Saturday, May 30, 2015

Would you survive an alien invasion?

What would you do if you opened your
eyes and saw these friendly faces? 
I have always waited for the aliens to arrive. It's weird, but my first coherent memories are from sitting in the back seat of the car, waiting for a spaceship to land on the road ahead. I think that if it had happened, young me would have found it the most natural thing in the world. Maybe my parents watched too much science fiction on TV when I was a little girl.

Anyway, all my childhood fantasies about aliens always involved them being friendly. I thought they would come to bring me home to my real family that lived in an unspecified location amongst the stars.

Oh yes, my mom loved that. *cough*

As an adult I'm still waiting and I would love to meet someone from another world, but adult me is also worried that if they came, they probably wouldn't be friendly. And, they would probably be so different it would be difficult to find common ground or a way to communicate. Seriously, we can't even get along amongst ourselves.

What do you think you would do if aliens really arrived? What do you think they would be like? If there was a conflict, would you take up arms and defend the planet, or stay neutral?

I think encountering someone from another world would be good for humanity. Maybe then we could see that the differences we squabble about in everyday life aren't all that big. It doesn't matter what color we have, what religion we adhere to, what gender we have, or what gender we like. We're all people, and that in itself makes us all more similar than anything we can share with any other species on or off this planet.

Many don't agree with me on that. I've heard many state that meeting a being from another world might shatter humanity, and that we wouldn't be able to cope with it. What do you think?

Interesting questions.

Anyway, my heroine in Operation Earth faces the problem of whether to fight or cooperate. Her neighbors want her to take up arms and defend the planet. She even follows them to a resistance meeting. Problem is, she met one of the invaders and he didn't seem all that different. She might have thought otherwise if she had seen their ship... This is an excerpt from the beginning of the book:

June stood in the middle of Information Central with her arms crossed, drumming her fingers. Showing impatience might be unbecoming of a commanding officer, but this operation moved like a snail.

How humiliating to be so delayed before we even begin.

Glancing around the oval hall soothed her. The walls were so red they appeared organic, and biopods lined the room. There were alcoves with chairs made from the same fleshy material as the walls, part of the living soul of the ship. Each alcove held a woman, connected to the whole through a tentacle slithering down from the ceiling, embracing their shaved heads.

Many junior officers fled the first time they entered and saw nothing of the crew except parts of their faces.

The first time June stepped in, she knew she was home.

If she closed her eyes she could almost hear the ship's heartbeat. One alcove opened up, and the woman inhabiting it struggled to her feet. At first, her eyes couldn't focus, but then she fixed them on June.

I wonder what it's like to be connected, to be a part of the ship and really know the world.

Only those with special talents could connect. June wanted nothing more as a child, but she wasn't suitable for the hive mind. Her talents lay elsewhere.

"Commander, I think we have what we need. These people have a useful source of information. It's called Wikipedia."

"Common names? Languages?"

"Yes, Ma'am. They have a number of languages and cultures. It's all transferring to the brain-tips now."

"No sign of discovery?"

"No, Ma'am."

The large ship lurked at the very edge of the solar system, outside the magnetic fields that presented a last layer between planets and interstellar space. Risks of discovery were infinitesimal, but they had to plan even for the impossible.

"Good. Assemble the troops for upgrade, and ask the pilot to take us in. Prepare global EMP."

The woman nodded and sank back into her alcove. All mouths around the room spoke as one, "Entering solar system. All personnel prepare for memory upgrade."

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mind-boggling sizes in space :-)

Space, the mere size of space boggles my mind, and it's one of those things that get more fascinating the more you think about it. I think about it a lot, thus I make my characters think about it too. ;-) 

The Earth, our planet, is pretty big, right? Especially when compared to a human. Looking at the Earth and the other smaller planets around us, it has a decent size. Note how small Mars is.


If we just move a little in our own solar system, the Earth starts to look pretty small. Jupiter and Saturn are big. At least in this neck of the woods.


Jupiter is the 5th planet from the sun, and it is more than 11 times the size of the Earth. It has 317.8 times the mass of the Earth.

Funny enough, Jupiter still isn't all that big, at least not compared to our sun. The sun holds 99.86% of all the mass in our solar system. It would take 109 Earths stacked side by side to match the sun's diameter, and in order to fill it up, we'd need 1.3 million Earths.


So, it's settled? The sun at least is big?

