Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

My entry to the Strangers saga. Not as great as I wanted it to be, I just moved things through some technobabble stuff, threw a small curve ball, and decided to stop while I had a good endpoint. Maybe I’ll write part eight and be able to throw some more action in, because I was really enjoying how things were walking that cool line between sci/fi and horror….Enjoy, guys.

Zachary looked at Pope doubtfully, “The end of the world? Isn’t that a bit melodramatic? It’s a radio signal.”

Pope looked at Zachary seriously, somber for the first time this conversation, “I put about four bullets into that radio signal…I watched it bleed, and I watched it keep coming.”

“I highly doubt that…”

“Maybe…” Holly interrupted them loudly, “…Maybe…we should talk about the case.”

“Yes, let’s…” Zachary continued immediately, “…I see two possibilities. One, a radio signal, admittedly a complex radio signal, but still a radio signal, arbitrarily decides to reassemble itself into a living, breathing, bleeding person. Or two, it was a hallucination induced by stress and…”

“HEY! I saw what I saw!”

“We’ve been over this, Doctor!”

Zachary continued calmly, “…and, the effects of a high powered radio signal passing through and manipulating the neurons in your brain. While I’m sure you believe you saw what you think you saw…I find ‘hallucination’ the most likely explanation.”

Holly’s cell phone began to ring.

“I watched it kill three people!”

Holly answered.

“Radio signals aren’t people. They aren’t solid. They are propagating electromagnetic waves with frequencies lower than three gigahertz and…”

“Doctor…your ‘radio signal’ just crushed a guys head in.”

“That’s…” Norris laughed, not believing what he was hearing, “…that’s impossible.”

The body of Tom Ribinowitz lay crumbled in a corner, decapitated except for the mush of blood, skull fragments, grey matter, and hair that were the crushed remains of his head. The rest of the graduate student’s nude body didn’t look much better: it was covered in blood, bites and scratches, just like the body of astronaut John Preston’s wife.

It was an hour after he died that the second shift found the body, and it took Pope, Holly, and Dr. Norris another hour to reach the Tartan Array. By now, the stench was overwhelming. The responding officers, on orders, did nothing to the crime scene but look for suspects, interview students, and take photographs.

The scene was way to familiar to Pope, who was already rubbing his palm against the butt of his service pistol, overcoming his drunkenness with a strange mixture of barely controlled fear and professionalism. Holly was all business, inspecting the body. Zachary Norris was outside vomiting.

“What did this, Pope? What on earth could do this?” Helen asked.

“I don’t know. Isn’t that why Doctor Puke is tagging along. To figure that crap out?” Pope’s joke ran hollow, he couldn’t exactly begrudge the scientist this. But he wouldn’t let this on, “Hey, Mad Scientist! Welcome to my ‘Hallucination’! But don’t worry, it’s just stress!”

Zachary returned, green faced, but his voice trying to return some of his own dignity, “While I am certain…that this is connected to the radio signals…it is not the radio signal doing this directly…”

Helen eyed him coldly, “Doctor, you told us the radio signals could be used to broadcast people. It hasn’t been a day and you are telling us it can’t. Why don’t you tell us exactly what you think is happening?”

“I don’t know. Could a radio signal project an image, and I stress the word image, across space and into your living room…yes. It’s very similar….excuse me, exactly what happens with a hologram, except a hologram starts with visible light instead of radio waves. Then again, radio waves are nothing but low frequency light so it is the exact same thing. It would involve leaping some technical hurdles we haven’t lept yet…but it would be possible…”

“Holograms don’t crush people’s heads in, Mister.” Pope said seriously.

Zachary frowned impatiently, the green was fading, for the first time since he was placed (“forced” he emphasized in his head) into this investigation, he was back into his area of expertise, “Yes. Holograms don’t crush heads. That’s the problem…And, its Doctor.”

“So, who did this?”

Norris looked away. That was the problem, and he knew it, “I don’t know. A depraved individual, like most murders…”

Helen groaned, “This is bullshit!”

“…thrown over the edge by the high intensity of the radio signals. Speaking of…maybe I should check the computer logs.”

Pope was starting to circle the room, triple checking that no crazed astronauts with staticy voices were waiting around the next computer terminal to kill them all. “Don’t ‘hallucinate’, Doc.”

Zachary was at the terminal, working away, “I won’t…” He found the signal, checked its origin, checked its destination, and finally checked its amplitude, and his jaw dropped, “Oh, my fucking god….”

Helen and Pope both spun towards him, “What is it?”

“The amplitude is off the meter. It doesn’t even register. It’s a wonder the array didn’t explode!”

“What does that mean, Doctor?” Helen asked.

Zachary picked up the phone by the terminal and quickly dialed.

“Who are you calling?”

“The VLA…The Very Large Array in New Mexico…I have to confirm this…” Zachary stopped, and waved for them to wait, “Hello, this is Doctor Norris with the SETI Institute. Who am I speaking to? Doctor Kraus? Good. I need to inquire about a strange signa….Yes…Yes…No, one signal, very focused, amplitude over….I see….I see…Are you certain?….I see…Thank you.”

He hung up slowly, and was silent.

“Doctor?” Pope asked, “Doctor!”

Zachary slowly turned to look at Pope, “I apologize, Pope. You were right. It’s possible. It’s very, very possible. Technologically extraordinary, yes…Completely beyond anything we could accomplish in the foreseeable future? Yes….Possible…yes.”

Everyone was silent and didn’t move….it even seemed like the sound of the uniformed cops outside was gone…

Suddenly, Pope lept to his feet, “Physics lesson! What is a radio signal? Literally.”

“That crap I have to listen to every morning on the way to work.” Pope chimed in.

“No jokes! This is serious!”

Helen thought for a moment, “You said something about electromagnetic waves…”

“EXACTLY!” Zachary looked around frantically, full of energy, half expecting to find a chalk board behind him like at the old lecture hall. Failing this, he grabbed a sheet of paper and drew a wavy line on it, and began speaking as fast as he could. “Radio signals are waves. Electromagnetic waves to be precise, but waves. Combining two waves, depending on how their frequencies and wavelengths are oriented relative to one another can either increase or decrease amplitude, so that the amplitude can change to being anywhere from doubled to completely cancelled out! This is how holograms work, except they use light, which is also an electromagnetic wave….Anyway, a wave’s amplitude is its energy…increase it high enough, and it can have an effect on the matter around it, just like any other form of energy…such as the effects we witness here…” Zachary waved absent mindedly at the mutilated body of Tom Ribinowitz…“…I thought it was impossible, because there we only ever detected one signal, the merged final result of all the signals…and then we were only getting spill over….we never had an radar dish oriented in almost exactly the same place as the signal was pointing, listening for it. With multiple signals, interacting and interfering with each other like this….”

Helen and Pope looked at each other, trying to keep up with what they were hearing.

“My God….” Zachary laughed, “I’m going to win the Nobel Prize….I can see the paper now, ‘Solid Holography Production using High Amplitude Radiation. Of course, experimentally, I couldn’t do anything this elaborate, but…”

“Doctor? How many signals?”


Helen repeated herself, “You said there was more than one. How many signals did they say there were?”

“Oh…umm…Sixteen thousand, four hundred and thirty two…give or take sixteen.”

Pope came out of the blur put on by the quick physics lesson, “All from Mars?”

“No, each from a different source, most almost definitely outside our solar system, except for two.”

“Which two?”

“One on Mars, as predicted. And one in New York City. On Earth.”

blog comments powered by Disqus


28 August 2004