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Senator Sexton was actually feeling a flicker of hope as he walked his unexpected visitor back out to the elevator. The head of the SFF, as it turned out, had not come to chastise Sexton, but rather to give him a pep talk and tell him the battle was not yet over.

A possible chink in NASA’s armor.

The videotape of the bizarre NASA press conference had convinced Sexton that the old man was right‑PODS mission director Chris Harper was lying. But why? And if NASA never fixed the PODS software, how did NASA find the meteorite?

As they walked to the elevator, the old man said, “Sometimes all it takes to unravel something is a single strand. Perhaps we can find a way to eat away at NASA’s victory from within. Cast a shadow of distrust. Who knows where it will lead?” The old man locked his tired eyes on Sexton. “I am not ready to lay down and die, senator. And I trust nor are you.”

“Of course not,” Sexton said, mustering resolve in his voice. “We’ve come too far.”

“Chris Harper lied about fixing PODS,” the man said as he boarded the elevator. “And we need to know why.”

“I will get that information as fast as I can,” Sexton replied. I have just the person.

“Good. Your future depends on it.”

As Sexton headed back toward his apartment, his step was a little lighter, his head a little clearer. NASA lied about PODS. The only question was how Sexton could prove it.

His thoughts had already turned to Gabrielle Ashe. Wherever she was at the moment, she had to be feeling like shit. Gabrielle had no doubt seen the press conference and was now standing on a ledge somewhere getting ready to jump. Her proposition of making NASA a major issue in Sexton’s campaign had turned out to be the biggest mistake of Sexton’s career.

She owes me, Sexton thought. And she knows it.

Gabrielle already had proven she had a knack for obtaining NASA secrets. She has a contact, Sexton thought. She’d been scoring insider information for weeks now. Gabrielle had connections she was not sharing. Connections she could pump for information on PODS. Moreover, tonight Gabrielle would be motivated. She had a debt to repay, and Sexton suspected she would do anything to regain his favor.

As Sexton arrived back at his apartment door, his bodyguard nodded. “Evening, senator. I trust I did the right thing by letting Gabrielle in earlier? She said it was critical she talk to you.”

Sexton paused. “I’m sorry?”

“Ms. Ashe? She had important information for you earlier tonight. That’s why I let her in.”

Sexton felt his body stiffen. He looked at his apartment door. What the hell is this guy talking about?

The guard’s expression changed to one of confusion and concern. “Senator, are you okay? You remember, right? Gabrielle arrived during your meeting. She talked to you, right? She must have. She was in there quite a while.”

Sexton stared a long moment, feeling his pulse skyrocket. This moron let Gabrielle into my apartment during a private SFF meeting? She stuck around inside and then departed without a word? Sexton could only imagine what Gabrielle might have overheard. Swallowing his anger, he forced a smile to his guard. “Oh, yes! I’m sorry. I’m exhausted. Had a couple of drinks, too. Ms. Ashe and I did indeed speak. You did the right thing.”

The guard looked relieved.

“Did she say where she went when she left?”

The guard shook his head. “She was in a big hurry.”

“Okay, thanks.”

Sexton entered his apartment fuming. How complicated were my goddamn directions? No visitors! He had to assume if Gabrielle had been inside for any length of time and then snuck out without a word, she must have heard things she was not meant to hear. Tonight of all nights.

Senator Sexton knew above all he could not afford to lose Gabrielle Ashe’s trust; women could become vengeful and stupid when they felt deceived. Sexton needed to bring her back. Tonight more than ever, he needed her in his camp.