I am so inspired, my love. I never realized a Space Lobster could feel this way.
While I’m away at the front, be strong, dear. Little Peyote will need your guidance and reassurance…
An imperturbable look upon his face, silently staring at the sky the Cmdr’s posture tightens slightly a degree further to attention.
“My men stand ready.”
Behind the curtain, St-Patrick-Hartbrooke wills his hands to stop shaking. They don’t. He closes his eyes, trying to force stability upon them, but the tremors only increase… until something soft and warm grasps them, and the shaking stops. Aaaakzeee opens his eyes to see Madeline, his dear Madeline, smiling up at him and offering her support.
“I’m so sorry to put you and Luna…”
“Hush,” his partner replies, squeezing tighter. “You wouldn’t be the man I’d chosen had you done anything else. You’re trying to make a better world for her, and for me, and for us all, and we will be here with you for all of it.”
He brings his beak down to meet her hand, and she kisses him on the other side of it. “Now, go. You have a crowd waiting.”
She’s right. Of course she’s right. And with all of the favours he’s earned on this mayoral campaign spent on raising this crowd, he’d better make use of it, or it will serve none of its intended purposes. The Space Griffin straightens up, and Madeline tugs his cravat straight, and adorns his lapel with a patriotic pin. He grins at her, and then turns to the curtain and adopts a stern visage before passing through.
The crowd is slightly smaller than he’d hoped, but it will serve. If all goes well, the crowd just needs to be of a certain critical mass to start, and this should be more than enough to achieve that. As he steps forth, the crowd falls silent, courtesy of a few well-placed people in the crowd hushing the others.
“My friends,” the Taaa’keee speaks, his voice echoing out through the marketplace, “we face difficult times ahead. War has come to our peaceful colony, against the wishes of all the good people who live here, from the oldest Space Lizard to the youngest Oblate Spheroid; from the richest True Citizen in her castle,” a pointed gaze at the Mayor’s residence, “to the poorest Citizen-Pretender begging in the street; from the bravest Dragoons and Hussars to the most committed pacifists: none of us wanted this.”
St-Patrick-Hartbrooke looks up to the sky, then raises a finger to point at it while returning his gaze o sweep the crowd, trying to give the impression that he is looking at every single individual present. "It is New Prussia who brought this war here. It is New Prussia who bombed our spaceport, who will kill our brave Hussars and Dragoons, who threatens to bombard our beautiful colony and kill your brothers and sisters, your husbands and wives, your parents and children.
“Her Majesty’s Hussars and Dragoons will do their utmost to protect us, but they are only mortal. They may fall; they may break; they may even fail. And we need to be ready for the eventuality, God forbid, that they are unable to protect us. I will say now what no one has dared to: it may happen that New Prussian soldiers will be walking these streets soon, declaring this a New Prussian colony…”
There is a murmur at this, but he pays it no mind. He just needs to give them something to think about.
“…And that will be a lie. Unless we let it be the truth,” and he stabs his finger down on the podium to emphasize each of the next few words, “That. Will. Be. A. Lie.”
The murmur dies down, and the Space Griffin gives them a moment to let that idea sink in, before continuing. “This colony was founded as part of Britannia Prime, and everything we have here was given to us by King Grigori, God rest his soul, and Her Majesty, Queen Catherine. We are Britons, all of us, until the last of us stops fighting, from loss of life or loss of courage. Her Majesty is coming for us, with a fleet that dwarfs the one in orbit, coming to drive the invaders back to their backwater planet, where they’ll be bombed back into using internal combustion engines to get around. She will keep faith with us, so we must keep faith with her!”
A few affirmative grunts sound from within the crowd, and gradually, ever-so-gradually, he takes that bit of momentum as a cue to let the volume of his voice start to rise. He has the crowd hooked; they’re responding to what he’s saying; now he needs to make his pitch. "If they seek to rule us, we must with our every breath heave our spit into their faces! If they seek to enslave us, we must refuse to take a single step towards their goal. And if they seek to swallow us, we must become a poison pill so bitter that the Tsar chokes on it, sitting on his golden throne back in his palace!
