Atom Laser of Raska

5 Dec

Danilo Njegos was an accurate example of the typical tribesman on his native planet. The Balkan Archipelago contained no planet as warlike or competitive as his own world of Raska. Nowhere else in the federation of migrants from Southeastern Europe were there such hostile, pugnacious characters.

Danilo inherited the skills of laser craftsmanship from his father and grandfather, both masters in the primary industry of mountainous Raska. Except for shepherding and work with wool, nothing else involved the population of the planet as much as the cottage manufacture of optical and photonic instruments. Laser exports were the foundation of the Raskian economy, technically its most advanced sector.

The towering young giant with thick black beard and shining green eyes lived alone in the family cabin on Nozh Mountain, losing both parents to winter viral infections while still a boy of eleven. Danilo insisted on living alone and continuing the family occupation of laser assembly. He proved himself skilled and knowledgeable enough to support himself with his own hands. No law forced him to attend any school, but he had his father’s tape library and the radio interweb to educate himself with. Everyone acquainted with the young man recognized his ability and knowledge in light and electronic technology.

The tribe to which Danilo belonged was named the Ceklici. It was one of the first tribes in the Katunska Region to leap into laser apparatus production at an early date. Staying ahead of other tribes in technical skill had become a primary goal and motive of this hereditary grouping concentrated at and about Nozh Mountain. Ceklici were proud of their reputation as pioneers in the interplanetary market for laser instruments.

Young, ambitious Danilo subscribed to many scientific periodicals and tried to stay well-informed about innovations and breakthroughs in his field.

The local tribal chieftain on Nozh Mountain was the short, white-haired poglavar named Nikola Balsic. This authoritative elder often visited the small cabin of Danilo to have free-ranging conversations with the intelligent craftsman who lived at the higher elevation.

“We have to be prepared to battle with competition coming from other Balkan planets,” warned the experienced prvak one spring morning. “New types of lazar illumination are constantly being developed somewhere in our archipelago, and we Raskians must be ready to contend with new inventions that pop up out there on other worlds. The alternative would be to lose our leading position in the field by failing to stay current and attentive.

“That must never be allowed to happen, Danilo,” concluded the old man with a sad, creased face.

“I believe that our craftsmen must themselves search for new methods of laser production and application,” declared the younger man. “If there are going to be inventions, then we ourselves have to be the ones who conceive and then assemble them. Our minds must always stay alert and never rest satisfied with what we are at present doing. We must be able to envision what will be needed in days to come. That is what guides what I do.”

“You are yourself hunting for the innovative?” said the surprised poglavar. “You must always remain careful and not leap ahead too far, my boy. We cannot afford to be labeled as dreamers. That would be disastrous, I think. Always keep as close as possible to the practical and provable, Danilo. That is always the best tack to take for everyone.”

The pair fell silent and said no more on the subject that day.

Although Nikola Balsic was the official legal and governmental poglavar of the Ceklik tribe, the economic activity was mostly within the framework of the laser esnaf, the guild which ruled and managed that area of life.

The guildmaster who headed that craft, called the esnaflija, was Blazo Mugosa. As the person responsible for the welfare and success of all laser-makers within Ceklik territory, he constantly toured about to inspect the activities of all the artisans under his authority.

Blazo’s broad, weighty figure was apt to appear suddenly, surprising the workplaces of craftsmen and craftswomen busy at their profession. Nozh Mountain was no exception to these frequent, unannounced visits by the master of their craft guild.

Danilo was busy working at his electronic sensing monitor when he heard a loud, concentrated knocking at his cabin’s front door. He had an indistinct impression who it might be making such an insistent noise.

When he opened the pinewood door it was the fat figure of the esnaflija that he saw standing there with a harsh glare in his ebony eyes.

“I came here to see what you are doing, Danilo,” said the visitor as he made his way inside the room that served as an informal parlor for the bachelor who lived and worked alone.

“Can I get anything for you, Master Mugosa?” asked the one who had been interrupted. “Would you like a cup of herbal chai that I made a while ago?”

“I am not here for pleasure,” grumbled the guild executive. “My business with you is purely in an official capacity.” He took steps out of the front room, into the workshop where Danilo carried out his technical work on lasers.

