The Mortal Engines Quartet…

The Mortal Engines series started with my first novel, Mortal Engines, back in 2001.  I then went on to write three sequels, Predator's Gold, Infernal Devices and A Darkling Plain

… dangerous bits of technology left over from a long-ago war lie waiting to be discovered …

Together the books cover nearly twenty years in the history of the Traction Era, a far-future age when cities move about hunting smaller mobile towns and dismantling those they catch for their raw materials.  Airships ply the skies, amphibious limpet-submarines lurk in the oceans, and dangerous bits of technology left over from a long-ago war lie waiting to be discovered and put to use in the looming conflict between the cities and their anti-tractionist enemies.

I thought I'd finished with that world when A Darkling Plain was published, but new ideas kept bubbling up, and in 2009 I returned to the dawn of the Traction Era in a prequel, Fever Crumb, about a girl living in London shortly before it starts to be rebuilt as a mobile city.  Fever went on to have more adventures of her own in my next book, A Web of Air, published in 2010, and in further books expanding the Mortal Engines world.

  • Mortal Engines - FAQ's

    Where did the idea for Mortal Engines come from?

    Philip ReeveIt arrived very slowly, built up over many years from scraps of real history and bits and pieces of the books and films that I enjoyed.  From the late eighties onwards I was planning to write a story that would hark back to the sort of sci-fi adventures I'd liked reading as a teenager.  The look and feel of the world soon fell into place, as did certain key characters like Hester and Shrike, but it wasn't until I hit on the notion of a food-chain of predatory cities that I felt I had an image strong enough to build a novel around.  At that time there was a lot of concern about the expansion of towns and the building of new roads - this was the era of the Fairmile road protests - and you often heard people complaining about towns and cities 'gobbling up' the surrounding the countryside (a process which is still going on, of course).  I think that's what made me start thinking about a city that really did gobble things up, and what it would be like to live there...

    What are 'The Hungry City Chronicles'?

    Philip ReeveWhen the Mortal Engines books were first published in the United States my then U.S. publisher, Harpercollins, felt that they needed a series title, and they chose The Hungry City Chronicles.  I've never liked it and I never use it, so you won't find it mentioned anywhere else on this site!

    Will there be more books in the series?

    Philip ReeveI hope so.  When I finished A Darkling Plain I thought the world of the Traction Era was mined out, but by skipping back to its beginning in Fever Crumb I think I've managed to open a new seam.  I'm hoping to follow Fever on various adventures.  The next book, A Web of Air, is set in a harbour city called Mayda, built inside an old impact crater somewhere off the coast of present-day Portugal, and haunted by mutant seagulls, would-be aëronauts, and spies and assassins of various persuasions.  And if she survives all that I'm hoping to send her to places like Nuevo Maya and Australia which I never found time to explore in the first four books.

    Why did you make Hester so ugly and angry?

    Philip ReeveI initially made Hester ugly just in order to distinguish her from the beautiful heroines you usually find in this sort of story.  Her angriness followed naturally.  I think she's a very romantic, attractive person who's stuck with a hideous face, so it seemed right that she'd be a bit tetchy.  Even I was surprised by just how nasty she turned as the series progressed, but I hope she never entirely loses the reader's sympathy.

  • A Brief History of Municipal Darwinism

    By Deputy Head Historian Chudleigh Pomeroy
    (Re-published by kind permission of the Guild of Historians)

    1: The World After The War

    After the Ancients destroyed themselves in the Sixty Minute War, there were several thousand years when Nothing Much Happened.  These were the Black Centuries.  Mankind was reduced to a few thousand individuals; scattered bands of savages who hid in cellars and caverns to escape the plague-winds and the poisoned rain, and survived on the canned goods they managed to dig up from the ruins of their ancestors' great cities.  It was a savage age, when life was cheap, and most people would happily have sold their own children for a tin of rice pudding. Even when the ash-clouds thinned and the sun returned, bringing new growth to the scorched earth, humanity was still beset by famines, pestilence and other types of unpleasantness.  Vast upheavals and rearrangements of the Earth's surface were underway.  Whether these were due to the lingering effects of the mighty weapons which the Ancients had used in their war, or were merely a natural process, we cannot know.  What is certain is that mighty new mountain ranges arose (the Shan Guo uplands, the Deccan Volcano Maze and the Tannhauser Mountains being the prime examples).  At around this time, among other great changes, some violent storm or convulsion in the planet's crust caused the western edges of the island called 'Britain' or 'Uk' to sink beneath the Atlantic, while the North Sea drained away entirely, leaving Britain attached by a land-bridge to the rest of Europe.  (This was one day to have great consequences for a miserable, ruinous city called London, which clung on, barely inhabited, to a place beside the muddy river Thames).

