Chapter 11: The Cloudless Storm
Planet Skyfire, Skyfire City, Skyfire Avenue, Zeus’ Jewelry Store
Lan Jue sat upon the sofa, quietly looking at the black metal box in front of him. Beside it sat the slip of paper containing the passwords Chu Cheng had given him.
Three years ago Lan Jue, in his arrogance, would never have thought to open the box. He’d have presented it to his employer without question.
Then again if this were three years ago, he also would have absolutely refused the assignment, since the owner and his brother had a relationship.
Now he had to see what the box contained. He had to know what he owed his brother for.
Placing a hand atop the box a beam of light emerged, it’s rays creating the image of a keyboard hanging in the air. In the same instant, a sixty-second countdown began.
Lan Jue did not input the password during his first attempt. It was as though he was unaware the three-line code was needed within that minute.
Watching the red holographic keyboard, his eyes betrayed deep consideration.
A minute passed quickly, and it seemed almost immediately the final ten seconds were ticking down.
Lan Jue stirred, his fingers stretching forth. They weren’t thick, and his hands were smooth and fairer than most women, but also somewhat larger.
Ten fingers began to flutter, as though they were caressing the skin of a lover. The naked eye was incapable of discerning where his fingertips pressed. The three-line code, completed in a single action, appeared upon the Cipher Box’s small screen.
An electronic ringing arose, the holographic keyboard dispersed, and two sides of the metal box drew out. They opened quickly, retreating layer by layer as the interior rose to reveal the goods within.
On Skyfire Avenue, Lan Jue was known as the Jewel Master – he was no stranger to the exquisite and masterful. But when he spied the contents of the box, the corners of his mouth couldn’t help but twitch ever so slightly. Muttering aloud, he said “A-Cheng, how will I ever be able to repay this favor?”
Within the box a pale gold piece of metal rested. It was twenty centimeters long, fifteen centimeters wide, and ten centimeters thick. Though the object was made of gold, it emitted a pale blue halo.
The average onlooker might think it pretty, but Lan Jue knew precisely what it was. No wonder it was protected by password and convoy. No wonder they hired a Chief-Ranked Mecha-Pilot and Sixth Level Adept. What they carried…
Technetium is the byproduct of uranium fission from nuclear reactors. It is a metal that does not exist in nature, and can also be created by heating ammonium pertechnetate (Tc2S7) and ammonium sulfate in hydrogen gas at 500 to 600 degrees Celsius, then using electrolysis in a sulfuric acid solution to extract the metal. It melts at 2170℃, boils at 4877℃, and has a density of 11.5 g/cm3. It’s characteristics are similar to ruthenium, found in the same chemical family. At high temperatures technetium oxidizes to form Technetium Heptoxide (Tc2O7). It has a half-life of 2.13 X 10 years. It can be used a standard beta-emitter. A small amount (around 5 X 10 mol) of technetium ammonium sulfate used in steel plating can greatly reduce corrosion. Technetium, along with the molybdenum alloys, are also superconductive materials. It can only be produced in small quantities, with prices exceeding 2,800 New Era Dollars per gram.
In addition, refined Technetium is created when the metal undergoes intergalactic compression. One kilo of crude Technetium can produce between ten to twenty grams of it’s refined state.
Refined Technetium can be integrated into any alloy, infusing it with two unique characteristics; self-repair, and energy amplification.
Through the special properties emitted by Technetium, or perhaps some capacity of it’s morphology, it is capable of producing and amplifying a superconductive state, increasing available energies by a factor of three to five. The purer the refined Technetium, the more excessive it’s compression process, the greater it’s resulting power and amplification. In addition, a single gram of refined Technetium can endow ten kilos of metal with the capability of self-repair. Once melted and cast, only very specific types of destructive force could render it powerless – but it would never lose it’s shape. The lump of refined Technetium certainly didn’t look heavy, but in reality weighed more than twenty kilos.
In short, applying this element to the body of a Mech, would render it capable of repairing itself while simultaneously increasing it’s survivability and power exponentially.
Lan Jue couldn’t guess at the worth of the refined element. On the black market, one gram would fetch ten thousand New Era Dollars. But there was no market for it. The Three Alliances of the New Era together only produced less than a hundred kilos a year. And so, that piece of metal before him was the equivalent of two fifth’s a year’s output.
In general, refined Technetium was rarely used on Mechs. Due to their massive bulk there wasn’t ever sufficient quantities of refined Technetium to produce the desired effects. As a result it saw most of it’s use in personal combat weaponry and equipment.
It was no surprise they wanted to sell it, a piece this large was asking for trouble.
This piece of refined Technetium should certainly be given to A-Cheng. On all of Planet Luo, he’s the only one qualified to use it.
He closed the box, and the precious metal once more disappeared into it’s interior. Lan Jue’s eyes were awash in emotion, but his features quickly returned to a flat stoicism.
Lang Jue motioned with his left hand, and a screen lit up adjacent to the sofa revealing a four dimensional menu. Thin and agile fingers moved with deft speed to enter a string of numbers. The image on the screen began to shift.
Pearl appeared upon the screen, smiling as she looked at Lan Jue.
“If Zeus does it, it will be extraordinarily done.” Pearl’s tone was pleasant, but looking at her through the screen Lan Jue saw only her frigid expression.
“Tell me where Hera is.”
“The item?” Pearl’s eyes fell upon the box placed before Lan Jue.
Lan Jue responded. “Tell me a place, and I’ll have it sent by Interstellar Courier. Once I’ve confirmed your information on Hera I’ll give you the password.”
“Fine,” she responded without hesitation.
“Where is Hera?” Lan Jue’s eyes shone, arcs of blue lightning coiling in their depths. His impatience was clear today, a state he hadn’t experienced for a long while. A state he couldn’t control.
Skyfire Avenue was rich in shops, but even at the height of it’s nightlife there wouldn’t be many people. Occasionally a patron would saunter by, clad in finery, but none would break the relative peace of the street much less quarrel or do something uncouth. If they did, they could lose their Skyfire Emblem at any moment.
Thrummm came the dull sound of thunder, and the avenue was suddenly illuminated by lightning. Not a cloud hung in the sky, yet lightning fell freely. The tumultuous roar of thunder filled the heavens.
It began with a single thunderbolt, but before long countless threads of lightning criss-crossed the sky, thunder surging. The sky was an undulating sea of electric blue, melting into a forest of lightning which grew until the entirety of Skyfire City grew stark in the shadows of lightning.
A cloudless thunderstorm. Lightning from an undarkened sky!