The Long Game

A Dream of Light

Joseph Kowalski stood in the vast parlor of Carfax Manor. In his rough, calloused hand, he loosely held a freshly printed copy of the Inquisitor. The headlines read: "Grayson Deeply Regrets Resonator Tragedy; Claims Sabotage".

Kowalski's ginger head was bandaged white though nearly a week had passed since the explosion. His face and exposed forearms still wore a heavy discoloration of bruises.

"Mr. Kowalski, what a relief to see you alive and well!" Grayson exclaimed quite sincerely, approaching and gladly shaking the hand of his most trusted, most skilled head engineer.

"Yes, sir, Mr. Grayson," Kowalski replied, smiling. "Well, mostly anyway."

"Tell me, what happened to you?" Grayson queried.

Kowalski sobered and took a moment to speak.

"Well, I remember I tried to hurry as many people away as possible. But I don't really remember the explosion itself," he admitted. "I came to under a pile of rubble and managed to drag myself home."

Grayson frowned, listening with his arms folded across his chest.

"My wife, Mary Ann, put me straight to bed. She was a nurse before she chose to stay home and care for our children. So she has taken good care of me."

Alexander imagined that Kowalski's wife and his own dear Mina might have similar qualities about them.

"Sounds like a fine companion to have then," Grayson surmised.

Kowalski smiled proudly.

"She is, Mr. Grayson, she is. Always has been."

Mary Ann. His wife, his muse. He remembered when he had first dreamt of the Resonator. It was cold and they were still young and quite poor. They had lain together, shivering in the miserable night. Her quiet weeping in the dark over the death of their recently born first child. A boy. With ginger hair like his father. And he had thought how wonderful it would be if everyone could have light to comfort them on such dark nights. Free, sustainable, wireless energy. A true dream in a world full of such harsh realities.

Then he brought himself back to the matter at hand.

"Actually," Kowalski admitted, "This is the first day she has let me out of the house at all. She feared I had a concussion."

Moving away from his own recent misadventures, he cocked his head at Grayson inquisitively.

"How did you survive, Mr. Grayson? You were right at the heart of the blast, last I saw you."

Alexander shrugged his shoulders noncommittally.

"A stroke of luck, I suppose," he answered.

Kowalski blinked an expression of disbelieving astonishment.

"Quite a stroke of luck, I'd venture."

Grayson remained quiet, mentally forming additional fabrications to quell the man's curiosity. However, his efforts were unnecessary.

"May I ask, Mr. Grayson . . . Miss Murray?"

Grayson responded as casually as he could.

"Harker managed to take her away to safety. She has since returned and has been looking after my man Renfield," he concluded.

Kowalski was relieved. He did not wish his machine to harm anyone. The masses that had been injured and killed during the fated demonstration had been almost more than he could bear. And Mary Ann, precious Mary Ann, had listened for hours to all his distraught ministrations on the matter. How carefully he had checked the measurements, how precisely he had run the tests. Everything had seemed to be perfect. There had been no signs of impending doom. Right up until it had happened.

And Mina Murray. A truly unique woman, that one. He vividly recalled her accompanying Grayson on a private test of the Resonator. The intelligence, the interest she had taken for its workings. Her bright delight as the bulb lit up in her hand, as though drawing its power from her very own glowing spirit. And then, bravely lending her own efforts in an attempt to avert the unstoppable catastrophe at the doomed demonstration. That similar spirit that resided in his own beloved wife.

"Renfield?" Kowalski questioned. "I don't remember him at the demonstration."

Grayson shook his head.

"He wasn't. He was on an errand for me and fell prey to an attack."

Kowalski's green eyes flashed in surprise.

"Attack?! By whom?!"

Grayson wondered briefly why he was revealing so much unnecessary information to this man who warranted none.

"It seems that Mr. van Helsing has proven to be less dependable an ally than he once presented himself."

Kowalski snorted in disgust.

