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Airship Nation
Dark World Chronicles - Volume 2
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-122-8
Genre: Science Fiction/Steampunk
eBook Length: 241 Pages
Published: January 2017

From inside the flap

About Dark World Chronicles:

The world has gone dark. Nothing works. Cars and trucks and airplanes and guns and bombs are nothing more than paperweights. A mysterious disturbance propagated onto the earth’s magnetic field has the effect of inhibiting all explosions. It has repealed most of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, leaving the world as it was in your great great grandparents’ time. The villain (or hero, depending on your perspective) who has made this happen is the physicist Homer Layton. He must be destroyed. And his stupid machine that injects the disturbance must be destroyed. Because as long as it is running there can never be another real war. That is unacceptable. Fortunes of treasure and innovation have been invested in war materiel, all of it now useless. Most people would like to have their cars and computers and televisions working again, but that’s not what really matters. What really matters is that governments cannot get on with the business of war. The power elites around the world have determined to track down Layton and his little colony of war opponents and smash them. Then the nuclear war that that was just about to happen when he turned on his damnable machine can finally get started . . .

Airship Nation (Book II of Dark World Chronicles):

Homer’s young protégé, Loren Martine, is now charged with the defense of the Baracoa colony and preservation of the Layton Effect transmitter that has made the world go dark. He knows an attack is imminent, that the colony’s success in defeating the earlier attack will not be so easily repeated. The shadowy Rupert Paule in Washington is determined to pulverize them. His forces will come again, under sail, and Loren’s few sailing vessels will have to be quick to repel them. He sets out to invent a more effective keel to make his boats sail higher and faster. The invention he comes up with is staggering: a variation of the Layton Effect causes a drastic local slowing of the flow of time in one dimension, so a keel which is free to move fore and aft is effectively locked in its plane from side to side. His sailing craft will not slip to windward and they won’t heal over in the wind. To his utter astonishment, the keel also works when turned on its side. It is falling, but so slowly as not to be noticed due locally modified time in the vertical dimension. The vertical keel floats in the air like a skyhook. He and his colleagues set out to use the new technology to fashion a fleet of airships. The airships are propelled by wind and held aloft by Layton Effect transmitters. What this changes is only everything. Let the enemy come in their ridiculous old-fashioned ships. Loren will defeat them from above.

Airship Nation (Excerpt)


If it was surprise to all of them that Candace Fournier Hopkins had found her true calling as a naval officer, it was no more of a surprise than the strange turn of career that Loren had undergone. Just over a year ago in his annual birthday letter to himself, he had written that at last he felt he was headed on the path he would follow for the rest of his life, the life of a theoretical physicist. And now months would pass at a time in which he never gave a second thought to physics. He had found a far greater passion: War.

The battle of the Bahama Channel was never very far from Loren’s mind. Again and again he would feel the crash of Columbia’s bows into the helpless topsides of the white yawl, hear the cracking of timbers overhead as her rigging fell. He could sense the pounding of his heart as he leapt over the deck with a machete in his hand, hear the raucous sound of his own voice. Sometimes he would wake up in the midst of a battle dream full of crackling blue beams, gas-masked villains and blood. His mouth would be dry with fear, his pulse racing. And half of him would wish it would never happen again, while the other half was hoping it would never end. He was hooked. He had fought for his life and for his land and won. And now everything else paled by comparison.

The business of the rest of his life, he now knew, would be fighting. The adventure of Fort Belvoir had confirmed that if any confirmation had been necessary. His path was set from that point on. He would defend this island and the community as long as he lived.

Back in the States, his adversaries, Rupert Paule and the shadowy Reverend Gallant, Loren suspected, were discouraged but not defeated. He thought there would be another attack sometime in the not too distant future. This time, he knew, they would come from the south. That didn’t mean he could relax his guard in the Channel and along the coast to the west, but it did mean he had to shift his emphasis. The enemy fleet would pass well offshore to the east of Puerto Rico, perhaps even carrying on all the way around outside of the Windward Islands, and then make their attack with the trades directly behind them, approaching Cuba from the south or the southwest, depending on the season. He had evaluated that plan again and again from the enemy’s point of view, testing it against the thinking of Kelly and Candace and the Proctor. None of them had been able to come up with a better card for Paule to play. So they had to assume that is just what he planned to do.

All of the defenses against approach from the south involved slipping behind the attacking fleet, and then coming down on it with the wind. But that was a maneuver that had to be carried out with great precision. And from the moment the attack was signaled, everything would depend on being able to outsail the opposition. It would be foolhardy to expect Paule to try again in tired old boats like the McMillan yawls. This time he would come in something faster and a lot more handy, probably multi-hulls. And against such boats, the Baracoa fleet would be seriously outclassed. Of course, eventually, Paule would be able to bring some steam powered ships into play. But Baracoa was working on that angle too. It would take a year or so, but they would soon have something to counter a steam threat from the north. Only in the interim did they have to worry about being outsailed. Paule had instant access to all the expensive toys that American yachtsmen had accumulated over the years, while Loren had only those vessels the group had arrived in plus a few catamarans from Guantanamo. The Revolutionary Republic of Cuba, unfortunately, had not been a great center of yachting.

What could he do to increase the advantage for the Baracoa fleet? How could he give his vessels better sailforms, lower drag, better hullspeed or a higher pointing angle? If they could sail even five degrees closer to the wind than the opposing fleet, he knew, that would be a huge advantage. A huge advantage.

From years of training as a physicist, he began to sketch a model, part physical and part mathematical, of the factors that affected a sail’s ability to pull when trimmed close to the wind. Within an hour he had reconstructed the equations from memory of the Bernouli Effect, the acceleration of the wind around the leading edge of a sail and its resultant force drawing the boat forward. He made a simple approximation of the resistance of the keel that kept the boat from sliding downwind. Each of his equations involved one use of differential calculus, a derivative with respect to time, and this caused his mind to wander back into the realm of t-prime, the elevated state of time brought on by the Layton Effect.

He divided time into its two components and re-did the equations. Since the boat and the sea it sailed through were governed by the same t-prime, the difference washed out and he was left with essentially the same results again. But suppose that weren’t true? Suppose t-prime could take on one value at the sail and another at the keel? He seemed to recall that there was something they had been grappling with during the previous spring in Ithaca that might have an application now to the problem of making their boats sail higher, even faster. Underneath his bed, he found the battered shoulder bag he had carried on the flight from Ithaca to Ft. Lauderdale. He hadn’t even thought of that bag for more than half a year. In preparation for their departure on that long-ago May evening, Homer had insisted that Loren bring along the laboratory daybook. Who knew, he had argued, that they wouldn’t find a few minutes one day by the pool to think about some aspect of the problems they were working on, and have need of the records they had been keeping in the daybook? Loren found the book now in the bottom of the shoulder bag.

Sitting on his bunk in the cottage he shared with Edward, Loren leafed through the dated entries in the book. At last he came to the Sunday afternoon of his presentation to the group about t-prime. The six now-familiar equations were laid out neatly in his handwriting. These were the equations that had enabled change to the very fabric of time in this world. He stared at them, thinking through again their significance. It was still stunning, how wrong they had been before in the way they thought about time. The old view seemed so simplistic and naive, now that they knew. Nothing was simple about time. It was baroque, convoluted, Peculiar, in the special sense that Homer Layton had given to that word. Yet it was no more surprising than the baroqueness earlier generations of physicists had discovered in the inner workings of energy or gravity or light.

But all that had to do with Physics, the pure science. What Loren was interested in now was a gimmick to make boats sail faster, some way to turn the equations again to their advantage. He took the daybook and set out in search of Edward. He found him in the workshop.

“Look at this, Ed. Something from your past.” Loren laid the book down, open to the t-prime equations. He placed it directly on top of the telephone network diagrams that Edward had been going over with D.D. Pease. “I’m not interrupting, am I?”

“Goodness, no. Pease and I were just working on re-establishing the modern world. Nothing serious, mind you. Only that. We’re going to have phones working throughout the village within the next week.”

“Oh, good. Ed, do look at this equation for a minute and tell me if I’m off on a goose hunt…”

“A wild goose chase.”

