Spark: A Sky Chasers Novelby Amy Kathleen Ryan
Waverly, Kieran and Seth are in a race against time – and with the future of humanity hanging in the balance, there's no room for mistakes…
After a desperate escape from the enemy ship, Waverly has finally made it back to the Empyrean. The memory of home has been keeping her alive for the past months… but home is/b>/b>/b>
Waverly, Kieran and Seth are in a race against time – and with the future of humanity hanging in the balance, there's no room for mistakes…
After a desperate escape from the enemy ship, Waverly has finally made it back to the Empyrean. The memory of home has been keeping her alive for the past months… but home is nothing like she left it. Forced to leave their captive parents behind on the New Horizon, she's returned only to find that Kieran has become a strict leader and turned the crew against Seth. What happened to the Kieran she thought she knew? Now Waverly's not sure whom she can trust. And the one person she wants to believe in is darkly brilliant Seth, the ship's supposed enemy. Waverly knows that the situation will only get worse until they can rescue their parents – but how?
Before they have time to make a plan, an explosion rocks the Empyrean, and Seth and Waverly are targeted as the prime suspects. Can they find the true culprit before Kieran locks them away… or worse? Will Waverly follow her heart, even if it puts lives at risk? Now more than ever, every step could bring them closer to a new beginning – or a sudden end.
Spark is book two in Amy Kathleen Ryan's thrilling young adult science fiction series Sky Chasers.
“Ryan’s fast-paced and cinematic style will satisfy returning fans and quickly engage new readers.” —Booklist on Spark
“Delivers a page-turning plot while delving deeper into questions of leadership, trauma and violence….Readers hungry for the next installment will have plenty to ponder in the meantime.” — Kirkus Reviews on Spark
"Utterly engrossing." —Lauren Myracle, New York Times bestselling author of Shine on Glow
“You'll love it if you love futuristic post-apocalyptic stories like The Hunger Games!"
—Seventeen.com on Glow
“No less than the fate of humanity is at stake in Amy Kathleen Ryan's rich and emotional sci-fi tale.” — USA Today on Glow
Read an Excerpt
A Sky Chasers Novel
By Amy Kathleen Ryan
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2012 Amy Kathleen Ryan
All rights reserved.
All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he
knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only sin is
Seth Ardvale wasn't aware of what woke him; he only remembered the fading dream of a rumbling sound that shook his bones. He sat up on his lonely cot in the brig, deep in the bowels of the Empyrean, and rubbed his eyes. He listened for voices. Sometimes he could catch hints about what was going on from the chatter of his guards, but there was no sound at all.
This isolation was part of his punishment, along with the lights being kept on twenty-four hours a day. Seth had come to accept that it might be a very long time before he was out of the brig. If Kieran Alden stayed Captain of the Empyrean, Seth might never get out. He supposed he deserved imprisonment, not just for the failed mutiny he'd staged against Kieran. He deserved to be here because of who he was. "I'm my father's son," he said aloud.
The sound of his own voice startled him. He hated that he'd begun talking to himself, but that was how to survive solitary confinement. He had long, internal conversations, and he always imagined talking to the same person: Waverly Marshall. He would close his eyes and see her on the other side of the bars to his cell, sitting on the floor, her hands wrapped around an ankle, chin leaning on her knee. The conversation always picked up where they'd left off a month before, after he'd asked her to get him out of the brig. She'd only looked at him, a haunting hesitation in her deep brown eyes, the rest of her lovely features smooth and expressionless. He knew her well enough to see she didn't trust him.
"Get me out of here," he'd said, pleading, a hand on one of the cold bars between them.
She'd looked at him for a long time before finally saying through a long, exhaled breath, "I can't do that."
And she'd gotten up and walked away.
Could he blame her? He'd staged a mutiny against her boyfriend, Kieran Alden, had thrown him in the brig, withheld food from him, and, some would say, tried to kill him. It had all made sense to Seth at the time; that's how crazy he'd been. The time had been crazy. Out of nowhere the New Horizon had attacked the Empyrean, taken all the girls, and caused a containment leak in the reactors that ended up killing Seth's father. But that didn't excuse him. All the kids on the Empyrean had lost parents or were separated from them; all of them had terrifying responsibilities to run the ship without a single functional adult on board. Among them, Seth Ardvale had the lone distinction of acting like a sociopath.
