A Eureka Moment In Time

Chapter 17

"Dr. Lamp, now that I've outlined our Thorium reactor project to you, what do you think?" Dr. Putzburger asked.

"Well the idea of separate breeder and power chambers complicates the construction and actually could leave you with the possibility of a runaway breeder cycle. For a laboratory prototype where you wanted to fully instrument the operation of the reactor so you could measure efficiencies and have total control of your fuel parameters, it makes some sense, but you would never build such a reactor commercially. I would have designed a single chamber reactor with a common set of control rods and seed the Thorium with just enough starting U232 to get the breeder cycle going." Dr. Lamp replied.

"Very good, thank you." Putzburger replied. "Now then, you said you graduated from MIT in 1997 with a 5.0 GPI. I see you were employed at Exxon, I didn't know they had a nuclear program."

"Most of the major oil companies wised up to the fact that they were actually energy companies many years ago. My work for them was mostly theoretical studies on the feasibilities of their entering the nuclear power business, and the threat that nuclear power would have on their current energy sales." Lamp answered.

Putzburger leafed though his notes, and glanced at the resume again. He decided that he had no more questions.
"Do you have any questions for me, Dr. Lamp?"

"Not really. I've done my homework on Global Dynamics and Eureka. I'm convinced that I'd like to work here if you would have me, and that I could make a big difference in your operations here." Lamp grinned.

"Very well then, we'll be getting in contact with you very quickly, one way or the other. Thank you for coming in to see us."

"So, how did the interview go with Dr. Lamp?" Douglas Fargo asked Alan Putzburger.
"I'd like to hire him to replace Zachary Smith. He's got some good ideas that agree with my line of thinking for the power plant. I think we could get back on track quickly with his help."

"I'm willing to go along with your recommendation. I'll have an offer letter typed up and sent out as soon as possible." Dr. Fargo told him.

Zachary Smith looked up from his computer terminal.
"Did you get the job?" he asked.

"I had them eating out of my hand." Lamp smiled. "I told you, I'm the real McCoy. I could have been one of them, but I got in a bit of trouble. It's easy to bullshit your way in when you're handing out more bull than shit."

"You didn't tell them about your work with Exxon-Mobile did you? That would have been a deal breaker." Zachary gasped.

"Sure I did. That job was out in the open, they would have found out about it if I had left it off my resume. Look, the oil companies have to be two faced, they can't reveal their relationship with the syndicate, and they all show themselves as energy companies with their hands in other areas. It makes sense, oil ain't gonna last forever, and they need to have a second cash cow when the first dries up. But until then, they are going to make as much money from oil as possible while jacking up the price and keeping the world hooked on it as the only clean energy source. And that's were the syndicate and us come in."

"Do you have any blueprints of Atom?" Zane asked.

"You mean the super robot that is Tobio?" Dr. Tenma replied. "Yes, I did bring those files with me from the IOS when I left. That project would have resulted in an android that was indistinguishable from a human being. I suppose you want to know exactly what systems Atom has?"

"Yes, I was curious about that. I've seen a few of the things he was able to do." Zane said.

"Very well. First of all, I refer to the robot itself as Atom, that was the name I gave to the project after it had become re-targeted as a replacement for my son, Tobio. As I told Andy, the original name for the super robot project was Cobalt. Understand that Atom has all of my son's memories and a good chunk of his actual brain software programmed into it. The robot really does think that it is my son. When I refer to him as Tobio, it is the living persona of my son." Tenma said.

"Yes, I think I understand that." Zane agreed.

"OK then. Atom functions as a human look alike. He can walk, talk, even eat. The robot has taste sensors, he can enjoy all the sensations of food just like a child Tobio's age can. Atom's systems can extract moisture from food, and break it down to obtain usable hydrocarbons and carbohydrates to burn in fuel cells to produce electrical power. What's left over is excreted in a manor similar to how we perform that function, so Tobio actually does use the water closet. I'm sorry if that was TMI. Atom can actually generate enough electrical power to run his basic systems this way, but his advanced functions require much more energy." Tenma continued.

"So what do you use for that, fusion power?" Zane asked.

"I considered that. The IOS had actually developed a miniature cold fusion battery. However something more exotic became available. Atom is powered by zero point vacuum energy. He will never need to be refueled, and could generate nearly infinite power. For practical reasons, I've limited it to 100,000 HP, but some of his systems could tap into even more power if necessary. You know he can fly using either jet or rocket engines in his legs. You've also seen the particle beam cannon in his arms. He has a pair of miniature rear facing Gatling guns mounted in his hips that shoot depleted Uranium shells. He also has high powered cutting lasers in the index finger of each hand. Atom can crank up his hearing to be as much as 10,000 times more sensitive than human ears. He can see in any wavelength of light from deep infrared to extreme ultraviolet, and in almost complete darkness. His eyes can also work in the X-ray region, and contain powerful flood lamps that can blind someone with thousands of candle power. He also has both telescopic and microscopic vision capability."

