“Apologies,” Elaine said. “And if in the future one of your inspections would coincide with severe weather, we will see if we can adjust to your schedule.”
“That is most kind,” Tzoltzin said, “but I shall not quail before the inclemencies of nature. Nagging my compatriots to design more effective winter clothing seems more to the point. I do, however, smell tea steeping.” He accepted a large mug, inhaled deeply the steam rising from its top, nodded, and drank.
“You have the perfect temperature,” he announced. “Though if I recall correctly, human palates will prefer it a bit cooler. “ More of his tea disappeared down his throat. “I would happily sit here and drink, but I fear that my duty must come first. Lieutenant, please see that at least some of the tea is left for me? And now let us advance to see your device.”
Bulger Alpha Drive 0 was parked on its pedestal. Three technicians sat in front of control consoles, ready to power the device up if requested. Tzoltzin waddled in a large circle around the drive, admiring it from all sides, stopping once and again to admire the design..
“This alpha drive unit,” the Inspector said politely, “It’s enormous. This is the true first drive, I gather? Truthfully, not only have I never seen one, but I gather that one has not been built since sometime in the First Empire. Does it achieve lift?”
“We’ve done extensive tethered tests,” Elaine answered, “as specified in the design description. There was some need to tune a few components, but we now see the power curve in the specifications.
“If I appear slow to advance to the tests, it is because I am reminded of being a little boy. My parents would bring me to our provincial capitol, where there was The Museum of Patents, with exhibits of devices protected by law. There on a pedestal was a replica – non-functional – of the very first alpha drive, in the form of a quarter-scale replica. I was a little boy; I thought it was very big. I saw it during the reign of the Jinjur Emperor Miktos the 57th.”
“I hope we have have brought you happy memories,” Elaine said.