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Defy the Worlds
By Claudia Gray
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- Trade Paperback $12.99 $16.99 CAD
- ebook $9.99 $12.99 CAD
- Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around March 5, 2019. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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This is the thrilling and romantic sequel to Defy the Stars from the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Lost Stars and Bloodline.
An outcast from her home — Shunned after a trip through the galaxy with Abel, the most advanced cybernetic man ever created, Noemi Vidal dreams of traveling through the stars one more time. And when a deadly plague arrives on Genesis, Noemi gets her chance. As the only soldier to have ever left the planet, it will be up to her to save its people…if only she wasn’t flying straight into a trap.
A fugitive from his fate — On the run to avoid his depraved creator’s clutches, Abel believes he’s said good-bye to Noemi for the last time. After all, the entire universe stands between them…or so he thinks. When word reaches him of Noemi’s capture by the very person he’s trying to escape, Abel knows he must go to her, no matter the cost.
But capturing Noemi was only part of Burton Mansfield’s master plan. In a race against time, Abel and Noemi will come together once more to discover a secret that could save the known worlds, or destroy them all.
In this thrilling and romantic sequel to Defy the Stars, bestselling author Claudia Gray asks us all to consider where–and with whom–we truly belong.
NOEMI VIDAL WALKS THROUGH THE TWO LONG LINES OF starfighters in the hangar, helmet under one arm, head held high. She doesn’t wave to her friends like she always used to—until six months ago.
Now no one would wave back.
Chin up, shoulders straight, she tells herself, taking what comfort she can in the familiar smells of grease and ozone, the hiss of repair torches, and the thump of boots on tarmac. If you want them to see you as a fellow soldier again, you act like one. You don’t back down from mech fire, so you won’t back down from this.
But Earth’s warrior mechs only aim at the body. Noemi has shields for that. The point between her and her fellow squadron members aims at the heart, for which no protection has ever been invented.
“Vidal!” That’s Captain Baz, striding across the hangar with a dataread in her hand. She’s wearing her uniform, a dark-patterned head scarf, and the first smile Noemi’s seen all day. “We’re putting you on close-range patrol today.”
“Yes, ma’am. Captain, if I could—”
Baz stops and comes nearer. “Yes, Lieutenant?”
“I wanted to ask—” Noemi takes a deep breath. “You haven’t put me on Gate patrol in months. I’d really like to take on a shift sometime soon.”
“Gate patrol’s the most dangerous gig there is.” Baz says it matter-of-factly as she scans through her dataread. Everyone on Genesis knows that the Gate ties them to Earth and the other colony worlds on the Loop, holding one point of a wormhole in place and making instantaneous cross-galactic travel possible. It also makes possible the war that’s devastating their world. “Most pilots would be glad to stick a little closer to home.”
“I’m willing to share the danger.” More than willing—by now, Noemi’s very nearly desperate. Protecting Genesis is what gives her life meaning. She hasn’t been allowed to truly defend her world for months, not since her return.
It takes Baz a few long seconds to answer. “Listen. That day’s going to come, okay? We just have to give it time.”
The captain is on Noemi’s side, which helps a little. That doesn’t mean Captain Baz has it right. In a lower voice, Noemi says, “They won’t trust me again until I’m pulling a full load.”
Baz weighs that. “Maybe so.” After another second’s contemplation, she nods. “We’ll try it.” Her voice rises to a shout. “Ganaraj, O’Farrell, Vidal’s with you today! Let’s get up there, people—gamma shift’s ready to come home.”
The other two pilots stare at her from across the room. Noemi simply heads straight for her starfighter.
She’s going to earn their acceptance the only way she can: one flight at a time.
Wait and see, she tells herself. Soon they’ll like you just as much as they did before.
She figures it shouldn’t be hard. They never liked her that much to begin with.
Ten percent of the time, Gate patrols are the worst, most frightening duty assignment of all. At irregular, unguessable intervals, Earth sends Damocles ships full of warrior mechs—Queen and Charlie models, designed only to kill. They’ve more than decimated Genesis’s antiquated defense fleet in the past five years; every battle they win brings them closer to the day warrior mechs will land on the surface of Genesis, unleash a ground war, and begin reclaiming Noemi’s planet for Earth’s use. Every battle alarm has to be sounded as soon as possible. The starfighters on patrol are expected to engage Damocles ships immediately, without waiting for backup. Most don’t survive.
