NationStates Jolt Archive

The Wild Blue Yonder (OPEN!)

14-02-2009, 07:59
Myrbridge Estate, outside New Argyre, the Commonwealth of Altheny

The night Professor Myrbridge burned his bridges with the Commonwealth Scientific Institute was long remembered among New Argyre’s high and mighty; Professor Myrbridge was well known for a high temper and a keen sense of the theatrical, but this – well! – it took the cake, and quite burned down the bakery behind it. And it had all started so well …

Myrbridge was beaming, the grin positively corpselike on his cadaverous face, as he greeted the assembled gentlemen of nobility and industry. He shook hands with Professor Carmington only a little harder than was seemly! The last time the two rivals had met, Myrbridge had slapped his nemesis right across the face. No, the Professor was surely in fine spirits tonight, full of certainty that his latest invention would wipe the smirk straight from Carmington’s face. Those parasites of Society who had come to see the Professor scald the crowd with his invective were bored; surely the Professor would not alienate his fellows again tonight. They grazed upon the hors d’oveures provided by Myrbridge’s staff (sub-par) and the wines from his cellar (quite excellent) and idly speculated as to what the mysterious object filling the hangar might be.

A few younger lads, fueled perhaps by too much good wine, were so impertinent as to attempt to peek under the sheets draping it; but they were roundly seen off by Josiah Marten, Myrbridge’s stocky Chief of Engineers. The tradesman, Society ladies sniffed, seemed nearly as protective of the secret as Myrbridge himself! The Professor had been something of a rake during his student years, but if age had dampened that vice it had surely stoked others, and there was no Mrs. Myrbridge to rein in his excesses. But the wine was quite good …

At last the Professor took the podium, a mostly-empty wineglass in one hand.

“I say there! Quiet down, you fellows!”

He grinned his cadaverous grin, waving his wineglass to encompass the assembled exemplars of aristocracy, industry, and academia below him.

“Quiet down! Good! A-hem. I, Professor Gerrod Myrbridge (I shall leave off my other titles, in the interest of brevity) – I, Professor Gerrod Myrbridge, am proud to announce tonight, the culmination of my research into a field of science that shall alter the face of Altheny forever! Ladies and Gentlemen – I give you … FLIGHT!”

Myrbridge roared the word, and at the movement of some mechanism the sheets were whisked from the device in the center of the workshop. Society turned to take a look, and found itself largely disappointed. A flying machine should be graceful, they felt, as elegant as an eagle; this thing looked like the mooncalf offspring of a dragonfly and a wheat thresher, a great hulking iron thing with a pair of long rotors sticking from its sides on pontoons. Quite obviously it could never take to the air.

“I have based my premise upon the humble sycamore-seed,” Myrbridge began, but was interrupted by a yell from the floor; “You liar, Myrbridge! That thing won’t fly an inch! – A waste of time, gentlemen, I’m sorry, just like I’ve always said, he’s been mad for years –”

It was Professor Carmington, of course, sneering up at Myrbridge with the cheerful face of one who has just seen their rival eat dirt.

“I?” Myrbridge roared, going red in the face. “A LIAR? You can’t bear to see superior engineering, can you, you fraud? Those air-ships you’re working on will go up at the slightest hint of pipe-smoke, but my vessel, by God, shall go on flying long after their flaming hulks have burned to the ground! Mister Marten – show this fool his mistake! Start the engines!”

From the bowels of the machine came a spluttering growl and a cough of oily black smoke. The engineer appeared a moment later, liberally coated in black grease.

“Sorry, Professor,” he said, “There’s a little problem with the cooling system, sir. Have her fixed in no time.”

The assembled captains of society chuckled.

“He is bonkers,” someone said, rather too loud. “The whole thing’s a theatre, some contraption designed to suck funding out of us.”

“I AM NOT MAD!” Myrbridge roared, his face suffused with crimson. “This is science, you blithering idiots! Can you imbeciles not see the engine of progress before you? Are you perhaps blind?”

The guests fell silent, disliking the turn of the Professor’s speech and fully willing to allow him to dig himself a deeper hole.

“This machine – my Prometheus – will deliver the skies themselves to our dominion! You shall fly upon Myrbridge Aerial Lines and marvel at the distances crossed by my genius! This machine can reach speeds not less than twenty-five miles per hour – against the wind! I should like to see your little bags of gas match that, Carmington! I should like to see them match half of that!”

“Twenty-five miles per hour? Not an inch, I say!” Carminton retorted. “Not an inch! And even if you did manage to heave it into the air, you should be hard pressed to find a fool mad enough to go up in that contraption!”

“And yet they’ll float about the skies dangling from your bags of burning gas, eh? LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! In the face of such doubt and such disdain, I can have only one course of action! I shall take the Prometheus up tomorrow morning! I shall fly – yes – I shall fly even as far as ill-known Ikiraka! I shall pass the distance into that jungle reached by the Carmichael expedition, flying over the barbarian headhunters, and I shall bring back from the Carmichael Mountains wonders of which you have not dreamed! And if any of you yellow-bellied cowards finds within him – or her, by God! – If any of you finds the mettle to accompany me, then accompany me you shall! We shall each of us have mountains and fabulous beasts to our names, while you craven imbeciles huddle in your holes for fear of what tomorrow may bring!”

And after that, of course, it was all over bar the shouting. The next morning enterprising pressmen arrived at the Myrbridge Estate to find the hangar empty, the Professor gone, and the Professor’s staff seemingly at a loss. No, the head butler told the inquisitive journalists, He’s gone off. No, I can’t say when he’ll be back. Yes, he’s testing the limits of science. We all have high hopes for his safe return.

