Black Noise



Also Featuring:

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Scene Title Black Noise
Synopsis Squeaks phones a friend.
Date August 29, 2019

Blue eyes stare hard at the numbers written in blue ink on a scrap of paper torn from the back of a book. They squint and then squeeze shut, then open again to see the carefully penned lines unchanged.

It’s been a couple days since Squeaks carefully wrote the numbers down. A couple of days since the phone call that got her the numbers. A couple of days since she discovered something… different about her apartment. A difference that made her curious but also wary. Instinct told her to wait.

So she waited.

August 29, 3:57 am PST

Jac Childs’ private apartment


California Safe Zone, CA

Squeaks’ head lowers until her chin just touches the top of the finely polished coffee table that fills the space in front of the sofa. Seated on her knees, on the floor, she continues to study the numbers until they go blurry. “Stop wasting time,” she whispers to herself, her breath causes the paper to flutter slightly. Staring isn’t going to change anything, and she wanted to make this call.

It’s a risk. The last one was a risk too. Someone’s going to be looking, even if they aren’t yet.

Scooting back, the teen reaches for a book laying almost carelessly upon the nearest sofa cushion. Without looking too closely at what she’s doing, the cover is flipped open and the stolen cell phone is picked out of the hollowed out pages. The device is turned on and, after a few seconds, she dials the number for Claudia Zimmerman.

The Clocktower Building

NYC Safe Zone

6:59 pm Local Time

“He should stay right where he is, it's safer for everyone involved.” Alice Shaw has done little to keep her opinions to herself as of late, especially so when she's been drinking. Seated in one of the low-backed chairs near the rear face of the eponymous clock, she watches the distant city lights viewed out the window panes with thoughtful consideration. Across from her, Claudia Zimmerman looks drawn thin and tired, dark circles around her eyes and a glass of cognac to match Alice’s cradled in one hand.

“Kansas City would be safer,” Claudia opines, looking over the rim of her glass to Alice. “But why does it really matter? He’ll go on trial before the year’s end and… it's not like he's going to wind up as PISEC.”

Alice looks from the window to Claudia. “Stranger things have happened, haven't they?” She arches one thin brow and tilts her head to the side, eliciting a roll of Claudia’s eyes interrupted by the ringing of her cell phone on the arm of the chair. With a soft sigh, Claudia leans forward and sets down her glass, then flips the phone face up and looks at the number.

Unknown Caller

Alice watches Claudia’s face, but doesn't ask the question conveyed by her expression. With a shake of her head, Claudia just flips the phone face down again. “You're talking about Price?” Claudia insinuates, and Alice shrugs. Neither of them seem much phased by the phone ringing.

“I'm talking about Price. She shouldn't have gotten off so easy.” Alice’s tone is flat and distrusting, Claudia’s as well.

Praxis Ziggurat

3:00 pm PST

It rings, and rings, and rings until…

Hello, you've reached the mobile device of Secretary Zimmerman. Please leave a brief message with your name and number and I will return your call at my earliest convenience.


As the line connects, Squeaks pulls in a breath…

… then blows it out in a huff when it's stupid voicemail that answers and not Claudia. Rude. She scrapes a fingernail against the edge of the table while she listens to the only slightly familiar voice, known from the news on the radio.

“Hi,” she begins just as soon as the beep alerts following the recorded message. “This is Jac Childs. A while ago Agent Bluthner said you invited me to talk to you.” Invited her and her mom, actually, but that's a small detail she's leaving out. “Because of the things we found. I can't actually see you right now, but… but I have this phone, so… Please answer when I call back in two minutes?”

She hesitates for a second. She should say anything more? Maybe suggest calling right away? It isn't exactly an emergency. It isn't even really urgent unless people come knocking on her door.

Squeaks ends the call with a murmured thanks. Her hands, cradling the phone, drop to her lap. And she waits.

It’s quiet in Squeaks’ room, the ziggurat is always quiet. The way it disperses white noise through the ventilation systems provides a blanket of privacy only enhanced by thick concrete walls. But there’s always this subtle hum, this sonorous note that vibrates from the outer-facing walls that feels like it should be loud, if it weren’t for those white-noise generators. Squeaks isn’t given all that much time to think about it, though.

Incoming Call
Blocked Number

But when she eagerly answers, it isn’t Claudia Zimmerman on the other end of the line.

«Hey there, Jackal.» It’s a woman’s voice, certainly, but too young to be Claudia Zimmerman. The voice has a crackling edge to it, like one filtered through bad reception and signal noise. «There’s a whole lot of people lookin’ for you, isn’t there?»

Jackal?” That's a new one, prompting Squeaks to puzzle over it before even considering the unexpected voice or the question that follows the unfamiliar moniker.

After a couple of seconds, her eyes squint slightly and her curiosity over the nickname is abandoned. As is the immediately following thought to hang up the phone. Whoever the caller is would probably call back, and destroying to phone to avoid it would eliminate every plan she herself might come up with.

So the phone remains against the girl’s ear while a long half dozen seconds pass. Then, as casually as she can manage…

“New phone. Who's this?”

«Cute.» The woman on the other end of the phone scoffs. «I'm a rescue the endangered type, friend to the downtrodden, etc. You can call me Scylla.»

Squeaks is a sharp young woman, it doesn't take her long to connect the unexpected call and the caller’s name to the hacker who defaced Praxis Heavy Industries’ website and hacked its servers back in June. The woman on the other end of the call doesn't give Squeaks much time to consider the implications, however.

