Chapter 3 Episode 4 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Trinke snapped to even greater attention--Adewole hadn't thought it possible--and opened his notebook. "Minister Faber, you have a nine o'clock--"

"The Chancellor can wait for me for once, Trinke, the Founder knows I've waited for him enough times. Will my skirts be a hindrance, Miss Goldstein?"

They were not. The field crew tucked Faber into the two-seater autogyro seat and dressed her in goggles, gloves and a canvas duster hobbling her skirts enough to keep them out of the way. Hildy Goldstein took the pilot's seat behind her. The engine roared to life; smoke and steam billowed around it. Hildy opened the throttle, and the craft shot down the tarmac and wobbled into the air, rotors whirring.

Each time the autogyro passed the group huddled near the hangar, Adewole caught a glimpse of Minister Faber, her face serene but her hands clutching the framework tightly. "I hope she doesn't bend the thing in two!" Deviatka shouted over the engine's racket.

"Surely it is not that fragile!" Adewole shouted back. Deviatka grinned at him; Mrs. Trudge's breakfast lurched in Adewole's stomach.

"No, it's not that fragile," amended Deviatka. "Don't worry, I'm really good at this."

Adewole didn't understand his friend's full meaning until their turn to fly came. Everyone else in the expedition had gone up one by one.

"When are we to go up?" said Adewole.

Deviatka grinned. "Come on." He sprinted over to an autogyro, already puffing and ready to go. A blond, athletic-looking man about their age had the machine ready.

"Finally taking her up, eh, Karl?" said the man.

"Hello, Cas, just waiting for Hildy and Til to finish." Deviatka pulled on his goggles and gloves, and jumped into the pilot seat. "C'mon, old thing, up we go!"

"You cannot tell me you can fly this?" Adewole sputtered.

"He most certainly can, Professor," said the man Deviatka had called Cas. "Almost as well as I can!"

"Says you," laughed Deviatka.

Adewole pulled on his goggles, fastened his duster and jumped into the passenger seat; Cas showed him how to strap himself in. "Do not kill us, Deviatka," Adewole shouted over the engine.

"Right-o!" Deviatka whooped and hit the throttle; off the little autogyro went.

The craft's vibrations shook Adewole's teeth, and Minister Faber's death grip on the frame no longer seemed quite so comical. The tarmac rushed under his feet at alarming speed. "Don't look down!" bellowed Deviatka. "Look straight ahead! Damn you, Ollie, don't look down!"

The obedient Adewole snapped his gaze onto the horizon; it grew and flattened as the autogyro rose from the tarmac into the air. The vibrations smoothed out and his teeth stopped rattling, but he had to work to keep his breathing steady against the rushing wind. He would have to work out a mask for his mouth--perhaps a more thickly-woven kikoi might work. Deviatka took them three times round the field before he set the craft down and taxied to the hangar. "Neat as a pin!" said Cas.

"Why did you not trust me enough to tell me?" demanded Adewole that night after dinner.

"It had nothing to do with trust, old thing, I wanted to surprise you," said Deviatka, tuning his guitar.

"Well, you succeeded. I must say, I was most surprised to walk away from the experience."

"Say now, three trips round the field in my hands, and nary a bump nor a scrape on take-off or landing! Cas says any landing you can walk away from is a good landing. His aunt Hildy has decided it's the first rule of flying. He's a character, though, that Cas. He almost didn't walk away from some of his early landings, but then he had the same problem when he raced autocarriages. Now he's talking about founding an air racing league, if he can get the government to loosen its stranglehold on the autogyros. Unlikely, I think."

"'Hildy' and 'Cas.' You are on better terms with the Goldsteins than I would have expected."

Deviatka looked up from the tuning pegs. "What? Oh, that. Turns out Blessing had nothing to do with it. Hildy's brother has connections at Diederich, and that's where she got the black mercury. We were just thinking along the same lines. It happens. She's some woman, all right. Not bad looking, either."

"Is she not a little old for you?"

"A man notices beauty at any age," retorted Deviatka. "She's interested, but who has time?"

Miss Goldstein must be showing interest when he wasn't around, thought Adewole, but aloud he said, "You are hardly so busy you cannot pursue a little romance, if not with this lady then another."

"I'm about to become a lot busier, my friend, and so are you." Deviatka opened the folio of Simon Ritter's lieder and handed Adewole his bansu. "I like the way you sing 'This Night of Tears and Shooting Stars'--let's play it while we have the chance."

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