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Friday
Apr292011

Short Science Fiction Story: Energy Woes 

One of the things that I love about science ficiton, espeically older science fiction is the idea that a single person with a great idea could change the world. On the other hand it seems as if everyone knows someone who knows someone who claims to have created super engine that was bought and destoryed by the car companies. This story examines a reasonably classic science fiction inventor trynig to deal with those issues.

 

Energy Woes

By

Elton Gahr

 

The truck camper shook with the vibrations of the generator crammed into what Beck called his mobile laboratory, a green, rusted, 1972 Ford. Beck dreamed of the day he could repair his truck, heck he'd be rich enough to buy a new truck all he needed to do was make his energy cell work.

He adjusted the schematics on his makeshift computer. The text scrolled across the green monochrome screen and the computer beeped the irritated sound which was the only noise it could make.

The numbers we right he was certain and having tapped into the electric grid should have enough energy to charge the cell.

The truck grew bright then black as the overhead light grew bright and then exploded overwhelmed by the power. Then just as he was convinced he had failed the meters attached to the small cell began to flicker. It only gave off about as much energy as a watch battery but since it used quantum forces it would never run down. Effectively free energy, though it would take years for it to replace the energy that it took to create it.

Beck jumped into the cab of the truck, but as he turned the key again he heard only the grinding of his starter and he hit the steering wheel and the truck shook and started.

The truck bounced down the dirt road and Beck thought about where to go. He couldn’t afford to make the cells himself. He needed a buyer and the obvious choice was the military. But that would ensure they were a national secret designed to help the USA to regain its superpower status and that wasn't why Beck created his cell. He wanted to end suffering and destroy greed. That meant he needed everyone to have the cells.

It took most of the day to reach the edges of the Seattle stopping every few miles to let the engine to cool until he reached the Dipnoteck buildings. As he entered he tried not to think about his old worn coveralls and three dollar hair cut. He wouldn't be looked down upon much longer. Dipnoteck could pay him until so many cells were produced money became obsolete.

The glass doors slid open and Beck entered the lobby. An impressive sight with marble floors and a wide stairway leading to the second floor which was a long balcony leading secretarial offices open in the middle so you could see the gold and silver painted roof, but as much money as the building cost the business wasn't stupid, they didn't waste money. There were no lights on in the lobby, instead using sunlight to light the room and the elevators had been closed of running them became prohibitive.

"Do you have an appointment, sir?" a middle-aged woman at the front desk said.

"Just contact Dr. Creach and tell him Dr. Beck is here. He'll want to speak to me,” Beck said. The man might not like him, but he knew he was brilliant and would want to know what he had discovered.

The woman typed something into her computer then looked up at Beck, frowned, and said, "Dr. Creach died three years ago, sir."

Beck's shoulders fell. His best chance had been Creach, but any physicist should understand what he had done so he said, "Let me talk to anyone in research and development. Tell them I can earn them a lot of money."

Greed should get him an appointment but the woman only said "You need to make an appointment,” then looked him up and down and chuckled. They wouldn't meet him. They assumed he was a nut who found Dr. Creach's name in a scientific journal.

"You don't understand I went to school with Dr. Creach. We developed a theory and I've proven it right. I can change the world and make you all rich,” Beck said, but he knew arguing made him sound more insane.

He had burnt too many other bridges and so he drove towards the nearest military base.  Not an ideal choice but eventually they would have to admit the technology existed. It would take far longer, but that might actually be good. They military could certainly build the cells faster and getting a meeting wasn’t hard.

The general’s office was a large room dominated by an oak desk covered with papers and a metal desk lamp with a green shade. The light was on though the room was more than bright enough without it. Military extravagance if Beck had ever seen it.

Behind the desk was a powerful looking man. He sat calmly and watched Beck. He made him more aware of his appearance than the secretary at Diponteck. This man was judging him and Beck knew he came up short.

"Hello Beck. Can you explain what we're here for in the next five minutes?" the general ask. The tone in his voice almost mocking but Beck but didn't care. He would have their respect once they knew what he had done.

"I've created an energy cell that will revolutionize the military. It produces small amounts of energy but it never runs down or needs recharged. It is free energy,” Beck said.

The general nodded and said, "I'm don't remember much of high school science but isn't A perpetual motion machine physically impossible."

"It isn't a perpetual motion machine!" Beck yelled. He had known people would say that. But he calmed quickly and said, "It just taps into the energy of the universe in a way no one knew was possible. I’m not creating energy, just using it."

"You don't understand how much this will cost me if the cell isn’t what you claim. This will cost a lot of money and energy to test,” The general said.

"And what if it's real? What if we can eliminate the energy crisis? What then?" Beck said, the general wanted something.

"Then the brilliant scientist get the credit and I get nothing. The military doesn't reward people for doing their jobs right,” the general said.

Beck couldn't do it. He had dedicated his life to destroying greed. But he wasn't willing to tell the general that so he said, "Let me get the cell you have contacts which will buy it I am certain."

Beck walked out to the old green truck and got in. He would find someplace else to sell the energy. Heck he could eat off the amount of energy it was creating already and if he got a job he could buy enough energy to make another in a year.

As he got into the Truck he saw something more, armed soldiers coming towards him, one of them talking on their radio. The general was going to simply steal the cell and all of the information in his truck.  That left him no choice and Beck pumped the gas pedal and spun the wheel rushing towards the general’s office.

There was nothing left. They had won, the world had beat him, but he knew that there was one last way to prove his cell worked. That was the joke he thought laughing. The energy would be unmistakable, but also impossible to replicate without him or his laboratory. Perhaps that would change things as well. 

And so with that final thought Beck swerved the truck into building smashing through the stone of the building.  With the sudden impact on the cell it released all the energy it could have produced in a century leaving behind nothing but the evidence that humanity had given up it chance to have everything because of its greed.



Saturday
Apr232011

Free Short Story: Fish Story by Elton Gahr

I wrote this story most of a decade ago and it is one of the few stories from that time that I still actually like. It is pretty simple and it is in part due to the frustration of the government dropping the ball on space exploration. I suspect the name has been used for a number of other stories, but I hate titles enough I didn't bother looking to find another.

 

Fish Story

By Elton Gahr

 

 

Paul slammed the newspaper on Cedric's desk and said, "How the hell did the newspapers get this before me?"

“You’d have covered it up. Someone had to make sure the people knew."

"I would have studied it! Finding complex life isn’t something that should be taken lightly. It’s just one fish," Paul said.

"One fish found in ice from Europa. How many do you need? There's life on Europa," Cedric said.

"The President gave a speech today announcing a manned mission. A trillion dollar trip! A trillion dollars we should spent on schools, hospitals and public infrastructure!" Paul said, his eyes bulged, and the vein in her forehead throbbed.

"We’ll win the Nobel Peace Prize," Cedric said and ran his finger over the newsprint photo of the perfectly formed fish which looked more alien now than it had in the laboratory.

Paul stood up, the red disappearing from his face and he said "They’ll probably have us on every TV show in the country. We’ll be celebrities."

Cedric glanced at the black and white picture and said, "You know I don’t like being in public. I'd rather you take the credit, like the other times. I'll stay here and study the fish. Someone has to get a skin sample."

Paul looked at the picture for a few seconds then said, "If that’s what you want that's what we’ll do," the smile now breaking his face nearly in half.

 

                                  #

 

The news anchor droned on about half a dozen subjects but, like everyone else on the planet, Cedric was only interested in the shuttle which circled the moon of Europa with twelve men and women ready to start one of the greatest scientific missions ever created by mankind.

The mission had already paid for itself in Cedric’s opinion. Countries were working together like never before and several scientific discoveries had improved recycling and manufacturing techniques. Much of that was about to change.

What shocked Cedric the most was that in three years no one had bothered to get a second sample of the fish's DNA. It was simply too valuable to cut up and study and he wondered for a moment if this had all went too far.

That meant that the only one who knew that there would be nothing found today was Cedric. There were no fish, in fact there had been no signs of life at all.

When that happened there would be a witch hunt. And when people began to check the DNA findings they would find see Paul’s name as the only one who took samples of the DNA thanks to his need for glory.

