Monday, November 3, 2008

Part I, continued

  • Ok, a empty line for paragraphs, three dots for a time gap. A little better handle on tense after listening to Polly read Fablehaven to the girls.

The repairs to the fuels cells took several weeks. The fault was easily traced to one of the custom made circuit boards Sam had designed for one of the numerous voltage controllers. Tracing the smoke and acrid smell back to the board had been easy. Spotting the flaw in the circuit design had taken him several hours. It would have been a quick fix had not the board been completely destroyed by the heat and flames the fault had created. By three am. he had uploaded the revised design files to the circuit board manufacturer, and began the real task of waiting for a shop in Singapore to etch and drill the board and mail the results back. For only a few extra dollars he had a second one made as a back up. What he couldn't afford was the astronomical charges the board makers levied for expedited orders. He would just have to wait.

Sam filled the days that followed pouring over the numerous other circuit designs. Where there was one failure, other were surely another lurking in the wings, waiting for a chance to ruin the show. It was obvious the overall design had worked, if only for a few seconds. What he wanted to avoid was another major failure. He was going to need to keep the hole open and stable for long enough to work with it. What was more, he needed several orders of magnitude more power to get it to the size he had calculated he needed. That was the job of the fuel cells. He hadn't found enough of an electrical load between the barn, the house, and the trailer to create much of a test for them. Hours of staring at circuit diagrams and layouts had left him blurry eyed and mentally numb. The few mistakes he found were quickly solved in a few minutes with soldering iron and some jumper wire.

. . .

Sam sat cross-legged beneath the large knotted oak tree at the edge of the meadow across from the barn, his head in his hands with his elbows resting on his knees. "Oh baby, I miss you," he whispered almost inaudibly. A small stone marker was before him, ringed with low growing flowers of many colors. It had been the only routine he had been able to maintain after her death, outside of the numbing hours spent working on The Machine. John had lost interest in helping with the solemn gardening long ago, after a Sunday School teacher had convinced him that his mother's spirit was in heaven, not under the tree on the edge of their property. Sam had welcomed the solitude that came with John's absence. He had never known what to say to him. Any kind of conversation always led to questions, questions he didn't have answers for. His wife's spirit wasn't in heaven to him. She was back in that cold rainy morning in May when he had said goodbye on his way out the door. She had been kneeling in front John, trying to get the zipper up on his rain coat, getting ready to take him to daycare on her way to work. She had turned her head as he opened the door. "See you tonight," she called out. "Have a good day at work."

He had played that sequence over in his mind a thousand times. When was the last time he had said, "I love you". It hadn't been then. "See ya," was his normal exit, and he was quite sure that the last words he ever spoke to her. "See Ya?" Would it have helped if he could have said goodbye with "I love you?" He had never said it enough. He had always felt that love was something you did, not say. He played it over in his mind time and time again. She would still be gone, trapped in this grave beneath beneath oak tree, as he continued living on, numb in a bleak world without her. At times he wished he could climb down into the damp earth beside her, to hold her once more as he had so many times before, this time to be covered up, cold and still as the oak tree grew old and died, and time faded into a future without either of them. It would be better than the long cold evenings spent restless in half sleep in the bed he used to share with her. "Hang on, baby," he said in a strangely even tone, his mind snapping to the image of the machine in the barn behind him. "Not long now."

. . .

He spotted the brown UPS truck as it turned off the main road and on to the long driveway leading up to his parents house. He had followed the progress of the package ever since it had shipped more than a week ago. It had been marked "arrived" in Albany the afternoon before, listed as "out for delivery" since five a.m this morning. It was the first thing he had checked after rolling out of bed in the trailer that morning. "Today is the day," he told himself.

Within minutes of signing for the delivery, Sam had the new circuit boards out and begun soldering components in to place. He had spent so many hours going over the design that he barely looked at the printouts as he placed component after component into the board, soldering them into place as he went. Less than an hour later the board was complete. Sam hooked several leads from a power supply on the self above his work bench to it and began probing it leads to a meter sitting next to the board. He wanted this one to be right. Even though he had a spare board, his didn't want to find any errors out the hard way again. Satisfied he had it right, he walked to the machine in the center of the barn, dropped to his knees, and slid down on to his belly as his upper body disappeared under the pedestal holding the ball up off the dirty and cluttered barn floor. Moments latter he began to squirm and grunt as he worked his way back out from under the machine. He rolled onto his stomach, rose to his knees, and came to a standing position before walking over to the console. "Looks like we a back in business," Sam exclaimed after a few keystrokes and a glance at the monitor.

With the all the tubes at speed, Sam entered the commands to start the fuel cells. This time, Sam was ready and watched intently as the pop and flash occur in the center of the ball. Even expecting it, the event causes him to wince. When he looked again, the glowing bubble was there, vibrating like before. "Let's see if we can open it up," Sam whispers breathlessly. He typed again on the keyboard and the pitch increased in response. Vibrations on the surface of the bubble became instantly smaller and begin moving in the opposite direction. Sam took a step away from the console to get a better look as the size of the bubble began to grow. Then without warning, the bubble began began to expand and contract rapidly, the pitch following suit. With each expansion, the bubble was noticeably bigger, growing almost exponentially. Sam winced and stepped back to the console. His hands hovered above the keyboard as he tried to make sense of what the display was telling him. The pitch grew, descended, and grew louder yet still. Sam's hands came to his ears as he tried to focus on the display, grasping for an answer. The sound seem to vibrate every bit of his body at once. Suddenly, the sound reverses, and seems to drop. Sam looked around the console in time to see the spinning tubes emerge as the bubble contracts. The sound drops again as the tubes shimmer in to the expanding bubble. His jaw slowly dropped and he reached his hand up to touch the bubble which was just reaching the edge of the console. Sam felt a tug forward as the bubble encompassed his hand. "This can't be," escaped his lips as the bubble expanded once more, this time encompassing his arm up to his shoulder. He had grabbed the edge of the console to counter act the tugging, but it is clear that he will loose this battle. As the bubble contracted back to his elbow, he looked back at the keyboard, desperate for some way to stop what is happening. The disappearance of the high pierced whine of the spinning tubes had left only a menacing hum, oscillating with each expansion and contraction on the bubble. As it began to expand once more, Sam turned to face it. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes as the bubble encompassed his face. His fingers slipped from the console, and his body jerked violently into the hell he had created. In apparent free fall now, he rotated slowly to look up and see a shimmery vision of the barn seemingly expand and fade as he lost consciousness.


brenda said...

Wow, Ken. This is a crazy story. I love it so far. My favorite words have been "uncertain trajectory." That was a good image. I think the plot is coming along fine, although I don't like your protagonist much for neglecting his son. How about getting in his head more so the reader doesn't have to hate him for that. You're off to a roaring start. It reminds me a little of that astronaut movie you recommended.

brenda said...

What happened to Sam???

Imagitext said...

I have to admit that I hadn't read it until now. I think it is SO cool even though I'm not that tecnicly minded. I think that the lack of love for John inhances the fact that he really wants to get her back but what happens to him if or when Sam dies? I'm also glad that I'm not the only one who mistakes I and a, not that a saw that more than once.

Imagitext said...

I forgot to say that cigarettes and chocolate milk is the perfect song to listen to while reading that. It just goes.