Chapter no 110

Quantum Radio

In the cafeteria on the space station, an image appeared on one of the long white walls, as though a movie projector was shining onto it.

The image was of Ty’s father. He sat in a chair in front of a triple window that looked out on a small, well-manicured yard. He was young, slightly younger than Ty was now, perhaps in his mid-to-late twenties.

“What is this?” Ty whispered.

“A video your father filmed a very long time ago—in the event you required an explanation.”

Ty walked closer, studying the image. “Video of what?” “We should let him tell you. Are you ready to proceed?” “Probably not. But play it anyway.”

In the video on the wall, Gerhard Richter fidgeted in the seat. “Shall I proceed? Do I simply speak?”

“Yes,” a man said. Ty tried to place the voice, but couldn’t from such a small amount of sound.

“Two days ago,” Richter said, “a man and woman came to my home here in West Germany. They made an extraordinary assertion: that the history of the world was not correct, that our timeline has been manipulated. It’s something, frankly, I and others have speculated about for some time. To be perfectly honest, I considered it a fantasy: a conspiracy theory we merely wanted to be true because we didn’t want to place blame for the state of the world on our ancestors.”

Richter paused, seeming to consider his words. “As such, I asked them to leave. I assumed they were running some sort of elaborate scheme. A confidence trick, perhaps. I thought the dismissal would be the end of the affair. However, in my mailbox that evening, I found a letter describing twelve events that would happen the following day.”

Richter looked out the window, composing himself. “I’m making this video now because everything on that page came true. And because of the other predictions they’ve made—in the event that they come true as well.”

He inhaled sharply. “In the interest of being unambiguous, I should add that I consider the odds of their predictions coming true to be quite low. But the gravity of what I’ve been told compels me to take the forecasts seriously. Even if there is a remote chance the events will come to pass, precautions must be taken.”

Richer crossed his legs. “Today is New Year’s Day, 1983. My visitors tell me it’s a flag day because of what they assure me is a very important event: in the United States of America, a group operating within the Department of Defense called the Advanced Research Projects Agency—or ARPA—will begin requiring all computers connected to its ARPANET to use TCP/IP instead of NCP. I’m told that TCP/IP, or the transmission control protocol and internet protocol, will eventually become the standard for how computers communicate with each other. They tell me that it seems like a small change now but that the interconnection of computers will change the world, like a ripple in the sea that will eventually become a tsunami that touches every nation. Today, hardly anyone realizes how important connecting computers over vast distances will be. But those who recognize the gravity of this development—and invest accordingly—will reap immeasurable rewards.”

Richter scoffed. “Two days ago, I would not have believed it. But as I say, my visitors have already proven that they know the future. At least in the very short term. It would be… unprofitable to ignore their long-term predictions.”

Richter took a deep breath. “My visitors have shared several other predictions about the future of our society—which, if true, put me in a position to make investments that will make me a very rich man. After enumerating these predictions, they asked something of me, an act I have refused. The price is not worth any information about the future.”

Richter clenched his jaws and exhaled. “My visitors insist that I am integral to stopping the interference they claim is happening in the world. They believe that soon my wife and I will move to the United States, that she will be given a position at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and that eventually, she will give birth to twin boys, followed by the birth of a daughter a few years later. They have further predicted that one of our

boys will one day make an incredible discovery—a breakthrough with the potential to right the wrongs on this world, to save the lives of countless people and end the suffering that will occur on this planet.”

Richter paused. “What disturbs me is what they’ve asked of me. A sacrifice. I have been told that the only way for my son to make this discovery is for me to leave home before his fifth birthday. They tell me that my absence in his life will have a profound effect on him. Naturally, it will make him curious about what happened, about why I left, why I refused to be part of his life. My absence will leave him with an emptiness that words can’t describe, a certain… desire to prove himself, that he is valuable. Most of all, he will wonder about the great questions of existence, the deep mysteries of the universe. That desire—and emptiness—will be the key to his greatest achievement.”

Ty felt dizzy. It was as though his father’s words—and the revelations— had sucked the oxygen out of the room like a hull breach on the station.

He staggered away from the screen, and with each step, his legs felt weaker until the floor was rushing up toward him.

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