Authors: Julie Drew
THE TESLA EFFECT
Ring of Fire Publishing
Glimpse (The Tesla Effect, Book 1)
4 Julie Drew. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transferred without the express written consent of the author.
Ring of Fire Publishing
Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.
This is a work of fiction. Any similarity with real persons or events is purely coincidental. Persons, events, and locations are either the product of the author’s imagination, or used fictitiousl
Cover images by Augustino, wavebreakmedia, and Pakhnyushcha.
Cover design by
Julie Drew and Stephen Penner.
The idea for
The Tesla Effect
trilogy began to take shape when I went to a talk at Kent State University given by Dr. Ronald Mallett, Professor of Physics at the University of Connecticut. Dr. Mallett’s presentation was essentially my favorite thing: taking science and technology on the one hand, and narrative and character and empathy and drama on the other, and mashing them up into something exciting and accessible. His story of how he became interested in time travel and eventually became a physicist is fascinating and inspiring, and the time machine that appears in my books is based on his description of his own experiments in this field. In addition, I read a whole host of explanations of quantum physics and time travel theories from a wide variety of sources, in print and online, some of which I partially grasped. Heaps of gratitude to all those writers who attempt to translate the work of scientists for the rest of us.
Creative work takes a village. A fearless publisher and a talented editor turned this story I spun in my head and on my hard drive into a book. Support from the Department of English and Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Akron allowed me time to write and meet my deadlines. Add to that my friends and colleagu
es who are writers and artists—generous and interested and encouraging and supportive, all—and you get the kind of environment that nurtures and sustains not just the creative impulse, but the daily grind of bringing a project to fruition. Priceless, and so very much appreciated. Thanks to Jan Bean and Lauren Scarpa, in particular, who read early drafts and whose comments helped make the book a better read.
Mostly, though, it's on family. Nobody could ask for a more supportive bunch than mine, and lucky for me, they come with quite a bit of expertise, as well. Thanks to Philip Anderson and Amber Genuske for brainstorming with me on plot lines and cover art, and in advance for the upcoming research trip so integral to the sequel. And apologies to Brian Anderson and Casey Shevlin for my inability to fully express how much your input, from character development and back stories, to dialo
gue, pacing, and plot structures—I'm sure I've left things out—helped to shape this book and series. I honestly don't think Tesla would have seen the light of day without you. Your enthusiasm never waned, your notes were always honest and spot-on, and Brian's always made me laugh, to boot. You guys are the best. And last but not least, thanks to my husband, Bill Lyons, who never wavers in his astonishing commitment to make my writing a priority in his life, thus freeing me up to write books, and to do so without guilt or regret. You.
For my niece, Katy Drew
When I was a child, I caught a fleeting glimpse,
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone.
I cannot put my finger on it now.
The child is grown, the dream is gone.
— Pink Floyd,
The intruder picked up the journal off the desk in the girl’s bedroom with a latex-gloved hand. So far, nothing in the house had offered even a hint to suggest how she fit into this assignment, but recent developments suggested the girl was involved.
And it was the intruder’s job to find out what her involvement entailed—a job that could end very, very badly if answers weren’t found soon. The pages of the girl’s journal, filled with an immature, rounded script, passed quickly by as the intruder thumbed through them—until a particular phrase in the middle of a random page caught the intruder’s eye:
…documenting his secret experiments…
The intruder snapped to attention, all business now, and turned pages backwards, to find the start of the entry.
Why can’t my life ever be normal? Like my mom having died when I was a kid hasn’t been bad enough, now I have a heartbeat that’s screwed up? High school is totally ruined for me—oh my God, what if I have to wheel around an oxygen tank and wear a mask strapped to my face?!
Impatient, the intruder scanned down the page, desperate to find something relevant.
Plus, I think I might be crazy. Either that, or there’s something else at work here. Something I can’t explain. But since there’s no lightning bolt on my forehead, and there aren’t any sparkly vampires at my school (I think I would have noticed), whatever this is, I figure I’d better write it down. I’m not my dad, compulsively documenting his secret experiments on quarks, and wormholes, and electromagnetic whatevers, but I do have sense enough to make a record of this weirdness.
I mean, I might be dead tomorrow, and this could be important.
With a hand that now trembled, the intruder turned the page to read more but found only the silence of uninterrupted white space, page after page of it, until there were no more, then held the book by its binding and shook it to dislodge any loose, folded papers that might have been inserted into the journal.
The girl’s bedroom had been scoured, the house had been thoroughly searched and professionally wiped—there was no indication that anyone had been in the home at all. The girl might have destroyed her later entries, the intruder mused, or perhaps thought better of the dangers involved in leaving a record, but this was, of course, merely conjecture.
Still, it was a clue—months old now, but experience told the intruder that this was the thread that needed to be pulled to unravel the whole cloth.
The intruder walked back down the stairs into the living room, then slipped quietly out the back door and walked leisurely toward town in the warm sunshine, having reached the conclusion least desired but, in the end, unavoidable. Clearly, it was time to take a more aggressive approach to this assignment, one that would require face-to-face time with the girl. And however regrettable it might be, she would find the experience terrifying.
The bass thumped and spilled out the doorway in sharp contrast to the soft glow of muted lamps. The heavy throb seemed to pound her body from the inside as Tesla walked up the sidewalk toward the Victorian house just east of the center of campus. The party was visible—and certainly audible—from a block away, which was right about the time Tesla started to feel like maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
Keisha sensed her friend’s hesitation.
“Try not to be a freakshow.”
Thanks,” Tesla said.
“Look, my cousin lives there.
It’s a birthday party for one of his roommates. I told you, it’s cool.”
Tesla stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and turned to face Keisha head on while she enumerated her concerns on her fingers, one by one.
“First, your cousin doesn’t know me, and we weren’t invited. Second, we’ll both get in trouble if we get caught—at least I will, you know how pissed my dad was after we went to that frat party last month. ‘
,’” she said in a deep voice, clearly mocking her father. “‘
You’ve got no business at a college party
“Look, I’m sure your dad’s forgotten all about that by now. Besides, this is totally different. We’re just going to my cousin’s place. He hasn’t been back in the States that long. Isn’t it natural that I’d want to hang out?
Think of it as a family obligation, and you’re here to help. Plus—and most importantly—
Tesla considered Keisha for a moment, the dark hair that fell in smooth waves to her chin, those incredible cheekbones, and legs that looked a mile long beneath her short skirt.
With a slight frown, Tesla turned and walked toward the house again, Keisha by her side.
“Yeah, I know,” Tesla grumbled.
“You remind me constantly, which, by the way, is hardly the mature behavior of an eighteen-year-old. And just so you know, no one—especially my dad—will buy that family obligation line.” She paused, aware that Keisha was waiting for more. “And I’m not drinking.”
“Hey, nobody said you had to drink,” Keisha replied quickly.
The advantage was clearly hers now, but she didn’t want to blow it. “I probably won’t either.”
“At least you have the option,” Tesla pointed out.
“My dad loves to lecture me on the potential dangers of anything that would put ‘undue pressure’ on my heart.”
“Actually, we all get that lecture, just without the heart condition part tacked on as extra incentive.
Mine are all, ‘
Think about your future, Keisha!’
“Maybe,” Tesla conceded. “But it still sucks.”
“Well, yeah. But nothing has happened since you were in the hospital, right? And it’s been, what, like six months now? You’re still here.” Keisha clearly wanted Tesla’s mood to improve before they got to the party.
“Actually, it’s been eight months. And, yeah, I’m still alive.”
“And you’re back on the court again, and so far a little ball hasn’t killed you, right?”
“So come on,” said Keisha.
“What do you say?”
They both paused at the steps that led up to the front porch of the old Victorian mansion that shook with the beat of unseen woofers, the ornately carved trim around the edges of the roof and the spindly porch railings just visible in the gloom.
, Tesla thought automatically.
Porch is forty feet long, eight feet deep. Twenty-six posts, spaced exactly twenty-four inches apart, hold up the railing
Tesla raised her voice so Keisha could hear her above the din of club music, laughter, and the general sounds of partying, and gave her friend what she wanted.
“Fine. We worked hard enough to look this good, let’s not waste it.”
