Shadows Across the Moon is a scifi romance serial novel with chapters being released daily. If you missed the previous 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
Strong arms and a warm body cradled her. They moved through the cold fog toward the train station. Nausea washed over her as the world continued to spin. Shaking her head to clear it had been a bad idea.
“Let me down,” she whispered. Briefly, she wondered if she’d actually said the words aloud. She looked up, surprised to see Paul carrying her.
“Paul,” she started to say something more, but he looked down at her and set her to the ground.
She wavered, her knees like rubber, but Paul kept his arm around the front of her waist to keep her from introducing the pavement to her face. She placed her hand on his forearm at her waist. She stood still. People were passing them. She couldn’t tell who they were.
“Are you okay?” The caring in Paul’s voice brought tears to her eyes. No one has a use for you. The caring she saw when she looked into Paul’s face said that they were wrong. She had promised to help Paul. He needed her.
She blinked hard in an effort to make the world stop spinning. The nausea subsided, but she didn’t trust it to stay away. Dane. The grief washed over her in an instant.
She turned her head to see where the van had gone, but what she found was Robert carrying Dane’s body. She couldn’t look away, even when Paul tried to move her forward. His limp body was too big for Robert to carry, but Robert held on. He looked toward the train station, seeing nothing else around him.
Grace tried to see where Dane had been shot, but she wasn’t able to before Paul blocked her vision with his large frame.
“Grace,” Paul’s voice was tender and soft, “We have to get into that train station now.”
“Dane is dead,” she whispered to Paul.
“Not yet,” Paul glanced at the two men and frowned. “But, if we don’t get in there he soon will be. AIM soldiers are coming.”
As he said the words, he waited for Robert to walk by. He stepped in front of him and stopped his progress. Paul took Dane and glanced in Grace’s direction. Robert nodded and walked to Grace.
“We need to go.” Robert took her hand. Paul walked in front of them carrying Dane. Still, she saw no blood, but her legs moved of their own accord. The men in front of her were a magnet and she led Robert, down into the underground.
The rebels had already done a sweep of the area. A dead AIM soldier bled crimson onto the white tiles. Grace looked away. Grayson came into view.
“Move it,” he said to Paul. “I told you, if he became a liability, we’d leave him. That goes for your other friends, too.”
Grayson glanced at Grace and Robert. She couldn’t look at him. Didn’t want to look at him. And certainly didn’t want his notice. Dane. She fought back her urge to look away from Grayson. Her gaze went beyond him to Paul and Dane. No blood. It gave her courage. Dane wasn’t dead. She needed to stay alive. To help him. To help Paul.
“Come on, Grace,” Robert called to her. He was standing down inside the trailway where the conveyances traveled. Lack of electricity would keep them safe there, but she wondered where they were going and how much time they had left.
She joined Robert and the rebels in the darkened underground. The rebels had lit chemical lights and began walking east. A loud noise behind her caused her to turn around. Paul had jumped down with Dane still in his arms. He shifted Dane’s body and glanced at her.
“Let’s go,” Paul said.
Grace turned and followed Robert and the rebels into the blackness of the train tunnels.
They had only gone a few hundred yards when the lights stopped moving. Robert had her hand in his and he stopped near them. It was difficult to see, but, when Grace peered around Robert’s body a glimpse of a green light disappeared into a hole at the side of the tunnel. One at a time, the rebels lowered themselves into that hole.
Robert pushed Grace forward to the hole, but her heartbeat and the threat of nausea returned. She couldn’t do it. Peering down into the utter blackness of the small opening, she knew she couldn’t bring herself to go inside. There were noises in there, voices.
“We have to go, Grace,” Robert told her as he pushed her again toward the opening. “If we don’t go, they’ll kill us and you’ll go in that way.” No bodies. No trail. No proof.
“We have to get Dane down there,” Paul stood behind them.
Grace looked at them. Paul’s green chemical light cast shadows across Dane’s face. She thought she saw him move, but, in the eerie green shadows, it was hard to tell. This was the only choice. Putting her arms on either side of the dark hole, the cold concrete tunnel scraped her back as she slid forward.
