The History of Lawrence Asper
Captain Lawrence Horatio Asper was born on ISD 543 to Lord Roger Asper, Earl of Reathings, and Lady Henrietta Avant-Conceur. His father has little notable to his name, serving a quiet and unremarkable as commander in the Imperial Army before being honourably discharged when he was injured in a training accident. The Earl then began serving as the Imperial Secretary of Agriculture in the North-Western Heartlands, a position he held until his death.
Much more of note can be said of his wife, Henrietta Avant-Conceur, who, in her youth, showed great interest and skill in legal circles. Despite being turned away from every school of law in the nation, Lady Avant-Conceur managed to pass the exams necessary to receive qualifications as a legal advisor, a title which would allow her to defend clients at the discretion of the presiding judge. However, due to her nature as a women, she was refused by every judge until the infamous Johan Bering v. The Throne case of ISD 537. In that case Johan Bering, an immigrant from the east, had been accused of murdering Lord John Summerfeld. Given the immensity of the public outrage, no lawyer offered their services to Mr. Bering, save for Lady Avant-Conceur. The judge relented, and granted Lady Avant-Conceur the right to defend Mr. Bering. After an intense, three-day trial, Mr. Bering was convicted of murder and executed.
This reckless defense of a murder in such a high-profile case brought a veritable wave of disdain and anger against Lady Avant-Conceur. Therefore, in order to appease the new Lord Summerfeld and prevent further embarrassment to the family name, Lady Avant-Conceur was arranged to marry Roger Asper. Lady Avant-Conceur conceded surprising easily to this arrangement, and did not enter the limelight of public affairs again. This sudden and surprising disappearance had a muting effect on those who had grievances against her conduct. It was generally held that Roger Asper had tamed her and turned her into a proper lady (Asper himself denied this and instead claimed that the opposite had happened, that she had tamed him).
Captain Asper also had an elder brother, Arthur Philip Asper, who was 4 years his senior. Arthur would succeed his father as the Earl of Reathings.
Accounts of Lawrence Asper from his childhood seemed in no way to predict his future success, with his tutor considering him, "intelligent and sometimes rather imaginative, but overall lacking any significant charm or ambition as befits the children of nobility... and therefore, though likely to be a fine upstanding gentleman, Lawrence Asper is considered unlikely to achieve significant feats..." This is assessment, though it clearly turned out to be false, is corroborated by other sources at the time which described Lawrence Asper as being generally unwilling to apply himself to any worthwhile cause.
Lawrence's tutor, a Mr. Beechwood, is notable in that he had significant aspirations for his pupil. Mr. Beechwood had specifically offered his services to the Aspers for a fee significantly below his otherwise expensive rate, an action which many saw as perplexingly odd for a man of his ambition. However, this excerpt from the letter in which he offered his services provides a perspective on his motives:
"...you might have question as to my motive, for, as I have conveyed, I would appear to be ending a productive and profitable employment with a household of far greater significance in order to offer my services to teach the son of an Earl. It would be a fool indeed who did not wonder at such circumstances. However, I hope you will allow me to lay your mind at rest on the matter, by conveying to you a story.
Ten years ago, in the summer of 537, I was witness to an act of greatness. A man, vilified for his terrible acts against a lord of the realm, was to be put on trial with no defence. Guilty though he may have been, that is cowardice. However, not all were cowardly. Indeed, it was your future wife who showed the courage necessary to stand on principle and defend the man, though knowing his guilt and knowing the anger that would be directed at her. I was in the court room for those three days, and I must confess that I was astonished by the skill and vitality with which the Lady conducted herself. Indeed, had she not been born a women, I do believe she would have been a statesman to have gone down in history. It was a tragedy that her talents had been wasted on women, or so I believed at the time. I have since come to realize that her fated purpose was not to be a statesman, but rather to birth one. I believe that your son is destined to change the course of history, and I think that I am capable of instructing him to such greatness."
Given this motive, Mr. Beechwood was understandably disappointed when, after nearly a decade of tutelage his pupil remained uninterested in the destiny that lay before him. Therefore, on Lawrence's 15th birthday, Mr. Beechwood announced his resignation.
The loss of his tutor does not seem to have greatly wounded the boy, but the effect on his life was undoubtedly significant. Because of his continued need for an education, and his father's hope that he might become interested in something, the young Lawrence was sent to study at the Imperial Military Officers Academy. His time there overlapped with that of Mr. Eric Calther, who would eventually serve on the Valerius, however there is no record of the two ever meeting or being aware of the other.
