N

Vash laughed as he ran as fast as his legs could take him through the gardens, looking at the trees with wide eyes, filled with glee. Rem had told him that he could go and play for a little while, and although his brother had decided to spend some time by himself that day, Vash would never pass up the chance, even if he was going to be alone.

Still laughing, he did a little somersault and landed on his back, staring up and resting his head on his hands. He breathed in deeply, and sighed, his green eyes glimmering brightly with his happiness. After a while of just laying there, he began to wonder what exactly he was going to do.

He sighed thoughtfully. He did not have a play-mate, and there were only so many things that he could do on his own. I wish Knives had come with me . . . he thought. It's a lot funner with two people . . .

His thoughts were interrupted when a face peered down at him curiously. He looked up, blinked a few times, and then realized that she was upside down. He quickly sat up, turned, and stared at her.

She was a girl, about his age and height. She had red-gold hair that shimmered and fell a little past her shoulders, and her eyes were a dainty, crystal blue, not unlike his brother's. She stared right back at him, holding her hands behind her back timidly.

He smiled cheerfully at her. " Hi."

" . . . Hi." She answered shyly.

He happily rose to his feet. Perhaps he had found a play-mate after all. " My name is Vash." He said. " What's your name?"

She did not respond, and looked down at the ground. He waited for a few seconds, and then cocked his eyebrow at her. " What's the matter?" He asked. " Don't you have a name?"

" My daddy says I shouldn't talk with strangers." The girl answered, backing away from him a little.

" Oh. Well . . . I have to call you something." He scratched his head curiously. " Let's see . . ."

The girl giggled, and he looked up, a little confused. " What?"

She pointed at his hair. " How did you do that?"

Vash looked up at his golden blonde hair, which stood straight up. He smiled, and then put his hand on his hips, puffing out his chest proudly. " My friend Rem did that. She used gel. She says I look handsome."

The girl giggled harder. " You look-heehee-silly!"

His smugness disappeared with a look of hurt. " . . . Oh."

" It's silly-in a good way, though." She added, balancing on the back of her feet.

His face brightened. " Hey, do you want to play with me?"

The girl seemed reluctant, and she shuffled her feet a little. " I really can't, I . . . well, I'm sort of . . . I'm lost."

Vash's shoulders sagged in his disappointment. " Oh. Okay." He was quiet for a moment, and then he spoke up again. " Hey, I know! We'll play until your dad comes and gets you. That way, you won't be lost anymore. And if he doesn't, Rem'll come, and she'll take you home."

She smiled. " Okay."

" Come on, let's go." Vash said eagerly, taking her hand.

He stopped, and stared at her. In that moment, when their hands touched, he had a funny feeling inside of him that he could not understand; his heart skipped a beat. He looked at the girl curiously. Her cheeks were turning bright red. He tried to stifle his laughter.

" Y-your . . . face . . . it's . . . redder than a tomato!"

" Your face is, too!" She giggled.

Vash stopped his laughing, and looked at her in surprise. His cheeks did feel rather warm. He tried to hide them with his hands, emberrassed. After a moment he shrugged it off, pulling her along with him. " Come on, let's go!"

-

They spent the day doing all sorts of things. The first thing they did was play hide and seek, and each time was an adventure to Vash. He had never had so much fun. He found her in all sorts of places, like in the bushes, or in a tree.

They also played tag, which he really enjoyed. The both of them were equally fast, and so the tagger would change quickly from once person to the other. At that time, Vash was the one running, the girl close behind him.

She tackled him, and they both tumbled and fell to the ground, laughing. She rolled off of him, but in doing so, she unintentially prodded his stomach with a finger. He made a funny snorting noise, and tensed, still laughing.

" What?" She asked, sitting up.

" D-don't do that. That tickles."

A mischievous grin crossed her face. " Oh, really?" She asked innocently, and then she pounced, attacking him with tickling. He struggled, whooping and laughing so hard that his face was turning red.

" I-can't-breathe! Hahahahaha! Stop it! Hahahahahahaha!"

The girl had to give up at last, because she herself could not breathe from giggling at him, and she laid back onto the grass, holding her stomach. " . . . That was fun." She said.

Vash gasped for air, the original color coming from his face. " Yeah, it was. Hey, wanna sit in the shade?"

" Sure."

They both went to a nearby apple tree, and sat down, resting their backs against the trunk. Vash stared up into the leaves, and sighed as they relaxed. " I wish I had a dad, like you."

The girl looked at him sadly. " Don't you have a daddy, Vash?"

