Nebula Nights: An Anthology, featuring…
The Key, by Pauline Baird Jones
It was deeply quiet in the cave, quiet enough to hear her own breathing. And someone else’s. An icy trickle made its way down her back. Who, or what, was sharing this cave with her? Sara sat up, stifling a groan when various bruises and bangs registered formal protests to her brain housing group. She’d planned to stand up next, but something stirred across from her. Who—or what—ever it was rose, throwing an ill-formed and very large shadow against the wall and roof of the cave. Maybe it was the bad light, but the outline was very Sasquatch-ish—shaggy and kind of ominous. The icy trickle turned to a rushing stream. It moved toward her, passing into the half light cast by the sort of fire. Not Sasquatch, though he could have been a second cousin. He had a head full of dreads, he bristled with armament, and he bulged with muscles wrapped in what appeared to be tight fitting leather. It was hard to find features—his face was darkened by dirt or camo, or both—but his eyes were deeply, sharply green.And he was really, really tall. Sara had to tip her head way back to look up at him. He didn’t speak, which upped the eerie factor a few more degrees. She somehow managed to get her legs under her and stand. She was a tall girl—Tall Girl was actually her call sign—but the top of her head didn’t reach his chin. He’d have to be around seven feet to top her by that much. He looked like a ragged cave man, but there was a sharp intelligence in his eyes. And he’d managed to get her clear of her bird. Not exactly cro-mag man skills. She wanted to say something, but all she could think of was, crap. Not particularly useful.
The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy, by Greta van der Rol
Allysha was there, waiting,just inside the infra-red barrier. She smiled, a taut lifting of the lips, when he came in.
“Hello. Nervous?” Saahren said the words in his head.
She nodded. “Yes. But I’m ready.”
He dropped the infra-red barrier for the time it took to pass behind the counter and went to the secret warehouse for the explosives. He pulled down the carton and took out two packs of shardite and detonators, enough to blow the room to smithereens but not bring down the mountain, and slipped the blocks into his pockets.
She had her oblong device—she called it her techpack—in her hand. “Give me a sec to adjust the inventory.” She raised her head. “Done.”
“Now for the medical research center.”
She followed behind him,back to the main drive, along to the medical center and into the laboratory.
“Copy some of the data off the system so we have the evidence and then destroy it all.”He’d made it an order, damn it. “Please.”
While she worked on the computers he pulled the two shardite charges out of his pockets.Where best to place them? One on top of the benches to cause maximum damage. He molded the material around the fixtures and attached the detonator. And another here. Allysha had disappeared, he guessed into the foyer. He opened all the cupboard doors, switched off the climate conditioning and set the second charge.
A screeching howl from the room with the cages froze the blood in his veins. He leapt to his feet, heart racing.
Allysha charged toward him, eyes wide, mouth open. “A kartek.”
She tried to slam the door behind her but a heavy, clawed foot stopped the movement. A hooked talon, long as a saber, appeared in the gap above her head.