“Her eyes widened. "What? He did not!" She barreled past him and marched toward the hulking Russian. "Beast, you idiot!"
As the company kept walking toward Corpus City in the distance, Marco moved to finally walk by Lailani. She trudged onward, staring ahead, not turning to look at him.
"Hey, de la Rosa," he said.
"Emery." Still she didn’t look at him.
He had so much to say. He wanted to tell her that he still loved her. That he was confused. That he was sorry. But he could say none of it. He wasn’t ready to toss Kemi aside either, not after she had come here for him. He wasn’t ready to deal with any of this—not with war looming only a few kilometers away. But he wanted peace with Lailani. He wanted them to be friends again, even if they could no longer be lovers.
"So, beautiful red sky here in Corpus, right?" he said, his lame attempt at small talk. "Sort of like an eternal sunset, right? When we get back to Earth, we should—"
"I don’t feel like talking," Lailani said.
Marco exhaled slowly. "Lailani, look. I didn’t know that Kemi would show up. I don’t want this to change anything between us. I—"
"Marco, stop." Finally she looked at him. "You’re a sweet guy. But . . . I’m broken inside. All right? I would just break your heart. I will die in this war. I know it. And it would only hurt you. I joined this military to die."
"Don’t talk like that." He shook his head. "You don’t have to be that person. I saw light in you. I saw happiness. Why don’t—"
"Leave me alone." Lailani turned away. "You’re annoying me."
She walked off, going to walk alone at the edge of the squad, leaving Marco feeling very alone himself. There was such pain, such darkness inside Lailani, but he had seen a different side to her. Back at Fort Djemila, if only for a few days, he had seen the kind, loving, sweet person within her armor. Now that suit of armor was sealed up again, leaving the true Lailani hidden inside. Her softness was buried. Now she was only blades that cut him.
I must focus on our task for now, Marco thought. On getting off this moon. I’m a soldier now. That’s all I must be.
"Look!" Addy said, pointing. "A spaceport. Ships!"
They all followed her gaze. They saw it in the distance. A small spaceport surrounded by a fence, their first sign of civilization since crashing. The company walked toward it, and Marco dared to hope they’d find an operating starship, a way to leave this moon. But his hopes were dashed as they drew nearer. Three orbital rockets lay fallen here, burnt and shattered. There was certainly nothing resembling an interstellar starship like the Miyari .
The company all stared in silence.
"What did this?" Addy said. "Scum?"
"Must have been," Beast said.
The soldiers advanced slowly, rifles raised, and walked among the wreckage of the rockets. No scum. No humans, dead or alive. Nothing but shattered rockets and wisps of dust. They found the ashes of old fires, but they were cold. For all they knew, these rockets could have shattered years ago. They found no other vessels, not even shuttles. If there had ever been ships here beyond these rockets, they were long gone.
"Great," Elvis muttered. "We’re trapped here. We just couldn’t crash land on some nice tropical beach full of hula girls, right?"
"We’re not trapped if we can fix the Miyari ," Marco said.
Elvis sighed. "And the piece we need to fix it is buried in some haunted mine. Of course it is. I need a vacation."
The company walked onward across the rocky landscape, leaving the ravaged spaceport behind. Marco turned his attention toward the city ahead.
Corpus City loomed in the distance. Chimneys, skyscrapers, and electrical towers rose toward the red sky, black and jagged. Myriads of people lived here, according to their briefing, but there were no lights, no sounds. Marco saw no glowing windows, no flitting vehicles, no flashing neon signs. He heard no hum of engines or generators, only the wind that rushed from the city across the plains. Nothing but those black towers against the red horizon like the charred ribs of a skeleton in a bloody battlefield.”