Brinn Tarver has just come to terms with her Tawny identity when the public lashes out against her people, crushing her family. At her breaking point, she starts to question everything she believes in—including Ia.
After the death of his mentor, Knives Adams is doing his best to live up to a role he didn't ask for as Aphelion's new headmaster. Still, with each new step deeper into war, he feels torn between his duties and the pull of Ia's radical—sometimes criminal—ideas.
As they fight to keep darkness from eclipsing the skies, their unpredictable choices launch this breathtaking sequel to explosive new heights.
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KNIVES ADAMS drummed his fingers against the top of the brushed-steel counter, tapping at a ring-shaped circle of dried archnol. He scanned the room. It was filled with travelers from across the All Black, their faces weary from drifting and their eyes drooped from drink.
His father had just left Aphelion after appointing Knives as headmaster, filling the hole that Bastian had left. Knives had endured a grueling week of following the general's footsteps down the halls, and he knew he had to get out as well, to cleanse himself of everything that was his father. A trip to Myth was an obvious choice. Once he returned, Aphelion would be as it was. Crumbling. A mess. But without his father's orders echoing down the halls.
Knives liked it on Myth. It was so different from Aphelion and from the Commonwealth's capital star system, Rigel Kentaurus, where he grew up. The ventilation on the space station was cheap and shoddy, perfume mixed in to mask the suffocating odor of recycled air, but there wasn't enough freshener in the universe to hide that distinct smell. He breathed in the chemical potpourri of uranium vapors and burned-up engine grease. It was the smell of Dead Spacers, of Drifters, of anyone who spent more time on a ship than on land.
The last time he was on Myth, he had almost gotten his ass kicked, but this time he would be more careful, especially with all the white hearts pinned on people's suits. Einn's supporters were clearly patrons of this place. No matter what he heard in the shuffle around him, even if it bothered him, he would absolutely, definitely not get involved. He was here for one thing.
"Look who's back." The bartender sashayed over and rested her elbows on the countertop. She leaned in so that his whole world became her.
Knives angled his head, his eyes flicking from the curl of her dark eyelashes to the part of her lips. She was as beautiful as he remembered.
"What brings you all the way out here, pretty Bug?" The bartender took a sip from her vapor stick and blew the trail of smoke out so that it spiraled all around him.
Through the haze, his eyes locked onto hers. "I've been wondering what your name is."
"All this time?" She leaned in, flipping her head to the side so that he could get a view of her neck. Her light-brown skin looked soft, smooth. "If you want to know my name, you're going to have to try harder than that."
He angled his head so that he could get a glimpse of the sapphire in her eyes. "Should we go somewhere more private?"
* * *
Her fingers slipped through his, and he ran his thumb against her buttery-soft wrist up to the calluses on her palm. She led him through back galleys, shooting him coquettish looks after every other step, and he felt heat rush into his face at the way she made him feel. There was a part of him that wanted to stop her, to pull his arm around her waist and feel the warmth of her cheek against his.
They passed a group of breakers, still dressed in their mining armor, leaning against the wall. They were a loud lot, yammering about the increase in uranium costs and the current market for scrap. One of them, a heavyset man with a thick beard, made eye contact with them as they passed. Knives heard his voice, scratchy through the everlasting hum of the refurbished space station. "Where you going? Can we join?"
"No," the bartender snapped without looking back. "Not allowed."
The breakers chuckled, hooting to each other about what Knives was in for, but their words barely registered. His mind was singularly focused on what would happen at the end of their journey through the back halls of Myth. Knives reached up to let his fingers fly through the waves of her hair. She guided him to a door at the end of a long stretch of hallway, then turned to face him, her back resting gently against the doorframe.
"These are my quarters," she said, a breath of nervousness rising in her voice.
"So are you going to tell me your name?" Knives asked.
Her gaze met his, her eyes open with a strange vulnerability that didn't match the metal and steel of Myth. With quickened breath, she smoothed her hands up his chest until they circled around the back of his neck. Her chin tilted, and her lips parted in invitation. "My name's Eve," she said.
He smiled at her, and she went up on her tip-toes and kissed him, her lip lacquer sweet upon his tongue.
From past experiences, he knew every kiss had its own unique flavor. His first kiss had reminded him of hot chocolate at nighttime. While this kiss — this kiss was of smoke, and salt, and need. Very different from another girl's.
He broke their embrace, trying to hide the confusion in his eyes. She nodded back to her room. "You want to come in?"
He faltered. Despite the grime on her cheeks, there was something innocent in the way she stood before him. A part of him felt guilty for what he was about to do.
He placed a hand on the wall so she had nowhere else to turn but to him. As he leaned in, his mouth came to her ear. "Yes," he breathed, and he felt her body stiffen. He could see her pulse quicken underneath the skin along her neck.
Eve rolled her body to the side, her elbow pressing against a sensor on the wall. With the screech of metal grinding along unoiled rails, the door behind them inched open, and she pulled him into the darkness.
But he could feel her, and he could hear her. And his ears perked at another sound. Of the doors shutting behind them.
That was his cue. Knives stiffened, detaching himself gently from Eve's embrace.
