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Dawn of Steam: First Light
 


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Dawn of Steam: First Light


  To the girls in my life, personal and professional. To Jen, for supporting me wholeheartedly without reading a word of this novel 'til now – just because. Kate and Sarah for supporting me wholeheartedly while reading and re-reading far more than you'd have cared to. And to Khaya, the best four legged sidekick anyone could ask for. You're still missed, my baby girl.

  – Jeff

  To 2 a.m. discussions in the Parsons living room, which may have been the most educational part of college, and were certainly the most inspirational. To my mother, who didn't let being the only woman in the lecture hall stop her dreams, and told me to chase mine, wherever they led.

  – Sarah

  Copyright © 2014 Jeffrey Cook.

  All rights reserved.

  ISBN 149427650X

  ISBN 978-1494276508

  Dawn of Steam

  Book 1: First Light

  by Jeffrey Cook

  with Sarah Symonds

  Table of Contents

  Gathering the Team: Leaving London

  American Colonies: The Civilized West

  Mad Dr. Mitchell's Laboratory

  New Orleans and the Spanish South

  New York and the Northwest Notion

  The West by Air: Wonders of the West

  The West by Land: Push to the Pacific

  The West on Water: Sea to Shining Sea

  Preface by Dr. Cordelia Bentham-Watts

  January 18th, 1887

  London, England

  When my dear husband of sixty-five years passed away last year, the day was treated as a solemn national holiday. It is always difficult to mark the passing not simply of a hero, but to most people's minds, the passing of an age. It also marked the beginnings of what was destined to be a nearly impossible task. I had always felt it was vitally important to organize his notes and memoirs to be presented less as something personal and more as a lesson in history as it happened, through the eyes of the one person who could truly claim to have been there throughout it all. But it also had to be my task. Amidst his many letters and journal pages and maps was a good deal that was always intended to be only between us. There were also the most personal details of the lives of his companions, and some corners would still prefer some information not come to light. Even now, I am quite certain I should be facing one such person quite soon.

  For now, I am left with the daunting task of organizing history. I am certain some of my many detractors would state that I'm re-writing history, perhaps yet again. I am sure my regular readers would prefer another semi-scholarly diatribe into the worlds of international diplomacy and women's place in medicine, the worlds that have become almost as much my home as this wonder of technology, science, and manners we call the real world, a thing far removed from the niceties of international diplomacy, I assure you. This is not even my work, but the work of history. I'm equally sure some of my long-term detractors, who read my works for the pleasure of sneering, would prefer that I just set down my pen for good. I assure you, that will happen soon enough, and you will be forever free from the written thoughts of the first woman doctor, though I hope you'll grant me a few more years of being an overly busy old woman.

  Instead, what lies within will begin as a familiar story to some people, the story of a tiny band of brave and noble souls who set out in 1815 to shine a light on the dark corners of the world. This is the story of how that band explored the western reaches of the American colonies, journeyed to the near-mythic East, helped to open Australia to expansion, and through heroic effort and sacrifice, played a significant part in the difficult times following the Napoleonic Wars. While this is that story, it is also so much more.

  Many of the details of that journey have never seen the light of day. A good deal of this has been intentional. My husband never wanted to deal with some of the certain backlash that would come from putting his pages to wider print. I do not think he was worried so much of the eyes of the world and how they would judge him, but worried that parts of the world he cared very much for were not ready. Certainly there was also the concern for his companions. But with his passing, the risk that the truths of the very first dawnings of the modern age of enlightenment and technological wonder would be lost forever to age or accident has grown to be the greatest concern. And where my husband had a deep love for trying to please everyone, the very nature of the accomplished diplomat, and a deep sensitivity, I have the impish sense of humor given to an old woman who has long since grown accustomed to shaking the branches of the social order for all they're worth to see what falls out.

  What you will read is the truth as I know it. My husband was not given to reporting falsehood, and at the time he very much thought of himself still as a reporter, the position he gained quite by accident due to a keen mind for remembering facts and details of even chaotic battlefields. In those places necessary, I may leave a few footnotes here and there, for the modern reader, but will endeavor to do my best to allow the chronicler to tell the story as it was intended, with some assistance from his fellow travelers. Where another source of the time may tell parts of this great story as clearly, or provide facts in a more organized fashion, I will provide those clippings as well. After all, Scotland Yard and the New York papers can provide glimpses of what happened when this brave group rubbed up against the larger world far better than my modest husband.

  Notes on the Overseas Edition

  My good reader, I hope you will understand when I inform you that the edition of this history for overseas print has been slightly edited. Specific locations of Military Bases and Advanced Mechanical Workshops have been removed, as have the few photographs showing dirigible controls or technical drawings. Colonial citizens may view more information on these topics at their local universities, should you be blessed with such, or at Cambridge. As always, complete information is at Oxford, and those who apply for clearance to study there may see the unaltered documents, as well as working models, in the Bowe Memorial Wing of the Second Coltrane Building. I do recommend at least three days for the visit, should you be in the area.