     

    2: New Shoots From The Ashes

    Life in the Black Centuries was difficult, disagreeable and generally pretty short, and it would be many thousands of years before anyone had the time or inclination to set about building a new civilization.  In most parts of the world, all knowledge of the past had been swept away, and human beings lived little better than animals.  Indeed, some were not truly human at all, for lingering poisons from the war had caused mutant off-shoots of humanity to arise; chief among them the warlike Scriven and the sinister Nightwights.  (Not only that, but a race of semi-intelligent gulls haunted the Atlantic coastlines, and in the north herds of mammoth-like 'hairyphants' once more roamed the tundra!) In Africa, however, where the plague-bombs and orbit-to-earth atomics had not fallen so thickly, a certain amount of learning had been preserved, and it was here that the first flowers of civilisation began to bloom afresh.  The so-called 'Spring Cultures' of Zagwa, Ogbomosho and the Tibesti Caliphate eventually grew into great trading cultures whose merchants and missionaries helped to restore civilisation to the rest of the world.  As millennium followed millennium new societies arose in Europe and South America, as well as in the remnants of India and China and among the Thousand Islands of the Pacific.  Some fell by the wayside, and we know little of them now beyond their names - the Raffia Hat civilisation, the Ash Boundary Culture, the Slate Bowl People.  Others, like the great culture of Shan Guo and the Mountain Kingdoms, have endured into modern times.

     

    3: Of Nomad Empires and the Dawn Of Traction

    In none of these new societies did anyone attempt to match the technological achievements of the Ancients.  Most, indeed, prohibited science and the building of complex machines, which they blamed for the disaster of the Sixty Minute War.  Some, such as the Zagwans, persecuted anyone who tried to preserve scientific knowledge, and destroyed whatever vestiges of the Ancient World they could find.  We can only guess at the loss to historians which such vandalism has caused!

    In the northern part of Europe, however, certain remnants of the old world were revered, as we can see in those so-called machine-shrines where, in the depths of the Black Centuries, people prayed and made sacrifices to the battered computer-brains, toasters and automatic drinks dispensers they had found among the rubble of Ancient settlements.  Slowly, cultures arose which did not just worship the old machines, but tried to make them work again.  The Blue Metal Culture, the Electric Empire with their earthenware batteries and strange electro-magnetic helixes, and the mysterious Pyramid Builders of the High Arctic were among them, but all were eventually swept away by natural disasters (the frequent Ice Ages of the period 10,000 to 3,000 BT), or by the rise of the Nomad Empires, rowdy hordes of barbarians who used whatever technologies they could find or steal in their endless wars with one another.  They built armies of 'Stalkers' or 'Resurrected Men', and their mobile battle-platforms and 'traction fortresses' have been seen as the fore-runners of the Traction Cities we live upon today. One of these Nomad Empires was the Scriven, a mutant race from the high north, famous for their speckled skin and spectacular cruelty.  As their numbers dwindled and the climate grew cooler they were gradually driven south and east out of their old strongholds in Siberia and found their way at last to London, a squalid trading-post in eastern Uk.  They conquered it easily, and ruled it for almost two hundred years.  They were eccentric and tyrannical, yet under their rule London began to thrive again.  Merchants and scholars were drawn to the city by the relics from the Ancient world which scavengers dug up in great quantities from the soil around it, and vast advances in knowledge and technological prowess were made.  The Scriven even set up the Order of Engineers, a fore-runner of our present-day Guild of Engineers, to study and re-use the things they found.  But the Scriven line was growing weak, and eventually they were overthrown in their turn during a bloody rebellion led by the self-styled 'Skinners Guilds'.  There then followed a brief period of independence for the city, before new nomad conquerors swept in from the north.  These new arrivals called themselves the Movement, and their arrival marks the beginning of a new age; the Traction Era.  For they were led by the genius who would transform our city, the immortal First Helmsman Nikolas Quirke.

    When the notion of Traction Cities first came to him, none now can say.  Some legends that as a young man travelling aboard his nomad Traction Fortress he was visited by a dream in which he saw an entire city moving across the face of the earth.  Others claim that the idea had first been conceived by the last of London's Scriven rulers, Auric Godshawk, and that Quirke merely inherited it, but few people nowadays believe that.  Whatever the origin of the plan, Londoners soon came to see its wisdom - especially when it was pointed out to them that a mobile London need not just flee its enemies; it could conquer them, and use their raw materials to make itself larger, stronger and faster-moving!

    Over the following few years the city was torn down and rebuilt in the form of a gigantic vehicle, based on the linked and extended chassis of the Movement's Traction Fortresses.  These were dangerous times, for while all Quirke's energy and resources were employed in the rebuilding of the city his nomad rivals in the north hatched plots and alliances to overthrow him and take the city's riches for their own.  The most serious of these crises was the Northern War, in which many rival bands of nomads joined together and drove south to attack London with Stalkers, armoured mammoths and their own traction fortresses.  But Quirke's genius defeated and obliterated them, and London moved north to devour their former strongholds.

    Today's Londoners would scarcely recognise the city on which their ancestors first set forth.  Far smaller than modern London, it rolled on wheels instead of tracks, it had no jaws yet, and its three tiers were protected with armour and ringed with cannon and catapults.  It looked more like a giant-sized version of the nomads traction fortresses than a city.  But in the hundred years that followed it was to eat most of the richer settlements in Uk, and the raw materials it took from them were used to expand the base-plate, construct the first tracks and add a further four tiers were added to the city, bringing the total to the seven on which Londoners live today.  Also at this time we see the beginnings of the Guild system, with the groups responsible for each aspect of London's movements clubbing together to protect their own interests and educate their children in their own fields of expertise.  All the Guilds met together in council to decide on the city's future course and likely meals.  The Navigators who were responsible for steering it, and the Merchants who helped fund it quickly came to dominate the council.  Historians, while lacking political power, were greatly respected, for they had already begun to create the London Museum, one of the greatest centres of learning about the past since the fall of the Ancient world, and the means by which many Old-Tech devices have been rediscovered, and restored to every day use.
    (It is interesting to note that London's engineers had very little power at that time.  Despite the fact that it was their skills which kept London moving, they were divided into small groups; the Designers, Axle-Strengtheners, Wheelwrights, Cog-Cutters, Power-Teams, Duct-Managers etc, etc.  It would still be several more centuries before they achieved the dominion over London affairs which they presently enjoy.

     

    4: The ‘Traction Boom’

    As London increased its size and speed, and started to look hungrily at larger settlements on the far side of the old North Sea, other cities began to copy its lead, either in order to escape London's jaws, or in the hope of emulating its success.

    At first Londoners were indignant at what they saw as this poaching of their great idea.  But Quirke-ite thinkers it thus.  The Great Quirke, they said, has brought about a new phase of history.  From this time on all civilised people will wish to live aboard towns which move.  Those that are strong and swift will eat up those which are slow and weak.  And in this way the affairs of men will come into harmony with the natural world, where the fittest survive.  The theories of the Ancient philosopher Chas Darwin had recently been re-discovered in the library of one of the towns London had eaten, and the new system was quickly labelled Municipal Darwinism.

    There then followed the period known to vulgar people as the 'Traction Boom', during which cities and settlements of every size were compelled to 'go mobile', or to face being eaten up by others which had.  Some added tracks like London's, other experimented with inflatable wheels, systems of rails, or even, in the case of the short-lived Pogo-city of Borsanski Novi, some large springs.  Others, meanwhile, rebuilt themselves as rafts and took to the seas.  Some, like Airhaven and Kipperhawk, became airborne, taking advantage of developments in aviation.  Even the mountains can now be gnawed asunder by specialised mining towns in search of ore.  Even the icy polar wastes are traversed by cities, and the floors of the oceans have become the hunting grounds of submarine towns like Pacifica.  Can it be long before Airhaven is joined in the sky by hunting cities, perhaps ones capable of ascending to the very fringes of space?  The Ancients, as anyone who has looked up at the night sky will know, built homes and observatories in orbit.  It is not inconceivable that cities may one day evolve to hunt there, too.  Like life, our cities adapt to exploit every environment. As Municipal Darwinism spread, the static cultures soon began to wither away.  Today they survive only in mountainous regions, such as Shan Guo, where the warrior-monk Batmunkh founded his Anti-Traction League.  In Africa the degraded remnants of the Spring Cultures still protect their heartlands against mobile towns, but even with the League's help their territories grow smaller every year.  Despite such League atrocities as the sinking of Marseilles, most people believe firmly that moving cities are the future, and that Municipal Darwinism will triumph.  Indeed, most city people nowadays imagine that it is barbarous and even unhealthy to set foot upon the bare earth.  In years to come, the only thing left of the old way of life will be a few precious relics, preserved in places like our London Museum.

