NOTE: This is the second installment in a series which began with River of Light.

Mind Your Business

The aurora had not yet returned when Artemis set off for work the next morning, but the sky was still bristling with life as the sunrise took hold over the eastern horizon. The air was cool, but warming gently as the sun rose, and a gradient of soft blue and gold bloomed into the black of the dying night.

The moon was full and its daylight side facing Earth today. The weather on the moon was as clear and cloudless as it was down below, and its oceans and forests reflected the sun like a blue and green marble among the stars in the morning twilight.

Freighter whistles howled across the city as the early arrivals docked in the harbor, unloading boxes of cargo from the United States and Britain.

Already in his uniform, Artemis wedged his way to the front of the in the mob crowding the sandwich wagon on Third Avenue.

McGee and his customers were too hurried to bother with lines or taking orders, so a hand would stick out of the window, and once a coin had been dropped into it another would reach out to give it a sandwich. Artemis got his egg and sausage sandwich and continued down the street towards the tram depot.

“Paper mister? A paper for you? Just one cent.” A scruffy looking child with a satchel full of newspapers chanted on the corner as men and women heading to work shuffled up and down the sidewalk.

“What’s in the news today?” Artemis asked the boy.

“Well, in sports we’ve got boxing. There’s photos of yesterday’s Lynton-Clayman bout. In politics Louisiana and Texas are preparing for war over a border dispute, and in local affairs there’s coverage of the magnetic storm and last night’s blackout.” The boy recited the stories without even glancing at the papers in his bag.

“What does it say about the blackout?”

“You can find out for a penny.”

Artemis reached into his pocket with his free hand and gave the boy a half-dime he received as a tip from one of the wealthy passengers the night before, and the boy handed him one of the papers out of his bag, turned on his heel, and very quickly walked away.

“Hey!” Artemis shouted. The newsie stopped and looked over his shoulder.

“What do you want now?”

“How about the four cents you owe me? I gave you a half-dime, remember?”
“What do I look like? A god damn bank teller?” The boy jeered, and he ran up the street with his bushel of papers laughing.

The guard halted the cross traffic and waved the pedestrians through, and Artemis stomped down the sidewalk, swatting his paper through the air.

“This had better be worth five cents.” Artemis thought as he took a bite of his sandwich and unfurled the paper as he best he could with just one hand.

The front page was shared by two bold headlines;

“WAR IN THE WEST? - Louisianian and Texan Troops Clash Over Border Dispute (page 1)”


“INCREDIBLE ANOMALY - Electric Tram Carrying Columbian Dignitaries Travels Cross-Town in Midst of Power Outage (page 7)”.

Artemis tried to turn to page seven without putting down his sandwich, but after dropping several pages of the business section as he tried to flip the pages over, he stuffed the paper in his jacket and continued eating.

As Artemis finished the last bite of his sandwich and wiped his hands on the old newspaper it was wrapped in he heard an unfamiliar chugging sound drawing from behind, growing louder as it approached. It was too loud to have been a road locomotive and too slow to be coming from an automobile.

He looked over his shoulder and just as a train came along side. It was City of Freyberg being pulled down the street by an ugly green tank engine, belching smoke and steam as it crawled along the crowded streets.

To see this ancient contraption out on the street pulling City of Freyberg was like seeing a royal chariot being dragged along by a battered old mule.

As the unusual train puffed steadily downhill Artemis jogged along the tracks beside the engine’s open cab and shouted to the engineer,

“Hey, can a fellow trainman hitch a lift to the tram depot?”

He glanced down, recognized Artemis’ uniform and smiled.

“Sure boy,” said the man as he grabbed his hand and pulled him onto the footplate. “if you’ll help me feed the fire. My fireman’s home with conjunction and I can’t drive and shovel coal with all these maniacs out on the road.”

Artemis went right to work, picking up the shovel and tossing scoopfuls of coal into the firebox, which roared and seared the air like a rocket engine as he opened the trap door.

The engineer glanced away from his controls as he watched Artemis add coal to the fire.

“No, no, no! You don’t just dump coal in like you’re burying a casket, you’ll smother the fire. You tram boys don’t know nothing bout steam these days do you?”

“I’m afraid not.” Artemis conceded. “I’ve only driven electric, but my boss Mr. Woodrick says I’m one of the best motormen in the city.”

The engineer chuckled as he kept his eyes on the street and his hand steady on the throttle.

“What skill is there to driving electric sides sitting on your ass and ringing that bell?”

“Well, you’ve got to keep an eye on your current gauge to make sure you aren’t overloading the engines, and you’ve also got to be good with the brakes or else you’ll rattle the riders like peas in a pan, and when the wind blows you have to make sure you don’t knock the trolley pole off the line. It may be simpler than steam, but there’s still a lot of skill to it I say.”

“And just how good at it are you at it then? If your boss says you’re the best?”

“Good enough to drive that.” Artemis motioned to the City of Freyberg as she rocked along on her springs behind the locomotive, the trolley pole still detached from the wire and swaying aimlessly.

“Alright then. In that case I admit you might have some skill, but if these blackouts don’t let up you tram drivers may be back to shoveling coal like the rest of us sooner than you think.”

“I don’t know about that. I drove City of Freyberg from Broadway all the way up to Seaport Square last night in the middle of the blackout.” Artemis said proudly.

“Get out of town kid. That’s impossible even with electricity, unless you had an engine pulling you.”

“It’s true. I was taking a bunch of rich people to catch their boat and the power went out when we were in the middle of in the theatre district. While we were stuck I was sitting there at the controls staring at the aurora and I suddenly felt like I was connected to it, like part of myself had merged with it, and then all I had to do was think about it and I drove the tram all the way into your neck of the woods without even touching the controls.

Everyone on board saw me do it and lots of people out on the streets saw it too. And I could feel it when it was happening, it was like my soul reached out into the sky and grabbed onto something that was pulling us down the street. It was amazing.”

“So I guess whatever it is that pulled you up to Seaport couldn’t be bothered to push you back down huh?”

“Once we reached the port the aurora disappeared, so we were kind of   stuck there afterwards.”

“Well, I don’t think you tramway people would like it if we left a boxcar from our turf out in the middle of your street, so what makes you think we appreciate you leaving a dead tram out on our tracks first thing in the morning?”
“Sorry. I was going to come back for it and drive it home though. Once the aurora came back.”

“And just what makes you think it’s coming back?”

“Someone told me.”


“Perhaps I shouldn’t say, it might sound strange to you.”

“You already sound strange to me, so you might as well out with it.”

“My soul told me, when it was outside my body, after the aurora went out. It said the aurora would be back again tonight.“

“So, what exactly does your soul look like then kid?”

“I couldn’t see it. It was invisible, but I could hear her in my head.”

“And if it’s was outside your body then where is it now then?”

“It’s back inside me now like it always was.”

“Whatever boy, just watch the fire like you said you would, this ain’t a free ride. And remember, just sprinkle the coal on the fire like you’re seasoning a steak, don’t smother it like you’re burying gold.”

Artemis said nothing more and did as he was told until they reached the tram depot.

“What’s this hunk of steaming scrap iron doing in my neat, clean tram depot?” Charlie yelled as the old engine puffed noisily into the building amongst the electric trams as their crews prepared them for work.

“Well, hows about you trolley boys don’t leave your little toy trains out in the middle of our right of way where they’re blocking traffic, huh?” The engineer shouted back from the footplate.

“Hey buddy, the streets are our territory, we only let you harbor yard people run the Port District stretch cause we ain’t electrified it yet! Oh, and Artemis, Mr. Woodrick wants to talk to you, you better go see him before he finds out you’ve been fantasizing with the enemy.”

“Me? The enemy? Ha! If we weren’t there to pull your trains last night when the power went out this place would have been burned to the ground by angry riders wanting their money back.”

“You’re going to burn this place to the ground with that bomb on wheels if you don’t get it out of here. Look, it’s smoking up the place already, it’s terrible.”

Artemis climbed off the locomotive footplate, brushed the coal dust off his uniform as best he could and slipped away from the arguing men and up an open stairwell to the loft where Mr. Woodrick’s office overlooked the operations below.

Artemis had barely reached the top step when Mr. Woodrick said, “Come in Artemis, the door is unlocked.”

Mr. Woodrick was sitting at his table sipping coffee with a man Artemis recognized from the train last night.

“Great, he’s here.” The other said.

