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This Shattered World
By Amie Kaufman
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The second in New York Times bestselling author duo Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s sweeping science fiction Starbound Trilogy is an unforgettable story of love and forgiveness in a world torn apart by war, a “sci-fi Romeo and Juliet” (Booklist).
Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met. Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet’s rebellious colonists, and she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents. Whereas Flynn is leading the rebellion against the powerful corporate conglomerate that make their fortune by terraforming uninhabitable planets across the universe and recruiting colonists to make the planets livable, and rule with an iron fist and unrealized promises.
Desperate for any advantage against the military occupying his home, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape base together, caught between two sides in a senseless war.
Copyright © 2014 by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Cover photograph © 2014 by Tom Corbett
Background cover photograph © 2014 by Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock
Designed by Whitney Manger
Excerpt from Their Fractured Light copyright © 2015 by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner.
All rights reserved. Published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Hyperion, 125 West End Avenue, New York, New York 10023.
The girl is standing on a battlefield, and it’s the street she grew up on. The people here don’t know there’s a war coming, and every time she opens her mouth to warn them, the city called November drowns her out. A car screeches past, a siren wails, children laugh, a holoboard starts playing its looped ad high above. The girl screams, but only the pigeons at her feet notice. Startled, they fly upward and disappear into the bright patchwork maze of laundry lines and lanterns crisscrossing overhead.
No one hears her.
THERE’S A GUY STARING AT me from the other end of the bar. I can only see him because I’m in the habit of leaning forward, elbows on the plastene surface, so I can see past the row of heads. From here I can keep an eye on the whole place by watching the bartender’s mirror overhead. And the guy I’m watching is using the same trick.
He’s new. For one thing I don’t recognize him, but for another he’s got that look. Definitely a recruit, with something to prove, like they all do at first. But he’s still glancing around, careful not to bump into the other guys, not too familiar with anyone else. He’s wearing a uniform T-shirt, jacket, and fatigues, but the clothes are ill-fitting, the tiniest bit too tight. Could be because he’s so new, they haven’t ordered them in his size yet. Could also be because the uniform isn’t his.
Still, the new ones know by the end of their first week not to hit on Captain Chase, even when she’s at Molly Malone’s. I’m not interested. Eighteen is pretty young to take yourself off the market, but it’s safer to send them all the same message from day one.
But this guy…this guy makes me pause. Makes me forget all of that. Dark tumbly hair, thick brows, dangerously sweet eyes. Sensuous mouth, tiny smirk barely hidden at its corner. He’s got a poet’s mouth. Artistic, expressive.
He looks oddly familiar. Beads of condensation form around my fingers as I hold my drink. Scratch that—I’d remember this guy if I’d seen him before.
“All good?” The bartender comes between us, leaning on the bar and tilting his head toward me. It’s a crappy bar on a crappy makeshift street, wistfully named Molly Malone’s. Some ghost story from the Irish roots claimed by this particular cluster of terraforming fodder folk. “Molly” is a three-hundred-pound bald Chinese man with a tattoo of a chrysanthemum on his neck. I’ve been a favorite of his ever since I landed here, not least because I’m one of the only people who can speak more than a word or two of Mandarin, thanks to my mother.
I raise an eyebrow at him. “Trying to get me drunk?”
“I live an’ dream an’ hope, babe.”
“Someday, Molly.” I pause, my attention returning to the mirror. This time, the guy sees me looking and meets my gaze unapologetically. I fight the urge to jerk my eyes away, and lean closer to the bartender. “Hey, Mol—who’s the new guy down at the end?”
Molly knows better than to look over his shoulder and starts rinsing out a new glass instead. “The pretty one?”
“Said he was just posted here, trying to get a feel for the place. He’s asking lots of questions.”
Odd. The fresh meat usually comes in herd form, entire platoons of wide-eyed, nervous boys and girls all shuffling wherever they’re told. A little voice in my head points out that’s not really fair, that I was meat once too, and only two years ago. But they’re so woefully unprepared for life on Avon that I can’t help it.
