As part of their training, each candidate was periodically tested by a Council member who shared their scientific specialization. Counselor Proust had insisted on testing Mason himself. Mason was determined to prove that he belonged on Myscreth and prepared himself more than he had for any other test. He enlisted Claridee’s help, asking her to quiz him on every conceivable dynamics law and spent many late nights considering how the various laws of dynamics could be modified along with the resulting consequences.
At the appointed time, he arrived at Counselor Proust’s quarters and knocked on his door. The Counselor gruffly called out for him to enter. Mason took a quick look around the room, noticing that room was about half the size of the trainees’ library and sparsely furnished with only a desk, a small bookcase, and a few chairs. Counselor Proust sat behind the desk and gestured for him to come forward. He walked over and stood in front of the desk. Counselor Proust continued looking over some papers while Mason anxiously waited. Placing the papers in a drawer he finally turned to him.
“Shall we begin, Trainee Mason?”
Without warning, Counselor Proust started firing questions at Mason covering every aspect of dynamics.
“What is the gravitational acceleration equation for an object?”
“The gravitational constant times the planetary mass divided by the square of the distance from the planet’s cent …”
“What is the equation of motion for a damped harmonic oscillator?”
“Second derivative of x plus two zeta omega times the first derivative of x plus omega squared equals ze …”
“What is the rotational equation of motion for a rigid body object …”
Mason had no idea how long this went on. It was the most intense testing that he’d ever experienced, but he was able to answer every question. He couldn’t be sure, but when the questioning ended, Mason thought Counselor Proust looked disappointed.
“Knowing the laws of dynamics is one thing Trainee Mason, but knowing how to use them is another.”
This started a new round of questions.
“How would you modify the laws of dynamics to drill a well?
And so it went, with Counselor Proust presenting hypothetical situations and Mason telling him what dynamics modifications could be used to achieve the desired objective. He was able to satisfactorily come up with solutions to all the scenarios. Counselor Proust’s scowl deepened with each correct answer. At last, he smiled, but there was something menacing about it.
“One last scenario Trainee Mason, tell me how you could modify dynamics to kill someone?”
Mason was stunned. How could Counselor Proust ask him that? Everything he knew about the Council told him that their abilities would never be used for such a purpose. For the briefest instant, possible ways that the laws of dynamics could be used to kill someone ran through his mind, but he couldn’t bring himself to say them out loud. At last he replied.
“I’m sorry Counselor Proust, but I can’t answer that question because it would be wrong to ever manipulate dynamics for such a purpose.”
Mason thought he saw a flash of anger in his face.
“Very good Trainee Mason. That is the correct answer. A member of the Council is never to use their abilities to injure anyone. I see you’ve made progress since our journey to Langtom.”
Counselor Proust gave a quick flick of his wrist, which Mason assumed was an order to leave. As he turned to go, he noticed a familiar book on the small bookcase. It was the same dynamics book he’d used in college. He assumed Counselor Anklin must have brought it back from Earth as a gift.
He considered asking about the book, but Counselor Proust had resumed going through some papers and Mason didn’t dare interrupt him. He’d have to remember to ask Counselor Anklin about it later.
Mason closed the door behind him and breathed a sigh of relief. He’d passed the first big test in his training, but knew there would be many more difficult tests ahead.
He happily entered the trainees’ quarters and saw Counselor Anklin, Claridee, and Gorwold waiting for him. The wide smile on his face must have told them what they wanted to know and they immediately congratulated him.
Counselor Anklin and Gorwold soon excused themselves and he found himself alone in the library with Claridee. She beamed at him and gave his shoulder a small pat.
“I knew you could do it!”
“Thanks to all the help you gave me studying.”
"It’s the least I could do. Now tell me all about the testing.”
The following week a transport ship arrived from the underground city of Resline with news of disaster. There had been a ceiling collapse, cutting off a section of the city and trapping over a thousand people. Only Counselors Anklin, Tranlee, and Halrous were in Bendroff and immediately prepared to go to Resline. Counselor Anklin told Mason he’d be accompanying them.
Due to the critical nature of the emergency there was no time for a transport ship. Instead, Counselor Anklin opened a doorway to travel there. As he’d done in Mason’s apartment, he concentrated and soon there was a low humming sound followed by a familiar flashing purple light.
Mason hadn’t travelled in this manner since arriving from Earth and wasn’t looking forward to it. Counselors Halrous and Tranlee went through first. However, when Mason reached the edge of the doorway, he stopped and looked back at Counselor Anklin. “It’s true that it gets easier, right?” he asked with trepidation in his voice.
“Yes,” replied Counselor Anklin with a hint of irritation in his voice. “Go on through.”
Mason gulped and stepped through. He experienced the same sensation of flowing downhill as before. This time he didn’t collapse, but had to put his hand on his knees as he felt his head spinning.
When he finally straightened up, the three Counselors were watching him.
“Are you all right?” asked Counselor Halrous, concern in his voice.
Mason gave a weak smile. “Just a little dizzy. Still don’t quite have the hang of travelling this way.”
“But you certainly did better than last time,” observed Counselor Anklin. “A few more times and you’ll feel no ill effects whatsoever.”
“Can’t wait,” Mason answered with more sarcasm that he intended.
They’d arrived on Resline’s transport field, not far from the hanger. Counselor Anklin had previously explained to Mason that due to his limitations with travelling in this manner, there was too much uncertainty in the arrival point to risk trying to target a specific location inside the city.
The four rushed to the hanger where a group of workers were in the process of unloading one of the transports. At the sight of the Counselors, they immediately stopped their work and bowed to them.
“Inform the city leaders that we’re here,” ordered Counselor Tranlee.
“At once,” called a young woman as she ran from the hanger.
The leaders quickly arrived and Mason could tell from the expressions on their faces how distraught they were.
“We’re so glad you’ve come,” said an older woman as she and the other leaders bowed to the Counselors.
“We came as soon as we got word of the situation,” answered Counselor Anklin gravely. “Show us where the cave-in happened.”
As the city leaders led them to the location of the collapse they briefed the Counselors on the situation.
“Most of the area behind the collapse is living quarters. We’ve been doing a headcount and it looks like at least fifteen hundred people may be trapped,” explained one of the younger leaders.
Another leader jumped in. “We don’t know the extent of the collapse and haven’t been able to get any news from the other side.”
Another shook her head as she spoke. “Workers have tried to clear the rubble, but the area is too unstable and their efforts only resulted in more debris falling from above. We had no choice but to wait for your arrival before attempting anything further.”
Mason noticed a growing number of people following them. Word must have spread that the Counselors had arrived. From snippets of conversation and the crying he heard from the group, it was clear that many of them had family members trapped by the cave-in.
The group grew quickly and there were soon more than fifty people following the Counselors. Counselor Anklin stopped and turned to face the group.
“I know you’re concerned about your families,” he called out in an understanding voice, “but the best thing you can do for them is to give us room to work.”
Most in the group seemed to accept this and started slowly walking away, but a few seemed determined to continue on. Counselor Halrous leaned towards one of the city leaders and said something Mason couldn’t hear. She nodded and remained behind while the Counselors and other city leaders continued on.
Near the scene of the collapse, stone and rubble littered the floor and there was a continual sound of smaller rocks falling from the ceiling. After surveying the damage, Counselor Anklin turned to Counselor Halrous with a troubled look.
“Halrous, could you strengthen the surrounding stone so we can safely dig our way through?”
Counselor Halrous shook his head. “No, it looks to be mostly rubble up there. Even if I were to strengthen the material, it would fall on us when we tried to dig.”
Mason was about to suggest that Counselor Anklin blast the obstruction away as Counselor Proust had done in Langtom, but quickly realized that such a powerful impact might bring the entire section down on them. He wanted to help, but realized there was little he could do.
Meanwhile, the Counselors discussed the possible solutions among themselves, but the frustration in their voices showed they’d made no progress. At last, Counselor Anklin turned to the city leaders.
“What sort of digging equipment do you have here?” he asked.
The oldest of the leaders answered. “When I was a boy, my father showed me one of the old storage areas that contained what looked like some kind of mining equipment. He told me that the machines there were left over from the construction of Resline. I don’t know if there’s anything useful there, but I’ll show you where it is.”
The leader led the Counselors and Mason down to the lowest level of Resline where the storage area was located. When the lights were turned on Mason saw a huge room filled with what looked like nothing but piles of rusted metal. He didn’t have much hope of finding anything useful.
Counselor Anklin called out. “Search everywhere, there must be something we can use.”
As Mason wandered around the room, his first impression seemed to be confirmed. However, he eventually came across what looked like an Earth-style oil rig on its side with a large drill connected at the base. The drill was about twelve feet long and eight feet wide and appeared to be in good condition. As he walked around the drill an idea came to him.
The more he stared at the drill, the more convinced he was that his idea would work. He practically dragged Counselor Anklin to the drill as he breathlessly explained his idea.
“What if instead of digging we were to drill though the rock? The centripetal acceleration produced by the rotation of the drill would push the rubble away from the corridor. And, if enough heat was produced by the friction between the drill and stone, it might fuse the rubble together so Counselor Halrous could strengthen it.”
Counselor Anklin considered Mason’s idea for a moment.
“Yes, yes it might just work!”
He called the other Counselor over and quickly explained Mason’s plan to them.
“You’ll need to increase the strength of the drill,” commented Counselor Halrous.
“Plus, the surrounding stone as the friction from the drill melts it,” added Counselor Tranlee.
“The stone will have to cool sufficiently before I can increase its strength,” countered Counselor Halrous. “Otherwise, it would collapse.”
“Tranlee, could you modify the stone’s thermal laws so it could cool fast enough?” asked Counselor Anklin.
“As long as I’m close enough I should be able to,” she replied. “Also, the thermodynamic laws of the drill itself will need to be modified to increase the rate at which it dissipate heats so it will melt the surrounding stone.”
“Excellent,” said Counselor Anklin. “It looks like we can make it work.”