“Good morning Mr. Woodrick. Charlie told said you wanted to see me.”

“Yes indeed I do. How about you sit in my seat for now, you are the star of the show after all. You really saved the day last night Artemis, I know I must have thanked you a thousand times by now but I really mean it.” Mr. Woodrick stood up and pushed his chair over to Artemis.

“Thanks Sir, but are you sure I aught to be sitting in your chair? I’ve just been shoveling coal and I’m a bit dirty.”

“No, no, don’t mind my chair. Sit, sit. You’ve earned it. What have you been up to shoveling coal anyway?”

An engine from the docks just arrived towing City of Freyberg a moment ago. Since the train was heading my way I hopped aboard and helped the driver keep the fire going.

“Ah, my baby is back home. Good.” Mr. Woodrick peeked through the blinds of an inward facing window and saw his luxury streetcar on the tracks below, still attached to the steam locomotive.

Nearby, conductors and motormen were crowding around Charlie and the engineer, who were circling each other, one brandishing a spare electric wire like a whip and the other wielding a shovel with a scoop filled with hot coals.

Mr. Woodrick opened up the window and shouted, “Hey! I’m not paying you all to kill each other! Cut it out and get those cars on the street before the buses come and steal all your fares!”

The conductors and motormen all sighed and grumbled as they dispersed and returned to their jobs. Charlie and the engineer shared a fierce look and and begrudgingly went their separate ways.

Mr. Woodrick shut the window and closed the blinds. His expression softened quickly as he returned his thoughts to Artemis and his other guest.

“But, as I was saying, Artemis, you’ve really changed things for yourself and this company with that stunt you pulled last night. Not only did you keep all the investors on my side, you’ve also… Weber, I’ll let you carry on from here.”

Mr. Woodrick sat back in his couch, grinning and wringing his hands like he were watching a golden goose lay eggs before him as the man stood and began to speak to Artemis.

“Good morning boy. My name is Weber Van Wyck. I was aboard the train last night and I’d first like to thank you for delivering me to my destination in a timely manner despite the obvious difficulties.”

“Any time Mr. Van Wyck. I’m just doing my job.”

“Oh don’t be modest boy. I was watching you last night. Powering a streetcar with the auroral current is a noteworthy feat you know. You harnessed the earth’s electric current to power the street car last night. Do you know how incredible that is?”

“I suppose. I mean, I didn’t mean to make anything happen. I was just watching the sky and there was sort of this, connection, and I wanted the tram to move and it just did all of a sudden.”

“I’ll be direct boy. I represent the Edison Electric Company, and we need your help more than you can possibly imagine. I can see by that blank look on your face that you have no idea what is at stake or what you are capable of.”

Sitting up in his seat and trying his best not to look blank, Artemis asked, “What am I capable of then?”.

“You can help us fix the greatest mistake in human history.”

“Have you a way to send me back in time and stop Eve from eating the apple then?” Artemis asked.

Mr. Van Wyck pulled up a chair and sat directly in front of Artemis.

“Late last century, around the time you were born, Mr. Edison and our company were at war with the late George Westinghouse and his company, Westinghouse Electric. It was a war over what type of electricity would power our civilization, a war of currents.

Every electric device in our world today runs on direct current electricity. Mr. Edison believed in direct current. It was well understood by our engineers, and it worked perfectly with all of his inventions.

One of Westinghouse’s inventors discovered a new type of electricity called alternating current. We at Edison Electric knew too little about alternating current to understand its potential, and using it would have made many of our most lucrative inventions obsolete overnight.

For years we fought tooth and nail against Westinghouse and their alternating currents. We did everything we could to defame their system. We lied our asses off about how dangerous alternating currents were, we electrocuted animals and prisoners to frighten people, we even got towns and cities across and New Britain and North America to ban alternating currents entirely.

Eventually Westinghouse folded because no one would trust alternating current technology, and we at Edison won a war that we should never have won.

Alternating current should have won. It was by far the better system for building a national energy grid. Alternating current can be sent miles and miles over wire to where ever it is needed, but direct current has such a short transmission range that in New York we were forced to build a new power plant for every half mile of city we wanted to electrify.

We bypassed direct current’s range limitation by using steam as the transmission media. Our plants make steam, we send it to the customers via pipes and their generators turn that steam into electricity.

