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
There was clapping. Not applause, but the sound of someone typing frantically on a keyboard. The pictures forced behind her lids, were foreign. Grace held still, waiting for the pain. More pictures. Things she’d never really see. Things she’d never know about.
Far away a buzzing began. The pictures came faster. A map. Another map. The buzzing became a high pitched whine as it grew louder. A document she couldn’t read. Another, with pictures of AIM soldiers. The noise resonated in her head. Another map. The command center. The noise brought pain with it. It began to vibrate behind her lids, until she could no longer see the pictures. Her lids convulsed. No control. Pain. Noise.
Someone was screaming. Her throat hurt, her lungs burned. Even in the darkness everything spun around. She recognized her voice, as pain and cold spread, dropping her to her knees. She scraped her palms, as her body tumbled. White-hot pain intensified. Dying. Abruptly it stopped. The pain was gone, as though it were never there. The spinning continued. Nausea followed. Residual pain registered as she caught her breath. Her hands and knees were wet and cold. Lungs and throat still burned, but she no longer heard the screams. Breathing took all of her energy.
“Grace.” The voice penetrated and her eyes opened. He knelt beside her, the headset in his hand.
“Dane?” She focused on him, but the room spun, making it difficult to hold her gaze to any one thing.
The warmth of his body, as he enveloped her in an embrace, pushed away the pain. He was sitting on the cold floor rocking her, his heart beating frantically against her cheek. How long had it taken to download the information? Did they get it all? Why wasn’t she dead? Her mind was full of questions, but her throat wouldn’t allow them to escape her lips. Her breath caught in her lungs, cooling her body.
She trembled, but she wasn’t cold anymore. An audible click sounded in her throat as she attempted to speak, but nothing came. The coolness of a glass touched her lips, and water poured in a small sip at a time. The first sip hurt, but the second was soothing and then her body responded and she tried to take a bigger drink. The glass was taken back and she looked up into the concerned face of Paul.
“Did I get it?” Her whisper came out on an exhale, and she wondered if anyone heard her.
“We got everything,” Dane whispered in her ear, his embrace tightening for a moment. He pushed her away from him to inspect her. He frowned as he wiped away tears she had been unaware of. “How do you feel?”
An internal inspection only brought more questions as to why her life had been spared. A headache, lodged between her eyes, was fading, leaving a dull heartbeat there. Her throat felt better, but it would be hours before it felt fine again. The tiny aches and pains from her fall meant nothing to her. Not now that she knew she would live a little longer.
“I’m fine.” Looking around the room, she saw the questioning faces of those who had watched her ordeal. Mistrust etched many of those faces.
A sudden jerk caused the room to spin, and the headache to flare, as Grayson’s large hands turned her to face him. He cradled her face in one hand, as he tilted it back, to inspect her hook-in. As he let go he pushed her toward Dane who caught her, and steadied her in his arms.
“You have a military hook-in,” Grayson accused. He looked around the room, halting his gaze on Lisa’s. “She’s a spy.”
“No!” Grace’s blood ran cold at the accusation. Why would they think that? She placed her hand to her hook-in, expecting to find blood that wasn’t there.
“Explain yourself!” Grayson’s harsh tones echoed in her ears.
She turned to face Dane. His face mirrored that of Paul’s. Confusion.
She dislodged herself, and stepped back from him. A study of his face caused a distinct pain in her chest.
“I don’t know why my hook-in can take a military rod,” she said. “Maybe the doctors did it when I had some of the tests done on my brain.”
“And you didn’t notice something like that? An alteration to your hook-in?” Grayson had been joined by some of the other soldiers.
“I was in a lot of pain for a while,” she stammered to explain, as her mind reviewed the days before, and directly after, her diagnosis. “There were so many tests. I was unconscious sometimes. I just don’t know. But I’m no spy!.”
“She has a military hook-in, and a pet cyborg,” Grayson said as he looked to the soldiers and then to Lisa. “Now, she’s infiltrated our command center. What are the chances that the map we have can be trusted?”
A grumbling of words from the soldiers behind Grayson were jumbled as Grace’s mind tried to capture any logic behind what had just happened to her. Somehow she’d gone from martyr to enemy. She should be dead, no doubt, from the hook-up and download she’d just went through, so she could understand their mistrust, she just couldn’t do anything about it.
“Grace is no spy, and you know it,” Dane’s expression held less surety than his words.
She looked at him, studied him, and knew he was unsure. How could he know? They’d only just met. It was long enough to make love, but not to earn trust.
