Belfort, Franche Comté, 1633
“So, Herr Doctor Lebenenergie. You designed this yourself?”
“Not exactly, Commissioner Vaden.” Tomas cursed himself for ever thinking that coming to Belfort would be profitable. He knew that Franche Comté was rife with witch hunts again, but he just needed some extra copper wire and plates for his second machine. Those could be made in Franche Comté.
“I met with some Americans a couple of years ago. I studied their books on electricity. While I was there, I saw them use a device that made that power available to them with a press of a button. They shocked a farmer back to life.”
“So I thought at first, sir. But it was nothing but a machine. I hied myself to this town they said they came from and just walked into their library and asked about these machines. I spent two months there.” Tomas tried to sit up straighter but the bindings prevented it. “I watched their doctors use similar machines and finally came up with the theory that applying this power in varying amounts to the proper locations of the body, one could rebalance the ichors within and cure maladies. This was proved to me when I saw a movie called 'Frankenstein.' They laughed and called it 'fiction' and said it was a moral lesson about a man's hubris. The machines in that movie were well within what we could make right now.
“So I did.” Tomas knew now what that movie had been trying to teach him, but now it was too late. His only recourse was to make himself useful to these witch hunters. Somehow. “I built my Elektrischer Generator from parts I found near Geneva and Upper Genoa. The lodestone was the most expensive piece.”
“Lodestone? Explain.” Someone just out of sight asked. Tomas felt someone moving up behind him.
“Continue, Herr Eichemann.” The other Vaden waved the questioner back.
“Certain stones, when hung from a string or wire, will always have one side point to the North.”
“Yes, those I know of,” the elder Vaden interjected. “They are how the compasses on the ships work, gentlemen.” He shook his head. “We know that is not sorcery. Nor are we here for that reason. I believe this is much simpler. Continue.” The elder Vaden's cold, dead eyes compelled Tomas to obey.
Tomas Eichemann took time to gather his thoughts. He wasn't sure exactly what the two witch commissioners wanted with him. No one he knew of had accused him of being a warlock—that he knew of. The two men had just ridden out to his camp and invited him to attend them back in town. Invited him. With their guards present.
He should have left earlier in the day when he'd heard that there were people asking for the whereabouts of the traveling doctor and his magical device, the Elektrischer Generator. It was always safer to leave when people started asking questions. Twice before he had managed to flee other towns just ahead of the authorities. Small towns were the worst; nowhere to really hide. Especially to those who had good clean clothing, their own wagon with many strange devices hanging from its side, too. Jealousy or suspicion always resulted in the same thing. Someone had sold the information to someone else who knew someone who was in a position of authority.
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- The Grantville Gazette Staff