Shadows Across the Moon is a scifi romance serial novel with chapters being released daily. If you missed the first two chapters you can read them here-
Moderate violence and sex.
All rights reserved as stated in serial chapter 1. Copyright SF English
SHADOWS ACROSS THE MOON by SF English
She was warmer, but only on the outside. Dane had found some of Stephanie’s clothes in the guest room and she now wore a white, woolen sweater, much like the one she had on earlier.
The scent of coffee and chocolate met her at the top of the stairs and her stomach protested her lack of nourishment. She took the steps at a faster pace, hoping the men hadn’t downed it all.
Her body still felt alive from Dane’s lovemaking. Another lungful of air and she smiled at how something so simple, even at a time like this, could give her pleasure. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, she turned to see what the men were doing when she halted, frozen in her place.
She wanted to cry out, to scream for help, but there was no one that could help her. The living room was full of armed men. Her gaze searched the room for her friends, for answers, for death.
Ten to fifteen men stood before her. They were dressed in street clothes, some dirty and some wet. Many wore knit hats, black with three blue bars, vertical across the front. They were silent. Waiting. One had on sunglasses, and he moved forward, leaving a gaping hole in the cluster of bodies and she saw Dane sitting on the couch behind them.
His hands were behind his back and blood had dried at his lip. His gaze warned her, but she didn’t could only look on in confusion and horror.
Paul sat next to Dane, but she could barely see him. He was tied up like Dane and would have a huge black eye, soon if the swelling was any indication.
She couldn’t see Robert, but many of the men stood in front of the couch, blocking her view. She could only hope that he was alive.
Her attention was drawn back to the man with sunglasses. He was big, his t-shirt too tight and torn, filthy, and wet in areas. His pants were military, but these weren’t military soldiers. Most of them were too thin, too dirty, and too haunted to be military. Rebels. She had heard of people who lived below the city, below the train system, but, until today, she’d never been close to one, and had doubted their existence.
As he approached she could see scars on his face. He was different than the rest. The scars were jagged and long, white and thick. Dangerous. It wasn’t his scars or clothes or even his size that frightened her. It was the way he walked, stalking her, like a predator.
“If you have a weapon, I suggest you hand it over,” he said. His voice was harsh, as though his throat hurt. “If I find any on you, I’ll use it on your friends behind me.”
“I don’t have anything,” her voice sounded small in her ears.
A woman walked through the men to stand next to the warrior. Warrior. She knew that was right. Something about him reminded her of Paul. Paul was a warrior. Maybe he wasn’t in the beginning, but they’d made him into one.
She wasn’t much taller than Grace. Her dark hair shone streaks of red in black and it curled softly around her beautiful face. Her hair was the only thing that looked soft. Pursed lips and obsidian eyes gave her the look of someone jaded and ill used. Muscles on her bare arms spoke of labor and scars there, and on her neck, spoke of hardship.
“Grayson,” she glanced at the man with the sunglasses, “Take her and let’s go.”
Grace’s heart beat hard and a flood of anxiety raced through her. She didn’t want Grayson to touch her. She wanted Dane. She wanted to know what these people wanted and what was expected of her.
“Dane,” she called to him, unsure if she’d be punished for it. “What do I do?”
A feminine laugh, short and harsh, rang out. “Like you have a choice.”
Grace glanced at the woman, but found nothing in her expression that would give away what she wanted. Contempt etched on her face took away the beauty. The woman looked Hispanic, or partially so. Grace tried to see something there she could relate to. Something that might tell her that this woman could offer mercy or help. Nothing.
“Get our…” A sharp jab with the butt of a rifle stopped Dane from finishing. Get our…?
Grace looked around the living room as she walked the last few steps to the door. On the coffee table were several items, with Dane’s and Robert’s empty packs. She hesitated.
Grayson’s cold hand encircled her upper arm. The grip bit into her and he yanked her on toward the front door. She tried to pull away, but his hand was a vice.
“I need to get my gear,” she told him. She had to try. “Let me have my things.” She pulled her arm and was rewarded with a tighter grip. The bruising would be extensive.
