Author Topic: Victoria Regina, Part 6: A Darkening Hour  (Read 1001 times)

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Offline Konisforce

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Victoria Regina, Part 6: A Darkening Hour
« on: April 08, 2013, 10:31:32 AM »
Ganymede, Brigade Headquarters, 44th (Novgorod) Pioneers

A rumbling passed through Colonel Kieran Brady’s feet.  A low rumbling, punctuated by momentary shudders.  Shudders, or . . . tremors, perhaps.  Perhaps both.  Rumbles, shudders, and tremors passed through the soles of his boots to Colonel Kieran Brady’s feet, and then on through bones and ligaments and muscles on up his spine and to his brain.  And into his gut.

“Sir.  Sir, containment procedures -”

“Were written on Mars,” Brady growls.

“- clearly dictate that in the event -”

“Were written for Martian ruins, with Martian gravity, and Martian troop levels!” Brady barked.  The major shut his mouth with a click.  “They do not apply here.  In the least.  Speak of them again and I’ll find someone with a brain and a willingness to use it.”

The shudders were punctuated briefly by quakes, and then subsided, leaving the rumbling and the occasional tremor.  And intermittent jolts.

The major was an aristocrat, like Brady.  A paper tiger; an empty uniform; a stuffed collar.  He was undoubtedly impeccably schooled, and was – Brady had to give credit where it was due – an excellent administrator.  He had volunteered his battalion to open the first of the ruins on Ganymede, and had done just that four days ahead of his own projections through a combination of sound logistics, cajoling, and inspiring.  He was an excellent officer for the situation in which the 44th Pioneers had found themselves a week ago.  As far as the current situation was concerned, he was rubbish.

“Major Karsov, my apologies.  I spoke in haste.  You have a most willing and nimble mind.”  Brady sighed and pushed at the throbbing spot above his temple.  “But the containment procedures presume superior numbers, prepared positions, confined enemies, depth of defense . . . . any number of strategic considerations which do not pertain to the current situation.”

Brady looked around the table at his command staff of two majors (one acting) and three captains (two acting).  A major, two captains, two lieutenants.  One of whom had combat experience.

“We are outnumbered and heavily out-gunned.  We have civilian populations to protect and they do not.  The entrenched mortars seemed to have been designed to deliver munitions to any point on Ganymede’s surface, with the clockwork’s targeting frameware built to do just that.  Our prepared positions are churned to dust before their assault even begins.  That is our tactical situation, gentlemen.  All thinking from this point forward must address and incorporate that situation, until such time as it changes or reinforcement arrives.

A series of jolts rattled up through his soles and the rumbling ceased.  The tremors subsided slightly.  He stood in silence and stared at the map, unseeing, feeling the ground beneath him.  Listening to the ground beneath him.  

He was a mudfoot, and proud of it.  A soldier’s soldier, a leader from the front.  Combat experienced and heavily decorated, and now ashamed that he had ever cursed his fate for being saddled with a Pioneer brigade.  He had thought that it would be boring work.  There was nothing boring in fighting off implacable clockwork enemies with only half-trained farm boys and effete archaeologists.

He was a soldier, which meant he was a creature of the land.  He marched on it, lived off it, bled into it.  He won ground, lost ground, stood ground, gave ground.  He pored over terrain.  He charged across fields.  He worked to learn it and to respect it, and in return, it spoke to him.  Through tremors, rumbles, jolts, quakes, shudders . . .

The rumbling returned.  Brady stopped and cocked an ear, though little sound would reach them without atmosphere.  “The assault on 3rd company’s ridge position on the Redoubt is over.”  A few jolts, and this time a true explosion was felt nearby as well.  “They’ve fallen back.”  Brady walked to the edge of the command dome and looked out along the maddeningly short horizon toward the Redoubt as the clockwork chatter of Babbage machines rattled off an incoming message.

The signalman called from his post at the meson wireless.  “Sir, north flank of the Redoubt has fallen.  3rd company is regrouping with the rest of the battalion to prepare for a counter-attack.”

“No need.  The Redoubt is lost.”  The command staff did not bother to protest.  3rd company had been the lynchpin, as much as they had tried to deploy to mask the fact, and the clockwork men had simply shelled them into submission and struck at the heart of their defenses there.  “Begin a full retreat, with 3rd battalion, 1st and 3rd companies moving out last.”

He turned back to the huddled men at the table.  One – an acting captain, the senior of the two lieutenants – cleared his throat.  Brady looked an invitation at him.

“You mentioned the civilian population, sir.  And that the Martians, er . . . clockwork men -”

“Enemy will function admirably, Captain.”

“ – enemy, yessir, thank you sir, the enemy has a position from which to shell any position we have.  But we do not really know their intent.  They could attack us first and subsequently wipe out the civilians.  But if their aim was simply to kill off the colonists, well, why waste time with us?  They could simply drop a mortar on every dome, crack each open, and be done with it.  We can’t stop that.”

Brady’s eyes narrowed.  For a moment the rumbling of the ground passing into his brain felt like the whirr and rattle of a Babbage in his mind.

“You are suggesting that we shelter among the civilians?”

The acting captain shook his head.  “Not as such, no.  Only that . . . we might be able to use it to our advantage.  Cease to be as a formal unit and spread out.  To disappear among them, and strike only when we have a tactical superiority.”

Brady peered at his subordinate from under bushy brows.  “You’re American, eh?  I recall.  You’d have me fight like a woodsman in your petulant Tax Revolt.”

The captain turned red down into his collar, but held the strength of his convictions.  “It worked.”

“With a bit of help from Lafayette, yes.  Eventually.”  Brady straightened.  “Perhaps later, it does have some merit.  But for now, we fall back in order.  Defend the entrances to the domes, and hold out until reinforcements arrive.  The Homefront is nine days away with two battalions of heavy grenadiers and some assorted militiamen.  Hold the domes until we are reinforced, and keep the clockwork men from entering.  Your reasoning is sound enough, captain, but I am unwilling to risk two million Queen’s subjects on speculation, no matter how sound.”

Brady looked down at the map.  Such a poor substitute for high ground.  A map could only tell you what the ground was, not how it felt or seemed.  You couldn’t feel a map through your soles or gauge its spring, couldn’t see if it was waterlogged or if a march would kick up dust.  Such sterile, modern things, these maps.  They did no good at telling the truth of the ground beneath one’s feet.  It was a living thing, the ground, as fickle as the sea in its own way.

“Now, the Command Battalion will remain on station here and reinforce with such remnants of 1st as can fight, to protect this axis of retreat.  They’ll have no choice but to move through this valley if they wish to come at us from our flank, as they’re so fond of doing, so I’d like Martinson to prepare them some surprises, while 4th Battalion should make all haste toward . . .”

