Chapter 4 - Bucky
Sitting on top of a workbench, the gravity-drive sphere looked like an oversized, empty gumball machine. On closer examination, the elongated neck of the 2 foot diameter bulb nestled within a slot in a rounded pedestal made of a black substance bearing a resemblance to the black crystalline material used to focus the cutter and heat rays. The pyramid of silvery porcelain with its antenna sat atop the center of the black pedestal encompassed within the confines of the glass bulb.
Heinbaum and Roemer frowned at the module. They had each donned pristine white lab coats and white cotton gloves with neoprene palm and finger surfaces that enabled a sure grip on the slick, glassy shell. McPherson sat on a nearby stool, twisting his body right then left as he waited in utter boredom for the lab rats to finish their inspections.
“I don’t want to cut into the sphere,” Heinbaum said as he stared at the mechanism. “The reason I wasn’t able to study the module from the Roswell saucer was because the globe was cracked during the crash, and the mechanism wouldn’t function.
Crossing his arms and rubbing his hand across his frown, he continued, “So how do we remove the globe without damaging it? Any suggestions?”
Roemer had been using a magnifying glass to inspect the area of the black pedestal where the neck of the bulb disappeared into the round slot. He’d even levered the globe over onto its side and examined the underside of the pedestal and found no indication of an access plate or locking collar.
Returning the module to its upright position, Miguel said, “The sphere appears to be permanently fixed in place. It’s possible the whole module is constructed like a light bulb. You can’t remove the glass bulb on an electric light from its permanent junction with the base without destroying either the seal or the bulb. The seal connection with the black base is probably necessary to create a vacuum within the container.”
Ceasing his twisting motions on the stool with a frank look of amazement, the Scottish redhead shook his head sadly and announced, “You’ve got to be freaking kidding me, right?”
When both scientists gazed back at him with blank stares, McPherson continued, “All that high-falutin’ education between the two of you and not a lick of common sense.”
“Do not attempt to belittle your intellectual superiors,” Heinbaum responded with a smug expression. “While you languish in the mire of your low IQ, we are on the verge of monumental discoveries.”
“Yeah, you’re on the verge of something, Heiny,” McPherson growled as he balled his fist and rubbed it against his palm.
Realizing the Scotsman was in no mood for trivialities and remembering past confrontations putting fist-sized permanent creases in his pristine lab coats, Heinbaum invited, “If you have a better idea, Captain, why don’t you amuse us with your pearls of wisdom.”
McPherson looked around the lab and said in a loud voice, “Ernest, would you mind coming over here and helping me for a moment?”
“Okay,” Ernest said from the other end of the room.
Ernest Longarrow was the lab assistant to Dr. Heinbaum. He had long black hair tied in a ponytail by a leather strap. Longarrow was a Native American Navajo Indian with a Master’s degree in Microelectronics from UCLA. His patience while working with the peevish, quick tempered Heinbaum was legendary.
Striding over, Ernest grinned, “What do you have in mind, Kemosabe? I can tell from the cunning look in your big ole’ eyes that you’ve got something up your sleeve.”
Smiling at the remark, McPherson responded, “I need an extra pair of hands, and I don’t trust these two butterfingers,” jerking his thumb at the good doctors.
Nodding with a twinkle in his eyes, Longarrow asked, “What do you need me to do?”
Pointing toward the gravity module, McPherson said, “I want you to put your hands around the black pedestal and hold it in place.”
When Ernest indicated he had a firm grip, McPherson grabbed the sphere and exclaimed, “Lefty Loosey!”
With a quick counterclockwise twist, the entire glass globe turned like the cap being removed from a bottle of water. A distinct metallic click came from the black base.
Startled by the unexpected success, Miguel said, “Bravo, Captain!”
Heinbaum was less appreciative, muttering, “Well what do you know. Another lucky guess from our resident clown.”
McPherson continued revolving the bulb until he lifted it free of the black base and up and away from the pyramid. Carefully lowering the glass to the bench top and securing it so it wouldn’t roll off, McPherson stepped back and dramatically clapped his hands together several times as if clearing them of dust.
Grinning like a mule eating briars, McPherson looked at Heinbaum and said, “Anytime you need my muddy IQ to solve one of your problems, just let me know, Heiny.”
“Bah! Your actions with this delicate piece of equipment were reckless. Who knows what damage you may have done to the mechanism? We all heard the metallic click when you twisted the globe free. Close examination will undoubtedly find unnecessary scuff marks in the metallic connections.”
At that moment, Roemer, who’d been using his magnifying glass to inspect for any damage to the exposed connections at the base of the bulb and in the groove of the black base plate, said, “It appears the Captain was correct in his surmise about the interconnection of the base with the spheroid. There is no damage.”
Grimacing at the futility of his tirade, Heinbaum looked at the red-haired Scotsman and mumbled, “Clever Bastard! You’ll make a mistake someday, and I’ll be there to enjoy your comeuppance.”
Sauntering to the weasily scientist, McPherson wrapped his arms around the man and declared with a longing stare, “I love you too, Doc.”
When he acted like he was going to kiss the scientist on the lips, Heinbaum struggled away and exclaimed, “No more kissing! It took me years to recover from the last time!”
“You really know how to hurt a man’s ego, Heiny,” McPherson said with a hurt look on his face.
“Bah! You silly baboon! Away with you!” Heinbaum shouted as he joined Roemer at the workbench to inspect the exposed pyramid.
With the glass globe removed, two small clips were revealed on opposite sides of the pyramid base. The apparent purpose of the clips was to hold the pyramid in place. At a nod from Heinbaum, Roemer inserted the end of a flat-head screwdriver under each clip and popped them loose. Grabbing an antenna on each side of the pyramid, Heinbaum lifted the entire structure up and away from the black base to expose the module’s inner workings.
“Well I’ll be damned!” Heinbaum exclaimed. “It’s a Buckminsterfullerene!”
“Amazing!” Roemer agreed.
“What’s a buckmeister full of rain?” McPherson asked as he peered over the shoulders of the wide-eyed scientists.
“No, Captain,” Ernest said. “The ball-shaped construction is called a Buckminsterfullerene. Many people call them a Buckyball after Buckminster Fuller who did extensive research into the form. It’s a particularly strong molecular structure first described by Leonardo da Vinci hundreds of years ago.”
The Buckyball measured 76 millimeters in diameter, approximately 3 inches, and was nestled in a bowl-like depression carved into the black base. Its framework appeared to be made from the silvery porcelain material commonly used by the Chrysallamans in their power modules. Two thin wires of the porcelain connecting to the structure disappeared into the black base to link into the power output of the fusion reactor.
Clapping his hands impatiently, Heinbaum said, “Let’s put a little power into the structure and see what happens.”
“Now wait a minute, Doc,” McPherson cautioned. “We don’t know what’s going to happen if you power up that gizmo. My goodness, we could all be sucked at lightspeed to the moon!”
“I believe we’ll all be safe, or I wouldn’t activate it,” Heinbaum replied with a thoughtful look.
“The fusion reactor in the wrecked saucer from Roswell is still working, but the gravity-drive was rendered inoperable due to the cracked globe. We have removed our intact globe thanks to your lucky guess. There’s nothing to disburse a gravity-drive wave so we won’t be going anywhere.”
Still unsure but having nothing concrete to back up his trepidations, McPherson eased back and nodded his agreement to Longarrow. It took only a few moments to connect a specialized HKG unit with a rheostat control graduated from 1,000 to 1,000,000 volts to the power cord dangling from the lower side of the gravity-drive module. Per agreement, Longarrow would increase the rheostat by 100,000 volts each time he was signaled by Heinbaum. As everyone’s attention was transfixed on the Buckyball, Ernest turned on the kinetic generator and began feeding power into the module.
Nothing happened at first. An HKG operates in complete silence, but the torrent of electrical power pouring into the fullerene soon became evident. At 400,000 volts the 60 connecting vertices of the structure began to glow with soft, multi-colored hues. At 600,000 volts, the vertices began continuously blinking the colors red, orange, yellow, blue, green, indigo and violet. It was like looking at a constantly shifting rainbow, and Ernest handed out black goggles for everyone to protect their eyes from the wildly contorting color changes. At 800,000 volts, the blinking vertices turned solid and emitted focused beams of rainbow light which merged in the exact center of the fullerene. A black, globular mass appeared from nowhere; at first just a cloud but quickly coalescing into a solid. Just as the black mass was fully formed, the light rays cut off.
Removing his goggles, McPherson asked, “What’s that black stuff floating in the Bucky whatever?”
Suspended in the center of the Buckyball was a slightly undulating ball of black ink approximately 2 inches in diameter. The surface of the ink was shadowy, and no reflection of the Buckyball structure was visible on the pitch-black surface despite the bright overhead ceiling lights.
