Chapter no 96

Quantum Radio

Standing in her bathroom, with her hair styled and makeup on, Maria saw a stranger in the mirror. The person looking back at her now positively glowed. It was a version of herself that might have been if she had made different choices. A version of her that might still be. If she was strong enough. If she ever got off this bizarre world and returned home.

She wondered what the audience would see. This world’s Maria Santos? The superstar? Or would they see through the mascara and foundation and concealer and hair spray? Would they realize the lie? It wasn’t enough to simply look the part. Her voice would have to convince them.

A pounding at the door made her jump.

She rose and peered through the peephole. Helen Klein stood there. Two Gestapo agents loomed behind her.

Maria swallowed hard. Maybe they were here to escort her to the turbine hall for the ceremony. She glanced at the clock. It was too early.

She cracked the door.

“Miss Santos,” Helen said. “May we come in?”

Maria let the door swing open and watched as they strode in. The Gestapo agents fanned out, visually searching the room but not going as far as opening doors or unzipping her suitcases.

Helen gently closed the outer door and clasped her hands behind her back. “We have a security breach, Miss Santos.”

Against her will, Maria inhaled sharply. “Oh?” she managed to say, not trusting her voice.

“One of your employees is not who they say they are.” “How?”

“This person is using a real South American identity, but they are not that person. The actual South American resident is still in Brazil. We’re holding the impostor.”

“I see.”

One of the Gestapo men cleared his throat. “The question, frankly, is how in the world you could not have known that this man was an impostor.”


Gently, Kato helped Nora’s counterpart to the bed. She sat there, swaying, listless. The news of who Kato and Nora were had hit her like a knockout punch in the boxing ring.

“Focus,” Kato said. “We need your help.”

The woman looked at him through teary, bloodshot eyes filled with fear and confusion. “What?”

“Where is the missile control room?” She shook her head, as if resisting.

“Think,” Kato whispered. “Why would I need to know where that room is if I really was an SD officer? I could find out any number of ways. I’m telling you the truth. I’m trying to help the Pax.”

Nora bent down, her face inches from her counterpart. “Tell him. What do you have to lose? Think about it.”

“All right. It’s in the Bunkerwarte control room. It was used as an air-raid shelter during the war. It also housed the power plant’s control room. The walls are two meters thick. The ceiling is reinforced concrete.”

Without a word, Kato uncuffed himself from Nora’s counterpart, covered the dead body in the closet with the sheet, and exited into the hall.

The two Gestapo men there wore looks of alarm now. One was talking into a handheld radio.

“Herr Sturmbannführer, we have a problem.” “Not now.”

“Herr Sturmbannführer, it is urgent. We have an intruder.”

Kato spun. He knew he would get one chance at this. And he knew the only way out. “Do you not think I know that? Why do you think I came to this room? With the prisoner? I am one step ahead of you. You are slowing me down.” He pointed to the door. “Guard that room and keep your mouth shut and do only as I say, or you will face the consequences.”

Kato didn’t wait for a response. He turned and barreled down the hall and turned the corner before letting out the breath he had been holding.


Maria swallowed hard.

Being a drug addict had derailed her life. It had taken so many things from her. What she didn’t know—until that moment—was that it had also given her one ability that might just save her life here and now: the ability to lie. Drug addicts, if they used long enough, eventually had to become skilled liars.

“I didn’t know he was an impostor because I had never met him until this trip. He was recommended to me. I changed my team recently because of… a betrayal of my trust by people close to me. I don’t wish to say more than that. The media will know soon enough, but I prefer my privacy as long as it will hold.”

The Gestapo man glanced over at Helen, who squinted at Maria. “Do you know where the members of your team are now?”

“No. I went to my makeup artist’s room a while ago and left when she was done. I assume she’s still there. There were two army men guarding the room next door.”

Helen appraised her again. “From here out, we will be detaining all members of your party.”

Maria nodded. “I understand.”

“You will accompany this Gestapo officer to the turbine hall and give your performance, then you will immediately leave the Covenant. Do you understand?”


With that, Helen marched out of the room, one of the Gestapo agents following close behind her. The other stared at her with cold eyes.

“Let’s go, Miss Santos.”


In the hallway, Kato saw Maria’s door open and Helen Klein stride out, a Gestapo agent behind her.

She scrutinized his face but walked right past.

At the stairs, Kato gripped the rail and descended three and four at a time, leaping, his boots echoing up the stairwell.

He slowed his pace at the ground floor landing and waltzed out casually, on his way to the missile control room.

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