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Hot Fusion

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The waning sun cast a molten sheen over the seemingly infinite expanse of the Pacific ocean, far below me. I was in my thirteenth hour of a trans-Pacific flight when the plane began to descend. On the horizon a tiny, distant blotch of land emerged, which gradually began to look like Taiwan. I made random movements of my limbs, reassuring myself that some blood was still flowing there, as Taiwan grew in the little window to my left.

Lately, I have been a journalist, ostensibly a science writer, for a fledgling publication called Unpopular Science, which provides slightly iconoclastic coverage of current developments in the science world. I’m low man on the totem pole, and I get the less-than-choice assignments.

In this case, I was on my way to cover a conference at National Cheng Kung University in Tainan City — not exactly a household word. But National Cheng Kung U. has a fusion lab of sorts, the Plasma and Space Science Center, and this was a topic of some interest to me.

The idea of building a machine to contain a fusion plasma — essentially, a little chunk of what the sun is made of — has always intrigued me. And of course, once the engineering problems are solved, we will have clean energy in tremendous abundance, which might come in handy.

After landing in Taipei and taking a shuttle flight to Tainan City, I checked into my hotel and began to get the lay of the land. The downtown buildings were festooned with tall, narrow, boldly colored signs, each with a vertical sequence of Chinese characters. It was my first visit to Taiwan, and the summer climate made me feel like an egg being poached — intense, humid heat. I had the sensation of swimming through the air as I made my way to the Magnetic Mirror Plasma Laboratory to pick up a few brochures, after which I went to have a look at the conference facilities.

One of my objectives was to find someone relatively prominent to interview, but this was not really an “A List” conference. I saw a number of attendees milling around, and I tried to look nonchalant as I scrutinized them, looking for someone who might be relatively notable. One woman caught my eye, as the other participants seemed to treat her deferentially. I wandered near her, maneuvering myself into position to catch a glimpse of her ID badge. I squinted at it, trying not to be too obvious, and I was able to discern that it said “Dr. Alyona Rabinovich.”

The name rang a bell for me. I reached for my trusty digital companion and Googled her surname. Aha — M.S. Rabinovich was the founder of the Russian Stellarator program. The Stellarator was a design for a magnetic confinement fusion reactor, where magnetic fields are used to contain a plasma at a temperature in the millions of degrees, too hot to be contained by metal or any other solid material. Although it was designed in the West, the Stellarator was discarded there in favor of the donut-shaped Tokomak design. Meanwhile, the Russians picked up the Stellarator and ran with it.

I now took a long look at Dr. Rabinovich. She looked steely and authoritative, her dark eyes peering intensely out of her silver-framed glasses. But there was also something charming and unaffected about her — her shaggy, dark-blonde hair fell loosely to her shoulders, with bangs that partially obscured her eyes at times, and gave her a slightly disheveled, carefree look. And I was not oblivious to the fact that although her attire was not intended to emphasize it, it was clear that she was rather voluptuous.

Just then, the crowd around her receded, and she was momentarily unoccupied. I seized the opportunity and approached her, brandishing my press credentials. “Excuse me, Dr. Rabinovich,” I said. She politely gave me her attention. “I’m Andre LeMagne with Unpopular Science.” Her face went blank. “It’s a small American publication,” I explained, somewhat apologetically. “I couldn’t help but wonder whether you might be related to M.S. Rabinovitch of the Stellarator program.” This time the light of recognition appeared on her face.

“A distant relative, a great uncle, I believe. And I don’t work on Stellarators.” She smiled wryly.

“Well, I’m here to cover the conference, and I wondered whether we might arrange an interview.”

“Perhaps,” she replied. “I’ll tell you what — I’m about to grab lunch, why don’t you come along and we can discuss whether my work will be interesting to your publication.” Her English was quite fluent, with only a hint of an accent.

“That would be great,” I said, and we made our way out of the hall into the oppressive heat of the Taiwanese summer. Dr. Rabinovich seemed to know her way around Tainan City, because after just a few minutes we had entered an unassuming establishment near the campus and were enjoying little bowls of dànzai miàn, the traditional noodles with meat sauce, and bottles of strong Taiwanese beer. She told me it was her favorite hangout when she visited Tainan.

