by Phun Saa (พรรษา)
It was going to be Nostalgia Night, he decided, as he reached for another strut and inched higher up the tower. Mostly because he had some oldies stuck in his head and felt like humming as he climbed. Not like he ever picked a theme, or even ran a theme night on more than a whim.
“That tonight’s gonna be a good night,” he sang softly into the wind as he levered himself up, “that tonight’s gonna be a good, good night…” He rested for a moment, toeholds secure, and hooked one elbow around a column, then leaned back to get an eyeful of the lights of Rumeli, laid out below him and sparkling in the night. Oh, yeah. He had a good feeling about this show.
At the top, he took off his bag and set to work unpacking and assembling his kit. An antenna two centimeters long could broadcast to nearly every island on Venus, and more music than he’d be able to listen to in a lifetime fit into a little oblong case dwarfed by the clip that kept it on his collar, but the equipment that hid his location– spoofed the signal, ping-ponged it around, made it look like it was coming from anywhere but here– that stuff took a little more space, especially when you had as much of it as he did. Anything to keep up the mystique, and it didn’t hurt if it kept him out of jail too.
At 23:59 on the dot he popped a pill to counteract the helium in the air and keep his voice low and rough, turned on his mic, and got started. “Check, check… checking, five-six… This is Pirate Radio Venus. This is Pirate Radio Venus, and I’m your host, Baron Barium, saying goodnight to all you bad boys and girls out there. You’re all up past your bedtimes and tomorrow’s not getting any further away, so let’s get started, shall we?” He reached out onto thin air, fingers dancing over a projected light workstation of buttons, knobs, and sliders, and launched into the first song with a quick staccato of drums.
While that played, he set up a rough draft of the playlist for the night. A little Chana Kala, the latest Minus 18 single, that remix of “Tell Me Later” that was making the club rounds, and of course the songs that would round out the night’s theme. As the first song’s electric sitar stuttered away, he switched his mic back on.
“That was ‘Burnt Sugar,’ by Rohan; up next is ‘Spores,’ by Catch-99. Listen closely, girls and boys, you know the drill; first, fifth, and sixth songs will set the theme for the night, and tonight’s sharp listener will get three tickets to Catch-99’s show at Tiny Godzilla Bar in Rumeli next Friday night. You and two special someones, you and two supervisors you need to butter up… just a word to the wise for anyone who hasn’t been to TGB: they’re not kidding about tiny. Make sure they’re two people you don’t mind getting good and close to.”
As “Spores,” started up, his phone blinked with the first call of the night. “You’ve reached PRV. You’re early– sure you don’t want to at least guess the theme?”
“Oh, um, hi! Cool, I didn’t think I’d get through! Nah, I just want to make a request, I’m never any good at guessing the themes. I’m–”
“No names, sweetie,” he interrupted. “I can’t promise you I don’t get tapped and I’d just hate for you to get in trouble on my account.”
“Oh, yeah, haha, I knew that. I listen to your show a lot, I swear. Um, anyway, could you please play some Hustlers? Maybe ‘Whatever Happened To’ or ‘Thirteen Times?'”
“For you, darling, anything. As long as it’s a song. I don’t help friends move anymore. Thanks for the call, stay awful, you sweet thing, you.” He put ‘Thirteen Times’ next on the list– Hustlers wasn’t really up-tempo enough for his show, but that one was faster than most of their songs at least.
The next fifteen or twenty minutes passed quietly, as he listened to the music and looked out from the tower. He supposed anything would look peaceful, seen from far enough away, but the view up here was especially tranquil. Though that reminded him, he needed to do a quick once-over of the local news.
As soon as the sixth song started, his phone began to light up with calls. He grinned– he rather enjoyed the wild guesses that usually came first– and picked a caller at random. “Baron Barium.”
“Hey, dude! Good show tonight! Is it female vocalists?”
His eyebrows shot up, though he mostly muffled his laugh. “Good guess, but no. I have to say, if the ladies in your life sound like the vocalist in ‘Windowlicker,’ maybe you should do the gentlemanly thing and offer them a cough drop. Thanks for the call!”
He flipped to the next call. “Baron Barium here, your guess there…?”
“Hi! I love your show! I think Tanith Flynn produced all of them?”
“She certainly does keep busy,” he allowed, “but not quite that busy. Thanks for the guess, better luck next week!”
As the song reached the two-minute mark, someone finally said, “These are all oldies, aren’t they?” and Barium hit the button for a little trumpet fanfare. “Yes, indeed! ‘Burnt Sugar,’ by Rohan, came out in 2008, we just heard ‘Lights’ by Ellie Goulding from 2010, and ‘Windowlicker’ by Aphex Twin comes to us all the way from 1999. I see someone’s been listening to granddad’s music! Send your name and this code to my email: 6340892. Your tickets will be under your name at the TGB box office.”
His caller positively squealed. “YES! Thank you so much! I love Catch-99, and your show too!”
“My pleasure, darling,” he said, “enjoy!” He hung up, but added for the benefit of the recording, “Up next, another nostalgia pick: ‘Swoossshhh’– that’s two o’s, three s’s, three h’s, wouldn’t want to get that wrong– by DJ Sam Soe and Mister Hartono.”
He cued her call– with the code beeped out of course– in between ‘Lights’ and the following song, then gave his regrets to the handful of callers who had been waiting to enter their guesses. As the recording started to play, a couple people hung up without prompting– but one call stayed in the queue. Barium eyed the blinking light with a pleased little smile. Oh, a good night indeed.
“Baron Barium, how may I help you tonight?” he began, and his smile stretched to a grin when a stern male voice cut over his own.
“Your real name, for starters, and if you’d like to turn yourself in that would be great, thanks.”
“Ooh Officer Stern!” he said with a delighted coo, and could nearly hear the squeak of gritted teeth over the line. “It’s so good to hear your righteous tones. How is my very favorite tool of the Intersystem RIA doing tonight?”
“Wonderful. Thank you. You couldn’t just stay home and watch the game, huh?”
“Why Officer Law, you know I can’t bear it when you turn your devastating dry wit on me. Don’t we have enough of that on this dusty old planet?”
“My name’s not– forget it. You’re breaking laws here, Barium. Serious laws, and there are serious consequences.”
“Oh, Officer Order. I would love to hear more about those serious consequences in just that tone of voice you take, but it’s time for me to do the news, won’t be a moment–”
“Don’t you put me on hold, Bar–”
With the flick of a switch, Barium did just that, and smiled at the blinking light. He’d never hang up– he undoubtedly had equipment out and was trying his damndest to trace the signal.
Well, he could try in peace for a few minutes. Barium did so love his calls, but business before pleasure.
“Good night again, my bad boys and girls. You’re tuned in to Pirate Radio Venus. That was Tonocho’s ’16,’ and I’m sure you don’t actually need that many feet to properly dance to it. That is most likely just the band’s little joke. It’s time for tonight’s news: first of all, gang activity was reported this afternoon near the Arrivals wing of the Venus Gate. Shots fired, suspects fleeing the scene, how terrible! Keep your heads down and your noses clean, my dear little miscreants– we all want to live to sleep in another day.
“A heavy sporefall is predicted for the middle of next week, most likely beginning Tuesday, stretching from Marina clear to the south of Chiang Mai! So reschedule those picnics, and do monitor yourselves for any eye trouble whatsoever. It’s no laughing matter, kiddies.
“The Floating Market will be on this weekend, rain or shine. My little joke, of course; it’ll be on dust storm or shine, starting at 6am on Saturday and running round the clock through to 10pm Sunday. If you’re coming from Rumeli, enter via the eastern edge of Little Bangkok; if you’re coming from Aegis City, there will be a shuttle running every half hour from Aeronauts’ Wharf. If you’re an especially early riser, look out your window at about, say, 4am on Saturday to see the preparations get underway as thousands of hovercraft lift off between the two cities, getting ready to sell everything imaginable and a few things you almost certainly can’t. Don’t miss it, my little monsters! As the DOT says, ahem: ‘While every permit-bearing hovercraft has been inspected and deemed functional by the Department of Transportation, we cannot certify that every vehicle at the Floating Market will have a permit. So-called hacker hovers are unregulated, many have no automatic guidance system whatsoever, and are liable to crash without warning. We strongly advise citizens not to patronize the Floating Market, for their personal safety, and not to cross underneath the same if not in a vehicle with substantial armor.’ WELL, my darlings! With that kind of endorsement, who could stay away? Now stay tuned for a catchy little number called ‘Party Rock Anthem,’ by LMFAO.”
