It contained two sofa-lockers with gas-inflated, leather cushions, a chart-rack, pilot's seat, controls, and instrument-board. The whole front was a magnificent stretch of double plate-glass, with warm air between the sheets to keep snow, frost, or dew from obscuring the vision. Bright light flooded it.
The three men gathered around the instrument-board and Dunark explained the changes he had made and to such men as Seaton and Crane it was soon evident that they were examining an installation embodying sheer perfection of instrumental control a system which only those wonder instrument-makers, the Osnomians, could have devised.
Perkins was a huddled heap under the instrument-board. The other captive, Brookings' ex-secretary, was in somewhat better case, as her bonds had snapped like string and she was lying at full length in one of the side-seats forced into that position and held there, as the design of the seats was adapted for the most comfortable position possible under such conditions.
His hand approached it slowly closed over it and pulled it out. The result was startling. With the mighty power instantly cut off, and with not even the ordinary force of gravitation to counteract the force DuQuesne was exerting, his own muscular effort hurled him up toward the center of the car and against the instrument-board. The switch, still in his grasp, was again closed.
Not till a pilot can fly his bus unconsciously does he keep place without repeated reference to the throttle and instrument-board. Beyond Redhill we met an unwieldy cloudbank and were forced to lose height. The clouds became denser and lower, and the formation continued to descend, so that when the coast came into view we were below 3000 feet.
The tub was long enough for a Prussian Guard, and above the set bowl was a sensational exhibit of tooth-brush holder, shaving-brush holder, soap-dish, sponge-dish, and medicine-cabinet, so glittering and so ingenious that they resembled an electrical instrument-board. But the Babbitt whose god was Modern Appliances was not pleased.
"Shiro has a galley on the main floor, and tables fold up into the wall of the main compartment. The passengers see out by sliding back steel panels, which normally cover the windows. The pilot can see in any direction from his seat at the instrument-board, by means of special instruments, something like periscopes.
Tom Meeks, who was leaning over John's shoulder and watching the instrument-board, triumphantly announced presently that they were traveling at the rate of 280 miles an hour! For thirty minutes or more John Ross kept the Sky-Bird going at this terrific speed, then he slowed up, and transferred into mono-engine gear, as there was no use in unnecessarily heating the power-plants.
Every part of the great room was plainly visible, and not a living being was even watching that vast instrument-board. "What do you make of it, Dick?" asked Crane, slowly. "No wiring tight beam transmission. The Fenachrone do it with two matched-frequency separable units. Millions and millions of kilowatts there, if I'm any judge. Absolutely automatic too, or else " Seaton's voice died away.
"The gauge shows ten gallons," said Tom, bending down and looking at the instrument-board in front of the pilot's seat. "That isn't enough for a decent flight," declared John. "We'll probably be out for at least an hour, and we may use as much as fifteen gallons in that time; that's about half the consumption of ordinary airplanes, you know.