The Winter Cartographer

The cartography, writing, and ramblings of one crazy winter lover who likes to blog about the fun and inconsequential.



As always, right click to open map in full size in a new tab.

A relatively simple, if time-consuming, map I did using the "County-BAM" map from alternatehistory.com. The premise is pretty simple and explained by the key; basically show where Democrats and Republicans have won in the last 4 U.S. Presidential elections by county. Hopefully will be interesting and give an idea where each party is stronger, particularly for this upcoming election.

Some interesting findings:

  • Several of the swing states, including Ohio and Florida, don't swing that much county-wise. As far as, for the most part, all counties vote the same each time by majority. Compare that to fairly solid blue states like Michigan and Wisconsin where whoever wins by county can be a complete toss-up, even if the states tend to go one way.
  • The only states in which a single party captured every county in all 4 elections were all Democrat; Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts
  • President Obama made a HUGE impact county-wise in his 2008 win. A lot of counties that were Republican in 2000, 2004, and 2012 switched for him in '08. 
  • While the Black Belt and East Coast are fairly commonly known to be staunch Democrat holdouts, it was interesting to see that the counties bordering the Mississippi River tend to be a powerful blue block, going all the way up to Minnesota
  • Texas seems to contain the only top 10 U.S. cities that tend to go Republican at least as often as Democrat if not more, and the metro areas seem to be very Republican, particularly Dallas-Fort Worth. Interesting in that San Antonio, Austin, DFW, and Houston are seemingly the only very large cities to buck the urban Democrat trend.


A follow-up to my last map, here is a look at the larger world of the map. As noted in the last map, this world is based on Harry Turtledove's Southern Victory series, but differs in that the religiously fanatical Gordon McSweeney becomes President of the United States in the 1930s. Switching sides from their long-term German  allies, the Americans fight on the side of the Entente in the Second Great War and brutally beat down the divided and weak Confederate States of America. In Europe, the Entente meets similar success and partitions the former German and Austro-Hungarian Empires between them.

By the year 1954, the world has largely begun to calm from the effects of the Second Great War and the chaos that followed its conclusion. In the Americas, the United States stands supreme as a giant stretching from the Arctic Ocean to the Sea of Cortez. Gordon McSweeney's Christian Democrat party rules the United States as a single-party dictatorship under McSweeney's firebrand Protestant Christian values and a pan-American fascism heavily favoring state-controlled economies and brutally rolling up any separate cultures into that of the northern "Yankee" Americans. Interestingly McSweeney's government found somewhat unlikely allies in evangelical black citizens of the former Confederacy, whose Protestantism and hatred for the southerners who brutally oppressed them and kept them in slavery as long as possible has won them great support among the party leadership. Major American allies include the laissez-faire Texas, Franco-American blackshirted Quebec, and the growing power of the United States of Brazil. Only Argentina, humiliated one too many times by its neighbors, refuses to join or support America's system of allies. It is unknown yet if it will pay a price for that decision.

In Europe, the continent is split between the two major continental powers: France and Russia. The French government under Action Française was massively successful in the Second Great War, and since then its pro-European brand of secular, cultural fascism has spread to its new puppets in central and western Europe. In order to keep itself competitive against the Russians and Americans, the French have instituted a European common market in the hopes of linking their sphere in Europe together economically, politically, and culturally in order to oppose the Russian Empire and its allies. This is particularly important in a time when many of France's overseas colonies and its occupied areas in the former Ottoman Empire--Syria and Kurdistan--grow evermore restless. Since losing Australasia and New Zealand to America's sphere due to the former's doubt that the British Empire could adequately protect them from the Japanese, the British Empire and its allies have largely cast their lot with the French as the world moves toward rigidly choosing sides. With Canada, Australasia, New Zealand, and India gone, the United Kingdom has begun to focus most of its attention towards its African colonies in hopes of getting some good out of them or risk becoming a third-rate power behind the French, Americans, and Russians.

It would comes as a surprise to just about anyone at the turn of the century that the Russian Empire would be one of the most democratic of the major powers, but it is true (technically the UK still has elections just dominated by hard right conservatives, but they have shut down almost all representation outside the Home Islands). Russia, though still a monarchy, not only has a Duma with actual power but real elections as well, which are currently dominated by a coalition of centrist and mild leftist parties while the main conservative party is the primary opposition. Russia's puppets in Europe are even allowed to be more allies, with different types of government and are even asked for their agreement to decisions rather than having them openly opposed. This does not mean, however, that the Russians are nice. Their hold on Tsargrad, formerly Istanbul, is iron-fisted and any "equal ally" attempting to leave Russia's sphere would find itself on the receiving end of Russia's powerful barrel forces very quickly. Still, Russia's sphere remains relatively decent and beginning to economically prosper under the more pro-capitalist measures of the current Russian government. Without as devastating a Second Great War as our own world's Great Patriotic War, Russia is second only to the United States in terms of economic power and one day may even pass it.

