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Chapter 3: The end

"Hey, do you think we're going to make it?" The question startled her into half turning around, her eyes momentarily withdrawn from their vigilant position on the rest of the hangar, focusing on the half dopey countenance of the one she'd really begun to admire, the one she couldn't look at without feeling her insides soften.

Jane half opened her mouth to answer but was cut off as Neil continued to let loose the stream of questions he'd clearly wanted to ask for a while. There was a sort of puzzled fascination on her face as she watched his lips move unceasingly and listened to the bubbling words trip over themselves to escape. She was unable to answer them, because she wanted to know the same. Were they going to get out of this alive? Did she have a future? And could Neil be a part of that? She wanted him to be but she wasn't sure what he wanted.

I want a little Neil Junior calling me Daddy some day.

He'd said that…he'd meant that. That's why she'd been so sarcastic to him. In some strange confusion of feelings she wanted to be that person who he saw with the child and yet didn't think she wanted to submit herself so easily to being a mother.

It's called upper body strength Neil. Get a girlfriend.

Working on it.

She felt the internal smile somewhere around her stomach. So many connotations attached to a simple sentence. She hadn't liked to think that he had meant it for her in any way, though the recent events had made the buried hopes blossom. They'd made her realise her affections that she'd kept shut off for so long.

"Ouch!" The startled exclamation brought her down to earth with a sharp jolt. "Jane! Do you mind if we don't talk! I'm trying to concentrate here!"

Jane twisted back to her post and settled the gun. A small smile twitched around her lips. Sometimes she couldn't be sure whether he did it for effect, to amuse her, or if he truly meant it.

The noise alerted her first. Swiftly she manoeuvred the gun into position and aimed. Here came trouble. The weapon bucked as she shot at the writhing masses oozing out of the ground. There were so many of them! Where were they all coming from? Every so often the repeated reassurances came from her or Neil that she could handle it. She was going to handle it. There was no choice in the matter. Everyone else's safety depended on their success here. There was a definite sigh of relief that escaped her lips when the last Phantom retreated with a scream.

"Yes!"

She turned back to Neil, a distinct smile gracing her lips as he leapt to his feet and did a minor victory dance, beckoning his hands to receive praise.

"Eh? Eh?" he gave his careless grin, bathing in her admiring looks.

Suddenly the blood drained from her face and her smile vanished. Horror seeped into her expression as she watched drill like tentacles pierce Neil's chest. The smug look was replaced by confusion as he rolled his head down to observe the life denying vines. Shock had penetrated Jane's soul. She stood frozen, helpless, as with a decisive wrench the Phantom ripped the spirit from his body and let it tumble to the floor an empty shell.

Something snapped inside as Jane watched the limp body fall. It wasn't possible…it wasn't fair! Snarling she lifted the gun and started to blast away at the Phantom, screaming as she did so, face contorted with rage and pain. It was retreating so the action was meaningless, she couldn't bring Neil back and she should have run for the ship, the coast was clear, but instead she continued shooting…until an empty click resounded from the gun. It took her a second to realise. Click. Click. Click.

It was as if the Phantom could tell she was out of ammo. She saw the tentacles streaming up from the ground, and she had no way to fight back. She could try to escape but that aching weariness that had settled over her the moment the gun had stopped working refused to let her legs move.

This was the end.

It was the end for Neil and the end for her. At least they'd be together in death.

"Jane! Get out of there! Ja-"

She calmly switched the head set off and removed it, cutting off Gray's voice.

With an air of resignation Jane tilted her head in surrender and thought of Neil.

There was a cold rush as a Phantom swept through her – then nothing.