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Pour a beverage, turn down the lights, and pull up a chair! Tonight, we begin the thirteenth series of Ricochet Silent Radio, fan fiction about Ricochet members written as scripts inspired by the spirit of old-time radio. This week’s three-part tall tale is Atomic Terror Over the African Coast, a tip of the hat in tribute to veteran RSR star Hank Rhody’s own 2016 entry in imaginary media, Atomic Terror Over the Pacific. We’ve recruited a few more feature performers from the overstocked pool of fascinating characters on the Member Feed, and we’re always looking for a few more!
Plus, of course, we’ll never neglect RSR’s longtime audience favorites. In view of the ongoing national emergency, this program may be interrupted by Ricochet editors at any time for news bulletins. Our sponsors will present this program with minimal commercial interruptions.
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(Network announcer) And now, tonight’s program. Tales From the PIT Presents:
Atomic Terror Over the African Coast!
The purple mountains outside Albuquerque looked postcard perfect. It was dusk at the end of a brilliant afternoon in early spring. A retro red neon sign of a high-kicking, mini-skirted cowgirl and an orange mushroom cloud was perched on top of a bar in Skyline Heights, premises of the Bombs Away Beer Company. D. Newlander, a tall dark-haired man in his mid-forties, came in from the parking lot and nodded at the owner standing behind the bar. Happy hour just started and the place was nearly empty.
“H’lo, Johnny”, the newcomer said as he took off his sunglasses and put on a pair of wireframe glasses to get accustomed to the cool darkness. The bartender gestured towards a private room. Two young women were waiting, none too patiently by the looks of it. As the tall man put on a smile and entered the room, John the owner discreetly closed the door behind him. A picture of John as a younger man in Air Force blue hung on the wall. It was captioned “USAF Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician”.
Raven-haired Shanna, the taller of the two women, greeted Newlander frostily. “You’re late”, she said, her dark eyes flashing. “Jackie and I have been here for half an hour. -And I work later tonight cross town at the Tilted Kilt. As you should well know, since you’re my most dedicated bar customer”. D. Newlander (no name; just D) slid into the booth and pulled out a pair of manila envelopes. “We do this one job together, and none of us will ever have to work again”.
Jackie, shorter and blonde, opened her envelope. Inside was a fake passport, an air ticket, and a packet of money–$25,000. “Just the down payment”, he said. Both women looked at D, amazed and wary. “So this is real? Your professor friend is real?” Newlander nodded. “Yes, he’s real. He’s five minutes away from here, ready to brief the team. Let’s be on that team. All three of us want to change our lives. What do you say?”
Their destination was within sight of the bar. A futuristic building’s impressive façade read National Museum of Nuclear Sciences and History. It was just closing, but the guard waved them in. They were ushered into a conference room, where more than a dozen strangers regarded each new member of the group with curiosity and caution.
The clock in the plaza was chiming six as the doors were closed. A striking-looking young man, maybe thirty years old, moved to the mike with easy confidence. “I’m Perry Samblock, the director of this museum. This community will always have a special place in world history because of the terrifying, world-changing capabilities of the bombs we have created here. We have a proprietary interest in that legacy. When times demand it, this brotherhood of the bomb will step in. We have nothing against official agencies. We like those guys. In many cases we’ve had their jobs; we are those guys. But in this, shall we say, irregular form, we can move a lot faster”.
“Many of you already know the man I’m introducing, a great friend to the sciences and to the creation of this museum in particular. You’ve seen his shows on PBS and the Learning Channel, like the How to Build a Computer series, or God and Science Reconciled online. You’ve read his bestseller, Atomic Terror Over the Pacific, or watched the adaptation on HBO. Ladies and gentlemen, Hank Rhody”.
Bearded, bespectacled Hank Rhody walks into the spotlight and takes the microphone. He hangs a diagram of a weapon on the conference room whiteboard. It read “ThUG”.
“ThUG” stands for “the uranium gun”. It’s not much of a gun. It fires only one bullet that destroys itself, plus everything a half-mile around it. ThUG’s the simplest kind of atomic bomb. It was Hiroshima’s executioner”, he said quietly. “South Africa built seven of them in the Eighties. They are the only nation in the world that is known to have destroyed their entire stock of nuclear weapons”. He paused. “Or was known to”.
Hank unrolled a map. “We have friends and kin in the extended network of Lutheran and other German-speaking missions in this part of Africa. They’ve got some contact with Dutch Reformed and Afrikaners. They know the Rhodys have an ear for news. They brought us some”. He pointed to a place on the map. “There’s an old professor outside Durban who was once a second-rank science advisor in the former white government. He worked on the bomb project like hundreds of other people. He wasn’t one of the leaders. The Mandela government cleared him to teach physics at the University of the state of Natal. He stayed clear of politics”.
