Rise of Æster

Imagine a steampunk world of adventure, an alternate history that never was…

PAe 15 to PAe 30

1877/PAe 15  "Year of the Comets"
Complete Æster cover extends to 38 degrees from the poles, ocean rise at 24 meters.

From February through August, dozens of comets are witnessed day and night. Baffled, the Royal Scientific Society is at an utter loss to explain the sudden emergence of heretofore-unrecorded comets.

Almost in response to the explosion of comet activity, the æster walls expand rapidly and descend to the ground regardless of their previous elevation, remaining in this final form to the present day.

Comet activity spurs the rise of numerous doomsday cults in every major religion.

In the southeast, the Panther Nation has spent seven years establishing its borders. Stand Watie sends formal letters announcing claimed Panther Nation borders to the city-states of the Former Confederacy; Athens and Macon, Georgia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; Huntsville, Alabama; and Nashville, Tennessee. The leaders of the city-states can say little in response. The Panther Nation has systematically consolidated its territorial gains and used force when necessary to ensure the permanency of their claims. Punitive responses against the Panther Nation fail disastrously. The gravity of the situation comes fully into focus when all roads, bridges, rail lines and other routes crossing into Panther borders are cut, blown up, or otherwise destroyed, isolating Charlotte and cutting it off from north/south traffic. The Panther Nation now surrounds over seventy percent of the area around Charlotte; which becomes known as the "Charlotte Pocket". The only routes in and out of the Pocket are roads running east from Charlotte and a single rail line running northeast. The Panther Nation establishes garrisons around Charlotte to enforce their border. During summer, a few skirmishes make it clear that the Panthers will not tolerate incursions into their newly defined lands.

The Black Hills Nation sends raiding parties throughout the north central plains, consisting of Sioux, Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Blackfoot, Pawnee and other tribes making up the Black Hills Nation.

The airship Beagle II suffers an attack whilst investigating the æster wall over the Nebraska Territory in the Great Plains. The vessel escapes, but with heavy damage partially inflicted by dangerous conditions in the æster wall, and by the attack.  The unbelievable reports of this event would have been discounted had they come from anyone else, stating:

"Indians wearing little more than loincloths attacked the ship, seeming to fall out of the air onto the envelope.  Once on the ship, they attacked the structure with hand axes, cutting holes and destroying spars.  They seemed entirely impervious to the Æster around them."

Scientists aboard the ship coin the term "Thunder Men" for these astounding native warriors.  Repaired afield to make the journey to Fort Victoria, the Beagle II maps the southern side of Great Plains Æster Wall en route, and continues to chart maps of the northernmost portion of the æster wall as the vessel passes north along the border of the Washington Territory.  Stopping briefly to resupply and make further repairs at Fort Victoria before continuing their journey, they then fly south, circumnavigating the æster wall over the Washington Territory; afterward heading east to complete mapping the northern extent of the Great Plains Æster Wall.  Once over upstate New York, they map the much smaller æster wall there before returning to home base in Nova Scotia.  Observations made on this nine-month journey fill six volumes, and form the basis of æster science, as it will develop over the next fifty years.

Construction of major military and support facilities begins in St. Louis and Indianapolis as the British American government establishes infrastructure to maintain long-term outposts in the nearly vacant regions of the continent.

Reports circulate of people who remain living in the dark and twilight, mostly dismissed as fireside tales.  These phantoms become known as "Nightmen".

For the first time a confirmed æster strike is witnessed, destroying a large warehousing and manufacturing district in Oakland, California.

Nikola Tesla begins in-depth explorations of the Æster in his personally designed æster craft.

The Magnetic North Pole shifts again, rendering compasses useless antiques overnight. From this moment forward, anywhere from three to six magnetic "poles" change geographic positions, apparently at random.

1878/PAe 16
Complete Æster cover extends to 39 degrees from the poles, ocean rise at 26 meters.

Indianapolis' first skyhook is constructed, based on the Halifax Skyhook design, allowing subsequent construction of æster platforms and æster shipbuilding facilities.

