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Chapter no 43

Quantum Radio

Ty was sitting at his desk, staring at the stained page from Kato’s file, when someone knocked on the door. He folded the page and slipped it in his pocket just in time to hide it from the young marine who entered.

“Sir, you’re wanted for another meeting.”

Five minutes later, Ty was walking into a conference room where Colonel Travis and Bishop were standing at the end of a long table. Ty’s parents were sitting on one side.

The moment the door closed, Bishop said, “They’ve found the fourth match.”

He took a folder from Travis and slid it across to Ty’s father, who opened it and placed it between him and Ty’s mother so they could both read the summary page.

“Her name is Maria Santos,” Bishop continued. “Age twenty-four. She’s living in a homeless shelter in downtown Nashville. She’s a junkie—”

Ty’s mother held up a hand. “Please don’t say that.” “What? Homeless shelter?”

“I don’t think the word junk should be used to describe a human being.”

Bishop exhaled heavily. “Miss Santos has a past history of substance abuse.” The man eyed Helen, expression bordering on mocking. She glanced up, then returned her attention to the file, not taking the bait.

“She’s apparently a singer. Or was. Her band had a few hits, then broke up. Some kind of disagreement or lovers’ quarrel or something.” Bishop flipped a page. “She went solo and started having a lot of problems. That’s about all we know. Oh, and she seems to have absolutely no connection to any of the other three matches. Or science. We’re scratching our heads on this one.”

“It’s not as mysterious as you might think,” Richter said, still scanning the file.

“What does that mean?”

“I’d like to speak with her first.”

When no one objected, Richter rose, and Helen looked up at him. “You don’t want to finish reading the file?”

“There is no need. The pattern is clear. We need to see what she was working on.” To Colonel Travis, he said, “Do we have her cloud accounts? Have you downloaded the data there?”

“She doesn’t have any.” “Physical files?”

“Only a notebook.”

“Bring it to me. I want to read it before I see her.” “Why?” Ty asked.

“I believe she’s an equally important component of this mystery.” His gaze settled on Bishop. “Regardless of her past.”

Bishop crossed his arms. “Didn’t realize you were such a music connoisseur, Gerhard.”

“On the contrary. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this particular piece.”

“You want to tell me what that means?” “No.”

Bishop snorted. “You people… Look, somebody is going to have to start giving me some answers.” He pointed at Ty. “Starting with you. I got you the pardon. And the meeting with Tanaka. And Dr. Brown. Now talk. What’s the code to operate the device?”

Ty felt every pair of eyes in the room focus on him. “The symbols on the dial are star clusters.”

Bishop shook his head, annoyed. “No. They’re not. We’ve run the simulations. They’re not from the past. Or the future. Or from any planet in the solar system. We’re even trying to model worlds in the habitable zones of the closest stars. Results are pending, but they’re telling me it doesn’t look likely. So, what you’re saying is just not correct.”

“I’m right,” Ty said, voice rising. “Prove it.”

“I can’t.”

Bishop threw up his hands. “Wonderful.”

“Look, I can’t tell you how I know, but I just sense it—like I knew the genomes were of living people and that the device was a small collider.”

“Then what’s the code? How do we operate it?” “I don’t know yet.”

“So you were lying when you said you would talk in return for the pardon.”

Ty felt blood rushing to his head, the beat of his heart faint but growing in his eardrums. “I didn’t lie. I told you I would help in return for that pardon. I am helping. I’m telling you what I know.”

“You better start knowing more, and fast. The device will be done in a few hours.”

“I want to brief the team.”

Bishop squinted at him. “What team?” “Kato and Nora.”

Kato and Nora?” Bishop practically spat out. “You’re not a team.” “We are.”

No. You’re not. A team is a group of people who work together toward some measurable outcome. You people are, simply put, not that. You don’t work together. You have no goal. Look, we still don’t even know what the device does. Or how you’re connected to it.”

Ty laughed. “That’s exactly my point.”

“Well, you’ll apparently have to make it for me.”

“The point is, we need to start working together, right now. Because we are a team. And I think we’re the key to figuring out what’s happening here.”

*

In the meeting room, Ty stood when Nora entered. “What happened?”

“I’ll tell you when Kato gets here.”

They didn’t have to wait long. The Navy SEAL arrived a minute later, face placid, hand extended to Nora. “Ma’am.”

“Nora, this is Kato Tanaka. Kato, this is Nora Brown. I thought you two should meet. And there’s something else. They’ve found the fourth match. Her name is Maria Santos. She’s a singer and a songwriter. She’s had some difficulties in her life, but it sounds like she was trying to get over them.”

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