by Marcus L. Rowland
Copyright © 1993, revised 1998
This is the first of a series of science fiction source packs, aimed mainly at users of table-top role playing games, but also of interest to SF fans and scholars. It is not a computer game; I am simply using computer distribution as an alternative to printed publication. If you have obtained it on the understanding that it is software, you are STRONGLY advised to ask for your money back.
Before looking at the rest of this document, I recommend reading the two Kipling stories, With The Night Mail and As Easy As A.B.C..
Scientific romances were the ancestors of science fiction. Many of these works are now difficult to find, but they contain a wealth of invention.
These stories were usually set in the future, as it was then visualised, and often had a strong Utopian flavour. The Victorians and Edwardians generally saw technological progress as a blessing that could only bring good. Pollution and over-population were only just becoming a problem, easily ignored by most writers, and the future seemed sunny. Kipling is an exception in this respect; while the world of the A.B.C. stories is prosperous and peaceful, it's apparent that this has only been achieved at enormous cost.
The world portrayed in most futuristic scientific romances was full of wonderful inventions. Some have been achieved, some look bizarre or quaint today. For example, the A.B.C. stories feature some very dubious aerodynamics, but they also mention air traffic control and parachutes, radio, radio-controlled vehicles, and other inventions which were either imaginary or in their infancy when the stories were written.
Alert readers will notice an interesting example of misguided prediction in several scientific romances, including the A.B.C. stories: airships, battleships, and even spaceships that are equipped to fight by ramming their opponents. This "prediction" can be found in Well's The War Of The Worlds  (the torpedo ram Thunder Child defends a refugee convoy), Griffith's Honeymoon In Space  (the spaceship Astronef rams several Martian airships), and With The Night Mail  (historical airship battles were fought by ramming and pithing). The explanation highlights the perils of assuming that things will remain unchanged.
During and after the American Civil War naval armour was better than naval artillery. Smaller ships of that era were built to ram and fire torpedoes at close range, because that seemed the best way to damage larger enemies. One battle (Lissa 1866: Austria v Italy) was won by ramming. The Thunder Child was based on a real torpedo ram, the only one of its class ever built; Kipling and Griffith simply extrapolated these tactics into the air and space. The era of naval rams ended with the development of armour-piercing explosive shells, but news of the change seems to have been slow to reach many authors: you'll still find spaceships using ramming tactics in science fiction stories written in the nineteen-thirties!
Leaving technology aside, another common feature was social prediction. Sometimes the story promoted a particular moral or political system, and the background would be slanted to show this belief in the best possible light. At other times the author wanted to deliver a warning; these futures were much darker, and sometimes (unintentionally) extremely amusing to readers of a later era. Some of the more extreme attacks on female emancipation fall into this category.
The First World War saw such scientific horrors as trench warfare, tanks, and poison gas, exploded the idea of technology as a sure recipe for an Utopian future, and made it clear that change wasn't necessarily going to improve things. By the end of the war the Utopian novel and scientific romances in general were in decline.
The final blow came when science fiction was established as a separate (and disreputable) literary ghetto. Many excellent authors suddenly discovered that most of their markets were refusing to publish speculative stories, or decided that their reputations would suffer if they continued in this field. Early science fiction plundered the ideas from scientific romances, usually without acknowledgement, and reduced complex ideas to simple action plots which were often inferior to their predecessors. For many years SF historians ignored all work done before Gernsback's invention of "scientifiction" in 1926, and many excellent works were ignored or forgotten.
Today the distinction between SF and the scientific romance is becoming blurred, especially when viewed by observers outside both fields. All speculative writing tends to be tarred with the SF brush, and consigned to a ghetto whose sole occupants (to outsiders) are Tolkien and Star Trek. Within the SF community the "steampunk" SF movement is starting to re-visit some of the better-known Victorian themes, but a good deal of excellent or influential work remains virtually unknown.
One of the aims of the Forgotten Futures project is to make the complete text of selected works available to a wider audience. Kipling's stories may not have been the best starting-point from this point of view, because they have recently been re-printed; John Brunner's excellent collections "Kipling's Fantasy" and "Kipling's Science Fiction" were published while this worldbook was in preparation. In extenuation it should be explained that the stories are personal favourites, that some of the early work for this collection was done more than five years ago, and that I have been able to include some material omitted by Brunner.
The author of Forgotten Futures is British, as was Rudyard Kipling. American readers will occasionally notice that there are differences in spelling and use of language between our 'common' tongues. If that worries you, you are welcome to run documents through a spell checker. Please DON'T distribute modified versions.
Kipling used Imperial measurements of length and power in the A.B.C. stories; feet and inches, miles and horsepower. To retain the flavour of the stories these units have been used wherever possible. Some types of calculation, most notably sums relating to volume, weight, and the lift of airships, are particularly awkward in Imperial units, but extremely easy using metric units. For this reason some sections, most notably the parts of section 5 which deal with dirigible technology, use an uneasy mix of metric and Imperial measurements.
Readers who are unfamiliar with the British (and American) system of weights, or with pre-metric British currency, will find the awful details in Appendix A of the rules.
This collection is a source for game referees, and most sections contain notes for use in these games. A few sections (most notably, most of the sections on aviation and other forms of technology) are written mainly for the game. The Forgotten Futures rules are recommended, but you are welcome to use the game of your choice, and add game statistics to fit its rules. No one will complain provided you don't try to publish a modified version of these files!
The A.B.C. stories contain many statements that, taken in isolation, are difficult to interpret. Kipling wanted to show a future where there were significant changes, while leaving most of the details to the reader's imagination. He was also a very self-critical author, inclined to cut his prose if it did not advance the plot. This is especially obvious in the case of "As Easy As A.B.C.", where it seems likely that significant background detail was cut.
The "historical" background poses some problems, especially contradictions in dates between the two stories. With The Night Mail, set in 2000 AD, implies a world of peace and plenty, while As Easy As A.B.C. (2065 AD) mentions famines that apparently occurred in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. I've tried to reconcile these statements as best I can, but still found it necessary to set some events a little later than I would prefer.
For the purposes of this pack events started to diverge from real history shortly before the First World War, which was longer and even nastier than the real thing. Some details carry over from our version of history, most notably the influenza epidemic of 1918-19, which in the A.B.C universe was made much worse by the events of the war. Later events are invented to 'firm up' the background, or extrapolated from the information in the stories, slotted in around the few dates Kipling mentions. I've tried to show how a few key discoveries and events might have changed history to the extent described by Kipling, but it should be remembered that Kipling may have had completely different ideas. The history below, told from a viewpoint in 2066 AD, doesn't distinguish between the different grades of data.
This file includes many other extrapolations. For example, With The Night Mail contains paragraphs which seem to indicate that its principal characters have a firm belief in reincarnation. This might be a religious belief, an indication that Buddhism has come to influence Western thought, but it's expressed so strongly that I have chosen to interpret it as a certainty, something that is generally known and has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt. Some of the reasons for this certainty, and consequences, are described below.
Critical analyses of the A.B.C. stories have suggested that the world Kipling invented is everything from an anarchistic paradise to a fascist dictatorship; I have assumed that it is somewhere between a Libertarian society and a Meritocracy, a reasonably benign capitalist system driven by the needs of trade and industry, but section 3.4 discusses some alternatives.
Kipling wrote in a period when science was going through rapid changes. X-Rays, radioactivity, and several new elements had recently been discovered, electrical engineering was advancing, and the Wright Brothers had just shown that heavier-than-air flight was possible. It seemed certain that more discoveries were waiting in the wings. Fleury's Ray (With The Night Mail) was probably inspired by X-Rays, or possibly by the French 'N-Ray' debacle of 1903. Remote controlled vehicles and other electrical phenomena (As Easy As A.B.C.) may have been based on the work of Tesla. The prominence of radium in these stories also owes much to the attitudes of the era; at this time radiation was generally considered to be a good thing, and rival health spas advertised the radioactivity of their waters!
The behaviour of some technology (most notably Fleury's Ray and Gas) will be strange to modern readers, who have the benefit of eighty years more scientific development. I have chosen to try to explain these devices in ways which cause the minimum conflict with known scientific laws, but in several instances have been forced to cheat outrageously to make things work. Kipling was occasionally a little too specific about the design of his 'digs, and matching the technology of the stories to the real world of densities, volumes, and horsepower involves some major headaches. The 'dig design rules, in particular, do not relate very well to the world as we know it.
Materials technology also caused a few problems. If you check the advertisements in With The Night Mail you'll notice a curious blend of old fashioned and modern materials. I've assumed that some old names are used for new substances - for example, that papier-mache propeller blades are actually made from a cellulose-based synthetic.
Extrapolation from these stories, and the accompanying articles and advertisements, has suggested a range of possibilities, from weather control to death rays. It should be emphasised that in most cases these ideas are inferred, or based on a few words, and may not have been in Kipling's mind when he wrote the stories.
I have previously published two short articles about the A.B.C. and its world, which appeared in Games Review Monthly in February and March 1990. They contained assumptions which I now feel were incorrect, as well as numerous errors and omissions which have now hopefully been corrected.
The Kipling Society provided some information on the A.B.C. stories. In particular one article, "The Dominion of the Unstable Air" by Donald S. Lopez, which appeared in The Kipling Journal (March 1982), proved very helpful.
The "historical" sections of this file owe a lot of their style to two sources; Olaf Stapledon's "Last And First Men", and Stableford and Langford's "The Third Millennium". My thanks to all concerned.
John Brunner's excellent collection "Kipling's Science Fiction" includes extremely useful notes on the historical background of the A.B.C. stories, Kipling's beliefs and politics, etc., and some of this information has found its way into this document.
The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction contains an article on Kipling which suggested large chunks of section 3.4, "Alternate A.B.C.s"
Finally, and most importantly, Terry Pratchett helped me immensely with preliminary scanning and OCR of the Kipling stories; the subsequent 'pruf redding' is entirely my fault!
I have been unable to include some important items. I would be pleased to hear from anyone who can help me to add them to future releases, if they are not covered by copyright:
With The Night Mail was originally published in McClure's Magazine in 1905, then as an illustrated chap-book by Scribners in 1909. I have also seen references to a Doubleday printing of 1909, which may include the same pictures. I've only seen a small copy of one picture, which wasn't clear enough to scan; anything better would be greatly appreciated.
MacDonough's Song has been set to music by Leslie Fish.
Documents were typed using Borland's Sprint word processor, then exported to ASCII format.
Graphics were mostly modelled using Zing, a 3D presentation program, then exported to Micrografx Photomagic for final editing and effects. Art from Walnut Creek's "GIFs Galore" CD-Rom was used for backgrounds in a couple of pictures; unfortunately the original photographers weren't credited - thanks, whoever you are.
This list defines these terms as they are used in the A.B.C. stories, or in the material that follows.
[Extracted, with permission, from "Transportation And Civilisation" by Rowena Dell, Oxford University Press 2066]
In the early twentieth century the development of airships and aeroplanes (heavier-than-air flying machines, now obsolete) promised to usher in an era of change; no-one foresaw that these changes would eventually sweep away most institutions and governments. As we now know, "Transportation Is Civilisation"; change its speed and range and you change every aspect of civilisation.
Seen from our vantage point in the late twenty-first century, the events of the past century and a half seem to be an inevitable progression. We wonder why men made such idiotic mistakes, and telescope ideas and events which were actually decades apart. Sloppy scholarship and badly-researched fiction don't help. A recent cinematograph film, "The Madness Of Crowds", is a particularly flagrant case in point; supposedly set in the early years of the Great War, it showed cargo-carrying submersibles which did not exist in that era, and featured a daring chase in a bat-boat of a type first built in the late nineteen-sixties!
To fully appreciate the recent past, it's necessary to set these events in context. Perhaps it's advisable to look first at the early history of a tragic era, and trace the steps which led to the current state of affairs.
"...He was long on Kings. And Continental crises. I do not pretend to
follow British domestic politics, but in the aeroplane business a man
has to know something of international possibilities. At present, you
British are settin' in kimonos on dynamite kegs..."
The origins and events of the World War are so remote from modern civilisation that a larger work is needed to cover their complexities. In brief, the governments of Europe had made complex alliances, an interlocking web of associations and obligations that were supposed to ensure peace but were in fact guaranteed to precipitate warfare if any two states came into opposition. Inevitably this occurred.
Shortly before the war an event of crucial significance to aviation occurred; it was to have a profound effect on the conflict. In 1913 Germany tested anti-submarine mines in the shallow waters of the Heligoland Bight, a sheltered area of the North Sea. After one explosion alert sailors noticed that the sea was covered in burning bubbles. The gas flow continued for several hours, and a brave seaman (whose name has unfortunately not survived to be recorded in this account) rowed to the edge of the disturbance, then swam underwater to collect the unburned gas. Chemists analysed the samples, finding methane (98%) and a mixture of other gases. Roughly a quarter of this remainder was helium, which had previously been found only in tiny quantities associated with uranium deposits, and as a smaller fraction of the gas associated with American oil wells. It should be remembered that at this time natural gas was considered a nuisance by the oil industry, and released or burned.
The Germans thought that there might be oil below the gas, and made plans to mine it. Coastal gun batteries were built to protect the area, and a crude underwater drilling rig (actually a form of pile driver) was deployed in the early months of the war. By this time it was clear that helium could be important to the new military science of aeronautics and the growing German air fleet, so the Germans started to ship the gas ashore while continuing to look for oil. Meanwhile German organic chemists, at this time the best in the world, were developing self-sealing synthetic rubber membranes which could contain the evasive helium molecules. Liquefied methane was a necessary by-product of helium production, and was used as fuel; hydrogen 'digs were also converted to methane fuel.
Helium 'digs were immune to the effects of incendiary ammunition, unless a lucky shot penetrated their well-armoured fuel tanks, and their crews need not worry about sparks and flames. They could spend time at comparatively low altitudes over their targets. The 'dig Kaiser Wilhelm had survived nearly three hundred bullet and shrapnel punctures before it was finally destroyed, others endured even more damage.
The Kaiser Wilhelm first flew in June 1915, and attacked the British fleet in July and August. Only one ship was seriously damaged by its relatively small bombs, but the Germans apparently believed that they had destroyed at least three dreadnoughts; this miscalculation was encouraged by British agents, and may have affected German tactics in the Battle of Jutland.
Strong German aerial support, including the use of chlorine and other toxic gasses sprayed from the air, ended the stalemate of trench warfare, and the Germans made rapid advances into France. After taking horrific casualties the remnants of the British forces fell back to coastal positions, with volunteers staying behind to harass and delay the Germans while their comrades were evacuated. Eventually Germany was left in control of most of continental Europe, and a long war of blockade and attrition began. This defeat, and the work of German agents provocateurs, sparked disorder in many areas; most notably rebellions in Ireland, India, and Russia.
The Irish rebellion was the shortest and least successful; with hindsight it is hard to imagine how anyone could have expected it to succeed under any circumstances. The rebels were no real match for Ireland's police force, let alone the regiments of combat-hardened troops that had returned from Europe and were available to suppress them. Approximately ninety rebels died in two weeks of fighting. Ironically, most of the troops who suppressed the rebellion came from loyal Irish regiments.
In India the depleted garrison forces were greatly outnumbered. A dozen different mutinies, launched for as many reasons, smouldered through the war and on into the nineteen-twenties, causing devastation followed by famine, and leaving the way open for plague. Britain simply waited until the native forces were too weak to put up any effective resistance, then regained power by default. Afterwards there were claims that the British government had encouraged the spread of Spanish Influenza (see below) to India, but this seems unlikely; British troops probably carried the disease to India, but were the first to succumb to it.
The Russian army was unable to put up any effective resistance to the Germans, and suffered horrendous casualties. In 1917 a "soviet" (political organisation) led by the pacifist Kerensky seized power and immediately sued for peace. The move was popular in Russia, and delighted the Germans, who gladly accepted a complete Russian withdrawal to new borders which conceded nearly a hundred thousand square miles of territory.
Russia spent the rest of the war as a neutral, wholly concerned with internal affairs. Historical theorists believe that a majority of Russian conscripts would have joined the so-called "communist" uprising later that year if Russia had still been at war; as it was, most remained loyal and it was easily repressed. A series of reforms restored political stability until the mid-twenties, when a schismatic faction of the Russian Orthodox Church seized power. The reign of terror which followed has been extensively documented, and is beyond the scope of this article; suffice it to say that it kept Russia off the global political and military stage until the late nineteen-forties.
At the end of 1916 the land war in Europe was effectively over, although combat did continue in the Balkans, Middle East, and Africa. The war at sea had culminated in the battle of Jutland, a British victory which left Germany with a greatly reduced surface fleet. The German U-boat fleet was still active, and achieving some success, but Admiral Churchill and his staff developed new tactics (most notably the use of hydrogen 'digs to spot and bomb U-boats, combined with wireless links to surface vessels) which greatly limited their effectiveness. One German survivor (picked up from the U-boat which was rammed by the liner Lusitania) claimed his craft had been bombed four times in a week. Meanwhile German Zeppelin 'digs were making near-nightly attacks on Britain, and Britain had no 'digs capable of surviving prolonged hostile fire. Britain did have a growing fleet of heavier-than-air 'planes, which were used for defence and to make pinprick attacks on Germany, but their capacity and range were much too limited for serious offensive use.
Naturally British scientists and spies discovered many of the secrets of the German "terror weapons"; eventually Britain had its own helium 'digs. The first was HMA Nimrod, built in part from materials salvaged from the wrecked Kaiser Wilhelm, which flew in January 1917. Its maiden operation was a successful raid on the German drilling rigs, which hampered German 'dig operations for several months. At first Britain purchased helium from America, where there were numerous natural gas wells; later Germany denounced this as a breach of neutrality, and the USA was forced to end the trade, but by then Britain had its own supplies. Naturally America continued to extract the gas and use it for its own air fleets and civilian 'digs; Britain gave America full details of helium 'dig construction as part-payment for the gas. Several times in 1917 it seemed possible that America would be forced to enter the war, usually on the British side but once (after the accidental bombing of the American Embassy in Berlin) on the German, but each time this danger was averted.
By 1918 both sides were locked into what promised to be a long war of attrition, with air raids and battles between the opposing 'dig fleets the main form of combat. Allied fire raids had devastated large areas of the German countryside, and German reprisals had shattered many British cities. The British blockade was slowly strangling the German economy; there were no major sea battles, but the German dirigibles (now equipped with better armour-piercing bombs) kept the British fleet on the move and prevented its use to cover an invasion. Britain had its own helium sources, gas wells at several well-camouflaged sites on the South Coast, and both sides were developing chemical weapons and bombs of devastating lethality. Perhaps it is fortunate that the first Plague ended the war. As should be obvious, this was a mixed blessing.
The first modern Plague, known then as Spanish Influenza or 'flu, spread across Europe and the Balkans, then into the Middle East, Russia, and Asia, in the winter of 1918-19. At this time a high percentage of the soldiers and civilians on both sides were undernourished, injured, or suffering the effects of exposure to chemical weapons. In every corner of Europe hundreds of thousands of homeless refugees lived under conditions of appalling harshness. Years of blockades and short rations and a bitterly cold winter left little natural resistance, and this combination of disease and weakness proved lethal.
At first Britain seemed to be immune from the 'flu, spared by its isolation, but soon troops on leave carried the disease home from the Balkans, and others took it to India, Asia, and Africa.
The war effectively ended in March 1919, when the complex German supply organisation collapsed. Five years of war and military occupation had stretched it beyond all reasonable limits; as a result of the bombing and plague there weren't enough bureaucrats left to keep things running. For several weeks the German armies in the field and in occupation went unpaid and unfed. Many thousands deserted. Vast numbers of Allied prisoners of war simply walked home, easily escaping from guards who were too weak and disorganised to stop them; naturally there were appalling casualties, but eventually France, Belgium, Holland, and the other occupied countries were back in the hands of their own governments, and British soldiers were coming home in their thousands. The British government hoped to turn them into an effective fighting force and launch an invasion of Germany, but the Zeppelin fleet still posed enough of a threat to veto this idea. [For reasons then unknown the flyers of both sides came through the plague with few fatalities. We now know that prolonged exposure to high altitudes improves the body's ability to resist disease.] In any case Britain's own resources were stretched to breaking point, and an invasion could not have been sustained.
Eventually the Swiss government, backed by America, arranged the details of the peace. The terms were simple; all the combatants were to withdraw to pre-war boundaries, and there would be no reparations or reprisals. Colonies and other possessions that had changed hands were to be returned to their "rightful" rulers, the original colonising power; this phrasing naturally annoyed many Americans who resented European colonialism and found it convenient to ignore the continued use of former American Native lands, and the fact that America had its own colonies in the Pacific.
Meanwhile the plague was still raging across Russia and the Middle and Far East, and the first cases were occurring in India, Africa, and America. The epidemic continued until 1926, with sporadic outbreaks in 1927-9, then subsided. It is estimated that more than a hundred million died in this one epidemic, which eventually spread to every nation on Earth.
Once the firing stopped, both sides set to work repairing the ravages of war and (unfortunately) preparing for future conflicts.
The post-war period was notable mainly for the rapid growth of merchant aviation. By the late 'twenties more than two thousand civil and private 'digs were registered in Europe and America, a thousand more worldwide. The hydrogen 'dig was already obsolete; the last example of the type was an ex-French 'dig sold to the Turkish Army, which burned at its moorings in 1927. The first peacetime use of 'digs was the supply of food and medical aid to areas where the normal network of roads and railways had broken down. At first this was seen as a short-term measure; later it became apparent that 'digs were often a cheaper and faster alternative to surface vehicles. By the end of the 'twenties 5% of cargo was travelling by air; mostly perishable goods and other items which needed speedy transportation. This figure effectively doubled every decade, eventually stabilising at approximately 74% in the late sixties.
This era also saw a craze for 'plane construction, often with disastrous results. 'Digs had to be built by large teams of skilled craftsmen, using tools and materials that were already well-tried; by comparison, any fool could assemble a simple 'plane in his garage, and thousands did so. Unscrupulous entrepreneurs sold kits of parts to totally unqualified amateurs, who had little or no understanding of the laws of aerodynamics and made fatal mistakes in the assembly of their "kites". The tragic results could and should have been foreseen. Eventually the sale of these kits was banned in most countries, and stringent licensing laws stopped the most unscrupulous manufacturers, but the image of the 'plane was already fatally tarnished. Despite frequent attempts to revive the concept, and the fact that 'planes were then a good deal faster than 'digs, their safety record, short range, and limited cargo capacity doomed them to a minor role in sports and other leisure activities, and to eventual extinction as their performance was exceeded by 'digs.
One final trend in 1920s transport was the first use of submersible cargo vessels. Several governments had suffered the political effects of prolonged naval blockades, and were determined to be seen to be taking steps to prevent a recurrence. The first submersibles were little more than water-tight surface ships with the ability to submerge for short periods. In practice they could rarely avoid surface attackers, let alone 'digs, but they were erroneously perceived as being a good deal safer than surface craft. New types of battery and engine later extended their speed and range, while streamlining and other techniques (mostly copied from the 'dig industry) allowed improvements in size and performance, most notably in the 'thirties and 'forties. Needless to say, these developments were paralleled by improvement of military submersibles, which at their peak in the late forties mounted firepower as devastating as any destroyer of the World War.
No discussion of this period should fail to mention the work of Barnes Wallis and Nevil Shute Norway, two great 'dig designers whose work, from the 'twenties to the early 'sixties, was a major influence on the whole world of aviation. Wallis developed geodesic hull construction to a fine art, and made great strides in reducing hull weight without losing strength, while Norway's work on aerodynamics literally halved the power needed for a given speed, and paved the way for Magniac's later designs.
Military development of the 'dig was also proceeding, behind veils of the strictest secrecy. Merchant 'dig manufacturers were providing a steady stream of innovations, mostly leading to extensions of range, speed, and cargo capacity. Government scientists used these devices, but the main emphasis was on improved firepower, and "secret weapons" of varying degrees of efficiency.
Historical records make it clear that the major European governments created the series of crises which began in the 'thirties, largely as a cynical means of manipulating their citizens. Insofar as it is possible to understand the mob rule called "democracy" which then controlled much of the world, it appears that the populations of Britain and Germany generally felt that they had been cheated of rightful victory, while the French felt that they had been "betrayed" by Britain, and that Germany hadn't been punished sufficiently. There was also strong resentment of America and Switzerland in all three nations. At the same time there was a sentiment against war, on the grounds that another major conflict would cause as much or more damage. Most "citizens" had somehow been induced to hold all of these views simultaneously.
Always sensitive to the manufactured moods of their "subjects", and desperate to retain power, the governments of Europe began to prepare for war while loudly decrying their enemies' warlike tendencies. For example, French Cabinet papers of the period discuss a series of measures which might provoke a war between Britain and Germany, which was expected to result in the emergence of France as the strongest power in Europe. Germany hoped to foment unrest in the British and French colonies. The British government seems to have pinned its hopes on a strong Anglo-American alliance, with the apparent intention of embroiling America in any future European war; while these intentions never bore fruit, the contacts forged in the twenties were later crucial in the establishment of the A.B.C.
All of these nations, and many others, prepared for war by increasing the regimentation of their populations. Everyone was registered, filed, recorded, and indexed. Fingerprints, photographs, and other personal details were kept by the authorities, and it was impossible to travel or buy any of a vast range of strategically important materials (such as petrol) without showing identification. Naturally there was a black market in forged papers and rationed goods.
The thirties and early forties were notable for a series of small wars which achieved little and would be tedious to list. Typically one of the major nations would interfere with the affairs of a small country, then another major nation would intervene to "protect the interests" of the threatened state. Usually this led to a series of aerial battles, damage to two or three cities in the beleaguered state, and withdrawal when both sides realised that neither had a deciding advantage. The Balkans and smaller Eastern European nations suffered particularly badly in these incidents.
By 1945 it is estimated that twenty million had died, without any decisive result. There were still apparently profits to be made from war, in loot and in its stimulation of industry, but any impartial observer could tell that they were becoming increasingly futile. There was increasing reluctance to risk more losses, regardless of "national pride" or "patriotism", and pacifist movements gained many new members. Naturally these organisations were heavily infiltrated by secret police, spies, and foreign agents, and it is remarkable that they achieved the little that they did.
As if to emphasise the futility of human conflicts, another influenza epidemic swept across Europe in the early 'forties. This time losses were initially light, because the privations of the Great War were absent in many areas, but the epidemic lasted much longer than the 1919 outbreak and eventually caused nearly twelve million deaths, mostly amongst children and the elderly.
The Fates that are so careful to shut the doors of each successive
life behind us had, in this case, been neglectful...
While most of Europe was concentrating on the carnage of the "Little Wars", a crucial spiritual development went largely unnoticed. At the end of the nineteenth century evidence was already suggesting the possibility of some form of afterlife. After the World War there was intense interest in this subject, mainly amongst the millions who had lost relatives, friends, and lovers to the war or the plague.