“Lay aside all the preserves you can; we will need them to stay strong! Clear your crawlspaces, your attics, your cellars, and wall them away: we will need them to hide, and strike back from! Put aside your differences and squabbles; we will need to present a united front to our oppressors, and show them that they cannot take what is ours from us: not our freedom, not our land, and not our Queen!”
A deep breath; it’s getting harder to get all of this out at the volume he’s at, but he needs to continue, to keep building to the crescendo. “We will fight them in the streets and in the fields, in the markets and the estates, in the city and the countryside. We shall fight them until rescue comes, and the Queen drives them back to their little corner of the galaxy, knowing that they never won, because we were never beaten!”
The crowd roars in response, but here’s where St-Patrick-Hartbrooke sees whether this has worked… “And she will come for us, because no matter how they try, they cannot take her from us! WE ARE HER PEOPLE, AND CATHERINE IS OUR QUEEN!”
A single cry comes from out of the crowd… “Long live the Queen!”
It is joined by a few others, a moment later… “Long live the Queen! Long live the Queen!”
And, to his immense gratification, the crowd starts to join in: by the fifth repetition, half the crowd is yelling it; by the seventh, even those who don’t want to say it aloud are mouthing it to keep from standing out. He grabs his cane, unused since he healed from the duel, and wields it like a drum-major’s baton. “Let’s show Her Majesty that Weatherby remains loyal!”
Although he’s already exhausted from the speech, and would like nothing more than to collapse into bed with his dear Madeline back at the apartment, Aaaakzeee St-Patrick-Hartbrooke III sets off down the road, the crowd in tow, occasionally shouting “Long live the Queen” himself to keep the chant alive whenever it starts to flag a bit. The patriots throughout the town, as well as those who would like to be thought such, all join up as the march passes by, boosting the numbers until a substantial percentage of the town’s population is present.
It is a message, sent to three recipients. Least consequentially, to the Mayor and the power brokers of Weatherby, to show that he is a serious contender for the next election. More pointedly, to those who are thinking of welcoming the New Prussians with open arms, to show that they are isolated and outnumbered, and should have second thoughts about the consequences of defecting. And finally, to the Queen herself, to promise bad publicity if she actually lets this colony of what are surely her most devoted followers fall into enemy hands.
And all it took was a few agents in the crowd, to make the right noises at the right time, and steer the mood exactly to where he’d wanted it to be. Expensive, yes, but a small price to pay if it laid the groundwork for the Resistance he wanted in place, should the New Prussians set foot on this planet, his home.
All in all, a good day’s work accomplished. Tomorrow, after some tea with honey to soothe his aching throat, the real work would begin.
[The bridge of the H.R.F. Thetis flickers once more to life upon the viewscreens of Weatherby and Admiral Pandora once again speaks to the world.]
“Good people of Weatherby. A mere two days remain for you to answer the question set before you. Your empire cares naught for your far flung planet. Dreadnaughts will not be dispatched in your cause. We have intercepted the distress signal bound for Britannia Prime and broadcast noise in its stead. No one else in the galaxy is aware of your situation. There will be no rescue.”
“Join us peacefully and the will of König Nixon himself ensures your position in the new society. You have worked so hard for decades and for what? We welcome you with open arms into a better, more sensible society.”
[As before, the message repeats twice more before terminating.]
The days diminish in number as well as length. A brisk wind off the reservoir heralds the end of summer with a fanfare of dry leaves. The Ambassador can be seen pushing a hoverpram next to her doting wife Melisande. It’s been months since they’ve been seen together in public. Tongues don’t wag; or at least few of them do, and most of those are forced to concede that, times being what they are, it’s no surprise that this particular marriage has suffered strains unknown to most other civilian Weatherbeans.
