Tahira and her girls crossed the gate of the factory during her lunch break. The dye works had a kitchen, but Ibrahim didn't think that serving anything but slop was a good investment. And an enterprising businessman had set up a business just across the street to cater to the workers. It wasn't cheap, but it wasn't unaffordable either. And as her salary increased along her responsibilities, she was able to pay for such luxuries.
Which made the offer from the joint's owner a welcome suprise.
- Are you the lady of the sun? - He asked.
- The what? - Tahira asked in return, confused.
- The lady who taught all those women how to operate the sun mirrors?
- Uhm... yes, I've been doing that lately. Why do you ask?
- I have a proposal for you. We have installed one of those sun mirrors, but we can't make it work, at least not as it was promised it would work. They say that you taught all those women how to operate the machines. If you could do the same for my wife and daughters, and then come to visit say... twice a month to make sure it is working as intended? You'd just need to check how it is working, it shouldn't take more than fifteen minutes.
- And what would I get out of this?
- Well, in exchange you can eat in this establishment for free. As long as it is reasonable, of course.
Tahira knew a good deal when she saw one, so she immediately agreed. She even requested to see the machine immediately. The owner agreed, and guided her to the rooftop to see the boiler.
It was a dud. Someone built something that looked like a Solar Boiler, without understanding the fundamentals behind it. The curve wasn't parabolic but circular, and thus unfit to concentrate the sunbeams to the heating pipe. The pipe wasn't properly centered, and was straight instead of coiled.
- This won't work. Not in this state. - She told the man. - I won't be able to teach your workers how to use this device, because this isn't an actual device.
The joint owner look at her, and then at the machine.
- So I was duped?
- I don't know... who sold you this?
- A travelling salesman. He said he was from Ankara.
- You were duped, and you won't be getting that money back. Also, the construction is rather shoddy. The gears are made of iron, not steel. - She said, noting the sound it made when struck with a rock. - They will wear in short order.
- Are you sure you are a woman? - The man asked, joking.
- Last time I checked, yes. - She said in a deadpan manner, lacking any amusement in her voice. The man backed off.
- I am sorry, it is just that I am surprised that you'd know so much about machines.
- I have years of experienced with them. And I can tell you right now that it isn't possible for this machine to work. It looks like one.
- You'd think that spending good money on this would guarantee a working product. But alas, I think I'll have to scrap it. I am sorry to waste your time, your next three meals are on the house. - He said, resigned.
- So de deal is off?
- You can't teach my staff to use a machine that is useless, you said so yourself.
Those words caused the equivalent of a heartbreak in her stomach. The food was good, and getting it for free was an excellent deal. A deal that wouldn't be possible without a working machine... and so
- Perhaps we can make it work? - She suggested.
- How so? It is a dud.
- It is. But the mirrors are there, and the tracking mechanism works well enough. We can replace some parts, make those we need, and then get this thing to work. It won't be the same as one produced in England, but I can gauge that it'd be enough for your needs. You'll pay for this, of course. And you will feed me in the meantime.
- Deal. At least I know where to find you if I am scammed again.
Constantino Serrano took his hat off as he passed through Arturo Prat's monument. He didn't know if Chile would've won the war without his sacrifice, as he could see how the mood changed after the battle of Iquique, how the men became determined to honour his memory. He owed the path his life had taken to Prat. And it was a good path, despite the limping leg. He had made a fortune working on something meaningful. And in good company, as both Alejandro and Augustin proved to be good friends.
He was so accustomed to it, that he had come to dread the clouds and rain, for it meant lost productivity and the shutdown of the manufacturing plant. But still, Valparaiso looked beautiful in its mess of colours and sounds. He spent his time in good hotels, good restaurants and good cafés. In those places, he met his prospective clients and potential business partners. He lamented coming alone, for his schedule was too busy to appreciate the city. Only the occasional squad of British Redcoats reminded him that the city was under occupation.
He had secured contracts for solar collectors in Peru and occupied Tacna, for temperature regulation devices with several Nitrate companies, and particularly large one for sanitary sterilization equipment with the government of Bolivia. And he, in turn, had granted a contract to a German firm to build a pipe factory in Almonte, after Isidora Goyenechea decided that it'd be cheaper to build the specialized pipes in situ than to import them from Europe. The Franco-Chilena could afford such an investment, and even keep the newly formed company operating at a loss if needed be.
