The Thieves Way

Historians Note; unless you are familiar with the document “Horizons of Deceit Book I” you should not read any further. Said document can be purchased by following the link to the right. The following takes place shortly after the climax of “Horizons of Deceit Book I”.

So much has happened to Mars in the past 124 years, it is often easy to forget that in 1890 it was still being colonised and subjugated by the European powers. The English, French, Germans, Russians, Belgians, and Japanese had all established colonies there, and American traders were everywhere. The reasons were plain – lift-wood was a valuable commodity, and the growing importance of aerial navies had made many countries desirous of establishing their influence on Mars. Moreover, in addition to lift-wood there were other Martian products that brought a good price on Earth, and the huge Martian population was a ready market for European manufactured goods. Not all Martians welcomed the people of Earth, chief among them were the Brotherhood of Luxor and its mysterious leader, Kronos. What follows is the first part of a two-part account, a rather typical account, of the state of play in Syrtis Major during those early days, given by Able Seaman Erasmus Stevenson.


Mars, viewed from Phobos

Thursday October 2nd 1890.

I am beginning to think that visiting the worlds of our Solar System is not good for my health. I still remember the joy and pride I felt at being assigned to HMAS Sovereign early last year, to be serving on board the flagship of Her Majesty Aether Navy was a great honour indeed. But since then I have been captured, tortured, and experienced things I am certain I would be saved from had I remained serving on the ships of Earth’s sea.

HMAS Endeavour made Marsfall earlier than anticipated, allowing us a small amount of shore leave before Sovereign was due to arrive. We carried supplies with us, to assist in the refit of Sovereign in preparation for her long mission ahead. Supplies and personnel transfer–one of which was to be me. My presence was requested by Commander Bedford himself, due to my experiences on Luna. I cannot say it was a tour of duty I was much looking forward to–not least of all because of the mission’s connection to the Drobates of Luna.  However, I was promoted in rank one level on condition of my transfer, and as someone who hopes to become an officer one day, I could not refuse orders. I have enjoyed my service on Endeavour these past months; Captain Ferguson is a strong leader and I have learned much from him. I will especially miss serving with Commander Armstrong, a noble and resolute officer, one of the finest I have ever met. When I finally returned to active service I did not expect a position on another Royal Sovereign-class battleship, but my familiarity with the design came in very useful. Much least did I expect that I would be transferred back to Sovereign so soon. I disembarked Endeavour, happy for a chance to explore the British-run city of Syrtis Major. It is strange to think, but I was walking in alien sand, the first person in my entire family to step foot on an alien world. Certainly I spent a considerable amount of time on Luna, but that was merely the Earth’s moon, but Mars…truly another world!

Syrtis Major

Syrtis Major

I should have remained on Endeavour!

After a brief tour of the bazaar where I purchased a local trinket for my little sister, I headed to the British quarter where I was hoping to grab a pint with a few other seaman from Endeavour. The quickest way was a short cut through the infamous Harbour District–although, of course, I did not know it was infamous then, neither did I know why. I suppose I should have guessed by the colloquial name for Old Harbour Road; the Thieves Way. I was new to Mars, barely been there a couple of hours. In what way could Syrtis Major possibly be worse than London? I soon saw. It was on Old Harbour Road that I witnessed the kind of villainy one expects in the alleys of London by the dark of night, but here it was happening in plain sight. People were being beaten senseless just so the miscreants could take whatever possessions they could, no doubt to later sell at the bazaar. Occasional British Army soldiers walked the road, but they studiously ignored the happenings of Thieves Way.  I was, to say the least, dumbfounded by such wilful ignorance. I was of a mind to intercede on the behalf of one particular fellow when I felt a sharp object dig into the small of my back.  My hand, already in my jacket pocket, gripped tightly on the present I had purchased for my sister. I was a member of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy and I had survived worse at the hands of the Drobates than anything a mugger could inflict upon me. He was in for a mighty shock, should he continue to push his luck.

“I would advise obedience, Monsieur Stevenson,” said the delicate tones of a French lady.

A lady! Even now I can scarce believe that a member of the fairer sex would do such a thing, and worse that it should be a lady. And she was a lady–there was no doubting the cultured tones in her aquiline accent. Even at the time, while I felt the object dig ever deeper, piercing my clothes I felt sure, I wondered why would a French lady have heard of me?

“Kronos seeks an audience with you, and you would be must unwise to refuse.”

…continued tomorrow!



A Few Bad Men

Historians Note; unless you are familiar with the document “Horizons of Deceit Book I” you should not read any further. Said document can be purchased by following the link to the right…

800px-Naval_Jack_of_Russia.svgAlthough Imperial Russia had a head start on the race to get beyond the asteroid belt, such a head start was not without its setbacks.  The construction of Imperator Aleksandr II was based on stolen blueprints–British blueprints. That in itself posed a problem. Although Russian engineers and designers were used to working with the designs of other nations (of note, the French), this was something new. HMAS Sovereign revolutionised aether travel, both in design and application. They were guided in their efforts by a man who had reportedly died on Luna at the end of 1889–the insane, but genius scientist, Vladimir Tereshkov–and this guidance came in the form of random, and often garbled, coded telegrams sent from a secret location in England. But this did not stop the Russians–it was imperative that they benefited from the discoveries to be found beyond the asteroid belt, that they beat the British Empire out there. The Tsar was tired of playing second place to the British Empire.

What follows is a sample from the private diary of Kapitan-lejtenant Petenka Trushkin, first officer of Imperator. It serves to highlight that not everybody involved in that fateful mission was a blinkered by the promises of power and position that Imperator signified. 

Tuesday October 7th, 1890.

We are but one day from the asteroid belt, and already I fear for the success of our mission. If we fail it is not just the reputation of Imperial Russia that is at stake, but that of the Tsar himself! I have worked hard to attain my position, acting as a first officer on the most advanced ship in the aetheric ocean–even more advanced than the ship upon which it is based. Usually the first officer would be a captain-2nd-rank, but I have fought hard to take this position from less deserving officers. Some might say that position without rank is meaningless, but they would be wrong. I am second in command of the most powerful ship the Imperial Navy has ever built.

imperatorbwThe power source of this great ship–a substance called aleksandrite–pushes it beyond design tolerances. Already we have had engineers all over the ship patching up damaged areas. It is as if the very structure of the ship is being compromised. I have taken my concerns to Kapitan Merkushev, but he insists that Imperator will serve. It should, we have nastavnik Tereshkov aboard, and it was he who stole the designs, he who communicated ways in which we could improve those designs, to redesign the modulation device he had originally built–all to include the use of aleksandrite. But all he does is sit in his cabin, endlessly scribbling notes in a language I have never seen before. I fear he is a risk to the mission, as is the kapitan’s yielding to Tereshkov’s every request. We should be using Tereshkov’s knowledge, his genius, to improve the ship as we go. But then I am forced to consider those–I am reticent to call them people–things used to enhance the power of aleksandrite. What has been done to them is an abomination, one Tereshkov is directly responsible for. Can I really trust the ship to a mind like his?

Perhaps once we have escaped the asteroid belt, and thus the reach of the British Royal Navy, we can properly address these things. The kapitan is focussed on proving the power of Imperator, showing the British Navy the might of the Imperial Navy. We have already intercepted heliograph messages intended to warn HMAS Tartarus of our trajectory. Normally we would alter our course–there is, after all, no such thing as up and down in the aether, no straight line by which we must travel. But Imperator continues on its course. We know that Navy vessels have been sent from Mars in an attempt to catch us, but if the mighty Sovereign could not sustain our speeds what hope does the usual Navy vessel have?

We do this for the Tsar. But I sense that is not so for everybody aboard ship–some seek glory for themselves. And it is those who will spell failure for this mission.


Historians Note; unless you are familiar with the document “Horizons of Deceit Book I” you should not read any further. Said document can be purchased by following the link to the right. The following takes place shortly after the climax of “Horizons of Deceit Book I”.

The WRNS was created in November 1887 as a result of heavy naval losses since the Navy expanded into the aether, resulting in a shortage of manpower for active naval service. Many sailors were based on shore and it was felt that they needed to be released to the ships, although their shore jobs still needed to fulfilled. As in the civilian world, it was felt that by employing women to do these jobs, the men would then be able to go to sea. The promotion of the Women’s Royal Naval Service was “Free a man for sea service”.

Initially, the Admiralty decided that only 3,000 women would be recruited and would mainly perform domestic duties, such as cleaning, cooking and serving meals. In the three years since, these roles have expanded into all areas of naval service, including postings overseas. But now, as 1890 draws to a close and with a new fleet of Royal Sovereign-class aether battleships being deployed, it has been decided that a limited numbers of Wrens will be allowed to serve aboard the aether fleet.