  • Fever Crumb – unpublished exerpt

    There had been some consternation inside the vast metal head when Dr Crumb first brought Fever home in her basket. The Order had only been living there for a few weeks when it happened; most of the rooms were still only separated by canvas partitions, and the sound of the child’s crying could be heard in all of them. One by one the members of the Order had looked up from their work, and frowned, and listened, and then gone stumping up the ladders and the rickety wooden stairways, homing in on the source of the noise. Soon there was quite a crowd of them gathered in Dr Crumb’s work-space, jostling for a view of the tiny stranger who lay kicking and squealing in an open drawer of his plan-chest.

    The world of Fever Crumb

    At last even Dr Stayling, the Chief Engineer, left his big office behind Godshawk’s right eye and came to investigate. The Order shuffled aside to let him into Crumb’s quarters and give him a clear view of the newcomer. Their heads turned slowly from Fever’s face to his as they waited to see how he would react to the little intruder. Some of them – the ones who had been at the old Engineerium on the night when the Explosive Research Laboratory finally lived up to its name – had seen Dr Stayling look shocked before, but for most it was a new and fascinating sight. His wiry eyebrows rose, his mouth opened and shut, his face turned pale and the smooth dome of his shaven head blushed pink. He raised a hand to point to the open drawer.

    “Dr Crumb,” he said weakly, “what is that?”

    “It is a baby, Chief Engineer.”

    “I can see that Dr Crumb. I can see that all too clearly.”

    Dr Crumb shuffled awkwardly. He felt most uncomfortable with all those inquisitive eyes turned upon him. He said, “I found her abandoned in the Brick Marsh, Chief Engineer. It seemed irrational to just leave her there to perish.”

    “But why bring it here?”

    “I did not know where else to take her,” said Dr Crumb.

    Dr Stayling came across the silent room and peered thoughtfully into the baby’s face. It was a great many years since he had looked at a baby. He had forgotten how very small they were. Behind him, some of his bolder Engineers clustered closer, peeking over his shoulders to get a look at the little refugee.

    “Her name is Fever,” ventured Dr Crumb. “It was written on a label.”

    “What ridiculous name!” cried Dr Rinsey Tootle.

    “Oh, London women often name their children after whatever ailments afflict them during pregnancy,” said Dr Stayling loftily. “I have known of people named ‘Bellyache’, ‘Nausea’, even ‘Incontinence’.”

    “I can vouch for that,” agreed Dr Craving-For-Pickled-Onions McNee, rather ruefully.

    “Weargh!” complained Fever loudly, as if the debate bored her.

    “How old do you think it is?” asked Dr Griffin Whyre.

    “I imagine it is new-born,” said Dr Isbister. “I expect some unreasonable woman abandoned it.”

    “Oh, she is not new-born,” blurted an elderly engineer named Crispin Collihole. He reddened slightly as the rest all turned to stare at him, but went on, “She is far too big, and the eyes of new-born babies are always a cloudy shade of blue. They do not turn colour until the infant is a few weeks old. I should think that this baby is at least three months old. I remember when my younger brothers and sisters were born, you see,” he added hastily, in case his fellow Engineers wondered where his arcane knowledge sprang from.

    “Perhaps she is hungry,” he suggested. “You notice the fretful way that she keeps grizzling? I think she is telling us that she is hungry.”

    The Engineers’ attention focused on the child again, considering this new hypothesis.

    “We should give it some food,” suggested Dr Isbister.

    “But what do babies eat?” asked Dr Whyre.

    “Milk,” said Dr Stayling. “At least, I gather… Their mothers produce milk for them.”

    The Engineers blanched, and looked worriedly at one another in the half-light. How on earth were they to come by human milk? (Women were not permitted in the Head, since they were distracting, and incapable of scientific thought.)

    “That settles it then,” said Dr Whyre, sounding deeply relieved. “The child must be taken away. Into the city somewhere. The New Council must have procedures for such things. I’m sure a woman can be found who will, ah, cope with it.”

    “If you please, sir,” said Dr Crumb, “the child would be in danger in the city. The commons are superstitious, irrational and violent people. It is only a short time since the riots. Bagman Creech and his Skinners’ Guilds are still on the prowl. A child like this one, with her unusual eyes, might be thought to be a mutation. She has already been injured; look…” And he lifted the baby’s head to show them a recent scar, healed, but still red and angry-looking, at the base of her skull.

