The Agora Files – Part II – Online Edition – Chapter Seven

Due to a combination of the height Bruno dropped them from and the wet ground caused by the storm, the bolt cutters are deeply embedded in the earth.  Could have been worse, I guess.  At least they aren’t deeply embedded in my skull.  All the same, it manages to be quite the struggle to retrieve them.  After a few minutes of pulling and twisting and pushing and turning, I’m finally able to release the tool from the sopping wet ground and turn to face the uninspiring building which may hold the key to saving Eve.

“Alright,” I say to myself, “here goes nothing.”

“Let’s hope it’s a little more than nothing, alright kid?” Bruno laughs.

I easily clip the lock apart and the door swings open without a touch.  Inside is one solitary light bulb, illuminating a tall electronic column covered in little red digital readouts showing numbers, all close to 100. I’m hit by a gentle breeze of hot air as I enter the small room, which I quickly realize is coming from the fan on the side of this large device.

“What’d you find?” Bruno asks.

“I have absolutely no clue.  Looks like some sort of computer, maybe?”

“Describe it to me.”

“I don’t know.  It’s a big box.  There are a bunch of little screens with red numbers all over it.”  I lean closer to read some smaller lettering above some of the flashing lights on the device.  “There’s some other green lights which say charged and bat percent and—“

“That’s it!” Bruno cuts me off.

“What?”

“You found it.  You found the power plant!”

“How do you know?”

“Because what you’ve described sounds exactly like a battery bank, the place where it holds all the power it collects during the storms.  They’re collecting power from lightning!”

“How would you have any clue what a lightning powered battery bank would look like?”

“The camp we took off from, Camp Pewakee, it’s set up on a solar grid.  I helped install and maintain the battery banks it uses.  I’ve spent enough time with them to know exactly what you’re trying to describe.”

“Okay,” I say slowly.  “So what does that mean for me?”

“It means one of two things.  Either you’ve got to find a way to disconnect the device from Grand Island, which would probably be some large conduit wire going into the ground or something—“

“Wouldn’t it be dangerous to go around cutting large wires which have electricity running through them?”

“Yeah, but the only other option would be to pull the batteries from the device.  I’m guessing you don’t have experience with these types of things.”

“Can’t say I’ve done it before.  Is it anything like pulling batteries from a smoke alarm?  Because I’ve done that plenty of times.”

“In concept, very similar.  In actual process, not so much.  Well, I’m guessing it’s different.  I don’t know what model of–”

“You’re not being very helpful here.”

“Alright, well, I can’t imagine this is all too different from what we use at camp.  There’s probably an inverter somewhere, but with how large of a system you’re talking about and with such a small building, I’m guessing those are installed in each of those posts around the island, or in the other building.  But since this system powers the whole island, it’s more than possible the other building houses another battery bank like this.”

“I’m still not seeing how you’re helping me here,” I groan.

“Me neither.  Any other information you can give me about the device you’re looking at?  Maybe we’re missing something simple.”

“Would it help if I told you there’s a metal box on the wall with a big orange lever attached to it?”

“No way!”

“Okay, fine.  Maybe if I take a look be—“

“No, that’s exactly what you want.  I can’t believe they made it so easy for you.”

“What do you mean?”

“The lever.  It’s the AC disconnect box.  It’s where the power goes from the battery bank to the island.”

“Okay, so, should I use the wire cutters to—“

“Flip the switch.  If you flip it, it should shut down all power to the island, easy peasy.”

“Really?”

“From the way you explain it, I can’t think of anything else it would be.”

“So, should I do it?  Like, now?”

“Unless you’re thinking you want to take a nap first or something.”

“Now—“

“Just do it, kid.  You said you were on the west side of the island, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, perfect.  Flip the switch, I’ll be waiting for you directly off shore.  Can’t imagine you’ll miss me, since I’ll be coming in loud.”

“Alright,” I say, taking a deep breath.  “Here goes nothing.”

I wrap my fingers around the orange stick and pull down on it.  It resists, but a little additional effort and it’s flipped to the down position.  Nothing seems to happen.

“Bruno,” I say loudly while exiting the building.  “I don’t think it did anything.”

“Don’t worry kid, you wouldn’t have noticed anything here.  You turned out the lights on Grand Island, not here.”

“Oh,” I say, “okay.  Heading in your direction then.”  The same whirring from earlier starts up from the shed.  “Sounds like it might be bringing up another storm,” I shout.

“Well then hurry, kid,” Bruno says urgently.  “If you move quick, maybe you can get here before it lights up.  You don’t want to be in the water when the lightning starts striking.”

“At this point, I’m not so sure I want to be in the water at all.”