What follows is a letter from one such woman–19-year-old Sophia Davies…

Thursday October 16th 1890

Dearest Mama,

It has happened, what started off as a service to free up the men for the fleet has advanced into a new programme, initiated by some forward thinking men in the Admiralty. At last, members of the Women’s Royal Navy Service will be able to serve aboard naval vessels. Naturally only a select few have been chosen, a token gesture, but it is a start. The best news of all, I have been selected as one of those special few.

1986.004.581I cannot tell you how happy and proud I am–that a girl like me, from such humble beginnings, will soon be serving aboard the flagship of the Royal Navy’s aether fleet; HMAS Sovereign! Yes, dear Uncle Harry’s ship. And what’s more, I shall be working with him. My technical and practical skills will be put to use in Sovereign‘s engine room. I have heard so much about this ship–the first aether battleship of her kind. Uncle Harry has sent me numerous letters, expounding on the advancements in aether flight Sovereign has made. I simply cannot wait to get my hands dirty!

Yes, Mama, I can hear the sigh of disdain as you read this. I know you and father wanted me to marry the Hughes boy, but you knew I would never be happy running a household and raising children. It simply is not for me. I want to serve our glorious empire, not sit at home changing dirty nappies. Dear Gwyneth can do that if it so suits her–and I suspect it will–and perhaps she will find a rich young man to whom she can become wed. Fulfil your dreams through her.

I am sorry. But I hope you can be happy for me, Mama, because I will be an example to all the women out there who wish to be more than home builders, those who wish to do all the things men do. I am only one of six women who had been assigned to serve on HMAS Sovereign, and it is a very great honour. Please try to be happy for me. I leave England–I leave Earth–for Mars at the end of this month. It would be so wonderful to see you before I leave, if you can find the money to meet me. I have yet to be given the particulars of my first duty, but I believe I shall be away for at the very least a year, and so I would absolutely love to see you before I go.

I love you, Mama.

Your daughter, Sophia.

P.S. Now, officially, Ordinary Wren Engineer Sophia Davies–how lovely does that sound?


Historians Note; unless you are familiar with the document “Horizons of Deceit Book I” you should not read any further. Said document can be purchased by following the link to the right. The following takes place shortly after the climax of “Horizons of Deceit Book I”.

Saturday October 11th 1890

Dear Professor Stone

It has been several months since I last saw you, and I confess I have been putting off writing this missive, however I am about to return to active duty and I feel I am honour bound to write this to you. Not least to thank you and Captain Folkard for the good word you offered in my favour at the hearing. I do not deserve such support—especially not from you.

I need to offer my most sincere apologies for the events of June last. I know you showed understanding when you discovered my culpability, but you did not turn up at my hearing and so I can only assume that, now the dust has settled, that you find yourself less forgiving. I was given a singular honour when Captain Folkard assigned me to be the engineer on Esmeralda 2, to aid you in the secret mission for the Admiralty. I failed you, and I failed Captain Folkard. For the captain it was, one suspects, more a sense of professional failure—I am aware of the pride he took in his crew on Sovereign, one of whom I was proud to be. But for you it must have been a sense of personal failure, for in those months on Esmeralda 2 we fostered a friendship. Even now I can still recall the particulars of our first meeting in the engine room of Sovereign—you walking into me, disorientated by the steam. At the time I never considered I would become a friend of the man who designed the aether propeller governor (yes, I know you will insist you co-designed it with Doctor Grant, but the governor used on Sovereign owed more to your design than his original version). Further I never considered I would be assisting you in developing a more refined version of the propeller for a much smaller flyer like Esmeralda 2.

I have never discussed with any other those events during my final journey on Esmeralda 2, as we neared Mars and encountered that aether tear. My betrayal of you sat heavily on my shoulders, but in those last moments, before Esmeralda was destroyed—and I, like all of us on that flyer, know it was destroyed—my only thought was that I failed my grandfather, the late Admiral Nicholas Fenn. I was, am, the first member of my family to serve in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy since his death; indeed, it was the stories he would tell me as a child that inspired me to seek a career in service of the British Empire. It has always been important for me to succeed, to become an officer and honour my grandfather’s name, be his legacy. I failed him—betrayed my oath to the Navy and my friendship to you. But in that place I was visited by my grandfather and he told me to face the consequences of my actions, and hold to the truth that I only failed myself. My family was threatened, including my mother, his daughter. And so I had to protect them. What good is duty to one’s country if one is unwilling to protect those he loves above all others?

