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The Electric Poet

A Tale of Tesla's Life, Achievements & Tragic Demise

This story is excerpted from the novel Haveck: The First Transhuman by Matt Cates (Sable Mare Media, 2015).

Smiljan Village, Croatia, 7 August 1864

Idiot! Father will be furious if I die like this.

Niko had done it again. He had a knack for landing in hot water—but this time the water was actually cool. He had gone down to the river by the flour mill, planning to while away an hour swimming. A dam held the town river at bay, so children swam there often. The water rose only a bit over the brim and most days there was no danger at all of being swept away.

Most days.

The water had risen during the night from rainstorms and now the thoughtless current fought to sweep small Niko over the masonry. One weak hand grabbed onto the wall while his seven year old heart galloped within a chest too frail to hold it. Shaking a wet curl from his winter blue eye, he dared a glance at the steep drop, then screamed. The rush of the falls over-shouted him, not that there was a soul around to hear.

Rocks below his dangling rabbit feet beckoned as his strength deserted him like a traitor.

My brother Dane is dead. Now I die, too—from stupidity. Who will carry on the name of Tesla?

Before his grip slipped Niko beheld an odd glimmer, a bluish firefly multiplying into a twinkling swarm flittering about his head. The glow began to take shape, straight lines of light drawing on the air itself. Curiosity gave him a boost of needed adrenaline for he knew he was having a vision from God!

A delirious vision of…a diagram?

He looked on as the diagram took form, floating in front of his face, a mechanism showing a principle they’d studied in school.

Fluid motion...

The pressure of the fluid (the rushing river) was proportionate to the area (his body!).

Cold water pushed his shoulders down to meet his fate as he tried to consider the lesson before him. A simple thing to apply; he only needed to turn to his side to lessen his exposed area…and the pressure let up! Now he could tug himself across the wall, hand over hand, making back to the bank, though nearly losing his grip along the slippery masonry.

The skin on his side was shredding but he pressed on with no choice, scrapping along the wall as he felt a fever coming on. He was never a model of health, always the sicklier of the two brothers. At least in the past he’d been hailed for possessing the potential to match Dane’s intelligence, but now even that looked to be in question.

It wasn’t intellect which saved him, but the vision of the shining blue mechanism.

The hallucination.

So real, yet, as Nikola would later discover, it was but the first of a lifetime of such visions, each progressively more complex. Some would be of things already in existence, things he’d seen in books or heard tale of at lectures. Most would be of things which sprang solely from the bottomless caverns of his own creativity, mechanical wonders which humankind had not conceived of in the grandest works of speculative fiction, contraptions to harness the power of waterfalls, create signals within the air to carry information, cause buildings to quiver with an electric fire coursing through the veins of their infrastructure.

But before all that, he first had to get home for dinner. Later would he come to alter the thread of history…

On the pitiful walk back, Niko shook from fever and dread of his father, the erudite village priest.

Perhaps Father will display some of the mercy he so often preaches of. Unlikely, but...

In any event, Niko Tesla knew he could never speak of the vision to his parents unless he wished to be deemed possessed by the Devil.

Which, perhaps, he was.

Smiljan Village, Croatia, 13 December 1868

“Chilly day for you fine fellows to be out!” Niko called to a faction of boys toiling in the snow. He’d run across two good friends while exploring caves in the sublime Velebit mountains behind his homestead. Soon tired of those they’d gone roaming in search of targets for their bow and arrow practice. But now, seeing another group, decided to engage the interlopers on the hill.

“Who goes there?” the burliest one asked, rising from some project he’d been kneeling over. “Ah, I know you! You’re Milka’s brother, what’s the name—?”

“Tesla.”

“Yeah, that.”

One of the other boys stood up and dusted his knees, an impressive snowball in hand. “A tesla’s an axe,” he noted.

The larger boy scratched at an infected red bump on his nose. “Named for those big ax teeth you got, are you?”

Niko’s companions glanced sidelong at their tall friend. His taut face had tinted red as he straightened and smiled that tight-lipped grin of his, done perhaps so as not to expose those aforementioned teeth.

“Friends, hear me,” he urged. “We come in peace! No need for rudeness and no excuse for it, either. Why, look how I do not comment on that hideous boil in the middle of your face, though it draws the eye like a magnet!” Niko pulled arrow from his quiver and raised a brow. “Perhaps I could lance it for you?”

Bump Nose grinned widely. “I like it as it is.”

“If you’re sure.” Niko replaced the bow, unsatisfied…as usual. He bent and began making his own snowball. “Is it snow fights you’re having?”

“We’re rolling them down the hill. See that barn?”

Niko saw it. Large, but quite far down the slope. Three-fourths of a kilometer, he judged. “Trying to reach that from here?”

Bump Nose’s friend tossed his snowball down the hill and they watched it roll, taking on mass as it made its way. But too soon it stalled out.

“And you’ve been at this how long?” Niko inquired, counting dozens of nascent snowballs littering the slope. None had gotten remotely close. “See here, what’s-your-name…”

“Szigeti,” said Bump Nose.

“See here, Szigeti. What, I wonder, will you give over if I construct a snowball with sufficient mass to batter that barn?”

Szigeti looked Niko in the eye, proclaiming almost with pride, “Haven’t got any money to wager.”

“Then we are brothers. But we can still make the wager. If my ball makes the barn, your undying respect and admiration shall suffice.”

Szigeti conceded respect; admiration was pushing it. Niko formed his fateful snowball as the others looked on in plain dubiousness, but Szigeti, rubbing his chin, seemed to wear a bit of faith on his face in this arrogant stranger.

A smidgen anyhow.

The raggedy boys formed a line along the slope’s ridge, Niko in center. His snowball was compact, a perfect model of craftsmanship. Reckoning the best course for the ball to reach its destination without the interference of twigs and such, he lobbed his projectile down, trying to not feel pride as it rolled precisely along its preordained path towards the valley. But he could not help but laugh inside as the ball continued to gather soft snow and rapidly expand its volume as the other boys gasped.

Larger and larger it grew until it began to flatten out, spreading laterally, a rolling snow carpet. The group exclaimed in unison as Niko narrowed his eyes in dawning fear.

“Stupid!” he cursed. He’d made a dreadful miscalculation.

The giant snow carpet’s accumulated weight wiped out a small tree, then a second, ripping up sizable swaths of soil to add to its destructive mass. Szigeti cried out as a reasonable-sized pine bowled over like a matchstick. The rolling snow carpet had transformed into an unstoppable force, ready to ram the shanty barn and deliver it to its destiny.

Then, a tremor.

Looking at Szigeti, Niko saw recognition in the other boy’s face. The snow was shifting under their feet! Further down the slope the snow carpet had started an avalanche which threatened to destroy not only the barn but an entire section of the small unsuspecting town.

With the bottom sections of the snow gone, the upper section had left nothing to prop it up. And that is when Niko exclaimed—

“RUN!”

*

The landslide halted a stone’s throw from the imperiled barn and the town collectively felt the rumblings of the accompanying snowslide. Windows cracked, babies stirred….yet none would ever know the origin of the near-calamitous avalanche, for the groups of Szigeti and Tesla made a pact of silence. If the truth were discovered their parents would pack them all off to the Army.

But forevermore Niko would remember the lesson and ponder the results of his tiny snowball.

Nature holds such untapped energy! Under the laws of physics, under precise circumstances, our most insignificant actions release a most devastating power! The Universe obeys laws, yet the results are almost...chaotic, he thought.

Being a highly organized child, he was not a fan of chaos.

Perhaps there was something he could do about it. 

Smiljan Village, Croatia, 28 July 1871

Young Tesla

“Hush, dear sister,” Nikola whispered, wagging a long finger at the youngest of his three sisters. “The priesthood is not for me. Father knows I’m no saint.”

“You’d be a devil then?” Marica asked.

“If it gets me to college?” He pressed a finger against the side of his angular face. “Yes! Except I don’t believe in beings of divine origin. My visions may seem supranatural but they do not come from Go—”

“Visions?” Milutin bellowed, towering in the entryway to his son’s unadorned room. “What are these specters plaguing you?”

Nikola could not speak to his father on this topic, for surely he’d be locked away. But he was still having visions, pushing them into new territory, imagining out-of-body experiences and visiting new cities, new worlds, encountering people he’d never met in real life.

Sometimes, people who weren’t even people at all…

“None, Father, save visions of myself studying electrical engineering!”

