Based in Toronto, Canada, Rebecca M. Senese survives the frigid blasts of winter and boiling steams of summer by weaving words of mystery, horror, science fiction and contemporary fantasy.

She is the author of the contemporary fantasy series, the Noel Kringle Chronicles featuring the son of Santa Claus working as a private detective in Toronto. Garnering an Honorable Mention in "The Year's Best Science Fiction," she has been nominated for numerous Aurora Awards. Her work has appeared in Holiday Hijinks: Mistletoe Merriment, Happy Holiday Historicals, Whimsical Winter Wonderland, Crazy Christmas Capers, Blaze Ward Presents: Every Tomorrow Worse, Midnight Roost, Blaze Ward Presents Special Edition: After the Fall, Cutter's Final Cut 4: Witches; Cutter's Final Cut 5: Crones, Bitter Mountain Moonlight: A Cave Creek Anthology, Promise in the Gold: A Cave Creek Anthology, Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, Home for the Howlidays, Unmasked: Tales of Risk and Revelation, the Obsessions Anthology, Fiction River: Superpowers, Fiction River: Visions of the Apocalypse, Fiction River: Sparks, Fiction River: Recycled Pulp, Tesseracts 16: Parnassus Unbound, Ride the Moon, Tesseracts 15: A Case of Quite Curious Tales, TransVersions, and Storyteller, amongst others.

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Beyond Control, Interlude, Beyond Reach by Rebecca M. Senese

Beyond Control, Interlude, Beyond Reach blurb:

A genetically engineered Assassin, working for the Gemini Corporation, Nadia prepares for her latest job: the "accidental" death of a rival company's doctor. But as she races to complete her mission, Nadia finds herself questioning her orders... and her life.

Corporate magnet Reginald Breckworth hires master Tracker Devon Fisher for a routine job: find his missing daughter, Chandra. But Devon learns no one knows the real Chandra. Least of all her father. How can Devon find a mystery girl who doesn't want to be found?

Stranded on a space station, renegade Assassin Nadia hides from the Tracker following her, Devon. Killing him would be easy. Tempting. Overwhelming. Desperate to resist her nature as Devon closes in, Nadia finds it harder and harder to fight the overpowering urge to kill.




Beyond Control, Interlude, Beyond Reach excerpt:

Even with the lush vegetation, Nadia could smell the undercurrent of sand in the breeze on Otthralan Nine. The space dock rested on the edge of the desert, waves of brown, beige and tan sand rising and falling at the whim of the wind. She stood waiting in the hangar, watching the wind as it flung sand upward, and chased it forward through the flat leaved shrubs planted along the desert facing side of the hangar. Even before the buzzer sounded, indicating the arrival of their luggage, she felt the change in air pressure. It tickled a few stray strands of her cropped blonde hair across her cheek. Nadia turned to watch her small brown satchel flop down the metallic conveyer belt.

Three paces forward and she scooped it up, heading deeper into the hangar. She angled away from the exit and slipped into the women's washroom. Sterile silver surfaces reflected yellowish light from the overhead glow globes that hovered near the flat metallic ceiling. She picked the farthest stall and slipped inside.

She threw the bolt. Spinning around, she set the satchel on the seat and unfastened it. It took her only a few moments to shed the bright colored suit with matching robes of a business woman.

She stripped and applied the skin neutralizer. Soon the dark complexion she'd applied two planets ago, faded, leaving her with her regular pale skin. The blonde hair with different DNA structure from her own took a few more minutes to remove. She shook the disintegrating clumps out into the toilet then peeled off the skin seal on her scalp. Her own brown hair tumbled to her shoulders.

As the residue of her change flushed down the bowl, she slipped on the simple black outfit. Pants, long sleeved top, ankle boots, wide belt laced with a coolant package of coiled razor contrawire. She didn't expect to need it on this job. No need to wrap anything that needed the slice of the contrawire as it contracted at room temperature but she always liked to have it around.

You never knew when a thing like that would come in handy.

After fifteen years, she'd developed a few idiosyncrasies and why not? It had all helped her survive.

The metallic door of the stall banged behind her as she left, shouldering the satchel. At the vibrahand bin, she held her hands over the surface, feeling the light radiation burn off a skin layer. She rubbed her hands to dissolve the ash and took one last look in the mirror.

