Capt. Alastair Hawkesworth
HMAS Richard Lemon Lander
My Dearest Alastair,
It is possible that I may hand-deliver this letter to you. I do not know if you and your ship are part of the Britannic fleet that even now is en route to the Cloudlands, but it is my fondest wish that it is so. All I have done in these past few days has been done with that hope firmly in mind, and it is on your behalf as much as my own that I have struck a blow against our enemies. I shall describe in full detail precisely what has occurred.
After dispatching our two captured airships back to Tudor with our prisoners and the intelligence we had gathered therefrom, we continued on our journey to the Cloudlands. AS you know, the last stop on the Path to that world is the horrid, hellish world of Gehenna. In our mercifully brief stop there, we encountered (nearly collided with, in fact) an astral slaver vessel. It was only the quick actions of our pilot, Iris (or, as she is apparently also known, Princess Andromeda – I shall explain that in due course) that saved us from disaster.
We went on, arriving in the Cloudlands. We deliberately avoided the usual entry point – a cloud island formerly controlled by our Empire but now occupied by the Spanish. Instead, iris maneuvered us to on an alternate course, which unfortunately deposited us close to a Cloudlands warship. I do not know if you have ever visited the Cloudlands in the course of your service, or seen one of their capital ships. They are truly massive; they most closely resemble the giant American warship from your own homeworld that you once showed me a photograph of, the vessel which you named a “supercarrier.” I recall at the time how amazed I was at the sheer size and power of such a ship; imagine then my reaction on seeing one in the flesh as it were.
The warship – which Iris recognized as being the Hand of Sorrow, the personal ship of the Emperor of the Cloudlands (who is also her father as well) – was in close proximity to the astral slaver ship we had previously encountered on Gehenna. Naturally we wished to avoid detection by either of those vessels, and I turned my attention to the possibility of assisting in that endeavor. With some quick and somewhat unorthodox modification of the Lady Blackbird’s Tesla Drive, I was able to alter the Tesla field to bend visible light away from our ship, causing it to “disappear” from the sight of our foes. The effect was not perfect; a blurry distortion in the air would still be visible, but it was nonetheless effective at hiding us for a considerable time, allowing Iris to closely approach the enemy vessels before engaging the alternate teleport engine that installed aboard our ship.
The teleport drive is the primary means of travel within the Cloudlands – it works by means of a beacon system. Every destination has coordinates associated with it, and the teleport engine instantly moves the ship from point to point. Unfortunately, the list of coordinates Iris had was somewhat old, and she did not feel fully confident in the reception we might receive upon arrival, even though in theory all the destinations she had access to were controlled by her colleagues in the rebellion against her father the Emperor.
Our first destination turned out to be deserted, and after fruitless investigation, Iris tried another stop, the port city of Crendor. This one was quite occupied; it was as busy as any port I have ever seen on my travels. We were escorted in by a local ship, the Wind Dancer. Upon arrival, I commenced repairs on the Tesla Drive (which was damaged in the course of my modifications) while my comrades went “ashore” to meet the locals and to negotiate for further repairs to the Lady Blackbird. Iris obtained parts and labor for the required work, and I remained aboard ship to supervise – and to ensure that no tracking devices or other unwelcome surprises were placed aboard. Thankfully, none were.
Meanwhile, Iris, along with Marcus, Elspeth and General Pickton, ended up in a tavern, where she met a former companion in rebellion, a woman called Robina. It transpired that Robina was, perhaps, not as fond of Iris as she might have been. There is, it turns out, rather a lot of history between them. There is also much history in general that we learned about Iris during our time on Crendor. She was, apparently, involved in not one, but two rebellions – first with her father to overthrow the previous ruler of the Cloudlands, and then against her father. It is all quite confusing.
In any event, Iris and company were invited to a meeting of the rebellion, which began quite poorly. Upon the arrival of my comrades at the meeting (as I noted above, remained with the ship and only learned these details after the fact) tensions were raised when Robina produced a photograph showing a younger Iris standing with a man who looked much like Marcus, both apparently in the service of the Emperor.
The man in the photograph was Marcus’ father; and Iris was forced to reveal that in fact her name was not Iris, but actually Princess Andromeda, daughter of the hated Emperor. Robina and the other rebels, quite understandably, did not take this news well. But Elspeth and Marcus (talking through an interpreter, as only Iris among our company speaks the local Cloudlands tongue), managed to defuse the situation.
Over several hours, intelligence was shared, and it became clear both that we and the rebels have a common enemy (the Spanish, with whom the Emperor has recently allied himself) and that immediate action was called for (the Emperor’s fleet had been recalled from all its ports for reasons unknown to the rebels – putting that together with the information we had, my companions realized that all the Emperor’s ships were most likely at the former Britannic outpost, now serving as a Spanish base. Further, we assumed that all those ships were being refitted with Tesla drives, so that they could be used to attack Britannic worlds – and, worse, all those ships would be at the base, fully armed and alerted, when our own fleet entered the Cloudlands).
