Blind the Stars (Rose of the Dawn Series Book 3) (9 page)

BOOK: Blind the Stars (Rose of the Dawn Series Book 3)
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“I
stayed behind and went back through the tunnels. At the end I was surprised by
two attendants. They roughed me up, but then let me go. Sent me right out of
the tunnels the way I had come in. They didn’t want me back inside. Apparently
they had a message and it needed to be relayed.”

“The
message about my parents.” I state.

“Yes,”
he answers.

“Where
are they?” I ask.

Christophe
speaks slowly and only to me, though everyone else is quietly listening in. “They’re
inside The Hollow.”

12

My
entire body shivers in response. My fake arm shivers, too.

“Is
this some sort of twisted joke? Someone is baiting me. They want to get me to
go back inside The Hollow. My parents are inside The Hollow.” Once it’s past my
lips I get a tingling sensation like someone else is here. My eyes dart around
the room, but it’s just us. I run to the door and lock it. I pull the drapes
closed and push past Pike and Hara to throw another log on the fire. Smoke
billows up through the flue. My body trembles. It’s numb and my head is light.

“It
is completely safe here.” The man in the chair says before he gets up. I don’t
know his name and I don’t care to find out. The man’s dog gets up too and they
walk into another room off of the kitchen. The door closes and I hear it lock.

“How
did you get here if you didn’t come with the others?” Pike asks Christophe.

“Before
we left I gave Christophe a note with the location,” Ezekiel says.

“That
was kinda risky, Zeke, wasn’t it?” Pike is angry.

“I
had a feeling we’d meet up again,” Ezekiel answers, ignoring Pike’s obvious
anger.

“I
was able to hitch a ride with a group of travelers. They took me as far as the
forest and I hiked the rest of the way.” Christophe sits down on the couch and
I sit beside him.

I’m
not going back in. I won’t go back in.

A
knock at the door makes me jump. My skin crawls. Christophe’s hand rests on my
shoulder.

“I’m
locked out!” A woman calls in from outside.

“Delia!”
Leland rushes over and unlocks the door. Delia takes one look around and runs
over to her son, embracing him. Hara opens the drapes, which for some reason
annoys me. Anyone can see in now.

“The
Hollow will exchange you for your parents,” Christophe says to me. “That’s the
message they wanted me to pass along.”

“They
must’ve known I’d come here,” I state.
How would they know that?

Delia
leaves her son to come over to me. She kneels down, taking my hands. She still
has the presence of an angel. Her touch is light and her breath sweet. In the
sunlight, strawberry-blonde hair looks white. It frames her face and a soft,
warm breeze blows wisps around her forehead. I stop shaking.

“We
can’t stay here long then.” Pike’s brow is furrowed. “If they know we’re here.
You lead them straight to us.” He stares at Christophe, glaring.

“No
one knows we’re here.” Delia looks up at Pike, who shakes his head. Her voice
is soft and calming. Ezekiel nods in agreement.

“We
weren’t followed,” Ezekiel says. “I’m certain of it.”

“But
Pike is right, we can’t stay here,” I state. “We need to get to Mine Fire City
and get Dory before I even consider going back to The Hollow.” A cold sensation
and the sound of squeaking gurney wheels echoes in my head. I shake them away.
“And we need to find Evie. I’m not going into The Hollow without knowing my
sisters are okay. How long do I have, Christophe? Did they say?”

“They
didn’t,” Christophe says. “But I also don’t know what they are planning on
doing with them. That wasn’t part of the message.”

I
look up at his misshapen face.

“We’ll
have to take the chance going back in,” Pike states, moving closer to me. He’s
moved away from Hara.

“What’s
this ‘we’? When it’s time to go in, I’m going in alone,” I state.

“You
go back in and you’re not getting out,” Leland tells Pike. “You don’t know what
it’s like in there. You wouldn’t survive a day. And you, Missy,” Leland turns
to me. “You’re not going back in there either. We’ll figure out another way to
get your parents out.”

“But
I know what I’m up against. I’m prepared to go back in,” I say. “Ezekiel, you
have to get Dory and Evie. You can take care of them. I’m going back into The
Hollow. There’s no other way.”

