The Gaslight Volumes of Will Pocket: Turnkey
by Christopher Dunkle with Lori Williams
For more excerpts and info, please visit www.gaslightvolumes.com
Copyright 2013 Christopher Dunkle
Prologue: The Story of New London
England. June 1840.
Two months into her marriage and pregnant with her first child, Queen Victoria is taking a public carriage ride with her husband, Prince Albert. A mad tavern worker named Edward Oxford interrupts the Queen's ride and fires two shots at the couple, striking both in the head. Both die along with Victoria's unborn daughter. Oxford is deemed insane, but because of the severity of his crime, is sentenced to death by hanging. The Queen's assassination, however, throws the country into a fevered panic, and with no direct heir left to claim the throne, England enters its “Black Period,” a time of civil discord, international disapproval, and broken government.
England barely survives a decade under the rule of a string of temporary figureheads. Determined to find a proper heir to the throne, Parliament hunts down the man they believe to be the closest living blood relative to the late Queen, a man named Alexander Renton. Absolute evidence of Renton's royal lineage is never presented, yet the public accepts him as a successor. He ascends the throne, becoming Alexander I, and the great suffering of Britain finally comes to a close. What follows is England's “Bright Period,” a time of incredible societal and especially technological advancement. Brooding heavily on Victoria's fate, Alexander becomes obsessed with preventing the country from falling into another decline, and pushes the advancement of medical, mechanical, militaristic, and scientific studies. The British Empire soon evolves into an empire of machines, primarily built upon the developments of the forgone Industrial Revolution. Alexander's motivations and drive to improve results in a greater acceleration in these developments, particularly the commercial use of steam power, burning gas, and even a select few, limited, and experimental uses of electricity. Thanks to Alexander's fervent enthusiasm, England progresses over the next thirty years into a technological marvel. To make an example to the rest of the world, who had lost great faith in the British Empire over the preceding Black Period, Alexander I decrees the rebuilding of London, once the centerpiece of the empire that had since fallen into horrible disrepair. The entire area is rebuilt very nearly from the ground up and becomes what poets of the period call “a monument in steel and brass, a city alive with the perpetual turning of clockwork.” Alexander proudly titles his city “New London.”
Victoria's death also stirs in Alexander the importance of security. Under his command, the monarchy becomes heavier guarded and far more secretive. While this creates a feeling of detachment amongst the citizens, there is no great protest against this change. The public as a whole accepts these measures, wanting dearly to prevent another chance at assassination. Alexander becomes increasingly private, almost never appearing in public. He also creates the Royal Magnate Militia, a highly-trained, heavily-armed group of advisors who exist primarily as direct protection for the King, but also as general peacekeepers upon the streets on the city. The Magnates, as they are commonly known, become a symbol to the public of the King's unwavering dedication to security.
New London, England. 1888.
New London continues to grow and prosper, and by 1888, it is again a culturally-vibrant city and political hot spot. Steamships and zeppelins fill the sky, electric carriages and steam-fueled motorbikes zip through the streets, and gaslight lanterns glow upon every corner. As the city grows, however, so does the inevitable backlash against the aging Alexander I. People grow uncomfortable and suspicious of the King's secretive demeanor and demand to be more informed of the country's international dealings. Alexander takes great offense to these protests and in response becomes even more private with England' affairs. Further complaints are silenced publicly thanks to the intimidating presence of the Magnates, but discontented conversation continues behind closed doors. It is a period of achievement and discord, of growth and isolation. Of those pushing forward toward modernity and those left behind by it. Contrast is the flavor of the times.
New London, England.
October 1, 1888.
It is the meeting of the seasons, as crisp autumn changes into frigid winter. Snow has begun to fall and at this silent minute the city seems dead. It is a moment of bleeding in the city, as the last of the lively pubs open their doors and drain their patrons out into the streets. In one block of shops, down one such street, stands one equally-bled tavern, the Good Doctor. The last of the Doctor's customers are plodding through the door, and the establishment is quickly emptied, save for the two remaining at the bar. One's a customer, one's a tender, and between them are only air and time and a sticky glass mug.
Oh, and one of them is me.
I suppose that's relevant to add.
- W. C. P.