She knew none of this was actually real, but that didnt mean it wasnt happening. On the rare days she was well enough to go into school now, school never felt real either. The other girls had moved on. They were into YouTube, and they thought she was weird for still being into kids stuff. She tried to get into the things they were into, but the truth was that she didnt want to learn the dance moves from pop videos. She wanted to be a Jedi knight.
Leukemia didnt feel real either. They put tubes into you and pumped you full of chemicals that made your ears ring and your skin go so transparent that you could see right inside yourself. You could touch the tubes with your fingers and look at your tendons with your own eyes. It was possible that you werent dreaming, it just didnt seem very likely.
After a while you stopped worrying about what was real. The rare school days lasted six and a half hours, and then they were gone. Life lasted till you were very oldwith odds of ninety percentor for another few months, with odds of ten percent. Being here on the Death Star would last as long as it lasted. That was how you had to look at it.
Her dad knelt and put an arm around her. Youre not scared are you, big girl?
Sophie shook her head. No.
She made her voice sound as though the question had been stupid, but Vader was coming and the truth was that she was more scared than she had ever been in her lifemore scared than shed been in January when Dr. Hewitt had told her the leukemia was back. It was important not to worry Dad, though. It was harder for him.
You prisoners, stop talking! said one of the Stormtroopers. Then, in a softer voice: Are you guys alright for drinks and so on? Can I get you a juice or a biscuit?
Sophie asked, Is there Ribena?
Magic word? said the Stormtrooper.
Is there Ribena, please?
Of course, said the Stormtrooper, and produced a carton from a blue isotherm bag.
Weve got one of those bags at home, said Sophie.
Wow, said the second Stormtrooper. Small universe.
The first Stormtrooper spun around to look at the second, then quickly turned back to Sophie.
Prisoner! said the Stormtrooper. Our master is expected at any moment. When he arrives, you must stand at attention. If you are invited to speak to him, you must address him as Lord Vader. What must you address him as?
Lord Vader, said Sophie in a small voice.
Whats that? I cant hear you, said the Stormtrooper, cupping a gloved hand to the place on the helmet where an ear would be.
Lord Vader! said Sophie, as loud as she could. She was tired from the long car journey. Her voice had a slow puncture and it was letting out air.
Thatll do, said the Stormtrooper, and went off to whisper to the other.
A hush fell on the bridge. The Stormtroopers stiffened to attention. Sophies legs trembled. The music of The Imperial March sounded from hidden speakers. An involuntary whimper came from Sophies throat. A blast door opened. Clouds of dry ice billowed. Darth Vader emerged from his vapors, stood mightily in silhouette, and stepped onto the bridge. His respirator hissed and clicked.
He stared at Sophie and Dad, and nodded slowly.
So, he said. The captured Rebel fighters.
Sophie felt urine running down her legs, shockingly hot. It splashed on the brushed steel floor. The noise was undeniable.
She looked at the pooled urine on the floor and felt tears coming. This was going to really freak Dad out.
Excerpted from Gold by Chris Cleave. Copyright © 2012 by Chris Cleave. Excerpted by permission of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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