The saga of Colonel Brady, the 44th (Novgorod) Pioneers, and the defense of Ganymede will continue in Interlude: Ganymede

~~~

Offices of the Stellar Colonial Administration

~

“Dunkirk Spaceport is at capacity.” “Calling it a spaceport is like calling my lodgings a townhome.” “Well what is it then?” “Charitably, a flat surface.” “Fine, then.  All of Dunkirk’s flat surfaces are taken up.” “Then put ships down on the sloped ones, just get them down.”
~

“No, you can’t start the suspension process in orbit.” “I don’t need it in orbit, I just need it anywhere but in Dunkirk.” “I doubt the physicians will approve.” “If we don’t speed the evacuation they’ll be dead, and so will their patients.  Disapproval solved.”
~

“As Christ is my witness, if you mention refugee status one more time . . .” “It needs to be addressed!” “You are putting the cart leagues before the horse, Aiden, when 2 million British subjects have yet to lift off.”
~

“I will personally see to it that Jarvis gets a medal for this, Director.  And the Queen will hear of it.  You have been most accommodating, far better than Masudu.  You have the Empire’s thanks.”

~

“Leave that to the Army, man, and get on with your own work.”  “But how can I with no timetable?” “Your timetable is ‘As soon as the good Lord allows’ and make no mistake.”

~

“Promise Walton whatever they need.”  “Promise, or give?”  “Promise.  They trust us, don’t they?  The shipyard contract was a fair deal.”  “So we make fair deals so they trust us when we plan to deal them unfair?”  “This is one of those times that calls for spending money, trust, good will, favors, and anything else we have.  Make the promises, and who knows?  We might actually keep them."

~

Commissioner Wall strode across the temporary bullpen of desks, clerks, and audio communicators toward his office.  The rattle of Babbages and the squeal of meson transmission caches provided a firm ostinanto to the din of clerks attending to myriad difficulties caused by the emergency evacuation.  

Wall knew it was hopeless.  The Stellar Administration lived and died by numbers.  Numbers were the only means of collecting and parsing the all the information associated with an empire that spanned now six worlds in three solar systems.  And the numbers about the Ganymede Evacuation were sour-faced and dire.  Even with ten times the colony ships and citizens packed like cordwood in the freighters they would never get them out in time.  Some of the requisitioned civilian ships wouldn’t even reach Ganymede before the Homefront would, but they were being called into service anyway.  It would never be successful, but the attempt had to be made.

One of his Vice-Commissioners had ‘requisitioned’ the departures board from King’s Cross station and had it shoved up against one short wall of the bullpen.  Babbage controllers fed in periodic updates about the distance and status of each ship on its way to Ganymede, with the troop transport at the top.  Five days and eleven hours.  Today was August the 26th.  Five days and eleven hours before the Homefront was in orbit.  The military manuals stated three days for an orderly deployment from a landed transport.  This would be anything but orderly.  It would be a near-run thing, it if were run at all.

Wall stepped into his office and shut the door on the chatter.  He sat down at his desk, then turned to face the window with its view of night-time London.  Gas lights twinkled, carriage lights danced along the streets, and windows gleamed from ground level up to his own lofty forty seventh story.  Wall drew the dispatch envelope from his jacket and tore it open, ignoring as rote the confidential seals and warnings.  It was an official update on the status of the 44th Pioneer Brigade, sent to Parliament, the Admiralty, the Stellar Colonial Administration, and Buckingham Palace.

Colonel Kieran Brady estimated his fighting force at 4% strength.

There was absolutely no way this was going to work.

But they had to try.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2013, 07:11:09 PM by Konisforce »
Come take a look at Victoria Regina, an old-timey AAR
 

Offline Garfunkel

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Re: Victoria Regina, Part 6: A Darkening Hour
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2013, 12:30:30 PM »
Man, just caught up with this and still loving it. You write very well!
 

Offline Konisforce

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Re: Victoria Regina, Part 6: A Darkening Hour
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2013, 04:58:34 PM »
OOC: Thanks!  Glad to know you're keepin' up and enjoying things.

~~~

The implacable faces of clockwork men marched into the domes.  Somewhere in their frameware was the understanding that the colonists were vulnerable to the elements.  A previously unforeseen type of automaton had deployed temporary airlocks and cut through the walls, then repaired them once the clockwork forces were through.  There were no injuries through decompression or otherwise inflicted when they took the domes.

The 44th Pioneers had dissolved.  Few enough men remained in a fighting state.  Casualties in an environment as harsh as Ganymede’s tended to be a quick stop on the road to death even without the added complexity of a hasty retreat under fire.  Colonel Brady’s command was a sliver of itself, a few hundred men from the twenty five hundred who had landed on Ganymede just months before.  As the last of their positions by the airlocks fell, they disappeared into the domes and tried to set up some sort of underground resistance where they could.

The citizens of the domes waited breathlessly to be . . . breathless, maybe.  No one knew.  Perhaps the clockwork men would simply let out the air.  Or slaughter them all.  Or perform dreadful experiments on them.  It was unclear what the eyeless, marching monstrosities had planned.  The first minutes after the invasion stretched on into hours, then days.  The heavy weapons units of the clockwork men dug in just outside the airlocks in conscious mimicry of the Novgorod Pioneers who had died in their ditches.  Other clockwork men marched in threes and fives through the halls, ignoring all but wordlessly executing any who held weapons.  More unknown clockwork things trundled into strategic locations in the dome cities of Dunkirk, Calais, Flanders, and Dover, there to set up strong points and command locations.

The occupation had begun.

Selected headlines and excerpts from August 30th, 1839

London’s Weekly Dispatch

Ganymede Lost, Millions Presumed Dead

The defense of Ganymede has crumbled, succumbing to clockwork invaders.  No word from survivors, all presumed lost.

The East India Company Memorandum

Thousands of Tons of Shipping Lost in Failed Dunkirk Evacuation

Commissioner Wall’s evacuation of Ganymede results in over a dozen private ships lost as invaders storm the spaceport and destroy aether funnels.  Rumours of a competency hearing persist.

The New York Mirror

Settlers Stranded

The withdrawal of Imperial troops from Ganymede leaves millions at the mercy of marauders.  Parliament unwilling to commit further military support.

