Revolt (The Virtual War Chronologs Series #3)

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Overview

What do you do when someone truly hates you?

Corgan is used to being the hero. Leader of the team that won the Virtual War, he chose for his reward to live on the Isles of Hiva, in an idyllic paradise. Idyllic until the clones, Brigand and Cyborg, arrived, that is. Life hasn't been the same for Corgan since.

Now he's lucky if his former fans even remember his name. But more worrisome is that he has an enemy, a mortal enemy in the form of ...

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Overview

What do you do when someone truly hates you?

Corgan is used to being the hero. Leader of the team that won the Virtual War, he chose for his reward to live on the Isles of Hiva, in an idyllic paradise. Idyllic until the clones, Brigand and Cyborg, arrived, that is. Life hasn't been the same for Corgan since.

Now he's lucky if his former fans even remember his name. But more worrisome is that he has an enemy, a mortal enemy in the form of Brigand, who has taken over not only Corgan's mantle as the most well-known person in the Domes, but has taken Corgan's girlfriend, Sharla, away too. When Brigand tried to kill Corgan back in the Wyo-Dome and failed, Corgan thought he would be free of Brigand at last. But now the power-obsessed Brigand has followed him to Florida, determined to rule the Domes and finish Corgan off for good. Corgan escaped from Brigand once, but can he do it again? And more importantly, does he even want to escape this time?

So now Corgan's got two choices. He can fight and risk getting killed or, worse, captured by Brigand. Or he can walk away and take Sharla with him...if he can figure out how to use a spacecraft that hasn't been flown in more than fifty years.

Picking right up from where The Clones left off, this fast-paced sequel will not disappoint Gloria Skurzynski's eager fans.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The Virtual War Chronologs launched with Virtual War, which PW called a "speed read... just the ticket for cyberfiction enthusiasts." Picking up from The Clones, The Revolt by Gloria Skurzynski now finds Corgan as the focus of Brig's ire. Brig has already stolen Sharla, Corgan's girlfriend, will he stop at nothing to rid the world of Corgan? Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
Skurzynski fails to live up to the promise of Virtual War (Atheneum/S & S, 1997/VOYA August 1997) in this third installment of The Virtual War Chronologs. The clone Brigand, rapidly aging because of DNA alterations, has incited a revolt in the domed city and has taken over, attempting to murder Corgan in the process. Brigand's twin, Cyborg, assists Corgan's escape and flees with him, but Sharla stays behind, loyal to Brigand and hoping to cure the twins' aging. After a crash landing in which Cyborg is injured, the fugitives find themselves in the domed city of Florida. Corgan unites with Ananda, the champion-in-training of the Western hemisphere, and Thebos, an ancient engineer with vast amounts of knowledge. Brigand's shocking attack on Florida throws the populace into panic, severely injures Sharla, and sends Corgan and his friends fleeing into space with hopes of healing Sharla and Cyborg. As with The Clones (2002/VOYA August 2002), bouts of action come after stretches of being bad-tempered or complaining. Corgan is still angered by Sharla's attachment to Brigand (an attachment less comprehensible the more maniacal Brigand becomes) and is also jealous of Ananda's attraction to the brilliant Cyborg. Although fans of the series will appreciate the cliffhanger ending and anticipate an upcoming fourth volume, the soap-opera nature of the conflict and lack of character development might turn off some readers. Those unfamiliar with the series are likely to find this story incomprehensible. VOYA CODES: 2Q 2P M J (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined asgrades 7 to 9). 2005, Atheneum/S & S, 256p., Ages 11 to 15.
—Catherine Gilmore-Clough
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Picking up where The Clones (S & S, 2002) ended, The Revolt begins with Corgan and Cyborg's escape in the Harrier jet to the Flor-DC (Florida domed city). When their plane crashes, it is only the first tense incident in this action-packed, sci-fi adventure. Other characters from the previous books play large roles in this volume as well, such as Ananda, the athletic and immature teen who is training to fight the next Virtual War; Brigand, Cyborg's clone-twin, who is now tattooed, violent, and more power-hungry than ever; and Sharla, who spends most of this story in a catatonic state after crashing through the domed-city with Brigand. Character development is evident as Corgan grows from a sheltered and moody youth into a young man who must make critical decisions in morally ambiguous moments. The cliff-hanger ending will leave readers anxiously awaiting book four. Recommend The Revolt to fans of Jonathan Stroud's "Bartimaeus Trilogy" (Hyperion) or Jeanne DuPrau's The City of Ember (Random, 2003).-Jessi Platt, Auburn Public Library, AL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Jumping directly from the cliffhanger ending of The Clones (2002), the latest entry in Skurzynski's post-apocalyptic series finds the genetically enhanced Corgan piloting a scavenged aircraft across a ravaged continent, fleeing from the uprising fomented by the psychopathic genius Brigand. He finds refuge in the Florida domed city with Ananda, who is training to replace Corgan as the Western Hemisphere's champion. Corgan, at loose ends, starts studying with the aged scientific genius Thebos, learning of a secret spacecraft built before the Devastation. Suddenly Brigand (literally) crashes in, with Corgan's beloved Sharla, plotting to spread his revolutionary rule. Should Corgan stand and fight? Or escape again-this time to the stars? Corgan finally shows some character development, becoming marginally less clueless and self-centered, although the secondary characters remain more appealing. The action piles on at a frenetic pace, almost distracting readers from the inexplicable appearance of one miraculous gizmo after another as the plot demands. Nothing will assuage their howls of frustration, however, as the book concludes on yet another cliffhanger. Purchase as interest in the series demands. (Science fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689842658
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 5/31/2005
  • Series: Virtual War Chronologs Series , #3
  • Edition description: Ages 12 up
  • Pages: 256
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 840L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Gloria Skurzynski is the author of more than fifty books for children and young adults, including Virtual War, The Clones, and The Revolt. Her books have won numerous awards, among them the Christopher Award, the Spur Award from the Western Writers of America, the Golden Kite Award, and the Science Book Award from the American Institute of Physics. She lives with her husband, Ed, in Boise, Idaho. You can visit her website at gloriabooks.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Prologue

Time. It kept screwing him up, screwing up his whole life. He needed more time to get what he wanted! Groaning, he paced the room, then, grabbing an i-pen, he began to write all the things that had happened.

