Cadence is in a race against time and space to save her family and friends from the Unmakers, who are tracking the last vestiges of humanity across the cosmos. As the epic battle begins, Cade learns that letting people in also means letting them go. The universe spins out of control and Cade alone must face the music in the page-turning conclusion to Entangled.
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The white planet looked perfect from far away. Everyone should have been there when it slid and locked into view, but Cade was alone, so no one saw her in front of the starglass, hands capped to her chest. No one was there to hear the words that flooded out, the rich and steady river of curses. “Snug. Snug, snug, snug it all.” Cade stood at the center of the control room, not moving, but it reached out of her like rays—the need to get to the surface. To land on this cloud-breathing planet. Down there, somewhere, she had a mother. Cade started to dance. Hands first, shoulders, feet. A few months ago, she never would have let this happen. It was a hard line she’d drawn in the imaginary sand a long time ago: No dancing. The music she’d pounded on her guitar had been for listening purposes. If other people dressed themselves in her rhythms, brushed and slid her notes against their skin, that was their choice. But Cade’s hips were breaking the old rules. Going rogue. Nudging air. She danced to the song in her head, a song no one else could hear. It was ready whenever Cade reached for it, stitched out of the thoughts of the people around her. It wove brightly into her brain. Overwhelmed her, as much as the first time she’d felt it. But Cade had come back from the brink of death for that song, and she wouldn’t stop listening until all of the humans scattered through space came back together, the way they were meant to be heard. Starting with her mother. One slim thread of the song was formed out of notes Cade knew, captured in old footage of her mother and watched by Cade, every day for months. It hadn’t been easy to pick her mother’s notes out of the song and follow them across wide, dark bolts of universe. But now they blared back at Cade from a white-clouded planet. She bent and molded a hand to the floor. “This is the place, Renna,” Cade said. “Res Minor.” The name of the planet splashed against the song in her head. She liked the way they sounded together. “What do you think?” The ship had nothing to offer, not after so many days and weeks of flying at top speed—toward Cade’s mother, away from the Unmakers. Renna had done her best. Now the floor under Cade’s feet rolled slow. “Sorry.” Cade patted Renna back into a resting state. Cade picked herself up and pulled out charts, trying to set a course. But she kept checking the view of Res Minor in the starglass, and then the door, until she was turning in circles, waiting for someone else to get caught in her centrifuge of happy swears and dancing and almost-almost-there. Cade had been in good company ever since she was peeled back from the edge of the black hole. There had been Renna to answer her moods with a fitting rumble, Ayumi to listen to her guitar with amber-wide eyes, Lee to poke into the bedroom three times a day with a questionable meal on a tray. Cade had gotten used to having someone. But now there was no one, and now it was time. She ran out of the control room, down the chute. The feeling in her wouldn’t go quiet, and she needed a crew member to share it with. Lee and Ayumi were running Human Express deliveries, and Rennik had been avoiding her, and that left— Cade almost clipped the point of Gori’s elbow as she rounded a turn in the chute. In Gori’s normal state, he could tuck into one of the small bunks set in the wall of the ship, with room to spare. But in a slight rapture state, with his gray skin swelled and stretching, he overflowed the bounds of the bed and got squarely in Cade’s way. She knew he was tuned in to the movement of dark energy through the universe, but the puffed mass of his cheeks made him look like one big allergic reaction. Cade reached for his shoulder, but the feeling inside her amplified things. She tried for a gentle tap and landed a supercharged punch. “Wake up!” Cade said. She had already punched him. She might as well commit. Gori stared up and shrank back into himself, the blank of his eyes swapped out for a harsh, measuring stare. “I have no use for sleep,” he said. Cade guessed he had even less use for dancing. “I saw Res Minor,” she said. “And heard it. It’s the place we’ve been searching for.” Gori gathered his gray robes around his shriveled gray toes. “We have to go,” Cade said. When Gori made no move bigger than a robe-swirl, she added, “Now!” “Now is an invention,” Gori said. “All time is one time.” This was one of the Darkrider’s favorite mottoes. But Cade was in no mood for mottoes and robe-swirls. When she came back from the black hole and found that her old, pinched ways wouldn’t do, she had changed. Pried herself open. Gori could snugging well do the same. She sat with him on the bunk. Closer than he liked—she could tell by the increased rate of his blinking. “Did you have a mother?” Cade asked. “On your planet? When you were a . . .” “Baby” couldn’t be the right word. Not for him. “A little pile of robes?” Gori narrowed his eyes, and his face compacted into new wrinkle-patterns. “No.” “Well, then maybe you wouldn’t understand.” Cade chose not to add that her own understanding of the mother concept was limited. For most of her life she’d thought her mother was dead, or run off, or that she’d never existed. Then came the revelation that her mother was a spacesick who, again, might be dead, and now her mother was a song. How could Cade explain all of that? This was one of the worst parts of openness. It came with the burden of words, so many words, all of which had to be found and flattened into the right shape. Cade closed her eyes. “There’s a pull in having a mother,” she said. “A complicated pull. It knots you. In a good way.” Cade shook her head. She could name the loud feeling now—happiness—but only because it was leaving her. It scrubbed against frustration as it went. “You wouldn’t understand,” Cade said again. “I had no mother,” Gori said. “But I did not spend all of this life in absence.” Cade chanced a look at his loose, non-raptured skin, the inward curl of his shoulders. Gori was a Darkrider—more connected to the infinite, snarled workings of the universe than she could imagine. He was also the most alone creature Cade had ever met. Gori had lost a planet. Cade had lost one boy, but sometimes he’d felt like enough to build a world on. Xan. This was the wrong time to think about Xan, about the black hole and its bright heart. The boy she hadn’t been able to save. Every time was the wrong time to think about Xan, so Cade didn’t mind when the memory was knocked out of place by a gentle tap-and-slide. A ship docking. “See?” Cade asked as Renna perked under her feet. “There is a now, and a good one too.” She raced down the rest of the chute and let the news about her mother swell to the surface again. The dock sprang open. Lee—who, most days, could be counted on to haul even Cade’s most complicated thoughts out of her head—made her entrance in no shape to listen. She swung into the main cabin with a bloody smile and a blackened eye. “So,” Cade said, news held back, even though it scrabbled at her stomach. “You had fun?” Lee bounced on her toes, which added to her height, and tossed her hair out of the knots that she always wore. She flourished her fists, kicked invisible shins. “Best fight I’ve gotten into in years! Best kidney punch, courtesy of me. Finest drubbing in a public fountain, also my handiwork. Richest, blackest black eye.” She pointed at the rim of dark shine. “Sweet universe, yes. It takes all the honors.” “Did you win or lose?” Cade asked. Lee stopped pummeling the air long enough to pin Cade with a confused look. “I fought.” Behind her, Ayumi whisper-stepped into view. She took up the smallest possible fraction of the dock frame even though she was taller than Cade, more fleshed out than skinny-sharp Lee. Ayumi’s dark curls were slicked with reddish dust, her arms scored with bruises. She stayed quiet. A breakable quiet. The lively flare of Lee’s mood and the dangerous tremble of Ayumi’s stretched Cade in one direction, then another. Keeping up with people’s emotions was like being forced to make constant key changes. “Someone came after us,” Ayumi said. “That’s the Express.” Lee fended off a new set of memory-foes. “Someone’s always after us.” Ayumi shook her curls. Particles dropped to the floor, rust-flake red. “Maybe someone, maybe always. But never like this.” “Right,” Lee said. “Usually we’re beset by amateurs! But this crowd? They really knew how to beset someone.” Lee’s bravado levels fell within the normal range. But Ayumi’s concern rang a warning bell deep in Cade’s system. “What happened?” Lee headed for the center of the room and cocked her leg against the bottom of the chute. “We set up in Eastwall. Close to the crowds, far from the headquarters of the local force. Lots of new customers this time, but I don’t complain. People need us to take their messages and most-treasureds, so we do.” Cade knew how it worked. She’d been part of it once. But now that she was Unmaker-hunted, mother-obsessed, she didn’t have the time or the freedom to help with runs. Cade never would have thought she’d miss the long lines and the hope-crusted eyes of the Human Express. People sick to connect with their families. But she did. “Pick-ups ran their course, no problem,” Lee said. “Drop-offs were—” “Fine,” Ayumi supplied. She was Lee’s partner now, and Cade had to admit, with a minor twinge, that they made as brass a team as Lee and Cade ever had. Lee uncocked her leg. Sank into a deep crouch. “It wasn’t until we packed up and headed back to the shuttle,” Lee said. “A commotion broke out, I’d say a six on the ruckus scale, and then . . . scraps! All around us! Someone ripped the pack from my hands, and you know I wasn’t going to stand for that. I fought my way to the edge of the crowd. The pack was in the dirt, just lying there—” “It felt wrong,” Ayumi said, shaking hard against the dock frame. “Wrong, wrong, wrong.” Ayumi’s fear hit Cade with the rip-and-ebb of an electric sound wave. All she could offer was awkward comfort of the flutter-pat variety, but she started across the cabin. Lee was already halfway there. “Hey.” Lee ran her hands down Ayumi’s arms, and Ayumi focused. Cade didn’t think she noticed Lee dropping blood into the space between them. “I wouldn’t let those slummers hurt you,” Lee said. “You know that, right?” “I’m strong,” Ayumi blurted. “Of course you are,” Lee said. “I’m capable,” Ayumi added, and Cade had to agree. Ayumi hovered in the region of scary-smart, and she knew how to fly. Of course, there was the little matter of her spacesickness, which only Cade knew about. “Today was just—” “Wrong,” Lee said. Ayumi nodded. “If you say it was, then I believe it was. So it double was.” Ayumi needed the calming down. She had more than earned it. Cade had no right to shoulder into the moment. But— “I think I found her.” Lee broke out of the dock frame and pulled Ayumi. She had one arm around the shaking girl, and she put the other around Cade. “That’s brilliant!” The words were right and the smiles were warm, but there had been a vastness to Cade’s good feeling when she first saw Res Minor. It had swelled her cells to the bursting point. She needed more than smiles. “So we hit the surface,” Lee said. “Right? I’ll prep the ship if you’re ready.” Cade needed a wisp of her mother’s song to follow, to make sure they put down in the right spot, but she couldn’t sit still and wait for it. “Right,” she said. “Ready.” Lee and Ayumi headed for the shuttle, and Lee called back. “Tell Rennik.” Heat and pressure, everywhere. Cade still hadn’t told Lee about what had happened in Hades, with Rennik. But she felt the held-in story through the low curve of her back, climbing hot up her neck. “Right,” she said. She crossed the main cabin to his door. Knocking should have been as simple as hitting a downbeat. Rennik had been there with Cade in the first days after the black hole, always there, looming tall and letting his nerves show through the hardened ice of his patience. He had administered the injections that smashed through Cade’s system, leaving her all muscle-scream and blistered with strange fevers. He’d sat with her for hours and told her worn-in stories of when he and Renna first sailed the universe. Then he had all but disappeared. But the texture of the time they’d spent together—minutes thickened with long stares—had sunk into Cade. She let it rise now, never thinking that the door would open and she would be caught with Rennik so obviously on her mind. He turned on a heel and headed back into the room like that had been the plan the whole time. Maybe he was hoping that Cade would scurry to some safer place on the ship and pretend it had never happened. But she waited him out. Rennik made a show of calm to cover the impulse-burst, shifting papers across his desk. Cade had seen the rivered muscles of his back close enough to fit her fingertips to them. Now anything else felt far, far, far. “Hey,” she said, running in—until there was no more room to run and Rennik had to face her. The features that had been striking-strange the first time Cade saw them formed a well-known map. The sharp rise of his cheekbones, eyebrows, chin. The smoothness of the rest. His gray-brown eyes and hair set against the cool nonhuman tint of his skin. At the center of it were double pupils so dark they should have been another black-hole tumble. But since Rennik was Rennik, she never felt like she was sliding away from herself. In fact, Cade’s personality