Discharge of the Light BrigadebyMudak©
Dr. Gabriel Wilson paced back and forth in front of the dry erase board in his laboratory, examining the equations and formulas that he had written there, staring at the noticeable blank space into which he hoped to put the final piece of this puzzle.
"I need something that facilitates oxidization. I need something renewable. I need... I..."
Tiffany, his student assistant, perked her head up. "Did you figure it out?"
"I.. I think so!"
He ran back to his computer and typed in a few words. The silence in the laboratory accentuated the sound of him clicking on his mouse button a few times.
Tiffany cautiously stood up and approached her mentor. Before she could get too close, he yelled out, "Yes!"
He walked back over to the dry erase board and quickly scribbled some information into the blank space, ignoring the physics major whom he advised.
"C'mon Dr. Wilson! Talk to me!"
He sighed deeply and smiled. "Could you please pull down the map of the world over there?"
"Um, sure." She did as he requested "What are we doing with the map?"
"Do you know where the Black Sea is, Tiffany?"
"Yeah. That's over here to the south of Russia, right?" She looked at the map and, after looking at both the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, found the correct body of water on the map.
"Do you know why it's called the Black Sea?"
"Um, I, er, well...." Tiffany decided that this was one question she couldn't bluff her way out of. "No, I don't think so."
"If you take a piece of silver and dip it into the waters of this oversized lake, your silver will turn black."
"Yes. It's nothing more than a combination of sulfur and the oxidization of the metal, but the ancient Russians obviously wouldn't have known that. It's perfectly safe, and, in fact, the water is quite healthful."
"And you think the water from the Black Sea is what you need to perfect your invention?"
"I do. Do you see that diamond-shaped spit of land at the north end of the sea?"
"That's the Crimean Peninsula. Very historic place. Obviously, the Crimean War was fought there. But it was also the base of operations for Genghis Khan from when he invaded Russia. And, of course, the city of Yalta, at the southern tip of the peninsula, is where Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill met in one of their most important conferences to end World War II. It's really a beautiful place. Also, both Aleksandr Pushkin and Anton Chekhov found a fair amount of inspiration from the beauty of the place, too. If you get a chance you should read the poem 'The Fountain of Bakhchisarai' or the short story 'Lady with a Lapdog.'"
"The Fountain of what?"
"Bakhchisarai. It's sometimes referred to as the fountain of tears because of the way water drips through it. Pushkin visited it and started the tradition of putting two roses on the fountain in honor of the people for whom it was designed."
Tiffany opened her mouth to speak, but she couldn't quite put the words together to suggest that she was interested in joining the professor if he was going halfway across the world to a place of such supposed history and beauty.
"Would you like me to see if I can get approval from the university to bring you with me?"
Tiffany responded immediately and enthusiastically. "Yes!"
"I can't make any promises, of course. And if you are allowed to come with me, you're going to need to make sure you've got all of your vaccinations straight. Do you have a passport?"
He smiled broadly. She obviously didn't realize what his new invention was supposed to do. All he knew was that he had been silently lusting after Tiffany ever since he was named her advisor. This invention, if it works, would be a great way to turn some of his fantasies with this girl -- or any other girl for that matter -- into reality. "Let me talk to the Dean."
"Thank you, Professor. Could you tell me the name of that poem I should check out again?"
"I'll write it down for you."
"Thank you again."
"Keep your fingers crossed. I'll let you know when I hear something."
Chapter 1 -- Arrival
As their airplane landed in Simferopol, the capital city of the Crimea, Tiffany looked over at her professor and smiled. "It's good to finally be here."
"Yup. I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to getting into a nice comfortable bed and sleeping."
"Me, too. We can do our research in the morning."
"Agreed. Out of curiosity, did you have the chance to read the poem I told you about?"
"You mean the one about the fountain of tears? Yes! It was beautiful."
"Well, maybe if we have the time at the end of the week, we'll go check it out."
"That would be cool."
The pilot of the plane went over the loudspeaker in the plane and spoke in Ukrainian, Russian, German, and English, to announce their arrival and to inform everyone that the local time was 8:24 pm. Tiffany and Dr. Wilson both looked at their watches and adjusted the time.
She smiled at her advisor. "So we're seven hours ahead of home, huh?"
"Looks like it."
They deboarded the plane and found their way through the somewhat small airport to the baggage pickup. Dr. Wilson was carrying the vital parts of his experiment with him because he didn't want it to get damaged by the handlers.
Once they retrieved their luggage, Tiffany looked at the professor again. "What's the name of our hotel?"
"Palmira Palace. They should have a shuttle to bring us there from here."
They followed the signs to an escalator, which they took downstairs to a place where drivers awaited their passengers. A man wearing sunglasses was holding a sign which bore the name of their hotel. A woman stood next to him, smiling.
Dr. Wilson approached the woman and spoke slowly. "My assistant and I have reservations at the Palmira."
"Yes, thank please. What is name?"
"My name is Gabriel Wilson, and my assistant is Tiffany Marquez." He looked at the woman's clipboard and pointed to both of their names as he said them.
"Yes. I trust you had safe flight?"
"It wasn't too bad, thank you."
"We await one other family. When they arrive, we depart."
Dr. Wilson and Tiffany stepped away from the representatives of the hotel. He scowled at his student. "I saw you snickering while I was confirming our ride to the hotel. What was so funny?"
"I'm sorry, but she sounded almost exactly like Natasha from the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. I started wondering if he sounded like Boris. It was all I could do not to ask her to say, 'Moose and squirrel'."
"And I'm sure they can hear something in our voices to make fun of, too."
"Yeah, I guess you're right."
A man cautiously approached the driver and his assistant to take them to the hotel. After a short while, he indicated for two people to join him. Tiffany guessed that the three of them were taking a family vacation. The daughter, she surmised, was about her own age.
The five tourists followed their guides to a large van and got in. The man with the sunglasses helped store their luggage. Dr. Wilson held onto his carry-on bag tightly.
Rather than make a scene, the driver and his assistant let the professor keep his bag.
Once they started moving, Tiffany tried to engage the other family in small talk. "You guys here on vacation? Ever been here before?"
The daughter looked at her and said, "Entshuldigung?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. I don't speak ... whatever language it is you're speaking."
Dr. Wilson leaned over Tiffany and whispered, "German."
"That was German?"
"Yes. She said, 'Excuse me.' Yalta is quite popular among the Germans."
"I see." Tiffany looked at the daughter again and asked, "Do you speak English?"
"A small bit."
"Where are you from?"
"Berlin. And you?"
"Why have you to Yalta come?"
"Research," Dr. Wilson interrupted the conversation. The daughter saw the look on his face and quickly turned away.
For the remainder of the trip, the two groups of tourists chatted amongst each other, pausing, as necessary, to listen to the tour guide point out historical points of interest. Tiffany perked up when the guide said something about the town of Bakhchisarai, and the center of the "Khanstvo" where Genghis Khan had maintained his base.
The ride from the airport to the hotel, in the end, took a little bit less than two hours through a somewhat mountainous terrain.
When they finally arrived at their hotel, Dr. Wilson and Tiffany were treated regally and escorted up to adjacent rooms. After her luggage arrived, Tiffany stepped out onto the balcony, and admired the beautiful scenery of this resort town.
She inhaled deeply as she took in the beauty of a deep blue sky, with two or three clouds floating by. The sky was reflected in the calm waters of the Black Sea. She looked off to her left and saw a green mountain that dipped directly into the water.
She took a picture of this scene with her camera and walked back into her room. After she changed into her nightgown, she lay down in the bed and quickly fell asleep.
Chapter 2 -- On the Beach
The following morning, Tiffany woke up and decided again to look out over the sea from her balcony. She was still somewhat amazed that she was here, with her favorite professor and advisor. A moment of peace swept over her. She closed her eyes and let out a deep, contented sigh.
She listened to the sounds of the birds flying around the water and on the beach below. As their calls echoed around her, she thought more about Dr. Wilson. Would she have the chance to tell him that she'd always thought he was somewhat attractive, in a geeky kind of way? That part of the reason why she was so eager to come to this place with him was to see if he had even an iota of interest in her? Even if she had the chance to do so, should she? Or would that be crossing some line of impropriety?
