He knew as soon as his boss told him the plan that it was a bad idea. Yes, the device needed to be revealed to the world, but this was not the way to do it. They wouldn’t understand the importance of the find. Thanks to some incontrovertible evidence in the tomb, it was possible to date the parts very accurately, and they proved that mankind invented clockwork millennia earlier than was previously thought. This was big stuff; but would the uninitiated grasp the significance? Of course not – and he knew he’d be the fall guy.
Dennis had spent two years painstakingly copying each of the cogs and wheels and creating a working model. It had been in a woebegone state when it first arrived at his workshop. The rest of the team of archaeological investigators had carried out all of the tests they could on the bits and pieces and then brought him the remains to interpret. Luckily, many of the sections were still intact, thanks to the lack of rain at the dig site, but connecting up all the Heath Robinson gearing had given him a few challenges.
The work had been tough, but the finished article was a triumph. The key mechanism had been the trickiest: making sure it connected all of the rotors so that, when the brake disengaged, the whole apparatus danced majestically. Ratchets engaged, spheres spun, pivots balanced and the two flagellate arms swept delicate arcs around each other, making a soft swishing sound.
It was inevitable that the museum director wanted to make a show and so a press conference was duly called. Dennis was given his orders to set up the machine prominently so that, at the right moment it could be switched on for the crowd to admire. After a gushing introduction, the director handed over to him to explain how it all fitted together. The journalists made suitably admiring noises and Dennis tried to give them every possible fact he could so that he could avoid the one question he dreaded: the one thing he could not answer.
As he reached the end of his talk and applied the brake to bring the mechanism to a gentle halt he hoped he had got away with it, but he should have known better. Just as the gentle machine hum ended a voice spoke up: “But what does it do?”
Copyright ©2012 MorningAJ. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce in any form, including electronic, without the author’s express permission.
This story was originally published on the Jobbing Writer site on March 18, 2012.
If you like this story, check out these other Morning AJ stories, published on this site: Disguise, Earwig, Falling star, Helen's dilemma and Jetsam.
MorningAJ is a professional (science PR) writer/rebel who fends off the
restrictions of her paid-for work by creating short stories, poems and
microfiction in her spare time. She’s even managed a novel, thanks to
NaNoWriMo, and is currently working on her second.
She also paints watercolours.