“Shut it down! Shut it all down!”
Chelse burst into the tiny studio, arms waving wildly, a look of panic smeared across her normally calm features. Zed and Heather looked up from the equipment, surprised.
“Shut it down?” Heather asked. “But we’re nearly done for the day anyway. We’ve only got, what, ten minutes left to go?” Zed’s finger hovered uncertainly above the panel, a battered old Kreubsig 700 they’d bought third-hand from a junk dealer. Zed seemed anxious, but then, they always were. A legacy of a corporate past.
“Right bloody now! ACMA’s practically at the door!” Chelse shouted. Why weren’t they moving? 2PLY FM definitely did not have a license to do what they were doing. If ACMA – the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the broadcasting watchdog – caught them transmitting on an illegal channel, they’d not only confiscate the audio equipment they’d begged and borrowed over the past few years, but slap an injunction on them so fast it would make their heads spin. Hell, for all the talk that ACMA was a ‘toothless tiger’, Chelse knew better than most just how ruthless they could be. Just ask her Uncle Greg – if he ever made it out of prison.
Still, it seemed her urgency was getting through. Heather gave a terse nod and signalled Zed, who faded out the current song – Little Mix’s latest banger, Shout Out to My Ex – and flicked on the announcer’s mic. Heather remained cool and collected as she spoke into the cardioid, a picture of professionalism. She didn’t rush her words or stumble; it was important to maintain 2PLY FM’s brand even in the face of crisis.
“And that’s all for this afternoon. We’re ending a little early today, but tune in tomorrow for more fresh mixes and unsanctioned opinions from 10 till 2. I’m Hetch McKinnon on 2PLY FM saying: talk soon.” Heather nodded and Zed cut the signal, their pirate transmitter whirring strangely as it shut down. Like everything else in the room, it was old and failed constantly, but Chelse had managed to get it up and running again every time it refused to start. She might not have finished her physics PhD, but she’d still learned to navigate a circuit. Chelse spoke, flustered.
“Okay, the guy who called said a representative from ACMA’s due any moment to investigate a few complaints they’ve received from this neighbourhood. Obviously, someone’s ratted on us.” Heather’s face darkened.
“I’ll bet it was Mrs Logan. She never could mind her own business!”
“Look, pointing fingers at this stage isn’t going to help. Yes, it probably was Mrs Logan because she’s a nosy retiree who complains about everything, but it doesn’t matter. What we need to do is -”
The doorbell rang. Everybody froze, darting nervous glances at each other. Zed whimpered.