Chapter 4.

9 Feb

Slana Grue was used to waiting late for her husband’s nighttime return home.

She recognized how important his work was to Zaigl and to what degree he depended on her to take care of everyday business for him. She had supported his ambitions for many years, but now something new and different had taken hold of the mind of her spouse.

Where was this secretive new project going to take him? How was it about to affect their marital life and the intimate emotions they shared in both directions?

These were the unprecedented worries that now afflicted all her thoughts.

A small, light woman with brunette hair and olive eyes, Slana had lost none of her qualities of attraction since her marriage before a twentieth birthday to a much older man. Gradually, she had come to understand that the character of Zaigl was never going to change: he was totally dedicated to his profession and the immediate job he had recently assumed.

Her husband had no hobbies, no interest in any area beyond electricomagnetic engineering.

Gradually, she acquired a feeling of being ignored and neglected by the man she lived with. An undefinable distancing grew between the two of them that neither wished to recognize in their conscious thoughts or emotions.

It was late one evening after Zaigl returned from work at the warehouse laboratory that he made a startling announcement to his wife, surprising and overwhelming her.

“Our program as reached the point where field testing is now possible,” he calmly informed her. “We have need for an elevated location for the receptor module, at a specified distance from the point of transmission. So guess what? My calculations indicate that the high building we live in is within the optimum zone. And since our apartment is on the top, twentieth floor, it makes practical sense for me to utilize all these advantages. We are in the perfect spot for reception from the laboratory. And I enjoy complete command over the place.”

She frowned at her mate. “What are you getting at?” she coolly demanded.

“The balcony outside our rooms is large enough to hold all the apparati to be used in the tests. I have volunteered to have the receptor placed out there. The experiment will operate out of a reception device with a lanthanum detector unit at its center. We will be carrying out a test of its capabilities for the purpose of transferring magnetic power over a distance.”

She gazed at him in silence, but with her mouth slightly opened.

“What do you think of my idea, Slana? Will you be able to cooperate?”

“If you mean for me to leave the place for a time, you can depend upon my doing as requested,” she told him in a blunt tone. What else could she say? Slana asked herself. What alternative did she have in this situation? She was not wild about the scheme, but did not see any way to stop it from going into operation.

“Good!” smiled Zaigl. “All the equipment will be conveyed here tomorrow. In three days, our experimentation will be starting.”

The location on the flat balcony had to be studied for its magnetic lines and conditions. A small team of technicians spent several hours at the site checking it for field intensities and the range of variations. Readings were recorded in notebooks that served as the basis for minute analysis back at the laboratory. A general conference of the participants in the program pronounced the balcony more than adequate as a favorable place for the possible reception of magnetic energy carried by telepathic waves. There appeared to be no obstacles to proceeding to the next step of active testing of receptors.

The first attempt at transmission and reception was with the use of a lanthanum unit. It swiftly proved to be a total failure. No electricomagnetic wave was transferred, despite a number of repeated efforts that morning.

Slana Grue was absent during the trials, off on a visit to her mother on the opposite end of Tinok. When she returned home late that afternoon, Zaigl explained to her that a new try had to be made soon, because the lanthanum had been unsuccessful.

“We plan to test an element named praseodymium,” he told his spouse. “We hold great hopes for this particular rare earth metal. It has a better chance of working correctly than did lanthenum.”

Slana reacted to his confidence with an unconcealed frown.

“Why continue with such a disappointing venture?” she asked him. “The first experiment failed. Why should any following one have a different result?”

“Every metallic element is unique,” he argued back. “There are different potentials in the way the magnetic properties of the substances can be combined with telepathic carrier waves. All of this area is unexplored territory. Isn’t that plain to see? The solution we are after could lie anywhere.”

He stared at Slana in wonder. It was doubtful to him that his wife understood the complexity of the research he was engaged in. He decided it was futile for him to attempt a fully complete explanation of what the program was seeking.

“You have to trust me on this matter, Slana,” he said to her in a soft voice. “When success finally occurs, the value of all our work will become evident to everyone.”

Attempts to use praseodymium proved as empty as the ones with lanthanum.

A desperate meeting of the three leaders was held at the warehouse. It soon became clear that Hail and Bave no longer opposed the idea that Zaigl had first proposed to them.

“I believe that now is the right time for us to turn to dysprosium,” suggested Zaigl with self-assurance.

The other two looked at him with silent acquiescence, as if in surrender.

“I realize that this rare earth is the most magnetic substance on Velvet. It is probably the greatest magnetizer in our universe. Even so, we should not be afraid of any experimentation using it. If there is again failure, at least we will have that much more knowledge than we had before. Then we can proceed on from there. The whole field will appear a lot clearer to us.”

His uncle voiced a reluctant agreement. “My hopes are low for that particular metal. I have no confidence that such an element with those characteristics can serve as the receptor we are after.”

The uncle and his nephew both turned to Bave for his opinion on the matter.

“Why not try it?” he told them. “Now may be the right time for us to test dysprosium.”

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