More mining updates. Jonnie's amateur miners have recovered another ninety pounds of shiny stuff (I can only assume someone brought scales), but one of those hurricane-force winter storms that plague Colorado knocked down the platform. Since the storm will likely keep the recon drone from spotting them, and if it doesn't there's a Jonnie lookalike behind to fool the photos, Jonnie and a half-dozen men are a-huntin' uranium.
I'm-Totally-A-Real-Doctor MacDermott, the historian, has developed "quite a knack for picking up information out of the tattered remains of books," and after sending a minion to dig up ancient texts has found mention of Uravan, so that's where Jonnie's going.
There is hilarity here since, as the Wikipedia article explains, Uravan was winding down even when this book was being written, and as of now has been completely reclaimed by the wilderness. There's also stupidity too, what with Hubbard's suggestion that books left for a thousand years in the moldering remains of America are going to keep like papyrus scrolls sealed in a pot and put in a desert cave. But that isn't anything new.
During the flight, the Scots admit that though Scotland is the best land in the world, America is something else. Of course. Using a map from a schoolbook they find the plateau marking the Uravan site, and even the remains of a road, because the local foliage is a bunch of slackers who would waste a thousand years like that. Naturally, there are ruined buildings, because the difference between ten years and a thousand years is just a few zeros.
Jonnie isn't expecting a great uranium stockpile, but he does want to test his "breathe-gas as a detector" idea. His crew scampers about ore dumps, where Jonnie notes the fences have long since rusted away...
Interesting. Longevity of metal < paper.
Anyway, they release little puffs of breathe-gas all over the place, but see no explosions. Jonnie wanders around morosely, deducing that the site had been mined out even before the apocalypse, and passes the remnants of a corpse: "teeth, fillings, and buttons lying in a certain pattern" on the ground.
Hmm. Teeth > the rest of human skeleton. Longevity of metal fillings > metal fences. Need further experiments comparing buttons to paper.
Then Angus MacTavish comes running about all excited because they got an explosion from a piece of ore in some sort of exhibit. Demonstrating for Jonnie, he puts the gas canister down and hits a remote to open it slightly. "The bottle, its emitting snout flaming like a rocket engine, took off and went about ten feet. The pilot and Angus shouted with delight."
How does Jonnie know what rockets are, if the Psychlos use those idiotic teleportation-based engines? Whatever. The Scots are excited but Jonnie already knows breathe-gas explodes around the radioactive stuff and so is mopey.
"Where in heaven's name was he going to find uranium--lots of it? Where?"
A missile silo, but that's in Part 10.
Back to Part Eight, Chapter Five