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This map is, essentially, the start of a reboot of one of my scenarios entitled Where Hearts Were Entertaining June. The gist of the scenario is that in 1589 the English Armada is markedly more successful than in our own world, hitting the new Iberian Union hard enough to force the government in Madrid to offer peace terms to the English that left the Kingdom of England much better off: in exchange for accepting Spanish dominion over Portugal, the English would receive control over the former Portuguese colony of Brazil, with its growing population and large income.
Thus sets off the journey into a world far different than our own. One of the English in South America, the Portuguese in the North, of a world power Sweden and republican Poland and an entire adventure to look at what might have been. I hope in time everyone will enjoy it and for now enjoy this preview of the world, with the situation in 1592. Shortly after taking control, England reaffirmed the capital of Brazil as Salvador, sending new governors and officials who began to reorganize the territory, including renaming the two provinces. While a small change, it would be the start of a radically different future that would see Brazil become a major world leader in just about every field.
I will be using this map in the future essentially as a base to show changes throughout the timeline as they occur, so expect more to come and I hope you all will enjoy.
The Story of a Girl: 2091
by Lynn Davis
Frosted wind howled savagely and beat against the thick plexiglass shell covering a lonely maglev train station. Inside stood a single woman shivering even in a thick coat and standing beneath heaters that hummed lowly in the grim light.
It’s too cold, she thought, and was surprised at herself. With a Canadian passport buried in the silver bag on her arm, beneath scarves and gloves and estrogen pills, she wouldn’t have thought herself a stranger to freezing temperatures. Yet here she was. Standing on a tile platform as gray and featureless as the world outside, the monotony only broken by rows of plastic benches, Laura pulled her coat tighter around herself.
Outside the little station perched on a rocky hillside, the skyscrapers of Longyearbyen loomed above her. Covered in tempered, heated glass and blinking lights, they were part of an urban sprawl that had consumed the inlet in which Svalbard’s capital sat. Coming in on her flight and seeing it for the first time as clouds parted beneath the VertiPlane, it had seemed as if it had come out of a dream. But in this cold, it was almost something like a nightmare. Yes, in her thirty-six years spent in Vancouver, Laura Reed had never experienced a cold quite like this.
Laura’s thoughts were interrupted by a soft whirring in front of her, where the magnetic levitation tracks lay. They sparked and hummed with energy, and staring down at them from the raised platform Laura could watch lights begin to blink to life. Another train would be coming soon. Much like the one that had brought her to the station earlier that morning, she assumed, and left her here to wait; her instructions that she had received a week earlier ended at this station.
While she waited, Laura pulled out a black rectangle from her pocket and tapped a button on the back. In an instant, a screen came to life in front of her icy blue eyes, where only she could see. Her fingers began to fly over the keyboard on the other side of the rectangle. The chip embedded into her skull began to pulse as it searched for a wireless network, scouring the air around her for a connection. She knew that beneath the sleeves of her coat the lights embedded into her arms—who doesn’t want to look flashy these days?—would begin to blink.
For a few terrifying seconds, the indicator at the top right of her semi-transparent screen blinked red: No Wireless. For a woman whose life was at least as much online as off, connected at almost all times to the web of wireless and wired lines that spread across the planet, it left a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. Surely even in this remote part of the world, a country as advanced as Svalbard would give her wireless access?
Then, at last, a connection was established as Laura was bombarded with ads. Her fingers and eyes worked in tandem to swipe away pleas for her to visit the Longyearbyen Heritage .gif Shop or offers for a train ride up to the flourishing Russian city of Pyramiden. Why she’d want to visit a mining town, Laura did not know, but swiped it all away to check on any local news or updates. Even in a city with a paltry population of less than a million, surely something interesting was happening.
Lost in her adventures online, it was not until the heavy steel doors of the station began to groan and slide open that Laura looked up to see the next train coming in. Coldness rushed in from outside strong enough to almost knock her slim form over. The mop of messy almost-brown hair on her head blew and whipped everywhere, and for a moment there was chaos and blindness as she fought to turn off her wireless device and get the hair out of her eyes.
When she had managed to compose herself once more, a train had come to rest in front of her. Its sleek, gunsteel finished carapace gleamed before her. The screen in front of her eye, once more transparent, helpfully notified her that it was the six-o’clock train arriving eight minutes ahead of schedule. Ticket prices and route maps began to scroll before her until she flicked them away. She took a hesitant step forward, her hand moving toward what looked like a door—little more than a small slit in the side of the silver beast—though she could see no handle.
The train hissed at Laura, causing her to jump back, and the door she had spotted slid open. The interior was lit by a warm yellow light and contained, it seemed, not the usual train décor. Stepping within, Laura found it spacious and decorated like a moving ballroom: fine, fluffy carpets, plush couches, and the walls covered with what looked like real paint. Soft electronic music hummed in the background, completing a look that had clearly been obsessively followed.
Sitting on one of the couches before her, and the only person on the train, was a broad-shouldered man who managed to look in charge and at ease at the same time. He wore a dark black vest the color of his braided hair with seamless pants the same shade as his vest. His eyes studied her carefully from a face wrinkled by time and worry. He extended a hand to her even as the train car rose above the track and began to shoot forward, never wavering while Laura fought to keep her balance.
“My name is Henrik Bergen,” he said when her pale hand met his tanned handshake, “and it’s a pleasure to meet you, Dr. Reed. I trust your journey here went smoothly?”
Laura smiled and nodded, placing herself on a burgundy loveseat across from Henrik, who leaned forward on a coffee-colored recliner. “The hospital gave me hell for taking the trip, but I made it up here just fine. Landed this morning and followed your instructions to the train station.”
She paused and waited for him to go on or to fill her in on what exactly he planned to do. Instead, he continued to stare at her thoughtfully as their train moved from the plexiglass station to the eastbound rail line. It took them rapidly away from Longyearbyen that was, even at three in the afternoon, awash in artificial light. The Arctic fall wore on and she could see from the train the endless, terrible drifts of snow in every direction beneath the dark, yet calming, night sky.
“Well, you mentioned that I was to come here in order to perform a gender-affirming surgery upon a young patient with a rare blood disorder,” she continued, aware of Henrik’s gaze, “so am I to presume you are taking me to see the patient now?”
Henrik smiled approvingly at her arrival to the point. He took out his own wireless device and tapped a few buttons half-hidden in the wall of the train. With a grabbing motion, he drew out a hologram from his personal device until the whirring display—which arose from beneath the floor near Laura’s feet—on the car “caught” it. The life-sized hologram flickered to life and showed, in the air between them, a picture of a young adult: by Laura’s guess only just past her teenagehood.
“This is my daughter, Else-May,” he said, with pride in his voice that he did not even try to hide. “She was, as they say in your country, trans-aware at a young age: four or so, as best we can tell.”
Henrik spoke in English that bore so little accent that he could have been from the Chi-waukee metropolis for all she knew, though so soft that Laura had to lean forward to listen. “This, of course, is fine. However, it was not the only, well, uniqueness that she was born with.” He reached on his wireless again and threw up pictures of medical documents for Laura to see. “Unfortunately, our…my daughter was born with Aplastic anemia: a genetic blood-borne illness.”
“Affecting every blood type of blood cell, yes, I’ve read on it before,” Laura said. She reached back in her mind to recall the many illnesses she been forced to learn in medical school. “Common treatment is a round of Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. These days, we can treat it just fine. But you’re telling me…”
The older man, looking a bit shrunken now, nodded and lay back heavily in his recliner. He wiped his brow with a hand before going on: “Most of the time, yes, doctors can fix it. But not with Else-May. The treatment allowed her to live as well as a child can, but complications robbed her of strength; she requires a wheelchair now.”
Laura’s expression darkened. She could perform the surgery well enough; virtually any graduate out of medical school could. Performing one on such a patient, however, was not something she was normally prepared for. “I can see why you wanted a Hematologist,” she said.
“Yes, of course,” Henrik said. He waved his hands in the air, displaying various pictures of Else-May: a pretty young girl with jet black, close-cropped hair, chocolate eyes, and skin on the lighter side of vanilla. “My daughter, Else-May, is strong you see,” he continued, displaying pictures of her around various buildings—most often in a wheelchair but other times standing. “She helps me run the company, even. I can assure you, there will be no problems with the surgery.”
The last sentence had been phrased more like an order, and Laura leaned back in response. She looked again at the pictures. Despite Mr. Bergen’s insistence, the girl in them was not strong; her thin arms and gaunt skin stretched over her frame was a testament to that: Laura pegged her at just above underweight. To survive must have taken a strong spirit, Laura was sure, but during surgery the body cared little for that and more whether her heart and other organs would continue to function.
“So why me, then?” Laura asked, shifting in her seat and crossing her legs to rest one arm upon her knee. The train clattered around them, all but drowning out her voice until it sounded as small and weak as she felt for the mission ahead. “My specialty in Hematology is blood-borne disease, not genetic disorders, and I’m hardly a specialist in sexual reassignment surgery.” She bit her lower lip, afraid of the answer but knowing she had to ask anyway.
Henrik took a moment to answer. He rested his elbows on his knees, legs apart, and scratched his head with one hand while he looked away, embarrassed. When he looked at her again, the skin on his face was flushed. “It was at Else-May’s insistence that we find another trans woman to perform the surgery. With not enough who fit that description in Svalbard, we had to look abroad until we found, well, you.”
The answer hung in the air between them, thick with a history of self-loathing and doubt. Henrik let it drop and waved the holographic images away, choosing instead to recline in his seat and close his eyes. Laura, for her part, managed to look out the window beside her instead of staring down to the floor.
She watched snow banks clinging to icy black rock rush by while her brain tried not to dwell for too long on the idea. The pain of what she held between her legs and the ache she felt inside over it threatened to come rushing back if she didn’t stay distracted.
Outside, Laura observed the Longyearbyen suburb of Grumant slowly drift by. Its spires of steel and glass, hugging the shoreline, glittered and blinked in the setting light. Yet, rather than head toward that sign of wonderful civilization and its tantalizingly-distracting wireless network, the train turned away and continued southeast.
Laura watched her last taste of normalcy disappear beneath the horizon as the train climbed up and up into sharp, craggy mountains above, bearing her toward her destiny with a girl she did not know who had chosen her only for what she had happened to have been born with between her legs.
It took all of her strength to not despair at the thought.
After some time, the train climbed up toward the rim of a great mountain of gray and black stone. Jagged creases were scarred into the rock where glaciers had once pressed down but, as the encroaching tide of climate change overtook them, little dwelled there now but snow that was not nearly so present as it had been in a much colder world one hundred years before.
As the train reached the top of the mountain, which had been leveled as flat as a runway some time before, she stood from her seat to gaze in awe out the frosted window beside her. Down below was a cavernous mouth large enough to swallow an entire city. Roads carved into the mountain itself spiraled down, down into the mines that had once stretched deep into the pillars of the Earth. The metal frames of old equipment that lay scattered near the bottom of the shaft stuck up from the dark earth like memorials in a graveyard, guarding treasure that had long since been taken.
“This was not the first inland mine in Svalbard,” Henrik said, suddenly beside her, “but it was the first to put us truly on the map. My father’s father financed it—that was after Store Norske had folded—and our family has made our empire on the profits we gained here.”
“It looks like a wound,” Laura said in a voice just above a whisper.
“It is a price that we paid,” Henrik replied, just as loud. “Greatness always comes at a cost, and living here we are never allowed to forget it.”
Laura, nodding, continued to watch the mine as the train drifted by. She tried to imagine what it must have been like to work as great metal claws tore into the Earth, and how small one must have felt in so great an endeavor.
The train continued along the rim of the mine, on a track that must have been laid at great cost to Henrik’s family, and before long Laura was finally able to see their destination. She had known to expect a mansion—there were few who traveled to Svalbard without knowing of the Bergens—but she had never thought for a moment what it might look like. She supposed she had imagined that it would have been little different from the wood and brick abodes she had seen in her youth on the islands around Vancouver.
Instead, the “mansion” was more a pile of bare concrete, polished steel, and thick glass prefabricated buildings that looked like the ones she had once glimpsed in northern British Columbia as a child. They had been laboriously pushed together until they created one jumbled whole, covered in blinking lights. The only new construction was a tower that rose above the three story jumble, with a steel bulge on top for what was likely, in Laura’s mind, a study or bedroom. The entire structure sat right up against a sharp outcrop of mountain so close to the mansion it was if the two had merged, and the only other building around was a small stop for the train. Nothing beside remained but empty mountain.
“It must get lonely, all the way out here,” Laura muttered, stepping away from the window to ensure her bags were beside her feet. She gripped the handle of an old leather suitcase that smelled of love and home tightly.
Henrik tapped his chin, then shrugged and wiped condensation from the window. “I suppose one might feel that way, where you’re from. We are a big country with few people, and if you wander away from the cities you grow used to the isolation.”
“Does Else-May feel the same way?” Laura asked.
“Of course she does,” Henrik replied, perhaps a little too quickly.
The train at that moment pulled into a miniature station—really nothing more than a simple platform and resting bed for the maglev engines when not in use—and its doors slid open. Harsh, bitter cold swept into the car and almost knocked Laura over. Henrik stooped down to offer his arm to guide her, but Laura refused and stumbled out of the posh car behind him, immediately wishing she had taken his offer.
Laura’s boot-clad feet sank deep into the powdered snow in front of the mansion. Shivering, she strode forward, having to force the snow out of her way with every step, while Henrik confidently strode forward.
Sitting on a plump bench inside the entryway a few minutes later, Laura dripped and shivered as she listened to Henrik explain the mansion. It had, he told her, once been workers’ dormitories for the mine, but once it had shut down they moved the lot of them together and formed a single housing unit out of them.
“Though the tower you may have spotted near the center of the house is entirely new,” Henrik, added as Laura slipped off her wet overclothes. “It is exclusive to guests that visit us here, and is yours to use until the surgery in the morning. It has the fullest amenities and is, I can assure you, as good or better than anything you’d find even in Longyearbyen.”
