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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2000-01-01
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications
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For the children of Admiral Alexader York, perfection wasn't just expected, it was guaranteed -- written into their DNA before they were born.But while Samantha grew into the physical and mental marvel their father had bought and paid for, her twin brother Edward proved a disappointment. Genetic tinkering had raised Sam above the common herd, but Edward's faultless body housed a faulty brain.It took all the Admiral's influence to get Edward commissioned in the Outward Fleet Explorer Corps -- a fiercely independent band of misfits who referred to themselves proudly as Expendables. Accompanying Sam on a mission to the troubled planet of Troyen, home to the alien Mandasar, Edward found himself in the midst of a civil war. There, in an instant of horrifying insanity, Sam was killed, along with the alien hive-queen.For the next twenty years, Edward was exiled to a lonely outpost on one of Troyen's moons, blamed by the Admiral for Sam's death -- and blaming himself as well. But when escalating violence forces the evacuation of the system, Edwar d embarks on a perilous journey home that will lead hin into a forgotten past -- and, with the assistance of another ex-Expendable, the greatest Explorere of them all, the legendary Admiral Festina Ramos, into a future thick with conspiracy and betrayal. For there lurks a dark secret powerful enough to bury the hopes of human and Mandasar alike...or give them a new and brighter beginning.



Chapter One

Going To a Party

The first day of the fiight, I was so happy to be heading home that I went to Willow's cafeteria for supper with crew ... and it seemed as if every woman on the starship wanted me to try the Angoddi mushrooms, or did I listen to razzah poetry, or would I like a look at the engine room service tunnels when the next shift was over?

I'd forgotten how bored folks get on long tours of duty. Bored with their jobs, bored with each other. One glimpse of a new face, and people go into feeding frenzy. Or breeding frenzy. Maybe I should have been flattered, but all that eager attention sort of got me terrified -- I'd been stuck on a three-person moonbase for twenty whole years, so I felt way out of my depth when a dozen women wanted to make conversation with me.

"You're so cute for an Explorer!"

"And you don't smell bad!"

"Do you have a funny voice? I bet you have a funny voice. Say something."

"Um," I said. "Um."

"Look, he's shy!" One of the women giggled. "Can they stick you in the Explorer Corps just because you're shy? With a guy this built, I could cure his shyness real fast. Overnight!"

"He must be one of the new Explorers," another woman said. "The volunteers. The ones who don't have anything wrong with them."

"Anyone who volunteers to be an Explorer has something wrong with them. Him. Whatever." A bald-headed woman laid both hands on my wrist and stared straight into' my eyes. "Come on, handsome, you can be I on s with us. You're an Explorer, and Explorers are never normal. What's wrong with you?"

I took a deep breath and told them all, "I'm stupid , okay? I'm stupid." Then I went back to my cabin and I myself in.

The whole next day I kept getting comm-messages saying"Sorry," or "We were just teasing," or That invitation is still on for getting together in the service tunnels." three women actually came to apologize at my door ... and later a man who said, "The women here are such bitches, aren't they? Forget 'em. Why don't you come down to my cabin for some sudsy VR?" I said thanks anyway, but maybe another time.

After that, when somebody knocked I pretended I wasn't home.

Just before noon on the third day, I got another visitor...and the peep-monitor showed it was a woman wearing anadmiral's gray uniform. I couldn't very well keep anadmiral shut out, so I ran my fingers through my hair,thentold the door to open.

The admiral woman was short and brown and young,with a big purply blotch on her cheek; I couldn't tell what the blotch was, and didn't know if I was supposed to compliment it or pretend it didn't exist. My twin sister Samanthaused to yell at me, "Edward, when you see a womanhas done something special with her face, for God's sakesay she looks pretty." It was easy to tell Sam she lookedpretty, because she was always as beautiful as sunshine ona lake. With other women though, either I sat there tongue-tied,or I'd try a compliment and the woman would just stare at me ... like maybe I was trying to be funny or something. I sure didn't want an admiral to think I was making fun of her face; so I just ignored her blotchy cheek and gave her my best salute.

It's hard to go wrong saluting. Especially with an admiral.

The woman at my door introduced herself as Lieutenant Admiral Festina Ramos, and said I had to come to the party. "What party?" I asked. Back when Samantha and I had been on active duty, I couldn't remember navy starships ever having parties. At least, none that I'd been invited to.

"We're crossing the line in fifteen minutes," the admiral woman said. "You should be there."

I didn't know what she meant, crossing the line; I was pretty sure there were no lines in outer space. When I said that, she laughed and pinched my cheek. "You're an angel." Then she took me by the arm and leaned against me all warm and a bit perfumed while she led me to the Willow's recreation lounge.

The perfume was in her hair.

I wasn't so used to having perfumey women take me by the arm. Part of it was just being away from human things for so long -- what with escorting Samantha on her big diplomatic mission, then the long awful time after, it'd been a whole thirty-five years since I'd gone out in human company. (That made me middle-aged, I guess: fifty-seven ... though with YouthBoost treatments, I hadn't changed a whit since my twenties.)

But even when I was a teenager on New Earth, I didn't spend much time with women. My father didn't like me being seen by anyone off our estate. Dad was rich and important -- Alexander York, Admiral of the Gold in the Outward Fleet -- and he treated me like a big smeary stain on his personal reputation. Even though it wasn't my fault.

Back before I was born, Dad paid a doctor lots of money to make my sister and me more perfect than perfect: athletic and dazzling and smart, smart, smart. It didn't matter that

Hunted. Copyright © by James Gardner. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Hunted by James A. Gardner
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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