Chapter no 46

Quantum Radio

Ty woke to hands gripping him, shaking his shoulders, and a voice calling his name. The fluorescent tube lights above buzzed and shone down, draping the person’s face in shadow.

“Rise, my son.”

Ty squinted and saw his father staring down. “I’m up,” he muttered.

“It’s time.”

Ty planted his right elbow in the thin mattress and pushed himself into a sitting position. He was still in his clothes, and he had slept on his left hand

—it was dead and awkward. “Time for what?”

“The machine. It will be finished shortly.” Richter leaned over. “Did you read the file?”

Ty rubbed his hand on his face. “Yes. I got the picture. But I don’t understand it. How to use it.”

“Just keep it with you. Do you have the pills I gave you?” Ty put a hand on his pocket, felt the bottle, and nodded.

Richter turned to leave, but Ty reached out with his left hand, which was slowly coming back to life. He gripped his father’s arm. Richter spun, seeming surprised. The man clearly wasn’t used to someone placing their hands on him unexpectedly. Instantly, his face softened, and Ty saw, for the first time, an outward show of warmth, his guard coming down.

“Thank you,” Ty whispered. “For what?”

“Saving me in Zürich. The Covenant probably would have caught up with me if you hadn’t.”

“That’s what parents do.”

The words hung in the air for what felt like an eternity, both men staring at each other. Ty thought his father would pull away, but he stayed.

Finally, Ty leaned closer and whispered, “Do you know the code—for the radio?”


Ty studied his face. He had been sure his father knew. If he didn’t, then Ty was truly at a loss. He sensed, however, that he needed to figure it out quickly.

“I was told,” Richter said, “a long time ago, that the answer to all of this is written in the stars.”


Richter led Ty to a conference room, where he expected to find his mother and Bishop waiting. Instead, he found Maria Santos pacing in front of a long table, a cup of coffee in her hand. The photos in the file had been from her singing career—standing on stage, microphone in hand, airbrushed promo photos, and still-captures of online music videos and social media posts.

Here, in the flesh, Maria still had the same fire in her eyes, but the sockets that held those eyes were more sunken now, with black bags beneath them, as though time and stress had left charred pits.

“Miss Santos, this is my son, Tyson.” “Call me Ty.”

“I’m Maria,” she said cautiously, studying the two men. “What’s going on?”

Richter turned to leave. “I’ll leave that to Tyson.”

When the door closed, Maria said, “Your dad is really not one for explaining things.” She shrugged. “No offense.”

“Believe me, I know exactly how you feel. You have no idea.” Ty took a deep breath. “But if you give me a few minutes, I’ll try to bring you up to speed.”


By the time Ty had finished briefing Maria, her eyes were wide, and her coffee cup was empty.

“This is crazy,” she whispered. “I know. It’s a lot to take in.”

“If I was still on drugs, I probably wouldn’t believe it at all.” “Yeah, it’s a trip.”

Maria knitted her eyebrows. “You make dad jokes.” “I do. It’s… unfortunate.”

“Are you a dad?”

“No. No, I’m actually not. And I think that probably makes it worse.” She laughed. “Hey, nobody’s perfect.”

The door opened, and Nora and Kato walked in. Ty stood and introduced the three of them.

“What’s the latest update?” Nora asked.

“Dr. Brown,” Bishop said, marching through the doorway, “to answer your question, the latest is that the device is ready.”

Colonel Travis followed Bishop into the room and set about working the controls for the screen on the wall. A video feed appeared, showing a clean room where three people in white suits stood around a metal table, the quantum radio lying in the center.

Ty’s parents arrived then. Richter paused at the door to allow Helen to enter before him. Ty sensed that they had been talking beforehand.

Through the doorway, he saw uniformed marines, who were carrying rifles, exiting the elevator. There had to be two dozen of them in the outer room now, massed as if for an invasion—or to repel one.

Colonel Travis called to a sergeant outside the conference room, and the man stepped inside, followed by four others, who stood along the wall, eyes fixed on Ty, Nora, Kato, and Maria. They were clearly there in case something happened to the four of them, some transformation that endangered the rest of the room. Was that what they thought was about to happen when they turned the quantum radio on?

On the video, a suited figure in the clean room looked up through a clear helmet, directly at the camera. “We’re ready to seal the enclosure.”

Colonel Travis turned to Bishop, who swallowed hard, then eyed Richter. Ty’s father inclined his head slightly. Beside him, Ty’s mother took a deep breath and held it as Colonel Travis pressed a button on the conference speaker on the table and said, “Proceed.”

On the screen, tiny pops and flashes issued at the edges of the device.

Ty felt eyes upon him. Across the table, Nora was staring, a question in her eyes. Even after so many years apart, he knew what she was silently asking him: What’s going to happen?

With a slight movement of his head, straight across, he told her he didn’t know. He felt as though they were standing on the precipice of something incredible.

Beside Nora, Kato was as still as a redwood tree, towering in the face of whatever was coming.

