Book Excerpt: Hawthorne: Chronicles of the Brass Hand by Christopher C. Meeker

“…intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.” — H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

Prologue

They think me mad and perhaps well so, for at times I believe myself quite mad and would accept with impassivity, had I not recorded in total the sum of events past that others have also witnessed, these ideas of such dementia without question. Nevertheless, that which I relate to you within this journal is factual in each detail and recorded in as precise a manner as I was able even through those times in which the circumstances surrounding these events became quite tumultuous.

Thus I write these things not to tether my mind to this material world alone but to warn those who may come after of the dangers all about them of which they remain unaware and perhaps as a legacy to those who might choose to take up the task which was set before me just as I had done. A most challenging endeavour indeed, and one which I am loath to confess I was unable to see to its conclusion.

They live amongst us and make their lives in polite society with intent to control and manipulate those policies, laws, and ideals that govern each of us to the end they might rule over all, usurping power and establishing dominion over the world. From where and whence they originate and of the matter of their being I cannot at this time say, lest the watchful eyes of those who will to do evil upon us should discover the plans and mechanisms by which we mean to disrupt their schemes and render all for naught.

There are nevertheless those within our midst who are worthy of our trust and, like those who wish us harm, hold positions of influence as well. It is with their aid that we seek to disrupt the designs of the opposed and drive their forces back to the place of their origin.

I’ve enclosed here every note I have ever taken concerning my experiences. These entries are but a hint of all that I have encountered, and I include them here for the simple reason that through the publicising of this information I might bestow upon mankind a more enlightened vision of the future, the forces which seek to unseat us from our rightful place on earth, and our consciousness concerning all which we affect as well as that which affects us all.


Chapter I

IN WHICH EDGAR LEARNS OF A MOST AMAZING DISCOVERY AND MAKES PREPARATION FOR A GRAND JOURNEY TO BE WITNESS THEREOF

It is my greatest desire to record here the deeds and adventures I have experienced these past months, before the memories of those events vanish from my mind as the morning mists under the heat of a summer sun, and I am left with merely a general remembrance of what I have experienced, not wanting to exclude even the finest detail in order to make an accurate account for those who come after me and read of these astounding happenings.

Thus, the recollections counting forward from that single day in 1835 on which I had decided to embark upon a most exciting adventure, one to which I owe the very formation of my character and persona, are chronicled within these pages. It began with my departure from Willesden on a solo journey to the southern tip of the darkest continent, which is Africa, or to the Cape of Good Hope, to be more precise.

However, before I continue further I should like to introduce myself. My name is Edgar J. Hawthorne. My proper name comes from my great-grandfather, Edgar Simon Hawthorne, and my father, Edgar Richard Hawthorne. The “J” represents James, the proper name of my mother’s father and her brother, Uncle James, the most amazing gentleman I have ever known and whose exploits across the seven continents of this magnificent globe are well published within the newspapers and periodicals of this modern age. He is the man after whom I most desire to model my life, Father notwithstanding.

I am twenty years of age, rather strong, healthy, and quite athletic. I am of normal height but rather muscular for my age and have indulged myself in many of the activities and sports that are common to society, save for bare-knuckle fighting, to which Father is in vehement opposition; however, I continue to participate in it for the sheer enjoyment and, though I disdain boastfulness, I am also rather competent, having been victorious in nearly every bout.

I am also fond of fencing and swordsmanship in general and was quite eager to take up the pursuit when my father suggested it in my teenage years. Father is quite affluent, and many of my endeavours would not have been made real to me without the support of his great wealth. Father is very gracious to me, and to others as well. He would just as soon divide all that he was in possession of and distribute it in equal proportion, without favour, to as many of those who are in want as possible. In particular the wretched, the sick, the poor, the outcast, the widowed, and the orphaned: those from whom society has turned their eye. I admire my father a great deal and all that I have and am, I owe to him.

