|Vacation Or War
Author: LoorTheDarkElf PM
How does it feel when the whole world... depends on you keeping your big mouth shut? Book One of the VoW TrilogyRated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Adventure - Jak M. - Chapters: 75 - Words: 238,290 - Reviews: 314 - Favs: 103 - Follows: 39 - Updated: 03-09-11 - Published: 02-05-06 - Status: Complete - id: 2786802
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
LEGAL INFO: I, Lauren Chalupnik, also known as LoorTheDarkElf, do not own Jak and Daxter, Jak II, or any other trademarks.
I, Lauren Chalupnik, DO own the characters Loor/Lauren Randolph, Lyra, Ryan, Mikey, Morgan, Artimus, and Teek. Do not use without permission.
Fury/Chelsea Paulson, Alex Argot, and Damian Matthews all belong to their respective creators and were used with permission.
The story 'Vacation or War' is my intellectual property. Please ask before using specific concepts such as the IV branch of the Dark Warrior Program unless you are NDI. I am not gaining any sort of monetary profit, though if the sale of this work became legal I would make an attempt. At date of publication, however, everything is for entertainment purposes only. As such I obviously cannot pursue any monetary losses in the case that I am stolen from; I request these things of your own integrity and honesty. If you want to use my ideas, please ask me.
Vacation Or War
Chapter One- Our Lives
"Um... Lauren, you there?"
Lauren Randolph suddenly snapped out of her own head, having been typing away at her computer and forgetting the fact that she'd been on the phone. "Oh, hello! Sorry, getting lost in my brain." She snickered, smirking and pushing her keyboard off of her lap and back onto the desk, stretching and falling back on her bed. Her computer desk and bed were at the same height, pushed together so if she dozed off at the computer she didn't have to crawl far in order to get to her pillows.
"That's okay, it's a big place to get lost in. You working on that thingy?"
"It's not a 'thingy,' it's an energy conversion device." She sighed, shaking her head at the friend she had on the phone; Chelsea. The two had only been friends for a couple years, but they were as close as could be, to the point of calling each other sisters. Both were reclusive, labeled as nerds. The two belonged to a trio that Lauren unofficially led; which meant she made plans and everyone else generally agreed with them.
"You gonna bring it over tomorrow?" Chelsea asked, clearly sounding excited. "You've been talking about it for so long, I can't wait to see it in action!"
"It all depends if everything checks out..." Lauren put one arm under her head as her stretch went from arching her back to fanning her toes while staring at the ceiling. "I was just setting up my computer to monitor a test... though I'm yet to have a successful one..."
"Could you... explain it to me again? I know you have before, but..."
"Loor, you're a human dictionary. Sorry to tell you, but I lose you when we're talking about regular stuff. You start talking science, and I'm stuck at the gate."
Lauren felt the urge to roll her eyes. Yes, she and Chelsea were both hopeless shut-ins, but it would seem Lauren could not escape her own vocabulary. The only person who could keep up with her when she got technical was Damian. Still, she took a deep breath and tried to think of a simpler way to explain what she'd been doing. "The concept is simple. You know about the three different forms matter comes in, right?"
"Oh, yeah, solid, liquid, and gas. It's all gotta do with how fast they're moving on the inside."
"Yes, on a molecular level. Solids are mostly fixed, liquids bounce a little, and gas bounces a lot. Now, what state of matter is electricity?"
"It... isn't. It's energy."
"Everything that can be measured is matter. Electrons have weight, and thus follow the same rules. I'll give you an easier example. Think of neon; those signs they make with it? Neon glows when allowed to become hot, but it's not 'burning' so to speak. While it is in a gaseous form when left alone, it becomes a different matter type with different properties when you run power through it; plasma. Plasma is also defined by ionization-"
"What?" Chelsea hopped in, looking for clarification as Lauren forgot herself in her explanation.
"Sorry, sorry..." She paused before going on. This was actually the most important part; what set plasmas apart from other matter types. "When something is ionized it has gained or lost electrons, giving it a positive or negative charge. It's what lets lighting happen; the air in a storm ionizes with one type of charge, the ground with another, and then the lighting strike happens along the connection. Plasmas are all ionized, and respond to magnetic fields-"
"Okay, okay, I think I got the basics!" Chelsea sounded as if she were pleading with Lauren before she got completely lost in her own ranting. "They never talked about that stuff in science class, though."
"Of course they don't." Lauren grunted as she rolled off of her bed, smirking to herself while pacing her clothes-strewn floor. "Most plasmas aren't found on Earth without someone making an effort to create them. They don't teach kids our age stuff like that, even when it's one of the primary matter types." There was a slight dryness in her voice, as if she felt this was a mistake of the education system.
"Wow... so what does this have to do with electricity?"
"Electrical power is the flow of electrons, a current, that is constantly seeking the fastest path to the ground. That current has a lot in common with plasma; electrons are the very building blocks of ionization, they respond to magnetic fields as well as produce their own, arcs of electrical energy glow... why, think about a flash of lighting; a single flash is a release of over a billion volts of power, hotter than the sun and containing enough electrical current to light a one-hundred watt bulb for three months. All that power... pissed away in less than a second. The sky is the biggest damn power-plant there ever was, but we can't gather any of it because we can't store it. Electrical current always has to be on the move, even the best batteries bleed out in a disgustingly short amount of time and cost too much for anyone to care about it."
"...store? I thought you said your thingy was about efficiency..."
"The storage problem is the same as the efficiency problem! Do you know how much of the power made by electrical plants actually makes it to your house? Like half. The rest gets wasted, keeping the grid hot."
Lauren fought her frustration, pulling the phone away from her mouth as she pulled in a terse breath and let it out as a sharp sigh, coming back and trying to keep her mind on a single track. "Alright; the device is for conversion. The idea is that if electrical power is indeed matter, which scientific law tells us it is, then it is matter of the plasma type. If it has a plasma form, it follows that the correct process of slowing down the electrons will yield another matter type that contains the same energy but has different properties and is easier to control, contain, and store. The goal of my device is to convert electrical current into a liquid state."
There was dumbfounded silence over the phone for a few moments. Either Chelsea was still lost, or she was impressed. Either way, Lauren was preening. "That sounds pretty crazy. And kinda awesome. But you haven't gotten it to work, yet?"
"No." Lauren's voice was irritated. "As far as the math goes the theory is sound, but the experiment has failed more times than I want to talk about. I've re-worked the device through multiple versions, with Damien getting me parts, but I keep melting cores. Something is going wrong inside the conversion mechanism... something is missing... I was just setting up another test, actually. First of the M generation, I have high hopes for this configuration-"
"But you were supposed to bring the latest model to my house and show me!" Chelsea yelped, sounding surprised and upset. "You can't melt it at your house, you're supposed to do it with me!"
"Chelsea, I can't bring my control box to your house without someone noticing; it's too big. Without a controlled environment, I can't certify the results of any test. Basic scientific method; only change one variable at a time."
"That was before I made this model! When we talked about it I was on the L3, now it's the M1, and with the addition of a second magnet to narrow the field I need the first test to be a-"
"If all the other tests in your control box failed, do you think that it might be the problem?"
"What...?" Lauren briefly considered, stopping in her pacing to eye the black box on her desk. It sat next to her computer, looking like an unassuming shoe-box. The truth? It was a sealed space with an air filter attached to the back, as well as humidity and temperature control to ensure all atmospheric conditions within were as close to clean-room specs as could be. Good thing too; this August in Minnesota had been like many others; hot and muggy. "I seriously doubt it." She responded, but finally started to yield. "... but if it means that much to you... fine, I'll come test it at your house. It'll give me something to do while you play the next Jak game."
"Ooh, that's right! I finally get to play it. You've already beaten it, right? So you can help if I get stuck?"
Lauren snickered at her friend, wearing a less than happy expression on her face as she thought about what she'd just given in to. Still, she had promised. Better to move on to different subjects than to rake this one over the coals. "Several times, love. I don't play new games when I'm this bent on a project, and that's been... pretty much all of this year. I stick with old favorites so I can go on auto-pilot. Great game, though. Really need to borrow the third one from Alex..."
"Soon as you're finished changing the world, right Loor?"
Her nick-name brought a small smile back to her face. "With any luck, Fury." She said, responding in kind. "With any luck."
Lauren was outside. Her conversation with Chelsea had been hours ago, and the digital clock in her room had read 12:04 when she'd cranked open her bedroom window to let herself outside. On the lower level of a split-level home, her window was even with the ground, and her escape to the great outdoors was related to the fact that her elder sister, Ann, also lived on the lower floor.
Lauren may have been a hopeless shut in, a gamer, a book-worm, and an all out nerd, but such an active mind demanded an active body to relax. Sleep was impossible, otherwise. Things that involved her brain just wound her up more, and her smarts were far from the full extent of her talents.
