Lady Penelope Prescott was sure that Satan had personally crafted the cog she was currently trying to install into the leftside, hip mechanism. It would be the only logical conclusion, she was sure, as she carefully tried setting it in place one more time.
With a muted ‘tweeng’, the cog flung itself off the mounting, and made a break for the freedom of the shop floor. She resisted the urge to lunge after the escaping hardware, and carefully extracted the pincers she had been using to try and place the cog onto the mount.
Penelope located the errant piece and was finally able to get it onto the mounting. She closed the bracketing, and released the restrainers keeping the other cogs back. At a glance, everything looked to be connecting up fine. She knew she would find out one way or another once she got it on the treadmill.
She released the blocks that were stabilizing the automaton horse, with a slight tug on the bridle it immediately started following her across the spacious shop to the treadmill. Penelope had no problems maneuvering it up into place. She opened the access panel on the chest and set the horse to free movement.
Lady Penelope was familiar with the dangers of testing automaton designs, so she connected a full set of braces on it before she moved to the control panel. A check of the pressure gauge showed the boiler was running well. She opened the valve to allow the pressure to flow into the treadmill system, keeping it below 10% flow rate.
Once the treadmill showed enough pressure to begin, she connected the drive belt to the gear mechanism and it started moving. The horse immediately moved it’s feet to keep itself stable and match the pace of the belt.
Lady Penelope kept the speed to a leisurely 3 mph for a minute, checking the movement of the horse. She had been modifying the hips, an attempt to reduce the swaying and therefore, reduce the wear on the hip joints themselves. The horse seemed to be moving fine.
She adjusted the pressure, increasing the speed to a nice canter of 10 mph. The horse had no apparent problem adjusting to this speed. Lady Penelope knew that the horse’s core spring should be able to handle this pace for at least 3 hours, far more than she needed to verify her modifications.
She set the emergency release valves, checked the pressure one more time, it was showing 85 psi, well within tolerances, then left the shop. She suddenly realized how famished she was, time to see what she could get for lunch.
As she exited the shop, into the courtyard, the main house looming on her left, the stables across from her shop. The sun was high already, at least noon she was thinking. She could feel the heat of the sun against her fair skin. The tan she had managed to cultivate was a small thing to try and protect her against this onslaught though.
The courtyard was kept clear of bushes and shrubs, allowing visitors to easily reach the main house. This meant that the afternoon sun had a clear path to illuminate everything in the courtyard, it would be hours before the peaks would shelter them with shade.
Penelope walked briskly across the open space to the front doors of the main house, the shadow of the veranda giving her respite from the bright sunlight. The front doors were wide open, letting in the gentle breezes that were common in this area, the foothills to the west of Durban, South Africa.