Nathaniel Cannon and the Schneider Trophy No. 3

“I dinnae like it, cap’n,” Iseabail Crannach said. She ran a hand over her hair, failing utterly to tame the frizz, and stuck her hands in the pockets of her lab coat. “We made a deal.”

She, Cannon, Joe, and Emma stood around the map table in Inconstant’s gondola. Cannon shrugged. “We already futzed up our end. The Macchi looked in a bad way. Will it fly, as is?”

Joe shrugged. “Might. The engine runs. Doesn’t sound quite right. We haven’t tried it at full power.”

Iseabail’s brow knit. “I think tha’s a little pessimistic. It’ll fly. I’d aye bet we have some work tae do e’en were it in top shape.”

“There are two ways this can go,” Cannon persisted, pacing around the table. “We give Le Vot the machine. First way: he takes our excuses at face value, and the deal is on. Isea, you think we’d have to work on it even if we hadn’t put some accidental ventilation in? Do you think Le Vot has mechanics half as good as we do?” Iseabail frowned, but shook her her head. “Right. So, Le Vot’s flying a time bomb. It isn’t as fast as it ought to be, or it blows up halfway through the race. Now, the second way: he takes one look at the Macchi and tells us the deal is off. We’re out our take either way.

“Now, what happens if we keep the Macchi? Whatever happens, we’re up one in-demand air racer. Either we fix it up in time and enter the race with a better shot than Le Vot would ever have, or we hold onto it and sell it later.” Cannon spread his hands apart. “See? Giving up the Macchi is high risk, low reward. We keep it, we still face risks, but think of the payout.”

Emma rubbed at her chin thoughtfully. “When you put it that way…”

“I still dinnae like it,” Iseabail put in.

“Joe?” Cannon asked.

Joe pursed his lips, deep in thought. At length, he cracked a smile. “How many times are we gonna get the chance to win the biggest air race in the world?”

“We do nothing, and the British take the trophy for good,” Cannon said. “We win, and they have to win the next two runnings. The French and the Italians will be back in the hunt next year. We could ruin their best shot.”

That brightened Iseabail’s mood considerably. “I cannae say I’m against tha’.” She looked between her crewmates. “Ach, devil take it. We keep the thing.” Cannon grinned crookedly, but Iseabail continued. “Tha’ being said, I dinnae think we ochtae necessarily hitch our cart tae the Macchi. It’s big an’ heavy, an’ I dinnae know if yon Italians ha’ quite the power they think they do out of yon engine.”

Cannon blinked. “What would we race with, then?”

“Did ye forget tha’ a Kestrel seaplane won the race in ’27?”

Cannon opened his mouth to shoot down the idea, then closed it. “That was with the old Sunbeam inline, wasn’t it? The Bengali?”

Iseabail nodded. “An’ only seven hundred horsepower. We have twice tha’ as a place tae start. We can do better. An’ I have a grea’ idea for how tae do the floats. I dinnae know if we can match the Macchi horsepower for horsepower, but yon Kestrel’s a sight lighter tae begin wi’. It could work.”

“You know,” said Cannon, “it could.”

Voting has closed! Stay tuned for the finale, coming soon.

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