In 1934 sceptical scientists at Cambridge conducted the first comprehensive study of mediums under controlled laboratory conditions. The researchers prepared a hundred sealed and numbered packs, each containing objects belonging to the dead, all carefully screened to ensure that minimal personal details could be learned by normal means. For example, pack 45 contained a man's handkerchief without initials or other markings, a silver pocket watch without inscriptions, and a pair of reading glasses. All had belonged to an airman killed in 1916. None of the scientists who were present knew who had owned the contents of each packet, and the numbering was randomly changed twice (by different hands) between preparation and use. Over twelve days a team of four mediums successfully named the owners of forty-three of the packs, gave accurate descriptions of another twenty-four, and correctly stated that six were still alive. Five of these last six were "controls", prepared from the possessions of students and friends of the researchers, the exception was a sailor who had erroneously been recorded as dead but was subsequently found to have emigrated to New Zealand.
Unfortunately this experiment coincided with the abortive Spanish invasion of Gibraltar, and the subsequent short-lived occupation of Spain by Britain, which diverted public attention from its results. Allegations of fraud which clouded the issue are now known to have been engineered by the university authorities, who were (correctly) alarmed by the religious implications of the experiment. Psychic studies languished in obscurity until the late 'fifties, when the Cambridge work was taken up by American scholars, and finally received the attention it deserved. Experimental proof of reincarnation followed in 1965, leading to our present knowledge of these matters, and drastic changes in most religions. This is discussed in more detail below.
The disruptions to merchant aviation caused by the "Little Wars" gradually became a problem affecting all nations. Britain, in particular, was already heavily overpopulated and depended on trade for survival and raw materials. Most of the other global powers were similarly dependent on a steady stream of goods. By the late nineteen-thirties most of Europe and America, and parts of Africa and India, were covered by the first Lights; at this stage they were little more than an extension of the existing lighthouse network, and no more powerful, but it was already clear that any disruption could be disastrous. For example, four 'digs from as many nations were lost after an avalanche destroyed two of the Alpine Lights. Two were lost when the Gibraltar beacon was smashed by the Spanish invaders.
At this stage Lights were administered by national governments, but in many cases this was obviously nonsensical; some of the European beacons could be seen and used from four or five countries, and the range of visibility was gradually increasing as Lights became more powerful. Leaving them under local control, when so many governments were unstable or threatened by war, meant a continual risk of chaos.
In 1949 Britain and America, and their colonies and subject states, set up the Aerial Board of Control. It was initially supposed to be an administrative convenience, but gradually evolved into the global authority we know today. The A.B.C. initially had the following functions:
It soon became apparent that the A.B.C. could only function if it had the power to enforce the regulations it published. In 1952 the initial treaty was extended to allow the A.B.C. to operate its own vessels, which would be used to "enforce traffic rules" within "the areas controlled by all member nations". This extension adds the now-famous words "..free movement of traffic and all that it implies.", which are now generally seen as the keystone of A.B.C. policy.
The first of these vessels was H.M.A. Intrepid, a British gunboat, soon joined by 'digs from America and Canada. These first 'digs belonged to the A.B.C. in name only; in practice they were still operated by the states that owned them, and the A.B.C. presence on board was often no more than one or two officers. This proved to be an extremely uneasy compromise which led to several cases of favouritism, officers ignoring the activities of their own nations while finding reasons to impede vessels of other nations. There were also allegations of corruption at higher levels. These incidents led to a revision of the Board's constitution, and institution of the present system of appointments. These changes were intended to limit the Board's political power, but actually had the effect of concentrating power into the hands of a meritocracy, men who had genuinely been chosen for their intellectual capabilities rather than their political allegiance.
The problem of ship ownership was ended in an unexpected manner; scientists working for the A.B.C. invented the radium battery, and the first year's profits from this one discovery paid for eight purpose-built patrol ships, five Mark Boats, and personnel to man them.
By 1955 the A.B.C. was a truly international organisation, its mandate extending over most of Europe, North and South America, the British Empire, and the empires of the other colonial powers. Russia was added in 1960, when the chaos which followed the death of Rasputin III had subsided, China (temporarily) in 1964, and Japan and China (finally) in 1967. This astonishing rate of growth was mainly due to the real advantages of A.B.C. membership, and the penalties (most notably tariffs and bureaucratic red tape) suffered by non-members when trading with the A.B.C. nations. Governments of the member nations viewed the growth with considerable alarm, but were unable to find any reasonable alternative. Efficient 'dig travel was vital, and Lights and traffic control were essential; there was simply no way around it.
In 1964 Fleury's Gas and Ray were patented by Pathe, the French photographic giant, and the efficiency and speed of 'digs were transformed. The French government somehow failed to realise the importance of the patents and classify them as secret, and they were published in all the A.B.C. nations. By 1967 most A.B.C. 'digs were converted to the new system.
1967 is also notable as the year in which war was finally acknowledged to be unprofitable. For decades increasingly desperate demagogues had attempted to justify unspeakable horrors by appeals to national pride, xenophobia, and sheer greed. It was usually argued that war was a major force for economic expansion, and that the winning side reaped many rewards, from loot to increased industrial productivity. In 1967 the brilliant economists Lennon and McCartney, of Liverpool University, systematically proved that no war of the twentieth century had truly been profitable; even the British conquest of Spain, which at first sight seemed successful, had led to disrupted trade, inflation, and a decline in the true standard of living.
While there was initially a popular notion that this "discovery" meant an end to war, this was far from the case. War was an important tool of the power-mongers and they had no intention of giving it up, even if it proved ruinously expensive. The A.B.C.'s control of trade was seen as a major obstacle to war, but paradoxically the A.B.C. had no mandate to intervene in events which did not disrupt trade. As a direct result, the late 'sixties saw the ludicrous "stopwatch" wars, fought to strict timetables to prevent A.B.C. intervention. Tragically, the A.B.C. was not then able to disarm national governments, and many thousands died in these futile conflicts.
Scientific studies of spiritualism languished in relative obscurity for more than thirty years. Throughout this period a succession of rogues and charlatans tried to capitalise on the implications of the work, notably by founding cults which seem to have been aimed largely at parting the rich from their money.
The new scientific frontier was reopened by a Professor Rhine in 1956. Although his early experiments suffered from inadequate controls, procedures were soon tightened to prevent any possibility of fraud. The famous "Sensory Deprivation Seances" of 1962-64 triumphantly proved that survival after death occurred, though details remained unclear; there was obviously some form of afterlife, but there was equally compelling evidence for reincarnation and the existence of active spiritual entities, called ghosts in earlier eras. The "ethereal vortex" model proposed by Rhine in the early 'seventies accounts for most of these phenomena, and Hawking's experiments in the eighties and nineties clarified the details to a point, but seventy years later there are still hopes for a more comprehensive explanation.
The world's religions had, of course, watched these experiments with great alarm. Most faiths believed in some form of spiritual survival, but were poorly prepared to deal with scientific proof of the matter. The discoveries emerging from America conflicted, in one or another respect, with most forms of dogma. Even Buddhism and Spiritualism suffered in this spiritual crisis, and other religions fared far worse. Catholicism emerged particularly badly; the Pope unwisely made a series of premature pronouncements on these matters while the research was continuing, and was widely derided as they were proved wrong. The doctrine of Papal infallibility never recovered from this blow, though of course many millions still remain faithful. The Protestant church and Judaism did a little better, but every major religion had its share of senior clergy who seemed to be unable to avoid foolish statements through the period of uncertainty.
Today we appreciate that death is simply part of a natural order of rebirth and regeneration. We die, spend an indeterminate period in the Ethereal Vortex, then are reincarnated for our next cycle of existence. Ghosts and other "psychic phenomena" are simply eddies in the vortex, shaped by unusually powerful minds or emotions, and are more often created by the living than by the dead. God's involvement in this process is assumed, but not proven; we have seen a tiny glimpse of the infinite, but dare not assume that we have all the answers.
Throughout the twentieth century the cyclic pattern of war, famine, disease, and recovery went almost unnoticed.
As the threat of war diminished, the population of most major cities increased enormously, and even more regimentation was enforced. An average "citizen" of this era was probably recorded in dossiers held by fifteen or twenty different departments. Every aspect of daily life was on file; criminal record, taxes, medical details of the most revolting intimacy, licences and permits, and so forth. If anyone stepped out of line, the governments of the day were ready to find a dozen excuses to restrict their illusory liberty. No one could be quite sure what was kept in his files, but everyone knew that the files existed. Essentially it was a system of state-sponsored blackmail, made worse by the hypocritical claim that it was done for the good of "the people" and "the state". The author apologises for use of these words.
The population increase was swollen by the immense strides that had been made in medicine, extending human life expectation above eighty. Though diseases related to overcrowding were widespread, they were rarely fatal, and patients (especially those in glacial sanitoriums and other isolated areas) added another burden to the planet's resources. The global population at the end of the 'fifties was approximately 2500 million, and rising fast. In 1968 and 1969 harvests were poor over most of Europe and America. By January 1970 food demand was beginning to outstrip production, as predicted by the philosopher Malthus in 1798.
By now the global distribution system was so efficient that a shortfall in Europe might be answered by a shipment from New Zealand, Africa, or Outer Mongolia. This efficiency was its undoing; it meant that shortages were suddenly felt everywhere, not just in one or two areas. Hoarders and speculators began to stockpile food. Although no-one knew it, a critical turning point had been passed.
Almost overnight an abundance of food became a famine. While the A.B.C. tried to organise fair rationing schemes, national governments began to cut out of the system in a futile attempt to "protect their citizens" (actually, of course, their own interests) at the expense of neighbouring states. Several governments decided to grab their "fair share" of food from countries that were in equally dire straits. The first shots were fired in February 1970, by the end of March half the world was at war.
In the following month more than 20% of the world's population died, mostly as a result of the use of nerve gas, rays, and other weapons of mass destruction. By the end of the year this figure had risen to 50%, with plague and riot taking their savage toll. Some cities vanished completely, burned by their inhabitants. Politicians were assassinated or lynched. Record offices were burned to the ground. Finally "the people" had noticed that their governments were responsible for most of their ills, and were taking drastic action to ensure that it would never happen again. MacDonough's Song, the well-known (but rarely performed) rabble-rousing hymn to anarchy, dates from this era.
The full horrors of the 'seventies have been documented elsewhere, and make painful reading even today. Suffice it to say that the A.B.C. gradually restored food supplies and order; if national governments had not interfered, it could have done so before anyone starved. The crisis is generally reckoned to have ended in 1975. The population of the world was then approximately eight hundred million (as near as could be estimated in conditions that were still chaotic).
Outbreaks of disease, and localised famines, continued into the early twenty-first century, but there were relatively few casualties. Humanity had learned its lesson, and there was little chance of another global disaster.
By the end of the nineteen-seventies most national governments were running again, though in a very restricted form. Usually the only officials were civil servants, their powers greatly restricted, and a few ceremonial figures (such as the Kings of England and Belgium) with no real power. "Politicians" were virtually extinct; indeed, the American humorist Ellison proposed setting up a "wild life sanctuary" in Washington to ensure the survival of the species. Thousands of old laws were abandoned; they had mostly been needed to regulate the affairs of overcrowded cities, and were irrelevant to the new circumstances of the human race.
The final results of this decade were a huge reduction in population levels, and a strong (and entirely justified) dislike of politics and crowds. Self sufficiency became the ideal; the population of most cities plummeted, and those who still preferred urban life took good care to ensure that they maintained an ample store of food and other essentials.
Essentially the situation remains unchanged to this day. Our modern civilisation is primarily rural, and even the largest towns are sparsely populated; today London has fewer inhabitants than in the seventeenth century, and they are spread over a much larger area! Improved roads and cars, and the ubiquitous 'dig, are mainly responsible for this diffusion. Modern horticultural methods make it possible for a family to live on the produce from a few acres of land, while automation, cheap electricity, and the use of remotely-played cultivators allows anyone to farm with a minimum of effort. The last London census showed that 87% of homes were self-sufficient in water, and 55% were self-sufficient in food; it can be assumed that most of the remainder maintained ample stores, or belonged to commuters who made their primary residence elsewhere. Note that only 58% of known residents returned the census forms!
Many of the madnesses of the past are virtually forgotten. Today it is hard to believe that our ancestors were prepared to kill for political or religious belief, or (just as absurdly) because of nationality or skin colour. We should be thankful for our sanity, and pray that these ridiculous aberrations will never re-appear.
One worrying trend has been a steady slow decline in population, which may be related to the common prejudice against crowds. Although we are all free to travel, surprisingly few choose to do so, and the percentage drops a little every year. We avoid crowds, and travel invariably involves some degree of crowding. This means that populations may be becoming isolated and inbred. It is not yet clear if this is a permanent trend, but it is known that the A.B.C. is investigating the matter. Findings have yet to be announced.
From this account it should be clear that the development of our global civilisation is mainly due to the evolution of the 'dig, and to the social changes that followed. To quote the A.B.C. motto, 'Transportation is Civilisation'. We have near-perfect transport, and it has led to a form of civilisation which is far superior to that of our ancestors. It is hard to imagine what the world would be like if the 'dig had never been invented, or had never succeeded; perhaps we would all fly aeroplanes instead, and matters would otherwise be unchanged, perhaps we would have seen an end to war half a century earlier. Perhaps the human race would have lapsed into barbarism and anarchy. Speculation about these events is futile.
2000 AD sees the world of the A.B.C. at its best; a tragic century is ending, and the network of global industry and commerce is at its peak. War is almost forgotten.
Nations still exist, but they are "governed" (for want of a better word) by civil servants with very limited powers, who maintain the few organisations that can't be run as businesses or charities. Most of the business of diplomacy and statesmanship is obsolete; almost all of the tiny residue is handled by the A.B.C.
Currently all but a handful of nations belong to the A.B.C.; the main exceptions follow:
The society typified by the A.B.C. represents the ultimate triumph of the Victorian work ethic; industry and trade create wealth, and wealth creates new industry and trade. Surplus profits are used to improve everyone's lot. No-one seems to be poor, apart from the patients aboard a charity-funded lunger and the owner of a tramp 'dig, who is poor only in comparison to other 'dig owners. Commerce is the main driving force in the world, far stronger than politics or religion. The articles accompanying With The Night Mail show this very clearly. It's notable that a 'dig that rips the roof off a house is dealt with by the civil courts, other aviation offences are handled by the A.B.C. in its role as regulator of transport, the nearest thing to a criminal court in the story.
The implications for employees are less cheerful. With the exception of charities, there are no equivalents of socialised medicine or welfare. If you are ill, you lose pay until you recover (unless you have insurance to cover your wages). If you lose your job, find another or start queueing at a soup kitchen. These problems aren't as bad as they might seem, since people are rarely ill and the world's economy is booming; everyone needs more staff, and will train applicants who lack relevant experience. Working hours are short, and wherever possible shifts are flexibly timed to suit the individual.
The "official" currencies of the A.B.C. are UK pounds and US dollars, both based firmly on gold and permanently locked at an exchange rate of one pound to four dollars. The Canadian and Australian dollar and Indian rupee are also locked to the pound sterling, and thus indirectly to the dollar, other currencies are stable but subject to slight fluctuations in value. Inflation is almost nil, and currency speculation is seldom profitable. Prices are extremely stable, and taxes very low; typically under 5%, with minimal efforts made to collect them.
Credit cards are unknown. A store might give a particularly valued customer a credit account, but there are no national or international credit systems. This is mainly because the information needed to run them could not be gathered without invading privacy; even if this were not the case, computer technology is limited to punch-card machines, calculating engines, and a few huge valve-based prototypes. A global credit network would have to be run by telegraph and ledger, and would be impossibly cumbersome.
The global transport system is running at peak efficiency, and the skies are crowded; the catalogue of 'digs and submersibles encountered in one flight includes four other postal packets, at least eight or ten liners, a tramp, a "disabled Dane", a drogher, a Mark Boat, several deep-sea freighters, a lunger, several furriers, fruiters, beef boats, ore-flats, petrol-tankers, and grain carriers, with dozens more seen but not named. The whole world is over-illuminated by the A.B.C.'s Lights; in many areas it is hard to see the stars at night.
Journalism is declining. The prejudice against invasion of privacy is very strong; investigative reporters are almost extinct, other journalists limit themselves to simple reportage. For example, a 'bat racing magazine might have an article about new racing rules, or an authorised interview with the current champion. It won't carry a muck-raking article about graft in the racing board, or a headline story about the sex life of the current champion. Journalists have been lynched for less.
The city is already outmoded, made near-obsolete by decreased population and improvements in transportation. The few city centre slums that survived the wars and the Malthusian crisis have been demolished, their occupants moved to the suburbs. No-one wants to see crowds or disease again, so housing is spacious, and each house stands in its own grounds. The largest cities exist mainly as commercial, industrial, and cultural centres; only hardened urbanites want to live there! Smaller cities are either depopulated or still in use because of some special feature, such as academic eminence. For example, Chicago was a boom town in the twentieth century, but had nothing to offer that couldn't be found elsewhere. In 2000 AD it's a city in decline, by 2065 it will be a quiet country town. Over the same period London's population density also declines, but mostly because it is spreading out over progressively larger areas.
'Planes are still in use, and have an edge in cheapness and speed over the 'dig, but they are generally regarded as uncomfortable and dangerous, and running costs are high. Their image is like that of high-powered motorbikes, speed boats, and sports cars in our own society. 'Planes are marketed as passenger and sports machines, but there are few commercial 'plane services. Even this limited popularity won't last, as 'dig speeds improve; by 2065 the 'plane is extinct, a victim of technological obsolescence. Bat-boats are seen in a kinder light; no-one attempts to sell them as anything other than a toy for the rich, and as such they succeed very well.
Technology routinely available in this era include radio, pollution-free nuclear power (the gas/ray system used in 'digs is also the basis for gas turbine power stations), a variety of plastics, synthetic gemstones, high-capacity fuel cells and batteries, and all the apparatus of flight. Nearly all vehicles are electric; 'digs and submersibles use Fleury's Gas and Ray to generate electricity, smaller vehicles use radium and helium "batteries" (the word is an archaic survival; they are actually sophisticated fuel cells), which can store vast amounts of power indefinitely. Oil is still used, sometimes as an emergency fuel but more usually as a lubricant and as the basis for industrial chemicals. Although not mentioned, the gadgets referred to in As Easy As A.B.C. may already exist in this era. Some devices common in our world haven't been invented, or are rarely encountered; these include domestic television, electronic computers (big and only found as experimental prototypes), radar (still experimental), and radio-navigation (very limited and inaccurate). See sections 5 and 6 below for more details.
There may be female members of the A.B.C. Board (see section 3.0), but women are still seen mainly as wives and mothers, and in supportive roles like nursing. The story mentions several; "little Ada Warrleigh" the racing professional, an anonymous woman aboard a tramp 'dig, a "pretty girl" aboard a Planet liner (or possibly another reference to the woman from the tramp), Captain Purnall's daughter, nurses (presumably female) on a public lunger, and (in the book review) the wives of Lavalle and the Mayor. Only the first is a notable public figure, and it's significant that she is a sportswoman, not an administrator or executive.
Psychic research has produced one of the biggest changes. People no longer have a primitive fear of death; they don't fear Hell or extinction of their souls because they know that they will be born again. This doesn't mean that they are suicidally brave, since death means an end to the current personality. Mediums, and the techniques developed by science, make it possible to get a sketchy idea of a subject's previous life, but that doesn't do the previous incarnation much good. See section 7, Death And Beyond, for an overview of this field.
All homes are lit and heated electrically; power is cheap and abundant, generated by pollution-free Fleury turbine stations. Global warming isn't a problem, partly because weather forecasting is an exact science, and partly because of low population and pollution.
Electricity generation is best handled by large companies, but no-one wants to be totally dependent on them. Most homes have an emergency supply, usually a few radium or helium batteries, ready to cut in if the mains are interrupted; larger buildings and farms usually have their own generators. Similarly, most homes have their own water tanks, fed by wells or gutters and water filters, and a secure food store. Cars are electric, and are usually capable of speeds in excess of 100 MPH, with a range of several thousand miles between charges. Electric motorcycles have been built with the same performance, but they are unpopular in a world where most people expect to live more than a hundred years; the only readily-available models resemble electric bicycles, with top speeds around 35 MPH.
Families tend to be closely knit, and make much of their own entertainment. Every house has its piano or harmonium, and a good selection of family games. Domestic radios and phonographs (record players) are common. Stereo sound has been invented, but the equipment is expensive and unpopular. Most scientifically-minded boys build their own G.C. receivers, and spend happy hours listening to 'digs and other aerial traffic. Television is not found in the home; it was popular in the last years of "The People", and was a major tool in the manipulation of public opinion. Afterwards no-one wanted to revive it.
Most forms of public entertainment still exist, but auditoriums and stadiums are built to minimise crowding. Instead of rows of seats, most provide less rigid arrangements, with screens or strategically- placed potted shrubs used as psychological buffer zones between small groups of seats. Often these arrangements include tables and food service. Of course there are always exceptions to such sweeping statements; some theatres, especially music halls, try to maintain the atmosphere of earlier eras, and still keep rows of seats.
The largest places of entertainment are the great halls at Earl's Court (Kensington) and the Crystal Palace (South-East London). Both are used for exhibitions and concerts. Earl's Court also hosts indoor sporting events, while the Crystal Palace is famous for its firework displays, generally considered the finest in Europe; Earl's Court is surrounded by houses and can't compete for safety reasons. Generally Earl's Court caters to popular tastes, the Crystal Palace to more "highbrow" activities, but there is a good deal of overlap.
A typical citizen of this age (incidentally, the word "citizen" is VERY bad taste, and never used in polite society) usually lives near his workplace, but may commute hundreds of miles by 'dig (occasionally by 'plane) or car on one of the uncrowded roads, roughly comparable to the motorways and freeways of our own world. He doesn't commute by train - passenger railways no longer exist, apart from a few tourist lines. There's a good chance that his work will be related to transportation or the 'dig industry, if only at third or fourth hand, but it's a mistake to assume that everyone is passionately interested in aviation - as a comparison, many people in our "information age" are bored by computers.
For recreation he may be interested in sports, but he probably doesn't follow football (whether American, Rugby, or Soccer) because these games submerge the individual players within the team. Generally people prefer sports that emphasise individual excellence or skill. For this reason cricket is still as popular as ever in Britain, and is now played everywhere in the English-speaking world (which includes most of India, Africa, and Asia); there is a good chance that the Hawaiian team will win the Ashes this year, and it has replaced baseball as America's most popular sport. Baseball is still moderately popular in America, but has never succeeded elsewhere. For those who prefer mechanised sports, 'bat and 'plane racing are particularly popular, with motor racing (now all-electric) still fighting a gallant rearguard action in third place. Horse racing, polo, and other equestrian sports are as popular as ever.
The wife of our "typical citizen" (do NOT use this phrase in her presence unless you carry smelling salts) probably spends her day tending to home and garden, visiting friends, or shopping at local stores. Women don't need to spend much time on housework; technology has led to many advances in the home, not least the development of recyclable fabrics and automated tailoring machines which make most forms of laundry work and mending unnecessary. These and other domestic improvements are discussed in Section 6, on technology, below.
On the subject of shopping, it should be mentioned that supermarkets and other large-scale food suppliers have never become popular, since everyone prefers diversification; if one market takes care of all your needs, your freedom of choice may become restricted, and you will experience major problems if something goes wrong with its supplies. If ten shops supply your needs, the range of products stocked should be greater, and it's unlikely that all of them will be affected by a single breakdown. Large department stores do exist, but are not as common as in our own world, and there is no equivalent of a shopping mall. Mail order catalogue sales are very popular, especially in isolated areas.
As an example of daily life, here's an extract from the diary of Brian Snelgrove, a G.P.O. postal clerk resident in East Sussex and working at the Highgate receiving tower in London:
Thursday, December 14th, 2000
Only managed to get eight hour's sleep - knew we shouldn't have had that bloater for supper. Weather good but will be rotten this evening. Blow should end before I leave work, I hope. Kippers for breakfast - lunch really, since I'm on late shift. Martha served mate instead of tea, said she thought I could do with a change. It's apparently all the rage with the smart set, but I wonder if they usually have it with kippers! Mowed lawn and did a few jobs around the house. Must remember to check water tank for leaks: we should have about 15000 gallons under the front lawn, the gauge says we're below 9000. Car booked for 50,000 mile service and new radium battery, will drop it in at garage on way to work.
Later: 5.30 'dig was four minutes late, due to strong winds. Should have allowed for them when they posted the timetable! Will complain to 'Dig Co. when I pick up next season ticket. Sat next to George Perkins, a nice chap but he will keep chatting about 'plane racing and his last incarnation. Very boring, but now that Watson has retired there's no-one else I know that still likes football - not that there are any decent players these days. Got to the sorting office in a bad mood, then Jones called in and said he was ill; third cold in four years, poor chap, and of course he loses four or five day's pay every time he's ill! Robertson is still on his management course, so Geary wants me to go out on the coach for the Quebec packet. Telephoned Martha - she's not very pleased, it means I'll miss afternoon tea with the vicar tomorrow. Not all bad then....
Friday, December 15th, 2000.
2 AM: Really foul storm, serves me right for thinking ill of the vicar! Have spent most of night in flickers. Barlow wanted to play a few hands of rummy when we'd finished sorting, but the cards kept falling off the table. I keep telling him to get a magnetic pack, they only cost three bob. Broke vacuum bottle while I was pouring tea, nearly damaged a few bills. No great loss to the world if I had ruined them, but very unprofessional, especially when there's a reporter aboard! I think he may have seen the cards, hope he doesn't mention it in his article.
7 AM: Storm over, got three hour's sleep in the end. Arrived Quebec early morning, will be flying back tonight. That reporter is stopping on here for a few days, so with a little luck we'll take it easier on the way back - I do hope so, I'm still feeling a little queasy from last night, and the lobster the night before! Forecast good for return journey, but must remember to buy some travel sickness tablets....
The years around 2000 AD are a good era for role playing, because the dynamic of society favours expansion and new discoveries. Technology is improving rapidly, and fortunes can be won or lost in new industries. Some nations still don't belong to the A.B.C., so exploration and exploitation still offer interesting possibilities. Older people remember the "good old days" and horrors of the twentieth century, and may have some surprising stories to tell. The first Forgotten Futures adventure is set in 2001. Here are more ideas:
More game ideas for this era can be found in later sections. For the sake of simplicity it's best to assume that in 2000 AD most people feel mild unease if they are exposed to crowds, but do not immediately suffer a phobic reaction; by 2065 the aversion to crowds is much stronger. Some optional rules for this phobia can be found in section 2.3 below; if you wish to use them in 2000 AD, please feel free to do so.
Take the world of 2000 AD, throw in a few more famines and epidemics, and wait sixty-five years. More cities have been abandoned, and the prejudice against crowds and invasion of privacy is MUCH stronger. Game rules for this prejudice, treated as a phobia, can be found below.
Nations are obsolete. The world is run, quietly and with minimal intervention, by the A.B.C., and no-one else wants the job. Most people are apathetic about anything outside their own family life, and candidates with the temperament for public office are in very short supply.
The global transport network is still operational, but the volume of traffic has declined; the only 'digs mentioned are the "keels" of the A.B.C. Fleet - this is understandable over Illinois, which has pulled out of the system, but less explicable over the Atlantic or Britain.
Avoidance of crowds has paid off; most forms of violent crime are virtually unknown. In Illinois, where this prejudice is particularly strong, there hasn't been a newspaper since 2038 or a murder since 2043. This assumes that the authorities know everything that's going on, which may not necessarily be the case. Neighbours who are determined to mind their own business could be an ideal cover for a serial killer, or for domestic violence.