She went on to explain, “I’m working on the fusion-fission hybrid reactor. I’ll be going back to China soon to collaborate Manisa Escort with their program.” She called the waitress to order a second beer.

I was puzzled. “Is there anything going on at this conference that relates to that?”

She grinned mischievously. “Absolutely nothing. But I’m here sort of as a diplomat, and also because I have an interest in Electromagnetically Induced Transparency phenomena and drift waves and turbulence.”

“Cool,” I said, making a mental note to find out what the heck it was. “I’d love to interview you about that. And that will give me an excuse to go into some of your other work with the hybrid reactors. But what do you mean, that you’re here as a diplomat?”

She gave me another sardonic grin. “Well, you know, your government has an unfortunate policy of trying to stir up contention between China and Taiwan. So Taiwan tends to be sort of like the jealous little sister. I spend a lot of time in China, working on the hybrid, so I must put in an appearance here in Taiwan, so Taiwan will know that we love her as well.”

“That would be interesting in my interview.”

She winked. “Which is exactly why it should not be there.”

“I don’t have a problem leaving it out. It will be a friendly interview.”

“Good, that sounds like a lot of fun. Listen,” she said, “I’ve got to get back. I have a couple of meetings to attend before the conference opens up tomorrow. But I’m sure we can schedule an interview some time this week.”

“Great!” I replied. We exchanged business cards, and she hurried out the door. I began to make my way through the thick summer air, back to my hotel.

The next morning, I got up early and Googled assiduously until I thought I had a pretty fair idea of what Electromagnetically Induced Transparency phenomena and drift waves and turbulence were all about. Then I got dressed and shaved, and headed over to the conference.

I did some snooping around and listened to a few presentations. When the conference broke for lunch, I headed for the main hall and spotted Dr. Rabinovich, who seemed to be just concluding a colloquy with some colleagues.

“Good afternoon, Dr. Rabinovich,” I said. “I’m wondering whether you might be free to conduct that interview over some more dànzai miàn?”

She smiled indulgently and corrected my pronunciation. Then she nodded and said, “Sure.”

We made our way back to the little restaurant and ordered food and beer, sitting outside on the patio at a table under an umbrella. I set up my little recorder and we conducted the interview as we ate — not the most professional way to run an interview, but it went well. We both leaned close to the device to speak, to be sure our words were captured over the sound of motor scooters passing by, or the chatter of the nearby shopkeepers.

Dr. Rabinovich spoke extensively on a broad range to topics, and with a good sense of humor as well. I was confident that I had myself enough material to get an article into the next issue. After we closed the interview and I shut off my recorder, she smiled and said, “OK, you can stop calling me Dr. Rabinovich now. I’m Alyona.”

I grinned back and replied, “Pleased to meet you. I’m Andre. And by the way, now that we have talked about your work, our readers would like to learn about other aspects of your life. They like to see the various facets of people who do science.”

Surprisingly, she brightened at this. “I’m an aspiring writer of fiction.”

“Really!” I exclaimed. “What sort? Short stories? The great Russian novel?”

She grinned and shook her head shyly, causing her hair to sort of flutter around her face. “This will have to be off the record.”

“Uh… OK,” I replied.

Once again she grinned self-consciously and said, “I’m not sure why I’m telling you this. I write erotica.”

“No kidding!” I responded. “I do that, too,” and I mentioned a website for writers of erotic stories to which I had contributed.

“I know that one! I have some stories there.” she said. “What name do you write under?”

“I’ll tell you mine, if you tell me yours,”

She grinned again, and then impulsively tore a piece of paper from the notebook she carried and wrote down a name. I folded it and put it in my pocket, then took her book and wrote down mine.

Once I returned to my room, I turned on the air conditioner and stood gratefully in front of it for a few minutes. Then I remembered the piece of paper in my pocket. I took it out and read it — “Alexandrara” — then opened my laptop. I went to the erotica site and did a search for Alexandrara as an author. Sure enough, a half dozen stories appeared on the menu. I chose one at random and began to read.

Her English was flawless and her story engaging. It was written in the first person, and after taking some time for plot and character development, the moment arrived when Alyona began to describe acts of oral sex, both giving and receiving, with such compelling enthusiasm that I felt my cock begin to swell Manisa Escort Bayan within my pants. It stiffened and grew so insistently that I had to interrupt my reading in order to take my pants down and give it a little more room.

Alyona was now describing how she yearned to swallow her lover’s cum, and then the deep and intense excitement she felt when she did so. This was really too much for me to endure — I fell back upon the bed, pulled my shirt up to my neck, and began to tease the underside of my cock head with one finger. I thought of her face, with her wide, generous smile, and I imagined her as she described herself in the passage in her story, swallowing her lover’s cock, forcing it deep into her throat, desperate to taste his cum.

As I imagined this, I began to stroke myself, slowly at first. I thought of how she described her wild joy when her lover ejaculated into her mouth, and suddenly I could hold back no longer. I swiftly stroked myself until I spurted copiously upon my chest and belly. Then, after a few dreamy minutes, I cleaned myself up and slept soundly for some hours.

The following day, at the lunch break, I spotted her from across the lobby. She made her way toward me, and we greeted one another like old friends. “Shall we have another round of dànzai miàn?” I made sure to say it correctly this time. She smiled, approving my pronunciation, and said that she would be pleased to share some more dànzai miàn. We struggled through the heat to the little restaurant, and found a seat. After our orders arrived, we ate and drank for a few minutes in silence, and then we simultaneously began to speak:

“How did you learn to write so well in English?” “How long have you been writing erotica?”

We both laughed, and Alyona surprised me by blushing a deep crimson. It dawned on me at that moment that we were both privy to some rather dark secrets about each other, that fact that we both liked to write smut, and more significantly, that we had glimpsed into one another’s sexual fantasies in a very intimate way. I inferred from her question that she had investigated my stories on-line, just as I had investigated hers. I had no way of knowing which ones she had read, but they were all pretty raw.

Trying to ease the tension, I asked, “Did you go to school in the U.S.?”

“Yes,” she replied, her color gradually returning to normal. “Both high school and college. I stayed with my aunt and uncle in New Jersey for 8 years. Then I went to graduate school in Novosibirsk.”

“Did you go to Princeton?”

“Yep. Good place for plasma physics.”

I hesitated for a brief moment, and then said, “Well, you write well in English.”

“So do you,” she replied, and we both laughed again. Alyona made eye contact with the waitress and ordered another round of beers. She returned to one of the topics of the interview for a few minutes, and I made a few notes to supplement my recording. Meanwhile, the beers arrived, and we drank them quickly, seeking relief from the heat.

At length, Alyona gave me a conspiratorial smile. “So, the stories you posted online… do you find that you write mostly, um, from experience?”

“It varies. Sometimes I’m describing things I have done, other times it’s just fantasies. Things I would probably do if I got the chance.” As soon as those words popped out of my mouth, I wondered whether I might be sharing a little too much. But then again, she had asked.

Alyona looked wistful for a moment. “In my case, it’s the latter. I’m married, but my husband doesn’t necessarily share all of my… interests.”

“I suppose I have a similar problem.” But then I thought it prudent to change the subject. I asked her another question about her fission-fusion hybrids, and she held forth enthusiastically on that topic until it was time to return to the conference. I walked back to the center with her, listened to another presentation, then returned to my room to transcribe the interview. When I finished, I allowed myself a peek at another of Alyona’s stories. This one, also written in the first person, included a vivid description of a mutual masturbation session.

After dinner, I headed back over to the conference center. There was no evening panel scheduled, but I thought I might hang out and buttonhole a few of the participants. The place was largely deserted, but just as I was about to give up and depart, Alyona emerged from one of the offices and greeted me.

“There’s no news to cover here tonight,” she said with a grin.

“Yes, it looks that way.”

“Have you ever been to a night market?”

“No. What’s a night market?”

“It’s a tradition here in Taiwan. Do you have a little time? I’ll show you.”

We found a taxi, took a short ride, and spent the next few hours wandering around a bustling outdoor market, noisy and garish with lighted signs and banners in Chinese. We sampled a variety of snacks and bought T-shirts with nonsensical messages in English. Alyona was good company, and afterward, Escort Manisa as we rode another taxi back to the convention area and dropped her at a hotel a block away from mine, she gave me a conspiratorial wink and said, “Maybe I’ll read another of your stories tonight.”

