Read Morning Star: Book III of the Red Rising Trilogy Online

Authors: Pierce Brown

Tags: #Hard Science Fiction, #Dystopian, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Galactic Empire, #Colonization, #United States, #Science Fiction, #Adventure, #Literature & Fiction

Morning Star: Book III of the Red Rising Trilogy (10 page)

“He needs to know. Tell him,” she says. Narol nods too.

Dancer hesitates still. He looks for a chair. Narol rushes to pull one out for him and set it near the bed. Dancer nods his thanks and then leans over me, making a steeple of his fingers. “Darrow, you’ve gone too long with people hiding things from you. So I want to be very transparent from here forward. Until five days ago, we thought you were dead.”

“I was close enough.”

“No. No, I mean we stopped looking for you nine months ago.”

My mother ’s hand tightens on mine.

“Three months after you were captured, the Golds executed you on the HC for treason. They dragged a boy identical to you out to the steps of the citadel in Agea and read off your crimes.

Pretending you were still a Gold. We tried to free you. But it was a trap. We lost thousands of men.”

His eyes drift over my lips, my hair. “He had your eyes, your scars, your bloodydamn face. And we

had to watch as the Jackal cut off your head and destroyed your obelisk on Mars Field.”

I stare at them, not fully comprehending.

“We grieved for you, child,” Mother says, voice thin. “The whole clan, city. I led the Fading Dirge myself and we buried your boots in the deeptunnels beyond Tinos.”

Narol crosses his arms, trying to seal himself off from the memory. “He was just like you. Same

walk. Same face. Thought I had watched you die again.”

“It was likely a fleshMask or they Carved someone, or digital effects,” Dancer explains. “Doesn’t

matter now. The Jackal killed you as an Aureate. Not as a Red. Would have been foolish for them to reveal your identity. Would have handed us a tool. So instead you died just another Gold who thought he could be king. A warning.”

The Jackal promised he would hurt those I love. And now I see how deeply he has. My mother ’s

façade has broken. All the grief she’s kept inside thickens behind her eyes as she stares down at me.

Guilt straining her face.

“I gave up on you,” she says softly, voice cracking. “I gave up.”

“It’s not your fault,” I say. “You couldn’t have known.”

“Sevro did,” she says.

“He never stopped looking for you,” Dancer explains. “I thought he was mad. He said you weren’t

dead. That he could feel it. That he would know. I even asked him to give up the helm to someone else.

He was too reckless searching for you.”

“But the bastard found you,” Narol says.

“Aye,” Dancer replies. “He did. I was wrong in it. I should have believed in you. Believed in him.”

you find me?”

“Theodora designed an operation.”

“She’s here?”

“Working for us in intelligence. Woman’s got contacts. Some of her informants in a Pearl Club caught word that the Olympic Knights were taking a package from Attica back to Luna for the Sovereign. Sevro believed
were that package, and he put a huge portion of our reserve resources behind this attack, burned two of our deep assets…”

As he speaks, I watch my mother stare distantly at a crackling lightbulb in the ceiling. What is this like for her? For a mother to see her child broken by other men? To see the pain written in scars on his skin, spoken in silences, in far-off looks. How many mothers have prayed to see their sons, their daughters return from war only to realize the war has kept them, the world has poisoned them, and

they’ll never be the same?

For nine months, Mother has grieved for me. Now she’s drowning in guilt for giving up and desperation in hearing the war swallow me again, knowing she’s helpless to stop it. In the past years, I’ve trampled over so many to get what I think I want. If this is my last chance at life, I want to do it right. I need to.

“…But now the real problem isn’t materiel, it’s manpower we need….”

“Dancer…stop,” I say.

“Stop?” He frowns in confusion, glancing at Narol. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong. But I’ll talk with you in the morning about this.”

“The morning? Darrow, the world is shifting under your feet. We’ve lost control over the other Red factions. The Sons will not last the year. I have to give you a debriefing. We need you back….”

