This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Smoke filled the workroom following the explosion as sparks flew, bouncing from surface to surface. Kit ducked as a piston flew over her head, only barely missing her by a few centimeters. With a thunk, she placed her goggles down on the worktable and eyed her handiwork.
It was a mess. Totally, completely, and utterly ruined. Kit stared at the weapon that was supposed to win every war that the country ever partook in, and groaned. There was no way in heaven or hell that she was going to able able to fix it. The large cannon was lying in ruins on her worktable. The barrel was melted in half, the pressurized compartments and gears that had been what made this design so incredible filled up the floor around the table. The Queen of England’s golden seal was partially burned and upside down, which Kit figured was blasphemy of some sort.
“And I almost had it right,” she muttered to herself. She pulled the notebook off of the table behind her and studied her design. It looked right. It looked like it should have worked. So, where had she gone wrong?
Before Kit had the chance to consider what had happened a voice interrupted her from the entryway. “Lady Katherine.”
Kit glanced up to find the butler, Lincoln, staring disapprovingly at her worktable. She sighed. Well, at least Lincoln’s opinion of what a lady should do hadn’t changed. He still believed that the mere thought of her inventing things was ludicrous.
The butler turned to face her. “Your father would like to remind you that Lord Cunningham’s party is tonight.”
Kit nodded. “Thanks Lincoln, but I’m not going.” There was no way that she would attend another one of Lord Cunningham’s parties. He had them every month, and each of them were as dull as the next.
Lincoln’s face turned bright red. Kit almost giggled at the sight of it. There was nothing that annoyed Lincoln quite as much as having to report to her father that the younger of his twin daughters would not do as he requested. “Are you sure that you would not like to reconsider, miss? Lord Cunningham is a very eligible bachelor.”
“Now you sound like Aunt Catherine.” Kit crossed her arms in front of her chest. “It is not your job to see me married, Lincoln. That is her job. On top of that, Lord Cunningham is a dreadfully dreary bachelor who I would not wish upon my worst enemy.”
“Yes, mam.” Lincoln bowed and started to leave before changing his mind and addressing her once again. “I think that I should also inform you that Lord Cuningham’s cousin has decided to visit town. He is also a very eligible bachelor.”
“That’s very nice, Lincoln, but I am still not going. Why don’t you tell Molly? I’m sure that she’ll be more than excited.”
“Lady Mary has already been informed,” Lincoln stated.
“And is she excited?”
Lincoln harrumphed. “Yes, she is.”
Kit smiled at the butler retreated, then focused on the problem on hand. Her ultimate weapon. Her steam powered cannon that she had decided to name the Kit Cannon. It had a nice ring to it. Kit cleared the items off of her worktable, distributing them into a crate that she found in the back of her storage closet. She then swept the miscellaneous gears, pistons, and shards of metal off of the ground, and sorted through it, placing the pieces that could be reused in a pile and those that could not in the garbage.
“Lincoln just informed me that you’re not coming.”
Kit glanced over her shoulder to find her twin sister, Molly, approaching her, taking in the fashionable, silk dress that she was wearing, and the way that her hair was intricately stacked on top of her head.
The twins looked exactly the same, save for a few small details. Both had almost blonde hair, pale skin, with high cheekbones, a few freckles, and relatively full lips. Still, it was easy to tell which sister was which. For starters, Kit almost always wore trousers, with her hair pulled back so that it did not get caught in her inventions. Her hands were usually smudged with grease, which also appeared quite frequently on her nose. Still, even if she was out of her work clothes one could tell which twin was which. Molly’s eyes were bright blue whereas Kit’s were brown.
“You look nice,” Kit commented.
“Thank you,” Molly said, settling down into the stool next to Kit, “Are you going to tell me why you aren’t coming to Lord Cunningham’s party?”
“I already told Lincoln. I’m sure that he relayed what I said to you.” Kit returned to her work, picking up a gear and studying it. It was not terribly damaged. Still, she doubted that she could find a use for it.
“He only said that he thought you were being foolish.”
Kit grinned. “At least there’s nothing new there.”
Molly let out a frustrated huff. “You know that Lord Cunningham is very wealthy, right?” Kit nodded. “You could do worse.”
“Do you want him?” Kit picked at a shard of metal.
“He’s not all that unattractive,” Molly said.
“That doesn’t change the fact that he’s a bore.”
