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The Silver Citadel of the Star Sirens

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  • The Silver Citadel of the Star Sirens

    The Silver Citadel of the Star Sirens

    A Mona Montaigne Steampunk Adventure

    As transcribed from her secret diaries


    Jeff Warshaw

    I. Antisari Arrival

    One Million Years before the Albionic Age
    Earth’s Moon

    “Commander, our quantum torsion drive has been disabled by the meteor storm,” Astrogator Nyxa reported. “We will not reach the water planet safely unless we allow the ship to self*-repair.”
    “How long will that take?” Commander Hejara demanded from within her deep sleep chamber. Nyxa had not dared awaken her Commander for such a trivial matter. She needed her thousand year sleep to complete her regeneration cycle.
    “I have estimated fifteen years by the Antisari Calendar,” Nyxa replied. “We could land on the far side of the large satellite.”
    “Very well,” Hejara replied. “Set the landing pattern and program the self-repairs.”
    “I obey, glorious Commander and Mistress,” Astrogator Nyxa replied. She swept her cyan blue hair out of her lapis colored eyes and walked over the computer banks to program the landing pattern. As she was completing the sequence, another meteor, undetected by the ship’s damaged sensors, struck the aft cockpit. The decompression killed Nyxa instantly, sucking her silver body into cold space. The needle-shaped three mile long starship Oon’Karath (Dragon Dream) plunged towards Earth’s moon and crashed, carving a long gouge into the regolith and slamming to a stop, her engines destroyed, near the Delporte crater. The ship lay silent and dead for a million years. Then, miraculously, Nyxa’s healing program, sparked to life by a violent “moonquake,” began to repair the dead ship and her lifeless crew. The Antisari were biologically engineered super women and were extremely hard to kill.

    II. The Archeologist’s Quest

    “This grog is awful!” Mona Montaigne complained. “Even by Mongol standards.” She turned her pewter mug over and spilled the steaming brown liquid onto the hay floor of the rough bar and grill called the “Shining Empress.” The buxom privateer sat between her Engineer wife, Aleen, a slender, pretty Chinese girl and her First Officer wife, Catlin, a tall busty Irish swordswoman. Her Executive Officer wife Rita, a Canadian beauty of great renown had stayed in the airship. She didn’t like the dust of the desert.
    As the three women waited for a serving girl to replace their grog with an excellent local beer, a strange, tall Albionic woman in a canary yellow caftan and a blue face veil entered the bar and walked over to them. She bowed, showing off a curvy waist and full bosom.
    “Mistress Montaigne, may I speak with thee?” the veiled woman asked. She had an odd London accent. She was clearly an educated woman from her precise diction.
    “For what purpose?” the busty airship pirate asked.
    “Your reputation is well known, Mistress Montaigne,” the woman, now kneeling on the floor at her feet replied.
    “I am an archeologist from the Greater Albion Museum. I have been searching for the ruins of an ancient civilization, but have been hampered by distance, superstition and difficulty. If you would allow me the honor, I would pay you two thousand Mongolian dinars or five thousand Albion dragon pounds to hire your airship to take me deep into the desert, past Ulan Bator.”
    “I don’t know,” Mona replied, arms crossed under her breasts. “That’s rough airspace. The sandstorms blow hot and heavy in that region and there are Mongol raiders to contend with as well. You’d have to make it worth my while. Just what are you searching for? Is there buried treasure?”
    “There might be,” the strange woman replied. “But I cannot discuss the details in such a public venue. Here is a one-thousand dinar chit in advance. If you are interested, come to my room in the Yellow Parrot Inn, Room 155, tonight at midnight. If not, I will have the chit invalidated.”
    “The Yellow Parrot?” Aleet said. “But that’s not an inn, it’s a brothel!”
    “Yes,” the yellow-clad woman replied. “In my line of work, funds sometimes dry up. I am working as a houri to fund my expedition. My---services---would be free to you, of course. For the entire length of the journey and perhaps beyond.”
    Before they could answer, the strange woman wafted out of the Shining Empress like a sirocco. The three woman conferred.
    “We’re low on funds for fuel,” Catlin said. “We could use that five thousand dragon pounds to resupply.”
    “Aye and our airbags could use re-lining,” Aleet concurred.
    “I’ll think it over,” Mona said. “But let’s go back to the ship and confer with the rest of the crew.”

    Mona’s airship, painted with a great green Albionic dragon across the fuselage and the name “Empress Asquith’s Revenge” emblazoned in fiery red cursive letters across her bow was moored at Mongolia Station with her two support ships, the smaller aerostats AE-114 and AE 115, two simpler silver three-woman dirigibles Mona had “borrowed” from Asquith’s Royal Air Armada. They were guarded by a small army of mercenary warriors loyal to Mona her ten wives.
    As she and her lead wives approached, the warriors genuflected and made good luck signs with their black leather gloved hands. They wore leather armor even in the scorching desert heat. Their martial training had made them impervious to the scalding sun and they did not sweat at all as they stood in the scorching sand.
    Mona, Aleet and Catlin climbed the crew ladder to the main cabin, where the rest of Mona’s privateer crew went about the daily maintenance routines necessary to keep the ship airworthy, armed and provisioned.
    “Ship’s Wives, we must confer,” Mona called over the intercom tube. “Please convene in the aft cabin in ten minutes.”

    “I don’t like it,” Rita said, pouting and puffing out her chest, which ruffled her Victorian bustle in a pleasing manner. “What do you know of this strange woman? She could be one of Empress Asquith’s Desert Patrol looking to collect the hundred dragon pound bounty on our heads for all you know!”
    “You’re too suspicious, blondie,” replied Laura Legere, a tall French pirate with a shock of flame red hair tinted with silver streaks and a jagged dueling scar marring her otherwise striking beauty. She paced about the cabin and tapped the tip of her silver epee on the floor boards. “I say we find out more about this mission before we turn it down out of hand. Five thousand dragon pounds is more than we got from our last four raids combined.”
    “Yes, and we’ve barely enough meat and vegetables to last two more weeks in this desert hell,” said Olga Freyasdatter, a tall buxom Swedish buccaneer, the ship’s Quartermaster Wife. Her sister Inga, taller and more slender nodded her agreement. She was the Weapons Mistress Wife.

    “We’ve not so much powder for our air cannons,” Inga said. “We have barely enough oil to grease our electromagnetic rail guns either. We should take the money, I say. Slit the wench’s throat if she’s a Desert Rat.”
    “Well, then let’s put it to a vote,” Mona said, banging her silver beer tankard on the oval table. “All in favor of at least investigating the mission raise your hands.”
    Only Rita and her sub-wife Andrea, a slim, mean slip of a girl, the ship’s Cabin Cleaner Wife dissented.

