Rebel Heart (Chapter One, page 2 of 5)

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Lana frowned.

"Hurry, kid. Oh, and Lana?"

"Yes, sir?"

"Don't contact anyone once we're done talking. I'm pretty sure this network is monitored. The man who will call you next will do so on a secure net. He's an army-type and has strict instructions, so don't be offended if he's less than conversational. Got it?"

"Yes, sir."

"See you soon."

Her hand lingered above the keypad of her wardrobe. Adrenaline hit her as she realized this was not a drill. Something was wrong.

She dressed in a comfortable uniform marking her as a civilian member of the government service before hesitating to choose what uniforms to bring: the summer- or winter-weight uniforms. She snapped the markers indicating her rank-Special Assistant to the Undersecretary of the Domestic Security Service.

She chose three summer-weight uniforms, three winter-weight uniforms, and enough undergarments for two weeks. She tossed in her exercise clothing before swiping a photo-generator from her wardrobe and tucking it into the pockets of her suitcase. Nerves made her movements clumsy while her mind sought some forgotten information about a threat great enough to rouse the Undersecretary and his staff in the middle of the night. She almost forgot her microcomputer and snagged it as she strode to the door.

She stepped into the night blanketing the neighborhood, struck by the quiet. At two in the morning, she was the only one to stir in the crowded condo community. Moonlight spilled over large buildings with triangular roofs into community squares abutting stacked parking lots. Darkness settled into corners and crevices beyond the moon's touch. She took in the scene, unable to explain the sense of doom settling in her stomach. If an incident occurred, why was no one else in the government service housing community awake?

Even the beggars outside the thick, bulletproof glass of the main gate were quiet, their small fires dark.

Jack, the shepherd mix, nudged her, and she trotted down the stairs and up the steps to her elderly neighbor's condo. Mrs. Watson answered the door with a shotgun over her shoulder, her wrinkled face peering up at Lana.

"Boss call you out again?" she asked.

"Yes. I'm not sure how long it'll be."

"Jack's half mine anyway. He's here more than my grandkids."

Lana smiled and stepped aside. Accustomed to late-night jaunts to the neighbor's, Jack walked into the condo and took up his spot on the couch.

"Thanks, Mrs. Watson," she said.

"Drive safe."

Lana nodded and stepped away. Her personal net buzzed, and she touched the area behind her ear again.

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