Part 1

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The wind on her face was exhilarating, and Robin was intensely thankful for the amber lenses of Al's goggles. Grit from the streets below blew up into her face, and she had to keep reminding herself not to smile, or she'd be eating the rudding stuff. It tasted awful.

My belly might be full for once, though, she thought briefly, and then rolled her eyes at the ridiculous notion. Right. And maybe you need to sleep more, too, Captain.

The wind whipped her fringe into view, and Robin spared a quick second to adjust the scarf wound around the bottom of her face. Made from the remains of her sapphire gown, it kept her ghostly braid bound back, with the Coyote's hairpin to hold it closed. Yet tendrils kept escaping out the sides, and every time a lock of white hair flickered across the lenses of her goggles, she had to remember that it was her own, and to not be surprised. It had begun to grow back, at least—short, scrubby hair now covered the bald patches left by the shock of the accident that had claimed Al's life—but it was all coming in white.

She was still a ghost, but thanks to the Coyote's "generosity," she was at least a warm ghost.

Just one of the sapphire earrings she'd escaped with had yielded enough coin, when she traded it to a back-alley jeweler, to rent Robin a room above a tavern. She had nothing else to her name, not even her name, so she hoarded the money carefully, and never shopped for supplies. Shop owners could identify their customers, especially one with Sealie-dark skin and honey-brown eyes, even if they never saw her ghost hair. Instead, she stole from laundry lines all over the city—a pair of dark leather trousers, warm socks, leather pilot's gloves, a thick woolen shirt, a felt vest, a tight double-breasted black jacket, and a pair of plain, serviceable woolen men's pajamas—and left a flat gold coin pinned to the lines in their place. She didn't dare venture to the markets for food, so she pilfered what she could from the bins behind the tavern and made due without when she couldn't find anything edible to eat that day.

She was used to going without. WINGS, however, could not. The rocket pack needed fuel if she wanted to stay aloft, and, well, there were plenty of ways to glide into an aeroship base when one was nothing more than a small black speck on a moonless night. She could get the fuel she needed.

She could do this. She could . . . she could do this.

Stay in Lylon, and sneak, and scrabble, and sabotage. She could use the rocket pack she had stolen right out from under the Klonnish king to disrupt his supply lines, destroy his aeroships, scare his soldiers. She could use it exactly the way . . . the way he . . .

No, Robin scolded herself. No. He's dead. He helped you. And you killed him. You left him to burn. He's gone! She had to stop thinking about those final moments in the woods, about the way his eyes had glittered with fear, and despair, and pride. About the way his kiss—his last kiss, her first kiss—had felt pressed against her mouth. How she missed his constant presence (Ridiculous! Didn't you used to find it stifling?), and how lonely it made her feel to be without it. How homesick she was for her parents, the Air Patrol, Al.

Gods, shut up! Pay attention, Captain! she snarled at her reeling mind and aching heart.

You can get back home, she promised herself. But only if you stop spinning your thoughts like a drunk honeybee and pay attention!

Robin forced her gaze to the horizon. She was flying high enough above the sliver of countryside that separated the outer slums of Lylon and the first of the tall wire fences that encircled the munitions factory to the south of the city that she should be utterly invisible to the watchmen. She let herself glide in a circle on the updraft, breathing deep to clear her mind. She had to squint to see the refinery through the hazy night sky, the smog from the stacks leading off the smelting gallery thick in the air. But she'd drifted over this same handful of buildings nightly for at least a week. She had the guards' routes memorized, knew the buildings and what they each were housing, and had sussed out the best approach, even in the dark.

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