The Patent Office

By Kevin J. Phyland

sfgenrePatent #xxxxxxxxxxx came across my desk today. An old one, but occasionally the algorithm digs deep and throws up some blast from the past that we haven’t analysed correctly.

I actually blew some dust off the folder. The file was for one of those perpetual motion devices like the Dean Drive back in the 1950s. Reasonably easy to disprove on the grounds of thermodynamics.

I wondered why I’d actually received it, however its red sticker meant somebody higher up in the chain of command thought it was worth revisiting.

I flicked through the pages. Original trials. Bench tests. Positive gravitational anomaly. The usual stuff that eventually gets tested by real scientists and finds power inputs from elsewhere skew the results. The patent had been granted in 1957 but had been officially retired in 2002.

Presumably from lack of interest.

There was a rather sarcastic final note in the folder from 1999: “Generates energy less than input. That should save us all!”

I shut the folder and was about to put it in my OUT box when I wondered who'd ordered the red flag.

But it wasn't clear from the document. Just a military codename. I work for “military appraisals” in the patent department — a softcore euphemism for “stuff we might be able to weaponise” — but codename didn’t have a registration here. It was listed as CONFIDENTIAL. It did have an encrypted email address, though. In the interests of my future job trajectory and plain curiosity I emailed back a simple question: “It loses energy...what am I missing?”

No reply. So I filed it my drawer and tried to move on to the deadlier patents. Don’t judge me...people got paid to invent nuclear weapons. Don’t shoot the messenger.

Three days later an encrypted reply popped into my email inbox. “Have you checked how much energy it lost?” The reply email address was no longer there. It was random electrons.

I dragged the physical file out again. Numbers are my thing, and I should have seen it before. The energy out was way less than the energy in. Perpetual motion would have stopped after about three minutes. Except it didn’t.
Oh yeah, it stopped moving — but even after disconnection it still lost energy. That seemed odd.

In fact, it lost about twice as much energy than was input.

This wasn’t a perpetual motion machine patent. This was a perpetual energy drain, once started.

I did the numbers. A thousand of these machines linked together and creating others. It could drain the entire energy of an enemy country in months, if it could be targeted. I started to write up my assessment.

Then I had a thought. Where is that energy going?

The return email address was gone. A fiction probably, anyway.

And my masters wouldn’t care.

I sighed and stamped it “APPROVED”. It would get into the system above me and be used one way or another.

It wouldn’t be the first time that some crazy idea had worked to steal back the balance of power.

It didn’t even have to work.

It just had to sound like it would.

And that’s my job. Don’t shoot the messenger.

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About The Author

Kevin J. Phyland

Kevin J. Phyland

Finally officially retired. Writing will now take up a bit more of my time. Still working on longer pieces. 33 years spent teaching. Writing since I was 12 on and off. Something had to give. I have a penchant for short, choppy, staccato sentences with too many adjectives.


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In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 224

A Bushmeat Addiction
by Wes Parish

A Kernel of Wisdom
by Michael T. Schaper

A Self Long Forgotten
by Ariel Braago

Breathe, Little Greel
by George Nikolopoulos

City Limits
by Matthew Harrison

Drawing Down The Demon
by Nick Clark

by Rob Riel

No More Doors, No More Windows
by Andrew Kozma

One Shot
by Griffyn Goodall

One Universe At A Time
by Kevin J. Phuland

AntiSF February 2017



Speculative Fiction
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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