Chapter Forty-Four

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May and Em stayed cloistered away in bed until late in the day. After everything that had happened, they figured they deserved a bit of alone time, especially considering there was no telling how long it would be before they had another chance. If any of the others disagreed, they kept it to themselves. No one disturbed them.

When at last their hunger got the better of them, the couple showered and crept downstairs with their fingers interlaced. They followed the sound of conversation into a cramped dining room where they found the others clustered around the table, bent over several large maps and blueprints spread across its scuffed oak surface.

"What's going on?" Em asked. Everyone looked up, but May was grateful to see there were no sideways glances or teasing glints in their eyes.

"We're getting everyone up to speed on what we've learned," Jeremy answered. He nodded at May but kept his eyes locked with Em. "Have you filled her in yet?"

Em shook her head. "Not yet."

Together, she and May drew up to the side of the table. With a quick scan of the documents, May could see some of Priva's hand-drawn maps littered among detailed blueprints of what appeared to be a rather large building.

"What is all this?" May pulled the schematic at the top of the pile closer to get a better look. "A Loyal base or something?"

With a tired sigh, Connor rubbed the back of his neck. He was dressed now, long sleeves covering his toned, scarred arms. "Technically no, but it might as well be."

"It's Sovereign University," Priva said, reaching across the table and turning the paper so May could read the details right-side-up. "About a day's drive from here. Have you heard of it?"

May shook her head.

"Fanciest school on the western coast," Lety said. She was standing close at Priva's side and gave her a playful nudge with her elbow. "Any of you cool kids smart enough to get in there?"

Priva snorted. "Well, one of us probably could have gone but I doubt it would have had anything to do with brains."

Jeremy, who had taken a seat and was scouring the blueprint with his face propped up in his hand, didn't bother to look up. "Shut up."

"Okay." May looked questioningly from Jeremy, who was still studying the schematic, to Em, who grimaced. "What's this school got to do with anything?"

"We've spent weeks tracking the Loyals' movements, trying to figure out where they might be keeping Gaten," Connor said. "Unfortunately, it looks like Sovereign is it."

As soon as he said this, May felt the air in the room change. It was as if a chill had settled over the table. With a shudder, May looked around and saw the faces of WIND drawn and tense. Dom and Lety seemed to notice the change as well, and the three of them exchanged puzzled looks.

"I'm getting a feeling that's a bad thing," Dom said, breaking the uncomfortable silence.

"Very," Connor confirmed. His voice was heavy with despair he failed to conceal. "You see, the University is heavily funded by Loyal donations. They have, um, a lot of sway in how things are run, and—"

"Oh, stop dancing around and just say it," Jeremy snapped, slamming his open palm on the table. "My father's the president of the school."

May drew in a sharp breath. "Oh."

"Yeah, and it gets worse. Sovereign is home to some of the most advanced research laboratories in the world," Jeremy dug through the papers until he found a different blueprint and tugged it from the pile. He smoothed it out on top of the others and stabbed a finger into it. "Health and biological sciences, robotics, aeronautical engineering — you name it, they've got the facilities for it. They really believe in hands-on, cutting-edge education."

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