Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky, #3)(7)

As they settled around the table, Aria didn’t miss the dark look Reef cast her way. He expected Soren to disrupt the meeting. She wasn’t going to let that happen.

She sat next to Roar, which felt both right and not, but Perry already had Reef and Marron at his sides. Roar slouched in his chair and took a long pull from a bottle of Luster. The action struck her as angry and determined. She wanted to lift the bottle from his hands, but he’d had enough taken away from him.

“Hess and Sable have almost every advantage, as you all know,” Perry said. “Time is against us too. We have to move on them quickly. Tomorrow morning, I’ll lead a team to their camp with the aim of rescuing Cinder, securing Hovers, and getting the exact heading for the Still Blue. In order to plan the mission, I need information. I need to know what you saw,” he said to Roar, “and what you know,” he said to Soren.

As he spoke, the Blood Lord chain winked at his neck and candlelight glinted on his hair, which was pulled back but coming loose in pieces. A dark shirt stretched across his shoulders and arms, but Aria could easily recall the Markings it concealed.

The rough-edged hunter with the fierce glare she’d met half a year ago was almost gone. He was confident now, steadier. Still fearsome, but controlled. He was everything she’d expected him to become.

His green eyes flicked to her, holding for an instant like he knew her thoughts, before moving to Roar beside her.

“Whenever you’re ready, Roar,” he said.

Roar answered without bothering to sit up or project his voice. “Hess and Sable joined up. They’re on the plateau between Lone Pine and the Snake River, right out in the open. It’s a big camp. More like a small city.”

“Why there?” Perry asked. “Why gather forces inland if the Still Blue is across the sea? What are they waiting for?”

“If I knew any of those things,” Roar said, “I’d have said so.”

Aria’s head snapped to him. On the surface his appearance verged on boredom, but his eyes held a predatory focus that hadn’t been there moments ago. He gripped the bottle of Luster tightly, the lean muscles in his forearms taut.

She looked around the table, picking up other signs of tension. Reef sat forward, his gaze boring into Roar. Marron darted a nervous glance at the entrance, where Gren and Twig stood, looking very much like guards. Even Soren had picked up on something. He looked from Perry to Roar, like he was trying to figure out what everyone knew that he didn’t.

“Anything else you do know that you’d like to share?” Perry said calmly, like he’d missed Roar’s biting comment completely.

“I saw the fleet of Hovers,” Roar answered. “I counted a dozen like the one outside on the bluff and other kinds of smaller craft too. They’re lined up on the plateau outside this segmented thing that’s coiled up like a snake. It’s massive . . . each unit is more a building than a craft.”

Soren snorted. “The segmented, coily thing is called a Komodo X12.”

Roar’s dark eyes slid to him. “That’s helpful, Dweller. I think that cleared it up for all of us.”

Aria looked from Soren to Roar, dread moving like ice through her veins.

“You want to know what the Komodo is?” Soren said. “I’ll tell you. Better yet, how about you take these rugs down and I’ll draw some stick figures on the cave wall for you? Then we could have a séance or a sacrifice or something.” Soren looked at Perry. “Maybe you could supply some drums and half-naked women?”

Aria had some experience handling Soren, and was prepared. She turned from Perry to Marron. “Would drawings help?” she asked, fighting Soren’s sarcasm with directness.

Marron leaned forward. “Oh yes. They’d help immensely. Any specifications you can provide with respect to the Hovers’ speed, range, cargo capacity, weaponry. Onboard supplies . . . truly, Soren, anything would be very useful. We’d know which craft we need. We could prepare better. Yes, drawings and any other information you can recall. Thank you.”

Perry turned to Gren. “Bring paper, a ruler, pens.”

Soren looked from Marron to Perry to Aria, his mouth gaping. “I’m not drawing anything. I was joking.”

“You think our situation is a joke?” she said.

“What? No. But I’m not helping these Savag—these people.”

“They’ve been taking care of you for days. Do you think you’d be alive if weren’t for these people?”

Soren looked around the table like he wanted to argue, but said nothing.

“You’re the only one who knows the Hovers,” Aria continued. “You’re the expert. You should also tell us everything you know about your father’s plans with Sable. Every one of us needs to know as much as possible.”

Soren scowled. “You’re kidding me.”

“Didn’t we just agree this wasn’t a laughing matter?”

“Why should I trust them?” Soren asked, as if there were no Outsiders there.

“How about because you don’t have a choice?”

Soren’s furious gaze went to Perry, who was actually watching her, his lips pressed together like he was fighting a smile.

“Fine,” Soren said. “I’ll tell you what I know. I intercepted one of the comms between my father and Sable before Reverie . . . fell.”

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