Rebel Heart (Chapter Four, page 1 of 13)

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Lana smiled as she turned her attention from the conversation to the screens around her. The sector specialists were busy at their workstations while two guards loitered outside the damaged entrance. She sipped from a container of water and turned again to the wall behind the titanium glass, unable to pinpoint how one of the sensitive keypads had made it outside the compound or when. She strode to the wall again, quelling the urge to open it. The procedures for accessing the keypads were strict: only those authorized to do so were allowed to, and then only when no one unauthorized was in the room and the door sealed with the alarm activated.

She rubbed her neck, agitated.

"You figure out how to deal with the supply issue?" General Greene asked from his position at a small planning table in the corner.

She was quiet for a moment. "Sir, it's not been my experience to provide my opinion. I'm not really qualified."

"We discussed this already. You're my advisor. Advise me."

"Very well," she said. "We can access the emerops locations around here with Elise's security forces. I can unlock them remotely, and you can send her in for supplies. But doing so will leave us vulnerable if something else happens."

"I understand. How does the infrastructure look?"

"In general, we don't have the people we need to permanently fix the East Coast. We can maintain the systems from here, but almost everyone has fled west."

"But the systems are up?" he asked skeptically.

She gave a tired smile and responded with gentle sarcasm, "I have been working the past few weeks, sir."

"How are they downstairs?"


"Maybe it's time for Arnie to visit and stay awhile. Will keep him out of our hair."

"Yes," she said emphatically.

"He still screaming at people up here?"

She nodded.

"And the keypad?"

"On its way."

His gaze drifted to the wall of glass. "I'm not convinced this is the only keypad missing from beneath our noses," he said with a frown. "Take a count this afternoon after the hub's clear. We'll seal the vault the best we can."

"Yes, sir."

He glanced at his watch and rose. He had daily meetings he forbade her from attending. She waited for him to leave then checked her micro, which was still working on decrypting his encoded messages. She'd never seen it take this long. He was using coding more advanced than any she'd ever seen. It was the sign of someone with a secret he couldn't risk anyone discovering. This was not a personal message to a companion.

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