PROLOGUE: Home is…

THE FIRST SIDE: losing yourself…

THE SECOND SIDE: …to find your better half

THE THIRD SIDE: it's where you belonged all along

EPILOGUE: …where the heart is

Summary: It's the turn of the 22nd century. New York police detective Willow Rosenberg investigates the violent street murder of a young woman formerly of wealth/position and the kidnapping of her newborn daughter. The trail of the investigation leads to a black market bio-materials smuggling ring transporting restricted technology and genetic contraband to a distant off-world mining colony and old Earth protectorate.

Rating: Variable. Mostly T to M. Violence and sexual content may warrant a ratings bump to NC-17, but I'll provide a chapter rating in advance when applicable. For now, the rating is Teen.

Warnings: I am a science fiction and fantasy geek by nature and it might be a while before there's any romantic interaction in this fic.

Projected length, expected update schedule: Should be about 40K words total, more of a novelette than a full-blown novel. One or two short chapter updates, depending on length of each installment, each week. The aim is to finish by the year-end.

Notes: I didn't think it was fair to subject anyone to betaing this since it's going to be a somewhat longish fic or at least multipart, and there may be long delays between acts (really long for me, anyway) so if you catch any errors, they're all mine. Please let me know so I can clean them up. Also, if you are interested in betaing despite the caveats above—fergossake, yes! Email or PM me. I'd love for someone to beta it, if only for the guaranteed feedback.

Feedback: Yes, please. All kinds. PM/email, or right here is fine.

PROLOGUE: Home is…

The turn of the 22nd century was a flashpoint for humanity. The various technologies—nuclear fuel, computing, metallurgy—finally reached the level of, if not perfection, a close enough approximation of it to at last facilitate the long-held if often deferred dream of deep space exploration. Not coincidentally, the dream had often to wait for more pressing concerns, chief among them for the point when the Earth was completely saturated by capitalism and commercialization. One's personal life became fully amortized to the culture of money and was disclosed to the public through individual consumption patterns that could easily be integrated into larger consumer market patterns. It made it easier to identify your friends—those who bought the same things you did, watched the same TV shows, and listened to the same music.

With the global disarmament occurring just before the end of the century that signaled the completion of the success of the march toward a wholly commercialized society, the world's militaries had had to be significantly downsized as well. A select minority of the majority released into the civilian sector joined established and new sports teams and professional leagues, becoming part of the ever-popular and increasingly important entertainment industry. Slightly more were absorbed into various local police units maintaining the nuts and bolts of the strange new world order. The vast majority attempted to reintegrate themselves back into the labor force. However, the skills they had been trained to use in combat were sometimes at odds with the new technologies. It was either take the low-pay manual jobs, or join the select few willing to explore new frontiers.

Ironically, the new technologies allowing for the expansion of humanity into the Cosmic were physically fueled by fossil fuels that had long become scarce and consequently closely guarded. Restless humanity could not wait for even newer technologies to catch up with their need to leave the confines of their home planet and spread the message of bigger, more colorful, shinier, NOW!

Conglomerates were formed as joint ventures for some of the smaller corporations willing to take a gamble that colonizing mineral-rich planets on the outer rim would pay back, big time, providing purchase into the elite middle-tier of established business organizations. Some ventures worked, others flat-out failed and never left the ground, so to speak. Memorial parks to accommodate the monuments were set up in areas surrounding the most popular launch sites.

Still others half-failed, half-succeeded. Most of these middling success stories found their way to Planet B-9, a rough little boulder small enough to terra form successfully, large enough to allow multiple companies to co-exist peacefully enough. It was quite a bit further off than A-5, which is where the colonies for the large multinationals set up shop. Pay for a worker on either rock was relatively good and there was air—albeit heavily processed air—to breathe and room to expand.

Those on the lower end of the social spectrum took the opportunity for a new life, though the A-fivers were more likely to get a slightly better insurance package for the transported colonists. The better packages were, sadly, often necessary, though most congloms had their own insurance carriers as affiliates to facilitate coverage and claims. All in all, it was a win-win situation all around…