tagSci-Fi & FantasyFrom the Earth to the Moon Ch. 01

From the Earth to the Moon Ch. 01

bySassyGal84©

Author's note: First, anyone participating in any sexual act will be at least eighteen at the time of said act. Now that we got that out of the way, a couple of other notes. Thomas Edison's preminence in this universe is in no way a commentary on the Edison/Tesla debate. Also, this is a separate universe from our own, where certain physical laws are different, where the author may have taken more than a few liberties with historical characters, and where British titles and addresses might vary from those in our own universe, and where Americans still don't get them right. So, with all those caveats in place, please sit back and enjoy!

-----

James Davidson looked at his reflection in the mirror hanging above the china wash basin in his room. He was debating on whether to shave himself, or to pay the two bits to go get it professionally done. Of course, Mrs. Meynard, who ran the boarding house, would volunteer to do it for free, and she would do a very handsome job of it too. But then he would have to listen to her list the many virtues of one of her unwed daughters. Although he was a recent newcomer to the Raritan township of New Jersey, the fact the he was working directly for the "Wizard of Menlo Park" made James something of an up-and-comer in the township.

James decided he would go ahead and pay to have his face professionally cleaned and spare himself both his own amateur efforts at the job and Mrs. Meynard's incessant matchmaking. With a look at his pocket watch, James decided he definitely had time for the barber shop.

Stepping out the front door of the boarding house, James bought a paper from a passing paperboy and whistled as soon as he looked at the front page. The headlines announced the death of Horace Greeley, the Liberal Republican presidential candidate who General Grant had easily defeated for his second term in the Oval Office. That'll put the Electoral College in a spin, James thought to himself.

James walked into his favorite barbershop, giving its owner, Mr. Fioravanzo, a broad grin. Mr. Fioravanzo waved back. "How's my favorite ethernaut doing?"

James grin grew wider. "It's not official yet, Mr. Fioravanzo. Edison hasn't picked the first man to go up in his contraption."

Mr. Fioravanzo just smiled and gestured for James to take a seat in his empty chair. "With the way I'm going to make you look, you'll be the first man in space for sure!"

As James put his face in the capable hands of Mr. Fioravanzo, he couldn't help but reflect on the twists and turns in his life that had brought him to this point. James had been born in Baltimore, Maryland, the eighth of eleven children, and the youngest of six brothers. At the age of six, one of James's older brothers, returning from a long sea journey, brought him a book containing copies of Leonardo Da Vinci's sketches. From that moment on, James dreamed of nothing but becoming a great inventor himself. At the age of twelve, he read of the exploits of Armen Firman and his attempt at controlled flight by leaping from a tower in Córdoba. James attempted to emanate Firman's adventures with a homemade balloon, and actually managed to fly some distance before an uncontrolled landing. The injuries he sustained from his father's belt were more significant than the ones he sustained from the crash itself. Undaunted, James would continue seeking a life of adventure until he turned sixteen. In that same year, the U.S. Civil War broke out.

Maryland, like the nation at large, was divided. James's family was split, with three of his brothers joining the U.S. Navy, and the other two joining the Confederate one. James himself ran away from home, and within a matter of months (and a series of misadventures), was a proud member of Colonel Mosby's Raiders. James was a source of the Colonel's more unusual inspirations, including devising a semi-controlled gunpowder rocket that took out a Union observation balloon.

In 1864, James was captured and sent to the notorious Union prison at Camp Douglas, Illinois, where he, along with other Confederate prisoners, was given the choice of remaining in prison, or being paroled to the Western Territories, where they would fight Indians while Union Soldiers were pulled back to the Confederate Front.

It was here that James was fortunate enough to fall under the command of the scholarly Colonel John Patterson, who discovered a burgeoning inventor and scholar in the young James Davidson, and gave James access to his extensive private library. In 1868, when the Colonel gave John a copy of Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon, James knew that one day he wanted to go to the moon.

In 1870, Thomas Edison, the celebrated inventor, announced his attentions to put a man on the moon before the end of the century.

Even though the war had been over for some time, Confederate soldiers serving in the Western territories were not released from their parole until the seventies. Even then, Colonel Patterson had offered James a commission in the Army, with the full blessing of the military. James had made several small technical innovations that had filtered through the United States Army. A number of these innovations had even made their way into the private sector, including several that were incorporated in the Consolidated 2-8-0 railroad engine. In short, the military wanted to hang on to its own "Thomas Edison."

If James had never read "From Earth to the Moon," he might have stayed in the Army. Or if the government had launched its own ether program, he might have stayed in the West. But it was Thomas Edison who had declared he would put a man on the moon by the end of the century. And if any one man had the ability and the sheer force of will to put a man on the moon, it was Thomas Edison.

The fact that Edison had sent James a telegram inviting him to join the Ether Program as soon as his commitment to the US Army was over had clinched the deal.

Edison was everything and nothing like James thought he would be. He was mercurial, brilliant, controversial, innovative...any and every adjective that James could use.

