Author Topic: Victoria Regina, Part 4: The Great Void  (Read 3050 times)

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Offline Konisforce (OP)

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Victoria Regina, Part 4: The Great Void
« on: September 13, 2012, 03:40:33 PM »
Ipling Castle, Dunbridge, Hampshire

The three brothers would never admit, to themselves or to each other, how much attention the paid to their nickname.  It was not fitting for men of their positions in life.  But as three of the most powerful men in the British Emprie, it was inevitable that they would be in the public eye.  Such scrutiny brought with it the attention of half-witted newspapermen, and what little wit could be spared was put toward nicknames for the three brothers.

   The dimmest of them just called them “The Three Brothers”.  Everyone knew of whom they were speaking.  Only one family had three men in Parliament, one each in the Lords, the Commons, and the Burghers.  Herbert, Earl of Dunbridge, was a prominent member of the Lords.  Richard Pearson of Hampshire, the second son, had risen through local government to be elected to the Commons.  And Lewis Pearson, the third son, had set off not for the clergy but to make his way in the world of business, for the Pearsons had not been a wealthy family at the beginning of the Empire War.  But Lewis had risen in the ranks of the East India Company, eventually heading their Board of Burghers, the subset within the company which occupied itself with matters of governance and liasing with the House of Burghers.  The opportunities afforded to Lewis had been spread to his brothers as well, and their wealth and power had grown throughout the Empire War.

   It was for this reason that the wiser of the wags who wrote the broadsides called them things like “The Three Musketeers” or “The Pearson Parliament”.  But those who truly knew them spoke of them is something of an awed hush, and the term which they applied to them carried the same reverence.  It was not literal, of course, for Queen Victoria reigned and always would, naturally.  But still, there was a great deal of truth spoken when the three brothers were called “The Kingmakers”.

   Herbert was particularly peevish that day.  “Your advice, Lewis, has cost me nearly a quarter of my earnings in the past month.”  He irritably tugged at the bell-pull though he needn’t have bothered; Ipling was his castle and they were his servants, and if they had not been keenly attuned to his moods they would have been out on their ears.  Herbert waved at his head butler and was quickly and liberally plied with brandy.

   “You know we agreed that I would stop giving you advice, dear Dunbridge,” Lewis replied.  He knew how calling him by his title would irk Herbert even further.  “Every idle speculation from my lips needn’t be acted upon as if it were the holy writ of God, handed down to Moses, you know.”  He took a sip of his tea and glanced sidelong at Herbert as he did so.  “Besides, I truly did think that coal futures would ricochet from the change in sorium pricing.  I lost a bundle as well.”

   Herbert glowered.  “Yes, well, you haven’t got the expenses I have.  You haven’t got lands.”

   “It’s true, brother.  He hasn’t got lands,” Richard said smoothly.  Placatingly.  Showing the winning charisma that had won him a seat in the Commons through force of personality, not by birthright or scheming like his brothers.  Of course, what he did with that seat was pure scheming, just like the three of them.  “But there is no need to speak of it.  Water under the bridge.”

   “Cargo under the waves,” Herbert muttered, but his heart was not in it.

   “I have news,” Richard said.  “The ships the Navy sent out on this fool’s errand?  Well, fools have been known to speak truth . . .”

   Lewis sat bolt upright.  “What are you saying?”

   Herbert finished a swallow of brandy.  “Isn’t it obvious, Little Lou?  Cameron was right.  There are ways out of the aether faster than just pushing through it.”

   “Not only that.”  Richard smiled, milking his advantage for as long as possible. “Not only that at all.  You recall that the first of Cameron’s probes disappeared?”

   Herbert nodded.  “Yes, yes.  Aether propellors didn’t work in his ‘netherspace’ or whatever it was he called it.”

   “He needed a spool drive.  To wind in the netherspace, and bring the aether on either side into contact.”  The two brothers leaned in.  “Well, we may not need one, after all.”


First Lord Harrison Sutton’s Outer Chambers, Admiralty House

“I bloody well understand that, but could someone please explain to me in simple terms why it was only just now found?”  Sutton was in a mood that no one would call ‘peevish’, not if they wanted to remain unbloodied.  Admiralty staff, Royal Society researchers, and liaisons to Her Majesty’s government glanced at each other across the table while trying to avoid actually looking at anyone.

One brave boffin spoke up.  “Yes, First Lord.  You see, the solar system is actually very large.  Why, just the orbit of - “

“Less simple than that,” Sutton growled.  The current matter had distracted him from the whiskey on the sideboard, but he’d be back to it soon enough.

“ - Mars, yessir, less simple.  It is true that the object is very large when compared to something like our ships.  But when compared to something like the asteroid belt, it is actually rather small.  It is smaller than nearly 400 of the asteroids outside of Mars orbit, and the total mass of that entire belt is barely 4% that of our moon.  In terms of stellar objects, it is very small.”

“How small?”

Another of the scientists stepped into the breach.  “While it is at least two orders of magnitude larger than the current Martianman and Viceroy classes, it is approximately an order of magnitude smaller than the smallest asteroid which we have yet bothered to catalog.”

Sutton stared at the paneled ceiling, either invoking the assistance of a higher power or performing mathematics in his head.  Likely both.

“We will return to the matter at hand in just a moment, but I would like someone on the staff here to reassure me as to one small point.”  He stared around the table.  “If the object is 100 times larger than our current massive freighters . . .” he waved a hand at the objections of some of the more precise Fellows around the table, “. . . approximately 100 times, yes, and if it is no farther away than, essentially, two doors down on the street of our solar-system sized street, then would someone please reassure me that a massive fleet of ancient Martian warships is not currently observing Earth with an eye toward conquest?”

The Royal Society Fellows felt that all this talk of conquest put the conversation well out of their realm of expertise, so it fell to one of the staffers with a better grasp of aether technologies to explain.  “The bronze-uridium alloys in our deep space observatories are heat-reactive, First Lord -”

“Meaning . . .”

“ - meaning that they can track the thermal residue of ships.  Our own ships stand out quite clearly, whereas this new object is no warmer than the background or than other geologically inactive stellar bodies.  Asteroids.”

“So ship’s can’t move without creating heat.  Fine and good.  And they cannot coast in the aether.  So any Martians would have had to have arrived before we started looking.  Not good news, but I will sleep better.”  He drifted to the sideboard now for a restorative.  “Now, to this ‘gate’ you spoke of.”

Another of the boffins was about to reiterate that it was premature to call it a ‘gate’ and that it would be better to call it an ‘object,’ but he was quickly cut off by frantic gestures from his superior.  First Lord Sutton turned back none the wiser.

“Yes, First Lord.  There is an object in the precise location which HMSS Chimera identified as having the highest concentration of standing gravitational waves in the inner system, to solar Northwest of the Sun, in the asteroid belt.  Because it is made of aether elements it remains stationary with respect to the orbit of the asteroids.  Some are actually positing that it is the reason for a particular band in the belt which is bare of asteroids - they were swept up or knocked out of orbit by contact with this object.”

“Interesting,” Sutton said, sounding as if he meant it.  He did not.  “However, I don’t give a damn.  Cut to it.”

Another casualty, and another brave soul stepped into the gap.  “To summarize, First Lord, the Chimera found a high concentration of gravitational waves precisely as predicted my Mr. Cameron.  This would be a wormhole, or jump point, or tunnel in space.  Additionally, there is a massive object - massive in construction terms - at that location.  Those are the facts as we know them.”

“And traveling through this would entail . . . ?”

“Cameron’s research developed something he was calling a jump engine.  It contains a ‘spool,’ as he calls it, which looks much like its name.  As he describes it in layman’s terms, the spool is wound and draws two distant points in aether space together by interacting with the netherspace between them.”  Sutton looked close to losing interest, but the speaker pressed forward in his final moments.  “Ships with a spool and a jump engine can open a temporary space and move through.”

Sutton threw back his glass of whiskey and stared at the sideboard for a moment, but settled with another appeal to a higher power.  After a long bout of ceiling-staring he looked back down.

“Ships can move through these jump points, but only using a jump drive.  Then we find one of these jump points topped by a massive structure.  The scale of this structure would indicate an advanced technology and its location would indicate one spanning multiple systems.  And this is likely the structure which would be built by massive ship component recently recovered on Mars - yes, I read that briefing, thank you.

“So, I would surmise first that this structure takes the place of a spool, else there is little cause to put it directly on a wormhole.  Second, this structure was built by the Martian race, as they clearly have the ability to do so.  Third, the Martian civilization is very large but is likely not native to Mars, because it contains facilities for changing the atmosphere - unless those facilities were there to repair a damaged homeworld, as some think.  Assuming that the Martian civilization is not actually Martian, then they had to have come from somewhere.  And we would seem to have just found that somewhere.”

A few of the most logical and methodical members of the Royal Society could no longer contain themselves.  “First Lord, while it is a reasonable hypothesis, there is absolutely no evidence for such a claim,” he spluttered.

First Lord Sutton fixed him with eyes just turning to bloodshot.  “Her Majesty’s military does not need evidence to assume the worst.”


Wheelhouse of Her Majesty’s Stellar Ship Emerald

Captain Ernie du Randt floated above and behind the two wheelmen.  While they had their bare feet slipped into leather footholds on either side of the wheel to hold themselves down, Captain du Randt instead held himself at arms’ length from the ‘ceiling’ of the wheelhouse to get a better view.

“Admiralty acknowledges your transmission, sir, and has approved your transit.”  The midshipman knuckled his forehead, swung out of the wheelhouse, and kicked aft toward the meson room and the other wireless operators.

The Emerald was too small for a proper bridge, but the wheelhouse sufficed as the center of communication and control of the ship.  With the normal complement of three men it was roomy enough.  Two wheelmen, an engineer’s mate on the tube to the engine room, the astrographer, the Royal Society liaison, the sensor lookout, and the captain made it quite cramped, even if they used all the space that the lack of gravity afforded them.

Captain du Randt had been elated when his transfer from the Royal Navy into Her Majesty’s Stellar Navy had been approved even as he realized that the opportunities for prize money, advancement, and - most of all - commands were limited.  Between active stellar ships and orbital training platforms the Stellar Navy had barely two dozen commands.  A posting to one of the two Jewel-class courier cutters was unexpected, but he had taken to the work with gusto.  

Sober and realistic reflection showed that captain of a courier boat was actually a plum assignment in the fledgling Stellar Navy.  He spent his time darting around the inner system in one of the fastest ships ever built, delivering dignitaries and other captains between ships and planets out to the orbit of Saturn and its moons where active digs on Ganymede still necessitated supply runs.  Commanding the thousand-pound broadside fire of a water warship would be a certain thrill all its own, but he had instantly felt at home in space and was happy to be there.

When the call came to report to the Admiralty he had been completely ignorant.  Two hours later, he was being ‘requested and required’ to perform humanity’s first steps out into the stars.  It was a risk, to be sure.  As the boffin insisted there was absolutely no reason to assume that the other side of the jump point had a gate as well.  Sutton’s response had been, “Not only will there be a gate, but there will be a planet, much like Mars.  Would you like to place a small wager?  I take Scotch”.  

Captain du Randt fully understood the risks and would gladly have volunteered for the assignment if the Admiralty ever did such a thing as ask for volunteers.  By dint of the Diamond’s mission out to Titan, du Randt had been the ship in position.  The prospect of being stranded on the other side did not bother him much.  They’d pack some extra salt beef.  A spool engine big enough for an upgraded version of the Phoenix-class survey vessel was being developed.  Once it was complete, testing showed that his own ship would be able to follow it through the created wormhole before it closed, or so it was thought.  Either way, a few months in a new system seemed a small price to pay.

“Reactor to idle, all ahead slow.”  The hum in the ship changed, but there was no perceptible movement.  Without a frame of reference, there would be none.  The Emerald was little more than a pair of drive hulls with minimal support systems in between.  Any setting above ‘idle’ on the reactors and ‘slow’ on the propellor drives would result in the ship cruising at a good clip.  While he was excited to move into the future, he didn’t want to do so recklessly.

“One thousand kilometers,” the sensor lookout confirmed the range to the plane of the gate.  Du Randt peered forward out the folded duranium viewports, straining to see something.  At nearly a kilometer in diameter but barely a meter thick, the gate’s main structure would be hard to see in any event.  The twelve ‘nodes’ were larger - spheres of 50 meters or so - but still difficult to pick out against the backdrop of the sky.

He stared forward, hoping perhaps that he could see ‘through’ the gate and into the other side.  No such luck, apparently.  Cameron and his assistants had explained it in depth at the briefing, something to do with netherspace and two different seas of aether, but du Randt only knew what it meant for him logistically.  The ship would move a distance of light-years one molecule-thin slice at a time, connected by the gate, and emerge on the far side.  

“One hundred kilometers.  Fifty.  Twenty.  Ten.  Five . . .”

The sensor lookout did not say when they had passed through.  He didn’t have to.

The backdrop of stars shifted as suddenly and silently as the frozen moment of an eye-blink.  The men stared out and unfamiliar constellations stared back.  There was a brighter spot somewhere, likely a star, but no visually discernible marks anywhere outside the viewport.  Not that there would be.  The gate had been barely visible before they passed through.

The gate!

“Sensor sweep, if you please,” du Randt ordered.  He shook the other men from their reveries and tried to pretend he hadn’t been equally awed.  “Let’s begin with the short range and confirm the presence of a gate.  I’d like to know if I’ll be eating paste from the aether reactor for the next six months.”

