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Christy wasnt sure which way Cooper had gone in the dark
cargo bay. She knew he was around here somewhere, but
Sam and Emerson had to be around here somewhere too!
She grinned as she spotted Emerson drawing a bead on Cooper, and raised her paint gun and shot him. His hand came away wet with paint and he gave her a disbelieving look, then sat down on a box to be dead for a while.
Unaware of his close call, Cooper stalked Sam through a hatch into the next hold. He didnt know what was going on when something heavy dropped over his head -- a big square of canvas -- and he was knocked heavily to the deck. Pain exploded through his body as heavy blows and kicks started to rain down on him through the canvas. He couldnt get out, it was all he could do to try to keep from getting his head busted in.
Christy opened the hatch stealthily...and saw a bunch of guys beating the hell out of a struggling figure under a canvas tarp. She saw Sam tied up, gagged with his own shirt, hanging by his wrists from a pipe. He too had been beaten.
She chose her target carefully and put the biggest one down with a vicious kick to the back of his knee, he went down screaming and that gave her a seconds advantage of confusion. Now, according to everything McQueen and Hawkes had been teaching her the last few days, she was
supposed to take advantage of that confusion to run. But running wasnt an option now. She used the time to attack one of the others, he went down with a broken arm.
By then the rest of the gang had got their wits about them. Taking them out wouldnt be anywhere nearly so easy. It looks like the kittens going to fight, one of them jeered.
Christy replied, Even kittens have claws. How many more of you want to end up like your friends here?
Youre going to be sorry for that.
I dont think so!
The closest one grabbed at her, she ducked underneath his arm and punched him in the ribs. She didnt know if she broke one or not, but it was enough to make him retreat, gasping and cursing her. She darted past him and made for a rope she saw hanging, shinnied up it and onto the top of a line of cargo containers.
Dont let her get away! Were cooked if she reports us!
They came after her, she kicked the heavy metal lid off one of the cargo containers and hit the first two with it. A whole stack of plastic jugs rolled out and got underfoot, she jumped for the rope and swung across to the opposite line of containers. She ran along the top, with the gang chasing right behind her, searching the walls for the fire alarm box. That would attract some help down here! But she didnt see one.
A noise overhead caught her attention, she dived for cover as a cargo net full of heavy boxes missed her by a hands width.
Meanwhile, Cooper had struggled out from under the canvas. He yanked the wadded-up shirt out of Sams mouth.
Theyre chasing Christy, down that way! Come back for me later!
Cooper didnt have to be told twice. He took stock as he followed after them, he didnt think anything was broken. He was luckier than the two guys Christy had knocked down, they were going to medbay before theyd see the inside of the brig!
Christy couldnt get back up on the containers, and she found herself up a blind alley. She drew herself up, prepared to make her stand. But then the bullies found out Cooper was behind them.
After that, it was a really short fight. When they realized Cooper could probably kill the lot of them and that he was mad enough to enjoy doing it, they gave in.
Christy called security to come get the gang of sailors while Cooper got Sam down. But as soon as they heard the security detail coming, they ducked out, leaving Sam to make explanations. There was still a spy loose somewhere.
Damphousse poked her head in. The games a scratch, those swabees jumped Coop and them over in the hold.
Both C.O.s got to their feet. Is anyone hurt?
Just the sailors, I think. They were carrying some of them out on stretchers and the rest of them are on their way to the brig. Major Flannery, Sam was telling them what happened.
Todd took his cue. Id better get down there and see whats going on.
When hed gone, Damphousse said, Theres something happening, Shane. I keep flashing on the docking bay.
God, what happened, Phousse? You go for months without a clue whats going on with your powers, then today its every five mikes!
She shook her head. I dont know, Shane!
Well, lets go check out the docking bay, then.
Nathan and the others are going to meet us up there.
They got off the lift. It was very quiet all around their docking bay. Shane had never thought of the flight deck as spooky before, but now it was!
Phousse grabbed her arm. Wait, Shane, look, theres no one in the booth!
Shane said, You go that way and check in the maintenance bays. Im going on in the hangar bay to look around my pit, then Ill get the Colonel. Watch your six, there are plenty of places to hide in here!
Damphousse did as she was told. It took her about ten mikes to check the maintenance bays, nothing. She realized it was taking Shane a long time.
She sent a ping to McQueens radio, he answered immediately. Keeping her voice down, she said, Sir! Hes up here on the flight deck somewhere!
There was no way directly onto flight deck from where McQueen was. He hit the tunnel running and met Damphousse near the maintenance exit. She was standing over the unconscious body of the spy, she had whacked him over the head with a large wrench.
I thought she was with you, Colonel, she said she was going to check around her pit then catch up with you.
She never made it.
Damphousse searched the spy. Damn, damn, hes already set the charge! Without being sure why she did it, she threw the spys bag over her shoulder, and they ran for the flight deck -- just as an explosion filled the bay with flame and flying debris. Too early -- there shouldnt have been anyone in there for another hour and a half yet. The spys nerve must have failed him ... he must have decided to get out now.
Ross and the rest of the Cards caught up with them. Vanessa felt the familiar, disquieting sensation of being two places at once. She reached into the spys bag and grabbed a block of plastique and a detonator. But she knew as she did it that the detonator was bad. She looked -- it was the last one. Plastique explosive would burn, but it wouldnt explode without a detonator ... and even though one of the wires leading to this one had a break in it, the detonator would go off from a sufficient shock as well as an electrical charge. A bullet would be more than sufficient. For a split second, she hesitated, then she came to a decision and grabbed the spys gun as well.
Shanes in there! She told them. And McQueen did exactly what shed just seen him doing.
Ty looked between Glen and the spreading fire. What was necessary had to be done. He said, I'm sorry, Glen-- With that, his hand shot out, hit the button to close off the docking bay -- but before the doors could close, he had dived through. He could still hear Glens horrified shout to him to come back, but he couldnt leave Shane to die like his friends at Port Riskin without being sure there was no chance. Life or death, the same for both of them.
No NB should have been able to match that burst of speed, but when he got his feet under him, Vanessa was right there beside him. She must have been moving before he did. Damphousse, what the hell are you--?! He couldnt think of anything to say that wasnt a case of pots and kettles.
Damphousse said hurriedly, Shes right under the starboard side of her pit. The fires got to the main box for the bay doors, they wont be able to blow them from out there. Ill have to set a charge. Ill meet you at the emergency lock -- but shut it if this charge goes off, cause if it does, you can bet it cooked off in my hand. Theyll have to blow the bay doors from the outside with a missile if it comes to that, you want both hatches of that lock between you and the bay if that happens! With that, she took off running ... into the worst of the fire, lost in the black smoke.
He swore, torn two ways ... but Phousse knew exactly what she was doing. He ran for Shanes cockpit and found her just as Phousse had said. She was deeply unconscious, her flight suit was soaked with blood around a neat, Ka-bar sized cut. The spy had stabbed her in the back. McQueen swore if he got out of this alive, hed kill that son of a bitch with his bare hands.
There wasnt time to think about that now. He picked Vansen up, she seemed light as a child. He hoped he wasnt doing her further harm by moving her, but there was no choice. One way or another, from the fire or hard vacuum, conditions here would soon be unsurvivable.
The emergency lock opened right away, at least that was still working properly. He found a wad of gauze and packed it into Shanes wound. It was still bleeding, that was a good sign because it meant she was still alive. But she was out so far she didnt even flinch.
Someone pounded on the other side of the lock. He made sure Shane was safely inside, then stepped out and shut the door so they could open the other side. He ran towards the bay doors, found Damphousse just finishing up setting the charge.
She looked up at him. The detonators bad! Im going to have to set it off with a shot. Get out of here!
Im a better shot than you are, he told her.
Not from six inches away you arent. I dont have Shane waiting for me, she replied bluntly. I dont mind going to be with Paul. Sir, I swear to God, I will shoot to wound you and throw you in one of those cockpits if I have to ... but you arent taking my place and leaving Shane alone for the rest of this war!
He stared at her, she didnt give a millimeter and he had no doubt she was capable of carrying out the threat. For Shane, for him, at this moment her own life meant nothing to her. If the situation hadnt been so deadly serious, he would have seen the humor in a circumstance where a threat to shoot someone was an act of love. Vanessa, I can hit the detonator from that cargo box. But you'd have to have your hand on the switch to get the hatch closed in time....
It took her a split second to figure out if the plan was workable, whether or not she could get the transport hatch closed fast enough to make it worth risking two lives instead of sacrificing one. Hope came into the eyes of a woman who had already started thinking of herself as dead. We can do it.
They ran for the box. McQueen hadnt taken the billowing smoke from a couple of flaming cockpits into account, the charge on the doors came in and out of view. Vanessa said, Its going to clear for a second!
She was right. He took the shot while he had the opportunity, and hit the detonator. It went off with a roar, and warped the bay doors outward far enough for explosive decompression to do the rest. Everything loose in the bay turned into a projectile, just as Vanessas hand slammed down on the hatchs emergency release. Another half second later the boxs hatch fell home.
McQueen felt a stab of pain from his bad ear that almost knocked him over, until the boxs air supply returned the pressure to normal. He and Vanessa just looked at each other for a second. Then she screamed at the top of her lungs, YES!! And hugged him. Then she got embarrassed, but he just put his arm around her and held her for a minute, laughing as much in relief as at her flustered reaction. Its okay, Vanessa.
Shane? Is she--
She was alive when I left her. I put her in the lock, there were some mechanics on the other side. Someone stabbed her. He raised his comlink.
Outside, Ross, West and Hawkes, and Mark and Christy could only watch in horror as the vacuum extinguished the fire and sucked the smoke out into space. Then McQueens voice came over the comm system, assuring them that he and Damphousse were okay and demanding information on Shanes condition. The mechanics who had gotten her out of the emergency airlock had sent for the medics, shed been taken straight into surgery. All Ross could say to reassure his friend was that she was still alive.
Ross let the young people go down to sickbay. There was really nothing they could report about what had happened that wasnt immediately obvious, formal reports could wait until theyd satisfied themselves that Vansen would be all right. As soon as the crews rescued McQueen and Damphousse they joined the rest to wait for news.
It wasnt too long until Mary came out to tell them Shane would live, although an alarming amount of the blood in her veins at the moment had once belonged to other people. She made sure someone checked out Hawkes bruises to make sure that was all they were. You cant all stay here, just one at a time. She really will be fine, Ty.
McQueen said, Ill stay. You two take Hawkes with you and go report in.
When theyd gone, Mary gave him a critical look. Are you okay?
He nodded. When can I see her?
Now, I suppose, youd might as well sit with her. Itll be at least an hour before she comes out from under the anesthesia, though, and itll be tomorrow before she knows youre here.
Mary had heard that same sentiment expressed too many times to discount it. All right, then. She will be all right, TC. Youll be surprised at how much better shell be doing just by tomorrow.
Todd Flannery came up as he was about to go in. He asked, Shane?
Shes still under, but Dr. OLeary says shell be fine.
Flannery looked through the hatch, people always looked so small and fragile in hospital beds. He hesitated, but it was obvious that McQueen intended to sit with her. He knew sickbays rules about visitors. When she wakes up, tell her I was by ... Ill come back tomorrow.
McQueen nodded. Flannery looked in again, then left.
McQueen went on inside and dragged a chair over to Shanes bedside. The room was silent except for the constant hum of the bank of monitors at the head of the bed. Everything was clean white, it seemed bright even with the lights dimmed. That was good, Shane wouldnt have to wake up in the dark.
She barely seemed to be breathing. But the readouts on the monitors all looked good ... at least as far as he could tell.
Gloria came in. She had Shanes meds, a couple of things that she injected into the saline bag. She checked things. For a bunch of people who hate sickbay, you sure give us a hell of a lot of business, she said.
How is she?
Just fine. Shes starting to come out. Ill get another chair so you can put your feet up and try to sleep, its headed for 0100.
About 0300, Ross came by. He looked tired but quite satisfied, his expression changed to worry when he saw Vansen. How is she?
They say pretty good. McQueen unfolded his legs from the other chair and toed it over Ross way, the Commodore sat down.
Security found the launch controller, shes dead. Her friends said shed been excited the past few days about her new boyfriend, guess who it was?
Now we know what he meant by access. Damn.
Shanes eyes flickered open. For a moment, they both had their hands full -- she didnt realize she wasnt still fighting off a knife-wielding assassin, and they were afraid shed tear open her injury trying to get away. But then she recognized McQueen.
He reassured her, We got the guy, Shane. Phousse brained him with a pipe wrench. Its okay. Youre in sickbay.
What happened? The bomb--
Went off and weve got another launch bay down for repairs, but no one besides yourself was hurt this time, Ross assured her. This idiot of yours blew the bay doors with a block of plastique.
McQueen said, Dont look at me, it was Vanessas idea.
Shane said weakly, Two idiots, then. But the affection in her voice took all the sting out of her words. You and Phousse ... sure youre okay?
He nodded. The detonator she had was no good, Damphousse was ready to sacrifice her life to blow the doors. There was a cargo box in there, I was able to make the shot from that distance, and then we just waited in there until they brought us EVA gear.
Ross said, You might tell her that the chief engineer informed me the fire would have started spreading to adjacent areas if it had not been put out when it was. The two of you undoubtedly saved a number of lives.
Ill inform the Lieutenant of that, sir.
And Ill tell them out there that Shanes awake, Ross grinned.
Shane reached for McQueens hand and asked, How bad--
You were lucky. Mary said youll be all right in a couple of weeks.
You got me out of there, didnt you?
He nodded, but said, It was really Vanessa ... she told me where to find you.
Shane closed her eyes and lay back. Were going to have one hell of a time figuring out where the Chinese obligations begin and end.
Lets just say it includes us all, and leave it at that.
She smiled. He didnt release her hand until he heard voices in the corridor outside.
Two days later, Shane was allowed to go back to the barracks.
Dr. OLeary figured she could lie around and sleep there as
well as anywhere else, and for the time being, that was all she
really wanted to do most of the time. She would be grounded until
there was no further danger of reopening her wound.
Cooper was relieved to see her back in her usual spot, and even more relieved to see McQueen sitting with her. Now that he had got used to the idea, that seemed to be the way things were supposed to be.
Christy knocked at the hatch, he joined her and Mark outside. Even though the gang of bigots had been caught, and it was highly unlikely anyone else would try the same thing after theyd seen the Commodores reaction to those guys, she had decided to continue learning martial arts. Cooper was surprised to find that he enjoyed teaching her and Mark, even though the teacher was scrambling to stay one chapter ahead of the students.
Mark looked down the corridor. You guys go ahead to the gym, Ill catch up in a little while.
Christy asked, Hows Shane?
Better today. She sat up for an hour or so after breakfast. She still sleeps a lot.
Thats a good sign, Cooper, Christy reassured him.
Hey, Christy, some of the new movies are supposed to be pretty good. Would you, umm ... like to go see one with me tonight after you get off duty?
She smiled. That sounds great, Coop.
A little while later, he reached for her hand, and she laced her fingers with his. For a while, anyway, all was right with Coopers world.
Vanessa looked up and smiled as Mark Miller dropped into step beside her. Hi, Vanessa.
Mark, she smiled. Thanks for helping us out the other day.
No problem, he smiled. Listen, I was wanting to ask you something. You sing in the choir, right?
Well, Ive been thinking about putting a band together. I used to be in a garage band back home, it was a lot of fun. Would you think about joining?
Vanessa looked surprised. Ive never really sung anywhere except in church, Mark, I dont think Im that good.
Im not a professional musician, but thats half the fun. I was talking to Julie, the girl we played paintball with, and she plays keyboards. Thats a pretty good beginning for a band.
Well, I did start to learn to play bass one time. What kind of music do you like?
A little country, some blues, some folk and bluegrass. I like to listen to South American music, but Im not a good enough guitarist to play it.
Vanessa smiled. You know something, Mark, that sounds like something Id really like to try. When can we get together?
That sounds good for me, Vanessa said.
I usually practice in rec room B. Do you have a bass?
I think I can borrow one, she replied.
Great! Ill see you then!
Vanessa stood there for a long moment. She had a sense of moving on, of new beginnings. It wasn't, thank God, another vision...shed had a rest from them the last few days. But she did have a feeling that things were right somehow.
Vansen curled up against the extra pillow that West had swiped for her. She had sat up in her rack to watch the news after breakfast, but that effort had exhausted her. It was frustrating, she had to just take it on faith when everyone said she would be recovered in couple weeks. Right now it felt like she would never walk any further than back and forth to the head. I cant believe I was dumb enough to let that son of a bitch get the drop on me, she griped, not for the first time.
We thought hed have to come in through the crawl-space. We thought wrong. Its that simple, McQueen said.
I know...did they get anything out of him?
No, not before Naval Intelligence picked him up anyway. But hell have to take whatever deal they offer him, theyve got him cold for the murder of Lt. Sedley in addition to all the other charges against him.
Id have liked to have-- She bit off whatever she had been going to say, but the look in her eyes was decidedly unfriendly.
McQueen told her, Yeah. Me too. They made sure I didnt get anywhere near him.
I dont blame the Commodore for that, Vansen grinned. The spys history. Im just glad hes finally been identified, I was getting damn tired of looking over my shoulder.
McQueen had to agree with that. We dont know that there arent more.
Well, well never know that for sure, I guess. She tugged at the blanket, trying to get comfortable. She decided that was just impossible and settled for turning over on her side, maybe it wasnt comfortable but at least it was different.
She sighed a little as McQueen reached out to brush the hair out of her eyes. It doesnt matter right now. Just rest.
She was more than willing to do just that. McQueen watched her sleep for a while, before he dimmed the lights and headed up to the bridge.
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