Late 1872 found 27 year old James Davidson as one of three of the final candidates for the first manned launch of the suborbital Edisonian rocket. On paper, James was a lock. Of course, his Confederate service was used as a selling point on why he shouldn't go into the ether by his detractors. But outside of Edison himself, James was the most brilliant of the Ethereal Engineers on the Moon Project. He was in the best shape of any in the ethernaut corps and, outside of the Prussian aviator Otto Lilienthal, was the most accomplished glider pilot in the world.

Even if he wasn't the first man to touch the ether, James would consider his time working on Edison's moon project as absolutely perfect.

Except for one thing.

Or one person, rather.

And that one person was Emily Waggoner, the seventeen year old daughter of the mayor of the Raritan Township.

Emily Waggoner. James couldn't remember ever meeting a more frustrating person.

Not that she didn't have her qualities. She was a beautiful, active seventeen year old, with a fit, statuesque build, light brown curly hair that she wore to the small of her back, fair skin, laughing blue eyes and the cutest dimple on her right cheek when she smiled. The youngest child of her widowed father, she played the hostess for the numerous dinners and gatherings that her father the mayor held. And as mayor of the city that hosted Thomas Edison, there were quite a few. Bankers, rail barons, politicians, generals...all made their way to Raritan.

For some reason, Emily had made James her personal cause. And that cause was to thwart all his ethereal ambitions.

Perhaps it was the fact that she was a suffragist. Or a prohibitionist. Or the fact that James had been a Confederate at one time. Or the fact that James was immune to her charms.

It didn't matter. Emily had actively campaigned with the visitors to Edison's Moon Project to make sure that James never left his earthly ties.

Not that the visitors to Raritan agreed with her radical politics. Most were taken aback when Emily's heroine, Susan B. Anthony, had been arrested for illegally voting in this year's presidential election. However, Emily had such a charming way about her, that none of the visitors took her political posturings seriously, or at least didn't hold it against her.

Those laughing blue eyes and the dimple on her right cheek didn't hurt her charm either.

Emily had been sitting on the observer's platform at the launch of Edison's first unmanned rocket, which he had called the Wan Hu, at James's insistence. The launch was a success, with the estimated height being two thousand feet. As the rest of the observers discussed Edison's plan to move the Moon Project to Florida, to take advantage of the Earth's rotation, Emily sidled up to James. It was only when they were standing together that James realized just how much shorter Emily was than he. James had always been something of a giant among his peers, standing at nearly six foot tall. Emily was a more petite five foot one. But she always seemed taller to James, as forceful as her personality was.

While the rest of the observers excitedly discussed the successful test, Emily and James stood there in silence. Then very quietly, so that no one else could hear, Emily told James, "Too bad you'll never get to ride one."

Emily left James seething, as she went to flirt with one of the other ethernaut candidates.

Thomas Edison broke away from a crowd of U.S. congressmen and foreign dignitaries and made his way to James. "James, later on, we need to have a sit down about the Moon Project moving down to Florida. Not now, mind you, but later, when things quiet down a bit."

As Edison walked away, talking to one of the investment bankers that he attracted and had to keep happy, James reflected on Edison's words. Move the Moon Project to Florida? James knew very little about Florida, other than it was the least populous of all the former Confederate states. Outside of Key West, the richest U.S. city outside of New York, Florida was swamps and ruined cotton plantations. Even after the third Seminole War, large groups of Seminoles reportedly still resided in the Everglades.

Of course, there was talk about a railroad connecting Key West to the continental United States. But with the construction of the transcontinental railroad in the United States and the opening of the Suez canal just a couple of years ago, large projects were all anyone talked about. There was even talk about a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, though sites from Nicaragua to the Isthmus of Panama were debated.

And if the grandest project of the latter half of the twentieth century, the Edison Moon Project, were relocated to Florida, what would that mean for the world? For Florida?

For James Davidson?

"It was quite a successful--launch is what you call it?" a quiet voice asked, breaking James from his revelry.

James looked up from his woolgathering, blushing that someone had caught him off guard. "That's exactly what you would call it, Lady Brent. And it was very successful."

Before James stood Lady Sarah Brent, the younger sister of Lord William Brent, the official British liaison to the Edison Moon Project. In many ways she was almost identical to the irritating Emily Waggoner. The same age, same height, the same, athletic, statuesque build. If either were so inclined, they could have exchanged wardrobes. Both even served as hostesses to the bachelor male relative in their lives.

But in James's eyes, Lady Brent was definitely a lady both in title and action. And just as beautiful as Emily Waggoner, though in a shy, retiring way. Her light blue eyes held intelligence, but if you tried to catch her eye, she would look away and blush, which showed prettily on her fair English skin. Her dark hair was presently arranged to drape downward over her shoulder and, though the same length as Emily's, it was darker, straighter and finer.

"Would you mind escorting me back to my brother's side, Mr. Davidson?" Lady Brent asked. "It seems we've become separated in the excitement."

"Of course, Lady Brent." Proffering his arm, he quickly escorted Lady Brent back to her brother.

