15 June, 2014 by katelaity
Maggiormente laughed and spread his hands wide. “I am not certain. I had to guess so much about your ship, its size and weight and wind resistance—”
“There are a lot of factors,” Helen admitted. It had become second nature to her to calculate additional factors, but she had every specification of the craft at her fingertips. “I guess it didn’t occur to me that you might need to know some of that information as well.”
He waved away her protestations. “We learn by experimenting. That is the system.”
“You’re not experimenting on my daughter,” said Helen’s father as he came into the room. He looked like he had slept ill, or perhaps he was simply not very happy about any of this business.
“I meant only the aircraft,” Maggiormente said, feeling a little flustered and patting at his beard, aware that some flakes from the croissant had become entangled. “There is no harm to come, I am certain.”
“Didn’t I just hear your lion say you set fire to your beard?” Rochester looked at the alchemist with an expression of amazement.
Maggiormente’s heart pounded a bit faster. He wanted to impress this man with his expertise and his acumen but it was proving to be rather difficult.
—even if he did almost believe the man was doing his best to conceal a smile behind his rough words.
“You have very good hearing, signore. That was unrelated to our chemical works.”
“It was breakfast however,” Eduardo muttered before downing the last of his croissant. “Not usually considered to be a dangerous meal.”
“Are there dangerous meals?” The idea seemed to charm Rochester.
“With him, yes,” Eduardo said in all seriousness.
“That is hardly fair,” the alchemist argued. “You frighten far more people than I ever have and yet you give this gentleman the impression that I am some kind of wandering pyromaniac.”
“Are you a wandering pyromaniac?” There could be no doubt of his smile now.
“I am not wandering nor am I any more inclined to loosing the salamander than anyone else.” Maggiormente frowned. “I blame the artists.”
“Oh yes,” Eduardo said. “It was they who started the fire.”
“There was a fire?” Helen’s brows drew together as she tried to follow the devolving conversation.
“We only investigated after it was already out,” Maggiormente hastened to explain. “The artists were experimenting with colour. For a time I tried some of their oil in possible compounds but it didn’t really work out.”
“What is in the fuel,” the captain asked, eager to return the conversation to something more solid.
The alchemist smiled. “Ah, that is a different question, but one I cannot yet answer. I want to be sure it works—and that it does not need further adjustment—before I should reveal the formula.”
“It’s not, erm, explosive?” It seemed to cost her an effort to ask the question, but surely it was better coming from her than from her brusque father.
“No,” Maggiormente said, making a waving motion with his hands. “There is no chance of that. If anything, it may be too little—ah, what is the word?” He stroked his beard thinking for a moment or two. “Conflagratory?”
Helen Rochester looked somewhat nonplussed. “I’m not sure—you mean, it’s possibly less explosive or incendiary than you would like?”
“Incendiary,” he repeated, allowing the word to roll around in his mouth and thoughts for a moment. It was surely the right word. “Yes, that is precise. I want it to burn but at a slower rate. To last but to nonetheless exude powerful output.”
“I think we should just try it out and stand well back,” the ship captain’s father said with a bark of laughter.
“No, no, it is quite safe. I think it will propel the ship well and there is no danger.” Maggiormente.
“Or very little,” Eduardo said cautiously.
“Well, why not chuck a bit into the fireplace and we’ll see it burn.” Edmund offered from the other end of the table.
“Oh no,” the alchemist said quickly. “Unless you want the fireplace to move next door!”