two thousand times what we’re putting in. Now, since I firmly believe that energy can be neither created nor destroyed, the only conclusion I can draw is that this device is a faucet and the energy I’m using to create a strong asymmetrical energy field has opened the faucet, and that energy from some other source is pouring through it.’

The room buzzed with dozens of conversations as several people tried to shout questions at Sandstrom. A tidal wave of sound erupted from the normally diplomatic attendees as each tried to comprehend the impact of this discovery. Overwhelmed by the chaos that was overtaking the room, Sandstrom looked to Sean Kilkenny for help in subduing the crowd. Kilkenny, a boardroom veteran, quickly grabbed a microphone.

‘And when Professor Sandstrom finally does determine exactly how his invention works,’ the MARC founder said loudly, demanding the attention of the audience, ‘he will likely win the Nobel Prize. In the meantime, this discovery quite literally changes everything. Quantum technology will irrevocably alter the global economic landscape. The small size and weight of quantum power cells – relative to the energy they deliver – finally give electric motors a huge power-to-weight advantage over internal-combustion motors. This advantage will cause a stampede in the transportation industry as manufacturers rush to exploit it, and a panic in the fossil-fuel industry as they look for ways to cope with this advancement. The last time a technological shift of this magnitude occurred was almost a hundred years ago when small, efficient, fuel-burning engines supplanted the horse and carriage.’

Audience members with ties to the Big Three automakers and the petroleum industry nervously nodded agreement.

‘These industries are mature and established, and possess very deep pockets. While it might be possible for a maverick inventor with a better mousetrap to play David and Goliath with the likes of General Motors, the battle would be bloody and fierce. As much as I enjoy rooting for the underdog in an impossible fight, I also recognize that a young firm, one in control of a technology that promises to change how so many things in our world are done, could instigate a global economic war. The failures of the Asian and Russian financial markets in the late 1990s would pale in comparison to the sudden collapse of the industrial pillars that support our modern world.’

Sean Kilkenny let that thought hang over the now silent audience for a moment as he scanned the faces of so many people that he knew and respected.

‘To his credit, Professor Sandstrom is not an ivory-tower scientist. He cares about the effect his work will have on the livelihood of millions of people, and his concern is legitimate. The manner in which this quantum technology is unleashed on the world poses a very real dilemma.’ Sean Kilkenny then paused dramatically, and smiled. ‘It has also presented us with a unique opportunity. Those of you who know me well know that I believe in the concept of MARC, of the absolute necessity in building bridges between the worlds of academic research and industrial production. This is what I have chosen to do in my retirement, and I promote this cause with the fervor of an evangelical preacher on a crusade.’

‘Amen, Brother Kilkenny,’ one of the board members shouted out.

‘Amen, indeed. My introduction to Professor Sandstrom was no accident.’ Sean motioned to the Catholic priest seated beside the University of Michigan’s President, ‘Father Joseph Blake, the President of Notre Dame, is familiar with what we’ve accomplished with MARC and is very interested in transplanting the concept. I, of course, agreed to help in any way I could. The fruit of that initial discussion is twofold. First, the Notre Dame Applied Research Consortium officially opened for business this morning.’

Polite applause from the MARC board to their colleagues on the ND-ARC board filled the room.

‘Second, as chairman of the MARC board, I have received a formal offer from Suzanne Tynan, my distinguished counterpart at ND-ARC, to enter into a joint venture, the purpose of which is to patent any technological application for Sandstrom’s quantum power cell that we can think of, and to license these applications to any and all parties who believe that they can make use of them. In short, we have been asked by our colleagues from South Bend to work with them in managing an intellectual property that may well be to this new century what the electric light, the internal-combustion engine, and the microchip were to the last.’

The momentary silence that followed the announcement evaporated, along with any semblance of parliamentary procedure, as the MARC board erupted with questions.

‘How’s this thing going to work?’

‘Sean, what kind of commitment are we looking at?’

‘Do we have any projections?’

Sean turned to where Sandstrom stood with Paramo, Kelsey, and Nolan and smiled. He lived for moments such as this.

‘Mrs Quinn,’ he said loud enough to be heard over the din of questions being called out at him, ‘would you please distribute the prospectus for this venture.’

Loretta Quinn, Kilkenny’s trusted assistant for more than thirty years, nodded and made a quick circuit around the conference table, handing each of the board members a sealed and numbered packet of documents.

‘Due to the nature of the information contained in these packets, I feel it is my duty to remind you that this is a confidential matter, and the premature disclosure of any of this material would invite legal action equivalent in severity to the wrath of God. To answer a few of your questions, I have signed a letter of intent with ND-ARC. We have thirty days to review our proposed arrangement and iron out any wrinkles. While we debate percentages and punctuation, I have authorized the use of some of our resources by ND-ARC. If, at the end of thirty days, we decide not to pursue this venture, all materials will be returned and we will be compensated by ND-ARC for any resources used during this period. Most of your remaining questions should be answered in the prospectus, which I request you read thoroughly. In short, this discovery’ – he motioned with his hand toward Sandstrom’s quietly running device – ‘is the future. At this time I move that we adjourn and further discussion of this matter be added to the agenda for the closed board meeting next week.’

‘I second the motion,’ called out board member Diana LaPointe, a respected attorney specializing in patent law and intellectual property.

‘All those in favor?’ Sean asked.

‘Aye,’ the board unanimously responded.

‘The motion is carried, and this meeting is adjourned. Thank you all for coming.’

As the meeting broke up, board members carefully placed the sealed packages they had been given into briefcases, treating the documents with the same reverence one would give an original draft of the Constitution. Nolan, Kelsey, and Paramo moved to the front of the room, where Sandstrom was carefully placing his equipment back in the Halliburton case under Sean’s watchful eye.

‘So, Sean,’ Sandstrom asked as he flipped the latches on the case closed, ‘what happens now?’

‘You go back to work. Over the next week the board will digest what we’ve just given them. I suspect the meeting next week will be a doozy. In the end, I doubt we’ll take the entire thirty days to decide. This deal is just too interesting to pass up. By the way, Nolan,’ Sean said, turning to his son, ‘now it’s official: You’re our coordinator for the quantum project. Your first assignment will be to relocate Ted’s lab off campus.’

‘Something a little bigger, I hope,’ Sandstrom said.

‘A bit,’ Nolan replied. ‘But some of the space we need is for business activities related to your work. Now that you’ve discovered a new way to print money, you’ll need some room to stack, count, and store it.’

‘How’s lunch next Tuesday look?’ LaPointe asked as she eyed her planner.

‘I’m open,’ Conrad Evans replied. ‘Noon at the Gandy Dancer?’

‘Works for me.’

Evans and LaPointe penciled the lunch meeting into their calendars.

‘See you on Tuesday, Conrad,’ LaPointe said with a smile as she zipped her leatherbound planner closed and walked away.

Evans slipped a thin booklet into the interior pocket of his double-breasted blazer and picked up his briefcase. He then scanned the room for a moment, and located the attractive brunette in the tailored linen suit. For Evans – a long-divorced, slightly overweight middle-aged work-aholic – Dr Oksanna Zoshchenko was a breath of fresh air.

A chemist by training, Zoshchenko discovered early in her career that her true gifts lay in administration. Her native intelligence coupled with a skillful sense of diplomacy was cited as the primary reason for her rapid ascent to the highest levels of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Among those whose position in the academy she eclipsed, rumors imputed Zoshchenko’s meteoric rise to her considerable physical assets and her willingness to use them to

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