Sometimes letting go is hard and sometimes the secrets we carry keep us hanging on regardless of lost causes and our view of how things should be. Such is Riley, a kid who’s father is a war hero, but he didn’t die in the war, so now it doesn’t matter. This puts a shadow on Riley’s life and thus the secret that intensifies that shadow. Riley’s given up everything to keep his father alive, even when his father suffers a stroke and for all practicalities is a dead man. Not totally brain dead, thanks to Afterlife’s technology, Riley can visit his father in a mind-rendered alternate universe. This is a grant thing, yet Riley can’t bring himself to let his father know that he’s spent every coin he possesses to finance this new life for his war hero father.
Then there is Grim, a crew member on a starship which hurls into gas giants looking for a special leviathan who’s special chemistry is the vital resource for starship fuel. Grim and the ship’s captain have a thing going on but will it last? Taryn, the captain, wants a commitment out of Grim, but realizes he has some secrets that are putting distance between them. Will he let go? Will he tell her what those dark lingering shadows have over him?
This all comes together as we realize that Grim and Riley are the same person, a glimpse into the past and present to put the reader into a fascinating tale of dark secrets, family and space. On the Protean Shore is a wonderful, exceptionally crafted short story that speaks (perhaps demands) that more tales are to be told about Grim and Taryn in the near future.