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The Final Snippet for Witch of the Federation VI!

 

It seems like just yesterday this series started and here we are at the final book of the series, as well as the final snippet. Don't miss out on Witch of the Federation VI!

 

Snippet #2:

Stephanie was busier than he anticipated, and it took her more than an hour to arrive, rather than the half an hour he had predicted.

“Thank God you’re here!” Marcus exclaimed as she stalked into the room. He stood and gestured to his seat. “You can use my terminal.”

“I’m sorry I took so long,” she replied, crossed to where he stood, and slid into the seat. “We were in the middle of loading the ship and I was needed.”

Marcus ran a hand through his hair. “That’s okay. We wouldn’t have called you at all but we’ve hit something of a snag…”

He let the words trail off as she leaned over the screen and he watched her carefully as she studied what they’d tried to do. It was hard to stand still as her frown grew deeper.

“So,” she said when he thought he couldn’t stand it any longer, “what exactly seems to be the problem?”

With an exasperated sigh, he stooped over the screen. “It’s here,” he told her and jabbed the relevant part of the diagram. His finger came down again, “And here, and here, and here. Do you see?”

Stephanie looked dutifully at the places he’d indicated and finally shook her head. “No.”

“Oh, for Pity’s sake!” he exclaimed, and his finger came down with more vigor than caution. “This! This is the problem. The energy spins up fine and it makes it to the end of the tendrils, but then… then it…it gets stuck… See? Here?”

Have him take you through it one step at a time, the Morgana ordered and caught her by surprise. I almost understand the patterns.

Almost? she asked. I only kinda get them and I’m the one who designed this.

She kept all signs of the conversation from her face and turned to Marcus.

“Why don’t you take me through it from the beginning?”

“Really?” he asked. “That bad? You know this was all your idea, right?”

Stephanie stared at him and her jaw dropped in surprise. Marcus caught it and blushed.

“I..I’m sorry… It’s only… Do you know how many times I’ve exploded this morning?”

She heard sputtered laughter from the other side of the room, but all the other scientists were huddled over the computers and studiously avoided both her and Marcus’ gaze.

Finally, one of them spoke—a behemoth of a man who stretched and yawned as he looked at them. “You weren’t the only one, Marcus.” The man focused on her. “My name’s Trey, and we honestly are stumped. The theory says it should work, but the practice… Marcus says magic’s your speciality.”

He gestured at the screen and pressed a key so the relevant diagrams were displayed on the wall opposite. “We’d appreciate your help.”

Stephanie nodded and walked to the screen, where she paused and looked at Marcus. “So…how about it? Walk me through from the beginning.”

The scientist’s face paled as the Morgana’s coldness seeped into her tones and she wondered how much of her alter-ego had bled into her eyes.

“Please,” she added, relieved to hear more warmth in her voice.

“So…” He joined her at the board and the other scientists gathered around. “It took us a few attempts to spin the eMU to the outside of the generator, but once we had accomplished that, we were able to pump the eMU to the end of each of these tendrils coming off the main pipeline.”

He glanced over his shoulder to make sure she was following him. She nodded and tried to keep the Morgana’s impatience at bay.

I get that much, the Teloran hissed. It’s what happens next that I don’t understand.

Stephanie listened as Marcus took her through the process from the beginning to that point.

“It’s only when the magic starts to bring the radiation back to the center that we seem to have a problem,” he said and gestured at the pipe. “We’ve tried everything we can think of but nothing seems to work.”

“It doesn’t happen when the magic and radiation blends?” she asked, sure she’d covered that in the base idea.

“No.” He shook his head. “That works exactly as described.”

Stephanie frowned, thinking fast. “Could you pinpoint exactly where the explosion occurs?”

Marcus rolled his eyes. “If we could do that, we’d have had this problem solved already.”

She caught hold of her temper—and the Morgana—and tried again. “So it happens at multiple points all the time, or at many single different points across different attempts.”

“Yes,” Trey interjected before he could answer.

“Yes, what?” she demanded and frustration almost got the better of her.

“It’s happened both ways. Always multiple points, as far as I can tell, but at a different combination of points each time.”

“And there have been times when the energy gets back to the generator and the conversion process fails,” Marcus said.

“Before or after the energy in the pipes explodes?”

The scientists frowned.

“Computer, run the explosion sequence for the last two days’ tests,” he ordered. “Simultaneously. On multiple screens.”

The AI did as he asked but Stephanie interrupted the playthrough seconds after it started.

“Computer, stop. Run the sequences again but stop at each explosion until we ask you to continue.”

Again, the AI did as it was told. They watched the run-through in silence, then watched it again. On the third run-through, Nathan sighed.

“I don’t see it,” he told them. “I simply—”

Priority! the Morgana snapped in Stephanie’s head. Tell them to run it again.

“Run it again,” she ordered.

“Do you have something?” Marcus sounded hopeful.

“Maybe…” She stalled. “Let me go through it one more time.”

He was about to start it when her eyes flashed black and she raised her hand. The coldness that settled over her face sent chills down his spine, but he waited.

See? The Morgana explained. All the energy tries to get to the same point at the same time—and the conversion process starts while the chamber is still loading. It’s like a computer program. They’ve sent feelers out for the data, but when it comes back, there’s too much for the information pipeline to assimilate and process unless you prioritize it. Then, the main processing unit has to keep recalibrating for the data that’s coming in after the analytical process has started.

Uh-huh. Now that the Morgana had pointed it out, Stephanie could see where the energy might be bottlenecking at junctions immediately before the pressure built to an explosion. It took her a while longer to see what was happening with the magic in the main chamber.

