The Impossible Nut
Ever since they could remember the Ilakos have never been able to break open the Improbum Vessel, colloquially known as the Impossible Nut, or the Improbum Nut. There are stories and tales passed down through generations of families about the nuts. “The Gods do not want us to be able to grow the fruit at our behest. In order to control the growth of the Improbo Fruit, they made the nut inside impossible to plant, and by extension impossible to break.” Another being that the knowledge gained from peering inside of the nut can cause you to go mad, or that were one ever opened, it would swallow the entire universe and it would start over from the zero point. A more simpler explanation is that there is no nutritional value to be had from them so there’s no point to care about it. But the Ilakos are a story favouring people so that last theory was not well liked.
Improbo trees grow strangely when compared to others, always in clusters of 4, 6, or 8. Also if all the trees in one area were cut down they’d grow back somewhere along an invisible logarithmic spiral. They’ve tried planting the nut many times obviously, but the nuts never grew into Improbo Trees. They also tried planting the fruit, going so far as to make sure there were no blemishes on the outside. In those cases the fruit just ended up rotting and the nut, as always, turned into dust 4 days after the last fibre of the fruit fell away from it. Observing the “dustification” of the nut provided no insight into what the inside looked like. Like Mega Man exploding into tiny bits when he dies, the dust went everywhere and quickly vanished from sight.
Every year since the Ilakos can remember, they have had a global festival, every city, town, and village would devote an entire week to the Improbum Vessel. Sculptors would try their best to imitate it’s perfectly ovular shape. Contests of nearly every imaginable type took place during the Gaia Festivus actually. One even lasting the entire week where participants would try to hold onto the nut as long as possible. This contest was near impossible with the nut having curves so perfect that trying to grab one bare handed proved a comical task. Hundreds from each city, town and village would enter these contests and nary a few would be able to hold onto theirs until day 3 let alone day 7.
There was another contest. One held at the end of the week where the best engineers from around the world would showcase their Improbo Machines. Machines designed for one purpose, to try and crack or maybe even break an Impossible Nut open. With the dawning of the industrial age 428 years ago the machines became more elaborate and larger as the years went on. Often times having to be constructed on the festival grounds due to transportation issues. Many of these colossal machines had construction started months in advance with full construction crews that received wages. This contest was the most anticipated every year, but every year the people would leave disheartened as the impressive and sometimes laughable titans failed at their tasks. After a terrible accident one year a mandatory blast radius was instated around the machines and power-plants were not to include nuclear elements of any kind. They could however request for the entire city, town or villages’ power to be routed to their machine for operation purposes. The danger was in the chunks of the Improbo Machines damaging the nearby powerplant.
Seeing the immense power requirements that these so-called “Improbo Machines” called for, the Ilakos looked for new, amazing and insane ways to generate energy. After last years festival a breakthrough of unimaginable proportions was announced. Actual clean and limitless energy generation. A team of energy researchers had stumbled upon the possibility 15 years prior and since then worked tirelessly to prove it was indeed as they claimed. They were looking forwards to next years Festival to showcase the power of their generator and what better way to do so than to build an Improbo Machine, THE Improbo Machine.
They had finished construction earlier that day and finally, the project that generated more money for their town than any of them had seen in their lives, was ready for it’s first and final test. Unlike many other machines of this size they had to set it on an anti-gravity foundation as to not drive a massive crater into the ground when the 4096 tonne hammer hit the nut after it’s 2560 meter high launch. The hammer would be accelerated downward by a rail-gun-like mechanism which would see the hammer break the sound barrier 6 times over, also known as Mach 6. The shock of the immediate stop would be handled by a secondary anti-gravity drive, mechanically similar to the “long recoil” system in some guns where the barrel slides in the opposite direction of the projectile as it is fired. Only in this instance it’s entirely designed to offset impact shock and there is no second projectile to be loaded unlike with guns. The 4096 tonne hammer is also treated like a bullet and spirals on it’s way down to meeting the Impossible Nut with the very small, relatively needle like point at it’s tip. The nut will be placed into a sonic field that will keep it levitated and as stable as if it were encased in a material stronger than anyone can think of. This colossal machine will use 6 yottawatts, or about the same energy that was unleashed from the Tsar Bomba, the most powerful Hydrogen Bomb ever detonated.
It was time for ignition, the blast radius for this Improbo Machine was estimated at 10 times the normal 5 mile radius for machines of this size, so people set up their towns festival 5 miles farther than that. This was not the first machine to have been built in the desert but the Ilakos from the same town as the scientists who created it were glad to have the thing out here rather than in their back yards. The signal relay satellite was positioned over-head and the countdown began. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Ignition. The word appeared on the large outdoor screens set up for the event. They all wore goggles even though they were facing away from the Improbo Machine, just in case. The rails were charged and the sound was an amalgam of a few high-pitches with a low hum behind them.
The mag-locks were released. The telltale cloud of the sound-barrier being broken came and left. The hammer spun faster and faster then crashed into the Imbrobum Vessel. A massive cloud enveloped the entire machine and some of the cameras went off-line but not before chunks of metal were seen whipping past them. The vid was immediately played back at a slower rate for the crowd of 310+ thousand people and they all stared closer than they had when it happened the first time. The rail arms lit up and the hammer cruised down, reaching it’s top speed in less than a second. The needle-like tip of the hammer shining as it raced closer and closer to it’s target. As the hammer struck the nut it exploded, the top of the hammer peeling down and around the needle as it met the Improbum Vessel. Then the impossible was seen for the first time. A crack appeared in the nut just before the mutilated hammer blocked it from view. The towers that propelled the hammer shot up as they were designed and the chunks of the hammer were allowed to shoot out in all directions.
The team of scientists had already jumped into their 3 desert buggies almost before they fired the hammer. They had the luxury of a relatively flat terrain between them and their machine which meant driving at 130kph (80+mph) in the desert wasn’t as suicidal as one might think. Hitting the occasional dune they made their way at 160kph (100mph). They knew it was going to work. Just then a chunk from the hammer shot by them, nearly crashing into them and landed with a thud not too far behind them. They weren’t supposed to be seeing debris out this far… Then they saw something that terrified them. One of the rail-towers was falling, 2.5 kilometres or 1.5 miles of metal, composites and electrical systems came crashing down out of the sky.
When they finally reached their machine the dust was still settling around them. One of the scientists checked the energy consumption meter, it read “8 Yottawatts consumed, .8 seconds…” that wasn’t what they designed it to operate at. They all ran to the power-plant and saw it was running fine. Not so much as a hiccup in operation. The machine had set itself down from it’s anti-gravity supports after the hammer hit it’s mark and the scientists clambered up the ladder to look at the nut. What did it look like inside?!
Was it really the secret to the universe?
The sonic field was still operating and the nut was sitting inside of it. Two perfectly split halves. The same ordinary greyish outside but the inside was similar to something they had seen before. In fact, it was sitting inside the generator not too far from them powering this machine. In essence, the power-core that had just provided 8Yottawatts in .8 seconds was at the center of the Imbrobum Vessel…