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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 49: Slade 184
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Previous chapter: Kondor 188
As Slade and Shella were finishing their lunch, the head of engineering came rather hurriedly into the cafeteria, looked around, and spotting them scurried toward them.
“I think we were missed,” Shella said.
“Seems like,” Slade answered. “What do you suppose he wants?”
“Well, he doesn’t seem the type who wouldn’t tell us.”
“No, that he doesn’t.” Then, switching to Parakeet and whistling more loudly, “Professor! What can we do for you?”
“Oh, I’m so glad I caught you,” the bird whistled back.
“Is there a problem?”
“Yes--well, no, but, well, yes.”
“So then there is a problem that isn’t a problem?”
“It’s just that, I didn’t know what we should invent next.”
Slade laughed. “Professor! You’ve got the foundations for three separate industries worth millions! Don’t you think you should focus on getting them established, or at least started? Besides, how many teams do you have? You know, my architect is going to need those boilers and radiators and pipe and valve systems pretty soon. Put more birds on that; get it operational, and it will be close to marketable. Call it something like central heating. Birds will flock to have it in their homes.”
“So you have no more ideas?”
“Oh, I didn’t say that. I’ve got more ideas still ahead than you’ve already started working on.”
Slade hesitated. Did he really want to give away his ideas? What protection did he have, that they would come through with their promises?
Well, he did have his kinetic blaster. And he was nearly twice the size of their tallest people, and doubted they had any fighters his equal. They probably had guns and gunpowder of some sort, but he could wreak a severe vengeance if they cheated him. And since they still kind of thought he was a god--a magnanimous one, certainly, but not one with whom to trifle--they probably would be careful about cheating him.
He looked around the room. Would it be safe to talk about these things openly here? There might be a student who overheard their conversation and took the ideas to someone else. After all, these ideas were worth money. Perhaps he could describe what he wanted to invent in a way that wouldn’t explain more than the result.
“O.K., once we have the telegraph established, we’re going to want to create two gadgets, one of which turns sound into electricity and the other which turns electricity into sound. Hook them up on either end of our wire and we can talk in one end and hear what was said from the other. Its range would be more limited than the telegraph, because with the telegraph you just increase the voltage and you go farther, but with this you’ll have to invent a way to increase the power of the--I don’t know how to say it in your language. But you’ll get there.”
The professor nodded. “And?”
“Well, I guess the next step in entertainment is moving pictures.”
“Yeah. I’m assuming you have photographs.” Since he found a word for that through the language link, he assumed he was right. “There’s a way to use many photographs to create the illusion of objects in motion. I’ll show you how to do that.
“That will work better if we create electric light.”
With each proposed invention the professor seemed more awed. “Electric light?”
“Yes, I know two ways to do it; I know that there are several more, but I don’t know how they work. Anyway, we’ll invent that; maybe that should be next.
“Perhaps the toughest, though,” he thought about it a moment, “is the inner combustion motor.”
“It uses pistons like the steam engine, only smaller, and you inject a flammable liquid into the cylinder and explode it, and it forces the piston out producing motion. They can be very powerful for their size. But there are several important parts that have to be invented to get there. But I don’t think it’s beyond us--it’s just going to take a lot longer than these other things.”
“And what use is it?”
“You use them to drive vehicles, from tiny toy carts chicks ride in to huge cargo wagons to ships riding across the ocean. They’re very versatile.
“Anyway, if we can keep those ideas secret until we can invent and patent them, it will be generations before the university will be short on money. Good?”
“Amazing,” was the reply.
“Well,” Slade said, “If you’ll excuse me, I believe my wife has plans for us this afternoon.”
“Oh! Yes, I see. Will I see you tomorrow?”
“Do you think you’ll need me tomorrow? I mean, you don’t have,” and he was at a loss for the words for video games, “well, you don’t have much to entertain me, and my time can be better spent learning your language, or gee, I don’t know, relaxing with my wife? But I’ll be there if you need me, and if I’m not there you can always find me. There aren’t that many places I can be.”
“I see. Alright then, I’ll look for you if I need you.”
Slade rose and took his dishes to the washer.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #440: Changing Worlds. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: