“Wait,” Captain Gili stammered. “You’re already being rescued?” The tip of her nose started to tingle, a sure sign of a deal starting to head sideways.
“They’re already being rescued!?” repeated Dede in her ear.
Giselle gritted her teeth as her first mate’s voice reverberated in her skull. An implant embedded just behind her ear conducted Dede’s voice through her very bones. Anything the captain heard or said went back to her ship, and anything Dede said went straight into her brain.
“The university double booked!” Spivakovsky ranted. “I know there was a reason I never went to school! Professors! Always the smarty boots!”
Giselle fought the urge to raise a hand to the side of her head and turn off the implant. Keeping two conversations going tended to add a full measure of confusion. Her eyes travelled up from the unconscious figure before her to the graduate student standing nearby. She took a deep breath, trying to keep the tone from her voice. “Keven, what do you mean you’re already being rescued?”
Keven lifted an arm to gesture back towards the stairs. “He went to get….”
Captain Gili stood at the noise coming from the door. It sounded like something, bouncing? A yellow wheelbarrow sprung into the basement, driven by a tall, swarthy man.
“Swarthy.” The word suited him better than any other. Dark, curly hair with a neatly trimmed beard surrounded an olive skinned face. The handle of an ancient revolver poked out of a low slug holster, its belt wrapping around a deliciously fit waist.
Gili suppressed a smirk. A revolver. Of course he wore a revolver.
“Who are you?” he asked, his hands dropping the arms of the wheelbarrow.
“Who are you?” Giselle answered.
“She’s from the university,” Keven began to explain as he stepped towards the new arrival. “She’s here to rescue us.”
“I’m here to rescue you,” the swarthy man answered, jabbing a thumb at his chest. “I was hired by the university!”
“I was hired by the university!” Giselle replied.
“What’s the name of his assistant?”
“What? The mousey, short haired one, about this tall?” Captain Gili gestured. “How the hells would I ….”
“We don’t have time for this!” Keven quieted the room with a hissed shout. “Shouldn’t we be getting out of here?”
Giselle and the swarthy man exchanged glances. “You get his legs,” she suggested.
The pair of rescuers gingerly set the unconscious professor in the wheelbarrow, taking care not to disturb his injuries. Across the body, the red headed captain extended her hand. “Giselle Gili.” A firm grip of calloused fingers met hers. “Lothar Cornelius.”
Drawing his pistol, Lothar stepped towards the stairs. “Keven, follow me,” he commanded. “Gili, take up the rear.”
“How will he even know where he’s going?” Dede whispered in her captain’s ear.
Hefting the arms of the wheelbarrow, Giselle replied, “I’ll bury him under that bridge when we come to it.”
Lothar peered between the crack in the door, quietly slid it shut, then turned back to the gathering behind him. “We’re going to wait for the patrol to pass then head east. There’s open ground for about 20 meters, then we can make the rest of the way to the fence under cover of the ammo dump.”
“Not a good idea,” Giselle ventured, setting down the arms of the wheelbarrow. “I’ve got a distraction at the ammo dump. I set an incendiary there before I broke into this building.”
“You set a bomb in the ammo dump?” Keven’s eyes shifted back and for between his two rescuers like the audience at a tennis match.
“Yes. I set a bomb in the ammo dump. The fire draws all the guards east while we skate….”
“You set a bomb in the ammo dump?”
“What? Are you hard of hearing?” Giselle snapped. “Why are you repeating that?”
“When is it set to go off?”
“It’s not set. I have to give a command to my handler.”
“Have you given the signal?”
Giselle shook her head.
“Give me a second.” Lothar scratched behind his ear. “I need to think about this.”
“What is there to think about? The bomb goes off, all the guards run to help put out the fire, we escape to the west.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” the swarthy man said, raising his hands. “Just give me a minute.” The five of them paused silently as a few heartbeats passed. Lothar nodded as he came to a decision. “OK. Good plan. Blow it.”
“Dede,” Giselle sighed, “Blow the dump.”
“Hunker down, Captain,” Dede instructed. “Three… Two… One…”
The three conscious members of the rescue party looked at each other, surprised by the silence. Lothar lifted an eyebrow.
“Hmmm. Dede?” Captain Gili said quietly. “That’s a big negative on the big boom.”
“Recycling,” came the response. “Three. Two… One…”
“Captain, I’m not getting any response from the package.” Giselle rolled her lower lip between her teeth in a moment of thought. She fought to rub at the tickle at the end of her nose. “Stop trying, Dede. Lothar, Looks like you’re up.”
The swarthy man’s lips twisted into a sneer. “Wait here.” After a quick look through the cracked door, he slithered through. Keven looked back at Giselle. The captain lifted her shoulders in a shrug. “Sometimes things don’t go boom when they’re supposed to.”
Lothar’s head peeked back into the building. “OK. We’re clear. Keven, follow me. You,” he pointed at Captain Gili, “give us a 20 count and follow.”
The graduate student hustled out the door, while Giselle started her count. When finished, she backed the wheelbarrow out into the empty yard.
The sounds of celebration still echoed through the night air. She spared a moment to rub her itching nose as she maneuvered her burden across the deserted space. Her eyes scanned for patrols, guards, someone who should have been keeping watch over this half of the To’kath Karaa base. Given the success they’ve had taking over the planet, you’d figure they had better security.
She pushed the unconscious professor across the open space and into the camouflaged ammo dump. The wheelbarrow squeaked through the narrow aisles to find the others at the edge of the fence. Pulling a tear in the chain link wide enough for her to get through, Lothar led the rescue in to the dark forest of the night.