Chapter no 19

Quantum Radio

In the conference room, Bishop made the calls to ensure the US Bureau of Prisons would protect Thomas Klein until the Marshals transported him to DC.

When he hung up, he said, “Okay. He’ll be here in about four hours.”

A knock at the door drew everyone’s attention. Richter and Bishop spoke in unison—“Come in”—then glanced at each other.

A young woman wearing surgical scrubs entered. She carried a plastic bag that held a clear tube with what looked like a long Q-tip inside.

“Sir,” she said to Ty, “I need to—”

“Get a sample,” he said, trying to ease the awkwardness. “I know. It’s okay. Go ahead.”

When she had finished swabbing the inside of his cheek, she departed. Ty expected to be left in the conference room again with his parents. He wasn’t looking forward to that.

He was relieved when Bishop told them to follow him. It seemed that their genetic connection to the quantum radio broadcast had granted the three of them deeper access to the facility. And what was happening.

They weaved through the corridors, Bishop leading the way, two marines flanking the group, fluorescent lights buzzing overhead.

At the elevator, Bishop hit the button for B3, which Ty assumed was basement level three.

“I’d like my phone back,” Richter said, staring at the steel doors.

“Even if they’d let me, it wouldn’t work down here,” Bishop replied.

When the elevator doors opened, a marine who couldn’t have been over eighteen was waiting, skinny as a rail, holding a few stapled pages, which he instantly held out when he saw Richter.

“Sir, I was about to bring you the article you requested.”

Ty tried to catch a glimpse of the printout, but Richter snatched it from the young marine and folded it, hiding the text. “Thank you, Private.”

Ty wanted to ask about the article, but the chaos in the room beyond overwhelmed any conversation. The far wall had a bank of screens that reminded him of NASA Mission Control Center. Graphs and text scrolled by. Two dozen people sat at workstations, typing on keyboards. A few were pacing as they shouted into their headsets.

“NIH says the data is technically there, but most of it is still with the grant recipients. We can get it, but they have to turn it over, and we can’t make them go any faster without raising suspicion. If this hits the press…”

“Well, if the CMS is paying the bill, don’t we own the data? Who cares if…”

“Tell them we’ll pay whatever they want—no, just make something up. Tell them it’s going to be used in a de-identified metadata study—what?— no—who cares? Just make something up and ask for a number…”

Ty had heard of dialing for dollars in political campaigns—times when there was a deadline or election looming and the staffers worked long hours, often on the phones, calling donors and other volunteers to round up funding for a final push. The scene felt like that to him. But these people were dialing for data, not dollars, and specifically, for genomic data, trying to procure it from any source and by any means necessary.

Bishop led Ty and his parents to an office with windows that looked into the bullpen. There were three staffers at workstations on the far wall. They stopped typing and turned as the group entered.

“Give us the room,” Bishop said, closing the door as the staffers exited.

“As you’ve probably gathered, we’ve been authorized to expand the genomic search,” he said, leaning on the edge of the desk. “The higher-ups are now convinced that you’re right, Ty. The genomes are for living people.”

“How far are they going?” Helen asked.

“For now, it’s just US-owned data and whatever we can buy—”

“More must be done,” Richter said, staring out the windows at the people on the phones. “Whoever finds those four people first may well control the future of the human race. We are behind, Sandy. The Covenant may already have one or more of the matches. They may have also already built the device. We must hurry now.”

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