A Cursed Miracle:
A request by Jcw3 based on a previous scenario commissioned by him. In 1936 as the Italian army began their final preparations for Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia a strange event took place. In a single mind altering instant the entire population of the Empire of Abyssinia were given a collective telepathic hivemind.
The Italian invasion still happened on schedule with OTL. However they ended up facing an enemy army that whilst under-equipped exhibited an uncanny coordination and tactical awareness. Ground forces were overwhelmed and logistical lines were severed by guerilla forces, stranding the air forces. Their attack in shambles the Italians were forced to retreat and eventually the British and French, seeing no risk from opposing Italy anymore began to <nobr>apply</nobr> actual pressure to Mussolini. The war ended a few months after it began with heavy military losses to the Abyssinians.
The Second World War began more or less like OTL. The changes were rather minor at first until an Italy even more desperate for land in Africa started its campaign. The decimation of their armed forces in Abyssinia led to them modernising as much of their forces as they possibly could with German help. By putting up a better fight there was less of a demand for German assistance in North Africa. This ultimately led to a shorter fight in Africa (the Italians put up more of a fight but still had no chance) and a longer one in Russia. Stalingrad even fell to the Wehrmacht for a few weeks before overwhelming Soviet reinforcements crushed them. World War II ended with Anglo-American and Soviet forces shaking hands in Germany and Japan (no atom bombs were dropped) and the world settled down to the shaky new Cold War that erupted immediately afterwards.
Throughout all of this Abyssinia remained neutral, industrialising in peace. Surrounded on all sides by more powerful empires, the hivemind decided to bide its time and prepare.
After the end of the Second World War decolonisation still took place, though in a different fashion and at a different <nobr>schedule</nobr>. By this point Abyssinia had built up a decent industrial base, making it one of the most developed nations on the continent, and only at the cost of a few thousand people, sacrificed for the greater good. The hivemind began its great plan by sending agents into their recently decolonised neighbours. Covertly they spread the hivemind, though it was a long and difficult process, and fermented revolution amongst the slowly assimilated population. Abyssinian led revolutions soon began to break out in most of their neighbours and it wasn't long before the armies of Abyssinia moved into these nations and annexed them.
With the proxy conflicts of the Cold War raging on in the Third World it wasn't long before NATO and Warsaw Pact agents investigated the strangely expansionist Abyssinians. It wasn't easy but they eventually discovered what was going on, gathering enough <nobr>details</nobr> to realise that the Abyssinians were a genuine and inhuman threat. With their great secret revealed and knowing that the rest of humanity would likely resist them the Abyssinians finally revealed their trump card. Through captured and assimilated Warsaw Pact agents the Abyssinians had learnt how to manufacture nuclear weapons and had built several ICBM warheads at a rather great cost.
With this new information a stalemate developed with a third and far more malevolent power added to the Cold War.
Abyssinia is now known as the Empire of Man. It's original identity has been swept away and the homogeneity of the hivemind has replaced it entirely. Despite their progress the NGU still suffers from a lack of resources and technological knowledge. Their <nobr>engineering</nobr> perspective on technology has allowed them to design some spectacular innovations that expertly utilise the resources available to them. Irrigation systems that outstrip anything on the continent feed a steadily growing population and increasingly advanced techniques extract and refine the natural resources they produce. Their status as an inhuman global pariah has left the Empire in deep isolation. No trade takes place because interacting with them directly runs the risk of assimilation which also means the Empire must rely on the resources within their territory.
Life for a citizen of the Empire is frugal. The lack of resources means that everything must be carefully rationed. There is no unrest in the Empire and so need for an imposing police state which does reduce the government's costs and frees up a lot of resources. Citizens of the Empire conduct all of their duties with eerie efficiency, exploiting every available opportunity to work at any task available. Since expansion has been curtailed the hivemind occupies the population with maintaining and refining the infrastructure whilst sending out agents to infiltrate the neighbouring states. Jobs are defined by a persons natural physical abilities. Vigorous exercise regimens keep the people in peak physical abilities but even then innate differences decide their position in the highly regimented societies of the Empire. Others with greater abilities for processing and recalling information are utilised as conduits for the hivemind, acting as filters for the information the hivemind sends to individuals. The royal family are theoretically the central conduit for the hivemind and have been specially bred in the last few generations to be able to uphold this duty.
Their activities overseas are small by necessity. The original tactic of sending agents to slowly convert the populations through individuals and building influence over time no longer work. The paranoia of the other nations now means that anyone exhibiting uncannily abnormal and inhuman traits and mannerisms (which those under the hivemind can never really hide) are shot immediately, those around them are usually subjected to intense interrogation afterwards for signs of contamination.
The United States still emerged from WWII as the premier power of the Western Allies and the anti-communist world. Since the exposure of the Empire of Man the USA became even more paranoid than the OTL Cold War USA. Fear of Abyssinian assimilation along with the conflict with global communism led to very unfortunate political changes over the decades. Social militancy is still very common, though the younger generation are beginning to oppose it somewhat, and an extensive surveillance state still exists in order to monitor the population for any sign of possible assimilated behaviour. This fear has died down in recent years since no Abyssinian agents have ever reached the United States itself and recent liberal youth movements have relaxed the paranoia that still grips most of the public. There was no Vietnam War and so the USA never experienced the shock to their confidence that they would in OTL and the military is still seen as a viable and common career starter for most American men leaving school.
The rise of an inhuman African power was a blow to the fledgling Civil Rights Movement and set back the fight for racial equality by several years. Perseverance still saw blacks in the United States gain legal parity and an end to segregation but there are still problems. Many people still distrust African-Americans and the more paranoid or bigoted segments of society expect them to spontaneously develop the hivemind and seek to assimilate the USA. The increased militancy of an even more unstable Cold War situation also saw conservatism remain much stronger and more pervasive in society. Traditionalists did not team up with the American religious right and are not as intertwined with them but religion (of a more moderate fashion) is still promoted as an important aspect of the USA by conservative politicians. The collapse of the USSR has seen the government relax a lot of the anti-communist measures which has helped the growth of liberal thinking.
The United Kingdom is America's closest partner but still only has a little more prestige and power than OTL through the Commonwealth. Britain decolonised but the USA was willing to support efforts to keep the former empire within Britain's, and subsequently their own, orbit. The rise and reveal of the Empire of Man saw renewed support for these programs, especially as fears that more of Africa would slip into the Empire's grip grew.
The Commonwealth is now a federated system though even then it is a very loose organisation. The various dominions are all of equal political status and maintain open border and trade policies. A single Commonwealth parliament has representatives from all the constituent dominions, who in turn have their own parliaments, with the British royal family as the head of state albeit as figureheads. The main point of unity is their shared military defence budget and armed forces. The African dominions are still very recent and behind the other dominions in terms of economic and social development. Wealth and political disparities are still very noticeable and the fight against racism was long and difficult with Apartheid having to be forcibly prevented in South African and Rhodesia via armed intervention by NATO. However the existence, and close proximity to, the Empire has led to some problems regarding Africans. Much like the US there is a lot of paranoia around it but it has yet to die down to the same degree as the USA due to the Commonwealth's immigration policies (the vote to approve them was a close one) and the proximity of many of their dominions to the Empire.
A European Community was formed much like OTL but in the more unstable world the nations of democratic Europe formed an even closer union out of fear. The European Union of the present is, much like the Commonwealth, a semi-federal entity but with even more cultural autonomy for its members. Said federal unity was a result of the unstable status quo of the Cold War after the inclusion of the Empire of Man. France is the unofficial leader as the strongest in terms of economic productivity but other members are finally beginning to catch up to them. With the collapse of the USSR they have been less worried about adopting mildly socialist policies, especially since their welfare state recently expanded with the inclusion of several former Soviet puppets. The EU has been demilitarising slightly in order to reduce the economic strain of their previous defence force but they as vigilant as ever against agents from the Empire. Like the Commonwealth the EU has open border and economic preference policies that some political groups object too, especially since they recently accepted several former Soviet republics as new members.
A new power on the world stage is the Republic of China. The changes in WWII led to the Nationalists, backed by the Western Allies, winning control of most of China. Despite being an ally of NATO during the Cold War they have fallen out since the collapse of the USSR. China is an openly fascist state with an authoritarian and oligarchic, one party government dominated by the Kuomintang Party. China industrialised with US support and investment and for a time was also the hegemonic leader of South East Asia until the Sino-Western Split. They still have control over a number of puppet states in the area but a source of bitterness between them and the US is the loss of control over the nations that NATO was able to wrestle from their control.
Life in China is regimental and militarised. There was no Cultural Revolution which has preserved a lot of Chinese traditionalism which along with the militarised society have left China rather conservative. However, like the USA, there has been a rise in relatively liberal thought, especially as standards of living rise. The disparity between the social classes, much like OTL, is noticeably high but a rising middle class in the cities is gaining influence. Primary industries and manufacturing are a major source of prosperity for China and are increasingly vital to global trade. The threat of the USSR used to be the government's primary means of keeping order in society through paranoia and propaganda. The Empire of Man has since replaced the USSR after it collapsed and the Chinese moved into a close relationship with Russia. This has led to a cultural distrust of Africans, fearing that they are Abyssinians trying to infiltrate the nation.
When the USSR collapsed in the 90s from economic stagnation and social instability there was a clamour to pick up the pieces. Thankfully the former Soviet Union failed to fall into complete anarchy and the nation that emerged from it even managed to pull several of the old SSRs into a new nation. Unfortunately the Russian Union turned out to be a fascist state. Ever since the nation stabilised under their new leadership the right-wing nationalist party that now rule the nation with impunity have set about to rebuild the old hegemony that the USSR used to have. Russia's natural resources are their new claim to power and the major corporations that now control them have a lot of power in government, prompting new alliances and trade deals with China and the EU. The government uses the Empire as an allegory for communism, to an even greater extent than the USA or any NATO state, often practising discrimination through this propaganda.
Between the two of them the Chinese and Russians have built their own bloc centred around global fascism. This resurgence of extreme right-wing politics is troubling to NATO and their associates but thankfully has not yet escalated to another Cold War. The fascists are just as devoted to containing the the Empire of Man, are heavily integrated into the global economy and also contribute to the UN quarantine around the Abyssinian border.
Technology is more advanced than OTL in certain areas but far behind in others. Computer technology, outside of the government is far behind OTL. Censorship laws (for state security of course) and even more extreme Cold War paranoia have kept any form of recognisable internet from being created and portable computers are still bulky and expensive. However with the collapse of the USSR there has been a meaningful relaxation of these restrictions which is distributing this technology to the public to a greater degree than ever before. In the Empire of Man biological sciences are even more advanced thanks to research into GM crops to feed the population and engineered diseases as possible weapons. The world's nuclear arsenals are even larger than OTL as well thanks to the relatively greater instability of this world's Cold War. There was a Space Race that the US won and much like OTL there have been few meaningful follow-ups due to the expense of undergoing such missions. However plans for a mission to Mars are being drawn up.
Peak oil, resource shortages and climate change are starting to become noticeable problems that the great powers of the world are starting to respond to. The Empire, which is highly dependant on regular weather is especially concerned but unable to properly communicate with the other powers. Threatened by these developments much more than the others the Empire has begun to move troops to their borders, agitating the other powers.
These actions hold great risk. Though the world has relaxed somewhat since one of the three factions in the Cold War died out but the UN quarantine is as strong as ever. NATO and their allies may be unsettled about the extreme measures and contingencies that were established in order to deal with any potential expansion by the Empire of Man but the fascist bloc have stated over and over that, if it ever came to war, they will have no problem wiping the Empire off the face of the Earth and purging it of human life.
Their Walls Stand:
In this world the Trojan War that was chronicled and immortalised in the Iliad actually ends in a Greek defeat. The humbling Greek defeat by a superficially weaker state shook the recently built Mycenaean Kingdom, inviting invasion by the Hittites.
