[identity profile] copperbadge.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] originalsam_backup
Chapter Eleven

Jack was hard at work all day, making final additions to the ship and provisioning it for the journey. They wheeled it out of the garden house and readied the balloon for inflation; Nicholas, Clare, and Graveworthy packed supplies into sacks and crates, making two high walls in the bow which left a small, cozy room for Clare's small pallet. Jack worked on a harness for the pilot and a knotted ladder for easy entry over the side while Nicholas, on a stepladder, heaved sacks of coal and canisters of helium up to Graveworthy and Clare, who stowed them next to the narrow bunks in the stern. Jars of drinking water barricaded the food in place, with more barrels of it belowdecks, and Clare affixed a curtain across the front for privacy. She also brought down a bucket from the scullery, which caused some confusion and mirth amongst the men.

"What do you want a bucket for?" Jack asked, honestly ignorant of its purpose.

"It's a chamber-pot," Clare replied haughtily. Graveworthy had covered his mouth and was trying not to grin in the background.

"A chamber pot? It's going to add weight -- "

"Well, you two might be content to piss out a porthole, but some of us are civilized humans," she retorted. Anderson roared with laughter.

"Piss out a porthole!" he said, collapsing back in the chair Nicholas had brought down for him. Clare threw it onboard, climbed up, and stowed it with excessive dignity near the coal.

As darkness descended, Jack started the coals under the steam engine and tested the new spigot for the helium canisters. The new slow-release extension, easily reached from the pilot's seat, worked like a charm. With dusk fast waning, Jack opened the wheel on the canister and the balloon began to fill.

Clare and Graveworthy leaned against the hull while the balloon inflated, talking quietly; Jack heard perhaps one word in three as he walked along the ship's railing, testing the rig of the ropes. He had just reached the bow when he saw Nicholas hurrying down the hill, following a familiar figure in a black cloak.

"Good evening, Mrs. Christian," Graveworthy called. Jack secured the last rope and started to climb down, but she waved a hand to stop him. She took an odd object from Nicholas, a square wooden box with three long legs extending from it which splayed out and supported the box when she set it down.

"Stay where you are!" she cried.

"Is that a camera?" Jack asked, intrigued.

"Indeed, Mr. Baker. Stay right there," she said, and ducked behind it. Jack held himself in place, though he was eager to investigate it; the camera wasn't uncommon in Europe but they hadn't really caught on in Boston yet.

"That's it!" she said, and pressed a button on the side of the box. Something clicked and whirred and then there was a huge flash of light. Jack waited patiently until she'd thrown the cloth over the box again and handed it to Nicholas, who carried it back to the house.

"You will be careful with that, ma'am," Graveworthy said.

"Of course. For my personal collection," she replied. "What a gorgeous machine. Is everything completed?"

"Pretty much," Jack said. Even as he spoke, the last of the winter sun faded completely beyond the horizon. The eastern sky was already turning purple-black, and suddenly it looked very forbidding.

"Prepared to fly, Mr. Baker?" Graveworthy asked, watching as Jack strapped himself into the pilot's chair.

"Ready, I think," Jack said, though he didn't, in fact, think he was ready at all. "All aboard who're coming aboard. Find something to hold onto. The lift is...intense."

Clare stood against the rail near the stern and held tightly to one of the balloon-ropes, most of her hair covered by a knotted scarf. Graveworthy took hold of another rope, further up near the bow, and set his feet wide for balance.

"Fly well!" Anderson called up. "Try not to knock anyone over, Baker!"

Jack saluted sardonically and lowered his goggles. He raised one hand and signaled for Nicholas to release the mooring ropes. They came loose slowly from bow to stern, and with a groan of straining wood Her Majesty's Airship the Clare Fields leapt aloft.

Graveworthy let out a startled yelp and clung to the rope with white knuckles; Clare was whooping with excitement, the wind blasting loose strands of hair into her face. Jack tried not to think about the stomach-dropping sensation that meant the world was falling away.

When Cambridge was nothing more than a pretty cluster of lights in a wide stretch of darkness, Jack reached over and adjusted the helium feed to level out the ship. The night was cold but still and the airship hung steadily in the sky, barely moving.

"Don't let go yet!" Jack called, easing power to the propellers. The ship jerked once and a handful of unsecured coal rattled across the deck. Clare, one hand still knotted up in a rope, snatched a lump and hurled it into the air, watching to see if she could tell where it fell. Jack checked the pressure dials one by one, locked the lever safeties in place, and examined the compass.

"I'm heading southeast," he said, turning the steering yoke slightly.

"If you would be so kind as to keep an eye out for my equilibrium, I seem to have misplaced it," Graveworthy answered. Jack leaned back in the pilot's chair and laughed. Slowly, Clare let go of the rope.

"It's better than a sailboat," she said. "Seems pretty steady to me. You can let go of the rope, you know," she added to Graveworthy.

"I like the rope," he answered, but his hands relaxed slightly. To his credit he didn't shy away, leaning out over the dark countryside below. Jack was momentarily worried that this would be even more frightening, but slowly Graveworthy's shoulders eased and his hands moved from rope to railing.

"It's amazing," he breathed. Jack couldn't hear him over the low hum of the propellers, but he saw his lips form the words. Clare joined him near the bow, leaning over as well. Jack, feeling oddly like a veteran, smiled as they marveled at the view. Clare looked up from the railing, caught him watching, and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, matching his grin.

She walked cautiously back towards him, pulling on her own pair of goggles over the scarf tied around her head. Jack wished he could take her picture with the camera, as blackmail material.

"Try to sleep a little," he said. "I'll pilot the first shift, wake you up in a few hours, and show you how to use the control levers. We'll all trade off."

"I'll check the maps before sunrise and set you a course," Graveworthy said, joining Clare below the pilot's seat. "Jack, this is..."

"I know," Jack said, resting his wrists on the steering yoke. "Hope you're good at navigating by the stars."

"I've had some practice," Graveworthy answered. He walked cautiously across the wooden deck and eased himself into the storage cubby where the beds were. It sounded as though he'd taken the top bunk; the lamplight shining through the boards beneath Jack's feet meant he was probably writing. Clare lingered for a while, fascinated by the spectacle of the cities and fields below, but eventually she too found her bed and hopefully slept. He'd have to wake her in a few hours to teach her the steering and pressure control; maybe they'd be sailing along the coast of France by then.

***

They flew over Ipswich and Felixstowe that night, crossing the Channel and approaching France as morning dawned. They lost a little speed while Clare was learning the controls, but by the time Ellis woke with the sunrise to set a course, they could barely see Dover's white chalk cliffs behind them in the distance.

Ellis gave orders to stay back from the French coast but follow it south at steady speed, avoiding crossing land even if it meant traveling longer. They had no way to confirm the speed Jack was calculating, but Ellis had no reason to doubt it. Even skirting Europe, they would arrive within Jack's generous travel estimation. After all, it wasn't as though someone was expecting them on the far end on any particular day.

Ellis slept a little more that day, not interested very much in eating or watching the coast unroll to their port side. When it was his turn to take lessons in airship piloting he made very certain to belt himself to the chair before he would listen to Jack's lecture.

Steering the thing wasn't particularly difficult, once he got the hang of it. As long as he remembered to check the pressure gauges and the compass every quarter of an hour he could spend the rest of the time writing while Jack slept and Clare spent hour on hour watching the coast scroll past.

"Come here!" Clare called, towards the end of Ellis's shift, when he was counting the minutes until he was finished. "We're passing Cape Finisterre! Lock the controls and come down!"

"It'll hold for a few minutes," Jack said, shading his eyes. "Use the straps."

Ellis found a set of leather straps secured behind the control levers and carefully buckled all the levers in place; when that was done he released the belts on the chair and climbed down carefully, stretching his legs.

"How can you tell what it is?" he asked. "The maps aren't out."

"See the temple?" Clare said, pointing to a complex of gleaming sand-colored buildings crouched like a giant crab on the cliffs that lined the western coast. He leaned over her shoulder, watching the tiny, antlike people who moved about in and around the Temple of Cape Finisterre, the Point of Leave. From the cliffs a few miles to the west, William LaRoche had fled to England in the middle of the night in a craft that should never have stayed afloat, let alone carried him all the way to Great Britain.

The greatest holy route in the world fed pilgrims of two faiths into Santiago de Compostela, where the Creationist LaRoche had a vision of the Creation of the Stars and the Christian Saint James the Great preached and died. From there the route wound down to Cape Finisterre, where travelers were blessed and where the faithful from across the world could be found at prayer.

"Have you ever been?" Clare asked, turning her head to speak in his ear over the roar of wind and the boiler.

"Many years ago," he answered, without taking his eyes from the Temple. "I was there in the employ of Her Majesty, and I was not in a position to appreciate the beauty of the city."

"Well, this is a pretty good position, as they go," she said just as Jack, boylike, spat into the water below.

"Better get back to the chair," he said. "We'll start to drift soon."

"Punishment for my sins," Ellis observed in Clare's ear.

"Well-deserved, I'm sure," she said.

"I certainly did enjoy them to their fullest at the time -- "

"Hey, are you coming?" Jack asked impatiently.

"All right, slave driver," Ellis said, turning back to the pilot's chair. Clare, he noticed, watched until the Temple faded from view.

***

EXCERPT - LETTER FROM ELLIS GRAVEWORTHY TO GREGORY ANDERSON

This undated letter is cautiously attributed to Graveworthy's youth; posted from Italy, it bears a more flourishing hand than his later, more economical script.

As you are aware, Gregory, the texts that make these claims are not generally associated with orthodox Creationist doctrine but they are interesting nonetheless. Imagine, please, and try not to feel as though the heretic is corrupting your innocent purity, the idea that William LaRoche was not only a preacher of skill, a savvy tactician, and a wise legislator, but also that rarest of beings, even among Creationists, known as a Stormpirate. I suppose in his case it would more properly be called a Stormpreacher.

How you can be so almighty ignorant of history is beyond me, but I suppose you got some pretty young thing to write your history papers for you. Listen, then, my lad, to the story of the man to whom you owe so much. In the days before LaRoche, Creationists were drowned at birth or hanged as witches, and as it seems to pass from parent to child you can imagine that there were far fewer of them back then. Naturally, if you were to discover your skill when you were old enough to know to hide it, you might take to the sea.

Sailors must be broad-minded folk, having a large experience of the world. I've been speaking with many of them, here and in Greece. I get lonely in the evenings, but it's really only then, and I've found that if I seek out a few friendly tars and share some tobacco they're very obliging with their stories. I don't suppose you've heard much about Stormpirates, but I've heard an earful.

LaRoche himself said that to Create something living is to cause its eventual death, which is a sin. He doesn't say textually whether he considers clouds and wind to be alive, but I don't think it matters much as not many people have the skill of Creating a storm cloud or calling a wind up out of the unmoving air. What if he couldn't really speak to it, couldn't be seen to pay too much attention to it, because he could do it? He was a seafaring sort of man and he did make it north from Spain and then west to the New World with more speed than you'd expect in those days.

By the very definition, a Stormpirate is someone who Creates a storm and sails right into the heart of it to take advantage of helpless ships. I've spoken with sailors who swear that they've fallen prey to them; they say that seeing a stormhead bear down on you in becalmed waters is a sight you don't forget, and the thunder mingling with the cannon-fire gives a man reason to wake sweating in the middle of the night. There are stories of children who show some affinity for storm Creation being abducted by pirates and made to serve them, little better than prisoners because they happen to have a rare skill.

People have written, and in more than one account, that when William LaRoche spoke it was like the wrath and beauty of a storm at sea. What if they meant it literally? Can't you picture this wild-haired young man at the bow of a ship, idly sending clouds scudding off in the distance with his fingertips? That night he left Cape Finisterre, did he make sure the wind blew up behind him to beach the rest of the men giving chase, so that only his leaky little dinghy would make it across? And if he did, was he too ashamed of being associated with the Stormpirates to write of it?

The Italians have a charming saying that translates rather well; "If it isn't true, then it's still a good story". I think perhaps when I'm more seasoned I shall write a novel about a Stormpirate. It's a meditative sort of idea, the one I have, and it won't do for me now. When I'm aged and sedate and feel as if tackling the Creationist doctrines would be seen as some harmless old man's nattering, I'll turn up my sleeves and give it a go.

I'm afraid I've burned a lot of oil just to fill your eyes with nothing of importance, but I remain in Italy a while longer and will hopefully have more interesting events to report before the year is out. Much of it makes me uneasy, but I shan't abandon ship just yet. I miss your company; write and tell me how you're faring in your own particular predicament.

Sincerely,

E. Graveworthy

***

In the days that followed, Clare grew to enjoy the midafternoon break as the best part of the day. Their piloting schedule meant that Jack's dinner, Graveworthy's breakfast, and her shift's end fell around tea-time, a rare moment when all three were awake at once. Jack would heat water over the steam-engine and usually have a pan of cured sausages or pickles -- she anticipated becoming very tired of pickles -- to present to her as a snack. Graveworthy, yawning and stretching, took a cup of tea gratefully and usually sat on the narrow steps leading to the pilot's chair until he was properly awake. Clare and Jack could always find something to talk about, or Jack and Graveworthy would engage in the perilous process of refilling the water in the steam engine, and Graveworthy would give them lessons in Australian dialect.

What made the brief afternoon tea best, though, was Graveworthy's habit of telling stories to pass the time until his shift began. When piloting, he sat with a notebook propped on his knee and spent most of his energy on writing; when his shift was done he would check over the ship, re-stowing badly packed bags or charting out the course for the rest of the day. When he was just waking, however, all he seemed to want was hot tea and an audience.

Most of the stories he told were fairy tales that Clare and Jack had known since they could remember, but he told them with a charisma that kept them rapt, Clare leaning down from the pilot's chair and Jack seated on the deck below with his arms around his knees. He told stories that might or might not be true; he asked them questions about their lives and made Jack share the ancient lore of Harvard year's-end pranks. Even Clare, bereft of an idea for an actual story, was coaxed into an encore of some poetry recitation she'd learned in school.

Meanwhile, the airship carried them onwards. It was sturdy and fast, and gave so little trouble that Jack began to visibly worry about it. The steam-engine steamed, the propellers propelled, the balloon took on regular doses of helium, and the screw on the stern kept them steady as they flew. Jack was suspicious of such good behavior, and made his maintenance checks with religious scrupulousness. He didn't sleep as much as either she or Graveworthy would like, but then Jack had never kept very regular hours. Clare was more familiar with the engineering widow's lament than Graveworthy: if an engineer hasn't got anything to worry about, he'll search hard until he finds one.

Claire stood at the rail for a long time, the day they flew over the pyramids, hungrily drinking in the sight of Egypt beneath them. She loved to watch the world pass below as they skimmed the northern coast of Africa and, if he were awake and not piloting, Graveworthy often joined her.

Jack was piloting that day, and Graveworthy was washing himself in sea-water dippered up from the Mediterranean. Both he and Jack had given up on the formalities of dress they'd be required to wear on a city street; Clare hadn't even bothered to pack a dress, sticking to trousers and the shirts she'd had made for her in London. None of them bothered with shoes or socks.

Graveworthy appeared at the railing next to her, hair dripping, slightly salt-crusted, pulling on his overshirt; when he saw where they were finally passing, he rested both hands on the rail and forgot to button his collar.

"I never thought this was how I'd see them," he breathed. "Have you ever seen the pyramids?"

"Only in drawings in books," she answered. "I never thought I'd see them at all."

"No wanderlust?" he asked.

"No, just...all this never seemed real, all this travel. The furthest I ever went from Boston was New York."

"But it was your idea to come here, wasn't it? With me, I mean, in the airship."