"If you don't mind be saying so, I was always suspicious of that man. He seemed, well, shady, in his intentions. Too concerned and distracted with his own affairs."

Grayson smiled to himself. He doubted the man before him found much value in any grown person who not love his Resonator project as much as he did.

Kowalski held up the paper for Grayson's viewing.

"So you believe sabotage?" he asked, already building up a full head of steam at the notion of someone intentionally hurting her, his machine.

Grayson nodded curtly. Kowalski vaguely remembered Harker and Grayson shouting through the chaotic din during the final moments before he had turned to rush innocents away from the impending disaster. It had seemed suspicious at the time but he had been more concerned with saving as many lives as possible than overhearing a random conversation. Maybe he should have been more alert to the matter. Had it been Harker all along? Surely not. He was just a lad.

Grayson spoke with sincerity, looking him directly in the eye.

"Mr. Kowalski, your work was impeccable. We'd tested the machine and process time and time again. Had we not? And every time problems arose, they were resolved immediately and with precise attention to detail."

Within his stout chest, Kowalski felt a swell of pride. Everything Grayson was saying was true. Kowalski had always taken pride in his work. Even starting out in the free land of America as a child of poor Scottish immigrants. Learning at a young age that he could take things apart and put them back in workable order again. Sometimes better working order.

Grayson continued.

"That's why I chose you for this most important project, Mr. Kowalski. And you have never let me down. Every failure, every setback was merely a stepping stone for further experimentation, further study, further improvements."

Kowalski just knew that if Grayson continued this impassioned speech any further, he would cry in a most childish, unmanly way. The way that only Mary Ann, his beloved wife, had witnessed upon the birth of each and every one of their precious children.

"Yes, I believe the Resonator was sabotaged," Grayson concluded. "And I believe I know who did it as well."

Kowalski's entire musculature tensed. His gaze was as fiery as his hair.

"Who?" he asked intensely.

Who?! He demanded silently. I'll tear them apart!

Grayson looked upon the man carefully, measuring and weighing him. He concluded he was not ready to sacrifice this most skilled individual for his own ambitions. Though he could. He could speak the names and watch Kowalski fall over himself in an effort to destroy those guilty. Which would, in turn, leave his Mary Ann widowed and his aforementioned children fatherless. No, no. This time, he would not destroy innocent lives.

"Leave me to deal with that, Mr. Kowalski," he instructed. "Though I appreciate your fervor."

Kowalski grumbled, then seemed to regain himself.

"There was another reason for my coming here today, Mr. Grayson."

Grayson raised his eyebrows slightly, somewhat curious.

"Yes, Mr. Kowalski?"

Joseph Kowalski cleared his throat and spoke.

"Well, I wanted to talk with you about the Resonator. The one that was destroyed was all very good and well for a beginning."

Grayson nodded in agreement.

"Quite good. Very near to a miracle, I've hear said."

Kowalski shrugged.

"Very gracious, of course. But I have something better."

Grayson's eyebrows raised further.

"Really? How very interesting. And what is that?"

Kowalski smiled.

"Well, a more modern, smaller version. It wouldn't use or give out as much power. But as it is smaller, it would be less expensive to build and operate. And with the money saved there, we could build multiple ones."

Grayson seemed genuinely surprised. Which in Kowalski's observation, didn't happen very often.

"And since everyone believed this work has come to a dark end, so to speak," Kowalski continued. "The work could continue in secret without concern for . . . outside involvement until it is completely ready."

Grayson did not reply for a moment while Kowalski waited patiently. Finally, Grayson clapped a hand to Kowalski's shoulder.

"Joseph," he stated grandly, "not only are you alive and well, but you're a complete genius! Let's sit down with a drink and discuss your brilliance further, shall we?"

Joseph Kowalski smiled and stepped forward with Grayson.

"Okay, Mr. Grayson. But just a little. If I have too much, Mary Ann will likely give me another concussion."

Grayson laughed, thinking of Mina.

"Well, we wouldn't want that, now would we?"


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