September 3rd, 1929
A meeting room in New Bergen
“There were men in this country once.”
There are not many women who can dominate a roomful of powerful men by sheer will; but Kristin Susannesdatter was the woman for it, if anyone was. She held herself as though she could destroy any man in the room in a matter of seconds, which might have been true, and as though she was restraining herself from doing so only by a considerable effort, which was bluff. Probably bluff. She was only one woman, after all; even if she could kill the leaders of the Centrist coalition, she could hardly expect to enforce her will on the rest of the country afterwards. It wasn’t as though Norway was a barbarian kingdom with no continuity other than force in its institutions. Even so, facing those cold grey eyes was not easy. One didn’t get to high rank in Norwegian politics without some steel, though, and Torvald held his voice and gaze steady as he replied.
“There were men, yes; and still are. And there were boys, who rushed into action without weighing the odds; and did not survive to breed. Nobody disputes that the pre-emptive strike would be a good idea if we can bring it off. The question is whether we have the power, not the will.”
Kristin pressed her lips together for a moment, then nodded, conceding the point but not the issue. “Very well; I… apologise.” It sounded as though it came hard, but the killing tension in the room abated. Or perhaps Torvald had merely imagined it? They were hard people, the uptimers, and unbelievably quick on the trigger, but surely not so quick as to think killing was the way to guide the nation on their desired path. “Still,” Kristin continued, “you are missing an essential point. When you have nothing to lose, the odds do not matter. If the Indonesians complete their carriers, they will dominate the Pacific. If they dominate the Pacific, they will invade. And if they invade – well, in fact, we’ll likely throw them into the sea; their army is worthless. But better it shouldn’t come to that. Strike Cuttack now, while the Power and the Pride rules the seas; seize the carriers, or scuttle them; invade the archipelagos and dictate the peace. We can strike now, or be struck ourselves later, on worse terms; when those are the choices, the odds are irrelevant.”
“You are the only one here who is completely certain the Indonesians will attack the minute they have the upper hand.”
Kristin stared at him. “Of course they’ll attack! What the devil do you build warships for, if not to subjugate your enemies? These are Chinese puppets, man, not cuddly little bunnies!”
Torvald shrugged. “You speak from your experience – from two centuries of skirmishing with the Chinese and their puppets. In the uptime, no doubt, you would be right – and hence you are here; nothing to lose, so what matter the odds of a Quantum Device working, eh? But it is a new time, a new world. I don’t claim the Indonesians are cuddly bunnies. But I don’t think they are rabid man-eaters, either.” Unlike some people I know, he carefully did not say out loud.
Kristin looked at him soberly. “You could be right, of course. But bunnies or puppets, how much power do you want to give them? ‘Nor should so great a power be allowed to any one as to make it impossible for you afterwards to dispute with him on equal terms concerning your manifest rights,'” she quoted, and nods went around the table.
“Quite so. And so we come back to it: Do we have the power to seize Cuttack?”
“In war nothing is certain. I’ll lead the troops myself, if you like.”
Torvald’s mouth twisted wryly. “Ah, the inspiration of tradition.” He nodded towards the head of the table, where Geirson’s famous painting of Ingrid Karinsdatter, defiant on the last redoubt at Carlisle – the century-old original, not a copy – hung. “Think you can do better than the Karinsdatter?”
He had meant it for a rhetorical question – the legendary Lady of War had died more than 150 years ago, but was still a byword for military genius – but Kristin took it seriously. “Nu. Ingrid was pretty good, maybe even better than me, but she had to waste a lot of time rebuilding the Hird almost from scratch. It’s not all about skill, you know, there’s such a thing as playing a strong hand. And she was fighting the Bretons at something close to the height of their power; I’ll be up against Indonesians. So, yes, given the troops and ships we’ve got, I think I can do better.”
There was some covert blinking around the table; the casual, serious evaluation of Ingrid Karinsdatter as just another general, “maybe even better than me”, was another reminder of just how alien the uptimers were. Of course, if you believed their story, Kristin must have fought or at least trained beside Ingrid. She might well have some objective data behind her evaluation. For that matter, she had presumably known Geir Jonsson and Anja Sigridsdatter personally! She might have argued biological-warfare tactics with Ask Norvaldsson! Torvald felt a moment of near vertigo at the sheer depth of history bound up in this woman. Figures out of legend and myth, and she spoke of them as casually as anyone might mention an old school friend!