Of course that meant that the factories didn’t bother to install electric engines for their operations, but instead used our steam to run their old steam engines. There are now steam engines small enough to power household devices like clocks and radios and automatic blenders, things we invented to be powered directly by electricity.

By stamping out alternating current, we have sent our society down a path in which steam will become the dominant form of power in nearly every application. The science of electrical engineering has already been set back several decades, and at this rate electricity's role will be limited to lighting and small transit operations such as this streetcar line.

My boss believes your ability to draw current from the aurora may be the breakthrough we need to reverse this threat to our progress before the damage to society becomes irreparable.

Mr. Edison has invited you to visit his laboratory in New York so that he can personally investigate your abilities and apply them to science and industry.”

“Umm, Mr. Van Wyck. This is really very interesting and all, but altering the course of civilization is kind of a big responsibility for a person like me. My boss pays me well of course, but my mother is home alone and we’ve got bills to pay. I’m not in a position to leave her by herself so I can play around in Columbia with Thomas Edison.”

Mr. Woodrick got up and stood beside Mr. Van Wyck.

“It’s not play Artemis, it’s work. For me, for us, with pay. Edison Electric were the ones who paid for the electrification of our tramway, and we still owe them a large amount of money for it.

For you to go the United States and help Mr. Edison discover a new source of energy, it would more than absolve the differences between our companies, and of course that would mean a big reward for you, and a promotion.”

“Listen to your boss boy, it’s not every day a nobody gets to brush elbows with great men like Thomas Edison. This is the opportunity of your lifetime. It would make a great story to tell your grandchildren someday. Don’t you owe that you yourself?”

“Yes, and of course we can see to it that your mother is well taken care of while you are away. Think of it like a vacation with full pay. You’ll get to see New York and meet Mr. Edison and help me out of debt and earn yourself a raise. I’m practically paying you to have the best time of your life. Isn’t that great Artemis?”

“Yes it is, thank you Sir, but this is all really very jarring to have all this coming at me all of a sudden. All I did was drive a tram during a blackout and next thing I know I feel like I’m being sent off to war.”

“Hey, Atticus, you’re the best motorman I’ve got. You are always working hard for me, so think of this as a reward. In fact, I’m not even going to let you go to work today.”

“You aren’t Sir?”

“No, I’m not. Like you said, this is all must pretty mind blowing for you. I know it is for me. So why don’t you take the day off and go home to pack your bags and tell your mother the good news?”

“Pack my bags?”

“Of course, time is of the essence. My boss’s private yacht is waiting in the harbor as we speak. This magnetic storm won’t last forever, and I’m sure you’d rather the research take place in a fun, warm place like New York and not in the middle of nowhere up north in Lapland or Alyeska or someplace like that were the auroras usually occur.

We will set off for New York tomorrow morning. So what do you say?”

Artemis sat there with his mouth open as the two men stood above him like two iron gates penning him in.

“I’m still pretty shocked but I suppose it may be nice to see New York and all that if I were to be paid for it, but I’d like to think it over and discuss this with my mother and --”

Mr. Woodrick and Mr. Van Wyck each took Artemis by the hand and lifted him to his feet, patting him on the shoulder and congratulating him profusely as they herded him towards the door.

“Good job boy, good job I knew you’d listen to reason. Now like your boss said, just go home and tell your mother the good news, pack your bags, and get ready to leave tomorrow.” Mr. Van Wyck said hurriedly.

“Yes, like he said. Go home and pack your bags and be here tomorrow at Six O’ Clock sharp, we’ll all ride down to the harbor together in City of Freyberg to see you and Mr. Van Wyck off. Some other sap’ll do the driving for a change eh? How about that? Won’t that be lovely? Yes it will. Good now. I love you Atticus. Bye.”

And the office door slammed behind Artemis as he was shoved over the threshold and out into the tram depot where the crews aboard their double decker passenger trams were being dispatched one by one onto the streets to carry the men and women of Freyberg to work.

Artemis hopped on board of one trams as it rolled out into the morning sunshine.

“What’s wrong Artie? Woodrick give ya a yell down war hell ride?” Asked the conductor as he saw Artemis staring listlessly out the window.

“No. Actually he gave me a paid vacation to New York and offered me the opportunity of a lifetime.”

“Why you look so upset then?”

“Because I have no choice.”

Artemis slumped back in the springy wicker seat and felt the rolled up paper crinkle inside his jacket. He unfurled it, turned to page seven and started reading.

“Oh! Baby dumpling! You’re home early! Thank goodness!” Artemis’ mother said as he tossed his jacket and belongings onto the table and closed the door behind him.

Mother was sitting by the kitchen window holding a piece of paper. The apartments on the upper floors were feeling the worst of the heat wave. A small steam fan sat on the window sill, connected to the wall outlet by an insulated cord.

“Hey Mom.” Artemis kissed her on the cheek and pulled up a chair from the tiny dinette. “Mr. Woodrick gave me the day off and I’ve got some news for you.”

“And I’ve been worried sick with news for you. A telegram came the moment you left for work. I couldn’t understand what it said, but I knew that whatever it was had to be bad news.”

“A telegram? Who could have died this time? I didn’t think there was anyone left to be honest, at least not that I know of. Let me see it.”

“Whatever it is it must be pretty serious. They even used periods and commas instead of STOPs.” Mom said as she unfolded the telegram and handed it to Artemis.

Artemis held his breath and began to read it aloud.

Dear Mr. Malcolm,

Mr. Nicola Tesla hears you’ve used the Aurora Borealis to power a tram car.

Mr. Tesla has been engaged in studies related to your unique ability and hopes you would be willing to assist him at laboratory in the Republic of Alyeska.

Should you accept his invitation, the Alylsworth Institute would be glad to fund your journey and compensate you handsomely for your time and work.

Money and a boat ticket to New York can be found in locker 118 at the Freyberg City Railroad Station. The combination is  16-38-5. The boat leaves at Seven tomorrow morning.

Mind your business,

Aloysius Alylsworth

“Mind your business? What is that supposed to mean? Who signs a letter like that?”

“I don’t know Mom, but I’ve got to go out for a moment. I’ll be right back.” Artemis folded the telegraph and slipped it into his pocket.

“You’re going to go looking for that money aren’t you?”


“Don’t take it. What if it’s from the mob? I don’t want you go get caught up in something you can’t handle and end up disappearing. I couldn’t deal with that.”

“I’m already caught up in something I can’t handle. Thomas Edison found out what I did last night during the blackout and wants to force me into being a lab rat for him. My boss is in on it too and he won’t give me a choice. My boss is in on it too and he won’t give me a choice. It's either help Edison or lose my job.

Going with this Tesla guy to Alyeska is my only other option. I’ll check inside this locker and see if there’s anything in it or if this is some sort of joke, and then I’ll try to figure out what I’m going to do next.

Love you Mom. I’ll be back soon.”

Artemis grabbed his keys, locked the apartment door behind him and stomped down the seven flights of stairs as fast as his legs would carry him.

After returning home, Artemis waited impatiently for the sun to set and the aurora to re-appear.

It came later than it had yesterday, some time after Nine as Artemis laid across a bench on the rooftop garden of his apartment building. A plume of current swooped down from the sky towards Artemis, and his soul grabbed on tight and was carried off into the light, connected to the body by a gossamer strand of light.

He could not remember how long the aurora had lasted that evening, but by the time it left for the night he was too content with having made the connection again to mind its absence.

Once his soul had come back to him Artemis relaxed in that simple, easy corner of his mind in which he could speak easily with his inner self.

“She wants to see you again, but the storm is fading. She’s not sure if she’ll be able to.” Said his soul.

“Too bad this can’t last forever.”

“It can if you go to Alyeska. You’ve got a ticket to New York, remember?”

“Yes, and then what? Are we just going to walk the rest of the way?”

“He gave you enough money. I’m sure a train must go to Alyeska from somewhere.”

“Yes, but what about my job? Woodrick will fire me on the spot if I’m not on Edison’s yacht tomorrow.”

“He can’t fire you if you quit first.”

“I can’t quit my job. What would Mom say?”

“She’d say to follow your heart.”

Artemis got up and walked over to the edge of the garden. He detached the motorman’s badge from his shirt, kissed it, and with all his strength pitched it into the depths of the alley below.

“This had better be worth it.” Artemis said, clutching the ticket to his heart as he looked up to the North Star and sighed.

He missed being a motorman already.

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