plan for book three – Last Man Standing – but I never actually finished it. However, if there is enough interest, I will go back and rewrite the entire series.
Naturally, all of my predictions for the 2010-2018 period have been proven completely wrong. We should probably be grateful.
The President of Venezuela was a boorish megalomaniac.
General Liu Jianfeng watched as the self-styled Caudillo of Venezuela went through a long speech to his cabinet. There were times when he wished that his people were truly as inscrutable as westerners believed them to be; keeping his expression blank was a real effort. Jianfeng knew, without false modesty, that he was a capable officer, one of the Chinese officers responsible for the counter-insurgency operations in western China. His service there had won him the coveted post of military liaison to President Cesar Eduardo Fernandez, one of the Pact of Opposition’s most…trustworthy allies…trustworthy in the sense that without the Pact’s military support, the Americans would have disposed Fernandez long ago. Or his own people. Or one of his political allies. Or…Latin American politics were never clear to outsiders.
There were times when Jianfeng suspected that his mission had really been meant as a punishment. It wasn’t that Fernandez was stupid – he was clearly very intelligent and had a certain charisma that kept his people firmly behind them – but it was the fact that he was…obnoxious. He had used anti-American rhetoric, time and time again, to conceal the fact that he and his cronies were looting the state for their own ends…and the fact that he had actually built Venezuela into the most powerful Latin American state had not been done for the cause of bringing down America, but to protect himself. He had survived several determined attempts to assassinate him, which he had blamed on the CIA…and his people had lapped it up.
Jianfeng’s mouth twitched. Some of them might even have been the CIA at work.
“Answer me a question,” Fernandez proclaimed, his voice booming across the room. It took Jianfeng a second to realise that Fernandez was talking to him. “Why should we assist you with your grand plan to bring down America?”
Several answers crossed Jianfeng’s mind, including the droll point that the Pact had supplied Venezuela with all of the military equipment it had requested, some of which it had actually needed. The Pact had funded an entire series of covert operations designed to set the region on fire, to provide a second front against American power, but gratitude was something of an unreliable nature in Latin America. The balance of power was vastly against Venezuela; the question was simple. Did Fernandez know that?
“You told us nothing about the trap you set for the American fleet,” Fernandez said, his voice tightening. Jianfeng shrugged inwardly. If any information had been shared, he was sure that the Americans would have heard about it…and then surprise would have been lost. It had been a close-run thing anyway. “Why should we commit ourselves to helping you now?”
Jianfeng leaned forward. “The answer to that question is simple,” he said, in perfect English. He smiled at their reactions; Fernandez had forbidden the use of English at official discussions. “Do you want to get out from under the thumb of the Americans, or not?”
Fernandez’s face purpled alarmingly. “We have been spreading revolution…”
Jianfeng cut him off. “Yes, you have, like children,” he said. “You haven’t had a major success in years because the Americans can block you, even after that fool they had for a President five years ago gave up much of their leverage. American companies run large parts of the region and the Americans probe your borders at will. Mexico remains under the control of a government that serves American interests, and as for the Panama Canal, which should be used for the good of all Latin Americans…”
Fernandez’s eyes glittered. His dream of a pan-Latin American movement had sounded insane…until he started putting Venezuela’s oil wealth to work creating it, and the Pact had stepped in with military support. It had all been very low-key, just to prevent the Americans from taking it seriously, but a great deal of real work had been done without the Americans realising that there was more occurring than empty words. It wouldn’t last long, but as far as Jianfeng was concerned, it wouldn’t have to last more than a few months.
“And now the Americans are weakened,” Jianfeng continued. He allowed himself a slight smile. “Much of their deployable military force has been sent to Europe and the Far East, where it will be destroyed once we launch the second part of our plan. They have lost four of their carriers and dozens of smaller ships and they are trying desperately to hold on to what they can. If you strike now…”
“We could reclaim our own destiny,” Fernandez proclaimed. “You will provide the support you promised for the war?”
Jianfeng bowed his head. “The units are already in position to avenge the American strike against our own mainland,” he said. “All that is required is for you to push the Americans over the edge…and their power will be broken completely.”
He watched as Fernandez thought it through. The urge for self-preservation was strong in him, but also the urge to go down in history as the great liberator of Latin America. Like many others before him, Fernandez saw Latin American history as one of great opportunity, always squashed by the Americans to the north. True independence was always just beyond their grasp, until now…and if that meant Fernandez becoming the greatest hero since Bolivar…
And yet, the last time that any American state had faced a western opponent, it had been a disaster. Fernandez had to know just how badly Argentina had suffered since the Falklands War…and its economic problems had never been completely healed, even with much of the debt crisis ended. The current war was costing Latin America badly…and they weren’t even fighting, yet. Jianfeng watched as Fernandez’s mind played through all of the possibilities and smiled; whatever happened, Latin America would become involved in the war.
“We will commit ourselves to the cause, provided you respect our limits,” Fernandez said finally. “This day heralds the dawn of a new age.”