Defy the Stars(148)

By: Claudia Gray

After that, he was free.

So, he became a Vagabond, dressing and acting the part. In order to get work hauling shipments and the like—while still avoiding interaction with Georges and other mechs that might now be programmed to recognize his face—he knew he’d need to take on a crew. But it could only be a small one, made up only of people he trusts. Luckily, Harriet and Zayan had still been working on Wayland Station, doing the backbreaking labor of post-explosion cleanup. Innocent of Abel’s status as either mech or fugitive, they were only too happy to switch to cushier jobs on such a “flash” ship.

“Room and board comes with the job?” Harriet had said, eyes wide, as Zayan whooped in happy disbelief. “You’re a soft touch, Abel, you know that?”

As a mech it is pleasant, if ironic, to be told you have a kind heart.

He’d like to hear what his creator would think of that, but of course that would mean encountering Burton Mansfield again, an experience Abel intends to avoid. It’s even possible that his creator has died by now. He was so elderly, so frail, and enough of Abel’s programming lingers to pain him whenever he remembers Mansfield’s racking cough.

If Mansfield is alive, however, he’s searching for Abel more desperately than ever. Best for Abel to stay on the move. Mansfield has only so many months left, after all, and Abel can wait forever.

Forever is a long time. Long enough, perhaps, that he might one day travel to Genesis.

He’s still willing to die for Noemi and her world. Still hasn’t completely abandoned the idea of stealing another thermomagnetic device, returning to the Genesis Gate, and destroying it for her. But he has other ideas, too, now.

For instance—what if he returned to Genesis with an army?

There’s a resistance out there, deadly and effective, and he’s owed favors by members of both the moderate and radical wings. Some scientists on Cray, in the very core of Earth’s technological supremacy, appear willing to break ranks. Earth will do anything to bury the truth about Cobweb, a truth Abel knows and might, in time, learn how to exploit. These elements, brought together, could prove very powerful.

What if Earth could be cowed into making peace? He likes the idea of sailing through the Genesis Gate accompanied by diplomatic envoys, and knows Noemi would like it even more. For all her talk about winning the war, what she wanted most was to end it. To have a chance to choose her own life, the way Abel is choosing his own.

He’s going to do what she asked. He’ll explore this entire galaxy, and experience every single thing he can.

But nothing seems likely to match their one kiss.

As Harriet brings the ship toward Saturn, its rings dominating the enormous viewscreen, Abel focuses on a single tiny star above it. That’s Genesis’s sun. From here he can see it in all its light.

Silently he traces out a new constellation, one only he knows. One with Noemi at the very heart.


I owe thanks to so many people—first and foremost my wonderful editor, Pam Gruber, who saw the promise in this idea and has made working on this book such a pleasure. Thanks also to my agent, Diana Fox, to my assistants, Erin Gross and Melissa Jolly, and to my family: Mom, Dad, Matthew, Melissa, Eli, and Ari. In all honesty I should probably also thank Ba Chi Canteen for providing the immense amounts of pho required to fuel me through this project; and Madeline Nelson, Stephanie Nelson, and Marti Dumas for being willing to go to Ba Chi with me that many times. As ever, thanks to Edy Moulton, Ruth Morrison, and Rodney Crouther for listening to all my crazy plot ideas, and Dr. Whitney Raju for patiently talking me through the medical implications of each one. Finally, all the love to the good people of Octavia Books in New Orleans. (If you want a signed copy of any of my books, visit them online! They can take care of that for you.)