[b]Over Altheny

“Ha!” the Professor was exultant, watching the dawn light creep over the fields below the Prometheus. “Look at them run! How like ants they are, from up here! The common human specimen, H. domesticus, who never dares look up from his toil – well, I have made them look! They shall wonder now, oh yes! That to Carmington and his bags of gas! Myrbridge is the future!”

His hands caressed the polished wood and gleaming brass of the controls. Everything was in tip-top shape, the rotors whirring away above the gondola, the engine humming in its cradle.

“Yessir, Professor.” Josiah Marten kept his hands on the control levers, keeping the vessel steady in the air. “And where to, sir?”

“North-east, my good man! To Ikiraka Province – and then, by God, beyond!”

OOC: Quite wide open. Be an adventurer into the wild hinterland of Altheny, upon a daring mission in a daring conveyance! Push back the frontiers of science and civilization! Be crammed into a small aircraft with the melodramatic Professor! Fight evil! Woo women! Return (hopefully) to fame and honour (hopefully)!
15-02-2009, 03:44
Why, I thunk it a good 'dea at the time. Have a drink or two and a larf over some brain's fancy new invention 'long with all the otha toffs, the limp-wristed softhands. Ain't ever done a proper day's work in their lives, the blunts. Anyways, I'm there with me polly and another for a gas when 'cross the room I'm seein' that Earl Bradwardine givin' me a nasty pupil or two--tho' the phrase don't quite work, see, cuz' his glass eye--and I remembers, hey, ain't that the boz who's polly I had a quick flick with a few months back? No trouble in a bit o' fun, mutually enjoyable and stuff... not sure he thought it grand, but hey, money's the diff tween a pauper and a prince, eh?

Now how long 'go was that flick, anyway...

...nine months, or so? Had to been, cuz that's just after I established meself as a proper businessman, what with a right proper revenue and even a title with a good deal in a game of three's-up-your-mother. Rich man gets poor, poor man gets rich, just the way the world turns, ain't it? Huh. Nine months.

Damn. No wonder the boz looks hot, I guess I've got a bit more kick down the trousers than I thought... not part o' th' plan, though. 'Specially not now, seeing how my latest very 'gitimate deal took a bite of the gravel. Shipment of fine sleepyheads and sweetdrops went down on a barge in the river, thanks to a little burn started by a firefly or three. Bastards, can't let a guy make an honest living. Still, Kester's not going to like his doolies being half-burnt and half-soaked and unsellable all the same, so he's gonna come down on the transport... that bein' me. Not like I had any assurance anyway, not gonna keep paper on that sort of job. Oh, never mind that Squib was doin' the lookout and Lug had the protection covered; if they'd done their part my boat'd never been boarded, and... well.

Let's just say that Kester likes bein' paid up front, and I know that a proper blooded gennulman keeps his books clean of cash except in what he needs. That's what innerest and stocks are for, of course. Another thing 'bout Kester is that he's pretty impatient and can't keep a bad tone for too long; see, grudges are bad for business, and he's broomin' up the tlink so it ain't like he won't be forgivin' in a fortnight or three...

Even if the prof's clinker didn't zoom, eh, what's the loss? I had, what, a day or two to get low--and I've been low before--and ride it out, but that's, what, ten millies an hour 'suming I don't wanna look suspicious? That and horses are a valued thing, eh, so I can't just be runnin' 'em to foam and whatnot. Twenty-five millies, now that's what I'm talkin' 'bout, I'd be at the end of the world 'fore Kester'd had his mornin' tea. Brilliant bet, neh?

Mister Hob Engelard Comyn, Esquire, 1st Baronet Sacheverell-Clyde-on-the-Dobbson, rests the elbows of his silken dinner jacket on Prometheus' railing, resting his pitted chin on one white-gloved hand while his other hand, divested of such accoutrement, idly flicked--between fingers both quick and nimble yet scarred and calloused around the knuckles--the glowing ash of a fine cigar over the side. The breeze from the travel of the flying machine enmeshed him in a cloud of cigar smoke and burn-off from the engines, which, when mixed with the copious amounts of pomade kept in his slick hair, made him smell of a burning apple orchard: sweet and full, but with a sickly tang about it all. A fine top hat, his constant companion, kept him shaded from the sky and yet he still kept his eyes half-lidded under its brim and behind a brassy monocle of flat stage glass; yet he lacked the squint of most monocle wearers, suggesting that perhaps the simple circular pane was kept on by something other than what it was originally designed. His nose went three different directions, and his beetle brows always seemed to be working whilst too-sharp eyes darted in thought. His skin hung loose over the bones of his face, so his head did not quite match the barrel proportions of his body. Consumption was his excuse, and while he may not appear the most honest of types, it's a perfectly acceptable one.

An odd case, the Baronet; certainly he wasn't born with that title, not with hands like his. He'd appeared in New Argyre's society with money flowing from the pockets of his fitted suit like water from a burlap sack, and while he could be trusted to occasionally mangle a word or botch a bit of protocol, his money was always good. Rumor has it that his seat, Sacheverell-Clyde-on-the-Dobbson, was a rotten borough in some slum somewhere and consisted entirely of a midwife, a fool, and a pawn broker who all lived inside the same disused tenement building squashed up between a greengrocer and a tonsorial parlor. It was probably part of some barony and just a list of titles behind some nobleman's name; as the story goes, the nobleman who used to be the Baronet (among many other things) was an avid card player and apparently just once got a bad hand. Once the Baronet title became independent, it was numbered. Just how things went, apparently--distasteful, but again, Hob's money was always good.

That, and such gossip is so unseemly.