An adventure that takes place during a steam-powered French Revolution.
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Scott Kinkade's Sci-Fi Stories
Currently running in Steampunk Tales, The Game Called Revolution is also available here in its entirety, complete with exclusive commentary by the author.
Taking place during a French Revolution that is familiar yet very different, this steam-powered story depicts the adventures of the Ordre de la Tradition, a group of elite knights and other exceptionally talented individuals. led by the cool and confident Jeanne d'Fleur, who answer only to His Majesty, King Louis XVI.
On July 14, 1789 (Infini Calendar), the Ordre is called to the Bastille to investigate a mysterious message that has appeared in the cell which formerly belonged to the diabolical Marquis de Sade. While they are there, the prison suddenly comes under attack by an agry mob. They soon discover that this is not an isolated incident; the Palace at Versailles is also besieged around the same time.
Why is this happening? Will the Ordre be able to save the monarchy from assassination? How is the Jacobin Club involved in this? What strange powers does the Count of Saint-Germaine possess? What is the secret of Jeanne's right eye? Is that sadistic Austrian woman friend or foe?
All is revealed within.
The skies above France, July 14, 1789 (Infini Calendar), 1:10 p.m.
Jeanne stared intently through the canopy window on board the bridge of the Minuit Solaire. So far they had yet to see any sign of the Majesté Divine, though they were flying the same heading given to them by the aide at the Palace. Fortunately, Celeste and her team of engineers had recently made upgrades to the Minuit Solaire’s engines, so the ship could fly at a greater top speed than the royal family’s vessel. This would hopefully allow them to catch up with the royal family before it was too late.
“We’ve got something,” Adolphe the left operator said.
Up ahead they could see a trail of orange smoke—a signal—ahead of them. At the head of the plume was an airship. Since there were only two airships in the world, it had to be the Majesté Divine!
“Take us in,” Jeanne said. She grabbed the communications tube hanging next to her chair. “Celeste, we’ve spotted the Majesté Divine, but it looks like they may be having problems. Have Harpoon Control ready some anchors.”
“Ma’am, if they lose thrust, we won’t be able to keep them afloat.”
“I’m aware of that. I’m going to take a team in to hopefully stabilize the ship. Just stay focused on keeping us afloat. When we get within range, fire the harpoons.”
Jeanne went to go retrieve Pierre and Victor, who were on standby in their quarters in case they were needed. Both of them were trained to operate the Minuit Solaire in the event of an emergency, and since the Majesté Divine were of the same design, they should be able to operate it as well.
They proceeded up the stairs to the top deck. The wind battered them as they grabbed hold of the railing. Normally crew members were not authorized to go topside while the airship was in motion, but these were special circumstances.
When the Minuit Solaire got closer to the Majesté Divine, Jeanne could see that it was none other than the king holding the smoke tube. Louis XVI, along with his wife and children, were huddled together at the stern of their ship.
From the bow of the Minuit Solaire, two decks below the bridge, a paneled section of the hull was removed and two enormous metal spears appeared in the rectangular hole.
Jeanne motioned for the royal family to step away from the stern of the Majesté Divine. They complied, getting clear of what was obviously coming.
Without any further warning the spears exploded from the small bay they had been stationed in. In a rush of steam and cables the spears penetrated the deck of the Majesté Divine. Wood splintered as the two airships became locked together in the sky.
The Minuit Solaire shuddered as it struggled to adapt to being tethered to its younger sister hundreds of feet above France. It shuddered even more as a crank system in Harpoon Control tightened the cables attached to the spears and pulled the ships closer together.
Once she was satisfied the two airships wouldn’t be leaving each other’s company, Jeanne threw the rope ladder overboard and rode it down to the deck of the royal airship. Pierre and Victor followed suit.
When they were safely on deck the royal family rushed over to them. “Jeanne, thank God you are here!” the king said.
“Your Majesty, you and your family need to climb up this ladder and wait—”
Suddenly a trio of black tendrils came out of nowhere and sliced the rope ladder from the hull of the Minuit Solaire. They then receded back to their source, the arm of a strange young man standing on the deck near the bow.
