Twelve years on the prison planet Erebus makes a man long for death. The worst part for Tannin Everette is that he was framed for murder. He's innocent. When the ship Imojenna lands for emergency repairs, Tannin risks everything to escape...only to find himself face to face with the captain's undeniably gorgeous sister.
Zahli Sherron isn't planning on turning Tannin in. In fact, she actually believes him. Sure, he's sexy as every kind of sin, but he's no criminal—so she hides him. But no one escapes from Erebus and lives to tell about it. With every day that passes, Zahli further risks the lives of the entire crew...even as she falls in love with a man she can never have for herself.
The Atrophy series is best enjoyed in order.
Book #1 Atrophy
Book #2 Quantum
Book #3 Diffraction
Book #4 Entropy
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
By Jess Anastasi, Robin Haseltine
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Jess Anastasi
All rights reserved.
Onboard the Imojenna, somewhere in void-space
"So, tell me how we're not going to explode this time?" Zahli Sherron grabbed onto the back of her brother's chair, the wail of multiple warning alarms and urgent flash of red emergency lights cutting right through her skull until her head throbbed.
If it weren't for the fact she knew the Imojenna was just a ship of mechanical parts, she would have sworn the old girl had a mind of her own. One that occasionally tried to kill them.
Dizzying weightlessness pulled at her as internal gravity failed, and she held tighter to the back of the captain's chair. That was all they needed — one more malfunction added to the impressive list of utilities already flat-lining. If the heat was anything to go by, environmentals had failed for the fifth time this month.
Rian slammed a fist against his console. "Come on you fat assed, lazy whore!"
"You know she always gets into a mood when you call her names." Gravity returned and Zahli's knees jarred when her feet thumped back down to the floor.
"I wouldn't have to call her names if she'd cooperate once in a while. Why aren't you belted in?" Rian glanced over his shoulder at her and wiped at the sweat running down the side of his face. Her brother turned his attention back to the display screen across the main viewport as data flashed, warning about the impending depressurization of the cargo bay from a hull breech. "Not the Grigorian liquor, you crotchety bitch!"
"Automated full ship lock down and venting of cargo bay in thirty seconds," the monotone voice of the Imojenna announced.
Frecking great. When the last lockdown had sectioned up the Imojenna, the bridge hadn't opened afterward with the rest of the ship, and it'd taken almost an entire rotation to override the command. She'd thought it kind of funny at the time because she'd been on the outside. Next time Rian tried to buy hull sections from a dodgy parts dealer on some backwater moon, a slap upside the head should remind him not to bother.
Not wanting to do any ceiling-surfing if gravs shut off again, Zahli fell into one of the emergency seats and raked the safety straps across her chest while the ship rumbled and shook as though it'd break apart at any second.
"Lianna, do something. That's two months' worth of currency about to be vacuumed into void-space." The glass, wood, and stone beads Rian wore in a thick band around his right wrist clinked against the crystal display as his hand shifted over the screen.
In the co-pilot's chair, Lianna Mackenzie leaned forward against her seat harness, attention focused on the display in front of her. "The only way I can stop it is to shut off hyper-engines and drop us out of void- space."
Oh no. Anxiety roiled through Zahli's stomach like she'd eaten a plate of bad replicated chicken. She tilted to the side and tried to see around Rian's big head, but couldn't quite make out the navigational data. "We can't just drop out of void-space. Where the hell are we?"
"Twenty seconds to vacuum and counting," Lianna reported.
"Just do it, pull us out." Rian swiped the information from his screen and tabbed up an open comm channel to the rest of the ship. "All hands, lock it down. Emergency drop out in fifteen seconds."
"Have I mentioned today how much I hate you, Rian?" Zahli closed her eyes and started counting down to the last possible second until she could hold her breath.
