Author Topic: Victoria Regina, Part 5: The Wallis Incident  (Read 1763 times)

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Offline Konisforce

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Victoria Regina, Part 5: The Wallis Incident
« on: March 19, 2013, 12:38:20 PM »
Excerpt from Giant Among the Stars, the biography of Admiral Patrick Field, by Sir Julian Stafford Corbett

In any examination of the events coarsely dubbed “The Wallis Incident,” it is important to understand the context.  Indeed, such a search for context is the burden and joy of any historian.  The British Stellar Empire of 1853 - though it was not yet styled as such - was only recently aware of the existence of jump points and the ability to travel to other stars as easily as stepping through a doorway.  The British Aether Navy consisted of a handful of support craft; freighters, colony ships, a pair of couriers, a single troop transport, and four survey vessels.

Still to come were the glorious military victories by the spacers.  The Aether Navy had exactly zero warships and zero threats.  The British Navy (water-going, mind you) of the past 60 years had been responsible for Copenhagen, Trafalgar, and the Empire War.  The Army had conquered the world.  The Aether Navy had ferried a few prisoners to a penal colony on Mars . . .

In this environment the chances for glory were few and far between.  Du Randt on the Emerald had discovered Middlesex and made history as the first aether tar orbiting another sun.  So it seemed that exploration was the road to glory in the Aether Navy of 1853 and 1854.  An interesting paradox, certainly, given that the drive to explore was to understand how many monsters were lurking in the shadows without actually angering any of them.  The fleet of four Jump Phoenix class ships was built at a high cost in political capital, in the teeth of opposition from Parliament, the Admiralty, and even the Queen herself.

Therefore, the actions of then-Captain of the List Patrick Field were in an environment where the only available laurels were to be found by exploring the stars, which was the one thing that the Aether Navy was not meant to do.  In such an environment, any opportunity to perform within the bounds of one’s orders was to be seized.

Captain Field’s Phoenix had just returned and reported the overview survey of Surrey.  Along with the Chimera, the two Jump Phoenixes were to wait at Earth for revictualling and rest for their crews.  Under Queen Victoria’s mandate Surrey was to be searched for geological artifacts and minerals and - unspoken though the order was - threats.  The Hydra was out-system in Sol surveying for further jump points and passages into the system, and the Griffin was doing the same in Middlesex.

The next events have been told through various dramatizations; books, stage productions, even an opera.  Captain Field, after speaking to his first officer, bo’sun, and Marine lieutenant, volunteered the Phoenix to return Surrey and begin conducting the survey, citing his crew’s eagerness as well as Hydra’s distance out-system.  Do bear in mind, dear reader, that this was before the days of prize money offered for habitable planets.  The fact that the crew was willing to forego six weeks’ leave for another twelve months in the aether is a testament either to the pull of the stars or of Admiral Field, or both.

With orders in hand, Field and the Phoenix restocked and floated from Plymouth.  Additionally, Field was “directed to inform the master of HMSS Griffin to proceed to a geological survey of Surrey with all expediency.”  Note the ambiguity of the expediency - is it the Phoenix or the Griffin which is required to be expedient?  A later board of inquiry made its judgment, but it is far more interesting if you make your own.

The Hydra, with Captain Nathan Wallis commanding, was still to head into Surrey, as ordered.  But no longer would she be the first ship there, or the first to survey the possibly-inhabited worlds around the star.

It is likely that Field would have done as he did regardless of the other captains involved.  But the perceived snub to Captain Wallis aboard the Hydra was, no doubt, an extra blessing.  Much has been made of the rivalry between the two.  They were at Eton together, certainly.  It is likely apocryphal that the gap in Wallis’ teeth was caused by Field during the wall game, and that the play ended in a kicked goal which won Field’s team the game.  The sparring over Sally Dunworth is likely also overblown, though it might have been perceived competition that spurred Fields into a notoriously loveless marriage.  And their time at the Admiralty was well-known to have been fraught with posturing and contests.  Regardless of any petty jealousies, however, Captain Field’s actions were certainly motivated by a love of glory.

In his captain’s logbook and letters of the time, we also see very clearly that Field regarded all of Surrey as “his” discovery.  While his letters are careful to keep such megalomania hidden, he is overt in his regard of the worlds that would come to be called Boreas and Zephyr as his discoveries as well.  The idea that the Martian race was just around the next star was still rampant at the time, rekindled by each new discovery.  Field clearly thought that he was sailing to Britain’s first meeting with an alien species, and he would stop at nothing to be the one to make contact.

In this light, Field’s actions are no less underhanded, but are - if one may editorialize for a moment - underhanded in the manner of gentlemanly underhandedness since the time of Charlemagne.  While not right, they were not quite wrong, either.  The Phoenix slipped through the jump gate into Middlesex and sent standard codes and greetings to the outpost on Ares and to the Griffin, conducting its survey out-system in Middlesex.  It wasn’t until the Phoenix was a half day away from the jump into Surrey that Field sent the updated orders to Griffin, ensuring that he would reach Surrey first.

Of course, it is clear now that all was in vain.  No Martains, no ruins, and no sign of civilization, though certainly to be the first man to walk among the glasstree forests on Boreas or to see the rise of Anemoi from the Darkling Plain on Zephyr would have been an amazing experience.  Alas, it is one of life’s fond ironies that the men who have such experiences are seldom fulfilled by them . . .

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

5th of February, 1853 - Captain Field has left to begin the survey of the new system, dubbed Surrey.  Two more survey ships are accompanying, and the fourth and last of the survey fleet is looking for further gravitational tunnels in Middlesex.  While there are some aether elements that are scarce in Sol in relative terms, none seems to be in such dire straits as to go dragging mines across the skies.  I should know, I have to sign off on the bloody reports every week.

30th of March - The Admiralty, bowing to some pressure from the Queen, I’m told, has decided that the Chimera will continue its survey of jump points in the aether around our sun, cutting the number of ships surveying Surrey down to two.  That means at least two years to complete the survey there, estimated, and more than that to finish surveys in Middlesex and Sol regarding gravitational wave confluences.  While I don’t like the idea of giving the exploration factions more ships, I have thrown my support behind the construction of two more Jump Phoenix vessels.  The sooner the surveys are complete, the sooner I can put this whole business to rest.

I was also privy to the first proposals put forth by our industrial and scientific establishment in response to requested armament designs.  While there were some attempts by aether armament designers to create space-based weapons similar to gauss artillery or optical cannons, none seemed to address the issues of reacting to both range and speed.  A design for massive, self-propelled warheads the size of main battle cannons seems to be the front-runner, along with accompanying tubes for launching from a ship and from the ground.  I, for one, don’t see how such a system could function from the ground, but that is up to the boffins and not I.  The aether engines driving these monsters are the size of a small carriage themselves and use the latest technology, so perhaps there is a chance for them.

10th of April - I have received a report, publicized very sparsely, that the xenolinguistic faculties on Ares have finally completed the deciphering of the ruins.  My early impressions are correct - I should’ve taken Curtis on that fifty pound wager.  The inhabitants of Ares not only weren’t Martians, they were barely even spacefaring.  Their level of technology seems on par with the Empire’s, if one forgets the advances made through picking over the ruins on Mars.  Coupled with a permanent temperature of nearly 100 degrees below freezing, Ares has not shaped up to be the hoped-for world.

1st of May - Mixed news from Mars today.  The 34th (Berlin) Pioneers have disturbed another group of clockwork men somewhere in the ruins of Mars York and a defense will need to be mounted.  At nearly the same time in Victoria, the 1st Archaeo-Martian Pioneers have discovered nearly four dozen ship engines of an advanced make, of a size that leads them to believe they are for freighters.  They’ll be shipped back to Earth for study.

3rd of June - I’ve been getting pestered for a week, now.  I saw fit to assign overseeing viceroys for Ares and Ganymede, since both have seen an upwelling of immigrants.  Now that those appointments are made,  those damnable brothers from Hampshire have been sending me letters and messages to appoint some new American they’ve taken to.  Mr. Ross Dean.  Very well, I have need of his mining expertise overseeing the clockwork mines on Macholz.  He can do the work from Earth, surely, but I think a trip there personally will do him some good.

Ah, but news!  And far more important than my petty slights.  The engines returned from Mars have been picked over by the boffins, and they tell me we have made great strides.  They describe them as two full iterations of advancement above our current drive technology.  It seems that these drives make use of individual ions thrown from the sorium for propulsion rather than . . . oh, whatever was used before.  And these drives are then sheathed in a . . . well, something involving magnetized plasma.  Essentially an advanced engine design, wrapped in an even more advanced design.  They assure me they’re twice as fast as current designs.  Glorious news, I’m sure, but I do have to take their word for it all.

17th of June - Word has reached us by survey vessel and then courier about Surrey.  The first planet surveyed has no signs of intelligent life, though it does have life of a sort, and the atmosphere itself is breathable.  Most of the planet is below freezing and has intermittent wind storms of great intensity, and so has been dubbed “Boreas” after the cold north wind of the Greeks.

There are aether elements present as well, though in no great quantity.  The Mechanical and Logistics Ministry head has already forwarded a proposal for adapted domes that utilize the planet’s own atmosphere to reduce the need for recycling breathable air.  It should require only 1 part in 2 of the infrastructure necessary for settling Mars, though my earlier reservations persist that we have no need of bothering with anywhere but Earth when the cost is so high.

As there are elements of the government which would like to open up Surrey for settlement now that it has already been surveyed, I will have to look into a method for ferrying large-scale ships through jump points.  A massive spool drive, it would seem.  It would be best if we could build a jump gate, of course, but this seems to be beyond our capacity for the time being.  There have been proposals to dismantle the current jump gates into Middlesex to give us the technology to recreate it, but no right-thinking person could possibly agree to that when there are Queen’s subjects on Ares.

27th of July - The Jarvis Colony Company has been founded.  The company will be built around a newly-designed commercial drive built on the magnetized plasma drive technology.  They are hoping to out-perform the existing three shipping lines by producing massive, fast colony ships.  Their first filed set of patents points to a ship that travels twice as fast as a survey vessel, nearly 2,500 kilometers per second, and can carry 100,000 colonists in storage.

The other concern this raises for my Administration is one of policing.  There will need to be regulatory efforts on the shipping, and they will need to be enforced, particularly if new jump points are found which Her Majesty deems off-limits.  I have begun the political process of forcing another naval shipyard into production, which should be easy enough to accomplish with a minimum of badgering and cajoling.

10th of September - The number of systems required for military armament is staggering.  Self-propelled aether torpedoes have been selected as the primary armament of our first ships, which was a good decision, I feel.  But now we must have a torpedo engine, and a launch tube to allow the torpedo into the aether, and a magazine to store the torpedos, and apparently a sensor to keep them on target, and another to spot the targets.  I see now why the Admiralty has been so slow in building military craft.  A failure in any one of these systems renders the rest moot.

