*Chapter 22: One Must Go...*
"Hurry! They're getting closer!" Maria says as she looks behind her to see the GUN soldiers are coming close to them. One of them has a gun out, aiming at her and pulled a trigger. Maria cried out in alarm as the bullet almost got her head. Shadow made a growl and pull his friend behind him and his hand glows yellow.
"Chaos Spear!" He shouted. The bolts hit the soldiers' feet to make him fall. Shadow dragged Maria down the corridors to get to the escape pods. "That will give us some time! We're almost there!" He said.
"Shadow, I...I can't run anymore..." Maria said, panting.
"We'll make it!" Shadow said. He turned back to her. "We'll be going to Earth together like we dream of!" Maria gave him a small smile. Then, they opened the doors of the escape pod room. Maria locked the doors and went over to the controls to activate the pods, but there is one remaining. Shadow notice the worry look on Maria's face. "What's wrong?"
"There's one." Maria said. "Most of us escaped, but..."
"Go." Shadow said, gripping her hand.
"One of us must go." Shadow said. "I want you to go without me. You've been dreaming of going down to that planet ever since you were raised here. Don't worry about me. I want you to go." Maria started to cry. "Please, I'll be right behind you. Just stand in the center and I'll-" Shadow was cut off when Maria came down to embrace him. She cried on his shoulder.
"If you stay, then I am too." She whispered.
"I'm not leaving you behind, Shadow. You're my best friend. You were always there for me, and I'm always there for you." Maria said. "I...I don't want to be alone again. I don't want to be alone. Please...I don't want to be alone again..." She felt his hand stroking her blonde hair.
"You're not alone, Maria. I will be right behind you. I will find you down there." Shadow said. They hear hard knocking outside the doors.
"Open up in there! We know you're inside there, Project: Shadow!" The voice yelled. Maria pulled away from Shadow, and look at the locked door. She look back at Shadow in silent. She had to make a choice here. Either she will live to be on Earth, or stay here to risk her life to save Shadow from these soldiers. Gunshots were heard outside. Maria took a breath and push Shadow to the center of the room, and the pod fell on him, trapping him inside. He got up and have his hands on the glass. Maria stood before him, tears falling from her eyes.
"Maria! What the hell are you doing?" Shadow asked, pounding the glass. "Let me out!"
"...No." She said. "You're...going without me. You have to live, Shadow. It's my turn to save you..." She went over to the controls, but the doors burst open there is a soldier with a gun. Maria turned to him in fear.
"Step away from there, young lady!" The man said. "No one has to get hurt." Maria didn't say anything to him. She pressed the button. It will take 5 minutes for the pod to shoot down to Earth. Too long. "I'm not fooling around here!" The solider said, aiming his gun at the girl.
"Go to hell..." Maria murmured.
"Maria, no..." Shadow said. "Think about what you're doing!"
"You have five seconds to surrender, kid!" The soldier said. Maria didn't move from her spot. She only stares at the soldier who began to count.
"Maria, get out of here!"
"I'm not leaving, Shadow!"
"Dammit, Maria! Listen to him, and you will live! I'll be fine!"
"Last chance, kid! Don't let me get to 5!" The soldier warned. Maria didn't move. She knew she is going to die. She did it to save Shadow. "So be it...5!" The soldier pulled the trigger and shot Maria in the chest. Shadow watched in horror. Blood staining her blue top where she was shot. Maria shook a little and fell back to the ground.
"MARIA!" Shadow screamed, hitting the glass, trying to break free, but the glass never breaks. "Maria!" The girl rolled on her stomach and see Shadow's face. He started to cry in tears.
"Maria...why?" Shadow asked. "Why did you do this?" Maria reaches for the glass, like she is touching his hand that lowers.
"Shadow...I have to do it." She said, coughing a little. "You...saved me many times, and...I returned the debt. I saved you from...the soldiers who want you...dead. I don't want to lose another friend. I've lost Mardic and others, and I am not going to lose you either. Death will have to take me instead..." Shadow cried a little. The soldier watched and listened to this. He couldn't help but to feel bad for shooting the girl. He lowers his gun and take off his helmet.
"Maria..." Shadow whispered. His tear is falling from his eye. Maria gave him a weak smile.
"Shadow, there's something I want you to do...for me." She said. "For all the people...on that planet...give them a chance...to be happy." Shadow listened to her, and see that she growing weaker by losing blood. "I need your help, Shadow...everyone's fate depends on...you!" Then, beeping was heard from the controls. The pod will soon be shot down to Earth.
"Shadow...I...I...love you..." Maria whispered, slowly closing her eyes. Her head was resting on the floor.
"Maria!" Shadow cried out and he was launched down. As he was falling down to Earth, he let out a cry, tears falling from his eyes. He couldn't believe it. Maria is gone forever. She saved his life. She chose to save him.The soldier came to Maria's body and kneel down in shame. He started to cry.
"Oh god..." He whispered. "What have I done?"
"Where's the creature, soldier?" The Commander asked from the doorway. The soldier turned to see him and shook his head. The Commander growled a little and notice the body next to him. "She helped it escape, didn't she?" He asked.
"Yes, but...I didn't mean to shot her!" The soldier said. "Goddammit! I really don't want to kill her, but..."
"You have to." The Commander said. "She chose to help the creature, and she had to die..." The soldier dried his eyes and picked up Maria's body. He looks at her face. As if she was sleeping. But, she is not. "Oh lord, forgive me. Please forgive me..."
In the hall, there was Gerald with Abraham and others who surrendered to live. Coming in was the Commander and the soldier, carrying Maria's body. Gerald turned and made a look of horror. His granddaughter is dead. The soldier who carried her body made a sorry look at the professor, but the old man fell on his knees and let out a cry.
"No...no! What have you done?!" He yelled. Abraham made a horrified look as the soldier sets the body down on the sheet. His close friend is dead.
"Maria...?" He whispered.
"The creature is gone, professor." The Commander said to Gerald who came close to his granddaughter's body. She picked her up to hold her close, not caring if the blood stains on his lab coat. "She chose to help it escape."
"You bastards...!" Gerald said. "You murdered my only granddaughter! She was so young!"
"It had to be done." The Commander said. "We leave this station now, professor. We have things to discuss..." The soldiers gathered everyone and the dead bodies to take. Gerald was cuffed by the Commander and left the soldier to wrap up the body. Gerald was tearing up, and he made a look of hatred. Abraham turned back to see the professor's face, and turn back to the soldiers who took him and everyone else to the end of the hallways to get inside the shuttle.
"ARK to headquarters, we're heading back to Earth." The Commander said on his talkie. "Project: Shadow escaped to Earth. We will find it and bring it down to Prison Island where the professor belongs. Everyone else goes to the GUN Headquarters. We have one child who was left." Everyone walked in the shuttle. Abraham sat next to the soldier who shot Maria. He looked at him in silent.
"It'll be okay, kid." The soldier told him. Abraham didn't say anything to him. "I'm sorry, but...I had to do it."
"...It's not your fault." Abraham said. "It was Shadow's fault. He's the one to blame..." His eyes are filled with hate and fury, thinking about the black hedgehog. "He killed my friends and family..."