Wednesday, August 20, 2014

FFBC Blog Tour: Athena's Ashes (Star Thief Chronicles #2) by Jamie Grey

Publisher: Clever Crow Press
Release Date: August 26th 2014
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It’s Renna’s biggest job yet – convincing MYTH leadership that she’s put away her lock picks and is ready to save the galaxy, despite the dangerous implant in her brain. But with the Athena on the run, she’s working solo and facing her most ruthless enemy, the traitor Pallas, who’ll go to any lengths to destroy the MYTH organization. Including framing Renna for a devastating assault on MYTH HQ that leaves their defenses crippled and hundreds dead. 

Now that MYTH believes she’s a dangerous double-agent, Renna escapes their firing squad before they put more holes in her than a pair of fishnet stockings. But the ticking time-bomb in her head is the one thing Pallas needs to complete his master plan and he’s not about to let her get away. Even worse, he’s discovered the only thing that will bring Renna to her knees – threatening Captain Nick Finn.

Out of time and options, Renna’s got one shot to take down the traitor before he annihilates everything she loves, even though winning this battle may cost her everything.

by Jamie Grey


For someone who was supposed to be the best thief in the galaxy, Renna had been spending entirely too much time locked up lately.
Not that a high-security hospital room in a secret MYTH base was much of a prison for her, but the IV line snaking from her arm might as well have been a pair of Saltani iron handcuffs. She swung her feet over the edge of the lumpy bed and watched the holoscreen on the far wall. Stats scrolled past, red text on the black background. Her vitals were stable; blood pressure was fine. Looking at her chart, she was the picture of health.
Except for the cybernetic implant taking over her mind.
Renna rubbed the back of her neck where the original incision site had started to throb. It had been doing that a lot lately, thanks to Navangs depraved experiments and the drugs hed injected her with. Drugs hed used to create a whole army of human-robot hybrids.
Thana Samil, the MYTH doctor in charge of her case, said it was nothing to worry about, but Renna knew better. In the five days shed been locked up here in the MYTH facility, the pain in her head had only gotten worse.
And then there were the weird side effects. She hadnt stepped foot outside her room, but she knew a bank of super-servers sat in the northeast corner of the facility, as if shed drawn the blueprints herself. Communications relays resided on each corner of the roof. Shed even felt the throb of the automated defense cannons guarding the facility.
If the doctor and her team didnt figure out how to slow down the integration between the implant and her nervous system, Renna would be a walking machine before she had the chance to stop the person behind all this.
If Rennas hunch was right, the traitor was close enough to touch. Maybe even inside this facility. But shed never find him if she was trapped here for the rest of her short life. She slid off the bed to pace the stark room, careful not to disturb the needles in her arm. Six steps to the door. Turn around. Six steps back to the bed.
Shed done this to herself. Shed volunteered to be locked away and dissected, just to keep Myka Aldani safe. To keep Finn safe.
Her pacing slowed as a pang of longing shot through her. Captain Nick Finn. Former gang member turned MYTH soldier and her first childhood crush. Now, she suspected that shed fallen in love with him, which worried her. Renna had spent most of her life making sure that didnt happen. Yet somehow his bright blue eyes, square jaw, and straight-laced moral code had slipped through her defenses.
And oh, the way his fingers had tantalizingly stroked her most sensitive places
Renna felt herself go warm as she remembered the last time shed been with him. Shed escaped from Navang, but not before hed started the process of taking over her implant. Finn had spent the night in her room, waiting for her to regain consciousness, and shed practically begged him to make love to her. She could still feel the heat of his skin. She inhaled, half-expecting to smell his scentsandalwood, gun grease, and something that was inexplicably him.
She needed to know what was going on between them, and if that meant more bunk-side exploration, shed totally take one for the team. But until she knew how to stop Pallas and put an end to these experiments, she wasnt going anywhere, despite the urge she had to run back to Finn. Shed stay in this facility and let them poke and prod her, just to protect him and Myka. Even if it made her crazy.
The lock on her door beeped, and high-heeled shoes clacked across the threshold. Speak of the devil.
Renna turned as Dr. Samil entered the room. The young doctor wore a pleasant smile despite the slightly frazzled appearance of her long blonde hair escaping the messy bun she always wore. Renna leaned back against the edge of her bed. Do you always have to look so happy at the prospect of stabbing me with those instruments of torture?
