“Like most of you I was inclined to say the war was caused by fish.”
However, after a close examination of the evidence, Cadman Michaels — who held doctorates in theoretical physics and history, but who called himself an Alternate Historian — could say now with some confidence that the roots of World War III could be found in three things: beer, ice hockey and something called Tim Horton’s coffee.
He could say this with some confidence. And he did.
“My extensive work in multi-universal alternate histories, made possible by my invention, the Moorcock Inter-Dimensional Time Inversion Tunneller (patent pending), shows the cause of the war was actually much earlier in history, well before the breakup of Canada. I intend to outline this series of events in this presentation.”
There were grumbles from the learned audience at the annual History of WWIII Conference, held in sunny and (relatively) radiation-free Blenheim, NZ. The MIDTIT was controversial technology, but several papers had proved its efficacy at determining historical turning points.
“I’d have to say it stems from an incident in 1972, during the so-called Summit Series, an ice hockey match played between Canadian NHL players and the Russian Red Army team. Prior to the sixth game, played at the Luzhniki Palace of Sports in Moscow, Russian officials “lost” a shipment of beer the Canadian team had been expecting. Few other historians have noted how grumpy this made the Canadian players, and in particular, Bobby Clarke. ”
The audience stared at Michaels blankly.
“Clarke was the player who slashed Valeri Kharlamov’s ankle, fracturing it; this took him out of the next game, and made him ineffective for the final game.”
“Wait, that’s not true!” someone from the audience shouted.
“Exactly,” someone else said, Michaels thought it was Hans Gruber, Professor of Pre-Radiation Sports at the University of New Heidelberg, in Perth Australia. “Kharmalov played brilliantly in the remaining games, which is how the Russian team took the series four games to three, with one tie.”
“Ah,” Michaels smiled. “You are right of course. I’ve been telling you about the alternate history. Now, the other surprise I have for you is actual images of this alternate history, taken by a recording device that can utilize the inter-dimensional tunnel created by the MIDTIT.”
He played several minutes of grainy, black and white video, showing the events he described, including the Canadian victory in game eight.
“My apologies for the quality of the video, but for some reason, I can only capture video and stills from sources broadcast during the time period the MIDTIT is examining.”
This produced fewer grumbles, but a higher level of chatter in the room.
“I agree. It is fascinating, yes? In this alternate history, the Canadians win the Summit Series, and really, this enables the country to keep from falling apart, unlike our own timeline. We have always thought the Canadian experiment failed because it was a historical necessity. Really, when you look at the absurd country, there was very little to hold it together, given the regional differences, an active separatist movement in Quebec, Western alienation, and the pressure from the United States. But imagine if Canada wins the Summit Series …”
Terry McDonaldson, who was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, when it was part of the defunct country called Canada, and who actually played “ice hockey” as it was called in New Auszealand, could be heard muttering, “beauty, eh?”
“But my examination of this timeline has shown that it would take more than Canadian ascendency in ice hockey to keep the country together. It requires coffee. In particular, a brand of coffee called Tim Horton’s coffee.”
“That’s absurd,” Gruber said.
“No, it’s true. I can show you the figures, but first, let me show you a series of current day advertisements in this timeline. I recorded this yesterday.”
Michaels played beautifully crisp video showing a father taking his son to an early morning hockey game, and stopping — before and after the game — at a Tim Horton’s to buy coffee and donuts.
“What are those things?” someone asked.
“They are called donuts. They’re made, essentially, out of fried dough — which is made from wheat.”
“I remember wheat,” someone else said. The few Soviet historians who had survived the war shifted uncomfortably in their seats. It had been their government that destroyed all wheat with a biological weapon.
“They look good,” Hans Gruber said.
“Yes, I’m sure they were and are delicious, in that universe,” Michaels agreed. “The point is, the Canadian people had this institution to help keep them together. Fueled by Tim Horton’s coffee and their delectable fried dough, Canadians had the energy and élan to keep their country together, unlike our own sad timeline. But without the popularity of hockey, it would never have achieved such success as a franchise.”
“But you said you would show how the war was caused by Anne of Green Gables.”
“Right. I did. So, now I have established that without two of Canada’s greatest institutions — hockey (or ice hockey as we know it) and Tim Hortons — an offshoot of their hockey culture that bound them together — Canada could not stay together. Now, I ask you to remember your pre-war history. What happened in our timeline?” It was clearly a rhetorical question, so Michaels continued: “the country started to break up. First Quebec separated, and then Alberta. The first becoming independent and the second joining the US. Other provinces began to follow, as the US invited Ontario, BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba to join. They even asked New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. They all were absorbed by the US.
“All except little Prince Edward Island; we now know that it was just an oversight by the State Department. Nobody noticed the tiny province on the map. But this lack of geographic acumen would lead inevitably to the destruction of a global civilization.”
People were nodding their heads. He had them now with this familiar material.
“PEI, justifiably outraged and upset that they had been ignored by the United States, declared that they were de facto, now Canada, and moved the federal capital to Charlottetown. (As an interesting footnote, this is where the country had its beginnings too.) They also declared that as the government of Canada, they retained the vastness of the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. There were ominous complaints from both the US government and the new Quebec government, though really, most of the Quebec troops were engaged in a civil war with the aboriginal peoples of Quebec, so they were not a threat. The US most definitely was, so PEI — sorry, Canada –”
There were chuckles throughout the room.
“– looked for allies. And as we all know, they found Japan. All the textbooks say the Japanese recognized that if PEI — sorry, Canada — became a protectorate of Japan, it would have access to the rich fishing waters of not only the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but all the Arctic waters surrounding the territories. The so-called Sushi Factor.
“And of course, there were other elements that led to war: seeing how happy it made everyone in the Canadian states, President Carter was forced to institute universal health care throughout all the United States during his second term; this, in turn, weakened the federal coffers so that when Ronald Reagan became president, he did not have the resources he needed to start a new arms race and so bankrupt the Soviets, as he planned. (Incidentally, I’m working on a video that will show how this played out in the other timeline I’m discussing.) Plus, Reagan had a whole new Cold War on his hands with the Japanese. Granted, the Japanese were a non-nuclear nation, but with the resources they were able to pull out of the oceans and the territories, it gave their economy the power to rival that of the US.”
Most of these arguments were familiar to audience, and he was starting to lose them again. “But I have evidence that shows the Japanese would not have taken over Canada — even with the fish factor. I will play more video now, this from our own timeline. I’d also like to take this opportunity to introduce Dr. Akido Suzuki, who is one of the few surviving Japanese people, to translate for me.”
The video showed happy Japanese people, holding up placards. Suzuki translated: “The signs say, ‘we love Anne’, and ‘Save Green Gables.'” Then the video changed to the audience room in the palace of the Japanese emperor. He was speaking with his senior ministers. “The revered Emperor say that his people love Anne of Green Gables. He says that he understands the geopolitical danger this protectorate would put Japan in, but for the sake of his people, he asks his government to do it. He says that he would like to visit Green Gables too, but only if it on Japanese soil.”
The video ends.
“Say, where did you find that video?” Gruber asked. “No-one has been able to get to Japan since the war. And as far as I know, any records that may have survived would be too radioactive to examine.”
“Oh, I used the MIDTIT to record that conversation.”
“Didn’t you say you could only record transmissions from the period? Surely that wasn’t ever telecast.”
“The Emperor with his ministers?” Michaels said. “Of course not. No. I can only record broadcast signals from other timelines, inter-dimensionally. Our own universe I can record anything, anywhere.”
“No, I can’t record something that is happening in the present moment. But I can record something that happened just a second ago,” Michaels said.
There was a brief silence as the assembled historians absorbed the significance of this, including Michaels.
The room erupted in conversation, and Michaels realized that if there was going to be another war, he already had a good idea what — and who — would have caused it.