The Currrved Surface

“Anti-Kora”, an SF short story

ANTIKORA

By JD Blackwell

He sits alone in the silent empty lab lit only by the moonsglow, staring at the bar of lead serenely floating in thin air in front of him and wonders aloud, “How in the Five Worlds am I going to explain this?”

A few minutes before, Byull had woke with a jolt. He had that awful seventh-step-on-a-six-step-stairway feeling. Luckily, or quite possibly not, he wasn’t near any stairway, he was in fact sitting in an old, beat up yet very comfortable office chair. Looking blurrily around he realized that he was in a lab. Well, okay, no problem there ‘cause as nearly as he could remember he was a student in physics so finding himself in a lab shouldn’t be all that unusual.

What was unusual was what he discovered when he turned to look at the wall clock… one, it was shortly after four in the morning and two, the room had a horrid tendency to continue spinning well after his head had stopped moving. This finally led him to the conclusion that the cause of that ‘seventh-step’ feeling was that he was quite hung over. Turning slowly and with great care back to the desk was when he first saw that impossible bar of lead. At first he simply stared for a while, blissful incomprehension allowing him to enjoy the interplay of light and shadows on the smooth grey metal as the bar rotated very, very slowly in the light of the moons.

Eventually though that bliss was dispelled when a group of not fully embalmed neurons fired off deep in his brain, creating the first faint glimmer of rational contemplation. Byull’s reaction was simple and straightforward… he belched. This had a truly wonderful effect, it made his eyes water which forced him to close them all. When he opened them again, he fully expected the bar to be replaced by something far more acceptable, say… a miniature pink phelladont. Nope… it was still there. As Byull’s capacity for rational thought slowly yet painfully returned he decided to try a somewhat more rational approach… he calmly closed his eyes, counted to twelve, thought such thoughts as one might think on seeing the impossible, fervently wished it gone, and then opened his eyes once more. No good, still there… This time his response was more verbal than gastric… “Dammnit”.

Byull Waller was a quiet, intelligent and studious young Kirellian with a bright future and good prospects. Well, he had been at least, until he woke up. Byull had three problems as he saw it. One, he knew who the chair belonged to and that meant that he was not in not his lab work area but the personal lab of his physics professor and thesis advisor Dr. Fesson. Two, he was quite hung over and three, there was the little matter of that ridiculous floating lead bar. The bar of dull gray lead was doing this ridiculous floating, without any visual form of support, inside some kind of cylindrical device on the workbench, a cage with vertical bars and a solid top and base. The top and base were plate-like objects Byull estimated to be ten miliruli thick by ten deciruli in diameter… approximately the size of a pie platter.

Both of the plates were primarily a dark brown with a multicolored marbling throughout. The top was suspended roughly twenty deciruli above the base on eight wires. The wires were connected to clamps on the eight two-decaruli tall beaker support rods that made up the vertical bars of the cage. Additionally, twelve fine copper wires about three decaruli long, six with red insulation and six black, sprouted out evenly spaced around the circumference of both the top and base plates. These wires were bundled together, wrapped in insulation tape and made into two cables that ran into the back of an electronics control box of the type common in any lab supply closet. On the front of the control box were two switches and one dial and no markings anywhere on the box. A power cord ran from the back of the box to a standard power receptacle.

Byull reached into the cage slowly with his mid-left hand. He felt what he could only describe as a lessening of the force of gravity as his fingers got closer to the lead bar. The feeling was very interesting due to the high metallic and mineral makeup of his race’s physiology and different from the effect magnetism usually had on him. He barely touched the bar and it reacted exactly as he expected. He felt the mass stop against his fingers then it spun away from his touch in a now more complex revolution but still centered between the two plates. He withdrew his hand and dropped all six to his lap.

Byull, as a physics researcher specializing in gravitics, was facing the discovery of a lifetime. He ‘should’ be happy… he ‘should’ be overjoyed… he ‘should’ be shouting his discovery from the top of the Graff Hall Dome!!! But he wasn’t. All Byull knew was that he had problems, and that these problems stem from the fact that Dr. Fesson was not known for his congenial attitude towards research assistants or students or for that matter any other kind of being from any of the Five Worlds. Everyone knew it was highly dangerous to cross him in any matter but it was sheer academic suicide to cross the threshold of his private lab without his express invitation.Second, Byull had a hangover and Byull did not drink. Oh he had had a drink or two, or more, a few times in his young life but he had quickly discovered that he and alcohol did not agree. He knew what hung over felt like and hung over he most definitely was and, to add insult to injury, he could not remember a single blessed thing about last night.

As Byull sat and tried blearily to plumb the murky depths of his sodden memory he again caught a glint of light reflecting off of that still absurdly floating bar of lead. This had a strongly negative effect on his attempts to focus on his immediate past and regain some semblance of calm and it also brought him to his third, and worst, problem. As he saw it he must have, somehow, discovered anti-gravity. Now this would not be a problem in a normal world but he was not in a normal world, he was a student at the South Coast University of Graff at Barah and a Junior Research Assistant to one of the Five Worlds pre-eminent researchers into gravitic theory. Dr. Horak Fesson was a Barahian of gifted intellect combined with, as often go hand in hand in hand, a truly towering ego.

For a mere student to have cracked the secret of gravity, possibly the greatest single scientific discovery since the fusing of the atom, would be absolutely unbearable for the eminent Professor. For this lowly student to have done this in the professor’s very own private lab and to have done this feat while drunk was bad enough. Add to this that this self same lowly, trespassing, drunk, unpublished, Kirellian, junior-assistant-student could in no way describe or explain the what, when and how of his fantastic discovery… Byull shuddered to think of the consequences. As one of Dr. Fesson’s assistants he knew the device in front of him was not a piece of equipment that had existed in the lab before last night and he knew they were not anywhere near close to making a feather, much less a bar of solid lead, defy gravity like that!

Byull had about three hours before anyone else should begin showing up at Baktele Hall. If he could determine if the device was indeed his, figure out how it worked and get it over to his bench without anyone else knowing then he stood a chance of turning this all to his great advantage. Moving it to his bench would be the easiest objective to accomplish, though he felt that he might run some serious risks if he did so before completing objectives one and two first.

The device was obviously negating gravity inside the cage and to fool around with that without a clear understanding of the process involved, or at the very least how to control it, was to court possible disaster. The force of gravity, while the weakest force was also the least understood, what if it was, once under control, a stronger force than the nuclear binding force? Who knew what could happen? And what if in a drunken stupor he had simply stumbled upon a secret project of the professor’s? The consequences then could quite possibly be, on a personal level, even worse. The only thing Byull could think of to do was to get busy examining the device in the time he had available and hope he might figure this all out. He ground a full measure of dareth chunks and put a pot of water on the burner to help him get his head back together then he got his datapad from his labcoat and began making detailed notes on the construction of the device while downing cup after cup of hot, gritty dareth.

Carefully experimenting, he determined that the dial was a variable potentiometer control that reduced or increased the force of the ambient gravity between the plates in a range that felt like approximately positive five positive G’s to negative five G’s. He continued and determined that the two switches were the power on-off switch and the other reversed the gravitic polarity of the device. Byull spent the next hour making detailed diagrams and taking photos. The controls were dead simple, the power requirement was no more than was available from any standard outlet. Now Byull turned his attention to the top and base. These were obviously at the core of the device. They were both of a consistency approximating that of a dense semi-rigid polyfoam. They were primarily a deep brownish black color shot through with amorphous shapes of red, green and light brown with swirls of light tan and white marbling running throughout. All surfaces of both plates were smooth though with a very firm, fine granular feel and other than their interesting coloration, unmarked in any discernable way. The wires emanating from the sides of both were very fine copper and they seemed to be simply punched into the sides of the plates. Byull gently pulled one and it came out fairly easily. About an decirul of wire had been inside the object and Byull found it relatively easy to reinsert the wire. After several hours of examination and contemplation, Byull felt completely exhausted and he knew he wasn’t any closer to figuring out what the objects were made of and more importantly how they worked than he was when he first woke up. They appeared to be solid without any sign of an opening or seams on any surface or edge.