Had she got all the skin neutralizer off even? Yes. No telltale streaks, no residual blonde hair.

She was herself again.

Whoever that was.

Her body jolted as she turned away from the mirror. Where had that thought come from? She knew who she was, exactly who she was. She was NADIA-R3C51997A, a genetically engineered Assassin of the Gemini Corporation, fully certified and trained. She had been working for fifteen years for Gemini, fifteen years of an unblemished record, fifteen years of kills.

She could practically do this in her sleep.

So what was this nonsense about whoever she was?

She snorted and hitched the satchel higher on her shoulder. Nonsense.

Her footsteps clattered on the tiles as she left the bathroom.

* * *

Although mostly desert, Otthralan Nine had several lush groves that had been expanded to house the cities necessary to exploit the rich minerals on the planet. Extra strength perma steel with special flexible properties had had to be developed for the buildings to withstand the winter wind storms that sometimes reached up to two hundred miles per hour. Some of the city structure had been built underground but the condensed rock had proven difficult and expensive to tunnel through. Cheaper to build upward, even with the wind storms.

Fortunately her job had brought her here in the relative calm of spring. The sand-tinged breeze waved the flat purplish leaves of the jando trees that lined the walkway leading from the sloped hanger. She surveyed the grey asphalt road passing the hanger, with the multi-person ground cars rumbling along the tracks. She kept her eye out for a single as she turned left, heading into the city.

The less contact with people the better.

Finally she spotted an empty one, yellow light flashing on its top. She held out her hand and it clunked to a stop. Dodging a pale green duo car, she reached the half door and slid inside.

"Granite Hotel," she said.

The car clicked and started forward, the jerking motion pushing her back into the cushioned seat.

The short ride gave her a chance to review the city with the fast learning she'd done after her assignment to this job. She skimmed through the history of the planetary settlement and focused instead of the structural integrity. She stared out the window, catching glimpses of the perma steel buildings in all different configurations. Some with great white columns rising from the front, like throwbacks to Greek columns from old Earth. Others were great monolithic boxes, some even painted a shining black that reflected flashing sunlight during the day and a kaleidoscope of color at night.

The range of buildings and heights looked almost haphazard but she knew they had all been specifically planned, right down to the angles of the streets and the colors of the steel. All designed to minimize damage from the sun and the blistering wind in winter.

All designed to make her job just that much harder.

At least it felt that way.

When she reached the Granite Hotel, she charged the ride to her cover identity before climbing out. The car beeped, spit out a paper receipt (how quaint) and trundled away, leaving her on the white sidewalk in front of the hotel. More flat leafed jando trees lined the silver walkway up to the double doors of the hotel. These trees reached over five meters high, their purplish leaves leaning over the walkway to provide shade. She noticed that even the trunks leaned over as if the gardeners had worked to force the trees to lean. The delicate fragrance of the trees almost smelled like ginger, with a bit of tang.

The double doors, huge and arching over her head, painted with stippled grey to look like granite, swung open upon her approach. Her boots clicked on the grey marble floor. She crossed to the front desk which of course looked like a gigantic stone slab of rose quartz.

"Room for Laurel Masters," she said.

"Of course, Ms Masters," said the clerk. His hands busied themselves just out of sight under the counter.

"Would you prefer card key or finger ident for the door?" he said. "It's an extra fifty credits for the card key."

"Card key," she said. She'd tried different finger and DNA blocks or distorters but none had been up to the job just yet. Most lasted an hour or two and she expected this job to last a few weeks, hence getting a room. If they'd let her do the job the way she wanted she could be gone in a few hours but her instructions were different.

It was supposed to look like an accident.

The clerk slid the card across the rose quartz counter to her. "Room twelve seventeen. Elevators are to the left."

She nodded and picked up the card.

The elevator was a smooth ride up, depositing her on the twelve floor. Charcoal grey carpeting lined the hallway with glow globes stationed at regular intervals, silver chains fastening them to the pebbled walls. It was just the right suggestion of being inside a rock without the claustrophobic feeling.

She found her room in the center of the floor. Not ideal. As she unlocked the door, she wondered if she should ask for a room change to be at the end of the hall. She didn't want to call attention to herself but she would have thought her assignment would have stipulated an end room to the hotel. Was there a reason they hadn't?

Probably best not to make any change. There might just be a reason for it.

Inside the room, she set her satchel on the floor by the door as she did a sweep for any monitoring devices. Her finely tuned psychic enhancements and ability to sense and absorb energy allowed her to find most every kind of monitoring device. This was a new cover; she didn't expect to find anything but it was always best to be sure.

She hadn't survived fifteen years on this job by accident.

The sweep took only a few minutes and gave no indication of any monitoring devices, just some energy leakage near a socket in the wall opposite the bed. She crossed to it and placed her hand against the raised wall paper. It had the texture of rough granite but too uniform to be true. She focused on the socket, giving it a deeper scan. Just the leakage, nothing more. She removed her hand and stepped back.

She might call the front desk and let them know.

Or she might not. It might be good to have a supply of fluctuating energy nearby.

Just another precaution. As the years went by, she found herself making more and more of them.

She checked the room. In the squat, four drawer dresser, clothing appropriate for Laurel Masters' cover as a visiting cybernetic surgeon had already been unpacked. Toiletries lined the white marble countertop in the bathroom opposite a narrow vibra shower. Upon investigation she noticed that it allowed five seconds bursts of high powered water for rinsing.


Besides the dresser, the room also contained a narrow single bed and a pull down desk, chair combo opposite the bed, underneath the sixty inch wall screen. When she flipped the desk down, she found a standard reader as well as inlaid communications channels.

From her back left molar, she extracted a data bead and dropped it into the reader. Slipping the head piece on, matching ear bud and eye screen attachments, she dialed the speed to fast forward.

Her mission schematics. She already had it memorized but she always liked to review them one final time when she reached her launching area before destroying them. Once in a while something popped to her attention that hadn't before.

This time, the high speed run through gave her nothing she hadn't seen before.

Shelia Swengalson.

Twenty-seven year old doctor. Husband and son. She worked at Shardon Chemicals. Originally from Claston Five. Exceptional school grades. Hired first tier by Shardon Chemicals and had been there ever since, although she'd moved locations several times. Each time for a new position and each position better than the one before.

If her previous success was indicative of future success, she was due for another promotion in about three point four months.

Too bad she wouldn't live to see it.

Nadia ran the bead through twice more, increasing the speed each time to make sure it sank deep into her subconscious. She didn't have to think about it. Any information she needed from the report would come to her at the right time.

Most of her previous targets had been men but she'd done a few women before. It didn't really matter.

A job was a job.

Nadia did what she was told.

Whether she understood it or not.

Understanding was unimportant. Completing the mission was all.

After the final review, she extracted the bead from the reader and crushed it in her hand. The bead disintegrated into powder.

Now for first contact.

Every three months Shardon Chemicals held a reception for stockholders and included prominent staff on a rotating basis. This quarter, the party was tonight and Shelia Swengalson was attending. The perfect opportunity to observe her close up. Nadia didn't want to engage but seeing her in person would allow Nadia to notice any details necessary and to get a fix on her psychic person. It was a luxury she didn't get with many of her clients. Most were quick jobs: in, dispose of them, and out. This job would take longer.

Accidents always needed special attention.

Nadia swapped her plain black pants and top for a long, flowing gown of sapphire blue. She pinned her hair up in a simple bun, letting a few tendrils fall about her face. A simple blue shawl wrapped around her shoulders, covering her bare arms. The dress came up to her neck, leaving no distractions. Everything about the outfit was designed to be seen and then forgotten, nothing that drew too much undue attention.

She took another single car to the reception, admiring the splashing of sunset across the sky as the car sped along the street. By the time she reached the Shardon Chemicals building at the east end of town, the yellow streaks of light in the sky had darkened the burnt orange. The ever present breeze carried more of the sand as it tugged at the edge of her shawl.

She stepped out of the car and onto the grey marble ramp leading up to the Shardon Chemical building. Over thirty stories high, the building curved above her, turning toward the right as if a god had reached down and twisted the perma steel like taffy. The burnt orange of the sunset reflected like flames up and down the tower.

