Carina and Sky shook their heads. “I don’t think so,” Sky said. “Only when it comes back up, almost as if the heat inside builds up with the pressure of the water over it, and”—she paused, thinking—“maybe that’s what raises the island. The fire under the surface builds up until it lifts the volcano. It explodes and stays above the surface until it cools sufficiently, and then it goes back down again, where the process starts over.”
Alex, forgetting himself for a moment, gave her an admiring glance. “Wow,” he said, a little breathless. Even if she turned out to be wrong, she sounded really smart.
“That’s a good theory,” Carina said.
“Thank you,” Sky said. “Let’s watch.”
Simber flew up above the top of the volcano. From here, everyone could see the rectangle of light coming from the skylight where they had been stationed, and because it was dark out, they could see a few other skylights as well hidden around the volcano.
“Look!” Alex said, pointing them out. “Over there—that’s near where the sea creatures are.”
Simber flew above a skylight on the opposite side of the island and dropped down a bit so they could get a better look, but soon the volcano rumbled once more and Simber pulled away. Still, the Artiméans could see, almost like looking through a porthole, an entire vat of sea beasts swimming around one another in very tight quarters.
For once the small group was stunned silent. An entire quarter of the glass cage was taken up by a giant squid with wistful eyes the size of Artimé’s largest serving platters, and long, beefy tentacles splayed against the glass, as if there was a chance he might will himself through to the other side. If he sat upon the mansion in Artimé, his long tentacles might reach the ground.
In another corner was a beautiful, long-necked sea monster with stout legs and flipperlike feet. As she moved, several humps along her back rose and fell in a rippling pattern.
There were some smaller creatures too, swimming or floating about.
Alex, Carina, Sky, and Simber all stared.
Suddenly light flickered near the aquarium and the creatures inside all startled and moved away from one side of their prison. A familiar shape came into view just as the volcano shuddered harder, threatening to plunge beneath the sea.
It was the giant eel, curled up like a bedspring outside the aquarium. With a touch of its electric tail to a switch on the glass, a door slid open. In one swift motion the eel unfurled, and a new creature torpedoed into the cage. The door slid closed and the eel shot out of sight, leaving the captured creatures to marvel over their new cellmate.
Carina gasped. It was Florence.
Her ebony body sank to the bottom of the glass cage, and she didn’t move.
Alex shouted, Simber growled, and the volcano groaned. Shaking violently, the entire island and all its inhabitants and attachments plunged into the sea.
A Most Peculiar Dinner
Aaron Stowe waited impatiently for his guests to arrive. After his near epiphany the other night and his newfound powers in the jungle, Aaron was more eager than ever to have other people help him reorganize, reenergize, and rebuild Quill into something much more powerful than it had ever been before. He was anxious to take control of Artimé once and for all.
He knew he had many of the Necessaries on his side—he’d seen to that by giving them food incentives from the Favored Farm. But Aaron could feel the Wanteds distancing themselves. They hadn’t gotten much extra attention when the Necessaries did—only a few Unwanteds to use as slaves, which they had to share. And they hadn’t had any personal interaction with the government in a while. It was time to bring them back into the fold and remind them how awful it was that Artimé existed. Once Aaron had them back to full devotion, he could slowly reel in the Quillitary once more. When he had everyone’s support, combined with the ferocious jungle animals, Aaron would be invincible. He’d take over Artimé, and maybe even the island where those ships had come from.
He even dared picture himself living luxuriously in the mansion in Artimé, ruling over everything. . . . It felt wrong and good at the same time. How would he justify that to the others? It might take some convincing to get them to see that it wasn’t the mansion they took issue with—it was the people inside it.
Eva Fathom cleared her throat. Aaron looked up to find her standing in the doorway to his office.
“What is it?”
“It’s nearly eight. Shall I summon Liam Healy for dinner?” Eva asked. Liam’s home in Quill had been taken over when he went to the Ancients Sector, so Eva had found a small room for him at the top of the palace tower. She’d chosen it for Liam because it had an interesting view overlooking all of Quill, including a close-up view of the barbed-wire ceiling, since the tower helped support it. The room held a few of Justine’s things: a dressing table and chair, a few moth-eaten black robes, and a bucket that had once contained a plant.
Aaron shoved his chair back and went to the window to look down over the driveway. “Is anyone else here?”
Aaron’s eyes strayed to the outer wall, where the window to the sea had been. He frowned at the cement blocks and tapped his fingers on the windowsill. “Let’s wait. I thought you said they’d be coming.”
“No, I said there was a chance.”
“How did you invite them? Were you polite?”
“More polite than you would have been,” Eva said.