“Leave the generator running at its current setting. Get me a pipette,” Heinbaum instructed. “I need to try and get a sample of that liquid.”
Longarrow retrieved an extended length, glass pipette fitted with a suction bulb on one end. As everyone looked on, Heinbaum carefully inserted the pipette between the fullerene lattices and touched its tip to the floating ball. Instantly, the pipette was sucked from Heinbaum’s grasp and disappeared into the black glob.
The phenomenon happened so quickly and unexpectedly that everyone was caught off-guard.
McPherson stepped back slightly and muttered, “Whoa! Did you see that?”
“Doc! Are you okay? Where’d the blasted thing go?” Longarrow exclaimed.
Heinbaum and Roemer stared at the undulating ball for a few moments and then looked at each other and nodded.
“Damned clever lizards. Wasn’t expecting that,” Heinbaum whispered.
“I still don’t believe it even though I’m standing here looking at it,” Roemer agreed.
“Would you two bewitched devil worshipers mind telling the rest of us what you’re talking about?” McPherson asked in a hushed tone.
Without looking away from the undulating ball of darkness, Roemer whispered, “What you are witnessing is a controlled, artificial black hole. A compact gravitational force so powerful not even light can escape its grasp. Black holes have a compact mass capable of deforming spacetime. You’re looking at the Chrysallaman secret of lightspeed travel.”
Three days later General Thomas James Blunt strode down the ‘G’ wing corridor of the Nevada facility towards the Heinbaum labs in answer to an invitation he’d received from Roemer. The veiled excitement in Roemer’s voice was intriguing. When the quantum physicist indicated there’d been a breakthrough on lightspeed drive research, the decision to cancel other military planning conferences for a trip to the lab had been easy. Lightspeed capable spacecraft were essential to the protection of Earth, and any new discovery was top priority.
Tom was the commander of FORCE and had led the counterattack that defeated the Chrik invasion. Five days had passed since he left Doug, Becky and Whatsit on the VrrSilliac Xur, with orders to select civilian Chrysallaman scientists to provide advice and expertise to Humans in the design and construction of interstellar space vehicles. The last word he’d received from Doug indicated their choices had been made, and the process begun to awaken the lizards and introduce them to their new best friends.
As he approached the laboratory door labeled ‘K’, Tom heard the raised voice of Heinbaum and grimaced at the thought of having to referee another confrontation between Heinbaum and McPherson. They acted like an old married couple who’d been together so many years they each knew all the foibles and eccentricities of the other and used that knowledge with gleeful abandon to annoy and harass. Nevertheless the combination of intellect, insight and pure determination of the two men had led to the discovery of breathtaking advances in science. Smiling wryly and shaking his head with a ‘here we go again’ look on his face, Tom twisted the door handle and entered the room.
“Marvelous! Stupendous!” Heinbaum was singing as he skipped in a circle as if dancing an Irish Jig.
Roemer, Longarrow and McPherson were standing with their backs to Tom, clapping their hands and stomping their feet in a beat matching Heinbaum’s awkward gyrations and chanting, “More! More! More!”
Tom was so startled by the display he simply stood in the doorway and stared. Heinbaum’s head finally turned in his direction, and his beady eyes lit up.
“General! Wonderful! Please come in.”
Roemer, Longarrow and McPherson stopped stomping and clapping, but the smiles on their faces never wavered. Joining them, Tom said, “The last time I saw you anywhere near this happy Dr. Heinbaum was when you discovered how to make a K-wave transceiver.”
The K-wave transceiver was the accidental byproduct of Heinbaum’s massive ego. Heinbaum decided he needed to wear a symbol of his genius. Thinking a nice ring made out of the silvery porcelain material, from which the helix core of the Kinetic Generator was constructed, would be the perfect token to represent his magnificent brain-power, Heinbaum created the shiny bauble.
One day, while testing the output of one of his Kinetic Power Helices with an oscilloscope, Heinbaum’s ring finger accidentally came in contact with the helix coil. Feeling a mild electric tingle around his ring finger, Heinbaum realized he was onto something new. Continued experiments with the circlet design resulted in the K-wave transceiver. The communication signals were untraceable and couldn’t be jammed by any known method.
“General, the insights of these men,” Heinbaum began as he gestured at Roemer and McPherson, “when guided by my brilliance is nothing short of inspirational.”
A huge thump in the middle of Heinbaum’s back sent his glasses sliding down his nose so far they threatened to fall off his face. Tom was pretty sure some droplets of hair grooming oil splattered off Heinbaum’s head into a mist around the man’s face when his head snapped forward from the friendly blow.
“Attaboy, Doc. You tell ’im,” McPherson urged with a big grin, but his narrowed eyes indicated he was tired of the weasel taking all the credit for important advances.
Heinbaum rolled his shoulders to ease the pain from the sharp thwack and smoothed his disheveled hair.
With a withering glare at the red-haired hellion, the snide scientist tried to regain some of his swagger and said, “Yes, well, to be sure the collaboration with my colleagues is extremely productive.”
With a welcoming wave, Heinbaum said, “General, please step to this workbench so we can describe our findings. Dr. Roemer, would you be so kind as to begin the explanation?”
On the workbench were two devices which at first glance appeared to be gumball dispensers; however, one of them had a glass ball half the size of the other. Both balls enclosed a silvery pyramid with short antennas jutting from the centers of the respective sides and the apex of the geometric form.
Roemer positioned himself to the side of the display and said, “General, the device with the 2 foot diameter glass globe is the Chrysallaman gravity-drive module we removed from the scout saucer in our warehouse.”
“What is the purpose of the wire mesh in the globe? Dispersal of the gravity-drive effect?” Tom asked.
Nodding at the insightful question, Roemer responded, “Your perception is accurate. The honeycomb layout of the wire mesh acts to disburse the gravity-drive effect uniformly to the entire structure of the spacecraft. In standby mode, the only effect is to impose a normal gravity load throughout the spacecraft. The load can be varied, but the usual setting is for one G. At one G, a person in the spacecraft would experience the same force of gravity as if standing on Earth.”
As Tom nodded, Miguel looked at Longarrow and McPherson and requested, “Would you gentlemen mind doing your thing and removing the globes, please?”
Responding with practiced ease, the men removed both glass orbs to expose the identical pyramidal bases.
“Now comes the interesting part,” Heinbaum announced as he nodded at Miguel.
Grabbing two of the antenna of the pyramid from the larger glass bulb, Roemer lifted it away from its black base to disclose the Buckyball within which the slightly undulating 2 inch diameter ball of black ink reposed. The 3 inch diameter silvery porcelain Buckyball sat within a cup-like depression in a black base made of the same material as the focusing crystals on the Chrysallaman cutter and heat ray pistols.
Heinbaum couldn’t wait to take over the presentation and shouldered his way between Roemer and the device. Pointing at the ball of ink, he declared, “What you are witnessing is an artificially created black hole completely and safely contained within the framework of a Buckminsterfullerene.”
Tom’s education at West Point Military Academy had covered deep space phenomena. He knew the basics of black hole theory, and the cavalier way these scientific geniuses were acting around one of the most powerful forces in the known universe was, to say the least, very troubling. Frown lines in Tom’s forehead were getting deeper, and his whole demeanor indicated he was getting upset over the safety of his facility. Even Heinbaum, who was normally oblivious to human emotions, recognized Tom was very uncomfortable.
Realizing he needed to reassure the General about the safety of the gravity module design, Heinbaum declared, “The Chrysallamans were cunningly brilliant about the containment of the normally inescapable gravity well of a black hole. The event horizon of the black hole is contained within the Buckyball formation at the theoretically perfect point of equilibrium. Since the existence of the artificial black hole is derived from and maintained by the Buckyball structure, the black hole can’t destroy the structure without destroying itself. The perfect union of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object.”
“In other words, the black hole can’t get out of control because if it tries, it will destroy the very thing that makes it exist and thus destroy itself,” Tom replied.
“Exactly!” Heinbaum and Roemer declared at the same time.
“So what’s the purpose for the creation of a black hole?”
Heinbaum gave Miguel a go ahead nod. Walking to a white erase board on a nearby wall, Roemer said, “Einstein’s theories indicate that as an object approaches the speed of light, its mass increases to infinity. As a result, it’s not possible for an object to achieve the speed of light because the increasing mass of the object would be diametrically opposed to the speed.”
Drawing a seesaw on the white board, the young scientist explained, “What the Chrysallamans discovered was the black hole acts as an anti-mass. In other words, you have a seesaw where one end of the balance board is loaded with the mass of the object you want to accelerate to the speed of light. The other end of the balance board is loaded with the anti-mass of the black hole. The opposing mass forces cancel each other out and make lightspeed efficiently attainable.”
“Another benefit of cancelling mass is the removal of the effects of inertia. The gravity-drive envelope affects all the atoms of the spacecraft and all its contents uniformly, so there is no resistance to a change in motion.”
“In laymen’s terms, Doctor, please,” Tom said. “What do you mean about inertia?”
With a glint in his eyes, Roemer replied, “It means the effects of instant acceleration and deceleration are nullified. With the gravity-drive activated, I can increase your speed from zero to lightspeed instantaneously with no effect on your physical body.”
The glow of understanding in Tom’s eyes and the widening smile were proof he grasped the concept and was impressed with their discoveries. Looking at the other pyramid where the smaller globe had been attached, he nodded his head towards it and asked, “So what’s the deal with the smaller sphere?”
McPherson, who’d been lounging on a nearby stool watching the lab rats explain their findings, replied with a toothy smile, “I thought I’d try a little modification to the original design.”
Heinbaum crossed his arms in irritation when McPherson injected himself into the discussion but recognized the no nonsense look in the Scotsman’s eyes. Still feeling an ache between his shoulder blades from the solid thump the Captain had pounded him with several minutes before, the bombastic scientist decided he’d yield the discussion for the time being.
McPherson walked to the other silvery pyramid and lifted it away from its black base. Several design changes were evident. The Buckyball containing its undulating black hole was fitted into a cup formed from Kinetic Generator Helix coil material instead of the black crystalline substance. Two horseshoe-shaped electromagnets were imbedded in the black crystalline base on either side of the Helix cup and pointed towards the Buckyball.
McPherson pointed at the setup and said, “It seemed obvious to me that if Heiny’s special helix coil could absorb and focus kinetic energy from a moving planetary-sized body, then the same effect might be possible to achieve from energy in the black hole.”
At this point, Roemer broke in, “General, I have to admit my skepticism when the Captain first described what he wanted to try. Up to now, the general consensus of scientific opinion states a black hole is nothing but a gravity well so strong not even light can escape its clutches. Only science fiction books have expressed the belief that a black hole is actually a doorway or opening into some other reality.”
Gazing at Heinbaum as if he was asking for permission to continue and receiving a peevish nod, Roemer continued, “The McPherson apparatus appears to indeed be capable of tapping into some form of tremendous energy-well accessible only through the black hole. The McPherson technique produces a white cloud with gray swirls and sparkling flashes of light that fills an energized emitter globe. The anti-mass effect is also enhanced resulting in the need for a dispersal globe only half the size of the Chrysallaman design.”
Walking to McPherson, Blunt ran his fingertips over the smooth, silvery surface of the pyramid and asked, “So what’s the next step in your research, Gentlemen? A trial run?”
“No question,” Heinbaum replied. “We’ll install the gravity-drive with the McPherson modification in the scout saucer. Mr. Longarrow and Captain McPherson will take the saucer for a spin to make sure it performs as expected. Once we have confirmation of its successful operation, plans will be prepared to refit the mother ship VrrSilliac Xur with the new design.”
Gazing at Heinbaum with narrowed eyes, Tom said, “I must insist on a change in flight plans.”
“Dr. Heinbaum, you’ll be a member of the crew testing the gravity-drive on the scout saucer. Your deep understanding of the theoretical concepts and actual construction of the Kinetic Generator and the creation of artificial black holes will be invaluable during the test flight. Dr. Roemer will remain here to monitor the flight and provide any Earthbound assistance which may be required.”
Heinbaum’s beady eyes moved back and forth nervously, and it was only a matter of moments before he exploded with objections.
“Your suggestion is preposterous! It’s my genius upon which all the technological advances used to defend Earth are based. Earth can’t be exposed to the slightest possibility of my loss!”
Pointing a bony, trembling finger at McPherson, Heinbaum said, “Captain McPherson is the perfect candidate for the test flight. If he ever happens to disappear or be killed, no one will even realize he’s gone.”
Tom ignored the demands and said, “You have your orders, Doctor.”
Tom opened the laboratory door and just as he walked out he nodded with a smile to McPherson and Longarrow and said, “Let me know if you have any trouble with the good Doctor. Report to me on the results of the test flight as soon as you return.”
Ambling over to the emotionally stricken Heinbaum, McPherson wrapped his arm around the weasel, hugged him tight and said, “Don’t worry, Heiny. I won’t let anything happen to my little buddy.”
“Good God in Heaven,” Heinbaum managed to wheeze.