Radio Silence

7

“What the fuck?” Gabriel slurred out.

“Yeah, I know,” responded Jacob.


It had been one of the most trying times working for the Authority Central Intelligence. Everyone knew it. That’s not to say that Upper Management didn’t try to cull opinions from worry. No. It meant that the consensus was in: Everything had gone to shit.

Four weeks ago, the hallways stood barren, as it always had. Easy to navigate. Today, Gabriel could barely walk 12 steps without crashing into someone full force.

Four weeks ago, of everything, Gabriel remembered the break-room the most fondly. Today, it sat unmistakably disturbed. Its lavender fragrance bartered for unkempt musk.

Four weeks ago, Gabriel lounged about in his chair, as he always had. His desk untouched by crisis. Today, the walls, if not constricting, if not suffocating, if not lashing out, were caving in. Never had he seen the office so alive, so disturbed. Whereas before, everything in the Authority seemed under control. Its sanctity as the gatekeeper appeared challenged outright.


“… to be honest, I didn’t know what to do,” exclaimed Jacob.

“No,” remarked Gabriel. “You were right to call me over.”

It was as if he couldn’t process it. Hell, Gabriel must have sat there motionless for a good 5-7 minutes. On Jacob’s desk sat a standard-issued, Authority communicator. A brittle relic from the Nixon Era that worked as well as you’d expect. However, for what it lacked in appearance, it made up for in results.

It was a somber vibration made near inaudible by the feedback. The cadence of the distant caller distorted, fragmented indefinitely. Vocalization pulsed with each wavelength, petering in every spasm. Its bellow choppy and erratic—sustaining itself between the whirs and alien pauses of the machine.

“What should we do?” asked Jacob.

“Well, ‘smart thing is to strengthen the signal,” Gabriel began. “See who’s on the other end.”

Gabriel began fiddling with the dials, frequencies shifting. Through trial and error, gradually, he began to make progress. With the flare of the console’s buzz acting as his guiding light, its stifle began to solidify.

Vocals now tangible, its beckon now swelling. The cadence of the distant caller, once a stranger, now approaching fast. Ulcers of the beat visible, impossibly heavy.

Pulse writhed, picking up tempo. No longer a sparse muffle, but a deep roar. All previous tension gave way. Its timbre clear and refined, rising to a beautiful crescendo.

Clarity no longer obscured, the sound quality now crisp, refined. Faster. Louder. Incomplete.

Then, nothing—headphones lifeless. As if the entire world ceased to be, the swell of the audio fell on deaf ears.

“Boom!”

Without warning, a rolling clasp erupted over the headphones, ringing throughout the hollow space. As if a thousand digitized voices cried out at once, an inescapable screech blared over the monitor. The soar of electromagnetism binding itself together, becoming more malformed every second.

Incapable of speech, the voice began to lash out, growing heavier with each pull. Palpable. Its envelope unearthly, fully formed. Unable to process the frequency, the audio started to crack. The screech of the console was unbearable. Whirs of the machine grew to a seizure of tonal shifts. Pounding.

In a panic, Gabriel jabbed at the dials, almost snapping half of them off.

“Goddammit, nothing.”

Convulses of the machine grew vicious, gauges erratic. Gabriel grabbed the plug, sheathing for the cord to uncoil. To his surprise, it was firm: grounded even. As if held down by a thousand nails, the grip of the socket tightened to inhuman levels. Shifting his body weight, he pried at the outlet to no avail. Instinctively, he jammed his foot down on the outer rim, pulling the plug far enough to wedge in a metal ruler. Tightening his grip, he gave the cord one more pull. Finally, yanking the cable out.

“Bah!” gasped Gabriel. “God…”

“’Fuck was that?” repulsed Jacob.

“We, uh,” Gabriel pondered, “we got the wrong sign-”

“Gabe no. You unplugged our-”

The dials flipped back on. Miraculously, the shortwave’s hum started up again, a new breath of life given to the console. The plug in one hand, headphone jack in the other, Gabriel stood in awestruck.

“Beep.”

“What the?…”

“Beep! Be-be-beep. Beep!”

“Morse?” said Jacob. “It’s Morse code.”

“Huh. Fluent, even,” stuttered Gabriel, reaching into his breast pocket. Caution reserved.

“What uh-what’re you doing?”

“Well, if it isn't obvious.” Gabriel began, tearing a scrap of paper from his notebook, “this still is the first sign of, uh, anything from Site-43 in a month, right? ‘Best course of action is to write it down.”

“Oh,” sprang Jacob.

“And, uh, could you get Barb for me? She should be in HR?” Gabriel urged.

“Ye-yeah,” answered Jacob, taking off down the hallway.

“Oh yeah, sprint while you’re at it!” Gabriel yelled. “Tell her it’s urgent!”

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