However, the other 90 percent of the time, Gate patrols are boring as hell.
In the pilot’s seat of her starfighter, Noemi circles the Gate at the outer perimeter; Arun Ganaraj and Deirdre O’Farrell stick closer. She’s still close enough to watch the monstrous thing in the sky, a massive silver ring illuminated along its various panels so that it shines in the darkness of space. It’s orbited by various bits of debris from the war, from metal shards no bigger than splinters to chunks larger than her starfighter.
An entire ship remained hidden in that debris for thirty years, until Noemi discovered it, and inside she found—
“You seeing that?” Ganaraj’s voice comes over the speaker just as her screen brings up the Gate in greater detail. The faint shimmer in the middle of the ring has taken on a familiar, ominous look—a cloudiness like a pond about to frost over.
“Yeah, I see it,” Noemi says.
“It might be nothing.” Ganaraj sounds like he’s trying to convince himself. “Doesn’t always mean something’s about to come through.”
“Usually doesn’t,” Noemi agrees as she zooms in tighter on the image and sets her weapons to ready. Segments of old wreckage and shrapnel from past battles often create the illusion of incoming traffic. Even a faint hint of intrusion is danger enough to set her on edge.
“Or it could be a bunch of mechs coming through to dice us all.” O’Farrell makes herself sound happy about it, so happy the sarcasm is unmistakable. “But you’ll just want to give them milk and cookies and send them home again, won’t you, Vidal?”
“Pack it, O’Farrell,” Noemi snaps back.
“Well, that’s what you do, isn’t it? You love mechs sooooo much that you’d rather leave Genesis exposed to war and death than destroy a freakin’ hunk of metal—”
Ganaraj cuts in. “Could we pay attention to the Gate, everybody?”
“Never stopped,” Noemi says. But her cheeks feel like they’re burning, and her pulse throbs angrily in her temples. She can handle it when they pick on her, but not when they turn on Abel.
When she found that ship six months ago, she also found the mech inside it: Mansfield Cybernetics Model 1A, the pet project of the one and only Burton Mansfield, and the single most advanced mech ever created.
Model 1A prefers to be known as Abel.
At first, Noemi saw him the same way everyone else on Genesis does: a machine fashioned in the shape of a human but with no soul inside. An enemy, one she could use before destroying. He was the tool that could blow up the Genesis Gate—sealing Genesis safely away from Earth forever, winning the war in one split-second blast.
However, blowing up the Gate would’ve meant blowing up Abel with it, and by the end of their journey through the colony worlds of the Loop, Noemi knew that Abel was far more than a machine. She could no more have killed him to destroy the Gate than she could’ve sacrificed a child on an altar.
God asked for that once, whisper her old catechism lessons. She’s getting better at ignoring those. Maybe too much better—
Red lights flash on her starfighter console. Noemi’s hands tighten on the controls as she spots the signal. “We’ve got something coming through.”
By now, though, their sensors are telling them the same thing. “Confirmed,” says Ganaraj, fear threading through his voice. “But it’s not a Damocles.”
“A scout ship,” O’Farrell suggests. “Getting advance intel before the Queens and Charlies come through.”
“Since when do mechs use scout ships?” Noemi zooms in tighter on the intruding ship.
No. Not a ship. Something else.
The metal object is shaped into meter-long delicate points that extend in every direction from the small spherical center. To herself she whispers, “It’s like a star”—the way she pictured them as a child, pretty and shining, not monstrous and powerful. The prettiness makes it more ominous.
“Is it a bomb?” Ganaraj asks.
Noemi knows it’s not. She can’t say why she knows it, but she does. Call it intuition.
O’Farrell provides more concrete confirmation: “Scans negative for explosives.”
The Gate shimmers once more, and another star bursts through. Then another. As Noemi stares, the stars keep multiplying until her sensors give her a final count of a hundred and twenty. They rush through space, a constellation as brilliant as it is terrifying, streaking toward Genesis.
“Inform command, and let’s stay on them,” Ganaraj orders. He’s been a lieutenant nine weeks longer than Noemi has. “The second we get clearance, we’re blasting these things to oblivion.”
