The Pillars of Hercules (Timeline 10/27/62 Book 3), страница 1
The Pillars of Hercules
By James Philip
Copyright © James P. Coldham writing as James Philip 2015. All rights reserved.
‘The Pillars of Hercules’ is Book 3 of the alternative history series Timeline 10/27/62.
It is December 1963 in a world in which the ‘swinging sixties’ never happened. Soviet brinkmanship in basing missiles on Cuba led to a nuclear war at the end of October 1962 and the survivors are still coming to terms with the new reality of the post cataclysm epoch.
The Ancient Greeks called the Straits of Gibraltar the ‘Pillars of Hercules’. The Rock of Gibraltar was the northern pillar; with Monte Hacho in Ceuta its probable southern analogue. To the ancients the Pillars of Hercules delineated the western end of the known Mediterranean World. Beyond lay the limitless, impassable vastness of the Atlantic; wherein lay monsters...
When does paranoia become justifiable suspicion? When the CIA is implicated in the attempted assassination of the British Royal Family? When United States aircraft attack two British destroyers off the coast of Northern Spain and take part in a devastating surprise raid on the Maltese Archipelago? Taken together with the belligerence of General Franco’s government over Gibraltar and the sabre-rattling of the new fascist regime in Italy, recent events suddenly assume the proportions of a Machiavellian American plot to hammer the final nail into the coffin of the British Empire.
In England the hard-pressed United Kingdom Interim Emergency Administration is struggling to feed and house its survivors; and every time it tries to talk to the Kennedy Administration nobody is available to take its call.
On Malta hundreds are dead and thousands injured. Bunker-busting bombs have destroyed practically every key headquarters building; sunken British warships lie in the oil-fouled waters of the Grand Harbour and Sliema Creek, and the medical facilities of the island have been overwhelmed.
Off the Straits of Gibraltar a Royal Navy carrier battle group is fending off mass attacks by the antiquated aircraft of the Spanish Air Force and harrying Franco’s army and navy as they press around the beleaguered Rock, while far out at sea the Royal Navy’s one nuclear powered attack submarine, HMS Dreadnought, is playing a deadly game of cat and mouse with two US Navy submarines.
Britain and the United States of America are a heartbeat away from war. Never have two nations been so grievously separated by their common language. It is as if every word the former allies say to each other is being passed through a filter that translates ‘peace’ into ‘war’.
The Timeline 10/27/62 – Main Series is:
Book 1: Operation Anadyr
Book 2: Love is Strange
Book 3: The Pillars of Hercules
Book 4: Red Dawn (Available 1st May 2015)
Book 5: The Burning Time (Available 1st July 2015)
Later in 2015 the first two books in the Timeline 10/27/62 – USA Series will be published:
Book 1: Aftermath (Available 27th October 2015)
Book 2: California Dreaming (Available 27th October 2015)
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Personal notes to my readers: firstly, thank you for reading this book; and secondly, please remember that this is a work of fiction. I made it up in my own head. None of the characters in ‘The Pillars of Hercules - Book 3 of the ‘Timeline 10/27/62 Series’ - are based on real people I know of, or have ever met. Nor do the specific events described in ‘The Pillars of Hercules - Book 3 of the ‘Timeline 10/27/62 Series’ - have, to my knowledge, any basis in real events I know to have taken place. Any resemblance to real life people or events is, therefore, unintended and entirely coincidental.
The ‘Timeline 10/27/62 Series’ is an alternative history of the modern world and because of this real historical characters are referenced and in some cases their words and actions form significant parts of the narrative. I have no way of knowing for sure if these real, historical figures would have spoken thus, or acted in the ways I depict them acting. Any word I place in the mouth of a real historical figure, and any action which I attribute to them after 27th October 1962 never actually happened. As I always say in my Author’s Notes to my readers, I made it up in my own head.
As with real historical characters, real historical ships and other military units are treated in a documentary - where they were and as they were deployed - fashion up to and including 27th October 1962. Thereafter, all bets are off because in this post cataclysm timeline, everything changes.
The books of the Timeline 10/27/62 series are written as episodes; they are instalments in a contiguous narrative arc. The individual ‘episodes’ each explore a number of plot branches, and develop themes continuously from book to book. Inevitably, in any series some exposition and extemporization is unavoidable but I try – honestly, I do – to keep this to a minimum as it tends to slow down the flow of the stories I am telling.
