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Story So Far… | Anachronauts Digest
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Story So Far…

Clockwork Watch Timeline

 

First – the Word – 1766: Enlightenment arrives as people take to the skies in balloons, they are no longer constrained by geography. The first commercial dirigibles are launched in 1785. Traders from India travel the Silk Road, bringing with them the substance that will later become known as Ambinium – a rock that floats when treated with simple acids.

Cities in the Sky – 1800: The experiments on Ambinium and the development of airships leads to sky cities – large vessels that can dock and stay off the ground for long periods. The affluent move into the clouds to exploit the benefits; with no houses, there is no tax, trade is free and above the law. Gambling finds a new home.

Sky Piracy 1815: The arrival of sky pirates soon puts paid to The golden age of airborne life. With no law enforcement, or other defence, the floating palaces are sitting targets. People begin arming themselves and the “Air Wars” begin.

1817 Tethered Aviation Act / Air Tax: To close the loophole exploited by dirigible owners, the government passes a law which taxes tethered aviation. The revenues generated, the government claims, are being used to fund the war against sky pirates.

Reformation – 1840: A schism occurs within the Church of England. The debated doctrine is believed to encourage the continuation of occult-like practices. The debate gives rise to the Aesthetics movement. The church survives the schism, but purges many Aesthetics. They are labelled heretics and in some remote villages, burnt at the stake.

Saryn – 1872: The war that wasn’t. A strange new mineral is discovered in Saryn, in the outer regions of Kazakhstan. On the advice of scientists, British troops traipse halfway across the world to protect the nation’s mining rights. In the brutal conditions, fewer than 2% the soldiers reach the front line. Of those that make it, only a handful return. The mineral is never mined and the supposed life-enhancing properties of the substance are never properly investigated. Scarred by loss, the country would rather forget about the war. In response, MP’s within the House of Lords label Science “the widow-maker”.

“Tomorrow’s World… Today!” 1899 – Present Day: Representatives of The Department for the Advancement of Sciences arrange a grand exhibition in the tunnels below the offices of The London Necropolis Company. New Technologies and new Sciences are touted as paving the way for a brighter future…

 

Part One

May 1899
Britain is in the grip of a recession, society has fallen on hard times, the gap between ‘haves and have nots’ grows wider by the day. A decline in trade, power shortages and the inability to manufacture energy-efficient products leaves British industry in the doldrums, but on a local level  the amateur maker and boffin ethos thrives. People begin to innovate and experiment at home, creating a thriving cottage industry of inventors and alchemists. They begin to adorn and augment everything they own with mechanical objects.

Queen Victoria looks to science for a miracle and the Department for the Advancement of Sciences takes up the challenge. While developing artificial limbs for veterans of the Saryn War, they hatch plans to create a mechanical device – a clockwork servant – but fail to find a sustainable power source.

The Queen’s Emissary to Science and Patron of the Arts – Lady Frobisher Pilbeam – invites Chan Ranbir an Indian Kinetic Engineer, to the UK. Chan joins the Department for the Advancement of Sciences and his research into kinetic engineering produces a battery that he believes will alleviate the need to recharge all mobile clockwork devices.

Government scientists announce an Expo to showcase the latest Victorian technologies, called Tomorrow’s World… Today! The event is set up to dispel rumours and public anxiety after the press claim that “Science is Playing God” by developing a clockwork servant named “Artificial Adam”, but it also hopes the event is the first stage in identifying and regulating the development of unlicensed gadgets, sciences and medicines.

During the event, a journalist from the London Gazette is ejected for tampering with artefacts, trade unionist Jack Ludd stages a one-man protest, and the very first prototype clockwork heart is stolen. The main attraction at the event is shrouded in secrecy, but several recordings of the night eventually surface are found hidden in an electronic library.

The event is also attended by Lady Frobisher Pilbeam, when confronted by members of the public, gives the following assurance in a newspaper article:

“I am in favour of the clockwork automaton, but only under certain conditions: it must not annoy the working classes so much that they rise up against us, it must not fall into the wrong hands, it must not have the ability to replicate itself, and unless we can make it loyal to the crown without question, it must not be self-aware.”

The public had more pressing concerns – jobs – and if  this heralds the arrival of an automaton workforce…

“Certainly I am not one to ill-consider the value of machines, for they have their proper place in the prosperity of man’s ascent from the realms of ignorance. Moreover, I was worried as to what responsibilities will these scientists have for the inevitable removal of earnings and income from our fellow man.” Sagi Nucai

“Can such a thing be created through cogs and springs? Are we merely being presented with the illusion of life?  Or, perhaps worse, is our Humanity itself nothing more than a mechanical delusion itself?” Scurra

June 1900
The Queen’s Royal Jubilee is overshadowed by a revelation that many of the private airships used in the Sky Pageant were powered by a mineral called Albinium, a rare substance controlled by the Department for the Advancement of Sciences and an important component of the Clockwork Project.

When the Queen is criticised for not denouncing the Clockwork Project, and using public resources for the Air Pageant, Captain Hidebrandt Beam of Angel Corps responds in a letter:

“Is it right to take such strong action against your country and your Queen? Do you think Her Majesty deaf, blind, or mad? Your grievance does not go unheard, nor are your interests neglected. A tenor of civility is important to maintain in times of great disagreement.”

Industrial relations sink to a new low when workers are accused of stealing industrial quantities of Albinium from Advancement of Sciences laboratories. Trade Unions retaliate by calling for strike action.

Duke Euphoria De’Gryn, concerned about the anti-Clockwork tone of the London Gazette’s articles publishes a letter called “Dismayed by the hostility“, calling for an end to “the days of exhausted men trudging wearily home after a day in the lightless depths of the earth, a handful of tawdry coins and the dreaded black lung their only reward.”

With the threat of industrial action looming, the police use new powers granted under the “1876 Special Provincial Powers Act” to crackdown on potential troublemakers, including Jack Ludd.

Trade Union Leader Henry Tibble threatens to bring the country to its knees as a nationwide strike is set for 6th of May, and calls the government “Blinkered by rich pickings.”

6th May 1901
The dispute spills across borders to France where dockers down tools in sympathy strike action, while at home church leaders are warned by higher authorities to stay out of the debate or face consequences:

“I must give you my most heartfelt thanks for your most generous hospitality, even at such short notice.  As you know, my recent sermon on the topic of this “artificial man” met with no little controversy with the senior clergy. After I departed your house following a most eligible luncheon, I was subjected to a most forceful dressing down from the Bishop of St Albans. I was even questioned as to whether I should reconsider my calling and, perhaps, leave the parish for missionary work abroad.” Rev Dagada

In the UK, trade unionists lay siege to an Advancement of Sciences roadshow at the 40,000 strong Latitude Festival in Leeds. Members of the public were harangued if they crossed the picket line unless they  promise to steal top secret documents from the roadshow. A top government scientist succumbs to the pressure and joins the strikers, handing them state secrets, while scientist Saccadius Cartwright flees into the woods through the back exit.

Lord Longshanks, a retired member of the armed forces threatens to lead a fight back:

“I have had enough of these pompous big wigs and blow hards who do nothing but talk. As a former officer in VI armoured steam division we dealt with dissidents and layabouts with force. I am willing to come out of retirement and lead the charge and once again hold up democracy.”

Despite the war rhetoric, support for trade union action remained strong:

“Brothers! Sisters! The Union calls for action, and we will not be found wanting! I have pledged this day to take up the fight, to spread the good word amongst the tram workers, to rally to our cause the ladies who agitate for better rights and, if need be, I will take the fight to those government officials and soldiers who would take up arms against us. We will strike at Crich on the 14th. Our demand is simple; JOBS NOT CLOCKS! In unity,” Bomber Smith

Other voices rally against the industrial action, calling it a move to stop the progress of technology. In an article titled “The Aethetics View” Dr Mortimer Granville set out what he calls the path to a modern technological utopia.

1. We are presently undergoing a revolution in technology;
2. In the clockwork age, technological growth will be sustained (at least);
3. In the clockwork age, technological growth will lead to the end of economic scarcity;
4. The elimination of economic scarcity will lead to the elimination of every major social evil.

August 1901
Talks to end the industrial dispute begin, but the government takes radical steps to prevent future action by trade unions. New legislation banning strikes at all government research facilities gets Royal assent, but the Clockwork Project grinds to a halt when Advancement of Sciences secretly evacuates its London headquarters.

A break-in at the deserted office forces the government to admit that one of its Clockwork prototypes was missing. The device, one of two almost complete models was in a box labelled “Chamberlain BCV6 – Liverpool”. A London Gazette headline highlights the irony of the situation “Government Department Has Lost The Clock!”

The missing device is found by someone called Caelen, who accuses scientists of lying to the public over the scope of the Clockwork Project. He leaks a series of letters which show eminent scientist Dr Henry Winchester expressing concern over the loss of something called Badium, a mineral linked to the Saryn War in in 1872*.

October 1901
A thick layer of fog spreads from South East England to the rest of the country. 160 people die and at least 500 admitted to hospital in the first week. Chan Ranbir announces that Clockwork Project was back on track, but the pace of development would be slower – “We must win the hearts of the public, there’s nothing to fear”.

A nationwide shutdown is declared as the number of deaths from lung failure reaches 3000. Hospitals are inundated and turn new patients away, accident and emergency services are grounded by the fog.

Britain is now in the grip of the worst pea-souper fog since records began.

STAY CALM, AND STAY AT HOME!

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