The tunnel took her farther down underground. Noises, footsteps, and voices awaited, capturing her in a soft green light as her feet hit solid ground.
Charlie moved her as, one at a time, the rest of them came down the chute. Dane’s unmoving body slid into Robert’s arms. A moan, deep and full of pain, escaped Dane as he was gently set aside.
Her hands trembled, unwilling to touch him, but needing it. His clothes were damp, holding the cold to his warm body.
“Let’s get going.” A woman’s voice, Lisa, called from farther down the smaller tunnel.
“He isn’t shot?” Grace asked, as she followed Paul.
“No,” Paul answered. “One of the rebels was shot, but not killed, and Dane wouldn’t leave him behind.” As he spoke, they came to the entrance of another, larger tunnel and she followed Paul inside, standing straight and looking at the rebels as they gathered around Lisa.
The smell of sewer and dirt wafted in the air. Were the two men she and Dane encountered earlier in the day here? The two that she and Dane hid from?
Grayson came through behind Robert. Though he was a large man himself, Robert’s frame wasn’t sufficient enough to slow Grayson’s pace as he walked to the front next to Lisa, where the last of the men gathered.
A ladder behind Lisa caught Grace’s attention. Another tunnel at the top. No time for this. Lisa motioned for them to go and stood next to the ladder, as one by one, the rebels climbed up and crawled inside.
“Help them,” Lisa told Charlie and then climbed up to disappear into the tunnel.
Charlie climbed the ladder and went inside the tunnel. A hand extended from the dark mouth. Robert climbed up and Paul passed Dane’s body to Robert and together they handed him to Charlie. Robert followed as Charlie pulled Dane inside. Grace took Paul’s cold hand and followed the men into the darkness of the smaller tunnel.
Heavy breathing. Pushing. Pulling. Sliding. She followed the sounds of Dane’s body being pulled through the tunnel. Her knees grew wet as she crawled in the small space wondering how the larger men were able to get through. She struggled for air. Cramped inside the small space among a group of people it became hot. The smell of filth was a stain to her senses.
A loud “humph” and a moan echoed from the bottom of yet another tunnel slide. A rat in a maze. Her muscles ached and her knees popped as she lowered herself. Familiar hands, a slight build, Grace could make Robert’s silhouette as he caught her.
The soft light felt harsh to Grace’s unaccustomed eyes. Body outlines and shadows were all she could see at first. As she strained to see farther into the tunnel Robert’s hands fell gently to her shoulders to move her out of the way and help Paul up as he arrived.
Dane lay on the cement floor, his head moving slowly. She swallowed hard and fought back tears as she kneeled beside him. Hard. Cold. Wet. The cement held an odor she couldn’t place and didn’t like.
“Dane.” His cheeks were cold to the touch. She ran her hands over him and found a large bump on the back of his head. He winced.
“Keep moving,” Lisa called.
Paul was there, picking Dane up. He put Dane’s arm around his shoulders and Robert took the other side. Grace followed them, a thankful prayer echoing inside her heart as she watched Dane try to walk with them.
The large tunnel opening fifty yards up was marked with a single line on the outside. Within makeshift huts, the weary faces stared in wonder at the strangers. It was a small piece-meal village that went back about two hundred yards.
Fifty yards again and another opening, a larger recess in the tunnel with more huts and more staring eyes. Men, women, and children of all ages and in various stages of disarray and filth watched them. Outside the tunnel, two lines marked the opening.
Fifty more yards and the outside of this opening matched the three bars on the rebel’s hats. It wasn’t as large as the second underground village they passed, but it was larger than the first. Two rebels stood guard outside the entrance. Lisa nodded to them as she led the way inside. The entrance opened up into a large cement cave that recessed over 300 yards back. Huts made of old car parts and metal garbage lined the back.
Hive. Grace’s neck craned back as she took in the small cubicles stacked 50 yards in the air. Make-shift ladders led up and down the side of the rows. They were large enough to fit two adults each, but no one could possibly stand up straight in them, except for small children. There were no children in this place, only men and women with weapons.
Other buildings lined the concrete tunnel on the side and up the middle. In the very center was a large cage made of rusted fencing and tall metal poles. The large square fenced enclosure proved to be a jail. A man stood in the center of it, filthy and wet, and obviously ill-treated. Grace’s heart pounded as they neared it. The prisoner’s eyes were large, but, as they stared at her she could see no humanity in them.
