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And just before he felt himself go under, a bright light filled his gaze.

And then there was nothing.

Nothing at all.

Chapter 36

JETH DREAMED HE WAS TRAVELING THROUGH METASPACE, only the gate he had used was faulty, the Pyreans afflicted with a nameless disease. Then he saw those Pyreans. They swarmed around him, no longer hard and stationary like he was used to, but fluid and moving like fish swimming in the ocean or leaves caught in the wind. They whirled about him, tickling his skin with their bodies, pushing him onward, guiding him through this never-ending sea of blackness. He heard them chattering, their thoughts connected to each other and to his.

Don’t be afraid, they seem to say.

And he wasn’t. There was something soothing about being here. It was like not having been born yet, but being wrapped in the warmth and darkness of a womb.

He thought he might stay here forever.

It seemed he already had.

Jeth woke in a daze. Black spots clouded his vision, and he blinked them away. He felt as if he’d been asleep a very long time.

“Where are we?” someone said, the voice muffled and distant.

What happened? Jeth strained his eyes, trying to get his vision to focus. His head ached and his right hand felt strange, tingling and sore.

Then he remembered.

Jeth sat up, bracing himself with his left hand as he examined his right. The fingers were gone. A sick feeling gripped his stomach, and he lowered his hand again before he passed out.

He concentrated on his surroundings instead, his mind disbelieving the message his eyes were sending him. He was no longer in a suite on the Northern Dancer but in a cargo bay. Rusty water pipes and exposed wiring hung over his head. He would’ve known this place anywhere. It even smelled familiar.

This was Avalon.

“How’d we get here?” said Shady from where he sat a short distance away. He stood up, his legs unsteady.

Jeth glanced around. The place looked as if it had been struck by a tornado. Debris covered the floor—crates and plastic bins, some of them blasted open, a table leg, the back of an armchair. The crates and bins had been here before, but the random pieces of furniture were new. Jeth squinted. Why were there furniture pieces in Avalon’s cargo bay?

Then he shuddered as his gaze fell upon a strip of clothing still wrapped around a severed arm.

Heart lurching into his mouth, he jumped to his feet. Where were the others? He spotted Lizzie at once, and then Flynn and Vince. “Where are Sierra and Cora?” he shouted.

Jeth stumbled through the mess. He came across Renford’s body and cringed away from the sight. “Sierra! Cora!”

Vince and Lizzie were calling for them now, too. As he continued searching, Jeth slowly put together what must’ve happened. Somehow, someway, Cora had phased them onto Avalon, along with parts of the Northern Dancer. But where was she? Still on the other ship?


“She’s here,” Sierra’s voice called back to him. Jeth finally spotted them on the far side of the bay. He raced over. Cora was lying on her back, her eyes closed. A thin trail of blood ran out from one nostril.

“What’s wrong with her?” Jeth said.

“I think she’s just knocked out,” Sierra said, standing up. “The phase must’ve taken a lot out of her. We should get her to—”


Jeth and Sierra fell into one another as the entire ship rocked sideways. The unmistakable sound of gunfire echoed a moment later.

“We must be caught in the ITA’s firefight with the Northern Dancer,” Lizzie shouted.

“Why the hell haven’t we jumped yet?” said Shady.

“Because Celeste doesn’t know we’re on the ship. How could she?” Jeth glanced down at Cora then up at Sierra, torn by what to do.

“I’ll take care of her,” Sierra said, taking the decision away from him. “Go. Get us out of here.”

Jeth turned and headed for the ladder. The others raced ahead of him. He moved slower than usual, each footfall sending a stab of pain through his injured hand. He cradled it to his chest, covering it with his other hand.

He arrived on the bridge in time to hear Lizzie finish an explanation of how they’d gotten there. Milton looked as if he was on the verge of a heart attack. His bloodshot eyes flashed to Jeth, narrowing in on his injury at once.

“What happened?” Milton said, striding over to him.

“Not now,” Jeth said. “We need to get out of here.” The pain wasn’t as bad as it had been. He wasn’t even sure the pain was entirely real. It seemed to be coming from the parts of his fingers that were no longer there.

Brushing Milton off, Jeth headed for the cockpit. Celeste sat in the pilot’s chair, her hands gripping the control column. The view beyond the window showed a mass of ships engaged in combat, some the ITA’s, some Hammer’s. Dax’s now, Jeth supposed. Celeste was flying Avalon through them, blasting anything they passed with the pilot guns. He moved to take the copilot guns, then froze as he realized he couldn’t. Not with four missing fingers.

Ignoring the wave of despair at finding himself so useless, Jeth turned to Vince. “Take the copilot guns.” Then he swept his gaze over the others. “Lizzie you take the crow guns. Flynn take port; Milton, starboard. Shady, you head down to the chase guns. We’ve got to get clear of this so we can make a jump.”

Everyone obeyed his commands at once. Shady and Flynn took off at a run, while Vince sat down in the copilot’s chair and immediately started firing at an incoming ITA Scout. Lizzie raced to the far wall and yanked the lever to lower the ladder to the crow guns.