Midnight Jolt Run

Caffeine tastes better when the city's asleep

Schematics – Part 1

Posted by Fiss on October 15, 2009

satanawesomeThomas Markham had a habit of completing circuits.

When he was nine years old, he fell from his tree-house and became momentarily suspended between two high-voltage wires running from the alley to an electrical transformer.  The jolt had been enough to stop his heart for almost a minute, and his mother’s CPR practice had been the thing that saved him after those terrifying fifty two seconds.  He never told his mom that it was more interesting than it was scary.

In High School he became known as the Mad Scientist.  Undeniably brilliant, (and terrifyingly fearless) he would often tinker with electric motors while they still ran, slap patch cables together with the wires hanging out of his mouth, and had been on the receiving end of no less than three lightning strikes.  None of these accidents, experiments or coincidences were fatal, of course, and despite the grey hairs on his parents and teacher’s heads, he always shrugged the events off as “not that big” or “safe enough”.

He graduated with a double degree in Applied Physics and Lineman Apprenticeship just as the housing boom returned and the City needed to bolster its army of inspectors and contractors.  With overtime in his first year working, he paid off his student loans and bought himself a cozy little condo in an older, but exciting part of town.

It was clear to anyone who worked with him that Thomas just knew how electricity worked on an intimate level.  He knew how it flowed.  How it jumped, resisted, changed, converted and fluctuated.  When the housing boom (they never last) finished booming that generation, though, he was seen as not only the best, but also the highest paid worker.  He was laid off, and his very being was rocked with the realization that one could be too good at their job.

After two years of unemployment (the shame and confusion hurt more than the lack of income), he finally re-vamped his resume and removed a number of his experiences and references to appear as close to a junior as he could without lying.  He was hired by the government again, but this time in the humbling role of a district electrician.  His predecessor, a surly old bastard named Russel who was retiring from the role, had told him that he was now a Janitor with Electrical Tape.  The phrase was all too accurate.

Still, the fear of unemployment was greater than the shame of such a petty job, and as anyone with true, raw talent will tell you:  You need to use it.  You can’t just sit there, not doing what you were born to do.  So, after learning the ropes, making the contacts, and complaining to his superiors about the lack of proper tools, he slowly came to enjoy his new job.  At least he was completing circuits again.

The District changed from year to year.  Sometimes he would be wiring outside lighting around a skating rink in freezing temperatures.  Other times he would be working along side with pipe-layers in the bowels of the city where you could smell nothing but human filth for weeks afterwards.  Then there were the office jobs.  Sometimes it would be a quick light bulb replacement for the technophobic secretary for the Mayor, or some telephone wiring for a new switch.  Those jobs weren’t so bad, and Thomas got to wear a lot of different hats and name-tags to keep the work interesting.  The only thing he hated was being recognized by peers in his old department.  Seeing completely inept (but cheaper) labour working to maintain safety standards made him cringe…and he began to see evidence of problems time after time as he fixed new (and supposedly safer) circuit breakers, shielded conduit (that leaked during Spring) and made endless revisions to the (finalized, DO NOT MODIFY) diagrams and blueprints sent for him to action.

When his boss confronted him on some of his complaints and revisions, Thomas simply said:

“I’ll do one week without changing this shit.  Then, next week, you’ll either fire me, or let me go back to doing it my way.”

Two fires and one electrocution later and he was never asked to justify his revisions.  One of the city planners was fired, but the replacement was hardly any better; hardly the savant they needed to run the complex nerve-system of an entire city with millions of people in it.

So Thomas did his best when he could.  Between light fixtures and rat-nest cleaning, he sent “suggestion” revisions to the city planners when he would see their final drafts and work orders.

They resisted and ignored him at first.  Then there was a three million dollar law-suit, and they began to listen a lot more when the revisions were discovered and used as evidence against the (now fired) second city planner.  The next one wasn’t a savant, but was smart enough to listen and learn.  Eventually, no more people got electrocuted or lit on fire.  A Christmas bonus appeared on Thomas’ year end tax form.  It was enough to get rid of the debts that had lingered since his unemployment, but more than that, it was acknowledgment that he was good.  That his talents were needed.  That he was needed.