It's a matter of perspective. Compared to you, or me, or the Earth, or even to Jupiter, the sun is huge. Compared to some other stars in our galaxy, it's pretty small.


The really scary thing is that not even Arcturus is a big star. Check this out:


Around here, my mind checks out. I can't really imagine something that big. And all these suns are still small compared to the galaxy, which is small compared to some other galaxies.

Here's our solar system. Fascinating!



I didn't make any of these graphics. Don't know where they originated, I've seen them in many places around the Internet, but I haven't found who originally created them.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

We're on a spaceship...

I tend to consider the ground under my feet fairly solid, and I'm probably not the only one - the vast majority of people on this planet know we're on a planet that travels through space, circling a star, but it's not something we think about every second every day.

I've been working on a prequel to my Embarkment novellas, and I did some research the other day for a scene where the hero tries to explain to the heroine why communication in space and space travel are complicated. A little Googling gave interesting and mind-boggling numbers.

1. The Earth spins around its axis


Everyone knows that, but do you know how fast it spins?

Around the equator it moves at approximately 1,000 miles per hour. Right now, the ground under my feet is moving at 1,000 miles per hour. I just don't notice it.

2. The Earth moves around the sun


The Earth moves around the sun and we consider one trip around the sun one year. This another fact everyone knows, and it isn't weird until you start thinking about it.

We travel around the sun at 67,000 miles per hour. Not just that - we're accompanied by the moon. It not just travels with us around the sun, it also travels around the Earth at a speed of 2,288 miles per hour.

The moon rotates too, it just rotates at a speed that matches its orbit around the Earth, so to us it looks like it doesn't rotate.

3. Our Galaxy rotates


We are in the outskirts of an arm of the spiral galaxy called the Milky Way. Vintergatan in Swedish. The galaxy rotates, and we rotate with it. At a pace of 515,000 miles per hour.

Is your mind getting tired yet? Mine is, so we shouldn't even get into stellar drift and the universe expanding.

And you think I'm speeding when I go 85 mph on the highway. Pfft. LOL!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

HIgh Gravity

Last week, I posted the first chapter from Brand New World - the first of my Embarkment novellas. Click here if you want to read it. The second book in the series is called High Gravity, and it starts a couple of days after the first book ends.

If you haven't read book one, the novella has a prologue that introduces the characters. Here is the beginning of High Gravity. If you want to read more, it is available as paperback and for Kindle.



Chapter One


“Wow. This is a big empty room.”

One of my big talents: stating the obvious.

Adam gave a slight shrug. “The place comes with the job. I never needed it for anything.”

I lived in a set of guest quarters, and it was nice, but impersonal. The furniture, lamps, and decorations might not be mine, but they still existed, and reminded me of an upscale hotel. Looking around in my boyfriend’s quarters, the rooms were huge, and contained one large desk filled with tools and gadgets.

“Why…?” I closed my mouth around the question. He was an android and normal human logic wouldn’t apply.

He smirked. “You wanted to see it, here it is.”

“It’s awesome. Let’s go home.”

No wonder we always stayed at my place.

He crossed his arms over his chest and glanced into my eyes. “I have to go to work. You know that.”

Damn. His sense of duty was admirable, but couldn’t it slip just a little, just once?

Adam tilted his head to the side. “You’re disappointed.”

“No… Well, maybe a little. I thought there would be more of you here.”

He put a hand on my back and pushed me out of the living room, back into what would have been a study in a normal person’s world.

“There is something of me here. There’s the desk, and my chair, and your broken iPod I’ve been trying to fix.”

I couldn’t even recognize the fragmented pieces. The poor thing must have been hit by a bullet. What a shame. It would have contained all sorts of entertainment and memories.

“C’mon, I’ll walk you home.”

My rooms were almost right under his, just a couple of floors down. Going there would normally be completely uneventful, but after an alien species called the Logg stole the ship and I played an involuntary part in getting it back, people I didn’t know stopped and stared wherever I went. I hated all the whispering behind my back.

Some of the junior officers treated me with the same awe they normally reserved for the senior staff, and it freaked me out. It was traumatic enough to arrive dead from another time. I didn’t need any additional attention.

We didn’t meet anyone on Adam’s floor and the lift was empty. Close to my door, two young men pushed a broken cleaning robot down the corridor. They stopped and stared.

“Look, it’s them. Told you she lives here.”

“She’s shorter than I expected.”

Adam rolled his eyes and walked over to them.

“Is there a problem?”

