No. I will never give him the satisfaction of such a thing. I would rather die.
But try as I might, I can’t forget the shadow I thought him to be, the lost and forgotten prince. I wish that person were real. I wish he existed somewhere other than my memories.
The Naercey ruins echo strangely, more quiet than they should be. With a start, I realize why. The refugees are gone. The woman sweeping mountains of ash, the children hiding in drains, the shadows of my Red brothers and sisters—they have all fled. There’s no one left but us.
“Think what you want of Farley, but know she isn’t stupid,” Shade says, answering my question before I get a chance to ask. “She gave the order to evacuate last night, after she escaped Archeon. She thought you or Maven would talk under torture.”
She was wrong. There was no need to torture Maven. He gave his information and his mind freely. He opened his head to his mother, letting her paw through everything she saw there. The Undertrain, the secret city, the list. It is all hers now, just like he always was.
The line of Scarlet Guard soldiers stretches out behind us, a disorganized rabble of armed men and women. Kilorn marches directly behind me, his eyes darting, while Farley leads. Two burly soldiers keep Cal on her heels, gripping his arms tensely. With their red scarves, they look like the stuff of nightmares. But there are so few of us now, maybe thirty, all walking wounded. So few survived.
“There’s not enough of us to keep this rebellion going, even if we escape again,” I whisper to my brother. The low-hanging mist muffles my voice, but he still hears me.
The corner of his mouth twitches, wanting to smile. “That’s not your concern.”
Before I can press him, the soldier in front of us halts. He is not the only one. At the head of the line, Farley holds up a fist, glaring at the slate-gray sky. The rest mirror her, searching for what we cannot see. Only Cal keeps his eyes on the ground. He already knows what our doom looks like.
A distant, inhuman scream reaches down through the mist. This sound is mechanical and constant, circling overhead. And it is not alone. Twelve arrow-shaped shadows race through the sky, their orange wings cutting in and out of the clouds. I’ve never seen an airjet properly, not so close or without the cover of night, so I can’t stop my jaw from dropping when they come into view. Farley barks orders at the Guard, but I don’t hear her. I’m too busy staring at the sky, watching winged death arc overhead. Like Cal’s cycle, the flying machines are beautiful, impossibly curved steel and glass. I suppose a magnetron had something to do with their construction—how else can metal fly? Blue-tinged engines spark beneath their wings, the telltale sign of electricity. I can barely feel the twinge of them, like a breath against skin, but they’re too far away for me to affect. I can only watch—in horror.