by Charlie Ball

Alexander got out of the shower, only absently remembering to shut off the water. Fifteen minutes ago, he had surprised his sparring partner, Lieutenant Johnson. For that matter, he had surprised just about everyone, including himself.

The directors had decided it would be a good idea to put the Ministry's newest recruit through his paces and set up the sparring match. Everything went pretty much as expected, that is to say Alex was getting a good thumping. Several of the regulars in the gym had stopped their own exercises and had come over to watch. Corporal Fortner had even left his "portable" stereo in the corner, a rare occurrence considering that he never went anywhere without it -- even to the lavatory if rumors were to be believed. It was playing something in the hard-rock vein, heavy on the guitars... slightly out of tune but not unpleasant. Kind of catchy, actually. The lyrics were difficult to make out, not because he couldn't hear them but because Lieutenant Johnson was coming at him with a series of jabs to his mid-section.

"Better pay attention, lad," Johnson chided. "If I were serious about this, you'd be counting the lights on the ceiling..."

Alex suddenly felt... good. No. He felt great! Almost as if some previously unknown energy reserve had kicked in. The lieutenant's next barrage missed to the last punch. Alex tried a few experimental jabs of his own and was surprised when a few of them connected.

"Oh ho! It would seem someone has been practicing after all!", Johnson said dancing away just beyond reach of the last punch. With that, it seemed that Lieutenant Johnson stopped holding back, really laying into Alexander. But as fast and as often as the blows came in, Alex held his ground, blocking the blows he could and taking the ones he couldn't. The ones that landed didn't seem to have the same sting that they had earlier. Alex began to counter attack, landing many more punches than he had previously.

He barely had time to notice the hairs standing on the back of his neck when he landed the last blow of the match. It was accompanied by a flash of light followed immediately by a loud boom. The next thing Alex knew Lieutenant Johnson lay unconscious across the ring with a medic leaning over him.

"He'll be okay, sir, but he's gonna have one helluva headache", the medic was saying to one of the observers. "We'll want to get something on this electrical burn though. The lieutenant heals awfully quickly but it's better to be safe..."

Another of the observers, Captain Andrews, came over to where Alex stood.

"That was a rather nasty thing to do, wasn't it, son? You should have alerted us to this new ability when it developed."

"But... I didn't... I mean, I didn't know I could do that, sir. I'm not even sure what happened. I mean, one moment I'm getting a royal drubbing, the next I feel like I've just gotten a solid eight hours sleep and a good breakfast --"

Just then, Corporal Fortner blurted out a steady stream of expletives as he looked over his charred and slightly melted boom-box.

Captain Andrews cradled his chin with his thumb and forefinger, taking a moment to pause.  His brow furrowed as he considered the events that just transpired.  Finally, he said, "What happened, Mr. St. John-Smythe, is that your last punch seems to have carried an intense electrical charge. When you struck Lieutenant Johnson, it was as if he was struck by lightning." Pointing to the corporal, he added, "Evidently a portion of that charge was enough to leave our dear Corporal Fortner without his music for a bit. I'd hit the showers if I were you, before he makes the connection..."

Alex finished drying off and got dressed. As he was pulling on his shirt it occurred to him that he was humming the song he had heard in the gym. He now recognized it as a song by the heavy metal group AC/DC -- the tune was called "Thunderstruck".

What an odd coincidence, he thought to himself.

Alex dropped his towel on the bench and pulled on his coat as he exited the locker room. He didn't notice the brief flurry of sparks that played across the towel as it slid to the floor...

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