Rise of Æster

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

1869/PAe 7
Complete Æster cover extends to 23 degrees from the poles, ocean rise at 9 meters.

Experiments with æster at the Nova Scotia Æster Research Station reveal that continuous electrostatic discharges strongly repel the gas. Researchers investigate this property as a potential means of protection against the worst of æster's corrosive effects.

January 22nd, Spain and the former Spanish colonies in the Western Tropics consolidate into the Hispanic League.

February 10th, the Confederate Congress moves from Atlanta to Cuba, ostensibly to solidify claims to its holdings there.  In actuality, Jefferson Davis and his administration know the situation is degrading rapidly and administration of the Confederacy from Atlanta will soon become impossible.  Bedford Forrest and the KKK are on the march to Atlanta, intending to take the Confederate government.  From this point forward the Confederate government is seated in Havana, Cuba.

March 2nd, General Bedford Forrest marches into Atlanta to capture the Confederate government, only to discover Jefferson Davis and Congress have already fled the city.  Infuriated, Forrest exacts a terrible price on the city for this frustration.  Calling Atlanta the "seat of unnatural government" and local leaders "of servile insurrection" for their role in raising slave regiments with the offer of freedom, Forrest orders the city razed to the ground; his KKK forces systematically sack and burn Atlanta for the following five days.  Survivors of those terrible days recount unimaginable atrocities.  Throughout the city, both black and white men were "...hanged from every tree and post".

In response to the destruction of Atlanta, Bedford Forrest and the KKK are declared outlaw by the Confederacy. The city-states move to take action against them, raising regiments to hunt down and destroy them.  Within months, northern slave regiments along with the newly raised southern regiments begin to scour the land, hunting for the KKK army.  By June, General Bedford Forrest is on the run, hounded at every turn by regiments, militia and mobs.  

July 1st, Forrest's primary force makes a stand against a large combined army of regiments from Macon, Georgia and Huntsville, Alabama, joined by an ad hoc army of northern slave regiments.  The KKK army is outnumbered two to one, but by day's end, the combined Northern/Southern force is shattered.  Bedford Forrest out-generals the ad hoc coalition, breaking the strongest concentration of forces arrayed against him since the beginning of the war.

By mid August, Stand Watie and the Cherokee arrive at the southern Appalachians, their numbers increased tenfold, now including Indians from the Creek and Seminole tribes and the remains of numerous other tribes; also joined by former slaves who have been adopted by the Cherokee (so-called "Black Cherokee"), Creole, Cajuns and Germans from Texas as well as thousands of other disenfranchised whites.  Whilst the Cherokee migration proceeded and grew, it continually reorganized along military lines.  Stand Watie and his Cherokee cavalrymen enforce a highly regimented lifestyle onto any who would join them, providing security to the large migrating population.  Ranging parties continually scout for food and other necessary resources to keep the migration alive, such as firearms and ammunition.  By the time they reach the southernmost tip of the Appalachians, the Cherokee comprise one of the most formidable forces extant within the Confederacy. 

September 18th, in a twist of fate, the KKK army runs headlong into Stand Watie's forces. Hounded by northern slave regiments and regrouped city-state regiments, General Forrest attempts to break through the Cherokee lines. Initially, his brilliant leadership punches a hole through the center of Cherokee force, but as he tries to exploit the gap, the combined Cherokee forces regroup and trap over two thirds of Forest's forces within a narrow alley between the formerly split forces. When elements of the Northern/Southern regiments arrive, cutting off their retreat, the KKK forces are slaughtered almost to the last man. Although Forrest's lead elements break away to flee, they are trapped between a swollen river and stone bluffs with Stand Watie's Cavalry hot on their heels. Backed against the river, the KKK fight for their lives, but are captured after a short and bloody skirmish by Stand Watie's Indian cavalry along with a force of Black Cherokee. General Nathan Bedford Forrest surrenders and is taken prisoner. Less than 60 men survive the engagement with the Cherokee combined forces.

With the destruction of the KKK army, the city-states form permanent regiments for defense of their walls and interests.  Over the next year, confederate administration of CSA city-states erodes to the point that they are independently governed, no longer under the control of Confederate authority in Cuba.

1870/PAe 8
Complete Æster cover extends to 25 degrees from the poles, ocean rise at 10 meters.

January 3rd, France petitions for an alliance with Great Britain against the Hispanic League.  France and Britain sign a treaty on February 1st. A concession of the treaty, France cedes all territory north of the Tropic of Cancer to the Dominion of Texas, and to the western border of the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains.  Allotted to Texas, the acquisition makes the Dominion of Texas the second largest holding in British America, second only to the Dominion of Canada in total land mass.  Britain cedes control of British Honduras to the French government as a concession to the treaty.

France negotiates a peace with California, ceding all territory north of the Tropic of Cancer to the Republic of California and west of the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains, thus divesting itself of all holdings in Northern Mexico.

By year's end, The Confederacy is considered collapsed and no longer existent. It is hereafter called "the Former Confederacy" by all other agencies, other than remnants of the Confederate Congress in Cuba. City-states of the Former Confederacy function autonomously with laws and political structures that have nothing to do with the Former Confederacy.  Order can only be maintained within close proximity to the city walls and defensive structures. Lands falling between the city-states fall into lawlessness.

Leaders from Huntsville and Athens send appeals to Stand Watie, leader of the newly founded "Panther Nation" to engage in peace talks, who rebuffs these entreaties.  Peace envoys sent directly to meet with him at the traditional Cherokee Nation capital at New Echota in the former state of Georgia are treated civilly and with respect, but their reception is anything but welcoming.  The only meeting with Cherokee leadership offers only one consistent theme that is stated implicitly by Stand Watie at the beginning of the meeting,

"There is nothing the Indians now desire of Whites but to be left alone". 

After negotiations end fruitlessly, the envoys are surprised to be sent home with fifty-seven additional people in tow, survivors of the KKK army and even former General Nathan Bedford Forrest himself.  Stand Watie tells the envoys,

"Take your general and his men; we have no use for them.  Take them to Davis and let your laws judge them.  But remember who it was that brought your dog to heel.  Leave us be and we will do the same for you.  We have all we need".

Stand Watie's message is clear.  With ferocity that brought down Bedford Forrest and the KKK army in a single afternoon, even when caught off-guard, and sufficient number to take whatever they wanted in the Former Confederacy if they chose, if the Panther Nation were left alone, they would leave the city-states alone.

The Panther Nation remains in isolation for the next 40 years, defending their borders with naked force. The Nation continues to grow in population as former slaves and disaffected whites renounce loyalty to anything other than the Panther Nation and are adopted into the Nation's tribes.

1871/PAe 9

Complete Æster cover extends to 27 degrees from the poles, ocean rise at 12 meters.

Hispanic League operatives instigate widespread insurrection in Central Mexico. Aided by the Royal Texas Rangers, French forces quell the uprising.

Hispanic League naval forces and her allies of the Former Confederacy attack British ships at Port Royal, Jamaica.  The attack is decisively defeated; most of the remaining CSA monitors and a large number of Spanish naval vessels are sent to the bottom.  This victory ensures British and French naval primacy in the Caribbean for many years to come and precipitates the systematic occupation of Hispanic League Islands throughout the Caribbean by British, French and some Dutch forces.  The Hispanic League and remnants of the CSA maintain control of Cuba, Puerto Rico and Hispaniola.

The British in Vancouver move to Victoria, beginning a period of general expansion and fortification of the southern half of Vancouver Island. Victoria is renamed "Fort Victoria".

Researchers in Halifax create the first "Static Sheathing". Enveloping a metallic test chamber in conductive wires producing a constant electrostatic discharge, the experiment survives in æster's highly corrosive environment with virtually no effect for a week of constant operations. Experiments to develop this technology begin in earnest.

1872/PAe 10
Complete Æster cover extends to 29 degrees from the poles, ocean rise at 14 meters.

The Dominion of Canada is considered completely evacuated and all Canadian cities are officially declared abandoned, with the exception of Ft. Victoria, Montreal and Quebec.

North of thirty-five degrees northern latitude, crops fail almost completely, causing a larger and more desperate flood of refugees into the Former Confederacy as a second wave of famine takes hold. Trampled under the weight of another wave of refugees, forced back by the Panther Nation establishing and brutally defending its borders, and perpetually beset by insurrections and uprisings all throughout the southeast, the last remnants of centralized CSA authority collapse completely.

Major battles engulf the region of Chiapas in southern Mexico as the French Army, Royal Texas Rangers and Mexican Militia barely hold back the onslaught of Hispanic League armies from the south.

Royal Navy frigates are dispatched to patrol the Mississippi Bay to address reports of rampant piracy throughout the Bay and the regions surrounding it.

Expansion and development of St. Louis begins, on recommendations from the Royal Geographical Society.  According to the Society, St. Louis is the most strategic location to establish a recovery in British America if the current crisis subsides. Should the crisis continue unabated, St. Louis is far enough inland to make a good start on any future return to the northern plains of British America.  Similarly, Fort Wayne Indiana is garrisoned in preparation as a starting point for a return of population to the industrial areas on the shores of the Great Lakes.

Static sheathing tests in open æster demonstrate complete protection as long as the sheathing remains energized. By years end, Dr. Langdon Markeson mans a sheathed æster "boat", entering the Æster  and remaining in the deadly environment for ten days without harm to either himself or his craft.

1873/PÆ 11
Complete Æster cover extends to 31 degrees from the poles, ocean rise at 16 meters.

Vicksburg becomes an island in the Great Mississippi Bay.

August 19th, all hands are lost when pirates sink the HMS Arethusia off Vicksburg Island, a tragedy that stuns and enrages British Admiralty. Immediate steps are taken to secure the Great Mississippi Bay. Naval advisors, architects and admiralty officers sent from Port Royale to the Dominion of Texas consult on naval security and strategy in the Bay and along the Gulf Coast.

In response to the sinking of the Arethusia, Royal Texas monitors deploy to patrol the Texas coast of the Mississippi Bay to protect British interests. Subsequently, a surge in shipbuilding produces many more of the shallow water predators.

June 12th, the British warship HMS Assiduous from Ft. Victoria encounters a large flotilla of Haida Indians on the waters north of the Olympic Peninsula.  According to Captain Weber, his crew was astonished by the sheer number of canoes on the water and the bright spectacle displayed by each canoe lit by small lamps and lanterns.

"The crew and officers were arrayed in amazement along the rails and rigging to see so many Indian canoes on the water.  These were Haida, northern Indians of a tribe that had only been encountered north of Vancouver Island before this time."

As the Indians approached, Captain Weber hove to, hoping to speak with the Haida and learn what had precipitated such an enormous gathering of them on the water.

"They came alongside calling to us, "Halloo!", which had traditionally been the greeting the Indians had used when they wished to trade.  As soon as they were alongside, many of them climbed up from their canoes.  Our polite attempts to dissuade them did nothing.  When the one of them cut down a member of the crew with an axe, it was only then that we realized we were under attack.  We were caught completely off our guard, having never heard of such a brazen attack from any of the tribes of the area".

Fierce fighting ensues, leading to the grounding of the Assiduous on the northern coast of the Olympic Peninsula and continuing onto land as well as onboard the Assiduous. British sailors and marines battle the Haida, holding the ship as a bastion to protect their supplies and stores of weapons and ammunition.  Captain Weber realizes that he has intercepted a large invasion force comprised of Indians from many northern tribes.  There had been reports of raids between the tribes, but never on a scale like this.  The same force that had driven whites out of the upper latitudes appeared to inspire the Haida to invade lands south of their traditional territory.  The battle continues by the light of fires and lanterns as the stranded crew hold their own against a vastly larger force.  Early in the afternoon, much to British surprise, other Indians arrive from inland and engage the Haida! Throughout the rest of the battle, a steady stream of these reinforcements continues to arrive from inland and join the fighting, largely ignoring the stunned, but relieved British.  A large contingent arrives from along the beach to the west, apparently having landed their canoes miles away and making their way along the rocky coastline.  These additional warriors shift the tide of the battle against the Haida invaders.  No longer so hard-pressed, the navy men are finally able to rig guns on makeshift platforms atop the severely angled ship's deck and bring them to bear.   The invaders are finally driven off by noon of the following day.

With the Haida driven off, Captain Weber feared the growing number of Indians on the shore would next turn on them.  His navy men and marines prepared to make a final stand atop the battered hulk of the Assiduous.  Much to British relief, the first Indians to approach were English-speaking negotiators.  The Indians were curious to hear how the white men had come to hold the invaders at bay.  Weber recognized a tremendous opportunity for relations between the Crown and the multiple Indian tribes represented here. He quickly established negotiations with the leaders present.  Over the next three days, Weber and over a dozen Indian leaders of varying status from all over the Northern Peninsula feasted, talked and came to understand one another.

