A Tale Of Ung
A Nuclear Station in the North of Ung
The next day at four—that is, 9:36 A. M.—I saw how Dzemlavang, director of the Bank of Ung, arrived at Udi’s office accompanied by Beofronz, a bank department head. Shortly afterwards came Stwepcadar and Uathwand, two members of Mecnita’s Stock Exchange, along with Yarlomenx, the minister of finance to the queen. And other officers, officials, luminaries and dignitaries reported to the royal lady all day long. Some came and went but others stayed a while. Her office was a beehive. I was expecting she’d call me as well, but she did not. I was just as curious as can be. After all, I was prime minister and might well have argued it was in the interests of Ung for me to be informed on all affairs of moment in the realm. But I knew Udi would have called me if she’d wanted me included. She’s not one to overlook such things. Since she’d not asked me to present myself before her, it would have been quite useless to inquire. She’d have replied, "Not yet," or, "Please just wait." Later, surely, she’d explain herself without my asking, so I’d just have to have a little patience. After all, the lady was my queen. What further might I do?
I worked long hours on that day. Late in the evening I went to Udi’s study. I tapped very lightly on the door, then opened and went in. I could hear her harp and didn’t want to interrupt her music by making her get up to answer. I sat in the wing chair of plum velvet, taking once again the gilt and oxblood book on tapestry and needlework, and started leafing through its richly illustrated pages. A heavenly allegro on the harp made a superb accompaniment to all the gorgeous pictures. Momentarily, I found myself at peace till presently Queen Udi played her coda.
"You seem to like that book," said Udi, as she rose to come sit near me, "I love it too. I found it very inspiring and copied some of the embroideries." Then she fetched some samples of her work, which I had seen before of course, considering them masterful, but didn’t realize were copied from this very book, published 100 years ago in Fwascren. I examined the embroideries again, by naked eye and with a magnifying glass. I was thoroughly impressed. Queen Udi was an artist of the highest rank.
"Would you like to try your hand? Perhaps your interest betokens talent. Often they go hand in hand." Udi’s words seemed odd enough, in view of my involvement in the projects.
"Perhaps some day when I have time you can instruct me," I replied, "but I’m so busy now I’d better put it off. By the way, what was all the hubbub in your office? Why were all the most distinguished people there?"
"We’re deliberating on a matter I’d rather not disclose just now. Tomorrow night I’ll tell you all about it. Will you wait?"
"I guess I’ll have to wait." I was somehow apprehensive. Udi must have sensed it, for she ran her fingers through my hair to reassure me. Eased a little, I kissed her lovely mouth.
"Will you wait?" she asked again.
"For that I’ll wait. For this I won’t," I kissed her once again, and she yielded as I led her to her platinum and sapphire bed.
In the morning, once again Queen Udi’s office filled with noted personages, Dzemlavang and Yarlomenx and all the others. I also noticed Dzegnent of the Bank of Qizilot, as well as Drisconarv, the acting superintendent of the Turfant-Tuva and the Oirad Projects, apparently flown in from Qizilot. My apprehension and anxiety were reawakened. What indeed was going on? In the afternoon, peering through the doors of my own office, I saw Ajinblambia come walking down the regal corridor and pause before Queen Udi’s office. When she opened up the door to enter, I saw Dzemlavang and Yarlomenx were still inside, speaking with the queen. "What has Ajinblambia to do with Dzemlavang and Yarlomenx?" I wondered. It became progressively more difficult for me to pay attention to my work.
When evening came, I went to Udi’s study. She was plucking daintily upon her harp, scattering rippling waves of music, as if petals fell on placid pools and set them in the gentlest motion. I let her finish with her playing, but my mind was somewhere else entirely. I’d sat upon the wing chair of plum velvet, but Udi led to me a couch of like upholstery so we could sit together. She took my hand in hers, but her countenance was businesslike and serious.
