Read This Shattered World Online

Authors: Amie Kaufman

This Shattered World

BOOK: This Shattered World
6.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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

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.

ISBN 978-1-4231-8779-0



Title Page



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty


About the Author

For Marilyn Kaufman and Sandra Spooner,
who have always been our unflinching allies,
and will always have our backs in every battle we face.

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.

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,
usually means

“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
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
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.

BOOK: This Shattered World
6.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Inner Guidance by Anne Archer Butcher
Jungle Fever Bundle by Hazel Hunter
Death Wave by Stephen Coonts
The Wedding Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini
Art of the Lie by Delphine Dryden
Astray by Emma Donoghue
Her Charming Secret by Sam Ayers