Skyla had almost forgotten what it was like to be around Junior Ladies.
“There was like, this big flash of light, and then I couldn’t see anything! I thought I went blind! Can you imagine, your highness, if you were never allowed to read the Lady’s Charter ever again? Or see anything at all. Like the view of Earth from the observation deck. That’s one of the most beautiful sights ever,” Lady Kristen babbled. Beads of sweat trickled down her forehead. “We’re not in trouble are we? It was entirely my fault. It really was. I’m really sorry, I made up a rule that convinced the nurse to let us see Lady Harmony. I know it’s wrong, your highness, but I really, really don’t want to be sent back to Earth! Please, don’t send me back there. I promise I’ll only quote real rules from the Charter from now on!”
Massaging her temples, trying to stay awake, Skyla’s mind felt like it had been covered by a heavy fog. They were no further ahead than they were an hour ago. Lady Kristen, while eager to help once she and her friend Lady Méline calmed down, only gave them more confusing information. Lady Harmony had apparently opened her eyes and touched Lady Dominique’s arm, and then Lady Dominique immediately fell unconscious. The security feed would have to verify their story, but this combined with the strange seizure and the mysterious mineral in the First Lady’s bloodstream and brain, Skyla wouldn’t be surprised if Lady Kristen’s account was accurate.
The two Juniors sat on the other side of a sealed glass panel in what had been converted into an interrogation room. The entire medical bay had been quarantined, at least until the blood tests from the two Ladies’ returned from the lab, so they were stuck in the bay for the moment. Skyla and Darian sat on the supposedly uncontaminated half of the room, communicating through a primitive radio system Darian had set up before the glass panel was installed. Darian thumbed a button on his radio to speak.
“My Lady, all transports have been suspended as part of the Dome-wide basic quarantine,” Darian explained, drumming his fingers on the brass table before them. “No one will be leaving the Dome until Lady Harmony’s condition is more certain.”
“I ‘ave family visiting next week,” Lady Méline said, leaning to share the radio that Lady Kristen gripped fervently.
“I’m afraid all leisure visits will be cancelled,” Darian said. He looked up at Skyla, who stood near the entrance, and removed his thumb from the talk button. “Anything else you wanted to ask them?”
Skyla picked absently at the band-aid on her arm and shook her head. “I just want to know the results from the blood tests.” The nurses had taken samples from them, too, and everyone else in the medical bay.
He gave her an encouraging half-smile. “Me too, your highness. I can finish up here, if you’d like to take a moment.”
“Yes, thank you, Captain.”
She felt a wave of gratitude as she turned to leave. Then again, it could’ve been exhaustion. She shut the door promptly behind her and leaned against the corridor wall, shutting her eyes and taking in the silence. Ambassador Conrod was probably looking for her. Dropping his call was probably a mistake, and every choice she’d made in the last twenty-four hours weighed heavily on her shoulders.
Stepping down and walking away from her crown duties would be easy. Then maybe…maybe…
Even thinking about him in that way felt like a stab wound through the heart. Through Sebastian’s heart. As if she’d killed him herself.
But as queen she wouldn’t dare risk jeopardizing her relationship with Darian. No matter how soft his eyes were when he gazed at her when he thought she wasn’t looking, no matter how he had held her when she had fallen, no matter–
Skyla opened her eyes. A timid orderly—fortunately not one dressed in a containment suit—was staring up at her cautiously.
“I’m sorry if I woke you, your majesty.”
“No, it’s…it’s fine.” Her tongue felt heavy. How much time had passed? The door to the makeshift interrogation room was still closed. Was Darian still in there?
“There’s something you should see,” the orderly said.
Skyla followed her back into the observation room for Lady Harmony and Lady Dominique. This couldn’t be good. Behind the thick glass and invisible containment fields, the two ladies lay side by side, unmoving. Their chests rose in tandem as they breathed deeply. In…out. In…out.
“What’s the matter?” Skyla asked.
The orderly leaned over the computer controls. She tapped a few keys before a black-and-white security monitor, and the camera feed shifted. A top-down view of the ladies was presented on the screen and when she saw what was wrong, Skyla’s eyes widened and her stomach churned with unease.
It wasn’t that Lady Dominique and Lady Harmony were now holding hands.
It wasn’t that their dry, cracked lips opened and closed randomly, as if speaking a silent language not heard on the feed.
Like a silent pendulum hung on an invisible thread, a blinking light rolled rhythmically across the two women. Unstopping. Unrelenting. And even though it was only the size of her fist, there was something about it that filled her with dread.
Something that told her that she’d seen this light before.