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This week I am ahead of schedule. My submission to Bekindrewrite’s InMon blog is ready to go, and it’s only Sunday!

The chosen prompt inspired a steampunk theme, so here we go with Astro Plane …

* * *

Fortesque flexed his fingers, the leather gauntlets flapped about his forearms. He looked up at the machine towering above him, a framework of ash-wood and steel wires, with hammered copper sheeting formed over the wings, each panel riveted to the next and screwed to the frame.

For months he and Joshua Smythe had lightened and strengthened each part, adjusted tensions and tinkered with settings. They had increased the surface area of the wings and raked back the windscreen to reduce drag.

Until now the pair had concentrated on human powered flying machines, but with the recent developments of the internal combustion engine, they realised that powered flight was within their reach. It was time for the first test flight.

Smythe was still tinkering. The copper fuel tank was mounted high on the wing, fuel relying on gravity to flow to the engine. He checked, again, the fuel, the tap, the pipe. Steel cogs carried the chains to the huge, mahogany propellers, he checked, again, that they were oiled and tight. He pulled at the brass control rods and their gimballed joints. He could find nothing amiss.

By the time he was back on the ground, Fortesque was sat in the wicker chair, placed centrally on the lower wing. He buttoned his collar against the expected force of the fast-moving air, and tucked the long leather coat around his legs.

“Are you ready, Fortesque?”

“Ready!”

Smythe have the thumbs-up to the engineer, who flicked a switch, making contact with the on-board accumulator. He grabbed the propeller with both hands and swung it round. There was a roar and a burst of black smoke as the engine fired up.

Fortesque returned the thumbs-up signal and pulled his goggles over his eyes. He took hold of the levers and eased back. The engine speed increased, the propellers spun faster and the machine lurched forward. As it rolled forward on its perambulator wheels, Fortesque leaned farther forward against the headwind. Flimsy copper panels bounced against the turbulence.

After what seemed an age the machine lifted from the green field – they had a genuine, heavier than air, flying machine. First the air, next the sky, soon the stars.

Smythe waved. Fortesque struggled with the controls as the craft bucked and swayed. The engine raced, and the hedgerow raced closer. Fortesque reached towards the engine, stretching for the switch from the accumulator. It was too far away.

As he leaned to his right the machine lurched with the weight transfer, he grabbed the wires and pulled. The engine spluttered and died. The nose dipped and the craft dropped earthwards. It struck the field, gouging huge sods from the turf, and stopped short of the hedge.

Fortesque stumbled from the buckled frame as Smythe ran to greet him.

“We did it Samuel! We got our machine into the air before the Wrights!” He grabbed the pilot’s hand and shook it vigorously. “Per ardua ad astra!”

Fortesque was just thankful to have his feet back on the ground, he didn’t reply.

“Through struggle, to the stars, Sam! It’s Latin! I think we might use it in the future.”

* * *

(c) 2012, K Patrick Moody – Inspired by InMon of 30 July 2012

Wright Brothers – Dec 17, 1903 (Image: Wright Flyer I, US Library of Congress http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppprs.00626/)

(With respect to Orville and Wilber Wright, Kill Devil Hills, near Kitty Hawk,NC, December 17, 1903)

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