They’re still trying to make drugs that give you that kind of high.

Thomas settled into his role happily.  He spent his thirty ninth birthday on a forced vacation (why haven’t you asked for any time off in five years??) and came back to a metric butt-load of work orders to keep him busy for the next six months.  All of them were at the University, though luckily not the same one he studied at.  Despite his new found acceptance of his job it was still embarrassing whenever he was forced to compare himself to the younger, stupider, better-paid kids around him.

Professional pride?  It was that first wound he suffered that would still itch whenever he thought about it.  Besides not being used, the most harmful thing to someone with a talent was knowing that the talent was why you were suffering.  He still had nightmares that ended with:  “You’re too good, Tom.  You’re too good.  We can’t pay you what you’re worth because there isn’t enough room in the budget, so fuck off.”

This University specialized in what his group of friends had called the “fop and poofanitys”, which was a badly rendered take on “the humanities”.  Trades persons like himself, like his professors, and like his proud old mom and dad usually gave the art majors and science majors a quick nod of acceptance, but no more than that.  After all, they were busy with their heads, hearts and expensive paintbrushes in the clouds while good old folk like Thomas were out building the world.  Thomas also considered himself quite creative when he needed to be, and so didn’t have the begrudging respect that a builder might have towards an architect.  How many art majors bothered to improve a two-hundred amp main breaker load-centre’s ergonomics?  He hadn’t met one yet.

Every day, Thomas would make the long commute to the University in his old Ford pickup truck.  The City was paying for the gas, so it didn’t bother him much, and it gave him plenty of time to relax in traffic and listen to the radio, or audio tapes, which were his new budding passion.  Books on tape, or pod-casts or MP3 downloads, no matter the source, he suddenly found it to be quite enjoyable to have books and magazines read to him by professional speakers.  In the first week he listened to all of the Lord of the Rings, which was a book he figured he’d never get through.  Too poofanity, but he enjoyed it nonetheless.

“Work” was down in the basement where a rats nest of cables, both data and utility, were spilling out into five spare classrooms.  A janitor had tried to clean them up, only to find themselves in the hospital with limited memory of the event beyond a ‘bright flash’.  Thomas had spent the first week isolating the live wires, cutting off their killer amperage, and then slowly retracing and rebuilding the tangle using his uncanny abilities and common sense.  After the first week, when he was well on to the next classroom and had reconnected some of the cables giving light to the basement rooms, the Dean stopped coming down every hour (worried about a second lawsuit maybe) and left Thomas to his thoughts.

He’d spend the mornings prepping, tracing and ordering power cuts or reconnections, then spend most of the afternoon drawing up the new plans, making changes, and then finally cleaning everything up in the evening.  The overtime was excellent, and he’d have a whole three weeks banked up to take whenever he figured he had something important to do.

When the visits stopped all together, Thomas began bringing down his little portable radio and continued listening to music, books, and whatever else caught his fancy.  He even tried a few ‘advanced electricians’ books, but they paled in comparison to what he was doing every day before his cup of coffee, so he scrapped those soon enough.

Thomas was alone most of the day for those three long weeks, but he didn’t mind.  No artsy-fartsy students came up to him asking him if he’d like to pose or learn about colours and he wasn’t called a janitor by anyone, so it was blessedly peaceful.

Then, one day, as he was walking down the long, grey-brick hallways to clock out for the evening, he saw that someone had used a Sharpie to scribble all over the wall in what looked like some kind of electrical diagram.

He stopped and looked it over.  It didn’t look like any of the circuits he knew at the University, though he supposed it could have been something from the power-plant sub-station.  Whoever designed it, though, had made a few errors.  Just glancing across it, he spotted two or three that were so blatant, they may have been put there on purpose.  Strange, he thought. But no matter, he had been staring at diagrams all day, maybe he’d take a look at it tomorrow if it was still there.

He found himself thinking about the diagram that night as he made some supper and relaxed, listening to another book, this time one about engineering.  It had seemed so simple when he was looking at it, but as he tried to recall it there were all kinds of new symbols and strange markings and standards that hadn’t quite seemed right at the time.

Still, he figured he knew what the circuit had been trying to do.  It was some kind of amplifier.  And part of it had been a power conduit.  The switches were strange, though, and he guessed that was where most of the errors had been.

