Michael Richards stared at the impossible vessel. It seemed as large as an airship, but he knew that was impossible. She said it was transportation, but he could see no means of propulsion so he was sure that was impossible. The shell of the vessel was a burnished metal that had no seams and that was impossible. John was discussing some philosophical point with the disembodied voice. Rachael looked at it and said, “How did you get it in here?” Jason moved toward the vessel and asked “Can I touch it?” Felicity said, “It’s beautiful,” then she turned her head to him and pushed his open mouth closed. She had a more artistic soul than he. Yet another reason to love her.
Millicent said to Jason, “Ask Charles, but I have no issue.” To Rachael she said, “The warehouse roof opens.” To him she said, “Mr. Richards – speechless?”
Michael straightened up and spoke, “The last time I said, ‘that’s impossible’ I was properly chided. So yes, I am speechless.”
Millicent laughed, “Oh these next few weeks will be priceless with you.” She led the group towards the ramp on the ship.
Jason had already arrived and had touched a surface of the ship. He commented, “It is so smooth. I am not sure I am actually feeling it.”
The voice, Charles, said, “It has no deviation to the Angstrom level.”
Jason asked a question that almost made sense to Michael, “Wouldn’t entropy cause deformations in the metallic lattice to prevent such smoothness even if you could find a polish to such a degree?”
Charles commented to Millicent and then answered, “He is a bright one. The ship isn’t polished as much as it was grown or extracted. If one lowers the temperature enough, near perfection in metallic lattice is possible.” Jason nodded as if that impossible sentence made sense.
They walked up the ramp of the ship. Millicent talked as they walked, “Charles, I want you to check the state of nanotechnology in everyone. Be polite this time. Men, follow the red lights and I shall give the ladies a tour while you are being examined.”
Jason asked, “Even me?”
Charles replied, “Especially you, wonder boy. Since your father’s gift saw fit to destroy my little presents, I need to figure out how to talk with the nanotechnology you have. Now into the medical bay you three.” A recessed entry way flashed red indicating where the three men should head.
As they entered the medical bay, Charles said, “Let’s start with Mr. Richards. Please take off your clothes. This will be much quicker with assistance from Mr. O’Malley and Mr. McNeill.”
“Naked?” Michael squeaked.
Charles moaned, “You too? Mr. O’Hannigan was such a prude about the matter. Yes…naked. Clothes interfere with my scanning. Come on now – strip. Mr. O’Malley, Mr. McNeill please don’t embarrass poor Mr. Richards,” Charles with a pleading tone in his voice.
John replied, “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
Jason shrugged and said, “He’s hardly the first man I’ve seen naked and he won’t likely be the last.” Michael and John looked at Jason oddly and Jason replied a bit defensively, “haven’t you ever swum in a creek?” He looked from one to the other and he waved his hands in mock disgust, “Ahh… City folk.”.
Michael started stripping saying, “I just want to get this over with.” John handed him a towel for a bit of modesty. Charles told him to lie on the table while John and Jason placed the round discs and wires all over his body. When the last of the circles had been placed, Jason removed the towel and Charles said, “lay still and this should be quick.” A long light seemed to move up and down his body. After a few moments, it stopped and Charles said, “Done Mr. Richards. Things are coming along nicely. Mr. McNeil and Mr.O’Malley – a bit of alcohol will make the pads come off easier.” John and Jason worked quickly to remove the pads. A door opened and Charles said, “A shower will removed the itchiness.” Michael felt a bit sticky from the adhesive so he walked into the closet. He felt a bit like a dish as he was sprayed with water then with soap and then with water. He was doing ok until warm air blew on him nearly drying him at which point he screamed in shock. He got out of the closet and dressed quickly.
John was next and was already on the table. He was embarrassed as well, holding a towel in place as Jason placed the white circles. But John didn’t protest. In watching the process, Michael realized he needn’t be so modest about the matter. It all seemed very clinical. At the end, Jason followed the same procedure. John was in the shower closet so Michael assisted Jason in preparation. He supplied a towel to Jason and applied the white circles according to Charles directions. When the light moved up and down Jason’s body it seemed to take a bit longer than what he remembered for John or himself. Finally the light went off and Charles said, “Mr. McNeill, your nanotechnology hasn’t outright rejected my requests, but they aren’t responding well either. I suspect I will need a few sessions in here to be able to communicate properly. The good news is that your father’s work is doing an excellent job. The technology is a bit more aggressive than my methods, but you are in tip top shape. The introduction of my nanotechnology has not impaired them at all.”
Jason scratched an adhesive spot and said, “This technology does more than repair things I gather.”
Charles said, “Oh yes, a great deal more.”
Jason said, “I want to discuss that with you at some point.” John and Michael finished cleaning the pads off Jason who thenstepped into the shower. After a couple of minutes, he came out and got dressed quickly. Charles said, “You are in the medical bay. You are requested in the environmental lab. Follow the green lights.” The three went outside the room and saw the flashing green lights in the hall way. Looking at each other, they shrugged and followed the flashing directions. Michael noticed that he was becoming more comfortable with the impossible things he was seeing. The glowing lights that indicated where they should go next seemed almost normal at this point.
In the environmental lab Millicent, Rachael and Felicity were engaged in a conversation. As the three men arrived, Felicity gave Michael a hug. It felt better than normal. He was feeling disoriented and she was the constant he could hold onto.
Felicity said, “Charles said things are going quite well for you. Millicent let us know that with this …nanotechnology,” saying each syllable carefully,” we may live decades longer than everyone else.”
Michael thought for a moment and then said, “That makes sense. No disease. Damage gets repaired quickly. The only limit would be how well replacement material works versus the original.” He shook his head as he recognized he was managing some of this and then hugged Felicity a bit closer, “Hope you are ok with a longer term commitment than we originally thought.” Felicity laughed and hugged back.
Charles spoke up starting with a mild cough,” ahem… When the ladies are ready, I need to scan them as well.” Michael and Felicity broke off and the two women headed out the door following the red lights. Liam returned through the door as they went out.
Millicent began speaking, “A tour of the ship is in order. The ladies got theirs while you were being examined. This is the environmental lab. This laboratory has stations for the local weather, the local geography, current events and the economy.” She pointed to various tables for each category. Each table had a pane of glass and a tray with letters on it. She went to the weather station, “Charles. Show current conditions and expected weather for tomorrow.” The pane of glass showed two pictures. The left showed London, Michael supposed, but there were clouds over it, some were marked green. The legend on the screen indicated the color was rain. The right side showed the possibility of rain (70%), expected temperature (16° Centigrade) and a pollution index.
Jason asked the obvious question, “What is a pollution index?”
John asked, “May I take a guess first?” Millicent nodded and John continued, “The air in London is not as clear as what you are used to in Dunstable.”
Michael muttered, “No shit…”
John smiled and continued, “So I gather it is a measure of just how bad. 0 would be pure air with none of the things that make London so memorable on foggy days. I could only guess what the scale would be…”
Millicent finished for him, “100 is bad for sensitive people. 250 is considered bad for everyone.”
Michael looked at the prediction and exclaimed, “The index says 350!”
Charles, with the usual pomp of his voice, said, “Positively fresh…for London.”
Millicent explained, “Your fog combined with your growing reliance on coal is making a rather toxic brew of the air. But let’s not get bogged down in details. Mr. Richards, I expect you will be spending most your time here to start. This is where the ideas and the answers to your many questions lie – even if you don’t believe the answers,” she winked at the others as she said this. Michael felt his face go red. “It is also a good place to review structural design which will be my first assignment to you. Onto the science lab.”
She moved into the hallway which was no longer illuminated in green. It was illuminated in a yellow tone. She turned right and went down one doorway. A sign next to the alcove said “Science Lab.” Millicent pressed a button, the doors slid to the side and everyone walked in. The room was large. There were three long tables that ran down the center. Millicent continued her tour, “We have a bench each for biology, chemistry and physics. There are multiple screens to access or store information. I encourage everyone to maintain the practice of a written record as well.”
Charles made a rude noise.
Millicent shrugged and said loudly, “One never knows what access one will have in the future. You will need to pass some basic safety course before you can use certain equipment, but I am sure you all had to do that at the University.”
The four men stared at her blankly.
Millicent looked aghast. She practically shouted, “Liam, I understand, but you three?” She pointed to John, Jason and Michael, “The University hasn’t implemented basic safety procedures? How do any of your scientists live to retirement?”
Jason smirked, “They don’t.”
Millicent crossed her arms and looked stern. In an uncompromising voice, she said, “Nanotechnology or no, I will not have careless, foolish, neophytes threaten Charles and my home. You will practice good sense in here. If not for yourselves, then for the rest of us and Charles.”
Charles said in an accent that sounded vaguely American, “Amen, Sister!”
Michael muttered, “Shouldn’t you be attending to the ladies?”
Charles said, “I am, or rather my Charlene incarnation is. The ladies were a bit sensitive about that.”
Millicent, quickly returned to the subject, said, “Charles manage the safety checks for all and keep me posted on their progress.” To the group she said, “As your manager I will make sure you are making progress. Besides, you won’t be able to touch any equipment you been gotten certified on.” She smiled darkly.
Jason touched a microscope in a bit of jest and was zapped hard enough to cause him to curse. Even Michael had to smile at that.
