Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Aboard the Ammon

            “There’s no one aboard the other two, either,” Poe said.  “How on earth is Pratt controlling them?”
            They looked together at the control panel, and Poe immediately knew the answer to his own question. 
“Hunley,” he gasped.
The controls looked simple enough.  There was a wheel like on any terrestrial ship, and beside it a binnacle, glowing blue around its rim and containing a simple compass whose needle was a stylized brass bumblebee.  There was a broad, wool-padded belt-and-shoulderstraps harness that bolted into the center of the wheel for the pilot.  Beside the wheel was a small knob-headed lever marked PITCH AND YAW that appeared capable of moving in all directions; next to it was another level like a steam-truck’s throttle, currently at the lowest position in its range; and from a solid block of brass beside the ship’s wheel protruded a monkey’s head that Poe knew all too well.
“What do you think this does?” Roxie asked, touching the PITCH AND YAW lever without moving it.
“Controls pitch and yaw, is my guess,” Poe suggested dryly.  “That would let you alter your elevation, as well.  And there you have acceleration.  But I find that the monkey is the interesting thing.”
“How so?”
“Because Horace Hunley made it, and three others like it, and this is the one that I smashed against my cabin door in the Liahona.”
Poe looked up from the controls to the Phlogiston gun, but it was dormant, and he knew from the reddish light playing against its side that a Phlogiston weapon must have been fired on the mooring tower.
“So what?”
            “So,” Poe said, “I think this is how Pratt is flying the ships.  This is what Horace Hunley did—he built four devices that communicate, somehow, with each other.  Ether waves, maybe.  And one of them is the master and the other three are slaves—forgive the expression—so that the person in the right ship can control the other three.”
            “So Pratt can pilot the entire fleet by himself.  So he doesn’t need anyone else to help him get his revenge.”
            “Yes.”  Poe looked at the controls again.  “But I must have damaged the monkey-headed jar, so hopefully we’ll have local control of this craft, whatever it’s called.”
            “It’s called the Ammon, actually.”
            “As in the Egyptian god?” Poe was amused.  “Identified with the sun and with Ra?  You Mormons love your Egyptian things, I must say.  Robert was wise to suggest that I disguise myself as an Egyptianeer.”
            “Mostly we identify him with chopping off arms,” Roxie said.  Poe didn’t know what she meant, but he was happy to be with her and she smiled at him, so even though he was dying and he didn’t understand the joke he threw back his head and laughed.
            A bright flash of blue light snapped behind them—
            and the Ammon hurtled directly upward, into the morning sky.

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