“No, sir.”

“Then, move along, will you.”

I shuffled over to my door. “Will this never end?”

Adam ran a hand over my back. “Sure. As soon as something more interesting happens.”

The young men were out of sight, and for all practical purposes, we were alone. I pressed my palms against his chest and gave him my best bedroom look.

“Are you sure you can’t come in?”

“Not unless you’re comfortable with Laura adjusting the starboard radiation shield.”

The annoyingly perky nineteen-year-old ensign was probably quite able to do it, but he had a point. 

When it came to matters like keeping cosmic radiation from frying my brain, I’d be more comfortable with Adam handling it.

He winked. “I’ll hurry back.”

The ship rocked. I stood on the tip of my toes, wanting to steal a kiss, completely unprepared for the floor shifting underneath me. My face was about to come in close contact with the carpet when Adam caught me.

“Well, that’s new.”

He didn’t sound bothered, but I was. Anything able to move the ship like that would have to be dangerous.

The computer’s voice echoed in the corridor. “All senior officers, please report to the bridge.”

I was barely aware of clinging to him until he took my hands in his and loosened my grip around his neck.

“Don’t worry. I’ll be back.”

I watched him jog towards the lifts. Would they really be safe to use? What if he got stuck, or the thing fell all the way down to the bottom floor?

I should stop fretting and go inside. Unless I was extremely lucky, there would be crushed decorations all over the floor, waiting for me to initiate some serious cleanup.

My rooms were a bit jumbled, but not as bad as I expected. To be honest, more of it came from my being disorganized than things falling off the shelves. After visiting Adam’s desolate quarters I appreciated the chaos. It might not technically be my stuff, but it was there for me to use, and I was grateful.

Putting a lamp back up on a table, I muttered, “Someone needs to invent a force field or something to keep things in place.”

I ventured over to the window. Last time the ship rocked and I peeked out we were in a horrific battle. 

This time, I saw nothing but darkness. We no longer moved, but I couldn’t see anyone or anything close.

Could there be invisible attackers?

As big as space was, odds were anything I could imagine existed. On the other hand, the ship was both quiet and peaceful, so maybe we weren’t under attack. Maybe something else was wrong with it.

Unnerving thought.

I normally kept my windows covered. Seeing space fly by outside gave me a headache. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Great news: Operation Earth is now available at a lower price!

Great news: Desert Breeze Publishing just lowered the price of Operation Earth. It is now available for just $2.99 for Kindle.

Operation Earth is about Rachael, attempting to survive the aftermath of an alien invasion. Her neighbors want her to join the resistance, but she couldn't be less interested in any more violence. Meeting one of the invaders doesn't make her life any easier; he's not so scary up close.


Blurb:

Seven billion people on Earth go about their daily lives, and no one is prepared when a global EMP slows the world to a crawl. With all our technology incapacitated, everything changes. Within days alien soldiers line the streets, and life will never be the same. In the midst of chaos, Rachael Hill struggles to adapt to the new order, doing her best to keep herself and her cat alive.

On a ship far above the planet surface, Peter just got his new Earth name, and can’t even remember his identity from the last world he visited. It’s another day on the job, one more planet on a never-ending list. That is, until Rachael bumps into him, dropping exotic objects all around his feet. His culture taught him females should be obeyed and protected, but he never had an urge to leave himself at a woman’s mercy until now.


Excerpt:

Her arms were filled with goods, and she couldn't balance any more. When a bag of pears almost fell out of her hands, she muttered, "Why don't I ever learn to take a cart?"

She usually went to the store intending to grab bare essentials like milk and eggs, so little she wouldn't even need a basket, and ended up balancing twenty things in her arms.

Once she had a safe grip on all the groceries again, she remembered she was out of tea and veered across the aisle without looking. She bumped into someone's back, and dropped everything all over the floor.

"Dammit!" After the initial curse, apologies came automatically. "I'm so sorry. I don't know where I have my head today."

A friendly male voice said, "It's my fault. Let me help you with that."


She lifted her head and gazed into a pair of warm golden eyes.

Wow.

His stare held her captive, and she wanted to step closer. It took an effort to take her eyes
away from his, and watching a handsome face crowned by a mop of brown hair barely eased the magnetic tug.

The newcomer wore a black uniform with some form of insignia on the collar, and he held a large, rifle-like weapon over his chest. Sidearms poked out of holsters on both hips. He could probably shoot half the city to pieces.

