Short Stories 366:246 — “Chance of a Lifetime,” by Susan Hayes

coverLast week, at the worst possible time (I was on a live panel) I got smacked with a migraine. I’d had one the day before, as well, and had medicated it into oblivion, but sometimes when you do that, they sort of come racing back (it’s called a “bounceback migraine” I believe) and it raced back with a vengeance. It was a little bit embarrassing (a lot) and I basically had to dive off the call and run for the bathroom. Fun times. Post-migraine, sometimes I end up in a place where looking at screens threatens to make it come back again, and I was not up for a three-peat, so I grabbed my e-reader and cracked a collection of space novellas, and went to go spend some time on Susan Hayes’s edge-of-civilization space station, the Drift.

“Chance of a Lifetime” is a slight departure from most of the Drift novels in that the cyborg involved is not a combat model. Instead, Chance—that’s her name, which also makes the title a pun, so already this is magic—has heightened processing and perception, and this translates into the ability to predict things with incredible precision, given enough data. She’s also on the run, because—a repeating theme in Cyborg romance, and in Hayes’s worldbuilding—the people who created her want her back in lockdown. Instead, she finds herself on the Drift, in a particular bar readers of Hayes’s Drift series will recognize, and bumping into a particular cage-fighter (who is trying to be more of a former-cage-fighter and current security).

There are sparks—not real sparks, which could happen with all the cybernetics, but the chemistry kind—but there’s also someone sending signals and information out of the bar to their enemies, so ex-fighter and security guard Erik has to deal with the possibility that the lady he’s interested in isn’t who she says she is (not helped by her, of course, not saying who she really is because she’s on the run). It all cumulates in trademark Hayes’s style, in a pew-pew sci-fi scene with tension and stakes aplenty, without drowning out the core romance of the novella. It was fun, and exactly what I needed to start my day of trying to not pass out again.

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