The white planet looked perfect from far away.
Everyone should have been there when it slid and locked into view, but Cade was alone, so no one saw her in front of the starglass, hands capped to her chest. No one was there to hear the words that flooded out, the rich and steady river of curses.
“Snug. Snug, snug, snug it all.”
Cade stood at the center of the control room, not moving, but it reached out of her like rays—the need to get to the surface. To land on this cloud-breathing planet. Down there, somewhere, she had a mother.
Cade started to dance.
Hands first, shoulders, feet.
A few months ago, she never would have let this happen. It was a hard line she’d drawn in the imaginary sand a long time ago: No dancing. The music she’d pounded on her guitar had been for listening purposes. If other people dressed themselves in her rhythms, brushed and slid her notes against their skin, that was their choice.
But Cade’s hips were breaking the old rules. Going rogue. Nudging air.
She danced to the song in her head, a song no one else could hear. It was ready whenever Cade reached for it, stitched out of the thoughts of the people around her. It wove brightly into her brain. Overwhelmed her, as much as the first time she’d felt it. But Cade had come back from the brink of death for that song, and she wouldn’t stop listening until all of the humans scattered through space came back together, the way they were meant to be heard.
Starting with her mother. One slim thread of the song was formed out of notes Cade knew, captured in old footage of her mother and watched by Cade, every day for months. It hadn’t been easy to pick her mother’s notes out of the song and follow them across wide, dark bolts of universe.
But now they blared back at Cade from a white-clouded planet.
She bent and molded a hand to the floor. “This is the place, Renna,” Cade said. “Res Minor.”
The name of the planet splashed against the song in her head. She liked the way they sounded together.
“What do you think?”
The ship had nothing to offer, not after so many days and weeks of flying at top speed—toward Cade’s mother, away from the Unmakers. Renna had done her best. Now the floor under Cade’s feet rolled slow.
“Sorry.” Cade patted Renna back into a resting state.
Cade picked herself up and pulled out charts, trying to set a course. But she kept checking the view of Res Minor in the starglass, and then the door, until she was turning in circles, waiting for someone else to get caught in her centrifuge of happy swears and dancing and almost-almost-there.
Cade had been in good company ever since she was peeled back from the edge of the black hole. There had been Renna to answer her moods with a fitting rumble, Ayumi to listen to her guitar with amber-wide eyes, Lee to poke into the bedroom three times a day with a questionable meal on a tray.
Cade had gotten used to having someone. But now there was no one, and now it was time.
She ran out of the control room, down the chute. The feeling in her wouldn’t go quiet, and she needed a crew member to share it with. Lee and Ayumi were running Human Express deliveries, and Rennik had been avoiding her, and that left—
Cade almost clipped the point of Gori’s elbow as she rounded a turn in the chute. In Gori’s normal state, he could tuck into one of the small bunks set in the wall of the ship, with room to spare. But in a slight rapture state, with his gray skin swelled and stretching, he overflowed the bounds of the bed and got squarely in Cade’s way. She knew he was tuned in to the movement of dark energy through the universe, but the puffed mass of his cheeks made him look like one big allergic reaction.
Cade reached for his shoulder, but the feeling inside her amplified things. She tried for a gentle tap and landed a supercharged punch.
“Wake up!” Cade said.
She had already punched him. She might as well commit.
Gori stared up and shrank back into himself, the blank of his eyes swapped out for a harsh, measuring stare.
“I have no use for sleep,” he said.
Cade guessed he had even less use for dancing.
“I saw Res Minor,” she said. “And heard it. It’s the place we’ve been searching for.”
Gori gathered his gray robes around his shriveled gray toes.
“We have to go,” Cade said. When Gori made no move bigger than a robe-swirl, she added, “Now!”
“Now is an invention,” Gori said. “All time is one time.”
This was one of the Darkrider’s favorite mottoes. But Cade was in no mood for mottoes and robe-swirls. When she came back from the black hole and found that her old, pinched ways wouldn’t do, she had changed. Pried herself open. Gori could snugging well do the same.
She sat with him on the bunk. Closer than he liked—she could tell by the increased rate of his blinking.
“Did you have a mother?” Cade asked. “On your planet? When you were a . . .” “Baby” couldn’t be the right word. Not for him. “A little pile of robes?”
Gori narrowed his eyes, and his face compacted into new wrinkle-patterns. “No.”
“Well, then maybe you wouldn’t understand.”
Cade chose not to add that her own understanding of the mother concept was limited. For most of her life she’d thought her mother was dead, or run off, or that she’d never existed. Then came the revelation that her mother was a spacesick who, again, might be dead, and now her mother was a song.
How could Cade explain all of that? This was one of the worst parts of openness. It came with the burden of words, so many words, all of which had to be found and flattened into the right shape.
Cade closed her eyes.
“There’s a pull in having a mother,” she said. “A complicated pull. It knots you. In a good way.”
Cade shook her head. She could name the loud feeling now—happiness—but only because it was leaving her. It scrubbed against frustration as it went.
“You wouldn’t understand,” Cade said again.
“I had no mother,” Gori said. “But I did not spend all of this life in absence.”
Cade chanced a look at his loose, non-raptured skin, the inward curl of his shoulders. Gori was a Darkrider—more connected to the infinite, snarled workings of the universe than she could imagine. He was also the most alone creature Cade had ever met. Gori had lost a planet. Cade had lost one boy, but s...