Inside Node 3, Susan caught herself pacing frantically. She wished she’d exposed Hale when she’d had the chance.
Hale sat at his terminal. “Stress is a killer, Sue. Something you want to get off your chest?”
Susan forced herself to sit. She had thought Strathmore would be off the phone by now and return to speak to her, but he was nowhere to be seen. Susan tried to keep calm. She gazed at her computer screen. The tracer was still running‑for the second time. It was immaterial now. Susan knew whose address it would return: GHALE@crypto.nsa.gov.
Susan gazed up toward Strathmore’s workstation and knew she couldn’t wait any longer. It was time to interrupt the commander’s phone call. She stood and headed for the door.
Hale seemed suddenly uneasy, apparently noticing Susan’s odd behavior. He strode quickly across the room and beat her to the door. He folded his arms and blocked her exit.
“Tell me what’s going on,” he demanded. “There’s something going on here today. What is it?”
“Let me out,” Susan said as evenly as possible, feeling a sudden twinge of danger.
“Come on,” Hale pressed. “Strathmore practically fired Chartrukian for doing his job. What’s going on inside TRANSLTR? We don’t have any diagnostics that run eighteen hours. That’s bullshit, and you know it. Tell me what’s going on.”
Susan’s eyes narrowed. You know damn well what’s going on! “Back off, Greg,” she demanded. “I need to use the bathroom.”
Hale smirked. He waited a long moment and then stepped aside. “Sorry Sue. Just flirting.”
Susan pushed by him and left Node 3. As she passed the glass wall, she sensed Hale’s eyes boring into her from the other side.
Reluctantly, she circled toward the bathrooms. She would have to make a detour before visiting the Commander. Greg Hale could suspect nothing.