Todd awoke from the nightmare darkness with a start and for a few seconds sight eluded him the stench anodised steel stung his nose whilst the puffing and wheezing of the steam carts moved along the cobbled streets. Eventually he stood and wiped the water from his coat. He looked down at his chronometer but with dismay he found that he had cracked the water reservoir. He unstrapped the useless machine from his wrist and threw it against the ally wall. His old airship medals tinkled in his pocket as he moved. He sighed and pulled his gloves further up his wrists back to the dockyard again. It was at that moment the rain began to fall the greasy sooty droplets fell from the polluted sky with vigour. Todd began to run he was late he knew it he ran past the slow moving steam carts transporting the freshly mined ore to the washing plant then on to the furnace plant their chugging was soon lost to the frantic pattering of his feet and the hammering of the rain. Looking across the street he saw the tavern he had been drinking in last night. A sad smile lit his dirty features as he ran his top hat tipping further back on his head and wobbling, dangerously close to falling off and onto the grimy street. The imposing building in front of him heralded the termination of his journey. The stark bricks towered over him a reminder that he was insignificant in the grand scheme of things. The gates to the docks were locked to deter the masses of people from coming into the docks but Todd just smiled and looking around patted his pockets checking for the key.
After some seconds of frantic patting he found that he could not find the key. Faint and fuzzy memories, clouded by too much alcohol, of the night before solved the conundrum, he had left the key with the inn as insurance he would bring funds to pay for the drinks he had on his rather substantial tab. Further pocket fumbling produced a set of old and well used lock picks, which he used to quickly to open up the gates. He closed the gates and continued on with his pilgrimage. He looked around seeing nobody around and slipped into the closest of the several warehouses. The majesty of the airship standing fully constructed before his eyes was lost on him. He had seen too many to be impressed by the size of its construction. Its brass filigree glinted on the bright lights glass shone bright. He climbed up the ladder to the captain’s cockpit. He picked up his captains coat, which had been draped over his chair and pulled it over his shoulders after this he plugged in his identification slate.
“Captain Todd Cog, Flight master of the East India flight company. Terminal Journey” The computer droned in its flat static ridden monotone. He sat in his leather faced chair and swung himself around and began his usual beginning flight speech to his passengers. His mind however was not in it, reciting the words without thought of conviction. His mind was on his brother Jim, the more favoured of the two. A scientist by trade, whom for the first time in god knows long he was now going to visit, he had said that before of course but never plucked up the courage to do so. He looked at the passenger manifest in front of him all accounted for. He looked at the chronometer on the dash seeing he was only late by five minutes. ‘And so the flight begins’
He pulled levers and pressed buttons. The landing clamps disengaged and the airship drifted upwards. The technicians opened up the warehouse door letting the sooty downpour cascade onto the air sack and the sooty black rain spattered down on to windscreen. Another button was pressed with a hiss and a groan the wipers began white steam pushing the scummy water from his sight. He rose through the smog which covered London and continuing to rise above the clouds to the pristine blue heavens. Below him a gap opened through both the cloud and the smog and below he could see the city of London spread out beneath. The grey metropolis of the streets mixing in with the grey of the smoke from the factories which populated the town the people no bigger than ants they lived up to the idea by scurrying along the streets and alleyways. The people seemed to shine the weak sun glinting of pieces of brass and gold. He sighed and sat down upon the swivel seat occasionally moving the ornate wooden wheel in front of him to adjust their course. For once again they were headed towards that grand city of New York.
Jim stood in the middle of the lab white walls surrounding him as he looked through his magnifying monocle at the tiny thing in front of him. Miniature puffs of steam gasped from a macroscopic heater.
‘Damn the test was inconclusive’ he thought as he laid down his clipboard and wiped his hands on his waistcoat and extricated a large gold hunter from his pocket. After studying the face for a few moments he placed it carefully back in his pocket. He coughed as his lungs once again ceased up. Frantically patting himself down, searching for a cigar. After finding one and lighting it he let the thick smoke roll around his mouth letting his lungs stop from extruding themselves through his mouth. Jim laughed with a sense of cruel irony. Smoke was the only thing which could stop his coughing which had been caused by him breathing in hot ash and smoke. But that was the past not meant to be dwelt on. He turned around and decided that was enough for today. He walked out of the lab and along the corridor to the tea room he poured himself a cup of oily boiling water and let his tea seep within. The delicate silvery leaves and pink buds unfurling and releasing their delicate tastes, pure pleasure the scent of fresh roses wafted from the cup. Once again he looked at the watch his brother should be landing soon… If he actually decided to come at all. The last few times when he had promised to visit he had not. From his friends he had heard that Todd was in decline, drowning himself in drink. Looking for answers at the bottom of his glass. He picked up his enamelled mug and stood at the window looking outwards. America the land of discovery. At the moment it was the land of industry. Scaffolding enveloped buildings steam engines pumped and hissed as they hauled vast quantities of bricks up to the builders. Trains whistled past every few minutes another would go transferring cargos of wood bricks and people. He sipped at the golden liquid within his cup. The sweet liquid swirled round his mouth the astringency balanced with the sweet taste of muscatel the light fresh flavouring developed to a more floral taste.
He was tired of the inside he wanted to work in the open air the buildings were beginning to get too close together for his tastes the claustrophobia was beginning to make itself known. He walked down the marble staircase and further down to the atrium. Steam swirled from the Vox caster as the receptionist took calls. He gave a wry smile as he signed out. He pushed open the oak doors and stepped out into the street. The dark grey sky made everything look dim and much later than it was. ‘More smog’ he thought it was beginning to look too much like London this New York. He sighed his only reason to escape to New York was to rid himself of the oppressive feelings of London and the terrible memories which haunted him in those streets. He would have to meet Todd at the dockyard. He turned down the street still drinking from his mug. He loosened his bowtie the purple silk drooped slightly in the frigid air of the looming winter. A homeless man sat in the alcove of a building his words being ignored by all who walked past just another figure in the mass of humanity which patrolled these streets. He stopped and looked down at the man then knelt beside him.
‘So, what is your story then?’ The cultured tones of him seemed to confuse the homeless man being already startled that a gentleman would sit next to him in the first place.
‘Wat You wanting to know fer? The growling voice tumbled from a mouth covered with a large unkempt beard.
‘Merely curious my good man. Would you like some?’ He had noticed the man staring at the tea he held between his hands and offered it to him. The tramp grabbed the tea and drank it quickly handing back the cup. Knowing that the homeless man would not be forthcoming he dropped three talons into his begging bowl stood up smoothing his jacket off and walked onwards. The docks were speedily approaching and the morass of people began to wane till he reached the dockyard.
‘Im here to see Todd Cog’ he said somewhat impatiently as he stood in the cold.
‘Aye are you well so are we he’s late should have arrived five minutes ago.’ The dockworker hefted open the gates and let Jim pass into the yard and stood beside him at the runway. The whirring of an aircraft could be heard as the balloon emerged from the smog lowering till it reached the floor. Once it had there was an almost instantaneous flurry of activity as the very well dressed stewards and rugged and uncouth dockworkers began their work on disembarking the passengers and dragging out the cargo. A lone figure slipped out from the cockpit and Jim hurried over to him. And in reprimanding tones shouted over
‘So Todd we meet again!’