WHAT DRIVES THE MOBILATOR?
The crusaders gathered curiously around the Mobilator. Ingel Brankel was eager to explain his remarkable invention.
‘A truly revolutionary form of transport,’ he began. ‘You can leave behind your carriages and cart. My machine can carry us all in comfort.’
He walked along the side of the Mobilator, turning handles and opening doors. There were ten doors altogether, each with its own circular window. Inside were individual compartments containing bunk-like beds and overhead luggage racks. They were small but very luxurious, lined with red plush velvet and black padded leather.
They even had electrical lighting. When Ingel Brankel flicked a switch in one compartment, twin bulbs lit above the bunk, shedding a warm opalescent glow. It seemed almost miraculous to me. I’d heard about Mr Edison’s new form of lighting, but it hadn’t yet reached Buda-Pesth.
Fliss was delighted. ‘It’s a mobile home! Everyone gets a bedroom! Malicide, we have to transfer to the Mobilator!’
Lord Sain was less convinced. ‘Is it reliable, though? I’ve heard that these new-fangled petrol engines often break down.’
‘Petrol engine?’ Ingel Brankel bristled with indignation. ‘This is no petrol engine. Didn’t I say, a truly revolutionary form of transport?’
He stooped and opened three panels along the underside of the Mobilator. The engine was hidden beneath the floor.
‘Here you see the special Generator and Battery.’ He pointed to a shiny steel chamber and a square black box. Then to an array of oiled shafts and cogwheels. ‘And here, the Coordinated Suspension and Gearing System.’
The other crusaders peered into the component parts of the engine.
‘On the left, the Flash-Boiler, where water is heated to produce steam.’ He indicated a bell-shaped pan with corrugated sides. ‘On the right, the Condenser, where steam cools back into water.’ He indicated a set of brass pipes like a musical instrument.
Linaeus sniffed. ‘Isn’t this a standard steam engine? What’s revolutionary about it?’
‘You’ll learn, you’ll learn.’
Ingel Brankel scuttled further along and opened another three panels. He pointed to a small metal drum with a funnel and cap.
‘Here you see the fuel tank. In a standard steam engine, the fuel would be coal. Large quantities of coal. But for my engine, only a handful of dirt.’
‘Impossible!’ The Reverend Squench let out a contemptuous snort. ‘How can you heat water with dirt?’
Ingel Brankel lowered himself flat on his back and wriggled right in under the engine.
‘The source of the heat,’ he said proudly. ‘My greatest scientific discovery. The Adversative Particle Drive.’
He was looking up at a ring-shaped tube like a doughnut. The tube itself was a foot in diameter, while the ring extended to the full width of the Mobilator. Two smaller pipes fed into the tube at the sides. The whole apparatus was black and grimed with soot.
‘It’s a new level of theoretical physics,’ he went on. ‘I have discovered the fundamental particles from which all matter is constructed. Far smaller than the particles of molecular chemistry. I alone, Ingel Brankel, ahead of my time. In the next century, I predict—don’t touch!’
He broke off to shout a warning at Fliss. Her outstretched hand was about to touch the doughnut-shaped tube.
‘It’s very, very hot,’ he said, as Fliss drew back. ‘To continue. According to my theory, some kinds of particles attract, some kinds of particles repel. But I have found a particle so repellent that no other kind of particle can bear to be near it.’
‘The adversative particle?’ Raveena queried.
‘Exactly. The most horrible and disgusting particle in existence. Such a particle is suspended in this very tube. When fuel is pumped in here’—he indicated one of the two smaller pipes—’the ordinary particles of dirt are so repelled by the adversative particle, they seek to rush as far away as possible. But note the circular design. When they rush away in the tube, they come back round again. They meet the adversative particle on the other side.’
Fliss pulled a face. ‘Yukk!’
‘Causing them to be repelled in the opposite direction. And so on, back and forth, back and forth. The ordinary particles rush around forty-eight times per minute. Generating friction and therefore heat.’
‘Generating the steam which drives the turbine.’
‘Correct. For more heat, I introduce more particles. For turning the engine off, I allow the particles to escape by this second pipe. You understand?’
The crusaders nodded. Ingel Brankel wriggled out from under the engine. His wedding suit was filthy, his white shirt spotted with oil and soot.
‘I fill the fuel tank with a new handful of dirt every six hours,’ he said. ‘After six hours of operation, the ordinary particles become terminally disgusted and refuse to move any more.’
Even Lord Sain was impressed.