a novel
by Seth Kallen Deitch

Book 1

The Land Beneath the World

The narrative of Woodrow Hammond

I was born on the sixth of september 1877 in San Francisco. My father was a cowboy turned merchant. He had punched cattle not only in California, but in the U.S. and Canada as well. Feeling he had gotten too old for the trail he went into the business of providing supplies to cowpokes in all three nations as well as Mexico by mail order.

Although things were better for negroes in California than in the United States, it wasn't all rosy, if you know what I mean. Colored folks officialy had equal rights, could hold office,work where they pleased and such, but that doesn't keep one man from calling another "nigger" if he needs to blame someone else for his own problems. We had our own neighborhoods and businesses and were casually regarded as inferior to anybody but a Chinaman. This started to change when I was a little one. In '82 a black man became prime minister of the Empire and over the years of my boyhood, race relations in California slowly started to improve.

My childhood was one of rough and tumble sport and roguish misbehavior. I was a street fighter and a gambler with little sense of right and wrong and was a constant source of worry to my parents. It is the great shame of my youth that I could not live up to the values which those good people tried to instill in me. Had I but listened to them with more care I would not have had to gain my social education the hard way. I was a young "street savage", I know now really more animal than man. The only life I foresaw for myself involved being in and out of jail for the remainder of my life.

On one ocasion, having been aprehended by the police for a minor robbery, I was introduced to, what we called in those days, a "Charity Lady" named Amilia Andrews. This lady had never married but had come from money which she had decided to invest in helping wayward young people find the right path in life. It turned out that I was smart enough to be trained as an executive secretary.

So here I was in 1899, a well paid organizational aide with the instincts of a street gladiator. Little did I know then how well the combination would serve me in the future.

My first job was for a minor official in the Imperial government. It was while I was working here that I was brought to the attention of Mister Richardson of the Diplomatic department due to my adept intercecption of a embarrassingly misworded memo. In short order I was hired on as his personal aide.

Mister William P. Richardson was a very successful career diplomat who had distinguished himself in many difficult situations. One of the most notable was the crisis of 1885, where he helped prevent war with the United States and set in motion the events which would lead to the aquisition of South Alaska and the Hawaiian Islands for the Empire of California.

He was impressed with the way I ran the office and further he had a personal interest in the betterment of negroes being the son of Virginia planter who had kept over seventy five of my people in bondage, a situation which he had found personally immoral even as a child. He offered me a proposition which I could not pass up. I would become his personal aide and make his front office run smoothly at a high salary with opportunities for travel and education, and he would have a very visible black man on his executive staff.

By 1902 I had visited over fourteen nations and observed high international negotiations first hand. No one saw Mister Richardson who did not first see me. On one occasion I had the War Minister of Germany try to bribe me for a better seat at a bargaining session, on another I was ordered to keep the Prince of Wales waiting "just for effect". All of this gave me a lot of education which I had missed out on earlier in life. In hindsight it seems that this all was intended to prepare me for the events of 1903.

Our young nation was having difficulty with the kingdom of Denmark over trade and over incidents involving some of our scientific expeditions in Greenland. While it wasn't a critical situation, there was still a need to make some gesture of cooperation. The king, Christian IX, felt that our emperor, William II, was unwilling to participate as an equal partner with European heads of state in the pursuit of world security and had repeatedly brought up his pet project of a multi-national diplomatic mission to the newly discovered land of Bromfkidor, located in the strange temperate region in the interior of the Antarctic continent. With the consent of the Emperor and the Prime Minister, Mister Richardson proposed a plan whereby California would help with the mission if the Danes could persuade at least three other nations to participate. He was under the, (it turned out mistaken,) impression that no one cared about the republic at the bottom of the world. Within a week of having made this proposal, Denmark announced that FOUR other countries had agreed to participate in the joint mission. So, in February 1903, along with missions from Russia, France, Great Britain and Argentina, the Danes and the Californians set out upon a collaboration designed to find them common ground.

We embarked on an icebreaker from Buenos Aries on the third of the month in fine weather but calm as the sea was, the French ambassador still found a way to become seasick.

As we steamed down the coast we saw the shores of a land very different from the Argentina of today. All along the shores we saw happy, thriving towns without walls or underground shelters. Pre-Bromfkidoran Patagonia was a beautiful land and I am one of the few alive who remembers it. Today it is a sterile, shattered unoccupied wasteland. A former base camp for conquest.

Our rendezvous point was at a location in inner Palmer Land, or as the natives now refer to it "Palmeroj", their version of our name for the place. For the Bromfkidorans this was a distant outpost in the vast land they call the "Outer Waste" the sparsely populated frigid zone which surrounds the verdant land which is their world.

Our entire party would sit on the shore of this forbidding land for three days awaiting contact from our hosts.