CHAPTER 69

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Even as Luna slept next to Callisto leaning against the slab of ice, his eyes never closed. His lids drooped but he didn't doze, not once. Nova was all he could think about. One side of his mind knew she was dead...for good this time. He'd watched her die on the space station; there was no coming back from having half of your skull crunched inside the powerful jaws of the transformed monster that Vladimir Sergov had become. But there was another side of Callisto's mind that couldn't let her go. Even though Nova had died two and half years ago, it seemed like yesterday. Ever since Callisto awoke from cryogenic hibernation he couldn't shake the blurred lines of reality and fantasy. And now he had insomnia to fray the threads of that fragile rope even more.

Callisto peered over at Luna through sagging eyelids, and watched as behind the polycarbonate plate of her helmet, her face morphed into that of Nova Kailani's. He wondered what Admiral Jax had done to her, more specifically, what procedure or experiment that Dr. Sarah Lawson had performed on her under the admiral's direction or approval. Callisto knew Nova had died once before—before her permanent death on the space station—after the shark attacks in the Sea of Cortez. Following her first death, her body was transported to the morgue onboard the megacarrier, the U.S.S. Fortitude moments after Dr. Ariel Fairhaven has declared her dead.

Dr. Lawson wasn't around at that point. So, Callisto knew Nova had died. Dr. Fairhaven had been on the same journey as Callisto and everyone else from the beginning when they were kidnapped while aboard the Fortitude and transported to the remote underground base in the Atacama Desert. Knowing that, Callisto had no reason to suspect Dr. Fairhaven had any hand in some crazy scheme to fake Nova's death. No, she had died from the wounds she'd suffered at the hands of the great white shark, and there was no getting around that fact.

Somehow, Dr. Lawson and Admiral Jax had brought Nova back to life. That could explain her memory loss, why she couldn't remember her relationship with Phoenix when she awoke from cryo sleep after the trip from Earth to Jupiter and the space station, Arcturus, where she died again.

But if being brought back to life was possible, then it would stand to reason that it was possible to happen a second or third time.

Callisto looked at Luna again.

No. It wasn't Luna, because all he saw Nova.

She was so beautiful. The smooth edge of her jawline and the soft caramel color of her skin. He smiled and gazed out at the dingy orange-yellowish horizon. He went back and forth with the spectacle of the Titan atmosphere and couldn't decide which it was, orange or yellow. Regardless, it appeared a million times worse than the smog of downtown L.A. on a hot summer day.

Callisto turned back to Nova. They'd sat there for two hours. She'd slept the entire time. He still couldn't catch a wink. His thoughts drifted from Nova and became consumed with figuring out a way to stay alive. Of course, how could he sleep with her at his side? He couldn't help but stare at her occasionally while she dozed. And think of Phoenix.

Phoenix didn't deserve her—

"Hey," Nova said in a sleepy voice, "think I'm ready to go again." She tensed and stretched her arms and legs.

Callisto pushed up from ground, using the icy rock as a leverage point.

Luna— Callisto wagged his head—Nova rose to her feet and gazed at the small lake of liquid methane. "It's hard to believe it's nearly three hundred degrees below zero."

"In Fahrenheit, that's cold enough to freeze jet fuel."

According to the map on his wrist display, nine hours away, the landscape rose slightly from the flat plain. It was one-third of the way to Habitat One. They had sixty hours of walking ahead of them and eighty-one hours till nightfall. Twenty-one hours seemed like a lot of time to work with, but each step they took made the gap close tighter. As they exerted more energy to keep moving in their thermal suits, they grew even more tired, and without food to provide calories to burn, they couldn't replace what they'd lost.

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