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Earth Victoriana: The Face of Politics

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"Ah there you are. Devil to find. Pleasure to see!"


No matter how long he stayed in Freedom City, Lord Steam continued to dress like the most outlandish fop. And somehow just pulled it off. He got stares wherever he went, and was quite happy to sign photographs. He passed himself off as a British Detective and Aristocrat who fancied a life in Freedom City. 


His role as inter-dimensional diplomat was less well known. 


It was easy enough to contact Carrie aka Silhouette. Her Medal of Valour doubled up as a radio receiver for Steam, and his home dimension to contact her, and as fate would have it, pay her well for her services as their best freelance agent. 


The Summer was hot, hot, but Lord Steam had merely rolled up his starched shirt and kept his top hat on to field the rays of the sun. It was Freedom City Park and he had arranged to meet Earth Victoriana's number one agent there. 

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"You aren't,"
Carrie sat on the park bench in a peach colored sundress with a straw hat shading her face and a pair of sunglasses which she moved from the top of her hat to her eyes as she looked up towards him.

"I heard that monstrosity of a vehicle of yours pulling into the parking lot. There's also the fact that no one else would go walking around the park in a vintage suit in July. You seriously should consider some more practical clothing. You can still be a proper British gentleman in shorts you know."

She scooted herself over on the bench from the shaded area the tree overhead provided to give him a slightly cooler place to sit and leaned an elbow on the benches armrest while she placed a hand on her cheek and propped herself up in a casual manner,

"So what's ups?"

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"Dear me, Sun got you?" smiled Lord Steam, entertained as ever by Carrie's sharp tongue. 


"The weather here is most splendifourous" he rambled. "Not as much character, of course!"


He tapped his Top Hat with his cane, pushing it onto his head despite the sweat that he did his best to ignore.


"Spot of bother in the other place" he explained, cryptically but well aware that Carrie would catch on. 


"The Fat controller doesn't trust me, of course. To much political heat. And Politics is the name of the game here. You remember your first visit to the other place? that chap Cannonade, made a bit of a name for himself when he broke up a Luddite movement. Now there is a splinter cell called the Cannonites, that are in pretty much open conflict. And, by Vishnu, the Empri...the other place needs to keep its Factories running..."


"The Luddites are running for parliament seats througout London, with a mysterious amount of wealth backing them. And influence, Some of the Whigs and Tories are openly supporting them. Wealth means influence, but this is ridiculous. And the Cannonites seem, well, subdued, to say the least..."


"We rather hoped Cannonade might help with this one. He has, to put in mildly, their ear...."

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She crossed her legs,

"That is strange, given, the wealth might just be the ten metric tons of silver Edge tossed around last time he was there."
She pulled her purse onto her lap and started to rummage through it,

"Not much for otherworldly politics, I barely keep up with this worlds one. You know as well as I am that I'm not exactly the best person for this. Given, M does seem to trust me much more then you, if only because I'm a bit more discrete."

It took a second but she managed to grab what she was looking for,

"Anyway, while I cannot contact Cannonade, we both know someone who can,"
Producing the medal from her bag she held it up for observation,

"Given, he has to answer this time."

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"Well it's not so much finding him. Its persuading him to pop over to the other place. And get involved with something that could be rather murky and unpleasant. Deceptive even. He seems a rather stand up fellow, from what I gather. Saved our skin, for certain". 


He brought out a rather unusual contraption, all copper tubing, glass and brass. He wound up a ratchet on its side, and with a hiss of steam and a few sparks, it creaked into motion. 


"This should call him up. Whizzed it up in the Mansion yesterday. Had a devil of a time finding the right flux-ration of Copper, I can tell you!" he said, rather proudly. 


"So if you have any juice to spill on the old man, then be a dear and spill it. I can't always rely on my good looks and charm!" he winked. 


"Cannonade? Cannonade? Can you hear me, old bean?" he said into his little device. 

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For half a second, Joe Macayle thought his cell phone was ringing.

