Usually Crosstime Traffic concerns itself with trade. Our world owns the secret of travel between parallel continuums, and we mean to use it to trade for much-needed resources with the worlds next door. Preferably without letting them know about any of that parallel-worlds stuff.
But there's one parallel world that's different. In it, the atomic war broke out in 1967, at the height of the Summer of Love. Now, Crosstime Traffic has been given a different sort of mission: find out what on earth, or on the many earths, went wrong, in The Valley-Westside War, the sixth book in Harry Turtledove's parallel adventure series.
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Harry Turtledove is an American fantasy and science fiction writer, born in Los Angeles, CA on 14 June 1949. A Caltech dropout, he eventually attended UCLA and received a Ph.D. in Byzantine history in 1977. In the 1980s, Turtledove worked as a technical writer for the Los Angeles County Office of Education. In 1991, he left the LACOE and turned to writing full time. From 1986-1987, he served as the Treasurer for the Science Fiction Writers of America. He has written under several pseudonyms, including Eric G. Iverson, Mark Gordian, and H. N. Turtletaub. Turtledove has received numerous awards and distinctions, including the HOMer Award for Short Story in 1990 for "Designated Hitter," the John Esthen Cook Award for Southern Fiction in 1993 for Guns of the South, and the Hugo Award for Novella in 1994 for Down in the Bottomlands. "Must and Shall" was nominated for the 1996 Hugo Award for Best Novelette and received an honorable mention for the 1995 Sidewise Award for Alternate History. The Two Georges also received an honorable mention for the 1995 Sidewise Award for Alternate History. The Worldwar series received a Sidewise Award for Alternate History Honorable Mention in 1996. Publishers Weekly called him the "Master of Alternate History." He is married to mystery writer Laura Frankos and they have three daughters: Alison, Rachel, and Rebecca.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Valley-Westside War, The
OneAs Dan neared the top of the Sepulveda Pass, he saw the barricade the Westside had built across the 405. His deerskin boots scuffed on the old, cracked, sun-faded asphalt. Weeds, even bushes, sprouted from the cracks, but the freeway was still the best route south from the Valley. Or it had been, till the Westsiders blocked it.They saw the Valley war party coming. Horns blared an alert. Men ran back and forth behind the barrier. Some of them would have crossbows or longbows. At seventeen, Dan himself was only an archer. Others would carry modern smoothbore muskets. And a few would use Old Time rifles. Those were far better than anything people could make nowadays, 130 years after the Fire came down. But the ammunition was two lifetimes old, too. Sometimes it worked the way it was supposed to. Sometimes it didn't do anything. And sometimes it blew up. You needed to be several different kinds of brave to carry an Old Time gun.Captain Kevin raised the truce flag. He hadn't brought along enough men to rush the barricade. He couldn't have come without a good escort, though, not unless he wanted to lose face. The game had rules.Big Louie strode out in front of the flag. He had an even bigger voice. "Parley!" he bellowed. "We want to talk!" He stepped back, looking proud of himself.A Westside herald shouted back: "Come ahead, with no more than ten!" His voice sounded thin after Big Louie's. The Valley man looked prouder than ever.Captain Kevin chose two riflemen, four musketeers, and four archers. You had to have some of each. That was what democracy was all about. He pointed to Dan as the last archer. Having a youngster among the veterans helped show he wasn't scared.The barricade looked stronger than first reports suggested. The Westsiders must have worked hard to make it taller and thicker. Dust kicked up from Dan's boots. It was summer, and hot and dry. Sweat ran down under his broad-brimmed hat. Turkey vultures circled overhead.Once upon a time, men had flown, too. They could still get gliders into the air, but it wasn't the same. They'd really flown in the Old Time--flown at peace, flown to war. The songs and the old books all said so. And everybody knew the Fire came down from the sky."Close enough!" a Westside officer yelled."That you, Morris?" Captain Kevin called."Colonel Morris, if you please!" Like most of his kind, the Westsider sounded snooty. Dan thought of things that way, anyhow. Westsiders said Valley people were a bunch of hicks. To Dan, that only proved how dumb Westsiders were."Well, Colonel Morris, your Wonderfulness, you can tear down this wall," Captain Kevin said. "King Zev and the Council say that's how it's got to be. We have a treaty to keep thepass open, and you people are breaking it. We won't put up with that. We know our rights, we do."Better believe it, Dan thought. The barricade would cut the Valley off from trade, and from scrounging farther south. If you didn't scrounge, how were you supposed to keep going? So much the Old Time made was better than its modern equivalents: everything from coins to mirrors to guns. People had scrounged a lot and time had ruined a lot, but not everything. There weren't that many people any more, and there'd been even fewer right after the Fire came down."Times, they are a-changing," Colonel Morris said. "We've got some things of our own going on. If you want to come south, you'll have to pay to pass.""That's simple. We won't do it. And if you think you're coming north, you're crazy," Captain Kevin declared."Who wants to come north?" the Westsider said scornfully."Good luck with your oranges. Good