“Thanks,” Laura grouched, shaking herself all over before gathering all her wet outerclothes into a bundle in her arms. Henrik led her through small, wood-paneled passageways lit by soft, orange light to an elevator right below the tower.
“And this is where I leave you,” he said with a sense of finality to his voice. “As I said, Dr. Reed, the tower is yours until the morning. I am afraid I have spent much of today on my feet, and will retire for the evening. If you need a meal, one can be brought to you or you can generate one in your room.”
Laura nodded, but stopped him before he could go by clearing her throat. “What of Else-May, Mr. Bergen?” she asked. “Don’t I need to meet her?”
Henrik gave her one last smile for the night. “If she wants to meet you, she’ll come to you, but I’m afraid it won’t work the other way around.” With that, he strode back down the hall, leaving Laura alone at the top of the world.
A few hours later, Laura emerged from the surprisingly spacious and high-tech shower room—complete with an instant makeup kit—wearing a light tank top and long bed pants which had been laid out for her upon arrival. The top even had the Bergens’ logo on the front, and when she wore it the logo shined as if it were a part of her.
While she dried her hair, Laura paced around the round bedroom she had been gifted for the night. Though underneath the surface lay modern amenities like instant network hookup, charging pads, and basic bio-scanners, the room otherwise would have fit into the world nearly a century before. Cotton sheets of deep blue on the bed, carpet rugs all over, and a computer desk that looked so primitive that she had been surprised it had even the most rudimentary of artificial intelligence. Laura wondered if it was a sense of nostalgia or rather that time simply moved slower up at the edge of the world.
While she pondered the answer and dried her hair with an overly fluffy towel, the door to the elevator in the center of the room slid open. A girl emerged out of the circular car, but not standing. Laura’s first look at Else-May was of a girl bound to an eggshell-white wheelchair wearing a bright red cardigan and a long, black skirt covering her legs down to her ankles.
Else-May was immediately recognizable from her pictures on the train, though seeing her in person was a wholly different experience. Though her skin was so pale it was almost translucent and pulled tightly over her wiry frame, her eyes and way which she held herself burned outward. She stared back at Laura defiantly, analyzing her just as much. The wheelchair, a simple plastic thing, rolled across the hardwood floor to Laura faster than she would have thought the girl could manage.
“So you’re the doctor?” Else-May asked quickly, almost like she was in a hurry to talk. She spoke first in Norwegian, then switched quickly to English and repeated the question.
Laura nodded and held out her hand to the girl, speaking in the same voice she gave every patient. “I’m Dr. Laura Reed, and I’ll be performing the procedure for you tomorrow. I bet you’re excited!”
Else-May stared at Laura’s hand for a moment, then sniffed and rolled past her, towards the edge of the round room where Laura’s bed for the night lay. Above it was transparent aluminum windows that gave a stark glimpse of the deathly white wastes outside. Snow was piled so high and packed so thick it formed a bridge from the mountainside right to the windows of the tower. The girl tapped a few buttons on a control pad on her chair and panels built into the walls quickly flickered to life.
The imposing ice and cold outside was replaced with a simulation of a massive field of deep green grass swaying in the breeze as far as the eye could see. Above them was nothing but bright blue sky and the sun shining brightly.
“So you’re the one who’s here to give me a pussy,” Else-May said flatly before Laura had recovered from the girl taking control so quickly.
Laura’s mouth opened, but no sound came out. She tried again and was able to squeak: “Well, um, yes I guess that’s technically correct.”
Else-May turned her chair around and raised an eyebrow at Laura. “You must have come a long way, huh?”
Laura nodded. “From Canada.”
“And it must have been expensive.”
“Well, yes, almost certainly, but—”
“So expensive that my father’s probably giddy to get it over with. To make his little girl an actual girl whether she likes it or not.”
Laura held up her hands in defense. “Hey, hey, slow down. You’re telling me you don’t want the surgery?”
Else-May was quiet for a little while. She folded her hands in her lap and looked past Laura, toward the simulated rolling green hills far beyond them, covered in tall trees and brightly-colored flowers.
“What I want and what my father want are different things,” she said.
“Then what is it that you want, exactly?” Laura asked in return.
Else-May responded by rolling forward in her chair and, suddenly, grabbing Laura’s arm. She flipped it over and held it out for both of them to see. Besides the active lights near Laura’s wrist where her wireless implants had been installed, all it showed was her pale skin.
Laura started to ask what her point was, but Else-May cut her off by running a finger quickly up the underside Laura’s arm from wrist to elbow. The whiteness exploding into bursts of color like flowers in bloom as the implants Laura had installed—some cosmetic and some not—all came to life at once. She tried to jerk her arm away, but Else-May didn’t let it go; her grip was far stronger than Laura would have thought.
“See, for so long I was dedicated—no, obsessed—with the perfect body,” Else-May said, gently running a finger over the lights as if Laura was not even there. “Because this was the body nobody expected would survive past childhood, so I was going to stick with it. No body upgrades; not even these common ones. I had to be perfect.”
Else-May finally let go and Laura snapped her arm back. She gently rubbed her wrist and the lights blinked out one by one, the only light once more coming from the simulated sun overhead. Else-May, meanwhile, ran a hand through the electronic grass swaying beneath her feet.
“Father told me I was right, and that it was a perfect body, and I believed him. But if I’m so perfect, why do I have to get surgery to change that? Why did he spend years preparing me for a surgery as soon as I was an adult to give me a body part I didn’t already have? I think that if I’m perfect already I shouldn’t need any surgery to improve me.”
Laura’s mouth dropped open as what Else-May was saying began to dawn on her. While the girl talked, she was painfully aware of the bar just at the top of her vision waiting to be activated and bring up the electronics inside of her, a symbol of what the girl apparently hated.
“Well, you’re on, ah, hormones aren’t you?” Laura asked softly, gesturing to the girl’s chest.
Else-May wrapped her cardigan tightly around herself. “That’s different,” she protested. “Hormones are natural. If my body decided to start making estrogen one day on its own, this would happen. Peeling the skin back to implant electronics or ripping me up down there is me changing my body, not allowing it to take a different natural process.”
The girl had clearly done her homework, Laura saw. She looked down at her arm and bit her lip, then back to Else-May who stared plaintively at her, as if begging the older woman to agree with her.
Laura bit her lip. “It’s not really the same thing. You can love your body and still want to change it to make it even better.” She held out her arm again, lights strobing on her wrist. “I have all these but I didn’t even get the bottom surgery. Never thought I’d need to. If I can do that, why can’t you get the surgery but not mods?”
“You didn’t get the bottom surgery?” Else-May asked in surprise, evidently taken aback.
“Never saw the need,” Laura said. “I’m as much a woman with or without it, don’t you think? I may get body mods and hormones but I’m not any less perfect for it.”
“But that’s just it,” Else-May shot back. “I feel like I’m perfect already and don’t need anything else. Maybe it makes sense to you because you didn’t think your body is right, but mine is fine.”
“My body is perfectly fine,” Laura said indignantly.
“Oh yeah? Then why’d you cover yourself in lights and come all the way to tell me what to do with mine?”
