Monday, November 10, 2008

Black Star United

Black Star United
by Marteeka Karland

cover art by Bryan Keller
ISBN (13): 978-1-59596-679-7
Genre(s): Futuristic, Sci-Fi
Series: Black Star
Length: Novella


The Black Star is free, and Nani, the woman who made up the essence of the ship, is determined to unite her family. But retrieving her captive daughter will not only be dangerous -- it could turn deadly.
Darian, her lover and himself a prisoner, is her rock in a sea of chaos. But as more and more trusted friends are revealed as complicit in their long-ago betrayal, it begins to seem that they can trust no one but each other.
The events of twenty years past that condemned them both to a living hell have inextricably bound everyone they hold dear. Now, their goal is to unite both the Vok'nair Empire and the Asalian Coalition. Impossible?
Not when everyone involved is United.


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Nani floated somewhere between consciousness and oblivion in a void almost overwhelming in its threatening finality. She’d prefer death to this existence. If the transplantation didn’t go successfully, that was exactly what she’d get. She tried not to think about it as the seconds ticked by.
It was maddening. She was bereft of any sensation except consciousness and time. Both of which she could do without. Panic was a very real emotion, one she wasn’t used to. She tried her best to stave it off, but not knowing anything, after the more than twenty years she’d known practically everything, was the hardest thing she’d faced since her baby daughter had been taken from her immediately after she’d given birth. She could look death in the face and smile, but she didn’t like him sneaking up on her.
And that wasn’t it. Her daughter, Nadira, had been taken by a fanatically religious sect called the Hand of God. She hated them with every fiber of her being. They were responsible for far more than Nadira’s kidnapping and the injustices to her two friends. Rage threatened to consume Nani. She felt alone. So alone.
I am with you, my love. I always will be.
Immediately, her mind eased. Darian was her best friend. Her lover. The one person in the entire universe who knew what she’d been through and what she felt. What she feared. Nadira was his daughter, too. He’d insisted they put Nani back into her body first, not because he was scared he’d die during the process and wanted to hold on to life a little longer, but because he, too, preferred death to the void they both had to endure. He loved her enough, knew her well enough, to know she couldn’t take this nonexistence much longer. It had been a long, unbearable process for both of them.
How the process had been explained to them and the hope they both shared at the prospect of finally being able to express their love physically again tantalized them. Hell. A simple touch of his hand on her cheek would be pleasurable beyond words.
Communication was hard for her. He’d always seemed to be the stronger of the two of them telepathically. She was merely an empath, but he’d taught her how to reach for him, to hear him when he spoke. When they’d found each other so many years later, their consciousnesses trapped inside their respective ships, she’d learned to make him hear her thoughts, as well.
She reflected on their time since their reunion. They’d done nothing but talk, catch up on their lost time. And cry. Both in joy and sorrow. They’d missed out on so much, both with each other and, more importantly, their daughter. Nadira had grown into a beautiful, talented woman and had married a man who loved her more than anything. At least they’d been able to help bring them together. Now, if everything went well, she and Darian would secure their own future.
That thought had just crossed her mind when she felt like she’d been kicked in the chest. Or that was what it would have felt like if she’d actually had a chest. The pain vanished as quickly as it had come, and Nani thought she might have imagined it. But it happened again. This time, she thought someone had hit her in the chest with a repulser weapon of some kind. She just knew she’d have broken ribs.
Except she didn’t have a chest. Or ribs. Or a body for that matter. Rather, she hadn’t.
The blackness brightened slowly until the next kick to her chest and everything came suddenly, painfully, clear and bright. She tried to scream, but all she could do was take in a deep breath. The pain was so intense she couldn’t make a sound.
The light stabbed into her eyes like shards of hot metal, and her head felt like it might split. Her chest felt like every rib was cracked into tiny pieces, and her skin tingled and burned like a million needles sticking her from head to toe. When she was finally able to scream, her ears rang with the sudden explosion of sound.
“Easy, my lady. We’ve got you.” The voice was male. Authoritative. For a brief moment, she had the fleeting hope that maybe Darian had beat her to this other world, but no. The voice belonged to the doctor aboard the Black Star, Mahat Zabin. He was a kind, capable man and one Nani admired greatly, but not the man she wanted to see at the moment.
She tried to relax and let Dr. Zabin do his work, but she was anxious and scared. She had to see Darian. Needed to assure herself he would be all right.
“I’m fine,” she croaked. “See to Darian.”
“We haven’t started the process on him, my lady,” Zabin informed her. “I’ll get to work on him personally after a few hours’ sleep. It’s a very long, tedious process, and one I can’t afford to do as tired as I am.” He stopped his work with the monitors and leads attached to her body and looked her straight in the eye. “Do you understand I’m not prolonging his hell needlessly?”
Nani was surprised the doctor understood so completely. She could see the anguish in his face, the need for her to understand his reasoning.
“I do.” She smiled and watched some of the tension drain from his face. “You’re a good man, and a miraculous doctor. You do your job. I’d never presume to question your judgment.”
“You will rest now, my lady. As much as it pains me to rob you of your consciousness, the neuro connections and blood vessels I created and repaired need time to heal. When you wake, Darian should be through the process and sleeping as well.”
“One thing,” she said. Her throat hurt, dry from the medication that had kept her body asleep during the transplant. “My daughter.”
“No word that I’m aware of.” Zabin was matter-of-fact in his answer. “The captain and Mikiel are working relentlessly to find her. I’m sure he’ll update you after you’ve rested.” Unless Nani was greatly mistaken, that was an order. She’d be resting whether she wanted to or not. After so long giving orders -- whether others liked it or not -- this was going to take some getting used to.
“As you wish.” Nani needed to believe his words. She wasn’t afraid of death, but it would be cruel of him to take her when she finally had a chance to face the one person in the universe, other than Darian, she truly cared about.
Dr. Zabin pressed a few buttons and tapped a few keys above her head, and her vision narrowed into blackness.
Sleep well, my love. We will be together and bring our family together soon.

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