But this meeting would prove to be the most interesting one. It wasn't a planned one, but rather someone had requested a reunion as soon as possible to discuss "technological breakthroughs" which could interest the company. He received some of those. Either they were minor ideas that could help, or unworkable pipe dreams by cranks who either didn't know something wouldn't work or thought Constantino wouldn't. Still, it was one of those ideas which led him to his current position.
That someone turned out to be a familiar face, although it took a while for Constantino to recognize him.
- I remember now! You were the Commander from the Royal Navy in Tarapacá. Damian Cottrell, isn't it?
- Damien, with an e. And yes, I was there in the aftermath of that... regrettable business.
- A senseless massacre. To bring such a shame after bringing glory to the country... it boggles the mind.
- It does. Some people back home are still angry over it.
- It's understandable. Anyway, how have you been? I understand that you started a company with the design of our first boiler. - Constantino said, without grudge in his voice.
- Not quite, my brother did. They're selling quite well around the British Empire and its surroundings. Australia in particular is a huge market with the recent ore discoveries. I help him in my free time, and act as a promoter of sorts for his business.
- That's good, I'm glad he's doing alright. - Constantino said, surprising himself. He was genuinely happy for a man who had stolen a few years of his work, but who had also set him in a better, if rougher, path. How about you? I don't see you wearing your colours anymore.
- Oh, this is me enjoying my Leave. I don't like wearing my uniform everywhere, but that doesn't mean I'm not Captain in the Her Majesty's Navy.
- A toast for our respective prosperity! - Constantino said. Both men raised their cups of wine and drank. How are things with our friends from England?
- I'm not at liberty to discuss much. But I can tell you that the Chilean Government has requested the American ships to not make port in your cities, as it'd interfere with our mutual agreement.
- Oh, that. That's ought to be the end of that, isn't it?
- It should. Both the US Embassy in Santiago and the Chilean Embassy in Washington have received the request. But that Egan fellow could stir problems.
- What sort of problems?
- Problems I am not at liberty to discuss. - Cottrell said. - Anyway, let's discuss about business. We've seen that you have made some spectacular advances in cryonics... and you have patented them quite thoroughly.
- We have, it is a promising technology, and we have found some uses for it.
- But you lack a way to store the resulting liquid air, don't you?
- How did you know? - Constantino asked.
- Augustin Mouchot is in contact with researchers in Europe, who are very interested in his breakthroughs. One of them is an associate of my brother Morgan. He told us about your problems.
- It isn't much of a problem nowadays, we've found that wool is a good insulator and can store the liquid for minutes. Enough to be used in...
- Is that really true?
That question pierced his rhetoric. It could maybe retard evaporation, but not actually store the liquid.
- No, it isn't.
- Well, my brother's associate has found a way to actually store very cryonic liquids. In fact, I have one the first prototypes here in Valparaiso. Morgan is willing to lend it to the Franco-Chilena over a gentleman's agreement to not interfere in the patenting process in Chile. Consider it a gesture of gratitude over the Solar Boiler. What comes after, I leave it up to you. My brother Morgan loves to compete, and he will continue to do so with in the international market, but he also admires the work done by you and Mouchot and wants to see what you are capable of achieving when given the means.
- So that's it? No strings attached?
- You'll see that we have already started the patenting process here in Chile, so you'd need to hurry if you really want to steal the technology. But you aren't a thief. Maybe keep Morgan informed of your advances. If you feel so inclined.
Constantino admitted to himself he was unprepared for this kind of business meeting. How do you bargain with someone who expects nothing in return?
For the intensity that reached the Solar Race in the 1890s and 1900s, it is surprising to find that the two main players during this period had cordial relations and were even willing to share technology and contacts when needed. Although it is often speculated that these relationships were the result of pure business calculations, recent epistolary research shows that both Mouchot and Cottrell enjoyed technological development as a process and were willing to share their research with third parties whenever the interests of their respective companies didn't impede it. It also helped to create markets with mature technologies seemingly overnight. This cooperation, paradoxically, fueled the intense competition that marked the next stage of the Solar Industry.