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Onyx Path: I: From the Depths of Space to the Heart of London

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I was there when the first attackers landed on our planet. I watched the plumes of green light flashing through the night’s sky and with my friend Ogilvy, an astronomer, we even followed one to Horsell Common, where it had landed. I say “landed.” Truly, it had embedded itself in the earth, billowing hot steam and foul smoke as we and others approached to survey that dreadful cylinder unscrew, allowing its foul contents to spill forth…

But the story I am here to tell you is not mine. There are others around the world, whose tales I’ve acquired, verified, and where necessary, added literary flair to fill in the blanks. These individuals with their special gifts — these “Aethernauts” — were the first line of defense as our world came under attack. But they were many and they were varied, and their causes were not to all align. Some took advantage of the chaos of war, others used it as a reason to research their strange science, and others still made the ultimate sacrifice to protect their loved ones and their home planet. Most recorded their accounts in written form, some of which ended up damaged or incomplete, but I have taken efforts to conclude.

These are their tales, illustrated by artists I hold in great esteem: the sublime Warwick Goble, Charles Raymond Macauley, and Henrique Alvin Corrêa. Their art, I hope, shows that our world changed due to the discovery of Aether, but how it was the invasion that sent it spinning off its axis.

— H.G. Wells

Studying the Stars, illustration by Warwick Goble

Who among us could have believed Aether spinning would lead to such catastrophe? There were some, it is true, who made plain their fears of what Aether might spawn or attract. But most of us were so drawn to the possibilities Aether promised and the wonders at our fingertips that we ignored or even decried and shamed naysayers for their views.

One such man was the great scientist Nikola Tesla.

In the early days, Tesla was at the forefront of Western Aether experimentation. His labs and his students were among the most adventurous, bold, and ultimately, prestigious Aethernauts. They were the first to experiment not only on objects, measurable forces, and elements, but on space, on the body, and on time. It was Tesla who built the first Aether Gate, so far as we know. It was through such a portal we originally made our way to Mars.

Richard and I were always novices compared to Tesla, Edison, Jekyll, and Lidenbrock. We studied Aether, made good use of it, and felt we were building a brave new world with our plans and actions. However, we didn’t understand the risks.

Tesla did, but much too late to stop the tide.

Richard and I were at our own laboratory. Max was fast asleep in his cot while we spent the night feverishly pushing the limits of what Aether could do. I think on some level we looked at the Gogs and Magogs who altered the fundaments of self and space and felt lowly in comparison. It was during one of these frenetic sessions that our assistant J——— rushed to our door, hammered on it (waking Max), and implored us to climb onto our rooftop. Apparently, there was something taking place in the sky.

A late night visitor, illustration by Warwick Goble

What could it have been? We’d already seen so many miracles with Aether as their cause. Was this the birth of a flying man, perhaps, or one of those fantastic dirigibles in Edison’s arsenal? Richard took care of the boy while I scaled a ladder with J———, just in time to witness a bright jet of vivid green whiz by my chimney. I swear I felt the ozone prickle my skin, forcing my hair to stand on end. I would have fallen if J——— had not caught me.

They explained that these comets or falling stars had been descending for hours, that some astronomers among our societies had caught sight of them in nights before but that the news had been suppressed. I immediately suspected Edison again, ever the conservative, ever the controller. If he didn’t know, he damn sure wasn’t going to let anyone else beat him to the discovery.

Taking my pocket telescope from my bag, I watched where these green rockets were coming from, tracing their trajectory and course from space to the earth. Some were distant — maybe landing in foreign countries, even — others were far closer. But one thing was for sure, and this was what left my mouth dry: They hailed from Mars.

We had visited Mars on more than one occasion via Tesla’s Aether Gate. Once the power to travel great distances in a flash was at our disposal, it made sense to visit our brother planet. The God of War beckoned, his deep red hue a siren call to Aethernauts such as Richard and I. But when we reached that far-off world, we found it abandoned. There were the telltale signs of long-ago habitation — the kind of thing to put Richard’s antiquarian mind on an excited tilt — but nothing lived on its surface, at least so far as we explored.

Tesla, though… He was sure something was there, aware of our tentative steps, watching us, examining our use of Aether, waiting for us to leave before making the next move.

And perhaps now, here it was, answering our visit with its own.

From my rooftop I looked across the London cityscape, gas lamps helping me orient my sight through the gloom. I stopped as I came to realize one of the Martian devices had crash landed into the steepled roof of a familiar house six streets away from my own. The owner of that house? One Nikola Tesla.

Falling Star, illustration by Henrique Alvim Corrêa

Surely, of all the buildings in London, it could not be coincidence that a visitor from the depths of space would crash into the home of one of the few Aethernauts who’d visited its planet?

I called down to Richard and J———. We had to get to Tesla, and fast.

From The Accounts of Anne Mercer


Trinity Continuum: Aether Serial Part I, by Matthew Dawkins

Keep your eyes open for the upcoming Aether crowdfunding campaign, launching soon!

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