Emily had never been allowed into her father’s workshop. She had tried to peak in from time to time but was never able to see past the large bookshelf her father put just beyond the door.
It had been a week since he disappeared and his usual associates in town could tell her nothing about what might have happened to him. All of them except Mr. Coffer, the old man that ran the dog cart. “If yer’ father’s gotten into trouble, he’ll be needin’ his notes from his workshop. An’ the device of course.”
Emily wondered if Mr. Coffer was playing some kind of a joke on her. He was always sly about something, or playing on words. Her father seemed to trust him though. She wasn’t sure what to say to him so she thanked him and rushed home. What did he mean by ‘the device’?
She came home and stood in front of the door of the workshop. She didn’t have a key so she imagined she might pick the lock somehow but after an hour of trying she had made no progress. In desperation she tried to use her shoulder to force the door open but her tiny frame did nothing to the door. She sat down for a moment when her eyes fell on the solid brass candlestand that graced the corner of the room. With a crash Emily found herself covered in books but she was in the workshop.
She found a candle and walked into the room that had always been denied her. A cushioned chair with a small end table lurked in one corner. A bound notebook sat atop the end table. Emily opened it up and examined the pages. The pages were full of calculations that Emily could not follow. A note in the margin caught her attention.
“The self focusing nozzle is a limited success. The steam pressure cutter can focus it’s blade up to a distance of two and a half feet. The principle is simple enough. A small arc light shines up through the nozzle and when the beam of light reflects back to the detector, the nozzle adjusts itself to the distance. At two feet the high pressure steam can cut through a four inch wooden beam or a quarter inch of iron plate in moments. My calculations show that it should do better than this. I must be missing something.”
What did he mean? What was this steam cutter? She waved the candle around the room. On the other end of it there was a work bench. Emily recognized some of the equipment on it. There was what appeared to be a miniature version of her father’s fireless soda engines. So small in fact that this one was designed with a system of straps so that a man could wear it on his back.
Attached to the fireless engine was a high pressure hose with some manner of nozzle on it. She found her father’s notes on how to activate the device. The engine gurgled as the soda of lime activated. The boiler almost instantly reached pressure and a blinding blue light shone up from the nozzle. Then a rush of steam burst from the nozzle with terrific force and heat. The steam formed a thin blade, impossibly thin and focused.
What had her father been doing? Why would he have invented such a device and how could it lead her to finding him?