He turned and glanced up at the clock right as it ticked over to seven AM. “Uh oh! Any time now the staff will begin arriving!” he grumbled to himself. As he turned back to the bench, his tertiary low-right elbow brushed against one of the support stands, the stand twisted a little and a quite small chunk of the top plate broke off. “Damn, damn, damn!” muttered Byull. He quickly corrected the support, turned the device back on and ran the anti-gravity field to zero, “Oh thank the gods!” he sighed in relief as the lead bar again quietly rose in the still working anti-gravity field. He turned the field off as he heard the sounds of staff and early-bird students arriving.

Byull sat dejectedly at Dr. Fesson’s workbench contemplating the wondrous device in front of him, knowing he had run out of time to figure out whether or not he had built it or how it worked. He heard distant footsteps coming down the hall and recognized the good doctor’s voice expressing his usual disdain for those who wished anyone a ‘good morning’. Byull had decided he had no choice but to leave the device where it was and get out before he was discovered.

As he stood to leave he noticed the small piece that had broken off lying on the bench. He picked it up and brought it up close to several of his eyes. It was then he caught a whiff of an unmistakable aroma. His eyes widened in sheer amazement… “Impossible! This simply can not be!” he thought. He popped the small piece into his mouth and as he slowly chewed a broad grin spread across his face. Byull quickly unplugged the power cord and carefully gathered the rickety device, control box, wires and power cord together. Glancing out into the hallway he saw that Dr. Fesson had, as usual, stopped off at his office before coming down to his lab and there was, thank the gods, no one else in the hall at that moment. Byull hurriedly but carefully carried the device across the hall and down to his own workbench.

Now he remembered! Last night he had returned to his dorm room completely dejected after another long day of failed experiments and Dr. Fesson’s increasing criticism of Byull’s abilities both as a researcher and as a person. When he entered his small room he found a package had arrived from his Anty Kora. It was one of her wonderful Fruit and Wine cakes! And Anty Kora was known for the sweetness and potency of her creations! Byull was just depressed enough to forgo his usual abstinence. He had a slice off of the top because the frosting is especially rich with wine, and began to feel that special glow that one gets when partaking of a cake made with love, Parran nuts, Keilfa berries, a generous amount of aged Simta wine and Anty Kora’s secret recipe of finely ground mineral seasonings.

As the evening progressed Byull had became more than a little drunk. He also remembered getting quite excited on discovering that his datapad acted very strangely when he had accidentally set it down on the cake. The cake seemed to have properties that affected the electronics. He began experimenting with the cake and, in a wine induced epiphany, as this was not something any sober person would ever think of to do, he ran an electric current through the cake. And Lo and Behold! with it’s special mix of mineral ‘seasonings’, it somehow created a controllable electrogravitic field! He had cut the cake into three equal layers, two for testing and the top one for himself then he came down to the lab to continue his experiments.

He had been in Dr. Fesson’s lab because the stands he needed to create the cage were in there. The two layers of cake are the top and the base of the antigravity device and the topmost layer, the one he kept for himself, the one loaded with rich wine icing, was nowhere to be seen… which explained his hangover! When he had smelled the fragrance of Simta wine coming from the broken piece Byull had recognized the cake for what it was and had realized that this discovery was his and his alone! He knew also that he had a lot of research to do to fully understand the physics behind this discovery but most importantly of all, he had to get in touch with his Anty Kora as soon as possible!

“Dear, dear Anty Kora!” Byull said laughing quietly to himself. He shared a private joke with his sweet Anty Kora. ‘Kora’ sounds the same as the Barahian word for ’gravity’. He had begun calling her his Anty Gravity back when he received his scholarship in the field of gravitic research at the prestigious South Coast University of Graff at Barah under the famous Dr. Horak Fesson.

And now it seems dear Anty Gravity’s Fruit and Wine Cake was good for more than just getting a little drunk after a hard day!

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