    “Well, it is not our fault that the commons are brutish and murderous,” said Dr Whyre.

    “And it is not as though there are too few babies in London,” agreed Dr Stayling. “Whether this one lives or dies is a matter of no importance.”

    But none of the men in the hall made any attempt to take the child away from Dr Crumb, or to carry her out into the streets. They all remembered too well the horrible things they had seen during the riots. So they stood and watched Fever, wincing slightly as her cries grew louder and harsher.

    “Sir?” said Dr Crumb, after a while, glancing hopefully at the Chief Engineer. “I think that with a child of this age, a little cow’s milk might not go amiss. And perhaps some mashed vegetables.”

    The others looked at Dr Stayling. He nodded slowly. “Very well, Crumb. You may attempt to feed the child. It can remain here until the present unrest is settled. But please stop it making that noise.”

    * * *

    Dr Crumb fed the baby watered down milk with a laboratory pipette, and she grew quiet at once. The other Engineers nodded approvingly, and began to drift away, back to their own quarters and their own experiments. Dr Collihole stayed behind, showing Dr Crumb how to hold Fever on his shoulder and pat her back until a startlingly loud belch erupted from her, along with a gloop of half-digested milk, which made a long, yellowish stain down the back of his coat. Then Dr Crumb fashioned a clean nappy out of some blotting paper and two bulldog clips, and laid her back in her drawer, with a clean blanket over her.

    Fever Crumb - book cover

    He stood and watched her, exhausted. At least she had stopped crying. She gurgled, and kicked her blanket off.

    “Why does she not go to sleep?” asked Dr Crumb. “You told me they go to sleep once they’ve been fed.”

    “Perhaps you should sing to her,” suggested Collihole.

    “Sing?” cried Dr Crumb. “I do not know any songs. Can’t you sing to her?”

    “She’s your baby.”

    “She is not my baby!” said Dr Crumb sharply. He was remembering how his own mother used to sing to him, when he was just a little boy, lying in his cot in the damp old bedroom of the farm at Slugg’s Pottage. It had had a calming, reassuring effect, as he recalled. Perhaps it would be the thing to lull a child to sleep. But he was certainly not going to start singing! What would the others think of him?

    He pulled up a chair and sat leaning forward so that his face was directly above the face of the baby in the drawer. She laughed and gazed up at him, as if he were the moon. In the softest voice he could manage he began to recite the periodic table of chemical elements. “Hydrogen, Lithium, Sodium, Potassium, Rubidium…”

    By the time he reached Zirconium the baby’s strange eyes were half closed. A few more elements and she was asleep. Dr Collihole tiptoed out, smiling to himself as he returned to his own laboratory at the top of the Head. But Dr Crumb kept up his recitation, taking pleasure both in the calm certainty of the names and the child’s soft breathing.

    * * *

    In the following weeks, every Engineer in Godshawk’s Head found an excuse to invade Dr Crumb’s privacy, poking their heads round his door to ask how he was doing, or whether there was anything they might help with, when really all they wanted was another look at the baby asleep in his bottom drawer. No one would ever admit it, but they had all been shaken and upset at being driven out of the old Engineerium and forced to take up residence in this draughty Head. Baby Fever was helping to unite them, and making them begin to feel at home. Dr Jones arrived with a tub of talcum powder, ‘to sprinkle on the infant’s bum, Crumb, when you change her whatchamacallits’. Dr Isbister, the Order’s librarian, googled through all his medical books for hints on childcare. Even peppery old Griffin Whyre turned up one morning bearing a mobile he had made by stringing together a lot of cardboard cut-out shapes. Squares, triangles, hexagons. “If you insist on keeping her here,” he grumbled, “you might as well give her some grounding in the basic principles of geometry.” He hung the thing up over the open drawer. “There. She’ll see it when she wakes.”.

    Dr Crumb was afraid she would wake at any moment, for Whyre made no attempt to whisper, but Fever slept calmly through it, and did not even stir when he slammed the door firmly behind him on the way out. Dr Crumb sat and watched the mobile spin slowly in the glow from his dusty windows. Give her an insight into some basic principles, he thought. Well why not? Most of the Guild’s apprentices arrived at the age of fourteen, their heads stuffed with superstitious nonsense by their parents. It often took years to rid them of their attachment to their family and their belief in non-existent gods like Poskitt and Mama Cellulite and the Thin White Duke. Might it not be better for the Guild to take children in as infants, so that they could be taught from the very start that there were no gods, no ghosts, no need for emotions? Why, if this child was brought up by Engineers, what an Engineer she might she become!

