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"Fuck this. Quoted for 2 hours work and I've done 8 hours on this mess already." He sat back, reached for the drawer and began the ancient and ignoble art of rolling yet another cigarette. This done, he made for the outdoors. He would love to smoke inside, but had reluctantly limited his habit to the 'fresh air'. The sun hit him as he walked outdoors, its effect immediate and striking.

Shit, hey? What a roller coaster ride... He was supposed to be thinking through a solution to that bloody project roadblock and here he was, pacing the garden and thinking only of one thing; his new addiction.

He felt alive. There was no denying that. The charge still pulsed through him, exciting and scaring him in equal parts. What a buzz. They'd fallen into this addiction or so they told themselves, but could they fall out of it? More to the point, could they muster what was left of their collective non-sexual beings and climb out of it? The effects were there to see, to feel, to live with. He knew the buzz that was coursing through him was partly residual charge and partly the radiation. He'd known it before.

This power, the power he'd felt before, was just so powerful and so addictive. A buzz that didn't go away; wouldn't go away. This power was the thing. It was so fucking much the thing that it scared him. He hoped it scared her too. He'd tried to explain that, but his every action had given the lie to his words. They'd talked about the power. Hell, he'd probably talked it up to buggery. Probably sold it to her. He knew that. He was still taunted by the power of years past. It affected him in small, secret ways. No, who was he trying to kid, it affected all of him and damn nearly all the time. And it undoubtedly affected what he had said to her: "Don't go there, don't go there, don't go there. Can't you see I want you to fucking well go there!?"

The radiation effects were secrets, yes, but still they owned him. Affected him walking down the street, sitting in a meeting, watching a movie. Yeah, it affected him in countless ways and every day.

And now he was charging up on the same old stuff again. And, he knew for sure, she was getting the same charge. But how could they avoid what would inexorably come from that charge? Nuclear power. That's what it was. Nuclear power where nuclear power was illegal. Hell, it could fuck up your life on its own, but let anyone else discover that you're using the stuff and the fallout could be catastrophic. He'd seen that. He'd talked about that with her. And then he'd shown her how to get the reactor together, how to run it, and then how to draw its power. And together they'd powered up. Time and again, bumping up the levels each time.

Weeks later and that effect goes on. And on. He felt it now. A power that the coal-powered day-to-day life could never generate. Sure the coal-powered version was just fine. Just fine and dandy. That was the problem, it was 'just' fine and dandy. And you could draw on it whenever you needed. In fact, you didn't draw on it. You lived in it, absorbing its power daily. Just enough for each day. Sometimes a spike or two would come about that you could go on with for a while, but mainly it was a daily habit. Hard to break, and one that you wouldn't want to break. You can live with that power, draw on it and reside in it. Grow up and old on it. It's good for the soul. It maintains and it preserves. It powers us all and our communities. It's the accepted power source. It doesn't fuck you up. Shit, it even gets governments elected.

But it sure as hell isn't nuclear. It's so day-to-day. Not like nuclear....it can't be day-to-day. This relationship was nuclear and it could fuck you up. He knew that. You had to make damn sure no-one knew you were drawing on that power. And one day, when all the good shit was gone from the power source, you had to bury the spent stuff. Deep. Deep down where no-one is going to find it. Not now, not ever. Because the laws against its use are retrospective.

And that was only the half of it. Even if you could hide your power source and bury it safely away some day, the power still fucked you up inside. In ways that were hard to pick at first, and hard to control in the end. Little ways which become huge motherfuckers of ways. Lies. No, not lies at first. Just undisclosed times and details. But the lies come soon enough. The secret times of connecting to the power. The fact that you're still powered up without needing the coal-powered day to day. You don't need the day to day charge. Shit, after a while you don't even want it. You try to avoid it. You have the nuclear buzz now and that's enough.

Yep, the radiation lived on in him, even without the power. Long after the power has gone. It didn't often kill anyone, but sometimes it sure as hell did. Not their bodies, just their souls. He'd known people killed by the radiation. People so affected that they didn't get any kind of energy from the day to day. Their life had become a constant search for the nuclear they could only get in certain places and with certain people. Yep, the radiation lived on. Some people coped with it. He did, he knew that. He had gone into radiation shock and come out the other side. And you had to look very closely to see its effects. They were hidden and although there were many of them, they were also minute. The hubble telescope might have had a shot at seeing them and they could be pointed out to others who could then see them. But he never did any pointing out. Until now. And only to her.

She wanted the buzz. He'd known that well before they started charging up together. Little signs. That escapist mentality. The 'fuck it all, I want life and I want it now' feeling to little things she'd done or said. Maybe a trace of radiation damage to the soul. Maybe just a soul that's already mutated that way. Doesn't matter either way....

Maybe they could ride it out. Maybe they'd use the source 'til it was gone and bury it deep. He sure as hell hoped so. He wanted that. He wanted her. He wanted the power. Maybe he even wanted its destruction.

He stubbed out his rollie, scattered its parts across the grass, and went back inside to send an email asking for more charge. He had to, you see? He now ran on the stuff.

To be continued....

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