"Cassandra?" I asked, frowning. I knew the classical reference, of course, but it was unclear to whom Callaghan was referring.

"The machines downstairs, the engine hall. Really they are all part of a single system. I call it Cassandra," he replied with another wave of the hand, "Besides, I have verified this prediction by experiment and observation. Now there are few bookmakers in London who will accept a wager from me, and most are exceptionally suspicious when a stranger appears to place a large bet."

Callaghan looked slightly shamefaced for a moment.

"I have found it necessary to augment my own financial resources," he resumed, "Good machinists and artisans are hard to find and expensive to hire when you have found them, and the price of materials - brass, in particular - never seems to come down."

I snorted again, this time in agreement with Callaghan's statements.

"Quite true, sir, quite true. In this machine age, brass and coal and skilled artificers are the lubricants which make our advances possible. We can never quite get enough of any of them."

"I agree, sir. Further, I would say that it is a shame to waste such skills and resources on hoodwinking a few bookmakers. So I would prefer to concentrate my facilities - both mental and financial - on some more rather directly useful possibilities in those areas I mentioned before: business and politics. Indeed, I fancy Her Majesty’s Government might be interested in sponsoring my research and, perhaps, consider an Act of Parliament to provide funds to continue my work and avoid this tawdry charade of gambling on horses."

"Well," I answered cautiously, "I can't speak for the government, of course. And I imagine that their Lordships will want to see a great deal of proof before voting any money for such wild ideas. With all due respect, of course."

This time, Callaghan's face bent into an impish grin, noticeably at odds with his previously serious demeanour.

"Indeed, I would expect nothing less from such august Establishment personages," he said with a certain amount of relish, "So, by way of a more realistic example of the capabilities of my system of analysis, I have taken the liberty of programming Cassandra with a few card stacks containing data about you, sir."

"I?"

"Indeed, you, Professor," Callaghan said carefully, "It was, as it turned out, all rather easy. Your personal history is mostly a matter of public record in any case and a few more discreet enquiries suggested that you have very few and generally rather modest skeletons in your cupboards."

I fully admit that I was distinctly unnerved by his words, although there was no way I could determine the truthfulness or otherwise of his statements. While it was true that I regard myself as a moral man, a devout Christian and a committed father and husband, there were a few incidents in the more distant past which, in all truth and honesty, I could not be proud of.

Callaghan sat back in his chair and toasted me with his glass, a glint apparent in his eyes.

"When you arrived," he went on, "When you inspected Cassandra downstairs, she was already running a prediction of your own future."

"How dare you, sir!" I roared, angry emotions jostling in my mind, "I am a serious scientist, damn you, and I refuse to be part of some circus of cheap tricks!"

"But don't you see," Callaghan said reasonably, "I need to prove Cassandra's capabilities to you, in a way that the serious scientist can independently verify, without suggestion of trickery. What more perfect proof could there be then forecasting a future nobody could know, not even yourself, and simultaneously make it possible for you to determine the truth of the prognostications without any involvement from me?"

I subsided, slightly mollified and more than slightly curious about his explanations, but still fuming at his imposition, his intrusion into my life.

"I will be in a position in a few moments, I believe," Callaghan went on while watching me carefully, "To be able to give you a demonstration of her powers, some predictions which you can, in the next few months perhaps, verify yourself."

Part 2 Part 4