The Plan

Chapter Nine

The Plan


Testing, Testing, 1 2 3

The plan was for Val, and his staff to put their chip in the module, and do some initial testing.

They had some real, and some dummy loads and interfaces. They had a week to test separately, after which time they were to get together and compare notes.

After a short time of review at Motion Modular they would redo any questionable tests, and brain-storm as to any other testing, or modification they thought wise.

During the first part of the week, Val and his people had reason to contact Motion Modular regarding the module. It appeared dead, but when a certain unmarked switch was toggled, it came to life.

The switch call and a couple of other calls RE: clarification of lines in the manual were all answered by Ted. He seemed a most likable chap, and was that a slight British accent?

Well, Val kept reminding himself, there was more to his job than this project. But then he would think of this module’s potential and remember the times with grandpa Bill’s ATV, and he would be hooked in again.

The result was the module and processor got a good testing. A number of questions and some suggestions came to Val’s mind. His excitement was curtailed only by thinking of having to deal with the “Old Witch of Watson Way,” as he had come to think of her in his mind. But thoughts of Dora, and her gentle, but constant reminders came to mind.

“Most anyone can create and nurture an unkind thought, but only special people always strive to think the very best of others and give them the benefit of the doubt; Val, I want you to be special.”

Alright, alright, maybe that Elaine was having a bad day. (Or maybe she was weaned on a pickle!) Val! He heard his mother’s voice say, and his subconscious answered: “Sorry Mom.” He sure had her thumbprint engraved on his brain!



You are who?

Well, today was the day. Val collected up his notes, parts, supplies, a couple of the smaller test devices, and headed for Watson Way and Motion Modular.

He could have had the afternoon there yesterday but needed to go over some things… oh who was he trying to kid. He procrastinated not wanting to face Elaine.

He had let Ted know he would be arriving in the morning to begin the joint test portion of the project. “All ready here old stick.  A bit of a sticky wicket at the start, but all ironed out now. See you in the AM”. It sure was a lot smaller than Colossus, but Tim had picked well for what was needed at the moment, and as he approached the lab, he noted, as he would expect from Tim, the lab got the lions share of the space.

As he entered the door to the lab, he saw the door on the far side open pretty much in unison. Two bodies stopped mid-step. Two jaws dropped, and silence prevailed to the point of mutual embarrassment.

Then the room echoed with two people speaking at once from faces etched with shock, silence, both speaking, silence. Finally, Helen curtsied regally and smiled as she said, “Oh Val, yes THAT Val, let’s start over”! He bowed deeply, and as they both broke into laughter said: “Agreed.” “What’s with the ‘Elaine'” he asked as his mind raced… this was no witch, but he was just as much under her spell as so many years before.

No, more. The promises nature was making then were now “paid in full – with a bonus”! “And you don’t sound anything like the Elaine I spoke to on the phone.”

Her smile faded, and he was uncertain what he could have said to offend. She perceived his thoughts and explained “Well I have had some tragedies in my life, including having to run into a burning building to help a friend. The smoke inhalation really messed up my voice for a while, and the death of my grandparents really messed up my attitude. The voice is better… the jury’s still out on the attitude”.

Helen, ah Elaine, I am so sorry, my grandparents mean so much to me. I can scarcely begin to imagine what you are going through!”

His tender sincerity threatened to break through her veneer, and expose emotions so near the surface these days. But there was also something calming about this familiar person from her past, and his genuine care. “Val, my name is Elaine Helen Olafsson. Elaine after my grandmother on my mother’s side. My folks wanted to honour her by giving me her name as one of mine. But they preferred the name Helen, and that is what I was known as for my first years. When I came here, though, due to Elaine being first on all official documents, it was assumed I was to be called that, and I got tired of correcting everyone, and decided to ‘go with the flow'”.

“Do you suppose we will get much done after this shock?” he asked. “Yes, but not before we sit down for a bit and recover. Follow me. Coffee or tea?”



Back Path

As testing began Valdemar Karlsson and Elaine Helen Olafsson compared notes. Some tests were common. Others related more to the processor or the module.

The processor seemed stable, and going through its paces showed no issues. Val had brought a “raspberry pi” loaded with Linux he used to test chips.

He hooked things up and fired it up. He explained he was going in through the DAT Buss (Direct Access Test Buss) and using a test mode in the processor that would allow more manual and granular control.