That night, he found himself at his kitchen table with an actual text book cracked open for the first time in almost ten years, trying to match the symbols in his memory to something in the book, but of course, by then they were already fading.

The next morning he brought the book with him as well as an old digital camera he had been given by his mother.  “Take more pictures!  I want to see where you live!” she’d tell him.  He never did take many pictures, though.  His apartment was in a grungy section of town (had to sell the condo when he lost his job the first time), and while he kept it clean and in good repair, it was hardly anything to write home about.  His hobbies were nonexistent of late, as work was interesting enough to take all his free time.  He usually just sent back a quick snapshot of himself next to his diplomas and some potted plants.  “I’m healthy, mom.  Happy, and the job is going well.  I’ll come and visit on Christmas.  Love you!” he’d write back in an e-mail.

When he exited the stairs to access the basement, he found the diagram easily enough, but this time someone had scribbled over most of it in angry, black marker, as if they had been entirely too frustrated to look at it any further.

Thomas sighed, but he was able to pick out a lot of the markings underneath.  With a bit of patience in his photo editing program, he might even be able to see it all, so he took a few snapshots with and without the flash.  The newer marker was brighter, and would be easier to remove later on with it all being marked by the flash.  He felt rather clever at figuring it out so easily, and went to do his daily work un-ratting the nests of wires and cables, now completely certain he would solve the little puzzle once he got home.

But by lunch, when he suffered his third shock to his thumb, he realized his mind was still mulling the images over.  He forced himself to take lunch a bit early (his professional pride screamed at him, though he knew nobody would notice) and ate his sandwich while staring at the half-hidden diagram on the wall.

Occasionally a janitor would walk by, or some kids, but for the most part, he was alone, staring at the wall.  The symbols, he concluded, were all wrong.  Worst, there were no allowances for regulations or any kind of building code.  But he could still see the circuit.  He could still see the pattern.  It was such a small portion.  Maybe like a junction box.  Maybe like that two-hundred amp main breaker load-centre that nobody had bothered to give an ergonomic second thought to?  He wasn’t sure.  He’d have to see more.

Realizing the puzzle would drive him insane, Thomas finally forced himself to let it go and continue on with his work.  He even called up to the Dean and mentioned there was some graffiti on the wall.  The Dean promised it would be cleaned up by Monday.

As he was cleaning up his work for the day, Thomas found a stray wire that was connected somewhere down the hall and needed a quick snip to come free.  He strolled to the other room with his ladder and climbed up to remove the roof tile it was next to.  A small stack of papers fell out over him as he moved the tile, fluttering to the ground.  Thinking he had found some kid’s porn stash or secret love letters, he sighed, finished cutting the old wire free, and pulled it through the roof access.  As he wound the spare cable around his forearm, he knelt down and looked over the papers.

They were photocopies of ancient books by the look of it.  The books had to have been too brittle to use, and indeed, several of the images were cracked or had large rips and sections missing.  What little was legible, however, looked similar to the diagrams he had seen scrawled on the walls.

Thomas bundled them up, not bothering with the order as there seemed to be none, and stuffed them up into the roof roughly where they had fallen from.  He went home, and during supper, once again found himself mulling the images over in his head.  It was nearly midnight by the time he had cleaned up the photos he had captured with his camera, and with a great deal of pride he deciphered one of the errors he had seen before.  Even if building code was some ancient standard and technology had marched beyond the scope of whatever diagram this was, there were certain fundamental ideas that couldn’t change.  Electricity flowed where there was a path, even when you started getting into electronics that decided IF and WHEN and DO THIS BECAUSE, it was all about electrons being pushed.

Despite the late night, Thomas woke up bright and early the next morning and spent the extra dollar to take the freeway (why does it cost money to drive on the freeway?) down to the University so he could beat the traffic.

The diagram had been painted over and the hallway still smelled foul of heavy primer.  He almost felt bad for asking it to be removed, even as flawed as it was.  A thought came to him to check the documents he had seen in the roof, so he grabbed his ladder and scrambled up into the tiles once again.

The papers were all gone, but a small sticky note remained:  “FUCK OFF!”

