In which Professor Saku discovers a delightful side-effect of a new invention.
This is a short (1800 word) story that fits in the Chronicles of Hattan; it’s sort of back story for Saku and Mariusz (before the start of Traveler), but happens in their world soon after the Princelings and the Lost City ends. It solves a possible incongruency in the technology Mariusz uses in Traveler.
“Oh it’s you,” he stammered, getting over his shock. “I must get this study re-arranged. I can’t hear people come in over the noise of the production line.”
“Yes,” said Lord Mariusz, “It never used to be this bad.”
“What?” shouted Saku, cupping his ear towards his boss.
“IT NEVER USED TO BE LIKE THIS,” he shouted in return.
“Not so loud, I’m not deaf yet!”
Lord Mariusz shook his head and took a seat beside his technology guru. “I saw this and thought you might be interested,” he said, passing Saku a newspaper.
The Philosophical Journal was not Saku’s preferred choice of reading, but it had the novelty of coming all the way across the Great Ocean, smuggled, no doubt, by one of Lord Mariusz’s best business contacts. “Breakthrough in power production,” ran the headline and, underneath a picture of a neat young person with ginger hair shaking hands with some important chap with a white coat and strange dark marks at his extremities, it continued, “Buckmore technologist George Marsh unveils revolutionary new power plant running on strawberry juice.”
“Strawberry juice, see,” pointed Mariusz. “We can get plenty of that. Would it help production?”
“Well,” Saku pondered, reading the rest of the article quickly, “yes it might. It depends how much power it produces. We’d have to size it up, test it…”
“Can we make our own?”
“Strawberry juice, well of course, just ask your chef.”
“No, the power plant,” Mariusz rolled his eyes. “What more do you need to make one for us?”
“Well, let me see…” Saku read through the article more carefully, noting that ‘Castle Buckmore’ owned the patents for the technology but that ‘Prince Lupin’ wanted to make sure everyone benefitted from it. “Hm,” he continued, “there are two options, probably. Get someone to get me the blueprints, which they must have prepared to get the patents; or acquire a production unit and get it to me intact so I can work out how it works.”
“Right,” said Mariusz, getting to his feet and gazing at the production line going full steam in the adjacent vaulted room. “Why is it so noisy these days?”
“What? You’ll have to speak up, you know. It’s too noisy when we’re running full tilt.”
Mariusz sighed and left his brilliant scientist to his work. He returned to his own apartment high up in the sky in his Castle of Hattan, wondering which of his minions he could trust to get either blueprints or a strawberry juice power plant, all the way from that backward place known as the Realms.
“But this is wonderful!” exclaimed Saku as they carefully unwrapped the box containing the small-scale power plant. Mariusz looked less pleased. All that effort to get a metal box the size of a packing crate. “And the blueprints as well,” continued Saku, enraptured, “This is simply splendid!”
“Will it work? On the production line, I mean?”
“Well, I expect so, Lord Mariusz, I mean, I’ll have to try it out, find out how much power… the blueprints will tell me… and work out where to feed it in… and what strength of strawberry juice… and how often it needs to be filled…” Saku carried on listing his tasks as Mariusz turned away.
“See that the professor has everything he needs,” he said to his aide.
“So here, you see, is the original demonstration model, here is our own scale model, and here, ready to move into place, is the enlarged version with sufficient power capacity to run our current production and more. And all we have to do to double our production, is to install another one the same size next to it!”
Saku stepped back, gesturing at the tall cylinder that stood next to the existing production line, ready to move into the place where the old engine had been.
“Are you completely sure we can just switch the new one on and production will continue as normal?” asked Mariusz.
“Yes, absolutely!” Saku said, keeping his fingers firmly crossed out of Mariusz’s sight.
“Well, ok, then. Carry on…”
Saku waved to his two operations assistants, who gently pushed the cylinder on its bed of rollers into place beside the first element of the production process. Saku nipped round the back and up some steps on the unit, making connections and checking a few knobs and dials. He scampered back down again and faced his audience.
“Right, well, would you like to turn it on, sire?”
Marius stepped forward and put his hand on the control lever. He looked at Saku once more, who nodded encouragingly at him, and Mariusz closed his eyes and turned the lever.
