Land of the Dead

Land of the Dead

by Thomas Harlan

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429994323
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 03/29/2011
Series: In The Time of The Sixth Sun , #3
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
File size: 834 KB

About the Author

THOMAS HARLAN is the author of the highly regarded Oath of Empire fantasy series, as well as being an internationally-known game designer. He lives in Salem, Oregon.


Thomas Harlan is the author of the highly regarded “Oath of Empire” fantasy series, starting with The Shadow of Ararat, The Gate of Fire, and The Storm of Heaven. An internationally-known game designer, he lives in Salem, Oregon.

Read an Excerpt

Land of the Dead


By Thomas Harlan

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2009 Thomas Harlan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-9432-3



CHAPTER 1

THE HOUSE OF FUMEIYO-IE

Toroson Advanced Fleet Base, Imperial Méxica Space


A slim Nisei woman, her back straight as a sword blade, glossy black hair coiled at her neck, paused before a shoji-panel of laminate cedar and redwood. She took a moment to straighten the crisply starched cuffs of her dress whites, to tuck her cap under one arm, and to adjust the four tiny golden skulls on her collar tabs. Then, prepared, she placed two fingers against the door itself.

There was a quiet chime — the sound of a temple bell filtered through autumnal leaves — and the panel slid soundlessly to one side. The Imperial Méxica Navy Chu-sa stepped out onto a covered porch, walked down a flight of broad wooden steps and out into a perfectly manicured Tokuga-period garden. A glassite pressure dome vaulted overhead, half of the armored panels polarized against the glare of the twin primaries of the Michóacan binary. Her boots clicked on a curving stone bridge crossing a swift, silent brook — the recycled water clear as crystal, reeds and tadpoles wavering in the current running over mossy stones — and she passed beneath the rustling branches of a stand of hothouse aspen.

A teahouse stood beneath the golden trees, ancient wood and paper walls meticulously assembled at the heart of the Fleet base, slate roof strewn with leaf litter. The newly minted captain knelt at the door and paused again — taking a measured breath — before drawing aside the old-fashioned panel of rice paper and varnished pine. The large interior room was quite barren. A tatami lay in the middle of the floor, a pale jute-colored island in a sea of gleaming dark fir planking. A man was kneeling on the mat, hands hidden in the folds of a plain civilian kimono. He lifted his head curiously at the sound of the opening door.

His thin face, pale and seamed from long exhaustion, was calm.

Then he recognized her and everything sure and composed about him disappeared in a jolt of surprise — delight — and then slowly dawning grief.

The woman removed her boots and padded across the spotless floor to the edge of the mat.

"Oh Sho-sa," the man said, shaking his head. "You should not have brought me the honorable blades. A fine gesture, truthfully, but —"

"I bear no swords," Susan Kosho said, kneeling gracefully and drawing a parchment envelope from the inner pocket of her uniform jacket. "The Admiralty tribunal has concluded its deliberations. You will not satisfy the Emperor's Honor for the loss of our ship. As of only an hour ago, you are free to leave this place at any time you please." She set down the envelope, touching the corners to align the rectangle properly between them.

"What is this?" Mitsuharu Hadeishi, recently captain of the ill-starred IMN Astronomer-class light cruiser Henry R. Cornuelle, eyed the parchment suspiciously. "This is not an orders packet."

Kosho shook her head no, gaze politely averted from his, attention unerringly fixed on the hem of his kimono, which was frayed and showing a small tear. She wondered, seeing how shabby his clothing was, what had happened to the old manservant who had tended Hadeishi's personal affairs aboard the Cornuelle. The rest of the crew — those who had lived through the disaster over Jagan — had scattered to the five directions. Even my feet, she thought, are on a strange road, every compass awry with the influence of the fates. With every step, a crossroads appears out of the darkness....

"I have been retired?" Hadeishi's voice was thin with distress.

