What would happen is a terror group or nation-state planned an attack on the electrical grid in the US? Ted Kopple shared his thoughts about such an attack in his book Lights Out!, painting a dire picture of life without power. But, what if it really happened?
That’s the challenge facing Jacob, John Boyd, and the rest of the FBI Counter Terrorist Unit as they face a group committed to crippling the US by taking out the electrical grid. Can they stop them before it’s too late?
Here’s the first chapter of The Grid. Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Alexander was walking to work, cutting through the park as he’d done every day for the last month; ever since losing his driver’s license for blowing .15 … nearly twice the legal limit in this shit-hole town. It didn’t really matter, though, since he’d wrapped his car around a streetlight on the night he got the ticket. And, no way he could afford a new one for the pittance the insurance company gave him. That money barely paid for food, beer, and rent on a dilapidated dump with a toilet that ran incessantly, a stove with only one working burner, and room for a twin bed, a couch with springs that poked you in the back, and a shelf for his clothes.
Despite the sunny day, unseasonably warm for March, he was in a foul mood. He was always in a foul mood and the beautiful park with its canopy of trees, wildflowers in purples and pinks, manicured lawns, pristine soccer fields and playgrounds surrounded by picnic tables. He hated the kids who squealed happily from the swings and their stuck-up mothers who had nothing better to do on a Monday morning that fawn over their drooling progeny. Didn’t they have to work for a living? Speaking of jobs, he hated his fucking job at the electric company and hated the engineers who thought their shit didn’t stink just because they had the money to finish college instead of dropping out after a couple of semesters with a solid 1.25 average. He hated Portland with its tree-huggers and millennials or whatever the hell those folks called themselves these days. Fuckin’ snowflakes is what he called ‘em.
Now, as if his life wasn’t shitty enough, he felt his insides liquify suddenly. Quite literally shitty. He clamped down hard and squeezed his cheeks together for all he was worth; hoping to reach work before he soiled himself. He only had about another quarter of a mile to go, but he soon realized he was fighting a lost cause.
Although he could’ve cared less if someone saw him unzipping in the park, he didn’t want to spend the day in jail for “urinating in public” or whatever they called it when you took a squat in the park, so he veered off the trail into a clump of trees where no one would see him, then dropped trou. Checking that the stream of brown goo wasn’t splashing back on his shoes or clothes, he glanced around the area, concerned that snakes might be sunning themselves nearby on the warm day. That’s all he needed was to get snake bit on his junk that was hanging down exposed to anything crawling by. I wonder if they’d have to cut it off if a snake bit it?, he wondered idly.
As liquid crap continued to spew from his hind end, he wondered what had caused this particular eruption. Maybe that hamburger he ate last night. It smelled a little funky and he couldn’t remember how long he’d had it in the fridge. Might have gone bad, he concluded. He never thought to blame the combination of beer and marijuana that fueled his waking hours … even feeling good when he woke up with a dream in the middle of the night, which was often. You never got the images of children running from the fire that quickly engulfed their villages. The slow ones trailing fire from their clothing and hair before succumbing to their burns. Fuckin’ ‘Nam and fuckin’ dicks who decided on that scorched earth policy. Of course, they didn’t have to see the aftermath of napalm dropped on a village full of old men, women, and children.
When the flow finally subsided, he wiped his hind end with some leaves (and prayed they weren’t poison ivy). He was preparing to zip up again when a patch of orange caught his eye. He was tempted to just turn back toward the trail, but curiosity got the better of him and he stepped further into the trees and undergrowth to investigate.
Hmm, looks like a shirt or something, he thought, using a stick to prod the orange cloth. Then, a new thought occurred to him. The armored truck that delivered cash to grocery stores and such carried the money in sacks that same shade of orange. Maybe someone took off with some of those bags and stashed them here. Maybe the money is still there! Or, maybe there’s a reward for information. That could be a big payday. Maybe today wasn’t a total shit after all. He chuckled at his own whit for the double entendre.
He tried to lift the bag with his stick, but the weight of the bag, which is how he thought of it now, was too much and broke the stick. He reached around, moving some fallen leaves in search of something thicker until he found a limb about 4 ft long and the thickness of his forearm.
Armed with this device, he tried again to lift the orange bag. Suddenly, the material pulled lose, sending him backward and the bag landed on his chest with a wet splat. It was heavy on his chest and he imagined how he would spend the windfall … maybe a new car, a jet ski, or maybe some heroin to more effectively obliterate the nightmares. As he looked down he saw a human hand and arm, flesh still clinging to the bones, pointing toward his crotch at the bottom of an orange sleeve.
He screamed and levitated off the ground like a character in an Exorcist remake. He looked at the appendage still encased in the remains of an orange shirt stuck to his chest and started scraping it away with leaves, still screaming like a girl. On the ground next to him, the rest of the upper body remained in what was left of the shirt, looking like the Halloween scarecrow he and his mom filled with straw when he was a kid. Quickly recovering from his initial shock, he scanned the area hoping to find something, at least, to make up for all his trouble, when he saw PGE, the Portland General Electric company, embroidered on the front pocket. His eyes reflectively wandered down to where the rest of the torso was, almost afraid he’d recognize something about this man who worked with him. The lower part of the body was encased in a pair of black dress pants, suggesting he was an engineer or manager rather than a maintenance worker like him. He checked the back pocket for a wallet and, finding nothing, pulled out his mobile and called 911
“How did you happen to come upon the body,” asked the detective, handing him a card that read Tanikka Dawson. She wore a cheap grey suit over a pale pink silk blouse and he’d have liked to see what was under it—she seemed to push it out in all the right places. She was kinda cute, he thought, with dark hair that fell in loose waves around her oval face. She had a little turned-up pixy nose that bespoke a Caucasian ancestor somewhere in her family tree and he could smell her floral perfume when the breeze blew just right. Of course, almost anything would smell good compared to the scent of decomposition that filled the area now that the remains had been disturbed. A little thin, maybe, he said to himself as he continued exploring her body. Finally, he concluded his appraisal with, I like a little cushion for the pushin’ but I wouldn’t say no. Her eyes narrowed, and she repeated the question that he’d ignored in a tone that said she wanted an answer this time.
“I came to take a whiz,” he said, not wanting to admit his loose bowels. He stole a glance at his watch realizing he was now late for his shift at the plant. Despite how much he was enjoying the image of doing the detective that floated through his mind, it was getting late and he needed to get to work sometime today.
Now, the morning was turning into a total waste. Cops started arriving within 10 minutes of his call to 911. He was ordered to remain on the scene to talk to the detectives but moved farther from the body by uniformed cops who strung yellow crime scene tape in a perimeter about 30 feet around the stinking garbage. After getting a good look at the bugs crawling in and out of openings in its flesh and getting a good whiff of it, he had no desire to stay close to that disgusting thing anyway. Sometime later, the coroner arrived. When he turned the body over, things got really stinky and the distance didn’t help much. Finally, the pretty detective got here and things were looking up until she started with her infernal questions.
“Do you know who this is?” asked the detective, writing stuff in the little notebook she held in her right hand.
“No idea, lady. Did you see that thing? His own mother wouldn’t know him looking like that. He’s disgusting. And, he didn’t have no wallet on him.”
“And you know this how?”
“I checked. Figured you guys would ask me if I knew the guy.”
“Right. Sure you did.” Again with that rollin’ her eyes thing. I tell you I’d beat that out of her if she was my woman. Ain’t gonna put up with no bitch lookin’ at me like that, he thought. Out loud, he just explained what happened, real respectful like. It didn’t pay to have her on his case—not with his record.
“Alright, let’s start at the beginning,” she said when he finished his story. “Why don’t you tell me what happened. Start with when you entered the area.”
He went through the whole story again, even though he already told her everything … and the uniforms the same thing when they got here. A total waste of everyone’s time and he was starting to get real pissed off.
“So, you work with the decedent?”
“I don’t know about no “decedent”, but if you’re talking about that thing, I guess. He got on the shirt from the place,” he said, pointing to the logo on what was left of the body’s work shirt. “’cept that guy was in management—and engineer or some such. Them guys wear orange. We got these tan things. And, he got on dress pants, not work pants like I got.”
“Is anyone missing from the plant?”
“You gotta ask them, lady. I punch a time clock. I do my job, then get the hell out o’ there. Mind my own business. We don’t have nothin’ to do with the professionals.”
Her mobile chirped and she turned to connect the call. He couldn’t hear much of what was being said, but she was writing furiously.
After a couple minutes, she turned back, looking at him like she didn’t remember who he was or why he was there.
She said, “you can go. Make sure we have your contact information in case we have more questions later.” Then, she was back on the mobile making calls.
It was late—almost noon. He’d already called in to tell his supervisor what was happening, but they didn’t have no way of knowing what time he finished. He figured he’d go get him some brews with the guys and share his story. Maybe he wouldn’t even have to pay. If he made the story sound real good his buddies might pick up the tab. Heck, they all hated the managers as much as he did.