“At least he listens to you,” Molly argued, “Half of the eligible men in London won’t talk to you because all that you want to talk about are your science experiments.”
“That is because half of the eligible men in London are boring, and I would rather not suffer their company.”
“More like they’d rather not suffer your company,” Molly muttered under her breath.
“You come into my workshop-”
“I’m sorry, Kit,” Molly apologized, “I just don’t understand you sometimes. Not wanting a husband to care for you. It must be because you’re a genius.”
“Yeah,” Kit murmured, “It must be.”
Kit’s twin sister, and best friend, was the belle of English society. While it could be said that Kit was the smarter of the two, with enough brains for half of London, Molly, or Lady Mary as she was called by everyone except Kit, was the more cunning. She knew just how to play a crowd, to use her good looks and charm to get just what she wanted, and what she wanted currently was a rich husband.
Kit supposed that she should want a rich husband as well, but she simply could not bring herself to care. England was once again at war, crime was rampant in the slums of London, and new scientific discoveries were emerging daily. How could she be expected to care about a husband when the world was moving so quickly? If she stopped to even flirt with a wealthy bachelor, it would pass her by.
So, Kit left the husband finding to Molly, knowing that as soon as her twin found one and was bored with her wifely duties she would begin looking for one for Kit.
“I’ll tell you how it goes,” Molly said.
“I want to hear all of the gossip as soon as you get home,” Kit joked.
Molly laughed. “I’ll hold you to that.” She left, glancing down at Kit’s notebook as she did so. “What’s this?” she asked.
Without looking at her, Kit answered. “That is the Kit Cannon.”
Molly nodded. Kit had named things stranger names than ‘Kit Cannon’ before. “And this one?”
Kit glanced at the design her sister was pointing at. Two cylinders sat next to each other with their hollow interiors sketched out and a small box attached to the front. “It’s nothing,” Kit said, “Just an idea.”
“What does it do?” Molly asked.
Molly raised an eyebrow. “Flies?”
“Yeah,” Kit said, “Like I said, it’s just an idea.”
“It’s a good one,” Molly said, “If it works, that is.”
Kit watched her sister flit out the door before walking over to her notebook. Her sister had dogeared the page, something that she did with every design of Kit’s that she liked. She had whole notebooks full of dogeared pages. Kit smiled at the page. Molly was right, it was a good idea. Like most of her ideas, though, Kit knew it would probably go unmade. Still, she could see if she had the parts. Maybe her father would fund it if it were a birthday gift for his favorite daughter. Kit ignored the stack of metal and started to plan the machine. She would have to ask him about it tomorrow.
Molly surveyed the room around her. Kit had been right, Lord Cunningham’s parties were boring. Finely dressed ladies and men wearing only the most fashionable clothes danced around the ballroom and milled from room to room. Alcohol was flowing, and, even though these citizens were the pride and joy of England, the most refined of the crop, they were acting like idiots. It was easy to see why Kit avoided high society events.
The decor itself was very elegant. Crimson drapes hung along the walls every ten feet or so, and candles cluttered the room, despite electricity being readily available, making the room seem positively medieval, which, Molly was sure was what Lord Cunningham had been going for. After all, the man had a love for the way things used to be, before everything became steam powered.
Molly glanced at herself in the mirror. She looked perfect, if she could say so herself, and she would. She was the epitome of English grace and poise. Molly sighed. She was sure that it she batted her eyes she could easily find a man to dance with her, but she was not in the mood tonight. She had other things on her mind.
She kept thinking about Kit’s flying machine. She swore that one day Kit was going to invent something to put herself down in history as one of the most important women of the nineteenth century. More than anything in the world, Molly wanted to fly. She wanted to see the world from above and to be able to soar through the clouds. Even with today’s technology, it wasn’t possible. But she had no doubt that Kit’s device would work.
“Lady Mary.” Molly put on her best smile as she was approached by Lord Cunningham, with a young man in tow that she could only assume was his cousin. Lord Cunningham was in his early thirties, and was already balding. His nose was slightly crooked, and, while he had beautiful eyes, the rest of him was rather like his parties. Boring.
His cousin, on the other hand, was not. The young man behind the Lord could not have been more than a few years Molly’s elder. He had clear blue eyes, black hair, and sun tanned skin, as if he spent much of his time outside. He was dressed much like every other man in the room, but for some reason he stood out. He was very, very handsome, and, if rumors were true, which they usually were, very wealthy.
