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Shadow Run

Shadow Run by A.C. Ellis
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Someone wants to kill Susan Tanner. Because of the spaceship she lost 10 years ago? Or the one she'll now command?
Awe-Struck Publishing; September 2003
109 pages; ISBN 9781587494130
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Title: Shadow Run
Author: A.C. Ellis
Even before she stepped from the shower, she knew the attacker would be waiting. No words formed in her mind, nor thoughts that might be put into words--it never happened that way. Only a vague feeling that danger waited beyond the shower door.

She slid the door back and gazed at the man in the bathroom beyond. His stance was that of a well-trained fighter. Although he stood only six inches taller than five feet, his frame was layered in tectonic slabs of muscle beneath a black, tight-fitting jumpsuit, the gold sword and shield of Base Security emblazoned on the glossy fabric over his heart. A pink scar an eighth of an inch wide ran from the outside of his left eye, down his cheek, to the corner of his mouth, standing out against skin tanned nearly black. All facial hair--including eyebrows and lashes--was absent, and his bald head reflected the bathroom's overhead light as if oiled.

A belter, she thought as her gaze darted to the stun pistol holstered on the man's left hip, then to the pendant suspended from a silver chain about his neck. The shape of a hen's egg and half the size of a closed fist, the pendant was fashioned from pitted dull-gray metal. Somewhere, sometime, she had seen another like it, but she could remember neither where nor when.

"How did you get in here?" she demanded.

The dark-skinned man did not immediately respond. Instead, he looked her nude body up and down, as if sizing her up for strength and ability. What he saw was a six-foot-four-inch tall woman, apparently thirty years of age (actual age: forty-two), her body glistening with water droplets. Her breasts were high and firm, her hips not much broader than they had been twenty years before. Coal black hair falling to mid-back, eyes brown, features slightly Oriental.

What he failed to see were her prosthetics, and a fighting ability honed to perfection through years of training and discipline.

"Captain Susan Tanner?" he finally asked, his voice deep and strong.

She wanted to ask who he was, but she couldn't; her thoughts were blocked. There was a unique quality to his voice, a certain hard inflection she had not heard in many years. It actually demanded a response.

"I am Susan Tanner--"

The man's lips stretched tight over his teeth, and he barked a single word, "Traitor!" then lunged. His right hand flashed out in a vicious karate chop directed at her head.

She snapped her left hand up to deflect the punch, and the man's callused knuckles drove into the white ceramic tiles an inch from her ear. Pulverized tile peppered her body as her right hand shot out to slam into his throat. She felt his larynx collapse beneath her prosthetic hand.

Pain mingled with surprise washed over his dark features, and he staggered back a step, then caught himself and again scanned her body. He had expected neither her speed nor her strength.

"What's this about?" she demanded, putting as much authority as she could muster into her voice. "Who are you? What are you doing here?"

As soon as she asked those questions, she wished she hadn't. It couldn't possibly do any good. Even if he wanted to respond, he couldn't. She had seen to that when she crushed his larynx.

But there were those whose job it was to obtain that information. Base Security would get to the bottom of this. They could extract information from any mind; they had the Probe.

Before she could act on that thought, the dark man renewed his attack. Spitting blood onto the white tiles at her feet, he again came at her, this time half-turning and kicking out and up with his left foot, the side of his boot aimed at her solar plexus.

She side-stepped just enough to avoid his kick, then planted her bare feet as firmly as possible on the blood-slicked tiles and in Luna's one-sixth standard gravity, and shifted her weight. In the same motion, she brought her right elbow crashing down into her attacker's knee.

Bone shattered beneath flesh and his face contorted in pain. He tried to cry out, but the only sound his ruined vocal cords could produce was a soft gurgle. He crumbled to the floor at her feet.

Propping himself up on one elbow, he looked into her eyes. His gaze sent a cold shiver up her spine; it held a seething hatred greater than anything she had ever before seen.

Then she saw it: an inch long, white, horizontal figure-eight tattoo on his left temple. The symbol for infinity.

Without another attempt at communication, the man fingered the pendant hanging about his neck, and silently disappeared.