“Let her have her things,” Dane said to the girl. “You want some cooperation from us? Don’t hurt the girl. Don’t be an asshole.”
“You’ve gone through our things,” Paul spoke out. “You know what’s there. Let her have what she wants. You say you’re the ‘good guys’, so prove it.”
Grayson brought her into the midst of the men. She could reach out and touch Dane, if she thought they wouldn’t punish her for it. Looking at the far end of the couch, she saw Robert, looking much like the other two men. Blood trickled from his nose and his knuckles were bleeding.
“Lisa,” Grayson called her attention, “No time.” Grayson was used to giving orders, but, here, he didn’t seem to be in charge. His tone said he’d push the envelope.
Lisa gazed at the tall man, her distaste for him on her face, but was quickly hidden away. She wrinkled her nose as though there was a foul smell in the room. Her face went slack as she turned her gaze to Grace.
“Get your stuff. Hurry up.” Cold, dark eyes went back to Grayson, daring him to say something.
The vice at her arm held for a moment and the tension was palpable in the room. Grace looked to Dane. His body was rigid, his eyes watching the interaction between the two.
Grayson let go. She let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. She grabbed the biggest pack, Dane’s. Many of the items on the table were foreign to her. Camping gear. Was that where Dane was headed when they met? Not to the graveyard, but to the airport? Grace had never personally known anyone who went camping. Not even the executives at Infinity could afford such a luxury.
Not all of the items would fit. She picked up the half empty box of chemical lights, a lighter, three headsets, two of them military issue. She noticed her satchel had been dumped. Her meager belongings were of no use to them and she left it there. Candles, a watch that wouldn’t work without an electric frequency, but she took it, just in case. She threw in as much as she could until the pack was stuffed full.
Robert stood to take the pack and was pushed roughly back to the couch.
“She packed it,” Lisa said, “she carries it.”
“Take some out,” Robert told her as he stood, this time being allowed to remain standing.
“No time,” Lisa said, as she turned to make her way to the front of the group, “We’re out of here.” She made a circular motion in the air and the men gathered Dane, Robert, Paul and Grace to an area in the center of the group.
Grayson walked up next to Lisa without a thought to Grace and she was grateful. She struggled to put the pack on, but once it was in place she thought she could manage the cumbersome weight.
“These are the good guys?” Grace looked to Paul. They hadn’t let them bring weapons. The men were tied up.
“They seem to think so,” Paul answered. “But every enemy thinks they’re the good guy.”
“Let’s keep it quiet,” Dane instructed. Paul nodded and they were shuffled out the door and into the fog.
Two Hummers, and two vans waited at the end of the block. The rebels fell into three groups. One group remained with the prisoners, one went ahead to scout out the area and the other fell back into the shadows. Lisa and Grayson remained in front, watchful within the thick fog.
It was difficult to see, but not impossible. The moon was huge in the sky and the fog moved like shadows across it. It was almost a full two feet above her, blocking out the smaller stars in the night sky. Lights came on in the vehicles. Lisa had a chemical light in her hand and waved it back and forth over her head. Another light came from a darkened corner between houses.
As they neared the vehicles, the rebels separated them. Grace could smell chemicals around the hybrid cars. Gasoline. Robert was loaded into one van, and Dane into the other one. She felt his gaze on her until he disappeared inside.
She and Paul were put into a Hummer, side by side, and surrounded by rebels with guns. One of the men took her pack and threw in the back. Lisa and Grayson got up front, Lisa driving.
They pulled in front of the other vehicles and led the way toward Embarcadero. They moved slowly down the empty streets. The fog seemed to be rising faster and Grace tried to recall what Paul had said about it. Six feet.
“How high is the fog?” she asked. She glanced at Paul whose face was blank. He knew, but he said nothing. Why? Maybe she should say nothing as well?
Grayson turned in his seat to look at them. His hidden eyes and scarred face were in the shadows and Grace was grateful.
“Well over six feet,” Grayson said, looking directly at Paul. “Wouldn’t you say so, soldier?”
