After the Apocalypse
Chapter 39: Expanding Reception

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

Even as Mark answered the last question, though, Arkwright and McCormick were frantically trying to call him back. The conversation had not bled through to Hawaii very clearly, and the islanders had heard nothing of the Canadian side of the broadcast, but they knew that someone was active on the amateur bands. They were using voice communications, but were handicapped by a less-than-clear knowledge of Winter Camp's call sign.

"Keep trying!" urged Arkwright. "That had to be American, right?"

"I think so," said McCormick. "I could have sworn I heard a 'KC' in the middle of all that, several times. That would be somewhere in the States." He turned back to the radio. "Mayday Mayday Mayday, this is NJ6UEM. NJ6UEM calling any station." Pausing, he turned back to the President. "I think this qualifies as an emergency, true?"

"Works for me. Call it an executive order if you like," she said.

"Right," he grinned.

They waited, with McCormick frequently repeating his transmission, but since Mark had shut Winter Camp's radio off, their listening for KC8DPX was doomed to failure, and no other operators called in. After twenty minutes, he gave up and set the microphone down.

"That was so close," he said. "On the other hand, it was a longshot from the start. I mean, there's no way of knowing if our message was even reaching them. We don't know where in the country they were, or how the atmosphere might have been affecting our signals."

"But their message made it out here," said Anu'ala'a.

"True, but that's never a guarantee of reciprocity, even under ideal circumstances, which these aren't. Depending on the cloud cover, or the radiation situation, or any one of a hundred things, we might just have been talking into the air. There have been days when I could pick up Australia, or India, but I couldn't hear anyone broadcasting over on Maui at the same time. Remember, we only caught part of half of a conversation. Who knows where they were contacting?"

"So now what?"

"No real changes. Keep listening. If we hear something like that again, though, we move faster-try and break in before they go off the ai-hey! Maybe that's what's going on! They finished their conversation and shut down their radio. Depending on their power source, they might be really obsessed with conserving electricity. That would explain why they left the air."

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Closer to Winter Camp, Mark's intercepted signal was received very differently. At the Lapeer militia bunker, Nathan Miller picked up the first signal they'd found in their continuous radio vigil since the holocaust had begun.

"Sir, we're picking up a signal," he said.

"Is it military?" asked Jameson, his voice sounding excited for the first time since the attack. He didn't trust the military and he definitely wanted to know if they were still out there.

"No sir, it's civilian."

"Damn."

"Sir, it's local," he added.

"What do you mean local? Who the hell is breaking radio silence?" Jameson asked incredulously, intending to discipline any man who had broken his direct orders.

"We haven't got the right equipment to pinpoint it sir, but the operator identified himself as being in Lapeer, Michigan."

"Great. Doesn't that idiot realize that breaking silence may tell the Russians where to attack next? Take a detail out and position a couple of directional receivers. I want that operator found and silenced," said Jameson sinisterly. "We can't expect to survive another attack."

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