Lawrence's time at the Academy seems to have been good, with one report declaring him to have "a deep, if somewhat sedate interest in the sciences" and engineering. This prompted him, upon graduation from the Academy's primary school, to attend Imperial College East to study Naval Engineering. This seems to have been where Lawrence Asper found his passion for engineering, and possibly when he began considering the possibility of a ship like the Valerius. He graduated from the college in the class of ISD 565, and began his somewhat brief career in the Imperial Navy.
Lawrence first served as the Engineering Officer on the battleship HMS Fellstar. His conduct on the Fellstar was largely unreported, with there being only one mention of his name by the captain in his three years of services. That comment was as follows:
"...being quite distinct from another officer I have thus far neglected to mention in my reports, Lt. Lawrence Asper. Lt. Asper's command of the engineers on board the Fellstar has been so uneventful that I have often completely forgotten that such people are needed. Never before have I come across another officer who so readily and effectively performs his duties with so little fuss. Truly, if his name be never more mentioned in my reports, take that as a sign that his service is so exceptional as to be not noteworthy."
It was onboard the Fellstar that Asper first became acquainted with his future first mate, Eric Calther. Although contemporary accounts of their relationship at the time are non-existent, Asper dis later mention in his journal that it was during their time on the Fellstar that the two developed a healthy respect for the other. Whether "respect" in this instance can be translated into "friendship" is uncertain, but what is known is that the effect on both men was great enough that years later, Asper would offer the position of first mate to Calther, which he would immediately accept.
After the outbreak of the Rekkjav war, the Fellstar became embroiled in a minor skirmish near the Cape of Catherine and suffered heavy damage as a result. Due to the damage, as well as a severe shortage of experienced naval crew in the fleet, the crew of the Fellstar were transferred to posts elsewhere. Asper, according to fleet records, was transferred a total of nine times during the two year war, with every one of the ships he served on being either sunk, damaged, or captured.
Following the end of the war, Asper was discharged from the navy, and appears to have taken up residency with his family in Reathings. For the next decade, the exact whereabouts and affairs of Lawrence Asper are a mystery. However, a few things are known.
Firstly, he hired fourteen engineers who had been discharged from the military after the end of the war.
Secondly, he purchased significant quantities of various metals, clothes, and other materials, which it can be assumed were used for constructing the Valerius.
Thirdly, in ISD 579 he filled a patent for a flying ship carried beneath a balloon, a patent he was denied because he could not prove that such a thing was possible.
It wasn't until ISD 582 that it can be said for certain what it was that Lawrence Asper was up to. In ISD 582 he again filled for a patent for a flying ship carried beneath a balloon, this time with a claim that he had a working example. An inspector from the patent office went to investigate the claim.
"I must admit myself skeptical of the claim. It was not the first investigation of a claim of flight that I had conducted, and I had no reason to believe that this occasion would be in any way different to those previous... the taxi was approaching the compound where I understood Mr. Asper to be conducting his research, when I heard a shout. Looking out of the window, I could see no one… to my wondering eyes, I saw a large vessel, suspended under a balloon, passing directly over my head. One of its crew was waving and hollering at me, and, in my excitement, I waved and hollered back."
The patent was of course given, after which Mr. Asper publicly announced his plan to use the Valerius to cross The Cascade, the mountain range to the North-West that was thought to be impassable. A brief frenzy in the press ensued, but was quickly drowned out by the threat of war with the Kingdom of Vollounce and their allies. It was also around this time that Mr. Asper offered the position of first mate aboard the Valerius to Mr. Calther.
Though the populace may not have noticed the innovation that Captain Asper had achieved, the Imperial Army certainly did. For the next several years, as Captain Asper prepared for his proposed voyage across The Cascade, the military mounted significant pressure on him to turn over the secrets of the Valerius's ability to fly. Captain Asper never relented, however. Likely drawing upon his mother's extensive legal background, Captain Asper made heavy use of trade secrets laws and other protections that the competing military factions themselves relied upon. Because of this, the military backed down. However, they did secure the right to appoint a government official to oversee the voyage. To fill this role, they chose Envoy Rory Jennings, a diplomat of low birth who displayed an exceptional loyalty to the military and a keen ability to uncover secrets.
That is the history of Captain Lawrence Asper from the time of his birth to the time of his historic voyage. We shall next turn our attentions to the much-mentioned Mr. Eric Calther.