Collective Minds

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Chapter 16

Dr. Hawking, Einstein, and Kat all stood in front of a the dry erase board in the lab. Behind them stood Jack, Kat’s research team, and the science-based visitors.

“You’re sure the figures you gave me for the cube’s chemical composition and the energy input from the prism were correct?,” Einstein asked Xiang Lo.

“Positive,” answered Xiang.

Einstein looked to professor Hawking, who studied the board intently. “Incredible,” the wheeled genius touted. “We need to test this theory. This may very well open the flood gates to energy weapon development.”

Jack tried to understand what he was looking at, but it was gibberish to him. “Forgive me, Dr. Hawking,” inquired the Colonel, “But my quantum mathematics are a little rusty. What exactly did you determine here?”

Einstein answered for his wheeled friend. “The alloy can absorb an incredible amount of energy proportionate to it’s mass. Once it reaches critical capacity, these figures illustrate that it should not only discharge that energy, but multiply it nearly ten fold.”

“It re-writes the first law of thermodynamics,” added Hawking. “Energy can indeed be created through this medium. What a revelation.”

“It all makes sense,” Einstein continued. “The alloy on the hull of the ship acted as a power supply. It could be harnessed and utilized as the aliens saw fit. They stored it in the wormhole within the anti-field, or focused it for other means such as propulsion or weaponry.”

“Yes,” said Kat, “But why bother with the wormhole then?”

“The wormhole created energy as well as storing it,” answered Dr. Hawking. “There are forces in the universe that are powerful enough to overload the hull plating alone. The extra terrestrials had to have known that, so they created an artificial wormhole as a secondary energy source and safeguard against these forces.”

“What forces?,” asked Jack.

“Black holes, stars, quasars,” announced Hawking. “Or anomalies we don’t know about. If the ship passed too close to one of those...”

Dr. Hawking stopped dead in his tracks, mid sentence. He was the one now lost in thought, as his eyes flickered at the board. He and Einstein both had a plan developing, but clearly needed more time to work it out. Jack could see the gears turning, and finally broke the silence.

“You said you had new ideas for weapons, Dr. Hawking. What exactly did you have in mind?”

The New Mexico desert was barely illuminated by twilight one evening a week later. The dying daylight outlined a concrete bunker buried in the desert floor, with the top three feet exposed above the sand. Small slits ran the length of the side for the occupants to watch through, with dim light emitting from inside. A short distance from the bunker was a chain link fence that ran into the distance both directions, with a large sign posted that read: ’DANGER: US ARMY NUCLEAR TEST RANGE. KEEP OUT.

Inside the bunker, several tables were set up with six laptop computers plugged in on top of them. Dave, Maggie, Xiang, and Kat each manned one, as a fifth broadcast a live feed of a nuclear weapon in the far off desert. Positioned next to the bomb was the DaVincium cube. The device was identical to the one Marty had detonated in the vault.

The sixth computer, which more resembled an open briefcase, sat open on a table by itself near Jack and General Irons. There were two slots for keys, a huge red button, and complicated looking controls. It was the launch platform for the nuke, primed to go. The Colonel and Irons looked through the slits in the bunker out across the desert as DaVinci, Curie, and Einstein sat near the back discussing the test.

“Are we ready?,” asked Jack.

Kat punched a few final keystrokes, then turned to her comrades. They all gave her confirmation, as she stood to address Jack. “We’re set,” she replied, “And Dr. Hawking is monitoring from the base on the same satellite feed.” She paused, then wrapped up by asking what everyone else was thinking. “Are you sure this is a good idea, Jack?”

“No,” Jack replied without hesitation, “But considering who came up with it, I feel pretty confident we won’t do too much damage.” He knocked on the wooden table top for good measure.

Einstein overheard the conversation, and reassured everyone. “No need for superstition, my friend,” boasted the cotton-haired genius. “Dealing with theory is one thing. Dealing with facts, and calculations, and mathematics is another. We’ve run the numbers on this more times that we can count, and should witness roughly a fifty megaton yield from that weapon.”

“Speaking of weapons,” inquired Jack to General Irons, “Did you arrange for a replacement in the vault under the base for the one we’re about to detonate?”

“I did,” answered the General. “I had to call in a favor. It was tough coming up with a cover story for what we’re actually doing here.” Jack chuckled, as General Irons pulled a small brass key tethered to his dog tags. “You ready, cowboy?”

Briggs reached in his jacket and produced the other key, which was also attached to his tags. Both men inserted and turned simultaneously. A green light came on, signaling the arming of the weapon. On the computer screen, the image of the nuke changed slightly, as a small flashing light illuminated.

“Kat, pan out the satellite image,” Jack ordered.

She punched a few keys on the imaging computer, causing the view to pan out some. The broadcast was now from several miles above the desert floor. All the occupants peered through the viewing slots to watch the test, as Jack motioned to Kat with the ‘go-ahead’. He reached for the red button, stopping short, knocking again on the wooden table again a few times, then initiated the ignition.

The bomb sat at ground zero a safe distance from the bunker, in a barren, wasteland area of the desert. For a brief moment it was visible, then it was gone in a brilliant white flash. The satellite view broadcasted from miles above, as a fiery mushroom cloud traveled upward toward it. Simultaneously, a spherical blue shock wave rolled outward and upward over the desert, but stopped abruptly, seemingly frozen in the air.

Suddenly, and strangely, the cloud began to dissipate and disperse as if being pulled back toward the ground. The blue heat and radiation deflated like a balloon, until it was back to it’s point of origin. The cube drank the energy from the bomb like it was dying of thirst, then sizzled and glowed red. Smoke billowed momentarily, as the cube went critical and exploded with a roar loud enough to hear from the moon.

Inside the bunker, the occupants could only watch and theorize what was transpiring, as the camera on the ground had been destroyed. The satellite camera wasn’t much use either, as it was so high above.

The blast wave from the cube rolled over the bunker like a tsunami, sandblasting the occupants through the viewing slits. The ground shook violently, as DaVinci’s beard and Einstein’s mustache fluttered in the strong gale.

My god,” whispered madame Curie.

The computer team monitored the data from the blast, when suddenly the room upended, causing everyone to topple like an avalanche. Bodies tumbled as people screamed and flailed against the pull of gravity. The computers and hardware all bounced around and came unplugged, as everyone settled, then stopped.

Moments later, the front door of the bunker opened and Jack crawled out. It was facing the stars, which was all he could see in the pitch blackness of night. One by one he helped his cohorts out until they were all accounted for and safe. Dave was bleeding from both nostrils, which he plugged with each of his pointer fingers.

General Irons pulled a flashlight from his belt and lit it. It wasn’t very bright, and didn’t reveal much, but it did light the way to the Jeeps that were parked nearby. Two of the three were laying on their side, with one still on it’s tires. Irons jumped in and turned on the headlights, revealing to the team what caused the chaos.

The entire concrete bunker laid upended in a huge crack in the earth. The fissure widened in the direction the blast came from, and spanned another quarter mile past where the bunker had sat.

“What was it you were saying about superstition?,” Jack posed to Einstein. The wild haired genius was speechless.

The next day in the lab, Kat, Einstein, and Dr. Hawking all huddled around a work station as she pulled up the video from the detonation. “I’m glad you’re both okay,” professor Hawking stated. “I feared you may have been killed when the alloy went critical.”

“It’s hard to believe we could’ve been so wrong in our calculations,” Einstein admitted. Kat finished typing. “I’m not sure you were,” she touted. “Look at this.”

The explosion replayed, which showed the upward blast, then the downward rebound. As the blast wave moved back toward the earth, Kat followed it with the zoom, until there was a birds eye view of the DiVincium cube as it absorbed the energy and went critical. Then, something strange happened.

Instead of exploding, the cube appeared to implode. After the implosion the massive shock wave that toppled the bunker shot out outward, forming a massive crater in the earth where the cube had sat. Kat paused the video, and panned up again, then resumed the slow playback. Enormous cracks in the desert opened in multiple directions from the implosion point, some running a hundred miles or better.

“The alloy appears to have reversed the polarity of the blast,” Einstein concluded. “It must have funneled the energy downward into the ground.”

“That’s exactly what happened,” concurred Hawking. “It makes sense, Albert. The law of conservation of momentum states that energy in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.”

“But what was the outside force?,” Kat asked inquisitively.

“The cube,” answered Einstein. “Its ability to absorb energy drew the force of the blast back inward from the massive explosion outward. Our calculations for how much the cube could absorb were spot on.”

“True,” said Kat, “But you didn’t factor in the reverse in polarity of that momentum. It’s a good thing we didn’t test this on a larger scale. We could’ve easily killed ourselves.”

“Ourselves aside,” stated Hawking, “We could have blown the earth in two. But we didn’t. In fact, we learned something very valuable. The alloy changed the direction of the blast based on the physics of gravity specific to the cube’s location. If the cube would’ve been in a weightless environment instead of crushed against the earth’s surface, it may not have destroyed itself.”

“So?,” asked Kat.

“So,” continued Dr. Hawking, “If the cube can re-direct energy and not destroy itself, we could harness that capability and weaponize it. We could create small concentrated bursts to re-direct for the ground troops, and something on a larger scale to fire at the orbiting mother ships.”

Kat saw another breakthrough coming, and could smell blood in the water. But there was the question of polarity. “How,” she asked, “Could we re-direct it? The bomb reversed direction based on gravity. We’d need something moving it, like amperage pushes voltage.”

Einstein and Hawking knew it was a valid question, and that even though they’d put another piece in the puzzle they were still far from seeing the whole picture. The nuclear test had given them promising new ideas, but time was running out.

Day gave way to night, as Kat and Jack laid together in bed. They were covered to the chest, showing Jack’s chiseled physique and the scar on his shoulder. Her top was bare except for two spaghetti straps that went up over her shoulders. The two snuggled warmly as Jack slowly stroked her back with his fingertips. Kat moaned quietly and enjoyed the attention.

“I love you,” Jack whispered.

She enjoyed hearing it, as her lover hardly ever said it anymore. The three magic words brought on a tender smile.

“I love you too, Jack,” she answered sincerely.

“I don’t tell you nearly enough,” he confessed. “If anything ever happened, I’d regret that.”

Kat was tuned in a little more now, knowing something else was coming. Jack had a good poker face as a soldier, but he was transparent when it came to relationships.

“Is that all?,” she asked.

“No, not really,” he admitted. “I had another episode in the mess hall today. Both my hands faded in and out again, and I had some weird deja vu type feelings. I really had to concentrate to stay on my feet. There were people everywhere.”

Kat pulled away and sat up in bed. “How often is this happening to you, Jack?”

“Three, maybe four times now since we came back together and blended,” Jack answered, “But it gets a little more intense every time. What about you?”

“Just the once, in here with you,” she replied.

Jack shot her a glare like he didn’t believe her. She knew that look, and tried to downplay the fact that she was fudging. “I’ve had some episodes while I slept,” she admitted, “But I thought they were just dreams.”

“This isn’t happening to anyone else but us,” Jack stated. “Why?”

Kat had a pretty good idea, but no evidence to back it up. “We were the only ones that fused with ourselves. That has to have something to do with it.”

“Should we be concerned?,” asked Briggs.

His cohort wasn’t sure, and her voice alluded to that. “I’m not certain yet. It does concern me that it seems to be happening more frequently the closer we get to the attack, and the day that we originally jumped.”

“We need to start looking into it,” Jack said, “And see if there’s some way we can neutralize it. But we have bigger fish to fry. Have you made any progress on the DaVincium front?”

Kat shifted gears. “Quite a lot, actually,” she answered. “Professor Hawking and Einstein have been working for the last three weeks on a way to reverse the polarity on the containment field around the alien power supply. Dr. Hawking told me they made a breakthrough this morning and were going to have a test set up in the next day or two.”

“That sounds really cool,” said Jack. “But how will that help us?”

Kat laid it out carefully. “If they can draw energy out and focus it, we’ll have the first and only energy weapon on earth. Enough to kill a man, a ship, or maybe even destroy a planet. But we have to proceed carefully and not as reckless as we were in the desert. We can’t throw the dice on mistakes like that again.”

Kat’s phone rang on the night stand, vibrating obnoxiously. She answered it, and had a short conversation, then hung up and stood out of bed. “Get dressed,” she insisted. “They’ve got something. We need to get down there.”

The lab had been cleaned up some and looked more like a research area than it had in quite a while. The alien power supply still stood on it’s pedestal, with the wormhole still spinning inside. Dr. Hawking watched a computer display while Einstein adjusted the position of a sizeable field generator over the top of it.

Kat and Jack entered, just as the wild-haired genius was making some final adjustments. “Welcome,” greeted professor Hawking, “We’re just about to begin.” Kat looked at what Einstein was doing, curious. “I don’t understand,” she questioned. “I thought you said it was going to be a few days.”

“That was our initial assessment,” answered Dr. Hawking, “But we couldn’t wait. We’re on the edge of a breakthrough that could turn the tides of the entire project. If this works, we’ll have the most powerful weapon on earth.”

Einstein walked to the far corner of the room, where sat a huge steel target on a cart with roller castors. The material was one inch thick, and similar in composition and size to the plate cut in half by Wallace. It’s density and weight alone caused the castors to squeal while Einstein rolled it into position.

“Are you ready, Stephen?,” he asked.

“Yes,” replied his wheeled counterpart, looking to Kat. “Can you operate the field generator?” She sat down at the controls and studied them for a moment. “Sure,” she replied. “This is just like the one at MIT that I used in a few of my lab demonstrations.”

“I know,” smiled Dr. Hawking, “That’s where I got it. Mattie owed me a favor.” Kat smirked, and began the activation sequence as Einstein moved into position behind her. “We determined that the containment field around the worm hole had a significant amount of positron radiation,” he lectured. “If we create a stabilized electron field, it should dampen that anti-field or reverse it altogether. Either way, we should see a very powerful discharge.”

“We programmed the emitter to create a cylindrical field,” spoke Hawking, “Slightly larger than the sphere encasing the wormhole. It will span to the target, and focus the static discharge.”

Jack stood behind his girlfriend and the eggheads, lost in the jargon but enthusiastic about the outcome. Kat read the screen diagnostics momentarily, then activated the field generator. “Gently,” cautioned Einstein. “Stephen will monitor both the emitter field and the anti-field. Any fluctuations in either and we shut down. Understand?”

Kat nodded, as the field generator hummed to life. Small arcs of electricity began to crackle, as a blue, cylindrical tunnel appeared in the air between the anomaly and the steel target down range. It shimmered with intensity, like a smoky laser emission in a light show.

“Increase the power, Kat. Four kilojoules,” ordered Einstein.

Kat cranked up the juice, and the green containment field around the wormhole started to become more transparent. More impressively, the black hole inside began to slow down. The excitement began to build as even Jack, the anti-nerd, blurted out.

“It’s working!,” he exclaimed.

“Again, Kat,” beckoned Einstein. “Two more kilojoules.”

Kat increased the power output again, causing the wormhole to stop altogether. She looked to Einstein, who nodded, as she cranked the power up a third time. The wormhole began spinning in reverse, causing a huge, white electrical particle to begin building on the top of the anti-field like a water balloon. The intensely hot spark quickly grew to the inside diameter of the emitter field around it. As it touched the walls of the tunnel, it exploded away from the wormhole violently. The discharge shot down the length of the emitter funnel like a bolt of lightning, hitting the steel plate on the other end.

“Output levels and containment are stable on all fronts,” confirmed professor Hawking.

“More power!,” prompted Einstein. Kat was a step ahead, having heard Dr. Hawking’s reassurance. The energy bolt intensified and began burning through the steel plate, causing molten slag to drip and splatter.

“Shut it down!,” yelled Jack, “Before you breach the target!”

Kat heard, and knew the test had been a success. She deactivated the emitter, causing the electron field to collapse, which it turn caused the wormhole to reverse direction again almost immediately. As it did, the power discharge immediately stopped. All the energy was again being pulled into the wormhole safely beneath the anti-field, which had solidified back to a solid green luster.

There was a collective moment of silence, as everyone pondered the ramifications of what they’d just seen. Jack walked to the target, which had a red-hot hole burned nearly all the way through. “What was that?,” he inquired. “It looked like plasma from an arc welder.”

“It was, for the most part,” answered Dr. Hawking.

“Most of the energy we’ve used for testing thus far was electricity,” explained Einstein. “We just released a great deal of it, concentrated in one burst. But energy is energy Colonel Briggs. It should discharge whatever we put in. Nuclear, light, heat, or anything else.”

“What about those green bolts the aliens shot at us? Can it redirect those?,” Jack asked hopefully.

“If it’s concentrated energy, my theory is ‘yes’,” confirmed professor Hawking.

Jack began to see the enormous potential of what was happening. “What kind of output can this field generator support. Those ships that fired from orbit shot huge energized blasts. Could we absorb one of those and shoot it back?”

“Theoretically, yes,” answered Einstein, “But it would have to hit the anomaly to absorb, and may overload it. The chances of that are slim.”

“Perhaps not,” interjected Hawking. “The entire alien ship downstairs is one big conductor. It absorbed energy and stored it in the wormhole. Why couldn’t we do the same?”

“You mean put the ship out in the open, like a shield?,” asked Kat.

“Why use the ship?,” asked Dr. Hawking. “We know how to make the alloy now. Why not make some absorbing rods, or plates? We could make hundreds, or thousands of them. Like lightning rods. They’d drink in the energy from the orbital blasts, which we could use as a countermeasure.”

Jack knew they were onto something huge. “We could build a larger emitter,” he stated. “A gigantic one. Capable of projecting a field into orbit or farther. Then, using the energy we take in, we shoot it back like a cannon, straight as an arrow.”

Einstein could see Jack’s line of rationale. “The entire system will have to be hard wired to the alien power supply, then programmed to redirect energy within the field,” spoke the bushy-haired genius. “We’ll need someone versed in conductivity and energy movement.”

Kat smiled ear to ear with a quick reply.

“I know just the person.”

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