17 Jan

Dr. Edo Sket, a therapist with decades of psychiatric experience, was astounded at the identity of the patient referred to him.

He had been asked to make as many house calls as necessary to the residence of a man who had become legendary. Who in Maribor had a greater reputation than Ivan Brod, the electrical inventor? This was going to be the strangest case the psychiatrist had ever faced, he knew that for certain. Dr. Sket decided to walk to his first session at the home of this famous scientific genius, the national pride of all Slovenia.

Everyone knew that Brod had revolutionized power transmission, first in his native land, and then all of Europe. He was the man who had first successfully placed electricity upon radio waves. But why should such a great man need mental treatment? wondered the zdravnik, approaching the entrance of the large stucco zgrada where the inventor lived.

A short, frail-looking young woman with yellowish blond hair and milk-blue eyes opened the door. She seemed dazed and disoriented to the perceptive dusheslovec with years of experience with patients. Edo prided himself on having sensitivity to the inner emotions of those with whom he dealt in his practice. After he told her who he was, she did the same.

“I am Anka Brod. My father is not here for you to see him, Doctor.”

“Where is he, may I ask?” said the surprised visitor.

“Come in, please. We can talk about his present condition inside.”

Edo entered the inventor’s residence, following the daughter into a spacious living room. The two sat down opposite each other on antique stuffed chairs.

“He has suffered increasing depression and alienation in recent days,” she began, almost on the verge of tears. “My father tries to hide his melancholy as much as possible, but I can feel his low spirits as they keep sinking down. All day long, he sits at his desk in total apathy. He is like a reclusive samotar. Our family physician has wanted to place him in a mental hospital or bolnisnica, but I convinced the doctor to have a specialist like you see him first.”

“When did this worsening condition set in, Miss Brod?”

The latter all of a sudden frowned. “Many events occurred this spring, in April and May, that affected his state of thought. For instance, I became engaged to be married this summer.”

“Did that in any way produce an emotional reaction in your father, Miss?”

She looked away for a moment. “No, but there were other developments having to do with the Maribor Elektrarna. You see, he is one of the largest shareholders in the radio-electrical plant. The company is, in reality, his own creation, since it is based on the otkritje that he himself discovered.”

“I take it, then, that he has been troubled about the electric interruptions that have become frequent of late here in Maribor.”

Anka gave him an affirmative nod. “These struck him like a bolt of lightning. They were not supposed to happen, not at all. It was like being thrown back into his early days, when radio-electric was still new and experimental, and no one seemed to believe in or trust it. It was full of flaws and false starts. Each blackout of power has floored him. He remains stunned and at a loss as to what can be done to remedy the situation.”

The sound of the front door opening made them both look into the hallway of the house.

Edo at once recognized the circular figure with thick snow-white hair. His eyes, the same milk-blue color as his daughter’s, had a distracted look of exhaustion and emptiness. He did not seem to notice the presence of a stranger.

“Father, this is Dr. Sket, the zdravnik. We have been waiting for your return. How was your walk today>” She gave a weak smile that looked forced.

Ivan Brod stared hypnotically at the psychotherapist for a considerable time, then approached him, offering his right hand.

Edo rose for a moment, shaking hands with the electrical inventor.

All at once, the latter appeared to come to life. He took a chair next to his daughter, studying the visitor with sharp intensity.

“I do not believe that any medical treatment is necessary. At my age, a person cannot adjust to unexpected problems with the speed and flexibility of youth. In other words, the years have slowed down my mind. I am no longer the agile izumitelj of yore. And that sad condition causes me pain and misery.”

Anka interrupted. “It is not up you any more, father.”

The latter turned to her with angry resentment on his round face.

“I till hold my position as a company director. The technicians who now carry out research in our laboratory continue to consult with me when their problems grow too heavy to handle.” He turned to Edo. “The electrical staff brings me problems and questions for me to help them on.”

“They burden you too much,” scolded his daughter.

Ivan Brod considered the situation for a second, then sprang to his feet.

“Come along with me to the delavnica where I do my work in behind the house,” he proposed to the doctor who was there to treat his depression. “You will find it an interesting place, I assure you.”

Leaving Anka to herself, the two males headed for the rear of the residence.

The inventor’s workshop was unexpectedly large and well-equipped. Edo surveyed a forest of elektrotehnika and testing devices. Brod began to explain the function of each stroj and apparatus. From transmitting oddajnik to receiving sprejemnik, the inventor was able to duplicate an entire system of wireless electrification.

