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May 26, 2016
Alex's normal day takes an unexpected turn.
The long, drawn out electric hum of an alarm clock filled the dark bedroom. It droned on for a moment, temporarily blocking out the background noise of a fan before a fist slammed into the top of the clock. Rather than shut off, the clock began to blare the heavy guitar chords of a rock radio station. A groan came from under the blanket on the bed before the owner of fist hit the top of the clock again. This time, the clock fell silent.
Sitting up from under the pile of blankets, the owner of the fist rubbed the sleep from his eyes and looked about the room. He was young, in his late teens with dirty blonde hair and gray eyes. His body was slender, not so much from being athletic, but from having the perks of a high metabolism.
"It's too early for this," he yawned before he swung his legs over the side of the bed. Rubbing his hand over his face in an effort to wake himself up more, he stole a glance at the angry red numbers on the clock. Instantly, his eyes went wide in surprise before he sprung to his feet.
"Shit, I'm running late!" he exclaimed as he raced to pull on a pair of faded blue jeans and a black T-shirt. Stuffing his iPhone into his pocket, he grabbed up a pair of old black combat boots and hurried out the bedroom door. As he began to race down the stairs, he hopped on one foot as he tried to pull his boots on.
A combination of gravity and clumsiness won out however, and suddenly he wasn't hopping but falling.
"Oh crap!" he shouted, flailing his arms outward before he tumbled down the stairs.
"Alex, are you okay?" came the concerned voice of his mother from the kitchen. Alex sat up at the base of the stairs, groaning and shaking his head.
"I'm alright, mom," he replied before he set to finish pulling on his boots. Pulling himself to his feet, he gingerly patted himself over for bruises and other injuries before he hurried into the kitchen. Grabbing a package of chocolate chip pop tarts, Alex picked up the messenger bag draped across the back of a chair at the table before he kissed his mother once on the cheek.
"In a hurry?"
"Running late!" he called over his shoulder, grabbing a black hoodie as he ran past and allowing the door to slam closed behind him. Alex jumped from the front porch of the house, clearing the stairs as he scrambled for the old, rusted pickup truck that sat in the driveway. He climbed inside the cab, throwing his hoodie and bag into the passenger seat before plunging his key into the ignition and giving it a turn.
The truck didn't give so much as a sputter.
"No, no, no, not this morning. Come on!" he said as he franticly turned the key again and pumped his foot into the gas pedal. Again, the truck gave no signs of coming to life.
"Fuck!" he shouted in frustration, throwing the keys onto the dash before grabbing his stuff from the seat and throwing open the truck door. Alex quickly pulled the hoodie on before he slung his bag. It looked like he was running to school this morning.
Silence. The middle aged woman looked up from the clipboard she was reading off of and gazed over the inside of the school bus. None of the students looked up from their conversations or other forms of entertainment.
"Is Alex Chambers here?" she asked again.
"Here he comes!" shouted a girl from the back of the bus. The teacher leaned over one of the seats and looked out the bus window. Sure enough, she could see Alex running full bore toward the bus across the school parking lot.
"Ah, Mr. Chambers. How nice of you to join us," the teacher said pointedly when Alex reached the bus door.
"Sorry, Ms. Moriarty," he panted, trying to catch his breath for a moment before he climbed aboard. As the teacher continued on with her roll call, Alex made his way toward the back of the bus and sat down next to a brown haired girl with glasses and a beanie hat.
"Seriously? You're late on the day of the Senior Trip?" the girl whispered out of the corner of her mouth.
"My alarm went off late and my truck wouldn't start. It's not my fault the universe decided that I needed to have a rough day, Kelly," Alex shot back as he opened his bag and stuck the package of pop tarts inside.
"And staying up till three in the morning playing Xbox has nothing do with it, right Alex?" Alex shot a glare at his friend before he pulled a book out of his pack. Running late had left him in a bad mood, and falling down the stairs certainly hadn't helped matters.
