Author Topic: Victoria Regina, Part 2: The Trials of Empire  (Read 1069 times)

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Offline Konisforce

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Victoria Regina, Part 2: The Trials of Empire
« on: August 30, 2012, 04:18:39 PM »
Westminster Abbey, June the 28th, 1838

The Archbishop of Canterbury droned on.  Which was not to imply that what he had to say was in any way uninteresting, or that he was unskilled at saying it.  Simply that the pomp of this particular circumstance demanded very distinct roles of its players, and the role of the Archbishop of Canterybury at the Coronation of the British monarch was to drone.  Which he was doing.  Though it was not his preferred mode of speech, he was quite well habituated to it.  He was an exceedingly skilled drone.

The front rows of Westminster were filled with dignitaries of exactly the sort one would expect.  The middle rows were also filled with the slightly less stellar dignitaries one would expect.  And the final rows were filled with one Dylan Wall, and a number of other superfluous but self-important characters with ideas above their rank and garments befitting their station.  Though he could not see, he could hear, and as the Coronation Oath began, he could not help a slight smirk spreading across his face.

It had been decided that there should be some reminder to the conquered peoples of the Continent who their rightful ruler was.  The Coronation seemed to provide just such an opportunity, and Vice-Commissioner Dylan Wall of the Colonial Administration had seen to it that such reminders were provided in abundance.

With the assurances from Mr. Brunel that the English Channel Bridge would be completed on schedule, a Sharp & Roberts “Atlas” locomotive and five passenger cars were refitted, using extremely lightweight duranium wheels.  Each axle had five different wheels, to accommodate the different gauges still in use across Europe.  The “Coronation Atlas” travelled to Konigsberg, Vienna, Madrid, Zurich, and various other capitals, until finally passing through Paris and crossing the English Channel Bridge at Calais.  The train carried the crowns of Europe, along with the Prime Ministers of the individual parliaments, and was escorted and guarded by members of the mobile infantry battalions the 1st (Royal) Heavy Grenadiers and the Knights of the Order of St. George.  Notably absent was the Prime Minister of the Continental Parliament.

For him, one of the new aether airships was sent.  The lightweight nature of duranium in ‘natural space,’ combined with the gaseous forms of other aether elements, allowed the tentative balloons of early aeronauts to be expanded into something more useful - a blimp which could cross the Channel at breakfast and be back by lunch.  The Prime Minister of the Continental Parliament was met and escorted by his counterpart in the British Parliament, Lord Melbourne.

The next slight, of the sort that only monarchs would notice, was the seating.  The prime ministers of Britain and the Continent were seated at the front, on the aisle, across from the Queen Mother.  The prime ministers of the individual, national, colonially-approved parliaments were seated along the front row as well.  The collected monarchs of subjugated Europe were in the second row, left peering between the hats of their ‘betters’ appointed by the conquering British.

The slights continued in the Coronation Oath, which had prompted Mr. Wall’s smile.  For when the Archbishop of Canterbury began his questioning of Queen Victoria, he asked, “Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand . . .” as was to be expected, but then barreled on into, “The Republic of France, the Kingdom of Prussia, the Combined Crown of Spain and Portugal, the Kingdom of Austria . . .” and proceeded through the lands great and small of the Continent whose monarchs were seated in a foreign abbey.  There were some who doubted the Archbishop of Canterbury would be able to recite them, not because of age or infirmity, but only because the tinier Germanic states truly did present something of an obstacle.  He droned on until, “. . . and of your Possessions and other Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs?”  This Queen Victoria solemnly did.

And another slight, then, personally and pointedly to tweak the nose of the rebel colonials of America.  For Martin Van Buren, President of the United Colonies of America, was relegated to the fourth row with the viceroys and overseers of various British Dependencies not rating as occupied territories.  A stark reminder that the Americans had been brought to heel, not conquered.  And their exclusion from the listing of ‘important’ occupied states simply ground in the boot on their neck.  Van Buren might have thought something of it, but the capture and execution of the rebellious Andrew Jackson which had given him the Presidency had also sufficiently cowed him, and he was happy enough to be in attendance.

With the oath concluded, it was simply a matter of sitting on uncomfortable seats through the anointing and crowning, waiting for the music.  The blare of trumpets and the wail of the boys’ choir brought Wall from his reverie.  He stood and cheered with the rest, and watched as the newly-crowned Monarch was swept from Westminster to attend to what would be a day, week, and - truthfully - life of affairs of state.  He had a sudden and unexpected upwelling of feeling, strangely present in his breast and wholly surprising.  He felt his general pride and duty as a British subject very forcibly transferred to a fealty and, strangely, protective instinct of this fragile young girl, and he knew in his heart that he would work diligently in his position of power to protect not just her interests and her Empire, but herself.

With a sniff into his kerchief he composed himself and strode out to meet the rest of the bureaucratic mandarins at their secondary and tertiary celebrations.

~~~

Excerpted from the notes of Vice-Commissioner Dylan Wall of the British Colonial Administration

June 28, 1939 - Victoria is crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

23rd of September, 1838 - With John Fry’s completion of his geological sensors, a ship is designed to make use of them.  While forcing the sensors into the Turtle was suggested, further study showed it to be infeasible.  Instead, the Watt class is designed in honor of the man to first discover aether.  In addition to geological sensors it has enough space for aether engineers to accompany the ship and correct any problems mid-flight, making longer flights possible without the fear of malfunction leaving the ship stranded somewhere.  Retooling the Plymouth Spaceyard will take until mid-January.  In the mean-time, the Turtle has made a number of Lunar visits, but the orbits of the planets aren’t right for any interplanetary travel.

Code: [Select]
Watt class Science Vessel    850 tons     65 Crew     143 BP      TCS 17  TH 1  EM 0
58 km/s     Armour 1-7     Shields 0-0     Sensors 1/1/0/1     Damage Control Rating 1     PPV 0
Maint Life 9.34 Years     MSP 105    AFR 5%    IFR 0.1%    1YR 2    5YR 33    Max Repair 100 MSP

Aether Propeller (1)    Power 1    Fuel Use 100%    Signature 1    Armour 0    Exp 5%
Fuel Capacity 50,000 Litres    Range 104.4 billion km   (20833 days at full power)

Geological Survey Sensors (1)   1 Survey Points Per Hour

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes

5th of July, 1839 - HMSS Watt is completed at Plymouth Shipyards on the same day that Pope and HMSS Turtle reach Mars.  The Turtle has circuited Mercury and Venus, and now the Red Planet makes humanity’s first tour of the inner system complete.  An experienced ship designer and expert on the new aether elements, Captain Emma Williams is given command of the Watt over the objections of some of the old guard in the Admiralty.  News of a personal letter of congratulation from the young Queen to Captain Williams silences most overt grumbling.

27th of July, 1839 - As part of her shakedown cruise, HMSS Watt takes the Geological Corps of the Royal Society to Luna and conducts the first landing on another heavenly body.  The Watt also has the ability to allow passengers and crew to pass to the outside, and the Geological Corps has brought along newly-designed suits to allow them to work outside the confines of a ship.  With the geological sensor of the Watt active, Captain Williams finds a very large and very accessible vein of duranium near the surface, estimated to be over 5 million tons.

   The Royal Society is overjoyed, as 100% of currently-surveyed stellar bodies (that is to say, two) contain quantities of aether elements.  Plans are begun on how to best make use of this deposit, and a side research project is funded for a remote mining platform which can operate from a ship.  While not a priority, such a module could be very useful in the future as accessibility of aether materials becomes an issue.  The Geological Corps is left with supplies and the Watt travels on toward Mars.

~~~

Selected headlines and excerpts from August 30th, 1839

London’s Weekly Dispatch

Martians Discovered.  Photographs to Come.

