Invention Street

4 Apr

Toza Else remembered his joy when he had first come to work for the great inventor.

That distant exhilaration was now dead forever. He would have to create a new future for himself, the technic told himself as he turned off Invention Street into the laboratory of Cziton Negatronics. There would be no more work for him here, that much was clear. Not after the article he had recently written and had published.

The tall, thin young man with dark hair and light, bright gray eyes entered the main hallway with slow steps and straight, erect posture. What did he have to fear or be ashamed of? His newspaper article had merely outlined an alternative to the pet program of the renowned genius named Kolem Cziton. Was that sufficient to bring down the roof on its author? To have him thrown out on the flagstones of Invention Street?

A receptionist, recognizing Toza, waved him toward the entrance to the great man’s plain, simple office.

“Go right in,” directed the petite young woman. “He wishes to see you at once.”

Very well, then, thought the summoned one. This was inevitable once he read what I wrote. Now, I will have to seek my destiny elsewhere, not here at Cziton Negatronics.

He opened the unmarked oak door and proceeded inside to face his fate.

The inventor’s sanctum was small and cluttered.

Toza noticed that his employer was putting on weight underneath his old, out-of-fashion black suit. Cerulian eyes, deep and unmoving, focused on the lanky young man seated across a silicium workdesk from him.

A full head of frosty white hair covered the rectangular head of Kolem Cziton. The senior figure began to speak in a rough, rasping voice.

“I called for you because there is this matter of your article for us to trash out. Did you foresee the trouble and complication that was certain to result from it?”

Toza pursed his thin, pale lips. “I still fail to see how my ideas have caused any sort of harm to our research programs, sir. Such rumors have come to me, and they seem unreasonable and untrue. I have told several of my co-workers this opinion of mine.”

The two exchanged determined stares. Then, Cziton all of a sudden changed the subject.

“Do you know how long it took me to develop my first thermionic motor? I was about your age at the time and feared my life would not be long enough to realize the dream that had seized possession of me. So many obstacles, so much resistance of all sorts! Can you conceive of how I felt?”

“It must have been painfully frustrating,” admitted Toza.

Unexpectedly, the inventor grinned. “Yet it was exhilarating, my boy. I was drunk with joy and delight during my long search for the right solution. Yes, there were moments of anger and impatience. But my dominant feeling in the period of hard work was a happy one. I somehow knew that the prize of success was going to come to me if I continued to the end, however long it might take.

“The main lesson that I learned was the central necessity for single-minded concentration when one is striving to develop and perfect a particular invention that dominates your mind and hopes.”

Cziton glared directly at the research assistant.

“I can understand what your feelings and thoughts must have been like, sir,” meekly said Toza. “In recent days, my mind has come to be fixed upon the concept of the atmospheric transmission of energy particles. That is what probably motivated me to write my article on Negatronic Physics for the newspaper.”

The old inventor’s face began to redden.

“As president of Cziton Negatronics, I carry heavy responsibilities. One a decision is reached, the energies of everyone who works here must be set in one single direction. There can be no diversion by anyone from the common goal of this organization of ours. Every one of my aides and assistants must adhere to the single aim that has been set. That is essential, if the lead we have won till now is to be kept and maintained in the future. We are like an army that cannot survive with internal divisions of any sort. Otherwise, we will fall behind and be overtaken by our rivals and competitors.”

Toza made an enigmatic grimace impossible to interpret as he listened to the inventor continue.

“The volcanic wells in our mountain region provide the thermionic energy that runs most of Alembic City, as well as the rest of the country. Unfortunately, heavy cables must stretch for hundreds of miles in order to get all this power to the final users. Much energy has always been lost in this expensive, cumbersome transmission network.

“Ever since I perfected the thermionic motor, my primary goal has been the invention and development of a better method of sending thermions from the mountain wells to our metropolis.

“Years before you arrived here on Invention Street, I decided that in the future all power would have to travel underground, through the rocky crust of Globus, our home planet. That is the one and only plausible solution to the problem of more efficient energy transmission.”

