Monday, October 17, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: August 14, 2398

Leona stands on the edge of the field as the helicopter drops from the sky to land on the grass. Leaves, loose blade, and other debris assault her face, but she remains steadfast. Her colleagues are more easily flapped. “Aren’t you nervous?” one of them asks, trying to whisper above the noise.
“Why would I be?” Leona asks.
“It’s a United States senator, coming here to evaluate your work.”
Leona waits until Senator Honeycutt is within earshot, and the bird quiets down a little. “He’s just a man; not someone to be feared.”
Her colleague is even more scared now.
“Thank you for taking the time, Dr. Matic,” Senator Honeycutt says, ignoring her remark in the way a statesman should.
“Same to you,” Leona replies sincerely. She does recognize that he’s busy, and the tour will eat into his schedule significantly. She genuinely appreciates it. “Follow me.”
She leads him across the grounds, and into the building. This is not the underground lab where the rocketship was constructed, nor the little lab that the Honeycutts gave her and Ramses. It’s a decommissioned muscle car factory about an hour from the KC metro, which came ready with the space, ventilation, and powerload operationalization potential that they require for this venture.
Petra is in the lobby, and only didn’t greet the senator on the lawn so she could present all the team leaders in a neat, orderly row, like the children in The Sound of Music before bedtime. They seem to be standing in order of height, though that may be a coincidence. One can only hope. It’s nice that he’s here, but Leona wasn’t being facetious when she said that he was just a man. He nods appropriately as Petra lists off the team leaders’ names, and each time she does, that leader runs off in a show of work ethic that suggests they barely have enough time for even a moment such as this.
“Could I please see the staging area?” Melville asks.
Petra is perturbed. She had more grandstanding and fanfare to go through.
Leona saves it. “Of course, sir. Right this way.” He follows her onto the mezzanine that overlooks the factory floor below. They walk along it, to another section.
Most of the space has been devoted to part fabrication. The area where they will all be put together into the form of a working fusion reactor is small. Early reactors in the main sequence were gigantic because they had to be to get anywhere close to net positive output. Leona has decided to not worry about doing this. She considered starting them off slow, but she promised them a fusion-powered rocket, and she may not be around long enough to see it through if she doesn’t jump right to real progress. Hopefully the Prime Directive isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
All businesslike, with a brilliant poker face, Melville looks down at the space. He snaps a few photos, and nods. “How long does it take to build one reactor?”
“One year for the first one,” Leona replies. “With staff experience, we’ll cut that down to seven months for the next one...should you want another.”
“Oh, we’ll want more,” he says. “We’re currently scouting eighty-two more sites which...” He makes a quick calculation on his handheld, “...based on your estimates, means phase two manufacturing will take less than four years for all major U.S. cities.”

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