Members of the British Space Navy have discovered a civilization thriving on Mars.  Delegates expected shortly.  Queen Victoria to accept visitors from another planet.

Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London

Cities Found on Mars

Surveyors about HMSS Watt have reported finding evidence of numerous large settlements on Mars.  Efforts will be made to investigate the suspected ruins.  Interested parties may apply in writing to the following address . . .

The New York Mirror

New Frontier Found

British scientists have found proof that Mars can support life.  Homesteading to begin shortly.

Peking Herald

Dominion Extended

The British lords have conquered Mars, spreading their empire to the Heavens.  The glorious Queen is expected to take up Residence where she may watch over all subjects.

~~~

The Office of Vice-Commissioner Dylan Wall

A knock at the door.  “Enter.”  A grumbled, short command.

“My apologies, friend.  I can come back.”  Curtis Mann hangs half in, half out the open doorway, hat and cane in one hand.

Wall looks up.  “No!  Of course not.  Have a seat, have a seat.  My doorjamb has been somewhat over-used of late.  Always good to see you, Curtis, I assure you.  Would you like some tea?”

Curtis cocks his head.  “I would gratefully accept, unless you would like something stronger?”

Wall smiles ruefully.  “Whiskey.  In the side-board.”  He scribbles frantically on a half dozen papers as Mann sees to the drinks before setting them aside..  He accepts the proffered and taps it against his friend’s.  “Cheers.”

“So, this Mars business . . . you expect to be a Colonial Administrator of two worlds, soon, I take it?” Mann begins.

Wall slumps back in the chair.  “That’s all there is, these days!  Mars this and that.  I have already put two dozen men in a department in the supernumerary division below me, and most of them are simply drafting answers to every Queen’s subject with enough money for a quill.  And there’s nothing to tell them!”  Mann raises an eyebrow over his glass.  “Oh, there’s plenty, of course.  Yes, Captain Williams discovered large, coordinated, hollow deposits of aether minerals on Mars, which are almost certainly indicative of buildings.  And no, before anyone’s imagination runs away there is no sign of habitation in any of them.  She has visited five major cities thus far, and every one is fully intact.

“But no, I have nothing to say to anyone, because what is there to say?  In truth, my job will get a far sight worse in a year or two.”

Mann cocks his head again.  “Why is that, pray tell?”

Wall drains his glass and sets it down, then hoists a few pieces of paper.  “Request from the Army to station troops on Mars.  Request from the Royal Society to establish a college on Mars.  Request from Lord Berkeley to build a town-home on Mars.  A town-home!  What these all have in common, what they pre-suppose and what cannot actually happen at the moment, is that they think we can actually get to Mars.”

Mann waits for Wall to continue.  “Two ships have traveled there.  One carries no cargo, the second can carry enough cargo to leave half a dozen men on Luna for a month.  It would be as if Columbus discovered the New World in a ship no bigger than a row-boat.  Mr. Berkeley can have his town-home if he wishes, but it will take us twenty seven trips and he can have nothing bigger than that side-board there.”

Mann nods.  “So it is the Admiralty’s problem, now.  And their shipyards.”

Wall nods vigorously in return.  “With the current fervor, they think . . .”

Mann holds up a hand.  “No, let me.  I want to see if I would be cut out for a life of public service.”  Mann steeples his fingers.  “They will start making plans for a merchantman, something large enough to take cargo in bulk.  But that would - if I understand the aether mechanics of these ships well enough - also require a shipyard much bigger than any current.  So, the design will stay, waiting for the shipyard to be built.  Meanwhile, the fervor will die down and Lord Berkeley will forget about his place in the Martian countryside in favor of current events, particularly because there has been unrest in the Punjabi region and the American West, and the Spanish have never really settled down.”

Wall grins.  “Partway there.”

“Meantime, some actual researchers - Royal Society, I’m sure - will make their way to Mars and begin making sense of what has been found.  The boffins will eventually want some support, likely Army engineers, I’d guess, and their training is underway right now.  And once we have either someone to take or something to take them in, there will be no real progress.  Correct?”

Wall nods.  “A keen and cynical view of modern bureaucratic structure.  We’ll make a Viceroy of you yet.  Except not actually cynical enough by half.  The Royal Society researchers are assembling even now, but training has yet to commence for Army engineers, simply because no one knows what they will be for.  Reviews of possible training procedures now, training to commence later.”

Mann nods.  “So, while the public harasses you about the recent discoveries on Mars, you know that the Empire will not be able to do anything for at least . . . two years?”

“Three.”

“And you can’t tell everyone that Mars isn’t accessible because the Empire is disorganized.  So you are telling everyone that . . . let’s see . . . Crown Dependency?  Or . . . even better . . . off-limits because of Imperial secrets?”

Wall nods and holds out his glass to be refilled and parrots, “It is in the best interests of the Queen and the Empire that your request not be granted at this time.  Sincerely, Dylan Wall, Her Majesty’s Vice-Commissioner of Colonial Administration.”

