Humanity has survived.
On the far end of the universe, with Earth little more than a faded memory, they thrive on worlds where once they were enslaved. In the millennia since, these persistent beings built new societies, but when the two greatest nations among them met for the first time, there was war. The all-consuming conflict bent the wills and morals of both powers beyond recognition, leading to levels of experimentation and cruelty once thought impossible. Yet, in a universe drowned in blood, an opportunity for peace is seized.
In the uncertain aftermath of the truce, a broken soldier and a lost psionic girl, both haunted by histories shattered by the war, work tirelessly to make ends meet. In the dusty streets of Minerva City, a shadow from their past returns to offer more than enough credits to break them out of the city's slums.
In exchange, the two must find a powerful secret once capable of bringing solace to a desperate wartorn universe, but in a time of uneasy peace, it holds a more destructive power. Uniquely qualified and entirely in over their heads, the pair put their lives on the line and embark on a harrowing adventure where they discover not only the answers to their broken pasts but a hint of dangers lurking in the Black.
Claude DiSilva felt the ship around him lurch as it transitioned into streamline travel. He braced himself against the narrow frame of his bunk. Breathing slowly, Claude tried to picture a universe in which he managed to keep down the artificially flavored plant gelatin that passed for lunch.
“Are you going to throw up again?” a mocking female voice inquired.
Claude didn’t open his eyes or abandon any part of his ritual. He could already picture Miranda laying in his bunk with her arms crossed and an eyebrow raised to match the smirk on her full lips.
“You should be used to it by now,” she continued.
Miranda was normally intense and intimidating. She didn't often fraternize with subordinates, but when reports came through saying the war might finally be at an end, she’d decided to celebrate. Now that was over.
“All hands,” the ship’s comms system announced. “Mission briefing in ten. I repeat, mission briefing in ten.”
“The countdown continues,” Miranda said, sliding from under the covers and stretching.
The Cetalon unit commander was tall and lithe, but with a hint of menace that often worked in her favor. The deep brown of her skin covered muscle as tight as a bowstring and every bit as strong.
Claude tossed her the gray sleeveless shirt beside him before slipping his pants on and providing her at least a little privacy.
This encounter seemed like a good idea when they’d both thought the missions were at an end, but Bertrand was nothing if not committed. He’d announced this “last” mission over comms just under an hour ago, which was uncharacteristically rushed for him.
“Any guesses as to what it is?” Claude asked as he focused his attention on tightening the straps along the tops of his boots.
Miranda cinched her belt. “Knowing Bertrand, it’s likely to be a suicide mission to Akinos.”
“We’d have been in streamline longer if that was the case,” Claude sighed.
He wasn’t a fan of the anomalous travel system. It involved too many concepts he couldn’t wrap his head around. Streamline was like most of the more advanced technology people used. It was all inherited, and not from a trustworthy source.
Miranda strolled past him to lean on the door frame. “There’s no point worrying about it now.”
“Until we’re off this ship, I’ll always be worried about what the old man will sign us up for,” Claude grouched, brushing the wrinkles from his shirt.
He’d had his fill of the war. For the last few years, the whole thing had seemed pointless to him, but that was to be expected when the fighting lasted so long.
The war had raged since well before anyone currently alive was born. In fact, the people of the Beita Systems had been killing and dying in their conflict against the Imperium of Sabien Sectors for at least a thousand years. For most, the only constant things in the universe were the war and the Black.
Claude was young when he’d joined up to fight, but now, more than twenty years later, he was ready for it to be over. As unbelievable as it was, he was beginning to hope that there was more to life than soldiering. More than that, he needed there to be more.
“Bertrand’s old,” Miranda said, finger-combing her short black hair as best she could. “He wants the war to be over as much as we do.”
Claude chuckled in spite of himself. He met Miranda’s curious gaze with a shrug. He wasn’t ashamed of his reaction, even if it had been involuntary.
“You don’t think so?” she asked, studying him.