Stop 9 of 13
Ruzalia left the window and spoke into the narrow voice tube to one of her crew below. ‘Cut the engine and employ the draculins.’
For long moments the ship dipped and bobbed with the change in speed. Then slowly they regained stability. Naif heard the whip of long wings slicing through the air. The draculins were towing them.
‘The gantry awaits,’ announced Ruzalia. She led them all down the narrow steps to the under-cabin of the ship. From there they would be lowered to the ground.
Markes hung back as the others descended, his hand on Naif ’s sleeve.
‘I’m not sure when I will start to weaken.’
Naif wanted to hug him and say that she’d do anything to find a way to reverse or remove the badge. But she lacked courage to do either with the others nearby. She settled for squeezing his arm. ‘My badge was revoked. Yours can be too.’
‘But if something happens to me . . . Please, will you see that Emilia and Jarrold are safe?’
‘Jarrold will take care of his sister,’ said Naif carefully.
‘I know,’ said Markes, a scant smile touching his lips. ‘But who will take care of Jarrold? I just want to know that you won’t abandon them. Please, Naif.’
‘What if they abandon me?’ Naif answered. ‘There is no way of knowing how any of our futures will play out.’
Markes took her hand from his sleeve and pressed it to his mouth.
The warmth of his breath eased her dread.
He leaned in closer. ‘I haven’t had a chance to explain to you about Emilia. Naif, I feel for you. As I do for her. But differently –’
Naif ’s heart skittered at the untimely declaration. Her stomach curled on itself. ‘You don’t need to –’
Ruzalia’s stern tones cut across her reply. ‘Naif! Markes! Attend us! We must lower the gantry now.’
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