Chapter no 23

Quantum Radio

By mid-afternoon, fatigue was overtaking Ty. It brought brain fog with it, like a cloud rolling in late in the day, dumping heavy rain, a force of nature bearing down on him that he couldn’t stop. It was enough to make him want to lie down and sleep for hours.

He was sitting in a chair in Bishop’s office contemplating doing just that when Richter walked in and marched over to him.

“Your brother will be here shortly.” Ty nodded.

“You feel unwell,” Richter said. “I’m fine.”

“You take medications for your condition.”

Ty looked up at him, shocked, but said nothing.

Richter continued, his face showing no emotion. “It’s a cocktail you’ve refined over the years, a combination of prescription medications offered via online services and nonprescription supplements.”

“How do you know that?” Ty whispered. “I’ve kept tabs on you.”


“I paid a firm to do it.” “Why?”

“You know why.”

Ty rubbed his eyebrows, feeling the headache starting. Richter remained an enigma to him, one that only grew the more they talked.

“My medicines and supplements were in my apartment. They were destroyed in the blast. I need to get refills.”

“No, you don’t.” Richter reached into his coat pocket and drew out the white pill bottle Ty had seen Richter’s assistant hand him on the tarmac at the private airport outside Zürich. He held it out to Ty, who eyed it. There

was no label. Ty took the bottle, opened it, and studied the capsules inside, which were filled with gray-white powder.

“What is this?”

“What you require.”

“I need you to be more cryptic right now.”

“I shall comply when you increase your sarcasm.”

“I’m serious. This is my health. I can’t just take some random pills.” “They are hardly random.”

“Then what are they?”

“The product of research I’ve funded for a long time.” “Research into what?”

“Your condition. What you hold should resolve your symptoms.” Richter turned to leave. “I’ll get you some water.”


The older man glanced back.

“What do you know about my condition? Really?” Ty held the bottle up. “What is this?”

“When I can, when the time is right, I’ll tell you.”

Ty’s mother walked into the office, prompting Ty to shove the pill bottle in his pocket. He had never told her about his condition—mostly because he didn’t want to worry her, and frankly, she would’ve had a million questions, ordered a million tests, and probably spent endless hours thinking about it and wondering if he was okay.

Helen eyed them. “What are you two doing?” Ty shrugged. “Chatting about mystery drugs.”

She frowned dismissively, then let out a short laugh before motioning through the office window. “Bishop sent me to get you both. Apparently, there’s a briefing.”

When she turned to leave the office, Richter nodded to Ty, who took out the pill bottle and dry-swallowed one of the capsules, still wondering what in the world it was.


The briefing room was similar to the conference room where Ty had been held when he first arrived at the DARPA facility, only larger. In the center

was a long conference table with power and Ethernet connections at each seat. A massive screen covered the wall opposite the door.

A tall marine stood at the front of the room, wearing a spotless uniform with rows of medals on his chest, a map of Africa displayed behind him. A red dot was moving on the map, blinking just off the coast of Liberia.

Bishop introduced the marine as Lieutenant Colonel Travis, the Origin Project’s Pentagon liaison. The man spoke as soon as the four of them were seated.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll lead with the bad news: the active searches of the DoD and other government-controlled sources of genomic data yielded no further results other than the match for Lieutenant Tanaka.”

“And where exactly is Lieutenant Tanaka?” Bishop asked.

“That’s the good news, sir. A rapid response team located Tanaka an hour ago. He’s in custody and en route to this facility.”

“What took so long?” Bishop asked.

“He was in the field, sir. In Africa. Took a while to track him down.” “I thought he wasn’t deployed.”

“He wasn’t, sir. Sources say he was doing freelance work.” “Freelance work. As in…”

“Security work, sir.”

“What sort of security work?”

“Sir, I’m told this instance was a K&R counteroperation.” “K&R?” Helen asked.

“Ah, that’s kidnap and ransom, ma’am. The term typically encompasses extortion as well.”

Bishop frowned. “So he was rescuing someone who was kidnapped?” “Ah, not in this case, sir.”

“What exactly was he doing?”

“The specifics aren’t exactly clear, sir.”

It was obvious to Ty that the marine was holding back. Richter seemed to sense it too. He spoke slowly, tone neutral. “Colonel, we believe Lieutenant Tanaka may be an integral part of what is happening here. It’s possible that his recent activities may be connected. Any information—including speculation—would be helpful.”

