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Silver Bullet -- Death Ray

A reader asks, "Can you give us a tiny preview of the third Order of the Air book?"

Yes! Yes, I can. We're working on Silver Bullet now, a bit better than half done, so this is a draft, but I think you can get the idea. This is the book with Tesla. And of course I'd love to hear what you think.

In which the team investigates the strangeness at the abandoned Silver Bullet Mine....

For a long moment everyone was quiet.

"That's something electric," Alma said.

"Yeah." Mitch frowned. "Any reason you know of why something electric would be running in an abandoned mine?"

"A pump?" Alma put her hands on the window frame and climbed through, careful of the glass. "You might have an automatic pump that was supposed to keep the water out. It could be running off a lead-acid battery."

"A what?" Stasi asked.

"Like a car battery," Mitch supplied. "A big one to handle what's basically the mine's sump pump. I guess that would make sense. But this is an awfully long time for it to last."

Lewis climbed through the broken window. "It can't have been running full time."

Mitch gave Stasi a hand getting over the sill. "Maybe it only turns on when the water reaches a certain level. You wouldn't want it to run all the time." He climbed in after her. The middle of the huge room was a tangle of struts and old wires, the framework for what must have been some kind of hoist in the center. Loading ore cars, Mitch thought. They pulled the ore out of the mine on the light gauge rail in carts, and then they loaded big ore cars for the railroad. They must have had a tall hoist. He glanced up.

Above, at the pinnacle of the four stories was a huge metal sphere, the tower structure holding it up like a ball on the end of a scepter. Enormous wires and cables wound their way around the tower's legs, snaking back across the floor toward the minehead. Beneath the thing's enormous head, a pair of long coils extended upward inside the structure, each of them pulsing faintly with bluish-lavender light.

"What the hell is that?" Mitch said.

The others followed his gaze, looking up at the thing which hovered like an enormous spider, the metal sphere humming softly.

"It looks like it came from outer space," Lewis said.

"Darling, you never told me you lived in Weird Tales," Stasi said. For once she looked duly impressed.

"It's…um," Mitch said. "Big? Strange? Pulsing with nacreous and unearthly light? Not built by ghosts?"

"I have no idea what it is," Alma said at last. "But I know who it belongs to." She put her hands on her hips as they all looked at her. "Nikola Tesla."

"The man who invented radio?" Stasi said.

"I thought that was Marconi," Lewis said.

"You would think that," Stasi said. "But it's not true."

"That's not a radio," Mitch said. "And what's it doing here?"

Alma grinned, walking around beneath it cautiously, looking up. "Tesla lived here for a while at the turn of the century. He had a lab in town when I was a kid. It was pretty super. He had some amazing experiments and I got to see a bunch of them. He was always really nice to kids." Her smile grew. "Especially kids who loved dynamic motors."

"That would be you," Lewis said.

"I'd bet you a buck that he built this," Alma said. "It looks like the stuff he used to have in his lab, except bigger."

Mitch could see a problem with that. "But didn't Tesla leave a long time ago? He didn't live here when I moved here, and that was what, thirteen years ago?"

"He left more like thirty years ago," Alma said. "I don’t think I was quite in my teens."

"Surely it hasn't been doing this all that time," Mitch said. "A lead-acid battery isn't going to last that long even if it recharges. It has to be drawing power from something."

"Unless it just turned on," Lewis said. "Or somebody turned it on."

"What does it do?" Stasi asked. She was staying well back from it.

"I don't know," Alma said. "Those look like magnetic coils. And those are definitely active power cables. But I have no idea what it's supposed to do or if it's doing it."

"Then we'd better not start messing with it," Mitch said. "It's a bad idea to start flipping switches on some mad science device when we have no idea how it works."

"I agree with that," Alma said. She looked at Lewis. "And I think you're right that it must have been activated recently, whether on purpose or by accident."

Stasi's face was keen. "And could that have caused the crashes?"

"It might," Mitch said, looking up at the magnetic coils thoughtfully. "Some kind of electro-magnetic pulse would have fried our instruments."

"Like a death ray," Stasi said.

Lewis looked at her incredulously. "That's science fiction."

"So were airplanes forty years ago," Stasi said, tossing her head. "This would have been built before the Wright Brothers flew."

Alma nodded slowly. "This couldn't have been built to bring down aircraft. There weren't any then. I don't know what it's supposed to do, but that must be some kind of side effect. Some kind of unintended consequence. Besides, Dr. Tesla would never have created something that he thought would harm people. He was a very nice person."

"That's what they said about Alfred Nobel, darling," Stasi said. "And he invented explosives."

"He couldn't have intended it to cause plane crashes," Alma said hotly.

"It doesn't matter what he intended," Mitch interposed. "It's likely that it's causing the crashes and that's a bad thing. We need to figure out how to turn it off. Without blowing up the side of the mountain," he added swiftly.

"You want to start taking apart one of Tesla's devices with no idea how it works?" Alma asked. "Because I sure don't, buster. No, I think the best thing is to ask him."


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 26th, 2012 08:18 pm (UTC)
Eeeeee!! Can't wait to have that book in my hand!
Oct. 27th, 2012 10:38 am (UTC)
Oh good! :) You can never have too much Tesla!
Oct. 27th, 2012 07:54 pm (UTC)
TESLA! Comic/spooky Tesla devices to take apart and argue about! EEEEE!
Oct. 28th, 2012 12:33 pm (UTC)
Silver Bullet is The One With Tesla! He really did have a lab in Colorado Springs at the turn of the century, and of course Alma thought he was nifty.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )