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Authors: Ruby Lionsdrake

Tags: #General Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Romance, #Science Fiction, #Fantasy, #Fiction, #Time Travel

Stars Across Time

BOOK: Stars Across Time
6.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Table of Contents

Title Page

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Epilogue

Afterword

Stars Across Time

 

 

by Ruby Lionsdrake

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Ruby Lionsdrake

 

Acknowledgments I would like to thank my beta readers, Cindy Wilkinson and Sarah Engelke, for offering early feedback on this new adventure, and also Shelley Holloway, for making time to edit all of my projects. I would also like to thank you, the reader, for giving this new adventure a try. I hope you enjoy it!

Chapter 1

A
ndie Kim dug through her pack in the dark, mashing her fingers against a canteen, packets of dehydrated food, a first-aid kit, and something gooey on the bottom—she didn’t know what that was and decided to embrace the ignorance.

“I stuck some hand warmers in here,” she mumbled. “I know I did.”

“This is
so
beautiful,” her friend Min-ji said, her form hunched over the telescope at the edge of a cliff, her outline barely visible on the dark night.

“Aren’t you cold?” Andie patted her pockets until she found her phone, so she could turn on the flashlight app.

Min-ji stared into the eyepiece, whatever she saw holding her attention rapt. Andie sighed. This was what she got for making friends with an astrophysicist. Soft grunts and proclamations of ardor came from one of the campsites behind them, a vocal demonstration of what
normal
people did to keep warm on a frosty night in the mountains. Unfortunately, Andie and Min-ji did not have anyone along—or back home either—to keep them warm, a perennial problem in her life. If Min-ji felt the lack, she never showed it. She had a telescope to snuggle up to.

Andie finally found the hand warmers stuck to the goo at the bottom of the pack and pulled out two of the packets. As she stood up, a flash of white appeared in the woods farther up the mountainside behind them. Headlights? The bumpy road they had taken up to this remote facilities-not-included campground had continued past the turnoffs for the tent sites, but she could not imagine navigating the potholes and rocks in the dark.

She continued looking in that direction for another moment, but the light did not repeat itself. Maybe it had been her imagination.

A chilly breeze scraped through the pine trees, promising frost would lie on the ground by morning. It might be spring break back at the University of Washington, but winter had not yet relinquished its grip up here. Shivering and pulling her jacket more tightly around her body, Andie cracked open a hand warmer and joined her friend by the telescope.

She nudged Min-ji with the other hand warmer. “Here.”

“This is magnificent, Andie,” Min-ji said, finally lifting her head. “I was afraid it would be too late to catch it, but the sky is so clear out here. Take a look. The ion tail is brilliant, all blues and greens.”

“Aren’t you cold?” Andie asked again, pressing the hand warmer into her friend’s palm, though she did lean forward to peer at Comet Lovejoy. Despite her grousing, gazing up into the night sky always piqued her imagination, and she dreamed of traveling into space, however remote the possibility was these days. Even if she finished her master’s in aeronautical engineering, the odds of being accepted to NASA were—she snorted—astronomical.

“Cold?” Min-ji asked. “I suppose. But aren’t you supposed to be tougher than that? Didn’t you have to go out in the wilderness for weeks with nothing but a Swiss Army knife to get by?”

“You’re thinking of the Marines. I was in the Air Force. We didn’t go anywhere without our hand warmers.” Technically, Andie was still in the Air Force, the Reserve, anyway. She had to get back for her drill weekend in a few days.

“I’m now imagining you rummaging in your pack for one while piloting a fighter jet at fifty thousand feet.”

Andie smiled. Cruising at high altitudes
was
cold, but the liner under the G-suit kept a person warm. Or maybe she had always been too enthralled by being in the sky to notice.

She started to reply, but a twig snapped out in the woods, and she closed her mouth. It was probably nothing, but she turned in that direction, peering toward the trees. Were there campsites in that direction? She couldn’t remember. The couple having sex in their tent had quieted down, and there weren’t any lights on anywhere on the cliff top. The stars might be bright in the dark sky, but they did little to illuminate the mountainside.

Another twig snapped, and Andie tensed. That had been closer. She tried to remember where exactly she had seen that flash. Was someone sneaking through the woods from that direction?

“What is it?” Min-ji asked, sounding young and uncertain for the first time. She hadn’t taken any time between college and entering her Ph. D program, so she
was
young, Andie reminded herself. Barely twenty-four and without experience being anything other than a student.

Even
with
more life experience, Andie did not feel at ease. Two women on a camping trip by themselves might be an appealing target if there were serial killers or rapists roaming the mountains. It was hard to imagine anyone coming all the way up here to partake in criminal activity, but she supposed the odds of some brute being caught out here would be slim too.

“Let’s get back to the car,” Andie whispered. They didn’t have any weapons along—she hadn’t shot anything more deadly than a rubber band since leaving active duty—but they could lock the doors, honk the horn, and drive off if necessary. Navigating that forest service road in the dark might not be appealing, but she trusted she could do it to avoid itinerate criminals.

“Are we leaving?” Min-ji reached for her telescope.

A distant whisper escaped the trees, a man’s whisper. Foliage rustled.

Andie grabbed her friend’s arm, propelling her toward the car. “Leave it. We’ll worry about it in the morning.”

Knowing how expensive a piece of equipment that telescope was, Andie expected a protest, but Min-ji must have heard some of the sounds. She hustled toward their campsite without objecting. She tripped, pitching forward, but Andie kept her from falling.

“Hang on,” Min-ji whispered. “I have a flashlight.”

