Paris_ 1892 by jizhen1947

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Paris, 1892


“The last time I was in Paris the Obelisk of Luxor still lain in its
barge in the Seine, and the streets of Paris were not yet asphalt.
Today, it is a different world.”

He had left the Academie de Beaux Arts via the Rue Boneparte
earlier that afternoon. It was open on Sundays and he enjoyed
roaming its many halls of antiquity. On other days a concierge
was required, and he preferred to wander alone. He always
preferred to be alone. Whether it was gazing at the Tulips of van
Spaendonck or pondering Regnault's Education of Achilles, he
found the quiet and solitude a pleasant stalemate to the stirrings
in his mind.

“I have travelled the stretches of the planet that once brought
Marco Polo to mythic heights. I have ridden the cobweb of
railways that crisscross civilized - and not so civilized - nations
and continents. I have a nice chateau on the Boulevard Arago,
near the Observatory. I have eaten the finer dinners west of the
Boulevard de Sebastopol, and strolled along Boulevard St
Martin to catch a play. I should be happy. I ought to consider
myself favored for having lived in such times. Yet, I am not

He dreams not of foreign lands, because he has seen them. He
dreams not of gold, for he has it. He yearns not for health, for he
has it. The unending angst of life has swallowed him again. The
last time it was this bad, he set sail on the oceans of the world for
more than two years, before setting foot on dry land.

On this day, the official start of the Carnival Season, he has
made his way north to the Montemartre Quarter as revelers
display all the finer touches of Parisian humor. Derived from a
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pagan holiday, it comes with fancy costumes, excessive eating,
drinking and general bawdiness prior to the fasting of Ash

Parisian beggars, normally run from the streets as mendicity is
against the law, are tolerated as wandering musicians during this
festive period. A horse drawn carriage goes by with three men
who, if not drunk, are well inebriated and are throwing objects
into the crowd. The trinkets appear to be colored doubloons.
Several people shout from the crowd "Throw me something,
Mister!" It is the traditional cry of party-goers.

In a dark tail coat and waistcoat with a white bow tie, he walks
slowly amongst the revelers. Calm, with an almost eager self
assurance, he seems to be simply observing the party-goers about
him. Several women walk slowly in front of him, pausing to
appreciate him and giggling in their courtly fashion, their bustles
rustling and their pleasing s-shapes accentuating their womanly

He wonders for a moment if perhaps his mood doesn‟t call for
taking one of these beauties to bed, perhaps two of them, for the

“It has been awhile…and it would be so easy…”

 A carriage went by carrying two more women in their “riding
habits". He smiled and bowed slightly, but inside he was
grimacing in utter boredom.

The women tittered with delight as they passed out of sight. Ten
paces or so behind, a figure trails the handsome gentleman.
Shorter by a full half meter, with a limping gait, made more
unsteady by the heavy duffel on his shoulder, he follows step for

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“I first noticed her among a crowd of shouters, smiling
gloriously at the glinting trinkets hurled into the late sunlight. I
noticed her, because she did not stoop to grab one. Such a lack
of frivolity. I hate frivolity. That’s not to say I don’t have a great
sense of humor. The Sultan of Zanzibar himself told me I had a
great sense of humor because he did not believe half the stories I
told him of my travels while we relaxed in the Persian baths. Too
bad he did not believe me. He might have believed me when I
told him that the Europeans had come to take his land.”

The abandonment of senses which accompanied frivolity - that
was what he despised. For that one moment, he saw something
he saw little in humanity. She was wearing an easy tailored
outdoor fashion. She was one of the only ones he could see
wearing bloomers. Her legs and body looked strong. She was a

Another thing that struck him as he watched was that the party of
revelers seemed to subconsciously follow her as she walked. It
wasn‟t so much that they were following her. It was more that
they had no direction, and simply followed with no better path to
walk. And while her friends seemed to laugh and chitter
endlessly amongst themselves, she only paused to listen briefly,
laugh, or respond with a quick retort. The rest of the time, she
was observing. The pigeons in the air amused her. The boxes of
second hand books piqued her curiosity. The boot blocks and
the gaggle of boys rushing about for the half-penny put a
matronly look her in eyes.

This was someone who seemed to sense the world about her.
People were usually too wrapped up in their own decadence or
depravities, satisfying some inner demons, and hiding their inner
thoughts. And he was intrigued. He began to take another step
towards her and then froze. She stopped at that instant, pausing
as if she had heard a strange sound. She looked around as if she
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might pick out where the sound was coming from. Her eyes drew
round to meet his gaze and stopped. Her eyebrow picked up, not
in question, but in analysis. The corners of her mouth crinkled
slightly, and then she turned away and began walking again.

She did not look in his direction again. But as he followed for
another three blocks, there was not a moment when he did not
feel she knew his presence. She looked everywhere but at him,
and thus he was certain she knew exactly where he was. He sat
across the street while she and her friends sat outdoors at a café.
Her friends drank more beer and wine as she sipped chocolate
and laughed. Several times she would pause, and then turn her
head far enough to see him out of the corner of her eye.

A five penny carriage came down the street and two of her
drunker friends stood up and waved it down. He gave a motion
to the shoe-shiner at the street corner, who strode over helpfully.
The handsome gentleman laid two pennies into the messenger‟s
hand and then produced a beautiful orchid from his breast pocket
– a white flower with golden orange streaks on its petals.

The woman in bloomers was boarding the carriage with her
friends, who were shouting something about the circus, when the
messenger came up next to her. He said nothing, but simply held
out the orchid. She took it as the driver drew the reins and the
carriage began to move. Only then did she turn her eyes to meet
the handsome gentleman who now stood, with his hat in hand,
giving a slight bow. And then, finally, she truly smiled at him.

The handsome gentleman watched the beautiful woman
disappear down the street and around the corner before placing
his hat back upon his head and stepping to the edge of the
sidewalk. A four horse carriage came silently to a stop in front of
him and he stepped in and pulled the door closed behind him
without a word to the driver. The small man atop the carriage

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situated the huge duffle on the seat beside him and drew up the
reins. The messenger watched them go.

The carriage stops at a street corner, and Wedderburn watches as
the last of the day ebbs. The gleaming spiral of the new Eiffel
can be seen in the distance, holding the last of the daylight.


Monsieur Albion, the landlord of the flat, had been hesitant to
rent two rooms to the strange man and his contraptions. But the
Miss was very insistent at the thought of having additional francs
for laundry or the fat chicken on the table. So he had rented to
the tall young man who seemed too sickly to have such energy.
Endless nights the oil lamp would burn. And Monsieur Albion
had checked every night. Then, the strange man had gotten sick.
The slightest noises would send him into fits of moaning. The
briefest glimpses of sunlight had left him nauseous and shaking
on the floor. The Miss had come into his room in the middle of
the day once, and only once. She had opened the drapes to throw
open the sash and let in some light and air. The high pitched
moan and the writhing figure had made her flee in terror. It had
take both he and the shaken Miss to get Mr. Tesla onto his bed
with the shades drawn before the deathly howls ceased.

It had taken weeks for the strange tenant to recover from his
malady. Visitors had been coming going all times of the day or
night, no matter how the Miss might complain or glower at their
rudeness. So it seemed the sickly man was still working. No
matter the hour, Mr. Tesla always opened his door, always
appeared to be working. So it was not surprising that the door
opened to the Monsieur‟s slight, hesitant rap.

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The breakfast tray lay where it usually did. Three plates of half-
eaten eggs and three cups of chocolate. Always in groups of
three. But this morning, something was different. Mr. Tesla had
left the pocket door open between the two flats. He picked up the
breakfast tray and started to leave when he heard an unusual
noise and the flat was bathed in a low blue hue. It stopped him in
his tracks. He turned back toward the open divide. The tray in his
hand rattled slightly as his hands shook. Inside, Tesla had moved
the furniture in the flat against the walls.

In the center of the room was a fluorescent screen, about the size
of a window pane. It was attached a strange machine with a long
glass tube at the back of the screen. About the length of a man‟s
arms from fingertip to fingertip another shiny screen attached to
a stand faced the first. Tesla came up to the landlord, smiling,
and gestured toward the machine

“Please, come with me. I need your assistance.”

Gently, Tesla moved the elderly man into the space between the
two screens then took the tray from him and set it down on a
table of tubes and stacks of papers.

“We can clean that up later.”

He tapped on the screen next to the machine. “Incandescent light
and platinum.” He tapped the other screen. “Nothing to harm
you, see?”

Tesla smiled and stepped away. “Now, stay where you are.
Thank you.”

“But sir…” the landlord tried to speak, taking a step forward.

Tesla turned back and held a hand up, palm spread.

“Please, you‟ll disrupt hours of work. Just stay right there.”
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Tesla went around behind the fluorescent screen, humming.

“Now, I‟m going to activate the Crookes tube. That‟s the sound
you‟ll be hearing. I‟m applying some rather high voltage.”

“But I…”

Tesla held up a hand.

“Don‟t move please. The vacuum tube attached to this
machinery is very delicate.” He rubbed his temples slowly, and
forced himself to breath easy. A familiar tick in his right cheek
started up again, and he rubbed at that more fiercely with his

“Go away!” he muttered to himself.

An electrical humming and the fluorescent screen began to glow,
then there was a bright flash and the Monsieur closed his eyes.
Then, as quickly as it started, it was all over. Tesla walked over
to the man, smiling.

“That‟s it. That‟s all I needed.”

Confused and a bit shaken, the landlord walked over and
retrieved the tray of dishes where Tesla had laid it. As he was
walking out the door, Tesla called out to him.

“Take a look at yourself!”

Turning the photographic plate that sat on rolling wheels, the
Monsieur was looking at an all body x-ray. In what was clearly
an image of the center his body, the bones and vital organs could
be seen as though he had been made transparent.

The tray of dishes fell from Monsieur‟s hands. He did not even
notice the scattering of the Miss‟ fine tea set and plate ware.

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“Isn‟t it amazing?” Tesla said, excitedly.

“Mon dieu!” proclaimed the landlord. “Sir, this is amazing!”

“I think it will have an immediate impact on everyday life.
Doctors will be able to diagnose internal injuries. Small versions
of these could be put on battlefields, where soldiers could get
medical assistance in the quickest possible time. Its possibilities
are truly endless.”

“It‟s a miracle.” The Monsieur whispered.

Tesla shook his head and then moved toward the shuttered
window. He opened it and stared out.

 “That‟s the true miracle. My alternating current.” He pointed
across the street to the three-story Continental Edison building.
“That‟s where I‟m getting my power. From the power plant
there. From the power plant there. From the power plant there.”
Tesla stood watching a moment, and then backed away from the
window. He turned toward Monsieur Albion with a serious look.

“Thank you for making sure your wife has her earrings removed
before she comes into my flat. “

Monsieur Albion smiled crookedly, but only nodded.

“I‟m improving the power plants. Soon they will be providing
not just the company but many neighborhoods with electricity.”

Monsieur Albion asked, cocking his head “For what, sir?” But he
got no answer. Tesla crossed the room and picked up pieces on a
work table.

“This is a… amplifier.” He said with little regard. “Using Mr.
Edison‟s telephone invention, you‟ll be able to speak into this

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and…” He looked at Monsieur Albion for a moment and trailed

“I know all about the telephone sir. I haven‟t seen one myself but
I‟ve heard about them!” Monsieur Albion said, trying to sound

“Yes. Well, with this you‟ll be able to be heard a block away
with just a normal voice. Sort of a “portable phone” if you will.”
Tesla looked at the pieces in his hands.

Monsieur Albion scratched his head. “What would one want to
do that for, sir?”

Tesla went on without answering. “I‟ve got to remember to get a
patent on it.”

Monsieur Albion picked up the tray and broken dishes while
Tesla went back to his x-ray machine. He would twist a screw,
turn a knob, and then check his gauges feverishly.

When the innkeeper had left, Tesla worked at his machine for
several more minutes. Finally, he stood back and took a deep
breath. Then he turned to the large chalkboard that dominated
the side of the room that was actually the entrance to the hallway
beyond. He picked up a piece of chalk and began to tap silently,
reading the formulas and notes by sunlight. Then he began to
erase, scribble, and erase some more.

 “I wandered the Montmartre Quarter for much of the next day,
moving amongst the musicians and beggars in the
neighborhoods between boulevards des Maréchaux and the
Thiers Wall. I am unable to think about anything else but the
intoxicating woman I had seen on the street. A group of burly

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youth marched down the middle of the street waving banners of
“solidarity” and “8 hour workday”, and I move away from the
revelers and towards the business district, closer to the heart of
the city. The heart, what an extraordinary thing it is. The mind
can capture thousands of miles of scenery, a hundred nations, a
dozen tongues, and still not even be close to being full. But a
single glance, a knowing look, and the heart can be

Another group of wildly dressed revelers called the Rex Carnival
marches behind the socialists. They are followed by a small band
of musicians playing “If Ever I Cease to Love”, which had
become the anthem of the Carnival the last few years. The
revelers were dressed in their wild purple, green and gold
costumes and they danced with one another and passersby with
equal aplomb. One masked dancer stopped suddenly, waved
seriously at his surrounded dervishes, and pulled a parchment
scroll from the folds of the vibrant array. A young man‟s voice
bellowed with all royal dignity.

 “Hear Ye! Hear Ye! His Majesty Rex of the Carnival calls all
his subjects to gather, from near and far, to join in the many
celebrations and processions which will shortly unfold under the
joyful carnival banner!” Beside him, a female barker declares
the exact same phrase in French. Several malcontents step out of
the doorways, with menace on their faces. But something makes
them shrink away. Several ladies of the oldest profession start to
smile at him coyly then turn their eyes away. He makes his way
to Séverine square where throngs of revelers have massed. In
one area is a fire eater, a sword juggler in the other.

“I found her again! Near the Compas D’Or, inside one of the
covered shopping arcades which were becoming so popular and
commonplace. A butcher and a cutlery shop are its principal
façade, but within its narrow archways are offered an open and
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airy place to shop and meet, during the day and the night. Vast
winter gardens and greenhouses were also built the same way,
with huge ribs of iron and fields of glass. They are “cities in
miniature. I love their transitory nature, passing out of one time
and into another. It is an experience I am used to.”

Once again, she was dressed in contrast to the heavy drapery and
rigid corseting of mainstream Paris fashion. Her evening wear
suggesting she was a woman of the new Paris nightlife. Her
evening jacket was a striking red, with padded shoulders. Her
strong, slender hands fitted into long, white gloves. Her bicycle
sat leaning against the table. A very small box of pâtés and fruit
open on the table in front of her. She waved lightly at a passerby.
They were a distant acquaintance perhaps, someone deserving of
a nod. Nothing more than that, he was sure. She didn‟t seem to
be waiting for anyone. She was well at ease, just watching life.

“Philosophers have said throughout the ages that most problems
can be solved if people could just sit in a room and be quiet. To
see someone who can sit at ease, without the need to be moving
about, chatting about nothings to others, only draws me in…”

Her mouth crinkled in a smile when she saw him, but she
showed no surprise, as if she was expecting to see him again. He
drew closer to her and noticed for the first time that a white
orchid with bluish purple petals and golden streaks could barely
be seen in her left coat pocket.

"Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en! Sapristi! That's all right!"

Wedderburn moved his head sharply at the sound, his forward
motion rudely disturbed.

"Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en! Sapristi! That's all right!"

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It was a parrot, hanging in a cage outside a small shop three
paces away.

He turned back to the beauty to find her eyes crinkled in
laughter, but her mouth did not change its thin, interested line.
He cocked his head and smiled politely, but he knew his eyes
told a different story. They took her in, from head to toe. They
drank in her lines, her beauty; the way the very light in this
section of the shopping corridor seemed a little brighter because
of her presence.

He sat down at her table without a word. Normally, women
moved in his direction. A glance or a phrase and a woman would
be his for the asking, for the hour - for the night. But sitting at
the tiny table, just an arms length from her, he felt himself
leaning toward her. He couldn‟t help it. He was absolutely drawn
to her.

They spent much of the next hour in small talk, but he learned
much about the object of his attention.

“Her name is Alleffra, and I find I suddenly and immediately
cannot imagine her name being any other. Her father owns a
bank. Her uncle is a Count with a vast estate. She usually helps
out an Aunt who owns a small book shop on the Quai des
Augustine’s to pay for things she likes, and her brother is a
victim of Absinthe who spends most of his days wandering the
household in a narcotic stupor.”

When he asks her if she uses Absinthe, she shakes her head.

“Never! I have seen others drink it often but I can‟t bring myself
to try it. It‟s that awful medicinal green color!”

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He holds a hand up, open palmed. “One wave of the opal wand
and all sorrow is guillotined?” he questions, mocking the phrase
of Absinthe users.

She cocks her head coyly.

“Avec l’absinthe, avec ce feu
On peut se divertir un peu
Jouer son role en quelque drame!”

He smiles at her poetic drama.

“We of Paris care nothing as to whether our thoughts run in
wholesome or morbid channels so long as self indulgence is
satiated.” He finishes with a flourish of his hand.

She looks at him with hard, almond shaped eyes.

“Happiness, not mindless self-indulgence, is the proof of
integrity… and the result of loyalty to your values.”

Somewhere a newsvendor barked “La Patrie! La Patrie!” as he
looked at her. The light of the gas lamps and the reflections of
the glass ceiling caused shadows sometimes to dance and for
beams of light to reflect awkwardly. But for the moment when
he really began to see her, light itself seemed to emanate from
her. He began to think he was already in love. No, he knew it.

“Did you enjoy your lunch today?” he asks her with solemnity.

“I‟m afraid I didn‟t have lunch. I was so busy today I completely
forgot about it.”

“Well, then you will certainly want to join me for supper.”

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“For shame, sir! Why would I go anywhere with someone I don‟t
even know?” she asked, her mouth crinkling in that straight

He stands. “Why, it‟s a holiday in Paris. And every meal in Paris
on holiday is better than the one that preceded it! We have some
catching up to do! To Voisins!”

The next afternoon, Nikola Tesla finally arrived at the Gare
d‟Orsay building site. Two walls of the burnt ruins of the Palais
d'Orsay still stood while work to replace it went on in its
shadows. Several men in top hats are congregated around the
draped structure just off to the left of the worksite. It is more
than twenty feet high and fifty feet long, but that is all one can

Tesla looks like he slept in his clothes. One of the men is waving
to some of the workman, pointing to some of the ropes tying the
tarp in place. Motioning to pull them and bring the tarp down.

“Don‟t touch anything! Don‟t touch anything!” Tesla shouts,
waving his arms.

A gray haired bookkeeper with a notepad comes running up to

“I told them sir. I told them you would be ready, but they
insisted on having a look. And you weren‟t here!”

Tesla lays a hand on the nervous man‟s shoulder. “It‟s all right
Mr. Dexter. I‟m here now.”

One of the top hats is pulling on one of the ropes himself.
Another is trying to lift some of the tarp aside to get a look
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“Gentlemen! Gentlemen! Please. This is delicate equipment!”
Tesla says mopping his brow and hurriedly stuffing the
handkerchief back in his jacket.

“Why have you got it covered up Tesla?”

“As I explained to you gentlemen before, mercury gas is a mad
hatter if not handled properly gentlemen. And some of this
demonstration equipment is very delicate.”

“How can it be safe to show at the exposition this evening?”
another top hat asks.

“Sir, I will be here to make the presentation. The whole
experiment is to show how your new rail terminal, built right
here, will be the first electrified rail terminal in the world.”

He steps back and places both hands flat on his chest.

“And I, Nikola Tesla, will be the one to show them that it is
possible. With my alternating current, from the power plant I
have constructed at the Edison factory, I will light up the entire
area in safe, comforting electric light.”

He motions overhead.

“The support beams are in place. In a couple of hours my
workmen will have the panels secured. By nightfall, I will be
ready to the first demonstration. Fear not, gentlemen!” He tapped
his temple. “It all works.”

Stepping out of earshot, Tesla leaned in to the bookkeeper and
whispered “Go and get the workmen directly!”

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They had arranged to meet near the Notre Dame following the
afternoon work rush. He has arrived a bit early. While he does
not enjoy the company of many, a thronging multitude provides
a sense of anonymity he prefers. Scarcer is the beggar or the
tramp that approaches or makes eye contact.

“I can hardly contain my excitement this afternoon. The driving
angst which has consumed me for these many months is suddenly
extinguished. I wished to see her for breakfast but she insisted
that her Aunt had required her assistance in restocking. I told
her of my love of literature – Maria Monk, Catherine Beecher,
and Charles Sheldon - and she had laughed and laid a hand on
my cheek.”

He looks up at the ancient church, mysterious and a little sinister.
The wheel window in the North transept catches the glow of the
sun. Henry VI of England was crowned here as King of France.
It was only a scant dozen years earlier that the Notre Dame had
been first tried to be burned down, which it resisted successfully,
and then occupied by soldiers.

“I have finally found a human being in which I can lay my
dreams and my passions, someone who I can engage in. Not just
in happy tolerance, but in a fresh breeze of common spirit. She
has awoken that which I did not believe existed any longer.
Imagine all the exotic locations, the oceans to explore, the
civilizations to encounter, all anew…”

He shudders.

“I am no longer adrift.”

She appeared in an evening dress that looked much like Charles
Frederick Worth in some of the nicer window shops downtown.
But he could see that she had taken the idea and had a dress
tailored to her tastes. Unlike the chemise dresses gaining in
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popularity, which suggested the body was flat in the front and
the back, she had had the seaming taken in and added a separate
bodice which accentuated her feminine physique. The black
velvet on ivory satin was striking.

“An original, I like that.”

They stroll arm in arm slowly along the Quai de Conti. He
conjures no illusions to impress her. Everything they discuss is
real. There is no torturing the brain for stories of adventure or
spectral horrors. He shares his doubts, his dreams, and his
sincerest wishes. They pass a particularly rowdy night spot and
she bemoans the state of Paris and the “bal masque”, the low life
that are consumed by the drinkable drug. The night life suddenly
spilled out of the restaurant‟s doors and out onto the street. A
couple of inebriated women begin doing something called the
can-can. Wedderburn and Allefra cross the street and move on.

Rich aristocrats with their names on reserved lists, the working
class in silken shirts and, every now and again, the flashing of a
lantern in a passing carriage. All pass by with little discernment
from the pair. He had been about to ask her if she was busy the
next day, perhaps the next week… the next month, when she
looked up into the dusk sky.

“What quiet and cold stars! Why are they there?”

He thought for a moment about recounting to her his knowledge
of astronomy and physics from his wide travels in the East, from
Samarakand to Cordoba. Then he decided that he did not want
her to think he felt the need to impress. It was her company that
he most desired, not her approval. Strange feelings for a man
who had not only sought the world over for enlightenment and
truth, but who had relegated his few conversational relationships
to some of the worlds best thinkers.

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“Mankind has always asked that question. It is a question never
to be solved. Better to ask, why are WE here?”

She looks at him approvingly and nodded. Then she raises a
hand a brushes something off his shoulder. Her touch, if only
brief and tangential, makes his ears warm. He forgets what he
was going to ask her.

They were coming upon the ruins of the Palais d'Orsay and
noticed a crowd waiting with apparent keenness. They were on
the other side of the Seine, opposite the Louvre, and he had
intended to walk her amongst its brilliant architecture. But she
gave a half step pause, and he smiled in acknowledgement of her
wish to inquire at the scene. He braced her arm a bit more
firmly, and gently, into his. As they made the half turn towards
the gathering, he used the moment to glance to his left. A
carriage and driver shadowed him silently about a hundred yards

As they neared, a cloth drape over a dozen feet high was pulled
down, crumpling to the dusty wooden floor, and revealing a
machine of some kind. Levers and lights panels were abundant,
and it has thick cables running from its base up into the rafters.

A tall, gaunt man in a wrinkled suit climbed on some stacked

“Ladies and gentlemen! Ladies and gentlemen! My name is
Nikola Tesla. You are about to witness the first demonstration of
Continental Edison‟s latest achievement. The Gare d‟Orsay will
become the world‟s first electrified urban rail terminal!”

There is a smattering of applause. The tall gangly man takes out
a pocket watch and looks to the west. Wedderburn has noticed
too that the last vestiges of daylight have disappeared behind the
horizon and it is now fully night.
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The man leaps down from the crates and strides over to the
console of the machine. Waving back a group of onlookers
crowding too close, he turns a couple of dials. A low hum begins
in the machine and the crowd takes a subconscious step back.
Four workmen push two tall thin contraptions out.

“These are capacitors. They are perfectly safe.” Tesla says,

One is cylindrical, the other a construction of metal rods with a
steel ball atop it, twice the size of a man‟s head. Tesla steps
between the two machines and motions for the crowd to take one
more step back. He turns and nods to two men at the side of the
machine. They are each holding ends of a lever with a handle,
like the crank of a motor or the prop of a biplane. At Tesla‟s nod,
one man jerks up and the other man shoves down, and a brilliant
whine begins to emanate.

At that moment, a brilliant spark erupts between the capacitors.
Several people flee.

Wedderburn feels the suspense rise in Alleffra, his arm wrapped
around her. And he is surprised she gives not the slightest motion
to move. In fact, she leans closer, as Tesla walks between the
capacitors, the blue bolts of electricity dancing above his head.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you have nothing to fear.”

“I am merely demonstrating the simple elements of high-voltage
and high frequency currents. But they are perfectly safe.”

At the periphery, Wedderburn begins to notice the gas lamps are
going out. Workmen are slowly extinguishing them, one by one.

“Now that I have excited your dreams, and quenched your
fears…” Tesla smiles. “Let me demonstrate the ultimate product

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of the alternating current produced…” Another switch is thrown
and suddenly, the entire area is bathed in brilliant illumination.

Alleffra takes several steps forward, her eyes looking up at the
wonderful illumination. Wedderburn has taken a couple steps
back, holding his eyes in front of the light. Suddenly, there is a
burst of sparks. A frightened shout. Holding his hands against
the glare, Wedderburn can see above a workman running across
the metal beams above towards the sizzling source. A slip. The
man falls, grips a small rail supporting the light panels, dangling
in the air twenty feet up. It gives way with an almost inaudible
crack and he tumbles toward the ground, landing with the crunch
of soft celery. Suddenly, the entire light panel is swaying.
Wedderburn can‟t see Alleffra through the blinding light.

The sparks have caught the tarp that is covering sections of the
railway construction on fire, and timbers of the light display are
starting to smoke. Now people are moving back. But Alleffra is
still looking up in wonder. Horrifyingly, the entire light panel
twenty feet square of metal and glass come loose and fall straight
down, like a cut chandelier. Wedderburn sees what is going to
happen in the same moment it begins and runs to Alleffra.

The burst of energy and the brilliant explosion of light begins
and ends in an instant. Portions of the surrounding construction,
disturbed by the blast, are toppling in and around the collapsed
display, and the floor begins to set afire.

Wedderburn rises from the tangled wreckage. His coat is on fire.
But he has only one concern. He is standing just feet from
Alleffra. There is still a chance. He leans over her and with his
bare hands grips the red hot metal. He gives a terrific heave, but
he can‟t move the collapsed frame on top of her.

Flames are leaping higher all around him. Wedderburn leans
down closer, grips the metal again and gives another great heave.
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The metal begins to bend, then gives at the welded joint. Finally
he pries the main rod that lies across Alleffra‟s back off her and
tosses it aside. He grabs her and brings her body up to cradle in
his arms. Her eyes are open. Lifeless.

The flames are licking at his hands now. He slaps out the flame
as it starts to singe her bodice. Another spark tries to singe her
dress and he smacks that away, unaware of the flesh starting to
bubble on his face.


The fashionable home of Robert Underwood Johnson is at 327
Lexington Ave, Manhattan.

Mr. Johnson is editor of the Century magazine. His home is a
central gathering for celebrities and intellectuals. He is a thin,
spectacled man of average height with a full beard wearing a
striped stiff front and an ascot tie. He is standing next to his
charming, statuesque wife who is a few inches shorter. Her
jacket extends to a becoming depth over the hips, and has dart-
fitted fronts that are reversed to the lower edge in tapering lapels
by a rolling collar, with mutton leg sleeves.

Mr. Johnson takes his Briar pipe from his mouth and gives a
conspiratorial glance around.

“Mr. Muir has been in contact again.”

Rudyard Kipling takes a sip of wine and grins broadly. “Do tell!”
A dapper man with a high brow, bright intelligent eyes and a
walrus mustache, his famous “Jungle Book” had just begun to
appear in print and he was the toast of New York parties.

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Mr. Johnson continues, his wife beaming and nodding. “Yes, Mr.
Muir has apparently made it to the legendary California

“Glaciers, you say?” The three turn to the voice of Samuel
Clemens, who goes by the pen name Mark Clemens.

Mr. Johnson nods.

“Yes, Mr. Clemens. He reports to me that in the High Sierras
there are glaciers that make the Alps look like hills. And they go
from California, through Oregon and on up to Washington. They
are calling it the Cascade range.”

Mr. Clemens smiles and takes a drag on his cigarette.

“I have found out there ain't no surer way to find out whether
you like people or hate them than to travel with them. I wonder
how Mr. Muir‟s companions are finding him.”

The four laugh softly, but then Mr. Johnson makes a pointed
motion with his pipe, with a serious look on his face.

“But he also tells me that the glaciers are shrinking.” He nods
seriously, looking at his guests. “The planet is warming.”

“What are we to do?” asks Mrs. Johnson.

“I might have a bright fellow who could give us an answer…”
says Clemens. “Nikola!”

The four turn to see Nikola Tesla turn, smile at the voice of
Samuel Clemens and stride over. His tails, top hat and white
gloves are pressed and perfect, as always.

“Mr. Clemens. Good to see you again.”

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Mr. Johnson nods to Kipling. “Nikola Tesla, this is Rudyard
Kipling. Rudyard Kipling, Nikola Tesla.”

Mr. Kipling extends his hand to shake, but Tesla does not return
the gesture. Instead, he smiles uncomfortably.

“Mr. Kipling, I understand your novel is something of a
sensation.” Tesla finally says to fill the moment.

“Well, it is getting attention, to be sure.” The author pulls his
hand back, unsettled, but keeps an amiable smile.

Tesla‟s eyes brighten “That‟s wonderful. Tell me, do you use a

“Why, yes. For final drafts.”

The inventor stepped closed, voice almost under his breath now.
“Tell me, how is it that no one has thought to fix the problem
that one cannot see what one is typing until after the carriage
return? “

“Why, I don‟t know.” Kipling looked around at the others.

Tesla cocked his head. “Tell me sir, do you not think it more
appealing to the device if the keys were to strike downward on
the ribbon? One would be able to see the words one is typing and
it would be efficient for carbon paper and the like, all of which
are problems with the typewriter today?”

“I hadn‟t thought about it. I usually use a paper and pen myself.”

Tesla looks away thoughtfully for a moment, then shrugs and
steps back.

“Well, perhaps we will discuss this again? I might have an idea
or two more?”

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Samuel Clemens breaks in, chuckling. “Nikola, Mr. Johnson has
received a communication from Mr. John Muir out in California.
He has travelled to the deepest regions of the Sierras and found

Tesla raises his eyebrows. “Really? Fascinating!”

“Mr. Tesla, he reports the glaciers are melting! What do you
think should be done?” asks Mrs. Johnson.

“Madame, I daresay I understand the concerns of good minded
people. Here in New York City you have only recently begun to
address the street cleaning needs of your congested metropolis.
Belching smokestacks create a killer fog that causes the deaths of
dozens, or as in London, hundreds. There are excellent and
reasonable concerns. I myself believe in creating energy from the
wind and the light. I have a patent on a sun motor. But the fact is,
a single volcano can spew more dust and damage into the sky
than man will in a hundred years. Krakatoa still darkens the
skies of Asia. No ma‟am, we have nothing to fear from man.
Nature is far more to be feared.”

Nodding heads all around and Clemens raises an eyebrow.

“So you don‟t think there is anything to worry about with all
these new fangled machines running around? These auto-
mobiles?” Clemens queried.

Tesla shook his head. “Not at all. I have studied atmospheric
principles for many years. It contains remarkable properties. One
of them is diffusion. Even if you had an atmospheric temperature
increase, all that would mean is you would get compensation
from the oceanic diffusion. The ocean carbon store is far greater
than even the atmosphere. Now, that‟s not to say you couldn‟t
get some reaction from air particulates. But it would have to

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come from a massive amount, simultaneously. A great
cataclysm. That would upset the natural balance.”

“So we‟re going to have the noisy, foul-smelling contraptions
around for some time, then?” Clemens frowned.

Tesla shrugged. “A combustion engine is such an inefficient
model. Steam power is too heavy, too unwieldy, but an excellent
principle. The key is to bring the power source down to a small
enough level that provides inertia without drag. We could have
automobiles that make no noise and emit no pollution on every
street by next century, if we wished.”

Rudyard Kipling looked astonished. Clemens winked at him
with delight. Mr. And Mrs. Underwood stared with their mouths
agape. Tesla went on without the slightest hint of ego. He was
not at all speaking as though to impress. He was speaking in
utter seriousness about a critical social matter.

“Consider charged particles. Field energies. I began working on
a massive power station, capable of electrifying the atmosphere.
Once it‟s done, the aether stream would produce an unlimited
supply of reactive energy. “

Tesla looked at his fellow conversationalists, all silent in

“It‟s simply be an easy matter of tapping into that stream. You
could harness enough energy to power a household…” he looks
at each of them in turn. “… or an automobile in the middle of the

Thomas A Edison

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Thomas A. Edison was born to Sam and Nancy Edison on
February 11, 1847. From early in his life, Edison was a child out
of sync with the world around him. His early teachers
proclaimed him addled and “funny looking” so his mother took
him out of school. A childhood trauma left him nearly deaf. He
married his first wife, Mary, on Christmas Day, 1871. She bore
him three children: Marion, Thomas Jr. and William Leslie.
Mary died in 1884 and he married his second wife Mina, in
1886. They in turn had two children: Madeleine, born in 1888
and Charles in 1890. Mary had often been a sickly woman, who
stayed at home and out of her husband‟s way. Mina was an
active woman however, devoting much time to community
groups, social functions, and charities. She also spent quite a bit
of time trying to improve her husband's often careless personal
habits. Something he found quite annoying.

Edison Motion Pictures became the first motion picture studio in
the world in 1893. Thomas A. Edison, or “Al” as he was known
to his few friends, had spent considerable time and expense
creating the Kinetograph (the motion picture camera) and the
Kinetoscope (the motion picture viewer). A constant flow of new
subjects was needed to keep the new invention popular, and so
Al finally developed the worlds first Motion Picture Studio on a
small lot in West Orange, New Jersey. A small wooden building
built on the lot of Edison‟s laboratory; it had a retractable roof
and was set on a circular track so it could be moved to get the
best lighting. Edison‟s Laboratory was actually fourteen different
buildings, the main building being the length of three football
fields. It had space for testing rooms, stockrooms, power
generation, and glass blowing and employed over 5000 people.

Edison is hurrying across the dusty scrabble of space between
the laboratory unit and the moveable building, a mousy secretary
with brown curls at his elbow and an accountant right behind.
The Studio is being moved several feet to line up at a proper
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angle with the afternoon sun. The little accountant has a pair of
glasses parked at the end of his nose and two pencils behind his
right ear. Edison is a man of average height and weight, with
piercing eyes which distract from a broad forehead and a head
considerably larger than average. His pace is quick as he hops
the stairs of the moving studio and steps inside. The accountant
jumps up on the stepladder and holds a hand out to help the
secretary climb on behind him as the door shuts behind Edison.

Inside, a blond stagehand is watching through the open roof until
the sun is in line. Then he raises his loud hailer and gives a loud
“Whooooop!” The studio stops moving on the tracks. The
stagehand, satisfied, turns to rush off to another duty and nearly
collides with Edison.

“Sorry sir.” He moves aside and into the shadows.

Edison stops and looks around.

 “The Vitascope?! Who is working on the Vitascope?!” he
booms. No answer.

“DICKSON!!!!” he shouts to the ceiling. The accountant is
coming up behind him.

“Mr. Edison, these expenses are extraordinary sir. Are you
certain this is the kind of money you want to spend?”

“DICKSON!!!!” Edison looks at the accountant impatiently.
“Hargrave, we have got to keep the people entertained. They
demand more and more subjects out of our invention. One
scantily clad adventuress is not going to keep the kinetoscopes
selling, is it?” He shouts again. “DICKSON!!!!!”

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“Here, Al.” The English accent spoken softly, Edison turns to
his left. Around them, several workmen begin constructing
something, moving in chairs, tarp, and rope.

W.K.L. Dickson was a thin, long-necked man wearing a bow tie
and a wide brimmed straw hat. His sleeves were rolled up to his
elbows and he had a bead of sweat on his forehead. He rolled on
the balls of his feet with nervous energy, smiling under his
horseshoe moustache.

“Where are we with the Vitascope Dickson?”

“Well, sir, I have prepared the first batch of celluloid film for the
process. I settled on 35mm stock from Eastman, because it has
the best applicability.”

“When are we going to be able to test it?” Edison bends and
looks through the lens again.

“Well, we should be finished shooting our next film this week.
Then we will have an opportunity to test it.” Edison moves
across the floor and towards a kinetoscope machine.

“I don‟t know about this Dickson. The kinetoscopes are very
profitable machines for us. One machine for every viewer
gentlemen. Not a hundred viewers for every machine. “He shook
his head. “I say they never sell.” At the mention of this, the
accountant stepped forward.

“But Mr. Edison, we‟ve had dozens of orders since word leaked
out. Our customers can generate a lot more profit themselves
with such a machine.”

Edison turns, agitated and surprised. “What did you say?”

“We… we already have dozens orders Mr. Edison…”

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Edison throws up his hands. “We haven‟t even made it work

Dickson looks at the accountant and gives a “back off” gesture
with his hands.

“Yes sir,” Dickson replies, in his English drawl “but several
competitors have already begun work on a motion picture
camera for shows that can be played on a screen or a wall. And
the Edison name is more than legitimate enough that people are
already buying buildings to turn into theaters in anticipation of
your new creation.”

The work in the center of the room is progressing, and now it is
beginning to look like a boxing ring. Edison glances over
intermittently but says nothing.

“Well, let‟s see how it goes. Your careers are riding on this,
gentlemen. Anything that doesn‟t sell, I don‟t want to invent.”
He stops, turns back and points at the secretary. “And tell Mina I
WILL be home for dinner. I don‟t want that woman mad at me

Edison gets behind the kinetograph, watching as workmen put
the last elements into place. It was a boxing ring, of sorts. Two
high-back wooden chairs in each corner. Not stools. At least five
men were hanging on the ropes around the edges of the square.
Not your typical boxing ring. But then this was not a typical
boxing match. It was an Edison film.

Two men in boxing shorts and gloves stepped into the ring. They
looked at Edison expectantly.

“Glenroy Brothers Film.” He barked as he began cranking the
kinetograph. The two boxers looked at each other, confused.
Edison frowned.

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“I want to see some action! ACTION!!!” he bellowed.

The two boxers began comically hitting each other. They
bounced around the ring madly, throwing wild punches that
swung for air as much as the other man. Then they actually
started lifting their arms over their hands and bringing them
madly down on each others bodies. The so-called referee stepped
in and separated them, and they went at it again, comically and
heroically. Edison continued to film.

“One of you get knocked down!” he shouted. One of the boxers
takes a wild shot for the others head, barely connects, and the
boxer hunches, and then falls to the ground.

Edison smiles broadly.

“All right, that‟s enough. Wrap it up.”

He hands the camera over to the stagehand with the loud hailer.

“Print it.” Edison shouts, and heads for the exit door.

Back outside, the accountant is handing Edison one list of
expenses to sign off on after another as they cross the back lot of
his compound. That was when he met Ida Tarbell.

Ida Minerva Tarbell was born in western Pennsylvania. She was
the only woman in the 1880 class of Allegheny College where
she earned her A.B. and M.A. degrees. She worked briefly in
Paris, and when she returned in 1893, she was hired by McClure
magazine and became one of America‟s first investigative
reporters – known as muckrakers.

But there was more to Ida Tarbell than just pioneering. She was
a woman of remarkable independence and presence of mind. Not
just opinion, but research and reason, had led her to reject many
of the beliefs of suffragettes of the day. A relentless pursuit of
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the facts and fairness in presenting them marked her writing all
her life. She had done an in depth study of Madame Roland to
confirm her belief that women brought compassion to politics.
Instead, she found that Madame Roland had behaved in the
French Revolution just as the men had.

She labeled herself a Pantheist, melding her views of religion
and the modern world. She had contempt for shiftlessness, kept
regular hours, studied whether she liked it or not and never gave
up before she was done. She was a strong proponent against
urban blight, unsafe factories, and dubious business dealings.

On this day, her target was Thomas A. Edison. She is wearing a
short Pouter Pigeon, a style reserved for younger women with a
high collar and white cotton inserts to offset the pale green silk.
She intercepts Mr. Edison across the lot with a quick and
confident stride.

“Mr. Edison, I‟d like a few moments of your time.”

Al continues walking as though he has not heard her, which he
hasn‟t. The bookkeeper and secretary are a few steps behind, and
they give Ms. Tarbell a quick glance and then look away.
Undeterred, she quickens her pace.

“Mr. Edison, my name is Ida Tarbell, from McClure magazine. I
…” Ida stops and nearly runs into Edison as he comes to an
abrupt halt and turns on her.

“Who are you?!” he demands.

Ida looks perplexedly at the bookkeeper, standing slightly behind
the master inventor. The man points his left hand to his ear.

Of course she had heard of the famous inventor‟s infamous
knack for ignoring others. Now it began to make sense.

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Ida looks back at Edison and raises her chin slightly and speaks
in a slightly louder tone.

“Mr. Edison, my name is Ida Tarbell, from McClure Magazine.
I‟d like to speak to you for a few moments.”

Edison looks her up and down, glances at the bookkeeper and
secretary, and turns and begins walking away.

“I‟m very busy madam.” He says, barely speaking over his

Ida takes three quick steps to get slightly ahead of Edison.
Looking over his shoulder, she could see a man with a horseshoe
moustache and a straw hat come down the steps towards them.
She smiles and looks defiantly at Edison.

“Mr. Edison, is it true that you haven‟t actually invented most of
the patents that you hold?”

Edison stops and his cheeks redden.

“Excuse me madam??!!” he bellowed.

Ida glanced for the briefest moment, to confirm Dickson was still
approaching, and spoke in a stern tone.

“I said, Mr. Edison, isn‟t it true that you have, in fact, NOT
invented most of the creations you hold patents for? Why, I
understand W.K.L. Dickson here is the man who invented the
motion picture camera. Your company holds several patents for
that product alone.” She gestures at Dickson as he stops, two
paces away, a confused look on his face.

Edison trembles with fury.

“Young lady, now see here…”

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Another man began to approach Edison from the main laboratory
building. He was short man, heavyset, with a grimy shirt,
patched pants and a wide eyed look. He was carrying a large iron
box in his upturned hands, with four spiraling metallic roots
springing up out of the box.

“Mr. Edison! Mr. Edison!” The man was quite excited.

“I think I‟ve solved the electrolyte problem with the battery sir!”
The man was gasping for breath and he spluttered for a moment
before continuing. “Potassium hydroxide!” he announced

Ida looks at patched-pants, then back to Edison with a cocked

“Another one of your inventions, Mr. Edison?”

“Madam, I am a part of everything that goes on here. Let me
show you.”

35 South Fifth Avenue, Manhattan

Clemens looks down dubiously at the machine sitting in Tesla‟s
garage before him. The automobiles of the day were still mostly
based on the horse carriage design of the last 200 years. Only a
few cars from Peugeot and Daimler had started assuming newer,
sleeker designs for a new class of “racers”. But this was
altogether different. Tesla had removed the carriage and most of
the body from the Peugeot Type 15 chassis. Its three point
suspension and sliding gear transmission were still in place. In
fact, they were the few working parts left. The horizontal twin
engine which usually sat in the rear was gone. The steering
wheel, which usually sat vertical above the front axle had been

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modified and extended through a dashboard above the rear axle,
where two bucket seats had been secured to the frame. That was
where any semblance of a normal car vanished. In the center of
the frame that used to attach to the frame was an AC motor, a
little more than 3 feet long and 2 feet in diameter. Attached to
this is a 12 volt storage battery. Two very thick cables run from
the AC motor into the dashboard. Even more astonishing, a six
foot antenna rod protrudes from just behind the seat

Tesla leaned behind the dashboard and began to adjust the dials
of a small, compact device.

“What is that Nikola?”

“This is the power receiver.”

“Receiver?” Clemens looked confused.

Still working the gadget, without looking up, Tesla continued.

“Electric vehicles are the future. But the problem is there is
almost no electric infrastructure outside the city limits, anywhere
in America - or the world, for that matter.” Satisfied, he looks

“My AC power plants will change that limitation, eventually.
Edison‟s DC current only has an effective radius of 2 miles, at
which point a relay station is required to extend the range.”

Clemens nods.

“So, Henry Ford is working on a system of mass production for
his petrol vehicles. If he succeeds, riders will be able to travel
wider distances than they currently can with electric ones.”

Tesla motions him to the passenger side. “Get in. Please.”
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The pair climb into the seat buckets. Tesla adjusts a couple more
dials and then removes 2 special tubes from his coat pocket and
screws them into place.

“How does it work?” Clemens asks.

Tesla merely waves a hand in dismissal and holds a key up for
Clemens to see, before inserting it into the side of the receiver.

“What is that?” Clemens asks.

“That‟s another invention of mine, the ignition switch.” He
gently pushes down on the accelerator and the car begins to
move forward.

“I don‟t hear a thing.” Clemens says, still astonished.

“Precisely.” From a small compartment, he hands Clemens a pair
of riding goggles. “You‟ll need them.”

Placing them on his head, Samuel Clemens mutters “Apparently,
there is nothing that cannot happen today.”

The Minnehana - at sea

Wedderburn lay in his stateroom wrapped in a fleece shawl, the
oil lamp hanging above swaying slightly to the lapping of waves
as he sketched on a large tablet in his lap. A stack of books on
the side table slid back and forth to the rocking of the boat. It
started to slide off and he looked up from the pad and watched
them thump to the floor. He looked at the floor for a moment,
pondering, then went back to drawing.

 “My companion and myself put out to sea a scant few sunsets
ago, after our various hurried preparations. He employed the

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services of several courier-maids to gather the necessary
supplies and see to our general comfort. Truth be told, the more
androgynous one of them did her job quite well and actually
helped me relax the night before I left. Poor thing. Another of
them, a lively girl more serviceable in the first of her dual
capacities, had given me a small iron box as a gift as we were
boarding. I had almost disposed of it, but then set it aside. For
some reason, when the wind had begun to blow and the waves
were casting the ship from side to side, holding the little box

The howl of a rude north-eastern beyond the small porthole
made him look up in irritation.

“I enjoyed life in the Third Republic, and watched much change
in the daily lives of men and their women. Not all of it to the
good. Men of Europe have spent the last couple of decades
convincing themselves that their knowledge and notions are
superior, marching off to most of the lands of Africa and
claiming themselves masters in the process. Such a shame really.
The Arab treats the white man as a slave, the white man treats
the black as a slave, the black treat each others as slaves.
Meanwhile, they are all slaves to the one thing they cannot get
rid of, their own egos.

Does this new “Industrial man” really believe he is more
intelligent, more ingenious, more enlightened, than the 3000
years of civilized man that walked before him? Is he more
motivated than the religious believers of the ancient Egyptians
whose devotion to cause moved stones weighing 15 tones? Show
me the engineer who can build that today!

The so-called civilized of Europe were still dying at the rate of 2
or 3 out of every ten before their first birthday because so many
of them refused to maintain even the most basic of public health

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standards. The Romans had understood the health qualities of
fresh water and bathing 2000 years ago, and these people called
themselves “modern”!

I have missed very little of the general creature comforts of a
daily routine aboard. Very little would be of use. Nothing is
more comfortable and comforting than remaining prone most of
the day. I would go up on deck, but Milo has impressed upon me
a firm resolve for privacy and safety. As he constantly chided, he
himself could not swim and so would not be able to save me if I
washed overboard. Anyways, what is one missing but salt air
and birds? I have my oranges and my apples, and the precious
barrel of oysters. Every mealtime, Milo shucks a delicious

The East River piers loomed in the distance as Captain M‟Grath
ran through the rest of his checklist. Named after the William
Longfellow poem "The Song of Hiawatha", the Minnehaha had
been launched in 1856 and sailed with speed and grace from
northern Europe to the East Coast for almost 40 years, delivering
more than 2,000 passengers to America‟s shores. She was still a
beautiful three deck clipper designed for speed, but the
McCorkell shipping line had altered the Minnehaha in 1880 into
a barque, removing one of its mainsails and reducing the size of
its crew. She was now principally maintained for carrying
capacity and speed, rather than as a luxury passenger liner,
although she did make accommodations from time to time.

The passenger occupying the entire aft section of staterooms,
however, was unlike any he had ever had. He had never met the
passenger. He had received a telegram from the head office,
telling him in oblique terms that he had a passenger occupying
the aft stateroom corridor and the passenger was already aboard.
Already aboard! The passenger had never come out of the
section, and he had informed his small crew that the passenger
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did not wish to be disturbed. There had been no problems, no
requests, no dinner in the captain‟s quarters, no communication,
nothing but the crooked little man lurking about in early morning
hours. Then he‟d received a final shore to ship that arrangements
for disembarking the passenger were being made separately, and
the crew should disembark for shore leave.

Strange. Very nice, but strange. Anything but a skeleton crew
would be left behind, and M‟Grath doubted anyone he made stay
this evening would stay put, knowing anyone who cared would
be too busy on the town themselves, and that included this
particular Captain. M‟Grath checked his watch. Another couple
of hours and they would be docked. Four days, seventeen hours.
An excellent time.

“Milo came round to announce the first sight of land and his
voice spoke with obvious enthusiasm and relief. It is the first time
Milo has accompanied me on an ocean going voyage and so I
have declined to tell him that the worst dangers begin with the
first sight of land. There are many ways of landing. Not all of
them are good.”

West Orange, NJ

In a far corner, four men in overalls covered in gray mound are
working around several wooden vats, using two by fours to stir
whatever is inside. One of the men sees Edison, with Ida Tarbell
right in step. He takes a rag out of his back pocket, wipes his
forehead, and starts toward the inventor.

“Mr. Edison, we are still having problems with the mixture. We
just can‟t get it to set right. The proportions of cement to water
aren‟t right, or we haven‟t got enough heat.”

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Edison walks over to one of the wooden vats and looks in. He
dips his hand into the mixture and moves his fingers through it.
One of the other workers hands him a rag to wipe his hands.

“I‟ve been thinking about it. I think the kiln should rotate, so it
distributes the material evenly from end to end.” He glances at

“You see Ms. Tarbell, one day, the cities and towns of this
country are going to be interconnected with paved roads. Roads
paved with Portland cement are going to spread over every
county and municipality. But it‟s a costly process. I‟m
revolutionizing concrete. I‟m going to build concrete houses.
Every American is going to use Edison concrete.”

“Yes, well, I can see that you certainly have the vision, Mr.
Edison. No one can fault you for that. You have the ambition as
well. But the question still remains. Do you in fact not simply
“own” the patents that men in your employ have invented,
thereby stealing a lifetime of return for a simple wage? And, in
fact, do you not often simply release men from your employ
once they have made a major discovery, so they can have no
further claim?”

Thomas Edison started to get angry again, and then his face
changed abruptly, smoothing.

“Ms. Tarbell, if your agenda is to imply that I am somehow
indifferent in the creation, analysis and/or construction, of a
single patent for which I have filed, and the hundreds which I
have not, then I challenge you.”

Ida started to say something, but then waited for Edison to

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“Give me three days. See what is going on. Come with us to
Chicago.” Edison points to Dickson and the bookkeeper. “We‟re
preparing for the Columbian Exposition. We will be lighting up
for thousands of people who, for the first time, will experience
electrical lighting everywhere they go. We are on the edge of
transforming humanity. Bringing it into the light. I will be the
man to lead humanity, and it will be my light they are

The electric auto barreled down the horse trail. Samuel Clemens
was gripping the dashboard with both hands and his face was
ashen. He looked over at Tesla, who had only started smiling and
seemed truly relaxed once they were outside the city limits.

“That sign said we‟re almost to Greenwich!” Clemens has to
almost shout to be heard past the rushing wind.

“That‟s right!” Tesla smiled back at him.

“How fast could we be going?” A flock of doves breaks into
flight before this speeding monster, and one nearly collides with
the famous writer.

“We‟ve broken the current land speed record!” Tesla says,

Samuel Clemens looks astonished and holds on to the dashboard
even tighter.

“How do you know that?” Eyes as big as saucers.

Tesla taps a dial on the dashboard.

“I invented the speedometer!”

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There was a four way trail crossing suddenly in view and a two
horse trailer was coming up on their right. Tesla jogged the car
slightly to the left and sailed past the astonished animals. They
reared up and turned violently to the left and the wagon tipped
and then went over on its side.

Clemens was still turned in his seat, having watched the
destruction. He turned to face forward and stared at Tesla
through his goggles. The inventor appeared to have taken no
notice as the car barreled onward, bucking and jolting down the
uneven road.

The Autogiro

Located in Brooklyn‟s southwest corner, Fort Hamilton was
named for the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander
Hamilton. The Fort held the British Fleet at bay in the War of
1812 and helped save New York from burning, as the British did
to D.C. During that period, a Captain Robert E Lee had been the
Fort‟s engineer. It was his job to strengthen and waterproof the
defensive works that faced the ocean. During the Civil War, the
Fort had helped hold Confederate raiders at bay.

Ida Tarbell had been offered an opportunity to accompany one of
America‟s most famous men to one of the country‟s most
famous events. She was being given every journalists dream
opportunity, to write about history from the inside. She had
agreed to ride in the carriage with Mr. Edison and WKL
Dickson. The bookkeeper, whom Ida had learned was John F.
Randolph, had stayed behind to accompany Mr. Edison‟s
shipment to Chicago and would meet them there. Mr. Edison had
said the U.S. Army required him to make one stop before
catching the New York Central evening passage to Chicago.

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Edison, with his usual friendly conversation, had put his face
into a notebook upon entering the carriage and had not looked up
from reading once in almost a half hour. Finally, Dickson had
cleared his throat carefully and Ida had looked over.

“If you keep your voice low,” he said, barely above a whisper
“he can‟t hear you. He‟s practically stone deaf.”

Ida smiled and glanced sidelong at Edison, who was reading as if
nothing else was going on.

“He can get that way for hours when he‟s working.” Dickson
said, almost whispering. “He‟s more at home in own head, I

Ida cocked her head and looked back at Dickson.

“I‟ve heard how he treats employees. Why do you work for

WKL Dickson smiled, slowly uncrossed his legs, right over left,
and then settled them back down, left over right. He took a deep
breath, and then spoke.

“Working for Mr. Edison is the greatest honor in the world.
When I was nineteen in Paris, I wrote to Mr. Edison asking him
for a job.” Dickson smiled and glanced at the inventor.

“He wrote back and declined me a position.”

Ida‟s face said she was surprised.

“It took me four years, but I saved enough money to buy passage
on an ocean liner. When I got here, I went directly to Mr.
Edison‟s laboratory to ask him to reconsider. When I got there,
Mr. Edison came out to meet me straightaway. He walked up
and asked „What took you so long?‟”
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Dickson laughed silently for a moment, his shoulders quivering.

“There isn‟t a day that goes by that the great man doesn‟t make a
great contribution to every project in his business.” One side of
his mouth made a grave smile. “And there isn‟t a day goes by
that everyone who works for him doesn‟t hate the sonofabitch.”

Looking out over Gravesend Bay, the carriage moved swiftly
along General Lee Ave. The vast clearing that stretched as far as
the eye could see to Dead Horse Bay on the other side of the
peninsula had a scattering of men and vehicles in sight. On a
field of brown grass sat an unusual vehicle. There were several
crowds of soldiers in uniform and businessmen, in scattered
groups around the periphery of the vehicle. As Edison‟s carriage
pulled up just yards from the crowds, Ida and WKL craned their
necks out their windows. Ida leaned up against Edison, which
caused him to look up. When he realized they had stopped
moving, he closed his notebook.

“Excellent!” he said excitedly, and opened the carriage door
nearest the plane. As he stepped to the ground, he extended his
hand behind him to Ms. Tarbell. She took his hand with a
gracious smile, but her eyes immediately moved back to the

Ida had ever seen anything like it. But then, no one had.

Inventors had been laboring long and hard in many areas of
flight development. What had stymied inventors for years was
not the physics of flight. Time and again, the greatest minds had
shown that it HAD TO work. Models had been designed that
inventors had succeeded in taking off and even successfully
landing. But it was in the dynamics of creating an engine with
enough ratio of lift to mass for a full sized airplane that had them
all stumped. They just couldn‟t create an engine with` enough
lift power that was also not so heavy that it threw the weight
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ratio off. The engines to power the planes were proving literally
too heavy to fly. Faced with these limitations, other avenues of
flight were pursued.

So it was that Thomas Edison became the first American to
research the helicopter. Edison, however, had found that the
same barriers which stymied airplane inventors also confronted
the helicopter. Engines did not exist that were powerful enough
to rotate the rotors to achieve lift without being too large. Most
early configurations of the autogiro had envisioned the “push”
model, where the engine and rotor were behind the pilot, in order
to circumvent some of the power limitations. Edison dispensed
with this model and went back to the tractor configuration, more
like where the aircraft designs of the day were headed. Most had
come to the conclusion that the sleek body, tail rudder for
stabilization and fixed wings were essential for giving a plane lift
and control. Similarly, the position of pilots nest was pretty
uniform. Some placed the cockpit a bit further back towards the
tail. Others positioned it closer to the wing struts. Edison had
also gone one step further and built a second engine behind the
first. The front engine was designed to power the front propeller,
again like that of a normal plane. The second engine would
power the rotor blades. However, Edison had tested and run
dozens of calculations and found that still he was not certain he
had enough power for effective lift. The answer, Edison had
surmised, might be found in the electric motor. Unfortunately,
the development of such an engine for the autogiro had ended
abruptly, with Edison creating a new and dangerous enemy and
leaving him no electric motor to demonstrate.

Edison strode over to a group of soldiers, one of whom appeared
to be wearing a number of medals and ribbons. Brigadier
General Henry Clay Wood was one of the highest ranking
generals in the U.S. Army. He had a tall, athletic appearance. His
hair had thinned back over the top of his head, but only slightly.
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He had a gentle face, with a long angular nose and close set eyes.
One might have said his face occupied a smaller portion of his
head than a normal man, but only at a glance.

The U.S. Army was still a small, blue clad force at this time. It
was only beginning to get a grasp of its own importance, and had
not yet grown much beyond 100,000 standing soldiers. As far as
material went, the Army was in even worse shape. The Navy
was given the mission of protecting the country from invasion,
and thus given the lion‟s share of the military budget. Most
soldiers were still using the .45/70 black powder single shot that
Americans had used against one another in the Civil War almost
thirty years earlier.

This was why Edison‟s latest invention was so interesting and
possibly important to the Army. Everyone knew it was only a
matter of time before an operating plane was created that would
lift a man into the skies. Once that happened, it was only natural
that the first thing nations would do is to fix guns on them for
warfare. An air force was on the horizon, and the Army had
decided that the only natural place for offensive and defensive
air weapons was with the Army.

 “Good afternoon General.” Edison strode over to the general
standing amongst his men laughing.

General Wood nodded to Edison and then glanced at several of
his men, in turn.

“This is the man I‟ve been telling you about. Thomas Edison. He
is going to build us a flying machine that will take us over the
battlefield gentlemen. It will take us over the battlefield and into
the heart of our country‟s enemy, wherever they might be.”
There were several murmurings around the group.

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“They say Europe is building something called a “dirigible”. It‟s
basically a balloon the Austrians and the German‟s have cooked
up.” Some snickers from a couple of the other officers „”It could
drop bombs over the battlefield. But we have something that will
be fast AND maneuverable. Right, Mr. Edison?”

“Precisely! Now, the demonstration we‟re having today is with a
modified internal combustion engine. We‟ve actually put TWO
distinct engines in this model. One runs the propeller in front.
The second runs the horizontal rotors for lift.”

A solitary man in a brown leather jacket and a helmet comes
striding confidently across the field from a small Quonset hut on
the far side.

Ida comes up beside Edison as the soldiers all move closer to the
flying vehicle prototype, leaving Ida, Edison and Dickson out of

Edison leans over to Dickson. “That damned Tesla has
embarrassed me. He was supposed to have delivered his new
engine last week and he never did it. Now I have no progress to
show. Just this damned feeble attempt I came up with at the last
minute. Two motors. It will probably be too heavy.”

“Sir, if I might remind you,” Dickson spoke under his breath
“you DID break your word to Mr. Tesla.”

Edison bristled. “I did no such thing. He said would produce
something and he didn‟t produce it. There‟s no excuse for that.”

Slowly the horizontal rotors began to turn with the clanging and
sputtering of the churning motor. Then the fore engine began to
cough to life. The vessel began to tremble.

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“You‟re letting them test it even though you KNOW it won‟t
work??” Ida asked, exasperated.

Edison looked aghast.

“I didn‟t say I know it won‟t work. I said it will PROBABLY be
too heavy, madam. This is why it‟s called experimenting.”

There was by now the full throttled hum and clank of the
modified Otto engines as they roared to life. Both rotors kicked
to life and began to churn. The autogiro began to bounce
intermittently, as if it were trying to achieve lift. It rattled for
several breathless moments before its landing gear started to
rock. The autogiro bounced side to side, one tire coming off the
ground and landing again, before the next tire lifted. Suddenly,
both tires were off the ground, if only a few inches. That‟s when
things started to go wrong. The craft began to wobble wildly in
the air, rocking the pilot in his seat. And then as it began to pitch
violently began and forth, the autogiro began to spin. It nearly
completed a full 360 degree spin before its tail smashed into the
ground. The craft tilted and began to spin wildly, its lift rotors
smashing into the ground one by one, breaking and spinning off
into the air, before it came to a rest on its side, dark smoke
belching from its motors.

Edison turned without a word and walked back to his carriage.
Ida followed, but looked back to see the pilot get pulled from the
smoking wreck. WKL Dickson lent his hand in assistance as she
climbed the steps into the carriage, and then boarded behind her.
Without instruction, the carriage began to depart Fort Hamilton.

Inside the carriage, Edison is writing in a notebook. He glances
up at Dickson.

“There was no control once it achieved lift. We only got a few
inches and the pitch became completely unmanageable. We need
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to be able to control the pitch. And there‟s something else…” he
scribbles in his notebook. “The wild spin of the tail convinces
me that a tail rotor is what we‟re looking for. Counter rotate the
main rotors, change the cyclical pitch and install a tail rotor
instead of a front rotor and… we just might have something.”

Dickson glances at Ida and smiles crookedly with a shrug. All in
a day with Thomas Edison it seems.

Wedderburn stood and glanced about the stateroom. His sparse
belongings were packed. He saw his jacket lying on the bed and
picked it up, looking it over. He put it on, then pulled out a
horsehair brush and begins to rub it gently across the lapels and
sleeves. Suddenly, he remembers Allefra.

They had been walking along the Quai de Conti and she was
telling him of her afternoon, being treated rudely by a pair of
students who had sat down next to her in a café around the
corner from her home and began discussing their political ideas
so loudly she could not think. “Vive la folie! Vive l‟animalism!
Vive l‟Diable!”

They were already consuming the green medicinal concoction at
that early hour. She had chastised them.

“Do not drink that.” She had said gravely, touching the student‟s
glass. “It will make you go mad!”

He had half resolved to make a visit to the café the next evening
when she saw he was irritated and turned and half embraced him,
her hands upon his firm and broad shoulders. She had smiled
soothingly and brushed some lint or dust from him. After that, he
hadn‟t been upset anymore.

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The memory makes his knees weak and he steadies himself and
sits back on the bed, holding his face in his hands. He remembers
the smallest features of her face, her fine scent. He closes his
eyes and steadies himself, losing composure. He has not been
able to put her out of his mind for more than a few moments in
the year that has passed since she died in his arms.

His body began to tremble with fury and loss. Once again, it
seemed as though he had to reach out to steady himself. Merely
sitting upright was a difficulty in his emotional state. His arm
reached out and found the end table. His fingers brushed on a
small item. It was the small iron box which had been given to
him for his trip. He held it in his lap and continued to cry.

When the Minnehaha finally arrived at the East River port of
call, Captain M‟Grath had set the crew to celebrating its arrival
and he was about finished with marking the charts for the next
leg of his voyage, when he heard the carriage on the dock. He
peered down from bridge to see a magnificent black stagecoach
with four majestic white mares pull up alongside the clipper and
stop. M‟Grath noticed that the stagecoach had no outrider, the
single rider on horseback that usually rode in front of the
carriage to clear the path.

Why a wealthy traveler – and his passenger was obviously that –
would travel without an outrider was odd, but not unknown. And
this was a closed coach, with quarter lights and an imperial. One
of the finer riding machines the captain had ever seen. As
M‟Grath watched, the coachman climbed down from his perch.
That was when the first figure came briskly down the ramp. He
was a short man, with a limp. This was not the wealthy
passenger. This man had a worn and tattered sack coat, more
than a decade old. That plus the mop of lengthy, scrabbled hair

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was totally out of sync with the short hair and sharp beard of the
modern wealthy. The short man and the coachman had a brief
discussion. The short man made a couple of gestures with his
hands and finally the coachman simply shrugged and climbed
back up on his perch. The limping man turned, came back up the
walkway, and disappeared into the private section.

The sounds of Milo‟s footsteps breaks up Wedderburn‟s
detachment as his manservant came through the portal and
braced his coat more tightly around himself.

“Sir, your carriage is ready. I will bring the rest of your bags.”

“Thank you Milo.”

There was no evidence on Wedderburn‟s face that he had been
crying. Just a solemn, fixed expression like a thousand yard stare
was firmly in place.

“We have come far, and we may yet have far to go Milo.”

“Yes sir.” Milo nodded.

“Our quarry has been on the run for more than a year. He has
moved back and forth across Europe several times. Once we
came within a day of him in Rome, and we lost a week chasing
empty luggage into Serbia believing he had run home. But here
in America it is a different kind of chase.”

Milo cocked his head. “Sir?”

Wedderburn smiled, but not in a humorous way. “We have
followed him into a lawless wilderness of cowboys and
primitives and… frontier justice. Where he treads, he brings ruin
Milo. We will do the world a service and bring frontier justice
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that is quick… and dirty.” Wedderburn stood up and strode past
Milo and out the door.

Now Milo nodded vigorously. “Yes! Yes sir!”

When Milo glanced back at the room, he noted the small lump of
metal sitting on the edge of the bed. A shapeless ball of iron, he
looked at it quizzically then followed his employer out.

For what seemed like hours but was surely only minutes,
M‟Grath waited for “the someone” to reappear. When the short
limping man did, he was carrying a crate on his back that looked
easily twice his weight. The man must have the legs and back of
a bull to move with such a heavy load. And he was proficient.
He actually set the crate on end, then picked it up with both
hands and lifted it vertically high enough to slide it onto the roof
of the carriage. If M‟Grath hadn‟t seen it himself, he would have
assumed such a physical feat impossible. The short man spoke to
the coachman for only a moment, gesturing to the crate, and the
coachman set about tying the crate to the roof while the short
man went back aboard a second time.

Wedderburn crossed the portal and stepped down the plank
toward the waiting carriage. Halfway down he paused.

“The New World.” He whispered.

 He climbed into the coach as Milo came shuffling up behind,
two huge suitcases under his arms. He thought once again of the
man he was committed to chasing down.

“There are ways to make men pay and ways to make men suffer.
I will make you suffer Nikola Tesla. Oh, how you will suffer. If
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you have love, I will snatch it from you. If you have dreams I will
deny them to you. If you have hope I will squash it. You cannot
avoid the fate that has set you and myself on the inevitable

M‟Grath watched the figure cross the gangplank and then stop.
The captain ducked his head below the window and waited. He
held his breath. It wasn‟t until he heard the sounds of horse hoofs
and the creak of the carriage wheels moving away that his breath
came out in a loud whoosh and he gasped for air. He also
realized he had been holding his hand over his heart. Unsettled
with himself, he stood up quickly and straightened his uniform.
He was confused and alarmed at his behavior and reaction. What
had set him off so? And who was the private figure who had
disembarked? A rich and eccentric noble from France would
hardly have need of the six-shooters hanging on each hip. He
looked like a duelist. Then the Captain waved a hand, gathered
up the last of his papers and left himself. There was a fine
whiskey waiting at the bar.

When the modified Peugeot pulled into Tesla‟s garage, the last
rays of sunlight were dropping behind 5th avenue. Samuel
Clemens trademark snowy hair was windswept and he was
slightly sun burnt from exposure. But when he peeled his
goggles off, he looked over at Tesla with the excitement of a
schoolboy discovering a secret fishing hole.

“I tell people that twenty years from now, they will be more
disappointed at the things they didn‟t do than the things they did.
You, sir, will never suffer from such a malady. You are a man of

Tesla looks at Clemens sheepishly. “I just wonder if people will
accept my inventions.”
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“Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us
could not succeed.” Clemens says, climbing out of the vehicle
with wobbly legs. Twain set a hand on Tesla‟s shoulder and the
inventor jumped as if hit with an electric shock, pulling away.

“Please, do not do that.”

Twain, eyebrows raised, pulled his arm back and slid the hand
into his pocket.

Tesla quickly begins pulling a tarp over the mobile miracle.

“I must begin my preparations for the Worlds Fair. It will be the
first opportunity for people to truly see my AC current in full
effect. I have a bid with Westinghouse for the entire event!”

Clemens takes a corn cob pipe from his pocket and begins to fill
it with tobacco, eyeing Tesla.

“I heard Mr. Thomas Edison has placed a bid with the
Columbian Exposition for the contract to illuminate the fair.”

Tesla stopped and smiled at Clemens.

“But we underbid him by almost half! Too much copper wiring
for DC current, you see! Too expensive! But my AC lighting,
it‟s much cheaper! We will give the world the greatest lighting
display it has ever seen!!” He proclaims, throwing his arms into
the air.

There is a knock at the garage door. Tesla jumps with a start and
turns toward the door, but for several long pauses doesn‟t move.
Clemens watches him as the inventor slowly rubs his hands over
his coat and then moves slowly toward the door. Tesla opens it
and steps back. Two men dressed in grey work clothes are
standing in the waning daylight. One was about five eight and
twice as wide as his partner, though with his tree trunk arms, one
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could tell it wasn‟t a lot of fat. The other partner was over six
feet tall and nearly balding and very thin. They are both wearing
faded blue waistcoats and trousers, each having been patched
and repaired numerous times, and stained with the dust and
grime of the construction site or laying the rail stock. Both had
deeply tanned Slavic features.

“Polski?” Tesla asks, softly. Neither man acknowledges.

“česky?” No sign of understanding. A look of frustration crosses
Tesla‟s face, then dawning embarrassment.

“Hrvatski?” Both men nod and Tesla smiles.

“They‟re Croatian. Employees from the old country. I‟d
forgotten I‟d sent for them.”

“Gdje si?” Tesla asks.

“Bihac” says The Thin Man.

“Gospic” mutters Tree Trunk. Neither man has yet to make a
friendly facial gesture.

Tesla nods. “Smiljan.” The two men remain impassive and
Tesla keeps nodding and points to a stack of crates.

“Dal bedny na voze.” The two men nod and go over to the stack
along the far wall. Tesla turns to Clemens.

“They were in my family‟s employ for years. They will be
moving some of my equipment. I am going to look at a new
facility in the West. I may not be back in New York for some

 “Just how many languages do you speak sir” Clemens asks

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Tesla just shakes his head. “I forget.”

The Thin Man and Tree Trunk had lifted a couple of crates that
looked too heavy for four normal men with barely a grunt, and
loaded them onto the large wagon in the courtyard. Tesla had
watched them for a couple of trips, until he was sure they knew
what they were doing, and then he went to the wall furthest from
the crates and pushed. A massive section of the wall clicked
open and Tesla grunted slightly as he pushed the massive portal
inward. It moved several feet before Tesla stopped and motioned
for Clemens to join him.

It was the night of a new moon as Wedderburn stepped off the
carriage. Milo stepped towards him but he turned and waved the
man off.

“You know what to do next Milo. No distractions. No delays.
Ride. The wind at your back.”

“Sir, I would feel better if…”

“Thank you… Milo. Now go.” The stern, commanding voice
came out, unintentionally. Milo nearly fell down stumbling
backwards. He climbed back into the groom seat and looked at
Wedderburn with a hurt, childish expression.

“Driver, move along.” Milo mutters, and the carriage pulls away.
In a few moments, it was gone and he moved quickly across
Washington Square Park. The new Washington Square Arch
loomed in the moonlight. He was not far away now.

Clemens walked amongst the various tables with every manner
of machine and glass tube upon them. On some varieties of fluid
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bubbled over Bunsen burners. On others, cloudy vapors formed
in tubes above layers of dry ice. On one table sat a cage of
pigeons. One side of the room is taken up with what looks like a
small above ground swimming pool. But sitting in the water is a
man sized metal object that looks almost like a – submarine. But
how would one ride? It was simply too small to accommodate a
man. Clemens stops to more closely observe what appears to be
a square metal plate at least two feet on each side and more than
an inch thick sat upon a wooden table with legs thicker than a
man‟s waist. More remarkably, there was a singed hole big
enough to put his fist through, right in the center.

“Nikola, this is extraordinary. What did this?”

Tesla appears from behind a large panel.

“Oh, never mind about that. Just some experimenting. Nothing
practical. This, however, is more interesting.” Tesla smiles,
holding up part of a resonating coil in one hand and a light bulb
in the other.

Tree Trunk and The Thin Man were nearly finished loading the
wagon, and Tree Trunk had jumped atop the stack of crates to
cinch down the last of the roping tightly. The light in Tesla‟s
garage went out and The Thin Man came out the garage door and
slipped it closed behind him, throwing the latch. When he turned
around, he noticed the horses were acting strangely. Throwing
their heads back and forth, bumping into each other, wide eyed
and nervous.

Looking at each other, the two men from Croatia looked up and
down the city street. There were a few people walking on the
street, but none anywhere close by. No one paid any attention to
them. They boarded the cart, backed it up and made their way
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down the street, looking back for something, yet not knowing
quite what.

Stepping back several feet, Tesla moved behind the control
panel. Clemens was standing in the center of the laboratory with
a light bulb in his hand, looking skeptical.

“Ready?” Tesla asked.

Clemens nods and there is a rising humming pitch from the AC
motor behind them. Suddenly, the light bulb in his hands begins
to shine. No wires. Yet the bulb shines bright. Tesla walks over,

“My coil will light up an entire city without wires.”

Clemens looks at the light bulb in his hands, turning it around
and around.

“It‟s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to
make sense.”

“It was when I was making a study of the Vedas in the original
Sanskrit that it came to me. With my conical coil I have achieved
a tension of 100,000,000 volts, wirelessly, over 20 miles.”

Clemens looks at Tesla, amazed.

“But the problem is the generator. To achieve such a feat
continuously it would have to be too large. I am convinced that a
small and more compact transformer can be constructed. We
could put them on street corners and they would be no more
noticeable than lamplights are today.” Tesla starts to pace as he
gets more animated.

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“Someday, our machinery will be run by power obtainable from
anywhere. Throughout space there is energy. This ether is the
life giving force of the universe. We will someday learn to tap
into that velocity. Do you understand what that means? An
endless supply of power!”

Clemens nods and takes his pipe out and begins to pack it again.
Not really understanding, he searches for a way to change the

 “Well, seeing as how it is nearly dinnertime, I wondered if you
might join me for a bit of food. Part of the secret of success in
life is to eat what you like and I….”

“Its what?!” Tesla shouts. He turns towards a window. Tesla‟s
laboratory has small windows, too small to provide an
emergency access for even a child, set at intervals completely
around the circumference of the room, nearly where the wall
meets the ceiling. The sun is just beginning to drop behind the
New York horizon.

“No. It‟s late! You must go! Too many things to do. Too many
things to do. Too many things to do.”

Before he realizes it, Samuel Clemens is standing on the step of
Tesla‟s laboratory, the front door shutting behind him. Clemens
noticed that the door was also solid iron, this one several inches
thick. After closing, a dramatic dragging and clanging sound
could be heard, like a huge bolt being dragged and locked into

Clemens takes a drag on his corncob before stepping off the
front step. A five penny carriage slowed but he did not signal it
to stop. He had decided on walking the mile and a half back to
Lexington Avenue. The late afternoon air was clear and not

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particularly cold and the exercise would do him good. Besides,
he needed to ponder the rest of his novel “Tom Sawyer Abroad”.

A moment later, blazing light bloomed from the windows of
Tesla‟s laboratory. So bright it would have blinded even in the
daytime if you stared at it directly. A faint hum could be heard
emanating from within the brick building. Clemens shakes his
head and walks on.

Across the street from a second floor terrace, back in the
shadows the building, a figure watches Samuel Clemens go.

As the carriage carrying Thomas Edison, Ida Tarbell and WKL
Dickson arrived at New York Grand Central, throngs of curious
onlookers surrounded the gleaming, shining beast they had come
to ride. The Exposition Flyer from New York to Chicago had
been built specifically with the intent on servicing passengers to
the Chicago Worlds Fair. Fitted with a specially designed 37 foot
4-4-0 steam locomotive, leading four Wagner Palace Cars, the
hand-built unit was mounted on 86” diameter wheels and was the
first of its kind to have brakes mounted on the front truck.

Ida stepped off the carriage and gaped at the sight of the metal
behemoth. Thomas Edison and WKL Dickson emerged behind
her. The trim and pipes were all highly polished and the boiler
and the smokestack all had a high gloss finish. The words
“Empire State Express” could be read in 2 foot high gold leaf
lettering. The balconies of the depot and the bridges overlooking
the tracks are black with spectators.

John F. Randolph is standing on the platform next to the train
and when he sees them, he waves. A thin, gray-haired main with
a prominent nose and heavy eyes stands next to the bookkeeper.
Mr. Chauncey Depew is President of the New York Central
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Railroad, member of Skull and Bones, co-founder of the Pilgrim
Society, and one of the most powerful men in New York.

John Randolph steps forward as Edison, Dickson and Ida
approach. Several train employees move quickly past the trio and
begin unloading their baggage off the carriage and onto the train.

“Mr. Edison, allow me to introduce Mr. Chauncey Depew,
President of the New York Central Railroad. Mr. Depew, may I
introduce Mr. Thomas Edison, his Chief Assistant W.K.L.
Dickson, and the lovely journalist Ida Tarbell.”

Depew smiles and extends his hand in greeting to Edison, which
is firmly grasped in return.

