In an era of bygone anachronisms and steam-powered ambulatory engines, a sharp-witted street thief with a heart of semi-precious metal must match wits with a cryptic cryptozoologist, an amoral assassin, a masked menace, and a secret plot to bring the city she loves to its knees.
Arcadia Snips and the Steamwork Consortium is both a cautionary tale against reckless mathematics and an accurate historical account all rolled up into one. In fact, the story is so accurate that you might consider it more a history lecture than an illustrated novel.
"Dear Madame," the letter read. "Although we remain appreciative of your continued attempts to bring a feminine touch to the world of aeronautics, the Royal Society of Aviation regrets to inform you that your design shall fly only once swine have taken to the skies."
The letter was framed and mounted on the dining room wall.
The room had become a workshop. An exquisitely crafted flame maple table that had once been its centerpiece was now pressed against the far wall, its rich and vibrant texture smothered beneath greased tools and blueprints pinned under various bits of silver cutlery. Nuts and bolts were organized by size and dumped into teacups along the table; at its edge sat a battered mechanics book smudged with oiled fingerprints.
The woman who studied the book was fiercely handsome, possessing the allure of an ominous storm. Her dark, thick eyebrows grated against each other like cogs in some vast and terrible engine, trembling beneath the pressure of her thought. A pair of aviator goggles dangled just below her delicate jaw and over her pale throat. It added to the contradictions of her appearance—the grease stains upon her fine evening gown, the grime beneath her well-trimmed nails, and the sweat above her elegant brow.
Abigail Parsley drew her attention away from the tome and turned to the contraption that occupied the middle of her dining room. Its main body was a canoe, with a chair fastened down inside it; a complex knot of ropes, pulleys, levers, and beams connected it to an immense woolen sack that draped over its side and across the floor. Though the machine had been built from spare parts and plundered ideas, its overall design remained her own. She knew every inch of it - every screw, every fastener, and every fold.
She took her seat in the cradle of her invention and pulled the goggles up over her eyes. She now found herself facing the letter that had spurred her to action; taking in a slow breath, she read the last line to herself:
Your design shall fly only once swine have taken to the "Very well," she said, and then she turned the machine on.
The frame shuddered. Valves hissed. Wood creaked and sheepskin bags groaned.
"Soar," Abigail whispered.
The woollen sack was soon flushed with gases, rising up over her in a cigar-shaped lump. As it grew bloated and buoyant, Abigail was struck by a peculiar dizziness; the vessel was gradually leaving the earth, its skids sliding across the tiled floor. It bobbed, sluggishly rising toward the dining room's open glass portal.
Abigail held the controls steady. The edge of the vessel's balloon came precariously close to the opening's squared edges - she instinctively held her breath as she felt a metal corner scrape across the bag, denting the fabric. But in only a moment, the airship had cleared the gap and floated out into the brisk day's air.