The Basics of Flight
by Joyce Chng
PART TWO: FLIGHT
Chapter Two: Hardening the Wings
The news of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee came via telegraph code and was received with great excitement. Her Majesty had invited delegates from all the nations of the Known World to participate in the celebrations. Britannia would have its own Aerial Fleet to show off to the visiting ambassadors and their own flying machines. It was truly a stirring piece of news and it went like wild fire throughout the Great Manor. Groups and clusters of students huddled together, talking about it.
Indeed there was already talk about a new kind of flying vessel to be launched at the Great Gathering, as it was termed by the broadsheet commentators and journalists. The identity of the inventor was a mystery and so was the design of this new flying vessel.
The Academy was to send a small contingent to join the illustrious Aerial Fleet with the brightest and the best cadet pilots and handlers selected from the four Colleges of Sable, Azure, Orr and Vert.
Alethia was one of the fortunate few to be chosen from College Sable and there was much felicitation going around the dormitory. Katherine cheered and whooped; she was initially disappointed that she did not make the cut. But it was for the “brightest and the best” students the Academy could offer and Alethia was one of the brightest, the most gifted.
“My father will be there too,” Alethia said laughing breathlessly as Katherine spun her around the room. Paul Forrester was a gifted eccentric who adored his daughter. Katherine had often seen the wonderful inventions in the Forresters’ house whenever she visited them for Yuletide. The inventors would be there, of course; their inventions would be showcased in a great parade of magnificent flying fins, blimps and other air-borne vessels from various nations.
Soon the two young ladies sat down on their beds to catch their breath and to rest. Katherine checked the little fledgling in its little cage. It was eating well and the feathers were looking healthy. The eyes were bright, shining. Sadly, the injured wing remained slightly twisted and she fretted. She had named it Tito and had grown fond of it. Captain Sagan had already given permission; Katherine would have to free the fledgling once it was healed and matured.
“The wings look like they are hardening,” Katherine examined Tito closely. The little goldfinch chirped and waited impatiently for its juicy worm.
“It has to fly one day,” Alethia cocked her head to listen to the chirping.
“It is the wing I am worried about,” Katherine murmured, feeding Tito a fat white grub she found in Cook’s vegetable garden.
“Is it not broken, isn’t it?” Her pale-haired friend came over, feeling her way to the table where the cage was.
“I certainly hope not,” Katherine watched Tito hop around in a lively circle. She swore that she had seen the little bird stretch its wings before.
“Stenton should know. He is quite knowledgeable about birds.” Alethia suggested and smiled as Tito chirped curiously at her. “He is such a charming little goldfinch. All white, like a candle’s glow.”
Elsewhere in the Administrativa building, Lady Judith Westmoreland was hurrying about, preparing notes for an important meeting just announced out of the blue. She was dressed in a fashionable blue dress and comfortable heeled boots; she was a favorite with he first-year cadets, not only of her cheerful disposition but of her kind heart as well. She would be good-humoredly sarcastic, never heavy-handed in her teaching and the younger students loved her.
She readied her vox-reader and was about to carry it, all heavy load and all, when she met Stenton coming her way.
“Have you heard about the meeting?” Stenton began, catching his breath. He had come running from the Flying Field at the news of the meeting.
“Yes. Sounds urgent, I believe.” Lady Westmoreland nodded and lifted the vox-reader carefully. “I hazard a guess that it has something to do with the Golden Jubilee.”
They walked briskly to the meeting chamber where the other lecturers and teachers were already milling about.
“Some were saying,” Stenton nodded to a few of his friends and opened the door for Lady Westmoreland, “that the Jubilee was meant to be political.”
Judith glanced at him while she set the machine up. “It is always political, Stenton. Everything is political.”
She was a well-read suffragist and had come across (and collected) numerous tracts, including her personal favorite, Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. There were new ideas and concepts coming in, thanks to the explosion of the popularity of the printing press. With the nations converging on London a few months’ time, she foresaw an explosion of ideas, some of them potentially negative and dangerous. She normally kept these thoughts to herself and contemplated sharing them with Karlida privately over tea and warm scones.
“Talk is rife about the new flying design,” Stenton helped to hand out notes while the group of lecturers flowed in, taking their places and muttering in groups. “It is supposed to be revolutionary.”
“I see,” Lady Westmoreland inclined her head politely. “But talk is talk.”
Then Pilotmaster Lee appeared, stern and cold, and the meeting began in earnest.
TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK IN… CHAPTER THREE: DYNAMICS!