Les Sklaroff

A non-Damascene conversion?

I was threading my way back to the reserved table when a familiar voice distinguished itself from the general hubbub. "... a whole new level of capability" it was saying in that well-polished, softly accented Central European English. "Groundbreaking stuff," it added, with a satisfying throaty roll of each 'r'. Then followed the mischievous giggle I remembered from his 'eccentric boffin' days, before he shunned publicity, when he used to keep young television viewers enrapt with his lectures and demonstrations, and which undoubtedly inspired the scientific interests of at least two generations.

Not as vociferous as Dawkins
I didn't have the temerity to intrude, but paused nearby long enough to overhear a little more. "...effectively making explosives redundant..." he was saying. "and we can all testify that it could not have been achieved without faith." I could hear cries of assent from his colleagues.

In a state of some excitement I rejoined my friends. "Guess who's sitting at the table behind that pillar?" I demanded, in what I contrived to make a discreet whisper, pointing surreptitiously through my left shoulder. Before they had time to consider, I told them. "It's Max Vorlek!" The response was not encouraging. "Vor-lek!" I enunciated carefully. I spread the fingers of my left hand and began tallying. "Cloud-fountains, the paramagnetic battery, compound polytopes." I continued to be met with faintly puzzled stares. I was undaunted. "Latticed carbothenes, multiphasic resonance-dampers." I had temporarily run out of fingers. "The Boojum Hypothesis," I reminded them, sitting back smugly.

Light began to dawn. "Oh, that inventor chap..."

"Didn't he refuse some award...?"

"I thought he was dead."

"Wasn't he on 'The Muppet Show'?"

"Oh yes, the one with that weird theory..."

"He's a one-man innovation factory." I said. "A practical engineer with an amazing grasp of different areas of scientific knowledge, and more original ideas to his credit than Edison or Tesla or even Bucky Fuller. Of course, with every new idea he proposed, the scientific establishment largely turned a deaf ear, or tried to discredit him. Anyway, he's obviously on to something new." I told them what I had overheard, adding, "What really surprised me was that reference to faith. He's always been a staunch atheist - not as vociferous as Dawkins, maybe, but certainly opposed to anything remotely supernatural." We agreed it was curious, and speculated on the psychology of sudden conversion, and on the possible nature of Vorlek's new discovery. Then our food arrived, and we became too preoccupied even to notice when Vorlek and his companions had left.

Two weeks later the world's attention was suddenly drawn to Bolivia, where a section of the Andes, specifically one of the lesser peaks of the Cordillera Real, the Pequeño Alpamayo, had temporarily vanished. Not obscured by cloud, but cleanly sheared off. Temporarily, because the entire mass was restored after four hours and nineteen minutes, having spent that period of time resting neatly over the southern border in the Atacama desert. Satellite images confirmed the bizarre reality of this event, corroborated by seismographical and gravimetric readings.

The culprit, as we learned soon enough, was Max Vorlek. He had not, at it happened, undergone a religious conversion, but he had conceived of, designed, and with the help of a dedicated team, developed a teleportation device which would literally change the world. He called it, somewhat grandly, a 'field-activated ion translocation hypertool', but it became better known by its acronym.

And yes, it could move mountains.

© L J Sklaroff 2011 All Rights Reserved

Date and time of last update 13:38 Sat 18 Jun 2011
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