Hank continues. “Last year he received a fatal cancer diagnosis and he sold some collector’s items to raise cash for his granddaughter and her kids. Many of the items were Third Reich paraphernalia, legal at the time of purchase but illegal in the new South Africa. The website that bought the items was in Europe, so EU and Interpol paid attention to the prof’s atomic connection. Maybe he deserved a second look, but there are plenty of legitimate military history buffs. The case was closed. Three months ago, he died. Then his house was broken into. Well, more accurately intelligence broke into it, and we were convinced he’d kept the seventh bomb. There’s paperwork that it was dismantled and destroyed. The paperwork was faked. So we pursued the bomb. We found it. At least, we found out who has it. Now it’s up to us to get it from him. Here’s how we’re going to do it–”.
(Network announcer): You’re listening to a Tales From the PIT presentation. We pause for station identification.
(Local announcer): This is KRCH 810 AM, your Ricochet station in Los Angeles.
(Network announcer): And now back to Atomic Terror Over the African Coast!
(Narrator): Two hours went by. The streets outside were dark. The plaza clock chimed 8. Inside the conference room, things were wrapping up.
Hank, answering someone’s question, leaned forward. “They’ll be on guard and they know every trick. It’s locked up tight. How do we get it out? We can’t! But he can! D. Newlander and Shanna are the prime team. We have to give him the opportunity for him to double-cross someone first. That’ll be you, Samblock, and you, Jackie.” Her face lit up with an incandescent smile. Samblock clearly liked the idea of being partnered with her. “That’s just one set of roles”, Hank said. “There will be a couple of them”.
Shanna said, “You realize, of course, that the property transfer has to be real. The Swiss won’t fake the certification”. Hank nods vigorously. “Smart lady! You’re right, we have to go through with the real thing. Of course, I know a way to get it back later”. D. Newlander smiled with brotherly pride. His protégé was already making good.
RightAngles, an aptly named model and artist, read her instructions. “All right, it’s a la mode Francaise”, she asked, “Which ‘me’ do you want?” Hank didn’t hesitate a second. “I need you to be the ultimate haughty hottie”. RightAngles laughed. “Got it”. She recognized someone at the end of the table. He clearly knows her. “Roberto”, she said. He smiled and nodded. “And you’re, uh, called the Right Everything, right? Long time no see”. She laughed again. “You know perfectly well who I am, buster”.
Hank Rhody gestured towards a thoughtful, tough-looking westerner in suit and tie. “Take a good look, because he isn’t going on this trip. We need someone to handle secure radio traffic on this end. That’s him. He’s also our contact with the agencies, to the limited degree they can help us along the way. Call him the Canadian Lieutenant, because his cryptonym is a mouthful—ltpwfdcm, allegedly”. The group murmured a hello. Ltpwfdcm acknowledged it. “Got a secure base for this yet?” Hank asked, “I mean, rock solid?” Ltpwfdcm shrugged and smiled in affirmation. “Not going to be a problem, Hank”.
Computer expert Dave Barsham, a strong man with a gentle southern accent, asked: “Hank, can’t we get a more exact idea of what hardware we’re going to face?”
“No, Dave, unfortunately we can only narrow it down to a handful of vendors who sold mainframes to the university in that time period. Between you and Judge Mental, we think we have a good shot of being ready for anything. Judge is also piloting”.
“Lucky me”, said Matt Balzer dryly. “I’m the co-pilot. Which reminds me; where’s the plane?” Hank rolled up his diagram and maps. “My brother Sam is with it in Africa right now”, he said. “It’s the oldest jet in our fleet, sort of spent the last twenty, thirty years in the corporate backwaters. It’s got a quiet ICAO file. Perfect for this kind of work”.
“The repaint job on the jet?”, Matt asked.
“My brother found a fleet services company there that was happy to get the work”.
Dave Barsham frowned with honest doubt. “Couldn’t we give what we know to the South African intelligence agencies and let them take care of it, Hank? It’s their country. It ought to be up to them. Hasn’t this guy broken their laws?”
“A very reasonable point of view, Dave. Normally I’d agree. But he’s broken all sorts of laws in his time, and he’s paid off high-level connections. We can’t be sure a police raid wouldn’t get leaked. If we can obtain and present information, digital information tying him in with atomic smuggling, the courts would prosecute”.
“There’s another reason we don’t want to tell the South Africans what we’re doing. They don’t have nuclear weapons. The new Black government signed a treaty thirty years ago renouncing them. But if they suddenly discovered that they still possessed one, it might be an irresistible temptation. Conflict over its possession could destabilize the government”.
Hank concludes the meeting by opening a bottle of champagne. Flutes of the good stuff are offered all around. He raises his arm in a toast. “Our next stop is King Shaka International Airport in Durban. The next time we meet, most of us will have to pretend we don’t know each other, so good luck—and here’s to Operation Ricochet!”
Ricochet members mentioned or featured in tonight’s introductory episode include @dnewlander, @samuelblock, @hankrhody, @samrhody, @rightangles, @lessersonofbarsham, @mattbalzer, @judgemental, @roberto and @ltpwfdcm. Our disclaimer: RSR stories are fan fiction. The dialog, actions, and personal history of these characters are purely imaginary. RSR is not an official activity of Ricochet. Your imaginary network radio announcer is Johnny Donovan. The voice of RSR is @raykujawa.
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