The Nexus Odyssey, p.41Hylton Smith
Alex 2 and Nielsen had done well. The production of the outer shell of the sphere had been achieved. Modulating the increasing density of the polymer to the specification had proved time consuming. The exterior had to be rigid to fit with the housing requirements, but it had to conform to a gradient of flexibility towards the interface with the inner core. At the intersection, the freedom for the core to absorb shock was critical and the inner surface of the outer shell was rigorously scanned for any defect. The inner core was injected, as polymer foam, to predetermined pressure targets against a protective and reactive membrane which separated the inner and outer components. Then it was allowed to reach a highly specific cure point to become a honeycomb structure. The bowling ball analogy came to the fore again as the three ‘finger holds’ were used as ports to fire mild repetitive energy bolts through the honeycomb to ‘neutralising’ points on the periphery. The almost contradictory ‘random specification’ resulted in internal conduits being created for the meandering blue spinal fluid to be introduced. Once this had reached saturation, one of the critical time factors demanded that the finger holds were plugged by robotic arms with nodes to control the digestion, respiratory and movement command architecture. They had to be sealed without leakage or free space for gaseous occupation and with absolute precision in terms of surface protrusion.
Keriakis and Red were almost finished their study of the molecular granulator for cellulose. The first phase was achieved with a technology which had also been developed on Earth. Nanoprobes were employed to separate off clusters of the order of twenty molecules; step two involved the release of bacteria to fix nitrogen intake by breaking down individual molecules from the clusters and producing nitrates. This led to a familiar human reaction culminating in amino acids and subsequently proteins. Reprogramming of nanoprobes facilitated the distribution to the nodes at the joints, and motion enabling structures together with parallel in-feeds from the command node in the sphere. They were ready to move on to the respiratory function.
The meeting in St. Petersburg developed in a very similar way to the one in Germany. Tsiolovsky handed the bogus print outs to Andrei Novotny. He only had seconds to scan them before Koppelt introduced himself. He was asked to hand over Tsiolovsky’s contract money and acquainted with the story so far. It proved difficult at first to get Novotny to say anything. They then bundled both of them into an awaiting car which was already occupied by first contact – Ledovskaya and her gorilla who were ready to take them to Moscow. Negotiation began by Koppelt emphasising his only interest was for Novotny to make the call to Korolev to verify the data, and for an explanation of what was supposed to happen next. Novotny’s plea bargaining would be with Ledovskaya. “I may have some influence here but I will not exercise it unless we make the call.”
Novotny said he was to have a meeting with Korolev to determine where to synthesize the crystal. Fortunately the meeting was scheduled in St. Petersburg one week from now. Because Korolev knew he was continually watched, it would be a mock birthday party for one of his sons. Some two hundred people would be invited and loud music arranged in the grounds of his opulent residence. Novotny declined to make the call before discussing his fate with Ledovskaya. The stalemate persisted for several hours.
As Xiang was receiving daily updates on Echus Chasma from Pascal 2, he now faced two major decisions. The one involving keeping the lid on mankind’s possible discovery of a means of interstellar travel was far reaching and needed careful deliberation. The other was to put forward three people from his organisation for geological surveys in China, then after the medical scans, expertly substitute the permit identities to allow Mike, Finn and Dane to hunt down more red crystal. Both caused him unease. He decided to do nothing about either for now. He was deep in contemplation when Koppelt rang. “We have isolated the people concerned with the synthesis scam and retrieved the data Beth Eisentrager was going to pass on. The main man from the Russians’ point of view has yet to be set up but we expect progress soon. That will allow the Russians to save face and your knowledge is preserved. Can I suggest you find a way to let Radmanov know he is off the hook, without names? I’ll be heading back to Switzerland shortly, Roberto. It was good to work with you again.”
Xiang acknowledged the good news and thanked him profusely. “One last favour, Karl….who do you know in Chinese Intelligence that I could talk to over a delicate matter of joint security with Beijing?”
Koppelt thought for a minute or so. “I know people, but unless I know what we are talking about it would be risky in picking the wrong one. In any case there could be acrimony if both your own intelligence and theirs have to discuss boundaries. Let’s not talk on the phone, I will come to Beijing and we can discuss this.”
“Excellent, I look forward to seeing you again.”
The work groups at Echus Chasma had discussed their individual findings. There were common features. The space travel trio had no idea what the black cube was made from; they had no analytical equipment and even if they had, they seemed unable to prise samples from the cubes. The sphere duo, similarly, had not been able to find information on the chemical constitution of any of the three main components. Red and Keriakis had the same difficulty with the blue fluid function at the nodes and the type of proteins which were delivered to them. They all agreed that this knowledge had no hallmarks of having been developed by the Rabo assembly technicians who had produced the schematics. They consequently halted further fabrication until they thought through the implications of any third party’s benevolence.
The Symbiants repeated their dismissal of the Interference being involved merely because of the plight of the Rabo. That meant they had to come up with the Rabo being incidental in a far greater task for the Interference, or consider another species ‘controlling’ the Rabo evolution for whatever purpose. A repetition of such divine assistance for humanity may not be so attractive unless the terms of the relationship were known. As disappointing as this was they agreed they had to go back to the Rabo historical dynasties, to look for evidence other than simple technical transfer. Mythology might contain more obtuse references, which could be found with the new search criteria.
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