"My God!" Zane gasped. "He is a walking army."

"There's more. Atom is powerful enough to lift thousands of times his own weight. He could pick up a string of locomotives and lift them into orbit. You saw what he did with that 20 ton reactor. He could bend the Eiffel Tower into a pretzel. Atom's computer brain is fluent in over 100 languages, and has an IQ that is off the charts. Yet, despite all of this, he has the innocence of a ten year old child. Tobio's brain program was the missing link. It's what made the super robot practicable, and more important predictable. I shudder to think of releasing all of that destructive force on the world without having the regulator that keeps it sane." Tenma concluded.

"Then why did you block out Tobio's access to his abilities after he was repaired?" Zane wondered.

"I was second guessing myself, Zane. It may have been the wrong idea to give a ten year old boy such power. Yes, he has proved he has the wisdom to handle it, but he was also given the responsibility to do so. Childhood is so difficult as it is. Let's see how Atom with Tobio's mind handles that. What I really wanted to do with him when I came here was to just test that an AI with kokoro will interact with people. Andy is a special case, because he was implemented as an adult. I know you were involved with that along with Dr. Deacon, and you took a different approach with Kutcher's theories. I think my way is better, but I'm keeping that opinion to myself for now. Atom – Tobio is a test bed, and I think it will work better if we don't complicate matters by having the poor child have to be a superhero as well. I've left the back door open though. Tobio will be able to use his abilities if the need arises, but I've set that threshold as high as possible."

Henry Deacon stormed into Fargo's office, slamming the door open. This was totally out of his character, Henry was generally a very soft spoken individual who avoided confrontations.
"I'm a bit worried about your choice of hire for Dr. Putzburger's assistant, Douglas."

"Henry! You sure seem overly worked up about this. I can assure you that he's been vetted by security and more important, Dr. Putzburger likes him." Douglas replied.

"Putzburger isn't the best judge of character. He liked Zachary Smith, and look what happened!" Henry said.

"Unless you can give me a good reason to fire him that stands up, my hands are tied here. The man is qualified. Class of '97 at MIT. He's written several white papers on nuclear power. The only black mark anyone could find was a single rejection for a proposal he wrote to the NRC for more liberal licensing of nuclear power plants. If he had submitted that before the Fukushima disaster it might have even been considered." Fargo explained.

"Well, I'm going to watch him like a hawk as long as I'm going to be associated with the experimental power plant." Henry said.

"Yeah about that. Alan Putzburger has asked me if I could find you something else to do. He doesn't want your help anymore on the reactor. He said that he and Dr. Lamp are going to take care of the design by themselves, and that if they need any computer advice they will go to Dr. Tenma. Alan thinks that the computer issues are better handed by a robotics AI expert than a control systems engineer." Fargo added.

"I bet that's Lamp talking!" Dr. Deacon yelled. "I'm going to warn Tenma about this."

"Dr. Tenma is no dummy. I'm sure he will spot any funny business on Lamp's part, assuming your suspicions are correct, which I doubt." Fargo replied.

"Probably." Henry said as he quickly left the office.

Dr. Putzburger studied the modified design documents that Dr. Lamp had just handed him. These were still only top level plans, but they captured the essence of the design proposal.
"Very interesting, Dr. Lamp! Your modifications bring the design closer to a shippable implementation. The fuel assembly combines both the required starting fuel and the Thorium in a single package. With enough of the fuel rods inserted the reactor can be regulated in all modes by a single set of control rods. And you've combined the starting, breeder and power cycles into a single mode. Genius!"

"Thank you, Dr. Putzburger. This will require some new software, and as I've indicated before, I think we should use a robotic AI approach." Lamp replied.

"Yes, I'll get in touch with Dr. Tenma this afternoon. Let me get his thoughts on the matter. Then as soon as we can work out a complete set of plans, we can start on the construction of a prototype reactor, and start to work on the design of the fuel assemblies."

Later that evening Zachary Smith listened to Acetylene Lamp describe the day's activities at GD.
"You gave them a perfectly safe reactor design. In fact, I can't find anything wrong with it. If they build that, the syndicate will really be pissed!" Smith said.

"That's the whole idea, you idiot. The design of that reactor is almost foolproof, but it can be sabotaged very easily. That's where you come in. I've got Putzburger to agree on an AI based controller instead of a process based on. You should be able to hide a few fatal flaws in that software rather easily I would think. And I will be able to sabotage the reactor hardware itself in a subtle way. Those flaws will remain undiscovered until the power plant has been running for a few months. It will fail in a rather dramatic way once everyone has gotten used to the idea that it is running safely. Having it self destruct during the initial startup was not a good idea. That's when it would have been expected to fail." Lamp laughed.

Smith smiled. "Yes, I see what you mean. We'll take is slow this time then. I hope the syndicate is cool with this."

"Don't worry, I've got them under control for now. Eureka is not going to become the new power broker in the energy market, that will remain with OPEC, and we will become rather rich." Lamp replied.

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