Page 11

"Personally," said Captain Carrot. "I am happy, thrilled and delighted to be going." He tapped a box by his side. "And I am, as instructed, also bringing along an iconograph and intend to take many useful and deeply moving images of our world from the perspective of space which will perhaps cause us to see humanity in an entirely new light."

"Is this the time to resign from the crew?" said Rincewind. staring at his fellow voyagers. "No." said Lord Vetinari. "Possibly on grounds of insanity?"

"Your own. I assume?"

"Take your pick!" Vetinari beckoned Rincewind forward. "But it could be said that someone would have to be insane to take part in this venture." he murmured. "In which case, of course, you are fully qualified."

"Then ... supposing I'm not insane?"

"Oh, as ruler of Ankh-Morpork I have a duty to send only the keenest, coolest minds on a vital errand of this kind." He held Rincewind's gaze for a moment. "I think there's a catch there," said the wizard, knowing that he'd lost. "Yes. The best kind there is." said the Patrician. The lights of the anchored ships disappeared into the murk as the barge drifted on, faster now as the current began to pull. "No turning back now," said Leonard. There was a roll of thunder, and fingers of lightning walked along the Edge of the world.

"Just a squall, I expect." he added, as fat drops of rain thudded on the tarpaulins. "Shall we get aboard? The draglines will keep us pointed directly at the Rim, and we might as well make ourselves comfortable while we wait."

"We ought to release the fire boats first, sir," said Carrot. "Silly me, yes," said Leonard. "I'd forget my own head if it was wasn't held on with bones and skin and things!" A The helmsman's chair B Left wing chair C Right wing chair (for mission specialist) D Yoke (for altitude and wing-warping) E Pedals (for rudder) F Device for Looking Behind You G Fragment of omniscope H Sphere of quicksilver (to show ground level) I Wing winding handle J Dragon Blinkers handle K Mirror Array handle L Salmon of Thunder mirror release M Salmon of Thunder Separation N Dragon Pod Separation O Device for slowing instantly P Troba (wing jettison, endeavour not to use) Q Windscreen wiper R Seat adjuster S Prince Haran's Tiller T Whig capstan release U Cup holders Editor's note: Just like Leonardo da Vinci, Leonard of Quirm famously wrote backwards, a talent not unusual in left-handed people. Sadly, but for the purpose of clarity and the continued sanity of our readers, we have been forced to print the handwriting the wrong way round. A couple of ship's boats had been sacrificed for the attempt on the Circumfence. They wallowed slightly, laden as they were with spare tins of varnish, paint and the remains of the dragons' supper. Carrot picked up a couple of lanterns and, after a couple of tries in the gusting wind, managed to light them and place them carefully according to Leonard's instructions. Then the boats were cast adrift. Freed of the drag of the barge, they pulled away in the quickening current. The rain was hammering down now. "And now let us get aboard," said Leonard, ducking back out of the rain. "A cup of tea will do us good."

"I thought we decided we couldn't have any naked flames on board, sir," said Carrot. "I have brought along a special jug of my own devising which keeps things warm." said Leonard. "Or cold, if you prefer. I call it the Hot or Cold Flask, I am at a loss as to how it knows which it is that you prefer, but nevertheless it seems to work." He led the way up the ladder. Only one small lamp lit the little cabin. It illuminated three seats, embedded among a network of levers, armatures and springs. The crew had been up here before. They knew the layout. There was one little bed further aft, on the basis that there would only he time for any one person to be asleep. String bags had been stapled to every bit of unused wall to bold water bottles and food. Unfortunately, some of Lord Vetinari's committees, devised in order to prevent their members from

interfering with anything important, had turned their attention to provisioning the craft. It appeared packed for every eventuality, including alligator-wrestling on a glacier. Leonard sighed. "I really didn't like to say no to anyone." he said. "I did suggest that, er, nourishing but concentrated and. er, low-residue food would be preferred-" As one man, they turned in their seats to look at the Experimental Privy Mk 2. Mk I had worked -Leonard's devices tended to - but since a key to its operation was that it tumbled very fast on a central axis while in use it had been abandoned after a report by its test pilot (Rincewind) that, whatever you had in mind when you went in, the only thing you wanted to do once inside was get out. Mk 2 was as yet untried. It creaked ominously under their gaze, an open invitation to constipation and kidney stories. "It will undoubtedly function," said Leonard, and just this once Rincewind noted the harmonic of uncertainty. "It is all just a matter of opening the correct valves in sequence."

"What happens if we don't open the right valves in sequence, sir?" said Carrot, buckling himself in. "You must appreciate that I have had to design so many things for this craft-" Leonard began. "We'd still like to know," said Rincewind. "Er ... in truth, what happens if you don't open the right valves in sequence is that you will wish you had opened the right valves in sequence," said Leonard. He fumbled below his seat and produced a large metal flask of curious design. "Tea, anyone?" he said. "Just a small cup," said Carrot firmly. "Make mine a spoonful." said Rincewind. "And what's this thing hanging in the ceiling in front of me?"

"It's my new device for looking behind you," said Leonard. "It's very simple to use. I call it the Device For Looking Behind You."