But my lust for adventure was always sparked by Uncle James. He would return from some unknown part of the world with tales of adventure, discovery, and danger. My sister, Ophelia, and I would sit in silence, listening to all the wonderful tales of his experiences for hours, imagining what it must be like to travel the world and discover new and exciting things at every turn. It was always this way when Uncle James came to visit, several times per year. Is it a wonder then that I too should long for such experiences as I grew into adulthood and began to make my way in life?

It was this sense of adventure that drew me, unerring, toward things yet undiscovered, to adventures and exploits that, as I always put to Father, begged to be embarked upon. That is not to say that every moment of my life was filled with wild fancy and fits of unrest. To the contrary, many times I would entertain myself by sitting upon our lawn on a warm summer day, tea at the ready, reading the latest scientific articles, as I am quite fond of the sciences, in particular astronomy and the invention of mechanical devices of unique design. I would allow my mind to imagine all the things that could be, and in all likelihood were, out there in the wide expanses of this earth and perhaps the heavens beyond.

It was on just such a day, the beginning of June, 1835, during the summer break from university, whilst reading the latest article of discovery in the Edinburgh Journal of Science, to which my father was an occasional contributor, much to my pride, that I had come across the most amazing piece I had ever read. The article first caught my eye because it seemed to be a report of a discovery made by our good friend John Herschel, who was at the time manning the great telescope of the Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. However, it was the content of the report that caused my jaw to slack and mouth to fall agape. The article, after short introduction, stated that new life, both flora and fauna, had been discovered on the very surface of our planet’s moon!

With great astonishment and excitement I hastened to the office of my father, which he kept within our home, to bring the matter to his attention. Upon examining the article Father removed his spectacles and, without so much as batting an eyelash, stated that he had known Mr. Herschel for quite some time and if he, being a man of honesty and forthrightness, claimed these facts to be true, then he accepted them as stated. Knowing the true nature of Mr. Herschel, however, father suspected that there was in all likelihood a deeper mystery to be revealed than what had been presented in the article. I agreed and suggested to him that there would be no better person to investigate this matter than himself, and that he might take it into consideration to travel to the observatory and speak with Herschel in person.

Much to my surprise Father declined the notion on the grounds that he was far too busy with his work and could not afford the time it would take to embark upon such an endeavour. However, what he proposed next sent me reeling. His suggestion was that I travel in his stead and accept this opportunity to expand my horizons, as it were, and to feel the freedom of life that a young man of my age ought to feel, at least once in his lifetime, before settling down. So it was decided that I would undertake the mission of seeking out Sir John Herschel of the Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope and determine the true nature of what had been written in the Edinburgh Journal of Science. I would also, to some degree, stretch my wings as the saying goes.

The next several days were spent in preparation for the voyage to the southern tip of Africa, where in all hopefulness, John Herschel, being alerted to my arrival by telegraph, would be prepared to receive me and make claim to the truthfulness or falsehood of the whole affair. We felt that travelling by sea would be too arduous and of such length as to make it inconvenient for appointments to which I had already made commitment, most notable being my return to university in autumn, so we decided to secure another means of transportation that would expedite the journey.

As good fortune would have it, however, my father, having served with His Majesty’s Royal Navy, was able to secure passage for my voyage with assistance from the Commodore at the Dover Naval Yard. I would travel on one of the finest and newest airships in the fleet, the H.M.A. Stratos, whose destination was in fact, by impossible coincidence, the Naval Shipyard at the Cape of Good Hope. The purpose for the Stratos’ tour was nothing more than to complete her Air-trials, a common practice for new vessels, and a final fitting-out by the Airship division located there.

After some debate, it was decided that rather than take the train to Dover, we would travel to the base in Father’s beloved steam carriage. I was rather pleased at the idea, for there was little that was more enjoyable than a jaunt through the countryside atop the carriage, for the freedom one felt was quite indescribable and being that there was none other like it in the whole of London made the experience all the greater. I looked forward to the trip and felt that my adventure was already beginning, and I had yet to leave the grounds of our estate.

