Author Topic: Victoria Regina, Part 1: The Teenaged Queen  (Read 2520 times)

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Offline Konisforce (OP)

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Victoria Regina, Part 1: The Teenaged Queen
« on: August 28, 2012, 11:48:09 AM »
Excerpted from the notes of Vice Commissioner Dylan Wall of the British Colonial Administration

16th of May, 1837 - Isambard Kingdom Brunel has completed the Tor-Kintyre bridge, using aether elements to link the British Isles across the 21km strait of the Irish Sea.  Plans begin for a rail bridge between Dover and Calais, and a number of client states apply for infrastructure projects.

20th of June, 1837 - With the death of the King, Queen Victoria has assumed the throne.  There is no small amount of trepidation about her powers of governance, particularly given the task ahead of her.  The Prime Minister William Lamb, 2nd Viscount of Melbourne, is not a remarkable man, but the Empire could do far worse than to have the young Queen under his tutelage as she comes out from under the shadow of her mother.

With advice from the Prime Minister, the Queen hands down orders to our Administration to scale back the zealous protection of aether elements and begin utilizing them for the betterment of all.  Large-scale conversion of older factories and mines begins in earnest, using materials that had been put aside for further military units.  Alongside the modernization projects, the Crown throws its weight behind Brunel’s proposed English Channel Bridge.  As the lack of a particular aether element - corundium - will slow the modernization process, my office advises that further research labs are built as they require none of the element and will prove useful in this new, post-aether world.

11th of August - A new Fellow is welcomed into the Royal Society, John Fry, whose specialty is in the propagation of waves through the aether fluids, building machines to allow the remote sensing of objects or phenomena.  Because of the lack of corundium, he is given a grant to begin work on a sensor to probe the very depths of the Earth in search of deposits of aether minerals.  Should it be successful for traditional minerals as well, the boon to miners would be incalculable.

   Additionally, the Royal Society - at the request of the Colonial Administration and the Prime Minister - forms a Geological Corps.  This draws its members from the Royal Society Fellows who are most experienced with finding and exploiting aether elements.

16th of October - the Geological Corps of the Royal Society finds deposits of corbomite beneath the Andean mountains at great depth, showing that the concepts of the Corps is sound.  (Note - I will admit that I was at first excited when the report came in, thinking that our difficulties with corundium had been solved.  Alas, it was another “c” element.  I’ll need to hire in an assistant who understands this new world . . .)

26th January, 1838 - One of the remnants of King William’s research projects at the Ashington facility has completed; a scaling-up of gauss cannons.  With a cannon of this size, a projectile could be thrown clear into the Pacific ocean . . . from London.  It would seem that such a thing has no real useful purpose in today’s world, and so research efforts will be placed elsewhere.  Current land-based gauss artillery is effective enough for any eventuality.

16th of February, 1838 - George Stephenson - designer of “The Rocket” locomotive and favored railywayman of Britain - has apparently spent the last few years ignoring the requests that he keep his talents confined to the rails.  Ashington has received a proposal for an Aether Propeller, as he calls it, with which to ply the space beyond the Earth.  The Admiralty, I am told, is intrigued by the design, and is planning on building a small test ship incorporating the propeller and its attendant aether reactor power source.
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Offline Konisforce (OP)

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Re: Victoria Regina, Part 1: The Teenaged Queen
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2012, 12:39:38 PM »
The Office of Dylan Wall, Vice-Commissioner of Colonial Administration

A knock at the door.  “Come in.”  The gentleman enters, and Vice-Commissioner Wall stands quickly, extending his hand and smiling with real pleasure.  “Curtis!  A pleasant surprise.  Do come in, have a seat.  Jones?  Tea, if you would.”

The gentlemen sit, Wall behind his desk and Curtis Mann in a large chair nearer the fireplace.  “I hope it’s not an imposition?” he asks, glancing at the parchments spread about Wall’s office.

Wall follows his gaze, then shakes his head.  “No more-so than ever, Curtis.  If you’d been to visit since the new Queen, this would seem a light day.”

