‘So, Herr Vermogen, how are you producing this new energy source? I’m reliably told it’s nothing anyone has seen or heard of before.’ The cub reporter for the New Scientist leaned forward, his eyes gleaming. ‘Is that it, there, in the bowl? What do you call it?’

I smiled at the greenhorn, my mouth as curled as the rubber tube joining the flasks of the glass alembic which burbled gently on the desk before me.

‘This?’ I said, dipping my fingers into the amber liquid in the porcelain bowl. It was perfectly warm: I had used water at 170degrees F, the ideal temperature for coaxing the most flavour from the tightly furled buds, plucked from the camellia sinensis bush that grew in the courtyard outside. ‘It doesn’t have a name yet. I have been calling my newly discovered energy sources alphabetically. The last one was S; it didn’t quite work out as an energy source, but it is very good for making herrings last a long time. I was thinking, therefore, that this should be T.’

His bloodshot eyes bulged with amazement, reminding me of ripening cherries. I twirled my moustaches, my dampened fingers elongating the tips to fine points.

‘You have another nineteen energy sources, already trialed? That is amazing!’ he said.

‘It is, isn’t it! This one is useful for lighting in particular and I have invented this bag to hold the light.’ I dipped my right hand into the T and raised a paper pyramid with my other. My left hand waggled from side to side, and the perforated bag stiffened and gleamed with an amber light.

‘You may use a paler leaf, which gives a brighter, crisper light. But this is good for most purposes. Especially before lunch.’ I raised my eyebrows, a sudden inspiration racing through my mind. ‘Perhaps, now I think of it, it’s more of a Breakfast T.’

The reporter was still ripening in front of me, his eyes nearing the size of plums. His wonder at my amazing discoveries was most appealing, although I warned myself of hubris. The gods have never liked a puffed-up, cocky bastard, as I knew to my cost.

‘Please, Herr Vermogen? May I dabble my fingers? Just a little?’

I let my head nod forward, then jerked upright. Perhaps not…

Too late. The fledgling scrivener had already dabbled. He screeched, sizzled and fell to the floor, ashen.

‘Oh, dear,’ I murmured to myself as I swept away his remains. ‘I completely forgot I was producing about one hundred amps at that temperature. Next time, I must remember to cool it a bit. Maybe I should blend it with some M; that caused things to cool rather than heat up. I could put that in first. Or maybe second. Although, I wonder if that would cause disputes?’

I took my fingers out of the bowl, added a little of the M I had reserved in the adjacent refrigerator, and scooped a puddle with the taste-vin attached to my laboratory coat. ‘Oh, very good. Still tingling a little after that, hmm, escapade, but very good. Now, where did I put those biscuits?’

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