“Sir.”  The sensor lookout peered into the readouts of his low-resolution sensors.  “Yes, sir.  There is a gate, confirmed.  It is the same, as far as I can make out.”

Du Randt allowed himself a grin even while some of the stellars farther back in the ship could be heard cheering.  “I’ll be able to celebrate properly, in that case, with some good wine.  Sensor, please train the uridium spectrograph on the star and let us begin with an overview of the system . . .”


Three hours later, the Babbage computer on board Emerald was loaded with readings and data from the system that Admiralty had dubbed Middlesex.  Operators in the wireless room were transferring the data from the main computer onto punch cards to allow for automatic transmission over the meson telegraph.

The Emerald slid back through the gate from Middlesex to near-instant acknowledgment and relief from the Greenwich observatory and the Inner System Traffic Direction Authority.  The news spread throughout the empire in only a few minutes with wonder and elation following in its wake.  Meson operators on board the cutter requested a high-speed link with the Babbage in Greenwich to transfer data.  After a few minutes of rigging the observatory's own meson wireless into the core of the massive mechanical computer at the heart of ISTDA, data began coursing in the form of automated short and long taps on the wireless, one Babbage speaking directly to another.  The taps were transferred into the hearty thumps of the Babbage’s mechanical storage squirreling away bits of information.  Upon completion of each discreet set, the computer dumped its short-term memory into a series of buffer gears attached to a rolling-wheel printer.  Riders, aether-wagons, and even Thames steamboats were dispatched from Greenwich to the Admiralty.  Admiral Sutton was staring down at hard copy printouts of Middlesex within the hour.

The central star was Sol-like, though smaller, with 85% the mass and 45% the brightness.  The innermost planet was similar to Saturn or Uranus by composition, it seemed, but this was unimportant.  Farther out were gas giants and a single, enormous proto-star, larger than Jupiter, with a handful of rocky globes orbiting it.  None of these mattered in the least.

The second planet was terrestrial.  Readings from the uridium spectrograph indicated a small amount of oxygen, approximately ¼ of Earth’s, and nitrogen and argon making up the rest of the ½ pressure atmosphere.  The distance to the star was even greater than Mars’ which, combined with the low luminosity, meant that the planet gave thermal readings of barely -100 degrees.  Observed rotation and travel around its star gave an estimated 26 hour day and a year of 2.2 Earth years, nearly identical to Mars.

Admiral Sutton looked up from the sheet.  “It would seem someone owes me a case of Scotch.”
« Last Edit: February 26, 2013, 02:11:47 PM by Konisforce »
Come take a look at Victoria Regina, an old-timey AAR

Offline Konisforce (OP)

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Re: Victoria Regina, Part 4: The Great Void
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2012, 05:41:45 PM »

Sketch on the
Jump Phoenix class of survey vessel by Samuel Longhorn Clemens, also known as Mark Twain.  Notes collected 1866 - 1868.  Unpublished.

Thaddeus Loggins, former Messhall Boy of the Satyr and former Bosun’s Mate of the Pegasus - “The Jump Birds?  Yeah, I served on one.  Two, actually.  Pegasus and Satyr.  Loved those old things.  Lord, but they were ugly.  Not like those sleek things nowadays.  But they got the job done.  And they brought everyone home.  Can’t ask for more than that.”

Lewis Danvers, mainsail crewman, HMSS Centaur - “Creaky, loud, too hot somewhere, too cold somewhere else, reactor food tasted like feet, but she had viewports and she was taking me to look at a new sun.  Wish I was back there now.”

The Jump Phoenix survey ship.  One of the miracles of the modern age, some say, and workhorse of of the Imperial Stellar Navy’s survey fleets for humanity’s first tentative decade away from home.  She was, as all great things are, a patchwork.  A kludged-up, smashed together collection of bits tacked onto a too-small frame with a too-large, inefficient spooler to take her where she needed to get.

The lead ship and her class of sister ships began life as just the Phoenix, you may recall.  When Louise Cameron first put out his crazy ideas about leaping between solar systems like a bullfrog between lilypads, there was just enough support to create a ship with a pair of grav sensors.  And Plymouth Spaceworks happened to have a second slip open, so why not build two?  Phoenix and Chimera floated out of their slips on the 2nd of July, 1851.

