These Broken Stars Page 10

He stares at me a moment, and though I know he must be debating, struggling, none of it is written on his face. “Then let’s go.”

The service corridor is empty, only the emergency lighting strips along the walls to tell of any problem. The crew must be at their stations, assisting the passengers into their pods before heading for their own. Or else there’s no way for them to get back here, all pretense of civilization gone.

The major follows me in silence, though I can feel his tension. For all he knows, I could be leading him to his death. I’m sure he doesn’t want to follow me anywhere. But he doesn’t know this ship like I do. He didn’t spend his childhood in her skeleton as she was being built.

We turn down a maze of branching corridors. I head for a door marked Authorized Personnel Only and shove it open with a slight whine of unused hinges. My shoulders still ache, but I can use my arms—maybe I’m not so shattered after all. The door opens onto an escape bay, a five-seat pod waiting with open door for its refugees.

“Thank you for the escort, Major,” I say crisply, stepping over the lip of the entrance and turning to face him. He’s just behind me, stopping abruptly to avoid running into me. I want to burst into tears, thank him for what he did, but if I do, I’m not sure I’ll ever stop crying. And he doesn’t know what it would mean for him if we got picked up in the same pod. My father would never believe there was an innocent explanation.

“Excuse me?”

“There’s another pod a little ways down the corridor. It won’t take more than five minutes to reach it.”

The soldier lifts both eyebrows. “Miss LaRoux, there are five seats in that pod, and I mean to use one of them. We may not have five minutes. It seems like something’s pulling the ship out of hyperspace before it’s supposed to.”

For a moment fear freezes me. As my father’s daughter, I know better than most what happens when the fabric between dimensions is disturbed. I take a deep breath and step back so as not to have to crane my neck. “Major, if they find you alone in a pod with me when the rescue ships arrive—”

“I’ll take my chances,” the major replies through gritted teeth.

He doesn’t want to be in this pod with me any more than I want him to be. But the ship gives another horrible lurch, sending me crashing into one of the chairs. The major braces himself in the pod doorway. From somewhere in the distance comes a terrible metallic shrieking.

“Fine!” I pull myself up with the straps on the chair. This is no cushy first-class pod. This is bare-bones, designed for mechanics’ crews. The floor is a grid, and as I try to stand, the heels of my Pierre Delacour pumps wedge down into the holes.

Two thousand Galactics’ worth of shoes, destroyed in an instant, the silk stripped from the heels. I stare at the floor, trying to catch my breath. What difference do the shoes make? And yet I can’t stop my mind turning it over, can’t stop staring at the ruined shoes. My mind seizes this tiny detail and clings to it.

The major palms the pad by the door, sending it hissing closed behind him. Then he punches the auto-eject launch button, starting a countdown that gives us enough time to strap in. A trio of lights goes on overhead, blinding me. His boots clomp across the metal floor to a chair opposite mine, and he starts clipping himself in. With a jerk, I wrench my heels out of the grid floor and turn so I can sit in the chair.

I take a full breath for the first time since the alarms started blaring. Safe. For now. I’m trying not to think of the fact that there’s no way the screaming crowd can all be safely inside escape pods.

The ship’s autolaunch will send us speeding away from the Icarus, and in no more than an hour or two a rescue ship will pick us up. I just have to get through the next few hours, with only Major Merendsen for company.

His face is blank, locked down. Why did he even bother to save my life if he hates me so much? I wish I could apologize to him for what I said on the promenade deck. Tell him that what I say and what I mean are never the same, because they can’t be. My throat feels tight, my mouth dry. I never should have given him another glance in the salon.

“How much would we have to pay you to not spread this story around once they pick us up?” I fumble with the harness. It’s not the elegant and comfortable lap belts of the passenger pod—this is a five-point harness that chafes at my bare shoulders.

The major snorts, turning his head toward the tiny viewport, which shows only a scattering of stars that blur and lurch as the ship does. “Why do you assume I’d ever want to tell anyone about this?”

I decide to bury the major in icy silence until this is over, for both our sakes. If we don’t speak, he’ll have nothing to report.

The countdown to ejection continues, blood roaring in my ears out of annoyance with the major. Forty-five seconds. Forty. Thirty-five. I watch the numbers over the door click down one by one, trying to make my stomach settle. A LaRoux doesn’t show weakness.

Without warning, we’re slammed down into our seats as the entire pod jerks. A ripple of white-hot energy shoots through its metal frame. I taste copper, and then the universe goes black with a sound like a thunderclap in my ears. All the lights, the countdown, even the emergency lighting…gone. We’re left in utter blackness but for the stars outside the viewport.

Stars that are no longer stretched thin. The Icarus has been torn out of hyperspace.

For a few moments there’s no sound. Even the background hum of the engines and life support are gone, leaving us in the depths of the most crushing silence either of us has known since we came aboard.

The major starts cursing, and I can hear him fumbling with his straps. I understand his haste. Without power, we’re going to run out of oxygen before anyone out there even realizes the Icarus has had a problem. But that’s not our most immediate problem.

“Don’t!” I manage, the words tearing out of a throat gone dry and hoarse. “There could be another surge.”

“Surge?” I can hear the confusion in his voice.

“There are huge amounts of energy involved in interdimensional travel, Major. If there was another surge and you were standing on the metal floor, it could kill you.”

That makes him pause. “How do you know—”

“It doesn’t matter.” I close my eyes, trying to concentrate on breathing. And then, the emergency lighting comes back online. It’s not much, but it’s enough to see by. And it means the emergency life support has engaged.

Prev Next