Standing up from her open window she drew in a deep and relaxing breath, bending down again to reach back into her room to grab something inside. The simplest assessment of the object was a stick, just as long as she was tall, stripped of all its bark and sanded smooth. To her it was a treasure that she'd made with her own hands, a practice weapon for a style of fighting that had no previous training to foster it. Moving through the humid air, feeling as if she could swim through it for how thick it was, Lauren closed her eyes and took refuge in that nick-name.
Loor. The name came from a series of books she liked to read; Pendragon. Loor, in the book, was a violent and impulsive warrior girl who solved all of her problems with violence. While Lauren maintained herself as a logical creature when she was alone, conflict with others led her to lashing out a lot faster than it lead to her trying to hash things out with words. Given by Damien, the nick-name had stuck, the truth of it reminding Lauren of how bad she was at dealing with other people, as well as the stark contrast in her various interests. She was smart, but she loved feeling physically strong. Getting in so many fights at school, as well as growing up with regular yard-work that required heavy lifting, she was actually stronger than one might expect for her age and gender. The harder she worked her mind, the more joy she took in working her body to release all the tension.
She was yet to meet anyone her age, male or female, that could keep up with her... physically or mentally.
Granted, she could count on one hand the people who actually cared for her presence at any given time. The amount of time she spent, working and working out, left her short on socialization.
Which brought her to her midnight outings; every night she let herself outside to twist the long practice weapon in her hands, holding it in the middle and swapping it between hands as bare feet walked a memorized path into the long grass behind her house. Dressed in a sports bra and night pants, the more complicated parts of her mind lost momentum as she bathed in the sensation of the night... and her imagination.
She liked to pretend she was a warrior. Just like she liked to pretend she was going to change the world. She'd strike out at things that didn't exist, duck away, roll, pop back up on her feet, and twist back around as if she were countering a blow from a beastly foe. All that brain power, all that energy she spent puzzling out math and logic puzzles, putting together devices in her head and memorizing factoids of all types, was re-routed to believing she was actually fighting something. To believing, like a fool, that she was the best. A leader. Someone that everyone looked up to, instead of down upon.
Her only proof to sanity is that she knew she was a fool.
"For every age, there is a time of trial."
Lauren sat on the floor with her legs crossed, digging her device out of her green backpack as Chelsea sat in front of the small TV in her bedroom to start a new game on Jak II. It was odd for Chelsea to take the controller for a platforming game where she usually rocked the J-RPGs and shooters, but with Loor occupied with setting up her test and Chelsea too impatient to hold still, it made a handy distraction.
The two of them honestly made an odd couple, despite the fact that they both had the reclusive nature going for them. Lauren could be described as nothing short of brash in both appearance and conduct. Two weeks form her thirteenth birthday and carrying an early-bloom b-cup, she wore a sports bra to crush it down and a loose tank top. Dishwater blond, short-backed, and blue eyes dulled by sleep deprivation, no one really expected a mind like hers between those ears. Between her strong jaw and defined shoulders, she could actually pass off as a boy if the mood so took her. Chelsea, in contrast, was a list of fragile oddities. She was small, underweight, and white as a ghost. Born two months premature, she'd been turned reclusive by her doting and worry-wart mother, which was made all the more depressing by how interesting her natural hair color was. Chelsea had dark brown hair, but the front section had turned silver due to physical and mental stress when she'd been small. With a center part, she often styled it to keep the brown back and let the silver frame her somewhat mousy face. Wide jade eyes expressed wonder, and just as often shyness; she was often bullied for her hair.
Lauren was one of the few who knew Chelsea carried a not-to-be-fucked-with rage under that shy shell. One day, that girl was gonna snap. Sometimes she hoped she would be there to see the poor sod who set her off. Other times, she half-expected she'd be the one to set Chelsea off. The idea was actually scary.
That was where the nick-name 'Fury' had come from. Lauren knew Chelsea had it in her. Some day, that ugly rage was going to come out.
"How long is it gonna take for you to set up?" Chelsea asked, glancing away from the opening for a half-second.
"Not long." Loor answered with a shrug and a smile, pulling out a small black box that looked just large enough to hold an apple within and setting it aside. Then came some tubing, some modified wires, a modified breaker switch to cut the current in the likely event that something went wrong, and finally a cord that would plug into a wall socket. She quickly started putting things together, opening the black box and drawing out a silver-colored metal ball. There was a clear division where the two hemispheres had been fused together, two holes in it like the two poles on a globe. The wires with their specifically shaped end plugged into the jack at the top of the device, the tube connecting to the bottom with a gasket sealing it.
She had to stare at it for a second. This was her baby. A year of work; obsession, really. An idea put together from a theory of liquid energy, and a awareness that the world she lived in had a growing power crisis that had tensions as well as prices rising all over the world.
All she had to do was make it work. Then she wouldn't have to pretend anymore. She wouldn't have to imagine changing the world. She'd really do it.
"Is that it?" Chelsea asked, leaving the game paused where it automatically did so to explain the auto-save function. Jak stood in the fortress, Daxter on his shoulder, just waiting for a player to guide him through his prison-break. "Looks pretty simple..."
"The inside is where all the complicated stuff is." Lauren answered, connecting the wires and power cord to their respective ends of the breaker-switch. Finally, she pulled out a glass mason jar from her pack and set the device on top of it, the tube hanging down inside. If this worked, the liquid would need somewhere to go. "It uses layers of conductors and insulators, as well as electromagnets, to manipulate the electrons and trap-"
"Loor." Chelsea gave her a pointed look, reminding her that a full explanation would be useless and a waste of time. "So, what now? We just plug it in?"
"You wanna do the honors?" Loor asked, holding the plug up for her to take.
"You sure?" She seemed surprised that Lauren was offering. The girl was very jealous of her creations and who got the credit for any thought that came out of her mind. The idea of letting someone else plug in her creation seemed... odd.
"Sisters keep promises." She answered with a shrug. "I tried to back out... call it my apology and get it over with." Her tone grew uncomfortable, looking away with a slight pout on her face as she cited the relationship they had. The two girls had only been friends for a few years, but they called each other sisters. Siblings by way of friendship, as bad as they both were at it.
"Thanks, Onee-san." Fury giggled, using a Japanese term for 'big sister' as she took the cord to the nearest wall plug and served a short backwards glance before plugging it in.
Lauren scooted back a little, one hand on the breaker-switch and looking for signs of the conversion going wrong. The mechanism had almost no moving parts, but a faint 'tick' came from it several times a second. That ticking was the sound of the current swapping between the two electromagnets to trap and draw electrons along conductive material and eventually through a gelatinous medium held in a tiny ribbon of super-conductive gold, an even smaller ribbon of the valuable metal extruding out from the center; the point at which slowed electrons would experience no resistance and be forced to gather until super-saturation of the gold and the medium around it would force condensation.
At least, that was the theory.
"Is it supposed to sound like that?" Chelsea asked.
"Shhhh..." Loor was staring at the tube leading out of the ball, damning the feeling of hope that was rising up in her chest. It was a feeling she'd felt with every test, every model. A feeling that had been crushed just as many times.
Her eyes dashed to the TV screen in the background.
Funny to think it was the Jak franchise that inspired her theory in the first place.
"What is that?"
Lauren's eyes came back, the bubble in her chest expanding as a dark colored substance began to ooze out of the bottom of the device and through the connected tube. Slowly a near-black liquid made its way down the tube, a droplet suspending at the end and small arcs of energy reaching out to dance against the sides of the jar. Without thinking, Loor crawled forward, abandoning the kill-switch.
The droplet fell into the jar as she picked it up, staring at it. "Oh my God." She spoke in awe and shock, gobsmacked. "It works. Chelsea, it actually works..."
Chelsea's hand clapped on her shoulder as a second droplet fell into the jar, the two drops coming together like quicksilver. The substance flowed to the lowest corner of the jar, where Loor's hand cupped it in wonder while her other hand held her device to keep it in place. The two girls watched in wonder and, in Loor's case, growing pride.
She wasn't just a crazy kid. She was a true child-genius. Here was the proof. Finally, she had validated proof.
All of these happy feelings left her as the hand she was holding under the jar began to burn with an extremely rude sensation, not unlike an electrical shock. Her mouth came open to yelp, but the sound didn't manage to escape. She felt as if her body had been locked in place, her muscles going ridged and causing her to shake. She felt Chelsea's hand tighten on her shoulder, as if she was experiencing the same through a chain of conduction. She wasn't sure what was happening at first... until she looked closer at her jar.
The substance had eaten through the tubing as if it were acid, as well the bottom of the jar. This black substance, sparking purple wherever it made contact with something solid, was burning through things like water dissolving cotton candy. It dripped over her hand, making it burn, and the shocks making the sensation going through her ever-worse. Then, when she felt as if she'd be able to scream... the world left her. Sensation, sight, and thought; the world was going black and blank.
She had one thought, a fleeting whimper in her head, before she lost it.
Eco. Electricity as a liquid is eco.