“Exactly,” said Keisha, satisfied at last.
She checked to make sure her skirt was straight and then eyed with approval her best friend’s skinny jeans and tissue-thin, white embroidered top she’d gotten in Mexico last year. Tesla had, as always, a worn black messenger bag slung across her body, but Keisha had long since given up any attempt to persuade her to trade it in for an actual bag with some semblance of style. She focused instead on Tesla’s wild array of curls, red-gold shot through with honey, cinnamon, and pumpkin-orange, so bright and multi-faceted that Keisha still had her doubts that it was natural, especially in full sunlight. “You look totally hot—in that tomboy, white-girl kind of way. Except for the eyes, of course. Stunning. Let’s go get ‘em.”
The two made a striking pair, the tall, mahogany-hued black girl and the slim white girl with riotous red hair and pale skin like heavy cream.
Keisha usually got the second looks until the viewer got close to Tesla and saw her eyes: one startlingly poison-green, the other a clear, bright blue, both fringed by dark auburn lashes. It was her strange, mismatched eyes, Tesla had always thought, that made people notice her, and while she wanted to be noticed—at least sometimes, and by some people—those eyes made her feel self-conscious rather than confident, and confidence was what she was after.
The girls climbed the stairs to the deeply-shadowed porch, where they encountered more people as they got closer to the front door.
A logjam of indistinguishable bodies and voices that spoke and laughed and called out to one another hit them like a wave that broke upon the threshold of the house. The music shook the walls as they made their way inside. Keisha, as usual, led the way.
The old house was a throwback to some Edith Wharton novel.
Max would love this
, Tesla thought. She tried to take it all in to tell him about later. The large, open room just inside the door was twenty-eight by thirty-four, she noted with a glance, and featured a chandelier that hung from the high ceiling and shone directly onto a round, polished wood table with a huge crystal vase of fresh flowers on it. Three arched, open doorways led off in different directions, and between these were soft lamps and comfortable sofas and chairs in intimate little seating arrangements, like a posh hotel lobby. Thirty-two people stood, sat, or lounged around the room and Tesla glimpsed more through the doorways that led to other rooms in the enormous old house. Everybody had a red plastic cup in hand, and the air was heavy with smoke—some of it from cigarettes—and the smell of spilled beer. Tesla was hemmed in as she and Keisha joined the throng headed for the doorway directly opposite the front door, caught between the press of bodies to her right and a red velvet sofa with a rounded, carved back immediately to her left. She felt someone touch her hand, and looked down at a couple wrapped around each other on the sofa, mere inches from where she stood. The guy looked right at Tesla, his eyes open while he kissed the heavily made-up girl in his arms. He touched Tesla’s hand again, a light caress, while he stared intently at her.
“Seriously?” Tesla said.
She moved away as much as she could in the press of bodies, which was only three and a half inches, and even that required her to lean into Keisha. The guy shrugged, closed his eyes, and returned his attention to the girl whose mouth he had his tongue in.
“That’s just wrong,” said Keisha.
“Right?” Tesla agreed, relieved as they finally began to move forward.
They slowly made their way into what they could now see was the kitchen, a bright, old-fashioned space with windows instead of upper cabinets on the far wall that had nonetheless been outfitted with huge, modern stainless steel appliances and butcher block countertops.
Keisha looked around, pleased. “It’s like IKEA exploded in here.” Then she gripped Tesla’s hand, hard. “Hot Asian guy, just enough hair gel, six o’clock.”
“Keisha, he’s at twelve o’clock.
Do you even know what a clock face looks like?”
He’s over by the keg. What do you think?”
Tesla looked. “Yeah, he’s cute.”
The boy in question—the man in question, she corrected herself—had a beautiful face, saved from femininity by a square, masculine jaw and decent biceps under his
Frack You, Gaius
T-shirt. “Uh-oh,” she warned, as Keisha pulled her toward the keg. “Sci-fi geek alert. He’s a
Battle Star Galactica
“Hey, it works for you,” said Keisha, undeterred.
“It most certainly does not,” said Tesla hotly. “Do you see any guys around me? Ever?”