“Uh huh. You see, there is an additional stable value of t-prime, beyond the one we have elevated ourselves to. There was the old original value, the one that I called t-prime-zero: that was the way the world was before we got involved. And then there is a t-prime-one: that is the reduced time flow that we have now, with time proceeding at something like a twentieth of a percent slower rate.”

“Yes, I remember.” Edward just looked distracted.

“But then, the equation predicts that there is a second stable state, considerably slower than the others. I’ll call that t-prime-two. It would slow time down to about one ten thousandth of what it is now.”


“Notice it would be too slow to propagate. I mean it would take thousands of years to inject itself onto the earth’s magnetic field. So it could only have local impact, just in the immediate surroundings of the Effector.

“Oh good. I just couldn’t bear to have the whole world slowed down by a factor of ten thousand. Think how it would set back our phone project.”

“Uh huh. But now suppose we built ourselves a t-prime-two Effector and attached it to the keel of a sailboat. When we turned it on, time would be slowed enormously in the direction of the beam. If we were to align the beam perpendicular to the keel, we would have a boat that was extremely stable in its plane. It simply could not heel over. And it couldn’t slip downwind. I mean it would be slipping, but ever so slowly, because time would be so sluggish in that direction. Don’t you see? It would be the ultimate keel. And it wouldn’t depend at all on water resistance. The boat could move directly forward or backward, but not sideways. And it couldn’t tilt. It would be locked in its plane.”

“A little inconvenient when it comes time to turn,” said Pease.

“We switch it off. And then when we’re established on the new course, we turn it on again. Think of the advantage it would give us to be able to sail without side-slip and without heeling. We could sail rings around whatever they sent down against us.”

“Cute,” said Edward.

“Cute?! This is more than cute. This is important, Ed. I think you guys ought to drop what you’re doing and work with me on this.”

Barodin shrugged, and then gave Loren an evil little grin. “Pease and I are reasonable men, Loren. We’re so impressed with the promise of your ultimate keel that we’re going to let you clear off one whole workbench, that one right over there under the window, to give yourself a place to build your invention. No, don’t thank us. The workbench is yours. Just pile all the cases on the floor and push the cat off and unload those light radios that are waiting to be tuned. And all you have to do is to keep as quiet as a little mouse as you go about your work, so as not to interrupt the Alexander Graham Bell project.”

“Edward! Aren’t you going to help me?”

“Of course we are, Loren. We’ve already put you on the list. You’ve got a number. What’s his number, D.D.?”

“One-eighty-six. He comes just after the new coil for the girls’ dorm water heater.”

“There you are. Number one-eighty-six. We’ll be all yours in just a month or two.”



Loren returned to the workshop the next day, determined to be “quiet as a mouse,” and not disturb whatever trivial project Barodin and Pease were working on. He would be the ideal tenant laborer. And if they took no note of what he was doing, they would soon have to confront what they had missed. Loren was about to make history. When Baracoa’s boats sailed solidly up to windward with his marvelous keels, he would take all the credit, every bit. So he didn’t say a word to them, just went directly to his bench and started working.

After a few minutes of trying to ignore the furious electric energy he was giving off, Edward and D.D. Pease tossed it in. Edward spoke up in a raised voice: “Well, this has been some productive afternoon, Pease. Who would think we could have finished one hundred and eighty-five projects in so little time? But there’s project number one-eighty-five done and right as rain. Pile it up with the others. What’s next?”

“Let’s see. Oh, yes. There’s project number one-eighty-six. Some sort of a keel we’re going to help Martine with.”

“Oh, I remember that one. Not just a keel, but the ultimate keel. The poor kid is probably sitting over there at his workbench, just waiting for us to pitch in and help.”

“Right,” said Loren. “Pair of dreamers. You guys will be lucky if I let you in on this at all. I’m inclined to keep it for myself.” His unsteady hands spilled hot solder down the edge of the circuit board. “Shit.”

“Let me give you a hand there, young fellow.” Edward nudged him aside and moved in. “Ah, a t-prime-two Effector, if I’m not mistaken, Pease. But with a little twist, this one. It’s got a beefed up input circuit, as though our young apprentice envisions applying a much higher voltage to drive it.”

