Mirabelle was through listening. “What color is the sky today?”

“Not this again, sweetie,” June said. “Come on. We haven’t even checked the scope yet.”

“When will you check the scope?”

“Didn’t I just say I’d check the scope after breakfast?” Richard cried.

“When’s breakfast over?” Mirabelle stuffed everything that remained on her plate into her mouth. “I’m finished.”

This time, when June and Richard locked eyes, their expressions broadcast in stereo: Conference. Now.

“Chew your food, rock-a-bye-baby, and give it time to settle,” Richard said. “I’m going to go check the scope, okay?”

“Okay!” Mirabelle beamed. “I hope it’s the right color!”

June and Richard moved down the corridor that led to their communications array, rolling shut the blast door that served to isolate the rest of the tunnels from the smoke and flames of an electrical fire.

“The dumb thing doesn’t work,” June cried. “How long are we going to keep up the fiction that it does?”

“As long as it works,” snapped Richard. “Looking through a broken instrument and saying the sky’s not right is a lot more convincing to a six-year-old than a simple ‘no.’ I remember what it’s like to be that age; my dad used to check his ‘weather rock’ the same way.”

“That damn Cassie,” June said. “If I’ve told Popovich once I’ve told him a hundred times. Those windows could be a death sentence if that location isn’t. But he’s as insufferable as that brat of his.”

“Do you think…” Richard bit his lip. “Do you think it might be time to show her?”

“You mean suit her up?” June said. “March her out and show her that, yes, it’s every bit as bad as mommy and daddy have been saying? That the sky really isn’t the right color today?”

“You never know,” Richard shrugged. “It might actually be. Remember when we had to go to the Horowitzes to barter for water purification filters? I didn’t even need the suit that time, just a breath mask.”

The nascent lines on June’s face seemed to lengthen and deepen in the half-light of the communications array. “But would you…run the risk? It’s one thing when it’s you or I, but Mirabelle…”

“I think it’s time,” Richard said. “We’ll take her out, answer her questions, and go from there. It’ll be fine.”

June leaned against the wall. “Promise?” she said.

“I would if my promiser still had any kick left to it,” joked Richard, drawing her in close. “Sadly, the dumb thing doesn’t work. I think I might have been made by the same two-bit outfit that slapped together our scope.”

“That…would explain why you’re never clear about anything, especially with Mirabelle.” June managed a weak laugh, but the worry lines remained deeply incised.

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