Shards of Rain


by Mathias G. B. Colwell

Abby is on the run and harboring a dangerous secret, one that could get her killed—or worse—if anybody found out. J.D. is a former agent, still lethal, but not quite what he once was. Their paths cross as Abby’s secret comes to light. Only the skills and training J.D. once relied upon can help them survive the wrath of a warlord intent on taking Abby’s power for himself.

Shards of Rain paints a grim picture of the future where the greatest scientific feats of mankind have long since begun to fail, where hopes of global governance and safety have broken down into feudal squabbling, and only friendship and loyalty can ensure that one survives the night.


Chapter One


She was being followed. Of that much Abby was certain. Although, who it was and why they were following her was still unknown.

Rain—real, actual rain—came down in sheets, soaking through her overcoat and seeping into her boots. Riddled with holes, the boots were almost worn out. She’d have to steal another pair soon. Or trade for them. But Abby didn’t have anything left to trade, or at least, nothing she was willing to give away. She pulled her coat tighter and tried to ignore how wet her socks were. The annoyance of being damp and cold paled in comparison with the fact that someone was stalking her in the grey afternoon light. The rain was a bad omen. Too much noise in the background could be a distraction—and that was dangerous.

Abby chanced a careful glance over her shoulder, masking the movement as best she could, so as not to alert her follower to the fact that she was aware of his presence. As soon as he knew she was onto him, the stealthy pursuit from a distance would likely be over, and the real chase would begin. Or was it them? A chill ran through her at the thought of multiple pursuers. She hoped it wouldn’t come to that. Maybe she could still give him the slip—although the streets weren’t nearly crowded enough to make that likely. The city was dull today. The red tile, greenish copper roofs, and varicolored buildings all somehow managed to look grey in the cold. People were staying inside, like any sane person would. As she should. If only she’d had someplace safe and inside in which to stay. Somewhere her stalker hadn’t sniffed out.

She’d first realized she was being pursued a week ago, in what felt like another time, when the worst she’d had to fear was hunger, cold, and the occasional night prowler stumbling upon one of her haunts.

But then it had happened.

It had been an accident, but somehow, someone had found out. They must have seen it. Someone must have shared that knowledge, and she hadn’t been safe since. They were chasing her now, and they wouldn’t stop. She was too valuable. She’d have to get as far from here as possible, go somewhere beyond their grasp, where nobody knew what had happened. Then she might be safe. But leaving in and of itself was difficult enough. There was no point to leaving the city until she gained some distance. Why leave if her shadows were still close enough to continue their pursuit?

Abby pictured a beach. An island. A warm sunny day to contrast the water that sluiced down from the sky. At least it was water that was falling. The other options were far worse.

She shook her head, drenched hair clinging to her face instead of retaining its usual curly, springy volume. Thoughts like that would get her caught. She had to get away, and then never do it again. No matter what. Maybe if it never happened again nobody would come after her.

But they were after her now, and there was no avoiding that fact. Abby felt the creeping of panic begin to rise in her chest.

She looked over her shoulder again, and this time he saw her. She’d grown careless. Their eyes met, and she knew she had to run. Abby took off at a sprint, cobblestones slippery beneath her worn boot soles—worn so much that nearly all the tread was gone. Glass crunched beneath her boots as well, a familiar sound.

Breath coming in panting gasps, Abby looked back again, all pretense gone, all need for secrecy over. The man behind her was running also, and he was much faster.

Damn, these boots! she thought. And damn the fact that she’d barely had more than a meal a day for the last half year on the streets. It had made her weak.

She whimpered involuntarily as she ran and hated herself just a little bit for making that sound. She could hear him now, his feet pounding rhythmically behind hers, somehow managing to sound louder than all the rain in her ears. Blank stares, scared stares met her gaze as she glanced at the people on the main street.

Nobody stopped for her. Abby didn’t shout for help.

This city wasn’t that kind of place. This wasn’t that type of world.

At least, not anymore.

She ducked into an alley, and then dodged into another one, hoping that somehow, she could lose her pursuer in the narrow, twisted warren. She took another and another turn in quick succession, blindly, hoping to find freedom and escape.

What would he do if he caught her? Not knowing her fate if she were caught was almost worse than being chased.

The latest blind turn was a dead end. Not because the street ended, but, because the narrow alley was clogged with fallen construction materials. Some project had fallen—scaffolding, beams, materials and all had been left to ruin. It blocked the way. She could try and worm her way through but not quickly enough to get away. He was too close behind.

Typical. Fallen construction in a world fallen to pieces.

She turned, still breathing hard from the run. Her follower had slowed to a walk, a predatory prowl as he covered the last few yards between them. Hands raised high to show her he meant no harm. So, he was going to take her in in one piece then. Or was it a trap?

Tears formed at the corners of her eyes as terror took over. People taken for doing what she did—being what she was, she was forced to admit—didn’t come back. Or at least, they weren’t the same if they did.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” the man said slowly and carefully, the way a person would speak to a wounded animal to keep it from spooking. His blond hair and beard were as soaked as she was. Black jacket, black pants, black boots. He was a study in darkness. In fear.