They left the science laboratory and headed across the hallway. This room had to take up the same space as the medical, environmental and science labs combined. On one end were barbell weights, racks of sticks, ropes for climbing, and gymnastics equipment. The center was dominated by a large mat. The other end was dominated by a swimming pool. Michael pointed to it, and asked, “How?”
Charles answered, “We cover it during transition. I use it as a secondary cooling system.” More impossible answers to impossible questions. Michael put his hands to his head and shook it and then looked up at the ceiling and frowned.
Millicent was hiding a smirk. She said, “You will find quickly that being in shape will be important. In this matter, I fear Smith may have the advantage.” She looked over John and Jason appraisingly. “Although not as much as he might imagine.” Michael felt his face go red again. Millicent continued, “I will work with you on how to defend yourselves in a variety of fashions.”
Liam laughed at this, “I hardly need that.”
Millicent looked sternly at him, “Mr. O’Hannigan! I really thought we had reviewed this issue earlier. Do you need a reminder?”
Liam went pale. “Now that you mention it, I can always use new tricks in a scrape.”
Michael, Jason and John looked at the two during the exchange. Michael looked at Liam and asked, “What did she do to you?”
Liam gulped and said, “Laid me out with one punch; drug me 30 yards like I was a sack of potatoes; and lifted me up against a wall with one hand while she opened a door.” He paused and said with a bit more confidence, “Can’t say there was a lot of technique in that. But I saw her take on two folk Jason’s size with nary a problem.”
Millicent was easily 6 feet tall, but she was not a bulky person. Liam might well have outweighed her despite her extra 5 inches. Michael and Jason eyed her with a new respect.
Millicent was clearly irritated with this sort of attention. “If all it takes to win you lot over is a good punch and a drag, we are in deep trouble.”
John said calmly looking at his fingernails, “I think we’ve all seen something like that. Just never from a woman.”
Millicent muttered, “You need to get out more.” Then louder, “Come, we need to see the upstairs next. Charles, send the women to the galley when you are finished.” The group moved back out into the hallway and turned towards the aft of the ship. They were following orange lights now. At the far end was a spiral stair case that went up and down. It seemed out of place for such a modern structure. Sensing his question, she turned to Michael and said, “I have a lift for larger items, but it is dreadfully slow. Besides, this bit of exercise and stretching is very good for you.” On the upper floor, they encountered another hallway with doors on each side. The hallway ended in a large open room. When they got closer, Michael could see that one side had a kitchen area and a dining area. Millicent explained where to find food; the basics on preparing and cleaning (a machine handled dishwashing!) and the consequences of not cleaning up after oneself. While the facilities looked as foreign as anything he had seen, this, at least, was territory he understood.
She showed them around the large table area and said, “This is the eating and meeting area. When I have to talk with you all, I will likely have you assemble here. As for dining, when things settle down…” Her voice caught for a moment. She composed herself and continued, “When things settle down, I would like us to spend at least one dinner a week together.”
She moved to the far side of the room and said, “I have one last stop. I don’t expect any of you to understand what you will see, but it may intrigue some of you.” She pressed a button and two doors slid open to a darkened room. Millicent said, “Charles. Maintenance lighting and screens on display mode.” The room became brightly lit and not just with the ambient lighting that pervaded the vessel. Lights from displays gave an eerie blue green glow. Three chairs indicated various stations of work. The strangeness of this room surpassed any room they had previously seen. The walls were nothing but glass panels and buttons. The glass panels had brightly color images that appeared to be composed of graphs, maps, charts, and words although Michael could not make sense of any the images.
She turned to them and spread her arms and said, “This is the bridge.” She turned around and faced towards the front of the room and continued, “The center chair is navigation. The chair to left is communication and external monitoring. The chair to the right is ships operation station, although Charles handles that quite well.”
Liam stared about and said, “Blimey.”
John turned around in the room with his hands on his head and said, “I’ve been on the bridge of an airship. I understood that…This …this might as well be the Chinese Emperor’s Chambers.” Michael understood exactly how he was feeling.
Jason looked at the stations speculatively. Then he said, “Stephan and my father understood this place when they came back. Didn’t they?”
Millicent said, “Your father could navigate. Stephan could run operations. And Abigail understood the communications and monitoring station well. You will as well.” There was a chime. She motioned them towards the door and said, “The ladies are finished and we have a couple of stops to make as a group.”
 Angstrom – Å is a linear unit of measurement sometimes used to measure distances between atoms in crystal lattices. It is 10-9 meters.
 A little bit of crystallography here. We look at materials, especially gems, and see perfection. But in reality the crystal lattices are full of imperfections. Atoms shake about as they align themselves. This disorder is quantified as “Entropy”. Charles’ allusion to low temperature is the fact that entropy decreases with temperature – less shaking, less disorder. Only at absolute zero could one have a perfect crystal form and stay perfect.