Last time they'd performed an emergency drop out of void-space, she'd spent half an hour after chucking up her breakfast. Only slightly better than the two hours she'd spent bringing up her dinner the time before that. She hooked her hands around the harness crisscrossing her chest, her breath too short already. She frecking hated this emergency procedure more than just about anything in the universe. Trying to take her mind off it, she focused on the familiar hum of the Imojenna's engines on hyper-drive, the tinkling of Rian's beads as he worked to keep the ship together, Lianna tapping a fingernail on her crystal display, and, in the background, the clanking, grating noise that signaled something wasn't quite right with their old Nirali class ship.
"Six seconds to go. Is everyone locked down?" Lianna's voice cut through all the other sounds, and Zahli tightened her hold on the straps until her knuckles ached.
"They'll have to be." Rian answered. "Take us out, Lianna."
Zahli blew out a hard breath as hyper-drive engines were shut off cold. The Imojenna vibrated and shuddered at a sharp frequency, bucking and clanking like a vessel on an uncontrolled entry. Zahli felt the pulsation aching through every cell in her body, as the inertial-dampeners attempted to cope with the extreme decrease in speed. If the inertial- dampeners failed they'd all end up splattered into nothingness, their bodies torn apart by opposing forces. She'd heard of it happening on ships in better condition than theirs. Gritting her teeth, she waited for normality to kick back in, the pain making it feel like forever when only a second or two passed.
At last she managed to gasp in a breath and everything settled back to where it should have been. The only evidence of their screaming plunge out of void-space was the ringing in her ears, slight burning in her limbs, and the way her brain was spinning inside her skull.
Then came the nausea, tearing up her insides like it always did, just when she'd started to think this time she might not get sick.
She forced her eyes open, hoping if she could see they were floating gently through space, it might help calm her stomach. The ship tilted beneath her in the way it always did when entering a planet's gravitational pull. The viewport was entirely blocked by the green-gray atmosphere of a world they'd dropped out too close to. The Imojenna had been dragged into outer orbit.
Swallowing down the burning sensation at the back of her throat, Zahli unclipped the safety harness with stiff fingers and forced herself to her feet. All she had to do was hold her breath and keep her stomach where is was meant to be until she got down to the medbay for the nausea meds they'd picked up last time they'd visited the Rim.
Although, she had to admit, the sight of her fearless brother slumped over his display screen, forehead resting on his folded arms, perked her right up.
"Rian, you might want to do something about the planet we're about to crash into."
He groaned and shook his head.
"You guys are so soft." With an impertinent grin, Lianna brought up data on the nearby planet, displaying it across the main viewport, blocking out the swirling greenish environment.
Zahli raised an eyebrow and scoffed. "Emergency drop outs might not make you sick, but I seem to remember someone blubbering like a baby when they walked through a spider web last time we visited Auberon."
"Spiders can kill you. And that wasn't a web, it was a frecking net."
Zahli forced her unsteady legs to cooperate and then shook Rian's shoulder.
"Come on, Captain. You're the one who ordered the drop out, now man up and get us out of this planet's atmosphere before we start free-falling."
Rian sat up, but only far enough to swivel in his chair and grab the small waste bag Lianna held out.
Zahli took a large step back, both hands on her stomach as if that would help keep it where it was meant to be. "Ergh, Rian, I really do hate you some days."
Breathing through another wave of nausea, she hurried from the bridge before his gagging started her off. She made her way across the lower half of the upper level where the common room, galley, and captain's quarters were situated, reaching the short flight of stairs. She clomped down the steps and over the landing as it turned back in a U shape. The lower corridor led to the medbay, almost directly underneath the bridge. Through the open doors, she could see Callan had beaten her there.
As she walked in, Callan knocked back a vial of the anti-nausea serum, blood on the side of his face trickling from a cut above his eye. The ship's security specialist always walked around strapped and holstered to the hilt with weapons, no matter that there was nowhere in the universe safer than onboard the Imojenna.
"Where's the doc?" she asked as she helped herself to a dose of the meds.
Callan shrugged as he grabbed a cloth and wiped the blood. "Not sure."
"You didn't get strapped in before Lianna hit the brakes?"
Callan coughed over a laugh. "Not quite. That's the third drop out this year. I'm starting to think he does it just for the shite of it."
"He was trying to save the cargo, though I'm sure if he'd thought about it for another few seconds, Lianna and he could have come up with a better solution." She knocked back the meds, relieved when the churning settled right away.
"You know when Rian says he's going through with something, there's pretty much nothing in this universe that'll stop him." Callan rifled through a few drawers and cabinets, then came up with an antiseptic wipe. "Though the drop outs are a bitch and a half. Makes me wonder what it's doing to the overall integrity in an old junker of a ship like this."
She sighed as she put the cap back on the meds. "He knows every inch of the Imojenna and what she can take, but he also knows we need to be able to eat this month, not to mention buy those parts. And without the shipment of Grigorian liquor, you know we won't be doing either."
"Ouch, jezus, that stings," Callan muttered after swiping the antiseptic over his cut. "We won't need to eat if we end up etherealized when the inertial dampeners fail next time we try it. Tell Rian that."
"Tell me what, Roarke?"
"Nothing I haven't already told you before, Cap'tin." The worst of the blood gone, Callan tossed the cloth into the laundry chute.
"Bit late for bothering with the meds, isn't it Rian?" Since this time she hadn't been the one reliving her last meal, she couldn't help but tease him.
"Hilarious." Rian crossed his arms and retreated to the doorway, leaning against the metal framework. "Lianna says we'll need to go dirt- side to fix the hull breach and we may need to buy parts. What's the verdict on credits?"
Zahli ran a few figures through her mind. "I'd planned a supply stop within the next week to buy fresh produce, but there's not much in the way of extra credits. We might be able to barter some of the liquor for parts, if we need them."
"I'll be telling Lianna to repair first, barter as a last resort. We've got that buyer waiting for us on the Rim willing to pay good money for the whole shipment of twenty cases." Rian straightened away from the door, resting a hand on his belt. "Besides, I don't think we'll find many customers in the market for liquor on this planet."
"Why, where are we?" Zahli crossed to the medbay viewport and looked out at the planet, able to see it as a whole now that Rian had set a course to shift them into a safe orbit.
Cold dread bloomed deep in her veins and spread outward as she spun back to face her brother. "The prison planet?"
Rian nodded, but the hard look on his face alone would have confirmed her fear. Besides, there was only one Erebus — the Inter-Planetary Coalition's answer to justice; an entire world accommodating the universe's worst criminals. She shivered, every horrific story she'd ever heard rushing into her mind.
Callan swore. "We're screwed. How were we not blown to tiny pieces as soon as we dropped out of void-space? The only ships allowed in Erebus's space have to be IPC sanctioned."
Rian shrugged. "I know people. Called in a few favors. We'll be clear to land in an hour. So pack up your shite, we're going dirt-side." He turned and strode back along the corridor, disappearing up the steps.
"I'd better go do what the captain ordered and pack up my shite." Callan left the medbay, shaking his head as walked out into the passage and over to the freight elevator.
Zahli looked out the viewport again, the planet now listing off to the side a little since they'd moved in orbit.
Were they really going to hit dirt there? Despite the damage to the ship, when compared with landing on the prison planet, surely they'd be safer risking a flight on the slower sub-space engines to the next nearest planet. But her brother was the captain. In order to keep the crew's confidence, she had to agree with his decisions, even when she didn't. At least publicly, anyway. Privately, if she wanted to tell him he was a frecking idiot, well that was no one else's business.
Zahli tidied up before leaving the medbay, palming the doors closed behind her. Instead of returning to the bridge, she went down another level to her quarters. As the door slid open, it tinkled with the light sound of the Shivani fortune-bells hanging just inside. The resonance soothed her and helped chase away some of the chill she'd been feeling since Rian announced they'd be going dirt-side on Erebus.
She went to her locker and pushed aside all her clothes, feeling for the slightly raised section in the back panel. It clicked open under her fingers and the interior light flickered to life and shone outwards, silver glinting off her pulse pistol and nucleon gun. While the nucleon was an instant kill shot, the pulse pistol had a stun setting. She chose the pistol and shoved it into the back of her pants, and then added the reinforced metium knife Rian had given her after their parents had died.
Being armed only gave her a small measure of comfort. With sweaty palms, she returned to the bridge, wishing she could ignore the terrible stories she'd heard, trying not to remember the rumors that no one ever came back from Erebus.CHAPTER 2
Administrative Office, Erebus Spaceport
"What do you mean you gave the old Nirali class ship permission to land?"
Tannin Everette glided the stylus across his crystal display screen. He stared blindly at a report on the inward-bound supply orders and pretended he wasn't listening while the colonel marshal questioned the air squadron officer who'd authorized a ship to land for emergency repairs.
"The commodore sanctioned it, Sir. She's being piloted by Major Captain Rian Sherron."
Silence met the officer's announcement and Tannin had to resist the urge to turn around and see how the old colonel marshal had taken the news. But, the last thing he wanted was for them to remember he was here and send him out.
He might have been imprisoned on Erebus since the age of sixteen, but he'd heard plenty of stories and once met a prisoner who'd claimed to know Major Captain Rian Sherron personally. The man was some sort of war hero. And if Sherron wanted to land his damn ship here, there probably wasn't anyone with enough balls to tell him no. Especially since if rumors were true, Sherron would be just as likely to blow a hole through the middle of the spaceport as he would to leave peacefully.
But, why in the fiery pits of Erebus was a war hero flying an old junker of a Nirali class supply ship? That category of ship had been used by the IPC to fly provisions to outposts during the Assimilation Wars and had been decommissioned years ago.
"Well then, get the man down here, I'll buy him a brew myself," the colonel marshal announced.
Tannin turned his head just enough to see the colonel making shooing gestures at the younger officer and then take out a square of material to wipe at the beads of sweat gathering along his graying hairline. It didn't matter how hot or cold it got, the heavy man always sweated as if it were two hundred degrees out. The colonel tapped open a comm-channel on the main crystal display set into the large administrative desk.
"Someone tell me which dock the Nirali class is coming into and how long they plan on staying."
There was some white noise and unintelligible chatter before a clear voice came through. "Port delta eight. They need to assess damage when they land, but expect to be here at least one rotation."
"Good, good. Make sure they get anything they need. Send their clearance codes through to here and I'll upload them onto my commpad."
Tannin kept the colonel marshal in his sights as the man set his palm-sized, personal communication and data storage device down on the display, the unit emitting several short beeps as it received information.
The air squadron officer returned and leaned into the room. "Sir, there's a situation with some prisoners developing that the commodore wants you to take care of."
Excerpted from Atrophy by Jess Anastasi, Robin Haseltine. Copyright © 2015 Jess Anastasi. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love Sci-Fi romance and I’m always struggling to find good examples of this genre. I must admit I bought one of Jess Anastasi’s books a month ago and haven’t gotten around to reading it but I’ll be fixing that shortly. I really enjoyed Atrophy and I am very impressed with the extensive universe that Anastasi has created. I loved Tannin and Zahli and how they both wanted to be with each other so much even against Rian’s explicit orders. Tannin was so sweet with a little bit of geek thrown in and plenty of sexy swagger. Each crew member clearly has an interesting story to tell and I look forward to reading them. Though Tannin and Zahli are the “main characters” there is really so much more going on in this book. It’s really about Zahli’s brother, Rian, and his revenge mission against the evil shape shifting aliens, the Reidar. There is so much going on in this book but it’s all presented in a clear manner that builds on itself and I never found myself getting confused. I’m not completely sold on Rian yet but I came to like him more as the book progressed. He has a lot of baggage and history that causes him to lash out but I hope that we’ll continue to see more of his nicer side as the series goes on. The world building in this book is very extensive but I would have liked more information on the Assimilation Wars as well as the daring act that Rian does to end the war. This information may come later as the overarching plot if very present in this series. The other thing that stood out to me was that they are all worried about the Reidar which are capable of changing shape and looking like any person. I would have like a little more suspicion and some attempts to confirm identities. For instance, after they rescue Zahli, there’s no attempt to confirm she’s really Zahli and not a Reidar. Considering the danger, I little more caution would have been appreciated.
