Summary: Senna is a remote island colony at the edge of the world. When an unknown event cuts them off from their mother country, unrest foments into civil war. Against this turbulence, a naturalist and amnesiac seek answers in the bizarre ecosystem of the island.
The Last Ship from Keam
The last ship from Keam arrived in Serenity Bay with neither sails nor crew. It was a rather light vessel by the standards of the Commonwealth Navy, a frigate with a solar steam engine and side-mounted paddle wheels retrofitted onto the hull. Three masts loomed over the Catalyst, naked as autumnal trees. Despite the dearth of cover at midday, the main deck was nevertheless pregnant with shadows. It drifted into a mooring beside the harbormaster's office, where it abruptly ceased its voyage.
Curious stevedores scuttled aboard and secured the vessel with the standard knots, but the superstitious dockhands refused to investigate further. Despite the harbormaster's valiant attempts to prematurely quell of the news of the enigmatic vessel's arrival, a crowd of locals soon gathered around the birth in question. He sent for the guard, hoping that the captain of the garrison would be able to deter the ever-swelling mass that swelled like a feeding frenzy of sharks.
Captain Ramus Fulton arrived with a company of guards, Commonwealth Army regulars fresh from their barracks. Fulton was a burly, hirsute man that nevertheless spoke with a softer voice than his frame suggested. Nevertheless, he knew when to raise his voice to a stentorian tone, reserving such enunciation for the highlights of his statements. Behind him, he assembled his soldiers with the professional discipline born of a parade ground.
"Citizens, step back!" he ordered. "This vessel is under quarantine by order of Governor Fis Errick."
"Why can't we see?" asked a woman from the crowd.
"Because this vessel is crewed by plague victims," he said, readily improvising. The crowd buckled backwards. "Until a suitable natural philosopher and physician can be found, we will enforce the quarantine."
The mass of people stepped backwards, dispersing like a routed enemy. Captain Fulton nevertheless maintained position, sensing something was amiss when a line of people did not disperse. While they wore no apparent weapons, their thick coats could easily conceal all manner of improvised arms. Leading them was a woman shrouding herself in a shawl, an olive-skinned woman with brown eyes to match. "Hogwash! I saw the ship arrive from the hills. There was no sign of lepers or plague victims on it."
The crowd began to assemble once more, caught between the incendiary words of a firebrand and the steely discipline of a soldier. Captain Fulton sighed, having hoped the situation would be resolved without escalation. He preferred facing musket-fire on battlefields to domestic policing duties. He instead clapped, and his Greencoats shouldered their muskets.
"This situation requires a thorough investigation by natural philosophers and physicians. We are treating the vessel as quarantined until suitable personnel are found," he said, stamping his foot. His soldiers stomped in unison. "And we will meet all attempts to board with force."
For a moment, the two stood in awkward silence, acknowledging the stalemate between them. The summer sun beat down on the bewildered crowd, and the indecisive townsfolk returned to their business. Fulton relaxed prematurely, hoping the weather would continue to deter the loitering bystanders. Instead, the firebrand's followers escorted a puzzled man with thick glasses and brown hair forwards, before presenting him to the officer like a supplicant before a high priest.
"This is Doctor Jiovan Isona, natural philosopher and physician," the firebrand said. "Well known back in the Commonwealth, if I'm not mistaken. The sort of man the Governor would tap."
Dr. Isona looked around with green eyes, uncertain of his escorts' intentions. Captain Fulton stepped forwards. "I will have my men escort the Doctor to the Governor, and we will request the case be expedited. But until that order comes, I will broke no interference."
"We can wait," the firebrand said. A dozen heads nodded behind her.
Captain Fulton stared at the firebrand. The obstinate demagogue stared back. Both glanced at the natural philosopher being escorted away by two soldiers before resuming their own standoff.