“Oh!” The elder Tesla crossed his black-clad arms and scowled. “My ‘visions’ conflict with your own, for I see you learning some respect for your legacy. I confess I must strain to see it.” The imposing Orthodox priest entered the room as the girls made their hurried way out. “There will be no study of ‘electricity,’ unless you can invent an electric belt for me to beat you with.”

Nikola smirked, for his father had never laid a hand on him.

Milutin growled, turning his back. “Tell me what I am thinking.”

Ah, his father loved to play this tired guessing game, but Nikola was in no mood. Anyway, he knew what was coming. “Priesthood.”

“Yes. Or its military service!” His father spun his head to peer melodramatically over his shoulder.

“I didn’t see that coming.”

“Be watchful, drzak dječak—‘electricity’ is not your destiny, so forget it. I will go to my grave before I let you run off to pursue the follies of man!”

“Hear me, Father. If it’s your path I must follow,” Nikola stated, rising to his feet, “then don’t hesitate. Send me to my grave right now.”

Gospic, Croatia, 1 January 1871

Huckleberry Finn

Nikola could envision anything at all. Years of mental exercises allowed him to see, in its entirety, any mechanism down to its most miniscule part or function. He perceived the thickness of metal and how it fatigued with use—the effects of entropy on everything. Once a machine was

built in his mind he let it run. In the background, for weeks on end, his imagination devices toiled before their maker took them out to examine and care for them, tweak each one ‘til it was only perfect.

He didn’t need the models because his was an entirely new method of invention, comprised only of mental exertion. No other person in the world had the ability to do it, and here he was lying in bed, sweaty, delirious, dying again. Blessed with exceptionally good hearing, he could make out his gentle mother, Djouka, murmuring to Father in the kitchen.

“Milutin, if he lives…”

“How can he?” his father rumbled, voice cracked with…emotion? “This is the worst he has ever been, illness compounding illness. His mind is strong as an ox but his body is weak. He should be resting! Why is he reading all those books? He’ll finish the town library!”

“He’s read all your books.”

“He’ll kill himself, all this studying. Hear me, wife,” he continued lower so as not to wake the girls. “He’s going into the ministry, so he does not need so much education.”

Weakly, Nikola smiled but was otherwise dismayed at his father’s adamant stance.

“You sell yourself short, husband. Learning is important to round any man.”

“Nonetheless he cannot go off to study ‘engineering.’ Where is the point? This world is too advanced. It subtracts from our dependence on God the Provider. He is too caring a boy for cold science but the Lord can put him to good use. He is too frail for the military.”

Nikola was thankful to hear that, at least. His family had a distinguished heritage of service; his own grandfather had served in the army of the great Napoleon. But regardless of physical limitations, he was too endeared to the preservation of human life to ever take another’s. If handed a weapon to kill an enemy soldier, he would doubt the will of his pacifist hand.

If only a weapon existed powerful enough to actually prevent war in the first place!

The contradictory idea was worth exploring, but first he had to survive the night. Turning to his side he read the spine of a worn novel in the stack upon his dustless night stand.

Mark Twain.

Feebly, Nikola took it, hands shaking as he read the first lines through blurred vision, his adaptive immune system on the verge of defeat.

The lines made him cackle, gave him adrenaline to power through another paragraph. Then another, each causing him to laugh harder, wilder, until his parents grew concerned.

“Heavenly Father,” Milutin seethed to his wife, “the boy must be at death’s door. That’s the laughter of the doomed!”

Nikola overheard but kept reading, trusting his mother would know better. Djouka Tesla, wise but illiterate, would know why he read, know he found salvation within the pages and nowhere else. It was the reason he filled his keyhole in the night, to read by candlelight without the flicker being evident.

Mother recognized his gift…that his body was frail that his mind might expand.

It was not so illogical. The world needed thinkers more than men of violence. Too much strength without wisdom led to cruelty, a trait he promised to never take on. Passion, he had, though…and one could be passionately forceful without being violent.

As I shall show the world…if I survive another night.

Smiljan, Croatia, 14 November 1873

The fire was in him now, always ready to torch him down to the ground. It made him sick, made him weak but only to rise again like a phoenix.

Tonight he was down and burning.

Nikola’ habit was to shake off one illness only to fall prey to another. Malaria had snarled him while he lived with his father’s cousin, retired Colonel Brankovic, in the Karlovac lowlands where Tesla had gone to attend the Higher Real Gymnasium. He’d next-to-starved from the slim portions the Colonel’s wife dished out. To escape malnutrition, the anemic student studied all the harder, battling headaches and fever, to finish school a year early. He returned home, despite his parents’ warning to keep away from Smiljan.

Cholera, it seemed, was tearing up the town like a locust plague.

The headstrong Nikola came anyhow, weakened from the malaria and lack of nourishment, and so it happened he was instantly struck down by the bolt of disease. Consciousness deserted him at irregular intervals, and down he sank with each succeeding lapse.

Mother forced water, fruits and bread into him; he vomited them back out. He donated liters of fluids to the latrine, his flesh clear tissue over starched bone.

The doctor called it; there’d be no recovery for the frail scholar this go-around.

With Eternity’s claws reeling in his line, Nikola took a final earnest stab at conversation with his father, crooked beside his son’s bed once more as he entreated his Lord, “See past the boy’s sins! Grave and many though they are…”

“Father, I don’t want to die.”

“Don’t,” Milutin pleaded, as much with the boy as with their Lord and Logos. “Please do not go. Your mother can’t bear another death. She…we cannot lose you, too.”

Nikola cleared his throat to whisper. “Father?”

Milutin leaned closer; his son’s strangled last words a leaf’s rustle. “Speak to me.” He took Nikola’s hand in his own and faked a smile. “What am I thinking?”

“That it is time to make my confession.”

His father was startled, but Nikola knew it must be done. Father must make the preparations for his own son’s soul, yet was hesitant to call for the Sacrament of Penance.

“Will you do so now, my son?”

“Not yet. I could get well—” Nikola stopped, overtaken by a ragged coughing spell followed by a feeble shudder. Milutin started to call for his wife, for this was surely the end. But Nikola staved him off. “I could get well if you’d let me study.”

Milutin was plainly exasperated. “Always this need to study. I am proud of your achievements, but…if only you would turn that craving to Christ! The rigors of ceaseless study of earthly subjects nearly killed you in past days. Now you tell me only study can save you? Enough; I am negligent. It is time to pave the way for you to enter a state of grace. Only the Lord God can save you from the blue death.”

“And He has chosen not to, Father.”

The priest took a handkerchief to wipe beads of sweat from his forehead. Nikola’s blood-red eyes flashed wide and expectant.

“My sin is that I want to be great,” Nikola pressed. “I ask you both, let me become an engineer. I want to help others. It is my only dream and my only way not to die.”

“Vain child,” Milutin sputtered, “you would bargain with the Lord, who holds you in his palm? Very well, Niko. For my part, I accept, but you realize it is out of my hands.”

“Then I shall go await the Lord’s answer right now.” Nikola slipped into an unresponsive repose as his mind drifted away.

“Niko! You may be an engineer! I say this! In fact, I command it! You will be an engineer, do you hear?” Milutin took back to his prayers, staggering them out with fury, his hands on his son’s skinny shoulders, shaking them.

Nikola felt hands—the icy touch of angels clasping him, taking him, lifting him…

“Noo!! Do you hear me, Nikola Tesla? You’ll go to the best school in the world! Be a great engineer—”

With a bird’s eye view, he saw Father holding him, reciting The Office at the Parting of the Soul from the Body. His mother burst into the room, his three sisters peeking around her robes from the doorway, fearful tears streaming from their eyes. He observed Father going insane with grief. “‘Like drops of rain my evil days and few, dried up by summer’s heat, already gently vanish…’”

“Come back!” Mother shouted. “Tell him, he’ll be an engineer—TELL HIM!” And with this final declaration from his wife, Milutin burst into a fit of tears, his dead boy limp in his arms.

Nikola moved around in the gloom, weightless, beholding desperate swirls of azure and sapphire ringing an utterly black hole, a pupil-like void which pulled him, stretched him, erasing whatever he once ever was.

It was the right place to go; it was not the end.

Tenuously he turned his head away from the void. He needed to view his parents one last time, but as he saw their weeping and heard his father’s repeated proclamation that his boy would be an engineer, the fusion into eternity halted, the haunting void releasing its grip as if dropping a glass.