The rag-tag crew of misfits in ATROPHY brought back echoes of the tv series FIREFLY and SERENITY, but with a quirkier, edgier cast of characters and I loved every word! Lots of snark, unexpected humor, action and alien baddies bumped this well-balanced sci-fi romance series up on my TBR list-definitely recommend!
Atrophy is a pulse pounding action adventure romance. This book has great characters, an awesome plot, and great writing. I can totally envision this as a movie. I so want to read the next book in the series, assuming there will be one. I need to know what comes next for the crew of the Imojenna! This is a great read, not to be missed.
Exciting, funny and romantic... I loved this book. It is a sci-fiction packed with action and intrigue. Story revolves around the crew of ship Imojenna and their captain is messed up war hero, Rian. Zahli is his little sister and he is a bit over-protective of her. When the ship had to land on Erebus they picked up an unwanted guest. Tannin has been plotting his escape for a long time now. Even though he is scared of Rian's reputation and attracted to Zahli, still he plans to go throw with his escape. Zahli finds him on their ship and she wants to help him too. Rian is not happy but because of his sister he lets the "scumrat" live. Things are quite interesting on this ship. I loved all the characters. Rian is my favorite character in this story. Story is fast paced and never gets boring. There is so much going on at all times. There is also a mystery about aliens and how they are trying to take over the universe. But Imojenna's crew is hell bent on preventing it. Not that it will be easy thing to do but with Rian's warrior skills, Tannin's hacking expertise and everyone else' determination the might just succeed. But we'll have to wait to read about how things go from here on wards.
Tannin was wrongly convicted of murder twelve years ago, and sent to the prison planet Erebus for his crime. Biding his time, he can't quite believe that the chance to escape has really arrived, in the form of a derilect ship landing on Erebus for repairs. When a chance encounter in a marketplace has him saving the life of Zahli, sister to the ship's formidable ex-war hero captain Rian, she returns the favour by enabling him to escape with their ship. But with enemies closing in on all sides, and his wanted man status, will Tannin get the life he deserves, and the woman to match or will his past catch up to him too soon? I really enjoyed this story! I read a previous sci-fi romance book that this author wrote (Damage Control) and I actually thought when I picked this up that it would be somewhat linked to that, but it isn't. It's the start of a whole new series (and I can honestly say that I'm thrilled by that news!). It centers around the crew of the ship Imojenna, and we are introduced to several characters in this story who will make up the bulk of the series. This particular story is the romance between Tannin and Zahli. Both of their characters were very appealing to me. Tannin is super smart, a hacker extra-ordinaire (a talent that fortunately his prison wardens never caught onto). While we know that based on his prison experience he's had to do whatever is necessary to survive, he comes across as a good guy and someone who will be loyal to the end. He's definitely smitten with Zahli from the get go, and torn between his feelings for her, and his responsibilities to Rian, her brother, without whom he would have been kicked off the ship (and is constantly threatened by Rian that it is still a distinct possibility). Zahli comes across as a smart and friendly woman, one who has a deep affection for her scarred brother even if they are often at odds. As a crew mate on the ship, she has to follow his orders just like the rest of them, getting no quarter just because they are siblings. But at the same time, she knows he has her back, and vice versa. She knows that getting involved with Tannin is a mistake, and against the ship's fraternization policy, but she's never met someone she's so attracted to. The result is a semi-illicit affair, with some steamy scenes between them. But while this romance is going on, there is a lot more action moving the story along. We get a fair portion of the story from Rian's point of view, a bitter and scarred man seeking revenge on the aliens who captured and tortured him during the last war. His goal now is to find and destroy them. With that in mind, he seeks more and more dangerous cargo shipment assignments, skirting the edges of the law and making decisions that aren't always in the best interests of his crew, but that will lead him to his end game. He's got lots of friends in high and low places to make that happen. On one of their assignments however, he ends up with more than he bargained for - transporting a kidnapped priestess. Mirella has psychic abilities that scare him, but draw him to her, much to his dismay. Their relationship of sorts is just getting off the ground in the story and very unresolved but definitely headed in an interesting direction. Other crew mates are also featured and I love where this story is headed and all the intricacies of the plot. The worldbuilding is great and definitely well thought out. 5 stars for an exciting start to this series!
