Stars Above

Page 2

It was only the fourth day since her arrival and she was in the central square of the city, dancing around an enormous sundial with a strikingly handsome man, when she stepped too close to the edge and tumbled off. She cried out in pain, knowing instantly that her ankle was sprained. Her dancing partner called for a magnetic levitating contraption—similar to a gurney—and took her to the nearest med-clinic.

That was where she met Logan.

He was a doctor, a few years older than she was, and Michelle had known instantly that he was different from the other Lunars she’d met. He was more serious. His eyes more thoughtful. But more than that, he was … imperfect. She studied him while he studied her ankle. Average build. Light brown, untidy hair. There was a mole on his cheek and his mouth drooped on one side, even when he smiled. He was still good-looking, at least by Earthen standards, but on Luna …

Only when it occurred to her that he was not using a glamour did she realize that everyone else she’d met had been.

He offered to let her rest in a suspension tank, but she shook her head.

“It will heal quicker,” he said, confused by her refusal.

“I don’t like being confined to small spaces,” she replied.

“Then you must hate being trapped under the biodome here.” He didn’t press her as he began to wrap her ankle the old-fashioned way. For years to come, when she thought of Logan, she would remember his gentle hands and how deftly they had worked.

“It’s so beautiful here,” she said. “I hardly feel trapped at all.”

“Oh, yes. It’s a very pretty prison we’ve built.”

It was the first unpleasant comment she’d heard about Luna from a Lunar.

“You think of your home as a prison?”

His gaze flickered up, clashing with hers. He was silent for a long, long time. Instead of answering her question, he finally asked in a hushed whisper, “Is it true that the sky on Earth is the color of a blue jay’s wings?”

After that day, Michelle no longer had eyes for the aristocrats and their flashy clothes (especially once Logan told her that the man she’d been dancing with on the sundial was in fact old enough to be her grandfather). She and Logan spent every possible moment together during her stay on Luna. They both knew it was a temporary affair. There was a ticking clock for when she would return to Earth, and she never entertained hope that he might be able to return with her. The rules against Lunar emigration were strict—Luna didn’t like its citizens leaving, and Earth didn’t want them coming.

Perhaps their romance was more intense for its brevity. They talked about everything—politics and peace and Earth and Luna and constellations and history and mythology and childhood rhymes. He told her horrifying rumors about how the Lunar crown treated the impoverished citizens of the outer sectors, forever ruining the glittering allure that Artemisia had first cast over her. She told him about her dream to someday retire from the military and buy a small farm. He showed her the best place in the city to see the Milky Way, and there was a meteor shower on the night they first made love.

When it was time for her to leave, there were no parting gifts. No tears and no good-byes. He had kissed her one last time and she had boarded the ship to return to Earth and that was the last she had ever seen of Dr. Logan Tanner.

When she’d discovered her pregnancy nearly two months later, it had not even occurred to her to try and find a way to inform him of his child. She was sure that it would not have mattered anyway.

* * *

“We were told of her death months ago,” Michelle said, pressing her palm flat against the glass lid of the suspended animation tank that had been hidden beneath a pile of old horse blankets in the back of a rented hover. She was trying to keep from heaving. She was not easily disturbed, but never had she been so close to something so sad and horrific. Judging from the size of the body, the child was only three or four years old. She looked more like a corpse—disfigured and covered in burn marks. It was unbelievable that she was alive at all. “There have been rumors … conspiracy theorists have speculated that she may have survived and Levana is trying to cover it up. But I didn’t believe them.”

“Good,” said Logan. “We want people to believe she’s dead, especially the queen. It’s the only way she’ll be safe.”

“Princess Selene,” Michelle whispered. It didn’t seem real. None of this seemed real.

Logan was on Earth. Princess Selene was alive. He’d brought her here.

“A fire did this?”

“Yes. It happened in the nursery. Levana claims it was an accident, but … I believe it was planned. I believe Levana wanted her dead so she could have the throne for herself.”

Michelle shook her head in disgust. “Are you sure?”

His dark eyes stared at the form of the princess encapsulated beneath the glass. “Matches and candles are rare on Luna. Under the domes, any sort of air pollution is a concern we take seriously. I don’t see how or why a nanny would have had one, or why she would have had it lit in the middle of the day, in a child’s playhouse.” He sighed and met Michelle’s eyes. “Also, there was a peer of mine. Dr. Eliot. She was the first doctor to examine the princess, and the one to proclaim her as dead and have her body removed from the palace. Her quick thinking saved the princess’s life.” His gaze slipped. “Two weeks ago, she was accused of being a traitor to the crown, though details of her crime were never released. I believe she was tortured for information and then killed. That’s when I knew I had to run. That Selene and I had to run.”

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