George Scamp, Assisntant Foreman of Plymouth Spaceworks, 2nd Slipway, 1850 - 1853 - “Actually, Admiralty wanted ‘em thrown together but quick and didn’t care who knew it.  On both of the originals - the straight Phoenix, no jump - they had three of the Watkins hot-charged propellers.  Reason being, Admiralty wanted to get this crazy ‘grav survey’ done with and get these ships working to finish up surveying the asteroids.  The original design called for just one of the Watkins, right midships in the stern.  They redesigned to tack on the engine pods from a Jewel class filled up with the Watkins parts, so that we could take ‘em off and use them for courier ships when they were re-purposed.

“Same thing, if you ever get underneath the old Phoenix herself and take a look at the plating where the grav sensors went in.  Everywhere else was duranium, but there was a bit of duranium stretched over duranium-soaked wood planks.  They wanted to be able to drop out the grav sensors and put in mineral scopes.  The whole first Phoenix class was put together so’s we could take her apart again as soon as possible."

Just over a month later, and everyone knows what happened then.  Suddenly there was a great, wide galaxy out there just over the next rise, and we needed a ship to peek over that hill.  Cameron’s Glasgow faculty had put the finishing touches on their experimental ship-sized spoolers, so it wasn’t too long before the Cameron 2250 Spool - workmanly named, if ever a ship’s part was - was designed.  Then it was time to try fit it in the old Phoenix.

Dominica Francesa, Vice-Chief of Redesign, Jump Phoenix project - “Oh, the nights I stayed awake agonizing over that thing.  They didn’t know what they were asking.  At all.  Karl and I - Karl was cheif designer - Karl and I tried to tell them, told them five, ten, dozens of times that it was no use.  Like they wanted us to take a man-of-war with three masts and stick on three more.  Just no room for them.  The geological sensors were easy enough, just a few extra bumps in place of the gravitational sensors, but that jump drive.  What a headache.  We submitted the design with one of the engines taken out and to this day, I still don’t think they noticed before they passed off on it.  They just wanted it done.”

The design team decided the only place for it to go was up on top, fore-and-aft above the spine, giving the Jump Birds the distinctive ‘fin’ running back from behind the dorsal cargo hatch and sloping down into the midships space vacated by the central engine.  The hunchback look, the twenty degree angle on the fin, and the sloping ceiling of the enlisted mens’ mess were all direct results of the need to squeeze a jump drive into a design far too small for it.

More than just the third engine made way for the spooler, though.  Parts of the central spine had to be split, breaking up the keel of the ship in a way that no designer would’ve done had there been a choice.  This meant extra external spars which were good news for the engine nacelles that weren’t actually part of the original design.  And it meant squeezing some storage spaces into the flared skirt leading to the nacelles.  The extra flaps and flippers to make up for the lack of stability gave the Jump Birds their endearing goofiness; bits sticking off them at all angles.  And the extra control surfaces combined with the springiness from the broken keel made them surprisingly maneuverable, not to mention the two wide-set propellers.

Captain Abasi Denneman, Commander of the Chimera (post-refit) - “I’ll never know if it was good or bad to learn my trade on board the Chimera.  She was as forgiving a ship as one could want.  You could spin her, turn her, flip her, and it seemed like she’d turn around in less than a ship’s length.  I once ran rings around the Diamond when we were both dodging through shipping on our way to Mars Central Funnel, and that ship was barely a third the tonnage of the Chimera.  Not the sort of thing I can do in my Dauntless these days.”

Able Spaceman Barnabus O’Malley of the Satyr - “You learned right quick whether or not your captain knew how to fly a Jump Bird.  If he said “hard right” and he was used to a freigter, why, you’d turn three circles before he could give the order to stop.  A good wheelman learned to work within a certain . . . eh, margin, when it came to orders.  And a smart captain would trust his wheelmen.  A solar storm caught us in the thick of surveying the asteroids in Middlesex, and threw our way the wickedest aether current I’ve ever ridden.  I don’t mind telling you, Captain Pope turned to me and Donaugh - I was wheel and he was pitch at the time - and just gave us one order: ‘Take us clear, boys.’  Well, we did.”

Not long after Captain du Randt’s fateful jump into Middlesex, the Phoenix and the Chimera came back for their refits into the Jump Phoenix class.  Like her namesake, the Phoenix went back into the fires of Plymouth Spaceworks and emerged reborn, made anew, as the Jump Phoenix class HMSS Phoenix.

Perhaps most amazing about the old Jump Birds was the fact that they brought everyone home.  Never did a failure strand a crew away from home.  Sure, some miscalculations by the Admiralty regarding how much sorium would be used up as aether stock for food production on a year-long flight meant that a Jewel had to run some fuel out to the depths of Middlesex, but no Jump Bird ever failed her crew.

