Let’s begin in the desert.
Shotglass was at the top of the wash, a rapidly spinning drum about a meter wide and protruding almost to the top of the weeds. Tongs stuck out of the slanting east side just a little and looked like a stray bit of rebar. Olive and Onion were hair-thin wires squiggling the whole length of the Slot, as everyone called it, although it was supposed to be called the Bar. Anyway it was a desert dry river which had its own issues but we’ll get into that later.
There was a weird curved structure like part of a crane or a bridge, covered in a patina of rust, that jutted out of the rim of the Slot on the west side. That was Shaker. Shaker had to be at an exact angle and height pointing southeast or nothing would come through right, and it was nobody’s favorite.
The last one all the way at the bottom was Bitters. Bitters was a huge heavy son of a bitch concrete slab with 30 or 40 instruments embedded in it, pushed down into the rocky sands in a fiesta of yelling and swearing over two weeks. After that it was steady but we all remembered the install and hated the thing.
There were two boring radar antennas on the east and west ridges, a slow one east and a fast one west. We never named them because they weren’t in the Slot and we rarely even saw their data. So forget them. They weren’t part of the Barware.
There wasn’t much need to go down in the Slot except when Shaker went awry or one of Olive or Onion’s wires got cut. The wires were crazy strong but some desert animals are persistently insane so that happened every few months. Everything else just carried on.
The desert dry river situation was that the river wasn’t dry sometimes. Flash floods pushed stuff around once a year or so and afterwards there was muddy repair work and much discussion of the original decision making process until someone would tell us all to shut up.
About a kilometer out on all sides was an impressive fence. It was three times a person’s height and totally covered in razor wire, with spikes on top. Just inside and outside of the fence the No-necks drove around in Jeeps. The No-necks were heavily armed and had dogs, and some kind of sensors on the fence let them know if a coyote or idiot was bumping the fence. Fortunately there was no reason to go near the fence.
The Slot was booked up pretty tight. Something would arrive and go down or up the wash almost every Monday. The whole crew had to be in the shack for the day making sure everything in the Slot worked and recorded its data, and then go over the data for triple-C which was “Checksummed-Complete-Collected.” This just means that we had the right length of recording and it really had come from the barware in the Slot. As you can imagine in a shop like this there were way too many abbreviations like that.
All kinds of stuff would go through the Slot. There were a lot of trucks with covered payloads. Once there was a tank, and for a while it was a series of normal-looking cars and Jeeps. Helicopters might carry some lump-on-a-chain slowly at a precise height. Often very, very slowly which was a huge bore. Foot traffic was rare but we once had some soldiers carry an oil drum hanging from poles the whole way up. Doubt they enjoyed it, especially since it was July.
Everyone agreed about the weirdest one. A big semi truck showed up accompanied by guys in civilian clothing. The guys were all in big black Suburbans, obvious spooks. The truck was refrigerated, and a blast of condensation made everyone swear when it was opened. Inside was a glass-like box, almost as long and tall as the truck bed. It looked like a giant aquarium. They threw a white tarp over it right away and then we all had to help slowly slide it on to a trailer bed. The combination of paranoid black-Suburban guys and heavy moving work in the desert didn’t suit any of us. Then they dragged the trailer up and down the Slot four times behind one of the Suburbans.
None of us were really okay. What kind of person would live in a shack in the desert in the first place? Much less devote themselves totally to the Slot. Which brings us to the actual story here. Sorry for all the setup.