1 Alexander Sterling

In New York City, 2024, Alex was doing his best impression of a pinball. He ricocheted between pedestrians on the crowded sidewalk, his backpack thumping against his back like a rogue drum. Medical textbooks? Check. Government inspector's toolkit for checking out wonky sidewalks and bridges? Double check. Social life? Well, let's not go there.

"Hey, watch the paint job!" a street artist yelled as Alex almost crashed into his spray-painted masterpiece of the Brooklyn Bridge.

"Sorry, Michelangelo!" Alex shot back, grinning. Dodging people was like a superpower he never knew he wanted. Especially since he spent his nights examining every crack and cranny in the city's glorious, sometimes crumbling, infrastructure for the Infrastructure Quality Assessment Department (IQAD). Not exactly a job that screamed 'thrill-seeker', but hey, it paid the bills (and tuition).

His phone buzzed. A text from his boss at IQAD popped up: "Emergency on 5th. Sinkhole or alien invasion? You tell me." Alex rolled his eyes. Trust his boss to add a bit of alien flavor to a regular sinkhole inspection.

As he darted across the street, a car engine roared to life nearby. Alex turned, only to find himself in the world's most unwanted game of chicken with a car that clearly missed the memo on speed limits.

"FUCK-" Alex protested, but the car wasn't in a listening mood. There was a screech, a shout, and then the world turned into a spinning top of lights, colors, and the distant sound of someone screaming, "Did that kid just get hit by a car?"

Then, nothing but darkness.

That is, until the darkness was rudely interrupted by the most unexpected sensation of all – a slap, followed by a sharp, piercing cry. My own cry, to be exact.

One minute I'm dodging traffic in New York, the next I'm getting a five-finger welcome. And let me tell you, being born is no walk in the park. It's more like being squeezed through a tube of toothpaste, if the toothpaste was you and the tube was... well, let's not go into details.

So there I was, a newborn with the mind of a 21-year-old guy. My first view in this life? A stern-looking doctor with a mustache that could've been its own character in a silent film. He looked at me like I was the first baby he'd ever delivered. Spoiler alert: I wasn't.

My parents, Joseph and Natalia Sterling, were classic-looking early 20th-century figures. Mom had this look of exhausted triumph, like she'd just run a marathon and won. Dad, on the other hand, was a bundle of nerves in a neat bow tie, looking like he was about to ask the doctor for a manual on 'How to Parent.'

As I lay there, trying to adjust to my new, tiny body, I couldn't help but wonder: How did this happen? Reincarnation isn't exactly covered in medical textbooks. And why do I remember my past life? Is it a gift? A curse? A cosmic joke? Jury's still out on that one.

The nurse, a kind woman with a smile that could light up a room, cooed at me. "What a strong little fellow!"

Strong? Lady, you have no idea. I've got a whole lifetime of experiences squished into a brain the size of a peach. How's that for strong?

But here's the kicker – I wasn't just reborn into any old year. No, I had to land smack in the middle of 1914. World War I, the Great War, the 'War to End All Wars' (spoiler alert: it didn't). If I thought navigating New York traffic was tough, history was about to give me a run for my money. 

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