With thanks to David Gerrold for the fantastic premise/device.
Too bad it won't work. The mass of a proton is less than the mass of a neutron, so proton-to-neutron conversion is a little beyond the pale.
If you've got too tight a pucker where you sit you might not like the way I use the English language. Well, I was brought up in a foundry, so tough. I've been beaten up over it by better than you.
My dad was a ceramicist--part artist, part high-temp chemist. I owe my success to him. I went to University of Illinois in Champaign on a free ride for Physics. I learned how to induce a strong magnetic field at a distance over a charged plasma guided by a laser bootstrapping a collimated microwave beam. That got me my Free Ride and Ph.D. My masters came about after a drunken binge drawing crystal structures on the wall of a bar and playing with MAPLE, a high-end math package.
I came up with a high-temperature superconductor.
Now, I meant something different in high-temperature than most physics geeks meant. They meant something over the temp of solid CO2, around 110 below F. I meant about 470 Degrees F. I had a Superconducting magnet running in boiling water and the damned thing wouldn't quench. (When a superconducting magnet quenches things kind of go "BANG" and parts have a tendency to fly around at high speeds. This puts kinks you your day and your budget.
The day I demonstrated a practical superconducting solenoid machinegun that made ball bearings go mach three to the nice Department of the Navy man I retired. I wanted to retire to some nice property with deep water and mountain views. It was too expensive in the good old US of A so I started Googling around to see what looked worthwhile. I had the strange feeling that someone was looking over my shoulder more than they should have been when after doing some deep research on Chile I got a visit from the State department that implied in their oh-so-snotty way that no way in hell was I going to get a passport.
Well, fuck 'em. I took a rolling vacation. I bought a white panel van, installed some toys and a bunk and headed West. I found a Computer Cafe in Denver and sent a few messages to the Chilean consulate in New York encrypted with PGP.
I described myself as a rich businessman with several patents running his own personal witness protection program, and I had a good chance of wiping out their national debt within five years. What the hell. I was twenty-one and ambitious. We worked out an ocean voyage in the spring.
I went back to the lab to see if what looked like something interesting really did happen when I was working with the collimated microwaves. Whoops, it did.
If I modulated it real high and tight then electrons had a tendency to loose their poop. Metal ions started flying around like drunken bees, bonding themselves to anything grounded. This was 'fasten-ating'. With a negatively charged plasma fed in parallel to the microwave beam, far enough away not to arc, I could feed the ions back to a receiving pole. I had a metal leach.
It took a few seconds to work, but when it started working it affected the target to a depth rather than a surface effect. I guessed that the oscillation was setting up a parasitic effect, driving the local signal density higher and higher, like a standing wave. Suddenly big whacks of metal went mushy and disappeared. My toy did wonders for my sense of security. A naked soldier with a sunburn would scare me a hell of a lot less than an armed seal team.
End of phase one. I could get twisty with the bad guys and all they could do was wave their dicks at me and talk dirty. Ooh, talk dirty to me, big boy.
I documented everything on three sets of archival (read solid titanium) DVDs and tore down all my research equipment to nice, anonymous parts in truly random groupings. The circuit boards went off premises and into a camp fire where everything got mooshed up real good. I started reading up on where Spanish and Portuguese gold ships went down. With a little work I could limit the metals I stripped with the voltages involved. I'd have to work up the electrovalent chart, but I could probably get chemically pure metals with it at the cost of the vessel and electricity. I bought a used trawler and had it outfitted with an enormous spool and motor, reminiscent of the transcontinental cable laying ships.
I used a plastic, electrically neutral hose to bring up the charged ions in solution and plated them out as the water was dumped. I had to electrically isolate the pump housing and impeller with the help of a mechanical wiz off the oil fields.
Wherever refinery outflows polluted alluvial fans, there we went. (Map out where big rivers hit oceans. The suspended sediment settles out in a big fan-shape) When we had brought up our sixth ton of beryllium and our twelfth ton of magnesium to the secure government dock in Valparaiso I received an invitation to the president's residence for Christmas dinner. Boring.
When the twenty tons of titanium, sixteen tons of vanadium and eight tons of chromium hit the national vaults El Presidente started to make noises that sounded like 'marry my daughter, please.' Err, maybe later. He was a little bummed, but the nickel, gadolinium, germanium, selenium and rubidium loads turned him right around. The country had laws that kept foreigners from buying property, businesses or any other large assets. I had a shiny new Chilean citizenship and passport which opened a lot of doors.
