Numbers Page 27

’’Your date is late. It\s almost five o\clock.’’

’’Mourn was going to pick up food first. He\ll be here.’’

Becky grinned. ’’You sound pretty certain.’’

’’I am.’’ She had no qualms that Mourn would show.

’’How exciting.’’

Dana arched her eyebrows.

’’The whole dating thing.’’ Becky chuckled. ’’I kind of miss that. I wish Paul would take me out on dates, but the only real place to go is the bar. That gets kind of old after a while. We never leave Homeland anymore.’’

’’Does that bother you?’’

’’Not really. We used to go out occasionally, but it wasn\ worth the hassle. There\s always some idiots hanging out around the exits, even at the back gates. They shout at us and try to take pictures. We were once followed. Paul turned right around and brought us back. He couldn\ shake them, and didn\ know what they wanted or who they were. He wasn\ willing to risk me being in danger.’’

’’I\m sorry that happened.’’

’’It\s part of living here. We disguise ourselves with wigs and dark glasses when we do leave in case someone does take photos. Employees have access to the NSO-registered vehicles. That way our identities are protected and our families are safe.’’

’’Wow. I had no idea.’’

’’It was fun at first. I felt like a super spy.’’ Becky laughed. ’’We changed clothes and got out of costume after we made sure it was safe, and then we\d have dinner or whatever we had planned to do. Afterward we\d change back before we returned. Then they started following us so it wasn\ fun anymore.’’

’’It sounds like a pain.’’

Becky shrugged. ’’It was worth it. I don\ really have much family that I\m close to, but Paul worries about you and your mom. No one has ever shown up at your door asking about Paul and the NSO, have they?’’


The doorbell rang and Dana sprang off the couch, excited. She rushed to the door and jerked it open. Mourn stood there with flowers in hand and a big grin.

’’Hi. Are these appropriate?’’

She took the roses. ’’Thank you. Yes. They are beautiful.’’

Becky held out her hands. ’’I\ll go find a vase, and put them in your room. Go. Have fun. We\ll leave the door unlocked for you.’’ She smiled at Mourn. ’’She doesn\ have a curfew so she\s all yours until she\s ready to come home. Don\ do anything I wouldn\ . It\s a short list.’’ She winked at Dana. ’’Why do you think your brother married me?’’

Dana laughed and handed over the flowers. She stepped outside with Mourn and closed the door behind her. ’’How was your day?’’

’’Good. How was yours?’’ He led her to a Jeep parked at the curb.

’’Okay. Paul kind of blew a fuse, but he\ll come around. Becky and I spent the day watching TV and talking.’’

He helped her into the passenger seat and rounded the Jeep to climb into the driver\s seat. She turned her head, spotting two large duffle bags in the back, and a box placed between them to keep it from moving around. The smell of food reached her nose so she guessed what was inside. She looked back at Mourn.

’’Where are we going?’’

’’To my new home. I haven\ toured it yet. We can do it together.’’

’’It sounds fun.’’

’’I made sure Darkness didn\ put me back where I used to live.’’

She nodded. ’’I understand.’’

’’I wanted a place for us without memories. He said it\s a different layout. I\m not certain what that means.’’ He checked for traffic and pulled away from the curb.

’’The same builder probably constructed the homes, but they have different floor plans. It won\ be a duplicate of the home you once had.’’

He nodded, paying attention to his driving. ’’Don\ be nervous.’’

’’I\m not. Are you?’’

He glanced her way. ’’A little.’’


’’I want to convince you to live with me. I\m afraid I\ll do or say something that will scare you away.’’

He was so sweet, and she appreciated his candor. ’’Relax. It\s just me. No pressure, remember?’’

He smiled. ’’I really want you to sleep with me tonight. Think about staying.’’

She smiled too, and watched as they left the cottages, traveled down a road, and eventually came to another gate. The guard manning the shack stepped outside to meet them. Mourn slowed to a stop next to the large New Species.

’’Hello, Mourn.’’ He looked at Dana. ’’Hello, Paul\s sister. You both are expected. You want to take the first left and it\s the second cottage on the right. It\s painted light gray. Supply has already come by to stock it for you. Welcome back, Mourn.’’ He turned and pressed a button inside the shack, opening the gate.

Mourn thanked him and drove up a hill. Dana couldn\ help but appreciate the slightly bigger homes. ’’It\s so clean and nice. The homes here are spaced farther apart than where Paul lives.’’

’’We take pride in our homes and their appearances.’’ Mourn turned and parked in a driveway. ’’This is Species housing. Paul lives in human housing. There are more homes there. Homeland was built originally to be a military base. It was still being constructed when we were freed so they were able to redesign some of it to meet our needs. I heard that these were built for officers and high-ranking military personnel. Paul lives in an area meant for enlisted families. The dorms were created to include multiple apartments meant for privacy instead of large rooms to house many of us together.’’

’’I didn\ know that. I can\ believe the government handed this place over to the NSO.’’

’’They had their reasons.’’ He got out and rounded the Jeep, and helped her out.

’’Are you allowed to say why? I\m curious.’’

He held her gaze. ’’It\s confidential, but not classified. I\ll tell you. I know you won\ share our secrets. They funded Mercile without knowledge of us. It would have been bad if that had come out. Your people might have been upset that their tax dollars helped create us and keep us imprisoned. The president apologized and gave us Homeland.’’

She inwardly flinched. That information would have caused a bloodbath in the press. ’’It was a bribe.’’

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