17th of March, 1854 - The geological survey of Ares has not discovered any new aether elements and is being called off.  With ruins of poor technology, a difficult climate, and no real elements, its only benefit is that it is on the way to Surrey.

With regard to Surrey, the Admiralty and Colonial Administration have agreed on the design for the Harbor class civilian jump tender.  The actual systems required for the ship to do its job took up only eleven thousand tons, apparently, but experimentation has shown that a ship with a spool drive must be physically larger than the ships it wishes to shepherd through a point.  There was a long explanation involving conics, the collapse of netherspace, and aether funneling properties.  Either way, the proposed design looks like a spider in the middle of its web when all the necessary gee-gaws are deployed for a jump through netherspace.

I have given order to the Plymouth Civilian Shipyards (of which I have complete control, thankfully) to begin retooling to build the new ship.  In anticipation of Surrey’s opening, East India Spaceworks has begun adding a third slipway to expand their production of freighters and colony ships.  The Hampshire brother in the Burghers is practically chomping at the bit to have Surrey settled.

2nd of April - Captain Wallis in the Hydra has recently returned from Surrey for revictualling.  He brings news that Boreas is still a good candidate for colonization, and that the three possible candidates around the gas giant farther in-system have been surveyed as well.  The theme of the Greek gods of the wind has been continued by Captain Field.  Zephyr has a nearly-breathable atmosphere and a balmy climate.  Notus has no atmosphere to speak of and is too hot, and Eurus is a decent temperature but also no atmosphere.  The gas giant itself is Anemoi.

Wallis has apparently volunteered to forgo extended shore leave and will return to Surrey for the gravitational survey for jump points.  Hopefully there are few.

8th of May - The Phoenix is back for shore leave, revictualling, and an overhaul after an extended tour in Surrey.  Captain Field is to be awarded the Drake’s Star for exploration.

27th of July - The Satyr and the Pegasus Jump Phoenix-class ships have been floated.  Because they are our only current spool-equipped vessels, I have authorized one more, the Goblin, to act as a courier and reserve for the other six.  That’s the end of the production run, however, and I’ll have the yard retooled for offensive ships as soon as the design is completed.  For now, the two ships will head to complete the gravitational survey in Sol, then Middlesex, and finish Surrey.

17th of August - Lily Steele of Steeleworks Aether Foundry has completed a new engine design, utilizing the latest magnetized plasma designs for a military ship.  The propellor and reactor itself is approximately 1,000 tons, and the Admiralty has begun accepting designs for a torpedo-bearing cruiser between 3,000 and 4,000 tons to be built around it.

17th of September - Another three dozen large engines found on Mars.  The boffins tell me that there is little more to be learned from them aside from curiosities about the design culture of the Martians, so I am quite happily selling them for a profit to the private sector’s commercial interests.

13th of October - News on military fronts of all sort.  More clockwork men have been disturbed on Mars.  I’m told that, thanks to our extensive study of previous battles, a quarter of them were destroyed in the first day of fighting.  Preparation above all.

The survey of Sol has completed, somewhat dishearteningly.  Besides the gate jump point into Middlesex, there are four more jump points.  One is to solar south-west, just outside the orbit of Saturn.  Others are in the western half of the system, all out in the region beyond Neptune.  Distant, dangerous, and likely useless.  I do not know if I am cut out for the Aether Age.

Luckily, though, the Admiralty has finally assembled the designs of a ship.  Tentatively called the Pikeman class, it should fit the bill.  8 tubes for launching 8 ton torpedos, enough storage for 11 rounds from each tube, and the sensors to control the weapons out to a distance of 100 million kilometers.  I will feel much better when the Aether Navy is off the drawing board and in the skies.

23rd of October - Another heavy assault by clockwork guardians on Mars, another victory.  They lost nearly two thirds of their remaining forces.  Some may long for the glory days of the Charge of the Grenadiers, but for my part I am happy with predictable and safe victories.

1st of November - A team of researchers at Glasgow has come up with a system for constructing jump gates, they believe.  Small-scale tests have proven the concept, and the engineering difficulties of hanging the object in the Aether have been overcome.  The entire apparatus is over 25,000 tons, however.  Any design for a ship would be at least that size, and since East India Spaceworks and Plymouth Civilian Shipyards are the only two with anything approaching that capacity, any construction ship will have to wait.  East India Spaceworks is firmly in the hands of the House of Burghers, and Plymouth is retooling for the Harbor, also to please them.  They’ll probably demand a new civilian shipyard built at government expense, but I’ll hold that off for as long as possible.

11th of November, 1854 - I have received an urgent request to appear at the Admiralty.  I see in my daily reports that the Satyr jumped into Middlesex earlier today, so likely some message was relayed through the gate-mounted meson repeaters to the Admiralty.  I have no idea what it could be, but it is likely more their problem than mine.  I think that by penning this entry and taking an early lunch at the Reform Club, I should delay just long enough to make it clear that the Vice-Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Colonial Administration is not one to be whipped about the post by anyone, Lords of the Admiralty included.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2014, 09:50:03 AM by Konisforce »
Come take a look at Victoria Regina, an old-timey AAR

Offline Konisforce

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Re: Victoria Regina, Part 5: The Wallis Incident
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2013, 02:20:39 PM »
Excerpts from the biography “The Wallis Incident” by Oliver Warner.
Includes excerpts from the captain’s logbook of HMSS
Hydra during the period of Captain of the List Nathan Wallis as master and commander.