The Migration Period that swept through Europe then took place and ousted the Hittites from Greece. A group similar to the OTL Sea Peoples was still formed and even went on to cripple the Hittite Empire before they too were destroyed. In Greece a Greek culture survived but it was very different. The Hittite conquest before the Migration Period upset Greek development. Instead of the familiar independent city states with their distinctive cultures a unified Greeks state emerged that was similar to the old Mycenaean culture.
The Sea Peoples rampage, whilst weaker in some areas, was stronger in others. When they were finally defeated by a loose alliance of the empires they were raiding they had left the Eastern Mediterranean in shambles. Egypt ended up under the rule of some very different Pharaohs, several of which went on to expand the Egyptian kingdom to new and spectacular heights, especially in Mesopotamia before rebellions in Babylon and Phoenecia and the invasions by Medians and Scythians caused their empire to crumble. Egypt's power in this area would wax and wane, especially since the butterflying of the Persian Empire prevented the conquest of their empire. Egypt would actually leave a cultural impact on the Middle East as religions and cultures slowly changed and evolved over the centuries.
Greece would build an empire of it's own and compete with an Egypt that now considered imperial control of Mesopotamia as part of it's own legacy. Some cultures such as the Armenians and the Phoenecians would survive the endless warring between these two cultures whilst others would suffer. Migrations from peoples such as the Magyars would change the region further.
Rome never emerged, nor did the Etruscan kingdom but the Greeks would conquer and colonise Italy and the Western Mediterranean many times throughout history. The Celts would never be conquered and instead continue to thrive in Western Europe, forcing the eventual German migrations back east. The warrior culture of the Greek empire would lead them to invade and occasionally conquer the Celtic kingdoms of Western Europe several times but they would always bounce back, picking up new technology and organisational skills each time. When the Migration Period eventually brought steppe peoples from West Asia the new tribes ended up being forced in different directions, further changing the demographical make-up of Europe and adding to the cultural chaos of the continent.
By OTL 2014 AD, the Empire of Greater Achaea is the latest incarnation of the Greek empire and the, arguably, dominant global power. Having defeated Kemet over a decade earlier in Ten Years War, the Achaeans have become the almost undisputed masters of the Eastern Mediterranean, even annexing Egypt itself and many former Kemet colonies under their control. Achaea is a highly militant nation with a culture oriented towards military discipline and imperialism. Their empire and their warrior history are a very important part of the Achaean identity. This has made their colonial policy very brutal as they are still digesting many of their new territories. Population displacement, armed repression and purposeful cultural annihilation are common methods of control and often also used to make room for new colonists from elsewhere in the empire. The Achaeans are not racist and often incorporate races they consider trustworthy into the Achaean state as citizens. Slavery was abolished in Achaea but people who are not recognised as citizens are subjected to a form of second or third class citizenship that keeps them oppressed. This system was established over a century ago and has morphed into something approaching a caste system of sorts.
Achaea has a monarchy but it is actually constitutional. Instead the real power of government is split between an oligarchy of aristocrats, urban officials, bureaucrats and the priesthood. The Achaean government is infamous for political intrigue but it does maintain order within the empire. The monarchy's reduction of power is a process that had been ongoing for centuries as the bureaucracy became increasingly important. Education is universal but the quality varies depending on the social status of the individual with lower classes receiving rudimentary skills focusing on the menial labour they will be tasked with. In practice this system only works as long as the Achaeans are able to keep control over what material the classes receive. A black market for books exists that often prompts officials to police and occasionally sweep the cities for contraband books and other educational resources.
Though their homeland itself was conquered the Egyptians were able to survive in their major colony of Further Kemet. The Kemet are nowhere near as powerful as they were before the war but they are strong enough to ward off the Achaeans and still have some strength. The Kemet have recently annexed several neighbouring African kingdoms in order to increase their own strength and reduce potential threats. The Egyptians religion is monotheistic and focused around the worship of the sun, with the Pharon considered a descendant of the sun god. Kemet follows an ATL form of enlightened despotism that has morphed into a bureaucratic monarchy with the Pharon's power absolute in theory but restricted by governmental regulations in practice.
The discovery and colonisation of the Americas was an initially slower process than OTL which allowed some indigenous civilizations to survive and even thrive before the European and Asian colonial empires learned how to dismantle them. The Empire of the Tanhuaktec is a Mesoamerican nation that managed to establish trade links with the first Celtic and Chinese explorers that arrived centuries ago. This allowed technology to spread to the continent along with diseases. By the time the colonial empires really began to establish themselves the Tanhuaktec had already established themselves and gained general immunity to European diseases. Further exchange of technology, draft animals and even new cultural and religious ideas took place, changing the Tanhuaktec further.
The Tanhuaktec are a theocratic nation with a surprising philosophy. Their faith is bound by a pantheon derived from native, Celtic and Greek religions and an underlying belief that the gods have tasked humanity with a duty to understand and master the physical world. This has promoted education, philosophy and innovation in the State of Tanhuaktec, so long as the philosophers and scientists don't get too political. The actual inner workings of the Tanhuaktec faith are incredibly intricate and elaborate, often making it almost impossible for most people to decipher, restricting the priesthood to highly educated individuals. All members of government are members of the priesthood in a meritocratic hierarchy that does not discriminate so long as an individual is capable and productive. However the government is by no means meritocratic and does exhibit a form of faith and position based elitism. The government also subjects the majority of the population to religious indoctrination, weaving scientific and religious rhetoric together to promote their philosophy.
The different movement of tribes in Central Asia altered the early development of China. Despite having periods where the Han people were divided into, at times, dozens of little kingdoms, the Han, known in this TL as the Shan, have finally coalesced into two distinct and stable civilizations.
The Xiou-Shan are a culture that, despite their cultural homogeneity, are demographically dominated by descendants of Turkic and Hunnic people but still speak the Shan language. OTL Northern China has received a lot of migrations from steppe tribes which were later influenced by the indigenous Shan people. Whilst their southern relatives would look to the sea as a means of gaining strength when the Shan joined in the Colonial Era, the Xiou-Shan instead looked to the tribes of North Asia. The Xiou-Shan are the more isolationist of the Shan cultures which means they have fallen behind most other powerful states in terms of technology. However their militant culture has kept the other colonial powers that may see them as a target at bay. The current emperor is an enthusiastic reformer since the last war with the more advanced and well organised Yamatai and their Tanhuaktec allies which was not only a disastrous defeat for the Xiou-Shan but also claimed the life of the emperor's father.
The Hei-Shan were formed by the most successful of the coastal Shan kingdoms. Focused more on the sea the Hei-Shan have always been enthusiastic mariners and colonists, having already built an extensive empire in the Philippine and Indonesian archipelagos before the Europeans arrived and brought more new technology and ideas to them. The modern Empire of Hei-Shan is an divine monarchy with a government much similar to the Kemet. The bureaucracy is intricate and complex with numerous departments devoted to compartmentalising and ritualising as much of the government as possible. However scientific research and intellectualism are separate from the government and allowed to innovate independent of government control. Traditional philosophy still restricts what Hei-Shan philosophers can theorise regarding social and political manners but this hasn't restricted engineers and scientists from discovering new ideas. The Hei-Shan are rapidly becoming the centre of research into chemistry as Hei-Shan chemists develop new concoctions. Their colonies are run in a rather loose fashion, control enforced through a strict economic hegemony that has ritualised transactions and trade negotiations into an almost impenetrable web.
Technology is about the same level as OTL 1900. Cultural support of innovation is a very recent thing and the repressive nature of must cultures has often restricted scientific development in much of the world. The world has been going through a slow industrial revolution for over a century now. It has failed to advance technology as fast as OTL but it has been far more widespread. Railroads are now all over the industrialised world and steel hulled steam ships are now very common, both of which have helped facilitate the centralisation of the various major empires. Smokeless gunpowder and maxim-gun style machine guns are very recent but are now common weapons in every army around the industrialised world as well. Large scale industrialised warfare has not yet taken place but the potential for rapid innovation still exists.