To my dismay, Kilorn waves him over. After a second of hesitation, Cal complies, moving gently through the room as it crowds full. For whatever reason, this lightning alert has drawn many to control, all of them as on edge as Kilorn. Most of them I don’t recognize, but a few newbloods join the mix. I spot Rash and Tahir at their usual position, seated with their radio equipment, while Nanny and Ada stick close together. Like Cal, they occupy the back wall, reluctant to draw any attention to themselves. As the prince gets closer, Red officers all but jump out of his way. He pretends to ignore it.
Cal and Kilorn trade weak smiles. Their usual rivalry is long gone, but replaced by trepidation.
“Wish the Colonel would move his ass a little faster,” a voice says on my right.
I turn to see Farley sidle up to us, doing her best to remain inconspicuous despite her belly. It’s mostly hidden by her large jacket, but it’s hard to keep secrets in a place like this. She’s close to four months and doesn’t care who knows. Even now, she balances a plate of fried potatoes in one hand, a fork in the other.
“Cameron, boys,” she adds, nodding at us in turn. I do the same, as does Kilorn. She gives Cal a mock salute with her fork, and he barely grunts a response. His jaw clenches so tightly his teeth might shatter.
“Thought the Colonel slept in here,” I reply, fixing my gaze on the screen. “Typical. The one time we need him around.”
Any other day, I would wonder if his absence was a ploy. Maybe to let us know who’s in charge. As if any of us could forget. Even next to Cal, a Silver prince and general, or a host of newbloods with a terrifying array of abilities, he somehow manages to hold all the cards. Because here, in the Scarlet Guard, in this world, information is more important than anything, and he’s the only one who knows enough to keep control of us all.
I can respect that. Parts of a machine don’t need to know what the other pieces are doing. But I’m not just a gear. Not anymore.
The Colonel enters, flanked by Mare’s brothers. Still no sign of her parents, who remain stowed away somewhere, alongside her sister with the dark red hair. I thought I saw her once, a smart, quick thing darting through the mess hall, but I never got close enough to ask. I’ve heard rumors, of course. Whispers from the other technicians and soldiers. A Security officer crushed the girl’s foot, forcing Mare to beg at the summer palace. Or something like that. I have a feeling that asking Kilorn for the real story would be inconsiderate.
The control center turns to watch for the Colonel, eager for him to start whatever we’re here to see. So we react together, stifling gasps or surprised expressions when another Silver follows the Colonel into the already-crowded room.
Every time I see him, I want to hate him. He was the reason Mare forced me to join her, forced me to return to my prison, forced me to kill, forced others to die so this insignificant dry twig of a man could live. But those choices weren’t his. He was a prisoner as much as I was, doomed to the cells of Corros and the slow, crushing death of Silent Stone. It’s not his fault the lightning girl loves him, and he must bear the curse that love brings with it.