LEVI McPHERSON, a graduate student of analytical chemistry at the University of North Central Florida, is approached by agents of the Homeland Security’s Counter-terrorism Unit. The agency is recruiting Lee to study and expose the loopholes of screening instruments in airports. Struggling financially, he accepted the offer, making him a paid, benevolent hacker of the nation’s gateway. Yet Levi is horrified when an Airbus from Los Angeles disintegrated in mid-air.

At 40, when everybody’s career trajectory is going up, Levi’s still a poor graduate student, struggling financially. His research projects however, are worth million dollars. Researching the highly classified and heavily guarded secrets of detecting traces of explosives, what Lee know was a goldmine. The agency's offer is his financial break . So Levi tackles the problem like a scientist, detailing the loopholes of the aviation security and turning what he knew into a big time money machine.

JIM and JONATHAN of the counter-terrorism unit, where nowhere to be found after Charlotte International Airport, a hub of Delta Airlines closed abruptly because of instrument malfunctions in their security lines. And in a post-Osama Bin Laden’s era, the biggest blow to the United Stated after the 9/11 disaster comes unexpectedly when a passenger plane blew up in the skies of Washington D.C., in the heart of the nation.

Levi knew it was only the start of more troubles, so he recruits his fellow graduate students to counter the future attacks. They have to think like criminals—and scientists too. With the help of FBI counter-terrorism experts, Homeland Security and Transportation Security Agency, the team races to close and plug the loopholes Lee identified.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

DAY 14: Act One: The First Cluster of Scences.

By the end of act 1, you should answer

1. What's the "significant event" of the novel

2. What's the character's motivation? What is at stake for her?

3. Have you included enough background for him?

I already answered those questions in my draft, so I'll go straight to the assignment.


1. Come up with the 20 first lines of your novel. (There should be tension involved)

1. Lee showed no emotions after the professor told him that traces of LLM 106 were found in the wreckage of the airplane.
2. The smell of money was crisp, wafting in the air after Lee opened the duffel bag.
3. Lee closed the doors behind him, confused, trying to forget the pictures he saw on the television, images of a passenger plane, possibly Boeing 747, images of burned passengers, knowing that he has a part of the blood-boiling terrorist attack. 
4. Lee called his brother and told him "they got us, again", tears welling in his eyes. 
5. Lee slammed the phone, frustrated, after letting it ring for the 10th time.


Back in his lab, Lee made a little bit of work in front of the computer. He had smelled the oil from the lab before, but this time, he’s more aware of it. Like a car, the instrument he was working on periodically needed an oil change. By today’s standard, the machine looked like a primitive device. But what it was capable of detection will definitely change airport security. For now, it can only be operated by experts, but sooner or later, a trained operator can man the instrument behind the hustle and bustle of an airport security screening line.
Lee stared at his computer monitor. The proposal from the guy Lee assumed to be working with the counter terrorism task force was not easy to pass. But still, he has four choices.
The first choice was to do nothing at all. Second, was to call later on the number in a business card that was handed to him during the meeting. Third, was to call his adviser, and the fourth options was to call 911. He ruled out option number 1—part of the money was already in his position. It was past the point of no-return, past the red light or stop sign. Option number three and four will take him somewhere. But then again, the money is too grand to pass.
He opted for the second and conducted himself like someone who just found out that he was holding the winning lottery ticket. He wanted to shout. “So, this is how someone feels after winning a lottery” he whispered to himself. The combined smell of used oil and crisp money wafted through his nose as he fanned through the stack of bills, totaling ten thousand dollars, two inches of Benjamins bundled together neatly by blue rubber band. He can’t contained his heart racing.

Lee’s decision was about money—and more. Jonathan definitely complemented him and got his attention, an attention he didn’t get from his peers. Lee’s age is just north of 30. And he was angry to himself for being still in the stupid graduate school program. With his caliber, he could be a head of a company by now. But he sabotaged his life in every possible way. His contemporaries were working already big time. Former classmates in high school have stellar career trajectories. While his contemporaries were setting aside money for the money market and 401K, Lee’s mom still sends extra money in order for him to survive. Without mom, he’s only a phone call away from eviction. By many, he is a failure: He’s probably better to be shot in the back than living in a dingy apartment.
There’s no money in science, but the science he knew is worth a million dollars. With a less stellar career trajectory, and no reputation to loose, taking the money was the best option. No more bidding from eBay for the pistols he wanted. No more credit card debts. No more elementary students asking what’s inside the cabinet during a field trip to his lab. Weekends will be spent in firing range. Lee opened the crumpled pistol magazine sitting at the bottom of a pile of papers and books.
It was almost 2 AM when he left the lab. During his night shifts, when he decides to work at night alone at the lab, he drives his dented 1994 Honda Accord. Inside the old car, he cracked his knuckle and drummed his huge fingers on the small and worn steering wheel, and then wildly imagined what his new life would be.
However, he was specifically instructed to not flaunt his wealth. He’ll still drive his shit-box for now, but definitely, no more debts in his cards. For sure, weekends will be spent in firing range—to stay away from labeling tubes and pipetting liquids, in his shitty, windowless laboratory. Scientists deserve monetary rewards too, not only Nobel prize winners.

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