Chapter 20, Part 2
“How much longer?” Caleb griped, attempting to juggle three ping pong balls.
“I don’t know, Caleb,” Cassie replied, rubbing her forehead. The answer hadn’t changed the last fifty million times Caleb had asked. They’d long ago given up their attempts to train and had adjourned to the rec room where they now waited for any news from Captain Santos. The only absent one was Declan. He’d not been seen since he left the kitchen at breakfast. It was starting to bother Cassie a little.
“Anyone seen Declan?” she asked. Five heads shook around the room. She pushed up from her chair and left the room, five pairs of eyes silently watching her go. She paused outside the room.
“Where am I supposed to go find an angry Irish guy?” she muttered to herself. The answer came quicker than she thought it would. She headed up the stairs to the roof and pushed open to door.
Declan was sitting on the edge of the roof, smoke curling from a cigarette.
“Mind if I join?” she asked. He didn’t glance up, just shrugged as he took another draw. She decided to take it as assent and kicked her legs over the edge as she sat. The drop which had once frightened her now filled her with a smug sense of exhilaration now that she knew she could control her wings.
“I hope you’re not expecting me to spill my feelings,” he broke the silence first.
“I just wanted to make sure you were okay,” she replied.
He scoffed and exhaled another breath of smoke. Cassie rubbed her fingers together and waited. Finally he reached into his pocket and pulled out a picture. Cassie looked at a laughing Declan, his arm wrapped around a dark haired girl, a bright pink knitted cap pulled over her hair. She was grinning as she snapped the picture.
“What happened to her?” Cassie didn’t want to make the connection herself.
“She was killed,” Declan replied in a low voice. “The people I used to work for, they weren’t the nicest fellows around. I was a stupid teenager when I joined them, let them train me to become a street fighter. Then I met her and wanted out. Trouble was, I was the best fighter around. Getting out wasn’t an option.”
Cassie didn’t quite know what to say. Declan seemed on the verge of breaking down.
“What was her name?” she asked.
“Rowan. She was a university student. Tried to get me to at least apply. Thought I was just a dock worker. I had almost worked up the courage to tell her the truth about…my wings and everything, and then…” he trailed off, the cigarette slowly burning down unnoticed. He finally stirred and snuffed it out on the concrete roof. “I found out about the order and tried to get there in time. It wasn’t too long after that I heard your message on the radio and decided to leave once and for all.”
“Won’t they be after you?” Cassie asked. If his employers would kill someone to keep him in line, surely they wouldn’t take kindly to him just up and leaving for America.
“Sure. But I figure I got enough of a head start. Kept out of the main ports, and now I’m on an Army base in who-knows-where America.”
“True,” Cassie murmured agreement.
“I like you all well enough, so you should know that if any trouble comes around because of me, I’ll leave.”
Cassie took one more look at the picture in his hands.
“Sam, Abby, and Caleb are like my family. We survived this long because we stuck together. You’re like us. You don’t fit into this world. You’ve lost someone. But you don’t have to go it alone,” she said.
He tucked the picture away. “Thanks. That might be the dumbest thing you’ve ever said, but thanks.”
The roof door blew open and Josh skidded to a halt beside them.
“Santos has something. He wants to talk to us,” he said.
“Where?” Cassie asked.
“The command center.”
“We’ll meet you down there,” Cassie said. Josh grinned and zipped away. Declan brushed dust from his shirt.
“I’m assuming we aren’t taking the stairs,” he said.
“Wasn’t planning on it,” Cassie replied.
She was glad to see a bit of a grin on his face. “After you,” he said.
She pushed off the edge, wings exploding from her back to slow her fall. She landed in a crouch, shielding her face from the explosion of dust as Declan landed beside her.
They were the last to arrive at the command center. The others were clustered around the table alongside uniformed officers.
“All right, we’ve picked up the signal like our contact said. We’re placing them in Arkansas, in the Boston Mountains.” Captain Santos tapped the table display and a 3D map pulled up, a red blip flashing periodically. “That’s not too far from the locations we’ve narrowed down for Amelli’s base of operations. We’ve also picked up some other movement. It appears Amelli has mobilized some of his own men to track down Mariah and Kyle. We can’t risk a full blown battle. That would draw too much unwanted attention. This will have to be a stealth mission. Now…”
“Sir, can I go?” Cassie interrupted before she could stop herself. She needed to be there to get Mariah.
“If the team leaders deem it safe enough, then yes, you may,” Captain Santos said. Cassie blinked in surprise. She hadn’t really expected the almost permission.
“Sir,” one of the soldiers interrupted, pointing at the blip of light. “It’s started to move in the opposite direction.”
“They’re breaking their pattern.”
“That’s not good, right?” Caleb asked, before Josh sent him a silencing glare.
“Keep the teams on standby, and I want new imaging. We need to see what’s going on out there,” Captain Santos said.
Cassie ushered the younger kids from the room.
“Santos has got this,” Luke joined her. “And I know some of the guys on the teams. They’re the best. And we have some crazy tech here, so they’ll find out what’s happening in no time.”
Cassie managed a smile, ever grateful for Luke’s optimism. Still she had the uncomfortable feeling that somewhere out there, wherever Mariah was, something was going terribly wrong.
Sorry for the late post. I’ve been celebrating my new freedom from school and been reading almost all day. #sorrynotsorry.