~~~

Excerpted from the notes of Vice-Commissioner Dylan Wall of the British Colonial Administration

September the 22nd, 1839 - Miss Charlotte Cartwright, member of the Royal Society, completes her work on a new form of aether reactor, the pressurized water reactor, combining some aspects of steam engine construction while making use of the latest understandings of aether materials.  At the request of the Admiralty and the Colonial Administration, further research into an applied design of the reactor for aether propellers has begun.  The latest review of space travel by the Admiralty has pointed out the difficulties in navigation and the lack of experience.  Because navigation consists of pointing at a target and going, it can be difficult on occasion to reach the necessary speeds to catch one’s target.  Improvements in both navigation and engine speed are sorely needed if exploration is to continue.

2nd of October, 1839 - The Geological Corps on Luna has discovered a small deposit of neutronium relatively near the surface, but does not believe there is anything else to be found.  The Turtle is dispatched to collect them and bring them back to Earth, pending further explorations of Maps by the Xenological Corps.

10th of October, 1839 - The Watt surveys Venus and finds neither ruins nor further aether elements.  She proceeds on to Mercury, hoping that the elements are as common as had been believed.

25th of October, 1839 - The Royal Greenwich Observatory has been expanded significantly, using aether materials to vastly increase the resolution of the telescopes.  When the ships rise in the night sky, it is possible to track the ships of the British Space Navy from the ground.

