1 December, 2013 by katelaity
In the meantime, the brothers meant to be aloft as soon as humanly possible. They swiftly put away the toolbox and made ready to fire up the engine. Israel still flinched a bit whenever the engine began to belch out smoke, but they had had many safe flights since the disastrous fire back in Yorkshire, so his brother could not understand it and simply grumbled under his breath.
“Keep a watch on our things,” Edgar said needlessly to the French crew on the ground assigned to keep an eye on the brothers’ site. The two of them began to guide the ship aloft as the engine chugged away. Though their first interest had always been in speed, Israel had insisted on a little more attention being paid to safety.
But Edgar remained certain that they had the faster ship and he was eager to show it off.
“I can see them over there,” his brother shouted, pointing off in the distance.
Sure enough, the Rochester ship made a small shape in the sky, hovering over the open area where the Exposition was being laid out. Edgar’s eyes narrowed as he got his target in sight.
“You’re not planning any, ah, mischief, are you?” Israel asked, his face betraying his uncertainty about his brother’s habits.
“Don’t be ridiculous. We shall simply show off the superior qualities of our ship and expose the shortcomings of the Rochester ship. It should be the work of a few minutes,” he laughed.
“I seem to recall you saying almost the same thing the last time we faced them, his brother reminded him.
Edgar waved away his words with a hand. “Don’t even bring that up. There is no comparison to the new and improved ship we have now. And that was almost entirely due to the unfortunate weather conditions that day, dear brother.” He had heard the complaints almost daily since then and Edgar had long ago run out of patience for his brother’s doubts.
“True, that’s true,” Israel admitted although he could not keep his gaze from shifting to the sky. He knew the sun was shining but he worried that the sudden appearance of storm clouds could not always be predicted with precision.
“Stop looking up at the clouds then!”
Israel at least looked embarrassed. A fine co-captain he made, he scolded himself. “I just glanced up—”
“Well, don’t. We need to focus on the competition.”
“I thought this wasn’t the competition?”
“Well, it’s not, but if we succeed so well as I think we will, it will make the competition moot. And us famous.”
“Do you think so?” Israel frowned.
“If there is a newspaperman anywhere around, it will be so. And our names will be splashed across the evening papers so everyone here will know our success. And soon after the London papers will pick up the story, too.”
Israel frowned. “I don’t know that I want fame particularly.”
“It doesn’t matter,” his brother said with exasperation. “I can handle the press. You can handle the business side of things.”
“Do you think we will get business commitments from newspapers?”
Edgar exhaled with noisy impatience. “Not from the newspapers, because of the newspaper stories.” He kept his gaze on the distant ship, watching it grow larger.
“Because of the papers?”
Really, his brother could be surprisingly dense at times. One wondered how they could be related, let alone twins. “People will see the stories and know that we have a superior method of transportation. The avenues of use should be nearly limitless: commerce could range from any sort of goods—and people! And what about war? Think of the strategic uses.”
“Not sure I want to think about these ships being employed in war. I wouldn’t want to be hovering over cannons and gunfire.”
“Well, you won’t have to do so,” Israel said, smiling like a rather crafty sort of predator as he began to be able to make out the shapes of the people on board the Rochester ship. He squinted—it looked like they actually had some kind of animal aboard. How extraordinary!
“I suppose. Will we have a reputation like Napoleon’s then?”
Edgar tore his gaze away from the other ship. “Napoleon? How on earth are we like Napoleon?”
“Our fame will be mixed,” Israel said, his voice low and ominous.
“Piffle,” Edgar said with a snort.