Chapter no 65

Quantum Radio

In the airship, shouts came from the hall. Nora went to the door and listened to the doctors and nurses barking orders.

She opened the hatch with a loud clang, just in time to see her father barreling toward the med bay.

Nora fell in behind him and stopped cold right inside the room. Matthews was convulsing on the gurney. Medical staff were working desperately to save the man. Her first thought was that it was an embolism. Or a heart attack.

She felt Maria’s gaze upon her, eyes filled with fear.

Her father’s voice was low and intense behind her. “Let’s go.”

She eyed him, silently questioning why. He took her by the arm, gripping tight enough to alarm her. Had Matthews talked? Did he know that she was an impostor?

He tugged her from the bay into the hall, where she reached out and broke free of his hold.

“Dad.” The word caught in her throat. It was a word she thought she would never say to him again. The act of saying it had an effect on her she hadn’t anticipated.

“What?” he shot back, seeming alarmed. “What’s happening?”

His brow furrowed. “Isn’t it obvious?” Nora shook her head.

“If I’m right, there’s one or more Covenant agents on this ship. They got to Matthews. You could be next. What you know is dangerous— worth risking an agent’s life for. I’m not letting you out of my sight. And you need to talk. Right now.”

Nora swallowed hard. “Okay. But bring Maria.” He squinted at her. “The singer?”

“She may be in danger too.”

He raised his eyebrows but motioned to a soldier who had entered the corridor. “Bring Santos to Stateroom Two.”

Gently this time, he nudged Nora into the stateroom, where he closed the door, and she took a seat on the bunk. She had the strangest sensation then: of being a teenager, in one of those rare times when she had gotten in trouble and been relegated to her room until she confessed what had happened.

The hatch sprang open, and Maria entered. Nora rose, wrapped her in a hug, and whispered in her ear, “Stay quiet. Follow my lead.”

Nora didn’t yet know what her lead was, but she sensed that the next few seconds would determine whether they lived or died.

Outside the door, three soldiers stood guard, rifles at the ready.

Nora’s father locked the hatch and turned to the two of them, who were both seated on the narrow bunk now.

“What happened in Peenemünde?”

“What did Matthews say?” Nora thought that was a good place to start.

And buy some time.

“That the A21 was finished and had already been mass produced—that the Covenant is much further along than we knew.” He studied Nora, waiting, but she said nothing.

“Matthews said the missiles were capable of carrying a payload that would completely wipe us out this time. Is it true?”

Nora was unsure what to say, so she said the truth. “As far as I know.” “Matthews said they were set to launch in seven days.”

He cocked his head, waiting for Nora to respond to the unspoken question.

“That’s my understanding,” she said quietly.

“Then we have no choice. We will end the world so that we can rebuild it.”

Nora’s mind sputtered. What did he mean by that? Had her words— confirming Matthews’s account—sealed her father’s resolve for whatever action was about to take place? If so, she was now partly responsible.

She realized then that her father was talking to her. “Nora. Nora.”

She looked up.

“How is she involved?” he asked, pointing to Maria.

“She saved me,” Nora said, watching her father for any indication that the lie was working. “She helped me get out of Peenemünde.”

He cocked his head and glanced between the two women. Nora wasn’t sure if he was buying it. She pressed on. “As a South American citizen, she can obviously travel to the Covenant.”

“Yes, but to a top-secret army research facility?”

“She’s performing there—at the launch of the A21. She was touring the facilities and testing the acoustics.”

He opened his mouth, perhaps to ask another question, one that might expose the ruse, but they were saved by a sharp knock at the door.

Nora’s father jerked it open, clearly annoyed. “What?”

“Sir, we’re on approach.”

At that, he exited without another word to Nora, leaving her sitting on the bunk beside Maria, who turned to her.

“What are you doing?”

Nora leaned closer and whispered, “Trying to keep us alive.”

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