Chapter no 15

Quantum Radio

Two more marines raced into the conference room.

Helen reeled back from them.

Richter stood still, staring at Ty, a smile forming on his face, one Ty thought was born of pride.

Sanford Bishop—the man who had described himself to Ty as the chief nerd of the DARPA facility—jogged into the room, panting, eyes fixed on Richter. “What have you done?”

“What must be done.”

“We’ll have to confine him in one of the empty labs—”

Helen spun on him. “You are not confining my son in an empty lab, Sandy.”

Richter nodded at Ty. “Tell them what it means.”

Ty took a deep breath. “The first file is standard data: the characters are binary. Zero and one. On and off. They’re bits—eight to a group, eight of which form a byte. It’s a simple computer file. One we can read.”

“That was obvious,” Bishop muttered. To the marines, he said, “Clear the room.” He stared up at the camera in the corner. “Stop recording. Right now. And disable the feed.”

When the door closed, Ty pressed on. “The other four files are more interesting. Four characters in groups of four. In twenty-four files. The four characters are base pairs—A, C, T, G. They’re DNA sequences. The number of files—twenty-four—implies twenty-three chromosomes composed of twenty-two paired chromosomes, or autosomes, and a twenty-third pair of sex chromosomes—XX or XY. The twenty-fourth sequence is likely far shorter. It’s the mitochondrial DNA. The total number of base pairs—3,088,286,401—confirms that the genomes transmitted are for humans.”

Bishop studied Ty a moment, then snorted dismissively. “We’d gotten that far.”

“Yes,” Richter said slowly, “but did it take you half a second to get there?”

Bishop nodded. “He’s smart. I’ll give you that. But we have smart people too.”

Richter paced away from Bishop, his back turned to the man. “Apparently not smart enough to assign someone to watch Ty. As the Covenant clearly did.”

“What’s your point?”

“My point is very simple: they knew to watch him. Why is that? Did they know he would discover the cipher to decode the quantum radio broadcasts? What else do they know? And how? They’re clearly a step ahead of us. And they have his data too. They likely already know what it is. What else have they accomplished?”

Richter turned and eyed the DARPA employee. “They’re ahead of us, Sandy. It might already be too late.”

“What are you proposing?”

“He’s part of this. Let’s use every resource we have. Face it: what happens in the next few days will very likely change the world forever. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by bringing him into the loop.”

Bishop shook his head. “I don’t like it. Personnel changes at this stage are unwise. You know that. Unpredictable. He could be a Covenant agent for all we know—”

“My son,” Richter said forcefully, “is not a Covenant agent.”

A long silence stretched out. Finally, Richter spoke, his voice once again level. “Sandy, tell him what you think the files are.”

Bishop eyed Richter, clearly hesitant.

“Do it,” Richter said. “What do you have to lose?”

Bishop stared at the floor. “Our working theory is that the first file is a schematic for a machine. The data stream is huge—we’re still trying to constitute it.”

Ty nodded. “I agree with that.”

“The four genome files,” Bishop continued, “are a little more puzzling. Our assumption is that they’re the genomes of the representatives of whoever is broadcasting the quantum data.”

Ty cocked his head. “As in…?”

“As in, we believe the machine is a printer.” “A printer for…?”

“A printer for human genomes. We build the machine and supply the genomes and it prints out four humans, who we believe are the representatives of whoever is trying to communicate with us.”

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