I had finally gotten the crew bribed enough to trust them. We went out for Niobium. We stopped at two tons. Next was Molybdenum, eight tons. Rhodium, a half ton. We went for the gold. I stopped at twenty three tons. We went out for silver. twenty eight tons of silver. It just kept coming. I wanted tungsten. We cruised the Mississippi delta and upriver to St. Louis. Fourteen tons. Cesium. we stopped at a half ton, stored in half ounce test tubes in graphite/boron blocks.
We risked our asses as Plutonium is toxic as hell. We harvested over a half ton of plutonium in a mixed isotope solution. We took bids for the plutonium from Israel and India. I put in an order for a pebble-bed reactor and generator system. (They're damned near foolproof.) With credentials like that I didn't get a goddamned quibble. For the thorium we could get another two reactor/generator systems, no questions asked. I put in the order, pre-paid. The Indian government was a pleasure to deal with at that level. The Israelis were snotty. I could afford to be shitty right back. Oohh, that got their goat. I never saw such crocodile tears.
The Chilean international debt was paid off within three years. We did it slowly enough so that we wouldn't overly-depress the international metals markets. Anywhere there was a heavy-metals polluted wet environment I volunteered a cleanup for a million American, significant results guaranteed. Zero organo-phosphorus cleanup, though.
Chile reduced its fossil fuel imports significantly as the new nuclear infrastructure took over most of the power generation needs, backed by hydroelectric systems.
We did a number on lake Balaikal in Southern Russia. They hired us for a couple of other booboos that never hit the international news, such as the sunken nuke carrier off Vladivostok. We got another 350 pounds of enriched uranium off that one.
I sold it to the USAEC just to piss off the state department. I exchanged the metals for high-end electronics, lab equipment, satellite ground stations and the most modern switching technology that Sprint had. I bought into their core monitoring software. The state department couldn't touch me. The AEC were co-signers of the restricted technology list. Pthbbbt. (That's a raspberry to you, partner.)
End of phase two. My bona fides were solid and I had a cushion. I was building a tech base. We still hadn't stripped out the heavy metals around the platinum group, much less the lanthanides. We just couldn't harvest anything with this method that reacted violently with water.
I gave each of the sailors 50 pounds of gold and swore them to silence. I had my own little smuggling mafia should I ever ask. There were twenty-eight little clusters of people that were sworn to me and I was sworn to them. Favors at that level are usually done by governments and promptly forgotten. When done for families they are never forgotten. A lesson should be learned, there.
I found a beautiful spot in the south called Puerto Aisen, just north of the glaciers.
It was in the lakes area. I bought a big bluff and had it dozered flat. We poured a footing six feet deep reinforced by welded diamond rebar. Then I had pre-stressed concrete slabs flown in by heavy copter and assembled by lavish amounts of modern industrial construction adhesive into four stories of a building modeled on the ancient Spanish hacienda, but with a half square mile of soil surrounded by 48-foot tall walls with rooms embedded in them. the wall/room structures were 40-feet thick. a reinforced footing was laid in a distance from the hacienda for the pebble-bed reactor complex and roofed over with three layers of reinforced concrete slab separated by four inch thick lead sheets.
Then we covered it over with dirt and rock. We got to it by a maintenance tunnel. the water cooling feeds and return flowed into the great bay through sixteen inch pipes venting well out past the shore. We had juice.
I bought a carniceria in town, then a fruiteria. I imported high quality meats, vegetables and fruits as well as canned goods from the rest of the country, Europe and North America.
I ran it on a break-even basis, keeping the prices down. I hired local help to keep from putting the locals out of business. We sold a LOT of fresh fish, caught before dawn each day. Soon I was into restaurants. We built and opened a Nortamericano style mall, with the only spanish-speaking J.C.Penny in the world. I underwrote the damned bookstore just for something new to read on Saturday afternoons.
I bought the land and opened a free covered market like it was in the old days. I also under-wrote a covered arcade of small shops and restaurants. The tourists started to flow in. We had to build a hotel and two hostels, then double the medical facilities. Patagonia was the place to vacation all over again. Then we got the sunbirds and the retirees. We had an international enclave within five years. I under-wrote part of the town library. It was phenomenal! We had to add terminals to the airport and upgrade the landing radar. then a resort cum hotel moved in. I talked the president into starting a college there with a little help from my deep pockets. I was having a blast, but I was lonely. I was rattling around in my big mansion like a ball bearing in a pachinko game.
It was late in January and the girls were dressed for local summer. I hooked up with a pretty blonde from New Mexico. I thought we were doing OK until I heard the gossipy bartender at a popular bar that some chick had a rich dude on a string and was going to milk him for all he was worth.
I tracked down the rumor and guess what? My pretty little college girl was a psycho bitch from hell. Sometimes it's nice to be rich. I had her visa revoked and she was gone within 48 hours. I was pissed. I stomped around town looking like a thundercloud ready to piss on someone's parade.
It was then that I bought eight Phalanx radar guided machine gun assemblies designed for battleship close-in defense and set them up with six-foot superconducting solenoid machine guns like a souped-up version of what I sold the US Navy on, but with a muzzle velocity of mach 6 rather than mach 3. Boy, those babies would sing. Unless the ball bearings were coated they would delaminate and leave an ion trail in the sky. Just for the hell of it, I built a four-story solenoid aimed straight up and cast it in concrete. It had a bore of twelve inches. When I fired that sucker off the lights dimmed and it tried to pull the fillings out of my teeth at 80 feet.
But I had fired the first steel bowling ball into orbit.
I figured that with the right timing I could shoot satellites out of the sky. I had to have it carted off with a cargo copter and broken up because I couldn't fire it from within the compound any more. After one shot I had measurable deformation of the foundation. Next time, I'd build one surrounded by a counter-wound coil to drive a balancing-field. It was almost as dangerous to the firer as the firee.
I mounted the artillery 2 high and 2 low on opposite corners of the building.
I put my metal suckers on the other four mounts and completed the squares--two high on opposite corners and two low right below the high ones. The fire control consoles went into the library. They got plastic radar domes over 'em to keep 'em out of the weather and keep 'em a surprise. I struck a deal with the manufacturer for a bulk price. I was going to go thru those things like grain thru a goose.
Once I got it all integrated I got out of mad scientist mode.
I took a trip to Santiago to talk to the new president. He wanted to rebuild the railroads and set up an efficient transportation spine for people and commerce. With the local vulcanism it had its own inherent problems. I agreed to fund it if he could find an engineering company that wouldn't rape us. I suggested a MagLev train.
I would forego any licensing fees for the project.
I was running on a measly T-3, splitting it with the university.
I was going to put in redundant bundles of fiber under the MagLev. We might as well get some use from all that right-of-way, and the stations would come into each city. I was going to soup up the data infrastructure with a PIPE, baby.
I talked to El Presidente and had the government procurement office start shopping around for a half dozen dedicated satellite datacomm channels. We could distribute the uplink/downlink farm to keep all our eggs out of the same basket. One in the capital and one at each of the largest universities sounded good to me, since I virtually was one of the universities. That would give us a distributed OC36 network with OC12 redundancy if the fiber got cut. I rather insisted that the channels be split up between several of the available equatorial satellites.
I went out on the trawler with a new crew and came back with a hold full of Osmium, Palladium, Iridium and Platinum. That's a hell of a lot of pure metals. The ship would carry 160 Tons of cargo in any weather. We pushed it a little.
I paid everyone off with twelve pounds of platinum, 99.99999 fine. Don Corleone had nothing on me.
We delivered the shipment, some 100 Tons, to the government dock in Valparaiso.
I kept a nice stash for both milling and funding to go home with me. That paid for the MagLev in one shot. I got nice cases of wine every Christmas after that for a long time. No, El Presidente. I'm sure your niece is quite beautiful, but I'm not a marrying man. Sheesh.
I picked up a rental car and drove around, being a tourist. The docks district never seemed to change, but the rest of the town seemed to be looking better than it had before. I took up residence outside of town for a while to coordinate the purchase, fabrication and deployment of the equipment for the MagLev trains.
I also did a little international shopping. I bought a 120" LCD flat screen and a buttload of new DVDs.
I stopped by a store to pick up some meat to grill at the hacienda I was renting.
A pretty girl was at the register. I flirted with her until she blushed, then I backed off. I didn't want to marry the girl, just have a little fun. That sent me off on a tangent. I should look into staffing my home place with pretty girls. I had plenty of space so everyone could have a nice apartment.
I had had elevators put in when the place was built so it wouldn't be that hard to maintain, seeing as less than half the place was being used, including my workshop, electronics lab and warehouse space. There was indoor parking for fourteen and a receiving dock that could take a semi.
I had a library that looked like it came out of an old-school university.
It was two stories with a vaulted ceiling, had comfortable furniture to lay around in, and several tables to collect and analyze resources without having to worry about running out of table real estate. I loved that library.
I went to the Dean of Students of the university of Chile in Santiago. We had an understanding as I supplied the school with high-end lab equipment that was simply unobtainable anywhere else. I was also under-writing their data backbone and we were one of their sister universities in Puerto Aisen. We shared accreditation.
I explained that I wanted to hire some recent female graduates that had not heard of me directly. I would pay off any student loans and offer a paycheck, room and board.
He took up pencil and paper and looked at me expectantly.
"What areas of study?"
I need a cook or chef and several maids, so Hotel and Restaurant Management, a librarian, so Library Sciences, I want an in-house clinic so Medicine, a Pharmacy graduate and a medical laboratory diagnostician, a gardener so an agronomy graduate and a masseuse. They should all speak English comfortably and be very pretty."
He carefully put down his pen.
"You are asking me to supply you with a harem."
"In a word, yes. Fully compensated with pay and benefits and with jobs in their fields."
He looked off into the distance with his fingers locked behind his head, his feet on a pulled-out drawer. "To be young and rich in these times. The possibilities boggle the mind."
He pulled himself together. "My name must never come into the news over this.
If I were exposed as a pimp I would go down in flames."
"Everything will be proper and above-board. What happens later between men and women--happens."
Within two days I started getting requests for employment. I soon had to contact an agency to filter the applicants for me.
I formalized the contracts to all employees for a minimum of five years, all debts paid, free apartment, board, car and clothing allowance, sixty thousand dollars american tax paid, and a rider in the contract specified secrecy and loyalty to me, with security duties possible but never as a primary job function. I would give each of them a decorating budget of mid-five figures. They ate it up like candy. I filtered for competence, lack of family, personality and attractiveness.
Rosalinda was a dark-skinned beautiful slender Spanish beauty that could cook for two or seventy two.
Watching her walk was like listening to a symphony. She caught me watching her walk away and gave me a little smile. I watched her cut down a hanging quarter of beef once. It was like watching a high-speed knife fight.
Padme was a baker and Chef's Assistant. She was a curvaceous Hindi. I could get lost in her eyes and her laugh was musical. She loved to go barefoot. Her love of playing guitar was a true bonus. She could make a dessert that would make you cry.
Joan and Marjorie were from the Georgia coast and near Cincinnati, respectively. Joan was a little older, build like a farmer's wife with her blonde hair kept in a braid. The plants loved her blunt, capable hands. Marjorie was a bit younger and was a pleasure to be around. She saw beauty in everything. I ended up subscribing to half a dozen gardening digest magazines for them and our courtyard was never anything but a showplace. They were lovers but loved to show off. Watching them oil each other up near the pool was... was... indescribable.
Paula was a big valyrkie blonde housekeeper that could bench-press an engine block. Her kisses were like licking marmalade. She had light grey eyes that would make you weep to stare into. Watching her ass in spandex as she walked away was like watching two cats fighting in a sack. Can you tell that I was infatuated? She was also our bartender. She would give a heavenly massage if begged properly.
Amanda was shy. I didn't know the color of her eyes for months. However, wherever she had been the dust was gone, the carpets clean, the place immaculate. I stocked paperback romances for her.
When she got to know me she liked to get cuddly after a glass of rum. I stocked lots of rum
Beth--Rebecca, was a five-foot-nothing redheaded fire engine. She was our M.D. She always seemed so serious and intense until she got a massage. Then she liquefied before your eyes. She was a sensualist but didn't like to let it out. She liked to do her own lab work when she could and hated to be bored. I bought a high-speed printer/binder for her and reserved a two story wall in the library for her research.
Kim was an oriental mix. Somehow her genes came together into something a classical painter or sculptor would kill to have as a model. As she walked her hips moved in a tick-tock-tick-tock that would have you chewing on a 2x4 without realizing it. She would come up to me and promise much with a single breath in my face. She always delivered, too. She was our pharmacist and an amateur masseuse. I would find Kim and Beth in the library arguing the side-effects possible with new preparations as the journals came out. I invested in two 4-meter electrophoresis jell-separation towers and support gear for those two, as well as many tens of thousands in other labware. I had fun watching them but never let on. I showed them how to leach heavy metals out of blood without hemolysing the cells and got shared between two motivated young women. I damned near needed therapy to walk after that.
Ginny was a red-haired, blue-eyed Catalan, skinny as a rail. She came on board as my librarian. That girl had a real head on her shoulders. She was tickled to death to be in on the institution of a private library. I gave her a half-million dollar budget and a list of interests. Then I turned her loose. Once a month we went over her purchase and requisitions list and fine tuned things. We added a music library, both of recordings and sheet music and once the satellite feed came in, we subscribed to several international feeds. We developed a ceramic collection many museums envied and a seminal collection of semiconductors, with copies of the patent documents, from basic stand-alone proof-of-concept items to tube-replacements to high power hybrid units at the cutting edge of technology. Wherever possible I acquired cutaway samples and photomicrographs of the critical junctions.
