Series: Liminal Sky: Redemption Cycle (Book 1)
Publishing Company: Other Worlds Ink
Release Date: Monday, August 1, 2022
Format: eBook, Audio
Story Length: Long Novel / 130,000 Words / 420 Pages / 15 Hrs 8 Min
Cover Artist: J. Scott Coatsworth
Genres: sci-fi, solarpunk, hopepunk, action-adventure
Pairings: Not romance, but there is an MM pairing
LGBTQ+ Identities: gay, bisexual, transgender, reference to non-binary character
Tropes: abandoned earth, hidden civilization
Keywords/Categories: sci-fi, science fiction, action adventure, abandoned Earth, hidden civilization, gay, bisexual, diverse, transgender, solarpunk, giveaway, new release, announcement, audio, audiobook, hopepunk, space opera
The ending strains of Thus Spoke Zarathustra faded into the background as the Zhenyi settled into her new course. The ship would be on autopilot for two days as they hurtled toward the Launchpad.
There was nothing more for Hera to do for a while.
She pressed the releases on her biframe, pulling off the metal braces and tucking them into the webbing behind the seat.
Up here in space, she was free—in zero-gee her useless legs weren’t a hindrance. Through the suit legs, she touched the scars where the medics had cut her open to replace her crushed bones with rods printed from gumdust—the pulverized moon dust they’d used to make her whole again.
Luna would always be a part of her, no matter how far she roamed.
Somewhere behind them, Tovey waited for her return. She could still feel the touch of their lips on hers.
She shook her head, dispelling the memory. Don’t let yourself get lost in homesickness.
She got up and squeezed past the chair and the gunmetal gray walls to her own seat, and settled in next to Rai. She snapped her seatbelt closed and peered out of her porthole. The red running lights of one of the other jumpers blinked in the distance.
Rai had swiveled his seat around, and he and Ghost were playing chess on one side of the cramped five-seat craft. Behind Hera, Tien was staring out at the stars, her overhead light dimmed.
Along with Tovey, her teammates were Hera’s family.
She’d known Ghost all her life, and Rai and Tien fortwo years while they’d trained on Luna, learning how to operate the jumper’s modified flight systems, packing her brain with everything there was to know about the Earth. They’d spent six more intense months together in the full Earth gravity of the Launchpad, time which had sealed their bond.
She’d met Tovey there too, but they weren’t a part of the mission. Pain gripped Hera’s heart. What if I never see you again?
Hera needed a distraction. She released her seat and swung it around to face Tien, the only one of them raised by her birth parents. She wondered for the thousandth time what it would have been like to have actual parents instead of creche parents. “How’d it go with your parents, Ti?”
“What?” Tien turned toward her, dark brown eyes glassy. They shimmered and Tien was back in the here-and-now, staring at her.
Sometimes Hera still saw Tai in her features, the man Tien had been when they first met. “I’m sorry, didn’t realize you were busy—” Hera braced herself to get up. She could watch the view from the pilot’s chair.
Tien flashed her a warm smile, brushing a long strand of black hair back behind her ear. “It’s okay. I was just reading poetry. What did you ask?”
“Your parents. How’d it go?”
Tien’s smile became a grin. “Better than I hoped. My father called me his daughter—for the first time. They told me they were proud of me and gave me their blessing to go.”
Hera’s jaw dropped. “That’s amazing, Ti.” She squeezed Tien’s hand. “What are you reading?” Anyone I know?”
“Probably not. Emily Dickinson. From the old United States.”
“Read me a few lines.” Hera loved poetry, especially the lyrical Old Earth stuff Tien found.
Tien’s lenses shimmered again. “Okay. How about this one?”
Hera closed her eyes to listen.
There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry—
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll—
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.
Hera bit her lip. “What does it mean?”
Tien bit her lip. “Hmm. That words have power. They can cross centuries to transport us to other worlds.” Tien smiled wanly. “That what we do now can still matter so much later.”
“That’s beautiful.” Tien was a closet romantic, but the old words still confounded Hera sometimes.“What’s a frigate?”
“A bird, or maybe a warship. It’s not really clear.” Tien frowned. “I can try to find out—“
Hera grinned. “Let’s say a bird. Better than a warship—”
The ship-to-ship radio blared to life with a loud burst of static. “This is Dax on the Bristol. We’ve taken a hit. I repeat—” More static. “—hit. there’s a lot of space junk—”
Hera swiveled and pulled herself out of her seat and into the pilot’s chair with the ease of long practice.
Sam’s voice came from the Liánhuā at the rear of the convoy. “Bristol, you there?”
Nervous silence filled the Zhenyi. No response.
Hera glanced back at her teammates. Rai was pale, sweat beading his forehead, the chess game forgotten. “Everyone buckle in.”
The radio buzzed again. “…lost contact. Something hit us and spun us around. We’re ok.”
Hera breathed a sigh of relief and hit the comm button. “What kind of something? The way’s supposed to be clear all the way to the Launchpad.” She activated the scanner. Five glowing red dots floated over her deck, one for each ship.
“Don’t know. It was too fast—” Loud static cut him off again.
“What’s happening?” Rai sounded panicked, his voice raspy.
“Keep it together, Rai.” She couldn’t deal with his fear and this at the same time. Hera leaned forward, staring at the dots—each of the jumpers were still there, spread out in a lazy line. She sighed with relief. “Dax, you there?”
“Yeah. We’re losing pressure…” Dax’s usually calm, suave voice broke. “Hissing hell, it cracked the hull—”
An apocalyptic boom, then nothing.
All the blood drained from Hera’s face, and her stomach twisted. Please let them be okay. Hera looked at the lights hovering above the deck again. The Bristol’s dot was gone.
Sam’s voice crackled over the comm. “What happened? Zhenyi, can you see the Bristol?”
Hera was racing to scan the space ahead of them. “Unexpected debris. I think—she’s gone, Sir.” Concentrate. She had to figure this out fast.
Dax, Jess, Ola, and Xiu Ying… cracking hell. She bit her lip hard, tasting blood.
Rai sobbed quietly behind her.
“Must have been a space-junk collision somewhere since they scanned it last, scattering more debris.” Ghost sounded calm, but that was one of his tells. He was totally freaking out inside.
“No shit, Sherlock.” Her eyes tracked the screen, looking for danger. She had no idea who in the whole pantheon of history Sherlock was, and right now she didn’t care.
Something flared bright blue above the deck. “Hang on!” She fired one of the aft thrusters, and a gust of steam pushed them out of the way of a piece of debris. It slipped past the window, a white-encased leg. Hera fought not to hurl.
“Oh crap. Wasn’t that—”
“Shut up!” The Bristol was gone. Better not to know who it had belonged to. “Sam, we have visual on Jumper One’s debris. Advise course correction. Sending revised path.” Her hands flew across the deck. Hold it together, Hera.
“Affirmative. One moment.”
Hera watched the sensor field nervously. “Ghost, sealant ready?”
“Yeah. Just a sec.” He rummaged around in the webbing along the wall of the craft.
Something struck the metal skin of the jumper. Air hissed out as the temperature and air pressure dropped precipitously. “Ghost!”
“On it!” He leapt out of his seat to find the pinhole puncture and applied a dab of sealant. It sucked into the hole and froze, holding tight. “Got it.”
More blips on the sensor field. “Hold on!” Hera fired the thrusters again, and the ship threw her sideways. No belt! She flew up out of the pilot’s seat, slamming hard against the metal ceiling of the Zhenyi.
Tovey, I love you… Searing pain was followed by darkness.
Life after the Crash.
Over a century after the end of the Earth, life goes on in Redemption, the sole remaining Lunar colony, and possibly the last outpost of humankind in the Solar System. But with an existential threat burrowing its way into the Moon’s core, humanity must recolonize the homeworld.
Twenty brave dropnauts set off on a mission to explore the empty planet. Four of them—Rai, Hera, Ghost and Tien—have trained for two-and-a-half years for the Return. They’re bound for Martinez Base, just outside the Old Earth city of San Francisco.
But what awaits them there will turn their assumptions upside down—and in the process, either save or destroy what’s left of humanity.
The Redemption Cycle takes place in parallel time with the Ariadne Cycle, and tells the stories of those left behind on Earth.
O Earth! dost thou too sorrow for the past
Like man thy offspring? Do I hear thee mourn
Thy childhood’s unreturning hours, thy springs
Gone with their genial airs and melodies,
The gentle generations of thy flowers,
And thy majestic groves of olden time,
Perished with all their dwellers?
—“Earth,” by William Cullen Bryant,
from Poems From a Distant Earth, by Chen Tien
We’re going home.
Rai sweated inside his suit, white-knuckling the arms of the retrofitted launch chair under his suit gloves. He watched the Zhenyi’s launch countdown clock.
Sixty, fifty-nine, fifty-eight…
Outside he was calm, but inside he vibrated like an erhu string, his stomach doing acrobatics in his chest. I’m not ready.
Five teams of dropnauts had strapped themselves into their jumper ships, prepared for the ascent from Redemption on the lunar surface to Launchpad station. Outside his porthole, the blue-green marble of Earth beckoned.
Rai cast a nervous glance at his three teammates. Hera was doing her preflight check, her back to him, sweat dripping down the umber skin of her neck from her short-cropped, curly black hair.
Behind him on his right, Tien’s eyes were closed, and she was still as a golden statue. Zen.
He turned to find Ghost looking at him from behind. His ex grinned, running his hand through his lanky, dirty blond hair, his green eyes twinkling. His skin was as white as Rai’s own, but with a dusting of freckles over the bridge of his nose.
Rai managed a pale imitation of a smile back. –It’s totally safe.- Ghost’s voice pinged in his head, em to em.
–Sure. Easy for you to say.- Ghost had never feared a thing in his life.
Rai sighed. If he had to, he could take the small ship apart and put it back together with his bare hands, a skill learned under Sam’s supervision—the mech was as harsh a taskmaster as any human Rai had ever worked for. Still, he felt like puking. The speeches and adulation of the farewell celebration were over, and now his doubts circled like vultures. I’m not ready.
-You’ll be ok.- Hera’s determined voice this time. She turned to squeeze his knee, and then fired up the Zhenyi’s hydro-fuel engine. He flashed her a sheepish grin.
A hundred meters away, the Bristol’s takeoff shook the landing pad. Rai watched it rise, carrying Dax, Jess, Ola, and Xiu Ying, the London team, toward the bright stars above. The jumper’s expelled water froze almost instantly, falling as snow over the snaking lava tube that held the city of Redemption. A lunar blizzard whipped by them and shimmered into nothing.
Rai closed his eyes, remembering the night before. Jess, laughing and dancing with him at Heaven, the clear dome of the lunar sky sparkling above them, the heavy beat of the thromb club pulsing through his chest. Dancing like no one was watching.
He rubbed his jaw. It still ached from the fist he’d taken to the face. Wild party. And a wilder night with Ayvin, the jack he’d picked up at the club.
“Zhenyi, ready for liftoff in T-Minus ten seconds.” Sam’s voice, coming from Team Five’s ship, the Liánhuā, was cool and collected. Did the mech feel emotion, like the nausea that was boiling in Rai’s guts? His teammates were strong, smart, and prepared for anything. I can do this. Besides, it was too late to back out now.
“Affirmative.” Hera shifted in her seat, her biframes stretching her paralyzed legs for her.
“You’ll do okay, tiger.” Ghost elbowed him in the ribs.
“Six, five, four…” Hera swiped the glossy white control deck, and the launch controls appeared, floating over the white surface.
“Leave him alone.” Rai could hear the icy frown in Tien’s voice.
He closed his eyes, willing his stomach to calm. Here we go. Nothing he could do about it now.
“Three, two, one… hang on.” Hera fired the engines, and the craft lifted on a cloud of steam into the star-filled skies of Luna.
Rai squeezed his armrests again as G-force pushed him hard back in his seat. He was committed now. Poppies, Chinese Houses, Fiddlenecks, Baby Blue Eyes, Yellow Pansies, Star Lilies… Reciting the flowers of the old San Francisco basin helped soothe his abraded nerves as the rumbling of the little craft rattled his bones.
He opened his eyes to see Redemption receding below them. The great lava tube was striped with sparkling bands of solar receptors that let sunlight into the city below. Rail lines snaked out from Redemption to the transit center like roping vines—to the seed launcher at Copernicus Crater, to Renewal colony, and beyond.
As the city shrank below them, his fear turned to sadness, a lump forming in his throat. He’d taken his home for granted, enthralled by the idea of joining humankind’s greatest adventure in a century. Now he might never see it again.
Scott is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour:a Rafflecopter giveaway
Scott lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were.
He decided that if there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.
A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality, and is the committee chair for the Indie Authors Committee at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).
Kevin Earlywine is an actor, director, singer/songwriter, and audiobook narrator who hails from Rockford, Illinois! His debut album DANGER was released February 28th, 2017. Kevin started writing songs for the album in 2012, and finally in November, 2015, he started recording the songs!