Liquidity

28 Dec

“Do you mean to say that Kavala Laboratories has created synthetic water?”

The dark blue eyes of Marko Manos were agog, giving him the look of a frog. But this was a subject that excited him, electrifying his face.

For a time, no reply came from the man who had broached the matter, Research Director Taki Kronia. The young chemist had not headed the primary scientific institution on planet Kavala very long. He glanced about his spare, spic-and-span office a moment. He was not used to dealing with industrial chieftains like Mr. Manos. And there was no question that the big, brawny man was rich and powerful. His future well-being seemed gloriously assured: Manos was engaged to marry the widow who was owner of this vast research complex. He had won the hand and heart of Mita Spiridon and all that went with them.

Taki, embarrassed by the lengthy silence, answered the question that had been asked him.

“No, sir. Science cannot synthesize water. It is not possible. But I will tell you what we are attempting to do. Our goal is a liquid with all the attributes of water, but with a totally different atomic structure. But just as fluid and wet as the compound that we are familiar with. It should have the same characteristics and qualities, so that it can be a substitute for water. Only the isotope will have been changed.”

The sea water eyes of Marko Manos expanded, focusing on the window behind the researcher. The roofs of the several laboratories were made of gleaming white silicon. Beyond them rolled the parched sands and rocky lands of Kavala. The industrialist began to murmur his inner thoughts aloud, as if he were alone.

“This planet could become the garden of our archipelago, if we had an abundance of water here. Vast hydroponic food production would then be possible. The presence of sufficient water has brought wealth and success to our competitors. A substitute liquid promises to be the breakthrough that our economy needs. Mita is also greatly excited by the prospect.”

Taki smiled gleefully. “Yes, she appears to be thrilled with the changes it would bring to our future life on Kavala.”

Marko glanced at his wrist-timer. “It’s the hour for the reception now. Mita should have already arrived. She always shows up late. Shall we go see whether my bride is here yet?”

The widow, still dressed in black, attracted the attention of the crowd of guests. She possessed the beauty of a rare, darkly shining gem.

Mita Spiridon was a native Kavalan. Her late husband had been the last of the great family whose factories and laboratories had now fallen to her. And Marko Manos was slated to become her next mate. He entered the large hall with Taki at his side, approached his fiancé and kissed her cheek.

“Darling, you look wonderful! I was with Taki in his laboratory until now.”

Mita smiled tenderly at her intended. “You are interested in the important project, Marko. I am so glad.” She kissed him lightly on the cheek.

The industrialist drew her aside as a piano played quietly in the background.

“We shall be together for good soon,” Marko whispered. “We will be one.”

Mita grinned brightly. “My laboratories and your food industries. What a marvelous combination!”

The dark blue eyes of Marko popped outward. “That’s just part of it, Mita.”

The latter stared at him. “Did Taki tell you about his new liquid?”

“Only in the most general terms.”

“Once we are married,” she purred, “you will learn all about what we have.”

The Archbishop of Kavala planet married the two. The ritual was from another world, millennia in the past. It ended with the Dance of Elijah. Led by the bishop, the wedding pair circled the altar three times. Upon their heads rested crowns of gold. They held long candles in their hands. The dance of marriage ended, as it had for countless couples over many ages, in an infinite number of locations.

Then followed the celebration. Food and drink, wild music, jumping and hopping to ancient rhythms. Happy smiles and laughter were present all about. Two empires of Kavala industry had been joined together. Everyone connected to them was going to thrive.

Mita beamed at Marko at their table high on a dais.

“Everyone is so happy this evening!” she sighed with joy.

He bent closed to her. “My factory facilities will be available to your researchers, darling. The future is going to be unlimited.”

“Is that why you married me, dear?” she said impishly. “For my magnificent scientific laboratories?”

“I love you for yourself,” he frowned. “Nothing else.”

“Not for the brains I have under my control, like those of Taki?” she teased, pointing to the research director, dancing at the head of a circle of happy revelers.

The newlyweds waved to Taki as he glanced up at the dais. The elated bride smiled at him. The dance leader looked ecstatically back at her.

Mr. and Mrs. Manos returned from their honeymoon, a gyroship tour of the main planets of the Hellenic Archipelago. Back to useful work for both of them, but their activities were now coordinated and intertwined.

The pair lived in Marko’s palatial residence, built by his grandfather, a famed early entrepreneur. Mita moved her personal possessions over at once. Within a few days, she was fully at home and in charge of the household. The mansion was on a rocky bluff overlooking Kavala City. The two ate their meals on a patio where they could see miles of housing and food factories down below. At breakfast one morning, Marko broached an idea that had recently come to him.

