Defy the Fates


By Claudia Gray

Read by Nate Begle

Read by Kasey Lee Huizinga

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The stunning finale to the Defy the Stars trilogy from the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Lost Stars and Bloodline.

Hunted and desperate.

Abel only has one mission left that matters: save the life of Noemi Vidal. To do that, he not only has to escape the Genesis authorities, he also must face the one person in the galaxy who still has the means to destroy him. Burton Mansfield’s consciousness lives on, desperate for a home, and Abel’s own body is his last bargaining chip.

Alone in the universe.

Brought back from the brink of death, Noemi Vidal finds Abel has not only saved her life, but he’s made her into something else, something more. Not quite mech, yet not quite human any longer, Noemi must find her place in a universe where she is utterly unique, all while trying to create a world where anyone–even a mech–can be free.

The final battle between Earth and the colony planets is here, and there’s no lengths to which Earth won’t go to preserve its domination over all humanity. But together, the universe’s most advanced mech and its first human-mech hybrid might have the power to change the galaxy for good.



DEAD SPACESHIPS DRIFT IN ZERO GRAVITY BY THE DOZEN, rudderless and dark. They range from tiny one-person vehicles to freighters, from sleek military starfighters to vibrantly painted Vagabond craft. Demolished mechs speckle the void around these ships—some with splintered metal jutting from their twisted limbs, others indistinguishable from human corpses. Some human bodies float in the chaos, too. Beyond it all shines the enormous silver ring of the Genesis Gate.

This is what the Battle of Genesis has left behind.

Most of the surviving ships have fled, but one of them—the Persephone—remains motionless in the middle of the fray. This is partly because its captain wants to avoid attracting attention. It’s partly because he doesn’t know what to do.

Abel stands alone on the bridge, attempting to order his thoughts. Normally he has no difficulty doing so; one of the advantages of being the galaxy’s most advanced mech—an artificial, cybernetic intelligence—is the ability to think clearly and logically even at times of crisis.

But he’s never known grief like this before. Never known this depth of fear. These emotions seem to have a paralyzing effect on the rational mind. He’ll have to analyze later. For now he can only stare at the viewscreen, smell the blood drying on his coverall, and draw what conclusions are possible from the scene before him.

The Earth ships have all been destroyed or have retreated, Abel reasons. The forces of planet Genesis, along with their new Vagabond allies from the Krall Consortium, have won a resounding victory. Earth’s attempt at biological warfare has not only failed to defeat Genesis, but has also alienated people throughout the colony worlds of the Loop. The course of this war has been fundamentally changed. For the first time, Genesis has a real chance to win its independence.

Noemi would be thrilled by her homeworld’s triumph. Genesis has been fighting for more than thirty years, and all the people’s efforts, all their prayers to the various deities they believe in, have done so little until now. Even the gods of mythology can’t help a nation that’s fallen so far behind on technology—especially not against an imperial planet that uses warrior mechs to do its fighting.

But even in the aftermath of this gargantuan battle, it’s obvious to Abel that what turned the tide wasn’t any epic clash of armed forces. The course of this war was changed by Noemi Vidal.

At only seventeen years old, Noemi was a veteran of dozens of space battles. She’d even volunteered for a suicide mission, willing to give her life for Genesis. However, before that mission could begin, she found the galaxy’s most advanced mech—one loyal to his creator, the genius Earth cyberneticist Burton Mansfield—Abel himself.

When they met, he followed his programming, while she followed her military training. In other words, they tried to kill each other. But they forged a partnership, one that over time has become much more, a friendship that, at least for Abel, has ripened into love.

She even taught him to recognize Earth’s tyranny over the colony worlds, which is why he can look at this battle scene—bloody and terrible though it is—with some satisfaction.

And how would it look to Noemi?

He can imagine her smile, bright enough to light up the entire bridge if not all of space surrounding them, shining more brilliantly than a supernova.

But Noemi Vidal is in sick bay, seriously injured, kept from death only by the chilly embrace of a cryosleep pod. He thinks he knows how to save her—though it will be risky for her, and even more dangerous for him. First he has to escape from this system, however, and so many variables are in play that he cannot yet sort them. Not with his mind blurred by the memory of Noemi lying wounded on the biobed in sick bay, almost dying, telling him good-bye—

A message crackles through the ship’s comm signal: Persephone, this is Genesis Station Control.” This is the antiquated space station Genesis has kept running near the farthest planet in their system, almost at the point of breakdown but still capable of scanning the area around the Gate. “Respond or your ship will be apprehended and boarded.”

Abel snaps out of his fugue. The world makes sense again, and his first goal becomes clear: His ship must not be boarded.

He fundamentally distrusts the government of the planet Genesis, and as the station’s suspicion proves, the feeling is entirely mutual. For a generation, they’ve fought a war against Earth’s mechs and see them as nothing but killing machines. Briefly Abel believed Genesis’s leaders capable of recognizing that he’s different from other mechs, but he has since learned better.

To be fair, if they were to board his ship now, they would find a dead body on board. Specifically, the body of Darius Akide—a cyberneticist and the protégé of Abel’s creator, Burton Mansfield, and later a member of Genesis’s Elder Council. At least he was, until his death thirty-two minutes, four seconds ago. If Akide’s body were found here, the Genesis authorities would assume that Abel was the one who killed him. This assumption would be correct.

(Akide did try to kill Abel first, but he suspects the Genesis authorities won’t accept that a machine has a right to self-defense.)

Even if he could talk his way out of that predicament, it would still take time he doesn’t have to spare. Every second he’s stuck in the Genesis system is one he can’t spend working to save Noemi Vidal.

Again he envisions her as he last saw her a few moments ago, floating in the cryosleep chamber in front of him. Its opalescent fluid turned her blurry, pale, almost dreamlike. Her chin-length dark hair fanned out around her face like a halo; her exosuit drifted in shreds around her, torn edges singed dark by Akide’s blaster. The terrible wound in her abdomen was mostly hidden by the cryosleep pod’s silvery control panel, for which Abel was grateful.

No power in the six known worlds will keep him from saving Noemi’s life. Genesis may have stopped Earth, but they won’t stop Abel.

The Persephone’s proximity sentry begins to chirp. Multiple ships are moving through his general area, a mixture of Vagabond vessels and Genesis starfighters; the fleets are reassembling themselves post-battle, to take stock. At least one of those vessels must have been sent to pursue Abel by Genesis Station Control. Time to run or to fight.

If the planetary authorities already know Darius Akide boarded my ship, then they may have sent multiple starfighters to apprehend me, he reasons. The Persephone has no weapons as such, and what makeshift defenses it has couldn’t stand up to starfighter attacks.

Abel looks up at the vast domed viewscreen dominating the darkened space of the bridge. Through the debris and ships surrounding him, he glimpses the Krall flagship, the Katara. It appears to be headed for one of Genesis’s two moons, the one called Valhalla. This strikes him as a curious move, strategically speaking, unless Valhalla houses facilities he hasn’t yet learned about. He’ll have to inquire into that later.

For now, Abel has no time to jettison Akide’s transport pod or his dead body, not without being observed. Therefore only one plan remains viable.


At cyborg speed, he moves to the helm and lays in a course that will take him to the Kismet Gate. His head throbs—a sensation he’s never felt before, strange and unsettling, a reminder of his actions in the Battle of Genesis—but Abel remains focused. Engine ignition lights up the mag engines, creating the illusion of an enormous blazing torch in the dark of space. With one punch to the controls, the ship takes off at top speed.

Absolute top speed. Overload. Running the engines at this level for more than a couple of hours would destroy them, and the ship, and everyone on board. But that’s more than enough time to get away.

Or it should be. But one smaller craft is staying on him, pushing its engines even harder than Abel’s pushing the Persephone. This doesn’t seem like standard military procedure. But if his pursuer isn’t sent by Genesis, who is it?

The speaker crackles, and a familiar voice says, “Abel, slow down! What are you doing? Running away from being a war hero?

Virginia Redbird, scientist of Cray, is one of the precious few humans in the galaxy Abel considers a friend, and one of even fewer he would trust with Noemi’s life. “Virginia, what are you doing here?” She doesn’t lack courage, but she’s no soldier.