"Looking behind you is a bad move," said Rincewind firmly. "I've always said so. It slows you down."

"Ah, but this way we won't slow down at all."

"Really?" said Rincewind, brightening up. A squall of rain banged on the tarpaulins. Carrot tried to see ahead. A gap had been cut in the covers so that the- "By the way .. . what are we?" he said. "I mean, what do we call ourselves?"

"Possibly foolish." said Rincewind. "I meant officially" Carrot looked around the crammed cabin. "And what do we call this craft?"

"The wizards call it the big kite." said Rincewind. "But it's nothing like a kite, a kite is something on a string which-"

"It has to have a name." said Carrot. "It's very bad luck to attempt a voyage in a vessel with no name." Rincewind looked at the levers in front of his seat. They had to do mainly with dragons. "We're in a big wooden box and behind us are about a hundred dragons who are getting ready to burp," he said. "I think we need a name. Er .. . do you actually know how to fly this thing, Leonard?"

"Not as such, but I intend to learn very soon."

"A really good name," said Rincewind fervently. Ahead of them the stormy horizon was lit by an explosion. The boats had hit the Circumfence, and burst into fierce, corrosive flame. "Right now? he added. "The kite, the real kite, is a very beautiful bird," said Leonard. "It's what I had in mind when I-"

"The Kite it is, then," said Carrot firmly. He glanced at a list pinned in front of him and ticked off one item. "Shall I drop the tarpaulin anchor, sir?"

"Yes. Er. Yes. Do that," said Leonard. Carrot pulled a lever. Below and behind them there was the sound of a splash, and then of cable running out very fast. "There's a reef! There's rocks!" Rincewind stood up. pointing. The firelight ahead glowed on something squat and immovable, surrounded by surf. "No turning back." said Leonard as the sinking anchor dragged the Kite's coverings off like an enormous cam-as egg. He reached out and pulled handles and knobs like an organist in full fugue. "Number One Blinkers ... down. Tethers ... off. Gentlemen, each pull those big handles beside you when I say ..." The rocks loomed. The white water at the lip of the endless Fall was red with fire and glowing with lightning. Jagged rocks were a few yards away, hungry as a crocodile's teeth. "Now! Now! Now! Mirrors ... down! Good! We have flame! Now what was it... oh, yes ... Everyone hold on to something?" Wings unfolding, dragons flaring, the Kite rose from the splintering barge and into the storm and over the Rim of the world ... The only sound was a faint whisper of air as Rincewind and Carrot clambered off the shivering floor. Their pilot was staring out of the window. "Look at the birds! Oh. do look at the birds!" In the calm sunlit air beyond the storm they swooped and turned in their thousands around the gliding ship, as small birds will mob an eagle. And it did look like an eagle, one that had just snatched a giant salmon from the Fall ... Leonard stood entranced, tears running down his cheeks. Carrot tapped him very gently on the shoulder. "Sir?"

"It's so beautiful... so beautiful..."

"Sir, we need you to fly this thing, sir! Remember? Stage Two?"

"Hmm?" Then the artist shuddered, and part of him returned to his body. "Oh, yes, very well, very well ..." He sat down heavily in his seat. "Yes ... to be sure ... yes. We shall, er, we shall test the controls. Yes." He laid a trembling hand on the levers in front of him, and placed his feet on the pedals. The Kite lurched sideways on the air. "Oops ... ah, now I think I have it... sorry ... yes ... oh. sorry, dear me ... all, now I think ..." Rincewind, flung against the window by another judder, looked down the face of the Rimfall. Here and there, all the way down, mountain-sized islands projected from the wall of white water, glowing in the evening light. Little white clouds scudded between them. And everywhere there were birds, wheeling, nesting, gliding- "There's forests on those rocks! They're like little countries ... there's people! I can see houses!" He was thrown back again as the Kite banked into some cloud. There's people living over the Edge!" he said. "Old shipwrecks. I suppose," said Carrot. "I, er, I think I have the hang of it now," said Leonard, staring fixedly ahead. "Rincewind, please be so good as to pull that lever there, will you?" Rincewind did so. There was a clunk behind them, and the ship shook slightly as the first-stage cage was dropped. As it tumbled slowly apart in the air, small dragons spread their wings and flapped hopefully back towards the Disc.

"I thought there would be more than that," said Rincewind. "Oh, those are just the ones we used to help us get clear of the Rim," said Leonard, as the Kite turned lazily in the air. "Most of the others we'll use to go down."

"Down?" said Rincewind. "Oh, yes. We need to go down, as quickly as we can. No time to waste."

"Down? This is not the time to talk about down! You kept on talking about around. Around is fine! Not down!"

"Ah, but you see, in order to go around we need to go down. Fast." Leonard looked reproachful. "I did put it in my notes-"

"Down is not a direction with which I am happy!"

"Hello? Hello?" came a voice, out of the air. "Captain Carrot," said Leonard, as Rincewind sulked in his seat, "oblige me by opening the cabinet there, will you?" This revealed a fragment of smashed omniscope and the face of Ponder Stibbons. "It works!" His shout sounded muffled and somehow small, like the squeaking of an ant. "You're alive?"


***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com