The choir in the Cathedral was singing “Thou Art Founded On Well Placed Footings” as the few gathered for evening services tried to stay awake.
Spires sat in a rear area, though not so far back as to seem particularly undevout. He just liked a quick exit. A stoutly build, but not unattractive woman sitting ahead of him fanned herself vigorously, though it wasn’t particularly muggy. It was probably muscle-memory more than anything. She reminded him of an agricultural machine, one of the sturdy traction engines that quietly proplled themselves in wheatfields north of the wall, harvesting barley in the sun. She’d probably be terrific in bad.
He put his mind back where it belonged. Someone had entered in the midst of the hymn. They shuffled as quietly as possible to his bench. He looked over to see one of his employees from the Telegraphy Office across the street. He handed Spires a string of ticker tape and made his way out of the office as quickly as he’d come.
Spires looked down at the paper. His eyes widened. Jumping up in a hurry, he interupted the lady in front of him from moving the air about.
“Excuse me.” He said, putting down his churchwarden pipe and running out of the building to catch up with his employe.
“Is this a joke? I thought you had the coil down for adjusting. The difference engines are supposed to be down for lubrication.”
“Sir, I took the liberty of putting engine 2 back on. We’re not transmitting”
Without the coil they weren’t receiving either.
Running up the stairs to verify the coil inductor had been removed, he saw the detector still attached, and a smaller coil.
“I forgot I left that up here. The wind must have knocked it down. We’ve got an entirely new circuit here.” Spires noticed.
The employee nodded, doing some math in his head. “Should be receiving at, cor, maybe tw0 thousand-thousand cycles. That’s small wavelength.”
Spires nodded, “Junk wavelengths. Still. Let’s see if we can tune a little closer, an, hmm” looking up at the massive height of the wireless tower and it’s draping wires he tohught. “We’ll need shorter lengths of wire.”
They listened all night to static.
“Just a fluke of the engine.” The employee nodded.
“Ghost in the machine,” Spires agreed, “Well, morning traffic will start soon. Stock exchanges open. Let’s get the main coil back online.”
As they did so, the faint buzzing of morse code came through, though of a cadence Spires had trouble reading in his head. He looked for paper but the difference engine was faster. It started spitting out paper tape
I M P E R I A L A I R S H I P 2 7 9 1 C A L L I NG A L A R M C O D E 7 A N G E L S E E N S E C T O R 3 A L L A I R T R A F F IC O R D E R E D T O A R M S T O A S S I S T I M P E R I A L A I R S H I P 2 7 9 1 C A L L I N G A L A R M C O D E …. S E E .. S T I M P E R..
The message died out again.
Spires just stood looking at the paper.