A Eureka Moment In Time

Chapter 7

The Wreckage of Ethan Edison's drone was towed into the rear of Dr. Henry Deacon's garage. Deputy Andy carried most of the larger pieces out of the woods single handed, and placed them on a flat bed truck. Sheriff Jack Carter supervised the operation, taking inventory of each part. He and Andy repeated the operation in reverse when the wreckage arrived in town at the garage.
"Do you think you'll be able to figure out what went wrong?" Jack asked Henry.

"I'd also like to figure out what went right. The kids in the library said they saw the drone heading right at them, and they ran out of the library in mass seconds before the aircraft was going to smash into the building. They then heard it pass overhead. All of them said there was no way that it could have changed course in time to miss, yet somehow it climbed in the last seconds to fly over the building and end up in the woods." Henry said.

Jo Lupo entered the garage carrying a clipboard.
"I've got some preliminary information here. Ethan found two clues when he and the General were first on the crash scene. Here's a photo he took of the hand prints he found on the bottom of the aircraft. They're a child's size, probably a ten year olds. He also found a scrap of cloth caught in a ragged edge of metal. There was enough of it to identify it as being from a Tesla School gym shirt. There was a bit of the school logo in the scrap; and from the size of the lettering, weave, and other hints found in the police laboratory workup, this was a size small shirt. I can tell you that there were only two or three students in the current class that wear a size small, and only one of them had PE class during the time period that the drone went ape shit. That would be Tobio Tenma."

"I'm willing to bet his hand prints would match those found on the wreckage." Zane said, walking into the garage.

"What are you guys implying here?" Carter asked. "Did this kid somehow sabotage the drone?"

"I don't think so." Henry puzzled. "I think you're trying to tell me that he got to the crash site first and touched the wreckage before Ethan got there."

"Hah! You got that right!" Zane laughed. "Only I'm saying he got there at the SAME TIME as the drone did."

"He was in the woods when the drone crashed?" Carter guessed.

"Guess again!" Zane said, poking the sheriff in the ribs.

Henry looked at the photograph of the fuselage showing the hand prints. They were on the bottom side of the aircraft along the edges of two hand hold points where the aircraft could be handled during assembly. Just the right spot to grab the thing in flight and nudge it, if you were Superman.

"What you're suggesting Zane, is crazy. Unless …." Henry thought.

"Exactly!" Zane replied.

"Forget it!" Carter said. "I think you need to find out why this thing went nuts in the first place. I'm happy enough that it didn't crash into the school, I don't care why it didn't, unless that will help you figure out why it almost did."

"Jack's right." Henry replied. "I'm going to go over the wreckage and see what I can come up with. It looks like the drone's flight computer is all here, so I should be able to figure this out."

"Zane, don't you have some work to do over at the experimental power plant?" Jo Lupo asked.

"Yeah, I guess I should get over there before I'm missed." Zane replied and sulked out of the garage.

Doctor Alan Putzburger checked the operation of the breeder reactor at the Nuclear Engineering unit. Global Dynamics had several projects working on safe sources of atomic energy. The breeder reactor was producing the 'starting fuel' required for the Thorium reactor nearing completion over at the experimental power plant. Putzburger had put Zane in charge of overseeing the construction. Donovan's job was mostly to double check that the technicians followed his blueprints correctly. When the time came to actually fuel and fire up the reactor, Putzburger intended to personally direct the operation.

The Liquid Fluoride Thorium reactor was inherently safe as long as the breeder cycle was balanced to operate below a critical region, something that naturally happened. It was hoped that the research being done at Global Dynamics Eureka facility would lead to a cost break through in the thermal reactor that would supply cheap and safe electrical power with a zero carbon footprint. If they succeeded, their design could cut the demand for natural gas, coal and oil now used to generate electrical power. Needless to say that the suppliers of those fuels were worried.

The experimental power plant was located on the edge of Global Dynamics property in its own building. The reactor building was a single story building simply constructed from concrete blocks, and had a simple corrugated steel roof covered with a standard roofing felt and tar covering. The reactor vessel was of a thick walled steel construction. No containment vessel was provided as the reactor was not anticipated to produce any high pressure gases or liquids. Indeed, this was the hallmark of its design.

Putzburger motioned to technician Zachery Smith who was at the reactor control screen.
"I'm heading over to the power plant to see how that is coming along. Please keep an eye out on the fuel mixture. If we make the starting fuel too rich there might be a slight danger of a runaway reaction when we try to start up the Thorium reactor. You must keep the mixture in the green area."

"I know all about, Dr. Putzburger." Smith moaned. "I've been doing this job for months now, and everything has been perfect, right?"

"Yes it has." Alan agreed. "It's just that I'm so paranoid about getting this perfect, sorry if I keep needling your about it."

Putzburger put on his coat and walked out of the building to check on the power plant, still under construction.

Sheriff Jack Carter wandered over to Henry's garage after lunch to see how his examination of the drone's wreckage was coming along.
"Hello Henry. Any luck with that drone?"

"Good afternoon Sheriff. Actually, I'm pretty much finished with my investigation. I couldn't find any mechanical failures, though I never expected to. Jo was here trying to lift some prints from two hand marks on the fuselage, you'll have to check with her, but I don't think she found anything useful. I've downloaded the log dumps from the on board computer. There were some useful 'black box' recordings as well. The failure looks like it was caused by a simple memory overflow, really something that a second year computer engineering student should have found on the first debug pass. I can't imagine even Ethan in his most absent mindedness making such a mistake, though he's less of a computer engineer and more of an aeronautical expert."

"Kinda what I'd expect myself." Jack agreed. "What did you get from the black box?"

"Ha! Zane might have been right. The drone did not auto correct itself at the last moment to miss the school. It was diverted from its flightpath by an external force that I can't account for. And get this, the application of the force vectors recorded match up perfectly if you assume that said external force was applied exactly along the fuselage where those hand prints were."

"What do you make of that?"

"I can't. And I'm not going to ask Zane for his conspiracy theories on this. I don't need another headache." Henry concluded.

"Can I have a word with you?" Sarge asked Tobio.

Tobio finished dressing and closed his gym locker. "What is it teacher?"

"What exactly happened two days ago? I found out yesterday that a runaway drone out of Global Dynamics made a mess of downtown before crashing into the woods. The same day you took your time after class on equipment duty, and came back looking like you were in that crash."

"I was in that crash." Tobio said.

"Now I don't understand that. You were out in the schoolyard when the drone crashed. How did you get into the woods?"

"I flew. I was holding onto the drone when it went into the woods."

Ed Brown had seen the scorch marks out in the field where the drone had fired its laser on the ground. He figured that it must have tried to attack Tobio, possibly buzzing inches over his head. The kid could have grabbed onto the lower side of it and been carried aloft. Crazy thing to do, but Tobio might have a hero streak in him.
"Sounds like a crazy thing to do kid, but it seems you might have stopped the damn thing from causing some more damage elsewhere. I think you were lucky to come out of that without killing yourself, you remind me of myself when I was in active service." the formerly active marine replied.

Andy sat in Dr. Tenma's laboratory. He had his front and panels opened up and the doctor had various probe wires connected. Several oscilloscopes were connected up to him, as well as several computer monitors.
"When was the last time you had a full diagnostic exam, Andy?" Tenma asked.

"Oh maybe a year, year and a half ago?" Andy replied.

"You mean you don't recall exactly? Is there a problem with you memory?"

"No, not at all. It's just that I've had a few examinations, usually to fix a problem, or when one of the scientists wanted to try something new out on me. Now if you mean when did I have a diagnostic examination only for the purpose of routine maintenance, that was one year, two months, six days, and 45.4 hours ago." Andy replied.

"That's better." Tenma said. "You had me worried for a moment. What we are doing now will be a full diagnostic. If you have any pending breakdowns, or weak parts about to fail, what I'm doing now will find it out before you have a problem. I'm also going to test some of your systems to see how well they actually work compared to the engineering specifications. I wouldn't be a bit surprised to find out that you were built better than spec."

"Neither would I." Andy replied. "I don't mean to brag, but there isn't anything that I've been asked to do which I had any problems with."

"I'm glad to hear that, Deputy. Eureka is very lucky to have you in the Sheriff's department. I'm going to start some tests now, you will probably find yourself blacking out for a while and will regain consciousness when I'm finished." Tenma told the robot.

Dr. Tenma started a control program on the computer and slowly adjusted Andy's brain levels. The Deputy drifted into a coma like state. He closed his eyes and became rigid and stiff. Tenma then started up several diagnostics. He downloaded a new background program into Andy's subconscious processors and monitored it's operation.
"Very good." he thought. "Andy's systems are compatible with Atom's. I should be able to use Andy to perform the required tests, and if the systems work on him, I can upgrade Atom."

Tenma then injected a small amount of fluid into Andy's oil reservoir. The fluid contained microscopic nanites, self replicating machines that could transport themselves anywhere in the Robot's body to make repairs, or modifications under program control. Tenma readjusted Andy's brain levels back to normal so he would slowly regain consciousness. He disconnected all of the cables and closed Andy's panels up.

"You can wake up now, Andy," Dr. Tenma said softly.

Andy opened his eyes and smiled.
"That was a refreshing nap. Thank you!"

Andy got up and put his uniform back on. Tenma patted him on the back.
"Let me know if you have any strange feelings, pain, or whatever. There may be a bit of a strange reaction to the treatment I've given you. I've installed a new self repair system that your body may take some time to adjust to."

"Will do, Dr. Tenma. Can I return to my job now?"

"Certainly! Tell Sheriff Carter hello for me, won't you?"

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