Travis nodded. “Copy that, sir. What I do know is that Tanaka was doing a job subbed out by Halogen Group in Nigeria.”

“What is Halogen Group?” Bishop asked.

“A private security firm, sir. They’re a pretty large operation, similar to Blackwater and Aegis.”

“So they hired Mr. Tanaka?” Helen asked.

Travis paused a moment. “Ma’am, I think it’s more likely that they referred this job to him. On small jobs like this, they really don’t want to be in the loop.”

“What exactly was the small job?” Richter asked.

“Our contact at Halogen reports that the client in this case was a school that had been threatened. Local unfriendlies were demanding protection money. Basic extortion scheme, sir.”

“What did Tanaka do?” Bishop asked, leaning forward.

“Sir, in the debrief, the team that acquired Tanaka reported being uncertain about his specific actions in country. Reading between the lines, I think that would have generated a lot of questions and paperwork.”

Richter cleared his throat. “We have no interest in paperwork, Colonel.

Only your opinion about what the lieutenant was doing in Nigeria.”

“Yes, sir. We believe—based on eyewitness reports—that Tanaka let it get around that he had evacuated the school to a remote location for safekeeping. An abandoned mine. Details about what went down there are unclear, but we have drone footage of some very large explosions in that area and roughly ten to twenty deceased hostiles.” Travis tilted his head. “It’s hard to tell from the photos, but we believe they are the same group cited in the case file Halogen handed off to us.”

Richter frowned. “Why was the team in the field unable to ascertain an exact body count?”

“Sir, I believe that was because the hostiles in question were in pieces.” The room fell silent.

Bishop closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. “Freelance work,” he mumbled. “My nephew does graphic design. He’s on Fiverr. That is freelance work. This guy’s a mercenary. A hired killer.”

The tall marine said nothing.

“Where’s the file on this Lieutenant Tanaka?” Bishop asked. “The full workup?”

Travis reached into his bag and pulled out a thick manila folder and slid it over to Bishop, who flipped through the pages, then looked up suddenly. “He’s being court-martialed?”

“Yes, sir.”

“He’s a criminal,” Bishop muttered, still reading the file.

“He’s been accused, sir. He’s yet to be tried. Or convicted.”

Bishop was still reading the file when he spoke again. “We need to have the Bureau of Prisons sequence every single inmate in the country. And coordinate with the state prison systems. Foreign nations too. Have State offer aid. Get the CIA to offer bribes. Use dirt if they have to. I’m sure they have it.”

Bishop’s words shocked Ty. He didn’t follow the line of reasoning at all.

But Richter clearly did.

“I concur,” he said quickly. “Why?” Ty asked.

“A pattern is emerging,” Richter said.

Bishop closed the file and passed it to Helen. To Travis, he said, “Anything else, Colonel?”

“No, sir. That’s all I have for now.”

“Please have ops start making those requests to the White House to coordinate with BOP, State, and CIA.” Bishop glanced at his watch. “It’s getting late in the day, and the bureaucrats will be going home soon. Make it happen, Colonel.”

“Yes, sir.”

When the marine was gone, Ty said, “What pattern?” “Prisoners,” Richter said.

“There’s a fifty-fifty chance,” Bishop said, “that either you or your brother are a match. Let’s say it’s your brother, Thomas. We know he’s a convicted felon. We now know that Tanaka is facing a court-martial and that he’s taking jobs where he’s hired to kill people.”

Ty shook his head. “That’s not accurate.” Bishop shrugged. “Which part?”

“To me, it sounds like Tanaka was hired to protect people. A school. And it sounds like he had to kill some people to do that—and not good people.”

Bishop grimaced. “You’re missing the point.” “Which is?”

“The point is that we’ve received schematics for a device—what looks like an advanced particle collider. We’re really not sure what it will do when we activate it. We’ve also received the genomes of four people. Two are likely people who have broken the law. One is already in prison. One is the subject of a court-martial. He was in the process of killing ten to twenty

people when we found him. The fact that there were so many body parts that a special ops team couldn’t accurately estimate the death count speaks volumes. Perhaps the most important fact in all of this is one simple thing: both men are under the direct control of the government.”

“I don’t see why that’s important.”

Ty waited, but no one said anything. The three others seemed deep in thought. Finally, Richter spoke. “Consider it from the other point of view.”

“What other point of view?”

“The point of view of whomever—or whatever—is broadcasting via this quantum radio.”

Ty frowned. “I don’t follow.”

