Recently, Mary Brock Jones contacted me and wanted to know if I would like to review her new book in the Hathe series – Aftermath. I really would, but I have a long list of other books to review. But here’s the thing. I had already purchased books 1 and 2 of the series. I hadn’t read them yet, but there they were, waiting for me on my Kindle!
So I took that as a sign that I must to read the series! Actually, it was very easy to convince myself. 🙂 So, yes, there will be a review of Aftermath later this summer.
Surely I am not the only one who has a few unread books on their e-reader? Are you collecting a series before diving in? Can’t resist the Bookbub deals? Are new releases impossible to ignore? Lately, have you read a gem that you forgot you had? Comment at the end of this post. Feel free to comment on other subjects too, like maybe about the new book Hathe!. On Monday at 7:00am Iowa time, I will draw two random winners who will receive a box set of Toil and Strife: Hathe Book One and Two. Thanks to Mary Brock Jones who has kindly provided these books!
Now, enjoy reading about the latest book in the Hathe series – Aftermath.
War or Peace. It doesn’t matter. There is always an enemy.
Jacquel des Trurains, acclaimed hero of the resistance, has been charged with overseeing the restoration of Hathe after the Terran occupation.
But it won’t be easy. Years of oppression have left their mark on every dirtsider who stayed behind. And what of the Hathians who fled to the moon? The greed of a few for the sparkling jewel of the colonial worlds could destroy everything when they return.
So, Jacquel’s bosses decide he needs some help, and they send him Rheia asn Postrova. Rheia spent the war embroiled in twisted diplomatic games to protect the secrets of Hathe from the Terrans. Now she’s been sent to teach a stubborn man how to play nice with his fellow Hathians.
Together, they must find a way to heal their home.
But Rheia has secrets of her own, and Jacquel soon discovers that diplomacy is just a subtler war with a wiser enemy.
Excerpt from Aftermath
Jacquel des Trurains brought his flyer down in the courtyard of his home. He had raced down those steps and climbed that far wall, played in this courtyard with his friends. Childhood memories, lost in some half-remembered time before the war. He peered through his viz screen, trying to make the past match the present, but failed.
Whatever it was that had made this place home no longer lived here. Gone, waiting to be restored like everything else on Hathe.
What did he expect? Five years of abandonment. Five years living under Terran rule since any had set foot here. The fake radiation signals had kept the Terrans out of the City, but not even Resistance tricks could stop the erosions of time.
“Let me go in first,” he’d told his superior. “The parents don’t need to see the worst of it.”
“No, but better than some unknown cleaning crew.”
Now, Jacquel wasn’t so sure. He opened the flyer’s hatch but couldn’t move. Not yet.
Weeds grew through the pavers, a wild vine sprawled over the upper colonnade roof and the air was filled with the skittering sounds of small animals frightened by his flyer, while a drunken mass of greenery over the entrance door warned of a buzzers’ nest.
At last, something he could fix. He threw himself down the steps, grabbed a broken bract from the hanging creepers and knocked down the old nest.
“My home now,” he said to the abandoned greenery. “My home.”
If he repeated it often enough, he might just believe it.
Up the steps and slam a hand against the door control on the massive front doors. A sickening pause, as if the house system needed to be shocked into life again, then the door opened to his palm print, still swinging smoothly on command. Inside was almost as he remembered, but overlaid with the stale whiff of emptiness. He coughed as a cloud of dust hit his face, scuffed up by his first step in the door. His step-mama was due to arrive in two days, back from her refuge on Mathe. She mustn’t see this. He called up central control and ordered a crew of cleaning bots.
“Please complete details of work required,” said the automated form.
“I’ve only just walked in the door.”
“Full analysis of most urgent work required before the order can be processed.”
Stupid anachronism. “Fine then. I’ll get back to you.”
He kicked at the rug, releasing another cloud of dust, then turned and flung wide the big doors, the front reception windows, any window within reach, letting in the sun and free air of Hathe.
“Make it better.”
There was a falafaux flowering in the garden and the faint scent of it whispered through the windows. He drew in a deep breath of the outside air and, for the first time, began to feel at home.
“Right. No point putting it off,” he said, his voice battering against the answering silence of the house.
He was a professional. This was a mission, a job that must be completed and in proper order. He made himself look at walls and structures, scanning and recording physical details, rather than memories and heartaches.
