"What Madness Is This?" Volume II: Prophecies in the Dark

Thanks guys! I love you all!

Also, guess who is working on an update that may or may not be up really soon depending on how chaotic tomorrow is. lol Between my car accident and job search it has been tough to focus and finish chapters, so I end up with a lot of word vomit.
 
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Thanks guys! I love you all!

Also, guess who is working on an update that may or may not be up really soon depending on how chaotic tomorrow is. lol Between my car accident and job search it has been tough to focus and finish chapters, so I end up with a lot of word vomit.
Better word vomit than the real thing!
 
I was browsing wikipedia articles and I came into the "Anti-americanism" article, and I was thinking that as a reaction to the RU/NUSA regimes anti-americanism ITTL is going to take a far more virulent and violent form, probably borderline, if not outright, xenophobic/racist in the worst cases. We might see anti-american rhetoric that doesn’t sound that different from a yankee fascist anti-irish rant.

Kinda related, I also found this quote in the article that, if "french" is switched for "europan" alongside other few words, could describe fairly well how europans see themselves compared to the RU/NUSA:

America functioned as the "other" in configuring French identity. To be French was not to be American. Americans were conformists, materialists, racists, violent, and vulgar. The French were individualists, idealists, tolerant, and civilized. Americans adored wealth; the French worshiped [sic] la douceur de vivre. This caricature of America, which was already broadly endorsed at the beginning of the century, served to reinforce French national identity. At the end of the twentieth century, the French strategy [was to use] America as a foil, as a way of defining themselves as well as everything from their social policies to their notion of what constituted culture. - Richard Kuisel, american scholar

Also, what kind of governments compose the Neutrality Pact? I've always imagined them as mostly typical Latin America military dictatorships and juntas of the era, maybe some civil dictatorship too, a few oligarchic democracies and some flawed democracy.
 
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I was browsing wikipedia articles and I came into the "Anti-americanism" article, and I was thinking that as a reaction to the RU/NUSA regimes anti-americanism ITTL is going to take a far more virulent and violent form, probably borderline, if not outright, xenophobic/racist in the worst cases. We might see anti-american rhetoric that doesn’t sound that different from a yankee fascist anti-irish rant.
Definitely. The Illuminists are probably going to be among the biggest purveyors of Yankee hate alongside the Europans. They already consider themselves enlightened, so they'll probably emphasize the Americans' religious fanaticism, for example.
 
"FOR THE GOOD OF THE COUNTRY"
"FOR THE GOOD OF THE COUNTRY"
oldjoe2-jpg.711815


November 5, 1945...

Joe Steele could taste copper in his mouth as he struggled to choke back a wave of red mucus. He wheezed just a little bit, barely noticeable. For a man on death's door, he was determined to hold onto his dignity for as long as possible. He adjusted himself in his time-worn buffalo-hide swivel chair and leaned forward, forming a steeple with his fingers to hide their unsteady spasms. He was watching a painting take shape, a portrait by his daughter Wyetta Oswald. She was beautiful as ever in a pretty designer pencil skirt and blouse from one of the finest Philadelphia fashion houses, and her delicate aristocratic fingers moved steadily and nimbly across the large canvas. One stroke at a time, she detailed in the face of her late brother Marcus.

While outwardly encouraging her and her artistic efforts to memorialize her late brother, Joe felt a red hot tear in the corner of his eye. He brushed it aside quickly with one of his hands before once again locking them together. He felt the glossy green eyes of Marcus stare at him as if through time and space, boring into his soul like the gaze of an Old Testament deity. No doubt those eyes were now rotted to puss, deep beneath a lake in South America. No doubt crept into his brain that the body of his only boy lay decomposing in a swampy mire, entombed in his personal fighter plane forever. But it had to be done. Marcus was the Antichrist. The Reverend-Colonel Lovecraft and the Angel of Destiny had told him as much. By sacrificing his only begotten son to the cause of Manifest Destiny, to the Angel Njarl, he had proven his loyalty and steadfast belief in the tenets of Fundamentalism; not some hedonistic false-tongued fakery, like that of the late Reverend-Colonel Sunday, but of true, pure, total commitment to the cause of Jev.