“They’ve sent schematics, correct?” Richter asked. “Right.”

“For a device.”

“Yes, for a device.”

“And what would the recipient need to do?” Richter asked.

“Build it,” Ty said, unable to hide his annoyance at the simplicity of the questions. He felt like he was being treated like a child, which was even more annoying because when he actually was a child, Richter had skipped out on being a parent.

“What would you do after building it?” Ty exhaled. “Turn it on.”

“And what do you do when you turn on a prototype of any new device?” “You test it—” Ty saw it then. “Wait.” He stood up and began pacing in

the conference room, shaking his head. “No way.”

“It’s the obvious conclusion,” Richter said, staring at the conference table.

Ty said the words he was thinking, hoping he was wrong. “You think the genomes are test subjects. Prisoners. People whoever is broadcasting knows we would have access to. People they think we’d be willing to experiment on.”

The silence confirmed Ty’s assertion.

“You think the device is going to do something to them.”

“A safe assumption,” Richter said. “The subjects should be under observation when the device is activated. And perhaps close to it. Proximity may be important.”

“I don’t like this,” Ty whispered. “I don’t like it at all.”

“I don’t either,” Helen breathed out. “It’s wrong,” Ty said.

“I agree,” Helen whispered. “It’s testing without consent.”

Ty shook his head. “Yes. That makes it wrong. But I also disagree with the conclusion you all are making here. I don’t think the genomes are test subjects.”

“You want it to be wrong,” Bishop said, not looking up.

“Yes. I want it to be wrong. But that doesn’t mean it’s right.” “What are you saying?” Richter asked.

“I’m saying we’re looking at this incorrectly. We’re simply following the possible correlations the data is providing.”

Bishop reeled back. “I fail to see the flaw in that.”

“The flaw is very simple: we’re excluding avenues of inquiry before we’ve ruled them out.”

“Meaning?” Richter asked.

“We need more data. More genomic data, to be exact. We need to start testing on a global scale. Everyone, and I mean everyone—in every nation.”

Bishop snorted. “Why didn’t I think of that? Should be easy enough.” He patted his pockets. “Now, where did I put that magic wand?”

“Very funny,” Ty said, exhaustion and annoyance creeping into his voice. “Look,” Bishop said, “the president has been briefed on the situation, and the full force and capabilities of the United States government are behind

this effort, but there are practical limits to what we can do here.” “You’re wrong. The only real limit is our imagination.”

“Sounds great,” Bishop muttered. “On a t-shirt.”

“I’m serious. We need to start finding these people—and fast. We need to go beyond dialing for data.” When no one made eye contact, Ty pressed on. “Look, you all made me part of the team, but you’re still not listening to me. Everything I’ve told you has been right, both what the device was and what the genomes were. Existing people. You want to start ignoring me now?”

Ty’s mother smiled. “He has a point, gentlemen. Can’t recall either of you coming up with any good ideas recently.”

Bishop threw a hand up. “I’m all ears. How exactly are you going to get the entire world to voluntarily submit to DNA testing—and quickly?”

“It’s very simple,” Ty said. “We offer what everyone wants.”

“Okay, I’ll bite,” Bishop said, clearly skeptical. “What does everyone


“To win the lottery.”

Bishop frowned. “Sure. But they can’t buy a lottery ticket with a buccal swab from their mouth.”

Richter leaned back in his chair and stared at Ty. With each passing second, a smile spread across his face. “Sure they can, Sandy.” He nodded. “They can. And they will. If given the right enticement. It’s a very, very clever idea, Ty.”

Bishop shrugged. “What’s a clever idea?”

“A genetic lottery,” Ty said. “An unclaimed inheritance.” “Go on,” Bishop said.

“We release a story on social media and news outlets about a reclusive, world-traveling billionaire who has passed away with no known heirs. In his will, this unnamed billionaire directs his family office to conduct a search for his biological relatives. They could be his direct issue or the descendants of a brother or sister or one of his aunts and uncles going back generations. That casts the net pretty wide. Global. We say nothing about the billionaire’s background. Nothing about his country of origin, race, ethnicity or history. Anyone who submits a DNA sample may end up with billions. And then we sweeten the deal: we pay anyone a hundred dollars just to get tested to see if they’re a match.”

Bishop leaned back in the chair and let his head fall back. “This is going to be a pain. A royal pain—”

“Gerhard should do it,” Helen said. “He’s the resident expert on reclusive billionaires keeping secrets.”

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