The final major sphere of influence belongs to what is perhaps the true winner of both Great Wars: Japan. Making out like a bandit both times, Japan has grown from a regional power to a superpower in and of itself, with a sphere that includes a huge segment of the global population. With its personal empire growing to include Korea, Taiwan, Hainan, Cochinchina, Macau, and Hong Kong, Japan's government also created the East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere as an alliance system of former European colonies (and, later, Manchuria) that would be economically and politically linked to the Japanese Empire. On the scale of control of puppets, Japan's government keeps theirs in a tight grip. The Japanese imperial code, at least, has begun to be relaxed in favor of a still-strict sense of cultural unity and ethics among Japan's allies in an attempt, like France, to unite allies together to form a larger superpower to compete with the, figurative and literal, giants that are the United States and Russia. Japan also keeps China under its sway under the auspices of "Allied China" that are supposed to be various Chinese states allied together and to Japan for their own betterment. In reality, Japan plays each state off each other in hopes of keeping China disunited as long as it can, either until Japan can exceed China in power or until the Chinese states begin to be a part of the Prosperity Sphere.

The world, as it is, stands on edge. The great powers of the last war now look at each other with mutual suspicion and even hate as ideological disagreements fare brightly between them all. At the center of the world's precarious nature is the All-Indian Union. Conceived in the waning days of the British Raj, the Union is a mind-numbingly complex system of states and provinces that, as best as any government could, appease all religious groups as well as the powerful princes of the former Raj. Each group tends to have its own very harsh and loud voice in the government and the many peoples of India are united only by their animosity towards everyone else who would seek to control them. It's a risky system, but one that has drawn great dividends for the Indians; they are currently the fastest-growing economy in the world. As a consequence, virtually every alliance system is seeking to court the union into their own sphere. Only time will tell what side, if any, will succeed, but whatever happens will threaten to destroy the delicate balance the world currently finds itself in.


This is my entry into alternatehistory.com's Random Bouts of Cartography contest, in which I was given a color (the one you see here) and a theme to make a map over. This week's theme was "fascism" and the dark blue reminded me of France, so I decided to make this.

The general backstory is that this is an alternate version of Harry Turtledove's famous alternate history series, Southern Victory, also known as Timeline-191. The general idea of HT's world is that the CSA managed to fight the Civil War to a draw and achieve independence from the United States, and then beat the United States in a "Second Mexican War" in the 1880s. Things continue to build until World War I breaks out in 1914 and the USA and CSA find themselves at war once more. While in Turtledove's work the post-war, German-allied victorious United States goes more socialist while the CSA embraces Nazism, my version has a divergence in that one certain character, Gordon McSweeney, does not die late in the war.

A decorated war hero, fiery speaker, and pious Presbyterian, McSweeney in this world goes into the post-war United States as a leader for a nation not sure what to do with itself after tremendous loss of life and a failure to retake the southern states into a single United States. Gordon McSweeney's brand of politics is highly nationalist and evangelist, forming a very American fascist party in the 1920s that grows in power, attracting millions of followers to McSweeney's firebrand rhetoric and apparently strong sense of morality and direction for the United States, until, in the 1930s, the United States elects Gordon McSweeney as President at the head of the Christian Democratic party. The party is not quite so abusive as the Nazi Party of our own world, but is assuredly quite nasty and very anti-CSA.

McSweeney, unsatisfied with the US' alliance with Germany that has existed since before the Great War, leaves the German alliance and instead approaches the Entente Cordiale, the losers of the First Great War. Since that time, Action Française has taken over the government in France and creates the French Fourth Republic (rather than the monarchy in the books) that is a pan-European, pro-Gallic French fascist one party state that seeks to get back at Germany for the defeat of France in the First Great War. In response, Germany allies to the CSA and the stage is set for the Second Great War.

Ultimately, as one can see on the map, the Second Great War did not go well for Germany. Though Germany fought well, the war was on too man y fronts and, without its superpower US ally, was unable to contain all the fighting. Early in the war France managed to get fascists governments in Spain and Italy into power as support while the US supplied Franco-British armies gradually driving into the heavily-defended German territories in the west while Russia reversed the German gains in the east. Ultimately, monarchist Russia and fascist France and Britain (the British government technically unchanged in rules but headed by fascists) meet in the middle and, like in our own world, divide up Europe for themselves while the United States swallows up the Confederate States of America, erasing the nation from history.