«A whole lot of people are looking for you, Jackal. But not everyone knows how to look like I do. You making that phone call, leaving that message? It got my attention. But what's extra interesting is your geolocation data. California? That's not where anyone is looking for you.» Adam had warned Squeaks about drawing attention from the outside, had deprived her of phone access for fear of this exact thing happening. Now, it would seem, it is only snowballing.

«Point is, today is your lucky day. Because I'm your escape route.»

A thousand questions cross her mind all in a jumble. Scylla of all people had called her, had managed to track her down as well. Her mom and sister were here, Richard and Emily knew. The hacker person was an unexpected encounter. This can't be good, but just how very bad is it?

Instead of giving voice to all of her concerns, Squeaks exhales such a long suffering sigh. As if she's just been asked to deal with the aunt everyone is usually eager to avoid. Why me?

“Sorry.” She's too pleasant sounding. How real is the offer, and how willing is she just now to listen? It's a dangerous gamble, even if the caller is the (in)famous Scylla. She needs time to think. And a way to test Scylla.

Squeaks glances at the scrap with Claudia’s number written on it. Then swivels a look to the door leading from her apartment. “Sorry,” she repeats, edging the sound of her voice toward distracted, “wrong number.”

«You old enough to remember the Matrix?» Scylla asks on the other end of the phone. «No, probably not. Anyway, you have a choice right now, Jackal.» There’s that name again. «You can hang up, forget you ever heard from me, and see what your captors have in store for you when they tire of keeping you in a gilded cage. Or, you can stay on the line… and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.» Scylla can’t help but laugh to herself after that, the laugh coarse and flinty.

The slight sound Squeaks makes can be taken as a negative. The most she recognizes about the movie is the name, some kind of science fiction with people in long coats and sunglasses. Her eyes squint over what's said next. Gilded cage isn't exactly far off, even though she's never exactly felt like a prisoner. She couldn't leave, wasn't allowed to go beyond the boundaries of Praxia without an escort.

But she was otherwise allowed to do what she wanted, wasn't she?

With a single finger, the girl slides the scrap of paper to the side. Every rabbit hole she's gone into has led her into trouble. She sits back, legs folding to sit criss-cross.

“I'm listening.” Squeaks' voice is soft, secretive.

«Atta-girl,» Scylla chirps. «Okay, so security at the Ziggurat is tight, but I know you have escorted access permissions to the island of Praxia. I’m not far from there, actually, from the Safe Zone. Me and my friends, we’re what you might call freedom fighters. We fight, you know, for your freedom.»

There’s a crackle and pop over the line, like someone changing channels on an old analog multi-line call. But Scylla is still there. «We can pick you up, get you out of the Safe Zone, all you have to do is be able to be out at dusk when it starts to get dark and tell us where you’ll be. We can figure out the rest. It might seem safe where you are right now, Jackal, but Adam Monroe is a dangerous man.»

Scylla’s tone changes, darkens. «Months ago his people stole a virus from the CDC. We think they’re trying to build a weapon to wipe out all people that aren’t like me and you. Special. We want to stop him, stop his scientists, stop his experiments. You know a lot about the inside of that place, more than anyone else. So we want to get you out, find out what you know, and help save a lot of lives in the process.»

«What do you say, Jackal, are you up for saving the world?»

As Squeaks listens, her expression shifts away from cautious curiosity to uneasy suspicion. Her doubts that Adam Monroe is dangerous are far and wide, regardless of how many have said so. How many of those have actually spent much time with him, worked with him, learned from him. The only solid mark against him in her books so far is harboring her uncle who's supposed to be dead.

It doesn't make sense that so many would speak against him without proof. She could almost argue for evidence supporting Scylla’s claim. Except she also knows what the hacker is famous for.

“A virus.” The words are spoken ponderously. She tries to fit them into anything she might know or remember. Nothing immediately jumps out at her, so she shakes her head and lays her own concerns out.

“What about my mom and my sister?” It probably complicates things, but Squeaks won't put them into trouble. “Will they be safe?”

«I don't… know who your sister is, but your adoptive mom is a fucking legend, nobody wants her hurt. We can do a three-person extraction, sure. But you control the timing, we go at your pace. ‘Cause all you've gotta do is pick up your phone and say Scylla into it, and I'll hear. I'm never far.»

“She's a legend too.” Quietly, solemnly stated. Squeaks is pretty sure Lene would cringe and deny it, deny any and every part of heroics. But the truth is there, in her own mind anyway.

The pause that follows only feels like an eternity. She still wonders over the truth, weighs the price for getting her mom and sister out of Praxia. Is going home even part of the deal? Patience is a learned trait, and one of the many things she's learned in her time within the ziggurat. So the unhelpful questions are put aside.

For now.

“Okay.” Squeaks breathes the word as her eyes flick to the paper then away. “Okay, I'll do it. It's going to take time, but…” She can make it happen. Somehow. “I'll do it.”

«Fantastic», Scylla says with a click of her tongue that sounds more like a crackling snap over the phone.

«Don’t be a stranger.»

Then, the line goes dead.

Kirby Cove Campground

Golden Gate National Recreation Area



The call ends with the depression of an Esc key on a keyboard. Creaking back into her wheeled chair, Scylla stretches her arms over her head and kicks her legs, looking away from the laptop propped up on the makeshift desk in the back of a dimly lit van. “Hey!” She calls up to the front of the van, where a driver hunched over the steering wheel eats steaming noodles from a styrofoam cup.

Whuf?” He asks with his mouth full.

“We’re on like Donkey Kong,” Scylla says with a lopsided smile, wheeling her chair around to face the driver who swallows his mouth full of instant noodles with haste.

Fabulous!” Cyrus Karr turns around from the driver’s seat, wiping what was left of the noodles from his beard.

“Clover, you just made my night.”

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