Backup Power Before Winter


caspian_icon.gif gillian_icon.gif

Scene Title Backup Power Before Winter
Synopsis With the recent outages, Gillian starts to look into a back up source of power for the library.
Date September 28, 2018

Doyle Memorial Library: Williamsburg

As an electrician in the Safe Zone, having a bad power grid provides a real life Schrödinger's cat situation. Instead of the cat being both alive and dead at the same time until measured, the poor power grid is, at the same time, both very good and very bad for business. Fluctuations in the flow of power as the grid shut on and off in the random districts to keep the load down on generators has caused many problems, from lines being overloaded, breakers cutting out, and even simple plugs erupting in showers of sparks when the power comes back with a vengeance. These little things have given Caspian more than enough work to do - enough where he’s had to hire three apprentices to do the simple things, letting him work on the more difficult problems while they keep the fires down. This is in addition to the work going on at Red Hook Market, wiring up the entire building with solar and battery power. By his estimate, in the next couple of weeks he should be able to throw the switch and do a hand-over to the Council, providing twenty-four hour power to the entire marketplace, and just when it starts getting cold, too.

This looming potential success has gotten Caspian thinking, which is why he’s taken a rare day off to head to the closest operating library in the City with internet access and sent a message to the Council, requesting a meeting at their earliest convenience on something that they may find helpful regarding the power outages.

At the Eric Doyle Children’s Library, Caspian has commandeered a table in a corner with a window shining sunlight over a large sheet laid out on the table in front of him - a map of New York before the bomb - with a clear plastic overlay laid over it to highlight the safe zone and potential safe areas surrounding the place. On that overlay are many different notes, as well as a few yellow legal pads with computations, calculations and the locations of existing power substations, scattered around the city, represented by hard peppermint candies, still in their wrappers. Operational ones have a different candy, a jolly rancher, to represent them, and at this time there are far, far more peppermints than jolly ranchers. And if anyone asks? Yes, they can have a piece of candy.

Notes on the pages, if read, would indicate data on things like estimated power usage pre-war, estimated population in these zones now, currently occupied major buildings, ruins, main conduit lines, and things like that. There are far too many unknowns at this point, but he’s slowly working his way through them.

Honestly, Gillian would be surprised to hear that business has been good. With the lack of phone service just about everywhere, it would be hard for people to actually get ahold an electrician, one would think— she knows she’d tried a few times, and failed each time. It hadn’t been as important as it might have been in recent days, though. On the even days, the Library has had to open late and close early, using the generator only for a few hours and often only for the classroom. People could still check out books on the days with little power, but a majority of the library services had to be shut down.

For various reasons.

Gillian had insisted the classes continue as usual, though. She would not allow that part to close down, even during the outage. As she moves through the Library, stopping to talk to some of the young people, she spots someone who is not young. And who happens to be looking at maps. She approaches and immediately recognizes him, even if they’d only met a few times.

“Mister Dussault, I’m surprised to see you here. I imagine the other library is shut down today due to power outage.” The Safe Zone did have another one, after all, but due to location she imagines it may have been their day off. And she doesn’t think most of the Libraries would have had someone insist on it staying open for a least a few days. Not like this one.

Getting an electrician is easy when one drives around with a van advertising such, and word of mouth travels fairly quickly when it becomes known that work can be done for barter instead of cold hard cash. It also helps that Caspian does good work, so if someone needs something, he's got some backup when he's suggested. As Gillian approaches, one of the kids enjoying the cool of the library dares to get close to Caspian, tugging on his sleeve to get his attention, then scurrying off with her prize of a peppermint for being daring.

“Miss Barnes.” Caspian rises from his borrowed seat and smiles. “It's a pleasure to see you.” He sounds sincere as he straightens and tucks the mechanical pencil he was using into his breast pocket, offering her his hand to shake. “The other library is closed due to the rolling blackouts, but I wanted to do a little studying on some maps and documents that I didn't have copies of at home or…well, a table where I could spread out like this.” He looks over at the work he's been doing for a moment before continuing. “How've you been? I trust things with the council are going well?”

With a raise of her eyebrows, Gillian has to stifle a laugh for a moment. Though she imagines the kids don’t often call her by her full name too often. But she’s on the Council and has done interviews so it’s not often someone gets her name so wrong, either. It’s almost amusing, in a way. Of all the last names she’s had over the years, none of them have ever been Barnes. “Childs,” she corrects in a diplomatic, if amused voice. “It’s Childs. But you can call me Gillian.” The few times they had met, he had seemed to be doing his best to help.

And she’d seen what he was doing with the Market, too. As he had offered at the Council meeting. “They’re going well enough,” she responds with a shrug. “I’m interested in seeing how the return of the NYPD will change things. Not that I believe the MPs, or SESA are doing a bad job, but we shouldn’t be a military state, and SESA has very specific grounds they function under.” Like how the FBI investigate certain crimes, but the police enforce active protection. “But there’s always more to do.” Always.

“Speaking of the power outages, I had been meaning to stop by and ask if you could give me a bid on how much it would take to put solar panels on this building. I’ve done some research, but I wanted an opinion before I made a decision.”

To Caspian’s credit, his social faux pas isn’t ignored like he might have in his younger years. An actual blush appears, the man chuckling and shaking his head, finishing the handshake and taking a step back. “Childs.” he corrects himself, before using the more personal title of her first name. “Gillian, then, when we’re not in the council chambers. I really want to offer my most sincere and deepest apologies. Here I go, trying to be polite and end up punting the conversation. I’m just used to Lance, Brynn, and the other Light House Kids referring to you as ‘Aunt Gilly’ that I kind of went the other way entirely.”

The return of the NYPD had been the subject of multiple conversations since the announcement on the radio show, and most felt that it would be a good thing. “It can only be for the better, just as long as people don’t expect them to come and take a side in every small argument.” Having an authority to appeal to is seductive and the lack of regular police presence has forced the populace of the safe zone to become more self reliant. “Personally, I’d love for there to be an officer on every block that’s responsible for that location and its protection, but there may not be the manpower available for that. I can’t imagine SESA and the MP’s wouldn’t be on board with handing over power to a newly-formed police force. Less on their plates means more time for investigations and other things that might have been left by the wayside.”

As he speaks, Caspian moves back over to the table to his maps and candy plots and rummages around, taking one of his pads of paper and flipping it over to a blank sheet to start scribbling. “Sure, I can give you a bid for that. I’d need a little information to get started; mainly how much power you use regularly, the size of your roof and the amount of sun you get, your hours, your budget…” He trails off, tapping his chin with his index finger. “Although, if you were interested, I could try something a little different as a proof of concept. I’m working on a way to help mitigate the rolling blackouts.” he grins. “Blame Lance for being inspiring.”

“It’s fine,” Gillian responds with a shake of her head, almost as if she’s trying to dismiss the need for the apology more than the apology itself. That isn’t what she came over to discuss, after all, and better to let the conversation go to whee it had been intended. “It will take time to get everything together, as seems to be the case with everything within the Safe Zone, unfortunately.” Time. And money. And manpower. All three things they need to get together in order to do much of anything.

“I can certainly get you the specs, as well as the budget.” The library itself did not have the budget for this, but that would be come out of something else entirely. She intended to buy it for them, write it off as a charitable contribution and work off of that. It would save the Library money in the end, if things went as her research had expected. “What’s your concept?” The mention of Lance makes her smile and nod, but she sticks to the topic at hand.

Time and manpower they have. Skilled manpower and money, they don't. It's the way of the world now, with too little stuff and too much need. Something that Caspian is hoping to alleviate just a little. He wasn't expecting to make the pitch now, but here he goes. “It's based on the old tank systems for storing fresh water from before there was water treatment and plumbing. Basically I want to create a portable storage system that can run a couple of buildings through the brownout, built inside a steel shipping container.”

Over to the maps he goes. “Okay, the library is….here.” He taps the map. “My thought is to splice a giant storage system into the solar and electrical mains to fill up while it's sunny and the power’s on. I've got a prototype junction box built out of a small computer that's like thirty bucks. All it does is monitor the flow of current and, when it detects loss of power, switch over to the battery, switching back when the power is on.. When it's dark or in the event of a rolling blackout, the system feeds into the buildings we've wired in, bypassing the grid entirely.”

He's babbling. There's a lot of information being passed quickly, and the way he's talking indicates that he's pretty jazzed about the idea. “The best part about it all? Once power is stable in the area and it's not needed anymore, we can throw the main unit on a flatbed truck and move it to another location, leaving smaller battery banks to replace it. With the people I've got working for me on the Red Hook install, I should be able to pull it off the install and wiring fairly quickly.” He glances up. “I’m thinking of calling them Cisterns.”

“Oh, and speaking of workers, I'd like to see about getting the people I'm working with trained and licensed so they can do more work legally and on the books. Good tradesmen and women are always needed, and they've got a good start. Planning on holding classes once I have a little time.” Caspian chuckles. “Maybe even start up a new chapter of the International Fellowship of Electrical Workers.”

He steps back a little and gives a sheepish smile. “Sorry for the massive info dump. Your turn to speak now.”

