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
Everything was a blur at first. The pain was gone, but nausea began to attack her waking senses. Dane’s concerned face floated before her. Her focus, hazy around the edges, finally cleared. Dane’s lip was swollen, but he was alive. Adrenaline poured in, and drowned out the nausea.
“Drink this.” Paul’s voice seemed to echo in her ears. A hand, holding a glass of something liquid and yellow came into view.
Dane took the glass and held it to her lips. The taste wasn’t bad, but her stomach lurched at the invasion.
“Slow,” Paul commanded, still out of view.
Dane allowed her to sip from the glass. Her stomach stopped lurching. The haze evaporated like fog in sunshine. The last of the liquid gone, she could now see Paul, as he reached for the glass.
“Grayson?” She asked.
“They’re looking for him,” Dane said. “I hit him and tried to get to you. He took off.”
Dane was safe. She was alive. Time was running out. Grace sat up on the makeshift couch. Robert was sitting on a backpack looking at her. He glanced at his watch, but said nothing.
“How much time do we have?” Grace asked. More adrenaline.
“Not a lot,” Dane told her. “Robert and Paul have everything ready to go. I think you should stay here.”
“No!” She scrambled to stand. A wave of dizziness hit her and she reached out to Dane to steady herself. “What happened?” Confusion. Anger. Determination.
Dane pulled her close until she could stand without his help. She looked down to where she had been shot, but there wasn’t any blood. No wound.
“It was a tranquilizer gun,” Paul explained. The look on her face could only have been shock. “We don’t know why,” he answered.
“It only nicked you,” Robert said as he stood and put the backpack on. “Paul’s little concoction is supposed to have you good as new by now.” He glanced to Paul. Grace wondered how these two would be able to work together. They were opposites. If they didn’t need each other, she thought, they’d kill one another.
“How do you feel?” Dane’s concern warmed her.
“Good enough to go,” she assured him.
“I told you.” Was all Paul said, as he turned to pick up his own backpack.
“Be certain, Grace.” Dane’s face was a mask now. No judgment. I trust you.
She wasn’t certain of a lot of things. Would she be able to keep up? Could she kill? Is this how she wanted to spend the end of her life? But, of one thing she was certain. Whatever she did in these final hours would be done at Dane’s side. Live or die.
He nodded once, turned and caught the pack that Robert threw to him. As Paul handed her a smaller pack, Lisa walked in, with Ramon at her side.
“Bad news,” she said. “Ramon says that Grayson came to him and his men saying that I’d given orders for a final mission. One that would help secure the escape of our people.”
Lisa pursed her lips and looked intensely at Paul. “He took three volunteers and a whole hell of a lot of explosives.”
“What’s he going to do with explosives?” Grace asked.
“He didn’t say,” Ramon answered.
“Volunteers?” Robert’s voice held something that caused Grace to look at him. His mask was in place.
“Yes,” Lisa answered, but her tone, like Robert’s, seemed to hold more meaning than Grace could comprehend. The room had grown still. “He told them it was a suicide mission.”
Paul studied the rebel leader. His gaze moved over her
“What else?” he asked.
Lisa’s eyes darted toward Robert, then just as quickly found their way back to Paul. “He left a message for Robert.”
Robert continued to strap on the pack and check his weapons. He didn’t look up when he spoke. “What’s the message?”
“He says you’ll find your wife in the Colonel’s quarters at the land center.”
* * * *
The fog was dense in some areas, thin in others. Sometimes she could see the men in front of her, but more often she had to rely on Dane’s steady hand to guide her. It was over six feet now. The orders to kill anyone out in the fog would have been given. They were all moving targets.
Dane had given her a quick lesson in some of the hand signals they would be using to communicate. As the men ahead stopped near a dumpster, and then fell back into an alley, she wasn’t able to make out all of the hand signals. But she knew enough. Someone was coming this way.
They remained with their backs against the wall as several people went past them. The fog wasn’t as thick here, and Robert squatted down, pulled out a penlight to look at the map. Paul moved forward to keep a look out.
“We split here,” he told Dane.
“I thought we were waiting to split at the pier?” Grace wondered why the change in plan.
“It’s not safe ahead,” Robert answered.
“But people are just roaming around the streets here,” she said, and nodded in the direction those few people had gone.
“They aren’t roaming,” Robert assured her, “They’re running from something. Something up ahead. Something that probably saw them already.”
“Robert,” Dane called his attention. “Paul has the frequency set so it changes every thirty seconds. But he’s using Grayson’s technology. So, Grayson may be able to hear us.” Dane checked his headset settings against Robert’s. “Keep communications short.”
Robert only nodded. Grace wondered what was going on inside the silent workings of his mind. He’d not spoken to anyone, unless he had to. Something in his eyes spoke of things less than human. Savage things that could kill, and feel nothing. Those eyes moved to Paul, then back to Dane.
“He’s just like Grayson.” Robert’s mask held in place. “One thing…and he’s dead.”
Grace swallowed hard. Robert’s need for violence, for revenge, had a life of its own. She feared for Paul. But there was nothing she could say that would penetrate Robert’s cold heart.