In writing each successive addition to the Timeline 10/27/62 ‘verse’ it is my implicit assumption that my readers will have read the previous books in the series in sequence, and that my readers do not want their reading experience to be overly impacted by excessive re-hashing of the events in previous books.
Humbly, I suggest that if you are ‘hooked’ by the Timeline 10/27/62 series that reading the books in sequence will – most likely - enhance your enjoyment of the experience.
Author’s End Note
Other Books by James Philip
The Pillars of Hercules
[Book 3 of Timeline 10/27/62]
03:45 Hours EST
Saturday 7th December 1963
Second Floor, Executive Residence, White House, Washington DC
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the Unites States of America, peered blearily into his younger brother’s face. He heard the words, and saw his lips moving but for a long time nothing registered. The crippling stomach cramps, weariness and the cloying lassitude had hit him almost as soon as he’d got back from Texas where he’d gone to make the ‘Moon Speech’. He’d had a bad feeling about going back to Rice University, and an even worse feeling all that day - Friday 22nd November - before he’d stepped up to the lectern. It was almost as if somebody had been walking on his grave. At the
“Jack, we’ve got a problem...”
The most powerful man in the world didn’t want to hear that. He’d ordered the immolation of untold scores of millions last year. Ever since then his flawed body and his broken soul had been tortured by an insidious inner voice that reminded him – every waking moment of his cursed life – that he’d failed...everybody. When he’d unleashed the fiery hounds of Hell on America’s enemies he’d believed that soon he, and everything that was dear to him would be swept away. He’d thought his death was inevitable; that he’d made the least possible worst choice. He’d reconciled himself to the dreadful truth that if he was to save some small part of America, and preserve something of what was great about America, war was unavoidable. Knowing that he wouldn’t live to walk in the ruins of the World that was about to burn had been oddly comforting that late evening in October 1962. He’d have liked to have sat with Jackie and the kids one last time but they’d been on their way to Hyannis Port by then; he’d have liked to have received the last rites but as he waited with other Cabinet members in the White House Situation Room that night it wouldn’t have been appropriate, or seemly. He among all men, as the Commander-in-Chief, had owed it to the others to deny his own mortality. If he was without hope then why should any man follow him into the jaws of death?
A hand was gently shaking his shoulder.
Elsewhere in the room he heard muted voices.
“What the fuck did that quack give the President last night?”
Very few people knew that John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been diagnosed as suffering from Addison’s disease in London in 1947, aged thirty, just after he’d entered Congress. The symptoms of the affliction included severe and often incapacitating pains in the legs, back and abdomen, random attacks of vomiting and diarrhoea, hypoglycaemia, fevers and at the extreme end of the spectrum, convulsions, psychosis and syncope. Fortunately, he’d never suffered this latter symptom in public. Not even the great American media – who’d happily turned a blind eye to his womanizing - would have let a President get away with losing consciousness in the full glare of its cameras. However, he’d suffered most of the other symptoms at one time or another since assuming the Presidency, sometimes several of them in combination. More than once during dealings with foreign leaders and ambassadors he’d experienced relatively minor manifestation of Addison’s; confusion, slurred speech brought on by low blood pressure and sudden terrible bouts of lethargy that seemed to fall on him without warning. It was only after he’d entered the White House that hypothyroidism, another rare endocrine disease, had been identified.
Jack Kennedy had always been the sickliest of the Kennedy brothers but that had never really mattered until his elder sibling, Joe, had been killed in a flying accident in England in August 1944. Joseph Kennedy (junior) had always been his father’s anointed political flag bearer, rather than the fragile, reckless playboy second son...
“Jack, can you hear me?”
Robert Francis ‘Bobby’ Kennedy, the President’s thirty-nine year old younger brother, sounded increasingly alarmed. Notwithstanding the seven-and-a-half years difference in their ages, their divergent temperaments and the fact that many men in ‘Bobby’ Kennedy’s position would have chaffed to have lived for so long in his brother’s shadow; the siblings were the heart and sinew of what was left of the fractured Administration that had swept into the White House three years before with such great hopes. Back in the spring of 1961 the World had seemed to be full of possibilities; now there was just the foul taste of ashes in their mouths...
“The Vice-President is on his way to DC.”
They’d had to let LBJ in on the secret – leastways, part of it – about the President’s health after the Vienna Summit in 1961. Not that Lyndon Baines Johnson hadn’t already scented blood in the water years ago. He’d been Senate Majority Leader before he’d run against JFK for the Democratic Presidential ticket in 1960, and the wily Texan had made his career on Capitol Hill from knowing other men’s dirtiest secrets. The only thing neither Kennedy brother understood was why LBJ hadn’t turned on them. Yet.
Jack Kennedy groaned and rolled onto an unsteady elbow.
Future historians would blame the ‘Moon Speech’ on the cocktail of painkillers, steroids, amphetamines and God alone knew what else they’d pumped into his failing body. They’d say he’d been high when he unleashed Armageddon, and subsequently morbidly depressed and psychotic as he’d stumbled from one blunder to the next in the last thirteen terrible months. America had had a policy for winning a nuclear war; no idea whatsoever how to deal with the aftermath. He’d thought he was saving the World for democracy; it turned out he had been personally responsible for auguring in a new, radioactively dark age. And then he’d let himself be convinced that America needed, above all, a unifying crusade against the Universe!
He’d considered suicide but that would be a betrayal too far and the Catholicism of his upbringing denied him that merciful release.
“Who else is coming over?” The President asked, his voice a hoarse, dry rasp pitched so low that only his brother caught his words. Bobby had been at his shoulder guarding his back throughout the last decade. In the Administration he held the post of Attorney General but everybody knew that his primary role at the White House was as the President’s principal special advisor. Last year Bobby had almost done a deal with the Soviets; he probably would have done a deal if that fucking maniac submarine captain hadn’t unilaterally started World War III. Once that first shot had been fired – regardless of the missiles subsequently fired out of Cuba at the US mainland – they’d all understood that the genie was out of the bottle. The side that launched first bought the best ticket in the lottery; a chance to survive. His had been a modern day judgement of Paris and he’d given the order to hit the Soviets with everything... “Who?” He repeated, waiting for the nausea to abate.
“Dean, Bob, McCone, General Wheeler...”
“Oh, fuck. What’s happened?”
David ‘Dean’ Rusk was Secretary of State. Dean was the sort of ubiquitously able man who was, for some reason, the guy you went to when your first choice cried off. Born in Cherokee County, Georgia, in 1909, he was a former Rhodes Scholar who’d joined the State Department after the 1945 war. He was the man who’d suggested dividing United States and Soviet spheres of influence in Korea along the line of the 38th parallel. By 1949 he was a Deputy Under Secretary of State and by the following year the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs. A Rockefeller Foundation trustee from 1950 to 1961, he’d succeeded Chester L Barnard as President of the Foundation as long ago as 1952. Dean Rusk was exactly the kind of safe pair of hands America needed in a time of crisis. He was also exactly the kind of man who’d never rush to the President’s sick bed unless the sky was about to fall in upon the beleaguered Administration.
‘Bob’ was forty-seven year old Robert Strange McNamara, the eighth US Secretary of Defence. Born in California, McNamara had been one of the Whiz Kids who’d rebuilt the Ford Motor Company after 1945, briefly serving as Ford’s President before taking over at the Pentagon with a remit – if not a blank cheque – to modernize and rationalise the nation’s military might. If Dean Rusk wasn’t a man known for rushing across Washington in the middle of the night, off the cuff ‘fire fighting’ was absolutely not the style of the urbane and never less than brilliant Secretary of Defence.
Like McNamara, John Alexander McCone, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, was another Californian. Born in 1902 he’d graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1922 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering, beginning his c
John McCone had tried to dissuade JFK from launching the first strike against the Soviets the previous year. He’d been the one ‘insider’ who’d believed that after the massive retaliatory strikes against Cuba the Soviets would want to go on talking. He’d also assured his President that if the United States of America struck the first blow then war was in some sense ‘winnable’. However, not even McCone had believed victory would be so total, and yet so pyrrhic.
General Earle Gilmore ‘Bus’ Wheeler, the forty-five year old newly appointed DC born Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was the sort of soldier who radiated exactly the sort of calm, considered certitude and reliability that some of his most charismatic contemporaries – Curtis LeMay, for example – did not. Wheeler had stepped into his current post only five weeks ago after the sudden death of General Maxwell Taylor and several of his most senior staffers in an air crash coming back from a tour of inspection of US Forces in South Korea, Japan and Hawaii.
If Rusk, McNamara, McCone and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were on their way over to the White House in the middle of the night; not even a man under the influence of drugs needed to be told he had a problem.