IWAKU: Steampunk Millionaires Voyage to the Lost City of Moonwings Iwaku City - a place for the desperate, the privileged and the cutthroat. A place where people insult you unprovoked, invite you to collaborate, dare you to speculate. A place for fools who think they've seen things, for bitches and snitches who long to be adored. A place where you have to know the right people, get the inside joke, play the system and pull the puppet strings. A place where you can rise and fall on the knife-edge of a single comment. A melting pot. A rat race. A scrabbling mountain of personalities and prejudice. A place where a man called Asmo can exercise his reputation... No one could recall where this reputation came from. It was known he was once a ruthless politician, and that much was official knowledge; but the other stories were as unofficial as they were preposterous. They said he could kill a man with a single witty comment. That he could recite the dictionary in under 30 hours. That he excreted pheremones that made you more intelligent if you stood near him. Publically Asmo himself neither denied nor condoned these rumours, but worked in secret with every fibre of his being to embellish and disseminate them. Most of the money earned from his archaeological expeditions was used to pay agents in every corner of the land to uphold his mythology. Convicts on death row were told that Asmo had put them there. Teachers were given lesson plans written (allegedly) by his own hand. Ghostwriters sent satirical letters to newspapers and graffitti artists signed their defacements with his name. Private collectors and prodigal artists would call him mentor, in return for a handsome fee. It was an easy way for up-and-comers to make money, and an easy way for Asmo to seed his infamy. And why did he do all this? For the simple reason that he feared the world would be a darker place if everyone stopped talking about him. It was his way of keeping control of an uncontrollable world. Standing on the deck of the HMS Firefox, an aerial/aquatic paddle steamer, with his fiery red beard freshly clipped, the Captain made an impressive sight. Dock workers scurried beneath him, rolling crates and steam assemblies into the cargo hold and whispering various comments about how Asmo had killed so-and-so's grandmother or infilitrated the palace in such-and-such a suit or rewritten the constitution with this-and-that law and various tripe that the commonfolk are wont to gush. "YOU THERE!" One of the dockhands dropped a crate and shielded himself with both arms, yelping as the Captain extended a finger at him from the foredeck above. "ARE THOSE SHOES?" The dockhand glanced at the crate he had dropped, marked 'SHOES', and trembled as a bead of sweat dripped from his nose. "Er..." "WELL ANSWERED, MY FRIEND! NOW THROW THEM IN THE OCEAN!" The dockhand glanced at the cargo hold, then at his fellow workers. "Er..." "NO DALLYING, BOY! THROW THEM IN THE OCEAN!" From the foredeck, the distant from of Captain Asmo could be seen shaking his fist. "WE ARE AT WAR, MY LAD! A GRUELLING STRUGGLE BETWEEN THE UTILITARIAN NECESSITIES OF THE PATRIARCH AND THE FOUL MACHINATIONS OF FEMININE LUXURY! WE MUST BE STALWART IF WE ARE TO LAST THE NIGHT!" "YES SIR!" the dockhand screamed back, before dragging the crate to the edge of the cliff on which the skyport was built. The boy was certain that his internal organs had been ruptured by the Captain's words, but it was better to die doing your job right. And up on the deck, Captain Asmo straightened and lit his pipe, satisfied that he had done his part in curtailing the indulgences of his special passenger for another day. Another crate of shoes consigned to oblivion - another space freed up in the cargo hold for food and fuel. Some would call him a monster, but history would remember... oh yes, it would remember... He checked his pocket watch - an antique piece set to Republican Time (a timezone he had invented during his brief period as Prime Minister, which was as brief as the time it takes for two guards to drag you out of a room). It was almost noon, the deadline he had given on the flood of posters, chinese-whispers, sealed invitations, radio commercials and adverts he had sent forth into Iwaku City in the days before his arrival. Throughout the morning about fifty or so volunteers had arrived to seek a place on his crew, while about twenty times that number had come to the viewing platforms around the skyport to stare at him. It was quite the public spectacle - some had even brought picnic tables and binoculars. Asmo had waved to them, of course, tracing an arcane symbol in the air which he had come up with. He would have an agent start a rumour next week that this was a demonic curse. After that he had merely stood on the deck, keeping his back straight and occasionally adjusting his pipe or moustache. There were cameras going off along the streets around the port, the flashes making them seem paved with glinting gems. History was being made today. The greatest expedition ever mounted to the Lost City of Moonwings, by the Mad Captain and his Ice Maiden. In fact, most of the spectators had come here hoping that Queen Diana's navy would blow him out of the sky and be done with all this sillyness.