The Honeyvenoms pause abruptly, there beside the lake, just before the folly. Someone appears to be waiting at the footbridge. The Ambassador leans over to whisper a sentence or two to her wife. Melisande looks imploringly at Carsssy, shaking her head. Carsssy indicates a brief moment of privacy. Melisande frowns her reluctance. The brief standoff is ended by a cry of indigestion from the infant in the hoverpram. Carsssy picks up the babe, cradles it on her shoulder, applies a few pats to the back. Melisande reluctantly withdraws with the pram as the Ambassador carries her moose-lizard son to stand before Lady Jane (@penguinchris).
“I’m not at all certain how I’ll be able to tell them goodbye,” murmurs the Ambassador to Jane. “Nevertheless, I received your message, and as much as I value and appreciate your offer, on behalf of the Governor and the Office of State, we cannot permit you to go. This is a diplomatic mission, and if it is to succeed at all…” The Ambassador pauses to clear her throat. “I cannot guarantee they will receive me again, not after all that’s transpired. But they received me twice before, and I do believe I’m the only one who has a chance of getting through again. I need your help with the package. I am told that the doctor is making good progress, but could use your expertise in order to… properly incorporate it into the deliverable. It is vital that it not be detectable, not by either side of the checkpoint. If we’re found out before I get through, then it’s all over.”
Ambassador Honeyvenom shifts the infant to her other shoulder, then leans close. “I suspect the Governor’s men will give me more trouble than anyone. But if I get through, then all our troubles are over.” Her tongue darts out next to Jane’s ear.
“Well, almost all… my love.”
[In with their daily letters, the True Citizens and Citizen-Pretenders of the City of Weatherby find a note with three numbers: a date, a time, and a radio frequency. The date is today; the time is noon.]
[Anyone curious enough to tune into that frequency ahead of time will receive nothing but dead air… for now]
Finally the my new product is ready for the mass market. And just in time to save our young sentients headed to the front lines.
Lady Farnsworth’s Reliable Regeneration Ointment
Grow back any lost limb in 24 hours.
(After the war effort we will release version 2.0 so that you can grow new limbs. Always wanted a prehensile tail to go with your lovely lobster claw? Lady Farnsworth’s ointment can make your dreams come true.)
But for now our efforts our focused on using our product to help the troops. I’m off to the front to bring ointment to our injured boys and gals.
Civilians aren’t allowed off planet but I believe commander D @pogo may have a special place on his ship for me. Things always get a bit firey when he’s around. If anyone sees my good for nothing husband @Qaaxtzl. Hand him these papers and remind him that our prenup is on file with my lawyer, who will be insuring that it is enforced while I’m away.
Together For Weatheby !
The New Prussians don’t have a sufficient industrial base to sustain interstellar invasion fleets on their own, so they buy many of the necessary components. Components from manufacturers who require… financing.
The Mere presence of this message from Britannia Prime tells the lie of the Admiral’s claim. The Court at Weatherby is aware of our situation in detail and is preparing a response.
- Mr Jules Karekin,
at your service, at the Royal Court on Britannia Prime
[At exactly noon, with a burst of static, the neutral-loaded carrier current AM station comes to life across Weatherby City.]
[The voice on the radio is garbled by static and distortion, and its owner’s identity is hard to guess. The voice speaks in a slow, over-enunciated speed to be understandable through the static, has a calm, almost monotonous tone, and the accent is either that of a Weatherbean True Citizen trying to sound like a Citizen-Pretender, or a Sea Pea trying to put on airs and sound like a Tee Sea.]
Friends, this is the Voice of Weatherby, bringing a message of hope.
Do not believe the lies of the so-called “Admiral” Pandora. The Governor, the Ambassador, and others working to preserve your freedom, have received word from Britannia Prime that everyone at Court is aware of and opposed to the invasion. Troops are being rallied to our defense, and Mr. Jules Rothschild Karekin, of the wealthy and influential Rothschild-Landau family, is telling our story far and wide.
To the Tee Seas listening: be leaders in the days ahead. To the Sea Peas: find a Tee Sea that you trust, and join in resisting.