“Lord Cunningham,” Molly said with a little too much cheerfulness, “What a pleasure your party it.”
The man beside him snorted. Molly shot him a glance, but Lord Cunningham ignored him. “Isn’t it? I rather think it’s enjoyable. Where are my manners? This is my dear cousin, Duke Daniel Serontien of Airborne.”
Molly almost raised an eyebrow. The Duke of Airborne? That was rather impressive. Not many people had ever been to the migratory floating cities. Molly certainly never had, even though she wanted to.
“It’s nice to meet you, Duke Serontien,” Molly said with a curtsy.
“The pleasure is all mine,” the duke said with a bow.
Lord Cunningham clapped his hands. “Isn’t this just wonderful? Though, Lady Mary, I’m afraid that I have not seen your sister around. Is Lady Katherine ill?”
Molly scrambled to think of something to say. Lord Cunningham was rather fond of her sister. Like her, he knew that one day Kit would be in the history books. “Unfortunately, Lord Cunningham, she’s feeling under the weather.”
“That’s just terrible,” Lord Cunningham said. “Did I tell you how lovely you look, Lady Mary? You look just like your mother.”
“Thank you sir.” Mary blushed.
“You are most welcome. Now come Daniel, the party is just beginning.” The Duke of Airborne followed his cousin, and Molly watched them leave. The duke would certainly be a catch. Molly considered pursuing him for a moment, playing the role of flirt once more. She shook her head and turned to study herself again in the mirror.
Lord Cunningham had said that she looked just like her mother, and, while she was the epitome of poise and grace, Molly could not see it. She looked nothing like her mother.
Kit decided to join her family for breakfast the next morning, and in a dress none the less.
All eyes turned towards her as she took her seat at the table, neatly sliding the bottom of her dress so that it did not crease. Kit smiled as her father glanced curiously over the top of his newspaper at her. It was obvious that he wanted to ask why she was there. Kit had not joined the family for breakfast since her mother had died ten months earlier. Her older brother, Julius, beat him to it.
“It’s nice to see you, Kit,” he said with a smile.
Kit smiled back. “It’s nice to see you too.” Kit surveyed the table. Her father had returned to reading his newspaper. Her older brother sat just to her left. Kit studied him for a moment. Julius was four years her senior, at the age of twenty two. Despite the fact that he would inherit their father’s fortune along with his title, Julius insisted that he work as a lawyer. It was an honest profession, but many of their neighbors were still horrified by it. Kit did not really understand why. Molly had explained to her that some viewed it as below someone of their status, but both of the sisters found it ridiculous.
“Good morning everyone,” Molly chirped as she entered the room.
“Good morning,” Lord Burnley said, placing down his newspaper and smiling at his daughter. Even though it was typical behavior, Kit felt a pang of jealousy.
“It’s nice to see that you decided to join us, Kit,” Molly said with a smile, taking the seat across from her.
Kit shook her head. How could she be jealous of Molly? Molly was her best friend. “I decided that it’s time I started breaking fast with my family again. I thought that I might share some of my inventions with father.”
“Oooh. The flying machine?”
Kit shrugged. “Maybe.”
That piqued their father’s interest. “What flying machine?”
Kit glanced down at the plate of eggs in front of her. “It’s just one of my ideas,” she said.
“And it’s a great idea,” Molly added enthusiastically, “It has two tubes that shoot air or something. You could fly to one of the air cities.”
“But that is what airships are for.”
“Yes,” Kit said, “but with this a single person could fly like a ship.”
“It’s a brilliant idea, father,” Molly added, and Kit realized that she was using their father’s favoritism to help her.
“I suppose,” Lord Burnley murmured.
“Aren’t you working on a cannon?” Julius asked.
Kit glared daggers at her brother. “That,” she said, “has been put on hold due to some difficulties.” Thankfully, he father had not heard her brother’s question.
“I suppose that you could try and make this flying machine, Katherine,” he said.
“Wonderful,” Molly squealed and Kit smiled. “We’re going to find the things today.”
“We?” Kit looked at her sister. Molly never went with her to buy supplies. She insisted that the stores and smiths Kit visited were unsanitary.
“Yes,” Molly said, “We.”
“Well, it’s settled then,” Lord Burnley said, “You two will go after breakfast.”
The twins shared a smile.
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