He grinned as he flipped back to the call and caught a stream of not-quite-audible curses. Those scramblers were worth every penny. “I am ever so sorry, dear Officer Killjoy, where were we?”
“What you’re doing is a felony, Barium!” While not quite a shout, he was definitely sounding more aggravated by the minute. “You’re stealing intellectual property, broadcasting without a license–”
“Running a podunk, one-man radio show, yes, how dare I,” Barium waved a hand dismissively, though his own irritation was mounting. “Being a speck in the eye of your lords and masters– refresh my memory on how protecting the interests of record company fat cats lines up with your oath to serve and protect? If, in fact, you did take such an oath?”
There was a brief silence. “You are treading dangerous ground,” he began.
“No, no,” Barium cut him off, struggling to regain his own equilibrium and reminding himself sternly that he had no intention of arguing the politics of this again. “No, no, no. That’s not what I meant at all. I’m just a silly little boy playing songs he likes to dance to, you know that.” He took a deep breath and looked out again over Rumeli. The world is very large and you are quite small, he reminded himself. Don’t let these things get to you.
“Anyway,” Barium continued brightly, “do you know what time it is, dear Officer Narrow? Please tell me you didn’t keep anyone cooped up at the station with you. Your fine men and women have families, you know.”
“I didn’t– don’t call me– of course I didn’t keep anyone with me, I’m not a slave driver,” he said, sounding off-balance at last.
Barium sat up a little straighter. It was ever so hard to resist an opening like that. “Oh, goodness, poor Officer Latchkey. Do you mean to say that you’re all alone?”
“How much backup do you think I need to track down one podunk one-man radio show?” he asked, but there was no heat in it. Barium rather thought the man sounded tired. More than tired, even. Perhaps weary.
“Oh, I know you’re tireless,” Barium said, deliberately putting a bit of a purr in his voice. “To tell the truth, it positively keeps me up at night, knowing you’re on my trail.”
“It should.” Oh stars, the sincerity in the man’s voice. It simply shouldn’t be that appealing. “You may think this is a victimless crime, but they’ll make an example of you, and you’ll be slapped with so many fines and injunctions the most high-tech musical device you’ll own will play wax cylinders.”
“All the more reason to drink and be merry now,” Barium said, stretching elaborately even though he couldn’t be seen. “But enough about me; tell me, Officer Delectable, what are you wearing?”
“Have you lost your mind–”
“No no, it’s fine, don’t tell me, let me guess. I’m sure you favor that timeless gumshoe look; a button-down shirt… I’m tempted to say white, but perhaps a tasteful light yellow, a loose tie… oh, say you have a shoulder holster, please. I love a man with a good shoulder holster.”
“You’re ridiculous, Barium.” But then, after a few seconds of silence, “Of course I have a shoulder holster, that’s standard issue.”
Barium closed his eyes, not even bothering to hide the pleasure in his voice. “Standard issue, but I’m sure it looks especially good on you. Plain brown or black slacks, mustn’t deviate from standard issue there… but tell me, are you a boxers or a briefs man?”
“I am definitely not telling you that.”
“Au naturale then? I’m glad we have more in common than just disrupted sleep schedules.”
“I. I didn’t need to know that, Barium.”
“Didn’t you?” He said softly, just to make Officer Hound strain to hear. “But isn’t it nice? To just wear… nothing at all? No one can see me, after all.”
His voice was steady, a little too steady to be effortless. “You’re not going to get a rise out of me that way.”
“Oh, no? I’m not ashamed to say that you’re getting a rise out of me, my sweet. But, oh dear, my queue is fresh out. Forgive me, this will only be a moment.”
Just as the song was ending, Barium brought his mic back on and began fading another song in. “You’re still listening to Pirate Radio Venus, I’m still Baron Barium, and it’s still Nostalgia Night here at PRV Industries. I usually try not to repeat too many bands in one show, but here’s another interesting track from Aphex Twin, called, well– let’s just call it ‘Equation.’ A good friend assures me the equation in question is nonsense anyway. The song comes with an easter egg, but I’ll give you a hint– fire up your spectrograph apps and see what happens.”