"Vocno," she began, "I’ve offered Ajinblambia a position on the Turfant-Tuva and the Oirad Projects. As you know, she has remarkable ability in languages and engineering, along with depth in finance and in agriculture, not to mention many other disciplines. These talents suit her admirably for a position of responsibility in western Ub. Moreover, she’s accepted the position that I offered and will begin at once."
"Do you mean to say that she’ll be working for me on the projects?"
"No, no, not exactly that, dear Vocno. How shall I put it so you’ll understand and not be angry or offended? You realize, of course, the prompt completion of the projects is of paramount importance. It’s not the personalities that matter, you’ll agree, I’m sure."
"What are you getting at, Queen Udi?"
"I’ve decided to put Ajinblambia in charge of both the projects."
"Ajinblambia in charge?" I was thunderstruck, "What will I do?"
"You’ll work for her, at least for now, during the transition. Once she’s taken over quite completely, your placement on the projects will be a matter that she’ll have to deal with. I want her to enjoy unlimited authority eventually, so I won’t try to interfere with her appointments and dismissals. I think that this will prove the wisest course."
"You mean that you’ve already offered her the post and she’s accepted?"
"Yes. I’m sorry, Vocno, but this will all be for the best."
"But Udi dear, wasn’t my performance satisfactory?"
"Yes, yes, of course, you were doing very well, but I think Ajinblambia will help us a great deal."
"She may have the talent and capacity, but she doesn’t know the projects."
"You’ll acquaint her with the projects and help her take control a little at a time."
"But, after all, I’m prime minister of Ung."
"Yes, you are, and you’ll remain prime minister. In any case, the projects were not really in you province as prime minister to start with. Perhaps I’m culpable for having placed so great a burden on your shoulders."
"Culpable? You say ‘culpable’ as if something were amiss."
"Maybe ‘culpable’ is not exactly the right word. I didn’t mean to hint that something was amiss, although of course you’re just a little late and costs are running slightly higher than they should."
"But the schedule and the budget were over-optimistic. That’s why the projects look so slow and costly."
"Vocno, we’ve discussed all this before. Besides, I’ve never criticized your work. I had every confidence that you’d catch up eventually. It’s just I think that Ajinblambia is better suited. You saw the test results. Do you suppose you’d do as well as she?"
"Then we’ll be working with each other closely?"
"Yes, at least till she gets oriented. But don’t forget that she’s in charge. If there’s a difference of opinion between you and Ajinblambia on anything whatever, her decision will be final."
I had hoped by a tremendous effort to make the projects a great triumph, a wreath of laurel for my forehead. Now that hope was dashed. "Damn!" I muttered to myself.
We argued ten or fifteen minutes longer, till at last Queen Udi said, "Vocno, my mind is quite made up. There’s no point discussing all these matters further. Please report to Ajinblambia at once. She’s waiting for you now. I want you just to go to her apartment, congratulate her on her new position and tell her you regard it as an honor to be a member of her staff. Please don’t act angry, sullen, insubordinate or jealous. Be as modest and as docile as you can. I want her to feel very comfortable in her assumption of authority."
I knew I’d have to do as Udi said. She was the queen of Ung. Her word was law. She’d always listen patiently to queries and objections, giving reasons and explaining very amicably, even yielding occasionally when someone offered sound advice. But when she’d ruled on a matter, further comments were in vain. Slowly I rose from our couch and started walking towards the door, trying to compose myself to meet the new directress of the Oirad Project and the Turfant-Tuva Project, Ajinblambia of Psebol and Bihaka.
When I arrived at Ajinblambia’s apartment, she was standing in the doorway, dressed in a sleeveless floorlength gown of jet-black satin, a diamond circlet round her forehead, a diamond choker round her neck and diamond bracelets on her wrists. She stood erect as a caryatid and seemed much taller than her seven feet. The instant that I saw her I quailed like a fawn before a lion. I knew at once that her appointment was as right as right can be. How could I dare imagine I might vie with her?
"Ajinblambia," I said, "Congratulations on you new appointment!"