If
I can keep saying it, I may be able to convince myself.

“I’m
going with you,” Pike states. A shadow passes the window, shifting my gaze away
from Pike. He notices and follows my look.

“No
one else is here,” Hara says, though she, too, looks around.

Ezekiel
throws water from the kitchen onto the fire. Smoke wafts up the chimney. “Let’s
get into the barn,” Ezekiel states.

“Is
it safer in there?” Leland asks.

“No,
but there may be more we can use to fight with if we need to,” Ezekiel leads
the way.

No
one disagrees and with the fire out, we file out of the cabin and across the
grounds. What little grass remains is low and worn, and mostly dirt. The barn
is much larger than the cabin about fifty feet away. Ahead of me, Pike glances
around. Hara is right behind him. Ezekiel opens one of the double doors. It
creaks as it swings open.

We
step inside and the air is humid. Nothing is here but wooden corrals and hay. About
a dozen of them, their vertical planks are waist-high and their rungs go from
the top of the boards to the ceiling. The roof of each corral is the underside
of a hay loft. Along the opposite edge of the barn are plants. All kinds of
tropical plants create moisture that seeps into our pores. This barn must act
as a greenhouse. Light streams in from a tiny rectangular window at the top. There
is another on the far end, but the sun doesn’t reach that side of the barn at
this time. It must be nightfall. It’s gotten so dark.

Ezekiel
flips a switch and little light bulbs on strings illuminate. They are strung
all around the barn and drape off of whatever they can. If they can’t drape
over something, they are wound around it, like the poles holding the barn up.
There must be hundreds of lights.

I
breathe in. It doesn’t smell bad, though with the lack of fresh, circulating
air, it is stale and heavy. Dusty, a haze hangs in the open space.

I
stand in the doorway and look around. There is a calm presence here and this
barn reminds me of Aegis in its philosophical simplicity. Nothing like Aegis in
complexity.

Pike
moves across the open space and grabs a pitchfork. Ezekiel stands by the door
while Leland pulls over a rolled-up sleeping bag. Christophe stands, too. Delia
and Hara sit beside him on crates.

Leland
pats the sleeping bag, and I approach him, looking around for something else to
use as a weapon.

“I’ll
unroll it for you if you like, Roz,” Leland says.

“No.
No thanks, it’s fine,” I answer. I’m going back to The Hollow. My mind races
with the thought and my vision starts to blur. I have to overcome this.

“I
think it’s in everyone’s best interest if we stay together,” Pike says. His
hands are on his hips and he commands the attention of the group.

“I
agree,” Ezekiel adds. “There’s no reason why we can’t get Rose’s parents and
sisters together. We’ve had enough problems already.”

“So
the question is,” Christophe steps forward, his arms crossed over his chest.
“Who do we get first? Rose’s parents or her sisters?”

No
one answers.

“I
can do this alone. You get my sisters. I can go back to The Hollow.” The more I
say it, the more I believe it, even if the thought still terrifies me.

“Parents
first. Sisters second,” Ezekiel’s statement surprises me. It’s like they’re not
even listening “If Dory gets to Evie, she’ll make sure to keep her safe.”

“Why
are you all helping me? You’d be better off without me. You’d be safe. I can’t
help you with any cause anymore. Aegis is gone and I’m just trouble.”

I
don’t think I want the guilt if anything happens to anyone here. I care for
them a little too much now. “Christophe, you can go back to your farm. Delia,
you’ve got your son back and Pike-” I look from Pike to Hara, envisioning them
together. I look the other way. “Leland-”

Leland
shakes his head.

“No.
Don’t go on, Roz. I’ve got nothing out there. The only thing I had was left in
that dreaded Hollow. And now the people I care about are here.”

He
looks at Christophe and Delia.

“And
that includes you, Roz. You’re part of my family, too.” He grips my hand and
squeezes. It takes a second before I squeeze back. I didn’t expect this.

“And
I don’t have a farm anymore.” Christophe looks at me through broken glasses. “I
don’t know what I have left and I’m not quite ready to find out. I’m here to help.”