" . . . No." Vash shook his head. " I don't have anybody, except for my brother and Rem."

" I wish I had a brother." The girl curled a strand of her hair around her finger, staring wistfully up into the tree along with him.

They were both quiet for a long time, and then Vash felt something rest against his shoulder. He looked at her, surprised, and he felt his cheeks blush again.

" I'm tired." She said, her eyes drooping a little.

" Yeah." Vash nodded. " Me too."

She cuddled up against him, and in order to make more room, he put his arm around her. He felt his own eyelids getting heavy.

" . . . Vash?"

" Yeah?"

" I'm sorry, when I made fun of your hair." She said sincerely, in a small voice. " I lied. You don't look silly-you look handsome."

He felt his face go red again, but he felt much better inside. He smiled a little, glancing at her in the corner of his eye.

" Do you think I'm pretty, Vash?"

Vash's eyes got big, and he gulped, stammering. " U-uh huh."

She did not say anymore, and when he looked at her again, she was sleeping. He squeezed her hand, and then he closed his eyes, falling asleep as well.

-

" Sweetheart!"

Vash's eyes opened in a flash when he heard someone calling. He sat up, and looked around. This disturbed the girl and she slowly opened her eyes, blinking sleepily. He rose to his feet, his gaze shifting everywhere.

" Did you hear that?" Vash asked. He paused for a long time, straining his ears.

There it was again. " Sweetheart, where are you?"

His companion gasped, and leapt to her feet. " Oh, no!"

" What is it?"

" It's my daddy," she said. In the distance, Vash could see a young man coming towards them, cupping his hands over his mouth. He spotted them, and quickened his pace.

So, that's her dad. Vash thought sadly. He looks like everything she said he was. I bet he's the best dad in the world.

When he reached them, he sighed in relief, resting his hand on the girl's shoulders. " There you are." He said, out of breath. " I was looking everywhere for you-I was so worried!"

" I'm sorry, daddy." She apologized, bowing her head a little. " We were playing, and I forgot that . . . well, I got lost."

" It's okay, sweetheart, it's okay," he said reassuringly. " Just as long as you're safe."

Vash blinked. Sweetheart? Is that her name? He grinned. What a funny name!

The girl looked at him. " I was playing with Vash all day, daddy, so I was safe."

The man's kind eyes fell upon Vash, and he looked up, shuffling his feet anxiously. " Uh, hello, Mister, uh . . ."

" Graham." He smiled faintly. " Rem has told me a lot about you, Vash. I'm glad you met my daughter. Did you have fun?"

" Yes!" The girl said happily, looking at Vash. " We played tag, and hide and go seek, and . . ."

" Why don't you tell me on the way." Gregson laughed, and steered her away. " It was nice meeting you, Vash."

" Same to you, Mister Graham!" Vash waved. He put his hands in his pockets, a little sad to watch her go. " Bye, Sweetheart!"

Gregson turned, and gave him a funny look, while she giggled, and waved in return. They had almost disappeared from his view when suddenly, the girl stopped, and ran back, while her father waited patiently. When she reached him, she smiled prettily.

" I'm sorry, Vash. I forgot to give you something, and to tell you thank you for playing with me today. I'm sorry I was so rude."

" What? Oh!" Vash shrugged, though he wondered curiously what she meant by that. " That's okay. I'm just glad we got to play."

Ellie giggled, batting her eyelids shyly. " You want to give me something?" Vash asked, holding out his hand expectantly.

She looked at his hand, smiled, and nodded. " Uh huh."

She leaned towards him, closed her eyes, and gave him a small peck on the lips.

Vash went rigid, stunned, and his jaw dropped and his eyes widened in his shock. His entire body seemed to blush, and his astonished expression changed quickly into a whimsical, crooked grin. He staggered back a little, sighing dreamily as he tried to keep his balance.

She clasped her hands behind her back and smiled innocently. " Thank you for playing with me, Vash."

" Yeah . . ."

She giggled at him, and cocked her head. " I hope we get to play again."

" Yeah . . ."

She ran off to meet with her father. " Good-bye, Vash!"

Vash's fanciful bliss was then mixed with that of pride. He puffed out his chest, and marched off, feeling very tall and victorious, one thought whirling through his head.

She likes me! He thought triumphantly. She likes me, she likes me!

He stopped long enough to look back at Ellie. She was watching him as well as her father led her away. He grinned and waved, a surge of determination overcoming him as he continued his marching.

I'm going to marry that girl!