Toronto Gusher

Civilian Reparations Mooted

Parliamentary officials are said to be conducting overtures toward monetary remuneration for freight and goods lost in the Dunkirk Debacle.

~~~

The Admiralty, Ganymede Briefing.  September 21, 1856

“. . . have not had a report from Brady in the month of September.  The Order of St. George has successfully located and neutralized the mortar emplacements discussed previously, the ones which had the ability to bomb any location on Ganymede.  A three-day assault destroyed the mortars at the cost of nearly a third of their strength, but we feel that is a strategic victory.  They were forced to overextend themselves and were caught by a counter-attack which inflicted losses of another third on the unit, but as the spearhead of the assault they have achieved a strong tactical objective.”

Wall sat glumly in his straight-backed, damnably uncomfortable chair in the Admiralty’s meeting room and pondered what it was about humanity that drove them to try and make purses out of sow’s ears.  The good general could prattle on all he wanted about “strategic victories” and “strong tactical objectives,” but anyone with half a brain and using half an ear could hear what he was saying: the first British troops of the counter-assault on Ganymede had lost two of every three of their number in the first week of fighting.  And these were the best soldiers of the Queen’s Army.  Oh, certainly, some may ‘only’ be wounded and not killed, but the defense of Mars had robbed knights of their vitality without taking their lives.  It had taken a full-scale feudal land grant program on Mars to scrub the guilt of those battles from the empire.

“The Order of the Crown is currently deploying onto the landing area secured by St. George, and we fully expect them to be part of the counter-offensive in two to three days.”

The prime minister nodded, reshuffled his papers (again), and turned his gaze on Wall.  “Commissioner Wall?”

Wall sipped his port, leaned forward, and began speaking without his notes.  “First off, the evacuation.  Masudu, Walton, and Clarke brought five freighters between them out of the mess.  The colony ships were less fortunate, most likely due to the lack of any form of aether cargo beams.  The losses of colonial ships were total: ten freighters, approximately 400,000 tons of shipping, including Jarvis Colonial’s flagship, the Solar Storm.  A few small freighters were also still on the ground when the defenses collapsed and the aether funnels destroyed.  All told, my office estimates – conservatively – that 16 million pounds’ worth of shipping were lost.”

Some around the table couldn’t contain gasps.  The prime minister, to his credit, was not among them.  And Wall was sure that the Parliamentarian was hearing the number for the first time.  His office had guarded those calculations tighter than the crown jewels.

“So, approximately the tax revenue of Her Majesty’s Government over the course of one year?”

Wall had expected something along these lines and managed not to flinch.  “That would certainly be a useful comparison for perspective’s sake, Prime Minister.”

“Do you have any other information?”

Wall plowed doggedly onward. “Yes, Prime Minister.  We have reason to believe that the vast majority of the colonists are alive and well.  Aside from a total silence on all meson communication channels, there has been no change in the colony.  Thermal signatures remain constant, physical infrastructure is still intact, and observations made from safe distances confirm that the domes are still in place and occupied.”

“The reasons for this aren’t clear, particularly because we have little direct evidence about Ganymede.  But extrapolating from the behavior of certain clockwork assault waves on Mars, and assuming that the Ganymede clockwork men have similar frameware, it is likely that they are defending the colonists.”

Wall could see the general bristle slightly as he strayed onto the Army’s territory, but it was a point worth making.  “The clockwork men are likely an automated defensive system, triggered by threats.  In this event, it is possible they identified the colonists as just what they are – innocent civilians – and their existence is to provide defense for colonists on Ganymede.  This is the current theory being worked up at the Stellar Administration.”

“Well, we can hope it is the correct one,” the general pipes up.  “And we should know shortly when combat operations move from the field to the siege of the domes.”

“Very well.”  The Prime Minister’s gaze moves on.  “Who’s next?”

“It seems that Ganymede is being viewed as a sign of weakness, and a number of rebel groups have increased their activities.  The remains of the Pampas Revolt have flared up again, Balkan separatists, Thai, and Viet crown loyalists are arming, and Dutch African Colonials are continuing to ignore edicts and move further inland in Africa.  Local militia units are sufficient, but with so many aether units committed to the counter-assault, it is likely . . .”

His part done, Wall attempted to drift off to sleep while at attention and for a moment envied the soldiers that ability.  He would just have to make due with dreaming of his life after his career’s sure-to-be-abrupt end, assuming it didn’t involve a beheading as well . . .

The 20th of October, 1856

Captain of the List Hartley, Master and Commander of the Goblin was a conscientious subject of the Queen and had never strayed into territory that could be seen as an abuse of her powers as a captain in the Aether Navy.  When the Goblin tore into Earth’s traffic control envelope broadcasting the highest possible priority codes it was not out a sense of self-importance on Captain Hartley’s part.

Nor was it an inflated self-worth that caused her to requisition a Sprite-class orbital shuttle to meet her ship in its parking orbit around Earth.  Her steward had pressed and laid out her finest dress uniform and, thus arrayed, with bicorn in hand, Hartley made her way by shuttle-boat straight to the Admiralty’s private landing pad on the banks of the Thames.  First Lord Duffy was available to receive her despite the early hour.

Hartley stood before the desk of the First Lord and delivered the news that she had deemed too important for meson wireless or courier.  “The Hydra is destroyed, sir.”

Duffy seemed to deflate slightly, but his suspicions had run toward such news for the past few months.  “How?”

Hartley, eyes fixed, willed herself not to shrug.  “A debris pattern consistent with a catastrophic explosion.  It is possible that there was a malfunction aboard ship, in her engine . . .”

Duffy shook his head sharply.  “She had just finished her overhaul.  With a full store of supplies and parts.”

“Which was my assessment as well, sir.  I decided to treat the incident as a suspected hostile action and departed the Hampshire system as soon as possible to bring the news.”

“Did you have any time to look for lifepods?  A message?”  Duffy was certain what the answer would be, but had to ask.

“No, sir.”  Hartley’s eyes narrowed for a moment.  She had expected the question but it still smacked of an indictment; some questioning of her motivations, a search for weakness or cowardice.  She knew that she had made the appropriate choice at the time but how often is the appropriate choice the wrong one?  History was littered with tales of heroism, valor in the face of adversity, idiotic decisions having glorious consequences.

“It was the proper choice, Captain, and I will endorse it with your superiors in the Survey Board if necessary.  I had hoped perhaps a signal buoy had been left at the gate, or some other quickly evident location.  Something to tell us what had happened.”  Hartley shook her head.  “In the absence of a clear indication of either survivors or a signal bouy, your duty was to keep your ship intact and to bring news to me.”

Duffy sighs and leans forward onto his desk, rubbing his temples.  “You have heard the latest news from Ganymede?”

Hartley expected to be dismissed.  Duffy’s tone was conversational and, somehow, inappropriate in its apparent weakness.  “Yes, sir.  I have read dispatches that the Queen’s forces are making progress against the clockwork men.”

“Inroads, yes,” Duffy said heavily.  “But progress is a deceptive concept.  Motion doesn’t tell how long the road will be.  The battle is . . . we do not have any news from the domes.  Nothing from the colonists.  They could be slaughtered by the thousands, or all dead already.  We just don’t know.”  Duffy looked to his sideboard despite the early hour, to his decanters there, and had a sudden flash of understanding of his predecessor’s drinking habits.  He glanced back toward Hartley.

“My apologies, Captain.  You have the Goblin’s victualling to attend to.  You can be certain of at least a week’s leave, and I will have new survey orders drawn up for you.”  He stood and offered his hand.  “Well done, and stay safe, Captain Hartley.”

His subordinate shook his hand and departed smartly, leaving Duffy alone to compose his thoughts before inevitable requesting an audience with the Queen.

Ipling Castle, Dunbridge, Hampshire

“It is unacceptable from a Queen’s servant!  Simply unacceptable.  The sheer effrontery, the callous indifference, and the total ineptitude are simply not to be stomached from one entrusted with the level of responsibility which is borne by the office of the Commissioner of Stellar Administration!  What is more we have warned the Queen, we have agitated against the Commissioner in every way and at every turn to expose his recklessness to the -”

“Oh brother, do shut your mouth,” Herbert, Earl of Dunbridge, snapped.

Lewis’s brows furrowed and a storm gathered on his face.  He puffed in a great lungful to start his harangue anew when Richard, the middle of the three, interrupted.  “He is quite right, little brother.”  Lewis turned his fully loaded lungs toward the other.  “We have fought Mr. Wall in all ways for our own means, not to expose anything to anyone.”  Richard paused to sip his wine while Lewis deflated slightly.  “And if he were as reckless, indifferent, and inept as you say, we would not have had to fight him for nearly so long, now would we, dear brother?”

“But the cost,” Lewis wailed.  “Nearly 16 million pounds of shipping, another 5 million from the East India -”

“The cost!” Herbert roared.  “2 million queen’s subjects are living under the thumb of clockwork soldiers and you whinge about the cost?”

“I’m not whinging, I -”
“Enough!” Richard cried.  “Enough, both of you.  We all have reasons for deploring the events on Ganymede.  And while some of them would play better to the public than others,” he leveled a glare at Lewis and his mercantilist tendencies, “they are all valid.  You cannot level your moral outrages at Mr. Wall, but your critiques of him are sound.”  He waited a moment, letting the fire crackle and tempers cool.  “But what do we do about it?”

“It is clear ineptitude on the part of the Stellar Administration,” Lewis repeated.  “We shouldn’t have to do anything.”

Herbert rolled his eyes.  “You are the one always insisting on plots and schemes.  Let us just put in a bit of work to topple this one over the edge and be sure of it, shall we?”

“What about the cost?” Richard began.  “The Stellar Administration demanded that those private freighters and colonials head out to Ganymede.  It was the Stellar Administration which called them all to assist in the Dunkirk evacuation and stuck them on the ground for the clockwork men to ransack.  What if we convince the Houses that compensation is due the private shipping lines for their ships?”

Lewis goggled as if his brother had gone mad.  “In God’s name why?”

Herbert, usually the least canny of them, sussed out his brother’s purpose rather more quickly.  “No . . . no, it has potential.  We take a disaster - a military disaster, and a public disaster - and pile on even more.  Everything that happened on Ganymede can be traced to Wall and the Stellar Administration.  Insufficient infrastructure, causing riots and protests.  The need for troops, and the authorization of Pioneers instead of a militia battalion.  Lack of planning for the eventuality of clockwork guardians.  And now a bill to Her Majesty’s Government in excess of 20 million pounds.  All failures that can be laid at the feet of Mr. Wall.”

“And a payment out of tax revenues into the Company.  And private ventures, of course,” Lewis mentioned.

“Will it be enough to end Mr. Wall?  And what would we do once he is gone?” Richard prompted.

“Unless we have anything better, it will have to do,” Herbert stated flatly.  “Can you get your Houses to agree?  Lords is never happy to part with coin.  It will likely take me some months to get the support together, though it needs doing while the disaster on Ganymede still looms.”

Richard nods.  “I suspect that enough of the money will flow toward the Burghers that it shouldn’t be a problem.  I will start gathering allies in the Commons.  Perhaps I can pitch it as relief for the poor, somehow . . .”

Lewis raised his wine glass.  “To Mr. Wall’s demise.”

“Cheers!”
Come take a look at Victoria Regina, an old-timey AAR
 

Offline Konisforce

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Re: Victoria Regina, Part 6: A Darkening Hour
« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2013, 04:50:57 PM »
~~~

29 Great Broad Street, off Parliament Square.  Home of the National Portrait Gallery

As a social function it was lovely.  As a distraction from the woes of the Empire it was adequate.  Barely.  But then, that was hardly the fault of the celebration.  The Empire had many woes.

The National Portrait Gallery had been a project some years in the making.  The Earl of Stanhope had worked intermittently over the span of ten years to develop the funding, build its remit, and amass the beginnings of the collection.  So strange to think of all the effort that went into freeing two thousand pounds from the Commons.  Such a paltry sum.  A trickle next to the sluices of money passing through Parliament, yet for such a worthy cause.

Queen Victoria steeled herself at the entrance and turned to give Albert a small smile.  Four Queen’s Guardsmen entered with a stamp and clash.  A herald stepped forward and bellowed forth the news of her presence.  More Queen’s Guard took up positions flanking the doorway, as only the most visible of the forces arrayed to protect her.  With incidents on Ganymede and further clockwork men on Mars, the Empire had weakened in the eyes of its subjects and sparked rebellions across the homeworld.  Concerns of her safety thus increased, her Guard detail had expanded in proportion.

She strode forward and up the small staircase, Albert on her arm, into the room full of nobles and powerful men and women.  Polite applause and bows in recognition of her presence gave way to the age-old currents of social functions.  She retired to a relatively inconspicuous corner as Prince Albert provided introductory remarks and acknowledgments of those who had worked so hard to bring the Portrait Gallery into being.

She glanced through the crowd.  Stanhope, the architect of the project, figuratively.  Lord Ellesmere had managed to make an appearance despite his infirmity, and it was good that he was here to be recognized for his donation of the “Chandos” portrait of Shakespeare.  It would be a draw for the new gallery.  Richard of Hampshire lurked toward the back with a knot of admirers, the only Kingmaker she saw present.  And there poor Mr. Wall hung near the wall, inadvertently under an equally hang-dog portrait of a court dwarf.  Political machinations were conspiring to heap the Empire’s current troubles on the Stellar Colonial Administration, despite Mr. Wall’s repeated insistence that progress in the stars be slow and cautious.  He had made more and more appearances of late.  Seeking to understand his standing, no doubt, and garner support.

Her Consort finished his speech to polite applause and came to collect her.  They passed through the rooms of the collection slowly, speaking to some guests and generally examining the paintings.  When Ellesmere’s Shakespeare portrait hove into view, Victoria stopped before it awhile.  Albert, bless him, sensed her mood and headed off Prime Minister Palmerston before he could invade further.

Her mind drifted from Shakespeare to his monarch, Elizabeth.  That former Queen, to whom she was inevitably measured.  And measured herself, from time to time.  But it was not a question of comparison, now, but of companionship.  How had she dealt with the setbacks in her reign?  Had she lost faith?  Had she needed support, only to find it unavailable?  Her actions in the face of the Armada were the stuff of legend.  And her reign had seen the New World opened to the English.  She had lived through times of upheaval and war.  It was all to easy to make the past a neat mirror of the present, but it was an apt comparison.

Snatches of conversation drifted over from nearby.  “A sky factory damaged beyond use on Mars, I hear, by automatons . . .”  “. . . reinforcements on Ganymede.  Waking more clockwork men from the tunnels, they think.”  “. . . nearly bankrupt, thanks to the Dunkirk Disaster.  Work has stopped on their next ship and the creditors come calling.”  “Lord Berkeley escaped the slaughter, but half his knights did not . . .” Even this tiny pulse of the Empire showed only a weak and thready beat.

The decisions were made, which was the most difficult part.  The compromises with Parliament had been hashed out, Continental Councils placated, wheels put in motion.  It was the waiting.  Nothing now but to wait for ground forces to liberate Ganymede from the occupiers, for the first warships of the Aether Navy to float, for the Empire to right itself.  Or not.  The sense of progress since Elizabeth’s time, even with these new aether elements littering the ground and knocking everything askew, was difficult to find.  It seemed nothing ever changed.  Or perhaps it just seemed that way when the view was nearly always the same from the Palace.

Perhaps a change of view was in order.

“Coming, dear?”  Albert held out his arm.  “You know, the anniversary of your coronation is approaching.  I thought we might take a little trip.”

“Albert, I was just thinking the same thing . . .”

~~~

The Office of Dylan Wall, Commissioner of the Stellar Colonial Administration

Jones shows in Curtis Mann.  Wall is standing before three assistants seated on various couches, firing broadsides of notes and commands to be taken down by the appropriate one of the three.

“Ah, Curtis!  Thank you for coming.  Do you have a few minutes to wait?  I am just finishing up here.”

Mann hangs his coat and hat and goes to sit in Wall’s desk chair.  “Certainly, Commissioner.  I’ll just appreciate the view.”

Wall turns back to his assistants.  “Fully endorse the latest Admiralty requests regarding research grants.  Current sensors are simply inadequate, particularly in light of the Ganymede issue.  And their report on wargaming test ships with the Pikeman class weapons onboard shows that this generation of sensors cannot effectively see missiles of the Bodkin size unless . . . well, unless they’re exploding on the hull, basically.  Nor can they see each other, for that matter, at anything near the ranges available to the torpedo controllers.

“What else.  Ah, submit design specifications to the Admiralty for review, then to industry, pending approval.  The Jump Phoenix is antiquated, and vulnerable.  A better design there.  And a jump courier.  No more reliance on the survey ships for courier duty outside the gate network.

“Weaponry.  Look for submissions for an improved torpedo tube.  There have been advances in the sciences since the Pikeman’s design.  There must be someone who can deliver a faster reload time.  And on that, the Stonewall never saw any use, since planetary defenses fell out of favor.  See if the Admiralty - or anyone in the Army, for that matter - will loosen funds for Armstrong Whitworth to redesign the Stonewall up to modern specifications.  Let us see if we can’t get all the pieces in place for planetary defenses when the will is finally there.”

The scrawl of pens slows.  “Had I mentioned anything else in the past hour?  No?  Very good.  Thank you, inform me of any issues.”  Wall turns his back as his underlings file out the door.

“I see you still have the departures board from King’s Cross station,” Curtis says without turning from the window.  “Had it been reporting stolen I would have a very solid case against you.”

“Not stolen,” Wall insists.  “Jeffries requisitioned it, is all.  It has come in quite handy, in fact.”

“Not showing the status of the evacuation anymore, I assume,” Mann says with a grin.  He turns and stands while Jones sets up a tea service by the couches and fireplace.

“Naturally, no,” Wall says.  “It was showing the progress of the Army units for a few months, but the updates have become scattershot as the clockwork men fall more quickly.  Now it shows the status of the various colonies, with a line for each continent on Earth.  The ‘health’ updates, as we call them; infrastructure where necessary, suspected threats, population, taxes, shipping status.  Quite handy.  I’d recommend you get one.”

Mann laughs.  “I’m afraid it would be a tough sell, given the supposedly clandestine nature of my business.”

“Speaking of which . . .” Wall prompts.

“It is rare for you to ask me here in a work faculty, my friend.”

Wall nods.  “This damnable assault from the Kingmakers.  I actually agree with the Dunkirk Compensation Act they have under debate at the moment, except that they have managed to make it a vote of confidence in my office as well.”

“I wouldn’t worry.”

“Do you say that professionally?”

“Personally and professionally, yes.”  Mann sets down his cup.  “You have surely read the reports from Ganymede.  The tide seems to be turning, yes?  The generals are convinced of victory by May at the latest.”

“They were sure of victory by Christmas last year,” Wall mentions.

“Well, they weren’t entirely wrong.  The army did defeat one of the defending battalions.  But that was before we knew the clockwork men were awakening reinforcements.  Now we have the scope of the situation, and it seems clear it will be done soon.  The liberation itself will certainly take some of the fervor from the calls for your head.  And the Queen, despite my best efforts to make clear the risks, plans to celebrate her twentieth anniversary on Ganymede.”  Before Wall has a chance to look shocked, Mann drives on.  “She has asked that you are present for the celebration.”

Wall is given his chance to look shocked.  “I . . . me personally?”

Mann smiles.  “Yes, you fool.  You.  Her Commissioner for Stellar Colonization and Administration.”  Mann pauses as a thought occurs to him.  “Have you ever been off Earth?”

Wall looks startled for a moment.  “Uhh . . . yes.  Certainly.  A tour of the Pegasus at some point.”

Mann shakes his head.  “Never to another world?  Oh, dear.  We do work you too hard.  Yes, Mr. Wall.  You will be the Queen’s guest on Ganymede.  Should it become necessary, she will expend the political capital necessary to keep you in your current post.  But I doubt it will be.  The Kingmakers are trying to make the vote for the Compensation Act a vote against you, but I sincerely doubt the momentum in Parliament will continue after the checks have been delivered.  I am not a politician, but my circles intersect with theirs often enough that I have a nose for this sort of thing.  They should’ve struck while the iron was hot if they wanted you gone.  Now that liberation is imminent, most people just want the incident over and done with.”

“I . . . but there’s so much to do here.  I couldn’t possibly leave affairs unsorted for a pleasure cruise to another world.”

“At the Queen’s insistence?  You’ll very much have to find a way, I’m afraid.”  Mann stands.  “Besides, it will be good for you!  Stretch your legs a bit, so to speak.  You’ll be in constant contact by meson telegraph, and you’ve got able departmental heads here.  And taking a look at Ganymede close up will do wonders for your perspective, as well.”

“I’m certainly afraid of something like that, yes.”

Palace of Westminster, meeting of the Naval Liaison Committee

“A few other matters . . .”  The Committee’s head magistrate, the Honorable Lord Bishop of Exeter, thumbed through his Babbage printouts looking for his agenda.  As a member of the Lords and the spiritual head of the diocese encompassing the Royal Navy’s largest shipyard, Exeter had amassed quite a foothold in the halls of secular power for a man as ostensiby spiritual as he.

“The Galileo Sweep Sensor has been designed.  If you will recall, this is in response to our request for improved primary sensing equipment for the warships.  In prototype testing with ships the size of the Pikeman class, its range of 125 million kilometers should be adequate for spotting.

“Professor Kirk and his faculty in Oxford have completed a state-of-the-art torpedo propellor.”  He peers over his glasses at a diagram for a moment.  “I’m told that the Procurement Board was extremely impressed.  A newer type Bodkin is expected in production by . . . yes, September.  Very good.”

He sets his glasses down and peers around at the other members of the Committee arrayed to either side of him, then toward the unusually large audience.  He gives a small ‘ahem’ and remembers to lean forward for the benefit of the infernal audio device that was transmitting his words to the clacking Babbage in the next room.

“The next and final item on the agenda is one which would not normally be important enough for mention by this committee, but due to the extreme nature of the situation we find it necessary to comment and, in part, pass on a few recommendations.”  He looks out across the audience and notes Richard and Lewis of the Kingmakers, though their old brother and his fellow Lords peer was notably absent.  One of Commissioner Wall’s adjuncts represented the Colonial Administration near the back.  A large number of both Army and Navy personnel in full dress were sprinkled throughout a number of humbler Navy personnel, journalists, and minor political functionaries.

“The clockwork menace has been purged from the colony on Ganymede, and more specifically from a number of captured private ships grounded on the surface.  This was done through the efforts of the brave men and women of the Queen’s Army and with the assistance of members of the Aether Navy.  This Committee has decreed it necessary for the good of the Empire that such ships should be purchased by the Crown for disassembly and study, to determine what - if any - modifications were carried out by the clockwork men while they held the human craft.”

Bishop Exeter permitted himself a small smile, as of one who knows the ending to a humorous anecdote in advance.  “In accordance with military tradition and history, the Admiralty sent word of its plans to award prize money for these ships and this Committee has no objections.”

A harsh murmur set up in the room, and long seconds of Exeter’s upraised hand did little to quell it.  “As the recent Dunkirk Compensation Act has conveniently put a price on the ships lost and subsequently recovered, those prices will be used in the award of the prizes.  Lord Hayworth, if you please!  If you please.”

Over the buzzing of the room, Lord Hayworth cleared his throat and read clearly into the microphone before him.  “The ships of the Jarvis Colony Company: one colonial transport worth 4 million pounds.  Of Clarke Logistics: two colonial transports worth 3 million pounds total.  Walton Interstellar Colony Limited: one colonial transport worth 1.5 million pounds, one freighter worth 1 million pounds.  Masudu Shipping: six colonial transports worth 9 million pounds total.”

The roar increased at this last.  First, the simple sums involved were monumental.  Commanding officers who stormed even the smallest of ships could expect 250,000 pounds.  Individual soldiers or sailors might receive thousands or even tens of thousands of pounds.  The lucky commander of the company which retook the Solar Storm - at no small cost - could expect 1 million pounds for his efforts.

And the prices of the Masudu transports were notably different than those finalized in the Dunkirk Compensation Act.  The machinations which led to the Act were well-known to many in the room, as was the fact that Masudu Shipping - as the single non-British major shipping line - had received far less than fair market value for their lost ships.  The Committee’s pricing gave a fair shake to every soldier and sailor who risked their lives, regardless of the original owner of the ship, as was appropriate.  But it was also a tacit understanding that the Masudu pricing of the Compensation Act had been wholly disingenuous.

“Based on the, as I said, outstanding nature of this prize award it will be necessary for funds to be allocated directly from the Treasury and the Crown.  On top of the recent outlay directly to the private companies affected by the distress on Ganymede, this is quite a large sum.  It will be necessary, and we hope all can see why, to remove costs from other areas of the government.

“As such, the members of the Committee would like to join me in announcing a proposed provision to the recent Act, reducing the compensation owed the East India Company for the loss of their freighters, as the Company is a de jure governmental entity.  Such a burden should be borne by Her Majesty’s government and not by its individual citizens or private entities.”

The commotion finally died down to a manageable degree.  Exeter allowed himself a passing glance at the youngest Kingmaker, just to savor the particular shade of violet he was turning, and then glanced back down at his notes.  “Ah, yes.  And we officially approved the change of name of the Pikeman class to the Ganymede class, in honor of recent victories.  Committee adjourned.”

Code: [Select]
Ganymede class Patrol Cruiser    4,500 tons     123 Crew     625 BP      TCS 90  TH 320  EM 0
3555 km/s     Armour 1-24     Shields 0-0     Sensors 1/1/0/0     Damage Control Rating 2     PPV 24
Maint Life 2.16 Years     MSP 174    AFR 81%    IFR 1.1%    1YR 50    5YR 748    Max Repair 160 MSP
Intended Deployment Time: 12 months    Spare Berths 1    
Magazine 264    

Steeleworks Charioteer MPD (1)    Power 320    Fuel Use 48%    Signature 320    Exp 10%
Fuel Capacity 650,000 Litres    Range 54.2 billion km   (176 days at full power)

Covington Armories 8-Tonner (8)    Missile Size 3    Rate of Fire 45
Enfield Bodkin FC 103 (1)     Range 103.0m km    Resolution 80
Bodkin Quick Aether Torpedo (88)  Speed: 42,700 km/s   End: 29m    Range: 74.4m km   WH: 4    Size: 3    TH: 170/102/51

Missile to hit chances are vs targets moving at 3000 km/s, 5000 km/s and 10,000 km/s

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes

~~~

Dunkirk Plaza, Calais Dome, Ganymede.  June 20th, 1857.  Queen Victoria’s 20th Coronation Anniversary

Wall had found the trip out to Ganymede not nearly as dreadful as his imaginings had made it out to be.  He had been offered one of the junior officers’ berths aboard the brand-new Ganymede and had been honored to accept.  Queen Victoria and her entourage were aboard the courier ship Emerald which had been extensively refitted with accommodations befitting the Queen of the Empire.  A number of other ships had accompanied the small flotilla as it made its way out to the recently liberated colony.

