The pancakes sat in my gut like a bag of hammers. Telders led me down to the lab and flipped on the lights. The room smelled like fresh plastic. Everything was new, untouched. I sat down at the terminal and punched the power button. Tux, the familiar Linux penguin, customized with a satellite dish for a head, appeared as the system loaded.
I ran my fingers along the keyboard. It was the only thing that wasn’t new. Every station was equipped with at least one IBM Model M keyboard. The kind with the loud, klacky buckling springs. I punched the shift key a few times. Nice.
When the server came up I logged in and launched “Noah”, the cutely named interface for the ARC node, and attempted to send it a wake command. After thirty seconds it timed out: ARC-Node 12 UNREACHABLE.
Telders put on Bon Jovi and started playing air guitar while I worked. He sang along.
“This ain’t a song for the broken-hearted. WHOA-WHOA.”
“The ARC node isn’t responding,” I said. “Have you checked it?”
“Nope… silent prayer for the faith departed. WHOA-WHOA.”
Every time he did the “WHOA-WHOA” he’d jazz his hands. I scowled at him.
“And I ain’t gonna be just a face in the crowd. You’re gonna hear my voice when I shout it out loud.”
“Christ, will you turn that shit off?” I yanked the cord out of the mp3 player and tossed it into a box of miscellaneous hardware.
“Ah, man, the best part was coming up.”
“There is no best part, Telders. It’s Bon Jovi.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” he said. “It’s all the best part. It’s my LIIIIIFE! It’s now or NEVER!” He yelled, strutting out of the room, pumping his fist. “You want some coffee?” He screamed from nowhere.
“No,” I mumbled, my keystrokes ringing out on the old keyboard. I decided to run an integrity check on the grid. All of the dishes reported in, as well as the main power supply to the ARC. Everything seemed normal. “Fuck it,” I said, smashing CTRL-Z. I grabbed a laptop and a serial cable and went for the door.
“You going out to the thing?” Telders had a glass of coffee—a glass—and took a sip with his pinkie extended.
I rolled my eyes. “Yes. We can’t do anything if the ARC is offline.”
“Cool, man. I’ll hang out here.”
“Whatever.” I brushed past him and wrenched the door open.
As I walked across the field, I heard him shout: “I just wanna live while I’m alive!”