Our courtyard was done in raised beds and fruit trees. A crushed-limestone road led to the garage, warehouse and propane tank for refilling. I refused to make a professional cook work with electric burners. A walkway cum running path bordered the inside of the walls.
A small patio was outside the kitchen, shaded by a vine-covered pergola gave us a place to grill and eat outside. We used it often. An infinity-edge pool surprised all of them when they found it atop the four-story walls. It looked out to the west and was wonderful to watch the sunset from.
I got the girls cell phones and hardtop jeeps. I spent the first two months ignoring furniture trucks and paying bills. The clothing stores got an early Christmas, too. We re-adjusted the heighths in the kitchen facilities to make it more comfortable for the shorter women to work.
I turned up missing a lot. They learned to come remind me that there was a dinner waiting.
I was turned on to the idea of suppressing PROTONS. I remembered an old Sci-Fi book I read somewhere as a kid about a Kinzi Shotgun. I knew I couldn't make a light saber so I wanted the next best thing. An electric shotgun. What happens when you strip the electrons from a mass within six feet of stripping the protons from a similar mass? You get a very efficient flyswatter.
It would do a number on a tank, too. It makes Lightning Bolts. Superbolts. A solid rod of energy hotter than the surface of the sun. If you just suppressed the protons you would leave a swath of incredibly radioactive isotopes wherever you focused it. I had a hell of a time decontaminating my lab after I got the first running test to work, and I had been working with a pinpoint effect in the form of a modulated laser beam. This thing was too deadly for planetary use. Then I found out something really nasty. The suppressed protons became neutrons. If you suppressed the protons on some metal that was pretty far up there on the atomic mass scale, say the platinum group up to plutonium, the protons became neutrons and you had a real mass of atoms with an incredibly high atomic number, which was incredibly unstable.
Some have life spans on the order of picoseconds. No high-end engineering, no explosives, no timing.
If I took a couple of grams of U or PU of any isotope and pointed the gun at it, I got a very, very, very high order energy release. It was a shoebox nuke. Hell, it would fit in a cigarette carton with room for a cell phone to trigger it. Instant geological event.
I buried this one in the back of the closet. I later sent letters under private seal to the heads of the physics departments at various universities, CERN, Fermilab and LosAlamos.
My credentials made them sit up and take notice when I warned them to deny any research efforts in the post-700 THz microwave range unless they wanted to involuntarily host a nuclear event. Nobody else had my chopper circuits that could work at such a tremendously high frequency range, and the modulation techniques were totally mine. I didn't even mention the cross-modulation. It was a secret and I wanted to keep it that way.
The day I discovered it I scared the hell out of the staff. A tremendous "Whumph" echoed thru the ventilation system and the building jumped. Beth met me as I staggered out of the lab doors with my clothes smoking, hair smoldering and a silly-assed grin on my face under the new sunburn. She was dragging a gurney and was looking grim, grim. She ran a gamma counter over me and yelled "Strip! Now!" You know, getting your lungs and sinuses flushed out is an entirely unpleasant experience. I had gotten lucky. The greater proportion of generated radionuclides were electromagnetically attracted to the other field pole. A few were blown out into the room by the electrical discharge heating the air, but it was only a few tenths of a percent. She called me a cowboy with a Texas-sized death wish.
"Nobody understands me."
She patted my shoulder and sighed.
"We understand you fine, Jim. It's just that you have no sense of self-preservation."
I thought about that for a while I was flat on my back getting my blood filtered.
Once I was proclaimed nuclide free and my blood platelet and white cell productions were stable I spent a while trying to figure out how to decontaminate the lab. I settled on a bees-to-honey approach. I bought a class-1 decontamination suit with an external air feed. I parted together a high-powered local metal stripper and 'vacuumed up' anything metal in the room. It totally destroyed the lab out to the walls but caught damned near every nuclide there was. The result was put into a lead canister and dropped it into a geologic subduction zone (a place where the planet continuously sucks down a strip of crust, one surface riding over another).
I went more into theoretical research and measurement after that.
I was building bigger and better toys, though. I moved my research to the college.
We built a linear accelerator twenty-four miles long. Keeping the thing collimated was a bitch. We had a high degree of geological creep. I black-boxed my choppers to drive a laser interferometer. I was measuring frame deformation at relativistic speeds and comparing the observable metric to Tau * Planck Length. We got some funny stuff that was the subject of several lively debates at the local beer hall.
The physics graduate studies group was fun to be with, but we didn't get very far.
I put everything on a sheaf of CDs and went home to sleep over it. I'd sit and talk to the women about it, just having someone to talk to. I stopped that when I caught one telling another "He's just nuts and doesn't know it." Gee, thanks for the loyalty. Hmph.