Thursday, September 16, 2010

Part 23, Chapter 8 - I Wonder What the xkcd Guy Would Make of This One

Fortunately, Unnamed Swiss Guy's heroic act of self-sacrifice was not in vain, as the latest discs of surveillance footage show Terl in the act of building a teleportation console. Jonnie thinks that this is the first time "in all of Psychlo's long and sadistic history" that non-Psychlos are watching the process. Apparently none of the other alien races can figure out how to plant a bug as well as Jonnie.

Now, I'm not an electrician. I'm not particularly mechanically-inclined. I'm a political science major with an interest in writing and a love of reading. So maybe I'm not the best person to critique the paragraphs that follow, in which an enthralled Jonnie watches Terl put together some insulating board and resistors and circuitry. It's really boring to me, but maybe an engineer would find it fascinating.

The short version is that Terl's being tricksy with the console circuits. First he builds one that's rigged to blow out, traces an entirely new one on the backside, then uses his alien annealing knife to space-weld this second circuit. In effect, if you "sew" up insulative materials with that tool, you can run a current through the altered material.

I'm not a chemistry major either, so even though this sounds fishy, I guess it could work. You know, if you were using an alien cutter/welder device on some otherworldly material.

So the big revelation is that all the captured Psychlo circuits the alien scientists have been studying and failing to make sense out of are all fakes, and don't make sense with Psychlo mathematics for good reason. And no tests that any of the alien scientists have done in thousands of years have been able to detect this "invisible" second circuit.

Terl then adds a switch that if flipped the wrong way will wipe out the true circuit, but Jonnie can't tell which position it's set to be in for the first firing. And after that he puts in a "magnet fuse" that detects if the console is opened with a magnetic field, which blows out the second circuit as well.

An invisible circuit, two booby traps to wipe it out, a completely false circuit to distract.

And that was the secret of the Psychlos.

Underwhelming, isn't it? And the sad thing is that it's worked for hundreds of thousands of years, with countless alien races working feverishly to crack it. And all Jonnie had to do was install hidden cameras in the right places.

Jonnie makes copies of the footage and diagrams, but he's still got a problem - that one switch that has to be in a certain position in order for the console to not self-destruct. So he'll have to go over and check in person. I guess it's supposed to be dangerous, but this is a guy who can bludgeon bears to death and cut down twenty-eight Brigantes in an afternoon, so I'm sure he'll be fine.

Back to Chapter Seven

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