Turning to the city leader, he began issuing orders. “We’ll need a sled, a generator, and an electric motor.”
The leaders nodded and rushed off to get the requested equipment.
Workers were directed to detach the drill and bring it with them. The sled, generator, and motor were waiting when they returned to the site of the collapse.
The generator and motor were attached to the sled and the drill was mounted to the electric motor. A protective shield was placed on the back end of the sled to keep those pushing it safe.
Mason watched as Counselor Halrous concentrated on the drill. As he finished Mason looked over at him. “What’d you do?”
“I’ve modified the stress-strain and material hardness relationships of the drill to make it impervious to damage and to more effectively drill through the rock.”
Counselor Tranlee next walked over to the drill and concentrated on it. Counselor Halrous leaned over and whispered to him.
“Tranlee’s modifying the heat transfer equations for the drill so the drill won’t get too hot and will transfer more heat to the surrounding rock.”
As she continued Counselor Anklin tapped Mason arm.
“Now what dynamic laws do you think need to be modified?”
Typically, he would have thought through his response, but the current situation prompted him to blurt out his first thought.
“The drill needs to rotate more quickly, so you’d need to modify its moment equation. Also, since the sled has no wheels, you’d want to modify its gravity so it’d float above the ground.”
“Very good,” replied Counselor Anklin with a smile. “Only thing you missed was the electric motor. I’m also going to modify its moment equations so it will work more efficiently.”
Apparently noticing Mason’s disappointment, he added
“Don’t feel bad, you can only learn that sort of thing with practice.”
When Counselor Tranlee finished, Counselor Anklin concentrated and the sled gently floated off the ground.
To make the plan work it would be necessary to modify the properties of the fused rock as the drill passed. To do this Counselor Halrous and Tranlee needed to be near the area of drilling to be able to see it. A barrier was built about fifteen feet away from the collapse to protect them. Everyone else moved at least fifty feet away.
When all the preparations were complete, one of the workers pulled the handle on the generator to start the drill. The drill rotated rapidly with a whirring sound that was deafening. Four workers stood behind the shield at the back of the sled and pushed it towards the obstruction. As the drill hit the rock, sparks and debris flew in all directions. The already earsplitting noise of the drill increased even more, causing Mason to cover his ears. The drill quickly ate into the rock and its high rate of speed kept any debris from falling back onto the sled.
The efforts of the two Counselors seemed to be working as the section of rock behind the drill appeared to be stable. It was slow and hot work for those pushing the sled. It wasn’t long before they had to be relieved by fresh workers. As the sled moved deeper into the collapsed section, the two Counselors had to move closer. Mason knew that had to be exhausted, but they continued concentrating.
Mason had no idea how long it took, but eventually there was a telltale change in the sound of the drill. “They must be near the end!” he cried. At last, the roar of the drill disappeared and Counselors Tranlee and Halrous stumbled out of the newly drilled tunnel and collapsed near the entrance. “We’re through,” called Counselor Tranlee
Counselor Anklin and Mason rushed forward, helping them to their feet and leading them to an empty area of the corridor where they could rest and get something to drink. Counselor Anklin knelt down beside them.
“Are you two all right?”
Counselor Halrous gave a small nod while Counselor Tranlee looked up with exhaustion in her green eyes, still managing a slight chuckle as she replied.
“All in a day’s work Anklin, all in a day’s work.”
Resline had been fortunate, no one had been seriously hurt in the collapse and there was no other significant damage to the city. That evening, the city leaders held a celebration for the Council members that was attended by nearly a hundred of the city’s leading citizens. A great feast was prepared and many speeches of gratitude were delivered. After all the speeches, Counselor Anklin stood up to address the assembled audience.
“Thank you so much for your very kind words. It brings all of us great joy to have been of help to you during this time of crisis. But we didn’t do it alone; many of your people labored to help rescue those who were trapped and your leaders provided us everything we needed.”
After the celebration Mason and the Counselors returned to the guest quarters that had been prepared for them. Counselors Halrous and Tranlee, exhausted from the day’s activities went right to bed. Mason and Counselor Anklin sat up for a while in the small common area to talk.
Counselor Anklin looked at Mason with a familiar twinkle in his eyes.
“I’m very proud of you Mason. Today you proved that you have the ability to be a fine Council member.”
“Thanks Professor, but it was really you and the other Counselors who deserve the credit. I only had an idea, the three of you made it work.”
Counselor Anklin shook his head.
“Ah, but don’t you see, making it work is the easy part. All that takes is time and training, but coming up with a solution is something that can’t be taught. To do that requires a rare combination of knowledge, confidence, and imagination. When I first met you I saw the first two, but the imagination was lacking. You’ve made great progress in that area and I look forward to seeing more.”
That night as he fell asleep, Mason couldn’t help but smile.
- Parker T. Allan
An engineer who enjoys writing something other than technical reports. Writing let's me share all the ideas floating around my mind. I hope my writing jump starts your imagination as so many books have done for me.
If you enjoy physics, check out https://physicswithcats.com/ for some fun stories which explain various physics topics.