Year 2001

The first terrorist attacks

2012

The first plagues

2012 to 2035

Eleven nuclear accidents

2038

Nuclear wars begin

2038 to 2058

Worldwide contamination; devastation complete.

Domed cities built to protect survivors

2066

Corgan and Sharla are born in the Wyoming domed city.

2070

Brig, the genius of strategy, is born.

2080

Virtual war fought. The western hemisphere federation team of Corgan, Sharla, and Brig defeat the Eurasian alliance and the pan pacific coalition teams to win the uncontaminated isles of Hiva. Corgan and Sharla spend six months together on Nuku Hiva.

2081

Brig dies. Sharla clones Brigand and Cyborg in her laboratory. She takes baby cyborg to Nuku Hiva for Corgan to raise. The clone-twins are programmed to grow two years older each month.

2081 (Four months later)

When the clone-twins are about eight years old, Cyborg nearly drowns, but Brigand rescues him by cutting off Cyborg's hand that had been trapped beneath a boulder.

Light from the i-screen illuminated the gold braid on his sleeve as he bowed his head and held his hands over his eyes. Minutes passed before he raised his head and picked up the i-pen once again. Now he began to write more rapidly.

February 2082

Corgan and Brigand fly from the island of Nuku Hiva to the Wyoming domed city where they join Sharla and Cyborg. Cyborg now has a powerful, magnetic artificial hand. Brigand goes into hiding and recruits rebels for the Wyo-D.C revolt. Corgan trains virtually with Ananda, the champion of the Florida domed city, and uses a simulator to learn to fly the harrier jet.

April 2082

Brigand and Cyborg become the same age as Corgan and Sharla — sixteen. Brigand's revolt begins, and he tries to kill Corgan. Corgan escapes in the harrier jet, flies it to the Flor-DC, and Cyborg goes with him —

Scowling, he stood up. Revenge. That's what he wanted. And he would get it. Soon enough.

Copyright © 2005 by Gloria Skurzynski

Chapter One

The sky was clear, with only a few clouds sheared off at the top as though they'd been sliced by a machete.

"Are we there yet?" Cyborg asked.

Corgan didn't answer. How could he admit to Cyborg that he had no idea where they were, except somewhere in the sky? Cyborg, who'd left the security of the Wyoming domed city to flee with him, who'd caught the bullet that would have killed him, who'd betrayed his own clone-twin to save Corgan's life — he deserved more than a totally lost pilot.

Cyborg's voice crackled over the Harrier jet's communication system as he asked for the second time, "Are we there yet, Corgan?" And then after a pause, "You don't have a clue, do you?"

At ten thousand meters above ground level Corgan strained to see a landmark. Any kind of landmark. Mumbling into the communicator, he told Cyborg, "Look for something big and blue."

"Big? Blue?"

"Yeah. We need to find the Atlantic Ocean."

"The Atlan...!" From the second seat of the jet Cyborg leaned forward, as if that would make his voice boom louder through the headset. "You want me to look for a whole ocean? Be a little more specific, Corgan. Any particular part of the Atlantic Ocean?"

"You know what I mean. The part next to Florida." Corgan frowned, trying to think and fly the plane at the same time. Once, when he and Ananda had been training together in virtual reality — Corgan in the Wyoming domed city and Ananda in the Florida domed city — he'd asked her if there were any particular ruins around her. He knew that most of the domed cities, called DCs, had been built near the ruins of destroyed metropolises, so the Florida DC might be near one too. Ananda hadn't been certain — after all, the devastation had happened decades before either of them were born — but she'd thought maybe there'd once been a city close by called Carnival. Or something like that.

Corgan anxiously checked the fuel gauge. It showed one-eighth full, but could he trust that? The Harrier jet was forty years old, bolted together from whatever discarded parts the robotic mechanics could find. Only robots sorted through old junkyards for usable pieces, because most of the world outside the domes was too contaminated for humans to enter. During the devastation every known meter of Earth's surface had been scorched, leveled, laid barren, and poisoned by nuclear blasts, toxicity, plagues, and bioterrorism.

So the plane was old and Corgan was new to flying. This was his first actual flight, but he tried not to think about that because the fact was terrifying. The virtual simulator Corgan had trained on hadn't duplicated the feel of the Harrier in flight, the powerful forward thrust he felt beneath him now, the roar of the engine, the sense of air rushing around the wings, holding the craft aloft like powerful hands. All those dials and gauges at Corgan's fingertips demanded his immediate attention, because if he made a mistake, both he and Cyborg would die, with enough seconds before the crash that they'd know death was inevitable. Having control, being responsible for handling this roaring force, meant that all Corgan's senses had to wrap around the job of flying. He gripped the stick tighter to stop his hands from shaking.