'Planes are no longer manufactured, since 'digs now out-perform them in every way. All the other technology mentioned in With The Night Mail exists, or has been replaced by better alternatives. Gadgets which are definitely in use by 2065 AD include ground circuits (force fields), remote controlled vehicles, flying loops (tractor beams), and surfacers, road making machines which can literally melt rock. Radio has improved, with voice communication at all ranges and much clearer reproduction of sound. Commercial television is still out of favour. Radar is still experimental, and Lights are still the main element of navigational systems. Accurate navigational computers and moving-map devices are in common use, but are still essentially mechano-electric, not electronic.
With the decline in the birth rate, the importance of motherhood and the general status of women has greatly improved. We only see two women in close-up in this story, but both are confident and proud; a farmer's daughter who is willing to take on the flagship of the A.B.C. fleet with a five-plough cultivator, and a "laughing woman" who is prepared to suicide to defend her children from the ideas of "Serviles".
Most people now expect to live at least a hundred years, and average height is now 6ft 6in (2 metres); the "Serviles", averaging less than 6ft, show signs of ill-health and are "as grey-haired as the ravaged, harassed heads of old pictures", their faces showing unmistakable marks of stress and emotion. Improvements in diet, better medical care, and avoidance of crowds, disease, and stress are the main reasons for this change, but eleven hours sleep a night is part of the price paid for good health. Although one or two late nights won't do much harm, most public entertainment now ends by ten p.m. at the latest.
It's hard to engage public attention and overcome the customary dislike of crowds, and this is proving a real problem for the entertainment industry. The horrors of the past are often good box office, but soon pall; impresario Leopold Vincent mentions a successful re-creation of a complete railway train, but a rival's attempt to show "primitive" life with sewing-machines, maypole-dances, and cooking on coal-gas stoves was an expensive failure. Domestic entertainment hasn't changed much, but classic theatre is in decline (too much emotion is displayed, and most of the events portrayed are too remote from everyday life), while cinema is mostly limited to documentaries and musical spectaculars. Most of the events that make for good cinema no longer occur, and the excesses of history are too violent to attract a large audience.
Kipling shows us a rural area, but there is an implication that the scenes he describes simply emphasise conditions found in most areas. All of the apparatus of trade and transportation still exists, but is somehow remote from everyday life. People are apathetic about society, and less inclined to travel or spend much time away from home.
As Easy As A.B.C. begins with a question; "Isn't it almost time that our Planet took some interest in the proceedings of the Aerial Board of Control?". If you asked a hundred people in 2065, fifty or so would refuse to answer on the grounds that you had no business asking, most of the rest would just say "no". To quote Kipling again, "Easy communications nowadays, and lack of privacy in the past, have killed all curiosity among mankind". Attention is devoted to family and home, with very little left for national or international events. Think of life in this era as 'The Waltons' with 'digs, remote-controlled cultivators, and perfect weather forecasts, and you won't go far wrong: "Well, John-Boy, looks like the South Forty will be hit by hail on Thursday afternoon. Better start gathering the harvest today..."
A typical Illinois family lives on its own farm, using cultivators to maintain the land. Farms were often looted during the famine eras, and their occupants have learned to take precautions against any repetition. Each farm is hedged in by a thick belt of artificially- aged forest, which should prevent mob intrusions. Ground-circuits, originally designed as cattle fences, are also used to deter intruders, and as a last resort a five-plough cultivator can do a lot of damage. Typical equipment for a farm includes a generator, usually based on a small Fleury turbine system, water purifiers and tanks, and well-protected food stores.
Children attend school in the nearest town, picked up and dropped off by the school 'dig. Their parents own their own cars and trucks, more prosperous farmers may own 'digs, but it's more usual to have produce picked up by a commercial shipper. Each farm has a landing slip, of course, usually a meadow fitted with guide Lights and some bollards for anchor cables.
"In a big city there's bound to be a few men and women who can't live
without listening to themselves, and who prefer drinking out of pipes
they don't own both ends of. They inhabit flats and hotels all the
year round. They say it saves 'em trouble. Anyway, it gives 'em more
time to make trouble for their neighbours. We call 'em Serviles
locally. And they are apt to be tuberculous."
While most people are content with their quiet lives, there will always be a minority who can't accept the status quo. The problems posed by "Serviles" are mainly a result of the freedoms of this era. "Citizens" of earlier eras were used to propaganda, and had a limited ability to withstand or ignore it; modern people lack this capacity, and tend to take things literally. When they hear someone preaching something that they know to be lies and dangerous nonsense, their natural response is anger. For their part, the "Serviles" honestly believe that they have been deprived of a say in government, and refuse to admit that the whole structure of society has retreated from anything resembling democracy. Police forces and mayors still exist because people see a need for them, and a few people actually like that sort of work; if they are seen to be abusing their positions an average farmer simply returns home, refuses to contribute to local funds, and waits for them to mend their ways.
The crisis depicted in As Easy As A.B.C. is extremely unusual, a once-in-a-lifetime event that is unique even in the experience of most members of the A.B.C.. This incident excepted, life in this era is comfortable, predictable, and a little dull - not necessarily an Utopia, but close enough to keep most people happy.
In this era dislike of crowds is very strong. If you wish to use this within the game, a special characteristic roll may occasionally be needed. Characters must use MIND against a Difficulty number to stay calm when crowded:
|Per 1000 additional people
Relaxed, happy atmosphere
Violent atmosphere or events
Reactions to a failed roll should include anxiety or panic attacks, fainting, running away (possibly triggering a stampede by everyone else who has failed to stay calm), or violence, at the discretion of the referee.
Panic apart, this is a boring era for gaming. Society is stable, and has lost a lot of the dynamic that made 2000 AD so interesting. There are a few possibilities, but they aren't mentioned in As Easy As A.B.C. or implicit in the nature of society. For example, there might be a global Democratic conspiracy, but there is absolutely no evidence to support this idea. Here are a few simple ideas; most of them can easily be adapted and used in a campaign set in 2000 AD:
Given the information in the two A.B.C. stories, it's hard to predict what will happen next. Obviously 'digs will continue to get faster and better, and the technology of aviation will improve in all respects. Unfortunately there are fundamental limits on the speed of all propeller-driven aircraft, and a complete rethink may be needed to approach or surpass the speed of sound.
Space travel ought to be possible, but appears not to have been developed in the period covered by these stories. Any advances in this field must wait on the development of powerful rocket engines or some other form of propulsion, and is outside the scope of this worldbook.
The population decline predicted in As Easy As A.B.C. is probably the biggest threat to stability. If it continues many of the remaining cities will probably fall apart, their residents dispersing to the countryside and smaller villages. Without urban centres some essential services may be unavailable; efficient medical care is one obvious possibility, but commercial organisations may also suffer. If there is an underlying medical reason for the decline, Pirolo will probably find a cure eventually. If it is a disease of the psyche, recovery may be more difficult.
Could there be another bout of madness? Perhaps, but it seems unlikely. The A.B.C. monitors the world very carefully, and will intervene to stop anything that threatens stability. For example, steps will probably be taken if global population levels ever approach those of the nineteen-sixties again. Only one organisation seems likely to trigger the public dislike of "authority" again, and that is the A.B.C. itself. Fortunately all A.B.C. policies are firmly against anything that might be construed as "leadership"; the A.B.C. is generally perceived as a neutral arbiter, and while it remains unbiased there is little risk of any real opposition.
...that semi-elected, semi-nominated body of a few score persons of
both sexes1, controls the Planet. Transportation is Civilisation, our
motto runs. Theoretically we do what we please, so long as we do not
interfere with the traffic and all it implies. Practically, the A.B.C.
confirms or annuls all international arrangements, and, to judge from
its last report, finds our tolerant, humorous, lazy little Planet only
too ready to shift the whole burden of public administration on its
With the Night Mail
1The words "of both sexes" are omitted from this passage when it is quoted in As Easy As A.B.C., and it is the only point in either story which admits that women might have any role in the operation of the A.B.C.. This may be accidental, or a simplification of the text, but it is possible that Kipling had second thoughts about the matter before writing the second story.
The A.B.C. is essentially a police organisation which has accidentally acquired some of the trappings of government without ever really wanting them. The table that follows shows the principal committees and their responsibilities within the Board, but it is greatly simplified, since the areas of responsibility of the committees frequently overlap. Even when responsibility seems to be clearcut, it should not be assumed that this precise scheme will always be followed; while the A.B.C. maintains excellent discipline, there is a good deal of flexibility, and someone who is nominally of low rank may give orders to a "superior" in appropriate circumstances.
|Traffic||Control stations||Lanes and Levels|
|Operation and maintenance|
|Survey||Maps and charts|
|Legal Affairs||Licencing Bureau||Examinations & Certification|
|Administration||Personnel section||Discipline & Promotions Board|
|Training||Colleges and Schools|
|Examinations & Certification|
|Material & Supply|
|Towers & Docks|
|Publications||Books||Sales & Distribution|
14_insig.gif shows A.B.C. insignia and some commercial logos.
Election to the Board is one of the few processes which still involves something like democracy. Members are nominated to represent geographical areas, but must be voted into office by existing Members of the Board. There are usually between 100 and 120 Members; the exact number varies as terms of office end and new Members join.
The procedure is reasonably simple; whenever the seat representing an area falls vacant, interested parties (national governments, educational, scientific, and commercial groups) are asked to suggest replacements. Usually there is a list of four to six possible candidates, who will be invited to stand for election. Some refuse; the names of the remainder are put before the Board. Each candidate is voted on separately; Members can vote for or against, or abstain if they have no opinion. The votes cast against each candidate are subtracted from the votes cast for the candidate. To be eligible, a candidate must have a modified final score representing at least a third of the Board's possible votes. The candidate with the highest modified score is elected, if anyone still qualifies - sometimes there are no survivors. The maximum term is five years, but a two-thirds majority of the board can dismiss a Member at any time, and naturally all Members are free to resign. Members may NOT be re-elected after resignation unless they spend at least five years out of office.
For administrative convenience the Board is permanently based in London, with regional offices in every member nation. This upsets those who believe that this gives the Board a pro-British bias, but a fixed base is simply less trouble than rotation between several sites. In any case the Board's job is administration, not pandering to public sentiment. Realistically, an organisation that regulates trade and transport might as well be based in one of the strongest trading nations. An artist's sketch of the Thames, with the A.B.C.'s Whitehall mooring tower behind the old Houses of Parliament, is shown in 21_ABCHQ.GIF, while its location is shown on the map 19_LONDN.GIF
Members of the Board do not receive a salary, but are paid expenses and receive a number of "perks", such as use of Board 'digs and priority over all other vessels. Members are expected to serve on various committees, whose responsibilities are described below. There are six to ten Members on each committee; documents emanating from the committees are usually signed by the Chairman and two deputies.
This key committee is responsible for the safe operation of traffic and all it implies. It is responsible for the allocation of Lanes and Levels. Traffic control is handled by ground controllers, based near some District and all Main Lights, and by Mark Boats. Vessels of the Fleet are often assigned to patrol the busier lanes, or set to watch areas with a poor accident record, and act as traffic police. The main rules governing routing and levels were agreed by the 1949 London Conference, which established the A.B.C.; for obvious reasons they are usually known as the Conference Rules
See the magazine accompanying With The Night Mail for activities of the Traffic Committee.
A technical committee responsible for the operation of all classes of Light. Their installation, and to a large part their operation, is carried out by the engineering department. Local and Guiding Lights are almost always automatic, powered by local power sources or radium batteries, while District and Main Lights are based on a variation of the Fleury turbine system and need constant attention. These installations are often combined with ground control stations, meteorological offices, G.C. transmitters, and other facilities. The committee decides what types of Light will be used at a given station, and ensures that the choices are suitably publicised.
See With The Night Mail and As Easy As A.B.C. for the locations and details of Lights. See the following .gif files for graphics:
This committee oversees the diverse scientific projects run by the Board, or by civilian organisations with Board funding or guidance. Their most important areas of responsibility are meteorology, and of course the preparation of daily weather forcasts, and continual preparation and updating of maps and charts by the survey organisation. Research is naturally very important; the A.B.C has its own departments for aeronautics and high-altitude medicine, and encourages or funds university studies and commercial work in many other fields.
The scientific committee sets most of the standards used in aviation; officially approved frequencies and flare colours, propeller power ratings, and so forth. These are regularly published and amended. One long-term goal in this process is conversion to metric units, which would greatly simplify most work. In 2000 AD this process has just begun.
The A.B.C. runs an international patent system. A.B.C. patents are recognised by all member nations, and operation of the system naturally gives the A.B.C. early warning of any interesting or threatening discovery.
A final responsibility of this committee is accident investigation; while 'dig accidents are usually survivable, there are often important lessons to be learned from a wreck. A.B.C. accident investigators often work closely with insurance organisations, but (officially) great care is taken to ensure that there is no commercial bias. In practice Lloyds and the A.B.C. are on very good terms, which may occasionally lead to a conflict of interests; see section 4.3 for details.
The advertisements in With The Night Mail mention several A.B.C. scientific publications and A.B.C.-approved devices.
This committee superintends the A.B.C.'s traffic courts; under exceptional circumstances it will over-rule an unfair decision, but it has no obligation to do so. It is also responsible for the licensing of 'dig drivers and other personnel, and for granting certificates of airworthiness, both essential if a craft is to be insured. Note that an unlicenced driver may legally fly an uncertified 'dig without insurance; everyone involved risks liability and enormous expenses if there is an accident, but a few idiots do it every year.
This committee also oversees most of the international treaties to which the A.B.C. and its member states are signatory. These include postal and customs pacts and the 1949 Conference agreements.
Decisions of the traffic courts are mentioned in With The Night Mail.
This committee supervises the day-to-day operation of the Board. It is responsible for recruitment and salaries, for training, and for purchasing of all materials the Board needs, from pencils to 'digs. It also audits the other departments.
As an airborne organisation the A.B.C. needs a considerable number of 'digs; more than a hundred Mark-boats, several hundred fast patrol boats (which, assembled, constitute the Fleet seen in As Easy As A.B.C.), and hundreds of other craft, from small cargo carriers to gigantic research vessels; in 2000 AD there are even a few 'planes! Details of some of these craft can be found in section 5. The Fleet committee is responsible for the day-to-day management of these 'digs, their deployment, and their construction.
It is generally assumed that the Fleet can cope with any military problem that is likely to arise, but intervention by such a vast force may not always be the best answer to every difficulty. It seems likely that the A.B.C. has an intelligence arm, possibly run by the Fleet Committee, but this has never been confirmed.
The A.B.C. currently has no ground or naval forces. There are skeleton plans for such forces if they are ever needed, but putting them together in a hurry would be an organisational nightmare.
A Mark Boat is seen in action in With The Night Mail. Most of As Easy As A.B.C. is concerned with the actions of the Fleet in 2065 AD. The following graphics files show vessels of the Fleet:
This committee is responsible for the A.B.C.'s substantial publishing output, including weather forecasts, maps and charts, technical manuals, scientific reports and papers, yearbooks, etc. While the official language of the A.B.C. is English, these documents are translated into the languages of all member nations.
Membership of this committee is usually seen as a boring chore, but this service is as vital as any other part of the Board's operation. The A.B.C. is currently the world's largest consumer of wood pulp and printing ink, a fact that frequently leads to jokes that A.B.C. 'digs are hot air balloons!
A.B.C. publications are mentioned in the advertisements accompanying With The Night Mail.
There is a good deal of overlap between the functions of these committees, and Members often serve on several committees that involve their interests. For instance, Victor Pirolo chairs the Scientific Committee in 2065 AD, takes an active role in aeronautical and medical science, and has a hand in vetting many scientific publication. He is also involved in the Fleet Committee, since his designs are the basis for most recent A.B.C. 'digs, and takes part in any decision affecting his native Italy. He was co-opted onto an ad-hoc committee sent to investigate the Illinois incident.
While the A.B.C. wields enormous influence in the air, it has no interest in activities on the ground unless they seem likely to disrupt transportation. Unfortunately no-one can be quite sure what will cause problems. Any civil disorder is seen as a sign of danger; crowds and invasion of privacy the cue for a major investigation. Pirolo's interest in the falling birthrate may just be scientific interest, or may represent official A.B.C. policy - he will probably get A.B.C. backing for any experiments he undertakes.
So far this section has concentrated on the highest echelons of the A.B.C., but of course the Board employs many thousands of officers and men. The table of organisation, ranks, and salaries are as follows:
|Fleet||Ground Operations||Salary P.A.|
|Captain *||Controller (Main)||£3000|
|Commander *||Controller (District)||£2500|
|Second Lieutenant||Second Lieutenant||Engineer||£1500|
|Leading Airman||Leading Hand||Fitter||£1000|
|Able Airman||Trained Hand||Trained Hand||£800|
* Captains are usually assigned to Mark Boats, Commanders to patrol 'digs.
Fleet ranks resemble old Naval practices, and should be obvious in context. Groundside ranks may be harder to understand. Controllers, who actually give G.C. directions to 'digs, are ranked above other groundside staff because they are held responsible for the free movement of traffic. Below them are engineering staff and various levels of administrator, workmen, etc. Personnel can cross between the branches, subject to suitable qualifications; most notably, Main and District Controllers are usually Captains or Commanders waiting to be assigned to 'digs, most other ranks alternate tours of duty in 'digs and on the ground. Ground installations are run like Naval shore bases, except that there are usually at least two controllers in command of each base, taking shifts as needed.
Flight qualified personnel are referred to as "airman" even when they are working in ground posts; e.g., a Leading Airman might be in charge of an Able Airman and three Trained Hands, who might in turn manage a mixture of airmen, hands, and civilian employees.
Some ground ranks are filled by civilian employees, who are on the same salaries but are not part of the formal command structure; they cannot give orders outside their areas of responsibility.
The A.B.C. does not give flight-qualified personnel additional pay or privileges; flying duties are considered to be a privilege.
Recruitment procedures are much like those of a military organisation of the twentieth century. All recruits must sign contracts for at least five year's service, with financial penalties for withdrawal from the contract before it expires. This works both ways - if the A.B.C. decides that your face doesn't fit, and can't prove that you are in breach of your conditions of service, it will pay you to resign.
The A.B.C. employs people with a huge range of skills, and would soon exhaust the pool of qualified personnel if it did not operate its own training courses. These include several cadet schemes, with schools in Coventry (England), Annapolis (America), and Simla (India), and a university-level scheme for 'dig drivers, engineers, and ship's surgeons (the A.B.C. will pay your tuition fees if you agree to serve for five years after you graduate). Schools for other ranks teach basic airmanship and craft skills. Naturally there are procedures for promotion and demotion, disciplinary hearings, etc.
While there is theoretically no reason why women should not attain rank in the A.B.C., in practice the organisation is almost entirely masculine below Board level. Members of the A.B.C., who don't feel any need to be 'democratic', will point to the "weakness" of women to justify this state of affairs. Women generally regard the A.B.C. as the ultimate boy's club, and react to this slander with humorous resignation.
Power politics in the A.B.C. Board are probably not a particularly useful introduction to this world. Players may eventually set themselves the goal of becoming a Member of the Board, but this should be made very difficult. Once on the Board, characters may discover that the disadvantages of responsibility far outweigh the advantages of power.
Following are a few sample careers for A.B.C. employees, with required skills. "International" is a special skill for this setting, available to all characters by any of the following means:
All other skills are available via the normal rules.
The list that follows shows some typical A.B.C. careers and the skills needed for them.
|A.B.C. Scientist||Scientist and/or Doctor|
|Accident Investigator||As A.B.C. Scientist plus Detective, Pilot|
|Mark Boat Captain||Business, Pilot, Linguist, International|
|Patrol Boat Captain||Business, Pilot, Military Arms, Linguist, International|
|Ship's Engineer||Mechanic, Scientist |
|Ship's Navigator||Pilot, Babbage Engine, Scientist, International|
|Ship's Surgeon||Doctor, First Aid |
|Gunnery Officer||Military Arms, Marksman, Mechanic|
|Controller||Business, Linguist, International|
Campaigns with an A.B.C. service background run into the problem of military discipline. Someone with a duty station aboard (for example) a Mark Boat probably won't have much free time for adventures. The best opportunities are in the tangential activities of the Board; intelligence, accident investigation, scientific work, and other occupations which allow characters to move relatively freely. The examples that follow should suggest some interesting possibilities; a campaign date of 2000 AD is assumed:
While this worldbook assumes that the A.B.C. is essentially benevolent, there is no reason why this need necessarily be the truth. All that we know of the A.B.C. is contained in two stories, which say very little about the details of day-to-day life.
The most obvious variant of this idea assumes that the A.B.C. is more or less as described in this worldbook, but is wholly a tool of big business and capitalism. The A.B.C. supports trade, because that helps big business, but it is trade driven by ruthless exploitation. The "Serviles" are workers, a large disenfranchised underclass deprived of all political representation and power. Internal evidence in the stories suggests otherwise, but readers should feel free to draw their own conclusions; bear in mind that the stories are written from a privileged viewpoint, that of official A.B.C. reporters, and might easily represent A.B.C. propaganda rather than accurate reportage. This idea does nicely explain why the A.B.C. is "all that remains to the planet of that odd old word authority"; anyone who disagrees with the A.B.C. receives the Chicago treatment, or worse, and no effective opposition survives. The Board is about as democratic as the Politburo; Members are "nominated" by the interests they represent, undergo a long period of vetting and political indoctrination to ensure that there is no risk of them acting against the interests of their peers, and never rock the boat. The real story of the downfall of "The People" is ruthlessly suppressed, because government wasn't overthrown; it was sold to the highest bidder!
Perhaps the A.B.C. is the tool of a racist Anglo-American Imperialist state. We see nothing of India, Africa, or the Far East; what if they are ruthlessly exploited, generating the wealth that allows Europe and America to live in luxury, or treated "firmly but fairly" by rulers who will never allow them independence. Again internal evidence would appear to suggest otherwise, but there is nothing that actually makes the idea impossible. Michael Moorcock's novel "The Warlord Of The Air" is set against a similar background, which also derives somewhat from H.G.Wells "Things To Come", and is strongly recommended to anyone interested in a role-playing campaign of this type.
For a darker campaign, the A.B.C. could be the enforcement arm of a ruthless power hierarchy; democracy fell at the hands of bureaucrats, big business, the military-industrial complex, and organised crime. The Standard 'Dig company has as much political leverage as (for example) Standard Oil in Batista's Cuba. Here the A.B.C. will be less like police, more like stormtroopers. Obviously this approach rules out much of what is said about the A.B.C. in Kipling's stories, but may appeal to anyone who is unhappy with the Libertarian theme that Kipling seems to have favoured.
Unfortunately it isn't possible to produce variant worldbooks for these themes, and anyone planning to use them for a role playing campaign will need to do a good deal of work. On the whole, the author would sooner be in Utopia...
While the A.B.C. does its duty as the last vestige of "authority", many other organisations are also active in this world.
Governments still exist, although nearly all the trappings of authority have gone in most nations. What remains are streamlined civil service organisations set up to serve the public and cause a minimum of inconvenience. Details of British organisations follow; they are reasonably typical.
In 2000 AD Britain is nominally ruled by its King, Albert II, but his role is entirely ceremonial. The King is a keen botanist and artist, rarely appears in public (and wouldn't be recognised if he did), and would recoil in horror at any suggestion that he tell anyone else what to do or think. He is supposed to approve all changes in British law, but has steadfastly failed to authorise any new laws since 1982. He is willing to approve the removal of laws from the statute book. [His son will refuse to accept the throne in 2047, and the monarchy will then be dissolved].
The remaining governmental organisations include a tiny but formidably competent police force [discussed in more detail in the adventure], backed by a few courts and prisons, a public works department which exists primarily to award contracts for road construction and slum clearance, and vestigial armed forces. The latter exist mainly to absorb the energies of the few people who still like the "glamour" of uniform. Their duties are almost entirely ceremonial, designed to keep them out of mischief; officers are mostly rich, and expected to contribute to the welfare of their men, the men are simply earning a living in a way that suits relatively dull personalities and gives them a minimum of hard work. Occasionally they are called out to give aid in a civil emergency, such as a flood, but this is very rare. Anyone with real talent will find a more challenging niche in industry or the A.B.C. Pay is roughly on A.B.C. scales.
Quasi-public organisations (commercial organisations that operate as
public utilities) include the Electric Light Company Ltd. (well known
for its sponsorship of London's premier orchestra), The General and
Municipal Sewerage Consortium, and most schools and hospitals. There
is no state-controlled education, but schools are run by charities or
as corporations, in which the parents of fee-paying pupils are
share-holders. Most also offer scholarships. Hospitals offer a similar
choice of fee-paying or charity beds; treatment is essentially the
same in either case, since public wards have long been abolished, but
private patients get prettier nurses. Most hospitals now run their own
'digs, such as accident wards and lungers.
09_LUNGR.GIF shows a medical 'dig over the Alps.
The G.P.O. is Britain's post office. Once a government monopoly, it is now a private company. The King is believed to be the largest shareholder.
Current rates for letters weighing up to 4oz are 3d within Great Britain (including Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and outlying islands), 4d elsewhere in Europe, and 6d anywhere else in the world. Theoretically a transatlantic postal packet filled to capacity would earn less than a thousand pounds per flight at these rates, but most letters weigh less than four ounces, and heavier packets are often insured and thus generate more revenue. In practice the G.P.O. expects to net around £2300 per flight. G.P.O. rates are comparable with those of other A.B.C. members, but countries using the metric system generally set their first weight limit at 100g, not 4oz (112g). American rates are similar at 5 cents for internal mail, 7 cents to Canada, Alaska, and Central and South America, and 10 cents elsewhere. G.P.O. operations are described in some detail in With The Night Mail. Postal packet crew are paid at A.B.C. rates.
The following graphics files show G.P.O. Postal packet 162, which is a typical postal 'dig:
The G.P.O. also operates most of Britain's public telephone and telegraph systems. In 2000 AD telephone calls are comparatively expensive, at 2d a minute for local calls, 6d a minute overseas in Europe, 2s a minute to America. Telephones are moderately common, but are not found in every home. Local calls are dialled, and switched mechanically, but long-distance calls go via an operator. Transatlantic calls are transmitted by cable (good sound quality but often long delays before a line is available) or wireless (poor sound, much faster, but little privacy).
This situation is essentially unchanged in 2065 AD; while G.C. systems can now transmit voice at all ranges, and audio quality is much better, there are still only a few frequencies in common use. Any schoolboy can listen in to the most intimate message. Most people still prefer to use the cables.
Telegraph messages cost 1d a word in Britain, 2d in Europe, 3d elsewhere in the world. They are usually delivered within an hour.
Fax machines exist (they were first invented in the 19th century), but are extremely rare; in Britain in 2000 AD there are less than a hundred machines, mostly in the offices of newspapers, police forces, and the A.B.C. The document must be clipped to a rotating drum and scanned by an optical sensor. The receiving drum uses paper treated with a special chemical which turns purple in response to an electric current. It takes approximately three minutes to transmit a page of text, five to ten minutes for a full-page photograph. Fax lines are operator connected, and transmissions are charged at telephone rates. [By 2065 the number of fax machines falls, as newspapers and crime decline.]
