Blackwood Gazette #142-IIC Military Conference Brings Out the Big Guns (Literally)

By Alex Grosset, Arts and Entertainment

16/6- Only one thing went through my mind as I found myself seated (in the front row, no less) of the Industry and Innovation Conference’s military technology presser: this must be some sort of prank, right? Surely, the editor of the Oeil de Fleur office was waiting in the wings to tell me he was just having a run at me, and tell me that I could leave and get in line for the Pertifour showing. Alas, no such shoe dropped, and thus I was stuck there, surrounded by Crowndonian troglodytes.

In any case, the show. The conference started off with a very loud bang, one that left my ears ringing for the rest of the day, as Stravaski Arms (formerly Velcom, re-branded after that hand grenade debacle last year) wheeled out a new gun-helmet.

“Whatever you look at, you can shoot!” said the presenter with blood thirsty fervor, a nervous looking demonstrator standing next to him with the gun helmet strapped to his head. “You simply turn your head toward the target and blow into the triggering tube. Your breath of life then inflates a bladder within the helmet, triggering the mechanism and ending the life of whatever unlucky [expletive removed] just happens to fall under your gaze. A demonstration!”

The demonstrator looked to his left, at a Chernoskian rat-monkey locked in a nearby cage. He blew into the tube, and I waited for the rat-monkey to disintegrate in a red, pulpy mist. Alas, the recoil from the helmet knocked the demonstrators head back, and the bullet went ineffectually into the wall. The presenter made a nervous joke about working out the bugs, and the curtain fell to sporadic applause.

Next up, Hornsower’s International rolled out a wagon covered in strip fed, crank operated monstrosities. What appeared to be a blanket covered the bottom half of the wagon. The man next to me snarked something about ‘skirts’. Very droll, I’m sure.

“What you see here, is nothing new,” the presenter said. “Battlewagons have been a part of the battlefield for hundreds of years, but as anyone who fought at the Battle of Des Anges can tell you, getting them where they need to be over terrain blasted by craters and littered by the soulless husks of your fallen enemies can be a chore. We at H.I. believe we’ve overcome that obstacle.”

The blanket was dropped and the bottom half of the carriage was revealed. There were no wheels on the carriage, not in the traditional sense, but metal tracks wrapped around a complex series of gears. The crowd went nuts.

“Introducing the Hornsower repeating track system. A battlewagon equipped with these is guaranteed not to get a wheel stuck in a hole, or its front end lodged in a trench. Get your guns and your men where they’re needed most with Hornsower!”

The presentation ended and the rest of the presser went on in a manner I’m sure most of these military conferences go…new models of guns, improved jacketing of ammunition, more potent gun powder. It all blurred together into a feverish mish mash of death and smoke filled zealotry. I doubt the smell will ever come out of my suit. But there it is, dear readers. THE FUTURE!

***

Related:

Blackwood Gazette #20: Velcom Rep Calls Demonstration Disaster a “Fluke.”

Real World Inspirations: Albert Bacon Pratt’s Helmet Gun (1916), via weirduniverse.net

Blackwood Gazette #142-IIC Military Conference Brings Out the Big Guns (Literally)

Blackwood Gazette #141-Rinkenbach Announcement Smashes IIC, but Not In the Way Anyone Expected

By Ada Herschel, Science and Technology

15/6- As I entered the coliseum in Oeil de Fleur for this year’s Industry and Innovation Conference, a success story from last year’s conference hung, quite literally, in the air. That success is, of course, the Foundation Inc. interior climate control system. Given that it made the three hour wait between seating and presentation all the more bearable, and that Rinkenbach Industries was the first showing of the conference, I found myself more excited than I have been in a long time for the IIC.

That excitement quickly soured, however, as Rinkenbach hit the stage. The man known for flashy entrances, such as launching himself from a trap door under the stage, or descending from the rafters suspended by wires, or appearing in an explosion of smoke and flame, simply stumbled out from backstage. He was pursued by someone I’m assuming was a PR rep, trying to stop him. When the PR rep realized that thousands of people were watching him, he quickly about faced and headed backstage, throwing his hands up.

“Good evening, Oeil de Fleur,” Rinkenbach said in opening, despite the fact that it was nine in the morning. “And Welcome to Rinkenbach R&D’s IIC conference. We’ve got a big announcement today, that’s going to change EVERYTHING!”

With a flourish of his hands, two buxom assistants wearing sequin gowns rolled out what appeared to be a man on a dolly. I immediately knew what it was…the new model of clockwork butler. Apparently everyone else in the room knew it, too, because when Rinkenbach revealed the mech, it was met with middling applause.

“The Clockwork Butler Mark IV,” Rinkenbach said, his voice more than a little slurred. “I know you’ve all been waiting for it, so, here it is!”

The middling applause didn’t grow any louder.

“Ahem. Alright then. Moving on. The Mark IV hosts a veritable, um, host, yes, of improvements over the popular Mark III, making it the premiere automaton on the market. For instance, new gyroscopic attachments for the arms ensure that your daily tea will no longer get spilled.”

My colleague, industry analyst Jerald Doramus, sat two seats down from me. When I interviewed him after the announcement of the Mark IV several weeks ago, this development was one of two possibilities Doramus offered, the other being a free thinking doomsday machine. Needless to say, Doramus looked relieved.

“That’s really a small thing, however,” Rinkenbach said, continuing on. “For now, the Mark IV is capable of something no other automaton has been capable of before.

“This unit has a name. Francois. Hello, Francois.”

“Good morning, sir.”

The coliseum was deathly silent as the automaton not only spoke, but responded to inquiry.

“Morning? Don’t be silly, Francois. It’s evening.”

“No, sir. It’s morning.”

“Oh, dear, how embarrassing. There must be a glitch in Francois’s time configuration.”

“There is no glitch,” Francois said. “Check your watch.”

This elicited a round of laughter from the audience. I looked again at Doramus. He’d gone completely white, and held his head down in his hand.

The implications of Rinkenbach’s unveiling are shocking. Not only was the voice coming from the automaton of striking clarity and even warmth, but it was adapting to the flow of the conversation. Any reservations that this could have been a put on were laid to rest when seemingly random members of the audience began asking questions. More than a few times, the Mark IV was unable to answer, but one question in particular not only garnished a response from the automaton, but a panicked reaction from Rinkenbach that cut the show short and raises some serious questions about the future of the Triumvirate.

“Is Rigel Rinkenbach working on the Blackwood Formulae, and how far has he gotten?”

“Yes,” the robot answered. “As of this morning he has computed more than fifteen point six five nine three two percent of the formulae, according to his own est—“

The automaton went silent, and I could see Rinkenbach standing next to it with a large box, smoking wires dangling from the bottom, presumably ripped from within the machine

“Thank you, Francois,” Rinkenbach said. “That’s quite enough. Um, thank you all for coming! Enjoy the show.”

Rinkenbach rushed off stage as a deluge of questions were shouted at him from the audience. I, like many other reporters at the conference, tried to set up a one on one interview, but it seems that Rinkenbach has left the city. In any case, the bar has been set for this year’s IIC.

Blackwood Gazette #141-Rinkenbach Announcement Smashes IIC, but Not In the Way Anyone Expected

Blackwood Gazette # 140: Julianos Forces Make Landfall in Monteddorian Colony of Sal Diello

By Hil Spencer, New Crowndon Correspondent

12/6-Reports are coming in that the mysterious fleet of Julianos ships spotted crossing the Barrier Ocean has made landfall in the Monteddorian colony of Sal Diello. According to Colonial Authorities, Marshals are on site, monitoring the situation.

Details so far are scant, but early reports indicate that armed presence is at a minimum. For the most part, the crew of Julianos’ ships appear to be comprised of civilians, and its cargo comprised of what appear to be supplies for mining.

Nearly twenty years ago, rumors of gold in the region led to an influx of settlers to the area. Conflicts, many of which persist to this day, broke out between the Monteddorian colonists who first settled the area and colonists from Crowndon and Nor Easter. In the end, all the hard work of prospecting and bloodshed amounted to nothing; nothing but the scantest deposits of gold were found in the nearby riverbed, its source deduced to be in the impassable mountains to the south, deep in the region known as the Deadlands.

Could a renewed interest in the region be underway? The Marshals have their doubts, saying that the newly arrived group looks ill prepared for an expedition into the Deadlands, a journey from which no explorer has ever returned.

Colonial authorities plan to send a retinue to Sal Diello shortly. Hopefully, details on Julianos’ interest in the region will be forthcoming.

Blackwood Gazette # 140: Julianos Forces Make Landfall in Monteddorian Colony of Sal Diello

Blackwood Gazette #139: Drunken Rigel Rinkenbach Wreaks Havoc During Business Meeting in Greenlille

By Basilio Mura, Nor Easter Correspondent

11/6- World renowned industrialist and master alchemist Sir Rigel Rinkenbach may have come within a hairs breadth of starting a civil war this weekend.

While meeting with the Mayor of the town of Greenlille in the nation of Sau Anoit, Rinkenbach reportedly partook in more than his fair share of the Mayor’s personal wine cellar. Sources tell us that over the course of a social dinner, Rinkenbach imbibed five bottles single handedly and went on a drunken tear throughout the estate.

“We knew something was wrong when he rode through the courtyard with his shirt open, that damned owl of his flying behind him,” said one person in attendance. “He rode into the mayor’s fountain, leapt from the horse’s back with what I assume was meant to be a flourish, and fell face first into the water.”

Rinkenbach then reportedly made his way through the crowd, ranting about the scarcity of Blackwood and how if he wasn’t the one to do something about it, the world was doomed.

“A classic case of self-destructive heroic narcissism,” said doctor Antonez Dupleur, a respected psychologist from Sau Anoit who witnessed the event. “As I am led to believe, Rinkenbach has never acted this way before. I fear we may be witnessing the beginnings of a nervous breakdown, brought on by stress, presumably from working on a solution to the Blackwood Dilemma.”

It has been rumored for some time that Rinkenbach, and several alchemists, are working to solve the puzzle of how Blackwood, the fuel that keeps our boilers stoked, our homes warm, and our airships in the sky, is created. If what doctor Dupleur says is true, it wouldn’t be the first time an alchemist has been driven mad by his pursuit of the Blackwood formulae.

Rinkenbach’s antics continued throughout the night, causing thousands of imperions worth of damage, and culminating in Rinkenbach being discovered engaged in romantic congress with the Mayor’s twin daughters and his house keeper. Rinkenbach is said to have fled the scene, hand in hand with said house keeper. The Mayor has issued a bounty on Rinkenbach’s head, though that bounty has been pardoned by the Empress herself.

“Rinkenbach is our most treasured mind,” Her Imperial Majesty said. “He is a brilliant, but obviously tortured soul. We should seek to understand and heal him, rather than admonish. If what he says about the Blackwood Dilemma is true, he may be our society’s only hope to continue on its current course.”

Blackwood Gazette #139: Drunken Rigel Rinkenbach Wreaks Havoc During Business Meeting in Greenlille

Blackwood Gazette #138: Roderick Beauchamp La Pierre Sighted in Sarnwain; “Please Come Collect Your Garbage,” Pleads Primarch of Pharassus

By Chester Seaton, News

10/6- It’s been awhile since we’ve heard tale of the Malevolent Terror of the Northern Skies, Captain La Pierre. It would seem, however, that he’s reared his head again, on the other side of the Sea of Wrecked Beginnings and Bitter Ends.

“The Northern Terror has taken to raiding merchant ships in our skies,” said the Primarch of Pharassus, one of the largest trading hubs in the Sarnwainian Empire and by extension, the world. “Many of these ships were carrying Blackwood, which as everyone knows costs an exorbitant amount to acquire thanks to the Triumvirate’s tax levies against us. Every ship lost constitutes a grievous blow to Sarnwainian livelihood. So, proud as I am, I prostrate myself before the Triumvirate. Please, come collect your garbage.”

Fleet Admiral Dunbarrow issued a reply in statement. Chances are, it is not what the Primarch wanted to hear.

“We would love to assist Sarnwain in the apprehension of La Pierre, bringing an end to his blight and the suffering of the Illustrious Eastern Empire’s people,” Dunbarrow said.

“Unfortunately, Sarnwain’s official protocols on dealing with the Blasphemous Western Devils prevents the Triumvirate from, and I quote, ‘operating in her skies and on her soil in any military capacity, even at her behest, under threat of war.’