Maria was chewing one of her fingernails as she squinted at the screen. The man in the clean room spoke again, “We’re sealed.”

“Stand by,” Travis said into the speaker phone.

The room fell into an uneasy silence, everyone waiting. Ty could feel the marines scanning him and the others, watching for changes. He wondered what their orders were.

Richter reached into his pocket. Ty could see him holding something, working his fingers. Was it a gun?

Bishop looked up at Ty. “We need that sequence to activate it. Right now.”

“I don’t know it.”

“Then we’re going to start guessing.” “You can’t be serious,” Richter said.

Bishop drew a slip of paper out of his pocket, then held a finger down on the conference speaker. “Depress the fourth symbol.”

Helen turned to Richter and whispered, “Make them stop.”

“Stop this, Sandy,” Richter said, taking a step forward, hand still in his coat pocket.

On the screen, the view focused on the quantum radio, which sat face up on the silver-metal table. A finger came into the view and pressed the fourth symbol on the device. Behind the symbol, a yellow-orange glow emerged for a fraction of a second, then faded quickly.

The suited man’s voice came over the speaker. “Momentary lighting on the keypad and slight vibration as the key was depressed—likely a haptic feedback mechanism. No other change here.”

“Why the fourth symbol?” Nora asked, eyebrows bunched.

“Four genomes,” Bishop said, studying the page. He pressed the speaker again. “Try one-two-three.”

Ty threw his hands up. “You’ve got to be kidding me! One-two-three?”

Bishop eyed him. “It’s the sum of your four ages: thirty-five, thirty-five, twenty-nine, and twenty-four.”

“Sandy,” Richter said, “you don’t even know if it operates on a base-ten number system. There are twelve symbols.”

On the screen, the finger hit the first three symbols in rapid succession.

Once again, the symbols flashed, but nothing happened.

Bishop was studying the page, ignoring Richter.

“Sandy,” Richter said, voice rising. “You’re playing roulette here.

Entering the wrong sequence could kill us all.”

Bishop looked up. “Is that what will happen, Gerhard? How do you know?”

He waited, eying Richter. “You know what, I think you know a lot more about this device than you’re telling us.” Bishop spread his hands. “You put all these pieces in place as though you knew we’d need them. So we’d be ready to build a small collider when the time came. You’ve also kept us a step ahead of the Covenant too. How is that? How do you know so much?”

“What I know, at this moment, is that it is dangerous to operate this device until we understand it.”

Bishop shook his head. “Well, it looks like the only way to understand it is to experiment—and that’s what I’ve been instructed to do. By the President of the United States. He wants an operational quantum radio—by any means necessary and at any cost.”

At any cost.

Ty wondered what the cost of typing the wrong code into the radio would be. His father feared that. And this was the first time he had seen him scared.

An idea occurred to Ty then. A possible code. One thing he knew: it was better than Bishop’s guesses. And he needed to buy time to think it over more.

“I know the code,” Ty said quietly. Every head in the room turned to him. Bishop spoke first. “Okay. Go ahead.” “I need to key it in myself.”


“I believe it has a built-in security measure—to ensure one of the four of us has to be in possession of the radio to operate it.”

Bishop squinted at Ty. “You’re guessing.”

“Yes. I’m guessing about that part. But it doesn’t mean I’m wrong.” “Tell me the code.”

“No. I’ll only type it in myself.”

“It’s a quantum device, Ty. It could operate from anywhere in the universe.”

“That may be, but why would they supply our genomes? What’s the harm in me typing it in? The device is a floor away. If there is a security countermeasure against anyone other than us typing in the code, it could be catastrophic. Do you really want to take that risk?”

Bishop shook his head and looked at Ty, his mother, and then his father. “You people are going to be the death of me.”

He motioned to Colonel Travis, who held a hand out to the marines. They broke formation and exited, joining the other troops in the outer room, massing at the elevator.

Ty stepped across the threshold and looked back at Nora, Kato, and Maria. “Come on.”

“No,” Bishop said. “They stay.” “They’re coming with us.”

“No. They stay. There isn’t a lot of extra space in the lab, and we need security around you four in case you change.”

“Change how?” Nora asked, concern evident on her face. “What’s he talking about?” Maria said.

“We’re a team,” Ty said to Bishop.

The older man snorted. “They are not your team.”

“I never said they were my team. I said we’re a team. Four corners of something important.”

“Well, there’s just not room for security and the team.”

“Make room, Bishop. You want the code, that’s the deal. Besides, they may need to be close by to even activate the device.”

Bishop seemed to think for a minute, then shook his head. “Fine. You want to bring the quantum village people along? So be it.”

He took a phone from his pocket and began tapping on it. “What are you doing?” Richter asked.

“Sending an update.” “To whom?”

“The people we work for, Gerhard.”

Bishop motioned to the door. “Let’s go.”

Nora turned her gaze to Ty, silently asking, Is this going to be okay?

He put on a reassuring smile, but he knew her well enough to know she saw through it. They were about to roll the dice on the biggest scientific experiment in human history.

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