Overwhelming Power (Part 1)
He was gonna do it. He was gonna freakin’ get it. The biggest story of his life, and possibly the world. His producer, Aaron, had begrudgingly said yes. His camera crew had reluctantly agreed to the drive. Even the lead anchor, Dave, had promised him at least a nod at the end of the broadcast if he could get a good ten-second clip for the wrap-up. It was about time they all gave him a chance.
Owen was a good kid. That’s why people liked him. Ever since he transferred from his tiny station in the boonies just a few months ago, he’d had an incredible run of touching, heartwarming, and insightful pieces for the 6:30 KCDR Metro News Team. He’d started with just the fluffy stuff, but his Midwestern charm and folksiness had opened a few doors for him quite quickly. Several of the interviews he did really struck a chord with the viewers, and his producer had been quick to note the spikes in calls and emails from the geriatric couch-dwellers who truly ran the show asking for “More of that Owen kid.”
Aaron, the producer, knew that a ratings bump was just what KCDR could use right now, what with the new sexy anchor that KRED across town had just hired. To reduce tension in tough weekly review calls, he’d often joked with the station owners that there was a reason his parents called television “the boob tube” while he was growing up. No doubt that standards and practices were one vertical inch away from giving KRED a rather serious phone call. Aaron knew he needed the ratings, and honestly, he really liked Owen. Hell, he’d even say he trusted the kid a tiny bit after his incredible interview with that wacko at the fake science museum. Since the kid had done some time taking orders for the last few months, Aaron was more than happy to grant him this one small request.
Owen’s recent interview with the director of the California Museum of Weird Science was what had really put him on the map here in the metro area. On Monday, he’d presented a two-minute live piece with the doddy old museum director about the newest exhibit rotating into their collection: “Crystals and You: A Force Beyond Recognition.” Owen had been able to swallow his disgust and spent a few hours studying the bullshit they were pumping out on their website to prep for the interview.
When interview time came, he nailed a few very well thought-out questions, and his interviewee, Professor Armando Caldo-Stett, was clearly tickled pink with all the attention. Owen had expertly closed the interview with: “A delightful discussion leaving us with just one question: Is the power truly within the crystals, or do we need to find it within ourselves? You’ll just have to visit the exhibit to find out. Back to you, Dave.” The second the red light blinked off, Armando sighed with relief and asked Owen if he would be so kind as to attend his invite-only lecture Friday evening. Without waiting for a response and barely pausing for breath, he explained that he would be presenting his latest findings on some new mysterious artifact that had just been discovered a few hours outside of town. Since Owen's Tinder had run pretty dry lately and there was the promise of free cocktails, it didn’t take much cajoling for him to acquiesce.
Owen didn’t have any live segments on Friday’s broadcast, so once he wrapped with his research and prep for Saturday’s piece on the dangers of some new lip-plumping surgery, he threw on his only suit jacket and ambled out to catch a taxi to the museum. He arrived half an hour early and climbed out of the cab, only to be greeted by a long red carpet that was completely devoid of other humans. He must be the first person here. Apparently the pseudo-science crowd had their timekeepers set to the same century as their brains. Great.
He trudged up the gray slate steps and pulled open the comically oversized iron-and-oak front door. The brooding, Gothic architecture of the museum seemed to be in its element as twilight descended on the city. As Owen crossed the threshold, a small, unobtrusive sign on his right directed him to the Lecture Hall A, which appeared to be the only lecture hall in a building otherwise jammed with spacious exhibit rooms. Feeling no sense of urgency, he leisurely strolled through a few of the exhibit halls on his way to the rear of the museum. He chuckled out loud as he circled the solar system model in the “Why Celebrities’ Horoscopes Are More Accurate Than Yours,” exhibit, but was genuinely impressed at a room that contained a 1/10 scale model of Tesla’s Colorado Springs laboratory, which sparked and sputtered with relative regularity.
As he bent down to get a closer look at the cutaway of the building, he heard a soft, nasal voice echo through the silent granite room. “I built that myself, you know.” Owen shot up with a start and whipped his head around to the rear entrance of the room. The familiar, tiny frame of the professor that was was perched in the doorway continued, unphased by the rapid motion of the young reporter. “Took me three years, but every piece is precisely to scale. Getting the generator into the middle was a bit like getting a ship in a bottle into another ship in another bottle, so I’m quite proud of the work.”
Owen blitzed over and extended his hand for a hearty, Ohio hello. The professor’s hand reached up to weakly clasp Owen’s and then released, all without removing his gaze from the model in the middle of the room. He continued, “Tesla was a great man, you know. Contributed more to the field of modern energy research than almost anyone alive, but died in complete poverty. Just like Van Gogh: truly a misunderstood genius in his time. But,” he added, pausing dramatically as Owen turned to admire the model as well, “I suppose he’d be misunderstood even today. Can you imagine what would happen if Exxon-Mobil heard about some young scientist seeking funding for something as crazy as wireless energy transmission? Why, even I have had some lovely calls from Frontline, asking me to cease and desist with some of my experiments, and I’m just a lowly old museum curator.”
Owen sensed a lead here and quickly pounced. “Frontline? The PBS Documentary series?” The professor let out an unexpected and uncomfortably boisterous laugh which echoed in the cool, quiet museum hall. “No no, my boy. Frontline - the world’s largest oil transport company. Every tanker of theirs is filled with a billion dollars of crude oil, so I suspect they have ta little money to spare on plenty of frivolous lawyers trying to shut down my research.” Owen nodded and jammed his hands in his pockets. Woah. This kook seemed to have more going on than the cryptozoology hall down the hall had let on.
The pair stood in a comfortable silence for a moment before the professor slammed a bony hand onto Owen’s back. “Come on, son. Let’s get you that drink I promised. You can make small talk with my mixologist and meet the other guests while I prepare for the lecture.” Owen felt the small hand shove him toward the rear of the museum, and the lively old man kept up his enthusiastic patter all the way to the lecture hall. “Wonderful mixologist … most potent of potables ... graduated top of his class at … liquid nitrogen, you see, which floats atop the sherry … completely safe to imbibe, I assure you …”
As he stepped into the unexpectedly modern (and normal) lecture hall, Owen found himself face to face with a modest-looking bar and the bartender he’d heard so much about. The professor introduced them and then excused himself to get ready for the big speech. Just as the barman finished floating a cherry on the top of his foamy, pale blue drink, several more attendees for tonight’s lecture began trickling into the hall.
Owen had never seen such strange people.