Kelly St. Clare
(The After Trilogy, #1)
Publication date: August 30th 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Earth is ruined. Humankind destroyed. And it’s old news.
Romy’s life is simple—for a genetically enhanced space soldier; pick up space junk with her four friends, and stave off the invaders fixated on stealing Planet Earth.
It isn’t much. But it’s temporary—only another 850 years to go, give or take.
When her crew tangles with a gulp-worthy alien mothership, Romy’s return to Earth is brought forwards at hurtling pace.
Strength comes from the unlikeliest of quarters.
As does leadership.
…As does betrayal.
Romy’s side of the battler must have torn away during landing. Only a few shredding battler walls remained. It was as though her side of the ship had been ripped off like a chunk of bread from a loaf.
The floor underneath her was gone, leaving her legs dangling. Romy herself was suspended by the harness, which dug into her torso. It was the only thing keeping her from falling three metres to the dry grass.
The bottom part of her battler segment had embedded itself into the ground on an angle. Romy’s end of the segment was immobilised in the air, forty-five degrees to the surface. She looked to have landed at the edge of a grassy clearing. Or maybe a forest, she amended, judging by the multitudes of trees before her.
Behind her, the ripped walls were flayed wide open, smoking, sparking, and hissing.
She took in the vast splash of colours before her with unseeing eyes. She was on Earth. Hanging above real ground.
Quite alone. And if her knot hadn’t . . . survived . . . she was quite possibly the only person, or being, on the planet. A numbness set in so deep that Romy could no longer feel the harness. Her head drooped as she struggled to regain her calm. She had to find her friends. That was an absolute. They were alive. She had to believe it was true.
She waited, willing her shaking hands to still until eventually they obeyed.
Inhaling sharply, Romy looked around once more.
The question was: How far did her section of the craft land from the others?
If it were a matter of hours, that would be okay, but anything more and she would require food and water. A post-global-warming Earth meant the food and water here wasn’t safe. The yellowed plant life confirmed that. The battler held supplies, but did she have any in her part? And how much oxygen was in her suit? Romy’s heart began to quicken once more, and she forced the unfamiliar fear away.
First priority was getting to the ground. Under normal conditions she would take the chance and jump the three metres, but the injury to her ankle and the extent of the damage to her head caused Romy to hesitate. If only she could take her suit helmet off . . . but the air conditions had to be terrible. She wouldn’t last five seconds.
No, she decided. She’d pull herself up onto the back of her seat and see if there was an easier way out from the back of the smoking wreckage.
She sighed in weary exhaustion, not sure she had the strength to move a single finger. But that wouldn’t help her friends.
Romy released one half of her harness. Holding tightly to the strap, she released the second half of the harness—
Something gave. Not the harness, but whatever it was attached to, or attached with. For a moment Romy thought she might be able to salvage the tatters of her plan and still climb up. Until, with a loud ripping, the harness tore free from the rest of the chair.
Character Interview: Romy
Interviewer: Weiv Retni
Weiv Retni: Romy, a pleasure to meet you! Please come in and sit down. You’ve travelled here all the way from space, you must be tired.
Romy: I have. Well, from 400km into space, anyway. I suppose there are further distances to travel, technically speaking. Though I have come from 150 years into the future, too.
Weiv Retni: LOL – just casually. That must be amazing! What’s it like? Oops, sorry, I’ll wait until you have a sip of your tea.
Romy: *gulps quickly and laughs* That’s okay. I know earth humans view life in space as incredible. To be honest, I find your life here much more interesting! Space is just picking up debris and eating dehydrated food. There is so much room down here on Earth. So much colour. It’s vibrant.
Weiv Retni: I mean … you also blow apart aliens for a living.
Romy: There is that. The critamal want to inhabit the Earth – now it is in the midst of global warming. My team is called up maybe once a month for battle. We’re … how do you say it? Not highly ranked. If we’re not picking up junk after the battle, we’re on kitchen duty.
Weiv Retni: … I guess picking up rubbish is cool, too?
Romy: It’s really not.
Weiv Retni: At least you have some cool friends. What is your team called again?
Romy: Space soldiers aboard the orbitos are split into groups of five, called knots. I’m in Knot 27.
Weiv Retni: And Knot 27 is made up of Deimos and Phobos?
Romy: Everyone calls them the twins. They look nothing alike, aside from their green eyes, but they’re hardly ever apart. Thrym would tell you they’re the reason Knot 27 is so poorly ranked.
Weiv Retni: Thrym?
Romy: Another friend from Knot 27. My best friend. I feel for him, sometimes, he really drew the short straw when the knots were decided. I know he’d like to have a higher position. But he’s too nice to really make a big deal out of it.
Weiv Retni: And Elara?
Romy: Feisty and lazy, all at once. All space soldiers are genetically enhanced to “supposedly” get rid of these kinds of traits. Somehow Elara still manages to possess them. I love her.
Weiv Retni: I know you said space is same-old before. But it boggles my mind. What do you do all day?
Romy: When I’m not on duty, I’m reading everything I can about Earth on my nanopad. And I also like to sit in on the cadet’s lectures. I’ve heard everything dozens of times, but it makes me feel like the return to Earth is a little closer – instead of 850 years away.
Weiv Retni: …850 years…why don’t you just go now?
Romy: Uh…what year is this?
Weiv Retni: 2016.
Romy: By 2050 the world will be on the cusp on global warming—and in anarchy. The last recorded interaction with humans on Earth was 2060. In recent years, our researchers have confirmed that humankind are no longer in existence on Planet Earth.
Weiv Retni: WHAT! I’m only seventeen! You’re telling me I’ve only got 34 years left to live?!
Romy: You *might* have 44 years. But yes, you, your family, and everyone you know will die.
Weiv Retni: Crapola. Guess I better start stockpiling baked beans and cream rice.
Romy: You’d do better to try and lobby for solutions to global warming. You still have time.
Weiv Retni: Good idea! I’ll put it on my ‘to do’ list. But back to you, you’ll get back to Earth, right? How can you live for 850 years?
Romy: One day, if I’m very, very lucky, I’ll see Earth again. If I avoid being blown up, ’ll just continue to be recycled every 23 years. Unless something else bad happens. But things hardly ever go wrong.
Weiv Retni: Yikes…let’s hope those aren’t famous last words!
When Kelly St Clare is not reading or writing, she is lost in her latest reverie. She can, quite literally, drift past a car accident while in the midst of her day dreams, despite the various police sirens and chaos.
Books have always been magical and mysterious to her. One day she decided to start unravelling this mystery and began writing. Her aim: To write stories she would want to read. As it turns out, this failed miserably. Do you know what it is like to read something you’ve written? Impossible, that’s what. Not to mention, the ending is ruined before you’ve begun. Never-the-less, Kelly loves it and wishes she had more time to squeeze it in between her day job as a physiotherapist.
Fantasy of Frost, the first title in The Tainted Accords, is her debut novel. It’s sequel, Fantasy of Flight, was released on May 24th, 2015. Fantasy of Fire is due for release January 2016!
A New Zealander in origin and in heart, Kelly currently resides in Australia with her soon-to-be husband, a great group of friends, and some huntsman spiders who love to come inside when it rains. Their love is not returned.
Fav quote: Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint on broken glass.
Fav Song: I believe in a thing called love – The Darkness
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