“Let’s get started.”

Madison recognized Mr. Black’s voice. The group settled down and gathered around a table in the office. The picture was not high enough resolution for her to make out people’s faces.

“You all know Miss Gold,” he continued. “I’ll let her take it from here.”

“Good afternoon,” she started.

“That’s Judy,” Madison whispered to Bryce. “From the car outside Mr. Black’s house.”

“I’ve distributed phones to all of you. From this point forward, you are to only use these phones to communicate with one another. Delete one another from your personal phone’s contacts and delete your chat history. HQ is not thrilled with the operational security of this cell. There will be no more meetings at the fucking IHOP, is that clear?”

Madison glanced at Bryce. “Oh shit, I got them in trouble.”

“The breach of this facility has been dealt with, but we will be beefing up security going forward. We’ve engaged a contractor to install razor wire atop the perimeter fence. We are adding more outside lighting and security cameras that will be monitored 24/7.”

“Starting with this one in the office,” Bryce joked.

“Shush,” Madison scolded. She had her notebook out and was writing everything she heard.

“Miss Gold has finished her assignment with the Frankfurt cell, and so she’ll be around here going forward, working closely with Mr. Green,” Mr. Black said. “Let’s start with you.”

“Ammo is all set. Still working on the hardware. Turns out that while it’s incredibly easy to buy an assault rifle in this country, it’s exceedingly hard to buy a hundred of them without the ATF or FBI noticing. We are a bit behind schedule on that front, but I’m working with the cell in Houston, and he’s got access to some hardware from a drug bust seizure. Heading down with a van in a day or two.”

“Mr. Brown?”

“As Judy—I mean, Miss Gold—mentioned, there will be a contractor on site for a couple weeks, working on the fence. They’re also going to be adding some fencing around the gate. Hopefully it won’t be too disruptive to the deliveries. That’s about all I’ve got to report.”

“Miss Violet?”

“Just filling those shelves, Mr. Black.”

There was some laughter.

“Mrs. Blue?”

“The insulin is all set. I’ve got a couple factories under contract that can provide us with generics of all the daily meds folks are going to need. Hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and so on. Making sure we have coverage of all those meds has been my priority. More tightly controlled stuff like narcotics have proven easier to procure, oddly. But anyway, shipments of everything will start in February, and we should be fully stocked about six weeks after that. Ready for hemp in April.”

“Good to hear. There was some concern at HQ that the cells were going to be competing for supplies,” Mr. Black said.

“Hard to know if that’s happening or not. Nothing about this has been easy, but I don’t know that the other cells are the cause of the shortages we’re seeing. It could just be normal logistics stuff.”

“Bracelets come in?”

“Yes, can you explain about that?”

Madison had lost track of who was speaking, but she continued taking notes. Bryce was munching loudly on potato chips, which she was finding increasingly annoying.

“This came down from HQ. There are seven colors, one for each day of the week. Someone shows up, they get a bracelet. Then that’s their day going forward, and they can’t come back for seven days.”

“What if they come back earlier than that?”

“That’s what the guns and perimeter fence are for.”

The room got quiet.

“Thanks everybody. Let’s all get back to work,” Mr. Black said.

Madison and Bryce watched as the room cleared out except for a couple people having a side conversation they could not make out.

“What the actual fuck?” Bryce asked.

Madison muted the speakers on her computer. “Jesus Christ, Bryce. What the hell are these people doing?”

“I have not a single clue,” he said. “But it sounds like you shouldn’t go back there.”

“No need. As long as they don’t close that laptop lid, I can see all their meetings now.”

“How did Cindy do that? Is she some hacker wunderkind or something?” he asked.

“Basically, yeah. There is way more to that girl than anyone at school knows. I can’t say more than that, but holy shit. If she’s in our lunch, we should ask her to sit with us. She’s super cool.”

“Cindy Peterson?” Bryce asked. “Army surplus boots Cindy Peterson?”

Madison smiled. “Trust me on this. She’s the shit.”

Bryce shrugged. “If you say so. So what’s next with the old’s caper?”

“I’m going to talk to Mr. P. about it,” she said.

“I thought you were done with the Bee, though.”

“I am. But he’s still the closest thing I have to an editor, and a reporter needs their editor. He’ll help me figure out what to do with this information.”

“I’m out of chips,” Bryce said.

“Tragic,” Madison replied. “Keep that shit away from my keyboard.”

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