Thomas sighed.  He considered writing a return note on it but just crumpled it and replaced the tile.  Apparently just disturbing the papers was enough to anger whoever had placed them there.  A snappy response to clean up their mess may be taken the wrong way.

The rest of the week went by normally.  The few searches online for specific symbols found nothing but unrelated gibberish.  A water main broke a few doors down from where he was working in the basement, so he had to work overtime to help the plumbing crews avoid electrocution.

Late on Saturday night, long after everyone else had gone home and the little voice in his head telling him he had no life demanded he do the same, Thomas packed up and began wandering down the hall, imagining what pointless activity he’d try to fill the remainder of his weekend with.  There was always the pub, but he didn’t want to become a regular there, which he was known to do when fat paycheques tempted him to spend them.

So embattled with this conundrum he was that he almost didn’t hear the kid running around the corner in time to stop.  He was a pale boy, no older than seventeen or at least young enough looking to make Thomas wonder if he had taken a wrong turn and ended up in a high-school.  The kid was wearing a black robe like he was dressing for Halloween and had several folders (one looked familiar) tucked under his skinny arm.

The kid was paying less attention than he was, though, and slammed ungracefully into Thomas, causing his tool-belt to expel a large number of his expensive, sensitive tools all over the concrete floor.  The kid managed to hold on to the papers, cried out in surprise and a shock of pain as he bounced from Thomas to the wall and finally down the hall.

“Watch where you’re going, geezer!” the kid shouted as he ran on.

Thomas’ concern for his tools was overridden by the rage at being called a geezer.  “Watch where you’re going, punk!” he shouted, then instantly felt old for saying the word ‘punk’.

He sighed, bending over to grab his tools.  Was he really that old already?  He supposed that, to a kid barely out of high school he must seem ancient.  How quickly time flies.  The creaking in his knees and joints was from his extended hours, but he couldn’t help but lament about how they made him lurch and stoop like a grandpa.

As he shuffled unenthusiastically along the hall, throwing out a multimode test set that had been smashed in the encounter, he smelled the strong caustic tang of fresh sharpie marker coming from one of the empty classrooms.  Thomas opened the door, expecting to see more punk kids sitting around drawing obscenities on the wall, but instead he saw the beginnings of the same drawing, this time tucked away in the corner where the kid must have hoped nobody would notice it during a quick glance.

Thomas walked over to it with genuine interest.  This version was cleaner and more precise, as if the kid had taken real time with it to get it just right.  The errors were still there, however, and before he even realized it, he had reached into his tool belt and pulled out a silver-paint marker designed to mark interior conduit.

He could envision electricity flowing through the half-completed circuit already.  His instincts told him that here, here and here the drawing was incomplete, but the kid would fix those areas later.  Two lines here, though, were crossed when they shouldn’t be.  Here the flow was backwards from what had to be a logic gate.  If anyone were to make this circuit live, they’d likely just blow the switch or cause jack squat to happen, depending on the fuse strengths that he couldn’t decipher due to the strange electrical icons.

So, he did what he always was good at:  Thomas Markham completed the circuit with his marker.  Took a step back, smiled, and then fixed another error that became apparent once he saw the new picture.

Three little pen-strokes and it was done.  Oh, it would have to be cleaned up a bit around those areas to ensure safety code was followed, but the principal was sound and the circuit was correct.

The puzzle was solved, and Thomas went home that night enjoying a relaxing evening of beers, pizza and rented DVD’s.

Monday he saw that the diagram had been painted over.  Strange, Thomas thought, as nobody would have had a chance to see it and report it to building maintenance over the weekend.

Tuesday, however, he saw a new diagram up.  This time (and strangely enough) on the back of one of the roof tiles he had needed to remove.  He did his work quickly, then brought the tile down to a spare room so he could ponder it without possible interruption.  This one was a lot more complex, had several missing sections, and looked like something out of a hedge-maze in some twisted Alice in Wonderland story.  Still, with a bit of patience and his silver paint marker, he found the connections that were wrong, filled in a few blanks that had been (he assumed) left that way on purpose, and identified two new symbols for Boolean logic gates that seemed to work on some kind of unknown principal.  Only when current would flow from both sides would….well, they basically were only active when the circuit was alive, as if they were designed to give the circuit time to warm up and then create a new purpose once it was established.