  – Dr. Cordelia Bentham-Watts, 1891

  Note from the American Publishers

  July 1891

  New York, New York Colony

  The American Publishers of this history wish their readers to know that the spellings and punctuations have been modified from Dr. Cordelia Bentham-Watts's manuscript, and thus from the original documents. This has been done in accordance with the delineated differences between the two varieties of written and spoken English, as Codified most recently in the Cambridge English Dictionary, Complete Volumes, Issuance 1890. Additionally, the colloquial 'flingy' has been modified to 'slingshot' throughout the manuscript, although it apparently had not drawn the attention of that august publication, being merely an informal genitive gerund naming said item.

  Gathering The Team

  Leaving London

  January 1st, 1815

  London, England

  My Dearest Cordelia,

  My love, I wished you to be the first to receive the news of my excellent fortune, though I can scarce believe this opportunity myself. With the war ended, it seems the fancy of some men of station and wealth in the House of Lords has turned to gentlemen's bets. (1) Lord Donovan has wagered that the works of noted exploration writer Dr. Robert Bowe are not, in fact, works of fiction, as the general belief would have it. He believes that the journals are true accounts of exploration of a vast portion of the world. His opponent, more sensibly, has wagered that one man could not possibly have traveled so far, to so many unknown corners of the world, in a man's lifetime. As Dr. Bowe has long since disappeared, with many believing him deceased, the two gentlemen have
each set about hiring a crew to follow the paths outlined in the journals to see if they have any merit. Despite my own beliefs on the matter, Lord Donovan has hired me, on the strength of my past work documenting the progress of the war with Napoleon, along with my experience with Oxford's camera device, to chronicle the journey of the crew he's hired.

  Of course, such a journey is not without its difficulties. The first of which is that the crew he is intending to hire are not yet aware of the undertaking. His Lordship has asked me to travel with his representative to recruit the people I will be traveling with. You will, of course, recognize the first of these. To make such an undertaking even possible, such a journey would need both a highly capable leader, and a means to travel rapidly. Lord Donovan has accounted for both in sending me to recruit Sir James Coltrane, the famed war hero. In addition to the prestige that Sir James's presence alone would offer, Lord Donovan believes that the Coltrane family's personal dirigible, the Dame Fortuna, is the vehicle best suited for covering such long distances with great haste. (2)

  After the Coltranes, we are to travel to Scotland. As if Sir James's name was not enough, the Lord Donovan also believes that he has the means to recruit Edward McBride, the Scot sharpshooter, to our company. Beyond those two esteemed names I do not recognize the rest of the company. I do know, however, that apparently most of the rest are believed to be in the American colonies, so our first adventure will simply be gathering the crew.

  As excited as I am to even consider travel alongside the two greatest war heroes of our time, the trip itself promises to be even more exciting. Though we are not expected to come near to completing all of the tasks laid out in Dr. Bowe's many adventure journals, the possibilities make my head swim.

  There has been mention of attempts to fund an expedition to explore the American West and find a land route to the Pacific, but all such efforts were cut off by the beginning of the war. Now, that seems to be one of our most likely immediate goals, once the ship is fully crewed. Just think, dearest: our first goal is to sit on the Pacific coast and sketch (or in my case, photograph) exactly what Dr. Bowe did.

  Beyond the colonies, Dr. Bowe's journals include mention of lost cities in South America, savages and natural perils in Australia and New Zealand, mountains and monasteries in Asia, and all manner of wonders in Africa. I cannot believe that all of these things will be as described in the journals, but I am certain that what is in those places will be no less fascinating. Very soon, I shall be sending photographs of the truth of these matters back to England, along with my accounts of the trip. I will, of course, also write you at every opportunity to keep you abreast of not simply what we find, but of this incredible journey itself.

  Tomorrow I will be meeting Mr. Toomes, Lord Donovan's assistant and my companion until such time as we have recruited the traveling company.

  As always, my thoughts are with you and your health, my love. I have always admired your sense of wonder and willingness to believe in the impossible, so I can only hope this letter will prove an inspiration. Give your good father my regards. With luck, the money and fame from this journey will impress him sufficiently that he will give his consent to our marriage upon my return.

