There's a hole in the earth like a great black pit And the vermin of the world inhabit it And its morals aren't worth what a pig could spit And it goes by the name of London. Our story begins in North London, at the Airship Station of Canary Wharf. Well established as the aerial hub of the British Empire, the station has a proud view across the River Thames, the great waterway that divides North and South... Rich and Poor... Vampire and Mortal. The station can receive up to twenty ships at a time, be they luxury ambassador liners of the Chinese Empire, smaller work-tugs from France and Spain, the flying fortresses of the German Front, or even the long-haul convoys from the Americas. Through its massive steam-powered docks come the raw materials that fuel the Vampire Supremacy - coal and iron, weapons and munitions, raw meats and textiles. There is a bright sky this morning - as bright as it can be through the layers of Smog churned out by the factories. A certain spring is in the step of the station-goers; the aristocratic couples boarding cruises to the African wastes, the street-merchants selling pornography, the prostitutes promising a quick fix to passing nobles as they wave their blood-type bracelets. Paper boys yell the morning headlines above the hiss of steam: The Ripper has struck again! The Home Guard battle Migrants in Lewishman! An Invisible Man has been spotted on the city limits! Foot-falls, horse-hooves and machine-cogs sound the pulse of bustling London. 15 years since the Rising. 13 years since the Dead Deal. And all is well. But as our adventure begins, two devilish men go about their business on the south side of the station, in the steamship Amelia, newly docked from America. "Quickly, darling. Tardiness is most unattractive." The speaker's voice is eloquent and effeminate, a man who has drunken deep from the cup of unorthodox pleasures. His associate, dressed like him in coat and top hat, holds a blade to the Captain's throat as the question is asked. "I... I can't bleedin' remember..." splutters the hostage, but his answer brings only disappointed tuts. "Please, mon capitan. Your reputation preceeds you. Atlantic sailors always have the manifest memorized in their pretty little heads. Now be a good boy and spill your secrets, before my associate has to cut them out. He can be rather beastly when he gets going." His friend pulls the blade against the Captain's throat, almost cutting the skin till he cries out. "Alright, guv! Alright! I'll talk! It's for a lady called Maxine Brewer. She owns a doss house on Camberwell Road!" "Good! That's the spirit!" The man smiles and taps his cane against the next box in the cargo hold. "And this one?" "Mister... Mister Q Richardson... Liverpool Grove." "Oh, you are good. I'm getting all hot and bothered just seeing you in action." "Why do you want...AAAGH!" The Captain yelps as the second man nicks him with the blade, an expert cut that narrowly misses his arteries and stops his question short. "Please, mon capitan, behave yourself. I will pitch and you will catch. Now..." His cane taps the next cargo crate, lamplight catching on ts ivory head and the purple glove that grips it. "That's... that's for someone in Lambert. Swinnen family. That's all I know..." "Good. Now, just one more, gorgeous. I promise." The cane taps the last box in the aisle, this one smaller than the others, and the Captain falters, tears running down his cheeks and joining the trickle of blood from his neck. "I... oh Christ, I can't remember... please!" The speaker sighs and checks his pocket watch. "Oh do hurry up. My friend and I have tickets for the opera." "Hoffman... Doctor Randolph Hoffman... lab equipment. He lives on Fleet Street." "Bravo, mon capitan." The speaker tucks the cane under his arm and claps his delicate hands together as he approaches. "Now. My friend and I are going to... let us say 'embellish' this cargo somewhat. A few additions here and there. Nothing to concern yourself with. And once we are done you are to deliver them as normal. I assure you there will be no repercussions for your business. And likewise I assure you that, should you tell anyone of our little tete-a-tete this morning, not only will you be stripped of your possessions and reputation, but my friend here will see fit to pay you another visit and acquaint you with the delights of organ donation." The blade pulls close again and the Captain weeps, his body shaking in the captor's grip. But the man with the cane hushes him and presses a slender finger to his lips. "Why so glum, my dear? We will pay you the extra costs. Say... two thousand a crate?" Now the Captain's eyes open and grief turns to confusion. They are going to tamper with his cargo AND pay him for the trouble? His mouth opens and he says the only thing he can think of. "How... how do I know... you'll pay...?" The stranger laughs, a rich and honey-sweet sound that echoes like swarming creatures around the cargo hold. Then he leans closer, tipping up his tophat, long hair falling from his face as he smiles. "Oh, my dear boy..." Blood-red lips part to reveal gleaming teeth and two long, pointed fangs. "You have my word as a gentleman."