With a click, a light came on, blooming like nightshade in the corner of the room. Someone else was there, waiting for them.
Eve's eyes pulsed from him to the figure sitting on her desk, her lithe fingers curled upon the switch of the rusting table lamp.
Eve immediately reached for the pistol at her side. His fingers clamped around her wrist, stopping her. Her expression shifted as the realization settled upon her: she'd been had.
Knives pulled his gaze away so that it rested on the person sitting on top of the desk in the corner, one leg propped on the plastic tabletop. He took in the curves of her familiar face and the mischief twisted behind her grin. His eyes locked upon hers, and she nodded, satisfied by his trickery. He was here for one thing.
A girl. This girl.
He'd done his part, and now it was all up to her.
Ia Cocha leaned forward out of the shadows. "Hello, Eve."CHAPTER 2
IA DODGED THE FIRST BLOW, missing the swipe of Eve's nails by only a few centimeters.
Eve snarled, then centered a punch. Ia grabbed her wrist, misdirecting her movement so that Eve stumbled to the side.
"You're not a fighter," Ia said. "Stay down."
Eve bared her teeth. "I should have known that he was yours."
Ia's gaze snapped to Knives, who raised his eyebrows in response. She rolled her eyes and jerked her chin to the door. "Keep watch outside."
Knives nodded, giving Eve one last look, and for a long moment, Ia wondered what really had happened between them.
Once Knives left, Ia crouched before Eve.
"What do you want, Cocha?" Eve hissed.
"Information," Ia said. She reached out, wiping a trail of blood falling from a split in Eve's lip. "I need to know what's happening in my territories. I noticed there are a lot more White Hearts around this entire hub."
Shoving Ia off her, Eve sat up. "Go back and cuddle with your Bug," she said, nodding to the door. "We all know you joined them. Dead Space is no longer yours."
Ia looked down, cheeks red with rage and embarrassment. She was Ia Cocha. Sovereign of Dead Space, Blood Wolf of the Skies.
Traitor to her own people.
After everything that had happened this month, Ia had known they would desert her. But she didn't realize how much it would sting.
Eve took a puff off her vaporizer. A plume of smoke curled upward, hanging in the heavy air. Her eyes flashed in the low light as she looked Ia up and down. "After you left, there was a hole. An absence of hope in the already-vacuous All Black. But Einn came, and people had something to believe in again. A fight. A purpose. They wanted something to hold onto. It just happened to be him."
Ia sat on the couch, balancing the tip of her chin on her knees, surveying Eve's lean legs sprawled across the dusty floor. "And what about you?"
"I've never taken sides, Ia. You know that."
"Yes, but why do I have a feeling that you'll at least play favorites." Ia had heard all about the women and men that Eve had been romantically involved with. Einn and Eve were together on and off for a few years. Eve was even part of their crew for a time, but not after the breakup. Starships had more space than the average fighter jet, but no matter where you were, you could still hear every joke, every moan, every insult thrown behind closed doors.
Ia's lips curled upward in a smirk. "You hate me, but I know you hate my brother more."
Eve rolled her eyes. "What do you want?"
Ever since Ia had agreed to a truce with Aphelion, her days had been nothing but meetings with that damn general. Ia Cocha was once her own entity, feared and unknown. A dangerous, devouring mystery that no one dared to seek out. Now she was nothing more than the pieces of information the Olympus Commonwealth wanted to carve out of her head. They wanted to understand. They wanted to strategize. They wanted to win.
But it wasn't about victory for Ia, about setting in motion a change of events or protecting what had already been built. For her, it was very, very simple. She wanted to beat her brother. The brother she'd once loved, once trusted more than anyone.
Until he tried to kill her.
After session after session of sitting through the general's endless barrage of questions and getting no useful information in return, she'd quickly realized she needed more than meetings. She needed outside help.
Ia looked at Eve, her eyes catching the light. "I want you to send a message for me."CHAPTER 3
BRINN STEPPED OUT of the bathroom, the brisk air from the bedroom chilling the damp skin on her cheeks. Since the Armada slaver attack over two weeks ago, the temperature controls had been on the fritz. That included both the water and room settings. For the time being, her showers were very cold and very quick.
She grabbed a few sweatshirts and pulled them on over her base layer. Ia was on a mission with Knives somewhere, but she hadn't said what it was. She rarely talked about what Olympus wanted from her and what her plans were, but Brinn could tell there was always something going on behind those sharp, black eyes. She wished her friend would tell her what it was more often.
As she walked around the empty room, Brinn heard the soft buzzing of her holowatch, which she had taken off before her shower. She scurried about, tossing everything to the side until eventually finding her holo underneath her messy bedsheets.
The ID read Mom. She answered.
A holoscreen floated in front of her, displaying her mother's face, elegant yet softened with wrinkles around the eyes and lips. Her navy-blue hair was tied in a neat, tight bun.
Her mother nodded stiffly. It was her way of saying hello. "Your hair's growing out nicely."
Brinn dragged her fingers self-consciously through her fine, downy hair, shaved short right before she and Ia fought the Armada. It was an undercoat that was never seen, but now there it was. For almost her entire life, she had dyed her hair brown to fit in, to be seen as a Citizen and hide from her Tawny heritage. But now her natural navy-blue hair was growing out. And it would keep growing, until the navy strands hit her chin, her shoulders, the middle of her back. There was no way she would return to that life. To hiding who she was.
Dying her hair had been a source of contention between Brinn and her mom for so long.
It was so strange to speak with her like this. Because now they were the same.
"How are things going at home?" she asked.
"There are more protests on the street," her mom said. "That's actually why I called. I need you to talk to your brother."
Since Brinn had last spoken to him, her brother's eyes had been opened to a movement taking over the refugee communities back home. With the Sanctuary Act on the chopping block and refugees of the Uranium War in danger of losing their homes, Tawnies, Dvvinn, and other integrated communities raised their voices in protest. At the same time, Commonwealth Citizens rose up like a wall that refused to move. They wanted the refugees out. And while Brinn and her family weren't technically refugees, the political left was crumbling, and it was possible that their Citizenship could be revoked. Who knew how long they would actually be safe? Brinn understood why her brother wanted to stand with those crowds, to raise his fist and scream.
Because things weren't right.
And what about her? She was training to work for a government who was standing idly by, whose values, she realized, were a sham. Of Progress. Of Prosperity. Of Proficiency. She had seen none of that, not since she stepped foot on Aphelion.
Yet she was still here. She shook her head, trying to stop her thoughts.
She glanced back at her mother and took a deep breath. "I can't stop him from doing what he wants to do, Mom."
"You've always been good at looking out for him."
"Fine." Brinn scratched the fuzz at the back of her head. "Let me see him."
She watched the screen as her mom walked throughout their house, and warm feelings of home came flooding back to her.
Finally, her brother's face was on the display. His hair, like hers, had been cut to show off its true color. His lips were pulled tight as if he knew what she wanted to talk about.
"I'm going," he said.
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Brinn asked. "The news says they're gonna start using pulse cannons."
"Let them. You know that what's happening is wrong, Brinn."
She knew. She didn't even want to hide it on her face, and that was enough to bring light to his eyes.
"You should be back home, marching with me. With us," he whispered.
"I can't fly back like that, Faren. I have my studies. I have responsibilities."
Faren's expression narrowed. "Why? Why are you still there? After everything that's happened "
Brinn couldn't give him an answer because she didn't have one. Those were the same questions that ran through her head when her eyes fluttered open every morning. She looked at the walls of her dorm room, which had been smooth and pristine when she first arrived and were now warped and damaged from all that had transpired since then. Would she wait until they were fully cracked open before she finally left?
She wasn't ready to leave Aphelion. Not quite yet. So she could only offer her brother a few words. She hoped that would be enough.
"Please, Faren," Brinn said. "Be careful."
Faren looked at her, his eyes the same shade of gray but somehow clearer than her own. "I will," he said, and they said their goodbyes.
Brinn sank onto her bed, resting her face in her palms. She hadn't told him to stop. She hadn't told him to stay home. Because she was proud of her brother. That was true.
But she also wanted him to be safe. And the only real way to ensure that was for the government to keep the Sanctuary Act in place.
She decided to put her trust in her government one last time.
Right at that moment, the lights cut out.CHAPTER 4
KNIVES SAT IN THE PILOT SEAT of his 504 Kaiken, staring out into the expanse, the stars in the distance blinking at him. They only made the silence more obvious. Even without looking back, he knew Ia was slumped in her seat. She was sulking. It emanated off her like a dry heat.
"You got what you needed?"
"Keep this under wraps, Knives," she reminded him. "You can't go reporting that we ran off to Myth."
"Of course. You think I want to hear the general screaming into my ear?"
Ia quieted at the mention of General Adams. Ever since she'd found out the true identity of Knives's father, things between them had been strained. But was that really why she was giving him the cold shoulder right now?
"It was nice getting off campus," Knives said, trying to lighten the mood. "We should do it again."
"I'll make sure to invite Eve," snapped Ia.
He stabbed his finger down on the autopilot button and swiveled his chair around to face her. "What does that mean?"
Ia shrugged. "You seemed comfortable with her."
"You told me to get her into her room. I wasn't going to lead her at gunpoint in a space station filled with —"
"With what? Dead Space murk?"
"No. That's not what I meant. Dead Spacers don't like Citizens. You would know."
Her eyes narrowed. "And I still do."
"Fine," Knives muttered to himself. He turned his chair back around and gripped his steering wheel. She was trying to start a fight. About anything. Everything. There was no point talking to her, not until she cooled down.
He flew the rest of the way in silence, pretending to pilot when in actuality the navigation systems were still set to auto. He took the time to think, to seethe, to simmer. All he wanted was for things to be calm between them, to have her stand beside him and smile, but since the attack on Aphelion, it sometimes felt like they were still on opposite sides of a chasm.
They spoke all the time, but they weren't actually talking. Any mention of the fact that his father was the general was always a conversation killer.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Eclipse the Skies"
Copyright © 2019 Maura Milan.
Excerpted by permission of Albert Whitman & Company.
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