The main house systems had kept working throughout the long silence. There was dust, stale air, but no damage or water entry, no signs in here of the wildlife living in the garden. He checked each room, counting down his list. Reception rooms, main hall, living and dining areas, the great kitchen, staff quarters, his parents’ bedroom and offices. The staff quarters and kitchen would need to be restored before he let Manny, their old housekeeper, see them again. She would either read him a huge lecture or burst into tears, and neither could he bear.
Lastly, he came to a door at the end of a hallway. His own quarters. He stopped, laid a hand on the familiar whorls etched into the surface, then palmed the lock and pushed the door open. He could do this.
The outer room looked as if he’d just left. An antique book of poetry lay open beside his favorite chair, a sweater draped carelessly over the back of it, and his collection of book cubes on Alliance history sprawled untidily over the shelves above his desk. A drawer sat partly open and a broken stylus hung drunkenly over the lip. The room of a history student, forced to leave hurriedly.
He’d thought himself so clever when he’d put together the montage. He pushed open the bedroom door and saw the same carefully contrived scenario, untouched since the day he’d left. He pulled the bed covering straight, lined up the rare Antoni light on the bedside table with its opposite on the far side and set all to rights in the carefully ordered tidiness that he preferred in his private rooms. Only when the last piece was resting in its proper place did he approach the painting on the far wall. An interactive collage by asn Lucino, so expensive that surely even the Terrans would leave it untouched if they braved the radiation signals protecting this place. His fingers traced a whirl in the upper left corner, pushed a flower just so, then tapped on the lower frame panel. Beside it, a space appeared in the wall. A small cavity no wider than a hand’s breadth.
He pulled out the pack of info slivers and cubes and counted each one. All present; all still there. His personal files, research notes, and the cube of precious holo-vids. His family, his first day at school, a holiday on Phoebus. Then he reached right to the back, and his hand clenched tight around one more cube. He pulled it out and set it on the table beside his bed. Then touched it and stood back as the holo-image sprang to life.
Three figures, caught forever in perfect miniature. Two young men and a woman, standing on a hilltop in an eerie half-light. He and his two best friends, Bendin and Marthe asn Castre, on the night of their graduation, the miniature faces alive with the excitement and expectation of that day.
Bendin was at the front as always, big, strong and tall with shoulders already showing the promise of size to come. Head high and filled with the magic of his personality. Jacquel looked at his own figure, slightly back and to one side. Sun and moon, they’d been dubbed by the public, thanks mostly to Bendin’s golden hair and his own silver gilt. Bendin, the laughing golden god of them all, and Jacquel, the slimmer echo at his side. But not sad, never that. He was laughing in this holo-pic; they all were. His figure looked across at his friends, and he saw exasperation mingling in with the laughter. That wasn’t unusual in those days either.
Between them stood Marthe—so tiny, so vital, her dark hair touched with a shimmer of sunlight and wearing a smile that sat halfway between anger and glee. Now he understood the look on his figure’s face: he’d been caught in another of the asn Castre twins’ feuds. Something about a banged foot and Bendin teasing Marthe; but also a protective hand Bendin had shot out to his twin and the strength in the arm that pulled her up to the final summit.
Where were they now, those bright youths of yesterday? Those three laughing faces?
Jacquel couldn’t stop the twist of his mouth. Not here, and no longer laughing. Bendin’s grave lay far from here, a hasty wartime resting place. Plans were in place to rebury him with full honors in the memorial avenue of the main city cemetery. As for Marthe? Heartsick and hiding, her doctors and family all desperately trying to get her to fight back. Fight for her own life and that of her half-Terran child.
Only he had survived unscathed.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered to Bendin, and to all the other bright-eyed youths who could not come home. “I couldn’t protect her, and I couldn’t save you…but I did protect Hathe. We won our freedom back. Isn’t that enough?”
Suddenly the images were too much. He crashed the cube and slammed the holo to the floor. The three youthful images sprawled on the mat, lying drunkenly to one side.
Still they laughed up at him.
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About the Author
Mary Brock Jones lives in Auckland, New Zealand but loves nothing more than to escape into the other worlds in her head, writing science fiction and historical romances. Sedate office worker by day; frantic scribbler by night.
Her parents introduced her to libraries and gave her a farm to play on, where trees became rocket ships and rocky outcrops were ancient fortresses. She grew up writing, filling pages of notebooks and filling her head with stories but took a number of detours on the pathway to her dream job. Four grown sons, more than one house renovated and various jobs later, her wish came true.
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