Monday, 6 October 2008

AOEG: Turn 2 Complete

The second turn of the PBEM VSF Game Age of Extraordinary Gentlemen has come to a close. Interested in a PBEM Victorian SF campaign. Interested parties should be gentlemen and stalwart sons of the Empire. Rogues and blackguards need not apply.

Sample from most recent turn:

With a heaving of the ground, a massive belch of black smoke, and a few glowing stones sparking into view, The Beetle burst back into Professor Ingoldsby's cavern. Within seconds, the door to the massive contraption began to rattle, buckle, and finally crash open with a sound of tearing metal. Yet more smoke (grey-blue this time) issued forth from inside, as did Major Harding, who flopped to the floor of the cavern, sucking in the life-giving air for all it was worth, and feebly patting out the smoldering areas of his tweed jacket. The professor had been attempting to teach Harding how to pilot the conveyance, and thus he had been nearest the exit hatch when they had so precipitately returned to their base.

Harding was followed in short order by the Mason and Devereaux, who were helping the now unconscious Ingoldsby out of The Beetle, followed closely by Collier and Von Monokle, who –despite choking vapors and flying bits of burning rock – still seemed to have the energy to argue.
"It would be ill-advised to ignore the goddess…" began Collier, only to be quickly rolled over by the Prussian's blazing baritone.

"Your svartalf goddess can go to nifleheim, und you vith her!" the raging German replied/choked at the Oxford scholar, "Ve vere nearly killed by zat Teufel's engine! Hordes of Arabs und Frenchmen I can face, but NOT ZE BURNING DEVILZ UV ZE UNDERVORLD!"
All grew somewhat quiet after than. Certainly, the trip had been both far more and far less than anyone expected.

Despite its enormous size, the interior of The Beetle had proven to be somewhat cramped, containing only a small salon which combined into the pilot's cabin, and an engine room / cargo bay, the whole no more than thirty feet long and perhaps six and a half high. There was no separate sleeping compartment. Ingeniously devised –if not terribly comfortable- hammocks dropped out of the ceiling when rest was required. All the rest of the space, Ingoldsby explained, was reserved for the heavy armor that would defy the crushing gravity of the rock about them, the engines that would propel the great drilling machine, and intricately designed cooling devices that would convert the very temperature of the earth about them into energy both for motive power, and actually to cool the vessel as it drove ever deeper into the terrible heat of the earth's magma.

The Beetle required only a small boiler, and this was the true genius of Professor Ingoldsby, for the deeper the vessel went into the earth, the more the ambient heat of the surrounding rock, magma, and later the lava itself would power it. Thus, while the vessel was slow and cumbersome upon the earth's surface, it would move with the darting speed of a barracuda in the glowing oceans of rock that made up the interior of the earth.

This, at least, was the professor's theory. It had not, however, taken account of the lava lions.
They had decided to take The Beetle on a maiden voyage to test its capabilities, and also to give the Professor a chance to school Harding in the operations of the vessel. They would only travel perhaps thirty miles down, try to catch a lava stream and navigate it against the current, then return to the cavern and inspect the vessel. While The Beetle was largely navigated with a system of etheric reflectors that would give the shape and composition of surrounding features on a mirror-like device, The Beetle also had portholes of thick, black quartz, which would be nearly opaque on the surface, but would provide sufficient visibility against the background of glowing lava, and could provide at least some ability to navigate should the etheric reflectors fail.
It was after they had dropped into a lava river within a glowing chasm that Mason first saw the creatures.

They were dubbed lava lions, as their shape was in fact rather leonine, though much larger, perhaps the size of a small bull elephant. The beasts had bodies of red-glowing rock and brightly glowing orange manes. A dozen of them appeared to be lounging on an island made of a great, purple, crystal. When they saw The Beetle, three of the lava lions arose, entered the river in the direction of the Professor's conveyance and crashed full force into it, causing the armor to rupture in a small area and knocking the left surface-tread out of alignment.

While it may seem strange that a vessel capable of operating in the hideous pressures that exist many miles beneath the earth's surface could be damaged by the impact of a creature –be it ever so large- it must be remembered that Professor Ingoldsby had built his craft as a conveyance, not a war machine. The Beetle was quite capable of handling enormous uniform pressures from all sides, but not of sudden impact. It also had lesser speed than the lava lions in their own environs, as became quite apparent when the unlikely crew saw the creatures gathering again for a second pass.
"Oh dear," said the professor in an obviously discomfited tone, "This simply won't do. Two or three more such hits will see the lower chassis buckle completely, and we'll all be swimming in beastly hot lava." He fiddled with the navigation controls in an attempt to outmaneuver the hostile creatures, though it was now quite apparent that The Beetle had no more chance of evading the lava lions than a crippled grandmother did of evading a champion rugby player. What's more, The Beetle was now beginning to fill with smoke.
"Professor!", Harding yelled in desperation, "Is it possible to reverse the refrigeration process? To blow cold air out of the vessel instead of into the crew compartment?"
"Why, why yes," replied Ingoldsby, obviously totally mystified, "but whatever for? We should be roasted alive within half an hour's time…? We should…"
"Never mind professor!" shouted Mason, who appeared to grasp Harding's plan, whatever it might be, "Just tell me how it is done!"