She held her right hand right in front of me, palm upward, just below her waist, and with her left hand she took first my right wrist, then my left, and placing them upon her open palm, closed her right hand tight about them. I tugged a bit, reflexively, but couldn’t free my wrists from her athletic grip. "Come in," she said, as she pulled me by my wrists across the room. "Don’t be afraid." She had me sit upon a boudoir chair of lime-green poplin and sat herself on an identical green chair right opposite, never for a second letting go my wrists. In aftertime, I’d get accustomed to this way she held me captive in her presence—apparently a gesture of authority—but the first time that she did it, I was scared. "Don’t be frightened," she repeated, "I just want for us to get to know each other, to understand each other better. Let’s just chat a while, just the two of us. Don’t be scared. Everything will be just fine."
"Tomorrow morning," Ajinblambia continued, with both my wrists still firmly clasped in her right hand, "I want you to go early to your office and tell the members of your staff that a new lady will be in to take charge of operations. Just act as if the change is perfectly desirable, just a change you might have been anticipating all along, only a part of the normal course of business. Leave the seat at your old desk unoccupied and arrange a seat at a smaller desk beside it for yourself. Just seat yourself without ado there, as if you’d long intended the very thing. When I arrive, I’ll sit in your old seat. Once I’ve gotten comfortable, I’ll call you over to instruct you in a very visible and ostentatious way, so everyone will see me giving you your orders. Then go about the office carrying out the orders that I’ve given you, in a very obvious and cheerful way. When everyone has noticed and accepted the new scheme of things, say within an hour or two, I’ll call you to my desk and have you introduce me as the new directress of the projects, telling them that henceforth you will be my secretary, or rather one of my secretaries, I should say. Hopefully, when everyone observes the ease and cheerfulness with which you have adapted to the new arrangement, they’ll do likewise, facilitating the transition.
"That sounds like an excellent idea," I exclaimed. I had framed this sentence in the first place just in order to comply with Udi’s wish that I be gracious and polite to Ajinblambia. In other words, I’d been saying what I was supposed to say, but by the time that I was actually uttering these words, an enthusiasm had sprung up within me from some unknown source, and I believed them heartily. "A really, really fine idea," I repeated.
Ajinblambia rose and led me to the door, then unhanded me and let me go. Full of awe and wonder, I went to my own bed.
In the morning in my office, everything took place exactly as the new directress had instructed. By the middle of the morning, she had taken charge completely and was seated at her desk, the desk that had been my desk. I’d taken for myself a smaller desk nearby, and sat there timidly and meekly, which I could tell pleased Ajinblambia immensely. Queen Udi had been absolutely right. Ajinblambia was perfect as directress. The office staff comprised both secretaries and technicians, and though she recognized my technical ability, Ajinblambia said she would prefer for me to function in a secretarial capacity, if I didn’t mind. Of course, she was only being diplomatic by making it appear that I was giving my consent; she’d made up her mind already, I am sure. During my directorship, there had been thirty secretaries, all women by the way, under the supervision of one Izmridafia, whose title was ‘head secretary’. Ajinblambia increased the number to thirty-one by adding me, but said nothing to the effect that I would be head secretary in place of Izmridafia. She did say that eventually she might reorganize the office, but for the present she’d like me merely to accept the status quo. It looked as if she’d simply overlooked the fact that she’d put Izmridafia in charge of me. But I was much too bashful to complain to her about it at this juncture. I promised to myself that I’d bring up the question later. As for the matter of my segregation with the women, Ajinblambia made some remark about my tiny size, but she was smiling so I took it as a joke. At any rate, it was clear that Ajinblambia, and Ajinblambia alone, would run the Oirad Project and the Turfant-Tuva Project from here on out.
In the evening I betook myself to Udi’s study. Still reeling from the topsy-turvy changes of the day, I sat again in the wing chair of plum velvet and took the gilt and oxblood book on tapestry and needlework that I’d been reading and admiring. Udi played impromptu on the harpsichord some sad but beautiful adagio. Talking as she played, she said, "You’ll have more time now. Perhaps you’d like to dabble in embroidery. You seem to love that book so. Shall I give you a lesson on the hoop?"
