Chapter 4.

11 Feb

Back in Tinok again, Quio conceived an idea that would publicize his dream of interplanetary travel and perhaps gain some important supporter for it. He revealed its outlines to Oba in a cereal shop one morning soon after their return from the unproductive journey to Enginery.

“This is what can put us in the news: a formal public debate on the issue of the possibility of movement through the void of space.”

His companion looked dubious. “How can we ever get Damo Absum and his friends to agree to anything like that? They can see no advantage to themselves in a debate, only to us and our cause. I cannot see their agreement to any such offer.”

“It will be more than an offer, Oba. I propose to pose a challenge no one can afford to ignore. The objective will be to maneuver Damo into a corner from which he has no honorable road of retreat. I have thought over and over how to do that. There is a chance of striking the right provocative pose with the aid of the mass media of communication, if we can win cooperation there.”

“What do you mean?”

“We are on the hunt for an efficient form of fuel for our future voidal ship. We do not know what it might turn out to be. Nor, it appears, does anyone else. What if the title of the debate was not the feasibility of interbody flight, but whether any such fuel exists? Damo and his experts would say no, while we might argue that the substance must exist, though we cannot yet give it a name.”

“How would that help our projected plan?”

“It could motivate someone out in the audience to propose a useful fuel that pans out in practice. That would be a plus for us.”

“But won’t we look silly, not knowing what should be used as fuel?”

“Not at all,” declared Quio. “We will be seen as honestly and honorably telling the truth. No unrealistic claims will be made by us. I foresee us daring Damo to prove that no applicable fuel will ever be found. How can he maintain a negative, that no propellant will ever be discovered? That is logically an impossibility.”

As she heard this, Oba thought of something.

“Decuman advised us to look among products not at present considered fuels of any sort. He did not object when you suggested a cultivated plant product or by-product. Do you remember how the conversation with him ended?”

“I have been pondering that question. How do we pose a general challenge to all the inhabitants of Velvet to find a special fuel for the void?” demanded Quio. “We will only find the answer to that by trying something bold.”

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