Aeronautical Research & Fabrication Newsfax Entries

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1737 – 1738 T204
Great Britain: Otherwise, the Exchequer was very busy paying off the king’s loans, extending credit and supplies to the Aeronautical Research and Fabrication company, turning a blind eye at certain actions in the West Indies and generally keeping things on an even keel.

Arf logo.JPG
Swedish-Russia: Massive government support (financed by various foreign powers) was offered to a new mercantile entity called the Aeronautical Research and Fabrication corporation, based out of Rostov in southern Russia. ARF (as symbolized by a winged golden retriever – and where is my logo, eh?) intends nothing less than the conquest of the air. Many of the scientists, workers and craftsmen came from abroad, swelling the population of Rostov by almost a third. The Church was everywhere present, seeing to housing the refugees and making sure they had food, clothing and warm blankets.

Church of Rome: Missionary work continued apace in Shucuru (converted), Calabria and Rostov (among the refugees employed by ARF).

ARF (East): For the moment, the mongrel lot of refugees forming the ARF was entirely focused on resettling the abandoned city of Rostov and restoring public facilities. Luckily, the advance of the Ice had displaced so many people there was no lack of willing hands to repair, rebuild and restore the city. Solyom hoped to have the first factories up and running within two years, and the first fruits of the collaboration in the air within a year after that.

Operations in the Amerikas were also planned for the immediately future, and the cooperative acquisition of the British West India company was hoped to prove a boon to the bottom line and for the investing parties.

ARF (West): Blake Henry returned from Aztec lands in a fast ship, eager to rest a bit in the home office and see his children. Unfortunately, upon his arrival in Mahair port he was seized by the English authorities and dumped in a hole. By the time he managed to bribe his way free, he found the Company in the hands of no less a figure than Jessica herself (the daughter of the founder). Orozco took great delight in telling Blake he had been ‘bought out’.

The sea captain was furious, but the squads of ARF air-squad troopers occupying the warehouses and offices were hard to argue with. Then Blake was found dead in a particularly disreputable grog shop in the port a week later. Jessica had no regrets for the man who had stolen her father’s company from her. Despite the protests of a strong faction of Irish investors (who had recently bought into Blake’s enterprise), Jessica (and her new husband, Apada) took the company private. Within a week, the nameplates, stationary and ship registrations had been changed to reflect the new ‘owner’ of the Company.

With the heavy-handed support of the Swedish and English governments, the ARF moved into the western hemisphere, taking over the Company’s operations throughout the Carribean and adjoining territories.

1739-1740 (T205)
ARF (East): Diplomacy: Kuban(mcl)
With the company coordinating so much of the resettlement effort in southern Russia and the sub-Caucasus, Pasternak arranged with the Swedish government to take over the administration of the provinces of Taman and Kuban. A great number of refugees were immediately given lands in Taman, and Kuban was 'opened' for settlement (a program in which large sections of the province were sold to likely families or clans, allowing them to take possession as time and effort permitted).

An expedition by ARF employees into the hostile lands of Khazar was forced to retreat in a running gun-battle with the natives. They only escaped destruction when an Air Corps survey zeppelin arrived overhead and rained down explosive bombs and incendiary napthene upon the howling mob of savages.

The citizens of the bustling port of Rostov were little surprised to learn a variety of foreign spies had attempted to enter the highly-guarded factories and workshops of the Le Fabrique. Their heads were displayed on spikes above the main gate, where the workers entered each morning for their shift.

ARF (West): Jessica, aboard her flagship Marguerite, attempted to inspect the company holdings in Itza on the Aztec coast. Unfortunately, the Imperial government had recently issued a very stern series of edicts banning her, her ships, her agents and anything to do with her and the ARF from Aztec lands. Indeed, while Jessica was arguing with the port authorities in Itza, the company offices, funds, factories, farms and so on throughout the Empire were being seized. Disugsted and disturbed by this turn of events, the Signeur returned to Arawak to fulminate.

Upon her return, she learned the Company holdings on Ciguayo had been summarily ejected from the island.

Colorado: Following the political rhetoric emanating from New Jerusalem, the High Kingdom declared a ban on all parties, contracts, embassies and merchants associated with the Catholic-devil-spawn known as the Aeronautical Research and Fabrication company.[1]

(1) Though Fredrik would not have minded owning a few of those clever ships of the air.

Shawnee: A heavy weight lifted from Treya's old shoulders - the harvests had been good, filling the land with bounty, and the bellies of Shawnee children with corn, potatoes, chicken - she was even able to assist her allies (England, the Papacy, the ARF) with grants of grain, cloth, timber, iron ingots... all the fuel of commerce.

Azteca: In the east, the Sword of Empire fleet scoured the Carribean for ARF shipping in Aztec waters and shoo'ed it away if found. The Emperor's office made a statement on the matter:

"Whereas the current leaders of Aeronautical Research and Fabrication West have illegaly and violently siezed control of that company from its rightful owner, the late Blake Henry; and whereas said leaders are in collusion with remnants of the vile Frost Wolf and Inuit, who so recently wreaked untold havoc and suffering upon the world: it is hereby resolved by the undersigned that all agreements between our nations and the ARF are to be considered immediately null and void. The ARF factors at work in our cities will be identified and expelled, and their offices closed. Beginning in 1741 all foreign shipping carried by the ARF will be turned away from our ports. Further, after 1740 any ship flying the ARF flag in the New World will be considered fair game for privateers. In this way the ARF will begin to make some small reparations for the depravations of their (alleged) Frost Wolf allies."

A representative of the Company responded from offices in London:

Though some few employees of the Company may, at one time, have been in the employ of the notorious bandits called Frost Wolf, none currently employed are in the service of the <Others> or their minions.

At press-time, the matter was still unresolved.

Caquetio: Like numerous other nations in the trading block oriented around Aztec, Caquetio banned the ships, agents and activities of the ARF from their lands.

1741-1742 (T206)
ARF: Diplomacy: Urkel(t), Khazar(t)
Though the company mail was clogged with angry messages from various foreign kings, emperors and potentates, Solyom continued to labor on increasing shareholder value. Work began on several new factories in Rostov, as well as the implementation of the Lisbon Accords throughout the company offices. While he did so, Company patrols ranged into the east, finding degenerate and debased tribes living in Urkel and Khazar, whom they forced to acknowledge Company suzerainty. The city of Astrakhan - as observed from a distance - seemed to be ruled by a caste of priests dedicated to the dark gods. Beyond the Volga, all rumor told that the Sun-Haters still held sway in the lands between the Ice and the Sun.

In Rostov an enduring point of tension finally relieved itself when prince Demetrios of Epirus (the husband of the Duchess of the Three Isles) finally came to the conclusion that no one was coming with ships to pick him up, and he (and his eight hundred retainers) would have to walk home. So they left Rostov in the spring of '41 and started walking west.

Efforts by the western branch of ARF to secure the brokerage contract [in North America] failed due to Aztec meddling and influence among the mercenary companies.

Duchy of the Isles: After a long and eventful journey, prince Demetrios finally returned to the green mountains of Epirus with his guardsmen. Whew!

Denmark: Standing below the pulpit of St. Mark's cathedral in central Venice, the Empress began to speak of her joy at returning home, of seeing her countrymen, of smelling the air of Venice, but then...

"Even walking in the sun-filled gardens of Venice, my feet shall feel the bones of the hundreds of thousands of Frost Wolf slaves cracking and splintering under them on the road to Dzungur; my ears shall ring with the screams of my faithful men being sent to oblivion by the dark forces they summoned; my skin shall feel the abyssal cold which they sought to cast over the whole Earth. Truly, my soul will be scarred for eternity, not by my mere hardships, but by witnessing evil in its purest form, snatched out of the deepest pits of Hell and placed upon the suffering surface of this planet. And yet, unbelievably, the craven senators of Sweden, lusting for otherworldly technology to use against Denmark, turn their backs on their own suffering people to succor the scattered but unrepentant remnants of the Frost Wolf. The heads displayed on pikes outside the Aeronautical Research and Fabrication factories speak clearly that the Frost Wolf conversion is a transparent fraud. It sickens me that the sacrifices made by my soldiers and countrymen, and by God-fearing people throughout the world, in repelling the Ice have been so callously and soullessly flouted by the bureaucrats and nobility of Sweden and England in their trembling inadequacy. I can only hope that they can yet open their eyes and behold the horror that they are undertaking before the world is once again threatened with icy extinction."
Oniko of Denmark

Azteca: The Imperial Office of Trade announced that neither the Pacific Mercenary and Trust, nor the Aeronautical Research and Fabrication companies would be allowed to trade, negotiate, sell or buy within the Empire. So there!

Caquetio: An edict was promulgated, banning the activities of the Aeronautical Research and Fabrication and Pacific Mercenary and Trust companies within the kingdom.

1743-1744 (T207)
Ming: As soon as the winter weather lifted in '44, therefore, Yongzheng and his armies invaded Annam from Lingnan, Korat and Dai Viet. A massive force had been gathered, including mercenaries from all over Asia (and even beyond - a squadron of Aeronautical Research and Fabrication zeppelins was on hand to support the assault).

New Annam: Shir'le was determined to go down fighting - "Remember the A'lamo!" She screamed to her troops rushing to the barricades and redoubts in Hanoi. "Viva Annam!" Slightly less than 12,000 men prepared to face the Ming onslaught. Their two lone zeppelins thudded past overhead, laboring to gain altitude.

Sixty-thousand Ming (and mercenaries) stormed into the Haiphong plain, and the sky was suddenly aswarm with ARF airships. The Annamese scout zeps struck from the clouds, spitting small rockets and light cannon-fire. The ARF airships broke - darting aside far faster than the Annamese airships - and returned fire with a blaze of heavier rockets and the rattle of quick-firing cannon. Both Annamese zeps blew apart and plunged into the city below, wreathed in flame.