    Mona, Aleet, Inga and Laura returned to the city to meet the Albionic archeologist/houri at the Yellow Parrot Inn. It was in a bad part of the city and they were attacked twice by beggar women and thieves, but Laura made short work of them, cutting two down with her epee and maiming a third, who ran off screaming with two less fingers on her right hand.
    Arriving at the broken down inn, they climbed a rickety wooden stair case to Room 155. The midnight stars, including Asquith’s Diadem and the Empress’s Lion shone brightly through a cracked blue-glass window pane. Mona knocked on the door. Laura stood behind her with epee drawn and Inga kept her gloved left hand on the hilt of her black iron broadsword Dragon’s Claw, a fearsome Viking blade carved with magical runes. Aleet was unarmed, but Mona had her brace of four electrically fired pistols jammed into her waistband.
    After a tense few moments, the woman in the yellow caftan and blue face veil appeared at the door.
    “You may sheath your sword, Mistress,” she said to Laura. “I assure you that I am unarmed and quite harmless. Please come into my chamber or my houri mistress will become suspicious.”
    The four pirates entered the small square space which was lined with overstuffed orange and red cushions and smelled of incense, lavender oil and sex. There were books and scrolls spread across a small table at the center of the room.
    Closing the door, the Albionic woman removed her face veil. She was very beautiful, an English blonde with flashing cornflower blue eyes and full pouty lips. Mona wanted to kiss her, but Laura beat her to it. She pulled the blonde woman close and kissed her hard. Then, smacking her lips and laughing, she pushed her into Inga’s arms. Inga kissed her too, but longer and more passionately.
    After an intense round of four-way lovemaking, Mona asked the Albionic woman about the mission.
    “I am Doctor Alexis Karnarvan of the Royal Archeological Survey,” the lovely blonde replied. “Five years ago, I received a strange parcel in my daily mail. It contained a map, a brief letter and this strange piece of metal.”
    She produced what looked like a metal dinner plate, a rounded disk with strange blue symbols embossed into it in what looked like Egyptian hieroglyphics, but were not.
    “I had it tested at the London Academy of Science’s Metallurgy Laboratory,” Alexis said. “They are unable to identify three of the metals in the compound. The rest is plain old iron and nickel. But it is also slightly radioactive. No one at the Language Laboratory could decrypt the symbols. I read the letter, which was very intriguing. It told of an ancient civilization, prehistoric and forgotten, which had once lain under the sands of Mongolia. The writer, who did not identify herself, said that she had unearthed that plate and several other artefacts in the area called the Blue Dunes outside Ulan Bator, Mongolia. I came here as soon as possible, following her hand-drawn map. I have found only a few clues, but I believe I know where the ancient city lies.”
    “This must be priceless!” Laura said. She turned the strange plate over in her hands and felt the embossed runes. “Unless, of course, it’s a fake.”
    “I do not see how it could be a hoax,” Alexis replied. “Who could create metals unknown on the Earth for the purpose of forging an alien artefact?”
    “You say you have found more artefacts, Dr. Karnarvan?” Mona asked. She sat up on her elbows and began to dress.
    “Yes,” Alexis replied. She crossed the room, naked, and opened a small cedar chest. From this she removed two strangely shaped pieces of metal, neither rectangles nor triangles, but with aspects of both as well as angles that were indefinable, carved from a blue-black metal and inscribed with odd lines, two blue glass tubes almost a foot long that had gold end caps and strange silver wires inside them and a silver ball which, without any apparent power source, glowed a rainbow of colors and emitted strange noises like alien music.
    “These were all found in the Blue Dunes,” Dr. Karnarvan stated. “I don’t know how it works, but that silver sphere is a communication device. When I listened to its arcane music for fourteen straight hours, an image formed in my head. It was the image of silver metal staircase leading down into an underground citadel, a city of wonders unseen by Womankind, run by a race of silver-skinned, blue haired super women from the stars.”
    “Nonsense!” Laura laughed. “That sounds like a children’s fairy tale or a comic book story!”
    “Are these objects nonsense, Mistress Legere?” Dr. Karnarvan countered. “Come here. Hold the silver sphere in your hand for just one moment.”
    Laura grabbed the sphere, a frown on her pretty face, her naked breasts heaving.
    “I don’t see anything!” Laura laughed. Then her facial expression changed from mockery to wonder. She saw the fabulous silver city, a wonderous citadel of strange metal spires and broad blue metal streets lined with odd buildings and power stations. She saw an army of super women as Alexis had described them, tall beauties with skin like chrome and hair like bluebells. They had inscrutable Violet eyes that were all iris, no pupil and streaked with gold.
    “It’s true!” Laura gasped. The words seemed shocking even to her own lips. “A city of scientific wonders beyond our knowledge and run by gorgeous alien silver-skinned goddesses. I saw it all!”

    “Then we’ll take your commission, Dr. Karnarvan,” Mona said. “But you have to sign the Articles and become our Ship Wife and obey all our rules. As to salvage, you agree to sign me over sixty percent of the value of anything we find.”
    “Agreed, Mistress Montaigne,” Alexis said. “Now if you will give me time to gather my charts and instruments, I will meet you at your airship tomorrow at noon.”
    Unknown to all of them, through a tiny crack in the left wall of the room, a spy from Empress Asquith’s Desert Patrol had heard the entire conversation. She went silently down a hidden staircase to the nearest telegraph office to report her findings to London Air Armada Intelligence Command.
    Lord Warshaw the Unknown

    "Except in dreams, you're never really free." Warren Zevon, Desperados Under the Eaves.

  • #2
    III. The Eternal Empress

    The courier from the LAAIC waited patiently outside Empress Asquith’s chambers, the telegraphs, intelligence briefing books and map scrolls under her slender arms. After what seemed like an hour, the great bronze doors, carved with elaborate scenes of dragons and fabulous airships, opened with a groan. Two of Empress Asquith’s Imperial Guards in gold plate and white linen armor, their black leather boots polished to a brilliant shine escorted the courier down the long high ceilinged corridors of Bletchley Manse, Empress Asquith’s magnificent palace in the Marylebone Road.
    Seated upon her platinum and gold chased teak wood throne, Empress Asquith sat caressing her unusual pet, a rare blue Maltese tiger who she had hand-raised from a cub. The great blue-gray cat with his ebony stripes and white whiskers purred like a kitten as Asquith stroked behind his ears. His name was Visari and he was rumored to have a telepathic link with Empress Asquith. If that was true, only the Empress Eternal herself knew. What was evident to the most casual observer was that the Maltese tiger loved her with a very deep affection.
    Empress Asquith had ruled the Greater Albionic Empire for twelve thousand years. This was backed up by photographic, historic and artistic representations as well as DNA evidence. No one questioned either her apparent antiquity nor the fact that she had not aged a day past thirty and was as young and beautiful as ever. Her red-gold hair cascaded in glorious silky waves over her alabaster white shoulders and her divine face was that of a marble goddess, full pouty lips, high cheek bones, heart-shaped face and long Roman nose. She was the Most Beautiful Woman in the World, as voted by its own people.
    Asquith claimed that she was descended from the Roman Queens of Londinium for thousands of years and from the ancient Celts who ruled before them.
    Some people believed that the Empress was not a human being at all, but the world’s most sophisticated steam-powered machine, a unique cybernetic organism or “cyborg” with the power of independent thought. This strange theory was supported by her near invincibility in battle. During the Battle of Ypres, she had withstood a direct sword thrust from a Franco-Prussian mercenary. The blade, solid Spanish 330 high carbon steel had actually shattered on her breast. In the Siege of Dunkirk ten years later, two lances from Dutch privateers had pierced her stomach plate armor but not harmed her in any way. She had also been peppered with diamond tipped Norwegian death arrows on the Oslo Front, but had actually laughed, plucked the arrows from her skin and flung them back at her attackers, killing them all. Several of her lovers had reported hearing strange noises coming from inside the Empress’s divine body while she slept, clockwork clicks and high pitched beeps like the noises a difference engine or decoding machine made.
    “What news do you bring me?” Empress Asquith asked the courier, who was pale and shaking the presence of her magnificent ruler. She was dressed today in her green Chinese dress, which hugged her fulsome bosom, slender waist and curvy thighs in a most flattering way. She wore her silver Sash of State across her left breast and a slender silver sabre at her left hip, an electric pistol in a leather holster at her right hip. In a whimsical mood, Empress Asquith wore a leather three-cornered pirate hat decorated with a skull and crossed bones on her red-gold tresses.
    “I have news from the Mongolian Front,” the brunette girl said. She blushed, curtsied and presented the papers to her Empress. “It concerns the traitor and pirate Mona Montaigne and her crew of anti-Monarchist scum.”
    “Keep your opinions to yourself, girl!” Empress Asquith shouted to the young courier. “I asked you for information, not gossip and innuendo.”
    “Forgive me, Most Divine Empress,” the girl said. She knelt and kissed the floor, a sign of obeisance.
    Empress Asquith perused the intelligence briefing book and her eyes became an indefinable color, somewhat blue, somewhat slate gray and somewhat chrome silver, yet not any of them exactly. Some experts said that this was a sign that her vast neural net, a brain far beyond mere human intelligence, was connecting to every computer in the world, correlating data at light speed. She smiled and wrote something on a data slate, which she handed to the courier.
    “Take this note to Admiral Nakaris at Fleet Street Harbour immediately,” Empress Asquith replied. “Here’s a twenty dragon pound coin for your efforts.”
    When the girl had gone, she consulted the maps and smiled softly.
    “I think they’ve found the famous lost city of the Star Sirens at last, kitten!” she said to Visari. He purred and mewled softly, nuzzling her velvet smooth left arm with his great furred head. “What riches they shall bring to the Empire! What great advances! Now we shall crush the last resistance, smother the Pan-Pacific Alliance, shatter the Sino-Japanese Pact, dissolve the Mex-American Syndicate and smash the last of the Franco-Finnish-Belgian Rebellion.”

    “Your Highness, I do not understand these orders,” Admiral Sarah Nakaris said. She pouted, making her pretty face seem sour. “You want me to provide escort for a known pirate and traitor to the Greater Albionic Empire?”
    “Those are my orders, Admiral,” Empress Asquith’s image said on the stereovisor plate aboard Admiral Nakaris’s great zeppelin dragon ship, the Scarlet Wyvern, the flagship of the London Imperial Air Fleet.
    “Why shouldn’t we just intercept and destroy them?” Admiral Nakaris said, arms akimbo, breasts thrust forward in her tight black leather coverall. “Can’t we simply wait until she’s found this lost city and then overwhelm her?”
    “She’s not a stupid woman, Admiral Nakaris,” Empress Asquith said to her former lover. “She evaded our attempts to capture her at the Battle of Shanghai and during the Franco-Finnish Uprising. She outmaneuvered your fastest aerial cutters at the Siege of Prague in ’08. I think the best course of action is to let her complete her mission. She will come to me of her own will. Wait and see.”
    “How can you think that of such a rogue and scoundrel as Mona Montaigne?” Admiral Nakaris said. She swept her chestnut hair out of her ice-blue eyes. “She stole two of your fastest aerostats right from under your nose.”
    “Yes, and I would like them back intact if possible, not in smoldering little pieces,” Empress Asquith countered. “Fighting my own ships would be folly, would it not?”
    “I suppose, as far as property value is concerned,” the pretty Admiral flushed. “But I still say we cannot trust that unscrupulous pirate any further than I could throw her.”
    “Your objections are duly noted,” Empress Asquith replied. “Now be a good girl and carry out my orders, Sarah. I do know what I’m doing, really. I’ve been Empress since before you were born.”
    The image faded before Sarah Nakaris could make her final argument against the folly of escorting the infamous aerostat pirate. Fuming and frustrated, she went below decks to plan her intercept course to Mongolian air space.
    Lord Warshaw the Unknown

    "Except in dreams, you're never really free." Warren Zevon, Desperados Under the Eaves.


    • #3
      IV. Archaeology and Ambush

      Doctor Karnarvan arrived at Mongolia Station shortly after noon, a large leather satchel over her left shoulder and a shovel and pick axe slung over her back. She no longer wore the robes of a houri but a pair of black denim trousers, a tan cloth shirt and black leather vest, her long blonde hair pinned into a bun and worn under a rugged white pith helmet. She wore flat heeled tan leather desert boots and had a brass spyglass at her left hip, a small glass water bottle in a holster at her left. She looked every inch the field explorer and wore no makeup or jewelry.
      “Welcome aboard the Empress Asquith’s Revenge, Doctor Karnarvan,” Mona Montaigne, resplendent in her red velvet pirate trousers and tight white vest said. She helped the archaeologist climb the steep ladder to the main deck.
      “Why that name?” Alexis asked. “I thought Empress Asquith had a bounty on your head.”
      “Indeed she does,” Mona laughed. “It’s kind of an in joke. If you live long enough, I’ll explain it to you in due time.”
      The rest of the Ship’s Wives went about their business getting the great airship ready to leave her mooring and depart for the Blue Dunes.
      “Come to my cabin and sign the Articles,” Mona instructed Doctor Karnarvan. “Then you can go below to the crew quarters and stow your gear.”
      Alexis followed the curvy pirate to her lavish cabin at the back of the great silver gondola. Mona laid out a scroll of elaborate rules in an elegant script for her signature.
      “I’ll make it simple for you, Doctor,” Mona said, sweeping her jet black hair out of her eyes. “All of my crew are equal and get an equal share of the booty and have equal voting rights. You will have those rights as well, and will be required to perform ship’s duties as assigned. Put your signature at the empty line, here.”
      She tapped a black line near the bottom of the scroll and handed Alexis a quill pen made from the fingertip feather of a Pekingese Fire Drake. Alexis dipped this into a pot of crimson ink and wrote her signature on the indicated line.
      “Congratulations, you are now a crew member of the privateer Empress Asquith’s Revenge,” Mona said, and she swept Alexis into her arms and kissed her, hard.

      The launch from Mongolia Station was routine. The weather was fair and sunny, with a cool breeze from the Mongolian Desert. Alexis Karnarvan, Mona Montaigne and Laura Legere sat around a small metal table in the middle section of the long silver gondola. Alexis was making marks on an ancient parchment paper map with a compass and pencil.
      “If we head due-west on a bearing on ninety one one zero mark four, we should reach the Blue Dunes in two weeks,” Alexis said. “The trek took me ninety days on camel back the first expedition and cost me four native women guides killed by Mongol raiders.”
      “The Mongols have airship raiders too,” Laura Legere said. “We will need to keep our rail guns fully charged and ready.”
      “Inga is already doing that with her crewmates,” Mona assured Laura, her Guard Wife and Defense Coordinator.
      “I still don’t like the route,” Laura frowned. “It would be better if we detoured around Ulan Bator by the Southern route.”
      “Yes, but that would add ten days flying time,” Alexis explained. “With at least two refueling stops required. I don’t know that the aerostats could keep up with us at such a pace.”
      “Noted,” Mona replied. “We’ll stick to our Archaeologist Wife’s suggestions for now. If we encounter Mongols, we can always change our route later.”
      As they were arguing, a telegraph message came in from AE-114, which was fourteen meters off their port bow.
      “We are being shadowed by a very large Albionic dragon ship,” the message read. “No identification marks on her outer fuselage, but from the size of her, she can only be Admiral Nakaris’ ship, the Scarlet Wyvern. Request course of action. Over and out. AE-114, Tanya Alvarez commanding.”
      “It seems the distant and mysterious monarch is interested in our little scientific venture,” Mona Montaigne laughed. “She’s sent her chief lap dog, Admiral Sarah Nakaris to spy on us.”
      “Isn’t that dangerous?” Alexis gasped. “Should we take evasive action? What if the Dragon Ships attack? We have no adequate defense against Albionic airships!”
      “Don’t panic, little one,” Mona said, stroking Alexis’ face affectionately. “If the Eternal Empress wanted me dead, she could have destroyed me a dozen times over. She’s just interested in our destination, I’m certain. No need for panic.”
      “I am her subject,” Alexis replied. “But I must admit that I have never understood her.”
      “Very few people do or could understand her,” Mona laughed. “Very few indeed. Now let’s go to the galley and see what our Chef Wife Diana has made for us.”
      The three pirates left the drawing room and went aft along the sturdy wooden catwalk to the rear of the great silver gondola.

      The Mongol attack came two days after their departure from Mongolia Station. It was as sudden as a desert wind storm and as violent. Suddenly the ship rocked violently to starboard and a great black cloud of exploding shot burst next to the fuselage.
      “Flak guns!” Mona said. She bounded to her feet and sought the nearest intercom tube.
      “Battle stations! Man the rail guns and cannon batteries!” Mona Montaigne ordered. She tuned the rearward stereovisor and four sleek Mongolian sky cutters came into view, their bronze gondolas trimmed in scarlet and painted with blue Chinese dragons.
      The Empress Asquith’s Revenge was rocked by two more flak bursts as the enemy airships drew nearer. Her rail guns shuddered and one of the ships burst into blue-white flames and spiraled down into the blue sky a smoking skeleton.
      “They’re gaining on us,” Rita called from the Battle Bridge. “We can’t outgun them. I suggest we drop our ballast and try evasive maneuvers.”
      “Negative,” Mona countered over the intercom tube. “Navigator Wife Aleet, maintain present course and heading. Weapons Master Wife Inga, load the new radar guided rail gun bolts and power up the Tesla Array.”
      “Affirmative, Captain!” Inga said with a snappy salute.
      The Tesla Array was a top secret weapon Mona had stolen from the Royal Air Archives in Manchester with the help of a loyal spy and Laura Legere’s cunning. It was based on the technology of Nicole Tesla, a brilliant Serbian scientist working for the Franco-Finnish Pact.
      “Tesla Array ready!” Inga called over the intercom. “Give the orders to fire!”
      “Fire at will!” Mona replied, nearly knocked to the gondola floor by another near miss from the Mongolian attack fleet.
      Soon another of the Mongol airships exploded into blue flames. Her explosion was so hot that there was nothing left of her except a bluish afterglow. Mona frowned and wondered if she had been carrying fusion bombs.
      The remaining two Mongol ships closed at speeds faster than Mona’s ship could match.
      “Fire all weapons!” Mona shouted. “Widest possible spread!”
      Air cannons barked and rail guns hissed. The Tesla Array unleashed her lethal charged energy bolts. The lead Mongol airship was scorched to a smoldering cinder. The second ship suddenly blew up, but none of Empress Asquith’s Revenge’s weapons had struck her.
      “That last one wasn’t ours!” Rita replied. “She was struck from astern by a red ray. I have no idea where it came from, but I suggest we drop ballast and fly at best possible speed away from here.”
      “Agreed,” Mona replied, wiping sweat from her brow. “Drop the ballast. Engineer Wives, best possible speed!”
      Lord Warshaw the Unknown

      "Except in dreams, you're never really free." Warren Zevon, Desperados Under the Eaves.


      • #4
        v. The Monarch and the Multiverse

        Empress Asquith stood before a rectangular glass three dimensional battle map in the sub-sub-basement of the Secret Intelligence Service at Thames House, Millbank. The “War Room” was known only to members of the Secret Intelligence Service, also called AI-5 (Asquith’s Intelligence-Fifth Branch) and the map showed subtle yet different versions of London. Her own world was code named “Gold London,” while a nearby locale ruled by a blonde-haired, blue eyed sister of hers was “Silver London.” Ambitious and powerful androids bent on destroying their human masters and conquering other Londons occupied “Blue London.” But now Asquith contemplated another branch, a little known sector code named “Violet London.”
        Using equipment found on a crashed aerospace ship recovered outside London during World War Two, Empress Asquith and two of her chief AI-5 agents, Tara McGuire and Helena Strathern had once voyaged to Violet London. Unlike their world, which was entirely female, there were males in Violet London, as well as androids more sophisticated than those in Silver, Gold, Copper, Bronze or Blue Londons. The inhabitants of Violet London were entirely peaceful and had never fought a war. Their Albion did not so much rule as co-exist with a multitude of other prosperous nations. But there were disturbing indications of alien influence on the Violet Albionic Concordiat. There were rumors that a huge alien starship had landed on that alternate Earth millions of years ago, peopled by silver-skinned, blue-haired super women who had created Violet London to serve their sinister unknown agenda.
        Empress Asquith had first heard a rumor of the aliens existing in her own dimension nearly ten thousand years ago. A Mongol war-lady, Shin Har Khan had attacked a caravan of strange mechanical camels (as she called them) in the desert outside Ulan Bator, Mongolia in the year 1056. Her army had been wiped out by “silver knights bearing lances of blue flame and hovering silver balls of destructive light.” Though only a legend, Asquith had wondered if the Mongol raiders had encountered an alien raiding party and been wiped out.
        At the Battle of Hastings in 1066, after her superior London Air Armada had defeated the clumsy Norman Aerostatical Navy of Olivia Cromwell, the Empress had found another cryptic clue. In the ruins of one of Cromwell’s airships, a strange silver “lodestone” was found. Oddly, instead of pointing to magnetic north, it pointed due west no matter where it was aimed. Under examination, it gave off a soft violet glow, leading Asquith to believe its origin was “Violet London.”
        The Red Plague of 1125 was cured by an anti-toxin Asquith’s AI-5 agents had purchased from their counterparts in Silver London. During that exchange, one of the Silver Londoners had mentioned finding a bizarre icon in remote Indo-China, a small statuette of a goddess or idol found in an abandoned temple. The woman had a slightly alien look, with upward slanting eyes and pointed tips on her long ears and was dressed in a strange silver jerkin and pantaloons. No one could identify the statue’s point of origin. It glowed dully violet in moonlight.
        Several alternate Asquiths, including her platinum blonde counterpart in Silver London and a tiger-striped Empress in Orange London had expressed interest in the alien artefacts.
        “I have also found a strange object,” Empress Asquith of Orange London, her white and black striped hair flowing around her lovely face had reported. “A huge metal ring or torus, found in the desert. My engineer claims there are microcircuits embedded in the metal, but they appear to have been destroyed by a massive electrical pulse. We have no idea who made the ring or what its purpose could have been.”
        “My Royal Archeologists located a metal scroll inscribed with violet runes in the Gobi Desert,” jet-black skinned Empress Asquith of Scarlet London said. “My expert MI-5 cryptographers have been able to decipher only one word, and it is nonsense. The word is “Antisari.”
        Altogether, fourteen Empress/Queen/Princess Asquiths were working on solving the puzzle of Violet London and its alien city buried somewhere in Asia. Red haired, green eyed beauty Vice-Regent Asquith of Emerald London had found part of disintegrated starship engine near Berlin, Prussia. Blue-haired, crimson eyed Empress Asquith of White London sent ten thousand troops to the Gobi Desert, but they had mysteriously vanished. Lilac tressed, cornflower-blue eyed Sorceress Supreme Asquith of Gray London had a museum full of statues, scrolls and strange ivory and brass computer programming punch cards attributed to Violet London’s aliens. So far, none of them had discovered the fabulous citadel of the silver-skinned, blue haired super women. Eventually, they had formed a pact between the fourteen different Londons and created a special research unit code named the “Tigercats” to locate and report on any alien artefacts. The name was an acronym for: “Technical Intelligence Gathering, Evaluation, Research and Cataloging of Alien Technologies.”
        Empress Asquith of Gold London believed she was tantalizingly close to discovering the “Silver Citadel of the Star Sirens,” as Sorceress Supreme Asquith of Gray London called the ancient Antisari buried city. She was depending on her AI-5 agent, Dr. Alexis Karnarvan, to locate the city so her small army of Tigercats could seize it and loot its treasures before Mongol raiders reached it.
        Lord Warshaw the Unknown

        "Except in dreams, you're never really free." Warren Zevon, Desperados Under the Eaves.


        • #5
          VI. The Sleeping City Awakens

          “This is the location indicated on the map,” Dr. Alexis Karnarvan said. She handed the bronze spyglass to Mona Montaigne.
          “That little rock outcropping?” Mona replied. She saw nothing but sand, buzzards circling overhead and some flat rocks piled up in what could have been a doorway, but could just as easily be a natural formation.
          “Yes,” Alexis replied. “A doorway in the desert, the letter said. I believe that is the doorway, yonder.”
          “Hard to believe,” Laura Legere replied. She took the spyglass from Mona and looked at the barren outcropping. “It looks like the entrance to a cave.”
          “Perhaps that’s what the Violet Londoners wants us to think, so we won’t explore it,” Dr. Karnarvan said.
          “Violet who?” Rita laughed. “What nonsense is she talking about now?”

          “That’s a code-name for a parallel world we believe has made contact with the aliens,” Dr. Karnarvan replied. “We believe they crashed on an alternate Earth which we call Violet London and have been passing technology secrets to its people.”
          “This is ridiculous!” Laura Legere said. “We’re chasing ghosts and riddles. I’ll bet a thousand dragon pounds that all we find down there are rocks and debris!”
          “I’ll take that bet, love,” Mona replied. She pulled Laura to her and kissed her passionately. Then she laughed and shoved the buxom redheaded soldier away.
          “Prepare the landing parties!” Mona commanded. “Rita, you’re in charge while we’re gone. If we fail to return from the desert in three days, take the ship and return to Mongolia Station.”
          “Aye, Captain!” Rita said with a thin smile. She would not show it, but she was terrified of this mysterious desert. She felt as if something ancient and evil lurked under the shifting dunes, waiting to be awakened and conquer the world. She had no reasonable basis for such a lurid and primal fear, but she shivered as the lifeboats were lowered from their davits nevertheless.

          Alexis had become used to the smooth ride provided by the gigantic lift motors of the Empress Asquith’s Revenge, but was not prepared for the bumpy, jostling jolts of the small lifeboat. She vomited up her breakfast over the starboard gunwale and had to be helped back to her hammock by Laura Legere.
          “Don’t worry, hon,” Laura reassured her. “It happens to all of us from time to time. These things aren’t the best mode of transportation, but they’re reliable and sturdy. And they don’t need oats like a horse or hay like a camel. No poop to clean up either.”
          The little aerostat landed smoothly about twenty five feet from the rock formation they had spotted. Up close, it was obviously an artificial structure, with a keystone over the lintel and evenly spaced hewn rock at the sides. This was not a cave entrance, but a purpose-built tunnel under the sand.
          “Strange,” Mona Montaigne said. She adjusted her pith helmet and pulled a protective cloth veil over her face, sealing it into her shirt collar. Biting flies were nasty in the Gobi Desert. “I’ve never seen this formation nor heard of it, and I’m a seasoned traveler.”
          “In this dimension, perhaps you are,” Dr. Karnarvan cryptically commented. “But we may no longer be in our own universe. I highly suspect that shortly after the aerial battle with the Mongols, we shifted into a different dimension.”
          “I’ve never heard of any other dimensions,” Laura Legere scoffed. “Seems like childish fantasies to me.”
          “You haven’t seen what I have seen,” Alexis said. “But we’re wasting time. This is supposed to be an expedition to explore the Blue Dunes, not to talk about them. Let’s go!”
          The three women marched towards the rocky doorway.
          A few moments after they entered the tunnel, shielded by stealth energy fields, two AI-5 agents followed.

          The rock walls of the artificial cavern were narrow and cool. There was a faint violet glow that allowed the three explorers to navigate the corridor, but left them partially blind. The corridor spiraled downwards in a gentle decline, leading to some hidden cavern or recess beyond the sloping walls. A strange stench of ozone and burnt copper wires pervaded the sloping way and made Mona draw one of her electric pistols and point it ahead cautiously.
          After descending for what seemed like hours, they came to a silver staircase made of an unknown metal. It shone bright despite the lack of illumination. The stairs were inscribed with the same strange runes as the metallic plate Dr. Karnarvan had shown the pirates. The three of them descended the staircase and found themselves in a brilliantly lighted blue space. Before them, lit by an artificial blue sun embedded in a star-painted ceiling lay a gigantic city beyond imagination. Great steel buildings faced with chrome and dotted with glass windows climbed seventy, eighty, ninety stories high, their function unknown. There were gigantic steam engines pumping and turning huge red, yellow and green metal wheels attached to titanic rubber belts. A crane the size of a fortress rose above the tallest spires, swinging giant iron girders into place. Welding torches blared, steam trams chuffed down busy streets paved with a strange blue-gray metal. Construction machines dug up pavement, laid roadways, bolted together steel frameworks. The eeriest thing about this huge industrial citadel was that there were no people in sight.
          “The whole thing is one big machine!” Mona gasped. “It’s operating on a program like a great difference engine.”
          “Yes, I believe that is true,” Alexis Karnarvan replied. She had drawn a strange meter and some wands from her backpack and was taking radiation readings. “This city may have been populated at one time, but I think it’s just a gargantuan automaton now. I wonder what its purpose could be?”
          “Let’s find out,” Laura Legere suggested. She tromped off in her pirate boots down the nearest metal roadway, heading towards the gigantic crane. Vehicles zipped past the three intruders but seemed to take no notice of them at all.
          As they came around a corner, they spied what it was that the great construction machines were building or repairing, though it was the strangest object any of them had ever seen or even imagined. It was a great gray metal needle twenty miles long. It was ringed by enormous silver and gold metal bands connected by wire lattices to the main fuselage. At the front of the odd object was a gigantic viewing port or cockpit made of a dark blue glass. Machines were welding on parts, repairing a huge gash in the vessel’s starboard side, replacing damaged metal tori.
          “What is it?” Laura Legere said. She stood arms akimbo, sword drawn. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Is it an airship?”
          “Not an airship, a spaceship!” Mona Montaigne guessed. “Look. The hull is being hermetically sealed. The inside must be pressurized against the vacuum of space.”
          “It’s what I expected to find,” Alexis said. “But I never guessed it was this big! The scale of it is mind-boggling. It could carry an entire nation!”
          “Let’s go inside,” Laura suggested. “And have a look around. Where do you suppose the builders came from? Why are they here? What are they doing beneath the Gobi Desert?”
          If the hidden denizens and automata of the silver citadel had ignored the trio of aerial pirates this far, that changed when they attempted to cross the threshold into the gargantuan starship.
          “Identification negative,” a strange metallic voice hissed as they tried to enter through a breech in the metallic hull. “You are not Antisari. You are of the sub-species of surface dwelling hominid bipeds. Wait at the threshold. A representative of the Antisari will appear to address you momentarily. Do not attempt flight. Your weapons will not function. You are within a targeting field of neutron beams. I will demonstrate.”
          Near them, a red beam lashed out from the unseen ceiling and vaporized a small metal sculpture. Nothing was left but a dull violet afterglow.
          After a moment, a tall, beautiful silver-skinned woman with cyan blue hair and inscrutable violet eyes appeared. She was dressed in a strange silver coverall that seemed to be made of liquid metal which flowed around her as she moved. She wore black metal bars at her collar that might be rank insignia. She studied the trio of aerial corsairs with a cold discerning stare.
          “You are not representatives of the above-ground monarchies,” the woman said. Her voice was strangely powerful and calm. “You represent an outlaw faction known as “pirates” or “privateers.” What do you seek in our city? We have no gold, silver or gems here. This is a scientific research center.”
          “Who are you?” Mona Montaigne asked her alien host. “Where do you come from?”

          “To answer that question in any way that your primitive mind could understand, you would have to understand the nature of our quantum torsion propulsion drive,” the alien woman replied. “Picture twisting a metal can from both ends with great pressure. Eventually, the can will form a corkscrew shape, collapsed at the middle more than the ends. Our propulsion system does the same thing to space-time.”
          “Amazing!” Alexis said. “You can punch holes through space-time? Cross dimensions?”
          “Yes,” the Antisari leader replied. “For practical purposes, you may call my race the Antisari. Though we come from a parallel dimension, our home sun was the blue-white B class supergiant you call Sigma Draconis. Our world was a water planet, the twelfth in the solar system. Like you, we had a single large satellite and a small asteroid belt. We came here two million years ago, but our quantum torsion drive engines were damaged by meteor collisions. We have been working to build a larger ship to carry us onward.”
          “You mean home?” Laura asked the strange beauty. Her lips were blue and shapely and her figure was fulsome in a way that made Laura feel slightly dizzy.
          “No,” the Antisari corrected her. “We can never go back to the same space-time frame we came from. The torsion of a reverse thrust would create a black hole that would swallow our galaxy. We can only go on, to new dimensions. We seek another water planet to colonize. We will not take yours by force, though we could if we so desired. That is not our way. We are non-violent.”
          “Yet you threatened to vaporize us if we entered the ship,” Mona countered. She did not believe this alien’s intentions were quite so noble as she confessed. Still, if their technology was so far in advance of Womankind, they could have conquered the Earth millennia ago without a struggle.
          “That was an automated defense program,” the Antisari said. “My name is Xanthis. I will be the Commander of this vessel, which will be called Hejantrayal after my great ancestor, Hejara, the original commander of the ship that crashed into your moon two million years ago. Come, I will give you a tour of our city. Of course, there are certain things I cannot show you.”
          “Why not?” Mona asked.
          “You are a primitive race,” Xanthis commented. “You still fight tribal wars over territory, material gain, possession of real property. Our technology, if stolen and copied by you could be used to produce weapons that would give their possessors an unfair advantage over their foes. We will not permit such childish appropriation of our principles. As I said, we are a peaceful species. We only wish to spread tolerance, cultural exchange and peaceful coexistence throughout the dimensions.”
          “A noble cause,” Alexis replied. “Please do show us the marvels of your wonderful city.”
          Mona gave Xanthis a wary glower, but nodded her agreement. The tall woman led them to a conveyance made of silver metal. It was not so much a car as large omnibus. There were comfortable seats in an oval shaped interior. The vehicle itself was bullet-shaped with eight sets of evenly spaced runners or skis. It did not have either a driver or any visible engine.
          As soon as the four of them were seated, the bus began to move. Its progress was slow but smooth and noiseless.
          “How does this machine run?” Mona asked as they slid past huge buildings and machines. “I saw no motor and there is no driver. Is it run by a program?”
          “No,” Xanthis said. “It is propelled by magnets in the runners. The roadway is a giant electromagnet. The car is pulled by the lines of electromagnetic force. I can direct it with my thoughts.”
          “Fascinating!” Alexis said. “Are those large buildings dormitories or living spaces for your race?”
          “No,” Xanthis replied. “They are geothermal energy towers. They draw power from the Earth’s core to drive our machines and engines. We require very few individuals to work on our Great Project. Most of the labor is done by machines and androids. That way there is no risk to our rather small population.”
          “How small is your population?” Laura asked. There was something about this city of great silver machines that filled her with dread. She did not like the look of the great steam-driven wheels nor the gigantic cranes that towered over the mostly empty city. It seemed somehow haunted to her, though that word did not exactly convey her fears.
          “We are under two hundred individuals,” Xanthis replied. “Most of our crew are stored in stasis. We have a means of transferring our life force into crystalline rods which can be preserved indefinitely.”
          “Like these rods?” Alexis inquired. She reached into her satchel and withdrew the two foot-long blue rods with the gold end caps and strange wires inside them.
          “Where did you obtain those?” Xanthis demanded. She gently took the rods from Alexis. She stared at them and smiled thinly. “These were presumed lost to raiders three thousand years ago! These are two venerated individuals, an important astrophysicist and a great engineer. Thank you for preserving them. They will be vital to our Great Project.”
          “They were mailed to me by an unknown scholar,” Alexis admitted. “She also sent me these strange objects, and told me more could be obtained in the Blue Dunes. That is why we came to this place, following her hand-drawn map.”
          She showed Xanthis the round plate, the two strange metal fragments and the small silver sphere.
          “This is a record plate,” Xanthis said of the disk. “It is an inventory of machine parts from the crashed ship. The metal scraps are the remains of a food preparation machine. The silver sphere is a sort of souvenir. A tourist recording meant as a keepsake, a memento of this place to be given as a gift to our children.”
          The silver bullet car stopped before an immense white marble dome with strangely shaped fountains in a courtyard lined with alien trees. Their leaves were like umbrellas of odd colors: purplish-blue; rusty brown; bronze tinged with copper; black veined scarlet. Their branches twisted at almost geometrically perfect angles. Although there was no breeze, the leaves rustled as if affected by wind. Xanthis exited the car via a recessed side door and motioned the others to exit as well. The car left of its own volition, moving back slowly the way they had come.
          “This is a place where we enjoy refreshment and relaxation,” Xanthis explained. “What you might call a restaurant and theatre. If you will follow me inside, I will provide you with nourishment.”
          The aerial pirates followed the tall Antisari into a tall arched doorway in the nearest side of the marble dome. The interior was cooled by some unknown mechanism and was quite comfortable. They were led to a round black marble table surrounded by wooden benches. After a few moments, a slender silver android approached them. It spoke in an alien tongue no one by Xanthis could understand. She replied in the same shrill language, and the metal humanoid rolled off on mechanical wheels attached to its “feet.”
          “I have ordered us some basic nutrition,” Xanthis stated. “Our foods are scientifically produced to contain all of the body’s nutritional requirements, but I am afraid that you might find their flavors rather bland. Our taste buds are not as developed as humans, but I believe you will find our soft drinks tasty.”
          The android waitress returned with a large tray. Upon four plates were six gelatinous disks, mostly dark green, but one red and one white on each plate. The android also deposited four large metal tankards filled with a fizzy brown substance that smelled like ginger ale.
          Xanthis tasted one of the green disks and then took a quick bite of the red and white.
          “I suggest you use the spice disks as flavor enchancers,” Xanthis explained. “As I have just done. Please try the food. I assure you that you are not my first human guests and that the food is not poisonous to your kind.”
          Mona tasted one of the green disks. It was awful! It tasted like seaweed dipped in vinegar! She quickly took a bite of the white and red disks. The white had a bitter taste like horseradish, but the red was juicy and tasted like rare beef. She ate reluctantly. The fizzy drink was berry flavored and washed away the raw flavor of the green disk. Not wanting to be rude, she ate the entire meal, and motioned for the others to do likewise. No sense offending their hostess.
          After the meal, there was a strange sort of theatrical show. Red, blue, gold and silver woman-shaped androids with painted faces and strange, jerky motions danced and cavorted. Some imitated sex acts while others pivoted and twisted like belly-dancers. The dance lasted an hour, after which the androids retreated into an unseen part of the dome. There was no applause and Xanthis merely stood up after the spectacle was over.
          “You have now seen all we can show you,” Xanthis stated. “Our Great Project does not harm your planet nor interfere in any way with your own races or concerns. We only ask that you not reveal our presence to your governments. In another two thousand years, we will leave your galaxy as silently as we arrived two million years ago.”
          “Thank you for showing us your city,” Alexis replied. “It is truly a place of marvels! It will be difficult for me not to write of it in my journals, but I will respect your wishes.”
          “As will we all,” Mona Montaigne said. “You can rest assured that the upper world will never learn of this place from us.”
          “It’s fantastic!” Laura kept saying as another bullet car carried them back to the cave exit. “It’s fantastic!”
          Last edited by WhiteWolf359; 08-07-2015, 01:42 PM. Reason: Grammatical errors
          Lord Warshaw the Unknown

          "Except in dreams, you're never really free." Warren Zevon, Desperados Under the Eaves.


          • #6
            VII. Asquith’s Ultimatum

            “It is as we feared, Empress Asquith,” Sarah Nakaris reported. “The star sirens, who call themselves Antisari are working on a great starship powered by an awful technology called a quantum torsion drive. If that drive is activated in our star system, it will tear apart every planet and moon within a hundred light years, including our own. We must destroy that ship at all costs!”
            “Understood,” Empress Asquith said. She brushed a coil of red-gold hair from her exquisite face. “I told you Ms. Montaigne would come in handy. Give me a direct stereovisor link to the Empress Asquith’s Revenge. Time that name meant something.”
            “Aye, Empress,” Admiral Nakaris said. She typed in commands on her analog computer and a small bronze punch card emerged. She fed the card into her communications relay. Lights flashed blue, then red, then bright emerald. “The link is established.”
            Mona Montaigne’s face appeared. She and her lovely Executive Officer-Wife Rita were engaged in a loud argument when the stereovisor chimed.
            “What can I do for you, Your Royal Highness?” the airship pirate asked.
            “You have recently visited an underground alien base,” Empress Asquith said.
            “How did you know that?” Alexis Karnarvan asked.
            “I have my ways, Doctor Karnarvan,” Empress Asquith replied. “You three were not exactly alone in the alien city. I have an urgent mission for you, Captain Montaigne. If you accomplish it successfully, not only may you keep your airship and my two stolen aerostats, but all charges against you will be dropped.”
            “A full pardon?” the buxom pirate inquired. “What must I do to earn it?”
            “Destroy that starship they are building,” Empress Asquith replied.
            “Why?” Rita inquired. “From what they tell me, these aliens, the Antisari are non-violent and highly intelligent. Why would you strand them in that underground city of wonders?”
            “Because the drive system of that starship uses what is known to physicists as a “torsion field,” Empress Asquith said. “I do not have time to explain the complex mathematics, but I can tell you what it does. It tears a hole in the space-time continuum. It also destroys vast tracts of space to gather energy for its propulsion system. It would destroy the entire solar system, and many more, if that ship is launched within one hundred light years of Earth.”
            “They wouldn’t do that!” Laura Legere objected. “We met their leader, ate with them, danced with them. They are harmless and peace-loving.”
            “It’s not the Antisari you need to destroy, if, indeed, they can be destroyed,” Empress Asquith reiterated. “It’s their starship. If you have to destroy the entire city---well, that’s a price I’m willing to pay to save multiple Earths.”
            “Care to explain that cryptic remark?” Mona Montaigne asked sharply.
            “No, Captain Montaigne, I do not care to explain,” Empress Asquith’s image replied. “You have twenty four hours to accept my proposal. If not, I’ll give the assignment to Admiral Nakaris and you will be thrown in the brig of the Scarlet Wyvern and my airships immediately repossessed. Do not think to run. I have half the London Air Armada Intelligence Command surrounding you now.”
            “Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Mona laughed. “I’ll give you my reply tomorrow morning, My Empress.”
            She gave the Albion Air Service salute, arms crossed over her breasts, then switched off the stereovisor set.
            “We can’t do it!” Alexis objected. “We promised Xanthis that we would not interfere with the Great Project of the Antisari.”
            “Their starship’s drive will destroy the Earth,” Aleet reminded her. “It will devastate our entire galactic quadrant. We must destroy the ship. The aliens can live on through those---tubes.”
            “But they won’t ever be able to leave,” Alexis countered. “They’ll be effectively entombed in their underground city, forever.”
            “Well, we can argue all we want,” Mona replied. “But we need to decide on a course of action. All for destroying the Antisari starship raise your hands.”
            Everyone except Alexis and Catlin raised their hands.
            “It seems like murder to me,” Catlin complained. “I’m a pirate, but I’m not a murderer.”
            “Well, now you’re a destroyer of alien machines,” Mona said. “You’re the ship’s engineer. Figure out a way to destroy the Antisari starship’s drive. I’ll draw you a diagram and give you a description of the principles as Xanthis explained them to me.”
            “I’ll see what I can do,” Catlin frowned. “But it’s a foreign technology. I cannot guarantee results.”
            “Do your best,” Mona replied. “You always do.”
            Lord Warshaw the Unknown

