Title: That Distant Dream
Series: The Satura Trilogy, Book One
Author: Laurel Beckley
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: December 14, 2020
Heat Level: 1 – No Sex
Genre: Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+, science fiction, sci-fi, military scifi, cliffhanger, other-world, military, PTSD, war
After her escape pod is found drifting through debris nearly two decades after the end of the Redelki Wars, Melin is woken from cryosleep to find a galaxy where she no longer belongs. The galaxy has moved on from the horrors she experienced, the experiences that transformed her into a hero while she slept, but she hasn’t.
Alone, broken in mind and body, Melin is slowly pulled to the planet of her ancestors. She just wants a fresh start. A chance to end the dreams plaguing her sleep. A chance for answers. For new beginnings. For a life lived in oblivion where no one knows her name or what she did.
But Satura is a planet at war. And there are no fresh starts for heroes.
That Distant Dream
Laurel Beckley © 2020
All Rights Reserved
The shuttle jerked violently to the left, shuddered as both engines made the distinct whine of crystal overload, shrieked, and died.
Someone in the back screamed as the craft tumbled, rolling wildly through the atmosphere.
Melin gripped her armrests, squeezed her eyes shut as she willed her breath to remain steady. Hyperventilation would kill her faster.
She tried focusing on what that quack psychoanalyst claimed were “soothing” mantras as the onsetting gravity of reentry sucked her into her seat at a pace faster than the cheap civilian gravity suit could compensate. Breathe, breathe, breathe.
A distant corner of her brain—the one not occupied with breathing, muscle tension, and avoiding G-LOC—remembered a military-grade ship suit wouldn’t have had this problem. Her old space armor would have allowed her to carve a hole out of this blasted shuttle and free dive planetside. She sucked a tight inhale through clenched teeth, chest burning. Think of the positive.
Then she remembered she’d never link in with a set of space armor ever again, and she was back where she’d started.
On a free-falling shuttle with a one-way ticket to the ground.
The shuttle flipped, gaining a moment of antigravity that triggered a spate of relief—and retching and sobbing and fervent prayers—for its passengers.
The shuttle rolled again, nose pointing down.
Melin’s vision tunneled, graying at the edges.
I will not die like this.
A jolt of energy passed through her, setting her fingers on fire and dissolving her vision into sparkling blue light. An engine sputtered, hissed, and restarted with a ferocious roar.
As quickly as the onset had begun, the shuttle leveled in its descent, catching before it hit too steep of a reentry and turned them into a smear of fire and ash across the sky.
The shipboard gravity slackened to a bearable weight, and Melin heaved in a grateful sigh. Her chest hitched as she inhaled too far, and she leaned forward, instinctively slapping her chest to release the five-point harness as her lungs burned and shuddered with a coughing fit. The gravity was still too heavy, and she tumbled forward into the seat in front of her, wheezing.
“You all right, sero?” her seatmate asked with all the sincerity of a corpse. His gray face looked like it had aged thirty years in ten seconds.
Melin waved a hand between coughs, focusing on breathing. In and out and in and out, settle your chest, you aren’t going to die. You just survived a weird shuttle mishap. A little coughing fit is nothing. And when you get your shit together, you can tell this asshat to address you as an adult, not a child.
Eventually, her inhales matched her exhales. Unthinking, she wiped her mouth with her left hand—the flesh still new and tingly from the regen. Fuck. Everything felt new and fresh and raw. She sucked in a rattling breath.
The last set of skin grafts had done wonders to fix the burn scars. She looked like new. On the outside. Her insides were old, brittle, and breaking with every wracking cough, every interminable second. At least she had control of her bodily functions again. Melin shook her head and rubbed her temples with her right hand, feeling the calluses of her finger pads brush against her forehead. She carefully tucked her left hand against her side. A cobbled together golem, that’s what she was now.
“It’s like this on every jump,” her seatmate said. He straightened in his seat as if trying to gather his composure. Melin grimaced. Of course he hadn’t passed out.
Melin ignored him, leaning into her seat and fumbling with the straps.
He had introduced himself as Diplomatic Corpsmember Undersecretary Obidiah Calderon when they’d first boarded after he’d squeezed his body into the jump chair beside hers. His thigh touched hers even now, oozing over the seat. He’d been assigned to a backwoods planet of minor significance that would make or break his career. As if to emphasize his importance and larger stature, his thighs were spread wide, invading her space and pushing her further into the cramped window seat.
“Almost like the planet doesn’t want us here,” he added when he had obviously failed to pique her interest. “But we still land safely—80 percent of the time.”
She nodded absently and turned to the windows, which were untinted now they were in the upper atmosphere, revealing more gray clouds. At least this shuttle had windows. Tactical combat shuttles had no windows, and—Melin shook her head, trying to physically toss aside those memories. Those times were long past, and she was on a clean slate.
What clean slate she had left.
A fresh start, she’d resolved to think of it when she’d boarded the starship to this sector of Intergalactic Association of Sentient Species space.
A fresh start, take eleven or so.
She’d lost count somewhere around clean slate number five.
But there was no true fresh start for someone who’d received the highest awards in the IASS not once but twice. It had been two years since she’d woken from cryo, and the novelty of her circumstances had worn off. At first, she’d been shepherded from place to place; the long-lost treasure recovered. Although it certainly hadn’t helped IASS fleet when she’d punched that reporter immediately upon her release from the swank veterans’ hospital they’d stashed her in during her long recovery. And the state dinner where she’d spazzed when the servers popped the bubbly. One of the poor busboys wouldn’t walk ever again.
The brass stopped trying to mold her into a puppet, had stopped trying to point her along a destined path. Reporters stopped following her when they’d realized there would be no story.
She was all past with no future. She was even ruined for further military service. No one wanted to work with an operator who couldn’t even use a suit. Who couldn’t do five-dimensional math. Who couldn’t take an implant ever again.
Melin closed her eyes, forehead resting against the cool plex-glass.
She’d failed at every single thing they’d set her to since her waking.
Now, more than ever, she wanted nothing more than to just slide off into the background. She wanted to be something less than a footnote in history.
She wanted to be nothing.
Because without an implant, she was nothing.
Cranial implants had been enhancing humanity for generations. Nearly everyone had one—generally put in at birth or when they took their qualification exams upon entering adulthood. Few people failed to take an implant—although there were several religions focused on maintaining the purity of the human body.
Unimplanted people were rare because there were no jobs beyond the most menial for them. Entire families would scrounge for years for the cheapest model to implant their children and send them to school for a better future and for their children to turn around and raise up their parents in return.
But no one at the upper levels wanted to chance the story of the heroine of the Redelki Wars mopping a floor—and she had no desire to return to her long-fled homeworld.
So, during those nine or ten previous fresh starts and throughout the year of rehab she’d…floated. Unable to face her future, to accept reality, she’d turned herself off. Half-drifting, half-asleep until the only time it seemed she was really awake was while dozing, and even then, she’d wake unrested, troubled by the damn dreams.
They began in cryo-sleep.
The shrinks had insisted she hadn’t—couldn’t have—dreamt, that dreams were impossible because she had been effectively dead, but she had. She had dreamed, those long years as an ice cube. Weird dreams, muddled and glorious and filled with swords and dragons and monsters and creatures from fairy tales and nightmares. Dreams that mixed her life with her great-grandmother’s stories, but it had all been so real.
They had been more real than the monotonous reality of flex this, good, now bend your index finger, good, rotate your wrist, good. Of sterile gray walls and the hot-metal stench of recycled air.
The dreams had faded a couple months after she first woke. When she’d regained words in a language her therapists understood. But she kept seeing flickers of people she had never met in real life but felt so familiar out of the corner of her eyes.
They’d remained intermittent during the never-ending horrors of the grafts and regrowing her arm and the physical therapy, but after she’d been discharged, they grew more persistent.
Months, weeks apart, then quicker, every night, pulling her to a place she’d known only from childhood stories.
With nothing else left than the desire to stop the dreams, she had set her sights here, and who would have refused her? She was a hero. The hero. Besides, at that point the IASS wanted her out of their hair. She was a liability, an embarrassment waiting to happen.
Satura had seemed the best place to send her.
It was the end of the line in every sense.
Meet the Author
Laurel Beckley has been writing ever since she started her first novel the summer before eighth grade—a hand-written epic fantasy catastrophe that has lurked in her mind and an increasingly ratty college-ruled notebook ever since.
She is a writer, Marine Corps veteran, and librarian.