The Emperor's Grin

Emperor Hadrian walked down the long hallways of his royal palace
accompanied by his general and a palace guard. He was told that a
certain inventor by the name of Heron had created a machine that
could change the world. When the emperor had received word of his
creation he ordered him to bring it to the palace at once so he could
see it for himself.

Heron came as soon as he could. He told the emperor that he needed
some time to set up a demonstration so that he could show the full
power of his creation. Now his demonstration was set up in the back
store house. This was the place where food, wine and other such goods
were stored for the palace and the emperor's use.

When he reached the door the emperor could hear a strange whirling
noise coming from inside. The guard that was with him opened the door
and stepped aside to allow the emperor to enter.

Hadrian nodded and stepped in. The room was filled with most of what
people would expect, wine, grain, vegetables and some fruit. Now
there was more, the upper half was filled with what must have been
either steam or smoke, or both.

Sitting directly across from the doorway was a strange device. It
was a closed metal pot perched over a fire with metal shafts coming
out of the top of it, they went straight up and bent inward towards
each other. Inbetween them was a large metal ball with two spouts
coming out of it emitting steam. The ball whirled around and around
while turning a rope which was also attached to it. The rope went
back parallel to the wall to a wheeled device used to mill grain. The
milling device was a wooden spoked wheel with a metal rim on the
outer side. Near the top, the spokes acted like gear teeth turning a
cog which was attached to a solid wooden wheel with the grain on it.
On the solid wheel was a simple device, a metal plate that stayed in
place causing the milled grain to fall off the wheel into bags while
a worker continued to feed the device more grain to mill.

Setting behind the spinning metal device was a middle aged man, well
cut and shaven. He had short dark hair, wore simple robes and had a
long almost stick figure like frame. His body contained very little
muscle but his head seemed to be bigger then what a man of his size
would normally have. He was watching the milling process play out
with a strange, almost bedeviling smile. Finally he looked up from
the machine to the Emperor, he shot up like an arrow from a bow.

"Your excellency, I am sorry, I didn't hear you come in" he said

Hadrian paid him little mind, but took more interest in the machine
placed before him. He walked over to examine it more closely.

"You made this?" he asked watching it.

"Yes sir, I didn't make the milling device myself but I did modify it
to my machine here" Heron said gesturing to metal pot on the fire.

"So this is the great machine that will re-shape the world? This is
what you called me to see and witness?" Hadrian asked, his tone
showing clearly that he was at least somewhat annoyed.

"Well sir, this is merely a demonstration. You see, before this
milling machine required someone to turn a crank while another feed
the grain. It was tiring work, it took an abnormally strong man to
turn the crank fast enough to make any kind of progress long enough.
Most people tired out after only a few minutes and so you had to have
either a whole crew of good strong men or else you milled almost
nothing. This machine here, provides that strength, now all you need
is someone to feed in the grain and get another bag when it's full,"
Heron explained, a bit nervous.

Hadrian walked over to the metal ball on a pot. He paused looking at
it, for a second he seemed almost mesmerized by it.

"This ball" Heron finally said. "Is spinning faster then the wheels
of a four horse chariot, and is moving with as much force as a bull
and never tires of it's work" Heron said, nervousness starting to
give way to pride.

"How does it work?" the emperor asked not taking his eyes of the

Heron took a deep breath and cleared his throat. "The metal base,
just above the fire is filled with water. When it gets hot enough the
water boils and pushes air up through the metal tubes to the ball at
the top. As the ball fills with air, pressure builds and it must be
released at some point or else it would burst. The two metal pipes
protruding from it allow the pressure to be released, only in opposed
directions. This makes one side of the ball want to go one way and
the other side the other way making a spinning motion" he explained
pointing out all the various parts of it.

"So it runs on steam then?"

Heron thought for a moment. "Yes, basically you probably could say

The emperor watched the machine spin around and around on the metal shafts. After a time, he grinned. Plans, ideas, thoughts,
possibilities going through his mind, each one greater and more
brilliant than the last. Yes, he knew Heron was right, this machine
would change the world and he had it all to himself. This was it,
there was no turning back now, the world would never be the same
again. Heron's greatest creation would bring a new age, an age of
Roman steam power!

Email the author: