The basement was filled with even more electronic junk than usual. Alex Mitchell, fourteen-year-old technical genius, had been taking equipment apart again. He was particularly skilled at taking computers apart and putting them back together. He’d even built a few computers himself. Alex’s best friend and neighbor Stephanie sat across from him at the scratched and battered old dining table. This was where they did all their work together in Alex’s basement. It was the beginning of summer vacation and they had plenty to do. Alex’s mom, Angela, was always bringing him home obsolete technical equipment that was going to be trashed at her office. Alex had always had an interest in electronics. His dad joked that when Alex had been in his crib if the baby monitor had been too close he’d no doubt have taken that apart too.
Alex started working with old radios, TVs, DVD players, and small appliances such as toasters before moving on to more sophisticated equipment such as computers, laptops, gaming systems, and phones. Both he and Stephanie were also very skilled with tablets, cell phones, and iPods. Alex had mostly worked alone while growing up. Yet when Stephanie’s family moved into the neighbourhood a few years earlier, she and Alex soon realized they had a lot of the same interests. They were both proud to be geeks and nerds, something that made them stand out from the other kids at school. Alex and Stephanie were probably the only students who looked forward to a summer filled not with camps and outdoor activities but with rifling through electronic components in a gloomy basement. They’d even tried developing their own apps and gaming software.
As he focused on the motherboard of the computer they’d been taking apart, Alex could sense Stephanie watching him.
“What?” he said, looking directly at her.
Stephanie’s fiery red hair was even more unruly than usual. Her freckles were also always more noticeable in the summer months.
“You’re such a geek,” she said.
“Me? What about you?”
“Sure, I’m a geek too, but you’re a big geek. After all, you’re the one with the favourite pink screwdriver.”
“It’s not pink,” Alex shot back, indignant. “It’s red, and it’s only the handle anyway.”
“Looks pink to me,” said Stephanie, smirking.
“The color’s faded. It’s not that new, you know that.”
She scowled at him but then followed up with a smile.
It was hardly surprising that both of them were so interested in technology. Alex’s dad worked as a developer for Castlewood Dynamics, one of the biggest companies in Silicon Valley. His mom worked in the technical field for the federal government. Stephanie’s parents were also both employed by high-tech companies in the area.
“Come on, you two,” Alex’s dad, Andrew, called from the top of the basement stairs. “We’re going to be late.”
“I almost forgot about the presentation,” said Stephanie.
“Okay, coming,” Alex shouted back to his dad.
He and Stephanie were attending a presentation conducted by one of Silicon Valley’s leading young software developers. Andrew had managed to get them tickets, despite Alex and Stephanie only being fourteen years old. They put down their tools and stepped away from the table.