"Maybe that's what I am," he whispered, then covered his mouth with his hand.
Waverly had been right to walk away.
But he still imagined a million different things he could have said to get her to stay. "You're right. You shouldn't risk it," or, "I understand you can't betray Kieran," or simply, "Don't go."
Then he'd imagine how she would look as she turned back to him, how he might make her smile or even laugh. How she'd tuck her hair behind her ear just before glancing away again — a small, demure gesture that pierced his heart every time she did it.
But he'd said nothing that day. In his shame he'd let her leave.
If he ever did get out of here, he'd show her he could be a good person. It didn't matter that he could never have her. He just couldn't stand the thought of her thinking badly of him. And maybe, just maybe, he could help her, too. Because whatever had happened to her on the New Horizon had pulled her downward, bent her back, hollowed out her eyes. If he could see her again, he'd take nothing from her. He wanted nothing. He just wanted to help — be a friend.
Seth curled himself into a compact ball. He felt heavy and lethargic. The sound that woke him must have been a change in the engines, another increase in the ship's acceleration in a vain attempt to catch up with the New Horizon, where all the parents were being held hostage. It would never work, Seth knew, but he would never have a say in the decision-making process again. He would always be a pariah.
"Sleep, sleep, I can sleep," he whispered. It sometimes helped. "I'm just a body, I'm not a mind. I'm a body that needs to sleep."
Then he heard the whine of the ship's intercom, and Kieran Alden's voice: "Evacuate to the central bunker!"
The alarm light in the corridor started twirling in blue and red.
Seth threw aside his bedclothes, ran to the bars of his cell, and yelled down the corridor, "Hey! What's happening?"
No one answered.
"You can't leave me in here!" Seth stepped to his right to try and get a look down the corridor between the cells, and tripped over a plate of bread and miso spread that had been left for him. He saw only rows of cold iron bars, and shadows. "You have to let me out!"
In his panic, Seth pulled helplessly on the door of his cell.
It slid open easily.
He stared, dumbfounded, and took a stealthy step outside and looked down the corridor.
There was no one.
Slowly he crept down the passageway, past Max Brent's cage, which also hung open and was empty. He went to the door that led to the outer corridor and listened, then inched it open.
Down the hall, a booted foot was sticking out of the maintenance closet. Seth approached cautiously, his eyes on the boot, looking for the slightest twitch that would send him running, but the boot didn't move. He nudged the door open and saw his guard, Harvey Markem, lying on the floor. Seth leaned over him, his ear to unmoving lips, and waited until a warm puff of air escaped them. A clotted mass of blood showed from beneath Harvey's wiry red hair. Seth took the boy's walkie-talkie off his belt and pressed the call button. "Hello?"
From the other end he heard only static.
"I need medical assistance down here," Seth said, and listened.
No response. He looked at the many channels and frequencies, trying to guess which one would reach Central Command. But he didn't have time to go through them, not if he wanted to escape, so he dropped the walkie-talkie on the floor.
Seth started down the corridor, telling himself Harvey would be all right. When he reached the stairwell door, he turned again and looked at the foot. It hadn't moved, not a centimeter. What if Harvey was bleeding in his brain? What if he died?
Sighing, Seth went back to the closet, dragged Harvey out, pulled the boy into a sitting position, then draped him over his shoulder in a fireman's hold. When he stood up, the pressure of Harvey's weight seemed to squeeze all Seth's blood into his face, and he broke into an instant sweat. Swaying with the strain, he started down the corridor again. Harvey was big anyway, but with the additional inertia from the Empyrean's increased speed, he felt as if he were made of wet cement.
Seth's legs shook, and for a moment he considered taking the elevator up, but he'd be spotted by the security camera immediately, and if the doors opened to a group of people, there would be nowhere to run. So Seth struggled up the stairwell, where there were no cameras, sweat pouring down his face and pooling in the hollow at the base of his ribcage.
"Jesus, Harvey," he groaned. "What do you eat?"
The stairs were endless, disappearing into a bleak vanishing point above. He had to get Harvey to the central bunker, which was so many flights up Seth didn't have the energy to count. That's where everyone would be during an emergency, and it would be the only place Harvey could get any help.
