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Getting Ahead With Science (IC)


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Curator's Ship, Near Centurion's Sanctum, Arctic

Morning, January 25th, 2013

The wind howled outside the prefabricated dome of plastic and metal, rattling the thick, sealed door some in its frame. Inside, the occupants wore heavy coats; while the temperature was above freezing, it wasn't by much, and this "mobile lab", being right next to the crash site, was by necessity rather bare-bones. A couple of hardy computer displays, a couple of tables, and some sturdy sensors. Much of the delicate work was further back at the main base camp, or deep inside the ship itself.

At the moment, one of the leaders of the joint expedition (which included Archetech, AEGIS, UNISON, Katasrof & Sorenson Technologies, and a couple of others) was hunched over one of the tables, poking at several chunks of glittering metal as he talked with another, more colorfully-dressed member of the intrepid scientists.

"I can't believe computronium hasn't been discussed more in the wider scientific world! This material is incredible! The properties are just astounding, and it's clearly robust enough to not be simply computer components!"

Baron Magnus Vilhelm Katasrof was engrossed in trying to analyze the properties of a metal he hadn't even known existed before coming on this trip. His companion at the moment was the electrical hero, Voltage.

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"It's possible that we simply haven't gotten our hands on enough of it to get a good look at it. As it is, the robot duplicates had a bad habit of exploding, and I doubt the Curator intended this to happen. What I'm really curious about is if we can ever synthesize it. If it's properties are as amazing as they seem to be, we're looking at an amazing find."

He had agreed to join the expedition, even volunteered for it. Getting his hands on alien technology would prove interesting. That, and he wanted to take personal advantage of some of the tech. He may not be able to get any of it home with him, but his perfect memory would allow him to analyze any tech he got his hands on, and add it to his accumulated scientific knowledge. He could do a lot of things with tech like that, things that would be of great benefit to the world and his heroic career.

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Magnus carefully took an inch-long sliver of the material and slid it into an instrument as tall as he was, which spent a moment whirring and beeping before settling down. A moment later, one of the wall displays lit up with a complicated image of a molecule, alongside a detailed electron-microscope-quality closeup of the computronium sliver.

"Hm. I think so. Right now it would take some work, mind you. But it seems like it's less "totally new element" and more "advanced alloy using unique allotropes of existing elements". It would take some time, effort, access to at least three top-end particle accelerators, a bit of money, a dash of nanotech, and some patience, but it's totally doable."

He waved a hand in the direction of the giant skull-shaped spaceship outside.

"Honestly of all of this, though, it's the computronium and some of the basic drones that are the least impressive; a new metal is fantastic, and probably doable for us, and robots are almost passe what with the bloody Foundry, but the ship itself? It holds the key to the stars, my friend. What we learn here today could, one day, let humanity step forth from this single rock to Out There. Not just the Sol system, but the galaxy at large!"

The excitement (some might say "fervor") was clear in his voice.

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"Oh I concur. We have no idea what sort of FTL system it uses. Not to mention any other systems it may have. We have access to technology on the cutting edge, beyond anything we've done yet so far. I thought I'd just get an opportunity to look at one of the drones, I had no idea I'd have an opportunity to look at the ship. And the computers, too, we can't forget those. Computers advanced enough to do all sorts of things we may not be able to do yet. The technological possibilities in this ship are incredible. I don't think I've said it yes, but thank you for this opportunity."

And he meant it, he'd never been in a position like this before, picking apart technology like this.

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The Baron checked the instrument containing the slice of Computronium once more, pushing a few more buttons on it before turning back to Voltage.

"As fascinating as this material will be, these chunks are easily transportable. We can probably all take a few samples home after they're triple-screened. Button up, let's get inside the real prize."

With that, Magnus followed his own advice and secured his snow goggles against his eyes, his hood around his head,and otherwise made sure he was as resistant to the cold as possible. Once Voltage confirmed he was good to go, the Baron Katastrof went to the hut's door and opened it; thankfully it wasn't terribly windy, so only a small breeze came inside. The Baron led the way across a short stretch of snow before they reached the crashed Curator ship. A makeshift stairway had been secured to the side, leading up to the convenient entrance created by Young Freedom's daring entry and escape through one of the "eyes" of the vessel.

Once inside, they went down a hallway to find themselves in a half-wrecked main chamber. Disabled or destroyed drones littered the room, and the cut and slagged central computer sat dark and dormant. The room was littered with lights, computer terminals, sensor gear, cameras, and even a few holo-projectors. Magnus eased the goggles up to his forehead and slid the hood back with a grin.

"Well, here's the main event, as it were. We can go dig down in the guts themselves in a bit, but we've got loads of drone samples here, and even if it's wrecked that computer's got a story to tell for sure..."

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"Stories a-plenty, I should think!," Viktor Archeville's voice echoed through the room. A few of the holo-emitters sputtered to life, creating a trio of ghostly images of the good doctor semi-imposed over one another. "However, I think we should- wait, hold on, there seem to be some issues..."

As he adjusted controls from his home laboratory back in Hanover, the three images coalesced into a solid, lifelike image, and his voice ceased echoing throughout the chambers and now issued (or so it seemed) solely from the image. "Ah, much better!" It was a tad odd seeing him in his regular dark khakis, light blue dress shirt, and simple labcoat, when everyone else was in extreme cold weather gear, but Fenris knew that if he were here in the flesh (or what passed for flesh), the technology in that deceptively simple-looking coat would have kept him as warm as anything the rest of the crew was wearing.

"Ah, as I was saying, I think we should start with an analysis of the drones. See how these things work in micro before tackling the macro. Any countermeasures or failsafes there might be would also likely be less intense in the drones than in the main core, so it should give us a chance to assess and prepare for whatever bit-based beasties might be lurking in there."

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"I agree, minimize risk and all that. Besides, these drones are very interesting in and of themselves." He was more than passably familiar with Dr. Viktor Archeville, even if he'd never met the man himself. His contributions to the heroic and scientific communities were well known. Voltage made it a habit of learning of anyone and everyone who was both in the scientific and heroic communities.

"I just want to say that my powers render me immune to electrical effects, on the off chance it proves useful to be so."

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Magnus smiled as Archeville appeared, giving the renowned Doctor a nod.

"I'm honored you could join us, Doctor Archeville. Your insight, even, ah, remotely, may well prove invaluable. As well as giving another perspective on matters!"

With that, Magnus slipped some safety goggles over his eyes and glanced around, before pointing to a nearby table.

"Excellent. We have a drone prepped for us. Looks like this is one of the ones that shut down without damage; it's intact, in great condition."

He extracted a couple of tools from his finely-made belt, poking at the exterior of the Drone for the moment. He clucked his tongue as he thought for a moment.

"Doctor, your memory might help confirm this, but putting aside the fact this whole room of drones look identical to each other, they appear identical to the last time this planet saw drones from the Curator. Which...well, at this point of his existence that's not entirely shocking, but still. We need to open it up to be sure. Voltage, I hate to ask someone else to dig in, but considering your unique nature, and possible anti-tampering measures, do you think you could help pry open the panels at least?"

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"The honor, and pleasure, are mine, Baron," Archeville's image nodded. "I've not had the chance to directly interact with any Curator tech until recently, but I did read through the records of the League's encounters with it last night. The Curator is thousands of years old, and has collected specimens from an untold number of worlds, so to do so it must have gone through a steady period of upgrading itself and its drones to carry out its prime directives -- to collect and preserve -- as efficiently as possible. By now it surely must have hit what it considers an optimal range of abilities, so unless and until it encounters something truly novel, it would have no need to alter itself or its drones further." The image turned its head slightly and chuckled, "though, from what Daedalus and Pseudo say, we Earthlings are some of the most unique and novel beings in the galaxy...."

Of course, if it actually used what it gathered to improve itself, instead of just amassing things like some hoarder, it could be a far greater threat. Thank Asimov for direct, restrictive programming.

"But this sameness," the image straightened up and looked back to the drone, then to the two heroes, "should make our explorations easier, because there are already other, slightly older samples of Curator tech here on Earth, which we can use for comparisons. One of Curator's museum-ships crashed here some decades ago, and Centurion saved the creatures on board and brought them to his Sanctum. I do believe he simply carried over some of the life support and environmental recreation technology from the ship and brought it to his home, and a few other components are in either in the Sanctum or other League storehouses. Daedalus had made some studies of them, and I am working on bringing up his files for our use. I am very curious, though," he looked over to Voltage, a barely contained grin spreading across his face, "to see what you find, as I do not believe an electrokinetic has ever probed this tech."

