(An alternate history… of an alternate history)

(With thanks to Steve Stirling for creating the environments and people.)

By Jim Reid

©2011, Jim Reid

This is a work of Fiction. It is based in part on the Alternate History World known as “Dies the Fire,” and also the “Taint” series; written and copyrighted by S.M. Stirling starting in 2004. The author agrees to abide by the Stirling Fan Fiction site disclaimer. This work is copyrighted by Jim Reid in 2011, except for those parts derived from “Dies the Fire,” and its sequels, and derived from “A Taint in the Blood,” and its sequels, which are copyrighted by S. M. Stirling and used here by permission. All characters in this fiction are, in fact, fictional, and any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.

“Order,” demanded Gheorghe Brâncuşi. “The votes have been counted. Operation Trimback Option One, ’Reducing World Technology,’ is adopted.” It’s amazing, Brâncuşi thought, we are the superior species on this planet and in our councils we use rules of order written by an ape American general.

“The Special Committee on Location will report its findings to the executive board in one month. Master Mthunzi may begin his preparations. This meeting stands adjourned.”

❀ ❁ ❀

“Master Tōkairin Hajime.”

“Thank you, Master Gheorghe. The Special Committee on Location has reviewed a number of locations. A summary report on each is in the packets provided to members of the board. Detailed reports are available. A detailed report is provided on the city we recommend: London, England. The city is located on the prime meridian – an admittedly artificial notation – allowing some coordination of our observations. Some members of the committee also found a certain poetic justice in selecting the city where Bram Stoker died.”

“But the last was not your primary reason?”

“Oh, certainly not.”

“Very well. We will recess for thirty minutes to allow board members to review their packets.”

❀ ❁ ❀

“Order,” Brâncuşi said, “I will entertain motions.”

After being recognized, Jules Brézé said, “I move we accept the Special Committee’s report.”

“Second?” Brâncuşi said and nodded to acknowledge a raised hand. “All in favor?” A quick look around the table showed all hands raised. That was easy, Brâncuşi thought, most of them probably don’t care about the point of origin.

“The Standing Committee on Government Relations will notify the prime minister of the United Kingdom and the president of the Republic of South Africa of our requirements,” Brâncuşi said, “This meeting stands adjourned.”

❀ ❁ ❀

The representative of the Council who visited the prime minister never appeared on an official calendar; he ordered that St. James’s Palace be made available on the date required. The prime minister assented, as did the president of the Republic of South Africa when told to provide round trip transportation for Master Mthunzi and his party between Drakensberg and London. Every head of government in the world knew better than to do otherwise.

❀ ❁ ❀

“Unh!” Amelia lost consciousness and her head hit the wooden floor with a soft THUD. Mthunzi raised an eyebrow. He rose from above her. Her body is exquisite, he thought. There are lucys on whom I only feed, but Amelia… He licked his lips. There is something about her flavor. English blood is usually so bland. She has a touch of something else. Italian? Indian? Later. He rang a bell and Catherine, his senior renfield, entered the room.

Mthunzi watched with amusement as Catherine surveyed the scene without displaying any emotion, picked up his robe and offered it to him. He nodded and she held the garment while he slipped his arms into the sleeves. The Master tied the belt. Looking at Amelia’s unconscious form, he said, “Care for her.”

Catherine nodded and stepped to the doorway. She motioned and two young male renfields entered the room, picked up Amelia and left. They were not too gentle, but Amelia was unaware at the moment and Mthunzi was too preoccupied to care.

He closed and bolted the door.

❀ ❁ ❀

Mthunzi looked at the words of Mhabrogast inscribed on the parchment before him. Parchment and a quill, he mused. Phrases such as these may never be stored on a machine.

Only I was able to solve the problem. Now, to fill in the blanks. These are words that mere humans may not even glimpse. He looked at the hearth. Yes, the fire is hot enough to consume the sheets of parchment when I am done.

Mthunzi began carefully entering the final words. While he was at work Amelia began regaining consciousness and Mthunzi felt a flutter in his subconscious. He wrote the superlative rather than the comparative form of an adjective. He never noticed.

❀ ❁ ❀

The master examined the page, concentrated on his focal point and began to speak. The Mhabrogast that even most Shadowspawn spoke with difficulty flowed effortlessly past his lips. There was one sentence — the implementation — he had not written on the parchment. It was unnecessary.

“Oh!” In the anteroom of Mthunzi’s chamber, Amelia awoke. Her exclamation caused a second flutter in his subconscious and distracted him as he was preparing to speak the implementation.


Mthunzi made two mistakes. The first was his use of the superlative form of the adjective; he did far more than initiate an electromagnetic pulse. The second was in pronouncing “ock” as “öck” in the implementation; instead of saying, “Being becomes now,” he said, “Being becomes eternal.”

Thousands of miles away in the air over the Bitterroot Mountains of the United States, Mike Havel saw a white light and felt pain run through his body. Recovering, he realized that the instrument panel of his Piper Chieftan was dark and that his engines had quit.

❀ ❁ ❀ finis ❀ ❁ ❀

Author’s Note

This all began one day as an idea for a post on the Stirling Group in Yahoo: “Suppose the ASBs were really the Shadowspawn.” To put it mildly, the Change more than accomplished the desire of the Shadowspawn Old Guard to return to a pre-industrial society.

Deciding that I needed to support my argument, I put the idea onto the back burner in my brain to simmer.

The fire was too high; the stew boiled over.