About the Author
Janet Edwards lives in the Midlands. As a child, she read everything she could get her hands on, which included the works of many of the great names of Science Fiction. She has a husband, a son, a lot of books, and an aversion to housework.
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By Janet Edwards
Prometheus BooksCopyright © 2013 Janet Edwards
All rights reserved.
"Jarra, Jarra, Jarra!" Issette's face on my lookup screen wore her best buggy-eyed, astonished expression, the one she'd been practising ever since we were in Nursery together. "Why are you calling me now? Isn't it the middle of the night in Earth America?"
I giggled, set the lookup to project her image as a holo floating in midair, and sat on the edge of my bed facing it. Only Issette's head and shoulders were visible, but that was enough for me to see she was wearing a scanty sleep suit with a trimming of glitter-strewn lace. Issette was on a Medical Foundation course in Earth Europe, the home of interstellar standard Green Time, so it wasn't quite eight o'clock in the morning there.
"I'm not at the New York ruins any longer. My class has just moved to Earth Africa, so I'm on Green Time plus two hours."
Issette yawned. "Why didn't you choose something civilized for your Foundation course? You could have stayed in one place and had proper accommodation, instead of moving round dig sites and being wedged into primitive domes with a lecturer and twenty-nine other students. You even have to share bathrooms. It's not hygienic!"
I didn't reply, just pulled a face at her. Issette was my best friend. I'd explained to her hundreds of times how much I loved history, especially the days of pre-history when humanity had only existed here on Earth instead of being scattered across more than a thousand planets in six different sectors. I'd told her about the thrill of excavating the ruins of the ancient cities, never knowing whether you'd find a stasis box containing treasures from the past, or clues to the knowledge and technology that humanity lost in the mad rush off world in Exodus century and the resulting Earth data net crash. Issette never really understood, any more than I understood her interest in medicine.
She groaned. "I know, I know. You're obsessed with history and dig sites. You always were and ... Wait a minute. If it's ten o'clock in Earth Africa, shouldn't you be doing something hideously dangerous and uncomfortable on a dig site, or listening to some boring lecture? You keep telling me your lecturer is a slave-driver."
I grinned. "We should be, but Lecturer Playdon had to delay starting work. He's lost twenty-six of the class."
A disembodied hand appeared in the holo image, offering a glass of frujit, and Issette grabbed it and started gulping it down. The hand withdrew and was replaced by Keon's head.
"How does a lecturer lose twenty-six students, Jarra?" he asked. "I know you're in a class of off-worlders, but surely even they can stroll through an inter-continental portal to Africa without getting lost."
I was grazzed at the sight of him. Keon and Issette were part of my substitute family; the nine of us who'd grown up together through Nursery, Home and Next Step after being abandoned at birth by our parents because we were Handicapped. We'd all turned 18 last Year Day, and these days Keon and Issette had a Twoing contract, so I wasn't surprised to find them together. My shock was because of Keon's clothes.
"Why is the legendarily lazy Keon Tanaka awake and properly dressed before eight in the morning?" I asked. "Those are new clothes, aren't they? You've even combed your hair!"
He groaned. "That's your fault, Jarra. Issette wants me to show my light sculptures to someone."
I frowned. "I don't see how that's my fault."
"She was copying the way you order everyone around, so it was less effort to agree than to keep arguing with an imitation Jarra. I don't know how your boyfriend stands it."
I was indignant. "I don't order anyone around, and especially not Fian!"
"Of course you do; now answer my question."
I've learnt over the years that arguing with Keon is a bad idea. Most of the time, he ignores you. The rest of the time, he comes out with a single devastating sentence that proves he's about ten times smarter than you are. Like the time our scary science teacher at school ranted at him for fifteen solid minutes for not doing his homework, and he finally yawned and said he'd been confused by the difference between the fundamental equation of portal physics stated by Wallam-Crane back in 2200, and the one she'd written at the start of the homework. Then he asked if it was simply a mistake, or if she'd made a key discovery that contradicted all the portal theories accepted by every scientist for nearly six hundred years.
It's much more fun to watch that sort of thing than to be Keon's target, so I didn't argue, but it took me a second to remember what his question had been. "Oh, the lost students. When we left New York, we had four days break before starting work here, so most of the class portalled off world to visit their families. We were all supposed to arrive at our new dig site dome between seven yesterday evening and ten this morning Earth Africa time. Fian and I were the only ones to show up yesterday, and only Lolia and Lolmack have arrived so far today. It's weird. When Fian and I went into the hall for breakfast, we were expecting everyone to be there, but it was just like the Marie Celeste."
"The what?" asked Issette.
"A famous mystery from back in the days of pre-history. They found a ship, the Marie Celeste, in mid-ocean about nine hundred years ago. It was in a perfect state but the crew were missing and ..." I stopped talking because Issette had her fingers in her ears.
"Bad, bad, Jarra," she said. "No history lectures!"
I sighed. "I wasn't lecturing. I was explaining. Anyway, Lecturer Playdon says he can't start classes for at least a couple of hours. Fian's gone to the store room to pick out the best impact suit in his size before the rest of the class arrive. I don't need to do that because I've got my own suit, so I thought I'd give you a proper call for once instead of just exchanging mail messages. I couldn't risk leaving it any later because you'd be doing your horrible medical things."
Issette nodded. "My class has started our three weeks practical introduction to regrowth and rejuvenation techniques. They showed us someone in a tank yesterday and I fainted. They were regrowing his kidneys, so they had his stomach open and ..."
I shuddered and used her own complaint ritual against her. "No! No gory medical lectures. Bad, bad, Issette."
She giggled. "Half the class fainted. Our lecturer says we'll get used to it." She turned to Keon. "You'd better get back to your own room and set up your laser light sculptures. You mustn't be late for this."
He sighed. "Work. Work. Work. I don't know why I signed up for a Twoing contract with you."
Issette gave him a wicked grin. "You go and be nice to that man. Remember what I promised if you do this properly."
I didn't dare to speculate about what Issette had promised, but it must have been good because Keon actually did as he was told. Once he was out of the room, Issette turned her attention back to me.
"So, what did you do during your four day break?" She pouted. "You didn't come and visit us."
I groaned. "I couldn't. You know Fian's parents came to Earth for the medal ceremony last week?"
"Yes. I saw them talking to you and Fian afterwards."
"I'm sorry I didn't get the chance to talk to you as well."
She grinned. "Well of course you had to pose for the vid bees so Earth Rolling News could take their pictures. I was utterly, utterly grazzed! You'd told me all the archaeologists involved in rescuing the Military from the crashed spaceship were going to get a new medal, the Earth Star, so I knew you and Fian would both get that, but you didn't say a word about the Artemis! Were you sworn to secrecy?"
"Sworn to secrecy? I didn't know anything about it! When Fian and I went up and got our Earth Stars, I thought that was it. When the Military called the injured tag leaders up again at the end to give us the Artemis ... Well, if you were grazzed, think how I felt."
"It was totally zan!" Issette's face radiated her delight.
"It was." I paused for a moment to indulge myself with the memory. The Artemis, the highest Military honour, had been awarded to civilians for the first time. I was one of the despised Handicapped, born with a faulty immune system that meant I could only survive on Earth, but I was also one of only eleven living people entitled to wear the Artemis medal. It was an amaz thought.
"Anyway," I continued, "Fian's parents said they'd stay on Earth until our four day break started, so Fian could go back with them to Hercules. Fian said he wanted to stay on Earth with me, but they were really disappointed."
Issette frowned. "So what happened? Did he go or ...?"
"He stayed with me. Fian can be incredibly stubborn."
Her frown vanished. "That's good."
I shook my head. "Not entirely. His parents decided to stay on Earth with us during our break."
"Noooo!" Issette ran her fingers through her frizzy hair. "Was it dreadful?"
"Well, they did their best to be friendly, but ..."
I sighed. "They were being far too carefully polite all the time, and there were a lot of awkward silences. They said some nice things to me, but ..."
Issette wrinkled her nose. "You don't think they meant them?"
I tried to be fair about the situation. "It's not surprising they're unhappy about their son having a Handicapped girlfriend. I can't leave Earth, which means Fian's tied to Earth as well."
"Fian doesn't seem to think that's a problem," said Issette. "He says he wants to specialize in pre-history and spend a lot of time on Earth anyway."
"Fian may think that, but his parents must feel it's already causing trouble. If I'd been a norm, we could have all gone to Hercules for a few days. And it's not just the practical problems, it's the stigma. Fian's parents politely call me Handicapped, but what do their friends say to them? Their son has a Twoing contract with an ape, a nean, a throwback. That must be horribly embarrassing for them, so naturally they wish he'd picked a norm girl instead."
Issette pulled a face. "So what did you do during the break? You were stuck with Fian's parents the whole time?"
I nodded. "The four of us visited lots of places. Stonehenge. Pompeii. The Spirit of Man monument. The Wallam-Crane Science Museum. The Green Time exhibition at Greenwich."
Issette groaned. "It sounds like a list of our most boring school trips."
"I didn't mind Stonehenge and Pompeii, but we spent an entire day at the Wallam-Crane Science Museum, including four ghastly hours looking at the technical displays on the history of portal development. Fian's parents do some sort of scientific research at University Hercules, so they were fascinated, and Fian seemed to understand it all, but you know me and science."
She nodded. Issette knew exactly how much I hated science lessons at school, because she'd sat next to me during them and suffered my constant moaning. "My poor Jarra."
"If I ever get my hands on a time machine ..."
She grinned. "I know. You'd go straight back to 2142 and strangle Wallam-Crane at birth so he can't invent the portal. You're always saying that. It's a stupid idea, you nardle brain! Would you really want to have to drive everywhere on hover sleds, instead of portalling around Earth?"
I giggled. "Maybe not. I like ordinary portals. It's just the interstellar ones that ... Anyway, the worst bit was staying in the hotel."
"What's wrong with a hotel? Surely it was nice to have your own bathroom for a change."
"I may be obsessed with history, but you've got obsessed with bathrooms since you started your Medical Foundation course."
"Bathrooms are very important," she said. "Do you know how many different sorts of bacteria live in the human digestive tract?"
"No, and don't you dare tell me! The problem with the hotel was that Fian's from a planet in Delta sector."
Issette gave me a look of total incomprehension. "So?"
"Everyone knows planets in Beta sector are the most sexually permissive. Gamma sector customs are similar to Earth, but Delta sector is really strict."
Issette caught up with what I meant. "You couldn't share a room with Fian?"
"Share a room? I'm surprised his parents allowed us to have rooms in the same hotel! We couldn't even hug each other."
"Things can't really be that prudish in Delta sector. Fian's always seemed very ... affectionate to you."
I grinned. "Fian's an incredibly badly-behaved Deltan, but his parents are traditionalists. Since we're only on our first three-month Twoing contract, they barely approved of us holding hands. Fian said it would save arguments if we followed their rules while they were around."
Issette rolled her eyes up towards the ceiling as she pulled an expressive face of disbelief. "And you were happy with that?"
"Not exactly happy, but I don't want to cause trouble between Fian and his parents. I've no idea what it's like to have a real family, and it's hard to discuss it with Fian because ..." I shook my head. "You understand."
Issette gave me a sympathetic look. The parent issue was as emotionally explosive for her as it was for me. A few brave parents move to Earth to be with their Handicapped child, but most never even consider it. They just hand the throwback over to be a ward of Hospital Earth and forget about the whole embarrassing affair.