Grayson walked forward, but stopped a few feet from Lisa. His stern look went to the soldiers. “Your leader brought a spy in amongst you. Is this who you want to follow when your lives depend on it?”
“Watch it, Grayson,” Lisa warned. “You brought her here, too.” Lisa’s soft brown eyes narrowed on Grace and held there. “I’m sorry Grace. I don’t think you’re a spy, but I do need an explanation about the hook-in.”
“Maybe she was slotted to be a soldier when she was young?” Paul offered. “Lots of orphans, and other unwanted, were given directly over to the military.”
“What? And the doctor who worked on her failed to mention that?” Grayson wouldn’t give up this line of questioning. Not this line of thinking. Not this opportunity to take command.
“We need to act on this information now,” Lisa interrupted. “It doesn’t matter if she’s a spy or not. We’re running out of time. If the map is fake, we die. If the map is real, and we don’t try to make it out, we die.”
“We have the cyborg,” Roger said.
“Do we trust a cyborg or a spy?” Lisa asked. “Let’s take what we have, and make a run for it.” She turned to two soldiers who stood at attention near the entrance of the tent. “Give the signal,” she said, and the two quickly disappeared. She turned back to those who remained. Her gaze fell to Paul. “Roger will take you to see my sister. She needs help before she can be moved.
Grayson, why don’t you send someone up to see if we’ve got company coming?”
When Grayson only stared, Lisa took a position directly in front of him. Toe to toe.
“No one here is going to trust a spy…or a cyborg, Grayson. That’s why you’ll never be put in charge.”
“What are you saying? I’ve kept my end of the deal.”
“And I’ll keep mine. For now, you check up top while I get people organized to move out.”
Grayson nodded, brief, curt. He spun around, and motioned for two of the soldiers to follow him, and then he was gone.
Paul approached Lisa. “You made a deal with the devil?” he asked.
“Grayson came to us weeks ago,” Lisa told him, “he told us something was going to happen in San Francisco. He told me that the only way to save my people would be to trust him to help. We struck a bargain. He helps us survive, and we take him into our group as a military leader.”
“And you trusted that? That he came all the way to San Francisco to ask a bunch of rebels for a job? I hate to tell you this, but Grayson is a selfish bastard, and whatever he’s really up to here has nothing to do with helping anyone but himself.”
“He got us electricity,” she said, “He put that computer together so it could download military information. He got us the map. We’re getting out of here because he kept his part of the bargain. Besides, what military significance would our people have anywhere? Until he does something against us, he’s with us.”
“That’s noble, Lisa,” Paul told her, “but it’s also stupid. Grayson isn’t someone to make deals with.”
“Where else is he going to go?” she asked. “You saw his face. He’d never be allowed to live among the sheep. He’s a wanted man. It’s the underground or death. His motive is simple; survival. And, I think we can all relate to that.” Lisa ran her fingers through her dark hair. “We need to get moving.” She said it to herself, paused in thought, and then looked around the room.
“Ramon. See that our guests are taken to the guest house. Give them their weapons. They can come or they can go. I don’t care. But, you,” her attention came back to Paul, “are coming with me.”
“We won’t leave without Paul,” Grace spoke out, bringing the rebel leader’s attention to her.
“Then you won’t leave.” With that Lisa nodded to Ramon, and then to Paul. Lisa walked out, and Paul gave a quick glance to Grace before he disappeared.
Ramon followed orders like a good soldier. They were shown to a large tent behind the one they had just come from. Ramon handed them each a gun without hesitation.
“Don’t try any funny business,” Ramon warned before he exited, “There’ll be enough death tonight.”
Left alone, Robert, Dane and Grace took seats around a table made of old tires and a car hood.
“What do we do?” Grace asked.
“We’re going to have to split up,” Dane spoke to Robert. “I’ll go to the command center on the ship and try to stop the detonation of the bombs. You go to the land center to try and find Stephanie.”
“What about me?” Grace asked.
“You’re going with the rebels, out of the city.” The finality in his voice made her angry.
“I’m not leaving with them,” Grace told him and then glanced to Robert. “I’m not leaving with the rebels while you’re out trying to save everyone. I’m not leaving here to die. And I will die.” Her words caused Dane to shift uncomfortably.
“She’s right Dane,” Robert spoke up. “She shouldn’t go with them. The military is looking for her. Where ever she goes, whoever she’s with, will be a target. She needs to stay with us. Besides,” he looked at Grace, “They want you, you have a military plug-in you knew nothing about, and this might be the only opportunity we have to find out what’s happening to you.”