“Oh…” she murmured. “Computer, back it up and slow it down. Focus on the main chamber.”

Now that she knew what to look for, it was obvious—if you were used to working with magic—like the Morgana had said. The conversion chamber started processing the radiation from the moment the energy reached twenty-five percent but the energy kept arriving, which was problematic.

“So?” Marcus demanded, unable to hold his impatience any longer.

Stephanie looked away from the screen. “You’re trying to convert a mass that’s increasing. That’s one of your problems,” she told him and was rewarded by a chorus of “ahs” and “ohs.”

Ignoring it, she continued. “So you either need to fill the chamber and run the process or work out a way to regulate the flow so the process can account for what’s coming in.”

“You said one of our problems,” Marcus observed.

“The other one is that too much is trying to get into the main pipeline at once, which slows the flow at the junctions and—”

“Causes a back-up,” Phillip finished for her. “Well, duh! Why didn’t we think of that?”

“Because it’s too simple?” Gemma suggested.

“Because we were too stressed about being blown up?” Trey shook his head.

“Because it’s so fucking subtle, we missed it,” Marcus declared and ran the recordings again. “The flow barely slows but it’s enough.”

“And it’s dependent on how much the node is bringing in, too,” Phillip observed. “That’s why different ones went. If the computer made the amount of radiation in each area variable each time we ran the test, the nodes would have brought in different amounts.”

“Muddying the waters.” Trey nodded and examined the different sequences. “Computer, highlight the volume and pressure readings.”

Stephanie took a few quiet steps back as the scientists crowded around the screen. At first, they stood in silence and absorbed the data but after a short while, they began to ask the computer to highlight different variables.

This was followed very quickly by suggestions raised to fix the problem and requests for simulations.

They need algae, the Morgana pointed out. It’ll mean the conduits last longer and improve eMU performance—and those tiles that convert radiation into electricity.

Algae? She was bewildered.

You heard me. The Teloran sounded peeved. This planet has an overabundance of it. You use it in your catering industries.

Fine. She sighed. Algae it is. We can work on building the world’s food supply while we fix its power and pollution problems, she added. Maybe even look at bulk shipping what we don’t use to colonies that are running short.

I like how you think, the Morgana told her.

Uh-huh… Stephanie frowned. But tiles? What tiles?

There was a company way back in the early twenty-first century that created tiles for creating power directly from radiation.

Why haven’t I heard about that?

Because it’s one of the lost technologies, she told her. I can’t remember if it was a riot, a super-storm, or another nuclear accident, but its people and production vanished and no one thought to try to find the knowledge.

And you know where it is?

It was in one of the learning institutions of NorAm, but my guess is that it was considered a form of national security and was backed up somewhere.

Hmmm. I’ll have BURT help them with the research, Stephanie agreed. We’ve limited their access from here.

And with good cause, the Morgana agreed.

None of the scientists had noticed her distraction, and the babble of a dozen theories mixed with speculation, argument, and justification filled the room.

“Algae,” she shouted, using the Morgana’s tones to be heard above the hubbub, and silence fell.

“Algae?” Trey asked.

“Yup. Find a way to coat the inside of the conduits with it. They’ll last longer and the eMU will flow better—faster even.”

“So we can explode in a more spectacular fashion than before?” Nathan asked cynically.

Stephanie laughed. “Whatever. I take it you guys can figure it out from here?”

That question was met with a chorus of affirmation, and she began to walk to the door. Halfway there, she stopped. “And find a way to store the excess. I’m very sure there’s a food production company that needs it.”

“Magic?” one of the other scientists asked in bewilderment.

“Algae,” Trey replied and grinned. “I think I know someone who can help with that.”

“Send their names to BURT,” she told him. “If you need them, we’ll see if they’re available.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied and looked at Marcus. “We need them.”

The team had already begun to settle into solving the problem, so Stephanie said goodbye to Cynthia and had BURT pull her back to her pod. It took Marcus and Trey several minutes to realize she’d gone.

Marcus stared at Cynthia when she told him, and he scowled and turned to the other man.

“Where in all the worlds did she get algae from? It’s not like they teach that in school.”

“What, that it’s resistant to radiation? That it absorbs it? Or that it’s used in food production?”

“Whatever! ‘E’—all of the above,” he snapped. “One minute, we’re talking basic physics. The next, we’re into algae, and I’m very sure the Meligornians don’t use it in their tech.”

Gemma came to stand beside them as he said it. “I bet they will soon. Earth’s next inter-planetary export industry just got born.”

Before he could respond to that, another screen opened in the center of the display. Its appearance was met by groans of protest, which rapidly stilled as an instruction filled it.

Use this to line the conversion chambers.

“Use what?” Marcus wanted to know.

His question was answered as a series of images filled the screen. It looked like tiles but tiny conduits ran through the layers.

“Is that gold?” Trey asked.

At the same time, Phillip demanded, “Where will we get the materials for that from?”

Marcus shook his head.

“The shit she comes up with,” he muttered and scowled at the screens where half a dozen simulations were running.

Gemma elbowed him in the ribs. “What’s the matter, Doc? Are you jealous or something?”

“Jealous? Why would you think I’m jealous? That girl has touched the power of the cosmos and unraveled curiosities we don’t even know enough to ask about. If I tried the same, I’d be burnt out in seconds.”

“You know,” one of the other scientists began, “we could improve on that design…”

___________________

Well, one thing is for sure, Stephanie is working her butt off to make sure that humanity moves forward. I can't wait to see what happens and how it is all tied together! Grab your copy now on pre-order, and watch for it to drop in your eReader on July 28th!

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