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Shadow Collectors

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KadiroKapira's AvatarKadiroKapira
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The following short story is approved for all ages. It is considered a rough draft, and future changes/corrections could be made. Please PM me with any questions, comments, and/or criticisms.

Part 1

Sirens blared blocks away, giving Shannon the extra confidence to scale the fence before her. The night cloaked her nimble movements as she climbed the mesh metal. Unfortunately, the darkness also concealed a sharp, broken piece at the peak of the fence. When she reached the top and threw her body over, the index finger of her right hand caught the metal. Shannon gasped as she dropped down into the stale, vacant alley and shook her hand. A lone, dim bulb hanging above a closed entrance to a warehouse across the opening gave the alley its only light. She splashed through a shallow puddle on her way to the bulb and lifted her narrow finger over her head. The gash parting her fawn-colored flesh wasn’t deep, but it bled… and stung! Popping the finger in her mouth, Shannon quickly scanned the area to ensure she was alone. She had come this far and did not need to lose focus because of a minor wound. Gazing at the large entrance door, Shannon wondered if the warehouse had been completely sealed. She grabbed the door’s bar-like handle and pulled to one side as hard as she could. The heavy door scraped loudly against the concrete as it barely slid open. Shannon winced. The extra pressure on her finger caused it to throb, but she had to give the door one more tug if she wanted the opening wide enough to slip through. Inhaling deeply, she steeled herself and yanked he handle. The door slid less this time, but it was enough. Shannon maneuvered her lithe figure through the narrow opening and instinctively sought cover by the shadows within. Surprising that no lights were on inside the warehouse. If it wasn’t for the dim bulb outside the alley entrance, she wouldn’t have been able to make out the row of containers stacked a couple feet away. Shannon reached for a pouch at the small of her back, unsnapped it, and pulled out a small flashlight. With it firmly grasped in her left hand, she pointed down and flicked its switch. A bright beam illuminated a spot on the floor that she wanted to aim wisely. Just in case this place did have some sort of competent security guards, Shannon definitely wanted to make sure she saw them before they saw her. Listening intently for any wayward sounds, she aimed the beam upward towards the nearest container. It was dingy, celeste-colored and metal, towering twice her height with a near identical container stacked on top of it. She turned the flashlight slightly to judge its length. Maybe ten... fifteen yards? Could it be holding her prize? Shannon caught glimpse of a plastic-covered label attached to the side of the container. Keeping her footsteps light, she walked over to it for a closer look. The routing information said the container originated in Kalorea. No good. According to the tracers , the item she sought arrived around the same time as a shipment from Loa Nekkul. If she could just find the container with the right shipping label… If this row was any indication, it would take her a while to search every container inside the warehouse. While scanning the next one, she wondered if there was a shipping manifest lying around somewhere. A loud clattering echoed throughout the warehouse. Shannon immediately aimed her light at the floor and froze. Which way did that come from? Was someone else also here searching for the container? She waited a few seconds, but the clatter didn’t repeat itself. Though she couldn’t hear any movements or footsteps, it was safer to assume she wasn’t alone in the warehouse. And if someone else was possibly just around a corner, she didn’t want them to get the jump on her.
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Part 2