"Oh, I don’t think that I’d be any good at all."
"Nonsense, Vocno. You’re a natural, I can tell. I’ll start teaching you right now. Of course, I understand that you will be quite busy helping Ajinblambia take charge of the Oirad and the Turfant-Tuva Projects in the nearer future, but as she strengthens her grip upon the office, you’ll be able to soften yours considerably and settle down into a comfortable little secretarial routine, with more leisure to pursue you pastimes and you pleasures. So why don’t you devote some time to needlework?"
"I suppose you’re right, I really should," I said, as if agreeing to perform a duty. Neither she nor I brought up the subject that, generally, in Ung, needlework is reckoned a ladylike or girlish occupation. Of course, this notion has to do with the apportioning of housework in the ancient household, and no one need abide by it today. So, overcoming prejudice and superstition, I continued, "Yes, please give me some lessons."
Fifteen minutes later, Udi, who had a gift for sketching, had drawn with pointed colored chalks a calla lily in a dark blue slender cut-glass vase, on a piece of offwhite linen in a large embroidery hoop and placed it in my hands. Beside me she reposed a lacquered case as large as a valise, all full of flosses in a hundred lovely hues, and silver needles of a dozen sizes. And she gave me a lesson, guiding me as I laid satin stitches in neat rows, graduating shades according to her drawing.
Later though, we decided to retire and Udi let me lead her to her platinum and sapphire bed. There we lay in fond embraces all the long night through.
On her second day at her new post, day 289 of year 390, Ajinblambia, who had on a tight black short-sleeved cashmere sweater and a miniskirt of starchy fine white broadcloth, was seated in her office at her desk, the one where I’d long sat, when I arrived at three, that is, 7:12 A. M. The sun had just come up, and Ajinblambia was resplendent in the sunshine that illumined her. Her raven tresses and her walnut skin shone rich and mellow. Her gaze was full of power. Her manner was enchanting and hypnotic. No sooner had I entered than she started giving me my orders, and I flew into action, fearing to displease her. I was entranced by the authority and bearing of the new directress, and so were all the others in the office. All day long we labored at a quickened tempo, executing her commands both swiftly and exactly. I was shocked to see how deftly she took over and how much confidence she had in her ability to rule others. At nine Ungi—9:36 P. M., she let us go. I barely got to see Queen Udi in her study after work.
For three or four more days, everything would follow the pattern Ajinblambia had set. Each day I’d get to work at three to find her at her desk already, in the sunshine, her long black tresses spilling o’er her well-made shoulders, her shapely breasts erect before her like a magnet to all eyes. When her carmine lips commanded, all obeyed, and none more docilely than I. She was a natural leader, I could see it in her sleek and supple limbs, her proud and upright posture. I was jealous, I was envious, I know, but, nonetheless, I found her fascinating and wanted to obey her. I was frightened and humiliated, and sought to please her as the best way to becalm myself. For hours I would sit beside her, going over records of the projects and examining reports. She asked a lot of questions, some implying perhaps a little criticism of my methods, and she made a lot of comments and suggestions. I often felt I must have looked inane beside her, but she showed no sign of scorn or arrogance. All the while, she’d give me little orders, have me take dictation or fetch one thing or another, and I would do exactly as she’d bid, cheerfully and promptly, so the entire staff would see how Ajinblambia meant to have things done. I’d thought that Ajinblambia’s introduction to the procedures and her assumption of complete authority would take 100 days or more, but after five short days she knew the documents and records on the Oirad Project and the Turfant-Tuva Project just as well as I did. She’d taken charge of everything and had the office functioning more smoothly and productively than it ever had before. Till then, the office had been hectic and chaotic. Now it was an engine of efficiency and power. I was astounded at the transformation and so were all the others.
"Vocno," Ajinblambia instructed me one evening, "call Jezgroid Airport and arrange for us—for you and me—to fly to Qizilot. The situation here is good enough for me to let Izmridafia take over, while you and I go tour the projects. I’ll need you to acquaint me with all aspects of construction and introduce me to the locals. Shall we reserve two seats or one?"
"Two seats or one? I don’t understand."
"Do you want your own seat or will you sit in my lap?"
"Sit in your lap?" I couldn’t believe my ears.
"I’m just teasing, Vocno," said Ajinblambia with a mischievous little smile.
"Just teasing? What a disappointment!" I exclaimed.
"Well then, just do as you please."
I decided to reserve two seats instead of doing as I pleased, assuming, though, that this light-hearted repartee meant rapport and camaraderie existed between Ajinblambia and me. I surely hoped she didn’t regard me as a child.
I called Jezgroid Airport and booked two seats on a flight to Ulucac. From there was a connecting flight to Qizilot and I booked two seats on that flight too.
Ulucac is the capital, the only city, on Poilnarcs Island in the Eastern Ocean. Of course, everyone in Ung knows that Poilnarcs Island was the site of an ancient civilization, clad in mystery, that left a number of imposing monolithic statues apparently too massive to have been raised by human hands. Scholars still debate their origin and meaning unavailingly. The monoliths are covered with inscriptions that have never been deciphered. Being fluent in Motinian, Ungi and Qazudi, I’d deemed myself a linguist, that is, till I’d met with Ajinblambia and become more modest in my self-appraisals. Despite her clear superiority in languages, I still was keenly interested in the Poilnarcsian inscriptions and hoped one day to go to Ulucac, secure a set of copies of the ancient writings and attempt decipherment. I could see my name in learned journals and exhibits in museums. This was a cherished aspiration. However, now was not the time to tarry in Ulucac, delaying Ajinblambia’s arrival at the irrigation projects. Perhaps on the return trip, I’d be able to stay a day or two and assemble the materials I wanted. But it was premature to make arrangements now.
Within moments of my call to Jezgroid Airport, the phototelegraph in Ajinblambia’s new office produced our tickets, confirmations, boarding passes, baggage claim checks. I took these faxes from the phototelegraph and handed them to her, trying to enable her to get things done efficiently and easily by entrusting them to me.
We planned to leave quite early in the morning without coming to the office, so when we’d got our travel documents, Ajinblambia called Izmridafia while I was present and named her office manageress. She was a tall, well-built Mecnitan lady, dark with sable tresses. She’d been my head secretary all along, but Ajinblambia, who hadn’t finalized her reorganization of the office yet, apparently was naming her the manageress, that is, supervisor of all the technicians and the secretaries too, presumably just for the interim, until she’d made her permanent appointments. I supposed when we returned from Qizilot, Ajinblambia would restructure her entire staff and I would be installed as her lieutenant with some appropriate new title. So I congratulated Izmridafia faintly condescendingly.
In the wee hours of the night, Redenorb drove Ajinblambia and me to sprawling Jezgroid Airport. A golden comet would have been much faster, but we had heavy baggage Redenorb would see to with the copies of the claim checks that I gave him.
Soon we were in the air. In midday, we put down in Ulucac. A robot buggy for two passengers carried us to the departure gate of our flight to Qizilot. Just register your flight number by fingering the little keyboard on the buggy, and it takes you where you’re going. Five minutes later, you have reached your gate, not even knowing how you got there. A few more minutes and you’re seated on your plane.
The planes that fly Mecnita-Ulucac are jumbo jets, 2000 feet in length, with 600-meganewton thrust in all. These flying cities hold 100,000 passengers and many kilotons of cargo, featuring such amenities as swimming, tennis, billiards. The planes that fly from Ulucac to Qizilot are 700-foot-long minijets accommodating just 2000 people. Only recently have passengers significantly numerous begun to fly from Eb to Ub, so the fifteen-mile runways necessary to land the flying cities simply don’t exist in Ub. As we took off from Ulucac, we could see the twenty-mile runway the airplane we’d flown in on landed on, like a silver pencil on the greensward reaching the horizon and pointing to the heavens. I explained to Ajinblambia the reason we were flying in two stages. She at once remarked that one of her priorities would be to lay a superrunway at Nuula Airport too, so one could fly to Qizilot directly from Mecnita. Such a thing had never crossed my mind, but then, I wasn’t Ajinblambia, inventive and resourceful, imaginative and shrewd. I tended just to languish in the status quo.
