Rise of Æster

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

PAe 31 to PAe 43

PAe 31 (1893)
London City of Light Completed

First lights come on in the Toronto and San Francisco Cities of Light.

Æster ships attempting to establish a stable road from Chicago to Dallas discover a massive spinning storm unlike anything ever encountered, dubbed the "Cerulean Pillar" due to its color. Further investigations establish the Cerulean Pillar is a stable, permanent vortex that doesn't move more than a few miles in any direction. It quickly becomes the focus of a new industry, æster tourism.

November 15th, an apparent fuel valve failure on a rocket harness sets off a catastrophic series of events, precipitating the loss of an entire Air Lancer wing and three airships near their base in Denver. The three Lancer airships were in a tight defensive formation when the accident occurred. Witnesses reported a flare on one ship's deck, which grew into a fire that quickly engulfed the entire deck and then the envelope of the ship. The sudden, intense heat caused the flaming vessel to rise, colliding with the two airships above it, resulting in an explosion of æster fuel and lifting gasses. Lancers with rocket harnesses attempted to escape the conflagration. Witnesses stated that the catastrophe looked like enormous fireworks going off as the Lancers launched from the airships. On firing their inefficient rocket harnesses, the Lancers fed unburned æster fuel into the fire, dramatically increasing the magnitude of the fireball, which destroyed all three airships and their crews. Lancers were seen falling from the sky "like burning matches". Two hundred Lancers and sixty airship crewmen perish in the accident.

December 5th, Air Lancer rocket harnesses are officially abandoned after a brief investigation points directly to hundreds of injuries and incidents related to the experimental devices. Almost no human remains are found at the crash site due to the intensity of the fires and the corrosive nature of æster fuel. Headstones are placed at discrete craters where rocket harness fragments were found, the only evidence where Lancers actually fell. From that day forward, rocket harnesses and all derivatives of the concept are known as "Harper's Folly". The British military never seriously considers the concept of a rocket harness again.

Seismic activity steadily and rapidly increases throughout the year. The increase continues for almost a decade, culminating in PÆ 44 (Gregorian 1906). 

PAe 32 (1894)
New Philadelphia City of Light Completed

First lights come on in the Montreal City of Light

Border skirmishes erupt between French Foreign Legion and Columbian National Army in Southern Mexico as the Hispanic League tests the Mexican southern border.

Colonel George Armstrong Custer leads an "expedition" into the Black Hills Nation to investigate the origins of raids on the Trans Continental Night Train Crews.  Three troop transport airships and 200 men on foot cross the æster wall bordering the Black Hills Nation and vanish.  Five weeks later, Nightman hunters discover two survivors, who report Indians "falling from the sky" and weather conditions so horrific that they witnessed a troop ship "ripped apart as if by giant hands and vanishing into the maelstrom".  Of Custer's 350 men, only those two survive to report.  Scattered reports persist of several æster mad wandering the area over the next few months, but none of these unfortunates are ever recovered to learn if they were survivors of the ill fated expedition.  Custer is never seen or heard from again. A relief force sent the following April finds only scattered wreckage, corroded equipment, and molding uniforms.

To supply materials for the Imperial war effort, the Sudbury Basin Mining District in Canada is established. Boomtowns spring up connected by stub rail lines throughout the area, bringing in workers from everywhere, both Nightmen and Europeans, as a call for labor goes out. By year's end a complex system of supply routes and connections are established that terminate at the Sudbury Aeroport, completed in October. This is one of the most successful integrations between Nightmen and Europeans anywhere in British America.

Darwin observatory detects evidence of a massive earthquake in interior China. 

PAe33 (1895)
Pittsburgh City of Light Completed

Denver Aeroport on Pike's Peak Completed

The Indianapolis Aeroport is completed, the center of a military complex of shipyards, bases, garrisons and transportation hubs. Indianapolis becomes the military heart of British America. Military æster ships produced here serve not only in British America but also throughout the entire Empire. So many cables anchor the æster platforms to Earth that Indianapolis becomes known as "The City of Cables". The Indianapolis City of Light is the only military run City of Light in British America. All transport into and out of Indianapolis is carefully controlled, whether rail, night train, æster ship, or air ship.

The Transcontinental Night Train lines open. The first train transits from St. Louis to San Francisco in June and the first transit on the Canadian line between Montreal and Fort Victoria runs in August.

Hispanic League ships raid the London estuary. The raid is extremely costly and considered a failure, but its boldness alarms British Admiralty, who begin preparations to fight the Hispanic League as well as the Ottoman Empire.

Queen Victoria abdicates the throne to her son, Edward VII, reverting to the title of Princess Victoria.  Edward VII ascends to the throne in New London. The publicly stated reason is her increasing frailty brought on by the rigors of ruling through the Rise and the burdens of moving the monarchy to Australia. With the continuing war against the Ottomans and conflict with the Hispanic League looming, it seems clear that she decided it was time for her to step down and allow Edward to lead the Empire through the crisis. She acts as his advisor in her role as the Queen Mother.

The first major battles are fought between the Royal Navy Æster fleet and Ottoman Imperial Æster forces above the Khyber in eastern Afghanistan. These are the first engagements to take place entirely within the Æster.

March 11th, the Ottoman æster battleship Xerxes Bahadur nearly destroys the British fleet. Five British Æsterships of the line are lost and the King George, flagship of the fleet, is badly damaged. Under orders from Admiral Tyrwhitt aboard the King George, the HMÆS Delhi rams and boards the Xerxes. After a fierce deck-by-deck fight, the Xerxes was taken and the battle ended. Commodore FitzDonald records this momentous battle in his famous memoirs.

Reports begin to surface of Ottoman War Ghuls, Afghan captives intentionally exposed to the Æster and turned on their fellows. This terror tactic is effective in the short term, demoralizing the Afghan tribesmen and allowing great gains to be made on the ground by Ottoman Imperial forces.

Massive Earthquake off the coast of Chile spawns an enormous tsunami.  Thousands perish when the crushing waves batter coastlines all across the Pacific.

PAe 34 (1896)
The Denver City of Light is completed.

Edward VII ascends the throne in New London.

Aggressive Spanish patrolling is reported all along the coastal Caribbean.

"Customs" seizures by the Spanish result in a formal apology to the Portuguese for seizure of so-called contraband bound for the Former Confederacy in North America

The Confederate government puts down a revolt in Havana.

Hog hunting becomes a successful, dominant trade in central British America, supplying meat and hides to towns and the Cities of Light from the giant boar. Colloquially referred to as "Hog Hunters", they also hunt other megafauna including bison and muskoxen.  Some of these hunters of the central plains are called by the name given them by residents of Germanic descent, "Nachtjaegers", or "Night Hunters".

British forces occupy Jackson, Mississippi for six weeks to curtail pirate traffic operating from that harbor. Anti-piracy raids are also carried out in Nashville, Tennessee and the port at Holly Springs, Michigan.

Bowling Green, Kentucky is fortified as a staging ground for British military and against raiders riding north out of the Former Confederacy.

The Republic of California establishes a strong military and industrial presence throughout their territory, building an aeroport in Astoria and Bend, Oregon to improve shipping to rail links and to better access mining and resources in the region. Construction on Californian forts is completed at Cabo San Lucas on the tip of the Baja Peninsula and along the interior of the gulf at Mazatlan. Permanent fisheries are constructed on the Gulf of California for squid, sperm whales, herring, sardines and the giant Humboldt Squid. Citrus farms produce mandarin oranges, tangerines and the "Citranges" or Bitter Oranges.

A series of almost daily massive quakes rock Japan and massive coastal subsidence drives the population out of most remaining low-lying areas.

PAe 35 (1897)
Chicago City of Light Completed

Indianapolis City of Light Completed

St. Louis City of Light Completed

First lights come on in the Rome City of Light.

Mycological Silk becomes all the rage amongst fashion circles in British American Cities of Light.

The Papacy returns to the Vatican over Portuguese objections, but with Hanseatic encouragement.

Pope Leo XIII calls for crusade to retake the holy land from the Ottomans. The British government voices concerns over this action with the Hanseatics, Italians and the Vatican.

The Hispanic League vigorously supports the call for crusade, creating a fissure with the Ottomans.

Insulted by Hanseatic support for the papal return to Rome, the Portuguese government declares war on the Hanseatic League, beginning the Portuguese-Hanseatic War.

With the Pope's return to the Vatican in Rome and his call for Crusade in the Holy Land, the church exerts considerable power over Catholics worldwide. Anti-Catholics in the Former Confederacy begin to organize in response.  A specter of the KKK rises again as anti Catholics, anti-Semites, racists and other malcontents find common cause. Unable to operate openly, after crushing defeat at the hands of the Cherokee thirty years previously, powerful members of the group share affiliations with the Masons and other secret societies, modeling the new KKK on them, enforcing secrecy with ritual and severely punishing those who breech their oaths of secrecy. Many lynchings in the Former Confederacy that occur over the next decade are actually executions carried out by the KKK to punish those who have broken the pact. 

Unexplained lights across the eastern seaboard sky are called "æster ghosts" in the press. The lights further spur the spiritualist movement in British America that perceives the Æster as the gateway to Heaven. Secretly, the British Admiralty is highly alarmed as evidence points to the possibility that ships may be in these halos of light.

The first æster passenger liner leaves the New York City of Light for London City of Light.

Clans of the Air consolidate control of the shipping trade between Cities of Light in British America.

A massive earthquake off of Puerto Rico shakes the region. St. Louis gets its feet wet from the resulting wave running up the Mississippi Bay.  Port facilities in Jackson, Mississippi are 90% destroyed and serious damage is reported across the coastal Caribbean.

PAe 36 (1898)
San Francisco City of Light Completed

Earthquakes off Sumatra spawn tsunamis, killing tens of thousands.

The Afar region of East Africa experiences immense seismic activity. Volcanic eruptions are followed by a massive æster strike.  Fortunately, few lives are lost, as the population of the region is quite sparse.

Pope Leo XIII places the Portuguese under interdiction in response to Portuguese aggression against the Hanseatic League

The Hispanic League issues a demand for the return of Hispaniola, Mexico and Puerto Rico to Hispanic League control.  This demand is refused. The Hispanic League declares war on Britain and the French. The Spanish fleet is subsequently flattened in the Mississippi bay. The French lose Belize but hold the line at the Yucatan. The Spanish invasion is repulsed from Puerto Rico.

Texas churns out weapons at a break neck pace consuming 70% of British American resources involved in the production of high quality steel. Dallas becomes the armament hub of British America.

The Clans of the Air establish fast-packet shipping routes between New Philadelphia and other Cities of Light.

PÆ 37 (1899)
Toronto City of Light Completed

St. Louis Aeroplex Completed

Fort Victoria City of Light detects a series of large quakes running from Kamchatka around the Ring of Fire to Haida territory near Klickitat.  Multiple tsunamis strike coastlines around the Pacific, convincing the remaining Japanese on the home islands that they need to move elsewhere.

The St. Louis City of Light is officially completed. At just over 2,100 feet, the St. Louis Aeroplex is considered one of the wonders of the modern world, only overshadowed in British America by the New Philadelphia Indomitable Tower Aeroplex at 2,400 feet.

Maxime Laubeuf unveils his steam-powered submarine in France.

PAe 38 (1900) - The Year of Disappearing Ships.

2nd Portuguese-Hanseatic War begins

Halifax and London observatories detect substantial seismic events centered in Iceland.  Halifax and Victoria also detect and report unusual seismic activity northwest of Hudson's bay on the arctic coast of the former Northwestern Territory.

Over the subsequent 6 months following these seismic events, the number of æster vessels lost due to unknown causes in the northern hemisphere triple. Many previously charted safe æster passages become un-navigable, or the buoys marking them disappear and are lost. Some cities report unusual increases in Draw on their æster anchors, in some cases, requiring additional ballasting.

Montreal City of Light Completed - Becomes known as "The Century City"

Houston Shipyards launch their first semi-submersible monitor ship, based roughly on the Laubeuf design.

2nd German Portuguese War continues, mostly minor scuffling over the border between Hanseatic East Africa and Mozambique.

Trotskyites assassinate Governor General McKinley on his visit to the New York City of light. Theodore Roosevelt is appointed by the Crown to fill the vacancy. The Hispanic League ambassador files a protest with New London upon learning of the appointment.

PAe 39 (1901)
January 22nd, Princess Victoria dies of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 81. Representatives from every major and minor government attend her funeral, even the Ottomans and Chinese.

Rome City of Light Completed 

Earthquakes strike across the northern Mediterranean basin, beginning in Eastern Anatolia, working their way across the Aegean and eventually ending in Eastern Sicily. The Mediterranean is observed to have "sloshed like an over-filled bathtub."