Almost unconsciously, Toza formulated counterarguments to refute what the older man was propounding to him.

“As best I remember from the accounts of your biographers, sir, you always kept all options open until a final, optimum determination could be made on what direction to take in further work. There were alternatives to how thermionic energy finally came to be developed and utilized, as you yourself admitted in your personal writings. Focused concentration on one type of possible power generation and transmission occurred only at a very late stage of the process of invention. That is the clear conclusion of the many books on your life work, sir.”

Kolem Cziton, seething with ire, had difficulty avoiding some emotional outburst at this point.

“That is a serious misinterpretation of the method that I used in the past, young man. A decision on what road to take is the secret to success, and it must occur as early as possible in order to avoid confusion and wasted effort. It cannot be put off out of fear or caution of any kind.

“But let me tell you this: there will no longer be any questioning of the direction that my organization is going to take in the future. My decisions are not going to waver with every passing wind. Anyone who expresses doubt about where we are headed cannot continue working on my team.”

Toza felt the pressure of the inventor glaring at him. He understood what the final statement of the great man implied for his employment and career.

“Very well,” he declared. “I shall quit here immediately.” His voice had a forceful, determined ring to it.

Before Cziton realized what was happening, the young assistant rose, turned about, and stalked out of the room.

The famed inventor gaped in amazement as the door slammed shut.

It was to the Muskers” Inn that the unemployed Toza went for a late morning dejeuner. The jobless tech took a plate of peach pandowdy from the food table, ordered a mug of metheglin, and carried these over to a tiny table in the rear of the workmen’s estaminet.

Toza had consumed most of his food by the time a server brought his drink. Then a short, small man with curly carmine hair moved up the the table, unnoticed by the patron who was seated there.

“May I have a word with you, Mr. Else?” said the stranger, a sparkle in both his canary-colored eyes.

Surprised and confused, Toza merely gave an affirmative nod.

Taking the seat opposite him, the man in a scarlet suit began to talk in a lowered, confidential tone.

“I have been informed that you are no longer with Cziton Negatronics as of this morning. Do not be alarmed, news spreads quickly on Invention Street. Word of what happened to you traveled up and down our avenue and reached me.

“But first, let me introduce myself. I am Azom Sziget, a very minor operator compared to the firm that just let you go. My tiny company works on telecommunications devises. It is doubtful that you have heard of us.”

“But I have,” volunteered Toza. “Your laboratory is located down near the border with the warehouse district.”

Sziget winced. “That is all I can, at the moment, afford. But let me tell you why I have sought you out like this. My purpose in coming to your table is to offer you a new position.”

“A position?” reacted Toza. “What kind of position?”

The other, lowering his voice to a whisper, leaned forward.

“Let me explain. Cziton dominates the entire field of negatronics because of its size and its multitude of patents. No one else has the capital, resources, or personnel of this great behemoth. So, I have had to look for innovations in areas not monopolized by that giant enterprise.

“Until now, my concentration has been in air navigation systems. I have developed, patented, and marketed new negatronic devices for steering and control of ornithopters and neuropters. These apparati are quite good, so that considerable profit has resulted for me. But now I wish to expand activity into solving the difficult problem that you wrote about in your newspaper article.”

Toza Else suddenly grew breathless. “Wireless transmission of power?” he eagerly inquired.

“Yes,” answered the little redhead. “That is precisely it.”

“What would be my specific duties?”

“Supervisor of a project to send and receive thermionic waves through the atmosphere.”

“I accept,” said Else with any more questions.

Azon Sziget reached across the table to shake his hand, then excused himself after setting an appointment for that afternoon with his newly hired tech.

Toza realized that he was taking a road of laboratory research that could turn out to be barren of results, yet he decided it was the only way for him to continue his quest for wireless energy transmission. Along the way, a more hopeful direction than this first, beginning one might appear. Though it might for a long time be hidden away, he was certain that it would eventually surface.