“Leave it off.” Andie guided her along the route, glad there wasn’t as much undergrowth tangling the forest floor on this, the drier side of the mountains. She
wasn’t
glad, however, that they were twenty miles away from civilization—if the small town of Cle Elum could be called such. Those miles had taken over an hour to cover, thanks to all the dirt roads.

She thought about calling out, trying to wake some of the other campers. Even if there were only two other cars out here, maybe mobilizing the owners would alarm whoever was skulking around out there. But she would be foolish crying out for help if she had heard nothing more than a couple of hikers returning late to camp. Very late. The last time she had checked her watch, it had been midnight.

“Who’s out there?” she called, trying to sound forceful rather than concerned. Anyone who had innocuous intentions should answer the question. She also hoped her voice would be loud enough to rouse the other campers without panicking anyone unnecessarily.

More foliage rattled in the brush, closer than before. Nobody answered.

Andie already had her keys in hand, and she thumbed the fob to unlock the Jeep. It was still over twenty yards away, making her wish they hadn’t tramped so far in search of a patch of open sky. The dome light came on, brightening the area around the car enough to make out their tent—and someone behind the vehicle. A man. He darted away from the illumination and out of view.

Andie faltered. Were the intruders already guarding the car? Setting a trap because they had known Andie and Min-ji would come this way?

Min-ji must not have seen the figure, because she kept heading straight for the Jeep, running full out now, the wan yellow dome light like a beacon drawing her. Andie continued on, trying to think if she had anything that could be used as a weapon. She had a multitool, but she had used it to cut a rope when they had been setting up, and she had left it inside the tent.

More figures moved about at the edge of the light. They
had
surrounded the car. Two of them ran toward Min-ji.

Andie had been about to veer toward the tent for her multitool, but she couldn’t leave her friend to be attacked. She sprinted in that direction.

Despite Andie’s earlier admonition, Min-ji must have dug out her flashlight. She shined it at the figures charging toward her, maybe hoping to blind them with the beam. Andie glimpsed shaggy fur, and for a moment, she thought bears were descending upon them, but she quickly dismissed the notion as ludicrous. These had to be people wearing furs. Odd, but there was no time to consider it further. Min-ji had reached the car, but one of the big men lunged toward her. She wouldn’t make it inside. Min-ji whirled and threw her flashlight at him just as Andie reached them.

“What do you want?” she yelled, again hoping to wake up the other campers and get some help, but at the same time, she attacked.

Andie knocked one of those reaching arms upward, hoping to give Min-ji time to get into the car. Then, knowing her block wouldn’t have been enough to hurt the man, she fought her instincts and stepped in closer to the figure. She launched an elbow at the man’s gut. The fur jacket, or whatever it was, padded his torso, but her blow still elicited a startled grunt. She stomped down, hoping to crush his instep, but the darkness made it hard to see her target. She didn’t think she caught more than the toe of his boot. Still, he jerked back, dropping his arm.

“Get in,” Andie barked to Min-ji, who had the door open, but paused.

Andie thrust the keys at her friend just as someone grabbed her shoulder, spinning her around. Fear flowed into her limbs, but she had been pursuing adrenaline rushes her entire life, so the feeling was an old friend. She kept her wits and grasped the wrist of her attacker with both hands. It was an awkward move, since he was much taller than she, but she had practiced similar moves countless times in the dojang. She twisted his wrist against the joint, and he released her shoulder. He grunted with pain, but that did not keep him from swinging at her with his other hand, a fist streaking toward her face.

Expecting such an attack, Andie ducked the roundhouse punch and stepped in again, driving a knee toward his groin. He twisted, and she connected with his thigh instead, but she brought her foot down for another stomp. This time, she succeeded in catching the vulnerable instep, and he gasped and lurched away from her.

A scream erupted behind Andie, not from Min-ji, but from farther away—one of the other campsites. Gunshots followed, and a man shouted. Andie had no idea if she was about to get help, or if the intruders were attacking the other campers too. Andie didn’t see Min-ji. She hadn’t made it into the car.

A third man lunged for her, and there was no time to pause and look around. She
did
glimpse more figures moving all around the car—and around her. Far too many for her to deal with. She blocked the lunging arm and launched a straight kick at her attacker’s groin, hoping to drive him back so he couldn’t try to grab her again. She kept her back to the front of the Jeep, ensuring nobody could get behind her, but she sensed more men closing in. With the car door open, the dome light remained on, and the intruders were close enough now that she could see their faces: grim, dirty, bearded faces.

Two men rushed her from either side, and she had to pick which one to defend against. There wasn’t time to debate it logically; she simply reacted on instinct, knocking aside a grab and trying a side kick, though she barely had room to lift her leg. The other man caught her while she was busy with the first, wrapping a meaty arm around her waist. Her feet were lifted from the ground, and she lost all of her leverage. Still, she squirmed, pressing her fingers together to turn her hand into a weapon to gouge eyes. But in the dark, and with so many men smothering her, she had little chance of connecting. She kicked and clawed because it wasn’t in her nature to give up, but she knew in her heart that defeat had come.

When she spotted Min-ji, held firmly in the grasp of a man a few feet away, any lingering hope she might have felt disappeared. There would be no escaping into the Jeep and driving away, not at this point. Who were these bastards?

At the other campsite, more gunshots fired, but they ended abruptly with a heavy thud—someone being thrown against a tree? Andie hoped it was one of the other campers hurling an intruder about, but she doubted it. There were far more of these bearded, fur-wearing freaks than there were campers. The screams continued from the site next to theirs, but then another thud came, the sound of flesh striking flesh, then silence.

BOOK: Stars Across Time
6.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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