An improved, fully submersible monitor class ship is launched at Houston.  The Hispanic League Ambassador lodges complaints in Philadelphia. Roosevelt responds by offering to send a flotilla of monitors to Caracas.

A giant polar bear is shot and killed outside the stockyards of Chicago during mid-winter. It is believed that the unusually cold weather and frozen lake provided an opportunity for it to wander south across Lake Michigan, and that the scent of penned animals within the stockyards attracted the beast.  Dissection reveals unusual cranial mutations and enlarged parietal lobes.

First rumors reported of a 'Hanging Garden', a floating mycological forest, northeast of Iceland.

In summer, explorers heading northwest on foot from the Sudbury mining district discover and map the largest mycological forest found to date, with mushrooms attaining as much as 100 feet in height and over 20 tonnes in weight.

PAe 40 (1902)
A defector from the KKK secret society reveals to city-state leaders the inner workings of the malicious organization in some detail. As a low-ranking individual within the group, his information is somewhat suspect and limited. Whilst he awaits transportation to Cuba to testify directly before the Confederate leadership, the defector dies under suspicious circumstances when a fire breaks out in his holding cell. The KKK is outlawed in every city-state in the Former Confederacy and by the Confederate government in Cuba. Membership in this "treasonous and barbaric band" is made punishable by death. During the subsequent ten months, leaders in every city-state are assassinated under suspicious circumstances.

In Cuba, a member of the Confederate Congress barely escapes death at the hand of an assassin, saved by a courier who had entered the Congressional Hall to deliver a message.   Killed by the courier, the only in possession of the would-be assassin is a dagger emblazoned with an engraved skull and a pile of bones.  From that moment, the KKK is known as the "Skull and Bones Society", sought out for numerous crimes in the Former Confederacy and British America.  The hunt for their leadership has frustrated authorities from both governments. All attempts to infiltrate their organization only lead to the deaths of covert operatives.  Apparently, the nefarious group has learned the art of secrecy quite well. 

Massive earthquakes off the coast of northwest Africa cause great landslides in the Canaries, which create vast tsunami waves that spread across the Atlantic. Fortunately, previous evacuations and precautions by now-weary coastal dwellers limit loss of life and property damage.

PAe 41 (1903)
The Calamari War; (Texas: the Seabug War)
As a test bed, Governor General Roosevelt sends the new submersible monitors to sea off of Texas and at the Mississippi Bay mouth to protect squid and shrimp fisheries. The new monitors prove enormously useful in surprising Hispanic League ships illegally casting nets in British waters. Several sharp engagements with Hispanic League military escorts end disproportionately in favor of British monitors. Roosevelt announces this to the press with his now famous trademark, "Bully!"  Rushed negotiations by the Hispanic League provide limited rights for Hispanic fishermen, but for stiff duties and mandatory unloading of their catch at British ports.

Sizeable mid-ocean quakes detected in the mid-Atlantic, but with no other noticeable effects.

PAe 42 (1904)
A series of large quakes run west from the Antilles to just off the southern shores of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba. Once again, preparation and planning prevent serious losses of life from the quakes themselves. However, the earthquakes trigger explosive volcanic eruptions on both St. Vincent (Soufrière) and Martinique (Mt. Pelée), resulting in severe casualties and loss of life.

With the assistance of the Liberal party, Roosevelt forces through acts of parliament establishing reasonable working conditions and fair wages for workers across British North America.  Similar legislation is taken up and passed elsewhere in the Empire.

An assassination attempt is made on Roosevelt. Surprised by two men appearing unexpectedly in his office, Roosevelt is shot once, but he seizes his own old service Webley and turns the tables on his attackers, killing one and disabling the other.  He recovers fully from his wounds.  Investigation into the attack leads to the arrest, prosecution and conviction of three major industrialists.

PAe 43 (1905)
3rd Sino-Siamese War begins. Chinese troops swarm across the Mekong into northern Siam.  Using new tactics, small arms and improved artillery, the Chinese brush aside Siamese army units along with their British and Hanseatic advisors.

In late autumn, with British and Hanseatic assistance, the Siamese army stiffens and finally halts the Chinese advance at the Chao Phraya River.

Diversion of ships and war materials over-extends coastal defense and patrol forces in the Gulf of Mexico, leading to increased raiding by Hispanic, Confederates and other privateers.

Massive earthquakes shake Northern Mexico and British New Mexico Territories.  Numerous small cinder-cone volcanoes erupt across the interior desert.