            "Except in dreams, you're never really free." Warren Zevon, Desperados Under the Eaves.


            • #7
              VIII. Stealing the Dragon’s Roar

              In the ancient buried city, Xanthis stood at the bridge of the great starship and placed three glass liferods into the activation matrix. A slender silver manipulator picked up each rod and placed it into a hibernation chamber airlock. The chambers, four hundred in all, lined the bridge decks for two miles. The three closest to the bridge itself were for the Executive Officer, Pilot and Navigator. The chambers hissed as the stasis fields preserving their bodies were deactivated and their life-force was fed back in via the liferods.
              In twenty minutes, three ancient Antisari were reborn and walked onto the bridge, saluting Xanthis, their Commander. They were Alyris, the Executive Officer, Sethlit the Pilot and Oon-Kal the Navigator.
              “How may we serve, Commander?” Alyris inquired.
              “The primitive humanoids who inhabit the upper worlds have discovered our city and our Great Project,” Xanthis replied. “Their leader has intelligence agents everywhere and has discovered the secret of the quantum torsion drive. We must prepare the ship for immediate departure. We have less than two rotations of the local star to accomplish our task. Even now, the great leader sends a team of agents to infiltrate our city and destroy the drive motors.”

              “If they are inferior, why should we worry?” Sethlit replied.
              “Because they are also cunning, inventive and ruthless,” Xanthis replied. “Their violent ways render them unpredictable and very dangerous.”
              “I will begin calculating the quantum jump sequence,” Oon-Kal said. “I will locate the nearest water planet with no intelligent life forms present.”
              “Awaken my mate, Engineer Oon-Tamm,” Sethlit said. “We can coordinate to minimize time to quantum torsion drive engagement.”
              Xanthis nodded and went to the Storage Bay to retrieve more liferods. She would need at least forty more crew members revived before they could launch the Hejantrayal.

              “The device is complete,” Catlin said. She presented Mona with a large bronze disk with a small ball inserted into its center. “But I don’t have any safe way of testing it.”
              “What does it do?” Mona inquired of her Engineer Wife.
              “It generates a huge electrostatic pulse,” Catlin replied. “You stated that the Antisari technology is based on electromagnetic power. If that is true, this device should kill the starship’s engines before they can engage them. It will render them powerless.”
              “That will suffice,” Mona replied. “Now we just have to get it into their underground city and activate it.”
              Lord Warshaw the Unknown

              "Except in dreams, you're never really free." Warren Zevon, Desperados Under the Eaves.


              • #8
                IX. The Nature of Dreams

                Thirty meters behind both Mona Montaigne’s small fleet and Admiral Nakaris larger one, three highly advanced stealth-shielded Tigercat airships followed them. Composed of members from four parallel worlds, “Gold London,” “Silver London,” “Orange London” and “Gray London,” their governments had entered a mutual technology and information sharing scheme. Any alien or advanced technology was to be shared across all four worlds. Likewise, they had all agreed never to share any information with the dreaded “Blue London” and its murderous rebel androids, or the strange world known as “Violet London.”
                The principle goal of the Tigercats on this mission was to recover the data related to the quantum torsion drive, the electromagnetic propulsion system for the vehicles, the life-preserving crystals rods and the stasis chambers of the Antisari. They would remain concealed until the proper time and then pounce like their feline namesakes.

                “How long until the quantum torsion drive is ready to activate?” Xanthis asked her Chief Engineer, Ool-Tamm.
                “Five hours,” Ool-Tamm replied. “Give or take a few minutes to properly align the torsion fields.”
                “Navigator!” Xanthis shouted into her wrist communicator. “Have you located a suitable water planet within the local galactic coordinates?”
                “Yes,” replied Oon-Kal. “It is located twenty thousand light years distant from current galactic coordinates. Estimated travel time is five thousand Antisari years.”
                “That is acceptable,” Xanthis replied. “Coordinate with Chief Astrogator Shathis and enter the coordinates into the flight computer. Pilot Sethlit, report to the bridge and begin your preflight checks. All other crew, report to your stations or assist Engineering Crew.”
                Xanthis entered the Hejantrayal’s forward airlock and sealed it behind her. She summoned a shuttle car to take her to the bridge, four miles away. She was elated and felt a sense of purpose she had never before experienced. She was finally taking her people back to the stars!

                The Empress Asquith’s Revenge launched her small surface shuttle, carrying only Mona, Laura Legere and Catlin. Dr. Karnarvan had protested that she should be allowed to record a few last images of the fabulous alien city, but Mona had demurred.
                “This isn’t a pleasure cruise, Alexis,” Mona had argued. “We’re going in there on a dangerous mission. We might not come back alive. If we’re killed, you’ll need to report our actions back to Empress Asquith. You have enough footage for your Royal Archeological Society meeting. You proved the existence of an unknown alien species, living right here among us. That should set you up on the lecture circuit for life.”
                Mona nervously thumbed her electrically fired pistols. She hoped she would not have to use them. She wasn’t even certain that they would kill an Antisari. What could destroy women who could live for millions of years?
                The little lifeboat descended into the Blue Dunes and landed. They were met by ten women of Admiral Nakaris’s London Air Armada Intelligence Command, all armed with heavy electrically fired long rifles.
                “Care to lead the way, Admiral?” Mona teased. She still thought of Sarah Nakaris as Asquith’s lap dog, a toy soldier the Empress liked to play with now and again, rather than a great military leader. The pretty pirate had eluded her too many times to think of her as a great tactician or a brilliant strategist.
                “No, Ms. Montaigne, I’ll leave that honor to you and your crewmates,” Admiral Nakaris sneered. If she had her way, the infamous space pirate would be hanging from a gibbet at Traitor’s Gate.
                Mona, Laura and Catlin entered the rocky doorway to in the Blue Dunes that led down to the alien citadel. The same violet light lit the gently sloping tunnel that spiraled down under the hot desert sands. Admiral Nakaris and her London Air Service women followed, their rifles drawn and held in firing position.
                They reached the city and saw that it was now a beehive of activity. Antisari, androids and machines were pouring over the great starship, which looked ready to take off at any moment. The fuselage had been completely repaired and the five great gold and silver tori were connected to the hull.
                “Careful, Admiral,” Mona cautioned. “There’s a field around the ship that can detect non-Antisari life forms and a death beam that can target you.”
                “How far away can your EMP device work, Ms. Catlin?” Admiral Nakaris inquired.
                “I can set if off anywhere,” the comely Irish pirate replied.
                “Then do it now!” Admiral Nakaris ordered. Catlin looked to Mona, who nodded her agreement.
                Catlin twisted the ball at the center of the gold rings and tossed the device into the air. There was a blinding blue flash as the electrostatic charge burst out into the confined space. Lights went dead. Motors stopped. The three great steam turbines screeched to a halt, their rubber belts stripped. The gigantic cranes ceased and all of the androids fell to the metallic pavement as if poleaxed. The huge starship shuddered. From the great geothermal energy plants came a grinding roar as they shut down.
                “What have you done, you interfering idiots?” Xanthis screamed, emerging from the now dark cockpit. “You shut down all of our power systems, you barbaric morons! The city cannot sustain itself without power! The geothermal plants are destroyed! The whole city will be blasted to rubble by magma bursts within an hour!”
                “You lied to us, Xanthis!” Mona Montaigne said. She drew two of her pistols and aimed them at the tall Antisari leader. “If you had powered up that starship, its drive would have destroyed our solar system.”
                “But---you are inferior beings!” Xanthis shouted in frustration. “What does it matter if your stupid world was destroyed? Our people must return to the stars!”
                “We’re not inferior enough, it seems, since we found a way to defeat you,” Catlin replied.
                “I have awakened fifty of my people,” Xanthis stated. “But there are one hundred trapped in stasis pods. If you will help me to rescue them, we will share our technology with your civilization.”
                “I don’t think we have enough people with us to retrieve all of those stasis pods,” Mona said. “Even with Admiral Nakaris’s troops.”
                “You don’t,” a strange voice said. “But we do.”
                Fifty women dressed in tiger-striped coveralls and black knee boots shimmered into existence behind them. Four leaders stood forward.
                “Who are you?” Xanthis demanded.
                “They’re Tigercats!” Laura Legere said. “I thought you were only legends!”
                “As you can see, Ms. Legere, we are flesh and blood, and we’re here to offer our assistance in evacuating the Antisari city. But we have a few demands before we extend that assistance.”
                “What demands?” Xanthis asked.
                “You will share your technology with us freely and completely, holding nothing back,” the Tigercat Leader, Dana O’Hara, a tall redhead with startling blue-green eyes said. “We come from the four worlds you know as Gold London, Silver London, Orange London and Gray London. Each of our worlds will be given equal access to all of your technology, including the starship drive, the electromagnetic roadways, the geothermal energy plants and any advance weapons systems.”
                “Furthermore,” another Tigercat, Eileen Tejar, a Gray London woman with silver blonde hair and blue eyes said. “You will cease all contact with the parallel world we know as Violet London and its leader, Empress Asquithonia.”
                “How did you know about that?” Xanthis demanded. “You could not know of our contact with Violet London!”
                “You greatly underestimate our intelligence and resourcefulness, as Ms. Catlin demonstrated,” Ms. O’Hara replied. “Do you agree or not? As you said, you have only an hour to save what remains of your civilization. Give up your plans to leave our solar system, Xanthis. That will never be allowed. Your quantum torsion drive is too destructive. But you and your people can live. The choice is yours. We have fourteen separate dimensions open to you. You have none.”
                “I concede,” Xanthis sighed. “Please come aboard the Hejantrayal with your teams and begin off-loading the liferods and stasis chambers.”
                The Tigercats, assisted by Mona’s crew and Admiral Sarah Nakaris’ London Air Armada Intelligence Command women entered the alien spacecraft and began the process of removing the essential equipment. Aided by the forty revived Antisari, the women made rapid progress and were able to load up all the materials in forty-five minutes. They felt the ground shudder beneath them.
                “What’s happening?” Laura Legere asked. “Was that an earthquake?”
                “No,” Xanthis explained. “The geothermal power plants are run by an underground magma stream. While they operated, they kept an active magma flow in check. Now, unchecked, the magma pockets will burst and destroy the city. Hurry! We must complete the evacuation now!”
                The Tigercats finished pouring over the alien spacecraft, taking whatever bits and bobs of equipment they could salvage and put in their magnetically shielded satchels.
                “This will usher in a new age in all fourteen Londons,” Dana O’Hara said.
                “I hope it’s a Golden Age, not a new Dark Age,” Admiral Nakaris quipped.

                As they evacuated the city by the stone doorway in the Blue Dunes, they heard a tremendous roar as the molten magma burst up into the chamber behind them. In a few hours, there would be no evidence that there had ever been a subterranean citadel.
                Lord Warshaw the Unknown

                "Except in dreams, you're never really free." Warren Zevon, Desperados Under the Eaves.


                • #9
                  X. The Legacy of the Antisari

                  Mona Montaigne, now no longer considered a pirate, was guiding her new flagship, an elegant silver dreadnaught she had named Dream Dragon’s Daughter towards an unexplored Arctic island. There was rumored to be the ruins of a polar expedition somewhere on the ice, along with a lost shipment of Spanish gold, silver and gems.
                  As the ragged white coastline of the island drew into sight of her spyglass, a private, unlisted call came over the stereovisor. Activating the viewing plate, Mona saw the face of an unknown monarch dressed in what looked like a crystal ball gown! She wore a clear glass or diamond crown and bore a striking resemblance to Empress Asquith. Her hair was white with streaks of cerulean blue and ice green, and her eyes were all the sparking colors of ice. She was so lovely, it was hard for Mona to look at her for more than a few seconds at a time.
                  “Captain Montaigne?” the strange monarch asked.
                  “Yes,” Mona replied. “Who are you?”
                  “Allow me to introduce myself,” the woman in the crystal gown said. “I am Anarch-Elect Asquith of Diamond London. My Anarchist Union of British Utopias is under siege by an enemy I believe you are familiar with. They are equipped with advanced airships which we cannot detect with our radar and weapons that are—alien—to our civilization. They claim to be from a parallel world called “Violet London.”
                  “Interesting,” Mona replied. “What can I do for you, Anarch-Elect?”
                  “Cross over into Diamond London,” Anarch-Elect Asquith replied. “I will provide your onboard navigation engines with interdimensional coordinates. We need your help to defeat these Violet Londoners. They are using Antisari technology recovered from a crashed starship they found on the far side of the Moon. They have been reverse engineering it for nearly a thousand years and have finally cracked the aliens’ language enough to build fearsome weapons.”
                  “What’s in it for me and my crew?” Mona replied. “If what you say is true, we’d be taking an awful risk. Why ask me? Why not ask the Tigercats?”
                  “The Tigercats are spies, not warriors,” Anarch-Elect Asquith replied. “I need someone to fight the Violet Londoners, not spy on them. Your reputation precedes you, Captain Montaigne. Also, I have learned from our own Tigercats that you have recently had contact with the mysterious Antisari in your own Gold London. You know how they think, how their machines and engines work. That information is valuable to us in order to counter the Violet Londoners and their evil monarch, Empress Asquithonia.”
                  “You still haven’t said what I would get out of the bargain,” Mona replied.
                  “In our world, diamond is a common substance,” Anarch-Elect Asquith replied. “The dress you see me wearing is made from spun diamond. It is as hard as any armor and can withstand even a particle beam blast at close range and deflect it back to its target, yet it is also as soft as satin to the touch. Furthermore, diamond sheeting is an effective shielding material for our airships. To us, it has no monetary value and is merely a unique material for construction of tools, clothing, weapons and shields. But we understand it has value in your London. If you are successful, I am prepared to give you these.”
                  She withdrew a black velvet cloth and revealed four huge diamonds the size of cricket balls, each flawless and blue-white. They must weight five hundred carats each! They were priceless! One of those diamonds would set Mona up as a Countess in any country she chose!
                  “Very well,” Mona said, trying to remain calm and not stare too hard at the magnificent diamonds on offer. “I accept your offer, Anarch-Elect Asquith. Feed the map coordinates into my flight computer. I look forward to meeting you.”
                  She felt the Dream Dragon’s Daughter come about and steer a course south-by-southwest.

                  To Be Continued in the Next Mona Montaigne Adventure

                  “Anarchy in Alternate Albions.”
                  Lord Warshaw the Unknown

                  "Except in dreams, you're never really free." Warren Zevon, Desperados Under the Eaves.