Karat Cake

by Terry L. Mirll

Table of Contents
or part 1...

part 11


Many kilometers away in New York, Stevens sat quietly at work. He gazed intently at a holographic display of the new chrysopoeic prototype as his newly-assembled team of technicians worked to clear away the old prototype’s remnants. Soon, they would engineer fresh components for the new machine.

“Exploded view,” he said.

The image before him shifted, and the prototype flew neatly apart into its constituents.

“Rotate,” he said. As the image responded, he leaned in close, examining the display. “Reassemble and run simulation.”

The pieces returned to their original positions, and Stevens watched as a series of lead ingots were loaded into the modified beryllium chamber. It began to glow and spin at the upper end as the extrusion relays fed deuterium into the intubators just above the primary reservoir.

Since this new prototype no longer included the components necessary for Shmeat bombardment, it was much smaller than its predecessor. Whether it would be as effective, or more so, in transmuting the lead into gold was anyone’s guess. But Stevens felt hopeful — it was already simpler to operate, requiring less setup time than the previous version.

Now that he had modified the beryllium cylinder into a rectangular solid, the deuterium beam being just as effective on flat plates of lead as the curved plates comprising the old model’s lead lining, the production-extraction phase had become considerably simpler.

If this new machine worked as expected, he could reproduce any number of production models. In his mind’s eye, Stevens envisioned dozens side by side, manufacturing untold metric tons of gold. Instant wealth, at the flick of a switch.

The simulation ended. The access door atop the beryllium chamber opened wide, and Stevens’ eyes fell in wonder upon the thick ingots of transmuted gold.

“Simulation ended,” the computer said.

“Efficacy?”

“Ninety-eight percent.”

“And the deuterium beam, any leakage?”

“None detected.”

“Excellent!” Stevens said. In contrast with his usual self-restraint, he drummed his palms happily across the table. The Old Man would be pleased. Yes, quite pleased.

“Anomalies?”

“Unexplained field emission at beam ignition.”

“What sort of field?”

“Unknown, but presence of high-intensity tachyon particles at field ambience detected.”

“Tachyons?” he said. “Let me see the data.”

A screen popped into view, which quickly filled itself with a baffling collective of mathematical symbols and equations. Stevens leaned in, carefully examining the figures, highlighting important portions and ordering them according to their major derivative corollaries.

“Has this field appeared before? I mean, with any of the previous Shmeat models?”

“Affirmative.”

“Display any previous field emissions. I want a side by side comparison.”

Almost magically, a ring of display screens encircled him, a dozen meters in diameter. He rose from his seat, carefully examining each screen as he made a slow tour of the room.

“Give me an overlapping display of each field, one atop the other.”

Like a pack of cards dealt backwards, the images began to stack themselves into a neat pile. A series of concentric rings appeared.

“At field outbreak, were tachyons detected in each case?”

“Affirmative.”

“Run a forecast of their cumulative effect. Let’s see it by the numbers.”

Another screen filled with indecipherable mathematics appeared before him. He stared at it only briefly. His jaw dropped, and he cupped a hand over his open mouth. His eyes watered.

After a moment, he could speak again. “Dear God in Heaven,” he said. “please forgive us.”


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Copyright © 2015 by Terry L. Mirll

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