2567: To Last A Thousand Years — Chapter 1 Part 1Posted: March 10, 2020
The ‘fic under review today contains political flamebait in the form of Nazis.
Like, actual literal Nazis this time, not just people who talk and act like Nazis but claim not to be Nazis, or people calling each other Nazis, or self-described neo-Nazis, but the genuine article Version One-Point-Oh. I really hope I don’t need to tell anybody why that’s bad, mmmkay?
Hello hello all you patrons! I’m continuing my travels through Things In My Riffs Folder That Aren’t The First War by today taking a look at another Mass Effect alternate-humanity ‘fic that looks at The First War, giggles dementedly in its face, and asks, “why the hell are you all settling for merely crypto-fascist?”.
I actually made a joke about a ‘fic like this existing way back during the latter parts of Velocius et Fortius, but that was based on the assumption that nobody would actually be shameless enough to attempt to write it.
I assumed wrong. This is a thing that ACTUALLY EXISTS.
Let’s begin, as always, with the summary:
Such a simple event can spark such drastic changes. Humanity’s story if our bloodiest war ended differently. Humanity’s growth is accelerated as a Turian freighter is discovered in the Arctic Ice by the German Kriegsmarine. How does a change to the Second World War change Humanity’s future? Only time will tell. (Indefinite Hiatus)
That’s… actually kind of a pretty clear and succinct summary for an AU ‘fic. It’s a little on the purple side; I’d nix the first two sentences entirely since they don’t really tell me a lot about what’s in the ‘fic that makes it worth reading over the eight gajillion other Mass Effect alt-Alliance ‘fics out there; and the author does that annoying thing First War does where Random Terms are capitalized for No Reason; but I’m not really seeing the overdone crossover canon, the “humanity develops on a different technological path” thing, or any of the other usual red flags.
Other than the one giant red flag with a swastika on it, of course.
That, then, brings us to
Chapter 1: Total War
Which, honestly, is a rather ominous title. Not because I am expecting a bunch of edgelordy DETH 2 TEH XENOS Council-bashing right out of the gate (although I’m sure that will occur as well) but because the summary mentioned World War II and this likely means we’re going to get a whole bunch of historical faffing around before anybody does anything even remotely Mass Effect related.
One would think that that still wouldn’t be so bad because World War II is one of the hardest events in human history to make forgettable or boring, but somehow badfic always finds a way.
To Last a Thousand Years
A Mass Effect AU/Alternate History by TallYapflip
Why yes, that is indeed what we are riffing today, author. How nice of you to remind us!
And after that, we get what I’d consider the Obligatory Denial Piece everyone who writes anything with Nazis in it feels compelled to put up:
Disclaimer: I do not support Nazism or Fascism in any way. I am merely intrigued by the idea of alternate history and wanted to put this idea down on paper. This is meant for entertainment purposes, and in no way reflects my real-world beliefs.
I for one find these things to be of limited utility. On one hand, media that portrays the Nazis negatively doesn’t need anything like this, since it already portrays the Nazis negatively; on the other hand media that doesn’t seem to have a problem with them isn’t going to convince anyone at all that it does simply by stating so in a disclaimer that took two seconds to type. There are, I think, situations where something like this needs to be said, like in DarkDanny’s Uplifted where it’s a fairly long work and the criticism comes somewhat deep into it, but that’s less a statement trying to prop up the work’s opinions and more just an indication of how long it will be before those opinions can be known.
So, with all of that bullshit out of the way, let’s finally get on with the actual body of the ‘fic.
Chapter 1: Total War
Ok, now let’s finally get on with the actual body of the ‘fic.
Gunther read over the maps again and again, making sure the U-Boat was on a proper heading. Their destination was rather simple: Antarctica.
Well that really narrows it down.
His sub, U-521, had been hunting a convoy that was en-route to British South Africa to reinforce the weakened British lines. The Italians had been pushing hard, giving the British a hard fight, and Grand Admiral Raeder had seen fit to send a group of U-Boats to hunt it down, they succeeded.
Not nearly as hard as the author was pushing that sentence there towards the end, though. It kind of makes it sound like the U-boats were sent to hunt the Italians.
After his task was completed, he expected his group to be re-located to the Atlantic or the Channel. He was not expecting his new orders to involve investigating an anomaly in Antarctica.
The orders were vague, speaking only of an anomaly in the icy tundra of the Antarctic that had been noticed by a supply convoy that was returning from Japan. All that the report mentioned was a flash, a loud explosion, and a massive cloud of snow, not unlike an avalanche. Gunther had no idea what to make of this ordeal. He knew very well that Der Fuhrer was looking at the Antarctic as a possible base for the massive sub fleet of the Kriegsmarine, and it was highly unlikely that any of the Allies had anything to do with it. The Italians would have notified the High Command had they seen any Allied convoys making their way towards the far south. Many things were not adding up, and the Captain’s stomach was knotting up with the sheer number of unknown variables.
“Kapitän!” His commander said, knocking him back into reality, giving him a quick salute in the process.
“What do you have to report?” Gunther asked, turning around.