“We got word that something mega weird was happening to the mechs in this fight, so I volunteered to come up here and take a good look—from a safe distance, of course, which wound up being a moot point because the fight was over before—”

“Please move away from the Persephone immediately,” he replies. “It’s important that you comply quickly.” If Genesis comes after him, he doesn’t want Virginia caught in the cross fire.

“Whoa. What’s going on? Why aren’t we headed back to Genesis for the victory parties?”

“I have to leave this system as soon as possible. You shouldn’t come with me. It’s safer for you here.”

A pause follows. “Okay, that sounds ominous and freaky as all get-out, but there’s no way I’m letting you run off on your own. Because you’re in trouble, aren’t you?”

He is. This would discourage most people from following him, but Virginia is drawn to trouble like iron filings to a magnet. Abel realizes it is possible to simultaneously feel admiration and chagrin.

No reply means yes, huge trouble,” Virginia says. “There’s no way I’m letting you go alone now!”

Abel could attempt to evade her. However, Virginia Redbird is brilliant and resourceful. Coming up with a plan to elude her would take time and mental processing capacity he doesn’t have to spare. “Then you need to board immediately.”

“Are you going to tell me what the big rush is about?”

“I’ll explain once you’re aboard.” She’ll join him before he can rid his ship of Akide’s body, so he’ll have to confess to murdering a human. His programming should have prevented that in any circumstance other than saving another human’s life—and Noemi had already been wounded. Virginia may well be unnerved by his ability to commit homicide. She might even turn against him.

The other voice breaks through comms again. “Genesis Station Control to Persephone, you are moving away from the station instead of reporting—”

“This is Persephone,” Abel says. “We’ve taken post-battle damage. The danger of explosion is too great to risk station landing at present. I’m moving to a safer distance to complete repairs.”

(A ship as small as his exploding in space is no risk to anyone, really, at any but the most immediate distances. However, human instinct makes them wary of explosions, regardless of actual danger. This instinct is one Abel doesn’t share, and can therefore use.)

After a pause, the station says, “You will complete repairs and approach the station within thirty minutes.”

“I’m having trouble reading you,” he lies smoothly. “Communications damaged. I’ll contact you when I have a clear signal.”

“Confirmed.” The station officer sounds suspicious. However, if they suspected that Akide’s dead body was in a lab on Abel’s ship, they’d be on their way to capture the Persephone already.

Which means Abel’s actually going to make it out of here.

He attaches Virginia’s transport craft via the tractor beam and pulls her in; it takes a long time to do so safely at these speeds, but he estimates she’ll be aboard 6.21 minutes before they reach the Kismet Gate. Normally he’d go to the docking bay to welcome her, but instead he watches the sensors. He doesn’t glance away even once. If anyone else pursues them—a command ship more aware of Akide’s fate than the station is—

Nobody pursues. Genesis authorities must be disorganized in the aftermath of the fight, too much so to keep track of every one of the hundreds of unfamiliar ships soaring through their space. Abel has rarely been so grateful for human inefficiency.

After several minutes, as the space battle vanishes into the distant black, the proximity beacons inform him that Virginia’s craft is being brought on board. He still doesn’t look up, not until the doors slide open and Virginia Redbird strides onto the bridge.

She’s an imposing figure—tall for a human female, with a lean and angular face. Her bright red exosuit is a match for the dyed streaks in her long brown hair. She’s so visibly worried that Abel first thinks she has somehow learned about Noemi.

Instead, Virginia says, “Abel, what’s with the transport pod in your docking bay? Who else is on board?”

She would’ve seen it as her craft was brought through the air lock. “No one else is aboard the Persephone at this time, besides yourself and Noemi.”

“So where’s Noemi?”

“In sick bay.”

“I guess she’s not too badly hurt, since she flew out there in my corsair, and the corsair doesn’t look any worse than it did a day ago. Which is to say it looks terrible, because you two ran it ragged on Haven, but someday you will earn my forgiveness.” Before Abel can correct her about Noemi’s injuries, Virginia continues, “The one I’m worried about is you.”


“Don’t brush this off.” She steps closer to him, studying his face intently. “What happened to those mechs during the battle—that had to be you. I don’t see how, exactly, but absolutely no one else in the galaxy, and I am being literal about this—nobody else could even begin to shut them all down like that.”

By them she means Earth’s warrior mechs. Midway through the Battle of Genesis, they quit attacking the opposing forces and began attacking one another instead. Genesis hardly needed to fire a shot after that. As Virginia surmised, Abel was the one who reprogrammed the mechs. He feels as if he should be proud of this accomplishment—this unprecedented expansion of his abilities—but instead he hesitates. If he talks about what he did in the battle, he’ll have to talk about the way it affected him.

But Virginia won’t be put off for long. Abel admits, “I connected myself to the ship and used its comm waves to reprogram the mechs to attack one another.” His head throbs again, echoing the pain he felt during the battle itself. Several minutes into his first ever headache, he’s decided he doesn’t like it. “It was… an overreach of my abilities, perhaps. But it was necessary.”

Virginia’s dark eyes widen. “You’re bleeding.”

Abel puts his hand to his face. The nosebleed he had during the battle has mostly stopped, but there’s a slight damp warmth at the edge of his nostril. “It’s nothing.”

“Excuse me, but if your head spurts blood, it’s definitely something! What exactly did you mean by ‘overreach’?”

“You may have to help me determine that later, after we’ve gone through the Kismet Gate.” It’s approaching fast, already visible as a faint silvery speck far ahead.

“The Kismet Gate? The one with thousands of magnetic mines around it to make it absolutely impossible for anyone to fly through it and survive? That Kismet Gate?”

Abel simply replies, “Strap yourself in.”

“Why are we leaving Genesis?” Virginia protests. “And when is Noemi going to get her butt down here? Does she need help in sick bay? None of this makes any sense!”

“Noemi is in cryosleep.”

Nobody goes into cryosleep unless the alternative is death. Virginia knows this. Her face falls as she whispers, “Oh, God. What happened?”

“I’ll explain everything,” he promises, then wishes he hadn’t. “After the minefield.”

“Oh, crap.” But she takes her seat and fastens the safety straps, preparing for the ride.

As the Kismet Gate opens before them, a wide silver ring shimmering brightly, Abel can’t shake the thought that Noemi ought to be here. She should be by his side. He wants so badly to hear her voice, to see the way her eyes light up when they approach a Gate. To him, sometimes, Gates are no more than machines that generate artificial wormholes, allowing instantaneous travel to another part of the galaxy.

To Noemi, a Gate is always a miracle. The worlds are infinitely more beautiful through her eyes.

This time, he must go on without her.


PILOTING THROUGH A MAGNETIC MINEFIELD REQUIRES reflexes faster than any human possesses. Only a mech could do it—and most mechs fast enough for the work don’t have the brainpower to handle the thousands upon thousands of split-second calculations necessary.

Which means Abel is probably the only individual in the galaxy capable of flying through the minefield on the other side of the Kismet Gate, a fact in which he usually takes pride.

At the moment, he has no time for vanity. His mind fills with velocities and trajectories, the track of each separate mine headed toward them. It seems to him that the blackness of space is crisscrossed with golden lines of light, most of them converging on the Persephone’s position. But he can change that position by the millisecond. Every swoop and spiral of their course dodges another mine and sends it colliding with another. Their destructions look like fireworks exploding. Abel has enough mental process free to take in the sight, and find it beautiful.

Virginia does not. For several seconds after they’ve cleared the minefield, she remains motionless at her station, eyes wide, face pale. Abel has begun to wonder if he should administer treatment for shock when she finally breathes a heavy sigh. “Okay. We’re not dead. Congratulations, us.”

He feels the congratulations should properly belong only to him, but it would be unseemly to point this out.

Still staring at the viewscreen, she says, “What sociopathic madman designed that? The head of the amusement park in hell?”

“The minefield was the work of a team of designers tasked with permanently sealing the Kismet Gate without destroying it, in order to deny Genesis the chance to interact with other colony worlds and perhaps foment wider rebellion—”

“I wasn’t asking for History 101,” Virginia says. “Or Basic Military Strategy. I meant, what kind of sadist would inflict that kind of terror on people?”

