HOLOGRAM DEFENSE PROGRAM of the History Maintenance Commission NYC
Introductory note from Mortimore Hackpot :We forgot to make allowances for Campbell’s deeply superstitious nature. We sent holograms of his Bluebird car and boat with him but neglected to add Mr Whoppit, who is just as important. Fortunately, Florence Nightingale appears to have saved the day. It just goes to show what a special lady she was.
Here follows the fourth report received from Donald Campbell in 1844:
4th Donald Campbell Report
Flo had located a couple of great areas for record breaking. She’d applied all the criteria I had set. An admirable lady. I trained my sights on setting the land speed record first. But the weather rather put paid to that. I was aware that my holographic projection into 1844 was limited in duration and the old meter’s ticking over the whole time. An hour wasted in 1844 has the same effect upon the psyche as a month kicking my heels in 1964. It was a prolonged shower. In 1964 it wouldn’t have warranted postponement with the real Bluebird Proteus CN7 under my control, but the 1844 Bluebird was a different animal. It wasn’t solid, so I couldn’t risk Flo observing the raindrops going straight through instead of bouncing off Bluebird’s sleek body. These holograms are a magnificent piece of technology, but they do have their limitations.
Two hours utterly wasted. The heartbreak of this project is that you are not only fighting the unknown with the technicalities involved but you are being continually frustrated by this appalling weather. I can never remember such an intensely foul spell. At my lowest ebb, my dear old father appeared in the cockpit where I was sat twiddling my thumbs and cursing the day I would eventually be born. He had a half smile on his face and he looked down and he said, ‘Don’t worry, old boy. It will be alright’.
And I’ll be damned if my dear old pater wasn’t right. Within, at most, a minute or two the rain had stopped and I was able to cruise in Bluebird from under the cover of the trees and onto the flat where my record would be set. I don’t think any of us could wait to get back on with the job. I was unable to make radio contact with Flo at her position along the measured mile as Marconi hadn’t yet been born to invent the blasted thing. So I gave her the thumbs up. This perplexed her, so instead I took a short drive in cruise mode over to her station to inform her that I was about to set the land speed record for 1844. After issuing her with further instructions I eased myself back into the cockpit.
‘May good fortune accompany you, Skipper!’ she said delicately removing an errant piece of dust that had found its way on to her pristine white gloved hands.
‘Don’t wish me luck,’ I responded. ‘That’s one of my superstitions.’
‘There’s no such element as luck,’ she replied. ‘Every possible eventuality can be accounted for with the application of statistics without the infusion of such comical mumbo jumbo.’
‘Excuse me!’ I replied rather miffed. ‘It’s my neck at risk. In this game you are either champion or you’re nothing. If I want to put faith in mumbo jumbo then I’m perfectly entitled to do so.’
All this talk of superstition reminded me that i was totally unprepared for breaking records. I didn’t have my lucky mascot, my teddy bear Mr Whoppit! Professor Delphi had supplied me with holographic Bluebird vehicles but not included the most essential component of them all my lucky talisman Mr Whoppit! Leo Villa, my trusted friend and head mechanic, would never have made such an error. He always got the engine performing at its optimum but he made sure the mind at the throttle was well oiled and carefree too.
‘I simply cannot continue,’ I told Flo. I don’t mind admitting that fright had entered my body like a bad case of rust. ‘Mr Whoppit always looks after me. Unless I have Mr Whoppit alongside, I will not risk my neck.’
Being the type of woman who doesn’t go into reverse gear in a crisis, Florence came into her own at that moment and really put her stamp on Team Bluebird. She collected specifications and then excused herself returning thirty minutes later from her visit to a nearby village with a whippet she’d borrowed from one of the residents. It wasn’t Mr Whoppit but was as near as damn it. I admired her pluck and ability to keep her head in a crisis. (Although this was likely the result of her not drawing the Ace of Spades unlike myself and Mary Queen of Scots the night before we each got the chop centuries apart.)
The major consideration with having a whippet alongside in the cockpit was the fact that as there was no physical Bluebird-Proteus CN7 to take the weight off its paws, I was restricted to travelling at the dog’s top speed. This transpired to be, by Flo’s calculations, 38.7 mph. Impressive for a whippet, boosted by the fright of having the vehicle on its tail, but a bit of a washout for a car designed to do 500 mph top whack. Thankfully, the designers, the Norris brothers, wouldn’t be turning in their graves as they’d yet to be born. I’d hoped that had any locals got wind of Bluebird’s nigh on reaching the speed of sound, they would have needed to rechristen Stephenson’s Rocket locomotive, Stephenson’s Snail. No chance now and instead it will provide further fuel to my many sceptics and doubters. But those of us in the field know different.
I’ve got a lot of evaluating to do on the result achieved this afternoon. I will be in my element tomorrow morning, weather permitting, as I attempt the water speed record. I am more at home on the water. But the question dogging me is will the whippet be?
REPORT 4 ENDS