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Evershore: Epilogue

I left Cobb with the medtechs and stumbled up the road toward the city. I found Cuna standing outside the senate building. It appeared to be filled with kitsen, all packed in together. Goro hovered by Cuna’s shoulder, still in his ceremonial armor.

“How did the evacuation go?” I asked.

“Very well,” Cuna said. “We opened the buildings in the upper city so that the kitsen in the lower areas had somewhere to take shelter. I believe most of them made it out.”

“Thank you for your help,” I said.

“I’m glad I could be of service,” Cuna said. “And that we could save the people here.” They looked back into the senate chamber, packed with so many kitsen I could hardly tell one from another.

Cuna cared about these people, I realized. They spoke like they thought themself superior, but they were trying to save lives. I could work with that.

“I’m sorry about the flooding,” I said to Goro.

Goro looked out at the city somberly, and I expected him to announce that we were enemies once again, for all the destruction we’d brought in our wake. “Tell me, human,” he said. “Now that you have fought on our shores and won, do you consider us your conquest?”

“No,” I said. “But I’m hoping we can call you our allies.”

Goro narrowed his eyes at me. “Cuna says you’ve brought back our shadow-walkers, who we thought lost forever. You command the tides themselves, moving celestial bodies in the firmament. But you don’t mean to rule us?”

“If I commanded the tides,” I said, pointing toward the lower city, “I wouldn’t have told them to do that. We humans have enough trouble ruling over ourselves. We only want an alliance, I swear to you. No one is going to invade.”

Goro snorted. “Fair enough, human. It’s not my decision, but I will speak for you if you need my support.”

“Thank you,” I said. Though at this moment, what I needed most was to get away. I excused myself and strode down the road, past the crowds of kitsen who were leaving the buildings of the upper city to survey the damage.

I found FM at the end of the road, where the water now flooded the lower levels of the city. Ships hovered over it, pilots lifting their canopies, looking up at the platforms surrounding the planet. Some of the platforms disappeared and reappeared again in different positions—Rig was obviously still working out their optimal spacing for generating the shield.

Stars, the things we’d accomplished, and yet there was still so much work to do. We had to seize on this—the way we’d worked together, the potential we had as a group. Someone was going to have to keep that momentum going…and scud, that was me.

Do better than we did.

I was…excited to get started.

“How did it go?” FM asked.

“Cobb made me vice admiral,” I said. “And then he stepped down and put me officially in charge.”

Her mouth fell open. “What?”

“You heard me.”

“Jorgen,” she said, “that’s wonderful.”

“Is it?”

Yes! I mean—” She shook her head. “You’ll be so great at it.”

FM knew my weaknesses as a leader as well as anyone, so her confidence meant something.

“Scud,” she said, “that means you won’t be our flightleader anymore.” She sounded sad, which was also significant.

“Yeah,” I said. “That’s right.”

I looked up at the sky. The clouds had thinned, and stars peeked through the blackness, so clear it felt like we were out in space.

“You could take over the flight, you know,” I said. “You’d be good at it.”

“I don’t want it,” FM said. “I’ve never wanted to be in charge.”

“I know,” I said. “I think I’m going to leave it to Arturo.”

“You should. He’ll do a good job.”

“He will.” FM would too, but I understood why she didn’t want it. Besides, I needed her somewhere else. “How would you feel about leaving the flight?”

FM looked at me. “What?”

“You were right,” I said. “We don’t have diplomats, and we need them. The assembly is a mess, but we do need to work with them. The DDF needs a diplomatic program to work with our own scudding people in addition to our allies. We’ve got to get everyone on the same page, and we can’t do it by ordering them there. I’m going to need someone in charge who cares about more than the chain of command.”

You care about more than that,” FM said.

“I do,” I said. “And that’s why I want to put you in charge of our diplomatic program. We need your empathy. I need you to help me figure out how to handle all of this—the politics, and the foreign relationships. You’re so good at seeing through the rules and the orders and the scudding red tape and getting right at what needs to be done for the people involved. I know you don’t want to be in command. But there’s nobody better to be in charge of this.”

I took a deep breath. I could order her to do it. I had the authority now, but I didn’t want to do that to FM. She was my friend. She’d already gone above and beyond for our people. She didn’t have to take this on if she didn’t want it. “It’s your choice though. I understand if you want to stay with the flight.”

FM stared up at the sky, the stars reflecting in her eyes. “I’ll do it.”


She nodded. “I hate the idea of the flight going out without me. I hate that I won’t be there to protect them.”

“You’d be protecting them in a different way,” I said.

“I know. And that’s why I’ll do it. I never wanted to fight, you know. I only wanted to do what was best for the people who don’t have a voice. The people the DDF ignores.”

I nodded. “And I don’t want to get so caught up in the military structure that I forget why we’re doing this. I need your help.”

FM nodded. “You’re going to regret having said that when I start disagreeing with you.”

I laughed. “Probably. But that’s what I need you for.”

“I’ll be sure to remind you of that often.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything less.”

FM continued to stare at the sky with a troubled expression.

“Are you sure this is what you want?” I asked. “If you need to think about it—”

“I’m sure,” FM said. “I feel relieved, and I hate myself for it.”

“I don’t think you need to.”

She looked sideways at me. “Does that ever stop you?”

Um. “No. But if it makes you feel better, flying is probably a whole lot easier than getting people to communicate with each other.”

“Probably,” FM said. “And it’s not like our lives won’t still be in danger. But it’s not the same.”

“No,” I said. “It isn’t.” I’d already made calls that put my friends in danger. I was going to have to do it again and again and again. I wasn’t sure how to feel good about that.

Maybe I never would.

Maybe that was because I shouldn’t.

“I’m going to go tell Rig,” FM said.

I wondered if she was agreeing to leave the flight because of him, but I didn’t ask. I wouldn’t judge her for it if she did.

FM looked at me. “If you need to talk more—”

“We’ll do that later,” I said. “You can go.”

I did need to talk more, I realized. I couldn’t do this alone, so it was a good thing I didn’t have to. Right now though…

I wished I could talk to Spensa. I missed her so much I ached. I wanted to know what she thought of all this.

She would believe in me. I was sure of that much. She always believed in me, even when I drove her crazy. The same way I believed in her, even though I hated how far away she was, hated that I didn’t know if she’d make it home.

I reached out, searching for her, and I found that presence again. Doomslug. She was worried about Spensa. I could feel it. So was I.

I’d done some impossible things tonight, things I couldn’t explain. I usually thought of Spensa as the one who pulled off impossible tasks, but apparently she wasn’t the only one.

I wasn’t going to give up on her. I’d keep learning, I’d keep trying, and I’d find a way to help her if I could.

But if not, I would at least make sure she had a home to come back to.


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