Quietly flicking her flashlight off and giving her eyes a moment to readjust to the darkness, Shannon gently pressed her fingertips against the container next to her and dragged them along its cool side while cautiously creeping toward its corner. She quietly slipped the flashlight back into its pouch. There still wasn’t any other sound. Maybe an off-balanced container had finally settled. A sudden loud thud deterred her reasoning. It was nearby. Shannon grew still as a statue, lips fastened tight and lungs imprisoning air. Just ahead, a light flickered from around the corner of the container next to her. It disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. Her right hand tensed at her waist, anxiously hovering over the holstered 9mm handgun. Shannon suddenly realized that she, oddly, didn’t hear any other sounds… not even the slightest footstep. Someone was trying to mask their presence, and they must have just arrived. No way would they have ignored the doorway to the alley scraping the ground. But how could she accurately track them while staying out of sight and searching for the right container? Another thud sounded, this time coming from a ways behind her. For someone who could move about so silently, they sure didn’t mind making noise when they wanted. But why? Shannon’s brow wrinkled. The noise couldn’t have been accidental, right? And if it wasn’t accidental… Shannon’s eyes widened. She immediately yanked her fingers away from the crate. No more than a second later, a third, identical thud sounded from deeper in the warehouse. Her suspicions were right! That sound wasn’t accidental. It was the sound of a hunter using his own ability to search the containers. Shannon knelt down and rolled up the sleeve covering her left arm. She couldn’t afford to be stealthy anymore… not if she wanted to prove herself ready. With her fingertips inches from the floor, she hesitated. She exhaled slowly. As soon as she pressed her palm against the concrete ground, she knew the hunter would immediately find her. But it was better than losing the item. That’s what she told herself anyway. Planting her left hand against the floor, Shannon winced as a sai-shaped symbol on the back of her hand began to glow a deep blue color. A loud, screeching caw cried out. The hunter’s light flashed back in her direction, but the end of the container hid her. However, the light did fixate on splintering blue lines that extended across the floor from her in every direction like cracks in glass. As they stretched further, the symbol glowed brighter, and its deep blue glow shifted shades lighter. Footsteps. Heavy footsteps… raced in her direction. Stealth was completely out the window now. Shannon yanked the handgun from her side and aimed toward the corner of the container that now had glowing lines crawling up its side. The hunter’s light disappeared. Shannon used her best judgment to measure the sound of footsteps… and squeezed the trigger. With a loud bang, the gun recoiled in her hand. The bullet ricocheted off something. Did she nail her target? Her gun hand trembled. It was difficult to keep aiming upward into the darkness with one hand glued to the ground. The splintering lines had reached several containers now but no resonation. What’s worse, her rune’s glow was rapidly draining its blue hue. If she didn’t find the right container before it turned white, she’d be a sitting duck… even more so than she already was. Shannon blinked. While watching the lines continue to stretch across every surface the floor came in contact with, she suddenly realized neither of them had made contact with the hunter. The footsteps had also gone silent. Unfortunately, she grasped this a second too late.
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Part 3

A bright and thin red light wrapped around the barrel of her gun and yanked it out of her hand in a blink before disappearing back into the darkness. Likewise, her gun clattered across the floor and clanged upon colliding with something else. Shannon cringed. What was that red light? In the brief moment she glimpsed it, she thought a ribbon had curiously appeared out of thin air. No doubt about it. This hunter was also a rune meister. Her heartbeat quickened. She was completely screwed. It was too dark to see anyone. And a rune meister wasn’t able to see another meister’s rune when it’s activated. They could only see the effects the rune causes. That “ribbon” disappeared in a blink, and the meister could easily change locations before striking again. But this meister didn’t need to see her to locate exactly where she was. The blue lines constantly growing across the floor could only extend from their source. She was a sitting duck. The ribbon lashed out again. It was so fast. She only realized what it was after it had cracked against the right side of her head like a whip. A cry escaped her lips as her head recoiled from the impact. Not only did it hurt, but it left an intense burning in its wake. No matter how much she rubbed her cheek, it wouldn’t die down! She did not want to get hit by that thing again! “Huh?” Shannon accidentally uttered when something pulled from deep within her core. Another whiplash cracked against her torso. The force of the blow lifted her completely off the floor, breaking her palm’s contact. The splintering lines instantly vanished, and her rune went dark. Her body spun uncontrollably until her back slammed into metal. A moment later, her left shoulder crashed into the concrete with a thud. Her body crumpled awkwardly on the floor. A loud pinging danced within her skull, keeping the encroaching dizziness at bay as she struggled to sit up using only the power of her right arm. Everything seemed darker. Of course it did. The rune’s power had ceased. However, it did its job. She just had to stay conscious long enough to do hers. Just getting to her feet proved a challenge. Pain racked her shoulder and torso with every rushed movement to stand up. The pinging wouldn’t give her a moment’s peace. She badly wanted to groan for relief. The burning in her face and side became good reasons to suppress that urge. She gingerly reached across her body with her left hand and winced as the motion flared up pain in the connected shoulder. Her fingertips brushed against frayed fabric before gently touching heated flesh beneath. Squeezing her eyes shut, Shannon knew she had to gather her thoughts. What was her next step?
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Part 4

She hadn’t been ninja-silent while getting up, but fortunately no third lashing. Could this meister still see her somehow? Couldn’t he hear her move around? Maybe he was too far away to pinpoint her position. Shannon tried to dull the low rustles of clothing shifting against her body, but her motions hadn’t regained any sense of steadiness yet. Carefully pressing her right hand against the container, she stood as still as she could manage and listened. Silent seconds passed. Correction: near-silent. The rhythmic pinging hadn’t started to let up yet, but it wasn’t the first time she’d had to ignore it to focus on separate target. Still, she couldn’t hear anything like movement. Then again, she couldn’t hear movement before either… not until those stamping footsteps came charging at her. Shannon’s eyes popped open. He did have a light though! Using her fingertips to guide her, she quietly tipped to the edge of the container and rounded its corner back towards the way she’d entered the warehouse. She silently hoped the dim light bleeding from outside wouldn’t alert the meister of her position as she stepped past. All she had to do was make the shadows her best friends… because she knew exactly where the right container was. Crossing the room to reach that container was another matter entirely. She assumed it wouldn’t be long before this guy remembered his light. But since Shannon wasn’t sure where he’d hidden himself, she could only hope that when he did turn it on again, she wouldn’t be caught in its glow. The annoying pinging started to become distant. She had to hurry. Reaching into her pouch, Shannon yanked out her flashlight after an idea hit her. Time to find out how quick and quiet she could really be. Blindly allowing her fingers to slide across the container’s metal surface, she found its next edge and carefully crouched. Her back and side flared up. She barely suppressed another wince and felt moisture forming in the corners of her eyes. Exhaling slowly through slightly pursed lips, she pitched her flashlight underhandedly toward the middle of the warehouse. A silent second passed, long enough for her to duck back behind the container. The flashlight clattered against the floor. The thin ribbon whipped through the air. It didn’t connect with anything and vanished a second later. But Shannon spotted where it originated… in the direction the pinging guided her, just a few meters overhead. How was that possible? Could he teleport? Levitate? A beam of light appeared, aimed in the direction she had thrown her flashlight. Shannon held her breath, wiped her eyes and watched. Without her weapon, she wanted to avoid all conflict. She silently leered as a barely visible silhouette drifted towards her flashlight like a geist. This was her chance. Nearly on her toes, Shannon carefully crept around the corner of another container once sure she was out of his peripheral. Now completely shielded from view, her tipping hastened because of the fading pings. Her rune’s power was wearing off fast. She only had seconds before it would completely abandon her. At the back edge of the next container—that felt wooden against her fingers—Shannon paused to peek her head out. The room had gone dark again. Shannon swallowed hard. No way would he fall for the same trick again, not that she had anything else to throw. With no other diversions coming to mind and no idea where he was, Shannon just had to go for it! With the pings slowing in frequency, she ran as fast as she could. Shannon’s side burned intensely from the heavy exertion. Heavy footsteps thudded across the floor. “Please!” she pleaded through a half-whisper with her right hand stretched out into the darkness. Her palm suddenly pressed against a solid object. A sharp pain cut through her wrist. A deafening roar filled her ears. Something very hard slammed into the back of her head. Shannon fell forward. Her forehead clanged off the container as her body fell limp to the floor without the slightest moment to wonder if she had succeeded.

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