Through the headset he heard a rattling. "I'm looking at this old map," Cyborg announced. "We're high enough that we ought to be able to make out the shape of Florida. I mean, it's got water all around it, right?"

"If you say so." Corgan dropped the jet five thousand meters to fly beneath the clouds, peering through the side window. "Ananda told me her DC is so close to the ocean she can look through the dome and see waves."

Twenty-three minutes and forty and a quarter seconds later they spotted the Florida DC, Corgan with a vast sense of relief. From the air it looked twice as large as the Wyo-DC they'd lived in, Corgan for the first fourteen years of his life and Cyborg for the last several months. "There it is," he called out. Circling slowly, he tried to see the retractable doors that should be visible in the top of the huge transparent dome — that is, if they'd been installed the way they had been in the Wyoming dome. He'd need someone on the ground to open those doors so he could lower the Harrier in a vertical landing straight down onto the landing pad inside. He wished he had radio contact to signal an operator inside the dome for guidance, because the retractable doors seemed to be so cleverly hidden that he couldn't spot them. But radio communication was a thing of the past. The communication satellites had long since fallen out of orbit and burned when they entered Earth's atmosphere.

If he flew around and around over the dome, someone in there ought to notice him and open whatever entrance doors there were. "Maybe they're afraid to let us in," he told Cyborg. "Maybe they think we're an enemy."

"Well, they for sure won't be expecting a strange aircraft to pay a visit. I'm wondering...," Cyborg mused. "What if the Flor-DC doesn't own any aircraft? I mean, almost all aircraft were destroyed in the nuclear wars. We were lucky our Wyo-DC saved the two Harriers, even though one of them's just a piece of junk that can't fly, but if the Flor-DC never had any aircraft, they wouldn't have any dome roof doors. What would be the point? Right?"

No entrance? The possibility chilled Corgan's insides. If he couldn't bring down the Harrier through the roof of the dome, how were they supposed to get inside, and if they couldn't get inside, where else could they go? The only other domed cities were thousands of miles away. He circled once again, lower, trying to find a usable entrance somewhere...anywhere. At ground level maybe. Negative. Next he looked for a possible landing spot outside the dome. Nothing but ocean to the east of it; high, jagged, shell-like ruins of buildings to the south; and moldy swamps everywhere else around the periphery.

Right then the Harrier engine started to sputter. The craft bucked and bolted, almost pulling the controls out of Corgan's hands. "Fuel's almost gone!" he yelled.

Wait! Wait! This same situation had been thrown at him in the virtual simulator — if the plane runs out of fuel, what does the pilot do? Think! He knew that fixed-wing aircrafts need forward motion to avoid crashing, but the Harrier could change its engine thrust from horizontal to vertical, from forward motion to straight down. If there was even a little fuel left, maybe he could move the nozzles to vertical and shoot out blasts of hot air, cushioning a vertical landing into the ocean. Better that than a nosedive crash.

No go. The engine choked again. With the last drops of fuel he pulled up the nose of the aircraft and gunned her, and then the fuel was totally gone. "Eject! Eject!" he shouted, hoping Cyborg remembered where the eject handle was on his seat. Bracing himself, Corgan leaned back hard, with his head pushed against the headrest and his feet on the rudder pedals. That was the position the simulator said a pilot should take before ejecting. "Cyborg, let's go!" he yelled. Then he yanked the handle.

With a deafening explosion the canopy blew away. At the same instant the rockets beneath Corgan's seat fired, and he felt himself shoot like a cannonball out of the Harrier. Still in the seat, he got hit so hard by wind it blew off his helmet. Had Cyborg made it out? Corgan couldn't see anything because he was tumbling head over heels in somersaults, with clouds above him and ground beneath him and then the opposite as he flipped upside down. He was still strapped into his seat.

A sudden tug told him his parachute had deployed, and at the same time the seat fell away. He tried to yell Cyborg's name, but the wind tore into his mouth like a fist, shoving his voice back into his throat. After what seemed an interminable time, although his time-splitting ability let him know it was only nine and nineteen hundredths seconds, the parachute filled with air and jerked him upright. Far beneath he saw the Harrier crash into the ocean, splashing water so high, Corgan instinctively jerked up his feet. Then the aircraft was gone, sinking into the Atlantic.

A strong wind began to blow Corgan away from the coastline and out to sea, but he managed to yank on the parachute risers to drift back toward shore. Why was he descending so fast? Did the parachute have a rip in it? And where was Cyborg? Down, down, down Corgan dropped, with the choppy whitecaps reaching up as if to grab him — and then he hit.

The water sheathed him like a shroud, swallowed him, blocked all sound. Dazed, not sure how deeply into the water he'd sunk, he gagged at the nauseating taste of rancid water on his lips. Focus! Get rid of that parachute fast, he told himself, or get tangled like a fish in a net. The murk stung his eyes, making it hard to see as he fumbled with the harness, somehow loosening it. Pushing himself upward to gasp air, he searched the sky for Cyborg's chute. Nothing. The sky was empty.

Maybe Cyborg had already fallen into the ocean. He could swim; he swam like a fish. Corgan had taught him how when Cyborg was so little he could barely toddle into the Pacific. But what if he'd been knocked unconscious when he ejected? Corgan dived deeper into the water and searched. Though the contamination burned his eyes, he forced himself to keep them open so he could peer through the murk for any sign of movement. His mind flashed back to the time on Nuku Hiva when he'd tried so hard to rescue Cyborg from the pool. But he'd been too late. Too late to save eight-year-old Cyborg from mutilation by his clone-twin.