Cedric then glanced down at the envelope. The letter in it reminded Paul of the ideas he had stolen and pawned off as his own three years ago. Then it explained, in the most cryptic language Cedric could devise, how he had gotten even with a small rubber fish.

 

                                  <end>



Saturday
Apr162011

Free Short Story: Karma Bot by Elton Gahr

I find the idea of the singularity generally interesting, and while these stories can be huge and epic ideas this is not one of those. I simply had a quick idea of what might happenen if someone transfered their mind into a robot at a more personal level.

Karma Bot

By

Elton Gahr

 

“I am sorry, Madam, but your husband is dead,” the lawyer said. He did not seem all that upset by the statement.  The smirk on his face even suggested he was enjoying it and the woman want to slap him.

The woman looked across the table at the seven foot tall robot and said, “That is my husband.”

“Not legally. Legally that is a robot which was owned by your husband and programmed through a procedure which allowed it to keep intact the memory and personality of your husband, but it is not your husband.  Your husband is dead.”

“And his will?” the woman asked, though she knew already.

“Leaves everything in a trust, to be managed by the robot,” the lawyer said.

“But if it’s not my husband isn’t it just a computer?” the woman said.

“The courts have already been contacted. It has proven an ability to take care of itself and so has been conditionally emancipated. I’m sorry madam, but you’re going to have to vacate the property. You are trespassing,” The Lawyer said.

The woman looked around the mansion which had once been her world and at the machine which had once been her husband and then turned and walked out with nothing but the shirt on her back.

The robot turned to the lawyer and said, “So, that’s it. I’m free. I can do anything I want.”

“More or less, as you know there are some limitations to the hardware. Touch, taste and smell are not installed yet, so don’t try eating anything. Of course you are also currently neuter due to those same limitations. Also the memory storage and CPU would need to be upgraded for your full capacity to be restored,” The Lawyer said.

“But that’s coming quickly,” the robot said.

“That’s the other small issue. The transfer cost a bit more than you planned. Which means, you have more debt than property. Also, the emancipation was conditional on money which allowed you to support yourself. Without that money you become nothing more than a machine. Which leaves the matter of my fee. According to the law, I am able to take position of property in return for my fee. I believe the house robot is of the correct value, so I will take position of that.”

 

 

Friday
Apr082011

Free Fantasy Short Story: Ordered Magic by Elton Gahr

This story began as a sort of question of the differance between science and magic and whether magic that has rules you can learn and understand is really magic. it uses a few of those ideas, but I realized as I was working on it that wasn't really the story I was writing. Instead this is about power and the dangers of any one person having too much power.

 

 

Ordered Magic

By

Elton Gahr

 

Marrillo looked read the dusty, leather bound book more carefully while he looked over his notes. This had to be wrong. These were the same spells and ideas wizards had been using for a thousand years. It simply wasn’t possible they had missed the connections.

The only explanation he had was that every wizard was taught from his first lesson as a child that magic had no order or set rules. Spells random ordering of chaos and the only way to discover more were the random trials and errors which made up most of a wizard’s time when there was no war.

Now though he had found an order. The beginnings of a set of rules that would allow each discovery to effect a dozen spells. More importantly he could change spells and learn the types of spells he wanted to know and as he learned learning more might become easier. All the things any wizard had ever wanted.

He considered rushing to the elders, but knew he needed proof. He was only eighty so considered young and reckless making it easy to dismiss his ideas. That made the choice of what to do next easy. He would prove his ability by adjusting one of the more useful spells. Logins Longsight allowed a wizard to see much farther than a normal made could. It took almost four years of experiments using all of his spare time but he created two new spells. The first allowed him to look at something far too small to see and the other to look through things. Not as useful as the original, but they proved his point.

Then elder wizard Erdorn approached him. The third oldest of wizards in this part of the world he had survived six wars and nine centuries.

“We have been watching you,” the legendary wizard said, walking into Marrillo’s private home without warning or introduction. “I don’t understand,” Marrillo said. Lying to a wizard was always a bad idea, but they tended to assume ignorance so it was worth a try. “I’ve met far better liars than you,” Erdorn said, but he sounded amused not angry.

“It’s just research,” Marrillo said.