There was a strange look on her face. Somewhere between fear and uncertainty. Of course, she would know about the DAT Buss. Anyone could hook up to it and directly access the processor.

“By the way,” he asked, “What can you tell me about the mystery switch Ted had to have me toggle to get our test module going?” That look intensified, and mutated through, “I don’t want to talk about it” and on into “you caught me.” She was well aware of his close friendship with Tim and knew this could turn bad for her. But what choice did she have?

“Ah, well…” A pause just a little too long. “Okay, I know I maybe overstepped my authority here… well I guess no maybe about it… well I guess I don’t need to guess, I just did”.

When she saw his disarming smile, then small polite chuckle at her stammering, she had to laugh, which quickly drew him into the same. Well, she thought, maybe this will work out without dismemberment or death.

“You see, Tim was in here when you called last month. Between reminiscing about your grandfather’s ATV, and talking about this project, I kept on overhearing ‘back door.’ I didn’t go out of my way to eavesdrop, but it would not have been easy not to hear Tim’s side of the conversation. Anyway, I studied the older processor Tim had given me to get started and found the unexplained pin. Well actually it was marked unused, but when I toggled it, everything changed. At first, I thought I might have damaged the chip, but toggling it back restored standard behavior. The adjacent pin was also marked unused in the manual Tim gave me. Someone had written in pencil “AC” above the “unused.” After wracking my brain for a while, I thought, although that could mean a myriad of other things, one possibility was ‘Alternate Clocking.’

I toggled ‘unused#1’, and clocked ‘unused#2’, and things happened. I added the mystery switch to toggle the ‘unused’ pin and enable that ‘SC’ circuit, that’s ‘Secondary clocking.’ It allows the clocking to be manual, step by step, or speed adjusted. Plus the output connector marked ‘unused’ on the module, actually allows external clocking and I/O to/from the processor. I have not had time to reverse engineer the ‘back door’ any further than that yet”.

Wow! He thought this girl brings new depth to the old saying ‘…not just another pretty face!’ Now his face had a bit of the ‘you caught me’ look, but then a quick smile.

“Well done, that will make testing much easier. We not only have a ‘back door’ but also a ‘back path’ to get to and from it. Who knows about this?” “Ah… Ted knows, but I do not want to get him in trouble. His hardware expertise was needed to complete things, but it was all at my bidding. This was my doing, but he went along, a little intrigued as well I think.” Val knew the day would come when he would need to tell Tim about this, but not today. “Okay, let’s continue.”



The Path Forward

Motion Modular was altering course somewhat. Although not wanting to abandon factory machines and equipment that they had been developing toward lately, they wished to move more in the direction of one of the main uses projected for the module from the very early days… vehicle control.

This latest module was a major step in that direction. The myriad of inputs, outputs, and control interfaces available through the various plugs and connectors was substantial.

One company that Motion Modular had been courting was a container shipping concern.

Research had revealed there are 4 trillion dollars of goods shipped around the globe each year.


For 190 million US Dollars, Daewoo Shipbuilding of Korea had built ‘The Triple E’ for Maersk Lines.

At 400 Meters long, 59 meters wide, 30 meters High (10 story building), and sporting 2 X 40,000 horsepower engines it was, at least at this point, the biggest ship of its type in the world.

Complete with all the latest ‘bells and whistles’ including waste heat recovery, it would also be the most economical to operate.

There was room for a basketball court, an American football stadium and an ice hockey arena all below deck… with spectators.


This ship would carry 18,000 containers at 16 knots halfway around the world through the trade lane from Asia to Europe, a maritime superhighway accounting for 316 billion dollars of business.


Motion Modular hoped to be at the forefront of enhancing that journey with increased remote access to the status and controls of the ship. Since fully loaded, the cargo would be worth between 450 and 550 million dollars; the security issues were enormous.

The requirement was impenetrable control of the course. The captain could stop the ship and had control to dock, and leave each port, but altering course required input from head office via satellite. At least, that was the plan. Of course, it was a long way off. But both companies were hopeful enough to allow the module to be installed for initial testing at some undetermined point.

It was cheaper to do it during the ship’s assembly than to retrofit the module, so the required wiring and devices were built in from the start.

Start writing…

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