"Like you have room to talk," he muttered. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Kelly smirk to herself. The two of them had been friends since kindergarten, and knew each other like the back of their own hands. Gaming sessions that lasted until the wee hours of the morning were nothing new to either of them.
The bus gave a shuttering jolt as the driver put it into gear and they began to roll forward. As he flipped through the pages of his book, Alex silently hoped that despite how bad his day had started, things would be looking up from now on. They were going to tour the local applied science labs, something he had been wanting to do his whole life.
Science absolutely fascinated Alex. For as long as he could remember, he had this underlying urge to figure out how everything he saw worked. From small mechanical things like locks and clocks, to massive bodies like planets and stars. There was almost nothing that hadn't peaked his interest at one point or another.
The Wolf Creek Labs building resembled a low office building. Dull and gray, with windows dominating the majority of the front. Alex stuffed his book back into his pack as the bus came to a halt in the parking lot. The students filed off of the bus, many of them having a board look on their faces. Unlike Alex, who had been looking forward to this trip, many of the students were along simply because they wanted an opportunity to get out of class for the day.
"Now remember to keep your hands to yourselves, a majority of the equipment in this building is worth more than what any of you could make flipping burgers over a dozen lifetimes!" Ms. Moriarty called before the body of students as a whole began to shuffle toward the building.
"Moriarty doesn't seem to have a very high opinion of us," Kelly mused. Alex cocked his eyebrow sideways at her.
"You're just now figuring this out? What gave it away? The fact that in her opinion every single one of us is doomed to be a fry cook for the rest of our lives?" Kelly simply rolled her eyes at her friend's sarcasm.
Inside the facility, the body of students split off into groups of two or three and began to wander at their own leisure. Many of the research stations had a scientist standing nearby to answer any questions someone may have had. Others were locked down tight so that no one could tamper with them.
Alex walked through the place with his eyes wide, like a child that had been left alone in a candy store. Research into alternative fuels, cold fusion, lasers, and other things all dotted the building. But there was one station in particular that caught his attention over all the others.
It was located in a lab a little deeper in the building than the others. Four Tesla coils surrounded a central platform at the heart of the room. A faraday cage rested in the corner to protect observers from possible electrocution. A single male scientist was scribbling in his notes inside the cage. Alex couldn't keep the small grin from his face as he looked around the room. Things involving electricity had always held a special place in his heart.
"Excuse me?" he asked with caution, not wanting to interrupt the man's work on accident. The scientist looked up from his notes, apparently startled that someone had entered the room.
"Oh, hello. You two are with the Senior Tour right?" he asked.
"Ah good, my name is Doctor Tannan. What can I help you with today?" he asked as he set his pencil down and stepped out of the cage.
"My name is Alex, and this is Kelly. I was just wondering what is you're working on, Doctor Tannan?" Alex asked, motioning toward the coils. The scientist's face brightened considerably, and Alex got the feeling that not many people had really taken in interest in his experiment before.
"Free electricity, Alex. My experiment is based upon Nikolai Tesla wireless electricity designs. If the experiments become a success, there won't be a need for power lines or the power company anymore. Everyone will have free, wireless electricity," he explained.
"Does it work?" Kelly asked, curious. Tannan frowned at that.
"Unfortunately, the results haven't been what I've been hoping for. I was able to electrify the field between the coils long enough to start charging a smart phone. But then the energy spiked...and the phone's battery exploded," he said as he rubbed a hand on the back of his head, slightly embarrassed.
"So, it's a power fluctuation problem?" Alex asked as he cupped his chin in thought and looked closer at one of the coils.
"Not exactly. The smart phones are the best way that I've found to measure the field's power. Unfortunately, the strength of a phone's battery varies between models."
"So, every time you fire this thing up you're just guessing how long it will take before the phone explodes?" Kelly asked with a hint of disbelief. Tannan gave a sheepish grin.
"Pretty much, yeah."
"What if you tried using it to power something besides a cell phone? No offense, doc, but you need a stable source of data in order to conduct experiments properly," Alex said. Now it was Tannan's turn to cup his chin in thought. The look in the scientist's eyes told Alex that he had just given the man an idea.
"Well, a college of mine has been working on an experimental battery, but with my experiments here the building has been unable to lend him the amount of power he needs to properly test it. If you'll excuse me for one moment," he said before he hurried out of the lab. Kelly waited a full three heartbeats before she spoke.
"He is aware that wireless chargers are a thing right?" Alex simply shrugged.
"Let the man experiment. If he succeeds, imagine the potential, you could go your whole life without ever having to charge an electric device again," he said.
"I'll keep my charger and NOT run the risk of getting a face full of flaming Apple product shrapnel, thank you very much." At that moment, the lab door burst open and Tannan hurried inside. In his arms was a large rectangular shaped metal box. Several lights, gauges, and screens dotted the box's surface, and the doctor appeared to be struggling under its weight.
The two teens watched as he sat the box in the center of the coils and began to attach sensors and other wires to it. Something about the way Tannan moved unnerved Alex. To him, the man resembled a child assembling a new toy at Christmas. Or a pyromaniac unwrapping a box of fireworks on the Fourth of July.
"Please, step inside the cage. The lab is unsafe once the coils are on," Tannan said as he finished attaching the last of the equipment to the box. Both Alex and Kelly looked at each other in surprise and confusion.
"You're not seriously going to conduct an experiment right now?!" Kelly said.
"There is no time like the present. And besides, what a wonderful opportunity for two bright young minds to witness an experiment first hand." Kelly shot a pleading look to Alex, but he simply motioned for her to step into the metal box. He got the impression that Tannan wasn't the type of man to take no for an answer, and personally he would rather watch the experiment from the safety of the cage. The wrath of one Tesla coil was something that sent shivers down his spine, and he shuttered to think of what four of them could do.
The three of them quickly stepped into the faraday cage, and Tannan began to type on a laptop set up on the inside. They watched, as one by one the coils came to life, sparking and sending arcs of electricity into the air. Both Alex and Kelly stood in awe as the scientist type a series of codes into the computer. Suddenly, the arcs of lightning were not shooting off at random, but rather focusing into metal box.
The gauges and lights came to life as power surged through the device. Judging by the smile on Tannan's face, Alex guessed that the experiment was working. He looked past him to Kelly and gave her a smile, which she returned. Neither one of them had expected their day to turn out like this.
Suddenly, the sound of electrical crackling filled the air, drowning out the constant drone of the coils. What had once been four steady streams of electricity arcing into the box was now replaced by a fountain of unpredictable lightning flying all about. Red lights flashed on the computer screen, blaring various warnings as Tannan's face turned from prideful to panic filled.
"What's going on?" Alex asked.
"The battery isn't storing power anymore!"
"Then what's it doing?"
"It's creating it!"
"I don't know how but it's generating too much power for the field to handle," Tannan said as he rapidly typed several codes into the computer.
"So shut the coils off!"
"I just did!" All three of them watched as the box continued to spew out lightning, sending arcs into everything in sight. Then, the box exploded, and Alex saw nothing but white.
All of his senses were screwed up. His vision contained nothing but blinding white light, his ears were filled with a deafening roar, and his smell, what little was left of it, was blinded by ozone. He didn't know up from down, left from right, or even if he was still on his feet or not. Never before in his life had Alex been so disoriented.
Finally his vision and hearing began to clear. It slowly dawned on him that he was on his hands and knees. Blood was dripping onto the concrete between his hands. Bringing his hand upward, Alex realized that he was bleeding from his nose and his ears. That couldn't be a good sign.
"Kelly?" he asked. His tongue felt heavy in his mouth, so the word came out slurred. He looked around for his friend, and found that things were not how they had been before the box had exploded. The cage, the coils, the lab, all of it was gone. Instead, he was in what appeared to be a seedy back ally. Neither Kelly nor Tannan were anywhere in sight.
Bracing a hand against the brick wall, Alex slowly pulled himself to his feet. He was incredibly dizzy, and his head pounded with pain like he had just taken a sledgehammer to the forehead. As he began to stumble forward, several questions and observations flooded his mind. The first one was obvious; where in the hell was he?
Somehow he had been transported from the lab to this alleyway, and he had no idea how it had happened. And it had been mid to late morning when the battery had exploded, so why was it night time now? Was it possible that he had been knocked out that long?
"Kelly?" he asked again, a little louder and clearer this time. The crash of a trash can falling over caused Alex to jump and spin around in surprise. Sitting on top of said can was a creature that he had never seen before. It was dark colored, with the head, beak and wings of a crow and the body of a lizard.
The two stared at each other in silence, small black eyes boring into gray ones. The lizard crow cocked its head sideways, and Alex did the same. His mouth hung open slightly as he stared at the hybrid beast before him. This couldn't be real, he had to be hallucinating from the effects of the explosion.
The lizard crow let out a screech before it sprung into the air. Its talons were outstretched as it headed straight for Alex's face. Alex yelped as he stumbled backwards in surprise, throwing up his hands to protect his face. As he tripped over another trash can, he felt a tingling sensation in his hands. His eyes caught a brief flash of light as he toppled to the ground.
Alex waited a full heartbeat for the creature to be on top of him. But as the seconds ticked by, the only thing that reached him was the smell of burnt flesh. Narrowing his eyes in confusion, he slowly sat up. The lizard crow was lying a short distance away from his left foot. Its feathers and many parts of its body were burnt, and a faint trail of smoke leaked into the air.
Fear gripped the teen as he quickly scrambled backwards away from the dead creature. He had no idea what had just happened, and he wasn't about to stick around and find out. Managing to get to his feet, Alex began to run, or to be more accurate, stumble along at a fast pace.
Coming out of the ally onto a main street, Alex stopped, leaned against the wall and looked around. A trolly rolled by on a set of tracks imbedded in the street, the driver ringing a bell as it past. A few cars sat parked along the curb, all of them looking like something out of a film set in the 1920s. Signs that lined the front of the buildings were written in Chinese.
'Okay. So I'm either in Chinatown, or Hong Kong.' Digging his phone out of his pocket, Alex frowned when he saw that he had no service. His frown deepened as he watched the battery percentage began to steadily decline. Sliding the device back into his pocket, he returned his gaze to the street. To his relief, he spotted a payphone on the other side of the street.
Pushing off of the wall, Alex stumbled out into the street. His center of balance wasn't coming back fast enough, and he managed to catch himself on a parked car before he fell. Shaking his head in an effort to clear some of the dizziness, he pushed off of the car and started forward again.
"Look out!" came a shout and the sequel of tires. Alex lost his balance and threw himself forward, just barely dodging the moped the skidded to a halt in the spot he had just been a millisecond earlier.
"I'm so sorry, I didn't see you! Are you okay, did I hit you?" the driver of the moped asked. It was a woman, based on the shape of her body and the lightness of her voice. She was wearing a helmet, so Alex couldn't see her face. Alex pushed himself to his feet and wobbled badly. The effort of dodging the moped had taken a lot out of him.
"Actually don't feel so good," he said before he collapsed. The woman just barely managed to catch him before he cracked his head on the pavement. Turning him over so that he was lying on his back, she quickly took off her helmet. She was young, and beautiful with raven colored hair, bright green eyes, and her face was a fine shade of pale.
"Hey, stay with me. What's your name? Can you tell me your name?" she asked.
"Alex," he managed. He was losing his grip on conciseness fast.
"Alex? My name is Asami. Can you tell me what's wrong? Do you need a hospital?" Alex didn't answer, as he had already passed out in her arms.
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