Hunter’s Moon: Part 8



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The sound of gunfire echoed throughout the cramped compartment. McGrath depleted his remaining anti-personnel rounds and switched to armor-piercing. Next to him, Zephyra’s rifle thundered, the report reverberating in his ears. The Magistrate’s men crouched near the door. Their submachine guns riddled the surrounding cargo crates with holes. 

Abigail leaped between stacks of containers, firing both derringers at their attackers. The small weapons packed a surprising punch. One of the guards went down with a gaping wound in his forehead, blood and brain spraying the wall behind him. 

McGrath ducked out of the line of fire as a hailstorm of bullets ricocheted around him, sparking off the metal floor and ceiling. He caught his breath. The smell of cordite and ozone stung his throat. Kelley tossed a grenade and covered both ears as he sank beside McGrath. The grenade detonated with a loud pop and took out two of the guards in a storm of shrapnel. Even the best body armor did little to protect them against the monomolecular fragments. 

“Clear!” Edgar shouted. 

McGrath and the Angels emerged from cover. Wisps of smoke drifted lazily through the air above the crumpled bodies. He grabbed one of the guard’s weapons and checked the magazine. He’d take all the firepower he could get. “Let’s move. The longer it takes us to get to Donner, the greater the opportunity they have to get him off the train.” Not that there was anywhere he could go. But McGrath wasn’t taking any chances. 

Abigail led the charge into the next car. The compartment was empty, save for a few storage bins filled with various supplies. Overhead nets for passenger’s luggage that was either too large or too unwieldy to fit in the main cars sagged loosely above them. Zephyra slapped her gloved hand against the controls for the door leading into the passenger section. It didn’t budge. “They’ve locked us out. We’ll have to blow it. McGrath…” 

He removed his last remaining charge from his duster’s inner pocket and pressed its magnetic side against the door. After programming it for a ten second delay, he took cover with the others behind a refreshment trolley on the far side of the room. The explosion was directional, and most of it was focused on the center of the door. A loud hiss, followed by a resounding boom shook the walls and floor of the compartment. The door folded outward under the force of the detonation, reinforced alloy collapsing like wet cardboard. Molten metal dripped from the edges of the breach. 

Shouting from the other side. Frantic footsteps. The clack-clack of assault rifles. 

McGrath tucked his pistol into its holster and raised the submachine gun, bracing its butt against his shoulder. “I don’t suppose you have any more grenades?” he said to Kelley, who took up position beside him, shotgun aimed at the opening. 

“Fresh out, I’m afraid.” 

McGrath shrugged. Didn’t hurt to ask. 

Zephyra shouldered her way past the hulking man. “What are you idiots waiting for? Want me to hold your hand?” 

She strode toward the door, rifle raised. Abigail took up a firing position at her flank, derringers aimed at the shapes moving through the smoke in the adjacent compartment. They both opened fire, filling the hole with bullets. Return fire stammered from the other side, punctuated by shouted orders that were lost in the cacophony.

The Angels stormed through, releasing everything in their power on the guards. McGrath followed them into the fray. It was nearly impossible to see anything in the smoke. The car had poor ventilation and the windows had been blocked with armored shutters. A figure moved through the gray nebula enveloping them, and McGrath slammed into it, shoulder first. He didn’t want to risk shooting one of his own people. The figure grabbed him and soved him against the wall. His dark features emerged from the smoke like a submarine surfacing from the depths of the ocean. 


McGrath hadn’t expected to see him here. If there was ever any doubt of the Magistrate’s involvement, it was gone now. 

McGrath raised his submachine gun, but Jasper knocked it away and closed one enormous hand around his throat. “Should have just taken the money and run.” 

He struggled in Jasper’s iron grasp. Sweat poured into his eyes, blurring his vision. The helmet suddenly felt unbearably hot and claustrophobic. He kicked Jasper’s right knee, but the joint was as rigid as a steel beam. The man wore military-grade Armorskin, a formfitting bodysuit made of adaptive nanofiber that was resistant to most bullets, energy bolts, and edged weapons. McGrath hadn’t seen anything like it in Outer Colonies. It was cutting edge Solarian Navy tech. 

Blood vessels popped in McGrath’s neck, and he thrashed under the pressure of Jasper’s grip. As his consciousness slipped away, something struck Jasper in the back of the head and he let go. McGrath gasped for air and slid down the wall. 

Jasper spun and smashed his face into the butt of Zephyra’s rifle. His nose shattered. He cupped one hand around the gushing wound and crumpled to the floor. Zephyra kicked him onto his back and pressed the barrel of her weapon against his forehead. His eyes widened. Before she could squeeze the trigger, one of the Magistrate’s guards knocked her aside. He raised the muzzle of his submachine gun, which bore a hole straight through McGrath. 

Gathering what little energy he had left, McGrath pulled himself to his feet and stumbled toward the guard. He knocked the weapon upward just as the man fired, the fusillade shattering a light panel above them. Tattered circuits and broken glass showered down. McGrath nearly tripped over Jasper. He grabbed the guard’s weapon with both hands and twisted, throwing him to the floor. Just as he ripped he submachine gun free, an inhuman roar shook the walls of the passenger car. He froze in place. Heavy footfalls sent vibrations rippling through the floor. A renewed fear surged through him. 

“Ah shit,” Abigail said from across the smoky room. “Someone woke the bitch up.” 

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