luck with your greens. Good luck with your grain," Captain Kevin told him."You need us worse than we need you," Colonel Morris replied. Westsiders always said that. Maybe it was even true back before the Fire fell. Not many Valley people thought it was any more. The way things were going, it looked as if both sides would find out what was really what before too long. They'd find out the hard way, too.Captain Kevin scowled. "You won't get away with this. I can tell you that right now. We know what our rights are. If we have to, we'll go to war to make sure the pass stays open. And if we go to war, we'll win it.""That's telling him," Dan muttered. The musketeer next to him nodded."You can try." Colonel Morris didn't sound worried. Did that mean he really wasn't, or did it just mean he was a good liar? Most Westsiders were--Valley people thought so, anyhow."That's your last word?" Captain Kevin, by contrast, sounded sad and mad at the same time."That's my first, last, and only word," the Westside commander said."Well, I'm sorry for you, but you'll be sorrier." Captain Kevin nodded to his soldiers. "Come on, boys. If they're going to be dumb, we'll teach 'em a lesson." The soldiers turned around and marched back toward the rest of the Valley company. Behind them, the Westsiders jeered and swore. Dan got an itchy spot right in the middle of his back. If they started shooting, his leather jerkin wouldn't keep out an arrow, much less a bullet.But they didn't. He breathed a sight of relief when he got out of arrow and musket range. Oh, a rifleman could still hit him, but riflemen would go after important targets first. A kid with a bow was no big deal."What's the word, sir?" a waiting Valley sergeant asked."War!" Captain Kevin answered.
Liz Mendoza hated this Los Angeles. Being here, working here, was like being best friends with one identical twin and then suddenly having to visit the other one in the intensive-care unit. In the home timeline, where she lived, Los Angeles was one of the great cities of the world. Even a hundred years ago, back in the twentieth century, people said the future happened here first. And they were right.This Los Angeles had been much like that one up till 1967. Then, in this alternate, somebody got stupid. People in what was left of the USA said the Russians fired the first missile. People in what was left of the USSR said the Americans started the war. It hardly mattered any more. Both sides had fired way too many.Quite a few alternates went through nuclear wars in the second half of the twentieth century or the first half of the twenty-first. Crosstime Traffic stayed away from most of them. The company that controlled trade between the home timeline and the worlds that happened when history changed didn't see much profit in dealing with them. Why would you want to do business with somebody who'd set his own house and car on fire and then jumped into the flames?Here, though, UCLA was paying the freight. Indirectly, the government was. The university had got a grant to try to find out just what went wrong in this alternate. Liz's father was one of the historians who'd come here to do research. Her mother was a doctor who specialized in genetic diseases and the effects of radiation. And Liz was ...Protective coloration, she thought. Her parents seemed more normal if they had a kid along. And so here she was. She had studied a lot more about the 1960s than she would have otherwise. It was, in the ancient slang of the day, a mindblowing experience. Except that slang wasn't ancient here. People still used it. They used whatever they could from the days before the war, because they mostly couldn't match that stuff, whether material goods or language, any more. Sad, but that was how things were in this alternate.She'd start UCLA herself a year later than she would haveotherwise. But she'd start with a year of crosstime experience under her belt. That was good. Or it would have been good if she'd gone to an alternate more different than this one was.The house where she and her folks stayed was in Westwood Village, a couple of blocks south of the UCLA campus. It was made from the rubble of the stores and apartments that had stood there when the bombs fell. The house was built around a central courtyard. The style came from Rome through Spain to the New World. It gave both light and shade, and worked well in the California climate.The windows that looked out on the world were small and barred. Liz could see the UCLA campus through the northfacing ones. She could, yes, but she didn't look that way very often. It hurt too much. Most of the big hospital buildings at the south end of campus never got built in this alternate. The war took care of that, as it took care of so many other things. The buildings that did survive were in sad disrepair. Some of the earlier ones, built before there were any earthquake codes, had crumbled in one shaker or another.Somebody banged on the big brass knocker bolted to the front door. "You want to get that, Liz?" her father called.Well, no, not really, was the first thing that crossed her mind. But that was the wrong answer, and she knew it. "Okay," she said out loud, and went to the door.Before she opened it, she looked through the little window set above the knocker. The Westsiders patrolled Westwood Village pretty well, but robber bands still skulked in other ruins and came out to raid every now and then. There were freelance thieves, too.She relaxed when she recognized the man standing inthe street. Unbarring the door, she said, "Come in, Colonel Morris.""Thank you, Missy," the Westsider said. In the home timeline, that would have made Liz want to spit in his eye. Here, he was just being