“Dancer, I am alive,” I say, thinking of all the questions I want to ask, about the war, my friends, how I was undone, about Mustang. But that can wait. “Do you even know how lucky I am? To be able

to see you all again in this world? I haven’t seen my brother or my sister in years. So tomorrow I’ll listen to your debriefing. Tomorrow the war can have me again. But tonight I belong to my family.”

I hear the children before we reach the door. I feel a guest in someone else’s dream. Unfit for the world of children. But I’ve little say in the matter as Mother pushes my wheelchair forward into a cramped dormitory cluttered with metal bunks, children, the smell of shampoo, and noise. Five of the children of my blood, fresh from the showers by the looks of their hair and the little sandals on the floor, are scrumming on one of the bunks, two taller nine-year-olds holding an alliance against two six-year-olds and a tiny little cherub of a girl who keeps head-butting the biggest boy in the leg. He

hasn’t yet noticed her. The sixth child in the room I remember from when I visited Mother in Lykos.

The little girl who couldn’t sleep. One of Kieran’s. She watches the other children over her glossy book of fables from another bunk and is the first to notice me.

“Pa,” she calls back, eyes wide. “Pa…”

Kieran bursts up from his game of dice with Leanna when he sees me. Leanna’s slower behind him.

“Darrow,” he says, rushing to me and stopping just before my wheelchair. He’s bearded now too. In

his mid-twenties. No slump to his shoulders like there used to be. His eyes radiate a goodness that I used to think made him a little foolish, now it just seems wildly brave. Remembering himself, he waves his children forward. “Reagan, Iro, children. Come meet my little brother. Come meet your uncle.”

The children line up awkwardly around him. A baby laughs from the back of the room and a young

mother rises from her bunk where she was breastfeeding the child. “Eo?” I whisper. The woman’s a

vision of the past. Small, face the shape of a heart. Her hair a thick, tangled mess. The sort that frizzes on humid days, like Eo’s did. But this is not Eo. Her eyes are smaller, her nose elfin. More delicacy here than fire. And this is a woman, not a girl like my wife was. Twenty years old now, by my count.

They all stare at me strangely.

Wondering if I am mad.

Except Dio, Eo’s sister, whose face splits with a smile.

“I’m sorry, Dio,” I say quickly. “You look…just like her.”

She doesn’t allow it to be awkward, hushing my apologies. Saying it’s the kindest thing I could have said. “And who’s that, then?” I ask of the baby she holds. The little girl’s hair is absurd. Rust red and bound together by a hair tie so it sticks straight up on top of her head in a little antenna. She watches me excitedly with her dark red eyes.

“This little thing?” Dio asks, coming closer to my chair. “Oh, this is someone I’ve been wanting to introduce to you since Deanna told us you were alive.” She looks lovingly to my brother. I feel a pang of jealousy. “This is our first. Would you like to hold her?”

“Hold her?” I say. “No…I’m…”

The girl’s pudgy little hands reach for me, and Dio pushes the girl into my lap before I can recoil.

The girl clings to my sweater, grunting as she turns and wriggles around till she’s seated according to her liking on my leg. She claps her hands together and laughs. Completely unaware of what I am. Of why my hands are so scarred. Delighted by the size of them and the Gold Sigils, she grabs my thumb and tries to bite it with her gums.

Her world is alien to the horrors I know. All the child sees is love. Her skin is pale and soft against mine. She’s made of clouds and I of stone. Her eyes large and bright like her mother ’s. Her demeanor and thin lips like Kieran’s. Were this another life, she might have been my child with Eo. My wife would have laughed to think it would be my brother and her sister together in the end and not us. We were a little storm that couldn’t last. But maybe Dio and Kieran will.

Long after the lights have dimmed throughout the complex to ease the burdens on the generators, I sit with my uncle and brother around the table in the back of the room, listening to Kieran tell me his new duties learning from Oranges how to service ripWings and shuttles. Dio went to bed long ago,

but she left me the baby, who now sleeps in my arms, shifting here and there as her dreams take her wherever they may.

“It’s really not that wretched here,” Kieran is saying. “Better than the stacks below. We have food.

