Read Neptune's Tears Online

Authors: Susan Waggoner

Neptune's Tears

T I M E D A N C E

‘I loved
Neptune’s Tears
. . . completely original – the central love story is wonderful and I was amazed and surprised by the
ending.

It’s sci-fi with a difference and its premise is terrifying . . . a book for curious minds.’

Wendy Cooling, reviewer

‘A teenage dystopian novel with a difference – a plot powered by romance that gives a frightening glimpse into the future. It’s smart, inventive and manages
to surprise and entertain with equal measure.”

Damian Kelleher, reviewer

‘If you read nothing else this year, grab a copy of
Neptune’s Tears
. . . lose yourself in a story that will make you laugh, gasp, hold your breath and cry
– all in the space of one chapter. Susan Waggoner has broken the mould with this inventive story – fast-paced and utterly believable . . . much more than an adventure. After the flood
of dystopian novels of recent years,
Neptune’s Tears
brings a fresh look at a future world and leaves the reader toe-tappingly impatient for the sequel.’

Rosie Rushton, bestselling author

‘Neptune’s Tears
was a rollercoaster of a read. It was fantastic, heartwarming and heartwrenching and I loved it! If you like YA fantasy/sci-fi/semi-dystopian
novels . . . you’ll like this. If not, read it and you might change your mind.’

Goodreads

‘We’re thrilled to be publishing this book in Germany. A great combination of love-story and an action-packed plot with paranormal elements . . . a page-turner
with an emotional touch, the story brings different contemporary elements to term – paranormal with a touch of science fiction and story lines similar to those of the
The Hunger
Games.’

Kirstin Neugebauer, Ars Verlag

First published in Great Britain in 2012
by Piccadilly Press Ltd,
5 Castle Road, London NW1 8PR
www.piccadillypress.co.uk

Text copyright © Susan Waggoner 2012

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.

The right of Susan Waggoner to be identified as Author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN: 978 1 84812 272 7 (paperback)
eISBN: 978 1 84812 273 4

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

Ebook also available

Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY
Cover design by Simon Davis

CONTENTS

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 1
D
IVESTING

Zee hesitated for the second it took the blue light to flash green, then passed through the arch and into the Accident and Emergency waiting room. She gave a little wave to
Omar at the security desk.

‘Hey, Pinecone Girl,’ he said. He’d been calling her Pinecone Girl for three months now, even though her regrettable choice of haircut had almost completely grown out. She
didn’t mind the teasing, though. She could feel his good heart in everything he said.

‘Hey, Omar.’

‘How come you’re working Friday night again?’

Zee smiled. ‘Just lucky, I guess.’

‘Must be something wrong with boys these days. Friday night, you ought to be out having fun. This the best place you got to go?’

‘Looks like.’ Zee walked on fast to hide her smile, a little embarrassed about liking her job so much. Omar didn’t know it, but he’d got it right. This
was
the
best place to be on Friday night, at least as far as Zee was concerned.

The room was crowded and Zee felt the pop and jangle of Friday craziness flowing around her. More craziness than usual, perhaps, as the first long days of early summer arrived. It would peak
just before midnight, then grow fainter and fainter, all the energy and fights and reckless acts exhausting themselves. Friday was a high-wire act that ended in the peacefulness of Saturday
morning.

Zee checked her orders as she changed into her scrubs, balancing on one foot as she read the screen inside her locker door. She saw with dismay that Ellie Hart, who’d received new lungs a
few months ago, had been readmitted with an infection and extreme exhaustion. Her high white count and enzyme levels didn’t look good either. A sudden heaviness flooded Zee’s chest.
Sadness.

Everyone knew you weren’t supposed to have favourite patients, but everyone knew that sometimes it couldn’t be helped. Zee and Mrs Hart had hit it off immediately, maybe because,
like Zee, Mrs Hart was an American living in London, or maybe because they’d been born on exactly the same day, exactly one hundred years apart. Zee thought it had more to do with Mrs Hart
herself. At their first session, she had been sitting up in bed, wearing the usual hospital gown and what looked like a gajillion diamonds – at her throat, in her ears, on both wrists, and
Zee had even thought she saw a twinkle or two gleaming in her hair.

‘Gaudy, isn’t it?’ Mrs Hart asked with a smile. ‘I hope you don’t mind. They’re my good luck charm.’

Zee could not imagine owning so many diamonds. Maybe Mrs Hart had read in some book that diamonds had healing properties and rented them. People showed up for sessions with all kinds of mistaken
notions. Zee looked at the diamonds again. They had a faint, radiant golden glow, as if sunlight were buried within them. ‘Are they real?’

Mrs Hart chuckled, a good sign in someone who’d just had replacement surgery. ‘Heavens no. But the settings are. I designed them.’

‘No way.’

‘Yes
way
,’ Mrs Hart said, extending an arm encircled with bracelets. ‘Touch,’ she invited.

Zee did and instantly felt a surge of joy. Joy and something more. What was it? She closed her eyes. It was complex, as tangled as a ball of yarn.

‘My first big success as a jewellery designer,’ Mrs Hart explained. ‘And my last. The Neptune diamonds.’

Zee jerked her hand away. Of course. The golden glow should have tipped her off. Everyone knew about the Neptune diamonds – diamonds drenched in sunlight and tragedy.

‘It’s all right, dear. I designed these settings before anything went wrong. They’re not . . . that is, I don’t think they absorbed . . . umm . . . how would you put
it?’

Ninety years before Zee was born, the first generation of robots was sent into space. Zee still remembered how the hologram of the pale blue rocket had leaped out of her social studies book and
vanished into the ceiling with a puff of vapour. She loved holos, and that had been an especially good one, so clear she could see
Tiffany
written on the rocket’s side.

Certain there would be precious gems out there, the famous jeweller had funded a twelve-year mission to Neptune. Without the frailty of the human body or emotions to interfere, the bots endured
the tedium of the long voyage and functioned perfectly in Neptune’s poisonous methane atmosphere – an atmosphere that, as Tiffany’s scientists had predicted, rained diamonds. The
bots filled a small module with sample gems, launched it on a path back to Earth, and started to build a collection colony.

On Earth, Tiffany held a contest to see who could design the most beautiful rings, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Ellie Hart, a newlywed, won.

A few years later, things began to go wrong. The robots, designed to withstand Neptune’s atmosphere, started breaking down. All their systems failed, but none failed all at once or in any
predictable way. Instead of going about their tasks until their chips crashed, the bots attempted to repair each other. It became clear that in spite of their programming they’d formed
friendships and alliances. Their messages back to Earth were full of sadness, and they appeared to care about what was happening to their friends just as much, if not more, than they cared about
what happened to themselves.

They gave every appearance of having become human.

‘Though they are not human!’ the spokesman holo in Zee’s textbook had insisted. ‘What looks to us like friendship is in fact a programming error. We gave the bots too
much freedom to adapt. All that’s needed is a little tweak in the core programming . . .’

But there was no tweak that worked, and nothing that could be done in time to rescue the robots, who corroded and died one by one. By the time their final message reached Earth –
We
have given our utmost and hold no grudges
– people had accepted them as nearly human and mourned their fate, and the world’s democracies banned further development of artificial
life forms.

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