The result of the war is what can be seen on the map. In Europe the German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman Empires were defeated at last and their territories divided up. France and the United Kingdom (lessened in size due to the US supporting Irish independence in the First Great War) help forge new states in Germany while France is able to successfully bring a number of European states into an early form of a common market, founded on the idea of pan-European nationalism and solidarity. This solidarity and nationalism will be needed in the coming years, too, as Gordon McSweeney's religious, pro-American fascism clashes heavily with Action Française's pan-European Gallic nationalism, and the two sides are less of allies than they have been since the end of the First Great War. Meanwhile, Russia looms large in the east, with much of Eastern Europe under it as puppets and the Turkish Straits under Moscow's direct control. Meanwhile, across the world, the Japanese emerged from the Second Great War in control of almost all of China as puppets and as "liberators" of European Asian colonies, creating a large sphere of power for itself. The stage is set, then, for a coming Cold War that could involve as many as 4 sides, but likely produce only one winner.

End Note: Just to make sure it is understood, the artist in no way supports the goals or ideas of fascism or similar ideologies. This is a work of fiction made for a specific contest, not a political statement.

At World's End

An Alternate History Story by Lynn Davis


The drone of the little airplane’s engine filled Jeffrey Barrow’s head and rattled him to the bone. Empty, snow-covered permafrost passed shapelessly below the plane, a solid mass that spread from one horizon to the next. It had been that way for hours, ever since they had flown through the mountains that separated settled Alaska from the barren wastes. In the distance, the sun dipped tantalizingly low on the horizon but refused to sink behind it in Alaska’s land of endless twilight.
Jeffrey squeezed his hands. The rattling made his joints ache, as did the cold. Old war wounds that crisscrossed his body began to flare up. He grimaced and looked from to the passenger sitting across from him in the cramped cabin. A bear of a man wrapped in furs until only his eyes peeked out sat in front of him. His clumsy hands gripped a rifle. The man must have noticed Jeffrey’s nervousness, for he turned and laughed. “Don’t worry, it’s just for bears,” he said in heavily Russian English.
Somehow, Jeffrey didn’t feel any better. He returned to glumly staring out the plane’s windows as the flight droned on. When he had been loaded into the puddlejumper that morning, he had assumed the flight was to the American consulate in New Archangelsk. Maybe even as far north as Juneau. Instead, he had been given an impromptu tour of the great Alaskan Republic. That is, he had seen the gleaming bank towers of Valdez and sleepy riverside factories of Zatop from their airport terminals during refueling and the rest from the sky—most of it little mining towns sticking out through clearings of the endless forests that blanketed the land to the south.
Yet even the drab, grey mining towns had their charms compared to this endless white wastes. It was only the pilot’s announcement a few minutes later of, “We’re here!” that saved Jeffrey from total madness. As the rickety plane began to descend, battling headwinds the whole way, Jeffrey leaned back in his seat and sighed. All this way just for a meeting?

Shortly after stepping foot onto the tarmac and leaving the pilot and bear guard behind, Jeffrey had been whisked away in a beetle-shaped blue car that buffed clouds of black smoke everywhere it went. He took the time to strip off his dark green parka in the back of the little vehicle. A burlap knapsack rested between his feet. Somehow the flight hadn’t managed to break any of the pens inside, and so his notebooks and pads remained unstained. With the parka off, his bright red press badge rested comfortably against the front of his gray suit. He’d been given it that morning, but it felt like a lifetime ago already.
The car stopped in the center of the snow and ice-covered town and the driver made no move to let Jeffrey out. Sighing, he grabbed his bag and shoved his way out of the vehicle and looked up to see where he was. The sight that lay before him couldn’t have been more surprising if it tried.
Rising from the ice wastes sprinkled with flurries of snow was a building belonging to a different world. Magnificent columns cut from stone towered above the frozen ground and supported a roof covered in bright red staccato tiles straight out of a Mediterranean villa. Carved into the stone above the glass doors that protected the inside from the cold was what must have been the town’s name: конецмира. End of the World.
Situated among wooden buildings teetering atop stilts, it was an obvious destination for any reporter. Jeffrey jogged up its stairs. Notably, his eaten leather boots slapped against cold stone, not ice. Someone must have paid a fortune to have it cleaned off every day. He marveled that even the glass doors were warm to the touch. Heated from the inside, no doubt, to prevent them cracking and shattering in the cold.
The doors were open, but so late in the day there were no workers inside. Yet, the lights were on, so Jeffrey crept in. The interior was lit by bright fluorescent lights attached to a surprisingly cramped ceiling in the building’s reception area. The walls rattled from what was likely the building’s heater. Jeffrey stared at the portraits of past Alaskan Ministers—and the Russian ones before them—that were proudly displayed on each wall.
“Ah, I am happy you found your way here,” a booming voice called from behind, echoing around the empty room. Jeffrey turned and beheld a greased and powdered man stuffed into trousers and a waistcoat that may have once fit. He was slightly shorter than Jeffrey, but made up for it with his width. “Welcome, Mr. Barrow, to my humble abode.”
The man’s bright red cheeks shook when he spoke, as if he had just come in from the cold. Jeffrey held up a hand in greeting. “I’m from the Seattle Evening Star. Was it… you who put me on the plane here?”
The rotund man laughed. “If you find anyone else here with the influence to drag a reporter up to this corner of the world, you let me know, okay?” he said, in what Jeffrey noticed to be almost perfect English.
 
