Greg was sitting at his desk busy tapping his left knee with his left hand and his mouse with his right, trying to remember the name of that song with the dancing goddesses on the mountain top. Something about eternal flame when he felt cold metal press against his neck. "I wish you'd check your email." said a voice. Was this happening? He was a radio astronomer, not a spy or journalist or any other kind of government agent. They barely got funding.
"We have one shot at this or we have to wait seven years. Open your hand." The voice was older. Mature. Articulate but not condescending. He opened his right hand and a gloved one in thin leather came into his field of view and pressed a folded paper into his palm. You could tell it had been folded and unfolded many times. He brought his left hand up to join his right and started unfolding the paper. It occurred to him that he could have had a gun under his desk or a hammer or anything in his left hand and this guy wouldn't have been ready for it. He probably wasn't a spy or journalist either. The paper contained erased and rewritten figures and instructions for the Spider 500R fifty meter scope and dish setup Greg ran for Harbridge Yards. Fifty meters is impressive for a small New England campus. It was better than their optical setup further up the ridge-line.
What looked like a completely normal "power and pulse" test, something they did once in a while to verify telemetry, wasn't. The power settings went way beyond safety margins. Focusing energy with a parabolic dish can be very dangerous. "This will obliterate the power systems. They won't last ten seconds." said Greg, his hands shaking a little. The man was crazy. A crazy old guy with a gun was trying to make him blow up his livelihood and then would probably shoot him.
He felt the gun leave his neck, and heard a loud "Shluck-Thunk!" cocking sound. It sounded exaggerated for effect, if that sort of thing was possible. Greg didn't know much about guns. Greg sighed and started typing in the values. He was prompted twice by the interface, asking him if he was sane. It didn't take too long to put in the routine.
"When I run this we probably want to run. The capacitors and TF's are right over there. That's just a thin wall between it and us man. We don't want to be anywhere near here." said Greg.
"If we do this right it won't matter." said the voice he began to think of as grandpa crazy. It was a soothing comforting trustworthy sounding old voice saying crazy things. "You will run it when this hits zero or after in the window." said grandpa crazy. He placed a common track and field timer on the desk that was showing about three minutes left. "Let's test your telemetry. We have time." The irony of this request wasn't lost on Greg. Greg performed the normal telemetry test. The gun pressed harder against his neck as grandpa leaned in closer to read the screen. "It's within tolerance." said Greg. "Not mine." said grandpa crazy. "You are stuck half granularity between the lines. At the distance we need that's a light year. That's close enough for disco but not us." The man moved to the right of Greg and reached over him to the equipment rack.
"Let me show you a trick."
Greg looked up and to the right. He was looking up along the extended left arm holding a gun at him, at the profile of the man holding him at gunpoint. He had a full salt-and-pepper beard and piercing blue eyes and was wearing a blue mackintosh, with matching blue hat, and a yellow shirt. The attire made him look like a photo negative of the Gordon's Fisherman. Greg had to stifle nervous laughter. That became very easy when grandpa flipped the Pattern Restart switch. Greg's jaw dropped. Outside the five ton metal dish slowly dropped from 35 degrees to flat.
"BANG!" four second pause "BANG!" three second pause "BANG........bang.....bang..bang bang bang bang" (bangbangbangbangbangbangbang).
Greg would have been livid had one of his graduate students done this. Pattern restart is dangerous because it can break your dish. It also... knocks off your telemetry forcing you to reset it. Sure enough, everything lined up perfect once Greg redid the telemetry, or good enough for grandpa anyway.
"That's better. Get ready."
Greg had been. He figured the school would kick the few mill, or find it to replace the scope. He'd be forgiven. It was just a thing. He needed to live. If this old guy wanted to go up in an electrical fire, good for him. He was going to turn and bolt and run the second the capacitors popped. He re-entered the values grandpa had given him. His final(only) act of bravery was pausing when the timer hit zero. Which he instantly realized was stupid. For one, the guy could just shoot him and press enter himself. For two, "Oh, we probably want to be recording this. Turn on all the recording equipment." he just had him turn on the experiment cameras. The old guy must think they'd be fine. Regardless, Greg was ready.
"Here we go." said Greg as he pressed enter. The first part of the routine was the power up and orientation. The dish moved and pointed itself almost directly at HR 6819. The power up itself didn't take very long. Greg knew that in less time than it takes to pour a cup of coffee it was all going up. "See, now look at that." Grandpa Crazy was looking at the screen not paying attention to Greg. The gun dropped from Greg's neck as Grandpa leaned in closer.
That's all Greg needed. He turned in his chair more deftly than he imagined he would and bolted for the door. He imagined he could hear the capacitors sizzling as he exited the arched metal building. He was halfway across the grass field between him and campus when he realized he was just some guy running across a field for no reason.
No explosion. No fire.
Greg should have called the cops at that point. He had his phone. But he also had just witnessed something impossible, and he had data. Greg made his way back to the arched metal building housing the Harbridge Yards radio telescope project. Grandpa Crazy was now sitting in his chair. The gun was on the table ignored, he was too busy reading. Greg eyed the pistol. As if reading his mind, and without looking back, the man grabbed the gun and shot it into the floor near Greg. Greg jumped at the gunfire that didn't happen. Instead a little red dart stuck itself into the wood flooring. "It's a toy I think. I got it at box-mart. All my email went to your spam folder." Greg's email client was open on the desktop, and Grandpa was finding the ones he had sent.
Later Greg would read the email. Everything was clearly explained. How Brian (Grandpa) had discovered a data anomaly that had lead him to envision the Universe as a data structure. That the Universe must be alternating layers of fabric and structure. That the fabric layer would have to have greedy data exit points. And he needed a way to prove that "greed". With the discovery of the stellar mass black hole only 1000 light years away near HR 6819, a test scenario became possible. The only problem was when the window in the sky would be there. Brian had offered to replace the radio setup entirely if he was wrong.
For years they would marvel at the video of the 30 foot wide hole left in a cloud layer that should have been about fifty meters wide. The data collectors were very greedy indeed, physics be damned. It's a good thing Brian thought to turn on the cameras. The next three holes they left in the clouds were the pictures featured on the cover of Time. The window of opportunity closed a few days later, but with more powerful radio telescopes, it was possible to repeat the experiment with other singularities. Unraveling the nature of the Universe came that much closer.
(had this one stuck in my head. My brain is a jerk. I couldn't do anything else until this one was out of it. Now I can sleep.)