He was hard at work, making sure all kept flowing at the foundry. So far, it was just another day, though the heat outside was starting to match the heat inside. He wiped the sweat off his brow, and was really considering taking his fifteen to hit the air-conditioned breakroom and settle in with a Coke. That was when he heard the voice ringing faintly from his pants pocket. He dug through it, his hand slipping past his cell phone to --

How the hell did this thing get in there? He headed for the bathroom, sought out the most isolated stall, and pulled out the medal he'd received from that trip to the alternate Earth cemented in the Victorian era. It must have gotten stuck in his pants when he was last cleaning the apartment.

"Okay, who is this?"

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"That's Lucien Lockwood, the ambassador for Earth Victoriana, yeah, we have one of those. There's even a pinterest about his public sightings. Anyway, hey, this is, well Carrie, not sure which name to call you right now. This is why I don't like knowing these things, it's so confusing, anyway, you up to jump the dimensional border again?"
Carrie sounded cheerful. Honestly, she was okay with Joe, though now that she thought of it, she never saw him when things were dandy and normal, which honestly was strange. Okay, not that strange considering the whole helmet thing, and the only other time she saw it was cause he happened to be in a crowd of several thousand people.

"Oh, also, you might want to remember the headgear this time, not that Lockwood or the rest of them really care, that's not really a thing there and almost no one travels inbetween except for us and Harriet."

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"Eloquently put" said Lord Steam, dryly and with a smile. Carrie was, if nothing else, to the point. On reflection, that was probably what Cannonade should hear.


"Wonderful as this ethereal transmission device is, I can't locate you, old bean. My friend here has already offered her services, and will of course be paid for her efforts. As will you, of course. But what we really need is someone to stop a whole heap of political upheaval, unrest, and potential war."


"I have no time for politics, myself, but I can see its value. Its a rum old business, and no mistake. Anyway, if you would do us a jolly good favour, meet me at Steam Mansion in the next hour or two. I'll have tea and sandwiches, and a portal to another dimension!" he smiled. 


A little later, at Steam Mansion. 


"More Tea, Madam?" asked Blakely, a pot of Early Grey in his hand as he waited on Carrie. Lord Steam had already helped himself and was also enjoying a scone and cream with delightful strawberry jam. 


"The portal is just firing up. Should work fine" he said, as they reclined in the study. He indicated a magnificent grandfather clock, behind which stood the machine and power to open up a portal to Lord Steam's manor in Earth Victoriana. 


"All tickity boo, all systems go. And that rotter M is waiting the other side with a couple of pen pushing brown-nosed civil servants, no doubt!"

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Joe studied the medal, trying to figure out just how the hell to speak into it. After a few seconds, he realized that if Silhouette had found a way to talk into it, he could easily do the same. "Been a while since I stepped to the world next door. Got a few hours left on my shift; I'll swing by my place, get the stuff, and see you then."


A few hours later, the sun was setting, making the whole costume thing less of a burden. Cannonade didn't exactly feel the weather these days, but even for him, a flight jacket near the tail end of July was one hell of a thing. The helmet was also giving him a nice simulation of what a baked potato must go like, but it was even more necessary. Especially given where they were heading. 


Cannonade was happy to feel the cool breeze blowing as he entered the manor. "Good to see you again, Sil," he said. "So, what's going on in the Empire?"

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"Damned if I know, old bean!" said Steam, finishing his tea. 


"M has more details. And probably more details than he cares to share with you, or anyone else. The man has the mind of an octopus, tentacles everywhere" he said, slightly irritated. 


"What I do know is that the Luddites have a splinter group, the Cannonites. Guess who they are named after? They took your words quite seriously in that little speech, and are a moderate group. Which made the original Luddites even more nasty. The oikes!" he said, clearly no fan of them. 


"Which would be quite manageable, but what concerns us is that the Luddites are putting up candidates for the next election. Mainly in London. And they are extremely well funded. And they are winning. Well, that's no a problem for a democracy, but M smells something fishy. The other candidates are lacklustre, losing every debate, getting involved in scandals, and having dirt on them dished out like it was a five star restaurant....all politics, I know, but the pattern here is beyond the normal social pugilism" he explained. 


"I suspect M wants you to mobilise the Cannonites and use your influence to see exactly what has happened. Its a bit of a weight on your shoulders, old bean, and probably as dirty as you would expect coming from a spymaster who is responsible for a quarter of the world, but if M smells something fishy, you better expect something to smell rotten!"