William "Red Billy" O'Flaherty, a red-headed British sailor who remained behind on the Olympic Peninsula after the Assiduous incident, arrives at Fort Victoria to negotiate for the Potlatch Nation. He requests British military assistance against a coalition of Indian tribes under Sioux influence called the "Black Hills Nation". Normally residing behind the Great Plains Æster Wall, large forces of Black Hills warriors move across the Potlatch border with aggressive territorial aims.  These are not normal raids, but appear to be a westward expansion effort by the Black Hills Nation. Questions are raised as to how the Indians can transit the violent æster wall in the area, but such inquiries go unanswered.

British troops assist the Potlatch Nation Indians along their eastern border, defending against Black Hills Nation incursions; the small conflict becomes colloquially known as "Red Billy's War". Despite their assistance, the British are never given any information how the Indians transit the æster wall.

The Black Hills Nation declares war on British America for allying with the Potlatch Nation. This state of war persists to the present day.

Giant fungiform samples collected by the Beagle II demonstrate remarkable material strength; the rapidly growing fungus makes an ideal replacement for timber, supplies of which are rapidly growing scarce.

1879/PAe 17
Complete Æster cover extends 40 degrees from the poles, ocean rise at 28 meters.

Hispanic League assaults on French Mexico and British America are stymied by coups and other political unrest within the League.

The fledgling British Aerocorps finishes laying an initial wave of æster navigation beacons, establishing the first "æster road" between military posts at St. Louis and Indianapolis.  Æster roads are also established between Halifax, Montreal and New York.

Germany, Prussia, Austria, Scandinavia and the Low Countries of Northern Europe federate as the New Hanseatic League.

1880/PAe 18
Complete Æster cover remains at 40 degrees from the poles, ocean rise at 30 meters.

Red Billy's War ends. Black Hills Nation incursions against the Potlatch Nation abate to a level of normal raiding.  The Potlatch Nation promises non-interference in British lands north of the Canadian border in return for assistance against the Black Hills, but no further negotiations are allowed.  The Potlatch once again close the door to the outside world when their business is complete.

Nikola Tesla delivers designs for an incredibly powerful æster-based weapon, the Arclight cannon, to the British Admiralty. He is given the title of Earl of New Hampshire for his contributions to the Empire, a title he studiously ignores for the rest of his life.

1881/PAe 19
Complete Æster cover remains at 40 degrees from the poles, ocean rise remains at 30 meters

The Black Hills Nation raids Denver, seriously damaging local facilities, an act seen as reprisal for British interference in Red Billy's War.  The determination is made to rebuild and reinforce with at least battalion strength. Construction of Pike's Peak Aeroport is given highest priority.  Denver becomes the western military hub of British America.

1882/ PAe 20 - The '82 Begins
Royal Scientific Society reports Æster stabilization at 40 degrees.

Across the northern and southern hemispheres within the Nyx and Argentum, massive snowfalls signal an unexpected disruption in weather patterns. Heavy snows persist as far as the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer. All of North America is blanketed in up to 10 feet of snow. The violent weather changes and heavy snowfalls are a final hammer stroke for many still living under the Argentum and Nyx. Millions succumb to the merciless weather, perishing in storms or from the cold, disease and starvation. 

In recognition of the impact of the Rise of Æster, the British Empire, Hanseatic League and French governments adopt a new calendar, the Post Æster Calendar or "PÆ Calendar". Most major governments worldwide subsequently adopt the PÆ calendar as the annual date standard.  Dates are retroactively changed to recognize 1862 set at PÆ 0, the first year that the Rise of Æster was observed.

-This marks the end of the old world-

Southern latitudes are struck by powerful cyclones and typhoons during northern winter, an effect that reverses as winter comes to the southern hemisphere; southern latitudes are buried in snow whilst tornadoes and hurricanes pummel the northern hemisphere.

Construction of infrastructure in British possessions grinds to a halt as both government and citizens concentrate on surviving the violent weather shifts.

All large-scale military operations and campaigns shut down as manpower is drawn off to help governments survive. Warfare of any major scale ceases due to the violent weather.

PAe 21 (1883)
The pattern of massive weather oscillations continues unabated for the entire year as the world rebalances itself.

