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Excerpt from Electric Freedom - Chapter 1: Alex Gets an Offer

Reiss continued. “I didn’t want our first meeting to be like this. I tried contacting you. You ignored me. I had to get your attention.”

“Maybe you should have taken the hint.”

“Not possible. Far too much potential for the world to leave you hiding under this rock,” the word fairly drowned in disgust as Reiss vomited it out, “of a life you’ve created. Guaranteed, if I hadn’t come for you, someone else would. And they wouldn’t be offering what I am.”

Alex shook his head. “Don’t care about your money, don’t want my face plastered on magazine covers. Look, just…head back to your tower.”

“Yes, I’m sure your telemarketing career is quite rewarding.”

The eyes were still watching. Alex lowered his voice. “It’s honest work. I don’t need to be Mr. Deep Pockets. What I need is to leave work behind me at the end of the day. The big money isn’t worth the big ulcer.”

“No, you want to take the easy way out, like you always do.”

“Drop d-“

“You peddle magazine subscriptions and widgets. Why aren’t you at any of the grad schools that courted you? You could be a scientist, a doctor, a lawyer, anything you want, but instead you hide in your apartment and pester people during dinner. You control electricity – let me repeat that, and hope the magnitude finally sinks in –  you control electricity – yet you pretend your powers don’t exist. You could be saving lives or ruling the world. But you choose not to use them at all.” Reiss wagged his index finger and clucked at Alex. The wagging finger turned toward the table and jabbed it twice. “That’s why I’m here.”

“Why do you care? If I don’t want to use… them, why should I?”

“Because the world needs you to. And I’m here to help. More precisely, I’m here to offer you an opportunity to help the people of Marathon.”

The college kids were as loud and obnoxious as before, now speculating on why Dr. Reiss was here and who the scrubby guy on the other side of the table might be. The baby had returned to fussing and gobbling up her mother’s frazzled attention. Even using a normal speaking voice, only Reiss could hear Alex say, “You invited yourself to my table and announced to half the metro area that I’m an Anomaly. Not what I consider ‘helpful.’”

Reiss smirked, half-smug and half-conciliatory, then leaned in and lowered his voice. “‘Anomaly’ is an ugly word. You should stop using it.”

“Blackmail is an ugly crime. You should stop committing it.”

“‘Anointed’ is the proper term. Or at least ‘hyperhuman.’”

“Oh, ‘Anointed’ is it? So you’re one of those. Think I’ve been touched by the hand of God and all that?” Alex nodded in thought. “Yeah, okay. Maybe the back of the hand.”

Reiss shook his head, as if doing so could jettison the mass of disbelief and disappointment swelling behind his eyes. “You have no idea how powerful you could become or who’s watching you. You’re the eye of a class five hurricane. And when Hurricane Alex slams into Marathon City, the world won’t turn a blind eye. If you don’t care about helping others, then help yourself. You need training, and you need allies. I can give you both. Trust me, the next time someone comes calling, you’re not getting a choice.”

“So the bottom line here is you want me to start using my powers. The thing is, it looks like you left your armor back in your tower, so how about I use them right now? Maybe then you’d leave me alone, yeah?”

“We both know you won’t. But you win.” Reiss raised his hands in surrender. “Just one last thing.” He produced a business card from his suit pocket. Alex stared at the man instead of the card. “Meet me here at 6 PM Friday night. One last chance to talk, in complete privacy. If you still aren’t interested, I won’t disturb you ever again. Billionaire’s honor.” Reiss held up three fingers in a Boy Scout salute and flipped the switch for the million watt grin that had stolen Marathon’s hearts.

Alex responded with granite eyes and ignored a thrust of the card. “Can’t do it. Have to work Friday night.”

Reiss dropped it on the table. “You won’t be working on the anniversary. You can spend it mourning his death, or you can make the choice we both know he would.”

Reiss and his entourage exited the diner. Alex had to acknowledge the man was right: they both knew exactly what choice Peter would have made.

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