The Aftermath (Asteroid Wars Series #4)

The Aftermath (Asteroid Wars Series #4)

3.5 4
by Ben Bova, Emily Janice Card, Gabrielle de Cuir, Stephen Hoye

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In Ben Bova's Aftermath, in the wake of the Asteroid Wars that tore across the solar system, Victor Zacharius makes his living running the ore-carrier Syracuse. When the Syracuse stumbles into the middle of a military attack on the habitat Chrysalis, Victor flees in a control pod to draw the attacker’s attention away from his family.


In Ben Bova's Aftermath, in the wake of the Asteroid Wars that tore across the solar system, Victor Zacharius makes his living running the ore-carrier Syracuse. When the Syracuse stumbles into the middle of a military attack on the habitat Chrysalis, Victor flees in a control pod to draw the attacker’s attention away from his family. Now, as his wife and children plunge into the far deeps of space, Victor has been rescued by the seductive Cheena Madagascar. He must do her bidding if he’s to have a prayer of ever seeing his family again.


Elverda Apacheta, the solar system’s greatest sculptor, and the cyborg Dorn, the ruthless military commander responsible for the attack on Chrysalis, are linked by their joint discovery of an alien artifact. Similarly transformed by the artifact’s mysterious powers, Apacheta and Dorn now prowl the Belt, determined to find the bodies of the many victims of Harbin’s atrocities so that they can be given proper burials. Kao Yuan is the captain of Viking who’s determined to kill Dorn and Elverda because they know too much about the artifact and its power. But Viking’s second-in-command appears to have the real power on board ship.  When Viking catches up to Apacheta and Dorn, their confrontation begins a series of events involving them, the Zacharius family, and the transformation of the human solar system…

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Immensely entertaining. A crackling read.”–SFX on The Precipice

“Bova gets better and better, combining plausible science with increasingly complex fiction.”—Los Angeles Daily News on Venus

"Clearly read by multiple narrators (Janice Card and others), this book provides the listener with a varied atmosphere that counters the sometimes perplexing yet fast-paced turn of events. Fans of Bova will especially appreciate this space thriller." - The Library Journal

Publishers Weekly

Hugo-winner Bova's fourth Asteroid Wars novel (after 2004's The Silent War) is a bewildering attempt to exploit loose ends. When crazed assassin Dorik Harbin disables the spaceship Syracuse, an ore-carrier run by Victor Zacharias, Victor is forced to jettison an escape pod containing his wife and children. Unfortunately, the Zacharias family's desperate efforts to survive are lost among a host of other stories. While son Theo and daughter Angela battle incredible odds to make their way back to inhabited space, Victor steals another spaceship, Pleiades, and goes looking for his family and Syracuse. Various other characters, including Harbin, who becomes a repentant priest named Dorn, go on quests in other spaceships. Chapters are named for the spacecraft in which they take place, which helps orient readers, but Bova doesn't focus enough on the technical features of these ships or the natures of those in them to bring either to life. The action remains equally muddled. (Aug.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

When the ore-carrier Syracuseinadvertently gets involved in a military action, owner Victor Zacharias uses an escape pod to divert attention from his wife and family, who continue without him into deep space. Until he can reunite with them, Zacharias must accede to the wishes of his seductive rescuer, Cheena Madagascar. When a series of events brings Zacharias together with a pair of survivors of the Asteroid Wars, sculptor Elverda Apacheta and the cyborg known as Dorn, and with industrialist Martin Humphries, the stage is set for a world-transforming encounter. Award-winning sf veteran Bova continues his future history with another installment of space battles and human drama. Solid science and masterly storytelling make this a good addition to most sf collections.

—Jackie Cassada

Product Details

Macmillan Audio
Publication date:
Asteroid Wars Series, #4
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 6.66(h) x 1.55(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Aftermath

Book Four of the Asteroid Wars

By Ben Bova, Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2007 Ben Bova
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7653-8957-2




I wage not any feud with Death
For changes wrought on form and face;
No lower life that earth's embrace
May breed with him, can fright my faith.