Jeffrey offered a halfhearted chuckle in return. “I was told I’d be meeting with a representative of your government, and I am afraid I am at a loss now.”
“Ah, don’t be, Mr. Barrow. Allow me to introduce myself,” the man declared, and with a flourish he actually bowed. “I am Dmitry Durnovo, Minister of Trade and Industry for our lovely little republic.” His hands pressed together in front of him, covered by gloves as white as the snow outside. “If that interests you, I’d love to talk more where it’s a bit more… comfortable.”
Jeffrey’s heart skipped a couple beats. Minister? He’d expected a representative to the American Consulate at most for a little column, but now he had the makings of a real story on the line. “Lead the way, Minister Durnovo” he declared.


The interior of the building was a maze of marble corridors that clicked and clacked with every step the minister and Jeffrey took on them. Durnovo led him this way and that, down into the labyrinth that was his building until they arrived, at last, to the rear of his little palace at the top of the world. The room was as wide as a football pitch though only narrow enough for three men to stand side by side. It was a drawing room dominated by plate glass windows that extended overhead, up to the vaulted ceiling covered in shadow.
In front of the massive length of glass were two plain burgundy chairs beside a  wooden end table. “Please, sit down,” Durnovo said, taking the seat to the left while Jeffrey lowered himself into the chair on the right. There were cups of tea on the table, and Jeffrey took one without being offered.
“If you don’t mind me asking, Mister Durnovo, what exactly is this?” he asked, staring out the window into the vast expanse of nothingness beyond. The view was dominated by the barren fields that extended towards the water of the Arctic Ocean. No animals, no trees, not even a house could be seen before them. Just the lonely shapes of oil derricks bobbing their heads up and down in eternal agreement.
When the man didn’t respond, Jeffrey pressed, “Mister Durnovo?”
The plump man waved a hand at him. “You Americans are always so fast-paced, wanting to know this and that. Sit, sit for a little while and listen and, perhaps, you can hear something worth telling your readers back home.”
So, Jeffrey sat. He looked out the windows, towards the twilight that rested over the land of endless sun. Durnovo twisted an oversized knob that had somehow been built into his seat and a radio clicked on. A singer above Jeffrey’s head began to croon to the sound of a brass band in a language he didn’t understand.
“It must seem bizarre, finding one of our nation’s ministers so far removed from the bustling cities of the south,” Durnovo said at last. “However, you must understand what sort of nation we are, Mr. Barrow.” He gestured outside, where the winds gently shook the window in front of them. “Alaska is our home, but it is not part of who we are. This place… our exile, is not something we can take for granted. We are only a hair’s breadth away from the monsters in Moscow making us their slaves once again.”
“So this place represents isolation?” Jeffrey asked, reaching into the bag at his feet for pen and paper. 
Durnovo shifted in his seat, laying one arm over the other as he looked wistfully out the window. “No, Mr. Barrow, not quite isolation. Look out there, what do you see? Don’t answer, there isn’t anything to see but the oil derricks.
“You see, Mr. Barrow, we are right now sitting on a massive oil deposit to rival those that my great, great grandfather explored at Baku back when we still had a Russian Empire to call our own.” He reached out and tapped the glass, leaving a smudge where his finger had been.
“This icebox won’t be our frozen tomb, Mr. Barrow. The devils in Moscow may have intended that, but we will not let it come to pass.” He laughed and turned to Jeffrey. “We are Russians, Mr. Barrow! We thrive on the worst conditions. We have turned this wasteland into a cornucopia of everything we need. Pipes will extend across our whole nation, delivering oil to every corner where our refineries sell it abroad along with our gold, coal, metals, and wood. With that money, we can do whatever we want.” He flashed his teeth. “Anything, Mr. Barrow.”
Jeffrey was furiously scribbling on his notepad until his fingers began to cramp and the knuckle on his middle finger, where the pencil rested, was rubbed smooth. At last, when Durnovo fell silent again and sipped at his tea, Jeffrey was able to read over what he wrote.
“So what you’re saying is… Alaska still has its sights set on taking back Russia?” he asked.
“I hardly sent for you to show you how the weather is up this far north, Mr. Barrow.”

“I’m afraid I don’t, ah, understand, then.”

Durnovo laughed a great belly laugh, his cheeks shaking in unison. He stood and walked behind his chair, pacing in a small course on the room’s worn carpet. “I noted your coverage of the race riots in Seattle last year, and the socialist rallies before that. Believe it or not, but we Alaskans are quite well read, even up here.”
“Sure, and what of it?” Jeffrey asked, more than a little annoyed. He leaned forward in his chair, eyes watching Durnovo’s frantic steps. “You call me up here because I’m a Leftist? I thought all you Alaskans were reactionary through and through.”
“Oh, I am far from your side of the political spectrum, Mr. Barrow,” Durnovo reassured him, “but it was not what side you chose, but the content of your words. You believe in just causes, no matter how lopsided they are against the competition. Those Indian protests and the socialists, where are they now?”
“Most are still in jail,” Jeffrey said, his scarred chest flaring up at the thought. “So that’s what this is? A lost cause?”
Durnovo’s eyes, for once, lost their vibrancy that had made them look like little marbles perched on his face. Instead, they turned as black as coal and focused on Jeffrey directly. “Our cause is not lost so long as it is just.” He turned once more to look out the window at the derricks in the field. “As long as those heads keep bobbing, as long as the oil keeps flowing, we have a fighting chance. That is what I want you to write about, Mr. Barrow. I want you to tell every American reading—and every Russian who receives this article on their desk—that we are not prisoners in this wasteland. We will not be cowed.”
He smiled one last time to Jeffrey. “I cannot control what you write, Mr. Barrow. You may simply choose to tell your readers about a foolish old man up at the world’s end, blathering on about nothing. I suppose we will have to wait and see.”


As quickly as the night had begun, it ended. The music ended, the tea was swept away by a servant Jeffrey hadn’t even been aware of, and a massive maroon curtain descended over the viewing window. Jeffrey was escorted quickly out of the building, burlap bag clutched in his hands. Within an hour, he was back on the plane and droning south towards what counted for civilization in Alaska.
Once more, Jeffrey sat in a cramped airplane cabin across from a burly man with a rifle sitting on his lap. This time, however, the man looked happy, almost jovial. His eyes were wide open and he cracked a smile now and again—which, for a grizzled man buried in furs like him must have been an accomplishment.
“Did you get what you were here for?” Jeffrey asked him. When he received only a confused glance, Jeffrey clarified, “Did you get to kill one of those bears?”
The hunter shook his head. “Only wound. Not kill,” he declared and puffed out his chest.
Jeffrey raised an eyebrow. “But wouldn’t it have been better to kill him? Can’t imagine having a bear around will be any good for the town.”
“Perhaps.” The hunter shrugged and gave a great, rattling laugh. “Maybe bear come back, maybe he won’t. I kept the village safe for now. That’s all that matters, no?”
“But if the bear comes back and eats someone, won’t wounding him have just been for nothing?”
“If I keep the town safe for one day, then wounding is worth it. What more can we hope for? Maybe he comes back, maybe he won’t. For now, we’re safe.” The hunter chuckled and took a flask from within the folds of his coats and took a swig. “What of you? You get what you came here for, American?”
Jeffrey sat back in his seat on the rickety plane and thought for a moment about what the hunter had said. In a way, he supposed, Alaska was just a bigger version of a village threatened by the bear. It could poke and wound the Russian bear, maybe, but not kill it. But maybe, that was all they needed for now. 
“Yeah, I think I did,” he said with a smile.” I really think I did.”
Around the pair of men, the airplane droned on through the land of endless twilight, carrying them on across the hopes of Durnovo and back toward the embrace of civilization.



A commission for a client I got from this very website. Pretty fun piece, though not much to say about it since I don't follow the universe that much. Hope everyone likes it! Commissions are open, so if you like this piece and want something like it for yourself, drop me a line here by going to the "About" page and using the Contact Form!

You can also support me on Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/toixstory

For more info about this universe, check out: http://althistory.wikia.com/wiki/1983:_Doomsday for the original universe and then http://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/rise-of-the-north-a-canadian-isot-event.172044/ and http://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/in-defense-of-humanity-canadian-power-meets-doomsday.176377/ for the timeline!

As always, to view this image in its biggest size, right click and open the image in a new tab.
Below is a short story that I've finally gotten around to posting. I hope you all enjoy! Do note: The author of this alternate history story does not in any way support or endorse the Nazi regime of National Socialists in general. This is a work of fiction examining the mindset of those in such autocratic regimes.



The Best of All Possible Worlds

by Lynn Davis

"The optimist thinks this is the best of all possible worlds. The pessimist fears it is true."
-J. Robert Oppenheimer

