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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Chapter One

In the section C control room on deck nine of the Venus 1 space station, Ensign Maureen Smith sat at her desk and stared through the terminal screen, her mind more on her coffee than her work. She wrapped her right hand around the cup, her palm not quite touching the hot mug. The heat from the coffee comforted her. She slid her finger up the smooth glass, testing the heat to see if the coffee had cooled enough not to burn her tongue.

It was still too hot, but the warm steam slipping between her palm and the glass was comforting. She took her eyes off the screen, leaning over to put her nose over the cup and let the comforting scent slide up her face and into her nostrils. She instantly felt more awake, as if the very scent was infused with caffeine.

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