Chapter no 5

Quantum Radio

Pain came first.

Ty’s back, elbow, and head ached.

Ringing came next. The sound started in his ears and echoed all the way to his eyes.

Drywall mist and pieces of debris rained down on him like a drizzle of sand and small rocks.

Ty opened his eyes but instantly closed them again to keep the dust out.

He was still on the landing, lying at the base of the wall.

Slowly, he rolled over and got to his hands and knees, wincing at the pain in his right arm. Facing down, he again opened his eyes. Moonlight drifted in through the window above-the now shattered window.

That was dangerous. Ty knew that, but for the life of him, he couldn’t grasp exactly why the broken window above was a danger. His brain was as shaken as his body.

A few feet away, something was glowing through the cloud of dust, a lighthouse shining out on a foggy night.

Why would a piece of debris be glowing? That didn’t make sense.

Ty opened his mouth, trying to make the ringing in his ears stop.

Without thinking, he reached out his right hand to crawl toward the light but instantly drew back in pain when it touched the floor.

Squinting in the moonlight, he pulled the shard of glass from his palm. That was why the broken window was dangerous: the sharp pieces on the floor.

He began to stand but stopped. The broken glass would shred his feet if he wasn’t careful.

With his left hand, he swatted away the dust cloud until he could safely see to navigate through the jagged debris.

When he reached the glowing light, he realized what it was: his phone.

It was buzzing. Someone was calling.

Penny Neumann.

He answered, but the ringing in his ears muffled Penny’s voice.

“I can’t hear,” he yelled, but even the sound of his own voice was faint. The line went dead. A text message appeared:

Meet me. Where we first met. Now.

He slipped the phone into his pocket and surveyed the landing and stairs, searching for shards of glass glittering in the moonlight.

He wasn’t leaving. Not until everyone was out of the building or until help arrived.

In the hallway to his apartment, he found Ajit Tandon staggering through the dust, his son Ramesh in his arms.

Ty reached out to help, but the older man brushed him away. His wife Indra was close behind, and when she saw Ty, she reached out and put her hands on his shoulders, sending a bolt of pain through him.

Her words were barely audible. “Are you okay?”

He nodded and stumbled down the hall and into his apartment, where he stopped cold.

It was apparent the blast had originated here. The walls were charred. A hole in the floor loomed where the dining table had been. Below, his neighbor’s apartment was also a burned ruin. No one was moving.

Books were blown to bits, the pieces strewn about like confetti. The entire wall that separated the kitchen-dining-living room from the bedroom was gone.

With each passing second, his hearing was returning.

The first sounds he discerned were in the distance: sirens wailing in the night, growing closer, three, maybe four of them. First responders.

Closer: voices in the darkened apartment building, calling out in French, German, and English.

Watch out for the glass.

The door is jammed.

Follow me.

Ty felt a vibration in his pocket. A text message.

His eyes stayed on his apartment. It was clear what had caused the blast:

the cheap-looking alarm clock that had arrived in the mail.


How could this happen?

Had anyone been hurt by the blast?

Someone was trying to kill him. And Penny had known ahead of time.


His laptop was disintegrated. The only remnants were a few pieces of gray plastic scattered in the living room.

His notes were toast as well, burned or vaporized.

He reached down and felt the USB drive in his pocket. It contained the algorithm to decode the collider data on CERN’s LHC computer grid. It was his life’s work. And he still had it.

Was this why someone had tried to kill him?

As he held the data drive, his phone buzzed again.

He took it out and read the two text messages from Penny:

Go, Ty.


Still standing there, he saw a new message appear:

Every second you stay, you put the people around you in danger. They’re coming for you, Ty. Go. Now. Please.

Ty’s heart began pounding in his chest as if he were walking on a treadmill that had just kicked into high gear.

He reached down and pulled his shoes on and raced into the hall, which was empty now.

Ty found his neighbors gathered just outside the building’s entrance, families hugging each other, frightened, sleepy expressions on their faces. And shock for a few. People from nearby buildings were congregating too, standing on both sides of the street like spectators at a parade, waiting for the procession of fire trucks, police vehicles, and ambulances to arrive.

It wouldn’t be long; the wail of sirens was growing closer. Ty mounted his bike and pedaled into the night.

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