Publisher: Covey Publishing, LLC
When Sakota was a child, long before Alistair rescued her from the orphanage in the squalid wasteland of London, the other children liked to play a game called Lights Out. In the main room where she bunked with fifteen other girls, a shaft of light streamed in from the hallway, in the same spot every night, like clockwork. The adult on night duty would check in once an hour and perform a headcount as they slept.
A few nights a week, a handful of the girls awakened and killed the hallway lights so they could scare and torture whomever they didn’t like among them. It was a powerful systematic lesson, however cruel. Sakota grew up knowing her place at the bottom rung of life. She’d never fit into the cookie-cutter type molding the upper-class girls had been bred for. She’d proved early on that she’d fight back with a vengeance when provoked, but she wasn’t certain which was worse; being preyed upon or listening to other girls’ pleas for help as she lay in the pitch-black room. The memory had stayed with her well into adulthood, as well as the countless times she could and should have stepped in to help instead of being crippled by primal fear and self-preservation. Children could be cruel. But the fear she’d experienced then was nothing, nothing, compared to being sucked into a black hole.
The escape pod whirled inside the conduit and pitched them around in a circle. They spun, at the mercy of inexhaustible energy along the black hole’s trajectory. Though she’d experienced raw fear when the Oreck had taken over the Sleipnir science vessel and killed everyone, this was different. Before, she at least had an idea what she was up against. Three razor-sharp talons emerging from claws didn’t lie. Being sucked into the black hole was like being an ant in a cyclone.
Astraeus squeezed her palm reassuringly. She turned and looked at him. They were both strapped in, tight.
Astraeus squeezed her hand. “Don’t be afraid.”
The speed of the escape pod amplified. Ribbons of light streamed past the windows like gossamer silk as the ship darted into unknown darkness. Sakota gritted her teeth. Oh, screw not acting afraid. She was terrified.