Seat Twenty-Seven

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Seat Twenty-Seven is a fictional short story originally published in 2006 in New Worlds magazine, a journal of speculative fiction and future-oriented short stories. Set in the near future of an alternate historical timeline where the Federated Kingdoms have been disbanded, England has become part of France, Dunein has become part of Cornouaille, Kemr and Scotland reduced considerably in world status, Seat Twenty-Seven chronicals the adventure of ....

The big questions the IB gang is invited to answer follow the story's opening scene!

The journey though the Tunnel was long and dark, and so deep that one's ears popped with the changing pressure. It had to be admitted, if grudgingly, that the Tunnel was a wonder of modern engineering. You know the old saw: if you need to solve an engineering problem, ask a German, and the Germans had truly outdone themselves on this project.

The young man sitting in seat 27 gripped an attaché case on his lap, as if it could offer some solace from the crushing claustrophobia of the deep tunnel. Smartly dressed, he could easily pass for a young go-getter of the business world, hopping trains and airships between the great cities of the Empire and the western Commonwealth. The newspaper in the seat next to his proclaimed in bold letters: "Hansa Officials Forgo Talks with Low Countries Trade Unions".

Ah! The slight tugging on one's insides could only mean that the train had rounded a gentle curve and had begun its ascent out of the depths. In just a moment, all the passengers were busy popping their ears as the train rose from the depths.

Ding! The train's intercom sounded. "Bienvenue à ... Normandie sur Manche! — Welcome to Upper Normandy. Si vous avez un passeport Français ou un de l'Empire..."

Rubbish! Of course, no one under sixty even remembers hearing the name "England" in any official capacity, but somehow it seemed fundamentally wrong to hear "Normandie sur Manche" instead. Who would have guessed the Kaiser's stormtroopers could best the Allies' gallant forces? Ah, but France was the lynchpin, and who would have guessed their reward for capitulating would be her ancient nemesis England itself?

The train blasted from the Manche Tunnel and people whose ears had just begun to equalise now had to blink back the tears after being blasted with bright sunlight after the darkness of the tunnel's interior. It picked up speed as it whisked by all the local commuter halts. They were mostly empty now, at midday, and few people noted the passing of the TGV express. Soon the familiar skyline of metropolitan Londres came into view: the Palais d'Etat, the grand monuments of the Parc des Heroes, commemorating all the French soldiers that fought in the Battle of Britain. Long gone were the picturesque Big Ben and the old Parliament; Imperial bomber fleets had free reign over most of the island, once the Royal Air Corps of the Federated Kingdoms had been crippled.

Another man sat in the coach, in seat 63. He watched the young man gripping his attaché case, and now noted how the midday sun reflected off his short trimmed gold coloured hair. There was only one question on his mind regarding the young man in seat 27. ...


What's this all about then? -- If anyone's interested in a game, let's see some IB fiction writing! Here's the start to a fiction short story, as might appear for example in one of the popular fiction journals. It's alternate history from within IB: same airships and quirky sports, just a little different history.

Background: an alt-IB where the HRE won GWII. France capitulated early and allied with Germany, hamstringing the Allies. England is brutalised and seized by the Empire. FK disbanded. France's reward is aggrandised territory, in the form of Normandie sur Manche...

Questions: Where to now? Who is this man travelling on a high speed TGV between Paris and an alt-hist Londres? A spy? On some kind of business deal? Is he "English", Norman, German? I don't know, but I think at least the narrator is English! Who is the other guy and why is he interested in the first man?

Rules: Don't do anything cataclysmic to end the story - this is meant to be a collaborative effort after all! If possible, leave more questions than you answer.

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