Grace silently thanked Robert for being logical. She hadn’t thought of the danger she might put Lisa and her people in.
“Dane,” she said, “If there’s a way for me to save myself, I need to try. The chances that I’ll find out what they did to me after this is over is slim to none. I’m going with you.”
Grace placed her hand on Dane’s shoulder. His hand came up to softly squeeze her fingertips.
“I’m going to ask Lisa for the information they got. I’ll get the map to the command center. I’ll get everything.” She turned to leave and was greeted by Ramon. “I need to speak with Lisa.”
The rebel soldier nodded, and Grace was gone.
Dane watched her walk away and pride overcame him. He looked across the table to Robert.
“What are our chances?” he asked.
“Not good,” Robert answered, as he stood to pace the room. “But we do what we have to do, don’t we? For ourselves. For the people we love.” Robert’s gaze moved toward the place where Grace had sat. “I’ve never seen anyone affect you like she does.”
Dane followed Robert’s gaze. Robert had no idea. Grace Sullivan had more than affected him. She got under his skin, into his soul. Watching her plug in, waiting there for her to die, he had felt his heart short circuit, almost explode. When she’d survived, he was overcome by every emotion he’d ever felt. It was hot and cold all at once. It was something he’d never experienced before.
“She’s different,” Dane agreed. “I don’t know if it’s the timing, or the fact that wanting her goes against the status quo.” Dane stood, walked to her vacated chair, and rested his hand on the back of it. “I do want her,” he said, “She moves me, until I don’t know what to do. I don’t feel myself. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” His imploring look brought his brother-in-law to his side.
“I know you think the military took away your ability to feel love,” Robert said, as he placed his hand on Dane’s shoulder. “But, I’ve always thought you were wrong about that. You love your sister. Hell, you love me. And I’m telling you right now…you love Grace.”
The small bed lay against the far corner of the room. It was relatively quiet here, considering all the commotion going on around the compound. Paul stood in the doorway, watching Lisa gently wake her sister.
“Amanda,” Lisa whispered, as she rubbed the little girl’s back. “Sweetpea, I need you to wake up.”
Paul took a step inside. Stuffed animals hung on the walls. A preference toward animals that could fly was obvious. He reached out and plucked a unicorn off the wall. It had seen better days, but someone had taken care to sew the seams and place buttons for eyes. Paul would be willing to bet that the someone was Lisa.
The little girl rubbed her sleepy eyes, and smiled up at Lisa. Paul noted the strong family resemblance. Looking at the woman and child, a memory flashed instantly in his mind, and then it was gone. The image lost. But, the emotion brought on by it was staggering. Did he have a family? Somewhere out there? He shook his head as though he could clear it that way.
“You okay?” Lisa was standing there in front of him. It caught him off guard, and he frowned at her.
“Fine. Do you want me to look at her?” He slipped on a mask of indifference to hide the turmoil running rampant in his heart.
“Yes, of course,” she frowned back at him. “That’s what you’re here for.”
Paul nodded and walked to the small bed, where the little girl lay with wide brown eyes staring up at him. Those eyes remained on him for a moment. Sizing him up. Then they flicked to the toy in his hands.
“That’s Rainbow.” The voice was small and soft. She reached out and took the unicorn, cradling it near her heart.
She was wheezing, struggling for each breath. Paul pet the unicorn absently as he spoke.
“Your sister tells me that you’re sick,” he said. She only nodded, saving her breath and energy. “You have a hard time breathing?” Again, a nod. “Have you not seen a doctor before?”
Amanda looked at her sister, then back to Paul. Lisa came and kneeled down beside her.
“Grayson knows of a surgeon who can help her,” Lisa told him. “He says that, once we’re out of here, he’ll tell me where to find the doctor.” Lisa’s fingers ran through Amanda’s hair soothingly.
Paul looked at them. All the strength Lisa owned lay in this tiny deathbed. Grayson was useful alright. The bastard. He was blackmailing Lisa, and she was blind to it.
“What do you know about her condition?” he asked.
“She was born with a heart defect. Our mother was told that she’d need surgery to fix it. A valve in her heart isn’t working right. But, that’s all I know. Our mother died when I was ten. Our father was a rebel soldier here. And doctors, reputable ones, won’t come here,” she looked at Paul, “Not even to save the life of a child.”
His gaze moved from Lisa to Amanda. He had been a surgeon once. Not too long ago. But would he remember enough to do heart surgery on a child? A memory flashed before him. Blood. Instruments. Hand in latex gloves, digging into someone’s body. Then it was gone.
