Through the Stars, Darkly – Chapter 1
A Space Opera Serial // Where war falls into our hero's lap.
PREFACE: This is the first of four free chapters of a new ongoing space opera serial. Enjoy!
The entire structure shook under the constant explosions. Alarms blared, red lights flashed.
Val cursed as she tried to steady the ship, while at the same time avoiding collision with any of the other crafts.
None of them had noticed her popping up out of nowhere in the middle of the battlefield—Starrider was too small, compared to these others—but she was still getting hit by stray shots, and Val worried her ship would not hold much longer.
"We have to get out of this mess!" she cried out. "Can you get us down to the surface?"
She glanced at the screen, which showed the blue and green globe of a planet. Which one was it? She had no idea.
"I... I'm not sure," responded a hesitant voice.
"Come on, Nim! This is no time for self-doubt. I know you can do this!"
A new explosion made the ship rock, and she nearly lost her balance.
"Very well," finally responded the disembodied voice. "I will try."
The view shifted as Starrider suddenly dipped and raced toward the planet below. It grew larger on the screen as they approached it at full speed.
For a moment, Val worried what might happen when they entered the atmosphere... would the whole damn thing catch fire and come apart at the seams? It was just as likely as any other scenario. The ship was old, and possibly not sturdy enough to withstand such an ordeal—especially after getting bombarded as it just had.
At least the explosions had eased off.
The alarms had not.
"Oh for crying out loud, could you please cut those off? I'm going nuts over here..."
"They are automated, Val. I—"
"I know that, wise ass. But you control the ship, don't you?"
The voice went silent for a moment, and then the alarms did as well.
"You're right. I'm sorry."
"It's alright. Any idea how we got here?"
One moment they had reached a scavenging site, and she'd been getting ready to board one of the wrecks. The next, they were sucked into a space rift that had appeared out of nowhere... and they'd landed here, right in the middle of a freaking battlefield.
"I'm not sure," said Nim's hesitant voice.
"Could you please look into it? I don't like when my ship does things I have no control over."
"Of course, Val."
The ship continued its descent. When it entered the atmosphere, the friction made the structure shake again—perhaps more so than it had before. Thankfully, though, there were no explosions and no fire.
Nim decelerated as they approached the surface. The craft straightened and flew until it reached a valley near a stream. There, it gently landed.
Val sat down and sighed a sigh of relief.
"Looks like we made it in one piece."
She rubbed her forehead, noticing she was covered in sweat.
"I'm not so sure about that," said Nim. "We did take some damage, and—"
"I meant you and me, silly."
"Run some tests, would you? I think I need to take a shower while you do that."
She stood and headed toward her cabin.
Valentina Corenth was an independent woman—in all senses of the word. She had always made her own choices in life—some good, some bad. For the most part, she'd lived alone—sometimes by choice, other times not so much. She'd started her own business, working as a pilot and a scavenger. It was not an easy life, and one that kept her at the fringes of legality, but it was her life and she wouldn't have traded it for anything.
Well, except maybe that last bit with the space rift.
What the hell had that been about?
Had it come a few minutes later, it would have sucked an empty ship, leaving her stranded on a wreck in the middle of nowhere. That was a chilling thought.
Well, not an empty ship. There was Nim.
The thought of losing him was almost as painful.
She shook her head, trying to get that image out of her head. No use worrying about something that hadn't happened. It had been a close call, but everything had worked out.
Except for the fact that they were now on some unknown planet, who knew where?
And who had been fighting out there?
"Have you identified those warships?" she asked as she went into her cabin, knowing that Nim could hear her—he was everywhere, after all.
"Some of them wore the Imperial banner," responded the familiar voice.
She frowned at this. "Really? Hmm. Did we get dragged into some sort of resistance war?"
"No idea, Val."
"What about the planet? Do you know where we are?"
"According to all the analyses I've run, I believe this is Rimzana."
"You're not sure?"
"I'm still trying to compare with Imperial records, but access has been... challenging."
She glanced up—though of course, all she could see from here was the metallic ceiling of her cabin.
"Could it be because of those ships? Are they scrambling our signal?"
Val stripped out of her clothes and went into the shower.
Assuming this was Rimzana, things weren't as bad as they seemed. It was a civilized world, after all. They could easily find a place to fix the ship.
It was part of the Imperium, though. Which begged the question: who were they fighting up there?
Not that it really mattered. It didn't concern her, after all. She'd head into the nearest town and hire a fixer to look at the ship. Maybe she could fish for info while she was there.
Who could say no to her?
She liked to think she was rather fun and easy-going, though she'd have kicked the ass of anyone who dared call her 'Valentina.'
It was Val, thankyouverymuch.
This was the first of four free chapters in the Through the Stars, Darkly serial. If you don’t want to miss out on the rest, use the button above to select your preferred plan.
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Text (c) 2022 by Alex S. Garcia.
Header: royalty-free stock images, edited by me.
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