Authors: R.J. Anderson
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Anderson, R. J. (Rebecca J.)
Quicksilver / by R.J. Anderson.
Summary: To prevent the public from learning about Tori’s unusual DNA, technology “geek” Tori and her adoptive parents move to a new town and change their names.
ISBN: 978–0–7613–8799–2 (trade hard cover : alk. paper)
[1. Identity—Fiction. 2. Technology—Fiction. 3. Extraterrestrial beings—Fiction. 4. Science fiction.] I. Title.
Manufactured in the United States of America
1 – SB – 12/31/12
(The distortion that results when a reconstructed signal is different from the original)
On June 7, the year I turned sixteen, I vanished without a trace.
On September 28 of the same year I came back, with a story so bizarre that only my parents would ever believe it and a secret I couldn’t share even with them.
And four weeks later I woke up in my hometown on Saturday morning as Victoria Beaugrand and went to bed that night in another city as a completely different person.
That last part wasn’t as bad as you might think. There’s something exciting about reinventing yourself, even if it means leaving all your friends and the only life you’ve ever known behind.
My only fear was that I might not have made myself different enough.
0 0 0 0 0 1
The move was the first step. My mom and I loaded our last two boxes into the rental van, latched the doors, and watched my dad drive off with the few pieces of furniture and clothing we still owned. Then we got into the car and backed down the driveway of our house on Ridgeview Court for the last time ever.
We drove through the city and out onto the highway, rock cuts boxing us in on either side. At first the landscape was rugged and wild, but as the kilometers ticked by—one hundred, two hundred, three—the pine trees and swampy lakes gave way to leafy woods and rolling hillsides. By the time we took our first rest stop, the horizon was wide open, and the air so mild I didn’t even need a jacket.
I stuffed my long hair under a baseball cap and walked around the parking lot to stretch my legs, while my mom went into Shoppers’ Drug Mart and bought the stuff we needed. Cash, not credit, so there’d be no paper trail. Then she handed me the bag and we drove off again.
Seven minutes later we squeezed ourselves into a tiny rest-room that stank of gas and old urine. The drain was rusty, the sink barely larger than my head. My mom taped a garbage bag around my shoulders and worked the brown dye into my scalp, while I took shallow breaths and tried not to think about all the brain cells I was losing. After twenty minutes and a rinse my hair looked duller, even mousy in parts. But it was still mostly blonde, with a few stubborn gold strands sneaking through it, and when my mother bit her lip, I knew what she was thinking.
“Cut it short,” I said. “Like yours was at my age.” I’d seen her first modeling shots, all pouty lips and sultry eyes under the feathers of her pixie cut. People said we looked alike, but I’d never looked like that.
“Oh, but that’s so—”
“It’s different,” I said, and with tears clumping her lashes, my mother picked up the scissors and cut.
At four thirty we stopped and bought more dye, for her this time. The auburn looked good on her, but it also made her look older and less like my biological mother. Still, it wasn’t like I was the only adopted teenager in the world, so there was no point panicking. We’d done the best we could.
The 401 at rush hour was as busy as I’d always been warned, eight lanes crammed solid with traffic and all of it moving at the speed of toffee. It took us an hour and a half just to get through Toronto, but after that the congestion started to clear, and by seven fifteen we were pulling into the driveway of our new house.
It was a shoebox-shaped bungalow with a brick front and peeling aluminum sides, and it couldn’t have been more than a thousand square feet. The houses around it were no bigger, and there were plenty of them, crowding both sides of the road and twinkling in the street-lit distance. A scattering of mature trees gave the neighborhood some dignity, but we definitely weren’t living on Snob Hill anymore.
“Hey, Gorgeous One and Gorgeous Two,” said Dad as he bounded down the front steps to meet us. His chin was prickly with stubble, and in a few more days, he’d have a beard, which would take some getting used to. “You look fantastic. Want to order pizza?”
His cheerfulness was too much for my mother. Her face crumpled and she fled inside, the screen door slamming behind her.
“She’s just tired,” said my dad, into the uncomfortable silence. “She’ll be fine in a minute.”
Ron Beaugrand: former semipro hockey player, current salesman, and perpetual optimist. Not that I disbelieved him—my mom’s emotions could be stormy, but in the past few months she’d weathered a lot worse than this. Still, my chest tightened at the reminder of what I was putting her through. Both of them.
Dad must have seen the shadow on my face, because he tweaked my nose and said, “Hey, none of that. This is an adventure, remember? New life. Fresh start.” He handed me his phone. “One extra-large Hawaiian, delivery. Then we can start unloading.”
Which made me feel worse, because I was the only one who liked pineapple on my pizza. Still, I knew better than to argue with Dad once he’d made up his mind, so I made the call.
0 0 0 0 1 0
My new bedroom was half the size of my old one—58.7 percent smaller, to be exact. I didn’t mind not having a walk-in closet anymore, but I did wonder where I was going to put my workbench and all my tools. Maybe I could take over a corner of the basement, once we finished unpacking.
I sat on the naked mattress and hauled a box onto my lap, my newly shortened nails picking at the tape. It was hard to believe that I was moving into a new house for the first time in my life; even harder to fathom that it was 475 kilometers from the house I’d left that morning. Until last summer I’d always been the girl who spent her holidays camping half an hour away, who had to fake being sick the year her hockey team went to provincials, who’d never been to Disney World or even Canada’s Wonderland, because I couldn’t travel more than fifty kilometers from my hometown without having a seizure. But that problem was solved now—one of the few good things that had come out of my disappearance—and I could go anywhere I wanted.
Except back to my old life, because that would be far too dangerous. Not that there was a lot about being Tori Beau-grand that I was going to miss, especially not after that ugly breakup with Brendan just before I went missing and the way Lara had reacted afterward when I didn’t want to talk about where I’d been. The only real friend I had left in Sudbury now was Alison, and she’d be safer and probably saner without me.
Or at least I hoped so. Because the alternative was more guilt than I could deal with right now.
I shook off the thought and ripped the cardboard box open, tossing aside my soldering iron, multimeter, and other familiar tools until I found what I’d been looking for. A metal spheroid the size of an orange, featureless except for a circular socket at one end, a tiny aperture at the other, and a thin, dimpled seam running around its equator.