There weren't too many passing aircraft. About once a week someone would land. He'd serve them coffee, fry eggs. When they asked what he was doing out there he'd say just waiting, and when they asked what for he'd say he didn't know yet but it sure beat sitting in traffic, and that was usually enough for them. He'd never take visitors down into the bunker. After a few months the numbers increased. Pilots flying to and from the coast began to hear there was a place to refuel. He bought some chairs and Formica-top tables, laid in a stock of beer.
There were problems, of course. His generator broke down. There was a confrontation with some Indians he caught clambering about on the rocks, had to show them his shotgun. After they went away he found rock drawings up there, handprints and snakes and bighorn sheep. Another day a dust storm forced a plane down. The wind was blowing sideways across the strip at fifty miles an hour and the pilot did well to land at all - looked like it would pick up his left wing and flip him as he made his approach. Schmidt ran out to meet him, holding a bandanna over his mouth. Without thinking he took him underground, the logical place to shelter.
The pilot was a young buck, twenty-one or so, head of dark hair, little dandyish mustache. Rich kid. As he stripped off his jacket and goggles, he looked around in wonder, asked where on earth he was.
By that time the project was well advanced. Schmidt had built a vortical condenser to store and concentrate the paraphysical energies flowing through the rocks. A crystal was set into a gimbal on the tip of the tallest stack, angled toward Venus. He was developing a parallel piezoelectric system, based on his study of Tesla, but for now was sending signals using an old Morse key, with an aetheric converter to transform the physical clicks into modulations of the paraphysical carrier wave. He explained all this to the pilot, who listened intently, taking in the machinery, the piles of books and notes. He seemed impressed.
"And what message are you sending?"
Excerpted from Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru. Copyright © 2012 by Hari Kunzru. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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