This first project conceived of by Azon Sziget might be the means of his finding another, now unknown method of realizing his goal of advanced power radiation.

Toza looked ahead with high hope to the long, hard work that would have to be completed by him.

Every day, the researcher put in twelve to fifteen hours at the laboratory of Azon Sziget on Invention Street. The goal was a magneto-negatonic transducer that would sent thermionic waves to a distant receiver. Toza, unsure of success, made no promises to his new employer. But one evening the latter came to him with consternation written on his face.

“Cziton held a public conference to announce he will soon begin testing a system of ground transmission from his generator up in the mountains. He appears to have something ready to go into operation.”

Toza gave him a questioning look. “Where does that leave us? We are a long way from having anything definite or certain. We are just starting.”

“Regardless, tests must begin immediately,” asserted Sziget. “There is no more time for lab work alone. We have to take to the field with what we now have.”

“How do you intend to begin, then?” asked the tech.

“We will have to send waves from the thermionic transducer here in the laboratory. I want you to equip a heavy camion with receiving apparati, then drive it out into the open countryside. This will be a test of how far waves can be transmitted, and in what strength. It is the only chance we have of overtaking Kolem Cziton. There is no time to lose.”

Azon considered for a moment, then nodded his assent.

“Yes, this is the best moment for a field test of the idea of atmospheric transmission. It will show us what works and what does not.”

The camion was a two-ton duralumin carrier with a high-powered plasma engine. It held all the magneto-negatronic equipment needed for this important trial. Toza arrived long before daybreak in order to supervise the loading of every piece of equipment. He gave a start when he discovered his employer was already at the rear entrance of the laboratory.

“I decided to accompany you,” explained Azon. “It would be impossible for me to wait patiently for today’s results.”

Toza gave a smile of sincere understanding. “I can sympathize with how you feel about this important test.”

Soon the vehicle was ready to go. The crew of three joined the pair in the spacious front cab. Together with the driver, six individuals departed from Invention Street, heading for a predetermined location twelve leagues distance from Alembic City.

No one said anything as the vehicle traversed the cobbled streets of the metropolis and the spicewood-lined lanes of the suburbs. All at once, a knocking noise sounded from outside the camion cab they were in.

The driver turned his head around for a second or so.

“There is some kind of problem in the engine’s plasma chamber,” he told his passengers in alarm. Should I stop at some repair station and ask for help?” The question was directed to his boss and employer.

“No,” replied Azon with determination. “We must reach the locus for reception in time for the experimental testing.”

The large camion rumbled along, the knocking noise becoming louder, though still sporadic and lacking any rhythmic pattern. Soon chestnut-colored bayards were eyeing the odd-sounding carrier as it passed their pasture.

“Right on the left, up ahead,” suddenly said Azon. “That is the spot that I rented for our use.” He thought for a moment, then gave the driver another order. “Don’t close down the engine drive, but let it continue while the camion remains stationary. There’s no need to take any unnecessary risk. The plasma drive may be difficult to get going again.”

In a short time, the vehicle came to a complete stop, its motor continuing to idle.

Everyone except the driver climbed out of the cab and went back to the reception equipment in the rear compartment.

Toza glanced at his chronometer. They had a quarter of an hour to prepare for the thermionic wave that was to be transmitted to them from the laboratory on Invention Street. He became engrossed then with the others in the preparatory work and no longer paid attention to the knocking of the damaged plasma engine in the rear of their camion.

As the scheduled moment for transmission and reception neared, Azon sat down on a mobile chair beside Toza, who was already positioned in front of the master monitor that would indicate the flow of any magneto-negatronic energy being received from the center of the city.

As soon as the greenish scope lit up, unprecedented oscillation curves appeared on it, crossing the newly illuminated circle in an irregular manner.

Azon gazed at the dial of the horologium on one side of the energy monitor.

