“How was the party?” Cindy asked.
Bryce was looking down at his phone, as was his habit at lunch, and ignored the question.
“Lame,” Madison replied. “It was outside. Who the fuck has a party outside at night in the middle of March?”
“Sorry I missed it,” Cindy said with a little laugh. “So what’s up with the story? When do you publish it?”
“Maybe never,” Madison said. “Portnoy says I need independent sources, and I can’t figure out how to find those.”
“For which part?” Cindy asked.
“All of it, really. Although I guess for stuff where we just found it online, I could just add an explanation of the record search we did, and that would probably cover it. The main thing I have to confirm is the stuff Dr. Thornton told me. I need more proof that he isn’t just a crazy, confused old man.”
“We’ll never find that online,” Cindy said. “Not without hacking government servers, which is super dangerous.”
“Even if we did hack government servers, I couldn’t admit to that, so it wouldn’t matter. The point is to get a second source I can cite. Without that, the story can’t be printed.”
“How about Mr. Black?” Bryce asked.
Cindy and Madison turned to look at him. “Nice of you to join us,” Cindy teased.
“Yeah, yeah. Whatever,” Bryce said. “Can’t you ask Mr. Black whether the old coot is right about the space nukes?”
“You have a way with words, I’ll give you that,” Cindy said.
Bryce rolled his eyes in response.
“Mr. Black has never once told me the truth about anything,” Madison said. “Why would he start now?”
Bryce shrugged. “Maybe he will lie. But as it stands, you have no options. You aren’t going to be able to find anyone in the government who is as willing to cough up classified information as Dr. NASA, right?”
“It seems crazy to even try asking,” Madison replied. “I mean, ‘Can you confirm if there are secret nuclear weapons in orbit?’ isn’t a question I can seriously ask anyone in the government. When I was searching for confirmation online, I found that there’s a treaty from the ‘60s that basically says we can’t put nukes into space. Who would admit to a teenager that we violated an international treaty? I mean, other than Dr. NASA, who was probably so overwhelmed by my baking skills he lost his head.”
“Right. So ask Mr. Black and see what he says. If he denies it, you’re exactly where you were before, but if he confirms it, then you have your second source and can run the story.”
“He has a point,” Cindy said. “What’s the downside?”
“I don’t know,” Madison said. “Right now, they don’t know I have all the dots connected. And Judy threatened my dad. If I show them what I have, they’ll know I didn’t stop, and maybe they’ll take it out on him somehow.”
“You’re paranoid,” Bryce said.
“Am I? She did point a gun at me, remember?”
“And your crazy ass called her bluff, and what did she do?” Bryce asked. “Nothing. She just sat there and let you keep investigating. These are a bunch of old codgers who think they can intimidate you because you’re a kid. They’re not going to do anything.”
“You’ve done a one-eighty on this, you know,” Madison said. “It wasn’t that long ago you were telling me I shouldn’t chase this story. That it was too dangerous.”
“It’s a girl’s prerogative to change her mind,” Bryce said.
Madison rolled her eyes and shook her head. “What do you think, Cindy?”
“As much as it pains me to agree with Bryce—”
“Fuck you very much,” he interrupted.
Cindy laughed then continued, “I think he’s right. I don’t see the downside. I mean, we know it’s true, right? So if they get mad that you figured it out, they aren’t going to fire your dad. They are going to need every armed guard they have when things go sideways in April.”
Madison nodded. “True that. So I show Mr. Black the story and see what he says?”
“I think so,” Cindy replied.
“Yup,” Bryce added, not looking up from his phone.