Work In Progress
“Don’t push that button!” He really shouldn’t have said that. “Please,” he continued almost sarcastically, “it’s not really a good idea.” Now I really wanted to press it. The only button on the black wall, red, raised up, reflecting the moonlight coming in from the open window. Red curtains rustled as a cool breeze swept through the room, blowing my blond hair into my face. Paris was lit up like Christmas time outside, and a harvest moon sat squarely in the sky. A clock struck midnight, and the Eiffel Tower lit up, sparkling like a gem.
I could see him standing across the room, black dress shirt and pants, converse clearly visible, and a grey vest with a small handgun tucked underneath. Black hair obscured his eyes, but I knew who he was. Even without glimpsing his soul, I knew. He knew me too, but that wasn’t going to stop him from stopping me. And it wasn’t going to stop me from hitting that switch. I knew I’d have to move fast. This breaker could shut down any electrical device within a thousand-mile radius, covering a large bit the European continent.
“You don’t really get it, do you?” I teased him. I was almost certain he knew what I was up to, but I didn’t care. I just needed a little longer. “If I don’t do this, then we’re in trouble. I just need you to let me press the button, and I’m off. Like I was never here.”
“Only, all of Paris will be at a standstill, and thousands could be trapped in its walls.”
“Most of Europe actually. But that’s exactly what I was going for.” I could see I’d surprised him a little, like he was still holding on to a hope I was up to something good. Proven wrong, he pulled out his gun. He held it with one hand, but I knew his shots were surer than anyone else’s on the planets. The safety was still on though. I tried to inch closer to the button, only a few feet away, and was rewarded with the safety coming off. I swore a little under my breath, and hoped he’d at least give me a warning shot. If I could activate the electromagnetic pulse, his weapon would be useless. The Guards always carried weapon that fired bursts of high-voltage high-frequency “bullets” of electricity. No, not like a laser beam, like cartridges carrying a small amount of an experimental element that dissolved once in contact with the victim, releasing the electric shock. This stiff could drop a full grown man and keep him out for hours. An ordinary sixteen-year-old girl wasn’t much of a match for that; good thing I wasn’t ordinary.
Under my breath, I mumbled, “Here goes nothing…” absolutely made a dive for it. I reached the button just a bullet came in contact with my ribs. I had a little more resistance to those kinds of hits, but it took me down. Black spots danced in my vision, and my white shirt turned red where the burst had hit. The damage was mostly internal, but worth it. MY job was done, as half of Europe powered down. Alarms sounded and died, and the heavy gates restricting access to the city shut, stuck until power was restored.
In the dark I heard him step forward. “Damn it Alice, what have you done!”
“Exactly what needed to be done,” I said through gritted teeth. My ribs were on fire. I stood, stumbled a bit, and backed towards the window. I could see him, just a little, just a shadow, coming towards me. My shadow stood out on the red carpet, and just as he came within reach, it disappeared. I fell down three stories off the balcony, hearing his yell echo behind me as I plunged in the icy waters of the Seine.
The future of Earth is very different place than it once was. People in the early two thousands spent so much time worrying about what they would become, not celebrating what they had. In this the year 2050, walls enclose many of the once great cities of Earth. People go missing off the streets of the Outskirts while the rich thrive in a few choice places. Revolutionaries are punished and silenced. Equalists are threatened and imprisoned. Government leaders cover up the outside suffering and let the walled in civilizations prosper, leaving the rest of the world hungry. Not like there’s that many of us left. The population began to slowly decline about thirty years ago. We aren’t exactly in danger of extinction, but we’re certainly not as plentiful as we used to be. And I use the word “we” loosely. I don’t even know if I’m technically a human.
I’m not like others, as was made clear. When it was clear to my parents I wasn’t normal, they left me. And I’m okay with that, because I’ve done alright on my own. I’m sixteen years old. My obnoxiously blond hair comes about down to my shoulder blades, and bangs tend to cover my green eyes. I’m about five foot seven and a half inches, but I’m sturdy, even for a skinny kid. When I was five my parents abandoned me, and a kid named Kale picked me up.
He was only eight, but he already had a group of homeless kids outside the wall of New York City banded together. We all pitched in, and we all got fed. And I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only different one. I could see it in their eyes, literally. I can see souls. I can sense the electrical pulses in humans, and sometimes dogs, brains, and understand their intentions. Not really like mind reading, but more like getting to know how someone’s body language, tone of voice, and attitude suggest behavior instantly.
