I: A Dream of Smoke and Thunder

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The world was full of green. Sweet, lush greens, dripping water, moist bracken beneath my feet, and a natural symphony serenading me as I pushed my way through. I heard the trill and chirps of half a dozen birds, the high yip of a nearby fox, and the rush of running deer. My hands pushed through the damp leaves, condensation running down my arms. The cool tracks of water spread goose bumps along my skin.

The branches gave way, spitting me into a sea of waist high wheat grass, sun-bleached to a pale gold. The tips tickled my trailing palms as I walked through, face raised to the sky. There was no sun there, rather a canvas of spilled ink swirling through water. The clouds were boiling, dark and dangerous beasts that growled, warning of their fury. All other noise fell away. The smell of ozone was heavy in the air. The heat was the velvety tongue of a jungle cat between my shoulder blades, leaving a trail of moisture. The grass beneath my palms felt brittle, fragile, nothing more than dry husks waiting for the spark.

The heat bloomed, rising higher and higher. I opened my eyes at the roar of fire.

I sat up in the dark, unable to get enough air. The sheets clung to my sweat.

"Lights," I gasped, calming in the flickering luminescence that bathes the room. I drew my knees to my chest, crushing the heels of my hands to my eyes. Another dream. That made one every night this week. What was wrong with me?

I reached a blind hand for the leather bound journal beside my bed nook, a relic really, the old skin butter soft to the touch. I wrote rarely, maybe recording the occasional introspective moment. It was a good place to record the dreams. They felt more...substantial printed in my poor scrawl. The door panel slid open with a soft hiss.

"Good morning, Eden," I said, not looking up from my writing as the ship's personnel android unit entered for my daily evaluation.

'Good morning, Lyra. Another dream I see?' She hovered around me, hand extended, my vitals fed into the scanners within her palm. 'Some of your body chemicals are imbalanced and your vitamin k is severely deficient. Might I recommend some time in the garden?'

"I'll take my exercise there today," I said, absently reading over what I wrote down. It was far too similar to the last few dreams. Dreaming of a distant Earth. What did they mean? Maybe Cass had a theory. I realized Eden was still in the room. Odd, she usually did her scans and left to attend other matters on the ship. "Something wrong, Eden?"

The irises of her eyes produced an unfocused whirring sound. 'Was it a good dream, Lyra?'

I blinked at her. As an A.I. extension of the ship, Eden was equipped with a nurturing personality, but the question seemed almost hesitant. It was so unlike her, I didn't think to lie.

"It was beautiful, different than the garden," I said, my voice soft. It was the smells that stayed with me. Something so fragrant and powerful it was almost like a memory instead of a dream, except I'd never set foot on the planet. No one had for decades. "Until the end."

'What happened?' Her flawless face evinced no emotion.

"It burned. It all burned," I said.

Eden folded her hands above her waist. 'Capt Leo wishes to speak with you before midday. Andromeda requires you to approve her new engine specifications. Good day, Lyra.' She strode from the room, pure business. I closed the journal, putting the out of place question from my mind. There was work to be done.

***

Andromeda tracked me down in the galley of sleepers, checking vitals and entering bio rhythm readouts into the ship's computer. It was a task Eden herself could have handled, but it had become vital to my sanity. Splitting the duties with her allowed the android more leeway to attend to other matters on board and helped stave off the endless hours of the day. It spared me from boredom.

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