“I can tell by what is visible on your tables that you are puttering around with experimental combinations of parts and components of various kinds. What is your purpose in such idle nonsense? I wonder. Perhaps the truth is that you are very bored by productive labors and ordinary work, Danilo. I fear that your imagination has taken possession of your wild, youthful mind and is leading you astray.” He glowered directly into the green eyes of the other. “The complaint I hear most often concerning you, my boy, is that you constantly fail to meet the quantitative requirements that the esnaf places on all of its ordinary members, that you tend to fall far behind in your monthly quotas of production, that you come out always at or near the bottom of the list in numbers of laser units.

“What is impeding, holding back your required output? Why are you so disappointing to me and my fellow officers of our craft guild? I fear that other interests are diverting your attention from daily work. When I look down at your work table all I see are playful, meaningless fantasies that my mind is unable to interpret or understand. What do you think you are doing with your time, Danilo?”

The latter found himself unable to answer such insulting interrogation. He realized that it would be futile to express the anger boiling up deep inside himself. He had to maintain self-control and pretend to a subservience that was a necessary pretense under present circumstances.

“I do not know and cannot give a clear answer, Master Blazo. At times, some idea enters my mind and compels me to attempt new combinations of old parts I have available on my work table. It is impossible for me to explain what it is that comes over me at such moments. I feel like an idea has taken possession of me and I have to try out and examine a possible invention.”

The esnaflija reddened, exploding in uncontrolled rage. “Do not make silly excuses, Danilo. We are not a guild of inventors who put together whatever fancy flies by. We are a producing industry of craft workers and the patterns of our products have been set by the interplanetary markets and the forces of supply and demand. The laws we must follow are set for us from outside. We merely carry out what is required of us.

“You are only one unit in a large machine that engulfs all of beloved Raska. Your duty is to obey and fulfill what is required of you. That is all. This is a matter of work, not idle play. You had better buckle down to established laser patterns and forms, I warn you.”

Danilo could see the spittle on the thick lips of the osnaflija as he stalked out of the work room, then the cabin.

The young man sighed in relief and went back to what he was putting together before the surprise invasion of his private focus on inventing the new.

Working with incredible, inexhaustible energy, Danilo worked with a minimum of sleep or rest. He wrestled with the possibilities of improvements in conventional solid state and fiber lasers, but did not find anything that satisfied his almost subconscious drive toward the innovative and unprecedented. His experimentations involved semiconductor, diode, gamma ray, and gas laser apparatuses, all to no avail.

In frustration, Danilo made himself an expert in the area of quantum cascade lasers that used superlatices of varied material compositions. He attained the advanced state of a narrowed, efficient quantum well that utilized very thin molecular beams with only a small stream of electrons ever involved. Yet this failed to satisfy his thirst for a radical leap forward into the unknown.

The only individual he expressed his frustration to was the poglavar of the tribe of the Ceklici, old Nikola Balsic.

“I try and try, I go this way, then that way, but there is no progress for me, none at all,” he said to the head of the tribe during a visit by Nikola in the early fall. Leaves on Nozh Mountain were starting to turn yellow and bright red as the weather grew colder.

“What do you think I should do, sir?” Danilo asked the elder chieftain. “How would it be if I quit searching and went back to robot-like labor, as if I were some kind of slave?”

Nikola, sitting on a plain oak chair, suddenly rose and stepped forward till he was only an arm’s span from the young man, seated at his work bench.

“Not I, not anyone, can judge what your destiny must be,” murmured the prvak. “Your instincts, your intuitions, and, of course, your conscience must direct what choice you are to make. Listen for an inner voice and follow it, my son.”

Nikola soon departed, saying no more to the one dreaming of creating an inventive laser of some sort.

Danilo lay down in bed that night beset with the riddle of what direction was left him to take in his search for innovation.

Did he finally go to sleep after hours of restless frustration, or did he merely imagine that he saw a startlingly simple image of an impossible laser lamp, one that emitted one, single unit at the level of the atomic?

One isolated photon came forth. Was it a conscious thought, something like a daytime waking daydream, but one he experienced while laying in his bed?

The young man who hungered to become an inventor rose and went to his writing desk, took paper and pero, and began to make an outline of what a single-atom laser might be like.

Danilo decided to use so-called super-mirrors to trap and cool the single laser atoms he planned to have fall into an optical reservoir of sorts.

He experimented with a variety of atom-level substances, narrowing the options to a limited few. Studying published articles on quantum optics, he decided that two-level atoms would be the best type to utilize.

Light and matter are going to interact in the creation of laser radiation, the inventor told himself. A single, special atom of cesium was the best candidate he could discover for laser generation, meeting his major requirements.

The new form of photonic radiation was startling when he first saw it. There has never been anything like it on Raska or anywhere in the Balkan Archipelago, he proudly told himself.