“However, given that La Pierre is no longer recognized as a citizen of the Triumvirate, nor as a member of Humanity and thus devoid of all rights such status implies according to treaties signed and recognized by all civilizations of the world, even Sarnwain, the Primarch has our blessing in dealing with La Pierre in any way he sees fit. We wish Pharassus the best of luck in ridding the skies of La Pierre’s malignancy.”

Blackwood Gazette #138: Roderick Beauchamp La Pierre Sighted in Sarnwain; “Please Come Collect Your Garbage,” Pleads Primarch of Pharassus

Blackwood Gazette #137: Waystation Bravo Relaunches with Skeleton Crew; Let Necessity Sort Out People’s Superstitions

By Chester Seaton, News

9/6- When the Waystation system first launched a little over decade ago, the launch of the stations brought forth a crowd of thousands to celebrate the beginnings of one of our Empire’s greatest technological achievements. Memories of that event stand in stark contrast to the reactivation of Waystation Bravo, which was put back into service late last week.

No one stood on the docks of Walsh where the station was moored for repairs as its boilers were stoked and the rotors were engaged. It lifted into the air, taking with it a meager crew of 150, just enough to maintain the station and monitor its performance.

“The station will take its place along the circuit shortly,” said Treacher Burwell, foreman of the Walsh Port Authority and overseer of Waystation operations. “We expect traffic to the station in the first few months to be light, due to apprehensions about its reputation amongst ship captains and others upon whom the waystation system’s success are dependent. I have no doubt, however, that necessity will sort out people’s superstitions, however. After a few months of successful operations, travelers and traders between the Triumvirate and her colonies will once again flock to it as though nothing happened. Within a couple years, the whole affair will be forgotten.”

In the meantime, recruitment drives for station personnel continue, with a 25% bonus being offered to early takers. A special gala is also in the early planning stages, with hope that positive word of mouth from those who attend will alleviate fears of a repeat incident.

Blackwood Gazette #137: Waystation Bravo Relaunches with Skeleton Crew; Let Necessity Sort Out People’s Superstitions

Blackwood Gazette #136: Dougherty’s Rebels Bomb Three Refining Plants; “The Message is Clear”

By Isairo Palantes, Montedorrian Correspondent

8/6- As if in answer to Alejandro Julianos’ promise to build new Blackwood refineries in Monteddor, groups of rebels flying the banner of Dougherty bombed three existing facilities within the borders of Julianos, Desantana, and Salasan Provinces. The attacks have brought Blackwood production in those areas to a stand-still, and claimed the lives of over 300 workers.

“The message is clear,” said General Indio Rojos, of Salasan’s first armored division. “We promise to build three refineries, they bomb three. With this heinous act, the rebels have shown that they will not be placated. And like a dog that cannot be trained, a peasant who cannot be placated must be put down.”

General Rojos has taken to demanding the Dougherty rebels be labeled a clear and present danger to the interests of the Monteddorian Empire, if not the Triumvirate as a whole.

“I am tired of stepping softly around this filth,” General Rojos said. “We must dispense with niceties. It is no longer enough to ‘control’ these people. They must be rooted out and destroyed. You have noticed they fly a flag now? They want to be seen as a country, then we will treat them as we would any foreign entity that would deign to incite war within our borders. I wish to call on the support of Julianos and Desantana, as well as the Triumvirate Authority.”

A spokesperson for Julianos has called General Rojos remarks ‘inflammatory’, and stated that there is no need to declare all-out war on Dougherty and her forces just yet.

“It is very tempting to let loose and begin slaughtering anyone seen to be rebelling against Julianos’ authority,” the spokesperson said, “Julianos stresses that we must not forget that these rebels are Monteddorian citizens, and has even expressed a certain respect for Dougherty and her ability to rally so many under her cause in so short a time.

“Let us not forget, that little more than a year ago, Julianos was viewed as nothing more than an overly ambitious upstart. Four years ago, no one knew who Julianos was. Now he rules his own Province and commands one of the largest military forces in the world. In Dougherty, Julianos sees himself. Rather than salt the earth under Dougherty’s feet, he would prefer to reach out and open negotiations. Let it be known that the offer is open.”

Blackwood Gazette #136: Dougherty’s Rebels Bomb Three Refining Plants; “The Message is Clear”