A massive Ming artillery barrage followed, with the ARF ships scudding about in the upper air, raining napathene bombs on the hapless Annamese infantry below.

Java: In a shocking display of cooperation, the Albanian East India Company - which had an extensive warehousing and transport operation on Palankawai in the Andaman Islands - agreed in principle to allow Aeronautical Research and Fabrication to have use of facilities there.

ARF: Diplomacy Taino/Kusan(nt), Treya in Delaware(ma), Khazar(a), Urkel(a)
The company was very busy – with agents and representatives in action world-wide. Solyom himself was in China, commanding a zeppelin squadron in the service of the Ming Regent during the suppression of the Annamese rebellion. Company aircraft performed admirably, raining death and destruction upon the criminals and foreign provocateurs that had been causing so much trouble.

Settlement efforts in Kuban were successful, making the province a (1 W 6). Captain Arpada – in command of a motely and very heavily armed band of ARF soldiery – continued his patrols along the Volga, rousting out bands of cannibalistic, degenerate Ice-men, shooting enormous bears and wolves and generally trying to restore order and civilization along the fringe of the Ice.

His attempts to secure an arrangement with the black-robed priest who rule in demon-haunted Astrakhan failed, however, and the stench of their sacrificial fires continued to stain the sky over the black waters of the Volga. This provided some excellent grist for the sermons of the Hussite priests infesting the province. Similarly, the prince of Taman was thrown out of Patzinak by the pro-Swedish chiefs there.

Spain: The arrival of a rather petulant Marguerite Drake and a pair of ARF cutters in Cortez was not marked with particular celebration. The Norsktrad merchants in the city looked upon the interference of these “upstart air carrion” with distaste. In comparison to the famous and radiant Albanian aeropilot Alexis Kuklone, Marguerite was a dull frump (entirely unlike her famous mother, Jessica) and showed little interest in the business of setting up an ARF office in the city. The cutter captains despaired of getting her to take her responsibilities seriously – and then while she was walking in a crowded, noisy Cortez market-street, someone passing by put a gun to her side and fired two rounds. The sound was muffled by the girl’s heavy dress and stole, so her escorts only noticed something was wrong when she fell to the ground, dead, blood flooding from her mouth and nose.

High Kingdom of Colorado: Considerable trouble disturbed the always-fragile peace on the island of Taino (a noted refuge for mercenaries, pirates, scallywags and rough types of all sorts) where the investigations of a plucky girl reporter had revealed the tenacious influence of the notorious Aztec quimichtin among the company captains. There was great unrest among the soldiers as a result, and many war-captains found themselves without troops! However, almost immediately afterwards the famous Jessica Orozco arrived in Taino with a squadron of ARFW ships and entered into negotiations with the condotierri to represent them as a brokerage service. As of press-time, there were still some matters outstanding, though an agreement was reportedly close.

Caquetio: Amid all the other excitement, a squadron of ARF zeppelins arrived in Caquetio – and were met with public cheers and parades (and everyone wanted to go on a zeppelin ride) – and governmental shame-faced-ness. Only three years previous, the ARF had been ordered out by Gimoc’s administration, and now they were welcomed back with open arms. The presence of the ARF aero-marines was also welcome and the Caquetian officers examined their light guns, clever uniforms and tools with great interest.

1745 – 1746 T208
The War Against the Daemon Sultan
Early June 1745: A mixed force of ARF airships, security police, Turkish light horse and Catholic artillerists (helpfully provided by the Norsktrad Mercantile Exchange) gather in Abasigia to join a Swedish corps operating in the Caucasus.
March 1746: The skies over Basra were interrupted by the thud-thud-thud of airship engines, and the advancing Persians looked up in mingled fear and horror to see a squadron of ARF zeppelins cruise up from the south, searching for the Swedish expeditionary force. After an exchange of messages, the airship squadron heads north into Ahvaz.
April: The Swedish/Russian/ARF corps in the mountains of Azerbaijan and Kurdistan reduces the city of Tabriz. Nineveh still resists. The second ARF aerosquadron flies north into Ahvaz.
Late May: The ‘southern’ ARF aerosquadron flies across Media. Dame Maksutov’s Swedish/Kievian/ARF corps advances into Kurdistan.
Late June: Dame Maksutov’s Swedish/Kievian/ARF corps reaches Nineveh, where the Cossacks have been cooling their heels for months, trading sniper rounds with the Georgians in the city. The ‘southern’ ARF squadron finally finds them as well. With the appearance of so many airships overhead, the Nineveh garrison runs up the white flag.
September: Dame Matsukov and her Swedes, Kievians, and ARF troops reach glorious Baghdad to find Faridun and his Persians in possession of the city. A tight cordon has been thrown around the entire locale, including the rubble piles where the airship factories and industrial works had been.

War of the Dragons:
March 1745: A large mercenary army gathers at Malaga in Creek, under the command of Tizoc, and financed by the western branch of the Aeronautical Research and Fabrication company. They declare their support for Queen Taiya and the Iroquois faction in the Dragon War.
Early May: Tenegaes, an ARF airship commander, arrives in Malaga to join the mercenaries under Tizoc, with orders to bolster the Iroquois forces gathering in the southern city. Traiya and her commanders have been waiting for the zeppelins to reach them. Now they prepare to take the field against the Valerists.
Early June: Traiya and her alliance army (composed now of Iroquois, Jesuit, mercenary and ARF troops) march north along the road into Cheraw province.
Late June: Unfortunately, there were just too many Valerist troops and The Iroquois army center was smashed open and then scattered bands of the southerners were enveloped by a flood-tide of Valerist troops. The ARF zeppelins broke off the attack, chewed up by the rockets (Tenegaes was killed when his zep caught six rockets and blew apart from stem to stern).
February 1746: Much to the surprise and consternation of everyone in the area, an army of ARF mercenaries marches out of the Ice and into Mohawk in the dead of winter. Dark-gray airships cruised the skies above their columns, turning a gimlet eye upon the wasteland below. The Russians were as hard-bitten and scurvy looking a lot of bloody-handed murderers as you could want – and they’d come to fight for Empress Treiya… Arpada Orozco had taken direct command of the force, intending to find Jessica and get her out of whatever trouble she’d gotten into now.

ARF: Though the icy tundra of southern Russia was not exactly a breadbasket (at this point, anyway) the Company did take up a collection of canned foods and freeze-dried meat, which was duly dispatched to Riga to be distributed to the poor.

Jessica, who was busy at Malaga in the New World, barely escaped death at the hands of a gang of Krorist sympathizers who riddled her coach with bullets and slaughtered her guardsmen. Luckily, the Creek civil highway patrol heard the sound of battle and rushed to her aid. After an hour of running about in the woods and shooting at half-seen cultists, she managed to escape.

Azteca: The PM&T also gained a special exemption regarding trade in the Empire and more extensive negotiations began. In turn, even more vigorous legislation was enacted against the ARF, who were regarded as nothing less than an enemy of the state in the Imperial Court.

1747 – 1748 T209
ARF: Diplomacy Ukiyo-ye on the Shetlands(ea), Astrakhan in Khazar(nt), Tsaritysn in Urkel(ea), Cortez in Granada(t)
Thanks to a fat infusion of gold from Sweden, the company was able to continue a wide range of research and development projects as well as keeping the factories of Rostov busy. They also started a lucrative shipping business providing caviar and sturgeon to the markets of London, Kingston and Malmo.

Spain: An arrangement was also struck with the Aeronautical Research and Fabrication company (out of Rostov), allowing them to establish a direct political presence in Cortez. In return, an ARF aerosquadron crowded with troops and bombs arrived at Barcelona in middle-’47 to support the campaign against the Communards.

General Alfonso led off the campaign with a direct invasion of Languedoc – and there he found nothing but chaos, civil unrest and confusion. Apparently the authority of the SRC commisars had collapsed, leading to anarchy. The Spanish immediately moved to restore order and to arrest those few Communards still alive and present. Largo, the ARF aerosquadron, a passel of Vastmark riflemen, Afriqan mercenaries and a strong force of Templars arrived later in the year, and by the end of ’48, the provinces of Languedoc, Aquitaine and Auvergne (as well as the cities of Narbonne and Limoges) were once more in Largoista hands. Islander and Norsktrad fleets supported this operation offshore, blockading the coast and seizing considerable amounts of Espanan shipping.

Azteca: A little further south, the Pyramid Legion landed in Choco and secured co-control of the region with the Shawnee already in residence there. Another Imperial fleet (the Jaguar) was mustered at Aser in Ulva, where representatives of the Aeronautical Research and Fabrication company were ejected from the city and sent home on a boat, before sailing to Taino island and swarming ashore. Though the island militia put up a brave front, when faced with over 20,000 Méxica troops they surrendered and raised the white flag over the port. There too the ARF was ejected and their properties confiscated.

1749 – 1750 T210
ARF: Diplomacy Khazar/Astrakhan(f), Urkel(f), Recife in Palicur(ma), Zaragoza in Caete(ma), Otomi in Cari(ma), Tsaritsyn in Urkel(f)
Their trade network to the new world restored, ARF ships once more plied the sea-lanes to Iroquois, Vastmark, Mixtec and many other strange, fabulous lands. More romantically, aerial courier runs were started from Tsaristyn on the Volga to Ufra in Persia and Kingston in England. Some of the zeppelins on the run to Kiev were switched to the newer, more lucrative routes.

Though entirely formed of excellent Catholics, Company patrols along the Volga shore did not hinder the passage of many Hussite missionaries into the lands once held by the Khirgiz and other Ice tribes, though horrific and lingering deaths were in store for many of the priests.

A rowdy gang of Norsk steam mechanics arrived in Rostov to “teach these Roosians something about steam!” The Portuguese and Frisians were a little troubled to find most of the “Roosians” looked far more like Mongols or Tatars. Plus, they had this nasty drink called kumiss which was just foul on the tongue…

1751 - 1752 T211
Togukawa Japan: Even further north, an arrangement was reached with Aeronautical Research & Fabrication - wherein control of Dzungur Coast was returned to the Company until such time as they could reconstitute the city of Drakenroost to normal operation.

ARF: Diplomacy Kherson in Polovotsy(ma), Cerkes in Abasigia(ma), Trebizond in Pontus(ma), Otoni in Cari(mf), Zaragoza in Caete(mf)
As Lady Jessica was currently in Rostov, she made use of her time to test out a new squadron of 'fast' airships which had recently completed their fittings in the aerodrome. With the six zeppelins she established a new speed record in making a circuit of the south Russian ports, then foraying across the mountains of Anatolia to Tarsus in Cilicia (where her arrival was greeted with gunfire and very, very hostile natives - who were already riled up by the appearance of a Swedish steamship squadron off the cost.)

The Norsktrad engineers laboring in the factories and yards of Rostov were vastly cheered when a shipload of rum, sherry, port and tequila arrived from home. "At last! Something civilized to drink - no more of this kumis, sake and vodka!" Soon after that delivery, a Papal fleet showed up with a whole mass of Templar Knights, who then felt honor-bound to match the Norsk bottle for bottle (in the glory of God, of course).

Back in Rostov, Captain Arpada had gathered nearly every man in the Company who could hoist a rifle and sling a bandolier. Nearly 14,000 soldiers were mustered to join the Imperial Swedish Army in a punitive campaign across the Volga to destroy the last remnants of the Khirgizite Ice tribes.

Swedish-Russia: The very same David, meantime, had arrived off the coast of Cilicia aboard HMS Stevastopol (a fine, steam-powered cruiser) at the head of a squadron of nearly seventy ships (most of them wind-driven colliers) and 3,000 Royal Marines. His elder brother, the Prince Royal Dagmar, commanded the fleet. Sweden had come to claim its spoils from the Ar-Raqqah Conference. The bey of Tarsus, however, was not interested in turning his city over to some white-eyed devils (even if their steam gunboats were loitering offshore, or their airships were clattering around overhead). He refused to accede to Dagmar's demands and fired several rockets at the airship Fjordane.

As a result, the Imperial Marines stormed ashore under a blaze of cannon-fire from the steam cruisers and the Royal Airforce began dropping napathene bombs into the town. A force of ARF airships which had been hanging about also joined in, resulting in the bey being killed and his town milita slaughtered. Most of the buildings in and around the harbor were also destroyed and much of the town set afire. Royal Engineers moved ashore and, helpfully, put out the conflagration. ARF aerotroopers were soon evident on the streets of Tarsus, serving as police.

Sweden had not finished flexing it's military might, however, for the Altmarsk Maksutov (assisted by a plethora of sub-commanders) had marched the Army of the East through ARF-held lands and (reinforced by Arpada Orozco's mercenary battalions) launched a full-scale invasion of the Khirgiz lands beyond the Volga.

Swed-khir.jpg

14,000 Swedish troops, supported by more than thirty airships and another 14,000 ARF soldiers, crossed the river into ARF-held Urkel. Under Maksutov's aggressive command, the combined army then swept down into Saksiny… and encountered no resistance. There were no Khirgizite armies in evidence, barely any local authority. They found ragged tax collectors and overworked local magistrates. In fact, only the city of Sarai posed an obstacle, which did not last long under aerial bombardment. ARF troops garrisoned the conquered lands and rehabilitated the local hetmen and clan chiefs. Catholic priests were a vigorous and constant presence. A suspicious number of Hussite preachers were found in Khazar and Urkel and placed under 'protective' custody while the military operation was underway.

In all, an entirely anticlimactic expedition against the terrors of the Ice

Great Britain: Russian wheat also came from the ARF, which meant - combined with an unexpectedly good harvest (and wine and olives imported from Spain) - the citizens of gloomy old England could eat again.

Church of Rome: A Papal fleet also visited Rostov, where Cardinal Cardenas visited a variety of ARF facilities and let his hussars exercise their horses after a long sea voyage.

Great France: Letters of permission were granted to the Honorable Afriqa Company and the Aeronautical Research and Fabrication companies to operate in ports and towns throughout Great France. The Afriqans responded by opening an office in Chamonix on the Rio de la Plata. And an aerosquadron of ARF zeppelins cruised along the Brasilian coast - ARF offices in Zaragoza and Otoni were visited and upgraded. "Now," Francois wrote to Solyom Pasternak, who commanded thesquadron, "where are my zeppelins?"

1753 - 1754 T212
Safavid Persia: Faced with the prospect of a devastating war over the central plateau and the rich provinces in the south, Vizier Abbas relented and agreed to meet with an embassy from the Iranian court. With Swedish, ARF and Islamic Union representatives looking on, the two factions managed to seal a suitable arrangement. Some of the south would remain in Iranian hands, but the northern Empire would be free to retake what had once been theirs… everyone seemed quite pleased. Everything was made much … easier… with a powerful infusion of Catholic gold, much of it in Norsk thalers.

Young king Bahram, with Abbas' hand on his shoulder, then issued a general amnesty for all those 'rebels' in the southlands. His newly-raised armies then took to the field to 'restore order'.

One of those armies was commanded by the newly minted lord Khayr al-Din, who hurried off north to the embattled city of Ufra in the wastes of Gurgan. There he found a busy port thronged with ARF and Swedish airships and the men of the Khirgiz Expeditionary Force. Those grizzled veterans had recently finished smacking about the Gurganites, allowing Khayr to garrison the province. This done, the young general loaded a force of three thousand Safavid regulars aboard the ARF airships and they set off to the south.

Passing over the hostile mountains of Tabaristan, Khayr and his men made a fierce show as they swept (still carted about on the northerner's zeppelins) through the Iranian provinces of Ahvaz, Kuwait, Hahmar, Abadan and Fars. In each place, they sent messengers ahead and dropped leaflets (provided by the Rostov Printers Association) relating the treaty of Kerman which had resolved the recent 'unpleasantness' between the Safavid and Iranian thrones.

Khirgiz: The hermits scrabbled for food and gold in the desolation, though the constant attacks of the Swedes and their ARF lackeys pressed the kingdom ever closer to annihilation.

ARF: Diplomacy Konya in Psidia(ma), Cerkes in Abasigia(^mf), Stevastopol in Crimea(ma)
Far, far in the east, Company laborers were hard at work rebuilding the ruined Ice-city of Drakenroost as the new, modern, Sun-turned city of Keninhei. Closer to the home office, English business investments in Urkel turned into sprawling plantation-style farms to provide the cold and distant cities of Britain with Russian wheat, rye, millet and sorghum.

To: Jessica Orozco CEO & Western Captain,
CC: Solomon Pasternak CEO & Eastern Captain
Aeronautical Research & Fabrication
4398 èçâåñòíûé Avenue
Rostov, Levedia District

Dear Madam and Sir,
Allow me to be the first to congratulate you and Captain Arpada on the success of your Company's pacification campaign against the eastern Khirghiz tribes.
I read the dispatches from Urkel and Saksiny that were reprinted in major European newspapers, and marveled at the level of competence displayed by your armed forces in executing this campaign, which was seemingly run with such expertise and skill that it was concluded without battle, engagement, skirmish, or indeed, casualties. With your kind permission, the Royal Krakow Military Academy shall utilize this campaign in the next edition of it's textbooks as an example of excellence.
As well, allow me to congratulate your Company on the reacquisition of Drakenroost. We have no doubts that this will boost the morale of your Companymen, who will overcome any obstacle presented by its distance from major cities, trade routes or any discernible earthly center to restore it to its original condition.
Most sincere regards,
Frieda Leczinski
Duchess of Poland

While the streets of Rostov continued to throng with workers in the foundries and craft-shops and the glay-clad shapes of the Ostravaka, the youth of the city gathered in various and diverse kaffehalles, inns and libraries - caught up in a fervent debate about a new universe of natural law which science had revealed. First among their questions was the lament "where is God in this machine?"

Editor's Note: This may be a reference to the Lullites.

Disturbingly, the churches and cathedrals of the city - so newly built - remained sparsely attended. This despite the presence - so close to the east - of fiend-worshipping Ice tribesmen. In fact, despite a solid effort by the Papacy, so few converts were won among the peoples of the lower Volga provinces at least one priest renounced the faith and became an inn-keeper.

Indeed, the airships of the Company were constantly plying the air beyond the Volga, spying for Khirgizite refugees and agents, ferrying Swedish diplomats here and there, dropping supplies to wide-ranging kossaki patrols.

A large portion of the Company aeroarmada, however, had been dispatched to the south, to Persia. Though the accomdation between the Great Vizier and the Iranians precluded any open warfare, the Company airships did get a few musket-balls through the rigging as they flew here and there in the south.

Though some of the provinces along the Volga were nominally under Company administration, there were many lawless men and worse, aboard in those lands. Lasse Hallestrom - a Swedish scholar and reserve artillery officer - was badly wounded in a fracas near Tsaristyn in Urkel. Apparently a large force of Ice-men had attempted to ambush him and the company of Queen's Rifles riding with him. The savages were driven off, but Hallestrom was carried back to Kalach on a litter.

Swedish-Russia: The tip of the Swedish saber, as it were, proved to be Marsk Maksutov's Army of the East, which made a long and harrowing march south along the Caspian shore (supplied by river-boats out of the ARF ports along the Volga) through Vasi, Georgia and so on to eventually reach Rayy in Dasht'e'kavir at the end of . By then the situation in Persia had stabilized to a great extent and the road-weary Swedes and Russians could rest. The Marsk was more than a little put out, seeing that her army had worn itself out to no good end, other than to trade sniper bullets with the Shirvanites. "Stupid bureaucrats," she muttered to General Teukolsky before taking another swig of vodka from her hipflask. "We'd be better off crushing the swinish Poles…"

Polytechnic League: Of course, it was clear from the demeanor of the founders that no Catholics need apply, and in the back rooms of gentlemen's clubs, inns and kaffehaus across the Mediterranean, everyone whispered slyly that the Empire (and the little mentioned Hussite League) had taken such a drastic step to counter the growing partnership between the Swedes and the Aeronautical Research and Fabrication corporation.