I run toward the west shore, hearing the sound of Bruno’s loud propeller on the other side of some incredibly tall grass.  I shove through as the ground below me starts to tremble.  I make it to the water’s edge and see Bruno idling ten feet from shore.

“Can you get any closer?” I yell over the increasing volume.

“Too shallow.  Come on!”

Without another word, I leap into the water, finding it only a foot deep here.  I speed through the shallows, splashing water in every direction as I go.  The river makes my movement slow, as does the muck underneath it, but I’m making progress.  As I reach the halfway point between me and Bruno, the ground vibrates with an enormous tremor.  I fall over as the sky lights up with energy.

“Get moving, kid!”

“I’m not going to make it!” I yell, returning to my feet and heading back to shore.

I hear Bruno yelling something to me through the headphones, but can’t make it out through the static and the loud thunder bursts.

All I can think about is getting fried in the water by a stray thunderbolt.  The rain is falling hard already and I see the first of the lightning strike ahead.  I’m panicked, tripping over the heavy water before I finally stumble back into the thick grass and to relative safety.

I’m heaving as I sit on the bank of the island, feeling the ground shake violently with every blast of electricity beyond.

“You still alive there, Cyrus?” I barely make out through my headphones.

“Yeah,” I yell in return.  “Made it.”

“Did you hear me?”

“About what?”

“About how this storm won’t stop.”

“Why?” I ask.  “The last one only took a few minutes.”

“Right, but the island seems to be set up to make these storms happen whenever the power stores are getting low.  Apparently the device which determines the stores are low is somewhere on the other side of the switch you turned off, possibly on the other island.  That means the second you turned the power off here, the island decided to re-juice the batteries.  Only issue is, there’s still no power going to the other unit.  The storm won’t stop.”

“Alright,” I answer.  “So, I turn the power back on, wait for the storms to stop, and then we try it all over again?”

“It’s the best idea I have,” Bruno says in the audible version of a shrug.

“On it.”  I return to my feet and bolt toward the building.  I’m there in a matter of seconds.  It’s loud in here now, like incredibly loud.  Much louder than it was during the last storm.  I can’t imagine the exterior of this shed has much for sound proofing, based on the looks of it.  I glance at the battery bank and notice the red readouts now say numbers nearing 200.  The whole device is squealing in a way which doesn’t sound very kind.

“Bruno!”  I put my hand on the switch and attempt to push up on it.  It won’t budge.  It’s hot in here.  I’m soaking wet from the rain, but I can still feel the sweat pouring off my head.  “I can’t get the switch up.”

“What’s that noise?” Bruno yells.

“The battery bank thing.”

“Get out of there, Cyrus!” Bruno yells.

He doesn’t have to ask me twice.  I fly out the door and just as I make it the five feet to the bottom of the first post, a loud crash happens behind me and I’m lifted into the air and sent bouncing off the concrete base of the pole.

My head in a daze, I hear Bruno screaming over my headphones.  “What was that?”

I try to respond, but my body seems unwilling to cooperate.

“Cyrus!” Bruno continues to yell.

I manage to open my eyes and see a large fire where the shed used to be.

“Cyrus!  Are you still there?”

“Yeah,” I manage to murmur, although so quietly I can’t imagine he hears me.

Thunder continues to crack around me.  My life consists of nothing more than a series of bright flashes, crackling thunder, and a tremoring ground.  I roll onto my stomach and attempt to push myself to my feet.

“Cyrus!”

“Yeah,” I mumble, slightly louder, I think.

“Cyrus?”

I slowly stand and the earth spins around me.  The corners of my vision are blurry, as though fading to black.  I can’t pass out.  Not now.  I need to stop the storm, otherwise, being here, in the middle of all these lightning rods, could mean the end of me.  Having the power cut to the main island is certain to send someone to investigate.  If I want to do this, if I want to free Eve, now is the time.  It’s all I’ve got.

“I’m here,” I mumble.

“What happened?”

“Building ‘sploded,” I reply lamely, looking at the wreckage.

“Shoot.  Must have overloaded the batteries.”

“What do we do now?” I ask, my mind beginning to clear.

“No clue.  Unless—“ he cuts himself off in thought.

“What?” I ask, feeling my will to live begin to return.

“Unless the other building is what they use to call the storms.”

“Whatchoo mean?” My mouth still seems to have difficulty forming words correctly.

“Maybe the answer to our current problem is in the other building.  You still got those bolt cutters?”

I look down in my hands as I shake my head to say no and realize I still have a grip on the tool which had fallen from the sky.  “Yeah.”

“Perfect.  Let’s go see what’s in the other building.”

Go to Chapter Eight

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