Late in life, Osgood Finnegan had retired from the world to some secret place where he embarked on what he called his Great Work. That Work consumed him for two decades while the world turned above his head, and progress moved on, and things changed. Osgood cared nothing for that: the Work was everything to him. But a day arrived at last when the Work was complete. Not only did it perform as he had hoped, but it was able to continue without its creator. All it required was a little maintenance from time to time. With that minimal help it would go on and on through the centuries, executing its task, continuing the Work that Osgood Finnegan had begun by building it.
And when the Work was complete, Osgood found that he had nothing to do.
For the first time in his career - which by now was a long one - Osgood was no longer driven by the need to invent and build and create. If he'd remained a humble clockmaker this might have pleased him: he might have drifted into a contented and retrospective frame of mind that would have softened the certainty that he had reached the end of his life. It would have been time to pass on whatever he had built to his apprentice, and Osgood would have become a mere observer of his own last days.
But Osgood was no longer that clockmaker. The thing he had built, which he could now watch at work every day, was not an apprentice. It was something else. This pleased him, but he still felt at odds with his retirement. And with nothing else to do he began to think about his life and the events that had made him the driven, brilliant thing he had become.
His thoughts turned back to the Orb and to the stranger who had unwillingly delivered it to a young Osgood Finnegan. The stranger whom Osgood had, he now admitted, murdered.
In this newly introspective state Osgood saw that the Great Work was his own re-creation of the Orb, or at least of what he thought the Orb to be. This made his life since that fateful encounter a great circle of discovery, of new invention, and then of reinvention, at the end. In some way this saddened him.
More and more he saw his Great Work as the human copy of the Orb: a compendium of all the knowledge of a species throughout its history. For all the pride he took in that achievement, the Orb itself still troubled him. He had never found a way to unlock whatever secrets it really did contai