“Mr. Depew, I sincerely appreciate your making an allowance
for us this evening.”

Mr. Depew shrugs dismissively.

“As it turns out, it‟s a perfect opportunity for the Flyer. We‟ve
made some modifications and we‟ve been waiting for the right
chance to try them out.”

Ida Tarbell raises an eyebrow. “What modifications?”

The group turned to look at the shining steel behemoth. It was
the golden age of the railroad. Speed records were being broken
year after year. People were travelling farther and farther
distances in comfort equal, if not superior to, their own homes.

Depew turns to her. “Well madam, besides evening the grades
between here and Chicago, the new Flyer is fitted with 86-inch
wheels, and is the first of its kind to have front mounted brakes,
which means we can maintain a higher rate of speed. She has
other fundamental improvements I won‟t go into, but suffice it to

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say, we are looking to break the current New York to Chicago
record tonight.”

Edison smiles. “By how much sir?”

“The current record run to Chicago is twenty hours. We‟re going
to reduce that to eighteen.”

“Is that possible?” Ida splutters. There is a soft whistle from
WKL Dickson.

“Madam, the enjoyment of life would be instantly gone if you
removed the possibility of doing something.”

“How many miles is that?” Ida asks, pulling out her notebook.

Depew takes a deep breath to ponder a moment.

“New York to Albany, Albany to Syracuse, Syracuse to East
Buffalo and East Buffalo to Chicago, is a total of 959 miles.” He
smiles. “Give or take a tenth of a mile.”

“Eighteen hours…” Ida says whisperingly.

“I am quite certain that having such a lovely woman aboard will
prove to be neither an inconvenience nor a bore, Ms. Tarbell.”
Depew said, grinning even more broadly.

“Mr. Depew, I am an investigative journalist. I have neither the
inclination for frivolity nor the patience for male lasciviousness.”

Depew laughed softly and Dickson looked away for a moment.

But if Ida thought she had intimidated the President of the
Railroad, she was wrong.

“Madam, a pessimist is one who thinks that all women are bad.
An optimist is one who hopes they are.” With a wink and a nod
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towards the train, he led the group toward the stepladder leading
them onto the rear palace car.

John Randolph puts a hand on Edison‟s shirt and the master
inventor turns.

“Mr. Edison, I need to speak with you a moment. It is a very
urgent matter.”

Edison smiled the smile of a tolerant parent.

“Not now, Randolph. Let‟s get on board. Everyone is waiting for
us. Dickson, send a telegram onto Chicago telling them when
we‟re arriving. You‟re in charge of the laboratory until I get
back. Contact the Army and tell them we need six more months
on the autogiro, and tell the engineers I want a rotating kiln for
the concrete started immediately.”

“Mr. Dickson is not joining us? I had hoped to speak to him
about life with the “great” Thomas Edison.” Ida asked, surprised.

Edison shook his head. “I have too many other matters which
require a precise hand. Mr., Dickson is my most trusted aide. He
stands in my stead while I am away. But don‟t worry you will
have Mr. Randolph to interrogate Ms. Tarbell.”

John Randolph smiles sheepishly and shrugs. Dickson nods and
with a tip of his hat to Ida, turns and heads back to the carriage.
Edison turns and is the first one to climb the stepladder onto the
palace car.

“But sir, I…” Randolph‟s voice trails off as he falls in behind.

Once onboard, Edison dropped his hat at a table. A middle aged
black porter is there with a tray of ice water, and all take a glass.
The paneling and furniture within the cabin is like that of a
upscale hotel. Frescos adorn the ceiling. Books and magazines
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are scattered among the tables and placed in cubby shelves. This
is a completely air-conditioned deluxe train, with a bar lounge,
and observation deck. In its run its crew comprises eight
enginemen, eight firemen, three conductors, six brakemen, a
barber, a tailor, a maid and a Pullman porter for every sleeper.
The diner cars have a total of twenty four porters additionally.

“It will be a rather leisurely journey until you reach Buffalo.”
Depew said, with a gesture to the ornately decorated travel car.
“By that time, you should all be pleasantly tucked into your
beds. The final half of the journey will be the real speed test, and
you should wake up in the morning somewhere in Illinois.”
Depew checks his pocket watch. “With just enough time for
breakfast and some nice sightseeing, I should imagine. I
recommend the boiled eggs and the ham. The cook is superb at
breakfast. They have a nice selection of breakfast wines, as

From the far door, three more black porters appear. All middle
aged, with crisp white uniforms.

“These gentlemen will direct you to your assigned cabins and
one of them will be on call to service you the entire journey. You
will find the sheets turned down, and fresh water beside your
beds. You should find the temperature stays comfortable by the
hot water pipes running beneath the floorboards. George, show
them one of the rooms.”

One of the porters opens a room compartment and steps inside.
The four travelers crowd around the door. Two easy chairs sit
next to the window, with a table in the corner and a sofa on the
opposite side. In a series of quick movements by the porter, the
legs of the table are folded in and it disappears into the corner.
The easy chairs are laid flat and pushed together to make a
sleeping berth, and the couch is rotated to make another.

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“As you can see,” Depew went on “each compartment transfers
easily and quickly into a sleeping cabin, and then transforms
back in the morning. While you are enjoying breakfast, your
sheets are changed and your compartment aired.” He paused “Or
before, if you are early risers.”

Setting her coat on the back of a chair, Ida moves her head
about, admiring the decorative walls, the paintings, and the
elegant furniture, before setting her eyes on the President of the

“Mr. Depew, in light of the Stock Market Panic earlier this year,
which has led to the failure of over a hundred banks, hundreds of
companies, and may yet see the failure of hundreds more, where
do you stand on the threat of the government to break up the

The President looked non-plussed, and then shocked at being
without a response.

“Madam, the New York Central Railroad is a sound entity. We
pay our workers above average wages. We do not concern
ourselves with Mr. Pullman. However, as President Cleveland is
a good friend of mine, I must add that his instincts to allow a
company to replace disruptive and destructive workers with
effective ones is a good one to have.”

With that, Chauncey Depew stalked from the car. One last long
pull of the whistle and the train begins to move slowly down the
tracks. Onward to Chicago!

Later in the evening…

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The enormous bell, slung for the purpose, begins to rock back
and forth, in the small wooden shed in the central park.
Volunteers in their red helmets and shirts, from bar rooms and
shuttered shops, north, south east and west, begin to stream out,
yelling and shouting. The new red engines, the pride of the
station, roll out.

The building on south 5th Ave was ablaze. Hot belches of smoke
from cracked windows pour forth into the night. Huggers and
haulers, helpers on the Volunteer Fire Brigades, are already on
the street as the engines pull up. The steam powered engines
combined are belching nearly as much dark smoke into the sky
as the burning structure, and for a while, the only dim light are
the oil lamps on the street and the light as looky-loos awaken and
turn on their lamps and come to their windows to watch. Shiny
axes and coils of brass socket leather glint in the moonlight as
firemen race each other to the scene in bravado. Some take their
axes to the weaker wall partitions, trying to deny the fire fuel.
Others attach their hoses to the hand pumps and blue streams of
water jet forth into the blaze.

The night is darkened with the smoke created when the water
hits the flame with hissing and popping. The fire begins to be
subdued, and for a moment several firemen begin to pat each
other on the back. Suddenly there is a tremendous crash as the
roof caves in and the sky is lit with showers of sparks. Men
begin to run to and fro once again, trying to make sure another
fire doesn‟t start on another building nearby and the whole
dangerous exercise starts all over again.

Two police officers watch from across the street and the embers
begin to dampen. Once all are accounted for, and the cleanup
begins, the mood lightens.

One officer turns to another.

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“They get here a lot quicker than those horse drawn contraptions
these days.”

“Yuh,” says the other cop. “Lucky they got the new water pumps
in this part of the city too.”

“Oh yeah.” Says the first cop. “I think red is a sight too much for
me though.”

“Eh, that‟s just the firemen showin off. It‟s how they distinguish
themselves.” The second cop says, pointing.

“Distinguish themselves? But every other fire engine is red too.”

“Well, that‟s because it‟s the most expensive color.”

The first cop sighs. “Who owned the building?”

The other cop shrugs. “Some lunatic, worked all hours. Used the
place as a laboratory or something. Probably got careless with
his experiments. Scientists.”

The solitary figure in the long coat walked quickly but silently
through the back streets and alleys of the Battery. The night and
the dark were his cohorts, his comfort. Here and there a shadow,
a movement, but nothing that aroused him. The denizens of the
moonlight were all about, and seemed to emerge to watch him
pass, as though watching a figure of notoriety or royalty. Three
cats leaped on top of garbage cans and peered at him
motionlessly, without a hiss or a growl. While from a grating
across the way, two large wharf rats emerged and stood on their
haunches to observe. It was as though rats and felines had a
temporary truce while this mysterious figure strode through their
domain. When he had passed, one of the cats leaped down and
chased the rats back through the grate.

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Wedderburn emerged from the alley near the edge of the Battery.
He could see the lights of Ellis Island across the water. Strolling
across Castle Garden, he could hear the sounds of several fishing
boats chugging through the bay out on their way to an early haul.
From somewhere in the din the tell tale sound of a steamboat
paddlewheel broke the silence. Then there was the sound of a
female crying in pain and the sound of a hand against a face.

The two men wore the look of fishermen or dock workers. They
wore hungry leers on their faces as the small woman with long
blond hair between them struggled. One had shaved his head
clean and was wearing a derby. The other had a scruff of red hair
underneath a moth eaten Homburg. The woman would struggle
and push away from Derby, only to be drug into the arms of
Homburg. The two men laughed. The woman started to scream
again for help but the word was cut off in her throat by another
slap. This time, a hand viciously tore at the front of her corset.
The women slumped to her knees, crying. The two men started
to bend down and grab her when the voice called out of the dark.

“I think you boys ought to give it a rest.” The voice suddenly lost
its European accent. He was trying to sound like a local. His
dress and appearance, along with a foreign accent, might give
them leave to mark him as a target. If they thought he was a
local, it might bring more cops around later. But the two hoods
didn‟t even pause. Two switchblades suddenly glinted in the
moonlight. Wedderburn takes a step back. A twig snaps behind
him, but he doesn‟t turn around.

“Looks like we got us a good Samaritan boys.” A deep voice
from directly behind him.

A few soft chuckles in the midnight air over both his shoulders.
They were moving in behind him from all directions. He could
smell their rank.

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“Definitely from the docks. Probably no more than fish
wrappers.” Wedderburn thought.

Derby and Homburg took another step forward. The woman on
the ground cackled, her wide grin showing her stained and
missing teeth. The long blond wig came off her head to reveal
the matted brown dreadlocks underneath. A couple of hoots and
howls from the brush nearby and Wedderburn realized he had
run into a marauding gang.

Derby grinned through rotting teeth and motioned at
Wedderburn‟s feet.

“You‟re such a charitable fellow. Come to save the lass. How
about you charitably provide those fine boots you‟re wearing
there mister? Come on now, off with them.”

Wedderburn felt the air move behind him and knew he was
about to be struck. He moved slightly to his right and felt the
iron pipe move through the air where he had been. His left hand
chopped down on the back of the man‟s neck. This man wasn‟t
wearing any hat, and from the receding hair line he was a bit
older than the two men in front of him. Homburg lunged with his
blade and Wedderburn caught him by the wrist. A quick twist
and a snap and the man shrieked. The palm of his hand to the
man‟s nose and his head snapped back and he toppled backward
like a felled tree.

Derby started to look worried. But his eyes narrowed and he
grew a wicked grin. “Big Six!” he shouted.

More movement from behind him, from the left and the right.
Wedderburn spun around and delivered a paralyzing solar plexus
blow to the closest, a pudgy little man with weight lifter arms.
He could hear the wind rush out of the man and a small
squeaking sound as he was lifted off his feet. There was an ugly
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crunch of snapping bone as the weight lifter hit a tree and slid to
the ground. The second man appeared to have a bit of skill. He
had a pair of fighting sticks, and he wielded them with some

“Eskrima!” Wedderburn exclaimed almost joyfully, referring to
the ancient art of stick fighting he had learned about in his
travels through the Orient. He took a step back and his left foot
came to rest on the iron pipe next to the still motionless thug. A
flick of his well leathered foot and the pipe was in his hands. The
man shouted in fury and rushed. Wedderburn‟s feet never
moved. In the space of a breath, he swung the iron and broke the
first stick, then the second, and then the thugs jaw.

The hollow click of a firearm being levered told Wedderburn
that the martial arts show had been a decoy attack, as he
suspected. Wedderburn flipped the flaps of his long coat behind
him to reveal the .38 Long Colts strapped to each hip.

Derby started to shout a warning. “Look…” was as far as he got
before the first bullet slammed between his eyes. “Big Six”
turned out to be quite a large man. Six-foot five, six-foot six, and
at least three hundred and fifty pounds of him. The bullet that
slammed into his gut didn‟t put him down, but he couldn‟t hold
the short-barreled shotgun in his hands straight anymore. The
boom stick went off harmlessly into the ground. Two other
grime-covered goons rushed from the brush. One was wielding a
large knife, the other a cleaver.

“Definitely fish cutters.”

Wedderburn raised his guns to plug them both but before he
could pull the triggers Big Six bear-hugged him from behind.

Cleaver was closest and took the first swing at his left gun hand.
The blade sliced through the sleeve of his nice coat and that
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really pissed him off. His foot went up into the man‟s balls with
a healthy crack. The kid with the knife only paused briefly at the
brutal counterattack, and then lunged. Wedderburn‟s legs leaped
over the man‟s knife and locked around the man‟s neck. With
Big Six still clinging to him, his legs immediately cut off the
man‟s air and his hands went to his head to try to pry himself
loose. Big Six shook him, but all that did was let Wedderburn
draw the trapped, gasping hooligan between his legs in closer.
When his knees were around the man‟s ears, Wedderburn gave a
quick jerk and the neck snapped like a twig. Big Six roared with
anger, but the gut shot was having an effect and his grip was
loosening. One of Wedderburn‟s boots came down on Big Six‟s
left foot with a loud snap. The big man let loose with a high
pitched squeal and gripped his foot in agony. Wedderburn picked
the iron pipe up and turned around. Big Six‟s face was twisted in
agony and he made a rush, his mouth open in a silent scream.
The giant man‟s eyes were red with fury, and then went cloudy
as Wedderburn stuck the pipe through his throat.

Dreadlocks had started running as soon as the guns had gone off
and the stranger had put a bullet in poor Bernie‟s belly. She
headed for the only thing in sight, Castle Clinton. Her breath was
already coming in ragged heaves when she was still close
enough to hear the last death rattle of her fellow marauders reach
her across the night breeze. She kept running. The Castle had
been closed down the year before as the primary entry point for
immigrants from abroad and there was a great deal of
construction going on. It was going to be turned into a Great
Aquarium eventually.

Dreadlocks ran through an opening in the construction area and
slipped into the empty building. The hallway was dark, the air
full of dust that was occasionally revealed by the fingers of
moonlight through the old ceiling. There were a few wooden
benches to one side, several old tables to the other.
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She walked softly through the darkness, her hands outstretched
in case she stumbled, her breathing coming in shorter gasps now.
Footfalls somewhere in the distant darkness caused her to suck in
her breath. Dreadlocks slid to her knees, crawled under a covered
table, and held her breath, waiting for the slightest sound. Above,
the cloudy night held the evening almost moonless. But then,
there was a brief parting. As the moonlight peaked in,
Dreadlocks had a moment of better vision, and her breath came
out in a whoosh as she saw the muddy gentleman‟s boots not two
feet away through the small gap between the table cover and the
floor. She knew the feet and the body that were attached to them.

Ida sat back in the adamantine lounger and sighed, taking a long
drink from the glass of ice water. Edison took off his jacket and a
porter came by and gathered the jacket and the hat from the

“Thank you George, take them to the first drawing room on the
left. That will be my cabin for the evening. Miss Tarbell can
have the one you‟ve already prepared.”

“Yes, sir.” the porter said, smiling.

After the porter had left, Ida cocked an eyebrow at Edison.

“Mr. Edison, why did you call him George? That wasn‟t George,
I‟m certain of it.”

Edison smiled. “Miss Tarbell, you haven‟t been on a cross
country rail before have you?”

“No. But what does that have to do with it?”

“On a train, every porter is called George. After George
Pullman, the man who invented these sleeper cars.”
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Ida made a small sound in her throat and took another drink of
her ice water.

John Randolph had been looking out the window at New York
City passing by. As the lights of the city center fade, only the
occasional gas lamp from the new neighborhoods springing to
life in its outskirts is visible. In addition to receiving the majority
of black overflow from the South, 90% of immigrants from the
world come through Ellis Island nearby and many residents take
root immediately. Here in the city of the world, the different
ethnicities, languages and cultures make an administrative and
governing challenge that no city in Europe can even imagine.

He turned and removed his glasses to clean them off with a

“Does that bother you, Miss Tarbell?”

“Bother me? I don‟t see why it should.”

“I didn‟t mean to pry.” Randolph smiled half heartedly, and then
looked back out the window.

“You should have no cause to be ashamed of a query, Mr.
Randolph. I‟m a woman of intellectual curiosity. What caused
your question?”

Randolph turned, a little taken aback. He looked at Edison, who
only gave him a sidelong glance as he poured a second glass of
ice water, shook off his vest and unbuttoned the top two buttons
of his shirt.

“Well, Miss Tarbell…”

“Ida.” Ida interrupted.

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“Excuse me, yes, Ida. Well, you are a woman - a reporter. One
would assume you are a feminist? I was merely wondering if you
found some discrimination in the fact that the porters are all

“Well, Mr. Randolph, allow me to clean up a misconception or
two. But first, let me ask if either of you have taken cross
country rail trips before?”

Edison and Randolph both nodded.

“Well, then, certainly you might be able to tell me if every porter
on every train you‟ve been on is black?”

Edison and Randolph glanced at each other then nodded again.

“Well, that would make sense then. I am aware that Mr. Pullman
is this country‟s largest employer of blacks. I am aware of his
generosity towards black churches, black newspapers and rights
organizations. Furthermore, their pay is sufficient that many of
these experienced porters live a middle class lifestyle.”

Edison guffawed. “Hardly the words of a muckraker Ms.

 “Well, it is true that none of these men will ever rise to the job
of conductor. That job is still unjustly reserved for whites.
Nevertheless, it is hard to logically impugn actions that create a
vast majority of breadwinners for black families. That is keeping
those family units together and that is the most important action
of all. Where activists are right today is that this country is
moving from a rural and agricultural society to an urban
industrialized society. Those changes they are demanding are
simply an acknowledgement of that change.”

Edison clinked the ice around in his glass.

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“I suppose the same goes for women?”

“The women‟s movement were all abolitionists, Mr. Edison. But
not all abolitionists believe in suffrage. I myself do not believe in
the goals of the suffrage movement per se.”

Edison dropped his glass and Randolph appeared to choke softly.

“Excuse me,” Randolph stammered “did you say you…?”

“I am not an uneasy woman, Mr. Randolph,” Nods at Edison.
“Mr. Edison. The modern woman is freer today than at any time
in history, save for ancient Egypt. And now we have women
running about town, running about the country, and running
about the world, fretting about their place in it.”

Ida sets down her glass, and goes into her compartment, leaving
the door slightly ajar so her voice can still be heard.

“Today‟s woman is listening to both nature and society in what
course her life should take. This is a mistake.” Ida pokes her
head out. “The American Revolution was as much about a
woman‟s freedom of speech as it was a man‟s, and instead you
have women trying to conform not just to the home, but to this
new “feminism” as well.” Her head disappears and there is a
rustling of clothing.

Randolph and Edison glance at each other.

“I say a woman is independent of either.”

Randolph gets up and moves into his compartment. Edison
remains sitting, sipping his ice water.

When Ida comes out of her compartment again she is wearing a
yellow nightgown, frill edging and a shallow collar, with sleeves
set in with gussets.
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“If a woman copies a man, can she impress womanhood? To
bear a child, to feel the dependence of man and child, to lay the
foundation of a family, these are worthwhile for women. All
their instincts and experiences convince them that the family is
the supreme and eternal value of women in the world.”

“That is quite a statement coming from a female journalist.”
Edison said wryly.

“A feminist should not seek to denounce a man. Nor should she
seek to emulate him.” Ida pointed a finger at Edison as Randolph
came out sans shirt and shoes, brushing his teeth.

“Blaming men for their position in life has always given women
an outside, attackable cause for her limitations and defeats.
Feminists make men scapegoats. And now, if a woman wants to
have a family, raise children, these suffragettes say somehow she
isn‟t doing her part for womanhood. Well, these suffragettes
have much to learn about womanhood.”

Randolph stops brushing his teeth and stares.

“Women are allowing themselves to be burdened with the same
excuses that the feminists say they are trying to remove. First
they could blame men for not getting out into the world, and then
they can blame women for not having families. Because they are
taught to attack life as a man does, to enter a trade or a
profession, to get into politics, they assume this will cure the
inferiority of position and power a woman is willing to admit she
seeks. But that comes from the very thing she is being taught to
give up.”

“So, do you miss not having a family?” Randolph asks.

Ida looks at the bookkeeper for a moment, and a brief look of –
loss perhaps – crosses her face, but then shakes her head.

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“I have never had an impulse to marry. But I believe it is the
strongest moral force – a woman in the home. The American
Revolution and the Civil War gave us that. And it is the
industrial age that is dissipating it. Women are being convinced
the means to satisfy their lives is to be more like men.”

Edison chuckled softly.

“Well, it is refreshing to see a woman who appreciates her
position in the family. Men have invented the world, and women
make it worth living in.”

Ida poured herself another glass of ice water and turned for her

“I think women make better inventors Mr. Edison.”

Edison looked astonished‟ “What??!!!”

“One sixth of all inventions have been for patents on clothing,
Mr. Edison.” Ida stood at the chamber door. “Women are
responsible for inventions on every type of household and farm
labor chore, from dishwashing to milking to… well, to
beekeeping! The female inventor improves the lives of women
the world over and, in so doing…”

Edison‟s jaw drops and Randolph chuckles.

“In so doing, Mr. Edison, improves the lives of their children
AND their husbands. Every day. Good night Mr. Edison. Good
night, Mr. Randolph.”

With that, Ida Tarbell closed the door of her cabin.

“What a creature!” Edison mumbles, letting out his breath.

“Indeed sir.”

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Edison studies Randolph for a moment, seemingly noticing
something for the first time.

“Randolph, I seem to recall you trying to tell me something. The
lady has retired for the evening. What was it?”

Randolph clears his throat and takes a drink of his ice water.

“Mr. J.P. Morgan telegraphed before I left to meet you at the
train station. I‟m afraid there‟s been a bit of bad news.”

“What bad news?” Edison‟s eyes narrow.

Randolph takes a deep breath and takes the plunge.

“General Electric has lost the bid to Westinghouse for the
Exposition. They‟re going to go with Tesla.”

“What???!!!” Edison leaps to his feet and throws his glass across
the carriage. “That‟s impossible… what were they thinking?
What did they tell you? Is their decision final?”

Randolph‟s eyes wander for a moment before looking back at the

“Yes sir. They had already informed Westinghouse and Mr.
Tesla before telegramming us. Westinghouse was wired the bid
this morning.”

“Then what the hell am I doing on this train??! Why did you let
us get on if we are going to go to Chicago to be humiliated? For
lord‟s sake Randolph!”

Edison stops.

“How much did Westinghouse bid? We can make a counter

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“We‟ll have them wait at the next stop. Get some paper
Randolph; we‟re going to send a telegram to Chicago. We‟re
going to win this yet!”

“Sir, that‟s not going to happen.” Now Randolph can‟t look up.

Now Edison walks over and stands over Randolph, looming over

“What do you mean?”

“Tesla‟s bid was half ours sir. We can‟t possibly do it. The cost
of the copper wiring alone would cause Mr. Morgan to pull out.
We simply can‟t match the cost of Mr. Tesla‟s AC electricity.”

Now Randolph was on his feet, shaking his hands imploringly.

“Sir, I tried to tell you on the platform. That was the first
opportunity for a “confidential moment”.” Randolph‟s eyes drift
towards Ida‟s door as his voice drops.

Edison stiffens in realization. He thinks for a moment and then
his face is longer flushed. His eyes are sparkling with thought

“I‟m very sorry sir…” Randolph begins again, but Edison waves
him off.

“Time to think now Randolph. Time to plan. Time to plot. I
think it‟s time to give the world some second thoughts about Mr.
Tesla‟s Alternating Current.”

Columbus Exposition – Chicago Worlds Fair, Jackson Park,
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The city of Chicago is a bustling, booming metropolis of nearly a
million inhabitants on the eve of the Columbus Exposition. Its
downtown is like three hundred acres of the New York Stock
Exchange and its afternoon traffic between half-past five and
half-past six make Broadway in New York look like a ghost
town. Along Clark Street are the city‟s famous underground
restaurants, fashioned in marble and plated metal. Cable cars, in
lengths of two to four cars each, race about the city, moving
passengers from one side of the boomtown to the other quickly
and efficiently. Its famous slaughterhouse district turns cattle
into steaks and pigs into bacon at speeds which are world
famous, but that is only because the district is trying to keep pace
with the rest of the city. In one 300 acre area on the edge of Lake
Michigan, five percent of all the world‟s railways terminate
serving more than 20,000,000 people who could find Chicago a
convenient destination. All (rail) roads lead to Chicago, as they
like to say.

The city of Chicago itself encompasses more than 18 and a half
square miles of farms, prairies and villages, with the precise
expectation that one day the great city of concrete and metal
would encompass all of it. The great foresight to unify all water,
drainage, parks and boulevards means the growth will be
managed and coherent. The notion behind this anticipated
growth is simple. If you draw a line 500 miles in any direction,
you have almost nothing but arable land and forest. North across
the Canadian wilderness, west across Ohio into Nebraska, south
west into Missouri, south into Kentucky, and around, broken up
only by Lake Michigan which is itself of immense economic

Of the people, it can be expressed that they are a greater mixture
than anywhere else in America. They reside in sprawling suburbs
that stretch for miles from the city center, in homes that denote
prosperous living. In cities like New York where land is far too
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valuable, homes are crammed together. For Chicagoans, that
would certainly dim the living style. In a single stretch of homes
where on the Atlantic one would find row upon row of
identically brownstones, along Prairie Avenue you will find a
dozen different architectural styles. And in the evenings, the rich
really do sit on their porches. Their beautified boulevards stretch
from the southern suburbs, all the way into the heart of the
financial district, and on the weekends, the citizenry enjoy the
rich suburban life of Chicago‟s parks.