Water showers. No more flushes! There’s a lake above us, they say. Bloodydamn dazzling stuff, the showers. Children love it.” He watches his children in the low light. Two to a bed, shifting quietly as they sleep. “What’s hard is not knowing what’ll be for them. Will they ever mine? Work in the webbery? I always thought they would. That I was passing something down, a mission, a craft. You

hear?” I nod. “I guess I wanted my sons to be helldivers. Like you. Like Pa. But…” He shrugs.

“There’s nothin’ to that now that you got eyes,” Uncle Narol says. “It’s a hollow life when you know you’re being stepped on.”

“Aye,” Kieran replies. “Die by thirty, so those folk can live to a hundred. It ain’t bloodydamn right.

I just want my children to have more than this, brother.” He stares at me intensely and I remember how my mother asked me what comes after revolution. What world are we making? It was what Mustang asked. Something Eo never considered. “They have to have more than this. And I love Ares

as much as anyone. I owe him my life. The lives of my children. But…” He shakes his head, wanting

to say more but feeling the weight of Narol’s eyes on him.

“Go on,” I say.

“I don’t know if he knows what comes next. That’s why I’m glad you’re back, little brother. I know you’ve got a plan. I know you can save us.”

He says it with so much faith, so much trust.

“Of course I’ve a plan,” I say, because I know it’s what he needs to hear. But as my brother contentedly refills his mug, my uncle catches my eye and I know he sees through the lie and we both feel the darkness pressing in.

It’s early morning as I sip coffee and eat a bowl of grain cereal my mother fetched me from the commissary. I’m not yet ready for crowds. Kieran and Leanna have already gone to work, so I sit with Dio and Mother as the children dress for school. It’s a good sign. You know a people have given up when they stop teaching their children. I finish my coffee. Mother pours me more.

“You took an entire pot?” I ask.

“The chef insisted. Tried to give me two.”

I sip from the cup. “It’s almost like the real thing.”

“It is the real thing,” Dio says. “There’s this pirate who sends us hijacked goods. Coffee’s from Earth, I think. Jamaca, they said.”

I don’t correct her.

“Oy!” a voice screams in the hallways. My mother jumps at the sound. “Reaper! Reaper! Come out

and play-e-ay!” There’s a crash in the hall and the sound of stomping boots.

“Remember, Deanna told us to knock,”
says a thunderous voice.

“You are so annoying. Fine.” A polite knock comes at the door. “Tidings! It’s Uncle Sevro and the

Moderately Friendly Giant.”

My mother motions to one of my excited nieces. “Ella, do us kind.” Ella darts forward to open the

door for Sevro. He bursts through, scooping her up. She shrieks with joy. He’s in his undersuit, a black sweat-wicking fabric that soldiers wear under pulse armor. Sweat rings stain the armpits. His eyes dance as he sees me, and he tosses Ella roughly onto a bed and charges toward me, arms outstretched. A weird laugh escapes his chest, hatchet face split with a jagged grin. His hair a dirty, sweat-soaked Mohawk.

“Sevro, careful!” my mother says.

“Reap!” He slams into me, spinning my chair sideways, clacking my teeth together, as he half lifts me out of the chair, stronger than he was, smelling of tobacco and engine fuel and sweat. He half laughs, half cries like an excited dog into my chest. “I knew you were alive. I bloodydamn knew it.

Pixie bitches can’t fool me.” Pulling back, he looks down at me with a rickshaw grin. “You bloodydamn bastard.”

“Language!” my mother snaps.

I wince. “My ribs.”

“Oh, shit, sorry brotherman.” He lets me sink back into the chair, and kneels so we’re eye to eye. “I said it once. Now I’ll say it twice. If there’s two things in this world that can’t be killed, it’s the fungus

Other books

The Picasso Scam by Stuart Pawson
Toxic Parents by Susan Forward
No Ordinary Affair by Fiona Wilde, Sullivan Clarke
This Honourable House by Edwina Currie
Dolan's Cadillac by Stephen King
Dark Quest by Richard S. Tuttle, Richard S. Tuttle
A Winter Affair by Minna Howard
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Ride the Rainbow Home by Susan Aylworth
Teleport This by Christopher M. Daniels Copyright 2016 - 2024