Chapter no 54

Quantum Radio

Nora unzipped the pilot’s flight suit and used the surgical scissors from the survival kit to cut open his T-shirt, revealing the man’s torso.

Blue and purple bruises ran across his chest and sides. Two of his ribs were probably fractured. Of more concern to her was the large black circle to the left of his belly button.

It indicated internal bleeding. This man needed to be in a hospital operating room. Right now.

Working more urgently, she used the scissors to cut the pilot’s pants up from the bottom. His legs were worse than his torso. Bruises that likely surrounded fractures striped his upper and lower legs. He had landed on his feet, and his long bones had probably shattered in several places.

The fractures presented a larger danger: embolisms. Blood clots were the most common cause of embolisms, but with large breaks in his leg bones— and probably pelvis—Nora was concerned that fatty embolisms might develop.

If an embolism traveled to the man’s brain or heart, his survival chances would be low.

During her residency, Nora had done rotations in virtually all fields of medicine, but her specialty was psychiatry. And her PhD was in experimental psychology. The brain and how it functioned biochemically and psychologically were her domain. Given time and the right tools, she might be able to care for the man. But here and now, she had to admit that she was way out of her depth. She had to get him some help.

“So… you’re a doctor?” Maria asked.

Nora realized that they had never really had the chance to get acquainted. “I am.”

“Can you help him?”

“I’m not really that kind of doctor.”

“What kind are you?”

“A psychiatrist. A researcher, mostly.”

Maria exhaled. “Perfect. I’m gonna have a lot of things I need to talk to a shrink about after this.”

Nora smiled, glad for the levity that eased the growing anxiety inside of her. A part of her wanted to point out the nuances between a psychiatrist and a psychologist, especially in a clinical therapy setting, but she sensed that this wasn’t exactly the right time for that.

“I think we all are,” Nora said. “So what do we do?”

“We need to get him some help.” “How?”

“I don’t know. He probably has some sort of radio or beacon on him somewhere.”

Maria nodded to his uniform. “He’s not US military. How do we know we’re on the same team?”

“That’s a good question.” “And?”

“And I don’t know the answer. But I know it’s our responsibility to try to help him.”

Nora set about searching the man, running her hands in each pocket and drawing out the contents.

They were empty.

“This is going to sound crazy,” Maria said, “but I’m hungry.” She shrugged. “I get hungry when I’m nervous.”

“Yeah. Me too.”

“I know I said I wasn’t going to leave the group, but I’m thinking of going to look for some food.” She motioned to the pilot. “I don’t think I can do anything to help.”

Nora reached into the survival kit and drew out a tube of liquid that she was fairly certain was a chemical light. She bent the stick until it cracked and began glowing with greenish-yellow light. She shook it, and the light grew brighter.

“Here, take this,” Nora said. “We’ll be fine. But be careful.”

Maria rose and receded into the darkness, shining the ChemLight as she went, the glow reminding Nora of the lightning bugs she used to catch in her hands as a child.

Maria’s footsteps on the stone floor gradually faded, leaving Nora in silence except for the pilot’s shallow breathing.

She opened the survival kit and rifled through the contents again, mentally noting the items in case she needed one quickly. Organizing had always been a source of serenity for her. As a child, stressful situations would drive her to her room and to her closet, where she would arrange her clothes relentlessly until a sort of Zen-like clarity came over her.

As she counted the supplies and laid them out on the floor in neat rows, that peace still evaded her. It wasn’t just the dying pilot. It was this place. The uncertainty. And Ty being away from her. She sensed that he was in danger out there.

An eerie sensation swept over her. She turned quickly and looked across the small gift store at a glass display case by the entrance. But there was no one there. She could have sworn she heard something. Or felt eyes watching her.

“Maria?” she called out in the dim light.

There was only silence, not even the sound of Maria’s footsteps. Nora rose. “Hello?”

Nerves gathered in her stomach. She gripped the flashlight and held it out as though it were some sort of light sword that could protect her.

