Andrea Missanaugh lives on dystopian Earth’s exploration ship the HAND-5500. Lost in deep space and subjected to the monotony of survival under a regime that still holds the distant ship in its iron grip, Andrea has lost all hope of living a happy life and waits for her silent mental rebellion to be discovered and the inevitable death that will follow.
Then she’s whisked away from the HAND-5500 by two curious aliens from a planet called Evalaque: the President’s daughter, Ledieven, and her gentle partner in crime, doctor and scientist Jacq. Ledieven wants more than friendship, however, with Jacq and Andrea—something that is forbidden on Evalaque, where a fertility crisis has taken hold. Ledieven is one of the last fertile women on Evalaque and her mother will go to great lengths to press her into a socially acceptable marriage.
But Andrea’s done with settling for less.
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The Hand’s iron grip extends to the outer reaches of space. Even here, in a tiny space-faring exploration vessel, their orders are absolute and inescapable. Only my thoughts are my own, and only barely so. It won’t be long before we’re all wearing the Mind-Scanner 3000 by decree.
I’m sorry, I mean the Glasses. The Glasses were supposed to let you watch Net feed on the go, but they stopped being mandatory equipment years ago. Rumor had it that they were just a tool by which the Hand could watch us. Our innermost thoughts. Our feelings. Our fears. Our private revolutions. Thank fuck they considered all that information too unwieldy to collect on a daily basis. Or they just ran out of working pairs. Who knows?
I hear the buzzer, loud and clear, a long sound designed to be just painful enough to the ears to get us out of bed. I stop feigning sleep, open my eyes, and jump down from my bunk. A red pair of overalls covers me inelegantly, like I’m some kind of prisoner instead of one of the Hand’s most privileged citizens. I get to see deep space. I’m lucky. Yeah.