âSo youâre saying it works like radio used to work, but itâs on a frequency almost no one knows about?â Hawk asked.
âBingo,â Carl said, pointing his massively muscle-bound arm at Hawk. Faith was starting to get that Carl was an off-the-grid geek-junkie extraordinaire. If it was hacked or stolen, do-it-yourself or cobbled together from random parts, or shot with your own gun and cooked over a fire on wood from a tree you cut down, or, better yet, blew out of the ground with a homemade explosive, Carl loved it.
âI built only three systems,â Carl went on. âMine, Cloogâs, Meredithâs. So how is there a sleeper cell out there contacting us with intel?â
Faith jumped in before another argument could break out between the two biggest guys in the room.
âOkay, so someone else knows how to get on the frequency and has the right equipment to do it,â Faith said. She looked at Clooger. âHowâs that possible? And either way, what are the odds this communication system has fallen into the wrong hands?â
She and everyone else watched as Hawk projected a three-dimensional holographic map of the United States into the air in the middle of the room.
âThe signal was sent from inside the Western State, that much we know,â Clooger said. âMillions of people have gone in over the past decade, and plenty of them were drifters before that. The comm unit is small, easy to conceal.â
âSo youâre saying Meredith gave hers to someone?â asked Hawk.
Clooger nodded. âAnd that someone is finally using it.â
Clooger took two steps toward the fireplace and picked up an oblong device. It looked like something out of a 1950s science-fiction movie: clear Plexiglas encasing a row of diodes and bulbs and wires all soldered to a motherboard. The entire thing was half the size of a brick.
âThe Plexiglas is solar powered; it absorbs heat and converts it into electricity.â
âThatâs a Hotspur Chance invention,â Dylan said. âKind of cool we get to use it against him now.â
âOkay, so maybe the entire thing isnât old-school, but the stuff inside is,â Carl said sheepishly.
âIf a signal comes in, it gets recorded to a micro drive and the red light goes on. That way you donât have to monitor it twenty-four/seven. You just watch for the light.â
A thumbnail-sized red light inside the device was throbbing on and off like a tiny beating heart.
âEleven years,â Carl said. âEleven years and not a single red-light day. Now itâs lighting up like a Christmas tree, two alerts in as many weeks. First you guys, and now this. It makes me nervous.â
âThis sleeper cell had one purpose, Iâm sure of it,â Clooger went on. âTo feed us intel from inside the States. The message we got verifies that. If they were trying to pinpoint our location they would have asked for it, but they specifically told us not to respond. They donât know where we are and theyâre not going to know.â
âSo Meredith set up a sleeper cell inside the Western State and didnât tell anyone else about it,â Faith said.
âThey arenât sleeping anymore,â Clooger said. âTheyâre awake.â
Clooger set his pocket-sized Tablet on top of the Plexiglas and tapped out a few commands. The room filled with the sound of a female voice.
âPrisoner One has escaped from maximum-security Western State detention zone. Message relay ordered. M4-ZTom unlock code 220.127.116.11. Do not respond to this feed. Terminating.â
Silence fell on the room as the flames cast moving shadows across the walls and ceiling.
âPrisoner One,â Hawk said. âHotspur Chance, most wanted man.â
âItâs not a very clear message,â Jade added.
âIs it all you have?â Faith asked Clooger. âIt sounded as if