The peace within him shattered.

His eyelids were heavy as coffin lids but he forcefully unhinged them to fix the crystal blue orbs beneath upon the desolate face of his father.

“Agreed,” Nikola said wearily, accepting the terms, accepting the challenge, before drifting into a dreamless sleep.

“By the grace of God!” Djouka exclaimed, her chewed knuckles bloody under her chin.

When he awoke, his illness had vanished like a guilty ghost. And the boy resolutely held his parents to their every promise.

The fire was back and growing again.

*

“It is a miracle,” Milutin attested before his parishioners in the Serbian Orthodox Church beside their house. “My son escaped an untimely demise through the love of our Lord God, who has blessed us despite our unworthiness.”

Nods all around, and the priest continued.

“Our Father has a plan for everyone.”

As he listened to these words, Nikola ground his ax-like teeth. He didn’t believe it, about the plan. What had God been doing when Dane was thrown off a horse? Where was God when the mountain wolves had come?

What plan involved Dane dying in the snow?

I reject that, he thought, using every ounce of patience to be silent, but under his breath he muttered to himself. “Darwin holds the solution to our survival. At the fork in the road between survival and extinction, all living creatures adapt or die. Malnourished, with malaria and cholera? The combination would finish off the healthiest of woodcutters, yet I adapted. And there was nothing to do with any preordained plan.”

New York City, USA, 5 March 1891

TESLA-OUR MAD SCIENTIST-TAKES ON EDISON AT NIAGARA!

Nikola Tesla threw the paper across the room. He hated that boorish headline.

“Mad scientist?”

He went and picked up the rag to skim the actual article.

“To the layman, Mr. Tesla’s accomplishments might seem like the dream of an intoxicated god—”

“For pity’s sake,” he said, pacing his office, long legs covering the distance in a handful of strides. True, he was a scientist without equal—but he was neither mad nor a god.

Only eccentric.

Such is the price I pay, but if they desire my gift of free energy, they must tolerate my flights of fancy.

But there was the rub. The world’s leech-barons didn’t want his proposed gift.

Rich thieves, keep everything secret while shoving the masses into a cellar of ignorance, retaining them as armies of ignorant laborers.

Even if his project to harness to power of Niagara Falls with his revolutionary polyphase alternating current system succeeded—and of course, it would—that power would never be free to the people because of the greed of the barons. He and Westinghouse, his financier, were set to create a new electrical era, transporting power across hundreds of miles to thousands of industrial factories.

But someone would get saddled with the bill.

Oh, Heaven, what would people do if they knew what they were missing? If someone would fund his research for the betterment of mankind rather than the fattening of their wallet!

Laughable concept.

Tesla wasn’t against profit but he was against avarice. Too many stood to make too much selling power, wolves in men’s clothing. Tesla had been warned—they would never allow him to create a method of distributing absolutely free—and clean!—power to the globe. So he had to proceed at the snail’s pace they limited him to.

“A scant few omnipotent criminals hold the world back,” he raved to his employees. “If more profit were made in candles, they’d keep us in the Dark Ages…”

“Yes, Mr. Tesla,” the workers answered.

“I am not a businessman,” he pontificated. “How can I compete against the forces opposing me? For I am not ruthless. I have a soul!”

He missed Smiljan, where people worked hard for the good of the village. He desired only an occasional nice suit and swanky dinner for himself. Well, maybe more than occasional. Truth be told, he relished his comfortable financial status and the perks it afforded, but for these novelties he slaved without end, eighteen, nineteen hours a day, days which melted to nights which slunk back to days. The lab’s shades stayed down and the comings and goings of Man, Moon, and Sun weren’t permitted to distract him.

Moved by an ever present muse, Tesla, once dubbed a “genuine poet of electricity,” popped his spine and straightened his trousers and penned this vow of a poem inside his head:

This so-called Battle of the Currents shall I win,
Against the petty tinkerer Edison and kin.
Alternating current, oh Future of Man!
Yet in the desert of science, a grain of sand.
Tip of the iceberg, Niagara Falls,
I’ll tame you sure as Glory calls.
Nature instructs me, and so I will hush,
To hear the Power of water’s rush!

It wasn’t Faust, but he liked it and filed it in the limitless dark cabinets of his memory, next to volumes of Serbian poetry, the catalogue of Shakespeare, and the entire works of Voltaire.

Besides the generation of power from water, from his genius sprang the elementary concepts of X-rays, radio transmissions, aircraft, countless others streaking endlessly through his neural pathways…lingering just long enough for him to snag and record. He even contemplated a device for generating man-made earthquakes.

Will I live long enough to see them to fruition? My finely calculated diet should allow me to live far longer than average…but perhaps I should create a method to prolong life artificially?

“What do you think about running electric current directly through your body?” he asked an unsuspecting worker.

“Why…why would you want to do that?”

“As a means to recharge it.”

“Sir, Edison killed an elephant like that. He proved that such an action would be lethal.”

“Bah! Don’t mutter that name in here.”

“Well, you know better than I,” the man answered, his brow betraying his concern. “Still, I don’t recommend it.”

“Don’t want to lose your employer, eh?” Tesla nodded. “Well, I agree with what you said. I do know better than you. Now come help me.”

*

The first time he did it, he electrocuted himself and one of his more knowledgeable assistants dragged his body away from the equipment to safely dump a bucket of cool water on his employer’s face, rousing Tesla from death.

Again.

“Exhilarating,” he said. “Crank down the voltage for this next attempt.”

The men grimaced, and Tesla cautioned them not to try the experiment themselves. They assured him he could perish the thought. The habit of electrifying oneself was crude, he supposed, yet no more so than eating fruit or doing some sport for exercise in the out-of-doors. His science was in its infancy; he would refine it until it was safe for others, but somebody had to break the ground. So his body would be the shovel.

It came to pass.

Nikola Tesla—the man whose offices were filled with showers of electrical sparks and charged coils firing off buzzing streaks of blue current—became the first person in history to experiment in the field of transhumanism.

Seemed like a good idea at the time…

The Offices of Nikola Tesla, 1898, New York, USA

There were men who respected him. But many thought he was “off his chump.” Pigeons, however, never judged and Tesla loved them for that. Several waited outside his windowsills for seeds, but he was at a crucial point in his work and begged their continued patience.

“Wait, my angelic friends. I’m on the verge of cracking the planet in half…”

He smirked at his hyperbole, but it was true. He was indeed puzzling out the resonant frequency of the Earth. Turning an air pressure value, he monitored its corresponding gauge of the pressure powering the pneumatic piston of his tiny electro-mechanical oscillator.

Observe piston.

Tweak pressure.

A little more. And again.

He was obsessive about accuracy. Such was the nature of his business and “close enough” wasn’t in his vocabulary.

Tesla straightened his midnight black jacket, his appearance always a priority. A flash of electric blue clouded his view, a vision coming on. He worked past it, as he had done with the others. Operating on six hours of sleep in three days, he entertained the thought of brewing coffee, but decided against. He’d been abstaining for the health of his heart.

Ahh, that heart—his Achilles heel! He boasted often of his plan to live to one hundred and fifty years, but in secret suspected that heart would betray him.

Lethargy peeked in, and was shoved aside by will.

Hungry pigeons pecked the panes. Streaks of feathery lightening spiderwebbed the room as the pecking grew more urgent.

“You will not starve!” he yelled at them and sighed. The effects of endless days of toil returned, and he sat down, disgusted by the dampness of his undershirt. The seven-inch oscillator, firmly attached to one of the iron building supports, was tuned up to specs so he made the decision to leave it unattended a moment. Meanwhile, via an armature vibrating within a sturdy casing, the tiny steam-powered mechanism began to resonate with the building’s frequency.

Using a mere five pounds of pressure to operate, within the casing the pressure soared. 400psi—an enormous strain on the pocket-sized device, a device with the potential to shake the office apart if left on its course.

Tired, Tesla didn’t notice.

A drop of sweat dripped in his eye. He blinked away the sting rather than soil his pristine handkerchief, and decided to rest a while within the relative calm confines of 46 E. Houston Street.

Meanwhile, Staten Island had started to shake.

*

Ceiling plaster dropping on his shoulder roused him. The Houston street laboratory quaked like a ship encountering a minor swell and Tesla wrinkled his brow and resumed his monitoring wide-eyed.

