Chapter 23, Part 2
“The signal is holding steady, pulsing every half hour,” Captain Santos said. Cassie focused in on the bright red light that blipped on the table screen. That’s where Mariah was. Where she had to be.
“So what now, Captain?” she asked.
“We’re putting together the team now. Waiting for confirmation that the mission is a go,” he said.
“Will I still be allowed to go?” she asked.
“I probably shouldn’t allow you too, but I think we should have a familiar face there,” Captain Santos said.
Yeah, to talk down the freaks if needed, Cassie couldn’t help but think.
“I’d like to go too, sir,” Josh broke in. “I have military training.”
Captain Santos nodded thoughtfully. “We could use your speed if we needed.”
“I have night vision,” Cassie volunteered. If she was going she at least wanted to be useful instead of lurking in the background.
“You…what?” Everyone in the room seemed to be thrown off by the statement, except Declan who had taken up a post by the door.
Captain Santos looked more closely at the assembled young people, as if taking a fresh assessment of their abilities.
“Let me think about this,” he said. “You all have some training, but this will most likely become a combat situation. Luke, we could possibly need your gift as well.”
Luke shifted uncomfortably, and Cassie knew he was struggling with the implications of his gift – how was he to decide who to save or not?
“Yes, sir,” he mumbled.
Captain Santos leaned forward on the table, studying the display.
“Sam?” he asked. “You have a reason we should consider you for this mission?”
Sam looked down uncomfortably. Cassie hoped he would say yes. He’d had her back for years – it would be comforting to have him beside her.
“I…if you think you have a use for my…power, sir, I’ll go. I just don’t want to risk the fire getting out of control,” he finally said.
Captain Santos nodded, but didn’t push.
“Well, if you’re looking for volunteers, I have night and infrared vision,” Declan spoke up. “Seems to me this will be a stealth mission, so you might want to some silent eyes in the sky.”
Everyone’s gaze swiveled to the Irishman.
“Infrared?” Cassie exclaimed.
“Yeah, you don’t?” he asked, puzzled.
“No, I can magnify distant objects up to a thousand feet away,” she said.
“Awesome!” Luke and Caleb chorused almost in unison.
“What happened to ‘you can’t save anyone’?” Josh asked Declan.
Declan shoved away from the wall and moved up to the table where everyone else had gathered.
“Seems to me like you all might be family, and you do what you can for family,” he said.
Josh tipped a respectful nod and turned back to Captain Santos.
“Hearing some of this changes things a little. We could use untrackable eyes in the sky. However, I don’t want to turn you all in weapons. That’s not the purpose of this base or this program,” he said.
“Amelli is hunting people like us. I don’t see we have much of choice here,” Cassie said. She agreed wholeheartedly with Santos. She didn’t want to become a soldier – didn’t want the younger kids to even think about fighting. But something told her she was made to fight. If her power had anything to do with the fact that her dad was a fighter pilot, then she probably had him to thank for most of her abilities.
“All right. Sergeant Lattimer will take you to get gear. We’ll head out at 0600 hours tomorrow. Mission brief at 0500.” Captain Santos dismissed them.
Sergeant Lattimer took Josh, Cassie, Luke, Declan, and Sam to one of the larger buildings on base.
“I think you’ll like what you find here,” he said. They were met by an eager woman in combat fatigues.
“Are they here for what I think they are?” she asked. Lattimer rolled his eyes a little, but nodded. The supply officer might have fist pumped before ushering them all back to a locked room. She punched in the keypad combination and swung the door open as if revealing a masterpiece.
Cassie saw nothing inside but neat piles of cloth on tables. The supply officer, Christenson ushered them in.
“I hope you’ll forgive my enthusiasm,” she said, a Boston accent coming out even stronger in her excitement. “I starting working up designs as soon as you guys starting showing up.”
“What?” Luke demanded, but he was grinning as if he already knew.
Christenson spread her arms to indicate the tables on either side of her. “Uniforms!” She beckoned Cassie forward. “Here’s yours.” She handed a pile to Cassie.
Cassie inspected the slate blue cloth. It was slick so as to reduce air resistance. She picked the top item off and unfolded it. It was a sleeveless tunic that zipped up the front into a high collar. The back had two pieces cut out, presumably where her wings would be.
“Try it on!” Christenson was caught in a battle to maintain some soldierly professionalism while bursting with excitement.
Changing screens were set in every corner. Cassie ducked behind one and quickly changed. The pants were the same color and material. They were fitted but not skin tight allowing her freedom to move comfortably. She stepped back out and saw the boys were looking over their uniforms.
Declan had something very similar to hers – a sleeveless tunic with wing space in the back. Luke was sliding into a thick jacket with a caduceus stamped in relief on the right arm. Josh had a thinner long sleeve jacket that looked to have some of the same properties as the slick cloth that made up her outfit. Sam had a short sleeve jacket that looked rough from the way he ran his hand over it.
“Completely flame resistant,” Christenson said proudly. “Oh perfect!” she caught sight of Cassie. “Here’s some boots.”
Cassie sat down and laced up the heavy black combat boots over her pants.
“Dude, you look awesome!” Luke said, when she stood again.
“Agreed!” Christenson said. “Everyone change and then we’ll go test them out.”
Declan came out tugging on his tunic and rolling his shoulders as if to get used to the feeling. Sam looked uncomfortable and Cassie knew it was because of the implications of the uniform. Luke had no such reservations.
They trooped outside and Christenson turned to Sam first. He reluctantly allowed his hand to flame and let it creep up towards the uniform. It hit the uniform but the cloth and fire stayed intact. He allowed the fire to die and Christenson inspected the cloth, finally stepping back with a satisfied grin. Josh took off in a spray of dust next, reappearing seconds later coming from the opposite direction.
“This is great!” He looked down at the uniform again. “It doesn’t slow me down at all.”
There was another fist pump from Christenson. Cassie and Declan were up next. The group took a step back to allow them room. Cassie glanced back over her shoulder, suddenly afraid her wings would have no room to slide through. Declan’s glossy black wings exploded from his back, and Cassie golden wings followed suit after a second. They exchanged a glance then took flight, the ground erupted in a dust storm under them.
Cassie evened out and started some of Declan’s training maneuvers. She slid through the air, the wind slicking over the uniform. Declan barrel rolled and plummeted towards the ground, flipping upright at the last second and coming in to land. Cassie shook her head. Whatever the Irishman said, he seemed to enjoy the dramatic.
She landed and retracted her wings.
“I think they’ll work,” she said.
“Perfect,” Sergeant Lattimer said. “Then let’s get you the rest of your gear.”