“Who is that?” Pierre said.
“An assassin!” Marie Antoinette yelled. “He took on the appearance of the Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt. Not only that, but bullets cannot seem to kill him.”
The royal family hid behind Jeanne and the knights. “Well, now that the rope ladder is out, it looks like we’ll have to kill him,” Victor said.
Jeanne shook her head. “No, you two need to get to the bridge and fly the ship.”
They were reluctant to leave her alone with the assassin, but they nonetheless said, “Understood.”
Pierre and Victor cautiously maneuvered around the mysterious assailant—who seemed to take no notice of them—and headed down the stairs to the bridge.
“You’re not going to try and stop them?” Jeanne said.
The assassin said, “My real targets are right in front of me. It doesn’t matter if your knights can keep this airship aloft; as long as the royal family dies, my mission will be complete.”
“Who are you and why are you doing this?” Jeanne demanded to know.
The assassin laughed. “Ironically, I was once the king’s biggest supporter. But he failed to heed my advice and now the country is on the road to ruin.”
“He is the Count of Saint-Germaine!” Louis XVI said.
It couldn’t be! “The Count of Saint-Germaine died five years ago,” Jeanne said. “That can’t be him.”
“I am far older than anyone realizes. Only I had the genius necessary to create the Philosopher’s Stone, the holy grail of alchemy. And I have used it to become ageless.”
“Let’s say for the sake of argument that I believe you. Do you really think murdering the king will help France?” Jeanne said.
“Of course I do. Our country’s rightful leader is waiting to take his place and lead us into the future, even if he has to do it from behind the scenes.”
Jeanne sighed. “If you’re that determined to commit regicide, then I’ll have to stop you.”
She unsheathed her sword and took a step towards him, but he put out his palm and motioned for her to stop. “Just a moment, please. I know who you are; you are the Countess d’Fleur. There is no need for us to fight, Countess; you can join us. You may be a noble and a dog of the Ancien Règime, but that wasn’t always the case. Your family was originally poor farmers. Because of your famous ancestor who fought for France and narrowly escaped being burned alive, the monarchy allowed the House of d’Fleur to be established in her honor. You have inherited more than her name. Remember your roots, Jeanne d’Fleur; join us and together we can make France great again!”
However, Jeanne simply said, “Is that it?”
“I can’t speak for everyone in the House of d’Fleur, but I serve the king. He is the one who believed in me and appointed me to this prestigious post. I will not betray him for anything.” She pointed her sword at him. “If that is all you have to say, let us now resolve this conflict.”
The Count closed his eyes and sighed. “Very well. The Revolution can do without you, I suppose.”
Jeanne charged in, but the Count raised his right arm which morphed into a series of black tendrils and speared her in her chest plating.
The Count’s tendrils pinned her to the deck and dented her plating. “Your irodium armor is impressive. Any other material would have been thoroughly pierced. But it doesn’t really matter; I can turn any part of my body into anything of any hardness thanks to the Philosopher’s Stone.”
Jeanne swung her sword and batted the tendrils away, but they didn’t break. So the Count wasn’t exaggerating about their hardness.
She jumped to her feet and thrust at him. However, his left arm morphed into a dark bulbous monstrosity resembling a battering ram but fleshy with veins, shredding the sleeve which could no longer contain it. The battering ram easily blocked her strike, and he knocked her aside with it. Her rapier went skittering across the deck and against the railing, rattling mere inches from the edge and falling off the airship altogether.
It didn’t make any sense; alchemy was only supposed to change objects into things with equal mass. It shouldn’t be able to enlarge body parts to the extent that was now happening with the Count. Perhaps he really did have the Philosopher’s Stone.
His tendrils once again shot out and pinned her to the deck. She grabbed them but they wouldn’t budge. She didn’t have any chance of getting free without her sword.
The Count stood over her with his hideous battering ram arm. “Farewell, mademoiselle.” Jeanne saw the unholy weapon coming down and closed her eyes.
A moment passed, though, and she wasn’t smashed, so she looked up to see what had happened.
“Not a moment too soon, eh?”
It was the forger, Jacques du Chard. He stood over her blocking the Count’s attack with a broadsword he had obviously borrowed from the Minuit Solaire’s armory. He struggled mightily against the Count’s battering ram; Jeanne didn’t know how much longer he could hold it off.
“How did you get down here?” she asked. “The Count destroyed the ladder.”
“Ah, but that is not the only thing connecting these two ships.”
She was astonished. “The harpoons? You came across on the cables?”
“My apologies, Mademoiselle d’Fleur. Your crew insisted I not do that, but I cannot redeem myself waiting around, no?”
The Count’s patience was wearing thin. “Enough of this banter. If you are on her side, then I’ll kill you as well.”
Jeanne leaned to talk in Jacques’ ear. “Can you hold him off for a minute?”
He looked the Count up and down. “I can try.”
“Please do. I have a plan, but it will take a little time to pull off. I’m counting on you, forger.”
“Your faith shall be rewarded.”
She ran over to the railing and retrieved her sword, leaving Jacques to face the Count by himself. “A lowly criminal?” the Count said, indicating Jacques. “Then you should be on our…” he said, but didn’t bother to finish his sentence. “Never mind; if you’re with them, you’re not likely to listen to reason.”
The Count raised tendrils and shot them at Jacques. “I’ve seen that trick already,” the forger said, hitting the deck and rolling out of the way.
Meanwhile, Jeanne closed her eyes and mentally steeled herself for what she was about to do. The God’s Eye, passed down from mother to daughter in her family and said to have been given to them by the Lord Himself, was an extremely dangerous tool to use. It required a staggering amount of concentration just to maintain the wielder’s sanity; more than one of Jeanne’s ancestors had been driven insane using it.
When she was certain that she was as ready as she was going to be, Jeanne removed the patch over her left eye. The world in front of her abruptly exploded with information. She could know even the tiniest details about anything she saw; the exact composition of the Majesté Divine’s deck, how many molecules were in it, its precise diameter, how many people had been involved in its construction, how many raindrops had fallen on it since its completion, its age down to the last nanosecond, etc.
Focus! She told herself. The sheer amount of information assailing her was the danger of the God’s Eye. If she didn’t concentrate on one thing at a time, she could easily lose her mind.
There! She set her sight on her target: The Count himself. He was currently fighting Jacques and trying to skewer the forger with his tendrils.
Concentrate only on the Count. All right, then…his grotesque limbs were composed of…his blood! So that was how he managed to expand his size; he had converted large quantities of his own bodily fluids to a solid form and condensed them so they became hardened against attacks.
But then, if his blood had been converted into weapons, what was keeping him alive? Jeanne focused on the Count’s midsection and saw a black substance running through his veins. Focusing even further on the substance, she perceived that it was a cheap substitute for blood. It was keeping the Count breathing and moving, but not much else.
That being the case, he shouldn’t be able to keep up a strenuous battle for long. His stamina would be depleted quickly. That would explain why he was on the defensive against Jacques and being careful not to move around too much. If Jeanne were to join the fight…
She put her eye patch back on, eternally grateful to still be sane after using it. “Forger! Focus on wearing him down! Hit and move!”
“Will do, Mademoiselle!”
While Jacques came at the Count from the front, Jeanne attacked him from his flank. Jacques dodged the Count’s tendrils and swung with his borrowed sword. The Count moved to block with his fleshy battering ram, but that left him open for Jeanne’s strike.
The Count noticed her coming and jumped out of the way of her sword swing. She managed to graze him across his chest and draw a little bit of the black substance he was using in place of blood. It may not have been serious wound, but jumping with his heavy arm weapons must be taxing for him.
Jacques didn’t give him time to catch his breath, as the forger swung at him again. Jacques wasn’t a trained soldier, but a simple swing was enough to keep the Count on his toes.
The Count didn’t have time to prepare a tendril strike, so he simply blocked with them. Jeanne then thrust under his battering ram towards his legs. Again the Count had to jump out of the way to avoid serious injury.
