In 1712, a remarkable man named Johann Bessler unveiled an amazing invention. It was a Perpetuum Mobile – a Perpetual Motion Device – a wheel that spun after being set into motion until it was stopped with no mechanical input. It was capable of sustaining this motion and producing enough energy to complete “work” – meaning, literally, that there was something from nothing. Bessler never revealed his secret. He was hounded, mocked, and chased through a very rough and adventurous life. His secret died with him. Except that it didn’t. Elly Kassel is the granddaughter and heir of Evelyn Kassel, though the two were not close. Elly is called into the offices of eminent London Solicitors Ratliff & Brownridge, where she discovers that her grandmother was a rich woman. She also receives a trunk, and an envelope, which she is not to open until she reaches New York City.
In New York, she is told, all her questions about her grandmother, and her inheritance will be answered. She takes the flight with some trepidation, and is met by a man named Jonathan at who whisks her away from the airport without even time to grab her luggage. She is taken to a country estate, where she is introduced to Maxwell Black. Black tries to win her trust, but is not very diplomatic. As he is about to try to wrest the envelope she was given from her hands, she is rescued by two men and a woman and again dragged off into the night. What follows is a series of harrowing near-misses as Elly studies and learns the secrets of The Orffyreus Project, where free energy might be a very real possibility, and her grandmother’s dream of bringing the perpetual motion wheel into production and wide-spread use for the good of mankind seems very possible, and Maxwell Black does everything in his considerable power to stop her, to steal the technology, and to see that the interests of the Petroleum industry are protected from the imminent disaster of obsolescence.