77

Madison stretched out on her bed and flipped through her notebook. She felt she was finally ready to start writing her story. The outline was roughed in, and she had a pretty good lead paragraph, although she knew from experience she would probably change it six times before she was through. As was her habit, she was now pouring over her notes, making sure she hadn’t missed any key points, and she was looking for good quotes to “punch things up” as Mr. P. was fond of saying.

She was scanning one particular page when her stomach dropped. She scrambled for her phone.

“Go for Bryce,” he answered on the first ring.

“Oh my God,” she said.

“What?” he replied.

“Okay, so I’m looking at my notes,” she said.

“What notes?”

“You know, my reporter’s notebook. I’m looking through all the stuff I have on Mr. Black and the olds,” she explained.

“Cool band name,” he joked. “Okay. So what?”

“So remember around Thanksgiving last year? You came over—”

“Oh my God, yes, I remember that. Daddy Warbucks was such a dick.”

“Who?” she asked.

“Jefferson’s grandfather. Remember? How my boyfriend is still in the closet because nobody wants to offend that old coot.”

“Oh, right,” Madison said. “Yeah, so you were over here bitching about that, and then Cindy’s spy cam picked up a meeting at the warehouse. Remember?”

“Barely. That was like three months ago.”

“You remember the fight with Jefferson about his grandfather just fine,” she said.

“Well, of course! That’s important.”

“Ugh,” Madison sighed. “Try to remember. It was this boring business meeting and they were just going around the room getting status reports from everyone. Like how long until different things would arrive. And like how they were doing acquiring guns, and medicine and stuff. Do you remember that?”

“I guess so. On your computer, right?” he asked.

“Yeah. It was on the screen and we watched it together.”

“I remember,” he said.

“Well I was looking through my notes and one of the things they said was they’d be getting hemp in April.”

“Okay. Like pot? Or like rope? I don’t remember that.”

“I assumed they meant rope. I don’t think there’s anything to get you high in hemp,” Madison said.

“Alright. So they’re getting rope in April. Big deal,” Bryce said.

“Hemp, Bryce. Hemp. In April,” she said.

“Are you having a stroke?” he asked. “You’re repeating yourself.”

“Ugh! High-altitude Electromagnetic Pulse. H-EMP. Hemp,” she explained.

There was silence on the line.

“Bryce?” she asked. “Are you still there?”

“Fuck me,” he replied.

“Fuck all of us,” she said. “They were saying the HEMP is going to happen in April. They already fucking know when it’s going to happen! I knew they weren’t doing this just-in-case. They are planning for a very specific disaster!”

“Fuck me,” he repeated. “But they’re preparing all over the world. If they know when it’s going to happen, wouldn’t they know where?”

“Maybe not,” she said. “These things are zooming all over the sky, right? Maybe they know one of them has a problem, and they know roughly when it’s going to fail, but they can’t be exactly sure where because the damn pebbles move so fast.”

“April is what? Six weeks away?” he said.

“Five. Yeah.”

“Holy shit, Mads. You’ve got to do this story like today! People need to know about this,” he said.

“I know. I fucking know. I’m going to go work on it right now. I’m going to try to show it to Portnoy in the morning if I can.”

“How do you get a story like this out there? Obviously this isn’t school newspaper stuff,” he said.

“No clue. Mr. P. will know. Love you, boo. I gotta go,” she said, ending the call.

Madison sat at her computer and started to write.

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