Tuesday, February 22, 2011

To the East My Brother

To the East My Brother
NSA headquarters, Ft. Meade, Maryland.
Now I’m in the blush, the ultra-secret matrix, the belly of the beast. I was given yet another top secret clearance before descending down a series of elevators to my work area. Armed marines were posted every few yards. This was, and yet is, one of the most fortified buildings on the planet.
I’m assigned to a tiny cubicle in a pitch black war room illumined only by the electronic lights of maps charting the various planetary hotspots.
My first assignment was monitoring all activity coming out of Communist Cuba. The Ronic antenna was the receiver used to pick up the multiplex of signals emanating from Cuba.
It’s beyond outdated now, but this was the central device used to tune into every phone call, every Morse Code, every teletype and walkie-talkie transmission. Anything that moved through a wire we picked up.
After a couple of weeks I was upgraded to a more intriguing assignment. The cold war was thick as black ice and the Russians had a new signal called a burst transmission, which was a combination of various signals crunched into a single “burst”, a solitary “blip” hidden within more traditional transmissions.
For instance, if I typed “My name is Orion Roberts” in teletype, the letter “S” might contain an encyclopedia’s worth of information. That is a crude example of the burst transmission.
So I was trained on this huge wide-band receiver. If you think of a radio that’s powerful enough to hear not just one station at a time but every station on the dial at once, that’s similar to what this equipment did. We listened and listened to all forms of communication until we heard that blip.
When the burst shot through. We “froze” it, recorded it, then began the arduous process of deciphering the code. Another room was nothing but graphs of encoded messages which would then receive further analysis.
I started learning the Russian language, reading Russian literature, immersing myself in understanding the Russian mind. The Russians knew when we tagged them, so it became a real dogfight, a battle of wills. I applied myself completely to my work. I took it personal. The intellectual “wolverine” in me would not be defeated.
Within six months we’d broken that “burst” transmission! The Russians had to give it up.
Our success meant my team would relocate to the island of Okinawa, the biggest field station monitoring the burst transmission. There we would continue our diligent and successful work.
Okinawa was known among the GIs as the “Big Benjo,” roughly translated into “the big shit house”. Fortunately, I’d have a two-day layover in Tokyo.
Shit house or no I was on my way. Michael Thomas caught a train to see me off. Generously, I shared my last bag of enlightenment with my best friend.
Together we got higher than the moon, pulled some glamorous ladies and did the damn thing as only two cats from Illumination could do.
Like clockwork MT had found some “new” urine and would begin his basic training in a couple of months.
With stars in my eyes and a heart full of ambition I jumped on a plane to Anchorage, Alaska for a few hours before beginning the long odyssey to the sprawling complex village of Tokyo.

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