The next day, early in the morning, somebody knocks. It’s about 6:00 local time. Who could it be this early? By measuring, Mittens found out a day on this planet is about 1/6 longer than on Earth. So one day here is about 28 Earth hours. To accommodate this, my clock has been adjusted, so every hour here is 70 minutes. It’s not such a big deal to get used to. According to Mittens, with the right stimuli, the body gets used to longer days up to 32 Earth hours quite quickly. In fact, I didn’t even notice the longer days until Mittens told me about it last night.
I open the door, it’s Nobu.
“Good morning, did you use it?”
“No, but why…”
“Please return the bag, I made a mistake and gave you the undiluted bag.”
“Erm, you see, I’ve given it to the flying home to process it. It used it as fuel.”
“You used it as fuel?”
“I wasn’t planning on using it, and I didn’t want to refuse the gift. Do you need it?”
“It’s quite a loss, yes, but I was more worried about the two of you.”
“Because overdosing it is dangerous?”
“Yes, that’s why I usually dilute the powder before I give it to other people.”
“Say, how you even get your hands on it? The flying home has information on that stuff, it doesn’t seem to occur naturally, at least not where I’m from.”
“You get it from boiling certain mushrooms. They are rare and one single mushroom is about one dose you need for a passionate night. But those mushrooms taste terrible.”
“And the taste doesn’t go into the water?”
“It does, but while boiling it down it vanishes with the water.”
He seems like a nice guy, after all. Should I offer him to synthesize the compound? No, I don’t want to do anything with that stuff. Plus, all but Rowans only know the shuttle can synthesize metals. That’s a misunderstanding I’d like to keep that way. I should rather synthesize some special alcoholic beverage and gift Nobu that. I can still lie and say I found it in the storage of the shuttle.
“Please wait here, I’ll be right back.”
I go to the shuttle.
“Good morning, Aster!” Mitten greets me, “are you thinking about synthesizing compound C-24F-51? I don’t…”
“No, don’t worry, that idea is already rejected,” I interrupt Mittens, “instead, I want to gift him some alcoholic beverage. Can we synthesize them without mock alcohol?”
“We can, I just need to adjust the schematics.”
“Please do that. Also, please choose a suitable one for me.”
A few minutes later, a glass bottle with a green liquid appears. I take the bottle, go back to the door and hand it to Nobu.
“What’s that?” he asks.
“It’s… it’s green,” I answer. Damn, I should have asked Mittens what it is.
“I don’t know what it’s called anymore. But I know it’s strong alcohol. I found it in the flying home and I don’t have a use for it, but I think you might like it. Be careful, it is on the strong side.”
“Thanks. Since there’s no danger to Rowan or you, I can go home in peace and get some sleep. I’ll try this as well given the opportunity,” Nobu answers, “Good Night!”
Nobu leaves and I close the door behind him.
“You had Mittens create it, didn’t you?” Rowan asks.
“Yes, but that takes energy. Getting Banum from time to time could help with that. But as with all tools, the replicator needs maintenance too, and I can’t provide it.”
“So that’s the reason you were taking up hunting.”
“Yes, I’ll eventually have to live without it,” I answer, “Mittens, come to think of it, has converting material to energy any adverse effect on the replicator yet?”
“I have not detected any anomalies yet,” Mittens answers, “matter to energy conversion drives some transistors at a higher load than usual.”
“How would the failure of those transistors affect the replicator?”
“The replicator would not be able to produce any fine materials anymore. Gaining energy from matter would still be possible.”
“Can the replicator be modified so those transistors aren’t driven that hard?”
“While converting matter to energy those transistors are not used to regulate energy, switching those lines to simple conductors would solve suffice.”
“Prepare the schematics.”
“I don’t get anything the two of you just discussed,” Rowan says.
“Gaining energy from material like Banum isn’t what the replicator was meant to do. From what Mittens tells me, all that could happen is it losing the ability to produce materials. But with some modifications to the replicator, I can prevent it to a certain degree.”
“That sounds great.”
“Do we have anything to do today?”
“No, nothing in the morning. Uncle Nell will be coming in the afternoon.”
“Then I can make the modifications now. Let’s go to the shuttle.”
In the shuttle, Mittens displays the schematics on the screen. The power line that I need to switch is next to an unused one, lucky me! There’s also an unused port on the controller.
“Most manufactures believe teleporting technology will be possible soon,” Mittens says.
“So this unused line is actually meant to carry that energy,” I complete Mittens conjecture.
Mittens synthesizes two controllable debounced switches, some wire and a line editing tool. According to the schematics, the section I need to work on is just behind the wall. I take off the protective panel. Yes, it’s exactly like as on the schematics. I check if the unused line is actually unused. No, it’s not connected to anything but ground on the far ends of the line. The unused port on the controller is free as well. I cut the line I need to bypass before and after the transistors. I apply the same cuts to the unused line and widen the cut to avoid shorts. Then, I put the switches on the line to connect the lines. Now, I just need to connect both switches to an unused port on the controller. And I’m done.
“That should do it, please make the needed changes to the programming, Mittens.”
“Changes have been added,” Mittens answers.
“So, now for the smoke test. What should we synthesize?”
“That green alcohol you gave Nobu seemed interesting,” Rowan states. I see his hair is slightly damp. I think he took a shower while I was working on the replicator. He really has taken a liking to the shower…
(PoV Change: Rowan)
Aster seems busy, so I’m going to the bathroom to take a shower.
“Come to think of it, the shower needs energy to function, doesn’t it?” I mumble.
“Yes, it does,” Mittens answers, “but heating and processing the water does not take much that much energy compared to synthesizing matter. In fact, that amount of energy is negligible.”
Negligible? “But it takes lots of wood just to heat the water!” I retort.
“Sure, you only can get so much energy from burning wood.”
“Are there better alternatives?”
“You can burn different types of fuel, but burning has its limits too.”
“So what do you do if you need energy beyond that?”
“You know, creating things in the replicator takes energy. Destroying things using that technology generates energy. That is just the gist of it. Destroying a single log nets you enough energy to heat enough water for an entire country to use for showers for years.”
I can’t imagine how much wood you would need for that. But being able to provide for an entire country… and creating things takes that much more energy?
“If the technology were perfect,” Mittens continues, “destroying a log gives you enough energy to create something that weights the same as the log you destroyed. But it is not perfect, so we lose some weight. That is also the reason why Aster was looking for heavier metals: destroying it for energy is much more efficient than destroying wood for energy.”
“I get it Aster is working on the replicator…”
“Yes, it is the tool that it used for all of this. If it were to break, he can’t make another one. All he can do is extend the energy reserves and the lifespan of the replicator.”
“Couldn’t he just make a new replicator with the current one?”
“For that to work, two things would be needed: you need to break it down to components small enough for the current replicator to create. With my assistance, that should be possible, but then Aster needs to assemble those parts. And he does not have training for that. If he makes a single mistake, it might not only kill him, but the whole village. It is too risky to consider.”
“Kill the whole village? Due to a mistake? You are joking, right?”
Is must be a joke!
“I am not. We are talking about quite a lot of energy here, an accident would result in that amount of energy running wild. Actually, just killing the village would be considered lucky in this case. Aster understands the risks, which is why he has not considered it.”
“I understand, it’s too risky.”
I do want to know what they to prevent those where Aster is from, but I feel I wouldn’t understand it. I barely understand Mittens’s explanation. No, that’s not accurate: I do understand it, Mittens ha broken it down to my level, but the scope is of everything is… unimaginable to me… my mind refuses to accept it.
“To reiterate the answer you were seeking: you using the shower doesn’t have a long-term effect on the shuttle.”
Oh, right, I was worried about using up too much energy by enjoying the shower! After the shower, I go back to where Aster is. He seems to have finished with whatever he was doing.
“What should we synthesize?” he asks.
“That green alcohol you gave Nobu seemed interesting,” I answer.
“Alright, what was it anyway, Mittens?”
“Its official name is…”, Mittens hesitates, “‘It is Green!’.”
Aster and I break into laughter. It’s a ridiculous name, but it’s fitting. A bottle with green liquid appears.
“Let’s save it for the evening,” Aster suggests.
“Yeah, it’s not even noon yet. It’s way too early to be drinking.”