Rachael returned his smile. It wasn't just the uniform that made his upper arms look like tree trunks. Probably a lot of steroids in there...

I'm so prejudiced. If they don't allow chocolate they won't allow other drugs, and their DNA must be completely different. Looking human doesn't mean they are.

Having grown up in a city, she was wary of anyone unknown, especially the big ones that might explode unprovoked at any moment.

The only time a woman would stand close to a buff unknown man was if someone even bigger and scarier was around. In that case, she hoped Man Number One could provide protection. Everyone knew this. For decades it was how women survived without being raped.

The stranger scooped up her things from the floor and pressed them into her hands. His eyes glittered.

"Do you want me to get you a cart?"

Oooh, not just good looking, but polite too. Hope I'm not blushing.

"No, I'm good. I thought I could balance some tea too, but that might be overdoing it."

He looked like he was about to say something, but closed his mouth again.

Was tea about to disappear too? Maybe she should hurry and grab some before it
vanished from the shelves along with everything else she liked.

She stole another glance of the marvelous golden eyes, and he smiled. Then, he gave a
slight nod.

"Alright then. You have a good day."

For being one of the aliens, invaders even, he wasn't all that bad.

Don't go. She couldn't say that, but managed to get the words, "You too" over her lips
just as he walked away. He looked back over his shoulder and winked, and her heart pounded in her chest.

Repeating the mantra that she was a silly goose didn't help at all. Not one little bit. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

New work in progress. :-)

I started a new story the other day. I know I've been saying that a lot this year, I think I have a dammed up need for writing after 2014. This one is about a Russian gangster. He's not all that interested in being a gangster, but it happened anyway.

Russia has always fascinated me. If that doesn't make sense, check out this map. I'm from Sweden, it's the long orange thing to the left. To give you a sense of the size of Russia, when it comes to area Sweden is the third largest country in western Europe after France and Spain. Compared to Russia, my country is still tiny. 



I have one book featuring a Russian already; Alexei Roshenko in Undercover. Valentin in this WIP is a more over-the-top character than Alex, but nothing wrong with having some fun, right? The story still doesn't have a name, but here is the beginning. (The completely unedited beginning.)


Anette passed a long row of beat-up cars and stepped into a dark repair shop. Three vehicles were on lifts, and the men working on them looked like they could get a wheel off using only their fingers.
She said, "Excuse me..."
The closest giant nodded to the side, and now when her eyes adapted from the bright sunshine outside, she made out a counter. The woman manning it didn't look too interested, but she was probably still Anette's best chance.
“I’m here to check on my car. It’s an o-two Impala. Gold. Had problems with the tranny.”
She held out the ticket, but the woman didn’t even look. She blew a bubble and popped it before answering in a broad Russian accent. “I don’t know. I haven’t seen anything about an Impala. Do you see it?”
“I do not. Maybe you could check some of your papers? Or your computer? Compare the number on here with your system?”
It sounded snarkier than she intended, but she needed the car and this person wasn’t even trying to help. How had her precious vehicle ended up in this dump?
That’s what she got for asking an ex for help. Like he would actually help her.
Idiot.
The receptionist, if that’s what she was, might not know how to use a computer. She was probably hired more on looks and appeared to compete with the vulgar calendars on the wall. She didn’t have a car or a motorcycle between her legs, but she did have a bright red miniskirt, a flowered top that left little to the imagination, and high-heeled shoes that would make Anette fall and break something. She was also thin enough to fly away on the smallest whiff of wind.
I can still see your roots. Making hair that dark peroxide blonde can make it fall off. If you don’t find my car, I hope it falls off.
All this anger was bad for her karma, but at the moment, she didn’t care.
The woman leaned over the counter and hollered, “Valentin!”
What is this? A bad gangster movie?
The man who sauntered over was tall with shoulder-length brown hair that needed a wash, and about two days’ worth of stubble. He wore black jeans, a leather vest, and several long necklaces. His breath made her want to wave a hand in front of her face; he was clearly plastered and smelled like he bathed in alcohol.
Cleaned up and sober he’d look good, especially with those muscles. Right there and then, towering over her, he was about the scariest thing she’d seen.
“What’s the problem?”
He too had a Russian accent. Of course he did.
“I’m looking for my car. You were supposed to replace the transmission.”
He made an innocent gesture. “I don’t know. What car? We fix cars. Maybe it’s stolen, it happens.”
“What do you mean stolen? You guys were supposed to replace the transmission, not lose it.”
The man gazed into her eyes, clearly trying to make himself irresistible. She crossed her arms over her chest and glared. Playing nice would probably get her further than being angry, but she was barely able to keep her voice in check.
“I need it. Please try to find it.”
 He stared at her a moment longer and shrugged.
“Mikhail! Have you seen this lady’s car?”
A man if possible even more in need of a bath came out from behind a minivan, drying his oily hands on a rag. Valentin was tall, but this man must be part giant.
“I don’t know. What kind of car.”
“It’s an…” He waved his hand towards her.
“It’s an Impala.”
The giant said, “No.”
Anette drew a deep breath and forced herself to relax her shoulders.
“You will find my car, and you will fix my car, or I will return with a friendly police officer who will investigate what happened to my car.”
Valentin said, “No.”
She said, “Yes.”
He frowned and glanced over his shoulder. “Mikhail, find her car.”
She shook her head and headed towards the outside. There was sunshine and a real world populated by real people.
“I’ll be back tomorrow.”
She didn’t expect the Russian drunk to follow her. Thank goodness she’d asked the taxi to wait for her, or she might have been stuck with this chop-shop caricature.
He held the car door open. “I like your spirit. You come work for me.”
“No.”
“Yes. I can get you new car, good pay, other… job.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, but it’s still no.”
He shook his head a little. “Shame. Well, think about it.”
She slammed the door shut. “Please drive. Get us out of here.”
The taxi driver said, “Not a place I would choose personally. Don’t mess too much with those guys.”
“I didn’t choose it. My ex dropped it off here, probably as punishment.”