-

" Daddy, look!"

Graham looked down and smiled gently when he felt the young girl eagerly pulling at his hand, her crystal blue eyes wide with excitement as they walked through the gardens. The grass was cool and comforting, and the birds were singing, just like every day. But every day, to her, was a new adventure.

Graham chuckled. Her curiosity could never be satisfied. She pulled him along, and pointed at a bird's nest, where three tiny heads were peeking down at her, chirping. She giggled and pointed. " Are they children, daddy?"

" That's right, Ellie." Graham said, gently touching her head and stroking her red-gold hair, which shone brightly and was soft to the touch.

" Are they just like me, then?"

Graham paused, and laughed a little, shaking his head. " You're a little different than they are, Ellie. You're special."

Ellie blinked. " Why?"

Graham sat down on the grass, looking towards the laboratory section of the starship. " You were never little like those birds, Ellie. And you certainly weren't born out of an egg."

Ellie almost seemed a little sad as she cast her eyes down on the ground. Graham watched her quietly. For someone who was born almost a year ago, she looked like a ten year old girl. She was smarter than most of the people on the Science team, which no one really appreciated. However, for all of her brightness, she was still only a child, having questions about everything, from the simplest to the most complex subjects imaginable.

" Why do I have to be so different, daddy?" Ellie asked sadly, running her fingers through the grass. " Why does everyone look at me funny?"

Graham was almost a little startled by this. " Why? Are people mean to you, Ellie?"

When she did not answer immediately, it worried him. He had tried his best to keep her away from people-he knew that they did not like her, and many treated her like she were some sort of enemy. He hated how people would look down on her, and scorn her, even with a very glance.

He almost thought that, if several of the others on his science team had the chance, they would hurt her. One of his colleagues had spoken about how some of the other children had been abused and treated terribly. She was not like the others-she was the only female of her kind on the ship, completely isolated from the ones who were like her. It made him feel guilty, when he had to do such things, but it was for her own good, he had decided.

" No, it's just . . ." Ellie sighed, and trailed off, obviously unable to describe what she was feeling. Graham watched her and gently put his arm around her again, hugging her. He had not known until that moment that she was so aware of her uniqueness.

" Why can't I play with Vash anymore, daddy?" Ellie looked up at him, her eyes shining expectantly as she hoped for an answer.

Graham smiled sadly. "Because he's different, Ellie."

"How is he different?"

Graham hesitated. He knew that every parent had to give this talk, only he had no idea how to give it. "Well . . . you're a female. And females are different than males, especially in your case."

"Why?"

"Uhm." Graham cleared his throat. "Well, Vash has some abilities you don't have. For example, he, uhm . . . he has destructive abilities. He can hurt things."

Ellie blinked. "You, on the other hand," Graham continued. "You're purpose in existence . . . well, your main instinct, I suppose you could say . . . is reproduction."

Ellie blinked again.

"You're supposed to have children." Graham said, hoping that this would shine some light on the matter.

"Vash can't have children?" Ellie asked.

"Well, he can help with having children," Graham said, hoping that he would not have to go any further with this, "but he doesn't actually have the children. Only females have children."

Ellie looked absolutely delighted. "So I'm going to be a mom someday?"

"Someday, yes."

Ellie danced around happily. "Wait until I tell . . ." She faltered. "Oh . . ."

Graham paused, thinking hard. He sighed. "Well, I suppose neither of you have . . . er . . . reproductively matured as of yet. I suppose you could play with him."

She hugged him. "Thank you so much, daddy! Your the most perfect person in the whole world!"

Graham shook his head, laughing. " I am a flawed character, Ellie."

" Not to me, you aren't." Ellie said. "When I grow up, I want to be just like you."

" No, you don't, Ellie." Graham said. " People die." He paused for a moment, thinking about when he had tried to explain to her what death was, and what it did. The child still did not completely understand. " That's why you're so special, Ellie. You won't die. Not for a long time."

" How long is a long time?" Ellie asked, her eyes going up and levelling with his.

He hesitated, and then gently nudged her chin, smiling. " Only God knows, Ellie. And you'll just have to trust in that."

" Oh . . ." Ellie lowered her eyes, and then she took Graham hand. " I love you, daddy."

Gregson felt tears form in his eyes as he brought Ellie close to him in a tight hug. He felt her little arms wrap around his neck and her head rest upon his shoulder as she hugged him back. She was the only one out of the projects who seemed to know what love meant to mankind-at least, the love between father and daughter. He had been lonely for a long time, and she had been the answer to his prayers, no matter how different she was.

" I love you too, Ellie." He said, kissing her hair. He rocked her back and forth, closing his eyes and reassuringly running his fingers through her red hair. " You're my little girl."

They sat there like that for a while and then he patted her back and stood up. "Well, I've got work to do. You go along and play."

"Okay!"

And with that, Ellie bounded away.

-

"You don't even know what marriage is." Knives said with a scowl.

Vash gave him an indignant look. "I do too! It's when you . . . you know . . . marry a girl. It's easy!"

Rem laughed, her dark hair held up in a bun as she cooked them dinner. "I think there's more to marriage than that, Vash."

"Were you ever married, Rem?"

Rem looked at Vash and smiled faintly. "Once."

Knives snorted. "Marriage seems stupid to me."

"Why do you think it's stupid?" Vash asked curiously.

"It's just some dumb custom that humans use, that's all." Knives answered in his matter-of-fact voice.

"I don't think so." Vash stuck out his tongue at his brother. "I think marriage is good and I'm going to marry her whether you like it or not. So there."

"What's her name?" Rem asked curiously, humoring Vash with his crush. Knives rolled his eyes and muttered "yuck, girls" under his breath as he picked at his food.

"Her name is . . ." Vash faltered. "Um . . . her name is . . ."

There was a knock on the door. Vash leapt to his feet and rushed from the table. "I'll get it!" He said enthusiastically.

He cracked open the door and peered outside. "Who's there?"

"It's me, silly!"

Vash gasped and slammed the door, leaning his back against it. He looked terrified. "Who was it?" Rem asked curiously.

"It's . . . her." Vash said, gawking.

"His crush." Knives shrugged.

"Well, why don't you let her in?" Rem suggested kindly.

Vash swallowed and opened the door, crookedly smiling. "H-hi." He stammered, blushing.

"Hello, Vash." She said cheerfully.

"D-d-do you want to . . . c-come in?"

Rem smiled. "Well, hello, Ellie. How are you today?"

"Hi, Rem!" Ellie answered as Vash shut the door behind them. She glanced at the dinner laid on the table and faltered guiltily. "Oh . . . I didn't know you were eating . . . sorry."

"That's all right, why don't you join us?" Rem asked.

Ellie hung back shyly. "Really?"

"Come on and sit down, I'll make you something."

Vash furrowed his eyebrows in determination as he followed Ellie to the table. He had been practicing really hard all that afternoon at what Rem called "being a gentleman." He pulled out the chair for Ellie and then pushed it back in once she had sat down. She looked at him and smiled. "Why thank you."

Vash blushed. "You're welcome." He murmured, taking a chair and sitting beside her. Knives gave him a disgusted look and then continued eating. Ellie noticed and brightly greeted him. "Hello."

When Knives did not answer, Vash kicked him from under the table. "Ow!" Knives glared at him. "What?"

Vash shot him a look. "That's Knives, my brother."

"It's very nice to meet you, Knives." Ellie said.

"Yeah, whatever." Knives muttered.

During supper Vash discovered lots of things about Ellie that he memorized immediately. Her full name was Elaina. What a pretty name for a pretty girl! He thought to himself. She likes music . . . I like music, too! She loves to play, she's kind, and sweet, and pretty . . . I'm going to marry her for sure!

After they had finished, Vash helped Rem with the dishes. "May Ellie and I go play?" He asked, tugging at her apron hopefully.

Rem smiled. "Of course."

"Yay!" Vash grabbed Ellie's hand and they both ran outside, towards the park. Knives sat there at the table, frowning. "Hmph."

"Now why are you upset?" Rem asked gently.

"I'm not upset. I just think Vash is being dumb."

"Well, sometimes when you like someone, you act a little silly."

"Yeah, but over a girl? Yuck." Knives made a face. "Girls are gross."

Rem laughed a little. "You probably won't think that when you're older and when you fall in love."

"Oh no, not me. I'm not going to act like a stupid idiot, like Vash." Knives shook his head vigorously. "I'm never going to fall in love."

"Well," Rem smirked, unconvinced. "I guess we'll just have to see about that."

-

"I'm so happy we get to play again today, Vash."

Vash and Ellie walked hand in hand through the park, to the tree that they had slept under earlier. They sat down, staring into the leaves. "Yeah," he said as she cuddled up next to him. "I am, too."

"Vash?"

"Yeah?"

"I really like you."

Vash's face turned red. "I-I really . . . um . . . yeah . . . I do, too."