“That’s not the same thing! Why are you so obsessed with wanting a perfect body anyway? It’s ridiculous!”
It wasn’t until that Else-May wheeled herself away that Laura realized she had been yelling. Somehow, the girl had gotten a rise out of her enough to make her pant like she had just run a race. In her shock, she didn’t even see what Else-May was doing until it was too late.
Else-May had taken Laura’s mod remote she’d left on the desk beside the bed in her hand and thrown it at the glass above the bed. She must have had more strength than Laura thought, because the glass shattered and cold wind immediately rushed in, howling in Laura’s ears and nearly knocking her back on her rear. The simulated grass field died immediately and was replaced with the overbearing whiteness and dreariness outside.
Before Laura could stop her, Else-May stood up from her chair and walked toward the gaping window frame. She was on shaky legs, and stumbled across the floor, but managed to get on the bed and climb out into the snow packed right up against the window without cutting herself.
The cold wind rushing in and snow drifting onto the floor, after a moment, snapped Laura out of her stupor. She rushed forward and climbed out of where the window once was.
Broken glass cut up the bottoms of her feet but, at the moment, she didn’t notice or care. Instead, her eyes were focused on Else-May, who lay just outside the window. She was curled into a ball and, though it could only be faintly heard over the wind, sobbing.
Laura reached her and, not entirely sure what to do, picked Else-May up in her arms and held her close. For a little while, she had forgotten just how frail and weak the fiery girl was; Else-May weighed hardly anything and lifting her was astoundingly easy.
Holding her close, Laura could hear her talking between sobs. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” she said, repeating herself again and again. “I didn’t know what I was doing… I’m just so scared. I wanted to be perfect for so long I don’t know what I want anymore.”
Laura nodded and continued to hold the sobbing girl and gently rubbed her back. “It’s okay, shh, it’s alright. You’re right, you can be perfect any way you want. You’re fine, I promise.”
Whether Else-May took that as reassurance or not, Laura didn’t know. She quieted down and instead clung quietly to Laura while her tears dried. Eventually, though Laura didn’t know how much time had passed, Henrik showed up at the window.
At first, he seemed upset and angry, but seeing the two of them he quickly quieted down. Together, he and Laura took the very cold Else-May back to her wheelchair and out of the room, leaving the mess behind for another time.
An hour later, Laura sat at a sparse table in the Bergens’ kitchen. It was, naturally, furnished with only the finest and high-tech equipment, as the advertisement had helpfully chirped into her headgear when she’d had the refrigerator make her a glass of chocolate milk. She sipped it in a mug with the family’s company logo on the side, waiting for Henrik to return. One of her bandaged feet tapped the ground impatiently and her eyes darted over the sights of the room again and again.
At last, Henrik emerged from the hall opposite the table and stood over Laura. For the first time since arriving there she really noticed how huge and imposing he was, even in a crumpled suit and faded tie wrapped lazily around his neck. In the dark hours of the night, alone in the house with him now, Laura began to have second thoughts about coming on the trip at all.
Henrik’s face remained stern as he stared down at her. Laura had expected him to be angry, but when he spoke it was in a heavy monotone, which somehow felt more threatening. “Else-May is asleep in her room, at last. I wrapped her up and set the auto-doctor to monitor her for cases of hypothermia. Now would you like to explain to me why exactly, the day before the biggest surgery of her life, my daughter in your care somehow ended up outside in the snow without her chair?”
Laura gulped. The cuts on her feet—sealed now with medical adhesive—began to throb. “It’s a bit more complicated than that,” she said.
“Well I’d just love to hear your explanation.”
“You see,” she began, desperately fumbling for words, “it was Else-May who came to me. She talked to me about how she had been having conflicting thoughts over the surgery tomorrow and wanted to talk to me about it.” Henrik didn’t respond, so Laura continued after a moment. “Seeing as she’s my patient I had no choice but to advise her on how I thought best.”
Henrik crossed his arms. “And what exactly do you think, Dr. Reed?”
“That Else-May is unprepared to have the surgery and I would recommend at least a temporary stay if not cancelling the entire surgery altogether.”
Again, Henrik did not respond right away. Instead, he placed one fist on the table and used the other to grip the table’s edge tightly while he leaned towards Laura until their faces were only centimeters apart. “What you mean to tell me is that you managed to get my daughter to give up on a surgery she has wanted her whole life right as I pay to have you brought in all the way from Canada? That I have wasted a fortune on this entire venture because of your opinion?”
Laura stood, her back erect even if he legs were shaking, and stared Henrik straight in the eye. “I may be out of line, Mr. Bergen, but I will not excuse ignorance of your own daughter. She came to me specifically about not wanting the surgery at all, and that you forced the entire idea upon her.”
“Me?” Henrik snapped. “Are you accusing me of not knowing my own daughter as well as a doctor who’s known her for all of a day, and that you are now the expert on what she wants and doesn’t want?” To punctuate his last point, Henrik slammed his fist on the table.
Laura did not back down. She couldn’t. A spring of threats and taunts and violence from her life came welling up and she knew she could not physically stand down now. “You wanted a trans woman for the surgery? Well you got one, and maybe I do know better than you for your daughter. You may not like it, but it’s the truth.”
“Truth? The only truth is that you have no idea what you’re talking about and will proceed with the surgery tomorrow and that will be final!”
“As your daughter’s physician, I call the shots and if she doesn’t want it she isn’t getting it!”
Henrik’s nostrils flared and his eyebrows rose. “This is my house, and in my house you will do as I say or I’ll—”
“Stop it, both of you!” rang a cry from behind the two adults, almost nose to nose in their anger. Henrik and Laura turned as one to see Else-May standing in the dimly-lit kitchen entrance, rubbing one eye with her hand. She wore a battered long shirt and tights, and her hair was everywhere but straight, but most notably she was standing on her feet with no chair in sight.
“Else-May, honey, what are you doing here?” Henrik began, rushing to his daughter’s side to help before she held out a hand to stop him.
“No, I’ve been listening to you both and I’ve heard enough. Neither of you are going to get to decide what’s best for me.”
“But honey,” Henrik said, “I only want what’s best for you, this argument is for your sake…”
Else-May ignored him. She stumbled, clutching the wall as best she could, over to the table where Laura had been sitting and managed to collapse into an empty chair. She sighed heavily and looked to the both of them before rubbing her eyes with both hands.
“I know you two both want what’s best for me,” she said, looking down at the kitchen table as she spoke, “and I’m sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused. But this is a decision I have to make for myself. I can’t let anyone decide but me.”
“And have you decided?” Laura asked, shooting a furtive glance Henrik’s way.
Else-May paused for a moment, then nodded. “Yes, I have. While I was in the snow and after, all I did was think about it long and hard. I want to get the surgery.” She held a hand up before either of them could reply. “But not because of anyone else. I’ve been told all my life that it’ll make me perfect, but that’s not true.”
She tapped her fingers lightly on the table’s hardwood surface. “I’m not perfect. I need to change. I want to change. But even new body parts won’t make me perfect. I don’t know what will, and I’m going to have to figure that out. But I know that the person I eventually want to be, who I see myself as being one day, is a woman who has something different down there and for that I want the surgery.”