Monday, May 18, 2015

Writing in a pre-set universe

Sometimes people ask which of my characters is my favorite. I can't answer that. Whomever I'm working on will be my current favorite. I do have a favorite book, and that is Shadow of a Man. Paradoxically, this novella never gained traction. It might still get attention, I hope it will one day, but up until now I think it's the book of mine the fewest people have read. Funny how that works out.

Shadow of a Man is a part of the Borealis universe - an invention by Desert Breeze Publishing where many different authors write stories in the same setting. 

Borealis is a space station. It is a sordid place, dark and frightening, and writing in this universe was both fun and a challenge. The universe already has a population, mythology, foods, curses, and other social quirks, and the work of each author needs to fit in, so readers will get a sense of continuity. 

My Borealis novella is about Theresa, her husband Dominic, and her bodyguard Geo. They're traveling to Borealis on a mission she doesn't understand, and she doesn't want to go.

Check out the blurb:

There might be a place Theresa fears more than Borealis, but she can’t think of one. The old and decrepit station houses all sorts of cruelty, and to make it better, this is where her husband Dominic was imprisoned, drugged, and tortured. He returned a mere shadow of his old self, scarred by abuse and Uudon withdrawal.

Borealis is the last place Theresa wants to go, and the only one she can’t escape. Dominic’s apparent madness does nothing to alleviate her fears. Her once sweet husband has turned into a womanizing monster, and will destroy anyone who gets in his way.

Geo, her faithful and all too handsome bodyguard, appears to be the only one on her side. He once helped rescue Dominic, and pays for the insurrection with a lifetime on the run. This might be a situation not even he can handle, and Theresa fears none of them will make it out alive.

If you read it, let me know what you think. =)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

All these imaginary people in my head...

In everyday life, I have a decent attention span. Yes, you may laugh, it's on me, lol. I realize the statement must sound hilarious. The thing is, I have a decent attention span when the imaginary people in my head - also known as characters - sleep.

Since I'm still not able to make a living out of writing fiction, I attempt to perform paid work while the characters are awake, wanting me to write about them. This is where I run into problems.

Imagine that while you work you also have a person sitting on your shoulder, constantly telling you stories about their life, wanting you to write everything down. It doesn't sound sane when put in writing, but that's okay. I'm one of those creative types and no one expects me to be normal.

To make matters worse, there are so many bright and shiny ideas to play with, and there might be more than one character wanting attention at a time. I end up writing a little here and a little there, making slow progress on a number of stories at once.

Last night, I told myself it was time to finish something. I was just going to write down my newest idea first, and give it some form to make sure I'd remember. I looked up some five thousand words later and found it was in the middle of the night. The new hero's name is Valentin. He's a reluctant mobster. I'm not sure where he's going, but wherever it is, it'll end with a bang.

