After the Apocalypse
Chapter 38: Through The Static
by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue
The reoriented antenna had done little to raise interest in Winter Camp's efforts to establish a radio link with any other survivors. Mark Bollman was the only one in the building when he heard faint Morse code coming through the receiver.
"Hey! I've got something!" he yelled. He was initially grateful that no one responded immediately, for he had to listen very carefully to make out the signal, and crowd noise would have interfered. After a second or two of craning his ears to the set, he plugged in the nearby set of headphones and closed his eyes in an effort to improve his hearing.
He soon recognized the Morse letters-fortunately the sender wasn't a skilled operator. The words came in at only about 5 per minute, and he was easily able to keep up.
"CQ CQ CQ DE VE4XNK VE4XNK VE4XNK". As the message came through, Mark found himself at a loss to identify the call sign.
"VE4? Where's that?" he thought. While his mind raced through the limited list of country codes in his memory, he keyed a response.
"VE4XNK VE4XNK DE KC8DPX KC8DPX AR". As he waited, Jerry wandered in.
"Jerry! I've got someone on the line! Do me a favor and hand me that book, will you?" he said, pointing to a North American radio directory sitting nearby.
"Where are they from?"
"Don't know yet. Not America, that's for sure. I don't recognize the call sign-that's why I need the book."
Jerry handed the book over. "Look in there and see what country has a VE prefix. That should be in the front of the book somewhere. I've got to try and catch these people." He turned back to the radio and repeated his response.
"VE? That's, uh, Canada," said Jerry.
"Canada? I should have known that. Okay, turn to the VE4 section of the book-that'll be toward the back-and read me off some addresses. Cities'll do."
As Jerry thumbed to the back of the thick book, Mark detected a return message. "KC8DPX DE VE4XNK R". "They heard me!" He resumed keying as Jerry found the right section of the book.
"Let's see here, looks like... Manitoba? Yeah. Winnipeg, Brandon, Winnipeg-lots of Winnipeg's here. All in Manitoba."
"Okay, Manitoba. So be it. Let me ask them where they are exactly."
As the response came through the radio-slightly stronger now-Mark was surprised by the answer.
"That's odd, they say they're in... Iqaluit? That's not in Manitoba; that's in Nunavut. Quite a ways north and east of Manitoba."
"Which probably makes sense," said Jerry. "That'd be further out of range of the missiles."
Mark nodded and continued sending code.
Ten minutes later, he signed off the conversation with an agreement to call the Canadians back in 24 hours and shut down the radio to conserve power. He looked at his notes from the contact, which filled four full sheets of paper, leaned back in his chair, and exhaled deeply.
"Wow. This is amazing. There's actually someone else out there."
"So what have you got?" asked Roger, who had drifted in toward the end.
"We made contact with an Abigail Frenechet, who's in Iqaluit, Nunavut, in Canada. Jerry, look up VE4XNK in the book; see if she's listed." Jerry began paging again as Mark continued. "Sounds like their situation is a lot like ours; there's about a dozen people holed up outside of the actual city. They haven't seen any other survivors to speak of, but they're getting along okay. They're running their radio off a water wheel hooked to a generator."
"No one under that name, Mark," said Jerry. Must be a new license, right?"
Winter Camp had traditionally maintained an extensive library including many standard reference works. Roger had hunted up a world atlas from the bookshelves and was looking for the mysterious Canadian city. "Iqaluit, Iqaluit... here it is! Baffin Island, southeast corner. Just a bit below the Arctic Circle-they might have a little bit of daylight."
"How far north? Latitude, I mean," asked Mark.
"Looks like about 63-64°, I guess."
"Hence no point in relying on solar power. I'd hoped they were getting some sunlight-would've been good news to know that-but up there I guess the water wheel would be a more reliable power supply."
"So now what?" asked K2.
"Not much, really. I mean, it's good to know that there's someone else out there, but it's not like we can do much other than talk to them occasionally. Unfortunately, they don't have a microphone hooked up-all we'll be able to do is bounce code back and forth."
"It does mean that there might be other closer groups, so it's still worth searching, right?" asked Jerry.
"Oh yeah. Certainly. I just meant that all we can expect to do is find survivors-unless we track down someone really close, someone we can consider driving to, that's all it'll be good for."
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