Hauptbefehlsleiter Bertram Reuter stood with his arms behind his back, peering out his office’s plate glass windows as the bells of Kaiser Wilhelm Church began to toll. He gazed across the gray December sky, over the dead treetops of the Berlin Zoo below and to the city beyond. There, in the distance, stood the half-finished Volkshall—the great concrete Hall of the People—with its ever-present scaffolding that sank, year after year, into the marshy earth of the great German capital. The red banners with proud swastikas of the Nazi Party fluttered from its parapets in hopeless defiance. Even from across the city, Bertram felt the sting that every member of the Party felt watching their nation’s triumph disappear into the ground while American rocket planes screamed through the stratosphere above.
          He closed the blinds and turned from the window, where light now spilled only in thin bars, and fixed his attention on the man who sat sprawled in a steel chair on the other side of Bertram’s desk. His arms lay across his chest, pale blue eyes tracking every move Bertram made. Like many of the youth born during or after the War, he radiated a haughty mood that came of being born as the Aryan masters of Europe. They had never had to scramble in the dirt for food in the dark days between the wars.
          “You seem to be confused as to why you are here,” Bertram said as he sat opposite the young man in a high-backed leather chair. “Surely you had to expect that a story such as yours would make its way up the Party ladder, Oberleutnant Kneller.”
          The young man sniffed and leaned forward in his chair. “I do not mean any disrespect to the Party, Hauptbefehlsleiter, but I was just rather surprised that joyous news would be received by, well, you.”
          Bertram watched Kneller absentmindedly pull on the sleeve of his Luftwaffe uniform; ironed dark blue-almost-black fabric sequined with golden buttons and medals shined until they sparkled even in the dimmest of light. The Hauptbefehlsleiter, by contrast, had on a simple polyester plaid suit that looked more at home in a late night pub than an office of the Reich. The only sign he was even a member of the Party was the ubiquitous bright red armband from which Hitler’s symbol was always displayed. The contrast was obvious and Bertram smiled.
          “I am afraid I am all you have at the moment,” Bertram admitted. “This is, perhaps, not the office you were expecting? Were you surprised to see a lowly Hauptbefehlsleiter, below only Gauleiter Goebbels himself?” Bertram placed his elbows on his desk, leaning forward to stare into the young man’s eyes. “Accusations such as yours, full of their dangerous ideas, are taken very seriously by my office. It was for this reason that we at Amt Rosenberg wish for you to explain yourself fully.”
Usually, Party members would be shaking on their knees after such accusations. Bertram enjoyed a nondescript office so far from the monstrous steel and glass offices on Potsdamer Platz; it caught unsuspecting deviants off guard and let him strike. Amt Rosenberg took the Nazi Party’s cultural policy very seriously, and none more so than Hauptbefehlsleiter Reuter himself.
However, rather than crying with fear, the young Oberleutnant looked more puzzled. His head cocked slightly to one side and his eyes scanned Bertram as if he were sizing him up. “No, this is not the office I was expecting, but ultimately I am not surprised to see you again, Hauptbefehlsleiter.”
Bertram’s eyes narrowed. “And why not?”
“Because we have already met.”
“I am sure we have not.” Bertram chuckled rapped his knuckles on the top of his desk. “Many may mistake me for another man. My office, and station, are discreet; it would not do me well as an agent of the Party to look so obviously so.”
The young Oberleutnant stood, anger flashing like sparks in his eyes. He was a head taller than Bertram normally, and in the small office appeared almost as a giant. “If you do not wish to hear my story, then I will leave and find someone else who will.”
Bertram nodded toward the plain door. Little did the lieutenant know, beneath the beige wood was several centimeters of solid steel as an extra precaution. “Go ahead and try to leave, if you wish. I can assure you, Oberleutnant Kneller, that you will never be heard from again if you wish to do so. I am afraid that the SS lack the…subtlety of Amt Rosenberg.” He indicated to the seat in front of his desk once more, with cracked leather and creaking arm rests. “Sit, sit, and tell your story. I can promise to hear you out, at least.”
Never taking his eyes off Bertram for a second, Kneller once again lowered himself into the seat. He smoothed out his uniform until the wrinkles disappeared and the medals stood out proudly on his chest. It was with some surprise that he looked up to see Bertram offering him a cigarette.
“To calm the nerves while you tell your…tale,” Bertram said, offering one from a pack wrapped in plastic he produced from his cavernous desk. Kneller, hesitant at first, took one and smelled it.
“American?” he asked.
“Virginian, specifically,” Bertram replied. He produced a lighter from the hip pocket of his uniform. The pockmarked side was riddled with memories of brutal fighting through what had once been Russia. “The American blockade persists, but some things slip through the cracks. Now go on, regale me with your tale that somehow landed you in my office.”
Taking a few nervous puffs, Kneller began to speak. “It began as I was flying my Valkyrie over the new settlements in Ostland,” he said. “It’s a little jet, and one of the fastest we have; perfect for patrols that rebels can’t see or even hear. There’s still a few of them, you see. Mostly mad Slavs that breed like animals in the hinterlands outside of direct SS control. If we don’t do patrols, they come down on the Aryan settlers and, well, you know.”
Bertram nodded. “I was there when they almost made it to Riga, but I do not yet see what is so extraordinary about your story.”
A dour look crossed Kneller’s face, but the young man wiped it away after a moment. “As I was saying, I was flying patrol. I do not remember exactly what happened; only that one minute the skies were practically clear, and the next I came upon a cloud bank I had never seen before. It was like…like a wave that rose from a calm sea. One minute nothing, and the next I was flying in clouds so dense I couldn’t see anything outside my cockpit.
“I felt as if I were sleeping with my eyes open. And then I woke up, and…”
Kneller paused and took a long drag of his cigarette. His puffs came out weak and shaken. His eyes darted around Bertram’s office like an animal caught in a trap. Normally Bertram would have found it amusing, but leaning across his desk he only angrily demanded, “Yes, and then what? Tell me now, Oberleutnant.”
“I still don’t fully understand it myself, Hauptbefehlsleiter, but you must believe that what I say is true.”
“What is true, then? Tell me, Oberleutnant Kneller.”
“That when I woke up, I was no longer in my cockpit at all,” Kneller admitted. “I was not even in the sky, or even in Ostland! When I woke up, I was somewhere completely different.”
Bertram crossed his arms over his chest. His first instinct was to call the boy a fool and demand he end his trickery. Yet, the way the Oberleutnant shook and how he fearfully looked at Bertram, afraid of not being believed, held the Hauptbefehlsleiter’s tongue.
“I found that I had, somehow, arrived back in Berlin, on a bench outside Potsdamer Platz,” Kneller continued. “But, you see Hauptbefehlsleiter, this was not Berlin. Not our Berlin. It was…different.”
“Different how?” Bertram leaned forward in his chair and placed his elbows on his desk, his chin shaking in anticipation.
“It was glorious, Hauptbefehlsleiter. Berlin was even greater than it is today. The Volkshall…it was complete! Buildings rose like pillars of glass around the city and flying machines with our Party’s logo buzzed around them like so many bees. Not a single American influence in sight.”
