Victoria faded from Eugene’s view, he wasn’t even sure if she had seen him. Why the fuck was she here anyway? He didn’t have time to worry about her, he had to look for cover. The monster who shared the room with him was moving now, picking up the battery packs from their cradles and attaching them to its body. It turned to face the three remaining men in the room who were all frozen in place just as Eugene was.
“Now for the rest of you bastards who helped her do this to me. You will all pay. EVERYONE WILL PAY!” It crossed the room in the blink of an eye, feet tearing into the steel flooring like it was tissue paper and grabbed the technician next to Eugene. Holding him around the waist it tore one arm off with dreadful slowness and dropped the mewling scientist to the ruptured floor.
The door burst in with a deafening explosion followed immediately by gunfire and Eugene dove behind a steel table that held lab equipment as the bullets ricochet off the thing like flies hitting a windshield.
The machine roared and tore towards the airlock. Black clad figures scattered left and right down the corridor, but one was too slow. The thing picked up the soldier and flung her across the room to slam into a will with sundering force. With a guttural growl, it gave chase to the other soldiers.
As the sounds of pursuit faded, interspersed with sporadic gunfire and Eugene bent to tie a tourniquet on the arm of the scientist even though he was pretty sure the man was done for. He glanced fearfully towards the door just in time to see a lithe figure drop from some unseen hiding place in the ceiling of the hallway.
“Victoria? What are you doing here?” She was wearing Kevlar battle armor and armed to the teeth, he almost didn’t recognize her.
“We are here to extract you. Secure anything you require and follow me. There is a Scimitar gunship waiting for us outside. The team will keep that construct busy while we make good our escape.” She sounded focused and precise, Eugene had heard this tone before.
“Adam? That’s you isn’t it?” He asked.
“Affirmative, Victoria is not equipped to handle this type of situation.” Came the swift and calm reply.
“Look, that’s not just a construct. It has a human brain and an AI much like yours. I think the brain has become unbalanced though, he killed his own wife!” Eugene shuddered.
“No time for idle speech Doctor, let’s move out before that thing destroys this ship.” Victoria turned and slipped noiselessly out of the room.
Eugene followed her down the hallway. She turned towards the cabins instead of the exit, glancing down the corridor briefly before drawing her pistol and firing two quick shots followed by the sound of bodies falling. She motioned for him to continue following and slipped around the corner and he saw the two men she had taken down. The shots had been placed precisely in each of their right eyes.
“We can get to the roof through here, then Dace can bring the chopper around for evac.” Adam said with Victoria’s voice. She opened the door, revealing a narrow staircase and paused to clear it before stealthily moving up it. Sounds of gunfire, a helicopter and the tortured shriek of twisting metal could clearly be heard from the top of the stairs.
“Watch it, this is going to get dangerous when we get up there. It sounds like my little brother is still causing trouble.” They carefully looked over the edge of the roof just in time to see the cyborg throwing a large chunk of steel railing into the rotor blades of the hovering gunship. The Scimitar was designed to take some abuse so although it spun out of control and plunged to a splash landing it did not explode.
Victoria snuck onto the roof like a cat and got behind the machine. Eugene could see her holster the sidearm and crouch down, making ready. The two remaining soldiers recovered from the shock of seeing their craft disabled and opened fire on the creature that was stalking them once more.
“Noooo-!” Victoria’s voice screamed in panic for a moment before it cut off but her body moved in perfect precision, leaping onto the thing’s shoulders while its attention was on the figures in black that were peppering it with lead. It reached behind itself and grabbed her by the legs with a sickening crunch just as she pressed her thumbs on the immobilizing switches.
The beast swayed, gyros no longer able to compensate for the lack of muscle control and fell on its side with Victoria still encased in its metal embrace. The machine was screaming, its vocal circuits had not been shut down yet but Eugene could still hear Victoria’s sobs beneath the roar. What the fuck had just happened?
One of the soldiers motioned ran to Victoria’s side and the other approached him. Eugene was surprised to see a young looking female face looking down the barrel of a submachine gun at him.
“You’re Eugene Arlington correct?” All he could do was nod in shock, “You’re coming with us.”
“Wait, what about Victoria?” He stammered, trying to regain control of his scattered senses.
“We may be able to get the Scimitar airborne again in an hour or so, then we will only be another hour out from the finest medical facility.” She replied, her face a focused mask.
“No, she will almost certainly bleed to death before then.” Eugene said, looking at Victoria’s mangled form and shuddering as he fought to keep himself calm. “Listen, I’m a doctor and there is an operating room just below us, albeit a completely destroyed one. I can save her.”
“Doc, her legs are thrashed. She knew the risk. I have to hand it to her, Vic’s made of some pretty stern stuff. Without her actions we’d prolly all be dead.” She looked over at the floating form of the Scimitar and grimaced. “The faster we get her out of here the less likely she is to get an infection.”
The mechanical screaming had stopped; the other soldier had yanked the battery packs out of it. Once it lost power, the hands also relaxed and Victoria fell to the deck limply.
“Eugene? Are you still alive?” Her voice was weak but steady.
“Yes, I’m here.” He moved to her side, tears leaking from his eyes at the amount of blood pooling beneath her.
“That’s some consolation I suppose.” She wasn’t looking at him. “Fuck. After all that he turns out to be a traitor.”
“What are you talking about? I would never betray you Victoria.” He took her hand and she didn’t pull away. When she finally did meet his eyes there was fear burning in them.
“Not you Eugene. Adam. I know it was the only way to stop that thing but I didn’t want to go.” She grabbed his hand so tightly he could feel the joints creak and whispered, “I didn’t want to do it but he made me anyway. What have you done? I want to pass out but I can’t because he knows shock victims have a much worse chance of survival if they lose consciousness, Eugene I can’t stop him. He’s in there and I can’t stop him.”
“Shhhh, it’s going to be OK.” He patted her hand, not knowing what else to do, “Are you in pain Victoria?”
“No. I can’t feel anything below my waist. How bad is it?”
“Pretty bad.” He saw some parachute cord in a tidy bundle strapped to her vest with Velcro. “I’m going to put tourniquets on your legs so you won’t bleed too much and we’ll get you out of here as fast as we can.”
The muffled sound of a powerful boat motor caused everyone on the deck to look around. The soldier who had been talking to Eugene started talking, apparently to someone on the chopper.
“Damn it Sky why didn’t you or Link let us know about the incoming? What do you mean it’s not showing on radar?”
“Members of the Special Forces squad seventeen, please hold your fire. We are friendlies, repeat please hold your fire.” A voice reverberated off the ship through a megaphone and another craft leaped into view as its running lights were switched on. It had gotten within a hundred feet and been completely invisible until the crew had turned on the lights. Standing on the deck was Dmitri Nikitin.
Dmitri’s boat was a long narrow affair, obviously built for speed. Her angular hull, deck and cabin were all made of fibrous black material that looked like it was military grade. She was approximately thirty feet from bow to aft. Once he was close enough, Dmitri threw a grapnel onto the Misery and pulled his boat up tight to the side.
“Speed is of the essence, I believe the enclave on that island over there is probably in communication with this ship.” He bowed slightly towards the apparent leader of the unit, “Well met Chelsea Daceiron, I have heard of your team but did not expect you to be so young. Your reputation precedes you.”
“No need to worry about com, that metal monster crushed Kim with the radio array. I dunno know who the hell you are, but we’re gonna to have to commandeer your ship. I have wounded that need immediate evac.”
“My name is Dmitri Nikitin and I place myself at your disposal, commandeering is completely unnecessary. Besides, I can pilot this craft much faster than any of your team. Let us load your survivors and make haste back to civilization.”
Eugene had finished tying the second tourniquet and shuddered at the damage that had been done to Victoria’s legs. Adam must have shut off the nerves on her lower body because he could feel the bones grinding against each other when he lifted them to slide the cords underneath. Dmitri approached with a concerned frown on his face.
“Eugene, what on Earth have you allowed to happen to Victoria? Had I known she was in this much danger I would not have stayed as far out as I did.”
“It wasn’t his fault Dmitri, I did this to myself.” Victoria’s voice was bitter, “Thanks for coming like I asked.”
“Of course my dear.” Dmitri gently picked her up, her mangled legs dangling disturbingly, and began walking towards his slim craft. “I apologize for not coming sooner or having more appropriate emergency equipment, Dark Star is not designed for this type of extraction.”
“Wait a fucking second here. You TOLD him?” Dace was irate, “I lost half my team on this mission and you compromised us by leaking intel to a civilian third party?”
“Do not act as though my actions contributed to the demise of your underlings.” Dmitri said, “You cannot face a monster and expect to get away without a few scratches. Please modify your tone if you wish my assistance, Victoria is dear to me and I will not have you casting dispersions on her character aboard my craft.”
He stepped aboard his boat without looking back, leaving Dace gaping like a landed fish. In the distance an alarm began sounding from the direction of the island. She looked back towards the downed Scimitar and then at Dmitri’s Dark Star.
“OK, let’s collect what we can and get the hell otta here. Something’s squawkin on that island and I don’t wanna be here when they scramble. ” Dace said, “Sky, Link, set the destruct on that thing and get over here. We ain’t leavin a cinder for them to find. Hey! Mr. Nikitin! How much room you got on that boat?”
Eugene finally pulled himself out of the daze he was stuck in and stood up, walking toward a crumple of metal he assumed was the destroyed communications array. He could see a pair of black clad legs sticking out from under a large piece of it and attempted to see if their owner still lived.
Dmitri was climbing out of the cabin of Dark Star presumably after getting Victoria settled. “She will comfortably seat six, more than enough room for your remaining comrades.”
As he made his way around the mangled mess trying to find a place to check for a pulse Eugene saw it wasn’t necessary. A large portion of the array had caved the girl’s head in.
“Good, then we can take our dead back too.” Said Dace.
“I fear time is of the essence Miss Daceiron, I do not wish to give Victoria the chance to bleed to death while you gather fallen troops.” Dmitri said mildly, lighting a cigarette.
“By the time you finish that coffin nail I’ll be out with whoever I can find.” Dace drew a pistol from its holster on her left hip and went back into the Misery through the door Eugene and Victoria had exited. After a moment, Eugene followed.
“Dace, I will help if I can. I would also like to get my laptop if it survived.” He said.
“Just don’t slow me down.” Dace replied, “You get Fats from the operating room then, I’ll see if I can find Shai. Forty-five seconds Doc.” She handed him a pistol.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” He looked at the weapon like it was a week old fish.
“Shoot anything that moves. I dunno if we downed all the hostiles or not.”
Eugene ran to the room where his laptop hopefully still sat in one piece. He glanced in the door before moving inside, it was a mess of wiring, torn steel and corpses. His laptop was sitting on the floor, its fractured screen flickering but apparently still functional. When he entered the room to retrieve it Eugene could hear someone moaning. The girl who had been thrown across the room was still alive. He closed his machine and set it down on a twisted piece of lab equipment without bothering to shut it down.
“Dace? That you?” She said, “Oh Christ I’m tore up pretty bad.”
“It’s Eugene, I’m here to get you out.” He said. “The chopper is down but we have a boat waiting.” He awkwardly grabbed her and threw her over his shoulder in a Fireman’s carry, then picked up his laptop and staggered to the door. This girl was a lot heavier than she looked.
“Thanks Doc.” She was muttering almost too quiet to hear, “Fucking demons, we weren’t ready for fucking demons.”
When they got back topside Eugene saw they were the last two. Dace ran up to help him out.
“Careful, she’s not dead.”
“Shit Fats, you lucky bitch.” Dace wiped some tears from her cheek, “Good to see your eyes open, now keep ‘em that way until we get you a medic.”
“Don’ feel lucky. Hurts. Tired.”
Together they managed to get her aboard and strapped into a chair. The Dark Star had begun to set out as soon as they had boarded, but now that Fats was belted in Dmitri opened up the throttle and the boat leaped forward. Eugene drew a shaky sigh of relief, it was finally over.
“It’s all over Eugene.” Victoria didn’t sound relieved, hers was a voice of despair.
“Thank you for coming to get me Victoria, there’s no way the team would have been able to rescue me.”
She talked in a monotone, “We tried to get through its WIFI and Bluetooth but it didn’t appear to have the proper software installed. We were going to pull the power plug but it saw through that little ruse and killed our proxy. Ripped him in half like a piece of paper. After he fitted those Lithium Fusion batteries the game changed. There was no other choice but to intervene directly, push the buttons, take him out manually. Didn’t count on him having shoulders that could articulate like that. Thought we’d be safe.”
“Don’t try to speak Victoria, you’re in shock.” Eugene said, “I’m sure we will be able to repair the damage. You’ll live, I swear it.”
“Sure I will probably live.” She said, a tear leaking from the corner of her eye, “But I’m trapped in this body with an enemy. How am I supposed to want to live with Him still in my head?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Eugene asked, already knowing the answer. “Who is in your head? Why is he an enemy?”
Victoria’s head slumped to the side, she had lost consciousness. Eugene looked at her helplessly, checking her vitals to make sure she hadn’t actually died on him. To his surprise she actually seemed stable.
“She will not fail me Mr. Arlington.” Eugene jumped at the voice behind him.
“What do you mean fail YOU?” Eugene demanded, “She isn’t doing a goddamn thing for you Dmitri!”
“Oh Mr. Arlington, how little you truly know.” Dmitri said, the icy cool of his voice frightening Eugene enough to snap him out of his state of shock. “It matters not what she thinks she is doing, everything she does is for me.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” He demanded.
“Exactly what it sounds like Doctor.” Was Dmitri’s calm, collected reply. “The longer she lives, the more potent her technology will become. The more dramatic her death, the more the military will want it for themselves. All this will make my father’s investment pay, therefore all she does is for me.”
With that, Dmitri turned back to the controls of his boat as it lanced through the night.