10th of December, 1839 - Colonel Price Baskerville is killed in Karachi.  It is officially an accident, but members of the Colonial Administration, the Crown bureaucracy, the Army heirarchy, and much of the public know the truth . . .

~~~

Karachi, British Protectorate of India.  9:00 am local time, December 10th, 1839

Colonel Baskerville squinted east into the morning sun and scratched at the sweat trickling down the back of his neck.  All the science in the Empire could make his armor lighter than wool and stronger than steel, but it couldn’t do anything about how blasted hot it got in India . . .

He accepted the looking glass back from Major Carter and peered through it himself from the low walls of the harbour fort on Manora Island.  HMS Wellesley had given the proper signal flags and would be pulling past the fort on her way into the harbour, and Baskerville was uncommonly glad for it.  His men were running low on fuel for their armor and he didn’t relish the idea of going without.  Four days in Caucasus during the Muscovite Campaign had taught him to be wary of losing the abilities granted by the aether-enhanced armor.

Carter gestured for the glass back and clapped it to his eye again.  “Sir, another ship.  Y’see, away there?  Lateen rig, local hauler.  Coming in a bit quickly for my liking.”

Baskerville again accepted the glass and again looked.  Nothing terribly suspicious except, perhaps, a few too many men on dock for a normal cargo ship.  But not enough to arouse any great suspicion.  Then again, Wellesley was carrying a load of sorium that had to last he and his men through the next four months.  Any amount of suspicion was more than Colonel Baskerville wanted.

He turned back down below and bellowed from beneath his bushy mustache.  “Second squad and first heavy weapons, head over to the Wellesley.  Leftenant Lyons, take three men to that native ship if you please.  Swords and pistols, one gauss cannon.  First heavy weapons to train mortars on the native ship.  If anything is suspicious, hole her twice and let Lyons swim home.”  With a cacophony of clanking, the aether-armoured troops leapt to the ramparts of the little fort, over the edge to the beach, and waded out into the water.

Duranium-infused steel could be stretched to absurdly thin sizes and still had the ability to stop a locomotive in its tracks.  A man covered head to toe in a suit of mail and plate armour made from the stuff would be impervious to anything, but weighed down more by his wool undergarments than the armour plates.  The corresponding duranium- and neutronium-infused weaponry were equally lightweight, allowing a heavy grenadier - or East India Company knight, as they were styled on this side of the world - to tote an entire ship-of-the-line’s arsenal of firepower dangling from a few straps.  The selected squads waded out into the water and set out at a brisk swim for their destinations.  The colonel found himself jealous of them and longed to take a dip into the water himself.  He would have, but for the unfortunate effect it would have on his mustache.  He already knew they affectionately called him “The Walrus” behind his back.

Ten minutes later and the Wellesley, wallowing somewhat as the morning land breezes slacked, was being overtaken by the lateen-rigged native ship.  Lieutenant Lyons could be seen arguing vigorously with either the pilot or the captain, requiring him to slack off sail and having no such luck.  Wishing there to be no confusion, Colonel Baskerville called out “Fourth squad with me!” and leapt to the edge of the beach.

By this point the Wellesley was in the thinnest point of the strait, no more than five or six hundred feet from the shore.  Close enough, certainly.  “We’ll jump, lads.  Land in the water, though.  No use falling through the deck like Smith did,” Baskerville told the half-dozen men around him, then flicked open a valve at his waste.  Aether energies infused the clockworks of his armour’s leg joints.  He squatted down, then exploded upward in an enormous leap, the arc of which took him sailing up above the topmasts of the ship.  He splashed down thirty feet from the ship’s side, sunk quickly to the sandy bottom, then pushed up again to burst from the water and grip the rail.  He swung himself over onto the deck and landed lightly.  Feeling his mustache dripping against his lips, he self-consciously shoved the great helm of the armor over his head and strode over to his heavy weapons squad after a nod of greeting to the ship’s captain.

“Sir, nothing from Lyons, and she doesn’t seem to be slowing,” the corporal reported.

“Steady on.  Pulse shells loaded in the mortars?”

“Aye sir.  Three hundred paces or so, no chance I’ll miss.”

“Good lad.  Let’s wait a bit more.”

Lyons, still arguing with the native captain, had finally had his fill.  He barked an order which drifted indistinctly across the water, then reached for his sword.  Two of his squadmates nearest pulled duranium steel hatchets and turned to attack the mainsail rigging.  Two natives suddenly shoved Lyons, sending him tumbling into the water, while another mob formed and turned on the other two at the railing.  The fourth knight swung his powered crossbow to the level and pulled it back smoothly, searching for a target.  

