Donovan was cool in the face of danger--and not just because it was freezing on this ice-bound asteroid. She prided herself on keeping a cool head and a steady trigger finger under even the direst of circumstances. This was the first time, however, that she had experienced these particular circumstances. Normally, the commander kept these jobs to the barest minimum, which was to say himself and Oracle only on the ground. But with the war heating up again they needed more intel, and the Conundrum was getting wise to their usual methods of data extraction.
She didn't try to kid herself about her role in the op. She was guard first, decoy second, and sacrifice third.
She had no intention of being third.
Her communicator crackled softly and Lestrade's voice came through into her ear: "Toast, Silverfox. Status?"
"Reps active but unaware. Over." Since learning that Conundrum reps had limited ability pick up non-broadcast frequencies, live op protocol had changed drastically. All broadcast comms were kept to the barest, briefest exchanges. They wouldn't even contact Sable One on board Baker Street until the last possible moment.
"Understood. With you in under two. Out."
Donovan counted off the seconds in her head. A rep patrol passed her hidey-hole at 22. At 97, Silverfox and Oracle arrived, the former looking stern and focused, the latter serene and glowing. She'd been expecting it, of course. She knew intellectually that the data downloaded into Oracle's brain (Ugh! Creepy!) caused him to glow. It was simply that she'd never before witnessed the phenomenon, and certainly never in the field. How the hell were they supposed to get the incandescent freak out of here undetected? No wonder the commander usually came out of these ops under fire. It was bloody ridiculous!
Lestrade spoke softly. "Update."
"Regular patrols are sweeping the area," she answered just as quietly. Even though they knew the reps were unlikely to hear them, the old habits were good ones and no one felt like changing them. "There's another due in roughly one minute. After that, we have a three minute window to get out of the building."
As predicted, the rep patrol passed by just under a minute later. At Lestrade's silent signal, Donovan raced ahead and positioned herself to provide cover fire if necessary. Oracle followed, and finally the commander. They repeated the exercise until they were outside--thankfully without incident or alarm.
The patrols out here were heavier and more frequent. In response, their own scouts had spent precious time before the op timing them and making elaborate notes of the paths they took. Donovan didn't like relying on others' reconnaissance reports, but as a soldier you followed orders, did the best you could with what you were given, and hoped like hell everyone else did their jobs right.
They had a choice now between two equally shitty options. Either sprint through the lit portions of the compound from cover point to cover point, or try to sneak through the darkness between the sweeping lights. She wished for a bag to throw Oracle into to dowse his glow, but that would only have led to having to haul him bodily out of there. Her respect for Lestrade was growing in leaps and bounds on this single op, and she'd already held him in high regard.
"All right," said Lestrade. "Same pattern as inside. Fast as you can point to point and out through the egress hole under the fence. Understood?"
"Yes, sir," Donovan replied. Oracle, of course, only nodded his day-glow head. How did hair that dark manage to radiate light? Absurd!
"On my mark " He watched the patrolling reps carefully until: "Go!"
Sprint, dive, cover, wait. Sprint, dive, cover, wait. Out, out, out!
Like clockwork they were out of the compound and racing into the frozen, hilly wasteland where Baker Street was scheduled to retrieve them. Donovan was ready to heave a sigh of relief. That had been hella easier than she'd anticipated, and certainly a clean escape.
That was when the first explosion went off. Rocks and ice rained down on them.
"What the hell?!" she exclaimed.
Blaster fire struck above their heads again, sending more shrapnel towards their heads.
"Toast, get Oracle to safety! Run!" bellowed Lestrade.
"Orders! Go now!"
She glanced at Oracle, still as bright and calm as ever, damn him, and shoved him forward with more force than strictly necessary. He didn't object, not even with his cold blue eyes, and she almost felt a pang of guilt. "Go!" she snapped, and he ran. She raced beside him, each of his long strides equalling one and half of her own shorter ones. Lestrade's voice came through the comm unit in her ear.
"Baker Street, Silverfox. We're hot! Repeat, we are hot. En route to the rendezvous point. Do you copy? Over!"
"Silverfox, Baker Street, engines are purring and guns are primed. Awaiting only your delivery. Over."
"Coming in two and one. Allow minimum window."
There was a heartbeat of hesitation before Sable One came back through. "Understood. Minimum window order received."
"Oh no you don't," muttered Donovan. "We are not leaving a man behind." They rounded the last rocky outcrop and there was the shuttle, hatch open and a pair of slingers watching for them. "Oracle, go! I'm right behind you."
He gave her a look that said clearly he did not believe her, but he neither protested nor delayed. The moment he was through the hatch and in the care of the guarding slingers, Donovan turned one-eighty and headed back the way she'd come.
She saw Lestrade a hundred yards back, racing towards her with a dozen reps hot on his heels. She set her stance and fired twelve rapid blasts. Each one hit its target and each rep sizzled and fell. She smiled in grim satisfaction.
Lestrade reached her and she turned to race with him back to Baker Street.
It wasn't until they were inside with the hatch closed and the ship lifting off that they paused for breath. Lestrade looked at her, his face a mask of cold severity. "You disobeyed orders, Lieutenant."
"No, sir. I saw Oracle to safety before coming back for you. The slingers can corroborate, sir."
"I'll be certain to confirm that."
Sable One's voice came over the ship's Tannoy. "Commander Lestrade, we are clear of the atmosphere and showing no signs of pursuit."
He stomped over to the nearest communication panel and punched open the line with the side of his fist. "Good news for a change. Thank you, Captain." He closed the line with a stab of his thumb. It was only then he relaxed and offered Donovan one of his rare smiles. "Living up to your handle once again, I notice."
She spun her blaster in one hand like the slinger she'd been before moving up to the officers' ranks. "Twelve enemies toasted," she said, holstering the weapon.
"Good job, Lieutenant."
She smiled with a mix of pride, confidence, and gratitude for recognition where it was due. "Thank you, sir."