"Don't touch that switch!"


His father's shouted warning made Theo Zacharias jerk upright. He banged his head painfully on the steel shelf that jutted out over the power bus recess set into the floor plates of the cramped compartment.

"You could trip all the breakers on the power bus," Victor Zacharias admonished his son. "The whole damned ship would go dark."

Fifteen-year-old Theo sat there surrounded by relays and circuit breakers, his knees poking up from the recess like a pair of folded ladders. He rubbed his throbbing head with one hand and glowered sullenly at his father.

"How many times do I have to tell you to be careful?" Victor demanded. "Do you have any idea of how many megavolts are in those circuits?"

"Twenty-two point six," Theo muttered. "You've told me often enough."

Victor offered a hand to his son and helped to pull him out of the recess. "I'll handle it," he said, climbing down to where the teenager had been.

"Yeah. Right," said Theo, thinking he knew what his father had left unsaid: Never send a boy to do a man's job.

Nearly an hour later Victor clambered out of the recess and hunched beneath the low overhead alongside Theo.

"That ought to hold until we get back to Ceres," he said. "Come on, Thee, help me put the deck plates back in place."

Theo skinned his knuckles wrestling with the heavy deck plates, but he avoided mashing his fingers, as he'd done once before. The fingernail on his left ring finger was still black from that one. They finished and crabbed out into the passageway, where they could at last stand erect. Theo stretched to his full height, several centimeters taller than his father. While Victor was thickset and bullnecked, his once-trim midsection had spread, stretching the fabric of his coveralls. Theo was tall and slender, but youthfully awkward, all gangling arms and legs. Victor's hair was jet black and thickly curled; Theo's was a light sandy brown, like his mother's.

"How's your head?" Victor asked gruffly as they started back toward the living quarters.

Theo rubbed the spot he had whacked. "No lump," he said. He flexed the fingers where he'd skinned his knuckles; the hand stung, but not badly.

"This old vessel needs a lot of tender loving care," Victor said, more to himself than to his son. "We've got to nurse her along until we put in at Ceres for a major overhaul."

Theo started to reply, but his mouth went dry. He knew what he wanted to say, but found that it wasn't easy to speak the words. At last, working up his courage, he tried, "Dad, when we get to Ceres ..." But the words dried up in his throat.

His father's expression turned hard. "What about when we get back to Ceres?"

Theo blurted, "I don't want to spend the rest of my life taking care of this rust bucket."

"Neither do I, son. I thought we'd spend a year or two out here in the Belt and then cash in. But it hasn't worked out that way. The years just seem to slip past."

Theo had heard the sad story many times before. "I don't want to be a rock rat all my life," he said.

"You don't want to be like me, is that it?" Victor asked, his voice suddenly sharp.

Feeling miserable, Theo replied, "It's not that, Dad. It's ... jeeze, there's got to be more to life than running around the Belt picking up ores and delivering them to Ceres, for cripes sake."

"Don't let your mother hear that kind of language. She expects you to be a gentleman."

"Yeah, I know," Theo sighed.

More softly Victor said, "Theo, this ship is our home. It's our whole life —"

"Your life," Theo muttered. "I want something more."

"Like what?"

"I don't know. I'm not sure. I'm getting good grades in my science classes."

"High school classes over the ednet are a far cry from real science, Thee."

"The guidance program says my test scores are good enough for a scholarship."

"Scholarships pay tuition. Who's going to pay all the other expenses?"

"I can work, support myself. Selene University scholarships include transportation, at least."

"Selene?" Victor stopped in the middle of the passageway, forcing Theo to stop and turn to face him. "You want to go to the Moon?"

"Just long enough to get a degree in biology."

"And then what?"

"Maybe I could go to the research station at Jupiter. They need biologists to study the life forms there."

"Jupiter," Victor murmured, shaking his head. He clutched at his son's arm hard enough almost to hurt. "A biologist. At the Jupiter station."

"If I'm good enough to make it."

"You'll have to be pretty damned good," Victor told his son. Then he chuckled and added, "If you don't kill yourself first trying to keep this ship going."

Theo did not laugh.


"Let's face it, Mom," Theo mumbled into his bowl of yogurt and honey, "Dad doesn't trust me. He thinks I'm still a kid."

His mother, Pauline, stood at the one microwave oven that was still functioning and smiled understandingly at her son.

"I don't think that's true, Theo," she said gently.

"I'm fifteen!" Theo burst. "Almost sixteen! And he still doesn't trust me with anything."

"Your father has an awful lot of responsibility on his shoulders," Pauline replied. "This ship, our lives ... there's a war going on out there, you know."

"And he doesn't trust me."

Pauline sighed, wondering if the microwave was functioning properly. Syracuse was an old, creaking bucket of an ore carrier. The family spent most of their time on maintenance and repairs, just trying to keep the vessel going on its lonely circuit through the Asteroid Belt. The galley was a tight little compartment, its bulkheads and deck scuffed and dulled from long years of use.

Theo sat hunched over his bowl, muttering unhappily into his unfinished breakfast. His sister Angela, sitting across the galley's narrow table from Theo, was slightly more than two years older; she was still carrying more weight than she should, still wearing an extra layer of teenage fat. Theo taunted her about it. She responded by calling her lanky, gawky brother "the giraffe."

When Pauline looked at her daughter she could see a dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty waiting to blossom. We'll have to be careful about her once we put in at Ceres, she reminded herself. There'll be plenty of young men chasing after her.

"Dad's got enough to worry about, Thee," Angie said, in the authoritative voice of an older sister.

"I could help him if he'd let me," Theo grumbled.

"Like you fixed the leak in the fuel tank? Dad had to come down and —"

"Hydrogen's tricky stuff!" he protested. "It seeps right through ordinary seals."

"Never send a giraffe to do a man's job." Angela smirked.

"Like you'd do better, hippo?"

"Mom! He's calling me names again!"

"You started it!"

"Both of you, stop this at once," Pauline said firmly. "I won't have you calling each other ugly names."

The microwave dinged at last. As Pauline opened it and pulled out her own breakfast of steaming oatmeal, she said, "Let me talk to your father about this, Thee. Perhaps there's something that we can do."

Theo brightened a bit and sat up a little straighter. "I could pilot the ship into Ceres!"

"I don't know...."

"Dad lets Angie pilot the ship sometimes."

"I'm more mature than you," Angela said loftily. "You have to be reliable, you know."

But their mother smiled. "We'll see."


Pauline Zacharias looked into the mirror as she sat at her dresser. I'm getting old, she realized, studying the fine lines that were beginning to spiderweb across her face.

She had never been a beauty, not in her own critical estimation. Her jaw was too long, she thought, her lips too thin. Her gray eyes were large and Victor often called them luminous, the dear. But her hair. It was sorrowful. Dirty blonde. Victor called it sandy. It never behaved. Pauline had cropped it short, close to the skull, and still it stuck out all around in a sea of cowlicks. She tried to consider her good points: she was tall and her figure still slimly elegant. She had always strived to carry herself proudly, chin up, shoulders back, head erect. Now she was beginning to wonder if it was worth the effort.

Victor stepped into the bedroom and slid the door shut. The lock didn't catch at first; he had to jiggle it a few times.

"This whole tub is breaking down around our ears," Victor Zacharias muttered.