This one’s different, though—and he’s all alone. Wariness tingles at the base of my neck, my gaze sharpening. Here on Avon, different usually means dangerous.
“Thanks, Molly.” I flick the condensation on my fingertips at him, and he flinches away and grins before turning back to his more demanding customers.
The guy’s still staring at me. The smirk is not quite so hidden now. I know I’m staring back, but I don’t really care. If he really is a soldier, I can say I was sizing him up in an official capacity, looking for warning signs. Just because I’m off duty doesn’t mean I can leave my responsibilities behind. We don’t get much warning when we’re about to lose one to the Fury.
He doesn’t look much older than I am, so even if he enlisted the day he turned sixteen he won’t have more than two years of service under his belt. Enough to get cocky—not enough to know he should wipe that grin off his face. A few weeks on Avon will do that for him. He’s chiseled, with a chin so perfect, it makes me want to hit it. The shadow of stubble along his jaw only emphasizes the lines of his face. These guys invariably end up being assholes, but from this distance he’s just beautiful. Like he was put together by an artist.
Guys like this make me want to believe in God.
The missionaries should really start recruiting guys like him before the military can get to them. After all, you don’t have to be pretty to shoot people. But I think it probably helps if you’re trying to spread your faith.
With my eyes on his in the mirror overhead, I give a deliberate jerk of my chin to summon him over. He gets the message, but takes his time about responding. In an ordinary bar on an ordinary planet, it’d mean he wasn’t interested or was playing hard to get. But since I’m not after what people in ordinary bars are after, his hesitation makes me pause. Either he doesn’t know who I am or he doesn’t care. It can’t be the former—everyone on this rock knows Captain Lee Chase, no matter how freshly arrived. But if it’s the latter, he’s no ordinary recruit.
Some stooge from Central Command, trying to lie low by dressing like us? A field agent for Terra Dynamics, come to see if the military’s doing its job in preventing an all-out uprising? It’s not unheard of for a corporation to send in spies to make sure the government is holding up its end of the terraforming agreement. Which only makes our job harder. The corporations are constantly lobbying to be able to hire private mercs, but since the Galactic Council doesn’t exactly relish the thought of privately funded armies running around, they’re stuck petitioning for government forces. Maybe he’s from the Galactic Council, here to spy on Avon before their planetary review in a couple months.
No matter who he is, it can’t be good news for me. Why can’t these people leave me alone and let me do my job?
The dark-haired guy picks up his beer and makes his way over to my end of the bar. He puts on a good show of eager shyness, like he’s surprised to be singled out, but I know better. “Hey,” he says by way of greeting. “I don’t want you to panic, but your drink appears to be blue.”
It’s one of Molly’s concoctions, which he sometimes gives me for free as an excuse to actually mix drinks instead of filling pitchers of beer.
I make a snap decision. If he wants to play it coy, I can do coy right back. He’s not exactly hard on the eyes, and this curiosity is tugging at me—I want to see what happens if I go along with it. I know he can’t be interested in me. At least not the way he’s pretending to be.
I fish out the plastic sword—it’s hot pink—from the martini glass and suck the cherries off of it, one by one. The guy’s eyes fix on my lips, sending a brief surge of satisfaction through me. Molly doesn’t get much opportunity to mix drinks here—and I don’t get much opportunity to flirt.
I let my lips curve in a smile and lean in a fraction. “I like it blue.”
His mouth opens to respond, but instead he’s forced to clear his throat at length.
“Got a touch of the swamp bug?” I feign concern. “Molly’ll take care of that for you. His drinks’ll cure anything, from wounded feelings to appendicitis.”
“That so?” He’s found his voice again, and his smile. There’s a gleam behind the aw-shucks new-boy persona he’s wearing: pleasure. He’s enjoying himself.
Well, so are you, points out a snide little voice in my head. I shove it aside. “If you give it a second, we’ll find out if it’ll turn my tongue blue, to boot.”
“That an invitation to make a personal inspection?”
I can see some of my platoon at a table in the background, watching me and the new guy, no doubt waiting to see if I rip off something important. “Play your cards right.”