Key schematics of his designs were locked away in the voluminous cabinets of his mind,, but a few reference technical diagrams were mounted to the walls and one—a sketch of a turbine—fell to break on the floor. One random burst of electricity leapt from his so-called “Tesla coil” and struck the picture like a snake, setting it aflame.

Then the wall itself crumbled.

Angry unfed birds flew away in want of less volatile settings, not willing to die for a single handful of sunflower seeds.

And the tremors didn’t stop.

Point proven; time to shut down the device!

Turning off the air pressure, he frowned when the violent quakes stubbornly refused to subside. A dozen window panes shattered, their shards frolicking on the floor. A breeze entered but found no speck of dust to stir in the immaculate office.

Tesla stood awed by his creation, this virtual earthquake machine with a mind of its own! As always, he’d first constructed and calculated the resonator and the range of its possible effects all in his head. And he was never wrong. Yet those effects should have stopped when the rebellious little machine was shut down.

That wasn’t happening.

Like the demon snowball of his younghood, this experiment had gone awry. The ripples were out of control and growing exponentially.

“Not what I wanted.”

The coil in the corner tipped off its stand, spouting a stream of haphazard current into the floor. His cork-soled shoes protected him from shock, but he had to be careful. The whole place had just been electrified! He slipped one hand into his pocket then reached to take hold of the oscillator itself…and was zapped when a blue bolt shot out at his fingertips.

“DAMN!!”

His arm jerked but he plunged it back, grasping to wrench the possessed device loose even as the current rambled up his arm and down his leg. If he’d touched the thing with both hands his heart would’ve halted. As it was he was nearly knocked off his feet.

The vibrations grew.

Other voices came from other rooms; shouting residents, panicked workers.

“It’s the madman again!”

Yes, it was. The madman. Alas his reputation amongst his neighbors was not on par with his international standing.

There is no recourse, he thought, running to snatch up a pair of rubber gloves then dashing to the closet to retrieve a sledgehammer. Destroy the building or the baby.

Raising the hammer in trembling arms, in that moment he likened himself as Saint Michael downing the Devil while the office door was kicked in and three policemen toppled into the room, hopping as electric current found their feet.

“What in bloody blazes!” one exclaimed, prancing back out like a tap dancer.

“Afraid you’ve missed it, gents!” Tesla shouted in his trademark showman fashion. “This experiment’s over!”

Raising the hammer high he pounded the device casing—SLAM!!—SLAM!!!—uuntil the tremors stopped. His sleep-deprived body quivered on from the combination of adrenaline, exhaustion, and unadulterated pride.

THUD!—fell the hammer, then the room was silent, save for the toppled coil zapping lazily in the corner.

Beyond the verge of breakdown, the inventor slumped to the floor while an officer smothered the burning sketch with his service jacket.

“Do send me the bill for that,” Tesla muttered.

He assessed the damage. Severe and costly.

After moments of explanation and a jovial invite to the officers to come ‘round next week for another performance (they declined), he was escorted not-too-kindly downstairs. The entrance to the building was knocked crooked from its frame, hanging by a single hinge. He gingerly pushed the door as shame and bitter realization slapped his ego down to Earth.

The epicenter of the vibrations, his lab had taken the least of it. Now he got to see the rest. The punishing waves had circled out through the substructure of the city; that much he’d anticipated to a small extent, but the degree of destruction?

How utterly he had failed to predict.

Idiot! Look upon your works!

A heavily cracked sidewalk was the path he hesitantly stepped onto. He did not wish to peer up the road but forced himself to acknowledge the jagged web of fault lines crisscrossing the pavement. Even the buildings lining the street showed signs of structural distress.

“I am, ah… I’m—”

There was a man across the street. The man saw him and pointed at the lofty scientist decked out in his regalia, deigning to exit his sanctuary and witness the neighborhood’s chaos.

“Look who came to visit!” the man shouted, though Tesla wasn’t sure if the tone was accusatory.

Other men yelled as women cried and children did both. Only the youngest were laughing in that gleeful appreciation of wanton destruction that only the youngest are tolerated to relish openly.

That’s what unsettled him most until he caught sight of the baker.

The weight of the fat old Croatian irritated the inventor. He didn’t care to see an unhealthy body. But Tesla loved the man and offered greeting to his countryman.

“You see this, Niko?” the baker asked in their native tongue. “My shop is ruined!”

“Your shop?”

“Ruined, I said. Come see!”

So Tesla, accompanied by police escort, walked with the old immigrant to his establishment, down the end of the block and left on Mulberry. None spoke to him but he knew no one really understood the origin of the disaster. Hell’s bells, even the policemen had seen it yet couldn’t believe.

Why?

Because the smashed device had been less than the size of a breadbox.

Still, the chief of police’s suspicions were sufficiently aroused that he later warned Mr. Tesla against any further disturbances, “scientific or otherwise.”

Now was not the time for philosophical ponderings, but he couldn’t help note in the back of his brain how people were distracted by the outside world and spent no time in examining the minutia of their existences.

He noted now, too, that he was equally guilty, but of an opposite crime.

So caught up in his minute world of inventions, he’d neglected to weigh the consequences of his labor on the outside world. Since childhood he wanted to help people, yet in his hubris never learned to temper his goals. Now he’d done harm.

Guilt-ridden, he skipped his nightly dinner at Delmonico’s in favor of a tin of crackers and debated his next move.

New York, USA, 18 November 1904

Wardenclyffe Tower

Betrayed again!

“I could split the Earth like—”

“An apple,” Morgan huffed, finishing Tesla’s oft-repeated sentiment. “Yes, yes, I’ve heard it all before, old sport. Do settle down.

Tesla, pacing anxiously in front of his huskily-built financier, stopped beside a leather recliner. He refused to sit. “It’s the stark truth. You know I could!”

“So?” the businessman challenged, staring out over two hundred acres of former potato farm from the window of Tesla’s Long Island lab. The bizarre object of his gaze was a 186-foot wood framed tower topped by a 55-ton metal cupola, the already-famed Wardenclyffe Tower of Shoreham.

New York’s latest eyesore.

Morgan turned his bulldogged, mustached face toward the architect of that monstrosity. “What gain is in this power you claim? Split the planet? You’re selling a ten pound diamond, Tesla. Priceless yet utterly worthless and impractical. I am a practical man.”

J. Pierpont Morgan set down his half emptied tumbler of world class scotch and lit a cigar without offering Tesla one. A mild snub, but the gruff financier’s lack of manners were of little import.

“There’s no profit,” Morgan went on, “in splitting the Earth in two. Granted, if this tower of yours was perceived as a weapon of massive destructive power then no country save ours ought to hold it. I am glad you’re on our side, eh? But we are not at war. If we were, ahh—there’s profit there! Much much money to be made in war, why, the whole enterprise of war is quite the business venture!”

“Quite so,” Tesla stated. “But I use the analogy as the most extreme example of the tower’s range. I am no ‘terrorist,’ holding the planet for ransom, nor do I wish to see my tower used aggressively. Devastation is but one application. As you know, I am a pacifist.”

“No one—”

“Yes I am, and I’m desirous to perform beneficial deeds for my cherished adopted country.”

Morgan nodded. “I like that about you, at least. By God, you are a patriot, aren’t you?”

“Indeed. I became a citizen as soon as I was able.”

“And…adding to your extensive list of things you aren’t interested in, we shall include fame as well as fortune?” The business baron’s smirk was disbelieving.

“I’m of the working class, a servant to mankind. I arrived in ‘84 on the cursed Saturnia with four cents and a poem in my pocket. For a year, a slave was I to Edison, until the thief robbed me of compensation for improving his wretched dynamos!”

“Then you are aware of how money works.” The cigar tip glowed bright. “And you do want your due.”

“Edison—”

“Oh, I know of Edison’s promises. He lit our mansion on Madison Avenue—”

“Which nearly burnt to the ground!”

“Don’t exaggerate, it was only the one room.”

“Still.”

“Your point, then?”

“1893, I had lit the World’s Fair in Chicago. Not Thomas Edison. I drove the nail into the coffin of direct current. My polyphase alternating current system changed the course of history.”

Morgan blew a ring of smoke. “I know. Didn’t I refit my mansion to rid us of that infernal steam engine which drove the generators and rattled the neighbors?”

“Your trust was much valued.”

“Saved me the cost of keeping an engineer on staff, shoveling coal! Yes, old sport, you saved us that time, it is no lie. But what of it?”

Tesla, now worked up, raised a lecturing finger. “By ‘95 had I not harnessed the power of Niagara Falls with my generators?”

“Westinghouse’s generators,” Morgan corrected.

Tesla squared his shoulders. “His money, my plans.”

“Precisely. His money.

Tesla wrung his hands. The man’s warped logic was infernal. Every argument was twisted back to money. What was money even? Well, at least he knew what the man wanted to hear. “Time and time and time again I have proven the practical value of my ideas and the immense profitability inherent in them. I ask you now, what more do you want of me?”

The room was silent, as he waited for the wealthiest man in the world to speak.

Morgan’s soft hand waved toward the tower. “This new thing is mad.” His tone would’ve befitted a eulogy.

Slicking back his jet black hair back, which was perfect already, Tesla clenched his teeth. “I’ve been called mad before. Yet who can cite once when I have been wrong?”

“You’re too poor to be so arrogant.

“You had faith and shared my hope.”

Morgan folded his hands over his belly. “Hope’s a poor strategy. I’m pulling your funding and I understand Astor’s doing the same.”

The blow was a bombshell. Tesla’s good friend, retired Colonel John Jacob Astor had been an ardent fan of the World Wireless System project and a major financial backer. Losing both at once—

“This experiment has reached its end,” Morgan stated flatly, snubbed his cigar out. “Your ideas are profound; no man alive may doubt your brilliance. You’ve enjoyed $150,000 worth of my own faith in it.”

“A year ago. A lifetime.”

“Then you’ve squandered a lifetime. Where are my profits? This ‘Radio City’ was a bad bet. That tower…”

“Is the key to the whole system. Its value to the world is inestimable! The tower is multipurpose—point-to-point telecommunications and broadcasting, as well as the transmission of electrical power wirelessly—”

“At last you confess your plot? Tell me, how does one charge for the receipt of wireless energy? No reply? Well, your scheme is finished!” Morgan rose and buttoned his coat. “The lab and the land will go up for sale.”

“And why shouldn’t it be free?” Tesla blurted, now nothing left to lose.

“You see this, Mr. King?” Morgan said to his personal secretary, who’d sat notetaking the while. King grimly nodded, rose, and opened the door for his boss. “Free energy, free anything? What manner of insanity? You cannot be a real patriot if you are not a real capitalist. That is the lesson I leave you with. It’s even free! How about that?”

“The times are changing. Not everyone is like you and Carnegie, Ford and Rockefeller...”

Red-faced, Morgan spun ‘round. “Truer words! The rich get richer, as is natural and right. Power thus becomes consolidated, for it takes great wealth to purchase power.”

Tesla chuckled with irony. “I am in the very business of power production.”

“A joke. But even your kind of power requires money, of which you have zero. You’ll not see another cent from anyone.” Stepping out into the brisk air, Morgan took a final look at the massive tower with its queer dome looking up to the state’s sky.

Tesla remembered showing him the schematics, and Morgan’s amazement that there was more to the structure than met the eye, for reaching 300 feet into the ground was a series of tentacle-like pipes. “The world’s most expensive octopus,” Morgan joked, and Tesla had explained their complex function with a simple pitch: to have a grip on the earth so the whole of this world can quiver.

Those aggressive words had sold the idea. That alone should have been a signal to Tesla that the man’s motives were anything but altruistic.

The inventor needs the businessman as the artist requires a deal with the Devil. But deals with the Devil never seem to work out.

*

Tesla watched Morgan drive away. The impending loss of his grandest ambition shook him as spots danced across his eyes and he swooned into a deep slumber, his body’s custom when emotionally overwhelmed. When he woke, the pain in his head was worse than any he’d ever felt. But as the throbbing subsided it left behind the reside of the ideas like grinds in a filter. The answer was clear to him now.

The tower.

Before it was torn down…he must use the tower!

*

Tesla strode back into his red brick lab, reinvigorated. He powered up his generators.

Deprive the world of my gift? Impose tax where none is needed to line their silk pockets? I must wake the world to the sanity of my designs, and there’s no time for trials.

The plug is being pulled even as I dally.

So I shall play the ringmaster and make those clowns dance!

The tower geared up, building power…but further inspiration was needed still. Where to best direct its awesome energy? Providence was there to fulfill his inquiry. The paper, left behind by Morgan’s stuffy secretary.

The headlines spoke of an exposition to the North Pole.

“Perfect. Let’s give them a show.”

Nizhne-Karelinsk, Russia, 30 June 1908

Ambrosia yawned and bundled up, slide outdoors to begin morning chores. No father, no brother at home. Everything fell to her. There was a father somewhere, and with every sunrise she prayed to meet him, to spit in his face. But Mother was secretive and never spoke his name in front of her.

It was the only mystery in her adolescent life.

Tonight was the village dance and if her chores were done she’d change into the dress her unnamed father had shipped. Her birthday gift, and a fine article it was. She’d worn it but once, in the home.

Tonight would be her chance to flaunt it.

Tonight Sergie would dance with her, if she had the courage to ask.

He was nine; she had just turned eight and a half.

Pulling her wool cap over her bright hair, Ambrosia shivered her way toward the barn but a flash caught her eye and she stopped to search for the source, finding nothing until she looked up. There, a straight column of blue, a line of light dropping to pierce the cloudless sky. Nordic gods at play, perhaps?

Then a cannon shot and a rumbling that rattled the barn and galvanized her muscles. Her pants filled with urine. Such noise could only be the sound of world’s end!

In fact she was hearing the devastation of a forty kilometer radial patch of unsettled Siberian forest, hundreds of kilometers away.

She wouldn’t learn of that fact for two decades, for the government didn’t bother to investigative for twenty years.

When they did, the team found no crater or any physical evidence of a meteorite striking the ground. Yet the scientists brought photos of flattened trees, several thousand square meters of them…and of the macabre remains of whole herds of reindeer.

But that was the future.

For now, an eight (and a half) year old girl worried she was about to die, and all she could think of was her missed chance to wear her fancy new dress.

*

Tesla could never lay claim to such reckless handiwork.

The Wizard of Wardenclyffe had overshot, missed his North Pole mark and only learned of it by reading of the disaster. The Soviets professed no idea as to what caused the incident, which he knew must certainly be the truth. How could anyone know? They couldn’t.

And wouldn’t. For he wasn’t about to advertise. But the inevitable loss of wildlife, he sorely lamented.

“Erroneous trajectory.” He recalculated his data in his head, picked a new target, and prayed his luck would get better. Statistically, it had to improve at some point.

*

On March 22th, 1974, one Lieutenant Perrin called one Ensign Paris Haveck, Jr. to his Langley office. It was the two of them and an armed guard, and the overall tone of the meeting was awkward. The first thing the lieutenant did was insert a compact cassette into an audio tape deck and the room was filled with the playback of dozens of prerecorded conversations, some in foreign languages creating a terrible cacophony—noise to disrupt eavesdropping equipment.

It was amidst this babble the officer told the tall Ensign Haveck the story of Tunguska and of Tesla’s failed attempts to capture the attention of the global media.

“Tesla, in his conceit, decided to fire off a second volley,” Perrin explained, folding his fingers into a steeple. “One so intense it couldn’t possibly be directed. Its frequency created something he didn’t predict.”

Perrin glanced at the armed Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant standing in the corner—WHETT, the man’s nametape read—hesitated, then continued. “The second pulse traveled backward in, let’s say, ‘time.’ The waves traveled back until they found something to rebound off.”

“Okay,” Paris said. “Off what?”

“A pyramid. We think. Forward the waves came again and caught up with more of the backward-travelling waves until they coincided, doubling their own amplitude. This back and forth, back and forth ramped the amplification of electromagnetic energy. Well, something had to give and something did, but it wasn’t Wardenclyffe Tower. The tower did light up Long Island like a lamp, though.”

“Okay. Do I need this—?”

“Shut up. Yes. The receiving pyramid we assume crumbled. And the tremors which followed…” He blinked at his sergeant, who unholstered his pistol and set the gun down on the table, the barrel directed at Paris, who in turn bolted upright. “I like you, Ensign Haveck,” Perrin said. “I put you on the ‘bigot list’ to get this history lesson. I don’t care if you believe everything you hear today, but—believe or not—if you ever talk, if you ever reveal anything from this meeting, it could jeopardize national security…”

“I underst—”

“Shut up and listen! And you’ll be shot without a trial by Master Gunny Whett here. Do you believe that?”

Paris cleared his throat. “I’m a believer.”

“All you have to do for the rest of your life is assume your drinking buddies are on my payroll and your barber has a hotline to this phone.” He pointed to his telephone, which was not even plugged in. “Your girlfriend, even, reports to me.”

“Not too far a stretch.” The Marine smiled despite himself; Perrin did not. “I said I’m in, sir. No need for these threats, so tell your man to holster that pistol before someone gets hurt.”

“Whett, you’re dismissed.”

“Time travel’s not possible,” Paris said after the guard left. “Didn’t Einstein say that?”

“Said no such thing. Impossible for people; particles can do it. Don’t try to understand the physics. That’s not our job. Your job is only to listen. The tremors travelled through time and space, found the Arctic Circle, several thousands of years ago.” He retrieved a globe from his bookshelf and pointed to the North Pole. “The polar caps aren’t symmetrical. The Earth spins,” he spun the globe, “the caps rotate. Unevenly. Give us a little wobble.” The lieutenant pointed to the continents. “Land mass’s part of a crust resting on a layer of magma. Like the peel sitting on the flesh of the orange, but loose and able to shift around.”

“You are suggesting the Earth’s crust moved?”

“These caps rotate, build up centrifugal force. They exert that force on the crust, pushing it around like a bully might. Wouldn’t take much to push that crust ‘til it shifted radically.”

“Okay, but the catalyst for something like that?” He answered his own question before asking it. “Tesla’s pulse. Nudged the caps over the edge of stability? But…in the past?”

Perrin cradled the globe in his hands. “Far-fetched?”

“A bit.”

“The Tunguska blast was as powerful as Fat Man falling on Nagasaki. The second pulse was of an even higher magnitude. It traveled pole to pole, emerging through ancient Antarctica. The crust displaced; the continents began to shift.”

“And the polar regions moved to warmer longitudes…”

“Melting along the way, filling the seas…”

“Causing floods.”

Perrin narrowed his eyes. “Yep.”

“The cold places got warmer,” Paris said, “warm places shifted into colder zones…”

“Aaaand froze over.”

New poles. Paris fumbled for his cigarette case when his commanding officer took out an illustration…of an ancient island. “Wait, are we—? What is that, Atlantis?

“That’s right.”

“You’re not suggesting Tesla caused the sinking of Atlantis.” It wasn’t a question.

“You gonna light that smoke or just play with it?”

Paris put the cigarette between his lips. “Don’t mind?”

“Only if you share.” Perrin took a lighter from his desk. “You’ve been made privy to information held by perhaps a hundred in the whole world.” He turned his back. “And frankly, there’s only one reason why I’m telling you all these things, son. What do you know about your real grandfather?”

Paris Haveck, Jr. said nothing, took a drag, and listened.

St. Petersburg, Russia, 2 September 1916

The mad monk was personal “physician” to the Czar’s son, Alexei. But Rasputin hid his own long-suffered illness. The burly Russian endured consciousness-altering temporal lobe epilepsy, the driving force of his hyperreligiosity and infamous lust. Apart from the children he’d had with Praskovia Fyodorovna Dubrovina, he had fathered countless more amongst his legion of lovers.

Sex was an integral part of his belief system. The Khlysty put great value on it and the heady Rasputin threw himself into that aspect of the cult with zeal. Under rapture of ecstasy, he lost sense of space and time, travelled outside his body and the confines of the Earth, even. The last time this happened he had released with an exquisite derevenschina whose name was a mystery. Later he learned her name, Natalia.

She bore him a daughter.

From his rampant exploits and the offspring produced thereafter, he knew but a handful. But for reasons he could not articulate, he’d kept a keen ear open for news from Natalia about the life their union had ignited.

Ambrosia, her name was, and she grew up in a peasant village in Nizhne-Karelinsk, away from the spies which tracked those in the employ of the Czar.

His star rose; the eyes upon him began to squint. His position within the royal cabinet grew more exalted with each passing month, which meant the Bolsheviks, when they inevitably took over the country, would not spare his life. The debauched one held no illusions about the seriousness of the revolution. Lenin would return from exile, the Czar would be put down like a dog, as well as his inner circle.

Of this, he was ninety percent certain.

Even the Czar’s family would not be spared by the revolting puppets. The stars themselves foretold of this savagery.

Rasputin would not be bothered to run like a coward. But at last he recalled Ambrosia from Nizhne-Karelinsk after an inexplicable explosion in nearby Tunguska had rocked the town. A blatant sign if there’d ever been one, a warning that he must bring her to him.

After meeting her, he saw the girl was blessed with exceptional intellect and quite reasonable beauty. She was destined for something of magnitude, not world leadership, no…what female was? But perhaps she would birth a leader.

Yes, he was eighty percent certain.

With each ticking day he took time to counsel her and she blossomed under his close tutelage. Wily, proud, she had a knack for leveraging her attributes to get what they wanted—gossip from within the palace court.

Intrigue abounded; Rasputin learned of a rumored plot to kill him. The evidence mounted, for his doche was a gifted spy.

Too soon the time came for selfless sacrifice. He sent the word for Natalia to pack, then had mother and daughter brought to his riverside apartment on Goroxhovaya Street to break the news of their pending journey.

*

Standing before his beloved girl in his finest kosovorotka, a comfortable shirt of mauve and sapphire, Rasputin marveled at his creation. Her face radiated like Sol itself, her pale hair cascading in glittering streams from under her fur muff, around her strong shoulders. A good solid frame held her up, well-made to display the generosity God had bestowed upon her. In her artist’s hands was a slim novel which he gingerly plucked away.

“The Battle of Life,” he read, approving of Dickens in original English.

“And next, Papa, I shall read The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain.”

“Milaya maya, you do impress!” He laughed, lanky black hair bobbing around his angular face. He was intimidating to others, he knew, so for her he knelt. A velvet bag he pressed in her hands, a treasure of gems.

“Go as far as you are able. America, if you can.”

The young woman bowed her head. “Won’t you come, Papa? I don’t want to leave you.”

“I cannot and would not go. Now let me finish. To America, I say…England will suffice, though America should offer greater opportunity, my babushka. In fact I am convinced it is where your destiny lies.”

*

Natalia waited in silence, knowing better than to interrupt the Siberian. Her fierce one-time lover held tremendous sway in the embattled country and with the royal family, though rumor hinted at a recent falling out and in Russia, perception was everything.

Let him make this gesture while still he breathes, she thought. The bastard owes me more.

She planned to seize the bag of wealth and, Ambrosia in tow, flee to Berlin where Princess Irene had settled. Never to the crude wilderness of the “United States,” with its dirty factories and uncivilized “practical inventions.”

As if reading her thoughts Rasputin impaled her with a soul-scorching stare.

“Nyet,” he rumbled. “America. Or England. I will know if you go elsewhere.”

*

“Farewell, Ambrosia, my doll,” he said, stroking his daughter’s head. His entire savings were hers now, for the rest of his vast fortune had been scattered in attempts to bribe and influence his potential killers. “Marry well and bear me wise grandsons. And never forget,” he said, drawing on a deep internal source within him to saturate his words with hypnotic power, “your motherland. Swear it to me. You, like me, are forever beholden to the crown…even if it slips and falls.”

Leaning in, he whispered a brief phrase, a hypnotic trigger which he’d worked into her psyche over several months. It clarified her directive, crystallized her mission to seek and find the man who carried the world’s future in his head. She would work loose that man’s riddles then return to Russia to shepherd in a new era he suspected he’d never live to see.

The Czar had grown weary of the monk’s “embarrassing” ways.

If the Bolsheviks don’t get me, the Czar might do it himself.

Ambrosia swore her obedience and, at his suggestion, Natalia opted to sneak them off the continent under cover, sailing across the Atlantic on a White Star steamship to Ellis Island.

Meanwhile the bearish Rasputin dined unknowingly with his assassins.

*

Enough poison to kill a man!

Yet the monk staggered and stood, surprising his killers by lifting his glass to finish it. His long practice of mithridatism—ingesting increasing amounts of poison to build immunity—proved valuable again.

The killers abandoned subtlety to fire point blank into his thick belly. Seeking escape from the volley, Rasputin crashed through the glass double doors, tumbling into snow-blanketed gardens, the winter winds refreshing him. Through blurred eyes he saw the second team in the shrubs.

They too attacked.

