Chapter no 49

Quantum Radio

In a dark corridor, deep in the DARPA facility, Ty watched as Kato held the flashlight with one hand and threw open a door with the other, the rifle slung over his shoulder.

Behind them, in the lab section, the gunfire stopped. Muffled voices rang out. Ty couldn’t help wondering if his parents were all right.

Kato marched deeper into the room, past a boiler, air purification scrubbers, and water heaters.

“Over here,” he called, raking his flashlight over a massive iron door at the back of the room. There was a metal pole across the center of it, ensuring it couldn’t be opened from the outside. It reminded Ty of a door from a medieval castle, barred to keep intruders out.

Kato lifted the pole and pulled the creaking door open, revealing a stone passageway beyond, which to Ty appeared even more medieval.

He looked back, making sure the door to the mechanical room was closed, then followed Kato and the two women into the tunnel.

It was damp and chilly inside. Dark too—the stone walls seemed to absorb light and never give any back, like a black hole that stretched into the darkness as far as Ty could see.

“The map,” Kato whispered as he closed the iron door behind them. There was no lock on this side, but Ty watched as the Navy SEAL set the pole against the middle of the door, leaning it slightly. Instantly, he realized the reason: as an alarm, not a deterrent. The moment the door opened, the metal bar would clang onto the stone floor.

Ty handed Kato the map, and he studied it, eyes moving like the character in Pac-Man, up and down, left and right, at seemingly random points, as though he were tracing the pattern in his mind.

Without a word, he marched deeper into the tunnel. Nora fell in behind him, then Maria, with Ty bringing up the rear.

“Can you all jog?” Kato asked, voice low.

By way of response, Nora broke into a jog, and so did Maria. Ty kept pace, careful not to let his feet slip on the stone floor. At a four-way intersection ahead, Kato turned right.

Behind them, the metal bar clanged on the stones. The Covenant troops were in the tunnels. Or his parents. That thought gave him a flicker of hope. Maybe they were running too.

Nora reached a hand out to Kato, causing him to slow down and finally stop.

“Should we hide?” she whispered.

Kato shook his head. “They’ll find us if we do. The map has an endpoint. I’m assuming help will be waiting for us there.” He eyed Ty. “Or at least safety. I vote to keep going.” He paused. “And stay quiet until we exit.”

Ty nodded. “I agree.”

“Okay,” Nora said as Maria nodded as well.

The next turn was into a smaller shaft, with pipes running along the ceiling and walls. Ty could tell the pipes hadn’t been used in a long time. They were cold and quiet and pitted. There were holes every few feet, evidence of time and wear eating away at them. Ty felt as though he were snaking his way through the insides of a giant beast, staring directly at the veins that carried its lifeblood, the holes and pockmarks like the damage time did to a body.

Kato glanced down at the page as he walked, then turned again, into a passage where the pipes were coated in a white powder. He stopped and turned to the three of them. “Don’t touch the pipes—they’re coated in asbestos.”

Before anyone could reply, he spun and resumed his march, breaking into a jog.

After another turn, Kato abruptly came to a stop. He held his left hand back, palm open, fingers pointing up. Ty sensed that it was a military hand sign. As far as he could tell, it meant stop, and all three did. Ahead, they heard splashing water. And voices.

Whoever was in the tunnels was closing in fast.

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