Benjamin Franklinstein Meets the Fright Brothers

Table of Contents
Also by
Wherein is contained
an Accounting of the Preparation,
Suspension, and eventual Reawakening of the Subject in Modern Day,
and his Quest to discover the Great Emergency.
Jason Gough, meteorological wizard.
Published by The Penguin Group.
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Text copyright © 2011 by Matthew McElligott and Larry Tuxbury.
ISBN : 978-1-101-53556-1

For Christy and Anthony, and especially to Larry, wordsmith extraordinaire.—M.M.
For Melanie, Nina, and Ella.
Also for Matt, a great judge of talent.—L. T.
And for Tim, the spark that brought Ben to life.—M.M. & L.T.
“Fear not death; for the sooner we die, the longer shall we be immortal.”
—Benjamin Franklin
about Benjamin Franklinstein
Philadelphia, 1948
It had taken
a long time for the elevator to stop. Orville shivered. As a man accustomed to soaring high above the earth, he found it unsettling to be so deep beneath it.
His fingers traced the fresh scar on his temple.
“You will soon grow used to the harmonium plate,” said the short man in the neat suit standing beside him. “Consider yourself lucky. In the Order's early days, the electrical contacts were not hidden beneath the skin. Instead, our scientists had crude bolts implanted into their necks.”
“Either way,” scoffed Orville, “I feel like a machine.”
The short man smiled as he pulled open the safety gate. He waved a hand, gesturing for Orville to exit.
Orville stepped into a cavernous laboratory filled with pulsating, electrified equipment.
“Good lord, Enbée,” he said, gawking up at the colossal machine in the center. “What is it?”
mon ami,
” the short man replied, “is our Tesla coil. The great Serbian scientist Nikola Tesla designed it especially for the Modern Order of Prometheus, just before he went into his own deep sleep five years ago.”
Orville circled the device, awestruck. “What does it do?”
“It is our power source,” Monsieur Enbée said. “It is capable of producing electrical vibrations in excess of one hundred million volts. Think of it, Mr. Wright:
man-made lightning
The Tesla coil towered over them. A pole wrapped in tightly wound wire reached up twenty feet and was capped near the ceiling by a great metal dome. A circular metal cage surrounded the pole to prevent the foolhardy from stepping too close.
On either side of the Tesla coil lay large caskets, one open, one closed. Orville trudged to the closed casket and put his hand on it. It was made of a thick glass bound by strips of steel. Inside, he could make out a shadowy shape floating in a glowing blue liquid. A soft blip sounded from a speaker mounted on its side.
Orville peered into the glass and gazed upon the face he had not seen in over thirty-five years.
“Brother,” he whispered.
“My friend,” Monsieur Enbée said, “I am pleased that you have at last agreed to join the Order.”
Orville frowned. “At this point, what do I have to lose? My heart is weak. Whether I climb into that terrible box or not, I'm likely to die.”
“Have faith,” Monsieur Enbée said, looking up into the frail man's eyes. “True, you have resisted for decades. Not like your brother. Ah, his enthusiasm for the Order was intoxicating!”
“I remember,” Orville said. “It was a lifetime ago. We were both young, but his spirit of adventure was much bolder than mine.” Wright looked sharply at the short man. “I'm curious, Enbée. The last time we both stood in this room was thirty-six years ago, when Wilbur joined your secret society. Since then, I have grown old and weak. You, however—you haven't aged a day. How can that be?”
“Witness the scientific marvels around you,” the short man proclaimed. “We have the technology to make a man live indefinitely. Does it not make sense that I, as director of the Order, extend my own life span? I am older than you think. And just as your brother and I have benefited from these miracles of science, so will you.”
Despite Monsieur Enbée's reassuring words, there was something about him that Orville didn't trust. “But you promise,” Orville insisted, waving a finger at the Leyden caskets. “You promise that when we awaken, we shall awaken together.”
Monsieur Enbée smiled thinly. “
Mais, bien sûr
. . . of course. If ever the world faces a great emergency, history's finest scientists and inventors will all be awakened to come to its rescue. That is the purpose of the Modern Order of Prometheus, as determined by our founder, Benjamin Franklin.”
Benjamin Franklin,
Orville thought.
There was a great man.
“But what of my family?” pressed Orville. “And the affairs of my life?”
“All has been arranged. Your family will be well cared for, and the details of your ‘funeral' are already in place. I assure you, we take good care of our own.” He put his hand on Orville's shoulder. “Trust me, Mr. Wright. Trust the Order.”

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