“You stay put, Eddy, you understand? No matter what you might hear, you stay hidden in this spot until we return. Do you hear me, Eddy?”
I nodded at my father’s command, still groggy from sleep. I had been roused in the middle of the night to watch the lab while my father and the Holloway men went on a material run. Despite my best efforts I drifted off again into a deep slumber. Around half past midnight I heard the first gun shot.
I jumped to my feet with my hand on my tiny dagger, listening hard, trying to discern whether it had been my imagination or not. I heard two more gunshots and a few shouts before I could finally will my body into action. Barreling through the lab door, I ran full speed in the direction the shots had come from. I was running so fast, I nearly tripped over the lifeless body sprawled across the alleyway.
Breathless with terror I turned the body on its back and nearly screamed as recognition hit me. “Daddy, no! What have they done to you?”
A ragged groan escaped his lips, and I pushed the blood-soaked hair out of his eyes. This couldn’t be my dad laying here on the brink of death; it had to be some sort of mistake.
“Eddy, please wake up.”
My eyes snapped open. I had been dreaming. Always the same nightmare of the night my father died, never anything else. As my eyes focused, I noticed Jacer standing beside my bed holding an opulent dress befitting of my status—not that it mattered much. I wondered briefly where the captain had obtained it.
“I told Jericho you’d probably be more comfortable wearing an outfit like mine, but he insisted on the dress,” said Jacer, eyebrows furrowed with worry.
I yawned loudly and stretched my limbs, conscious of the rumpled mess my own clothing had become after sleeping in them. “Captain Jericho’s ship, Captain Jericho’s rules; he’s protecting Aster. Seeing as I’m the older female, and she wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for me, I can’t leave her to be the only female on this ship and suffer the uncouth behavior of the crew alone.”
“He made sure Aster’s dress was just as beautiful,” he said, smiling.
“You’re very observant; I was really hoping that he would do her that courtesy. I gave Aster a place in my home when she lost hers, but no matter what I give her in society’s eyes she’ll always be below me. At least here on this ship, and wherever we go from here she can be my equal—which is what she deserves.”
Jacer nodded and spread the dress out atop the armoire next to the door. “I don’t quite understand the way your society functions, but I like the way you function as an individual.”
I laughed at his choice of words. Our little AI unit had become something else altogether, I just wasn’t sure yet what it was. “Hold on, Jacer. Before you go to breakfast I want to show you something.” I walked over to him and pulled out the heavy locket that I always wore around my neck. I clicked it open and watched his eyes light up when he recognized one of the little figures inside.
“This one, he looks just like me,” Jacer said in wonder, running his finger over the glossy black and white photo of Jace Meadowes. “Why does he look like me?”
“Aster and I will have to explain it to you once we have some extended time alone, away from the prying ears of the strangers aboard this ship. The simple of it is that this man is your father and mine. His name is Jace, and that’s where your name comes from. The woman in the next photo is Elizabeth, our mother.”
He looked at me for a long time, then at the picture again. Since the first time he opened them I’ve never seen his eyes so open, the emotions flickering back and forth so quickly I thought he would shut down.
“How about you hold onto it for a little while?” I said, placing the fine silver chain around his neck. He never looked up from the locket as he made his way out of the room.
Once strapped into the big, beautiful dress I made my way through the main dining room. I kept my eyes focused on the captain’s table where my party was seated, but I could still hear the growls and the catcalls coming from the crewmen as I passed. I locked eyes with Aster, who was grinning ear to ear, done up in finery she’d never be allowed near back home.
Captain Jericho stood when I reached the table and pulled out a chair from me. “I never would have pegged you for a gentleman,” I joked.
“Keep your voice down, I don’t want the crew thinking I’ve gone soft,” he said, winking. “Now once we’ve all got a bit of food in our bellies we can talk more about where you all are headed.”
“Actually, I wanted to ask you a question, Jericho,” I said, interrupting the big bite of eggs he was about to take. “Have you heard of a place called Fyre?”
Jericho looked at me with the oddest expression on his face, before clearing his throat. “I have. How has a lady of such esteem as you heard of this place?”
I squirmed uncomfortably as they all turned to look at me. “I read about it in my father’s journal once I cracked his code. It was circled in red ink on a few of the pages leading up to his death. I thought for a while that it was a name, but the last entry said ‘going to Fyre’ so I thought…maybe it’s a place…”
Aster reached over the table and grabbed my hand. “What are you saying, Eddy?”
“I’m saying, I think that’s where our men went the night we lost them.”