OPERATION FINAL FEAR
COVERT DATA RECOVERY
Lancaster opened the door to Ravenshaw’s office, stepping through with the mission debrief in hand. He looked around and saw that her office was more of a mess than usual. She was hunched over her desk, looking down at a stack of papers and scribbling away at something. She looked up, and when she saw Lancaster, she gave a shadow of a smile. “Lancaster. How’d the mission go?”
Lancaster gave his best grin and said, “Uh, fine. I guess. I heard what happened. I’m sorry I couldn’t be here. Wolfswift told me about it on the way back to base.”
Ravenshaw nodded and said, “It’s fine. There’s no way we could’ve known. Besides, it’s not like we can afford to stop running missions just because something catastrophic happens. Covert operations are still a necessary function.”
Lancaster stood awkwardly in front of her desk, nodding his head. “Right, right.”
He shifted his weight from foot to foot, trying to think of what to say, when Ravenshaw asked, “Is that the mission debrief?”
“Yes! Yes it is. Operation Final Fear, what a dreadful name. Spent another week with the EXALT. We’ve ruled out South America as a potential base of operations for them.”
He handed the file to Ravenshaw, who placed it on top of the files scattered across her desk as she looked through it. “Which leaves…”
“Africa,” finished Lancaster.
“Any idea where?” asked Ravenshaw.
Lancaster shrugged and said, “Nigeria. Egypt. South Africa. Coach is convinced they’re working out of South Africa, but if I were a betting man, I’d wager on Nigeria.”
Ravenshaw nodded. “I see. Any particular reason why?”
“Just a hunch.”
Ravenshaw nodded again, looking at the file, but Lancaster couldn’t help but notice her eyes looked unfocused. He stood there awkwardly for a few more moments, when she glanced up and said, “Is that all, Lancaster?”
He bit his lip nervously and said, “Well, actually ma’am… I, well, we have a surprise for you.”
Looking incredulous, she put the file down and said, “Surprise?”
On cue, the door opened, and most of the officers filed into the Colonel’s office. Talana, Maxwell, Paddon, Blacksmith and Coach all pushed their way into the office, and Lancaster stood aside as Talana stepped forward.
“Colonel Wolfswift. What’s going on?”
“You were indisposed in the immediate day after the attack, so I spoke with the Council on your behalf. I gave them a full report on what had happened, our casualties, our damages. I also made sure to mention that you had led us effectively, rallying our small number of troops and putting together an effective defense. And they sent over this, to give to you.”
Maxwell stepped forward with a box and opened it, revealing a medal contained inside, one Lancaster had never seen.
“Colonel Sorain Ravenshaw, this is the Commander’s Cross. The Council has seen fit, after hearing about your deeds during the base defense, to bestow this upon you in recognition of your superb leadership skills and refined combat ability, both of which have single handedly kept the alien menace at bay.”
“I don’t-“ began Ravenshaw, but Maxwell called out, “Attention to award!” and the whole room snapped to attention, Ravenshaw included. Despite Ravenshaw wearing her working uniform, Talana stepped forward and pinned it on her. She leaned over and murmured something in her ear, and Ravenshaw smiled and muttered, “Thank you.”
The medal pinned on, Talana stepped back and saluted. Once the salute was returned, she said, “Thank you, Colonel. We’ll leave you in peace, now.”