“Right now he’s on your side,” Dane reminded him. “Don’t make a mistake you may regret.”
Robert’s cold warrior eyes moved slowly over Dane. Grace wondered if Robert even saw his brother-in-law.
Shuffling feet brought her attention to Paul. He kneeled down in their little circle, and looked to Dane.
“Timing is everything,” Dane said to everyone, but his gaze was on Paul. “We can’t give away that we’re trying to stop them, until everyone is in place. If they know, they might detonate prematurely.”
“I’m getting her out of there,” Robert seemed to think Dane was saying more than just his words conveyed. “I won’t leave her this time. Not for anything, not for anyone.”
“I’ll be waiting for your signal,” Paul answered. He seemed reflective for a moment, holding his own private counsel. Then his gaze found Grace. “Be careful.”
Grace wondered how a face, once so stunning, now, nearly half metal, could still convey such emotion. Instinctively, she reached out and grasped his hand. She squeezed it, let the warmth of her own reach him. As she let go, she wondered if she would ever see him again.
Robert tapped his forearm twice and gave the signal to split. Paul went back to his position, and signaled when it was safe to move out.
Grace flipped out the metal rod of her headset. Six inches. They plugged in. It was time.
* * * *
A glitch in his headset caused Grayson to stop. He motioned his men behind him. He flicked the channel and smiled to himself. They were all hooked up. All he had to do now was get to his objective first. It wouldn’t matter if they stopped the bombs or not. Not now. He motioned to the men. They were on the move again. Dead men walking.
Grace wondered how Dane could find his way in the thick fog. He’d attached a 6-foot bungee-cord from his belt loop to her hers, in case they got separated. She missed holding his hand, but understood the necessity of being able to access weapons immediately. They inched forward at a rate that caused her to make an effort at not shuffling her feet. Dane tugged once on the cord to indicate she should watch her footing.
The cord went slack and she stopped. Neither of them moved. She strained to hear. Waves lapped at tethered boats, rocking them gently in the water. The occasional red beam of light no longer scared her like it did the first time she saw one. Dane had pointed out that the light gave away the position of any cyborg. The light had become a tool for them.
Grace thought of the conversation they’d had back in the tent as they readied to leave. Paul told them to expect the fog to become thicker around the bay. The fog was hiding a secret. A military ship, waiting there to detonate a bomb full of Fool’s Gold.
Grace thought of a painting she once saw. She thought the artist’s name was Goya. He had lost his mind during the Napoleon invasion. A quiet artist that had painted beautiful landscapes until violence struck. The obvious evils of men had shown themselves, and his mind simply broke. After he died, they’d found a painting on the wall of the man’s kitchen. Saturn devouring his children. A god who was to protect them…had cannibalized them. The image of it stuck in her mind, gruesome and bloody. Its meaning somehow ironically connected to this day.
Grace jumped when Dane’s hand grabbed blindly at her forearm. She forced herself to calm, when his hand slipped down her arm to take her hand. As they moved forward, the concrete turned to wood. She prayed that the creaking planks would blend into the sounds of the night.
A quick squeeze of he hand and he stopped. Dane had a boat on a private pier. A small one he used when he went out on his own to dream up beautiful music and great inventions. The chance of hitting another boat was much less. Grace hoped Dane could find his way in the ocean as he had on the streets. Carefully they boarded, and untied the boat from the pier.
* * * *
Paul lost sight of Robert as they neared the Hyatt apartments. The man had a death wish. Reckless. The fog was heavier now that they approached one of the ten fog machines in the city. A red laser light show tapped out a deadly rhythm in the sky. Cyborgs. At least a dozen of them patrolled the area, securing the machine.
Paul found that his headset enabled him to see through his dead zombie eye. It was hooked in to a control center. There was no telltale red, laser light, but he could see. No doubt Grayson had come up with a way to restore his own eyesight. Using Grayson’s technology, he’d wondered why the man didn’t wear a headset all the time. To let the rebels think he had a handicap?
He couldn’t figure Grayson out, and that bothered him. You have to know your enemy. But what would make Grayson so willing to let someone die trying to gain data from a military hook-up, and then use a tranquilizer gun on those same people later?
An unexpected sound put Paul’s attention on a nearby pile of dead bodies. Gun in hand, he moved in that direction. If it was Robert, he’d just as soon not have the man at his back.
Faces, purple and bloated stared at him. How many times had he seen such atrocities without a thought to the stories behind those eyes? Before the unfamiliar emotion could be named he stamped it out. He turned off any feelings that might have taken hold of his soul. He wouldn’t think of them again. Perhaps he wasn’t as human as he’d hoped.
From his peripheral vision he saw movement. Someone there, in the pile of death, hid a beating heart. As he moved forward, leaning closer to several faces, he scanned them. It registered that one face was still pink just before the eyes snapped open, and an arm came up to smash him in the head with a hammer.
Paul stumbled back, his gun hitting the pavement behind him. The metal tore again from his face allowing blood to stream down his neck. The man hadn’t had enough room to get a good shot in, but as Paul cleared his vision and looked up, the man stood there, swinging again.
