Starlight's Edge

Starlight's Edge

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by Susan Waggoner

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Zee has given up her entire world to be with David on far-future Earth, confident that their love will overcome all obstacles. But beneath its lustrous surface and dazzling technology, New Earth is full of challenges, including the animosity of David's wealthy and powerful family.

As Zee struggles to find her place, David travels back to past Earth. Then, on a

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Zee has given up her entire world to be with David on far-future Earth, confident that their love will overcome all obstacles. But beneath its lustrous surface and dazzling technology, New Earth is full of challenges, including the animosity of David's wealthy and powerful family.

As Zee struggles to find her place, David travels back to past Earth. Then, on a mission to Pompeii on the eve of the Vesuvius eruption, he vanishes. Zee knows he is in mortal danger, but will she be able to rescue him in time?

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Elisabeth Greenberg
Empath Zee and her boyfriend-from-the-future David are escaping the imminent destruction of the present world network by meteor and rematerializing 1500 years in the future. Only when she arrives does Zee realize how different the future world is and that David will now be responsible for her transgressions in a world with laws and social codes she does not understand. Zee navigates a lonely path between old and new, helping to establish a new business network of other refugees from past ages, discovering ways to use her trained empathic and diviner skills in a world that has lost them, uncovering a rebel computer attack on David’s brother Paul, and illegally rescuing the pair from a mission to the past which includes the eruption of Vesuvius at Pompeii and breaking a rebel computer’s control of Paul. Finally David’s family recognizes her skills and she is fully accepted in their elite circle. This is an exciting read about a future world crammed with interesting ideas, but could have been developed with a little more depth. However, students attracted to this book will probably go back and read the previous book in the series, Neptune’s Tears. Reviewer: Elisabeth Greenberg; Ages 12 up.

Product Details

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date:
Timedance , #2
Sold by:
830L (what's this?)
File size:
614 KB
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Starlight's Edge

By Susan Waggoner

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 2014 Susan Waggoner
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8050-9680-4



There was still light in the sky when they reached the space elevator, a taut, immensely strong cable anchored above the atmosphere near the equator. Through the small porthole of the pressurized capsule that carried them up, Zee could see the last of the sun's rays. Then they rose above the atmosphere and the light vanished, filling the porthole with dark space. Just above them was the object everyone on Earth believed was an Omuran spacecraft. In reality, it was H-Fax, the human fax facility that would destroy every cell in her body after copying its molecular data and sending it fifteen hundred years into the future.

David had warned her about the pain. "You'll only feel it for a moment," he'd said. "Then — nothing, until you're recombined."

The cold of space radiated through the glass, and Zee turned away. David took her hand in his and did not let go, even when the elevator floated to a stop and a digitized voice said, "Docking initiated."

The fluttery feeling in Zee's chest increased. She had officially left Earth. In less than an hour, the body and mind she inhabited would have died and been re-created somewhere in the distant future. What if she screamed when she felt the searing pain? What if the transmission went astray and she was lost forever? What if data was garbled and she got recombined in some horrible way?

Zee's pulse accelerated, even though David had assured her that accidents were "almost unheard of." He'd explained everything that would happen and promised that, despite the pain and discomfort of transmission, she would look and feel completely like herself. Zee hoped so. She was nervous about meeting David's parents, whom they were staying with for a few days before moving to the small apartment David had in central London. "I love you, Zee," David had assured her. "They'll love you too." But Zee wasn't so sure and didn't know what to expect. Worse, she didn't know what they'd expect. David had talked about his brother, Paul, a lot, and sometimes about his little sister, Fiona. But other than telling Zee he'd grown up in the suburbs of London and his father had once been a Time Fleeter, he'd said almost nothing about them. Had she already come between him and his family? Were they angry that he was bringing home someone from the distant past?

* * *

The digitized voice was speaking again. "Docking complete. You have now reached the H-Fax facility. Please pass through the scanners to your left, and have a successful journey home. If you are with us for the first time, please stop at the Medi-Booth for chipping."

The doors parted, and David led her into a large, round room that resembled a crowded hotel lobby. After passing through the scanners, Zee left David and headed for the softly radiating sign that said MEDI-BOOTH. Though David had told her they did transmissions in groups to conserve energy, Zee was surprised to see how many first-timers were in line with her, mostly women, but a few men as well.