“It’s too early for the thermionic waves to come in yet,” he said with a gasp. “Something is wrong here. There is around a minute to go before transmission from Invention Street is slated to begin.”

“We have to wait to see what happens at that precise moment,” said Toza after a second of thought. His eyes were glued to the vibrating images on the screen in front of him.

The anticipated instant of time arrived and passed. The meaningless pattern of forms went on, without a halt or any major change of any kind.

As Azon grew visibly agitated, Toza stared as if hypnotized at the strange curves on the monitor. His mind fell into a deep trance considering possibilities. Could it be some unanticipated energy that was being shown, without anyone recognizing its presence?

After several minutes of thought, Toza turned to his employer.

“An unexplainable interference is somehow blocking reception of thermionic waves being generated. The best thing for us to do now is to return to Alembid City at once. We have to solve the riddle of this interference with energy reception that is frustrating this test.”

On the return journey to Invention Street, every member of the team stayed silent. Only one person, Toza Else, had any inkling of what had occurred to defeat this first field test of thermionic wave transmission.

Kolem Cziton’s hundred-year patent on the plasma engine was now thirty-three years old, Toza learned late that night. Could it have any effect on the project that had formed in the back of his mind?

The engine’s primary function and use was to power vehicular transporters over the streets and roads. It was seldom applied to any other purpose because of how the original inventor, Cziton, had structured the application of his brainchild. He had made his motor a specialized apparatus for transportation.

Kolem had seen to it that plasma energy could not compete with stationary thermionic motors.

Toza explained what he was thinking to Azon Szigat the morning after the failure of their field test.

“From the beginning, all plasmic motors have been based on what Cziton named the whistle wave. The first plasmas were ionized gases containing positrons and negatrons. Today, though, our engines use a quark-gluon soup in which the particles lose all identity and turn into an unstructured collection of general sub-matter. Oscillating disturbances are brought about in this exotic plasma, using magnetic fields projected in from outside the chamber cell to set off the resonances within. These whistle waves generated inside the ionized soup become the propelling factor for the entire engine.”

Toza paused for a moment, then went on with his exposition.

“I believe that the plasma wave can be used to power a device from a distance, on the model of a negatronic signal carrier. The most serious problem that I foresee is the possibility of patent infringement claims that could be made by Mr. Kolem Cziton.”

Azon, becoming deeply thoughtful, wrinkled his brow with concern. “Leave that matter to me. I know an expert patent attorney with whom I can consult about that. In the meantime, we must loose no time if we are to develop the equipment that we will need. That will be primarily your responsibility, Toza. Get on it at once. This evening, in fact.”

“Yes, sir,” smiled the one who had conceived of this new solution. The decision was made and his course forward set.

Within the next nine months of grueling labor, enough progress was made in this new direction to reach the point of testing out in the field. Could a whistle wave be transmitted from the Sziget laboratory on Invention Street in Alembic City to the opposite end of the metropolis?

This experimental trial entailed sending out a camion with a large, sensitive plasma device suitable for receiving a stream of generated whistle waves. Toza was to be in charge of the mobile vehicle. His employer planned to come out to the designated site once the transmitting chamber was placed into operation.

Toza had the driver park the camion on an empty, abandoned landing field once used by commercial ornithopters, but now out of operation. It took them several hours to set up all the reception apparati specially built for the experiment about to commence.

At exactly noontime, the testing began.

The earliest whistle waves received were weak and sporadic.

Toza had his eyes on several screens at once, noting that the over-all energy stream flowing in was growing in strength all the time.

This is going to be successful! he decided after a while. His whole mind was electrified by what was being accomplished before his eyes. There could now be no question but that whistle wave transmission could act as a carrier of plasma energy.

The young inventor waited impatiently for Azon Szigat to arrive so that the two of them could celebrate this success and make plans for the future of this accomplished breakthrough.

Would Azon realize how revolutionary this could be for both science and technology? A bold new direction had been taken and followed after the rejection of the first concept of negatronic power transmission. Toza now realized how much of a risk he and Szigat had taken with the risky alteration they had decided to make.