After a few short moments, Dr. Wilson stepped out onto his balcony. He glanced over at her and smiled. "Did you get a good sleep?"
"Yes." After a short pause, he picked up again. "Are you ready to go down to the water?"
"I just need to change into my bathing suit."
"I do too. I'll come by your room in fifteen minutes, if that's all right."
As promised, the professor knocked on her door fifteen minutes later. Tiffany smiled as she opened the door, buttoning the last button on the white blouse she was using to cover the top half her black bathing suit. She adjusted her white skirt and told her advisor, "Let me just put my sandals on and I'll be ready to go."
"Take your time."
She looked at him. Judging by his outfit, she would have guessed he was about to give a lecture back home, not hanging out on the beach. "You could dress a bit more, um, casually."
"I just don't want you seeing my legs."
Tiffany wanted to say that she didn't mind. Instead she just laughed. "But won't you want to get into the water?"
"Maybe later. After I'm done with the experiment."
She let out a sigh. "All right."
"But if you want to get in the water once we're down there, you're more than welcome to."
The two of them headed out of the hotel and down the winding path that leads to the beach. There was no shortage of street vendors selling just about anything they could find. Tiffany paused to admire a set of Russian nesting dolls and made a mental note for herself to come back here and see if she could still pick it up later.
As they got closer to the water, they saw more and more people sunbathing. Tiffany paused for a moment to stare. "Is this a nude beach?"
"Well, half of the women out there are only wearing a bikini bottom."
"I guess it's just more socially acceptable here than it is back home."
"I guess." Her voice trailed off. Looking around at some of the people on the beach, she chuckled to herself. There was a very attractive but topless woman playing ping-pong against two guys who looked like they were about her own age. She decided against saying anything about how the woman was bound to win that particular match.
"Please try not to stare."
She laughed but didn't say another word. Soon enough, they arrived at a spot near the slowly moving water. She threw down a blanket on the small rocks that made up the beach and kicked her shoes off. "Do you mind if I get in the water?"
"Be my guest. Let me know how it feels."
She took off her blouse and skirt, revealing a black one-piece bathing suit. He made every effort not to look like he was staring at her body, but this suit accentuated all of her curves to the point that he felt self-conscious about how he was feeling, as though his thoughts on display for anyone and everyone to see.
She stepped forward and dipped a toe into the water. "It's pretty warm, actually."
"I'm not surprised, this time of year."
"And so amazingly clear. I've never seen anything like it!"
"Look! A school of jellyfish!"
"But, they don't really, um.... you know, they don't look like... I mean, they're so... well, not, um, translucent."
Dr. Wilson laughed. "Remember. We're in a closed ecological system. You don't usually see these kinds in TV and in the movies. If those other swimmers are any indication, I don't think they'll hurt you."
Tiffany nodded but didn't want to move until the school had moved on. He laughed.
Once the reddish-colored fish had moved away from Tiffany, she pinched her nose and dove straight into the water.
When she surfaced a few seconds later, she shook the water out of her hair and walked slowly back towards the shore. "I could stay here on the beach forever!"
Dr. Wilson looked up from the flask he was filling with water from the sea, to tell her, "I would appreciate your help with my experiment."
"Fair enough. Where is it now?"
"Back at the hotel."
"Why'd you leave it there? Why didn't you bring it down here with you?"
"Because, um, it's kind of bright out here. It would help if we could be somewhere where we had some control over how bright or dark it is."
"Okay. That makes sense. Is that all you're doing, collecting water?"
"No. I can also prep some of the water for infusion into the unit when I get back up to my room."
"How long do you think that'll take?"
"I don't know. Maybe about a half hour or so..."
Although she didn't say anything, she wanted to stay here in the water for longer than that. She hoped her scowl made that point clear enough for her advisor.
He chuckled lightly. "We can stay down here for about an hour before we go back. We can always come back here later."
She dove back into the water and intentionally kicked some water up high enough to splash a few drops onto his clothes. He didn't react to this act.
He filled two more flasks and then dropped a small metal rod into each flask. He glanced down at the flasks and watched the small bubbles rise to the surface. He leaned back and watched his student enjoying the water. He let out a deep sigh as she splashed playfully in the water.
Chapter 3 -- Experimentation
After Tiffany had tired of swimming, they agreed to return to the hotel to put his invention to the test.
"All right, Tiffany. Before we do this, why is a flashlight a good test of this technology?" Two flashlights were laid out on the desk in his room. He picked up one and held it up before her.
"Because we can measure both the voltage of the battery and the brightness of the bulb itself."
"Correct. If this battery works properly, we will have an inexpensive, reusable source that creates unlimited energy. It'll be a stretch to adapt this to large electrical devices, like cars, buses, and planes, but it's a damn good start."
"So what do we do first?"
"We fill the battery," he said, pointing to the midsized black metal box that lay in the middle of the table. "Do you have the funnel?"
"Good! Now I need you to hold it ... here." He adjusted her hand to balance the funnel properly over the intake valve.
As his hand came in contact with hers, she let out a slight gasp. Fearing that this might have revealed something she wasn't entirely comfortable with, she started to giggle.
"What's so funny?"
"Oh, it's nothing. I thought of this last night and.. well, you'd... I'm not sure you'd appreciate it." Although this was true, she didn't want to admit the real reason for giggling.
He cracked a slight smile. "Try me."
"Well, you know that poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson? The Charge of the Light Brigade? Well, that took place around here, didn't it? In the Crimean War, right?"
"You've studied your history. Very good. So what's so funny?"
"Well, I guess you could say that we're the flashlight brigade. And we're charging it now. See the connection?"
"That's very clever." He smiled at her and she blushed.
Soon, the battery was ready for its first real test. He inserted the battery into the flashlight and screwed the cover shut. "I guess we should start by using nominal power, shouldn't we? We'll try the higher power levels later." He looked up at her.
She silently nodded agreement.
"Would you mind please turning out the lights?"
She smiled and switched off all of the lights in the room. A thin ray of light shone through the blinds behind him, but the room was otherwise quite dim, considering it was nearly noon on an otherwise beautiful day in this resort town.
As she was turning out the lights in the room, he slid the switch on the bottom of the flashlight to the N. Before he said or did anything else, he felt a slight pang of remorse, in the knowledge that he had misled her. While it was certainly plausible that the N would stand for nominal power, just as S could stand for semi-complete power, and C could have signified complete power, the reality was that these letters stood for "Nudity," "Sluttiness," and "Control." That is, if they worked properly.
"Are you ready to try it out, Dr. Wilson?"
"What? Oh, yes, I guess I'm just a little bit nervous, that's all."
"Don't blame you."
"Well, all right. Here goes." He grasped the flashlight firmly in his hand and aimed it at the wall, near where Tiffany stood. With his thumb, he pushed on the yellow power button.
They both paused as the machine started to emit a whirring noise. Gradually, the pitch of the noise increased and came to an abrupt stop. When the noise stopped, a thin but very bright beam of light penetrated the dimness of the room, visible in a circle that was barely larger than that of a standard flashlight from the same distance.
"That's brighter than I expected," Tiffany remarked.
"Me too, actually. We can measure the brightness in a minute. What's most important right now, is the fact that it actually works."
She glanced at the additional equipment that was stored neatly on a desk in the corner of the room. She found the small black box that measures the brightness of this light. "Do you want me break out the luminometer, Dr. Wilson?"
"Um, sure." She turned around and held her hand out with the brightness meter. When her hand entered into the beam of light, she stopped moving. Her expression slackened, and her hand loosened its grip on the meter. The sound of the meter falling on the floor was muffled by the carpeting.
She didn't respond to his call. By this point, her face had lost all expression and her pupils became visibly dilated.
He stared at her for a moment. He wasn't overly surprised at the fact that his student might as well now have been a mannequin, but there was still something disconcerting about this whole situation, too.
He took a deep breath and adjusted the beam of light to shine directly into her eyes. In spite of his shaky hands, he was able to hold the flashlight such that her mind absorbed all of the commands being generated by the flashlight. After what felt like an eternity, she closed her eyes.