Much has been said about the relationship between the aether navy-men Wallis and Field.  Little else needs to be.  Here I hope to provide an examination of Wallis’ own words about his survey of Surrey and the eponymous, infamous trinary system, and to provide the context surrounding those words.

In the late summer of 1853, the general xenophobia of the British Empire was, by some reckonings, at its peak.  Ruins on Mars, the Jovian moon of Ganymede, and the main-belt asteroid Diotima showed that preceding civilizations had clearly had a need for weaponry, had developed it, and that their weapons far outstripped even the theoretical capacity of the Empire.  The Queen and the Admiralty were afraid of space at large with that special kind of terror reserved for the unknown.  The Empire was as a child in bed, hiding under the covers from unseen things that went bump in the night.

And like those with blankets over their heads, there seemed to be a general belief that hiding would keep the monsters at bay.  The Xenothropic Principle has been debated since, but suffice it to say, there is some merit to the Admiralty’s concerns about exposing humanity to the galaxy without any defensive measures in place.  Therefore, the complete moratorium on exploration of new jump points was a standing order at the Admiralty.  Built on the sound logic that “an egg cannot be un-cracked,” the geological and gravitational survey of the Surrey system was being undertaken for possible exploitation and to comprehend the warp and woof of jump points into the system.

Captain Wallis on board the Hydra had slipped into the Surrey system in mid-May of 1853, passing the Phoenix with his rival Field as the latter ship headed back for refits and shore leave back on Earth.  Field later testified at court martial hearings that he believed the Hydra was coming to complete the survey of Surrey’s planets.  The likely candidates for colonization had already been reviewed by Field and the Phoenix thanks to a curtailing of shore leave, which was precisely the same action Wallis performed to get the Hydra on station more quickly.

The preliminary scans of the inner system for standing gravitational waves had been ongoing for nearly two months, from July through September, by a crew which had only experienced a week back on Earth in nearly two years’ deployment time.  While Field had earlier riled up his men with speeches of glory and honor to bring them back on board before their shore leave was up, Wallis had apparently simply sent letters by post, informing them of their duty to report.  Needless to say, Wallis’ patrician manners did not endear him to his men.

September 3rd, 1853.  The preliminary gravitational surveys from our present location had seemed to show not just one but four jump points in the immediate vicinity of solar southwest.  Today the ratings at the gravitational sensors have gathered enough data to confirm the findings.  I have set course for the closest of them, which is in-system at just a few million kilometers from Surrey’s star.  I simply do not believe the instruments in this matter and I will see the ratings flogged for their sloppiness if they are incorrect.

September 17th, 1853.  Still advancing on the possible anomaly in-system.  The Stellar Cartography Officer has given me some nonsense, stating that range is immaterial to the instruments within a few million kilometers, and assuring me that the readings are correct to within the best tolerances established by the Royal Society.  Well, none of them have captained a survey vessel, and my instincts as a Queen’s officer tell me that the survey reading is just a ghost.  I’ll have it proven shortly.

September 23rd, 1853.  Have arrived.  Still inconclusive.  Will conduct test using a spool drive.  

As is evident from the logs, Wallis maintained that his intention was always to test for the presence of a jump point.  This was not established practice for survey ships, as it would have been in direct contradiction of the standing ban on further stellar exploration.  Most theorize that he had already decided to pursue further exploration by this point, and that the veneer of ‘testing’ the instruments was a ruse from the beginning.

From court martial testimony we know some of the events on the bridge at that time.  After a prolonged haranguing of the Lt. Estes, the Stellar Cartography Officer, Wallis insisted that he leave the bridge and see to his instruments, claiming they were “still malfunctioning” by identifying four jump points.  With Estes off the bridge, he gave the order to spin up the spool drive to 2nd Lt. Campbell, the duty officer and the officer in de jure control of the ship at the time.

Lt. Campbell famously declined to give the order, stating that it was against Admiralty orders to do so.  After a reiteration of the order, Wallis ordered Campbell placed under arrest and thrown in the brig.  Wallis repeated the order twice more into the speaking tube before the engineer’s mate would activate the spool drive.  All testimony indicated that Wallis himself threw the breaker which activated the spool drive and dragged together the twin aetherspace points leading to the new star system.

September 24th, 1853.  Have jumped successfully into a new system from the first identified jump point.  Lt. Estes was correct.  I have brought him to the bridge and announced for all to hear that he was correct and I was in the wrong.  Lt. Campbell, however, was clearly insubordinate and will remain in the brig.  If he had his way, we never would have confirmed Estes’s findings.

We shall remain here in Wallis for a day to recover and gain our bearings.  This new system appears to have three stars in total, one orbiting rather close in stellar terms and another at an enormous distance.  At the end of the uridium spectrograph readings, we will head back to Surrey and continue the survey, confident now in our measurements.

During the half-hearted and awkward apology to Estes, Captain Wallis also announced that he was naming the system on behalf of his wife; therefore, naming it Wallis.  After Estes - who was eager to explore a new system though reluctant to be there, of course - announced the presence of two more stars in the system, Wallis quickly declared the secondary star DeCroix, in honor of his wife’s maiden name, and the tertiary star Aiden, in honor of his own mother’s maiden name.

It was certainly the prerogative of Wallis to declare a name for this new system, as cartographers and mapmakers had for centuries.  But in the traditions of the Navy, such naming was expected to follow certain conventions - Middlesex, Surrey, and then Hampshire.  Such an act of self-involvement would’ve been frowned on and talked about in any event, even without the following.

While it is generally accepted that Wallis planned all along to jump into a new system, opinion is quite divided - sometimes vehemently so - on the matter of the spool drive.

