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Authors: Ann Aguirre

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BOOK: Wanderlust
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Ann Aguirre






Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)

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Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.


An Ace Book / published by arrangement with the author



Ace mass-market edition / September 2008


Copyright © 2008 by Ann Aguirre.


All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.


ISBN: 978-1-436-25647-6


Ace Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
ACE and the “A” design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.



10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”



For Andres.
Who doesn’t miss a beat when I IM with questions like
“Should they steal a ship or be rescued by space pirates?”
I couldn’t ask for more in a partner.
I hope you’re half as proud of me as I am of you.
(The dog thinks you’re awesome, too.)





I’m indebted to Laura Bradford, my agent. She is a person of great wit, verve, and discernment. I feel so lucky to have met, worked, book shopped, and eaten omelets with her. Her great spirit humbles me.

This book wouldn’t exist without Anne Sowards. Her expertise makes her a pleasure to work with, and her insights never fail to improve my books. I’d also like to thank the talented staff at Ace for their hard work.

Finally, thanks to my friends, who respond to my ramblings as if I make sense. Much love to Lauren Dane, Carrie Lofty, and Angie Fox, who put up with me daily.





The hearings have been going on for days.

I don’t know why I thought it was over, just because we got the truth out. There are always people who refuse to believe it, or want to analyze what they’ve seen seventy-four times before they even try to accept that reality has changed. I’ve been answering the same questions under oath for them for the last week, so I’m at the end of my patience when I’m summoned, yet again.

The room-bot tells me, “Your presence is required in conference room 7-J, Sirantha Jax.”

Well, of course it is. My eyes burn as I step out into the pristine white corridor. I feel oddly fragile, as if my bones have grown too big for my skin. I haven’t been sleeping well in what used to be Farwan’s staff dormitory, and they won’t let me see March. They’re keeping us sequestered to make sure we don’t synchronize our stories, I guess. The Conglomerate-appointed Taskforce has a great interest in getting at the truth, which is understandable, given that we’ve known only what the Corp chose to disseminate for decades now.

The Conglomerate spent countless centuries as an impotent coalition of planetary representatives, holding sessions and debating issues that never changed anything. Now all the representatives are gathered on New Terra, jockeying for power and trying to fill the void left by Farwan’s fall. At this point, the Conglomerate can’t be blamed for its zeal. They don’t want someone else to seize control while things whirl in a chaotic spin.

Doesn’t mean I enjoy these constant, courteous interrogations. I find it difficult not to flash back to all the “counseling” sessions I suffered after Kai died. Kai was my pilot first, then my friend—and then he was . . . everything. I’d never known it was possible to love as he did—with complete devotion yet devoid of promises. The crash of the
, engineered by Farwan Corporation, reshaped my world, and for a while I wasn’t sure I’d survive the shift.

That’s behind me now. The world has changed because of Kai’s death. People won’t forget him, and that assuages the loss. The other day, I saw on the news, they’re building a monument in Center Park, a small reproduction of the
with a brass plaque graven with the names of the dead.

The Conglomerate mines its representatives from corporations and special-interest groups. Only a few come from genuine free elections, devoid of corruption, kickbacks, and nepotism, and I can’t honestly say whether I’ve done a good thing by destroying Farwan. If nothing else, they were stable, and now we have a great chasm at the center, around which everything trembles.

But I couldn’t let them get away with murdering Kai.

People nod at me as I pass through the hallway and into the lift, heading for the seventh floor. I’m a public figure now. I always was to some degree, I suppose. The news vids often flashed images of me, returning from a successful jump, and the gutter press loved to publicize my barroom brawls.

Bracing myself, I step through the open doorway into conference room 7-J. To my surprise, I don’t find the usual panel of judges and planetary representatives gazing at me with poorly concealed disapproval. Maybe they finally believe I’m telling the truth, but they don’t like me for it. Thanks to me, the status quo has been destroyed, and now we have multiple parties rushing to fill the vacuum, some of which are worse than Farwan. Sometimes the truth doesn’t set you free; it just presents a different set of problems.

Instead I find Dina, March, and the Chancellor of New Terra. March smiles at me with such warmth that my heart contracts. They’ve cleared him of charges since nobody died during the standoff, plus the resultant broadcast knocked him clean off center stage.

When he thought I was dead, he stormed Corp headquarters and took the whole building hostage. March didn’t think it would bring me back. He just wanted to watch the man who gave the order die.

The woman, Dina, looks good, as if she’s been getting some sun, and her blond hair shines with new highlights. When she feels my scrutiny, she discreetly flips me the bird. I barely restrain a smile.

You all right?
He comes into me quietly.

Right after I met March, I thought I was going crazy— and perhaps I was, but not because I sensed him inside my head when he shouldn’t be. Since he’s Psi, he can skim surface thoughts as if he were dipping a net into the water. With most people, that’s all he can do without causing irreparable harm. Our theta waves are compatible, which means he can share a
more with me.

I answer with my eyes and a slight smile. Just being in the same room with him makes things better. Easier.

The Chancellor gazes between us as if sensing subtext. He’s a sharp one. Suni Tarn is a big man, rawboned, with disheveled salt-and-pepper hair, but he wears real silk. A study in contrasts, then. His smile seems sincere as he invites, “Take a seat, Ms. Jax.”

Warily, I do so. “What’s this about?”

I expected to find another panel wanting to hear the same story yet again. For some reason, this assembly makes me nervous. March offers a look of quiet reassurance, and some of the tension fades. If it was bad, he’d warn me, surely.

“The Conglomerate has served as figurehead long enough, and we’re determined to restructure so that regulatory functions return to our control. No longer will the private sector control tariffs and jump-travel training. After reviewing your testimony, we’d like to repay you for your loyalty to the Conglomerate. It can’t have been easy, staying one jump ahead of Farwan when they were so determined to suppress the truth.”

After replaying his words in my head, they still ring with governmental doublespeak. “I’m not actually sure what that means.”

“They intend to make you an ambassador,” Dina says with a smirk.

Mary, I’ve missed her.

“True.” Tarn nods, folding his hands before him. “There are a few formerly class-P worlds that have reached the correct level of technology to be considered for addition to the Conglomerate. There are also a number of xenophobic planets from which we need to recruit representatives. If they are allowed to secede, they will presume they are exempt from travel regulations and tariffs as well. And that’s how wars start.”

BOOK: Wanderlust
2.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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