Being someone on death's door, Steele found the matter of his eternal reward more pressing than it had ever been. In his early years, he doubted, even scorned religion in private, while outwardly going through the motions. But as the apocalyptic march to domination of the entire hemisphere dragged on and as one sign of the End of Days approached after another, Joe Steele believed. He had to believe. There had to be a reason for all this, a divine order. And, come hell or high water, Steele would forge this divine order, this Pinnacle Future, with his dying breath. No matter what cost needed to be paid, he would forge the New Jerusalem and bring peace to the Hemisphere. Every day, he prayed and begged Jev and Njarl to show him the way.

Every night he awoke several times, drenched in sweat, hacking and retching up blood, terrified of dreams that seemed to waft into his unconscious mind like wafts of sulfur from the pits of Hell, keeping him from ever feeling the embrace of real sleep. He almost hoped that religion was all bunk, that there was nothing after death, so he could feel his mind blissfully fade to black. But deep down, he knew better. The aging, dying tyrant knew the fate of his legacy and the fate of history hung in the balance. And so he forced his body to continue on, he willed his heart to beat unsteadily in his chest, and he grasped and clawed and fought for every single moment he had left. He had to prepare the way for the New United States, for the New Jerusalem.

Breaking his trance-like fixation on the portrait, one of his personal Wolf Pack guards peaked into the room to tell him that Ryan Harvey Hendrick had arrived to see him. In a moment, the tall, lanky blonde beast appeared, perfect as always in his dress uniform and knee-high cordovan boots. But this was not like any other time Steele had seen Hendrick. There was an obvious and distinct lack of self-confidence and the young man seemed uneasy on his feet. After a quick salute, Steele asked, "What is the reason for your visit, Under-Chief? It's a pleasure as always, of course."

Hendrick smiled grimly, saluted, and answered him. "Thank you, my Atheling! And greetings, Mrs. Oswald." The skinny blonde man clicked his heels together and performed a quick bow, which she greeted with a slight smile and a nod. "But I fear this conversation is only fit for your own ears, sir." Steele nodded at that and motioned for Wyetta to leave them, escaping the room through those huge oak doors from where Hendrick had entered. The Wolf Pack guard clicked his own heels and saluted stiffly as she walked by, before leaving Steele and Hendrick in silence.

"What's this about, Hendrick? You look like you've seen a ghost," Steele said, releasing a raspy wheeze of an exhalation in exchange for a chuckle. It was the best he could do.

Hendrick withdrew a brown folder from his dark blue double-breasted wool overcoat and fingered the clasp awkwardly, as if trying to convince himself he wanted to continue. "My Atheling, I trust you know my honor as a gentleman and servant of the Union is undying and unyielding. I and my entire line have committed ourselves fully to the cause of Manifest Destiny, and in service to President and Atheling."

"Of course, Hendrick. What seems to be the issue? You are always so well put-together. I believe this is the first time I have ever seen you rattled, if I dare say. And if Ryan H. Hendrick is rattled, consider my worldview shaken," Steele replied, his weak eyes trying to focus properly on the young man's face.

Withdrawing several typed documents and photographs from the envelope, he laid them face-up on the polished antique Presidential desk. "My Atheling, we have located the body of your son, and of course the wreckage of his plane."

The apocalyptic migraine that Steele felt pounding in his skull was not a symptom of his consumption, but of instant fear. Fear. Fear was a word that Joe Steele had not felt in the half-century since his time in the Nippon War. Chuck had told him he shot Marcus down over the thickest and most inhospitable jungle canopy he could find. An eternal tomb turned into a five year tomb. This was bad. This was really, really bad.

"Sir, my men have discovered his parachute was sabotaged, and the bullets that shot him down were ours," Hendrick said, hands visibly trembling, ever so slightly.

Steele's mustache drooped at the corners and he sat back in his chair, letting out a deep rattly sigh. "Hendrick, I thought Marcus's plane was shot down over impenetrable jungle. How is it possible that you dredged it up?"

"Sir, where this a will, there is a way. Five months ago, my men established a base camp after airdropping in. For five months they have cut down the jungle, fought of mosquitos and sickness, and dredged miles of swamp water. I am very proud of their work, and of their results, however grim. The plane and the body are being shipped home next week on the battleship Cromwell. But that is not all, sir."

Steele cringed inside, waiting for the other shoe to drop. It didn't take a world class detective to figure out the cause of death and who might be the only suspect at this point.

The younger man continued, sliding the documents toward Steele. "Sir, with all due respect, I need you to understand what I am about to say is nothing in which I take pleasure or joy. You know me as a good man, a faithful follower. I have never wanted the office of Supreme Chief, and I turned it down. I have never wanted the office of President, and I would turn it down if you were so kind has to offer it to me. I merely serve at your pleasure and discretion and to bring glory to our country. What I tell you now... please understand that I wish I never had to. I think Supreme Chief Oswald shot Marcus down. His Excellency was the only survivor of the squadron and the only known witness. The rounds embedded in your sons's body and plane match were fired from a Union aerocraft. Logically speaking, I believe this could easily be proven at a tribunal. A tribunal that would, I believe, convict Supreme Chief Oswald of high treason and murder. Again, sir, I mean no disrespect, nor do I take pride in this accusation. I merely ask you to consider my words and the evidence at hand. And after any and all medical examinations, I thought you would take pride in laying your boy to rest with Washington and Lincoln in the Crypts below the First Church."

Joe Steele gazed at the face of the grandfather clock next to the office window. It was elaborately engraved with eagles and leaves and scenes from American history. His eyes followed the pendulum as it swung to and fro, unceasing. At that moment, both hands reached for the twelve. A loud gong went forth from the antique, signalling high noon. The President slowly turned his eyes back to Hendrick, a man covered in cold sweat. "Hendrick..." Steele began, barely getting the words out. "I... I appreciate your forthright and detailed investigation and I understand what you do, you do for the good of the country."

Hendrick nodded slightly and replied, "Thank you, sir. I am glad you understand where I am coming from."

"Of course," Steele said, in his most grandfatherly tone. "But I need you to understand something, and I need you to do exactly what I say, when I say it, and make sure my orders are carried out to the letter. Am I clear?"

"Yes, my Atheling! So let it be written, so let it be done!"

"I need you to shut down this investigation with extreme prejudice, Hendrick."

Hendrick felt his cold sweat turn into the closest thing to a panic attack he could imagine himself having. Normally the statuesque picture of unblinking loyalty, he now felt only confusion and shock. "Sir? Sir? I am sorry if I offend, but this case is open and shut? Are you sure you want me to close the investigation?"

Steele raised a hand to stop him from saying anything more. "Hendrick, I know Charles shot Marcus down. I know it. I know it. I ordered it."

"...Sir?!"

"Hendrick, are you familiar with the binding of Isaac?"

The ORRA Under-Chief sat back in his chair in stunned silence before breathlessly mouthing the word "yes." The noontime sunlight shone in on his pale, pale face, dust particles dancing through the air like fairies.

"Abraham was commanded by Jev to take his only begotten son, Isaac, to the mountains to sacrifice him on Mount Moriah. Abraham was a mighty Pinnacle man of great fluidation, and he was faithful to Jev in all things. When Jev commanded him, however, Abraham was but clay. To do the Lord's bidding is the highest and most beautiful call of all. No victory in battle, no conquest for country, can equal the heavenly rewards that await he who does not shy from the calling of Heaven. I was instructed by Njarl himself to arrange for the demise of my only begotten son. But unlike Isaac, Marcus could not be suffered to live. He was... he was the Antichrist."

Hendrick felt the world going black around him. His mouth felt radio static and his eyes darted wildly around as he listened to the ravings of a madman in control of one of two nuclear arsenals in the entire world. The President, the absolute unquestioned authority in charge of the greatest empire the world had ever seen, had just told him he had his son-in-law murder his son because his son was the embodiment of Lucifer.

Steele extended a hand and laid it on top of Hendrick's, squeezing with as much force as he could muster. "Hendrick, what we did was for the good of the country, the war, and human history! The New Jerusalem cannot be stopped, only delayed. And Marcus was the Antichrist who could have set it back centuries, even millennia. He was to overthrow me, to overthrow us all, and bring destruction to our country. What we did was divinely ordained, part of a cosmic battle we cannot hope to understand in this life. Now, I want you to shut down the investigation immediately! I want every single man who knew anything about this expedition to be... silenced. I want the body and the wreckage lost forever, and I mean literally forever. Destroy it all. I know you are capable of disguising purges like this as enemy attacks. I want all evidence gone forever."

