La Catástrofe Aethér
What the Consulate scientists were working on in the lowest, most secure levels of the extraterrestrial complex will perhaps never be fully understood. However, the pinnacle of their work was surely the invention of portal technology—the ability to transport a living person from one place to another almost instantaneously, by passing through a portal of pure Terrestrial Aether. Philosophers posit that the Aether is in fact the building block of all matter in every dimension, existing simultaneously in all time and space. By passing through a portal, one effectively folds reality itself, stepping out at the pre-defined point unharmed. Although the initial test subjects reported strange sensations, unexpected side-effects, and glimpses of realms beyond the veil, the invention is celebrated as the future of French dominance over the world. Work commenced to iron out the problems, and in the spring of 1849, the ‘Port du Aethér’ was constructed, with stations situated all across
France and the Low Countries. The Consulate is jealously protective of
this technology, as the builders of Aetheric portals required access to pure Terrestrial
Aether—the very substance from which France had derived its new-found power.
However, the construction of portals large and small, and in such vast numbers, had never before been tested. Most were man-sized portals, designed to send travellers to their destination in single-file. Others, like the ones in
Paris and , were large enough
for steam-engines to pass through. However, when the Port du Aethér was finally brought on-line, disaster ensued. No
longer confined to simply transporting a single person between two points, the
intricate web of portals and inter-dimensional routes caused confluences of raw
Aether and other alien matter to pour into our dimension. The energy of distant
stars, radiation from parallel universes, and sanity-splitting
extra-dimensional beings flooded through the gates, and continued to do so
until all of the energy that powered the Port
du Aethér was expended. Cosmic storms wracked the land, coruscating
energies washed over the skies, and great dimensional fluxes blinked randomly
into existence, wiping town and cities from the map in an instant. Calais
Overnight, the Consulate was destroyed, along with most of
. The nation that had flirted
with ultimate power became nothing more than an irradiated wasteland,
inaccessible due to the otherworldly fires and clouds of noxious gases that
continued to erupt across the land. The France Low Countries did not escape unscathed; huge tracts of
coastline fell into the sea, and the major towns were leveled by gigantic tidal
waves, which flooded the land and killed tens of thousands of people. From the North Sea to the Straits of Gibraltar, the oceans roiled
with chaotic energy, making travel by sea an impossibility in those regions. Western Germany, the Iberian Peninsula,
Northern Italy and Switzerland
also felt the after-shocks of the most horrendous catastrophe in the history of
the world—a catastrophe that threatened to wipe every man, woman and child in Europe from the map.
Despite the calamity inflicted on the west, the main power of Prussia escaped the worst of the fallout from ‘La Catástrofe Aethér’, as it had became known, and King Frederick suddenly found himself the ruler of the most powerful nation on the continent.
Britain, meanwhile, found itself isolated from the rest
of Europe, cut off from the continent by churning,
unnatural seas and violent electrical storms.