Dr. Samils blue eyes sparkled. For someone whos done her share of killing, I cant believe you have a needle phobia.
We all have our weaknesses, Renna said with a shrug. Pointy, shiny, metal bloodsuckers just happen to be mine.
Samil set her holopad down on the counter and pressed her thumb to the scanner to unlock the drawer. She pulled out a tray of tools. I guess its time for the torture to begin.
The doctor brushed her bangs back off her forehead, and Renna gritted her teeth as she slid back onto the bed, preparing to be poked.
Howd the last test go? Is the implant fusing normally? Renna stared pointedly at the far wall as Samil fumbled with the glinting needles on the tray. Or whatever normal is in this fucked-up situation.
The doctor shook her head, flicking a finger against one of the syringes before pushing the plunger. Pink-tinged liquid squirted from the needle. I wish I knew. I havent seen anything like this before. Its fascinating. Her voice was full of that breathless excitement Renna had come to hate. Whatever Dr. Navang did prompted your ordinarily harmless implant to start fusing directly with your nervous system. If my hunch is right, any other cybernetic implants installed during this time would also fuse to your body. You could even start picking up other electronic signals.
Renna flinched. Not only because of the quick jab of pain as the doctor deftly slid the needle into her arm, but because she was already picking up those electronic signals. Things were progressing faster than the doctor knew.
Relax. I promise this wont hurt.
Thats what Navang said. Renna tilted her head and fixed Samil with a frown. And look how that turned out.
The doctor finished injecting Renna with whatever drug cocktail she was trying today, then smiled. There. Wasnt so bad, was it? I promise I dont like torturing you any more than you like being tortured. Unfortunately, I need one more sample to check your antibody levels.
Of course you do. Renna grudgingly let the woman extract a vial of blood and then crossed her arms as Samil slipped the vial into her pocket. So what did you mean about the other implants?
Dr. Samil nodded as she tapped some information into her tablet. Navang wanted to create an army of hybrids he could control, right? Well, the first step was to keep their bodies from rejecting the modified implants he installed. But it didnt work. His technique destroyed some of their own tissue and risked the constant rejection of the implants. Hence the need for a steady infusion of the anti-rejection medications.
The new formula he tested on you was a different attempt at the same thing. If he could find a way to make your body fuse with the implant, make it think it was part of itself, eventually technology could overtake biology. Even better, when the process was complete, depending on the type of implant, he could have different types of soldiers. Hed be able to control them all using his neural network. Theyd be nothing but mindless robots until he gave them orders.
Samils voice rose as she spoke, her gestures growing even more animated, but a dull ache had started in Rennas stomach. She remembered the expressionless eyes of the minions at Navangs lab as shed slaughtered them to ensure Finn and Mykas escape. Her heart squeezed as she recalled Viktiss assurance that she would make it. Her skin crawled at the realization that she was nothing more than an experiment to the doctor, a shiny new toy to be studied until the novelty waned.
But this was Rennas life. She wasnt going to sit here helpless while other people tried to save her. How long do I have? she interrupted before Samil could get even more excited. The woman positively hummed.
Samil paused, blinking at Renna. Of course. Right. My assistant has had some success in creating a new drug to slow the fusion. Its not exact, but Im hopeful it will work. Wispy, flyaway hairs floated around her face like a halo as she shook her head. Im confident well have a breakthrough soon. I promise well figure this out.
Dont make promises you cant keep, Doctor. The headaches are getting worse every day. Renna rubbed at her sore temples, closing her eyes as a wave of pain started to build. She shored up the walls surrounding her heart and refused to even think about losing the connection shed made with Finn. On the plus side, if your drugs dont work and the implant takes over my brain, I hear metal body suits are all the rage this year.
Samil crossed her arms and leaned back against the table, a frown marring her pretty features. Youre awfully calm about this whole situation.
Renna shrugged. She was ten years younger than the doctor, but she suddenly felt like she was a hundred years older. Ive learned to deal with the unexpected in my line of work, doc. If you cant change something, you figure out how to work around it. Its the only way to survive.
Thats a cynical view of life for someone whos only twenty-three.