On Michigan Avenue, there is a large stone tablet set into the
wall of the enormous soap and glycerin works of James S Kirk &
Co. This marks the site of the first important building built in
Chicago. Along the arch of the slab are the words “block house
of Fort Dearborn.” The rest of the inscription goes on to tell the
history of the first significant settlement in the area, its
confrontation with native Americans, its abandonment and
reclamation, and finally the elimination of the last of its traces in
the great fire of 1871.

The Exposition was opening only days away, and the activity
was frantic. The 600 acre park featured over 200 new buildings.
On approach to the site, the second story of the women‟s
building can be seen above the greenery. At the center of this
amazing spectacle which dwarfs all previous Worlds Fairs and
marks the beginning of the American era, is White City. So
named for its white stucco buildings, it is the grandest and most
elegant presentation in World Fair history. In comparison with
the surrounding Chicago tenements, White City literally glows,
especially at night with its new electric lights. Amongst this
cavalcade of sights, a vast interlocking waterway of lagoons and
canals stretches and winds through the park. 400 gondolas
brought over from Venice pass leisurely along these liquid

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Forty thousand skilled workmen hurry about, putting the
finishing touches to the original Ferris Wheel - which included a
specially designed car for the John Phillips Sousa Orchestra, the
Midway Plaisance, the Court of Honor, 18000 tons of steel, 75
million feet of lumber, and 14 main buildings with 63 million
square feet of floor space.

As Tesla made his way past the Woman‟s Building and around
the outskirts of the main lagoon, he had to contend with several
thousand paying spectators. The excitement had so grown about
the Exposition and its attractions that families were paying 25
cents a piece just to be able to walk in amongst the buildings
under construction. From a distance, he finally caught sight of
the Electric Building. It has a grand entrance that stands a story
taller than the rest of the building and is decorated by many
towers. Above the main entrance is the sign marking his grand
presentation. It reads: Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing
Co. Tesla Polyphase System. He didn‟t notice when a smallish
man in a grey suit came up to his side and started walking in step
with him. Nikola didn‟t even notice when the man flipped open a
notebook and a pencil appeared in his hand.

“Mr. Tesla, Julian Ralph, Harpers Chicago. Would you care to
give a few words on the impact that your exhibits are going to
have on Chicago and the world? Chicago is the young city that
only a few short years ago suffered so terribly in the Great Fire.
Have you any words for Chicago, sir?”

Tesla only shakes his head and starts to walk a bit faster. But
Julian keeps up.

“How about the nine acres of electrical exhibits Mr. Tesla?
There‟s talk that none of that would have been possible without
you and Mr. Westinghouse advancing the electrical system so
cheaply and efficiently. Engineers at the Department of

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Electricity say they will send power over greater distances than
anything conventional electrical power can do.” At this, Tesla

“Conventional electrical power?” He asks hoarsely.

“Well, Mr. Edison‟s DC current does power many of the urban
centers on the east coast.”

Tesla looks at the reporter levelly. “And the last time there was a
major storm in New York, most of the deaths were attributed to
ubiquitous and dangerous power lines which came loose and fell
on the innocent citizens of the city. That‟s because different
voltage of Mr. Edison‟s power must be sent over different power
lines, making transmission costly and inefficient. Whereas, with
my AC power, it can be cheaply and safely redistributed by
transformers to different parts of any home or building for
different applications. There is no “conventional power” Mr.
Ralph. There is only effective and ineffective power.” Tesla
begins to walk again.

“Well, the Department of Electricity seems to agree with you
Mr. Tesla. They‟ve set up a waterfall over a 100 miles away to
create power for this event. They wouldn‟t have done that unless
you had shown them that this AC power of yours works.”

“Of course it works!” Tesla barks.

“Then you dispute Mr. Edison‟s claims that your new electrical
power is unstable and dangerous?”

Tesla waves his hand dismissively.

“Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to
his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future,
for which I have really worked, is mine. Now, I must go.”

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“Mr. Tesla, I‟d really like to talk to you more about this. Get
your side.”

Tesla paused.

“I‟m staying at The Castle. Ring me up around six.”

Mr. Ralph extended a handshake in agreement and Tesla looked
at it and gave a half wave in acknowledgement. Ralph looked
puzzled and a bit insulted, but shrugged after a moment.

“Six it is then,” the magazine writer said, half smiling.

The Exposition Flyer arrived in Chicago the afternoon after it
left New York, arriving before a throng of onlookers. When Ida
stepped off the car, a train official was waiting just a few feet
away. He wore a brown suit coat and dabbed at the sweaty
crown of his bare head with a handkerchief which he quickly
stuffed into a pocket before he stepped forward. He took a
pocket watch on a chain out of the same pocket and opened it.

“An average of nearly one mile per minute. That‟s one hour and
twenty-three minutes faster than the last record. Welcome to
Chicago ma‟am.”

Ida turned and looked back at Thomas Edison as he came out of
the compartment, drank the half glass of ice water in a heavy
swallow, handed it to a George, and stepped gingerly off the
sleeping car. The bookkeeper John Randolph came down slowly,
a grey “wide-awake” hat on his head and a suitcase in each hand.
He set them on the platform as his feet stepped onto the concrete
and turned to meet Edison‟s direct gaze.

“Send the messages we discussed. When you‟ve gotten the
morning updates from West Orange, meet us at the Exposition.”
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Randolph nodded and with a tip of his hat to Ms. Tarbell,
disappeared into the growing crowd of admirers of the gleaming
silver super-train. Ida and Edison took in the sight around them.
They were standing inside the largest train shed in the world,
almost 200 meters long. Built of steel and glass, it was
considered one of America‟s miracles of engineering long after it
was built. The Grand Central Station building itself was six
stories of brick, brownstone and granite, housing several of the
nation‟s major train companies. The clock tower – once the
tallest in America - stood an awe inspiring thirteen stories high.

With its spacious arched carriage court and a multitude of towers
interspersed along its walls, it was an impressive sight from
outside. Several baggage handlers moved in to collect all their
baggage and they stepped into the Grand Central Main Terminal.
Ida sucked in her breath. Inside, its Norman Castellated
Romanesque structure was decorated with marble floors, 26 feet
tall Corinthian columns, stained glass windows and even a
marble fireplace. A concierge came over to them. He was a tall
thin man with a terrible comb over and a whisper of a mustache.

“Mr. Edison? Ms. Tarbell? I‟ll have your bags taken to your

Ida looked confused. “Suites?”

“Grand Central Hotel is one of the finest establishments in the
city. I have had two suites waiting for over a year. One for me,
and one for Randolph.” Edison smiled. “Randolph will be
sleeping on my couch now, Ms. Tarbell.”

“That is most considerate of you, Mr. Edison.” Ida watched
Edison motion to one of the drivers with the top hats and cape
standing by the outer door. The gentleman nodded and went
outside where, ostensibly, he would prepare the carriage for
wherever Mr. Edison was planning to go.
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“My pleasure, madam. Now, if you will excuse me, I have some
business I must attend to.”

“I would like to go along…” Ida started.

Edison turned with a stern look and shook his head.

“I‟m afraid that won‟t be possible at this point. Inventors do
require a modicum of privacy for preparation. However, rest
assured, when the demonstrations are in production Ms. Tarbell,
you will be the first one to know. I will call on you in the

“In production, then? I can ask questions as you put your
inventions on display, we can talk about how you came up with

“Most certainly, madam. That is why you are here. To give
accurate account to the Edison legend.” Randolph stopped
several feet away. “Now, if you will excuse me.”

As Edison crossed the marble floor and exited into the afternoon
Chicago heat, a messenger boy came running up behind him
with several sheets of telegraph notes. Edison took them and
with a final backward glance in her direction climbed into a
waiting carriage.

Ida Tarbell had checked into her hotel suite, spent a rather
leisurely hour unpacking, and then went about exploring the
hotel. To her amazement, she found that the basement of Grand
Central Hotel had one of the city‟s few working thermaes. In
grand Roman tradition, it was a series of progressively warmer
rooms where a woman would start out getting a rubdown with
oils, to a small private bathing stall, and finally to a hot room

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where a female attendant used a body scrubber to remove dead
skin and add more massaging oils. A quick dip in a private cold
pool and within an hour she was soothed from the long trip and
relaxing in the hotel library.

Located at 63rd and Wallace in Chicago, The Castle was one of
the many establishments that went up in the hustle and bustle
days before the Exposition opened. Many people had foreseen a
need for hotel rooms for the millions of visitors expected for the
400th anniversary of Columbus‟ discovery of America. Two
miles from Jackson Park, Tesla had arranged for one of the more
convenient hotels. Large enough for anonymity, spacious rooms,
and new construction that meant good running water and no
creaky floors, The Castle was a great find.

Tesla entered the 63rd street lobby of the hotel at a hurried pace,
head down and arms clasped behind him, deep in thought. Mr.
H.H. Holmes, the owner and innkeeper emerged from his back
office and, upon seeing Mr. Tesla, laid a room key on the
counter and smiled, wiping a part of the counter with a rag. He
had a bowler hat on with a thick handlebar mustache, and his
clothes were spotless and wrinkle free. It was clear he liked to
keep a clean establishment.

Nikola had nearly made it to the elevator when a voice called out
from nearby and he stopped and turned. It was Julian Ralph.

“Mr. Tesla, I‟d like to have a further word with you.”

Tesla drew his pocket watch out, noting with a glance that the
hour was still early.

“Mr. Ralph, I…”

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“Please Mr. Tesla… I just need your response to this latest

Julian Ralph holds up a copy of the Chicago Daily Tribune to

“It says right here that Mr. Edison has called your AC current
one of the… “greatest threats to civilized society.” Several city
legislators in Chicago are asking the Exposition owners to retract
your winning bid due to safety concerns.” He looked at Tesla,
who took the paper and scanned it.

Tesla turned towards the innkeeper.

“Mr. Holmes, would you please have dinner sent up to my room.
I won‟t be coming down again today.”

The innkeeper smiled. He owned the restaurant which occupied
half the lower level of The Castle and faced Wallace. More
business, more money. He also owned the drug store and ice
cream counter at the rear of the building.

“Of course, sir. Will there be anything else then?”

“Just another set of toiletries if you please.” Tesla remarked as
he took a handkerchief out of his pocket to open the elevator
door. As it began to close behind the two men, the proprietor
called out.

“You‟re not going to be having any other guests upstairs tonight,
are you Mr. Tesla?”

“No Mr. Holmes.”

“Remember to place the dishes and trays outside the door when
you‟re finished if you would kindly. The kitchen boy doesn‟t

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have keys to the rooms. He‟s barely up from a street urchin. Lord
knows how sticky his fingers might be.”

“Understood, Mr. Holmes.” Tesla said softly, irritated, as the
elevator began to rise and was soon gone.

Mr. H.H. Holmes shook his head and muttered to himself.

“Loony bugger. Wants fresh soap, towels and linen after every
time he uses them. And three of each!”

He chuckled to himself.

“Well, he‟ll pay for em.”

At the door to his suite, the number 2H in gold leaf, Tesla
opened the door and went into the study. He motioned towards
the bar.

“Make yourself comfortable Mr. Ralph.”

The room was built in the classic Italianate style, with tall,
narrow double panned windows. In Tesla‟s room, they extended
nearly the entire length of the wall facing 63rd. The Exposition
could be seen in the distance and with the sun still in the sky the
view of Chicago was impressive. When the inventor walked
back into the room, the reporter was drinking a glass of sherry
and staring out.

“President Cleveland has been warned by several Senators that
attending your Exposition Exhibit could be dangerous.”

Tesla shook his head sadly and laid his waistcoat over the back
of a chair.

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“There is nothing more dangerous than a man spreading lies.”
Tesla muttered.

“It also says the number of people put out of work because your
turbines will make heat engines obsolete will cause a calamity of
joblessness.” Ralph pointed to an article below the fold.

Tesla wagged a finger.

“That is utterly ridiculous. Just last year, after declining time and
time again – because I didn‟t really want to go – I finally
accepted an invitation to England to speak before the institution
of Electrical Engineers. There I demonstrated that a electrical
field of sufficient intensity could be developed in a room such
that wireless vacuum tubes could be illuminated. That requires
turbines and transformers. They called it one of the most
spectacular events in the annals of science!”

“Mr. Edison says your patents are nonsense - attempts to do
nothing more than ride on the back of his genius. What do you
say about that?”

“Mr. Edison doesn‟t follow through with his agreements and he
has a bad habit of attacking anyone in his way.”

“You‟re saying he broke a contract?”

“He owed me money he never paid, and he knows my patents
are more effective than his!” Tesla growled, still reading the

“So you‟re calling one of this country‟s leading industrialists and
one of the most brilliant minds of the 19th and 20th centuries a
thief and a liar! You‟d better have some pretty good evidence to
back up a statement like that Mr. Tesla. I wouldn‟t want to be in
the crosshairs of a slander suit in your shoes!”

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“We had a handshake.” Tesla muttered.

H.H. Holmes stood up from his desk and leaned over and
rummaged through the stack of letters and bills on the next desk
over. Mrs. Pitezel, his assistant, was getting frustrated, unable to
find the last of the statements to balance the days books. The two
small desks had been pushed together, facing each other. He
liked being able to look at this small hipped, long brown curly
haired beauty. As he leaned over, he noticed that she had her
bodice loosened, as she seemed to be doing more often lately. He
had a nice view of her ample and firm bosom, even the brown of
an areola, for a couple moments while he rummaged around. She
even pretended not to notice.

“I just can‟t find it!” she said, frustrated.

He pulled a brown, torn envelope from the stack and laid it in
front of her.

“Now, why don‟t we take this up tomorrow? Let‟s give it a rest.
It‟s past dinnertime.” H.H. came around the desk and leaned next
to her.

“I‟m sure Mr. Pitezel is waiting for you at home with dinner.”

The woman snorted.

“A flask of brandy is more likely his dinner, with a mess to clean
up for mine.”

H.H. made no attempt to hide his leer at her bosom now.

“Poor woman. If only there were something that could be done
to make your situation better.”

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The tall figure strode across the street and up to the front door of
The Castle. Wearing a Stetson, blue jeans and a pair of
gentleman‟s boots, he was out of place, yet didn‟t stand out
either. He paused at the door a moment and then…

H.H. opened the door for Mrs. Pitezel, placing her coat around
her shoulders and letting a hand linger a bit too long and a bit too
low. The woman flushed, smiling at the innkeeper. Then,
noticing the figure at the door, pushed his hand away.

“Good evening Mr. Holmes. I shall return the „morrow to finish
the books.”

H.H. cleared his throat.

“Yes, quite, Mrs. Pitezel. Have a nice night.”

Without acknowledging the stranger at the door, H.H. turned and
walked behind the main desk. He didn‟t have to let the front door
out of eyesight to do so and heard the door close. He opened the
register, his eyes dropping for just a moment, and then turned
them back toward the door, but saw no one. That was strange.
Where had the man gone?

When the bell further down the counter rang, H.H. visibly
jumped. Somehow, the man had crossed the foyer, through his
line of sight, and was on the other side of his field of vision.
How had he done that?

The gentleman‟s forefinger, set in a calfskin glove, still hovered
over the bell as its chime faded, his head down, face partially
obscured by the wide brim of his hat, oddly named the “Boss of
the Plains”. Then Wedderburn raised his head and smiled at the

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“I would like a room please.”

Tesla was standing at the window, staring down at the street.
Julian Ralph sat at a small table with an oil lamp and smoked a

“Look,” Tesla said turning from the window “you‟re writing an
article about the Exposition, right? The 400 year celebration of

“That is the task my publisher has set to me.” Ralph nodded.

“Well, its not just about 400 years since Columbus. It‟s about the
next 400 years. It‟s about revolutionizing everyday life.” He
shook the newspaper in his hand and turned back to face the
window, raising his arms to the city sights.

“It‟s about revolutionizing the city, the nation. Its about
changing the world! You want to see how it works? You want to
be able to explain the City of Lights?”

Julian Ralph took the pipe out of his mouth and looked at Tesla

“What are we talking about?”

“Access. Isn‟t that what you reporters look for, access?”

“I don‟t have to show you the article for approval.”

“I don‟t care. I am sure that once you see what I‟m doing, what
we‟re doing in the basement of the Electric Building. That
should convince you!”

Ralph nods. “Well, I suppose tomorrow…”

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“No. Tonight! We‟ll leave now.”

“Well, I don‟t know if…”

“No time like the present!” Tesla said, grabbing his jacket. Julian
stood and Tesla headed for the balcony.

“We‟ll take the side staircase. Closer to the street!” and then he
was gone through the rear door.

H.H. unlocked the hotel room for Mr. Wedderburn and stepped
back, holding out the room key.

“There you go sir! Have a good night!”

But Wedderburn did not take the key, nor did he move. He
looked into the room, then back at Mr. Holmes.

“Please take a look inside and make sure everything is in order. I
don‟t want to be blamed for something that was already broken.”

“Sir, I assure you that the room is…”

“If you please.” Wedderburn motioned, and for some reason
H.H. found himself stepping into the room. Once inside, he
heard the door close behind him.

“Is everything in order?” Mr. Wedderburn asked.

“Yes sir. Everything is in order.” He turned.

“Would you please open the curtains for me?”

Sighing irritably, H.H. turned to the windows. Wedderburn had
tossed his hat on the bed and was removing his gloves. He
opened the curtains and looked out at the city.

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“I‟d like to ask you about one of your other patrons staying
here.” Mr. Wedderburn said, from across the room.

“Well, we do value our client privacy.”

“I‟m inquiring about a Mr. Nikola Tesla.”

H.H. turned and found that Mr. Wedderburn was standing
directly behind him.

“I‟m sorry sir. But I‟m not going to divulge our guests or their
information to you.”

Mr. Wedderburn was quiet for several long seconds. Then his
voice, now resembling a low growl, came again.

“Perhaps you‟d… reconsider.”

On the sidewalk, Tesla and Ralph flagged down a streetcar and
stepped inside. As he stepped in, Tesla turned to glance back at
the hotel. For a moment, at one of the windows, he thought he
spotted a tall figure step up and draw the drapes closed.

Ida slept soundly and awoke to a gentle knocking as well as the
breakfast she had ordered before she retired for the night. When
she went to the door, Ida found a young woman with a tray of
food. The maid came in and left it on the end table. Ida ate
absentmindedly, annoyed that Edison had so quickly left her
behind. After breakfast, she had dressed and then went to
Edison‟s suite and knocked with no answer. She had gone
downstairs and argued for several minutes with the floor staff
about his whereabouts until she was told that Edison has never
even come in last night. Something was definitely up.

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Impulsive and given to proactive decisions, she decided to make
her way from Central Station to Jackson Park riding one of the
city‟s famous “streetcars”. The city had grown tremendously in
the first years of the 1890‟s, she had read, and streetcars were
one way Chicago was dealing with the tremendous strains of
expansion. Another feature of city life in this booming
metropolis was the “bicycle revolution” she had heard about.

Everywhere men and women were travelling about on bicycles.
This revolution, in turn, had facilitated the need for concrete
roads for riding. Ida had been in New York and Philadelphia, of
course, even Paris. But none of the cities yet had the uniformity
of concrete pavement from one of the city to other, and
extending into the countryside, that Chicago had.

As she neared the streetcar station, she noticed several horse-
drawn cars pulling away with passengers - the 30 passenger
omnibuses she had seen in major city centers all the way to
Europe. Most of the horse drawn omnibuses had been removed
from Chicago streets for decades. The fire of 1871 had seen to
many deaths and a recurring equine influenza kept the city from
bringing back the practice.

Not only that, but all the manure and urine they dumped on city
streets was simply disgusting. Ida had heard that the streetcar
network in Chicago was the largest in the world and already had
replaced most of its complex cable technology with electric
traction for the upcoming Exposition. She paid her nickel and
climbed aboard the electric wonder as it pulled her south towards
Jackson Park and the World‟s Fair.

The next morning, Carrie Pitezel walked into the The Castle

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“Mr. Holmes?” she asked, looking about. Through the opaque
window of Mr. Holmes private office, she could see a shadow
moving about, so she sat down and prepared to finish the

In a few moments, the office door opened and she looked up,
smiling expectantly. The smile quickly vanished. Mr. Holmes
was standing in the doorway, without his trademark bowler. His
hair was unkempt. His shirt was dirty and stained… what was
that on his shirt? And his forehead was beaded with sweat. But
what really sent a shiver down her spine was looking into Mr.
Holmes eyes. They were bloodshot, and full of absolute rage.

Then he opened his mouth wide, in a silent scream. For the first
time, Mrs. Pitezel noticed that he was carrying something in one
hand. He raised it and she realized it was an axe. She didn‟t have
time to scream as he ran forward and brought it swinging into
her head.

Edison paced back and forth on the small stage erected at the
entrance of the Grand Court. A table had been placed on the
stage, and a number of electrical devices were placed on it. A
number of park patrons were gathered in front of the stage in the
cool morning.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I want to call your attention to a grave
danger. The danger is alternating current. My assistant Mr.
Kennelly will demonstrate the effects of alternating current upon
this poor canine.” Edison gestured to the man on stage behind
the table, with a handlebar mustache and glasses perched on the
edge of his nose. A small hound was strapped down. Arthur
rubbed the mutt‟s ears re-assuringly. Edison placed his hand on a
small device nearby.

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“This is an induction motor that Westinghouse and Mr. Tesla are
using to distribute AC current here in the Exposition. AC current
is dangerous. While my patented DC current is like a river
flowing peacefully to the sea, AC is like a raging torrent rushing
violently over a precipice. Just look at what happens when a
thousand volts of DC current are passed through this peaceful

Mr. Kennelly turns the voltage up and the dog yelps and
twitches. A moment later, he turns it off. Edison goes up to the
table and strokes the dog softly. It raises its head to lick his hand.

“You see? No harm. A little pain for a moment, but perfectly
safe.” Kennelly undoes wires to the lever and replaces them with
wires leading from an AC motor.

“Now, mothers you will want to cover your children. If there are
any squeamish hearts in the audience, you will please move
towards the back. This will not be pretty.”

Once the new wires are secured, Edison gives a nod and a
thousand volts of AC current are passed through the poor animal.
It yelps once, makes several guttural noises, and then there is the
smell of burnt hair rising from it as it kicks once and is still.

Edison turned and waved his arms to the crowd.

“A thousand volts of dangerous AC current was enough to fry
this poor animal to death. Stopped his heart cold!”

Somewhere in the audience, a young child began to wail.

“That‟s right honey. Cry for this poor animal. Mother, you better
believe you‟ll be crying for your own babies if you get near this
“death current”!”

“What is this?!” was the cry from the back of the crowd.
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“What is this you say?!” the crowd parted to reveal Nikola Tesla
standing there, face ashen. Julian Ralph was behind him, eyes
wide with expectation at this confrontation of famous inventor.
Tesla pushed his way through the crowd and stepped onto the
small stage.

“This is ridiculous! This proves nothing! This only proves Mr.
Edison hasn‟t the slightest idea how alternating current works!”

Edison pointed while smiling deliciously at the crowd.

“This is the mad inventor. The young man I took into my care,
nurtured in my laboratory, only to find him ranting on and on
about this dangerous idea.”

Tesla glared at the master inventor, but turned to the audience.

“Ladies and gentlemen, alternating current has been used for half
a century. There is nothing inherently bad about it. I have simply
improved upon it, created an alternating current motor, and
applied basic physics to distribute it!”

Seeing skeptical faces Tesla asked, “Who here is from New
York City?” Several hands went up.

“You folks, you know what it‟s like in the city. Huge strands of
hanging wires crisscrossing the city buildings, making for
dangerous conditions in rain and wind. It‟s like a massive spider
web has settled over the city. Nobody likes it.” Several nods.

“That‟s because DC current has several major drawbacks. One is
that it maintains the same level over the same line. That means,
if the power line has 110 volts, that‟s all you‟re going to get.
That, or less, because the voltage drop even at a distance of a
half mile means you can‟t really have a 110 volt lamp, you have
to have one that operates at 100 volts, but won‟t blow out at 110.

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That‟s why there are three different lines coming into some of
your homes, one for each level of voltage.”

By now, Tesla could see he was getting their attention. He
glanced over at Edison, but he had turned toward the table with
the carcass on it.

“Now, with AC, the current can be increased dramatically, so
that a power plant is not required every one to two miles, and can
be reduced and adjusted with small transformers, which can be
placed on poles at street corners, high out of view. Then, only
one line of power is required into any home.”

“Why can‟t direct current be converted the same way?” A voice
from the crowd.

“Because converting direct current would require a large rotary
converter. It would actually be more economical just to build
another power plant.”

Tesla glanced over at Edison and realized he was smiling.

“If Mr. Tesla wants people to believe that his alternating current
is so safe, then why…” holding up a copy of the Chicago Daily
News. In big bold letters above the fold, it read “EXECUTION!”
Behind Edison, his assistant Kennelly was tossing editions out
into the crowd.

Edison scrunched the paper in one hand and waved it in the air.

“This says that the state of New York has found the perfect
application for Mr. Tesla‟s so-called safe current… as an
executioner‟s tool!”

A collective gasp went up in the audience.

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Tesla was too astonished to react. Edison smiled and pointed at
the newspaper.

“A Mr. Harold Brown has built an electrocution chair for the
governor of New York. It is going to be used to kill a condemned
man, William Kemmler, today at noon.”

Edison turned toward Tesla and shouted.

“Do you know what they are calling it sir??? Being

“Mr. Edison! Shame on you!” The female voice called out from
the crowd. Edison‟s head flipped around instantly at the
recognizable voice.

Ida Tarbell stood with her arms crossed on her chest, frowning at

“Did you just abuse and torture a defenseless animal – to death –
for a demonstration?”

Edison raised his chin.

“Do you want her being Westinghoused in her kitchen?” he
shouted, pointing to a woman with two young children at her

He points to the man holding her hand.

“Or perhaps you want to see HIM executed when he goes out to
start his car with an alternating current battery?”

Ida marched up on stage and looked Edison right in the face.

“Mr. Edison,” almost shouting “have any of things happened?”

“I‟m simply protecting American standards.” Edison retorted.
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“Yeah, we already have standards!” a voice from the crowd

Ida turned to the crowd, looked it over a moment, then spoke
loudly, but evenly.

“Perhaps our national ambition to standardize ourselves has
behind it the notion that democracy means standardization. But
standardization is the surest way to destroy the initiative, to
benumb the creative impulse above all else essential to the
vitality and growth of democratic ideals.”

Then she turned and looked directly at Nikola Tesla. It was the
first moment they had ever seen one another.

Tesla stepped towards her, then turned his face to the crowd.

“There is nothing inherently dangerous about alternating current.
If you come to the Exposition demonstration, I will show you.”

“How do we know they work?” a voice shouted from the crowd.

“The motors I have built are exactly as I imagined them. I made
no attempt to improve the design, but merely reproduced the
pictures as they appeared to my vision and the operation is
always as I expect.”

Edison stepped forward.

“You see, the man is a delusional! He has no grasp of research or
theory! He has spent no time on his creations! He merely thinks
them up in his head!”

A smattering of laughter.

“If Edison had a needle to find in a haystack, he would proceed
at once with the diligence of the bee to examine straw after straw

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until he found the object of his search. I was a sorry witness of
such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would
have saved him ninety per cent of his labor.”

The father whom Edison had pointed to before, warning of
electrocution, spoke up then.

“You‟ve worked with this man?”

Edison nodded and shook his head sorrowfully.

“I contracted with this man to build an electrical motor I had
designed. I paid him a salary, and the man…” he pointed at Tesla
“the man defrauded me and brought me nothing.”

Tesla shook his head.

“He designed an electric motor? Where is it? Why has he not
built it himself? Because the motor he described CAN NOT be
built! Not yet. But when I told him I could improve his engines,
he offered me fifty thousand dollars…”

“We never had any such contract!” Edison shouted, wagging a

“We had a handshake!” The crowd gasped. “I developed twenty
four different improvements on his DC motors and when I asked
him to make good on his promise he just laughed.”

Tesla turns towards Edison who is a bit unsteady. He is not
commanding the crowd as he had moments earlier.

“He laughed and said “Tesla, you do not understand American

“Ladies and gentlemen! Ladies and gentlemen! This is all well
and good, muckraking the past. Mr. Tesla did not provide, Mr.

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Tesla did not get paid. What is REAL is what is in front of you

Mr. Kennelly had unstrapped the canine from the table and was
now holding it in his arms. He came around from behind the
table, holding the dead animal.

“This is the result of AC current encountering a live animal. If it
was you, madam, “ Edison pointed to a woman at the front of the
crowd “or you sir” a man off to the side “or one of your
children” he said the crowd at large “this is what the end result
will look like.”

The crowd starts muttering and nodding to each other.

Tesla was about to step forward and start to protest again but a
hand tugged on his shirt. He turned and found the concerned and
calm face of Ida Tarbell.

“It doesn‟t matter.” She pulled on his arm and he moved away
from the growing clamor of the crowd with her.

“There he goes!” Edison shouted, pointing. “President Cleveland
has taken it under advisement about the dangers of being around
this AC energy and getting Westinghoused,” a smatter of
laughter “and may not show up for the Columbus Exposition!”
Groans from the audience. “Telegram your Congressmen and
Senators! Tell them we need safe, reliable General Electric
energy for the Exposition!”

More applause from the crowd.

Stepping down from the stage, Tesla brusquely removed Ida‟s
hand from his jacket and turned around, glaring at Edison.

“Thank you madam, but I will tell you I do not require any
assistance. Please do not worry yourself on my account.”
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As Ida watched, Tesla stomped off and got about ten yards
before stopped by another man. These two had a heated
discussion, with Tesla grabbing the mans notebook and hurling it
into a nearby crowd. The man shook his fist at Tesla and ran off.
Tesla just stood there a moment, trembling with anger. She made
her move.

Stepping up to Tesla, Ida raised her chin and announced herself.

“Mr. Tesla, my name is Ida Tarbell. I am a journalist.”

“I have had enough of journalists, madam.” Tesla said, holding
up the newspaper. He moved around her. This time, she did not
block his way, but raised her voice after him.

“You don‟t understand. I accompanied Mr. Edison on his
journey here from New York. My research is into how much Mr.
Edison really “invents” or does he buy, steal and cajole
inventions from men of lesser means, such as yourself.”

Tesla stopped and looked back at her, then towards the stage.

“Who did you say you worked for?” Eyes twinkling now. An
edge of idea crossing his face.

Ida smiled and raised her chin proudly.

“McClure‟s Mr. Tesla. We‟re the first “syndicated” newspaper in
the country.”

Mr. Pitezel showed up at The Castle with his three children
Alice, Nellie and Howard, hoping to surprise his wife with a
picnic with the children. They entered the 63rd street door and the
children immediately ran for the office.

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“Momma!” they shouted with glee. Mr. Benjamin Pitezel stood
in the foyer a moment as the children ran into the office,
expecting his wife to emerge any moment. Several moments
went by, then the oldest, Alice, came out frowning.

“Momma‟s not there.”

“Alice!?” Mr. Pitezel called out. Upstairs there was the audible
clap of a door shutting. A look crossed Mr. Pitezel‟s face that
said he had been suspecting something and it was about to be

All three children had come out of the office and were standing
in front of their father. He kneeled down and smiled at them.

“Why don‟t you go into the drugstore and get yourself some
candy… OK? Whatever you want. Two pieces each.”

The kids gasped with joy.

Mr. Pitezel held up two fingers.

“Just two. Deal?”

The children nodded and ran into the hallway and into the back
leading to the drugstore. Once they were out of eyesight,
Mr.Pitezel‟s gaze returned to the second floor, and his eyes
blazed with anger and betrayal.

Slowly, deliberately, he made his way up the side staircase,
never taking his eyes from the second floor hallway, waiting for
his wife to appear.

On the second floor, he stopped at the entry way and listened. He
heard creaking floorboards clearly from the left and stepped

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“Alice?” he called out. “Alice, come out please. You‟re not
downstairs in the office. The kids are here. Please come out.”

Another bump, this time clearly from the behind the door he was
at. He tried the doorknob, then threw the door open and stepped

His face changed from angry expectation to confusion, when he
saw no one there. Then he heard water running and moved
towards the bathroom.

From behind the door, H.H. Holmes appeared, a small towel in
his hand.

Mr. Pitezel went up to the bathroom door and started to open it

“Alice?” he called again.

H.H. came up behind Mr. Pitezel and put the towel over Mr.
Pitezel‟s face while grappling with him. The two men struggled
for only a moment, and the chlorophorm began to take effect.
Just as Mr. Pitezel‟s knees started to buckle H.H. released the
towel and maneuvered Mr. Pitezel into the bathroom.

Mr. Pitezel was drowsy and confused and as he was moved
towards the bathtub his hands went out, searching for a handhold
to sit down. But at the last moment, H.H. shoved Mr. Pitezel
hard and he was propelled forward and into the tub. Mr. Pitezel‟s
last coherent observation was curiosity as to why someone was
shoving him into a half full bathtub with his clothes on.

Mr. Pitezel hit the water and then begin to writhe and scream, the
sulphuric acid melting his skin off almost immediately. The
drugging had helped to incapacitate the man enough that he only
struggled briefly before the acid melted his throat and face and

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only a gurgling hiss could be heard as the body continued to

Ida had followed Tesla across the Exposition and into the
Department of Electricity. It was a grandiose building of Italian
Renaissance. The south entrance was a magnificent open
vestibule topped with a half dome. Everywhere Ida looked, she
could see bulb lamps and electric illumination devices.

“This is magnificent, Mr. Tesla.”

The anger and severity of Nikola‟s features seemed to wash
away almost instantly.

“Our power is being derived from a waterfall over a hundred
miles away. Up above, we had a Nuremberg firm install
searchlights of the greatest magnitude. When the first evening‟s
demonstration begins, they will light up the sky and the
surrounding city like nothing anyone has ever seen.”

He looked at Ida.

“A nobleman gave a ball forty miles away, it‟s said, and the light
for the dancers was supplied by just one of these lamps.”

He waved towards a building inside the great electrical hall.
“This is a villa we have constructed with all of the modern
electrical devices known.”

Ida was awestruck as Nikola led her up the steps of the front
porch of the building and pushed a button. The front door slid

“Push a button, and the door opens. There is a button in the
doorframe of every room in the house.”
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Amazed, she stepped through the threshold into the front hall.
Tesla pushed another button on the wall, and the entire hall lit

“Push a button and all the lights come on in the hall. There is an
identical button in every room of the house. There is no stairway,
as the electric elevator will carry us to the second floor, quicker

Ida looked up and around, amazed.

“Burglar alarms on all the doors and windows.” He stopped in
front of a large speaker hung in a corner of the ceiling.

“This will play music from a symphony in New York, playing
live while the exhibition goes on, and transmitted by the phone

“It‟s amazing Mr. Tesla.” Ida whispered.

“Some ten million people will visit the Electrical Building
during the Exposition. My experiments will be the talk of the

“So you aren‟t worried about Mr. Edison and his…” she pointed
back out the door “grandstanding?”

“People may hear what they want to believe. But they will not be
able to deny their eyes.” With a key from his pocket, Tesla
opened a small hidden hatch next to a light-switch. Inside was
another button. He pushed it. Instantly, the lights in the hall went
out, and for a moment they were in complete darkness. Then the
lights in the villa came on and Ida could see the brightness and
brilliance the illumination brought to every room

“My electricity will bring life to the night.”

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“But will it really change people‟s lives?”

Tesla smiled.

“Let me show you what it has done for Chicago already.”

Amongst the many magnificent buildings such as the Gallery of
Fine Arts and the Woman‟s Building, Ida and Nikola walked
slowly. Tesla glanced at Ida several times, admiringly, but when
she finally turned her face towards his, he looked away and then

“The electricity we provide from 100 miles away powers the
mass transit trains running throughout the city. Chicago is
growing and someday the heart of the city will have to be

“All of America is turning from agriculture to the city.” Ida said,

“Men – and women – are studying it. When it is accomplished,
the entire center of the city will likely be connected by a circular
train route, elevated above the street.” Tesla stopped and looked
into the sky a moment, imagining.

“There are thousands of engineers and construction workers
living and working on the grounds of the Exposition. They work
in two separate shifts, to get the work done faster. They work at
night because of electricity delivered by my power plants.”

They crossed a bridge over one of the Exhibition grounds many
winding waterways and Tesla stopped, looking into the water.

“The gondolas imported from Venice that navigate these
waterways will be run on tracks and pushed with small motors
run by my electricity.”

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They walked along the six mile fence ringing the Exposition,
talking little. Occasionally, Tesla would simply start talking.

“When I was a child, my first invention was a method for
catching frogs. It went well until I taught other boys how to
catch them, and the next summer we devastated the frog
population.” Tesla smiled. “Then my next invention was first
attempt at using nature to serve man. In my hometown, there was
an annual infestation of june-bugs. I attached several june-bugs
to a spindle, which in turn was attached to a wheel. With a
simple initial spin of the cross piece, the june-bugs would
continue spinning and spinning, for hours and hours.”

Ida smiled at this.

“As the spindle would spin the “wheel”, I had a continuous
supply of power. Then I observed a neighbor boy one afternoon.
He went out to one of the bushes and started eating the june-bugs
like they were candy.”

A look of dismay crossed Ida‟s face and Nikola shuddered.

“That was the end of my june-bug experiment. I haven‟t been
able to touch an insect since.” Ida laughed and a sincere look of
appreciation came over Nikola‟s face for the first time.

“So I gave up my passion of perpetual motion and focused on
mechanical flight.”

“How did that go?”

“Well, at the age of ten I leapt from a tall building with an
umbrella.” Ida gasped. “Not so well.” Tesla nodded and they
both laughed. “That‟s when I started reading the early works of
Mark Twain. Twenty five years later I met the man and told him
the same story. He laughed too.”

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“You know Mr. Clemens?”

“Quite well. We were together just two days ago. I showed him
around New York City in my electric mobile.”

Ida shook her head in wonder. Suddenly, there was a great crash
from beyond the fence and they both turned to look.

A steam powered truck and an electric train had collided at an
intersection. There were several people lying in the street and
people running to help.

“Oh my goodness!” said Ida.

“Look there.” Tesla said, pointing down the street. A patrolman
on foot was running towards the accident. He stopped at a utility
pole on the corner and opened a box.

“See there. The city of Chicago is the first city to utilize
electricity for communication between police stations and
patrolmen on duty. Help might take a long time to arrive if this
were any other city.”

As they watched, the patrolman hung up and raced over to the
scene of the accident, helping a wounded bus passenger lying
beside the wreck. Within a couple of moments, a wagon-load of
policemen were driving up to the spot and leaping out.

“That‟s what electricity does for the city, everyday.”

Having circled part of the Exposition, they were now within
sight of the Electricity Building once again.

“I will show you my workshop. You can see how much time and
effort goes into making the improvements in life.”

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As they walked into the building, Tesla paused in his stride.
None of the lights were on.

“Something is wrong.” Tesla muttered.

Indeed it was. Inside, there were no workers working. There was
no building going on. In a far corner, there were several men,
two on ladders, and they appeared to dismantling several of the
displays. Several more men were standing beneath them,
watching. Tesla strode up to them angrily.

“What is going on here?”

One of the men who turned was Thomas Edison, who smiled
triumphantly. Without answering, he turned back towards the
workmen on the ladder, pointing at every electrical display
within their reach.

“Take them down. All of them. They all have to go.”

“What is the meaning of this?!” Tesla demanded loudly.

John P Barrett, Executive of the Electrical Department, turned to

“Mr. Nikola Tesla, I‟m afraid we have to shut the exhibit down.
In light of this, the board is re-examining the contract with
Westinghouse and will likely take different action.”

“Why do you have to shut the exhibit down?” Ida asked.

Edison turned at the sound of the voice and scowled.

Mr. DH Burnham, Chief of Construction, was also among the
men, and he answered.

“Because Mr. Tesla is using light bulbs manufactured by General
Electric in his exhibits, and he had no authorization to do so.”
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“We bought most of them in the public warehouse months ago!
Since when do we need permission to use light bulbs anyone can
purchase?!” Tesla was almost shouting now. Edison smiled

John Barrett put an arm around Nikola‟s shoulder and turned him
away from the group.

“Look, Nikola, I don‟t like this any better than you do. It isn‟t
right and it isn‟t fair. But Mr. Edison objects to you using Edison
bulbs in your exhibit. And…” he looked over his shoulder to
make sure they were just out of earshot and then, whispered “and
if he doesn‟t get his way, General Electric has threatened to
revoke the electricity for rest of the city of Chicago!”

John Barrett stopped and looked directly into Tesla‟s eyes.

“Now, most of our customers are still DC customers. Can you
promise to provide them with power if GE makes good on his

Tesla thought about it a moment, then his features dropped.

“No, I can‟t. Not overnight. Given a couple of months I could do
it, but…”

“Then I‟m sorry Nikola. There‟s nothing I can do.”

Barrett turned from Nikola and motioned to several workmen
and pointed them to the other side of the building.

“Take them all down.”

Ida came up to Tesla.

“We can‟t let them do this.”

Tesla shrugged.
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“I don‟t know what else we can do. Edison threatened to pull the
power on the entire city.”

“Well, what if you don‟t use his light bulbs?” she said louder.

Mr. DH Burnham laughed at this and turned to her.

“Madam, there are no other light bulbs.” Then he turned to
Edison and the two laughed as they chatted.

“Wait.” Said Tesla. “What if I did?”

“If what, Nikola?” Barrett asked, turning.

“What if I used different light bulbs?”

“What do you mean?” Barrett waved towards the workmen on
the ladders, and they paused.

“I will build a new light bulb. And we will use them in the
exhibition. Not Edison light bulbs.”

“What‟s going on? Why are they stopping?” Edison growled, as
he and Burnham came over.

“Mr. Tesla says he will use his own light bulbs in his

Edison snorted. “Impossible.”

“Can‟t be done.” Said Mr. Burnham.

“Why not?” asked Ida.

“He would have to have a new bulb invented in time to replace
all of the light bulbs in the entire hall. Tomorrow, I am going
before the board and telling them that the exhibit contract will
have to be granted to Mr. Edison by forfeit.”

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Edison smiled. “What, are you going to have a new bulb by then

Tesla nodded. “I will.”

“That is stupid and underhanded Mr. Burnham.” Ida scowled.
“You could give Mr. Tesla more time than that. It will take much
more time than that to dismantle this entire exhibit hall and
replace it with Mr. Edison‟s.”

Mr. Burnham‟s face burned with anger at Ida, and he turned to

“You have until 8am tomorrow morning Mr. Tesla to present a
new light bulb.”

“And it can‟t be a copy of mine. I‟ll tie you up in litigation.”
Edison pointed his finger at Tesla.

Then Edison and Burnham laughed and walked away together,
and Mr. Barrett came over to Ida and Tesla.

“Well, I can buy you time until the morning Mr. Tesla. I don‟t
really expect you to be able to do anything about it of course. I
really am sorry.”

He turned to the workmen and waved them off.

“Come back tomorrow!”

The workmen climbed down and carried away their ladders, and
Ida and Tesla stood there, saying nothing.

Finally, Ida asked. “What now?”

Tesla shrugged. “Now I invent a new light bulb.”

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In his workshop later, Tesla has a myriad of devices and
equipment scattered around on his tables. Ida has fallen asleep
on a nearby couch and opens her eyes sleepily.

“What, are you going to work all night? What about sleep? A

“No time to sleep. I don‟t return to my room in the evenings
anyway. I stay here.” He looks around the room at the variety of
electrical luminescent displays. “I stay around my lights and my

Ida shakes her head.

“You are a strange man.” She sits up and comes to stand next to
Tesla as he works.

“How are you going to create a light bulb overnight? I just was
thinking out loud.”

“Anything is possible. Look…” he turns to her. “Edison set his
mind to creating light from heat. He needed the proper
combination of elements, filaments and vacuum to do it. And, as
he said, he came up with 900 ways NOT to make a light bulb
before he did it.”

“So what does that mean? You‟re going to have to make 900
experiments before you find another?”

“No. It means, he had decided he wanted to make light from
heat. He decided that was how he was going to do it, and he
eventually did it. I don‟t have to do that. I just have to create
light. It doesn‟t have to be from heat.”

“So how else can you create light?”

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“I don‟t know. I usually seek some form of inspiration at this
point. I walk the countryside. I immerse myself in nature. But I
don‟t have the time for that now.”

Ida yawned sleepily.

“Well, I am sure you will think of something, genius.”

“Yes, but what is it. What else besides heat could create that kind
of effect?”

Ida rubbed her eyes and turned away, then turned back.

“I will stay with you until figure it out.”


Ida leaned in and gave him a quick peck on the cheek, turned and
laid back down on the couch.

Tesla had frozen. His hand moved steadily up to touch his cheek
where she had kissed him and straightened up.

“… a chemical reaction.”

“Wake up! Wake up! We‟ve got to hurry. Got to go!”
Ida‟s snapped open. It was still dark outside. Tesla‟s back was to
her and he was scooping wires and tubes with one hand, into a
box his other arm was wrapped around. He had a long white lab
coat on.

“What‟s going on?”

Tesla turned around and it was then that she saw that he was
wearing nothing under his lab coat but a pair of long johns that
ran from shoulder to feet. Ida‟s hands covered her mouth.
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“On? I‟ll tell you what‟s on!” He raised his arms outstretched
above him, the box clattering to the floor. “Pictures!
Information! Energy!”

The group of men stopped at the south entrance of the Electricity
Building. Mr Barrett pulled the stopwatch out of his pocket.

“Now in all fairness gentlemen, we have more than an hour
before the board meeting. We agreed to give Mr. Tesla as much
time as possible. I am not going to deny him that. If he requires
time to perform a test, and make a case, I am going to give it to

Thomas Edison looked at Mr. Burnham and the two men
exchanged exasperated glances, but both nodded before Mr.
Barrett opened the entrance and they went inside, followed by a
half a dozen workmen. Beneath an open skylight on one side of
the vast building which covered 50,000 square feet of open
space, Nikola Tesla stood in the midst of a vast array of wires
and globes which shined with blue electricity. Even more
spectacular were the waves of electricity which bounced in and
around Tesla, and between the bulbs themselves. The metal
panel before him moved slowly from side to side. On the other
side of the building, a second machine of equal size was also
slowly rotating in sync with Tesla‟s machine.

Mr. Barrett, Mr. Burnham and Mr. Edison all slowly approached
the incredible sight, getting as close as they dared to Tesla and
the amazing electric spectacle. Then all at once, the dancing
lights stopped.

Tesla stepped out from the center of the machine, noticed the
three men, and smiled.

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“You may close the aperture now!” he shouted up into the
rafters. The three men looked up and there was Ida on a metal
walkway, yanking on a rope that brought down a counter lever
and closed the skylight door with a thump.

Tesla walked up to Mr. Burnham, grasped his hand and shook it
fiercely. He even gave Edison a slap on the shoulder.

“Gentlemen, you are here for it. It‟s amazing. It‟s fantastic. It
changes everything!”

Tesla rushed away over to a desk. He turned on the shaded lamp
and began to scribble on some loose papers.

“Oh, Mr. Edison, how good of you to come.” Ida called out from
the catwalk, as she began to descend the ladded to the building

 “Miss, that is a terribly dangerous place. Don‟t move!” Mr.
Barrett called out. He motioned to several workmen and waved
them hurriedly to go help her out. They ran up beside the ladder,
but Ida paused halfway down.

“I thank you very much sir, but I am more than capable.” She
looked at the workmen. “Don‟t touch,” she said, climbing all the
way down the ladder.

Mr. Barrett brought his attention back to Nikola Tesla who was
sitting down at the desk scribbling madly.

“Nikola, it‟s almost time.” Without looking up, Tesla said “Yes,
it is!” and shot up from his chair and ran over to the second

As Ida came to stand near the three men, Tesla furiously worked
at several large bolt latches which held the machines two halves
in place. Finally, the last bolt was moved aside and with a snap
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the machine separated. Apparently on some kind of rollers, Tesla
wheeled one half aside to reveal a massive mechanical aperture
with a rounded point on the end of its thin “arm”.

Tesla wheeled the second half around to reveal a life size
photographic plate. On it, was clearly etched the visage of
Nikola Tesla, right down to the ribbing in his socks and his
distinguishing ears.

“Gentlemen, the future.”

Mr. Burnham spoke up first. “What are we looking at?”

Tesla beamed. “It was the brush discharge! When I realized it
reacted to the smallest effects, even my presence effected
change, I realized those effects could be measured. But wireless.
It had to be wireless.” He held up a wagging finger. “I don‟t
know why it had to be wireless!” Shaking his head, Tesla turned
back toward his desk and ran to it, opening another notebook.

“What the hell does this have to do with anything!!??” Edison

Mr. Barrett stepped forward and leaned over Nikola.

“Nikola?” Tesla didn‟t respond. “Nikola!”

Tesla looked up, his eyes wide. He threw his hands up in the air,
causing Mr. Barrett to jump back.

“It‟s frictionless! Without inertia!”

Mr. Burnham stepped forward. “Mr. Tesla, what in the name of
the good Lord almighty are you talking about?” Pointing to the
imprinted image Tesla had created. “What is that?”

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Tesla laughed. “That? That was the first successful telegraphy
transmission of a human image. No wires. In the same manner
any picture, character, drawing, or print can be transferred from
place to place.”

Tesla stood up, his eyes drifting upward in exhultation. “We
could transmit matter. We must liberate thought from its
limitations imposed by space and time, and yet keep its
characteristics. This will be possible in the next decade!”

There was a moment of silence and then Edison laughed out

“I told you he was a lunatic! Do you seriously want your exhibit
in the hands of this man?”

Mr. Barrett stepped forward, but Ida spoke up.

“Nikola, they‟re asking you about the light bulb.” Tesla looked
at her.

“Yes, of course. The bulb. That was the key! When I constructed
the bulb with no lead-in wires, it was at this point I noticed
something amazing about the brush discharge…” But Mr.
Barrett cut him off.

“Yes, Nikola, that is all well and good. But we are here about the
bulb you promised. Do you have it?”

“Do I have it? Of course I have it!” Nikola waved his arms in
demonstration.”When I have a wireless bulb, the discharge
moves the closer I get! It moves to the opposite edge of the
globe. When I circle the bulb the brush moves in direct contrast
to my presence. It is a beam of light!” He held out his hands.

“WHERE IS IT?!” Mr. Burnham shouted, exasperated. Ida tried
to conceal a smile with one hand.
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“Oh…” Tesla said and reached over to the lamp. It wasn‟t really
a lamp. It was just a bent rod of copper with a piece of fabric
draped over it. Nikola tossed it off, and slid the bulb out from the
aperture. It stayed on, and he held it out to Mr. Barrett.

“This is a fluorescent bulb. It isn‟t based on heat to generate
light, so very little of its energy is lost. In fact, it only costs 25%
of the power to run this light bulb than a filament bulb.”

Tesla handed the glowing tube to Mr. Barrett who took it and
then realized what he had done.

“It‟s not hot like a regular bulb!”

“Precisely.” Tesla nodded “It is a chemical reaction to the
mercury gas inside, excited by electricity. Plus, there will never
be any of that soot on the inside you see on light bulbs from the
filament dissipation and so no diminishment of light.”

Mr. Burnham stepped forward and grabbed the bulb.

“It‟s some kind of trick. There aren‟t even any wires giving this
bulb electricity. Edison, what‟s the trick?” He looked at Edison
for a way to stave off this disaster, who took it and studied it.

“I don‟t think we can seriously consider that a new light bulb.
How do we know it‟s not just a GE knock off?” Edison pointed

Tesla sighed. “First, feel it. It produces no heat. You can‟t use it
in a brooding box for poultry, or an incubator. Secondly…” he
took the bulb from Edison and screwed the sleeve cap off,
holding the pieces out. “Do you see any filament?”

Mr. Barrett smiled. “Gentlemen, I think we can take this new
bulb to the general committee and let them know that GE bulbs
will NOT be used in the Westinghouse display.”
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“This will not stand!” Edison bellowed “The world will know
alternating current is a danger to mankind!”

“Really, Mr Edison. History may be kinder to a man who
received defeat graciously.” Ida said, hands on her hips.

“Madam, there is no such thing as defeat here today. All that is
done is the delay of the inevitable. Soon, Edison electricity will
light up an entire city.” He turned to scowl at Tesla “and the mad
doctor will return to his laboratory.”

“And if he were to do it before you?” Ida inquired.

“Why… why Edison Labs would pay for your…” he swept a
hand “telegraphy experiments!”

