I felt the urge to run. My heart was pounding as the rounded sphere descended from the clouds. I took a few steps back as the column of flame scorched the wheat field beneath. I was worried for old man Johannes and his harvest, but I was mostly terrified at the massive silver sphere floating in the sky. Four silver doors retracted from the bottom part of the sphere and equally silver legs pushed out to replace them. Suddenly the column of flame ceased to exist with a puff of smoke, almost like my father’s pistol discharging, and the sphere landed on old man Johannes’ wheat field, crushing hundreds of wheat stalks.
Sitting on the wheat field, the silver sphere looked like my mother’s locket. Not knowing what came over me, I began to slowly make my way towards the sphere. I pushed my way past scorched earth and seared wheat, which fell to the ground in ashes under my grip. The closer I got to the sphere the hotter it became. When I came within 50 footsteps of the sphere, I gaped at how massive it was. It must have been at least as tall as two of the churches back at my hometown. I noticed some strange numbers on it, and something that read “Scoutship X3” on the side. I jumped back in fright as smoke appeared from the side, and a doorway emerged from the smoke. A staircase that seemed to be adorned with gleaming steel rolled down and planted itself in the ground.
A strange creature calmly stepped down from the doorway. I shrieked at the appearance of it, for it had two rods protruding from its forehead, and its skin seemed to glow with a faint shade of blue. Its skin was equally blue, almost as blue as the stained glass at the church. I stepped back for each step it took forwards, until it drew from its holster a steel pistol. I was about to run when it pressed a knob and fired at me, freezing me from moving. It pressed another knob and I began hearing a voice. The voice sounded odd, almost like a church bell. “Hello there.” I tried to speak. “What are you doing here?” The “what” came out as a squeak, the “are you” sounded thin, and “doing here” felt obliged to avoid my speech.
The creature drew another thing from its holster. This was a silver rod. It jammed the rod in the barrel of the pistol and fired once more upon me. I was able to move. Instead of fleeing, my curiosity got the better of me. “What are you doing here?” I croaked, barely clear enough to pass as conversation. The creature opened its mouth again. “I wish to know more about your people.” I was puzzled. “Do you mind explaining more?” I wondered aloud. It smiled. “My ska-ning dee-vise here says your parents are Protestant. Is this true?” I gawked at the pistol it grasped in its blue hands. I marveled, “YES! How did you know?” The creature ignored my question and posed another question. “And it says here your grandparents are Catholic. Care to explain the discrepancy?”
I looked around, worried. When I turned back to the creature I saw someone that looked vaguely like old man Johannes in its place. “Don’t worry,” it said. “I have donned this form so as to not attract attention.” The new old man Johannes shouted something and the silver sphere seemed to disappear. By this point I had accepted the creature as being able to do almost anything. The creature introduced itself. “By the way, my designation is ‘Orbit’. Do you mind following me?” I did so, and we ended up at an inn, where Orbit ordered a platter of meat. Orbit lilted, “Enlighten me regarding the religious situation in this region.” I answered, “It all started when someone called Martin Luther found fault with the Catholic Church, which he said was corrupt.” Orbit speared a slice of bacon on his fork. “After being banished by the Church for heresy, he found himself in Wartburg Castle, where he began transcribing Erasmus’ bible into German – “ I stopped when Orbit passed me a piece of meat.
“Here, eat something.” Orbit coaxed. I couldn’t refuse. After I had swallowed the meat, I looked at the platter, meaning to grab something, yet before me was an empty silver dish. After the meal, we went to the church. Orbit gestured towards the door. “Now, explain the story behind your parents.” We went in to find it was empty. I mused, “My grandparents, being born before Luther’s time, were Catholic, as all of Europe was before Luther. My parents had been exposed to Martin Luther’s 95 Theses and so they became Protestants.”
Here Orbit looked at me with a strange expression on his face. “Would your parents not follow their parents’ religion of Catholicism?” Orbit theorized. This time it was me that was confused. “No, my parents had met during a protest. They were convinced that the church was corrupt, for it was selling what were called indulgences and simonies.” I paused, taking a breath, then continued. “Indulgences were sold by church officials. In exchange for money, they claimed to be cleansing you of sin. However, Martin Luther argued against this, saying that the church officials were too worldly and they were only selling indulgences for gaining money.”