“Exceptionally dangerous research. Still, all I need is assurances that you’re not going to go public,” Erdorn said. Much of the humor was out of his voice.  They knew and they wanted to keep that knowledge to themselves.

“We could make the world better,” Marrillo said.

“Or far worse.  Wizards are already powerful think about how much more powerful they could become. What happens when men become powerful enough to bury cities under stone or kill men anywhere in the world with a ten minute spell?” Erdorn said.

It had never occurred to Marrillo. A wizard could already hold off an army if prepared, but if caught unaware a dozen angry men could kill even an elder wizard.

“We could remove the dangerous people. There have to be ways to remove the most dangerous,” Marrillo said. “Leaving more power in even fewer hands. It is too dangerous,” Erdorn said, and his voice made it clear the discussion was over.

“Can I continue my studies?” Marrillo asked.

“So long as no one knows we encourage it. Simply report your discoveries to the elders so we can determine which spells should be added to the books of magic,” Erdorn said. Time passed quickly for Marrillo who cut out everything in his life but preparation for when he betrayed the wizards. They could not be allowed to keep the rest of the world in a constant cycle of devastating wars simply because they wanted to keep power and he wouldn’t let them.

 

His only breaks were the letters he wrote. Vague letters that asked the same questions which had led him to ordered magic. If the elder’s checked his mail they may be upset but he didn’t think they would care.  The questions weren’t answers and they could always threaten the wizards he contacted as well. Worse, there was no sign that anyone had understood the questions meant anything.

Erdorn also appeared every few months. He walked into Marrillo’s home without invitation and left just as abruptly. More than once he had come into the house, watched Marrillo without a word then left while other times he asked strange questions and once simply made tea. Then, as he had gotten used to the strange visits Erdorn changed. He walked into the room and said, “There will be a war in three months. You should prepare defenses.”

That knowledge should be impossible, but who knew. Even the future might not be beyond their sight

He spent the next three months in defensive research. He had never studied more than the basics of defense, but his abilities had grown in the last decade and he created the shields quickly. The wizards had been right. In three months the war began, though it started with rumors and the real slaughters didn’t happen until months later. The spells used were of the classic disordered type, at least on the surface. That didn’t make them any less devastating though. Fires appeared out of nowhere burning down city blocks while across the town a creature appeared killed one hundred men with a strange blue sword and then disappeared.

As much as Marrillo hated the war it sped up his research. The restricted books were open and no research was limited though he continued to focus on defense.

The war lasted four years and killed three quarters of the inhabitants of the city. That was no surprise. The wizards didn’t care if people died unless so many were killed it interrupted the wizard’s research. In fact having twenty five percent of the citizens alive when the war was over was a victory. There were likely no survivors in the other city, beyond the elder wizards who could defend themselves.

During that time he created the perfect defensive spell. A bubble of altered reality. Small, but the size could be changed easily and inside the rules of the world could be anything he wanted including completely safe from magic. That magic couldn’t be used there didn’t mean he was helpless. This was a dreaming world and so long as he believed he could control it as a dream which was often far more powerful than magic, but limited to being inside that bubble.  

As the war drew to a close he began to write out letters to every wizard he had ever met. If this worked he could be starting another war weeks after the last had ended and that could destroy the world. There was also a reasonable chance that it would just get a lot of people killed and do nothing worthwhile, but he had to try.

Three days after the letters were mailed Erdorn walked into his house. Marrillo rushed toward his sanctuary but as he reached out for the ragged edge of reality a spell grabbed him and pulled him back.

“Do you know what you have done?” Erdorn asked, as he lifted the helpless Marrillo into the air. “I defied you,” Marrillo said, one last war, one last battle and whether they won or lost the elder’s power should be broken.

“Wizards, good wizards, all over the world are dying. Some are elder wizards, but far more are children unable to understand the power you tried to give them. I kill three innocent men last night because of you.

“You could trust them and see what happened,” Marrillo said.

“It’s not that easy. Ordered magic will give wizards too much power and create an eternal slave race because those without magic will be little more than animals.”

The truth of the wars, and even the reasons the wizard had known the war was coming struck Marrillo. “You kill them because wizard’s children usually have magic,” Marrillo said. It was disgusting, but it made sense. The wizard’s wars almost never killed wizards because it wasn’t really a war; it was an excuse for genocide.

“Far more would die otherwise. A wizard can live forever, we can eliminate old age, eliminate poverty and inequality. We can turn this world into a paradise,” Erdorn said.

“It’s still mass murder,” Marrillo said.

“What other option do we have?” Erdorn asked and it really sounded as if he might want one.

“We could leave,” Marrillo said.

 “We’ve considered it, but more wizards will be born and many won’t want to leave. It could make the problem worse.”

“What if we could go away without leaving?” Marrillo said, suddenly recognizing a solution.

“What do you mean?”

“I created a spell to defend myself. A bubble where reality is different. In it I am a dreamer, but for everyone else magic ceases to exist,” Marrillo said.

“And you have to have a dreamer?”

 “Without magic it is the only way to control the reality though once it exists no one would be needed,” Marrillo said. He understood though, he couldn’t be trusted any more than anyone else.

 “You could kill me, but you won’t have magic while mine will be practically instinctual,” Marrillo said. If he were free he could do it without telling anyone, he might even become a sort of god, but he would need Erdorn to release him.

“A strong poison could solve that problem. You take the poison then expand the bubble to cover everything,” Erdorn said.

The poison was not a problem. Many of the ingredients that he used were poisonous; it was only a matter of ensuring death while giving him enough time to complete the plan. Erdorn choose and after Marrillo had drunk the poison released him and walked into the bubble with him and moments later magic bother ordered and chaotic were gone.

 

The End

Friday
Apr012011

Short Story: Goal!

I have been a bit behind on other posts so I decided to put up a piece of flash fiction I wrote a while back. I think this is an OK story, but not one I want to put more effort into perfecting.  If you like both science fiction and European Football then this story is for you. (I am not a Football expert, but get to the end before you criticize too much some of the oddness is intentional)

 

 

Goal!

By

Elton Gahr

 

The camera swooped over the soccer field focusing in on the keeper as it hovered fifteen feet over the perfectly manicured grass moving in perfect coordination with the other cameras, moving just enough to avoid them.

 

Zack flipped the ball sideways to his teammate, and slipped past the defender as it turned to follow the ball. His teammate could have shot and he knew the odds were higher of scoring that way, but Zack had insisted the ball be returned if this situation occurred, and the ball was passed back as unerringly as Zack had expected. It was precisely the same height as every time he had practiced this shot. Zack let his training take over rather than thinking it through turning and kicking the ball going to the ground as the ball hit the upper left corner of the net.

 

The crowd sat in silent shock as Zack jumped to his feet and began to bounce up and down in excitement, and as he bounced up and down the slow realization of what they had just seen rippled through the crowd which was beginning to erupt in excitement everyone cheering regardless of the team they had been cheering for before. Zack had done the impossible.

 

As the deafening noise from the crowd grew both teams returned silently and emotionlessly to their positions and the ball rose, hovered for a moment and then returned to the center of the field.

 

Zack fell behind his team as the exhaustion overwhelmed him. He had pushed himself to the limit, and the only thing that helped him reach the center of that field was the warm hand of Paul that patted him on his back. The man held the same position on the opposing team as Zack did on his, though he remained in the defensive position that most people played. At the same time that he patted him on the back the croud, which had began to quiet erupted in cheers again.

 

The score didn’t change immediately. Zack understood why. Hundreds of computers were now examining every camera angle of Zack’s attack looking for the rule he had broke in order to score. This was not because the computers cared , but only because they had been told what he had just done was impossible.

 

Play continued two full minutes before the point appeared on the scoreboard. Zack stopped in mid-play and pointed at the scoreboard. The game itself was meaningless. The changes over the last century had eliminated the meaning until there was only one thing of importance left in this sport. .

 

Zack had broken the unspoken rule. He wasn’t on the team to score goals and wasn’t supposed to. He was the necessary weak link. It was human error was what made the continuation of the games possible, because without them on robotic team was never better than the other.

 

The remainder of the game was uneventfully and Zack’s team lost 2-1. They had lost every game since he had become the team’s token human. No one cared. He had conquered the machines and beat the robots. For one second he had been better than the computer’s team, and that brief moment changed everything.