Chapter no 69

Quantum Radio

In the bunker beneath Camp Shenandoah, in the auditorium where Nora’s father had given his presentation, a debate raged. And, Nora thought, rage was the right word for the discourse. Tempers flared. The representatives of the Pax Humana yelled and cried and pleaded.

At the heart of the argument was a simple question: whether they had the right to destroy the world to save themselves. By a vote of twelve to eight, they decided that they did. The resolution was formally titled the Act of Self-Defense and Self-Preservation.

There was no clapping at its ratification. The representatives were instructed to prepare their camps to occupy their own bunkers. Sundry arrangements were made, and a single amendment was added to the act, a directive that Dr. Robert Brown should seek out any alternative route to peace before unleashing the Poseidon pathogen.

When the representatives had filed out of the room, Robert strode over to where Nora and Maria were sitting and slipped his hands in his pockets, staring down at her.

“I think we need to talk.”

Nora swallowed, not trusting her voice. This man was capable of genocide. What would he do to her now that he was sure she was an impostor? Was there any piece of the father she had known left inside of him?

“Follow me,” he said as he marched past them, up the stairs, and through the doors. They walked deeper into the office complex, snaking through the corridors until he came to a door with a combination lock and large numbers beside it: 255.

He glanced at Nora expectantly, but she stood still, unsure what to do.

He looked away and exhaled, as though he had just received bad news, then spun the dials on the lock and opened the door, beckoning them to


Inside, Nora scanned the small space. A desk sat in the center, a stack of papers in one corner. Behind it lay a credenza with a few framed photos. She wandered closer and bent and soon realized what they were: her family. In the closest picture, her brother Dylan and a woman about his age were smiling, holding up a baby. In the background was the cityscape of a place she didn’t recognize. Only a few of the skyscrapers had been bombed. The next was of Dylan, older now, more rugged and worn, standing alone, towering over two children. None of them were smiling.

The last picture was of Nora—the other Nora, the woman from this world. She was wearing leggings and a zip-up hooded sweatshirt and a cap. Her father was next to her, their arms around each other. They stood on the precipice of a mountain, gray and white rock beneath their feet, rolling hills of green forests spreading out in the distance, fog lying in the folds.

Neither were smiling.

Nora and the woman in the picture could have been mirror images of each other, if not for one thing: the eyes. The woman in the picture stared back with no emotion. In her eyes was a cold-burning fire that nothing could extinguish.

Maria glanced between Nora and her father.

Robert walked to the corner of the office, studying Nora, his expression one of confusion and, Nora thought, possibly hurt. Or perhaps he was dreading what came next.

When they locked eyes, he motioned to the sheaf of papers on the desk, as if saying, Go ahead, take a look.

The top page was a cover page for a book:



Dr. Nora Brown

Unable to resist, Nora flipped over the first page and read the opening line:

Humanity has a bright future. But we have a dark past. The mistake we have made is assuming the darkness is over, that we have advanced beyond it. We have assumed our

base nature no longer exists. That is the foolish assumption that has doomed us.

But for the brave—those capable of confronting truths and embracing true science— there is a future. It awaits, but the darkest chapter of humanity lies between it and where we are now, a darkness only found beneath the surface, where we will be tested and where we will triumph.

The Pax has lost the war on the surface. We cannot defeat our enemy, but we can use their weaknesses against them. And we can hide. If we are strong enough to survive— and wait long enough—we will inherit the Earth. It is our Birthright.

Nora had thought that nothing could rattle her more than her father’s speech in the auditorium. She was wrong. The manuscript on the desk turned her world upside down. Her counterpart on this world wasn’t simply an aghast observer. She was a collaborator. A partner in the Poseidon project, though it was clear that her father had kept the exact details of the plan from her. She knew they were going to ruin the surface of the Earth, but for the sake of keeping the details from the Covenant, she hadn’t been told the details of exactly how.

The idea that some version of her was capable of such darkness terrified Nora.

When she looked up, the father she had never known was standing in the corner, his hands clasped behind his back, watching her.

“I’m going to ask you some questions,” he said quietly. “And I want you to answer. I don’t want this to become unpleasant.”

“How did you know?” Nora asked.

He cut his eyes to Maria. “At first, I thought it was part of some ruse for her benefit. I assumed she was part of some follow-up operation you were planning. Or perhaps some ploy to set up a Pax Arcology in South America, a refuge or something.” He smiled. “The look on your face when I brought you down here… you’re a great operative, but that was real. You were shocked. But you’ve been down here many times. And you’ve known we were planning the final assault on the Covenant—just not the details. I saw the horror on your face in that auditorium. The other curiosity is the two men who were with you. One of our rover bots saw you with one of the men. But you’ve never mentioned them. We know one is a Covenant military officer. And finally, as if there was any doubt left, you didn’t even know your own office.”

“It’s true. I’m not the daughter you know.”

“Where is she?” “I don’t know.” “You’re lying.”

“It’s true. Based on what Commander Matthews told me, she’s still there, in Reich Europa, perhaps at Peenemünde. She was captured there during her operation.”

“If that’s true, who are you?”

“I’m… I’m who she could have been.”

You'll Also Like