Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Adventure of Professor Don Killjoytea de La Nienburg and his trusty PhD student Sancho Foreign Sounding Last Name

Although Infinity & Beyond + 1 magazine doesn't usually publish post-industrial fiction (Pi-Fi), we make an exception for the following submission to 22billionenergyslaves's Pi-Fi short story contest. Infinity & Beyond + 1 magazine, where Higher, Faster, Stronger is not high enough, not fast enough and too effing weak.

In the town of La Nienburg resided for the previous months the famous scientist Professor Don Killjoytea together with his lady Delores. In these frugal times, tenure was rarely rewarded, even for the most brilliant of professors, thus impelling them to travel to far and distant lands for honour, adventure and project funding, dragging with them whatever family the genius scientist had accumulated. Our heroic professor and his lady Delores were regrettably robbed of precious sleep during their habitation in La Nienburg, which the professor, on this fine summer’s day, was determined to correct.

 “Cast your eye at those terrible and vicious dragons on the horizon there Sancho. I do find them offensive,” said Professor Don Killjoytea atop his motorcycle.

“What dragons?” asked Sancho Foreign Sounding Last Name, the Professor Don Killjoytea’s trusty PhD student who was now accompanying the professor in his sidecar, “You don’t mean those wind turbines in the distance? Why, I don’t find them offensive, sir, not at all, I quite like the aesthetics of white towers dotting otherwise uninspiring landscape.”

“These monsters are an offensive blight on our holy land Sancho,” returned the Professor, who was now speeding together with his student towards the wind turbines located only a few klicks further afield.

“As of today we have project money for our attack, which we shall perform at once. I have been preparing for this day when we may finally cause the permanent disruption of these whirling noise-breathing dragons. My research has uncovered previous scientists attacking such beasts head-on, with lance and horse, but who have failed to budge them even an inch! That method of attack will not do here my dear Sancho, against such formidable monsters.”

“Attack them professor?” said Sancho, “but our project is to perform acoustic measurements, sir, and also, well, aesthetics are one thing, but the turbines also provide our humble community of La Nienburg with the electricity with which we use to manufacture passata and other worldly delights.”

“Be not afraid my dear Sancho of a simpler, quieter existence, where one possesses time to think and dwell on thought experiment,” said the professor, “where passata may be boiled by method of passive heating at the height of summer and preserved through the bitterest of winters. Such technology keeps not my love, my delightful Delores of delicate but sleep-deprived beauty awake the night long with odious aerodynamic disturbances and ultrasonic noise.”

The professor and his student raced onwards in the motorcycle and sidecar to the giant wind turbines capped with rotating blades spinning all day and all night without any acoustic pity on the poor professor and his enchanting lady.

Professor Don Killjoytea continued, “my Delores have I spied in the dark of the night, whispering to the walls, while weeping that she be condemned to live forevermore with the noise of a monster that torments her soul, while subject to and dependent its unreliable and erratic power. An end to the suffering of my Delores we achieve today Sancho, I say to you, and with that may I henceforth win back her eternal grace!”

“Here we are!” exclaimed Killjoytea while gazing up at the nearest turbine, “what ghastly dragons are they that beat their wings unremittingly, disturbing the still of the country and the peace of nature. Do Shut Up You Tyrants!”

“When making acoustic or indeed any measurements,” offered Sancho, “it is important to remain open about the final results, even if they may seem unintuitive at first. I suggest we instead carry out blind acoustic measurements, sir, for we seem to have drawn our conclusions before collecting any data.”

“Bring the equipment to me dear Sancho” said the professor while standing in the grand shadow of a wind turbine, “but not our microphones,” he said to his student who was digging through the collection of equipment stacked in the professor’s sidecar, “they will not do here, but rather collect my rope with which we shall lasso these beasts and drag them ingloriously to the ground.”

“I am sorry sir, but your rope will not achieve the downfall of such a gigantic structure as we possess neither the strength nor the project funds to bring down whole wind turbines,” replied Sancho, who had now found the professor’s rope. 