She’s being facetious, which Abel has learned is one way Virginia handles stress. He replies, “Terror was surely not the intended result. Most humans would be killed within a fraction of a second after entering the minefield, leaving little time for fear.”

Virginia gives him a dark look, but already her quick mind is moving on. “Okay. Enough of our near-death experience. What happened to Noemi?”

No answer but the truth will do.

Twelve point one three minutes later, he stands beside Virginia in sick bay. Noemi floats before them, lost in the all-encompassing oblivion of cryosleep. Virginia stares up at the pod, expressionless, hugging herself. Abel wonders whether she’s upset about what happened to Noemi, or afraid of him.

He told Virginia the harder part first. She said nothing as she looked at Darius Akide’s body in the lab. After that, Abel could only bring her here. If she must think of him as a murderer, he at least wants her to understand why.

Humans find silence awkward within a matter of seconds. Abel suffers no such insecurities, yet even he knows Virginia has gone too long without speaking. He ventures, “I haven’t identified the error in my programming that allowed me to kill Akide. However, it may reassure you to know that I think only such a rare confluence of traumatic incidents could have affected me so radically. Under normal conditions, I don’t believe myself to be dangerous.”

“What the—Abel, of course you’re not dangerous.” Virginia hugs herself more tightly as she says it. “Somebody you love got killed—or nearly killed—right in front of your eyes. The person who shot her had just tried to kill you. I’m pretty sure a majority of humans would’ve done what you did, or at least tried to. And no jury would convict them for it.”

“Because they are humans,” he says. “A jury would judge me differently.”

“Damn straight they would. They’d shut you down fast. Nobody can ever know about this. Not ever, ever, ever.”

Virginia has taken his side. She’s weighed his actions as she would a human’s, allowing for fear, anger, and love—all the feelings mechs aren’t supposed to possess. At any other time, Abel would’ve been both relieved and delighted. But as he gazes at Noemi, he can find only limited satisfaction. Knowing how slim a chance she has, and the price he may have to pay for that chance… he won’t feel anything approaching relief or delight for a long time to come.

“Not to be negative,” Virginia says, “but if I’m interpreting these readouts correctly—and maybe I’m not! Medicine isn’t one of my things! But… it looks to me like the level of damage here is more than artificial organs can fix. Her nervous system seems to be—not functioning on its own. And nerves are the hardest thing to rebuild—”

“Your interpretation is correct.” Abel puts one hand against the cool surface of the pod. It is an irrational impulse, but one he can’t resist. “Noemi cannot be healed through conventional means. Yet the advent of organic mech technology suggests potential medical applications, which I believe can save her.”

“Wait, what?” Virginia turns from the cryosleep pod to stare at Abel in bewilderment. She helped him uncover the research on organic mechs, so it’s not the technology that has surprised her. It’s the idea of using it on humans. “Can that even be done?”

“No one has done it yet,” he admits, “but I’ve run two hundred and eighty-nine mental simulations in the past hour, and in two hundred and seventeen of them, Noemi could be restored to life.”

“When did you run—oh, you ran the simulations in your huge mech brain while you were doing twelve other things at once,” Virginia concludes. “Simulations are one thing, Abel. This is reality. Nobody’s ever attempted human/cybernetic synthesis on this level. Not even on Cray, and we do experiments all day long! So there’s literally nobody to help us—and this next-gen organic stuff isn’t even commercially available yet—”

“Gillian Shearer, as the developer of organic tech, has a supply of the necessary materials. I believe she could help me use that technology to heal Noemi. Therefore I’m traveling back to Haven.”

Virginia stares at him for so long that he wonders if she failed to process his statement. Perhaps he should’ve treated her for shock after all. Before he can repeat his words, Virginia shakes her head in what appears to be disbelief. “Going back to Haven? To Gillian Shearer? The woman who’s planning on ripping out your consciousness so she can give your body over to her sicko dad? Gillian thinks of you as nothing more than Burton Mansfield’s ticket to immortality. If she ever gets her hands on you again, she’ll steal your body and destroy your soul.”

Abel replies, “That means I have something to bargain with.”

“No, Abel. You can’t. You can’t trade yourself to Gillian for this. Noemi wouldn’t want you to.”