Even more surprising, then, was that no Jump Bird ever fell to hostile action.  We know now the universe isn’t a terribly friendly place.  It seems amazing that these slow, doddering, unarmed, obvious ships could wander about without running into anything that wished them ill.  Not for nothing the mystique that every Phoenix was blessed.  In surveys of nearly 17 systems, many of them with hostile ships, the Jump Birds always found a way back out.

It could never last, of course.  The demands of Empire would eventually need a ship that didn’t burn up so many weeks in transit, and one that didn’t waste so much tonnage on an early jump drive, and especially one that had better and faster sensors.  In many ways the Jump Phoenix was doomed from the moment the keel of the non-jump Phoenix was laid down, victim as it was of too many compromises and complaints, too much doubt and too little time.  That seven of them were even built is something of a miracle, and that all of them survived long enough to suffer their scrapping is even more miraculous.

But if the seven great beasts that were the first class of Jump Birds were born to too little fanfare and too much doubt, they retired to praises and honor beyond imagining.

First Lord of the Admiralty Harrison Sutton - “I never got to command one, but I rode in enough of them.  I think the demands from Colonial Administration and Parliament must’ve crossed my desk half a dozen times before I was forced to take notice of them.  Half my command staff had served in a Jump Bird and every one of them was stubborn as a mule about retiring them.  We tried everything to save them - training vessels, museum pieces, intra-system couriers.  But we just couldn’t figure a way to justify it to those who held the purse strings.”

I, for one, think it’s better this way.  They could have been retired, certainly, and put up in a museum as a piece of our past, frozen behind glass.  But this is better.  I’m told that the designers of the Drake put in a handful of little jokes that long-time stellars on board a Jump Phoenix would instantly recognize: the hall that gets just a bit too narrow right before starboard secondary maintenance storage, the midshipman’s berths right near the aft heads, or the way the mess hall’s circulation pumps push the smells of cooking out into the port thruway.  I’m sure there’s a dozen more I never picked up on.

But the bridge is the same, at least where it counts.  And this is the most important.  Admiralty is keeping the names from the original seven, and every Jump Bird is being scrapped at the same slipway where her successor Drake-class is being built.  The yardhands - who love the Jump Birds nearly as much as the stellars do, I’m told - have made it their goal to put as many bulkheads, panels, ducts, and bolts from the old birds into the new.  And the Admiralty has made it very clear that the wheels from the old ships absolutely must rest on the bridges of the new.  

I’m not sure how much of the soul of a ship actually lives in her parts - the wheels where the stellars spent watches guiding her through the aether, or the hulls that kept them safe and warm, or the bunks where the crew slept and swapped stories and lived their lives.  I’d like to think at least a part of it does.

Because if it does, then these new ships will be part of a long tradition of safe, uneventful, work-a-day journeys.

Keep bringing them home.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2012, 01:24:48 PM by Konisforce »
Come take a look at Victoria Regina, an old-timey AAR

Offline Garfunkel

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Re: Victoria Regina, Part 4: The Great Void
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2012, 12:45:58 PM »
Very atmospheric! Have you really played that far ahead?

Offline Konisforce (OP)

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Re: Victoria Regina, Part 4: The Great Void
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2012, 11:01:16 AM »
I've played to 1858, I think?  I did get through 17 systems and was just deciding that I needed to retire my first true survey design, so I thought I'd do a brief look forward.

But now with 6.00 out (sorta) I'll need to re-do the campaign for that one.  From this point it's only a question of getting a 1st explored jump point with something like the system I have now.
Come take a look at Victoria Regina, an old-timey AAR

Offline Konisforce (OP)

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Re: Victoria Regina, Part 4: The Great Void
« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2013, 06:32:03 PM »

Creekmouth Merchant’s Club

Richard of Hampshire arrived in Creekmouth by carriage and punctiliously observed all the niceties of entering a gentlemen’s club of which one is not a member.  He displayed his written invitation and placed his card upon the head butler’s silver tray, then waited in the anteroom which served as the brackish tidewater between the external riff-raff and those appointed access to the hallowed walls within.  He did so ungrudgingly for that was his manner - open, kind, and honest.  It was how he kept getting elected.  Inwardly, however, he smirked.

He could have arrived without an invitation and simply by the nature of his status as one of the Kingmakers been given an immediate invitation by any of the men within.  But he retained his status by not performing such petty slights.  Such power was a form of social capital here in the heart of the Empire and he made his livelihood trading in such capital as surely as the men within the club made theirs trading in sides of beef and tanks of sorium.  He had not become who he was by squandering such power.

