Rise of Æster

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

PAe 44 to PAe 80 (Present Day RoÆ)

PAe 44 (1906)
A Siamese-Chinese peace treaty is signed, bringing the 3rd Sino-Siamese War to an end. In exchange for territorial concessions in northern Siam and west of the Mekong, the Imperial Chinese government makes peace with the Siamese king.  As another concession of the treaty, all British and Hanseatic military advisors are expelled from Siam, along with their embassies.

5:12am April 8th, the Great San Francisco Earthquake occurs.  Tremendous seismic forces of the quake cause the floor beneath the San Francisco Bay to subside dozens of feet, instigating a tremendous flood of water into the bay both from the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the San Joaquin Bay to the east.  Over the next fourteen days water flows in to fill the void at a terrifying rate, deepening riverbeds up to 30 feet in some areas.

The force of the earthquake would have devastated the San Francisco Aeroplex had it not been supported by its æster anchors.  The oscillating forces introduced into the æster anchor cables don't fully subside for over a month.  Æster platforms adjust and hold station against the terrific lateral force imparted into the cables by the shifting Piers below.  Only one major pier shows evidence of substantial structural damage from the quake. The southernmost portion of the San Francisco Aeroplex now has 10 "guy piers", which redistribute the load of the damaged pier's main cable.

Damage is extensive throughout the San Francisco City of Light itself, primarily due to debris thrown from the gyrating aeroplex.  Entire brick facades hundreds of feet high are thrown from the face of the aeroplex by the oscillating forces, some bricks are found up to a quarter of a mile from the Aeroplex's base. Of the hundreds of buildings in San Francisco, very few actually collapse, but one section of the city suffers the collapse of a six hundred foot tower, which precipitates a cascading collapse of eleven buildings in what has come to be called "The Domino Effect".

Thousands lose their lives in the San Francisco City of Light, mostly due to fires from broken gas lines and falling debris from swaying tall structures.  Buildings in close proximity crash together, doing tremendous damage and raining debris onto the streets, bridges and elevated walkways below. As taller buildings were more likely to deform at the top, making contact with neighboring structures, debris falls from maximum heights and attains terminal velocity before contacting anything beneath it.

December 18th, a giant squid attacks the San Francisco waterfront, destroying over a dozen vessels and damaging or destroying several pier-side buildings before being driven off by gunnery from California Navy ships in port and shore batteries. Dubbed the "San Francisco Bay Kraken" by newspapers, the creature vanishes and intensive searches conducted over the next week by both civilian and military authorities fail to find any further evidence of its existence.  The only evidence remaining from the attack is a section of tentacle severed by explosive ammunition. The tentacle measures eight-and-a-half feet in diameter.  Circular marks on vessels attacked by the creature measure over a foot in diameter, identified as scars left by the beast's suction rings.  Experts estimate the creature to be somewhere in the range of two hundred feet long based on tentacle diameter. They also state, as this is a completely unknown species whose relative proportions are unknown their estimates could be wildly off.

PAe 45 (1907)
Papal forces launch a major offensive out of their central Mediterranean fortresses against the Ottomans. Enormous naval and air battles take place near Crete, Rhodes and Cyprus.  By year's end, Papal forces retain a minor but secure foothold on western Crete near Chania and Souda.

PAe 46 (1908)
June 30th, an intense disturbance in the Æster over the entire Northern Hemisphere rekindles fears of Armageddon. Witnesses report "...the Æster erupting into fire!"  The first reports come from the northern border of India, describing "...a fireball growing in the Æster to the north". This phenomenon spreads over the entire Northern Hemisphere from northern India.  Within a day wide-ranging æster disturbances, storms and never-before-seen holes in the Æster cover erupt all over the world.

"The Æster was on fire! It was as if the entire atmosphere was burning. At some places in the mountains, entire towns and villages near the Æster floor were scoured by fire whilst in other places the Æster retreated, revealing stars and sunlight for days.  This terrifying phenomenon had both scientists and common folk praying.  It seemed that the Almighty's patience with his creation had come to an end."
-Dr. John Walsh, Lead Scientist, Fort Victoria Æster Observatory

The Papacy issues a general call for warriors of Christendom to join the Knights Hospitaller and Templars in their crusade to expel Ottomans from the Eastern Mediterranean. In a surprising move, the Ottoman Emperor grants the Orthodox Church access to and administrative control of Christian holy sites in Palestine.  The effect is electrifying and ameliorates tensions throughout the region.

The KKK makes its first tentative contacts with Ottoman spies.

PAe 48 (1910)

May 6th, King Edward VII dies of heart failure. Prince George ascends the throne to become King George V

3rd Ottoman War begins.

Giant squid attacks on ships increase along the Republic of California coastline, prompting the Republic of California Navy to add hunting these creatures to their normal patrol duties seeking out raiders and pirates.

July 21st, a large party of Cherokee arrives outside Charlotte, North Carolina from the surrounding Panther Nation.  Over the next few tense weeks, the Panther Nation Indians, blacks and whites construct a large building on the outskirts of the town. The chief of the Cherokee party enters Charlotte and speaks with the leaders of the town.  The Cherokee will now trade with whites in Charlotte, but only on Cherokee terms.  

"The Panther Nation surrounds you on three sides.  Your city will be where we trade and where white men who would speak with us may come to talk.  We have built this trading-house and will build a speaking-house.  These houses belong to the Panther Nation and are part of the Panther Nation. You will not enter into them any more than you enter into the mists to the north, west or south of you."

Over the next year, Charlotte grows into one of the busiest towns in the Former Confederacy. French, British, Hansiatic and Hispanic emissaries move in and build homes, halls, taverns, inns and all manner of structures to establish their presence for trade and negotiations with Panther Nation leaders.  Few are satisfied with their interaction with this new power in the Southeast.  The Panther Nation deals from a position of strength and such dealings thusly weigh heavily in their own favor.  The Panthers trade resources from their mineral-rich lands for the finest goods available from the Aureus. The road from Charlotte to Goldsborough becomes a major thoroughfare as goods are shipped through the Goldsborough docks and transported to and from Charlotte.  By PÆ64, Charlotte is the wealthiest and most cosmopolitan city-state in the Former Confederacy. 

In autumn, the corpses of an enormous sperm whale embraced in the tentacles a giant squid are washed up on the shore of the Baja Peninsula.  Prior to this, the largest sperm whale ever recorded was less than seventy feet long.  This specimen measures over ninety feet long!  The giant squid entangling it is measured at one hundred and thirty feet to the tip of its tentacles.  This new species of squid is named Architeuthis Pacificus, the Pacific Kraken.

PAe 50 (1912)
October 12th, after nearly 30 years of imprisonment, Nathan Bedford Forrest is executed by firing squad in Havana, Cuba for treason.

PAe 56 (1918)
On the brink of being overrun by an organized army of Nightmen, the Budapest City of Light administration decides to detonate charges to destroy the skyhook, aeroplex, and key industrial facilities, to deny these resources to the Nightmen. Destroying insulators on the skyhook cables completes a direct channel between the Æster and the ground for the unimaginable electrical potential of the Æster, initiating an æster strike that utterly destroys the Budapest City of Light, killing all inhabitants and 90% of the attacking Nightmen force.
The explosion's flash is seen in distant Vienna and heard as far away as Paris. The resulting æster storms are witnessed across most of Eastern Europe in the form of intense electrical storms within the Æster.

Physicists visiting the site in the aftermath stagger at the sheer magnitude of the disaster, evidenced by the remains of the explosion. A three thousand foot wide crater and a five-story tall thicket of twisted girders is all that remains where the city once stood.

Train tracks are melted up to ten miles from the city and telegraph stations up to three hundred miles away suffer fires from static discharges.

The destruction of the Budapest City of Light underscores major flaws in City of Light systems. Months after the city was destroyed, the interruption of Night Trains and air and shipping routes are still felt throughout Europe to the present day.

PAe 58 (1920)

3rd Portuguese-Hansiatic War begins.

PAe 59 (1921)
In the Mississippi Bay, years of rumored attacks on small boats by some kind of large fish are confirmed when a flat-bottomed fishing boat is attacked by what a witness described as, "...the biggest damn Catfish I ever saw!" Witnesses report further:

"We could see the whiskers on that monster when its head came out of the water and grabbed the front of the boat. It pulled the bow of the boat down, throwing two men out into the water, as if it had planned to do so. It immediately attacked one man in the water and we saw its maw open just below the surface, like it was trying to swallow him whole. We hauled the other man out of the water, but the other who was attacked had disappeared. We saw the thing one more time before it disappeared; it swam past our boat as if it was considering the rest of us for a similar fate. It was nearly as long as our boat and we were on a twenty-five footer!"

The monster fish's size is later confirmed when it is killed by another group of fishermen as it drifted near the surface in the shallows. It measured twenty feet long! When the fish's belly was slit open, the remains of the hapless fisherman were found inside. It had indeed swallowed him whole, which appears to be why it was so easily killed. A large rent was cut into the side of the monster's stomach, and the fisherman's knife was found separate from him within the beast's belly. Apparently, he put up a fight after being swallowed, cutting a hole in the creature before dying. From this day hence, the "Mississippi Leviathan" is no longer just a fisherman's tale.

1922/PAe 60 (1922)
British Admiralty experiments with mycological silk yield an extraordinarily flexible, tough and resilient cloth, nearly bulletproof to all but concentrated small arms fire and most importantly, resistant to æster.  Producing this material proves extremely difficult on a large scale.  The Admiralty leaves the cloth categorized as "experimental" and continues to refine the process, only producing small amounts of the material.  It only finds use in experimental æster exposure suits.

Nightman Chieftain Jean Paul "Paul Bunyan" Vignon consolidates over 70 individual Nightman clans, families and tribes under the auspices of his "Vive' Liberte'" banner to become the most powerful Nightman leader in the history of British America. From PÆ 60 to 75, Vignon dominates ground-based trade, traffic and hunting between Minneapolis and Schenectady.  The enormous black man is reputed to stand over seven feet tall, giving reason for his nickname "Paul Bunyan".  

PAe 63 (1925)
4th Sino-Siamese War begins.

PAe 65 (1927)
British Admiralty succeeds in discovering a method to mass-produce in quantity what is called "Æster Combat Cloth", or ÆCC (pronounced Ache).  The production process is extremely costly, labor and material intensive and dangerous, but the ability to mass-produce ÆCC brings about rapid innovation in the British Æster services.  It is manufactured under Crown license exclusively for the Admiralty.

PAe 68 (1930)
4th Ottoman War begins. British vessels are outfitted with integrated ÆCC blanketing. Ammunition below one inch in diameter becomes completely useless against ÆCC-equipped vessels. The immediate success of ÆCC spurs innovation in other uses for the material. The Admiralty deploys the first airship envelopes fabricated with ÆCC by year's end.

June 27th, during an engagement against Ottoman æsterships, the Æster Pathfinder Vessel Forger Perseus is lost with all hands when she is drawn into the wall of an æster storm.
Disabled, Forger Perseus drifted closer to the æster wall. Under heavy Ottoman fire, her sister ship Forger Agamemnon launched grappling rescue tethers in an attempt to render aid. Captain Samuel Ward of the Perseus, refusing to lose both ships to the wall, sacrificed the Perseus and ordered the Agamemnon's rescue tethers cut. Freed from the Perseus, the Forger Agamemnon could veer off from the æster wall and evade further Ottoman fire.  His sacrifice, and the loss of the Forger Perseus is remembered by all members of the Pathfinder Service in their ritual toast "Remember the Perseus!"

PAe 69 (1931)
Famed ratcatcher Anton Tschevnensky first appears in the ruins of Detroit.  The "American Ratter" spends seven months systematically hunting rats and other vermin in occupied areas surrounding the abandoned city, clearing six towns and four small settlements completely of vermin during this time.  Legend has it that he spoke to no one during that time, his only communication left in notes after his passage and the occasional grunt of acknowledgement.

PAe 70 (1932)
December 3rd, Anton Tschevnensky appears in Fort Wayne, Indiana amidst one of the worst winters since the '82.  As if attracted by the vermin, he arrives just as embattled citizens were losing their fight against a teeming rat swarm taking up residence in the city to evade the deep snow and frigid conditions of the surrounding region.  Throughout December, the American Ratter works tirelessly, rooting out vermin, digging, blasting, poisoning and burning his way into their warrens. It's been said that Tschevnensky destroyed half of Fort Wayne in his single-minded pursuit of the vermin.

PAe 71 (1933)
January 3rd, the American Ratter is paid an undisclosed sum of money by Fort Wayne government officials and then disappears into the snow. The amount paid to the ratcatcher is not recorded in any accounting of the city.  However, in spring, costs of rebuilding and repairing damage caused by the heavy winter causes the city to nearly collapse financially, its coffers apparently reduced sharply to remove the vermin infestation.

PAe 73 (1935)
The American Ratter appears in Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, and Missouri, hunting vermin and burning his way into legend.  By the time he arrives in the St. Louis City of Light, his name is nearly a household word.  Tschevnensky is even interviewed on Radiant whilst in St. Louis providing the only insight into the strange and solitary world of the famous ratcatcher.

PAe 74 (1936)
January 20th, King George V dies of cardio-respiratory failure. Prince Edward ascends the throne to become King Edward VIII

February 1st, King Edward VIII weds American widow Wallis Simpson.  

PAe 75 (1937)
November 22nd, the American Ratter, Anton Tschevnensky enters a rat warren in Propp's Mill, a small town on the outskirts of Cincinnati, Ohio and is never heard from again.  Three days later, rats overrun Propp's Mill and the town must be totally evacuated.  To this day, Propp's Mill and the surrounding area has never been fully cleared of rats and vermin, despite numerous attempts by various Ratcatchers, both individually and in groups.

PAe 76 (1938)
Legendary nachtjaeger Ehrlich Rasmussen kills the largest Wild Hog ever recorded in British America. The monster boar tips scales at over 2,600 pounds.  "Old Nick", as he had become known, terrorized the region along Texas' northern border for over fifteen years.  Named for his reputation of hunting and killing livestock and people, destroying homes and property including an entire small town, Old Nick's reputation was only enhanced by the many nachtjaegers who failed to lay the creature low.  Famous men like Doc Randall, Pickett "Daniel" Boone, and the legendary black nachtjaeger Josiah "Mountain" Verrault all lost their lives to Old Nick.  As he lay dying, Doc Randall reported to the preacher ministering to him:

"I kill't him four times over, but he jus' got up ev'ry time.  That ain't nat'ral.  Pray good for me preacher, 'cause I been done in by a demon."

These and other tales raised Old Nick into legend.  It was rumored that he couldn't be killed with bullets...but that was before he finally met his match in Ehrlich Rasmussen. Rasmussen reported that he and his team of nachtjaegers put an end to Old Nick by shooting the beast over twenty times just to bring it down.

PAe 78 (1940)
July 23rd, Special Service Agent Nick Fokker thwarts an assassination attempt on Queen Wallis.  Agent Fokker loses his life attempting to stop the hideously transfigured monster Mr. Humbaba.  Whilst never confirmed, suspicions clearly point to an Ottoman plot.

PAe 80 (1942)
February 10th, an æster processing ship, the Mathilda Rhiannon, slams into the St. Louis Aeroplex, seriously damaging part of the aero park structure.

The first "Triphibian" vessel is completed and launched at Hobart. This hybrid æster vessel is capable of flight both within the Æster and below it in normal atmosphere, of taking off from and landing on water, submerging and maneuvering beneath the water's surface.
 

This is where our game begins.