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Children of Destruction – Chapter 1 June 9, 2010

Posted by Al Philipson in Eighth Day Chapters.
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Wednesday afternoon, Russia

“Sergei, I need those calculations now!”

“Da, Professor. I have them right here.” Sergei’s speech slurred a bit.

“Did you drink your lunch again?”

Sergei looked at Professor Dustov, his face all innocence as he handed the computer sheets to him.

“You know that too much vodka will kill your liver. No, don’t bother to deny it, just assure me that the calculations are correct. Did you double check each one?”

“Da, Professor, all … correct. I personally entered the formulas and checked them afterward.”

Professor Dustov rolled his eyes toward the ceiling as he punched the final numbers into his machine. Stupid alkonavt. He’s been a good lab assistant so far, but one of these days he’ll drink too much and foul up something important. “Set the focus on the chair while I finish this.”

Sergei wheeled the machine around. Its main feature was a large flat plate about 6 inches thick. It stood upright on a squat, homemade machine that made up the rest of the “business” portion of the machine. A stout cable connected the machine to the computer control. A heavy power cord lead to a large connector on the wall.

“Okay, Sergei,” Dustov finished tinkering with the computer, “you run the machine, I’ll be the subject for the first test.” Dustov picked his way, through the makeshift lab equipment and cables, over to the chair while Sergei replaced him at the controls on the other side of the machine.

It was unfortunate that Sergei did have one too many vodkas for lunch. The error he made was only a small one. His hand shook a bit as he entered an asterisk to tell the computer to multiply. The result was two asterisks (**), a command to raise the number to a power. So, instead of “P times R” it became “P raised to the Rth power”; in other words, “P” multiplied times itself “R” number of iterations. It was also unfortunate that “P” stood for “power” and that “R” was a fairly large number.

It was also unfortunate that when Sergei threw the power switch, a squirrel jumped onto both power wires leading into the building, sending a 44,000-volt surge into the device and frying the squirrel in the process.

If Dustov had been on the other side of the machine, he might have survived the consequences. Certainly, Sergei did not.



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