Finally, it should be mentioned that the G.P.O. now owns the only working railway in central London; a small-gauge line linking Highgate and sorting offices in the city centre. The trains are unmanned, run by remote control. The line runs in tunnels deep below the streets, and is virtually unknown to the outside world.
In a world driven by trade there are naturally many important companies and corporations, often of multinational or global scope.
The largest multinational organisation in terms of annual turnover is Lloyds of London, the world's premier insurance company. Technically Lloyds is a group of syndicates, each carrying its own policies, but outsiders rarely understand the system. Lloyds will insure anything, although others usually act as its agents, but is most famous for its coverage of 'digs, submersibles, and other transportation. Typical fees in 2000 AD are based on construction costs and other relevant factors:
|Cost Per Annum
Rate depends on safety record etc.
Rate mainly based on speed
Rate mainly based on usage
Includes other ground vehicles
The G.P.O. and A.B.C., both with a superb safety record, carry their own risk and do not use outside insurers. Many tramp 'digs are uninsured, their owners trusting to luck and their savings. This is not illegal, but is a recipe for bankruptcy if anything goes wrong. Most reputable officers will not serve on an uninsured 'dig.
Commercial 'plane owners are usually charged at the lower rate, sportsmen at middle and higher rates. Accident record is also important. High insurance costs are one of the reasons why the 'plane is slowly being driven out of commercial use. Some planes, most notably those built for record attempts, would bear such high insurance premiums that most owners prefer to carry their own risk.
There is a close working relationship - some critics feel that it is much too close - between the A.B.C. and Lloyds. Lloyds will only insure 'digs with full A.B.C. certification and A.B.C.- qualified crews. The A.B.C. tends to be slightly more easygoing with 'digs that are insured by Lloyds or a subsidiary, on the assumption that they are being operated to correct safety standards. Many Lloyds employees are former A.B.C. officers and men, and several Members of the A.B.C. Board have been "Names" at Lloyds, shareholders in one or another of the insurance syndicates within the Lloyds organisation. Additionally Lloyds often works closely with the A.B.C., and particularly with A.B.C. accident investigators, and also employs investigators of its own who are paid at A.B.C. rates.
Many companies are involved in 'dig construction. One of the foremost is the Commercial Minerals Company (C.M.C.), the premier manufacturer of synthetic gemstone materials. They are mainly sold as bearings in 2000 AD; by 2065 much more ambitious uses will be found - see sections 5 and 6 for details.
Hibernian Turbines & Telegraphy (H.T. & T.) is a Scottish engineering firm specialising in small powerful Fleury turbines. They are best known for a model used in G.P.O. postal packets, but most of their output goes to marine engineering firms for submersible construction.
The Standard 'Dig Construction Company, of Millwall (London) & Buenos Ayres, is the world's largest 'dig builder. The company has contracts with every major line and postal service, and a near-monopoly on A.B.C. work. It is often forgotten that this company began as the Standard 'Plane & 'Dig Construction Company, and grew to prominence selling D.I.Y. monoplane kits. Now its advertising regularly attacks 'plane builders...
Standard 'Dig is another company that maintains a close relationship with the A.B.C., and several directors are former A.B.C. officers. There are several examples of Standard 'Dig advertisements in With The Night Mail. Most of the 'digs illustrated were built by this company.
Charles Tangye & Co. are a Cornish firm specialising in smaller private 'digs. Three models are described in section 5.
Naturally there are many other companies selling 'digs and 'dig accessories, and even a few that still build or offer equipment for 'planes. More examples can be found in With The Night Mail.
Finally, a few 'dig lines:
Naturally there are many other types of 'dig. By far the most typical are the many thousands of independently-owned tramps, which carry the bulk of cargo. Some are specialised, carrying refrigerated cargo (such as beef) to hungry markets, while others carry oil, minerals, ore, and timber. Two are illustrated:
It is still cheaper to send heavy goods by sea than by air. Merchant carriers (including submersibles) pay wages which are comparable with A.B.C. salaries.
This section mainly deals with the systems and operation of 'digs. Latter parts cover bat-boats and 'planes, but these vehicles are far from the mainstream of aviation.
Much of what follows is extracted and condensed, with permission, from Rimington's "Pitfalls In The Air" (1998 edition), which uses metric units of length, volume, and weight, but prefers Imperial units for speed and power. This is common in 'dig design, since the metric system is particularly suitable for the calculation of these aspects of 'dig performance.
The main components of a 'dig are the tanks (sometimes called gas bags), engines and other engineering components, and the controls and control surfaces. All are usually covered by a streamlined outer protective hull, containing all components and the crew compartments and holds. "Gondolas", once a common feature of 'digs, are now only found on soft-hulled 'digs, and on the oldest and smallest rigid models. Most of these components can be summarised very simply, although the science of Fleury's Ray and Gas requires some special explanation.
All 'digs fly by a process called displacement. The gas inside the tanks is less dense than the surrounding air, and so tends to rise. If the tanks are large enough, and the weight of the 'dig (including the gas in its tanks) is less than the weight of the air displaced, the 'dig will fly. The essential art of airmanship is to keep the weight of the 'dig very close to the weight displaced, so that changes in altitude are controllable. Fortunately Fleury's Gas is the ideal substance for such precise control; it is readily converted to a dense liquid, and happy to revert to its gaseous state if allowed to do so. To make the 'dig rise we let the gas expand to its lightest form; to make it fall we shunt out some of the lightest gas, replacing it with comparatively dense gas which has just changed from the liquid form. In practice the gas inside a 'dig is in a continual state of flux - evaporating, circulating through the tanks, expanding down pipes and through the turbines, then (under the influence of Fleury's Ray) returning to a liquid which is stored or allowed to circulate again.
The idea that "Fleury's Gas can lift anything" is unfortunately mistaken. At its best the gas can lift roughly 1.1 kilogram per cubic metre; the weight of the air it displaces, less the weight of the gas and its container. In practice the amount is often considerably less. The largest 'dig built was the huge Leviathan test-rig, capable of lifting 55,000 tons. She was composed of four cylindrical gas-tanks, each 200 metres (650 ft) wide and nearly 500 metres (1625 ft) long, had no outer hull apart from layers of netting, contained no power plant, and leaked nearly 200 tons of Fleury's Gas on the only occasion she flew!
Most large 'digs need a crew of at least three; an engineer, a 'dig driver, and a watch officer to superintend the Ray. In practice most have more - while all the flight controls of a 'dig can be linked to the "frame", it is usually easier to divide their operation between two or three men. Only the tiniest 'digs, which use comparatively feeble rays and tiny turbines, can fly without such safeguards. Board regulations require a relief officer on the bridge of any overseas flight, and on all commercial passenger 'digs regardless of route.
This section includes rules for 'dig, 'plane, and 'bat construction; a calculator with a percentage key helps considerably in the use of these rules. Several sample vehicles are provided, and should be ample for anyone who doesn't want to get involved in design complexities. Combat rules mainly cover 'digs, but easily cope with 'planes. There are also brief details of Lights and aeronautical accessories.
It should be emphasised that most of the available information on real-world dirigibles is sketchy, and includes some VERY suspect data. It is very difficult to use this information to extrapolate performance data for Kipling's 'digs. A spreadsheet file AIRSHIPS.WK1 with real-world airship data accompanies this collection. Please note that "Estimated" loads etc. in this file may be out by several hundred percent. Also note that sources rarely distinguish between total weight, lifting power, and payload; the distinction is made where known. Data on small airships is particularly suspect, since most are very early designs, soft-skinned "blimps", or both.
For gaming purposes the dirigible construction rules are designed to produce 'digs that are like those described by Kipling, in preference to adhering to the strict laws of aerodynamics. I've also assumed that this world has learned much more about 'digs than we have, and found ways to get the last possible ounce of lift out of any gas. Even so, postal packet 162 should barely be able to fly. I don't even want to think about the "steel-hulled ninety footer" encountered in With The Night Mail!
In order to save the author's sanity metric units of weight, length, and volume are used throughout. They are MUCH easier to work with; also, a cubic metre of air happens to weigh a little over a kilogram, which simplifies many calculations enormously. Power is measured in horsepower (about .75 Kilowatt), speed in miles per hour (multiply by 1.6 for KPH). The ton used is the Metric ton, 1000 Kg, which by sheer chance is almost exactly an English ton.
Even Fleury who begat it... ...could not explain how the restless
little imp shuddering in the U-tube can, in the fractional fraction of
a second, strike the furious blast of gas into a chill greyish-green
With The Night Mail
Fleury's Gas is an extraordinary chlorinated carbon compound, with a molecular mass of approximately 747. It was originally discovered in liquid form as an accidental by-product of photographic dye research, at the Pathe factory in France; Kodak is the leading American manufacturer, Pathe and Ilford dominate the European market. It is non-flammable and mildly toxic. Its structure has not been modelled in detail, but the gaseous and liquid forms are assumed to be stereo-isomers; the gas polarises light clockwise, the liquid anti-clockwise.
When manufactured it initially appears to be a viscous oil, but after a few minutes it begins to boil, evaporating as an extraordinarily light gas; figures for density at normal atmospheric pressure vary, but average around 0.1 Kg / cubic metre, on a par with hydrogen. This is, of course, in contradiction to the laws of chemistry as previously known, which assumed that the density of a gas was proportional to its molecular weight. Soon after the initial discovery Fleury learned that the gas was (in his words) "ridiculously volatile", vanishing even from closed containers.
The classic experiment was conducted in July 1963. Fleury released 10g of liquefied gas into an evacuated glass cylinder suspended beneath a balance, and monitored its weight and pressure. The following results were obtained:
Time (min) 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 Mass (g) 10 10 10 10 9.9 9.8 9.7 9.6 9.6 9.4 9.1 Pressure (at) 0 0.4 0.6 1.2 1.8 3.9 4.1 4.0 3.9 3.7 3.5
The missing gas had vanished completely; repeated tests have shown that approximately 8-10% of the original amount of gas is permanently lost for each hour that passes after an initial stable period. When the liquid is compressed and kept at high pressure (forty atmospheres and above) it does not become a gas, and there is no mass loss.
At first this seemed to be a useless curiosity; despite the lightness of the gas, and its low cost compared to helium (then over £1000 per ton), the loss rate made it useless for 'digs. Fleury noticed that there was little mass loss in the first hour, and suggested that it might be minimised by rapid circulation and repeated compression and liquefaction of the gas. That would have required more power than was produced by any 'dig of the era, and the scheme was naturally never tried.
Fleury's second breakthrough came nearly a year later, in an experiment which subjected samples of the gas to radium rays and high voltages. Under these conditions (see Pathe's 1964 patent) the gas in the discharge tube began to glow an intense violet-green. Simultaneously beads of moisture began to condense on the walls of the stoppered vial which had previously held the liquefied gas; seconds later it imploded.
Within days Fleury proved that the Ray would condense very large quantities of gas almost instantaneously, and that the pressure change that resulted could produce much more energy than was needed to maintain the Ray - an apparent contradiction of the laws of energy conservation. A month later the first Fleury Gas turbine was tested; the rest is history.
Today the essential mystery of Fleury's Gas remains unsolved, although there are several theories. The most widely accepted is the most bizarre; Worlsman suggests that under low pressure the complex molecules somehow "fold" part of their structure into a space of four (or possibly five or more) dimensions. Random molecular motion in this space is magnified, and the portion of the molecule that remains in our continuum is "dragged along" by the extra-dimensional component, so that it expands to a much greater extent than is normal for a gas in our universe. Energy is gained from the extra-dimensional space as the gas expands.
Fleury's Ray ionises a bond in the molecule, causing it to assume an altered form (possibly a stereo-isomer, although the polarisation effect may be coincidental) which does not extend outside normal space; in consequence it returns to the dense liquid form, fully in our space. If it remains compressed the gas cannot revert to the extra-dimensional form; at lower pressures the molecules eventually shed ionisation energy and revert to the extra-dimensional form. Eventually, if left unchecked, they fall entirely into extra-dimensional space and disappear from our own continuum.
In support of this theory, Worlsman has pointed out that carbon dioxide will rapidly diffuse through thin rubber INTO a container of Fleury's Gas, acting as though the container were evacuated. Other gases show similar behaviour. Luckily 'dig tanks keep air out, as well as keeping Fleury's Gas in, since any air that leaked in would rapidly weigh down the 'dig. Fortunately all 'digs have long used self-sealing synthetic rubber tanks which are capable of "healing" small cuts and tears. The A.B.C. standard requires that a rip up to an inch wide must close within five seconds, and that puncture wounds under 1/4 inch must seal within a second. Anyone who has flown too low over a grouse moor in the season will appreciate this requirement!
Lee suggests that the hypothetical extra-dimensional space must be much smaller than our own universe, while Stross maintains that the area of this space "adjacent" to our planet is losing energy and must now be polluted by several thousand tons of lost gas, the wastage from our 'digs. The implications for any lifeforms in this (conjectured) space are unknown.
'Dig and power plant designs all use systems which ensure rapidly flowing gas exchange, with internal fans inside the tanks keeping the gas mobile. Usually a complete cycle from evaporation to condensation takes ten to fifteen minutes, but of course this is a statistical average; since molecular movements are random, a small proportion inevitably stays out of the Ray and in gaseous form long enough to "fall out" of three-dimensional space forever. A modern 'dig in good repair can expect to lose approximately 1% of circulating gas in 24 hours, much less in dock with most of the lift shunted out and the liquid stored at high pressure. Ground-based and submersible power plants use high-pressure designs which restrict the gas to relatively narrow tubes, not the gigantic tanks of 'digs, and ensure that almost all the gas is recirculated before it can escape; losses are negligible.
Currently Fleury's Gas costs £340 a ton; in a full-sized 'dig under normal conditions one kilogram of the gas occupies just over ten cubic metres, and lifts approximately ten times its own weight, after subtracting the weight of the gas itself. Design criteria are described in more detail below.
It should be pointed out that Fleury's Ray is extremely dangerous; exposure without protective glasses can lead to deterioration of the optic nerves and eventual blindness. Unfortunately most Rays must be operated by engineers; only the smallest turbines and the relatively tiny Rays in lift shunts can be trusted to work without supervision. Ray operation is a skilled but extremely boring job, and most operators tend to compensate by drinking, or other rowdy behaviour, when off duty. Dockside bars know that anyone wearing green glasses is probably going to give them trouble.
The behaviour of Fleury's Gas in a 'digs turbines is charted and summarised in 20_TURBN.GIF
The explanation you have just read is designed to make the best of a very confusing chemical - if you don't like it, you don't have to use it, just substitute helium and some other form of nuclear engine.
The science of Fleury's Gas can lead to some interesting adventure ideas. For example:
Under most circumstances a 'dig is operated much like a ship, but the Captain normally takes the wheel. Orders are relayed to the engineers, who operate the turbines, shunts, and tanks. In fine weather these orders may be little more than an occasional adjustment of lift, or shifting of gas from one tank to another. When weather deteriorates the tempo of orders rises, and under exceptionally poor conditions it may be necessary to resort to use of the "frame". Here's a vivid description, from a recent issue of "The Journal Of The Aerial Board Of Control":
"Now under Tim's left toe lies the port-engine Accelerator; under his
left heel the Reverse, and so with the other foot. The lift-shunt
stops stand out on the rim of the steering-wheel where the fingers of
his left hand can play on them. At his right hand is the mid-ships
engine lever ready to be thrown into gear at a moment's notice."
With The Night Mail
It's necessary to stand in the frame to use it; reclining versions have been tried, but most 'dig designs aren't suited to a seated driver. The operator is strapped in, and literally treats the 'dig as an extension of his own body, controlling it while monitoring as many as ten or fifteen instruments. After a storm he is often heavily bruised and near to exhaustion.
Instruments carried in most large 'digs include turbine pressure repeaters, a pressure altimeter, air speed gauge, a sextant, a chronometer, a compass, a recording dip-dial to track altitude, and a General Communicator. A common accessory is a clockwork moving map, which in its most refined form is mechanically linked to the air speed gauge, compass, and chronometers. It is less accurate than a human navigator, but better than nothing. Simple versions of this device are very popular with owners of small 'digs and planes, which often lack room for a navigator.
The largest 'digs carry radio navigation aids, which allow the wireless officer to take bearings on G.C. transmitters. This technology is still in its infancy, and much less accurate than the use of Lights and the stars.
Simple 'digs use far fewer controls; for example, a tiny Tangye 'dig is flown entirely from the wheel, and the only controls are the throttle, stops for the triple gas bags, the wheel itself, and some meters to monitor the Ray and turbine.
A time traveller from the nineteenth century or the World War would recognise 'digs, and would certainly realise the purpose of most of the controls, but might be surprised to notice that the stabilisers are not used for steering or attitude control. For many years this has been the province of Magniac's Rudder, the indispensable aid to flight.
Early attempts to control 'digs by forward rudders ran into severe turbulence problems; as soon as the air flow was disturbed, chaotic vortices of air would build up and rapidly cause a complete loss of control. Part of this problem was solved when builders began to construct 'digs without gondolas and other external components, and thus smoothed air flow over the hull. Magniac's design uses the rudder to modify air flow (and thus air pressure) very close to the hull, in a process known as boundary layer control. The component plates act as aerofoils, not rudders, and air flow near the hull remains laminar (smooth). The turning effect is a natural result of the pressure changes, utilising the Venturi effect which is also used in 'plane wings; the hull moves into the stream with low pressure, away from the stream with high pressure, and thus turns. Most large 'digs use hydraulic systems or electric motors to raise or lower their plates; a few really small 'digs use cables and pulleys, but this is rare.
A fast 'dig with a good driver can use this effect to add extra lift, as though the 'dig were a 'plane. By keeping the lift a little low and running on the plates very precise altitude control is easy, without continual adjustments of buoyancy. Anyone who has ever travelled aboard a submersible will recognise this technique, known to mariners as "running on the planes".
In an emergency the plates can be raised to generate turbulent vortices which turn the 'dig with much greater force; rapid raising and lowering of the plate keeps the vortices small, but there is still some loss of controllability. It is also possible to raise all plates in a "mushroom-head", which generates an annular (tyre-shaped) vortice ahead of the dig and rapidly brakes it. This procedure places considerable strain on the rudder and hull and is not recommended.
Usually operation of a 'dig is entirely routine. If the driver is trained there is no need to make any skill rolls. Exceptions arise in combat, described in section 5.5 below, in bad weather, and when attempting any particularly difficult feat of airmanship. For example:
|Activity||Difficulty||Docking without wrecking 'dig||1||Docking without scratching paint||2-3||Docking at night without lights in silence||7-10||Matching speed, course, etc. with another 'dig||3-4||Matching speed, course, etc. with an evading 'dig||Enemy's skill||Avoiding another 'dig in good visiblity||2-3||Avoiding another 'dig in dense fog||5-7||Avoiding a 'dig that's trying to ram||Enemy's skill||Match speed and rescue someone from a falling 'dig||6-8||Catch wind to improve speed||1 per 1D6 MPH|
|Running above 'digs rated top speed *||+1 per 5%|
|'Dig with lightweight engine (see below)||+1|
|'Dig with soft hull (see below)||+1|
* Does not apply to extra speed gained from favourable winds
Example: More Haste...
Like most 'digs the Valhalla has a good power reserve, but its hull is only designed for use at 100 MPH. The referee decides that the engines can push it to 125 MPH, but this is 25% faster than the design speed. All control rolls will be at +5 difficulty.
The captain hopes to catch a favourable wind, and gain another 25 MPH (say 6D6 MPH speed improvement). Normally this would be difficulty 6, but the speed of the 'dig pushes it up to difficulty 11. The captain uses his Pilot  skill, but on a 5 he fails. The referee decides that this means that the 'dig is running into opposing winds at 5D6 MPH; rolling the dice, this turns out to be 22 MPH speed loss. The 'dig is now flying at a ground speed of 103 MPH.
'Dig components are surprisingly light; even the turbines of the mightiest liner are largely filled with gas or a good grade of vacuum. While it might be imagined that a metal hull is very heavy, it is very thin; in proportion to size, most of the hull of a 'dig is very much thinner than an egg shell. Its strength comes from strategically placed frames, girders, and bracing wires. These factors combine to allow modern 'digs to lift enormous loads, far greater than anything imagined in the days of hydrogen or helium.
In a full-sized modern 'dig one kilogram of Fleury's Gas occupies just over ten metres, and lifts approximately ten times its own weight, after subtracting the weight of the gas itself and the internal gas tanks (called gas bags or ballonets in the early days of aviation). This is an over-simplification, but is accurate for all but the smallest 'digs.
In a perfect world every 'dig would be designed to meet an exact specification. Unfortunately this would be hideously expensive, since even the simplest hull design needs weeks of exacting aerodynamic calculations and wind tunnel tests. Most builders prefer to work from a "style book" of hulls sized to fit the most common requirements. These have already gone through the rigours of design and testing, are known to perform well, and are comparatively cheap. The Standard 'Dig style book is one of the most extensive, and is used by many other builders. The table which follows shows the most popular selections from this range, and the useful load that they can lift after the weight of the outer hull is subtracted. "Ratio" is the ratio of length to width; generally a 6:1 ratio is used for fast hulls, while a 10:1 ratio gives maximum lifting capability.
|Ratio 6:1||Ratio 8:1||Ratio 10:1|
|5||30||0.5 1||40||0.7 1||50||0.9 1|
|6||36||0.8 1||48||1.2 1||60||1.5 2|
|7||42||1.3 2||56||1.8 2||70||2.4 2|
|8||48||1.9 2||64||2.7 2||80||3.6 2|
|9||54||2.7 2||72||3.9 2||90||5.2 2|
If in doubt, over-specify; for example, most liners are built with 20-30% more lifting capacity than they really need.
Example: The "Halley" (1)
Example: The "Wasp" (1)
Approximate hull costs can be found very easily; the formula used by the Standard 'Dig Company is typical. Multiply the lift in tons by £2500, then modify the result as follows:
|1: Lift||Under 1 ton||add 20%|
|Lift under 10 tons||add 10%|
|Lift under 20 tons||add 5%|
|Lift over 150 tons||subtract 5%|
|Lift over 200 tons||subtract 10%|
|Lift over 1000 tons||subtract 15%|
|Soft hull||subtract 25%|
|Non-standard design||up to double normal cost|
All changes are compounded. Make the change due to lift before the change due to hull ratio, and the change due to a soft hull last of all.
Example: The "Halley" (2)
Example: The "Wasp" (2)
Length to width ratio is very important in the next step, the calculation of engine power. Calculating power to obtain an exact speed is very difficult; most engineers prefer to make a rough estimate then use "off-the-shelf" components and add extra power for luck!
To make an approximation, multiply the lifting power in tons by 25 to determine the engine size in horsepower at 50 MPH, then modify the result as follows:
Again the changes are compounded; make each of the modifications for hull design before the change for speed, and the change for a soft hull last of all. Round up any fractions.
Example: The "Halley" (3)
Example: The "Wasp" (3)
Four main classes of turbine are available. The table shows the horsepower of the basic design, increments in available power (if any are available), the cost for the basic design and for each increment, and the weight of the engine.
|Heavy Duty||5000||25000||1000||£17500||£3,000||1.5||£575||4 days|
Weights include associated equipment such as pumps, screws, etc.
Lightweight turbines are generally found only in small private 'digs; they omit many of the complexities of the Fleury system, most notably the need for a Fleury Ray operator, by running at just one pre-set speed. In consequence they are much less versatile than larger units. On average servicing is recommended every 25000 miles. The ultra-light design takes this idea to its logical conclusion; it is essentially a lift shunt fitted to a turbine, with a simple flap valve to stop liquefied gas sucking back into the vacuum chamber. This is an inherently noisy and unreliable design, and 5000 mile services are recommended. Both types can be serviced without rebuilding the Ray.
Medium and Heavy Duty turbines can be operated at a wide range of speeds. Usually medium turbines are preferred, because servicing is faster and cheaper, but heavy duty units are recommended in situations where severe overloading is possible; any 'dig that expects to tow other 'digs will probably have them fitted. Both types need a full service (including rebuilding of Fleury Ray) every 200,000 miles.
It is good engineering practice to build in extra power, but it is also a good idea to limit the number of engines in a 'dig; each extra turbine adds extra complexities, each extra screw decreases the efficiency of the 'dig, and small turbines are less reliable than their massive cousins. Unfortunately very large turbines have their own problems, primarily related to gas circulation and concentration of weight, so the largest 'digs are generally built with several engines spread out along the length of the hull.
Example: The "Halley" (4)
Example: The "Wasp" (4)
Extra power can't be translated directly into a speed improvement, since hulls are built to give their best performance at their rated speeds. Excessive speed is always accompanied by control problems.
Once all of the above has been calculated, it should be remembered that a good supply of Fleury's Gas is needed. The calculation is fortunately very simple; just divide the lift of the 'dig by ten to find the quantity of gas needed. The price is currently £340 a ton.
Other components that might be fitted to a 'dig include the controls, accommodation, and cargo. Weights and costs vary according to design; some examples follow:
|Basic controls for a very small 'dig||0.05||£ 150|
|Full bridge including frame||1.0||£1500|
|G.C. Wireless installation||0.02||£3 3s|
|Passenger seat (weight includes passenger)||0.1||£ 20|
|Spartan cabin for two||0.5||£ 200|
|Average cabin for two||1.5||£ 900|
|Luxury stateroom for two||2.5||£1500|
|Baby-Grand Piano||0.6||£ 300|
|Horse box (weight including horse)||2.0||£ 250|
|'Plane rack||1.5 *||£ 500|
* See 'planes below; add weight of 'plane if carried.
Finally, insurance costs are usually in the range 0.5% to 2.0% of construction cost per annum, rounded up or down at the whim of the insurers, but a 'dig with a poor record may be charged at higher rates.
Players may occasionally want to design a custom-built 'dig, rather than buying one of the "off the peg" models described in section 5.4. The costs above are guidelines, not exact figures; some yards will charge much more and (hopefully) do a superb job, others will underbid, but may deliver less than is paid for. Negotiating the best deal can be a lot of fun, especially if the players are good at haggling. You can also have some fun with players who fail to make their wishes abundantly clear. Remember that every 'dig builder will have his own ideas of decor ("Sir, you did specify padded walls to minimise noise, and I'm afraid that swansdown and velvet are quite expensive..."), reliability ("No, mate, it's not a fault, it's a design feature..."), and performance ("So, you complain that top speed is only a hundred and forty? Only, he says! Oy! You want to kill yourself flying at maybe two hundred..?").
Some components (especially weapons) may be difficult or impossible for civilians to obtain. Players may need to use a lot of ingenuity to persuade builders to construct a 'dig which has room for unusual features like missile launchers or machine guns, and actually finding the equipment should be an adventure in itself. A few devices are described in section 5.5 below.
'Digs designed by these rules always have an official speed rating for their hull, but are often over-powered. Referees should privately decide how well the hull was designed, and what its true maximum speed will be with the power plant installed. Only reveal this information when players decide to try pushing the pedal to the floor.