I hope that I can earn your forgiveness, and prove myself once more a loyal subject of the empire. I have, once more, been returned to active duty, although as punishment for my weakness of character, I have been held back one year and will not attain my position as able seaman for another year. It is a small price to pay—I believe I should be in irons now, or at least court martialled. That I am neither I must look on as a second chance. An opportunity to prove myself once more.

I have been reassigned to Sovereign for the long voyage ahead. This is good, for it allows me to work with the one engineer in the Navy who will not hold my indiscretion against me, and further it means I will be in a position to earn your respect and forgiveness. I will also be able to play my own small part in helping find Captain Folkard. Despite the scuttlebutt, I do not for a moment believe he would betray the Navy. He is ten times the man I am, and he would rather die than betray his duty.

Yours, in hope.

 Jack Fenn, Ordinary Seaman, HMAS Sovereign


Historians Note; unless you are familiar with the document “Horizons of Deceit Book I” you should not read any further. Said document can be purchased by following the link to the right. The following takes place shortly after the climax of “Horizons of Deceit Book I”.

From: Commander Jeremiah Armstrong

To: Commander George Bedford

Friday September 26th 1890

I have reviewed your request for the transfer of Ordinary Seaman Erasmus Stevenson from HMAS Endeavour to HMAS Sovereign. It is, I must confess, an odd request since Mister Stevenson has only served with Endeavour for six months after a period of convalescence following his harrowing experiences on Luna. I have made myself fully versant with your reports regarding your mission to Luna in December 1889 and am aware of your commendation for Mister Stevenson. I have also studied his service file, and am somewhat concerned regarding your request considering the nature of Sovereign’s forthcoming mission. I consulted with our medical officer and he assures me that Mister Stevenson is of sound mind, but is still recovering from his incarceration and torture at the hands of the Drobates of Luna. However, he is uncertain if further exposure to the Drobates will help in his recovery, and could, indeed, undo all Stevenson has been through.

Nonetheless, I have also received orders from Rear Admiral Cavor to meet your request. But I would be remiss in my duties as Mister Stevenson’s commanding officer if I failed to raise my concerns.

Mister Stevenson is, in the opinion of my boatswain and I, officer material and has a fine naval career ahead of him. Despite his experiences, he continues to throw himself into duties and performs above the expectations of this officer. We hope that his tour of duty on Sovereign will aid in his path to becoming a fine officer, and to aid this Captain Ferguson and I have agreed to promote Stevenson to the rank of able seaman, effective immediately.

My compliments to Captain Theobald and her crew. Endeavour will rendezvous with Sovereign at Mars on the fourth day of October.

A Happy Occasion

Historians Note; this immediately proceeds the document “Horizons of Deceit Book I”  which can be purchased by following the link to the right…

*from the journal of Professor Nathaniel Stone

Tuesday September 16th 1890.

Whoever thought this day would come? Certainly not I. We have been back on Earth only a short time, barely a few weeks and I found myself immediately put to work. Arnaud joined Doctor Boltzmann and his team in their efforts to refine the minerals we returned with. While I assisted Professor Thomson with his new, rather revolutionary, idea. He is designing a new type of mirror–a reflective surface that can capture the heat of the sun even from a distance beyond the asteroid belt. It is a new photovoltaic process based on the observations first made by Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel in 1839;  a method by which we hope to harness the power of the sun and convert it into an electrical current. If Thomson can achieve such a thing it will, once again, push the British Empire to the forefront of aether travel–and that is not to mention the potential for domestic use.

I have not seen much of Grant, who seems to be buzzing around as much as ever, barely at the research rooms for any real length of time. I have tried to talk to him, but he remains evasive, unwilling to discuss his latest communications with the Heart.

But those are the things of the past few weeks. A much happier occasion now lies before me. It is something I never truly believed would come–we spend so much time in the aether I was beginning to doubt we would ever return to Earth at the same time as Sovereign, but I happy to say that finally our return has coincided. And thus Annabelle and Commander Bedford have been able to reunite once more and further, knowing full well they may not be on Earth at the same time for a while, have arranged for their wedding. I am certain plans were afoot for longer than anyone knew–that Annabelle sent out invitations and made preparations each time we returned to Earth. It seems to be just the kind of thing she would do. Why wait, when she can arrange it herself?

And so today. It is only a few hours away, and soon they shall be Mr and Mrs Bedford. I should probably prepare myself, too, for it would not do if I were to arrive after Annabelle. Besides which, of course, there is the small matter of Arnaud. He tells me he gets quite emotional at weddings, and had already taken to the brandy that our housekeeper kindly procured for us to celebrate the happy occasion. Whatever am I to do with him?

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