“Behold the Globes of Amarkana.” She yanked at a corner of what Mark had assumed to be the tent’s rear wall. The shimmering panel fell away, revealing a tree taller than Mark fashioned entirely from crystal. Jagged, sharp branches of clear glass, patterned with leaves incised deep into the surface, jutted from a thick trunk at odd angles. At the tip of each branch hung a perfect golden ball, ethereal bubbles made of solid material. The globes were translucent, empty at first glance, but then Mark saw faint spirals of white smoke in some, flickering lightning in others, flames in a few. Several appeared to contain misty rain droplets suspended as if captured in midair…the branches stirred with a faint chiming sound.
“The time is nearly gone.” Lajollae’s voice broke into their fascination.
He checked the floating timer. Sure enough, the upper bubble was almost empty of the sparkling contents, sagging in upon itself. “What do we do?”
“Pick the globe meant for you,” Lajollae said. “You’ll know which one is your destiny.”
“What if we pick differently?” Sandy clutched at his sleeve. “I can’t lose you again!”
Lajollae shook her head. “You can each choose your own destination, or one may decide for both.”
Mark and Sandy exchanged glances. “We stick together,” he said, clenching his jaw.
“Agreed, this mad escapade we’re on is because I trusted you,” Sandy said, releasing his sleeve with a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “So I trust you to decide for us.”
Mark took a step toward the globes, studying them, trying to decide which to pick, not sure what would happen next—there was no retreat, no other way to end this.
He kept going back to one particular globe, high on the tree, dangling precariously on its crystal branch. Nothing differentiated this bubble from all the rest, but it drew him nonetheless.
When he stretched to touch the globe, it fell into his hand.
“You’ve chosen, now breathe the air of the destination you’ve selected,” Lajollae said in a harsh whisper. “Make haste, for your time is over—I’m leaving this place for my next station.”