“I am my own electrical engineer, constructing all the complicated equipment in this laboratory by myself,” proudly claimed the white-haired one. “In a way, all my work back here takes me back to my beginnings, when I was a young man exploring the realm of electricity. There were no backers or supporters then, for radio transmission of energy was considered the mad dream of a lunatic. I was completely alone, on my own with no one to help me.” He suddenly seemed to grow dreamy and nostalgic. “Everyone I knew accused me of being the prisoner of a fantasy that had no chance of ever succeeding.”

All at once, total darkness fell within the delavnica. The ceiling lights in the room had gone out, throwing the two of them into shadowy dusk.

Brod spoke to the psychiatrist in an abstracted, hollow voice that seemed to be coming from a faraway razdalja. “Another blackout interrupting power from the company’s elektrarna. Who can say when the current will return?”

Edo noticed that the inventor was beginning to perspire. His broad forehead was soon covered with sweat. There was a shaking motion in both his arms and his legs. “Let’s you and I sit down and wait for the electricity to come back on, sir,” he told the old man he hoped and planned to have as his patient in the days ahead.

“I have a small pisarna where I keep my records and data,” said the host. He guided the psychotherapist to his tiny office in an area behind the darkened laboratory.

The pair slowly made their way back, then sat down facing each other in the dim little soba the inventor used as his private office.

“It is quite a nakluchja that your visit here coincides with another of these electrical breaks and disturbances,” muttered Ivan Brod with manifest frustration. “You shall now be able to observe the effects of this ovira on the one who founded this radio-electric znanost and is looked up to as its father.”

Dr. Skret could see through the shadows that the small milk-blue eyes of his future patient were clouded and troubled at the same time. “How long do you think this interruption in power will last?” he asked the inventor.

For a short while, no answer came to his simple vprasanje.

“It is hard to say, Doctor. Everything depends on me.”

“On you?” said Edo with surprise. “Why would you be responsible?”

The other looked away and did not reply for a considerable time. At last, he turned back. His face had become an expressionless mask.

“Radio-electric energy is my child, my first one. Anka came along after I made my big breakthrough in research.” The old man paused as if overweighed with heavy thoughts. “Perhaps if I could find a solution to this vexing problem, my mind could clear up and find some needed rest.”

The zdravnik stared at him, saying not a word.

Anka opened the front door of the residence.

A tall, lanky young man slinked into the darkened corridor, putting an arm about her waist and kissing her on the cheek.

“Did you drive here, Boris?” she inquired.

“Yes, my dear. The auto is parked down the cesta a bit. Where is your father? How is he doing in this power break?”

“I don’t rightly know that. He took the doctor with him back to the delavnica.”

“The psychiatrist is still here?” asked her fiancé.

“The two of them went to the laboratory to talk.”

“Let’s go back there and see what they are doing.”

Anka led the way through the sence of the hallway, to the back of the house.

“Father!” she called out. “Where are you?”

Brod appeared suddenly in the doorway of the pisarna. He immediately caught sight of his future son-in-law behind Anka.

“Boris! You must drive me at once to the elektrarna. That is the place I must be in order to accomplish something.”

The inventor, followed by the psychiatrist, stepped out of the tiny office.

“We will have to leave at once,” insisted Brod. “There is no time to lose. I alone can show those idiots what they have to do now.”

Boris turned to his fiancée. “I will take your father there swiftly.” He turned to Edo, extending a hand and introducing himself. He was Boris Kotnik, chief vremenoslovec at the Maribor Meteorological Station.

“I need to talk with you, Doctor, but we must hurry to the elektrarna at once.”

Excusing himself with a nod of his long, narrow head, Kotnik grabbed the right hand of the old man, guiding him to the rear door leading to an alley behind the residence.

Edo and Anka looked uneasily at each other in the dim natural light from outside.

“We can wait for them in the front parlor,” suggested the daughter.

The psychiatrist went into the jedilnica and sat down at the dining room table. Anka managed to make it into the kitchen through the daylight from the windows of the house. She returned from the kuhinja with a cup of hot coffee for the guest.

Edo drank several sips before placing the cup on the table top. By then, Anka was sitting across from him.

“What do you make of my father’s mental bolezen?” she asked him.

“It is too early to tell, but I have noticed how tense and nervous he becomes when faced with some problem or difficulty.”

She made a cryptic grimace. “That can be serious when the electricity stops.”

“I would say that if he can succeed in solving this interruption, his condition will be much improved from what it is right now.”

Anka suddenly grew animated. “That is the last great ambition of his life. He has no other such aspiration he hopes to fulfill.”

For awhile, neither of them spoke. Edo drank more of his kavo.

“My mother died when I was a small deklica,” she mused aloud. “It was very difficult for father, raising me all by himself.”

“His work as an inventor absorbed most of his time and attention, I imagine.”