The first person to learn of the new laser system was the tribal poglavar, Nikola Balsic. His presence at Danilo’s cabin was a matter of chance. He happened to be coming down Nozh Mountain after a trip to a higher elevation to see a group of sheepherders who radioed him asking for his advice on important pasturing problems.

Danilo took advantage of his unexpected presence to reveal what it was that enthused him to a high level.

“I have assembled a new way of radiating laser beams: I depend on a single atom at any given moment. The results are astonishing in comparison with what our craftsmen are now turning out. Let me show you how this system of mine operates, sir.”

The two moved into the rear workshop of the mountain cabin, where Danilo gave the chieftain an explanation and demonstration of the single-atom apparatus.

Nikola watched and absorbed each aspect and detail that was presented to him. He concentrated his total attention on the amazing illumination resulting from the experimentation of the searcher who had devised a completely innovative method, unlike what existed anywhere on Raska planet.

The poglavar ruminated in silence for a considerable time before he spoke.

“I do not know what I can say, my dear Danilo. This development of yours takes my breath away. Who would ever have imagined a single-atom system to be possible? Our ancestors would have called it miraculous and even magical.”

Nikola paused several seconds but then continued.

“We both know that our people have always been tradition-oriented in all areas of life activities, including the industrial operations we carry out in our mountains. That has always been true, and I do not believe that it will change in the future. Rastians are like prisoners of the past who have no desire to escape from our inherited culture and ways.

“It will be very difficult to convince the laser esnaf to make radical changes in the established products we use and export across the Balkan Federation of Planets. This invention of yours will not receive immediate acceptance. I am certain of that, my boy.

“Let me discuss what you have shown to me with the executive board of the craft guild. I will return at once, as soon as they have made a decision about what will be done.”

Danilo replied with a nod. The chieftain excused himself and departed.

The esnaflija of the lazar industry, Blazo Mugosa, lived with his large family in a big house of red brick in the heart of the town at the foot of Nozh Mountain. Poglavar Nikola knocked at his front door, announcing that he had an important matter to discuss with the head of the craft guild.

The son of the esnaf official led the visitor into the front parlor and asked Nikola to be seated while he went to the back of the house to fetch his father from his electronic workroom.

In less than a minute, Blazo walked in, wearing a colorless work smock.

“Nikola, it is so good to see you. Don’t get up. Tell me, what is it that brings you here at this time. It must be something that’s important, I wager.”

The two men quickly shook hands, the esnaflija remaining on his feet.

“I have just witnessed something unbelievable, a completely new form of laser generation. Let me explain.”

Blazo listened with growing interest and attention to the words of the unexpected visitor as the single-atom method was described to him. His mouth opened and stayed that way as he heard what young Danilo had succeeded in constructing on his own.

When the prvak had finished, Blazo immediately had a question for him.

“You are certain you saw this radiation with your own eyes? That there was no visual trickery involved?”

“It was all true, I would swear to it,” asserted Nikola with determination. “What I witnessed has the potential of bringing about total change in how laser systems will operate in the future. There can be no doubt about that.”

Blazo seemed far away for a moment, his ebony eyes unfocused and his brow furrowed with lines of deep thought. He started to speak as if coming out of a trance of some sort.

“The esnaf and I cannot and will not permit any such violation of tradition and custom. No one is allowed to make such outrageous change in how we work. Our way of living would be in danger of being destroyed.

“It has become necessary to rid ourselves of this danger to everything that makes us what we are. I will take care of the problem posed by Danilo and his nonsense. You can go home, Nikola, assured that I shall take immediate action to free us from the risks that threaten our tribe and our guild. You have my personal promise on that.”

The esnaflija turned around and hurried out of the parlor with vigorous steps.

Nikola found his way out of the house, not sure what was going to be done about the inventor and his invention.

Danilo Njegos disappeared without a trace whatever. So did his single-atom laser. His body was never found by anyone who looked into his sudden absence.

Many members of his tribe and his guild said that they thought he had left the mountain in order to move to another area and location. They were asked why he had taken nothing along with him, and why he had informed no one of his plans.

Those who had suspicions that the esnaf had for some reason eliminated him by violent action did not dare voice their thoughts about an evil ending to the young craftsman’s life.

Who was bold enough to accuse Blazo Mugosa of having blood on his hands?

It would not have been the first instance of informal justice on the planet of Raska.

But it was considered wisest to forget the strange vanishing of Danilo.

His single-atom laser was never heard of again on Nozh Mountain.

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