I gave Piper my bed and slept on the surprisingly comfortable couch that had come with the room. Then again, most anywhere felt cozy compared to the metal bunks on the Radiance.
Cotto and Chase were the focus of my dreams, but somehow they weren’t depressing---actually, they were rather uplifting. The dreams were partially based on dredged up old memories from when I had first joined the crew.
Chase had gone out of his way to befriend me—showing me how to pilot the ship, and even letting me try steering it in empty space once. Without Halon’s permission, of course, but that only made it more fun.
Cotto had tried to seem harsh. She’d made a point to yell at everyone, including Halon. It was so out of character that even I’d figured out it wasn’t the norm. The other four crew members didn’t seem to care much what I did, but Cotto had taken a special interest. I was never quite sure why, equating it to her desire to have another girl on the ship, or maybe just because she realized that a twelve-year-old away from home for the first time could end up being sort of upsetting at times. Either way, she’d given up the tougher façade quickly.
It was a peaceful half-dream half-memory session. I missed the good old days when fights with raiders were rare, and we always won. Actually, they used to be a fun interruption from the boring old day to day mechanic work. I wanted to go back in time—to be twelve or thirteen or fourteen again. I wanted everything to be the way it had been. I desperately wanted my biggest worries in the world not to be death. I wished I could worry again about Chase teasing me, or getting too long of a lay. The trivial childhood problems that suddenly seemed so preferable.
Something rocked the sofa so sharply I bolted upright. Piper sat at the end, and despite how early I knew it must have been, she didn’t look the least bit tired. I rubbed my eyes groggily. “Aren’t you still sleepy?”
She shook her head enthusiastically. “No. I want to go do something. Let’s go do stuff. There’s a pool, right?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can you check?”
I flopped back down onto the sofa and shut my eyes. If Piper was going to be that excitable all day, I needed more sleep. “Wake up, sleepyhead!” Piper shook my leg.
“Go bother Halon.” I moaned.
“No, I want to go to the pool!”
I sighed deeply and banged on the wall. “Captain!”
My door flew open a second later, revealing a disheveled Halon, a knife in his hand. His eyes were darting side to side, as if expecting some sort of army to be awaiting him. “There’s no one here?”
His shoulders slumped. “Guess I’m too paranoid.”
“I took care of her all night. I’m done—she’s yours now.”
Piper sprinted toward Halon excitedly. “The pool!”
Halon glowered at me. “She’s got too much energy for me. You should take her. You at least got sleep last night.”
“You didn’t sleep?”
He shook his head halfheartedly. “I was waiting. I was so sure they were going to come for us. They’ve got everyone else—except for Chase, god knows where any of them are.”
“No one should be after us. Maybe this is all just a coincidence? The raiders took almost everyone, Chase was killed,” We both winced at the words. “And Motor turned in Cotto. It’s a bunch of little things, not one big capture or something.”
“They want me. If they’ve gotten any information out of Cotto, they know they want me. I’m surprised they even let me out of there in the first place.”
I crossed my arms. “There’s too much that no one has told me. I want to know what’s going on. Tell me everything that you and Cotto kept secret.”
Halon glanced warily at Piper. “It can wait, Marina. Anything I tell you will only make you a target. The army’s ruthless—they wouldn’t hesitate to kill you if they found out you know something.”
“It’s better than having everyone else hauled off for reasons I’ll never understand.”
“I’d rather not argue about it.”
I was far from tired; I was revving up with anger. “It’s something I need to know! I’m part of the crew too!”
I hated his calm tone. “It’s not something you need to know.”
“You can’t act like I’m a little girl! I need to know what’s happening, even if it’s dangerous! We’re already in danger!”
“Trust me, Marina. This is not the time or place for something I shouldn’t tell you anyway. It’s for your safety.”
“You told Cotto.” I spat. I loathed being lied to. Whatever Halon knew was important, and my life depended on knowing, too. “Someone’s tried to kill me! It’s not exactly like I’m living in candy land over here!”
“This isn’t up for debate! This is too important for you to lie to me about!”
“Marina, don’t question me! Sit down, take care of the kid, and if you want to be treated like an adult, act like one!”
I hadn’t expected the intensity of frustration in his voice. I stammered something, trying to come up with some sort of witty reply, but could find nothing.
Halon’s voice returned to a normal volume. “I’m going to find what I can about Cotto. Stay put and don’t open the door for anyone but me.”
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