The daughter nodded yes. “Boris is a lot like him, in terms of concentration. He is completely dedicated to meteorology and weather control.”

“Your fiancé is a controller?”

“He is district chief for the Maribor region,” proudly declared Anka. “That is quite a responsibility for someone his age.”

It was at that point in their conversation that the electrical svetloba returned, filling the room with light.

“We have struja once more,” smiled the little young woman. “Father and Boris will be coming back here soon.”

Ivan Brod agreed to daily sessions with his new zdravnik, allowing the latter to come to the inventor’s house late every afternoon. The visitor fell into the habit of staying on for dinner in the jedilnica with the family. The fiancé of Anka usually arrived later in the evening, when Edo was about to leave.

“My father was an urar who taught me the art of watchmaking,” explained the patient after a late meal. “But I was interested in all sorts of naprava and how to improve their operation. Elektrotehnika fascinated me the most. I enrolled in courses at the university, aspiring to become an electrical engineer. It took me years before my diploma came. My first job was that of elektromonter at the Dravograd hydrostation. I worked later at Vuzenica, Vuhred, and Ozbalt. This made me familiar with the operations of all the installations of the Pohorje and Drava valleys. Finally, I was appointed head upravnik of the elektrarna on Maribor island, adjacent to the city. That is where my troubles began.

“My private reading and experimentation convinced me that the future of electrical transmission lay in electronics, even optics. I asked the company directors to permit me to carry out research in those areas. They refused, citing the costs and risks that would be involved. So, I continued my own activities, paying all the expenses myself.

“My personal dream was to send the electrical struja through the medium of the atmosphere, on electromagnetic waves. But there were any great obstacles involved. I had to build high towers to serve as antennas. Transformers and electric motors were very expensive. It was difficult for me to maintain a constant radio frequency. There were problems of amplitude and modulation. Several years passed before my apparatus was ready to begin transmitting.

“By then, though, I was forced into bankruptcy by all I had spent and borrowed. This resulted in my being fired from my post of elektratna manager.”

Brod took a deep breath.

“Although I had to become a self-employed electrician making repairs in homes and stores, my experiments with wireless transmission of electricity continued. The public authorities gave me many stern warnings for making static on the air waves. They threatened to charge me with interference with public audio and video broadcasting. But I continued until I had answers to all my questions.

“I turned to izzarevanje on the infrared waveband, and I met with success. The transmission was strong enough to carry electrical power. It took me time to perfect all the naprave, but I had found the secret of radio electricity.”

Edo asked a question. “You convinced the industrialists of Maribor to support the new system?”

“Yes. They financed the construction of the new atomic elektrarna facility at Fala up the Drava valley. Within a year, we had struja flowing to the auto plant in Tezno and the elektrokovina equipment factory in Maribor. Soon, all the city and suburban factories were doing business with us. Then, we signed up all the stores of this part of our pokraijina.”

“But the old companies that use wire still operate in most of the residential sectors of the city,” noted the psychiatrist. “Isn’t that so?”

“They are fossils from the past,” frowned the inventor. “Technology passed by such inefficient antiques long ago.”

At that moment, Anka entered carrying a large tray of piping hot food. Behind her stepped her fiancé, the weatherman.

“Enough of talk,” she said with a laugh. “It is time for you scholars to eat some pecenice and palacinke. That is the menu this evening.”

Edo grinned, thinking of the smoked sausages and egg omelettes to come.

“Later, I have some special peciva, filled with pumpkin. But first there is a vegetable juha soup. Do you like some corn and buckwheat bread, Edo?”

He nodded that he did.

Soon the foursome were busy feeding themselves.

Edo prescribed several medicinal zdravila for his new patient, which Anka obtained for her father at the neighborhood lokarna. These remedies had no effect before the next power outage struck the radio-electrical system. It came at night, when the disruption could cause the most damage to life and industry. Edo slept through the interruption because the electricity in his apartment building was on an old-style wire grid.

The ringing of his bedside telefon awakened the zdravnik. He picked up his receiver. “Yes, who is it?”

He recognized the voice of Anka in an instant.

“Please come at once. My father is very ill. He spent most of the night at the elektrana. It took hours to restore the struja to normal operation.”

“There was another power break?” As soon as he said that, he knew it was true.

The daughter of the inventor affirmed his logical surmise.

“I will cancel my appointments for tomorrow morning and come to the residence,” promised the psychotherapist.

An autobus took him to the destination a little after dawn. The front door was opened for him by Boris Kotnik. “Come in,” said the out-of-breath meteorologist. “Anka is upstairs with her father. I’ll show you to her spalnica.”

