"This category [science fiction] excludes rocket ships that make U-turns, serpent men of Neptune that lust after human maidens, and stories by authors who flunked their Boy Scout merit badge tests in descriptive astronomy."
The Rhennius Machine was obtained in a sort of cultural exchange system. Once the Earth was admitted to a loose collection of planetary civilizations, the Earth participated in a system that improved cultural ties by exchanging artifacts of value in a sort of traveling exhibit. Since these items might be from civilizations that were vastly different, the purpose of the artifacts were typically unclear.
The Rhennius Machine turns out to have a very necessary effect; it is a great plot device. One of the effects of the Rhennius Machine is that it can reverse (replace with a mirror image) every molecule in any object passed through it's mobilator. Including people. People with an interest in organic chemistry will have a lot of fun with the extensive material on what it's like to be reversed from a first person point of view.
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Like that pushpin device you remember, but supercharged.
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"They were half way home when a single flyer, hopping free in a copter harness, approached the little parade."
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'...moving with such drifting ease that it was like a single solid cloud of black-grey smoke blown at him in silence.' Almost.
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