"Really?"

"Yeah."

Ellie sat up and stared straight at him, her face close to his. Vash inched away nervously, his back to the tree. "Vash?"

"U-u-uh . . ."

"Do you think we'll be together forever?"

Vash swallowed, trying to look cool and calm. "I'm going to marry you someday." He blurted. His eyes widened and he covered his mouth.

Ellie squealed. "Really?"

Vash nodded in emberrassment.

"Oh Vash!" Ellie squeezed him so hard he could not breathe. Now he understood why Knives avoided girls-as much as he liked Ellie, he thought that she was very strange. "That means you and I will be together forever, and you'll be the dad and I'll be the mom and we'll have lots of children and we'll live happily ever after, just like in the stories!"

Vash had been squeezing her back, but at the mention of children he stopped and fell over. He stared up at her in astonishment. "H-huh?"

"Just like in the stories!" Ellie repeated.

"N-now wait a second, I just said that I wanted to-"

Suddenly the ship shuddered. They both lost their balance and fell on their rears. Vash winced. "Ow . . . what was that?"

"Ellie! Vash!"

Vash turned to see Rem and Graham running towards them. Ellie looked confused. "D-daddy?"

Graham picked her up as if she weighed nothing. "Come on, honey, we have to go."

"B-but-"

"Vash, come with me." Rem said, taking Vash's hand. He hesitated, turning to Ellie and watching helplessly as Graham carried her away. "Wait!" He called, struggling.

"Vash!" Ellie shouted, looking scared as she tried to reach out to him. He would have run to her but Rem restrained him.

"We don't have time," Rem said, pulling him along with her. "Come on, we need to hurry!"

"But what about-"

"You'll see her again, I'm sure. Come on!"

-

" Where are we going?" Ellie asked, scared. "Daddy?"

" There's been a big change in plans, Ellie." Graham told her. He did not know how he could ever explain to her what was happening.

" Why did you take me away from-?"

" Nevermind Vash. He'll be fine." Graham turned and knelt down in front of her. " Listen, you have to do exactly as I say, Ellie, all right?"

She nodded blankly, very confused. " All right, but . . ."

Graham did not let her finish as he strode through the scrambling personnel, trying to ignore the loud warnings of " Red Alert " that echoed through the ship. Ellie was close behind him, holding his hand tightly as he led her towards a large room, where the floor was grey and metallic. He called out in a loud voice to be heard over the ruckus.

"Schtolen! I'm taking an escape pod. Can you watch my back?"

Ellie was surprised to see Graham's fellow scientist and colleague carrying a weapon. "You've got five minutes."

" What's that, daddy?"

" It's a gun, Ellie." Graham told her.

" What does it do?"

" There's no time to explain-now, listen, Ellie." When they at last came to the room where the pods were kept; only two remained. The two men forced open the doors and waited patiently.

"What's that?" Ellie asked, rather scared.

" Ellie," Graham said desperately. " I know you're confused, but you have to listen to me now, and do as I tell you. I need you to get in that," He pointed to the escape pod. " So that you can go down there, to Gunsmoke, and be safe."

Ellie looked down through the glass at the dry planet, and then shook her head violently, tears forming in her eyes. " I don't want to go. I want to stay here with you, daddy."

" You have to listen to me," Graham said through gritted teeth, taking her by the shoulders and shaking her. " You don't have a choice! If you stay here, you'll die!"

" So will you!" Ellie shouted, trying to break away. " I want to stay with you! If you die, I want to die, too! I want to stay here!"

" Elaina!"

Ellie looked at Graham with wide eyes, trembling. He was restraining powerful tears. " You have to go, Ellie, do you understand? You have to live!"

" No!" Ellie fought him hard as he grabbed her and carried her to the escape pod, forcing her down into its belly. She was crying hard, screaming and flailing wildly, struggling with all of her might. " I want to stay here!"

" Elaina, stop it right now!"

" Let go! I'm gonna stay with you!"

" Elaina!"

She broke away, sobbing, and ran away from him, as fast as her legs could take her. Graham gasped and gave chase, Schtolen and the others soon behind him.

" Stop that girl!"

" You there! Halt!"

" Elaina, come back here this instant!"

" No!" She cried, turning a sharp corner. She could not even see where she was going, her eyes cast low upon her feet, filled with tears. She kept zig- zagging through several corridors, moving as if she would never tire, and at last she had made her way into the densest part of the gardens. She could hear the men seperating as they looked for her.

" Where's she go?"