    As if she knew what he was planning for her, Fever woke and started crying with a series of coughing sounds like a small engine turning over on a frosty morning. Dr Crumb lifted her from her drawer and, after a moment of not knowing what to do, he cuddled her close and said, “There, there, small human being. All is well. All is well.”

  • Who's Who in the Traction Era

    (By Mrs E.P.Hive-Peril)

    NIMROD BEAUREGARD PENNYROYAL

    Explorer, Historian, Heartthrob, Hero

    On March 2nd, 957, at the height of a violent storm, a minor actress named Tilly Pennyroyal gave birth to a baby boy in a hamper behind the scenes of Brighton's Marlborough Theatre.  Who the child's father was, history does not record.  Miss Pennyroyal was known to have been friendly with an itinerant unicyclist and novelty turnip-whittler who had appeared at the Marlborough the previous season under the name of 'The Great Stupendo', but she always hinted that her little boy was of nobler blood, perhaps the son of some rich admirer from Cittamotore or Trieste.

    Ms Pennyroyal worked hard to support the boy, and although they lived in humble one-room lodgings above a laundry in White Orc, she saved enough to send him to the best schools in Brighton.  However, the young Nimrod was expelled from each one in turn, for laziness, copying another boy's work, theft, and misbehaviour with the under-matron.  By the age of sixteen there was no reputable school aboard the city which would take him, and since he had no qualifications and no skills there was nothing for it but to work in the theatre.

    Of Nimrod's brief career as an actor we have few records (some unkind biographers suggest that he destroyed all copies of the reviews himself).  However, his performance as the King of Tring in EB Golightly's London Dawn was described by the Brighton Evening Palimpsest as 'ghastly' and the production of Frances Thinge's Attraction and Anti-Traction in which he played the juvenile lead set a new record for the city by closing after less than one performance.  Unable to find another part, Pennyroyal turned to writing, and throughout his twenties he supported himself and his ageing mother by penning a series of poorly-received plays and off-colour variety-hall sketches.

    Then, in 987, soon after the death of his beloved mother, Pennyroyal vanished.  Some people imagined that he had thrown himself, grief-stricken and penniless, into the sea.  A few of his friends went so far as to hold a memorial service.  But in the spring of 989 he returned, announcing that he had been travelling in the South American continent, where he had had a series of remarkable adventures.  These he wrote down in the first of his best-selling books; Ziggurat Cities of the Serpent God, (Fewmet & Spraint, 989)  (Reports that a man answering to Pennyroyal's description had been living aboard the city of Barcelona with an exotic juggler named Concepción Zipsky were dismissed as jealous rumours invented by less successful writers).

    Over the next few years Pennyroyal made several more journeys, and became known as a controversial historian as well as a daring explorer. His book on Ancient refuse sites, Rubbish?  Rubbish! (Fewmet & Spraint, 1002) still divides historians, and his account of discovering a green enclave on the Dead Continent has never been conclusively disproved.

    Nowadays, Nimrod Pennyroyal is often to be seen at the most fashionable parties, aboard the most fashionable cities, and his name has been linked romantically with some of the most beautiful and sophisticated women of the age, including Minty Bapsnack, the Von Neumann twins, Lady Cressida Flute-Murk and the Parisian track-plate heiress Ryvita Baum.  His application for membership of London's Guild of Historians was rejected, but he has acquired a Master's Degree from the University of Cittamotore (in exchange for a generous donation) and now styles himself Professor Pennyroyal.  We understand that he is currently preparing an expedition to the frozen north, where he plans to write a book about the mysterious origins of the Tannhauser volcanoes, working title, Kaboom!...

     

    MR SHRIKE

    The Stalker's Stalker

    The world of Fever Crumb

    When was he quickened?  We do not know.  Who Resurrected him?  We cannot say.  Why did he out-last all the other Stalkers of his age?
    No one can tell.

    The Stalker Shrike is a difficult subject for a biography, but at all the great turning points in the history of the Traction Era, Shrike was present. It is generally believed that Shrike was one of the Lazarus Brigade, an army of Stalkers built by the Movement, one of the fiercest of the Nomad Empires.  In all probability he was made from the body of a dead soldier taken from one of their battlefields.  He certainly fought during all the major battles of the Northern War, during which the Movement, having settled in London and begun turning it into a Traction City, had to struggle against rival powers for fuel and raw materials.  At some point, however, he must have developed a form of self-awareness, and it drove him to leave his masters' army and become a loner.

