Chapter 2 – Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (Part I)

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“Webcams show six people around the house,” Elaine said. She flipped open her phone and started plugging away at the keys. “All your computers in the house are still shielded and grounded? Zane?”

“Uh, yes, always,” he said.

“Good,” Elaine said. She smiled to herself as she loaded up an experimental program she’d been baking over the past few months. A little power-transfer mechanism she’d toyed with based on one of Tesla’s experiments for sending large amounts of power through the Earth itself to far away receivers. Of course, the initial uses of her experiment tended to produce short-lived arcs of electricity that acted more like Taser shocks than successfully powering computer equipment. While that couldn’t be helped for practical power applications, it would probably work wonders here.

“What are you doing?” asked Adam Roach, his Bluetooth headset lit his jaw with an eerie azure afterglow.

“I’m about to roll out the welcome mat for our visitors,” she said; then, into her phone, “Compile Tesla Shock. Zero feet, twenty feet, sixty feet.”

Zane shuffled nearby in the dark. “You’re not considering…”

“Oh yes she is,” Frog said, backing away from Elaine quickly and climbing up onto her stool. “Elaine, you do remember last time you tried that your legs tingled for hours?”

“Huh?” Ben Miller said nearby.

The people hammering on the door with their fists started hollering and hooting. Feet and hands pounded at the back door, rattling the door in its frame. Muffled laughter followed.

“Feet off the floor!” Zane yelled. “Get up on your chairs.”

Shuffling noises echoed from every corner of the room as people went to their chairs and stood on them. Someone, it looked like Ben, climbed up atop the table with Zane’s laptop. Elaine could see a pair of eyes glaring down at her from on high. In preparation, she swung her legs off the floor and waited for the Enoch to finish processing.

Compile complete,” the phone said.

“Everyone off the ground?” Elaine looked around the room to make sure everyone had followed Zane’s instructions. Satisfied by what she saw, she brought the phone to her mouth. “Clear!”

A moment later the loud whine of high capacitance cut through the air. Elaine could feel her hairs stand on end and a tingle passed through her as the spellcode gathered every erg of static electricity from the dry air and channeled it into the floor. A nebulous glow emerged along the surfaces in the room, spilling across chair and table legs with a dim St. Elmo’s Fire.

Long snakes of electricity arced up from the ground twenty feet away from where Elaine stood and fused with the wall. Loud crackles and bangs followed, ending with the strong stench of ozone. The bright flashes of light illuminated the startled and surprised faces of the various members of Zane’s team.

The feed from the external webcams went dead.

Aaaauugggh!” “Shit! Oh, god, what the—”

Screams and cries of pain emanated from all around the house, front and back. A thump emanated from the back door along with the scraping of gravel as a body slid to the ground.

“What the fuck did you just do?” Ben asked.

Elaine looked up at him and closed her phone. “They’ll be fine. Last time this happened there were no permanent injuries.” What she didn’t mention were the sore muscles that would last for the rest of the day and no small number of headaches. Ben didn’t need to know that, by getting up on the table he’d protected himself from the discharge. “Although, if they happened to be operating any electrical devices, they may never be functional again.”

“Yeah, but what about us?” Ben reached down and touched his own legs.

Elaine rolled her eyes and went to open the inner door to the house. Doing so brought enough light to give color and definition to everything in the room. The knocking and shouting had subsided.

Frog sprang from her seat and ran across the room. With triumphant laughter, she threw the door open, spilling bright sunlight into the darkened room. Three people, college aged boys, lay in a twitching heap near the threshold. They moaned incoherently. She reached a foot out and prodded one, who yelped painfully at her touch and rolled away.

It took many seconds before those still standing on their seats—or in Ben’s case, the table—gingerly stepped down from their perches and quested to the back door to join Frog. She lorded over the fallen boys with a smug look and folded arms. Several more feet away, near the corner of the house, lay another of their cohorts, clutching arms to chest in a fetal position. They all wore dark clothing, with their faces hidden by ski masks.

Each of them also had a small LED laser pen, either in hand or dropped nearby. Several camera phones also littered the ground, just out of reach of groping hands.

“Not spooks,” Frog said, pulling the mask off one of the nearest masked individuals. “I think it’s another DarkNet team.”

“I can’t feel my legs,” moaned one of the boys at Frog’s feet as Elaine and the rest of Zane’s team slowly exited the building and began to fan out. “Casey, Larry? Are you alright?”

“I’m fine, but I don’t think I can stand up,” replied the fallen victim by the corner of the house as he uncurled and stretched out along the ground, staring up at the brilliant blue sky.

Upon hearing his voice, Susan ran over him and pulled his mask off. His puffy features and small lips exposed a resemblance that Elaine guessed suggested they were brother and sister. Short curls of honey brown hair that matched Susan’s ringed his sloping brow. Elaine mentally noted that she didn’t have enough intel on the other teams and knowing that certain members had potential siblings among them would be important for predicting their habits and capabilities. She flipped the Enoch open to tap a note on this.

“I can’t believe you hurt them,” Susan said as she cast a glare at Elaine and Frog a she propped him up.

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