Small breaths helped to stifle the odor. Ventilation holes lined the ceiling but did little for the smell. Cool air ran over her as she passed beneath them. She was grateful when they passed the prisoner and moved toward a large hut made of tires and old conveyances. Eyes that had become accustomed to the light had to readjust when they walked inside the darkened hut.
Candles sat unlit and a string of tiny electric lights made a path around the single room inside. Three desks on three walls held computers and small weapons. The one in opposite the only door to the hut was larger than the rest and there were papers scattered over it.
An old couch, pushed up against the wall next to the larger desk, was an ugly green, but dry and welcome as Grace took a seat next to Dane who was able to sit up on his own. Robert sat next to him, his eyes taking in the situation.
“Charlie,” Lisa said, “You stay. And Roger. Put Ramon on guard outside,” she cast a glance to Grayson then back to Charlie, “Just in case.”
Charlie nodded, as everyone left except for him and Roger. Roger was relatively clean compared the rest of them, and much smaller. Charlie leaned back against the black tire wall to keep a watchful eye on the prisoners. And Grayson. Roger sat at one of the computers, took out a large hunting knife and began to clean his fingernails. He seemed totally engrossed in his task, but Grace saw his gaze flick to Grayson again and again.
“What happened to Dane?” Grace asked, Paul who stood between the couch and large desk.
“Grayson told the men to leave a wounded soldier behind. Dane wouldn’t leave him,” Paul explained.
“We don’t leave anyone behind,” Dane’s voice was strained, but Grace’s heart raced to hear it. She glanced at him, saw him struggle to concentrate. Her hand fell softly to his thigh. His larger hand covered hers, pressed down lightly, and remained.
“What a luxury it must be to have such nobility,” Grayson said as he approached the couch. “Who are you to judge our sacrifices?” Grayson seethed. “Who are you to question my authority?” Grayson grabbed for Dane’s throat, but a hand caught Grayson at the wrist. Paul shoved at Grayson. As Grayson stumbled back he pulled a knife.
Paul pulled out an equally large knife, and Grace had just enough time to wonder how Paul got it before Lisa spoke.
“I would stop right there, Grayson,” she said evenly.
Grayson’s eyes first glanced to her, then, he held still as the muzzle of Charlie’s gun rested against his temple.
“Did you give orders to leave one of my men?” Lisa asked.
“He was going to die. He was holding us up.” Grayson made no apologies.
“Did you know, Charlie?” Lisa’s gaze fell to Charlie.
“No. We were already with you, doing a sweep of the train station when Grayson went to check on the men.”
Lisa walked, craning her head to look into the eyes of the tall man. She took his knife.
A crack in the air announced her fist connecting with Grayson’s jaw. Grayson was unmoved, but he looked down at her through those dark glasses, and a lightning bolt of fear filled Grace’s heart for Lisa.
“Do it,” Lisa spat at him, “We don’t need you anymore. We’ve got him.” She glanced at Paul and back to Grayson.
“He may not be able to do the things that I can do,” Grayson warned. “He may have different training.”
Lisa nodded, but said nothing. She walked to Paul and took his knife.
“I see that I’m going to have to keep a close eye on you,” she said to Paul. Her gaze searched his face, lingered there before she turned away.
“Those aren’t candles,” Dane’s voice broke the silence. Grace turned to him and watched him as he shook his head and concentrated on the small string of lights around the room.
“No,” Grayson said, but he looked to Lisa as he continued, “They’re lights. Electric lights.”
Dane looked around the room, and the sound of power brought his attention to where Lisa stood at the large desk, booting up her computer.
“Power?” Dane questioned Lisa, but it was Grayson who demanded their attention.
“That’s right,” he said. “I’m able to tap into the military’s electric frequency without alerting them.”
“How can you do that?” Dane asked. He rubbed absently at the lump on his head, but Grace could tell by the clarity of his gaze that he was fully recovered.
Grayson walked closer again, Charlie’s gun trailing him.
