BOOK 2 // TWENTY-ONE: Noble Cause

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            Over the next few days, I heard nothing. Details of our next move remained up in the air and impossible to predict, and with each night, it only became harder to sleep. Even sneaking into Jace's room and curling up beside him didn't help. There was something to be said for the comfort of his steady heartbeat and soft breathing next to me in the dark hours, but they couldn't work miracles. When I had this much on my mind, it was always going to drag me away from peaceful sleep.

I tried to rationalise. There were a million and one reasons why Nova hadn't triggered us into action, and all I had to do was take my pick. Perhaps there was a hold up with making contact with BioPlus again. Perhaps they were proving difficult to convince.

Or perhaps Nova had got cold feet, and she'd never proposed the idea to them in the first place.

No – I couldn't think like that. She'd given me her word. After the conversation we'd had in her office, I wholeheartedly believed I'd convinced her – and I had to trust she would do the right thing.

So I forced myself to stay positive. And a few days later, I was proved right.

Nova walked into the dining hall halfway through dinner, when we were seated at our usual tables and midway through tonight's offering of chicken and veg (both lab-grown, which went without saying these days). When I thought about it, I hadn't seen her eat with us in days – but she must've been getting her strength from somewhere, because she strode through the door like a woman on a mission.

She approached our table, calmly told us there would be a meeting after dinner, and that was that.

No betrayal of emotion, no cause for panic. Just a simple instruction that we all knew to follow.

Once again, we reconvened in the security pod – where we'd been spending more time than usual lately. The loss of its novelty made the place much less intimidating, and we shuffled into our usual places like the whole thing was rehearsed. Like always, Nova took her place at the front of the room – but she seemed a lot calmer than before, her body language trying to convey that everything was under control.

Also as per usual, Erica volunteered to be the first to speak.

"So," she said loudly, "what's going on?"

Nova's eyes swept the room. "We've got another plan."

"Another one?" Erica questioned. "As in, in addition to all the hacking we're already trying to do?"

"And the sequencing work?" Thomas piped up.

"Theoretically, yes," Nova said, but it was evident in her tone that there was more to the story. And like me, the others didn't seem so keen on the word theoretically. "Our aim is to keep that going, if possible. But with this... well, I'm going to be frank: there's a chance we won't make it back to finish that other work."

In a split second, the atmosphere transformed. A jolt of realisation went through all of us, several people leaned forward in their seats, and there seemed to be a collective chorus of "What?!"

I was the only one who stayed silent.

Nova seemed to have braced herself for the reaction. "I know what it sounds like," she said. "But let me explain. It's an ambitious plan, and I won't lie and say it's without risk, but this time we've got BioPlus on our side."

"BioPlus?" Art raised an eyebrow. "You mean the same guys who, about a week ago, refused to give us any kind of security despite some crazed gunman being on the loose?"

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