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First Break

Anax felt the doors slide open behind her. Another unexpected development. One down, three to go, she told herself. Stay calm. A guard stood at the waiting-room door, to make sure she made no attempt to communicate with the outside world, she assumed. He was older than her. She looked at him and smiled. He turned away.

Anax tried to use the time to her advantage. Truth was, the break had come at just the right moment. She had lied to them. She didn't know it until she was forced to say it aloud, and the feeling was so strange she doubted it had gone unnoticed. Yes, Adam's actions were romantic, irrational, unjustifiable. And yet, when forced to comment, Anax had spoken a lie.

She did not know whether she would have done the same thing had she been up in the watchtower, she just knew Adam wasn't wrong to have done it. She tried to swallow back this new and dangerous knowledge and focus on what was coming next: surely the details of Adam's arrest and subsequent trial. She reminded herself she was prepared. She reminded herself how much success meant to her, how much it would mean to see Pericles' face when she delivered the news.

"Do you know how long they're going to be?" Anax asked, after half an hour had passed with no word being sent through. The guard turned to her. From his expression, she could see he had not been expecting her to speak.

"How should I know that?" His voice was surprisingly soft and quiet. Not like a guard's at all.

"I just thought, if you did this often..."

"I've never been here before," he told her. "It's my first time."

"But you are watching me?"

"What?" Confusion tightened his features.

"You're a guard, right? You're here to make sure I don't try to communicate."

"How could you?" he replied. "The building is under full surveillance. All electronic traffic is tied down."

"I know. I just thought you might be an extra precaution."

The guard began to laugh.

"What?" Anax demanded. "What's so funny?"

"I thought the same thing about you," he told her.

Now she noticed the second door. "So you're..."

"Yeah, through there."

"How's it going?"

"I don't know. I wasn't expecting the breaks."

"No. It's unnerving, isn't it?"

"A little."

"I'm Anax, by the way."

"Pleased to meet you. Soc."

"What's your specialist topic?"

"Do you think we should be discussing this?"

"Would they have put us in the same room, if they didn't want us to?"

"Perhaps they're watching," Soc suggested.

Anax liked him. She was good on first impressions. His manner was gentle. He was kind, she felt sure of it. "Have your questions been difficult?" Anax asked.

"Most have been okay," he replied. "I was thrown by a question on ethics. It's not my specialty. Perhaps that's saying too much."

"I had the same thing," she told him.

This news seemed to come as some relief to him. Soc looked at Anax as if trying to read her. He leaned forward quickly and Anax, in her surprise, pulled away. He lowered his voice so that it was little more than a hum.

"Be careful," he murmured. "They know more than you think."

He pulled back and looked at her, but she did not answer. He was a stranger to her. Who did he think he was, taking a risk like that? At just that moment, as if to underline the danger, her door slid open.


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