And to those on the fence: listen again to Pandora’s message. His name for troops from Britannia Prime is “rescue.” If his message can be trusted, why do we need to be rescued?
I must go: they’ll be trying to find me, but even if the Voice of Weatherby goes silent, have faith in yourself and those around you, in their loyalty to Her Majesty, and that rescue is on the way.
Keep your ears tuned to this channel every day at noon; I will make contact again as soon as I can.
Long live Weatherby, and long live the Queen!
[With another burst of static, the station goes dead again].
A Voice worthy of The Man in a High Castle…
War had come to Weatherby. Although he had had a crisis of conscience early on, Hieron knew the best course of action now.
Heard of a van that is loaded with weapons Packed up and ready to go Heard of some grave sites, out by the highway A place where nobody knows
The thought of getting the family off this rock had also been tempting. But not enough to start over.
The sound of gunfire, off in the distance I'm getting used to it now Lived in a brownstone, lived in the ghetto I've lived all over this town
The estate was too vast to be guarded safely. Better to keep everyone in one place. There was safety in numbers. The basements in St. Marrowbone were getting a bit crowded as they became bomb shelters.
This ain't no party, this ain't no disco This ain't no fooling around No time for dancing, or lovey dovey I ain't got time for that now
Levithan’s felt tomblike. @Rumpthwaite kept it up - as always - but a pall lay over it. Conversations were terse and guarded if they happened at all
Transmit the message, to the receiver Hope for an answer some day I got three passports, a couple of visas You don't even know my real name
Keep moving, yet keep up appearances. Yet keep up the real work. The legacy that will define Hieroymoose Farnsworth the Third must go on. But so must the other work…
High on a hillside, the trucks are loading Everything's ready to roll I sleep in the daytime, I work in the nighttime I might not ever get home
Poor Liz. He’d scarely seen her. He regretted firing the nanny now. Short sighted. And young Quatro. Growing so fast. Such a regal shade of blue when he was at rest. Which wasn’t often enough now.
This ain't no party, this ain't no disco This ain't no fooling around This ain't no Mudd Club, or C.B.G.B I ain't got time for that now
Too much frivolity. Too much posturing. Weatherby would survive, but it wouldn’t be the same place. “Good.” spat Hieron.
Why stay in college? Why go to night school? Gonna be different this time Can't write a letter, can't send a postcard I can't write nothing at all
Citizen Pretender. Even that title reaked of the arrogance of “True Citizens” Who were the pretenders? The ones who pretended to work. The ones who pretended to matter. There was no bourgeoisie without the proletariat.
Trouble in transit, got through the roadblock We blended with the crowd We got computer, we're tapping phone lines I know that that ain't allowed
Working on his Prototype had given Hieronymoose the freedom to move between the docks and his properties without raising too much suspicion. The New Prussia Drones were ever present though. Better to walk away tonight. What would the end result was of that particular wagon not making it to the Seryl Processing plant? Mused Hiron, before remembering there are things you didn’t think about.
We dress like students, we dress like housewives Or in a suit and a tie I changed my hairstyle, so many times now I don't know what I look like!
Changing out of his boilersuit back into his day clothes had become routine. Pierre would be appalled. Hieron’s chest tightened at the thought. He’d see the notice after the garment district was hit. He’d have had such fun dressing Quatro with his color changing fur. Another employment decision he now regretted.
You make me shiver, I feel so tender We make a pretty good team Don't get exhausted, I'll do some driving You ought to get you some sleep
He was drained. But so was everyone else. This last trip out to the sandfishery almost landed him in the lagoon. Jacque the foreman told him to sleep it off in the pile of nets in the attic. Hieron suspected Jacque was resistance, but of course they wouldn’t speak of such a thing.
Get you instructions, follow directions Then you should change your address Maybe tomorrow, maybe the next day Whatever you think is best
Why hadn’t they fled when they could? New Prussia was swarming over the town. How could he have thought to leave his family here?
