The OCTAGON debriefing was for the benefit of high-profile businessmen like Walter. He was not yet officially connected with the government of the United States, aside from his bid for Governor. His business dealings were however already entrenched in defense contracts moving toward the future.
It was hot in Pasadena. Hot for winter. Hot for Walter. Walter departed the Samutpada raising a hand to his brow to shield his eyes from the bright Californian sun. His eyes scanned across the top of the range that met the horizon to the east. Not a single cloud encroached upon the vibrant, blue sky.
Walter stepped down off the departure ladder and looked around the airfield for his assistant from Portland. Not seeing his assistant, or anyone else he recognized, Walter went inside the skyport to use the telephone. Inside, Walter called Phineas to inquire about his transportation. While standing at the information desk, with phone in hand, a man in a black business suit and shaded glasses approached Walter.
“Excuse me, sir, Mr. Domini?” The man asked Walter, catching him by surprise.
Walter spun around from the desk and quickly sizing the man up.
“Sorry— no handouts.” Walter said dismissively.
“Sir I think we have a misunderstanding, if you are Walter Domini,” the man in black began to explain, but Walter quickly interrupted—
“I don’t carry cash and I’m not hiring— besides, can’t you see I’m busy?” Walter said, pointing at the phone receiver with his free hand.
“Sir, if we don’t leave now you’re going to miss the debriefing,” the man said with frustration.
Walter tossed the receiver onto the counter and began walking past the man towards the door. “Well?—let’s go then,” Walter said back to the man who was now beyond words.
The drive from the skyport to the conference locale was brief. Walter’s mind had been preoccupied with the Governor’s race and the construction of the Academy. Despite the short drive, Walter’s delay at the skyport had made him late to the meeting. When he entered the small conference auditorium, the Colonel paused and heads turned as Walter took his seat.
“As I was saying, the ability to transmute must not be regarded carelessly and without restraint. Given the exponential implications of such a tool, it has been decided, that the Academy for Alchemical Research (AFAR) is granted full funding for a thirty-year educational charter at the complex under construction in upstate New York.”
“The lapis, or Philosopher Stone as we have come to call it, must not be possessed by any individual uneducated by AFAR. AFAR will be recognized as the legislative, judicial, and executive authority for all henceforth alchemical activities both domestic and internationally.”
So that’s one thing the Big Three had discussed at OCTAGON, Walter thought.
It seemed as if though his plan of becoming the authority of alchemical technologies through pioneering the educational revolution was working. He now had credibility, resources, and infrastructure. Walter erected his ladder-to-the-top one rung at time. The next phase required the success of AFAR.
Synthesis and production of key elements still proved too costly for his plans. If he could construct a team of alchemical masters, armed with the power of the stone, they could produce the raw materials in surplus through elemental transmutation.
The stone itself was composited of rare minerals. The indoles used were only part; the substrate of the pearls. The conductivity lied in the YBCO superconducting crystal.
“In addition to the accommodations for Mr. Domini’s Academy, we are also announcing the development of practical application trans-resistance. Production is underway of silicon based transistors that will significantly augment our current technologies surrounding micro-processing. We’re one step closer to electronic flight systems.”
Walter had not reacted when the colonel had delivered the good news. To the rest in attendance, it appeared perhaps Walter hadn’t quite heard the colonel, but he had. The transistor news paled in consequence to the go-ahead for his Academy.
A weight had been lifted off Walter’s shoulders. Phineas would be pleased. Perhaps now he could divert his assistant’s efforts toward the politics. Transistors might have been the gateway to the stars, but for Walter, academics and policy were the keys to the world.
The Los Alamos facility was an impressive sight. An entire town had been erected surrounding the research labs buried deep under the desert sands. Seventy-five miles of subterranean tunnels burrowed through the ground beneath them stretching off in all directions.
The buildings of the town were plain by design. Many houses were built to house the families of the lab technicians. The sort of ticky-tacky one had come to expect of contemporary Americana; white houses, white picket fences, white people. Small grassy front lawns, artificially planted and maintained. The efficiency and duplicity of the scene sent shivers through Arwyn’s spine.
A lone General Store served the whole of the small community its necessities and stood prominently at the corner of the only crossroads in the town. Across the street on one side was the clinic. A single red cross on a white square designated its purpose on a sign above the door.
Across the other street from the little general was a large barracks for military personnel on duty. Adjacent to the barracks was the entrance to the laboratory complex. A solitary 10 foot cubed concrete building stood alone in a fenced in a field. Signs on entry informed visitors of the active minefield. The language is highly suggestive to not deviate from the assigned course.
Arwyn always walked a step behind Walter. Phineas had a tendency to stay at Walter’s side; always to the right. Arwyn found himself pondering the depth of his two companions’ relationship when the door to the concrete cube opened up before them with a loud hydraulic hiss.
The door itself looked to be made of 6 inch steel. Arwyn couldn’t help but size up the guard’s weapon as he made his way through the entry with Phineas and Walter. One of the guards shut the door behind him.
The cube was unlit at first. With his eyes muted, his hearing advanced to his primary sense and he could hear breathing. His own at first, but then also the heavy breathing of Phineas and the slight wheezing noise emanating from Walter. Before he could finish his sonar, the lights were turned on and the floor began to shake.
The room had come alive. The walls appeared to move, until Arwyn realized it was not the walls, but the floor, that was in motion. The floor was a mechanized lift that began lowering the three of them deep into the complex.
An analog display showed their progress on a meter above the door they had entered through. The lift stopped at SL8. The door to the room remained closed. From behind the closed door, the sound of another door opening could be heard. Three loud knocks rapped the door in front of the men.
Phineas leaned in and rapped a sequence of two quick knocks followed by a brief pause, then one solitary knock. The security feature was a surprise to Arwyn given the secrecy and isolation of the base. He had been working with LAX remotely from Pasadena since his return from New York, but had never once seen the matrix that he and the Cal-lab crew had designed for the construction of a philosopher stone.
Arwyn didn’t understand why there was a need for such a level of secrecy and safeguards for the manufacturing of the mere substrate used in the lapis. The facility housed a transmutation circle capable of forging a stone, but the first attempt had been a complete failure. It was after the death of the lead alchemist it had been decided the fusion process should only be attempted by the absolute best. It had been the precedent for Walter to assert his influence of ensuring AFAR as such an authority.
Arwyn had been selected as the next candidate in question and their visit was to secure the substrate required for an additional attempt. An identical transmutation lab had been established in Pasadena, and that is where Arwyn would make humanity’s second attempt at forging a philosopher stone.
Passing through the secured door, the three men walked down a long straight corridor lit by ceiling lamps in 3 foot intervals. The fifth and ninth lights were out as they passed underneath them. At the end of the hall way a solitary guard stood watch in front of another vault door. The guard opened the door on their approach and the three of them entered the secure cool room of the facility where the indoles and other substrates were kept.
A technician in a white body garb with dark black goggles approached them carrying a tray. Atop the tray were three elements: a 500 ml vial of florescent blue liquid; a clear glass jar contained what appeared to be several ounces of processed substrate; and an obsidian rectangular prism.