The Agents Of The Crown
The Agents of the Crown
When Halley’s Comet passed close to the Earth in 1835 it was an event predicted and expected by a handful of noted sky-watchers around the world. It also represented a moment of cosmic significance to a number of weird cults operating in hiding in various far-flung corners of the world. One of those corners happened to be a dingy tenement in London’s Bainbridge Rookery, home to the Cult of Dagon Rising. These servants of Dagon saw Halley’s Comet as the harbinger of their god’s imminent return and attempted to siphon aetheric energy from the comet’s passing to sunder the barrier between his realm and that of the normal world.
Just as this ritual reached its climax, the cult’s hideout was stormed by a group of investigators hired by a wealthy politician with an interest in stamping out the activities of occult groups in London. The politician’s name was James Gascoyne-Cecil, the 2nd Marquess of Salisbury, the father of the former, and future Conservative Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, little did he know that the interference of his hirelings would set in motion events that would change the face of England and the world. With the ritual disrupted, and violence erupting all around them, the combatants barely noticed the growing cloud of aetheric energy gathering near the ceiling of the little room. In minutes the energy interacted with the powerful negative emanations generated by the savage combat in the tenement, causing it to grow more quickly and literally explode from the ramshackle building’s windows.
Many of the tenement’s occupants were killed by the powerful blast of spiritually charged cosmic energy, but a handful survived, including a number of cultists and investigators who had been at the nexus of the explosion’s fury. In the meantime the cloud of aetheric energy began to disperse and spread about the East End of London. Carried by strong early-winter breezes, the molecular particles of aetheric matter that comprised the cloud were breathed in by hundreds of Londoners. Mediums and sensitives from around the world felt the effects of the botched ritual, as mystic barriers were weakened or even sundered in a calamitous chain reaction that caused further pockets of aetheric energy to seep into the material world. These seepage points were scattered in a seemingly random pattern around the world. Wherever they occurred passersby would breathe the strange aetheric energy in before the clouds could fully disperse on the winds.
Breathing in aetheric energy had a profound effect on the bodies and minds of those humans and animals in close proximity to the clouds. Their body chemistry changed with the exposure, and some of them manifested strange effects, including, but not limited to, weird growths, tumours, blindness, respiratory ailments and numerous other maladies. A lucky few suffered no ill-effects, and fewer still manifested actual benefits. These individuals managed to display strange powers.
Over the ensuing decades even those individuals that did not demonstrate any special changes from exposure to the cloud of energy passed a supernatural birthright onto their offspring. Some of these children displayed powers similar to those that had manifested on the day of the incident, while others brought completely new abilities to the fore. Altough these manifestations were exceedingly rare, they occurred often enough to catch the attention of powerful individuals in both the government and the criminal underworld. These manifestations occurred mainly in London, as that had been the nexus of the aetheric cloud, but reports of children manifesting powers were recorded around the world, and the various agencies became interested in the potential value of these aether-men as they came to be called.
In 1837 during a secret session, Parliament voted to assign a special investigator to the case of these extraordinary new individuals. MP Quentin Walpole and others thought to use these extraordinary men and women in the service of Queen and country. Walpole and his staff spent a considerable amount of time tracking down the men and women who survived the blast in 1835, and in time would also seek out their children.
Meanwhile, England’s MPs began to quarrel about how best to use this resource. The arguments bogged down in committees and divided the Houses along party lines. It was clear that a mediator was needed.
Prince Albert’s Role
Members of Parliament and Royals alike knew that these ‘aether-men’ were a resource that could be harnessed for the good of the Empire. It was HRH Prince Consort Albert who seized the initiative at the urging of certain government ministers and in 1845 created the Royal Office of the Agents of the Crown, or the AotC as it came to be called by insiders. The popular but unerstated Albert’s intervention broke the Parliament stalemate and allowed for a neutral, third party to shape the destiny of the Agents.
Classically educated and regarded as a man of action and forward thinking, Prince Albert and his staff convinced a skeptical Queen Victoria that integrating these men (and women) of power into the workings of the British Empire was essential to her continued dominance in world affairs.
Once Queen Victoria fell in behind the plan, Prince Albert sent his personnel on several recruiting drives and brought in a half-dozen aether men. The first batch included a woman, a man of Chinese descent and several members of the lower classes. Thus from the beginning the aether-men would represent a true mixture of sex, race and class, for it was deemed early on that such conventions as racial and gender segregation were to be thrown out the window when dealing with subjects who possessed such wondrous powers.
After a year of recruitment and training the first official memebers of the Agents of the Crown, or Agents as they came to be called, were ready for action. Their numbers had swelled to eleven active Agents and ten more undergoing the rigourous training program developed by Albert and his staff. In 1847 a pair of Agents foiled an assassination attempt by Irish separatists on Conservative MP Benjamin Disraeli, a man previously bitterly opposed to the use of aether-men by any arm of the British government. After the Agents saved his life, he had a personal meeting with Prince Albert and the two came to mutual understanding on the value of the Agents, and more critically, on who should decide on how they should be used.
Heretofore Disraeli had argued that if used at all, the Agents should not be controlled by the Royals, but rather should be managed as a further branch of England’s military and answer directly to Parliament. After his rescue, Albert was able to convince Disraeli that the Agents of the Crown required the most agile leadership possible, one free of the endless debates that occurred in Parliament. The two did agree that Parliament would appoint an MP to act as a liason between it and the office of the Agents, just to keep them apprised of their current operations and perhaps more important in the eyes of some, to keep a handle on their somewhat swollen budget.
The untimely death of Prince Albert in 1861 threw the AotC into turmoil, with only the determination of his second oldest son, 17 year old Alfred, keeping the AotC active as an ongoing concern. However, Alfred’s commitments to the Royal Navy proved insurmountable in his running of the AotC and in 1868 after an unsuccessful attempt on his life in Australia, Alfred passed the actual running of the AotC on to his young aide Mycroft Holmes, with Alfred agreeing to stay on as a figurehead.
Over the ensuing years, Holmes set about quietly recruiting several new Agents, not all of whom had been affected by the events of 1835 and even managed to convince the then out of power William Ewart Gladstone to act as liason between the AotC and Parliament.
Mycroft in his various duties has used the AotC to help avert several emergencies of state, including the dismantling of the ‘late’ Professor James Moriarty’s criminal empire, by his younger brother Sherlock. With Sherlock being believed by the world to be dead until his reappearance in early 1894, Watson was not in on the charade.