Maintenance logs from the Hydra show that a standard post-jump examination of the spool drive showed no issues.  The engineer’s mate on duty at the time signed the log, and later testified that the examination exposed no flaws.  Wallis gave explicit orders that night for all non-watch personnel to “sleep off any ill-effects of the jump” which might have amassed.  

When the order to jump back to Surrey came in the morning, the engineer himself was on duty and began the spin-up process.  A number of slight anomalies were reported by both the engineer and the engine cadet manning the drive, and the spin-up was cancelled.  Wallis was informed of the issue, and it was later testified that his first question was after the health of the conventional drives.

September 27th, 1853.  I have been informed that there is a problem with the spool drive.  The engineer is confident that a jump could be made, but that there would need to be a full refit before using it again.  I have informed him that it is better to root out and prevent the problem in the first place than to hope to fix it after the fact.  It is not a combat situation; there is plenty of time to perform the necessary repairs.

In the meantime, I have given the order to head in-system toward the star Wallis.  Though the spool drive is not operational, the rest of the ship is.  It is my duty as a Queen’s officer to make the best use of the resources available, and to explore this new system for the Empire.

Extensive investigation into the events surrounding the spool drive’s malfunction simply raised more questions than it answered.  The eventual cause of the problem was found to be a rear rotor bushing worn through and out of alignment.  The fix by the engineer and his crew involved removing a number of bulkheads, un-mounting the entire spool drive, then disabling local gravity for the rear half of the ship and floating the whole spool drive out of its moorings.  It required more than a week of work in zero-gravity to replace the bushing, re-align and re-mount the spool drive, and put it back in place.  While Wallis’s activity during the night after the jump into the new system was suspect, to think that he could have managed to sabotage that particular part of the spool drive, unaided, in a single night, is perhaps stretching credulity regarding his intent.  Much more likely is that he was simply set on a path by his ambition, and continued events kept him on that path.

October 6th, 1853.  The engineers assure me that the spool drive is back in place and functional, but I have brought the ship far enough in-system that it would be a waste of that progress to turn around now.  I plan to continue in-system to observe the star Wallis, then return to Surrey and continue my appointed rounds.

The October 6th decision not to return after the spool  drive repair is, in many ways, Captain Wallis’s personal Rubicon.  Whether or not it was his intent all along to be the first through the jump point from Surrey, any veneer of justification was lost at this point.  The vague excuses given in the captain’s logbook of the day were torn to shreds by the members of the court-martial, and even Wallis was later to admit that in the cold light of Sol they were flimsy.  His later justifications of his actions were no more than follow-on effects of his decision on October 6th.

The morale of the ship had been steadily falling as well.  Even with a commander who would likely be found mutinous, the crew had been in space for well over two years - her recommended cruise time - with only a week of leave back on Earth.  2nd Lt. Campbell was a well-liked member of the wardroom and generally well-regarded ‘before the mast,’ so his continued imprisonment was a rankling worry.

October 11th, 1854.  Stellar Cartography reports that the star Aiden has an extremely massive gas giant, the sort that might nearly have become a star in its own right.  I have read in the Royal Society journals a theory that such planets might - by dint of their mass and relationship with their parent star - create a sort of smaller jump point.  This would likely be a good way to test the newly repaired spool drive without subjecting it to the stress of a complete transit back to Surrey.

2nd Lt. Campbell was, either fortunately or unfortunately, the most skilled navigator on board the Hydra by a massive stretch.  Even Wallis recognized his vast superiority.  Though he clearly did not agree with his captain’s actions, Campbell consented to pilot the ship in the first intra-system jump in the Empire’s history.  His relatively junior status was an asset as well, as he had come up through the Academy during the time when Lagrange point netherspace tunnels were first proposed.

A number of things very nearly went wrong.  We know now, of course, that the Hydra’s spool drive was unnecessary for Lagrange tunnelling, but if it had spun in the wrong resonance it very easily could have torn itself directly out of the ship.  And given the twin jovians in DeCroix, it would have been a simple error in instinct for half of the ship to end up at each destination point.  Lt. Campbell’s famously sure hand brought the vessel out sixty degrees behind the innermost jovian planet around DeCroix.

October 23rd, 1854.  We have transited a small-scale netherspace tunnel out to the distant star I have dubbed DeCroix, in honor of my wife’s family.  In addition to not one, but two massive gas giants, there are two rocky planets.  I have given the order to survey them, for the glory of the Empire.

It is clear at this point that any thought of duty is gone, replaced by thoughts of glory.  Captain Field’s earlier maneuverings which allowed him to survey and name Boreas in Surrey seemed to have been the final gilding of their rivalry which pushed Wallis into his own dereliction of duty.  When the Hydra arrived in DeCroix, he clearly planned on remaining to survey the possibly habitable worlds there.  Whether surpassing Field was his primary goal or simply ensuring himself a place in history is speculation.  What is clear, however, is that he had changed his own orders in his mind.  Had the Chimera not arrived with the Queen’s personal commands, he likely would have continued surveying Wallis indefinitely.

November 14th, 1854.  It was necessary to flog three members of the foredeck this morning, fifteen each.  Discipline seems to be slipping.  I will have to talk to my first about it, though I have the feeling it could be Campbell fomenting discord from the brig.

Or at least as indefinitely as the crew were willing to tolerate.  Captain Wallis was showing clear signs of unravelling at this point, as evidenced by further crew logs, and the increase in beatings and general slip in morale was threatening to spiral out of control.  It is likely that Campbell’s restraint was the only thing keeping the Hydra from becoming the first open mutiny in space.