“We’ve arrived at the staging ground.” The Commander explained, his hand falling back to his side. “The transport convoys are a mere two hours behind, and there are no hostiles in sight.”
“Excellent, surface and give me a report on what you see.” Gunther ordered, causing the Commander to rush off to complete his assigned task.
The Captain turned back to the maps laid out before him. They were crude, very few people had ever been to the Antarctic, let alone explored it. This mission was a gamble, a very costly one should anything go wrong. There was a small convoy of two ships, each carrying 300 Waffen-SS soldiers that was a few hours behind. They were to land and investigate, then report their findings to Berlin. He had his reservations about sending the SS to march into the frozen wastes, but he also had his orders. After all, these were all volunteers from France. The way they saw it, it was better to be serving the Reich by marching, rather than sitting around Paris waiting for their next orders to come through.
“Captain!” The Commander shouted, catching Gunther’s attention once again. “You need to see this!”
“What is it?” Gunther asked, walking over to the open hatch, seeing the Commander’s head from the other end.
“I could not explain it to you if I tried, sir.” The Commander said. “Best if you see for yourself.”
Gunther sighed, climbing the ladder into the frigid Antarctic air. As he climbed up, the cold hit him like a wall. It was easily -10 to -15 centigrade, even in August. As he stood, he shivered involuntarily. “What is it?” He asked, turning to his Commander.
The Commander handed him a pair of binoculars. “Look out there, directly towards the bow.” He said. “Looks to be about eight kilometers out.”
Gunther decided to humor his Commander, and brought the optics up to his eyes. He looked in the general direction he was pointing to, scanning around for a moment. He almost had to do a double-take when he saw it. It was small, due to distance, but it was certainly metal. It looked like it was a light grey color, not unlike the side of a battleship. Based on the relative size it appeared to be at roughly eight kilometers away, he figured it to be rather large. “What the fuck…?” Gunther wondered.
“What do you think it is?” The Commander asked.
“I’ve not the slightest idea…” Gunther said, lowering the binoculars. “Send a wire back to Berlin, let them know that we’ve found something and will report as soon as we’ve investigated.”
“Of course, Captain!” The Commander said, returning to the inside of the sub to fulfill his duties.
Gunther was sure that this was what Hell would be like. As short of a trek as it might be, relative to the size of the Antarctic, this was the closest to wishing to die that he had ever been. Upon landing, the entirety of the 600 man-strong SS company that was given to him begrudgingly began marching towards the strange object in the distance. The snow was deep, the cold was harsh, and everything stung.
They had more than enough provisions, the dogs were pulling sleds full of them. The men were warm enough to not freeze, but it was harsh. Any extended length of time out here would certainly be a death sentence, even when wrapped in some of the heaviest winter gear. He wagered that they’d have a single day to complete their objective at best before good men started dying.
They hand landed on New Swabia, an area of Dronning Maud Land that Germany had claimed, which was a more-temperate area of the continent. As they marched, the land remained relatively smooth and the weather rather consistent. According to his guide, a Nord by the name of Bjorn, this was surprising for the continent this time of year.
After three hours, they had covered almost all of the distance, and the object came into view. Gunther’s jaw nearly dug itself into the snow as he looked upon it. It was certainly metal, and it was large. It was easily two hundred meters long, had massive struts extending from what was obviously the rear, and was very angular in design. In a strange way, it looked almost like an airplane without propellers. “Herr Standartenfuhrer!” Gunther called out over the wind, catching the attention of the SS Colonel in charge of the SS detachment. “Any ideas?”
“Nein…” The Colonel responded, stepping forward. “This is well beyond me, and the markings are nothing I recognize. It looks like it crashed here.” The Colonel gestured towards the long trench that trailed behind the object.
“Well, let’s get to work.” Gunther said, nodding towards the metal object. “The sooner we’re out of this cold, the better.”
As Gunther stepped through the small entryway that his men had created in the side of the metal object, he was absolutely floored by what he saw. The inside was all metal, the walls were covered in strange, alien glyphs and symbols, and everything looked… off. There were metal desks covered in strange knobs and instruments, not unlike the cockpit of a plane.
As he looked into the chair that was sat behind the nearest console, he saw a rather ominous sight. There was a skeleton, looking not even remotely human aside from the four limbs and head. The head was longer, more angular, and had these strange bony spines sticking out from the back. It was quite obvious, based on the fact that all of the flesh had deteriorated, that this creature had been dead for a long time. There was a small bundle of metal plates scattered around the floor, along with scraps of some sort of fabric. “Christ…” The Colonel said, ducking inside. “I don’t know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t this.”
“Soldaten!” Gunther shouted, noting how much warmer it was inside of the object. “Fan out, scour this object and grab anything of note. If you find anything to be living, put a bullet in its head.”
This… doesn’t suck? I mean, I think it’s a little slower than I would have done; I would have spent less time getting to the ship and more time actually describing the interior of it instead of just saying “it looks kind of like a plane” and then cutting the scene off; maybe build up a little bit about what caused it to “explode” and draw people to its location since it obviously just sat there for a good long while and didn’t crash recently. Also, the first instance of the rank “Captain” (but not the others) and a bunch of other random words are Gratuitously Untranslated. And I have my doubts that the Nazis would send six hundred SS to investigate what might’ve just been an off-course aircraft or something, especially since the Type-IX U-Boat (which U-521 was) has a maximum crew complement of sixty-three.
