The Great Exhibition
A week had gone by since Percival went to see Charles. In that week, Percival learned to better handle the suit, grasping more of its functions and its abilities. He had improved control of the flight system, and he and Charles discovered that no only could he run in the, but that his speed could be accelerated. Finally, on the Wednesday, Charles allowed for Percival to take the suit to the Great Exhibition, which he did on the following day.
Charles and Percival travelled to London, to Crystal Palace, where the event was taking place. They hid the suit in the same coffin that Percival had bought and put it in the carriage they took to go.
Charles instructed Percival to get into the suit once they had arrived. Charles would introduce the suit as an invention of his, and if anyone had any questions about it, he would say that he was not obliged to give any information.
''Right, we are here,'' Charles remarked when they had arrived at Crystal Palace. The building was extraordinary; its glass windows were shimmering in the glistening sun, presenting it as the perfect place that befitted the event. Many people had flocked to the entrance of the building, with others milling around and enjoying conversations with each other.
''There is no better place for this than Crystal Palace,'' Percival mumbled to himself, marvelling at the structure.
''All right, stop gawking. Let's take the suit to the back of the hall,'' Charles ordered as they wrapped the coffin with a black sheet and carried it secretly to the back of the building. When they entered the inside, they heard the hubbub of the crowd inside the main hall. Percival saw through a gap of a door leading to the stage of the main hall how many people there actually were.
''Oh, there are a lot of people out there, Charles. I'm beginning to feel quite nervous,'' Percival said to him.
''There's no time for that, Percival. You need to get into the suit now, so you can allow me time to get into the hall without being noticed and be able to present it to the audience,'' Charles directed. Percival nodded in obeisance and helped Charles open the coffin. Charles then opened the suit for Percival to climb in, and ensuring that they were not being heard, he closed the suit back up again over Percival.
''Now, ladies and gentlemen. We would like to present some inventions that have been brought along today. We have seen some of these already, but those who have come for the first time will be able to enjoy the fruits of these inventors' labour!'' a man announced over the crowd on the stage.
''I need to go now. Now, do not worry too much; if anything happens, I have the device to stop you, should the suit threaten any in the audience or yourself. And...don't show off too much, Percy,'' Charles said to Percival. Percival scoffed, then got into position behind the door. Charles left Percival alone whilst he prepared himself. He peaked out of the door once more, and saw the stage was now covered with a large red curtain.
'You can do this, Percy, just take a deep breath,' Percival braced himself mentally before the stage curtain was pulled away to reveal an invention.
''Frederick Bakewell's Image Telegraph!'' the man announced to the crowd. There was a general hum of excitement and then applause from them as they marvelled at the invention.
'That seems like a very good invention,' Percival admired inwardly after the announcer described the functions of the said invention. Percival looked down at his suit, whilst listening to the subdued applause of the audience. As the demonstration of the Image Telegraph was being displayed to the crowd, Percival noticed Garth Mason in the front amongst the observers. He remembered that Garth mentioned he was coming, but he hadn't known that it was to be on the same day.
'I'm glad no one can see through into the helmet,' Percival ruminated internally. The crowd applauded once again as the next invention was presented.
'Oh, a printing press that operates at a faster pace? How extraordinary!' Percival remarked to himself. He peered into the hall again, and looked in further when Charles appeared in front of him.
''Sorry to frighten you; we are the next up,'' he reported to Percival. The curtain had closed when Charles came on stage to prepare for his entrance. Charles opened the door to let Percival through and onto the stage. Percival began to get nervous.
''I hope all goes well,'' Percival said to Charles.
''I hope so too,'' Charles returned.
''And now, we have a surprise for you all! Scientist Charles Gordon Beller has come today to show to us all a revolutionary suit he has developed that can be worn to protect us from harsh temperatures! Venturing into the tundras of the poles, traversing the scorching plains of volcanoes! I present to you, the Nautilus!'' the announcer said.
'What? What on earth did Charles tell them about the suit?' Percival thought to himself before the curtains immediately pulled back to reveal him in the Nautilus suit.
There was a simultaneous gasp from the audience, and for a moment Percival thought people had seen him. He was as still as a rock, and unsure of what to do. He then took a step forward and surveyed the audience. The information flashing up on the visor screen began to distract Percival. People began to murmur in the crowd, as the suit was not doing anything. Charles was watching from behind one of the curtains to the right, and was beginning to see the interest in the crowd wane.
''Do something already!'' he whispered across to Percival. Percival snapped out of his reverie, and listened to Charles.
''Fly,'' Percival said from inside the suit.
''Flight system initiated,'' the female voice declared before the Nautilus began to lift off the ground. The thrust boosters came on, and heat and gas fired from the bottom of his feet. The audience gasped in excitement, and elated applause broke out in the hall suddenly. Percival smiled to himself as he gazed at the joyous appearances of the audience while he rose higher into the air. Charles clapped delightfully at the success of the launch of the Nautilus, and felt proud.
'This machine...will make me extremely popular!' he mused to himself. Percival glanced over at Garth, whose mouth was left ajar at the sight of the flying suit.
''Land,'' Percival ordered the suit.
''Flight system offline,'' the suit spoke, and the Nautilus landed safely back on the stage. Applause broke out once more in praise of the suit, and Garth marvelled at it. He then searched the crowd to see if he could spot Percival, but he failed to find him. Percival knew Garth was seeking him, so as soon as the curtains drew back on him, he immediately went to the back door and came out of the suit.
''It was a success, dear boy! A success! Did you see how happy they all were? There were soaking it all in!'' Charles gushed jubilantly.
''Yes, they were. Let's put the suit back in the coffin. I want to meet Garth inside,'' Percival responded, putting on his shoes and jacket.
''Oh, he's in there?'' Charles asked.
''Yes. He was at the front,'' Percival replied. Charles closed the suit up, and they laid the Nautilus carefully back into the coffin. They then covered it again in the black sheet and headed outside to load it back into the carriage.
''I'll look after it while you say hello,'' Charles said to Percival. Percival nodded and went back into the building. Once inside, Percival weaved in and out of the crowd whilst trying to find Garth.
''Percival!'' Garth shouted from the left. He had seen Percival, and called out to him to get his attention.
''Garth! Lovely to see you!'' Percival said when they met.
''I didn't think you were coming today! I didn't see you at all,'' Garth said.
''Well...I was at the back of the hall. Watching everything from afar,'' Percival lied.
''Oh, all right. That last invention was really something, wasn't it?'' Garth spoke happily.
''Yes, the Nautilus suit is definitely something,'' Percival agreed.
''Beller's outdone himself. It seems he's finally invented something worth having. And it can fly! How amazing!'' Garth remarked. Percival knew it wasn't Charles who had actually created the suit.
''Yes, well, you know how eccentric he is,'' Percival said.
''But I want to know how he did it; it's a magnificent piece of science, don't you think?'' Garth said.
''Extraordinary, I would say,'' Percival commented. Garth scoffed to himself in amazement.
''Imagine what else it could be used for,'' Garth wondered aloud. Percival showed a fleeting expression of concern when he saw his friend look to the stage. Thoughts of the person who had inhabited the suit flooded his mind, and he began to feel an immediate urge to investigate the depths of the sea at Tuckerby Bay.