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Silver Bullet -- Tesla

Good morning all! I'm trying to get back into Silver Bullet after a long hiatus over the holidays, trying to find the head space I was in when I put this down weeks ago, and so I thought I'd share the prologue of Silver Bullet with you. This isn't my section -- Melissa wrote this -- but it's such a good beginning to the book and isn't spoilery for anything in Steel Blues.

Besides, why not start your day with some Tesla? :)



Nikola Tesla picked his way down the steep hillside under a sky washed clean by the previous night’s thunderstorms. The grass was still damp, and slick enough to make him watch his footing with even more care than usual, so that he was well into the clearing where he had left the receiver before he realized that someone was there before him. He stiffened, ready to shout, and in the same instant saw that it was a child. A girl, actually, a girl in dungarees and a faded blouse with a long blonde braid falling forward over her shoulder. She had a walking stick in one hand, a heavy branch scavenged somewhere on the mountain, and Tesla braced himself to shout again, for fear she’d touch the device and hurt herself. But, no, she was keeping well clear of it, just squatted beside it, staring at the blackened casing and the wires that trailed out of it. Tesla caught his breath, relieved that she had at least that much sense.

“Young lady. What are you doing here?”

She looked up, not startled but a little wary. “Oh. Am I on your land?”

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry.” She came to her feet, a tall girl, blue-eyed, maybe eleven or twelve years old. Or perhaps younger: usually girls lost that direct gaze by the time they were ten, and he was no real judge of such matters. “I didn’t see it posted.”

Tesla couldn’t remember if the property was marked on this side, and looked down at the damaged device instead. It was blackened and broken, a few wires melted to bright puddles, and the girl cleared her throat.

“I think it got hit by lightning,” she said. “I’m pretty sure one of the bolts hit around here last night.”

Tesla blinked. “You were watching the storm?”

She nodded.

“And you weren’t afraid.” He made it a statement, not a question, seeing the answer in her eyes, but she responded anyway.

“Not particularly. It was mostly up here, and we have a lightning rod, all the base houses do. So I figured I was safe as long as I didn’t go out.”

An Army brat, Tesla thought. That explained why she seemed older than her years, though not what she was doing this high on his mountain on what was surely a school day. “And why are you here now?”

“I’m looking for thunderstones,” she said.

Tesla blinked. “There’s no such thing.”

“Are you sure?” she asked. “I mean, yes, I know that’s what the books say, but Maria Consuela has one, and she swears on all the saints that her Aunt Pilar found it in the pit where the lightning struck. So after last night, I thought — I’d never have a better chance to find out for myself.”

“Which is why you’re not in school,” Tesla said.

She looked contrite. “We already did this reader at Papa’s last posting, I’m not missing anything important.” She scuffed one toe in the grass beside the device, clearly searching for a change of subject. “Was this — did you put this out to catch the lightning?”

Tesla blinked again, unable to repress a smile. It wasn’t often that someone guessed correctly about his work. “Very good,” he said. “Though attracting it to the receiver wasn’t the intent of the experiment.”

“It really burned it up,” she said.

“Yes.” Tesla knelt on the damp grass, carefully parting the broken casing. “A small problem I’ll have to solve, if there’s to be any serious transmission of electricity over long distances.”

“Papa says — and Miss Hoffmann, too, she says that electricity attracts lightning,” the girl said. “Because it is lightning, or maybe because lightning is electricity….” Her voice trailed off doubtfully, and Tesla gave her an encouraging nod.

“Yes, she’s quite right, they’re the same thing. It’s merely that one has been harnessed for use and the other hasn’t.”

“Like a mustang and a saddle horse.”

Tesla couldn’t help smiling at the very western metaphor, imagining himself putting saddle and bridle on the streamers of electricity produced in his lab. “A bit, yes. May I borrow your stick?”

She handed it over without question, and Tesla used it to lever the remains of the device out of the rain-softened ground. There was more damage than he had expected, and he couldn’t repress a sigh as he tucked it into the pack he had carried down from the lab.

“Maria Consuela says that ghosts are electricity, too,” the girl said, frowning. “That’s why they glow.”

Tesla considered. “Human beings certainly have an electrical charge, but once they’re dead — though I suppose the soul could be electrical in nature.” He smiled again, amused by the notion, but the girl’s expression remained serious.

“Ghost lights could be electricity. At least that’s what Papa says.”

“They could.” St. Elmo’s fire was certainly electricity.

“I bet that’s what’s up at the Silver Bullet.”

Tesla turned sharply. “And what do you know about that?”

She hunched her shoulders just a little, but managed to meet his eyes. “Just what people say. There are lights at the minehead, when there haven’t been miners there for ten years. They’re supposed to be the lights of miners killed in cave-ins, or something. Papa says that’s not true, though.”

“There are… things in the Silver Bullet,” Tesla said. “I’ve done some work there myself, and it’s a haunted place.” He paused, seeing the flash of fear cross her face, and gave an apologetic shrug. “Look, since you’re here, how about you make yourself useful? There are three more of these. Help me collect them, and I’ll show you how the experiment was supposed to work.”

The girl grinned, all fear forgotten. “Really?”

Tesla nodded. “Really.”

“And can we look for thunderstones on the way?”

“You can keep any thunderstones you find,” Tesla said.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
cadenzamuse
Jan. 8th, 2013 03:48 pm (UTC)
EEEEEEE WEE ALMA! CAN'T WAIT!
jo_graham
Jan. 9th, 2013 09:00 am (UTC)
It is bitty Alma! Alma and Tesla is rather terrifying.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )