Kolya jolted awake with a shrill cry, threw her arms across her face, and rolled off her bed. She couldn't breathe for a few seconds after hitting the floor. Finally, she sucked in a gasping breath, opened her eyes wide, and whipped her head around as the last remnants of the nightmare faded away. Her heart pounded as she pushed herself upright and climbed back onto her bed. She fumbled for the control panel on the wall beside her bed and dialed up the lights slightly, just enough to make out the close walls of her motel room.
Same old dream. Luckily, it came rarely, these days. Maybe once or twice every few months. Not like it had eight years ago when debris from that explosion turned the left side of her face into a thousand miles of bad road. The nightmares had plagued her for years after all the surgeries and physical therapy restored her full mobility.
Her insurance company had refused to cover the "purely cosmetic" matter of the scar tissue covering one whole side of her face and part of her neck, shoulder, upper arm, and thigh, so she'd avoided mirrors for almost as many years. She'd adjusted to it well enough, eventually, but every now and then, the nearly-forgotten nightmares came out of nowhere and sucker-punched her.
Kolya sighed, dialed the lights up a bit more, and heaved herself off the bed. She trudged into the bathroom, yawned, turned on the wash basin, and splashed water on her face.
What time is it? She leaned back through the doorway for a glance at the info on the hard-light panel beside the bed. Eh. Almost time to get up, anyway. She'd landed a hired-hand gig on a ship scheduled for departure today, and didn't want to start her first day on the job by missing its launch.
She braced her hands on the edge of the wash basin and stared into the mirror. Could be worse, I guess. At least she hadn't lost any sensation or functionality. She'd needed pain meds for a long time after the accident, but in the end, that was preferable to being numb or paralyzed.
Her solid white, damaged eye contrasted sharply with her ebony skin and practically glowed in the dim light. Even though she couldn't see anything out of it, it kind of … stared back at her. The insurance company had used the same "cosmetic" excuse to weasel out of paying for a cybernetic eye, which had infuriated her. She didn't much care what it looked like, she just wanted to be able to see out of the damn thing.
At least the good half of her face still looked okay. After finishing school, she'd been on a fast track to a career as a supermodel. She could've had any number of hot guys. Or women, had she swung that way. Then, just as her career had started to take off … kaboom. While talking with a friend working in a shuttle repair bay, a faulty fuel cell blew. Even though she and her friend had survived, Kolya's career had ended that day. And, it had seemed for a long time afterward, so had her life.
But a new one began, eventually. She'd moved on because it was the only thing she could do, and one day discovered something more rewarding than a life of posing in front of a camera. Something far more satisfying. More fun.
Kolya turned away from the mirror and stepped into the shower. By the time she turned the water off, she was fully awake. She picked up her comb and gave her shoulder-length, dark brown hair a quick work-over, while the warm air jets in the walls dried her off, and then she walked back to her bed. She stretched and plopped her ass down on the edge.
The thought of what was in store brought a smile to her face. Sevastopol Station wasn't quite on the edge of Terran space, but her ship's destination definitely was -- past the frontier, as far as humans and their synthetic and genetically-engineered derivations were concerned. For the aliens who lived and worked out there, it was simply home, but for Kolya, it was an adventure. There were so many new things to see, far too many to experience in a lifetime, but she intended to give it her best effort, damn it. That explosion could've killed her, but it didn't -- and she didn't want to waste her second chance.
She grinned, threw her cargo pants, boots, and T-shirt on, and packed her few belongings into her duffel bag. Even though she'd been hitchhiking on starships for several years, this would be the first time she'd ventured outside Earth-controlled space.
The rest of the galaxy awaited her.