“On the Banned Lands...”

While most of the characters in my story Blue Flash (that's just the first chapter) are hanging out in the Pasadena-D alternate, one is currently stuck on a whole different timeline that's got its own fun set of problems for her to overcome. But since it's as much a part of Blue Flash as Pasadena-D is, I'm going to put it under the Pas-D group, in spite of it being that different timeline.

The “Banned Lands” are a timeline where humans didn't make it to the Americas for some reason. Ignoring the effects this would have on the Old World, much of what we think of “Ice Age Megafauna” still roams the New, but until very recently, humans have not.

Concurrently, development in the Old World has also been retarded a few centuries (I have no idea if the two are related, but it doesn't really matter), so that the first ships from Europe – and the first humans to set foot in the New World – landed only a little over a century or so ago, their discovery and arrival a side-effect – like with the Portuguese here – of attempts to get around Africa to the important (and wealthy) waters of the Indian Ocean...without having to pay through the nose to the civilizations along the Eastern Mediterranean.

Now while there are ocean-crossing ships, technologically speaking, Europe is still at an “early Middle Ages” level of development at best, sogunpowder weapons are still a good ways in the future. Thus, armies are still lance, arrow and sword dependent. Politically most of Western Europe is currently under what we'll call a “Celtic” empire, for lack of any better name – though obviously, with a POD that dates back tens of thousands of years, it's no more “Celtic” than those basketball players in Boston (probably less, actually) – that has just recently finished up taking over the last few independent areas of Western Europe and whose government has a really firm hand on the populace and equally firm opinions on what they should and shouldn't be doing (including who/what they should be worshiping). This makes for a land with a lot of discontented people.

Anyway, soon after finding the New World, the government attempted several colonies, mostly under the idea that they could be used to support that 'round Africa trade route.

However, this is an America totally lacking in handy Indians who can give you lessons on how to live there, or have crops which you could steal or – eventually – grow yourself (because they did better in the local climate than yours). There's also no handy piles of gold laying around nor handy cities full of potential serfs to take over, so there's no real big economic push to go there.

It is, in fact, a big wilderness with nothing obvious to offer, apart from land – and much like the Spanish on OTL, the “Celtics” consider land without serfs to farm it or mine it or log it pretty useless. Worse, it's got a lot of big predators there that think you might make a nice break from baby mammoth or whatever, and a lot of adult mammoths or whatever that think you might be a new predator eyeing their kids as lunch too – so stepping on you first seem a reasonable response.

Worser, it has some diseases that jump from local herd animals to introduced Old World ones (cows, sheep and goats)...and then to humans. So first it kills off the domesticated animals the colonists need, then it starts killing off large numbers of the colonists themselves (not at smallpox levels, mind – it's not that bad – but when you're already at a subsistence level and your cows & pigs have just died, it doesn't take much).

So the handful of colonies that were initially attempted failed and one or more of them had the misfortune to ship one of the new plagues back to Europe. It was stopped (mostly, because the herding animals it needed as a reserve died off too quickly), but it caused enough damage that the “King” of Europe declared the lands “anathema” and forbid anyone from returning there.

So when, a few years later, groups are desperate enough to leave “Celtic” oppression that even these “Death Lands” sound good and some of them make their way to these banned lands, big animals and disease or no, the “King” stomps down hard, and after wiping the settlers out, sets up – ironically – some new small colonies of his own on islands that are around the New World, but lacking in some of the mainland's more annoying features (like megafauna that can eat you or carry plague). Even then, these colonies/garrisons are more like groups of military monks, dedicated to keeping the “King's” law, but knowing they will never be allowed to return from the “Banned Lands.” Their job is to kill anyone who tries to settle the New World and they are very good at their job.

Even under the circumstances, things are bad enough in Europe under the “Celtic” thumb, that a several hundred small colonizing attempts are made over the next century, with those that survive animals and disease and lack of food being mopped up by the military monks. Lately, the last few attempts have avoided the Atlantic side of the continent and traveled all the way around Africa, across the Pacific, and made there way to the west coast in the hope that maybe there will be fewer big animals and diseases and lack of food and especially military monks...and that includes this relatively recent “People of the Compact” attempt in California.

