Diary of Georgiana Valentine
June 5, 1883
That stupid, dumb, loathsome beast! I shall never forgive him as long as I live! First, he turns half-mad while we’re out on patrol and starts dragging me all sorts of senseless directions, preventing me from getting to Brian when he’s hurt. Then he dares—he dares!—to force us to cross against my will! I of course must write my reports of the mission and I simply cannot contain my fury to a sufficient degree in order to give any account of this ridiculous behavior. Had Father not been found so readily I would—well, I don’t know what I’d do to that beast, but he’d be quite sorry before I’d finished.
I’m certain his antics must be the reason we were discovered. The other tentaclebeasts must have felt the commotion and come running. Is it my fault Father was hurt? Please don’t let it be my fault. Is it the fault of that bumbling creature? I don’t know what got into him but I cannot recall ever having been so angry. And I haven’t the faintest idea what I should place into the reports. What really happened? What does it mean for…for me, for SPOT, for that stupid beast? I’d prefer not to think on it, but of course there isn’t much else to think on when they’ve shoved you into a box and you can’t even visit your own father and your brother sleeps more hours of the day than not and your mother hasn’t been to another world with you and can’t understand what it’s like.
I’ll ring for tea, and think on that instead. Forgive me, Mr. Diary, for not being better company at such a time.
* * *
Brian tossed about his bed fitfully, and no position was truly comfortable. He was covered head to toe with bruises. His head, shoulders, and arms where Sky had been gripping him so tightly, trying to hoist him aloft, were sore and stung him. Every little sting injected him with a fresh wave of guilt. Why was I so foolish? Father suffered for my antics, the team was in danger, we all might have died. It’s all my fault.
He remembered stepping off of the tree, so thrilled at the view, at the fact that Sky could hold him, at the way that it felt like he was flying under his own power and that Sky’s abilities were his own. He held out his arms and felt the breeze coursing over them, even though it had no relation to their hovering. “Remarkable,” he whispered.
That was when he felt it. Just off the edge of his awareness. A tinge in his stomach, a movement out the side of his eye. He turned his head sharply and saw an enormous tentaclebeast heading in the direction of their camp. It had to have been the size of a house, and just moments before it had been completely out of his field of vision.
“Father!” he shouted, trying to run to the scene, forgetting he was aloft.
That moment of forgetting was all it took. They were falling. He couldn’t walk on air and Sky couldn’t process walking and levitating at the same time. They strained their collective will, attempting to rise to the treetops once again, but it was no use. Brian wasn’t certain what happened just then, but they must have slowed their descent somehow, because he had not broken any bones during the fall. A miracle, considering the height of the trees.
He didn’t know how many moments had passed before Christopher was bending over him. “Valentine, we’re returning now. We must cross.” He and Boulder grabbed onto Brian and hauled him to his feet, supporting him. “You have to walk for me soldier. Come on.” Gigi rushed towards them.
“Brian!,” she cried. “Father’s still in there. We have to go back. This way!”
“Valentine! Stop! We’re crossing now!”
“I’m coming back for him, but first I’m getting you home safe. Cross now, Valentine.”
“No, we can’t, he’s unconscious—” She faded from view as Inky made the crossing, and Brian had not even a moment to stare in awe before Christopher began to cross as well, still under Brian’s arm. Sky pulled them both through, and they had returned. Brian collapsed with the sudden loss of support, but Christopher was ready to help him find the floor with a minimum of additional bruises.
“This is no conduct for a soldier,” Brian started to say of himself, but the pain of his fall overtook him and the statement came out more like a moan. And Father? What about Father?