Jeff escaped alive, in spite of appearances, but did not get his horrible death-ray machine with him. Nora and her good guy hero – Bob – starts a relationship, or a romance at least. The machine ends up in some secret place where dangerous things are kept by the police and actually soon forgotten by most as no one really believes in it, or the deadly events it supposedly was the cause of. Not that they doubt the events, but the machine. Forgotten by all except, of course, by Nora, who remembers it and thinks about it a lot. Being an astrologer she has no cause to deny the principles behind it. Being a good girl she is quite happy it is hidden away and forgotten, but she cannot stop thinking about whether the technology could be used for good. Perhaps that was the very thought in the mind of Pandora as she looked upon the box mythology tells us released upon the world all that is bad in the world? There is a paradox in there, the myths telling us curiosity is dangerous while still we are told ”know thyself”.
Jeff understands he must avoid Nora, in particular, as she was the one who saw him that last night. She would recognize him. Her male hero probably not as it was after all quite dark when they fought. Jeff is too stubbornly male and does not have the fantasy to think he could change how he looks. To dye his hair might also be to communicate to the world an orientation he did not have, nor would want others to think he had. Jeff goes abroad until we meet him again.
After this terrible story, the police starts to consult Nora on other cases. They may not believe in astrology, but as is well known, the police does not care about such minor details. Her results are so-so, no more spectacular solutions to mysteries beyond imagination, but she nevertheless becomes an institution with them, more or less. She starts to study for a degree as an engineer, thinking she may perhaps be able to understand the technology behind the machine if she can understand both astrology and machines. She also moves up the social ladder through her new friends.
Being a devout Christian, he is a bit troubled by Nora’s profession and struggles with that. When Nora tells him she is a Christian too, though not the church-going kind, troubled becomes confused. Bob is a simple-minded guy, and contradictions make no sense to him. Not only that, she is a different kind of Christian than he is. Not necessarily a major problem to Bob, it is to his mother.
The death-ray thing is, as mentioned, stored in some secret police warehouse. Unbeknownst to all, even its inventor, it does not need electricity to work. Its very structure is enough to boost the impact of the current astrological figures, though without electricity this happens at a much lower intensity than if charged with electricity. The machine is in fact neutral in its functioning, favoring no effect over another. The villain never considered a constructive use of it, being a villain, and actually did not understand it that well. Standing where it stands, accidentally a geographical location which sort of works like an echo chamber, it affects the surrounding world. Dumb in itself, completely inactive in every way, it speeds up the fates and histories of all within reach. They in turn affect whatever is within their reach similarly, at an even weaker intensity, but it adds up. Slowly but surely history itself speeds up – as if it was not moving fast enough.
I guess it goes without saying that both Nora and Bob will be affected by this most, Jeff the least, as he is in another country, probably even on another continent.
Chapter 2: The Mechanism
Details about the machine necessary for a ’prequel’. The machine is in principle something like the Antikythera mechanism*, but with a dash of Edison, which is added by Jeff later on. We may differentiate between the two versions by calling the original state of it as the ’mechanism’ and the electrical version by Jeff the ’machine’.
Jeffrey would be Jeff’s father.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
We are in Europe, in one of the countries once upon a time subdued by the Romans. In an antiques shop, never subdued by Romans. Or ’antiques’ is what the sign outside the door says, though there is more than a bit of self-flattery in that.
Jeffrey finds what looks like a dirty piece of junk in a shop for, well, junk. Old junk. It says on the window it sells antiques, but most of the stuff is really just junk. This particular piece of junk, however, is actually antique. Antique as in from antiquity, at least two thousand years old. That is not why it appeals to Jeffrey though, who has no feeling for even ordinary antiques and thinks of such feelings as sentimental. He likes it because it looks mechanical, and because he likes to take things apart. He will forever remain in the state most men visit in their pre-teens, when they do pick apart what they can get their hands on. Some like it so much there they go on to become proficient in it, and then professional about it. After the stage when they pick apart, they learn to put things back together and become the kind of people who learn to build bridges, construct railroad curves at the perfect inclination and all the kind of stuff a civilization needs.
Not a stage Jeffrey will ever arrive at. He is the kind that never grows up, and that is no compliment in his case. He has never before seen a machine like this, and actually hardly any other living being has either, and it is a bargain even as junk. It is made of brass, though very heavily oxidated so it looks like iron, but he sees the real material in a new scratch on the bottom. The shopowner obviously missed that, and Jeffrey will not tell him. Honesty is not natural to him anyway. Only the brass would fetch a higher price than what the shopowner asks for it, so Jeffrey does not hesitate. He will get to have fun with picking it apart, and then he can sell the parts and get more money back than what he paid of the thing. He might even sell them back to this shop.
This is not what happens though. He starts by cleaning it up, and doing so starts to appreciate its beauty. For it is beautiful. It has a pattern upon it, and a lot of symbols that look like letters, but which he cannot read or understand. He does not even think of them as anything but decoration. But something slightly stirs in him, like a yearning that has been asleep but starts to wake up. He sees that the thing is not only of brass but that there are few copper parts as well. The copper parts are not part of the mechanism, that is, they are not moving parts. All that could move is made of brass, however, every little cog and wheel. Probably to be able to stand wear, as copper may be too soft for cogwheels.
The chatty shopowner tells him this was found recently in the archeological dig outside of town, buried deep and kept in a box. The archeologers could not understand how it could have ended up there – as they assumed it could not be of the same age as the Roman artefacts they were digging for – so they were only happy when Harry, mr Shopowner that is, said he could take care of it. More precisely, the young student archeologer who picked it from the trash corner and brought it to Harry’s shop was only too happy when Harry offered him a small amount of money for taking care of it, no questions asked.
Chapter 3: Mr Guillotine
Notes on Jeff.
Our villain was born in Pommery, the capital of a small Baltic state, the Grand Duchy of Lundesburg, next to the Grand Duchy of Muscatow.