Mariusz looked up at the cylinder, strangely disappointed. Then he became aware of a gentle hum in the process plant next to him, and then a gurgling sound through the tube exiting that machine into the next one. He turned.
“Is it working?”
Saku stepped forward, putting his hand first on one part of the production line and then on another. “Yes, yes! It is! I can feel it!!”
The onlookers followed Lord Mariusz as he followed the noises though the system, noises that had never been heard before because of the rumbling, roaring, hissing and clanking of the old engine. Saku heard them exclaiming as they followed the progress of the new batch of their cola as it coursed through the system. He was so relieved. However much you tested things, you could never be absolutely sure they would work when they were finally turned on in earnest.
He backed away from the new engine, so preoccupied that he quite forgot himself and fell against the small prototype that he’d built, square rather than cylindrical, but still much taller and thinner than the original design that had been smuggled in. It fell over with a clang and lay on its side, humming quietly. Saku rushed to the end where the strawberry juice inlet was, and quickly closed the stopper before too much of the precious juice was spilt. He sat on the box and sighed. It had worked! It wasn’t that he hadn’t believed it would. Of course not.
He shifted his seat and felt the box yield, strangely bouncing up and down. He frowned, and bent down to see what was going on. The box was hovering three inches off the floor! He pushed it, and it dipped slightly, but didn’t touch the floor. He lay down on the floor – he could see right the way under it, and there was nothing holding it up. He got a pole and dragged it all over the box to make sure no-one was playing tricks on him.
He sat on it again and thought a little, then rushed over to his desk and brought back his notebook. He made a sketch, and some notes, then put his notebook down and lifted the box up from the long edge so that it rolled over onto the adjacent side. It flopped onto the ground. He tried pushing it, and it remained securely grounded. He sneaked his toes under the edge again and gave it another turn over. It still ended on the ground. He turned it a third time, then a fourth, back to its original position. It floated! He sat on it making more notes and sketches until he heard the visiting party return.
“Well, Saku, that all appears to be working fine, doesn’t it?” Lord Mariusz was in a jovial mood. “How much can we increase production now, do you think?”
“Well, I’d aim to keep a good level of safety on the system, sire, but it should be able to handle a lot more.”
“The main trouble, sire, will be managing the volume of crates and cases that we produce,” said one of the production executives. “We can’t move them out fast enough.”
“H’hm,” interrupted Saku. “I may have found a way to help you with that. It needs further development of course, but we’ve been wondering how we could improve our wheeled sleds and I think I’ve just found the answer.”
“What now, Saku?” asked Mariusz.
“I think I’ll call it a grav-sled, sire. Let me demonstrate.”
He whispered to one of the operatives who brought him a case of cola that was sitting in his den.
“Just put that on the box over there, if you please. Now watch, everyone.” And with the slightest of pushes, he propelled the box carrying the case of cola on top of it the length of the room. “Oops, catch it if you can, before it bumps into the end!”
His other assistant managed to overtake it and draw it to a standstill almost as easily as Saku had pushed it in the first place.
“That’s amazing, Saku!” said Mariusz and the others congratulated him too; “Well done professor!” and pats on the back surrounded him.
“How fast can we get that sent out to our distribution centers?”
“Well, I think you should wait a few weeks, sire, just long enough for us to register the patents and ensure we have control of this technology. You never know how people might want to use it.”
He sat on the box and patted it to get Lord Mariusz to sit beside him. He bounced him up and down and then pushed off the ground so that they floated around the room.
Mariusz laughed as they returned to their starting place. “Thanks for the ride, Saku. You’re right. We need to lock down the patents good and tight. Well, this is a great day for us. It’s revolutionised our business. It’s really been a most uplifting experience!”
Saku watched them leave. He knew he was the first person to discover that application of the technology in the New World. He wondered what was happening in the Realms. He wondered what had happened to those he’d left behind so many years ago when he’d left for this opportunity at Hattan. He wondered how they had come to think up a machine running on strawberry juice. That young man who had invented it was a genius. He hoped he’d meet him one day, but it was unlikely, he supposed. But strange things happen. Now that really would be an uplifting experience.
(c) Princelings Publications 2013
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