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Secret within a Secret

I am dying, Pablito, so let your grandfather tell you a secret… and then a secret within a secret.

First, the secret you must take to your grave: The empire can never know the origin of the drive. The drive is the foundation of our power, the center from which all authority flows. If we lose control of the drive, we lose the empire, and we slide back to the starving days that haunted humanity.

Second, the secret within the secret. And Pablo, it is something I have never even told your father. But you have a wisdom about you that he lacks. An insight. And I think this bit of knowledge will serve you well when it comes time for you to rule:

Pablo, I do not know how it works.

Oh, of course, I could reverse engineer it. I could scale it up and scale it down. I could even vary the materials and sometimes get results. But as to how it works, I do not know. I have stared at it for 58 years, and I feel I understand it less and less. It is beyond me.

But with the hope that it won’t remain beyond you, let me give you my best guess. Or, at least, my best imagery.

Take a coin, and slide it across a long tablecloth at a low velocity. It would take hours to make it across the table. Now, take the tablecloth and pinch it up in the middle. The coin maintains the same low velocity, but makes much further ground across the cloth. That, I believe, is how the drive works, Pablo. We skirt across the crests of pinched space.

– Emperor Conrado I, in a letter to his oldest grandson. (Unpublished. Held in the Biblioteca Privada de La Familia.)