In any case, the Polytechnics promised a new generation of airships - faster than the ARF Raptor-class, with greater range and more powerful weapons - within four years.

Shawnee Empire: The sleepy frontier hamet of Ubar in Kaskinapo woke one morning in early 1753 to the dreaded thup-thup-thup sound of airship engines turning over. As the citizens cowered in fear, a troop of Shawnee infantry jogged out onto a newly cleared meadow, snatching at the landing lines of a vast, black shape drifting down out of a cold grey sky.

"Stand to the landing grapples!"

Captain Pasternak, commanding the ARF airship Archaeopteryx, leaned out the window of the command gondola and waved cheerily at the Shawnee officers staring up from below. Within minutes the rest of his air flotilla - more than twenty zeppelins - were jostling for landing positions on the crude airfield.

These Shawnee are a dour lot, the captain mused, hours later, a cup of hot koka steaming in his hands. The airfield was swarming with activity as the Shawnee guardsmen wrestled huge bales of cargo, strings of yapping dogs, barrels of kerosene and a long human chain of ammunition boxes into the cargo holds of his ships. But they should come in useful in the pinch.

Pasternak set the cup down, peering off into the black northern sky. No aurora, he realized with relief. Maybe <they> are truly gone.

His human heart wished fervently for it to be so, but a sick queasiness in his stomach bade otherwise. The combined expedition launched the next day, marking a course north and west for the distant Ice.

Approaching the Barrier of Winds: Pasternak clambered forward along an icy gangway, hands - wrapped in sealskin and fleece - gripping tight to the guide rope. He forced open the hatch to the observation post and felt the rushing wind as a physical blow. The airman on watch squeezed aside to let the captain swing down into the cupola. Pasternak ignored the slit-eyed man, his own goggles blazing with the thin sun reflected from the snow-fields below.

"There!" The Inuto shouted, trying to force his voice above the shrieking wind. The captain nodded. The debris field was unmistakable. Two, perhaps three, airships were scattered across the side of the mountain. Metal and cloth winked in the pure white drifts. Pasternak was sure there had been crumpled bodies, once, though he doubted nothing remained but cracked and splintered bone now.

Having seen enough, the captain climbed back into the gangway and headed aft towards the bridge. Within minutes, the Archaeopteryx was circling and a ground-team of Shawnee knights was descending on ropes into the wreckage.

"Nisei (spit!) airships," the Shawnee lieutenant reported, several hours later. His heavily-gloved hands held a broken ships'-plate. "A new kind, rigged for work in the Ice."

"But not well enough," mused Pasternak. "Their engines will have iced up and failed… the boreal winds are very treacherous."

The Shawnee said nothing, watching the ARF captain's grim face with barely concealed fear.

"We will go on," Pasternak said, after a moment. "There was once a passage through the barrier…"

Beyond the Barrier of Winds: A single shot rang out, echoing back and forth among tumbled heat-scarred monoliths. Pasternak jerked awake and, snatching up a pistol, strode out of his tent. One of the sentries on the guard-tower at the southern corner of the camp was waving wildly at the sky. Shading his eyes with a hand against the blazing disk of the sun, the ARF captain looked up.

A dot grew against the white sky, swelling into the enormous shape of an air-ship. Not a zeppelin, no… not even one of the sleek, whale-like shapes of the Raptor-class airframe, but something like a ship.

"What in Hades is that?" The Shawnee captain Squanto had come up silently and now made to raise his rifle to a bronzed shoulder. "A thing of the Ice?"

"Ha!" Pasternak laughed and dug in his shirt-pocket for his pipe. "No… that can only be the Uraeus. I had thought her destroyed, but the world is filled with unexpected wonders."

The Shawnee captain glanced sideways at the ARF officer. Pasternak seemed deflated - or at least trapped in his own memories again.

"Do we fire upon her?"

The Russian shook his head. "Signal them down to land on the airfield. And call all the excavation crews back… though I suppose it's too late to keep the extent of our operation here secret."

The airship circled again and now Pasternak cursed aloud. The massive ship was flying an Aztec naval ensign alongside the plain green banner customarily associated with the mysterious Rangers.

Squanto caught sight of the red flag a moment later and his face screwed into a terrible grimace.

Above Old Olathöe, Where Once Lomar Held Sway: "Blessed mother of Tepeyac…" Lord Comargo, nominal commander of the Imperial Legion of the Smoking Sun, stared over the railing of the Uraeus, his jaw slack with awe. The airship was drifting down to land on a cleared field lined with the anchored shapes of European-style zeppelins.

At the Aztec's side, one of the Ranger forest-lords nodded his head, keen gray eyes scanning for danger. "Yes, evil raised a great edifice here… and it was cast into oblivion."

"Yes, yes it was." Comargo began to sweat, raising his eyes to take in the countless miles of shattered, broken earth reaching away to the ceaselessly shifting storm that marked the horizon. Inside the Barrier, the world seemed to shrink, bounded by the standing cloud-front and it's constant blaze of lightning. "As if the hand of God had reached down…"

The Ranger laughed - a sharp, hoarse bark - and turned a fierce eye upon the portly Náhuatl. "There are Gods and Gods, southerner. Do not mistake one for another."

Comargo gulped and nodded.

Below, a party of armed men in winter coats appeared from the ruins and approached the airship.

The Uraeus settled into the rubble, landing struts deploying to crunch into blistered stone.

1755 - 1756 T213
Safavid Persia: The ARF airfleet operating in Basra returned north, eventually reaching Ufra in Gurgan and loading the mercenary garrison there aboard before flying away across the Caspian.

ARF: Diplomacy Cerkes in Abasigia (^bo), Kherson in Polovotsy (^mf), Ghuzz (^nt)
Swedish missionaries began extensive work in the old Khirgiz lands now administered by the Company, and for once found considerable success. The war-weary populations, long used to being terrified by the nascent presence of their horrific gods, clutched eagerly at the vision of a god with a human face.

While the Captain of the West was touring the Anatolian ports, Captain Arpada returned from his foray into Persia and set down with an airfleet of size not seen since the Ice War in Ghuzz. There, while bickering with the natives for supplies, he waited for the Swedes, Knights Templar and more Company troops to join him. In very early ’56 Captain Antran, the Swedish general Sir Juhani Lasila and the Templar Bishop Angelo Cardenas joined him, marching up out of the dusty west, their own airfleet hovering overhead.

This massed force then launched themselves into the trackless wastes of the Urst-Urt, following directions painstakingly assembled by Company scouts, airship overflights and certain notes acquired from a certain Colonel Mason, whose disappearance in this inhospitable region had first aroused Company suspicions…

After nearly a month of slogging through ever-deepening sand, the army crested a long, sprawling lava-rock ridge and looked down upon a fantastic sight: a great bowl-shaped valley holding a thousand-foot high spire of black volcanic rock at its heart. All around the pinnacle, enormous signs and sigils were carved from the desert floor, and everywhere there were signs of busy industry… though none of it seemed of human origin.

Enraged, the Sunlanders stormed down into the valley and within the hour were engaged in a ferocious struggle with the defenders of the Halls of Saffron. The eons-old volcanic plug was honeycombed with tunnels and caverns, and filled with Khirgizite warriors. Their cannon lit off even as the first troop of Swedish hussars galloped down the slope into the Vale of Night.

Some six thousand Khirgiz defended the Halls against 25,000 Company soldiers, Templars and a handful of Swedish ‘advisors’. The ARF aerofleet – numbering at least fifty of the latest-model airships – poured down a rain of destruction from above, bombarding the spire with bombs and flame. Papal guns dug into the ridges hammered ceaselessly at the defenses. Companymen and Templar knights battled the monstrously-deformed Khirgiz in the tunnels and battlements…

And despite the elaborate fortifications (constructed a great expense over many, many years) the Khirgiz citadel was reduced to ruins, it’s defenders slain, Swedish and ARF technicians crawling through the remains, digging out it’s secrets, within two months. Old Malank was killed, his body dragged out onto the sand, as was his son Gogor and many of the Khirgiz captains.

Surprising the other Sunlander commanders, once the city had fallen and the mopping up was underway, one of Cardena’s aides revealed himself as no less a personage than the Pope Clement himself! The pontiff then busied himself with leading the masses for the dead and seeing every inch of the malefic city was cleansed by fire, Holy Water and the sword (where necessary).

Lasila and Hallestrom, long veterans of this kind of cruel work, descended into the depths beneath the citadel where they found – first to this astonishment, an entire city built underground – and then to their horror – the malformed and tortured denizens thereof…

Gripped with overwhelming emotion, Juhani Lasila lifted the glass jar, hands tangling in the silvery tubes and wires attached to the back. A queasy amber fluid sloshed inside, first revealing, then obscuring the stunning contents.

“H-e-l-l-o… C-a-p-t-a-i-n…” The voice echoed with an unfathomable humming, seeming to come from the very air itself.

“Gasp! Choke! Colonel Mason… oh my god, you’re still alive!”

“A-f-t-e-r a f-a-s-h-i-o-n, S-w-e-d-e…” Buzzing laughter filled the shadow-shrouded hall. “A-f-t-e-r a f-a-s-h-i-o-n…”

Beyond the Wall of Winds: Someone began to scream – a high, hopeless sound – and the ARF captain Pasternak bolted out of his dugout, loaded pistols in either hand. In the same instant, he heard the alarm bar clanging wildly and the sound of airship engines coughing to life.

Outside, the sun was a pale flat disc in the western sky, barely able to burn through the constantly-moving barrier of dark grey clouds circulating around the shattered wasteland of Olathöe. The broken city spread away from Pasternak in all directions, dotted here and there with wooden frames standing above the excavations shafts the Shawnee soldiers had dug into the ruins.

