Shadows Across the Moon is a sci-fi 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
Grace waited at the front door. An alarm of some kind was sent out. A series of high pitched beeps had everyone running in an orderly panic. People had already packed. At least, Grace thought, some people were prepared.
Lisa opened the door, as Paul walked up behind her. Their solemn faces testified to the hopelessness of the night.
“Your sister?” Grace wasn’t sure what to say.
“Lisa’s going to stay here with her sister,” Paul said, as he moved through the door, to pass Grace. “I’m going with Dane.”
“I came to get the information that was downloaded,” Grace’s gaze remained fixed on Lisa. “We’re not leaving San Francisco.”
“I’ll get it,” Paul said. “I’ll meet you and Dane in the tent.” With that Paul excused himself with a nod, and a final glance to Lisa. Grace saw something flash across the doctor’s face that had nothing to do with saving lives, and everything to do with determination.
“Come in, Grace,” Lisa invited, “I want to talk to you before you go.”
The large canvass home was amazing. Grace walked into a living area that reflected the life of the rebel leader. Organized. Sparse. Functional. The number of chairs in the far corner spoke of late night meetings. A gun cabinet, locked with a chain and padlock, sat near a drafting table. No flowers, no bright colors, nothing feminine decorated the room. Yet, there were scented candles on the meeting table, and a stuffed toy lay abandoned on a chair.
“We have something in common, Grace,” Lisa said as she indicated to Grace that she could have a seat near the drafting table. “We’re dying.”
Grace watched her closely as she sat. Lisa had been crying. Grace could only imagine that it had to do with her sister. Lisa sat in front of her, back straight, eyes clear. She was a rebel leader again and this was business.
“What do you mean?” Grace asked.
“Unless someone stops those bombs, I’ll be dead in a few hours,” Lisa said, her voice unwavering. “Unless someone finds out what was done to you, you’ll be dead too.”
“I find that dead people are the most honest people,” she continued, “There’s nothing to prove anymore. No one can blackmail you. No one can buy you off.” Her gaze held, then her eyes moved over Grace’s face, as though she were reading it. “I trust you, Grace. I’ve lived by my instincts my entire life. I trust my instincts. I can’t go with my people, I’m needed here.”
Lisa glanced briefly at a small compartment of the tent where the flaps there were closed off. She closed her eyes for a moment, and then looked back at Grace.
“I can’t go with the soldiers, even though every fiber of my being wants that. But you’ll go,” she nodded, then stood and walked toward the gun cabinet. She opened it, using a small key, and took out a pistol. “This is mine.” She handed it over to Grace. “Use it.”
The gun was as cold as Lisa’s dark eyes. It was lighter than the gun she’d been given by Dane. Why Lisa would give such a gift to her was unclear. But she took it, checked the safety, and tucked it into the back of her pants.
“I don’t know what to say.” About her sister. About the rebels. About the gun.
“There’s nothing to say,” Lisa assured her. “Some women would have broken down crying when we stormed the house. Most would have been more concerned with themselves. You didn’t cry, and you wouldn’t leave a man behind. You were willing to give your life to save others.” Lisa paused in reflection, looked again at Grace, and nodded silently to herself. “You’re not going to wait here for them to return, and you’re not going to leave San Francisco, are you?” She knew the answer, but she wanted to know that Grace knew it.
“I’m going with Dane.”
Lisa nodded. “Of course.”
“Isn’t there anything you can do to save yourself?” Grace asked, as she stood and walked toward the other woman.
Lisa’s gaze was piercing and calculated. “I just did it.”
* * * *
The men sat around the table, hunched over a multitude of papers. Grace entered quietly, hoping not to disturb them.
“We can make it to the land control center in less than an hour,” Robert concentrated on the map in front of him. “This diagram…” he pulled another paper out from the pile, and sat it on top, “shows us where they have their land satellite, and the most likely location for a jail or holding cell.”
“They wouldn’t detonate from land,” Paul pulled out the map again. “The ship is located here, near Treasure Island. We’ll need to find a way to get to it. If we leave now it shouldn’t take more than an hour.”
“This mission,” Robert looked up to stare directly at Paul, “is under my authority. We infiltrate the land center first. Our objective is to rescue Stephanie.”