As she waited her turn, she thought of the other things David had told her about New Earth. For months now, she had tried to envision the world she was about to enter, but it was impossible. Food that created itself. Computers that carried on conversations. Men and women willing to explore distant time zones, never quite certain of what they'd find. Zee was leaving her comfortable, familiar world behind, and she was uncertain of what she'd find, no matter how often David tried to describe it.

The line shifted forward, and suddenly she heard a familiar voice several people in front of her. Instantly, she was catapulted back to the empaths' lounge in the hospital where she'd trained and worked. Feelings of discomfort, rivalry, and confusion flooded her, though she couldn't immediately identify the voice. Without success, she craned to see over and around the people ahead of her.

You are nervous, she told herself, imagining there's someone you know here.

"Please, stop crowding me," the familiar voice said. "You're practically walking on my heels, and I don't fancy getting recombined with bruises on my heels!" There was a slight disruption as the owner of the voice stepped quickly out of line and then back in. In that brief moment, Zee caught a quick flash of a profile.

Piper Simms! Piper, who'd been so jealous of Zee's empath skills she'd often gone out of her way to trip her up. And now she was time-jumping to New Earth!

Zee pulled quickly back into line, hoping Piper hadn't noticed her. Piper would be the only person she knew on New Earth besides David. But after all that lay between them, did she even want Piper to know she was there? Before Zee could decide, the line moved forward and Piper disappeared into the Medi-Booth.

Zee waited until, finally it was her turn in the Medi-Booth. A technician fired a microchip into the base of her skull with what looked like a power drill, but hurt far less than a drill would have. When she emerged, David was waiting for her, but Piper was nowhere in sight. Zee breathed a sigh of relief.

"Can you understand what I'm saying?" David asked.

Zee realized he was speaking the swift, whooshing language she'd heard him speak twice on Earth, once when he'd mistaken her for a fellow New Earther, and again to Mia, his research partner. Only now did she realize the language was English, spoken so rapidly words seemed to almost swallow one another.

"I understand," she said, surprised to hear herself speaking in the same rapid style. The chip wasn't just an identity tag, it would also help her make the transition to New Earth. The fact that she could both understand and speak New Earth English proved that it had already begun to interact with her brain.

"Pretty cool, huh? The chip picks up whatever language is being spoken around you and translates it both ways."

"It's amazing," Zee said, still getting used to the sound of her new voice. Then she noticed the air had a slight acrid quality to it, like someone was burning paper.

"What's that smell?" she asked.

"Oh, uh, yeah." David hesitated. "They started transmissions while you were getting chipped."

Zee realized the burning smell must be the residue of human cells. It made her feel a bit sick to think about, and she couldn't help wondering if she was inhaling a molecule of Piper.

"Come on," David said, taking her hand. "No sense waiting. Let's go."

He led her to a stairway she hadn't noticed before, a smooth fold in the wall that turned out to be a kind of glass escalator. Staring down through the glass, she couldn't see any machinery at all. The glass steps seemed to move upward of their own accord, depositing them in a large, circular room like the one below. Half of the room was ringed with what at first seemed to be a series of low, curving benches that disappeared into a larger, curving tube that encircled the other half of the room. Then she saw that the bench was slowly rotating, and that it wasn't a bench but a conveyor belt. People were lining up to lie down on it; each long seat was in fact a kind of cradle. Once they disappeared into the tube, people did not come out.

Zee was suddenly terrified. A cold chill gripped her stomach. "I — I don't know if I can do this."

He put his arms around her. "The first time is scary. This part is, anyway. The before part. The actual transmission isn't as bad as waiting for it."

Zee straightened her shoulders and looked straight into David's gray eyes. As always, the connection was there, that special spark, strong and immediate. "You're right. Let's go."

David got on the conveyor belt ahead of her. The idea of transmission and the pain it entailed still scared her, but knowing David had just gone through the same thing would make it easier.

"See you soon," David called back to her. "In about a millennium and a half."

It wasn't a great joke, but Zee smiled anyway. If anything went wrong, that was what she wanted David to remember: her smiling.

But nothing was going to go wrong, she told herself as she lay down on the conveyor. Everything was going to be fine. Still, her heart was beating hard and her chest felt tight. The belt inched forward slowly, an agonizing snail's crawl, giving her imagination time to envision all the things that might go wrong. What if she couldn't adapt to life on New Earth? What if she'd been wrong to think the love she and David shared was strong enough to bridge any gap?

After what seemed an eternity, she advanced into the dark tube. At first she could see nothing, and her only sensation was movement as the conveyor continued its slow crawl. Then she began to sense bursts of light exploding somewhere in the darkness ahead. She lifted her head for a better look, but before she could see anything, a domed glass shield lowered over her. Like the lid of coffin, Zee thought with a shudder. After a few moments, the shield began to glow with tiny pinpoints of light, like a night sky filled with more stars than anyone could count. Their light obscured the outline of the shield, and for a moment, Zee imagined they actually were stars, dancing millions of miles above her head. Maybe what she'd thought was a shield was actually a window. No, for the pinpoints began to pulsate, and their color changed from white to blue to violet. Zee gasped at the soothing, unexpected beauty of it.

Suddenly, the lights exploded and a searing pain ripped through her, so intense she couldn't breathe. But before she could register the full force of the pain or experience the panic of suffocation, her molecules crumbled into a handful of dust, were swept away by a burst of pressurized air, and the twenty-third century into which she'd been born went on without her.



She was cold. A needling, cramping cold that enveloped her entire body, like the white fog that clouded her vision. For a moment, she couldn't remember where she was or where she had just been. Then her memory banks kicked in and she thought, I didn't make it. I must have died.

But her fingertips were warm with the pressure of someone squeezing them. You're fine, an answering voice said. Just remember what I said — be bold with your life, Zee.

Ellie Hart! The elderly patient she'd worked with as an empath at the Royal London Hospital. The only patient who'd become a true friend, and who had died months ago.

"Mrs. Hart?"

"No. No, it's me, Zee." The pressure on her fingers increased, but the voice wasn't the same. Zee struggled to a sitting position, and the white fog receded.

"David!" She tried to stand but fell back.

"Easy," he cautioned. "The first time can leave you a bit dizzy." He took her other hand and drew her slowly to her feet, then folded his arms around her, warming her with his body.

"What ...? Where are —" But even as she tried to formulate the questions, she remembered. "We're on New Earth, right?"

As if in answer to her question, the same digitized voice she'd heard before said, "The Alliance of World Democracies welcomes you to Transport Base One. You are currently on Level Seven. The London ghost is departing from Level Three tonight. The New York ghost has been delayed due to undersea tectonic activity and will be arriving at Level Four in thirty minutes. Please proceed to check-in. The time in Reykjavik is 19:10, Friday, May 6, 3718."

"Why did they give the time in Iceland?" Zee asked David as they moved along with the crowd.

"Because we're in the Atlantic Ocean, just south of Iceland."

Zee's face fell. Iceland was almost twelve hundred miles from London. It seemed her journey had just begun.

"Another trip?"

"Don't worry," David said, looping an arm around her. "The ghost will get us home."

"The ghost? Is it like a vactrain?" But even the vactrains they'd used in London couldn't have gotten them home tonight. "How long will it take?"

"Counting pressurization and deceleration? We'll be in London in about twenty minutes." He grinned, clearly enjoying the look of surprise on Zee's face. "Just one of the wonders of New Earth you'll come to love."

"I hope you're right," she murmured.

She'd spent months trying to picture New Earth, and now realized she'd failed completely. The scene before her was so different from anything she'd imagined that she had the dizzying sensation of looking into a constantly shifting kaleidoscope. Doors seemed to open out of nowhere. Curving stairways banded with soft blue neon light hung from the levels above. Without walls or visible support, they looked like spirals of ribbon.

Zee found herself searching the crowd for Piper. Difficult as their relationship had been, Piper was the only person who might understand what she was feeling now, or share her sense of dislocation. But she'd lost her chance and couldn't see Piper anywhere.

As David guided them toward one of the stairways, Zee saw that the stairs were moving and wondered how she'd manage not to tumble over the edge. But when she stepped on, the blue light rose to meet her hand and she closed her fingers around a solid but nearly invisible handrail. Only when they began to rise did she see that a transparent membrane, too thin to be glass, enclosed them and kept passengers from tumbling off.

At Level Five, it was their turn to get off. After they'd both been scanned, a uniformed guard led them to a small privacy booth. David shot Zee an apologetic glance. "I forgot about this part," he whispered as the guard motioned both of them to sit.

"Do I get chipped again? Or questioned?"

"Nope. This time it's me. Just a few questions."

There was a soft whir as a holocam, or whatever they called recording cameras on New Earth, started up. The guard recited the date and the time, motioned toward a chair for Zee to sit in, then focused his gaze on David. Was the person with him now Zee McAdams, and was she his chosen passenger? Yes. Did he agree to take responsibility for her welfare for a period of no less than ten years? Yes. Did he realize she would be the one chosen passenger he would be allowed in his lifetime, even if they became alienated and independent from each other? Yes.

"And what is your relationship to this person?" the guard asked.

"I love her, sir."

A tremor of emotion ran through Zee, not a surge of joy but something more solemn, something whose meaning swept far into her future, carrying her with it.

"And you understand, and agree, that you will be held responsible for any crime or trespass she commits against New Earth or the Alliance of World Democracies?"

"I do."

"And you understand, and agree, that you will be punished as if you yourself had committed such crimes?"

"I do."

Zee's tremor of emotion turned to anxiety. What if she did something wrong without knowing, and David was punished for it? For the first time, she understood how difficult the path she'd chosen might be.

* * *

The ghost looked nothing like Zee had imagined. She'd pictured something like the vactrains she was familiar with, sleek tube-shaped carriages that rushed along a magnetized rail bed. Instead, the ghost looked like a blunt-nosed arrowhead the size of an airbus.

"We're going to fly home?"

"Sort of," David answered. "Sort of like flying. Underwater."

The large crowd they'd been in had thinned out, and as they boarded, Zee looked again for Piper. When she didn't see her, she began to wonder if Piper had ever been there at all. The morning had been surreal, tense with emotion and anxiety. It wouldn't be surprising if she'd been mistaken.

Inside, the ghost was comfortingly familiar, not all that different from the London underground or a New York subway, a round tube with rows of seats facing each other. The seats looked like hard plastic but proved soft and yielding when Zee sat in one. Above the windows, there were advertisements that changed every few minutes.

Stopping in London? Stay at the New Buckingham Palace.

Madame Ospinskaya. Past. Future. Now. 54 Hanbury Street.

Storr-It stores it right. Plans begin at 500 yottabytes and 10 materializations per month. Safe. Insured. Reliable.

Deep D Clinics. Fast cures for your depression. 50,000 branches worldwide.

This summer, make it Antarctica!

The ghost rolled forward and Zee automatically reached for her seat belt. She realized there was nothing there but felt suction, a force pulling her tight against her seat.

When Zee glanced at the windows, she saw they were surrounded by water. A red light began to flash overhead, and a voice counted down from ten. At zero there was a jolt forward and they began to accelerate. The pull was enormous, then there was no sense of movement at all.

"We've stopped," Zee said.

"No, we're in the bubble." David explained that when the ghost reached a certain speed, tiny gas bubbles coming off the wings merged into one huge bubble to create a vacuum around them.

"So we're still moving?"

"Yeah. We'll be in London in about fifteen minutes."

"Wow. If we'd had this before, I would have commuted from New York and never moved to London at all." Her life had been lived in two pieces, she thought with a pang of bittersweet memory. There was her childhood in upstate New York, then moving to London to train as an empath and live in the residence hall. Leaving home at the young age required had been difficult, but she had loved both parts of her life. If she hadn't taken the leap, she'd never have met her friends Rani and Jasmine. She'd never have met David. Now a third piece of her life was beginning with him, because of him. A sudden calm happiness swept over her. She wanted to touch his face and feel his familiar warmth beneath her palm, but realized he was telling her about the ghost and smiled to show she was listening.


Excerpted from Starlight's Edge by Susan Waggoner. Copyright © 2014 Susan Waggoner. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
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.

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Meet the Author

Susan Waggoner was born in Iowa, grew up in the Minneapolis suburbs, and received degrees from the University of Iowa. She now lives and writes in New York City.

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Starlight's Edge 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lay down waiting.