Only the Good Die Young

From the Story Arc: Sparks!

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(posted Tuesday, October 03, 2006)

Spring, 1884

Thomas Alva Edison, circled by the exhausted forms of his top men, stared up at the wires and beamed with pride. They ran every-which-way, criss-crossed with no apparent patern between buildings, sparking wildly and frightening the horses below. Across the city, the mansions of the well-to-do and the factories of the wealthiest industrialists glowed with his incandescent lighting. Like the life-blood of the new city, the electricity flowed out from its very heart, here where the new titans of finance reigned from offices above prosperous jewelers, the Edison Electric Light Company.

His success did not come without work. Edison and his foremen were only now heading home, in the pale light of dawn, after yet another hectic day. A small fire had broken out at the Stewart mansion, and the wealthy matron of the estate had demanded that Edison both repair the electricals and remove an ancient steam-engine and boiler he hadn’t even installed. Just as his work crew had left for the mansion, a runner arrived with news of a faulty junction box in Eastgate, describing spectacularly how lightning leaking from the device had thrown a man and horse some hundred yards from where they stood. Edison immediately dispatched his foreman and crew, leaving only himself to watch the great generators.

Even in solitude there was no rest for the Wizzard of Massapequa Park. Shipping magnate Basil Marcone had deigned to use the telephone, begging Edison to finish repairs on the liner S.S. Oregon’s generators. The dynamos had been badly corroded during her initial sea trials, and without her widely-advertised electric lighting she could only sit in port, losing tremendous sums of money. Edison looked around his empty shop and shrugged. He had no one to send, especially on a repair liable to take weeks, but couldn’t afford to lose such a wealthy customer. He promised an engineer by nightfall.

Fate and a miraculously agreeable immigration board had provided. A lanky, dark-haired foreigner from his Paris bureau had sauntered in with a letter of recommendation and some gibberish alternating current theories. Edison, never one to tolerate egg-heads, had turned him on his heel, dispatching him to deal with the troubled ship.

Finally, after grueling hours on generator watch, supervising his teams with runners and the rare telephone call, Edison’s morning crew arrived to relieve them. Edison and his tired engineers stood in the street, bantering for a moment before rushing home to collapse. Just as they were ready to depart, the dark-haired man, positively disheveled, appeared, sauntering towards the office. Edison was furious.

“Here is our ‘Parisian’ running around at night!”

“Mr. Edison, I have just come on the ferry from Striga. Her dynamos were in bad condition, but the ship’s crew were very accommodating. I have just completed repairs, and the S.S. Oregon has sailed.”

Edison closed his mouth and walked away, his crew quickly following. About a block away, he abruptly turned to his foreman, simply saying, “That is a damn good man.”

* * * * *


Petrograd grimaced inwardly as the tarp came away from his worktable. The mass of corroded black metal and wiring laid out before him was roughly in the shape of a man, and that was about all that could be said for it. With Krasniy Oktyabr and his gloves in Moscow, and hitting dead ends in his research, he had been free to concentrate on other, less frustrating projects. Now, however…

“Alright,” Petro mumbled defeat. “I’ll find the blueprints.”

*Tesla anecdotes adapted from Tesla, Man out of Time by Margaret Cheney