Beyond the Stars: Quest for Tomorrow #4

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9780061059964: Beyond the Stars: Quest for Tomorrow #4

A new life...or is it"?

Jim Endicott isn't himself. Becoming one with the Omega Point, he used its awesome intelligence to alter his own past and save the lives of the only parents he's ever known, But does the alternate Jim remember the past? Dimly aware of his vast Omega powers, Jim must deal with a heartbreaking revelation: Carl and Tabitha, his "parents," aren't who he thinks they are at all! Who are they? And why are they sending him far away on a world-sized starship, crammed with millions of misfits and outlaws?

No longer on the fast track to the Space Academy, Jim falls in with the Stone Cowboys, a deep space street gang that will teach him about courage, loyalty, and love -- in the form of a gangmate named Samantha Forging ahead with his new life, Jim nearly forgets his former Omega destiny until "the Heat" appears, a strange narcotic with lethal effects that threatens to take over the ship -- and beyond....

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About the Author:

William Shatner's career as an actor, director, producer, screenwriter, recording artist, author, and horseman has spanned more than fifty years. One of pop culture's most recognizable figures, he is also a major Hollywood philanthropist. Shatner and his wife and three married children live in Los Angeles.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER ONE1

The wrecked cabin stank of charred wood. The sun, its morning light filtered by a scrim of trees, leaked through a drifting haze of smoke. Jim Endicott licked his lips. His mouth was dry. His head ached. He could feel his pulse pumping in his ears.

He squatted next to Carl Endicott, the man who, up until a few days ago, he had believed to be his father, and said quietly, "Can you stand?"

"I think so. I'll need a hand." Carl levered himself into a sitting position. He groaned as the crust of blood on his chest split open. "No. I can't-" He gritted his teeth and sank back. Suddenly he seemed to shrink.

Jim's mother, Tabitha, until that moment seemingly calm despite the terror she had just survived, suddenly gasped.

"Oh, my God!"

"Mom, don't look."

Tabitha knelt next to Carl. She patted his shoulders, his head, his chest, as if her frantic touch could somehow heal him. Her hands came away streaked with red.

"Mom....

"Tab, it's not as bad as it looks," Carl said. He glanced at Jim. "Son, help your mother."

Jim put his hand on Tabitha's shoulder. She wheeled and glared at him. "Don't touch me!"

Jim pulled his hand back. "Mom, I-"

"You shot him! It was you, wasn't it?"

"I didn't mean--"

"This is all your fault! If you'd obeyed your father in the first place-"

"Tabitha!" Carl's voice snapped like a breaking bone. She turned back to him, her lips moving silently, an expression of utter helplessness on her face. Jim's stomach heaved. If there had been anything inside, he would have puked it up on the spot.

"I ... I'm sorry," he said. He couldn't think of anything else to say.

I did all this. I caused it. My fault my fault my fault....

He glanced over at the armored shape of Commander Steele's headless corpse, then quickly looked away.

Carl saw the glance. "Jim, stop it. Look at me!"

"Dad, I'm so sorry."

Carl shook his head, as if the apology were trivial, and Jim winced. "I brought a portadoc," Carl said. "It's in the large bag. If the explosion didn't damage it, I need it." He paused. "As for blame, there's plenty of it to go around. We can talk about it later, maybe. But right now, I'm bleeding. . . ."

A harsh, bright light seemed to explode Jim's skull, cutting through the film of shock that had leached all color from his world. The hues suddenly screamed at him: The crimson blotch on Carl's chest appeared to vibrate.

Blood. Too much blood ...

He turned and ran, not noticing the tears that streaked silently down his smudged cheeks.

"Hurry!" Tabitha cried.

2

Jim lifted the compact square shape of the portadoc away from Carl's naked chest. Carl's eyes were closed, his face pale, but his breathing was steady. The wound stretched from just above Carl's right nipple almost to his shoulder, an angry red welt now closed beneath a glistening, transparent line of instant skin.

Tabitha had pulled all their bags and everything else she could salvage out of the shambles of the cabin and piled them on the front porch. Amazingly, the roof of the porch still stood, though the cabin itself was open to the sky. She looked up as Jim added the portadoc to the pile.

"Jim? I'm sorry. What I said before, I didn't mean-"

He realized his hands were shaking. He took a deep breath. "Mom, it's okay. We were all crazy. Everything was crazy."

Her face was as pale as Carl's, and now Jim noticed the livid purple-and-yellow bruise that began high on her forehead and extended up beneath her disheveled hairline.

He reached toward her head. She flinched away from him, her own fingers involuntarily flying toward the lump.

"It's nothing. That big man hit me. I'm okay."

"Let me look. At least let the portadoc-"

"We have more important things to worry about. Your father ... he needs medical attention. Real medical attention. We have to go back. . . . "

As Jim listened to her, he felt something stir deep within his mind. Something cold, dispassionate, and hard. It seemed to operate like a computer, pulling up facts, examining them, weighing them, discarding some, and generating new facts from old ones.

"Mom. We can't go back."

She stared at him. "But we have to. Your father. . .

He glanced at the unconscious man. "We can't stay here, either, but we can't go back. I don't know where we can go. Maybe he does. I'd better wake him."

"Don't you dare! He's hurt! He needs rest!"

He was shocked at her vehemence. Under ordinary circumstances he would have obeyed her without question. But that new, cold part of him wouldn't allow it. She was too close to hysteria, operating on the ragged edge of sanity, reacting to emotions he knew she was barely able to understand. He couldn't obey her, but it wouldn't do to push her over the edge, either. That would only create another problem he would have to deal with, and he had enough of those already.

"Mom," he said, keeping his voice as gentle and steady as he could, "I have to talk to Dad. Unless he told you what he wanted to do next. Did he tell you?"

She was staring at Carl. "He'll be fine, just as, soon as a doctor . . ." Her voice trailed off. "What did you say?"

"Did Dad tell you what he wanted to do next?"

"Next?"

"Where he wanted to go from here. He couldn't have planned just to stay here. If they found us . . . "

Involuntarily, his gaze strayed to the three silent bodies arrayed in contorted positions around the clearing in front of the cabin.

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