There in his robes beneath the December moon, the bloodied prognosticator fell prey to a second burst of pistol lead. In the neck! Direct hit to the chest!

Following hard upon was a furious hail of saber blows, hacking, striking bone, yet failing to sever anything vital. Spitting a mouthful of blood, Rasputin fought on.

His attackers backed off, letting time finish the job.

He collapsed at their feet, alive and cursing up at them. Flustered, the sweating killers shoved him through a hole in the ice of the frozen Neva and the river filled his punctured lungs, numbing his body. Closing his eyes, he counted the beats of his heart as they slowed.

Forty, thirty.

Less.

His brain activity slowed and through the dense ice he saw twinkling stars, their light diffused and overlapping like rows of candles burning in the Verkhoturye monastery, as viewed through holy tears.

He prayed and was comforted.

His life force flowed into the Neva and the stars and their planets, and the whirling galaxy itself confirmed to him their secret knowledge:

His betrayer was the incompetent Czar Nicholas…

But Nicholas would be finished within two years time at the hands of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and his Bolshevik coup. In death, Rasputin smiled, for this revelation reconciled with a prediction he’d made once to the Czarina, whom some accused him falsely of sleeping with. He’d warned her, if any “misfortunate fate” befell him, the Czar’s end would follow close behind. The Bolsheviks were the infernal agents of fortune sent to fulfill that prophecy.

So it was written.

The universe was one hundred percent certain.   

New York, USA, 11 October 1941

“I would not have changed the smallest thing,” Tesla announced to the audience of sick pigeons huddled in his room, small and unadorned, situated on the thirty-third floor of the massive Hotel New Yorker.

Thirty-three was a very good number, being easily divisible by three.

“Except, perhaps…an heir would have been nice. Someone to pass my knowledge to. If I had a son, I suppose I would have named him…oh, dear. Seraphina!”

His oldest companion fluttered her wings and lost many white feathers.

“I’ve told you everything, darling. And you’ve understood, haven’t you? If only you were capable of finishing my work! Or at least funding it, heh… Alas, it is my fault for choosing a life of celibacy, but who could accomplish what I have—I ask you, who?—with a woman around, much less a child? Besides, I am responsible for the death of one child already. I dared not be entrusted with another.”

The old pigeon pecked at the dresser, and Tesla smiled at the rebuke. “Dane, my brother. It was I who caused his fall from the horse, my jealousy. I believe that. My wicked thoughts caused it.”

Seraphina pecked again, louder.

“But it’s true! That is how powerful thoughts can be. Especially mine. That is why you are here, you know? I’ve always broadcast my signal to you, wherever I have travelled. And you have always found me.”

Seraphina blinked at him, signaling her agreement. And her love.

“I love you, too.” He strolled slowly across the room to stroke her back. “Now prepare yourself, for tonight I shall make my final confession to you.”

*

“Where is your pretty new secretary?” John O’Neil asked. Tesla was allowing the bashful Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter to follow him around, for O’Neil was penning a biography with a working title “Prodigal Genius.”

“Miss Haveck is off today—”

“I’m not!” she called from the front office. Like her boss, she was gifted with above average hearing, as well as being endowed with other heightened physical attributes.

“Such an eligible bachelor as yourself,” O’Neil whispered, “hiring such pretty girls. People will talk.”

“People always talk,” the inventor said, striding across the room as his biographer raced to keep up. “Tesla creates! I have no time for dalliances with my staff, be they pretty females or…” He cut himself short.

“Or?”

“Nothing. If your work is to be so involved with my personal life, find another subject. This is meant to be about science not slander. I wish the world to know of my deeds. What else matters? My father was a married priest, and I, a celibate sinner. Electricity is my jealous mistress. She allows no other.”

“You’re a man,” O’Neil sputtered. “No joe can hold out forever with such specimens in daily proximity, togged to the bricks...”

It was the final straw. “Mr. O’Neil, if you wish to utilize such slang, I advise you to ‘make tracks.’” Tesla escorted the rash reporter out, almost grabbing him by the arm in a fit of anger. But of course he stopped himself from actually doing so, for the inventor did not like touching others…

…or being touched by others.

Miss Haveck sat upright at her station, smirking as O’Neil was ushered out. She waited for instruction as Tesla slammed the door, turned, looked at her and blushed.

They were alone.

“At least he didn’t call me a tomato,” she said.

“Yes. Well, thank you, that is all for tonight.” With a flourish, he bowed and waved his hand to the coat rack. “Away with you now, to wherever you spend your evenings in the Apple.”

“And where do you think that might be?”

He straightened to his full height. “I meant no offense, ma’am.”

“For the record, I’m not spending my free time in clip joints and gin mills. I go home and read Dickens.”

“Do you?”

Rising from behind her desk, she smoothed the front of her conservative dress. Unlike many women who had interviewed for the position, she worn no jewelry or pearls, and affected none of the effeminate mannerisms he found so annoying. It was as if she’d done her research and known exactly what he looked for in a model employee.

She was simple, a throwback to an earlier time.

She reminded him of home.

Green eyes locked with his blue ones—a game of chicken. Who would look away first?

Neither did.

“I hate to see you work so late,” she ventured. “Even here hard at it when I return to duty the next morning.”

“I require little rest and less sleep. Two hours a night generally suffices.” Tesla squared his black-suited shoulders. “When ‘hard at it,’ I can go all night.”

“Can you?” Her fingers pressed down her dress again, though no dress could stay straight on so curved a mantle. She took a step, then another, toward him, flaxen hair gleaming under the hanging bulbs. “Would it trouble you…I mean, would it disturb you if I stayed a while longer? To watch?”

Tesla felt the blood rushing up to his ears. Taking a portentous step forward, he replied, his voice deeper than usual. “I’m a tad behind the grind this evening, due to the prattling of that reporter. However, dear lady, while you shall indeed be a distraction, you will never be a disturbance.”

The verbal ballet went on until at last the inventor felt compelled to ask, “Are you aware that I am in my fifties?”

“Yet spry as a university lad. So your peculiar diet keeps you?”

He laughed. “Doesn’t everyone perform measurements of their portions of food before consuming them?”

She was close enough to reach out and grab him…and he let her.

“Aren’t you cute as a bug’s ear, Nick. No, I don’t think anyone on this earth performs anything quite as uniquely as you. But…how about we run some further tests to see?”

*

Seraphina dozed under his gentle strokes as the recollections of Miss Haveck came to an end. He had confided what he’d harbored for decades. He had been celibate his whole life, except on one single occurrence and afterwards he’d been unable to perform any viable work for days, finding himself pausing to stare—actually, to ogle—her at work.

Once he’d asked her where she was from, believing he’d detected a trace of an accent.

A well-concealed trace.

“You’re an immigrant, like me?”

“Aren’t we all?” she’d replied. She’d been born Russian but moved with her mother before Czar Nicholas and his family were butchered. Tesla nodded at the tragedy; the entire royal family gunned down in cold blood…

He’d apologized then, for he realized with great embarrassment he’d forgotten her first name! He did have a large staff, but good manners were such an important part of his persona, he could hardly forgive himself.

She brushed it aside, reminding him gently that her first name was Ambrosia.

Ambrosia Haveck.

It was possible that he loved her. So he forced himself to fire her, using the justification that her foreign background could pose a security risk to his work. He couldn’t focus around her, and in his line of work, focus was all.

Over the decades hence, he would slip into states of melancholy of their tryst, the single most frightening, thrilling experience of his life, save perhaps seeing his great dynamos fire up at Niagara Falls. He’d remained celibate, and did not regret that decision. Luxurious distractions were disallowed, no exceptions.

Still, in old age he wondered how it would’ve been to have fathered a child…

“Yes, sleep dearest,” he cooed, holding his fragile bird closer, rocking her like a baby. “Now, as I was saying—if I would have had a son—the name Paris would have been suiting. I always cherished that city so.”

New York, USA, 31 December 1942

Nikola Tesla refused to die this year; he was only 86. The number was not divisible by three.

Next year would be suitable. 87 divided by 3 is…is…

People walked around him, or stumbled, passing the wrinkled old man mumbling equations to himself. Some who walked the path regularly knew his figure—skeletal yet never stooped, always straight except to toss food for birds—but none recognized him for who he was, ever.

Freezing New Year’s Eve and about to pass midnight actually…and the general denizen on the town had only revelry on the brain. Tesla made his way to the library. There his pigeon congregation waited, legions whose loyalty was bought with seeds.