This revelation helped him identify a kind of capacitor that he’d never seen before, one that must have relied on incredible amounts of static energy being stored, or some kind of…unknown type of energy.  Circles were bound in circles, and while he saw no direct pathways, he could almost envision the jumps energy, power or…something would have had to make to make the diagram work.

Still, he knew not what the diagram was designed to do…activate when something happened, channel energy a certain way, store energy a certain way, then…then it would change.  Whatever the next stage of the circuit would do, it would be incredibly powerful.  It would be a like turning a static shock from shuffling across the floor with wool socks into something akin to a lightning bolt.  While he had seen up-stagers and converters before, this one seemed to feed itself from some unknown source.  A slow, constant, ebbing source.  Low voltage AC?  He didn’t know.  Whatever it was, it would try to keep feeding itself, even if the connections were broken.  A redundant power source circuit maybe?  A doomsday backup battery?

When Thomas looked up at the clock, he was shocked to discover it was already evening.  He packed his things, cleaned up, and quietly put the roof tile back where it came from.

Every day or two after that, a new circuit would be drawn.  Always hidden, always in a place Thomas worked previously.  After a while, he figured that he was helping some poor electrical trade student with his or her homework, but why all the strange symbols and half-completed diagrams?  It didn’t really matter, it was like a crossword puzzle for him that he was spending some free time on, keeping his mind active and interested in his work.

He started jotting down the symbols he couldn’t recognize and researching them online.  At first, none of the searches came back with anything useful but his frustration lead to less focused inquiries.  Finally, he began to see the same symbols in another old, long-forgotten trade…Alchemy.

Most of the websites he found were either new-aged crystal-wavers or incense sellers, but one or two had catalogues of icons, symbols and drawings.  Most of the icons were there now, he just had to translate them into something he understood.

He spent three hundred dollars at the electronics shop that weekend.  Spare parts, test boards and a thousand bits of discounted items.  Carefully, he built the most complete version of one of the diagrams he could, leaving room between each contact that touched one of the main symbols.  Then, he tried different electronics, trying to send through a charge each time.

Several buckets of transistors, logic gates and programmable IC’s later, as well as half a bottle of Wild Turkey, and Thomas threw it all away and simply began crafting spare solder into the intricate runes needed to complete the picture. It was slow, tedious work, and by the end of the weekend he had barely finished three of the two dozen patterns but he suspected…no, he knew that he was on the right track.

He called in some of his vacation time.  With the lack of sleep and drinking covering his voice in a fine layer of gravel, he easily convinced his boss that he was coming down with something.  So, he took the next two days off and soldered until his landlord came knocking to see if anything was burning.  His one bit of respite was a long walk to the electronics shop to get more materials, though his mind never stopped working.  Never stopped connecting.  Never stopped figuring.

Back at work, he rushed through the day so fast, miraculously not making any mistakes, then left early to hit the public library.  He was missing the math, he saw this now.  There was something missing from the original drawings and it was a sense of order and purpose.  He knew, like the rules that forced him to space cable or use certain gauges of wire, that it was all based on basic fundamentals of the element he worked with.  It was clear that while the diagrams were being used to channel and direct, he knew from the get-go that this was not electricity, and so he needed to reground himself in hard facts.

But the shapes didn’t make sense.  The patterns didn’t make sense.  He poured over book after book of math, physics and science for answers, but there was no unifying theory about why such things should exist in just these ways.

At that point, it was only the uncanny knowing that he was on to something that made him refuse to give up.  He couldn’t find the answer with established thought, but he couldn’t believe it was all just a scribble on the wall made by a bunch of bored students.  It had purpose, it had form, it had a life of its own.

Thomas just needed to find out why, or how.  Then the pieces would fit perfectly.  Then the circuit would connect.

So, Friday night, he packed his tools away, he got into his truck, but he didn’t leave the parking lot.  He watched.  Close to midnight, he was rewarded for his patience as he saw three bodies scurrying across the grounds, heading to the access door leading to the basement.  He followed an hour later.

