Madison followed Judy as she strode briskly through the warehouse. “The shelves are all full now,” she observed.
“Indeed they are,” Judy said. “It’s almost time. They took their last shipments here a few days ago. Now they are just tidying up and finishing inventory.” She was interrupted by her phone ringing. “Gold here,” she answered. “Yes, I have her… that’s right… I see… around breakfast time… don’t worry… yes, yes, I understand.” She put her phone away.
“Who was that?” Madison asked.
“You never stop asking questions, do you?” Judy replied.
Madison smiled. “Occupational hazard,” she said.
Judy chuckled. “That was HQ. Your folks either don’t know much, or they are good at playing dumb. I suppose it doesn’t matter now, anyway.” She turned a corner, and Madison rushed to keep up.
“Why doesn’t it matter?” Madison asked.
“Tomorrow is the day. You and I should be arriving at HQ just before it goes down.”
“What? You mean the HEMP? It’s happening tomorrow?”
Judy reached the exit and pushed through it. Madison followed her into the parking lot and settled into the passenger seat of Judy’s car. The leather seat was quite comfortable. “This is nice,” she said.
“Thank you. Spend as much time in your car as I do, it feels worth it to spend a little extra. Buckle up.”
Madison put on her seatbelt and then grabbed the door to steady herself as Judy backed quickly out of the space and headed for the gate. The motorized fence was sliding to the side, but Judy was already driving fast. Madison was afraid they might hit it, but the timing worked out okay. “Damn,” Madison said as they passed through, and she looked over her shoulder. “You cut it close there.”
Judy smiled but said nothing.
“So you didn’t answer me. The HEMP is going down tomorrow? But I thought it wasn’t until April.”
“Tomorrow is April, dear,” Judy said.
Madison reached for her phone to confirm if that was true, but she didn’t find it in any of her usual pockets. She started to panic, but then she remembered it had been confiscated. “Do you have my phone?” she asked.
“I do,” Judy said.
“Can I have it back?” she asked.
“No,” Judy replied.
“Tomorrow then? After this is all over? My mom is going to kill me if I lose my phone.”
Judy laughed. “Have you had a smart phone your whole life, Madison?”
“Pretty much. I had my mom’s old one when I was little, just for games to keep me busy. It only had Wi-Fi. I got a real phone of my own when I went into sixth grade. Pretty much all the kids got them around then. I can’t imagine what it was like for you not having devices like that. I mean, how did you figure out how to get places?”
“We used maps, dear. Big paper maps. We’d plan our trips in advance and follow the signs,” Judy said.
“Didn’t you get lost?”
“Sometimes. It was best if you were traveling with someone. They would keep an eye on the map and make sure you were passing the things you were expecting to pass.”
“That’s crazy,” Madison said.
“You’ll learn,” Judy replied.
“Why would I need to learn that? Do they even sell paper maps anymore?”
“I certainly hope they do,” Judy said. “I’ll return your phone to you tomorrow. But it won’t do you much good. You’ll need to function without it.”
“Why not?” Madison asked. “Because the battery is almost dead?”
Judy took a deep breath and sighed. “It’s very strange to me how you seem to at once know everything and yet also know nothing.”
Madison sat in silence and puzzled out what Judy meant by that. “Wait.” She turned in her seat to face her driver. “You mean when the HEMP happens tomorrow. My phone is going to be useless because it’s going to get fried by the HEMP. The pebble they blow up is going to be over the United States? The HEMP is happening here?”
Judy shook her head and glanced over at Madison. “My dear child. The HEMPs are going to happen everywhere. That’s kind of the whole point.”