She looked up at him. Im fine, she said. Im fine.
There was a moment of surprised silence on the bridge. Vaders respirator wheezed.
Uh are you alright? he said.
I think shes let a bit of wee go, Dad whispered.
What? said Vader.
Oh, where are my manners? I mean I think shes let a bit of wee go, Lord Vader.
Vader held up his hands, black gloved palms outwards.
Hey, he said. Dont make me the bad guy here.
The nice Stormtrooper came over, knelt beside Sophie, and put an arm around her.
Its okay, the Stormtrooper whispered. It happens.
Sophie looked up at Dads face, which was lined with concern. She couldnt bear that shed done this to him. She began to cry.
Darth Vader bent down and patted Sophie on the shoulder.
Whats that tube going into you? he asked.
Its its a Hi Hi Hickman line, Sophie sobbed.
Dad folded her into his arms. Its to get the chemo into her.
Ha! Vader said. You call that a line? You should see me when I take this helmet off. I have so many wiggly lines going into me, I look like a plate of spaghetti.
Sophie giggled between her sobs. A perfect green bubble of snot swelled from her nose, stretched to molecular thinness, and shrank back again, like the membrane of a calling frog.
Youre a very brave young lady, said Vader.
After her tears, Sophie had a hammering headache and a rending in her guts and a pain in her side that made her want to curl up.
Im fine, she said, looking up at Dad. I actually feel great.
He smiled. She smiled back. This was good.
Afterwards, when theyd got Sophie cleaned up, Darth Vader lifted her to sit on his shoulders. They watched the huge monitor screens on the bridge, which showed the galaxy lying before them and shimmering.
Would you like to choose a world to destroy? Vader said.
Why? said Sophie.
Vader shrugged. Its just something I offer my guests.
Does it have to be a world? Could you blow up my bad blood cells?
Air sighed from the grille of Vaders face plate. He waved a gloved hand at the starfield.
I can do you anything on that map, he said.
Sophie pointed at a bright star in Orion. Lets say those stars are my white blood cells and that ones a bad one.
Fine, said Vader. Commence death ray initiation sequence.
Sophie held up her hand. Sorry, but its not actually a death ray if its saving my life.
Vader pointed at the big red button labeled DEATH RAY. He said, Its the only ray weve got.
Vader crouched down to let Sophie press the button. A low drone built slowly to a crescendo. The lights flickered. They all watched the monitor screens as the eight green beams of the death ray converged into one, shot out across space, and heated the core of Sophies bad blood cell until it exploded in a shower of bright sparks across the blackness of space.
They watched the sparks crackle and fade back into perpetual darkness.
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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