"First Mr. Wong let me assure you that we can speak freely in this restaurant. No one will be able to eavesdrop on our conversation. Nor has passed your proposal to the council, and we are … intrigued. May I know how you came up with this idea?"
I gave Tanner a fake smile. It was a little earlier than I expected, but I knew it was a matter of time before the council would want to speak to me. I kept my wits about me, and gave Tanner the same speech I gave Nor. At the end of my speech, I tried to gauge his response, and was silently delighted to see the greed in his eyes. Tanner's calm façade remains though.
"This idea of disguising magic as a type of science. You had mentioned this before, and we are agreeable to it, but you now wish to let others research this problem as well. Is that truly necessary? You may not know this, but the various councils had researched the interference phenomenon before. Although the results were nothing impressive, it could serve as the base for further research. Is there a need to release the information of mana technology at this point of our plan?"
"Yes, we do. We need outside help."
"Why?" Tanner asked.
"Because we don't have a method to observe the interference. The energy released by mana interfered with the energy of regular technology. No one knows why, but that is a fact. However, we have no way to observe the reason behind this inference. Basically, we need new equipment to be made that could help us observe the interference. Only after this could we find a method to calculate the inference and solve the problem."
"Can't we do it ourselves?"
"Unfortunately, no. The interference is on a level that's naked to the human eye, and we know so little about it that we don't even have a theory for the interference."
"Something like a theoretical tool. We need a set of tools designed to understand the mechanics behind the interference. A conceptual framework that can be applied in different categories of work. Something to discuss in detail how mana behaves, how the energy can be used, how it relates to other forms of energy, and what the drawbacks are from using mana."
Tanner smiled; he clearly didn't get what I was saying. I knew I had to simplify it. Unfortunately, I was no scientist, so I could only try my best.
"Think of it this way. Do you know that why you run different sets of technology together in a device, the reliability of the device will be affected?" At Tanner's nod, I continued. "The reason for this is due to energy interference. The energy released by different technologies are slightly different from each other. There are tons of science articles out there just on the difference between Steam and Clockwork energy. It took scientists over a century before they could develop any sort of consistency in performance when they combined Steam and Clockwork together."
"Isn't that what you were known for?" Tanner asked.
"Yes, but I didn't do it alone. Before I came along, there were already devices and machines that mixed Steam and Clockwork technologies. They were just hardly used because they had a twenty percent chance of failure. This meant that for every five time you operate the device, there will be one failure. That was unacceptable. Who is going to buy something that broke down that often? What I did was to push that failure percentage to just ten percent. Then, after further tinkering and study, I managed to push that percentage even lower. Right now, the chances of failure in my battlesuits are less than one percentage."
Tanner looked impressed. "And you can't do that for mana?"
"Not if I don't even know what to look out for." I freely admitted. "My work with Steam and Clockwork technologies was based on the back of over a century of work by other researchers. I know this may sound a little strange to a magician, but no one can just create a theoretical tool out of thin air. We do need help, and my plan is to make us a lot of credits in the process."
Tanner sipped his tea, and I could see his brain working. He asked a few follow-up questions and I answered them as best I could. However, I admitted that a lot of the plan was subject to change. We were trying to enact a conspiracy to fool the world, so it's best to have some flexibility. Tanner agreed with that and then went for the big stuff. He had a demand.
"Mr. Wong, the council are in serious discussion about your plan but before we agree to it, we require something from you. We want a prototype."
"The council want a battlesuit that has runs on mana technology. Before we commit further, we want you to have a prototype ready."
I immediately shook my head. "If I could solve the issue of mana and regular technology, why would I need to suggest this plan?"
"We understand. As a compromise, the battlesuit need not use to run on magic. It just needs to have some parts of it that can be attributed to the new technology. Something that shows that this new technology is viable. The last thing we want is to release this information to the rest of humanity, and then have some other council beat us to the punch. If they released a showcase of mana technology before us, then they will get most of the benefits."
"Can't we just have some magicians- perferably handsome and beautiful magicians- on hand at the conference when we make the reveal. They can show some simple harmless magic spells to the public."
"We can do that, but that will only prove that magic exists. We need something to show the idea of mana technology. The council need something technological to show the public, and that removes doubts that mana technology was something that Waterfall Technology and The Fat Tinkerer discovered together. As you are known for your battlesuits, we believe it would be best if you have a battlesuit on hand to showcase the possible application of mana technology. We can't risk others doing it before us."
"It's a risk we have to take. The conference is in six weeks. There's no way I can design a new battlesuit and solve this problem by then. It's impossible."
"Then I am afraid the council will not agree to your proposal." Tanner spoke with a finality that broke no argument. "We are not going to take the risk of exposure without some guarantee of being able to reap most of the profits."
I read between the lines and finally got what he was saying. Howard was right. The council was trying to find an excuse to cut me out! They are going to do the reveal without me! I silently fumed. I thought the fact that I was the one who came up with the idea would make me safe from betrayal, but evidently, I was wrong. I was furious but realize that there was nothing I could do. The council even found an excuse that made a certain amount of sense!
I quickly went into my cyborg mode. My emotion was getting the better of me and I need a cool head here. I quickly went through the whole conversation I just had and noticed a strange thing. Why did the council choose to approach me now? If they wanted to cut me off, they could have chosen to do that without telling me first. I looked at Tanner and wonder if he was my executioner or someone who was here to give me a heads up.
Either way, it didn't help me. There was nothing I could do. However, once I thought of the billions that were at stake, my mind moved quickly. Greed was a national trait in Singapore, and there was no way I was not going to get my share.
The Fuming Minotaur popped into my head and a strange idea began to take root. There no way around the interference so why don't I just … I looked at the two magicians in front of me and asked.
"Tell me, do you know of any big flashy runes or talismans that could act as a shield?"