“Get over there!” Baskerville barked, while adding, “heavy squad stay here.  We’ll sink her if we must, but this could just be some smugglers or some . . .” he cut himself short.  As the dozen men of first and fourth squads leapt into the water, a bale of wool suddenly shifted and revealed within itself the barrel of a gauss artillery piece lurking on the deck.  “Sink it!” he ordered.

Two of the heavy weapons men carried stubby mortars, built to launch grenades which released a solid thump of a sorium shockwave upon impact.  Two more carried large-caliber gauss cannons, too unweildly but for the clockwork of their armour.  All four had trained their sights on the native ship some ten minutes earlier when they first boarded the Wellesley, and their sights hadn’t wavered in that time.  All fired moments after the command, and all fired true.

The gauss cannon on board the native ship, stolen at great expense from the aether weapons brigade of an old-style cavalry regiment, had been subjected to sinking, smashing, dropping, and banging in the fifteen months that the separatists had taken to smuggle it Jamnagar.  It had lain in wait for another four months as the operation was planned.  But aether minerals were strong beyond all natural bounds, and there was never any doubt that the gauss cannon would function.

It spit an explosive cannonball a mere heartbeat before the four projectiles struck various parts of the native ship.  Its natural wood splintered and disappeared beneath the impacts of the two non-explosive gauss rounds and the two pulse grenades.  The shockwave of the pulse detonation ruptured the organs of many of the crew, and more were killed by splinters and shards of their ship.  The three British East India Company knights aboard the ship - and Lieutenant Lyons in the water - instinctively curled and took the force along their armour, which naturally stiffened under the onslaught of pressure.

The explosive shell spat just before the ship’s destruction raced on just ahead of the shockwave.  The watchers on the Wellesley had time to duck from the explosion of the native ship before their own disappeared.

The shell passed effortlessly through the hull and the hanging knee behind it.  In an astounding stroke of chance - good or bad depending on one’s view, but chance by any account - it found the seven tanks of thick, pure duranium which housed the refined sorium to power the aether-armour of the knights.  It impacted the first of these - the first substance it had encountered which could turn the ball aside - and leapt to the side.  It impacted a second tank and from this rebounded to shear the valve apparatus from the third.  Somehow, the first impact had not triggered the mechanism for the explosive ball, which was a defect that - had he known of it - the manufacturer would have been most ashamed.  Nor did the second impact, though that did shake loose from the priming mechanism the flakes of duranium that held it impotent.  The third impact - shearing off the valve from the sorium tank - was barely registered by the ball.

At this point, the Wellesley would have been in difficult straits.  Refined, gaseous sorium quickly soaks into most natural elements, making them highly explosive when exposed to certain conditions.  But a sorium leak would have been the worst of the situation.  Instead, when the Wellesleywas lasted outfitted at the Bombay Naval Dockyard, slight rot had been discovered in the supporting beams of several of her port-side guns.  She could have gone years without getting them replaced, most likely, but should she see heavy action, the bucking of the 32-pounders would have weakened the deck.  Her captain, a most conscientious man, requested that it be replaced, and the yard foreman, an equally conscientious man, replaced the supports not with more wood but with a single, inch-wide strip of duranium steel.

The ball struck this strip, exploded, and ignited the bit of sorium which had leaked out of the first tank.  The explosion of that tank would have flattened the fort at Manora island.  As it was, the first tank ruptured the other six.

Lieutenant Lyons survived the blast, as he was just surfacing.  Ten of the dozen men of first and fourth squads did as well, since they were primarily in the water, though they found themselves between one and five hundred feet inland after the wave receded.  The rest of the 1st East India Company Knights - still inside the fort - survived with only minor bumps and bruises from the wall that came at them sideways.  Colonel Baskerville, the first heavy weapons squad, the entire crew of the Wellesley, the remainder of the crew of the native ship, and 1,200 civilians in and around Karachi harbour were killed by the blast.

Parts of the knights were found as far away as Shah Faisal Town to the east and Liaquatabad to the north.

The story continues in Part 3: Consolidation
« Last Edit: September 17, 2012, 11:17:32 AM by Konisforce »
Come take a look at Victoria Regina, an old-timey AAR
 

Offline Garfunkel

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Re: Victoria Regina, Part 2: The Trials of Empire
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2012, 06:11:22 PM »
Great story, keep it up!
 

Offline Tanj

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Re: Victoria Regina, Part 2: The Trials of Empire
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2012, 05:01:22 PM »
Absolutely love your writing and the setting  ;D
 

 

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