We flew a while, chatting, falling silent and chatting once again. I started showing her some papers I had brought, but she towered over me as foot or so and had to lean and squint to see what I was pointing out. Suddenly, she put her left arm around my shoulders and her right arm below my legs, lifted me lightly, turned and plumped me in her lap. We laughed together, but I was frightened and embarrassed. It did, however, prove convenient in the matter of our mutual review of the papers I was holding. Later, I resumed my own seat, but this maneuver left a deep impression.
We flew into Qizilot at midnight. It was summer, luckily. Lying in the northern latitudes, Qizilot has chilly winters. This differs from the endless summer of equatorial Mecnita. Nuula Airport was not as modern as the one at Ulucac, to say nothing of Mecnita’s Jezgroid. My office was in a barrack seven miles away. We were met by Drisconarv at Nuula Airport. He’d driven in a van belonging to the projects. Here, of course, in Qizilot, we’d be at Turfant-Tuva #7 Nuclear Desalination Station, with several other stations being reachable by car.
In my office at the site, when we’d had pork and beans and bread, not quite the fare we would have had at Eldor Palace, Ajinblambia instructed Drisconarv just to carry on with his supervision of the projects for the present. She’d have me conduct her all around to tour the operation. Drisconarv had gotten ready a spartan little room for Ajinblambia next to mine. A bed, a chair, a table and a dresser were its furniture.
At daybreak, I found Drisconarv and Ajinblambia over cakes and tuco, examining a blueprint of the site plan. Turfant-Tuva #7, like all the other stations, was a 40-gigawatt facility, with ten units of 4000 megawatts apiece. Each unit could be used for generation of electricity or desalination of seawater, or both functions simultaneously, distributing its capabilities in response to need, as measured by computer-based analysis of feedback from the variety of installations depending on the unit. If a station was generating electricity exclusively, it could generate the entire 40 gigawatts. If it was desalinizing water, it could desalinize about 350,000,000 cubic feet a day. Electricity was used for pumping phreatic and desalinated water, charging electric agricultural machines, like harvesters and ploughs, loading, storing and unloading grain, lighting residential and commercial buildings and much else. For Turfant-Tuva #7, a turbogenerator of 40-gigawatt capacity had been assembled from huge components brought by ship, and stood ready in its place. To unload these huge components and other pieces of the kind, a dock with giant cranes had been erected on the coast just opposite deep water, where Ung’s superships, many with a draft of some 300 feet, could lie at anchor. The reactors themselves, with a diameter of 50 feet and a length around 300, were built of three-foot steel slab, all ready to be emplaced, and also came by ship. Along the shore, extrawide-gauge railroad tracks, fifteen feet from rail to rail, had been installed to move material from the dock. Eventually, they’d run the whole 900 miles. A reservoir where the reactors would discharge hot water had been excavated. Drisconarv exhibited the maps and drawings for Ajinblambia to see. His pride and his excitement were apparent. I could see that he was taking quite a liking to the lady, whom he’d met only briefly in Mecnita but now could get to know a little better. Each containment building was to have a 300-foot diameter and a height of 700, with walls some ten feet thick. Foundations for the most part had been poured. Steel had been erected—hefty columns, trusses, beams and girders. Shells were being poured, the lower portions bristling with a host of rebars preparatory for the upper parts. In some, instruments and circuits forming a labyrinth of incomprehensible complexity were beginning to be painstakingly installed.
