These Broken Stars Page 81

My body flows into action before the thought’s complete, and I pound back into the station. We have to hide. If they drag us off this planet before I can find a way to save her, she’ll die, and I’d choose any length of time here with her over a life at home, alone. I choose her. I choose whatever world has her in it.

I burst into our bedroom, and a moment later she’s sitting bolt upright in bed, eyes wide and bewildered. “Tarver?”

“Quick—” Panic steals my breath, and I’m gasping. “There are ships in orbit. I don’t think they know exactly where we are yet. We have to—”

She’s scrambling to her feet before I’m finished, and I grab my bag and my gun as we bolt for the trapdoor that leads below the station. I’m praying they’ll think that if we were once here, we’re gone now.

She falls down the last few rungs into my arms, and I half carry her along the hallway to the control room. She breaks away from me, stumbling past the rift to the bank of monitors. I hear her horrified gasp as she realizes the distress signal is shut down, and next moment her fingers are dancing across keys and screens. An instant later a shrill alarm pulses, red displays flashing.

“Lilac, what the hell are you doing?”

She looks up at me, eyes huge, shadowed, gaze wild. “I’ve got it back up. I can overload the system. It might create enough electrical activity for us to show up on a scan.”

My heart stops. She’s trying to show them where to come and find me, using the last fragments of power that remain. The last fragments keeping her alive. I lunge for her. “Lilac, stop—”

She slaps at a screen, and another alarm starts, screaming an alert at us. Blue light flares in the rift, then fades to nearly nothing. I wrap my arms around her, pinning her arms to her sides, dragging her back from the screens.

Lights flash from screens, and the alarms scream their chorus.

I’m going to fail them all. Lilac’s energy will drain away, and she’ll crumble to dust. The aliens will stay trapped in the rift, neither alive nor dead.

There must be a way out. The blue light in the rift is twisting and pulsing, weaker than before, but trapped by the steel ring, the cage, unable to tip into nothing. My eyes light on the signs plastered to their steel cage. Contact with subjects forbidden. Risk of rift instability.

And then I remember the charred papers, the first time we found any sign of the rift’s existence. The rift collapse would release energy, they said. The word fatal leaps up in my memory.

Fatal to an ordinary person, perhaps—but Lilac isn’t, not anymore. Lilac is something different, created by the very energy inside the rift. All this time the whispers have been helping us—all this time we’ve only had to trust them.

Of all the people they could have chosen, they used Alec to speak to me. The one person in the universe I trusted more than my own self. The one person who always knew what to do.

I tighten my grip on Lilac and pull her away from the console. She cries out, fighting me as I drag her toward the blue light of the rift. It’s like she senses my intention, using every last scrap of her remaining strength to pull away. In the end I wrap both arms around her and leap, sending us both plunging into the heart of the rift.

“LaRoux Industries has suffered huge losses as a result of this venture, Major.”

“I didn’t crash the ship.”

“But the damage to the monitoring station. That was property of LaRoux Industries.”

“How much did building the Icarus cost again? How many lives lost? And you’re more worried about a monitoring station? You think the station was the huge loss?”

“Of course not. But we take any wanton destruction of our property seriously.”

“Perhaps you could point out to Monsieur LaRoux that I was trying to save his daughter.”

“It’s at Monsieur LaRoux’s request that you’re being questioned. I believe he would point out in return that he has lost his daughter anyway.”



I’M FLOODED WITH GRATITUDE so overwhelming that it becomes me, takes me over. There is no voice, but sensation wraps me up and carries me out of the jolting blue light surrounding me.

The world goes silent. All around me is power, and I feel it focus on me, pour into me and fill me up, heal me, restore me.

I straddle two dimensions, and I see all, know all.

I remember others of my kind, from a different time. Everything I am reaches out to them, longing for an end.

Not yet. They sound tired. Weak.

I try again to reach out, but they push me away. Gentle. Weary. Beyond them I can sense countless others, though I can’t see them or touch them. They’re behind some veil I can’t push aside, and retreating farther and farther away.

I try to call out, to tell them to wait, but they are gone. All is cold and dark again, and I am alone. Dimly sensation returns to my body. I can feel something touching me, wrapping around me. My ears are ringing, blood roaring past my eardrums. Something warm and soft touches my face. The ringing in my ears is becoming a voice.


With an effort I swim up from the darkness.

Tarver gasps for breath, his hand against my cheek. “Are you all right? Can you move?”

I swallow, blinking. The only light comes from a series of monitors lining the wall, their glow slowly fading. With a rush I remember where we are: the basement of the station. I’m lying on the floor where we landed, looking up at an empty metal ring. The rift—Tarver, pulling me through. The blue electricity has vanished.

Whatever gateway between dimensions was here in this room, it’s gone, and we’re alone.

Somehow he’s still alive. We both are.

I push myself up on my elbows, dazed, staring at him. “Tarver?”

His arms wrap around me, pulling me in against him. His lips press against my temple. “For a second there—” His voice catches painfully in his throat.

“What did you do?”

He releases me just enough so he can look at my face. “You needed a burst of energy. The papers talked about a vast energy surge if we made contact with the rift. I hoped it would give you what you needed—and they wanted to go. They wanted it to end.”

“Are you insane?” I curl my fingers in the fabric of his sleeves, urgent. “I also seem to recall reading the word ‘fatal’ in there too. It could have killed you!”

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