Chapter no 80

Quantum Radio

Ty bit his lip. “I have an idea.”

Nora blew out a long breath. “It makes me nervous when you say that.”

“Don’t worry,” Ty said. “It’s not a crazy idea.” He smiled. “When I’m going to do something crazy, I’ll say, ‘Hey guys, watch this.’”

Nora slowly closed her eyes and shook her head as she suppressed a laugh.

Ty leaned over and typed quickly on the laptop’s keyboard, then grimaced.

“It didn’t work,” Nora said.

Ty typed again, concentrating on the next combination. “I’m not done yet.” It failed, and he mentally grasped for the next possibility. There were only a few left.

On the next attempt, the login screen disappeared. “We’re in.” “How?” Nora asked, rounding the desk to stare at the screen.

“Maria’s first idea was actually correct, as first ideas usually are. Where we erred was not developing that idea enough. The password is Valentina.”

“Why didn’t it work the first time?” Kato asked.

“Because I simply typed in the word. Well, with a few variations on the capitalization. Then I gave up. But the idea was right. It just needed to be tweaked.”

“For security,” Nora said, seeming to realize the key.

“Correct,” Ty said. “The actual password is Valentina with an uppercase V, the numeral one where the ‘l’ is, and a plus sign where the ‘t’ is. It’s a strong password—with uppercase letters, lowercase letters, a number, and a special character. It’s also easy for Maria to remember. I bet when the system made her change it, she replaced letters with numbers or special symbols, like using the at sign for the letter ‘a’.”

Ty used the track pad to begin exploring the interface, which the geek inside of him was loving.

“Here’s the email app,” he said. “It’s called GotMail. That’s clever.”

Until the sun came up, they poured over the emails and documents on the computer. What they revealed was both surprising and promising.

Most of the communications between Santos and the Covenant had occurred on a secure network called ReichNetz that was only accessible via a Virtual Private Network—or VPN. There, they found the details they needed.

First, Santos had been hired to perform a single song—and not any of the songs in her current catalog. The Covenant had commissioned her to write an original song, and in those details, Ty got his first glimpse of what the Covenant was planning.

On the screen was a private message from Dr. Helen Klein. Even seeing his mother’s name here sent a chill through Ty. He dreaded reading it but knew he had to. He wondered if she would be in Peenemünde. He soon saw the answer.

Sehr geehrte Frau Santos,

Vielen Dank once again for agreeing to perform at The World After ceremony. Though the audience will be smaller than the crowds you are accustomed to performing for, I assure you that this will be, quite possibly, the most momentous performance of your life, one that will be remembered and written about in history books for generations. I’m sure that seems a bit hyperbolic to you now, but I am confident that time will prove those words true.

But first, a word on procedure. We require that you arrive the morning prior to The World After ceremony in order to rehearse and to ensure that all equipment functions properly. Travel arrangements may be left to you, or the Wehrmacht can arrange transport. We have no preference, but please inform us of your choice as expediently as possible.

You may bring a limited number of support staff—four at most. Please bear in mind that, by law, Pax citizens are not allowed anywhere inside the borders of the Covenant, including Reich Europa. South American citizens, such as yourself, are more than welcome. With that said, all members of your party will

be required to present their SA ID cards, and their identities will be verified. This is standard procedure at all Covenant military facilities.

Please also be aware that no electronic devices will be allowed inside the facilities at Peenemünde, including mobile phones, smart watches, and smart bands. Any such devices will be confiscated at the security checkpoint at the airfield and held until your departure.

Additionally, members of your party will be searched upon arrival. As I’m sure you’re aware, narcotics are strictly forbidden throughout the Covenant. The mandatory sentencing guidelines inside the Reich are quite severe for illegal possession of restricted substances or medications without a proper prescription. I say this not to accuse but in hopes of avoiding any unpleasantness.

We request that you perform a single rehearsal the night before the ceremony so that we may test the technical equipment. Peenemünde is a large facility that has grown over the last hundred years it has been in use. The World After ceremony will occur at the old power plant, which now serves as the administrative office for the Aggregat program and conference center. You will be performing in the turbine hall, and I do hope you will find the acoustics suitable.

With that, I turn now to the main event, if you will: our humble request for a song that we hope will become a classic for the ages.

What we envision is a sort of anthem for a turning point in human history, a hymn celebrating an event that will forever mark the transition from decades of war to everlasting peace, a song to celebrate a technical achievement and a new dawn for humanity.

It should be a somber piece. We see The World After as humanity’s destiny, but one we will buy with the greatest price of all: human lives. It is a peace we have paid for with blood and time and lost futures. It is a peace only achieved on the other side of war. The song we request is in that vein: of a people striving for an end to hostility and being brave enough to pay the price for it, of a world with a single society and purpose, forged in fire and inseparable forevermore.

You were selected by our committee because your Worlds & Time album encompasses so many of the themes of this night, of the dawning of The World After. So many of your songs and lyrics speak to our struggle and what’s ahead.

I hope that you will find inspiration in the guidance I have provided, and I so very look forward to meeting you in person.

With great admiration and very best wishes, Helen

Ty read the letter through again, lingering on his mother’s words. It was

so bizarre to see a window into such a dark version of the woman who had been the only constant in his life, a shining beacon of light in the dark periods of his youth. And here she was, in another world, with values so different. Or were they? Was the version of Helen Klein he knew still somewhere inside of her?

He would know soon—and time was running out. In the office, the four of them set about working to prepare.

Kato radioed the Pax security team outside and had them convey a series of requests to the embassy. The first priority was finding three South American citizens who were close in appearance to Ty, Nora, and Kato.

Next up was logistics. It turned out that Maria Santos had her own plane, but she had a contract with a group called Aeromericas to house the plane, maintain it, and provide a pilot and flight staff.

Maria phoned them and informed them that she would provide her own staff and pilot for the flight to Peenemünde, and they agreed without protest. Apparently, this Maria Santos had the option of supplying her own personnel and simply using the company for maintenance and storage.

Next, they tracked down all of the actual staff that were slated to accompany the singer. Ty could tell Maria was nervous as she called them, but what she related to them was a highly plausible cover story: that Reich Europa security was now insisting that they alone select who accompanied Maria to the private ceremony. Thanks to the Reich’s apparent reputation, each person Maria called accepted the explanation without complaint.

The doorbell echoed through the house. On the laptop, Ty pulled up an app called HomeCentral, which offered access to the house’s speakers, automated shades, lights, thermostat, and cameras.

On the security feed, he watched from the front door camera as a delivery man from Andeso Inc. walked away from the front porch. A package sat on the mat.

“I bet it’s from the embassy,” Kato said, and slipped out of the room. Soon, Ty saw him on the camera opening the door and snatching the package.

The box held the rest of what they needed for the mission: directions to the private airport in Buenos Aires where Maria’s plane was waiting, South American IDs for the individuals Nora, Ty, and Kato would impersonate, and aerial maps of Peenemünde.

Ty assumed the maps had been bought from freelance spies or Covenant insiders at an enormous price. The Pax was trying to do whatever they could to help the mission. With their nation’s very survival on the line, no price was too high to pay.

There were also photos taken from the air of military installations across the Covenant. There were twelve in all, and each location was like a mega military base, a small city with high walls and training grounds, sprawling barracks, and an airport. From the scale in the photos, each of the sites had to be capable of housing millions of people. Ty’s best guess was that he was looking at a group of facilities that together held anywhere from twenty to fifty million troops.

“Incredible,” Kato said. “Why would they need such a large army?”

“Especially,” Nora said, “if they have a missile that can obliterate their enemy without a ground invasion. They must have a force half the size of the remaining Pax population.”

“And,” Kato said, “the Pax is the Covenant’s only enemy. It’s not like the troops are for some other conflict.”

Ty pointed to the twelve images. “One thing is certain: these are the targets the Pax wants the Covenant missiles to hit. I think this is why they risked the mission to Peenemünde with this world’s Nora. The Pax knows it can’t win a conventional war. They’re vastly outnumbered. And by showing us these photos now, the Pax is making it clear that if we simply destroy the missiles or land them in unpopulated areas, the Pax will still fall. The Covenant will still have its invasion force.”

Nora closed her eyes. “This is too much. The thought of directing those missiles at these bases…”

“We don’t have a choice,” Kato said. “This is war. We’re going to do what we have to.”

“And while we’re doing it, we should look for an alternative,” Nora said. “Yes,” Kato agreed. “But I can’t see it right now.”

As the sun rose, shining through the windows of the office, the four of them turned their attention to the photos and maps of the Peenemünde Army Research Center. The facility was situated on a peninsula that projected into the Baltic Sea, near where the border of Germany and Poland had been in Ty’s home world.

To him, the complex seemed like a mix of a military base and a NASA launch complex. Along the sea, there were large launch pads. At the end of the landmass was a large airstrip with two long runways and hangars. Near the center, what looked like a small city spread out. The streets were arranged in a grid pattern, with buildings that could have been shops or apartments or warehouses.

Railroads crisscrossed the island like stitches across the land. Most ended at large industrial buildings that Ty assumed were manufacturing facilities.

On the left-hand side of the island was a narrow strait separating it from the mainland. There were two harbors there. One was near the old power plant where the ceremony would be.

From the sky, Peenemünde looked like a maze. In a sense, it was. Soon, they would have to find a way to what was at the center of it—the command center where they could disable or redirect the rockets. If they didn’t, this world would fall, one way or another.

You'll Also Like