Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Know Circuit - Interlude - Part 6.0

Interlude Part 5.0

The next months were an amazing time of creativity, with each scientist bringing some exciting new idea to each meeting. Balfour’s experiments on power generation and remote cybernetic control allowed him to manipulate all the machines and computers in his lab with a thought. He could jack into any network, including the GlobalNet from any location on campus without using his interface jack. He discovered that he could even enter closed systems that normally only allowed interface through a hard wire, such as the Engineering Center’s security system. He was practically ecstatic the night he discovered this. He could stand in front of the keypad at any door in the building and enter its closed system, allowing him to bypass every electronic lock he could find with ease.

Balfour found his hacking skills on the GlobalNet to be greatly improved. By duplicating the same thought processes that he used to control machines in the physical world, he could create virtual machines that outstripped most of the software he had previously written. The things Balfour could accomplish with software floored Michael Freeman. Though none of the programs Balfour demonstrated could overcome the hacker god’s best work, Freeman pointed out that they were at least as strong as those of a dedicated hacker. Considering Balfour only learned as much about hacking as he needed to further his research, it was high praise indeed.

Lydia and Wong worked together closely. Though he stayed out of their business, it became obvious that their working relationship was turning into something beyond professional again. Balfour hoped their romantic urges did not interfere with the work of the group as a whole. He pulled her aside before one of the group’s meetings. “Lydia, I would like to speak to you about your relationship with Dr. Wong.”

A tense, nervous look of apprehension leapt into her eyes. “What about Quon?”

“It has come to my attention that the two of you are growing very close again, perhaps even considering rekindling your sexual relationship.”

She stiffened as if slapped. “I fail to see how that’s any of your business, DOCTOR Balfour.”

“Normally, I would say that you are entirely correct. These are extraordinary circumstances under which we labor, however. Once the endorphins and the hormones start rushing around the bloodstream, heretofore completely rational people tend to act altogether irrationally, sometimes dangerously so.”

“I am perfectly capable of separating my work relationships from my personal ones.”

Balfour peered down his nose at her, a smug expression of knowing judgement written across his face. “Previous history might disagree with you.” The rush of red in her cheeks told him that he had made his point. “I am in no way suggesting you should alter your behavior in any way, only that you should observe… caution.”

“Duly noted. Now, if you’d like to hear about my research.”

The work she and Wong demonstrated, combining Lydia’s research into particle states with Wong’s nanomachines, produced some fantastic results. Wong had designed an army of nanobots that could deconstruct any inanimate materials, from steel to wood, and reconstruct them into whatever he wished. He could animate the materials like puppets, or use them to build anything. His first demonstration transformed one of the workbenches into a frightening golem that strode around the room before reconstituting itself as a cabinet. Lydia used the nanoconstructors to remodel the cubicle farm in the outer ring of the lab, theorizing that with enough of the little machines, she could erect an entire building from refuse in days.

Carl had the flashiest application. His research on holographic projection created solid light constructs that could affect their environment, perfect illusions with physical manifestations of mass, density and energy. His most impressive was the flame dragon; rather than being a solid entity, the illusion surrounded his body like an exoskeleton composed of light. He could alter the illusion’s appearance like a GlobalNet avatar at will. He and Wong collaborated on the flight equations, which only the two of them could control. Once the two had discovered this new power, it became extremely hard to keep them from zipping around the campus at all times. They chafed at the restraint, taking every opportunity to use their late night meetings as an excuse to fly all over campus.

Rolfsberg struggled with the engine the most. His creations were pedestrian. Whatever he shared with the group, they improved. His imagination couldn’t keep up. He became almost palpably jealous, especially once Wong and Carl discovered flight. Rolfsberg spent most of their meetings sulking. He had great success with the nanoconstructors, using them to improve his materials fabrication but he was clearly disgruntled. Thanks to his work, they had each upgraded their mana engines three times by September. Both Rolfsberg and Janicki insisted that the discarded engines be destroyed at a molecular level, using the energy contained in the engine to implode and disintegrate the case and all evidence of its existence. “We have to be careful,” Rolfsberg argued. “We all know who funded Mark’s work. We all know that corporations like that take great pleasure in exploiting the work of scientists without paying them a dime. I for one do not intend to do this work for free. If they want it, they’re going to have to pay.” The argument was a long one that night, but in the end all agreed no matter how reluctantly that the work must be guarded jealously.

Janicki took Balfour’s designs for portable power sources and expanded their range, output and longevity. Uninterested in the parlor tricks of flight, the garish displays of power like Carl’s flame dragons and fireballs, he concentrated on something the group could sell. He started small, creating small power amplifiers for the lab. The power amplifiers he dubbed ‘glowbugs.’ He could attach one of the tiny cylinders to any power source, from a fuse box to a generator, a battery pack or even a wall outlet. With a tiny jolt of energy from his mana engine, the glowbug could produce power for whatever device they were attached to indefinitely. He could dial up or down the amount of power generated by the glowbug so that he could split the device’s power consumption between the glowbug and a traditional supply. Janicki’s eyes lit up when he talked about the glowbug’s marketability.

As the campus buzzed with costumed students celebrating Halloween, the group met in the lab to discuss their most ambitious experiment, one they would use to prove their success and unveil their research to the public. They set the date of the experiment during the wee hours of November the second.

Go to Interlude - Part 7.0

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