With: Pintip Dunn
Stranded on a planet that lacks food, Vela makes the ultimate sacrifice and becomes an Aegis for her people. Accepting a genetic modification that takes sixty years off her life, she can feed her colony via nutrition pills. But her best friend is still getting worse. And she’s not the only one.
Now the king is dying, too.
When the boy she’s had a crush on since childhood volunteers to give his life for her father’s, Vela realizes her people need more than pills to survive. As tensions rise between Aegis and colonists, secrets and sabotage begin to threaten the future of the colony itself.
Unless Vela is brave enough to save them all…
On the planet of Dion, food is scarce. In fact, there’s not enough to feed the whole colony, so a group of people — the Aegis — stepped up to accept a genetic modification that would allow them to convert food into energy more efficiently. Nutrition is then extracted from the Aegis via a pill and distributed to the rest of the people. Thus, the colony is split between those who eat — and those who do not.
It is strictly forbidden for the colonists to eat food, since it must be saved for those who can utilize it best. However, my heroine Vela, an Aegis, has been sneaking bites to her best friend, Astana, all their lives, since she wanted to share this extraordinary sensation called eating. She never expected Astana to develop an intolerance to her nutrition pills as a result, and so, Vela is in the precarious position of stealing even more food, so that her best friend does not starve.
In this excerpt, she’s been caught and thrown in the red cells. Carr visits her in this prison, but he’s more than just her best friend’s brother. In fact, he’s the boy whom she’s been crushing on since childhood. . .
* * * *
“My sister’s lost consciousness.” His voice trembles like the ground during an orbquake. “I took her to the medic, but he didn’t know what was wrong, either.”
My saliva is a rock I can’t swallow. His despair matches the one inside me, the one that’s been growing ever since I wrapped my arms around my best friend and felt like I was hugging a skeleton.
Here’s my answer. It doesn’t matter if I’m red-celled for the rest of my life. It doesn’t matter if I lose the position of Successor. My best friend is unconscious. She won’t be able to tell the medics what they need to know in order to help her. So, I have to. Right here, right now, no matter who might be eavesdropping.
“Carr?” I edge closer to his image. “You know how Astana’s symptoms improved earlier? And you thought it was because of my company?”
He nods, leaning forward, too. At least I’m not the only one deluded by a field of light.
“Well, that wasn’t the reason at all.” I fill my lungs to capacity. I’ll need the air. Once I say the words, there’s no going back. “I think she got better because I gave her food to eat.”
Someone gasps. It’s not me or Carr, so it’s got to be Palmetto or one of my cell neighbors. I’m now committed to the truth—and its consequences. With these witnesses, I’ll have to tell the council the same story.
“I’ve given her bites in the past. And I think that’s why she can’t absorb the nutrition from her pills. That’s why she’s been starving. I tried to sneak more food out of the banquet hall this afternoon. Not crumbs this time. An entire meal. But I got caught.”
“You’re in the red cells now? Because you stole food to help my sister?”
“Yes. I give my Testimony before the council in a few minutes.”
He looks over my shoulder, toward the itchy girl with the red streaks, although I know he doesn’t see her. My heart constricts into a tight ball, as if it’s been strapped behind a plastic shield and all the blood has been sucked dry.
“My sister’s dying,” he says roughly. “And now, you’re imprisoned.”
“I should’ve said no.” The words shoot out as though from a speargun. “All those times she asked me for one more bite, I should’ve refused.”
“My sister can be very persistent.” If his mouth wasn’t anchored down, it might’ve smiled.
“You’re not mad?”
“Under these circumstances? No. I’m sorry she’s so sick. I’m sorry you’re in the red cells. I’m sorry any of us are in this pill-suck of a situation. And you know what else I’m sorry about?”
Instead of responding, he holds his hand in the air, his fingertips reaching for me. My mind knows this is just a recording that’s reconstructed a split second later. There’s nothing in front of me but a structure of light with varying density, intensity, and profile.
But when I lift my hand and touch his, I swear there’s a spark. My fingers burn. My skin turns to static, and my heart swells to twice its normal size. I thought only the stomach had the capacity to stretch and expand. I never knew my heart had the same elasticity.
“I’m sorry I didn’t touch you when I actually had the chance.” His voice is a low, dark rasp. “A million chances over the years, and I’ve wasted them all.”
About the Author:
Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B., and received her J.D. at Yale Law School.
Her novel FORGET TOMORROW won the 2016 RWA RITA® for Best First Book, and SEIZE TODAY won the 2018 RITA for Best Young Adult Romance.