Something floated slowly toward Corgan, half a dozen meters away. Cyborg? No, as it came closer Corgan could see what looked like an enormous, flopping mouth in an undulating body surrounded by mucuslike slime. A mutation — with a mouth big enough to swallow Corgan whole! Jerking in fright, he splashed into a fast U-turn, only to swim head-on into a long tentacle with a hook on the end. No! It wasn't a tentacle; it was some kind of enormous worm slithering out of a hole. Other creatures came wavering toward him, but it was hard to see because of the murk. He had to get away from them before they dragged him into their lairs and ate him.

He thrust up for air and again searched the surface for Cyborg. Waves still rippled outward from the impact of the crashed Harrier jet, but beyond that the waters seemed ordinary — no one would have guessed what horrifying mutations lurked underneath, spawned by the toxins in the water. The shore was nearby; it promised safety. But what about Cyborg? How could Corgan desert him and let him die in a poisoned ocean? Once again he dived underwater to search for Cyborg. Nothing! Then up for air and down again, over and over, forcing his eyes to stay open no matter how badly they stung so he could escape any grotesque terrors that lurked beneath him.

Like that one! Only this time the creature moving toward him looked less ugly, not as vile and slimy, not as fleshy. It appeared almost...mechanical. It had two rings of multiple fins whirling in opposite directions on its back end, or tail or whatever it was. The thing was cylinder shaped, narrower at the rear than at the front, and on its flat, round face was a...a...some kind of a beam of light! As it whirred closer it shot out a tentacle that whipped around Corgan's neck and began to pull him down. Struggling, kicking at it, knowing he would drown if he couldn't free himself, Corgan grasped his throat, trying to pull off the tight, whiplike coil that choked him, but no matter how hard he fought, he couldn't tear himself loose. Then something soft covered his head and clung, sucking at him, smothering him.

And suddenly — he could breathe! He was still underwater, but he was breathing. Whatever was stuck to his face was bringing him...not air, but something that smelled strange and not unpleasant. He felt himself being pulled along by the tentacle, or wire or whatever was around his neck, pulled gently as the creature moved ahead of him, churning the water with those whirring fins.

Corgan began to relax. The mask kept the stinging water out of his eyes, even as the strange creature pulled him deeper and deeper toward the ocean floor. He could feel his mind slipping into some kind of dream. Must fight to stay alive, must find Cyborg. But why not sleep? Sleep would feel good. In the softly churning water ahead of him he saw Ananda. "Is it you?" he tried to say, but the mask fused his lips, molding around them so he couldn't speak. It didn't matter. Even as he sank into unconsciousness he knew this was not a real Ananda, but a watery illusion, a dark-haired, dark-eyed Ananda surrounded by sea mutations....

I'm dying, he thought, and it was no longer Ananda he saw. The face that swam before his eyes was Sharla's.

Copyright © 2005 by Gloria Skurzynski

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

Prologue

Time. It kept screwing him up, screwing up his whole life. He needed more time to get what he wanted! Groaning, he paced the room, then, grabbing an i-pen, he began to write all the things that had happened.

Year 2001

The first terrorist attacks

2012

The first plagues

2012 to 2035

Eleven nuclear accidents

2038

Nuclear wars begin

2038 to 2058

Worldwide contamination; devastation complete.

Domed cities built to protect survivors

2066

Corgan and Sharla are born in the Wyoming domed city.

2070

Brig, the genius of strategy, is born.

2080

Virtual war fought. The western hemisphere federation team of Corgan, Sharla, and Brig defeat the Eurasian alliance and the pan pacific coalition teams to win the uncontaminated isles of Hiva. Corgan and Sharla spend six months together on Nuku Hiva.

2081

Brig dies. Sharla clones Brigand and Cyborg in her laboratory. She takes baby cyborg to Nuku Hiva for Corgan to raise. The clone-twins are programmed to grow two years older each month.

2081 (Four months later)

When the clone-twins are about eight years old, Cyborg nearly drowns, but Brigand rescues him by cutting off Cyborg's hand that had been trapped beneath a boulder.

Light from the i-screen illuminated the gold braid on his sleeve as he bowed his head and held his hands over his eyes. Minutes passed before he raised his head and picked up the i-pen once again. Now he began to write more rapidly.

February 2082

Corgan and Brigand fly from the island of Nuku Hiva to the Wyoming domed city where they join Sharla and Cyborg. Cyborg now has a powerful, magnetic artificial hand. Brigand goes into hiding andrecruits rebels for the Wyo-D.C revolt. Corgan trains virtually with Ananda, the champion of the Florida domed city, and uses a simulator to learn to fly the harrier jet.

April 2082

Brigand and Cyborg become the same age as Corgan and Sharla -- sixteen. Brigand's revolt begins, and he tries to kill Corgan. Corgan escapes in the harrier jet, flies it to the Flor-DC, and Cyborg goes with him --

Scowling, he stood up. Revenge. That's what he wanted. And he would get it. Soon enough.

Copyright © 2005 by Gloria Skurzynski

Chapter One

The sky was clear, with only a few clouds sheared off at the top as though they'd been sliced by a machete.

"Are we there yet?" Cyborg asked.

Corgan didn't answer. How could he admit to Cyborg that he had no idea where they were, except somewhere in the sky? Cyborg, who'd left the security of the Wyoming domed city to flee with him, who'd caught the bullet that would have killed him, who'd betrayed his own clone-twin to save Corgan's life -- he deserved more than a totally lost pilot.

Cyborg's voice crackled over the Harrier jet's communication system as he asked for the second time, "Are we there yet, Corgan?" And then after a pause, "You don't have a clue, do you?"

At ten thousand meters above ground level Corgan strained to see a landmark. Any kind of landmark. Mumbling into the communicator, he told Cyborg, "Look for something big and blue."

"Big? Blue?"

"Yeah. We need to find the Atlantic Ocean."

"The Atlan...!" From the second seat of the jet Cyborg leaned forward, as if that would make his voice boom louder through the headset. "You want me to look for a whole ocean? Be a little more specific, Corgan. Any particular part of the Atlantic Ocean?"

"You know what I mean. The part next to Florida." Corgan frowned, trying to think and fly the plane at the same time. Once, when he and Ananda had been training together in virtual reality -- Corgan in the Wyoming domed city and Ananda in the Florida domed city -- he'd asked her if there were any particular ruins around her. He knew that most of the domed cities, called DCs, had been built near the ruins of destroyed metropolises, so the Florida DC might be near one too. Ananda hadn't been certain -- after all, the devastation had happened decades before either of them were born -- but she'd thought maybe there'd once been a city close by called Carnival. Or something like that.

Corgan anxiously checked the fuel gauge. It showed one-eighth full, but could he trust that? The Harrier jet was forty years old, bolted together from whatever discarded parts the robotic mechanics could find. Only robots sorted through old junkyards for usable pieces, because most of the world outside the domes was too contaminated for humans to enter. During the devastation every known meter of Earth's surface had been scorched, leveled, laid barren, and poisoned by nuclear blasts, toxicity, plagues, and bioterrorism.

So the plane was old and Corgan was new to flying. This was his first actual flight, but he tried not to think about that because the fact was terrifying. The virtual simulator Corgan had trained on hadn't duplicated the feel of the Harrier in flight, the powerful forward thrust he felt beneath him now, the roar of the engine, the sense of air rushing around the wings, holding the craft aloft like powerful hands. All those dials and gauges at Corgan's fingertips demanded his immediate attention, because if he made a mistake, both he and Cyborg would die, with enough seconds before the crash that they'd know death was inevitable. Having control, being responsible for handling this roaring force, meant that all Corgan's senses had to wrap around the job of flying. He gripped the stick tighter to stop his hands from shaking.

Through the headset he heard a rattling. "I'm looking at this old map," Cyborg announced. "We're high enough that we ought to be able to make out the shape of Florida. I mean, it's got water all around it, right?"

"If you say so." Corgan dropped the jet five thousand meters to fly beneath the clouds, peering through the side window. "Ananda told me her DC is so close to the ocean she can look through the dome and see waves."

Twenty-three minutes and forty and a quarter seconds later they spotted the Florida DC, Corgan with a vast sense of relief. From the air it looked twice as large as the Wyo-DC they'd lived in, Corgan for the first fourteen years of his life and Cyborg for the last several months. "There it is," he called out. Circling slowly, he tried to see the retractable doors that should be visible in the top of the huge transparent dome -- that is, if they'd been installed the way they had been in the Wyoming dome. He'd need someone on the ground to open those doors so he could lower the Harrier in a vertical landing straight down onto the landing pad inside. He wished he had radio contact to signal an operator inside the dome for guidance, because the retractable doors seemed to be so cleverly hidden that he couldn't spot them. But radio communication was a thing of the past. The communication satellites had long since fallen out of orbit and burned when they entered Earth's atmosphere.

If he flew around and around over the dome, someone in there ought to notice him and open whatever entrance doors there were. "Maybe they're afraid to let us in," he told Cyborg. "Maybe they think we're an enemy."

"Well, they for sure won't be expecting a strange aircraft to pay a visit. I'm wondering...," Cyborg mused. "What if the Flor-DC doesn't own any aircraft? I mean, almost all aircraft were destroyed in the nuclear wars. We were lucky our Wyo-DC saved the two Harriers, even though one of them's just a piece of junk that can't fly, but if the Flor-DC never had any aircraft, they wouldn't have any dome roof doors. What would be the point? Right?"

No entrance? The possibility chilled Corgan's insides. If he couldn't bring down the Harrier through the roof of the dome, how were they supposed to get inside, and if they couldn't get inside, where else could they go? The only other domed cities were thousands of miles away. He circled once again, lower, trying to find a usable entrance somewhere...anywhere. At ground level maybe. Negative. Next he looked for a possible landing spot outside the dome. Nothing but ocean to the east of it; high, jagged, shell-like ruins of buildings to the south; and moldy swamps everywhere else around the periphery.

Right then the Harrier engine started to sputter. The craft bucked and bolted, almost pulling the controls out of Corgan's hands. "Fuel's almost gone!" he yelled.

Wait! Wait! This same situation had been thrown at him in the virtual simulator -- if the plane runs out of fuel, what does the pilot do? Think! He knew that fixed-wing aircrafts need forward motion to avoid crashing, but the Harrier could change its engine thrust from horizontal to vertical, from forward motion to straight down. If there was even a little fuel left, maybe he could move the nozzles to vertical and shoot out blasts of hot air, cushioning a vertical landing into the ocean. Better that than a nosedive crash.

No go. The engine choked again. With the last drops of fuel he pulled up the nose of the aircraft and gunned her, and then the fuel was totally gone. "Eject! Eject!" he shouted, hoping Cyborg remembered where the eject handle was on his seat. Bracing himself, Corgan leaned back hard, with his head pushed against the headrest and his feet on the rudder pedals. That was the position the simulator said a pilot should take before ejecting. "Cyborg, let's go!" he yelled. Then he yanked the handle.

With a deafening explosion the canopy blew away. At the same instant the rockets beneath Corgan's seat fired, and he felt himself shoot like a cannonball out of the Harrier. Still in the seat, he got hit so hard by wind it blew off his helmet. Had Cyborg made it out? Corgan couldn't see anything because he was tumbling head over heels in somersaults, with clouds above him and ground beneath him and then the opposite as he flipped upside down. He was still strapped into his seat.

A sudden tug told him his parachute had deployed, and at the same time the seat fell away. He tried to yell Cyborg's name, but the wind tore into his mouth like a fist, shoving his voice back into his throat. After what seemed an interminable time, although his time-splitting ability let him know it was only nine and nineteen hundredths seconds, the parachute filled with air and jerked him upright. Far beneath he saw the Harrier crash into the ocean, splashing water so high, Corgan instinctively jerked up his feet. Then the aircraft was gone, sinking into the Atlantic.

A strong wind began to blow Corgan away from the coastline and out to sea, but he managed to yank on the parachute risers to drift back toward shore. Why was he descending so fast? Did the parachute have a rip in it? And where was Cyborg? Down, down, down Corgan dropped, with the choppy whitecaps reaching up as if to grab him -- and then he hit.

The water sheathed him like a shroud, swallowed him, blocked all sound. Dazed, not sure how deeply into the water he'd sunk, he gagged at the nauseating taste of rancid water on his lips. Focus! Get rid of that parachute fast, he told himself, or get tangled like a fish in a net. The murk stung his eyes, making it hard to see as he fumbled with the harness, somehow loosening it. Pushing himself upward to gasp air, he searched the sky for Cyborg's chute. Nothing. The sky was empty.

Maybe Cyborg had already fallen into the ocean. He could swim; he swam like a fish. Corgan had taught him how when Cyborg was so little he could barely toddle into the Pacific. But what if he'd been knocked unconscious when he ejected? Corgan dived deeper into the water and searched. Though the contamination burned his eyes, he forced himself to keep them open so he could peer through the murk for any sign of movement. His mind flashed back to the time on Nuku Hiva when he'd tried so hard to rescue Cyborg from the pool. But he'd been too late. Too late to save eight-year-old Cyborg from mutilation by his clone-twin.

Something floated slowly toward Corgan, half a dozen meters away. Cyborg? No, as it came closer Corgan could see what looked like an enormous, flopping mouth in an undulating body surrounded by mucuslike slime. A mutation -- with a mouth big enough to swallow Corgan whole! Jerking in fright, he splashed into a fast U-turn, only to swim head-on into a long tentacle with a hook on the end. No! It wasn't a tentacle; it was some kind of enormous worm slithering out of a hole. Other creatures came wavering toward him, but it was hard to see because of the murk. He had to get away from them before they dragged him into their lairs and ate him.

He thrust up for air and again searched the surface for Cyborg. Waves still rippled outward from the impact of the crashed Harrier jet, but beyond that the waters seemed ordinary -- no one would have guessed what horrifying mutations lurked underneath, spawned by the toxins in the water. The shore was nearby; it promised safety. But what about Cyborg? How could Corgan desert him and let him die in a poisoned ocean? Once again he dived underwater to search for Cyborg. Nothing! Then up for air and down again, over and over, forcing his eyes to stay open no matter how badly they stung so he could escape any grotesque terrors that lurked beneath him.

Like that one! Only this time the creature moving toward him looked less ugly, not as vile and slimy, not as fleshy. It appeared almost...mechanical. It had two rings of multiple fins whirling in opposite directions on its back end, or tail or whatever it was. The thing was cylinder shaped, narrower at the rear than at the front, and on its flat, round face was a...a...some kind of a beam of light! As it whirred closer it shot out a tentacle that whipped around Corgan's neck and began to pull him down. Struggling, kicking at it, knowing he would drown if he couldn't free himself, Corgan grasped his throat, trying to pull off the tight, whiplike coil that choked him, but no matter how hard he fought, he couldn't tear himself loose. Then something soft covered his head and clung, sucking at him, smothering him.

And suddenly -- he could breathe! He was still underwater, but he was breathing. Whatever was stuck to his face was bringing him...not air, but something that smelled strange and not unpleasant. He felt himself being pulled along by the tentacle, or wire or whatever was around his neck, pulled gently as the creature moved ahead of him, churning the water with those whirring fins.

Corgan began to relax. The mask kept the stinging water out of his eyes, even as the strange creature pulled him deeper and deeper toward the ocean floor. He could feel his mind slipping into some kind of dream. Must fight to stay alive, must find Cyborg. But why not sleep? Sleep would feel good. In the softly churning water ahead of him he saw Ananda. "Is it you?" he tried to say, but the mask fused his lips, molding around them so he couldn't speak. It didn't matter. Even as he sank into unconsciousness he knew this was not a real Ananda, but a watery illusion, a dark-haired, dark-eyed Ananda surrounded by sea mutations....

I'm dying, he thought, and it was no longer Ananda he saw. The face that swam before his eyes was Sharla's.

Copyright © 2005 by Gloria Skurzynski

Chapeter One

The sky was clear, with only a few clouds sheared off at the top as though they'd been sliced by a machete.

"Are we there yet?" Cyborg asked.

Corgan didn't answer. How could he admit to Cyborg that he had no idea where they were, except somewhere in the sky? Cyborg, who'd left the security of the Wyoming domed city to flee with him, who'd caught the bullet that would have killed him, who'd betrayed his own clone-twin to save Corgan's life -- he deserved more than a totally lost pilot.

