Chapter no 61

Quantum Radio

Nora woke to the booming of guns and an ear-splitting explosion. The force of it seemed to reach through the rotunda, down the stairwell and into her chest and mind, pressing her against the marble floor like a wave of gravity pinning her.

Her head swam.

Commander Matthews, still unconscious, stirred, moaning as his head rolled side to side.

Maria was standing, shivering.

“They’re bombing us!” she screamed. “We’ve got to go!” On wobbling limbs, Nora managed to rise. “We can’t.” Maria closed her eyes and shook her head. “We have to.” “We can’t leave this man.”


Ty struggled to make his body work. He was nearly tumbling down the stairs, as though the blasts had short-circuited his nervous system.

Kato had fared much better. With one hand holding Ty’s bicep and his rifle in the other, the SEAL stomped down the stairs of the clock tower.

He sped up as they reached the atrium of the Old Post Office, dashing to the other stairwell and pulling Ty once again, but Ty took Kato’s hand and tried to dislodge it.

“Leave me,” he gasped, trying to catch his breath. “I’m not—”

“I’m fried, Kato. Just go. Help Nora.”

Kato simply tightened his grip on Ty and kept pulling him down the stairs.

With each step, feeling was returning to Ty’s body, as if a neurotoxin was draining from his blood.

His problem now was that he couldn’t breathe fast enough to keep up with Kato.

At the bottom of the stairs, in the courtyard covered by the dirty, broken skylights above, Kato finally paused to draw a breath, gun sweeping back and forth as he searched for enemy combatants.

A few seconds later, they exited the Old Post Office and charged down 12th Street Northwest toward Nora and Maria.


Nora listened as boots hammered the marble floor of the rotunda. Whoever had entered the museum wasted no time searching it. They moved directly to the staircase toward the ground floor, footsteps clacking as they descended, heading right for them.


Ty’s legs burned as he tried to keep up with Kato. The paratroopers were dropping faster than Ty had expected, and soon they disappeared behind the Smithsonian museums. They were going to reach Nora and Maria before Kato and Ty. And there were too many of them to fight.

Kato seemed to realize that too.

He stopped in the middle of 12th Street. “We need to regroup.”


In the dim glow of the ChemLight, Nora made out a dozen figures, dressed in silver-gray suits that reminded her of sheets of lead. The dull, crinkly material seemed to absorb the soft light, not reflecting even a shred of it. The invaders wore helmets with large, mirrored eye patches that made them look like humanoid insects.

Maria, still trembling, turned to the oncoming figures and shined her flashlight at them, the beam shaking as she held it out. At the sight of them,

she passed out, collapsing hard to the floor.

A jolt of fear rushed through Nora. She crawled over to Maria and ran her hands over her head, searching for bleeding, but there was none. Maria would be bruised from the fall, but she would likely be fine.

When the leading figure reached Nora, they reached back into their pack and tossed two bundles on the floor.

Through the helmet’s speaker, a man said, “Hurry. Suit up.”

Nora recognized the voice. But it couldn’t be. She stared at the packs on the floor. They were silver suits like the figures wore, wrapped up.

“Nora,” the voice said, urgent. “Are you okay? Do you understand me?

Put the Faraday suit on.”

The man pulled off his helmet and peered down at her, worry lines deep on his forehand and crow’s feet carved at the corners of his eyes. He was in his late sixties, and time and whatever he had gone through had been unkind to the man, but Nora still recognized her father.

He took a step closer to her. “We need to go, Nora. We have a tactical Zep waiting to evac us. We took out the EMOs, but Covenant drones could be here any second. Let’s go.”

* A clanking sound drew Ty’s attention.

He turned and spotted seven small metal robots crawling out of the shadows of the ATF building. Their bodies were rectangular and they walked on six pointed metal legs. They were the same crab-like bot he had seen in the museum the night before. This time, the robots didn’t retreat at the sight of him.

The seven bugs charged, their legs dancing across the broken pavement with a ting-ting-ting sound.

Kato leveled the rifle and opened fire, mowing down three of them before the others planted their pincers in the concrete. Small round portholes opened on their front faces, and tiny fléchettes issued forth, the metal darts digging into Ty’s legs, bringing a sting of pain, like a half-dozen giant syringes digging in.

Pain rolled up his legs. Dizziness followed.

As he hit the ground, Ty realized Kato was staggering back, trying to aim the gun, but he too was hit—and losing his struggle to stand.

The last thing Ty heard before everything went black was the dinging of the robots’ sharp legs prancing toward him.

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