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Gabrielle Ashe was brimming with new hope as she stood at Yolanda Cole’s desk in the ABC production room and dialed directory assistance.

The allegations Sexton had just conveyed to her, if confirmed, had shocking potential. NASA lied about PODS? Gabrielle had seen the press conference in question and recalled thinking it was odd, and yet she’d forgotten all about it; PODS was not a critical issue a few weeks ago. Tonight, however, PODS had become the issue.

Now Sexton needed inside information, and he needed it fast. He was relying on Gabrielle’s “informant” to get the information. Gabrielle had assured the senator she would do her best. The problem, of course, was that her informant was Marjorie Tench, who would be no help at all. So Gabrielle would have to get the information another way.

“Directory assistance,” the voice on the phone said.

Gabrielle told them what she needed. The operator came back with three listings for a Chris Harper in Washington. Gabrielle tried them all.

The first number was a law firm. The second had no answer. The third was now ringing.

A woman answered on the first ring. “Harper residence.”

“Mrs. Harper?” Gabrielle said as politely as possible. “I hope I haven’t woken you?”

“Heavens no! I don’t think anyone’s asleep tonight.” She sounded excited. Gabrielle could hear the television in the background. Meteorite coverage. “You’re calling for Chris, I assume?”

Gabrielle’s pulse quickened. “Yes, ma’am.”

“I’m afraid Chris isn’t here. He raced off to work as soon as the President’s address was over.” The woman chuckled to herself. “Of course, I doubt there’s any work going on. Most likely a party. The announcement came as quite a surprise to him, you know. To everyone. Our phone’s been ringing all night. I bet the whole NASA crew’s over there by now.”

“E Street complex?” Gabrielle asked, assuming the woman meant NASA headquarters.

“Righto. Take a party hat.”

“Thanks. I’ll track him down over there.”

Gabrielle hung up. She hurried out onto the production room floor and found Yolanda, who was just finishing prepping a group of space experts who were about to give enthusiastic commentary on the meteorite.

Yolanda smiled when she saw Gabrielle coming. “You look better,” she said. “Starting to see the silver lining here?”

“I just talked to the senator. His meeting tonight wasn’t what I thought.”

“I told you Tench was playing you. How’s the senator taking the meteorite news?”

“Better than expected.”

Yolanda looked surprised. “I figured he’d jumped in front of a bus by now.”

“He thinks there may be a snag in the NASA data.”

Yolanda let out a dubious snort. “Did he see the same press conference I just saw? How much more confirmation and reconfirmation can anyone need?”

“I’m going over to NASA to check on something.”

Yolanda’s penciled eyebrows raised in cautionary arches. “Senator Sexton’s right‑hand aide is going to march into NASA headquarters? Tonight? Can you say ’public stoning’?”

Gabrielle told Yolanda about Sexton’s suspicion that the PODS section manager Chris Harper had lied about fixing the anomaly software.

Yolanda clearly wasn’t buying it. “We covered that press conference, Gabs, and I’ll admit, Harper was not himself that night, but NASA said he was sick as a dog.”

“Senator Sexton is convinced he lied. Others are convinced too. Powerful people.”

“If the PODS anomaly‑detection software wasn’t fixed, how did PODS spot the meteorite?”

Sexton’s point exactly, Gabrielle thought. “I don’t know. But the senator wants me to get him some answers.”

Yolanda shook her head. “Sexton is sending you into a hornet’s nest on a desperate pipe dream. Don’t go. You don’t owe him a thing.”

“I totally screwed up his campaign.”

“Rotten luck screwed up his campaign.”

“But if the senator is right and the PODS section manager actually lied‑”

“Honey, if the PODS section manager lied to the world, what makes you think he’ll tell you the truth.”

Gabrielle had considered that and was already formulating her plan. “If I find a story over there, I’ll call you.”

Yolanda gave a skeptical laugh. “If you find a story over there, I’ll eat my hat.”