The social climate on Ganymede was a difficult one for Wall to suss out.  On the one hand, the people were clearly upset.  Seven months at the hands of occupying forces had not endeared them to Her Majesty’s Government, and Wall himself was a prime symbol of the same.  Though the liberation had been welcomed, the entire debacle was seen as preventable from the first.  A bit of post facto editorializing about how the aether forces of the Army had been necessary to keep the peace on Earth had been dismissed as bollocks and the offending general quickly shuffled off.  It had been a sloppy job of defense, plain and simple, and no justifications could be offered for it.

On the other hand, the Queen’s decision was having something of the desired effect.  Her presence inspired a fair bit of pride in the people of Ganymede to turn the page on the tribulations and show the sort of resilience they had.  The crowded domes pulled together to clean up the remains of the Clockwork Occupation and make ready for their sovereign’s arrival.

This did not, of course, preclude the need for intensive security arrangements.  Armored knights accompanied the royal couple wherever they went.  Her sedan chair (used because of the impracticality of a carriage in the tight spaces and light gravity) had stretched duranium windows between neutronium ribs and armor.  Her speeches were given from behind panels of aether elements and projected out to the populace using modern audio-casting machines.

On the 20th of June, the day of her Anniversary Speech, Dunkirk Plaza was filled to capacity with Queen’s subjects, with more hanging lightly from the walls of the facing buildings and some even picnicking on cleaning platforms dangling from the dome.  All told it was a security detail’s worst nightmare, but did give a number of the Queen’s subject a decent view as her speech wound toward its conclusions.

“It is the people of the Empire who drive it forward.  Drive it into the future, away from the darkness of the past, the fear and the danger, and into a tomorrow warmed by the Sun, by our sun, but also other suns in other skies.  The skies of Ares, and Boreas, and Zephyr, Eurus, Mars, and Ganymede!”

“It is all you here on Ganymede, all you people of our great Empire, forging that tomorrow.  And while I owe you all a debt of gratitude, there are some I must thank personally and publicly.”  At a signal, the commander of the Order of St. George mounted the platform and kneeled before the Queen.  She accepted and passed on a small laquer box.  “I hereby bestow upon you the Liberation Cross, for your efforts in the freeing of my subjects of Ganymede.  You have our thanks.”

The process was repeated in a shroud of solemnity for the commanders of the liberating forces of the British Army.   Once the last had returned to his seat, the Queen still did not sit, but looked expectantly down at the assembled officers until one last man made the trek up to the dais.

The figure of Kieran Brady was unmistakable.  He had managed to find a regulation uniform in the weeks since the Liberation and he cut an impressive figure with the ribbons and medals of his previous campaigns festooning his breast.  The sleeve of his left arm was creased at the elbow and pinned across his stomach as if the phantom forearm rested in a sling.  Rather than the typical officer’s sword there was a long, wide blade from his belt.  If the whispers were true, it was the gladius of the clockwork soldier that had taken his arm, which he now carried as some sort of grotesque trophy.  Unless the other rumours were true - that the clockwork thing’s head rested on his mantle, and that was the real trophy.

Wall knew there had been some furor about the Queen’s plan to award the Liberation Cross to Brady.  Since Wall himself had dodged some of the blame for the disaster on Ganymede, some vindictive souls had gone looking for another scapegoat and found Brady.  But the Queen had the pulse of her subjects better than those vindictive souls.  Brady’s efforts in leading the resistance during the Occupation had made him something of a folk hero.  Her decision was vindicated when Brady stood to the roaring of the crowd, and he bowed to the assembled in Dunkirk Plaza at Her Majesty’s insistence.

The sound was not the figurative wall of sound, but closer to a figurative dome, coming as it did from all sides, all corners, above and below.  Commissioner Wall looked out from his position on a lower platform and could not help but feel a corner had been turned, in some sense.  Twenty years had passed in which the Empire had quelled Earth, overseen the colonization of their nearest neighbor, and here he was, personally, on a ball of rock circling the largest planet in the solar system, listening to his sovereign speak.  The dangers of the Hampshire system lurked in the back of his mind, but in all the feeling of renaissance was unmistakable.

Brady raised his arm to the crowd and bowed one final time before returning to his seat.  The Queen, further remarks forgotten, took Prince Albert’s arm and began the recessional.  The military band nearby was nearly caught off guard, but the quick-draw trumpets gamely blared their fanfare to the accompaniment of military drums as the Queen exited the plaza.  The general tumult and shouting continued as the fanfare concluded and blended easily into the holiday revelry as a half dozen curbside bars threw open their doors and musicians within struck up their own tunes.

Wall stood with the others and looked out over the plaza, now filled with the general revelry of a holiday atmosphere.  He scanned the crowd, unable to help the grin spreading over his face.  From the corner of his eye he caught Curtis Mann standing on the upper platform, speaking into a small audio device, overseeing the clandestine arrangements for the Queen’s security.  Mann glanced up and Wall caught his eye, then simply nodded, once.

A corner had been turned, indeed.

Excerpted from Winston Churchill’s A History of the English-Speaking People.  Appendix E to chapter “The Aether Age” entitled “The Status of the British Empire Twenty Years On”

Status of the British Empire Twenty Years After Victoria’s Reign Begins
June 20, 1857


Total Wealth and Population by System
98,991 thousand pounds
Sol: 1,541.6 millions
Middlesex: 2.6 millions
Surrey: 400 thousands

Sol System
Earth
1,461.65 million citizens.
Tax Revenue: 32,156 thousand pounds yearly
Shipyards: 7
BSN Maintenance: 4,800 tons maximum.
Construction Factories: 976
Sorium Refineries: 214
Mines: 1064
Clockwork Mines: 54
Mass Drivers: 3
Research Facilities: 37
Financial Centers: 14
Ground Unit Training Facilities: 2

Mars
77.45 million citizens
1,265 installations to recover
Infrastructure for 77.26 million citizens
Tax Revenue: 1,781 thousand pounds yearly
Construction Factories: 7
Sky Factories: 19
Genetic Modification Centers: 7
Ground Force Training Facilities: 3

Ganymede
Ganymede’s tax revenue and production are diminished due to linger resentment of the Clockwork Occupation

2.48 million citizens
Infrastructure for 3.16 million citizens
239 installations to recover
Tax Revenue: 10 thousand pounds yearly
Sky Factories: 4

110 Government-owned clockwork mines spread across three comets.

25 civilian mining complexes spread across:
Luna, Reinmuth, Chernykh, Tempel 1, Hygiea, Wild, 1999 KR16, and Swift-Tuttle.

Diotima (Formerly Asteroid 149) has 42 ruined installations to recover and no current Empire presence.

Middlesex System
Ares
The installations on Ares show signs of being low-technology and non spacefaring

2.6 million citizens
Infrastructure for 3.18 million citizens
333 installations to recover
Tax Revenue: 60 thousand pounds yearly

Surrey System
Boreas
400,000 citizens
Infrastructure for 500,000 citizens
Negligible tax revenue

Private Shipping Concerns
All private shipping concerns have recently received between 4 and 6 million pounds as part of the Dunkirk Compensation Act

Walton Interstellar Colony, Ltd: 9.41 pounds per share.  Two large, five small freighters.
Clarke Logistics: 8.37 pounds per share.  Two large, five small freighters.
Masudu Shipping: 8.13 pounds per share.  Two large, two small freighters.
Jarvis Colony Company: 5.20 pounds per share.  Currently no ships.

British Space Navy:
Warships
2 Ganymede patrol cruisers

Support and Science
1 Homefront Troop Transport
2 Jewel couriers
6 Jump Phoenix survey vessels

Colonial Fleet
15 East Indiamen freghters
10 Martianman bulk freighters
4 Mayflower colony ships
1 Viceroy bulk colony ship
3 Harbor class commercial jump tenders
2 Paradisium passenger liners

British Aether troops:

Earth Garrison: 2 Armored Knights, 2 Militia, 1 Reserves
Mars Archaeology Corps: 12 Pioneer brigades, 1 Reserves
Ganymede Liberation Force: 5 Armored Knights, 1 Guerilla Cadre (formerly 44th (Novgorod) Pioneers)

Known Threats

Clockwork men in storage on Mars and Ganymede
Presumed hostile forces in Hampshire, two jumps from Sol through the Middlesex system

~~~
Excerpted from the notes of Commissioner Dylan Wall of the British Stellar Colonial Administration and assorted historical documents


Editor’s Note:: While always a busy man, Commissioner Wall’s weathering of the Kingmakers’ assault saw even more responsibilities laid upon the Stellar Colonial Administration.  His notes in the period after 1857 become more sparse, and have been augmented with other historical accounts, in the interests of completeness.  Unlike the foregoing excerpted sections, the following word are not all Mr. Wall’s.

1st of July, 1857 - A Martian laboratory has been excavated and reopened.  A faction of the Royal Society wishes to use it to begin studying the genome of the extinct Martian race, and they have had their request granted.  The laboratory will stay on Mars for the time being.

3rd of September - Various private shipping concerns have begun the process of rebuilding.  Jarvis Colony Company has launched a new smaller freighter with highly advanced drives (on which they hold a patent) and Masudu Shipping has floated the first private colonial transport ship built after the Dunkirk Debacle

   The gravitational survey of the Surrey system is complete, revealing eight jump points in total.  Two are known, to Middlesex and Wallis, and the other six are as-yet unexplored.  Given that Wallis is already known and has an Imperial presence, a complete survey of that system is the next priority.  Plans are already underway to mothball the survey fleet after the completion of the Wallis survey.

20th of December, 1857 - Two Tower-type ground defense fortresses have been fabricated and delivered to Mars as a last-ditch defensive measure, should the ground combat on Mars ever get out of hand.  With the current pace of archaeological digs on the Red Planet, the battles there are essentially continuous.  The previous clockwork enemy is barely in the ground before the next is dug up.

   A new Martian-pattern military training facility has been discovered which should aid the process.  In consultation with Imperial Army strategists, militia battalions are being temporarily prioritized above pioneer units.  It would be my wish to see each pioneer unit have an accompanying defensive militia garrison, but a ratio of two-to-one is likely closer to what we will see eventually.  All the same, the defense of Mars from clockwork men does not keep me up at night.  It is well enough in hand.

26th of January, 1858 - The Harbor-class commercial jump tender Brighton has been floated on Earth.  With the route to Surrey covered by its sibling ships, it has little to do outside of its secondary role as a tanker.

13th of April - The Ruby is floated, the first modern jump courier.  As part of her shakedown cruise she is sent all the way to the Wallis system and back.  The trip takes only ten days, and she returns with news that Rupert in the DeCroix stellar area of Wallis not only has large amounts of Duranium but also ruined structures.  Interest in archaeological possibilities is renewed, and the Ruby prepares to take a Royal Society xenoarchaeological faculty to the Wallis system.

Code: [Select]
Jump Jewel class Courier    1,750 tons     44 Crew     237 BP      TCS 35  TH 320  EM 0
9142 km/s    JR 1-50     Armour 1-12     Shields 0-0     Sensors 1/1/0/0     Damage Control Rating 1     PPV 0
Maint Life 2.2 Years     MSP 85    AFR 24%    IFR 0.3%    1YR 24    5YR 353    Max Repair 160 MSP
Intended Deployment Time: 4 months    Spare Berths 0    

Ritornello Courier Spool     Max Ship Size 1750 tons    Distance 50k km     Squadron Size 1
Steeleworks Charioteer MPD (1)    Power 320    Fuel Use 48%    Signature 320    Exp 10%
Fuel Capacity 100,000 Litres    Range 21.4 billion km   (27 days at full power)

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes

8th of June - A Martian-pattern sky factory is destroyed on Mars in a defensive push from three clockwork assault battalions.  A number of families of the terraformers are lost in the engagement.  

18th of July - The old-model Jewel couriers are being scrapped in favor of upgrades to newer Jump Jewel models.  The Emerald, still rigged as a royal transport from Queen Victoria’s trip to Ganymede and Mars, is being kept in its current state either as an intra-Gate transport or as a museum piece.

20th of December - The Stephenson class class jump gate construction ship has been designed, and the yards retooled for their production.  The heart of the ship is essentially a factory for the construction of customized modules for the jump gate, each depending in some way on the calculations performed onsite.  The pieces of this factory have been built by industry on Earth, largely, which should make the assembly of the lead ship significantly faster.

Code: [Select]
Stephenson class Construction Ship    31,450 tons     70 Crew     852 BP      TCS 629  TH 480  EM 0
763 km/s     Armour 1-88     Shields 0-0     Sensors 1/1/0/0     Damage Control Rating 1     PPV 0
MSP 17    Max Repair 36 MSP
Intended Deployment Time: 24 months    Spare Berths 1    
Jump Gate Construction Ship: 360 days

Jarvis Wallower Magneto-Paddle (2)    Power 240    Fuel Use 1.48%    Signature 240    Exp 3%
Fuel Capacity 250,000 Litres    Range 96.7 billion km   (1466 days at full power)

This design is classed as a Commercial Vessel for maintenance purposes

25th of December - Losses among the pioneer units on Mars have resulted in the removal of one brigade due to reorganization.  Local replacement battalions will be raised from the Martian cities to make up for the losses.

5th of January, 1859 - The first of the returning survey ships is undergoing its overhaul prior to being mothballed.  There will come a time when they are needed, but for the moment the cost of keeping them in the aether - both militarily and economically - is too great.

14th of January - Amrita Koul is given the viceroyship of Mars based mainly on her understanding of the intricacies of atmospheric terraforming.  Jennifer Hill’s effort and, in particular, her diplomatic skill will go toward healing the wounds on Ganymede left by the Occupation.  Growth of Ganymede also means that only one in four colonists were present for the Occupation, though it still makes up a large part of the colony’s identity.

9th of February, 1859 - The 1st Archaeo-Martian Pioneers have uncovered a storage area containing components for a sky factory but in a significantly smaller scope.  They seem to be meant for orbital deployment, which is consistent with recent academic studies about the feasibility of high-altitude deployment.  

   The utility of the systems is evident, but their sheer size causes significant pause.  Even a single component is nearly the size of an East Indiaman space freighter.  Plymouth Civilian Yards begin expanding with the possibility of far more massive ships looming on the horizon.

2nd of May - The gravitational survey of Wallis is complete.  It is a dead-end system with entry controlled from Surrey through a jump point well within the orbit of the colonizable planets.  The military risk to colonization in Wallis is correspondingly low as it would be protected by the same defenses which protect Surrey.  There is a proposal wending its way through the appropriate channels of Parliament, the Admiralty, and Stellar Colonial that would extend the jump gate network into Wallis, once the gates into Surrey are complete.

23rd of July, 1859 - The Stephenson has reached the jump point from the Middlesex system into Surrey and begun construction of the gate and stabilization of the netherspace tunnel.  The process of stabilizing both sides is likely to take upwards of two years.  

   In the meantime, the colonies in Surrey are still being served by the freighters of the East India Company shepherded by Harbor class jump tenders.  Boreas itself has a population of over two million Queen’s subjects, with a small industrial base and clockwork mines.  Nearby by Eurus - in orbit of the gas giant Anemoi - has a dozen clockwork mines and a mass driver to harness Duranium deposits and ship them to Boreas for use in construction.

15th of September - The project, recently dictated by the crown, of cataloging and upgrading our current understanding of the physical properties of aether elements is complete.  With the physical laws of four stars, a dozen planets, and the reports from ruins on Ares, Ganymede, Diotima, and now Rupert, the understanding of the Empire’s scientists has made great strides.  The addition of the ‘autopsies’ of clockwork men has increased a general understanding of both mechanical and electrical clockworks.  It is hoped this reference work will allow our scientists and scholars to do their work more fruitfully.

