His foot slipped from the stool it was resting on, and the sudden movement jolted him awake. The goggles he wore were covered in a layer of dust, making midday appear to be dusk, and dusk seem to be night. Of course, night also seemed to be night, so he wasn’t sure of the time right away. He lifted one lens. Definitely night.
Taking a rag to wipe off the goggles, he also turned a small knob on the side of his workbench. The unmistakable hiss of gas began, and the lamp started to glow. Checking the mechanical time piece that hung above the bench, he discovered it was still a few hours before dawn. Enough time, but barely. Equipment needed to be moved and then assembled.
The various gears and arms were already in the wagon, but the lenses still waited for his attention. They were too fragile to pack ahead of time. He wrapped them as carefully as he could and loaded them. A few buttons pushed and levers turned, and the gears that pushed the wagon began to move. It was loud, but smoother than the horse-drawn carriages that were so popular. His nearest neighbors were far enough away that no one complained when he started it up.
He steered it up the hill about a mile from his house. Here there were no trees to obscure the spectacle and inhibit his ability to collect the unique phlogiston particles. It would be quite a feat, if he could get everything ready in time. He had until midmorning.
As he worked to put his machine together, several children from the village gathered to watch. Their parents had warned them to stay away from him, so their curiosity did not interfere.
The sun was well on its journey upwards when he slid the last lens into place. It had gone much more smoothly than he could have hoped. The moon was faintly visible as it headed towards its rendezvous. He aligned the largest lens, the initial catcher as he thought of it. The intermediate lenses were distributed around it, focusing elements into the smallest lenses which were attached to rather small tubes. As the moon blocked the most powerful of the sun’s rays, the phlogiston particles from the edge of the sun should be able to get through where he could capture them. That was the idea, anyway. If this didn’t work, it might be years before he could try again.
As the moon’s disk slid across the sun, the machine sprang to life, focusing and refocusing lenses. Slowly, the tubes began to fill with a brilliant yellow light. The children gasped, and he could hear them whispering that he had made the sun disappear. He paid them no mind.
When the eclipse ended, he quickly stored the tubes in a specially constructed box. It had worked. Despite his design, the heat within the tubes was evident, though they did not appear to be in danger of cracking. He now had a power supply. Next was building the machine it would drive.