Noemi would blast them now and trust that clearance would follow later. There’s less than no chance that Captain Baz and the other higher-ups are going to allow anything from Earth to get close to home—explosives or not. But Ganaraj is in charge, and Noemi’s on thin ice, so she grits her teeth and flies tight on the stars as long as she can—
—which isn’t that long, because they’re spreading out, widening the distances between them. When the stars first emerged from the Gate, Noemi’s three-fighter patrol could have destroyed them in a quick spray of blaster fire. Every second that elapses makes targeting more difficult and time-consuming. The stars zip through the solar system, miniature mag engines making them glow bright in the darkness, traveling fast enough to reach Genesis within fifteen minutes. Noemi scans the “stars” nonstop and knows the others are doing the same. The results on her screen reveal nothing about what these things are or what they could mean.
Maybe they’re peace offerings, she thinks. It’s a private joke. There’s no way Earth would make an offer, not now. The situation in the larger galaxy has grown more dire than ever. Earth won’t be habitable much longer, and the other colony of the worlds can only house so many more millions of people; that leaves billions who need a place to live, billions who would destroy her world the same way they destroyed their own. The Liberty War began thirty years ago because her people realized they had a moral, religious duty to protect their planet.
Despite their lower technological reserves, they held out for decades, even enjoying a period of relative quiet. But in the past few years, Earth has resumed the fight with a vengeance. Genesis is the only prize worth claiming—anywhere, for anyone.
“Ganaraj,” she says. “They’re getting too far apart.”
“Regulations state—” Ganaraj breaks off. “We have clearance. Take these things down.”
Four and a half minutes. It took four and a half minutes for that decision to be made. But that’s Genesis’s leadership for you, all the way from the top of the Elder Council to midlevel military command—always cautious, always hesitant, always waiting to be acted upon instead of taking the initiative to act—
She catches herself. All her life, she had revered the Council, trusted in their judgment, and followed their guidance even when that meant volunteering for the suicidal Masada Run. Then came her journey through the Loop of colony planets and Earth itself, a trip that opened her eyes to other perspectives on the Liberty War… and made her acutely aware of the Council’s fatalism. Even after her report made it clear that Earth had new vulnerabilities due to the changing political situation throughout the worlds, the Council hadn’t canceled the Masada Run. Only “postponed” it until some unknown future date. And all these months later, the Elders have yet to take one concrete action to capitalize on the intel Noemi has given them.
At least she can take action now. Noemi targets the first star and tightens her fingers on the triggers. It dies in a cloud of bluish dust and a brief flash of light quickly snuffed by the cold of space—as satisfying to her as any explosion could ever be.
If only she could blow them up faster! They’re casting a wide net now, clearly preparing to encircle Genesis itself, which wells larger through her cockpit window, its green-and-blue surface placid beneath this strange assault. The stars have individual targets, she realizes, and those targets are all over her world. Her hair prickles as it stands on end. “Ganaraj, we need backup ASAP.”
Another star flares bright with energy as her blaster hits it, then disintegrates—that one was hit by O’Farrell, who yells, “We can take these things out on our own!”
Noemi shakes her head, as though O’Farrell could see her. “Maybe, but we can’t take that chance.”
“I’ve asked ground to weigh in,” Ganaraj says. “Hang on!”
Hang on? These stars are about to enter atmosphere and he still wants to get approval? Noemi bites back her frustration and resumes firing, targeting every star she can scan.
But she can’t scan them all any longer. Their three ships fly farther apart as each tries to take out the stars aimed at the three major continents of Genesis. One after another, Noemi blows them to bits—but they’re too spaced out. Too far. In the same moment that she destroys her twentieth star, she sees one glow bright with the heat of atmospheric entry. Then another glows as it enters the far horizon. And another, and another—
Don’t focus on what you can’t do, she reminds herself. Focus on what you can.
In the end, according to scans, forty-seven stars make impact with the surface of Genesis. Every single star hits a populated landmass, most of them in or near major cities and transit hubs; not one lands in the ocean, despite her planet being 60 percent covered with water. This suggests targeting. Yet the stars don’t explode on impact, or smash into government buildings, or do anything else obviously destructive. One of them lands on a monorail track, damaging it slightly, and another gouges out a thick gash in a public park. But that’s as serious as the property damage gets, and the reported injuries are not life-threatening—small cuts from debris, a minor transit accident when a driver was so startled he failed to watch signals, and one person who fainted in fear and bruised her head in the fall.
No one is seriously hurt—only Noemi’s reputation is.
“Ganaraj reports that you repeatedly argued against getting approvals from command,” says Captain Baz as she sits in her office. Noemi stands in front of her desk at attention. “In other words, you wanted him to ignore standard protocols.”
“Captain, we’re allowed to use discretion on our patrols. Shooting down projectiles sent from the Earth system is well within that discretion.”
“Arguably.” Baz’s voice is dry. “Almost certainly, in fact. But not explicitly. The problem isn’t that you wanted to shoot them down, Vidal. It’s that you advocated against your commanding officer contacting his commanding officer, which can sound an awful lot like urging him to rogue action.”
“Rogue action?” Noemi manages to hang on to her temper, but it’s close. “Forgive me, Captain—I meant to say, shooting down those stars hardly constitutes ‘rogue action.’”
Baz nods tiredly. “Those are Ganaraj’s words, not mine. And if you feel that’s an unfair interpretation of your actions, I agree.” She leans back in her desk chair, loosing her head scarf like she sometimes does when it’s only women around. “You’ve had to deal with that a lot the past few months. The others are hard on you. It’s tough, and you’re holding up despite the pressure. That takes guts. Don’t think I don’t notice.”
Noemi swallows down the lump in her throat. “That means a lot, ma’am.”
Baz sighs again. “Ganaraj won’t be happy we didn’t put you on report. It might be a good idea to… take a break from flying for a while. We’ll find something for you to do on the ground. Preferably a duty you can fulfill all alone, without anybody else to piss off.”
“Yes, Captain.” This solution strikes Noemi as one that will compound the problem. “But I need to find a way to be a part of the squadron again. More than I was before, if possible. I think that would be better.”
Always, she’s stood at the fringes. Sometimes she feels like she’s been lonely her entire life since her parents died. Esther was the only friend who ever understood her, and Esther’s grave is in the heart of a star all the way across the galaxy.
Baz doesn’t seem to see it that way. “You’ve always been independent, Lieutenant Vidal. That’s not a bad thing. Learn to embrace it. Not everyone has to be a ‘people person.’”
It’s all Noemi can do not to laugh. That’s not something she’s likely to be mistaken for.
Since Esther’s death, she’s only been special to one person. One who saw her more deeply than even Esther ever did.
One nobody else on Genesis would admit is a person at all.
The captain’s tone turns gentler, more thoughtful. “Some Second Catholics meditate, I know. Do you?”
“I’ve tried. I’m not very good at it.”
“That’s the secret about meditation—nobody’s good at it.” A quick smile flashes across Baz’s face. “You need to find center, Vidal. You need to refocus. If you do that, I think the people around you will sense it.”
“Maybe so,” Noemi replies politely. She gives this about a zero percent chance of success.
Either Baz doesn’t pick up on Noemi’s skepticism or she doesn’t care. “The next time you meditate, I want you to ask yourself two questions. What are you fighting, Noemi Vidal? And what are you fighting for?”
The questions resonate more deeply for Noemi than she would’ve thought. Disconcerted, she stares at the floor as she nods.
“You’re free to go,” Captain Baz says. At least she won’t push the meditation thing any further. “Try not to step on any toes on your way out?”
“Yes, Captain. But—I wanted to ask about the stars. Have the scientists figured out what they are yet? What they were supposed to do?”
Baz shrugs. “So far nobody has a clue. Nothing obvious has shown up. Nothing not so obvious either. Maybe it wasn’t official, or serious. Maybe some Earther with more money than sense decided to make harassing us his new hobby.”
“Maybe,” Noemi says. But she can’t bring herself to believe it. Those projectiles from Earth could only have been intended to do them harm.
If they failed, that means others will be coming. This time, she won’t have a chance to shoot them down.
HALF A GALAXY AWAY, ON A LUSH RESORT ISLAND OFF the coast of China, Abel is crashing a party.
“Thank you,” he says to the George model who hands back his identibadge, the one Abel personally programmed with false data. George mechs are only equipped with enough intelligence for uninteresting bureaucratic tasks, and this one performed only routine checks, all of which Abel had taken into account. It would take a far deeper inquiry to discover any issues. Even a human would’ve been unlikely to determine that the man walking into the party is not actually named Kevin Lambert, is not a lifelong resident of Great Britain, and is not a potential investor in Mansfield Cybernetics.
The party fills a large, oval, translucent bubble suspended not far above the ocean, surrounded by a few smoky side rooms and corridors that wind around it like the precious-metal setting around a jewel. So far, attendees number approximately two hundred and seventeen; he’ll finalize this count once he’s certain he’s accounted for people who might be in bathrooms or hallways. There’s at least one service mech for every three partygoers, a mixture of Dogs and Yokes handing around food on trays, a couple of scantily clad Fox and Peter models no doubt provided for after-party entertainment, and three Oboes in the corner, playing music just loud enough to ensure people can still converse.
Abel’s information about popular music aged badly during the thirty years of his confinement. He’s still catching up. After nearly a century of slower, gentler, neoclassical music, up-tempo tunes have returned to popularity. This song, with a hundred and forty beats per minute, is clearly meant to echo a human heartbeat in a state of excitement, thus stimulating listeners on both conscious and subconscious levels….
Then he stops analyzing the music and simply asks himself, Do you like it?
Yes. He does.
A slight smile on his face, Abel walks into the heart of the gathering. He’s surrounded on all sides by the rich and beautiful—slim bodies garbed in richly patterned kimonos, jackets and trousers cut to emphasize attractiveness, and silk dresses that do little to conceal every curve and plane of the bodies within.
Only 3.16 meters beneath the transparent flooring, the dark water ripples past, waves forming under their feet to break on the distant shore. Soft bands of light sweep downward repeatedly as if the illumination were flowing along the walls into the sea.
The dataread tucked into Abel’s black silk jacket pulses once. Rather than pull it out, he simply taps his chest pocket and localizes the range of his hearing. The crowd’s murmuring instantly becomes muted.
“How’s it going down there?” asks Harriet Dixon, who works as the pilot of Abel’s ship, the Persephone. She’s generally full of bubbly optimism, but she gets nervous when she can tell Abel isn’t telling her the full story. “Finished trading the ‘big and sparkly’ yet?”
He snags a glass of champagne from a nearby Yoke’s tray to complete his image as a partygoer. “Not yet.”
This is untrue. He sold the diamond they mined from a meteor near Saturn as soon as they made landfall on Earth. His other tasks do not concern Harriet and her partner, Zayan Thakur. Involving them would only put them at risk. Abel has begun calculating the morality of lying in more complex ways, of late.
“As long as you’re not losing it at a casino,” Harriet says. “That stone’s going to fetch us enough to live on for months! If you manage it right.”
“I will,” Abel says. In fact the price he got could probably pay for a full year’s operating costs. He will cut Harriet and Zayan in for equal shares of the haul, but he has chosen to distribute larger windfalls in smaller, scheduled installments. When he met his crew members six months ago, they were very near the point of starvation. The natural psychological result of such privation is the impulse to spend any funds as quickly as they come in, sometimes on pure extravagance. This isn’t unique to Harriet and Zayan; most Vagabonds are so used to living on scarce resources that they’re often unsure how to handle prosperity. Such luxuries don’t tempt Abel.
His one temptation lurks at the far edge of the Earth system, monitored by security satellites—the Genesis Gate.
The pathway that would lead back to Noemi, and probably to his own death.
Sometimes that journey seems worth the price.
“I promise I won’t gamble it away,” Abel adds. “I should be back on the Persephone within two hours.”
“You’d better be.” That’s Zayan, clearly shouting over from his ops station. “Or we’ll turn Earth upside down looking for you.”
“Security stations, too.” Harriet’s picked up on the fact that Abel uses false identification and tries hard to avoid interacting with Queen and Charlie models. She is highly intelligent, but understandably has not figured out precisely why he avoids them. No doubt she’s assumed he’s in trouble with the law on some system or another. “You’re the luckiest Vagabond I ever saw. But everyone’s luck runs out someday, Abel.”
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 story involves nearly constant adventure and suspense along with a complicated slow-burn romance that is sure to delight teen readers. A thrilling science fiction adventure."—SLC
"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...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... [The] book's conclusion thrills and satisfies while defying expectations."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Replete with rebels, bots, and battles, this top-notch space adventure features a well-developed plot and an unexpected, satisfying ending...A must-buy for sci-fi readers."—School Library Journal
"A fast-paced thrill ride...Brilliantly done, the book explores what it means to be human."—Romantic Times
"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...Defy the Stars is nothing short of masterful."—Kass Morgan, New York Times bestselling author of The 100 series
- On Sale
- Mar 5, 2019
- Page Count
- 496 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers