Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Great Derbyshire Dam

A cold wind blew across Milton's face and threatened to blow away his tall hat. It whipped at his fine jacket and the engineer's waistcoat did little to keep out the draft. A strong gust pulled again at his whiskers, threatening to undo the fine job the gentleman barber had made of his moustache. The engineer lent on the unwelcoming steel guard rail and surveyed the company's creation. To his sides, stone work flowed outwards to either bank of the high hills, a marvel of ingenuity and craft holding back many tonnes of brackish hill water. Dully, the water glimmered in the winter's sun, its dark depths hiding storage tanks of the finest steel. Now hidden, the vessels would not see the light of day again. Stalks of stone and metal sprang from the depths, to break the dim water's surface. Birth ports for the Lighter Than Air crafts that would dock here.

Smiling, Milton straightened and retrieved his pocket watch. Popping the mechanism's ornate casing, he reviewed the time and countdown. The elegant piece was synchronised with the master-cogwork of the dam. If all was well, the speck on the Derbyshire horizon would grow. Grow to form the first transport dirigible, a sky ship that, if his calculations were correct, would enable the rapid and track free distribution of goods and people through the Empire.

Turning his back to the water, the man enjoyed the glorious view. Beyond the lip of the observation tower and the wide lip of the dam, a sheer drop like a smooth cliff fell away into the valley. It was as if the Creator himself had placed a slice of broken china between the mountains. Far below, a controlled tumble of water poured from pipes and flows. It's power harnished by turbines, waterwheels and the fine science of chemystry. Deep within the stone, engines burned the gases liberated from water, feeding pumps and forges deep within the patchwork of farms and light industry below. The Corporation had tasked the board with freeing themselves from the shackle of rail & coal and they had delivered - in spades. Slumbering under the dark water, huge tanks rested buoyant with elemental gases. The fuel of the future. Taken from water by water and compressed to a miraculous fuel. Milton was pleased. Very pleased.

From the edge of the causeway, there was a clunk. Milton looked down from his crow's nest. The wide shoulders of an Oggy - an Orge dock hand - straightened and the cheeky blighter saluted him. "Your fings, Mr Milton, sir. Where'd you want 'em?"

Milton cleared his throat and made his way down the stairs. To shout down to the man - nay, Ogre - would be unseemly. His boot connected with the last step and he was glad of the shelter of the low wall. "Shiller?" he asked the Oggy's craggy face. The dock hand nodded once. "If you could take it to the primary tower. The golden one half a mile thus." He gestured at the glass tower that sprang from the centre of the causeway.

"As you wants," the dock hand answered and he scooped up the travel chest as if it weighed no more than a broadsheet paper. "Good day, Mr Milton, sir."

Milton watched the heavy framed Ogre wander off, his plans and belongings held carefully within the wood and iron box. At the edge of his hearing he could hear a faint buzzing. A heavy drone of air-fans and he scampered up the observation tower as giddy as a schoolboy. Slowly, the giant craft - a behemoth of canvas, steel and glass lumbered into view. Fans span and landing ropes dropped into the water. He turned to watch the sky ship twist with grace until it was positioned over the refuelling birth. The engineer could not contain himself and he pulled his stove hat from his head, waving it with abandon at the fore bubble of the ship. Twin lights flashed in acknowledgement.

Beneath it, couplers rose and clamped the craft to the tower. With a hiss of steam and hydraulics, the ship rolled out walk ways and ramps to the stone concourse surrounding the flower-like tower. Replacing his hat, Milton watched as guests arrived and horse drawn carriages rolled along the causeway to collect them. He checked his watch again as workers and guests exited the ship. It was a fine work. He retrieved a small note book from his pocket and sketched out a draft for automatic walkways. Surely where was a quicker way of getting people out of the cold and into the warmth?