Henrik and Laura looked to each other and nodded. Just like that, it was if the wind had been knocked out of both their sails. Henrik slumped against the wall of the kitchen while Laura sat down heavily in her seat at the table.
“Just like that?” she asked.
Else-May nodded. “I’m sorry if it’s not as big a deal as you or my father wanted, but laying in my bed after all that… all I could think about was that it wasn’t the surgery or change I was afraid of. Just who I was going to be.” She gave them both a small, toothy smile. “But now I know, and I decided without anyone being there to tell me what to do.”
Laura couldn’t help but smile at that. Else-May rose from her seat after a little while and walked to her father, who took her hand in his and led her away into the recesses of the mansion, leaving Laura alone to find her own way to bed and prepare for the next day.
By the next evening, Laura was absolutely exhausted. The surgery had gone well with few complications, just as Henrik had declared it, and Else-May proved to be even stronger than either of them had believed. Now, Laura watched over the girl as she rested, covered in bandages almost from head to toe, in a hospital gurney designed especially for her.
The room, at the far west end of the mansion, had been converted into a sterile surgery room. Bleached tile floors colored ugly puke green stretched from one end to the other in a room dominated by a large gender reassignment machine in the middle that was in the process of being automatically cleaned by a robotic assistant Henrik had provided. Laura sat on a stool in front of Else-May’s bed and noticed Henrik outside the door—which had a large viewing window—anxiously pacing in front of it.
Laura waved to get his attention, then indicated he could come in. The surgery had been over for a couple of hours, and so Laura figured it was about time to talk to Henrik again. She had barely seen him since their fight the night before, as most of her day had been the preparation and then execution of the surgery.
Henrik, somehow, looked much smaller in the surgery room as he nervously wiped his hands on his old, faded pants nervously. He hadn’t even worn a suit, but rather a faded sweatshirt with his company’s logo on it. “How did it go?” he asked quickly, practically blurting it out.
“The surgery, I am happy to say, was a complete success,” Laura said, glowing. Sure, most of it had been the machine’s work, but she could afford to take credit for something good for once, she thought. “Your daughter is going to make an easy and full recovery within a week or two. Until then she will just need plenty of bed rest and to take her medication. I’ve filled out a complete summary for you to look over at your leisure.”
“Right, right,” Henrik said absently. He bent over the bed and gently smoothed back the hair on his sleeping daughter’s head. He smiled when he looked at her, more genuinely than she had seen him since they had first met.
“I apologize for my behavior last night,” he said, not taking his eyes off his daughter. “I suppose after so many years speaking with doctor after doctor who told me Else-May would never be better, I suppose I stopped believing them.” He swallowed hard and his eyes blinked rapidly. “I suppose I started to think only I knew what was best for her…more than she did herself. And that was wrong.”
For a moment, Laura thought he might cry, but he managed to regain enough of his composure to avoid it. “After Else-May’s mother left from her condition and her being trans… well, I only wanted even more to know what was best for my daughter. It must have been too much.”
Laura gently laid a hand on his shoulder. “You cared about her with all your heart. Maybe it wasn’t perfect, but it’s more than other people in her life, and I’m sure she’ll be thankful for that.”
Henrik sighed and at last turned away from Else-May, his hand on his cheek as if he were deep in thought. “What has it been like for you, being trans in public for so many years?”
“In public? Why do you ask?”
“Because the time is soon coming to when Else-May won’t be kept cooped up in here all the time,” Henrik said, nodding toward a window on the far wall of the room where, just beyond, the wider world lay.
Laura tapped a finger to her chin and took a moment to answer. “I won’t say it hasn’t been difficult,” she said. “Even in these times not everyone is the most understanding or accommodating of trans people… but I could never imagine going back to who I was before. It was hard at first, yes, but the more I am myself the easier it has become. I have chosen who I want to be and no one can take that from me, and that’s the best feeling in the world.”
Henrik smiled—genuinely smiled—and looked back to Else-May again. “Do you think she will feel that way? Do you think she will love and be loved by the world as herself?”
Outside, wind brushed the newfallen snow into a gentle flurry. It was a clear day, with a bright and shining sun in a sky as blue as a robin’s egg. Laura smiled herself—she couldn’t help it—and nodded. “Only time will tell,” she said, “but I think the world is ready to meet Else-May Bergen.”
This world diverges from our own in the early 20th century, in which rising tensions in the Balkans don't quite explode without the assassination of a certain Austro-Hungarian Crown Prince. While the continent is still straining to go to war, it is forced to wait until 1917, at which time Russia ends up invading Austria-Hungary due to the latter's refusal to back down from demands on Serbia that could have ended with Serbian annexation. Germany leaped into the war, with her generals having even modified their beloved Schlieffen Plan to be able to deal with Russia's much more powerful military that it had prepared by 1917. Even with this, however, the sheer might of Russia's new military, when combined by a booming leadership and the vastly improved leadership under the Emperor Mikhail following Nicholas II's abdicated after the death of his son, was too much for Austria-Hungary and Germany to bear. Italy and the Ottoman Empire refused to join, not wanting to get further drawn into the war, especially as the United Kingdom remained neutral so long as they did as well. Germany even refused to move into Belgium over the British Question, instead defending against France in Alsace-Lorraine for much of the war though a few breakouts were made. Ultimately, the combined power of Russia and France (along with allies Romania and Serbia) was enough to break down Germany and Austria-Hungary by the spring of 1920.
The peace that followed allowed Germany to keep its imperial government, but the Germans lost their empire, a good amount of territory, and their dignity with their military greatly reduced in the peace. However, much to French anger, Russia at the time did not agree to French demands of Eastern Europe, choosing to annex German Poland and handing out territory primarily to its more erstwhile ally Romania than to the pro-French Serbia (the Serbian government having grown cold to Russia over the course of the war). Russia's support for the failed Arab Revolution also struck a chord in Paris due to the French policy of ultimately trying to pick up territory in the Middle East for itself than let the Arabs rise up. These tensions, and the unsettled questions over Austria and Germany, would lead to the two former allies having a breakdown in relations throughout the 1920s. By the 1930s, the Franco-Russian alliance was little more than a piece of paper. Far-right politicians in Germany had seized the government in Italy (anger at the government's refusal to join the war reached fever-pitch in the economic depression that followed), Germany (the President of the Reichstag seized all power from the feckless and weak Kaiser Wilhelm II), France (Franco), Portugal (Estado Novo), and most importantly France. French nationalist and opposition to Anglo-Russian domination of Europe led to a warming of relations between former enemies of Italy and Germany. While the French had little love for Germans, they saw that pan-"European" opposition to the Russian and British colossi would be best for France in the long run. This was only furthered by Russian and Greek intervention into the Second Arab Revolution during the late 30s. This revolution resulted in Russia taking yet more of Armenia as well as Istanbul/Constantinople/Tsargrad, Greece taking several Aegean islands and most of Turkish Thrace, and the formation of a number of new states: the Kingdom of Jordan, Kingdom of Iraq, Saudi Arabia (the House of Saud being the only ones left after the first failed revolution to take power in the peninsula), the Kingdom of Kurdistan, and the Republic of Turkey. French attempts to undermine the revolution and bolster Ottoman forces almost led to continental war, but ultimately the financial weakness of Western Europe and military overextension of Russia delayed conflict.
Conflict did eventually come, however, in the early 1940s. An alliance of Germany, France, Italy, and Hungary attacked Russia in order to try to break the empire's hold on Eastern Europe and so much of the world. Japan, already fighting via proxies as it warred against China, joined the war shortly after. Despite the great odds (Russia's only major allies in Europe being Greece, Romania, and Yugoslavia), Russia prevailed in the ensuing conflict that was to be the largest conflict in human history. It was not easy, but several factors helped. For one, Russia's capitalist market, which had been booming since the early 1910s, had put it well above most European states in output and not far off from nations like Britain and the United States. This was only heightened by the wartime economy which saw Russia become the single largest economy on Earth from 1944 (the second year of the war) until the end in 1946. For another, Russia received help from the United States and United Kingdom once they joined the war in late summer 1942 following Japanese attacks on the Malay States, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. Though the United States and United Kingdom, isolationist to a hilt and not seeing any obvious gain outside the Pacific, didn't join the war in Europe militarily, they were able to use their alliance in the Pacific War to funnel in great amounts of supplies and raw materials to the Russians, only increasing the sheer material advantage that Russia held over the European Axis. Finally, the nationalist governments in Europe, while extreme, lacked the military skill which Nazi Germany enjoyed, partly due to incompetent leaders and partly to many of the best and brightest being replaced by lackeys much earlier in time. The war would end following the Russian taking of Berlin in September 1946 (with the German government fleeing to Frankfurt) with Russia in control of most of Eastern Europe and deep into Italy. The peace that signed allowed the western European states to continue to exist, but with reduced militaries and with the creation of new nations from Russia-controlled territory: Prussia, Veneto, and Sicily.
The postwar world was far different than the one that had entered into the Eurasian War in 1942. Russia emerged as the single-most powerful state on Earth, stretching across it, controlling hundreds of millions, and having the largest economy and military on Earth. Russian money soon began flowing into the Eastern European states occupied by the Russian army and the Eurasian Union was formed in 1949 to reflect this new reality. The states in the Eurasian Union were largely constitutional democratic monarchies like Russia and saw their qualities of life, far below that of Western Europe before the war, vastly improve in the new world. Manchuria was able to join as well after Russia kept it from Chiang Kai-Shek's Republic of China following the end of the Pacific War in early 1947. It was kept due to a fear that the increasingly anti-Russian RoC government would use it to seize the pro-Russian government in Korea and the regained territory of Port Arthur, and so a new ruling family and government came to power in the state and it became an ally of Russia, which it continues to be to this day. That same year, Russia also took a radical step forward in the formation of the Russian Imperial Union. The formation was done following the creation of a new Constitution to solidify the de facto status of the elected Russian government as the true head of the nation following reforms through the 1930s and 1940s under the able (and rather intelligent) hand of Czar Mikhail who recognized the threat of continuing the autocracy. The Emperor would continue to have some power, but the Duma would be the ultimate ruler of the union, which was made to better unite the empire as a single nation.
The decision, of course, could not be made in a vacuum. The world response to the formation of the Eurasian Union would radically alter the rest of the 20th century for the entire world. While the Pan-American Accord had technically been created the year before, the original economically-focused agreement was expanded into a political and, later, military agreement during the 1950s and 1960s. This was to reflect the growth of American power following the Pacific War and status as the second most powerful nation in the world following Russia. Emerging from its neutral cocoon to fight Japan, the United States had ended the war with an atom bomb dropped on the Japanese fleet during the closing stages of the war (though not as bad as the Nazis per say, the German ultranationlists managed to get many of its scientists to flee, as well as Italy getting Fermi to flee to the United States and thus still result in the US coming first in the race for the Bomb). The United States would also be largely responsible for Japan's postwar recovery as well as the independence of the Philippines and helped guide the states drawn from French Indochina into independence. Though not willing to move towards full involvement in the world, the United States ever since has sought to preserve its own power in the Americas through the Accord. Wealth and power in the Accord has helped the Latin American nations in them greatly improve, and with the lack of communism as a specter has not prohibited the formation of any non-conservative nations in Latin America (in fact, the United States would back any who was willing to work with them). Today, the United States continues to move forward in its status as second place to Russia, and hopes to unseat it one day with its growing population, sizable industry, and political stability that has let it and the Accord be a calm in the storm of world affairs.
The British were the second to realize the need for more integration. With the Raj gone, Britain was in a vulnerable position and facing both far right and far left political movements at home. In response, the British Commonwealth was formed that had the goal of better helping the Empire work as a single unit rather than be solely dictated from London with a few self-governing parts. Though it shrunk over the years, the British Commonwealth has remained a major player in world politics. In fact, the decline has helped the Commonwealth become more and more a single whole as it became more manageable. Economic, political, and military power have allowed the British Commonwealth to stand up to larger alliances while keeping its goal of improving the lives of those living within. London, and the UK itself, remains the top power of the Commonwealth but Australia and Canada are growing in influence as countries while Hong Kong threatens to usurp London as the largest city in the Commonwealth and is an economic powerhouse in and of itself. Though the growing tides of change could vastly affect the Commonwealth as it still stands.
Next came the European Community. Though defeated, the war had brought much greater integration of Western European countries in their common goal. Many of them had not been horribly hurt by the war in economic terms, with industrial areas in Germany, France, and even Italy largely untouched. Though Spain and Portugal had not joined the war, after the war they were more willing to join in with their Western European friends and together they created a bloc able to extend from Lisbon to the very edges of Russian territory. They were also joined by the Low Countries and Denmark, and together have opposed the Eurasian Union for the last 36 years. Their power has, however, slid over time as their colonial territories were lost to rebellion, revolution, or simply release when they knew they could not hold them any longer. The last vestiges of these empires are in their African allies, who are primarily white minority rule nations who rule through terror and economic, political, and military domination of the countries. This has greatly alienated the rest of the world, though not enough for it to yet shake up the EC. Many of the countries within the EC are undemocratic or semi-democratic, dominated by far right and nationalist governments who typically ban parties on the left and have rulers for decades. Think of our own world's Francoist regime and Estado Novo. Human rights lag in these states alongside their economies as their regressive policies have kept them from advancing as quickly as the rest of world, particularly the Eurasian Union and Anlgo-American blocs.
The next bloc to be formed was the most radical at the time as it was the first to be made of formerly colonized nations: the South Asian Commonwealth. India formed its nexus in the form of a powerful, united state that was growing in power and prestige that the rest of the world could only look at in awe and worry. The situation in India owed its birth to the political situation during the Pacific War. During the war, Indian/Hindu nationalists had joined a Japanese puppet government in the eastern Raj with the goal of taking India from the British at all costs. The remaining native government officials, most of the Indian National Congress, were no friends of the British but refused to be a puppet to yet another colonial power that had so brutally been killing the Chinese, Indochinese, and Burmese at every opportunity. The pan-Indian faction of the INC was on the winning side of the war and, thus, got to call the shots at independence in 1948. The India they formed was more integrated and united than our own world's and was able to use that to its advantage, creating a powerful unitary state. While facing many difficulties and challenges, a desire to grow and move forward has helped India dominate its own alliance of like-minded South Asian states who wished to throw off the European-dominated paradigm and allow for the creation of a more diverse world order. India, even with its challenges with religion, culture differences, and inequality of the spread of economic prosperity, far and away dominates the alliance in every aspect from economics to population to resources to outer space to cyberspace. The humming server complexes in Mumbai and the click-clacking in the financial offices of Chennai ensure that India's domination in South Asia, and thus the dominance of the SAC, are to continue unabated at least into the 21st century, even if Indonesia is itself increasingly a contender.
The final actual bloc to form was that of the African Union, created by West African powers led by Ghana in the early 1960s. Formed as the African Economic Community soon after the beginning of the end for colonialism in Africa, it has been a major force in ending European domination of the continent since 1963 and has only continued. In particular, the African Union and its many members were instrumental in getting Algeria's independence earlier (though it's meant Algeria even today has a sizable white population with a very...complicated relationship), the end of the Civil War in Angola, a stop to ethnic violence in Burundi and Rwanda, and perhaps most notably a major part in the overthrowing of the governments in Northern and Southern Rhodesia and formation of the unified Zambia afterwards. While all this came at a great cost (including alienating two native big players, Ethiopia and Egypt), it has solidified the African Union as one of the dominant forces on the continent. Things have only continued to move forward as the African Union, renamed as such in 1981, has taken a new step towards pan-African integration. The African's Union new goal is to create a single market for African nations with its own currency, ease of travel, greater cultural mixing and contact (particularly over arbitrary European-established borders), and a unified political and military policy. Though most of the AU's population and nations are still in the partial members stage for the full integration, the nearly 200 million Africans in the full member countries have entered a new era. This is an era in which Africans can increasingly create their own destinies and carve out a niche for themselves both in Africa and the rest of the world removed from the trap of colonialism that once held sway over them for so many years. The road ahead is long and full of many hardships, but determination and force have gotten the AU further than any in it or out of it ever imagined and so the hope is that they can only keep moving forward.
The other power that came out of the postwar paradigm was not a bloc at all, but rather a single powerful nation: China. Led and ruled by Chiang Kai Shek's nationalists, the Republic of China is a massive country in every way: territory, resources, population, military, and weight on the rest of the world. Though aloof from any major alliance system, it is nevertheless felt on the world stage as a giant and contender to be one of the next century's heavyweights. The republic itself has gone through many changes, both political and economic, since the Pacific War. The Chinese government has finally let up on its brutal hold on elections, though they are still rather limited. Personal freedoms are improving and choice of jobs is an actual thing now rather than being used for the state's needs (think our own world's South Korea). Economically, like India, China has improved itself from the tatters it was following the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War. State capitalism as well as the beginnings of a fully free market have let China's economy expand and let itself be felt across the ocean in America and north in Russia. The Pearl River and Yellow River are particularly booming areas that have attracted tens of millions of Chinese looking for a better life. Conditions are hard at the moment, but are improving overall and look like they willr esult in a far better China than what went into the 20th century. What that will tell for the rest of the world is still, as of yet, unknown.
Overall, the world in 1991 is a very different one from 1917. Those years have created a multipolar world in which Russia stands atop of. With the help of the top minds of Russia, Eastern Europe, and even Germany (conspiracy theorists claim that Russia prolonged the war to capture more German scientists), Russia launched the first rocket into space, launched the first satellite, and put a man on the Moon before anyone else. Russians, working with Brits and Americans, helped developed the first postwar computers and the Russian consumer market would be one of the first and largest in the world for consumer-grader computers and other technology products. Moscow grew and prospered in the postwar years as a haven for many peasants who had left their farms for the war and now wanted a life of happiness and prosperity. Brand new buildings were erected almost weekly to serve them and while Russia would never quite have the suburban boom our own world's USA did, housing, food, furniture, appliances, and jobs in surplus were all had by them. Russian-made cars zoomed by on Russian-made roads while Russian bands played on the radio. A more free cultural mixing with the Anglo-American world, partnered with since the Pacific War and without the Cold War to get in the way, allowed for technologies, ideas, and habits to trickle into Russia and back out to the Anglo-American world throughout the period. Not everything has, of course, been peachy. There have been crises, bush wars, ideological issues, and recessions. But in general the Russia that has moved into 1991 is one that enjoys a standard of living and way of life many Americans in our world can understand and Russians of this world have come to greatly enjoy. The newest movement is definitely into cyberspace as an internet-like technology which sprung up in the late 80s in America has taken Russia by storm. With personal computer sales at an all-time high and many companies turning them out to one day be in every office, school, and home, Russia is set to be a world leader in the new world of online computing. And that is not, of course, even getting into literature, art, cinema, television, and the new video game market.
And even more, the world is about see a great amount of change in 1991. The biggest issue facing the world has been the European Community and its undemocratic nature that has plagued Europe and Africa for decades. While the other blocs at least somewhat get along, or at the very least aren't outright hostile to one another, the EC has kept Russia locked in a cold war since both sides got their hands on atomic weapons in the late 40s and early 50s. Yet, that is changing. Another bogus election in Germany, this one just a little too obviously manipulated, is going to push the people too far. Facing weak economies, fewer job prospects, and the rest of the world leaving them behind, the Germans will take to the streets in protest. Police will come to crack down, and this will lead to a wave of revolution sweeping Germany and, eventually, much of western Europe against the far right governments that have been in place for over half a century. Within a year, many of these governments will come down to brute force, abandoning their posts, or simply dissolving with too many switching sides. The European Community, the greatest threat to world peace since the Eurasian War, will crumble to pieces by 1992. What will come after, though, no one will know right away. What the world will hold in which Russia, the United States, India, and China are all moving as the biggest powers for the 21st century is unknown to everyone, but promises to bring with it an unseen era in world history. It will be a world of technology, of cyber space, of changing social norms and ideas, and of the people who will strive to build it into the best that they can.
More detail on the map's pixel art depicting a cold autumn night in this world's Moscow, in 1991:
In 1979, the world changed forever. On October 23, 1979, a malfunction in the Soviet Union's early warning systems resulted in a limited nuclear exchange between the United States and her NATO allies and the USSR and her allies in the Warsaw Pact. While "limited" in nature and not species-destroying, the widespread destruction and chaos that followed changed the world forever. Many major cities across the globe, including New York, Moscow, London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Istanbul, and Beijing were hit by nuclear weapons. The nature of the mistaken war, later dubbed the "Hot War" despite it not being an official war, allowed for a much more limited exchange as the remaining Soviet and American governments scrambled to stop the violence. This likely saved the Earth, though radically changed all the countries within.
