Jun. 6th, 2011

1914: A year of technical and engineering marvels for the world's consumption. Mass-produced automobiles roll off the assembly lines. Household products made of stainless steel appear in stores and catalogs. And in the Isthmus of Panama, George Washington Goethals completes the greatest construction project ever attempted: the digging of the Panama Canal. Linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, this canal more than halves the travel time between New York City and San Francisco, forever changing the nature of maritime shipping in the Americas.

I have been with Goethals ever since he took over this project in 1907. I have been his faithful foreman and chief surveyor during this time, helping the great engineer with the burdens of challenges technical, political and managerial. I have been his accountant, nursemaid, follower and friend. I know this man, as well as one man can know another. And when the project ends, and the time comes to lay down the shovels, I know something is afoot. There is a gleam in Goethals' eye; an undercurrent of tension. There are odd silences, and times when I find him staring out the window, deep in thought. There is something brewing in that great mind. I know this, perhaps, before he does.

He travels to Washington, D.C. Old President Roosevelt had been the maverick who approved the canal project in the first place; Taft who followed him was more timid, but too cowardly to keep the project from progressing. How will this new fellow be, this Wilson? Goethals feels him out. He presents an idea to him, an ambitious idea – an idea that dwarfs the Panama adventure in scale and cost. How will Wilson react? Wilson takes his time, broods on it for months. But in the end he summons Goethals and tells him: we'll do it! Another project to link the Americas is just fine in Wilson's book. Goethals and I toast our success. But we must immediately return to Panama to begin work.

This new canal will make the Panama project look like a child's diggings at the beach. We must immediately begin to mobilize men, equipment, material – everything needed to build our Canal of the Americas. It shall run from the Straits of Magellan on South America's Cape Horn, some ten thousand miles north and terminating in the Sea of Beaufort at the Alaskan Territories. This new canal shall link the Arctic Sea to the Antarctic waters, opening up a new avenue for efficient travel from pole to pole, should a need for such a thing arise.
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The Old Man loves his wine. It is the only luxury the Kreeti invaders allow him. He remains under house arrest in his cliffside home in San Francisco, unable to attend the meetings of the Human Provisional Assembly, or to speak with his friends, or even to take a walk down to the surf. They keep him under very close watch, our Kreeti lords do, and they are very careful to ensure that no information gets in to the Old Man, and that no instructions go out. But they allow him his wine.

The Old Man was a tremendous headache to the Kreeti when they first arrived four years ago. He alone was able to form a network of guerilla fighters and organize effective counterattacks from the cover of the hills. When the Surrender finally came, the smart money had it that the Old Man would be executed. But the Kreeti thought they might be able to turn his talents to their advantage. They made him the president of the Provisional Assembly, expecting him to keep the reins on a newly pacified California. When the Resistance sprang up, highly organized and suspiciously well informed, the Kreeti smelled the Old Man's hand in it. But they could prove nothing, and they had invested too much political capital in the Old Man to simply eliminate him. So they sequestered him, and he remains isolated in his comfortable home, utterly cut off from humanity, alone with nothing but his thoughts and his wine.

But the wine has been the Kreeti's undoing. Every day they bring the Old Man his wine down from his favorite vineyard in Napa Valley. It is my vineyard, and although the Kreeti do not know it, I was the Old Man's henchman before the Surrender. Today I gather information from our various sources around California, relay it to the Old Man, and receive instructions back for our various projects and deployments.

And it's all done through the wine.
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