“Exactly.” Loren let Edward clean up the spilled solder and re-solder the junction. “The second state is not where we predicted it would be. We were miles off. In the second stable state, time doesn’t flow like molasses; it almost doesn’t flow at all. It’s slowed down to less than ten to the minus tenth.”

Edward whistled.

“English only spoken here,” Pease objected. “What, pray tell, is ten to the minus tenth?”

“One ten billionth. Time is slowed to less than a ten billionth of its normal flow. That means a second as perceived inside the beam is equivalent to more than three hundred years, viewed from the outside.”

Barodin, now every bit the physicist again, was disbelieving. “How could we have been off by so much?”

“Edward, it’s fascinating. Dr. Chan helped me to understand. There are coins of time, just like light or gravity. Indivisible little chunks of time.  Think what that means!” He continued to explain as Edward completed the circuit, peppering Loren with questions along the way. In the midst of his discourse, Loren suddenly remembered that they still had no way to supply the voltage required. “We’re going to need something over nine hundred volts to drive this thing. So we can’t use any of our regular power supplies.”

“At nine hundred volts,” Pease observed, “I hope you mean for it to draw next to no current. Otherwise our ultimate keel is going to be a pig for power.”

“A few micro-amps. Maybe less.”

“In that case, we can just charge up a capacitor and let the Effector drain it off. That will give us a few shots, anyway, to test the thing out. For the final units, we can rig a battery powered source with a voltage multiplier.” Pease began laying out a capacitor source on a circuit breadboard. “How much control do you need?”

Loren directed them both as they set up their parts of the system. Pease was done first. “We are going to need a keel to attach this to. How about one of those big pieces of plywood?”

“Good,” said Loren. “Cut a nine inch circle in the middle of it. The flange of the Effector will clamp right into that.”

“OK.” Pease went to get a drill and a sabre saw. By the time he was done cutting the hole, Loren and Ed were ready to try the beam. Pease crowded up to the workbench to observe. Loren adjusted the input voltage to the level he had calculated from the new equation. He drew a long breath and threw the switch. The beam popped on and stayed on.

“It’s stable. But is it doing anything? Is it locked in its plane?” Loren reached out and pushed tentatively against the unit. It didn’t budge. Then he pushed it perpendicular to the direction of the beam and it moved freely. He lifted the whole unit up on its breadboard. It was free to move in two dimensions, but absolutely locked in the third. “God, this is unearthly,” he said. The device felt as if it were sliding between two vertical planes of glass. He could move it up and down and sideways, but it just would not move at all forward or backward. “Unreal. Let’s attach it to the keel.”

They had to turn the unit off to move it. Or that was the wrong way to think about it, Loren decided. The force they would expect to apply to move it across the room in a few seconds was sufficient to do that. It would move it that distance in a few seconds, but seconds as observed inside the beam. That was the equivalent of several centuries from their perspective. Since they didn’t have centuries to move Effector, it was better to turn it off.

The excitement built up all over again, as they configured the Effector onto the “keel.” Now they knew what was going to happen when they turned it on, but they couldn’t wait to do it. Just as they were nearing completion, Kelly came in.

“Jesus, the adrenaline oozing out of this place is scary. What are you guys up to? Dirty movies?”

“Kelly, come see.” Loren was dancing with anticipation. “We built a keel. Not just a keel, but a one hundred percent effective keel. It’s going to make our boats sail like the wind. Rupert Paule will never know what hit him. Turn it on, Edward.”

Ed threw the switch, and Loren demonstrated. “Imagine that this piece of plywood is Columbia’s keel. See, it moves effortlessly through the water in the direction the boat is pointed. But just try to tilt it or to move it sideways. Just try!”

The plywood board was standing unsupported on its edge. Kelly tried to push it over and it didn’t move. Then she dragged it along it length. Of course it moved freely in that direction. She leaned against it with her whole weight, but couldn’t push it sideways at all. Finally she lifted the board in both hands, holding it up about a foot off the floor. It was perfectly stable in one dimension, as though adhering to an invisible wall. She could slide it up and down and along the length of that wall, but simply could not separate it from the wall. Only, there was no wall there, just air. Finally she lifted it up to the level of her face. Holding it in place, she turned her back to it, and leaned her shoulders against it. Then she held her hands out in space. She was standing only on her heels, supported, it seemed, by nothing. “Wow,” she said. “Wow. It’s magic. It’s just magic.” She inched her heels out a little further to accentuate the effect. With a crash, the board slid down its plane and deposited Kelly on her bottom on the floor. She looked up at Loren. “Loren, it’s magic.”

“Not magic at all,” He said peevishly. “It’s a perfectly simple application of physical principle.” He didn’t mention that it was a physical principle that no one had conceived of until a few hours before.

“It’s marvelous though,” Kelly said. She was still leaning against it, seated on the floor. It seemed to delight her that she was supported by a board on its edge and the board was supported by nothing. The delight was all over her face. “Would it work on its side, Loren?” She indicated with her hands an imaginary keel on its side, suspended in the air. “Would it?”

Loren was so annoyed by the stupidity of the question that he fairly snapped at her. “Of course not.” Kelly had so much innate intelligence that it was easy to forget how ignorant she was. She had never even had a course in high school physics. “That would be a skyhook. That would be magic.”

“But wait, Loren…” Edward’s eyes were unfocused, thinking too of that horizontal keel.

Loren rounded on him angrily. “Edward! Wake up. We’re not conjurors, we’re scientists. A keel suspended in the air would violate every law of physics. There would be the downward force of its weight and no force to counteract it. But it wouldn’t be falling.”

“But it would be falling, don’t you see? It would be accelerating toward the earth at 32 feet per second per second, just like any other falling object. Only they would be very sluggish seconds. It would eventually clatter to the ground, just as you would expect it to. You’d just have to wait a few centuries.”

Loren stared at him, dumfounded and still annoyed. Finally, Pease spoke up: “No need to argue about it, folks. We can just try it.” He switched the Effector off, holding on to the board as he did. Then he placed the board flat on the work bench and turned the switch on again. “Now, if it works on the horizontal, as Kelly suggests, I should be able to slide it…”

As he spoke, he slid the board along the work surface and out beyond it. His voice trailed off as soon as it became apparent what was happening. The plywood board with its attached Effector stood suspended in the air. It was drifting very slowly across the room.

In the long silence that followed, Loren approached his creation, almost reverently. He put his hand out to touch it. It moved easily along its plane, but was solid as a rock in the vertical dimension. He leaned heavily down on it, and it held his weight. He turned around to Kelly.

“Kelly , I…”

“Oh, Loren,” she said. “Look what you have invented.”


They missed supper. Eating was the furthest thing from their minds. They felt no need to be with people who had not been part of the invention. There would have been too much to explain. And the time of explaining would have taken away directly from the time for exulting over what they had done.

“It was really Kelly who invented it,” Loren said, not for the first time.

“You’re being a silly goose, as usual, Loren Martine. You invented it.”

“But I never would have thought, never in a million years, of turning the thing on its side. I was blocked. I just couldn’t think that thought.”

“It would have taken you about a minute, Loren. You would have stumbled on it. You couldn’t have missed it for long.”

“I wonder.”

“Scientists don’t just invent things and then walk away from them. They test their inventions every which way. And one of the ways you would have tested it was on its side.”

Edward weighed in, “Kelly’s right in that respect, Loren. We certainly would have stumbled on the fact that it worked in all dimensions. It wouldn’t have taken us long, certainly not an hour. So it is your invention. But it’s also Kelly’s.” He turned to her. “Kelly, you don’t know the convention for how we deal with luck in our field. There is so much luck in any kind of discovery, that scientists decided generations ago not to quibble whether it was luck or genius. They would give full credit for discovery. And if there were some who complained at the credit given to Fleming, for example, when he stumbled onto penicillin, well, they were just sore losers. People who stumble cleverly into useful discovery are no less necessary than the geniuses. When the paper is written on this, it will have both your names as principal authors. And yours will be first, Kelly; alphabetical order, you know. The paper will have a wonderfully esoteric title like ‘Quantum time and differential time inertia of skyhookus admirablis’ by K. Corsayer and L. Martine.”

