The Worlds I’ve Wondered
As time goes by, this is where I will collect the meat and bones of Courtney’s “book,” The Worlds I’ve Wondered, and eventually post it as a separate semi-static category, still subject to editing and addition. Your comments and observations are welcome! I’ll include some of Courtney’s monologues from the series (few of which have ever appeared in the audios) and may expand on them with pics, maps–the works. Or I may add entirely different “chapters.”
“The Worlds I’ve Wondered”
Our History Here
By March 1, 1942, the war “back home” was a nightmare. Hitler was strangling Europe and the Japanese were amok in Pacific. Most immediate, from my perspective as a middle-aged Australian petroleum engineer stranded in Surabaya Java, the Japanese had taken Singapore and Malaysia, destroyed the American Pacific Fleet and neutralized their forces in the Philippines, conquered most of the Dutch East Indies, and were landing on Java. The one-sided Battle of the Java Sea had shredded ABDAFLOAT; a jumble of antiquated American, British, Dutch, and Australian warships united only by the vicissitudes of war. Its destruction left the few surviving ships scrambling to escape the Japanese gantlet, and for most, it was too late.
With a few other refugees, I managed to board the old American destroyer USS Walker, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy. Whether fate, providence, or mere luck intervened, Walker and her sister Mahan, their gallant crews grimly winnowed by combat, were not bound for the same destruction which claimed their consorts in escape. Instead, at the height of a desperate action against the mighty Japanese battlecruiser Amagi, commanded by the relentless Hisashi Kurokawa, they were . . . engulfed by an anomalous force, manifested as a bizarre, powerful, squall–and their battered, leaking, war-torn hulks were somehow swept to another world entirely.
I say “another world” because, though largely geographically similar, there are few additional resemblances. It’s as if whatever cataclysmic event doomed most of the more frightening prehistoric life forms on “our” earth many millions of years ago never occurred, and those terrifying, fascinating creatures endured–sometimes evolving down a wildly different path. We quickly discovered “people,” however, calling themselves “Mi-Anakka.” They are highly intelligent, social folk, with large eyes, fur, and expressive tails. In my ignorance and excitement, I promptly dubbed them “Lemurians” particularly because of a vague, if more feline, resemblance to the giant lemurs of Madagascar. (Growing evidence may confirm they sprang from a parallel line, and only the most distant ancestor connects them to lemurs, but “Lemurians” has stuck). We just as swiftly learned these folk were engaged in an existential struggle with a species commonly called “Grik;”also bipedal, but somewhat “reptilian” with bristly crests and tail plumage, dreadful teeth and claws, and which were clearly descended from the Dromaeosaurids in our fossil record.
Aiding the first group against the second—Captain Reddy never had a choice—we made fast, true friends who needed our technical knowledge and expertise as badly as we needed their support. Conversely, we now also had an implacable enemy bent on devouring all competing life. Many bloody battles ensued while we struggled to help our friends against their far more numerous foes and it was for this reason I sometimes think, when I’m disposed to contemplate “destiny,” that we survived our previous ordeals and somehow came to this place. I don’t know everything about anything, but I do know a little about a lot. The same was true of Captain Reddy and his US Asiatic Fleet sailors. We immediately set about trying to even the odds, but militarizing the generally peaceful Lemurians was no simple task. Still, to paraphrase, the prospect of being eaten tends to focus one’s efforts amazingly, and dire necessity is the mother of industrialization. To this day, I remain amazed by what we accomplished so quickly with so little, especially considering how rapidly and tragically our “brain trust” was consumed by battle.
In the meantime, we discovered other humans—friends and enemies—who joined our cause, required our aid, or posed new threats. Even worse than the Grik, (from a moral perspective, in my opinion), was the vile “Dominion” in South and Central America. A perverse mixture of Incan/Aztecan blood-ritual tyranny with a dash of 17th century Catholicism flavoring the technology brought by those earlier travelers, the Dominion’s aims were similar to the Grik; conquest, of course, but founded on the principle of “convert or die.”
I still believe that, faced with only one of these enemies, we could’ve prevailed rather quickly. Burdened by both, we were unable to concentrate our forces and the war lingered on. To make matters worse, the Grik were aided by the madman Kurokawa who, after losing his Amagi at the Battle of Baalkpan, began to pursue an agenda all his own. And just as we came to the monumental conclusion that not all historical human timelines we encountered exactly mirrored ours, we began to feel the malevolent presence of yet another power centered in the Mediterranean. This “League of Tripoli” was composed of fascist French, Italian, Spanish, and German factions from a “different” 1939 than we remembered, and hadn’t merely “crossed over” with a pair of battle-damaged destroyers, but a powerful task force intended to wrest Egypt—and the Suez Canal—from Great Britain.
We had few open conflicts with the League at first, though they seemed inexplicably intent on subversion. Eventually we discovered their ultimate aim was to aid Kurokawa, the Grik, even the Dominion, just enough to ensure our mutual annihilation, and simultaneously remove multiple threats to the hegemony they craved. But their schemes never reckoned on the valor of our allies or the resolve of Captain Matthew Reddy. Therefore, when their Contre-Amiral Laborde, humiliated by a confrontation, not only sank what was, essentially, a hospital ship with his monstrous dreadnought Savoie, but also took hostages—including Captain Reddy’s pregnant wife—and turned them AND Savoie over to Kurokawa, we were caught horribly off guard. Tensions with the League escalated dramatically, though not enough to risk open hostilities that neither we—nor they—were ready for. (We later learned such had already occurred in the Caribbean, between USS Donaghey and a League DD, and that 2nd Fleet and General Shinya’s force had suffered a setback in the Americas at the hands of the Dominion.) But we had to deal definitively with Kurokawa at last, and do so at once. As powerful as he’d become and with a battleship added to his fleet, we simply couldn’t risk our invasion of Grik Africa with him at our backs.
Captain Reddy conceived a brilliant plan to rescue our friends and destroy Kurokawa once and for all, and in a rare fit of cosmic justice, the operation actually proceeded better than planned, resulting in the removal of one long-standing threat forever, and the capture of Savoie herself. The battle was painfully costly, however, and the forces involved too exhausted and ill-placed to respond when word came that the Grik were on the move. It became clear that all our hopes for victory depended on a heretofore reluctant ally; how quickly we (and Shinya) could repair, reorganize, and rearm; and the insanely, suicidally daring defiance of some very dear friends aboard the old Santa Catalina. . . .
Excerpt from the Foreword to Courtney Bradford’s “The Worlds I’ve Wondered”
University of New Glasgow Press, 1956