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Chapter no 26

Quantum Radio

Ty watched as his mother strode forward, arms out, wrapping them around his brother.

“Are you okay?” she whispered.

“I’m fine,” he replied, hugging her back tightly. When he released her, he glanced between Ty and their mother. “What’s going on? They told me I was being transferred.” He motioned around him, at the empty freezer and silver metal racks. “This is not what I was expecting.”

Helen glanced back at Ty. “We’re working on that.” Tom’s eyebrows knitted together. “What does that mean?”

“It means,” Helen said carefully, “that things are complicated.” “Complicated how?”

“Well, you know your brother works at CERN doing physics research. He works on a device called the Large Hadron Collider. It’s a particle collider—”

“Mom, I know what the LHC is. I live in a federal prison, not under a rock.”

She held a hand up. “I know, I know. I’m trying to put my thoughts together here. The point is that your brother made a discovery.”

“What kind of discovery?”

“We can’t say. Not yet. But it’s important.” “So why am I here?”

“That’s… well, we can’t say that yet either.”

He nodded, seeming resigned. Seeing that broke Ty’s heart. Tom had changed. It was as if the fight had gone out of him. The brother Ty had grown up with would have demanded to know what was going on. Was it prison that had changed Tom? Or time? Time spent questioning his choices?

And that was the real difference between Ty and his brother: their choices. The thought reminded Ty of what Lars had said about life being a

series of roads—of turns and exits taken and not taken, a web of choices that sews together a life. Ty and Tom had taken different roads at key points. And that had led them to very different places.

And inexplicably, those roads had converged again, leading both brothers here, and Ty wondered what was next and if there was a chance to repair the past, to redo those turns that had led his brother astray.

The three of them talked, then, about everything and nothing at all, passing time like families reunited often do, asking questions about how each other was doing, and listening, but most of all watching the reactions that told more than words revealed. Ty could tell his mother was tired. And that there was still that core of strength within his brother, despite some of it being worn away.

When Helen left, Tom eyed the closed door. “Think she’s doing okay?” “Yeah. I think so. She’s just worried. About both of us.”

“You worried?”

Ty shrugged, trying to play it cool.

“Just another day at the office, huh?”

Ty laughed. Some things never changed. His brother had his limitations, but he had always been able to see through Ty.

Tom shook his head. “Man, all this cloak-and-dagger stuff. It’s wild.” He eyed his brother. “Bet it’s not what that big brain of yours thought you were signing up for at CERN.”

“No. It’s not. The last twenty-four hours… have been super weird.”

There was another topic on Ty’s mind, something he had wanted to discuss with Tom since the minute he had found out that his brother was coming here, something only the two of them could discuss, the one thing in the world only they understood, a shared hurt and desire that neither time nor choices had changed. “Dad’s here.”

Tom glanced up, clearly shocked. “In DC?” “In this building.”

“You’ve seen him? Have you talked to him?”

“He brought me here. From Zürich. He sort of… saved me.”

Tom stood from the rack he had been sitting on and walked the length of the meat locker, then suddenly looked back at Ty. “Saved you from what?”

Ty realized what he had said then. “Nothing.”

“Doesn’t sound like nothing.” He studied Ty for a long moment. “I thought Mom was the one I should be worried about. Maybe I was wrong.”

“You’ve looked out for me enough.” “Is that how you see it?”

“That’s how I see it.” “You blame yourself.” “I do.”

“You shouldn’t.” “I can’t help it.”

“You can. If you try. And you have to. Or else it’ll eat you up inside, Ty.

I’m telling you.”

Ty stared at the floor. This was the conversation he had wanted to have with his brother for years, that he had rehearsed in his mind a hundred times. Maybe a thousand times. But now that it was happening, he couldn’t find the words.

“You know what the most important thing is in prison?” Ty stared at his brother.

“The past,” Tom said. “Thinking about it. Obsessing about it. It’s around every corner, as real as one of the guards—and the walls and fences that keep us confined. The past is what really traps a person.”

“It’s hard not to think about,” Ty said.

“I would have done it with or without you. You dwelling on what happened doesn’t do either of us any good. It’ll just wear you down. The past is like a boat anchor for some people. They can’t get free of it.”

“It’s like that for Mom and Dad.”

“Yeah. Turns out are parents are human too, just like us.” “I can’t just ignore the past.”

“No. That’s not what I’m saying. We’ve all got to learn from our past. That’s the other thing I’ve realized from my time inside. If you don’t, you’ll never grow, never figure out who you really are. But I tell you what, Ty: once you learn from the past, you’ve gotta let it go. It can’t do anything else for you. The future is all that matters.” Tom glanced around at the meat locker. “And based on what I’m seeing, you’re going to need all that brainpower for whatever is going on here.”

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