Chapter 25, Part 1
Cassie nervously re-adjusted her earpiece. It felt too big and the check-ins from the rest of the team that echoed in her ear only added to her nervousness. Darkness had finally fallen half an hour ago which meant that it was almost time to move out again.
“Stop messing with it,” Sergeant Lattimer reprimanded.
“Sorry, sir.” She forced her hand down by her side.
“You’ll do fine.” He patted her shoulder.
She managed a nod and glanced over to where Declan stood. They were just waiting on the recon team to get back before they flew out. The rest of the team had night vision gear on but everything was as clear as day to her. Declan sauntered over.
“Ready?” he asked.
“Not really. You sure you don’t want to take the lead up there?” she asked.
“No. I’m not much of a leader. Besides I think they trust you more than me.”
Cassie blew out a sigh. Again with the leader thing.
“Okay,” Sergeant Lattimer interrupted. “Time to go.”
Cassie and Declan straightened. They had been chosen to fly another recon since they wouldn’t be picked up on any of Amelli’s scanners. The ground team had cleared the next two miles and the rest of the force would advance while they scouted out the base itself and got an idea of the numbers they’d be up against.
Declan led the way over to a small clearing among the crowded trees. Josh, Sam, and Luke gathered on the fringes of the clearing. Cassie took a last look at them, convincing herself that everything would run smoothly. Smarter people than she had planned the operation. All she and her friends had to do was follow the plan, do their job, and the soldiers would take care of the rest. They could have Mariah back before dawn.
She unfurled her wings and launched into the air, Declan not far behind. She checked the small screen on her wristband. A digital compass flashed, pointing her in the correct direction. More numbers flashed informing her of altitude and flight speed. She let her arm fall to her side, her wings pushing her forward. Declan flew to her left, a faint glow from his own wrist as he checked direction.
They flew in silence for a few minutes before a glow appeared in the distance.
“That should be it,” Declan’s voice echoed in her ear.
“That’s a lot of light,” Cassie said. “We’ll have to get some more altitude. How’s your vision?”
“Not too bad. They probably won’t be looking up, but still make sure you hover. Wings still make some noise,” he reminded her.
The light crept closer and they angled upwards.
“Okay, let’s split,” Cassie said. Declan peeled off and they began their wide sweep of the compound.
Cassie marked six guard pairs patrolling around the gravel lot that spread around the cluster of buildings. They didn’t venture out of the light and the woods were empty. Easier to sneak up, Cassie thought. There were three that roamed the roof of the main building. Cassie wondered if Mariah’s recent escape attempt had prompted the heavy security or if Amelli was just that paranoid.
“How’s it looking inside?” she whispered.
“Not great. Though most of these people have got to be his research team,” Declan replied in the same hushed tone. “I’m picking up on a pretty big heat signature, but I think it’s underground so I’m not getting a great visual on it.”
“Okay, let’s head back,” Cassie ordered. “They should have made it to the rendezvous point by now.”
“Okay, boss.” She could hear a bit of a tease in Declan’s voice.
She turned on a light thermal and headed south. She was discovering that she had a pretty good sense of direction without the wrist compass. A faint rustle announced Declan was once again at her side.
Sergeant Lattimer came over the comms giving them a location. It wasn’t long before Cassie saw their troop. A hand signal from Declan informed her he had seen them too and they began their descent. Cassie landed and was surprised to find that sometime since taking flight the first time, her nerves had calmed.
She and Declan made their report and the captain updated their intel and made the final adjustments to the plan.
“Okay. We’re good to go. Let’s move out.”