I must admit to a certain schadenfreude. Don’t mistake me, I had no desire to see London burn, or for innocents to lose their lives, but Jonathan, is this not what we’ve been telling them for years? There are monsters among us! Should it have come as such a shock that Martians are prepared to sweep their heat rays through you like a farmer scythes the wheat?
I write entirely to myself. These questions are not meant to have answers.
Aether has, for close to two decades, warped the bodies and minds of its users. Only those truly possessed of iron spirit can resist its corruptive effects. And that’s just the recent Squires who style themselves entrepreneurs and pioneers. God, they make me laugh. If I were to run nude through the Congo rainforest to test the lethality of the thorns, leaves, bites, and stings of everything brushing by, would that not make me a fool? And yet, say that you’re “spinning Aether” and suddenly it’s quite the done thing to inject this serum, drink this tonic, or crank up that machine. They care only for the positive consequences of their actions; rarely do they give mind to the negative!
Jonathan, I am of course a hypocrite. I’ve experimented with that green energy. Such a verdant hue its devices and medicines give off, like a vitality too rich to be natural. But my cause is in opposition to the monsters of this world; the immortals, the Magogs, the villains who would use Aether to exert dominance over the innocent and the weak. I know how much to use, and I allow it to affect my actions, not my form or mind. I don’t seek to emulate the false gods among the Aethernaut societies. I will only ever use Aether as a tool and a weapon.
Which is why when I heard of the attack on London, I summoned a gathering of the S.O.M. in Exeter, and from there we ventured to the country’s capital. If we can eliminate lycanthropes and what the other academics call “sanguinovores” (they’re vampires, and our attempts to render them mundane through biological nomenclature only makes us vulnerable to their threat!), we can take the fight to the Martians.
When we arrived, of course, the city was in complete disarray. London hadn’t fallen, not quite, but people were scared, those creatures in their colossal tripods stalked streets once bustling with civilians, and the military had scarcely a hope against them. We watched and, I must admit, were afeared when we first saw the heat ray blast a dozen souls to cinders. It could so easily have been us in that terrible inferno.
We took to studying the creatures. We found secure buildings, cellars, and used the underground to communicate with each other. You cannot kill a monster without first identifying its weakness. The presence of Edison’s Unwinders was a constant reminder that we must keep our Aether use secret from the ignorant populace and try to drive back the invaders without revealing ourselves as threats.
I recall when we first observed a Martian in its tripodal carapace, and L—— d—G—— laughed, pointing at the bulbous, boss-eyed appearance of the thing. Rule no. 1 of the S.O.M. is never underestimate the enemy. L—— did exactly that. He assumed the thing had poor eyesight or was at least comical based on its appearance. Yes, some of us tittered as the thing’s eyes rolled askew, like those of a chameleon, but that’s when Godalming lowered his telescope and told us the truth.
Those weren’t eyes; they were people trapped in the interior of this thing. What we hadn’t observed as yet was the claw this device could utilize to snatch up fleeing civilians and drop them within its hull. Of course, the purpose of their capture of humans was an unknown at this time. Some came to believe they were hunting for Aethernauts, which may have a grain of truth, but it was the S.O.M. who found the first pit of corpses weeks later.
When we discovered the purpose, I felt more comfortable attaching the “sanguinovore” epithet to Martians.
The S.O.M. did God’s work in London. I felt for Paris, in truth, as there were many of us Aethernauts in Britain, the cradle of empire, and all but the worst of us flocked to study, plan, and attack the Martians. In France? So near, yet so far. Who was willing to take to the sea when the Martians had formed a wall of tripods, like the colossus, but writ three-score times across the English Channel? Paris had its defenders, but they were few compared to London, and so the city bled.
Where we excelled in London was information gathering. We shared our findings with each of our partner societies, excluding the rogue ones, and together a battlegroup was formed based on the tactics and strategies the S.O.M. formed through much sacrifice.
You see, Jonathan, the only way for us to discover the cracks in the Martian armor was to get up close. We could, and we did, learn much from distant study, from using Aether to affect our visibility, and from interrogating those who had been caught in the Martian path. The most valuable information, however, was only obtainable if we were prepared to climb the legs of these beasts, follow them back to their lairs, and risk our lives for just a crumb of data.
I mentioned earlier an iron spirit. Every member of the S.O.M. has one. You don’t do battle with Dracula’s children without it. It was the iron spirit that galvanized us, gave us strength, and allowed us to lead the vanguard as once again we bore weapons, from custom guns to sharpened stakes, and good Lord, we had our share of pointed sticks brandished that day.
Jonathan, I like to think our sacrifice inspired others. I cannot claim the first battle won the war, or even pushed the Martians back a mile, but I believe in my still-human heart that had we not been there, hiding under the rubble and among the red weeds to acquire the intelligence we needed, and had we not been there to lead the charge against the Martians, our tale would be much shorter.
Long live the Society for the Opposition of Monsters, and death to every monster that blights this world. May you find rest and eternal glory for everything you lost, my dear Jonathan.
I miss you.
From The Diaries of Wilhelmina Harker
Trinity Continuum: Aether Serial Part III, by Matthew Dawkins
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