Tesla looked as if he could hardly contain his excitement, then
made a serious, dour face, and took a step forward. “Mr. Edison,
in all seriousness, you have already failed in agreement once.”

“That‟s in dispute my boy! Not this.” He eyed the men around
him and nodded at Ida. “Respected businessmen and the press
are right here.” Edison stuck out his hand.

“I am on my way to Los Angeles on the Santa Fe. I am going to
build their street light system. The first in the world.” He cocked
his head. “Can you light up a city before me Tesla?”

Tesla looked at the outstretched hand, then nodded at his former

“I‟ll beat you to it.” Tesla declared, then turned and hurried off.

When the men were gone, Ida caught up to Tesla in a small back
office with a cot. He had a suitcase open and was throwing
clothes and documents into it haphazardly. He filled it until it

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was full to the brim then latched it shut with papers sticking out
the edges.

“Where are you going to go?”she asked.

“Colorado.” Tesla said, without looking up.

“I‟m going with you.” Ida said matter of factly.

“Ms. Tarbell, you may not find where we are going to be quite.”
He looked up at her “…accommodating.”

“I don‟t care. I have travelled from New York with the “great”
Mr. Edison, only to find him parading himself like some carnival
barker. No, there is no way I am leaving THIS story, or letting it
get away. You are stuck with me for the duration Nikola.”

Indianapolis, IN

That night, the carriage came barreling into town, the terrified
horses foaming and exhausted. Milo was standing on the roof of
the carriage as the driver yanked back the reins and the carriage
came to a sudden halt in front of the telegraph office. The little
man stepped from the roof, hit the sun-baked street the next
instant, and nimbly walked off as if he‟d simply stepped off a
curb, not hit the ground from more than eight feet up.

He turned to the driver.

“Gear a fresh team immediately.” He glanced at the exhausted
black beauties that had been pushed to the limit, their flanks
spasming in “thumps” from the exertion.

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“Shoot them if you have to.” He said, and turned and went into
the telegraph office in his crooked, bent-walk way.

At the window, he passed over several coins and the messenger
handed over a message that had been waiting for him since the



Grand Central Hotel

The steam powered carriage came to a halt in front of the hotel
and a passenger door opened. The sun was barely peeking above
the horizon, but a bellhop came running up quickly, then stood
there confused as no one emerged for several moments.

„Ida, I implore you. You do not understand the gravity and the
dangers of continuing on. The elements are harsh, the risks are
high and… there are things I just can‟t explain right now.”

“Mr. Tesla…” Ida began icily. “I do not know whom you think
you are speaking to, but I am a national muckraker for McClure
magazine. I have covered Paris, Rome and Mexico City. I have
travelled more miles than a dozen people in their lifetimes. You
are NOT leaving me out of this!”

“Dear Miss Tarbell. I have no doubt about your tenacity, or your
perspicacity for that matter. There are simply things you do not

“Then explain them to me.”

“I cannot! You simply have to take my word.”

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“Which I simply cannot do,” Ida shook her head. “I am a
reporter. That is what I do. I will do it with or without you. It
seems to me if you are unduly concerned about the gravity of
what is to come, I should be as nearby as possible.”

Tesla sighed.

“Is that not correct Mr. Tesla?”

Tesla shook his head.

“Good, then it‟s settled. I‟m following you. How closely behind
is your choice.”

Ida leaned toward the open door.

“My name is Ida Tarbell. Please have my bags fetched from my

The bellhop nodded and went off quickly.

“Ida, we are going to be travelling through some rough and
dangerous territory. There are still Apaches attacking trains in
some of the open country we‟re going to cross. Not only that, but
Telluride is a bank robbing, gunfighter town. Butch Cassidy
stole from the bank in town just last year.”

Ida crossed her arms and looked at Nikola, then raised her
eyebrows and shrugged.

Tesla sighed.

Just then, there was a knock on the side of the carriage. This
time, it was a concierge. He was an older, more distinguished
man than the young bellhops, in a coat and tie.

“Excuse me, you ARE Miss Ida Tarbell?” the concierge asked
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“Why… yes, that‟s correct.” Ida responded, puzzled.

The gentleman handed over a small envelope with white gloved

“There was a telegram for you this morning. We‟ve been waiting
for you to return. It‟s marked urgent.”

Ida opened the telegram and read it quickly.





Ida looked up, her eyes narrowing.

“Of all the miserable, interfering…”

“Is everything alright?” Tesla asked.

“Mr. Tesla, I have to send a telegram.” A bellhop came out the
door carrying her bags. “Put them on the roof with others,” she
said, pointing, then turned back to Tesla.

“I won‟t be more than a couple of minutes. I must send a
telegram to New York in response.”

Tesla nodded and Ida stepped out of the steam powered carriage
and through the Grand Central Hotel doors. Once she was inside,
Tesla leaned out of the carriage and rapped on the side of the
carriage to get the bellhops attention.

“Take them down.”

He turns to the driver.
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“Take us by The Castle. I have some bags left there. Quickly
now!” He pulls back his sleeve to reveal the pocket watch tied
to his arm with string everyone finds so odd. “We have a train to

Most of the goods that comprise the fabric of modern life now
reach most Americans west of the Mississippi via boxcar. The
material with which their houses and apartments are constructed,
their furniture, automotive parts, and the luxuries and necessities
of life all reach individual homes and business via the railroad.
The No.39 from Chicago to Kansas City is preparing for its
launch and it seems to be a kind of ordered chaos. Bedlam with
purpose. A luxury passenger car is being attached to the rear of
the train, with figures swarming over, around and under her.

The locomotive is currently finishing a long drink under a water
crane. The gauges, levers and gadgets gleam in the incandescent
light of Edison bulbs. The throttle levers, the air-brake
equipment and the injector and stoker valves are all checked and
double checked. The fireman starts work on his fire, building up
the body to meet the roaring exhaust that will propel the beast
across the vast American landscape.

When Thomas Edison and John Randolph arrived at the depot in
the cool dawn, a couple of car-men were oiling the journal boxes
that lubricate the bearings of the axles. They were using three
foot long wooden paddles to straighten the pads that lube the

An older gentleman with a thick moustache, likely a foreman,
approached the two men wiping oily gloves on his overalls.

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“I was checking out the cars and noticed at one of the flat cars
the coupler was all the way up against the Buffer Casting, and I
thought, here is a broken Yoke, or the rear Draft stops are gone.”

Edison and Randolph looked at each other.

“Shouldn‟t take that long to fix.”

Edison nodded and the two men stepped to the back of the
platform and sat down as the foreman went back to the train.

“You know Randolph, I can remember the early days of train
travel, as a young boy. In those days, trains weren‟t the Pullman
Palace cars we enjoy today. In those days, most trains were just
platforms on wheels, with stagecoach bodies chained to them.”

Randolph nodded. “I remember sir. They weren‟t coupled
together as they are today, but chained.”

Edison chuckled. “The train would start up and the jerk that
came when the cars started to move was so sharp that everyone‟s
hat would fly off.”

Randolph laughed, completing the thought. “And when it
stopped, people would go flying over their seats!”

“They opened their umbrellas because the smoke and soot were
so thick coming from the engine.” Edison mused.

“And after the first couple of miles, they were all pitched
overboard because the sparks from the soot had lit them all on

“When they got off people were slapping each other and their
children, putting out the fires on their clothing.”

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When the foreman came back over to the two men, he found
them nearly doubled over with laughter and wiping their eyes.
His expression brought Edison up short and his brow furrowed.

“What‟s the problem now?” Edison barked, taking Randolph by
surprise. The next laugh in the bookkeeper‟s throat died in a
choked gurgle.

“A lineman called from just outside Joliet. A rear coach caught
fire and they detached it from the rest of the line. It was allowed
to burn.”

“Well, how long will it take to clear the track?” Edison asked,
coming to his feet.

“Well, I‟ve got to get some of my boys together and get them out
there. Can‟t do that until they get back from their rounds.
Probably can‟t set them to work until after lunchtime. Could be
several hours more before the track is cleared.” The foreman
cleared his throat nervously.

“And?” Edison prompted.

“Well, it appears that workers went back and already attempted
to move the car to a siding.” The man looked between the
increasingly agitated Edison and the bookkeeper. “The fire
appears to have weakened some of the cars structure,
exacerbating what may have already been a defective axle. The
car is stuck on the tracks several miles from the nearest siding.”

“Can‟t we push it off the tracks?” Edison groaned, waving his

The foreman nodded. “Yes sir. But we‟re going to need some
additional equipment to do that. A handful of men will never be

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able to tilt the car off the tracks. Even if we could, it would still
be a danger to a passing engine.”

Randolph came to his feet.

“Can‟t we put our train on another track? There must be more
than one way to get to California!”

The foreman looked down at the ground thoughtfully, then
turned and went into the car foreman‟s office and retrieved a
clipboard from the wall. He began thumbing through several
sheets, talking to himself out loud as he walked back toward the
two men and checking his pocket watch.

“We could put you on the Cleveland St Louis route, but you‟d
have to move to a spur in Indianapolis to make way for the
Sunbeam on its way back here. But if we get you started, you‟d
have at least an hour to spare.”

“And from Indianapolis?” Edison asked impatiently.

“Then we put you on the Louisville, New Albany and Chicago
all way to St Louis.” Checked his pocket watch again.

Edison sighed in frustration, gesturing with his hands in “come
on” gesture.

“We get you to St Louis by lunchtime, then we put you on the
Atlantic and Pacific line on through to Kansas City early in the
morning…” he flipped a couple of pages again, then pulled his
watch out of his coat to check it a third time, “where you can
pick up the Santa Fe track in the morning. You‟ll go through
New Mexico and on to Los Angeles to finish the journey as
planned and on time.”

The foreman looked back and forth at Edison and Randolph, as if
waiting for a sign. Edison suddenly clapped his hands together in
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a dramatic, single gesture. “Well, waste is worse than loss

As Tesla‟s carriage approached The Castle at the corner of S.
Wallace and W. 63rd Street, the driver pulled up sharply and
slowed. This caused Tesla to lean out of the window to see what
the problem was. His face hardened and his eyes darkened when
he saw several constable wagons sitting in the street in front of
the Hotel.

“Pull up in front. I don‟t think I‟ll be getting out but I want to
find out what is going on.” He spoke out to the driver. Several
steam driven vehicles were taking extra time getting around the
policeman in the street directing foot and vehicle traffic around
the police vehicles.

When Tesla‟s carriage pulled up in front of the Castle, a
policeman walked toward the conveyance, motioning his arms in
a circular gesture. Tesla leaned out the window.

“I have a room here. What‟s going on?”

“We‟ve had a murder sir. Several murders as a matter of fact.
The inn-keep‟s gone quite mad it would seem. What was your
name sir?”

“Nikola Tesla.”

“Ah yes sir. Your things are in your room but they will need to
remain in our custody for the time being - until we can find the
madman, that is.”

When Tesla did not respond to this, and the policeman noticed
Tesla was just staring up at the building, he went on.

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“Nothing damaged sir. No worries about that. But it seems like
the blood-soaked bloke spent a good deal of time in your room,
going through your stuff.” The police officer took a handkerchief
out of his pocket and blew into it. “You going to wait around for

Tesla looked down at the officer, then back up at the Hotel and
the corners of his mouth twitched noticeably.

“No. I‟ll come back for them.”

“Right then, sir. If you could… move this buggy along?”

Tesla craned his neck to look up towards the driver.

“Take me to Central Station.”

Suddenly, an open three-penny carriage darted in front of them
and Tesla looked out and then closed his eyes with a sigh. Ida
Tarbell stood up in the carriage, looking defiant, and marched
heavy-footed over to Tesla. He made no move to open the door
for her after a moment, and so she opened the door herself.

As Tesla opened his eyes to look out the window, he saw the
driver of the three-penny tossing her bags up to the driver and

He could feel her looking at him and then she spoke.

“Really, Mr. Tesla. Did you think it would be that easy to shake

“I entirely prayed so, madam. For your sake.”

Ida leaned out and rapped her open palm on the side of the
carriage in a manner that made several female onlookers gasp.

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“Let‟s go for lord‟s sake! We haven‟t got all day… we have
history to make!”

Across the street, on the roof of the Chicago City Bank and
Trust, a figure stood watching. Wearing blue jeans and a wide
brim Stetson, the figure was unremarkable, as were the six guns
on each hip. But as Tesla‟s carriage rode north toward Central
Station, the figure crossed the roof and leaped from the two story
rooftop only to emerge a moment later on the back of an
enormous white steed. He came from the alley behind 63rd and
turned south at a gallop, never looking back.

The No.1 Chicago-Denver on the Burlington line sat ready and
waiting to go on a side spur just outside Downers Grove . The
combination buffet-smoker-library car that also featured a barber
shop was behind a baggage and mail car, and Tesla‟s personal
coach brought up the rear.

A steam locomotive consists of basically two different parts,
where a huge boiler sits atop a set of wheels. The purpose of the
boiler is to generate steam which is then converted into power to
rotate the wheels which support the boiler. At the rear of the
boiler is the firebox, where fuel is consumed to produce hot gas.
The hot gas in turn travels through steel tubes which heat the
water next to them. The water turns to steam and passes into the
throttle component, driving the motion of the train. When the hot
gas vents through the stack and into the air, it also creates a
vacuum effect which draws more hot gas from the firebox in
behind it. In effect, the hotter it gets, the more steam created and
vented, the faster the process can get. There are such devices as a
release valve on top of the boiler should the pressure get too

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high, and a steam powered electricity generator for running
lights and other equipment on the train.

The Cannonball was the archetype steam locomotive, with the
outline of locomotives which would be preserved for
generations. It had an extended wheelbase, which allowed for a
wider boiler that extended beyond the width of the wheels. This
gave them increased steam and heating capacity which gave
them increased power.

“It‟s called the Wabash Cannonball.” Tesla said as he and Ida
stepped from the carriage. And it was a site to behold.

“And it‟s waiting for us?” Ida asked, amazed.

“It‟s a 4-4-0. It‟s certainly not a more modern model. But it will
suffice our purposes. It was the best Westinghouse could do on
the notice I gave him. It‟s under contract with the Great Western
Railway of Illinois and it‟s coming back with a load of some
lovely Colorado sandstone and zinc ore I am told. Under the
circumstances, I am happy to have anything more than a hand-

He smiled at Ida, who stuck her tongue out at him.

“Still angry, even though I had your interests at heart.” Tesla
said, as he started walking toward the train.

“A decision which I am more than capable of making on my
own, I might remind you. Cross country travel is something
women have been doing for more than half a century!”

Tesla put a hand on the handle in front of the stairs to his coach,
then turned to Ida.

“If marauding Indians and train robbers are all we have to brave
Miss Tarbell, we shall be very lucky indeed.”
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 “What else would we have to be afraid of sir? Derailment? I
know the risks!” She huffed, sniffed the air, and followed.

Tesla and Ida walked by the engine as the engineer was checking
the gauges to make sure there was enough steam pressure, as jets
of white vapor escaped from gaskets and vents. It hissed like an
angry serpent. The conductor stepped from the dining car and
motioned to them.

“Time to go, sir!” he shouted over the hissing steam.

Ida glanced across the clearing at the main track, where a first
class car would ostensibly be passing by. A makeshift hut about
8 foot by 8 foot and missing its fourth wall stood, creaking
slightly to one side. Under and around its shingled canopy was a
large family, or several families, of Russian Mennonites on their
way to join hundreds or thousands of their countrymen on the
plains of Nebraska.

A porter appeared silently, carrying their bags from the carriage
and disappeared inside. Ida followed Nikola onto his personal
car and stepped inside. It was a stripped down Pullman Palace
Car. It had the normal oversized windows and deep-cushioned
sofas but only four of them, whereas the average Palace car had
ten or twelve. The sofas each had their own table and lamps. The
trimmings were gold-leaf, and electric bulbs burned brightly
every few feet. There were two luxury berths, each had been
extended from the normal 6 feet three inches long to more than
eight feet long and two deluxe windows. But two-thirds of the
car had been transformed into a small version of a Tesla

There was an oscillating machine, a magnifying transmitter, a
small Tesla coil, a table with dozens of different bulbs and tubes,
a small machine shop with a lathe and even an electric generator.

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In a far corner sat a strange looking device, a gun like apparatus
with electric cables connected to the generator.

“A symbol of American manufacturing supremacy, wouldn‟t you
say?” Tesla asked Ida, smiling.

Ida nodded, then cocked her head slightly. She noticed a gun
case and a stuffed turkey on the wall above one worktable.

“What is that about?”

Tesla saw what she was looking at and smiled.

“Mr. Westinghouse kindly converted this car into one suitable
for my uses, but it is actually one that he uses as a mobile
hunting lodge. I believe the last time he used it was on the
Dakota prairie last year.”

Ida looked at him and he shrugged, then pointed.

“Underneath one of those tables is a kennel and a small
refrigerator they used for game.”

Ida sank into one of the plush couches and let out a heavy breath,
looking out the window at the passing scene for a moment.

Nikola removed his necktie and laid it over the back of the sofa,
before slipping out of his shoes. He too sank down into the
comfortable sofa and leaned his head back, eyes closed.

“Did you know that this Chicago Burlington line has historical
implications in the Supreme Court?” Ida said, out loud.

Tesla opened his eyes and his head came up.

“Last year, Cook County petitioned the courts to have a right of
way owned by the Chicago-Quincy-Burlington line and
surrounding properties condemned. The land was condemned,
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and the railroad was awarded a dollar for its right of way. It
wasn‟t using it. Wasn‟t going to use it.”

“A dollar.” Tesla said, confused.

“Precisely. The railroad appealed. The Supreme Court held that
the Fourteenth Amendment‟s Due Process required that the
“takings clause” of the Fifth Amendment be applied. The first
time the court has ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment requires
applying the Bill of Rights to the states.”

“So the railroad won its appeal.”

Ida shrugged.

“Not exactly. While the court recognized the “takings clause” –
and the rest of the Bill of Rights - as applying to the states, it also
ruled that the dollar the railroad received was just compensation.
Basically, it means that someday, if a city wants to come along
and find a better use for your home or your land than what you
are using it for, it can take it. Unless something happens and
people change the laws in their own states, no one‟s home or
property is really safe.”

The train shuddered as it began to move. Steam from the boilers
entered the steam chest. The high pressure steam pushes a piston
back, driving the locomotive wheels around one half turn. At the
end of the piston stroke, the valve shifts, allowing the remaining
steam to vent through a valve port. High pressure steam is vented
then to the back end of the cylinder, pushing the piston forward
and bringing the wheels around another half turn. At this end of
the second stroke, the heat is again vented, this time from the
rear of the cylinder. These two venting mechanisms produce the
“choo-choo” effect commonly associated with locomotives.

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This choo-choo sound started up slowly as the train started to
move, then progressively got faster and faster until the car was
filled with a low undulating chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga-
chugga-chugga sound. Ever present, it was either the sound of
progress or impending doom. Depending on which way you
looked at it in the hours and days ahead.


Edison and Randolph arrived in Indianapolis a short time later.
The train had pulled into the station and a rear door opened. A
boy of about eleven or twelve came rushing into the
compartment carrying a large box. He was selling newspapers,
fruit, books and cigars, soap, towels, coffee, sugar and tin

Edison and Randolph bought several of each before they moved
off the train. Two porters had been assigned expressly to them to
make sure they made the transition smoothly and they followed

When Edison finally found a foreman to confirm they had the
right platform waiting for the Louisville, New Albany and
Chicago line and that it was running on time, Edison went to find
a telephone.

“Rockefeller‟s office is keeping abreast of Mr. Tesla‟s
movements. There isn‟t a locomotive that moves that they don‟t
know about. I‟m going to find out what progress our “friend” is

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Ida realized she had nodded off and came awake with a start
when the train stopped for water and fuel. She looked around,
but Tesla was nowhere to be seen. She wandered through the
covered transom between the cars that was unique to Pullman
palace cars and into the eating and smoking lounge car. But he
was not there either.

“Have you seen Mr. Tesla, George?” she asked the first porter
she encountered.

“No ma‟am. I expect you‟ll find him sleeping in his bunk.” The
man smiled genuinely. “Not many places else to go on a train.”

Ida returned to Tesla‟s Palace car and looked in both sleeping
berths. Nikola was not in either one. Moving quicker, more
fiercely now, she strode to the rear of the car and opened the
door angrily expecting to find him standing on the rear platform.

But he was not there either. She looked around for some sign
that perhaps he had fallen. She peered out around the train, and
grimaced at the stupidity of THAT. What, would he be hanging
on the side of the train? But then she stopped. She leaned out and
looked again. On the roof of the dining car, she could just make
out a pair of legs and shoes.

Climbing up on the ladder on the rear platform, Ida made her
way onto the Palace car‟s roof and then forward to the buffet car.
The roof was loaded with fruit and Tesla was sitting there with
several apple rinds and orange peels lying next to him. He was
just staring off in the horizon. Ida grabbed an apple and crossed
over his legs. Only then did he see her, with a start. She sat down
with her back to him without saying a word. He smiled.

They rode like that for many miles. Occasionally the odd dot in
the foreground would become a barn, or several dots would

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become the odd wagon train, until they dwindled back into the

St Louis

The latter part of the 19th century was St. Louis‟ Golden Age.
The Civil War had had a slowing effect on the city‟s economy,
as the river traffic from the south had ceased and in the last
quarter century had only begun to get near pre-war levels. As a
result, in 1890 St. Louis had resumed its fourth place level
among American cities for population.

Construction was fierce and many buildings of ten stories or
more could be seen as the Cannonball approached the city limits.
The city that began life as a fur trading outpost had exploded into
a major manufacturing, rail and waterway hub.

Nikola and Ida stood up on the roof of the baggage car as the city
came into view in the distance.

“How wide are American railroad tracks?” she asked Tesla.

“The standard gauge we are riding today is four feet, eight and a
half inches.”

“Why such a random measurement?”

“Because of a horse‟s ass.” Tesla said without joking.

Ida slapped him on the shoulder.

“Really! Such vulgarities! I was asking a serious question!”

Tesla cocked an eyebrow.

“And I was giving you a serious answer.”
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“Really? A horse‟s ass?”

“OK, four feet and eight and a half inches…that‟s the standard
gauge in England. They brought it over here.”

“So go on, you are going to explain your remark?”

Tesla nodded, smiling.

“Certainly. The men who built the rails used the same tools used
to build wagons. And that was the wheel spacing used on

Ida crossed her arms and cocked her head slyly, turning to Tesla.

Tesla cleared his throat and paused, enjoying the moment.

 “Wagons were built to fit the wheel ruts in the roads, which
across Europe were first formed by Roman War Chariots.
Everyone else built their wagons to match chariot

Ida shook her head in frustration. Tesla put up a hand for

“Since Imperial Rome dictated the wheel spacing, every chariot
in the Roman Empire was the same.”

Ida‟s eyes grew large and her jaw clenched.

“… and four feet eight and half inches just happens to be the
exact space needed to accommodate the rear of a horse. Two, to
be more exact.”

Realization dawned on Ida‟s face and her eyes crinkled in a

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“So the width of the track a train runs on in America is

“… of a horse‟s ass.” Tesla finished, nodding.

“Now, we will be riding along a narrow gauge track once we get
to Colorado. The narrow gauge track was found to be more
suitable for mountain terrain, narrow turns, and hauling mining
ore. We will change trains then. Now, we‟d better get down.
We‟re getting close to town.”

The Burlington line pulled into recently completed Union Station
and Nikola and Ida leaned out a window to watch the scene.
With its sweeping archways and Tiffany stained glass windows,
it heralded St. Louis‟ urgency to be recognized as an up and
coming city for the new century.

Tesla saw Harvey‟s eatery come into view and his stomach

“We forgot to wire our meal into Harvey‟s!” He muttered

Ida smiled consolingly.

“I‟m sure the Harvey Girls won‟t mind taking your order

Tesla rolled his eyes, but then cocked an eyebrow.

“Their Midwestern hospitality is world famous.”

The workman looked at the foreman imploringly, his grease
covered face shining with sweat.

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“I‟m sorry sir. There‟s nothing I can do! I don‟t know what
happened! The air compressors are shot. There are no brakes!”

He looked from the foreman to a fuming Thomas Edison who
threw up his arms in exasperation.

“What the hell else could go wrong?!”

The workman looked at the foreman again with a furrowed

“If I didn‟t know from nothing sir, I‟d say it was sabotage sir.
I‟ve never seen air compressors so full of holes!”

“Mr. Edison, I am sorry. But today‟s Atlantic and Pacific to
Kansas City will have to be postponed until the repairs are made.
Maybe tomorrow.” The foreman glanced at the workman who
shrugged his shoulders helplessly.

“Could be days before we can replace all the air compressors

Edison just shook his head in frustration.

Randolph came running across the platform and handed a
telegram to his employer.

Edison read it and his face suddenly brightened with inspiration.

“A telephone! I have to call Rockefeller!”

Ida watched in fascination and a little bit of horror as a train
heading west suddenly sounded its “all clear” horn. She noted
the foreman did not even shout out the nominal “all aboard!” she
was so used to hearing. Then she saw the great conflagration of
people rush from the station, carrying bags and children, many
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still eating some of the food they tried to wolf down. They were
immigrants. Irish, Swedish, Russian and Italians who had come
in search of the great land deals the railroads were offering.

Needing to justify the massive expansion of rail across the
American continent, the government had given some 15,000,000
acres of land to the railroad to sell along its routes. The railroad
had gone out to every corner of the globe offering acres of land
so cheaply, and the promise of a better so life so glibly, that
many peasants around the world had taken the plunge.

But the land of milk and honey was not always so pleasant. Ida
had already seen more than one train full of immigrants headed
east, back towards the cities. They had obviously gotten to the
middle of wherever the railroad had sent them and found they
couldn‟t survive. The immigrants headed west had seen them
too, she assumed. The faces she saw were not faces full of
expectation and adventure. They were resigned. Some were
sickly. All were tired.

And no wonder. The passenger cars were much smaller and
shabbier than the one she and Tesla were riding, she could see.
Several of the cars were even freight cars and Ida saw mothers
handing young children up to waiting arms and climbing or
being dragged on board moving trains.

As the train moved out and Ida watched the last of the straggling
immigrants leap onto the moving train, bound for a life of “they
knew not what”, she turned back towards Nikola who was
arguing with a railroad manager. Their train‟s engineers and
porters were all off the train, standing nearby, confused.

“I don‟t understand.” Tesla said, holding his hands up.

