Bodkins the Great
by Bill Bowler
|part 5 of 6|
“Mr. Prime Minister.”
“Your Worship,” Lady Smithers curtsied as her husband straighted up from his low bow.
“And how is little Daphne?” inquired Bodkins the Great.
“She’s started talking now,” said Lady Smithers with a broad smile.
“And walks like a drunken sailor,” said Smithers, beaming. They all laughed. The proud parents, both former crew members, had married two years earlier. They sat at the long dining table set with magnificent fruits and vegetables from the hydroponic gardens. Bodmoid servants poured pod juice and Prime Minister Smithers raised his goblet,
“To our Sovereign! May he live long and prosper!”
The others raised their glasses, “Here, here!”
Bodkins sat at the head of the table, smiled and nodded his approval.
“What news from the Science Ministry?” asked Bodkins.
“They’ve scheduled a demonstration for Your Munificence.”
“The device runs on quark flusion,” Smithers went on. “It’s quite clever, really. A kind of wave generator that stimulates a controlled chain reaction. According to Zharkov’s calculations, it will easily supply enough power for the whole continent. In fact, it has the potential to provide virtually unlimited energy at no cost and with no waste. But you’ll see. The prototype device is quite impressive.”
“We’ll turn these deserts into gardens,” said Bodkins.
“Have you seen the statue on top of the spire?” Queen Dora turned to Lady Smithers.
“Magnificent!” said Lady Smithers. “A stunning likeness. It’s especially impressive at night, in the spotlights.”
“Did you notice it rotates?” asked Bodkins.
“A brilliant touch!” said Smithers.
“How large is it?” asked Lady Smithers.
“Just over ten feet tall,” said Baldemar. “It’s a bit much. I objected, of course, but the sculptor recommended those dimensions as the minimum scale for proper viewing from the square below.” Bodkins turned to Smithers, “Have the posters been distributed?”
“Yes, Your Worship. Ten thousand have been put up and another twenty are being printed.”
“I’ve seen them all around the human quarter,” said Lady Smithers. “A beautiful image. Striking.”
“They’ve been posted along the roads towards the outlying districts, as well,” said Smithers.
“Of course, I hadn’t wanted such a display,” said Bodkins.
“Of course not,” said Lady Smithers.
“I was against it, but my subjects demanded it. I can’t disappoint them.” Bodkins took a sip of pod juice from his goblet, “I’m thinking of re-naming the square.”
* * *
The prototype quark flusor was set up in the courtyard behind the main wing of the Academy of Sciences building in the human quarter. It was an imposing piece of machinery. A ten-meter tall antenna rose from a quark centrifuge housing controlled from a remote command console operated by the inventor, Dr. Zharkov, who had been chief engineer of the rescue party. A huge block of rose quartz was resting on a lift and energy from the quark flusor would be beamed to power the lift engine and raise the 50-ton slab to a height of one meter.
A temporary grandstand had been erected in the courtyard and Bodkins the Great was seated along with his Prime Minister, Defense Minister, and Secretary of State — all former members of the rescue party, now all residents of Bodkinsville, members of Bodkins’ government, and patriotic Bodkinians. A party of Bodmoid guards encircled the courtyard perimeter.
Zharkov called for silence and the crowd stopped twittering and watched curiously as Zharkov checked his connections, took the readings from several displays, adjusted the dials, and threw several switches on the console. Once satisfied, he turned to the crowd,
“We are ready to begin. I will first apply minimum charge, to reach stage N-1 flusion and provide enough power to lift the test weight one centimeter. Then I will gradually increase the charge to reach stage N-2, controlled low level chain reaction, providing sufficient power easily to raise the test weight one meter. You will note the only energy source is this small quark flusor housed beneath the broadcast antenna, which I have tuned to the platform engine receiver wavelength.”
The spectators were silent. All eyes were on Zharkov as he turned a dial on the console until the screen readout was 1. The antenna on the flusor housing began to glow red. The crowd felt a wave of warmth spread across the courtyard as the lift engine powered on. The platform creaked, the gears turned, and the mechanism lifted the 50 ton slab to a height of one centimeter. The crowd gasped and Bodkins watched intently.
“And now,” announced Zharkov, “I will raise the test weight to a full meter.”
