Talon’s eyes met mine in a flash. He jumped away from the girl he’d been kissing. “Oh, god, not this again.” He muttered irritably.
“Who is—what are you—we’re supposed to be on a rescue mission!” I shouted in disbelief. “What are you even doing?”
He glanced back at the girl. “Sorry honey, looks like we’re not going to get that extra bonus.”
“It’s alright sweetie. The army might not have given it to you anyway.”
Words were not enough. I couldn’t even begin to express the explosion of fury and… and sadness.
“You’re working for the army?”
“They’re going to be so mad.” Talon glanced around like he was looking for something. “Can’t believe they took my gun. Kind of need it right now.” He grumbled.
“Talon, I thought you were helping me!”
He finally looked at me. “The army pays good money for mechanics. This ship’s headed toward one of the army’s top trading posts.”
“You were going to sell me?” What little pieces of my heart were left shattered.
“Yeah, but now I won’t get anything. I was supposed to get you the whole way there without you ever knowing. Aurora,” He glanced at the girl again. “Do you have your gun on you? I might as well kill her before we get there, or the army guards will have a fit.”
“Of course,” Before she’d even finished unsheathing the gun, I’d grabbed Halon’s and Cotto’s arms and started running. They might have been confused as heck, but they’d both heard Talon’s death threat.
The first shot echoed out behind us. I felt the overwhelming urge to stop. To just curl up on the ground and let Talon kill me. It would be so perfect—so absolutely wonderful to escape into Heaven. Even Hell would be a sort of freedom. At least then the pain would be physical. I started to slow, but Halon yanked on my arm. “Oh no you don’t!”
“We’ll take their emergency escape craft.” Cotto suggested, already out of breath. “Saw them on the way in.”
Talon’s shots had ceased as we desperately rounded corners. He would wait until he knew he could get off an accurate shot.
Cotto expertly led us to the escape craft. They were normally used essentially as space lifeboats in an emergency, but if they would get us away from Talon, I didn’t care what their purpose was.
Diving inside the small capsule, Cotto slammed the door shut just as one of Talon’s rounds hit the steel pod. “How does this thing detach?” She jammed buttons randomly. Realizing that Cotto wasn’t actually as put together as she appeared, Halon and I contributed to the chaos. I wasn’t sure what any of the buttons I pressed meant, but apparently, I didn’t have to. Someone had hit the right one, and we were jolted backwards as the escape craft broke free of the main ship.
There was a collective sigh of relief. The pod really wasn’t much to look at. One tiny window let us glimpse the endless expanse of space, and a skinny bench forced us all to cram together. The rest of it was a wall of gadgetry I didn’t understand the purpose of.
“Looks like they aren’t following us.” Cotto observed, peering through the window.
“So, Marina, would you mind explaining what the heck just happened?” There was a ridiculous note of calm in Halon’s voice. With Halon, a sweet voice and happy face probably meant he was angry.
“Funny story, really,” I laughed nervously. “See, he bought me hot chocolate and said he would help me save you guys.”
“Oh, Marina,” Cotto sighed dramatically. “You’re so naïve. Are you just going to trust every person who promises to help you out? Not everyone is a good person.”
“I really thought he was! He—he risked his life! And bought me hot chocolate! He was nice and helped me sneak onto the ship! It wasn’t being naïve!” I defended myself out of habit, but I didn’t want to protest.
Talon had successfully ripped out my heart and stomped it into the ground. What was left after watching Chase’s murder was gone. As if sensing this, Cotto put an arm around me. “It’s okay.”
I hated those words. I hated how wrong they were. How they sounded so hopeful when there was no hope to be had. “It’s not okay, and it never will be. None of this is ‘okay’.”
“You’re right,” Halon added. “It’s not. But that doesn’t change the fact you’ve got to deal with it. You’re probably going to be stabbed in the back another million times before you’re even twenty. That’s just the way life is. If you let yourself fall apart—if you let your heart break every time something awful happens, then you’ll never get anywhere. If you don’t look out for yourself, then no one else can or will.”
“Well, Halon, if you’re done giving Marina her life lesson or whatever, then I could really use some help steering this thing.”
Halon threw up his hands. “The Radiance didn’t have any escape pods. You know as much as me about this thing.”
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