“You do too much, my friend, for your rank.  Not even a peer of the realm, and look at all you do for the Empire!”

Dylan Wall clucks his tongue.  “Nonsense, Mr. Mann.  I do quite well for the son of a Cheapside brick-layer.”  He takes tea from the service Jones lays at his side.  “Besides, I count myself quite lucky.  I have oversight of every territory outside of the British Isles, which means everywhere.  I control the production of factories and mines the world over.  And the gentleman above me does nothing but hunt and carouse all day, so I never have anyone peering over my shoulder.  I could myself the most powerful man in the whole Empire.  Ain’t it so, Jones?” he adds in the vernacular of his birth.

“As you say, sir,” Jones bobs with a grin, then retires.

Mann takes a moment with his tea.  “This Stephenson business . . .” he begins.

“Now we get to it,” Wall says, half snide.

“What do you make of it?  A propeller to travel the stars like the waves?  And from a railman, no less.”

Wall nods slowly.  Thoughtfully.  “It does seem outlandish.  But, I am told on good authority, it has merit.  A small shipyard in Plymouth has been given over to the construction of a testbed for the idea.  And before you ask it, I know your question - how to reach the stars in the first place?  Simple enough, actually, though it revolves around these aether elements, which I do not understand in the least.  The aether doesn’t extend down here to the ground, so I’m told, which is why the earth is made up of individual elements.  But the shipyards contain an apparatus which can create a funnel of aether, right down to them.  Simple enough.  Like creating a canal, of sorts, and the ship will just bob up to the top of it.”

Mann shakes his head.  “The boffins have it sorted, I am sure, but I for one don’t know how to distinguish it from an Act of God.”

“Perhaps it is, my good man.”  Wall hoists his tea with a smile.  “To the club for a bit of cards, perhaps?”


As the carriage thumped its way through another rut, Captain Edward Pope swore quite loudly.  He thanked fate again that it was only himself in the carriage, and then he returned to reading - for the sixth time - the paper in his hand.

Captain Edward Pope, you are hereby required and directed to proceed with all haste to the Royal Shipyards at Plymouth, there to take command of the victualling and crewing of Her Majesty’s Space Ship “Turtle”.  The victualling and crewing of same is to take precedence over all other activities in the Royal Shipyards and, as such, you are given the full authority of the Crown and Admiralty to requisition any goods, services, personnel, etc, which you shall deem worthy and necessary in the accomplishment of this task.  Certain Fellows of the Royal Society shall be on hand to assist you in the technical and operational details of the ship and full use should be made of them.  May God show favor upon this Endeavor and keep Her Royal Majesty Victoria in health.  Signed, First Lord of the Admiralty Harrison Sutton.

The carriage bumped to a stop.  Captain Pope stepped out from the carriage, dusted an epaulet, and placed his hat upon his head.

His first impression was of busy mass of men, swarming over a ship that appeared to be upside down, plying it with pitch, hauling ropes, sanding planks, and any number of other busy pursuits.

His second impression was that, while he would have been entirely at home with such activities had they taken place next to the water, he had very little idea what was going on up on this bluff overlooking Plymouth proper.  Were it not for the actual presence of a large group of industrious men, he would have given the carriage driver a sound thrashing and instructed him to take him to his real destination.  He strode toward the clump of men, and was shortly met by the foreman and two members of the Royal Society.

Three hours later, he had been told everything about the endeavor, and understood even less.  The tour of HMSS Turtle had been short.  The whole ship was shaped like someone had taken the hull of a wide fishing boat, turned it upside down, and put it on another of the same.  Two of what could only be called ‘flippers’ thrust out sideways from the ship one third of the way from the front, and another two one third of the way from the back.  Completing the turtle-like look of the craft was a sort of belfry thrust out from the front of the ship.  It was composed of green glass with structural wrappings of duranium-soaked wood, and one man could lie within it.  Thrust out from the back was a wide wooden propeller with four blades.

