Take it away Ted.
There's an inertial surge in the soliton matrix!
Stabilize the meson beam with a lithium resonator!
Reverse the polarity!
Reverse the polarity!
REVERSE THE POLARITY!
Welcome to the world of technobabble - made-up jargon, fake terminology intended to give the impression that something terribly high-tech and science-y is going on.
Meet technobabble's arch-enemy, the Theory of Operation. A ToO is a mental model of how a device or technology is supposed to work - and that device doesn't have to exist in the real world. For instance, it's impossible to go faster than the speed of light in a vacuum, but let's say that we really, really want our characters to take weekend trips to Procyon. Enter the FTL drive.
There have been dozens of FTL drives dreamed up in the fertile brains of SF writers, the majority of them variations on the themes of hyperspace, wormholes, and warp space. Never mind that they're all (probably) impossible, and that they all (definitely) require a level of technology far beyond our own. What makes them fictional technology instead of straight-up technobabble was that they have at least a limited ToO – which means that they have clearly defined advantages and problems.
What happens when Excalibur resurfaces and her bearer is a cheat and a thief? Henry and his crew are cons. Their latest endeavor? Forge the greatest swords in history. But Henry cons the wrong knight and ends up on a quest to find the real Excalibur. If he fails, Prince Geoff will put Henry's two best friends to death.
When he actually finds the sword, he learns that SHE has a mind of her own. And she has some definite ideas about being welded by a thief. Henry agrees to find a suitable bearer for Excalibur. His quest takes them across France. Throw in a a princess pretending to be a bar maid, a royal wedding, and, well, you're starting to get the gist.
Like I said, I really enjoyed the story.
Gray sky, white ground, black trees. Sound muffled by snow, until all you heard was your own breathing, and all you felt was the cold, sharp in your ears and your nose, dull in your boots and leggings.
Or, if you were tied to a mule on your back, wearing nothing but your shirt and hose, cold everywhere and pain in everything. Henry tried to clear his throat and keep moving, even if that amounted to no more than shivering inside his manacles.
They had long ago left England behind. Now they traveled through a dismal waste, thick forests broken by ruins that were ancient before the Romans, standing stones that gave no shelter, roads that vanished under bridges leading nowhere. It was all pretty eldritch. Henry knew it from Alfie’s tales - the borth Annwn, the Door to the Land of Shadow. A stone cairn appeared through the snow, wiped clean by the wind. Brissac turned in his saddle. “There it is. How are you, thief? Comfortable?”
Henry tried to control his chattering teeth, without much success. “C-couldn’t be better. How’s the body odor? Taken a bath yet?”
The Swiss mercenaries laughed. Brissac wheeled on Henry, his sword drawn-
“Ah-ah-ah! You k-kill me, wh-what will Geoffrey say?”
Brissac turned away, but Hauptmann, captain of the Swiss, rode up to Henry and examined him.
“Ritter…he could die. Let us cover him.”
“The tower is near enough. Cover him then.”
To be fair, Brissac hadn’t shackled Henry until AFTER he’d tried to escape. But they had just landed in Southampton; Brissac was still seasick; Henry could speak the local dialect, while the Swiss were practically mute; and by then, Geoffrey would have released Alfie and the others he was holding as hostages.
Really, it had been too good an opportunity to ignore.
But as Henry had leaned over the inn’s stable roof and gently lowered himself to the ground, crossbow bolts had hissed out of the darkness, aimed so well they had pinned his clothes to the wall behind him without even drawing blood. He had been trussed up like a chicken in his own breeches-
“There it is.”
Henry craned his neck to see. Wow. It was a genuine, honest-to-goodness Dark Tower.
Black and ancient, it rose above the pines like a castle guarding a border. Beyond it the land opened out in a wide valley, shrouded in fog, indistinct except for the top of the Glastonbury Tor, a terraced hill poking out of the sea of mist. The road zigzagged up the slope and then cut through a dark wood, vanishing into shadow long before it reached the tower.
“The Chapel Perilous,” Brissac leaned down and spoke in Henry’s ear. “The key to Excalibur’s resting place. Twelve good knights have entered, never to return. My lord Geoffrey thinks you may solve the riddle where they did not.” Brissac squinted up at the high black walls. “I think he is an optimist.”