    Rogue Stalkers of this type were not unknown.  Usually they destroyed themselves, or became unable to fight, but Shrike was different.  It is possible that the Resurrection technology used to quicken him was of an experimental type, or perhaps a relic taken from one of the legendary Memory Tombs of the mysterious high-arctic Pyramid Builders.  There is a rumour that the surgeon-mechanic who constructed him was the legendary Wavey Godshawk, a Scriven mutant who may have had reasons of her own for making him as he was.  At any rate, Shrike's growing individuality only seems to have made him fiercer, more ruthless and more determined to survive.  Throughout the final years of the Nomad Empires he drifts in and out of the records, acting as a mercenary for one side or another.  At the very end of that era we find him commanding the rusty Stalker platoons which the nomads fielded to try and defeat the newly mobile city of London.  The rest of their Stalkers were all crushed and obliterated under London's tracks, but Shrike somehow escaped.

    In the centuries that followed, the rise of Municipal Darwinism put an end to formal wars.  Apparently motivated by the simple love of killing, Shrike found employment as an executioner aboard Paris, where criminals still revere him as a sort of dark god.  Later, he became an assassin in the pay of the Mayor of Kutsoi, but when the mayor ordered him to murder the young children of a political opponent, Shrike refused and killed the mayor instead, before fleeing into the out-country, where he became a vicious and much-feared bounty-hunter.

    This was the first sign of an odd weakness in the old Stalker.  When the traveller Chung-Mai Spofforth spoke to him in 923TE during the writing of her book In Search Of The Stalkers (Peripatetiapolis University Press, 926) he remembered several occasions when he had spared or protected children for reasons that he could not (or, at any rate, did not) explain.  Many years later he would rescue and protect a disfigured waif named Hester Shaw, who lived with him for several years aboard the scavenger-platform of Strole.  When she disappeared, Shrike followed her, and at that point he seems to drop out of history.

    Some rumours claim that he entered the service of Magnus Crome, the last Lord Mayor of London.  Others say that he was destroyed by a hero named Tomasz or Tao-ma on an anti-tractionist island in the Sea of Khazak, (although this seems highly unlikely).  Whatever the truth may be, Stalkerologists are agreed on one thing. Shrike will return!

     

    ORLA TWOMBLEY

    Freelance Air-Ace

    The world of Fever Crumb

    Born aboard the Raft City of Dun Laoghaire in 990 TE, Orla's first memory was of standing on the observation decks at her city's stern to watch daredevil airships perform acrobatics over the sea.  The lives of the men and women who flew them seemed to Orla far more romantic than the one which fate seemed to have mapped out for her, as heir to her father's roll-mop herring fortune.  When she was sixteen she argued with her parents over their plans to have her forcibly married to a pilchard magnate.  Sneaking out of the family home late one winter's night she made her way to the air-harbour and fled fishy Dun Laoghaire for ever aboard the air-freighter Saltimbanco.

    In the years that followed, Orla learned the trade of an aviatrix, serving aboard several different merchant ships before becoming captain of the tea-clipper Cygnet Committee during the first years of the Green Storm's war against the cities.  Soon after that the first heavier-than-air flying machines began to appear, and naturally Orla's interest was aroused.  She purchased a MkI Luperini Sea-Eagle, which she kept tethered under the envelope of the Cygnet Committee and taught herself to pilot in her spare time.  Her investment paid off when Green Storm airships attacked the Cygnet Committee over Perfume Harbour and she was able to board her flying machine and destroy the whole squadron.  Using the reward which her ship's grateful owners gave her, she bought herself out of the air trade and joined the Junkyard Angels, the first of the mercenary air-forces which were springing up at that time, offering their services to cities eager to defend themselves against the Storm's air-fleets and tumbler-bombs.

    Orla flew with the Angels until 1021, and was responsible for shooting down three Green Storm air destroyers at the Battle of the Bay of Bengal in August 1019.  Her flying machine, the Combat Wombat, became one of the most famous in the air, and many is the schoolboy who has spent a happy weekend constructing a scale model of it from balsa wood and string.