“Don’t forget Peter Chan,” Loren objected. “He was integral to this invention. It would be ‘Chan, Corsayer and Martine.’” Kelly was radiant at the thought of being included between two such illustrious names. Loren placed his hands on her waist and lifted her up onto ‘skyhookus admirablis.’ “K. Corsayer, principal inventor, takes her ease, seated in mid-air. Where are the press photographers?” There was a long hole in the conversation as they stared, still unbelieving, at Kelly afloat in the air.

“And then on a second line, as junior authors,” Kelly spoke up from her perch, “come the names of our faithful assistants, E. Barodin and D.D. Pease.”

“I should hope so,” Mr. Pease said. “We ought to get some credit here. After all we gave up a whole hour of our time to building this little gimmick. That was time that could have been used for real work like stringing the phones. This thing, of course,” he gestured toward the keel under Kelly, “is only a toy. It’s not as though it would ever turn out to be useful for anything. Not useful at all. Unless you count little things like airships…”

“Airships!” Kelly repeated, wondering at the sound of the word in her own mouth. “Do you know what it does for us to have airships? It transforms us, our whole little community. We are no longer a bunch of renegades camping out on a beach. With airships and our Stella weapons, we are a nation. We are the most powerful nation on the face of the earth!”

The most powerful nation on the face of the earth. It had a lovely ring to it, that phrase. They let it ring for a moment in their ears.

“It’s true,” Loren agreed. “We won’t have to worry anymore about survival. We won’t have to wake up each morning wondering if this day will bring the long line of enemy ships, stretching all the way to the horizon, armed with gas and chemical weapons. We won’t have to worry about Rupert Paule. A thousand Rupert Paules wouldn’t be able to stand up to us.”

Kelly was floating slowly out of the conversation. Loren reached out for her hand to draw her in again.

By mid-morning of the next day, they had their first prototype flyer nearly ready to try out. It was a rectangular wooden platform with an Effector fastened underneath. They dismantled one of the village catamarans and mounted its mast and rigging on the platform. What they were building was a kind of iceboat to skim along just above the surface of the sea. But where the drag of an iceboat was substantial from action of its runners over the ice, the drag of their little flyer would be nearly zero. It would be held back by nothing more than the friction of the air itself. Edward said that iceboats could move at speeds over 100 miles per hour. They figured their flyer was good for more than that.

Loren was giving the directions: “We’ll mount the second Effector on the deck with its axis perpendicular to the direction of travel. That is our keel. So the flyer is stable in two dimensions. It can only move in a line, as though it were on an invisible track.”

There was no way to steer the current model. All they could do was sail in a straight line, stop and turn the keel Effector off, then muscle the craft around to sail back in the opposite direction.

“There is no way to stop it, either,” Kelly pointed out.

“That will come later. That’s just a nicety,” said Loren. They were too close now to being able to fly to worry about niceties. As soon as the sail was up, Loren lifted himself onto the platform. “I‘ll be the first to try…”

“Along with me, ” said Kelly. She was already climbing aboard.

“Kelly! This is likely to be dangerous.”

“Oh. Well then, perhaps I had better try the first run by myself. As a member of the inventing team with superior alphabetic standing, that is.”

While Loren was searching for a suitable response, Kelly sheeted home the main sail. “Hold on, Loren. Here we go…”

The little sailer took off as though it had been hit by a truck from behind. It skimmed out over the water, gaining speed. Kelly’s long blond hair streamed out behind her. She wrapped the sheet two times around the deck cleat, keeping the tail end in her hand. Then she pulled herself into place behind Loren and fastened her arms around his chest. They still seemed to be accelerating. Loren could barely keep his eyes open against the wind. There was no possibility for communication. Or, at least, there was no hope of speaking and being heard. What there was was Kelly’s excited “Weeeeeeee,” behind him.

When they finally eased the sail a few minutes later, Baracoa beach was a good five miles away. It seemed to take forever for the craft to slow down. Finally, Loren backwinded the sail to help reduce their velocity. While they still had a bit of forward momentum, he turned off the keel Effector. The platform spun slowly up into the wind. By holding the sail way off to leeward, they managed to rotate it all the way around to point back home.

