Background: Archimedes of Syracuse, per the orders of General Marcellus, is not killed in 212 BC by a Roman legionary but is brought to Rome to walk in that general’s triumph the following year. Paroled, he spends the last five years of his life in an insula in the Suburra, successfully completing his notes on his invention of calculus.
Those notes, and the others recovered from his workshop in Syracuse, are used by Roman civil and military engineers over the next two hundred years to accelerate the growth and stability of the Late Republic’s provinces. By the time of Octavian’s monarchy, Germania had been a province for one generation and Parthia for two.
Around 50 BC, the observer of natural phenomenon, Varro, formerly Pompey’s biographer, invents a primitive steam engine for use in mines and agriculture. Circa 10 AD, Hero of Alexandria creates a cooling jacket that improves the efficiency of Varro’s engine by several orders of magnitude. The Roman Empire enters the Steam Age.
Story: (c. 100 AD) Marcus Quinctilius Justus Varus Pius, Justus to his co-workers, is a mid-level clerk in the Licinius SA international trading firm. Besides his day-to-day actuarial duties, he spends most of his time trying to not be reminded that he is the sole surviving family member of “the last general that lost a Roman Army,” his great-grandfather, some ninety years ago. However, because of his mother’s Parthian background and his knowledge of that language, he’s tapped as an assistant to a trade mission – sanctioned by the Emperor himself – to the far land of Sirica (what we call China). Roman and Serican traders meet all the time in India and the isle of Taprobane, but this was something different: find an over-land route where Roman engineers could build a road for trade. Or invasion.
After many adventures and close-calls, Justus and his party come to the borderlands of Serica. There, in the city of Liqian, they have their first shock: the citizens are the descendants of legionaries captured at the battles of Carrhae and Phraapsa and forcefully relocated to the Parthian NE frontier. After so many years, are you here to guide us home, they ask? Close on the heels of that, Justus quite by accident stumbles upon the Sirican’s greatest military secrets, and thus a chance to redeem his family’s name: the powder that explodes.
Just an idea I had. Thoughts? And what would you call this? Romepunk? Marblepunk?