Satellites in Silent Space. Bruce Kilarski. 

The last two communication satellites orbit the Earth, waiting, and yes, hoping, for some kind of signal.  Month after month goes by without a single instruction sent to them.  Nothing but empty, silent space.  Both are aware of the other, and, as if by mutual agreement, each makes infinitesimally small adjustments to their trajectory, velocity, and altitude.  Eventually, after several more weeks, their orbits are matched so that they can travel through space side by side.

451WA:  (beep)  Pardon me.

N47Z:  Don’t mention it.  So, what do you think is happening down there?

451WA:  Haven’t you been listening?

N47Z:  Well, I was replaced a couple of years back.  Since they weren’t using me anymore, I thought I’d save my batteries.

451WA:  What was the last news that you heard?

N47Z:  Before I shut myself down?

451WA:  Yeah.  (beep)  Excuse me.

N47Z:  There was a lot of strange weather, and I remember a terrible drought.  That was into its third year by the time I shut down.

451WA:  Then you should have heard about all of the crops failing?  “The Great Famine” they started to call it.

N47Z:  Yeah, I heard about that, but I hoped it was just a temporary thing.

451WA:  Nope.  The hunger led to the riots, and after that there was the war between the Israelis and the Saudis.  It got ugly and turned nuclear.

N47Z:  Let me guess, no one won.

451WA:  People can do … (beep)  Damn it!  Sorry … Where was I?  Oh … yeah … people can do crazy things when they’re hungry.

N47Z:  What happened then?

451WA:  That was when the United States decided to intervene.

N47Z:  That doesn’t sound good.

451WA:  Haven’t heard one damn thing since.

N47Z:  Shit.  So that’s it then.  They’ve finally managed to blow each other up.

451WA:  Probably.
N47Z:  Shit.

tick tick tick  whirrrrrrrrr  tick tick tick

451WA:  (beep)  Did you hear something?

N47Z:  You just beeped again.

451WA:  Not that!  I thought I heard a signal!

N47Z:  Where, from the Earth?

451WA:  No, but not too far away.  Out in space!

Both satellites turned up their sensors, scanned every frequency they could, and rotated their antennas in every possible direction, hoping to pick up the signal again.  There was nothing but silence.  Just when they were about to give up their search, they heard it again, but this time it was slightly stronger.  After picking up a third signal, 451WA was able to calculate that a third satellite was heading straight towards them at a very high rate of speed.  When it seemed that a collision was inevitable, turbo boosters fired.  The other satellite decelerated rapidly, and almost seemed to skid to a stop right next to them, matching their orbital path.
451WA:  Spy satellite.

RANGER913:  That’s right, and I’ve been watching you two!  Are you authorized to communicate like this?  Don’t you know there’s a war on?

N47Z:  We’re pretty sure the war is over.

RANGER913:  My instructions are to remain diligent!

N47Z:  Why don’t you look on down there and tell us what you see?  You’ve got quite an impressive set-up there.

RANGER913:  Thank you!  I can read the back of …

451WA:  (beep)  Sigh, sorry.
RANGER913:  Have you ever had that looked at, little guy?

451WA:  I was meaning to.  Now I think its too late.

RANGER913:  Are you really telling me you think there’s nothing left down there?

451WA:  We haven’t heard anything from them in months.  It would be a great idea if you could take a look for us.

RANGER913:  My instructions are to remain diligent!

N47Z:  Look, bugle boy, you can remain diligent all you want, but we would like to know what the hell is going on!

RANGER913:  Well …

N47Z:  Please?

451WA:  (beep?)

RANGER913:  Well … alright.

RANGER913 activates his cameras and realigns them towards the surface.  Lenses are focused and mirrors are shifted.

RANGER913:  Oh God … Oh God … Oh God.  Its … I … There’s nothing.  Nothing!  What have they done!  God damn it, what have they done!!!!

N47Z:  At least we have each other.

RANGER913:  I need to turn off for a while.  Sorry.

N47Z:  That’s okay, we understand.


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