Saturday, April 11, 2015

Cooperative Post: Ships of Fate

A story a bit ago, Cromwell boarding the Lyon, spurred a fascinating line of what-ifs on Today in Alternate History for a world where, in the absence of Cromwell’s devotion, the Commonwealth became a kleptocracy. Three instances of this world give hints at the twisted timeline of revolution against a system driven by profit.
13th February, 1755

Hannah Waterman King was the person most directly responsible for the Martian Colony ship HMS Benedict Arnold blasting off from the launch pad of Scapa Flow Space Centre to the sound of trumpets playing "Let Liberty Ring Out.”

She had stubbornly refused permission for her fifteen-year-old son to enlist in the provincial militia for service against the French. Young Arnold had yet been captivated by the sound of a drummer and with the undeniable echoes of glory ringing in his ears, and so he fled to Connecticut.

A month past his fifteenth birthday, Arnold boarded the HMS Canterbury and set sail for the majestic heart of Empire where his destiny awaited him. He was to be desperately disappointed by the absence of trail-blazing grandeur in the bustling city of London. Instead of streets paved with gold, he found that, beneath the trappings of crisp uniforms and military band music, it was little more than a counting house, and the small-minded xenophobic English were really just interested in business.

In the century since the Commonwealth had come to power in Great Britain, it had come under the ever-growing authority of the Company. Originally chartered as the East India Company in 1600 under the approval of Queen Elizabeth, the Company weathered the Civil War. Once the Commonwealth proved to be a council of manipulable men, the Company began exerting more control inward, taking London much as it had Madras and Bombay.

From there, the British Empire had spread its tentacles across the world. Benedict Arnold found nothing to admire at the centre, and certainly not the utopian visions that Company propaganda had spread. Rather, it was the insipid leadership of a toothless royal family, a moribund Parliament and a central government locked in the mind-set of accountants. Inside their sadistic mercantilism, they couldn't care less whether it was enslaved Irish or Africans harvesting sugar in the Caribbean or what suffering happened in Indian factories as long as it brought goods to British markets. Something was missing from this tableau of sadistic mercantilism, and that of course was Liberty. In some distant future, the Empire would cost more to upkeep, and the English would tire of their global ambitions. Arnold’s brilliant mind could perceive that from the outbreak of the French and Indian War.

Fortunately, Arnold had a great vision in which the British Empire was much more than a cash-cow. Of course he was still young and struggling to establish himself, but tales of Arnold’s naval heroics through the war brought him fame. When the war ended, Arnold entered Parliament and set the galleries afire with his grand dream of an Empire of Liberty: a great Imperium of Nations that god willing shall not perish from this earth.


15th February, 1819

The aptly-named mother ship HMS Hannah Waterman King might never have transported the British colonists to Mars if not for the great works of the liberator Abraham Lincoln.

Heart-broken by his mother's recent death and refusing to give his new step-mother a chance, ten-year-old Abraham Lincoln ran away from home. Wielding a forged letter of introduction, he boarded the HMS Fisgard and set sail for London to retrace the transatlantic voyage of his famous countryman, Benedict Arnold.

His was a hard life in London as an immigrant from the colonies, but Abe Lincoln was used to hardship on the frontier. His grandfather had been killed in an Indian raid witnessed by the family, and his father Thomas worked odd jobs for years as land disputes wrenched one farm after another away from him. Abe was famously labeled “lazy” among those who knew him, always wanting to write and read and bemoaning hard labor, but the mental dedication paid off as he became a lawyer.

Even though the slave trade, indeed the whole institution of slavery, had been abolished through the heroic political efforts of Benedict Arnold, Abe discovered that liberty was still very much a work-in-progress. His experiences of hard work among immigrants from all over the world had taught him the struggles of race and class. Dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal,” he took up the burden of a great task which he saw before him - to usher in a new birth of freedom across the whole British Empire.

In time, Lincoln would become the greatest ever Prime Minister, and his work under God would ensure that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


23rd February, 1943

One of the main components of the mother ship HMS Hannah Waterman King was the lander HMS Abraham Lincoln, the first ship to transport children to the red planet. This expedition, and of course the first manned craft to travel to Mars, the HMS Benedict Arnold, were the lasting legacy of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Despite a bad back that would require spinal surgeries the rest of his life, twenty-five-year-old Lieutenant John F. Kennedy stepped aboard PT-109 as his first command. He had been born to a wealthy Irish family that had built itself up through the British Empire’s transatlantic trade.

The Empire had become the pillar of the world, delicately balancing law and order with fairness and progress. Yet it had its rivals in other nations grown out of wanton imperialism. Although Britain survived the collapse of the German, Austrian, Ottoman, and Russian Empires, a new generation of empires had grown up to challenge British Authority. Most notorious was the Japanese invasion of British-protected China, which finally sparked all-out war.

JFK used his family’s connections to override his medical release from service and join officer training. He refused a desk job and volunteered for service in the Pacific Theater. After the death of his older brother Joe in Europe, John took up his position as patriarch and soon joined politics. His popularity and service record made him a potent leader in the years of Cold War between Britain and powerful Soviet Union. He would become Britain’s first Catholic Prime Minister since the establishment of the Anglican Church.

Much of his political career was dedicated to the Space Race. In a speech to young scientists graduating from Cambridge, he said, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Among his “other things” included the groundwork for colonization of other planets, spreading the British Empire beyond even the earth.

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