The entire craft was perhaps eighty paces long, front to back, of which only twenty paces in the front belonged to Pope and his crew.  The rear twenty paces were taken up by the Stephenson Aether Propeller’s fittings and fastenings, as well as the aether reactor which drove it.  The next half of the ship was all fuel storage, waiting to be filled with refined sorium.  As it was explained to him, they had little idea how the consumption of fuel by the aether reactor would change when the ship was actually surrounded by the aether.  The last thing anyone wanted was a ship which could no longer move, and so it had an excess of fuel storage.  The front area of the ship was a dark, tapering room full of the necessary rigging to pull the control surfaces and work the unfortunately-nicknamed ‘flippers’.  A small crawl-way led back through the sorium storage to the area of the aether reactor and the propellers, but with the linkages from the front section there should be little need for crew in the back.

Captain Edward Pope was less than enthusiastic for his new command . . .

Code: [Select]
Turtle class Science Vessel    450 tons     29 Crew     25.2 BP      TCS 9  TH 1  EM 0
111 km/s     Armour 1-5     Shields 0-0     Sensors 1/1/0/0     Damage Control Rating 0     PPV 0
Maint Life 0 Years     MSP 0    AFR 90%    IFR 1.2%    1YR 3    5YR 48    Max Repair 5 MSP

Aether Propeller (1)    Power 1    Fuel Use 100%    Signature 1    Armour 0    Exp 5%
Fuel Capacity 50,000 Litres    Range 199.8 billion km   (20833 days at full power)

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes
« Last Edit: September 01, 2012, 09:37:15 PM by Konisforce »
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Offline Konisforce (OP)

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Re: Victoria Regina, Part 1: The Teenaged Queen
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2012, 02:43:35 PM »
“Heave away!  Handsomely, lads.  Smartly there, damn your eyes!”  Under the watchful and critical eye of a bo’sun, an overly-massive capstan turned under the ministrations of a score of straining crewmen.  The capstan controlled an equally massive valve set into an arrangement of riveted and hammered pipes constructed of an amalgam of aether and traditional materials.  As the valve eased open, sorium trickled, flowed, and then gushed from a holding tank out along the series of pipes, each ending at an aether reactor arrayed in a circle around the wood-and-metal form supporting the HMSS Turtle, inside of which Captain Edward Pope and his crew already waited.

The crewmen, having opened the capstan full, each took up positions at levers attached to aether reactors which were sputtering into life under the ministrations of Fellows of the Royal Society.  Once the boffins signalled the individual readiness of their own aether reactor, the bos’un caught the eyes of his crewmen and again exhorted them again to ‘haul away’ in a handsome fashion.

The levers were drawn back marginally, supplying power from aether reactors to the odd-looking ‘funnelers’.  If the boffins were to be believed, these would suck the individual elements from a patch of sky above the slipway, allowing the aether of the heavens to flow into the empty area and bouy up the aether-built ship now sitting on its blocks.  This did not appear to be happening.

But appearances can be - and often are - deceiving.  The first indication was a gentle wind about the open mouths of the funnelers, which increased in strength but stopped just short of the sort of stiff breeze a ship captain favors.  The area outside the circle demarcated by the aether contraptions remained relatively calm, with the normal movements one would associate with a bluff on the southwestern coast of England.

The first cries of “look!” caused all assembled to do just that, and to do it in the only logical direction - up.  For the air within the shipyard’s funnel was thinning, and within that area night was falling and the stars were coming out.  One could stare up at noon on a Wednesday in England and see the black of night descending like some Apocalypse.  But even more shocking, one could stare across the funnel and see the black of night touching the very ground of Britain.

HMSS Turtle was nearly lost in all of this, so that when her bow bobbed up slightly, it was missed.  When it bobbed up further, the bos’un, returning to his senses, demanded that his men clasp on to the guide ropes fastened to the ship, which they did.  As the last of the air drained from the funnel, HMSS Turtle was left floating a few feet above the slipway that had recently supported it, held down by three-score British tars on ropes.

