No Ship for Tranquebar, Part Two

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Late December 1635

Marlon Pridmore had some apprehension about this first day of work. He had yet to meet the crew, and he didn't relish the thought of walking into the middle of a project. Nevertheless, he walked into the shops with Cornelius Holgarsson, the head of the group of investors sponsoring the project. "Well, what do I need to know to get started?"

Cornelius grinned. "Let me show you around a little." He took Marlon over to a small group of men. "Marlon, this is Rikard, the shipwright. He's intensely interested in speaking to you about several key pieces of information."

"That's what I'm here for. Take your best shot, Herr Shipwright."

Rikard began. "Herr Pridmore, we desperately need to know a few things to continue on with our project. The first and most important involves the actual lifting capacity of hydrogen gas. Encyclopedias and information that we've been able to access up till now mention the size of historic airships, their lifting capacity, and how much power they needed, but neglect to say how much the gas could lift by cubic volume. We have put together an estimate of the size of the airship we need, and have prepared frames for a hangar to enclose the construction, but we can't make any final determinations because we literally do not know how big to build it."

"Cornelius has shown me your plans, "Marlon said. "I'm impressed; your basic drawings are actually very good." He walked over to a chalkboard and picked up a piece of chalk. Just like the training classes at the bank, he thought.

"The information you need is that one thousand cubic feet of hydrogen will lift approximately sixty-six pounds. The airship you prepared for is actually quite a bit larger than what I would have thought to try for a first airship, but my first rough estimate shows that the airship we are building needs to be about six hundred fifty feet long and around seventy feet in diameter. That means we need a hangar about seven hundred feet long and about ninety feet high inside."

Rikard nodded. "I'm glad to hear it. We actually designed our prototype around the dimensions of the Graf Zeppelin, found in the encyclopedia. The dimensions you recommend are only about two thirds the size of our initial airship plans."

"Yes, I'm very concerned about getting a hangar to work in. It seems to me that it might take quite a bit of time to get something large enough built."

Cornelius looked at Rikard then laughed. "This is the information we needed. So we are building the hangar tomorrow. You need to come with us in the morning."


The next morning dawned crisp and cold There was no snow on the ground, but the clouds threatened more soon. The field was a hive of activity. There were more men and ox teams than Marlon expected.

Two lines of holes were dug parallel to each other on the field. Stacks of what appeared to be frameworks of wood and piles of spars were scattered along the lines of holes, along with huge piles of what looked like brush.

Rikard walked over and spoke to a large man holding a maul in his hand. After a moment Rikard shouted something to the crew, and held both fists above his head, thumbs pointing up. That was the signal, and shouts began echoing across the field. Large masses of men and animals took up ropes and began to heave. Slowly a flimsy-looking framework lifted into the sky.

"Cornelius, that doesn't look very strong," Marlon said. "It doesn't even look strong enough to hold its own weight. Are you sure it can do what we need?"

Cornelius nodded. "We think so. It's really not unlike an oversized version of the cattle barns you find all over the country. It is perhaps four times larger than anything that we would normally build, but once the arches are tied together, and the thatch is on, the structure will become very solid. The thing we were worried most about is that it's so light that there's a chance of it blowing away in a high wind. So we've used sunken anchors so that we can cable the structure to the ground."

"Okay. I can see what you're trying to do, the big arches will form the framework, and the brush pile will be the roof, but what are the smaller arches for?"

Cornelius responded, "Those arches will form the dormers. After the room is thatched, we will add windows. We must have some form of light inside the building, and a large building built of wood is not the best place for torches or fires."


Christmas 1635

King Christian demanded that the "flying machine expert" have an office near the palace. He wanted to be able to ask questions whenever he pleased. A contract for Marlon's consultant work with the king of Denmark was drawn up, very similar in some ways to the patronage contracts that circulated among the artists and painters of the time.

Just before Christmas, the Pridmores moved to a townhouse much closer to the royal residence. Reva settled into preparing for the festive season.

The truth was, she had become a little bored with her role as lay-about rich lady. She really welcomed the opportunity to have a project to fill her time. Marlon had been busy from the day they left Grantville, so wasn't available very often.

So she threw herself into celebrating Christmas. The season started with Advent, the fourth Sunday before Christmas day. And candles were really big.

By December 24th, she had the house decorated with wreaths and candles. Marlon was in his office in the front room, working on drawings for the airship all day. He had promised to quit in time for dinner. Just to be sure, Reva threatened Gregers with expulsion from the celebrations if he failed to bring Marlon back in time. She was confident that it would do the trick.