The steam carriage, first purchased from a Mr. Richard Trevithick, was singular of its kind, and it was as close to Father’s heart as any inanimate object could be, and to mine as well. Many nights were spent tinkering with the smoke-belching contraption, improving upon its design and efficiency, as well as reducing the amount of fuss required to operate it by no insignificant amount. The original version of the carriage could carry no more than one passenger and a few parcels and demanded that the boiler valves be fiddled with at rather regular and frequent periods throughout its operation. The adjustments Father and I made increased the boiler output while requiring less attention during its operation, increased its speed by more than three times, and allowed for the carrying of at least two passengers and a significant amount of baggage. Father had also fitted the carriage with a rather smart windscreen and a sort of canvas top that kept the driver and passenger dry in all but the heaviest rain. A person’s baggage, however, did not fare quite as well so special precautions were needed to keep one’s items from becoming wet, which was accomplished in a rather crude method with a simple tarpaulin and a bit of rope.

The whole contraption was rather lumberous and not as sleek as one would like; nonetheless, in the hands of a proper financier, it is my opinion that the steam carriage, not at all unlike the one I have just described, will be the major form of transportation for most every citizen of our beloved England.

The matter of reaching my ultimate destination, the observatory of which our friend Sir John Herschel was in charge, was an altogether different challenge.

With preparations made we departed the following day for London, rather than straight onward to Dover, in order to acquire any remaining items which I might become in need of during my travels.

Arriving first at a corner shop, we procured a generous portion of some of London’s finest cheese and a tin of crackers in the event that I should find myself in need of nourishment at a time that food was otherwise unavailable. I also purchased a spyglass, making the assumption that at times during the journey I would be privy to an abundance of extraordinary sights and scenes, which later proved to be more accurate than I had imagined. Leaving the corner shop we detoured through a side street to arrive in short order at the front of the apothecary’s shop. Upon entering the shop the apothecary noticed us right away, and recognising my father, greeted us with a bright broad smile and a genuine salutation of well-being. We purchased a small amount of quinine, should I find myself infected with malaria, and a few other medical items that I might be in need of in an emergency.

It was at this point that Father did something he had not done in the past. In a quite uncharacteristic manner, and without precedence, as Father had always included me in all his business dealings whenever possible, he asked that I step outside for a moment while he discussed a simple matter with the apothecary. I hesitated at first, but knowing my Father was a trustworthy gentleman whose intentions could most always be relied upon, turned and exited the shop. I understood quite well that Father had asked me to leave in order to conduct his business in a more private manner; however, it was this very act that puzzled me to no end. Father was always open and forthright with me concerning his business dealings, as it was assumed that I would take over his affairs at some point in the future; thus he had always included me in everything that concerned that aspect of his life.

I could not help my curiosity; therefore I leaned but just a little, in order to remain inconspicuous, to where I could just see inside the shop through the painted store-front glass. I spied my father for but a moment as he reached into his trouser pocket and presented a small, round metallic object to the apothecary, who looked first at the object and then my father. Giving a slight nod of affirmation, the apothecary disappeared behind a heavy curtain, perhaps to retrieve some item which my father had requested, and returned a moment later, as I had surmised, with a small rectangular box wrapped in paper. My father took the package, returned the object to his pocket, and bid the apothecary good day.

I did not question my father concerning the matter; it was not my place to do so, and I am quite certain I would have been given no answer were I to ask for one in any case.

We returned to the steam carriage to find the machine hissing steam and puffing out clouds of billowy smoke from the boiler chimney, indicating that all was operating as it should, a small relief to us, for at times, when it was least desirable, the boiler valves would open unexpectedly, releasing boiling hot water upon the ground. Although this was a common occurrence and normal to the carriage’s operation, as had been designed, it did not make the whole affair any less bothersome. Nonetheless, at present all was running in proper fashion, which we took as a rather good omen. Climbing aboard we engaged the drive mechanism and with a jolt, which startled me nearly every time, we continued on toward our destination, traversing the same street we had taken earlier.

Travel was somewhat slower than we had anticipated, as the rain from the previous night and morning had created a muddy mess along the roadway, which caused the carriage to slip and, on occasion, become mired in the soft clay.

As we continued south-east toward Dover, however, the ground became somewhat more firm, having not received as much rain as the more northern territories, and we were able to pick up speed contending with the occasional shallow puddle that appeared along the roadway the remainder of the journey.

Chugging into Dover atop our steam-powered carriage, all eyes were cast upon us as if we had ridden to town on a two-headed elephant. This did not surprise us as few folk have ever seen a true steam carriage, and I can imagine that, with loud hisses and billowing clouds of steam, it must have appeared to them as some great technological dragon. Nevertheless, this being the age of steam, I often wondered how people could be so amazed at a simple mechanical device. Although upon consideration, was I not myself fascinated with all manner of gadgets, inventions, contraptions, and their construction and design? Technology is beyond doubt a wondrous thing and is far too oft taken for granted.

As we passed through Dover the clouds parted and gave way to some of the most spectacular weather I had ever seen. Coastal towns always had the most delightful climate, and I always enjoyed the trips I took there.

The shipyard loomed in the distance, and I could see the look upon Father’s face, a look of nostalgia, perhaps even regret. He had left the navy in good standing of course, though I often wondered over the cause of it. Knowing well that Father loved the sea and his time in the service of His Majesty, I could not imagine what might have lured him away from his career there. It was something Father never spoke of and I never pursued.

We approached the docks, busy with seamen engaged in their appointed duties, and stopped the steam carriage just outside the Commodore’s office. We climbed down from the carriage and upon reaching the door gave a quick knock before entering. A look of great joy ran across the faces of the two friends as they gave each other a firm handshake. After a few moments, I was reintroduced to the Commodore who, having not seen me for many years, seemed compelled to make a rather large production concerning my age, height, and rather uncanny resemblance to my father. With no further delays we started for the docks proper, or, to be more precise the H.M.A. Stratos, the vessel which was to carry me the remaining distance to the Cape of Good Hope and to Herschel, where with a little good fortune I would be able to gaze upon the very thing that had brought me thus far: the remarkable discoveries upon the moon’s surface.

As it happened the H.M.A. Stratos was docked some distance away; thus it was decided that since the Commodore was so intrigued with our steam carriage, we would ride the remainder of the way. With limited room on the vehicle I sat atop my luggage while the Commodore took my father’s place in the passenger seat, and Father took over the duty of driving the carriage. I sat in silence while the two friends, in frantic effort to exchange years’ worth of histories in but a few moments, talked without ceasing as we rode.

My thoughts turned to the journey ahead and what I might find, but in truth I feared I would discover that what I had read in the Edinburgh Journal of Science would indeed be nothing more than a simple hoax or misprint, and all I would get for my efforts would be a great disappointment.

This thought vanished from my mind, however, when once we rounded the corner of one of the larger warehouses, which was as tall as it was wide and long enough to house ten cricket pitches, and my eyes caught glimpse of the most amazing sight I had ever seen in all of my days.


HAWTHORNE: Chronicles of the Brass Hand: Mystirio Astronomiki

by Christopher C. Meeker

HAWTHORNE: Chronicles of the Brass Hand – Mystirio Astronomiki is the two-fisted tale of Edgar J. Hawthorne who in the summer of 1835, sets out on a journey to investigate claims of a fantastic discovery made by the Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.

Traveling with the Royal Air Brigade on the H.M.A. Stratos, England’s newest airship, Edgar and the crew are attacked by marauders. Badly damaged and in need of repair, the Stratos is forced down into the jungles of Africa.

With their airship disabled Edgar, the first officer, and a portion of the crew, set out to locate provisions. In the attempt, Edgar discovers the truth concerning the downing of the Stratos and unearths an astounding secret.

Finding himself thrust into the midst of a conflict that has raged for centuries, Edgar with the aid of an unlikely ally, must do the impossible: prevent humanity’s extinction.

About the Author

Scott Mullins is a freelance writer and digital content manager. When he’s not finding ways to distract himself from writing his novel he writes killer copy for companies all over the world. Connect with Scott on Twitter @ScottMullins86 or LinkedIn. He’s always looking to connect with other writers.