Monday, September 30, 2013

Sudden Short Story 54

"If we don't act, then this Wilhelm II wins either way," said the tinkerer. 
"How do you mean, 'either way'?" came the question. 
"If he can defeat the brass dragon, then he'll gain both the confidence of his people and the fear of everyone else.  However, I don't think that he means to defeat it, unless it comes to that.  That is, I suspect that he seeks to take control of it for himself."
Gentlemanly dismay sounded throughout the room. 
"If this is true," spake a general in attendance, "and if the new Kaiser gets his hands on this strangest of ships, then he'll no doubt use it to its current nefarious purpose.  In addition to her, admittedly non-exclusive, access to the trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks and to the Volga route, Prussia will be the only northern European country able to safely use the North Sea and the English Channel." 
"Prussia might now have to reach farther, though," said another, "though I suspect that we might have worse fears than that before us.  The dragon is ever-increasingly seen in the Channel and in increasingly western parts of the North Sea.  I suspect that whoever controls her is realizing what a pipe dream the European blockade is.  I fear that her pilot means to blockade the Isles, instead, forcing the Empire's hand." 
"Exactly," chimed in the tinkerer again.  "That's why I've devised a plan to run the brass dragon aground, though likely destroying it in the process, thus eliminating the threat and enabling it to be studied.  This plan will only cost the crown one to three of her best dirigibles - the exact number depends on how well the plan goes.  The more significant investment goes into the construction of these."  He retrieved a rolled-up diagram from its tubular container and unfurled it upon the table.  Many eyed it.  Those who understood it were puzzled at first, and then perturbed. 
"It's not waterproof," pointed out one. 
"It doesn't need to be," said its designer, "and waterproofing would weigh it down too much to fly." 
"Well, now you're just being unreasonable," said one of the engineers in attendance.  "The brass dragon flies because it gains an economy of scale with its massive wings.  Based on the scale given here, this craft won't have nearly enough wing surface to fly." 
"While the economy of scale helps, I suspect that the brass dragon is a hybrid aircraft, when it's an aircraft at all.  As for the surface, you neglect the recent wind-tunnel research, which demonstrates that the leading surface is what's most important when the wings move forward.  Of course, forward is just relative to the wing itself, so I have them rotate," he said, pointing to the diagram, "about these axles.  It matters not whether they go forward, backward, left, or right.  Rotation does produce torque, though, which is why I have a matching set on the other side, rotating the opposite direction.  These wings, rotating quickly, produce enough lift to carry the entire craft, engine, pilot, fuel and all.  At least, that's the theory.  I lack the funds to produce them myself, which is why I'm here." 
"How many do you think that it will take for this plan to work?" asked another general. 
"I would plan to make and launch at least a dozen, expecting that some may be fought off or deflected by wind from the brass dragon's wings.  Do note the small size of these craft." 
There was a silent moment, for a time, as everyone contemplated the balance of the plan.  A few looks were exchanged, and then, one of the advisors spoke up:  "If there are no objections," he said, pausing to allow any," I think that it's safe to grant you approval to present your idea to the queen.  Pending her approval, the rest can be readily arranged." 
And with that, the helicopter preceded the aeroplane. 

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