9.4 The Elegance of a Raven

2 December, 2012 by katelaity

7.4 Out from the CliffsHelen looked over at Mme. Belcoeur with surprise. “Rivalry? With whom?”

“Why the other English airship, naturalmente,” the woman said, jotting down a few words in her tiny notebook.

“Here? In Paris?” Helen was nonplussed.

“We saw no one,” her father added. “Did they fly here too?”

Mme. Belcoeur shook her head. “They are assembling the craft near the Exposition grounds and they say they will challenge you to a race.”

“Challenge us!” Helen felt her competitive instinct rise to the bait. “We are ready for any challenge. More so when we have our new fuel in place.”

“New fuel?” Mme. Belcoeur had a nose for finding a story and it was quivering just then. Admittedly it made her look just a bit like a large poodle, but no less becoming for all that.

Helen waved away the questioning. “First tell me more about this challenge we have been issued. It has not been issued to me directly.”

“Is that true? They seemed to know you quite well.”

“They?” Helen’s eyes narrowed sharply. Tuppence hopped off her shoulder and bounded off the table to land on a small pear tree. She made a rather incongruous figure. Although she looked at the single tiny pear on it with interest, the raven did not try to eat it.

“Yes,” the journaliste looked through the pages of the small notebook until she located the information she sought. “A pair of brothers, I see. Their name is—”

“Linton,” Helen said grimly.

“Those horrid young men?” her father said with amused interest. “Didn’t their ship burn up in a terrible fire the last time they were foolish enough to cross your path?”

“Papa! Mme. will think that I had something to do with their ship being destroyed—surely it was destroyed, ne c’est pas?” She turned to the older woman who was consulting her notes.

“I can only guess,” she said reading carefully, a finger guiding her along the tiny pages and the miniscule script. “They have a brand new craft that they are building in a large meadow not far from the Exposition site.”

“Did they say what kind of motor they are using?”

“Motor?” Mme. pursed her lips as she squinted down the page. “I cannot be certain. I asked them about heights and airspeed—I hadn’t really thought about the motor, I’m afraid.”

“Ha!” Helen said and Tuppence seemed to echo her sentiments with a clacking series of sounds.

“Is it important?”

Helen’s father laughed. “Only if you want to avoid explosions.”

“Explosions?!” Mme. Belcoeur’s eyes brightened considerably. “How dreadful! Tell me everything.” She found a blank spot in her notebook and looked up expectantly.

“Ask the Lintons about the last time they faced my superior craft,” Helen said with a little toss of her head. “They will doubtless make excuses for the poor work and cry for luck or happenstance, but their conception was poor from the design to the crafting.”

“How is that so?”

“Ignorance,” Helen said, nearly spitting the word. “Add a healthy disregard of the nature of physics and simple gravity and you have a recipe for disaster. The essence of a superb aircraft is a delicate combination of great power and efficiency.”

“Hence your new fuel?”

“And my more thoughtful—and may I say, elegant—design.” Helen felt a righteous fury fuel her limbs. “You cannot overload the engine with needless resistance.”

“You need an aerodynamic design.” Her father nodded his head sagely. Never mind that he had only recently learned the term.

“You need to study the flight of birds and the design of their bodies. Look,” Helen held out her arm for Tuppence, who immediately flew over to perch upon it, making a few friendly sounds to her companion.

“Just watch out for the beak,” her father muttered.

“Papa, don’t be silly. Look at this raven. Now there’s elegance!”

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