Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Strange and Storied History of Silence Do-Good, part 4: A Butterfly Flaps its Wings

We have arrived at the point in our narrative where divergent history truly catches up with us.

In 1814, Silence Do-Good saves the Library of Congress from a fire, and a butterfly flaps its wings. Early American government is just slightly better off than in our own timeline; congress has better information upon which to make its decisions. America, as a whole, is slightly smarter and slightly better off, the benefits of which radiate outward...

In 1865, Silence Do-Good becomes America's first "computer", analyzing countless streams of intelligence and counter-intelligence data, and a butterfly flaps its wings. The infrastructure for national law enforcement is laid at an earlier time, and better communication is encouraged...

In 1905, Silence Do-Good takes over the construction of the Panama Canal in all but name, and a butterfly flaps its wings. Fewer deaths occur due to industrial accident and the canal opens earlier than in our timeline; those workers return to their families with more money, and increased trade improves the economies on both sides of the canal...

All of these changes, added up, have produced a world where Mexico is better off economically than in our timeline, due to profits from inter-oceanic trade flowing upwards from Panama, and improved relations with the United States. As a result, a young boy named José Arámbula did not grow up as an impoverished peasant in the Mexican state of Durango; instead, he grows up in the much richer (and much closer to the U.S.) state of Chihuaha. With the benefits of proper nutrition and better education, he does not become a petty bandit who joins the army in desperation; he instead is inducted into the Officer's Corps after graduation, and rises to the rank of General of el División del Norte (Division of the North).

Pancho Villa -- bandit, revolutionary, ruthless dictator -- never exists. Instead, the honorable José Doroteo Arango Arámbula -- soldier, scholar, gentleman -- takes his place. A butterfly flaps its wings....

Halfway around the world, Imperial Germany's Merchant Navy is thriving. Larger and more profitable, its trade with China and other nations opened to it through the Panama Canal, increases German prosperity. Its colonies in the Pacific, long-neglected since their creation by Bismarck in the 1880s, likewise begin to thrive as commercial ports-of-call. Indeed, all of Europe enjoys increased prosperity. A butterfly flaps its wings...

All this flapping was bound to create a hurricane eventually. Ironically enough, when Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip assassinates Archduke Franz Ferdinand and ignites the First World War, the result is even worse because there is so much more to lose.

A brief history lesson: in our timeline, America was neutral throughout most of World War 1, due mostly to the efforts of President Woodrow Wilson. Two events conspired to provoke American involvement: the sinking of the RMS Lusitania by a German U-Boat in 1915, and the Zimmermann Telegram of 1917.

The sinking of the Lusitania was a tragedy which resulted in a death toll of 1,198 out of 1,959 souls aboard (128 of them American), but Wilson's administration chose to view it as an accident, rather than an act, of war. But the Zimmermann Telegram, sent by the Germans to Mexican diplomats and intercepted by British Intelligence, changed the tenor of American perception of the German war effort:
"We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis: make war together, make peace together, generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The settlement in detail is left to you. You will inform the President of the above most secretly as soon as the outbreak of war with the United States of America is certain and add the suggestion that he should, on his own initiative, invite Japan to immediate adherence and at the same time mediate between Japan and ourselves. Please call the President's attention to the fact that the ruthless employment of our submarines now offers the prospect of compelling England in a few months to make peace." Signed, ZIMMERMANN
While Imperial Germany had hoped that a war with Mexico would delay American involvement in the European Theatre, the telegram instead accelerated it. Mexico had no desire to go to war with the vastly stronger United States, and later that year America joined the fight against Germany.

But what if Mexico was a stronger power, and Imperial Germany had the resources -- money, war matériel, advisers -- to make this a realistic notion? What if the Zimmermann Telegram was sent years earlier, and not intercepted by Britain? And what if, instead Pancho Villa the bandit, there was General Arámbula to invade the United States?

For a start, there would not have been a Punitive Expedition (aka the Pancho Villa Expedition) into Mexico. In our timeline, Villa invaded Columbus, NM in 1916-- a raid which soon became a full-fledged battle between Villa's forces and those of the U.S. Army. In response, the United States sent a force led my General John J. Pershing into Mexico, whose mission was to capture or kill Villa. Ten months later, however, Villa remained un-captured, and Pershing was transferred to the European theatre and his expedition recalled.

But this timeline had two things ours did not: a better-trained, better equipped Mexican Army, and Silence Do-Good. Instead of a year-long police action against guerrilla bandits, the assault upon Columbus was in fact the opening volley in a Mexican war against the United States, and the creation of a new line of hostilities in the First World War. Pershing and Arámbula became the Patton and Rommel of their time, and Silence was right in the thick of it.

View Larger Map

Next: All Silent on the Mexican Front

The character of Silence Do-Good is copyright Erin Palette 2011. All art in these sections is either public domain, or machinima from the City of Heroes MMO. I do not claim any ownership of art.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
Creative Commons License


  1. The level of thought you put into this is most impressve, and I would hope that, at some stage, you do more with it than tie it to a City of Heroes character.

    I adore the section headings, too.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Von! You're quickly becoming one of my favorite commenters.

    As for doing something more with her, well, that's a possibility. I rather doubt I'll ever write comic books for a living, since I lack the requisite sense of wangst and soapy drama, but there's the chance this could be turned into a novel (assuming I ever manage to finish Curse/Or). Until then, though, I maintain that any writing is good writing, and at the very least this has been a learning experience for me as it's my first serious attempt at alternate history.


The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to