Dim light glowed from underneath the door of one of the spare classrooms.  As Thomas approached, he began to hear the muffled voices of four individuals.  Someone must have been here to let them in.  His immediate thought was to call campus security to investigate.  He really didn’t know what he was walking in to, did he?  They could be a bunch of drug addicts with knives or a gun and kill him for interrupting whatever gathering they were part of, but even as he thought this to himself and reached for his cell phone, he realized how slim of a chance hard-core drug lords with murderous intent would want to use a university classroom for their evil schemes.

He was, however, cautious enough to notice the line of grease-paint drawn just outside the door, connecting to a pair of symbols he immediately recognized from the diagram.  One was a font of power, the other was a sink.  If he had been making something to this effect with wiring, using an exposed wire between the two, he figured that it would act like an electrified fence.  Clearly the students didn’t want listeners.

As he knelt down to investigate the symbols, he was surprised to see a very subtle glow.  They weren’t hooked to any power source he knew of, unless the grease was radioactive but he doubted that.  He pulled out a Sharpie and drew a symbol very like the sink, then, putting on his electricians gloves, carefully drew a line to connect it to the grease.

The effect was immediate.  His symbol was closer to the font, and so, whatever power was coursing through the line decided to take the shorter route.   The original sink went dim, and to his surprise, the new one lit up like a Christmas Tree bulb, far too brightly to be good.  Smoke began to leap up off of the line of ink and he cursed himself for forgetting that different materials had different levels of resistance.  He stumbled back just in time to watch his symbol and line burn up with a loud ‘POP!’ and the energy continue back to its original path.

Before he could get up, however, the voices stopped and the door opened to reveal three young men and a young woman, all four of whom looked very angry.  “Who are you?” one of them demanded.

“Josh, look!” the woman whispered, pointing at what was left of the ashy ink of his marker.

The three boys looked down in surprise.  One of them turned to ‘Josh’ and smiled.  “He’s the electrician I told you about.”

Thomas got to his feet slowly under their steady glares.  “Uhm, hi.”

“We should kill him,” Josh said firmly.

“Oh, would you stop it!” the boy who identified him laughed, grabbing Thomas’ shoulder and pulling him in.  “Come on, stop acting all gruff just because you forgot to erase your matrix the other night.”

They closed the door behind him.  Thomas let his eyes adjust to the dimmer, flickering candle light of the room.  A circular table and a dozen chairs were scattered about, with four of them pulled up to equidistant points around it.  The boy who had yet to speak quietly went over and picked out a fifth seat and rearranged the other chairs to accommodate him.

On the table itself were reams of paper, ink wells, and foul smelling smoke coming from a tiny incense burner in the middle.  All over the table there were symbols, and all over the table, there were questions for him to ask.  He waited patiently, however, for introductions.

“I’m Josh,” the ‘kill him’ boy said from the far side of the table.  “This is Maria,” he pointed to the girl, “Daniel and Eric,” this time to the quiet one, and finally the boy who recognized him.  “What the hell do you think you’re doing here this time of night?”

“I’m Thomas,” he said.  “And I could ask you all the same question.  Late night study group?”

“How did you break the door ward so easily?” Maria asked with wonder in her eyes.  “Have you practiced before?”

Thomas felt uncomfortable under their collective stares and cleared his throat.  “Uhm, well, I’ve been practicing drawing them.  Since I saw your schematic on the wall.  And well, I figured I could try my hand at it and…”

“He shorted it out with a Sharpie,” Eric chuckled with glee.  “I told you, all we need to do is scale back the Alpha rune and the ink will do nicely.”

“Well, I didn’t exactly mean to short it out…” Thomas apologized.  “You see, I was just wondering if you…four…could answer some questions for me.  I’ve been working on this circuit for a few weeks now, and I must admit, I’m stumped at how to get amps going through.”

Josh let out a little sound that could have been a laugh, or a growl.  “A few weeks?  Just figuring it out?”

“Well, mostly on the weekends.  Work keeps me pretty busy,” Thomas did his best to placate the boy with a show of his hands.  “Not much to show for it.  But it’s quite a brain teaser, so I haven’t given up yet.”

“He thinks this is a wiring diagram,” Josh laughed, but the other three didn’t join him.  In fact, they were looking at Thomas with quite a spot of awe in their eyes.

Daniel, who had been silent up to that moment, threw his hands up.  “That’s it!  I know how to make it work!  AC to DC current!  We’ve been using it wrong!”

Thomas watched the flurry of activity that followed.  Daniel and Eric threw the papers off of the table, then quickly found the large poster-sized sheet they were looking for.  It was the circuit Thomas had seen on the wall, only this time it was much more complete, and had markings all over it with light blue pencil that indicated “Failed” or “OK” or “Unsure?” or “OL – DNUY”.

“What does that mean?” Thomas asked, pointing to the last label.

Eric looked at it, then back up.  “Overload, do not use yet.  Burnt paper is easy to replace, but when we get this sucker fired up with the stone tablets, it’s a bitch to re-chisel.”

“Stone?  How are you conducting over stone?  Is it some kind of quartz?” Thomas asked, leaning over to get a better view of the sheet.

“He doesn’t know,” Maria said.  Where Josh had been condescending, she seemed almost understanding.  “We need to tell him.”

“No!” Josh hissed, walking over to the door.  “No, in fact, Mister Thomas the Electrician should get the fuck out of here before he gets us or himself into any more shit.  Don’t worry, Tom, we’ll be out of here by morning and we won’t come back.”

Thomas had to resist the urge to punch the kid when Josh grabbed his arm and began hauling him away from the table.  “Wait!  Listen!”  He grabbed the door and slammed it shut before Josh could push him out.  “I don’t want to get you in trouble, I want to learn what this is!”

Josh grunted, trying to move Thomas out of the way so he could reopen the door, but he was fifty pounds and ten years too light.

“Quit it, Josh,” Maria sighed, walking over to him.  She put her hand on his shoulder.

Furious, Josh slapped away her hand, then glared at the other two.  “Well?  Since this seems like a vote, what do you two say?  Kick him out and get back to it, or risk everything we’ve been working on for the last three years by letting in an outsider at the last second?”

Eric and Daniel looked at each other, then back to Josh.  He hadn’t seen it before, but Thomas could now tell they were brothers, maybe close cousins.

“He just helped unravel the overload problem we’ve been having, Josh.  Just by accident,” Eric said, patting Daniel on the shoulder.  “Maybe he can help us.  We haven’t been making much headway lately.”

“It is pretty advanced, Josh,” Daniel said quietly.  “And some of the principals are the same.  We need an expert, and unless you want to go to the Old Man…”

“Fuck,” Josh hissed, then let out a long sigh.  “Okay, fine.”

Thomas smiled.  “Why, thank you, sonny.”

“Don’t call me that,” Josh stormed off to the other side of the table and took his seat.

“So,” Thomas said, looking at the rest of them.  “Is this some kind of advanced microchip or something like that?  I didn’t know they taught that here at the school.  I would have figured this would me more technical college or something.”

“It’s called Raetic Runeology,” Maria smiled.  “And no, it’s not a microchip.  It’s magic.”

Thomas let out a chuckle.  “Well, whatever it is, it would have to be magic for it to work like that.  I mean, there are shorts all over the place.” As he looked around the room, though, he felt his gut sink.  “Wait…”

Eric nodded, pulled his hand out of his pocket and raised it into the air.  “If it looks like magic, tastes like magic and sounds like magic…”

A bright blue flame appeared in the young man’s hand, changed shape into a ten pointed star-burst, then collapsed into a puff of sweet smelling smoke that masked the incense when he closed his hand upon it.

“It’s magic!” Eric said with a large smile, then dusted his hands off on his pant leg.

Thomas’ jaw was long forgotten as he stared at the boy.  Maria let out a little laugh, then guided him slowly over to the table so he could sit down.  “Don’t mind Eric, he just loves to show off his little trick.”

“Trust me,” Eric nodded.  “It’s a babe magnet.”

Thomas nodded weakly, slumped to the chair, and promptly passed out.

>part 2

Posted under Short Stories
  1. Midnight Jolt Run » Blog Archive » Schematics – Part 3 Said,

    […] – Part 3 Posted by Fiss on December 31, 2009>part 1 >part […]

Add A Comment

WP-SpamFree by Pole Position Marketing