Well, I must apologize ahead of time … I have my doubts as to whether this story will ever get off the ground (haha I made a funny), and it's not high-priority for me. I'm just throwing it out there to see what kind of response it gets. As of now the story has a beginning and a middle in my head, but no end. This can be a biiig problem.
Anyway. Without further ado:
The Power of Flight
Disclaimer: Butch Hartman's. Nick Studios'. Not mine.
Prologue: Start of a Journey
"All right ... down a little bit more … perfect." A young man – more of a boy, really, no older than 17 – with raven hair and bright blue eyes waved down the piece of equipment. He beamed, and helped his crew push the bar into place. "Halfway done!" He gazed out across the desert sand outside their shed of a hangar, shielding his gaze with a long hand. "It's getting late, I guess. Call it a day, Tuck?" he asked of his right-hand man, Thaqib. (Upon hearing the Arab's name, Danny had warned he found it unpronounceable and dubbed him 'Tucker'. The boy had laughed and agreed.)
The dark-skinned technician, hardly a year older than the questioner, half-laughed at the question. "You know me, Danny. I'm always ready for you to call it a day." He cupped his hands around his mouth. "All right, everyone, thanks for the effort today! Get home before it gets dark, a'right!?"
There were cheers and laughing around the hangar as the 10-strong crew set about packing up their belongings and putting tools where they belonged. Danny, however, half-limped to where the blueprints for the project had been laid out, pressing his hands down on the workbench as he leaned over it. "I can't wait to see her fly, Tuck," he murmured. "This is the one. It'll stay in the air for hours, I know it."
They were building a plane.
The very concept was ambitious. This far into the desert, people rode little other than camels – and for the occasional wealthy visitor or vizier, a car. Was there a possible application for such a contraption? Danny argued that yes, there was; rather than travel through the hazardous desert, one could fly over it. Trade could be done miles away with less time and effort. So many wondrous things could be done with flight.
For Danny himself, he only wanted to be closer to the stars.
It was not their first attempt. Danny had proven human flight possible to the locale at the age of 15 with a lightweight bi-plane that flew for 8 seconds before crashing spectacularly. Still, the project had been a general success (in Danny's opinion), and he had built three more planes with successively more flight time (and better landings). Now, he was going the next step. Why let the plane only be powered by the wind and air? Why not try … oh, a car engine? But instead of turning a wheel … turn something that will push the plane forward.
Tucker was the one who had conceived of a 'propeller' for the plane, not unlike the ones on boats, only for air. Now he shrugged in response to Danny's optimistic statement, the gesture less nonchalant than uncertain. "I hope so," he answered cautiously. "The engine is light enough … I keep telling you, though, we've got to counterweight more."
Danny shook his head. "Too much weight in the tail, and she'll never get off the ground. It's all about stabilization in the air." He started rolling up the blueprints. "She's balanced."
"You willing to risk your life on that?"
Danny didn't answer. He didn't have to; the wooden cane leaning against the work bench was answer enough in itself. Even as young as he was, Danny could walk, but not well; his pelvis and thigh bones no longer connected properly on the left, after he had crashed their first prototype plane and broken his pelvis right at the joint. "Come on, Tucker; we'd best get home too."
"Got that right," Tucker agreed, taking the rolled-up blueprints from Danny's hand. "I'll guard this."
"Fair enough," Danny grunted, reaching for his cane.
Tucker and Danny housed together – if one could call it that, living in pitched tents, primarily – in the little oasis town of Jahbrin in Arabia. The constant local population was small indeed, no more than 500 people, but they were along a major trading route through the vast desert. Caravans stopped to rest here, sometimes of rival clans and merchants, and on those nights when two rivals were in town, everyone held their possessions tightly, nor did they travel at night. Only fools would put themselves at risk for looting.
The plane blueprints were particularly valuable. Danny and Tucker had received high offers for their service; they refused. "We'll be the first, thanks," Danny had said firmly. Since then, their prints had nearly been stolen no less than four times.
But neither boy knew just how high up the word of their project had gone, as they limped and walked side-by-side back to their tents.
They were about to find out.
"And we're going where to do what."
It wasn't a question. Daniel Masters was visibly irritated, his eye slightly twitching.
"We are going to Arabia to invest in the … interesting project of two young men," his father answered, perfectly calm. Vladimir Masters, a narrowly-built yet tall man with elegant silver hair, was well known for being perhaps unscrupulous, but a business genius. He had purchased the lion's share of Carnegie's steel mills upon the trust-busting politicking of Theodore Roosevelt, and it would be safe to say he was now one of the richest men in America.
He was always looking for the next big 'thing', whatever that might have been. And today, he was certain he had found it.
One fuzzy black and white photograph wasn't much to go on, but it was clearly a winged machine in flight. Daniel had mentally scoffed at it, and he did now, looking down at the photograph again. Surely this was a hoax. No one had yet managed to fly even one human any distance over the ground in anything with a motor. Yet, part of him hoped.
"Seems awfully far for a hoax," was what he said.
"Oh, that's no hoax. I know the photographer," Vladimir answered. "That'll do, Olivia," he dismissed the maid who had been packing their things. "In any case, I should think you'll enjoy the trip." He looked back at his son in the mirror, and bright green eyes met his. "It is, after all, your home country. So to speak," he amended.
Daniel visibly perked at that. "I was born in Arabia?"
Vladimir sighed, throwing on his traveling coat. "Get ready, Daniel. Yes, you were, by unhappy circumstance, but your mother always loved Arabia. Hopefully she will join us when we arrive, hmm?" He smiled.
Daniel wasn't sure how he felt about that. He loved his mother, but she was a touch eccentric – perhaps more than his father. She was in Paris now, speaking on the subject of the paranormal, her true passion.
She was convinced that ghosts had killed her first husband. Daniel doubted it, but then, he didn't believe in ghosts – not so much to spite his mother as because there was no proof. But she had raised Daniel, and it was only now, as his own opinions formed, that he felt uncomfortable around her. "Hopefully," he said obediently, throwing his own travel coat over his shoulders.
"You shouldn't scoff so readily at the unknown," Vladimir continued. Daniel preferred to carry his own bag, but Vladimir had all his bags carried by the hired help. "Today's world is the world of tomorrow, Daniel. Consider yourself lucky to be born so near the turn of the century, just as our great nation rises up and becomes as it was always meant to be – a world power."
Daniel didn't miss the small smirk at the corner of his father's face. Such patriotism, he thought uncharitably. He had learned, however, to keep his smart remarks to himself.
"Innovation is the lifeblood of our economy," Vladimir was saying. "And so you must never laugh out a new idea until it has been proven impossible." He jumped up into the buggy and offered a hand to Daniel. Daniel declined it, sitting next to his father.
"And yet, after all that talk, we're still riding with the horses," Daniel said with a smile to soften the words. They had a car, but it was unreliable at best, and a team of horses was faster. Daniel was doubtful that the car phenomenon would take off, even if it was very exciting to see a carriage move apparently all on its own. They were too clunky and too hard to start and far too loud, not to mention slow.
"Ah, yes." Vladimir's smile was much more calculating. "But you see, a man named Ford has a very interesting concept on that matter as well …"
"Good heavens, what have you done!?"
Patricia Manson was the perfect lady in every respect. She was the ideal 'lady of the house', a perfectly Victorian woman, who stood steadfast by her husband's side. Working on behalf of the British Empire in India, however, had taken its toll.
Their daughter was nothing less than a hooligan.
Samantha Manson could only be forced into proper dresses at formal occasions and on her way to school, and then in only the most somber colors. By some horrible genetic mistake, her hair was black, not a perfect blonde or delightful red. She was crude, sharp-tongued (at least, her mother supposed, they could be certain of her wit), and disobedient, preferred to walk everywhere so as not to 'abuse the horses' (her words), and as of three years ago, had refused to let a single piece of meat pass her lips. As a result, although she spent a great deal of time outdoors doing unladylike things, she possessed an unnaturally pale complexion.
She could have been the envy of the entire British population for her complexion alone, if she only had the attitude to match!
She was, to put it shortly, a royal embarrassment. And royal, indeed, it was; Samantha Manson was a second cousin to the Royal Crown. As such, their family was fabulously rich. Their presence in India was in the role of diplomats.
Fortunately for the Mansons, Samantha approved of diplomacy very much. Should she have set out to cause trouble, she probably would have succeeded.
Her latest harebrained scheme had been to wear boy's trousers underneath her dress so that she could change once she left for school. Unfortunately for Samantha, showing up in trousers was enough to have the teacher march her right back home.
"What?" Samantha protested. "They're more comfortable than a dress."
"I can't believe you, young lady!" Patricia cried. "From now on, you will have an escort to school. If you ever pull a stunt like this again …"
"Yes, yes, yes," Samantha sighed dramatically. "I'll just be in my room, practicing my lines."
Actually, showing up at school in her trousers had been only half the harebrained scheme, if only Patricia knew.
As soon as she arrived in her private study, Sam (as Samantha much preferred to be called) hurried to the window. It took a lot of effort to open it, but she managed, propping it open. "Valerie?" she called softly.
The dark-skinned girl seemed to be innocently picking flowers, but the moment Samantha called, she looked up, a wicked grin on her face. Valerie's father was the Manson's gardener, asked to come from England. Of course, he had brought his daughter along. "Well? Coast is clear. Come on down," she called.
Sam had already escaped out this window in the past. Fortunately, her parents were always too frazzled to remember to take away the iron bar used to prop the window open; without it, her escape attempts would have been quickly ended. She slipped out and grasped the vines crawling up the side of the house, making her way down carefully. "Are our things still in the shed?" she asked breathlessly, turning out her trouser pockets. "Because I have enough for travel and food."
"Are you sure that isn't too much?" Valerie laughed upon seeing the wad of pounds. "Don't let anyone see that. Yes, to answer your question, everything's ready. We've got to hurry if we want to catch the boat."
Sam nodded, running down to the abandoned shed at the end of their property. Inside was a packed store of clothes for both girls, as if they had been systematically piling up clothing for weeks – which wasn't terribly inaccurate.
"Remind me again why we're taking a boat to the Hejaz," Valerie asked as they dragged out their suitcases and started the walk down into the harbor town.
"Because my parents would never dream of it," Sam answered immediately. She was sure she had illusions about how easy this trip would be, how simple it was to run away – but she still wished to. Her only future in India was to finish school, become a secretary, perhaps, and marry – always to marry. She certainly couldn't become a spinster, being directly related to the royal family and all. But Sam's greatest adventure had been the trip from England to India, and she had loved it.
She wanted to travel.
"Come now, you know we can do this," Sam said warmly, slapping Valerie on the back. "It'll be an adventure."
"Oh, yes, quite an adventure indeed," Valerie sighed.
The year is 1902, if you're curious, and yes, it's more or less our world. The first car was created in the 1870's, but they weren't mass-produced until 1913, when Henry Ford started the car assembly line. Orville and Wilbur Wright don't take their first engine-powered flight until late 1903. There are character designs, but they'll have to get put up next week. How did Danny and 'Daniel' end up continents away from each other? Find out … if I actually ever continue this story!
And if you're actually reading this story, you've seriously made my day. I actually did research! And I never do that!