Burned all my notebooks, what good are Notebooks? They won't help me survive My chest is aching, burns like a furnace The burning keeps me alive
When I realized my original prototype had been stolen and not just destroyed, I need to change things and fast. Prior art be damned, I would make it to market. There was no point to all of this if there was not something to be made after it was over.
Try to stay healthy, physical fitness Don't want to catch no disease Try to be careful, don't take no chances You better watch what you say
One last stop at Levithan’s for MacMackey McMichael. No one else in the place, but @Rumpthwaite. He picks up the near empty bottle. “Last bottle in town by my reckoning. Shall I make it a double and you put it out of it’s loneliness?”
“No. Pour one for me and one for yourself, my friend and let us toast.”
Indeed, sir. Indeed - and by your request.
[The aged alces pours the last remaining measure of MacMackey McMichael equally into two tumblers. He gives the slightly more generous pour to Mr. Farnsworth (@Wisconsin_Platt) and raises his own glass to him in turn.]
“For the effort of the past decades, for the difficult moment at hand, and with hope for the future. For Weatherby!”
[Sharing a knowing glance, they raise their tumblers together and commit the spirit to their bodies. After a moment, Rumpthwaite coughs delightedly before he begins to tidy up once more.]
She’s been wandering the streets of Weatherby for hours, lost in thought, numb to her surroundings, when Jean-Rhys stops short, suddenly recognizing the portico of the Leviathan Club. She is startled, but not surprised, to discover that her peripatetic urges have brought her here, to the place where, in a very real sense, it all began. It’s kismet, as if this was where she had intended to arrive all along, as if there were never anywhere else she might go.
She sweeps past the doorbot and settles in to her usual perch at the far end of the bar. @Rumpthwaite, unbidden, brings her a tumbler of Scooch, neat, and a handwritten menu entitled “Special Reserve” describing the whipweed varietals to be had from the Club’s humidor.
The mood in the common room is mercurial. It’s subdued, as befits the eve of an inevitable orbital bombardment, but punctuated with occasional bursts of somewhat forced jollity and slightly too-loud laughter.
She takes a slug of the Scooch and fingers the whipweed menu while idly toying with the controls of her brain chemistry regulators. Her thoughts are beginning to crystallize, like the precipitate of a particularly volatile solution. She’s finally ready to admit to herself what she’s already known all along.
Despite the tribulations of her early life, Weatherby has been good to her, and she will not – cannot – abandon it in its hour of need.
From a practical standpoint, she’s well placed to just keep her head down and look first to the immediate welfare of her family – little Bean & Sprout, and her dear, dear Mary, deserve no less.
But she can’t.
She won’t retreat to the safety of her family estates, much less seek passage off world, and she’ll be damned before she’ll roll over for the likes of the New Prussians!
Well into her cups, now, she raises her glass and toasts any who might care to listen:
Jean-Rhys would not consent to lick the boot, so to speak, but she would have one last carousal at the Leviathan before the grim realities of their circumstances closed in.
And in the morning she would return to her study, and she would continue to comb through the administrative ledgers and reports she once dreaded in her capacity as Chair of the Weatherby University Research Labs Oversight Committee. She will note certain compounds and resources in the various inventory and procurement reports and nod with satisfaction, but she will not write anything down.
She will peruse with great attention to detail any oddities of architecture found in the collection of campus blueprints she has managed to secure from the offices of the Weatherby Planning Commission. They weren’t easy to obtain, but it was undeniably true that being an Aldersentient could open certain doors in the Weatherbean bureaucracy.
Her preparations, once idle speculations, became reality.
There was much to be done, and too little time to do it.
Midnight. Castle Ponsfleischmann. Lightning strikes the uppermost tower.
“Carefully, Doctor. Oh, so carefully.”
“I need it to be more potent, Doc @Old. I really need it to be powerful. But too much volume and I fear Stage 2 won’t be a success. Lady Jane @penguinchris has enviable skills, but she’s no miracle worker. And we’ll only get one shot at this.”
Ssskidwish isn’t sure he’s much more help than Igor.
“What do you think, Doc? Have we a chance?”