Cyborg's voice crackled over the Harrier jet's communication system as he asked for the second time, "Are we there yet, Corgan?" And then after a pause, "You don't have a clue, do you?"

At ten thousand meters above ground level Corgan strained to see a landmark. Any kind of landmark. Mumbling into the communicator, he told Cyborg, "Look for something big and blue."

"Big? Blue?"

"Yeah. We need to find the Atlantic Ocean."

"The Atlan...!" From the second seat of the jet Cyborg leaned forward, as if that would make his voice boom louder through the headset. "You want me to look for a whole ocean? Be a little more specific, Corgan. Any particular part of the Atlantic Ocean?"

"You know what I mean. The part next to Florida." Corgan frowned, trying to think and fly the plane at the same time. Once, when he and Ananda had been training together in virtual reality -- Corgan in the Wyoming domed city and Ananda in the Florida domed city -- he'd asked her if there were any particular ruins around her. He knew that most of the domed cities, called DCs, had been built near the ruins of destroyed metropolises, so the Florida DC might be near one too. Ananda hadn't been certain -- after all, the devastation had happened decades before either of them were born -- but she'd thought maybe there'd once been a city close by called Carnival. Or something like that.

Corgan anxiously checked the fuel gauge. It showed one-eighth full, but could he trust that? The Harrier jet was forty years old, bolted together from whatever discarded parts the robotic mechanics could find. Only robots sorted through old junkyards for usable pieces, because most of the world outside the domes was too contaminated for humans to enter. During the devastation every known meter of Earth's surface had been scorched, leveled, laid barren, and poisoned by nuclear blasts, toxicity, plagues, and bioterrorism.

So the plane was old and Corgan was new to flying. This was his first actual flight, but he tried not to think about that because the fact was terrifying. The virtual simulator Corgan had trained on hadn't duplicated the feel of the Harrier in flight, the powerful forward thrust he felt beneath him now, the roar of the engine, the sense of air rushing around the wings, holding the craft aloft like powerful hands. All those dials and gauges at Corgan's fingertips demanded his immediate attention, because if he made a mistake, both he and Cyborg would die, with enough seconds before the crash that they'd know death was inevitable. Having control, being responsible for handling this roaring force, meant that all Corgan's senses had to wrap around the job of flying. He gripped the stick tighter to stop his hands from shaking.

Through the headset he heard a rattling. "I'm looking at this old map," Cyborg announced. "We're high enough that we ought to be able to make out the shape of Florida. I mean, it's got water all around it, right?"

"If you say so." Corgan dropped the jet five thousand meters to fly beneath the clouds, peering through the side window. "Ananda told me her DC is so close to the ocean she can look through the dome and see waves."

Twenty-three minutes and forty and a quarter seconds later they spotted the Florida DC, Corgan with a vast sense of relief. From the air it looked twice as large as the Wyo-DC they'd lived in, Corgan for the first fourteen years of his life and Cyborg for the last several months. "There it is," he called out. Circling slowly, he tried to see the retractable doors that should be visible in the top of the huge transparent dome -- that is, if they'd been installed the way they had been in the Wyoming dome. He'd need someone on the ground to open those doors so he could lower the Harrier in a vertical landing straight down onto the landing pad inside. He wished he had radio contact to signal an operator inside the dome for guidance, because the retractable doors seemed to be so cleverly hidden that he couldn't spot them. But radio communication was a thing of the past. The communication satellites had long since fallen out of orbit and burned when they entered Earth's atmosphere.

If he flew around and around over the dome, someone in there ought to notice him and open whatever entrance doors there were. "Maybe they're afraid to let us in," he told Cyborg. "Maybe they think we're an enemy."

"Well, they for sure won't be expecting a strange aircraft to pay a visit. I'm wondering...," Cyborg mused. "What if the Flor-DC doesn't own any aircraft? I mean, almost all aircraft were destroyed in the nuclear wars. We were lucky our Wyo-DC saved the two Harriers, even though one of them's just a piece of junk that can't fly, but if the Flor-DC never had any aircraft, they wouldn't have any dome roof doors. What would be the point? Right?"

No entrance? The possibility chilled Corgan's insides. If he couldn't bring down the Harrier through the roof of the dome, how were they supposed to get inside, and if they couldn't get inside, where else could they go? The only other domed cities were thousands of miles away. He circled once again, lower, trying to find a usable entrance somewhere...anywhere. At ground level maybe. Negative. Next he looked for a possible landing spot outside the dome. Nothing but ocean to the east of it; high, jagged, shell-like ruins of buildings to the south; and moldy swamps everywhere else around the periphery.

Right then the Harrier engine started to sputter. The craft bucked and bolted, almost pulling the controls out of Corgan's hands. "Fuel's almost gone!" he yelled.

Wait! Wait! This same situation had been thrown at him in the virtual simulator -- if the plane runs out of fuel, what does the pilot do? Think! He knew that fixed-wing aircrafts need forward motion to avoid crashing, but the Harrier could change its engine thrust from horizontal to vertical, from forward motion to straight down. If there was even a little fuel left, maybe he could move the nozzles to vertical and shoot out blasts of hot air, cushioning a vertical landing into the ocean. Better that than a nosedive crash.

