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Jul 25 12 12:55 AM

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This is a rewrite of my D-Engine contest entry. I realized by looking at the other two finalists that I had made a critical mistake -- while they had produced something exciting to read, I produced just a list of facts. Not surprisingly, I came in last among the finalists by a wide margin. I wrote this shortly after the realization, but did not post before the end of the contest because I felt it would be unfair. Now that the contest is ended, I can post it.

1: The Dimensional Engine

Azathoth, omnipotent yet insensate, exists in the center of all. Azathoth created the universe, and maintains the universe, and one day Azathoth will destroy it. This is all shown to be true by arcane theory. Yet the theory also shows that not all the destructions are complete. Sometimes, fragments of the universes remain -- battered and less than what they were, but even a remnant of a universe is still vast beyond measure.

The Ashcroft Foundation learned to tap into one of these previous universes, and found it to be full of what they termed N-Stuff (N for non). It was neither matter nor energy, and the scientists were able to transfer a quantity of it to our universe. Their plan was to analyze it for pure research. Instead they changed the world.

Once the N-Stuff was brought over, it could not exist in our laws of reality. So it transformed into conventional matter and energy, that could exist. The laboratory was filled with vibrations and lights and sounds and exotic gasses and strange alloys. The physicists were delighted beyond measure. Because some easy computations showed that more energy had come out of the N-stuff than had been required to access it.

The Ashcroft Foundation had, before this, assumed that arcane theory would be like high energy physics, with practical applications few and far between. Now they had produced an actual overunity device, something which had before been the sole province of kooks and charlatans. It was the work of many months to learn to refine the effect so that only pure electricity came through the rift, but they succeeded. The Dimensional Engine was born.

The D-Engine is the perfect energy source. The cost per kilowatt-hour is zero, as the D-Engine requires no external input. It produces nothing but electricity. Thus there are no greenhouse gasses, pollutants, hard radiation or destructive extraction of fossil fuels or uranium. Within a few years of the D-Engine's creation, the world's power plants had been gutted and replaced with rack upon rack of D-Engines which produced ten times as much power. There are trillions of years worth of N-stuff even by the most pessimistic estimates, so no one is worried about it running out.

2: The Acceleration-Pod

While the main focus of the Ashcroft Foundation was on using the N-stuff to produce electricity, some scientists worked on the strange vibrations that had rocked the room when the N-Stuff was first brought over. What had caused those motions. Eventually they realized some of the N-Stuff
transformed into gravity. Again the rift had to be fine-tuned, but alongside the D-Engine the Foundation was able to produce another miracle -- the Acceleration-Pod, or A-Pod. It consisted of another rift, combined with a complicated system of conductors and waveguides that, in the few moments before the N-Stuff decays into gravity, moves it to the appropriate location so that it decays with the magnitude and direction desired.

The first application of the A-Pod was the most obvious -- transportation. Gravity control makes flying an aircraft, or even a spacecraft, almost as simple as pointing at a location on a map, or orbital atlas, and saying "go there". It gives a reactionless drive that produces universal VTOL capability. There are limits to the acceleration an A-Pod can produce and still be small enough to lift itself, so most aircraft rely on scramjets for propulsion instead. The only limit on what a plane can do in 2087 is friction on the airframe -- go too fast, and it melts. Acceleration on both pilot and vehicle is also of much less concern, since the A-Pod deadens the effect.

Putting the A-Pod network into structures proved very fruitful as well. Rooms with enhanced or zero gravity transformed human endeavors as varied as manufacturing, refining, science, sports, medicine and sex. They provided artificial gravity on the lost offworld colonies and space stations, eliminating the medical concerns of prolonged exposure to different gravities. They could also provide motive force, producing new forms of mass transit, package delivery and even plumbing. Much of the reason to build the arcologies was to use these technologies to their fullest advantage.

