6 July, 2014 by katelaity
“Just in case—” Helen said, nodding agreement.
“Better safe than sorry,” her father agreed, looking just a bit pale at the thought.
“I am certain it will be fine,” Maggiormente said hastily. “It may not be as powerful as you would like, but I do not think it will cause any harm.”
“We shall see,” Helen said with a careless air. “I can’t wait to find out.”
The ship rose into the air with its usual smoothness. Maggiormente was not certain that he would ever get accustomed to the sensation, but it was easier than the first time and he was filled with excitement and anticipation.
The crowd below them watched in wonder, waving furiously. The alchemist waved back. He felt as if someone ought to do so and no one else seemed inclined. Eduardo was busy scanning the sky for birds.
The ground below them passed away. The many strange constructions of the Exposition grew smaller as the ship nosed its way through the sky. Maggiormente felt his nerves calm. There was something wonderful about this sensation of flying, as if the cares remained below.
How different the perspective of a bird!
“And yet there are none to be seen,” Eduardo complained somewhat grumpily.
“You would not want to be leaping out to catch them,” the alchemist said, shaking his head. “It would be most dangerous.”
“We could put you in a harness to hang below the gondola,” Helen’s father told the lion. “That way you could catch birds as they passed.”
Eduardo considered the plan, not realizing that the man was joshing him. His brow furrowed as he thought about the details. “Do you not think it would impede my wingspan?”
“Surely we could work around them.”
“I cannot bear to have my wings impeded.” Eduardo frowned.
“Perhaps it will not work.” Rochester shrugged, letting the joke go with a chuckle. “We must concentrate our attentions elsewhere. Are you indeed fond of hunting birds?”
“I am. I excel at the sport.”
The alchemist shook his head, abandoning the argument. Eduardo’s conquests mostly relied on pigeons being lazy and unwatchful, foolishly perching on an open window, expecting nothing more dangerous to face them than a housecat.
No one expected a Venetian lion in a Paris flat, least of all a pigeon.
The last of the city sprawled before them and only countryside lay ahead of them. “Shall we try the new fuel soon?” The alchemist rubbed his hands together eagerly.
“Why not?” Helen smiled up at him and the alchemist considered once more the beauty of that face, particularly when lit by a smile.
They went around to the rear, where the new combustion motor, sat atop the old dynamo’s casing. Helen opened the wooden case with a twist of a knob on the door. Suddenly the sound of it grew much louder. Maggiormente leaned in to look at the engine that kept the ship aloft at this speed. It was far more complicated than he expected. His only real experience with motors was the small one he had purchased from the garage.
Helen turned the engine off and closed the casing door. The sudden quiet fell upon the craft. The gondola creaked around them as the airship began to slowly descend. Helen made a few adjustments to connect the new motor to the assembly. “It’s a Lenoir. I think we’re ready.”
“Where does the fuel go?”
Helen reached over to twist off a lid made from some kind of rubber. Maggiormente looked inside the interior but it was too dark to see anything.
“There may be some liquid hydrocarbon in the reservoir. Can we burn the two fuels without effect?” Helen looked a little concerned.
The alchemist considered the point. He had not really reckoned on the mixture of the compounds. He smelled the fuel and made a mental assessment. “I do not think there is anything dangerous in the compounds’ mixture.” He looked up at the captain and smiled. “But we ought not tell your father of this complication. He may not take the news well, I fear.”
Helen laughed. “You’re probably right.”
“Let us try it and hope for the best.” Maggiormente took the small bottle out of his pocket. “In the future we may want to adapt the engine for a lesser flow of fuel. To regulate its passage, you see.”
“Indeed.” Helen’s eyes were bright as she watched him pour the liquid into the engine’s reservoir. But they were not prepared for what happened when it began to run.