polite. His English sounded old-fashioned to her. The language here hadn't changed as much since 1967 as it had in the home timeline."Dad!" she yelled. "It's Colonel Morris!""Be right there," her father said."Hello, Jeff. How are you doing?" Colonel Morris said when Liz's father came to the door."Not too bad. Yourself?" Jeff Mendoza held out his hand to the important Westsider. When Colonel Morris took it, his clasp also locked thumbs with Liz's father. Handshakes like that were an ancient joke in the home timeline. They hung on here.Both men wore baggy wool trousers tucked into boots and equally baggy linen shirts. Colonel Morris used a wide leather belt with a fat, fancy brass buckle. He wore an Old Time windup wristwatch on a broad leather band. Westsiders couldn't make anything that fine, but they could keep some that were already made running.Dad's belt looked like the colonel's. Some styles here still reflected the ones in fashion when the Fire fell. So did some of the language. Some things had changed, though. Liz's wool skirt reached to the ground. Minis were scandalous. Her shirt was like the men's. It even buttoned the same way, which drove her crazy."Liz, why don't you get us some improved water?" her father said."Okay," she said once more. Men ordered women aroundhere a lot more than they did in the home timeline. Women mostly put up with it. The ones who didn't got thumped, and nobody said a thing except that they had it coming. The people who went on and on about how enlightened the Westside was were all men.Liz poured water from a big earthenware jug into two earthenware mugs. With the aqueducts gone, water was always the biggest worry in this Los Angeles. She added one part strong brandy to about five of water. The brandy was what improved it, not because the booze got you drunk--brandy did that much faster by itself--but because it killed enough germs to keep you from getting the runs.She politely served the guest first: "Here you are, Colonel.""Groovy, sweetheart," he said, and she didn't crack a smile. If somebody in 1967 had heard someone else say Bully, by jingo!, it would have sounded just as old-fashioned in his ears."Thank you," her father said when she gave him his water. You didn't have to talk like a hippie here. You didn't have to, no--but you could. Dad turned back to Colonel Morris. "What can I do for you, sir?""You'll have heard it's probably war with the Valley?""I've heard it. I hoped it wasn't true," Dad answered."Well, it is," Colonel Morris said. "We're going to collect a toll at the top of the pass, and they don't like it. I hope we'll be able to buy some more of those fine muskets and revolvers you sell. They're the next best thing to Old Time guns.""I'll see what I can do," Liz's father said. As far as anyone here knew, the guns he sold came up from a cousin's shop in Sandago. They really came from the home timeline. People thereused them as trade goods in several low-tech alternates. Dad went on, "Do you really need the toll enough to fight to keep it?""The City Council says we do." The City Council was the band of nine nobles who ran things in the Westside. The title made it sound as if they were elected, but they weren't. A lot of names from the days before the war hung on, even if they pointed to different things now. Colonel Morris added, "I'm loyal to the Council and obey its orders, of course.""Of course." Dad didn't even sound sarcastic. The Westside officer had to say stuff like that. The City Council's spies were everywhere. Colonel Morris couldn't know Dad wasn't one of them."Do you really have to follow orders even when they're dumb?" Liz asked.Colonel Morris blinked. Dad sent her a look that said she'd got out of line. A mere girl wasn't supposed to challenge authority. For that matter, nobody in the Westside was supposed to."That's a heavy question, sweetie," Colonel Morris said, by which he meant it was important. When he said sweetie, he meant Liz wasn't. She was only a girl, somebody he could patronize. She wanted to pick up a chair and clout him over the head with it. Maybe that would knock sense into him. Or maybe not.Instead, she smiled--sweetly--and said, "Well, have you got an answer for it?"Dad coughed. She wasn't supposed to push like this. She didn't much care, not when the Westsider insulted her without even knowing he was doing it."I have the only answer I need," Colonel Morris said. "Whatever the City Council tells me to do, I do it."I'm just following orders. How many people in how manyalternates said the same thing? How much grief did they cause when they did? Too much--Liz knew that."How long will we have to wait for the guns?" the colonel asked Liz's father. He tried to ignore her now. Was that better than patronizing her? Was it worse? Was it as bad in a different way?"It'll be a while, sir," Jeff Mendoza answered. "Long way down to Sandago." It wasn't even two hundred kilometers. If traffic on the 405 wasn't bad, you could get to San Diego in a couple of hours. You could in the home timeline, anyhow. If you were traveling in a horse-drawn wagon in this alternate, the town with the rubbed-down name was more like a week away."Well, do what you can," Colonel Morris said. "We need those guns, especially the six-shooters. See you later." He sketched a salute to Dad, nodded to Liz, and left.After the door was barred behind the local, Dad turned to Liz and said, "You can't poke him with a pin whenever you feel like it, you know.""I guess not," she said. "But he ticked me off.""He didn't even realize he was doing it.""That's the point," Liz said. "I sure knew.""What am I going to do with you?" Her father sounded h...
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