The head butler returned and personally showed him into the club and up the stairs.  Even if Richard’s face had not been among the most well-known in London, the fact that the head butler was escorting him to his destination would have been a symbol of some cachet.  Richard moved easily through territory that was decidedly not his own, dispatching calculated nods where appropriate, a handshake and a warm word at one juncture to a particular associate of his brother’s.  He was gratified to note that the gentleman was invited to sit at a central table moments after.  The touch of a Kingmaker was as healthy as ever.

And of course here in the Merchant’s Club, the status of his brother - both merchant and Kingmaker - was downright vibrant.

“Lord Richard Pearson, Lord of the Commons of Hampshire,” the head butler announced.  It was a stately show, of course.  Lewis would have received Richard’s card and thus been informed of his presence.  Not to mention Richard’s punctual arrival at eleven o’ the clock in the morning, as requested in the invitation.  But in the waters in which the Brothers Pearson swam, such formal niceties were observed.  It brought dignity to the proceedings.

“Of course.  Brother, your usual?”  Richard nodded.  “Two, please.  Thank you, Graves.”  The head butler retired soundlessly, shutting the door behind him.

The social capital of a Kingmaker in his element was on full display.  Lewis held court in a second-story balcony conservatory jutting from the south side of the club.  The windows were thrown open to the morning winds, and the remains of a light breakfast adorned a sideboard.  Richard placed himself in one of the open seats and stared out the window while waiting for their refreshments, allowing his brother to read his paper undisturbed.

Less than two years ago the site of the Creekmouth Merchant’s Club had been nestled among seedy, tumbledown shipyards.  The south back of the river - aptly named Thamesmead - had been a low, marshy bend in the Thames, notably only as a source of stench and a common location to discover the bodies of those killed in barfights in the dock district upriver.  Now the London Orbital Transit Station hulked on solid land just south of the river and the marsh was drained, flattened, and channeled to provide access to barges.  No fewer than six East Indiaman freighters squatted in berths.  Men moved cargo to and from warehouses nearby, waiting carters in the streets, or directly onto waiting steam barges.  The black streaks of aether projectors shot from the ground to envelop a seventh space freighter and bring it gently to its berth with a precision unknown in the early days of aether funnels.

The butler appeared with drinks, placed them wordlessly in unobtrusive but near-to-hand locations, and glided back out of the sunroom.  After a few appreciative sips, both brothers folded their papers and got down to business, content that they would be undisturbed until such time as they requested assistance.

“Thank you for coming, Richard,” Lewis began.

The Commons Lord waved a hand.  “Please, brother.  I’m always happy to partake of your hospitality.”  He leaned back and allowed his brother time to come around to his point.  Herbert, the eldest, always hurried their littlest brother in the same manner he had for years, and it wasn’t the sort of thing to do to a major representative of the East India Company, no matter how many times he’d cried over a skinned knee as a child.

Lewis sniffed, then inhaled deeply.  “Still smells vaguely of fish droppings, but a significant improvement over the past few months.”  He took a cigar from a box at hand and lit it, knowing Richard would not want one.  “I do prefer the Club at Plymouth, if only because the Martianman putting in there represent so much more money.  But the Orbital Transit Station does a fair share of business . . .”

He shifted from the window and focused on his brother.  “I know, Richard, that your chosen calling is not the most lucrative.”  He holds up a hand to stave off any protests.  “I don’t gloat here, brother, nor do I seek to rub your nose in anything.  Through my words or the venue.”  He waves a hand at the buzzing mercantilism across the river.

“There is a concept in production, you may have heard of it.  The ‘bottleneck’ theory.  Simply put, a group of people attempting to achieve something will have a weak spot.  A single point where no improvements to the surrounding process will make any difference.  For you, that bottleneck is money, and always has been.”  Richard only nodded.  “It is the nature of public service.  I have my business, our brother has our father’s lands, and you have only what you can gain from well-wishers and donors.”

Lewis pulled a card out from his waistcoat and handed it across the table.  “See that man when we are through here, and purchase every bolt of Martian silk you can.  Hold it for four days, then post an ad in any mercantilist paper offering to sell it at five times the price you paid.”

Richard accepted the card and cocked an eyebrow at his brother.  “I seem to recall Herbert lost a fortune speculating in coal futures on your advice. . .”

Lewis waved a hand vaguely.  “Stuff and nonsense. Not a fortune, hardly, and he needed to have his nose tweaked.  To remind him that I am in business for myself.”

The Lord of the Commons of Hampshire sensed the jaws of the trap closing and decided to get ahead of the situation.  “And speaking of being in business for yourself, what exactly do you want for this boon?”

