BOOK 2 // EIGHT: Shock to the System

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            For the next few days, I turned the thought of my result over and over in my mind.

I ached to know more. There was something torturous about being given the tiniest snippet of information and then being expected to forget about it, because nobody could give me the answer I wanted. The fact that it was so huge made things worse; I couldn't even tell what was at stake. If there was a ticking time bomb inside me, laying low and waiting for the right moment to explode, I wouldn't know until a moment too late.

Sometimes, it felt like the not knowing would kill me faster than the actual thing. I needed to stop thinking about it. I longed for a distraction, but those weren't handed out for free in a place like this. There were jobs to do, sure – but while they were all menial and repetitive, they were somehow not mind-numbing enough. I didn't need to concentrate to scrub floors, to stir pots, to clear out rooms of furniture so we could make use of the space. Instead, my brainpower was left well and truly free to agonise over my biological identity.

I soon realised what I wanted most: to talk to Jace. He felt like the only person I could connect to in that moment, the only one who would have any idea. Perhaps it would even help him. After all, he was still struggling to come to terms with the revelation, to adjust to the idea that he wasn't who he thought he was. Talking to him offered the potential to open up the two-way channel of communication that I longed for.

But it was unlikely. In fact, over the last few days, I'd barely seen him – which could've been equally due to chance or a conscious decision. He'd already made it clear he didn't want to talk; it was me that was struggling to accept it.

My own head made things worse. Any time he wasn't in my immediate line of sight, I assumed the worst: that he was cosied up with Nova, sharing a private moment meant for nobody else's eyes. Especially not mine. Perhaps she told him what I wasn't allowed to know. Even if family connections counted for nothing, their bond could've been stronger. It was entirely possible that Nova was willing to give up more for him than for me.

When I did see them together, they gave away no hints. Usually, they talked in hushed tones, and while I couldn't make out the words, they didn't seem to hint at love. On Nova's part, at least. Jace was a little harder to read – and half the time, he looked awestruck, like he was struggling to believe she was stood there in front of him at all.

I knew it was none of my business. Unfortunately, my brain never listened.

As the days passed, I started to give up on Jace. Maybe Nova was right, and offering help was pointless unless he wanted it. To stay agonising over it was a waste of time, not to mention terrible for my mental health. In fact, I was beginning to understand why Nova detached herself so much. It was much simpler to avoid getting hurt in the first place.

Maybe I had a lot to learn from my older sister.

I could do it, I told myself. I could change my frame of mind, reshape my perspective on the whole situation. My focus would be on this base, here in Birmingham, and moving forward for the greater good. No personal problems.

But then, one afternoon, Jace found me.

The morning had been spent trekking through the outskirts of the city, where concrete met wilderness and I could breathe a little easier. Officially, I was out on Nova's instruction to keep an eye out for signs of security breaches – like an out-of-place footprint that hinted something was amiss – but I couldn't deny that my eyes occasionally wandered, on the lookout for anything Art would count as treasure. On my way back, the heavens opened unexpectedly, and the rain came down so fast I was soaked within seconds. With my hair plastered to my face, and my boots squelching with water, the only real option when I got back was to jump straight in the shower.

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