Madison followed Judy from the car to the building. The front glass doors were locked, but Judy held a keycard near a black box on the side and the lock snapped open. Madison held the door as Judy entered, and they proceeded into a nearly empty lobby. There was a reception desk with nobody behind it, a couch, two chairs, and a coffee table with some magazines. Madison glanced at them as they walked past. The banner said, “Spaceport Magazine.” There was a picture of a rocket taking off on the cover.
Judy proceeded to an elevator, where she again used her keycard both to enter and to pick her floor. Madison followed.
“Is this whole building HQ?” Madison asked.
“Yes, although only a few people are here today,” Judy said. “We managed CLP business out of here for the past year or so, but at this phase of the operation, all of that work is done.”
“How did you manage to keep all this secret for so long?”
“Well clearly we didn’t,” Judy laughed. “But kudos to you, because as far as I know, you are the only one who triggered the containment protocol. Frankly, we expected more. Dividing operations into autonomous cells and limiting information on a strict need-to-know basis proved to be a good strategy.”
“Did you hear from the FBI?” Madison asked.
Judy turned and stared. The elevator door opened, but she didn’t move. “That was you?”
Madison smiled. “Just doing my civic duty.”
The elevator door started closing, and Judy put her hand in the way. She stepped into the hall and Madison followed. “Thankfully we were able to put a lid on that,” Judy said, stopping to talk outside the elevator. “The FBI traced the lead back to an IP address in Estonia. How did you manage that?”
“I might have lied when I said that Bryce was the only one who knows what’s going on,” Madison said.
“You have a contact in Estonia?” Judy asked with a puzzled expression.
Madison laughed. “No, no. I have a really smart friend who is amazing with computers. She only made it look like the tip came from someplace else.”
Judy rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Kids these days. I’m glad I’m not in the field anymore. I don’t think I’d be very successful given the way you people are able to exploit technology. Anyway, let’s move. They would have seen me swipe in, so they are probably wondering where we are.”
“Are my parents here?” Madison asked, following Judy as she briskly walked a zigzag pattern through the halls of HQ.
“They are. I’ll take you to them shortly,” Judy replied.
“I really need to pee,” Madison said as they approached the ladies’ room.
“Go ahead,” Judy said. “We’ll be just down this hall. Last door on the right.”
“Can I have my phone?” Madison asked.
Judy stopped walking and looked at Madison. She waited a beat. “I don’t see the harm, I guess.”
Madison took her phone and went into the restroom. She immediately placed a call.
“Go for Bryce,” he mumbled.
“Wake up, Bryce! It’s happening!”
“What’s happening?” Bryce asked. “Are you back home already?”
“No,” she said. “I’m in Omaha—”
“Omaha? Like Nebraska?”
“Yeah,” Madison said. “I’m at HQ. They are going to set off the pebbles! All of them! Today!”
“What? Seriously? When?”
“I’m not sure. But soon, I think. I’m going to tweak my story a little and then post it on my social media accounts,” she said.
“You have it on your phone?”
“No, it’s in the cloud, though. I’ll make it public and then share the link. I need you to amplify it like crazy. Get everyone you know to send it out. Call Cindy. She’ll know what to do. The internet is going down. We need this story shared as widely as possible before that happens.”
“Okay. Tag me and Cindy when you post, so we know it’s up,” Bryce said.
“I love you Bryce,” Madison said. “I’ll see you when I get back.”
“Go do the story!” he replied, ending the call.
Madison started the cloud word processor on her phone. She decided that rewriting would take too long, so she went to the end and added an update.
Update: Since this story was written, I have learned that on April 1, CLP intends to detonate thousands of pebbles simultaneously, not just one as reported above. This is being done not because the pebbles are failing, but because the people behind CLP believe that de-industrialization is the only way to save our planet. I urge you to stay home on April 1, avoid all forms of transportation and do not use elevators. God bless, and good luck.
Madison proofread the update and posted the link to all her social media accounts. Then she put her phone in her pocket and went looking for Judy.