The two climbed the steep stairs to the second floor.

Boris allowed the doctor to enter the room first, then followed behind.

White-haired Ivan Brod lay in a narrow postelja. His face had a yellow palor. His eyes were red and swollen.

“Doctor!” he said from his prone position, not lifting his head at all.

Edo moved close to his side, taking hold of his wrist to measure the inventor’s pulse. He released it, then gazed at Anka at the head of the bed.

“When did your father return home?”

“Only minutes before dawn. The streets were still dark outside.” She thought for a moment. “The struja came back on before my father returned.”

“I was at the weather station working on the forecast for next week,” offered Boris. “Anka’s father called me to come and get him from the elektrarna.”

Edo turned and faced him.

“Your station has an independent source of electricity?” inquired the psychiatrist.

“Yes. By a general regulation we must receive our power by wire, regardless of the cost that might be involved.”

“So, you brought him home in your auto?”

Boris nodded that he had done so.

“What do you plan for my distressed father?” asked the distraught daughter.

Edo studied her small face a second.

“I do not believe there is any need to take him into a bolnisnica,” he finally said. “His recovery can be carried out at home. But you must keep him resting in this spalnica. He must not go downstairs or to his delavnica. Total rest is necessary. Has your father taken a vacation in recent years?”

“He does not believe in vacations,” admitted the young woman. “His work is everything to him. Nothing else matters as much.”

“For now, I will give him a sedative. He should have more strength tonight when I stop in again.”

No one said anything as Edo injected his patient with a syringe.

Half that night, the zdravnik sat before the screen of the racuner in his apartment, reading what he could find on certain advanced areas of applied physics. Early the next morning he visited Ivan Brod to see whether there had been any improvement in his condition.

The inventor sat up on his postelja so that he could eat the zajtik his daughter brought upstairs to him on a tray. He speedily devoured the toasted kruh, chicken ledvice, and salad of four sadja. Edo look on admiringly at his restored appetite, only starting to speak when Anka had returned back downstairs.

“What are we going to do the next time an outage hits?” he bluntly asked.

Ivan stared at him with confusion in his milky eyes.

“I am uncertain where to begin…”

“An idea came to me late last night after I left,” softly declared the psychiatrist. “I went through a lot of scientific sources on the connections between infrared waves and how they are affected by plasma webs and shields.”

The old inventor suddenly became extremely attentive. “There has not been too much research on that topic as far as I know.”

“Yes, the research has been sketchy at best. But there have been a few observations of the collision of radio valovi and plasmic nets. The resulting condition is quite interesting. The waves are, for a time, caught in the nets of subatomic particles. It is a form of temporary imprisonment in a krog. The plasma becomes a trap in the atmosphere.”

Ivan Brod began to move his body as if trying to get to his feet.

“I think that Boris can tell us something about plasma nets…”

Edo interrupted him. “No,” he curtly said. “That is the last thing we want to do.”

The two studied each other for a moment or two.

“How can we find out the genuine truth about the matter?”

Edo moved closer and whispered. “First, you must be well enough to accompany me to the vremenska postaja when the next power interruption happens, sir.”

The patient blinked several times. “You are right. I must recuperate quickly.”

Several times each day, Edo would gaze up into the sky above Maribor, on the lookout for the meteorological letala that flew over the region of the Drava valley. These airships were the constructors of the nets that were thrown over storm clouds and wind cyclones as the major factor in weather control. Within the plasmic webs, bad weather was encapsuled and removed from the sky.

Were there other important events happening up there, as well? he asked himself again and again.

Edo was careful and guarded whenever he talked with Boris Kotnik. No hint or sign of what he was discussing and planning with Ivan Brod. One evening Edo and Boris had a conversation on the changing weather in the Maribor region.

“This used to be the season of heavy rain and storming,” said the vremenoslovec. “But now we have lowered that to light rain. No more does a hurricane or cyclone threaten our valley. Even in winter, a snow storm has become very infrequent.”

The zdravnik looked across the dining room table with forced admiration for Boris Kotnik.

“It appears, then, that our climate has undergone major change,” noted Edo. “We today have our podnebje under almost complete control.”

Boris gave a grin of pride. “No wind is given the chance to grow into a burja. The slightest sign of a threatening wind in the Austrian Alps or Slovenia sets us in motion. A letalo is sent at once to enclose that area with a special net of plasma.”

“You nip the vihar in the bud, so to speak.”

“No thunderstorm or navihta stands a chance,” boasted the meteorologist. “I reach out and surround it before the storm can come near Maribor.”

“The layer of plasma is strong enough to accomplish such a difficult task?”