November 19th, 1854.  Having arrived at the first terrestrial planet, we find it more venusian than anything else.  It has a gravity nearly twice Earth’s and a triply thick atmosphere of methane and hydrogen.  It seems an oppressive place.  As DeCroix is named for my wife’s maiden name, I shall call this planet Amanda after her mother.  Also saw fit to flog the bo’sun today for dereliction in his duties.  Sloppiness creeping up the chain must be dealt with.

This is the point of the story that later captured the public’s attention; Wallis naming a crushing, oppressive planet after his mother-in-law.  An equally crushing and even more toxic planet, DeCroix V, was to be named after his father-in-law, Rupert, and the small moon orbiting it for his sister’s wastrel brother, Dameon.

From accounts and diaries, it would seem that discipline improves markedly around this point in time.  None admit it publicly, but the most likely speculation is that some sort of coherent group had organized in response to Wallis’s heavy-handedness and open disregard for orders.  The prospective mutineers likely served as an outlet valve for the rebellious feelings aboard ship and, now that people were ‘openly’ talking about Wallis’s failings, they began treading more carefully as they planned their takeover.

It should also be pointed out that, unbeknownst to the aether tars in the newly-named Wallis system, the Satyr had jumped into Middlesex to report on Wallis’s actions.  The Admiralty was justifiably distraught, and sources close to the throne record Queen Victoria’s very personal and profound displeasure with Captain Wallis and his decision to go against her personal exploration ban.  Orders dated November 13th were sent through the gate relay system to the Chimera - performing out-system gravitational surveys in Middlesex - ordering her to track down Wallis and order him home in the clearest of terms.

December 25th, 1854.  Sang carols today.  A general uplifting of spirits, I feel.

The bo’sun’s log records four floggings for ‘unclean behavior’ on Christmas Day.  Wallis makes no mention.

January 2nd, 1855.  Good news for the new year.  The short-range uridium spectrograph surveys of Amanda are complete.  There are large amounts of aether elements in the crust, though the Stellar Geology ratings tell me that only the mercassium and sorium are economically viable.  Still, though, it is not their judgment that matters.

The Chimera records her arrival in Wallis three days later, when the Hydra is beginning a survey of Rupert.  At this point, Wallis claims he began a new volume of the captain’s log book which has subsequently gone missing.  In his official testimony, he offers no comment as to why he began a second volume when the first was still half-empty, nor does he offer any speculation as to where it could have gone.

It seems that the direct and emphatic orders from the Admiralty brought him back to some coherent frame of mind.  He announced to the wardroom that he planned to retire to his cabin for the bulk of the journey home, and he gave implicit command of the ship to his first lieutenant, a society dilettante name Forthing who wisely released Lt. Campbell and gave de facto control over to him.

Little is made of the journey home, and it seems that the normalcy of the days after Wallis are not easily remembered next to the days of his relative tyranny.  The Hydra returned home to Sol on March 30th, 1855, four and a half months after news of Wallis’s actions first came to light.  The public interest in the matter had ballooned in that time - an Aether Navy captain defying direct (though standing) orders, his rivalry with Captain Field, the romance of the stars.  When details trickled out that he had name two hellish worlds after his in-laws, the fascination with Wallis reached a fever pitch.

The Admiralty and the Queen took a route that has often been employed with such cases: a very public ceremony with the awarding of a medal, an early retirement, and a very private dressing-down by - so we are told - the Queen herself.  Wallis retired to his Shropshire estate and an undoubtedly tense relationship with his wife’s family.

A few notable effects of the Wallis Incident should be pointed out.  First, the Stellar Cartography Section within the Aether Navy formalized the guidelines on the nomenclature of new systems, while leaving the naming of planets as ‘suggestions’ for historical names of famous figures and deities from the various cultures of Earth.

The ban on exploration was tightened a few more turns of the screw in the wake of the discovery of Wallis, though an exception was made for the newly-discovered gated point in Middlesex which led to the Hampshire system - an exception which had its own profound impact on the development of the Empire.

The unarguably most important effect of the entire incident was a shift in the officer’s corps of the Navy, and its relationship to the admiralty.  The British Navy at the turn of the century, in the pre-Aether Age, had a long tradition of independent commands.  Captains were entrusted with thousands of pounds of public money in men, material, and ship, and more often than not they dispatched their duties to the best of their ability.  Failures were punished quickly, and every loss of a ship was investigated fully, with the ship captain’s career very much on the line.  Extended cruises of a year or more were commonplace, particularly among the the junior officers of the List, as they would take larger frigates on extended raiding missions in the Pacific or Indian Oceans.

In the nearly twenty years since Victoria’s ascension to the throne and the beginning of Britain’s empire in space, the captains of those days of independence had retired or become admirals and, in many cases, were the founding members of the Aether Navy.  Some were still captaining aether vessels, but the vast majority of extant officers from the British Navy of the seas were in the Admiralty or occupying some other supervisory duty on the ground.  The captains taking on the most prestigious missions - particularly those of survey that required the sacrifice of years at a time - were primarily those who had grown up in the Aether Age.

The Aether Age had seen a great shrinking of both the world and of space.  Ground transport cut trips across Europe to a handful of days.  Sub-orbital aether shuttles could place anyone anywhere on earth in minutes.  A sight-seeing excursion to Earth’s very moon - once the ramblings of madmen and dreamers - now required a greater expenditure of time in purchasing tickets than in actually travelling to Luna.  Mars was a few days away, and people living on another star were no less than a week.  In short, independence - the true independence, the sort only seen when one is over the horizon from any land - was in short supply.

The Wallis Incident showed that the culture of the Aether Navy could not be simply taken for granted.  It was not a natural outgrowth of the navy of the oceans, and indeed, two of every five captains in the Aether Navy had never served on a naval ship, let alone captained one.  The Admiralty undertook an extensive rethinking of the command structure, including more stringent requirements for crew, a greater emphasis placed on the meritocracy, and a standardization of training practices across different disciplines aboard ship.  This is not to say that patronage disappeared, or that competence instantly increased across the length of the officer’s corps.

But the Aether Navy took steps to show that Wallis’s actions were a road to ruin, not glory.  And it was the better for it.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2014, 10:34:50 AM by Konisforce »
Come take a look at Victoria Regina, an old-timey AAR

Offline Konisforce

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Re: Victoria Regina, Part 5: The Wallis Incident
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2013, 12:03:27 AM »
The Office of Dylan Wall, Commissioner of the Stellar Colonial Administration

A familiar rap at the door.  Commissioner Wall looks up at Jones slips into the room.  “Mr. Mann to see you, sir, if you are available.”

Wall nods quickly.  “You’re right to interrupt me, Jones.  Curtis is always a welcome diversion.  Please show him in.”

“Yes sir.  And the tea service?”

Wall smiles and nods, then stands as Curtis Mann enters the room.  “Welcome, Curtis.  Your first time to the new offices, I believe?”

Curtis hangs his own hat and coat then turns to the massive picture window.  The view looks west from the new ‘sky scraper’ in the Docklands, built from aether elements and towering fifty stories into the air.  Neutronium structural elements combined to create a light-weight, stiff frame from which to hang more conventional elements.

“I have not, my friend.  It is as splendid as promised.”  Mann crosses to the window and stares out.  An East-Indiaman class freighter of the Jarvis Colony Company is gliding down in the embrace of the aether beams to come to rest in the commercial slips of the London Orbital Transit Station.  “Tell me, did you really pick this location for the reasons they say?”

Wall smiles.  “To keep watch over the East India Company’s holdings in London?  Certainly.”  He gestures to the tea service Jones has lain on the sideboard.  “And spoiling the view of the Creekmouth Merchant’s Club was simply an added bonus.  I am told that the Stellar Colonial offices glow wonderfully when the sun sets behind them . . .”

Mann grins and seats himself while Wall pours.  “I’m afraid this isn’t entirely a social call, Commissioner.”  

Wall seats himself with his own cup and scowls faintly.  Mann continues, “I’ve just heard the news from the Admiralty.  Duffy is to be First Lord.”

Wall makes a noise something like a growl of distaste.  “Blast.  Nothing to be done for it?”

Mann shakes his head.  “Nothing to be done by my office, and I’m told that the Admiralty has tried to think of a way around it.  But he has the greatest seniority, enough allies, and no compelling reason not to grant him the post.”

“Aside from the fact that he will make a dog’s breakfast of it.”  Wall all but slams the cup down on his desk.  “Honestly, there are times when I wonder how the Empire has made it this far at all.”

“Why, on the backs of dependable civil servants like yourself, my dear Mr. Wall.”

Wall waves the phrase aside.  “I do not like the direction this is headed.  First Lord Sutton had a healthy disregard for all this adventuring and glory-mongering, and at least wanted a strong aether navy – any aether navy – before we went poking about.  Duffy is too infatuated with the ideas of the Martians.  You know they say he is secretly a Red Cultist?”

Mann fixes the Commissioner with a raised eyebrow.  “You don’t think much of my skills, do you?”

“What?  Oh, of course, of course.  If he were you would’ve found it and we would be welcoming Admiral Giles into the First Lord’s seat, I know.  But it’s a statement about him that such a rumour would start in the first place.  An Olympian Admiral.  Not likely.”

“So, what’s to be done about it?”

Wall shrugs, and spreads his hands.  “What is there to do?  The damned Kingmakers are solidly mercantilist, and mercantilism means colonies.  I already lost the shipyard battle for the Harbor class, and now that I have and the Portsmouth has been floated, Surrey is open for business interests.  The East India Company will do what they always do, and we’ll soon have a few million on Boreas and Zephyr.  I can at least slow down terraforming on those worlds to make them less attractive, but Boreas is already breathable, though damnably cold, I am led to believe.  Someone will settle there.  Probably the Colonial Americans, with their damned pioneer spirit.”

Mann lets the rant roll on until it runs out of energy.  “Are you really so anti-colonial as all that?  It’s a particular place you find yourself – the head of Stellar Colonial who wants nothing more than to keep everyone on Earth.”

Wall shakes his head, resigned.  “Oh, you know it’s not all that.  I’m not against the idea of the colonies . . . the same urge which led to the colonization of New England has led to Mars and now Surrey.  I support it, but I want it done right.  What if the Ohio territories had housed an unknown empire with access to gauss artillery and sorium-fueled armored knights?  Wouldn’t we have wanted to tread a bit more lightly in the founding of Plymouth?”

“But we haven’t seen such an empire.  We haven’t met anyone.”

“Yet.  And we know there used to be such an empire.  The very fact that we are only middlingly advanced among the three civilizations we know – us, the Martians, and the Areans – should be enough to give anyone pause.”

Mann swirls the last of his tea.  “I know the irony of my saying this, but you worry altogether too much, Dylan.”

“Oh, I hope so, Curtis.  I truly hope so.”

Excerpted from the notes of Commissioner Dylan Wall of the British Stellar Colonial Administration

19th of October, 1855 – I suppose it is a glorious day for the Empire, but it’s the culmination of a lost rearguard action for me.  The Plymouth, lead ship of the new Harbor class of jump tender, is floating today from the Plymouth Civilian Shipyards.  I had fought the East India Company and the House of Burghers against its design in the first place, and then against retooling the Plymouth Civilian Shipyards, and finally, against scrapping the half-completed Viceroy colony ship that was a-building in the slips.  That last decision was more than purely political: nearly a dozen ready-made biological suspension facilities wasted, the keel broken up, hardly anything to be salvaged.  Such a waste, and all to speed the opening of Surrey to commercial traffic by nine months, at best.  She is even now paddling her way out to the Middlesex-Surrey aether tunnel, to sit and shepherd colonists and freighters out to Surrey.  I’ll soon have to appoint viceroys, and set up a new department, and . . . oh, what a bother.

29th of October, 1855 – After completing her overhaul (and receiving a much-needed new captain) the Hydra is sent on her way to the Middlesex system.  In yet another breach of the supposedly ironclad prohibition on exploration, she is to search the gated jump point far out-system to solar northeast that the [/i]Chimera[/i] discovered a few months back.  Loathe as I am to see any further surveys done, even I must admit this makes sense – a jump gate from Sol to Middlesex, and now one from Middlesex to Hampshire.  I’m not tempted by expectations that we’ll find the Martians in Hampshire, but knowing what is beyond a wide open door is prudent by any standard.  I only hope that future jump points without gates manage to remain unexplored until such time as a workable aether navy is there to protect them.

8th of January, 1856 – The Hydra has sent back word that there are four colonizeable planets in Hampshire, including one that might already host life.  In a joint meeting with the Admiralty, the Stellar Administration, and the Stellar Matters Board of Parliament I gritted my teeth and voted to allow the survey of Hampshire.  Jump gates on both sides of both tunnels connect to Sol, and the real possibility of life on the fourth planet means I would rather risk exposure and know of any potential threats than wait for a fleet to glide through.

29th of February – The Plymouth Shipyards have finished their preparations to begin producing the Pikeman class patrol ship.  Because of the large size and complexity of its engines, I have seen fit to redirect some of our fabrication energies away from the terraformers for Mars and toward creating the engines whole-hog before the ship is built.  It should save as many as four months in the production of the ships.  The first two ships – tentatively named Pikeman and Halberdier – have been laid down.

4th of March – It has been overshadowed by the Martian colonial effort, of course, but Ganymede now boasts a population of nearly two millions, with more coming all the time.  Overcrowding has become an issue.  I have requested that the Army provide me with troops to help keep order, and the decision has been made to kill two birds with one stone and send the 44th (Novgorod) Pioneers to quell the unrest and conduct what archaeology they can.  If Ganymede’s ruins prove to be anything like those on Mars, I would not be surprised to find sky factories present as well.

16th of April - I have maneuvered a contract with two of the major shipping corporations to purchase their shipyard for governmental use.  With the Burghers now in control of Plymouth Civilian and the East India Spaceworks permanently churning out freighters and colonials, I find that my ability to provide support craft is quite limited.  The Walton-Clarke shipyards should help ease that to a degree, and perhaps allow for a new tanker design to be built.  Recovered reserves of refined sorium on Mars have now exceeded all current production on Earth, which simply will not do when the planet is plagued by the occasional battle with clockwork men.

The deal cost five million pounds, of which one million each will go to Walton Interstellar Colony Lines and Clarke Logistics.  The remainder must be spent on transport, retooling, and job programs to alleviate the disruptions.  But all told I feel it a bargain.

19th of April – Despite a great battle in Parliament, the lion’s share of subsidy programs for Martian colonists have been allowed to lapse.  Shipments of penal inmates, land grants, and direct monetary subsidies and grants have ceased, so the flow of colonists to Mars can be expected to fall off to a mere trickle of its former torrent.  One can hope.

14th of May – I had been hearing news of First Lord Sutton’s ill health for years now – his drinking, surely – but it has been made official.  Mann came to me today to inform me that Jay Duffy will be his replacement.  Aside from extensive political contacts, he has some skill in terraforming practices and was on the first xenoarcheological dig on Mars.  Not what I am looking for in a First Lord.  But he does have a fire in his belly, and I am told he has been agitating for a comprehensive reform of the survey practices for a year or more.  The Hydra is overdue to report in, so he does have something of a point in that regard.

4th of June – More fuel found on Mars.  Nearly twice the current store on Earth.  It simply will not do.  And I’m told the continuing survey of Surrey has revealed a large store of sorium in the upper atmosphere of the tenth planet, a gas giant.  It is some three times farther out than Jupiter, which may prove to be a problem.  And the current theory stands that there is no solid matter in such a planet, so harvesting would be an even larger one.  For now, sorium is by far the least of my worries where stores of aether elements are concerned.

5th of August – Something of a setback but as of yet not a full-blown disaster.  I was hoping for a sky factory on Ganymede, but instead of 44th Pioneers have run into clockwork men.  Colonel Kieran Brady has sent back requests for reinforcements and the Homefront is already preparing to transport militiamen and knights to the scene.  The initial reports are that the 44th Novgorod lost one third of their strength in the first engagement to contain the outbreak, but I do not place much stock in such reports, preliminary as they are.  It is only three weeks’ time before the Homefront arrives with the cream of the British Army.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2013, 05:10:12 PM by Konisforce »
Come take a look at Victoria Regina, an old-timey AAR


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