Castle Roland

Book II - Global Explorer

by David McLeod


Chapter 16

Published: 23 Jul 15

Global Explorer II

by David McLeod

More H-Power

Tsar Jonathan's Office, The Winter Palace, Davey Jones's Journal, February 23, 2018

Jonathan had announced that he was taking command of the Russian Armed Forces, and declared a cease-fire between them and all the people who weren't loyal to him, including remnants of the KGB. There were likely others, but we didn't think of that, then.

Jonathan had talked with Mr. A, and they had agreed to a timetable for the announcement. I understood why, later. There had been some resistance to Jonathan's order until the USA and other allies, including several British Commonwealth countries, demonstrated their support with some air strikes against those who wouldn't honor the cease-fire.

Most of the pushback came from the Chinese, who were pressing hard at the borders between Tibet and Russia. I'm not sure who attacked them, but since the attacks were from drones, I suspect it was the Americans. It took only a few strikes to convince even the Chinese to "lay off' their incursions.

IEEE Spectrum, online post 24 September 2014, Earth Analogue III: By 2100, the world's population is expected to reach as high as 12.3 billion people with a lower estimate of 9.6 billion. The greatest increase would be in Africa, which could see a population of 5.7 billion. Providing power, much less clean water and sewerage to this population is thought to be very problematic.

Global Explorer, February 24, 2018 @ 0300,

"I will personally keelhaul whoever scheduled a videoconference with schools in Germany for 0900," I grumbled to Nicky. It was 0900 their time, but it was 0300 on the Explorer, which meant I had to begin preparing at 0200. Which meant that I really didn't get any sleep.

Nicky either guessed that I was about to target him, or just wanted to show how much he loved me: he got out of bed when I did. After a shower to help us wake up, we put on uniforms and went to the conference room. There was fresh coffee, courtesy of the night mess crew, so I withdrew my threat of murder and mayhem.

The conferees were from only one school: a high school (which I think they call a gymnasium) associated with one of the Max Planck Institute's laboratories near Stuttgart. The kids were sharp. And they'd probably gotten a full night's sleep. I was at a double disadvantage.

After I rattled off the standard briefing, I opened the conference to questions. The first few were purely scientific, and not too difficult to answer. Then, someone got political.

"Commander Anconia, isn't the new world order's response to climate change just a road to serfdom? Aren't carbon emission regulations and taxes the start of a slippery slope to government regulation of everything?"

I looked hard at the monitor to make sure the kid who asked that wasn't a skin-head neo-Nazi planted in the audience. He–and his haircut–appeared to be normal, at least from my perspective. Actually, he appeared to be kind of cute.

"I will answer your question whether you answer mine or not. Will you tell me your name?"

"Hans Bleiber," the boy said.

"Thank you, Hans. Las uns mit du. Will you call me Alex? Oh, and that's about all the German I know."

Hans grinned, and nodded, so I continued. "First, your question contains an awful lot of concepts, some of which I cannot answer because I don't know anything about them.

"I've heard the phrase, new world order, but I don't really know what that means. I can only answer the parts of your question that I do understand.

"To start, I'm opposed to carbon emission regulations, taxes, and cap-and-trade. That's a political statement, and not a scientific one. I'm afraid that any taxes would simply feed the voracious appetite of government, and not do a damn thing about the climate. Any cap-and-trade scheme only puts off the inevitable and gives us a false sense that something worthwhile is being done. Most of the regulations, at least in the developed world, are written by lobbyists for the energy industry, and are toothless. And that's another political statement.

"And here's something I've said before: Cheap energy from carbon-based fuels has raised a lot of the world's population out of a hand-to-mouth, subsistence-agriculture way of life. It's going to take a lot more cheap energy to lift the rest of the world–even if that is possible."

I paused, and the boy persisted. "But, Alex, aren't the environmentalists trying to destroy free-market capitalism?"

"Hans? I am probably what you would call a free market capitalist. But I'm also environmentalist. I spent a lot of money to create the Explorer. Anconia Industries made that money through capitalism.

"I would suggest that free market capitalism isn't the answer to everything. I would suggest that there are external costs that too many people ignore. I would suggest that the price you pay for electricity or gasoline isn't the real cost because it ignores those external costs–like the cost of pollution, of acid rain, and of greenhouse gasses.

"My family is working on alternative energy sources ranging from solar, wind, tidal, wave, and geothermal to more exotic notions including putting solar cells on the moon and beaming electricity back to earth using microwaves." I could not tell him about hydrogen power, yet, and certainly not about hydrogen fusion.

There was a babble of voices from the audience. I waited until it died down. Hans still had the microphone. "Is Anconia part of Mondfeuer? Project Lunar Fire? That's what some of us are working on with the Max Planck Institute."

"Actually, Hans," I said, "Yes. Are you part of that?"

He nodded. "Yes, I spend two afternoons each week with scientists, there."

"Then I will extend an invitation. Will you–if your parents and the Institute and your school allow–will you join us on the Global Explorer for at least the rest of this school year and be the Explorer's liaison with Mondfeuer_?"

I thought the kid was going to pass out. But he kept himself together long enough to agree.

I left the details to Nicky, except for explicit instructions to warn Hans about being sure to empty his bladder before the carrier landing.

&sciencetruthnolies: new global explorer crewmember brings new questions–and new ideas

The message had come only a few minutes after the conference with Germany, and before that conference was put on the web. It was a clue: our mysterious ally had access to our "school net" downlink, or to the computers at the school in Germany, or … whatever. It wasn't such a great clue after all. Crap!

Rump KGB, Ulyanovsk, Russia, February 24, 2018

"Can we not mount any kind of counter offensive?"

"Not since this upstart has claimed control of the Army and ordered a ceasefire both within the country and along the borders. The drones that enforced that ceasefire certainly came from America and its allies, but we cannot prove that."

"What about the Chinese?"

"The Americans may have angered them with drone strikes near the Mongolian border and in Tibet. The Chinese, however, apparently followed Sun Tzu's advice, and have withdrawn to lick their wounds. No, even if one of us could approach them …"

Global Explorer, Bobby's Stateroom, 4 February 2018

"Jimmy? Are you okay?"

"Why wouldn't I be?" Jimmy asked.

"There are no grab bars, no handicapped stuff … " Bobby said. "As soon as I get you out of your wheelchair, you're pretty much at my mercy."

Bobby wasn't laughing. He wasn't even smiling. It was a serious question, and deserved a serious answer.

"Bobby?" Jimmy said. "I know what you are asking. I love you, and I hope that you love me. I will always be … well, if not at your mercy, at least … in your hands."

Bobby lifted Jimmy from his wheelchair and lay him on the bed, making sure his head was propped up with pillows so that he could see what was happening around him.

"Jimmy, you don't have to think or hope that I love you, for I do. I want you to know that I love you."

"It's my ginormous penis, right?" Jimmy giggled. He saw a flash of pain cross Bobby's face. "It's not that, is it? I'm sorry! That was so stupid!"

"Yes, my love," Bobby said, and then kissed Jimmy's forehead. "It's your ginormous penis, it's your ugly and twisted legs. It's your fear that people will laugh at you or treat you like some kind of freak. But most of all, it's your heart, which is more ginormous than your penis, and it's your trust, which you've given me without reservation.

"I love you, Jimmy, now and forever."

Bobby kissed Jimmy's tears, and then lay quietly when Jimmy pulled him close and kissed away Bobby's tears. They were happy tears.

It wasn't easy. In fact, it was awkward, since Jimmy's legs were not only ugly and twisted, they were completely flaccid. But Jimmy wanted so badly for Bobby to penetrate him, and Bobby wanted so badly to make Jimmy happy and see his happiness, and both boys had come to accept Jimmy's condition, so they were able to make it work.

Bobby watched Jimmy's eyes widen. "Looks like you were right … everything else including your prostate works," Bobby said. Those were the last words either boy said for a long while. Bobby wanted so badly to make Jimmy feel good; Jimmy wanted so badly to know that someone cared. It was a long afternoon.

New Walter Reed Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland, February 25, 2018

A fleet of ambulances, military and civilian, brought the children from Dulles International to the Walter Reed Army Hospital. Staff had been recalled; patients shifted; a ward was cleared. Nurses performed triage as each child was rolled into the emergency room. Doctors stood by to deal with the most critical children.

