Chapter 9.

12 Feb

Shan and Oba had no sense of being watched as they strolled through Omphalic Park near downtown Tinok. Neither of them said anything for a long time, until they stopped on a wooden bridge to look down at a rolling brooklet between soaring poplars.

“How is the work in Lix going?” inquired Shan after a time.

“It is hard and difficult,” she replied. “No one can say when there will be a breakthrough that leads to success.”

“Everything depends on this woman, Sagaza Encre. It is up to her to save the project by finding the right fuel for the voidship.”

“She is extremely intelligent and inventive,” he stated. “If anyone can solve the scientific mystery, she can. The woman is extraordinary. She is a genius.”

“Is she that capable?” asked Oba with a slight stutter, as if afraid of the answer she was to receive.

He hesitated a moment, then turned his face directly toward her.

“That is what we are going to find out soon,” he calmly announced.

Oba received a lengthy telesthetic transmission that evening.

“We are making small but definite progress here in Lix. At least there is now a clearer, more definite concept of what we are after. We have an idea that will lead our research.

“The solution to the fuel question will be a hypergolic one. By that I mean that there will be not one but two significant ingredients. One will be the trigger for the other, and vice versa. The pair, when joined together, will be able to accomplish what neither one alone by itself could do. Each of them can be seen as the igniter of the other, without which the work of powering the void vehicle could not happen.

“It is the hypergolic characteristic that will be the decisive one, in both Sagaza’s and my estimation. The one substance is to be the multiplier of the other, in both directions.

“So, tomorrow I begin a data search for candidates. Sagaza agrees to advise and work with me, guiding the direction taken. She is a remarkable person, knowledgeable and quick of mind. You would take to her if you met her. It was a wise proposal that Shan made when he told me to contact her. His idea came at the right time.

“I promise to keep you posted on how our matter goes. Please relate to Shan all I have transmitted to you about the hypergolic turn we are taking.”

Oba shook herself into fully conscious mindfulness. The message from Lix was over, but she continued to mull over what it meant.

Had the close relation she thought that she enjoyed with Quio vanished during his absence? What was the significance of what he had told her about Sagaza? And of what he had not mentioned ?

Oba had a lot to think over if she was to know what to do next.

Sagaza had startling news for Quio when they met for breakfast at a cereal bar near Azote Products. They spoke over bowls of toasted rice bran.

“I believe the solution can be found in oil pressed out of wing beans!” she announced, a radiant smile on her lips. “We can combine that fluid with a trigger combustible like nitric acid.”

“I’ve heard of the latter,” said the surprised Quio, but what is the bean oil you talk about?”

“This variety of bean grows in many places, under many different conditions. One of the chemicals produced from it is the alcohol called glycerol. When mixed with nitric acid it will produce an explosive called GTN, which stands for glyceril trinitrate. That will be the hypergolic fuel that powers your voidship.”

“This bean oil will be an efficient propellant?” asked the excited engineer.

A few tests in the laboratory and we will know for certain, Quio.”

He gazed at her in wonder, but did not say what he thought concerning the quality of her mind.

That evening, at the appointed time, he transmitted this information about GTN from wing beans to Oba in the capital.

By morning, a transcript of what he said was in the shamus report lying on the desk of Damo Absum.


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