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Voltage walked towards the drone and nodded. "Who knows what sort of defenses the Curator could have put in place." He reached down and, carefully, gingerly, pried the panel open. Even if he was immune to electricity, he did not want to risk something else triggering and hurting him. "Hmm, though I think for at least me, this isn't just an opportunity for scientific advancement. Also a chance to see some really cool stuff." He chuckled. He knew that they were all eager to see exactly what lie within the machines, what sort of things they could find.

"Hmm, this really is a drone. There's no mind in this, no programming. Everything is either designed to move it, or receive a signal from elsewhere. It uses an interesting superconductor that's based on a silver alloy. A lot of possibilities in every bit of it."

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Magnus couldn't hide the grin of delight.

"Fascinating! So...this suggests that the Curator isn't just a high-level AI, but one able to produce near-infinite sub-forks of itself to independently control these physical shells. Because if it had each of them engaging in independent action, and none of them have any independence of their own, it has to have the ability to simultaneously concentrate on all of them. It's not a question of processing power; I've taken to understand the Curator has a bloody ringworld. But the coding must be fantastic. Suppose it just shows his age, like the Doctor said."

Magnus pulled a pair of insulated work gloves onto his hands before picking out some fine-nosed pliers and a small wire-snipper. He delicately reached in from his spot next to Voltage, slowly lifting just a small bit of the super-conducting wire up, before cutting out a slice.

"I don't recognize it immediately, but it's definitely not computronium. Let me put it in the analyzer here..."

He slipped over to one of the workstations set up near the "operating table", sliding the sample in to begin analysis.

"Is it familiar to you, Doctor?"

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The holoimage let out a long, low whistle. "If I did not know better, I would say these scans indicate this is an isotope of silver whose half-life should be measured in minutes, yet somehow the Collector has made it stable. I- ohh... oh!" Archeville's eyes went wide, then he clapped his hands sharply and barked out a laugh, "oh, that would be brilliant, wouldn't it!" He looked up at the two heroes, face beaming, "the silver isotope breaks down into cadmium and palladium isotopes, which combine with a few other compounds to form highly efficient capacitors, which spark a reaction to turn some of the cadmium and palladium back into the original silver isotope! It's a self-perpetuating system!"

He let out a smaller, softer giggle, "I wonder if one of these ever encountered a werewolf, or vampire. It would be something to see one of those beasties get a mouthful of silver wiring!"

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Magnus blinked, considering the information, before a grin almost split his face in half.

"So....we're sitting on a collection of one of the best conductor-capacitors in existence? This...this is incredible! Forget what this could do for high-end electronics! The capacitor nature, where it can hold a charge effectively forever, and that charge is vastly more effective than you'd think it would be! The applications...We could use this in advanced prosthetic devices of all sorts, eliminating the need for batteries or other power sources. Worst case, you set up a discrete "charging port" in an unobtrusive location, or even just directly beam the power into the prosthetic! If we cut out the power space, we could devote everything to the interface, and the replication of original function! It could vastly improve the lifespan of some battery types! The best part is, while silver is rare, it's not that rare, and even better, in a decade or two when we can start asteroid mining it'll be a pretty common material...

Think of it, gentlemen. Even if literally nothing else today bears fruit, having so many samples of computronium and this Silver allotrope to study and eventually replicate on our own terms could prove incredibly revolutionary for the human race. It could help us step onto the galactic stage one day as equals, instead of the clients of some foreign power!"

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"We have enough here, I think, where we can begin experimenting on it. And, hopefully, learn to synthesize it.  I'm curious, though, how the Curator got a hold of it. I don't know if the Curator could have invented it, do you? Did he acquire the knowledge from his creators? If that's true, then it's possible that information on it's creation is present in these systems. At least a clue on how it's created..Any information would put us ahead of where we are now on it."


Voltage was basically trembling with excitement. This was amazing. He was right there, on the cusp of what may end up being one of the greatest scientific discoveries of the 21st century, and he was here, with two of the greatest minds of his time. This would be amazing.

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