Twice Seth sank to his knees. But if he left Harvey in the stairwell, the boy could die there, so he kept on climbing, every step painful.
When he heard voices, he knew he was close. The last few steps were torture, but Seth threw his weight forward and forced himself up, knees popping, spine bent. He paused to listen at the doorway and heard two girls talking in the hallway outside the central bunker.
"Did they come back?" said a squeaky little voice on the other side of the door. "Are they coming to get us again?"
"If they are, panicking won't help." This sounded like that freckle-faced little spitfire, Sarah Hodges.
"What if the hull blew up?" the little girl fretted.
"If the hull blew up, you and I wouldn't be here," Sarah said.
Slowly, Seth lowered Harvey to the floor and bent over with his hands on his knees to wait until his breath came back. When he was sure he could run, Seth rapped his knuckles on the door and took off, sprinting down three flights of stairs before he heard Sarah Hodges calling into the stairwell, "Hey! Who's there! Oh my God, Harvey!"
Seth had covered another five flights when he heard footsteps coming after him. He only needed another four flights and then he'd be home free. "Please, please, please." Seth repeated the word in his mind, pushing away the pain in his limbs, sending his exhaustion outside of himself so that he could run.
When he finally reached the level he needed, he gripped the door handle. As quietly as he could, he swung the door open and slipped through it, then pelted down the corridor and ducked into the nearest doorway.
Immediately his senses were filled with the fresh, loamy air of the rain forest. God, he'd missed this. The humid air moistened his prison-dry skin as he ran through the coconut groves, past the lemon trees, where he turned into the undergrowth of the Australian species. He dove into a stand of eucalyptus and huddled there, his heart pounding on the wall of his chest, hands wrapped around his ankles, and he listened.
Not a footstep. Not a whisper. He'd escaped! Until he could find out what had gone wrong with the Empyrean, he would wait here.
Now that he was safe, he grasped the strangeness of what had happened. Someone had let him out, but who? Probably whoever had caused the explosions had also let him out; the two events couldn't be coincidental. Whoever it was had probably caused the explosions as a smoke screen for his release.
His mind turned to Waverly. She'd never hurt Harvey or endanger the ship, but she could have found a way to let Seth and Max out. Then Max could have been the one to hit Harvey over the head and cause the explosions. Would Max do a thing that vicious?
When they'd shared a cell, Seth had listened to Max rave about all the things he'd do to Kieran Alden when he got out of the brig, how he'd lie in wait for him and pummel him, or use a knife, and then he'd go after his pencil-necked little friend Arthur Dietrich, and that traitor Sarek Hassan. The more he heard Max's sick revenge fantasies, the more Seth wondered why he'd ever chosen the boy as his right-hand man.
Yes, Seth decided, Max was capable of endangering the ship and the mission to serve his own selfish purpose. Someone needed to find that son of a bitch before he did any more damage. But that wasn't the only reason to find Max.
Whatever Max had done, whatever those sounds had been, Kieran would surely blame Seth for the whole thing and would likely use it as an excuse to keep him in the brig forever. If those booming sounds were bombs, and Seth was blamed, everyone would believe he was a traitor.
And what would Waverly think of him then?
Seth had only one choice: He had to find Max and turn him in. He had to prove to Kieran, Waverly, and everyone else that he had not done this.
And somehow, he had to do it without getting caught.CHAPTER 2
Waverly was in her quarters, brewing a pot of tea before she had to go to the cornfield to work on a busted combine. She'd never thought of herself as a mechanic, had never planned for it as her profession, so every day was a new exercise in guesswork. She'd chosen this job because it was one of the few positions that didn't require her to talk to anyone. Besides, no one else wanted to do it. She had cuts and scrapes all over her hands from using unfamiliar tools, and she found the work so challenging that she had little time to think about anything else, and even less time to remember.
Still, whenever she closed her eyes, burnout images would appear on the dark screens of her eyelids: the congregation of the New Horizon all dressed in black, swaying to gentle guitar music; the glowing face of Anne Mather speaking to her flock; the lab where they'd operated on Waverly, taken the most essential part of her to create their next generation of apostles; the horrible red gash in her leg where Anne Mather's cronies shot her; having to abandon her mother and the other parents trapped in a cage, where Mather could do anything to them she wished; the red burst of blood when she shot the man who'd stood between her and escape.
When she'd become a killer.
"I don't think about that anymore," she said into the empty room, and covered her eyes with the flat of her hand. No one else on this ship knew what she'd done. She hadn't told anyone about the most singular event of her young life, the moment in time when she stopped being Waverly Marshall and instead became a killer. She was a stranger in her own home.
When the disturbance came, it was so distant at first she might have missed it — a slight shaking of the picture frames on the wall, the barely audible groan deep in the metal of the ship.
She sat up. Something wasn't right.
Then, so deep she felt it in her chest — an explosion.
Her teacup jumped in its saucer, spilling black tea over the rough wooden table.
She bolted out of her chair and ran into the corridor, where dozens of panicked kids were emerging from their quarters, crying and clutching dolls to their chests. Melissa Dickinson was standing at the end of the hallway, surrounded by little boys and girls. She was a petite girl, barely taller than the children she cared for so tenderly.
"What's going on?" Waverly had to shout over the din.
"I don't know," Melissa said. Usually placid, her hazel eyes darted around anxiously. "Boys, girls, stay close!" she called down the hallway. Like magic, the children gathered together, all eyes on her.
The ship's intercom crackled, and Kieran's voice came over the speakers, calling the entire crew to the central bunker.
Every conversation halted; silence loomed over the children as they stared in alarm at Melissa.
"To the elevators, everyone!" she called, and herded them toward the central elevator bank. Melissa was only twelve years old, but she'd taken charge of the orphaned children who were too young to help with the running of the ship. Every day she dutifully reported to the nursery, where she and various helpers played games and planned lessons to keep the kids occupied. At night, Melissa's story hours had become quite famous on the ship, and even some of the older kids came to the library, where she read to everyone from books like The Wind in the Willows or James and the Giant Peach. Then she tucked each and every child into bed in a group of apartments at the end of the hallway, leaving all doors open in the night so that she was only a whisper away. It was no wonder all the little children loved her. Even Waverly found Melissa's presence comforting.
"Are they coming back?" asked Silas Berg, a boy of six with a knack for voicing everyone's fears in the most straightforward way.
"No, Silas," Melissa told him firmly. "The New Horizon is millions of miles away. And we're not in the nebula anymore, so they can't sneak up on us ever again."
"I'm scared," whispered Paulo Behm as he wove his small brown fingers into the sash of Melissa's bathrobe.
"I am, too," Melissa said, and she stroked his cheek with the backs of her fingers. "But we're all going to stay together, right, Waverly?"
Waverly nodded and tried to smile reassuringly at the children.
"Don't ask her," piped up squeaky little Marina Coelho. "She's the one who left our parents behind."
"If you could have done better, why didn't you?" Melissa said. The words were firm, but her tone was gentle. "Why was it Waverly's job?"
"She's fifteen!" little Marina squeaked, as if that explained everything. "She's the oldest girl, so it was her job."
"She had no choice but to leave when she did," Melissa said angrily, and shot an apologetic glance at Waverly. "She and Sarah rescued us all. I think Waverly is a hero."
"I don't," Silas spat with little-boy contempt. "No one thinks that except you."
Melissa shook her head in exasperation as the elevator opened for them, and everyone stepped on in a scraggly herd.
Waverly turned her back on them to face the elevator doors, but she sensed their accusing stares on the back of her neck. She felt a small body pressing against her leg and glanced down to find Serafina Mbewe looking up at her, her hair two puffy pigtails hovering like clouds over her dainty face. Waverly used to babysit Serafina, who was four years old and deaf. Waverly tried to smile, but turned away too soon and Serafina shrank away. I should be there for her, Waverly thought. But it hurts too much.
Excerpted from Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan. Copyright © 2012 Amy Kathleen Ryan. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
AMY KATHLEEN RYAN earned an MA in English Literature at the University of Vermont, and an MFA in Creative Writing from the New School Creative Writing for Children Program in New York City. She is also the author of two widely acclaimed young adult novels, Zen and Xander Undone and Vibes.
AMY KATHLEEN RYAN earned an MA in English Literature at the University of Vermont, and an MFA in Creative Writing from the New School Creative Writing for Children Program in New York City. She is the author of Glow, Spark, and Flame and Zen and Xander Undone and Vibes.
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