“With the Night Mail”
A short story of the world of 2000AD by Rudyard Kipling (1905).
‘Time for us to be on the move,’ says Captain Purnall, and we are
shot up by the passenger-lift to the top of the dispatch-towers.
‘Our coach will lock on when it is filled and the clerks are
aboard.’ . . .
‘No. 162’ waits for us in Slip E of the topmost stage. The great
curve of her back shines frostily under the lights, and some
minute alteration of trim makes her rock a little in her holding-down slips.
Captain Purnall frowns and dives inside. Hissing softly, ‘162’
comes to rest as level as a rule. From her North Atlantic Winter
nose-cap (worn bright as diamond with boring through uncounted
leagues of hail, snow, and ice) to the inset of her three
built-out propeller-shafts is some two hundred and forty feet.
Her extreme diameter, carried well forward, is thirty-seven.
Contrast this with the nine hundred by ninety-five of any crack
liner, and you will realise the power that must drive a hull
through all weathers at more than the emergency speed of the
‘Yes,’ says Captain Hodgson, answering my thought, ‘ Castelli
thought he’d discovered the secret of controlling aeroplanes when
he’d only found out how to steer dirigible balloons. Magniac
invented his rudder to help war-boats ram each other; and war
went out of fashion and Magniac he went out of his mind because
he said he couldn’t serve his country any more. I wonder if any
of us ever know what we’re really doing.