She felt like a failure. She hadn’t discovered the location of the Still Blue, and they didn’t have Liv. Her heart tore in half, the ache to see Perry colliding with the dread of what she’d have to tell him.
Aria rummaged in her satchel for the Smarteye and applied it. The Eye had barely gripped her skin when she fractioned to the opera house. Right away, she knew something was wrong. The rows of seats and balconies wavered, like she was seeing them through a sheet of water. Soren stood a few feet away, red-faced and panicked.
“I only have a few seconds before my father traces me. It’s ending, Aria. It’s shutting down. We got slammed by a storm and lost another generator. All the Pod’s systems are failing. They’re just containing the damage now. ”
Aria sucked in a breath. She felt like she’d been punched in the stomach. “Where’s Talon?” she asked. In the real, Roar tensed at her side.
“He’s with me. My father’s been in contact with Sable. ”
“How did he—”
“He could tell by tracking your Smarteye that you’d taken it, so he sent men to Rim with another one after you left,” Soren said, interrupting her. “Hess and Sable are both getting ready to leave for the Still Blue. My father’s chosen who he’s taking, and separated them into one of the service domes. No one with DLS is allowed to go. He’s locked the rest of us in the Panop. ”
Aria tried to process his words. “He locked you in there. Your father left you?”
Soren shook his head. “No. He wanted me to go, but I couldn’t leave. I can’t let all these people just stay here and die. I thought I could unlock the Panop doors from inside, but I can’t. Talon’s in here. Caleb and Rune—everyone. You need to get us out of here. We’re on auxiliary power. It won’t last more than days. That’s it. Then we run out of air. ”
“I’m coming,” she said. “I’ll be there. Keep Talon safe. ”
“I will, but hurry. Oh—and I know where they’re going. I’ve been watching my father’s comms with Sable—”
A surge of light blinded her, and pain exploded deep behind her eye, shooting down her spine. She screamed, pulling at the Smarteye, wrenching desperately u
ntil it came off in her hand.
Roar knelt in front of her, gripping her arms. His eyes held more depth than she’d seen in days. Aria’s head pounded, and tears streamed from her eyes, but she staggered to her feet.
“We have to go, Roar!” she said. “Talon’s in danger. We need to get to Perry now!”
Perry swept the falcon carvings off the windowsill and put them into a linen bag. His things had already been moved to the cave, but now he packed Talon’s clothes, toys, and books. Maybe it was foolish to move his nephew’s belongings, but he couldn’t leave them behind.
He picked up the small bow from the table and smiled. He and Talon used to spend hours shooting socks at each other from across the room. He drew the string, testing it. Would the bow still suit Talon—or had he had a growth spurt? He’d been gone half a year. Perry didn’t miss him any less.
Twig came through the front door. “Storm’s moving in,” he said, taking the stuffed bag. “Is this ready?”
Perry nodded. “I’ll be right out. ”
Only a few days had passed since the last storm, but another one was already building from the south, a massive, churning front that promised to be even worse. It had taken almost losing Bear and Molly to convince the Tides to leave the compound. It had almost cost Cinder’s life, but they were going.
Perry went to Vale’s room and crossed his arms, leaning against the door frame. Molly sat in a chair by the bed, watching over Cinder. His sacrifice had bought the Tides time to reach the cave in safety. Because of him, they’d been able to dig Bear out of the rubble alive. Cinder was as much Molly’s now as he was Perry’s.
“How’s he doing?” Perry asked.
Molly caught his eye and smiled. “Better. He’s awake. ”
Perry stepped into the room. Cinder’s eyes fluttered open. He looked gray and hollow-boned, his breath rasping and shallow. He was wearing his usual cap, but his head was bald beneath. Perry scratched his chin, remembering. The only thing Cinder had said when he’d come to the night of the storm was Don’t let anyone see me.
“I’ll head up and make sure everything is set for him,” Molly said, leaving them.
“You ready to go?” Perry asked Cinder. “I’ve got one more trip before I’m coming back for you. ”
Cinder licked his lips. “I don’t want to. ”
“Willow’s going to be there. She’s been waiting to see you. ”