It's been a year since Humanity rose up against their alien oppressors and took back Earth from the Sorracchi. The war left Earth devastated, crippled, but not beaten. Under the leadership of President Nick Tanner and in collaboration with their new Areth and Umani allies, the Earth seeks stable ground again.
John Smith of the Areth was a soldier before his queen asked him to serve as ambassador to Earth, and he is out of his element. Restricted in his position from carrying a weapon, he has no way of defending himself or his adopted son when the Xenos -- a group of Humans wishing to purge the Earth of all alien influence -- decide they want him dead.
Jenifer is a soldier for hire, and answers to no one but her own common sense. She first refused the "job" of serving as John's bodyguard, but a glimpse at the heart of the man convinces her to accept the responsibility.
John has two faces: a soldier and an ambassador of peace. Jenifer has two faces: the steel-skinned warrior and the forgotten person she once was. Too many people hide behind masks, and it's those hiding who want John dead.
John tried to sleep, but his body had gone too far past tired to allow him to rest. His body ached with exhaustion, his limbs heavy. Each blink was a chore, but when he closed his eyes to sleep, his mind refused to rest. Thoughts piled on top of each other, vying for priority. Meetings he needed to prepare for over the next week, data he needed to review and compile for the agricultural reconstruction committee, the one-on-one meeting he had scheduled with Drucillus Clodianus Hiacyntus in just a few hours -- all things he knew should be dealt with, it was his duty.
But they all paled beneath the heavy knot in his chest left behind by the absence of his son and the tragedy of the Boston tunnel collapse. And every painful bit of his own personal tragedies re-awakened. He had let the visceral reaction snap out of him in Nick's office, and knew he had overwhelmed Beverly with the intensity of it, and it had been a chore to rein it all in to deal with the situation. Now, with nothing more than his own thoughts to distract him, planning meetings was inadequate to push the memories aside.
Sleep was impossible.
The clock beside his bed said 3:42 when he finally tossed off the twisted and rumpled bedding and walked barefoot through the dark apartment to the kitchen, not bothering with a tee shirt despite the cold bite in the air. The second and third levels of the embassy had been designed to be living spaces for himself and the Umani ambassador. Since Ambassador Drucillus Clodianus Hiacyntus usually preferred to sleep aboard his private carrier holding orbit in the airspace over Virginia, John and Silas were usually the only inhabitants of the embassy. Silas was gone, replaced by the brash and assertive Jenifer with no last name.
He hadn't figured her out yet, but also accepted he probably never would. She was beautiful, but in a Southern Bagdaghir Desert Black Scorpion kind of way; sleek and mesmerizing, even graceful and seductive, but everything about her said, "Back off or risk being stung."
The kitchen was simple, providing only the basics, just like the rest of the apartment. A sharp contrast to the embassy accommodations provided to the seven Umani ambassadors to Aretu, which were equivalent to palaces in comparison. Even if Earth had been able to provide John with that type of living quarters, he doubted he would have wanted it. Too many years of living on a farm or sleeping under the stars. John opened the small refrigeration unit provided and removed a bottle of purified water.
He contemplated making some of the coffee in the tin on the counter, but decided against it. If he drank the strong brew, sleep would be even more impossible. Besides that, he hadn't developed the taste for coffee like so many Humans had. It reminded him too much of the thick, bitter drink called Kouffa on Zibal. He'd drank it only once because Tahlia had smiled, her violet eyes practically twinkling with mischief, and told him it was delicious.
He paused, the bottle of water half way to his lips. Memories of Tahlia had been numerous, and sometimes vicious, since they'd heard the news of the Boston tunnel collapse that afternoon. It was like a new wound, everything reminded him of it.
John took a last swallow from the bottle and left the kitchen, leaving the bottle on the counter. He moved through the apartment in darkness until he reached the large windows facing out the front of the embassy onto the street below. The majority of the city was in complete darkness, barely a silhouette against the starlit night, with only the moon to cast any form of light. Even in the darkness, he saw the remaining destruction from the attack on him just a week before. The building across the street was missing an entire section of brick from the impact of the hovercar, and portions of the street were darker from the burn of the explosions and pulse charges.
He crossed his arms over his chest and bowed his head, closing his eyes. It seemed nothing was exempt from the thoughts and memories of twenty years past that were determined to keep him awake.
How to find me:
Email me at Gail@GailDelaney.com and I'll send you a free short story that stands as a prequel to The Phoenix Rebellion.