"What exactly does this book do?"
"Surely you know the story of Daedalus? He was a craftsman of extraordinary talent who was entrusted with his nephew's education in the mechanical arts. When he learned that his nephew's skills far surpassed his own, daedalus became jealous and pushed him off the Acropolis at Athens. He was punished for his crime by being imprisoned in his tower for the remainder of his life.
The Professor lowered his voice so that it was barely audible to those in the room; no one outside would have heard a thing.
"During this time, Daedalus became consumed by his work. His inventions became increasingly elaborate, some of them being more advanced than our technology today. For fifteen years I have searched for some clue as to where all of his creations might be hidden. Then I came across this," Ikonov gestured toward the book, "It wasn't easy to find. Every year or so I would come across some mention of the book. Most were fleeting. A mention of it being in the hands of a collector in the south, a receipt for its purchase at a rare book auction, but they all added up and I was finally able to track it to a book dealer who knew nothing of its true worth.
"Through careful study I have managed to translate most of the pages. They include the lists of supplies needed for his work, instructions on the proper way to heat and mold metal so that it retains almost all of its strength, but all of this is minute compared to the other things I found.
"Daedalus didn't want the world that had imprisoned him to benefit from his labors. He didn't have the heart to destroy his life's work, so he instructed one of his most trusted students to hide his creations. He recorded where they were hidden, in a most convoluted manner, and died not long afterward. "
Cornelia took her time to process the situation before attempting to reply. She found the whole story far-fetched and unbelievable, yet something told her that the Professor was telling the truth.
"You intend to hire me so you can go on this excursion and recover the lost artifacts of Daedalus. I'm not quite convinced that any of this is real, but work is work and we all know I could use the money."
Cornelia had never done work for Ikonov before, but she had heard that he treated those he employed with the utmost respect...and paid very well. The Belle Marie wasn't in the best shape and would need repairs soon. As preposterous as the proposal sounded, Cornelia was willing to take the job. Bills didn't pay themselves and her credit was wearing dangerously thin. Cornelia winced as she remembered that her crew expected to be paid tomorrow.
"I'll take the job, but I'll need forty percent up front to pay for fuel, food, and crew. You will be held responsible for any major damages incurred upon my airship during the duration of the contract, normal wear and tear is on me."
"That sounds fair. Would four hundred and fifty pounds be enough for the entire trip?"
Cornelia pretended to give the price serious thought, even though the offer was beyond generous; she had only expected to get half that amount, even after haggling.
"Your offer is a good one," she rose,"and while I'm sure you would like to leave as soon as possible, I must first prepare my ship. I'll send a message to your residence when everything is ready."
Ikonov leapt to his feet with boyish enthusiasm and shook Cornelia's hand.
"Thank you very much Ms. Harper. I shall have your forty percent sent to you tomorrow morning and will see you in a few days' time."
"It was a pleasure doing business with you. Good afternoon Avery, Professor."
Hallsworth grunted a farewell. Either still irritated over the loss of his cigar, or disappointed that he had not been included in the conversation, Hallsworth seemed noticeably dejected as he told Cornelia that she could find her way to the door herself. Despite his dark mood, Cornelia knew that he would be back to his usual self once afternoon tea was served.
In the street outside the Royal Society, Cornelia had already begun planning for the journey, making lists of much needed items in her head and estimating prices, all while whistling a cheery tune.