doubled when faced with Rennik’s calm brand of reason, and at the moment that meant twice as much frustration. He gave her one of his best smiles, like he hadn’t been avoiding her for weeks. Like he hadn’t just spun a frantic circle at the sight of her. “Cadence?” he asked. “Hey,” she said. Again. Unlike with most people, she knew what she wanted to say to Rennik. She just didn’t know if she should. Words raced, faster than the eager slide of her blood. Cade told him the smallest thing she could find, because letting out one word more would drag the rest with it. “We’re getting the shuttle ready,” she said. “It’s Res Minor, isn’t it.” Rennik didn’t sound excited, or disappointed. He didn’t sound anything at all. But Cade knew the signs: the pull of skin at his temples, the overstretched fingers. Rennik was nervous. Cade had gotten better at reading him, so she should have been able to figure out if the kiss she’d pressed on him in Hades had been more than an impending-doom-fueled mistake. “Yeah,” she said. “Definitely Res Minor.” “I can’t go down there.” Rennik’s long four-knuckled fingers swirled a pen through the air. “Not in a capacity that will do you any good. The Hatchum have been on poisonous terms with Res Minor for centuries.” “So I’ll go alone.” Rennik stopped the pen, mid-swirl. “Lee and Ayumi have an Express drop, and I’m not asking them to cancel again. And you can correct me if I have this wrong, but I don’t think Gori leaves the ship. At least, not bodily.” Rennik took his time and considered. “Do me a favor?” He put the pen down and set his fingertips against the wall. “Don’t put yourself into danger if you can help it.” “Unfair,” Cade said. “That’s one thing I can’t promise. I put us all in danger, just by having these particles.” This topic had played out during her recovery—different verses and variations, but it all ended up sounding the same. The Unmakers had been successful in deleting Xan from the universe, and now they wanted the other half of the entangled pair. Cade couldn’t stop them from wanting her. They would find her, like they had found Moira. The girl Rennik used to love. Cade needed to stop thinking about Moira. Wondering about Moira. Worrying about whether she was too much like Moira, or not enough. The Unmakers were easier to focus on. They wanted to kill her. “We’ve been on the move for seven weeks,” Cade said. “No sign of them.” She couldn’t find the Unmakers in the song, either. Their being human meant they were woven in there, somewhere, but no matter how late Cade stayed up, picking at the song like an over-worried knot, she couldn’t tell how many Unmakers there were, or where to find them. For one reason: she didn’t know what they sounded like. But Cade knew Rennik. She didn’t have to connect to him on a sub-everything level to know what was bothering him. “You think I should stay onboard.” The little room pulsed twice, like a tightly held hand. “I think the longer you go without being noticed, the more likely it is the Unmakers will forget this and move on.” Renna pulsed again. She was giving him strength. “At the same time, you’re the only one who can locate your mother on the surface.” Cade would have to follow the song, which left Rennik to sit on the ship and wait up for her. “So?” Cade asked. She would go down to Res whether he wanted her to or not. “Well,” he said. She should have been able to leave the room. Rennik looked up, and something inside Cade broke apart into music. “I think you should have what you need,” he said. She knew that he was talking about her mother, but— “What I need.” Cade traced the words with her lips. Tested them. She needed what had happened in Hades to happen again. Cade reached for Rennik’s arm, and found more than she’d asked for. He pulled her in with less-than-patient hands, lining her up to him. It felt perfect for a full measure. And then it felt safe. Cade tilted back. Turned her face up to him like sky. Their lips fit together, found their own particular way of matching. Cade’s skin was a shade warmer than his, and her breath came faster. She drove the kiss into crests. The universe started to split into sound, pound its needing strains, pour into her. And then—the notes Cade had been searching for sailed into her head, calling and clear. “I can hear it,” Cade said, slipping out of Rennik’s hands. “I hear her.” He touched her cheek and tried to smile. “The next time we encounter trouble—the smallest potential for trouble—I want us to face it together.” “Deal,” Cade said on her way out the door. She called back, “Don’t spend all day worrying about me. I won’t get hurt.”