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The Recollection Of Crankshaft

Chapter 4

I returned to my office, and sat down behind my desk, at which point I started shuffling around papers to look busy and otherwise important. After a moment, Laya, the short lass that she is, entered the room. Now, I had something rather lewd written here, but after proof-reading this chapter for me, Laya hit me and told me to remove it.

So, anyway, moving on, Laya entered the room, and I observed how stunningly short she really is. Possibly about as short as an adult can possibly be, by my figuring. She does pack quite a punch, though. "Your vertical prowess pleases me greatly," I said.

She looked at me like I was some sort of a freakish, freak-thing, and said, "What?"

"You're short. It looks good on you."

Her look got more disturbed and she proceeded carefully toward the restroom.

As I sat, I pondered my trip to Ragol. Just who was that unmasked RAmar? He said his name was VanGarrett. As I pondered, I placed my personal terminal into a device sitting on my desk, and proceeded to download my new information onto my computer. After doing so, I realized that I had a message. Evidently, he'd also exchanged with me, something called, a 'guild card', which, I assume, is a selection of data used by Hunters' Guild members so they can get a hold of each other at any time. A quick catch phrase was included in the guild card. "If I can't fix it, then I can shoot it," it said. I found this mildly humorous, though I suppose that this was his attempt to describe his specialties.

Then, I was about to read the message, when Laya came back out of the bathroom. I looked at her, she looked at me. So I wiggled my eyebrows at her, and she looked at me like I was crazy again.

"What is wrong with you?" she asked.

"Well," I said, "Now that you ask..."

She looked at me with this expression like she was thinking, "Oh my Light, he's going to say something that I probably don't want anything to do with."

So, I carried on, saying, "See, I've got this weird sharp pain in my--"

She cut me off saying, "--I do NOT want to know, Crankshaft!"

To this, my reply was, "Well, you did ask, didn't you?"

She shook her head and gave a frustrated look, then came over to my desk and sat down. "So what happened down on Ragol, anyway?" she asked.

"I ran some laps around stuff, and jumped a few fences. Then a dragon fell on me. You should've seen the horned ape I killed. It was pissed," I bluntly claimed.

"You killed it?"

"Well, yeah, sort of."

"Sort of? What do you mean by 'sort of'?"

"I mean that a ranger ran up and blew its head off, right before it would've used my spiky cranium to write its name on the ground."

"I almost wish it did..."

And then I had a thought that was bothering me. "I just had a thought that's bothering me," I said.

"I'm going to regret this, I'm sure, but what was your thought?" I knew she'd bite. She always does. She's got a soft-spot for me in there somewhere, I know it. Sooner or later, I shall find that soft spot and exploit it. That's right. All the macaroni and cheese I can eat.

So, I told her of my strange thought. I said that I thought, "I just thought," I said, "That we could've just spontaneously popped into existence five minutes ago with all of our memories set in place, and everything around us, just poof, right there the way it was five minutes ago." That is what I said.

She looked at me, and I think she was about to say something, but then I continued, only louder, so I don't know what she said, but I said, "And the thing that REALLY bothers me is!... There is absolutely no way that you or I could ever prove that what I just said isn't true!!!"

Then she stopped talking, and looked at me, as though she were in thought, I and I stared back at her blankly. If I could read her mind, I would think that she would probably have been thinking about a way to prove, well, something that would make certain, err, well, I think that she would've been thinking about how one would go about uh, hm. I think she would've been thinking about some sort of way to create evidence that you can indeed cause a HUcast to grow a full beard over night. Since I can't read her mind, however, at the time I was only able to assume that she was thinking about Kelley Murphy's scene on the previous night's episode of The Guild, where his character, Infurno, had to strip down to his boxers to cope with the heat of some cave type place he was in, where there was lots of lava and hot stuff. Myself, I had to eat a plate of hot peppers to get into the mood.

So anyway, Laya was about to say something else, but she stopped, and continued to appear to be thinking, as she walked out of my office, and into hers. Then I heard a noise that I couldn't identify at first. It was a sort of beep. Not an alarm, but some sort of an alert. It alerted me. It alerted me, and my first thought at this was that someone was trying to alert me, and they were succeeding greatly.

I observed a funny shape on my terminal, it appeared to be a box with a "V" in it. Further analysis revealed to me that this looked strikingly like an envelope. Given this revelation, I curled my lips to create an "Ooo"ing sound, because I like to make that sound when I realize something. I also like to make that sound when I want to confuse someone greatly.

The message was short and to the point. It came from VanGarrett. The just of the message was something to the effect of, "I would like to learn more about you. Meet me on the Skyly deck at @800 beats."

The mention of time, reminded me that it was currently @600 beats. This is a fairly early morning class for most of my students, and I sometimes forget to sleep between my @350 beat class, and my @600 beat class. Today, however, I was fresh out of the hospital, so I was well rested. The strange thing about living on a starship, is that there is no sun, so there is nothing to prompt you to say, "HEY! It's late at night! You should be in bed, you flaming insomniac!!"

Flaming. Now there is a multi-purpose adjective I've never quite understood. I've been told that it's used to describe you if you're queer. I've been told that I'm strange, and I've also been told that I'm weird. Weird and queer are synonyms, but from what I gather, you would describe me as being weird, but you wouldn't describe me as being queer. Though furthermore, I sometimes wonder what the difference would be if someone were described as being flaming weird, as opposed to flaming queer?  I suppose I could continue on this, but Laya tells me that what I had intended to write here could get me into serious trouble, mostly concerning this 'political correctness' thing that I seem to be oblivious to. The whole thing sounds like a vicious evil plot by people with low self-esteem to bring the rest of us down. They're against The Man! Great Light help The Man! They're against the Man! Who's the man? I'm not certain, but it may be Principal Tyrell.

So anyway, it was time for my class. This particular class was in chapter 23 of the text book, which happens to be on the subject of Protonic Combustion Engines. Mind you, that's Protonic, not Photonic. There is no typo, the typo does not exist. I speak of positively charged matter components, not individual building blocks of energy mass gravitically pulled together to form a tangible effect. Pay attention though, the lecture I gave in this particular session applies to what happens later.

So, I said to my class, "What can any of you tell me about the concepts behind Combustion Engines?"  A perfectly legitimate question for a highly generalized category.

The jester in the back raised his hand and immediately yelled, "They make things go!"

My response to this was a hearty, "Very good, Mr. Overmind. Tomorrow, I will quiz you on the mechanical principles behind poor grades." I grunted and nodded, then looked around, and continued, "Does anyone have an idea that can be regarded as resembling an intelligent response?"

A lovely young woman raised her hand and waited patiently. I stepped toward her, and pointed. "Yes, Kataclyn?"

"They make utilize energy for motion by combusting fuel?" By combusting fuel, she said! Indeed, I agreed with her, but I have a particular way I like to describe it.

I jumped up and did a little happy dance, that I sometimes see athletes perform variants of after they score a goal. "HOO-YEAH!" I shouted, then took a very serious overtone to calmly state, "That is correct, Kataclyn. Very good." I then proceeded to energetically (and indeed, I do so energetically because I've got this obscene level of metabolism) explain, "Now, now, you see, combustion engines, to borrow the copyrighted term from Andrew 'Overmind' Gonzalez up there, make things go BUUUUME!!! And that BUUUUME! causes energy to fling about in whatever direction it's allowed!"

I stopped for a moment, to walk to the photon board hanging from the wall, so that I could illustrate. I drew a diagram at first. I drew a little box, with the word "FUEL" in it, and from there, I drew a line to a box that said, "ENGINE", and then I drew a plus symbol (+, for those who aren't sure), and then I drew, in big colorful letters, "HOT THING", and then I drew and equal sign, followed by, with extra underlines, "BUUUUUME!" I then pointed dramatically at it, and explained, "This is, for all intensive purposes, what a combustion engine does. There are several kinds of combustion engines, however. The most basic of which, is the External Combustion Engine, otherwise known as a Rocket Engine, which you should've had explained to you in a class about the time you were knee high to my platform shoes." I gestured concerning this last comment.

Then I continued, "There is also the slightly more interesting Internal Combustion Engine, which works by using pressure and electrical charges to shove a metal cylinder back and forth down a hole cut to fit it, which in turn, makes a rod turn. Really really fast. But those are inefficient, as they tend to pollute air, which can be rather bad on a ship like ours, and even more bothersome, an internal combustion engine doesn't make things fly, except when propellers are put to use, and those are noisy and dangerous. Some people have lost pets due to these things." I went on.

"The subject of Chapter 23, however, is the Protonic Combustion Engine. Does anyone know how the heck that thing works?" Silence. "Good, no one's been reading ahead. So anyway, a Protonic Combustion Engine works on the idea that Protons contain energy that can be tapped through a complex series of magnetic, electronic, and stupidly obvious solutions. Now, can anyone explain to me, how Protonic energy differs from Nuclear energy? Yes, K-420?"

A stout android popped up and properly explained, and I might add, with an accent that makes me think he was built by stoners, "Nuclear energy results from forcefully breaking down the atoms, most easily resulting from the use of radioactive, and therefore unstable, materials, where as Protonic energy results from fusing electron-starved protons into clusters of new atoms, most ideally, O2 or NO2."

"Very good, K-420. Now can you also explain what makes this ideal for personal vehicles?"

"It produces non-toxic exhaust, and streets can be paved in any three-dimensional path using magnetic leads."

"My goodness, you paid attention last semester! Now, now now, tell me why it's not ideal for large vehicles such as space ships!!"

"The magnetic load would be sufficient to destroy the ship, instead of a trace amount, and having to pave its own path, and the Proton generation would generate more gravity than the matter can sustain."

I did my happy dance again, but then stopped suddenly, noticing something. "Hey!" I said, "Is that an antenna I see behind your shoulder?"

"Err, no, sir."

I approached K-420, and examined his shoulder. "Like poofy hair, it isn't! You're surfing the net!"

"Um..." the android gurgled, and it looked at me. "Does that mean that I'm losing points on my grade?"

I looked at him sternly, with fury like that of an angered professor looking at a cheating student, and I said to him in the harshest voice, "No." Then I walked back to the front of the class, looked at him and explained, "Heh, don't worry, I asked a question, and you gave me a correct answer. But if I catch you surfing the net while taking an exam, I'll flunk you like you've never been flunked before. Ever seen a grade so bad, that it had to resort to a dead alphabet to describe it? Oh yeah, baby."

I further explained that day, that Protonic Combustion Engines are slowly being replaced by Photon Drives, though the same systems of streets are still to be used, but perhaps without the need for paving. Then I assigned homework consisting of a number of questions within Chapter 23, a question ripped off from chapter 2, and one random question from chapter 35 of the text, mostly because I like to mix and match-- I sometimes assign a question from a previous chapter so they have to remember what the heck it was, and I sometimes assign a question from a later chapter just to confuse the heck out of my students, and figure out which are resourceful enough to figure it out, and which aren't.

Class being over, I went to meet a drinking buddy of mine, Dux, at a cozy tavern near the college. Dux never really gave me details about his occupation, though I do believe he's a member of the Hunters' Guild. Nonetheless, I enjoy listening to him talk when he's smashed. Which, this was a convenient time, because my morning class was over, and I didn't have another class until late that evening, so effectively, between @690 beats and @350, I am totally devoid of anything resembling class.

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