Aurora Rising is the new sci-fi adventure by the New York Times bestselling authors of the Illuminae Files, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. It’s about a group of misfits and their mission to save the galaxy. No big deal.
Picture this. The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the academy would touch.
We cannot wait for this book to hit planet Earth on 5.7.19, but for now we’re excited to share the very first chapter. What are you waiting for? Start reading or listen to it below!
I’m gonna miss the Draft.
The Hadfield is disintegrating around me. Black arcs of quantum lightning are melting the ship’s hull to slag. My spacesuit is screaming seventeen different alarms, the lock on this damn cryogenic pod still won’t open, and that’s the one thought blaring in my head. Not that I should’ve stayed in my rack and gotten a good night’s sleep. Not that I should’ve just ignored the damn distress call and headed back to Aurora Academy. And not that this is a really stupid way to die.
Nope. Looking death right in the face, Tyler Jones, Squad Leader, First Class, is thinking one thing, and one thing only.
I’m gonna miss the damn Draft.
I mean, you work your whole life for a Thing, it’s only natural the Thing be important to you. But most rational people would consider getting vaporized inside a derelict spaceship drifting through interdimensional space just a little more important than school. That’s all I’m saying.
I look down at the girl sleeping inside the cryopod. She has shortish black hair, with a strange white streak running through her bangs. Freckles. A gray jumpsuit. Her expression is the kind of blissful you only see on babies or the cryogenically frozen.
I wonder what her name is.
I wonder what she’d say if she knew she was about to get me killed.
And I shake my head, muttering over the scream of my suit alarms as the ship around me begins to tear itself into a million burning pieces.
“She better be worth it, Jones.”
• • • • •
Let’s back it up a little.
About four hours, to be exact. I know they say to start your story at the exciting bit, but you need to know what’s going on here so you can actually care about me getting vaporized. Be- cause me getting vaporized is totally gonna suck.
So. Four hours ago, I’m in my dorm at Aurora Academy. I’m staring up at the underside of Björkman’s mattress and praying to the Maker that our training officers throw some kind of grav-failure or fire drill at us. The night before the Draft, they’ll probably just let us get some rest. But I’m praying anyway, because:
- (a) Even though he never snores, Björkman is snoring now, and I can’t
- (b) I’m wishing my dad could be there to see me tomorrow, and I can’t
- (c) It’s the night before the Draft, and CAN’T. SLEEP.
I dunno why I’m so worked up. I should be cool as ice. I’ve aced every exam. Finished top of almost every class. Ninety- ninth percentile of all cadets in the academy.
Jones, Tyler, Squad Leader, First Class.
Goldenboy. That’s what the other Alphas call me. Some throw it as an insult, but I take it as a compliment. Nobody worked harder than me to get here. Nobody worked harder once they arrived. And now all that work is about to pay off, because tomorrow is the Draft and I’ve earned four of the top five picks, and I’m gonna have the best squad a senior class in Aurora Academy has ever seen.
So why can’t I sleep?
Surrendering with a long sigh, I climb out of my bunk, drag on my uniform, drag my hand through my blond hair. And shooting a look at Björkman that I wish could kill—or at least mute—I slap the door control pad and stalk out into the corridor, cutting off his snores behind me.
It’s late: 02:17 station clock. The illumination is set low to simulate nighttime, but the fluorescent strips in the floor light up as I mooch down the hallway. I ping my sister, Scarlett, on my uniglass, but she doesn’t answer. I think about pinging Cat, but she’s probably asleep. Like I should be.
I wander past a long plasteel window, looking at the Aurora star burning beyond, gilding the frame’s edge in palest gold. In old Terran mythology, Aurora was the goddess of the dawn. She heralded the coming of daylight, the end of night. Someone back in the day gave her name to a star, and that star gave its name to the academy now orbiting it, and the Aurora Legion I’ve given my life to.
Five years I’ve lived here. Signed up the day I turned thirteen, my twin sister right beside me. The recruiter on New Gettysburg Station remembered our dad. Told us he was sorry. Promised we’d make the bastards pay. That Dad’s sacrifice—all our soldiers’ sacrifices—wouldn’t be for nothing.
I wonder if I still believe that. I should be sleeping.
I don’t know where I’m going.
Except I know exactly where I’m going.
Stalking down the corridor toward the docking bay. Jaw clenched.
Hands in my pockets to hide the fists.
• • • • •
Four hours later, I’m pounding those same fists on the cryo- pod’s seal.
The chamber around me is filled with a hundred pods just like it, all rimed with a layer of pale frost. The ice cracks a little under my blows, but the seal isn’t opening. My uniglass is running a wireless hack on the lock, but it’s too slow.
If I don’t get out of here soon, I’m dead.