The following day, the conference was quite busy. I prowled around and managed to snag some brief, on-the-spot interviews with less-than-stellar fusion researchers. There was a brief guided tour of the Magnetic Mirror Plasma Laboratory, which was rather unassuming, compared to similar projects at Princeton and elsewhere.

Then, at the dinner break, Alyona materialized beside me. “May I take you out to dinner?” she asked.

“Certainly,” I replied.

She took me to a rather upscale restaurant, ordered for us expertly, and kept the beer flowing. Alyona was quite animated, giving me her views on literature, the cinema, and sharing with me the popular perception in her homeland that the US was behaving in a needlessly belligerent way toward the rest of the world. I had to concede the point.

We were on our third round of beers when she asked, “Did you tell me that you were married?”

“Not exactly,” I replied, “but I am.”

She smirked for an instant. “I read ‘Covert Operations’ last night. True story?”

I grinned back at her. “Partially true,” I replied. “Actually, mostly true.” “Covert Operations” was a story I had posted that described an adulterous affair.

“That was a good story,” said Alyona with a grin, and then suddenly she blushed deeply.

I was embarrassed for a moment, but also increasingly tipsy. I thought of how scandalously raw the depictions of sex were in that story. After a moment’s hesitation, I smiled back. “I love my wife, but she’s not quite as adventurous as I might prefer her to be.”

With unexpected vehemence, Alyona responded, “Tell me about it! My husband is a fine person — for a bureaucrat — but sexually, he is, well, not as exciting as I would like. I tried to gently push him in some more, shall we say, interesting directions, but it hasn’t worked. Maybe it’s wrong for me to say it. But damn it, I have… needs.”

There was an awkward silence. Then I replied, “So, is that why you write erotica? To get it out of your system?”

“Not really,” said Alyona. “I mean, because it doesn’t really get it out of my system. I like to write. And when I sit down to write, that is what’s on my mind.” She looked a bit downcast for a moment. “It’s on my mind quite often.”

Despite my somewhat impaired judgment, I had to consider the possibility at this point that Alyona was coming on to me. I weighed my options. We were together in a location very remote from either Russia or the US. That, combined with the fact that we were both married, made it unlikely that either of us would attempt to prolong an encounter beyond the week of the conference. I was attracted to Alyona, and the fantasies that I had read in her stories were hot! Acting out those fantasies was an idea that I found extremely appealing.

On the downside, it would be unprofessional of me to have a fling with someone I was covering as a journalist. That particular qualm troubled me for a nanosecond or two.

Trying to stay calm, I asked, “Have you ever thought about having an affair?”

Surprisingly, she looked downright dejected. “Of course I have. But the only people I know are fellow scientists. I can’t run the risk of spoiling a professional relationship by complicating it with sex.”

“But you might consider it with someone outside of your profession?”

She gave me a sidelong glance. “I might.”

I had the sense now of a Rubicon being crossed. We turned the conversation back to the conference, making small talk. It was late, and I knew that Alyona would address the conference the following morning. I allowed her to pay the bill, and we walked the short distance back to our hotels. As I saw her to the door of her hotel, she said, “Let’s have lunch together tomorrow.”

“Yes, I would very much like to do that,” I replied, with perhaps a little more warmth than was strictly necessary. Then I went back to my hotel, fired up my computer, and read every last one of Alyona’s stories.

Her speech the next day was quite brilliant, and well received. She was in an ebullient mood when we met in the lobby for the lunch break, and we chatted in an animated fashion, speaking loudly to be heard over the scooters and mini-vans as we walked to our now-familiar lunch spot. Once again we ordered food and beer, and took a seat in a quiet spot in the back of the restaurant. Alyona, instead of sitting across the booth from me, squeezed in next to me.

As we waited for our orders to arrive, she leaned over to whisper in my ear. I felt her warm breath. She murmured softly, “I don’t need to attend the afternoon session.”

I leaned over to whisper to her in turn, “Neither do I.” I felt her scoot her body closer to mine, as the waitress arrived with our food and beer.

We ate and drank and made small talk for a few minutes. Then Alyona leaned over to me again. I felt the pressure of her breasts against my arm. She whispered, “I really liked your story called ‘Showtime’.” That was a story I had posted that described two lovers masturbating for each other over a webcam.

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