You saw my file. I grew up in the Izan tenements on Earth, with a prostitute for a mother and a background in stealing. Ive worked hard to move on, but growing up like that leaves a scar. Or two. Renna forced herself not to touch the physical scar on her neck, the daily reminder of that life and everything shed worked so hard to forget.
Thinking about her mothers attempt to kill her in a drug-induced rage still made Renna flush with shame and hatred. Still made her wary of trusting anyone. Even Finn.
Samils expression softened. I know. And for someone with your past, youve come a long way. Youre now part of an intergalactic organization, doing your part to save the universe. Youve become something bigger than just a thief. I admire you for that.
If I had a choice, I wouldve been long gone by now. Im no hero, and I certainly am not a team player. I dont need to depend on a galactic organization. I just need myself. Renna settled back against the pillows and crossed her arms. MYTH can keep its good deeds. Im just in this for the dental plan. And just maybe to make sure she got a shot at happily ever after.
Samil chuckled, and Renna felt a responding smile twist her lips. Despite the needles and the fact that the doctor viewed Renna as a science experiment, she liked the woman. Samil was whip-smart, and if anyone could solve this puzzle, it would be her.
What am I going to do with you, dove? the doctor asked with a shake of her head.
Save me, I hope. But the doctor could stop using that stupid nickname any time now. Thinking of Renna as a meek little dove was laughable.
Im doing my best. I do wish Navangs facility hadnt been destroyed. If I had access to his drugs and research, it would make all of this so much easier. Or even Myka Aldani. At one time, he was the key to all of this.
Rennas pulse jumped, and she dropped her gaze to the stark white tiles on the floor. This was exactly why shed sent Finn on the run with Myka. Destroying the facility had been the only way to stop the human-robot hybrid army Navang and Pallas were building, but it had also signed Rennas death warrant and put the kid in even more danger.
Had she made the right choice? Could she have stopped Navang another way?
Do you know why Captain Finn destroyed the place? Samil asked. It doesnt make sense. The captain doesnt disobey orders.
You know Finn? She clenched her hands in her lap at the unexpected pang of jealousy. The past seven years had changed Finn into a different person, and those years were wrapped in a protective cloak that seemed to surround his heart. He was different, but that Finn from her childhood still remained. Shed thought theyd have plenty of time to get to know him again, to figure out if there was, in fact, a relationship developing under her nose, but life never worked out the way she planned.
Samil nodded. I was ship doctor for a year on the Athena. Hes a good man. It must have been something big for him to turn his back on MYTH. Her blue eyes searched Rennas. Are you sure he didnt tell you anything?
A lump formed in her throat, and she had to swallow around it before answering. Finn and I didnt exactly get along when I came on board. Sticking to half-truths was the safest bet for now, until she figured out who she could trust.
Right. Id heard he was angry that Major Dallas wanted him to work with a thief on the last mission. You, I presume?
Guilty as charged. He wasnt likely to confide in me either way.
Probably not. I know how he felt about people like you. Samils eyes widened. I mean, people who dont follow the law. She shook her head with an apologetic frown. Im sorry, this isnt coming out right. I just mean Finns a good man. For him to go on the run from MYTH means something is seriously wrong.
Renna nodded. I get it. Im a thief. Untrustworthy. But I was hired to do a job and thats what I did.
I didnt mean anything by it, Renna. Im sorry. The doctor glanced at the door. Now that Ive put my foot in it, Im going to go make sure my assistant has your newest sample. Stay positive, Renna, its going to be fine.
I hope youre right because it feels like my brain is about to ooze out my ears.
Samil unlocked another drawer with her thumbprint and rummaged inside. She pulled out a small, flesh-colored disk. Here, put this medipatch on. It should help with the pain.
Renna slapped it on her arm. Thanks, doc. Ill see you later. Hopefully much, much later.

Samil smiled as she left. The door swished shut behind her, and the sound of the lock re-engaging echoed through the room.

Jamie Grey spent most of her childhood writing stories about princesses who saved the day and pretending to be a daring explorer. It wasn’t until much later that she realized she should combine the two. Now, as a tech-obsessed gamer geek, her novels mix amazing scientific developments, future worlds, and the remarkable characters that live in them.

Jamie lives in Michigan with her boyfriend and their pets, who luckily tolerate her overspending on tea, books, and video games. You can learn more about her at, or follow her on twitter via @jamie_grey.

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