(neither the African kingdoms nor any of the Asian ones along the way are particularly keen on them stopping in their lands. Both because it could affect their relations with the “Celtic” empire – and thus trade with them – and because these refugees are dirty primitives who they don't want cluttering up their nice clean cities. Besides, it might be a sneaky way to try and take control of the spice trade)

The “Military Monks” that keep people out of the “banned lands” are set up on small islands – big enough to support a few hundred to a few thousand men, but not so large they have any fauna bigger than a small dog – all around the Americas, mostly concentrated in the “temperate” zones as the tropical and boreal zones tend to kill off colonists even faster than the rest of the continents and thus need little patrolling.

For North America, their Atlantic bases are put on what would be here Nantucket, Smith Island in Chesapeake Bay, one of the Sea Islands off the Carolinas, Bermuda, maybe two or three small Caribbean islands.

South America is island-shy, so they're limited to the Falklands, Tobago and tiny Fernando de Noronha. The Falklands base is the biggest, as any colonists are more likely to try for “Argentina” than the “Amazon.”

And far out in the Atlantic, the Azores works as their “command center” for the entire order, and as the only place where supplies from Europe can be transferred to them without breaking their “no returning” rule. It involves European ships dropping stuff off on one of the uninhabited islands...and the Monk's ships picking it up the next day. Communication is equally clumsy.

Letters arriving are easy enough – they're just left with the rest of the supplies. But those leaving back for Europe have to be left in glass-faced boxes (so they remain untouched) and copied by the latest Monks to arrive from Europe, then handed to the ships heading back before those new Monks (and supplies) are picked up (this ceremoniously also marks their last contact with the Old World). Obviously, if no new Monks arrive on a given supply voyage, the letters have to wait at least another trip before they are passed on.“Urgent” communications can be sent by a semaphore type system (as long as the Monks avert their eyes from those on the ships – they take this “no contact” thing overly seriously), but these obviously need to be short.

Meanwhile, on the Pacific side of the New World, they're sparser and even more cut off as of yet, since people trying to colonize this side of the continents is a new idea of the last decade or two, thus so are “Guarding Isles” in the Pacific. They have only small bases on San Juan Island (near Vancouver), Santa Cruz Island (the one they're worried about in the “Book”), and then nothing until the Galapagos, which also acts as that ocean's “command center” – though supplies come to it from the Azores (very infrequently), so the no contact protocols don't have to be applied here. Santa Cruz is the largest base, with nearly three-hundred men and fully a dozen ships – though the biggest of those are just two 45 ton caravel-like craft and the rest made up of less than 20 ton craft.

Given the number of islands they're on and the amount of ocean they have to cover, I figure there's between five and ten-thousand of them on their “Guarding Isles,” and another few tens of thousands of “Lesser Orders” – Monks not allowed to touch the Banned Lands but which supply support – back in Europe (and maybe an outpost in East Asia). They provide the supplies and build the ships and take the stuff to the Azores and whatnot. And while they are just as banned from the New World as “civilians” – they are the only ones allowed to land on the Azores – all of what little contact between the “Martial Orders” that live on the islands and do the actual “guarding” and Europe goes through them.

Obviously, this whole affair is not a stable situation. Sometime in the next century or two, one or more group's are going to make a colony(s) that both survives and does so far enough out of the “Military Monks's” view that by the time they are noticed, they're too dug in and numerous to be kicked out (the minute someone finds the Mississippi or the Sacramento or the Columbia or some big navigable river like that which they can travel far enough up to essentially be invisible to the Monks – and then survive as a colony – it's all over. The Monks keep an especially careful eye on the Hudson and the Amazon just for that reason). Or one of the “Chinese” states (it isn't a single unified empire on this timeline) might decide that the only reason the “Celts” are so on about keeping people away is that there's gold or something there and they want the whole thing for themselves. Then they mount a major expedition that overwhelms the few Pacific-based Monks and sets up their own colony (possibly followed by a repeat of the plague that hit Europe – though if they also find the gold in “California,” little things like millions of deaths aren't going to stop the colonization).

Or simply the “religious fervor” that drives the current monks will fade like it usually does and they'll realize that they essentially own two whole continents worth of potential wealth...and they'll start breaking the ban themselves.

But for now, the “Banned Lands” remain empty of humans except for the brief illegal colonies, and the march of Monastic Boots that erase them before returning to their island fortresses.