Had Kolem Cziton been correct when he had stressed the important of not waiting too long to try out new concepts and methods once the original ideas for building a new invention had failed in testing? Toza now asked himself.

And once a new direction is taken, the need to stick with it until its value is firmly confirmed or rejected.

Toza now recognized the truth in what the man who had fired him had argued about the nature of successful invention.

He could envision a future where cables and wires would no longer be needed in sending out energy. The whistle waves will create a new system of common, public plasma power that will be available to each and all.

“The boss has arrived in a quad,” announced an assistant, interrupting the technological reverie of Toza. The latter hurried out of the camion to inform Szigat of the positive results he had attained.

But his eyes blurred for an instant when he saw who was the person climbing out of the passenger vehicle.

What could Kolem Cziton be doing at this remote suburban site?

Toza felt a shock up his spine as he watched Azon Szigat follow the famous invention developer out of the quadricycle.

Cziton, wearing a black cutaway and a brown derby, walked toward the camion, the other man only a step or so behind him. When the two reached the spot where the petrified Toza stood, it was Azon who was the first to speak.

“I take it that your first attempt at reception was successful,” he coolly muttered.

His eyed glued to the silent Cziton, the young inventor gave a small nod of yes.

It was Cziton who then exclaimed “Good!”

“There is something important that you must be told at this time,” announced Azon in a nearly fearful tone. “Several of my lawyers have told me that the early plasma patents were written in such a way as to cover any further development such as what are at present engaged in. The whistle wave is therefore included within Mr. Cziton’s legal claims and privileges. Were you and I to contest that interpretation, the courts would find in his favor and validate his widest claims.”

The eyes of Tosa turned from Azon Szigat to Kolem Cziton.

“Is that the truth?” he asked.

“Yes,” said the old inventor. “I have come to an agreement with your company, though, to share all my exclusive rights to plasma waves. The further development of the whistle waves will proceed under our joint management, with both our staffs involved. Later on, when we have a usable product and method, my firm will be in charge of the marketing and application of our inventions. Everyone involved will be generously rewarded, I have sworn to that.”

Azon then spoke at this point. “The deal that we reached is a very good one for us, my boy.”

Not for me, thought Toza. Not for me.

Far from Alembic City and Invention Street, a recently settled solitaire on the treeless barrens returned to his dilapidated hutch. It had been quite easy for him to take possession of this abandoned hovel. No neighbors, no property claims existed out here.

Toza called this place his invisible hermitage. No one would ever come and disturb his seclusion, he was certain of that. Peace and quiet reigned in this nook of his.

Then, one bright morning, he heard the rotating propeller of a hymenopteran flying down out of the yellowish blue sky.

The solitaire rushed outside to catch a view of the small flying craft in the shining rays of the sunstar. He raised a hand to shade his eyes from the glare.

A small object dropped out of the side of the hymenopter, hitting the sandy ground a short distance from the hutch.

As the noise retreated away into the sky, Toza ran out to pick up the missile where it lay.

A small plastic cylinder with a sheet of white cellulose inside was what he found.

The writing consisted of a simple commercial advertisement.

“You can own a plasma receiver of your own and obtain unlimited energy to use as you wish!

“With no money down and easy monthly payments, this new miracle invention can belong to you. No site is too remote, no location is too distant.

“Say goodbye to wires and cables. Get all your energy on the whistle wave from our plasma generators in Alembic City. Buy yourself a Cziton-Sziget Receiver.”

Crumbling the message in his right hand, Toza started back to his hutch. By the time he reached the entrance, there was no more noise from the sky.

Stopping a moment, he tore up the advertisement for wireless energy that he himself had invented. There was a slight wind that picked up and scattered the pieces of cellulose. Then, certain that he had taken the right turn away from Invention Street, Toza opened the creaky door and retired into his no longer hidden refuge.

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