Kids like Issette and me grow up knowing we're rejects, envying the children we see in the off-world vids who have real families. Most of us spend our time in Home dreaming of the day we'll be 14, and have the option to get information on our parents and try to contact them. We have wildly unrealistic fantasies about how they'll regret dumping us and want us back. By the time we're actually 14, we know exactly how unlikely that is to happen, but most of us can't let go of the hopeless dream and still go ahead and try to make contact.
Issette was a classic case. She was desperate for acceptance and a real family, so she contacted her parents, but she just got more rejection. I was the opposite extreme, much too bitter at 14 to take up my option. I didn't want acceptance from my parents, I wanted revenge for the way they'd abandoned me. When I was 18, I decided to get that revenge by pretending I was a norm and joining a class of off-world history students who were on Earth to work in the ruins of the ancient cities. My idea was to prove I was just as good as they were, then tell them I was an ape girl. I'd laugh at their shocked faces, scream my anger at them, and walk away. That didn't work out as planned, because I discovered the off-worlders, the exos, weren't as bad as I thought.
That was when I finally took up my option to get information about my parents. I found out they were Military, so when I was born they had to decide whether they should abandon their Military careers and come to Earth with me. I don't know what they'd have done if I'd been their first child, but they had two older kids so ...
So, yes, they'd dumped me, but when I contacted them ... Eighteen years of anger at their rejection. Eighteen years of refusing to let myself indulge in nardle hopes like the other kids. Eighteen years of pretending I didn't care. It had all culminated in the happy ending all ape kids dreamed of, but so few actually got. My parents had wanted to know me, had been going to come to Earth to meet me. It had been more than amaz, and beyond zan, and then the dream was shattered by a Military General calling to tell me they'd died trying to open up a new colony world for humanity.
Any mention of my parents still started a whole mess of raw emotions churning round inside me. Not just about their death, and the dream of having a family that had died with them, but about my Handicap and the Military career I could never have because I couldn't leave Earth. Fian and I were carefully avoiding the whole subject. I'm never any good at discussing emotional stuff, and Fian seemed scared to push the issue after the way I'd reacted in the past.
I couldn't face talking about this with Issette any more than with Fian, so I was relieved when the door opened at this point. Fian came in carrying a black impact suit. His long blond hair was in such a mess that I guessed he'd tried on half a dozen of the protective suits to see which fitted best. He saw the floating holo image and stopped to wave.
Issette waved back at him. "I must go now. I need to get dressed and check Keon is ready to give his demonstration. Wish us luck."
"Good luck." Fian and I obediently chorused the words.
Issette's image vanished as she ended the call, and Fian looked at me in confusion. "Good luck with what?"
Excerpted from EARTH STAR by Janet Edwards. Copyright © 2013 Janet Edwards. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
No book is perfect and this series as one real flaw, at least for me. I can't stand it when an author makes the decision to create 'new' language for the characters. Words like Zan, Bizzed, Powered, Nardle and so on I can do without. It just sounds forced. This is the reason I didn't give this book five stars. With that being said, Earth Star is a great sequel to Earth Girl. I find that, often, a new writer does a great first book and then bombs on the second one. This isn't the case here. The characters are solid and in place, there is continuity between the two books and no one remarkably becomes an expert in something that they weren't before and the heroine doesn't have all the answers. When she comes up solutions to a problem they are well thought out, even if they are unrealistic. It's important to understand that these books, so far, give a brighter view on the future of humanity. That doesn't mean they aren't without their problems - after all, prejudice still exits, but it's very different than what we experience today. If you're tired of dystopian novels that paint the future world as a bleak oppressive place that abuses its teens with adults that are either clueless or corrupt, then you're going to enjoy this fresh take on an unexpected future. It's a recommended read for me and I look forward to reading the last book in the series.
Great series! I cant wait for the third one.