Paul said nothing. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end as the two men stared at each other. Animosity. Hatred. Acknowledgement. Did they know each other?
“Just keep an eye out for trouble,” Lisa said.
The rebel beside her checked his gun. He turned his gaze out the window. She could hear the others behind her rustling about. Had Paul already told them about the dangers of the fog when it got to six feet? Had she been in the shower that long? Had she heard them downstairs what would she have done? Her mind was so full that her head ached.
“Why didn’t I hear you come in?” She asked Lisa.
“We’re just stealthy like that,” she answered. Silence filled the vehicle and Lisa shifted, moving forward toward the windshield. “We saw the smoke rising above the fog. We were looking for supplies and answers. We knew we’d find one or the other in the village district.”
“But why take us with you?”
“It just seemed odd to us that you’d have your own pet cyborg,” Lisa said as she leaned closer to the windshield. “Shit! I can hardly see ahead of me.”
“The fog is moving faster,” the soldier beside her commented. Grace looked at him. He smelled of sweat and dirt. His clothes were simple, functional and dirty. The cap on his head displayed the three blue bars.
“Your cyborg can help us,” Lisa continued. “Once he does, you can all go.”
“You don’t need me,” Paul said. His voice was low but clear. “If you wanted to ask questions, you could have done it back at the house.” He looked at Grayson, then turned to watch the buildings go by outside.
“We didn’t know we’d find something like you,” Lisa said. “We weren’t prepared. Besides, what we need help with requires your…presence.”
“What do you need?” Grace asked, suddenly worried for Paul. She had helped to save his life. She had made a promise. What did these people want with him?
“A map.” Grayson’s voice made her insides grow cold.
“What kind of map?” Paul asked. His attention went back to Grayson.
“A map of the city,” Lisa answered. “So we can get our people out of here. A map of the underground.”
“Why do you need Paul for that?” Grace asked.
“In order to download the map, he’ll have to plug in and retrieve the information from the command center,” Grayson told her. “As he downloads it, we’ll be backing it up in a computer I’ve set up just for capturing information from the command center and land base. The computer itself is too slow for gathering data, we need someone to plug in for that, but it can store the information once we have it.”
Grace watched Lisa glance in the rearview mirror at Paul. She scowled, licked her lips and looked away.
“Then, we can go?” Grace asked.
“You can go. Or you can come with us,” Lisa told her. “This city is dead. You don’t have to die with it.”
Grace sat silently thinking of the irony. The city was going to die. She was going to die. But, the city could be saved, if she stayed and helped Dane.
“I’ll stay with Dane and Paul,” Grace said. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me,” Lisa snapped at her. She looked again in the mirror and caught Grace’s confused gaze. “And don’t look at me like that.”
“What did I do?” Grace looked to the soldier beside her, but it was Grayson who answered.
“Our fearless leader is a little squeamish about killing your friend,” he said.
“I don’t understand,” Grace’s voice held fear and her heart beat hard as she looked at Grayson and then to Paul. Both men wore no expression.
“Now that I’ve been reported as missing,” Paul said, as he turned to look at her, “when I plug in, they’ll trace the signal and I’ll be terminated.”
She couldn’t breathe. Paul was a warrior, a doctor, he could help people. His life would be a terrible sacrifice. He’d already suffered. It was unfair. He shouldn’t die. If you have something to offer the world you shouldn’t die.
“You can’t do that.” Grace looked to Lisa. She tried to will the woman to look at her, but she wouldn’t. “Paul can help.”
“He is helping,” Lisa said without looking back. “That map will save hundreds of lives.”
“No,” Grace’s cry caught in her throat. “You don’t understand. He knows things about what they’re doing. He has human memories. He’s a doctor.”
Silence filled the vehicle. Tension rose, from the rebels, from Lisa, from Grayson. Grace saw Lisa glance into the mirror. She looked at Paul, then at Grace.
“He’s a doctor?”
Grace nodded, hoping the tone in Lisa’s voice meant that Paul had a chance.
Lisa looked at the soldier beside Grace. “Charlie.”
With that single word, Charlie brought his pistol out in front of him, ready. He flipped the safety off and aimed it toward the back of Grayson’s seat. Grayson barely moved, but his body went on alert at the sound.
“We found a high-ranking soldier,” Grayson’s voice was even as he spoke. “We knew there would be sacrifices.” He turned his head toward Lisa slowly. “You’ve spent the last hour telling yourself that one sacrifice for over three hundred people was acceptable. But, now, that changes because your sister is dying and you think this thing can help you?”
“Shut up, Grayson, and let me think.” Lisa cast her gaze back to the fog.
Lights from the vehicle behind them flashed on and off rapidly. Charlie kept his eyes on Grayson, but Grayson turned to look.
“Trouble,” Grayson said.
“Shit.” Lisa’s gaze searched as far as she could see. “Man the windows. Watch for them.”
A rustling of clothing, the stench of sweat, and the sound of windows going down caused Grace to shiver with fear. The cold invaded the interior of the vehicle, leaving good bumps on her body. Wind blew her hair in her face and she grabbed it, tucking it down the back of her sweater. It wouldn’t stay. She held on to it with one hand as she tried to see outside.
“What’s happening?” She thought she knew, but she wanted to be wrong.
“AIM soldiers,” Paul answered. His gaze remained fixed on the fog as his arm came around her to pull her close. “Stay back from the windows. Keep low.” He tried to lay her in his lap, but she wanted to see what was going on.
Dane. He was behind them. Had he seen the AIM soldiers? Had someone been hurt? She tried to look out the back window, but the rebels were in the way. Paul kept pulling her down, but she needed to see what was going on behind them.
The car lurched and she was pulled back as they accelerated. The car lights flashed again.
“They’re on foot.” Charlie said. More flashes from behind. “Someone’s been hit. But we’re all still together. Let’s get the hell out of here, Lisa.”
A sharp turn to the right threw Grace up against Paul. He caught her before her head could connect with the window. They sped through the city the short distance to the Embarcadero train station. Lisa pulled into a parking lot that had three cars in it. She parked and Grace could see the other three vehicles pull in.
The last vehicle was a van. The back window had been shot out. Dane. The tightness in her chest nearly stopped her breathing. Tears gathered, threatening to fall.
The side door of the Hummer opened. Charlie got out, grabbed Grace’s pack and gave it to one of the other rebels. Everyone was moving. Something was very wrong. Were the AIM soldiers able to follow them there? Whispered shouts meant to hurry everyone were lost to her as she watched rebels pile out of the van. Where was Dane? Why wasn’t he getting out of the van?
“Come on,” Charlie grabbed her wrist and pulled her out.
Grace broke free and started running toward the van. Dane. He wasn’t coming. She screamed when someone caught her and her feet left the pavement. The world spun around and she couldn’t catch her breath as bands of steel crushed her. It was Charlie. Grayson came up behind him.
“Shut her up,” Grayson told him, “Or I will.”
“Dane,” she called out.
A hand went over her nose and mouth. She couldn’t breathe. She tried to get away, but Charlie held her still.
“Understand this,” Charlie spoke directly into her ear. “No one has a use for you. If you give away our position, we’re all dead. I don’t want to have to hurt you. Please don’t make me hurt you.”
Tears spilled, the world wavered and Dane never came out of the van. Charlie moved his hand slightly and she pulled in air through her nose. Cold air filled her burning lungs. Charlie turned her around and set her feet on the ground. He removed his hand. Don’t make me hurt you. What did it matter? She was dead already. No one has a use for you. Was that true? With Dane dead it was true. All of a sudden six months seemed like such a long time. Too long.
Her legs shook as Charlie let go of her. Dane. She didn’t want to go. Everyone was rushing to get things out of the vehicles and running toward the underground train station. She couldn’t hear anything. Not their voices. Not their footsteps. There was only silence. She saw Robert. One of the rebels was pushing him forward. He was still tied up. He looked at her. His lips moved, but she couldn’t hear him. It seemed like everyone was moving in slow motion. Charlie’s face swam in front of her. Her eyes moved upward toward the moon. She saw light…and then darkness.