#FridayFlash: The Diamond Anvil

The Diamond Anvil
by Tony Noland

"Remember, Peter, they're from the Pentagon, which means they'll be stupid, skeptical, and stubborn. Take it from the top, and use small words."

"OK. Good morning, gentlemen, and welcome -"

"Actually, they won't get here to the labs until the afternoon. We changed the tour schedule. And Congresswoman Reily might be with them; if she is, address her first. Say, 'Congresswoman Reily, General Powers, gentlemen, ladies' just like that."

"Viktor, can we skip practicing the introduction? I've done dog and pony shows before, you know."

"I know, but this is important."

"They're always important. Investors, inspectors, site visits from the Pentgon accountants... the dog and pony shows are probably the most important thing I do. Next month, I'm planning to learn to juggle, so I won't have to waste any time on showing off any of my actual research."

"Can we drop the sarcasm for once? Please? If this works out, we'll be rolling in money forever and you'll get a Nobel prize."

"WHEN this works out, my experiments will all be classified so highly that I won't even be allowed to read my own notebooks. And nobody will ever hear my name again because I'll be disappeared into Area 51."

"For Christ's sake, why do you always insist on -"

"Relax. I'm kidding, Viktor, I'm kidding. Sure, we'll both be famous and rich. Oh, don't be like that. Come on, huh? With my brains and your mouth, we'll go -"

"- we'll go to the moon and beyond. Yeah, yeah. Just do the presentation, OK? You want to skip the intro, fine. Give me the guts of it, just like you're going to tell it to the power people from D.C. Remember, small words."

"Right, here goes. Ladies and gentlemen, this device is the heart of the dissociation projector. As you can see, this fully functional prototype is of a size and weight suitable for shoulder-fired operation."

"And how does it work, Dr. Lazlo?"

"Does Congresswoman Reily really talk like that? So high and squeaky?"

"Just answer the question."

"Because if she talks like a mouse, I'm gonna laugh, Defense Subcommittee Chair or not."

"Just answer the question!"

"I'm glad you asked, Congresswoman. While the functioning of the device is rather complex, the primary reaction takes place in the diamond anvil cell, here. Hey, should we open it up so they can see the diamonds? She's a woman, right? You think that would help?"

"No, I don't think it would help. Don't be a sexist pig. They'll see a presentation in the morning all about the diamond anvil and how it works. The morning is intentionally boring: accounting, background and theory. The afternoon is exciting and sexy, where you show them the gun and blow stuff up. We're gonna start slow and finish big."


"Thanks. And since the prototype is the only working model of the death ray, we can't very well pop the gamma containment lattice just to show them the diamonds, now can we? It would take five hours to recalibrate everything. If you want, we can open it up after the shooting's done and the radiation drops back down to normal levels."

"Well, yeah, I guess that makes sense. Anyway, uh, so, the primary reaction takes place in the diamond anvil cell. Unlike comparable systems used in materials science research, which use natural diamonds, the diamonds used in this cell are composed entirely of Carbon-17. They were made for us using a magnetically guided plasma migration through a sintered erbium-hafnium matrix doped with -"

"Too much, Peter, too much. Back off a little."

"They were made for us using a special process. It's complicated. You wouldn't understand it."

"Please don't be a smartass, not even in jest. Did I mention this is important?"

"Carbon-17, blah blah blah, special process, blah blah blah, happy to provide your staff with all the necessary technical detail. OK?"


"Fine. While normal diamond anvil cells can achieve pressures of up to 900 gigapascals before mechanical failure of the diamonds, the carbon-17 diamonds can withstand much greater stresses. We operate at pressures in excess of 200 exapascals, a level at which we are able to do some remarkable things. Normally, even such pressures as these would not allow for deuterium-deuterium fusion. However, carbon-17 diamonds have a collapsar-like resonance state which is activated by phase-enhanced phonons cresting a doppler wave at -"


"- which is activated by a special kind of pulsed light, analogous to a sort of pulsing laser beam. Ladies and gentlemen, the net result of shining this pulsing laser beam into the carbon-17 diamond anvil cell is a kind of slow-burning fusion, the energy of which is transferred back into the beam as it passes through the diamonds."

"Excellent, perfect. Say it just like that tomorrow."

"The value of this process is seen when the beam, now charged with a cycling resonance pulse of high-intensity quasi-phonons, hits a solid object. Uh, Viktor, this is the point where I was going to disintegrate the block of lead. Should I do it at this point or wait until I finish the explanation?"

"Um.. no, go ahead and blast it. Then wait for everybody to calm down before you start talking again. The melting lead will make them pay attention better, especially when you blow up the other stuff. They're going to go bananas over this, Peter, just completely wild. Man, this is going to be great."

"Heh, it should be pretty good. The concrete wall is going to be the best, though. I like blowing holes in concrete even better than making trees explode."

"I dunno, I like the trees best. Anyway, you do the small demo, take them outside, blow some stuff up, let them blow some stuff up and...?"

"And finish with a full description of how we can scale it all up to anti-personnel, anti-tank, anti-aircraft and anti-satellite sizes, just as soon as they give us more money than God."

"Perfect. Perfect! Now then, once more from the top. Just to be sure."


  1. Nice dress rehearsal! Break a leg!

  2. Firstly, "The Diamond Anvil" is one of the coolest titles I've come across for any sort of fiction in a while.

    Secondly, as I began reading I thought how funny it'd be if a dialogue-only story took up a speaker only one participant could hear. Then that's what you actually did (well, sort of), which made me feel cheekily ashamed. Brave experiment with the rehearsal, Tony, and amusing work.

    Thirdly, Paragraph 6 - there's a subject disagreement between "shows" and "thing." I see how it can work, but it feels like it would flow better if "thing" went plural.

  3. Fantastic use of dialogue use. This is so awesome.

  4. The squeaky voice line made me chuckle, pretty funny throughout, when it boils down, its all about blowing things up.

  5. @ Sonia: I'm sure these guys will be able to pull it off!

    @ John: As it happens, diamond anvil cells are quite real. I first heard about them back in the mid-eighties. They do some VERY interesting things to materials, including turning hydrogen into an electrically conductive metal. Very cool.

    I see what you're saying about the subject disagreement, but I'm going to let it stand. It's the "doing" which is the "thing", rather than the "shows" which are the "things". The verb is implied rather than stated, which, since this is in dialogue, I think will pass muster. You've got a good eye for nuances like that, I must say.

    @ Raven: Thank you!

    @ Adam: Yeah, for all the science and the technology, what the Pentagon guys are there to see is the boom boom. I'm glad you got a laugh out of it - these two guys are pretty funny, in an uber-geek kind of way.

  6. Maybe you work in the defense industry? I can see exactly that kind of conversation happening.

  7. Great stuff Tony!Sparkling dialogue as usual and another highly inventive flash. It reminds me of that great Bill Hicks routine..Soldier looks down list " What does G16 do? Calls up base.. "Hey Chuck, send out G16.. base fires.. explosion .. "cool, what does G17 do?

  8. LOL loved the dialogue, have a big smile on my face ^___^

  9. Great comic timing and the dialogue sparkles. I can picture this as a comic sketch so easily, especially if it was a couple of henchmen preparing to dazzle the supervillian with their pitch.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  10. Cool story. You remain a dialogue wizard. On a petty note you've missed a letter in 'Pentagon'.

  11. I like how I knew exactly who was speaking even without dialogue tags. Nicely done.

  12. I love these "dialogue only" pieces and considering this is about a death ray, how could I NOT approve? If Peter's interested, there's an opening over at the Von Doom Corporation.


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