Kneller paused for a moment. His lips pursed, as if he wrestled inwardly with what he had to say. At last, he said simply, “But that wasn’t the strangest sight, Hauptbefehlsleiter Reuter.”
“Oh?” Bertram asked, his words hanging heavily in the air between them.
“No, Hauptbefehlsleiter, the strangest sight there…was that I was not alone on that bench. Sitting beside me was you.”
Bertram reared back as if he had been struck. He gripped the edge of his desk until his knuckles turned white. “Me? That is impossible! I have never seen you before in my life, and I would have remembered sitting next to such a…whelp as you in the Platz. Explain yourself now, or I will have the SS examine you, Oberleutnant.”
The young man sighed and let his head droop forward. “May I continue or not, Hauptbefehlsleiter?”
Bertram wiped his brow and sat back in his chair. He ran a hand through his thinning hair and forced his breathing to remain steady. “As Hauptbefehlsleiter of Amt Rosenburg it is my duty to hear your story. Continue.”
“Thank you. As I was saying, you were sitting beside me on the bench, Hauptbefehlsleiter. Only…you were not Hauptbefehlsleiter then. You wore the uniform of Reichsleiter, and told me it was where you truly belonged. But you told me that you knew that, in another world, a worse world, this would not be the case.
“You, Reichsleiter, told me that in that world we, the Aryans, broke the backs of the Americans in the 50s. That we ruled supreme over the face of the Earth, not the facsimile that we have now, as the Americans push past us in every field.
“You told me that this, of all worlds, was the best possible one, and that I had been drawn there, to you, for one great mission. That I was to deliver to you the instructions for a great weapon, one that could end this eternal war with the Americans and put us on top where we belong. That in my own world, this world Hauptbefehlsleiter, it would not be out of the question for you to be Reichsmarschall atop the defeated enemy!”
Kneller reached into his uniform and, before Bertram could stop him, produced a plain manila envelope that had Bertram’s name clearly written on the side. “When I woke up, back in my Valkyrie, this was in my uniform. After I told my superior upon returning, they sent me immediately to you. It is destiny, I feel it.”
The young man rose from his seat then, perspiration clear on his head and a smile on his face. His voice had steadily risen as each part of his tale unfolded with scarcely-concealed glee. Bertram himself stood, but with a stony silence as he accepted the envelope and placed it on his desk.
“What now?” Kneller asked, almost out of breath in his excitement. He stood tall in the small office, gazing past Bertram and across the Berlin Zoo to the Volkshall far in the distance. “Together, Hauptbefehlsleiter, we can make this world better. You told me yourself. All you need is to read the envelope.”
Bertram plucked the lit cigarette from where Kneller had left it, burning, on the edge of the desk and ground it firmly into a golden ashtray in front of him. “So your displeasure in speaking to me, that was…an act? It was me you wished to see all along?”
Kneller nodded. “I knew that if I acted so interested in a lower official I would be suspicious, Herr Reuter, and so I played dumb. I hope that can be forgiven, now that you know the truth.”
Bertram nodded in return. “Yes, I do know the truth now.” He sighed and crossed his arms in front of his chest and looked the young man in his soft blue eyes. “And I could forgive you for that lie, were it the only one you made. It is clear now, that not only do you suffer from gross delusions, but these have manifested into a desire to assassinate Reichsmarschall Göring himself with my help. I can only speculate the true reason you came to me, but it will be the last bad decision you make.”
Almost immediately, Kneller’s face fell. “But Hauptbefehlsleiter, that’s not—“
Bertram cut him off by pressing a small button built into the underside of his desk. The door burst open behind Kneller seconds later, and two black-clad SS men came in and grabbed the young Oberleutnant in their iron grasp. Without a word or even a glance to Bertram they marched their new prisoner out, whose voice failed him as he could only stare in hopelessness and betrayal while he was led away.
The door shut once more, Bertram let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding and sagged in his suit. He was getting far too old to be acting as an interrogator. When he was younger, perhaps…
He shook his head. No, that wasn’t what bothered him. It was the young man’s conviction, and his vision of himself. How could a pilot from the East possibly known about him? And the letter… Bertram picked it up and looked it over. To his growing dread, it was indeed written in his own distinctive handwriting, down to the way he crossed his t. No man he had never met could have reproduced it so faithfully.
Did that mean Kneller was telling the truth? That the secrets to a better world, a world of Reichsmarschall Reuter, were in a letter that he himself, in another world, had written? He reached for the envelope and his hands caressed it, feeling the weight of it between his fingers as he held it out in front of him. The seal on it had not been broken; no one would have read it before him.
Long seconds passed as Bertram balanced the weight of the envelope with his devotion to the Party. He felt as if he were Atlas, the entire world resting upon him in the moments it took to reach into his pocket and produce his lighter. He could not bear it any longer and let it drop on his desk. He turned his back on it, and instead looked out the window behind his desk, through the gaps between the blinds as if he were a prisoner staring out of his cell.
Down below, the Berlin Zoo hummed with weekday activity. Bertram could see the tops of the animal cages, and for a moment he envied them. Stuck in their carefully-crafted environments since the day they were born, they did not know of a world that was different, one that they could not survive in once outside their cages. And yet, he wondered, did they too dream of a different world? The best of all possible worlds?
Bertram faced the envelope once more. It was clear what he had to do, but even still his hand trembled as he pulled the lighter from his pocket. It was that lighter, the one he had ripped from the dead fingers of a Soviet infantryman, that ultimately made his decision choice clear. The Soviets had refused to accept their world as the best of all possible worlds and look where it had gotten them. Who was he to question the world that he and his Party had crafted so carefully for decades? Bertram’s thumb flicked over the lighter and his heart at last began to calm itself.
The envelope burned easily, and by the time Bertram dropped it into a metal wastebasket beside his desk, the contents were mostly ash. In a few minutes, there would be nothing left to recover. As the embers began to die, Bertram turned to look out the window once more, hand still clutching the lighter.
Outside, the sun began to dip low in the sky. Electric lights across the city flickered to life in an orange glow that ate away at the dark sky. Soon the people of Berlin would retire and get ready for a new day within their glorious world. It was not a perfect world, but the Party made no claims to be. As long as one followed the Party, obeyed, and did their duty they would rise above their station. Perhaps, one day, he would bear the title Reichsleiter, but perhaps not. Such was the world they lived in.
Bertram considered this as he inhaled the smell of burnt paper from the last remains of the envelope. It, and Kneller himself, would soon be gone, and Bertram would be free once more. With a small smile, Bertram placed his arms behind his back and continued to gaze outside the window until his next interrogation could begin.
Hello everyone! Once again, it is time to get on with the news of where the site is heading in the foreseeable future. This will be a relatively short update because most of what is already in motion is remaining in motion; that is, the maps teased in earlier posts are still being worked on.

