Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 21, 2398

In the main sequence, the concept of international waters was determined by a bunch of people a long time ago who talked about it for a long time, and used math to make clear and mostly unequivocal calculations. In The Third Rail, things went a little bit differently. For much of human history, if one could see land using a normal handheld spyglass, they were floating within territorial waters, and subject to that state’s laws and customs. When two or more states could be viewed from the same point, those states had to come to some kind of agreement, not subject to any outsider’s opinion or authority on the matter. World War I in the 1850s predominantly concerned how boundaries were divided, and who was entitled to what land resources. Each dispute inspired two more fronts to pop up elsewhere, and settle their own grievances. Pretty soon, the whole planet was on fire. The end of The Terrible War—as it was known colloquially, especially at the time—was when all of the major disagreements had been resolved. It was also when a new definition of transboundary waters was established. Basically, if you could defend it with a naval or coastal force, you could have it.
Since then, smaller wars have been fought over further discord, but they were mostly not tied together, and World War II didn’t begin for another 140 years, which finalized a lot of the lingering border ambiguity through treaties and trade agreements. Much of World War III in the 2040s involved starting the argument over again, but this time regarding airspace, as that was the innovation at the time. These laws have not technically changed over the centuries, but the boundaries have naturally become standardized for the majority of nations. It is strikingly similar to the figure used in the main sequence. There, it’s 370 kilometers. Here, it’s 350 kilometers. Unless you’re talking about Panama, where it’s closer to 900 kilometers.
Jamaica, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Ecuador do not have international waters to speak of. They only have a small sliver of internal waters, which essentially come down to how far out a small fishing boat can go for a day of work, and still make it back to shore by nightfall. The wars, the peace negotiations, and the trade policies that led to this interesting situation are impossible to explain on a single page, but the details are irrelevant. Marie, Leona, and their SD6 team need to get into Panama, but none of those other countries listed is willing to host them. The closest they can get is a small island chain straddling the equator called Xeros. Overlaying the correspondence map that Leona created onto this reality’s map makes it obvious that in the main sequence, they’re called the Galápagos Islands. There, they were named for the tortoises that call it home. Here, they’re named for the fact that nothing lives here. The fauna, and much of the flora, was decimated so long ago that the history books don’t remember who was responsible, but they did such a good job of it that these are mostly just made of rocks, sand, and a few shrubs here and there. Tourism does not exist. At all. So at least they have some privacy while the diplo team gets their diplomacy on.
“Hey. Hey look.” Doric has been playing games on his tablet in between scanner updates. “I was right. The dot is definitely in the water now, and closer than last time.”
Marie takes it from him. She looks out over the water, even though the dot is still hundreds of kilometers away. “This looks like an escape pattern. Our target is trying to get out of Panama. Piss and gear up. We’re going in.”

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