Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Know Circuit - Interlude - Part 5.0

Interlude Part 4.0

True to his word, Rolfsberg cranked out the casings quickly. Within five weeks, they’d generated five prototypes, improving the fabrication with every new version. Instead of adding a new particle to each engine, Balfour discovered he could concentrate on transferring a piece of the dimensionally-charged particle in his own engine into the new engines. His first attempt was both a spectacular failure and a fascinating discovery. Rather than powering up the empty engine, he managed to fire the group’s first fireball into the table. The fire that resulted was luckily extinguished before the building’s fire alarms could alert the rest of the campus. After some nervous giggling, Balfour tried again, concentrating even harder as he pictured an atomic diagram of the particle in his head, splicing and dicing the particle with waves of equations, precisely considered formulas flashing through his mind’s eye. The second attempt worked. The engine was fully powered with no explosive side effects.

Bowing to the pressure of Rolfsberg’s blistering annoyance, they agreed to let him implant the second engine. Janicki performed the operation while Balfour powered up the third engine for Lydia. Once Rolfsberg’s operation was complete, Balfour explained the use of the engine, sharing the mental formula he used for energy transfer. Rolfsberg claimed to understand, but he was unable to complete the simple particle transfer.

“Are you thinking of the formula I told you?” Balfour asked.

Rolfsberg snapped irritably. “Of course I am. I’m not an imbecile. It’s not working.” He pointed his arm at the engine and squinted but nothing happened.

“Maybe you need a different formula,” Carl suggested. Seeing Balfour’s questioning glance, he elaborated. “It seems like everything we’ve seen you do, from logging on to the GlobalNet without a jack to controlling the constructors, everything we’ve seen you do is triggered by what? You visualize a particular equation and solve it in your head. We’re not even sure how or why the engine allows those mental processes to manifest as physical phenomena. But everybody’s mental processes are unique. Everybody learns a different way as their brain’s chemistry alters around new bits of knowledge. Perhaps each individual has to visualize their actions in a unique way.”

Lydia spoke up from the table where Janicki worked on her back. “That would make some kind of sense. Why don’t you try visualizing it like an engineering problem as opposed to a mathematical one?”

“What? Like I’m building something?” Lydia nodded. Rolfsberg shrugged and reset himself, closing his eyes for focus. He held both his arms up to the engine, and began to wiggle his fingers and move his hands as if he was assembling a physical construct. A soft glow sheathed both his metallic and flesh arm.

“Careful, careful,” Balfour said gingerly. “You only need a miniscule amount.” Balfour ran a piece of diagnostic software he’d written to monitor the engine’s power output. The program appeared as a thin hologram in the air in front of him.

Carl whistled. “That’s a new one, Dr. Balfour. You’ve been holding out on us.” He poked a finger through the hologram and stared at it in rapt fascination. “Oh, the things I’m going to do with you,” he said, rubbing his hands together like a kid eyeing a free candy store.

“It’s done,” Rolfsberg said, dropping his arms to his side. He was suffused with sweat. He plopped into a seat awkwardly. “That sure takes a lot out of me.”

Lydia’s gaze snapped to the Norseman, concern evident in her voice. “How do you feel?”

“Like I’ve run a marathon.”

Balfour considered. “Huh. I’ve never had that happen to me. I always feel wired after using it.”

“Are you just about done?” Lydia asked Janicki hurriedly. He snapped closed the interface port and slapped her on the back. “May I?”

Janicki agreed. “Knock yourself out.”

“Hope not,” she countered, hopping off the table without bothering to put her shirt on. Seeing Quon and Carl’s embarrassed glances and the lascivious stares from both Janicki and Rolfsberg, she covered her chest with a lab coat.

“If I’d have known that was all it took to get your top off, I’d have fainted in front of you much earlier,” Rolfsberg quipped.

“Pig. Act like you’ve never seen tits before.” She smiled. “Oh right, you geeks probably haven’t.” Her cursory examination revealed nothing worrying. “Take it easy. You seem to be fine physically. Perhaps you should drink some electrolyte replenishers. Quon, can you get him an energy drink?” The Chinese scientist jumped at her orders without hesitation. Drinking the sugary concoction seemed to level Rolfsberg off.

Within an hour, they were all fitted with mana engines. Balfour offered as much instruction as he could on using the device, but ended the evening with simple instructions. “As we’ve already seen, it appears everyone can and will use the engine slightly differently. Let’s take the time between this meeting and the next to come up with as many creative uses as you can. Watch your vitals. Watch your electrolytes. Call one of us immediately if you feel even slightly unhealthy. None of you are allowed to die before we change the world.”

Go to Interlude Part 6.0

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