Written for Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge Today’s prompt was Scream.
There were divisions. Some might have termed them fractures. Everyone wanted everything, and no one wanted to pay. The silence of society’s splintering echoed a dire nothingness. I liked the quiet.
The flyers flew with wings for arms. The walkers walked on exaggerated legs. Some swam, like the almost-fish they were. A few even rolled. I glided.
Everyone ignored me, and I ignored them, as they left in their ships of steel and stardust. No one remained. That’s when I realised I was already dead, and even then, hadn’t a clue as to how long. I got the better deal.
They differ to us substantially. The most apparent of these is their appearance. We stand upon two legs, make our way through a tactile world with two hands and regard our universe through two eyes. In a more direct description, we are paired. This pairing navigates beyond the physical into the realms of belief. We believe we should live our lives in pairs, couples, if you will, so we do. We are a species who thrive in the plural. A species must thrive if it wishes to endure.
They exist in the singular, derived from a singular entity, one that split to spawn many. Wherever possible, they refrain from interaction and keep to themselves. They live alone, talk alone and enjoy doing so. Physically, we are comparable, but they do not see it this way. They look through two eyes, but act as though looking through none. They have two legs, but refuse to use them unless necessary. Their paired arms and hands have become so conjoined with technology, they have become indistinguishable from the greater whole.
Their name? They have many names and many subsets. They dislike being classified as many and prefer singular — as is their way — identification. My colleagues term them vermin, but the correct and almost forgotten genus is human. They are a strange lot, yet as a scientist, I find them intriguing. Though at their present rate, I suspect I shall not for much longer.
I am delighted to announce the arrival of Britannia Unleashed not only in all book formats but also as an Audiobook.
Available now from Audible and Apple Books, my story is magnificently read by the English narrator Michael Langan as a full unabridged version. His reading is exceptional. For anyone who enjoys Victorian Alternate History, Steampunk, or just outright Adventure, you’ll have one hell of a ride.
“If you do not, Master Swift, then it will be your position within Her Majesty’s government that is unmade.” The elder man creaked leather-gloved hands together, wringing every last syllable from his over-emphasised words.
“How long do I have to consider your request?” Robert swept long, dark hair from his gaunt face, the hours spent in his workshop given clear definition by the single, flickering candle.
“How long? How long! Did I not make myself clear? The order has not come from some vagabond, some chance met acquaintance, some nobody, it has come from Queen Victoria herself. There are no ifs, maybes, or buts when discussing Her Majesty’s orders. One simply does as one’s told and does not question it. People that do oft’ regret it.”
“Is that a threat, Carrington?” Robert bristled in his seat, the glass of wine held in his right hand quaking at his intonation. A trace of the old fire sparked in the inventor’s tired eyes but soon dimmed to embers.
“That is Lord Carrington to you, Swift.”
“One can be made to act as required. Facts and threats are rarely grouped together.”
“Then if I am not being threatened and am still allowed the freedom of choice, I refuse. I could no sooner unmake my left leg than I could my children.”
“Children!” Lord Carrington jumped to his feet as a man half his years should. “They are not your children; they are your handiwork. They are automata, constructs, or any number of other things, but when one sieves through the salient details of this disagreement, one will find one unequivocal and singular truth.”
“And that is?”
“That every one of those metal mishaps is the property of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, your sovereign and empress of half the world. She would rule the other half, too, if she wished it, but that is by the by. So, I ask again, will you unmake those you have created to facilitate the prolonging and general longevity of your monarch’s reign? Will you uncreate those designed to bring immortality to Her Majesty? Will you remove the criteria for others to do the same?” Lord Carrington ended the sermon with a sharp thrust of fist to desktop sending his own crystal-cut glass shattering to the floor.
“As I have stated, ours is not to question why.”
Robert took a deep, long breath and rubbed at his temples. “It is only through my children, their nature, their existence, that Her Majesty still functions. It is my children’s technologies that have inspired her adjustments. They have gifted her life, saved her life, it makes no sense to deprive herself of future corrections. She might die because of it!” Robert tore at his hair with frustration at the whole affair before regaining his composure. “Lord Carrington, I ask you again as a man I once held great respect for, why? Britannia would be without its Queen if not for my children.”
“Your point being?”
“My point being, without them she’d have died years ago. The explosive aftermath of Sir Belvedere’s vanishing would have killed her. Should have killed her. She bore its brunt yet lived. A miracle prolonged by my children.”
“How do you know about that? Carrington barked.
“My dear man, every citizen of a certain standing knows about that and certainly those who have dealt with its repercussions.”
“I see,” glared Carrington.
“What has Headlock to say about this, or Cuthbert, or even Monk, though I cannot abide the man?”
“It matters not what they say, think or do, because they are not she.”
“Then we have nothing further to discuss. I shall not be party to exterminating our Queen even if she sees it otherwise, and as I have stated, I shall not murder my family.”
“So, I am to gather from that little monologue that you are unwilling to concede them.” Lord Carrington spat the final word.
“I will not, and they have left already. I could no sooner divulge their location than I could the contents of your sick mind.” Robert folded thin arms across his charcoal-suited chest and crossed one leg over the other in defiance.
Lord Carrington eyed him with a venom that the Britannian elite reserved solely for the underclasses; a societal standing Robert belonged to and was only too aware of. He sought to see inside the younger man’s soul with those jet-black eyes, to unpick the contents of his inner being. When he seemed certain of Robert’s underlying character, sniffing it away with a snoot, he bellowed, “Guards!”
Two men of imposing physiques dressed from head to toe in Her Majesty’s colours, a sure sign of her involvement, burst through the study door.
“Take Master Swift into confinement. Somewhere remote should serve best. He shall be dealt with at the Crown’s convenience.”
The two men nodded in symmetry.
“Oh, and gentleman.”
“Your Lordship,” one replied through a voice like crushed bricks.
“Make it an unpleasant arrival.”
“With pleasure, Your Lordship,” the same answered, as the other advanced on his prey.
Evil will come, and champions will fall, but Britannia shall reign eternal. Every world has its heroes, and every hero has tales to tell. Britannia, Queen Victoria’s realm, is not the least of these, for its many heroes are varied and inextricably linked. If but one falters, then others might follow. In a Victorian world off-kilter with our reality, a malevolent entity and an incarnation of past evil seek to overpower Britannia and its weakened queen. The disenchanted Sir Belvedere Magnanimous Wainthrop, the Lion of Britannia, will brave time and space to battle this unholy alliance and return glory to the empire. Others shall follow his lead. Destiny will test every ounce of their courage and resolve. From a Himalayan Shangri-La to a subterranean London and the corridors of Buckingham Palace itself, this disparate group of individuals will battle the odds and come together to make the ultimate sacrifice. But will it be enough?
A Little Background
Britannia Unleashed is a Steampunk, Alternate History, genre-spanning extravaganza. A tale where not all is what it seems, and what seems is a tale within itself. An alternate Victorian society crumbles in the wake of the Prince Consort’s death and Queen Victoria’s subsequent ruination, for nothing scars such as a rebuked love. Dark forces gather from both near and far with only a handful of heroes to fight them. Theirs are stories which shall interlace as only unknown fates can. Whether they shall prevail will remain moot.
From a man the whole empire admires to a mere servant, a heroine who never backs down and a detective unparalleled, it shall take all their mixed skills to battle the forces of evil and return a queen to her throne. In this world, there is no United Kingdom only Britannia.
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