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"And they want me around cause, well, actually,"
She looked at Lockwood,

"I'm not actually sure what they want me to do, though, huh, Lockwood, could you give us a moment,"

Carrie crossed her legs,

"I think I want to give Cannonade, well, a briefing I guess before we leave."
She grabbed a sandwiche off the tray and waited for the response.

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"Secret conversations in old drawing rooms?" smiled Lord Steam. "My dear, you have all the makings of a world-class spy!" he laughed. 


"I can see why M likes you. Give the old fart my regards, won't you?" he smiled, standing up and bowing to them both. He walked up to the grandfather clock, and fiddled with the time hands, which clicked...letting the clock swing open to reveal a mass of pipes, wiring, and - yes - odd puff of steam, and a treacle-finish swirling mirror. 


"He's on the other side, when you are ready!" he explained. "I'll just go and take a stroll. Toodle pip old bean!" he said, doffing his top hat to Cannonade, before tucking his silver headed cane under his arm and striding out with his long legs. 

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Carrie watched him go, and snorted a little under his breath,

"He's just exaggerating because all he has to compare me too is well, himself, and one or two other capes that he's taken with him to the other side. Lets be honest, even the most subtle cape is still in a cape."

She poured herself some more tea, and mixed it,

"Anyway, before we go, I want your opinion, what did you think of Earth Victoriana last time we were in. As you've probably deduced, I've been a couple of times, some working with a cape or two, some working on my own, some for simple sightseeing. It's a lot more then what we saw when we drove in on the Brit Machine, and because of our actions, it's changed."

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Cannonade hadn't really responded to the inquiries. He was still trying to wrap his head around the sheer weight of it. 




He did get into the whole superhero game with the intent of making a difference. Of trying to reinforce the idea that the working man had value. He just hadn't expected to have such an impact, so soon - and in an alternate universe, at that. 


...I've gotta see this for myself.


"What did I think of the place?" he said. "It was... weird. I mean, I know it's like looking at history - good and bad - but... well, then I had to punch Cyborg Rasputin in the face. But, if there's something that needs to be fixed over there..."


He moved towards the portal. 


"...guess we'd better get to fixing it."

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Carrie put down her cup and walked forward putting a hand on his shoulder,

"Joe, I wanted to talk to you because things are changing there much faster then it ever has because of the things we do there. There's no precadent for superhuman powers there, from what I've heard most of the stuff that happens with the others degrades into rumors and myths but that's only because of how absurd what they do sounds in context of their reality. But this is different, what you said, what you did, created a real faction of people who believe in you whole heartedly. I'm not exactly sure how that might go if they get a real look at what you're capable of."

Carrie let out a breath,

"So please, try to be subtle, and also, don't tell M what you're capable of either."
She stepped towards the portal,

"I don't think political pressure is the only reason why he's keeping Lockwood out of the loop."

She then headed forward through the portal to the other world.

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M was in a relaxed posed on the other side. It was a very similar mansion to Steam Manor, but more antiquated or anything. M was being served tea by a butler, whilst a scribed kept notes on everything he said. 


Two men in starched suits and bow ties stood at ease. No doubt his bodyguard, probably from the Special Zepplin Squad - the SZS had the best fighting men in the dimension. 


"Ah there you" he said, standing up and dusting of some scone crumbs. M looked perhaps a bit more thinning, perhaps a bit more rotund of waist, and perhaps a bit more lined with worry. But he still had a genuine smile on his face. 


Despite his soft appearance, the man was fiercely smart, and his eyes could not conceal it. 


"Well, if I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would not have believed it!" he said, putting down his tea and studying Cannonade. 


"The leader of the Cannonites! Your face is plastered half way across London, sir. It adorns every issue of The Cannon of Justice, that appalling rag they produce. Not a perfect match of course, clearly memory and desire failed and filled in respectively. Your jaw not as square, your eyes not as sparkling, but a hero nonetheless! welcome back to Earth Victoriana!" he said, with genuine pleasure. 


He offered them seats and continued. 