"I wasn't thinking about the journey. I was thinking about my family. Besides, I knew you'd never get it off the ground without Jack, and -- "

"Where one goes, so goes the other," he said, leaning more casually on the rail. "I'm glad you came along, Clare."

"So am I. Do you suppose we'll see the seven wonders of the world? We've seen the pyramids and the Point of Leave and maybe we'll see the Great Barrier Reef..." she trailed off, confused.

"The what?" he asked.

"The -- it's -- " she squinted into the sun. "It's something...I saw when I was little, out in the ocean on a ship..."

"In Australia?"

"I don't know." She frowned. "I remember someone saying it to me. And they laughed because I called it the Great Belly Reef. I thought it was something to do with sharks."

"Well, we'll have to keep a lookout for it," he said, turning back to the scenery. He seemed to brood a little, watching the pyramids slowly grow larger.

"Did I upset you?" she asked.

"Not you," he said. "Look there, do you see that? Shining in the desert, just north of the pyramids."

"Is it a lake?" she asked. "No, it can't be, there's the Nile way beyond."

"Not a lake, no. Come up, we'll see better from the stern."

He climbed the steps and sat on the top one, not far from where Jack was regulating the helium. Clare followed in time to hear Jack say something about heat; he'd been studying what he called "Thermoaeronautics" as he went, learning how to deal with updrafts of warm air and the way the helium reacted to the cold that increased the further they rose.

"Turn a few degrees south," Graveworthy said. "You don't want to fly over that. It's glass; it'll reflect the sunlight and who knows what'll happen."

Jack adjusted the steering yoke and increased the power to the propellers slightly. "That's a lot of glass -- oh," he said, and Clare realized what it meant about the same time. "Oh, no."

"You wanted to see the Seven Wonders," Graveworthy said to Clare, as she leaned out over empty space to stare at the glittering glass crater in the distance. She heard his voice settle into the tone that meant he was telling a story, but he also seemed slightly distant, as if he didn't want to hear it himself.

"Napoleon Bonaparte marched on Egypt two years from the turn of the century, eight years after the death of LaRoche," he said, as Clare settled down on the step below him. "He sailed for Egypt and took Malta and Alexandria like a charming man takes a lover -- little resistance and easily overcome. The British tried to chase him around the coast but they met nasty weather, and Egypt lay before him as a gateway to the east. He planned to dine in Cairo by August. A little further south, Jack," he added.

"It'll take us off course."

"I'll steer us down the Red Sea tonight; it won't take any more fuel than traveling straight on," Graveworthy said, and continued after Jack adjusted the course again. "The Mamluks gathered to defend Cairo, with Murad Bey's army twenty-one-thousand strong, fifteen thousand of it good cavalry, on the west bank of the Nile. Murad's fellow general Ibrahim Bey lay on the east bank with reinforcement troops, but Bonaparte's forces defended the Nile against a crossing. Imagine the cannon-blasts and the charge of horses and men, the rattling swords and the musket-fire, all very nearly in the shadow of the great pyramids. Through the smoke both Cairo and the pyramids were visible. The Mamluk cavalry, the pride of Egypt for thousands of years, could not halt the progress of the French troops into their homeland. Imagine the screams of the horses as they were shot to pieces, and the men and women groaning bloody on the sand.

"In the late afternoon the cavalry threw itself on the French artillery and began to die in earnest. France had overrun the village of Embabeh and begun to butcher the Egyptians there. It seemed that Bonaparte would triumph. The pyramids of their ancestors would be desecrated by foreign soldiers who had come into their land unprovoked, for no other reason than that the French wanted their best military mind far away from any chance for political power.

"Now, the Egyptians had not had much intercourse with Germany or Britain, beyond the odd visitor, and they had not heard except briefly of the teachings of LaRoche. The only Creationists among the French were medics, because no member of the Church would raise a hand against another. These were grandchildren of the first Church members, and they had been educated very well in the sanctity of human life. They were there only to heal. The Egyptians had held their own honor code against Creationists taking life for thousands of years, far longer than the Europeans; legends in Africa from before the written word speak of Creationist kings and wizards, but most of them are morality stories against murder – they'd learned early of the madness that follows the taking of human life."

"But that's been disproven," Clare said. "Creationists don't go mad when they take life. Well, not as a rule. That's just an old superstition."

"Perhaps so -- but Creationists still can't be soldiers. It's too deep in the blood by now, especially when the Church took in so many North Africans fifty years ago. The point is that there were Creationist soldiers in the Mamluk cavalry, but they would never have used that power in battle. The legends among the Egyptians were strong, strong enough to suggest to them that to take a life by Creation was to end one's own."

As he spoke they began to pass the nearest of the pyramids, veering well to the south. Jack had eased his grip on the yoke and was listening wholeheartedly.

"When they saw that these French soldiers would rape Cairo before sundown, however, the Mamluks rallied. They fell back around Murad Bey, who according to the few survivors shouted that he would die before he saw Cairo fall. He said something to his troops -- nobody knows what -- and as Ibrahim began the suicidal crossing of the Nile to attack from there, the surviving Mamluk cavalry on the west bank charged forward and met the French like a bolt from heaven. Creation was unleashed. Fire began to rain down on both armies and the pyramids turned black in the shadow of the storm. The Mamluks broke through, blasting French soldiers to pieces and charring their remains, and now the screams of the French filled the air.

