Rudely yanked from cryo-sleep, Daisy woke to find herself on a burning ship in deep space, and among a crew of modded humans, no less. Her life had just become a whole lot more complicated. And it was only going to get worse.
As if the creepy cyborg and the mechanically-enhanced human crew weren’t bad enough, what was supposed to be a simple flight home to Earth was going horribly wrong. A deadly plot was unfolding. One that could jeopardize the entire human race. And Daisy found herself stuck in the middle
It wasn’t her job, saving the world, and she sure as hell didn’t want it. But the snarky young woman didn’t have a choice. But with Daisy reluctantly coming to the rescue, did humanity even stand a chance?
Targeted Age Group:: Teen and up (language and some sexual references but nothing terribly graphic)
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 3 – PG-13
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Originally, this was intended to be a space opera graphic novel. My cousin is one of the main storyboard artists for Marvel and we were discussing a joint project together. Then that fun little story took on a life of its own and spawned into a group of characters that not only live in this 5 book series, but also make a significant crossover appearance in my Dragon Mage series (a sci-fantasy mashup). We may still do a graphic novel of either this or the other series, or possibly an animatic adaptation of the audiobooks on Audible.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Daisy, the protagonist, was a little tough at first. I wanted her to be awesome, but awesome is boring. At least at first. So I had to make her flawed. Give her personality issues to deal with and overcome. So, she begins as a bit of a bigot against AI and cybernetic systems. Naturally, living on a ship run by an AI and with a crew sporting cybernetic replacement limbs, that puts her in an odd position. The point was to make it uncomfortable. To make her grow. And I think by the end of the series she really does evolve into a pretty kickass heroine.
The other characters, well, I'll try to keep it spoiler-free. Let's just say that sometimes AI minds can be just as quirky as humans, and aliens are not always what they seem to be.
Barry’s hands flew over the control panels as the pods began cycling up. “Physio-stim systems increasing to eighty-five percent,” he noted as the crew’s muscles were gently triggered in a steady rhythm as they slowly emerged from cryogenic stasis.
The pulsing action not only maintained muscle tone while asleep, but helped keep their bodies ready for situations such as these. Just enough stimulation as they slept to keep them fit and stave off atrophy.
In a few experimental cases, the system had been used to build increased muscle mass in transit, but there were potential drawbacks, such as delayed-onset muscle soreness of epic proportions, often greatly hindering efficient performance of duties upon awakening. As such, the practice was largely avoided.
“Calorics have increased to eighty-five percent.” He stepped back and looked at the crew of nine as the systems slowly shifted states, rousing them from their long sleep as the pods unsealed with a soft hiss.
Daisy Swarthmore, the lean, twenty-five-year-old redheaded communications and electronics expert, was the first to wake, snapping to consciousness with a start.
“What? Who the hell—?” she croaked as her pod opened with a cold hiss.
“Daisy, it’s Barry. Don’t speak. You are waking from a deep cryogenic sleep. You need fluids. Drink this electrolyte pack, but slowly.”
She gratefully accepted the plastic pouch, cracking the top with a twist before eagerly sipping the contents. The feeling of soothing fluid in her throat was utter bliss.
“The crew is being woken from stasis early,” Barry informed her. His face was emotionless. Calm. “There was an impact. Some of the systems that have been compromised have also had their monitoring and control feeds damaged. Mal can’t see them on her scans, and I do not currently possess programming to affect repairs. This is one of your areas of expertise.”
Barry paused, assessing the groggy woman. Around the chamber, others were starting to rouse.
“Can you speak now? You’ve been in cryo for a long time. Your throat may still need time to adjust.”
“Yeah, I can talk,” she managed in a croaking voice. “Wait, where am I?” She looked around at the composite walls and artificial lights. A confused haze clung to her consciousness as she tried to clear her head.
This doesn’t look right, she mused, taking in the cryo lab around her. No, wait. I was walking down a beach. I was going home.
“Is everything all right?” Barry asked her, pausing his scan of her cryo pod’s vitals readout to survey the groggy woman.
“I was having a dream,” she said, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
“A dream? No one dreams in cryo,” Barry replied, eyeing her with an odd expression. “Perhaps it is merely data ghosting. I had to pull you from the neuro-stim cycle prematurely. That might be what you experienced. You have had many years of information fed into your mind as we traveled, after all. Do you know the crew roster? Your duties? All the relevant data for the voyage should have been trickle-fed through your neuro-stim unit during transit.”
Daisy looked at him, confused.
“You’re aboard the Váli. We’re still six months from the moon’s Dark Side base, orbiting Earth. I understand you may be feeling groggy or disoriented, but I really do need to tend to the other crewmembers. The cycle was not complete, and you are all still coming out of your stasis-sleep. The neural stimulators were—”
“What in the hell is going on with my ship?” Captain Harkaway bellowed as he lurched from his cryo-pod, yanking the physio-stim electrodes from his skin as he hopped to his feet. His metal leg impacted the floor with a jarring clang. From hip to tip, Daisy noted, his left leg was entirely mechanical. He rubbed a hand through his gray crew cut.
“Dammit, Mal, what’s the sitrep?” he growled to the ever-monitoring computer.
“We have experienced an unexpected impact, Captain,” the AI calmly informed him. “Short-range nav is down, multiple communications systems and sensor arrays are compromised throughout the ship, and there is unknown external damage. Port Storage twelve has been sealed, and we have been knocked slightly off course from the impact.”
“You’re designed to handle these things, why did you wake us up? Hell, you could have sent Barry out for that. The whole point of having a cyborg with us is he doesn’t have to go into cryo-sleep and can do—”
“There are also several small fires on board, and my sensors have been unable to detect them all.”
“Oh. Shit,” he said as a burst of adrenaline flooded his system. “Get the others up!”
“On it already, Captain, as per protocol,” Barry replied.
“I’m heading to the bridge.” He cast a curious look at the groggy tech. “Swarthmore, you all right?”
“Daisy, are you with me?”
“Yeah. Just feeling a little weird.”
“It’s to be expected. Try to pull yourself together and get your head on straight. This is what you do. You’re the tech guru. I’ve got a feeling I’m going to be needing your expertise once we get this whole burning-to-death-in-the-void-of-space thing under control.”
Daisy slowly slid to her feet, steadying herself on awkward-feeling legs.
“Mal, send a full report to my station in the command pod. Barry, get the others up and moving. If we’ve got a fire, I’m going to need every damn hand on deck, ASAP,” Harkaway barked.
A shining metal fist smashed through the hardened shell of the stasis-pod nearest the cyborg.
“Barry, handle it,” the captain grumbled, then stormed out of the chamber’s airlock doors.
The fist belonged to Tamara Burke, a sturdily muscled brunette with wisps of gray hair streaking her temples. Her entire right arm from the shoulder down was metal, thin seams and indentations crisscrossing the surface at the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints. Where the metal met her flesh, the foreign material seemed to meld to her body, a faint scar the only sign she wasn’t born with it.
Her metal hand began tearing free of the pod as if it were paper, not heavily-reinforced polymer.
“Tamara, calm down,” Barry soothed her from a safe distance.
She paused, the stasis fog clearing from her head. A slight blush colored her cheeks.
“Oh hell. Sorry, Barry. Training. What the hell happened? I was mid-upgrade when you snapped me out. You know what can happen when you interrupt a neuro-stim cycle.”
“I am aware. However Mal and I concurred it was best to have the entire crew awakened at once. We suffered an impact, and there appear to be one or more unlocated fires on board.”
She rapidly scanned the chamber until her eyes fell on Daisy, standing unsteadily beside pod and looking groggy, while the rest of the crew slowly clambered from theirs.
“Shit, you really did mean everyone. Hey, new kid. Good morning.” She nodded a greeting to Daisy.
The occupants of two more pods sat up. One was a middle-aged olive-skinned man with thick black hair. Gustavo, Daisy found herself knowing instinctively. The navigator and third-in-command. The other man was in his early thirties and sported a short haircut and muscular physique. Vincent, the mechanic. The name came to her as he swung out of his pod and onto unsteady legs. He stumbled a few steps, clumsily stepping on Daisy’s foot as he nearly fell over.
“Oops,” he said, regaining his balance and stepping back.
“You nearly break my foot and all you can say is oops?”
“How about, ‘Sorry’?” Daisy groused.
“Well, if you’d given me a chance, that would have come next,” he replied with more than a little snark.
“Oh, for chrissake, shut it, you two. We’ve got a situation, here,” Tamara said as she jumped out of her pod, landing solidly on steady feet and heading for the chamber’s heavy airlock doors.
“Barry, you have the waking process under control?”
“Yes, Tamara,” he replied.
“Okay, get the others moving. We don’t have time to waste. I’m going to get to my station and make sure the botany pods are secure, engage the emergency air filters, and look for signs of fire in those sections. Mal, if you can hear me, I’ll check in when I’m there.”
“Thank you, Tamara. Do be careful. It is disconcerting having a problem of this nature off my sensors.”
As she hustled out of the chamber, another young woman Daisy’s age dry-heaved over the side of her pod. Daisy threw one last annoyed look at the rubber-legged engineer, then turned to scope out her newly-awakened crewmate.
“Hello, Sarah.” Barry leapt into action, electrolytes in hand. “You are waking from cryo early. You need fluids. Drink this electrolyte pack, but slowly.”
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