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I was sitting on Stew's bed while he argued with Mike about The Blackout. That was how it was referred to by the media, with capital letters. Friday night, Saturday morning at about 5 a.m. every piece of electronics went dark for just over two and a half hours. Not in the country. Everywhere, They were still counting deaths 36 hours later.
Stew sat backwards in his desk chair talking animatedly, hands waving and every once in awhile brushing through his black hair. "I am telling you it wasn't a blackout. My dad was picking up a shift last night down at the rail-yard. He was there for the whole thing. Everything was in working order. It just wasn't! The news is screwing up again by calling it a blackout. People are trying to get ready for all the wrong stuff!"
Mike was shaking his smooth black head from where he sat against the wall. "So what if there was power. Nothing turned on. That's close enough for me. Not much difference except you can get electrocuted."
Chris reached the end of a mission on the video game he was playing and turned around in the beanbag chair he sat in. "Yea dude. I lost my prime carting hours to that blackout. Who cares if the power was on if there isn't anything on the screen?"
"Wait." I interrupted their argument. "Why is your prime carting time 2 a.m.?"
Chris rolled his eyes. "My sisters get the Wii during the day."
"2 a.m. though?"
Stew ignored my attempt at distraction. "Look. No power is completely different from electronics not working. One, could be a terrorist act. The other? It is freaking aliens! Come on Dave, you almost aced science. Tell these dweebs that invading more of the Middle East won't help against ALIENS!"
I leaned forward to answer his allegations. "One. That was freshman year. Two. It was an A-, and everywhere except Mrs. Stevens class that is a 4.00. So I did Ace it." That taken care of I leaned back. "But yes. Nobody has the technology to disable all the electronics in the world like that. So probably not terrorists."
"Aliens though? If not terrorists then China. Or even something our government messed up. It might not have even been anyone. But why in the world would aliens want to come here and mess with Chris's carting?"
As Chris nodded to Mike's reasoning I knew this was going to be an argument that would last days. Maybe even more than a week. So I tried to change the subject to something important. Like Kirsten.
"More importantly, we graduate next week and I need to get Kirsten to give me her number. Then we can get to know each other before we go to college."
Chris palmed his face before he swept his shoulder length blond hair out of his face. "Just ask for her number."
"No. She has no clue who I am. I need a plan and some back-
‡ @()*$Y^&&(@ *^#*()@_: ‡
My words tumbled to a halt. It looked like a window had popped up in front of me for a good five seconds before it was replaced with some squiggles that seemed to be collapsing in on itself.
"Is the game messed up?" I asked
We looked at the TV. Chris glanced at the controller. "I didn't touch anything." I could see he was right. The mission complete screen was still up showing his grade, C. No wonder he liked to stick with carting. The squiggles steadily continued collapsing in on itself. Almost like a countdown.
Suddenly Stew jumped up. "It's not the game! I can't close my eyes!" I looked at Stew and saw his eyes were closed. Then I realized what he meant. Blinking didn't stop it. I saw it directly in the middle of my vision wherever I looked.
"What the hell is this? What the hell is this! I only took it once! Why? Why?" Mike started screaming.
That was when the squiggle finished collapsing. It turned into a dot and then disappeared. Then another box popped up.
‡ Translation Module Active ‡
Mike stopped screaming as we all looked at each other.
"You all saw the thing, right? About translating?" Stew looked around hopefully.
I nodded as Mike and Chris answered.
"Translation active." Mike said as Chris just answered "Active."
‡ Initialization Complete ‡
It blinked a few times before it disappeared.
‡ Welcome to Our Shattered Realm ‡
This one didn't disappear just started to slowly fade as more popped up.
‡ As the newest members of our coalition we offer you our services in training for the upcoming battles! 2 out of 9 eligible members of your Race will be offered the chance to take part in The Tutorial. ‡
A quick progression of numbers passed on one side before settling on 6. It looked almost like a dice roll from one of the RPG's I played.
"Anyone else see an Eight?" Chris asked.
Everyone looked at me. "Six."
Mike said. "Does that mean I got selected?" He didn't sound happy.
‡ Compatible systems found. Number of resources needed for each member to take Tutorial has been reduced. Racial Bonus activated! An additional 1 out of 9 members of your Race will be eligible for The Tutorial. ‡
‡ Congratulations! If you rolled 7, 8, or 9 then you now have the option to enter The Tutorial and learn about the trials awaiting your Race in this new era. You will have 30 seconds to make your choice. ‡
"What do I do?" Chris looked around at us worriedly.
"Don't do it. It's a trap! All they need is your consent."
Mike gave Stew a look like he was an idiot. "Why would aliens need your consent? They aren't credit cards." He towards Chris. "Do it. They said upcoming battles and trials were coming. We need to know or we could be blindsided."
"Timer's at Twenty. Yes or No, guys."
I was shaking my head. "We don't know."
"Wait. What? Auto select in 3...2... Auto! Shit."
Chris jerked his arm right before he disappeared. No flash of light. No rush of air. Nothing. He was there, and then gone.
‡ Due to number of declines you may select to attempt The Tutorial if you rolled a 6 ‡
Two buttons popped up in front of me.
‡ Yes ‡ ‡ No ‡