SWIMMING AGAINST THE CURRENTS

Period / Historical

Joe Kisch



Synopsis 
1931: Thomas Alva Edison, 84, lies dying in his bed. Scared at a vision of darkness in a corner, his life rewinds: as a child of 5 he sets fire to a barn. At age 7 he lets Henry Lockwood, a friend, drown in front of him when he could have saved him. Edison is odd, a misfit at school and has some obvious psychological abnormality. 

1861: Across the other side of the world in Croatia, Nikola Tesla, 5, accidentally contributes to his older brother, Daniís, death, an event that haunts him for life. Several near death experiences lead Teslaís father to promise to allow Nikola to follow his dream of becoming a revolutionary electrical engineer.

At the same time in America, Edison, 20, is rewarded a job as a telegrapher after saving the only boy of a telegraph owner from being run over by a locomotive. Edison throws himself into learning Morse code, building up a reputation as the fastest telegrapher on the eastern seaboard.

His reputation bolstered, Edison invents duplex and quadruplex telegraphy. JP Morgan notices and offers him financial backing, setting him off on the road to wealth and fame. Ensuring his reputation as a prolific inventor is maintained, he bribes an official in the U. S. Patents Office and subsequently gets advance notice of inventions that are about to be examined. Edison copies ones he likes, improves them, claims pre-eminence for the invention, then gets the patents. 

1880: Tesla joins Edisonís company after having worked for the Continental Edison Company in Paris. Upon disembarking from the ship, Edison gives Tesla a task to fix dynamos on board the S. S. Oregon berthed in the harbour. Tesla completes the task by a 4 a.m. the next morning. Impressed, Edison tasks Tesla with a major project and a promise of $50,000 at its completion if he concludes it within 12 months. Ever the workaholic, Tesla completes the task within time. 

But Edison reneges on the promise prompting Tesla to quit. Eighteen months later, at his nadir digging ditches, he bumps into Edison on the street. But Edison doesnít recognize him and brushes him aside like he was a homeless bum as he signs an autograph for a young girl. Shamed, it is just the fillip Tesla needs. 

Using his eidetic memory he wins money from a card game, further bolstering his self-esteem and determination. Coincidentally, a prior investor puts him in contact with George Westinghouse, who has recently been converted to the benefits of alternating current. Convinced of Tesla's advances and electrical engineering abilities, he gives Tesla seed money to establish a lab. 

Six months later, Edison hears of Teslaís inroads into AC technology and begins a campaign of denigrating Teslaís invention. Stealing a copy of, and then duplicating, Teslaís invention, Edison holds public demonstrations where he executes stray dogs and cats using the stolen patent. 

After an unsuccessful bout of public lectures, opinion turns back to Tesla after Edison botches electrocuting a man convicted to death by a New Jersey court.

1893: Buoyed by the turn in public opinion, Tesla again starts public demonstrations, successfully bringing him into sufficient prominence to win a contract to supply power and light for an upcoming Columbian World Fair in Chicago. 1894: he wins the Niagara Falls Commission tender. While celebrating his success, Tesla's lab is burned to the ground. Smelling a rat Tesla confronts Edison, whose innocence he doubts. The showdown is done publicly and Edison is shamed after admitting his culpability in the fire. 

Flash forward to 1931. Tesla stands overlooking Niagara Falls, clutching a newspaper declaring Edisonís death.

Copyright 2007 Joe Kisch
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