“Nothing we don’t both already want, brother.  The East India Company will soon be putting for bills in the House of Burghers.  Greater control over the Plymouth Civilian Shipyards.  Increased support for Martian colonization.  Colonization of the Middlesex system.  Construction of further cloud factories for deployment on Mars.”

Richard nodded.  “The Commons could be brought to bear, certainly.  Perhaps trading on the vestiges of the fervor for the Martain Land Act, and a bit of dealing behind the scenes.  I can promise you support.”

“Excellent.  It’s in everyone’s interests, of course.  If two hundred years of mercantilism have taught us anything, it’s that moving people away from the goods they need and then charging them to move the goods is a lucrative business.”

Richard glanced at the card once more and stood.  “Well, brother.  I won’t keep you, then.”  Richard paused a moment.  “Out of curiosity . . . simply curiosity, not doubting your recommendation . . . but how do you know the price will jump in four days?”

Lewis did not turn.  “The Thames Pride puts in from Mars in two days with a hold full of silk.  By design, the ship’s cargo holds cannot be accessed from the crew section, only on the ground.  When they open the hold, they’ll discover it was somehow infested with moths.”

“Oh dear, what a pity.”

“Quite . . .”


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

20th of July, 1852 - The Jovian Research Corps has finished cataloging the ruins on Ganymede.  That completes the cataloguing of all known ruins in the Sol system, with a few hundred each on Ganymede and Diotima, and the massive known complexes on Mars.  I’ve dispatched the Corps to help with the cataloging on Ares, but it is a faint hope that Ares was the original home of the Martians, it would seem.

22nd of August - Two more Jump Phoenix class ships, the Hydra and the Griffin have been floated, but I cannot find the funds or support for any more.  Frankly, I don’t want to, either.  The initial buzz about Mars died off to show the bleak reality of living on a world inhospitable to life, and Ares is no better.  And the idea of finding the original inhabitants of Mars seems intellectually interesting, but politically - and militarily - foolish.  We will likely scout out any further jump points found in the Middlesex system, but the will to expand there is lacking for now.

19th of October - Even with two faculties of the Royal Society working, the ruins on Ares are still beyond our abilities.  Though they have refused to report it yet, I am fairly confident that the civilization which made the ruins on Ares is different from the one here in Sol.  They have cited difficulties in deciphering the different dialect of the three settlements here in Sol, but none have taken as long as this.  I’ve sent the Royal Geology Corps to Ares.  Though initial surveys found nothing, perhaps there are aether elemental riches waiting to be uncovered.  One can hope . . .

29th of October - The Phoenix has reported back that there is another jump point in Middlesex, a fair distance from the Sol jump point.  There is enough lingering curiosity about the Martians that everyone thinks they are over the next rise.  I have my doubts, but the survey vessel will tell.

4th of December - The pioneer brigades on Mars have uncovered some three dozen advanced engines.  They’re being shipped back to Earth for study.  I say advanced, of course, but only study will show if they are any better.

24th of December - The Phoenix has jumped back into Sol with news of the system past Middlesex, which has been dubbed Surrey.

   Surrey’s star is approximately the size of our sun, which nearly four times the brightness.  There is a planet akin to Venus in both distance, temperature, and atmosphere, then a gas giant, then a terrestrial world.  The gas giant has a number of moons, three of which seem to be able to support life, though it would require mechanical assistance like Mars.

   Next out is a small chunk of rock, and beyond that a terrestrial world that is - should the uridium spectrograph readings be correct - already breathable, though a bit too cold.  This is, naturally, the homeworld of the Martains, as far as everyone is concerned.

   The rest of the system is another rocky world, then five gas giants, some of which are quite distant from the sun.  There are various moons around each, with eight of them theoretically colonizable but all quite cold.

   All told, a far richer solar system than Middlesex, and even that Sol by some measures.  Follow-on surveys will tell us if any have ruins or civilizations, and what resources exist.

   I had the unfortunate pleasure of being present at the meeting with Queen herself, along with her Prime Minister and various naval officers, when she was told the news.  It was made perfectly clear that, while a survey of the Surrey system would be completed, the military would need to provide far greater assurances that the aether navy was developing military capabilities.  As uncomfortable a meeting as it was, it is still heartening that the Queen understands what is at stake.

18th of January, 1853 - An intact research facility has been found on Mars.  It is being shipped back to Earth, first to be studied and then to be put to use.  Such a facility, in combination with an earlier ground force training facility, make it clear that the Martians were on Mars to stay.  Military facilities, science campuses, and terraformers.  What would Earth have been if they had stayed?  And what made them leave . . ?
Come take a look at Victoria Regina, an old-timey AAR