   This also frees a number of faculties world-wide to turn to the problem of our relative myopia in the aether.  War games conducted with the Ganymede and her sister have shown that spotting ships at anything approaching the range of current torpedoes in effectively impossible, and that spotting torpedoes at a range to conduct any evasions is downright ludicrous.  A wider range of sensors across distinct resolution bands have been proposed to solve the problem.

   The specific issue of incoming torpedoes requires a more comprehensive solution.  The boffins have run through calculations on paper, and I am assured by those boffins who are employed by the Admiralty that the idea of using anything remotely resembling current weaponry to intercept torpedoes is foolhardy, mainly because the sensor apparatus necessary to control it would be prohibitively enormous while proving only marginally useful.  The most promising alternative is to design a ‘counter-missile,’ basically, a small torpedo itself to hunt down and explode the larger torpedos.  It sounds a bit like trying to shoot a bullet with another bullet.

9th of October - Kadni Machineworks Limited has designed the “Flare” counter-missile drive to be incorporated into a proposed “Stilleto” counter-missile.  The mathematics involved show promise, but I don’t believe the Admiralty will trust the lives of their spacemen to mathematics.  I reserve judgement until a successful test.

   One of the Admiralty’s consultants on torpedo weaponry, Olivia Tyler, has put in the work to build out the “Stiletto” missile as well as its accompanying launch tube system and a dedicated magazine to service a three-gun deck.

18th of October - The Admiralty has certainly put its mind to this counter-missile project.  It is an ungainly beast, but develops momentum.  The original drafts of the Ganymede nee Pikeman have been pulled out and used as the basis for a newer vessel.  Ms. Tyler’s work on the Stiletto 2-Tonner counter-missile tubes has been modified slightly as well to make three of the 2-Tonner counter-missile tubes fit the form factor for a single Magnus 8-Tonner torpedo tube.  The magazine space is even easier to replace, I understand, so that a new ship has been built which is precisely the Ganymede but with all her magazine space and torpedo tubes replaced for the new counter-missile role.  In honor of her previous designation, the ship is (tentatively, again) dubbed the Pike.

   The last small but necessary change relates to the control systems for the counter-missiles, and also to the larger issue of sensors.  The Galileo-class surveillance cruisers currently building have their uses but also their limits.  The spool drive which allows them to shepherd other ships outside the network of stabilizes netherspace tunnels also takes up room which could be used for passive or off-resolution sensors.  Issues like that in Hampshire - in other words, unknown assailants - would benefit from a low-profile passive sensor capability.  Designs for a purely surveillance cruiser show some gaps in capabilities, and it might be up to the scholars to address those gaps before the Admiralty commits to a ship.

   And, of course, all of things brings up a larger problem which falls squarely in my own lap.  The use of torpedos for offensive maneuvers and these counter-missiles for defensive means that something will need to drag these weighty things about.  A basic design stuffing the basic Ganymede design with magazines would serve, but estimates show it would only tote perhaps twice the ordnance of the ships it is to service.  Imagine a squadron of six sea frigates having to safeguard three magazine ships in their travels.  A ludicrous image!

But the alternative is a larger collier, which would make it slower and unable to keep up with the fleet.  So a larger and faster collier, and no slipways of a size necessary to build it.  I have given authorization to begin yet another upgrade to the military shipyards, but it is inevitable that a larger shipyard will result in the design of an even larger warship, and therefore a larger collier, and thence a larger shipyard, ad infinitum.  A dog chasing his tail, which is all I feel like somedays.  I’ll catch it yet.

21st of October - It seems my dealings with the Admiralty over these matters will never be at an end.  I have been called in to offer an opinion on the newest upgrades to the Ganymede class, simply because the furor over the competing plans has spilled the walls of Admiralty and is sloshing about the streets of the capital.  One the one side, the Ganymede Type 2 class incorporates the latest torpedo tubes for the Bodkin torpedos, a near-halving of the time to reload the tubes.  On the other, the Ganymede Type 3 promises exactly the same.  No difference.  

   What they do argue is the magazines used for ordnance.  The Type 2 incorporates Ms. Tyler’s latest Stiletto magazine, while the Type 3 plan leaves the current magazines in place.  The difference is one of a half a broadside in storage capacity, slightly increased armor for the magazine, and a 50% increase in the refit cost.  My opinion will be that I don’t care to give a damned opinion, but I have the feeling the costs win out.  The notes from these meetings will be paraded before Parliament the first time adverse action results in the loss of a Type 3, but so it goes.

Code: [Select]
Ganymede Type 3 class Patrol Cruiser    4,500 tons     123 Crew     673 BP      TCS 90  TH 320  EM 0
3555 km/s     Armour 1-24     Shields 0-0     Sensors 1/1/0/0     Damage Control Rating 2     PPV 24
Maint Life 2.39 Years     MSP 187    AFR 81%    IFR 1.1%    1YR 45    5YR 674    Max Repair 160 MSP
Intended Deployment Time: 12 months    Spare Berths 1    
Magazine 264    

Steeleworks Charioteer MPD (1)    Power 320    Fuel Use 48%    Signature 320    Exp 10%
Fuel Capacity 650,000 Litres    Range 54.2 billion km   (176 days at full power)

8-Tonner Magnus (8)    Missile Size 3    Rate of Fire 25
Enfield Bodkin FC 103 (1)     Range 103.0m km    Resolution 80
Bodkin Quick Aether Torpedo (88)  Speed: 42,700 km/s   End: 29m    Range: 74.4m km   WH: 4    Size: 3    TH: 170/102/51

Missile to hit chances are vs targets moving at 3000 km/s, 5000 km/s and 10,000 km/s

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes

22nd of November - The Enfield Naval Slipways have expanded their production capacity to accommodate the Pike point defense cruiser.  The first two have been laid down for delivery in early 1861.

Code: [Select]
Pike class Patrol Cruiser    4,500 tons     103 Crew     763.2 BP      TCS 90  TH 320  EM 0
3555 km/s     Armour 1-24     Shields 0-0     Sensors 1/1/0/0     Damage Control Rating 2     PPV 12
Maint Life 2.37 Years     MSP 212    AFR 81%    IFR 1.1%    1YR 52    5YR 773    Max Repair 160 MSP
Intended Deployment Time: 12 months    Spare Berths 1    
Magazine 354    

Steeleworks Charioteer MPD (1)    Power 320    Fuel Use 48%    Signature 320    Exp 10%
Fuel Capacity 600,000 Litres    Range 50.0 billion km   (162 days at full power)

Stiletto 2-Tonner (12)    Missile Size 1    Rate of Fire 10
Stilleto Anti-Torpedo 1.5 FC (2)     Range 13.9m km    Resolution 1
Stiletto Type 2 (354)  Speed: 56,000 km/s   End: 0.4m    Range: 1.5m km   WH: 1    Size: 1    TH: 224/134/67

Spyglass Missile Spotter 1.5m (1)     GPS 126     Range 13.9m km    Resolution 1

Missile to hit chances are vs targets moving at 3000 km/s, 5000 km/s and 10,000 km/s

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes

26th of December - Jay Duffy has received a promotion, and richly deserved it is.  The Queen has requested that he act as her personal liaison to the Admiralty.  He will smooth the way between Buckingham Palace, Stellar Colonial, Parliament, and the Navy.  It is a position that has not existed before and only exists now for the purposes of removing Admiral Duffy from the First Lord’s seat.  He has always been overly optimistic about the opportunities available in the great expanses of space, and in a time when the Queen (and, if I may claim that I have any sway in matters such as these, myself) is interested in less exploration, not more.  It is a transparent lie and surely must be clear enough to all who hear it, but it does allow the status to change while still remaining quo, in effect.  

   I and others are excited enough about Admiral Emily Giles, his presumptive replacement.  Her most recent assignment was on the Galileo, lead ship of the new class of surveillance cruiser, and she has previously captained a number of Her Majesty’s bulk freighters under either the Colonial Administration or East India Company flag.  Her crews have been models of efficiency under her leadership, and she has personally drawn up a training regimen for Home Fleet and a rotation of patrol duties into Surrey as well.  And she has expressed a strong desire in system defense.  She will do nicely, I think.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2013, 10:26:43 AM by Konisforce »
Come take a look at Victoria Regina, an old-timey AAR
 

 

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