Hendrick stood up from his chair, still shaking with fear and panic. "Sir.... Yes, sir. Of course."

"And I want you to promise me that you will never speak of this to another soul, Hendrick. Or else I shall see you, too, meet an untimely demise. Am I clear, Hendrick?"

"Yes, sir. Immediately."

"And Hendrick..." Steele trailed off, picking his words wisely to try to buy Hendrick's silence. "There has been much talk of creating a rocketry and ballistics administration, a new branch of the armed forces. We know the Europans are working hard with all that satellite business. It's clearly the way of the future, and I know your interest lies in that field of R and D. You never miss a technical briefing on those matters and several of your dispatches on advances in aeronautical warfare are far beyond my means of understanding. If you carry out my orders to the letter, as I have ordered, I could see fit to install you as the Supreme Chief of a new Space Force. If you fail to do as I ask, and I will know, I will have you eviscerated to a fine red mist and have the remaining sludge loaded into a rocket and launched at the Moon. Do you understand, Ryan?"

"Sir... Yes, sir, I understand," Hendrick replied, clicking his heels. "I... I would be... honored to accept this new position."

"Then don't fail me. You dug this mess up and you need to bury it before anything comes out about it. And I never want to hear about it ever again. Now get the hell out of my office and let my daughter finish this painting of her brother. She's spent two months on it."

***

The clean up of the entire affair was instant. Throats were slit, backs were shot, and the convoy carrying the wreckage and body was destroyed by Neutie guerrilla fighters, its final location unknown. The Cromwell never returned the only begotten son of Joe Steele to his native soil. The mysterious jungle reclaimed its sacrifice, sealing the fate of the Republican Union into an Oswaldian Pinnacle Future.

Hendrick debated on killing Nixon, the only real example of a personal friend he could drag to mind, but he just couldn't do it. When Nixon brought up the matter again, Hendrick merely refused to say anything other than, "It wasn't him. It was all a big misunderstanding spread by Neutie counter-intelligence. I was a fool to believe it." But Richard Lionheart Nixon was no fool, and he was very much aware of what was going on. For whatever reason, Hendrick had been ordered to clean the whole affair up and banish it to the netherworld. Oswald was clearly a murderer, but Nixon wasn't sure about the why, and he certainly didn't know Steele ordered the hit. He assumed, if he was feeling particularly bold and depending on the weather, that either Steele just didn't want to relive the loss and was losing touch with reality, or that Oswald had some sort of dirt on Hendrick. Either way, the calculating animal known as Tricky Dicky was not done exploring the mystery of Marcus's death, and he knew Chuck committed the crime. Instead, Nixon filed the information away, in case his ongoing affair with Wyetta ever came to light.

Nixon sometimes, however grandly delusional, dreamed of a Nixonian future, with Wyetta as his bride, Oswald slain, and Steele dead. Of a future where posters of a national hero who uncovered a plot for the ages adorned every wall; of a world where President Nixon would solve all the national ills. He wondered how Wyetta would react if he told her that Chuck killed her brother. But now there was no physical proof, and Hendrick refused to budge on the matter. It was troubling. Most troubling. For now, he would play his cards with patience and skill...

***
Office of Sax King, Chief of the Philadelphia RUMP
One month later...


Sax King answered the ringing phone with a dignified and simple, "All hail. Chief King speaking."

"Hello! Sax, chum, I need to call in a favor," said a jowly, familiar voice.

"Of course, Dick. I would be glad to help," the Chief of the Philly RUMP replied, knowing that voice anywhere.

"I want you to open an investigation into someone. I want no more than one or two men in on this. Understand? This is off the books, and I know you're good at this, so I feel you are the only one I can turn to."

"I'm flattered, Dick. I'd be glad to help in any way I can. What exactly do you need done?"

A brief silence was followed by Dick inhaling deeply and saying, quietly, "I need you to investigate the Oswalds. Their background. Where they came from, back in Canada before the war. I have heard certain... stories that leave me curious on a few matters. That's all I'll say for now. But like I said, just a nice, happy, general... fact-finding expedition."

Sax raised a blonde eyebrow, "You want me to investigate the Supreme Chief's family? That's mad, Dick. Why on earth would I do that?"