No go. The engine choked again. With the last drops of fuel he pulled up the nose of the aircraft and gunned her, and then the fuel was totally gone. "Eject! Eject!" he shouted, hoping Cyborg remembered where the eject handle was on his seat. Bracing himself, Corgan leaned back hard, with his head pushed against the headrest and his feet on the rudder pedals. That was the position the simulator said a pilot should take before ejecting. "Cyborg, let's go!" he yelled. Then he yanked the handle.

With a deafening explosion the canopy blew away. At the same instant the rockets beneath Corgan's seat fired, and he felt himself shoot like a cannonball out of the Harrier. Still in the seat, he got hit so hard by wind it blew off his helmet. Had Cyborg made it out? Corgan couldn't see anything because he was tumbling head over heels in somersaults, with clouds above him and ground beneath him and then the opposite as he flipped upside down. He was still strapped into his seat.

A sudden tug told him his parachute had deployed, and at the same time the seat fell away. He tried to yell Cyborg's name, but the wind tore into his mouth like a fist, shoving his voice back into his throat. After what seemed an interminable time, although his time-splitting ability let him know it was only nine and nineteen hundredths seconds, the parachute filled with air and jerked him upright. Far beneath he saw the Harrier crash into the ocean, splashing water so high, Corgan instinctively jerked up his feet. Then the aircraft was gone, sinking into the Atlantic.

A strong wind began to blow Corgan away from the coastline and out to sea, but he managed to yank on the parachute risers to drift back toward shore. Why was he descending so fast? Did the parachute have a rip in it? And where was Cyborg? Down, down, down Corgan dropped, with the choppy whitecaps reaching up as if to grab him -- and then he hit.

The water sheathed him like a shroud, swallowed him, blocked all sound. Dazed, not sure how deeply into the water he'd sunk, he gagged at the nauseating taste of rancid water on his lips. Focus! Get rid of that parachute fast, he told himself, or get tangled like a fish in a net. The murk stung his eyes, making it hard to see as he fumbled with the harness, somehow loosening it. Pushing himself upward to gasp air, he searched the sky for Cyborg's chute. Nothing. The sky was empty.

Maybe Cyborg had already fallen into the ocean. He could swim; he swam like a fish. Corgan had taught him how when Cyborg was so little he could barely toddle into the Pacific. But what if he'd been knocked unconscious when he ejected? Corgan dived deeper into the water and searched. Though the contamination burned his eyes, he forced himself to keep them open so he could peer through the murk for any sign of movement. His mind flashed back to the time on Nuku Hiva when he'd tried so hard to rescue Cyborg from the pool. But he'd been too late. Too late to save eight-year-old Cyborg from mutilation by his clone-twin.

Something floated slowly toward Corgan, half a dozen meters away. Cyborg? No, as it came closer Corgan could see what looked like an enormous, flopping mouth in an undulating body surrounded by mucuslike slime. A mutation -- with a mouth big enough to swallow Corgan whole! Jerking in fright, he splashed into a fast U-turn, only to swim head-on into a long tentacle with a hook on the end. No! It wasn't a tentacle; it was some kind of enormous worm slithering out of a hole. Other creatures came wavering toward him, but it was hard to see because of the murk. He had to get away from them before they dragged him into their lairs and ate him.

He thrust up for air and again searched the surface for Cyborg. Waves still rippled outward from the impact of the crashed Harrier jet, but beyond that the waters seemed ordinary -- no one would have guessed what horrifying mutations lurked underneath, spawned by the toxins in the water. The shore was nearby; it promised safety. But what about Cyborg? How could Corgan desert him and let him die in a poisoned ocean? Once again he dived underwater to search for Cyborg. Nothing! Then up for air and down again, over and over, forcing his eyes to stay open no matter how badly they stung so he could escape any grotesque terrors that lurked beneath him.

Like that one! Only this time the creature moving toward him looked less ugly, not as vile and slimy, not as fleshy. It appeared almost...mechanical. It had two rings of multiple fins whirling in opposite directions on its back end, or tail or whatever it was. The thing was cylinder shaped, narrower at the rear than at the front, and on its flat, round face was a...a...some kind of a beam of light! As it whirred closer it shot out a tentacle that whipped around Corgan's neck and began to pull him down. Struggling, kicking at it, knowing he would drown if he couldn't free himself, Corgan grasped his throat, trying to pull off the tight, whiplike coil that choked him, but no matter how hard he fought, he couldn't tear himself loose. Then something soft covered his head and clung, sucking at him, smothering him.

And suddenly -- he could breathe! He was still underwater, but he was breathing. Whatever was stuck to his face was bringing him...not air, but something that smelled strange and not unpleasant. He felt himself being pulled along by the tentacle, or wire or whatever was around his neck, pulled gently as the creature moved ahead of him, churning the water with those whirring fins.

Corgan began to relax. The mask kept the stinging water out of his eyes, even as the strange creature pulled him deeper and deeper toward the ocean floor. He could feel his mind slipping into some kind of dream. Must fight to stay alive, must find Cyborg. But why not sleep? Sleep would feel good. In the softly churning water ahead of him he saw Ananda. "Is it you?" he tried to say, but the mask fused his lips, molding around them so he couldn't speak. It didn't matter. Even as he sank into unconsciousness he knew this was not a real Ananda, but a watery illusion, a dark-haired, dark-eyed Ananda surrounded by sea mutations....

I'm dying, he thought, and it was no longer Ananda he saw. The face that swam before his eyes was Sharla's.

Copyright © 2005 by Gloria Skurzynski

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2008

    This book was awsome!!!

    This book is very interesting and about tthe future!!!

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    Posted April 26, 2006

    Hooked on a book

    You'll be reading on into the night with this series of books.

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