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Authors: A. J. Paquette


BOOK: Paradox
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2013 by Ammi-Joan Paquette
Jacket art copyright © 2013 by Steve Stone

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Random House and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Paquette, Ammi-Joan.
Paradox / A.J. Paquette. — 1st ed.
p. cm.
Summary: When Ana finds herself on a desolate alien planet with no memory of her past, she must survive and discover her mission to save the Earth from a fearsome virus.
eISBN: 978-0-375-98438-9
 [1. Science fiction. 2. Interplanetary voyages—Fiction. 3. Survival—Fiction. 4. Amnesia—Fiction. 5. Memory—Fiction. 6. Virus diseases—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.P2119Par 2013   [E]—dc23   2012006431

Random House Children’s Books supports
the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.


for Kim, who was there with Ana from the start


Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Part 1
Newly Discovered Planet Confirmed to Be Habitable

Global News Syndicate

The International Astronomical Union confirmed Friday that newly discovered exoplanet Cyclid-Bf is almost certainly habitable. First detected last month within the twin star system of Cyclid, the planet has only one third the mass of Earth, yet shows signs of deeply buried groundwater and a surface temperature capable of supporting plant life.

The planet’s distance from Earth—nearly 35 light-years—is minuscule by galactic standards. However, even employing the most cutting-edge technology, a manned space mission would take many thousands of years to arrive. “Cyclid-Bf appears to be in every way ideal for supporting human life,” said eminent astrophysicist Dr. Alan Bartleby. “Yet any humans actually trying to get there would perish long before arrival. Humanity may have just found its ultimate paradox.”

This is how she wakes. There is a heavy pressure on her chest and a dull weight in her legs. Her mouth feels like cotton and the air is stale. Her eyes are glued shut.

No … not glued. She thinks they might open, if she tries.

She tries.

Her eyes are open now, but she can’t see any difference. The room—
is it a room?
—is pitch-black, a solid wall of dark.


A pulse of red light explodes in the darkness. She clamps her eyes shut again, but the brightness scours the backs of her lids. She takes quick, shallow breaths as the burst of light fades.

Another takes its place, then another.

Behind closed lids, her eyes are starting to adjust. She forces them back open. Fiery light-shadows streak around her, shadows that look alive.


She shifts her head and looks down, trying to assess her condition in these quick bloody snapshots hemmed in by viscous darkness.

She’s strapped to a padded chair with armrests and a propped-up leg support that goes out past her feet. A dark band stretches across her upper thighs; another two crisscross her chest. She arches her body, pushing against the bands, but there’s no give. She can feel her skin starting to bruise and she slows her frantic efforts. There has to be a way out of this.


The room is as round as a bucket, skinny with a high, dome-shaped ceiling but otherwise empty. She digs her fingers into the strap across her thighs and tries to pry it up. Nothing. With her fingertips she follows the band to the edges of her chair.
Like a seat belt, maybe that’s what these are?
But she can find no spring-release button.


What’s going on?


Where am I?


The pulses are coming from somewhere to her left. She reaches out in the direction of the light, feeling for the wall.
There! She finds something flat and round. A button. She pushes her palm against it.

The belts around her chest and the wide one on her thighs snap open. There’s a sudden sharp pricking below her waist, almost like something pulling out of her skin. She catches the band that was on her lower body and sees a row of long, thin prongs along the underside. On the front of the belt is a row of fine print, one label assigned to each prong:

A violent shudder ripples through her body.
What is going on?

Letting go of the belt, she bends forward at the waist and stretches her ankles and knees, groaning as her muscles shift position for the first time in what feels like quite a while.

A second later, the red light on the wall goes off and a flashing green one takes its place. She turns her head to the left and sees that the green light is coming from a second button, right next to the first.

Is this some kind of a game?
Her heart beats faster as she presses the new button.

Bright white light floods the room. She throws her hands over her eyes, but the light pushes through her fingers and cuts into her. Too bright. Too white.

And that’s when she notices.

Her mind is white, too. Blank.

It’s strange, because she can picture and name all the objects in her little room—the chair, the walls, the seat belts. She stretches her mind and thinks of cars, computers, pepperoni
pizza, ice-cold root beer. But all these objects float like ghosts in her mind. There’s no one in the car. The root beer has no flavor. The computer is static, its screen dark. She knows
all these things, but she doesn’t
them. They are not attached to any memories.

What about her? Where does
come from?

She blinks under her hands.

Who am I?

With a shock she realizes that she has no idea. Here’s what she knows about her world: A tall, round room. Bands across her thighs and over her chest. A red light that pulses and a green light that is pressed, and then a white so bright it cuts through everything else.

That’s it—her history, her memory, her now.

This is the first chapter of her life.

Panic rises up inside her, squeezing like a fist. She stays sitting for what seems like a long time, hands still shielding her eyes from that too-white light, while somewhere nearby a very low sound goes
tick, tick, tick
. Gradually, the quiet rubs away at her fear until the sharp edge dulls and her heart rate begins to slow.

Sliding her hands off her face, blinking a little as her eyes adjust, she looks down at her body. She doesn’t recognize it, not the lanky arms or the long legs or the lumpy vest over a gray jumpsuit that covers her from neck to ankle. The heavy-duty black boots. The little white square that’s pinned to her chest.

Wait. The

The nametag! She is wearing a nametag.

It’s small, an ordinary slip of paper inside a flimsy plastic label, held in place on her jumpsuit with a silver pin. She tugs the pin free with trembling fingers.

Yes. The paper has a word on it, three printed black letters in the upper right corner:
. That’s the only thing on the tag—the rest is completely blank. But it’s enough to start.

BOOK: Paradox
11.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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