31. Leaving Home
“I still don’t see why you can’t come with us.”
Les sneaks a glance over his shoulder, even though he knows that the action will only make his anxiety that much more obvious. Thirty-four other Uniters are grouped behind him, chattering nervously to one another and attempting to act naturally. All thirty-five of them (him included) are classified as workers of the fictitious association Settlement 209 United Biology Associates, and their reservations on Orbital 9 have been made under false names and are concealed beneath the false pretense of a “business trip.” Lady T has already explained all of these charades surrounding their mission, just as she has probably already explained why exactly she will be remaining on Earth…even though he still can’t quite wrap his head around this last fact.
“Because I’m needed here, Les,” she answers patiently. “I have four other squadrons of Uniters to manage, all of whom will soon be going up against the ILG in their own ways. To be frank, your squadron’s mission is probably the least dangerous out of all of them.”
“Even though we have to split up into even smaller factions?” asks Les, looking behind him again. It’s hard to discern his Uniters from the rest of the civilians in the crowded Orbital Boarding Station. He and all the others appear to be wearing normal clothes, but unbeknownst to the workers and vacationers around them, a hidden electrical trigger will convert Squadron 3’s ordinary outfits into their signature armored black uniforms.
“Yes, even then.” Lady T opens up a checklist on her comm. “Now, just to make sure you understand the game plan, what will you do immediately after arriving on Orbital 9?”
He sucks in a steadying breath. “I’ll go to the front desk so that I can check into my company suite and my personal cabin.”
“What name is your reservation under?”
“Excellent. Where will you be able to find the two other factions of Squadron 3?”
“In the two suites nearest mine. We’ll reunite in the Lido Deck this evening, after making sure that everything’s set up and everyone got on board okay.”
“And if you see anyone who you suspect to be a member of the Imps Liberation Group?”
He stares at her somberly. “Don’t start a fight unless it’s absolutely necessary. Just focus on finding the location of the nimp as quickly as possible. And if a battle does crop up, then always use non-lethal weaponry and never shoot to kill.”
“That will be fine, Les.” Lady T taps a mark onto her comm screen. “You clearly have a good grasp on everything you need to know. Just remember that the Uniters are counting on you, and that you were made for this…or remade, rather. You’re not a Cleanup Assistant and Dirt Exterminator anymore. You’re a leader, plain and simple.”
Les nods, reassuring himself that he is as safe as it is possible to be. His training has prepared him for any combat that might erupt, and their mission plan has been micro-managed down to every detail, anticipating every possible complication or setback. And he is not alone in this endeavor; he will be in contact with Earth and with the rest of Squadron 3 the entire time.
At this thought, he gently lays his hand on the virtually invisible em-comm nestled in his ear. His mind turns to Ema, and he wishes that she was by his side now. But an intangible strand of connectivity binds them together. They aren’t separated, not really.
When this is all over, he resolves, he will finally push aside his nerves and propose to her. He is ready now. Surely longing for her even when they’ll only be apart for a few hours proves that they are meant to last forever…
“I’ll be going now, Les.” Lady T presses her comm back down to pocket size and tucks it within a fold of her coat. “Good luck. Give me an alert when you reach the orbital.”
“Okay.” He nods listlessly. “I’ll see you soon.” And as he says this last he activates his em-comm, and he imagines the words being carried across a breeze, lighter than air, to be heard by a lover who is not so far away…