About Bullet Holes:
Now Anjali and Mikhail are trying to eke out a living on the independent worlds of the galactic rim, while attempting to stay under the radar of those pursuing them.
When a seemingly routine courier job turns out to be a trap, Anjali is hit by a so-called smart bullet, a Republican weapon that slowly and inevitably kills its victims. Mikhail is given a choice by his former commander Brian Mayhew: Surrender or watch the woman he loves die in excruciating pain.
It is a choice between two equally horrifying fates. But maybe, there is a third option…
This is a story of 6200 words or approx. 22 print pages in the In Love and War series, but may be read as a standalone.
Of course, boxes and labyrinthine passages in warehouses were not exactly uncommon, nonetheless something about the whole set-up gave Anjali that tell-tale prickle at the back of her neck that told her they were walking into a trap.
Her right hand drifted to the grip of her blaster, while her left reached for the hilt of her dagger, the signature weapon of the Shakyri Corps. She cast a sideways glance at Mikhail, which told her that his hand was resting on the grip of his blaster, too.
Their steps slowed, as they cautiously moved forward, Anjali using her genetically enhanced senses to scan for potential dangers ahead.
A normal, unenhanced human, and even Mikhail, who was far from normal, would never have picked up the subtle sounds near the pool of light at the end of the passage. But Anjali did. She picked up the quickened breaths of nervous humans, the slight shuffling of feet jockeying for a better position, the gentle clicks of blasters and rifles being readied for action.
“Mikhail,” she whispered, “Run.”
And not a moment too soon, before a volley of gunfire opened on them.
They ran back down the passage, dodging and swerving to avoid the blaster bolts and bullets — Honestly, bullets? Who the fuck used projectile weapons these days? — crisscrossing the warehouse, only to realise that the door at the far end had swung shut.
They were trapped.
Mikhail pushed Anjali into a side passage, really nothing more than a gap between two shipping containers, and took up position at the entrance to return fire at their attackers.
The overhead lights came on, blindingly bright, allowing them to finally see their pursuers.
“Mine or yours?” Anjali asked, her body flattened against the wall of the container.
“Mine, I fear,” Mikhail replied, “Republican Special Commando Forces, a squad in full armour.”
“Fuck,” Anjali exclaimed.
Both the Republic and the Empire were hunting them, eager to bring the deserters and traitors to justice. Though it seemed to Anjali that the Republic was more enthusiastic about it. Probably because Mikhail hadn’t just walked out on his comrades and his country, he’d also walked on his mentor, who just happened to be the Deputy Commander of the Republican Special Commando Forces and was apparently the type to hold grudges.
While Mikhail kept returning fire at his former comrades, Anjali scanned their surroundings for a way out, only to find that there was none. The side passage, into which they’d ducked, ended after a few meters at the exterior wall of the warehouse. And the only exit was the one they’d come in through.
“It’s a dead end,” she said to Mikhail, raising her voice over the roar of the guns, “We’re trapped.”