Better than Star Wars! Tannin Everett has spent his last 12 years on the prison planet Erebus, framed for a murder he didn’t commit but all those years while doing everything he could to survive the conditions he’d searched & planned for a way to escape. Working himself to a position of trust – as much as any inmate could – a lucky break puts him into position to get security clearance codes to break into a visiting ship landing for emergency repairs. While waiting for the ship to complete repairs he happens to see one of the ship’s crew being almost being raped by an officer & at risk to himself, Tannin comes to her rescue. When Tannin successfully stows on board the Imojenna but is discovered, Zahli the same person he’d saved earlier pleads his case & after being put though something akin to a lie detector, her brother who is the ship’s captain agrees for him to stay. Rian (Major Captain Rian Sherron), Zahli’s (protective!) older brother & captain of the ship has as big a part in the story as Tannin & Zahli. A war hero credited with almost single handedly via a crazy, suicidal act to win the war (what he did is never divulged unfortunately) he is on a single minded mission against the Reidar – alien shapeshifters who have infiltrated even the highest level of society. The plot is woven very well into the telling of the romance between Tannin & Zahli. This was such a wonderful story. I was totally immersed from the 1st page & didn’t want to put the book down. Wonderful character building & well told. The love story between Tannin & Zahli is well crafted, with great chemistry between them. Rian’s “rule” of no fraternization between crew injected a heck of a lot of sexual tension as Tannin tries his best to adhere to the man to whom he basically he owes his freedom to but of course eventually his feelings get the better of him. All the characters in the story – Rian’s crew – are well fleshed & such a colorful lot. There’s humor, wit, loads of sarcasm plus action. I can’t wait to read Rian’s story (there HAS to be one surely!) Copy gifted in exchange for an honest review.
Oh. My. Heck. This was a fantastic read! Having read the description before I started reading, I was wondering how Tannin could have endeared himself to Zahli enough so that she was willing to try to hide him on her brother's spaceship so that he could flee the prison planet Erebus. I knew there was a romance component so I wondered if it would be one of those 'I was drawn to him as soon as I saw him and although there is no logic behind my decision I will put everyone at risk to help this stranger' type things. Honestly- I loved the way this part was written. Not only did it flow very well (just like the rest of the book), but it also made so much sense while establishing character traits for both Zahli and Tannin. Nothing felt forced- the progression of the book felt natural, but not predictable. There were definitely some surprises in Atrophy, especially nearer the end. And as much as I love Tannin and Zahli- I was grateful for the depth of other characters, most notably Rian- Zahli's brother. I wish there was another book that went into more detail about his history with Reidar and how it factors into their plot (don't want to give spoilers, so I won't say anything more specific). I feel like there were lots of elements in this book, and they were handled well. It wasn't overwhelming or confusing. It made the plot whole and vibrant while opening up possibilities for further exploration in (hopefully to exist) further books. I was hugely satisfied with this book. I loved the characters, the ship they travel on (it definitely reminded me of Serenity and made me feel at home), and this new universe that is waiting to be further explored. I hope, nay, I demand that there be a sequel so that I can find out more about this universe, how far along the Reidar are in carrying out their plot, and to see the characters who I have come to know be able to finish taking care of business. Don't get me wrong- I was not dissatisfied with the ending of the book- I just want more. And I could see this book becoming a trilogy at the very least.