When he got back on the line, the quality of the silence was just a little bit different. Possibly Officer Upstanding was breathing rather faster than before. “Are you there, dearest? It would break my heart if you hung up on me.”
“I’m here, Barium. Exactly what are you playing at?”
“Oh, just a bit bored, a bit lonely, a bit enamoured of being chased. You are such an ardent chaser, you must realize the effect that has on people. It’s quite turned my head. And, let’s be frank– it’s been simply ages since I sucked cock. Whole days.”
“Wow,” he managed, now obviously fighting to keep his voice level. “How tragic.”
“Isn’t it? If you like what I do with this show– and I really do hope so, you certainly tune in enough– you’d love what else I can do with my mouth. Not to brag, but I’ve left quite a few men very happy indeed.”
“What if I don’t want your mouth?” He said, having clearly abandoned the effort to sound calm, because now his voice was rough and aggressive. “What if I want m-more?”
“Then I’ll give you more,” Barium promised. He leaned back, undoing his fly slowly. There was no need to let his mic catch the sound; he didn’t need to be even more crass about this. “What is it you want? Me, on my knees, begging for you?” He curled his fingers around his cock and gave a rough jerk, and this time he didn’t bother stifling the noise of his own gasp. “Or maybe straddling you?”
Officer Hardon was clearly suffering under some modesty compulsions, but his own strangled moan was a moan nevertheless. “S-straddling me.”
“Oh, good choice,” Barium said, stroking himself faster now. “I’d like that very much. Sitting on you, feeling your cock inside me, putting your hands on my hips and letting you fuck me just as hard and fast as you want. And you would fuck me hard, wouldn’t you darling? God, I’d– love that.”
“Y-yeah,” he said, and Barium wondered if he was jerking off in his office, or still trying to keep some shreds of professionalism. “Yeah, I’d– make you scream.”
“Oh, would you like to hear more of me?” Without waiting for a reply, Barium moaned into his mic, much louder than before. “Would you watch me, baby? Grinding on top of you, moaning and begging you to fuck me harder, coming all over myself?” That was hot– suddenly, he was right on the edge and with just a couple more tugs he breathed, “God– yes–” and came just as promised.
There was ragged breathing on both ends for a few moments, and then poor Officer Hot Fuzz spoke again, voice still shaky but now with a note of triumph. “I can’t believe you just did that.”
“Mmm?” Barium asked lazily, “Came for you? I’d do it again, baby.”
“Came on air,” he said, definitely gloating now. “The mic’s been live since the second time you put me on hold. You have no idea the obscenity charges I’m going to be able to bring down on you now.”
Barium grinned, stretched, and wiped his hand absently on his pants. “I suppose it did sound that way from over there, yes. Pretty sure most of my listeners just heard X-Japan’s “Rose of Pain.” They’re pretty overblown to my taste, but when you need ten uninterrupted minutes without having to go back on air, you could do worse.” To the incredulous silence he added, “You know I’ve got all sorts of gadgets over here, darling. I promise, when you call in I can make sure you hear anything I want.” He added thoughtfully, “Though you would’ve figured it out if you’d been listening to the program at the same time from any other source. You must’ve been very distracted indeed.”
At the first half of a curse so loud it came out distorted, he killed all audio input and switched off his workstation. He sat in silence and darkness, as still as possible, listening. After a minute… yes, there it was… far-off echoes that just might be a mobilized police shuttle, or several. Heh. He’d always suspected Officer Officer concentrated better with a hard-on.
As “Rose of Pain” wound down, he began unscrewing joints and dismantling equipment, fading in his mic as he did so. “Shh, quiet now… did you hear that? Ah, there it is again… sirens! And so concludes tonight’s Pirate Radio Venus. Good morning, my bad little girls and boys. Be sure to sleep in, stay up, and tune in next week… until then… sawadee.”
Laughing softly, he cut off the mic, zipped up his bag, and clipped it around his waist once more. He grinned into the wind and leapt, spreading his arms and legs so the wingsuit would bear his weight and respond to his steering. Low, low tech; no electronics to detect, almost impossible for anyone to track.
Unless one was sufficiently motivated, of course. Venus had no shortage of surveillance cameras, and Rumeli was no exception. But wasn’t that what made it fun?
Still laughing, the entire PRV operation powered down and strapped to his back, he banked and glided off into the last of the night.