Shorter, as I culled out the mirrored conversation from the side of the Machines: Dorina, Henge, Ai, Shandor, Barnabas taking control of the reactors and manifestation chamber. If I ever turn this into a novel I’ll put it back in. Still and all, a taut little scene, I think!
Even through the heavily insulated walls, Chinon could hear the complaint of the stellarator.
“Plasma ready for injection!” Stora, one of his top techs, called out.
“Everything green?” Chinon raised his voice to the room.
A chorus of agreements and approvals.
Chinon looked to where Hartmann sat. Feeling the Project Manager’s gaze, he looked up and left and nodded. He then glanced right. At her.
Still looking like a soldier in her field grey fatigues, Fausta stood stock still at the recently installed door into the fusion reactor’s main room. Leslie knew the door led into a three meter hallway to another isolated room the size of a shower stall, built by his team to Dorina’s insanely exacting specs. She had a large orange plastic box in her left hand. Filled with some medical drugs and devices he understood and many he did not.
He looked back to Phil and nodded again before returning his eyes to his workstation.
Twelve seconds, Chinon thought. Five point four was their best. Even turning things over to them, could they really…?
“Sir?” Stora called again.
“Prepare to turn all controls to fully automatic on my mark!” He called. “Three… two… one… mark!”
The lights in the control room dimmed for a moment.
“The city’s reactor has been diverted to us!” Molly yelled from his left.
“Hope the hospital’s backup generator is okay…” another muttered.
“Plasma in!” Stora announced. He leaned forward to his screen. “What in the world…?”
Chinon’s eyes flew to the array of flatscreens that covered the wall. Everything the techs and engineers saw was there for his review.
“Oh my God.”
Several others’ eyes came up at that. Flashing red in warning was the plasma temperature: their greatest sustained was a bit over four billion degrees Celsius. This was already north of five.
“Reaxion!” Leslie raised his voice above the murmuring. “Fusion!”
On a screen off by itself a digital counter began from twelve. Now eleven. Ten…
“Temp over six billion!” Molly shouted.
“The core cannot handle that!” Stora yelled. “Shut it down!”
“No.” Speaking for the first time since her arrival that morning, Fausta spoke up.
“Burn-through on toroid seventy seven!” another engineer said.
“Nine billion!” Molly turned to Leslie with Fausta just beyond him. “What the hell are you doing?!”
“BURN – !”
With a shudder that nearly sent Chinon to the floor the prototype reactor died as the plasma hotter than the sun tore out its side vaporizing steel, electronics, and over twenty years of work. Steadying himself with a hand against a chair, the Project Manager let his eyes go to the countdown screen.
With a bang their android guest through open the reinforced door and ran two steps to the small isolation room. Shutting down what he could from his station – and with the most vested in what was going on – Leslie stood and followed her.
The emergency box still in her left hand he watched her spin the airlock handle with her right. The little room had been empty when they began.
Fausta let the box go and caught whatever dropped toward her. Leslie heard her say something but could not make it out. He watched her turn about.
In Fausta’s great arms was a naked young woman – alive or dead he couldn’t tell – but with light purple hair.