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Endeavour’s Fall #28: The Crow’s Nest

Jun 25, 2017





You drove me into the sea. The powerful waves passed over me.  The currents surrounded me.

-Jonah 2:3, New Academy Translation


Sam sat high in the Endeavour’s crow’s nest, staring off into the distance.  The sun was high in the sky.  When the ratlines began to shake, he leaned over and looked down at Adams climbing boldly up.

 “It’s still my watch!” grumbled Sam, stuffing the manuscript under his leg.  “I can pull my own watch.”

 Adams said nothing until she pulled herself up onto the cramped platform. 

 “Take your turn,” she said, “but we should talk.”

 “I don’t want to talk to you,” said Sam.

 “Well, then you are out of luck,” said Adams, “because I am the only one aboard who wants to talk to you.”

 Sam looked off into the sky.  “Jack talked to me,” he said quietly.

 Adams replied, “I miss him too.” 

 “Do you think he maybe got away?” said Sam.

 “Maybe.  It is unlikely,” said Adams. 

 “Yeah,” agreed Sam.  “Unlikely.”

 The airship hummed below them.  The wind whistled through the lines.

 “What are you reading?” asked Adams finally.

 Jack held the manuscript out for Adams to see.

 “I see,” she said.  “Have you made any progress?”

 “I suppose,” he said.  “I am still not sure what to make of that Professor.”

 “Me neither,” said Adams.  “He seemed a little bit . . . unusual.”

 “Who did he think he is?  Asking about my family like that,” said Sam.

 “He didn’t know,” said Adams.  “You miss them a lot, don’t you?”

 Sam just stared at Adams.

 “What about this manuscript,” she said.  “Does it hold up?”

 “What do you mean,” asked Sam.

 “Is it ‘sciencey’ enough?  I don’t know what you two were talking about, ‘magnets’ and all of that, but it sounded like he thought it could help us.  Help our cause.”

 “It looks to me like the book is sound.  It is hard to understand.   I would need to run a couple of experiments myself just to see if I am on the right track,” said Sam.

 “Who wrote it?” said Adams.

 “An S. A. Ricker,” said Sam, “whoever that is.”

 “How can you trust a book unless you know who wrote it?” asked Adams.

 “Well, that is the great thing about science,” said Sam.  “It doesn’t really matter who wrote the book.  I can just try the experiments myself to see if they work.”

 “I see,” said Adams.  “I haven’t thought about it that way before.  I didn’t grow up around many books.  My family had a library once, though.  They lost it when we evacuated Braintree.”

 “Your family had its own library?” asked Sam.

 “Yes,” said Adams.  “The story is that it burnt very well.  Since then our family has focused more on guns.  They are not as dangerous.”

 “We don’t have any guns,” said Sam.  “Or many books.  Just the Bible, Principea, a few things like that.”

 “Without books, how did you learn so much about science?”

 “Verify, verify, verify,” said Sam quietly.  “My parents always said that.  Pushed us to test things on our own.  Experiment.”

 “What does that involve?” said Adams.  “Verifying this manuscript, I mean.”

 “That’s part of the problem,” said Sam.  “I am not quite sure.  I have been studying this one diagram but can’t figure it out.”  He held out the page to show Adams.

 “It seems to show a coil of copper wire and a pair of magnets.  I can’t be sure though.  The symbols and figures are new to me.  I don’t know the terms they use.  I suppose to verify the diagram I would have to try it out with some copper wire and some magnets.”

 “But you don’t know how to do that?” guessed Adams. 

 “How?”  said Sam.  “No, the how is easy, I guess.  In fact, I have worked with coils of wire and magnets before, at home.”

 “You made experiments like in that book at your home?” said Adams.

 “More or less,” said Sam.  “There was a rotating music box I made for a friend.  It had magnets in it that made little dancers move to the music.”

 “A music box?” said Adams skeptically.  “That doesn’t sound very helpful.”

 “No, no it doesn’t,” said Sam.  “But if I am interpreting it correctly, this diagram to be related.  It shows spinning magnets and coils of wire.  It wouldn’t be hard to do, but I don’t even have a magnet here.”

 “Well,” said Adams, “What is a magnet exactly?”

 “That’s a more difficult question to answer than you think,” said Sam.  “Newton himself was not sure.”  He looked up at her carefully.

 “You don’t have to worry here,” she said.

 “Worry?” said Sam.

 “Where is this place you grew up?” said Adams.  “Most places folks are scared to mention Newton by name, Peace be Unto Him, much less claim that there is something He didn’t know.”

 “Why would someone be scared to talk about Newton?” asked Sam.

 “Well, we wouldn’t here.  I mean, we are revolutionaries.  Athiests.  Rebels.  Not to mention the Iroquois.  Nobody on this airship is going to worry about what you say or think.  But most places aren’t like this.”

 “What do you mean?”

 “Well, you saw how scared the Professor was.  Folks where I grew up were the same way.  Any talk that might be seen as a challenge to Newton or the Academy or its Star Chamber was a threat.  Worse than talking about the Emperor.”

 “I don’t think it was like that at home,” said Sam.  “Something must have been different there.”

 “I suppose,” said Adams.  “But we can talk here.  What is a magnet, anyway?”

 “You have seen them before,” said Sam.  “The needles in our compasses are magnets.”

 “Sure, a compass needles spins to point north,” said Adams. 

 “That’s because it’s a magnet,” said Sam. 

 “Can you use a compass for your experiment?” asked Adams.  “To test that diagram?”

 “No, it wouldn’t be enough of a magnet,” said Sam.  “I think I would need something stronger.”

 “So, is a magnet like a lodestone?” asked Adams.

 “Sure.  A lodestone is just another name for a magnet,” said Sam.

 “Well, in that case, I know where you can find some,” said Adams.  “We always keep a lodestone or two in the ballast.  We use them to make new compass needles if we need one.”

 “That will work,” said Sam.  “I would need copper wire, too.”

 “I know where we can find that too,” said Adams.  She started to get up.

 “Where are you going?”  said Sam.

 “I’m going to find those magnets and wire for you,” said Adams.  “You need to finish your watch.”


© J. O. Evans 2017. All Rights Reserved.