“It is an interesting idea,” Gillian responds with a raised eyebrow, but as if she’s unsure about how that would actually work. It’s a lot more technical talk than she had seen in her quick research on solar panels in cities. “I was just thinking we could supplement our electricity usage during the day to lower the strain on the grid. The usual rolling blackouts here happen in the middle of the night, so those don’t affect us at all, assuming they go back to the old schedule once this gets resolved.”

They don’t have freezers that need power, and no one is even there at the hour that Williamsburg normally has their outage. “I’d read about how solar powered buildings would often feed electricity back into the grid if they had a surplus, but I don’t think we will, on most days,” Cause she knew they used a lot here, between people bringing their laptops to have internet, to the computers they actually have running.

And she’s often here working, rather than the other library or an office. Probably because the usual outage was during the evening. “Though having the power out every other day has certainly been a strain on our budget.” The gas prices alone to run the generator has been difficult. “I’m sure you’ll have to go through Yamagato for something this big— are they your source for supplies?” She can’t imagine it’s easy for him to get supplies, with the price of shipping things and the single available airport.

Ambitious, he knows, but just getting it out there is helping him a little with the planning stages. It may be something he does just for the Red Hook Market, once it's set up, just t need if it works. That, however, is neither here nor there. “That's the initial idea for the solar panels, but there has to be some kind of storage to manage fluctuations and a cut off between the grid andthe library.” Caspian says. “In case of problems with the power, it ensures that the lines are powered down while the linemen work. And we will have to get a meter so the amount of power you sell tow j Minutes Yamagato can be kept track of. If all goes well, you'll have a monthly credit for the extra power you provide the grid.”

One of the candies is plucked up and unwrapped l, tucked into his cheek where he can talk and get a little sugar at the same time. “Solar and battery will be able to supply you on the days the brownouts are happening, and in days they're not, you make extra power once your batteries are topped up. Fairly sure we’ll cut your generator fuel consumption to zero within the first two weeks. It's a win-win for the place.”

Gillian’s questions about suppliers, though, do give him a moment of pause. “I'm working on that.” At least he's honest. “I do have a few sources that can bring shipments in from Jersey now, but it's expensive. I'm working on getting meetings with Yamagato, Praxis Heavy, and Raytech regarding planning and potential sponsorship, but getting on calendars is…rough. This is all in the initial planning stages, of course.” He looks to the maps. “I'm just trying to wrap my head around what's necessary and go from there.”

While she had done research and Gillian feels she at least isn’t left staring blankly at him, his understanding is certainly much better than her own. But what she can offer comes near the end. “Well, I happen to know the CEO of Raytech personally. I might be able to help you get on the schedule a little more quickly.” She might be able to come up with something for Yamagato, but that’s not a favor she wants to call in anytime soon. As for Praxis— well…

“Raytech is probably the better choice. Their headquarters up in Jackson Heights is supposed to be entirely ran on solar power, and they are focused on rebuilding an area that does not even have a power grid currently to worry about.” Jackson Heights, that area would be. It’s a lot of roofs and possibly less red tape to go through. “And I believe they have standing agreements with Yamagato, too.” So perhaps he could get two birds with one stone cast, as the saying goes.

It gave them something to do before they work on getting the library mostly independant, at least. “Now I’m tempted to have you fix up my own house,” she half jokes. And only half, ‘cause she is very tempted.

Gillian’s research puts her head and shoulders above most of the people he’s talked to this about. Most just see electricity, but the setup that happens behind the scenes is substantial. The cool thing about the product and service that Caspian is providing is that it basically sells itself. He just shows up and shows people what it can do and they put the value to it. It helps a lot that Red Hook is starting to show promise, so people can see that, and Gillian, being one of the people intimately involved with such things, probably can see the benefits better than most.

He looks over at her with a grin and straightens. “It’s kind of the way of the world - you go with whoever you can get help with and, sadly, right now, help is limited to those three major corporations. As far as the world goes now, most everyone else is trying to take care of them and theirs while a few, like us, are trying to take care of others. That said, you get me in contact with Richard Ray and a chance to land on his calendar so I can show him what I’m working on, I’ll set up your place for a song.”

The sound of his pencil on paper is a little loud as he takes notes, looking here and there around the library. Several computers, several people charging phones or laptops, and people just sitting and enjoying the warmth of the library. “The only real questions I have is about the heat - is it electric, oil, or gas? If it’s electric, you’ll need more storage and a setup on your thermostat to lower the temperature to something less when the building is unoccupied. And if you have a place like a closet on an outside wall - preferably on a high floor - that I can set up as a battery bank.” his pencil pauses for a second. “Thank you for all these opportunities, Gillian. You don’t know how much I appreciate it.”

It is true. There’s a lot less options for things than there used to be, though Gillian had been one of those who believed they had not been very many businesses to choose from back in the past, either. So many were owned by the same person, after all. “If all else fails, I think he would be a good person to work with. He has his own agendas, as do all companies, but part of his agenda is legitimately helping those within the Safe Zone.” She’s not sure what Praxis or Yamagato might have— she suspects a lot of what they want is the money.

But she would try to get him a meeting. It was the least she could do, with what she understands he’s done for those she considers as close to family as one can get.

“The Library has gas. Williamsburg is one of the more fully restored districts, and this section as well,” she responds, looking around it. She had earmarked this building as a library early in the reconstruction, too, allowing it to be set up how she wanted, with the proper hookup. She’d wanted gas for the heat. She’d wanted air conditioning. She’d wanted ethernet wired throughout the building. “I believe there’s a space near the back wall that you could use for that. We also have a basement, which has some access to the outer wall,” she makes a gesture toward his maps, “When you’re done with this I could give you a tour.” And not the kind of tour most people get, either.

“I’m pretty much done with this stuff already, Gillian, so a tour would be actually very interesting.” Caspian starts to put away things in his backpack, folding the overlay up, the map being slid back into the large cabinet it was pulled from, the candy left on the table for whoever might want some. “I don’t know much about the man that this library was named after, other than they meant a great deal to the Lighthouse Kids and the very basics of his passing. Something other than the cliffs notes would be nice.”

Buckling the pack up, he shoulders it and gestures. “The basement won’t work for power. I mean it would until the first food rain. You would need something above grade, in case of flooding. A second floor closet would be ideal, or a spot on the roof where I could put a small shed and a gas generator. High voltage and water could be lethal to anyone unlucky enough to dip a toe in or in the vicinity.”

The basement shouldn’t flood, but who knew with the way some things went, so Gillian doesn’t say that. She had made sure to keep most things in plastic containers and on shelves down there rather than the floor, so it made sense the same precautions would need to be made there. The other room it is.

“He worked with the Ferry, Eric Doyle. Helped the children a lot. Some of them called him Santa Claus. And he played the role well.” That could be taken so many ways, and Gillian doesn’t specify which one it had been. “He was killed at the Arcology, at the beginning of what would become the War, rescuing captured children from the Institute. He and others died there.” And that was why they had a plaque for them, even if not all of them had reading rooms and learning centers and listening rooms named after them like some. They still had a plaque. And a name, the ones they could get.

Some of those they had been trying to rescue had died as well, unidentified. Gunned down by drones, most. And who knew how many had not even made it that far?

She would never say Doyle had been flawless. Most no one could be called that. But he had died to save children. And who wouldn’t want to honor that?

Caspian listens quietly as the tale of Doyle and the reason the children’s library is named after him is shared, nodding after a time. “I had heard of the Ferry. Mostly while I was heading east after the war started, but more here when I started poking around. General things that they did and all. Before and during the war.” So much came out during the trials that it was hard to not know of the Ferry if you were even a little bit involved and, as an Evolved person, Caspian did keep his hand in, as much as anyone could. Grainy television footage broadcast to the center of the nation of the trials was what inspired him to come to New York. Someone had to help, and help was what he could provide.

“Fitting to name the place after him, then, isn’t it? Santa rescuing children? That’s poetic.” He gestures to Gillan. “It’ll be a good thing to give this place full power twenty-four seven, then. A warm place for children to come read and enjoy the world inside a book rather than outside in the Safe Zone. And if there’s anything I can do besides, let me know. I have a few sources for things, here and there, that might be useful for this place. You’d be amazed at how much bartering goes on in my business. It’s large things, like this, that keep me afloat.”

His pencil and one of the pads is pulled out. “Why don’t you show me that upstairs room and I can get to planning. With Winter coming, I’d like to have something set up outside for collection by the end of October, if possible.” Ambitious schedule, but necessary to get going before the winter settles in.

“Things were difficult here. Though I imagine they were difficult everywhere.” Just in different ways. Like all the movies of old, though, New York City seemed to be hit the hardest. They had been the center of the Midtown explosions, after all. They had had the Blizzard. They had had to deal more heavily with the Institute and Vanguard. But the entire country had issues, Gillian knew. Even before the war. And especially during. The western half actually ended up worse than even they did, with the nuclear attack launched against them.

“It was the least I could do, to remember those who had died that day. I wish I could have done more.” They had other memorials around town, of course. Some for individuals, one for the Ferry as a whole. This was just one of many. And she did not doubt there would be more to come.

With a gesture, she starts toward the stairs, because while the building has an elevator for handicap purposes, it needs to be used with a key and she sees no point except for using it that way. Or to move the book return cart, who likes stairs even less than people. But they can handle a single flight just fine. “It would be wonderful if we can get ahead of winter, certainly,” she says as she continues the tour.

It would be nice to get it setup indeed.

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