3: The Distortion Cell

When the Ashcroft Foundation published arcane science, it knew that other researchers would come up with novel applications. Even so, it was amazed at how quickly the Distortion Cell was invented. The idea was simple and elegant. One started to produce a dimensional rift to the N-stuff universe, but stopped before the process was complete. The result was a chronal distortion that could be made stable, and which took energy to produce -- and thus by the laws of thermodynamics, energy could be extracted from it. In other words, a half-finished dimensional rift could be used as a battery. And not just any battery, but one more compact and with higher energy density than anything possible to make with chemisty, even in theory.

The D-Cell allowed the creation of personal electronics that could go months without recharging. It also allowed for power armor, and for gauss weapons.

4: The OESE and Mecha

Almost as soon as the D-Engine was produced, attempts were made to produce vehicles powered by it. These were stymied not by mechanical issues, but by the fact the D-Engine produced a violent form of motion sickness in all the passengers. The fossil fuel and nuclear industry seized on this to make it seem the D-Engine was unsafe, and for a while it looked like the transformative potential would be halved.

Eventually the solution was found by neuroscientist David Spencer, who realized the D-Engine stimulated latent psychic power -- but blindly. The operator's aura tried to link with the vehicle, and since the vehicle had a different shape than the human body had evolved for it failed. The OESE Nullifier was then developed.

David Spencer, like all scientists, then moved onto another concern. What would happen if the vehicle were shaped like the human body? Teaming up with mechanical engineer Samantha Raines, he obtained a grant to build such a vehicle. In 2038 the first mecha, a frail and crude thing, took its first steps, with Dr. Spencer at the controls.

The results were -- impossible. The mecha didn't just work, thanks to the OESE it worked better than the laws of mechanical engineering said it could. It was more stable than its center of gravity allowed it to be. It was more maneuverable than its inertia allowed it to be. It lifted weights twice as heavy as its servos were capable of supporting, and damaged them much less than Dr. Spencers inexpert handling should have. He marched it onto a patch of mud it should have sunk into up to the waist, yet it only sunk in up to the ankles. It was clear, even in those first minutes, that this was something new under the sun.

In 2042 the first commercial mecha equipped with an OESE Enhancer was built. The SR-18 (Spencer-Raines 18th model) was intended for rescue work, and proved itself in the Oregon Tsunami. It managed terrain no other vehicle could, lifted heavier weights than a crane, cleared more debris than a bulldozer, and each three required less maintenance than one of either. If twice as many had been available, ten times as many lives could have been saved.

Military minds noticed. It was soon clear, even from their first prototypes, that mecha would transform warfare. The could carry larger guns than even mobile artillery, handle the recoil better, required less maintenance, were easier to train recruits on, and could handle terrain previously considered impassible to vehicles. Without the OESE a military mecha was a joke, but with the OESE they were the biggest advance since gunpowder.


5: Other Considerations

The economic impact of arcane science was both positive and negative. On the one hand, cheap power and transport produced an economic boom, bringing Africa into the modern age at last. Clean water became available for all, because free power made desalinization practical. On the other hand, the fact that oil, gas and uranium were no longer needed caused many countries, especially in the Middle East, to suffer economic and social collapses as the oil revenues they depended on vanished. These collapses would lead directly to the Second Cold War.

Dimensional rifts are arcane science, and not comprehensible to ordinary minds. However conventionally trained craftsmen, engineers and mechanics can deal with the technological components that produce the rift by rote, and thus can manufacture, maintain and even repair them in the same way their 20th century equivalents could work on cars while having no knowledge of thermodynamics or metallurgy.

Power technology in the 21st century is like computer technology in the 20th -- generation, storage and transmission of power increases geometrically as the years go by, after a hundred years of staying still. The power grid was standardized worldwide when it was being revamped for the D-Engine, so you can go anywhere in the world, with any device, and recharge it anywhere.

Arcane technology did not bring about paradise, even before the Nazzadi Invasion. But the Ashcroft Foundation was not naive enough to believe that it would. They hoped that they could make the world a better place through ending much of the world's economic hardship, and perhaps even anticipated this would reduce conflict in turn. Had they had even the slightest inkling of what would happen instead, they would have burned their notes, wiped their files, and smashed their prototypes to bits.

Cthulhu is coming! Look busy!