Kalea sat in a chair on the stage of the high school auditorium, surveying the area with the school principal – a stern, graying man with a perpetual scowl named Darren Henson.
“It just seems that it needs something more,” he grumped.
Kalea took a deep breath, reminding herself that the school district brought several million dollars to the company every year, so telling him to jump in the lake would be detrimental not only to her career, but her financial well being as well. Plus, she was here for an interview with a major magazine about the project. This would get national coverage, and anything that took the focus off her bloody hospital dash and back on her work was a good thing.
“You have the most state of the art theater in the region. Relax, they’ll love it. They wouldn’t be coming if they weren’t impressed.” Kalea swiped her brow and shifted in her stuffy grey and pink pantsuit. She wasn’t used to dressing this formally, and it was still too hot for this in mid-September.
“I wish they would have come this spring when we had a production, and when we’ve had more time to tweak it.”
“Mr. Henson, I can’t tweak it any more. I’ve given you all the power that the grid can give you. It passed inspection. It’s fine.”
He grunted and checked his smartwatch as the first students trickled into the auditorium. Since there wasn’t a production ready to showcase the renovated theater, they arranged to have the interview conducted and filmed onstage with the student body as the audience. Kalea was nervous about that aspect of it. She was used to speaking to small groups, and even on camera regarding larger projects, but the concept of questions from strangers that knew little or nothing about the finer points of engineering that went into the project made her stomach flip. This wasn’t exactly stuff you could “dummy down” to an audience. When it comes to technical engineering concepts, you get it or you don’t. No amount of explaining changes it.
Mr. Henson glanced at Kalea. “Relax, you’ll do fine.”
Kalea smiled weakly. “Is it that obvious that I’m nervous?”
“Yes, but it’s alright. You get used to this.” He cracked a small smile. “Besides, you’ve done a nationally televised interview. This should be a piece of cake.”
Kalea grunted away the cliché as the volume of murmuring voices grew with more students filling in the auditorium. She fanned herself with her notes. “Maybe I should get our mechanical engineer to see about adjusting the HVAC system in here. These lights do get awfully hot.”
“I already asked. He said he’s done all he can with the electrical load too,” Mr. Henson said. “We’ll have to sweat it out.”
“I’m getting used to that,” Kalea mumbled as the magazine interviewer, a tall, thin woman with short, dark hair and striking green eyes breezed on the stage. Kalea and Mr. Henson stood to shake her hand.
“Kalea, so glad to meet you!” she bubbled, shaking Kalea’s hand so vigorously that Kalea’s black cameo earrings swung. “I’m Veronica Eddings. It’s such a pleasure to meet you and cover what other miracles you’re capable of in Modern Design Magazine!”
Kalea blushed. “I’m better at engineering than I am at running through hospital hallways, if that’s what you mean. But thanks. I’m glad for the coverage, both for the firm and for the school.” She gestured to Mr. Henson. “This is Darren Hensen, the school principal.
Veronica shook Mr. Hensen’s hand and they took their seats. “Thanks for letting me record the interview with the equipment in here. I understand this is the first time cameras on wires have been used outside an athletic facility?”
“Just in the State of South Carolina,” Kalea said, “and it did require a radical redesign of the entire area. The hope is that it will give better quality recordings by capturing a number of angles that haven’t been available at the high school level before. The first official use will be the Christmas program, but the big thing will be the school’s production of Annie Get Your Gun in April. Today’s interview will be the first live test on all of the equipment, and how well it airs on public access stations.
Veronica raised an eyebrow. “So we’ll have a television audience too?”
“No, it’s being recorded for playback on the local access channel ,” Mr. Henson said. “Obviously, we’ll want to do some editing and production work to clean it up. We want to show the public the best work we can do.”
“Of course,” Veronica said, straightening her tan skirt as she settled in the chair. “Let’s go over my plan for today’s interview. I’d like to start with the camera system and how you, Kalea, took arena camera plans to an indoor venue. Then I’d like to move on to the wireless control of lighting and stage effects systems. After that, I’ll move on to Mr. Henson’s vision for how this applies to theater productions, and an open conversation on how this has the potential to revolutionize theater design of all types in the future.”
“I’m not sure about revolutionizing design,” Kalea said. “It’s just a high school auditorium. I’m sure a lot more work needs to be done before it goes large scale.”
Veronica laughed. “You’re so modest! Kalea, that’s why I’m here – to show how you’ve revolutionized design for live action productions!”
Kalea flushed and reached down to scratch her leg, which was itching terribly.
“We’re ready to go in two minutes!” the head of the stage crew, a stocky, blonde teen with glasses, said.
Mr. Henson nodded. “Time to rock and roll.”
Kalea rolled her eyes. Was he going to ruin the interview with these stupid Earth clichés?
What? She thought. She shook off the unbidden thought and adjusted the microphone clipped to her jacket while Veronica gathered her notes and the cameraman flashed his fingers showing the final countdown to recording.
Veronica smiled brightly and stared into the center camera. “Good morning South Carolina, and welcome to Modern Design Magazine Chat Hour. I’m your host, Veronica Eddings. Today, we’re talking to Kalea Kerner and Darren Henson regarding the revolutionary upgrades they made this summer to the Riverside High School auditorium in Columbia, South Carolina.” Veronica turned to Kalea. “Miss Kerner, I’d like to open with talking about the camera system you designed especially for this space. It implements stadium style cameras on revolving wires similar to the camera systems that are used in sporting arenas. How difficult was it to take a design for outdoor use into a limited space like this?”
Kalea took a sip of water and leaned forward. “The design really wasn’t difficult with the system they already had in place.” She gestured to Mr. Hensen. “Of course, we always start with asking Principal Hensen and the leaders on the drama team what their vision is for the auditorium. They are the ones that use it regularly, so it has to be a system that they can operate and can run off the power available to the school without taking from other areas. Principal Hensen told me the primary goal with this redesign was to be able to get better recordings of productions for broadcast on local access television, streaming video reproductions, and acting samples for students that need it for a portfolio to colleges where they plan to study theater in the future. So my goal was to design a system that –“
“Was all the better to see you with,” a voice said from the audience. Everybody turned to stare at the voice coming from a stocky, red-headed young man in the center of the auditorium. He stood and pushed his way to the aisle. “That’s what we really wanted, isn’t it? We wanted people to see us better, to get more public recognition for the school, to show everybody how wonderful we are.”
“Who is that kid?” Kalea asked, squinting in the lights to focus on the man approaching the stage slowly. She noticed that his right hand was in his pocket and he seemed to be fiddling with something.
“That’s not a kid,” Mr. Hensen said, “that’s Dale Zeigler. He’s the drama coach.”
“He’s kind of young for a drama coach, isn’t he?” Veronica asked.
Mr. Hensen shrugged. “He’s been here for three years.” He pointed to Dale. “Mr. Zeigler, did you have a question for me or Miss Kerner?”
Dale laughed, his body shuddering slightly. “Why yes, I certainly do. The question is for you.” He waved his left arm around the room. “Was all of this worth selling your soul for?”
Mr. Hensen’s eyes narrowed. “I beg your pardon?”
“All this technology! All this money you spent to show everybody that we’re the best school in the state. All these reasons why you couldn’t afford to give hard working teachers and staff members a decent raise this year.”
Mr. Hensen stood and pointed at Darren. “Mr. Zeigler, that will be enough. I’m sorry you don’t agree with these changes, but we have to take a more long term approach to improving the school. You know salaries come from a different budget. This year, the school board decided to upgrade facilities. I assure you that it will lead to better compensation for employees and staff in the future. You have to be patient!”
“Be patient!” Dale said, laughing. “I have to be patient. I have to be patient while my bank account is empty. I have to be patient while I struggle to put food on the table for my kids. I have to be patient while the bank threatens to foreclose on my house. I have to be patient while my wife has an affair with an architect that flatters her with a lifestyle I can only dream of.”
“Ouch!” Kalea said. “That’s awful. Who’s this architect?”
Dale stared at Kalea with hard, green eyes. “It doesn’t matter. Nothing does anymore.”
Kalea slumped in her chair when she realized she asked that stupid question right into the microphone. So much for not making a fool of herself yet again.
“Where is the resource officer?” Mr. Hensen asked, looking around the auditorium. “This man needs to be escorted off the property. He’s threatening the safety of the children.”
“The resource officer is indisposed, just like all of you are fixing to be!” Dale pulled a gun out of his pocket and fired a shot into the ceiling. Screams filled the room as students ducked on the floor. Dale jumped on the stage, directly in front of Kalea.
“Don’t believe the lies they sell you!” he shouted, firing a bullet directly into one of the revolving cameras that shattered on the floor in the front row. “They say it’s for the greater good? No, it’s to feed their own ego.” He waved the gun toward Kalea and Mr. Hensen. “These two will get rich while we rot at their bidding! There’s nothing in any of this for us. They don’t care about us. All they care about is keeping us under their feet so they can step on us on their way to the top. Well, no more!” He turned, pointing the gun, a silver .380, in Kalea’s face. “Say goodbye to all of your fame and fortune, witch.”
Kalea’s hand shot up and grabbed the muzzle of the gun, which sparked at her touch. Dale screamed as an electric current ran up his arm, driving him to his knees. Kalea stood up slowly, staring at Dale with hard, black eyes. “This vessel is broken. It must be purged.” Her eyes glowed silver as she bent to touch a red scar on Dale’s hand.
“No!” he screamed, grabbing Kalea’s ankle. A blue spark shot through him, knocking him back off the stage and onto the front row floor. Kalea collapsed into her chair, breathing heavily. She gulped and pulled herself up straight in the chair, looking at the audience staring at her in terror.
“What just happened?” she asked, and passed out.