The ARF officer spun around slowly – the screaming had abruptly stopped – searching for some sign of… “Lord of the Heavens!”

To the south, between the Shawnee/ARF encampment and looming shape of the massive Ranger airship, something ebon-dark spilled up out of the ground like squid ink. Soldiers were scrambling away from the apparition, but Pasternak could see there were hundreds of shining lights inside the cloud, and the vague shapes of men writhing in horrific pain.

“Guns!” He screamed, bounding up a wooden walkway to the nearest observation town. His voice was almost drowned out by the roar of airship engines racing to life. Several ARF airships were already aloft, landing lines spooling back into their gondolas, men crowded at the windows. He waved wildly for a signal-man. “Soldier, signal the Peregrine to load napathene shot and… fire!”

Flags fluttered, raised, lowered. The black ink continued to boil up from whatever hidden chamber the diggers had broken into. Now Pasternak could see the burning lights were eyes.

The Peregrine swung ponderously over the ebon cloud and armored doors on the underside of the gondola racheted open. A gun boomed, flinging a fat napathene shell downwards. The shell plunged into the oily cloud and vanished.

“Fire!”

Other guns began to stutter, puffing white smoke, and explosions began to burst around the thing oozing out of the pit. Pasternak felt sweat bead on his forehead, despite the nearly-freezing air. The cloud continued to expand.

Shawnee Empire: After a long absence, the ARF airfleet carrying Squanto and his veteran riflemen returned out of the north, their airships battered and ice-stained. Every man aboard was nearly giddy with relief to see a warm hearth and a pint of mulled wine. What they had done in the Ice, they did not say, and after looking upon their scarred, frost-bitten faces, no one dared ask.

1757 - 1758 T214
ARF: Diplomacy Kherson in Polovotsy (^bo), Cahokia in Michigamea (^ma), Almeria in Powhattan (^ma), Quadara in Timuca (^mf), Chiaca in Chickasaw (^ma)
In tribute to his holiness, the ARF shipped an entire years production of caviar off to Rome. A pity it spoiled… on the other hand, the result was better than dying of the Corruption, wot? A group of Aztec ‘tourists’ attempted to pass through ARF lands without attracting attention – got lost, had to be rescued from a swamp – and were summarily ejected from the Company domains with a stiff warning not to ‘come round here agin’.

The eastern lands so newly under Company dominion were visited by gangs of engineers who tore town the citadel looming over Astrakhan. The factories of Rostov continued to run double-shifts, filling the pale gray sky over the city with clouds of black smoke. An effort by the Captain of the West to negotiate for landing and warehousing rights at Tynwald on the Isle of Man was met with cannon fire from the city and gangs of unruly natives waving axes and muskets on the shoreline. Disheartened, she made port at Liverpool instead.

Operations in the midst of the Urst-Urt waste, at the massive citadel of the Khirgizites continued. Now Swedish, Danish, Persian and Company teams were turning over the wreckage, charting the acres of disturbing diagrams covering the desert, and inching their way cautiously through miles of subterrene tunnels in the buried city of Kurn. Lord Captain Antran held custory of the security forces deployed to protect and watch over the teams of natural philosophers…

A confusion of shouts and screams drew Antran’s attention and he and a ready-squad of men armed with napathene throwers rushed out of the main camp. A stiff wind was blowing from the northeast, throwing sand into their faces. The lord captain drew a pistol (more for his own self confidence than in any hope it would stop whatever horror had broken loose from the accursed soil) and reached the top of a minor ridge. Beyond, the clapboard buildings housing the Swedish Library Service workers sprawled under the implacable sun.

Antran frowned. There was no fire, no smoke, no monstrous inhuman apparition… only some men lying in the street. Another gust skittered across the desert and the Companyman caught a sudden stench of offal and ripening rot. He screamed in horror and staggered backwards. His skin was already blistering, black spots springing up in his flesh.

“Plag---“ He crumpled to the ground, dead like most of his men. His body made a squishy sound striking the ground – the fruiting bodies burrowing through his flesh were already peeling back cracked and withered skin, corpse-pale tendrils waving in the blistering sun. They ripened, split open in a dusty black cloud, and a haze of nearly-invisible spores drifted on the wind towards the main camp.

Great Britain: Their attention drawn to the usually overlooked Isle of Man by the failed ARF attempt to gain a foot hold there, the British fleet under lords Exeter and Simmons paid a visit (and after threatening to shell Tynwald into burning rubble) exacted at least a nominal obedience to the English crown.

Kingdom of the Iroquois: In an effort to scrape up a few more coins to pay the bills, Cassatengo himself stepped down to allow King Lucas to rule and the regent took up service with the Aeronautical Research and Fabrication company. The old man was accompanied by an honor guard of riflemen (equipped and paid for by the Norsktrad, in fact). This neatly removed the regent from the young king’s domain and avoided any unpleasantness.

1759 – 1760 T215
ARF: Diplomacy Cahokia in Michigamea (^mf), Debrecen in Moldavia (^ma)
Some actual mercantile trade occurred, with a steady stream of transports leaving Rostov for London, laden with Russian wheat, potatoes and corn. Construction began on new airship factories in the economically depressed city of Astrakhan, as the available worker pool in Rostov was sorely taxed already.

In Urst-Urt, Captain Hallestrom of the Royal Swedish Academy continued his investigations in the ruined city of the Hasturites, and – by dint of careful research and cross-referencing – made a horrible discovery. Unfortunately, by the time he did, there was no one to report to (and he certainly did not trust the ARF scientists and soldiers crawling all over everything) so he slipped away into the night for parts unknown. Within days, security at the site was increased enormously and no one could get in or out.

A whole crowd of Iroquois soldiers being trained in the latest techniques of aerial warfare made the social scene in Rostov a little more interesting as they showed a penchant for the ladies, and vice versa. Lord Cassatengo was particularly notorious for his ‘hunting skills’.

In the northern seas, Captain Orozco took her fleet out of harbor in Liverpool and braved the ice-berg infested waters to reach the Shetlands and the Nisei city of Ukiyo-ye. She had intended to improve upon a long-standing economic arrangement with the city fathers, but instead found Nisei Republican officers in complete command of the city. Orozco was politely turned away.

Disgusted, she ordered her fleet back to Cortez in Granada (the nearest company offices), but fell ill on the voyage and by the time her ships reached Spain, the glorious Jessica was dead. She was interred in the city cemetery in Cortez, in a rather garish white marble tomb.

Panic seized Rostov in the late summer of ’59 upon word being received of the approach of a Danish steamship squadron – and indeed, within days, four steam cruisers under the Republic banner were at the mouth of the Volga Canal. Under their menacing guns, a small number of Danish sailing ships – laden with troops and guns, from what the watchers ashore could see – entered the canal and sailed off east at all speed.

After seeing their compatriots on their way, the Danish cruisers loitered about for a few days, thinking about shelling the city into ruin and then left. Later reports had the Danish merchantmen passing down the Volga itself and into the Casptian.

Great Britain: The docks of London were busy with ARF merchantmen unloading grain and other goods from Russia; supplies which kept the bakeries in the city open and rolling in rolls.

1761 – 1762 T216
Karidjite Imamat: In the south, where the learned men of Mecca were spreading a new Word among the tribes, the shepherds in Asir stared at the sky in awe and then fear as dozens of airships swept over their barren and desolate land, heading east. Indeed, a large force of ARF and Swedish zeppelins seized a isolated valley in the mountains on the eastern side of the province and began sending patrols out into the vast wasteland beyond.

ARF: Diplomacy Debrecen in Moldavia (^mf), Cahokia in Michigamea (^bo)
Grain haulers left Rostov in a steady stream, heading north along the great rivers of Russia, carrying thousands of tons of wheat, corn and potatoes to the chill cities of Sweden and England. The busy streets of the industrial city became even more crowded with the arrival of a huge number of Papal workers, craftsmen and engineers – enough to swell the city a level.

Pasternak himself returned from the Amerikas by making a daring passage over the polar regions in his airship fleet. Before returning to Rostov he visited Debrecen in Moldavia, where the Company had recently acquired some interests, and found himself a wife. With Lady Valentina Prokofief in tow, he made his way, at last, back to the Company headquarters. Unfortunately the smoky, polluted air of the industrial sprawl soon afflicted her with a constant, debilitating cough.

Papal missionaries were busy in the south, where the souls of the benighted citizens of Astrakhan were saved, accepting Christ as the Risen Lord.

1763 – 1764 T217
Trebizond: Rickard Vasa, the margrave of Vaspur, was packed off south in a collection of ARF hulls to visit the desolate coastline of Asir, in Araby, where of late the Swedes and ARFen were busy with some unannounced project. The ARFen also picked up a contract to carry Exarchate trade to and from the distant shores of North Amerika.

ARF: Diplomacy Cahokia in Michigamea (^ci), Treya in Delaware (^t), Avalon on Vinland (^ma), Stormgard in Orkney (^ma)
The Company started to gain some traction in a variety of important markets – a lucrative deal was struck with the English Aeroforce to refit zeppelin cabins and crew-spaces with clever little heaters, a partial interest in the city of Treya in Delware was acquired from the Iroqouis, as well as rights to a substantial portion of the tobacco harvest. As usual, the export of wheat, salted pork and preserved fruits and nuts to Sweden added a tidy sum to the bottom line. A constant stream of missionaries came back the other way, now plaguing the citizens of Saksiny day and night.

The Catholic missionaries were not alone, either, for Pope Benedict XIV himself visited Rostov after leaving Cerkes, and spent many days in close consultation with the Company leadership. Afterwards, the Company made a much more definite show of support for the Church in daily affairs.