Paul didn’t step back, but moved his body to one side. The hammer slashed through the air, missing him. When the man drew back again, another hand grabbed his arm to stop him.
“Grayson.” Paul fought the inclination to take the hammer from Grayson, just as Grayson had removed the hammer from his assailant.
“Soldier,” Grayson spoke to the man standing wide-eyed in front of Paul, “Stand down.”
The words didn’t seem to register at first. Then, nervous eyes flicked toward Grayson. He didn’t so much relax, as he just stopped looking so damn terrified.
“Get back to your assignment,” Grayson spoke low, but with great authority. No one would question him.
The man took back the hammer, cast a last look at Paul, and scurried away into the fog.
“How do you like having your full sight back?” Grayson wore a mask of indifference. Whatever lived inside that man’s soul was black, or void of all humanity.
“It’s not safe here,” Paul stated.
“Look again,” Grayson invited.
Reluctant to take his eyes off of Grayson, Paul quickly glanced around the area. There was only the fog, which had started to thin out.
“What’s going on here?” Paul wondered how Grayson had gotten rid of the AIM soldiers.
“The data I wanted had nothing to do with a map for the rebels,” Grayson told him. “I’m taking out the fog makers.”
“I don’t get it.”
“If the fog doesn’t encompass the entire city, they can’t release the bombs. By daybreak, they’ll be caught with their pants down,” Grayson’s mask held, but something lived bright and ferocious inside his human eye. “It’ll leave witnesses to what’s happened. AIM soldiers. Military killing civilians.”
“And what if they release the bombs?”
“They might. But, I doubt it. It would spread so far, so fast, the bastards on that ship out there won’t have time to escape.”
“That doesn’t mean the military wouldn’t sacrifice them,” Paul felt heat spread throughout his body. His gut clenched, and his muscles began to fill with energy. “You could be condemning all of northern California.”
“It’s a calculated risk I’m willing to take,” Grayson moved, as though he could feel the heat of the other man’s anger growing.
“Why not stop the bombs? Why not work with us?” Paul’s hands clenched into fists.
“That was never my plan. And, I couldn’t be two places at once. You can’t think for a minute those rag-tag rebels could have pulled off something so covert it would fool the US Military?” Grayson shook his head, as though he expected more from Paul. “I can take the fog makers out one at a time. I only need to take out five to destroy their mission. I’ve taken out two already.”
“I’m a simple man,” Grayson stopped, touched his scarred face thoughtfully. “Revenge.”
“I had a life once. Like you. I was a top technology scientist. Civilian. But Infinity Corporation got a government contract to make headsets for genetically engineered people, and my life changed. Infinity figured out how to assassinate people using a head set, but make it look like natural causes. When the military asked for the technology, Infinity wanted to renegotiate terms.” Grayson’s mask slipped and anger filled his features.
“So what?” Paul said, unaffected by Grayson’s story. “You worked on a weapon for Infinity and when they wouldn’t hand it over the government turned you into a cyborg? My heart’s breaking.”
“I had no idea Infinity was working on a weapon. The scientists were given small tasks, never told what the big picture was. But, you’re right, Infinity decided to put all the information together on a chip, hide the chip, and blackmail the government. That didn’t go over too well with Uncle Sam. To insure the technology couldn’t be duplicated, Infinity started killing scientists. It was a race. You were killed, or you were turned into a cyborg.”
“It doesn’t give you the right to kill innocent people,” Paul tried to keep his voice emotionless.
“Let me tell you about innocent people,” Grayson lost his calm, “Infinity got to my home first. It was my son’s fifth birthday. I was late to the party, but I recognized the van when I pulled into the driveway. When I got out of the car someone grabbed me, injected me with something. The last thing I saw was blood on the inside of the kitchen window. And then,” he paused, “I woke up in Detroit. Like this.” His hand found the scars again.
“I don’t care.” Paul would worry about his loss of humanity later. He had a mission. And this walk down memory lane was over.
“That’s too bad,” Grayson said, as he pointed his gun at Paul, “I’d hoped you’d see that we were the same. Between the two of us we could nail those bastards. You have knowledge of them, like me. But we had different…talents. Different resources. Between the two of us we hold a wealth of secrets. And let me tell you this soldier,” Grayson stepped back, but his gaze never broke from Paul’s, “You’ll dream. If you survive this…you’ll dream. When you do, you’ll come looking for me.”
“I can’t let you do it,” Paul took a step forward, and was greeted by cold steel at his temple.
“Then stop the bombs,” he suggested as he continued to move backward.
Paul couldn’t see his weapon through the carpet of fog. There was no doubt that Grayson would kill him if he had too. Grayson was insane with his need for revenge.
He watched the madman fade into the billowy fog. He saw only his outline, then he was gone.
Paul searched until he found his lost gun. The land center was close. Grayson was a brazen bastard.
Stopping the fog machines to expose the military was a good plan. But the stakes were just too high. Paul turned in the direction of his destination. He wasn’t like Grayson, he was still sane. But then again, he hadn’t had time to dream.