Delia
looks over at me. “We know what’s right and wrong. It isn’t right that your
family has been kidnapped or forced to run away. It isn’t right that your
organs and genetic code are sought for commercial gain. We all agree on that.
We’ve got nothing else to fight for. It could be any one of us back in The
Hollow.”

Pike
gets up.

“We
know that you are special, Rose,” Delia says, her hand on her son’s wrist stops
him from leaving the barn, but he doesn’t turn back around.

“Whatever
it is about your genetic code that makes you who you are doesn’t serve anyone
or help anyone if you are harvested or hidden. If there is a way for you to
help others naturally, safely, we’d want you to be able to do that. You’d want
to do that, right Rose?” Hara asks.

I
nod. I can’t argue with her even though I want to.

“You
need to invest it, Rose,” Hara continues. “You need to make the difference. You
are the difference.”

Pike
turns back around. “You are as powerful as you believe you can be. Tithonus
said you were.”

“And
if you’re going to chase after your family,” Leland stands on a hay bale,
raising a stick into the air. “We’re the family that’s going to help you do
that.” He hops down and runs over to me. His arms envelop me, squeezing me
tight. He isn’t daunted by my cold, almost lifeless limb, or the fact that it
doesn’t respond to his touch. I allow him to linger in the embrace and I glance
at Pike. He holds my stare.

“Maybe
we should split up into teams,” Ezekiel reconsiders, regaining the
conversation, moving it forward.

Leland
lets me go and we sit beside one another again. He holds both of my hands in
his. Every so often, I look at Pike who now just stares at me.
Friends
,
I tell myself.

Just
friends.

“What’s
the plan?” Delia asks.

A
glance on the ground in front of Ezekiel shows some scribbles etched into dirt
with the stick Leland was waving around.

“Delia,
Leland, and I go back to The Hollow,” Ezekiel says. “They know their way in and
out and through the network of underground tunnels. Even if that Dr. Flint
closed them off, we should try that way first.”

“And
if that doesn’t work?” Delia asks.

“We
get creative!” Leland is excited and I can’t imagine why. I shake my head.

“No.
I won’t let the three of you go instead of me. This is my problem. I’m going in.”

Leland
pats my thigh.

Ezekiel
addresses me, “If you go in and get caught, neither you nor your parents are
getting out. You have to get to your sisters and keep yourself safe. We’ll try
for your parents. If it doesn’t work, well then, we’ll think of something.”

I
try to smile, but I’m not amused. Even if I do get caught and they don’t let my
parents out, then everyone here would be safe. And they would find Dory and
Evie and -

“You’re
going to Mine Fire City,” Ezekiel orders.

“But
I don’t know the way.” My voice whines and I wish it sounded stronger.

“I’ll
go with you,” Pike offers. “I know the way.”

“I’ll
go, too.” Christophe follows Pike’s lead and Pike tips his head to him.

“Hara,
you should stay here,” Ezekiel directs and Hara nods in confirmation. “Even if
we can’t get here easily, we need the safe house as a home base. Let’s all just
be mindful of the tides,” Ezekiel adds and everyone agrees.

“This
will give us a chance to find Dory and get word back to Hara. Once you have her
parents get back here. If we don’t hear from you within the next week, we’ll
know you’re still in The Hollow and we’ll come save your asses,” Pike says.

Ezekiel
scratches some more letters and numbers in the dirt.

“I
should be going with you. Back into The Hollow,” I say once again. Ezekiel
shakes his head. “But–” I stop when Ezekiel’s hand goes up. His head-shake is
subtle.

“It
will take longer for you to get to the mine fires than it will take for us to
get into The Hollow. Once you get there, you just have to find a satellite
connection and transmit to Hara here in the safe house. She’ll be able to tell
you what’s going on inside The Hollow.” He hands me a thin piece of Plexiglas
with a code etched into it. “If we leave tomorrow at sunrise,” Ezekiel mentally
calculates. His eyes look up and his lips move. “Then we should be back here by
week’s end.”

“That
soon?” I ask.

“It
gives us a solid nine or ten days,” Pike adds. “If we can get to another town
we may be able to hitch a ride.”

BOOK: Blind the Stars (Rose of the Dawn Series Book 3)
2.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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