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Quantum by Patricia Cornwell Read Online (FREE)

Quantum by Patricia Cornwell Read Online

Read Quantum (Captain Chase #1) by Patricia Cornwell  full novel online free

Three Years Earlier . . .

 

THE BRIGHT LIGHT is blinding. The vents too small, too high on the metal-clad walls.

Frantic and nauseated, willing myself to keep going. Trying to make it better. The air breathless and heated, windows facing due east. I’ve had nothing to eat.

The black coffee from the overturned mug pools around the plate of bagels, bowls of cream cheese, butter. The stone countertop streaked red. Drip, dripping over the edge. To the smeared, sticky floor.

“Oh God, oh God . . . !”

Distracted, dizzy, about to black out. Grabbing more paper towels. Aware of the obvious vulnerabilities. Even as I panic. The same ones as before. If only I’d paid attention. If only I’d factored in the data. Time. Season. Altitude. Latitude and longitude vis-à-vis the equator. Skylights. Glass windows. Weather.

No equation. No algorithm to predict what to expect when emerging from my sensory-deprived day to day. To be helpful, friendly. No matter what’s asked. Or when. Or how I feel.

 

Here to serve. No need to threaten the usual punishments. Disgrace, demotion, hard labor, imprisonment.

“Oh God, oh God, please hurry . . .”

00:00:00:00:0

 

ANOTHER minute clicks past on the wall clock. Shoving wadded bloody paper towels into the trash. Looking around at the gory mess.

Didn’t see it coming when I showed up for my assignment . . . Exactly 21 minutes ago . . . Glancing every other second at the digital time glowing green between the American and Space Command flags in polished wooden stands . . . Darting about, water drumming in the sink.

Four minutes since I texted. Dick is coming. On his way.

“Hurry, hurry, oh God . . . !”

My heart pounding in my ears. Making matters worse as I try to clean up. Blood soaking through the dish towel wrapped around my right hand, tucked in close like a damaged wing. Sweating, shivering, teeth chattering in fits and starts.

“Oh God, oh God . . .”

The simplest of tasks. A mindless responsibility.

Stupid.

A favor not meriting special rank, preparation or training. Scarcely any forethought. Was happy to. Flattered, didn’t hesitate to comply. In fact, volunteered.

Stupid!

No favor goes unpunished. No good deed either. The best intentions setting you up for trouble. Which I didn’t see coming. Behind the locked door, waiting and listening for Dick.

Cleaning up what I would have prevented were I not in sleep mode. Not to be confused with safe mode. I wasn’t in that.

 

 

1

December 3, 2019

NASA Langley Research Center

Hampton, Virginia

 

I CAN’T SAY for sure when the century-old tunnel was sealed off like a tomb.

Probably around the same time it began popping up in 8-pitch type as a nondescript feature on utility site maps hardly anyone ever sees. Crammed with high-pressure steam pipes and other mechanicals, the section of tunnel designated 1111-A was at some point given the code name Yellow Submarine.

“Never publicly or in print,” I’m explaining to NASA police major Fran Lacey, miserably scuffing behind me on the steep, gloomy stairs. “Mid- to late ’70s is about right for when this might have occurred,” I add, as if she’s listening or cares. “That’s what I get if I factor in the data and do the math.”