On our voyage to the Cloudlands, our company had discussed the possibility that a fleet of Spanish or Cloudlands warships might be based at our former outpost, and what might be done about it. It occurred to me that the magical powerstone we captured, as I described in my prior letter, could be utilized to create – for lack of a better description – a Tesla bomb. My thought was to create an unstable Tesla field which would be massively amplified by the powerstone (in truth, creating an unstable Tesla field is easy; it is the stabilization that is difficult!) and which would then cause a chain-reaction, with the instability being both propagated and further amplified with each additional Tesla drive it encountered. In this way, one such bomb might destroy an entire fleet of ships.
I was able to build the device and we mounted it on one of the captured missiles in our possession. Although I was obviously unable to test the weapon, I was certain of my work and the theory behind it.
While I worked on the device, our new allies obtained the teleport coordinates for our former base, and also revealed their possession of a captured Imperial air-yacht (and several Imperial uniforms as well). Our plan would be to teleport to the base and observe the situation. If a sufficiently large fleet of ships was there, we would immediately deploy my weapon. If not, we would attempt to land on the base, bluff our way in, and conduct reconnaissance on the ground.
My company was augmented by Robina and a dozen or so of her compatriots. We loaded the weapon, donned our stolen uniforms, boarded the yacht, and teleported away.
We arrived precisely on target, and observed a truly massive fleet of Imperial warships, including several of the huge carriers. Now was clearly the time to attack. I made one last quick calculation to determine the optimum target for my device, and then I launched it.
The missile flew swiftly and truly, and detonated precisely as designed. The first enemy ship went up in a flash of bright light as its Tesla drive overloaded and exploded, followed by a massive fireball as the entirety of the ship went up. The vessels on either side of it followed suit almost immediately, and the effect travelled almost instantaneously from ship to ship, until the entire base was ringed with fire and showered with debris.
I wish you had been here, Alistair, to witness our triumph, to see us strike back against our foes with the iron fist of righteousness, and most of all to view the great and terrible beauty of Science in its fullest expression. Mere words cannot adequately describe my feelings as I watched the unstoppable Power of modern Science called into existence by my will and brought into being by my hands. I shall never forget it as long as I live.
The thought that I was striking a blow for you, ensuring that this enemy fleet would not survive to ambush you should you be among the Britannic forces coming to the Cloudlands, fills my heart with pride.
Unfortunately, in one small respect I miscalculated; I did not factor in the concussive force of the explosions caused by my weapon, and that force tore the wings off of our yacht, causing it to tumble out of control. Iris’ skills saved us from destruction, but even her excellent piloting could not stop us from crashing upon the deck of a warship that had just that minute teleported into the area. It will not surprise you that the warship was the Hand of Sorrow.
Although we were all injured to various degrees in the crash, all of my companions were well enough to exit the ship and, in the chaos, go belowdecks in search of the bridge (Elspeth was the most seriously injured, but Marcus used his magical sword to heal the worst of her injuries so she could join us in our attack upon the bridge). Iris, knowing the ship as she does, led us directly there, and we burst in.
Standing there on the bridge, naturally, was Iris’ father, the Emperor. She jumped upon a railing and from there towards him, drawing and activating an energy sword as she did so. For his part, he likewise drew and activated a sword of his own.
Meanwhile, I used my weapon to annihilate several armed crewmen; they vanished in a blaze of Tesla energy. General Pickton, using one of the captured energy pistols we recently obtained, slew several more, while Marcus endeavored to close a door seconds before several more enemy troops entered the bridge.
Then followed a brief shootout on the bridge; I called to Marcus to release the door and get out of the way, and I destroyed all the entering troops with a second blast of my weapon. At the same time, Iris and her father dueled with their deadly energy blades. Both of them narrowly avoided grievous injury (or, more likely, instant death), but it was clear that her father had the upper hand.
I hesitated for a moment; I well understand the personal nature of their combat, but I caught Iris’ eye and she indicated that I should shoot at her father. Just as I did, however, another man entered the bridge – a Duke, and, as we later learned, the man her father intended Iris to marry. As I fired, the Emperor anticipated my attack. He could not dodge the blast of my weapon or move out of its path, but he was able to grab the Duke and use him as a shield. The Duke took the blast but was not instantly killed, and in the chaos, the Emperor retreated, jumping out a window and scampering across the flight deck of the ship to a small fightercraft which he then took off in.
Iris approached her intended, and with one stroke of her sword, ended her engagement and the Duke’s life. She then took command of the bridge; she is, after all, the rightful heir to the Emperor, and she was thus obeyed.
A moment later, a man entered the bridge; Marcus’ father. I do not yet know the full tale of his activities, or of their reunion, but we shall all doubtless know it shortly, and I will then relate it to you, dearest Alastair.
Our plan now is to teleport immediately back to Crendor, there to pick up as many rebel troops and ships as can be quickly organized, and return to the Britannic base to rout out whatever enemy opposition remains and take command of the base in the name of the Britannic Empire once again. I am certain that our flag shall proudly fly there before you and the rest of our fleet arrives there, and I shall be counting the moments until you do.
Until that happy occasion, I remain your most loyal friend,
Genevieve Chantal Therese de Lisieux Lamballe, La Reine du Le Cour d’Automne