"Oh, uh, pardon me, Sax, I know it's a lot to ask and it's risky business. But I have... a hunch about certain things, let's put it that way. I promise that no matter what you find, I won't forget your help and you will be given not only any protection I can muster, but you could retire tomorrow with the treasures I got in store for ya."

"Dick..." Sax dragged out the name to avoid awkward silence. "Dick, this is nuts. I mean really nuts. I could be shot or disappeared for this, easy. I can do it, but dammit, man, this is crazy. Oswald could be listening to this call right now and have two shallow graves ready for us by the top of the hour!"

"Oswald isn't listening to this," Nixon's voice replied, with total certainty.

"How can you know that?" Sax King inquired, puzzled.

"Because I have some... creative wiring... that makes this call impossible to tap. They don't call me Tricky Dicky for nothing, Sax."

Letting out a sigh and switching the phone handset from one to the other so he could dry the first on his knee, Sax replied, "Very well, I'll see what I can unearth. I have a bad feeling about this, Dick. I hope you don't get us both purged, dammit. What are you expecting to find out about the Oswalds, anyway?"

"Oh, I don't really know, Sax. I just know something is rotten in Denmark--and by 'Denmark' I mean 'Canada.' I'll see you at next week's rally. We won't speak of any of this by phone again. Never can tell how fast Chuck's dogs might pick up on new tricks. Jev speed."

"All hail."

***

Moments later...


Richard Nixon picked up his phone. "Nixon here. All hail?"

"You need to stop, Dick."

"Excuse me?"

"You need to stop this bullshit conspiracy theory garbage," came the voice of Ryan Harvey Hendrick, Supreme Chief of the Space Force.

"Ryan?"

"You need to stop this search for shit on His Excellency or I'll let him watch some footage of you fucking his bride, Dick. How do you think that will fly up the flagpole?"

Nixon felt his breath catch in his chest, vessels on his forehead bulging and visible as he gazed at himself blankly in the mirror on the wall of his office. "I don't know what you're talking about, Ryan. And I thought we were friends."

"You know damn well what I'm talking about. And we were friends until you went on this whack-a-doo obsession with Chuck. You need to shut your mouth and mind your place and make your movies and fuck your whores, Dick. Just stay away from places your snout doesn't belong. This is a warning, Dick. Pray I don't call again. And don't call me friend. And believe me, if I wasn't your friend before, I wouldn't give you a warning. I'll see you at next week's rally, Dick. Act cool. And remember, zip that trap like a duffel bag and knock this shit off."

The call ended...
 
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Haven't read it yet, tbh, but I miss the pics. It isn't the same without pics. I still want to see what surprise you've prepared us this time, though.

I will put in a pic or two tomorrow! Don't worry. I am totally wiped out and drained. lol

EDIT: The Old Steele illustration finally gets used in a chapter! I remembered I had that one warming up in the bullpen for a while, and it seems like a great use of it, with how decrepit and deathly Steele is now.
 
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May the cold, scorching hands of the Devil welcome you into the Hell as you pass away, Mr. Steele, for what you have done.

Still, the internal affair of NUSA remains intriguing. Who silences who faster, that's the question.
 
This chapter could have been easily titled 'Mexican Standoff'. Everybody is basically with a gun pointed at each other's head, ready to fire it at the slightest hint of danger. By Jev, I really look forward to see how this ends.

Meanwhile, thank you Napo! It was one of the best chapters so far, and more than worth the wait.
 
It returns! Definitely fun to watch the scheming inside the RU; I see Mr. Nixon can't escape problems with recordings of him saying things he shouldn't no matter how bizarre the timeline gets. Does Hendrick believe in the AFC?
 
As I recall Hendrick is devout

Yep. Despite being an absolute piece of human garbage, he is sincere in his dedication to the state and does NOT want to ever be President. Which is quite interesting, as there might be some psychology afoot that he, despite his ego, doesn't consider himself "worthy" of leading the nation. He just want his pet projects and to succeed.
 
Yep. Despite being an absolute piece of human garbage, he is sincere in his dedication to the state and does NOT want to ever be President. Which is quite interesting, as there might be some psychology afoot that he, despite his ego, doesn't consider himself "worthy" of leading the nation. He just want his pet projects and to succeed.
Good to see he's still the Blonde Beast TTL. Is he an accomplished violinist to contrast with his brutality and space age fever dreams?
 
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