Commissions

As seen in my last post, commissions are now up in a big way, particularly in the mapping side of things. I've got two major maps that should be coming out sometime in May or June that I'm doing lots of work over, and hope to get more commissions after that. They are always open if you want to take my skills out for a swing, so feel free to refer to the previous post on this site for more information.

Beneath the Light of Astarte

Due to school, work on maps, and general business in my life the posting of my Carthage-centered timeline has been delayed. That doesn't mean it's hibernating, though! Far from it. I've extended the scope of the timeline and will be preparing plenty of maps and other visual aids for it as well as the writing, but it means it may take a little longer to get to you all. I'd love to have it up sometime this summer, but it may ultimately wait until the fall due to taking summer classes and working on other maps.

Writing

In addition to a couple of short stories I can almost guarantee will be up on the site this month, I'm going to be writing a book this summer! Tentatively entitled In the House of Stuart, it's an alternate history book that asks the question: "What would the world look like if the Stuarts were never ousted by Parliament in the English Civil War?" The answer is, very likely, different from what you might expect. Writing is slated to begin in June and carry on through August or September, depending on how long the story is. Editing will then probably take half a year, and hopefully I can start posting chapters (one per week) of the book in summer 2017! Yes, a good ways off, but it'll be well worth the wait, trust me.


Finally, to wrap this short little update up, here is a website-exclusive look at the heading picture for my timeline, Beneath the Light of Astarte: