Sorry it has taken me a ridiculously long time to update this story. I'm not sure why, but I just drifted away from it.
Angel in Disguise
Part 6: Final Countdown
Michael was turning as Felicity pulled the trigger, the rounds from her weapon striking him in the shoulder, almost blowing it from it's joint. Some how, Michael was able to pull the trigger before the arm fell limp at his side, sending a single round strait thought the other AI's CPU.
Felicity fell flat on her back, her unseeing eyes looking strait up at the sky.
"That hurt." Michael sank to his knees, almost dropping Damphousse as he looked down at the gaping hole in his chest, "I'm afraid that I may be unable to help you complete your escape, Captain Vansen."
"What's wrong?" Shan asked, real concern in her voice, "Is there anything I can do?"
"I am afraid that this is likely to be a terminal problem: my power cell is leaking. I have limited reserves, reserves, reserves." The AI hit himself in the side of the head, "Sorry about that."
"Can you make it to the extraction point?"
"Maybe, if we have no further problems." Struggling under the weight of Damphousse's limp form, Michael slowly stood, shaking slightly, "I sagest we waist no more time: I can not guarantee that I will be able to carry the lieutenant all the way."
"Do you want me to help?"
"In your currant state, you'd be about as much help as a chocolate teapot."
"Was that a joke?"
"I'll never understand the English sense of humour…"
The grassland gave way to rocky foothills, devoid of much cover. Shan noticed that Michael had stopped talking some time back, and realised how much his battery must have been drained.
"Come on; it's not much further." She did her best to sound reassuring, but her words rang hollow: they both knew that the A.I. was not going to survive.
Finally, after what felt like hours, they reached the spot arranged for the extraction. Michael pulled a beacon from his pocket it and activated it, before slowly lowering Damphousse to the ground. He stood up straight, still as a statue.
"You still there?" Shane asked, worried.
"I'm scanning the area around us: there is a Chig patrol 2-kilcks out and closing. We can only hope that the shuttle reaches us first."
"How likely is that?"
"Unlike my fellow Silicates, I never play the odds if I can avoid it."
A loud roar filled the air, and two delta-winged fights passed overhead. They continued on for a second, and then dropped bombs on a clump of trees, obliterating them. Smoke and flame filled the air.
"Spitfires?" Shane looked at the fighters as they started to make a second run, "Where did they come from?"
"HMS Invincible." Michael remained motionless, "Markings are 617-Squadren."
"The Invincible was assigned to the 15th Fleet, light-years from here."
"When word of a possible peace treaty got around, they where re-directed: there is an entire Royal Navy Task Force in system." Michael looked up suddenly, "Your ride is here."
An ISSCV dropped through the clouds like a stone, only activating its engines at the last moment, hitting the ground hard. The main airlock swung open, and a pair of medics jumped out and ran over to Shane and Damphousse.
"I suggest you hurry." Michael lifted his assault rifle and pointed it at the still burning trees, "The remaining Chig's are massing for a counter attack."
"Come on!" Shane yelled, "Get in the ship."
"I'm afraid that's not possible, captain." The AI looked at her, "Someone has to stay behind and hold them off." He smiled, "Who dares wins…"
Shane tried to say something, but what ever it was the medics had dosed her with seemed to have robbed her of the ability to put together coherent words. Instead she could only watch in surprise as, gripping his rifle with both hands, Michael started to run towards the advancing Chig's, firing round after round into their ranks.
Return fire hit the AI reputably, but he didn't even seem to notice as he continued his suicidal run.
Struggling against the hands that were dragging her into the ISSCV, Shane looked out to see a grenade explode right in front of Michael, swallowing him in smoke and flame.
Shane awoke to find herself lying in a hospital bed, IV tubes and medical sensor connecting her to a bank of monitors. The reassuring faces of Nathan West and Cooper Hawks looked down at her.
"Doc says you're going to be ok." Nathan smiled, "Vanessa's a little banged up, but she'll live."
"Paul?" Shane asked weakly.
The two lieutenants looked at each other, and then slow shook their heads.
"He went down fighting, trying to draw the Chig's off of your pod." Copper explained, "McQueen's being transferred back to Earth for treatment. Commodore Ross is going to pull some strings to get Vanessa sent to the same hospital."
"Excuse me." A voice came from the doorway, and the three marines looked round to see a tall man dressed in the uniform of a British Admiral, followed by a woman in military uniform. Shane instantly recognised the winged-dagger insignia on her shoulder.
"We need to talk to Captain Vansen, in private." The Admiral waited for Nathan and Cooper to leave, before walking over to Shane's bed, "Captain, I am Admiral Hood, commander of the Task Force in this system. This is Leftenant Cross of the 22nd SAS. I thought it was best if we came to see you in person, so you can understand the importance of what we are about to tell you."
"It's about Michael, isn't it?" Shane's words were more of a statement than a question.
"Indeed." Leftenant Cross nodded, "His very existence was a closely guarded secret, and we feel it would be best if it remained that way."
"You don't have to worry; I'm not going to tell anyone." Shane shrugged, "I doubt anyone would believe me anyway."
"I hope you an understand the need for secrecy." Admiral Hood pulled a small box out of his pocket, "Michael obviously had no family, but I feel he would probably want you to have this."
Shane, eyebrow raised inquisitively, took the box and opened it: a bronze cross on a red ribbon sat on the soft velvet interior.
"Is this what I think it is?" She asked.
"It is." The Admiral nodded, "We'll leave you now; the doctors said you need rest."
The sound of muffled movement awoke Shane in the middle of the night, and she reached out for the light switch.
"That really isn't necessary." A soft voice stopped her, "And it would raw unwanted attention."
"What?" Shane blinked, trying to find something in the darkness, "Michael?"
"Could be, could be. Maybe I escaped the Chig's and got off-planet. Or, maybe you're having a strange dream caused by the medication you're on."
"My dreams never make that much sense. What are you doing here?"
"I came to say goodbye: I have a new assignment, one that will take me far away from here. Can't say where; operational security and all."
"I'm, glad you're ok."
"Sympathy for the Devil, Captain Vansen? What ever next?"
"Let's just say that maybe there is one AI I don't hate."
"There is hope for you yet. Goodbye."
"No need Captain, no need: I was only doing my duty."
Shane lay in the darkness for what felt like hours, before finally reaching over and turning on the lights. The room was completely empty, with no sign that anyone had been there.
For a moment, Shane contemplated that t could very well have all been a drug-induced dream, but then she saw the cloth badge placed carefully on top of the box containing the medal Admiral Hood had given her. It was dirty, burnt around the edges, but she could still make out the winged dagger and the words Who Dares Wins.
Smiling to herself, Shane went back to sleep. And for the first time in years, there were no nightmares.