Rise of Glie Chapter 52
Previous: Rise of Glie Chapter 51: An Old Friend
FHD Remix: The Rise of Glie
Chapter 52: Vacation, What's That?
"Why in tarnation are you in such a hurry, Fushoku?" Hane asks. To her, the boy seemed to become a man instantly in his early twenties.
Fushoku stews over a microscope, "Subarashii!" he gasps. Turning to Hane, he answers, "I really can't say, but I wonder where you got these motors from ... the registration on this batch is perfect!"
She drops a small object nine centimetres wide and about sixteen centimetres long on his desk. It has a few pins sticking out the back that look like they're some sort of cable header, and a plateau in the lid is round. Taking off the top, he sees inside that it is a disk drive of some sort. "The motors I gave you used to drive these," she sets several small triangles beside the drive, "Ignore that English word Seagate, the thing has nothing to do with aqueducts. Washi told me this thing was hundreds of years old. Some sort of magnetic storage disk."
"Why aren't they using it?" Fushoku asks.
"Flip it over," she says, "It'll be obvious."
He does, and sees the little black squares on the green plastic. Pre-Glie microchips that got fried by delta radiation. "Yeah," he moans, then sets it back down. Then he smiles, "Thanks for the motors, they're certainly being put to good use. The next big problem is the dust in this place. That'll have to wait for the other wing"
"You've trained Kiniiri quite well on the twenty micrometre equipment," she says, "Teisei is quite impressed with his speed, but Kiniiri ... well... He doesn't understand the process."
"Not yet," Fushoku says, "but he's picking it up fast."
"It's ever since he gave you that drawing, Taka I mean," she wonders, "You've been working yourself sore. What is it about that drawing?"
"I really can't say," he says while carefully setting his latch die into a tester with special die tweezers.
"That test jig is so small," she gasps, "but under the scope it looked so," it dawns on her, "Fushoku, is that five micrometres?"
"Yes," Fushoku says, "I was hoping not to spoil the surprise."
Hearing the buzz on her oven, Hane departs, but comes back after a few minutes.
Fushoku is beaming that his little memory chip is working perfectly, "Yes!" he cheers softly, so as not to be heard throughout Wire Factory.
"That you're working on five micrometres already really is a surprise, Fushoku," Hane says, "Are we skipping the ten micrometre process? We ordered all that stuff from the Toga-"
"Ten micrometres goes into production in two weeks," Fushoku says flatly, "That's the surprise."
"How could you do it so fast?" she asks, sitting down.
He turns to her and explains, "There aren't very many circuit designers around here. Bangou, actually, was our only one. Now, it's this Tiindare fellow, one of the council members at the temple," indicating the name on the paperwork, which was laminated at Jose's shop to make it compatible with the cleanroom. "It simply wasn't worth doing a complete redesign for ten micrometres, so we got the Toga to shrink the Mark Four's plans down to ten micrometres. Mark Five will run twice as fast and have six times as much memory."
"Why are we in such a hurry to make these things better?" she asks, "From what I can tell, we could still be building grown transistors and the Toga would be happy as ice cream."
"It turns out there is competition, Hane," Fushoku says quietly, "Someone out there is trying to make computers that are immune to delta radiation. We have to stay in the lead."
"Okay," Hane says, "In that case, I better get back to work, too."
"Hane," he says as she's about to exit his lab, "I'll take vacation with you next week."
"Vacation?" she says, "what's that?"
"Has it really been that long?" Fushoku smiles, "This week's batch of Mark Four dice is our last. We won't be starting Mark Five until the following week. Besides, the Toga are drowning in our chips because our output's been so high."
At lunch, Kiniiri stares at the old junction transistors, "Four hundred of these are on each chip?" he gasps.
"Yeah," Teisei says.
Kiniiri giggles at that point, "I was just thinking, if these transistors were like coins, you know, order a bowl of soup and the guy says, "That'll be five hundred transistors."
"Inflation would be quite the problem," Teisei says.
"Quite the problem," Kiniiri realizes, "It's only a matter of time, but the delta poison that wrecked the old computers will eventually wreck ours. Transistors will be totally worthless when that happens."
Fushoku doesn't seem to remember what happened between when Kiniiri said that and the next morning. As the Communicator returned from the Toga at the gate, the gate closing behind them with dozens of computers stacked on the small trucks, carefully wrapped under the blue canvas carts that covered the plywood they brought in, Fushoku noticed that her shoulders drooped.
"Is there something wrong?" Fushoku asks quietly.
"These," Washi drops several circuit boards on the cart's caddy.
Fushoku looks at the unfamiliar devices. In moments he recognizes that they have been damaged, circuit traces cut so that the transistors are isolated. The transistors are the old junction transistors that they made in Stone Mill. The board has white powder on it, and he recognizes that that's what became of the polyethylene seal. As he realizes what's wrong...
"Delta radiation is suspected," Washi says, seems to hesitate for a moment, but as she starts to speak again, to Fushoku it sounds like Bangou with an old man's voice, "The npn transistors fail open at the seven-crate operating voltages, while the pnp transistors fail closed, shorted right through. Quietly take these apart and examine the crystals with your new APXS, find out how much aluminum they've grown."
"It's getting worse out there?" Fushoku asks.
"Yes," Washi whispers, "I have numbers, but I can't show you here. Come to the Temple this evening. I rest up early so I can see you late. Try to keep your excursion secret from the other haibane, but if Taka follows you, ignore him."
"It'll have to be dark," Fushoku says, "I'm working fourteen hours these days."
"I know," she says, "But I will let you know, that my current projections show we will have a market for about 360 years. I need your APXS results to refine it."
"I have some good news, too," Fushoku says, "the size of the junction crystal is in moderation territory."
"I've taken that into account," she says, "but hey, 360 years is a good number. If we own the market for that long, the enemy will forget about their diamond project."
"I can tell there's more on your mind than that, Washi," Fushoku says respectfully, "I knew Bangou better than you think."
"My life is very complicated, now," she says.
The ride the rest of the way back to Wire Factory in silence.
"Hey!" Hane screams, running circles around the factory as they approach. She runs up to the cart and screams, "These crows opened our air conditioning housing and started tearing apart the filters. I had to shut it down and evacuate the factory. We scrambled to wrap everything up, but I don't know how much dust is in there."
"What?" Fushoku gasps.
"Yeah, we haven't gotten any work done today," Teisei says, "and we can't get them to leave. How the heck they got into the air conditioning, I have no idea! And we can't find Taka anywhere!"
Fushoku and the Washi look at each other. Fushoku holds up one hand, then tucks back his pinky. In the crow's derivation of Toganese, he signs, "Tonight."
Washi gives him the slightest of nods.
Fushoku jumps off the cart and storms around behind Wire Factory's operational wing.
"Start your cleaning pass inside if you can breathe in there," Fushoku instructs in an angry growl, "I'll handle this ... alone."
The other haibane figure this is a good idea, having never seen Fushoku so ticked off.
He gets to the back, where he sees three crows standing on the opened air conditioning system, "Would you guys knock it off!" he bellows, grabbing a broom and winding up.
The crows are ready to evade, but they seem very shocked at Fushoku's anger.
The broom bounces harmlessly off the heavy metal frame of the air conditioning unit as the three crows fly around to new perches only a few feet away. He takes another swing while looking around. Confirming he's alone, he sets the broom aside, signing with his three fingers and thumb, "An act."
"Get out of here!" he bellows at the top of his lungs.
One crow signs, "Go."
The other two fly away immediately, squawking indignantly.
Fushoku crosses his arms and signs in proper Toganese, "I'm sorry, but I'm the only haibane who's in on you guys."
"Not anymore," the crow signs, nodding to a nearby tree.
"Aw, crud," Fushoku says aloud, panting from his exertions. He walks over to the tree and whispers, "Psst, come down."
"Taka," he whispers, "Don't make me come after you."
"Sir," he whispers back, "I'm sorry."
"Yeah," Fushoku huffs, "We'll figure that out later."
He comes down, demonstrating incredible dexterity in the trees. In the tree with him are a pair of hummingbirds, apparently unbothered that Taka got so close to their nest.
"You've gotten into a major pickle, this time," Fushoku warns, "the upside is that you're going to be cover for the crow's sentience. The story for everyone else is that you let them into the air conditioner."
Taka's shoulder's slump.
"Trust me, it beats the alternatives," Fushoku says.
"Let's go find out what he wants," Fushoku grumbles.
Fushoku starts signing with the crow; Taka obviously does not understand what they are saying.
The crow starts, "I didn't think it was going to be that hard to get a hold of you, Ashfeather Implant. Sorry about the mess, we brought our own filter debris, though. Yours are still fine."
"I was with Washi, helping with the swamping at the gate, and you dang well know that I have to change the filters and do a cleaning pass to cover for you guys. You might as well have torn apart the ones in the unit."
The crow signs, "Sorry, at least you won't have to throw out your current batch of chips."
Fushoku reaches into the machine and hits the flow isolation, then pulls out the filter and replaces it with the standby spares in the locker next to the machine. He whispers aloud, "So how much do you know about our air conditioning, anyway?"
"You can talk to it?" Taka blurts.
"Sure," Fushoku says, "I always talk to the air conditioning, squirt."
[Author's Note: APXS stands for Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer, a handy device for telling you what elements reside in a test sample. I know of the existence of five, four on Mars, one on its way. They are instruments of Sojourner, Beagle 2, Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity. Doubtless there are a few thousand more on Earth, but I don't know anything about them. The "pair" of hummingbirds are not both parents, since the males do not participate in child rearing. A hummingbird mother will raise two chicks if she can, letting the younger die if there isn't enough food. When they are large enough to fledge, the elder will leave the nest and fly to a branch a few feet away, continuing to be fed by his mother, while the younger will stay in the nest even for a while after he is able to fly. Hummingbirds, are, interestingly enough, among the rudest creatures in God's creation, probably much ruder than Kamov and Apache attack helicopters would be to each other if the Cold War had ever warmed up.]
Next: Rise of Glie Chapter 53: Pretty Brave