"In the very midst of the battle Murad Bey came face-to-face with Napoleon Bonaparte, blood flying around them in ribbons, steam rising from the melted cannons of the French, and as Bonaparte drew his sword Murad Created a flaming spike of white-hot iron in his hand and thrust it straight through Bonaparte's chest."

Jack jerked slightly, as if he'd been stabbed himself.

"Bonaparte cried out, and as his heart was burned in his chest he sliced open Murad's belly with his sword, spilling his guts onto the sand. Murad screamed one final scream of defiance and for twenty-five thousand French and thirty-thousand Mamluk, the world ceased to be in a blast of fire so bright it turned the very sand beneath their feet to glass."

Graveworthy paused and looked out over the pyramids; they were nearing the second of the three. Due north stood a crater, nearly two miles at its widest, glittering where it wasn't covered over with sand and debris.

"Of the Battle of the Pyramids, eighty Frenchmen and a hundred and twelve Mamluks survived. Only fifteen of the French made it to safety, fleeing to the north, starving and hiding in caves until they could make their way over the sea to tell the story. The surviving Mamluks went home, told their story to their wives and children, drew lots for who would survive to keep telling it, and then killed themselves. The French -- well, all Europeans -- call the crater the Battleground of the Pyramids. The Egyptians call it the Sea of Shame."

He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. A hard silence settled over the craft, broken only by the whirring of the propellers.

"What you see -- where you can't see the glass reflecting sunlight -- is not sand. They send people to sweep it out, and apparently it burns their soles right through their boots. What you see are the bodies of those who weren't entirely destroyed by the blast, French and Mamluk alike, and the bodies of the Mamluks' descendants for two generations. Bodies and bones. A few years after the blast, the English came begging to open trade routes through Egypt, and Cairo surrendered before they knew they weren't being invaded. They said they broke the laws. No standing native army exists in Cairo to this day. The French won't go near the African continent at all."

Clare didn't want to break the mood, but when she took a breath he looked at her inquiringly, so she forged ahead.

"If everyone near Murad was destroyed so completely, how do they know what happened?" she asked. "How do they know he ever even saw Bonaparte or that they killed each other?"

"They don't," Graveworthy said. "But it's a better story if they meet face to face. And who's to say they didn't? Either way, forty-five thousand soldiers died in a single day, most in a single instant. Since then, no Creationist who has ever heard of the Battle of the Pyramids has found it in themselves to enter into a war as a soldier. Records show that on the day of the battle Creationists as far away as Ireland screamed and wept without knowing why."

"Bonaparte invaded without provocation," Jack said. "Serve him right, I'd say."

"But they broke the laws," Clare replied. "They violated the rules of war."

"Why should there be rules in war? The only rules I follow are the rules of physics, and I didn't make those up for fun," Jack replied. "War isn't supposed to be a game. The goal is to destroy whoever's hurting you, to make sure they never do it again."

"If that were true," Clare said, a little annoyed at Jack, "then we'd all be wiped out in a few short months."

"Yeah, and the ones who followed the rules would go first."

"Now, now," Graveworthy murmured. Clare turned to him.

"Well, whose side would you be on?" she asked.

"I'm always on the side of Embabeh," Graveworthy said. "The little village the French overran. It was utterly destroyed, first by the French gunfire and then by the blast that flattened its buildings and burned its people alive. They never did anything to deserve that."

Clare felt a little ashamed, which was stupid; his answer was a complete excuse not to choose a side, but she couldn't quite summon up the gall to argue with him.

"When we studied it in school I asked why a loving Creator would allow such a thing to happen," he continued. "I'm sure I wasn't the first or the last, but nobody wanted to interpret the will of God as regards the Battle of the Pyramids. The man you met at the Temple, the Divine Father, was the only one who ever really gave me a satisfying answer."

"What did he say?" Jack said.

"He said that it had to happen once, so that it would never happen again. Still...the battle was nearly a hundred years ago, and many people are growing impatient. Greedy for land and wealth, which in the end add up to power. Someday -- maybe in our lifetimes -- some small upstart will begin training a Creationist army in secret, and word will get out, and every other country will begin training their own, and perhaps jump ahead a little just to be sure they aren't attacked first. And when that day comes, if nobody shows any restraint, we'll all meet the Creator rather sooner than we expected."

"How do we stop it?" Jack asked, ever practical.

"We don't, not directly. It's a matter for the schools and the Church."

"To teach self-control?" Clare asked.

"No. There are two kinds of war -- wars of need and wars of greed. Wars of need are solved easily with a little compassion, with some rational thought; wars of greed are harder. The Church has to teach as best it can that violence is abhorrent. The schools teach...well, good manners, and mercy. And they nourish the great thinkers of our age, so that they can solve the problem of how to prevent stupid people from getting the upper hand."

"And the writers slip it in under cover of a story?" Clare asked. He smiled.

"Yes, that too. And," he added, "I believe it's your shift, which means I am for bed. Turn southeast when you see water again; follow the coast and wake me before we pass out into open water. From there we're bound for India."

Jack unbuckled himself from the pilot's seat and changed places with her, disappearing to the bow to dig out some food and do his usual check of the ship. Clare buckled the harness around her body and looked at the dials; it took her a few minutes of blank staring to force the numbers to make sense again. Below her, Graveworthy slept in his bunk, probably entirely untouched by the story he'd told.

