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Authors: Neal Shusterman

Scorpion Shards

BOOK: Scorpion Shards
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CONTENTS

A
CKNOWLEDGMENTS

P
ART
I: A
MERICAN
D
REGS

1. T
HE
D
ESTROYER

2. 'S
TONE
G
ETS
C
OOTIES

3. A P
LANETOID, THE
F
ULL
M
OON, AND THE
S
CORPION
S
TAR

P
ART
II: F
REE
F
ALL

4. T
HE
S
HADOW OF
D
ESTRUCTION

5. G
HOST OF THE
R
AINBOW

6. T
HE
U
NRAVELING

P
ART
III: S
CORPION
S
HARDS

7. T
HE
S
UM OF THE
P
ARTS

8. D
R
. B
RAINLESS AND THE
S
IX OF
S
WORDS

9. L
IGHT AND
S
HADOWS

10. T
HE
F
ALL OF
B
LACKBURN
S
TREET

P
ART
IV: D
EMOLITION
D
AY

11. B
IG
B
ANG

12. S
HROUD OF
D
ARKNESS

13. T
URNING
N
ORMAL

14. F
EAR
I
S AN
I
CY
W
IND

15. R
ESONANCE

P
ART
V: B
ETWEEN THE
W
ALLS

16. T
HE
H
ERMIT

17. U
NWORLD

18. T
HE
F
IVE OF
W
ANDS

A
BOUT
N
EAL
S
HUSTERMAN

For Anne McD., a star-shard of the highest order, and for Mike and Christine, who now shine like a double sun

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

S
CORPION
S
HARDS
BEGAN AS A SMALL IDEA, BUT RAPIDLY EVOLVED INTO
a trilogy, this being the first of three books. Along the way there were a great many people whose support and expertise made this book possible.

First, I'd like to thank the regional and scientific experts I met online through Prodigy, who lent an air of authenticity to the story. In Alabama, Matt Dakin, David Camp, Louis Davis, and R. D. McCollum. In the Midwest, Vicki Erwin and Tammy Hallberg. In Boise, Marilyn Friedrichsmeyer and Bradford Hill. In the Northwest, Rick Reynolds, Kim Guymon, Carol Hunter, and Jerry Morelan. And the astronomy and scientific experts John Winegar, Laura L. Metlak, Frank Sheldon, Charles Mielke, Stephen Kelly, and Paul Erikson.

Thanks also to Kathy Wareham, Diane Adams, and Scott Sorrentino, whose comments on early drafts helped to shape the story.

My deepest gratitude and admiration to Kathleen Doherty, who believed this book into existence in its initial Tor Books publication; and to my sons, Brendan and Jarrod, who, when they were young, made me a whole boxful of Creepy-Crawler scorpions, to paste on copies of the book; and thanks to their mother, Elaine, who was of great support and encouragement while this book was being written.

The new and improved incarnation of the Star Shards Chronicles could not have been possible without the support of my agent, Andrea Brown, as well as David Gale and Justin Chanda at Simon & Schuster, who are great luminous souls themselves, and saw fit to breathe new life into these books. They have always been among my favorite books. I'm thrilled that Simon & Schuster are getting them to a new audience!

My only disclaimer is that the star Mentarsus-H does not really exist. But if it did, then this might be what happens . . .

Part I
American Dregs
1. THE DESTROYER

A
SHATTERING OF GLASS
.

A monstrous crash echoing through the glass-domed restaurant—and then a second sound so horrid and final it could have meant the very end of the world. The way thunder must sound to a man struck by lightning. The ear-piercing rattle of breaking glass, combined with the deep wooden crunch that followed, pinned the high and low ends of human hearing, and what remained between were dying dissonant chords like that of a shattered—

—piano?

The restaurant's maitre d' could not yet believe his eyes. He stood dumbfounded, trying to figure out what on earth had happened.

The final tinkling of ruined crystal fell from the ornate glass roof of the Garden Court Restaurant—the pride and joy of the Palace Hotel—the most beautiful restaurant in all of San Francisco. Until today. Today shards of the crystal ceiling were stabbing the plush Victorian furniture to death.

And it
was
a piano—or what was left of it, lying like a shipwreck in the center aisle.

Is God dropping pianos on us today?
thought the maitre d'.
I should have called in sick.

The restaurant was closed, thank goodness—Sunday brunch did not begin until eight—but workers and early-rising guests had already gathered to gawk.

Of course it must have been the piano from the new Cityview lounge, up on the top floor, but how could it have come crashing down seventeen floors, through the glass roof?

“Should I notify security?” asked one of the waiters, but somehow the maitre d' was sure security had already figured out there was a problem.

I
N LIKE A FLASH
and out in the blink of an eye.

The boy called Dillon Cole was in the street in an instant and vanished into the foggy morning. The streets were not crowded, but there were enough people for Dillon to lose himself among unknown faces. He wove through them, brushing past their shoulders, leaving a wake of chaos behind him. The souls he bumped into lost their concentration and sense of direction—a woman stopped short, forgetting where she was going; a man lost his train of thought in the middle of a conversation; a girl, just for a moment, forgot who she was, and why she was even here . . . but then Dillon passed, and their thoughts returned to normal. They would never know that their confusion was caused by Dillon's mere touch. But Dillon knew. He wondered if believing such a thing was enough to send him to the nuthouse. If that wasn't enough to have him locked away, certainly the other things would do the job.

Things like that business with the piano. For all the commotion it had caused, it had been an easy enough stunt. It was a simple thing to get into the deserted top-floor lounge on a Sunday morning. Since the grand piano was on wheels, it hadn't been that hard to ease it across the floor, out onto the patio. As he moved the piano, his fury had grown along with
the burning, screaming need to finish this act of destruction—a need that ate at his gut like an uncontrollable hunger.

A wrecking-hunger.

Adrenaline coursed through his veins, giving him incredible strength as he heaved the piano onto the ledge—but all he could feel was that wrecking-hunger, forcing him on like a hot iron drilling down to his very soul. He hoisted the heavy beast of a piano onto the ledge, where it balanced for a moment, floating between possible futures, and then it disappeared, taking the railing with it.

One second. Two seconds. Three seconds.

The impact came as a deafening scream of dying crystal as the great glass roof seventeen floors below was shattered . . . and the wrecking-hunger was instantly quelled. That pressure deep inside was released by some invisible escape valve. Dillon took a deep breath of relief and didn't spare the time to look at his handiwork. He got out.

Wearing a bellhop uniform he had taken from a storage closet, Dillon took the elevator to the lobby and left without anyone giving him a second glance—and why should anyone suspect him? He was fifteen, but could pass for seventeen; he was an attractive, clean-cut, redheaded kid who simply looked like one of the kids the bell captain was training. So no one noticed him as he slipped out into the street, where he quickly took off his bellhop jacket and vanished into the morning.

Now, the hotel was far behind him and, in front of him, the stairwell of a BART station descended into darkness. Fog swirled around it as if it were the mouth of a black cave, but to Dillon it was a wonderfully welcome sight.

Once he was down the stairs and heard the approaching train that would carry him away, he knew he was home free. He dropped the bellhop jacket in the trash as he hurried to
catch the train. He was not caught. He was never caught.

The train stopped, Dillon found a seat, and it rolled on. Only now, as the hotel fell farther and farther behind, did he relax enough for the worries to fill his head.

Please,
he begged.
Let no one be hurt. Please let no one be hurt.
The restaurant was closed—but what if a waiter had been setting tables? What if a housekeeper had been vacuuming the rug? Dillon was always careful—he was always good at predicting exactly how his little disasters would unfold, and so far there had been no major injuries . . . but he was starting to slip—the wrecking-hunger was making him careless. When the hunger to destroy came, it was all-consuming and didn't allow him second thoughts. But now in the aftermath of his horrible deed, when his spirit seemed to hang like that piano on the edge of its drop, he could clearly see the ramifications of these awful, awful acts.

People could have died! And I won't know until I see the news.
The weight that now burdened his soul was truly unbearable . . . yet it was more bearable than the hunger, which always came back, making him forget everything else. He would fall slave to it again, and the only way to escape was to destroy something. Anything. Everything. The bigger the better. The louder the better. And when it was done the pressure would be gone. The hunger would be fed, and the relief would be rich and sweet like a fat piece of chocolate melting in his mouth.

But the wrecking-hunger had been getting worse lately. It didn't come once a week anymore. Now it came almost every day, pushing him, pressing him, demanding to be fed. Even now as he sat on the train, he felt the hunger again. How could it be? So soon! Wasn't the piano enough? It was the biggest, it was the loudest, it was the worst he'd done yet.
What more did he have to do to be free of this terrible hunger?

The woman sitting next to him on the train eyed him with a look of motherly concern—a look Dillon hadn't seen for the entire year he had been out on his own. She glanced at his shaking hands.

“Are you all right?” asked the woman.

“Sure, fine.”

And then she touched his hand to stop it from shaking.

“No!” said Dillon, but it was too late. She had touched him.

Her face became pale and she shrank away.

“Ex . . . excuse me,” she said in a daze, and she wandered off to find a seat far away from Dillon. Then she sat down to begin the task of unscrambling her mind.

“W
HAT ARE YOU AFRAID
of, Deanna?”

“Everything. Everything, that's all.”

Deanna Chang's pale hands gripped the arms of her chair as if the chair were the only thing keeping her from being flung into space. The room around her was painted a hideous yellow, peeling everywhere like flesh, to reveal deep red underneath. The place smelled musty and old. Faces on fading portraits seemed to lean closer to listen. The walls themselves seemed to be listening. And breathing.

“I can't help you, Deanna, if you won't be specific.”

The man who sat across the old desk shifted uncomfortably in his chair.
I make him nervous,
thought Deanna.
Why do I even make psychiatrists nervous?

BOOK: Scorpion Shards
6.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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