Dystopia Chapter 25.6666

From the Story Arc: Dystopia

Previous Story in the Arc: Chapter 25.3333 by Victoria Victrix (Monday, November 06, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 51 by Krasniy Zakat (Saturday, November 11, 2006)

(posted Thursday, November 09, 2006)

The welders’ arcs cut glowing paths through metal, the winch ground its steady beat, and another massive chunk of blue-black metal, warped and charred beyond recognition, fell away from the generator.

Petrograd stood over the pit containing the device, looking over a table full of blueprints and shouting orders to the work crew. Vicky didn’t like the scene one bit: the generator looked like so much scrap, and if Ivan Derinsky wasn’t holding a power tool, there was something truly wrong indeed.

“Is there anything left of it?” she asked hopefully.

“Is nyet as bad as is looking,” Petrograd replied in his signature broken English. “The working components of the generator and the portal are solid-state carbon matrices, like diamond, but properly aligned for electromagnetic conductivity. Can to withstand more damage than I am knowing how to produce.” There was something bordering on awe in his mechanically altered voice as he switched to the all-too-familiar lecture mode. “The cooling system suffered the brunt of damage. Crey’s designers used a uniquely constructed large-scale version of their cryonic technology to keep the generator cool.”

He paused, slightly frustrated. “Is hard to explain, something like energy dampening or degenerate form of cold fusion, but gist is that excess heat went into massive, expensive cryo-unit. As the generator operates over longer periods of time, greater heat is produced, constantly increasing potential energy in this device.”

“Is ingenious design. Fool proof. Or was.” He sighed, or at least went through the motions; it was hard to tell in his cybernetic suit. “The programmers, being overzealous capitalist fools, did nyet install a dead-man’s cutoff: as long as heat increased, cryo unit would match capacity. This would to be fine for short portal connections, but if someone is to leave this portal open for several hours…” He gestured to the giant makeshift Picasso hunk of metal. “Cryo unit could nyet hold any more energy: it burned out, melted into slag, and the generator thankfully stopped spinning.”

Vickie nodded, feeling that she had a grasp on the problem. Maybe. “I know there’s a barrel of cryo-weapons back at the base, and I know a couple dozen ice-chuckers who’d be happy to lend a hand.”

Petrograd shook his head wearily. “Is nyet enough. Even if we had heroes powerful enough to cool the generator, their power would be intermittent… we are needing things constant to the level of milliseconds. The classical ‘gods’ may be able to perceive and act on that level, but as they are nyet existing, I am at a loss.”

“Well, you’ve got that portal in the ship, and if worse comes to worse I could probably hunt down a planar-crossing ritual…”

“Is too risky. Aleksander’s computer record shows something disrupting the portal from the other side. This disturbance throws navigation out of whack, and if we are wrong, we could to end up on other side of that world, or in different universe, or be smashed into atoms. This portal is already locked into proper coordinates, and conjunctive with device. It must be this one.”

“Alright, how about that stuff they freeze in the shuttle… what is it?”

“Liquid oxygen. Is too warm.” The lecture tone returned in force. “Liquid helium is better, but is still…. Problematic. I could to build a cooling jacket and pump system for helium fairly easily. The problem is in excess energy. The generator begins in superconductive state, requiring temperatures near absolute zero to keep it there. However, its operations create waste heat, which would spill off into coolant. As it warms, the generator loses superconductivity, becoming less efficient, producing at an exponentially increasing rate. Even worse, as helium absorbs heat, it expands, putting pressure on cooling jacket, and goes through all appropriate phase changes.”

Vicky just blinked. “Which means?”

“Uh….” He bobbed his head as he thought of a decent way to explain the problem. “If we can nyet shut the portal off quickly enough, the generator’s cooling jacket will explode in massive ball of helium plasma, destroying the lab, killing everyone for several blocks and, worst, probably damaging the portal beyond repair.”

Vicky sighed. “How long can we keep the portal open, safely, before that happens?”

Petrograd pulled out his PDA, clicking an IM box marked ‘CeCe-nem,’ and waiting several seconds for a response. “Approximately 0.39 milliseconds.”

Vicky stared at him for a moment, deep in thought. “Can you keep pumping in fresh helium, and letting the warm stuff… I don’t know…. Flow out the top?”

“Was already assuming this. Pump is nyet fast enough, can nyet keep up with heat buildup longer than this.”

“Well, does the portal still work when the helium’s turned into plasma?”

“Oddly enough, da. But…”

“And all the heat’s in the plasma?”

“Da, but….”

“Well, get rid of it!”

“What?”

“Get rid of the plasma!”

“But… but….” Petrograd smacked his silvered forehead with a loud clank, and began typing frantically into the PDA.

“Well?” Victoria asked, smirking.

“Give me time! Am trying to remember numbers on Rikti weaponry for Dr. Wolkoff….. oh, bolshoi, she has abandoned Russian for math. I am lost… wait….”

Several frenzied seconds later, Petrograd turned, walking directly for the door.
“Wait!” Vickie yelled. “What’s the deal?”

Petrograd stopped, remembering himself, “Is risky, but….. 1.54 minutes. Then we are having to shut it down, refill helium reserves, flush system, allow it to cool… those in some order, is no telling how long it would to take. But we would have the portal for 1.54 minutes. Please, I am needing my tools.”

“How long will it take ya to build this puppy?”

Ivan’s helmet tilted up, thoughtfully. “If liquid helium suppliers and work crews can be persuaded nyet to dally like the kulaks they are… 32 hours. At most.”

Vicky chuckled. “Good boy, sic ‘em. I’ll see to the ordnance.”