Whitespace S: A Taste of Champagne
Shady hillside in Iława, Poland

Whitespace S: A Taste of Champagne

Skreyola's White Pages

- Whitespace S -

- A Taste of Champagne -

by Lincoln Sayger

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In the afternoon, Jack went into Williamsport and found a few prospective churches. He ate supper in a small restaurant in town before going back to his office. There, he sat looking over the day's progress. An hour later, he put the pages of Walter's power design down on the table, closed his eyes, and rubbed his temples with the thumb and ring finger of his left hand. Part of Walter's plan made no sense to him, and he felt as though he had stepped into the deep end on this area. On further contemplation, he felt as though he had stepped into the deep end on the whole matter of being a team leader. His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on his open door.

"May I come in?" Mr. Cassidy asked.

Jack opened his eyes and looked up.

"The room is yours," he said.

"I was just wandering the building," Mr. Cassidy remarked; "I saw your light."

He sat down across from Jack and glanced at the papers between them.

"It's late," he said.

"I know," said Jack.

"How was your first day with your team?"

"I think it went well. Of course, I don't know what was supposed to happen."

"I'm sure it went well," said Mr. Cassidy.

Jack took a deep breath and said, "I must admit, I feel as though I am in a little bit over my head."

Mr. Cassidy made a dismissive gesture with his hand; "Nonsense. I see great potential in you. Besides, you recall what I told you when we first met? I hired you because I like the way you think. That's true, and your team will just have to adjust to your style of leadership."

Jack gave a single nod; "That is probably best. I know I want the world to have this train."

"And I know that you are the right man to give it to the world."

"You honor me, sir, beyond my merit."

"Nonsense," said Mr. Cassidy.

Jack stood up and said, "I think I'll turn in now. Good night."

"Good night. Sleep well," said Mr. Cassidy.


When Jack came into the team room the next day, Melanie and Salina were sitting at the conference table. Salina was sketching an overhead view of a train station, and Melanie was drawing a tentative route for the model they would build when they finished the design phase. Jack looked at their work and exchanged greetings with them as he walked to his office. Once there, he closed the door, sat down, and prayed.

When he came out of his office a few minutes later, his complete team was sitting around the conference table, waiting for him. He walked to the head of the table and said, "I think it would be helpful for us to make a chart of our progress. Cosmo, would you please record the items on your whiteboard?"

Cosmo stood up and walked to his desk, where he picked up one of the dry-erase markers.

Jack continued: "Yesterday, we got off to a great start. We already have the motion control system designed, the turning magnets calculated, the station about, uh--"

He motioned for input. Cosmo said, "Approximately seventy-five percent complete. I only need some input from Salina regarding the placement of access and passenger service."

Jack nodded and said, "Good. Put that on the things to do today. We also have the materials for the train worked out. The load specs for the tunnel walls?"

Sam said, "About an hour from done."

"Good. Cosmo, please make a third column, 'To do later,' and put monitoring software under it. Also, tunnels: shape, material, etc. We'll have a day or a whole week on the tunnels. What am I missing?"

Walter said, "Power."

"Oh, forgive me, Walter. How are we on the power grid?"

"It's coming along. We should probably have a brainstorming session on that."

"Good idea. Right after lunch. Please remind me."

Cosmo wrote: "Brainstorm: Power - right after lunch"

Jack said, "Janice started working on the magnet design yesterday, so put magnets on the progress list, about seventeen percent done. Anything else?"

Cosmo said, "I think that's everything."

"Good. Let's get busy. Does everyone know what they're doing today?"

Virgil said, "I don't."

"I'll put you on the station design today."

Ethan said, "Do you want me to do that, too?"

Jack said, "Yes."

And then, thinking he needed to show leadership and signal the team to move out, he added, "Have at it, folks."


At the afternoon brainstorming session, Walter said, "I had thought about the possibility of having solar panels above ground on the station entrances or on the tunnels if they ever come above ground like the subway in New York."

Jack said, "I think that's a good idea. Every possible inch of the project should be capable of generating power. We might even use magnetic braking and convert the sapped inertia into electricity. Any way we can keep energy already in the system from escaping will be beneficial."

Walter said, "The sun isn't the only possible source of power."

Jack said, "I found your ideas for miniature wind generators and rain catchers especially interesting."

"Right. The best part about the rainwater is that I think you could capture it above the solar cells, making double use of space."

Salina said, "I'm not sure if this is the right place to mention this, but I have some ideas for improving efficiency by reducing wind resistance. Would that be considered a power concern?"

"Sure," said Jack; "'A penny saved is a penny earned.'"

"Okay. If we have giant pistons at various places along the tunnels, they can retract to lower the pressure. Lower pressure means fewer air molecules, which means lowered resistance. What do you think?"

Jack looked around the table to judge the reactions of his team. Finally, he said, "How low can we bring the pressure without endangering our passengers? Would there be any way to seal the track from the station? That would be triple cool. If we could seal the platforms opening the track and the station doors, we could make the tunnel a vacuum and eliminate the resistance altogether."

Melanie said, "It would be nice, but it would also be very prone to problems, with no system of graceful failure. It could even lead to disaster."

Jack nodded and said, "I want our safety to be perfect, so we can't make it a vacuum. How far can we lower the pressure?"

Salina said, "We could probably lower it to about eight pounds per square inch without causing many people difficulty breathing."

Jack said, "We need to find the relationship between financial gains by having the pressure near that and losses in maintaining that pressure."

Melanie said, "What if we kept only the platform that low and left the rest of the station at normal pressure?"

Roberta Sinclair said, "Lowering the air pressure will be extremely difficult. How will you move passengers through the necessary airlocks?"

"Good question," said Jack; "Does anyone have an idea for how to do this?"

No one answered, and a few of the team members examined the tabletop instead of meeting Jack's gaze.

"We'll table that for now. If anyone thinks of something, let me know. Does anyone have any other ideas regarding power?"

Again, no one spoke.

"Let's move on, then. Is there anything else that needs to be brainstormed?"

Melanie said, "Yes. We need to decide what sort of switching technology to use. No one can afford to build a separate set of tracks for each pair of destinations. How will we get trains to the different stations?"

Sam said, "That's no problem. Just have a moving section that connects to both tracks."

"It's not that simple," said Melanie.

Sam said, "Make it that simple."

Jack interrupted, "Hold on, Sam. She's right. Curved and straight segments have different types of magnets in the walls."

Ethan said, "I think he almost had it."

"How's that?"

"Instead of one track that switches, how about a switch block with the two sections side by side? To change routes, you simply slide it to the route you want."

Ethan drew a straight line on a piece of paper. At one end, he drew a square and continued the line through the left half of the square, curving to the left. In the right half of the square, he drew another line straight across it. He then grabbed a folder nearby and used it as a straightedge to draw a line coming out of the top of the square. He held it up for everyone to see.

Jack said, "That looks like a great idea. Whenever the switch is not locked into a route, it will deactivate the track leading to it, and when that safe area is occupied by a train, the switch will not move."

Virgil said, "Yeah. I was about to ask you how you would keep that thing safe."

Melanie said, "That looks good."

"Good," said Jack; "Is there anything else that requires discussion?"

After a moment, he continued: "You've all done a great job so far. We're almost done with this part, and that means we can soon move to the fun part. Keep up the good work."

Jack stood up and walked back to his office while his team resumed the assignments they had been doing just before lunch. He sat down at his desk and loaded the word processor on his computer to make a report of everything that had been done so far on the project.

When he had finished his report and sent it to the printer, he sat back and thought about the preparations for the model and tried to think of a solution to the problem of air pressure.

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