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At Heidelberg University, Part 2

September 23, 2009

Heidelberg University Square, August 12, 1897, 10:00 a.m.

Albert, the convict, was having serious second thoughts about the deal he’d worked out with the court. The constable kept trying to get him to climb onto the stage, but he dithered, and the other man was getting quite frustrated with him.

“Do you want to do this or not, man?”

“I – I don’t know.” Albert tugged his hair. It was queer-looking for a man this tall and sturdily built, with red hair and ruddy cheeks, to be acting so distraught. He didn’t move, which was what the constable wanted him to do.

“It’s either onto the stage and whatever awaits you, or back to prison and get in line for the gallows,” he cried. “I haven’t got all day.”

Albert found himself unable to speak. He didn’t dare reveal the real reason he was unsure about this, or they’d never allow him to participate and he’d be hanged for sure. But maybe the experiment was a fate worse than death. Damned if he did and damned if he didn’t, and especially damned if he said anything.

“I don’t trust him!” he burst out finally.

Heidelberg University Square, August 12, 1897, 9:55 a.m.

Three of the workmen were having a difficult time with Dr. Werner’s power amplifier. They stood around the thing, which looked something like a filigree pepper shaker, and tried different angles to pick it up without shattering it to pieces.

“Excuse me, dear fellows.” The doctor pushed past some power cables and approached them. “I apologize for interrupting like this, but I need to make a last-minute adjustment.”

They hopped out of the way with the alacrity of people who were being paid quite a lot to do this job. Dr. Werner knelt by the device, not caring that he risked dragging the tails of his frock coat in the dirt. He delicately changed the settings of a few knobs. Then he pushed himself up, hands on his knees, and dusted himself off.

“Very well. Carry on, then.”

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