Just before the dinner hour, the door of the studio office opened, and Marlon strolled out. Gregers came behind him, and blew out a long sigh as he slipped into the kitchen.

Marlon stretched, and worked his way out of his doublet. "Reva? What was all the fuss? I'm trying to work out just how much horse power this steam engine will . . . "

His words dribbled away as he looked around. Candles were burning everywhere in the room, and a tree stood in the corner, waiting for the small candles to be lit. Reva stood to one side with a plate of cookies in her hand, and a wreath on her head.

Marlon blinked like an owl suddenly wakened in the daytime. "What's all this?"

"It's Christmas Eve, Swordfish. Glaedelig Jul. I hope I said that right. I've been practicing all afternoon."

Marlon still looked mystified, so Reva explained. "You've been so busy I didn't want to disturb you, but now it's time for the holiday. If you go back to the shop, you're just keeping all your assistants away from their families. And they're too polite to tell you. Now hang up that jacket, and go wash up. It's time for Christmas."


With supper finished, and the evening drawing to a close, Marlon and Reva sat in what they thought of as their living room. The light was dimmer, and only a few candles were still burning. Marlon was sipping glogg, and Reva had some tea. It was very romantic.

Reva set her cup on the table and snuggled next to her husband. "Marlon, I've been thinking."

If Marlon had been alert, this would have sent alarms rattling up and down his spine. But the fortified wine had him feeling very warm and mellow. He just put his arm around her and said, "Hmm?"

"What are your plans for the next six months to a year ? Just how long is this going to take?"

Marlon leaned back and stared at Reva for a moment. He hadn't really looked at her for a couple of weeks. Just too much going on. Now he saw that she was happy and rosy-cheeked. "Well," he said. "I'd have to say that we may be here at least a year. Maybe longer. Why? Are you in a hurry to leave?"

"No, not at all. In fact, I've got something I want you to think about for a while. You're almost in your dodderage, and I'm no spring chicken. And what exactly do we have waiting for us back at Grantville? I've had all the holidays I can take watching my nieces and nephews get married. It would be different if we had children of our own, but you know all about that. Maybe it's time for you to retire from the bank, and make this move to Denmark permanent."

Marlon opened his mouth to protest, but Reva hurried on. "Now hear me out. I know that you were kind of pushing the idea around in your head of writing a will, and selling the farm to Bernard. It would give him something tangible to leave to Helga and Ulrich. All I'm saying, is that now may be just the time for that. You're happy in your projects, and I have something fun just about to take off. Why don't you think about that for a while?"

Marlon didn't know what to say. This was all such a surprise.



January 1636

When Marlon agreed to be a consultant for The Royal Airship Company of Denmark, he sent word to Coleman at the bank and Bernard at the farm. He needed Bernard to send all the magazines and manuals and technical specification books he had collected over the years. There were several boxes of them in the attic of the house.

Today, the middle of January, his supplies from home finally arrived. He had no scheduled meetings, so he busied himself with his office. He was there mostly to stay out of Reva's way. Her boxes from home had also arrived, and she was busy unpacking and arranging everything just so.

One of Marlon's boxes held things he had forgotten about for many years. Before leaving the army, he had packed up his "I Love Me" wall, and never thought about the certificates and plaques again. Now here they were.

Suddenly it felt intensely important to hang up all his framed stuff. Sending for a hammer and a few nails, he started. The wall was a military tradition of his younger years. He enjoyed putting his war certificates and memorabilia on the wall as kind of a reminder of what he'd been and where he wanted to go.

In the middle of the mess, in walked King Christian. "Ah, so now you are a decorator? What is so important that you must put holes in the walls yourself?"

"Well, your Majesty, this is a reminder of my military career in my former life."

King Christian stepped close, examining all the pictures. "And this photograph, what is it?"

Marlon glanced over, but he knew that one very well. "That's a picture of my first jump."

His Majesty raised his eyebrows. "Jump?"

Marlon was finding out that consulting with the king was a job that he would be called upon to do at the drop of a hat. "Yes. When I was in the army, my unit was specially trained to parachute out of aircraft."

Christian continued his investigation. "And this photograph?"

"That is me getting my 'tab.' It's an award given in recognition of the completion of an extremely difficult course of training."

Christian returned to the first photograph. "How hard is this jumping with a parachute?"

"Did you hear about that woman using a parachute in Magdeburg? She's making parachutes now for the air force. Her name is Tracy Kubiak."

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