“Hello!” she said, louder now, unable to hide the fear in her voice. At her feet, the pilot stirred and grimaced.

Nora shined the flashlight on him and squatted down and gripped his shoulders, steadying the man. He opened his eyes. They were yellow and watery—he was jaundiced.

“Doc,” the man whispered.

“I’m here,” Nora said instinctively, moving a hand from the man’s shoulder to grip his hand.

“I thought they captured you,” he whispered. Nora paused, confused. “I…”

“How did you escape?” he asked.

“Who do you think I am?” Nora asked.

A smile tugged at the man’s lips. “Doc, I’m banged up, not out of my mind. You’re Dr. Nora Brown. Pax Director of Psychological Warfare. You were the psych officer on Operation Hydra.”

The man closed his eyes and swallowed hard.

Nora’s heart was thundering in her chest, her mind racing, trying to understand.

“What happened to the rest of the team?” he asked. “They…”

“Dead, aren’t they?”

“We’ll have to talk about that later,” Nora said, her mind grasping for the right words to try to understand what was happening. “Major, tell me what you remember.”

He bunched his eyebrows together. “Major?”

Nora nodded to his uniform. “Are you not Major James?”

He let out a laugh and immediately grimaced. The convulsion must’ve been agonizing with the wounds to his ribs and abdomen.

“I stole this uniform from a Covenant pilot before I threw him in the Atlantic.” He sucked in a breath and eyed her. “Are you sure you’re not the one with head trauma?”

She paused. “I wasn’t sure what state you were in. I need you to tell me what you remember. We’re trying to piece things together here. Please start from the beginning. Tell me your name.”

He swallowed, closed his eyes, and nodded. “Standard debrief.” “Right. Standard debrief.”

The man tried to take a deep breath, but it was as if his chest couldn’t expand completely. Finally, he got enough air in his lungs to continue. “Commander Matthews. Pax Spec Ops, American division. Assigned to Operation Hydra.”

“Operation to do what?”

“Determine if the intel was correct.” “Intel about what?”

“The A21.”


The pilot studied her face. “What is this? Some new procedure?”

Nora seized on the opportunity. “That’s right, Commander. We need to make sure you are who you say you are. No offense.”

He swallowed hard. “None taken. Can’t be too careful… especially with the Covenant.”

When Nora said nothing, he continued. “Operation Hydra was a mission to confirm the existence of a new kind of Covenant rocket: the A21. A

long-range rocket capable of hitting the last Pax camps deep in North America and Australia.”

He gasped for breath.

“We spent a month on a Pax submarine. We came down past the Shetlands, through the North Sea, and with the help of radio intel from resistance cells, we made it to the Baltic.”

He inhaled sharply two times, struggling to catch his breath.

“We surfaced, and a group of fishermen who were part of the resistance took us ashore near Peenemünde.”


Matthews frowned. “Germany? Only ever heard my grandparents call it that.”

Nora paused, feeling caught in a lie. She saw only one solution: to press on. “Please continue, Commander. You put ashore in…”

“Peenemünde.” He squinted at her. “You don’t remember?” “Describe it for the record. If you don’t mind.”

“It’s a coastal town in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in Reich Europa. On shore, we linked up with a local resistance cell and soon gained access to the Peenemünde Army Research Center. We confirmed that the A21 was real. And its range capabilities. It can hit us. All of our camps. But that’s not the worst part.”

Matthews’s chest was heaving now. The effort was catching up with him. “The A21 carries a new payload. We don’t stand a chance against it.”

He drew another breath. “You made the call: to relay the information back to Pax Intel even if it meant getting killed or captured. And we did. They killed most of the team except for me. I got away. And I followed orders. I came straight here. But they caught up to me.”

“What’s in the warheads?” Nora asked.

“A weapon that will change us somehow—change our minds. They’re unveiling it in four days at a massive ceremony at Peenemünde.” He was breathing hard now. “What we didn’t know is that they’re going to launch the rockets that night. They’ll wipe us out. The entire Pax. In seven days.”

You'll Also Like