From the tension it was very clear that the weight of HMSS Turtle was distributed quite wrong for what was about to happen.  The reactor and propeller in the back were not nearly balanced by Captain Pope and the dozen men within, and so the Turtle’s bow strove to lift up and leave the stern hanging.  There was little to be done for it, however, as the ship was drawing inexorably up and taking the too-few ground men with it.  The men on the bow-ropes let them incrementally out as best they could, pitching the Turtle up ninety degrees until bow pointed to the heavens and stern toward the Earth.

Captain Pope’s reaction to all this - having no ability to see outside during the process - was a very heartfelt “Bloody hell . . .” and an order to his crew to clap hold of something.  As the deck of the Turtle gradually became a bulkhead, the spacemen shifted themselves and grabbed hold of guide ropes and fixtures as available.  Once the ship had settled into a position she seemed to prefer much more and had remained there for a dozen breaths, Pope looked over at two crewmen nearest the proper valve and ordered, “Aether valve one half turn, if you please, and propeller forward.”

So ordered, the crewmen performed this first task with an admirable mixture of fortitude and grace, given that the appropriate valve was some fifteen feet up a curving wall.  “And someone, please rig some foot-ropes.”

The Turtle’s propeller began to spin lazily, visible to the watchers on the ground and tangible through a gentle vibration to the men within in.  Very little happened until two more half turns were executed, at which time the sorium flowed faster, the reactor burned brighter, and the propeller turned with more vigour.

“Spotter to the crow’s nest,” Pope ordered - no easy task now that the green-glass projection had become even more like a belfry since the Turtle’s inversion.  The foretop-man of the crew swung his way to the peak and wedged his body in the small cupola as the ship began a stately ascent out of the Earth’s embrace. 

After a few minutes of ascent and a word from the crow’s nest, Pope handed down the order to lower the front planes and attempt to pull the ship into something resembling its designed posture.  The duranium-soaked wood bit the aether and, with the thrust from the propeller, pulled the bow of the ship down until the deck was again beneath their feet and the Earth could be seen beneath them out the cupola.  As they released the flippers, the ship was tempted to buck upward again.  After a few minutes of tinkering with the planes, they were lashed in such a way as to keep the ship correctly oriented.

“Spotter, what is our . . . height?  And location.”  Pope waited, and the crew around him became aware of the wait.  Moments passed with no reaction from the man in the bow..  “Spotter?  Your attention, if you please.”

The foretop-man started and crawled from the cupola.  “Apologies, sir.  I . . . ‘m sorry, sir.  Yes.  We seem t’ be over . . . Norway.”

Pope froze.  “What, man, all of it?  Out of the way.”  He thrust his hat back into a proffered hand and eased his way into the space.

Through the green, wavy glass, he peered back down at Earth.  It was like looking at a map, askew, underwater, with white patches where the ink had simply washed away.  Below, however, he could see Norway and Sweden, and the thrust of Denmark up into the sea, and the rest of the Baltic, and the Continent trailing away to the right.  The whole of the world laid out beneath . . .

He realized he’d been holding his breath.  “I think that’s quite enough for one day, lads.  We’ve certainly made it to the aether, and now we shall make it back.”  He grabbed his proffered bicorn hat and thrust it back onto his head.  “And add a few windows to the beast for the next time,” he muttered to himself.  “Two men each on the front and back, if you please, spotter up front, two men on the sorium valve and one on the propeller controls.  Now, let me see . . .”

Using newly-minted skills honed by, of all things, playing with a wooden turtle in a bathtub during his month of training, Captain Pope directed the nose of the craft about in a wide turn, with assistance from the crow’s nest.  The process was one of repeated correction and over-correction, as of a young and impatient captain wending his way side-to-side across a straight, but with increasing confidence HMSS Turtle plowed the aether waves and pointed her nose back toward the balmy shores of Britain.