“Then let me explain it to you again, Mr. Tesla. This train isn‟t
going anywhere. I can‟t put it on the Burlington track. I have
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explicit instructions that the track is to remain available for “high
priority” freight.”

“Well, when will this high priority freight be coming through?”

“I don‟t know.”

“Where is it now?”

“I don‟t know where it is, Mr. Tesla. I have no record of
anything coming in today, tomorrow or the rest of the week.”

“You have other trains running on the track, correct?”

“Yes sir. We have a scheduled Kansas City line through here
three times a day.”

“And are they delayed as well?”

“No sir, as far as my orders go, those lines are not interfering
with any of our emergency freight runs.”

“But there are no emergency freight runs!! You said so

“Whether there are or there aren‟t any trains coming through this
yard Mr. Tesla, doesn‟t make no difference. We still work like
there are. We are told what to expect, we are told what to make
way for, and we do it. We don‟t ask questions, especially when it
comes from Mr. Rockefellers office.”

Tesla had sucked in a deep breath about to respond when he
heard the Rockefeller name. His face went ashen, then red and
his hands balled into fists.

“Did you say Rockefeller?” Ida asked, stepping closer.

“Yes ma‟am.”
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“He owns this track?”

The foreman shrugged.

“As of today, apparently. I got a call from the Burlington office
and the vice-president got on the phone and talked to me
personally. He said to expect a telegram from Mr. Rockefeller‟s
office. He‟s in charge, and to do whatever the telegram says.”

The foreman held up the paper.

“The telegram says until further notice, all non-scheduled train
runs are to cease immediately unless cleared with the home
office. I sent them the request for your train a half an hour ago
with the rest of the weeks runs.”

He shrugged.

“They approved every one but you.”

“There‟s got to be something you can do.” Ida implored.

“Ma‟am. There‟s nothing anyone can do. Do you know what
Rockefeller means to this town and this state? Standard Oil
brings in ALL of the kerosene used in every home and business.
Not just here, but in every city, town and parsonage from here to
the state line. Hell, as far as I know, Standard Oil moves and
sells the kerosene for the entire country.”

The foreman looked at Ida helplessly.

“Not only is there nothing I can do, but you sure as hell couldn‟t
get the governor of this state to let this train go and I would bet
my wife you couldn‟t get President Cleveland to move it either.”

“I know Standard Oil quite well.” Ida said, shaking her head.
“Just who Standard Oil is a mystery. They refuse to testify

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before state Supreme Courts, official Committees of
Investigation, and even Congress itself. Of course, that last isn‟t
so surprising, considering many of the men are bought and paid
for by Standard Oil herself.”

“Then you understand ma‟am. There is literally nothing I can do.
This train can‟t move. I haven‟t a track to put it on. I haven‟t
even been allowed to park it on a siding. If I get a telegram
telling me to tip it over because it can‟t sit there anymore, I will
have to try to do that!”

“This corruption is a scandal!” Ida exclaimed.

“We have to find another way to get to Denver Ida.” Tesla said.

“Do you understand what Americans are doing to their country?”
Ida asked loudly to the foreman and the engineers. Several others
from inside the train office who had come to the door in curiosity
stepped out.

“The railroads owe the American people bonds twice that of our
national debt. The monopoly Standard Oil runs preventing
competitors in this country from shipping oil and kerosene have
costs thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Missouri.
Under the name of the South Improvement Company, Standard
Oil has a deal with the railroads to double the freight costs of oil
for everyone else, and pay the South Improvement Company a
dollar for every barrel of oil its competitor‟s ship.”

She stepped over to a fruit crate and stepped up on it.

“American citizens shut down the railroads for paying unfair
wages. They shut down the Baltimore and Ohio and within hours
states like Maryland, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois were closing up.
No place to send their goods, no way to get more goods. Their
banks stopped lending out money without remuneration coming

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in from businesses and goods. The lifeblood of the cities depends
on the trains. And the trains depend on the men and women who
work them. The people run the railroads, the railroads don‟t run

A soft, slow applause began and Ida turned. Thomas Edison
stood on the platform with John Randolph. Edison clapped
several more times before stopping. He was smiling broadly.

“A wonderful speech my dear Ms. Tarbell. Most impressive
rabble rousing.”

Tesla pointed at Edison.

“This was you.”

“Easy, Nikola. You give me far too much credit. But… maybe
there is a way we can help each other.”

In Harvey’s Restaurant

“We can‟t do it.” Tesla said, getting up from the table.

Ida reached out for him and put a hand on his shoulder. This
stopped him from moving away.

“Nikola, it‟s just to Kansas City. No one‟s going to gain or lose
much by getting there at the same time. And…” she looked at
Edison “there won‟t be any more of this kind of chicanery or

Edison nodded.

“I need a ride to Kansas City. It‟s as simple as that.”

Tesla pulled the left sleeve of his coat back to look at his watch.
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“It‟s almost too late now anyway. We should just wait until

“By morning, I‟ll be on one of the commuter trains coming
through here overnight. Even if I‟ve got to chum with Randolph
here.” he said, jerking his thumb towards his bookkeeper. Then,
leaning forward, he lowered his voice and pointed at Nikola.

“And you, and your train, will never leave this station.”

Eureka, MO - Along the Burlington line

The small village of Eureka was a flat, level spot along the
transcontinental line with not a lot of debris to clear for miles. It
consisted of about 100 homes, holdovers from when the railroad
workers had passed through here. Hardy souls had decided to
remain behind. A sign at the town limits read: Site of the future
St. Louis Children’s Industrial Farm.

The four-horse carriage raced along the wagon trail, which had
laid the path for the coming railroad and now ran just yards away
beside it. The town came up as a small blur and then the driver
suddenly and madly yanked back on the reins, trying to bring the
exhausted horses to a stop as quickly as possible. Milo, snoozing
next to him, had toppled forward and, unable to catch himself,
hit the ground with a thud.

When Milo looked up, he saw the familiar boots and six guns.

“Master…” he let out, painfully.

Wedderburn smiled, standing in the center of the road.

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The Wabash Cannonball

Edison strode through the rolling laboratory, admiring several of
the instruments.

“You‟ve got quite a laboratory here, Nikola.”

Tesla nodded, looked at Ida disapprovingly, and went back to
moving his clothing and personal items out of the berth he had
chosen. He moved his suitcase to an overhead storage
compartment and settled onto a couch on the opposite side of the
car, next to Ida‟s berth.

Edison was curiously inspecting a miniature Tesla coil.

“Is this a magnetic field generator?” Edison said, taken aback.

Tesla looked up, nodded, and laid his head back and shut his

“In a way.”

“I‟ve heard of one but I‟ve never seen one operate, let alone
something this size. How does it work?”

Tesla sighed and glanced over at Ida, who nodded in Edison‟s
direction as if saying “What can it hurt?”

“It‟s really a resonant transformer.” He said, getting up.

“A… resonant transformer. I don‟t understand. You mean…?”

“It‟s a “wireless” transmitter of energy.”

“Wireless?!” Edison exclaimed.

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“I can conduct a number of experiments in electricity,
phosphorescence and transmitting energy without wires with this

Tesla turned the machine on and a burst of high frequency
current arced out from the device into the static air.

Edison and Randolph both jumped back.

“Don‟t worry. It‟s perfectly safe. The magnetic field has no
danger to humans. The arcs on this machine are too low right
now. They wouldn‟t even singe your hair. If I turned it up, you
would want to stay at least 20 feet away though” Tesla smiled.

The small machine hummed and throbbed with electric life, tiny
arcs emitting from the spark gaps.

Edison, awed, stepped closer.

As the 4-4-0 chugged along the valley floor, Wedderburn stood
on a nearby hill, watching it pass.

“Now, this device is used for x-rays. Useful for doctors on the
battlefield to diagnose broken bones, internal injuries.” Tesla
said. Edison nodded.

“I have been playing around with a fluoroscope to examine
internal organs.”

“What kind of resolution are you getting?” Tesla asked.

“Not very good. Very faint. Made some improvements though.”

“Really?” Tesla asked. “How?”
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Edison smiled. “Have you tried calcium tungstate crystals?”

Tesla thought about it a moment and then slapped a palm on the

“I should have thought of attempting a crystalline coating! You
know, I experimented with a platinum coating and got decent
results but I think you are right, I…” glancing out the window,
his words cut off. Tesla bolted over to the window and stared

“What is it?” the bookkeeper asked.

“Did you see that?” Tesla asked.

“See what?” Edison asked. “Neither of us were looking out the
window.” He came over and peered over Tesla‟s shoulder.

“What should we be seeing?”

Tesla stares intently out the window for several moments,
searching the hillside.

“Nothing, I guess. I just thought I saw… someone.”

“Someone out there? Not surprising. This is Missouri. Likely a
homesteader, or a hunter.”

Watching for several more moments, Tesla finally backed away
from the window.

“Yes, hunters or homesteaders. Of course.” He took a deep
breath and turned away.

“Anyway, as I was saying…”

“Look! There is someone out there!” Randolph exclaimed,
pointing out the other side of the train.
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Tesla turned back to look out. Indeed there was someone out
there. A man on horseback was tracking them on the
mountainside to the east of them. He was a bit of a distance
away. Too far to make out a face. Tesla moved over to another
window to watch. Then the figure on horseback turned eastward
and down the side of the mountain away from them.

Tesla turned away from the window and went to a large case on
the floor in the corner. Opening it, he drew a Winchester rifle in
each hand and tossed one to Edison.

“What‟s going on?” Edison asked, puzzled.

Tesla slung the other rifle over this shoulder and then drew two
more rifles out of the crate.

“You‟d better be ready,” he said, handing a rifle to the
bookkeeper who held it away from his like it might go off at any

“I don‟t know how to fire a weapon!” Randolph exclaimed.

“Point and pull.” Tesla added.

He walked across the car to where Ida was sitting, looking out
the window, and held the weapon out towards her. When she
turned and saw it, her eyes widened in alarm.

“What‟s going on?”

Wedderburn guided his horse down into the small gulley and up
the other side. Once on the ridge, he could see the train again as
it curved at the far end of the valley and came in a wide arc back
to the west in his direction. The tracks passed just in front of
him, 150 feet below. The ridge he was on sloped downhill for
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half a mile to the south until it met the open valley floor parallel
to the train tracks. He kicked the horse into action and began to

The gunslinger pulled out each six gun on his hip, throwing open
the chamber and making sure his guns were loaded, then sliding
them back in their holster.

The gunslinger glanced over his shoulder and saw that the train
had rounded the curve and was coming up behind him now. The
ridge had begun to slope deeply, and the trees were becoming
thicker. In a moment, the sight between he and the train would
vanish. It would be several minutes before he reached the base of
the valley and would see the train again. As the train passed out
of sight, he gave his mare another emphatic kick and continued
to ride hard for his target.

Tesla laid the barrel of the Winchester against the open window
and bent low, peering out.

“Seriously Nikola, if you‟re worried about bandits, I don‟t really
think a single rider is going to try to attack a moving train.”

“I‟m being cautious all right? I suggest you do the same.”

Ida came into the rear of the car and stood to the side of one
window, peeking around and out cautiously.

“Is there something you know that we don‟t?”

Tesla shook his head.

“There isn‟t anything I can tell you that would make sense. I can
only say that it just doesn‟t feel right. Too many things have
gone wrong…”
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“Look Nikola, I am certain you are just being cautious but you‟re
scaring the bejeezus out of Randolph and the lady. Why don‟t
you lay down and –“

At that moment there was a sharp report from the distance and a
crinkling of glass as the window above Tesla‟s head. Almost
simultaneously a piece of the inlaid railing above Edison‟s burst
into splinters and he ducked.

“Ohhhhkaaaayyyyy…” he said, and crawled over next to Tesla,
crouching beneath the window.

“What‟s going on?” Ida asked from her berth.

“They‟re shooting!” Randolph called to her, from his prone
position on the floor.

“The trains being robbed?!” Ida asked.

“I don‟t think so. There‟s only one.”

“One man is robbing the train? What kind of crazy person?”

Tesla raised the gun up as if to fire, then didn‟t, but kept the gun
aimed out. He glanced at Edison.

“Take position in the sleeping compartment. The windows are
bigger, and you‟ll have a better angle if he comes up on us from

Edison nodded and crawled off towards the sleeping

“Mr. Randolph!” Tesla called out, without taking his eyes away
from the fields in front of him. “I need you to keep an eye out on
your side!”

“I‟m afraid!”
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“Buck up Randolph. Be brave as your fathers before you!”
Edison shouted.

“My father was a pacifist!” Randolph shouted back, and stuck
the rifle through the window, shattering the glass.

“Are they shooting again?!” Ida shouted

“It was just the bookkeeper.” Tesla said.

“I forgot to open the window.” Randolph muttered.

Suddenly another shot rang out. The tinkling of glass.

“What is the matter with this man?” Ida shouted.

Standing up fully, she carried the gun pointed down in front of
her, one hand on the stock and one hand on the trigger. She
walked over in front of the window Tesla was crouched by.

“Hey!!!” she screamed out the window, as if anyone would be
able to hear her.

“Ida, get down!” Tesla yelled, tugging at her. But she did not
budge. She cocked the Winchester, fired, cocked and fired again.
She did this three more times, and then paused. Suddenly there
was a loud repetition of shots from outside. The wall next to
Tesla splintered and the rest of the window shattered. Ida shot
down to her knees.

“What did you think you were doing?” Tesla asked, exasperated.

“It‟s just one man.” Ida asked.

“You‟re lucky you didn‟t get yourself shot.” Tesla shook his

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“Yes, she‟s lucky.” Randolph muttered, as he shrank to the
ground, legs spread and a blossom of red spreading on his shirt
above his heart.

“He‟s been shot!” Ida shouted and started to crawl over to him.

Suddenly, from the sleeping berth there came several rifle cracks
and Ida laid on the floor of the car on her stomach. A moment
later came a triumphant cry from Edison.

“I got him! I got him!” Edison came out holding his rifle up in
the air with one hand, triumphantly. “I shot the bastard!”

Tesla looked up at Edison, then back out. He couldn‟t see

“You shot him? And he went down?”

“Well, I didn‟t shoot him. I shot his horse. And hell yes he went
down. His horse went down, he went down with it!!”

Ida got to her hands and knees and scampered across the car
towards Randolph when suddenly the car went black. Ida let out
a pitched scream, and a moment later the soft illumination from
the electric bulbs above spread across the car.

“What‟s happened?” Ida asked, her voice pitched, but trying to
peel back the bookkeepers jacket to assist with his wound.

“Don‟t panic. We just went into a tunnel. We‟re going to pass on
the other side of the hills shortly.”

“It‟s over. The son of a whore can‟t follow us without a horse
and we‟ll be on the other side of the mountain!”

Tesla looked thoughtful for several moments, licking his lips.

“Yes, we‟re safe now.”
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“I need clean water. I have to dress this wound.” Ida said.

Randolph coughed and moaned in pain. Tesla let out a throaty
rattle, moved to the other end of the car and sat down.

Edison shook his head. “Randolph, you clumsy oaf.”

Randolph had a second coughing spasm, and looked up at

“I‟ll be alright sir. I‟m always honest with you, aren‟t I? It‟s not
that bad.”

“Yes, you are always honest Randolph.” Edison looked at Tesla
and Ida with a furrowed brow.

Wedderburn picked himself up off the ground and looked back.
His mare had collapsed underneath him and he had flown
headlong over it over a dozen feet. He looked down at the dirt all
over the front of him and brushed it off. He bent down, picked
up his hat and shook it off as well. He sniffed the air, looked
around, cleared his throat and spit a wad of phlegm. Then he
took a breath, brushed some twigs and dirt from his hair, put his
hat on his hand, and went over to his dead horse. He got down on
one knee beside it, and stroked its neck gently.

“It‟s all right boy. You did your best.”

He turned to stare up towards the rocky hillside in front of him

“Not over yet.”

He began to run.

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Ida had the bookkeeper‟s wound cleaned out and a bandage from
the medicine kit from the galley was over it now. Ida moved
away from the bookkeeper and over to the wash basin in the first
berth. Tesla was trying hard to avoid looking in Randolph‟s
direction, but she got his attention and beckoned.

“I don‟t know if he‟ll live,” she said below her breath, washing
her hands. “I don‟t think the bullet pierced the heart or a vital
artery, but we need to get him to a doctor.”

“We can‟t stop until we get to Kansas City.” Tesla said curtly.

“He may not make it.”

“We won‟t make it if we don‟t get to Kansas City by nightfall.”
He said, looking away.

“Why? What is going on Nikola? What aren‟t you telling us?
What aren‟t you telling me?”

Tesla didn‟t answer, but moved over to a window and sat down
again. A moment later, sunlight burst into the car as the
locomotive emerged from the hillside. Tesla stood up, grabbed a
Winchester, and cocked it, glancing out first one side of the train,
then the other.

“That was Rocheport Tunnel. We‟ve still got a little over an
hour to reach Kansas City.” He pulls up his sleeve to look at his

“And the sun is going to set in a little over thirty minutes…”

Edison was pulling off his shirt and wrapping the bookkeepers
shoulder with it. Randolph moaned slightly. Ida came over with
a wet rag and applied it to his forehead.

Edison stood up and turned to Tesla.
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“Look, Nikola. That didn‟t look like a train robbery. There was
someone out there shooting at us. I don‟t know why anyone
would want to shoot at me and least of all my bookkeeper. I
doubt anyone would want to shoot Ms. Tarbell. What about you?
You seemed to know something might be happening? Is there
some reason someone wants to kill you Nikola?”

Tesla was watching out the window as Edison spoke and hadn‟t
looked at him. He took a deep breath and started to turn towards
Edison, as if to speak, when his mouth clamped shut.

Very distinctly, there was a loud, heavy sound on the roof. Then
footfalls with the distinct metallic ping of spurred boots travelled
from the end of the car, towards the engine.

Without saying a word to each other, Tesla, Edison and Ida all
grabbed rifles and, staring at the roof as if looking intently
enough they might be able to peer through the wooden rafters,
followed. Their Winchesters pointed at the ceiling, Tesla, Edison
and Ida paused as the footsteps reached the end of the car and
then stopped.

Suddenly, a shot rang out from above and one of the worktables
sent up a shower of splinters. All three let loose with a round of
fire, blasting into the ceiling in all directions, until their
Winchesters clicked empty and they were breathing hard.

For several long moments, the three remained crouched, staring
up at the ceiling. Edison was the first to start to move.

“I don‟t hear anything.” He whispered. Bent low, he started to
make his way back to the rear of the car.

“Wait!” Tesla said hoarsely.

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Edison waved him off and made his way past the berths and into
the sitting area.

“Now you want to tell me what this is about Nikola? I know you
know something!” Ida asked.

Tesla was inching his way towards the covered transom linking
his car with the dining car, looking out both sides, as if expecting
some figure to jump out.

“I don‟t know what to say to you. I don‟t know what you‟d

“Try me.” Ida said.

“Randolph!” Edison shouted from the front. Tesla and Ida turned
and ran to the rear of the car. Edison was throwing open the rear
door and looking both ways.

“Randolph!” Edison shouted.

“What‟s the matter?” Tesla called out. Edison turned with an
expression of fear and loss.

“John Randolph is gone!”

Edison came in through the covered transom from the dining car.

“The porters don‟t know a thing. They notified the engineer we
lost a passenger. They want to know if we intend to stop the

“No! You can‟t stop the train. We have to keep going. We have
to get to the city.” Tesla said loudly.

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“What is going on? Right now. Explain.” Edison said, pointing a

“He‟s right Nikola. You aren‟t telling us everything. What is
going on??”

Tesla looked from Edison to Ida as if he was affronted by the
suggestion, then he scowled and set the Winchester against the
wall and slumped onto a sofa seat.

“His name is Wedderburn, as far as I know.”

“Wedderburn? That‟s it? Where is he from?” Edison asked.

“We had a reason to meet in Europe.” Tesla said, wincing.


Tesla winced.

“One of my early lighting experiments had some technical
problems. The exhibit collapsed and killed a young woman. She
was Mr. Wedderburn‟s companion.”

“His wife? Your exhibit killed his wife?” Ida asked, horrified.

“No,” Tesla held up a hand. “Not his wife. But someone of
significant emotional attachment, apparently.”

“What happened Nikola?”

“After the accident, he came to see me. I think he was going to
kill me.”

Ida swallowed. Edison cradled the Winchester in his lap and
glanced out the window.

“Go on.” Edison said, nodding his head, eyes solemn.

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“Well, his attention came around to several of my inventions. He
began asking questions. He asked me questions all night.
Morning came around and he suddenly realized how much time
had gone by. He started to approach me. I had a harpoon gun I
had been experimenting with. I held it up to protect myself. He
promised to return the next evening to finish what he‟d started.”

Tesla sighed and rubbed his temples.

“And what happened the next evening?” Ida asked.

“I left town during the day. He chased me across Europe for the
better part of a year. Every time I thought I had lost him, he
appeared again. Then I came to America and I thought I had
gotten away for good.”

“Well, apparently not.” Edison said ironically.

“But you were watching out for him. You knew he might be
here.” Ida said, pointing at Nikola.

Tesla looked at both Ida and Edison, then nodded slowly.

“I think he burned down my laboratory in New York. He may
also have had something to do with a disturbance in Chicago.”

“So it‟s very personal.” Edison said, still glancing from window
to window.

“It‟s more than that.” Tesla sat up, looking out the window. The
sun was just beginning to drop behind the horizon of the
Missouri plains.

“It‟s also about the experiments. He‟s seen the electricity and the
lights. Tell me, Mr. Edison. What was it that caused such a
severe delay in your travels?”

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Edison looked at Tesla, confused.

“There was some kind of failure of the air brake system.”

“Unusual?” Tesla asked, looking at him intently.

Realization seemed to dawn across Edison‟s face.

“The mechanic said he had never seen anything like it. If he
hadn‟t known better he might have thought it was sabotage. I
dismissed it at the time. But… you‟re saying that was to slow me
down? Get me on the train with you?”

Tesla nodded.

“It‟s not just me he‟s after. He‟s after anyone with anything to do
with electricity and lights.”

Ida gasped, covering her mouth.

“But, that‟s insane.” She said. “Why would anyone kill over

Suddenly, the car received a bone rattling jolt. Thomas Edison
had to place one hand out to steady himself and the bump jolted
Ida from her seat and dropped her on the floor. Tesla looked out
the window and saw that the sun had dropped completely behind
the horizon now.

“To the front of the car!” Tesla shouted.

Edison and Ida ran past him, down the hallway, holding their

“Those won‟t do you much good now.” Tesla said, coming up
behind them. He went over to one of the tables where one of his
inventions lay. The strange device was about three feet long with

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a series of small Tesla coils protruding from different spots at
different angles.

“Why not?” Edison asked.

Tesla picked the device up and flipped a switch. Several arcs of
electricity sparked out. There was another jarring jolt to the car
and the three rocked side to side, steadying themselves against
the walls or tables.

“There‟s something else I didn‟t mention.” Tesla said flatly.

“What?” Ida asked.

There was a terrible cracking, wrenching sound from the rear of
the car. It went on for several long moments until suddenly the
wall for several feet around the rear door gave way. A gaping
hole was now where the rear of the car once was.

Mouths agape, the three watched the edifice that had been part of
the rear wall of the train hover as if in midair, then go flying
upwards. The figure on the rear platform let the object go and it
hurled into the night. Then the figure in the darkness stepped into
the car.

Wedderburn came fully into view. Cowboy hat, jeans and six
guns on his hips. He smiled.

Ida lowered her gun and fired. The first shot missed. The second
struck Wedderburn high in the chest, staggering him. The third
struck his shoulder and made him turn, but only slightly. Her gun
clicked empty again and Wedderburn took another step closer.
Bleeding, he placed his hat gently on one of the sofa seats, then
turned back to face the trio.

The grinning face turned malevolent, the eyes grew red. Slowly,
the gunslingers face started to contort. His pale flesh grew grey.
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Ida took a step backward and dropped the gun as the gunslinger
grew another foot and half in height and his hands grew into long
razor claws. His shirt ripped as muscles bulged and his upper
body rippled with massive shoulder contortions.

The huge gray creature that was no longer much of a man took
another step forward and let out a massive scream that showed a
mouth full of long fangs.

Tesla flipped another switch, took a deep breath and a bolt of
blue energy shot from what turned out to be a weapon in his

The light energy struck the screaming beast in the chest and blew
a hole through the center of it. The force of the blast knocked the
beast off its feet and out the back of the railcar, head over heels.

When the whine of the invention in Tesla‟s hand dropped away
and all that could be heard was the rush of wind from the
missing wall in the rear of the railcar, Tesla took in a rush of air,
like he had been holding his breath, and dropped to his knees

He panted for several seconds then turned to look at Edison and
Ida, who were still standing, frozen in shock, looking at the hole
where the beast had vanished.

“I may have forgot to mention he was a vampire.”

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        But first, on earth as vampire sent,
        Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent:
        Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
        And suck the blood of all thy race;
        There from thy daughter, sister, wife,
        At midnight drain the stream of life;
        Yet loathe the banquet which perforce
        Must feed thy livid living corse:
        Thy victims ere they yet expire
        Shall know the demon for their sire,
        As cursing thee, thou cursing them,
        Thy flowers are withered on the stem.
        - Lord Byron


Nikola Tesla would go on to create many more patents, and
provide dreamers and inventors lifetimes of inspiration.

Thomas Edison would go on to hold 1093 patents for inventions.
A number that has never even been close to approached for an
individual. His concrete houses in Union, NJ, still stand today.
Edison would spend years demonizing Tesla‟s AC current in
favor of his DC. Today, AC is the worldwide standard.
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Ida M Tarbell would go on to write one of the finest works of the
20th century, The History of Standard Oil. The investigative
journalism masterpiece brought to light the company‟s
espionage, price wars, heavy-handed marketing tactics, and
courtroom evasions. The articles would provoke such a public
outcry that Standard Oil would later be broken up. Until the day
he died, John D Rockefeller only ever considered himself to
have one arch enemy, calling her Miss Tarbarrell.

John Randolph, Edison‟s bookkeeper, would kill himself in
1908, after having spent many years in an asylum. He left a note
saying he had always been honest.

Mr. H.H. Holmes, owner and innkeeper of The Castle in Chicago
would be executed in 1894 as the nation‟s first serial killer, after
claiming at least 27 victims in his hotel. He was buried in

Neither Ida Tarbell nor Nikola Tesla would ever marry.

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