    Whether she split with the Junkyard Angels because she felt they were not paying her enough, or because she had had an unhappy romance with their leader, Spats McFarlane (as suggested in the play Wings of Passion by Okement Frail) is unclear.  However, in the autumn of 1022 she placed an advertisement in the Aviator's Gazette announcing the formation of her own air force, the now legendary Flying Ferrets.  Many of the bravest and most foolhardy aviators of the day soon flocked to the Ferrets' banner, and over the course of the next few years they became famous for their daring aerobatics and wild parties as well as for the many spectacular victories they scored over the Green Storm's air fleets.

     

    THADDEUS VALENTINE

    Adventurer

    The world of Fever Crumb

    When we look back at the glorious history of Municipal Darwinism, Thaddeus Valentine stands out as one of its greatest heroes.  A daring explorer, an important historian, a loving father, the author of many entertaining books, a brave intelligence agent for his adopted city of London... Valentine was all these things and more.  Suggestions that he was responsible for several unsolved murders, and that he was the father of an unpleasant person named Hester Shaw, are mere tittle-tattle, peddled by second-rate writers.

    Born Tadeusz Wallenstein aboard the scavenger village of Gröwli sometime around 969, Valentine spent his childhood moving from one small town to another aboard his father's airship, the Brockenspectre.  But the Wallensteins were not a close family, and young Tadeusz was frustrated by his father's meagre ambitions.  In later years he would write, "My Father was quite content to dig up scraps of rusty circuitry from the out-country mud and sell them on to smelters or traders for the price of a drink.  Never once did he stop to ponder what sort of world these relics had come from, nor what could be learned by studying them.  Of course, I was as ignorant as him, but unlike him, I knew that I was ignorant, and I longed to learn."

    Tadeusz got his chance in 975, when the city of Oxford bogged down in the Caledonian frost-marches and the Brockenspectre (along with half the other scavenger airships in the sky) sped north to loot it.  Whilst his family squabbled with rival looters over the contents of houses and engine-rooms, Tadeusz found his way into the labyrinthine book-stacks of the ancient Bodleian Library, where volumes from every era of man's history were stored.  Having won the trust of the surly and dangerous Librarians, he was soon called upon by other, more enlightened scavengers, who hoped to secure certain precious texts for themselves.  Among them was a party from the Historian's Guild of London.  So impressed were they by the help he gave them that their leader, Chudleigh Pomeroy, offered him a position at the London Museum.

    Abandoning his family, Tadeusz flew back to London with his new friends. In London, the young man's true potential was to be realised.  He learned quickly, and was soon a full member of the Guild of Historians, changing his name to the more Londonish Thaddeus Valentine.  His experiences as a scavenger, however, had left him with a much better grasp of the practical business of archaeology than most of his new colleagues.  He began making long and dangerous journeys in search of Old-Tech relics, which he wrote about in a series of best-selling books (Adventures of A Practical Historian, Across the Dead Continent with Gun and Camera, Further Adventures of a Practical Historian, etc.)  His airship, the 13th Floor Elevator, became famous, as did her crew; the reformed air-pirates Pewsey and Gench, and Valentine's beautiful co-pilot Pandora Rae, with whom, despite her notorious anti-Tractionist sympathies, Valentine was rumoured to be in love.

    At some point, Valentine's skills came to the attention of Magnus Crome, the up-and-coming leader of the Guild of Engineers.  The long and unlikely friendship between these two quite different men were to lead to many important developments in technology, as Old-tech fragments unearthed by Valentine were back-engineered by Crome's technicians.  It was on Crome's orders that Valentine made his famous expeditions to America, during which he fell in love with Nuria Zinadan, High Priestess of Clio on the raft city of Puerto Angeles.  Their affair led to the end of his long relationship with Ms Rae, but it was short-lived, since Nuria would not leave her city, and Valentine could not bring himself to give up his career in London.  After they parted Nuria gave birth to a daughter, Katherine, who would later be sent to live with her Father in London.

    By then, Crome was Lord Mayor, and it was at his behest that Valentine was appointed Head Historian in 998 BT.  This was a controversial decision, since there were many Historians senior to Valentine who had hoped for the job themselves.  It was widely rumoured that Valentine served Crome not just as a Historian but as an intelligence agent, and even an assassin.  However, despite this rift with his fellow Historians, Valentine retained his popularity with the London public.  If anything, the rumours of a shadowy double-life only made him more attractive.

    He moved into the Head Historian's official residence in Circle Park, where he lived with his daughter, and continued to serve the city loyally, flying to the Ice Wastes and Nuevo Maya in search of Old Tech and adventure.  In 1007, when London made its fateful push east towards the Anti-Traction League's fortress at Batmunkh Gompa, it was Valentine who flew ahead to spy out the route...