Someone stepped in front of Tesla and blocked her view of Keisha’s target
so suddenly that she actually ran into him: yep, he was tall,
, clearly a guy. It felt like she had hit a wall, but before Tesla could say anything to him about his unfortunate blindness or willful rudeness, he could take his pick, he grabbed Keisha by the arm and snarled, “What the hell are you doing here, Keisha?”
“What?” Keisha asked defensively.
Tesla looked up at the angry guy whose shoes she practically stood on. Six one and a half, exactly, with broad shoulders and an easy, athletic build. He was a study in browns: shoulder-length dark hair shot through with gold fell in soft, springy ringlets to frame his face. Warm, deeply tanned skin, slightly lighter than Keisha’s, lay smooth and taut over muscled forearms, and light, golden-brown eyes narrowed as he glared at Keisha. Neither his angry frown nor the scruffy start of a goatee could disguise his full, sensual mouth. His white tee-shirt had a small rip on the shoulder seam, and Tesla stared at his coppery-brown skin just visible through it.
Keisha shook off his hand.
“We’re hanging out, Finn. Back off!”
, thought Tesla, shaken by the sudden volatility in the air.
“You shouldn’t be here,” Finn growled.
“What is your problem?” Keisha demanded. “It’s barely ten o’clock! And family legend has it that you were hardly an angel when you were my age.”
“This is not some stupid frat party, and you are both obviously in high school.” He glanced at Tesla briefly, then jerked a
thumb in her direction. “Jesus, Keish, she looks like she’s fifteen years old!”
“I’ll be eighteen in October!” Tesla protested, stung by this insult, but both Finn and Keisha ignored her.
“Well, we can’t leave yet,” Keisha said, and her voice took on that I-will-brook-no-argument tone Tesla knew all too well. “We’re supposed to meet our friend Malcolm, and it would not be cool if we left before he gets here.”
Finn rolled his eyes.
“Fine,” he snapped. And then he turned to Tesla, “But get out as soon as he arrives. You can’t be here tonight.” His bright, burnished eyes bore straight into Tesla’s and, much to her surprise, he made no comment about hers. He didn’t even seem to notice that they were, to say the least, unusual, and she was inexplicably offended by this show of disinterest. She glared back at him, her usual shyness around boys nowhere to be found. For a moment she was aware of nothing but the intensity of his stare, and in her peripheral vision his wild, unkempt hair, the grim set of his mouth. And then he turned and was gone before she could think of a single, scathing retort.
“What the hell?” Tesla asked.
“Finnegan thinks he’s the shit,” Keisha answered with a dismissive wave of her hand. “He figures he can tell me what to do because he’s older than me—
older. Just ignore him.”
Tesla certainly intended to ignore him, but she was curious. “Why is it such a big deal that we’re here? We can’t be the only ones here underage.”
“I doubt it’s about that,” Keisha said slowly. She paused, and her frown made it clear to Tesla that it was not easy to explain Finnegan Ford. “He’s had a very cool—but very weird—life, and it’s made him kind of a pain in the ass.”
“What do you mean? Cool and weird how?”
Keisha pulled Tesla back into the line of people moving toward the keg, and spoke over her shoulder. “Cool in that he’s lived in a bunch of different countries, Europe mostly, but weird in that he was stuck in boarding school a lot. He’s been on his own, really, his whole life, no siblings and not much contact with his parents since he started school.”
“Shit,” said Tesla.
“Yeah. He’s used to being the boss. Of himself and—he thinks—of everyone else, too,” Keisha said, at the keg at last. The hot Asian guy, whose expression had been decidedly bored up till now, looked anything but as he watched the girls approach. Keisha, for her part, had lost all interest in Finn’s unusual childhood.
Unnoticed by either of the girls, Finn stood in the opposite doorway, just close enough to hear the conversation as he watched his cousin flirt with his best friend. She could lay it on thick, and despite his apprehension about what this evening might bring, Finn couldn’t help but be amused. Joley might be a little older, and more experienced, but Keisha was a force to be reckoned with, and Finn wished him luck. Keisha giggled, flattered Joley, and looked away in faux confusion, but despite her amusing, over-the-top performance, Finn’s interest was drawn from his cousin to the redheaded girl who stood next to her.