How do you tell your part in the biggest tale in history?
I ask because it's what I have to do. I'm Zoe Boutin Perry: A colonist stranded on a deadly pioneer world. Holy icon to a race of aliens. A player (and a pawn) in a interstellar chess match to save humanity, or to see it fall. Witness to history. Friend. Daughter. Human. Seventeen years old.
Everyone on Earth knows the tale I am part of. But you don't know my tale: How I did what I did — how I did what I had to do — not just to stay alive but to keep you alive, too. All of you. I'm going to tell it to you now, the only way I know how: not straight but true, the whole thing, to try make you feel what I felt: the joy and terror and uncertainty, panic and wonder, despair and hope. Everything that happened, bringing us to Earth, and Earth out of its captivity. All through my eyes.
It's a story you know. But you don't know it all.
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John Scalzi won the 2006 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and his debut novel Old Man’s War was a finalist for science fiction’s Hugo Award. His other books include The Ghost Brigades, The Android’s Dream and The Last Colony. He has won the Hugo Award, the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for science-fiction, the Seiun, The Kurd Lasswitz and the Geffen awards. His weblog, Whatever, is one of the most widely-read web sites in modern SF. Born and raised in California, Scalzi studied at the University of Chicago. He lives in southern Ohio with his wife and daughter.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
PROLOGUEI lifted up my dad’s PDA and counted off the seconds with the two thousand other people in the room. "Five! Four! Three! Two! One!" And then there was no noise, because everyone’s attention—and I mean everyone’s—was glued to the monitors peppered around the Magellan’s common area. The screens, which had held starry skies in them, were blank and black, and everyone was holding their breath, waiting for what came next. A world appeared, green and blue. And we all went insane. Because it was our world. It was Roanoke, our new home. We would be the first people to land there, the first people to settle there, the first people to live our lives there. And we celebrated seeing it for that first time, we two thousand settlers of Roanoke, all crammed into that common area, hugging and kissing and singing "Auld Lang Syne," because, well, what else do you sing when you come to a new world? A new world, new beginnings, a new year, a new life. New everything. I hugged my best friend Gretchen and we hollered into the microphone I had been using to count down the seconds, and hopped up and down like idiots. When we stopped hopping, a whisper in my ear. "So beautiful," Enzo said. I turned to look at him, at this gorgeous, beautiful boy who I was seriously considering making my boyfriend. He was a perfect combination: heart-flutteringly pretty and apparently entirely ignorant of the fact, because he’d been spending the last week trying to charm me with his words, of all things. Words! Like he didn’t get the teenage boy manual on how to be completely inarticulate around girls. I appreciated the effort. And I appreciated the fact that when he whispered his words, he was looking at me and not the planet. I glanced over at my parents about six meters away, kissing to celebrate the arrival. That seemed like a good idea. I reached my hand behind Enzo’s head to draw him to me and planted one right on his lips. Our first kiss. New world, new life, new boyfriend. What can I say. I was caught up in the moment. Enzo didn’t complain. " ‘O brave new world, that has such people in it,’ " he said, after I let him breathe again. I smiled at him, my arms still around his neck. "You’ve been saving that up," I said. "Maybe," he admitted. "I wanted you to have a quality first kiss moment." See. Most sixteen-year-old boys would have used a kiss as an excuse to dive straight for the boobs. He used it as an excuse for Shakespeare. A girl could do worse. "You’re adorable," I said, kissed him again, then gave him a playful push and launched myself into my parents, breaking up their canoodling and demanding their attention. The two of them were our colony’s leaders, and soon enough they would barely have time to breathe. It was best I get in some quality time while I could. We hugged and laughed and then Gretchen yanked me back toward her. "Look what I have," she said, and thrust her PDA in my face. It showed a vidcap of me and Enzo kissing. "You evil little thing," I said. "It’s amazing," Gretchen said. "It actually looks like you’re trying to swallow his entire face." "Stop it," I said. "See? Look," Gretchen tapped a button, and the vidcap played in slow motion. "Right there. You’re mauling him. Like his lips were made of chocolate." I was trying very hard not to laugh, because she was actually right about that. "Wench," I said. "Give me that." I snatched the PDA from her with one hand, erased the .le, and handed it back. "There. Thank you." "Oh, no," Gretchen said, mildly, taking the PDA. "Learned your lesson about violating the privacy of others?" I said. "Oh, yes," Gretchen said. "Good," I said. "Of course, you already forwarded it to everyone we know before you showed it to me, didn’t you?" "Maybe," Gretchen said, and put her hand to her mouth, eyes wide. "Evil," I said, admiringly. "Thank you," Gretchen said, and curtsied. "Just remember I know where you live," I said. "For the rest of our lives," Gretchen said, and then we did embarrassingly girly squeals and had another hug. Living the rest of your life with the same two thousand people ran the risk of being dead-bang boring, but not with Gretchen around. We unhugged and then I looked around to see who else I wanted to celebrate with. Enzo was hovering in the background, but he was smart enough to know that I’d get back to him. I looked over and saw Savitri Guntupalli, my parents’ assistant, conferring with my dad very seriously about something. Savitri: She was smart and capable and could be wicked funny, but she was always working. I got between her and Dad and demanded a hug. Yes, I was all about the hugs. But, you know, look: You only get to see your new world for the first time once. "Zoë," Dad said, "can I have my PDA back?" I had taken Dad’s PDA because he’d set the exact time the Magellan would skip from the Phoenix system to Roanoke, and used it to count off the last few minutes before the jump. I had my own PDA, of course; it was in my pocket. No doubt the vidcap of me smooching Enzo was waiting for me in my in-box, just like it was in the in-boxes of all our friends. I made a note to myself to plot revenge against Gretchen. Sweet, merciless revenge. Involving witnesses. And farm animals. But for now I gave Dad back his PDA, gave him a peck on his cheek, and found my way back to Enzo. "So," Enzo said, and smiled. God, he was even charming when monosyllabic. The rational part of my brain was lecturing me about how infatuation makes everything seem better than it is; the irrational part (meaning, most of me) was telling the rational part to get well and truly stuffed. "So," I said back, not nearly as charmingly, but Enzo didn’t seem to notice. "I was talking to Magdy," Enzo said. "Uh-oh," I said. "Magdy’s not so bad," Enzo said. "Sure, for certain values of ‘not so bad,’ meaning ‘bad,’ " I said. "And he said that he was talking to some of the Magellan crew," Enzo said, forging along (charmingly). "They told him about an observation lounge on the crew level that’s usually empty. He says we could get a great view of the planet there." I glanced over Enzo’s shoulder, where Magdy was talking animatedly to Gretchen (or at her, depending on one’s point of view). "I don’t think the planet is what he’s hoping to view," I said. Enzo glanced back. "Maybe not," he said. "Although to be fair to Magdy, certain people aren’t exactly trying hard not to be viewed." I crooked an eyebrow at that; it was true enough, although I knew Gretchen was more into the flirting than anything else. "And what about you?" I said. "What are you hoping to see?" Enzo smiled and held up his hands, disarmingly. "Zoë," he said. "I just got to kiss you. I think I want to work on that a little more before moving on to anything else." "Ooh, nicely said," I said. "Do these lines work on all the girls?" "You’re the first girl I’ve tried them on," Enzo said. "So you’ll have to let me know." I actually blushed, and gave him a hug. "So far, so good," I said. "Good," Enzo said. "Also, you know. I’ve seen your bodyguards. I don’t think I want them to use me for target practice." "What?" I said, mock-shocked. "You’re not frightened of Hickory and Dickory, are you? They’re not even here." Actually, Enzo has a perfectly good reason to be utterly terrified of Hickory and Dickory, who were already vaguely suspicious of him and would happily cycle him out an airlock if he did anything stupid with me. But there was no reason to let him know that yet. Good rule of thumb: When your relationship is minutes old, don’t freak out the new squeeze. And anyway, Hickory and Dickory were sitting out this celebration. They were aware they made most of the humans nervous. "I was actually thinking of your parents," Enzo said. "Although they seem to be missing, too." Enzo motioned with his head to where John and Jane had been standing a few minutes before; now neither of them were there. I saw Savitri leaving the common area as well, as if she suddenly had someplace to be. "I wonder where they went," I said, mostly to myself. "They’re the colony leaders," Enzo said. "Maybe now they have to start working." "Maybe," I said. It was unusual for either John or Jane to disappear without telling me where they were going; it was just a common courtesy. I fought back the urge to message them on my PDA. "So, the observation lounge," Enzo said, getting himself back to the topic at hand. "You want to check it out?" "It’s on the crew deck," I said. "You think we might get in trouble?" "Maybe," Enzo said. "But what can they do? Make us walk the plank? At worst they’ll just tell us to get lost. And until then we’ll have a heck of a view." "All right," I said. "But if Magdy turns into all tentacles, I’m leaving. There are some things I don’t need to see." Enzo laughed. "Fair enough," he said, and I snuggled into him a little. This new boyfriend thing was turning out just fine. We spent some more time celebrating with our friends and their families. Then, after things had settled down enough, we followed Magdy and Gretchen through the Magellan and toward the crew observation lounge. I thought sneaking into the crew area might be a problem; not only was it easy, but a crew member coming out of an entrance held it open for us. "Security is not a huge issue here on the Magellan," Gretchen said, back to me and Enzo, then looked down at our clasped hands and smiled at me. She was evil, sure, but she was also happy for me. The observation lounge was wher...
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