Kerra left Dark Lake, a copy of the last book in Rick Riordan’s Slavic mythology novels in hand. She felt a little foolish about how easily she had been persuaded to divulge Shandi’s plan, though she trusted Maru and Drigg not to tell anyone. They would have no reason to, right?
Kerra crossed the pathway that led from Dark Lake’s pillar to Kerra’s pillar. She looked up at the lights of Abyssia spiraling above her for a mile and a half, and beyond that, darkness. Sometimes Kerra wondered what it was like to see the sky. She knew Everen had caught a glance at it as they prepared the rocket for take off. Everen had said that it just looked like a pale green dome, which was a lot different than Kerra imagined it. Based on the descriptions in all the books and poetry she read, Kerra imagined that the sky was always the bluest of blues. Not so anymore apparently.
She sighed and flashed her wrist at the Drowned Goliath’s chip reader. The door slid open to reveal a bustling bar. Zak was busy tending to customers so Kerra quickly walked toward the center staircase. Before she got there, however, her ears pricked up to the sound of her name, almost muffled by the ruckus of the pub’s patrons. She glanced around and saw the Grin waving at her from a table. Kerra realized that Shandi and the rest were there as well. Dread coiled in her stomach.
Shandi had said that she’d bring the whole gang to say their final goodbye before they all went to the surface. This must be the final goodbye then. Kerra motioned them over. Numbers and Shandi took a second to chug down the remainder of their drinks, but soon they were all climbing the stairs and then sitting in Kerra’s living room.
“So… you’re leaving?” Kerra asked.
Scattered nods, and no one met Kerra’s eyes.
“You guys look so sad,” said Kerra. “Why don’t you just stay?”
“We for sure can’t do that,” Angelface said in her wavery voice.
Blast Boy was pacing between the kitchen and the living room, full of a restless energy. “Besides, we do want to go. I think everyone is just sad to say bye to you.”
“You’re good to us, Kerra,” Numbers added. He rubbed at the 8.6663 tattooed on the back of his hand. “We’re going to miss you.”
“And I’ll miss you,” Kerra said, trying not to let her voice shake with unspent tears. “When you find those satellite civilizations, or whatever it is you’re looking for, make sure to say ‘hi’ for me.”
“We will,” the Grin assured her.
Kerra looked at Shandi, who was firmly staring at the wall, her mouth set in a thin line. “Shandi?”
Shandi sighed and leveled her gaze on Kerra. “Me too, I guess. Though we can still talk so it’s whatever.” Her expression shifted slightly. “Do keep in touch though, okay?”
“Aww look,” the Grin jeered, “she does care!”
Shandi scowled. “No, I just need to know about Kerra’s status in case we need her to communicate with the boss or help us get back in somehow.”
“Whoa, wait,” Kerra said. “Who says I’m going to be communicating to your boss for you?”
“Come on, Kerra,” Shandi whined. “Are you telling me that you won’t help both your sisters? You communicate to the feds for Everen! Why can’t you communicate my excellent boss for me? It’s just what’s fair! You’d probably be paid just as much if you did.”
“I’d rather not have dealings with sketchy people like that… present company excluded, of course,” she added hastily. “You guys aren’t sketchy in my book.”
“Thanks,” Shandi said dryly. “But I’d only need you to do that in an emergency. We have other means to contact our boss. But should those fail, could we count on you? Would you deal with ‘sketchy people’ to save your sister?” Shandi widened her eyes and poked her lower lip out, a mock beggar.
Kerra groaned. “I really, really want to say that I would absolutely never stoop so low to save a sister who was asking for something bad to happen, but you know as well as me that I would.”
Shandi grinned. “That’s the loyal pushover that I know and love! Let’s bring it in.” She motioned for everyone to form a big group hug around Kerra.
Everyone gathered around, and Kerra flinched, but rather than squeezing Kerra tightly—and hurting her immensely—they hovered barely an inch away from her blue glowing skin. Kerra felt all of the love, but none of the pain of getting a massive hug from some of her best friends. She smiled.
Then, the hug disbanded, and Shandi clapped her hands. “Alright, chop chop! We’ve got a little more work to do before we head out tomorrow! I know we all love Kerra, but she’s got her own life too!”
Blast Boy was already at the door. They waved excitedly at Kerra and slipped out. No Name was close behind, giving Kerra a more half-hearted wave and a doleful look that told Kerra just how reluctant they were to leave.
“Good luck to you,” said the Grin, tipping his hat. While the one side of his mouth was smiling, of course, the other side matched his eyes, looking deeply troubled. But he turned without saying another word and left.
Numbers and Angelface lingered for a moment. “You were always the best of us, Kerra,” Numbers said at last, and they left together. It was just Shandi and Kerra left standing in the living room.
“I told mom. She was really upset that you were leaving. Are you sure you don’t want to-”
“Yes,” Shandi said coldly. “I’m sure.” She walked to the door, but when she reached it, she paused and turned back. Her expression had shifted again, becoming more thoughtful. “Though, I suppose I am grateful that you told her. Maybe it was the right thing to do. So, thanks, I guess.”
“Any time,” Kerra murmured.
With that, Shandi was gone.