He was right, Pauline knew. Glancing around their bedroom she saw that the dresser and cabinets were badly in need of upgrading. Even the wall screens had developed an annoying little flicker. But the bed, she would never replace their bed. Victor had ripped out the compartment's built-in bunk when they'd first leased Syracuse, and he'd built a handsome oversized bed with his own hands. Painted the plastic paneling to resemble real wood. Made a mattress out of discarded elastic water bags. Their one luxury, their bed.

"We'll do an overhaul when we get to Ceres, won't we?" she asked.

"I was just talking to Ceres," he said, walking across the little compartment and kissing her absently on the crown of her head. "Three more ore ships have been hit, so prices are up."

"Three ships?" she asked, alarmed.

"Corporation ships, Pauline. Nobody's attacking the few independents, like us. Not even the mercenaries."

"Still ..."

Ignoring her unspoken fears, Victor mused, "If we can get this cargo of ore to the market before prices dip again, we'll make a nice profit. Then we can overhaul the ship good and proper."

"Will we be able to afford a rejuve therapy, too?" Pauline blurted.

"Rejuvenation?" Victor looked genuinely shocked. "You? Why?"

She loved him, not least because her husband always seemed to see her through adoring eyes. He was short, barrel-chested, starting to get potbellied. That hardly mattered to her. His real strength, Pauline knew, was in his character. Victor Zacharias had pride, yes, but more than that he had intelligence. When she'd first met him, Victor had been strong enough to bend steel rods with his bare hands. What really impressed her, though, was that he was sharp enough to talk his way out of confrontations, clever enough to win fights without violence.

And he had that beautiful, thick, curly, midnight black hair. Pauline envied her husband's luxuriant dark ringlets. This many months out in the Belt, he had allowed his hair to grow down to his collar.

"I think it's time for a treatment," Pauline said. "I'm not getting any younger."

"Pah!" He dismissed the idea with a wave of his hand. "People back at Ceres think you and Angie are sisters."

"That's not true, Vic, and you know it."

"It is true," he insisted. "You just don't notice it."

"Nonsense." But she smiled.

He sat beside her, just one hip on the corner of the dresser's little padded bench, and put an arm around her slender waist.

"You're gorgeous, Pauline," he said into the mirror.

"Not as gorgeous as I used to be."

He raised his dark brows, then took a breath. "I think it's gilding the lily, but if you want a rejuve treatment when we get back to Ceres, go ahead and do it."

"We'll be able to afford it?"

He nodded. She leaned her head on his shoulder and he curled around and kissed her.

And slid off the bench, plopping onto the threadbare carpet. They laughed together.

Later, as they lay in their handsome waterbed together, Pauline said into the shadows, "Victor, Theo thinks you don't trust him."


She turned toward him, sending a gentle wave through the bed. In the darkened room she could make out the curve of his bulky shoulder, the outline of those raven ringlets.

"He wants more responsibility, darling. He's almost sixteen now —"

"And he's a terrible klutz," Victor said, chuckling. "All arms and legs, no coordination."

Pauline smiled, too. She remembered Theo's disastrous attempt to repair one of the galley's faulty microwave ovens. It was functioning poorly when Theo started tinkering with it. It was a complete loss by the time he gave up.

But she coaxed, "You could let him relieve you in the command pod now and then, couldn't you? Like you let Angie sit in. After all, the ship's cruising on automatic, isn't it?"

"We're on course for Ceres, yes."

"Couldn't Thee watch the panels for an hour or two? It would free you up to work on repairs. And it would mean so much to him."

"As long as he doesn't touch anything," Victor muttered.

"Maybe he could even work with you on more of the maintenance chores," Pauline suggested.

"I'm not sure I have the patience for that," he said.

"But you'll give him a chance?"

She sensed him smiling.

"He wants to go to Selene University and study biology," he said.

"Leave us?" She felt startled by the thought.

"Sooner or later," said Victor. "I can't keep him on this ship against his will. Not for long."

"But he's not even sixteen."

"He will be." Victor fell silent for a moment. Then, "I wonder what kind of a man he'll turn out to be. I've tried to teach him...."

"Give him a chance," Pauline urged. "Show him that you trust him."

"I suppose you're right," he said softly. "I'll have to give him a try."


Syracuse was shaped like a giant wheel, with two long intersecting spokes bracing the rim: a pair of three-kilometer-long buckyball tubes running perpendicular to each other. The ship's control center was nothing more than a pod attached to the rim at the end of one of the spokes: The ship spun slowly through space, producing a sense of almost a full Earth gravity along the rim of the wheel.

"Now remember," Victor said to his son, "watch everything, touch nothing."

Sitting in the control pod's command chair with his father standing at his shoulder, Theo nodded unhappily.

"This is a big responsibility, son. I'm going to leave you in charge for a couple of hours."

To Theo, his father's heavy-browed, dark-haired face looked somehow menacing. Victor looked like a solid, sawed-off stump of a tree, his torso thick and powerful. He wore faded gray shorts and a sweatshirt, the sleeves cut off to show his hairy, muscular arms. Theo kept his own skinny arms hidden inside long sleeves.

The command chair in which Theo sat was wedged into a curving bank of screens that displayed every aspect of Syracuse's systems: propulsion, navigation, life support, logistics supplies, communications, emergency equipment, and the fourteen thousand tons of asteroidal ores held in magnetic grips at the center of the slowly turning buckyball tubes.

"We're on the approach course for Ceres. The controls are locked in, so you don't have to worry about navigation. Are you sure you can handle the responsibility of being in command?" Victor asked anxiously.

That's a laugh and a half, Theo said to himself. The ship's on automatic and I'm in command of nobody. Plus I'm not supposed to touch anything. Some responsibility.

Misunderstanding his son's silence, Victor said, "It's a dangerous world out there, Thee. There's a war going on."

"I know," Theo muttered.

"Ships have been attacked, destroyed. People killed."

"Dad, the war's between the big corporations. Nobody's bothered independent ships, like us."

"True enough," Victor admitted, "but there are mercenaries roaming around out there and out-and-out pirates like Lars Fuchs —"

"You told me Fuchs only attacks corporate ships," Theo said. "You said he's never bothered an independent."

Victor nodded gravely. "I know. But I want you to keep your wits about you. If anything unusual happens — anything at all — you call me at once. Understand?"


"At once," Victor emphasized.

Theo looked up at his father. "Okay, okay."

With a million doubts showing clearly on his face, Victor reluctantly went to the command pod's hatch. He hesitated, as if he wanted to say something more to his son, then shrugged and left the pod.

Theo resisted the impulse to throw a sarcastic two-fingered salute at the old man.

At least, he thought, it's a beginning. I'll just sit here and let him take over once we've entered Ceres-controlled space. It's a beginning. At least Mom got him to let me babysit the instruments.

Slightly more than an hour later, Theo sat in the command chair, his brows knitted in puzzlement at the fuzzy image displayed on the ship's main communications screen.

Syracuse was still more than an hour away from orbital insertion at Ceres. But something strange was happening. Theo stared at the crackling, flickering image of a darkly bearded man who seemed to be making threats to the communications technician aboard the habitat Chrysalis, in orbit around Ceres, where the rock rats made their home. The image on the display screen was grainy, the voices broken up by interference. The stranger was aiming his message at Chrysalis: Theo had picked up the fringe of his comm signal as the ore ship coasted toward the asteroid.

"Please identify yourself," said a calm, flat woman's voice: the comm tech at Chrysalis, Theo figured. "We're not getting any telemetry data from you."

The dark-bearded man replied, "You don't need it. We're looking for Lars Fuchs. Surrender him to us and we'll leave you in peace."

Lars Fuchs? Theo thought. The pirate. The guy who attacks ships out here in the Belt.


Excerpted from The Aftermath by Ben Bova, Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Copyright © 2007 Ben Bova. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.