“Because,” Grayson said, as he removed his dark sunglasses. “That’s what I was trained to do in Detroit. Tap into electric frequencies.”
Dane’s body was so close to her that Grace could feel his tension. She stifled a gasp, but her heart pounded in her ears as she looked in to the dead red light of Grayson’s left eye.
“The only way to save our people is to get the hell out of San Francisco before those black boxes explode.” Lisa remained in the center of the room, pacing.
“Our people?” Grace listened quietly as Lisa spoke, her opinion growing softer toward the rebel leader.
Lisa stopped, her gaze finding Grace and holding there. Emotions were thrown back behind a wall of nothingness and soft brown eyes.
“I can’t save everybody,” Lisa’s monotone voice sounded factual, but an underlying anger threatened at the edges of her pursed lips. “We’ve only got a few hours. It’s going to take all of that time to get everyone organized to leave this place.”
A mixture of heat, anger and sadness grew in Grace’s heart. There was well over a million people living in San Francisco.
“When those boxes explode, and that bacteria goes out into the air, everyone in the city will be dead in a matter of minutes,” Lisa’s mask slipped, and her eyes blinked back a thought that held the warmth of tears. “I hate those sheep-bastards,” her gaze moved to the ceiling and beyond, “but I don’t wish them dead.” As her gaze found Grace again they held only softness.
“You have access to information,” Grace looked to the computer, “We can find out where their command center is and stop them.”
Dane squeezed her hand, calling her attention. Pity. Sadness. Anger. His gaze mirrored Lisa’s, but held a warning. His thumb moved over the back of her hand, stroking softly.
“They’ll only have enough time to get a small amount of information from the computer before the military recognizes what’s happening and sends out a signal to kill Paul.” Dane released her hand to rub at the back of his head.
The shuffling of feet caught Grace’s attention and she looked to Lisa. Tension filled the air as the beautiful rebel moved to stand in front of Paul. Grace couldn’t stop watching her.
“You can’t kill Paul.” Being angry in person was different than being angry to people inside your headset. Grace shifted in her seat. The anger was lined with fear, and Grace trembled as she spoke. “Paul isn’t one of your people. You can’t just do with him what you want. You can’t just kill him.”
“That’s the point,” Dane said. “Paul isn’t one of their people.”
Cold and heat wound around her heart, fighting for supremacy. She hadn’t been trained to interact like this. Speaking out to Mr. Miller or Juliana was unheard of, but she recognized the need welling up inside her to express her opinions. Her anger. Nothing stood in the way now. Six months. Nothing to lose.
“You’re selfish,” Grace said to Lisa as she stood. Roger gave her little notice, but Grayson took a step forward.
Dane was up, not steady, but up. His body moved between Grace and Grayson. He wavered, shook his head, but held his ground. The heat from his body called her closer to him. His back was damp and smelled of the cold, wet concrete of the tunnels. Somewhere underneath was the musky scent of his cologne, and that sent a memory into her heart.
“You’re only thinking of yourself. Of your own people,” Grace felt stinging in the back of her throat. “You can help a lot more people than just yours, if you get the right information.” She swallowed hard, but the dryness caused her to cough.
Lisa’s gaze dropped. She walked to the desk and poured a glass of water for Grace. Grace needed it, so she took it. The water was clean, cold, and soothed her aching throat. Lisa took the empty glass.
“If you could save him, would you do it?” Lisa asked, looking at Dane.
“Yes, of course,” Grace said without hesitation.
Hesitation. Why? A glance to Dane and her heart tightened in her chest. Early this morning she wouldn’t have cared at all if the news told her Thomas Dane was dead. Her life unaffected by it. Others would care, because he’s a celebrity. People felt they knew someone if they saw them in movies, on television, heard them sing. Yet, in a week’s time Thomas Dane would be replaced by another celebrity. In a year, Dane would be reruns and classic oldies. Forgotten. Replaced. A victim of a moral, social disease he helped to create with his damned Emotion Chip.
Looking at him, tears threatened to fall. His death would devastate her. When had that happened? Her eyes closed, no movie, no radio, only memory. No headset required. His touch, his taste, his body. All of those things kept her from wanting him to die. But something more warmed her blood, and caused the tears to caress her cheeks in their flight to the ground. He had told her something that changed her life, something that made her want to live. That same thing made her willing to do anything, everything, to keep him alive. You matter. He’d said it with that beautiful voice, that hard body, the taste of his kiss.