"Now, I don't know how much that unscrupulous rotter Lockwood has told you. We are a few weeks away from a general election here, and somehow the Luddites have found some magic potion. All their candidates are storming ahead, and all the  main parties have somehow been caught stealing, adultering, defrauding, or - if none of the above, just tripping over their tongue and gaffing every speech they make. And we haven't found anything. Something is up, I tell you..." he moaned. 

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Cannonade had settled into understanding what was going on - somewhat. He'd gouged some sort of presence into Earth-Victoriana by simple dint of doing what came naturally to him. And to the people on the other side of the gate ,that was just assuming he was some sort of exceptionally talented rabble rouser, Mother Jones in really weird clothes. That was before you got into the fact that he could juggle tanks. He could easily understand why he needed to keep a low profile. "All right," he said. "Let's go talk politics."




At this point, Cannonade could tell that the head of intelligence had seen weirder. Here he was, dressed in clothes that wouldn't be made for... well, he assumed 60 years, based on the timeline, but it was hard to tell. Heck, his jacket must have looked positively space age by comparison. But M didn't even blink. All he cared about was the rabble rouser standing in front of him. 


"Guilty as charged," he said. "Guessing we've got some differences of opinion on the cause. But we've got a more pressing issue. Someone's causing trouble for you, and leading my men back towards the 'hit the first thing that moves' school of thought. So. These candidates. Any common elements they have? Guests they've had over the last few nights? Places they like to get together for drinks? Stuff like that?" 

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M passed Cannonade a cup of tea. 


"We have plenty of leads" he said, drumming his fingers with surprising lightness on the saucer and cup he had in his hand. The aroma was magnificent. Whatever else one could say about this dimension, its tea was stirling. 


"We have of course placed agents in both the Luddite and Cannonite movement. But the trouble is, they don't really bite into the top levels of the organisation. Nedd Ludd, of course, the leader of the Luddites, we have ample files on. The Cannonites seem to be more amorphous, with no single one leader. It's more of a mish mash of the moderate Luddite movement, advocating demonstration and diplomacy with the factory owners. To be honest, our industrial revolution has created some rather unsavoury characters who do rather well out of the working class' misery.." he sighed. 


"But I am not political. I can't be, in this job. I have to protect democracy, not manipulate it" he explained with a shrug of his shoulders. 


"Suffice to say, however, that tensions exist" he concluded. 


"As for the two groups, we haven't heard of any unusual guests. Although we could have missed the Luddites meeting someone, I confess. Nedd Ludd is paranoid by my estimation. A weakness and a strength. He has much to paranoid about, after all..."


"As for drinking holes, we know plenty. And alcohol does tend to set tongues to motion, does it not?" he chuckled. "The Luddites tend to hang around a Deptford public house called The Snooty Fox. I presume it is some jibe at the upper classes, because it is most certainly not frequented by them. A den of gin, opium and women of a less than reputable nature, I understand. The Police give it a wide berth, for the Luddites effectively control it. Oh, we raid it once in a while, to no effect, of course" he explained. 

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"Clearly, as this is still a problem."
Carrie let out a breath,

"M, how many of these politicians that have suddenly revealed themselves actually guilty of what has been claimed. You say you're not political, but you would certainly know."
She leaned forward looking him in the eye with a raised eyebrow,

"I know transparency isn't this realms strong suit, but how closely have you looked at these politicians that have been spilling their guts. I don't suppose you have the rights to take one off the street, but someone must of talked to them. Lets ignore the ones who actually did in fact do the things they've unwilling revealed, and go onto the ones who simply stumbled over themselves. Are they decent enough that they might not have any fear to have a regular interrogation?"

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"I do of course make my self aware of...indiscretions" said M calmly. 


"Part of my job is to make sure the odd lapse of judgement is not used for blackmail. A large part of my job, in fact. You understand that what I do is not exactly clean. I have to balance the wheels and cogs of government carefully" he said, his pupils unreadable. 


"Some of our politicians have blurted out secrets that I have spent some considerable energy covering up. Some have blurted out secrets that I did not know about. And some have blurted out secrets that quite frankly I have every reason to believe were made up in the first place. Why would they shoot themselves in the foot?"


"And unfortunately, they enjoy certain legal privy. I cannot simply drag them to our headquarters and interrogate them. Unless they break some official secret act, which they seem to be careful not to do, they can avoid all my attempts to question them". 


"Which means I am left with spying on them. Which is not easy for the same reasons. My limited means makes me suspicious they are not behaving normally. So what is it? a conspiracy? blackmail? some kind of mental control? I do not know. They keep their routines, keep their appointments, but clearly are not behaving as they did, or should". 

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Carrie tilted her head back and hummed,

"Yeah, not surprised, if you weren't locked in somehow you wouldn't of bothered calling. You don't pull in people with diplomatic immunity unless you really have too."
Carrie tilted her head to the side and stood in her seat and stretched,

"Well, no need to delay, lets go see Redpowder about our clothes."
She looked over at Cannonade,

"Since you decidely shouldn't be looking like yourself, or at least all the way like yourself, you mind losing the helmet for this adventure? They'll give you a replacement covering, or make you look like a leper or something if you mind terribly. I know that last time,"
She paused for a second then looked at M,

"By the way, the Catholic church didn't cannonize Gabriel did they? I know they didn't manage it while he was here, but I'm a bit curious, and he's a bit worried."

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"We can, if need be, provide whatever disguise you wish!" replied M, being more joyous at the prospect. 


"Madame Redpowder is our maestro of disguises. Couldn't drag her out her to this odious place of Lockwood's. But I do have a car waiting to take us to London and the Ministry. We will of course make available all our resources, from the simple disguise to the exploding umbrella. Although that last little invention seems more dangerous than useful. We have two of our men in hospital recovering after the last field test" he said, rambling on with a note of mild irritation. 


"As for Gabriel, and the Catholic Church, I have not heard one way or the other, which I presume means not. However, nobody is safe from cannonization, as far as I can tell. A wind of change, a re-examination of facts, a word here, a discourse there, and a retrospective motion might be made. For lovers of tradition, they certainly like the ebb and flow of power between the various bishops and clergy. Not unlike any nest of power, in my experience". 

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Cannonade had taken a while to wrap his head around the idea that he'd touched off a political firestorm. If what he was hearing was true, though, this was on a whole other level. Gabriel was being talked about like he was Mother Teresa. This was change. This was real and serious change. There was this whole world that wasn't theirs, where they'd only be a few times, and they were carving deep, solid impressions into it. It was a hell of a thing to consider. 


"Hey, I'm fine with looking like everyone else," he said. "Good idea not to draw attention. At least, not right away. Maybe I should keep the helmet around, though. Y'know. Just in case things go weird." 

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Carrie quirked both eyebrows (being physically incapable of doing just one),

"You mean like going to a whole nother world where the British empire didn't fall weird."
She led the way down to the car,
"Or working for this worlds version of Q to spy on a faction of disgruntled factory workers who have somehow managed to pierce the ranks of this cities upper class enough so to orchestrate their own self-deprecation of character."
Walking outside, she made her way to the car, stopping for the driver to open the door for her before slipping in and stopping,
"Weird isn't gonna happen, it's here, but no ones gonna take the helmet away from you."

She then ducked into the car and waited for them to be driven to the main building.

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Later, in Madam Redpowders Office...


Madam Redpowder had a steely stiffness and a perfectly elocuted upper class British accent that could cut glass. One could wonder exactly how patriotic or loyal she was - her interest seemed primarily directed at mastering her craft. And her craft was disguise. 


Of course, behind the accent and the mannerisms, she was also an able actress. An impenetrable one, at that. 


Her "office" was the basement of the Ministry of Extraordinary affairs. As she busied herself around Cannonade and Carrie, M lounged about with a small glass of port and the newspapers. 


"Here we go again!" he huffed, reading the Steaming Times, a local rag of the cheap titillation variety. "The Right Honourable Cecil B Poncenby, Whig party, caught at an opium den in Deptford. Poncenby, who is challenging the seat of Deptford, is given drubbing in polls by the Luddite contender, Alfred Fields. Poncenby offers spluttering apology to the press, calling his visit a moment of madness..." M sighed as he read out the article. 


"Now then, what would Madam and Sir...be inclined towards wearing?" she asked, slightly turning her nose up at Cannonades attire, and bringing out a splendid coat and tails, complete with Top Hat, which looked, remarkably, like it would fit his frame. 

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