These Broken Stars Page 49

I’m awakened in darkness by someone shoving me roughly off the makeshift mattress and onto the hard ground. My mind is slow to wake, and for a few moments I can only think another survivor has found us and is trying to see if we have anything worth stealing. My heart is pumping pure adrenaline, my every nerve screaming.

Then I realize it’s Tarver who shoved me away. As I pick myself up I hear him murmuring to himself, and my heart leaps. He’s awake. Surely this is a good sign. The sky is partially cloudy, blocking the light from the artificial mirror-moon.

I crawl toward the coals of the fire and throw on a few pieces of deadwood until it flares up, letting me see his face.

My heart sinks.

He’s staring right through me, his eyes wild and glassy, and—I would’ve thought it impossible if I hadn’t seen him above the valley with the vision of his house—afraid. His muttering is unintelligible, his lips dry and cracked.

“Tarver?” I crawl toward him. “I’ll get you some water. Let me just—”

I start to reach for his forehead, to feel his temperature, when I’m suddenly knocked over, sent rolling in the dirt, my head ringing and throbbing. The stars overhead weave and waver as my vision clouds, and it’s only with a monumental effort that I claw my way back toward consciousness, dizzily dragging myself back upright.

Tarver’s half sitting up with his gun pointed directly at my face, though his eyes are staring into space. His face is set in a snarl far more fierce than anything I could’ve imagined from him. The spot where the back of his hand connected with my cheek throbs and radiates heat with each pulse of my heart.

“Tarver?” It’s barely a whisper.

He blinks, and his head turns toward me. The barrel of the gun wavers and dips. His eyes focus, and my heart leaps. He swallows, speaks through dry lips.

“Sarah,” he croaks.

“It’s me,” I say pathetically. I sound like I’m begging. I am begging. “Please, Tarver. It’s me. It’s Lilac. Your Lilac, you know me.”

He groans and collapses back again, the hand holding the gun dropping. “God, I’ve missed you.”

“I haven’t gone anywhere.” I should get close, feel his temperature again, but it won’t do any good. I know he’s burning up. The makeshift pillow under his head is soaked with sweat.

“Sarah, I feel rotten.”

In his fever, he thinks I’m some other girl. His girlfriend, maybe—does he have one waiting at home? I realize I’ve never even asked.

“I know you do,” I whisper, giving in. I can’t reach him. The only thing I can do is get back inside that wreck, clear a path to the deeper, less intact parts, and find the sick bay.

He mumbles something else, and I slip in close enough to ease the gun out of his grip. He doesn’t even twitch. I tuck it into the back of my jeans, my skin crawling at its presence. I don’t know the first thing about guns, but I know I can’t leave it here with him and risk him shooting me in his delirium.

I take a deep breath, locating the flashlight—and after a moment of hesitation, Tarver’s notebook and pen. I need to make a map. It’s going to be harder to navigate the labyrinth of sharply slanting corridors and broken staircases in complete darkness, but I can’t afford to wait. Tarver can’t afford for me to wait.

He’s so thin now. I hadn’t even noticed, seeing him every second of every day, but here, while he’s asleep and flushed and delirious, I can see how lean he is. I brush the damp hair back from his forehead.

“I’ll be back,” I murmur. “Hold on.”

He calls out for Sarah as I make my way back toward the ship, and it breaks my heart. I’d sit with him and be his Sarah if I could, if there were someone else to go look for his medicine. But I leave him with his ghosts and descend into the wreck, ignoring the voice behind me begging me to return.

In the darkness, the ship is a maze.

Over the last few days of searching I’ve still only found the one entry point, so every time I come back I have to retrace my steps, spending precious time going over the same ruined pathways. I try every possible turn, and each attempt ends in a crushed floor or a dead-end room.

I found an emergency fire station a few hours into that first night, with a fire blanket, an ax, an extinguisher—and a handful of chemical glow sticks. I’ve discovered that they shine steadily for about an hour and a half before they start to fade, and so I’ve been using them as timers. An hour and a half, and then wherever I am, I turn back. To check on him.

Three hours in and back, and then I can make sure he’s not dead.

I’ve lost track of how many trips I’ve made. The flashlight is growing dim after so much use, so I turn it off, relying on the light of the glow sticks instead. I know this particular corridor, the pattern of its destruction, by heart now. I don’t need light here.

To the right is the laundry room. I go straight. Farther along are more corridors branching off into dormitories for the staff. I discover a tiny gym with equipment so smashed it takes me long moments to realize what it is. What hope is there that, even if I can find the sick bay, there’ll be anything remotely usable?

The darkness spins, exhaustion briefly threatening to steal my balance. I shut my eyes, stretching out a hand to grab on to the wall. I can’t afford to think hopelessly.

I wait until the dizziness passes and make a mental note to eat something the next trip I make back to camp. When I open my eyes I realize I’ve made it to an intersection where I turned right, last time. This time I go straight ahead, into new territory.

Exposed steel spars and wiring make it impossible to move without deliberation, and debris strewn about threatens to drag me down at every step. I saw the Icarus dismantled like this once before, nearly a decade ago. She was my playground once, when she was little more than a steel frame and a sketch in the minds of my father’s engineers. But then she was new and clean, bare with unrealized potential and promise. Not smashed beyond recognition.

I try to visualize the ship I played in. Did I know then what the rooms would be used for? I don’t remember. Did I ever know where the medical wing was? Was I ever sick?

No. But Anna was. For the first time the thought of my cousin doesn’t fill me with guilt so tangible I want to throw up. Instead, a tiny flicker of memory floods my mind, and with it, something like hope.

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