Atomic Robo: Dr. Thomas Elwood

This past weekend, the Fandible crew had the chance to playtest the upcoming Atomic Robo RPG. We don’t know if/when that particular adventure will be shared with our fans, but this character background was too awesome not to share. Behold the sort of SCIENCE-based insanity that could only be brought to you by Daniel and your lovable Fandible crew.

Atomic Robo RPG - Evil Hat Productions - Coming Soon

Image courtesy of Evil Hat Productions

Zero-point energy. It’s been the dream and goal of scientists and crackpots (and crackpot scientists) for years and years. Dr. Thomas Elwood wasn’t one of them. Oh, he’d dabbled in it a little. He, like every other brilliant (and handsome) theoretical physicist, had done the math that proved that, yes, in a subatomic, quantum level, the universe is in fact teeming with immensely vast quantities of broiling, fizzling, pure, inexhaustible energy, but the fact remained that all that energy lies forever locked away from us by the very math that makes it possible for it to exist. That was that, and it was done, and we’re back to debating with the rest of the TheoPhys-L mailing list on what a cake made entirely of neutrinos would taste like (his personal vote: minty).

And then he went out on an open-sea fishing trip with his cousin (the renowned, and far less handsome, Dr. Leo Elwood, who’s own specialty is in metamaterials), and it all, suddenly, completely, and wholly… clicked. As Dr. Elwood (Thomas, not Leo) stared out into the vast sea extending out in all directions from his boat, bored out of his brilliant, brilliant skull, he began to think back to the equations that made Zero Point energy possible. And in his mind, he began to picture this vast expanse of energy, just out of reach, as roughly analogous to the ocean right on the other side of the boat’s hull. Completely inaccessible to him (unless one were to jump off the boat, but that would lead to drowning, or, in the case of the ZPOcean as he immediately termed it, fully intending to trademark the term if the vague theories he was working on actually bore fruit, total and complete molecular dissolution at the quantum subatomic level). But if he went downstairs and very, very carefully drilled a very, very small hole in the hull of the ship, then the ocean on the other side would start to leak through. Depending on the dynamics of the hole, it would come through in a pressurized burst, or in a massive, boat-sinking flood, or, in the case of a truly inept hole-driller, it wold completely crack the hull leading to a catastrophic total hull failure (a.k.a. Reality Decohesion Event, easier to create than one might think, as he later discovered).

He never did catch any fish during that trip. A shame. It might have helped him with what came later.

Dr. Elwood (now definitely just Thomas, we won’t be hearing from Leo again this story, and let’s face it, it’s all for the best, Leo was always a rather homely man and no one in the family cared for him much, on account of his inexplicable love of radishes and the rather unpleasant flatulence that this unfortunate love affair brought about) went back to his lab, and feverishly began working on the equations for what he termed a ‘Quantum Spigot,’ a twisting of the very geometry of subatomic quantum spacetime that would allow energy from the ZPOceanTM to flow through into our reality, past the ‘hull’ of the commonly accepted laws of physics… and he did it. He figured it out. And more than just figuring it out, he created a device that could make it happen!

His first experiments were humble, careful, controlled. He lit a lightbulb with ZPEnergyTM (also TM, you bastards, so don’t even think about it). He powered a small turbine. He used it to fry up a delicious grilled cheese sandwich (and he will swear up and down that cooking with ZPEnergyTM actually makes food taste better). But such small experiments would not do. No, he had just turned the world of commonly understood quantum mechanics on its head! He had reached beyond the limitations of our universe and into a font of energy so vast, that it could, and would, solve every problem mankind had ever had! To prove it, he would need to create an experiment large enough, indisputable enough, that no other physicist would dare question it!

This is the part where having caught a fish during that earlier trip might have provided him with a bit of insight into what he could have expected.

In the oceans of our world, there’s not just water there: the oceans are teeming with all manner of life. Plankton. Algae. Fish. From the tiniest guppies, to the most massive whales, and everything in between: eels, squids, sharks. Turns out that the ZPOceanTM is not that different either. There are… things there. Dr. Elwood (Thomas, remember, we want no further mention of that malodorous radish-lover Leo) eventually came to name them P.H.I.S.H.E.S (Parareality Harmonic Independent Surface Hydrodynamic Entity Systems). And just like with a hole in the hull of a ship, if you make it too big, occasionally something else besides water can slip through. Or reach through, with a giant, slimy, extradimensional tentacle.

The demonstration was, of course, a disaster. Not because it didn’t work, but because it worked perfectly. Megawatts of energy poured through the Quantum SpigotTM.. as well as at least five independently confirmed  P.H.I.S.H.E.S. Thankfully, Tesladyne Industries’ crack team of Action Scientists were close at hand (they’d been watching Dr. Elwood’s research closely), and managed to neutralize all of the P.H.I.S.H.E.S without any loss of life, and only a few million dollars’ worth of property damage. They then offered Thomas a job.

Over the past year, Dr. Elwood has managed to work out many of the kinks in his experiments, the most important being the addition of a Neutralizing Energy Trap, or NET, to his Quantum SpigotsTM that catch any attempted  P.H.I.S.H.E.S before they can make their way into our reality. Most of the time.

An early experiment with NET technology did lead to a small P.H.I.S.H.E.S leak, one of which turned out to be completely harmless (so far) and which Dr. Elwood has kept as a kind of mascot. It is small, round like a pufferfish except with glowing purple eyes and, at last count, 5 separate lizard tails (for some reason the number tends to fluctuate when no one’s looking). He has named it Leo (because it, too, loves radishes, and produces a particularly potent type of flatulent odor when excited. Or scared. Or bored. Or… look, just wear a gas mask when Dr. Elwood lets Leo out of his tank).

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About the Author
Born in the freezing heart of upstate New York, raised in the searing heat of the Caribbean, then mellowed for several years in a fine oak barrel until he reached a perfect balance of snark and zen, Daniel is Fandible’s resident tech expert. Graduating at the top of his class in high school, and accepted to an Ivy League university, he instead chose to run away with the circus, where he learned valuable life lessons, and grew to hate clowns. He then travelled the globe for years in search of the six-fingered man, only to find the power was inside him all along. These days, he surrounds himself with glowing screens and wearable technology in an attempt to summon forth the Singularity by way of cargo cult. He is a Leo, and his favorite color cannot be seen by any but the pure of heart.

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