If Osgood Finnegan had ever found the Orb again it's doubtful that he could have decoded its stories. He was right, of course, about the scents the Orb used to communicate. He knew how to build and use a Language Acquisition Engine. But unless he'd invented something very much like the Volto-Vac Chemical Communication Analyzer he could never have understood what the Orb was saying.
Tallie arranged the CCA's sensors around the Orb so that they could collect the Orb's emissions. One set of leads led out to the Language Acquisition Engine: she connected those. Here the CCA would pass its output to the Engine. A second set of cables came back to the CCA. Through these, the Engine would pass back the Orb's decoded vocabulary. That just left the final pair of cables, through which the CCA would pass its translation back to the Engine, and therefore to the Clockwork Book. The headset wires were in the way: Tallie solved that problem in the simplest possible way, which was to put the headset on.
The Book picked up the other end of those final cables. "No!" Tallie cried, but it was too late.
The cables, looped around the CCA, tightened against the base of the Orb. It tipped and started to wobble. Tallie reached for it, unaware that her headset wires were still entangled with the cables. The headset wires pulled the cables with them as she dove for the Orb, which wobbled away from her and smashed into hundreds of pieces on the stone floor.
A colorful mist coalesced above the ruins of the Orb. The mist smelled... confusing. As confusing as thousands of alien stories being told, all at the same time, in a language that no one could understand.
The Book froze. Tallie froze. The only thing that was moving was the mist: and it was moving away, foreve