One thing was clear; although the Indians did not want whites on their land, they felt indebted to the British for their arrival and assistance in fighting off the Haida.  What was a mere coincidence to the British held deeper meaning to the Indians. So many had been nearby and able to join the battle, as they had happened to convene nearby for a multi-tribal powwow.  The council had gathered to ally the many tribes of the region to interpret and discuss the coming darkness.  Tribes from all across the Washington Territory had joined this "Potlatch Nation" as they called it.  After three days of negotiation, Potlatch leaders permitted the British passage through the Strait of Juan de Fuca without interference and allowed a British settlement on the south end of Vancouver Island.  The agreement held conditions that the British were not to pass south into Puget Sound, and not to land on the peninsula or the coast.  All parties agreed to these conditions.

As the Assiduous was unsalvageable, Captain Weber also came to an agreement with Indian leaders how to deal with the stranded crew.  Six men chose to remain with the Indians; the rest were ferried across the dangerous straits in canoes to Ft. Victoria.

This strange and wholly amazing event establishes a generally amicable tone for future interactions between the British of Ft. Victoria and the nascent Potlatch Nations. 

Developments improve Static Sheathing against æster and minimize the potential for power loss. Experimental vessels successfully utilize the new sheathing techniques. Static Sheathing is integrated into future designs for a variety of experimental vessels, permanent structures and platforms in the Æster .

1874/PAe 12
Complete Æster cover extends to 33 degrees from the poles, ocean rise at 18 meters.

The edge of the Argentum reaches Atlanta.

The CSA sends a large, motley naval force from Cuba, playing its hand in an attempt to seize control of the Mississippi Bay. Comprised of raiders, Confederate Navy ships and several of the remaining Confederate monitors, the Confederate force is engaged by Royal Texas monitors at the mouth of the bay and dealt a decisive and brutal defeat.  To the last ship, the CSA force is shelled into burning hulks until sunk or run aground. 

This crushing defeat effectively ends any ability the CSA has to function as a political entity, even in Cuba or the Caribbean islands. Political infighting over the loss shatters what little political unity remained.

The Markeson Platform is elevated to 11,000 feet as an anchored platform in the Æster , supported entirely by the Draw. Static Sheathing allows the platform to remain entirely unaffected while experiments are run continuously over a year. After this success, Static Sheathing becomes the de facto standard of protecting vessels and objects in the Æster  from its corrosive effects.

1875/PAe 13
Complete Æster cover extends to 35 degrees from the poles, ocean rise at 20 meters.

The Argentum's edge crosses the gulf coast of North America.

The spreading masses of æster clouds continue to expand and descend over the Appalachians, upstate New York, Northern Arizona and New Mexico, Puget Sound and the newly discovered concentration over the northern Great Plains of the Dakotas. At higher elevations, æster walls reach the ground.  What little information exists about these violent storm walls only determine that once they reach the ground, they destroy everything in their path.

An obscure inventor opts to remain behind in the Bronx Highlands to continue his experiments and study the electrical and magnetic properties of this new substance called æster. He devises an efficient propulsion system for æster craft based on rotating magnetic fields.  The name of this inventor is Nikola Tesla.

To aid in research and provide a convenient means to access the Æster clouds, the first "Skyhook" is constructed in Halifax by the Royal Scientific Expeditionary Corps, allowing researchers to transit in and out of the Æster via sealed elevator for observation and sampling purposes. 

After several explosions and fires caused by samples of æster during experimentation, the Royal Scientific Society begins to experiment with æster as a fuel source.

1876/PAe 14
Complete Æster cover extends to 37 degrees from the poles, ocean rise at 22 meters.

The Hispanic League attempts a wide assault on French holdings across Southern Mexico. Despite mustering extensive manpower, the joint Columbian, Venezuelan and Spanish effort is almost entirely ineffectual.

Large groups of Indians are reported throughout the Colorado Rockies moving into regions where æster walls are forming.

The Royal Scientific Expeditionary Corps sends the airship Beagle II to investigate the æster walls in British America, making the first observations of a vast mycological forest west of Quebec.  The report states:

"We witnessed and took samples of mushrooms, some of which stood twice the height of a man.  Other fungiform life was thickly in evidence as well.  These were wonderfully diverse in splendid colors and configurations never seen before.  Some of these new forms displayed a stunning luminance in the darkness, not unlike that of a lightning bug.  It was a truly wondrous discovery and shows that our new world, although dark, would not be devoid of life."

Construction of the first two British-American æster craft is completed at Indianapolis, the first heavier-than-air ships to rely exclusively on the Draw to achieve flight.

July 4th, the Republic of California celebrates the Centennial of the United States.