These Broken Stars Page 87

Lines of fire are spreading over the surface of the planet like cracks in an eggshell, as if some massive creature is hatching from the planet’s depths. Lilac makes a low sound in her throat and grabs for my hand. The chasms widen, whole chunks of landmass vanishing into fire.

There’s no sound across the vacuum of space, and for a long moment we stand there in eerie, utter silence, witnessing the destruction of the planet before us.

Lilac is the first to move, the first to speak. “Now no one will ever know what happened here.” She swallows, gaze still fixed on the window as a series of soundless explosions eject streams of molten rock out toward the mirror-moon.

In the darkened corridor, the red-gold fire consuming the planet is reflected in Lilac’s eyes, transforming them. In her face I can see the echo of the planet’s destruction, the loss of the last shred of proof of everything she went through.

I wrap my arms around her, as much to reassure myself as anything. Ducking my head until her hair tickles my face, I take a long, steadying breath. “We’ll know,” I whisper.

We don’t move from that spot, not even when the ship’s engines kick in. We keep watching as the shattered planet and the remnants of its moon recede into the distance, back and back into the infinite dark. Until our eyes have to strain to see them, until they’re only jagged pinpricks of reflected light.

The hyperspace drive gives its telltale whine, and Lilac leans back into me, bracing as we prepare to jump, to fold space to get home faster. Home to cameras and reporters, and questions from people who’d never understand what happened to us. I haven’t given up on finding answers, not yet, even if we only whisper those answers to each other.

But just now, as we wait for the engines to kick in, all of that is far away. For a moment the image before us is frozen: our world, our lives, reduced to a handful of broken stars half lost in uncharted space. Then it’s gone, the view swallowed by the hyperspace winds streaming past, blue-green auroras wiping the afterimages away.

Until all that’s left is us.