Meet the Author

A six-time winner of science fiction’s Hugo Award, a former editor of Analog and former fiction editor of Omni, and a past president of the National Space Society and the Science Fiction Writers of America, Ben Bova is the author of over a hundred works of science fact and fiction. He lives in Florida.


Emily Janice Card has read a number of audiobooks, including Ben Bova's The Aftermath, Orson Scott Card's Ender in Exile, Lisa Gardner's The Neighbor, and several titles by Kimberly Willis Holt. Card  is an actor, singer, and writer from North Carolina.  On screen, she's appeared in The Delivery.  Her stage work includes The Importance of Being Earnest, Bye Bye Birdie, The Fantasticks, and Once Upon a Mattress.  She also adapted and starred in the play A Sepulcher of Songs, based on a short story by her father, Orson Scott Card. 


Gabrielle de Cuir is a Grammy-nominated and Audie Award-winning producer whose narrating credits include the voice of Valentine in Orson Scott Card’s Ender novels, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Tombs of Atuan, and Natalie Angier’s Woman, for which she was awarded AudioFile magazine’s Golden Earphones. She lives in Los Angeles where she also directs theatre and presently has several projects in various stages of development for film.


Stephen Hoye has worked as an actor for more than 30 years, with roles in films such as The Delivery, Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, Little Shop of Horrors, and Spies Like Us. On television, he's been seen in The Return of Shelley, Drop the Dead Donkey, and Crossroads. He's also appeared on stage in Henry V and Love's Labours Lost, both at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park, London.


Stephen is an Audie Award and Earphones Award winner. His audiobook career includes reading dozens of audiobooks, including James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia, Michael Lewis’s The Blind Side, Carl Hiaasen's Skinny Dip, and Ben Bova's The Aftermath. Stephen trained at Boston University and The Guildhall in London.


Stefan Rudnicki was born in Poland and now resides in Studio City, California. He has narrated more than 100 audiobooks, and has participated in more than a thousand as a narrator, writer, producer, or director. He is a recipient of multiple Audie Awards and AudioFile Earphones Awards as well as a Grammy Award as an audiobook producer. Along with casts of other narrators, Stefan has read a number of Orson Scott Card's best-selling science fiction novels, published by Macmillan Audio. In reviewing the 20th anniversary edition audiobook of Card’s Ender's Game, Publishers Weekly stated, "Card's phenomenal emotional depth comes through in the quiet, carefully paced speech of each performer...In particular, Rudnicki, with his lulling, sonorous voice, does a fine job articulating Ender's inner struggle between the kind, peaceful boy he wants to be and the savage, violent actions he is frequently forced to take. This is a wonderful way to experience Card's best-known and most celebrated work, both for longtime fans and for newcomers."

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Aftermath 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
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harstan More than 1 year ago
The Asteroid Wars (see THE PRECIPICE, THE ROCK RATS, and THE SILENT WAR) are for now over as a fragile cessation of hostility has occurred. In this tentative solar system peace, Victor Zacharius ekes out a living by carrying ore between planets on his vessel the Syracuse. His family travels with him. However, misfortune hammers at the Zacharis brood when he inadvertently steers the Syracuse towards Chrysalis during a military assault led by former merciless commander Dorik Harbin now a ruthless cyborg Dorn who is tied by the ancient artifact to sculptor great Elverda Apacheta. They search for the dead to bury them while the Viking with Martin Humphries, also under the artifact¿s power, seeks to destroy them. Meanwhile Cheena Madagascar rescues Victor, but at what cost as the various ships converge with the ancient artifact seemingly in control of everyone. --- The fourth Asteroid War tale continues the saga although a tentative peace has ended the hostilities. The story line is fast-paced as the ships begin an encounter that will change much more than just those on board. Although the ending seems off kilter for this action-packed outer space thriller, fans will appreciate Ben Bova¿s Grand Tour of the solar system. --- Harriet Klausner