Jana announces the target to the crowd of hackers and slicers.
My announcement was met with stunned silence from slicers crowded before me. That was what I’d expected and was about to launch into my persuasive arguments. The hackers reacted differently.
A roar of approval rose from them. I waited for it to crest but the roar just kept going on and on. All along the dividing line between hackers and slicers, the hackers shared their enthusiasm. Some simply nudged their slicer neighbors in friendly enthusiasm. Some slapped their chests, a hacker gesture of solidarity. A few even wrapped arms around slicers.
And the enthusiasm spread. At first, it was just a few slicers who joined in — the ones next to the hackers. But their rising cheer infected those next to them. It was like watching a wave roll across the slicers. Within seconds everyone was stamping their feet, waving their arms, and roaring their approval.
I didn’t even notice Fox appear outside my privacy shield until he sent a private message.
I extended the shield, including Fox, and waved him forward. The cheering eased as the crowd parted just enough to let him pass through to me. When he reached the front, Fox swept me into his arms and kissed me deeply. The crowd reacted with another roar.
“The secure subspace connection is set up,” he told me when our lips drew apart. “What did you say to get everyone so excited?”
“I told them our target. Credit the hackers for the rest.”
Keeping an arm around Fox, I faced the crowd again. They quieted when I raised my free hand. “Fox will begin your briefing. I have one thing I must do before we make our move against the Star Stone.”
Assigning control of my privacy shield to Fox, I slipped free of him and walked into the crowd. As with Fox, they parted before me. Hackers grinned and slapped their chests. Slicers smiled and gave me a thumbs up.
Once outside the shield, I wasted little time returning to the real world and placing the call to Jeanine. I kept it brief, telling her nothing about our planned attack on the Star Stone. After all, the damned thing could still hear and see everything she heard and saw.
Jeanine hated the idea of trading me for Tilly but I cut the call before she could try talking me out of it.
As I connected myself to the network again, Kelly said, “She won’t trade you for Tilly. You know that, right?”
“I didn’t leave her any choice.”
“That you know of.”
“What else does she have to bargain with?”
“Damned if I know, but don’t underestimate Jeanine.”
“I hope you’re right, Kelly, but don’t get your hopes up. I will not abandon Tilly.”
I activated my connection and merged into the network. I had an attack to lead with the fate of humanity hanging in the balance.
I pushed my concern for Tilly from my mind and rejoined my attack force.
How will Jeanine’s negotiations with Olivia go? Find out in Chapter 58, coming Wednesday.