Valentin reminds me a little of Dominic in Shadow of a Man. They might be related, just from different centuries.

My writing process is dependent on the characters. I normally get to know the people in the stories first, and then they tell me what happens. Operation Earth is a major exception - it started with thinking about planes, because I lived close to an airport at the time. Most of my books start with hearing an interesting voice or accent. My imagination runs with it and makes up a person, and then we're off.

Some times in the evening, I go through my galley of imaginary people, make sure everyone's in bed with the right person, and tuck them in. That way they'll nap while I nap and no one will keep me awake.

Do you think I'm crazy yet? :-) 





Saturday, May 16, 2015

Brand new world

Brand New World is the first novella in my series Embarkment 2577. The books follow Alex, who wakes up with amnesia - in a spaceship, in the future. She remembers who she is, but the last year or so is gone from her mind.

There are currently three Embarkments novellas, but I've been working on a prequel as well as a sequel, and hopefully they'll be ready in not too long. I've been going through the already published novellas as well, doing some tweaks.

Curious yet? Here is chapter one. If you want to read more, the book is available on Amazon. If you already have the Embarkment books for Kindle, you can contact Amazon and ask to get the updates sent to your device.





Chapter One


The world was a bank of fog that came and went like waves on the sea, interrupted occasionally by the blackness of night, or maybe death. My confused mind couldn’t determine which. At times the fog was thinner, and revealed a world so surreal it must be feverish dreams or visions in a coma. Soon, these brief images appeared real, and life as it had been resembled a dream.

Consciousness returned with a punch and I gasped for air. Too many impressions battered my senses at once, sounds and smells I didn’t recognize, and I couldn’t tell the difference between reality and the world in my dreams.

A light shone from above, much too bright for my eyes, and I squinted, trying to make out anything besides abstract shapes. My limbs were too heavy, and I couldn’t even turn my head.

“Look who’s awake. Welcome back.”

The female voice sounded cheerful and vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place it, and I couldn’t see her.

My eyes adjusted to the light, but it didn’t do me any good. Nothing looked familiar.

Bright cones hung from the ceiling. They must be the source of the dazzling light, but didn’t look anything like a normal lamp with self-respect. The walls were slightly curved, and the shapes of shadows from objects outside my view stood much too tall and distorted.

Was I in a hospital?

Maybe I’d been in an accident.

The thought was logical, and much more appealing than the alternatives presented by my imagination.

Another voice spoke. “Doctor Ima to the Captain, our time traveller is conscious.”

That comment didn’t make any sense at all. I hadn’t been on a boat, so why would there be a Captain? Time-traveller? Maybe I was still unconscious after all, trapped in a weird dream.

I groaned, “I guess I’m not dead after all.”

What a dumb comment. Why would I say such a thing? I had no reason to think I was dead, did I?

The voice sparkled with held back laughter.

“No, you most certainly aren’t dead anymore.”

Being alive might be a thing to celebrate, but I failed to see what was so funny. If anything, her words clutched my heart. If I wasn’t dead anymore, had I been? Was this the afterlife? Purgatory?

I squeezed my eyes shut to tune out all the strangeness around me.

Thinking back was nearly impossible. I had been on the beach. The sound of the waves and the smell of the ocean were clear in my mind. What happened after that? Besides a screeching seagull, I had nothing.

The connection between beach and boat comforted me. Maybe I’d wandered too far into the water or something. That would explain the presence of a captain.

Turning my head in the direction of the voices, I saw the back of a woman. A mass of short, blonde, and curly hair bounced over the collar of a long and white doctor’s coat.

The person turned around, as if she sensed me watching, and now I knew I was still down in whatever abyss held my mind. If this was Doctor Ima, her skin had a warm amber tint, and it was covered with a pattern reminding me of a leopard’s spots. Her face was almost human, but had some cat-like qualities in its shape, and from this marvel a couple of perfectly human, bright blue eyes looked out at me.

She took her coat off and hooked it over a chair, revealing a tall and slender body dressed in a crispy white tank top and skirt. The spots on her face continued over her neck and down her arms. Her hands were almost human, but had claws instead of nails.

I opened my mouth to scream; the bushy tail that wagged behind her was too much to take. Not a sound came out. The only parts of my body able to move were my heart beating much too hard, and my eyes, wide with fright.

As much as I willed the apparition to go away, she came closer to the bed and looked into my eyes. A syringe came into view, seemingly fit for a horse, and disappeared again. I felt the needle brush against my skin and held my breath, awaiting death.