As she moved closer, stepping between another column of jando trees, the wind lessened, allowing the subtle scent of ginger to linger in the air. She sensed the undercurrent of relaxants and violence suppressants. Shardon Chemicals were renowned for their subliminal supplements and apparently didn't mind using them in their buildings. Nadia breathed in deeply, taking in as much as she could. Her body would analyze and absorb the chemicals, creating an antibody and resistance to them. She would not let anything outside of herself influence her or affect her job. If necessary, she could consciously release extra adrenaline into her system to keep herself primed but she didn't expect to need it tonight.

This was merely reconnaissance. No need for a fight.

She presented her invitation, an old style paper one (this planet seemed to thrive on quaintness), to the attendant at the door. Tall and formal in his grey suit, he reviewed the invitation, bowed to her and triggered the door open. She stepped inside to a rush of cool air, thick with the scent of jasmine. Again, she sensed other influences underneath the scent and set her body to distinguishing and blocking them. She hadn't realized it but it appeared Shardon Chemical took advantage of these receptions to persuade or create dependencies on their stockholders and other guests.

Very sneaky. Something to include in her report.

Her heels tapped on the marble floor as she crossed the expansive lobby. Another formal attendant waved her toward the left. Underneath the stylized logo for Shardon Chemicals, a set of double doors opened to a fifty foot ballroom. A third attendant gave her invitation one final glance before bowing her into the room. She stepped from the marble flooring onto plush burgundy carpeting. Her shoes sank into it.

Buffet tables piled with delicacies lined the wall to her right. In the far left corner, a synthetic orchestra alternated between classical music and dance selections. A rounded dance floor had been cleared in front of the orchestra but no one danced yet. Circular tables with matching chairs had been set at intervals throughout the room, allowing for circulation. As she watched, the tables shifted configuration as a larger group of people approached them on her left.

Conversation buzzed over the music. Through the crowd, she noticed grey suited attendants circulating with drink trays. Shardon Chemicals flaunting their riches with human attendants instead of robotics. She raised a finger and an attendant steered toward her, holding his tray out to her.

She accepted a flute of what turned out to be peach and strawberry champagne. The flavors burst on her tongue, dancing down her throat as she swallowed a trickle. Instantly she felt warmth and well-being flow through her chest and down her arms, leaving her fingers tingling. More of Shardon Chemicals little tricks. She took another sip and held it in her mouth, savoring the flavor while allowing her body to analyze and neutralize the components. This time when she swallowed there was no effect.

She didn't have to be at one hundred percent tonight but it never hurt to be prepared for anything. She was still, after all, on a job, even if she wasn't completing it tonight.

Carrying the glass, she moved deeper into the room, passing a table filled with several formally dressed men. Heads turned as she passed. Aware of their attention, she increased her speed and mingled into a crowd near the buffet table. She wanted to avoid unnecessary contact if possible.

Parking herself by the end of the buffet, she raised her glass to her lips as she scanned the room. She'd seen several vids and static shots of Sheila Swengalson but this would be the first time Nadia had seen her in person. She always liked to check out her target from a distance in their natural surroundings. This party wasn't exactly natural for Swengalson but it was as close as Nadia could get at the moment.

She took in the chattering crowd. Various outfit styles paraded by, leaning toward the more formal look of black suits for the men and longish dresses for the women. Over in the corner she spotted a group of New Alterns in ceremonial robes. Hairspray, cologne and perfume mixed with the scent of spicy foods and the even subtler aromas of subliminal chemicals. A casual glance around the room showed her small circular sponges set in different areas. All designed to help create the atmosphere, she imagined.

A swish of silver and yellow caught her eye. Again she used taking a sip as an excuse to look around. Sheila Swengalson walked in the main door, her arm looped around the arm of her husband, Terence Hilgard.

Swengalson was short, only five foot three but carried herself with assurance and confidence. The silver gown she wore swirled about her amble curves. Golden blond hair swept up off her heart shaped face. She laughed at something her husband said, flashing white teeth from between ruby red lips.

Her husband, over six feet tall, almost curved his thin body around her. He wore the formal black suit but it hung on his frame as if it was half a size too big. Thinning brown hair had been cropped on his head and a simple brown beard lined his jaw and around his thin mouth.

They strolled straight into the room, Swengalson smiling and nodding at people as her husband Hilgard deferred to his wife.

One of the grey suited attendants stepped in front of Nadia, blocking her view. She shifted to her right, trying to see around his tray. It was empty and he held it down, tilting almost to his waist. Nadia lowered the drink from her mouth as she took a short step further right. Without the fruity scent in her nose, she caught a hint of perspiration wafting from the attendant.

He didn't appear to be sweating.

Then she sensed the adrenaline surge in him.

She stepped forward on her left leg. Her right hand moved as well, tilting the glass just so. Closer. The liquid splashed out, hitting the attendant's right leg. She caught the arm holding the tray as he jolted, starting to turn toward her. Her grip tightened, halting him against her side.

"I'm so sorry," she said. "Please let me get something to help wipe that off."

"It's quite all right, ma'm," he said. Only the slightest quiver in his voice gave him away.

"I insist," she said.

Her hand tightened. She pressed closer to him and pitched her voice for him to hear.

"Out in the hall, now."

She drew him back toward a side door. It slid open at her approach. She took a quick glance, making sure no one was turned toward them. She shoved him through the door and stepped out.

Even before the door slid closed, he'd started to right himself from the stumble. His left arm came up. Nadia snapped his wrist away. The crack of his bones sounded extra loud in the narrow corridor. Even from here she could smell the strong scent of food. She only had a few minutes before another attendant came through this way.

She had to act fast.

The man's face blanched of color. His knees buckled. She stepped forward, catching him around the waist and pushing him back against the wall. Her fingers closed around the forearm above his left wrist.

"You have one option to talk now," she said. "Tell me who you are and who you work for."

A grimace of pain flattened his features. Sweat beaded on his high forehead beneath brown curls.

"Why should I bother?" he said. "You're going to kill me."

"Maybe," she said. "I may just wipe you and dump you outside. Convince me that I should do that."

"You're lying, you're one of those Assassins."

"You aren't my target," she said. "I hate wasting talent on side issues like you. Talk and you're out of here."

Was he buying it? She couldn't tell. Pain hazed his face, inhibiting her ability to read him correctly. Her hand tightened on his forearm. Air hissed between his lips as he sucked in air.

"Talk," she said.

"Dor..." He managed only the single syllable. The muscles along his jaw and neck clenched. She felt his entire body stiffen. His arm spasmed under her hand. His head began to shake, bashing against the wall behind him.

She grabbed his head and forced his jaw open. She didn't see any sign of a broken capsule; he must have had a poison implanted somewhere in his body that triggered when he tried to talk about his job.


She tried to search the usual spots, under his arms, at his neck, base of his spine, but his jerking movements made it difficult. The sounds of his gurgling and hitting the wall would bring someone any minute now. With a groan, his body stiffened. His eyes rolled back then he sagged in her arms. She felt for a pulse at his neck.


She lowered the body to the floor. She tried again to find any sign of life but he was gone. Dammit. She didn't bother trying to resuscitate him, whatever poison or defect that had been implanted would have taken any attempt at resuscitation into account. Odds were his brain was probably cooked in his skull or something equally permanent.

As she stood up, she dug in her hand purse and pulled out a tiny spray. She aimed it at him and hit the trigger. A fine mist shot out, covering him. She aimed at the wall and floor as well. The spray had been specially designed to render any trace of her DNA unreadable, destroying the molecular components. When completed, it broke down into several trace chemicals that mostly ended up as some kind of chemical sludge. Even as she watched it dissolved into a clear film.

She stuffed the spray back into her purse. So someone else was here, with Sheila Swengalsen as a target. Were they here to kill her or snatch her from under Nadia's nose? She had to find out. She tucked a stray strand of brown hair behind her ear and stepped over the body.

Opening the door a crack, she peered out, checking to see what the nearby crowd was doing. As soon as the majority were looking away, she slipped through the door. A casual glance around told her no one had really noticed her entering. The closest couple, a man wearing a brown suit (just to be different, she supposed) was talking earnestly to a woman in a peacock blue dress with matching feathers decorating her cropped black hair.

Nadia strolled to the buffet table and picked up a stuffed mushroom. She held it to her lips as she moved along the table. The woody smell filled her nostrils as she studied the group of people around her. No one looked suspicious but she couldn't believe that the attendant was working alone.

She had to find his partner before the partner noticed the attendant's absence and fled.

The music rose in volume and people began to drift onto the dance floor. Even Swengalson and her husband moved into center of the crowd. Nadia continued circling. She tracked each person, logging them in her memory and watching for any patterns of location in comparison to Swengalson.

The mystery partner was probably tracking Swengalson just like the attendant. Once they realized the attendant wasn't around, they would change trajectory. Nadia would be able to compare the movements through the room and figure out who the partner was once they stepped away.

The lights began to dim as the music grew even louder. More people crowded onto the dance floor. The mix of perfume and perspiration still didn't drown out the subtle aromas of Shardon Chemicals' pheromone scents. Nadia could see how they affected the people around her.

As the lights dimmed, Nadia blinked several times, adjusting her eyesight to the growing dimness. She allowed a slight smile to curve her lips, matching several of the people around her. She slipped past two men arguing about sports and waving glasses of champagne that came close to sloshing over their gestating hands. As she glanced over to the dancers to catch sight of Swengalson again, she noticed the woman in the peacock blue dress with the feathers in her hair frowning at the side door.

Nadia's hands tightened on her purse.

The partner. Had to be.

Sure enough, the woman began to circle back past the buffet table in a leisurely pace but Nadia could see she was obviously aiming for the door.

Nadia waited, letting her slip through the door. After a minute, she followed.

Passing the attendant who bowed as she exited, Nadia took a deep breath. There, she caught a trace of the woman's perfume and body odor. She was heading for the front door.

Nadia followed.

The woman had a personal ground car, making it a little easier for Nadia to follow. Still Nadia made sure she stayed well back, allowing her heightened senses to keep track of the woman's trail.

They sped through the night, the lights of the buildings blurring around them. Then ahead, the woman's ground car swerved off the main road, heading into the outskirts of the city and into the parched country.

Just before she reached the barrier to the city, Nadia stopped her car. With the window open, she could smell the scent of dust and the woman's fading perfume. Within a few minutes, Nadia would lose track of her. Did it really matter? She still had her job to do but she didn't like having unknown variables around her. If it was a quick job, it wouldn't matter but since she had to be here for a while...

She slipped out of the car and sent it off. As it sped away, leaving her on the edge of the desert stretching ahead of her, Nadia hitched the skirt of her dress around her waist. Using the shawl, she secured the skirt, leaving enough to cover her thighs. She kicked off her shoes and tied them to the end of her shawl.

Taking a deep breath, she could still sense the trace of the woman's perfume. She took off running.

Her feet slapped on the sand, barely slipping as she ran. It reminded her of the compound where she'd grown up and trained. Running laps through the desert had tested and toned their bodies.

The taste of sand on her lips reminded her of those runs. Her body settled into a easy loping style. The cool breeze wicked away the sweat from her arms. Her enhanced night vision showed her the path the car had taken even as the wind blew sand across the road, covering the car tracks. She could still catch the occasional whiff of the woman's perfume.

Nadia was on the right track.

Using her internal body clock, she counted out the minutes, then the tens of minutes, until she reached a full hour. After she reached the hour she realized it had been at least fifteen minutes since she'd caught the woman's scent.

Nadia's pace slowed. The wind whipped at her hair. Out here in the open desert with the buildings, the wind swirled sand in a frenzied pace. Nadia squinted ahead of her. She couldn't make out any tracks now although she thought she still felt the asphalt beneath her feet. It might just be rock though.

Had she lost the trace? The woman could have turned off. With the wind throwing sand in her face, she'd had to squint against it and could have missed a turn off.

Her hands curled into fists.

Nadia had to admit it; the woman had given her the slip.

Anger percolated in her. She should have taken the woman down when she spotted her in the ballroom. But the attendant had already suicided there, having another body to deal with would have raised too much alert. Alerts that might take longer than a few weeks to go away.


Nadia's shoulders sagged. She had to admit it, she wasn't going to find this woman tonight.

She turned and started running back to the city.