[MESSAGE FROM THE FUUUTURE: I think the SS are supposed to have come from those other above-water ships following along behind, and the story just skipped over them landing. Remember those ships? I certainly didn’t!
That also makes me wonder what the point of sending a submarine to do this is when there’s other regular ships right overtop of it.]
But still, this wasn’t the sort of balls-to-the-wall insanity I was expecting out of a Nazi HFY ‘fic.
Then again, First War started out just competent enough to be boring, too…
So after that we get a mostly boring interlude where this Gunther dude gets an Iron Cross and promotion to Fleet Admiral and he and some Nazi higher-ups discuss the fairly obvious implications of the object they encountered and its technology. Of note are appearances by Wilhelm Messerschmitt, Ferdinand Porsche, and
the director of the Henschel Company, Mauser, and Mercedes
It’s worth noting (because the author doesn’t, ever) that all of these companies used forced labor in some form or another, and also that for whatever reason other major players in the Nazi military supply chain like Walther and Krupp are omitted. That last sentence also makes it sound like Henschel, Mauser, and Mercedes were all overseen by the same guy.
The Nazis have also started calling the structure they found
which just means “the gift” and sounds really stupid, and also disappointing because there’s a pre-existing conspiracy theory about a Nazi anti-gravity superweapon code-named “Die Glocke” (“the Bell”) that the author could easily have used.
Finally, the discussion turns to the remains found inside, and we get this strange bit:
There are multiple sets of different bones that we’ve discovered inside, each of them differing drastically in appearance. Tell me, Gunther, have you read Wells?”
“The War of the Worlds? Of course.” Gunther responded, nodding.
“We believe that these… creatures hail from similar origin as Wells’ creatures.”
“Mars?” “Possible… but unlikely. I fear that they may return to our world, looking for their lost comrades.”
This is dumb for a number of reasons. First, they have no real cause to believe the aliens came from Mars specifically as opposed to anywhere else, and many reasons not to believe that since Mars was established as dry, cold, and lacking oxygen by the end of the 1920s (although Venus was believed to possibly contain life until the 60s). Second, I am not sure why they are all talking about H.G. Wells specifically, as he did not originate the concept of extraterrestrial life and many other writers were writing about it by the late30s and/or early 40s (when actually does this take place, anyway? I’m assuming pre-42 since no mention has been made of the United States doing anything, but that’s really all I have to go on); wouldn’t Nazis want to mention a German writer instead of a British one?
I’m also a little disappointed, actually, that we don’t get any kind of cameo here from the SS-Ahnenerbe and its coterie of weirdo historian-anthropologist-geneticists trying to integrate the Citadel species into their demented race theories. Probably that’s because the author is trying to quietly efface everything actually objectionable from Nazi Germany and turn them into the big, misunderstood golden retrievers of Europe just trying to give the rest of the world a really big hug. With poison gas.
“All the more reason to discover their weaknesses, harness their technology, and improve upon it.” Gunther finished.
“I see that you’re thinking very closely along the same lines as me.” The Führer said, smiling. “We will take what they have, and make it ours… In the meantime, none of that can be accomplished unless we are victorious here and now. The British continue to gather strength while an invasion of their isles remains very far into the future. They are not the true enemy, however… they lie East. We must secure peace with the British, even if just for a short time.” The Führer continued. “I cannot afford to divert so many forces to protecting our northern shores when such a goliath threat to the Reich lies to the East… That’s why… despite the near-loss of a close friend, I will be attempting to enter peace talks with Churchill.”
“I heard about Herr Hess’ flight to Scotland.” Gunther said. “A wonder he was able to return home.”
Ok, so, this finally puts a better bound on when this could be occurring- before the start of Operation Barbarossa on June 22, 1941, but after May 10 and Rudolf Hess’s poorly-thought-through attempt to get Britain to leave the war by flying covertly to Scotland to meet with a Duke he thought was a Nazi sympathizer.
Not actually sure why the story changed it so that Hess didn’t get shot down and captured like he did IRL, seeing as that has nothing at all to do with the the whole “unearthing a Council ship” bit, but I get the feeling this author just doesn’t like having the Nazis lose at things.
Also not sure why any of this would compel them to enter peace talks with the British when this was still very much the “let’s just go ahead and pick a fight with everyone who looks at us funny simultaneously” era of Nazi politics (which, really, was the only era of Nazi politics). And the British themselves weren’t exactly interested in talking by that point, at least not with Nazi troops still occupying France.
I also have my doubts about whether the science of 1941, especially the nonsensical approaches that flourished under the direct favoritism of major Nazi leaders, would really be up to the task of extracting usable knowledge from recovered Council technology, especially quickly enough to make a material difference in the war effort, but that’s a comparatively minor and much vaguer issue.
It goes on a bit with some random logistics for a little while, but I figure I’ll cut off here for the time being, because the next half of the chapter is where the ‘fic… escalates. Or perhaps collapses, either or, really.