A world frozen for two-hundred years now on the verge of dying. A centuries-old plan to deliver Earth from extinction. Will the deep space maneuver actually save the planet? Or will it finish off what remains of mankind?
Odessa, a nineteen-year old MEDcadet, witnesses the murder of her anatomy professor, and finds herself in fear for her life. Fighting recurring panic attacks while sailing from her home on Rhone—the fortified ark created by Cerebus—across the Eastern Sea to Earthland, Odessa manages to keep what she’s seen to herself. To her horror, however, when the vessel docks, she and her podmates are arrested by the very security force who committed the crime.
Reynal Krolik, an eighteen-year old trading post sled driver on Earthland, longs for Clearsky though he’s never known anything but the gray shroud that darkens the atmosphere. After he and his fellow messengers foil an assassin’s attempt to kill Odessa and her companions, he whisks them away, only to discover he and she are tangled up on opposite sides of the same secret mission to slam an asteroid into Earth—one for which Rey will be the asteroid driver.
Rey and Odessa—along with their friends and a dangerous outlaw—race against time to escape Earthland, but can they evade Cerebus’ flagship war zeppelin in order for Rey to complete the task for which he was destined? A destiny Odessa was taught to deny and will fight to prevent?
The snowfield was crunchy and wet; Rey plunged through the crust more than once as he ran. Ice trapped his boots, creating the very real threat of a broken ankle if he moved too quickly to pull himself free. Still, he was making way better time than Darj as they scrambled up to the top of the ridge.
Help me! Please!
He couldn’t get the girl’s face out of his mind. The desperate look in her eyes that seemed so big and bright—and frightened. He’d been too far away to tell much about her, and the bars over the broken windows made it hard to see clearly, but he doubted she was any older than he was.
Which had him feeling her fear. Like a blade cutting deep.
His mind raced with questions. Were the girls Earthlanders? No, that didn’t make sense. If they were Earthlanders and had done something illegal at the port, they’d have an Earthland escort, not be accompanied by some bully in Cerebus gear. But then… why would Cerebus lock up their own people? And what did it mean that the trailer was lagging so far behind?
He shook the tightness from his gut and, reaching the downslope, paused on a patch of firm ice. To the left, the ridge rose another hundred meters. To the right, it fell into the lower part of the pass, which was littered with boulders that peeked out from masses of ice. Beyond lay the City, sixteen kilometers distant, snugged up to the same ridge and hidden from sight.
He could see the plain that served as the giant farm for both Earthland and Cerebus. That view stretched to the northeast horizon, nearly forty-five kilometers away. Behind him lay the steep valley path Cerebus’s half-year procession had traveled from the port. The same path he and Teach would most likely be taking in a few hours’ time.
Ice crunching beneath Darj’s boots broke into Rey’s musings. He started walking again, making his way along the shoulder of the ridge and shifting his pack off his back without breaking stride. Flipping open the top, he dug inside, passing Darj a length of rope. “Here. It’s going to get kind of steep in a minute. We’ll have to do the descent together. Tie in.”
“Why’d we come this route?” Darj pointed to his right. “Seems that would’ve been a shorter trek, and not so freakin’ high.”
Rey shook his head. For a gearhead, Darj could be a whiner. “I tried that path once. You can’t really see all of it from the tunnel entrance. There’s nothing but blocky ice and deep crevasses where you’re pointing. Neither one of us has the right footwear for that. That shortcut would’ve tripled our crossing time.”
The downhill slope quickly got steeper. Massive furrows of ice came into view, the edges jaggedly creased. Cracks perpendicular to their path began occurring more frequently, making for some long, iffy leaps across. A path between two gray ice slabs appeared, forcing Rey into a decision: climb up or clamber down.
The trail between the walls soon narrowed, taking a sharp corner around another giant block neither of them could see beyond. “It’s about to get pretty extreme,” Rey said, and pointed to the slab. “Take the lead. I’ll be right behind.”
“Whatever you say.” Darj walked ahead and vanished around the corner. “On the ice, you’re the boss—Oof!”
The line snapped taught, nearly pulling Rey off his feet. He grabbed hold, slipping twice and digging in his heels before bracing himself and stopping. The line grew slack, and he held his breath the few seconds it took Darj’s voice to reach him.
“You might want to watch that first step!”