Ozone and smoke filled the stairway as we hunkered against the wall. I pressed my face against the metal grating trying to get a glimpse of the fighting below. My vision was partially blocked, but my other senses told the story of the battle raging around us. The stairwell reverberated with its monstrous heartbeat. Screams mixed with the searing sound of weapons fire gave it a mighty voice.
The odds against Blood Raiders trying to kill us on a station twice were astronomical. The only logical explanation was Geklov had sold Tasha out in order to get safely off the null sec station. What else could the coward have offered the Blood Raiders? Her implant was the perfect way to give the Raiders an unlimited supply of their most holy blood, clone blood. I had been in such a hurry to save her that I missed all the signs. When was I going to learn to slow down and think?
“We have to keep moving,” I yelled over the gunfire.
“I think we only have one loop of stairs before the next door,” she replied, pointing down toward the next landing. “They seem to be more interested in shooting each other than us.”
“That’s because they want you alive. As soon as one side wins I will be dead and you two will be captured if we don’t get the fuck out of here.”
I stooped low and started working my way down the stairs. Each step felt like a plunge down a mountain. If I was the only one in danger my heart wouldn't have skipped a beat. Now I felt responsible for both Tasha’s and Peter’s safety.
Sweat slid down my face as we rounded the first corner. The landing was in sight, only one floor away. As I took another step two Raiders came sprinting past the landing toward us. Once they saw us they drew their pistols and slowed their advance.
“You going to do something about that Laka?” Tasha challenged me.
“Yeah, I got it under control.”
I wanted both of them as close as possible so my blaster would do the most damage. It had been a long time since I tested how fast I could draw. My clone didn’t know that though. Its senses were as sharp as the day I was first scanned into the database. One step closer and I would have them.
The battle fell silent around me as the first Raider’s foot stepped into range. I could hear the soft clang of the sole of his boot as it reverberated up the stairwell. I watched his pupils dilate and the small beads of sweat slide down the side of his face. His arm raised and the tendons in his finger crackled as he started the long slow pull that would send a projectile racing toward me. He didn’t know he was already dead.
The first Raider fell as my arm swung to the next. I pulled the trigger a fraction of a second before the other Raider’s gun let out a flash. His shot went wide as mine hit him dead in the chest. He fell forward, covering the section of stairs not already occupied by his friend.
The sound of battle flooded back into my senses. I could hear the voices of the men below, much closer now. I continued forward, crawling over the fallen Raiders. I didn’t look back to see if anyone was following. I needed to get to the landing where I could attempt to lay down cover fire if one side broke through.
I could smell burning hair and feel the heat of a laser searing the wall behind me. I fixed my eyes on the door letting it become the only object that existed in my world. I took the stairs two at a time and stumbled as my foot came down on the flat landing. Arms flailing, I danced to the door, turning in time to send a blaster bolt into another Raider as he bound up the stairs.
I strained against the door which opened with a protesting screech. I peeked through making sure the hall was empty then motioned for Tasha and Peter. They practically knocked me over in their dash out of the stairwell. Tasha and I yanked hard on the handle pulling the door closed. Peter hit the lock and we dashed down the hallway.
We headed deeper into the station to stay away from the more populated areas. About a half a mile from the stairs was a lift that would take us to the hanger. We made it in a surprisingly short time considering we were dragging a huffing Peter along with us.
Thankfully, there was only a short wait at the lift. I felt some of the tension slip away once we exited into the familiar sounds of the massive hanger. All we had to do was get in our ships and we were home free. I rushed to my pod and reached over the side checking the arrangement of the neuroleads so I wouldn’t knock them out of the way when I jumped in.
“Laka,” Tasha said from behind me.
I turned and Tasha was standing there, one hand holding a now bleeding Peter and the other holding her pistol. There was a flash of light and a faint smell of smoke. Then fire ripped into my chest knocking me backwards. I bounced off my pod then fell to the floor.
I sucked in a breath but could only fill my lungs about a quarter full before I choked on the pain. My head rolled over and I looked up. Tasha was standing over me with her smoking gun. The sound of wheezing gasps filled the air around me as my brain struggled with a foggy realization I had been shot.
“Laka, you are such a bad girl. If you weren’t so bad maybe security would come help you now. How many times have I told you to be good?” She pointed the gun at my head and I closed my eyes. “Thanks for all the help, baby. You took care of all the loose ends for me.”
“Hey, stop!” someone yelled as shots ricocheted off my pod.
I blinked, at least I thought I did, and Tasha was gone. I could see her in the distance standing outside her shuttle, with what looked like two more Blood Raiders. They were trying to get a struggling Peter inside the cargo hold.
I tried to move so I could see the wound, but my body wouldn’t cooperate. The cold floor felt somehow soothing against my skin. I could see my blood spreading out onto the floor in front of me. I was going to die on a filthy station floor, at the hands of the only person in the universe I loved.
It had all been a lie. With that simple revelation a veil lifted. All the ways she had hurt me in the past came flooding into my mind. I felt betrayed, but I could only be angry at myself for trusting her. It would have been easy to let go and drift away if not for a cool presence inside me that demanded to know why she had done this.
Getting inside my pod was my only chance to live. I rolled my head and looked up at the five feet between me and the inside of the pod. I reached up and put a hand on the small ledge that circled the outside and pulled as hard as I could. My arm shook as I lifted one, then two feet off the floor. As I started to grab for the ledge with my other hand a cataclysmic spasm of pain sent me crashing back to the ground.
I landed in a heap, head sinking into a puddle of thick red blood. I tried to move again, but there was no response from my limbs. Now all my concentration was being used to breathe. All I could manage was short breaths; each filled my lungs with fire. The peaceful realization that I wasn’t going to make it this time fell over me.
It was then I heard the pounding of feet and shouts. One man passed through my field of vision heading toward Tasha’s shuttle. Another stopped next to me. I looked up and decided I had to be dead because he looked like an angel.
He reached down and picked me up like I was a child. “Hey beautiful, I’m going to put you in your pod, okay?”
I smiled at him and tried to say thanks, but instead I coughed, sending bloody chunks flying into his face. I wanted to tell him I was sorry, but the next thing I knew I was already in the pod. All of the leads but the primary interface was connected.
“Listen cutie, I am going to finish plugging you in, but you have got to do the rest from there, okay?”
He slid in the last lead, and the sensor feed washed over me. I was in heaven. My body became a distant ghost, and the pain was an echo. I needed to hurry because I wasn’t going to make it much longer. I wasn’t even sure I would make it through undock.
The pod sealed and I initiated the launch. I focused on my body making sure I was still breathing. I strained against the weight of my chest and had to rest between each breath. My heart was a shallow beat, and my breaths were down to three a minute.
The pod shot out of the docking bay and I initiated the two minute self-destruct sequence. As I switched my consciousness back to my vitals a cold numbness crept through my mind as I realized I was not going to make it. From the cool displacement of the sensor feed I watched as my organs started shutting down becoming flat lines of data. My last breath was 30 seconds ago and my heart was about to fail.
The end was almost here and I watched as a ghost in the machine. At one minute before self-destruct a wave of acceptance washed over me. The last few years had been hell and I had just been killed by someone I loved. Finally, I would be able to rest.
The last thing I heard as my heart made one last shuttering squeeze was the sound the target warning going off.
I guess some care bears do have balls.