“Mita, why don’t I move my office over to the main building? That will permit me to be near the new developments as they occur. Best of all, I will be working close to you, my dear.”

“Of course, love,” instantly agreed Mita. “Kavala Laboratories does not wish to conceal a single aspect of its work from you. I know what it is that interests you the most: the new liquid.”

Marko blinked. “Has Taki told you how often I’ve asked him about it?”

“I imagine you foresee industrial application in food production, don’t you?”

He nodded affirmatively. “Our factories need to be liberated from their dependence on water. After all, that liquid is a limited commodity here on Kavala. We are a desert planet compared to our many competitors. Our imports of food is enormous. This new liquid will help to lower costs, making much higher production possible for us. We will then be able to become exporters. Think what such a future will be like, Mita!”

“You may be right,” she beamed with joy. “I pray that you are, darling.”

Things seemed to be going right for the married couple. They were running their two firms together, in tandem. Each was learning the ins and outs of the other’s business operations. The laboratories and the food factories were in combined management and working smoothly, both of them.

Taki placed a hand on Marko’s elbow as they left the latter’s office, newly assigned to him at the laboratories. The new husband spoke first.

“Mita left early for a scheduled meeting with some bankers. She will be going straight home from there. We plan to stay home this evening alone.”

Taki shyly grinned. “Then there will be enough time for us to stop and see the new liquid being tested. I haven’t shown it to you yet, have I?”

The two walked to the end of the office corridor. Taki pressed a wall button. The doors of a lifter opened. Marko entered first, then the research director. Once the doors closed, Taki pressed the sub-basement indicator.

As the lift chamber descended, Marko began to speak softly.

“My technical expectations are rising every day. A liquid with the moistness, transparency, weight, and viscosity of natural water! Think of what it will mean!”

The lifter stopped at the advanced projects level. The doors opened and Taki silently led the way out.

Another bare, empty corridor was ahead of them. There were no doors except at the far end. On and on the pair walked. Taki finally opened the door when they reached it. Another long corridor stretched out here. Another long walk forward followed again.

All of a sudden, a stairwell appeared. “We have to climb lower to get to the holding tank we want,” explained the director. “It is close now.”

The two stepped down the final steps. Marko felt himself losing all sense of direction. Down and around, down and around, again and again they went.

Then they came to what looked to be a black silicon wall.

“Here we are,” muttered Taki. “This is it.”

He took a large key from his pocket and inserted it into a wall slot. The outlines of a door suddenly grew visible. It opened by itself with a low hum, into a gigantic interior that was long, wide, high, and endlessly spacious.

A cauldron of enormous size loomed above them as they entered the hangar-like room. Taki went up to a stair that led to the top of the tank.

“Watch yourself coming up, Marko.”

Taki climbed up first. As the industrialist followed him, he became excited. This was it! He was about to see the miraculous liquid!

The gigantic vessel was full of what appeared to be common water. A metallic railing guarded the circular walkway around its rim.

“Let’s take a stroll about the tank, Marko.”

“It’s water!” cried out the latter. “It’s just water!” His pupils dilated. His eyeballs bulged. He walked beside his guide, staring down into the tank. “But it’s synthetic, isn’t it? Not really water, not at all.”

Taki all at once stopped and stared into the face of his companion.

“What do you think now?” he whispered breathlessly.

“I know it must be your newly created compound. But I can’t help believing this is only water.”

In a single instant, Taki grabbed him on both sides and lifted him off the walkway with a wrestler’s unbreakable hold. There was no chance to yell or scream for help as Marko went over the railing. One swift heave and he fell into the liquid that he had been told could not be water.

Mita herself opened the front door of the Manos mansion that evening. Taki Krenia stood there by himself in the gathering darkness.

“It’s over?” she anxiously asked.

“Completely finished,” he quietly affirmed.

Mita gave him a wicked grin. “He bought the story. All of it. The new liquid that could replace water. He saw himself making fabulous new fortunes as soon as he took control of it.”

Taki embraced the new widow in his arms, caressing and kissing her lovingly.

“Marko is gone without a trace?” she inquired.

“Of course. No one saw us go downstairs. I dropped him down into the tank. The liquid in it will dissolve all organic flesh made of carbon. It will liquefy everything, even bones. The greedy frog has been turned to water.”

“And we now have all of Manos Industries, Taki. All his food-producing factories.” She sighed. “His widow will inherit everything. The food industry is all ours now.”

“He bought the idea of a water-substitute, the fool.”

“You didn’t tell him how it affects living matter, Taki.”

“No one will ever know where or how he disappeared.”

“Except us, my dear.” Mita gave her scientific director a watery kiss on the lips.

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