Chapter no 3

Quantum Radio

Ty had expected to be grilled on his discovery.

He had mentally prepared himself to be on stage for hours defending his findings, fielding questions, and debating the merits of his theory.

None of those things happened.

The scientists in the auditorium, for the most part, said nothing. They didn’t want to discuss his theory. They wanted to see the data.

Extraordinary claims, after all, require extraordinary proof.

Most of all, Ty’s colleagues wanted to repeat his experiments, to run his algorithms and get the same outcome. That inspired confidence: a new discovery that was verifiable and repeatable.

The audience filed out of the room, some on their way home, others staying to work the night shift. Ty’s boss, Mary, stepped onto the stage and held out her arms to hug him. She was about the same age as Ty’s mother and every bit as nurturing.

“It went well, Ty.”

“They didn’t believe me.”

“They will. In time.” He nodded.

“It’s a big deal, Ty. Might even garner you the Nobel.” Mary smiled. “There could be a slight bit of jealousy in the room. I bet a great many of them wish they had come up with it. Chin up, now.”


Outside, the sun was sinking rapidly behind the Jura Mountains.The sound of laughter and smell of barbecue filled the air-the by-product of the informal after-work gatherings that were common at CERN, where postdoctoral fellows and staff regularly mixed with Nobel laureates and theories and experiments were devised and friendships were made. It was a part of the magic of CERN that Ty loved. On any other night, he would have been tempted to wander over and see if he knew anyone and had any interest in the conversation. But tonight, he had something else in mind.

He took out his phone and dialed Penny, the German graduate student he’d met at a small café six months ago.

The same nerves he’d felt on stage returned, though now they were mixed with a sort of excitement. Ty had been unlucky in love. As such, he had avoided dating for most of his adult life. Like a kid who had fallen off his bike and skinned his knee, he had been cautious this time around, taking it slow, careful not to get hurt again. Penny had been fine with that.

“Hi,” she answered, sounding surprised.


“I thought you had to work.”

“I thought so too.” Ty glanced back at the building. “Things wrapped up quicker than I thought.”

“Everything all right?”

“Yeah. I think so. Actually, today was sort of a big day.”

“Oh, do tell,” she said playfully. Ty could imagine her smiling, holding the phone with one hand, setting her textbook aside and curling up on the narrow bed in her studio apartment as she ran her other hand through her long brown hair.

“I’d love to. Over dinner.”

“I can do dinner.”

“Great. And to give you a cryptic preview, the topic of tonight’s talk will be quantum radio.”

Silence stretched out so long Ty thought she had hung up. He took the phone from his ear and stared at the screen, watching the seconds of the call tick up. The line was active. She was still there.

“Hello? Can you hear me?”

Penny’s tone was flat when she spoke again. “I’m here. What did you just say?”


“No. Your discovery. What did you call it?”

“Quantum radio. I know it’s a sort of quirky name, but it makes sense once you understand it.”

“I’m sure.” In the background, Ty could hear her moving around quickly, as if gathering her things. “Actually, I just remembered that I need to study tonight. Dinner’s no good.”

“No problem.” Ty couldn’t help reading more into it. “Everything okay?” “Yes. Completely. Sorry, Ty, gotta run.” The line went dead.

Ty stood there, replaying the call in his mind.

Quantum radio.

He shouldn’t have even brought it up. Penny didn’t want to hear him drone on about his experiments over dinner. Who would?

Ty donned his helmet and pedaled his bike into the warm August night, out of the CERN complex.

Usually, the bike ride home was one of Ty’s favorite parts of the day. It was a way to clear his mind. But today, that was a challenge. As the green fields and low-rise office buildings and apartments passed, his thoughts kept drifting back to the call with Penny. Something was off about it.

Five minutes into his trek, the tram passed on its way to CERN. When he’d first moved to the area, he had lived in a hostel for a few months and taken public transportation, which was free to anyone staying in a hostel, hotel, or campsite. He still rode the tram in the winter, but he preferred to bike the rest of the year.

There was a big push at CERN to bike to work, and Ty had to admit that it had been good for him. It was really the only exercise he got, and it had improved his mental health too. Most of his colleagues who lived in France still drove to work, but the truth was that having a car was far easier on the French side of the border. Driving in Geneva was a challenge, but parking was a true nightmare. As such, he now owned a bike and a Unireso pass, which got him access to all of Geneva’s public transport networks (trams, buses, trains, and even the mouettes, the yellow transport boats that operated on Lake Geneva). Between his bike and the Unireso pass, he could get anywhere in Geneva quickly and easily.

At his four-story apartment building, Ty dismounted his bike and trudged inside, exhaustion finally catching up with him as the adrenaline from the presentation faded and exertion from pedaling took its toll.

Ty’s building, like so many in Geneva, was fully occupied. It had been built in the seventies and hadn’t changed much since then. It was worn but clean, and the owner seemed to have no interest in updating it. He was, however, maniacal about the move-out inspection (Ty had heard horror stories about the fees charged to other residents for even the most minor damage).

Still, Ty was glad to have found the place. The property market was competitive, and supply was tight (most listing agents didn’t even bother to post pictures of the interior of available properties, and showings were often left to the current occupants; the best places typically went within hours, or days at the most).

Before moving to Geneva, Ty had heard how expensive the city was. Having grown up in Washington, DC, however, the price shock wasn’t that bad to him. Things were expensive-especially groceries and health care- but his CERN salary was more than adequate.

Most of all, his lifestyle was what kept his finances in check. It wasn’t that he was frugal. He simply didn’t do anything besides work and sit at home and read. Well, with the exception of going out to dinner or hiking with Penny, but based on the last call, he wasn’t sure how much longer he’d be doing that.

His biggest expense was flying home to DC for the holidays, and even with that cost, he had managed to save a little bit.

In the apartment building’s entrance hall, Ty found one of his neighbors waiting by the elevator, jabbing the button to call it, a perturbed look on her face. Her name was Indra Tandon, and she worked as a travel coordinator at the international headquarters of Médecins Sans Frontières, commonly known as Doctors Without Borders in the English-speaking world. Her husband, Ajit, was an interpreter at the United Nations and often worked nights at dinners and late meetings. Their only child, a son, named Ramesh, sat beside her in a motorized wheelchair. From the dinner conversations in their flat, Ty knew that the Tandons could afford a better apartment, but they were saving for two very important reasons: to cover the cost of any potential new treatments for their son’s cerebral palsy and to send money home to relatives in India.

“Hi, Mrs. Tandon.”

She turned and gave Ty a weary smile. “Hello, Tyson. How are you?”

“Good. Everything okay?”

“Yes. Fine.” She motioned to the closed elevator doors. “I think it is broken again.”

She took out her phone and glanced at the time, then at Ramesh, who was staring at the floor. “I’m sure Ajit will be home shortly.”

From her tone, Ty wasn’t convinced she believed that. And he knew she wouldn’t call him, because Ajit would indeed come home to help, and it might cause a problem at work, and Indra would end up feeling guilty about it. Ty knew this because it had happened once before, eight months ago.

“Mind if I help?” Ty asked. When Indra grimaced, he added, “I could use the exercise.”

She gave a sharp nod. “Well, if you insist.”

“I do.”

Ty bent down to eye level with the boy, smiling. “What do you think,

Ramesh? Up for helping me exercise?”

Ramesh smiled back, and his voice was soft when he spoke. “Sure.”

Ty released the strap on Ramesh’s wheelchair and lifted him up, holding the boy tight to his body. He ascended the marble stairs carefully, and by the time he reached the fourth floor, his legs were burning and his forehead was damp with sweat.

In the Tandons’s apartment, he gently set Ramesh on the couch and whispered, “That was fun, wasn’t it?”

Ramesh nodded quickly. “Yeah.”

“Will you stay for dinner, Tyson?”

“I’d love to, but I have some work to catch up on.”

“Then take some chicken biryani with you.”

“No, I can’t-“

“Now I must insist, Tyson. You look too thin as it is.”

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