" Blasted kid!"

" Keep looking. We'll find her."

Although she was out of breath, she kept going. Why? Why do I have to go? She screamed inside her head. I want to stay here! I won't let them-

She ran straight into Vash.

They knocked heads and fell back onto their rears. "Ow . . ."

Ellie jumped on him and hugged him, crying. "Oh Vash . . ."

He held her gently. "I've been looking everywhere for you. Quick, we've got to hide!"

Vash thought quickly before taking her hand and running with her into the densest part of the gardens. He gestured to a bush nearby, large enough to conceal her. He opened the foliage a ways, and gently nudged her into the branches. " Quick. Hide here."

As soon as she was hidden, he looked up, and immediately tried to look innocent as a soldier ran towards him.

" You there! Boy! Have you seen a little girl pass this way?"

" Uh, yeah." Vash said quickly, pointing in the opposite direction. " She went that way."

The soldier ran off, and as soon as he was out of sight, Vash bent down and spoke to her, his green eyes reassuring. " We're safe, now."

" What do we do now?"

" Don't worry." Vash nodded as he helped her out of the bush again. "You can come with me. You'll be safe, then."

He took her hand and they crept quietly through the gardens, side by side, keeping their heads low. " Vash?"

" Yeah?"

" I'm scared."

Vash nodded, speaking softly. " Me too. Don't worry, everything's gonna be all right-"

" There they are!"

" Hey you two kids! Stop!"

He gasped when he saw two soldiers blocked their way, rifles in hand. " Go!" He shouted, pushing her behind him, but she stopped dead in her tracks, looking up. Graham and Schtolen were on their other side.

Vash, although he was frightened by them, stepped in front of her protectively.

" We should use the tranquilizer."

" Stop." Graham held up a hand. He took a step towards her, but she shrank from him. " Please, sweetheart, you have to listen to me."

" No." She said defiantly, gripping her fists.

" What are your orders?"

Graham sighed, and then looked at Schtolen. " Don't use the tranquilizer. It could kill her-I don't care what you do to restrain her, just as long as it doesn't involve bullets."

She gasped. " D-Daddy!"

He looked at her sadly, and then stepped back. Immediately the men around him strode forward. Vash glanced between them wildly, his heart beating fast. " S-stay back!" He shouted. " Go away!"

One grabbed her wrist, and she fought hard. " Let go!"

Vash tried to stop him, but he was only thrown out of the way. He fell backwards on the ground, bruising his elbows. " Don't!" He shouted, but they did not hear him as they fought her. Screaming and flailing, she struggled like never before.

He turned to Graham angrily. " You gotta do something! You can't let them- !"

Graham's eyes were filled with tears as he watched them carry her away. " I want her to go." He whispered.

" Why!?" Vash demanded. " How could you let them take her away? S-she's my friend! And your her father! I thought you loved her!"

Furiously, and not really even realizing what he was doing, Graham took Vash by the wrists and flung him backwards. His voice was loud and filled with pain. " Y-you idiot boy!" He shouted, his face red. " Idiot, idiot boy! Can't you understand? I do love her, and that's why I'm making her go!"

" But-"

" If she stays here, she'll die!"

Vash's eyes got wide as he looked up at Graham, confused and hurt. The man strode away, in the direction they had taken her. He sat there on the ground for a little bit longer before leaping to his feet, at last realizing what could be happening.

-

" Elaina!" Graham shouted in a strangled tone. " Stop this!"

She refused to be put into the escape pod, still struggling hard, and filled with unusual strength. " No! Let me go!"

" Sir, we have 2 minutes before this place explodes." One of the soldiers whispered into Graham's ear. The scientist lowered his tear-stained eyes momentarily.

" I've had enough of this. Do I have your permission?" Schtolen said impatiently.

Graham hesitated, and nodded. " Yes."

" Stand back." Schtolen came forward, lifted his rifle, and then hit Ellie hard on the head.

The little girl went unconscious, and Graham winced, rubbing away his tears. He laid her limp body down carefully, and then bent to kiss her head. He then stood back, and watched as the men forced the pod doors shut.

" I've never seen such a fiery girl in all my life." Schtolen said, watching as one of his men activated the jettison. The escape pod went flying into space, plummeting towards Gunsmoke like a bullet.

A/N

I started this story a long time ago—about a year, I should think—and I never finished it past the first chapter. I recently found it and started it up again, so if this seems familiar it's probably because it was posted once before. I hope you enjoyed it. I'll update soon.

-V