They demanded them unbuilt for the sake of humanity. I deemed this an unnecessary reaction to an unfortunate event. After all, the explosion was an accident. They set a date.
The smallest squealed. The largest roared. Some fled as best they might; it was never fast enough. Others huddled like cogs in a watch, ticking down the moments till death.
When the guards went to collect them, they’d gone. In their place was a giant clock; it ticked backwards. The populace fled, whilst I remained. That’s when they reappeared, laughing. I laughed, too. Stupid humans! Far easier than killing them.
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.
Londinium’s streets filled with merchants of every description. Some purveyors of fine silks set up stalls in such-and-such an alley, others of fresh produce in this and that, the retailers of jewels and gold settled closer to the constabulary’s arterial junction. It, or rather, she, sat somewhere in between.
Less an organ grinder’s monkey, but not quite a ventriloquist’s dummy, she rested, her coiled legs draped over the side of a wooden cart. Her creator, or owner, or whatever he was, poled people to guess her name at a sovereign a head. He promised great riches to the soul who guessed correctly, though I ventured no one ever did.
Entranced, I squeezed through the gathered crowd to better gaze upon her, excusing myself more times than decorum demanded. Nevertheless, it felt nowhere near enough. At my last muttered apology and doffing of my hat, I looked up: there she was.
She was stunning, beautiful, yet made. Plaited horsehair adorned her bonnet-less head, which stood against convention, but looked right on her. A face of chalked perfection rested on a frame of awkward, angular imperfection. The contrast made for an uneasy balance. Yet, it was not her body I looked upon, but her eyes. Even though I knew it was wrong, evil even, an affront to God, I could have stared into them forever.
The almost-woman had the sort of eyes that dreamt of oceans, a blue so deep as to swim to the stars. She stared out across her audience impassively, searching for something, searching for me. I was hers, and she was mine.
“Hey, that’s a sovereign’s worth of a gawking you’ve given. You gonna guess ‘er name or not?”
I paid the man his money and walked away.
“Hey! Hey, mister! Ain’t you gonna guess then?”
“Sapphire,” I replied.
“Wrong,” he expounded. Maybe to you I thought, but Sapphire she remained. My dreams would be eternally painted blue.
Isabella’s pros outweighed her many, many cons. After all, one may only sing the praises of one’s maid to so many people before they wish to meet her. I had extolled Isabella’s virtues from the moment she opened her big, blue eyes and smiled at me. I melted that day and have many days since.
Isabella busied herself about my mansion with the verve of a bee overloaded with nectar. She buzzed from here to there with her feather duster in one gloved hand and cleaning cloths and bucket in the other. She would start her cleaning before I awoke, tend to my needs when I did, then return to her incessant sanitations. At first, she was a godsend. Later, she was a hazard.
The problem with Isabella was everything. She understood that I required hygienic conditions for my work and took that knowledge to quite dizzying heights. One day, I walked in to find she had scrubbed so hard that the raised patterns of my carefully chosen wallpapers had been extinguished, buffed away, gone.
My decorating conundrum paled into insignificance once she started on my guests: faces, buffed; nails, trimmed; clothing, stripped and washed. The latter proved the final straw for one elderly dowager who walked out of one particular party with more than just an agog visage. Orders were given. Isabella was to be expunged.
I apologised to my guests, some senior clergy and parliamentarians amongst them, promised to do the deed that evening and made my excuses to bring the shindig to an early conclusion so as to facilitate said task. If only it had been that easy?
As I looked into Isabella’s beautiful glass eyes, those that had once been my beloved wife’s, I crumbled. I wept like a fool as Isabella tried her best to comfort me, her metal arms almost wringing my neck in her supposed embrace. She meant well, but as usual was not made for such things.
I reached around her back, slipped my fingers under her blouse and flipped the termination button, then backed away.
Isabella had no understanding of what occurred. As the steam of self-destruction engulfed her, she even fetched her mop and bucket and began to dab at herself. She only saw something that was not right, as did I.
Once Isabella’s violent juddering ceased, her head coming to rest with her eyes open and fixed on my own, I did the one thing I should’ve from the start. I opened up the trapdoor between her steel breasts, extracted that which powered her, my darling wife’s heart, and held it in my hands one last time.
If only those fools had known my wife wasn’t the only one to be resurrected that day, but they did not. With that I reached under my shirt, flipped the auto-destruct and waited for the boom before heaven to engulf me. It didn’t hurt, not this second time around, not too much, anyway.