Chapter 1

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Stealing Perfection

When I leave my house to return to base, it is past midnight. The streets are dark, concealing me, but I still take the extra precaution of hiding behind every object there is. I sneak behind buildings, crawl from bush to bush, and sprint when I come to empty patches in the trail. My stealth has only increased with leveling up, and I am thankful that running is much easier with this level 30's graceful form and posture.

When I reach our compound, I smile. It looks so natural in this little suburban area, the same building as the next one down, except with a small, nearly invisible, square of brown paint no bigger than a square centimeter at the bottom left corner of the door. The Commands have never realized this, or our building would be burned to the ground immediately. It is a good thing they haven't too, because the amount of equipment and explosives we have underground aren't capable of being exposed to much heat before blowing up. Explosions with the materials in our basement would cause this whole sector of houses and buildings to burn straight to the ground.

I tap my fist on the front door once, wait a moment, then four times, wait another few seconds, then nine times. I then tap twice. It is our secret code. Anyone who uses it is with us, and only then will the doors open to the inside. I pause, and then the door is suddenly open. I sneak inside the barely cracked door, and close it softly behind me.

"Nixon!" Someone shouts after the door is shut and automatically locks. I turn back to the room, and the lights flicker back on. "I missed you yesterday!" Gemma exclaims, bounding up to me. She takes my face in her hands, and squeals.

"Hey." I say in my same, easy-going voice that never changes. She pinches my cheeks, flips around my hair, and stares in admiration at the skinny shape of my body.

"Dear lord, you look like a freaking supermodel. What have you been eating?!" She complains, then swears softly to herself.

I love Gemma with all my heart. She is my best friend, and we make that clear to everyone around us. I call her Gem, she calls me Nyx. We are closer than glue, and tell each other everything. Whenever I am not at home, I am at Gemma's side.

Unlike me, Gemma is only at a level 23. She hates helping others, never goes to community activities, and lacks the motivation in school. I do everything I can to level up, except I have a certain vendetta against community events and social interactions with zombies. They aren't real zombies of course, but they are brain dead.

Everyone who isn't planning to take down the government is brain dead and plays along with everything as usual. They could possibly be faking to keep themselves alive, but we don't know. Any unusual interactions with them would result in our 'secret' executions. I take my mind from this thought, and turn it back to the people who are all watching me.

Kitten, who is also known as Kat, is watching me intensely. She is our leader, but her demeaning aura does not justify her name. To downsize her because of her name would be a fatal mistake. Kat is not usually one to let things slide easily, but loves using her sarcastic attitude to her edge. She is scary to most, but I look up to her as the one in charge.

Her stance suggests that she is ready to pounce at anyone at any given moment. She stands with grace, but a quality that can send your hair up in tingles. No one dares to question her, ever. Her eyes are bright green, like a cat's, and her hair is midnight black. I have only seen her in training once, and it made me understand why people call her Kat. She is powerful, with stealth similar to a black cat's, sneaking behind obstacles and climbing over things in her way.

She walks towards me.

"Well, what have you been up to?" She hisses to me with a smile curling onto her face. I smirk back. The glimmer in her eyes suggests that she is proud of me for having to put up with the constant teasing from others about being less than perfect. She tucks a strand of loose hair behind my ear. To anyone else, it would make them quiver under her touch, but I stand my ground. I am not weak.

"Just been around." I tell her, which makes the smile on her face widen. Others would be afraid to answer back to her, but I am not a coward.

"I like you kid," she admits, then her expression turns soft. "Don't ruin it." She is only playing with me, but I nod anyway.

"You totally missed it." Gemma whines, pulling me back over to her. She leads me down one of the halls and opens a door. "I was practice shooting last night, and.." She flicks on the lights, and points at a target at one end of the room. To look at the target and say that Gemma is a good shot could not explain it.

I step closer to the black and white rings on the board. I have always known that Gemma has an amazing shot, but looking at this brings me speechless. Ten bullet holes are arranged in a perfect circle around the 'X' in the middle.

"Damn." I whisper after awhile. She nods happily, with a bright grin on her face.

"I thought I would make it look pretty." She admits, which makes me laugh. We exit the firing room and head back to the main room. I sit on the couch a second after she sits down, and we chat. I am just beginning to tell her when I level next, when a figure blocks the light from the ceiling. I look up to see a buff body and piercing golden eyes staring at me.

"They need you in the central room." Lance says stiffly. I can tell he doesn't like to give messages to me, acting like I am above him in a higher position. He is three years older than me, but I am nearly eighteen. Only four more weeks. "Mission planning." I don't leave the couch. "Like, now." He is angry about something, so I sigh and stand up. I say goodbye to Gem, and walk behind Lance to the central control room.

The only person that seems to confuse me in this whole compound is Lance. He is snarky, sexy, and demanding at the same time. He has thick skin that no one would dare to try and break. Because he is twenty, he has his own house.

Once you reach the age of eighteen, you are moved out of your house and into a brand new house of your own. After you move into your house, you don't change your looks. Your appearance and body gradually age. At twenty one, you are required to chose a husband or wife for life. You have two children, and you die at the age of eighty. The cycle repeats.

But Lance doesn't find interest in anyone. Any attractions that other girls or women make public, he shoots down. I think that most have given up on trying to impress him, but there are always those few new girls who don't know how to contain themselves. He is the talk of girls, though. Gemma loves to gossip about him, how he has a secret girlfriend that no one knows about, that he adores the girls that hang on him like dolls, regardless of the masculinity he shows. She tells me how he has a baby blanket and a teddy bear sitting on his bed back at his house, how he secretly sleeps with everyone in the compound. When I asked her if he'd slept with her, she simply shrugged.

"If he did, I wouldn't be able to tell you." It made me giggle.

It wouldn't surprise me if he had though. His golden eyes with the flecks of light glimmering off them drives all the girls crazy. And his brown cropped cut looks sexy with his jaw line.

So as he leads me to the central control room, I sneak a peek at his butt. His jeans outline it perfectly, and I silently squeal. Regardless of how scary he is, he has always been attractive to me.

"What are they planning?" I ask him curiously.

"Um, the mission?" He retorts, and gives me a look like 'are you alright?'.

"Yeah, obviously." I roll my eyes at him, because he can't see me. "But what part?"

"How am I supposed to know?" He shoots back. I clamp my mouth shut, and heave out a sigh. He shakes his head a bit, like he can't understand how I was chosen to be in the mission. We turn a corner, and come to the end of the hallway. He stands to the side of the door.

"After you, princess." He sarcastically growls at me, and looks around tiredly like he doesn't have time for me. I stop, and send him a death glare. He catches on quickly, and I walk into the room.

Everyone inside is waiting for me to start. They turn their heads and look at me the minute I step into the room. They are all crowded around the map projector in the middle of the room, taking up over half the space. It is a circular table that projects the city - mainly the Realm of Beauty - and shows it 3-dimensionally with perfect details. I walk up to it and focus my eyes on the opening to the Realm.

"Alright, everyone's here?" Kat says, scanning the faces of the people standing around the city scale. I can name most of the faces I see, but a few I have only seen and never talked with. Lance stands next to me. It takes me a minute to realize that everyone here is high up in terms of power. Kat is leading us in this mission, but will be watching from base. Grant is the strongest soldier we have, exceeding at hand-to-hand combat and taking anyone to the ground. Mira is the tech-whiz, who can hack into any computer system, find any codes or passwords you would need, and can piece to piece disassemble any computer and put it back together in less than three minutes. Ren used to work in the Realm of Beauty, making the perfect prototypes and getting them to work. I assume he will be the most help once we figure out the plan to steal the Angels.

I jump as I hear a loud pound, but relax when I see it is just the door being closed. The light switch flips off, and the city scale glows like an orb. Kat's eyes are locked with mine, and the hairs on my neck start to prickle.

"Okay. Showtime." She says, and smiles. "When do you turn eighteen again?" It takes me a moment to realize her words are directed at me.

"Four weeks." I answer. She nods.

"We will infiltrate the Realm two weeks from today. It will be an extremely covert operation, only secluded to this group." We are only a fraction of the rebels. "The less people who know what is actually going on, the more secretive it becomes. When the day comes, go about as usual, do chores, community work, et cetera. The Realm doors close precisely at 9 o'clock p.m., so we need to blow the shield at eight to insure minimum security bridges."

"We're blowing the shield?!" I ask, unable to contain myself with the startling thought.

I forgot to mention the shield above our 'utopia'. It is a weather guard shield, invisible to the eye, but counters any and all weather outside our world. The only time I have ever seen it off was a little over a year ago, when I first found the rebellion. It drove all of the officers crazy. They were running around, screaming frantically, and trying to maintain order. The shield glows a faint blue over the semi-circle of the city projection.

"Yes. Felan will short out the fuses, a fairly easy job, and then you four," she looks at Lance, Mira, Ren, and me. "Will be hiding out close to the gates of the Realm. Any remaining officers will be shot with tranquilizer guns, and Mira will hack into the computer system. She will hold the gates - no one in, no one out - while Ren orders off the alarms and allows access to the 75th level." It is a lot to take in, and I sigh.

"But the most useful person in this mission is you, Nixon. You will need to give a blood sample, and be granted passage to the-"

"Why are we putting our mission on the shoulders of a fifteen year-old child?" A middle aged man standing close to Kat snarls. She snaps her head to him.

"Without her, it is impossible to get into the Realm-"

"But she's like a baby!"

"Excuse you?" I snap. "I can handle myself in any situation you present me, and can hold my own ground thank-you-very-much! And I'm seventeen!"

"See? She's still a bratty little-"

"Carlin!" Kat shrieks. "If you dare question my authority or decisions once more, you will be forced to exit the room and your memories wiped clean!" Silence. No one speaks. No one moves. "So it seems I have made myself clear then. Now as I was saying, Nixon will enter level 75 of the Realm accompanied by Lance, and collect the samples of the Angels with instructions from Ren. By the time you exit the Realm, you could be facing near death from exploitation, or either sneaking out with a clear trail. Any questions?" She glares at the man I know now to be Carlin.

"How soon after the shield blows out will we enter the Realm?" Mira asks.

"Wait until you see the majority if the officers in a panic and inattentive to their posts."

"How much time do we have to get the samples of the Angles?" Lance asks from beside me.

"At least ten before they realize that their system has been overrode, not more than fifteen until you'll be gunned down." So in other words, we have less than fifteen minutes until we're dead. Jolly.

"Well this sounds exciting." Lance mutters, only audible for me to hear, and the corner of my lips turn up. I won't give him the satisfaction of pulling a real smile out of me. He'll just have to deal with a person not having a little school-girl crush on him. "If you kill us, I'm going to kill you."

"Too bad we'd already be bird food. I guess you'll just have to settle with crows pecking the shit out of my carcass." I whisper back, heart fluttering, and a smile crosses his face.

Am I really going on a possibly suicidal mission with Lance Tariet? It is a thought that has never crossed my mind before, even being next to him for target practice. He couldn't have possibly noticed me before this mission, or known me when I first was brought here. But everyone notices him.

He's the sun. Always there, always bright. Always popping his glowing face into a room and receiving the most attention from everyone. For fourteen hours a day, it is all Lance all the time.

But the moon has to take over sometime, right? The sun leaves, and the moon glows as an orb in the fake sky, in the perfect world.


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Becca <3

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