BOOK 2 // ONE: Play by the Rules

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END OF BOOK 1 RECAP: Astrid and Jace broke into the Darnell Facility during a public lecture. Inside, they found files marked with ominous red stamps, containing details of the kids who have been modified. When Jace finds his name there, he realises he's been modified all this time -- despite his dad being in charge of the anti-modification cause, BioNeutral. With footsteps in the hallway, Astrid's desperate to get out of there and avoid getting caught, but Jace's eyes change colour and he loses control. The door then opens, and Nova walks in -- but Jace recognises her as Eden, and they realise they've been searching for the same person all this time. Book 1 ends with Nova saying the following:

"Well, to say you two took the bait is an understatement. Now, I've come to get you out of here. There's no need to thank me yet. Just one condition: nobody asks any questions."


***


            At night, Jace screamed.

I wanted to believe it was a one-off, the product of an unsettling day and an unfortunate nightmare, but it seemed like more than that. It had happened earlier, though then I hadn't thought much of it. Being packed into a van for the bumpy journey north and escaping across the city border had been stressful enough, and even once the initial fear settled it was impossible to doze off for more than a few minutes at a time. It had been several hours into the journey when Jace first cried out, jerking away from the glass window to find faces staring back at him. I hadn't known how to react, but he made it easy – not letting his eyes close for the rest of the journey.

Now, though, it was worse.

Even some distance down the corridor, the noise of distress rang strong, powerful enough to pull me from restless sleep. It hurt more than my ears – seeming to drill through my skill, burrow under my skin, make every part of me ache. It was the sound of someone I'd grown to care deeply about, struggling to keep a hold on this new world.

Under Nova's orders, I wasn't supposed to leave my room, but I couldn't lie there and listen. No force in the world could've stopped my footsteps creeping to the door and down the hall. Triggered by my movement, a lightbulb flickered to life above my head, illuminating the gloomy corridor and guiding the way. If anybody else woke, they'd probably see the light creep beneath their doors – but for this I was willing to take the risk.

I didn't knock. Instead, I pushed the door open, letting light filter into Jace's room inch by inch. Lacking any mark of personalisation, it was pretty much identical to mine: a square box containing a bed and a storage unit for our few belongings. The bare minimum.

As the light reached the bed, I saw Jace. With his covers thrown off the bed and lying in a crumpled heap on the floor, I could see his body sprawled out on the mattress. He was wearing what he had been the day before, just stripped of a few layers to become a T-shirt and boxer shorts. The cries of distress grew louder, and he thrashed violently with each one, as if trying to shake off an attacker that wasn't there.

I couldn't watch any longer. As the door clicked shut, I hurried closer to his bed, reaching out to grab a flailing arm.

"Jace."

It wasn't loud enough, and within seconds his arm had jerked away.

"Jace." This time, I gripped his shoulders, shaking just hard enough to pull him from sleep. It worked; his eyes snapped open, and they locked with mine just as he scrambled into an upright position, startled.

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