Lord Brent thanked him and promised to engage James later in conversation. Lord Brent hoped to be the first Englishman to reach the ether. Further, he hoped to emulate the great English explorers of the day and chart the unknown realms of the planets beyond. Whereas James was excited with the prospect of actually opening up the ether, to Lord Brent, the true treasure was being the first to step on the mountains of the Moon and the planets beyond. If Lord Brent could not be the first to find the headwaters of the Nile, he consoled himself with the possibility of being the first to scale the Mountains of the Far Side of the Moon.

James left the party early, making his way back to Mrs. Meynard's boardinghouse. He made it home just in time for dinner. The other guests at the boardinghouse bombarded him with questions as Mrs. Meynard, assisted by her youngest daughter, served the guests. There was a certain amount of pride in the eyes and speech of Mrs. Meynard, that her boarder was associated with such a grand man as Thomas Edison. James noted idly that the youngest daughter, Jane, was the only daughter that Mrs. Meynard had never thrown at him. No wonder, James mused. Jane was equal in looks to the other two great beauties in James's life. Indeed, Mrs. Meynard had her hands full keeping the more amorous of her boarder's attentions from the seventeen year old Jane. Not that Jane gave her any trouble. As beautiful as the blonde, blue-eyed Jane was, as talented as she was both in the kitchen and on the standup piano in Mrs. Meynard's sitting room, she was definitely not ready to depart from the shadows of the strict rules that Mrs. Meynard had implemented.

And so, with a full belly, James gave a quick, impetuous kiss to Mrs. Meynard, who laughingly chastised him for his brashness. Adding a saucy, theatrical wink to Jane, James made his way to his room for a night's slumber. Tomorrow, he would have his talk with Edison on his future. But today had been a good day, and he was willing to leave it at that.

-----

In the end, the Edison Moon Project moved to the island of Saint Lucia, rather than Florida, for a number of reasons. The memory of the Civil War was still too strong for anyone to want to send an economic boon down to Florida. It was bad enough, in the eyes of some, that the leading candidate for the first ethernaut to reach space was an ex-Confederate soldier.

In addition, tensions were still high between Great Britain and the United States, particularly considering the British involvement in Mexico during the American Civil War, as well as its support of the Confederacy. British interest in the Moon Project and willingness to extend it financial support, including hosting it on St. Lucia, was seen as a step toward diffusing that tension.

In addition, St. Lucia had Mt. Gimie, which would become a crucial element in Edison's Moon Project.

So while the Wizard of Menlo Park focused on his electrical inventions, the RMS Etruria made its way to Castries, St. Lucia with James Davidson, newly appointed director of Ethernaut Training, on bord. In addition, there was Lord Jonathan Brent, who was the official liaison between the Edison Moon Project and the Honorable East India Company, as well as being one of the members of the newly established Ethernaut Corps. Along with him was his younger sister, Lady Brent.

The Honorable East India Company had barely escaped nationalization after the Indian Rebellion of 1857. It was only the deft political manipulations of Lord Brent's father that allowed the East India Company not only to survive, but to actually thrive. By the winter of 1873, when the Moon Project began establishing itself in St. Lucia, the East India Company had again established itself as the premiere commercial operator in the British Empire. The British government would have its own official representative on St. Lucia, but it was understood that British interests would be primarily represented by the East India Company.

Much to James Davidson's disappointment, Emily Waggoner and her father were also on the ship. Edison's main backer, J.P. Morgan, had been instrumental in the recent creation of the Department of Commerce and Industry, a governmental entity established to promote U.S. commercial interests, both domestically and abroad. Emily's father had been appointed as the Under Secretary for International Ethereal Cooperation. He and his small staff would set up shop in St. Lucia for the duration of the Moon Project.

In addition, a number of the natives of Raritan were also on the ship, to take advantage of what they saw as the commercial possibilities in St. Lucia. Daniel Meynard, twenty seven year old son of the woman who boarded James, was heading down to St. Lucia with a good chunk of his mother's life savings, to set up a boarding house for the Americans who might prefer a taste of home while working in St. Lucia. He was accompanied by his younger sister, Jane, whom their mother considered the more practical of the two.

Also on the ship was James's barber Mr. Fioravanzo, along with his seventeen year old daughter, Sophia. Mr. Fioravanzo had left his shop in the care of his oldest son, while he himself went down to St. Lucia to scout out any possibilities. He took his daughter Sophia along in case the opportunity presented itself to marry her off to a good Catholic boy with outstanding prospects. Sophia was a beautiful girl, built along the same lines as Lady Brent, but with dark hair, smooth olive skin, and flashing, warm brown eyes. James wouldn't have minded courting Sophia himself, but Mr. Fioravanzo (or, more specifically, Mrs. Fioravanzo), was adamant that Sophia had to marry a Catholic boy, and James was resistant to converting. James' reasons were more practical than theological. He had one strike against him already for being an ex-Confederate, even if he had served with the Union Army out West for six years. If he became a Catholic, he'd never get to ride in the ether.

And so, as the RMS Etruria approached St. Lucia, dozens of eyes turned to the island, wondering what kind of future the island held for them.

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