E Pluribus Duum
The President’s Red Phone rang, the sound ricocheting off the Oval Office’s wall like a cursed bullet from centuries past. She immediately picked it up and began discussing the situation in Indonesia with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who was pleased at how long the 4th Pacific fleet had lasted against overwhelming odds before being forced to retreat past Singapore.
In the neighboring ovoid room, a Red Phone rang, harmonizing with the first for just a moment before it was also picked up by the President. He sighed as he heard yet another lecture from the Chairwoman of the Joint Chiefs about the failure of the new mass driver turrets to hold off the Chinese fleet in the Strait of Malacca, and how directing military funding at the way he wanted it would have avoided the problem.
The two press briefings that day could not have been more different. Madam President, dressed in a suit that was nearly the same shade of red as her phone, spoke of the Chinese onslaught being slowed. Soon, she said, the United States would begin a new island-hopping campaign, just as they had over a century before. They would prevail now as they had then. The almost-shimmering blue background and golden crest over her head gave an additional signal of hope.
Mr. President struck a rather different tone, a silver eagle menacing over a jet black background that matched his suitcoat and tie. He spoke gravely, warning that the Chinese advance into the Indonesian Archipelago had been mirrored a century before by another country, and that those events led directly to an attack on the United States homeland.
The simultaneous broadcasts spread out across the country, their signals snaking into tens of millions of homes, businesses, airports, and the like, reaching a captive audience of hundreds of millions, taking the same pattern they had for decades, no longer even conflicting with each other.
Everyone who saw Madam President’s broadcast relaxed. They’d all taken their history classes and seen how this had gone before. The enemy was different, and the weapons were very different, but this war would be more or less the same. The United States had learned history’s lessons; in fact, it had written quite a few of them.
Those who received Mr. President’s broadcast were in near-despair, with many calling whatever able-bodied relatives they had, telling them that they were needed “over there” before the Chinese could make it “over here.” Others desperately tried to get in touch with their friends and family already serving, hoping that the Red Tide hadn’t overcome them yet. The rest just sat silently, finally conceding defeat after hearing for decades that America was losing.
The broadcasts didn’t stop at America’s borders either, reaching the Indonesian archipelago itself. The soldiers garrisoning Java’s megalopolises, patrolling Borneo’s mountainous forests, and protecting Sulawesi’s restored peninsular reefs intently watched their Commanders-in-Chief inform them of the state of The War. They didn’t know what their orders were; the same as ever.
Freddie Bastiat is a law student who’s a fan of Yoko Taro games, college football, and the restoration of the Byzantine and Achaemenid Empires. You can find him on Twitter @Tht_Fat_Bastiat.