The other stations on the Turfant-Tuva Project hadn’t gone so far. In fact, some lagged behind the schedule. Unforeseeable delays and difficulties had retarded progress in these cases. This is what I’d tried explaining to Queen Udi, but she’d been disinclined to listen.
When Ajinblambia saw I was ready to start showing her around, she thanked Drisconarv for the little preview he had given her, and she and I went out. She had on a blouse of muslin, black and snug and contoured, which was tucked into white fitted jeans. The jeans were tucked into her black, laced safety boots, which came up to midcalf. Her figure was not at all concealed; one could not conceal that ample bosom and those rounded hips. On her head, she had a new white vinyl hardhat with the legend ‘Ajinblambia’ in black letters. She’d ponytailed her black waterfall of hair. She had a gorgeous smile on her lips.
That day I led her all around the containment buildings and auxiliary structures. We went up on elevators and climbed staircases with treads of grating. We walked beams high in the sky. Ajinblambia could walk a narrow flange, surefooted as an ibex. She and I watched welders’ arcs and ironworkers hanging steel. We talked to engineers with clipboards and inspectors doing ultrasonic testing. She seemed to be at ease amid construction. And she spoke Oiradi it seemed to me practically as fluently as Ungi, whereas I was just a tyro in that language, so important in the west Ub.
Of course, the projects did employ many women workers, but none so prepossessing and imposing as the new directress. Men and women both were dazzled by her looks, veritable goddess that she was. They waved or came to greet us. They walked over just to talk.
We inspected the reactors and the superturbogenerator, looked at pumps and piping, tried equipment and machinery, saw heavy pieces lifted and fresh-mixed concrete poured. We studied drawings, analyzed reports, made meter readings and queried personnel.
Finally it started getting dark. She and I drove back to the office in the barrack. There, Drisconarv, expecting us, had corn and mutton, bread and butter, ready for the three of us. Over this plain supper, a lively conversation sparkled on till we were full and thought kindly of our beds.
During the week, we went to Turfant-Tuva #6, the nearest other station. Essentially identical to #7, except as it lay on the land, it was being built more slowly because of labor shortages and the need to ship materials from the facility at Qizilot. Then we drove past #5 and #4 and #3. A two-lane asphalt highway had been laid that far and was being extended as far as #1. The girders, diaphragms and stringers for a bridge over the Uvsnaatar River were finally in place to accommodate the highway and the railroad. Ajinblambia and I walked down the girders and crossed over on the concrete piers. The bridge was of a standardized design, which had allowed me to begin with fabrication and construction immediately with the queen’s decision to proceed. Still it lagged behind the schedule just a little. Ajinblambia examined welds and bolts, pins and hangers, rockers, rollers, fingerplates and hold-downs, all, it would seem, with the keen eye of an experienced inspector. She commented astutely on a number of matters concerning the design and quizzed me on delays I had described to exonerate myself.
During the next few days, Ajinblambia and I toured the Oirad Project, flying from installation to installation in one of the project’s superhelicopters, which had a range of 1500 miles. We put down at Oirad #101, the base of operations for the entire Oirad Project. There Exmofraf, an Ungi engineer, showed us all around. A long, low range of cliffs and hills paralleled the coast thereat. Steam could be seen in geothermal wells rising to the summits of the hills, to be condensed at elevations of 1000 feet or more. The average elevation of the fields to be irrigated was some 500 feet, and thus economies were realized in pumping water. The nuclear boilers and the geothermal wells were separate but juxtaposed. The wells obtained what power they consumed from the generators at the boilers. Seawater was channeled into cauldrons in the wells, where it was boiled by subterranean heat. The residue from boiling was raised to grade in buckets on conveyors, there to be transshipped to refineries for the extraction of important minerals.
As for Oirad #101, it was identical to Turfant-Tuva #7. Exmofraf conducted Ajinblambia and me on an informative tour of the facility nonetheless. We also flew over a score of other construction sites, both wells and boilers. We interviewed a thousand people, drove a thousand miles, saw a thousand cranes. At last we’d seen it all.
Nuclear Station in the North of Ung:
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