Zharkov turned the dial to 100. The antenna began to glow white hot. The crowd felt another wave of heat surge across the coutyard and the grandstand. The lift gears turned and meshed again, and the platform holding the slab of quartz began to rise slowly, creaking as it went.
Bodkins smelled smoke. Someone in the grandstand yelled out, “Look! The flusor!”
Zharkov, seated at the console, sniffed the air and followed his nose. A thin wisp of blue smoke was rising from the quark flusion box. Zharkov jumped up and spun the dial back to zero, cutting power, but it was too late. The overload in the quark flusion box had saturated the chain reaction and caused a cascade effect. A mega-blast of super-concentrated N-power surged up the broadcast needle. The top of the antenna was blown off and a bolt of energy zapped through the air and struck the slab of quartz, blowing it to smithereens.
Chunks and splinters of burnt quartz flew through the air in all directions. One large fragment struck the Defense Minister where he stood and another hit the Secretary of State as he dove from the grandstand. Both officials were killed instantly.
Pandemonium broke out. The crowd scattered from the grandstand and stampeded towards the exits. The Boidmoid guards moved in and tore the wires from the quark flusor. Bodkins and Smithers stood in the now empty grandstand.
“This is terrible, just terrible!” moaned Smithers. “They’ll answer for this. We’ll arrest that lunatic Zharkov. We’ll halt the project at once.”
“My dear Smithers,” said Bodkins calmly. “That won’t be necessary. I want Zharkov and his team to continue their work.”
Smithers gaped at Bodkins as he walked slowly down the grandstand to the courtyard and picked up a scorched and blackened shard of quartz. It was still warm. Bodkins smiled and nodded to himself. This quark flusion business, he realized, had applications in other spheres: military applications, for example.
Some time later, on a warm and sultry night, Bodkins was unable to sleep and climbed up to the observation tower to take some air. He gazed up at the star filled sky and thought of how there was no limit to how far he might extend his domain should the experiments with quark flusion yield the results he expected. If flusion power could be focused and aimed, and the cascade side effect controlled, it would prove difficult in the future, as a result, to halt the spread of his, Bodkins’... influence.
A shooting star blazed across the night sky. Bodkins followed its flight with his eyes. A single planet, he thought, is not enough. Plenty of people rule single planets. They’re a dime a dozen. I’m meant for greater things.
The shooting star reached the horizon, slowed, and turned, coming back across the sky in the direction of Bodkinsville. Bodkins watched with interest and then growing alarm. It was another ship.
The Galushians transmitted their first threat the next morning.
Two Bodmoid guards escorted a very agitated Prime Minister Smithers into Bodkins the Great’s presence. “Take a look at this!” cried Smithers, and he thrust a printout into Bodkins’ hands.
“You are trespassing. This star system is Galushian territory. You have five revolutions to evacuate the planet and vacate this sector or we will forcibly remove or eliminate you.”
“We’ve got to get our of here!” cried a clearly shaken Smithers. “We don’t stand a chance against armed Galushian cruisers!”
But Baldemar’s thoughts were traveling a different track. One of the Bodmoid guards went to fetch Zharkov.
“Can you target at that range?” Bodkins asked Zharkov.
“Well, I should think so.”
“Enough force to destroy a ship?”
“Enough to destroy a fleet and more.”
“What about the side effects?”
“That could be a problem, Your Exellency.”
“Worst case scenario? If the unflused quarks in the sequencer reached saturation, it could theoretically set off an N-4 type cascade reaction which would be beyond our ability to modulate.”
“Yes, well, theoretically, the cascade could hyperfluse the remaining quarks in the reservoir chamber, generating an energy wave effect that could result in the potential disintegration of all matter within a certain radius.”
“Without further testing...”
“There’s no time for that.”
“Yes, well, theoretically, the square of the distance to the target.”
“And the effect?..”
“Instantaneous conversion to anti-matter producing a 60,000 gigaton explosion.”
“What are the chances of setting off the chain reaction if we use the flusor to shoot down the ship?”
“Impossible to determine precisely without further testing.”
“Your best guess?”
Zharkov paused for a long moment. “Fifty-fifty.”
* * *
Copyright © 2008 by Bill Bowler