Chapter no 83

Quantum Radio

Kato exited the cockpit and strode down the aisle. Nora sat at a club chair, seeming lost in thought. Maria was at the back of the plane, at a table, scribbling on the pages of the song she had been frantically working on.

Ty was sitting at the other table in the cabin, staring out the window. Kato plopped down across from him.

“You know what this feels like?” Ty raised his eyebrows. “As in?”

“An impossible mission to take out some Nazi big guns. With history hanging in the balance. Led by a ragtag team thrown together.”

“What exactly are we talking about here?”

“We’re talking about an epic World War II film featuring a wall that seems impossible to climb.”

Ty nodded solemnly. “Oh yeah. I know exactly what we’re talking about.” He paused. “We’re talking about The Guns of Navarone.”

Kato leaned back in the seat and exhaled theatrically. “Nailed it. You just earned yourself a hundred dad-joke credits.”

“Now who’s the one with the big guns?” Kato closed his eyes. “Ninety-nine left.” “Worth it,” Ty whispered.

On the couch, Nora leaned forward. “Are you guys talking about a World War II film?”

“Not just any World War II film,” Ty said. “The Guns of Navarone. With Gregory Peck.”

“Why do guys love World War II films so much?” “When you see it,” Ty said, “you’ll get it.”

“Will I?”

“Tell you what. If we live through this, we’ll watch The Guns of Navarone.”

Nora smiled. “All right. It’s a date.”


At the table at the back of the plane, Maria stared at the pages of the song, “A Hymn for The World After.” It was unfinished and marked up, like a treasure map that had been torn in half.

When she had learned that this world’s Maria Santos had never sung the song she was to perform in Peenemünde, she had been relieved. Soon, though, reality had set in: the downside was that she had to finish the song and perform it for the first time.

In hours, the plane would land. She would need a finished song then. She was the only one on the plane who could write it. But all their lives depended upon it.

It gave new meaning to the word deadline.

She had expected to be falling apart, stressed out, and completely unable to cope.

Instead, she felt alive. She felt a passion for the work, not just the urgency born of need that had burned inside of her in the homeless shelter in Nashville, but a true connection to the theme of the song.

A changing world was something she knew all too well—a life that could slip away before you knew it.

She clung to that feeling, the kernel of an idea. In her mind, the words flowed. Her pen moved, scratching out the verses and chorus and bridge, marking through words and writing in the space between the lines and in the margin.

When she was done with the draft, she stared at it, amazed, almost in shock, a part of her wondering where it had come from. That was the magic of art—creating something you weren’t even sure you were capable of creating. It was a transcendental experience, one that, once experienced a single time, some artists chased for a lifetime.

Maria realized something then, the truth of how she had climbed this ladder—she knew how high it went. She had seen what a version of her had been capable of accomplishing, how high that Maria had been able to climb. She saw the art that Maria had created. And now she knew she was capable of it.

She wondered what every person could do if only they were sure of what they were capable of. Some part of her had believed that her failure was simply her destiny, that it wasn’t within her to succeed, that her momentary rise had been a blip, a lucky break in a career destined for failure—or mediocrity at best.

Now she churned out the lines like what she knew herself to be: a star. And she couldn’t wait to take the stage and hear the words in her own voice.

At the same time, that thought terrified her. She hadn’t felt that way in a long time—that mix of excitement and fear—and it made her feel more like herself than she even thought was possible. Best of all, while she had been thinking about the song, she hadn’t once thought about the bottle of pills.


Ty watched as first Nora, then Kato, then Maria surrendered to sleep. He spent his watch rereading the pages of the messages from his mother’s counterpart.

What bothered him the most was the voice in the messages. The tone. The cadence. It was the same as his mother, as though she herself had written the messages. Except for the content, which still disturbed Ty deeply. In his mother’s counterpart, he saw what Nora had seen in her lost father: a good person turned around by an evil world.

He wondered if there was a way to save her, as Nora was hoping to do for her father. They were on opposite sides of the same war. In a way, they were playing the same role: the scientist charged with using their field to end the conflict, deploying technology to change the world forever, in their cause’s favor. Was there a solution that saved both of them?

As the plane flew through the night and the time ticked down to their arrival, Ty couldn’t see that solution.

Another problem ate at him: the quantum radio medallion. Even if things turned out as he wanted them to in Peenemünde and the Pax returned the device to him, then what?

If that occurred, it would mean that they’d saved this world, but they would also be in the same place they were in at the National Museum of

Natural History: lost in the vast wilderness of the multiverse with no way home.

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