He laughs, leaning sideways against the bar. It’s a bit of a capitulation, a pause in the game. He’s not so much hitting on me as feeling me out.
I set my drink down on the bar next to a set of initials scratched into the composite surface. They were here before I ever showed up, and their owner is long gone. “This is the part where you’d ordinarily introduce yourself, Romeo.”
“And ruin my mystique?” The guy’s thick brows go up. “Pretty sure Romeo kept his mask on when he met Jubilee.”
“Juliet,” I correct him, trying not to flinch at his use of my whole name. He must be new, not to know how much I hate that. Still, he’s given me a valuable hint. If this guy knows Shakespeare, he’s got to have been educated somewhere off-world. The swamp-dwellers can barely read an instruction manual, much less ancient classics.
“Oh, a scholar?” he replies, eyes gleaming. “This is a strange place to find a girl like you. So, who’d you offend to get stuck on Avon?”
I lean back against the bar, propping myself on my elbows. One hand fidgets with the plastic sword, weaving it back and forth through my fingers. “I’m a troublemaker.”
“My favorite kind of girl.” Romeo meets my eyes with a smile, then looks away. But not before I’ve seen it: he’s tense. It’s subtle, but I’ve been trained to notice the invisible currents, the ebb and flow of a person’s energy. A muscle tic here, a line of tension there. Sometimes it’s all the warning you get before someone tries to blow themselves up, and take you with them.
Adrenaline sharpens my senses as I lean forward. The air in here smells of spilled beer, cigar smoke, and air freshener—none of which is strong enough to drown out the invasive smell of the swamp outside. I try to shut out the sound of my platoon laughing in the background and look more closely at Romeo. I can’t tell, in the low light, whether his pupils are dilated. If he’s new to the planet, he shouldn’t have had time to succumb to the Fury—unless he’s been transferred here from somewhere else on Avon.
He shifts his weight under my scrutiny, then straightens. “Listen,” he says, his voice getting brisker, “let me settle for your drink, and I’ll leave you to your evening.”
Somehow he’s gotten a read on me. He knows I’m suspicious.
“Hang on.” I reach out to lay my hand on his arm. It’s a gentle touch, but firm. He’ll have to jerk away if he wants to leave before I’m ready to let him go. “You’re not a soldier,” I say finally. “And not a local. Quite the little puzzle. You’re not going to leave me so unsatisfied, are you?”
“Unsatisfied?” The guy’s smile doesn’t flicker a millimeter. He’s good. He’s got to be a spy from one of TerraDyn’s competitors. Nova Tech or SpaceCorp, or any one of the neighboring corporations with space staked out on Avon. “That’s unkind, Captain Chase.”
I abandon pretense. “I never told you who I was.”
“Like Stone-faced Chase needs an introduction.”
Though you’d never catch my platoon calling me that, at least to my face, the nickname caught on like wildfire after my first few days here. I don’t reply, scanning his features and trying to figure out why he looks so familiar. If he’s a criminal, maybe I’ve seen his picture in the database.
He makes a small attempt to free his arm to test how badly I want to hold on to him. “Look, I’m just a guy trying to buy a girl a drink. So why don’t you let me do that, and then we can go our separate ways and dream about what might’ve been?”
I clench my jaw. “Listen, Romeo.” My fingers tighten—I can feel the tense muscle beneath my hand. He’s no weakling, but I’m better trained. “How about instead, we go to HQ and chat there?”
The muscle in his forearm under my palm twitches, and I glance at his hand. It’s empty—but then he shifts his weight, and suddenly there’s something digging into my ribs, held in his other hand. He had a gun tucked inside his shirt. Goddammit. It’s ancient, a tarnished ballistics weapon, not one of the sleek Gleidels I’m used to. No wonder he’s wearing a jacket despite the heat inside the bar. The long sleeves are concealing his genetag tattoo, the spiral design on the forearm that all the locals get at birth.
“Sorry.” He leans close to me to conceal the gun between us. “I really did just want to pay for your drink and get out of here.”
Beyond him I can see my guys, heads together, laughing and occasionally peeking our way. Though half of them are well into their twenties, they still act like a bunch of gossips. Mori, one of my oldest soldiers, meets my eyes for a moment—but she looks away before I can convey anything through my gaze. Alexi’s there too, his pink hair gelled up, looking way too interested in the wall. From their perspective, I’m letting this guy drape himself all over me. Stone-faced Chase, getting a little action for once. Troops cycle in and out of Avon so often that all of those here have only known the past few months’ ceasefire—their senses aren’t battle-sharpened. They’re not suspicious enough.
“Are you kidding me?” My own weapon is on my hip, but we’re close enough that he could easily shoot me before I reach it. “You can’t actually think this is going to work.”
“You haven’t really given me much choice, have you?” He glances down at the holster on my hip. “You seem a little overdressed, Captain. Leave the gun on the stool there. Slowly.”
I roll my eyes toward Molly, but he’s leaning back drying glasses and watching the holovid over the end of the bar. I try to catch someone’s eye—anyone’s eye—but they’re all carefully ignoring me, all too eager to tell stories later about how they saw Captain Chase get picked up at Molly’s. My abductor shields me with his body as I reach for my Gleidel and set it down where he indicates. He wraps a hand around my waist, turning me toward the door. “Shall we?”
“You’re an idiot.” I clench my hands, the pink cocktail skewer digging into my palm. Then I turn a little, making a token struggle to test his grip and the distribution of his weight. There—he’s leaning a little too far forward. I tense my muscles and jerk, leaning back and giving my arm a twist. It hurts like hell, but—
He grunts, and the barrel of the gun digs more sharply into my rib cage. But he doesn’t let me go. He’s good. Damn, damn, DAMN.
“You’re not the first person to say so,” he says, breathing a little faster.
“Fine—ow, I’m going, okay?” I let him steer me toward the door. I could call his bluff, but if he’s stupid enough to bring a gun onto a military base, he might be stupid enough to fire it. And if this blows up into a firefight, my people could get hurt.
Besides, someone will stop us. Alexi, surely—he knows me too well to let this happen. Someone will see the gun—someone will remember that Captain Chase doesn’t leave the bar with strange guys. She doesn’t leave the bar with anyone. Someone will realize something’s wrong.
But no one does. As the door swings closed behind us, I hear a low sound of whistles and catcalls in the bar as my entire platoon starts jeering and gossiping like a bunch of old hens. Bastards, I think furiously. I’m going to make you run so many laps in the morning, you’ll wish YOU had been carried off by a rebel.
Because that’s who this is. I don’t know how he knows Shakespeare, or where he got his training, but he’s got to be one of the swamp rats. They call themselves the Fianna—warriors—but they’re all just bloodthirsty lawbreakers. Who else would dare infiltrate the base with nothing but a pistol that looks like it’s from the dawn of time? At least that means there’s no danger of him snapping into mindless violence, since Avon’s deadly Fury only affects off-worlders. I only have to worry about the average, everyday violence that comes so easily to these swamp-dwellers.
He tugs me off the main path and into the shadows between the bar and the supply shed next door. Then it hits me: I’m not going to be making anyone run laps in the morning. I’m a military officer, being captured by a rebel. I’m probably never going to see my troops again, because I’ll be dead by morning.
With a snarl, I jam my hand back and down, sending the blade of the pink plastic cocktail sword deep into the guy’s thigh. Before he has time to react, I give it a savage twist and snap off the hilt, leaving the hot-pink plastic embedded in the muscle.
At least I won’t go without a fight.
The boys are playing with firecrackers in the alley, stolen from the strings in the temple. The girl watches through a hole in the wall, her face pressed against the crumbling brick. Yesterday it was the Lutheran priest’s turn in the temple, but tomorrow is a wedding, and it’s her mother’s turn to convert the tiny box of a building at the end of the street to match too-distant memories of traditional ceremonies on Earth.
The boys are lighting the firecrackers and seeing who can hold on to the red sticks longest before tossing them away to snap like gunfire in the air. The girl squeezes through a gap in the wall and runs to snatch a lit firecracker from the biggest boy. Her skin crawls with the hiss and heat of the fuse, but she refuses to let go.
PAIN SEARS DOWN MY LEG, and my grip loosens for an instant. She’s away like a flash.
I have only a split second to act, and if I miss, she’s going to kill me. I leap back as she swings at me, and the night is shattered by the sound of a gunshot. My gun. She goes sprawling into the mud with a gasp of pain, but I don’t have time to consider what damage I might have done. Everybody on the base will have heard the shot, and even with the echo bouncing around the buildings, they’ll find me soon enough.
I start to reach for her, but she’s already moving; she’s not badly hurt, or else adrenaline is holding her together. She kicks out, her foot connecting with my arm and numbing it from the elbow down. The gun goes sliding along the wet ground.
We both lunge after it. Her elbow jabs at my solar plexus, missing it by an inch—I’m left wheezing rather than half dead, dragging in air as I force myself to move. She scrambles ahead of me and I grab at her ankle, scrabbling in the mud to drag her back again before she can grab the gun or shout for backup.
She may be trained, but I’m fighting for my family, my home, my freedom. She’s fighting for a goddamn paycheck.
For a long moment there’s only the harsh staccato of our breathing as we fight to get ahead of one another. Then my hand finds the familiar grip of my grandfather’s pistol. I jab my elbow back at her face; she dodges it easily, but it throws her off enough for me to roll over and end up with the gun pointed between her eyes.
She goes still.
I can only see the dark, furious glitter of her eyes meeting mine. I can’t speak, too winded, too shell-shocked. Slowly, she lifts her hands, palms out. Surrender.
I want nothing more than to collapse in the mud. But I can hear the shouts of soldiers looking for intruders, hunting for the source of the gunshot. I’ve got no time. I need to get her to my currach—if I leave her here she’ll be found too quickly and I won’t have enough time to vanish into the swamp.
I give the gun a jerk, silently ordering the soldier to her feet. I stagger up myself, then grab for her arm to turn her around and twist it behind her back. I rest the barrel of the gun against her lower spine, where she can feel it.
My fingers are wet and sticky with her blood, but it’s too dark to tell how much there is. I know I hit her; I saw her fall. But she’s on her feet, so the wound isn’t slowing her down that much. I must have only grazed her side with the bullet.
I try to calm my breathing, listening for the soldiers. Getting off the base is going to be a hell of a lot harder now; I wish I had time to camouflage myself with the mud at our feet. Her skin’s brown and more difficult to see in the low lighting, but mine’s the pale white that comes from living on a planet with constant cloud cover. I practically glow in the dark.
“Well?” She’s panting. “What’s it going to be? You could at least have the decency to aim for my heart and not my head. I’ll look prettier at my funeral.”
“There’s something very wrong with you, Captain,” I tell her, keeping her close. Her black hair’s escaping her ponytail, tickling my face and getting into my eyes. “You don’t invite a thing like that around here.”
“As if you need an invitation,” she growls, and though she’s completely still, I can almost feel her humming with anger. I can’t let her go. She’d never let me go. She shoves back roughly, sending pain spearing down my leg.
I shift my grip on the gun, letting it press against her a little harder.
It was easy to get the new recruits talking, but their security clearance is way too low to have any useful information. But trying to get close to Captain Chase for information was another matter entirely. What was I thinking? Sean would laugh if he could see me now: the Fianna’s biggest pacifist holding Avon’s most notorious soldier at gunpoint.
“I’ll recognize your pretty face anywhere now, you know that.” There’s a smug satisfaction in her tone, underneath her anger. Like winning the point is what matters, even if it means she ends up dead. “You have to get rid of the problem.”
“Póg mo thóin, trodaire,” I mutter, tightening my grip. Kiss my ass, soldier.
