“We were never intended to leave Reverie,” Hess said, his words clipped with frustration. “We’re not prepared for an exodus of this magnitude. Are you?”
Sable smiled. “We wouldn’t be having this conversation if I were. ”
Hess ignored the jab. “We split the number evenly or the deal is off. ”
“Yes. Fine,” Sable said impatiently. “We’ve been through the terms. ”
In the real, Roar returned to the balcony. “We have to go,” he whispered, tugging on her arm. Aria shook her head. She couldn’t stop listening now.
“How soon can you be ready?” Sable asked Hess.
“A week to fuel and load the craft, and to organize the … the survivors. The Chosen. ”
Sable nodded as he stared thoughtfully across the grassy plain. “Eight hundred people,” he said to himself. Then he faced Hess. “What will you do with the rest of your citizens?”
The color drained from Hess’s face. “What can I do with them? They’ll be told to wait for the second deployment. ”
Sable’s lips lifted into a smile. “You know there won’t be a second deployment. It’s a single crossing. ”
“Yes, I know that,” Hess said tightly. “But they won’t. ”
Aria’s knees softened, her shoulder bumping against Liv’s. Hess and Sable were going to pick and choose who went. Who lived and who died. She couldn’t catch her breath, and she felt nauseous. Sickened by how coldly they discussed leaving people behind.
Roar’s grasp on her arm tightened. “Aria, you have to stop!”
Sounds erupted in the hall. She tensed, racing through the commands to shut off the Eye.
“In here!” someone yelled.
Roar drew his knife. Aria heard the thud of a shoulder driving open the door, and then the crash of wood against stone. In the darkness of Liv’s room, she saw a rush of movement. A black tide crashing toward them.
She backpedaled, fumbling with her satchel. Her legs slammed against the balcony wall as she shoved the Eye deep inside the leather pack. Footsteps pounded closer, and then guards appeared, shouting for them to stand down, steel flashing in the dimness.
Liv drew her half-sword from its sheath, stepping around Roar.
“Liv!” he yelled.
The guard at the helm raised a crossbow, stopping her. She stood a few paces in front of Aria and Roar, poised to slash. Sable’s guards filed in, forming a wall of red and black across the wide threshold. They were trapped on the balcony.
Everything was still, silent, except for the even, unhurried tread of footsteps. Sable’s men stepped aside as he came forward. Aria saw no trace of surprise on his face.
“The girl has the eyepiece,” one of the guards said. “I saw her put it in her bag. ”
Sable’s gaze moved to her, cold and focused. Aria firmed her grip on the satchel.
“I took it,” Liv said, still in her fighting stance.
“I know. ” Sable took a step forward, his chest working as he scented the air. “I knew you’d had a change of heart, Olivia. But I’d hoped you wouldn’t act on it. ”
“Let them go,” Liv said. “Let them leave, and I’ll stay. ”
Roar tensed beside Aria. “No, Liv!”
Sable ignored him. “What makes you think I want you to stay? You stole from me. And you’ve chosen another. ” He looked to Roar. “But there might be a solution. Maybe you have too many options. ”
Sable snatched the crossbow from the man at his side and trained it on Roar.
“You think that’ll change anything?” Roar said, his voice hard. “It doesn’t matter what you do. She’ll never be yours. ”