Chapter no 64

Quantum Radio

Nora was sitting at the desk in the airship when a knock sounded at the door. Before she could close the history book that lay open, the door swung inward, and her father stepped in.

She didn’t dare move then. A sudden reaction might imply guilt. His gaze drifted to the open book.

“Reading A Fight?”

Nora didn’t trust her voice. She nodded.

The question was obvious. Why would someone in her position read a history book—someone who had lived it? She needed an explanation…

“Lately,” her father said, “I find myself doing the same. It gives you perspective on what we’re about to do. Helps me feel better about it.”

He closed the door behind him and continued speaking, not making eye contact. “They held us down like animals. I bet it’s easy for them… to press a button, and no one dies in the moments after. But we starve to death. A little each day.”

He inhaled and waited, but Nora said nothing.

“I know I’ve kept you in the dark,” he said. “I had to. I didn’t want to.” “It’s okay,” she said quietly.

“It’s not okay. I knew you were going over there for the recon mission. I couldn’t risk you getting caught and revealing what we’re planning.”

He studied her. “I thought my life’s work would be saving Earth’s oceans. Things change, don’t they?” He squinted. “You watch your grandchildren starving… and then the government asks you to use what you know as a weapon to save them. What do you do?”

Nora felt her heart beating faster. What was he telling her—that she had children? Perhaps a husband too?

On her world, she had a younger brother, but he was unmarried and, to a large degree, had been adrift in life. Dylan had never found what he wanted

to do or a person he wanted to spend his life with. On this world, had that changed?

Her father was an even bigger mystery. The man she had known—the Robert Brown from her world—was a reflective academic and, above all, a caring family man.

He was passionate about his research, which on her world concerned ocean currents and how they affected sea life. Beginning at a young age, he had taken Nora on his research expeditions around the world, to coral reefs and barrier islands, and places so remote they barely had names. And she loved it. On those trips, she developed a passion for science and a curiosity about how things worked. The father she had known had an infectious positivity and thirst for knowledge that had transferred to her very early in her life.

Where he wished to peel back the layers of the ocean and understand how the lifeblood of the Earth worked, to understand what lay beneath, for Nora, the great mystery was the human mind. In it, she saw what her father saw in the oceans: currents that shaped our lives, a murky sea full of wonder and mysteries, and things that lay buried, hard to reach, and even harder to understand.

She realized then why his disappearance when she was eighteen had been so difficult for her: he had shaped so much of her view of the world and her own identity. She had been about to leave home for college then and was already feeling unanchored. His disappearance had left her nearly listless in life, and it had taken years to right herself. Even then, she hadn’t made a full recovery.

This version of her father was different from the one who had raised her in at least one important way. He was more somber, almost regretful. Maybe that was part of the cost of war for this Robert Brown.

A knock echoed from the door, and a uniformed soldier ducked in and whispered something to Nora’s father. He turned to leave, glancing back at Nora. “Matthews is awake.”

Nora rose and followed him into the narrow corridor and to the med bay where Matthews lay on a gurney, talking to a Pax officer. Two medical technicians lingered nearby, watching with perturbed expressions on their faces.

As she crossed the threshold of the med bay, Nora caught a glimpse of Maria, who was also awake now, lying on a gurney on the opposite side of

the room, her eyes wide as a medical technician quizzed her.

Nora gave a quick jerk of her head to the side, silently instructing Maria not to say anything. The younger woman nodded quickly, and the medical technician turned to look at Nora, who shifted her attention to Matthews.

The pilot had seen her and was raising his right arm to point at her, mouth moving faster now, the words still indecipherable to her. The only phrase she could make out was “A21.”

One of the med techs by his bed turned then and held up her arms. “Okay, this is too much—too many people, too much activity. Clear the bay.”

Outside the room, Nora’s father said to her, “Matthews is talking. That’s good. We’ll need to get your account too. Are you ready?”

“Just… give me a few more minutes.”

Back in the stateroom, Nora closed the door and leaned against it and exhaled heavily. She felt the airship shift again, turning toward some unknown destination, adjusting course based on the winds, perhaps. She needed to as well. She felt as though the walls of this strange ship were closing in on her. Most of all, she needed to figure out what exactly had happened on this world.

At the desk, she sat on the round stool, opened the book, and began reading.


On November 11, 1987, the Pax took the only route to survival left: they counterattacked the Covenant federation.

In a surprise attack launched by land, sea, and air, Pax forces punched a hole in the Covenant Seawall along the Irish and Scottish coasts, hoping to gain a hold in those areas believed to be sympathetic to the plight of the Pax.

Concurrently, French Canadian troops landed in the Normandy area of Northern France with a similar objective. The ultimate goal was to establish a beachhead from which to launch a new short-range missile the Pax had developed in secret. The target: the Peenemünde Military Research facilities in the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state of Reich Europa. The Pax believed that if they could destroy the Covenant’s missiles and manufacturing capabilities, they could then sue for peace—or fight a war on more equal footing.

But that hope died in the three days that followed. The Covenant must have known about the attack. A16 missiles landed at the invasion sites just as amphibious ships made landfall. No prisoners were taken. In total, 147,302 Pax armed service members perished in the battles. But the worst was yet to come.

On November 13, the Covenant launched a counter strike against the Pax homelands

—a rain of missiles that authorities still don’t have a firm count on. It is believed to have been in the thousands. They carried a new type of incendiary ordnance that delivered devastating effects, leveling cities and destroying major interstates and bridges. Fields in the American heartland burned with wildfire that water and dirt couldn’t extinguish.

America, Australia, Canada, and the other constituents of the Pax watched as their civilization was destroyed.

The years that followed would become known as the perpetual war—a time characterized by ever-present missile attacks. In the months after the fall, EMOs exploded nearly every week in major cities. Hot bombs detonated too. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the bombings—only a desire for terror from the Covenant. Populations shrank, due both to direct deaths from the bombings and to starvation. Just as many perished from losing their will to live.

The Dark Age gripping the Pax grew darker as the last survivors splintered into smaller, almost nomadic groups.

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