Home > Supernova(6)

Author: Marissa Meyer

She followed him down the narrow staircase into his basement bedroom and froze on the bottom step.

Oscar and Ruby were there—Ruby perched on the sofa and Oscar facing backward on Adrian’s desk chair.

But what made Nova hesitate was that Danna was there, too, in the form of hundreds of gold-and-black butterflies that filled every available shelf and table and the narrow sills of the high windows along the south wall.

Nova’s mouth ran dry.

Seeing so many of them at once, and not in the blur of battle like Nova always had before, might have been a beautiful sight. Except they weren’t moving. Not a beat of wings. Not a twitch of antennae. And though it was impossible to know for sure, Nova had the distinct feeling that all of their tiny bug eyes were fixated on her.

“She’s been following me around since we found Ace,” said Ruby. “Didn’t come with me to headquarters, but otherwise…” Her worried gaze flitted around at the butterflies.

“Has anyone contacted her dad, to let him know?” asked Adrian.

“I mentioned it to Thunderbird,” said Ruby, “and she said she’d have someone reach out and let him know that Danna is okay … sort of. I figured she’d go home by now, but maybe she thinks that seeing her stuck like this will make him worry even more?”

“Or maybe she doesn’t want to be left out of our exciting detective work,” said Oscar. “She’s still on the team, even in swarm mode, right?”

“Absolutely,” said Adrian. “She did lead us to Ace Anarchy. Maybe she’ll have more input to offer … however she can.”

“Why…” Nova paused to clear her throat and dared to take the final step into the room. “Why hasn’t she transformed back yet?”

“We figure she can’t for some reason,” said Adrian. “She needs all of her butterflies to converge. If even one is missing … not dead, but, like, trapped somewhere or too far away, then the others will be stuck in this form.”

“What I can’t figure out,” said Ruby, fidgeting with the wire on her wrist, “is why she doesn’t take us to that missing butterfly … or butterflies, if there is more than one. If she’s trapped somewhere, why hasn’t she helped us figure out how to help her, like she led us to Ace?”

Oscar shrugged. “Maybe she doesn’t know where it is.”

“But they all communicate with one another, even when they’re in this form,” said Adrian. “Like … a hive mind sort of thing. It seems unlikely that she wouldn’t know where the others are.”

Nova sat stiffly beside Ruby, thinking of the night one of Danna’s butterflies had been spying on her and the Anarchists inside the catacombs. They had captured it in a pillowcase and held it prisoner, eventually bringing it back to the row house and putting it in a mason jar.

Like a blindfolded hostage, that butterfly wouldn’t have been able to see where it was being taken. She supposed it made sense that it still didn’t know where it was, and therefore couldn’t call the rest of the creatures to it.

Still, she imagined she could feel the disgust emanating from the insects that surrounded her, making the hair stand on end all down her forearms.

Danna may not be able to speak to the others, but she did know the truth. She knew Nova’s secret.

It was only a matter of time before she figured out a way to communicate it to the rest of the group.

“I’m glad she’s here, at least,” said Adrian. He paused then, studying the swarm. “I’m glad you’re here,” he corrected, because it was rude to speak about someone like they weren’t even there, though Nova wasn’t sure Danna could actually hear in this form. “We’ll find a way to help Danna. There must have been a reason she knew about the location of Ace Anarchy’s hideout.” He drummed his fingers against his thigh. “I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect … if we find Nightmare and the Anarchists, we might figure out how to help Danna, too.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Oscar said. “I sense a transition into actual work coming up, but before we get there…” He reached behind himself and pulled out an old heart-shaped tin box. “I brought cookies!” Peeling off the lid, he offered it to Ruby first. Nova could see that the cookies inside were homemade. A few had burnt edges, and others had gooey, underbaked centers, all nestled into a bed of parchment paper.

“Thanks, Oscar,” said Ruby, picking one out. She held it up and paused. “Are these…?”

“Lemon-coconut-shortbread cookies with white chocolate centers,” Oscar said, his ears turning pink. “Yes. Yes, they are.”

Ruby gawked at him. “That’s … my mom makes … these are my favorite!”

“Yeah, I know.” Oscar cleared his throat awkwardly and held the tin toward Nova. “I, uh, called your mom for the recipe.”

With little appetite, Nova waved away the cookies, while Adrian took three. Ruby continued to stare at Oscar, the forgotten cookie halfway to her mouth. He didn’t return the look. Instead, he slammed the lid back onto the tin and nodded at Adrian, as if eager to move on from what might have been the most blatant confession of adoration that Nova had ever witnessed. “Okay, then. Great. Let’s do this. Where do we start?”

Adrian shoved the first cookie in his mouth and approached a freestanding whiteboard. Grabbing one side of it, he pushed it away from the wall and swiveled it around so they could see the back side.

Nova’s stomach plummeted.

It was a corkboard plastered with notes and diagrams and evidence. A map of Gatlon City covered nearly the entire board, with locations circled where Nightmare had been seen. The buildings where she and the Sentinel had faced off during the parade. Cosmopolis Park with its abandoned fun house. Renegade Headquarters. Various subway tunnel entrances. The Cloven Cross Library was highlighted, too, with notes about the Detonator and the Librarian. And the cathedral, beside which was tacked a recent newspaper article about the capture of Ace Anarchy.

There was a grainy picture of Nightmare tossing the Puppeteer out of his hot-air balloon. A red circle was drawn around her face, with a line connecting it to HQ, and another line drawn to Cosmopolis. Beside the line, in bold letters, Adrian had written: FACE MASK?

Another line connected headquarters to Adrian’s house, along with the scrawled words: VITALITY CHARM???

Another line from the parade to the library. WEAPONRY? And in parentheses—(sharpshooter).

Another line, from HQ to the cathedral. ACE ANARCHY HELMET?

To the side of the map was a series of messy notes and asides.

How was she immune to Agent N and Max? Vitality Charm?? But how did she know about it? How did she GET it?

How did she get the helmet out of the chromium box?

How did she know the helmet wasn’t destroyed? / Where it was kept?

Access to Agent N?

Agent N bombs—Fatalia’s mist-missiles!

Each of the questions had a line drawn back to Renegade Headquarters.

Nova gulped, hard. Her skin prickled and her legs twitched with the urge to bolt for the door. It felt like a setup, but no one was looking at her.

Ruby stood, brushing cookie crumbs from her fingers, and approached the board. “Okay,” she murmured, rocking back on her heels. “What does it all mean?”

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