"Bonebreak," she called, her voice sounding a little desperate. "Bonebreak!"
There was no answer. She ran back into the main room, but he wasn't there. She went to the door, squinting into the bright day. The dust had all but settled; she could see the whole village now, but it was still empty.
"He left us," she said.
"What if he went back to the ship?" Nok asked, anxiously twisting the pink streak in her hair. "He might try to leave without us."
"Anya and Mali are still there," Cora said. "They'll stop him."
Nok paced nervously and then went still, staring at something far off. She had always had the best eyesight out of the group; Cora twisted to follow her line of vision. A single column of dust rose skyward in the distance.
"What is that, another storm?" she asked.
But it was too small, and too concentrated.
"It's a truck," Leon said. "Coming fast."
"What do we do?" Nok asked. "Run?"
But the truck was getting closer. Cora turned around, scanning the horizon. There was nothing but the ship; they'd never make it to those far mountains in time. Hiding in one of the buildings would only trap them.
"No," she said, and pressed a hand against Lucky's notebook in her pocket. "We came here for a reason. We need to find out if this is a safe place." She exchanged a look with the others that she hoped didn't look too worried. "However we have to."
Leon cracked his knuckles.
Rolf pushed at the imaginary glasses on his nose, blinking hard.
Nok's hand fell from her hair.
Cora took a deep breath and watched the cloud of dust approach. Whoever these people were on Armstrong, they were human. They too had been stolen from Earth and caged by the Kindred. They knew what it felt like to be treated like animals.
That had to count for something.
That had to count for everything.
Because if not, she might have just gotten them all into deeper trouble than they'd ever imagined.
I'VE BEEN FORTUNATE TO work with a brilliant team on this book. My editor, Kristin Rens, who has believed in Cora's story from day one, and the entire Balzer + Bray team for supporting us, including Kelsey Murphy, Alessandra Balzer, Donna Bray, and HarperCollins's fantastic team of designers, copyeditors, and marketers. I'm also grateful to my agent, Josh Adams, who inspired Mali's awesome ninja moves, and Megan Miranda, who read countless drafts and helped make each one better.
A special thanks as well to Jesse, for long walks brainstorming about alien planets, giant dollhouses, and twisted safaris.
And, as always, to my readers. Without you, my words would be hollow.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR.
Photo credit Kristi Hedberg Photography.
MEGAN SHEPHERD grew up in her family's independent bookstore in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The travel bug took her from London to Timbuktu and many places in between, though she ended up back in North Carolina with her husband, two cats, and a scruffy dog, and she wouldn't want to live anywhere else. She is also the author of the Madman's Daughter trilogy and The Cage. Visit her online at www.meganshepherd.com.
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BOOKS BY MEGAN SHEPHERD.
The Madman's Daughter.
Her Dark Curiosity.
A Cold Legacy.
The Madman's Daughter Trilogy: The Complete Collection.