“He matters,” Grace whispered into the room as she opened her eyes.
Dane’s gaze caught hers. A moment. Private, stolen. He searched her face, held her gaze and couldn’t look away even when Lisa moved closer to her.
“I have a sister,” Lisa said. Grace looked from Dane and into soft brown eyes. “And what you feel, right now, for him,” she glanced at Dane and back to Grace, “is what I feel for her. How can you ask me to take a chance with my sister’s life like that?”
“We could save everyone,” Grace pleaded.
“Could. But if we don’t, my sister dies. Right now, I can save her. I can save a lot of people I care about.”
Grace tried to stop her anger and frustration. Dane wouldn’t die. He could go with the rebels. But lots of people in San Francisco had people they loved. She couldn’t leave them. Years and years of conditioning to turn away were lost on her. She would do what she could.
She couldn’t speak as her mind processed what she must do. The air was thick from lack of ventilation in the closed building. Wet cement, sewer, so many smells it made her head ache. Dane stood there, her protector. Paul, behind her ready to die, but willing to heal others. Robert. Her gaze found him. He was fidgeting, trying to hold still, not seeing, not hearing. Stephanie. She’d never seen a man love a woman so much.
“I’ll do it,” she whispered, and turned back to Lisa.
“Do what?” Lisa asked.
“I’ll plug in to the computer. I’ll get the map of the city, and if I’m not dead you have to promise to get the location of the command center.”
“No,” Dane’s voice was clear and deep. It captured the attention of Roger, who closed his knife and pulled his gun.
Grace felt the tone rock her body. She shivered. She couldn’t make herself look at him. She’d look at Grayson before she’d meet Dane’s gaze. You matter. Her fate was sealed by that tone. She couldn’t let him die. She couldn’t let any of them die. She looked at the shocked face of the rebel leader.
“I’m dying,” Grace said. “I have a brain tumor.”
Silence. Lisa signaled Roger, who aimed his gun at Dane as he neared. Grayson stepped closer to Roger, but his attention held on Grace.
“If she dies, we still have the soldier,” Grayson’s voice raked at the inside of her mind.
“Paul is a doctor,” Grace wouldn’t look at Grayson. Her gaze remained fixed on Lisa. “His life is worth so much more than mine.” Grace thought of the conversation in the van. “He could help save your sister.”
“It’s not going to happen, Grace,” Dane’s voice was calm, but the tone was so low it vibrated in her ear.
Roger put the muzzle of the gun to Dane’s head. Silence again.
“You’re dying?” Lisa asked. Her mask was back in place.
“Yes,” Grace confirmed, “and we’re running out of time.”
Men came in from outside the building. Grace never heard anyone call them. They were just there. Lisa nodded. The men took positions by Dane, Paul and Robert. When Lisa stepped aside, Grace moved to the computer.
“No!” Dane moved, and three of the rebels grabbed him. Paul tried to move toward her, but several of them stopped him as well. Robert was still. His eyes glassy, tears unshed, glistened.
“Robert?” Dane yelled to the other man.
“What choice is there?” Robert’s soft voice held Dane in check.
Grayson moved to the computer and sat down. His fingers glided across the keyboard. Grace had never seen such a computer. She’d always had her headset. But the keyboard was the same. Instead of being plugged into a headset it was plugged into a box. She was mesmerized by it. Grayson plugged in a headset. The rod was six inches. She was fitted for four. Pain. Fear. Acceptance. The pain wouldn’t last long.
“Don’t do it, Grace,” Dane struggled.
A cold plastic headset was placed into her hand. Suicide. Death. Life. She shook, forced herself to steady so Dane wouldn’t see her hands. The rod was already pulled down.
Another glance to Dane held her to this earth. A lifetime in a day. She placed the headset over her head. She positioned the rod.
“I’ve never loved anyone before,” she said, looking into Dane’s eyes. He was her miracle. She was glad to know he might survive this.
The rod slid into place. She was plugged in.