Another shock wave hits the Hadfield, shaking the whole ship. There’s no gravity in the derelict, so I can’t fall. But I’m hanging on to the cryopod, which means I still get whipped around like a kid’s toy, smashing my spacesuit’s helmet into another pod and adding one more alarm to the seventeen already blaring in my ears.
WARNING: SUIT INTEGRIT Y BREACH. H20 RESERVOIR COMPROMISED.
Uh-oh . . .
The girl in the cryopod frowns in her sleep like she’s having a bad dream. For a moment, I consider what it’s gonna mean for her if we make it out of this alive.
And then I feel something wet at the base of my skull. Inside my helmet. I twist my head and try to spot the problem, and the wetness sloshes across the back of my neck, surface tension gluing it to my skin. I realize my drinking tube has ruptured. That my hydration tanks are emptying into my helmet. That even if this FoldStorm doesn’t kill me, in about seven minutes, my helmet is gonna fill with water and I’m gonna be the first human I’ve ever heard of to drown in space.
If we make it out of this alive? “No chance,” I mutter.
• • • • •
“No chance,” the lieutenant says.
Three and a half hours earlier, I’m standing in Aurora Academy Flight Control. The flight deck lieutenant’s name is Lexington, and she’s only two years older than me. A couple of months back at the Foundation Day party, she had too much to drink and told me she likes my dimples, so I smile at her as often as possible now.
Hey, if you’ve got ’em, flaunt ’em.
Even at this hour, the docks are busy. From the mezzanine above, I can see a heavy freighter from the Trask sector being unloaded. The huge ship hangs off the station’s shoulder, her hull battered from the billions of kilometers under her belt. Loader drones fly about her in a buzzing metal swarm.
I turn back to the lieutenant. Dial my smile up a notch. “Just for an hour, Lex,” I plead.
Second Lieutenant Lexington raises one dark eyebrow in response. “Don’t you mean ‘Just for an hour, ma’am,’ Cadet Jones?”
Whoops. Too far.
“Yes, ma’am.” I give her my best salute. “Apologies, ma’am.” “Shouldn’t you be getting some rack time?” she sighs. “Can’t sleep, ma’am.”
“Fretting on the Draft tomorrow?” She shakes her head, finally smiles. “You’re the highest-ranked Alpha in your year. What’s to worry about?”
“Just nervous energy.” I nod to the rows of Phantoms in Bay 12. The scout ships are sleek. Teardrop shaped. Black as the void outside. “Figured I’d put it to good use and log some time in the Fold.”
Her smile vanishes. “Negative. Cadets aren’t allowed in the Fold without a wingman, Jones.”
“I’ve got a five-star commendation from my flight trainer. And I’m a full-fledged legionnaire as of tomorrow. I won’t go farther than a quarter parsec.”
I lean closer. Push my smile into overdrive. “Would I lie to you, ma’am?”
And slowly, ever so slowly, I watch her smile reappear.
Thank you, dimples.
Ten minutes later, I’m sitting in a Phantom’s cockpit. The engines heat up and the dock systems load my ship into the launch tube, and with a soundless roar I’m soaring out into the black. Stars glitter outside my blastscreens. The void stretches as wide as forever. Aurora Station lights up the dark behind me, swift cruisers and lumbering capital ships moored at its berths or cutting through the dark around it. I shift course, feeling a rush of vertigo as gravity drops away, replaced by the weightless- ness outside the station’s skin.
The FoldGate looms in front of me, about five thousand klicks off the station’s bow. Huge. Hexagonal. Its pylons blink green in the darkness. Inside it, I can see a shimmering field, shot through with bright pinpricks of light.
A voice crackles in my headset.
“Phantom 151, this is Aurora Control. You are clear for Fold entry, over.”
“Roger that, Aurora.”
I hit my thrusters, pushed back hard in my velocity couch as I accelerate. Auto-guidance locks on, the FoldGate flares brighter than the sun. And without a sound, I plunge into an endless, colorless sky.
A billion stars are waiting to greet me. The Fold opens wide and swallows me whole, and in that moment, I can’t hear the roar of my thrusters or the ping of my navcom. My worries about the Draft or the memories of my dad.
For a brief second, all the Milky Way is silence. And I can’t hear a thing.
• • • • •
I can’t hear a thing.
The blob of water creeping up the back of my head has reached my ears by the time I get the cryopod unlocked, muting my suit alarms. I shake my head hard, but the liquid just slips around on my skin in the zero grav, a big dollop pooling on my left eye and half blinding me. Doing my very best not to curse, I pop the cryopod’s seals and tear the door open.
The color spectrum here in the Fold is monochrome, everything reduced to shades of black and white. So when the pod lighting switches to a slightly different kind of gray, I’m not sure what color it’s actually turning until . . .
RED ALERT. STASIS INTERRUP TED. POD 7173 BREACHED. RED ALERT.
The monitors flash a warning as I plunge my hands into the viscous gel, wincing as the chill penetrates my suit. I can’t imagine what dragging this girl out prematurely is going to do, but leaving her for the FoldStorm is definitely gonna kill her. And if I don’t get this show on the road, it’s gonna kill me, too.
And yeah, that’s still really gonna suck.
Luckily, the Hadfield’s hull looks like it was breached de- cades ago, so there’s no atmosphere to leech the remaining heat from this girl’s body. Unfortunately, that means there’s also nothing for her to breathe. But the drugs they pumped into her before they froze her will have slowed her metabolism enough that she can survive a few minutes without oxy- gen. With my water reserves still leaking into my helmet, I’m more worried about myself in the whole Not Being Able to Breathe department.
She hangs weightless above the pod, anchored by her IV lines, still encased in freezing cryogel. The Hadfield trembles again, and I’m glad I can’t actually hear what the FoldStorm is doing to the hull. A burst of jet-black lightning crashes through the wall beside me, melting the metal. The water leaking into my helmet is creeping closer to my mouth every second. I start scooping handfuls of goop off the girl’s face, slinging it across the chamber to spatter against yet more cryopods. Row upon row of them. Every one filled with this same freezing gel. Every one with a shriveled human corpse floating inside.
They’re all dead. Hundreds. Thousands.
Every single person on this ship is dead, except her.
The holographic display inside my helmet flashes as lightning liquefies another piece of hull. It’s a message from my Phantom’s onboard computer.
WARNING: FOLDSTORM INTENSIT Y INCREASING. RECOMMEND IMMEDIATE DEPARTURE. REPEAT: RECOMMEND IMMEDIATE DEPARTURE.
Yeah, thanks for the advice.
I should leave this girl here. Nobody’d blame me. And the galaxy she’s going to wake up to? Maker, she’d probably thank me if I just left her for the storm. But I look around at those corpses in the other pods. All these people who punted out from Earth all those years ago, drifting off to sleep with the promise of a new horizon, never to wake up again. And I realize I can’t just leave her here to die.
This ship has enough ghosts already.
- • • • •
My dad used to tell us ghost stories about the Fold.
We grew up on ’em, my sister and me. Dad would sit up late into the night and talk about the old days when humanity was taking its first baby steps away from Terra. Back when we first discovered that space between space, where the fabric of the universe wasn’t quite stitched the same. And because we Terrans are such an imaginative bunch, we named it after the single, magical thing it allowed us to do.
So. Take a sheet of paper. Now imagine it’s the whole Milky Way galaxy. It’s a lot to ask, but you can trust me. I mean, come on, look at these dimples.
Okay, now imagine one corner of that paper is where you’re sitting. And the opposite corner is alllll the way over on the other side of the galaxy. Even burning at the speed of light, it’d take you one hundred thousand years to trek it.
But what happens when you fold the paper in half? Those corners are touching now, right? One thousand centuries of travel just became a stroll to the end of the street. The impossible just became possible.
That’s what the Fold lets us do.
Thing is, impossible always comes with a price.
Dad would tell us horror stories about it. The storms that spring up out of nowhere, closing off whole sections of space. The early exploration vessels that just disappeared. That breath- on-the-back-of-your-neck feeling of never being alone.
Turns out the effect of Fold travel on sentient minds grows worse the older you get. They don’t recommend it for anyone over twenty-five without being frozen first. I get seven years in the Legion, and after that, I’ll be flying a desk the rest of my life. But right now, it’s a little over an hour ago and I’m flying my Phantom. Crossing the seas between stars in minutes. Watching those suns blur and the space between them ripple and distance become meaningless. But still, I’m starting to feel it. That breath on the back of my neck. The voices, just out of earshot.
I’ve been in here long enough. The Draft is tomorrow.
I should be getting my zees.
Maker, what am I even doing out here?
I’m prepping a course back to Aurora Academy when the message appears on my viewscreen. Repeating. Automated.
My stomach drops as I watch those three letters flash on my display. The Aurora Legion’s charter says all ships are duty-bound to investigate a distress call, but my sweep detects a FoldStorm near the SOS’s origin that’s about four million klicks wide.
And then my computer translates the distress call’s ident code.
IDENT: TERR AN VESSEL, ARK-CLASS.
“Can’t be . . . ,” I whisper.
Everyone knows about the Hadfield disaster. Back in Earth’s early days of expansion, the whole ship disappeared in the Fold. The tragedy ended the age of corporate space exploration. Nearly ten thousand colonists died.
And that’s when my computer flashes a message on my display.
ALERT: BIOSIGN DETECTED. SINGLE SURVIVOR.
REPEAT: SINGLE SURVIVOR.
“Maker’s breath . . . ,” I whisper.
• • • • •
“Maker’s breath!” I shout.
Another arc of quantum lightning rips the Hadfield’s hull, just a few meters shy of my head. There’s no atmo and my ears are full of liquid anyway, so I can’t hear the metal vaporizing. But my gut flips, and the water filling my helmet suddenly tastes like salt. It’s covering my mouth now—only my right eye and nose are still dry.
It had taken me a while to find her. Trawling through the Hadfield’s lightless innards as the FoldStorm rushed ever closer, past thousands of cryopods filled with thousands of corpses. There was no sign of what killed them, or why a single girl among them had been left alive. But finally, there she was. Curled up in her pod, eyes closed as if she’d just drifted off. Sleeping Beauty.
She’s still sleeping now, as the tremors throw me into the wall hard enough to knock the wind out of me. The water in my helmet sloshes about, and I accidently inhale, choking and gasping. I’ve got maybe two minutes till I drown. And so I just drag the breather tube out of her throat, rip the IV lines out of her arms, watch her blood crystallize in the vacuum. The whole time, she doesn’t move. But she’s frowning, as if she’s still lost somewhere in that bad dream.
Starting to know the feeling.
The blob of water covers both my eyes now. Closing in on my nostrils from both sides. I squint through the blur, hold her close and kick against the bulkhead. We’re both weight- less, but between the Hadfield’s tremors and the water near blinding me, it’s almost impossible to control our trajectory. We crash into a cluster of pods, full of corpses long dead.
I wonder how many of them she knew.
Bouncing off the far wall, my fingers scrabble for purchase. The belly of this ship is a twisted snarl, hundreds of chambers packed with pods. But I aced my zero-grav orienteering exam. I know exactly where we need to go. Exactly how to get back to the Hadfield’s docking bay and my Phantom waiting inside it.
Except then the water closes over my nose. And I can’t breathe anymore.
Which might sound bad, I know . . . Okay, it really is bad.
But not being able to breathe means I don’t need my oxy- gen supply anymore, either. And so I aim myself at the corridor leading away from cryo. Reaching to the back of my spacesuit, I find the right set of cables and rip them loose.
And with a burst of escaping O2 acting like a tiny jet propulsion unit, we’re flying.
I’m holding the girl tight to my chest. Guiding us with my free hand, squinting through the water filling my helmet. My lungs are burning. Lightning shears through the wall, carving the titanium like butter. The ship shudders and we bounce off walls and consoles, my boots kicking, somehow keeping us on course.
We’re in the docks now, my Phantom sitting on the far side, just a dark blur in my underwater vision. Vast, swirling clouds of the FoldStorm wait just outside the bay doors. Black lightning in the air. Black spots in my eyes. The whole galaxy underwater. I’m almost deaf. Almost blind. One thought building in my mind.
We’re still too far from the ship.
At least two hundred meters. Any second now, my respiratory reflex is gonna buck and I’m gonna inhale a lungful of water, and within sight of salvation, I’m gonna die.
We’re both gonna die.
Maker, help us.
Lightning crashes. My lungs are screaming. Heart screaming. The whole Milky Way, screaming. I close my eyes. Think of my sister. Pray she’ll be okay. There’s a rush of vertigo. And then I feel it under my hand. Metal. Familiar.
What the . . . ?
I open my eyes and there we are, floating right beside my Phantom. The entry hatch under my fingertips. It’s impossible. There’s no way I—
No time for questions, Tyler.
I tear the hatch open, drag the pair of us inside, and slam
it closed. As the tiny airlock fills with O2, I rip my helmet loose and paw the water from my face, breath exploding from my lungs. I’m curled over, floating, gasping, dragging great
heaving lungfuls of air into my chest. The black spots burst in my eyes. The Hadfield rocks and lurches, tossing my Phantom about in its docking brackets.
You’ve got to move, Tyler.
MOVE, DAMN YOU.
I claw open the airlock, pull myself into the pilot’s chair. Lungs still aching, tears streaming from my eyes. I slap at the launch controls, hit the burners before the couplings are even loose, blast out of the Hadfield’s belly like my tail is on fire.
The FoldStorm swells and rolls behind us, my sensors all in the redline. The thrust pushes me back in my chair, gravity pressing hard on my chest as we accelerate away. Oxygen- starved already, it’s more than I can take.
I manage to activate my distress signal with shaking hands. And then I’m sinking. Down into the white behind my eyes. The same color as those stars, twinkling out there in all that endless black.
And my last thought before I pass out completely?
It’s not that I just saved someone’s life or that I have no idea how we covered the last two hundred meters back to my Phantom’s airlock or that the both of us should most definitely be dead.
It’s that I’m gonna miss the Draft.
Excerpt copyright © 2019 by LaRoux Industries Pty Ltd. and Neverafter Pty Ltd. Published by Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.