This continued for what seemed like ages (but was probably mere minutes), Jeanne and Jacques hitting the Count of Saint-Germaine with attacks emphasizing speed over power, and him struggling to either keep away from them or block their assaults with his arm weapons.
Finally he began huffing and wheezing from exhaustion. As Jeanne had predicted, his cheap black blood and heavy weapon arms caused him to wear out much faster than Jacques and herself.
He leaned back against the portside rail, wheezing. “I won’t…haah…be defeated by you,” he said between breaths.
“Surrender now, rogue,” Jeanne replied. “Your desecrated body was only good for brief but intense bursts of offense. Believe me; your so-called Philosopher’s Stone hasn’t done you any favors.”
“Ungh…fine, then.” He grunted with some kind of great exertion and held up his tendril arm. It was pointless, Jeanne thought; she had already determined the tendrils’ maximum speed, and both Jacques and she could dodge them now.
However, two of the tendrils merged into the third, increasing its size and length. With one final howl of physical stress, the Count launched it at Jeanne with double the speed of his previous strikes. Even if it didn’t penetrate her irodium armor, the force of the attack would surely knock her off the airship.
“Mademoiselle!” Jacques cried out. He pushed her out of the way and took the fleshy spear in his chest.
Jeanne rushed at the Count and pierced him through the heart with her rapier. No longer able to support himself on the railing, the Count fell over it and was sucked into the portside engine.
The ship shuddered as the engine exploded and the deck pitched sideways. Jacques, who had been freed of the giant tendril when the Count succumbed to Jeanne’s attack, began sliding towards the starboard side of the deck.
Jeanne saw that he was in danger of sliding off the ship and dove in to grab his arm. After a few moments the Majesté Divine stabilized slightly—probably due to the efforts of Pierre and Victor at the controls.
“Talk to me, forger,” she said.
He coughed up blood. “Did I…do good?”
“Yes, you did very well.”
“I…wonder about that. This is…a revolu…tion by the people, the same ones I…wronged. Should I have…gone against them? Will this…really re-redeem me?” He hacked up more blood.
“Believe me; you did a great service to France today. I will make sure your efforts are not forgotten.”
“I…would like…something…from you.”
“I have not…seen you smile, even once since…we met. Please…smile for me.”
She considered his words. It was true that she rarely showed emotions. Maybe…maybe that was something within herself that she should change. “If that is your wish.”
She smiled for him, not too much, but more than enough as she shed a single tear for this petty criminal who had been rejected by his own country.
“Merveilleux,” he said softly. Marvelous. And with that, he closed his eyes forever.
A sudden creaking and groaning from the Majesté Divine reminded her that it was not over yet. With only one working engine, the airship was going down, and the Minuit Solaire would not be able to hold it up much longer.
Jeanne motioned to the crew working in the Solaire’s harpoon bay to release the cables. There was no sense in both ships going down, and without the weight of the Solaire bearing down on them the Majesté Divine might actually be able to land in one piece.
There was a snap as the cables were cut and the Majesté Divine was let loose. Jeanne scooped up the body of Jacques and carried it down to the bridge where the royal family, along with Pierre and Victor, were waiting for her.
“We’re going down, Commander,” Pierre said. “You and the royal family had better strap yourselves in.”
There were more seats on this bridge than on the Solaire in order to accommodate their special passengers. Jeanne made sure each member of the royal family was secured in his/her seat before strapping herself into the captain’s chair.
The ship pitched forward and they could see the ground coming up at them. Pierre and Victor struggled to control their descent, but it looked like it wasn’t going to be enough.
Pierre yelled, “Hang on tight!”
Jeanne braced herself as the Majesté Divine hit the ground with thunderous force. She rocketed forward in her seat, but the safety harness held.
After a grueling few moments of the ship skidding against the earth, they came to a complete stop. Jeanne slowly got up from her seat and stepped into a puddle of water. The canopy window had smashed and water was pouring in through some sort of pond. It had probably cushioned the impact just enough for them to survive.
“Is everyone all right?” she said.
The king and queen confirmed that they were. Their children were also unharmed, although perhaps only physically. Everyone seemed to be shaken but otherwise fine.