Chapter no 75

Quantum Radio

Kato woke covered in sweat. Last night’s dream lingered in his mind like a bad taste he couldn’t wash out of his mouth.

He rolled out of the narrow bed and stumbled to the bathroom. At the faucet, he turned on the water and let the cold stream run into his hands until he had a nice pool, which he splashed on his aching face.

He straightened up and studied himself in the mirror. His cheeks were red and swollen and a little blue where the bruises were fading. With the help of Maria’s makeup, he thought he would look almost normal by the time he reached Peenemünde for the ceremony.

The punches he had taken in the Pax interrogation room weren’t the worst beating he had ever received. But combined with being in this place

—and being away from his family—it had unhinged him. He thought that it stung worse because before he had come here, he had felt so close to getting Joan and Akito back. He had unfinished business at home, and he was going to get back there. One way or another. At any cost.

That thought stopped him cold.

At any cost.

That sort of thinking was how good men did bad things.

He knew what he needed now: distraction. He needed to do something productive. He saw a way to do both—and practice for what was coming.

He dried his face and exited his room and crossed the hall and knocked quickly at Maria’s door. He hadn’t checked the time, but down the hall, in the dining compartment, the morning sun blazed through the wide windows.

The door opened and Maria peered out at him, deep bags under her eyes as though she hadn’t slept a wink. A layer of sweat coated her forehead.

“You okay?” Kato asked.

She smiled, and a small laugh escaped her. “Not really. You?”


“You need help?” she asked.

“This is going to sound crazy—”

Maria held up a hand. “Hey, nothing sounds crazy when everything is super crazy. So just stop saying that. Crazy is like, our specialty.”

Kato laughed. “Right.”

Maria swung the door open wider. “Come on in.”

When she shut the door, Kato continued. “Before we left, they gave you what you needed to disguise us, right?”

Maria pointed to a suitcase in the corner. “Yeah.” “How are you going to disguise me?”

“Well, your counterpart wears his hair like yours—close-cropped, military style. Since you’re posing as a private bodyguard, I was going to fit you for a long-hair wig, use makeup to lighten your skin tone slightly, not enough to clash with your hands, and add a birthmark to your face. You’ll wear glasses and contact lenses that alter the color of your eyes. It would have been nice to have some sort of dental device to alter your smile and even voice a bit, but we don’t have anything that would work.”

Kato marveled at her. “That feels like more than standard hair and makeup expertise.”

“I’ve had a lot of odd jobs. One was makeup for a private detective agency. It paid the bills.” She studied him. “Why do you ask?”

“I was wondering… if you wanted to practice. To alter me now.” Maria nodded. “Sure. One condition.”

Kato waited.

“You help me put my disguise on too. I don’t like what I see in the mirror these days.”

With those words, Kato felt a little less alone in the world.

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