August 26-27, The New Hanseatic League and British Empire just regain their footing from the storms of The '82 when the Krakatau volcano erupts in a series of intense explosions.  Particulate matter ejected into the atmosphere by the eruptions blocks sunlight around the Aureus, causing extreme cooling, crop failures and a global food crisis.

All British possessions, including British America, are largely cut off from central authority as the government in Darwin tries to deal with effects of the Krakatau eruption. This disruption allows the Hispanic League to take the offensive in Mexico, pushing Texan, French and Californian forces north to the Gulf of Vera Cruz.

PAe 22 and 23 (1884-85) - The Scarecrow Years
These years are entirely defined by efforts to rebuild after the '82.

PAe 22 (1884)
Violent weather begins to subside, but world governments are bled white by the critical loss of manpower; all large-scale fighting ends as there just aren't enough people to both work and fight.

Large-scale starvation once again grips the worldwide remaining population, resulting from crop failures and remaining violent weather. Governments organize a massive restructuring of economies, turning the remaining populace to food production.

PAe 23 (1885)
Hanseatic League scientists develop an æster refining process, which allows the volatile gas to be safely utilized as fuel.

The first building built entirely of grown mycological material is completed in New London, Australia.  As a showcase for the new material, it is crafted with tall vaulted ceilings, buttresses and other classical features.  The "Mushroom House" appears nothing like its name implies and more like a classic English manor house.  It succeeds in its purpose of showcasing the new material, propelling mycological building materials into the forefront, as natural timber becomes too costly to use as a structural building material.

PAe 24 (1886)
May 15th, Dominion of Texas ironmongers roll out the "Texas Long Gun".  These rail-carriage mounted artillery pieces can rapidly move to any location along the Texas coast of the Great Mississippi Bay.  As part of its deployment, coastal rail lines have been updated and extended, giving the Long Guns a comprehensive field of fire over the bay. The creation of this uniquely Texan weapon takes the British military and government completely by surprise, as there had been no communication that it was even conceived, much less being built. 

Several very public demonstrations of the power and accuracy of this artillery piece make headlines all across the Empire.  The Long Gun clearly outperforms any other artillery piece of its size in the British arsenal. Its range far exceeds any other weapon in inventories worldwide for a gun of its size.  Tales of these demonstrations reach other world governments. Reports circulate that the Long Gun was secretly deployed along the Texan southern border in Mexico before it was fully revealed, even to the Crown, apparently bringing it to battle quickly against renewed Hispanic League aggression in the south.  These stories quickly cool Hispanic League activity in Central America for the time being.

The availability of æster as a highly efficacious fuel spurs rapid development of æster-driven steam engines, which are quickly adapted many uses, including æster craft and lighter-than-air vessels.  Traditional coal rapidly falls out of favor in deference to the new æster fuel.

Æster fuel refining efficiency is further improved through the work of an ad-hoc coalition of British, French and Hanseatic scientists, colloquially referred to as the "Fish House Gang", due to the location in Gibraltar where their experiments are performed.

November 5th "The City of Light Movement" is inspired by Richard "Guy" Fawkes in his famous "Remember, Remember" speech. 

PAe 25 (1887)
March 20th, the British Royal Army lands in London by sea and air, escorting the first two thousand workers to cleanup of the ruins of London and begin construction on the London City of Light.

PAe 26 (1888)
First lights come on in the London City of Light.

PAe 27 (1889)
With Philadelphia extensively flooded, it is decided to construct the City of Light of its namesake further inland as New Philadelphia.  British American Parliament unanimously agrees to move Independence Hall to the new city.  With tremendous effort, a cofferdam is built, allowing the floodwaters to be pumped out around Independence Hall.  The home of American democracy is carefully removed brick by brick and moved to its new home in the New Philadelphia City of Light.

First lights come on in the New Philadelphia City of Light.

Governor General of British America, Abraham Lincoln dies due to natural causes in New Philadelphia. His funeral attended by Crown Prince Edward and dignitaries from the Hanseatic League, France, the Former Confederacy and even Archduke Maximillian of Mexico.

PAe 28 (1890)
First lights come on in the Chicago City of Light

2nd Ottoman War with Britain begins.