“Our objective is to save everyone in San Francisco,” Paul pointed out.
“I don’t give a damn about everyone in San Francisco,” Robert’s voice had lowered an octave. His calm was a lie. His heart beat hard enough that Grace could see it in his neck.
“There are children in this city,” Paul was unaffected, “Other people have wives…families here.”
“And I suggest they take care of their own,” Robert stood erect. The tension in the room caused Grace to shift uncomfortably.
“We work together. We save everyone.” Paul stood to face Robert. His metal face and dead red eye was all Grace could see.
The doctor-turned-cyborg had no one here, yet he was willing to die to save these people. Grace wondered if that was the soldier in him, or the doctor.
“Dane,” Robert turned to his brother-in-law for support.
“I understand,” Dane looked at Robert. “I do. There’s not enough time. We have to split up.”
Robert glanced back at the map. His expression became a mask less human than that of the cyborg standing in front of him. Grace felt cold chills looking at him.
“So be it,” Robert said. He pulled out the diagram again.
Grace stood, ready to be noticed. Lisa was right, she hadn’t fallen apart so far, and she hadn’t given up. Warmth, that only absolute resolve can give, coursed through her.
“What happens if Robert gets there, and the detonator is there, run by grunts?” she asked. She looked to Dane. “Didn’t you say that grunts are expendable?”
“That’s unlikely,” Dane looked thoughtful.
“But not impossible?” She asked.
“No,” Paul said, “Not impossible. I’m a high ranking officer, and I don’t know where the detonator is. It could be anywhere.”
“Our best bet?” Grace asked.
“Either the ship or the land center,” Paul answered.
“Then we split up,” Dane said. “Robert and Paul to the land center.” His gaze found her. “Grace with me.”
“You’re not coming with me?” Robert asked. His mask fell just enough for Grace to see the distaste there for Paul. Just as quickly, the mask went back into place, but Paul had seen it too.
“I won’t leave Grace,” Dane told him. “You should understand.”
“Paul?” Grace needed to know where the doctor stood on this. They needed to be able to trust one another.
Paul turned, and his dark eye was as dead as the red light opposite it. A warrior’s mask. Like Robert. It wouldn’t matter where Paul was told to go, she realized, he would search for a way to save them all.
Paul nodded once. The teams were chosen. A plan was set in motion. It was time to prepare to go back into the city.
She’d never shot anyone before. The gun was no longer cold against her skin, but had warmed to her. As she had to it. She would kill; it was inevitable, inescapable, fate.
The woman who longed to make a difference had changed, her dream of being brave, hard-earned. And it wasn’t the romantic idea she thought it would be. She was still afraid.
“Grace.” The sound of Dane’s voice, as he stepped inside the tent, warmed her cold heart.
He glanced to the gun in her hand, and whatever he saw on her face brought him next to her. They were finally alone, after all this time. After all that had happened.
“Oh, Grace,” he sighed, as he kneeled beside her, taking the gun from her hand and putting it aside. “Are you going to be able to do this?”
Her shoulders straightened, lips pursed, eyes not quite as clear as she would have hoped. “We do what we have to do,” she answered.
He nodded, “Yes, we do.” His gaze remained on her. She wondered what he saw there, studying her, as he so obviously was.
His finger made a slow caress along her jawline, it held at her chin, tipping her head slightly, so he could press a gentle kiss on her mouth.
It was almost her undoing. Regardless of the mantra she’d created for herself, that she could kill when pushed, she just wasn’t sure. It wasn’t the fear, she decided, but the taking of a life that gave her heart that cold hesitation.
She let herself kiss him back. She would imprint this moment in her mind, preserve it. The soft unhurried kiss, so warm and full of something they might never fully realize.
“You’ve undone me,” he whispered against her lips.
She opened her eyes, to see a face full of such emotion she found it hard to believe he couldn’t feel. Was it a habit to show emotions, such as this, when he thought it was expected of him? Dare she ask? She wouldn’t. Nothing would entice her to break this spell, this lie. He was giving her something to live for. To fight for. She knew he couldn’t really love her, but he felt something. He was honorable. He would feel obligation, responsibility, perhaps even a kinship to her.