Pope had already determined the impending issue with their landing; namely, they could only see from the front of the ship, and yet it wished to upend itself at any opportunity.  And in order to keep it from doing just that, it was necessary to be underway, not to mention the corrections that would be necessary to keep the craft within the funnel of aether-space.  The only clear course of action was a distasteful one, but unavoidable.  Once the spotter called that they were nearly over Cornwall and safely within the aether funnel, Pope ordered, “Nose down, a bit more . . . hold there and brace, lads . . . that’s right, straight up and down.  Spotter, call it as you find it, won’t you?”

Over the course of twenty tense minutes the Turtle edged toward the Earth, making just enough headway for steerage and pitching her flippers this way and that to keep in the path of space which led fully to the ground.  Pope assisted in hauling as best he could and rapped out orders as the spotter kept them apprised of progress, but it was a near-run thing by any account.  Knowing full well, also, that his command would come to an ingominious end if he attempted a nose-first mating with the slipway while under power, at what appeared to be a few hundred feet above the ground Pope ordered the flipper-ropes slacked, the propeller loosed from the reactor, and the men to grasp onto whatever they could find.

Freed from the reactor the propeller spun to a stop.  Free from the thrust, the flippers hung loose.  And free from the bite of the flippers, the Turtle once again assumed the position she favored - heaviest part toward the bottom.  For a few long seconds she hung near-motionless, nose to the ground, heavy stern parts jutting toward the skies.  Then she began to tip, and as she tipped she sped up, until the whole contraption flipped head-for-heels.  She rocked far up to one side, then back to the other, then again back, repeating the motion some dozen times as she pendulumed down to rest.

All through this were gasps and cries of horror from the ground.  From the Fellows of the Royal Society, certainly, for they knew just how close the Turtle came to exiting the funnel.  And from the crewmen, who knew the true weight of the thing hanging above their head.  But most of all from the hundreds of spectators who had come and gathered in a wide ring around the slipway.  For a giant pillar of night climbing into the skies above Plymouth is the sort of thing that attracts attention even in such modern times.  Farmers by the score, townsfolk by the hundreds, and sheep by the thousands marveled at this sight (though to be fair the sheep marvelled at it no more than they did at their own continued existence).  The rumours passing outward from the center of the ring had become more and more distorted as the reached the outer circle, but all had at least some inkling of what was happening.

Once Pope found the Turtle in its favored position, and once he found his trodden-upon hat, he gave the order for the aether valve to be turned back a half crank and the propeller to be engaged in reverse.  “Stand ready, lads.  The first tug on a guide-rope and you’re to cut both propeller and reactor, d’you hear?”  And then there was nothing but to hope the men on the ground knew what to do, for Pope had no idea how close he was to the ground nor what he would do when he got there.

The ropes from the stern hung lowest, naturally, but the boffins had assured the ground men that any who went within the funnel would gasp and die.  The bo’sun and his mates on the ground had quickly spliced together some pick-heads and chain to throwing ropes.  As the stern ropes fell in and among the supporting structures men of the ground crew threw their grapples and attempted to catch one or both.  With the first one caught men grasped it, but until the other was caught they could do nothing but hold fast, for any tugging would pull the Turtle to one side, and out of the aether funnel.

Moments passed while the men tried to pull the other stern rope out, lost moments in which they were unsuccessful.  The Turtle dropped closer to the slipways, stern first, until finally the propeller slapped into the slipway with a resounding crash and an accompanying scream from the on-lookers.  The four blades in turn impacted the structure and sheered off.  Pope gave the order to loose the propeller the next moment, but there was nothing to be done about it; the propeller blades were broken clean off.

There was a momentary lull and a hush fell over the crowd, until one of the Fellows cried out for the men to continue.  For without the propeller, there was nothing but one stern-rope to hold the Turtle down.  And that one stern-rope would drag her from the aether, back into the skies above Plymouth to find herself subject to the laws of the four elements instead of the gentle fifth.  The Turtle would float away into the aether unless they turned off the funnel or pulled her back down.