“Yes, you have found it! Tremendous work my boy! Now bind that dragon by the neck as high as you dare climb with the end of the rope fastened here to our chariot.”

Not understanding the professor’s seemingly exotic acoustic measurement methods, the trusty student nonetheless followed his professor’s wishes. The turbine’s tower was now bound and connected to the motorcycle.

“A beast is only as mighty as his natural frequency! That he may look indestructible, the outside being a hardened surface, but the belly is soft and liable to vibrational disturbance. Let us collapse him by way of harmonic vibration. My calculus behooves us to make a sole revolution of the beast every five seconds and with it, the application of the maximum sideways force with which our chariot may convey,” said the professor.

The professor ignited his motorcycle with sidecar and said, “come Sancho, enter the sidecar for we may need the entire centrifugal force a professor, his chariot and humble PhD student are able to generate!”

“That is ok, sir,” answered Sancho, “I prefer to monitor the experiment at a sensible distance here, at a distance at least twice that of the height of the wind turbine. I shall assume the role of the look-out, monitoring the scene for farmers, potential owners of their industrial equipment and other peoples lacking sympathy for both our methodology and modern science.”

“Well you were never cut out for experimentation, dear Sancho; you lack the daring and creative spirit with which the very best of us are blessed. Very well then, I shall perform the experiment unescorted, while you keep close temporal record of my rate of revolution. Once every five seconds Sancho, not a fraction less or more,” replied the professor.

The professor rode circles around the wind turbine, applying as much tension to the rope bound to the tower of the turbine as he could, while his student, by hand signaling and yelling, ensured the professor whirled precisely one revolution every five seconds corresponding, according to the professor’s laborious calculations, to the fundamental natural frequency of the wind turbine’s tower.

The old wind turbine started to sway noticeably, but whether that is accountable to the vicious rotary action of Professor Killjoytea and his motorcycle with sidecar, or because of the quickening of the wind, Sancho could not tell. Further measurements were likely required to separate out these effects he thought, for it was a very old turbine having survived and carefully been cared for over many generations, having been built at the height of the golden industrial age, where from every man-made structure oozed milk and honey to provide for the great washed and manicured masses. Just before Sancho was beginning to feel sorry for the poor wind turbine, he was immediately grabbed from behind.

“What is the meaning of this you….you…IDIOTS!!!” screamed a man waving his hoe at Sancho after spinning the poor student around. “Tell your stupid friend to stop this right now!” he implored gesturing with hoe at the professor.

“Sorry mister,” replied Sancho, “we are here to make some acoustic measurements, and are financed by the good state to do so. Please leave us in peace so that society will be rewarded with high quality data.”

“What? Come away from there you … IDIOT!” yelled the man at the professor, before turning to Sancho to say “who are you and why do you come to ruin one of our last functioning wind turbines? I am the owner of this land and the turbine, which is now vital for the milling of our harvested grain.”

The circling of the professor together with the rotation of the turbine’s blades, who had gathered speed to capture the stronger winds made an explosive periodic percussion, what with the slow *whoosh … whoosh … whoosh* of the blades, together with the *vroom … vroom … vroom* of the professor completing his orbit of the tower, Sancho began to have a harder time hearing the farmer. For his part, the professor had not even noticed the arrival of the irate farmer and his waving of hoe, but continued with all his determination to circle at a constant rate, willing the swaying and then destruction of the machine.

“That is fascinating mister,” said Sancho to the farmer, “I did not catch all of that, however. I do apologise. Correct me if I am mistaken, but do you suggest to me here that the turbine before us is so arranged not to produce the flow of electricity, but to mill the grain you have harvested from these very fields?”

Sancho was struck by delight at the ingenuity of this piece of information upon which the farmer had conferred, thinking that he had even found his thesis topic, which he may finally write and be rid of the crazy professor. He thought little of his current topic, suggested by the professor, to place a cat on a wind turbine’s nacelle, for scaring away birds lest they be batted from the sky.   
“Please allow me to introduce, firstly, the man on the motorcycle with sidecar, who so diligently joyrides around your machinery, followed by myself,” said Sancho. “Together, we are Professor Don Killyjoytea and I am Sancho, his trusty PhD student.”

It is unfortunate that Sancho’s otherwise polite and respectful introduction was periodically interrupted by the whooshing of the wind turbine and the vrooming of the professor’s motorcycle, because this cumulative noise drowned out certain important intermediate words critical to the correct understanding of Sancho’s introduction, at least in the absence of any background noise, which together resulted in the farmer hearing,

“We …. Don … Sancho…,” which, in a Chinese whispers sort of way, one could then forgive the poor farmer for hearing instead,

“MONSANCHO!” screamed the farmer. “You cruel sick bastards! Will you never cease with your crude methods of harassment and litigation, which cripples the honest hard work of small-time farmers such as myself and others in the humble community of La Nienburg!”

That the first names of the professor and the student together sounded very close to the agricultural company that had monopolised the milling of all grains produced in La Nienburg and beyond and thus, for lacking the pressure of honest market competition, had progressed to charging criminally-sized fees for the service of milling and then storing the grain, which, with an ingenious modification to some of the local, albeit aged wind turbines, the farmers had cunningly circumvented, by using instead the rotary action of the wind turbine to mill the grain directly, while storing it in the long silos which doubled as the turbines’ towers.

As Sancho was considering the idea of writing his thesis on the heightened efficiency of this new brilliant methodology, since generating electricity and delivering it over an enormous distance to power a mill seemed to be rather dim of wit compared with using the generator shaft itself to power a mill directly, the farmer had resolved to take prompt action against the professor whom he deemed to be the vandalizing agent of a highly deplored agricultural company. Projecting his hoe horizontally with the handle outstretched and blade butted against his upper arm, the farmer charged on foot towards the orbiting professor who was now, understandably, becoming dizzy after numerous circumnavigations of the turbine’s tower, and thus could not reasonably be expected to foresee a surprise attack of such nature.

“HAHHHH!” shouted the farmer as his makeshift lance directly struck just below the shoulder of the circling professor, who was thrown spinning, now about his own personal axis, from his motorcycle with sidecar, to land heavily to the ground. While seeing the motorcycle come to a chugging halt, Sancho realized that he had probably just witnessed some of the finest jousting seen in these parts for a good one thousand years, and the unlucky professor’s dizziness was now likely manifest in two degrees of rotational freedom.

The farmer, now returning to confront Sancho, said, “and you, what did you say your name was, boy?”

“I am Sancho, PhD student of the professor you have laid out so skillfully.”

“Sancho aye”, replied the farmer, “that sounds foreign; you’re not from around here are you boy?”

“Not at all mister, but I am, but I am! I am proud to be born and bread in these fine, if unspectacularly terrained parts,” replied Sancho.

“Yeah, well what’s your last name then asked the farmer,” while pointing his hoe handle threateningly at Sancho.

“Mannn, I am Sancho Mannn, son of the famous death metal folk duo Roberto and Julie Mannn,” said Sancho.

“What? Why the three n’s?” asked a confused farmer.

“Why two?” answered Sancho.

Meanwhile, the professor had risen to his feet having realised what had happened, and started charging at the farmer in a rage. Sancho glanced up at the professor, pleased to see he was healthy again, but which caused the farmer to face in the professor’s direction and hold his hoe at the ready. Unfortunately, the professor, still dizzy from very recent exploits, and whilst attempting to charge towards the farmer, instead, stumbled dizzily away, which, when viewed from above, tracked a perfect parabolic path away from the farmer and Sancho, before tripping and then collapsing heavily to the ground after losing his balance, to remain grounded and dazed for the present time being.

The farmer, now turning again to Sancho, said “take your accomplice and disappear from my land.”

The farmer then ventured to the motorcycle resting by the turbine’s tower, placed his hoe in the side car, untied the rope and drove the motorcycle away, to leave the poor Sancho and his dizzy, wounded professor to discover novel means back to the town of La Nienburg.