Kotnik turned serious. “Nothing in the zrak is stronger my friend. Nothing.”

The pair went on to other matters, not returning to the subject of weather control with plasma nets.

It was a late afternoon when the radio-electricity went off.

Edo happened to have just entered the Brod residence when the break came. Anka had come to answer the door and was leading him upstairs to her father’s spalnica. She stopped halfway up the stepnice and turned about as the lamp above them lost its current and light.

“Another motnja,” she shuddered. “When will these interruptions end?”

“I have to see your father at once, Anka.”

All at once, a noise came from the top of the landing.

“This is it, the moment that I have been waiting for.” Ivan Brod stood in the darkness up on the landing, fully clothed and ready to take action. Slowly, he began to climb down the darkened stepnice. His daughter made way for him and Edo offered him his arm for support, but the patient refused any aid at all.

The other two followed the inventor to the front door. Ivan turned around and spoke in an unexpectedly strong and clear voice.

“The plin-powered autobus will still be running to Maribor Island. We must take it at once and reach the postaja there.” He frowned at Anka. “You have to stay home, my dear.”

It took Ivan and his psychotherapist only two minutes of waiting to catch an autobus heading toward the Drava River. All the traffic signals were out of operation, yet traffic on the ceste and ulice of the city appeared normal and unimpaired by the power stoppage. The crowded vehicle proceeded across the bridge to the otok with the weather station on it.

Ivan, sitting beside Edo, rose to his feet while holding onto a support pole. “This is where we must get off,” he murmured under his breath. Once on the ground, the two headed into a tall, gray zgradba without windows of any sort. Both of them knew that they were near a decisive moment and said nothing to each other.

They entered through a metal door, into a hallway that led to a pair of dvigala that went to the upper stories. Brod pressed a button that opened the doors of one of the elevators. He motioned to his companion to enter first, then he himself followed.

“Press the third lever,” commanded the older man.

The dvigalo rose quickly, stopping suddenly at the indicated floor.

Before Edo realized it, he was looking into a large, high-ceilinged room. On an enormous able in the center lay a zemlevid of the entire Maribor region. Beside the table stood Boris Kotnik. He held a long, pointed stick in one hand. He gaped at the two unexpected visitors.

Ivan Brod stepped toward the table, his doctor following him. Edo noticed that four men in technician coats of white moved toward their chief at the center, as if in defense of the director. No one said anything as the newcomers approached the large map. All at once, the inventor stopped beside the table, turning his eyes down and surveying the zemljevid.

Edo looked back and forth between Brod and the weatherman, uncertain what was going to happen next. At last, Ivan spoke, his eyes focused on his daughter’s fiancé.

“Are you imprisoning the lost struja within your nets of plasma? What possible purpose does such sabotage serve, Boris?” His voice seethed with anger.

Boris Kotnik moved forward, till he stood immediately in front of both of the two who had entered his inner area. This was the hub of some secret activity, it was becoming clear even to Edo.

“You do not understand, old man,” sneered Boris. “Technology is preparing to replace radio-electricity with something better and more secure.”

“What are you talking about?” sputtered Ivan Brod. “What do you mean?”

“The future does not lie with your invention, not at all. The development of electricity in the bodocnost is in a different direction. Plasmic nets are going to be placed permanently over cities like Maribor, up in the sky. This station has been carrying out experiments in secret during the disruptions in power. It will take several years of further work, but the plasma is already more efficient and economical that your radio system, old man.”

He paused for a fraction of a moment to let his words sink in, then went on.

“I am sorry to have to tell you two that neither of you will be here to see my success with these new, marvelous nets in the air.”

Edo failed to see what happened next until it was too late for him to intervene.

From an inside coat pocket, Ivan drew out a hammer-like small tool, hitting the forehead of Boris Kotnik with the head of the kladivo.

The attack by the old man happened too fast for Edo to be able to stop it.

The police brought him back to the Brod residence in a squad car so that he could inform the daughter of events at the weather station. It was going to be nearly impossible to tell her of the two tragic losses. For her father had suffered a fatal stroke immediately after his attack on her fiancé.

Anka, sensing that there was something wrong, led him into the front parlor, where both of them sat down.

“When will my father return, now that the electricity has been restored?” she asked him with a hint of dread in her voice.

Edo reached cross, taking her right hand in his.

“I have a terrible zgodovina to relate to you, Anka,” he slowly announced. “Where can I begin? It is a tale of war between radio-electricity and something new that is trying to destroy and replace it.”

Panic seized hold of her mind. “Where is father? What as happened to him?”

Holding her hand tightly in his, he proceeded to tell her about the casualties in the cruel conflict for control of the zrak over Maribor.


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