It was eerie to look down at the water five feet below. And frightening to think of one of them falling off. Loren doubted he would be able to help Kelly back up onto the platform if she did fall in. He wished they had thought to bring life jackets. More niceties.

They took it a little easier on the way back, spilling some wind to avoid building too much speed. As they approached, they could see Edward and D.D. Pease waving on the beach. The little craft was pointed directly at them. Loren should have slowed down, but it was too much of a temptation to go whistling right over their audience. So he shot on toward them. Edward held his ground, confident they would stop in time. At the last minute, he decided to abandon his dignity and throw himself on the beach. Loren finally began backwinding much too late. The flyer went headlong into the side of the shop, spilling its two passengers off into the sand.

Kelly hopped up, lifting him to his feet and hugging him. “Wow,” she said. “More! Let’s do it again.”

The rest of the afternoon was given over to what they called “trials,” but which were really nothing more than “rides.” Loren went up to the shipyard to find Dr. Chan while Kelly took Edward out. He dragged the mathematician back to the beachfront shop, explaining as he went. Chan stared with open mouth at the flying craft as it approached the beach. Loren’s explanation suddenly made no sense at all. As Edward and Kelly jumped down, Chan was passing his arms underneath the platform, wonderingly. A few minutes later, he was in place behind Loren as the little flyer shot off on another trial. He didn’t say a single thing as they turned. Loren suspected that their co-inventor might be a trifle frightened. But when he finally hopped down onto terra firma again, Chan was grinning like a kid. “That was FUNNNNNNN!”

Finally it was D.D. Pease’s turn to go out with Kelly. He was dubious, but not inclined to pass up his chance. They helped him up onto the platform in his yellow life vest.

While they were gone, Loren broached the subject of a steering mechanism he had been considering: “Suppose we had the keel Effector mounted on a rotating disc on the deck, Edward. We’d need an indexing mechanism, connected to an interruptor in the circuit. You would rotate the disc, ever so slightly, while the Effector was briefly off. Then when it cut back in, the keel would be aligned maybe a tenth of a degree off the line of travel. There would be a little bump, as it cut in, because the whole flyer would have to turn suddenly into its new direction of travel. We steer by re-aligning in dozens of tiny increments. The size of the increment has to be smaller for high speeds and larger for slow speeds.”

Edward frowned in concentration. “Lot’s of linkages to keep track of: linkages between the platform and disc, between the steering mechanism and the disc, between the Effector and the steering mechanism…we need a speed sensor to determine how much to allow the disc to increment around. Too complicated for me. This is Pease’s territory. The man is a wonder with anything mechanical or electro-mechanical. Tell him what you want when he gets back.”

As soon as Mr. Pease returned, Loren began to explain. Kelly listened in. Pease was nodding, already sketching out the mechanism in his mind. As soon as Loren was finished, he started back toward the shop. But Kelly restrained him. “And Mr. Pease, make us another mechanism just like that to control the vertical Effector, the one that holds the platform up.”

Loren could hardly believe his ears. “Get serious, Kelly. Why would we ever want to alter the angle of the vertical Effector? That would be a disaster. If it ever got itself onto a sloping plane, the flyer would just slide down it and crash into the earth.”

“Think about it, Loren,“ she said. We have speed to burn. We must have been going a hundred miles an hour or more. Suppose when we were flying along at that speed we had some way to index very slightly onto an upward sloping plane. What would happen?”

“I see what she means,” Pease nodded. “It would be a way to gain altitude. You’d sacrifice some speed for height. Then when you attained the height you wanted, you could even the plane back to level.”

Loren thought it over. “We need some protection against misfunction, though. It’s scary to think about turning the vertical Effector off and on. Suppose it didn’t come back on?”

“That,” said Kelly, “is a ‘nicety.’ That means we let Mr. Pease work on it for a twenty minutes or so. By that time he will have figured out a solution to all our problems so the rest of us never have to think about them again. We’ll just push some control stick to the UP position and our flyer will go up. And when we push it to the DOWN position, it will go down. And, Mr. Pease, we’d like to have the horizontal plane indexer work with a steering wheel, please, so nobody has to think about indexing around with the keel Effectors going on and off. Will twenty minutes be sufficient for all that?”

“Maybe you better give me an hour,” Pease said.