Even if he could love her, their social status would prohibit anything more than a casual friendship. All the time she would have with him, was this moment. This day.
It would be better to die living out this day beside him, than survive the coming months alone. She had reason to fight. There was still hope that whatever caused this brain tumor might be reversed. She couldn’t deny that the presence of Juliana, and the knowledge that the military had targeted her, was more than coincidence. There were a lot of reasons to fight. For herself, and for the people who couldn’t escape San Francisco. And, she thought, as she looked into Dane’s handsome face, for one more moment, as brief and fleeting as it might be, with this man.
“Do you trust me?” she asked, unexpectedly. Thoughts of his initial reaction to her military plug-in still haunted her.
Something flashed across his face, regret. But his eyes were clear as he nodded. “I trust you.”
The words caused relief to wash over her. Tears threatened behind her eyes. Dane would help her. If there was a chance she could be saved, he would help her find it.
“When this is over,” he said, “we’ll talk this out. We’ll figure it all out.”
A slight hesitation caused her to wonder if he meant to say more, but the flaps of the tent opened, and their private world faded away. Grayson, pissed and armed, stood at the entrance.
Grace grabbed for her gun, as Dane stood to face the enemy. Grayson’s gaze flicked to Dane’s gun, then to her. The tall man’s stance was imposing and dangerous.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” Grayson asked Dane.
“We’ve done our part.” Dane moved, and Grace had to look around him to see Grayson. “We’ve been given our freedom.” Grace watched Dane flick the safety off his gun. “I don’t answer to you.”
“You are not going to sabotage this mission!” Grayson wasn’t afraid, he was angry. “I’ve had enough interference. You go with the rebels if you want to stay alive.”
Dane’s body acted as a shield, but Grace didn’t want him to save her. She wanted him to know that she was capable. She moved back, to get a better look at what Grayson might have as a weapon. Once she could fully see him, a cold chill ran up her spine.
“What mission is that, Grayson?” Dane asked. “Because, what we’re doing won’t affect the evacuation of these people.”
A twitch, slight and quick, in Grayson’s clenched jaw muscles told Grace that he’d slipped up. He hadn’t meant to say so much. Grayson knew he’d been caught. It made him all the more dangerous now.
“This is bigger than you know,” Grayson ground the words out slowly, as he chose them more carefully now. “Stay out of it.”
“I won’t stay out of it.” The line was drawn.
“If you’re dead, you can’t help her.” Grayson took a calculated step forward.
Grace wondered why Grayson would even care. Why not just pull the gun? The tension hung in the air like an electric currant. But, Grayson didn’t lift his gun. Not yet.
“What do you want, Grayson?” Dane never moved. Grace could see his profile, and knew his eyes were locked on the cyborg.
“What do you think you’re going to do?” Grayson shifted his body. Dane shifted. The tension rose.
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Dane said. “Just walk away. Let us go.”
“I can’t do that.”
“So you’re going to try to kill us?” Dane’s body seemed to vibrate with expected violence.
“I don’t want to have to do that.”
Sweat broke out on her brow as she watched them. Dane moved, slightly, keeping his body always between her and Grayson. Screaming wouldn’t help. It might distract Grayson, but most likely, it would distract Dane. The tent flap was closed. No witnesses to the violence within. She was too far away to run for help. It would put her too close to Grayson. She stood there feeling helpless, even with her gun gripped so tightly is hurt her hand.
Grace knew something had happened before all hell broke loose. She didn’t see Grayson move, but Dane brought his gun up so fast she didn’t have time to see why. Time sped up. Everything moved faster than she could think. Grayson threw his large body hard against Dane. Dane’s gun flew across the room, and the two men struggled on the floor. She couldn’t tell who was hitting or who was bleeding. Her gun was in front of her, pointed, waiting for an opportunity. She didn’t recall bringing the gun up. As the fight on the floor seemed to move in fast motion, the fight within her slowed, turned to ice. A break in the fight and Grayson would be a dead man.
Through the cold that had turned inward, toward her soul, there was pain. She was focused on her target. But she had become a target. As the men struggled, Grayson’s gun went off. A scream ripped through her. Pain, first cold, then warm, spread. She heard Dane cry out. Her gun hit the ground. And so did Grace.