To calculate the BODY of a 'dig use this table:
|500 tons & up||60|
|Soft hull (eg Tangye)||-5|
|Speed 100-200 MPH||+5|
|Speed above 200 MPH||+10|
|Military or A.B.C.||+10|
By 2065 AD extremely strong lightweight materials (such as synthetic diamond structural members, diamond and carbon fibre composites, etc.) will enter routine use, and any size of engine desired can be built. In other respects designs should remain unchanged, but with stronger materials the BODY of 'digs improves significantly. Multiply BODY by 1.5 for all 2065 designs.
Military 'digs may be built with reinforced bows for ramming. This adds 10% to the cost of the hull, and 10% to BODY (all areas need extra strength), but the extra weight takes 10% of lift capability.
Copy this form to record 'dig designs:
|Length||____ ft ___ m||Width||____ ft ___ m||Ratio||__:__|
|Lift||____ tons||Speed||____ MPH||Engines:||____ HP|
Marcus L. Rowland
For convenience this record form has been saved as a separate file.
Postal Packet 162 Length: 240 ft (72m) Maximum Width: 37 ft (11m) Ratio: 6:1 Lift: 5.5 tons Maximum Speed: 230 MPH BODY: 40 Engines: 3 x 500 HP (1,500 HP) standard turbines Cost: Hull £16,335 Engines £ 6,300 Gas £ 190 Other £ 2,800 (carriage, controls, etc Total £25,625 Insurance: None, risk carried by G.P.O.Illustrations - 01_BERTH.GIF, 02_FLITE.GIF, 03_PLAN.GIF
This is a typical modern postal packet, as described in With The Night
Mail. The most interesting features are a very fast design, and the
use of a detachable carriage (or underbody) to hold mail and sorters.
[NB: This 'dig slightly "bends" the design rules in earlier sections: the hull is simply too small to lift the contents described without cheating!]
Tramp freighter "Halma" Length: 485 ft (150m) Maximum Width: 81ft (25m) Ratio: 6:1 Lift: 58.9 tons (nominal) Maximum Speed: 45 MPH BODY: 40 Engines: 2 x 50 HP (old design, equivalent to a small lightweight turbine) Cost: Hull £85,000 Engines £ 1,200 (replacement cost, 2 x 100 HP) Gas £ 1,065 Other £ 500 (Accommodation and controls) Total £87,765 Insurance: Uninsured.Illustration - 06_TRAMP.GIF
The Halma is an old under-powered design. Costs are for a modern 'dig of this design, if anyone wanted to build one. When seen in With The Night Mail she is old and poorly maintained; her true lift is less than 25 tons, due to air leaking into the gas tanks.
Planet Liner "Asteroid" Length: 900 ft (270m) Maximum Width: 95 ft (28.5m) Ratio: 10:1 Lift: 130 tons Maximum Speed: 160 MPH BODY: 55 Engines: 8 x 6,000 HP (48,000 HP) heavy duty turbines Cost: Hull £348,750 Engines £164,000 Gas £ 4,420 Other £350,000 (luxury interior, controls, etc) Total £867,170 Insurance: 0.5% (£5,000 P/A)Illustration - 07_LINER.GIF
The Asteroid is a fine example of luxury design. She is over-engined for her capacity (100 passengers, 30 crew, and 20 tons baggage/cargo), and has touched 180 MPH in speed trials. She rescued the crew of the tramp "Halma".
The "Cyclonic" Length: 780 ft (240m) Maximum Width: 130 ft (40m) Ratio: 6:1 Lift: 240 tons Maximum Speed: 210 MPH BODY: 60 Engines: 8 x 15,000 HP (120,000 HP) Heavy duty turbines Cost: Hull £ 594,000 Engines £ 380,000 Gas £ 8,160 Other £ 500,000 (luxury accommodation etc.) Total £1,482,160 Insurance: 0.5% (£7000 P/A)
The Cyclonic is simply the fastest and finest liner in the air in 2000AD. She holds every possible speed record, and the most common complaint about her service is that flights are over too quickly. She has accommodation for 200 overnight passengers, with fifty tons of baggage and a crew of forty. She mostly serves on the London-New York run; her sister ships "Tornado" and "Lightning" ply the long-distance London-India and London-China routes, and are fitted with cabins for 150 passengers, eighty tons of cargo, and sixty crew. She is often mentioned (as in With The Night Mail) as an example of speed and power.
Banks Mark Boat Length: 790ft (240m) Maximum Width: 132ft (40m) Ratio: 6:1 Lift: 200 tons Maximum Speed: 150 BODY: 65 Engines: 4 x 25,000 HP in tandem pairs = 100,000 HP Cost: Hull £ 596,475 Engines £ 310,000 Gas £ 10,200 (includes reserve for salvage etc.) Other £ 145,500 (Beacons, salvage gear, etc.) Total £1,062,175 Insurance: None, risk carried by A.B.C.Illustration - 08_MARK.GIF
Mark Boats are grossly over-powered for their size and rated speed because they must frequently hold position in storms, and tow other vessels; some of the power is also used for the boat's beacon, which is as bright as a District Light. The model illustrated is one of the largest, equipped to dock smaller 'digs or supply them with Fleury's Gas in flight. It stores a large reserve of gas for 'digs in difficulty, and has internal hangers for eight patrol 'planes, described in section 5.6 below.
Mark boats are numbered, not named, and are generally referred to by the name of their station; thus "The Banks Mark Boat", "Barcelona Mark Boat", "Barrier Reef Mark Boat Five", etc.
Lunger (hospital 'dig) Length: 500ft (150m) NB: Double hull - see below Maximum Width: 50ft (15m) x 2 Ratio: 10:1 Lift: 45 Maximum Speed: 75 BODY: 40 (per hull) Engines: 2 x 1000 HP standard turbines Cost: Hull £54,000 Engines £ 6,200 Gas £ 1,530 Other £25,700 (Hospital equipment, controls, etc.) Total £87,430 Insurance: 1% (£1300 PA)Illustration - 09_LUNGR.GIF
Double-hulled 'digs look odd but are a good way to get maximum stability and passenger space with a minimal increase in cost. To calculate power, use data for a single hull and half the lift then multiply by 3 to get the correct power. Hospital 'digs usually have extra power reserves to maintain stability in poor conditions. This lunger is typical of hospital designs, with accommodation for 70 patients, a medical staff of 25, and 18 crew. The example listed has been in two minor accidents, hence the higher insurance rate.
Tangye XI "Family" 'Dig & Tangye XV "Sports" 'Dig Length: 135 ft (40m) Maximum Width: 16 ft (5m) Ratio: 8:1 Model: XI XV Lift: 0.7 tons 0.6 tons Maximum Speed: 50 MPH 75 MPH BODY: 5 5 Engines: 1 x 50 HP 2 x 50 HP ultra-light Cost: Hull £1,890 £1,890 Engines £ 250 £ 500 Gas £ 30 £ 30 Other £ 350 £ 600 (controls etc.) Total £2,870 £3,720 Insurance: 2% (£60 P/A) 5% (£200 P/A)
The Tangye XI and XV are the smallest 'digs in regular production, and are popular with enthusiasts who can't afford anything better. The XI seats four, including driver, in a small closed gondola below the gas bag. Sales are primarily to country clergy, 'dig driving schools, local delivery firms, and district nurses:
FAMILY DIRIGIBLE. A Competent, steady man wanted for slow speed, low
level Tangye dirigible. No night work, no sea trips. Must be member
of the Church of England, and make himself useful in the garden.
M.R., The Rectory, Gray's Barton, Wilts.
With The Night Mail
The XV appeals more to young sportsmen. It has the highest base insurance rate of any 'dig. It seats two, with a small amount of luggage, because the second engine occupies more room in the gondola.
The "Victor Pirolo" (2065 AD) Length: 320 ft (99m) Maximum Width: 55 ft (17m) Ratio: 6:1 Lift: 18 tons Maximum Speed: 350 MPH (emergency speed 400+?) BODY: 75 Engines: 1 x 25,000 HP Heavy duty turbine Cost: Hull £ 49,500 Engines £ 77,500 Gas £ 1,300 Other £125,000 (weapons systems, controls, etc.) Total £253,300 Insurance: Risk carried by A.B.C.Illustrations - 15_PIROL.GIF, 16_VPLAN.GIF
The Victor Pirolo is a standard A.B.C. patrol craft of its era. The screw, turbines, and control surfaces are made of diamond/carbon fibre composites, and colloid and other synthetics are used for the hull, skin, etc. There is very little metal in the design. Equipment includes siege lights and "wind pipes", versatile electrical and communications equipment, and a range of defensive field projectors; see Sections 5.5, 6, and As Easy As A.B.C. for details. Emergency speed capacity is obviously well over 400 MPH, but the hull was built to a 350 MPH specification, and has not (officially) been tested above 400. Two extra tons of Fleury's Gas are kept aboard.
A.B.C. Patrol 'Dig "Daedalus" (2000 AD) Length: 290ft (89m) Maximum Width: 50 ft (15.4m) Ratio: 6:1 Lift: 12.7 tons (1.27 tons used by ram) Maximum Speed: 200 MPH BODY: 61 Engines: 2 x 1,500 HP standard turbines in tandem Cost: Hull £39,325 Engines £ 8,200 Gas £ 450 Other £ 6,830 (controls, equipment, accommodation) Total £54,805 Insurance: Risk carried by A.B.C.
The Daedalus is a typical A.B.C. Fleet 'dig of 2000 AD. It is built to
ram, and carries grapnel guns (see below), pithing irons, and small
arms. It has a crew of 14. A scout 'plane (see below) can be hooked
below the hull, but is rarely carried.
[This vessel is NOT described in either A.B.C. story, but is included for use in gaming.]
Tangye XXV "Commercial" 'dig Length: 324 ft (100 m) Maximum Width: 33 ft (10m) Ratio: 10:1 Lift: 7.1 tons Maximum Speed: 125 BODY: 35 Engines: 1,500 HP standard turbine Cost: Hull £19,800 Engines £ 4,100 Gas £ 245 Other £ 1,200 (controls, G.C., accommodation) Total £25,345 Insurance: Reputable business ownership: 1% (£300 P/A) Average Private owner: 1.5% (£450 P/A)This is a popular small 'dig used for passengers and/or a few tons of cargo. It has a crew of four; a driver, two engineers, and a Ray operator. It is typical of the type of smaller 'dig that might be owned by a rich adventurer, used by a business, or allocated to an A.B.C. scientist by the Board.
"And scarcely a generation ago, we (one knows now that we are only our
fathers re-enlarged upon the earth), we, I say, ripped and rammed and
pithed to admiration."
With The Night Mail
"One knows vaguely that there is such a thing as a Fleet somewhere on
the Planet, and that, theoretically, it exists for the purposes of
what used to be known as 'war.'"
As Easy As A.B.C.
[Material in this section is abstracted, with permission, from the Imperial War Museum's "'Digs At War 1914-1980", a history of military aviation, by Roz Kaveney (1995)]
The history of 'dig combat is long and bloody. Fortunately it now seems to be at an end, although one can never be entirely sure of such things. Another famine, or another plague, might usher in the awful spectacle of war again.
The earliest 'digs fought with machine guns and bombs, and found them effective against ground targets and the puny 'planes of their day. The first battle between 'dig and 'dig surprised all concerned, as both sides realised that a 'dig is remarkably difficult to hurt with these weapons.
In one incident late in the World War a British 'dig fired several hundred machine-guns rounds at a German Zeppelin, which naturally returned the compliment; all but a handful of bullets went straight through their gas tanks without causing any permanent harm. Even incendiary rounds did little damage, their flames almost instantly quenched by helium, and the holes closed by self-sealing rubber. The best results (if that is the right term) were achieved by sharpshooters with powerful rifles, aiming at control gondolas and external engines. Cannon able to harm a 'dig were far too heavy to be lifted by such crude vessels.
Early experiments with ramming proved that both 'digs were likely to come off the worse for such encounters; the bed of the North Sea is littered with the wreckage of 'digs, often locked together in death. Early use of grapnels was a little more successful, and led to the evolution of the pithing iron we know today. Attacks were still mainly a matter of luck and position; if you could get above an enemy, you could pith or rip with relative impunity, and even use bombs if you wanted to risk them - more than one 'dig was destroyed when an opponent's methane tanks joined in the explosion, and sent up a blowtorch of burning gas. There are also several accounts of bombs plummeting straight through the hull and tanks of a 'dig without exploding, carrying on out again to waste their spite on the ground.
By the nineteen-fifties most nations equipped military 'digs with nerve gas bombs, weapons that later caused the death of millions. A few keels carried rocket-propelled aerial torpedoes, given their initial impetus by pneumatic cannon. Usually these weapons had an accurate (to twenty or thirty feet) range of four or five miles, but were inaccurate at any greater distance; not that any accuracy was needed with these disgusting devices. Paradoxically 'dig versus 'dig combat remained unchanged; nerve gas was far too dangerous to use at close quarters, and aerial torpedoes were too inaccurate to score against fast-moving 'digs at long range. In the last days of "The People" X-ray projectors and radium rays were developed for short-range combat, but were extremely cumbersome, and more commonly used against cities. It is believed that the A.B.C. have been successful in eliminating all remaining ray weapons - even non-members have agreed to allow their destruction.
Today military 'digs are exclusively the province of the A.B.C., and a few non-member states of negligible size. It is known that the Board is removing lethal weapons from its digs, replacing them with systems designed to stun, demoralise, or disable opponents. The armaments of non-members are a matter of conjecture; while the Board seems to be happy with this state of affairs, it is hoped that one of the world's remaining "leaders" will not decide to take advantage of their kindness and repay it with the use of murderous force.
Aerial combat in this world should be extraordinarily rare, and will certainly attract the attention of the A.B.C. 'Digs are powerful, and can do a massive amount of damage, but tend to fall out of the sky if they are too badly abused. This is NOT a complex dirigible battle system for war-gamers; if that's what you want, you may prefer to use one of the games mentioned in Appendix B of the rules.
'Dig to 'dig combat is a contest of skills, consisting of attempts to use the 'dig itself, or its weapons, to damage an enemy. The overwhelming majority of 'digs in the A.B.C. world are unarmed; the few that do carry weapons mostly belong to the A.B.C.
While complex movement systems are more the province of war games, it may be helpful to assume that 'digs accelerate too slowly to gain significant speed in a combat round, can turn through the following angles (per combat round), and can shed the amount of speed shown below:
Ramming is possibly the most stupid (or bravest) thing anyone can do in this world. The usual result is a heap of mangled wreckage, unless the collision takes place at extremely low speed.
Ramming can only occur if the 'digs involved are on a collision course, or the 'dig that is doing the ramming is faster than its opponent, and both are at the same altitude. Unless complete surprise is achieved the attacker must make several successful skill rolls, overcoming the skill of the opponent, to achieve a collision. This assumes, of course, that the defender wants to evade; if not, collision is automatic.
Divide the difference in speed between the 'digs by 10, then add the lift of the attacker, to get the attacking Effect. The defender is the BODY of the defending 'dig. Both of these numbers will probably fall well off the normal attack versus defence table, so divide both (usually by 5 or 10, as explained in the rules section 1.2.1) to get onto the table. After both numbers are in the range covered by the table, apply the following modifiers:
|Attempting to evade:||-4 (see below)|
|OR driver bails out:||-4 (see below)|
|Equipped to ram:||+4 (see 5.3.0 above)|
Example: Tora Tora Tora Splat (1)
Use the damage result table as follows:
Example: Tora Tora Tora Splat (2)
In the unlikely event that both 'digs survive a collision, a Pilot roll is needed to separate them afterwards. If the roll fails, a sadistic referee may wish to inflict further damage on both 'digs.
Pithing is an attack that uses a pithing iron, a special grapnel designed specifically to damage 'digs. All 'digs carry such an iron, since they are used to stop wrecked 'digs drifting into traffic.
To attack using an iron, the attacker must manoeuvre above the defender while someone aboard readies the iron and makes a Markmanship roll to drop it at exactly the right moment. The defending difficulty is 6, or the skill of the defending 'dig driver, whichever is greater. The attacking skill is reduced with distance as shown below. Once dropped the iron has an Effect of 5, increasing with the distance it falls to a maximum Effect of 80:
|Distance dropped (feet)||0||50||100||200||300 and above|
If the iron hits it uses its Effect against the BODY of the 'dig as follows:
If by some unlikely accident a human is hit by the iron, Effect is as above, damage is: A:I B:C C:K.
It is almost impossible to hit a human target deliberately; in any attempt the difficulty of the "shot" should be at least twenty if the iron is used from any altitude. It simply isn't designed for use against anything smaller than a 'dig.
22_EQUIP.GIF shows items of equipment including a pithing iron.
As already mentioned most hand weapons can't do any significant damage to a 'dig, since rips and tears seal themselves almost instantly. The outer hull of a 2000 AD 'dig acts as armour and reduces the Effect of bullets by 2, while the hull of a 2065 AD 'dig reduces Effect by 5.
In all but the smallest 'digs all the vital equipment and personnel are inside the hull, and almost impossible to target. The most vulnerable components are external features such as propellers, but they should be very difficult to hit at any range. If players try to use these weapons on another 'dig, and don't devise a realistic strategy for hitting a worthwhile target, tell them that their attack seems to be having no effect. If shots are fired at a 'dig occupied by characters, almost all the bullets should ricochet past without doing any damage (unless they do something stupid like leaning out of a hatch).
Grenades and other small explosive weapons can damage a 'dig, but it is very difficult to do serious harm. If someone does try this, divide the BODY of the 'dig by 20 to represent the BODY of the area under attack; any successful result rips a large hole in the hull. If this is on top of the hull a successful result also rips one of the inner tanks and drains 10% of lift and speed. Another attack at the same point just damages the wreckage; the attacker must move forward or aft and attack another tank to have any real effect on the 'dig. Someone aboard a 'dig who uses a grenade to attack other occupants or equipment has all normal chances of success.
Some very old military 'digs mount machine guns and other firearms. These are intended mainly for use against 'planes and ground forces, and are singularly ineffective (as described above) against 'digs.
Any 'dig can drop a bomb; just fly over the target and use the Military Arms skill to arm and drop it at the right moment. The Mechanic skill can be substituted to arm the bomb, and Marksmanship to aim it. Use the distance modifiers in the previous section to determine if the bomb hits the target.
No-one makes bombs in any of the A.B.C. nations, but there may still be some left over from earlier decades, or in states that still haven't joined. The main classes that are likely to be found are as follows:
|10 lb bomb:||10ft radius, Effect 10, A:I B:C C:K|
|20 lb bomb:||10ft radius, Effect 15, A:I B:C C:K|
|50 lb bomb:||20ft radius, Effect 20, A:I B:C C:K|
|250 lb bomb:||30ft radius, Effect 30, A:I B:C C:K|
The first two are designed to be dropped from 'planes, the third and forth from 'digs. Any that players can find will be AT LEAST thirty years old, and possibly highly unstable.
A few 'digs built in the fifties and sixties mounted aerial torpedo launchers. These were pneumatic cannon which fired missiles; at a safe distance fins snapped out and solid-fuel rockets ignited to propel the missiles up to ten miles from the 'dig. The missiles could be fitted with gas warheads (described below) or 50 lb explosive warheads (as bombs). The Military Arms skill is needed to aim and fire these weapons, with the skill reduced by 4 at distances of 5 miles and beyond. There is a good chance (at the referee's discretion) that any thirty or forty year old rocket will explode as soon as it ignites. They can be fired once every five rounds. Each torpedo and warhead weighs 230 lb, roughly 0.1 ton.
Several lethal forms of nerve gas were developed in the twentieth century. While the A.B.C. hopes that it has destroyed all stocks, referees may have different ideas.
Gas was usually fired as shells, or dropped as bombs, with the following effects:
|10 lb shell:||50ft radius, Effect 20, A:C B:C C:K|
|20 lb shell:||100ft radius, Effect 20, A:C B:C C:K|
|50 lb bomb:||300ft radius, Effect 20, A:C B:C C:K *|
|250 lb bomb:||900ft radius, Effect 20, A:C B:C C:K|
* also Aerial Torpedo warhead.
The gas persists for ten minutes, then breaks down as follows:
|10-20 minutes||Effect 15, A:I B:C C:C/K|
|20-30 minutes||Effect 10, A:- B:I C:C|
|30-60 minutes||Effect 5, A:- B:- C:I|
The gas has the same effect if it is inhaled or if droplets touch the skin; the only protection is a heavy rubber suit, such as flickers combined with gloves, boots, head protection and a breathing mask.
There is no effect outside the radius shown, unless referees wish to complicate matters by adding wind drift etc. A Military Arms roll is needed to notice that there is anything unusual about these weapons, otherwise they will be mistaken for ordinary explosive warheads.
"...was there anything except light in those lights of yours just
As Easy As A.B.C.
In the last years of war several nations developed radiation beam weapons. Any discussion of these weapons, or the technology behind them, will attract VERY hostile attention. Their effects included blindness, still-births, cancer, and sterility. The technology was a military secret in the era of government, and is heavily suppressed today; although anyone with a scientific background can guess which rays were used, the secret of harnessing them in a long-range weapon remains a mystery. All that is known is that the weapons were huge, so large that special 'digs were needed to carry them, and consumed immense amounts of power.
The trauma that followed their use has left a real scar on the public consciousness, as described in As Easy As A.B.C.; anyone (ESPECIALLY player characters) who is known to be interested in these weapons will encounter extremely strong opposition, up to and including invasion of privacy and mob violence! The A.B.C. investigates any scientific activity which appears to be aimed at a rediscovery of the secret of the rays, and will take immediate action if there is any threat of their use. In the unlikely event that characters or NPCs rediscover the secret, or find old weapons, the following statistics should be used:
|Radiation projector:||Area 100ft, Effect 15, A:- B:I C:C|
Range for full Effect is 0-3 miles, with skill reduced by 3 and Effect reduced to 5 at 3-5 miles. Anyone surviving critical damage from this weapon suffers one of the following radiation effects (roll 1D6):
The smallest possible ray projector weights 25 tons, and needs a power supply of at least 5,000 HP (additional to other power supplies aboard the 'dig).
We know nothing of A.B.C. weapons in 2000 AD. It seems safe to assume that Mark and Patrol 'digs are equipped for combat, but their main weapons will be pithing irons and grapnels, and the use of boarding parties. Mark Boats do carry beacons, and both classes of 'dig carry searchlights, but they are much less powerful than the siege-lights used in 2065 AD. For game purposes the following devices are fitted to all A.B.C. Fleet 'Digs and Mark Boats:
Grapnel Gun: A strong grapnel fired by a harpoon-like explosive cartridge. If anyone is hit by this weapon they will naturally be injured, as follows
|Grapnel Gun:||Single shot, Effect 25, A:I B:C C:C/K|
The harpoon is fitted with several barbed hooks. When used against a 'dig it attacks the BODY of the 'dig; an "A" result means that it doesn't connect with anything solid enough to anchor it, on a "B" or "C" it locks onto its target. The line used is a half mile long, made of spun colloid, with BODY 40. Use the ramming rules above to calculate the forces involved, remembering that the pilot of the 'dig using the grapnel will usually try to match courses and speed with the target and manoeuvre to minimise the tension on the line. If everything holds the two 'digs are gradually drawn together, allowing the use of small arms and boarding parties.
Ram: All A.B.C. Fleet 'digs of this era are designed to ram, as described above. Mark Boats do not have this extra strengthening; it adds too much weight.
Pithing Iron: All A.B.C. 'digs have at least one pithing iron, as described above.
Boarding parties: A typical A.B.C. boarding party consists of four to eight airmen, armed with cutlasses (very useful for cutting gas tanks and close quarters combat) and one or two electric rifles or stun guns (see section 6.8 below). Heavier weapons are very rarely used, although most Fleet 'digs still carry a few grenades for emergencies.
Plane: Some of the largest Fleet 'digs of this era are equipped to launch a fast 'plane (see section 5.7). They are unarmed, used for scouting rather than combat.
The A.B.C. used two main weapons in its assault on Chicago. The first was the siege-light, the second the so-called pitch-pipe, both invented by the scientist Victor Pirolo. Both are essentially very simple devices developed to a massive scale, coordinated to blanket a wide area by use of the Service Communicator as a controlling device.
...it was as though the floor of Heaven had been riddled and all the inconceivable blaze of suns in the making was poured through the manholes.
As Easy As A.B.C.
The siege-light is a miniature 'dig-mounted cloud breaker, modified to spread the beam over a moderately wide area. Normally the brightness of one cloud-breaker is unpleasant; the brightness of two hundred or more in a relatively small area is unbearable. To make matters worse, Pirolo's lights are pulsed and moved to cause maximum discomfort and disorientation. Under exceptional circumstances (such as someone looking directly at a siege-light through binoculars) blindness may be permanent; this should be VERY rare, and should not happen to player characters.
|Siege Light:||Radius 1 mile, Effect 20, damage A:KO B:KO C:KO/I|
A KO result represents disorientation and blindness lasting 6D6 minutes, and extreme sensitivity to light lasting several hours. An I result is disorientation and blindness for 1D6 hours, extreme sensitivity to light for several days, and some permanent loss of eye function, such as a blind spot seared into the retina.
Note that the distance shown here is distance from the beam, whose range is effectively line of sight, not from the 'dig using the weapon. Anyone who can cover his eyes sufficiently fast halves the Effect, but will not be completely protected by anything less than opaque metal or the colloid goggles used by the A.B.C.. The light is easily bright enough to penetrate a few inches of flesh, as when fingertips are held up to a bright light.
Theoretically it would be possible for several 'digs to illuminate the same area and increase the Effect of the light considerably. In practice this is strictly banned by A.B.C. regulations, and Fleet 'digs combine their lights to achieve coverage of wider areas, not greater power. For example, 'digs were spaced five miles apart in the Chicago incident.
This weapon is marked on a plan of the 'Victor Pirolo' in graphics file 16_VPLAN.GIF, and is shown in action in 17_CHI.GIF. An A.B.C. helmet which incorporates eye and ear protection is shown in 22_EQUIP.GIF.
...the hollow of the skies made herself the mouth for one note that touched the raw fibre of the brain. ...'That's our pitch-pipe,' said Arnott. 'We may be a bit ragged. I've never conducted two hundred and fifty performers before.' ...'Our lower C can lift street-paving.'
As Easy As A.B.C.
The Pitch-Pipe is simply a gigantic organ-pipe built along the longitudinal axis of the 'dig, with acoustic reflectors to direct most of the noise downwards. Frequency is determined by the action of shutters and internal baffles. Generally it is used as another anti-personnel weapon, as follows:
|Pitch-Pipe:||Radius 200 yards, Effect 25, damage A:KO, B:KO, C:KO/I|
A KO result represents disorientation and deafness lasting 3D6 minutes, and extreme sensitivity to sound lasting several hours. An I result is disorientation and deafness for 1D6 hours, extreme sensitivity to sound for several days, and some permanent loss of hearing, typically decreased sensitivity to higher pitches, more rarely some loss of the ear's balancing functions.
Hard objects (such as paving stones, rocks, ice, and windows) may be physically damaged by the sound if pitch is selected correctly and the weapon is used at short range.
Radius is distance from the 'dig using the weapon. Anyone who can cover his ears sufficiently fast halves the Effect, but will not be completely protected. It is not possible to aim to hit a specific target; the sound spreads out in a 45-degree cone below the 'dig. When this weapon is used against populated areas the A.B.C. usually prefers to operate at a height which reduces the Effect to 15 or less.
Service Communicator (S.C.)
He pulled out the couplers, and struck a full chord on the Service Communicators.
As Easy As A.B.C.
The A.B.C. uses its own General Communicator frequencies, and has added some extra refinements for military operations. Messages are scrambled, and transmitted with so much power that jamming is virtually impossible. Several 'digs, or even an entire fleet, can be slaved to the control of a single S.C. transmitter. Operation of such remotely controlled 'digs requires the Babbage Engine and Pilot skills, also Military Arms to use the weapons of the controlled 'digs effectively. Naturally the Captain of each 'dig can switch off the remote control if there is some reason to resume manual operations; for example, if the manoeuvre being flown by the entire fleet seems likely to end with a 'dig at the end of the formation hitting a mountain.
The S.C. can also be used to jam normal G.C. frequencies and create power surges in ground circuits (see below) and other electrical devices. Given the amount of power available for these purposes, the operator's main problem is to keep the effect down to manageable levels; for example, to blow a fuse rather than burning out every wire in a building, to jam a radio rather than blowing out the tubes of every radio within fifty miles. Range is 100 miles for radio jamming, a few hundred feet for other electrical effects. It is probable that this technology is available in 2000 AD.
....The outflung arm was arrested, rigid as a bar for an instant, till the releasing circuit permitted her to bring it slowly to her side.
As Easy As A.B.C.
The loop is a stabilised electrostatic vortex controlled by extremely powerful electromagnetic fields. A competent operator can use a loop to immobilise any object, or to confine a target to a fixed area. Operation requires the Military Arms skill to use the controls, a Marksmanship roll to hit the target. Range is approximately 100 yards.
Anyone or anything trapped in a flying loop and wishing to escape must use BODY to overcome its Effect; if unsuccessful, all movement is stopped or limited to the confines of the loop. If the target is able to resist the loop, there is a chance of serious damage from eddy currents and electrostatic effects. Use the loop's Effect to attack the target's BODY as follows:
|Flying Loop:||Effect variable, Damage A:F, B:KO/I, C:KO/I|
The Effect depends on the diameter of the vortex as follows:
Flesh wounds or injuries are burns. Most people know about the effects
of a flying loop, and don't try to escape.
22_EQUIP.GIF shows equipment including a flying loop projector.
Planes are swift -- so is Death
Planes are cheap -- so is Life
Standard 'Dig Co. Advertisement
Heavier-than-air aircraft are the joke of aviation, a ridiculously inefficient mode of transport that never achieved any major success. In 2000 AD 'planes are still built, although the industry is moribund; by 2065 it is dead.
Planes lack room for the huge gas tanks a Fleury turbine system requires. Accordingly they must be powered by radium or helium batteries (described in section 6.2), and charged between flights.
'Plane design is much simpler than 'dig design; just select a hull and vane (wing) combination large enough to carry the required load, and put in a motor powerful enough to keep it in the air. To go faster, or carry a bigger load, put in a more powerful motor.
The most common hull sizes follow, with capacity and speed for a minimally-sized engine:
Stall speed for an aircraft is normally 25% of its maximum speed.
To add more speed double engine HP for each 50 MPH speed increase.
To increase load double engine HP for each 50% increase in load.
The increased weight of the engine and batteries is taken into account
in these calculations.
Hull cost (including vanes) rises by 10% for each 50 MPH speed increase.
Hull BODY rises by 10% for each 50 MPH speed increase (round UP). Aero-engine costs (including propellers) are £500 plus £1 per HP; this is unusually high for an electric motor, reflecting the care with which they are made.
These prices do not include the batteries, whose prices can be found below, or the cost of charging which (after power losses in charging) is roughly 1/4d for 1 HP for an hour, or over a pound an hour for a 1000 HP battery.
Batteries (see section 6.2 for full details)
A 2-seat hull costs £525, and has BODY 13, but it will need
strengthening and a bigger engine.
Hull cost = £525 + 30% = £683
BODY = 13 + 30% = 17
Engine HP = 250 HP x 2 x 2 x 2 = 2000 HP
Engine cost = £500 + (2000 x £1) = £2500
Battery cost = £331
Maximum speed = 290 MPH
Stall speed = 72 MPH
Power cost = 2000 HP / 4 x 1d = 500 d = £2 1s 8d per hour
A 2-seat hull costs £525, and has BODY 13, but it will need strengthening and a bigger engine.
Some other optional components can also affect performance and/or cost:
HOVERS are autogyro-style rotor blades, which allow an aircraft to reduce speed to 5% of its maximum speed, but do NOT allow it to remain completely stationary or take off from the ground. They need a 10% increase in engine power. The price is directly proportional to the power of the 'plane AFTER this increase; £1 per 5 HP. Fitting them to the sample plane would need engine power boosted to 2200 HP, putting the engine cost up to £2,700. The blades cost £2200 / 5 = £440, and reduce the stall speed to 15 MPH. This device cannot be fitted to a 'plane if 'dig hooks (below) are also fitted.
'DIG HOOKS are special clips which allow a 'dig to be dropped from, and docked back onto, a 'dig. They cost £150, add negligible weight, and do not affect performance, but they CANNOT be fitted to a plane that has hovers.
Most 'planes use launching catapults and land on skids. An UNDERCARRIAGE allows a 'plane to take off under its own power, given a few hundred feet of clear runway. An undercarriage costs 10% of hull cost and reduces top speed (but NOT stall speed) by 25%. Fitting one to the sample 'plane would cost £70, and reduce top speed to 218 MPH, but stall speed would still be 72 MPH.
An AMPHIBIOUS HULL allows a 'plane to land on water, but engine power must be at least 300% of the minimum for the hull size if it is to take off again. Add 50% to hull cost, 5 to BODY, and reduce maximum speed (but NOT stall speed) by 10%. This hull design can't be combined with an undercarriage.
Weapons can be fitted to a 'plane if it has room for them. The A.B.C. doesn't arm 'planes, but fits them with a G.C. transmitter and signal flares. Older military designs usually carried machine guns and smaller bombs; see the rules for machine guns, and section 5.5.5 above for bombs.
Where appropriate, 'plane insurance costs 8.0-12.0 % of construction cost per annum. A typical 'plane is illustrated in graphics file 23_PLANE.GIF, an entry from an encyclopaedia in 2065 AD.
For many 'planes a major expense is the cost of a launching catapult, still considered the best way to get a 'plane into the air.
The structural steel of a launch catapult costs £250, plus £100 per ton launched (rounded up), plus 10% per 10MPH of launch speed. A launch motor is needed, which is rated as follows:
1 HP x launch speed x launch weight.Prices are as plane engines. Launch speed must be AT LEAST the stall speed of the 'plane; faster is better. The BODY of a catapult is 20 plus 1 per 10 MPH of launch speed.
For example, a 'plane weighing 1 ton and launched at 50 MPH needs the following catapult:
|Structure:||Cost (£250 + £100) x 150% = £525, BODY 25|
|Motor:||1 HP x 50 x 1 = 50 HP, cost £550|
Note: None of the following 'planes appear in detail in the A.B.C. stories; they are included for illustrative purposes and for game use.
A.B.C. amphibious scout 'plane Weight: 0.6 ton Load: 0.3 ton Maximum Speed: 260 MPH Stall Speed: 72 MPH BODY: 22 Engine: 2000 HP Power cost: £2 1s 8d / hour x 5 hrs Battery: 1 x 2000 HP, 5 hour Catapult: Not used Cost: Hull: £ 1,024 Engine: £ 2,500 Battery: £ 331 Other: £ 1,250 (controls, 'dig hook, GC, flares, etc.) Total: £ 5,105 Insurance: Risk carried by A.B.C.This is a 'dig-dropped scout 'plane, used to scout ahead of an A.B.C. Fleet 'dig. Its usual role is to follow and report on the movements of a 'dig which is behaving suspiciously, or has committed an offence, pending the arrival of a 'dig equipped to intercept the criminal. It is also occasionally used as a courier. Launching is easy; just drop a few hundred feet to gain all the speed needed. Returning to dock on a 'dig is much harder; the 'dig must be travelling at 72 MPH or more or the 'plane will stall. Docking is a difficulty 6 manoeuvre. It has an amphibious hull, since most of its flights are over water. Since it is charged by the 'dig that carries it, power costs are not a problem.
Excalibur (Racing 'plane) Weight: 0.4 tons Load: 0.2 tons Maximum Speed: 350 MPH Stall Speed: 88 MPH BODY: 14 Engine: 2500 HP Power cost: £2 12s 1d / hour x 24 hrs Batteries: 3 x 1000 HP, 20 hour Catapult: Launch speed 125 MPH, 50 HP motor, £1355, BODY 33 Cost: Hull: £ 490 Engine: £ 3,000 Batteries: £ 735 Other: £ 250 Controls Total: £ 4,475 Insurance: Uninsurable - no company will issue a policy!This is a catapult-launched racing 'plane, landing on skids, built solely for speed and minimal weight. It was used by R.M. Rautsch to win the 10000 KM overland race in 1999, setting a new record of just over 500 KM/hour (312.5 MPH).
Hibernia (Business 'plane) Weight: 1.0 ton Load: 0.5 tons Maximum Speed: 90 MPH Stall Speed: 7 MPH BODY: 20 Engine: 500 HP Power cost: 10s 6d / hour x 10 hours Battery: 500 HP, 10 hour Catapult: Not used Cost: Hull: £ 875 Engine: £1,000 Battery: £ 100 Other: £ 600 Hovers, undercarriage, controls Total: £2,575 Insurance: 9% (£230 P/A)This is a typical "large" business 'plane, in this case owned by a Scottish air taxi service with a good safety record. The hovers and undercarriage allow it to take off and land in any flat meadow. This might also be a good 'plane for characters to own and use if they want to travel in something smaller than a 'dig. It can carry a pilot and five passengers.
'Bats are essentially winged hydroplanes. Propulsion is via a screw in the water, which is more efficient than an air propeller, while the "wing in ground" effect generates extra lift. This means that a given size of hull and engine power can carry much more weight than an equivalent 'plane. 'Bat wings (vanes) can be flexed to lift clear of the water during acceleration then spread to maximise lift at speed. A good pilot can easily add up to 30% extra gliding distance by careful operation of the vanes.
'Bat design is VERY simple; buy the best hull you can afford and fit it with the largest possible engine and wings. There are three main competition hull sizes; 40 ft, 50 ft, and 60 ft, which can be fitted with engines and accommodation as needed. In the table that follows "engine ratio" is HP per knot of speed; in other words, a 'bat with engine ratio of 6 and a 600 HP engine can reach 100 knots.
Prices are for 50-knot hulls; add 5% to price and 1 to BODY for each 10 knots above this rating, but subtract .1 tons from load, as more bracing and streamlining is needed. Power plant costs are as for 'planes, above.
'Bats gain speed in the water, and gradually lose it as they glide. It is generally assumed that half the speed is lost on re-entry, and made up at a rate determined by the power/weight ratio before gliding again. Divide the ratio by 10 (round down to the nearest 5 or 10 knots) to find the acceleration in knots. 'Bats can take off if their power to weight ratio (HP per ton of weight) exceeds 200; at lower ratios the 'bat can bounce a few feet, but can't "unstick" from the water for any distance. In the examples below Griselda has a ratio of 215; she can lift three feet for short distances in perfect conditions. Tarpon has a true power to weight ratio of 531, and has been known to fly up to two miles. The table below shows power/weight and gliding performance.
|200-250||3||Ratio x 1 ft|
|250-300||4||Ratio x 2 ft|
|300-350||5||Ratio x 5 ft|
|350-400||6||Ratio x 10 ft|
|400 and above||7||Ratio x 20 ft|
For example Tarpon (ratio 531) can glide 10,620 ft, a shade over two miles, under ideal conditions.
'Bat insurance costs around 3.0-6.0% of construction cost per annum. The exact rate is dependent on many factors, most notably speed; a really fast 'bat will usually be charged at the higher rate.
Four examples are described in an advertisement in With The Night Mail. Their performance is summarised below, with hull costs calculated for the nearest hull class.
Name Griselda Mabelle Ivemona Tarpon Speed knots 65 50 50 120 Length feet 42 40 35 60 Weight tons 2.0 2.0 2.0 3.0 Load tons 1.3 1.5 1.5 1.8 * BODY 17 15 15 32 Engine HP 430 310 300 850 Battery HP/Hrs 500/10 300/10 300/10 1000/5 ** Endurance (hrs) 11.5 9.5 10 5.5 Power / weight 215 155 155 283 (531) Acceleration 20 knots 15 knots 15 knots 25 (50) knots Power / hour 9s 6s 6d 6s 3d 17s 9d Hull cost £ 550 £ 500 £ 500 £ 1,520 Engine cost £ 930 £ 810 £ 800 £ 1,350 Battery cost £ 100 £ 65 £ 65 £ 140 Other costs *** £ 1,650 £ 850 £1,500 £ 450 Total cost £ 3,230 £2,225 £2,865 £ 3,460 Insurance P/A 4% (£130) 3% (£70) 3% (£90) 6% (£210) * Tarpon usually races with a crew of 2 and most of this load capacity unused. It has no accommodation, apart from seats for the crew. This reduces the real weight to 1.6 tons, and raises the power to weight ratio to 531 HP per ton. ** Tarpon is not used for cruising and has no need of greater endurance. *** Controls and accommodation.
Tarpon has been lifted and held seven feet for two miles between touch and touch; this performance is unfortunately banned by the racing rules changes in 2000 AD. Griselda can be lifted three feet clear in smooth water with ballast-tank swung aft; her performance is just outside the rules, but allowable if the ballast tank is left forward to prevent gliding. The others do not lift clear of water; they meet the racing regulations, but don't stand much chance of winning.
Tarpon is illustrated in 11_BAT.GIF
[This graphic is derived from a tiny picture accompanying one of the advertisements in With The Night Mail, which is inset in one corner.]
For gaming purposes assume that 'bats gain an extra 25% above rated speed as they lift clear of the water; friction is reduced and the screw delivers a final burst of speed. 'Bats that can't lift clear don't gain extra speed.
The distance glided is determined by a Pilot roll against the difficulty shown below. Any failure reduces distance by 1D6 x 10%:
Example: Eat My Wake!
Sold under a variety of names, "flickers" are the airborne equivalent of a life jacket. They are inflated to cushion aviators and prevent injuries in violent conditions. A nozzle allows them to be filled with compressed air, from a mains supply carried by most 'digs. In an emergency a small cylinder of liquefied Fleury's Gas can be vented into the suit, or into an attached gas bag. Lift from the gas, and the bounciness of the suit, prevent injuries on landing. Some flickers also incorporate parachutes. Flickers are often disguised as normal clothing with baggy trousers and sleeves.
13_FLICK.GIF is an advertisement for a toy airman with flickers which incorporate both refinements.
Flickers are not armoured, in the conventional sense, but reduce the Effect of impact damage (blows, crashes, etc.) by 5.
GPO Inflaters are a heavy-duty version of flickers; they reduce the Effect of impact damage by 7, and are also good insulators, halving the Effect of all forms of electrical damage. Unfortunately they are uncomfortable and extremely hot.
Flickers cost £10, a "para kit" (parachute) adds another £15
...Blessed be Sargent, Ahrens, and the Dubois brothers, who invented
the cloud-breakers of the world whereby we travel in security!
With The Night Mail
A Martian visiting Earth would soon realise that the planet was inhabited. Every area is marked out by its pattern of Lights, from relatively feeble Local and Guiding Lights to the immensely powerful District and Main cloud-breakers.
Only poets and astronomers complain; poets generally decide to write about the Poles instead, astronomers are forced to take their telescopes aloft to get reasonable "seeing" above the glare. Fortunately "Fleury's Gas can lift anything" - the largest 'digs are capable of lifting several thousand tons, and astronomical telescopes are comparatively light.
The vast majority of Lights are simply large arcs or discharge tubes rated at a few kilowatts. They can be powered from local electricity mains or a suitable power supply; for example, a 300 HP / 5 hour radium battery can drive a 5 KW Light for just under ten days. The basic unit is very cheap; a few pounds for discharge tubes and other circuitry, as much again for mirrors and lenses, (optionally) a radium battery, and the cost of coloured filters, motors, and so forth if the Light is to flash or swing. This assembly is usually cased in steel topped with a colloid dome (some older Lights still use glass!), and embedded in concrete to ensure stability. For most small Lights the cost of installation and servicing far exceeds the cost of the components.
Most District and Main Lights are based on a version of Fleury's Ray. Normally, in a power station or 'dig, only a small proportion of the gas is used within the Ray while the rest is simply exposed to its effects. In a cloud-breaker Fleury's Gas is allowed to expand through a network of pipes, then through a turbine, eventually entering a huge discharge chamber where it is irradiated and electrified to produce the Ray. All the gas is simultaneously ionised and converted to liquid form. As it condenses its pressure drops, and a small proportion vaporises again. This rarefied vapour is immediately ionised, and triggers the next condensation, in a cycle lasting tiny fractions of a second. "Doping" the gas with tiny amounts of mercury vapour, neon, organic dyes and other impurities allows a range of colours to be produced. Colloid lenses then focus the light into a tight near-parallel beam. One of the Fleury wavelengths happens to make atmospheric water vapour fluoresce very brightly, giving the beam its characteristic "pillar of fire" effect. This phenomenon is most notable when the beam strikes a cloud, and appears to burn right through it; in fact the fluorescence self-propagates, the light from one layer of molecules triggering more fluorescence in the layer above, and so on through a thick layer of cloud.
As is well known, the light of Fleury's Ray can be very dangerous. Great care must be taken to ensure that no-one looks into a cloud-breaker beam at short range, and all 'digs are STRONGLY advised to maintain at least 500 ft altitude above any cloud breaker. Permanent blindness is otherwise all too likely.
While the light-producing assemblage of a cloud breaker is roughly the size of an oil drum, the optical assembly and training gear is often bigger than the largest twentieth-century field gun. Fixed vertical beams are relatively straightforward, but inclined and oscillating beams can be a complex nightmare; older designs use flexible ducts to convey Fleury's Gas to a moving drum, most recent versions use mirrors or prisms to divert the light from a stationary projector. Whatever the design, the structure is packed with lenses, prisms, mirrors, shutters, motors, girders, and gears. Since cloud breakers need a full-time engineering staff, the installations are often combined with power stations, factories, docks, or A.B.C. communications centres.
Construction costs vary with power, design, and location, but exceed £25,000 for a simple fixed-beam District Light, £50,000 or more for a Main Light. 05_LIGHT.GIF shows a cloud-breaker in action.
In some locations a dispersed all-round light is better than a beam. The mechanism is much like a cloud-breaker, except that there is no need to produce a tightly focused beam. Since the light is not focused upwards, but spreads in all directions, coloured filters must be used to screen out Fleury Rays. These are typically tinted colloid, but some recent installations have used domes with panes made of C.M.C. synthetic diamond. This light will not penetrate cloud, but is visible for thirty or forty miles under clear conditions.
These installations are comparatively cheap, typically £10,000 per station, but like cloud-breakers need full-time engineering attention. Since they are usually built in isolated areas staffing can be a problem, and the A.B.C. is working towards a fully-automated system that will need little or no attention.
In areas where fog or snow are serious problems, it is useful to combine a Light with an audible signal. The most common types are electrical sirens and fog-horns, which are most audible at low altitudes. For high-altitude work "bombs" are preferred. These are simply gas-fuelled explosive devices. Methane is let into a combustion chamber, mixed with air, and detonated electrically; the explosion is audible for several miles. This can be entirely automatic, and is easily synchronised to the flashing of a Light. Cost varies with the size of the chamber and the frequency of detonation, but an average installation costs £1,000 to £1,500. For obvious reasons bombs (and, to an extent, other sonic signals) cannot be used in any area where there is danger of rock slides or avalanches. This shortcoming is most notable in the Alps and Himalayas, where smaller Lights are sometimes invisible for days on end. The A.B.C. is considering a high-pitched signal that will not cause unnecessary vibration, but the designs tested to date are disliked by airmen, and hated by dogs and other animals with sensitive hearing.
The network is global. No matter where you go, you can usually see at least one Main Light, although it might be a hundred miles away. Even when a Light is over the horizon, it is often visible as a reflection off cloud or a glow in the upper atmosphere. Over the ocean Mark Boats and ship-borne Lights supplement the system.
The British system is based on a central Main cloud-breaker in Coventry, with District Lights along the coast and marking major cities. London, in particular, is very well lighted; there is too much traffic in the area to take any chances. Birmingham (once Britain's second largest city) is marked by Local Lights, because it is only a few miles from Coventry; since the Main Light was installed, Birmingham's population has declined as industry moves towards Coventry.
The terms used in describing Lights are those previously used for nautical lighthouses, and relate to colour, inclination, swing, and pattern. Most are self-explanatory, the following may be less familiar.
The complete list of Lights runs to several volumes, with continual updating. See especially the editorial following With The Night Mail for details of a few overseas Lights. British Lights (including Ireland) are shown in the following illustrations:
A cloud breaker is not a laser, although it superficially resembles one. It makes use of fluorescence phenomena that are unknown to our science, and only possible with a gas that vibrates through several extra dimensions. One of its characteristic frequencies happens to stimulate fluorescence in rhodopsin, the chemical of the eye's visual purple, hence its disproportionate effect on vision.
At distances under 500 feet treat the beam of a cloud-breaker as though it is the ray of a siege Light (see section 5.5.8). Unlike the siege Light, its effect is rapidly attenuated with distance, and at any normal altitude there is no risk of eye damage. This doesn't mean that it is possible to look into the beam for more than a few seconds; if it is shining directly in your face you will be dazzled, as in section 5.5.8, for at least a few minutes.
Converting a cloud-breaker into a focused weapon like a siege light would take several hours, and the beam can't be completely shut down while the conversion is going on (unless the adventurers have half a day to start it again, and "one hundred and seventy-odd pounds" worth of "radium-salts and such trifles."). The lenses are arranged to produce a broad beam, not a focused ray, and in any case the frequencies were not selected for their damaging effect; if anything, cloud-breakers are designed to avoid the most dangerous effects. If adventurers somehow find a way to try this, the conversion requires Scientist and Mechanic rolls against difficulty 8. If successful, it is used as a siege light.
Aiming is difficult, because the equipment isn't designed for accurate marksmanship, and has many limitations; for example, most cloud-breakers aren't built to swivel the beam below 45 degrees from the vertical. Use the Military Weapons skill, with difficulty 8 or more to target a 'dig at close range, rising rapidly with distance.
Eye injuries apart, the beam of a cloud-breaker has no long-range effects; it could warm a target slightly, but no more than any other light of similar power.
July 8th 2000
With reference to your letter of the 4th inst., I must inform you that the Board will only consider applications related to methods of 'dig navigation by reflected wireless signals if the applications are accompanied by working equipment.
While the idea appears obvious, and should in theory work, we have found that it is simply not practical. Your design is typical of many we receive, in requiring timing with an accuracy of milliseconds and the use of wavelengths well below the shortest G.C. wave. Your analogy with echo-navigation by submersibles only emphasises the difficulties of the method you propose; sound travels through water at less than a millionth of the speed with which wireless waves traverse the Aether!
Devices based on this idea have so far proved to be at least 35% less accurate than current moving maps, and roughly 60% less accurate than use of the existing network of Lights by a trained navigator. While it is of course possible that shorter wavelengths might give better results, it would be necessary to transmit them with enough power to reflect back from any obstruction. Current high-frequency transmitters cannot produce this level of power, and it seems unlikely that this situation will change in the near future.
Naturally this office would be interested in your device if it can be made practical; first, though, I would suggest that you develop the "very-short-wave" transmitter you describe, and improve its power by several orders of magnitude. If you can then solve the timing difficulties, we would be delighted to hear from you again.
The world of the A.B.C has science that is more advanced than our own in some areas, but notably lacking in others. While we have neglected the 'dig, it's obvious that the A.B.C. world gives 'planes too little attention. We use radar, they use cloud breakers. Technologies differ, sometimes for reasons that aren't particularly obvious. The sections that follow examine some technological areas in a little more detail, and try to explain why these differences occurred. In a few cases (most notably in meteorology and medicine) it is unfortunately necessary to assume that things work a little... differently in the universe of the A.B.C. stories.
This section mainly describes the state of the art in 2000 AD, with brief discussion of the changes by 2065 AD in brackets [like this]. Devices that are only described in As Easy As A.B.C. are dealt with separately.
In 2000 AD electronics is largely based on the study of wave effects, rays, and fields, all phenomena which are characteristic of a vacuum-tube technology. Solid-state and digital electronics are known (Tesla patented aspects of the technology in 1903) but have received little attention. Shorter radio wavelengths remain unexploited.
The main reason for these changes is that World War II didn't happen. While there were a series of localised wars after the Great War, there was never a period when all the resources of many nations were focused on a common foe. Long-wave radar was tried, but it was less reliable than visual observation; something as big as a 'dig can be spotted easily at long range, and early 'digs were slow enough for easy interception. 'Planes were faster, and harder to stop, but never packed enough firepower to be a serious military threat. Without an urgent need for radar, the Klystron valve and cavity magnetron were never invented; without them it was difficult to generate short wave and microwave signals with any power, and the advantages of short wave were never realised. With the development of the cloud breaker most of the remaining interest in the idea soon ebbed. The A.B.C. has almost abandoned the idea, but it is still a favourite of crackpot inventors.
Radio navigational aids have also been developed, supplementing Lights at extreme ranges. The equipment uses long wavelengths, which are unfortunately reflected by the ionosphere. The receiver must have a very long directional antenna (a liner is just able to carry one), and even so it is difficult to distinguish the real source from its reflections. Smaller 'digs don't usually carry the special G.C. required for this technique.
Although the first logic circuits were invented well before the Great
War, computing developed very slowly. Here too the main omissions can
be traced back to the nineteen-thirties and 'forties; most of the wars
of the era placed little emphasis on secrecy, and cryptography didn't
advance much beyond the technology of the Great War. Alan Turing died
in his childhood, a victim of the first Plague, and no-one took his
place. Many of the uses for large-scale computing are anathema to the
post-governmental culture Kipling describes; credit cards are unknown,
weapons aren't based on ballistic shells or missiles, and records are
kept to an absolute minimum. I.B.M. remains what it was in the 19th
century; a major manufacturer of office machines, typewriters,
mechanical calculators, and 'dig navigational computers (of the
moving-map type described in section 5.2).
[This doesn't mean that electronic computers will never be invented; by 2065 simple valve-based systems are used in cultivators, A.B.C. 'digs, and other remotely-controlled machines, and will undoubtedly develop further.]
Radio (or wireless) is old technology, and is still limited in scope. Valve amplifiers are bulky and very expensive; a good home radiogram (wireless and record player) installation can cost fifteen or twenty pounds! 'Dig wireless sets are cheaper, but sound quality is poor. [it is greatly improved in 2065]. Television has been invented, but never progressed beyond mechanical scanning at comparatively low resolutions. There were commercial services in the nineteen-sixties, but the famines of the 'seventies and the subsequent reaction against crowds led to distrust of such invasive rabble-rousing technology. Today TV is used in a few industrial applications, otherwise it is almost forgotten.
Wire recorders are in common business use, mainly for dictation, but sound quality is poor. The smallest installation weighs thirty pounds. Naturally it is incredibly bad manners to use a recorder without all parties knowing that they are being overheard. Wax cylinder recorders are also popular.
Stereo sound is mainly found in the cinema; most modern films have two sound tracks. In 1995 Kodak and the Edison Phonograph Company joined forces to market a home stereo system based on .357" cine-film, the most popular amateur gauge; they sell poorly, since recordings are bulky and cost several times as much as traditional phonograph records. [By 2010 the idea will quietly be abandoned.]
Gaming: Secrets of the Electron
Every aspect of this culture is coloured by the availability of extremely cheap power, and its importance cannot be overestimated. The A.B.C. doesn't hesitate to send a few hundred 'digs half-way around the world to deal with a local problem, and would sooner waste hundreds of megawatts than a human life. Roads are melted, not blasted or bulldozed, and ground circuits use kilowatts to do a job that might just as well be left to a piece of barbed wire.
Fleury's Gas and Ray are a near-perfect power source, whose only limits are the efficiency of turbines, and the need for large expansion chambers. Ground-based systems are much cheaper than 'dig power plants; weight is not a problem, making it possible to build big rugged turbines that can work at higher pressures than 'dig systems. A power plant for a small town, with 500,000 HP output (375 MW), costs around a hundred thousand pounds; a little over £75,000 for the turbines and generators, the rest for a gasometer-style expansion tank, linked to fans, pumps, and ducts capable of circulating a few tons of Fleury's Gas several times an hour. At the average power price of 0.3d per kilowatt-hour it earns up to £450 an hour, and should pay for itself in around five years (less than a year if the cost of ancillary equipment, wages, and external power distribution is ignored).
With the common love of self-sufficiency, there are many alternatives to commercial power providers. The smallest power plants are based on the 50 HP ultra-light 'dig turbine, with an expansion chamber and a simple generator. Some power is lost, but about 35 HP (26 KW, enough for all the activities of a farm or a small factory) can usually be obtained. The complete outfit costs around £1000 including installation, fits into a small barn, and is very popular in agricultural areas. It pays for itself in roughly three and a half years if it is used to its full capacity. The main drawback is noise, but a few bales of hay will usually take care of the problem.
Naturally there are many intermediate sizes between these extremes. Any electrical contractor will be delighted to quote for an installation. It should also be mentioned that all 'digs incorporate generators, and can typically convert 1-5% of their rated power output to electricity. For example, a Mark Boat, with 100,000 HP turbines, can generate up to 1,000 HP (750 KW). Usually most of this capacity remains untapped.
Even before Fleury's Gas was dreamed of, the A.B.C. had already perfected radium and helium batteries, extremely efficient energy storage devices. They are available in a range of sizes, rated by maximum power output, from 10 to 5000 HP, with varying capacities. For example, a 300 HP (1 hour) radium battery stores 300 HP and can deliver it for one hour at maximum power, for 10 hours at 30 HP, or for 300 hours at 1 HP. A 300 HP X 10 radium battery has the same maximum output of 300 HP, but can sustain it for ten hours, or pump out 1 HP for 3000 hours. Radium batteries are best at lower power output with high capacity, while helium batteries are more useful at higher power levels. A table of the most common sizes follows, with prices; where price is shown as "-", the size is not readily available:
|Power||Weight||Capacity (hours @ full output)||Uses|
|10||11||5||£1||£1 5s||£2||-||-||Tools, Bikes|
|50||33||15||£6||£7||£9||£12||-||Small electric car|
|100||55||25||£12||£13||£17||£22||£32||Car, small 'plane|
|200||73||33||£22||£25||£33||£43||£64||Car, van, 'plane|
|300 *||100||45||£33||£36||£47||£65||£92||Truck, 'plane, 'bat|
|500 *||145||65||£53||£59||£79||£100||£145||'Plane, 'bat, Light|
|1000 *||220||100||£104||£113||£145||£190||£245||'Plane, 'bat, Light|
|2000 *||330||150||£210||£235||£331||£440||-||'Plane', Light|
* Helium batteries
All of these batteries can be recharged as fast as power can be supplied to them; for example, a 50 HP x 10 hour battery will recharge in about 38 hours if connected to a 10 KW supply, in 3.8 hours if connected to a 100 KW supply, or in 23 minutes with a 1000 KW supply. Hotels generally offer 50-100 KW supplies for overnight recharging. Garages (filling stations), marinas, and public landing fields usually have 1000 KW supplies.
By 2065 AD high-voltage electromagnetic and electrostatic effects have been developed to a remarkable extent. The flying loop (see 5.5, above) is a stable vortex of ball lightning, a whirling electron field of enormous power. While its range and area of effect are limited, and power consumption is very high, it is an extremely versatile tool.
Ground circuits are used to generate a similar field covering a much larger area. They don't need elaborate control systems, but aren't nearly as versatile. Anything moving through the field starts to build up a strong surface charge which is initially felt as "pins and needles", but rapidly becomes painful. The charge tends to "leak" to earth if the victim stays still, and this relieves most of the discomfort. Any rapid movement renews the charge, and it is much easier to stay still and unhurt. Anyone trying to move through such a field must use the average of BODY and MIND against the field's Effect each round to overcome the pain, or stay still until it is turned off. The field does no real damage, but it is extremely unpleasant!
|Portable police unit||100 x 100 ft||Max. 15||3 HP||£160|
|Single fuse household unit||200 ft radius||Max. 12||1 HP||£50|
|Double fuse household unit||300 ft radius||Max. 14||2 HP||£80|
|Triple fuse household unit||300 ft radius||Max. 18||2 HP||£120|
All units consume the power shown for each point of Effect; for example, a double fuse domestic unit set to Effect 12 consumes 24 HP an hour. Usually circuits are left set to Effect 4-6 to deter cattle or casual intruders, but they can easily be dialled up to full power. Most households that are protected by ground circuits have their own power supplies, or keep some batteries charged for emergencies; £20 buys enough to hold off a mob for a couple of days. Household systems are more efficient than the portable police unit because they are carefully adjusted to the precise electrostatic characteristics of the site, which takes several hours; police units can be set up in a few minutes, which is generally more useful than efficient operation. If necessary two or more police units can overlap their fields to cover a larger area, but the Effect cannot be increased. Police units are boxes a little larger than a suitcase, mounted on tripods or on vehicles. They cannot be moved without switching off the field. Household systems are built into the house, and project a field with a central "hole" large enough for the house and its immediate surroundings.
Ground circuits can be partially defeated by waiting motionless for a few rounds then moving very slowly, giving the field time to drain to earth before it builds up on the skin. Maximum speed is a foot per round, with a pause of one round between each move. At this slow pace the Effect is halved.
The field is blocked by metal, and a suit of plate mail or fine metal mesh covering all parts of the body would theoretically give complete protection. Suits of this type are not sold, but can probably be improvised (or knitted!). Cars and other vehicles do not give full protection, since the metal enclosure is not complete, but may reduce the Effect by -1D6
Surfacers illustrate this culture's attitude to power very well. Essentially a gigantic induction furnace on wheels, a surfacer can literally melt its way through solid rock, baking earth and other apparently inappropriate materials until they melt as lava. They are powered by Fleury turbines or the largest helium batteries, use thousands of horsepower an hour, and are still regarded as a "cheap" road-making machine! Anything that goes under the hood of a surfacer is instantly melted or incinerated, regardless of its composition. Several features of the machine ensure that it is very difficult to use it to hurt anyone. For example, sensor rods extending from the corners of the heating hood are linked to safety switches; they must all be in contact with a solid object before the heater can be activated. Roads melted by a surfacer remain hot for several hours, and anyone touching them can easily suffer serious burns. 18_SURF.GIF shows a surfacer.
One last device should be mentioned; the recently-perfected Twin Drum Auto-Washmatron is the last word in deluxe washing machines, capable of washing and drying clothing without any hand work at all! This miracle of engineering has transformed the life of most housewives; in any home equipped with this machine and a fabric synthesiser (described below) a major part of traditional housework has been completely eliminated.
'Digs and other vehicles are obvious examples of mechanical engineering, but the infrastructure that supports them is just as impressive. Every town has mooring towers, usually built to withstand an earthquake or a direct collision with a 'dig. The largest dwarf the "skyscrapers" of the age of crowds; of course no-one will ever build a skyscraper again, but there are still a few relatively intact buildings in Chicago and on Manhattan Island, which give a good idea of their scale.
Most towers are short-term facilities, used to receive a 'dig for a few hours while it loads or unloads. Usually they are equipped with one to three docking points, mounted on bearings and free to rotate around a central shaft which contains lifts and services. By this means the nose of the 'dig points into the wind even when it is docked. Larger towers take this idea a stage further and have several motorised cross arms, each bearing three or four docking points.
Typical facilities for a tower include lifts for goods and passengers, a waiting room, sometimes a restaurant on top of the tower, piped supplies of liquefied Fleury's Gas, car parking, and loading bays for trucks and other cargo vehicles. In 2000 AD there may also be a launching catapult and landing strip for 'planes, although this is becoming less common as their use declines. Towers aren't usually equipped for elaborate servicing, or for long-term storage of goods; that's more the province of docks, described below.
One disadvantage of any rotating tower design is the need for clearance in a wide radius; 'digs must be free to swing and rock with the wind, and need an immense amount of room to do so. For example, a tower built to handle the largest freighters must be a mile away from any obstruction, with the lowest docking point at least five hundred feet high. The A.B.C. provides an advisory and certification service for builders. 21_ABCHQ.GIF is a sketch of buildings along the Thames; in the distance is the tower over the A.B.C.'s London headquarters.
Docks are built to house 'digs for extended periods and allow major maintenance operations. This means that cranes must be available, and rules out use of a rotating docking point. Instead they are built to take advantage of natural wind breaks (such as hills and forests), or in line with predictable winds, and have retaining clips to hold down 'digs against the strongest wind. Even with such natural protection a cross breeze can make final approach very difficult, and the help of a ground crew is usually essential.
Most large docks offer moorings for ten to thirty 'digs, one or more enclosed sheds (an odd name for a structure large enough to hold a 'dig!) for major repairs, repair gantries, cargo cranes, and all the other conveniences of any port. Services available include hostlers (ground crew skilled in caring for turbines and Rays while 'digs are in port), mechanics and other craftsmen, hotels, and warehouses. There is often a 'dig builder's yard, sometimes two or three. They are as large as any naval dockyard of the nineteenth or twentieth century. River-bank sites are often preferred for these facilities, since there are usually predictable winds and access to surface shipping is enhanced. For example, the Port of London now offers docks for ninety 'digs and as many submersibles, and postcards depicting the stately procession of 'digs down-river from Tower Bridge are common tourist souvenirs of London. Part of a small dock is shown in 01_BERTH.GIF, which depicts Postal Packet 162 at its moorings over Highgate.
While the importance of these facilities can't be over-stated, they aren't the only major engineering works of this era. Modern roads are often six or eight lanes wide, and as smooth as surfacers can build them. Speeds of 150 MPH are common, and with low traffic densities accidents are very rare. Bridge and tunnel building are also advanced; the Dover-Calais road tunnel was melted in just under six months in 1995-6, and is second in length only to the Fishguard-Dublin tunnel built in 1991-4.
While flight is the most prominent means of transport in the A.B.C. stories, it's obvious that there are alternatives. Submersibles are mentioned as being cheaper to operate than 'digs, but details are very sketchy. Ground vehicles are implied ("...no more right to the 5000-foot lane than has a horse-cart to a modern road": With The Night Mail), but are never described.
Public ground transport died with the age of crowds. Passenger trains, trams, and omnibuses are virtually forgotten, except in some tourist areas, replaced by the clean efficiency of the electric automobile, usually called a car. A typical car of 2000 AD has electric power to all wheels, with storage for several thousand miles, and most can easily reach 150 MPH. Braking is regenerative; the momentum of the car is converted to electricity which is used to charge the battery and slightly extend range. Electric motors of the simple type used in ground vehicles cost roughly 5s per HP; battery costs are as in section 6.2 above. Almost all modern cars are open topped convertibles. Powerful electric motor-cycles (called electrocycles) are very rare, but electric bicycles are common. Commercial vehicles are also electric. The ranges shown are for cruising speed and top speed:
Bugatti LaValle 500 (and 500C)
A racing car built solely for speed, the Bugatti LaValle 500 is rarely seen off the track. It is low, fast, and rather uncomfortable, and the marque has won most European races since 1996. It seats two, and is unusual in having a hard roof (with roll bars) and seat belts. The 500c is a convertible version with higher ground clearance, intended more for road use. It has a 20-hour battery, and slightly more comfortable accommodation, but aerodynamic efficiency isn't as good. Top speed and range (for battery size) are slightly reduced.
Bugatti LaValle 500 Bugatti LaValle 500c BODY 12 BODY 11 500 HP, 500 HP x 10 hour battery 500 HP, 500 HP x 20 hour battery Cruise 150 MPH, Top 250 MPH Cruise 150 MPH, Top 225 MPH Range 1250/950 miles Range 2400/1750 miles £765 £750 Insurance 10% (£75) Insurance 7.5% (£50)
One of the most common small models in Britain and America. It seats four, and is generally considered a reliable but rather boring design with no unusual vices. Convertible and hard-roofed versions are available, with identical performance.
BODY 10 250 HP, 500 HP x 10 hour battery Cruise 110 MPH, Top 155 MPH, Range 3400/2800 miles £220 Insurance 6% (£14)
Named after the liner (Rolls-Royce built its turbines), the Cyclonic has power and range to match its namesake. It seats five luxuriously, with room for eight (slightly cramped) if folding seats are opened.
BODY 13 550 HP, 2 x 300 HP x 20 hour batteries Cruise 140 MPH, Top 190 MPH, Range 3050/2700 miles £850 Insurance 5% (£43)
Vickers Standard XC Taxi
Typical of taxis the world over, this London example is built to give the driver and up to five passengers a reasonably comfortable ride at moderate speed.
BODY 10 90 HP, 200 HP x 10 hour battery Cruise 60 MPH, Top 90 MPH, Range 1300/1100 miles £125 Insurance 5% (£8)
Rudge Electric V Bicycle
A very common design, sold mainly to factory workers and others on lower salaries. Side-cars are available, and popular with married men, reducing speed to 25 MPH with range 250 miles.
BODY 4 5 HP, 10 HP x 5 hour battery Cruise 20 MPH, Top 35 MPH, range 300/250 miles £11 (sidecar £6) Usually uninsured
Brough/Indian Electric Glide (last model 1987)
Formerly built in Britain and under licence in America, this powerful electrocycle is becoming rare. The rider is protected from weather by a streamlined colloid fairing.
BODY 7 100 HP, 100 HP x 10 hour battery Cruise 120 MPH, Top 160 MPH, Range 1200/750 miles £150 (but collectors will pay £250 or more for an immaculate model) Insurance 10% (£15)An electrocycle is parked beside one of the buildings in 05_LIGHT.GIF
Bedford Tramp 2C
A typical large truck of this era, able to haul ten tons of cargo packed on standard 'dig pallets. It has room for a driver and two passengers.
BODY 17 200 HP, 500 HP x 20 hour battery Cruise 80 MPH, Top 110 MPH, Range 5400/4800 miles £499 Insurance 4% (£20)
A common American pick-up for farms and tradesmen, carrying up to five tons of cargo in an open bed, and a driver with two passengers in a closed cab. It has good off-road performance.
BODY 13 100 HP, 300 HP x 10 hour battery Cruise 70 MPH, Top 120 MPH, range 3600/2700 miles £199 Insurance 6% (£12)
Mitsubishi AEoleus Van
A typical closed van, with room for 3/4 ton of cargo, a driver, and one passenger. There are innumerable similar models, the Mitsubishi is unusual only in the size of its standard battery; most other manufacturers use 10-hour units.
BODY 10 150 HP, 200 HP x 20 hour battery Cruise 60 MPH, Top 90 MPH, Range 2400/2100 miles £199 Insurance 5% (£10)
[In 2065 AD performance of all ground vehicles is much the same, but BODY is roughly 25% better.]
To design a ground vehicle, just convert the modern vehicle of your choice to an electrical model, making it a little more powerful and a lot cheaper (but at least 50%-150% more expensive than the cost of batteries and motor). Any car magazine will give you hundreds of examples. To impose a consistent style it's assumed that design conventions in this world strongly favour convertibles, and that model names are often borrowed from the famous names of aviation. Road vehicles above ten tons are very rare; a 'dig is usually more convenient, and better able to reach awkward locations. Coaches and buses are never seen outside tourist areas.
The bulk carriers of the sea, submersibles are huge, slow, reliable, and massively strong. Most are equipped to stay underwater for up to 48 hours, but in practice they lung up and take navigational sightings at least twice a day if weather permits. Submersible technology has many resemblances to 'dig design, and the techniques used to determine costs and performance are very similar to those described in section 5.3:
Use the 'dig design form to record submersibles.
Example: ES Highland Spring
The Electric Submersible Highland Spring is to be an especially large bulk carrier, with a capacity of 100,000 tons. High speed isn't needed; twenty knots should be ample. She will have a crew of 16.
1: A 40m x 240m hull will have a capacity of 120,500 tons; the extra
volume will be useful for accommodation etc.
2: The hull costs £5 x 120,500 plus 10% (6:1 ratio) £662,750
3: Initial power requirement is 120,500 x 0.1 12,050 HP
The hull is 40 metres wide, add 40 x 5% = 200% 36,150 HP
The hull has a 6:1 ratio, subtract 20% 28,920 HP
Speed is 20 knots, add 20-10 x 10% = 100% 57,840 HP
To ensure a good safety margin, she is built with 3 x 25,000 HP
turbines costing £77,500 - 20% each = 3 x £62,000 £186,000
4: Gas requirement is 75,000 kg = 75 tons £25,500
5: Accommodation for 16, controls, etc. £15,000
6: Body = 120,050 / 1000 + 20 = 120 + 20 = 140
Submersibles are mentioned in the A.B.C. stories, but few details are given. The examples that follow are included purely for gaming purposes. A small submersible is shown loading oil from a 'dig in graphics file 10_SUB.GIF
ES Highland Spring Length: 780ft (240 m) Maximum Width: 130ft (40m) Ratio: 6:1 Capacity: 120,500 tons Maximum Speed: 20 Knots BODY: 140 Engines: 3 x 25,000 HP heavy-duty submersible turbines Cost: Hull £662,750 Engines £186,000 Gas £ 25,500 Other £ 15,000 (controls, accommodation) Total £889,260 Insurance: 1.0% (£9000 P/A)The Highland Spring is a bulk ore carrier which makes a regular run between Nova Scotia and Belfast. Because of her enormous size she must enter both ports at high tide through dredged channels; even with these precautions she has twice run aground, hence her high insurance premium.
ES Fujitsu Maru Length: 228 ft (70 metres) Maximum Width: 23 ft (7 metres) Ratio: 10:1 Capacity: 1200 tons Maximum Speed: 30 knots BODY: 22 Engines: 1 x 1000 HP Standard submersible turbine Cost: Hull £ 5,400 Engines £ 2,480 Gas £ 340 Other £ 2,100 (controls, accommodation) Total £10,320 Insurance: Covered by A.B.C.This submersible is on a long-term charter to the A.B.C., and is used to deliver radium batteries and service personnel to the chain of automatic coastal lights linking Hong Kong and Alaska; air conditions are often too treacherous to allow the use of 'digs at low level along this route.
Meteorology is based on an advanced form of chaos theory, Xavier Lavalle's 'Theory of the Cyclone', and on the observational methods described in his 'Tellurionical Records'. These allow moderately detailed prediction, although the final effects of the weather can be influenced by factors as random as the movement of a 'dig or a meteorite.
Lavalle proved that the major influences on the weather are electrical charges generated by the earth's magnetic field and the Aurora Borealis. These charges, usually called tensions, are often opposed; when this occurs there is a build-up of charge, leading to violent air currents and turbulence. Bad weather is a symptom of unbalanced tensions, not a cause of them. Lavalle developed the instruments which are now used to track the tensions and predict their effects.
Localised weather control is obviously possible; skin-friction around 'digs often causes some electrical disruption, and many 'digs carry bombs and smoke-ring cannon, used to break up turbulence patterns. Transylvanian scientists are experimenting with the use of bombs to modify larger weather patterns. Given enough energy much more spectacular feats should be possible, if not necessarily desirable; for example, "herding" clouds to areas that need rain, or using electrical fields to discharge tensions and ease storms. The A.B.C. may be experimenting in this area: "..I had seen some squadrons making false auroras far to the north while they manoeuvred round the Pole.." (As Easy As A.B.C.). A large enough number of 'digs could certainly use their propellers to modify air currents and move clouds.
Cloud breakers might also have some role in weather modification; their beams must leave a trail of ionised air which should act to discharge the worst tensions. It's notable that there is relatively calm air over Britain, one of the most intensively-lighted countries, on a night of serious storms (With The Night Mail).
Aviation catalysed the development of many new materials. Self-sealing rubber was needed for helium 'digs, and was soon followed by completely artificial "rubbers" and "gutta-percha". By the mid-fifties the range of synthetics included tough spider silk and a variety of colloids (plastics) and resins. Today's silk can withstand loads of several tons, while a quarter of an inch of papier-mache (a cellulose-filled resin with little resemblance to its primitive ancestor) can stop bullets. These materials, and others like them, have made today's strong lightweight 'digs possible. The synthetics industry is the largest consumer of oil and coal, now that power production is based on Fleury's Gas.
When Fleury's Gas was invented, the companies most suited to mass produce it were photographic dye manufacturers. A good portion of the profits went to research, and the results were spectacular. It's hard to believe, but as late as the nineteen-fifties and 'sixties all photography involved long and extremely complex chemical processes. Even primitive black and white materials needed three or four baths, colour techniques were so difficult that they could only be carried out in commercial laboratories. Today all films develop in water, and are backed by print material. Just soak the roll for fifteen or twenty minutes, then unroll it and peel the negative and prints apart. Enlarging is equally simple, since photographic papers are developed the same way. Full colour prints and stereograms (two pictures mounted side by side and viewed to create an illusion of three dimensions) are now the norm. All film stock is colloid-based, incapable of stretching or tearing. The most common amateur size is 3" wide, used mainly for 3" x 6" postcard prints and 3" x 3" stereoscope pairs; a roll of 20 exposures costs 4s 3d. Miniature film sizes were common in the age of crowds, but easily-concealed cameras are too readily used to invade privacy; today neither the cameras nor the film are made.
Cine film is also processed in water. The only common home size is .357", which sells at 5s 3d for a ten-minute reel, professionals use 2" film with a 1.75" x 1" frame. It costs about four pounds a minute. Amateur cameras are usually clockwork, professionals prefer electrical systems.
Another extraordinary achievement is the synthesis of gem materials. The rough nature of the technique is well-known, but the details are trade secrets. In brief, it involves combining several chemical compounds (most notably carbon) under conditions of very high pressure and temperature. Powerful electrical fields are also involved in the process. Currently the Commercial Minerals Company can quote for bearings up to 9" wide by 11" long, and is taking advance orders for components up to 1ft x 3ft for delivery in 2002. Prices are high, but C.M.C. claims that they will fall as more production chambers come on-line.
The first announcements by C.M.C. sent the price of natural gemstones tumbling, and in the 'eighties it was possible to buy fine diamonds for a fraction of their former or current value. Eventually the leading pundits of fashion proclaimed that C.M.C. stones were TOO perfect; they contained few of the tiny flaws and discolorations that disperse light and add lustre to real gems. To quote a De Beers advertisement of the 1990s, the "cold gleam" of a synthetic stone is no match for the "warm glow" of the real thing; an unbiased observer probably can't tell them apart, but the value of gems has always been based on their perceived rarity. The "gleam versus glow" argument was simply an excuse to make a distinction. C.M.C. do not sell to the gemstone market, although it is likely that some components have been diverted to unscrupulous hands, cut, and sold as natural stones. 12_CMC.GIF is an advertisement for C.M.C. bearings. As yet no other manufacturer is close to C.M.C.'s scale of production. Because there is always some doubt as to the authenticity of jewels, stones without a detailed history or a certificate of provenance from a reputable diamond mine are virtually worthless. Jewel theft is almost unknown.
Dutch and German manufacturers are still unable to produce large gems, and "boort" facings are made from a mixture of real and synthetic industrial gemstones, pulverised and electrically amalgamated to form a smooth surface. This is a relatively thin glaze, and often suffers from microscopic stress cracks and irregularities. [By 2065 AD any desired size of component can be manufactured by C.M.C., including a range of structural materials reinforced with carbon fibre for extra flexibility and tensile strength. These materials are extremely expensive but very strong for their weight, and are often incorporated into the structure of 'digs and submersibles. At least a dozen other companies are now tooled up to produce comparable products.]
One final achievement should be mentioned; the elimination of sewing and mending. Today most homes have a fabric synthesiser, usually based on Greer's 1979 patents. Damaged garments (and other fabrics such as blankets, sheets, and curtains) are loaded into a digestion tank, where chemicals break them down to raw materials which are blended and forced through nozzles to make new thread. Varying the nozzle size and the smoothness of flow allows any fabric to be imitated, from silk to the coarsest tweed. An automatic loom sees to the rest, with spider-like sewing arms taking care of final assembly. A sheet takes a few minutes, a dress or a coat roughly half an hour, most garments fall somewhere between these extremes. With the twin-drum auto-washmatron removing almost all the labour from washing, this device virtually abolishes a major part of traditional housework.
Instead of buying clothes or cloth, the modern housewife shops for punched paper programming tapes, vials of dye, and an occasional drum of solvent or bale of raw fibre. There is still an extensive fashion industry, with the most exclusive designers charging ten or fifteen pounds per garment, but a few pounds will buy tapes for a complete wardrobe of less modish designs.
Human life expectancy is a hundred years and rising. This is almost entirely a matter of improved public health and the avoidance of crowds, combined with changes in living habits (most notably increased leisure and sleeping time), and treatment at high altitudes.
During the 1920s doctors realised that aviators were usually healthier than those who stayed on the ground, and eventually proved that the improvement was a result of increased blood cell production, an adaptation to lower air pressure, combined with the beneficial effects of the cosmic rays and ozone encountered at high altitudes. The increase in red cells improves the flow of nutrients through the blood, while extra white blood cells improve the body's ability to resist disease. As an extra bonus, at high altitudes the air is less polluted and carries far fewer bacteria than at ground level.
Most diseases are now curable, although in extreme cases the patient must spend several months at high altitude or in a polar sanatorium. The main causes of death are now cancer, heart disease, and strokes. A link between smoking and these diseases was suspected in the 1960s, and governments of that era attempted to ban tobacco. After the downfall of government these laws were forgotten, and smoking is still moderately common. Naturally any polite smoker takes care to ensure that his smoke does not invade the privacy of others.
The elimination of famine has involved development of many new agricultural techniques. Simple chemical treatments can quadruple the growth rate of any plant, or double the meat yield of most domestic animals. There are obvious pitfalls, of course; force-grown plants can soon exhaust the soil without careful crop rotation, and animals must be weaned from stimulants for several weeks before slaughtering. Perhaps the most spectacular example of forced growth is in timber cultivation, where it is possible to go from seed to fifty-foot tree in five years. This technique exhausts the soil so badly that it is rarely used in commercial logging; it is more often applied to landscape gardening.
Section 1.4.1 of the game rules covers the normal process of recovery from wounds. In the A.B.C. world treatment by doctors aboard an "accident ward" halves recovery time and guarantees a cure, with no roll needed for success. This speed improvement is NOT cumulative with any other medical treatment; characters won't recover from injuries in a week if they are treated by a friendly doctor then hoisted up to high altitude!
Disease should be VERY rare in this world, and should not occur outside the specific needs of a campaign. It is so unusual that any serious outbreak will attract A.B.C. intervention, quarantines, etc.
This is an era of peace. Weapons, other than those in the hands of the A.B.C. or used for sports activities, are very rare. Pistols and other handguns are rarely seen outside museums and private collections; there is no reason, apart from nostalgia, why anyone should use them, and older types of ammunition are no longer made (although reloading supplies are still available for enthusiasts). Machine guns and machine pistols are no longer made.
Shotguns are still common, as are hunting rifles, but they are solenoid guns, using a small radium battery and a non-ferrous barrel surrounded by electromagnets to accelerate their projectiles. Shotguns fire a paper tube of iron shot: the tube bursts as it exits the barrel, leaving the shot to fly on to the target. Rifles (the name is a complete misnomer) fire streamlined flechettes which use fins instead of rotation to stay on course. Both classes of weapon are autoloading, with ten-shot magazines, but recharge time is roughly three seconds between shots. There is no equivalent of a double-barrelled shotgun or rifle. The batteries allow several hundred shots before a recharge is needed.
Police forces generally rely on ground circuits for crowd control, or use non-lethal weapons such as truncheons. In the eighties there was some interest in electrical stun weapons, firing a small electromagnetic vortex resembling a flying loop, but they proved dangerous and manufacture was soon abandoned. There may still be a few around, but they are rare. The range is a maximum of fifty feet.
Explosive weapons died with the era of crowds, but criminals have been known to use atmospheric bombs to create diversions. Knives and other cutting devices still exist, but are usually thought of as tools, not weapons.
See section 5 above for 'dig and 'plane weapons.
Shotguns and rifles fire one shot a round. Difficulty numbers etc. remain unchanged, ranges are doubled. All electrical weapons are very quiet, the only noise that they make being a quiet whine as they charge, and a "snap" of air displaced by the projectiles. They are a little heavier than their ancestors, with wide barrels, and have the magazine well back towards the stock, resembling bull-pup designs of our world.
|Small rifle||No||6||F||F||I/C||£16, 100 rounds 7s|
|Big rifle||No||8||F||I||C/K||£25, 100 rounds 8s|
|Huge rifle||No||10||I||C||K||£45, 50 rounds 7s 6d|
|Small shotgun||No||5||F||I||I||£15, 50 cartridges 7s 6d|
|Large shotgun||No||8||F||I||C/K||£25, 50 cartridges 10s 6d|
|Stun gun ||No||9||F||KO||KO/I||£60 (rare)|
|Bomb ||15' radius||12||B||KO||I+KO||£1 10s|
 The stun gun is roughly shotgun sized but needs two 10 HP or one
25 HP radium batteries, usually carried on the user's belt or
back-pack, or left in a car; in the latter case a long extension cable
is needed. The projectile is a whirling ball of energy that looks like
ball lightning. It can be fired once per two rounds, the batteries
allow 20 or 25 shots for one-hour batteries, 40 or 50 for two hour
units, etc. The equipment is too heavy for casual use. Injuries caused by
this weapon are burns.
 The atmospheric bomb is designed to cause air turbulence, not injuries, hence the relatively high effect and radius. It most resembles a stun grenade. Its casing is made of paper. This is a much larger type than the signal bomb advertised with With The Night Mail, which is simply a noisy firework.
Sections 2.0.5 and 2.0.7 give a brief account of the history of psychic studies in the A.B.C. world. This section deals with the practical consequences of these discoveries, and their game effects.
I have chosen to interpret some ambiguous passages in ways that seem to make sense in the light of Kipling's other work, but the ideas expressed here are NOT the opinion of the author, and may not be close to Kipling's intentions in the A.B.C. stories. They are intended to simulate the degree of information that might be available after many years of rigorous scientific investigation into this field, and to the best of my knowledge do NOT reflect current religious or parapsychological opinions.
The core theory of psychic studies is the existence of the so-called ethereal vortex, a vast "whirlpool" of psychic force which cannot be seen or felt except by the psychically gifted. As is well known, all living minds are surrounded by a faint nimbus of electrical energy. On death this nimbus (presumably the soul) detaches from the body and is normally drawn towards the vortex. It "circulates" (all terms are approximate) in the vortex for a period of (usually) fifty to a hundred years, then the residue of the nimbus somehow transfers to the brain of a developing embryo, forming the first template of the new individual's soul. Naturally the older mental patterns are very faint and soon overlaid by new mental images; usually they are forgotten in the trauma of birth.
By deep hypnosis it is sometimes possible to bring memories of the previous life forward to the conscious memory. Occasionally these thoughts are specific enough to identify the previous personality, but that is very rare. Often nothing is found, apart from a faint memory of a particularly happy or traumatic incident (often the death of the previous personality). Where it has been possible to identify the former life there is usually some strong resemblance between the previous and present ways of life; for example, airmen often prove to be reincarnations of earlier airmen or seamen. Usually the reincarnation is the same sex as the former life, but this is not invariably so; one unfortunate young man found that his previous life had been a notorious courtesan in 1940s Russia.
In general, the period between death and reincarnation seems to have some relationship to psychic power. The evidence suggests that those who demonstrate high levels of psychic ability (detected by Rhine's microelectroscopic techniques) generally reincarnate relatively quickly, or stay in the vortex for unusually long periods; the mediocre majority stay for fifty to a hundred years.
This device consists of an array of thousands of tiny strips of gold leaf mounted in a colloid box. Each strip leads to a tiny needle which acts as an antenna. In the presence of extremely weak electromagnetic fields the leaves rise from the support structure; by analysing the pattern of raised strips it is possible to map the field.
Unfortunately it is very hard to block out normal electrostatic fields which tend to overload the system; someone who has just brushed her hair reads as an incredibly powerful psychic! For this reason the microelectroscope is rarely seen outside the laboratory, where it is used inside a Faraday cage. Each unit costs several hundred pounds, primarily for workmanship. The Hawking Laboratory at Cambridge has the largest facility of this type, six million-strip microelectroscopes mounted in a cube surrounding an inner test chamber. Scientists hope that it will eventually be possible to persuade a ghost (see below) to enter this chamber; as yet this has not been achieved, and most of the information on ghosts comes from relatively insensitive portable units.
Reincarnation is most useful if the referee plans to run two campaigns with widely differing dates; for example, one set in 2000 AD and one in 2065 AD. Under these circumstances anyone killed in the earlier campaign can be reborn for the second era. Perhaps the second campaign should be called "A.B.C., The Next Generation"....
If you wish to use this system, anyone killed in the first campaign automatically reincarnates before the date of the second campaign; it is usually advisable for all characters to be adults, so assume a birth date 18+3D6 years before the second campaign (unless you want some terrifyingly well-informed children in your game!). The new character should be based on 25 points, with some characteristics (and possibly some skills) the same as those of the predecessor. See "extent of memories" below for more details.
Another possible use is to give characters some memories of former lives which may be helpful in the course of the campaign. At the referee's discretion only any character may begin with any desired level of reincarnation knowledge; in practice it is usually best to limit this knowledge to faint fragments of conscious memories, possibly adding more vivid or complete knowledge which is only accessible via hypnosis. Memories should not be useful unless it suits the purposes of the referee; for example, someone who has memories of life as a soldier in the Great War may find that use of an unfamiliar weapon is unusually easy.
Extent Of Memories
Referees will normally have their own ideas as to the nature of any former lives, and the extent to which memories are available. If you wish to allow players to determine this for themselves, ask them to use SOUL against a difficulty level as indicated below. If the roll fails, roll on the random column:
|Level of Recollection||Difficulty||Random|
|No memories whatever, even hypnotised||0||2|
|Faint, only accessible by hypnosis||5||3-8|
|Faint, but occasionally conscious||6 (5)||9 |
|Vivid, but incoherent fragments||8 (6)||10 |
|Complete recall of the former life||10 (8)||11 |
|Complete recall of 1D6 former lives||12 (10)||12 |
Numbers shown in rounded brackets are the difficulty of having this level of reincarnation if it must be triggered by an initial course of hypnosis; for example, a character who potentially has complete recall of a previous life may never be hynotised, and will then never remember the former life.
Usually referees should have already decided when the former life ended; if this is not the case, use the next table to determine the interval that passed between the former life and the next incarnation.
Time Before Reincarnation
Use SOUL against a difficulty number to determine the time before reincarnation. If the roll is a success the character is reborn in the indicated time; if it fails, roll 2D6 on the "random" column below:
|Immediate (within weeks)||12||-|
Remember that the reborn personality is initially in a baby's body and probably has no memory of its former life. Even if reincarnation is immediate and memories are complete it must still take more than a year for a newborn child to gain enough control to talk coherently. Parents who find that their children have this ability may react with horror, rather than helping the child to reach its goals. Characters who are murdered should NOT expect to reincarnate in time to give evidence at the killer's trial!
Animal And Mechanical Reincarnation
Optionally animals may be reborn as people or vice versa. Kipling wrote several stories told from the point of view of dogs and other animals (see especially Thy Servant A Dog and The Jungle Book). He also wrote stories told from from the point of view of ships (The Ship That Found Herself) and railway engines (.007). A campaign in which a former adventurer found himself reincarnated as the team's faithful hound or as their 'dig might be fun, but could cause a lot of problems... Don't do it unless you are prepared to live with the consequences. The possibilities here are too open-ended for the development of game rules; the referee should be fair and extremely cautious, since players will undoubtedly try to take advantage! See the film "Christine" for an example of the possibilities.
The game rules include an appendix on generating canine characters, which may be useful; while this was not written with reincarnation in mind, some of the limitations suggested there should still apply.
Under exceptional circumstances (usually a violent death and the presence of very strong emotions) the nimbus formed by an individual mind survives as an independent vortex. Under these circumstances it may remain free of the main ethereal vortex for many years, draining a little psychic energy (the drain is usually perceived as a feeling of cold) from anyone entering its orbit. The ghost registers on sufficiently sensitive instruments (such as the microelectroscope) and can sometimes be sensed by the psychically sensitive. Under exceptional circumstances such ghosts may be seen visually, or appear on film, but this is extraordinarily rare. Any contact with this class of ghost, no matter how tenuous, is extremely rare, a once in a lifetime opportunity for any psychic who stumbles across it.
Usually this first class of ghost creates itself for a specific reason; most often, to correct an injustice or seek revenge. They are unable to affect the material world directly, but anyone in their presence feels uncomfortable and may feel driven to do something related to the ghost's interests. Mediums can sometimes make direct contact with these ghosts, but extracting useful information is extraordinarily difficult; ghosts rarely seem to know their own names, let alone why they exist! Generally this class of ghost eventually merges with the vortex voluntarily, usually after its purpose has been achieved.
The second class of ghost is much more common, but is not a true ghost in the sense imagined by earlier beliefs. It is a psychic recording, usually a faint memory of some terrible event, impressed into a material object such as a chair, a building, or a weapon. It can be triggered by anyone in the right mood. These ghosts are very often felt as vivid aural or visual hallucinations, or as shifts in mood; for example, a feeling of deep gloom, vertigo, or insane rage. Psychics can attempt to discover additional nuances within the recording, but it is not possible to question it in other ways. Recordings are often left by the living, not the dead; for example, someone who is deeply unhappy for months or years will impress this feeling on his or her surroundings. Occasionally it is possible to remove such ghosts by (for example) demolishing a room, or by finding the person who created it and taking them back to confront their earlier emotions. Each case is different. Incidentally, most objects that are intimately associated with one person for a prolonged period start to acquire traces of the owner's personality, which can often be detected by a skilled medium. Forensic psychics are often very gifted in this area.
There is no easy way to tell a true ghost from a psychic recording. Most psychics expect that anything they encounter will be a recording, and it may take some time for them to realise that they are dealing with a genuine ghost. Following are difficulty ratings for various forms of interaction with ghosts and psychic recordings; use the Medium skill if available, or SOUL (with difficulty doubled) if it is not:
|Sense a ghost||3-5|
|Sense a psychic recording||2-4|
|Tell a ghost from a psychic recording||4-6|
|Get an incoherent answer from a ghost||6-7|
|Get a detailed answer from a ghost||7-8|
|Persuade a ghost that its mission is accomplished||8-10|
|Detect an additional nuance in a psychic recording||6-7|
|Detect the exact source of a psychic recording||6-7|
|Describe the personality of an object's owner||7-8|
|Per hour spent in meditation||-1|
Example: What Happened?
On researching the history of the house he learns that a woman died after falling from the window; her sister lived on in the house for several years, and spent most of the time in mourning.
[This example comes from Kipling's story The House Surgeon, which is highly recommended]
Use of skill rolls here and below is optional; to preserve the eerie atmosphere of a haunting it may be preferable to omit them completely and concentrate on describing the physical and mental sensations experienced by the medium. In this case a sensation of cold, misery, a woman sobbing, and so forth.
A seance is simply a concentration aid for a psychic, allowing very limited communication with souls in the ethereal vortex. Difficulty is proportional to time spent in the vortex; the longer the period since death, the harder it is to make contact:
|Up to 1 week||6|
|1 week - 6 months||8|
|6 months - 5 years||10|
|Over 500 years||20|
Subtract 1 from Difficulty for each additional person involved in the seance, 2 if the person has SOUL 5-6, 3 if SOUL is 7.
Souls in the vortex have a very detached attitude to their former existence; even a murder victim may refuse to say anything to help catch the killer! It is also hard to find the right soul in a vortex containing many millions; incautious probing may lead to contact with a personality that is unhelpful or completely hostile to the medium.
Under exceptional circumstances ghosts and recordings may influence the minds of others. The referee should use the SOUL of the ghost, or of the person who left the recording, to attack the SOUL of the character affected. If successful the character starts to feel a mood shift. Each additional success intensifies the mood. Characters can try to escape from the attack by deliberately changing mood (thinking happy thoughts); just use SOUL against the SOUL of the ghost or recording. The victim's SOUL is completely overcome if SOUL x 2 attacks succeed; at this point the victim should be controlled by the referee until the desired action has taken place. In practice it is usually more convenient to have this happen to NPCs.
As already mentioned, scientific proof of psychic survival has had some profound effects. The old ideas of heaven and hell have been discredited, replaced by Oriental ideas of reincarnation. There is some very limited evidence of reincarnation in animal form, which has emphasised the idea of Karma (without much in the way of supporting evidence). Doing good in this life should ensure a good reincarnation, doing bad may lead to unhappy results. Proponents of this theory often point out that the human population is falling, reducing opportunities for reincarnation considerably. Opponents point to evidence of multiple reincarnations in a single individual (seen as schizophrenia in extreme cases), and suggest that this is actually much more common than is realised.
Most people spend some time probing their own memories to see if they can remember an earlier life, and may also seek psychic counselling if they wish to bring such memories to the surface. Hypnosis is commonly used to aid this process.
Unsupported psychic evidence is not legal in most courts, but police forces often use it as a basis for further enquiries. Most city forces have a forensic psychic on call, and use seances to contact murder victims. Naturally the spirit does not know any more than the victim; if the victim didn't identify the killer, the spirit won't know anything more. Spirits are not omniscient, and seem to find it hard to perceive the material world after death. Psychic evidence is occasionally admissible in civil cases, but unsupported evidence is NOT acceptable in cases related to disputed wills or any other matter arising from the subject's death.
Early researchers feared that confirmation of reincarnation might lead to an enormous increase in the number of suicides; if you are sure that you will live again, death is a way of escaping from illness or personal problems. While a small minority do take this attitude, most people prefer to deal with their problems in the current life, realising that they are unlikely to recover their complete personality in a future incarnation. Studies suggest that people with strong psychic tendencies are the most likely to make a full reincarnation, and they are notable for dying young; these facts may be connected.
The list that follows does not include vehicles (documented above) and many other items that are unlikely to be needed on a regular basis. British prices are roughly average for this era; American prices can be found by a direct pound-dollar conversion at £1 = $4
Food & Drink
Prices are generally low because of cheap imports and distribution, and because farming is largely automated. Alcohol prices have fallen sharply since the 1970s because they do not include any form of tax or duty.
|Bacon, pound||1s 3d||Eggs, dozen||1s 3d|
|Bread, 4 pounds||9d||Beef, pound||11d|
|Butter, pound||2s 1d||Steak, pound||1s 3d|
|Cheese, pound||1s 2d||Beer, pint||4d|
|Coffee, 4 ounces||5d||Whisky, bottle||5s 6d|
|Tea, pound||1s *||Brandy, bottle||6s 6d|
|Mate, pound||1s 6d||Rum, bottle||7s|
|Coca-Cola, pint||3d *|
|* made with Coca leaves|
Prices of all drugs are low, mainly because of cheap distribution. Since the 1970s there has been no such thing as an illegal drug; prices naturally fell steeply, and are now on a par with any other agricultural or chemical product. Tobacco and marijuana are still quite popular, few people seem to feel the need for stronger drugs now that the stresses of the era of crowds have ended. Coca-Cola (above) really is made with coca leaves, as is mate.
|Cocaine, grain||2s 6d|
With modern synthetics, the use of surfacers to melt rock, and no shortage of land, all forms of housing are quite cheap. A modern work crew can clear a site and melt foundations in less than a week, and erect the rest of a building in two to three weeks.
|House (3 beds)||£500|
|House (6 beds)||£900|
|Farm with 1000 acres||£2500|
|Hotel room (1 night)||7s 6d|
Prices are naturally strongly influenced by the availability of the clothing synthesiser. Garments are sold "off the peg" to buyers in a hurry, or hand made for high fashion, otherwise most clothing is synthesised as needed and costs no more than its raw materials.
|High fashion dress||£10-£20|
|Program tape||3-5s per garment|
|Bale raw fabric||£5 Enough for 10 blankets, a dozen suits, etc.|
|Fabric solvent, drum||£1 Enough for 100 blankets, 120 suits, etc.|
See section 2 for details of the forms of entertainment that are still popular. Newspaper prices are comparatively high because demand is small.
|Hardback novel||5s||Kodak/Edison Stereo & Radio||£25|
|Paperback novel||6d||Film for above||5s-15s|
These are prices for 2nd-class service; luxury accommodation is naturally more expensive. For example, a suite aboard the Cyclonic can cost as much as a hundred guineas!
|Air Charter, London-Paris ('plane), per person||£30|
|Air Charter, London-Paris ('dig), per ton||£20|
|Scheduled flight, London-Paris (return by 'plane)||£15|
|Scheduled flight, London-Paris (return by 'dig)||£ 5|
|Scheduled flight, London-New York (return by 'dig)||£25|
Eustace Arnott, Admiral A.B.C. Fleet, As Easy As A.B.C.
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Babbage Engine , Brawling , Business , First Aid , Linguist  (Latin, Greek, Punjabi, International), Military Arms , Pilot 
Quote: "If they want to do things the hard way, I suppose we'd better oblige them. All units, stand by for Lights."
Arnott is an extremely able officer but lacking in empathy. He has never seen death or a real war, and is inclined to treat combat as a tough game. He doesn't suffer fools gladly, and is overweight.
De Forest, Board Member (America), As Easy As A.B.C.
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Business , Detective , Pilot 
Quote: "There's a nasty situation developing in Vladivostock."
De Forest is nominally a member of the Fleet committee, but is also a senior figure in the Board's shadowy intelligence organisation. Although he is not suited to be a spy, he is a superb intelligence analyst, with a good knowledge of his region. He led the mission to Illinois.
Dragomiroff, Board Member (Russia), As Easy As A.B.C.
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Business , Linguist  (English, German, Dutch, French, International), Medium 
Quote: "How can you do these things! Don't you know that people will be hurt!"
Although he was selected for the Board for political reasons, Dragomiroff acts as its conscience in this story. He is naturally empathic, although he has received no training as a medium, and tends to over-react to pain and suffering, even if it only emotional.
L.L. Geary, Dispatcher, With The Night Mail
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Athlete  (cricketer), Business 
Quote: "...and bags on this belt are on their way to the Bundespost packet 'Gottleib', which will depart for Berlin at 20.30 hours..."
Geary, known as L.L. to his many admirers, has played for the MCC and is one of Britain's finest spin-bowlers. None of this is at all relevant to his job or role in With The Night Mail, where he acts as a superbly informed guide and introduces the narrator to some other characters. No-one ever asks what the "L.L." stands for.
Captain George Hodgson, G.P.O., With The Night Mail
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Mechanic , Pilot 
Quote: "Steady as she goes. Drain two percent lift please.."
Hodgson is an excellent 'dig driver, not flashy but reliable and extremely competent. He has some of the smoothest dip-dial recordings in the G.P.O. fleet.
Lieutenant Ilroy, Gunnery Officer, As Easy As A.B.C.
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Athlete  (runner), Brawling , Melee Weapons , Marksman , Military Arms 
Quote: "Up two-one, left three-zero... FIRE"
Ilroy is a superb shot with any rifle or hand-gun, and more than competent with loops, siege-lights, and other military hardware. He's a little too inclined to show off with risky shots; a lesser gunner would immobilise a target, not knock a knife out of her hand.
Victor Pirolo, Board Member (Italy), As Easy As A.B.C.
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Brawling , Doctor , First Aid , Linguist  (English, French, German, International), Scientist 
Quote: "You stchewpids! If you will insist on abusing my leetle toys this way, of course they will go wrong!"
Pirolo is a genius, a cross between Einstein and Edison with an international reputation. He usually has four or five projects under way at any time, combining knowledge from several fields to bring them to fruition. He is a small man, notable for an exceptionally loud voice and extremely peculiar pronunciation.
Captain Tim Purnall, G.P.O., With The Night Mail
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Mechanic , Pilot 
Quote: "Reverse all engines! Rudder to full brake! Collision stations!"
Purnall is one of the G.P.O.'s best 'dig drivers, but a little too inclined to take risks to keep to schedule. He could easily make a fortune in professional racing. He is devoted to his daughter, and hopes to make her a match with a suitably eligible bachelor.
Takahira, Board Member (Japan), As Easy As A.B.C.
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Business , Linguist  (English, Russian, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Malay, International), Martial Arts  (Baritsu), Scientist 
Quote: "Ah yes, that is where they hold the annual festival of the leaping dragon. It is most picturesque."
Takihara is nominally Member for Japan, sponsored by the Nippon 'Dig Consortium (a Standard 'Dig subsidiary). Like De Forest he serves on the Fleet committee, but he is not involved in intelligence. He has travelled widely, and sometimes knows facts even experts on a region have forgotten.
Leopold Vincent, Impresario, As Easy As A.B.C.
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Actor  (Theatrical Director), Artist  (Set Design), Business 
Quote: "No, you idiot, I said a thousand ELEPHANTS. Big things with tusks and trunks, old boy. Look, just find a way to get rid of them, I'll call you back later."
Vincent believes in thinking BIG, and since 2035 has purveyed London's finest entertainments. He owns music halls, theatres, restaurants, and night clubs. Unusually for this era, he needs very little sleep.
Captain Williams, Mark Boat Captain, With The Night Mail
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Brawling , Driving , Linguist  (French, German, Russian, International), Pilot 
Quote (transmitted in International): "Divert to course 045 and climb to 3000 feet. Continue until my beacon is at ninety degrees to your heading, then change to...."
Williams is basically a cross between a coast guard and the cop on the beat, flying a routine patrol which has to deal with a variety of problems, from weather to fire and mutiny. He's resourceful, a good all-rounder, and ready to improvise in an emergency. He is courting Captain Purnall's daughter.
Kipling, (Joseph) Rudyard, 1865-1936.
Born in Bombay of English parents, Kipling wrote many important stories of Victorian India and England. Today he is best remembered for the Jungle Book, and for the story The Man Who Would Be King. In fact he produced an immense body of work including fiction, travel writing, and poetry, and was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1907.
Kipling was educated at the United Services College at Westward Ho!, England, which provided the background for his collection of school stories, Stalky and Co. He worked as a journalist in India from 1882 to 1889, returned to England as an extremely successful author, then travelled in Japan and the USA from 1892-96, finally settling in Sussex, England.
Kipling was a stern critic of his own work and often edited it to the bone; this may explain some of the less obvious passages in the A.B.C. stories. He also disliked prying, and suffered badly at the hands of journalists. His experiences with the Press may have suggested some of the ideas behind the "era of crowds". While a patriot, he was strongly opposed to unthinking patriotism, and was often a stern critic of British colonial policy and racial prejudice. His story "The Village That Voted The Earth Was Flat" is an excellent synopsis of his opinions of the Press and mass hysteria - it's also extremely funny.
With The Night Mail was the only fiction carried on the airship R34 during the first double crossing of the Atlantic.
Kipling is one of the most quoted authors of his era; the following are a few of the most familiar examples:
...And a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a Smoke
Gold is for the mistress - silver for the maid,
Copper for the master cunning at his trade.
'Good!' said the Baron, sitting in his hall,
'But Iron - Cold Iron - is master of them all.'
They've taken off 'is buttons an' cut 'is stripes away,
An' they're hangin' Danny Deever in the mornin'.
...the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail
for the female of the species is more deadly than the male
The Female Of The Species
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin'-fishes play,
An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!
Useful works about Kipling include:
Leslie Fish has recorded some of Kipling's songs: unfortunately MacDonough's song is not part of any current tape, although it may be added to a future collection. The most recent is:
Our Fathers Of Old
3rd Fish/Kipling tape with Joe Bethancourt
TAPE RF-1001C $12.00 US
Available from Random Factors,
3754 W. 170th St.
Torrance, CA 90504-1204
The Kipling Society publishes a quarterly magazine which may be useful to serious students of his work. For details write to:
The Kipling SocietyI believe that there are also Kipling societies in the USA and other countries, but do not have details.
18 Northumberland Avenue,
Sources for this section include the Encyclopaedia Of Science Fiction, John Brunnner Presents Kipling's Science Fiction, The New Grolier Electronic Encyclopaedia, Microsoft Cinemania, and The Oxford Library of Words And Phrases.
Chris Williams has discovered an article which may have been a source of ideas for With The Night Mail; "With Her Majesty's Mails to Ireland", by Edward John Hart, appeared in The Strand Magazine in April 1895 and is an account of a mail packet journey from Holyhead to Kingstown. There are some very striking similarities, and I hope to add it to the Forgotten Futures Library collection eventually.
This section includes material which relates to Kipling or to themes developed by Kipling, to airships, and to other ideas in this worldbook. See Appendix D of the rules for more general work related to scientific romances.
In addition to the above, Kipling's work was extremely influential in the development of science fiction, and his military tales, in particular, seem to have inspired work by Gordon R. Dickson, Robert A. Heinlein, Jerry Pournelle, and H. Beam Piper, amongst many others. His views of popular government and mass hysteria were shared by many authors, most notably H.G. Wells, and may have been important in the formation of the Libertarian movement.