  My love, always,

  Gregory Conan Watts

  (1) The post-Colonial-War period was full of notorious bets, which would still have been spoken of in 1815. The war and its settlement brought great shifts in income, including catapulting up some of those of lower breeding into the upper scales of wealth. These men had become accustomed to making bets among the soldiers during the war and now had vast fortunes and little accountability, setting the stage for the bets in gentlemen's clubs that shocked the public, for example, 1000 pounds sterling on the first letter of a newspaper’s headline. – C B-W

  (2) The Dame Fortuna started the war as navy property, but was granted to the Coltrane family for distinction in service three years before Waterloo. While this was not the first war that England had used dirigibles, certainly a far greater number were produced and survived the Napoleonic wars than the American skirmishes. Eight were produced in 1774, and seven survived that conflict, the other being infamous. Fifty-two were produced for the defense of the realm in the early 1800s, and Napoleon's famed efforts were such that only twenty-four survived the war. – C B-W

  Editor's note:

  Tucked into Gregory's journal is an extraordinary piece of paper. It is the original listing of things which Lord Donovan intended the explorers to prove. The depth of the mission can be seen when one ponders that this listing is simply that, a list, originally printed as an index of Dr. Bowe's novels. One can easily see why credible sources think that such exploration is far beyond the capabilities of a man's lifespan. The Journals of Dr. Bowe were widely read in the 1810s as an escape when travel was restricted due to the war.

  Those listings underlined were done so on the original list, presumably by Lord Donovan's hand.

  – Dr. Cordelia Bentham-Watts

  Bowe, Dr. Robert Set of matching volumes, with subheadings

  North America – Primeval Florida – The Northwest Passage – Brimstone and Geysers – The Great Mississippi – Gentle Savages and Wild Men – Walking to the West

  South America – The Magic Amazon – Lost Cities and Civilizations – Navigating the River of Doubt – There is No El Dorado – South South America: Cold, Ice, and Feathered Fish

  Africa – Timbuktu – The Nile, Sourced and Mapped – The Nile's Great Falls – Ancient Egypt's Treasures – Small Hunters – Deepest Jungles – Inland Mountain Ranges – Crossing the Kalahari and Sahara Deserts – Into the Great Rift Valley – Navigating the Congo River

  Australia and New Zealand – Australia's Unforgiving Nature – Through the Blue Mtns – Across the Desert – The Friendliest People on Earth – Reef the Size of England – New Zealand's Eden on Earth – The Deadliest People on Earth

  Islands of the Pacific – Mysteries of 'Tiki' – Living on the Edge of Volcanoes – Tides of Life

  Near Asia – Riding the Steppes – Russia's Court

  East Asia – Climbing the Tallest Mountain – Monks in the Wilderness – Where Wisdom Rules – Forbidden China Explored

  Tropical India – Tea Fields and Temples

  Hidden Japan – The Closed Land Open'd

  From the journals of Gregory Conan Watts,

  January 2nd, 1815

  Outside of London

  It seems even the greatest of adventures sometimes have the most mundane beginnings. I met with Mr. Toomes this morning over breakfast. Though we were given suitably rich options, given the prestige of our sponsor, Mr. Toomes insisted on having only a single biscuit with jam and a cup of strong tea before spending the rest of breakfast watching me eat while he smoked his beloved pipe.

  Since that time, the pipe has been ever-present, either in person, or in conversation, as it seems to be Mr. Toomes's singular hobby. By and large, Elliott Toomes is the most difficult man I have ever attempted to speak with. Though I have been told that I have a relaxed manner that puts people at ease, he has no use for small talk if it does not regard the smoking of pipes. I have learned more about tobacco blends from around the world, the subtle differences between mahogany and cherry wood in construction of pipes – though he favors nothing so much as his beloved calabash – and the origins of the different clays and materials used in construction of pipes. We have so far stopped the carriage at every township along the route large enough to possess a smoke shop, that he can sample the local blends.

  Aside from this, he is an extraordinary fellow. Whoever first trained him in soldiery would be proud, for even at rest, he sits at attention. Were it not for the lingering odor of pipe blends, he could be ready for inspection at any moment. I cannot tell how long ago his training might have been, for he is so severe as to seem quite aged and worldly, yet so strong for his tall, reed-like frame as to suggest someone younger. At best I can guess somewhere between mid-forties and early sixties.

  Reg
ardless of his demeanor and habits, I have been assured that the estimable Mr. Toomes is quite well connected, and has considerable history with many members of the House of Lords. Lord Donovan not only trusts him, but trusts him to accomplish the herculean task of putting this crew together. I may be along to document all stages of the journey, including its roots, and maybe I will be of some help to Mr. Toomes, but he is to be the primary negotiator when we approach Sir James and the others. Whatever aid I can be, I will, but I have already learned to be very guarded while under Mr. Toomes's squinting, disapproving gaze.

  Still, I would weather far more than Mr. Toomes to be a part of this journey. The opportunity itself is staggering, but most importantly, I cannot imagine that Captain Bentham could object any longer to accepting me as his son-in-law after my taking part in a venture of this magnitude. Of all of the incredible sights we are certain to encounter in our travels, I look most forward to returning home to my love.

  Mr. Toomes has unavoidable business in London and is waiting on correspondence from around the globe. I am awaiting his leisure in the matter of this adventure, for only he truly knows our first steps. While I feel slightly impatient, I understand this endeavor is a feat of planning, and must be done properly.

  THE TIMES of London presents an opportunity to SEE in PERSON

  that about which you have only Previously READ!

 
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