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Old 12-18-2012, 02:49 AM   #6
Prince Charon
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Join Date: Dec 2012
Default Re: Five Earths, All in a Row

* The next Earth I will describe is the furthest 'behind' us in orbit, and is only other one we're getting artificial radio traffic from. The traffic is in the form of Morse code messages, some of it further encoded in various easily broken (to us) ways, the rest being pretty clearly civilian. Telescopes turned to this Earth will find that they have a fair bit of tonnage in orbit - not nearly as much as we do, but what they have is rather more concentrated, and vastly less of it is junk. There are six space stations, each bearing the flag of one of the Great Powers of this Earth: the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the British Empire, the French Empire, the Papal States, the Russian Empire, and the rather colourful flag (red, white, orange, blue, and yellow layered Nordic Cross) of what is eventually discovered to be the Scandinavian Federation. The rest of the tonnage consists of a few communication satellites, apparently carrying automated telegraph repeaters, and a few inter-orbital vessels. Like the Dieselpunk probe, the stations and satellites are powered by mercury boilers and storage batteries. The stations appear to serve as weather monitors, spy bases, observatories, and repair stations for the oft-finicky repeater satellites, which frequently break down, and are serviced using small pods with waldo arms. A number of larger pods wander through the lower orbits, mostly spying on whatever nations they pass over (in the guise of more weather monitors, which they also do), or collecting space debris. Rockets leave this Earth once or twice a month, mostly to the space stations. Three nations have made Moon landings: Britain, Russia, and the Scandinavians. Each of them have stations in Lunar orbit, and have begun construction of mining bases. Radio intercepts indicate that the Papal States and the Austro-Hungarians are neck-and-neck for the next moon landing.

Looking more closely, observers will see numerous airships, far more than on Dieselpunk Earth, but hardly any powered heavier-than-air craft, apart from the occasional glider with supplementary rockets. A lot of flags are about where they should be, though the flag of the Papal States flies over most of Italy, and the flag of the Scandinivian Federation flies next to the flags of Norway, Sweden, Daneland, Iceland, and the Netherlands, either on another flagpole, or a little lower on the same flagpole. A variety of strange walking machines are visible, mostly of a military nature, though some seem to be in use by European explorers in Asia, Africa, Oceania, and South America. On many farms, especially in the southern USA, mechanical robots toil in the fields. Clothing, and what we can see of the culture, strongly suggests a version of the 19th century.

This is a Steampunk Earth, and the year is 1878. Queen Victoria sits on the British throne, and thanks to Victorian SCIENCE!, her husband is still with her. In France, the Bourbon King Henri V rules, with the aide of an Estates-General dominated by the elected Third Estate. Belgium appears not to exist, although the territories that make it up are extant within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Pope Clement XV leads an Italian Paeninsula united under the Papal banner, along with the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. In the USA, there is little slavery, and there was no civil war, due to the development of worker-clanks; parts of the Western Territories contain numerous 40-acre ranches, apparently owned by black families. In the Empire of Brazil, a space centre is under construction on an island east of Macapį. I could go on like this, but you should get the idea, and probably want to know how this happened.

From an alternate historian's perspective, this Earth is the most 'normal' of the four, in that the differences from OTL started at a specific Point of Divergence, and most of what happened after is different, including many births. Some time prior to May 17, 1823, a man by the name of James Haversham returned from India. Shortly thereafter, he began selling a patent medicine ('Haversham's Sovereign Cognitive Enhancer') which seemed to enhance the mental faculties (as well as cause an initial few seconds of intense synęsthesia), primarily in the areas of focus, creativity, and craftsmanship - in other words, an early form of nootropic drug. The more interesting, and permanent, effect is something that is not noticed at first: those who have taken this drug reflexively create 'magic items' whenever engaging in any act that registers in their minds as 'creative', 'artistic', or 'crafting'. These items may be temporary or permanent, depending mostly on which the item itself is intended to be - e.g. a gun is a permanent item, while a bullet is really not, but can last a long time before being used; a glass is a permanent item, but a pint of beer is there to be drunk, and goes bad fairly quickly. The 'item' need not even be an object - dancing, performing a kata, reciting a song or poem, playing an instrument, and so forth, are all acts of creativity, craftsmanship, or both, and thus effectively, acts of spellcasting (non-material things are always one-shot 'items', with relatively immediate effects - spells, in other words). Likewise, traditional 'magic' is sometimes called 'The Art' or 'The Craft', and often viewed as such by practitioners.

The Enhancer temporarily confers the advantages Versatile and Single-Minded. These last about as long as the buzz from the alcohol content does - call it equal to about two shots of fairly strong whisky. The first time it's taken, it permanently confers Thoughtform Talent 1 (name subject to change, replaces Magery) with an accessibility limitation of 'Only While Being Artistic' (might need rephrasing, see text above) and Wild Talent 1 with the Retention enhancement, the Focused (Psi: Thoughtforms) limitation, and the same accessibility limitation as Thoughtform Talent, along with an 'Always Activated when being Artistic' limitation. Not sure what the art-based limitations should be worth.

At first, the powers of items created were merely enhancements of things they already did: swords were sharper, less breakable, or less inclined to rust, guns more accurate, beer less inclined to cause hangovers, and so forth, but did not let the user shoot fireballs or summon lightning bolts. This is partly because this is easier to do, and partly because that's usually what the craftsman was thinking it should do, while making it. Of course, eventually, magic items that were clearly magical came into being. Likewise, 19th century magical practitioners eventually tried the Enhancer, and discover their magics working well, where they worked poorly, if at all, before. There is much dispute over when exactly this happened, and who first discovered it, but the first article on the subject in a respectable newspaper was in The Times (London), on October 16, 1834. Interestingly, Haversham himself disappeared five years earlier, on October 16th, 1829, by which point several other people were making his Enhancer (though only those who'd taken the magical version, themselves, were able to truly replicate it - others merely made a mix of absinthe, scotch, ginko biloba, and snake oil, chemically identical to the magical version, but a little warmer, and without its powers).

In April 1825, Charles Babbage and an engineer working with him tried the Enhancer, and Difference Engine No. 1 was delivered to the British government by Guy Fawkes Day. Analytical Engine No. 1 followed in 1829, and the first Mechanical Man, called 'Mr. Clank', after the noises it made while walking, was demonstrated on the Queen's Birthday, 1839 (without the magic of the Enhancer, of course, this would not have been possible). Sales of crude Mechanical Farmers began in the US in 1842. By the 1850s, it was clear that slavery was on the way out, although even in 1878, the wealthier plantation owners still have a few (mostly female) house-slaves, and (mostly male) overseer-slaves to watch the clanks in the fields. Under this USA's 16th Amendment, though, total emancipation in US States and Territories will have taken place by 1888. The new 'big' thing in analytical engines and mechanical servants is the manufacture of gears so tiny that the best optical microscopes cannot see them - only the newly-developed electron nanoscopes have that capacity.

Continued next post.
Warning, I have the Distractible and Imaginative quirks in real life.

"The more corrupt a government, the more it legislates."
-- Tacitus

Five Earths, All in a Row. Updated 9/28/2020: On Torture article has been posted.

Last edited by Prince Charon; 12-23-2012 at 04:31 AM.
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