Five more throws with three grapples and the second stern line was pulled from the funnel.  The ground men - augmented threefold after the difficult launch - heaved away on it and their mates across the way pulled as well.  The stern slowly drew toward the ground.  The bo’sun and his mate stood on either side, arranging the effort so that the stern was perched just over the slipway.  With stern-ropes in place and fastened, the process began again on the bow guides which were now dangling to the ground as well, and the nose of the Turtle was brought down to float a few feet above the slipway.  After a few minutes of fine tuning, the order was passed to release the funnels, and air flowed back into the area above the slipway like water flowing back up out of a drain.  HMSS Turtle found itself subject to the whims of nature once again, and her duranium-soaked hull settled back down onto its supporting slipway.

Moments later a hatch, heavy with pitch around its edges, popped out of the side of the ship and Captain Pope pulled himself out onto the skeletal structure of the slipway to the resounding cheers of the crowd.  He waved his battered bicorn hat, punched it into shape distractedly, and shoved it on his head to free up his hands for the descent.  He was met by a curious mob of Fellows of the Royal Society, anxious to hear of his experiences during the first forays of the British Empire into space.

“Gentlemen, a word, if you please.”  He dusted off his frame.  “I have a few very earnest recommendations to make regarding your design . . .”
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Offline Konisforce (OP)

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Re: Victoria Regina, Part 1: The Teenaged Queen
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2012, 03:03:53 PM »
Excerpted from the notes of Vice-Commissioner Dylan Wall of the British Colonial Administration

19th of April, 1838 - Her Majesty’s Space Ship “Turtle” has conducted a flight over Plymouth.  The captain, Captain Pope, claims to have reached as far as the Baltic Sea and so do his crewmen, but that hardly seems reasonable.

24th of April, 1838 - The HMSS Turtle has made two more flights into the aether, each lasting longer than the previous.  The last was three hours, and the Captain has yet to open the aether reactor to anything near its limits.  The Admiralty has authorized a more audacious trip . . .

26th of April, 1838 - Captain Pope claims, now, to have flown to the Moon and back in under three hours.  Pointing the nose of the Turtle at Luna and opening the valve all the way, he claims to have reached the Moon in barely an hour.  Again, his crewmen swear up and down that it is true.  Without any way to externally verify it we will need to take his word, but plans are already underway to take up members of the Admiralty once the safety of the craft can be confirmed.

   England is consumed with the drama of Captain Pope and his space ship, and it has captured imaginations throughout the Empire as well.  If he truly did reach Luna, the next logical step will be some way to touch down and do something once he is there.

16th of May - Three members of the Admiralty, including First Lord Harrison Sutton, have now gone with Captain Pope on “The Circuit” about the Moon and returned.  All are now believers, and the Admiralty has authorized enormous resources to be put toward the concept of travel among the aether.  John Fry’s sensors to detect minerals within the Earth have been prioritized as they can theoretically be used from an orbiting ship, and a more efficient aether reactor is proposed as the next stop toward a more powerful propeller.  While a trip to Luna and back in two hours seems quite fast enough, the Fellows of the Royal Society assure us that the distances to the other planets are much greater than that.

26th of June - With all the focus on space we have lost some grasp of the changes aether elements have wrought here on Earth.  Isambard Kingdom Brunel has, just in time for the Coronation, announced the opening of the Channel Railway Bridge between Dover and Calais.  Built with a speed and complexity only made possible with these new aether elements, the Channel Bridge links Britain to the Continent and will be a boon to commerce.  The journey from London to Paris will now take only ten hours, all upon the same train.  Though I am told there is a restaurant in the middle of the bridge-span with a very lovely view of the ocean.

   The support that we at the Colonial Administration and the Crown had put behind Brunel’s bridge will now be shifted toward further research establishments and a deep-space observatory.  The Admiralty has rightly requested that before we head into the aether, we have some idea what is there.

The story continues in Part 2: The Trials of Empire
« Last Edit: September 17, 2012, 11:16:33 AM by Konisforce »
Come take a look at Victoria Regina, an old-timey AAR