“Simonies were when the church would sell office positions for money, as opposed to devotion.” Orbit seemed to be surprised at this statement, but made no effort to interrupt me. “Many people also found this to be disturbing, and so they began protesting, hence the name Protestant. Martin Luther began printing what he called his 95 Theses, which were theses detailing what he found wrong with the church. My parents, in particular, found that the theses made perfect sense. My own father wouldn’t have even HEARD of Martin Luther had he not snatched a copy of the 95 Theses from the local printing press!”
Orbit smiled. “So the printing press was essential to the Reformation?” “Of course! The whole of Germany knew about it in a couple of weeks because of the press!” I assured. “It would have taken scribes hundreds of years to make as many copies of the 95 Theses that were made by printing presses. However, if scribes were used, and only a few books were printed a year, perhaps they would have been dismissed as a madman’s ramblings. However, you couldn’t deny that all those books being printed must have been widespread.” I paused. “Why, I remember when I was young, almost everyone I passed on the road had a copy of the 95 Theses!”
Orbit rose from the pew he had been sitting in, and gestured for me to follow him. We sauntered slowly back towards the wheat field, and Orbit walked up to a depression in the wheat. He waved his hand and touched something, then the silver sphere appeared out of nowhere. The staircase descended from a doorway encased with a thick smoke, and Orbit and I walked inside. The interior of the sphere had strange glass windows with moving text inside, and blindingly bright tubular lamps that glowed white. He walked up to what looked like a bookcase, but in the place of books were levers and switches. He flicked one, and suddenly a printing press materialized in front of my eyes. I leapt backwards instinctively and hit a wall. Orbit smiled. “Let’s say these were never made, that Gutenberg was never born.” he bayed. Immediately one of the glass windows descended from the ceiling. On it was a map of Europe. He pressed a button, and the map changed to show Protestant people and Catholic people.
“Let’s see here… ah!” Orbit crowed. I vaguely heard some sort of clicking sound, and suddenly the Protestant population on the map began shrinking, until there were only enclaves of them in various spots. I glared at the map, surprised. Orbit ventured a look at the map. “Just as I thought,” Orbit said, his hand resting on the printing press. “These devices must have been incredibly powerful in their prime.” I turned to Orbit, noticing a peculiar, if not outright strange, gleam in his eye. “Follow me.” I then followed him down a snaking corridor filled with more tubular lamps.
We arrived in a large room, tiled with jet black hexagonal tiles covering the entirety of each wall. In the center of the room was some sort of rod. Orbit pressed down on it and it gently receded downwards into the floor. Suddenly each tile began to glow a brilliant white, and when the tiles calmed down I was standing in a street. There before Orbit and I was a middle-aged man. I reached out to shake his hand only to find that his hand was as tangible as air. “Hello?” I said after some hesitation. Orbit smiled and stated, “We are merely watching a theoretical conversation between one of Mr. Luther’s friends, and Hans Adler, proprietor of the ‘Papierarbeiten’ print shop.” The man stormed into the shop, his overgown billowing behind him. In his hands was a pamphlet.
“I demand this be printed at once! I will pay anything!” The man cried, his voice ringing throughout the shop. He slapped the pamphlet down on a nearby table. The men manning the printing presses stopped dead in their tracks, apparently scared by the man’s shrieking voice. He repeated what he said again, this time a little bit higher and louder. This Hans Adler then opened his mouth, hesitated, and then began to speak. “You wish the pamphlet… printed?” The man bellowed, “Yes, that is what I just said!” Mr. Adler picked up the pamphlet. After several minutes reading it, he whispered, “The church… will not like this.” Much to my surprise, and probably to the relief of those inside the shop, he did not shout. Instead, he reached inside his doublet and when he drew his hand out a pouch of coins was locked within his fingers. He removed a string from the top and poured a considerable amount of gleaming silver thaler on the table. Mr. Adler could not refuse this.
We enjoyed our time thoroughly and it was soon evident that the printing press was incredibly essential to the Reformation. Orbit knew his time was running out. We eventually retired back in the field, where we parted ways. His last words were, “Good luck, friend.”