Numb3rs

I'd been so hungry and tired that I had barely noticed the room. Aside from the cot and wooden table, there was a little metal desk on the far side of the room (which was only about seven feet away) with two drawers on the left side and two legs on the right. The room's walls were steel, painted light green, and perfectly bare: no porthole, no paintings, no decoration or embellishments of any kind.

I sat on the cot as Spegg crossed the room and checked the door for the eleventh time. "Still locked," he said, as if he'd truly expected things to change. He huffed and started pacing again, turning every three steps. "Everything is green in here. Even this desk." He stopped to slide his fingers along the table top. He tried the desk drawers but they were locked as well. Spegg looked at me, scratching his chin. "I've always liked the color, though: Greeen." He jazzed his long, bony fingers as he said it. "But there's just too much of it here in this room. Too much green. You think they'd let us paint?"

"I kind of like it," I said, sipping my water. "Simple. No surprises. But, no, I doubt they'd let us paint the room."

Spegg sneaked toward me and knelt down. He looked carefully to his right, and his left, then put his hand to his mouth and whispered in my ear: "What if we killed them all, Wayne? You think they'd let us paint then?"

I jerked awake, spilling water all over myself. The open liter of water Dr. Fukuyama had given me rolled off the bed and dribbled onto the floor. I sat up and tried to brush it off.

"Bad dream?"

I slowly raised my head. Spegg was sitting backwards in the chair at the table. He eyed me curiously.

I rubbed my eyes and tried again.

"Well don't look at me like I'm crazy," Spegg said.

"Oh God."

"You need help, Wayne."

"Apparently."

"Not that kind of help."

I planted my face in my hands and stared at him blankly.

"You're wasting time. You need to get your ass back to Antarctica."

"What? Why the hell would I go back there?"

"Because that's—" Spegg jumped up. "Wait, there's something—" He scanned the room with his ear, then shuffled over to the far wall and put his long face against the steel. "You hear that?"

"Spegg, why would I want to go back to Antarctica?"

"Shhh!" He waved me over, then pressed his ear back against the wall.

I got up with a sigh and set the overturned water bottle on the table.

"Come over here! It's some kind of recording."

I made a face and put my ear to the wall, praying that no one walked in on us like this. The voice was female. Spegg mouthed the words as they echoed through the wall: "Ichi hachi go nana zero kyuu... Ichi hachi go nana zero kyuu... Ichi hachi go nana zero kyuu...."

I stepped back. "Just sounds like a bunch of Japanese numbers repeating over and over again. So what?"

Spegg rolled his eyes. "Stupid Chikushou. Don't you understand? It means something."

"Spegg—"

"Since World War I governments have been broadcasting seemingly mindless shortwave transmissions all over the Earth. Sometimes they're beeps or buzzes, sometimes human voices. For decades they've been repeating. But they're always nonsense. Meaningless drivel."

"Yes, I know, Spegg. They're called numbers stations. I used to listen to them when I was a child with my crystal short wave radio. Early on they were rumored to—"

"Not rumored to! Numbers stations contain embedded spy codes. Subliminal messages. Assignments. Battle plans." Spegg put his ear back to the wall. "Ichi hachi go nana zero kyuu... Ichi hachi go nana zero kyuu...."

"Spegg.... SPEGG!"

Spegg leaned toward me and poked furiously at the wall. "This is bad, Wayne. Bad."

"No it's not."

"They're gonna kills us, Wayne!"

"Listen. No one is going to kill us. And no government in their right mind uses short wave radio to transmit sensitive information anymore. It's stupid. Outdated. Fodder for conspiracy theorists and paranoids."

"Then you better start getting paranoid, because they're still in use, even two hundred years from now."

"Please," I sighed. "Just tell me why the hell I should return to Antarctica."

"They're gonna mix our bodies in with the whale meat, Wayne!"

"Oh you're fucking insane," I said, turning away.

"You might want to look in the mirror, Chikushou."

I spun around and gasped. Suddenly there was a knock at the door.

"Sumimasen."

A key slid in the lock and the deadbolt clicked open. I stood frozen in the middle of the room as the door creaked open on its metal hinges. The blue helmeted guard from before leaned in and grimaced. "Ooh-ayn-san." He paused, scanning the room with a suspicious eye. I bit my lip, wondering if he had heard my "conversation". A moment later the guard made a little "hpmh" sound, then gestured toward the hallway. "Now captain talk you."