Leibniz believed that, while there were countless possible worlds known to the infinite mind of God, only one existed in actuality. As I write this, sitting at the nearly an exact replica of my writing desk back on the Summer Wanderer (And yet, by Jupiter, I am on the Summer Wanderer), I wonder if he was completely correct in his estimation that only one actual world was given freedom to exist.
Yesterday I would have agreed with Leibniz wholeheartedly, and until I discovered the documents, the fantastic events that lead to my sitting here would not have convinced me otherwise. This is my desk, and yet somehow, it is not. It bears all the same markings, but documents inside the false compartment inside are decidedly different. The Benedict Ulysses Stewart who owned this desk favored his first name, not his second, as I do. His signature is identical, save for the scrawled "Benedict" with the intial "U" in place of the initial "B" and the scrawl of "Ulysses" which is my own custom. We loved the same girl - that is clear, but the cameo hidden in this desk is not identical to the one in mine. It is fascinating to see, not an artists' rendering of the Countess Hermione Lovegrove, but rather a photograph of her. What a wonder!
I am certain that some might argue that the airship my friends and I have taken by force is merely a facsimile of the one which even now is headed back toward Great Britain, but if that is so, then it is no less a wonder! With only a few exceptions, such as the cameo, it is a perfect replication of the Summer Wanderer constructed upon my family's estate. The conclusion I have come to seems less incredible given how this adventure began.
Just over a week ago, I assembled a group of adventurers on the Summer Wanderer while we were berthed over London. We had intercepted an encrypted transmission, which piqued my interest; as you know, I seek to involve myself in an adventure worthy of a published memoir. The encrypted message seemed as good a place as any to seek such an adventure. I was not disappointed. A. Aaron Addle, a cryptologist in the service of Her Majesty the Queen Victoria of England was able to determine that the transmission involved the rising concerns between England and Prussia. There were enigmatic statements about a diabolical device which could change the history of the world. Addle, using his Aether Flux Capacitor, a machine of his own devising, determined that the source of the trouble lay to the North. I invited Addle, along with Allaister R. Tyson, a recent graduate of Oxford whom my father had been the benefactor of. Evidently something Allaister was studying was of great interest to the elder Stewart. Accompanying me as always of course, was Clarence Henry "Dunny" Dunnington, the Summer Wanderer's engineer, Little Ben, the clockwork marvel who flies her, and my man-at-arms, Isaiah Kipps. We also took on a navigator in London, a great bear of a man named Thorower Baerd, a whaler from Greenland.
We left London in high spirits, but two mishaps nearly brought the entire enterprise to a halt. The first was an engine problem which nearly downed the Summer Wanderer. Dunny was brilliant as always, getting us back on track. Then, a bullet fired from one of my prized Colt Dragoons while I was cleaning the weapon, wounding me in the meat of the shoulder. While unconscious though, I believe I had a vision of the device which we seek in the North, the cause of the aether disturbance.
Between the engine trouble and my mishap on the flight from London to Edinburgh, the trip took two days where it should only have taken one. In Edinburgh we stopped to replace the missing parts to Addle's machine, and to stock up on necessities. Thorower and I hunted for Scotch and cigars, which we availed ourselves of from the store-rooms' of Lord Holburne, a family friend. In the meantime, some of my crew found themselves in a hearty row at a local watering hole. While I had opportunity to finally unholster the Dragoons, there was no chance for firing, which is just as well; bullets wear out a man's welcome altogether too quickly.
Addle's machine repaired, Little Ben set our course for the Arctic Ocean. The range of the machine is too short to determine more than a general direction. Our hope was to narrow the choices set before us; we set our course in a zig-zag pattern, first for the Shetland Islands, then on over the desolate Faroe islands, and finally on toward the coast of Iceland. This journey took us nearly 2 days, keeping an average speed of 20 mph, and flying through the night.
During this time Allastair continued to pursue his theory that the bullet had been placed in my Dragoon deliberately, and that this would-be assassin was also the rogue who had made off with Addle's equipment. He finally found his proof, which set Thorower searching the ship for the culprit. He found signs of a stowaway; a bottle of my Scotch, and an empty glass covered in what he assumed to be soot, but what I determined to be brimstone; how could I ever forget that smell? It brought back such strong memories that I retired to my room, only to find the stowaway passed out on the floor. He had obviously been in the middle of yet another caper to divest me of my liquor, and with the skill that comes of living on such a ship, I bound him to a chair with rope and sat to await his coming around. All the while he sat unconscious I drank, mostly to forget the memories - the smell of brimstone was strong on the lad, and I could think of nothing but Hermione. As consciousness began to return, he gave the characteristic muscle spasms I have seen Little Ben exhibit when he is short on opium.
I called Benjamin to my room with some of his personal supply of the drug, which he takes for the pain of his condition. He administered some to the lad, who came around rapidly under the drug's effect. He revealed his name as Shadrach, an orphan of the London streets who claimed to have performed with a circus at one time. I placed the stowaway under Thorower's care; if there were ever a deterrent to mischief, it's the Greenlander's axe. It was about this time that Addle's machine ceased to work. Something was blocking its transmission. Thankfully, we were already aware of our destination, if Thorower's calculations were correct. The long uninhabited island of Jan Mayen, once a Dutch whaling outpost.
However, on our journey to the desolate island, Allaister revealed through his Magickal Arts that the source of the problem with Addle's machine was an "invisible servant", which Thorower divined to be on a collision course with us. We determined a plan to unveil this servant, and to attack it. Thorower was convinced it was a mechanism of some sort, and arranged a boarding party to storm the ship. Shadrach, who had earlier that very day proved himself a unique addition to our crew (he has the miraculous ability to shift his position in time and space!) was among the boarding party, as was I. Finally, the Dragoons would see action!
We raised our elevation and ejected our coal dust in a fine spray, in order to bring the mysterious assailant into vision. When this was accomplished, Addle fired his machine at our foe, revealing it to us! What a shock it was to see the very airship we ourselves were strapped to, waiting to leap from! The only difference we could see was immediately apparent - the twin of the Summer Wanderer was equipped with Gatling guns!
Thorower's mighty arm launched a harpoon which served as the anchor for a rope our boarding party rappelled down and into the control room, where we engaged the crew in a brief but bloody battle - we nearly lost Addle, who had the misfortune to shoot right through the control room on the momentum of his rappel before catching the rope line on the other side! The Dragoons roar took down two men before the fight was over, effectively concluded by Thorower's pistols, which blew the ersatz captain clean out of the cabin!
And so it was that we captured this double of the Summer Wanderer, and are headed north, disguised as our enemy, to determine how it is that they captured the very airship we had been traveling in, and modified it...how can there be two? Allaister believes it has something to do with DaVinci's Via Peregreus, the Dimensional Engine described in one of the great man's lost notebooks. We found a copy of the pages devoted to this infernal device on board this ship, which has fueled Allaister and Addle's desire for knowledge - the books had been thought to be but legend...yet here is proof they might not be.
This Dimensional Engine can disrupt the normal flow of time...and perhaps space. It may allow the user to travel to another time...and bring back the wonders and marvels found there. How else to explain the amazing communication device Addle is currently puzzled by?
There are so many questions, and there remain, not enough answers.