The Icarus is a small zeppelin equipped with a "Varley field inducer". ("The Earth's magnetic field can be used as the starting field for a self-excited electric generator. Cromwell Varley discovered in 1867 that an electric generator did not need to be started with a conventional prime mover. He used the Earth's magnetic field to induce enough field strength in the stator windings to get a generator running." http://www.crystalinks.com/earthsmagneticfield.html)
Special Planck panels on top of the ship (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Planck) use the rays of the sun to power a field generator which "locks" the airship in place relative to the magnetic field of the earth. This "locking" can be done for up to eight hours. with a recharge time of 1/4 the time engaged (2 hours recharge time for an 8 hour lock, 15 minutes for a 1 hour lock, etc.)
When "locked", the Icarus stays in place in the atmosphere as the Earth rotates below it – at up to 1000 miles per hour (at the equator). So they go up in the Icarus until they break above the clouds, get a full dose of sunlight on the panels, fire up the Varley field and watch as the earth spins by at 1000 mph to the west, spinning you east. Need to get to Europe? 4 hours (1/2 hour up to elevation, 3 hours locked, and 1/2 hour back down to London/Paris/Madrid)
How much would you pay for such a wonderous gadget? But wait!! If you flip this lever, the Varley field reverses polarity, and YOU go zooming along the magnetic lines of the Earth's magnetic field to the WEST!!
That's right folks, both East and West travel, all for the low low price of muttermutterblahblahblah.
The Icarus has maneuvering engines so it doesn't crash on the way up or down, but without the Varley field inducer, it is SLOW. No main engines – no room and no weight allowances for a big engine with the Varley taking up so much room and weight. It can be transported North/South via a specially designed train car, but it flies very slowly, so set it where you need it before you hit the big Varley button.
The Icarus is booked by special reservation controlled by the select committee for each Century Club house. If the Icarus is in London, you better stay up late to send a special telegram to get it to New York, and hope you can convince the committee to release the Icarus and its crew for whatever hare-brained scheme you are pulling off this week. Crazy adventurers. The Century Club has a soft spot for those who routinely save the world, but we also recognize that these wonderous gadgets they use to save the world are the result of long hours of research. It's not all bullets and fedoras, Hudson Eight Specials and secret passwords. But you crazy kids are usually right on the money, so we can jump you to the head of the line when you need it.