Friday, June 2, 2017

Guerrilla Radio

Quintin huddled in a shadow beside the crumbling brick wall. He breathed only through his nose, in case there were any Enclave gunmen around. He hadn't seen any for the last half hour, but he couldn't be sure there weren't any watching from the busted windows of the dilapidated office buildings that lined the streets. From his hiding place he had scanned every window, every floor of every building, until he was sure he wouldn't be seen.

Pretty sure, anyway.

Holding the straps of his backpack so it wouldn't bounce, Quintin ran across the open street. For the few yards he was exposed he felt as though he could feel a sniper's bead being drawn on his back. Only when he made it to the cover of the nearest alley did he finally allowed himself to breathe.

The backpack was heavy, and carrying it for three miles already had left him winded. But everything inside was essential. Transistors. Circuitry. Other miscellaneous electrical equipment. And wire. Yards and yards of thick, black wire, coiled tightly so as much as possible could be squeezed into the backpack.

His footsteps almost silent on the cracked pavement, Quinten slunk through the shadows of old Nashville. It was warm for October, even though the sun had set an hour before. He wiped his forehead and his close-cropped, black, curly hair from with a rag from his pocket and kept moving.

Grandma had told him that, in the years before the Great Wars, Nashville had been a town of music. The more he explored, the more he knew she must be right. In almost every house, Quintin found relics of the city's musical heritage. He'd salvaged more than a few musical instruments that he had no idea how to play. Worse, there didn't seem to be anyone left alive able to teach him how. Mostly he'd found flat, black, plastic disks which his grandmother had told him used to hold music. Quintin had collected these for months before finally finding a working record player, and from that moment he'd been hooked.

That was one of the main reasons he wanted to get the old radio tower working again. He couldn't get enough of the old George Jones, John Coltrane, and Etta James disks he'd discovered. With the current state of the city, he figured there must be more people like him who needed the power and peace that music delivered.

The final dash to the old radio station left him feeling like a sitting duck. There was nowhere to hide within twenty yards of the building, and the pavement that surrounded it was shattered and broken, which would slow his footing. He reasoned he could hide in the shadows for another half hour, carefully stake out all the places Enclave snipers could be waiting to pick off a scavenger out after curfew.

Waiting would have been the smart thing to do. But it felt like he'd already waited so long. And he was so close to the studio that he was practically salivating from anticipation.

Quintin gripped the straps of his backpack and ran. The sound of his shoes slapping on the pavement resounded like gunshots in the still, silent evening. A screaming fear in his brain told him to expect the piercing pain of a bullet any second, ripping through his flesh and ending his mission.

But ten frantic seconds later, when Quintin slid into the shadows of the radio station's doorway, there had been no gunshots. Footsteps pursuing him. No other sounds whatsoever. Still, Quintin pressed himself against the wall, willing the shadows to hide him more thoroughly. When he was satisfied that he indeed was not followed, he turned his back to the wasteland and continued into the studio.

He'd cleaned out most of the refuse and cobwebs on his first forays into the radio station, weeks ago. One entire wing of the building had caved in; what lay in there, Quintin could only speculate. But the tower controls had been in the undamaged wing, and he too this as his first sign that some higher power wanted him to use the station again.

It took more than an hour to get everything into place, and even after referring to scavenged magazines and manuals Quintin wasn't positive he'd hooked everything up correctly. If I royally screw this up, I'll just come back tomorrow and try again, he thought. It's not like this station is going anywhere fast. 

The Enclave thought they were the only ones who had figured out how to access the city's power grid, which had been made terrorist-proof long before the Great Wars. But Quintin, whose knack for all things electrical had gone wasted until this very moment, had figured it out, too.

On the console of buttons that sat beside the dual turntables and dilapidated computer, Quinted flipped a large, red switch. And the instruments hummed to life, like a great beast awakening from a long sleep.

Feeling so giddy that it made him light-headed, Quintin waited for the initial burst of static from the old receivers before putting on his headset. He pulled the microphone, which had the letters WFKB formed on it in molded plastic, toward his dry mouth.

"Hello, Nashville," he said hoarsely. "WFKB is back on the air. You're listening to Guerrilla Radio."