“So, I can just go then?” she managed to quip somehow, despite the gnawing terror.

The man chuckled darkly. “No, I’m afraid not. We both know that isn’t happening.” He spoke with the accent of this place, but his English was good. Almost like he’d spent time in the Federation of the Isles, where Abby had grown up. Before it had dissolved.

He took a few steps closer, and Abby reflexively shuffled back a step until her back pressed against rotted wood from the clogged street full of construction.

The bearded man tilted his head slightly and spread his hands wide this time. “There is nowhere to go. Come quietly, it will be easier on you.”

Abby responded by pulling a knife from her pocket, the one real weapon she possessed. It was a longish, rough piece of glass, with cloth and twine wrapped around the base. Makeshift, but it had cost her all the rations she’d had at the time to trade for it. His eyes narrowed in response. Not in wariness, but in annoyance. Like a fly to swat, rather than a dog about whose bite he needed to worry.

He tsked. “Now, now, none of that, girl. No need for pain.”

The implication that there would be pain sent a chill down her spine and made her struggle to swallow. But one thing she’d learned on the streets was that you never quit fighting.

She gripped the hilt tighter.

The blond man closed the distance, carefully but quickly until he was only a couple feet away. The last step between them evaporated in a heartbeat as the man moved so fast, she couldn’t even react. He grasped her wrist and twisted, and the blade fell from her hand immediately. She stifled a scream and tried to wriggle free and strike him, but he grabbed her other arm in his other hand. She squirmed, but he was a big man, and even stronger than he looked.

It’s over, she thought bitterly. I barely even put up a fight.

A sound paused their struggle. Abby heard it at the same time as the man. The faint whine of something falling, which turned into a screaming rush as the object careened toward the earth, closer and closer, directly at them. The man swore in his native language and tensed to move, but it was too late. They were dead.

The giant shard of glass screeching toward them through the rainy sky was huge, about the size of a car. If Abby had felt terror before, the prospect of now certain death practically squeezed the breath from her lungs and held her heart in a vice. But there was nothing they could do. It was too late.

It wasn’t fair, Abby thought in some strange, detached moment. She wasn’t ready. And to think, she’d have to die with this bear of a man’s hot breath on her face.


Her mind rejected that thought. Her soul screamed and raged at existence for a tortured, wild instant before her broken will, her being, snapped together like an iron rod. No. Not like this. Not now.

Abby willed the universe to hear her, as she wailed and shrieked internally. And it did. It listened. And it happened again.

Time froze.

A frigid moment, cold from some kind of empty void that only she could move in and out of. She’d done it again. No time to think. It wouldn’t last long. It had been only momentary the first time—a few meager seconds—the last time it had happened.

The bearded man hadn’t moved since the universe had answered her. The silence stretched as the immense blade of glass hung suspended a few yards above their heads.

Frantically, Abby wrenched herself from the man’s powerful grasp. She felt her control, whatever little bit she possessed in this void, shred and fray at the edges. She didn’t have much time. It would end soon, her frozen moment would die, and she with it.

Abby pulled herself free and dove to the side of the alley, through the wet, and as time unfroze around her, she raised her arms to shield her face from the debris she knew was coming.

The glass finished its course from the heavens and cleaved a portion of the bearded man from the rest of his body, before shattering and sending sprays of smaller shards all around the narrow alley. Her arms took the brunt of the damage from the splintering bits of glass, and luckily her coat was thick enough to protect her.

The silence that followed was filled with rain, filled with reality, a silence filled with sound—not like the frozen moment of existence that had saved her life.

She’d done it again.

“Pauser,” the man spat out the bubbling, bloody word. The title. Somehow, he was clinging to life, one arm, one leg, and part of his torso shorn from his body.

“You’ll never tell,” she taunted, rediscovering her spirit despite the fear she felt at what he’d just called her.

“You bitch! You Pauser bitch!” He raged with his last breaths at the girl who’d saved herself instead of helping him. The light faded from his eyes, and his angry visage was the only lasting imprint of life on his face, made all the more eerie for the vacant eyes he now possessed.

Abby swallowed. She eyed the man for a moment longer before bending to retrieve her fallen knife. Leaving him behind her in the alley, she walked nervously, not because of leaving a dead body—people were accustomed to the occasional death from Sky-Shattering, as they called it—but rather because if there had been one person sent to hunt her down, then there would be others. She had to stay sharp and on guard. At least until she was far away. Maybe all the way across the Atlantic would be far enough. She clung to that hope. It would have to sustain her.

But for now, something more mundane would have to do, something to take her mind off of what she was and what she was capable of doing. A meal. And a place to sleep.

The rain began to slack off, almost in response to her wishes for food and shelter. It wasn’t exactly what she had wished for, but it would do. Slowing to a drizzle, the water falling from the sky was far more pleasant than the alternatives.

"Shards of Rain" by Mathias G.B. Colwell


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