It was only a moment’s distraction, but it was enough. The consensus of the meeting had swayed to Kristin, or to the legendry that she now represented. There was no rational argument to oppose to that whiff of old myth. Even here, in the heart of the modern, technocratic state that was Norway – even here, the name of Dovre had power. And as the nods went around the table, Torvald found that he did not want to oppose her, that he would have been silent even if he’d had an argument to give. He knew it for romantic irrationality, but… let the wolf run free. Perhaps it would be the last time that the old Viking spirit stirred; very well, let it be spent on something glorious. The wars to come would be decided by numbers and industry and wealth; but if they could begin with one final longshore raid, a lightning-swift launch of the dragon-prowed ships to land on an unprepared hostile shore… then in the end, the advantage might after all go to personal courage and wild daring. When the vote came to him, Torvald did not hesitate.
It was a rather desperate gamble, and in the end it did not work. The background is that, poking around in SP, I observed that Indonesia was building a vast navy: Twenty carriers, twenty advanced cruisers, to complete in May 1930. Nu, you can’t tell me that this is a sign of peaceful intent, especially since much of it was being built with Chinese money. (Chinese money is never a good sign.) Now, I had not been entirely idle on the navy-building front myself; I had seven modern battleships and a couple of carriers; plus there was Italy’s navy. Between us we could dominate the seas until Indonesia’s new builds arrived. Indonesia is roughly half islands, so if you have the seas you can knock out a considerable part of its industry and, provided they don’t have a reasonable expectation of reinforcements arriving, dictate terms; Japan is in even worse case. But then there were those twenty carriers.
We therefore hatched a desperate plan. The carriers were being built at Cuttack. If we could land at Cuttack and hold it against all counterattack, they could not be deployed; and we could then invade the archipelago, and also Singapore – on the tip of a peninsula, and easy to defend once taken – and dictate the terms. A Viking raid, in a sense, on a vast scale. With France and Germany joining, Georgia and Finland would be rather distracted.
Norwegian marines storm ashore!
It opened well enough, with a brief naval battle against some outnumbered Indonesian ships:
We invaded Cuttack as planned. Unhappily, at this point we were deprived of naval support by more serious opposition at sea:
It took a while to pare away the enemy cannon fodder and reveal the real fleet:
which we then sank, the superior construction and firepower of Norwegian ships coming into its own:
Alas, that was too late for the landings – as at Almeria, the land-based defender could reinforce faster than a seaborne invader – and the enemy had now been given thorough warning of our intentions. In this battle fell Kristin Susannesdatter, and many other good men and women. We tried again at Singapore, landing north of the capital; knocking that out would at least seriously mess up the Indonesian economy:
It’s worth pointing out that man for man, Norwegian troops were vastly superior to our Indonesian opponents. It was at this point that the enormous naval battle of Singapore straits was fought, sinking roughly 90% of the Italian and Indonesian fleets. It was also at this time peace negotiations started, seesawing this way and that as we first became scared we were losing the naval battle, and then became confident of winning. Something must also have been happening in Europe, because at this time Finland offered to exit the war and the PEC if given a WP, which was agreed to, retracted, and agreed again later on.
We did eventually win at Singapore straits, but were thrown off the peninsula by superior numbers. Having control of the sea until the carriers arrived, we started to put some pressure on by invading otherwise irrelevant islands:
and incidentally completely destroying garrisons of about 100k men each. We also tried Cuttack again; had it fallen to this second attempt, we would have dictated terms as planned. Alas, we were driven back, and instead accepted a WP and Indonesia’s exit from the PEC, which thereby effectively ceased to exist.
The war sputtered on in Europe, where our French and African allies tried to make Georgia hand over Sinai – for control of Suez – and conversely Georgia tried to make Africa give it Egypt. Although Norway, in accordance with its treaty of non-aggression with Georgia, promising not to fight, was of course neutral in this conflict, some volunteers of the Ynglinga Hird (on leave of absence) went to support the French:
and enjoyed considerable success. It’s worth pointing out that there was some confusion over the terms of the NAP; as they were explained to me, Italy and I agreed not to attack Georgia, which we didn’t, and not to fight Georgian troops, which we also didn’t. Then Georgia complained, after our attack on Indonesia, that we had broken the treaty; I therefore assumed that it was not in force, hence the volunteers. After a while, though, Georgia complained about the presence of my troops and stated that the treaty was still in force – from this I conclude that they must have been rather effective – and I accordingly withdrew them. In the end the war was a stalemate, ending in another WP. The PEC, however, has vanished, at least to the extent that such peace terms are enforceable.