&sciencetruthnolies: children thrown away damaged hurt are now in usa for care but thousands more are out there think about it

"What is he saying?" Francesca asked. I couldn't read her very well on the secure circuit, and I'd learned not to second-guess her. I answered as truthfully and accurately as I could.

"Russia is full of orphans and thrown-away children," I said. "Jonathan feels for them. So do I. Jonathan has said that his children will be the first priority of the new order in Russia," I said. "I guess science truth understands that."

Francesca signed out. I wasn't sure if she had understood the message. Although I knew she understood the underlying problem.

Lady Chapel, UFC Cathedral, Washington, DC, February 25, 2018

Elder #1 turned off the television that had carried the sermon from the cathedral above them "Does it strike you that Mr. Lennox has too much access to financial information, and too much control over accounts?" he asked.

"All the better to make him our firewall," the Bishop said. He was proud of his understanding of modern technology. "The closer he can be tied to accounts and information, the more powerful our argument that we were taken advantage of, should any of the information be revealed to the IRS–or church members."

"We would not look good as either fools or criminals," Elder #2 said, but was ignored.

"What about Russia?" Elder #1 brought the discussion back to the urgency of reality. "Is this not the time to strike? While things are in turmoil?"

The Bishop nodded. "You are right. Notify our people. Ship the Bibles and begin preparing to move our school teachers into the country."

Window Rock, Navajo Nation, February 26, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

Only one of the cable news channels had sent someone to the announced press conference, and she was an intern assigned to the Gallup office. The Farmington TV station sent a van with a satellite antenna and a news crew. They had lost their affiliation with one of the old broadcast networks and were eager to get anything newsworthy from the Navajo–or anywhere else for that matter.

Joe White Eagle Wings introduced himself and then stunned the TV people.

"We have built a hydrogen-fueled electric power generating plant that will produce ten million, million watts of electricity. A larger part of the electricity will be used to power an atmospheric carbon sequestration plant. The rest will be sent to part of the Navajo Nation.

"The power plant is entirely fueled by hydrogen. It emits no pollution. The calculated cost of the electricity is less than one cent per kiloWatt-hour. That is based on the cost of construction and the operating cost–which is almost nothing more than personnel costs and the distribution costs of power lines.

"We have begun construction of a second plant which will have ten times the capacity of the first plant. It will not only power the rest of our Nation, but also additional atmospheric carbon sequestration.

"Do you have any questions?"

The intern from Gallup was sharp. "A large part of your nation's income is from coal and uranium. Won't hydrogen power plants negatively affect that?"

"That is a good question," Joe said. "Thank you. Today, we sell our coal and uranium to The Western Company, which resells it to electrical generating plants throughout the Southwestern USA. The Western Company buys the electricity these plants produce and resells it to us and to others. We buy back our coal and uranium as electricity. The cost of the electricity has been burdened by operating costs of the power plants plus the overhead and profit of The Western Company. We operate at a net loss. And, the coal and uranium reserves are not unlimited."And if you don't understand that …"

The reporter from Farmington spoke next. "You said carbon sequestration. That means taking carbon dioxide from the air. Why are you doing that?"

Joe's voice changed. He paused after each sentence as if to make sure his words had registered in the minds of his audience. "Climate change is real. Human-caused increases in greenhouse gasses including CO2 and methane are the root cause of climate change. The governments of the developed world have been unable to come to grips with the problem. The Navajo nation has contributed by selling coal, knowing it would be belched into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

"If no one else will accept responsibility, we will. If no one else will take action, we will." He nodded to the next reporter.

"These are Anconia Industries processes," the intern from Gallup said. Her right eyebrow rose, turning the statement into a question.

Joe caught that. "We are doing this in partnership with Anconia Industries. They will make money; however, we will make even more."

"Why haven't we heard about this hydrogen power before?"

"Because it is new," Joe said. "You will probably hear a lot more about it, now."

BY COURIER from Anconia Industries: February 26, 2018. Slug, it's in the open, now. Ready for a hydrogen-powered locomotive? Frisco

BY COURIER: February 26, 2018. Frisco, you bet. Slug.

Chapter end note: The notion of putting solar cells on the moon and delivering power to Earth via microwave is not nearly as science-fiction as it sounds. There is some serious science behind it. Check: IEEE Aerospace Conference, 2004. Proceedings. 2004 IEEE (Volume:1) through your public library.

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