The Omicron Matter – John and Jason Build a Water Heater – Work Begins


A new entry in the Omicron Matter – John and Jason Build a Water Heater.  John and Jason have returned to Dunstable to finish the water heater Jason had promised Jolene.  John would rather be elsewhere but Millicent was adamant that John join Jason.  When John began to work with Stephan, John realized that whatever his thoughts before, he would be learning a great deal.

For those who are new to the Omicron Matter, the home page is a good place to start.

Starting the work

John stretched his arm and elbow up and down. It was now four weeks since the battle at Smith’s house.  Millicent had set his arm and put it in a cast afterwards. The following days Millicent and Charles, the ships AI, had him drinking milk, eating cheese and eggs and all manner of vegetables.  They also had him taking daily walks. Somehow that helped the healing process. The foods were full of calcium and he understood why that helped. The daily outdoor walks made no sense but they were insistent.  Something must have worked because the cast came off after the 3rd week. He was then given a set of exercises and stretches. They were tedious but his arm felt better afterwards.

Life on the ship with the others was growing more tolerable.  The addition of Simone had helped in some ways. She was more personable than he and had pointed out that being in society wasn’t all tea and crumpets. Jason had been the last to forgive him for aligning himself with West Enders and posh types.  The night of drinking with Rachael and others had created some bonding. Jason’s aunt might not have been as strong as his father, but she sounded every bit as difficult to live with. And she had been as proletariat as his father in different ways. Jason’s resentments of his attempt to be upper class started to make sense.  John couldn’t say for sure if it was all past Jason, but he was at least speaking civilly now.

Jason had been anxious to return to Dunstable. John could certainly understand Jason wanting to see Candace. And he wanted to research his parent’s house more thoroughly.  So his return made perfect sense. What didn’t make sense was Millicent’s insistence that John join him. “Help him with the water heater,” she said. When John pointed out that Stephan had helped with the last one, she said had a real job and John could learn a thing or two from Stephan. That ended the discussion.

Thus John was now in Stephan’s office reviewing the previous plans with Jason and Stephan. Stephan knew more about boilers than John so John mostly listened to the conversation absorbing knowledge.

The big man scratched the back of his neck as he pondered the diagram, “The heater in the basement gets plenty of pressure from the roof cistern, but if we put a tub on the second floor, we don’t have the same kind of pressure.”

John rubbed his chin and said, “I’ve been looking at some of the work by Joseph Bramah [1]and William Armstrong[2]. They developed a ‘hydraulic accumulator’.”

Stephan looked at him with narrow eyes, “I’m listening.”

John went to the chalk board and made a quick sketch, “A weighted plunger pulls the water in and when the pressure is sufficiently high enough, the valves switch to pressure the water system.”

Stephan mused, “I knew they were getting  close to an early water system state in London.  I am not sure how much weight you’re talking about, but the roof might not take that and the water. “

John shrugged and said, “If the pressure is high enough, you don’t need the cistern on the roof. “

Stephan looked at the drawing for a moment and smiled, “We’ll need some tight tolerances on that accumulator of yours.  That makes it interesting. “  Stephan began drawing on John’s pictures on the board. John provided ideas on the hydraulic set up. For once Jason could only listen and help where he could. It was refreshing to John that he knew something Jason didn’t know. After a couple of hours, Stephan stretched and said, “Alright lads, I’ve got a business to run and we’ve just designed the world’s most expensive water heater.  John, check the water pressure numbers to see if we need this beast or we can manage with gravity. Jason,  work your numbers to determine the diameter of the tube through the heater  would need to be if the pressure was lower.” He took off his apron and headed out the door and turned around, “Since this is the only real task you have, I expect progress that we can discuss before dinner hours tonight.”

John was about to protest, but Jason stayed him with his arm and said, “Certainly Stephan,  although I expect you’ll check the number and fix our mistakes.”

Stephan harrumphed and waved his arm at them dismissively as he walked out the door.

John fumed a bit and then turned to Jason and said, “I know you used to work for the man, but I didn’t…and I don’t work for him now.”

Jason smirked as he sat down to the table and started jotting notes down on the paper, “True, but we’re building the water heater for him and his wife. That makes him our client.”

John wrinkled his face as Jason said this and then said, “I missed the part where we signed a contract.”

Jason shrugged, “It’s my obligation and Millicent is holding me to it. She sent you along. I’ll buy your beer tonight.” He looked up from his notebook and smirked, “Did you learning anything from him in the last two hours?”

John sat on a stool and looked a bit sheepish, “I’ve had semesters that didn’t provide that much practical experience. I forgot that he worked with Millicent before.”

Jason smiled, “I expect he’ll have us working like he worked with Millicent for the duration. Welcome to our world Mr. O’Malley.”

John felt stricken and pulled out a notebook. Jason said, “However, Stephan is a practical man and never needed to work equations. Tell me, once you get the numbers, how long will it take you to get information he can use?”

John thought for a moment, “The equations for pressure are straight forward.  Getting the numbers are the pain. But the actual calculations are pretty quick.  Too bad we don’t have one of Professor Roget’s log log slide rules. It would be even quicker.”

Jason pulled something out of his bag and waved it, ”Like this?”

John eyes went wide as he looked at the sliding ruler and then sputtered, “Where did you get that?”

Jason smiled and said, “I described it to Charles, he provided advice, materials and that magnificent machine shop on the ship.”

John smiled, “That will speed things up.  I’ll start drafting my work, but I need a proper cup of tea to get started.”

Jason laughed, “I am a coffee person myself, but I’ll take a cup if you bring it. Ask Jolene,  she’ll tell you where the supplies are.”

John  squirmed a bit, “Jolene?”

Jason said, “She might be busy. You can ask Stephanie. She’ll be friendlier right now.”

John looked panicked, “You know her better. She’ll want to talk to you.”

Jason smiled, “She doesn’t know you. Now is the perfect time to get to know her better…shoo.”

[1] Joseph Bramah developed the hydraulic press.  He applied Pascal’s principles by using a piston with a larger cross area over a smaller tube to increase the overall pressure in the small tube.

[2] William Armstrong (along with Joseph Bramah) used Pascal’s principles to improve industrial efficiency. He developed “Hydraulic Accumulators” or tall towers of water that could be used to drive hydro power.  Armstrong with Bramah are considered founders in the field of hydraulics.

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