 “Please, don’t be afraid of me. I look alien to you, but I am your friend.”

At least she didn’t sound about to fall on the floor laughing anymore.

The unusual face smiled, showing very white fangs, and the needle pinched me.

“This is just to help you wake up properly. We’ve had to keep you sedated for quite some time.”

She was beautiful, but I still wanted to crawl backwards to get away. My treacherous arms and legs didn’t obey. I had no option but to stay put.

Whatever she gave me cleared the mists in my head. I still couldn’t remember anything after that annoying seagull, but thinking came easier. My toes and fingers tingled slightly, promising they might be willing to move in the not too distant future.

Doctor Ima pressed a paw against my forehead. Her palm was soft and lined with fine hairs.

 “Please don’t be angry with Adam, he saw no other way than to bring you along. You were quite dead you know.”

Who? What?

I didn’t have time to voice any questions; the first voice I heard sounded again from further into the room. “She’s not angry with Adam. I detect quite fond feelings for him.”

This time my mouth moved when I wanted to speak, and my voice came out much stronger and steadier than I expected. 

“How can I have fond feelings for someone I don’t know? Where am I? What is this place? What do you mean I was dead?” 

When this woman came into view, I was certain I hallucinated. Her cool blue eyes, scrutinizing me from a beautiful face surrounded by long dark hair, were much too familiar. It was the face of a well-known rock star, and I had seen her in concert just a few months earlier.

I managed to sound accusing. “You’re Amy Lee. What are you and cat woman doing in my dream?”

The face smiled and answered in a voice just like the one on the CDs I used to play in my car.

“I’m not Amy Lee. I’m Doctor Anya Benton, ship’s counselor. How do you feel?”

It seemed like a superfluous question from someone who claimed to read my emotions, but maybe it was just an attempt to be polite.

I felt like passing out and I tried to, but no matter how hard I squeezed my eyes shut and struggled not to think, it wouldn’t work for me.

With that route closed, screaming hysterically seemed like a good idea, but I didn’t do that either. The vision of the singer was trying to get my attention, clearly wanting to explain something. I should probably listen.

“I’m a hologram. The ship’s computer contains my artificial intelligence. My creator admired the music of the early 21st century and modeled me after one of his favorites. I’ve heard the likeness is remarkable.”

This was just too bizarre. She made it sound like I was in the future, discussing the body of a rock-star with a holographic psychiatrist.

No way.

I was probably experiencing it all in my head, while my body rested comfortably in a padded cell somewhere, dressed in one of those shirts with very long sleeves.

The alleged hologram patted a gadget attached to the chest pocket of her shirt. “This is a mobile holo-emitter. It allows me to walk around and interact with people.”

Her hand on my arm felt real enough, but I supposed it would if this was all just a figment of my imagination.

“You’re not real.”

She laughed. “I’m very well suited for the position of counselor. I’m programmed to be both telepathic and empathic.”

If she were real, that statement would be deeply disturbing.

Both the hologram and the cat-like doctor turned away from me, chatting merrily between them. For the moment, they seemed to have forgotten all about me, and I struggled to sit up.

Anya glanced over her shoulder.

“No, no, silly girl, you’re too weak to do that.”

Ima filled in, “Your system is filled to the brim with medications. You’ll feel stronger soon, but for now just take it easy and wait until Adam gets here. He’ll help you.”

Anya took over again. “He’ll be delighted to. He has spent so much time here waiting for you to wake up.”

For being figments of my imagination, they could sure finish each other’s sentences seamlessly.

Sighing, I laid my head down on the pillow. I always considered my mind pretty well organized, but if these people were a creation of it, couldn’t I have invented someone that made just a little more sense?

“Great. Just great. And who the hell is he?”

Ima met my eyes. “You really don’t remember, do you?”

She didn’t sound overly concerned. A real doctor should have better bedside manners. I felt pretty sorry for myself, but there wasn’t much sympathy in her voice when she added, “Well, you’ve been through a lot, and it’s a quite normal reaction. It’ll probably come back to you soon, and if it doesn’t, we’ll help you bring the memories to the surface.”

Anya filled in, “The Captain will want to see you too, and he should be here soon. He’ll answer all your questions.”

If the doctor was a cat and the psychiatrist a rock star, the Captain would probably be a big, pink, furry bunny.

I regretted the bunny thought as soon as it crossed my mind. What if Anya was real, and picked it up?

There wasn’t much time to fret; I heard a whooshing sound behind me from doors opening, and the nattering women settled down. They seemed to be great friends, and I wished some of my friends had been there.

If this was really real and I was in some form of a hospital, someone I knew would have come for me, wouldn’t they?

Above me, Anya’s face nodded. “Captain.”

A friendly male voice answered, “Ladies.”

The man stepped into my field of view and I sighed with relief. He looked perfectly normal, perfectly human, and I was sure I’d never seen him before. The presence of a perfect stranger who acted and looked normal signified I wasn’t crazy, whether he was a figment of my imagination or not.

He was very tall and had broad shoulders, sparkling blue eyes, and a wild mop of auburn hair.

Once again, I began my struggle to sit up. This new person actually helped me, and made sure I could support myself. Then, he sat down next to me, so close our shoulders almost touched, and smiled.

“I’m Captain Blake Jones. I’ve heard so much about you, Alex. You are a courageous young woman, and it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

His words made me lift an eyebrow. I always aimed to do what I considered right, but I never thought of myself as particularly courageous.

Heard so much about me?

From whom?

I didn’t say anything, and a small frown formed on his forehead. He finally turned his attention away from me. “Ima dear, would you get us some tea?”

The cat woman surprised me with bending forward to kiss the friendly giant on the cheek.

“Of course, love.”

Both she and Anya disappeared off into an adjacent room, and a smile tugged at Blake’s mouth.

“I hope they’re not giving you a hard time. I do understand both my crew and this ship must seem… unusual to you.”

It was my cue to speak, but I didn’t have anything to say, so I just nodded.

“I’m quite interested in history, and there’s so much I’d like to know about your time. So much about it has been lost. Maybe you can tell me some when you feel stronger.”

There it was again: my time. I wanted to ask about it, but didn’t get around to it.

“The transition will be difficult for you I’m sure, but everyone on this ship will do their best to help you. We all owe you for what you did for Adam.”

Adam... Wasn’t this enough to drive a woman crazy?

My mouth finally moved. “What ship? What crew? What time? And who is this Adam everyone keeps talking about? Where the hell am I?”

At that moment, Ima came back into the room, holding two mugs with steaming tea, and she and Captain Jones exchanged a glance.

She shrugged. “It appears our new friend here has a little bout of amnesia. I expect her memories will return with time.”

If I had been the Captain, I would wonder why she didn’t tell him this at once, but he seemed used to the way things were. “I see.”

His blue eyes weren’t laughing any longer; they seemed to look right through me, evaluating me. I couldn’t help but wonder if I was passing the test. Up until now, I’d been dying to know what was going on. Now, when the information appeared within reach, it frightened me.

I cleared my throat, but my voice still revealed more of my anxieties than I cared for.

“Please, I really need to know.”

Blake looked at his mug, and Ima made a soothing gesture, “Have some tea, dear.”

I didn’t want tea. I wanted to know where I was and what happened to me, but I obeyed anyway. The little sip I intended to take turned into a gulp. The tea was good, and I was thirsty.

“Adam is a valued part of my crew. He’s third in command on this ship, and he is an artificial life form. An android. I suppose you would be familiar with the concept from the movies of your time?”

I’d seen Star Trek and I Robot. The concept of an artificial man made of metal or plastic was much 
less disturbing than the expression “my time.”

Blake misinterpreted my frown.

“He was investigating a space anomaly, and somehow got pulled into it. I’m sure he can tell you the story much better than I can, but in short, you saved him. You gave your life for him, in your world, in your time, and he decided to bring you back here so you could live. You were dead when you arrived. He put you in a cryochamber in the shuttle. Ima reconstructed many of your organs, and brought you back to life.”

There it was again. My time.

The words made me want to scream.

Androids and cryochambers… My first thought had been right; this was complete nonsense, and he was clearly just a figment of my imagination.

Androids, pffft.

He could just as well have told me there were flying pigs.

Why couldn’t I dream up something friendlier? Something easier to relate to? A day on the beach would be nice, or why not a nice restaurant?

I took another gulp of tea, and then the mug was mysteriously empty. I couldn’t remember drinking it all.

“By your way of counting, it is the year 2577. The ship has a crew of 1017 people including you, and we are all sorts of life forms from all over the galaxy. The Earth is still out there, but now it’s part of a confederacy of systems. The human race is one of 88 member species.”