"No." Susan met his eyes at last. "You have been placed on reserve duty, pending the needs of the Fleet. Your record ... your service jacket is ... all references to the incident at Jagan have been removed. A compromise was reached —"

"But I have no ship," he said, blinking, trying to take in the abrupt end of his career as a plain envelope pinched between thumb and forefinger. "No duty, no ... no ..."

He stopped, lips pursed, dark eyebrows narrowed over puzzled, wounded eyes. Susan could feel his mind whirling — imagined touching his brow would reveal a terrible, fruitless heat — and her own face became glacially impassive in response to his distress.

After a moment, Hadeishi's eyes focused, found her, remembered her words, and his head tilted a little to one side. "What of the others? Or am I the only one small enough to be caught in the net of accountability?"

The corners of Kosho's eyes crinkled very slightly. "Great care was taken that no Imperial agency be found at fault. The Fleet Book shows you fought the Cornuelle against vicious odds —"

Hadeishi stiffened, astonished. "Fought? Fought! I was taken unawares by a weather satellite network — our ship crippled, our crew decimated — our only struggle was to stay alive while repairs were underway and the ship kept her nose up!"

Susan nodded, saying. "Representatives of the Mirror-Which-Reveals-The-Truth mentioned this on several occasions — as a mark against you. But the Admiralty has no love for spies and informers, or for the clumsy Flower War priests who sparked the Bharat revolt. They would not let you hang for a botched Mirror project. Not when it meant a smudge on their own mantle!"

"But —"

"They cannot give you a ship, Chu-sa. Not with so many powers quarreling over the blame." Susan frowned, then allowed herself a very small sigh. "Colonel Yacatolli fared no better — he's been posted to a sub-arctic garrison command on Helmand — while Admiral Villeneuve was actually reprimanded, with a black mark struck on his duty jacket for failing to provide Cornuelle with munitions resupply — and Ambassador Petrel has simply left the diplomatic service."

Hadeishi's eyes flickered briefly with anger, before he snorted in cynical amusement.

"Did the tribunal assign any blame in this wretched turn of events?"

Susan nodded. "HKV agitators have been blamed for inciting the local population to rebellion against the Empire."

"The — they are blaming the Europeans for this?" Astonishment flushed Hadeishi's countenance with a pale rose-colored bloom. "There has not been a European resistance movement in extra-Solar space for nearly fifteen years! Not since —"

"I know." Susan's voice was gentle. "Nonetheless, the tribunal has declared a Finn named Timonen ringleader of the whole sorry affair — and he is conveniently dead, his body disintegrated."

Mitsuharu snorted again, dismayed. "Do they even care what actually happened?"

Susan shook her head. "They are overjoyed with the Prince's performance."

"The P — No, you make a poor, poor jest, Sho-sa. Not —"

Kosho — at last — let her properly impassive countenance slip, showing a flash of dismay. She dug into her jacket and produced a carefully folded tabloid. The busyink lay quiescent while Hadeishi unfolded the paper, before flashing alive with colorful diagrams, animated graphs, tiny low-res videos ... all the appurtenances of modern news.

A sallow-faced youth with unmistakable Méxica features popped out, pockmarked walls visible behind his shoulder, smoke coiling away from hundreds of bullet holes, the glossy black of his Fleet shipskin spattered with blood, a heavy HK45B assault rifle slung over one shoulder. The boy — he must have been in his late twenties, but he seemed much younger — was grinning triumphantly.

"The hero of the hour," Kosho drawled, "savior of the legation, captor of the native ringleaders ... Tezozómoc's public image is shining and bright this week. Someone, somewhere, is very pleased with themselves for this bit of ... editing."

Hadeishi stared at the picture, impassive, eyes hooded, and then turned the tabloid facedown on the mat beside the parchment envelope. For a moment he pressed both palms against his eyes, head down, breathing through his nose. Kosho waited, wondering if her old captain would react as she had. I should have brought a sidearm, a ship-pistol, something ... to stun him with. When he becomes violently angry. When he threatens to —

"All this ..." Mitsuharu did not look up. "Our dead — our broken ship — the wreckage on the surface — my career — it was all for him? To polish his reputation, to give this dissolute Prince some respectability in the eyes of the public?"

"The Four Hundred families cannot allow a Prince Imperial," Susan replied, voice carefully neutral, "to seem the buffoon, to be known as a wastrel, a drunkard, a party-addict ... the Emperor is no fool. Even the least, most laughable member of the Imperial Clan must be seen by the general populace as a potentially terrifying warrior of unsurpassed skill. Particularly when Temple of Truth runs a popular weekly featurette detailing his latest lewd binge. ..."

Hadeishi rocked back, eyes still closed, fists clenched white to the knuckle. Susan waited, feeling a tight, singing tension rise in the pit of her stomach. After ten minutes had passed, the man's eyes opened and his shoulders slumped. Hastily, Kosho looked away, giving her old commander the illusion of privacy, though they were no more than a meter apart.

"So I am the last, least fish caught in this flowery net."

Susan did not reply, her gaze fixed on the rear wall of the teahouse.

"And I am left with nothing." There was the crisp rustle of parchment. "You are to await the pleasure of the Emperor," he read, "should he have need of your service." Hadeishi sounded utterly spent. "How long, Sho-sa, do you think I will wait? A year? Two years?"

Forever, she thought, feeling the tension in her stomach turn tighter and tighter. You will be forgotten, like so many other disgraced captains before you.

"There is nothing to say, is there?" Hadeishi lifted a hand and scratched slowly at the stubble on his chin. "There are never enough combat commands for all those who desire them ... who need them. Not without some great war to force the hand of the Admiralty and inspire a new building program." A tiny spark of anger began to lift the leaden tone from his words. "Not when political favor can be exchanged to see some well-connected clan-scion at the helm of a ship of war —"

He stopped abruptly. For the first time, Mitsuharu focused fully on Kosho's face. A clear sort of penetrating light came into his eyes, wiping aside the despair, but leaving something far more tragic in its place.

"You've your fourth zugaikotsu," he whispered, lifting his chin at the gleaming skulls on her collar. "At last."

Hadeishi bowed in place, as one honorable officer might to another. "Shosa, I regret the words just spoken. I do not impugn the nobility of your birth. Of any man or woman in the Fleet who has borne my acquaintance, you — you are worthy of a ship."

The cable of tension in Susan's stomach bent over on itself, wire grating against wire.

"The Naniwa, I hope," Mitsuharu ventured, recalling a dim memory. "She should be out of trials by now ... did they hold her for you?"

Kosho nodded and felt a sharp pain in her gut, as though the imaginary cable had frayed past breaking and steel wires spun loose to stab into her flesh. "They did. She is waiting at Jupiter for me right now."

There was the ghost of a smile on Hadeishi's lips. "She is a fast ship, Susan, new and bold ... tough for her size, but still no dreadnaught! I pulled her specs months ago. A sprinter she is, not a plow horse, not a charger ... you'll need to keep her dancing in the hot of it — no standing toe to toe — not with the armor she lifts. In and out, missile-work and raids ..." The momentary surge of energy failed, and his eyes grew dull again. "You'll do well ... a Main Fleet posting, I'd wager ... something where you'll be seen, noticed. ..."

Where my family connections can lift me up, Kosho thought bitterly as he fell silent. Where my advantage of birth can show its strength. Where the son of a violin-maker and a shop clerk would not even be accorded the time of day by his fellow officers.

"Chu-sa —"

"Say nothing, Sho-sa. Say nothing."

"No. You are the finest combat commander I've ever met. All of my skill springs from your example. You will be wasted on the List, waiting for some ... some scow to need a driver. Let me ..." She struggled to frame the proper words, failed, and blurted out: "Enter my service, Sensei. You've the heart of a samurai; let me make you one in truth. Then you will command a ship again! Come with me —"

Hadeishi stiffened, almost recoiled, and a quick play of emotions on his agile face exposed — just for an instant — astonishment and then a stunning grief shown by suddenly dead eyes and a waxy tone to his flesh.

"Sensei," he whispered, almost too faintly for her to hear. "Your samurai. This is how you see me?"

"Hai!" she said, overcome with embarrassment, and bowed so deeply in apology her forehead brushed the mat. "Please, you mustn't lose hope. I can —"

"No, thank you," Hadeishi said faintly, staring at her as though an apparition had risen through the gleaming floor, a yakka-goblin out of legend to torment him and lay bare every scar carried in his heart. "An honest gesture, Sho-sa, but the weight of my failure will only drag your star down into shadow."

Susan almost flinched from the icy tone in his voice. She felt short of breath. Kosho blinked, forcing her face back to accustomed impassivity, falling back behind her shield of customary remoteness. "Chu-sa ..."

"You should leave now," he said coolly. "Your ship is waiting."

Entirely unsure of what she'd said to put such abrupt distance between them, Kosho left quietly, gathering up her boots. Outside, the day-program of the garden had advanced into twilight, yielding mist from the streams and pools. The panels far overhead dimmed still further. The twin suns at the core of the Michóacan system were now reduced to sullen pinpoints, no brighter than the other main sequence stars in the sky.


* * *

Susan strode into the base's main departure lounge in a black mood. Riding alone in the tubecar from the Fumeiyo dome she had turned her conversation with Hadeishi through all five directions. He does not wish your charity, Kosho-sana. He will starve and die rather than ask a friend for assistance. Idiot. Three kinds of idiot. No, four kinds!

But it was a familiar idiocy.

How many of grandfather's retainers went the same way? Wasting away, living on less and less, refusing to admit their sons and daughters needed to learn useful skills — would it be so terrible to master a craft? To ... to sell goods in the marketplace?

That Kosho's grandmother had steered her into a military career — the one paying profession which remained honorable for her caste, though the subject of intense competition — seemed now the most natural thing in the world. An admirable and direct answer to the nagging question that plagued all of the old nobility: How does one pay the rent, when there are no koku of land remaining to till, leasehold, or sell? Changes in Nisei tax law under a succession of canny Diet prime ministers, and the constant pressure of the mercantile classes, had eroded the vast estates of the old families. Susan was sure the Tai-Sho was quite pleased with the outcome. No one can raise and arm men from houses filled with antiques. And the merchants pay their taxes.

Susan's pace slowed, eyes drawn to the huge transit board filling the far wall of the lounge. Hundreds of ships were listed, heading in every direction. One of them was hers — a Fleet personnel liner bound for the home system, to Anáhuac, and the massive Akbal yards off Jupiter.

My first command. My own ship ... the dream of every junior officer in the Fleet. For a moment, she felt uneasy, aware of an incipient loneliness, and part of her devoutly wished Hadeishi had accepted her service. I will miss him, but I do not need him to guide my hand.

Then a half-familiar shape glimpsed from the corner of one eye drew her head around. The general ill-feeling of anger, resentment, and thwarted intent endemic to the passages of the base suddenly had a singular, unmistakably clear focus.

"Green Hummingbird!" she hissed. Kosho turned on her heel and plunged through a squad of enlisted ratings sprawled on transit couches, the floor around them littered with Mayahuel bottles and patolli gaming mats sprinkled with money and dice sticks, to fetch up before two men — no, one human and one alien — sitting in a quiet corner of the huge, bustling room.

"What are you doing here?" Susan's voice was cold.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Land of the Dead by Thomas Harlan. Copyright © 2009 Thomas Harlan. 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.

Table of Contents

Contents

Title Page,
Dedication,
Notes,
Military Ranks of the Imperial Méxica Fleet, Army, and Marines,
From the Annals of Cuauhtitlan,
The House of Fumeiyo-Ie,
In the Kuub,
Shinedo,
Tenochtitlán,
Dumfries Post Station,
Shinedo,
Tenochtitlán,
The Akbal Yards,
The Wilful,
The Naniwa,
Aboard the Moulins,
The Pinhole,
Aboard the Qalak,
Near the Pinhole,
The Naniwa,
Somewhere in the Kuub,
Aboard the Can,
The Naniwa,
The Wilful,
At the Pinhole,
The Wilful,
The Naniwa,
The Tlemitl,
The Naniwa,
In the Kuub,
Aboard the Naniwa,
The Wilful,
The Naniwa,
The Wilful,
The Land of the Dead,
The Wilful,
The Naniwa,
The Wilful,
Aboard the Naniwa,
Outside the Barrier,
The Naniwa,
Aboard the Khaid Cruiser,
The Naniwa,
Aboard the Kader,
Within the Sunflower,
The Kader,
The Naniwa,
Within the Sunflower,
The Kader,
Aboard the Moulins,
Deep within the Sunflower,
The Kuub,
The Naniwa,
On the Moulins,
The Kader,
Among the Fallen,
The Kader,
The Altar of the Undying Flame,
At the Pinhole Exit,
In the Dead Fleet,
The Pylon of Thought,
Aboard the Naniwa,
The Kader,
The Pylon,
Near the Sunflower,
The Thread,
Outside,
Aboard the Naniwa,
Tor Books by Thomas Harlan,
Copyright,

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Land of the Dead 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
harlanreader More than 1 year ago
A good wrap up of a series but hopefully not the last. With Harlan one never knows if he will publish again or how soon but his work is really good. I have read both of his series to date and this one is more mature than the last. The characters and storyline are superb and the progression of the story is well timed too. I hope he publishes more books on this storyline and perhaps a little more closely together... A recommended book for a good, mind tasking, read...
harstan More than 1 year ago
In a rarely traveled part of space, an even rarer artifact from the glorious era of the First Sun Old Ones has been discovered. The leaders of the interplanetary Mexica Empire know the significance of the find from a historical perspective and even more important understand this is a weapon of mass destruction. In Mexico City, the Emperor wants the relic brought under their close supervision so he sends his son, Prince Xochitl to retrieve it. At the same time Mirror Service operative Green Hummingbird, First Sun anthropological expert Gretchen Anderssen and Captain Susan Koshy are also trying to obtain the artifact. Others also make a trek to gain possession as everyone understands the impact of an Old Ones' weapon. The premise of In The Time of the Sixth Sun saga (see WASTELAND OF FLINT and HOUSE OF REEDS) is simplistic as Thomas Harlan changes a key pivotal sixteenth century moment in which the Japanese instead of the Spanish meet the Aztecs first. From that first encounter, the author has extrapolated an alternate history based on the Annals of Cuauhtotlan that provides the audience with a super futuristic science fiction saga. LAND OF THE DEAD is a great action-packed thriller with tense battle scenes in space as the race to possess an artifact from the era of the First Sun has everyone on edge. Green and his cohorts, and Xochitl bring to the exciting plot a human rivalry that compares how miniscule earthlings are against the big vastness of outer space. Harriet Klausner
Caragen87 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I long awaited this installment of the Mexica Saga. You are brought back to the Life and Trials of Gretchen Anderssen, the machinations of Green Hummingbird and Hideishi. And on the backdrop is the ever chilling search for the great and deadly machineries of the 'First Sun' powers. Like the first two books, you are treated to a deep adventure that steeps you in the sense of Deep Deep Time and slumbering giants that Green Hummingbird seeks to keep from Waking. Because to Wake these old powers could spell the End for Humanity.A note for others, I don't want to call this a Trilogy, although when you are at the final chapter, you will be hard-pressed to see how the author could take you further down the path that was alluded to in "House of Reeds". A side story from that volume is still open and unfinished, even though it involves two other great characters, namely a wayward Princeling and the coldly manipulative Iztpalicue.I can only hope that the Author will pen a final volume giving us the exploits of these two and the unseen terror that they unleased from the old, old world of Jagan.
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