Chapter Twelve

Date: 2012-04-30 06:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alarivana.livejournal.com
'if an engineer hasn't got anything to worry about, he'll search hard until he finds one.'

should be 'has't got anything to worry about, [...] until he finds something.'

or some other fix for one not referring to anything.

Date: 2012-04-30 06:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] polaris-starz.livejournal.com
It's been quite a while since I read the first draft of Dead Isle, but this bit stuck with me and I've been looking forward to seeing the revised version. I absolutely love the story about the invasion of Egypt. This is definitely my favorite chapter so far.

I read all of this in a go yesterday and today, so I haven't been participating in the live betaing, but I'll give it a go when I'm rereading this tonight and I'm not on my phone.

Date: 2012-04-30 06:20 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
This, I think, is the best chapter you've written so far. I love the way your skirt the edges of history, blending our history with theirs and coming up with something entirely different and sometimes even breathtaking. The story of the Battle of the Pyramids was attention-grabbing, exciting, and heartbreaking. I loved hearing all of the character's opinions about war and the rules of war. Jack's opinion was surprisingly cruel and disturbingly amoral, although this could be accounted to his extreme youth, his grief over his parents' deaths, and his inexperience with the world.

I loved how you slipped in cities and other tidbits that just keep the atmosphere of this new world in the novel. I also love, love the letters/lectures/etc. you sneak in to give us a sneak-peak of the past or the far future.

Ellis' line about liking the rope brought a big smile to my face, and the image of Ms. Christian running with a tripod was amusing. I did like how you including Jack speedily building the rest of the airship because I did wonder about Helena's swift timeline upgrade last chapter when Jack said that he still had to construct Clare's sleeping quarters.

Date: 2012-04-30 07:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] helle-d.livejournal.com
I think this is my favourite chapter so far.

Date: 2012-04-30 07:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pippinsalanna.livejournal.com
Glorious chapter. The joy of flight and the horror of war. I kind of expected a little more fanfare when the ship took off, but I did love the camera novelty. And I'll vouch for your nautical-esque things. You never forget the sight of a dark shadow of storm closing in on you, faster than you'd think possible (especially when you are still trying to tie a sail down). Your descriptions of shifts works too. You lose track of days because time is measured not in day and night but awake and asleep. And you do sleep at strange hours. And yes, someone's breakfast will totally seem like dinner to someone else.

As a nautical geek, I'd like to hear more about the navigation because at some point there will be no landmarks. Ellis only says he knows some celestial navigation. Dead reckoning, or how long you travel at a certain speed in a certain direction, only works so far, especially with the winds and air currents. Do they have charts? I might squeal with joy if Ellis pulls out a sextant. Or if Clare learned celestial navigation, we already know she's great at crunching numbers, which is what most of celestial navigation is. (Feel free to ignore all this but I have had to depend on these things to know where I am and so they are quite near and dear to my heart)

Date: 2012-04-30 10:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] teaboyfan.livejournal.com
Great chapter! This world's analog to Hiroshima and Nagasaki had a longer-lasting effect than ours, but it sounds like the lesson may be losing its impact by the time you're describing. The actual takeoff was less dramatic than I'd expected, especially after Mrs. Christian's rather pretentious oath-giving, but the understated tone really rang true.

Will there be illustrations? You describe everything so clearly I can picture most of the details, but I'm not very good at visualizing the whole structure put together. And maps maybe? I like maps.

Date: 2012-04-30 11:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alarivana.livejournal.com
Now that I'm not rushing off to an exam, a little bit about content.

I'm glad they finally left, because them being in Cambridge was starting to drag out, but the departure almost seems too sudden and without ceremony. I get that the ceremony was the day before, but I still kind of did a double-take when I realized they'd actually just left.

The story of the Battle of the Pyramids was incredibly believable and heartbreaking. I also thought that you presented the discussion on Creation in war afterward very well. All three perspectives seemed valid and to fit the characters to me, even as your close 3rd person narrator was rejecting the others'.

Them being able to get water from the ocean onboard confused me the last time around and still does a little? Do they drop down to just above sea-level to get it, and if so, how do they make sure they aren't noticed while doing that? Feels like a dumb question, but I can't seem to stop wondering.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] thornyrose42.livejournal.com - Date: 2012-05-01 05:24 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2012-04-30 11:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kallaneboi.livejournal.com
Holy crap, I don't know what you did, but Ellis's story was more chilling this time than in the other draft. This chapter was really dark, but I like that because this book deals with some heavy stuff and it can't all be jumping in leaf piles and minor explosions. This gives us a more in-depth look into the politics and beliefs behind the major religion of the world.

I have a minor nitpick:

As darkness descended, Jack started the coals under the steam engine and tested the new spigot for the helium canisters. The new slow-release extension, easily reached from the pilot's seat, worked like a charm. With dusk fast waning, Jack opened the wheel on the canister and the balloon began to fill.

You mention twice within four sentences that it's getting dark and it felt a bit repetitive to me.

Date: 2012-04-30 11:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] muchadoabouthim.livejournal.com
One minor nitpick:

You say that "twenty-five thousand French and thirty-thousand Mamluk" were killed, but you say later that "forty-five thousand soldiers died."

That one detail threw me out of the story, but otherwise I was mesmerized by this chapter. I really like the mix of lighter elements with the dark story of the Battle of the Pyramids.

Date: 2012-05-01 12:34 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Their take-off seemed really abrupt to me too. And they aren't nearly excited enough at being the pioneers of air travel, the first people ever to fly! I think we got to see that a bit more of that wonder in the earlier draft, with Ellis' journal entry. And didn't Anderson whoop when they took off in the earlier version? Write more reactions man! :D

Also maybe it's just me but it wasn't very clear when they were flying above Italy. When I read Ellis' letter that was written in Italy, I wondered why it was put there out of context, and had to scroll back up to realise that the Temple they were talking about was Italian.

(no subject)

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2012-05-03 02:11 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2012-05-01 03:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] deborahsama.livejournal.com
The Battle of the Pyramids is also a favorite~ I love Graveworthy's story-telling cadence. I can almost hear him in my head. With all of the focus on the last few chapters having been on Jack's building the ship, it's nice to swing some of the focus back around to the Creation aspect of your worldbuilding.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] deborahsama.livejournal.com - Date: 2012-05-01 04:19 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2012-05-01 03:14 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Beautiful. The sea of glass is horrifying and GENIUS at the same time, if you know what I mean, the most memorable bit of this fuckin brilliant novel. It's touches like this that take your work from good to great, Sam.

Date: 2012-05-01 03:15 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Er, that was me, AnitaRay.

Date: 2012-05-01 04:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] derridian.livejournal.com
A small thing about the use of small : ...which left a small, cozy room for Clare's small pallet. (yes, I punned. Badly).

Also: "Is that a camera?" Jack asked, intrigued.

"Indeed, Mr. Baker. Stay right there," she said, and ducked behind it. Jack held himself in place, though he was eager to investigate it; the camera wasn't uncommon in Europe but they hadn't really caught on in Boston yet.

"That's it!" she said, and pressed a button on the side of the box. Something clicked and whirred and then there was a huge flash of light. Jack waited patiently until she'd thrown the cloth over the box again and handed it to Nicholas, who carried it back to the house.


Jack is eager to investigate the camera and then the camera exits stage left and Jack's interest with it. I was expecting some kind of pay off as Jack is usually portrayed as single minded when it comes to exploring new technology.

I also had a problem with the phrase about dusk waning which I have a hard time imagining for some reason (waning as opposed to falling etc).

Date: 2012-05-01 06:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] skelody.livejournal.com
I can't have read very attentively at all the first time round, I don't remember this story! Anyway, I did stumble a bit over one parsing: "the world ceased to be in a blast of fire so bright", etc., initially read as if the world ceased to be-located-in a blast of fire -- I think perhaps I leapt to that at first because the intransitive existential sense of "be" is rather rarer than other meanings.

Date: 2012-05-01 08:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emei.livejournal.com
I like how quick and unfussy the departure is, to me it rang true to how anticlimatic/relaxing it feels to get started on a long journey after a lot of worrying and planning. (Personally I love the moment when there's nothing to do but settle into the trip, when I can't plan or prepare any more. Come what may!) Though having one of the characters remark on it sounds like a good idea.

Date: 2012-05-01 09:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jkivela.livejournal.com
This chapter has Nicolas doing a lot of activity, and I always pictured him older, very "Alfred". So, needs more description (as you've heard a few times)? :)

It seems kind of dangerous to launch after only one test flight. But I understand the pressure they are under. A comment about that would let me know that the characters fear for their life and have thought of that too.

I'd also have expected more fan fair for the launch. I speech or toast or something from the Princess. Some comment between Ellis and Anderson. I'd like more excitement from the spies. If not excitement, at least more fear.

I am wondering how they are seeing each other once they are aloft, the moon maybe? Also I'd have thought Ellis would take the bottom bunk, less distance to fall (but that is horribly nit-picky--just my thoughts).


"it bears a more flourishing hand than his later, more economical script." should the be 'flourished hand'?

"if I seek out a few friendly tars and share some tobacco" should that be 'friendly bars'? If not, I'm not sure what a tar is.

Date: 2012-05-02 12:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] harkpad02.livejournal.com
I'm late on reading this chapter, but I echo everyone's sentiment that the story of the battle is breathtaking. I'm a teacher, so the bit about schools nurturing compassion and strong thinking rang very true. Also, I agree with your liftoff instead of fanfare. These folks aren't speech-y and the princess got her photograph. Anything else would seem out of place to me. I guess I was hoping for a goodbye to Anderson (they all like him so much, and so do your readers), but I like the no-flourish departure, personally.


“suddenly it looked very forbidding.” Foreboding? (maybe not)

the ancient lore of Harvard year's-end pranks. = ancient lore of Harvard’s year-end pranks (I looked at this one a bunch of times....it bothered and puzzled me.)

Claire stood at the rail for a long time, the day they flew over the pyramids – no comma after time

fellow general Ibrahim Bey lay on the east bank – fellow general, Ibrahim Bey, lay on the east bank

who according to the few survivors shouted that he = who, according to the few survivors, shouted that he…

"Serve him right, I'd say." – should that be ‘served’?

Greedy for land and wealth, which in the end add up to power. – which, in the end, add up to power

Are Murad Bey and Ibrahim Bey brothers or is that just a common name?

Finally,

When he was just waking, however, all he seemed to want was hot tea and an audience. – love this

Date: 2012-05-02 04:10 am (UTC)
msilverstar: (corset)
From: [personal profile] msilverstar
another minor detail, repeating the word "bother": Clare hadn't even bothered to pack a dress, sticking to trousers and the shirts she'd had made for her in London. None of them bothered with shoes or socks.

Date: 2012-05-02 04:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] keestone.livejournal.com
I'm just finally getting a chance to catch up on this and enjoying it so far.

I like the no fuss departure, but the sunset photograph + flash (-lamp? -bulb?) seems off to me, with the small bit I know about early photography, lighting and exposure. Particularly since Jack is interested in the camera, which means it's mechanical, not created. (Not that I'm anywhere near an expert.)

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] keestone.livejournal.com - Date: 2012-05-03 11:20 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2012-05-07 06:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] illian.livejournal.com
The . . . what do you call them? Pull out sections (Gepetto, letters, Ellis' stories, etc.) are some of the best parts of this. They always grab me in some fashion.

Date: 2012-05-08 04:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] twirlynoodle.livejournal.com
I thought … they were going to set off in the morning? But it is evening. Granted I am reading quickly but I’m a little thrown.

This may be a little late to bring up, but …how often do they have to stoke the engine? And who does it?

Ooh, I like this way of introducing the idea of Stormpirates – is it new, or is my memory that bad?

that Jack began to visibly worry about it.

‘visibly to worry about it’ or ‘to worry about it visibly’ (sorry to be pedantic but this will annoy more than just me)

He didn't sleep as much as either she or Graveworthy would like

Suggest ‘Clare’ instead of ‘she’ as the preceding sentences make it sound like this paragraph is shifting the perspective to Jack and Clare was left behind at the end of the previous one.

Jack was piloting that day, and Graveworthy was washing himself in sea-water dippered up from the Mediterranean.

How high do they usually fly? I got the impression that when they left England they were very high, but now they’re near enough the surface to dipper up water? (which makes me think they can just reach down with a ladle … if this isn’t what you mean you might want to change the word choice.) It might be worth your while to throw in a mention of them not refilling the helium quite so often when out of sight of land, to save on resources, just in case, and would maybe provide a bit of texture to their travel. They could see dolphins or something!

The pyramids of their ancestors would be desecrated

So this was an Egypt that wasn’t overrun in the great Arab Conquest of the handwavey 8th-9th centuries then?

I am so glad you kept the Sea of Glass story in.

The goal is to destroy whoever's hurting you

‘Destroy’ is such a vicious word, and ‘hurting’ so relatively trivial, this sounds like a really petty naive thing to say. I’d replace ‘hurting’ with ‘threatening’ at least, or turn it into more of a kill-them-before-they-kill-you statement. This makes it sound like stabbing someone in revenge for them kicking your shins.

Below her, Graveworthy slept in his bunk, probably entirely untouched by the story he'd told.

I love this detail. And the fact that you acknowledge there are people like this in the world. Sometimes it seems that people think everyone is deeply and profoundly moved by everything, which makes me feel broken somehow. Maybe I am, I don't know, but I can't be the only one broken in this way, and it's nice to see some acknowledgment of this somewhere other than my own head.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] twirlynoodle.livejournal.com - Date: 2012-05-08 02:59 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2012-05-20 01:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] insixeighttime.livejournal.com
Reading:
- Helena created a ladder, why couldn't Clare do the same thing? Less weight than a rope ladder, which they discussed before.
- yeah, I don't get the ladder if a chamber pot is going to add weight.
-"Piss out a porthole!" he said, collapsing back in the chair Nicholas had brought down for him. Clare threw it onboard, --> Almost sounds like the chair is being thrown onboard.
- How does Jack know how to navigate by the stars? Ellis has mentioned knowing how before in terms of prepping for the voyage, but why would Jack have learned?
- "they would arrive within Jack's generous" --> They would arrive in Australia within?
- "The maps aren't out." --> that sounds like, "The stars aren't out." Why would they have taken the maps out?
- ""Punishment for my sins," Ellis observed in Clare's ear. / "Well-deserved, I'm sure," she said./"I certainly did enjoy them to their fullest at the time -- "" --> I first read this as he enjoys his punishment, and was confused.
- The letter is wonderful after this line "William LaRoche had fled to England in the middle of the night in a craft that should never have stayed afloat, let alone carried him all the way to Great Britain."
- I love this part. (Pyramids story)
- "Since then, no Creationist who has ever heard of the Battle of the Pyramids has found it in themselves to enter into a war as a soldier." --> Always gives me chills.

Thoughts:
- Beautiful as always.

Meta:
- The water bucket has always been my suspension of disbelief. I'd love to see it explained further, though.
- I like the letter where it is because it so nicely references the line in the discussion, and I think that would get lost otherwise. My $.02 :)

Date: 2012-05-31 12:09 am (UTC)
ext_14419: the mouse that wants Arthur's brain (Default)
From: [identity profile] derien.livejournal.com
"Piss out a porthole" --? Aaaand... what about pooping? Are they planning to hang their arses over the gunnels? Jack, the engineer, made NO plans for evacuation of waste? A seat of ease, a head?

Date: 2012-05-31 12:14 am (UTC)
ext_14419: the mouse that wants Arthur's brain (Default)
From: [identity profile] derien.livejournal.com
I mean, I realize it was meant as a joke, and it is amusing, but Clare deserves better than to be laughed at for pointing out the ridiculously obvious. Anderson should really be laughing at Jack, because talk about absent-minded professor.
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