What followed the Hot War was little better than the war itself. A nuclear winter, combined with crop devastation from the nuclear-plastered American Midwest and Soviet farmlands (where many missile silos had been hit), left many in the world to starve or barely subsist on what food remained. During this period many governments existed only in theory or as little more than warlords with Constitutions. Even the American government largely consisted of whatever federal officials were left, party be damned. During this period many old grudges were taken out and borders shifted mightily. The Middle East saw a resumption of the Israeli-Arab Wars (which Arab states, starved of resources, eventually lost) as well as limited Iran-Iraq War that resulted in the Revolutionary Iranian government capturing the majority Shia areas of Iraq and Saudi Arabia. India pressed Pakistan until it gave up Kashmir, South African apartheid fell apart into a bloody civil war, and even the United States did not survive the transition whole. California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington State joined together into a self-proclaimed "Pacific States of America" due to their feeling of isolation and being taken for granted by the rest of the United States. Under unlikely favorite President Ronald Reagan, the Pacific States of America successfully seceded and have existed ever since as its own state within the United Nations.
The United States and Soviet Union themselves were not long for the world, either. The two states managed to come together in 1982 in Hong Kong (a state very much in transition from British ownership to God-only-knows-what) to sign an accord officially ending the "war". The Hong Kong Accord would later be expanded to form a new world government to succeed where the UN had failed. Called the United Earth Government, it would be a governing body based out of an independent Hong Kong (after annexing Macau) that would seek to better govern and control world interests ahead of those of any single country. To encourage this, exclusive councils were done away with in favor of those made up of rotating countries. The UEG would also have unilateral control of human space activity, and every member country would be required to donate certain numbers of military assets so that the UEG would always be a force to be reckoned with. While seen as more extreme than the more-or-less defunct United Nations, the gamble succeeded following the official beginning of the UEG in 1991, and it continues to the current day of 2119. Though its only territory on Earth is Greater Hong Kong, the UEG has control over many space elevators, orbital stations, interplanetary outposts, and space colonies both in habitats and on other planetary bodies. Its navy in outer space is certainly something to be reckoned with.
In the fallout of nations, two new post-Westphalian meganations came into being: the United Nations and the World Soviet. The United Nations really only shares the name of its predecessor when it was formed in 1993-6 in response to the formation of the World Soviet. Instead it is a union of many states across the world who value social democracy, capitalism, and cultural independence. The nations that make it up are many, and are part of the UN for different reasons. NATO more or less became the outright militant wing of the UN, gaining new members in the aftermath of the Hot War in Eastern Europe. Nations in Southeast Asia joined to escape the Communists who had consumed Indochina, while those in Africa joined as the Sahara continued to advance and they felt themselves limited in options between destruction and UN membership. There is no true single leader of the United Nations, though the North American Republic (a union of Canada and what remained of the United States formed in 2001 with a new Constitution) tends to lead the charge, and the state is headquartered in Geneva. Life in the UN is one of being environmentally and culturally conscious while living most of one's life likely officially unemployed but surviving due to a universal income provided by the UN government. Most citizens live in various megacities while land around them has been reclaimed and spend their time working human industries such as art, literature, the erotic arts, and politics. AI is practically a natural part of the UN and a common sight everywhere, from the military to the supermarket to the bedroom. Those seeking excitement tend to join the military or journey the offworld colonies, a chance to begin again in a glorious land of opportunity and adventure.
The other primary nation in the world is the World Soviet, a union that began in 1989 and was finalized in 1991 between China, the USSR, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos joined together as a single nation to recover from the Hot War and become a more united group of Communists. In reality, it was a power grab by China who cared little for grabbing the Warsaw Pact (though China-friendly Albania was able to join) and wanted instead to be a major driver in the force of Communism in the next century. China certainly succeeded and continues to be the dominant force of the World Soviet in 2119, especially as the New Ice Age continues to claim land in the former USSR. Headed from the sprawling capital of Astana, the World Soviet is a largely compact state besides its few other members in Albania, Ethiopia, and Mozambique, and has gone long ways towards creating a single World Communist culture and ideology by mixing various identities and philosophies of communism into one, creatively dubbed World Communism. World Communism is highly statist, proletariat-driven, economically-concentrated, and human-centered in philosophy and life in the World Soviet reflects that. Life is as communal as possible with families as we understand them barely recognizable in favor of communal living within the massive megacities that dot the landscape. Brand new cities founded as the New Ice Age advanced greatly reflect this in their utilitarian design that resembles from afar massive industrial factories. They are far from lifeless, however, and instead are abundant with the workers who drive them through raw human strength and power; the World Soviet is very suspicious of AI and generally uses only "dumb" machines with as much human influence as possible. This results in far more hard work for Soviet citizens, who look down on the lazy and decadent Westerners in the UN who spend all day in luxury. Not to say the World Soviet doesn't have culture--far from it, Soviet culture is at its peak now that it is shown more and more within the UN and independent nations and consumed all over the world and offworld--but that the average Soviet citizen is more concerned with family and friends and work life than UN citizens are with their endless artistic pursuits.
The other major faction of the world, though not so nearly united, is the League of Independent Nations. Formed originally by India, Indonesia, and Iran, the organization has grown in order to become a third path for many nations all over the world. Eschewing a single ideology, the nations of the LIN tend to be very diverse in population and political opinions and only seek companionship in order to remain separate from either the United Nations or World Soviet. While life highly varies within the nations, it tends to be one of personal independence, mixed with machines, and highly-focused on environmental concerns. India is certainly the leader in that aspect, as it has single-handedly grown itself into a superpower that has set its unique philosophies and ideas to a higher place on the world stage. Their current goal is to continue joining the disparate nations of the world together, particularly the independent nations of Africa, and eventually be able to directly challenge either meganation up front rather than having to rely on playing both off each other. This will be helped by the rising power of Indonesia and by Iran and Brazil having money poured into them by India to rise as world powers on their own. If one wants more adventure in regular life, country living, and diverse religions and philosophies one does not need to look further than the LIN.
The world itself is, as always, highly mixed. While living standards tend to be rather high compared to our own, it did not come without a cost. In 2119 the world population is just around where it was in OTL's 2000. A New Ice Age began after a period of global cooling brought on by the Nuclear Winter of 1979-1984, and has consumed much of the world's north. This has lowered global temperatures and exasperated climate problems around the world. While there have been benefits in some areas, particularly arid areas in the Americas, Middle East, and Central Asia, it has had catastrophic results elsewhere. Even Europe has been forced to adapt heavily to the conditions and much of Russia was consumed by ice and snow. Some continue to live in these wastes, but most fled south. While world poverty is not really what we know in our world, world riches are not very well known either; most of the world lives somewhere in the middle. However, not all is bad. World peace has been maintained for the most part besides a few independence movements/war and regional conflicts like the Congo War (1999-2004), largely due to the influence of the United Earth Government. Humanity has moved far into space as well, colonizing virtually every planet and planetoid possible in the Solar System. In addition, many humans live on orbital habitats or habitats in the asteroid belt made from hollowed-out asteroids. It is hoped one day humans will live more offworld than on, and the first attempts at colonization of Proxima Centauri are underway. Overall it is a mixed world of choked megacities teeming with life and serene, rebuilt countryside ready to be renewed. It is a time of moving forward and upward, and of creating a new existence for humanity far removed from what once was.