Wartime demand prolongs coal's widespread use as a source of everyday heating and engine fuel.  The British Navy and Aerocorps services convert completely to æster fuel.

A new fiber, derived from giant mushrooms and known as Mycological or Mushroom Silk, is discovered through trade with a group of Nightmen with roots in the Pennsylvania Dutch communities of the Mennonites, Amish and other like-minded folk. Known as the "Enduring Brethren", these Nightmen are masters of fungal agriculture, trading some of the finest and most unusual distillations known in British America.  The Enduring Brethren live in isolated enclaves away from outsiders, to whom they uniformly refer as the "Englische".  They choose to have no contact with the Englische except on certain market days when they can be found selling textiles, medicines, furniture, artwork and food.  In a strange twist for such a pacifist community, larger and more militant Nightman groups from the surrounding area protect the Enduring Brethren. It is assumed that this protection is arranged in "trade", as the Enduring Brethren do not participate in commerce per se, but only barter goods for goods.

London City of Light worker, Jacob "Worry" Simpson develops the "Simpson Burner", revolutionizing æster-burning steam engines. The Simpson Burner allows both the volatile and electrical potentials of the Æster to be harnessed.

PAe 29 (1891)
First lights come on in the Pittsburgh City of Light.

PAe 30 (1892)
First lights come on in the Indianapolis and St. Louis Cities of Light.

The first lights come on in the Denver City of Light. Denver's proximity to mountains reaching the Æster floor at ten thousand feet make it ideal for an æstership harbor. Construction begins not only on its own small aeroplex, but a series of æster harbors built into the mountains north of the city. In addition to the æster harbors, new æster harvesting stations and processing plants are built above the ten thousand foot demarcation line. The harvesting stations pump æster down to facilities further down the mountains through static-shielded pipes, where it is refined and processed. Æster processing plants existing above ten thousand feet are built to deal with harvested æster that cannot be easily pumped downhill for a variety of reasons, usually tied to the geography of the rugged country.

To protect the work on the Transcontinental Night Train line and to eventually defend its longest leg from St. Louis to the Denver City of Light, the first Air Lancer Squadrons are formed from Colorado Volunteers. This unique service employs small, fast airships, patrolling along the rail lines against raiders or those who might interdict the Night Trains.

Air Lancers utilize an invention of a little known scientist, Harper Davis from Denver. His invention, the Rocket Harness, allows Air Lancers to descend rapidly from their airships without the need of ropes, with some limited maneuverability between the airship and the ground. These rocket harnesses don't burn æster fuel very efficiently, leaving unburned fuel in the exhaust. This unburned fuel causes many problems, such as fires. Some Lancers are severely burned or experience difficulties controlling the harness as unburned fuel ignites immediately outside the nozzle. This inefficiency creates intense debate whether to adopt them or not. Over the objections of more safety minded members of the military and the government, the first generation rocket harnesses are deployed to the first Air Lancer units, whilst the inefficiencies and other issues are worked out for the next generation of engines.

April 27th, in a surprise attack, Hispanic League Privateers raid Houston, Texas, precipitating a condemnation of the Hispanic League by the British Crown using "the strongest language available to voice their displeasure." Within three months, Royal Texas Army forces garrison Houston, along with a permanent squadron of eight monitors assigned to defend its port and approaches.

The 2nd Ottoman War escalates demand for armaments, driving Texas Long Gun production to record levels. By mid-year, Krupps Armament factories are completed in Dallas. The sprawling arms factories and industry in Dallas becomes known as the "Arsenal of British America".

Demand for raw materials increases across British America to feed the war effort and the enormous construction projects of the cities of light and the transcontinental Night Train lines. Construction of æster cargo ships skyrockets in and around Chicago, nearly overshadowing the rail yards as the largest industry in the area.

Lord Cavendish develops the General Mycotoxin Preventive, an inoculant against spore-borne fungal infection. It is also an effective treatment for mild æster exposure.

Iron and steel is transported from Canada, Pittsburgh and all along the southern coast of the Great Lakes to Chicago for transfer to various cities, feeding ravenous industry across the country. Much of it is shipped to St. Louis via æster freighter, where it is transferred to rail for its final destination at the armaments factories in Dallas.