Castle Rock Compound, Colorado, Earth
A figure stood alone in the dark on the edge of a small cliff. Leaning on the railing, she looked out on the houses, streets, and lawns. Except for the stone walls and mountains that surrounded the town on all sides, it could have been any suburb in the United States.
Haley brushed a lock of brown hair out of her eyes, wondering if she should go with a short haircut next time. It would be easier in a fight. Except then Night Cat would have to wear a wig since it wouldn’t be smart for both of her identities to get the same haircut at the same time.
Her eyes drifted upward, above the walls to the night sky and stars beyond.
Nick, Jaclyn, Cassie, and Marcus were out there somewhere. Lee had said they’d be gone for two weeks—unless something went wrong. Haley knew better than to assume that was impossible. If things were going right, there was no need for any of them to be there.
She hoped that wherever Nick and the others were that they weren’t alone because no one would be able to help them from here.
Haley didn’t have to turn around to know who was walking toward her through the park. If she couldn’t identify Daniel and Izzy from their bodies’ scents alone, she would have recognized Daniel’s cologne, and Izzy’s deodorant (she only rarely wore perfume). If that hadn’t been enough, she knew the sound of their walks.
“I don’t know if it matters,” Daniel addressed her as he came into earshot, “but Nick told me that we probably can’t see where they are. He didn’t know exactly where he’d be, but right now the night sky has it’s best view of the galactic core. He said they’d be further up or down our spiral arm.”
Haley nodded, “I know. He told me too. It doesn’t matter. Stars are still stars.”
Izzy reached out to touch her shoulder. Haley looked up, reminded that Izzy was a foot taller.
“We’re going to watch a movie in Vaughn’s room. You’re invited.” Izzy smiled at her and let go.
It was, Haley told herself, kind of sweet and kind of irritating. It was good that they cared, but Daniel had as much of a reason to be worried as she did.
Maybe worrying about her was one way to avoid worrying about Nick? She thought about it.
You might be right, Daniel thought back at her.
Aloud, he said, “Vaughn said he’d start the movie in about fifteen minutes.”
Looking up at the both of them (their children, she decided, would be giants), she tried not to let any of the irritation show—for all the good it would do. “I’ll be there, but I might not be on time.”
Daniel nodded at her. “You’ll be welcome whenever you arrive.”
“But don’t sit around here all night, okay?” Izzy smiled at her.
They left, holding hands, and Haley watched the stars. It was the first time she’d had alone all week and it felt nice. She was rooming with Camille and even though she liked Camille, it felt like Camille talked nonstop. Tonight Camille was doing something with Keon. She hoped they had fun.
She looked up at the glow of the crescent moon, remembering that she was a werewolf in Amy’s world and her pack had separated her from Nick there. She felt no urge to howl and had nearly decided to go to Vaughn’s room for the movie when Nick’s sister faded in next to her.
Rachel wore black jeans and a black t-shirt. Her silver necklace glinted, reflecting the moon above or the streetlights below.
She leaned on the railing next to Haley. “How are you holding up?”
Haley frowned. “I’d be doing better if people didn’t keep on asking me. How are you holding up?”
Rachel shrugged. “I’m not worried. I talked to Lee about it after my last guitar lesson. He said the Xiniti don’t give first time initiates a hard mission. They’ve handled worse. Even if I were worried because Cassie’s impulsive and Marcus hasn’t been in the field very much, Jaclyn and Nick are both level-headed.”
Following the Milky Way’s spattering of stars toward the horizon, she wondered how far out of sight they were.
Pushing away from the railing and standing straight, Rachel smiled. “My grandmother said she thought she heard voices in the stars sometimes.”
Haley raised an eyebrow. “Seriously?”
“No joke,” Rachel said and checked the time on her phone. “The movie’s about to start. Are you going?”
“Yes,” Haley said, and they left.
* * *
The Council Building, Hideaway
“I can’t believe they brought beer,” I told Jaclyn. “You’re right. The council is going to kick us off the planet.”
“I dunno,” Marcus said. “I’d bet that they don’t have a drinking age here, so it’s all totally legal.”
We were in our suite in the colony’s council building. Kids our age filled the shared common area. There couldn’t have been more than ten, but it felt like more. They’d placed four clear jugs on the table, all of them filled with brown, fizzy liquid.
Jaclyn glanced toward the door. “If they were going kick us out, they’d have done it by now. There’s no way they don’t know people are here.”