“I do not know about a new Heaven,” he sermonized, motioning to the street lamps, “but we brought about a new Earth, did we not? Lit the world as Prometheus brought fire to Man…before being cast out.”

Yelling in the streets informed him of the calendar’s death.

January frost tunneled into his marrow, wooden hands ached and resisted flexion. “I’d thought one hundred and fifty years old, for certain. Yet half way there and already I’m imploding.”

“Roger, look, is that Ned Tesla?” A lilting female voice, like Ambrosia’s, but higher pitched, cutting across the library courtyard. The woman was drunk. Still, heartening to have someone take notice, even if they got the name wrong! He raised his face from the shadows to the light, angled chin jutting with pride.

“Don’t be silly, doll,” her companion chastised. “That ol’ dinosaur?”

“I’m going to go kiss him—”

“You’re bonkers!”

The anonymous old dinosaur still had better than average hearing. The off-hand comment brought a ringing peel of laughter from the young woman which resonated with the Serb for the next five days as he brooded in his hotel room.

*

Idiot! What would Father think now? 

Perhaps that brother Dane would have succeeded where I, the great dinosaur Nikola Tesla, have failed.

Where would society be had I been the one to die?

Not here, surely.

The ringing of the laughter haunted him until the mockery of the whole Earth fell aside, leaving only that sound, the only thing he could hear anymore, the only thought in his head—that horrid blare, that cursed woman whose laugh encapsulated everything he had ever done wrong in his life, punctuated every mistake he’d made no matter how hard he had slaved, how many hours he’d toiled, alone in his offices, foregoing love, family, a child to carry on his legacy, sacrificing everything for nothing, for this—to die a joke nobody even told anymore.

Tesla ate no food for days, ignored the growing weakness of his body which once his sheer will could sustain. That will was gone, replaced by the cruel ringing until one day, mercifully, it stopped. 

THE END

Read the whole story! - Haveck: The First Transhuman

Haveck: The First Transhuman

The Electric Poet is a story within a story; read the entire novel, Haveck: The First Transhuman on Amazon Kindle! Here's the book blurb: 

The Government lied to you. The Military controls you.

An Artificially Intelligent virus is stalking you... Your stepfather keeps trying (sometimes successfully) to kill you!

Your DNA is being rewritten by nanobots!! And your grandfather Paris? Yeah. He's probably the spy behind it all.

WELCOME TO THE CONSPIRATORIAL WORLD OF HECTOR HAVECK.

Like most young heroes he was born from catastrophe...

All California teen Hector Haveck wanted for the summer was to get closer to his attractive Robotics classmate, Yésica Brick. Instead he's forced to figure out his seven new lame superpowers. Each one only works for one day a week...

  • Sundays: Glowing in the dark (Wow).
  • Mondays: Bending spoons with his mind (Big deal).
  • Tuesdays: Growing eyes anywhere on his body (Gross!).
  • Wednesdays: Cooking objects with the heat of his mouth (Pointless...).
  • Thursdays: Seeing the family tree and history of any person he meets (Kinda cool?).
  • Fridays: Instant healing after two minutes (Now we're talkin'!).
  • Saturdays: Manipulation of dreams and reality (Uh, that's weird. And spooky...).

...and these 'useless' abilities quickly become dangerous and out of Heck's control. He soon learns that a side effect of his last two abilities is the power to cross dimensions...which is exactly what he was built to do by 'The Fin,' a secret society obsessed with locating Oannes ReHav-Marre,the immortal king of ancient Atlantis. The problem is Oannes and his mermen legions will do anything to return home, even if it means erasing 10,000 years of human history!

With an intertwining story arc of Nikola Tesla, Godfather of the Electrical Age, and extended cameos by Rasputin the Mad Monk (personal healer to the last Tsar of Russia), Napoleon of France, Jack the Ripper, Adolf Hitler, Albert Einstein, and many others, this original, genre-bending tale tackles every global conspiracy conceivable--from Men in Black, the JFK assassination, the lost city of Atlantis, CIA and KGB mind control programs,trans-dimensional 'aliens,' and secret elitist cabals plotting world domination from Bohemian Grove, 'Haveck' finally sheds light on the puppeteers behind it ALL!

Buried Screwball Facts About Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla

Why the ignored inventor demands our remembrance…and amazement! 

Read the article here...

Project Blue Book And Other UFO-Related Oddities

Men in Black

"Area 51 is a riddle. Very few people comprehend what goes on there, and millions want to know." - Annie Jacobsen, author of Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base

In my 21 years of Air Force service I only met one man who was stationed at Area 51. Area 51 is, of course, the infamous installation in Nevada where, supposedly, the government hides all its captured Unidentified Flying Objects. So perhaps I have met more than one person who has been assigned there, but no one else admitted it. This guy did, to an office full of us, at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota. But then he told us there was nothing he could tell us!

Sort of begged the question, what did he bring it up for in the first place? But I knew why—because it was killing him to hold it inside. To be exposed to something out of the ordinary but not be able to tell anyone for the rest of your life? Had to be eating him alive. He’d seen something weird at that place, and finally, towards the date of his retirement, he at least had to leak a little of that weirdness out.

Humans are hardwired to love weird. But what was the thing or things he’d seen which were so weird? What, pray tell, was/is the military doing out there at Groom Lake, besides the standard conducting of top secret aviation testing (which isn’t really that weird at all. It’s cool, sure. But weird, it ain’t).

Well if we’re talking Area 51, we should consider Project BLUE BOOK, the Air Force’s official attempt to document UFO sightings. Launched in 1947 and running through 1969, BLUE BOOK was the successor to two prior yet short-lived programs—Project SIGN and Project GRUDGE. Where BLUE BOOK differed from its predecessors was in the fact that it not only took note of sightings but actively attempted to manage the aftermath of them.

Read the rest here...

Will You Make It to Immortality? - The Mad Genius of Ray Kurzweil's Cosmic Plan

The Singularity

Just hang in there; you’ve got this! This is already 2016…by 2045, give or take, we will all be immortal cyborg-things! No, really. We’ll be immortal cyborg-things.

Ask Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering at a small upstart company known as Google.

Meet the Enigma, Ray Kurzweil

Kurzweil is practically immortal himself, or at least his persona is. While many kids of the ‘60’s were building soapbox cars in the streets, he was inventing robots and computers at his home in Queens, New York, delving into early computer programming by age 15.

Two years later he was on television, demonstrating a program he’d written which could compose music (for which he later won first prize at the International Science Fair).

The arc of his accomplishments has inclined ever since those halcyon days. Young Kurzweil began founding and selling (for large profit) companies during his attendance at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Later he started (and sold) Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc., and he invented the Kurzweil K250 keyboard for his own Kurzweil Music Systems. By the ‘90’s he’d founded Kurzweil Applied Intelligence, the Medical Learning Company, and the Kurzweil Education company.

His entire life had been spent studying pattern recognition by both machines and persons and how to improve the interface between the two.

Bill Gates stated, Kurzweil is “the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence.”

In 2012, the co-founder of Google, Larry Page, personally hired Kurzweil. The job description? Simply "to bring natural language understanding to Google."

Let's Transcend Together!

Kurzweil sounds great, you say. A real mental Übermensch. But why all the biographical info on Ray? What's the angle?

To inform you of his abundant street cred, of course! In order to truly listen to someone, we want to understand their background, and the pertinence it has to our own interests. Otherwise, we blow them off, or assume they have zero to do with us. But what Kurzweil speaks of has to do with everyone on Earth...and, well, we’re not talking SyFy Channel TV show writers here; Ray Kurzweil is the genuine article when it comes to predicting the future of information systems—our own brains included!

Okay, you say. Got that. But why is this article on Longevity?

Because Kurzweil also applies his proven genius to the science of life extension. And he’s a major proponent of transhumanism. Below is a sampling of his books and videos to get you started learning how this Renaissance Man intends to not only live forever, but help the world cross that bridge with him.

On the surface it all sounds crazy, but so did a world running on electricity...before Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison and their Battle of the Currents.

So did the space program before NASA landed men on the moon.

So did home computers before Bill Gates, Microsoft, and the PC revolution.

So did the smartphone, before everyone started carrying an iPhone in their pocket…or as Kurzweil puts it, “a kid in Africa has more technology at his disposal than the president of the United States did 15 years ago.”

Read the rest here...