Voices reached across the woods to him. Open the boxes, they said, we don’t have much time! Almir was coming and she had a skin suit! Get the cannons in place! We have to stop her here or everything is ruined!
Thad perked up at the sounds. Kate was alive and she had a skin suit? What the hell? Cannons? Did the bastards have laser cannons? If they did, then that meant Kate was walking into a fatal ambush because just one of the cannons was enough to neutralize a skin suit.
Where the hell did they get them? He wondered while watching the marines set the weaponry up.
It really didn’t matter where they found the equipment, he mused, because it was up to him in Kate was to stay alive. There was no way the armor on the suit would withstand the cannon’s beam and she had no way of knowing an ambush was waiting. Jesus, there had to be six marines out there…how was he going to stop them?
Thad leaned his head back on a tree and thought. If something wasn’t done, then there was no way they could complete the mission. However, if he did step up to the plate, there was a good possibility of being killed. What to do? Did he sacrifice himself to keep Kate alive or not?
There is so much more at stake then just us, he reminded himself. If a major interstellar war erupts, then trillions could die and Kate might be able to stop it. My life is nothing compared to the ones who might die otherwise.
Well, what was the saying that the marines on Old Earth had? Do you want to live forever? If there was something to die for, then to keep trillions alive wasn’t a bad cause-provided Kate succeeded.
Thad pulled the rifle off his shoulder and cocked it. In the distance, the sound of a skin suit approaching grew louder. The marines were moving with urgency, the cannons being aimed at the sound. If he was going to do anything, it was now or never.
He stepped out from behind the tree and let loose with a rain of bullets. The crew of the cannon nearest him went down. Maybe, just maybe, this wild harebrained stunt would work!
Four marines at the second cannon turned and returned fire. A piercing pain filled Thad’s mind as a pair of bullets tore into his stomach. With a grunt, he pulled the trigger and mowed the crew down but not before a single shot was fired by the cannon.
Thad fell to the ground with the marines, Kate’s skin suit in view. In shocked horror, he watched the beam strike the weapon near its left shoulder and it went down. Dear God, he had failed and Kate had still died! Everything had been for nothing!
He coughed up some blood and was stunned to see Kate stepping across the forest. A small stream of blood ran down her face but otherwise she was unharmed. Thank God, then it hadn’t been a wasted sacrifice!
The darkness reached its tendrils around him and Thad knew no more.
The main complex was on her sensors now, Kate reflected, which meant it wouldn’t be long now. Ferini couldn’t come back this time, not with the cloning station destroyed. No, when she killed him this time, he would stay dead.
And thank God for that, she thought, because trillions of lives are at stake because of him.
An alarm chimed for her attention and Kate looked at it. What the hell? A laser cannon was locked on her? Where the hell had that come from? The troops stationed there were supposed to have any of them!
Ferini had to have given it to them! She fumed.
The alarm raised in crescendo and then a beam struck the suit. It hit just above the operator’s compartment, near the left shoulder. A heated sliver of metal whipped past Kate’s head, slicing into her left forehead. All of the controls shorted out and the suit collapsed onto its back.
The blow stunned Kate for a split second, the blood running down her face from the cut. A moment later, she reached for the controls to blow the emergency release charges. A quick yank on them and nothing happened.
Dear God, she thought, I’m going to die here and that bastard is going to kill trillions!
A deafening roar filled the compartment when the charges lit. Rain fell onto Kate’s face when the entire armored front of the suit blew off. With a groan, she pulled herself out and stood up.
The rain hit the cut, causing the water and blood to mix. A pink stream dripped into her eyes, making Kate wipe them with the back of her gloves. She had to get out of there! Cannons meant crews and the crews would be looking for her!
She ducked behind a tree and the cannons came into view. There were no crews manning it, which was odd. Another flash of lightning filled the sky and she could see the bodies beside the weapons. Someone had killed the crews, but who?
The Kimber felt reassuring in Kate’s hand while she moved towards the dead crews. Something had happened here, but what? Was there someone inside on their side after all?
Kate stepped around another tree and her blood ran cold. Lying on the ground, two gunshot wounds in his stomach was Thad. She knelt beside him and he felt warm to the touch. However, when she felt for a pulse, there was none.
“No!” she roared at the top of her lungs.
It wasn’t fair, God damn it!
A quick glance told her what had happened; Thad had happened upon the crews and knowing she was near had attacked them. In the firefight, he had killed the marines but at the cost of his own life. Once again, someone else had died to save her life…
Kate dropped to her knees and lifted his head into her hands. Despite the storm and the mission, she sat there cradling his lifeless form. He had loved her; enough to sacrifice everything so she could live.
I’m doomed to never love, she thought, the tears running down her face. Everyone who ever comes near me dies!
A rage started to build in her gut and Kate let it wash over her. Ferini, the bastard, was responsible for this death too-and he would pay. The President needed to be saved, yes, but after that, it was personal. If it killed her, he was going to die!
A soft moan carried across from the cannon and Kate whipped her head around. So, someone in the crews had survived after all! What to do with them?
She sat Thad’s head back on the ground and closed the sightless eyes. Like a robot, Kate stood up and walked over towards the sound of the injured marine.
When she arrived, a man looked at her with frightened eyes. His hands covered a single shot in the gut, the blood pouring between fingers now gone ashen from loss of blood. Kate raised her Kimber and cocked it.
“You can’t leave me like this,” he croaked. “Help me, please!”
“You’re right,” Kate said without emotion. “I can’t leave you like this.”
One shot filled the aired, then another and another. Kate continued to fire, picturing Ferini’s face on the marine, until the clip ran dry. With tears running down her face, she turned away and walked back towards Thad’s body.
She changed the clip out and knelt one last time beside him. Kate stroked his hair gently with a gloved hand.
“Thank you, Thad,” she whispered. “For everything. I will never forget you…and I love you.”
Kate wiped the tears away with a hand and headed for the complex.
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