Powered by enormous capital investments on the part of the Swedes, Maasai and English, the agricultural lands of Khazar were cleared, canals restored, new tenants settled and hundreds of thousands of hectares put back into production. A similar effort was undertaken in the Kuban and Taman, as the Company intended to create the “breadbasket of Europe” on the Volga steppes. Hopefully, this would not attract meteors.

The Iroquois, Cassatengo, lifted his aerosquadron from the desolate mountains of Asir (in Araby) and headed north, searching for news of the mutinous ARF office Ivanov. After several months, following a tip acquired from an IU merchant in Tarsus, the ARF aerosquadron pounced out of the clouds on a hitherto-hidden landing field and collection of airship sheds near the summit of Mount Ararat. Their appearance was immediately met by gunfire, by men scattering across the hidden base, and the grinding rumble of the side of the mountain swinging wide…

To Cassatengo’s horror, six ARF-built zeppelins (in a variety of models) issued forth, guns blazing, at the same time the heavy clouds began to quake and rumble with lightning. “Land the troops,” he shouted into his communications horn. “Deploy for a ground assault!”

ARFen aerotroopers plunged from their assault zeppelins, sliding down greased ropes and fanned out to attack the buildings. Gun crews hastily assembled their ‘air-portable’ 2-pounders. The attackers immediately came under fire from other ARFen soldiers already on the ground… and the assault became a confused melee between bands of men in the same uniforms, the same dialects…

And above, the storm grew worse, the air shuddering with thunder, lit by the lurid glare of cloud-to-cloud lightning – and there were strange, echoing voices on the howling wind. Cassatengo watched, horrified, as something rushed past the windows of his airship – something half-human, wreathed in the purple-yellow glare of St. Elmo’s Fire – and his ship rocked, stricken by some enormous blow…

The battle raged for four hours, but Cassatengo’s troops on the ground failed to gain a foothold, and the fell spirits raging in the sky lashed them with lightning and falling stones – though they inflicted terrific casualties on the defenders of the secret fortress – the ARFen failed to gain a foothold. Cassatengo was forced to withdraw in haste, ten of his smaller zeppelins burning wreckage strewn across the snowfields of Ararat. All of the enemy airships had been destroyed, however.

Much further south, another ARFen airfleet arrived at Asir carrying hundreds of Exarchate workers, stonemasons, engineers and their families. Landing on the coast, they let off the Exarchate contingent to begin construction of the port fortress of St. Olaf, and then the ARFen aerosquadron turned to bombing the Asiri tribesmen into submission. This effort was successful in convincing the locals to avoid the fortress and to pay a tribute to the Swedish crown.

This same force, under aerocaptain Jugderdemidiin Gurraghcaa, then flew north and eventually arrived (in the waning days of ’64) at Tarsus in Cilicia, where 1,800 aerotroopers landed in the city under cover of darkness – taking the militia by surprise – and capturing and garrisoning the town for Sweden and the Company.

There was a great deal of activity in the cruel emptiness of Urst-Urt, where the Company maintained an uneasy watch over the Khirgizite ruins and the strange structures they had erected in the desert. A fast courier airship, the Kestrel, departed the underground warren of Korn at the very beginning of ’63, speeding west…

Editor's Note: the battle by Mount Ararat is disturbingly similar to aspects of 'Declare' by Tim Powers, in which the mountain is the home of the other Ark, inhabited by djinn.

Swedish-Russia: A warrant was issued by the Ministry of Justice for the apprehension and arrest of an ARFen aeroship commander, Mikhail Ivanov, on charges of desertion in the face of enemy fire and theft of Imperial (i.e. ARF) property. An appropriate circular was attached, and distributed to all Imperial offices, consulates and ships of air and sea.

Church of Rome: The Church, eager to improve it’s presence in eastern Russia, shipped thousands of the faithful to Rostov, in Levedia, where they industrial center of the ARF combine was thereby expanded and the Papal presence in south-eastern Russia greatly extended. At the same time, caravans departed Rostov for the uttermost east – the lands of Kama Bulgar, where the Templars stood watch against the Ice and the barbarian tribes on the Scythian plain – to expand the fortifications of St. Michael-in-the-Ice once more.

Shawnee Empire: The presence maintained by the Aeronautical Research company in Cahokia expanded into an entire district tenanted by ARF technicians, engineers, scribes and their families. This expanded Cahokia by an entire GPv.

Kingdom of the Iroquois: An arrangement was struck with the ARFen to share custody of the city of Traiya in Delaware, as well as granting them exclusive shipping rights to Iroquois tobacco.

Norsktrad: In an unexpected sight, an ARF ‘fast courier’ airship, the Kestrel – sporting a streamlined airframe and six engines rather than four – stopped long enough in St. Georges to take on food, water and kerosene, before departing in great haste for the west.

Lajaes Airfield, The Azores, Early 1764: A Norskvarden ensign bolted up the steps of the crudely built command tower, saluted to a well-armed pair of Iroquois mercenaries lounging on the porch, banged twice on the door and stuck his head inside. “Sirs, airship on approach from the east! I think it’s the Kestrel!”

“Excellent,” Postkaptan Valgardsson exclaimed, rising from a wooden table groaning with pressure-test results. Across from him, the Swedish officer Hallestrom opened one eye, stared at the ensign with a bleary expression, and then forced himself to his feet.

“Is it Mason?” Something like excitement began to force itself through his exhausted veins. “And the other tablets?”

Valgardsson nodded, leaning on the frame of a large window looking out onto the crushed black volcanic ash of the landing field, his eyes raised above the enormous shadowy shape in the launch cradle squatting in the middle of a frenzy of activity, to the humid, tropical sky.

A sleek gray airship bearing the colors and insignia of the ARF Company was gliding in to land on the tertiary mooring poles. Another ship – a Norsk Aer heavy cargo transport – was chuffing away to the west to clear a space. Lajaes had never been intended to serve so many ships of the air and the sea. Valgardsson turned to Hallestrom, jaw clenched. “How soon can we lift?”

“A day?” The Swedish officer scratched his stubble. “The crews are finishing the atmosphere fittings… supplies, stores and pressure bottles are aboard… we’ve only been waiting for… for Colonel Mason.”

The Norskvarden commander’s eyes narrowed, straying back to the reams of paper on the huge table. “And the fuzing tests?”

“Nothing works,” Hallestrom admitted. “Without combustible oxygen… we’re back to crank-wound crossbows and spears.”

“That will have to do.”

Valgardsson turned to the interior wall of the room, where an enormous blackboard held a diagram of the Earth, the Moon and – marked in malignant crimson chalk, though the object itself was still only a faint smear of light in the telescopes atop Joao Porto – the steadily decaying path of Nemesis. “Six months, or less,” he muttered, feeling chilled despite the heavy, warm tropical air.

“Huh,” Hallestrom said from the doorway, “they’ve made him a new receptacle – all brass and polished chrome… quite pretty.”

1765 – 1766 T218
Kingdom of the Kushans: The Hindu princes of the Karakoram were also stunned to observe the arrival of a grey-painted ARF zeppelin, and even more amazed to learn from the men who descended from the ship of the air that regular courier service had been established between their tiny realm and distant Rostov. Indeed, a letter could now speed from mountain-girded Astakana to glittering London faster than mail could be carried by pack-train, ship and river-boat from the Persian capital to the Swedish.

ARF: Diplomacy Stormgard on Orkney (^bo), New Canarsie in Mohawk (^ma), Dakar in Senegal (^ma)
Sadly, the choking coal pollution and general unhealthiness of Rostov claimed the life of Miss Prokofief, the Captain’s young wife, and she passed away in early ’65. Her son, Orel, however survived and though somewhat wan of complexion and afflicted by a chronic cough, thrived in his own way.

Truly vast sums of coin, cash and letters of credit flowed into the Company coffers – particularly from the Chinese, who were eager to buy everything the Arfen had to sell. As a result, there was a frenzy of activity in Rostov, with thousands of new contract workers pouring into the city, and ground broken for huge new developments. There was development overseas as well – Stormgard on Orkney was expanded by a whole crew of Arfen settlers (mostly Inutos and Siberians). The massive, plantation-style agricultural development of Urkel and Kuban continued (now supplemented by substantial Maasai investment and provision of arid- and heat-adapted African grains).

Efforts to acquire the services of the Indian mercenary captain Eon of Axum failed, both because Eon and his men were already under contract to the White Maharajah, and because they were too darned far away. In a similar vein (of unwanted service), Pasternak’s great-nephew Ivan, baron of Kuban (who had been living an idle and amusing life in London) was summoned back to Rostov and given (horrors!) a job. In the east, the demon-worshippers of Saksiny continued to slowly fall under the spell of the Roman Church.

Finally, among the snowcapped peaks of Urmia, the Iroquois Cassatengo led a reinforced air-fleet of thirty zeppelins against the putative stronghold of the cultists upon Ararat. This time, however, there was no resistance. Indeed, as scouting parties of Arfen soldiers entered the sprawling complex of caves, secret hangars and monolith-studded plateaux they found not one of the enemy alive. Within the month, the Exarchate expedition reached the mountain and took over security duties. Cassatengo’s airships quartered the nearby valleys, looking for signs of flight, but it seemed the enemy had merely destroyed their installations and vanished.

A solitary Karidjite imam was picked up by one of the patrols, and given a guided tour of the monstrous artifices of the enemy. He was impressed, particularly by a puzzling field of lava spires arranged in a queer spiral pattern covering the shallow valley between the greater and lesser summits of the mountain. The Arfen officer escorting the holy man opined he had seen such hackle-raising pillars before, in the depths of the Urst-Urt desert.

Events in Spain
May 1765: Prince Ferdinand Bourbon (used to this by now) escapes Barcelona in a chartered Arfen courier zeppelin and flies to Narbonne, where he begs for sanctuary from the prince of the city.
October: An Arfen airfleet under the command of Natar Ungalaaq arrives at Cortez in Granada, takes custody of the stranded Arfen sailing-ship squadron there and decamps towards Barcelona.
December: Ungalaaq’s Arfen mercenaries arrive in Barcelona with orders to operate under Catalũnan command. Unfortunately, the flags over the city are not Catalũnan, so he aborts (spying many, many Frisian rocket batteries protecting the city) and flies to Narbonne instead.
March 1766: Fearing treachery, Bishop Fernandez convinces the Arfen commander Ungalaaq to fly him, Prince Ferdinand and the remains of the Bourbon royal family (princesses Constanza and Samantha) to Cimmura in Gascony, the ancient capital of the once-Occitanian realm and their last refuge.
June: Migel and his four surviving airships (all the newly-built Norsktrad ones) return to Lisbon. The King is now very sick and unable to stand. His Arfen guardsmen carry him about on a chair.
The Arfen air-squadron returns to Narbonne, observes that the political situation has changed, and Ungalaaq and his entire force refuel, rewater.
July: Ungalaaq and his Arfen force leave Norbonne behind and fly/sail for Tarsus, their nearest secure base.

Church of Rome: The prelates in Rome were quite pleased to learn that regular air courier service had been established by the ever-loyal and pious Arfen between Rostov and the Vatican. The Castel Gandolfo, an old fortress just opposite the vast square of Saint Mark, was now employed as a zeppelin-landing platform.

Afriqa Co.: At the same time, a joint venture was entered into with the Arfen, one which promised to yield considerable profits in the future.

Kingdom of the Iroquois: Rakhmonov’s Arfen air squadron arrived in New Canarsie after a foray into the northern Ice, looking for ‘invaders’, and charting the ice-breakup in the St. Lawrence seaway. They were very glad to see civilization again.

1767 – 1768 T219
Prester John: Trade negotiations, in fact, were much the order of the day for the Corrigan regime. An accommodation was also reached with the Arfen to lease them a goodly portion of the city of Kashi as an “aerodrome” for airships carrying mail, small goods, passengers and other luxury items. Arfen agents, in fact, were quite active in the area, coming and going through their new aerodrome at Astakana in the Kushan highlands.

Kingdom of the Kushans: The Arfen began regular air-courier service into Astakana and out again, to east and west alike. They too paid the Great Prince tribute in exchange for rights to land and refuel their ships of the air in his remote kingdom.

Trebizond: Many ships were dispatched to the south to carry yet more colonists to the barren and rugged coast of Asir, in Araby, where the Exarchate had undertaken to establish a town around for the fortress of St. Olafs (which, among other things, was now serving as a way-station for Arfen ships traveling to the east, and for airships in need of food, water, spare parts and other supplies on the Alexandria to India passage).

A complicated shell-game of ships and men and banknotes was successful in acquiring a small fleet (six men-of-war and ten frigates) from the Arfen in Rostov. Margrave Vasa was appointed admiral of the Black Sea Fleet, which (after a shakedown voyage to Alexandria to deliver Prince Sigurd to the African theatre of war) took up residence in Cerkes.

Other mercantile business with the Arfen was stymied by the Companie’s lack of proper groundwork. The possibility of trade with grand and distant lands faded for the moment… though the Company was granted an exclusive right to trade in the feathers of various rare birds (such as the Anatolian Whooping Crane) which made their homes in the highlands of the Exarchate.

ARF: Diplomacy Debrecen in Moldavia (^bo), Taman (^f)
Hoping for a happier result than his short-lived marriage to Valentina Prokofief, Solyom took a second wife – Koyuki Yama, from among the Japanese who had settled around Rostov – and got her with child, and then both mother and babe died quite terribly in a breech-birth. A little staggered by this run of ill-luck, Pasternak then took a third wife, Mathilde Grochev (of a once-noble family from Moscow), but did not succeed in quickening her. Worse, she soon developed a cough uncannily similar to that which had claimed Valentina.

In the hinterlands, massive investment by Sweden and Maasai allowed the necessary expansion of farming land and roads, bridges and other appurtenances of the agricultural arts. The Company also dispatched a daring band of colonists to the upper reaches of the Volga, where the ruins of Bolgar (in Suvar) were once more tenanted by living men. The rebuilding town was named ‘Arpadagrad’ in honor of that famous Companyman.

Swedish missionaries working in Company lands turned their attentions upon the Hussite population of Khazar, where there was some ugly business while faith was reassessed.

The air courier service rearranged its priorities and opened a number of new routes. AirPost mail traffic into and out of Rostov now included swift deliveries to Kiev, Semnan, Kingston, Astakana, Rome, Komarno, Warsaw, Baghdad, Valetia, Alexandria, Augostino, Bukhara, St. George the Defender, Mount Tabor, London, Corunna, Cimmura, Paris, Al-Harkam, Kabul, Riga and Cerkes. As part and parcel of this new initiative, the Company scoured Europe for airship pilots, crews, mechanics and skilled men of all trades to service their rapidly growing aerofleet. Substantial bonuses were being paid…

Arrangements were made with Swedish-Russia for the Company to assume management of the province of Patzinak.

AEIC: The great ships of the air were not, in fact, turned over for military service (particularly as those scum Arfen were now trying to horn into the market), but regular passenger service was reorganized from Thessalonika to the Hussite capitals of Paris, Augostina, Warsaw, Kanauj and Amon Hen.

Swedish-Russia: The arid province of Patzinak was sold to the ARF company for a few bushels of wheat and the promise of more in the future.

Knights of the Temple (Cruzaderos): Cortez in Granada was returned to Arfen control.

Maasai Kingdom: The Government Investment board continued to ship exceptional sums of capital north to Russia, to aid the Arfen in establish ever greater plantations and farms in the Russian ‘breadbasket’.

The War Against the Invaders…
May 1767: Suvorov – very ill from the rough sea voyage – arrives in Tobruq and is taken to a secret desert encampment south of the city (in the highlands of Marmarica) where a large Arfen airfleet was gathering. A large crate accompanies the Marsk, guarded by an eerie-looking troop of engineers dressed in diving suits fitted with long air-hoses.

September: A Danish aerocommando led by Zuckertort lands among the dunes in Ayn-al-Ghazal and four hundred Dust Rangers slip south, intending to investigate the rumored “Invader city” at the center of the province.

Zuckertort and his commandos have only crept ten or fifteen miles through the crimson and maroon fields which now carpet the once-sandy valleys of Ayn-al-Ghazal when a queer buzzing sensation begins to prick at his brain. “Plugs!” He hisses, immediately jamming wax into each ear. The other commandos do the same – but within the hour over half their number have turned upon them – eyes mad and inhuman. But Zuckertort is not among those who fall prey to the invidious influence. A fierce, soundless battle follows among the rows of usa saplings as human fights human… to the death.

Zuckertort wrenches a bloody dagger from the throat of his first sergeant and stares grimly around. Of his four hundred men, perhaps only eighty remain alive and sane. “Fall back,” he whispers hoarsely (the sergant’s fingers had left black bruises on his throat) and the survivors jog away through the low trees.

They have reached a range of jagged hills at the edge of cultivation when one of the commandos in the rear guard whistles wildly (and the common loon is not found in these lands) and Zuckertort turns – and stops dead, eyes wide in wonder and horror alike,

A troop of cavalry is spurring up the slope towards his men, their lines pirouetting as swiftly and cleanly as the Emperor’s Guard on parade, but these cannot be called horses – not with such huge, lean beasts blessed with six monstrously powerful legs spurting forward, sand kicking away in plumes – nor can their riders be men, not when they are two heads taller than Zuckertort himself and like their fang-mouthed mounts boast two sets of arms and one of legs and more… are a dusky olive-green in skin and flesh.

“Line! Form a line!” The Danes turn, load, fire – and then the enemy is upon them, great pistols roaring, sabers slashing down, and a bloody melee on a dusty hillside sees the Dust Rangers go down bravely, Zuckertort among them, fighting to the last with dagger, pistol and shotgun.

The “green men” gather the fallen Danes, doing them honor by draining their water, and then gather up the few trinkets of interest – coins, the signature dust-masks of the Ranger, some printed matter – and discard the rest (guns, bladed weapons) as dross. Then they ride away in a column of twos, their own snake-banners snapping smartly in the breeze.

Across the valley, among the jagged ridgetops, an Arfen scout gently eases back from his vantage point and then pads off through a rocky canyon, entirely shrouded in a dusty tan cloak. Several miles away, the rest of his reconissance unit is waiting, hidden in a cave.

“Those blubber-fat Danes bought it,” the Inuto reports to his commander, a lean and withered-looking Japanese.

“And the patrol?”

“Gone back to the city to feast on some nice rich fatty meat, I expect.” The Inuto grins, showing a mouth filled with needle-point teeth.

The officer nods, concealing a deep and bitter anger at the recklessness of the Danish incursion. He consults his watch. Still two months to go, he thinks, wondering if he should have the signals team raise the heliograph hoist and flash a no-go signal back along the line of outposts stretching across the vastness of the Sahara to the Mediterranean.

“We will keep watching,” the Japanese says, settling in to wait.

November: In Ayn-al-Ghazal, the remaining hellbats sweep over another Arfen watch-post, driving the seemingly limitless numbers of the nomads before them and into the deadly city beyond the mountains.

December: The Arfen watch-team on the northern edge of Ayn-al-Ghazal looks up in wary amazement as eighteen enormous zeppelins drift up a steep-sided desert valley in the moonlight. Both the Japanese officer and the Inuto scout are relieved to see that all of the airships are “special branch” Arfen craft, their motors muffled, every reflective surface dulled, the vast airframes painted a blotchy tan/white/blue.

Then their eyes narrow in puzzlement to see a short, stooped figure with a two-sizes-too-large jacket hop down onto the sand and look about with wide-eyed interest.

“A Swede,” the Japanese grunts, disappointed.

Then Prince Cassatengo steps out of the gondola and both Arfen bow deeply.

“This is Suvorov,” the Iroquois says in a carefully neutral tone of voice, “he is in command now.”

“Of course, my lord,” says the Japanese, unimpressed by the gnome-like appearance of the Russian, who is wandering about, poking and prodding at the heavy canvas drapes covering the entrance of the cave.

“Get on then,” Suvorov rasps in a croaking kind of voice, waving at Cassatengo. He brandishes a silver watch, grinning foolishly. “We’ll be waiting.”

Cassatengo nods – starts to say something – then holds his peace. Within moments, all of the airships have turned and are gently gliding away north again, carefully keeping their massive silhouettes down behind the cover of the ridgetop. Behind them, hundreds of Arfen aerocommandos are hoisting their packs and rolling clever little recoilless rifles into the cover of the cave mouths.

The Japanese grimaces at the little Russian, who barely comes up to his shoulder. “My… lord?”

“Are your men fit?” Suvorov asks, suddenly serious. “Can they run strongly in this sand?”

The Japanese nods, nonplussed.

“Good.” The Russian lifts his ugly face to the stars, sniffing the air. “We have two weeks to be within an hour’s fast march of this city.”

“What?” The Japanese hisses in surprise. “The city of domes is two hundred miles south of here!”

“Then we set out as quickly as the men can be fed.”

January 1768: Suvorov lies in the lee of a brittle volcanic crag, studiously keeping his attention away from the sprawling city of magenta domes and spires and thick stands of fleshy, limbed trees sitting in the valley below. One of the Arfen soldiers squats just below him, face wrapped in a heavy kaif to keep blowing sand and grit out of his eyes. A season of fierce, intermittent winds is upon the desert, plowing up great anvils of dust from the east.

“It comes,” whispers the Arfen sergeant, though no sign of an Invader has been reported by the Russian’s cordon of scouts. The attention of the inhabitants of the unnatural city seems focused entirely upon the endless, fetid camp of camels, horses, women, children and men now surrounding the loathsome metropolis.

Enormous tripod-like machines move constantly through the streets, going about their unknowable business; smaller ones (only twenty feet or so high) stalk ceaselessly around the fringe of the valley – though they do not venture up among the sharp-edged peaks where Suvorov rests so patiently.

He is waiting for the wind to rise.

The Arfen soldier turns his head, watching the eastern horizon. Moments pass. Suvorov wets his lips from a flask, and then sees the man stiffen. Without waiting for a hissed warning, he rises up, taking a hand mirror from the pocket of his ratty, stained jacket. He fixes his gaze, lank brown hair obscuring his eyes, on a helmet-shaped peak on the far side of the Weed-infested valley.

Three times he flashes the mirror before settling back, feeling the air stir around him as though the breath of God was moving upon the face of the Earth.

There is an answering flash.

The Russian raises his face to the sky – a pale, pale blue verging into white – and squints, finally making out a bare fleck of azure.

“Pass the word to prepare.” He says to the soldier.

Exactly fifty-five minutes later, eight Arfen zeppelins burst over the far wall of the valley, engines howling at maximum speed, sending the blue-white airships racing over the nomad camps with a shriek. The tripods swing round, deadly heat-rays flaring alight – one of the airships ripples end to end with a brilliant flare and bursts into flame – and then crashes into the war-machine with a thunder of secondary explosions. Smoke billows out of the wreckage, and the tripod – slammed into the wall of the city – topples sideways, heat-ray still burning bright as the sun. A long searing blast rips across the camps, sending thousands fleeing while hundreds are instantly burned to ash.

The other seven airships roar over the spires and towers of the city, bombs raining from their underbellies, guns hammering from every firing port. Explosions rip across the domes, shatter the porticoes of the arena, stagger the huge many-armed men rushing out of the barracks. Everywhere there is chaos and clamor; and then the guns of the city begin to fire.

The green men raise long jezail-like rifles which spurt flame, and the rear galleries of the two lead zeppelins – picking up speed as the last of their bombs rain down upon the buildings below – explode with shrapnel, crewmen flung about like dolls as the rifle bullets tear lengthways through the airship. Instants later, both airships are afire and slam into the girdling wall of rugged mountains.

The other zeppelins scatter from the middle of the city like a flock of quail bursting from cover; their monstrous, double-propped engines straining almost to the bursting point, their crews rolling the last of the huge bombs down the guiderails to the hatches… columns of smoke boil up from the buildings, making a violent spiderweb.

Below the ridge, Suvorov’s men are running downhill with all speed, faces doubly-wrapped in cloth, every man with a gas mask bouncing on his shoulder, carbines and repeating rifles in hand. More than two miles separate them from the nearest wall of the city, but Suvorov is right there with them, running through heavy sand, leaping rocks, scrambling down the sides of dry wadi and then up again…

The last of the attacking zeppelins explodes out over the reddish fields and crashes to earth, burning furiously as three of the smaller machines converge upon it, metallic tentacles reaching down to seize men struggling in the wreckage and crushing them to pulp.

The azure fleck high in the sky has grown vastly larger, a specially-modified Kestrel-class heavy cargo zeppelin plunging towards earth, frost burning away from metallic skin – so swift is its approach, and so busy are the Invader machines with hunting down the last of the Arfen aeropilots in their ruined machines – that none in the dire city catch sight of the airship until it is too late.

Descent of the Reshep

The Reshep banks hard, going to superheat on the main gas cells, propellers wailing in reverse, and the lower bomb-bay springs open. A rusted black cylinder tears free of its restraints, crushing the engineers struggling to release the device and flies free from the airship. The cylinder crashes to earth, landing at the intersection of two boulevards lined with tendril-trees, shattering the reddish tile paving stones and bursts open.

A cloud of blackish-gray spores billow out into the street.

A mile short of the city, Suvorov sees the Reshep swing wide from the city, metallic skin already burning white hot where dozens of heat rays have converged upon the airship. The transport does not even last sixty breaths, exploding over the arena in a blue-white ball of flame.

“Down,” the Russian barks, and the raiding party goes to ground in the fields, each man fixing his gas-mask snug and testing the seals of his gloves, waxed trousers and overcoats.

Suvorov waits, lying on his back, humming a quiet tune, eyes half-lidded, watching the eastern ridges.

In the city, the rising wind gusts and eddies, spinning clouds of gray-black death through broken windows, shattered domes and streets filled with panicky, startled humans and Invaders alike. The Contaigon claims them all – green, red and brown – without qualm or preference. The cruel minds hidden within the machines turn their own weapons upon the city, wreaking even greater devastation in an attempt to stop the spread of the ghastly death.

Four hours after the Russian made his first signal, the eastern sky blots out black as a howling wall of wind, dust and gravel boils over the ridge, born on the winds of the Khamseen, the “Devil’s Wind”.

“Up!” Suvorov bellows, putting his back to the wind and a pistol in either hand, “Forrrrwaaaard!”

The Arfen soldiers jog forward, visibility down to mere meters, and the plague dust is swept away before them, a wall of living death…

February: Suvorov and his men, having lost most of their zeppelins in the raid, toil northward to the secondary rendezvous, backs heavy with captured gear.

March: Suvorov and his men reach the backup zeppelins, get a drink of water, and are airlifted out of Afriqa.

October: Much to everyone’s surprise (including Colonel Adenauer, who was suffering from the tremors after they’d run out of even fermented camel piss) the Baklovakian Expeditionary Force (four hundred of the unluckiest troopers the Komarno Light Horse had ever sworn into its ancient and noble ranks) stumble out of the desert into Ayn-Al-Ghazal.

Unfortunately – thanks to the Arfen attack – the inhabitants of that place were extremely alert and violently opposed to any and all visitors…

1769–1770 T220
ARF: Diplomacy: Debrecen in Moldavia (^ct), Cerkes in Abasigia (^ct), Astakana in Kush (^aa)
The business of the Company faltered in these troubled, unsettled times. The promise of better, faster, deadlier ships of the air drew the promise of investment monies from many nations - Sweden, Masai, Persia… were only the most powerful of those who now considered placing their trust in the machine shops and design studios of the Arfen. Unfortunately, a variety of fiscal miscalculations left many workshops idle, their workers discharged until such time as they could be paid.

Efforts were made far afield as well, such as in Dakar, Senegal, where the city expanded with an influx of Arfen technicians, their families and aeroinfantry to protect them. The aeropost system did expand, as the Company was financing that effort directly. Sadly, old Solyom did not see the fruits of his long-sighted vision come to pass, for he died in early '69 of the terrible Black Cough which afflicted so many inhabitants of Rostov. And, continuing the bane which lay upon the Pasternak family, young Mathilde (the Captain's third wife) followed him swiftly to the grave.[3] This left the daredevil, charismatic, intellectually brilliant and morally ambiguous Ivan Pasternak the heir apparent to the clan fortune. He did not tarry in seizing his father's authority for himself. His wife, Yoshino, was quite pleased by this, particularly since Mathilde had so conveniently removed herself from the picture. Ivan's nine-year-old brother Orel (the son of Valentina and Solyom) moved into Yoshino's house, where he was kept under close supervision.

[3] Rumors Mathilde had chosen suicide rather than submit to the attentions of her brother-in-law Ivan were swiftly suppressed by Company security.

Swedish Empire of Russia: Despite the high hopes of the Arfen merchants, trouble with the Swedish Central Bank over a substantial and defaulted loan denied them a new line of credit. Though the Torrson government attempted to intervene, the bankers staunchly stood by their published policies. Unless the merchants made good the defaulted loan, they would not get one more kronor!

Maasai Kingdom: Prince Mongo fell off of a cliff into a river filled with crocodiles, which then feasted awesomely. No one missed the abrasive young lad, not even his pa, who was more interested in blistering the ears of his finance minister, who had recently brought him news that the Arfen merchants (who had, in recent years, received an enormous amount of capital from the Maasai government) had defaulted on quite an enormous loan. And, apparently, refused to honor the obligation, or even admit they had extended themselves so egregiously!

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