Google+ Writing Circle Project
Genre: Steampunk, Fantasy, Middle Reader
Heaven Bound Bob squeezed, once, experimentally. The big wings flapped, slamming the burning platform with a gust of warm air.
"Hit works, Charlie!" Bob yelped with glee.
Charlie struggled with his harness. Ollie was to have been the co-pilot, so he knew very well how to strap himself in. It was new to Charlie, but the clockwork boy was figuring it out. Good thing old Pondicherry made his unnatural son a quick study.
"Hold on!" Ollie yelled. He muttered some of his mumbo jumbo. Bamf! Bob smelled the sulphurous stink, and then Ollie was gone and in his place was a long brown snake. Charlie snapped shut the last buckle and bent to scoop up the Herpetomancer. Ollie, the snake, wrapped himself around Charlie's coppery neck and shoulders like a scarf.
"'Ere we go!" Bob yelled.
Whitehall yawned at Bob's feet. The top of the Halls of Parliament looked like a jagged saw blade, and Big Ben looked like a bayonet or a Zulu spear. Bob hesitated. The wings'll work, Bob thought, they'll work.
Bob crouched to jump, but stalled.
Now it was more than just Bob's life at stake. Bob squinted through the shreds of fog and smoke below and spotted the Queen's steam-carriage. It puffed across Waterloo Bridge, placid beneath the rotors and wings and hot air balloons of the Progress Flotilla. The Queen must see the fire that engulfed the London Eye, and the men mobilizing to fight it, but she couldn't know of the wicked plans of the Iron Cog. She couldn't know anything about Gearsmith the Kobold, or the loup garou, or her own mechanical doppelganger, en route to replace her.
Smoke wrapped around the wings. Bob coughed. They had to save the Queen, but Bob hesitated.
Charlie twisted in his harness and looked back. "Are you afraid the Articulated Gyroscopes won't work?"
In answer, Bob grinned and flapped the wings again. "No such fing." Bob was worried, though. Bob didn't want to be a hero, didn't want the publicity.
Bob inched forward. Charlie nearly dangled off into space. They hit the apex of their rotation and smoke engulfed them. Bob squinted through the smoke and tried to judge the timing. The Queen drove surrounded by cavalrymen. If I get there too soon, Bob thought, those lads'll take me for the threat and shoot me dead on sight.
The soles of Bob's boots were hot. Flames licked up and around the platform. Any longer, and the Flyer would combust.
Now or never.
Bob jumped, and threw the invention into gear.
In the rush of air and the speeding of earth below, Bob became free. The aeronaut forgot the threat to Crown and Country, forgot all the peril and the shooting and the injured shoulder. Bob became a bird.
One thing Bob didn't forget, never forgot, couldn't forget even in mid-air. One thing Bob wasn't ready to reveal to anyone, including the Queen. The secret was so important, Bob would almost prefer not to save the Queen if it meant revelation and discovery.
Bob's real name was Roberta. Roberta Alice Micklemuch. Heaven Bound Bob was a girl.