“Lisa, I don’t know if I can help,” he said. “Whatever they did to me,” he touched the metal that was still attached to his face, “they reprogrammed me. I don’t know if I’ll remember enough.”
Amanda looked at her sister when the soothing touch stopped. The little girl hugged the stuffed animal closer to her. Paul moved his hand, and rested it on the bedside. The struggling breaths of the little girl echoed in the silence.
“Can she be moved?” Lisa held her breath…waiting.
“I’m sorry, Lisa.” Damn! Wasn’t there something he could do? The helplessness of it made him burn. Those military bastards would continue to use him to kill. Only this time it wouldn’t be from a gun or a rifle, but from the knowledge they stole from him. A knowledge that could save this child’s life.
Lisa smiled to Amanda as her eyes filled with unshed tears. Amanda took in a big gulp of air, and reached up to wipe away the first drop that spilled over.
“Don’t cry, sissy,” she whispered, “It doesn’t hurt.”
Lisa swallowed hard, passed the tears, and passed the pain. Her hand began the soothing caress again, and Amanda closed her eyes. Lisa was nodding to herself. Resignation. Defeat. Grief.
“We should go,” Lisa said. She kissed Amanda’s forehead and pulled the covers up to tuck her in. An older woman, a nanny of some kind, came in. The women hugged, the older one looking at Lisa with hope that was distinguished with a simple shake of Lisa’s head. Another hug and Lisa walked out. Paul followed.
“I didn’t think she would be miraculously cured,” Lisa said, as she turned to face him. “I was hoping there might be something we could do to transport her somewhere out of the city. But, she can’t stand being moved. The stress makes it hard for her to breathe. At least here, she would be at peace until…” she broke off and turned away.
“I wish there was more that I could do,” Paul approached her, but then, didn’t know what to do. “If we had time, and the right instruments, I might be able to help. But, even if I tried to do the surgery now, it would take longer than we’ve got to complete the procedure. That much I do know.”
Lisa turned back to him, wiping the last of her tears. Her face was puffy, her eyes red-rimmed.
“I don’t want to alarm her. I’ll stay here with her,” Lisa’s resolve showed on her face.
“No.” But wouldn’t he do the same if it was his sister? If he had a sister. Damn his memory for failing. “We can still try to move her. At least you’d die trying.”
They stood in an alcove of Lisa’s home. They were still in the third hive, but this place was enormous compared to the other places.
Where the shadows were pitch black, the light was almost too bright. The contrast threw startling lines across Lisa’s beautiful face. The smell of earth clung to her, to this place. Soon it would be a grave, and they both knew it.
“She can die here, in peace, where she has no idea what’s happening,” Lisa explained. “If I try to move her, there will be pain and fear. If she gets out of San Francisco then, what? We have to travel through tunnels to San Jose. We’ll be staying with people who are not our own, people who may require us to serve them. She’d not last long.”
“What about Grayson’s doctor?” There had to be hope somewhere, even if it depended on that bastard, Grayson.
Lisa worried her lip in thought. Her dark eyes were full of things, he wished, she didn’t know.
“You and I both know, Grayson can’t be trusted,” she said.
“Then why did you let him in?”
“Grayson was much like you. Something happened to him in Detroit, and he regained some of his memory. He helped save the Detroit rebel clan. They sent him to us.”
“He saves a few,” Paul’s gaze studied her as he spoke, “but the city and everyone in it died.”
She swallowed hard. She wasn’t stupid. Grayson had his own agenda. Lisa had hers.
“The doctor’s in Michigan, she revealed, “He won’t come out until he knows we’ve secured his safety,” Lisa’s voice hitched, and she concentrated for a moment to get herself under control. “He won’t get here in time. You’ve seen her condition.”
“Then I’ll stay,” Paul offered. “I can stay here with you.” A memory, vague, but heart-wrenching molded into his consciousness. He had a family somewhere. Or, at least, he used to have a family. A painful stab of guilt and shame caused a pain in his head. Dead. He wasn’t able to save them. Was that right?
Paul’s hand rubbed absently between his eyes. The pain was mounting, as he tried to recall the memory more fully.
“If you want to help us,” Lisa pulled his arm down so he would look at her. “Stop the bombs.”
A lifetime lived there between them, as they gazed at each other. His lifetime. Her lifetime. And even more important was Amanda’s lifetime. She’d been cheated a full life. That didn’t mean it had to be over.
Paul nodded once. She would stay here with the child. He would do what he’d been trained to do. Not as a doctor. But, as a soldier.