Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Chronicle of Southwatch: The Great Blackout

Editor's note: We will publish sections of Herink Lesward's The Chronicle of Southwatch upon occasion to provide our readers with an alternate point of view regarding important events in Southwatch. While the majority of historians cast doubt upon Herink's credibility and his obvious anti-sunside bias, we feel that this maligned diarist can give someone unfamiliar with Southwatch a different perspective on what happened. 

For years now, the darkside citizens were accustomed to occasional blackouts.  Every factory, no matter how well-run, must stop production in order to perform necessary maintenance.  The Great Steamworks was no exception. Usually, the blackouts were not only of short duration but were announced by the Steamworks well in advance, thereby causing the citizens of Southwatch very little inconvenience.

However, a few weeks after Pertcha in the year 2958, Southwatch was struck by a completely unscheduled blackout in the middle of a cold winter night.  This blackout wasn't the result of industrial maintenance.  No, this blackout was the result of sabotage, with terrible repercussions that stretched all the way from Bricktown to Downtown and beyond. In fact, this blackout affected every single building and residence throughout the city--even all the way to the Aerie.

If the saboteurs were hoping to cause chaos, they succeeded. The series of explosions that rocked Bricktown set whole buildings aflame.  That district was the only one where one could see out on the streets.  The explosions resulted in the deaths of 49 people, most of whom lived in the rickety Visavi complex of low-rent housing.

At the Great Steamworks, the saboteurs not only managed to sever the main electric lines from the steam-powered generators, which led to the city-wide blackout, but they also destroyed the D generator.  This loss will result in erratic power and potential future blackouts as the winter season deepens.

But interestingly enough, the saboteurs also managed to wreak havoc upon the sunside of the city--not only in the hallowed skywalks and dirigibles of the Aerie, but upon Baron Amberville's own airship. I went to the Aerie the morning after the blackout, having heard from an acquaintance on the Sky Rangers about the attack upon the Amberville airship. I was dubious, thinking this was no more than the type of rumor that begins with some old woman seeking attention and then garbled through every ale shop from the Temple down. But when I arrived at the Amberville mooring, I was shocked to find the old dirigible barely afloat.  Even after several hours, men were working hard to put the remains of what must have been a massive fire out. The bessem exoskin had vanished from the port side of the stern, revealing blackened beams and mounds of smoldering rubble where once had been the private rooms of one of Southwatch's most venerable and lovely airships.

But even that could not hold a candle to the stinking mound of rubble that was all that remained of the Visavi building.  Even as people combed through the wreckage, searching for bodies, the engineers were already hard at work, bracing the now empty space and checking contingent buildings for structural damage. If the Visavi had been in Midtown or University Heights, some enterprising entrepreneur would have erected a new, modern building in its place. But this was Bricktown, and the families who'd survived the inferno would not find new housing in this spot. Southwatch would reinforce the neighboring structures with bessem buttresses, and instead of new housing would leave this space empty. They would put in a new lift system, perhaps, or build an elevated thoroughfare that would connect the Steamworks with Midtown, with wide enough lanes for the industrialists to drive their expensive vehicles safely.

While those few bedraggled survivors would have to cast themselves upon the charity of friend and family as they added their names to the lengthy waiting lists for housing in units they could afford.  It might be years before they have a space to call their own. No telling what these helpless men might do in order to shelter their families, or what degradation a young widow might endure to keep her children fed--but the young Baron, Thomas Amberville, will await the repair of his home on a trip to St. Louis. While children, victims of the same saboteurs as the Baron, freeze and starve in the unheated corner of some rat-infested garret, Thomas Amberville will enjoy the splendors of the Imperial Court.

Do not mistake me--I have no complaint against Thomas Amberville.  He is young to rule Southwatch, yes--only twenty-five--but he is not a cruel or thoughtless man.  From what I understand, he is striving to learn how best to rule and has a very real care for the welfare of his people. Perhaps when he is older, he may actually learn that his people don't just live sunside. Perhaps he will extend that care to the darkside districts, to the people who, like the families that survived the Visavi explosion only to be homeless the next day. In fact, I would surmise that he must represent some sort of threat to the status quo if the people behind the sabotage were as high-ranking as I have heard.

If he were like the majority of the government, he would never have been targeted by any conspiracy.

But then again, if he were truly aware of the plight of the Visavi victims, how could he have left for St. Louis without making some provision for them?

I believe I will watch Baron Amberville closer upon his return to Southwatch. I will be interested to see what he does, not only for the city, but at the trial of those who tried to kill him.