Concerned that the UA forces on Luna Base may use the quantum teleporter to send an unwelcome gift to the newly-declared independent United Mars Colonies, former Mars security chief Sergeant Major Hamels and former Artemis crew members Enoch Ryan and Brady Cooper attempted to disable the teleporter ahead of time.
Cooper could sense the radioactive isotopes within the canister. The explosive materials could kill them and most of this part of the colony due to sudden decompression of the building’s atmosphere. Fine radioactive dust spread everywhere. If it reacted with the cobalt in the boxes around them, the resulting dirty bomb could poison half or most of the planet for years. Decades, even. Who knows how long it would last.
If anyone were around to care.
“Fly-boy, you sense that?”
“Let me try something.”
“You want the rifle?”
“The energy discharge will just set it off. That’s probably what they were counting on. Or hoping we’d try to disable it.”
“Or send it back,” Hamels said. “No doubt their end has a rigged signal to reject contact, which also would set the thing off.”
“Then there’s only one option.”
With a sigh, Enoch set the rifle down next to the console. “Coop, something tells me you need me to help.”
“You read my mind.”
Now it was Hamels’ turn to back away. “What are you both doing?”
“Sergeant Major, we need you to focus on maintaining the force shield.”
The geist sat down crosslegged on one side of the platform. Enoch sat down likewise across from him on the opposite site. They stared into the force shield, concentrating on the cylindrical container.
“What are you doing?!” Hamels repeated.
“Changing it to uridium,” Cooper replied.
“That’s from an ancient C64 game,” Enoch said, grinning.
“Yeah, I know. Thanks to you. It’s actually Iridium-192.”
Cooper mentally called up the revised table of elements. He felt confusion and frustration from the navigator, but he sent reassurance. If Cooper knew anything, he knew elements. He needed a backup, and emotional strength.
The navigator sensed this. The merging grew stronger.
Transmutation. Cesium-137. He felt the cobalt in the room. As if alive. Aware. A slight change. 60.
Yes. Fluctuation. Traces of gamma emission. Ah. Some positronic flow. He had seen the machine once.
Mother was scanned after the diagnosis.
No, that was me, not you.
Ah. Well, now you know what it used. What we can do to this.
The electrons in molecular orbit. Configure. Shift the shell. Hold. Opposite spins.
What the hell is the Aufbau principle?
Shut up, Enoch.
Band theory? Cool, heavy metal.
No, heavy metals, you moron. Now let me…
Ah. Nearly done.
I like the name “Hartree-Fock exact exchange.”
Give it a rest, Fly-boy.
The fields shifted. Expanded. Settled. Solid state. Done.
Cooper signalled and they separated. He opened his eyes and only then realized that he had shut them.
He was also sweating and shaking like a water buffalo after it emerges from the river, but it was no matter.
They had done it. The bomb was no longer a threat.
“Straight outta Compton suppression, man! That was bitchin’.”
Cooper sighed and shook his head. Then he tilted his head back and laughed.
“Are you two out of your minds?” Hamels asked. It appeared as if she hadn’t moved at all in the time they were in the merger. Gripping both sides of the console with white knuckles. The rifle at her feet, untouched.
Cooper pondered. Time flowed differently for them, when they were in that state. Maybe the ancients were right, after all. Time and matter were interchangeable, linked. Transmutable. But the arrow of time still only went one way.
“Not to worry, Sergeant Major,” he said, getting up. “The outer shell of the device is now solid eff ee.”
She blinked. “Lead?”
“Yup. We can use what’s inside as an energy source, if you like. I’ll just need a few weeks to tinker with what’s in these boxes. Set up a conduction system of some sort.”
Enoch yawned. “Have you turned off the whatsis-whosit?”
“The…oh, the teleportation node.” She checked the console. “Whatever you did to the device, looks like something effectively short-circuited the pad. The system’s fried at the core.”
Sure enough, a tiny smoke stream was emanating from the edge. The crack had finally breached it.
“Well, that settles that,” Enoch said, standing up and stretching his back. “I’m famished. What you all have to eat around here, anyway?”
Next: Bringer of Light, Chapter 39: Transit – Lost. Gennaji opens a new Pandora’s box.