But that’s not all I can do. I can also control some electric waves, which can come in handy. When power grids shut down in sketchy outer-wall villages, I could supply enough energy to keep the lights one. Now, I could light up a whole country. I’m not the only who’s different, though.
Kale is. He’s can sort of do what I can, only, not on his own. He can take any wave – sound, light, heat, energy – anything, and magnify it. He can turn a light bulb into an inferno, just by adjusting and increasing frequencies. He was my best friend; all the other kids eventually left us, but he and I stayed together. We survived. Then, he was gone. His soul vanished, leaving me alone once more.
But it’s not the past I care about now, it’s the future. You have a right to know, I suppose, what I was doing a few days ago when I flipped the kill switch. And got shot. Which still hurts. A lot.
The guy who shot me, his name is Kiro Anderson. When I was fourteen and Kale, for lack of a better word, died, a group took me in off the streets. They call themselves Wardens. They knew I was special, and sought out people like me. They weren’t very good, or there wasn’t many of us. There were only three people at the headquarters, Kiro and me among them. Kiro has always been good with targeting, on account of his heightened senses; he can hit a target two miles away easy. He’s especially good with the Elect (electromagnetic) guns.
He was only a year older than me, and we soon became friends. Then he was selected for the Guards – an elite group selected for guarding the entrance to certain cities as well as special missions for the government.
All was well for about another year. Then word got loose of a man who called himself Nero. He was causing problems. Police reports counted casualties at an electric plant nearly 600. Another 230 died when he collapsed a dam in London. I dreamt of him. Sometimes, I can pick up strange impulses in my sleep, and see the future, or possible futures. He was there, and Paris was dead. The city silent and burnt to the ground. London followed, the New York. Dubai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, San Francisco. The list went on, until the only cities left were those full of outer-wall slums. And I saw his eyes. And they were empty. Dead, but still living. Humans need souls. They guide us, save us, but this man was without one. I tried to explain what I saw, but the Wardens wanted him alive. I knew a man like that couldn’t change. They were incapable of dealing with him, so I set off to do it on my own. Only, they wouldn’t let me go. Somehow they got the notion that they were in charge of me. False.
I shorted out the breakers and got loose. They won’t let me be, even though I’m just doing the world a favor. I can't explain. They won’t let me, and they wouldn’t believe me or care if I did. I don’t know if I can kill him when I find him, but Nero must be stopped.
So that’s where I am. Hiding in the sewers of Paris after shutting down half of Europe. Nero is here, in Paris. In the nightmares, the Eiffel Tower is the first thing to go, while the rest of France starts to go up in flames. I refuse to let this happen, but Kiro isn’t helping.
Lets asses my situation: I know he doesn’t want to hurt me, but I know he’ll do his job at all costs. And I’m defiantly at a disadvantage because he gave me a warning shot with the non-lethal gun. If he had hit my heart, which I knew he could, I might not be standing here. My electrical stimulus might be enough to keep me alive, but I really never wanted to find out. Now, unfortunately, he’s stuck with a regular old hand-gun, considering I’m the only working electrical device in the entire city, and for miles beyond. The city gates are shut, so Nero should be here.
After landing in the stinking river, I found a service tunnel to dry out in. Now I’m good, so I try to keep moving. I’ve been in these tunnels for a couple of days now, snacking on what’s left in my fantastic water-proof backpack. You know, someone once told me the Seine use to be beautiful, but now it’s just polluted and fetid. Come to think of it, so am I. Swimming in these waters can’t be very healthy, and I would kill for a shower right now.
Adrenaline rushes through me as I hear something further down the tunnel. I am now on high alert. If Kiro’s down there, I’m screwed. Thoughts race through my mind, and I almost send a bolt down the tunnel, just to be safe. But if I do, and it’s not Kiro, they’ll get fried. If it is Kiro, and he’s not fried, he’ll shoot me. And if it just so happens to be Nero… I’m probably just screwed either way. I hold my breath and hold very still. And then, Murphy’s laws in full affect, a rat appears. Almost a foot long with wicked-looking teeth, it’s heading right towards me. Okay, Nero can find me now for all I care. I let out a squeak and zap the rat at least ten feet back.
I backpedal down he tunnel quickly and duck around a few corners. I know someone saw me, but I don’t know who they were.