After a few brief instructions involving various levers and knobs back, Mason dashed for the engine room, while Harding continued to try to maneuver, all to no avail, as the lava lions chose that moment to strike the ship again, causing the small surface-boiler to explode, singing Von Monokle, who launched into some very eloquent cursing in German that involved The Beetle, lava lions, Ingoldsby's mother, and some highly unlikely physiological assumptions. Collier was splashed by an ounce or so of lava, which made him turn white in the face, while Devereaux appeared to be simultaneously attempting to photograph the lava lions and splash their supply of drinking water on the hot rocks now loose in the cabin.

Harding was sweating far more profusely than even the rising heat in the cabin of The Beetle would justify as he fought the controls. He knew that it all rested on Mason now. The lava lions were returning for another pass, which would certainly shatter The Beetle.

Harding looked into the Professor's seeing-glass, and saw the golden dot that represented The Beetle, and the three red ones showing the lava lion's position as they came ever closer, thirty meters… ten… five…
Suddenly there was a massive hissing sound from the engine room, quickly drowned out by a huge roar –like all the elephants in the world at once- from the lava lions. Their images in the glass stopped dead, and then, weakly and slowly, they retreated to the island, where their fellows –strangely unconcerned with the situation- remained lounging on their purple crystal island.

Von Monokle looked up in wonderment. "Vat? Vat did you? Ve vere zertain to be killed? How…"
Suddenly, Ingoldsby laughed out loud, while Harding and Mason grinned.

"Of course! Of course. Well done old chaps! You vented the coolant into the faces of the creatures! That must have been nasty uncomfortable for them! And, now that we know such creatures exist, I can develop defenses that should discourage them in the future. In fact, a simple douse of water should be just as…"

"Pardon the interruption Professor," interrupted Mason, who had returned from the engine room, but may I remind you that we are still in grave danger? Even if the lava lions have left us alone, the damage they have done threatens to destroy us still. We had best attain the surface as soon as possible."

With that, the valiant crew of The Beetle worked like madmen under the direction of Professor Ingoldsby to return the vessel to the surface, learning more as they did about its operation that they would otherwise have done in months, and thus attained the Professor's cavern base again.***Three days later, the party had resolved to attempt the trip to Al Azif in The Beetle. Von Monokle was the last to agree, cursing Collier and his "zorzerous nonzense" so loudly that the two men had to be restrained from dueling. However, what finally convinced him were the arguments of Mason and Harding, who pointed out that the Pasha's men would certainly not expect an assault from beneath the ground, and that, with the professor's newly designed "water bombs" they would be quite well protected from any future depredations from the lava lions, and any similar fiery creatures of the underworld.

However, this still presented problems. The Beetle had suffered grave damage. Most of it could be repaired, with the exception of a large number of ball bearings that the professor required to fix the treads. For these, he sent the crafty Arab boy Abdul Salem into Port Oglethorpe as well as for other supplies. With these, Professor Ingoldsby estimated that The Beetle would be ready for the journey within the week.

Abdul Salem returned in the evening with grave news. It appeared that Bond and LaFourche had been found, though what a state they were in! An Arab zebec plying the trade lanes from Zanzibar had picked them up –more dead than alive- on a tiny, rocky island just outside Port Oglethorpe Bay- and had promptly thrown them in the ship's brig as slave-cargo.
Abdul Salem had seen them –the Frenchman nearly unconscious, the American swearing and cursing- both in chains, and both in a black-market slave trading station set up a few miles south of Port Oglethorpe, placed where the British were unlikely to find it and able to pack up quickly

should government troops come near.

"I have seen such tings before, Effendi", said Abdul Salem in answer to questions by Devereaux and Mason, "The pirates will move quickly, perhaps within a day or so. If anything is to be done, it must be done now."

With that, the wily Arab boy handed the journalist a piece of parchment, on which he had drawn a simple map…

Interested? Read on here:

No comments:

An exploration of debauchery, vice and other reasons to be a man!

An exploration of debauchery, vice and other reasons to be a man!