“Noemi has endangered herself for me in the past. She’d understand.” Virginia won’t, however, so he adds, “I’ll only go through with the trade if absolutely necessary. It’s possible I might be able to steal the technology from Gillian’s lab instead.” This seems unlikely in the extreme, but Abel sees no need to mention that.

He doesn’t have to. Virginia already knows. “Is that supposed to sound reassuring? Because it doesn’t.”

Noemi’s voice echoes in Abel’s mind: You’re terrible at comforting people. As she floats only centimeters in front of him, seemingly far away and lost even though he has a plan that should guarantee her survival and safety, he feels a wave of longing so powerful that it becomes a physical sensation—a warmth rushing through him, painful and yet somehow beautiful at the same time.

He’ll have to ask Noemi how that can be possible. She’ll know.

“Wait, wait.” Virginia holds up her hands, as if she could physically hold him back from this decision. “Are you going to Haven to heal Noemi or… or to repair her?”

“Both,” he says. “Noemi cannot survive without ceasing to be fully human. But this wouldn’t be the same as taking her consciousness and putting it in a mech body. Instead, her own body would be altered. Transformed. She’d become a sort of hybrid, both mech and human.”

Virginia’s unease only deepens. “Are you sure she’d be okay with that? You know what Genesis teaches about mechs. You know that better than anyone.”

Even after Abel helped save the people of Genesis from a deadly biological weapon, their Elder Council still judged him to be no more than a soulless automaton, unfit to remain on their world. “Noemi’s different,” he says. “She knows who and what I am. She was the first person to believe that I have a soul.”

This is less persuasive than he expected it to be. “I don’t know. Sometimes it’s easier to accept differences in someone else than it is to accept them in yourself.”

Abel finds this so illogical, even by human standards of irrationality, that he sees no need to address it further. Noemi will awaken stronger. Faster. Better. More important is the simple fact that she will awaken. She’ll live. Nothing else matters.

Virginia’s eyes narrow with suspicion. “You’re not usually hell-bent on doing something this batcrap loony. Are you sure you’re thinking rationally? Or is this maybe Directive One at work?”


  • Praise for Defy the Worlds:

    "The action raises the stakes, for individuals and entire worlds, and the romance satisfies without overwhelming, right up to a huge cliffhanger ending. A fast, fun follow-up."—Kirkus Reviews

  • "The taut writing, engaging characters, unique universe, abundant plot twists, and a cliff-hanger finale in this sequel will keep readers on the edge of their seats and wanting more...A must-read."—SLJ

  • Praise for Defy the Stars:

    *"Nuanced philosophical discussions of religion, terrorism, and morality advise and direct the high-stakes action, informing the beautiful, realistic ending. Intelligent and thoughtful, a highly relevant far-off speculative adventure."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • *"Poignant and profound...a tale that examines the ethics of war and tackles questions of consciousness, love, and free will. Gray's characters are nuanced, her worldbuilding is intelligent, and the book's conclusion thrills and satisfies while defying expectations."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • "With a love story that sweeps across the galaxy and a heart-racing high-action plot, Defy the Stars brilliantly explores what it means to be human. This book shines like the stars."—Beth Revis, New York Times bestselling author of the Across the Universe series

  • "Startlingly original and achingly romantic, Abel and Noemi's adventure will linger in my imagination--and my heart--for aeons. Defy the Stars is nothing short of masterful."—Kass Morgan, New York Times bestselling author of The 100 series

  • "A must-buy for sci-fi readers."—SLJ

On Sale
Apr 2, 2019
Hachette Audio

Claudia Gray

About the Author

Claudia Gray is the New York Times bestselling author of many science fiction and paranormal fantasy books for young adults, including the Defy the Stars series, the Firebird series, the Evernight series, the Spellcaster series, and Fateful. She’s also had a chance to work in a galaxy far, far away as the author of the Star Wars novels Lost Stars,Bloodline, and Leia, Princess of Alderaan. Born a fangirl, she loves obsessing over geeky movies and TV shows, as well as reading and occasionally writing fanfiction; however, she periodically leaves the house to go kayaking, do a little hiking, or travel the world. She will take your Jane Austen trivia challenge any day, anytime. Currently she lives in New Orleans.

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