Captain Chase lets off a string of what sound like insults in return, though I don’t understand the language. She doesn’t look like she’s got any Irish in her, probably has no idea what I said. But she recognized my tone, as easily as I can tell she’s cursing right back at me, speaking…Chinese, maybe? She looks like she might have that ancestry in her blood somewhere, but with the off-worlders it’s hard to tell. She gives a savage twist and then gasps as the movement wrenches at her wound. It’s lucky I managed to graze her, because I wouldn’t be able to keep hold of her otherwise. She’s even stronger than she looks.
My mind races. This isn’t over yet, and I can still turn it to my advantage if I think quickly. The recruits in the bar may not have known about the hidden facility to the east, but now I have a captain, and one who’s been on Avon longer than any other soldier. Who better to get me that info than the military’s golden child?
That facility scares me too much to ignore. Until I saw it a few hours ago, I’d never clapped eyes on it. I don’t know how they hid the construction. It appeared out of nowhere, surrounded by fences and spotlights. From the outside, there’s no way to tell what’s in there: weapons, new search drone technology, ways to destroy the Fianna we haven’t thought of. Until we know why the facility is there, every minute is danger.
I give her a shove and start moving toward the perimeter of the base, keeping to the shadows and away from the surveillance cameras. “Ever seen the beauty of the outer swamps?”
“I suppose out there they won’t find my body at all. Smart.”
“Does your platoon’s psych attendant know about this obsession with your own death?”
“Just trying to be helpful,” she mutters through gritted teeth. We’re not far from where I snuck in through their fencing. I’m sure on a more high-tech world, the perimeter would light up with lasers and six kinds of alarm bells, but out here beyond the edge of civilization, the soldiers are stuck with wire fences and foot patrols. Central Command spends as little as it can get away with to supply them, and it shows. On top of that, the last few months of ceasefire have made them lazy. Their patrols aren’t what they should be.
"Kaufman and Spooner prove that their first brilliant installment was no fluke with this strong second outing. . . . There is action, a spark of romance, and a mystery, all set on a fully-realized planet. "—School Library Journal
"Neither side is right, neither is wrong, but this sci-fi Romeo and Juliet are destined to fall in love in spite of the hatred and danger that surround them. Kaufman and Spooner have transitioned smoothly from These Broken Stars."—Booklist
"Fans of the first book, as well as those who like impossible romance between two people on opposing sides, will enjoy this sequel."—VOYA
Praise for These Broken Stars:
"Absolutely brilliant. This is the sci fi I've been waiting for! Action, romance, twists and turns--this book has it all!" —Beth Revis, New York Times bestselling author of Across the Universe
"With rich, complex characters and a dynamic--and dangerous--new world, These Broken Stars completely transported me."—Jodi Meadows, author of the Incarnate series
"One of the most intense, thrilling, and achingly beautiful stories I've ever read. Kaufman and Spooner will break your heart with skilled aplomb, and you'll thank them for it. Absolutely incredible! If I have to, I will come to your house and shove this book into your hands!"
—Marie Lu, New York Times Bestselling Author of the Legend Trilogy
*"Lilac and Tarver are characters of depth, complexity, and strength, young people who alternately elicit the reader's admiration, frustration, and sympathy ... a testament to love, loyalty, courage, and the power of good over dystopian greed and perversity."—Booklist, starred review
"The authors begin with star-crossed lovers and a crash-landing survival story but add excitingly original material to these tropes to create a wonderful tale that should appeal to both teen and adult readers."—School Library Journal
"Kaufman and Spooner's debut collaboration is a stunning, gorgeously imagined romance with epic sweep, brimming with lush detail of setting and intricate character study. It's the kind of read to savor, but the survivalist plotting still rushes the reader to keep turning pages."
—Ingram Library Group
"With well-developed characters and an excellent narration style, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner have crafted an insightful, shrewd and genuinely moving exploration of life, humanity and the moral obligations neglected in the name of progress. These Broken Stars is a romantic and heartbreaking tale that is complete in its own right while still leaving readers excited for future installments. Intense, emotional and compelling, it will appeal to readers (aged 12 and up) who like their sci-fi thoughtful and challenging--and just a little bit sexy."—Books+Publishing
- On Sale
- Dec 1, 2015
- Page Count
- 416 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers