Quick summary of our last chapter: It’s 2220, and people you don’t care about exist. Space and Science Center. Nap time.
In chapter 2 Quixby dreams of the time he helped invent a jet pack. Or I’m kind of confused if it’s a jet pack or not. Something about wings and birds and play dough, but I’m getting ahead of myself. We start with Boeing recruiting him out of college, but please note, don’t try to make too much sense out of this:
It was inevitable that the first invitation to employment in its laboratories should be Boeing, the world’s largest and most advanced aircraft producer. Boeing executives already knew about his prowess as a fighter pilot in the Air Force three years before entering M.I.T. They had followed his career and knew that as soon as he graduated, he should be welcomed to the aircraft maker’s domain.
So he’s a fighter pilot. And he’s in the military 3 years. My guess is there was a war, that won’t get mentioned again. I mean Quixby made colonial in those 3 years (I assume). While I’m no expert that seems like a very quick rise unless a lot of people above him died (like the boy generals in the Civil War). And he’s a good enough pilot that Boeing wants him for his solo human flight designing skills?
It was left to Quixby to solve the last remaining problem in the design of the revolutionary flying device. The fuel problem had already been solved by Boeing engineers. After years of experimentation, they came up with a combination of hydrogen and three other chemicals that would power the small but sturdy and dependable booster attached to the flying uniform. One more serious hurdle remained: How to sustain flight for hundreds of miles and rise to ordinary flight levels.
H + Some Chemical + Some Other Chemical + Yet Another Chemical → fuel, or something. I feel perhaps there is too much science in this fiction, but I’ll attempt to go on:
Boeing engineers had solved every problem with personal flight except the bit about people flying significant distances. So they had someone with no engineering experience outside of a classroom but who did help us beat the Krouts in WWIX (maybe?) lend a hand. He solved this problem the way everyone solves problems: birdwatching.
It was Quixby and his own research that solved the problem. After diligent studies of the total wing structure of eagles, he determined that, among other things, the project needed a new type of material to simulate the muscle structure of the eagle. It had to be material that was simultaneously strong as steel and supple as play dough.
I don’t care that the in the 21st century we call the product Play-Doh. Maybe it’s called something more boring in the future. Anyway, Quixby’s contribution to the project is having someone else invent a magical substance and another somebody test it out. Anyway, flying is a great success and Boeing patents it. But Quixby in one sentence convinces them to share their patents with anyone else who wants it. I understand that there’s precedent with friction matches. But I’d be more interested in how corporations decide that profit shouldn’t matter than I am with eagles and magical chemicals.
Then Quixby and the Washington Congressional delegation flies from Seattle to DC.
The televised coverage of the seven fliers as they approached the airport in the capital and went in for a smooth landing created a sensation in the United States and in every country in the world. This was no longer the stuff of which science-fiction was made! This was the real thing!
Holy shit, we get it. Science fiction. Is this going to be every chapter?
As soon as the news spread over what had happened, people were calling the Boeing company to ask how much the personal-flight machines cost and how soon they could place an order. Nothing like it had ever been experienced in American or world history. Immediately, political leaders in virtually all the capitals of the world were asking their governments why they hadn’t developed such an extraordinary vehicle.
I like how it’s virtually every capital. In Guzzo’s mind there’s some country, I’m guessing Prussia, that isn’t interested in this but everyone else wants in. And is every other country communist, because otherwise the governments might not be the ones tasked with inventing these things.
Then Guzzo talks about what this did to the economy in pretty much the same manner that he explained it in chapter 1. So we’re out of ideas. Then Jean Marshall wakes Quixby up and tells him to call “General Bennett at the Science Center.” They work for the Space and Science Center, so I feel like Marshall has been through these conversations a lot with a senile George Quixby:
Jean Marshall: General Bennett on the phone.
George Quixby: Who?
Marshall: Our Boss. The commanding general of the Space and Science Center.
Quixby: Right, I work there. Who is this Bennett fellow?
Marshall: He hired you away from Boeing like 30 years ago or whatever.
Quixby: Hey! I used to work for Boeing. Is that where this Bennett person is from?
Marshall: No, please answer the phone. It’s General Bennett of the Science Center.
Quixby: I knew that!
I know I made a lot of assumptions based on what amounts to just shitty writing. But I’m committed for 14 chapters and I think speculating wildly will help speed this thing along. Anyway, end of chapter 2.