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Fugitives of Chaos
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Fugitives of Chaos

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Author: John C. Wright
Publisher: Tor, 2006
Series: The Chronicles of Chaos: Book 2

1. Orphans of Chaos
2. Fugitives of Chaos
3. Titans of Chaos

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-Genre Tags: Mythic Fiction (Fantasy)
Heroic Fantasy
Contemporary Fantasy
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Synopsis

John C. Wright established himself at the forefront of contemporary fantasy with Orphans of Chaos, which launched a new epic adventure.

Wright's new fantasy, continuing in Fugitives of Chaos, is about five orphans raised in a strict British boarding school who begin to discover that they may not be human beings. The students at the school do not age, while the world around them does. The orphans have been kidnapped from their true parents, robbed of their powers, and raised in ignorance by super-beings: pagan gods, fairy-queens, Cyclopes, sea-monsters, witches, or things even stranger.

Amelia is apparently a fourth-dimensional being; Victor is a synthetic man who can control the molecular arrangement of matter around him; Vanity can find secret passageways through solid walls; Colin is psychic; Quentin is a warlock. Each power comes from a different paradigm or view of the inexplicable universe, and they should not be able to co-exist under the same laws of nature. They must learn to control their strange abilities in order to escape their captors. Something very important must be at stake in their imprisonment.


Excerpt

Chapter One

Interlude with Amelia

1.

I was dead for about half a day.

There was still a "me," a girl who woke up in the infirmary, but she only had my memories dated earlier than a fortnight ago. She was a suspicious girl, yes, and she knew her elders were up to something, and she was pretty sure she was not a human being.

But the last two weeks had never been, so she had never crawled through impossible secret passages with Vanity, never flown with Quentin, never seen the Old Gods sitting at their revelry at the meeting of the Board of Visitors and Governors, or learned the horrid tale of the Lamia. She never heard the ringing in a locked safe of the hypersphere shaking from the shock of the music of a siren. She never had a pancake fight with Colin on a morning when all the staff slept, the first day we ever made our own food for ourselves; she never followed Victor into the woods, walked across a snowy landscape that could not be the Gower Peninsula, and never saw a white ship from beyond the edge of the world.

I do not know what it was that happened during those events or during the imprisonment that followed. I cannot point to the moment.

But something had changed me. Amelia was a girl involved in playing an elaborate prank on her elders, keeping secrets from them, trying to find out about her past; serious, yes, but still a prank. She was doing it more to please Victor than for herself. Amelia occupied only the three normal dimensions, like everyone else.

Phaethusa was a woman involved in a war.

It was Amelia who woke up in the infirmary.

2.

Amelia spent about an hour simply lying in her bed in the infirmary while a thin and severe Doctor Fell and an equally severe Sister Twitchett fretted over her, took her temperature, bent their heads together over charts.

Finally Dr. Fell said, "The medications I have been giving you once a month are for some reason ineffective. Are you certain you have been taking the doses as prescribed?"

Amelia tried to hide her dread. Of course she had not been taking those damned medications. Victor did not want her to.

She said, "But, of course, Doctor. You know what's best."

"Znf! I also know you do not believe that. You have reached that unfortunate age where you have all of life's answers and you know everything more perfectly and more profoundly than your elders. But you are a bright girl; you get good marks in math. If I am 3.4375 times your age, and not cognitively deficient, surely I have 3.4375 times your experience and knowledge?"

She blinked up at him. "I am sure I don't know, Doctor. How old am I?"

"Sixteen. Now get up. The Sister will bring you your clothes. Obey instructions in the future or you will find yourself in this place again, or perhaps in someplace worse."

3.

Amelia saw two things that struck her as slightly peculiar and "sensed" one thing that was so very peculiar as to be without any sane explanation. Did she ask questions? Did she ask Dr. Fell for help? She did not. Amelia might have been a child, but she was not a stupid one.

The first odd thing she saw, through the disinfectant plastic drapes hanging around her bed, and through a crack in the open door to the waiting room, was Sister Twitchett, carefully examining the pockets and inner lining of the skirt and blouse she had gotten from Amelia's room. She had an instrument shaped like a horseshoe (a metal detector?), and she was rubbing it slowly up and down the seams. With her other hand, the Sister was feeling every inch of seam with her fingers, looking for irregularities in texture.

While Amelia watched, Sister Twitchett pulled a lump of fabric about the size of a walnut out of Amelia's skirt pocket. It looked like a ribbon or sash that had been knotted and reknotted into a snarl. Twitchett picked at it disinterestedly and, when she could not get it open, shrugged and replaced it in the pocket.

Amelia wondered, Why are they searching my clothes? Nosy grown-ups.

Amelia hurriedly lay down and composed her best innocent face as Twitchett came bustling through the door with the school uniform draped over one arm.

"And remember to put on the necktie!" ordered the Sister.

Amelia grimaced.

4.

The other patient in the infirmary had his hand wrapped in a bandage, and his little finger was clamped in a tiny banana-shaped tube of metal. He was a dark-haired man with sad, tired eyes. The second odd thing Amelia saw was that the man hesitated before introducing himself, as if he had forgotten his own name for a moment. His name was Miles Drinkwater, the new civics teacher. In the spring, he would serve as a coach for a swimming team to be formed. He had hurt himself, naturally enough, swimming.

"I was out of my depth, Miss Windrose," he said.

Amelia thought she detected a slight accent in his voice, as if he perhaps were Italian or Greek, despite his English up-country name.

But what was that look of fear in his eye? Teenagers can sense fear like dogs, and Amelia somehow knew that she intimidated Mr. Drinkwater.

She thought she knew why. Amelia, it must be recalled, was a little proud about her good looks, which she had wished upon herself in youth by staring into a mirror. So Amelia made a point of holding his hand a bit too long when shaking hands, and standing half a step too close, and dropping her eyelids shyly, toying with her richly hated necktie, and doing the little bits of stage business she thought of as "Vanity stuff."

Mr. Drinkwater did seem mildly taken aback, puzzled, and then amused. As if he had been locked in a cage with a raging lioness, only to discover her to be a circus animal, quite tame, doing gentle children's tricks, balancing on balls or leaping hoops or something. He visibly relaxed.

It was the opposite of the expected reaction. Amelia did not know what she did wrong, but she knew she did not do "Vanity stuff" as well as Vanity did. Vamping takes practice, and Amelia (usually) thought such tricks were beneath her.

Humiliating.

Amelia thanked the new teacher, was excused, and walked down the corridor away from the infirmary. She did not bother swaying her hips or darting coy glances over her shoulder back at him. She knew already that she had endangered her grade from Mr. Drinkwater for that quarter, and she had not attended a single lecture yet. Great, just great.

It was just one of the little arbitrary things that can ruin a young girl's morning. Adults forget what it is like not to be able just to shrug things off, not to have any of the important things in your life under your own control.

5.

Outside, Amelia leaned against one of the leafless trees lining the carriage circle before the main house. It was a spot she liked, out of direct line of sight of any windows either from the Manor House or the Great Hall.

She shrugged one shoulder out of her coat, rolled up her sleeve. Amelia rubbed her upper arm and stared at it. She saw nothing out of the ordinary.

And yet, clear and persistent, there was a sensation coming from her upper arm. Not just a sensation, but an emotion. Her arm liked her. Her arm was friendly. A warm, tail-wagging, puppy-like, unabashed friendliness radiated from one motionless spot above her elbow.

6.

Vanity was overjoyed to see her; the two girls met with hugs and little hopping dances of joy. "I didn't have anyone to talk to for a week! It gave me the screaming meemies!"

Vanity had apparently suffered a bout of pneumonia, as well, but recovered four days ago. The only odd thing about her recovery was that Dr. Fell had prescribed "alternative medicine" for her. Instead of just being injected with some drug, Vanity had spent a day drinking odd herbal tea and sniffing candles of incenses concocted by Mrs. Wren ("aromatherapy") and listening to Miss Daw play her wonderful lilting violin ("music therapy"). It was odd, but it seemed to work, for Vanity felt refreshed and content afterwards.

"I think it was just that I got out of classes for a day! Of course I felt better!" Vanity exclaimed, giggling.

Amelia said, "Have you ever had a body part of yours feel... well... friendly?"

Vanity's huge green eyes glittered. "Colin has. Let me tell you the filthy thing he said about his you-know-what. We're sitting in seminar, and he's holding his pencil in his pocket, and poking up the front of his trousers every time Miss Daw walks by. You know. So his zipper is like... You know! Looks like it's throbbing. I couldn't keep from giggling. So Miss Daw spots him. He says, bold as brass, ‘Why, Miss Daw, I find lectures about high-energy physics to be most exciting! And my fellow student, Mr. Lovejoy...'"

Amelia stood up and stared out the window. Outside, moving with slow, painful hops among the dry bushes and the leafless trees, trying to push a wheelbarrow, was Mr. Glum, the groundskeeper.

"What happened to the groundskeeper... ?" asked Amelia in a voice of horror.

Vanity said, "Chopped his own foot off with an axe or something. Pretty clumsy, if you ask me. I say he deserves it. Filthy old man. He's always giving me such looks!"

Amelia said quietly, "You're a horrible person, Vanity. Pitiless and cruel. Go away and leave me alone."

Copyright © 2006 by John C. Wright


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