"The extraction team will consist of select members of the 501st, including Rex, Fives, Tup, and Echo. Tris and Johanna will also be allowed to go if they wish. The rest of the team cannot go because you are either emotionally attached, are wounded, or have a child to take care of, or multiple of those three," I say directing that comment towards Katniss.
She merely nods and I know why. She is probably going to be a little gun shy after being hurt in 8, plus the loss of Prim, she will not want to leave Artemis for a while.
"Soldier Load has been able to break through the Capitol airways and is spreading our propos across their media there," I say. "We will be able to distract them for your extraction."
I look at the group and see a little doubt there. Most of them are nervous to see their loved ones about to be broken free, but there is still hope.
"Any questions?" I ask.
Nobody speaks up and I take an audible sigh.
"Alright," I say. "Strike team get to your ships. May the force be with us all."
The ship is quiet. Nobody dares to talk about the mission at hand. About the risks that we are taking, about the death that may occur. I am dressed in all black, my regular clothes replaced with solid black pants and long sleeve shirt. My black boots stay, but I also have black gloves, black socks, a black helmet, and black skin paint on whatever skin is showing. They have also issued me a standard rifle that everyone else has and a pair of night vision goggles.
I sat there in nervous tension. The members of the 501st around me scared me, even though I wouldn't admit it. Their white armor was gone, replaced by black. I recieved an open helmet, not one that engulfed my entire head, but theirs was jet black and the eye sockets looked darker than usual. They all had a secure comm system in their helmets, so I got an earpiece in my helmet too.
My hands were shaking I was so nervous. I couldn't abandon Kim in her time of need. There is only a few people that she really trusts in her life. Me being one of them, I had to make sure that we got Ron out alive, even if it meant sacrificing my own life.
"Alright men listen up," Rex's voice sounds through the comm in my ear. We were supposed to maintain almost complete radio silence, which meant only talking softly into our secure line.
"This mission is to be done by the book," he said. "No side galavanting or looking for souvenirs. Even though we are better soldiers than the peacekeepers, they outnumber us greatly. Make sure to have your gas masks on because will will knock them out using gas. Tris, you stay close to me. We need you to identify the prisoners, and Commander Tano doesn't want you hurt."
"You know," Fives said into the comm. "I like this girl. Braver than the other one for sure. Knows what the price of freedom truly is."
He was talking about Johanna. She had immediately refused the mission. Saying how she didn't have anybody worth rescuing in the Capitol and that she wasn't going to stick her own neck out there when she could be used for more valuable situations. By the look that Katniss gave her, Ahsoka had little choice. She would have to send her away, or Katniss might have killed Johanna. So Ahsoka shipped her sorry butt to district 2, where the fighting was fierce. She was to be the representative from the Mockingjay squadron there.
"Yeah," Rex says. "She sure has the marking of a true leader."
I smile at that, but they can't see because of all the stuff on my head and face.
"Alright boys," the pilot, Oddball, said. "We are coming up on the drop zone."
I look out the window and see the outlines of buildings in the Capitol. The city was completely dark, thanks to an uprising in the power factories in District 3. They had all but cut off most of the Capitol power for the time being. We had scouts that observed that some Capitol workers were trying to reboot an old dam to try and convert hydroelectric power and send it to the Capitol. Until then, they were in full blackout mode, with the only power coming from the broadcasts that Wade was putting on.
"Alright men, and lady," Rex says. "Let's go."
The doors of the gunship open and Fives shoots two gas canisters into the training center building. We had recently learned that the prisoners were being held there. After 30 seconds, we dropped ropes down and repelled into the building. The building was eerily quiet. It also was weird because I was used to it being lit up, and it was completely dark. I never saw it that way. My breath was slow and steady as we continued down. Upon hitting the floor, we quickly slipped off the harnesses and brought up our guns. Our night vision goggles working perfectly, there was no need for the lights that were on our guns. Rex signaled for us to move forward, and we began our quiet assault on the Capitol.
We passed many knocked out peacekeepers on the way to the door that led to the detention center. The only small problem was that one peacekeeper was not fully out yet, but a swift kick to the head by Echo put him down easy. We massed by the door, ready for the go to go. Rex nodded and I opened the door just a crack and tossed a gas canister in. After 30 seconds, Tup entered the room first, followed closely by the rest of the group. The room was dark, just like the rest of the place. Everyone did their assignments, checked under tables and around corners, and then we moved on to the next room, and the room after that.
The next door that we went through led to the stairwell. We had to go down three flights to get to the detention center. We descended in a single file line, keeping to the wall at all times. Rex was on point and I was three people back, behind Fives and Echo, but before Tup. We reached the right floor and we did the same routine to get into the room. When we were inside there was a multitude of places to go through.
"Alright," Rex said softly through the comm. "Fives, Echo, and Tup, take the right way. Move swiftly but carefully. Do not alert anyone. I will take Tris on the left way. Report when you find the cells. Move out."
I quickly followed Rex as we moved through the left path silently. We came upon an opening of an area that had a bunch of chairs and a counter. There were a few computers behind the counter and a door that led to another room. It looked to be a dead end, so Rex signaled for me to check it out. I nodded and proceeded to clear the area while Rex looked at the computers. Upon opening the door, I found myself in a nursery. I could tell because there was baby cribs, and animals painted on the walls. The only thing that was wrong was that there was no babies, and only one of the cribs seemed to have been occupied recently. It had a name tag on it, so I went over to check it out. When I read the tag, I held in a gasp. This is where they had Artemis before Katniss picked her up. To get a souvenir for Katniss, I grabbed the name tag and slipped it into my pocket.
I stepped back out of the room and Rex and I were about to continue down the hall when we heard Fives over our comm, "Found the cells."
We quickly made our way back to the fork and continued down that hallway. We came upon a laboratory of some kind, and all around us were various torture devices. We could see electric currents, unpleasant tools, and other things. We see our troops over by a door and walk over to them.
"They are right in here sir," Fives says.
"Alright," Rex says. "Tris, go in quietly and get Ron's attention before he talks too loud."
I nod and enter the room. I can see three figures and four cells. Two are men and one woman. The other woman, Prim, is missing. I see Ron in a corner cell, and grab the keys to unlock it. I open his cell door and go to him quickly, covering his mouth as I do. His eyes fly open, but in his weakened state, I overpower him easy.
"Shhh," I say. "Quiet Ron, It's Tris. Remember me?"
His eyes flash towards my figure and I feel him relax a little.
"Now," I say. "I'm here with some troops from 13. We are going to bust you out of here. I need you to get the attention of the others to stay quiet while I unlock the doors, can you do that?"
He nods and I take my hand off his mouth.
"Good," I say. "Let's go, we don't have much time."
I have been pacing in command for nearly three hours now. The strike team was due back any moment after they reported leaving the Capitol. Katniss had gone to put Artemis to bed and get some rest herself. I don't blame her, she has been through a lot these last couple days and needs sleep. Ahsoka has been busy watching some old recordings in front of a computer screen, and Wade is typing furiously on his keyboard, trying to keep the broadcast alive until our ships make it home okay. Suddenly he stops typing and looks up.
"They're back," he says and I am already running down the halls to the hanger. Once I get there, I see medics unloading three people from the gunship, one of them who has nice blonde hair. I start to run over to him when a hug from another stops me.
"Woah," Tris says. "Easy there. They have to do some medical tests on him before you are allowed to see him. He was beat up pretty badly."
I take a good look at Tris. Her hair is all frazzled, probably because she had a helmet on. Her black face paint was streaking off, and her clothes were all sweaty. She looked exhausted but proud. I suddenly gave her a huge bear hug and started crying into her shoulder.
"You brought him back to me," I said between sobs. "How can I ever thank you?"
"Hey," she said. "You helped me through a tough time, thought I would return the favor. Now I'm really tired and in a bad need of a shower. I also have something to give to Katniss that I found. They said Ron would be awake in about three hours, they had to sedate him to check him out. Would you like to accompany me?"
"Sure," I say and we walk towards our living quarters.
I look down at my beautiful sleeping angel as a million thoughts race through my head. This war was so deadly already, and I had only been in a small skirmish compared to the big battles that were being fought. I don't know if I could take it much longer. I had seen a hospital blown up and my sister was dead. The only thing keeping me from leaving was Artemis, and what an anchor she is. For only being 12 months old, she is a very powerful person. I lay down next to my baby and cuddle up with her. She rolls over and immediately slips into her favorite sleeping position of her head resting on my chest with arms right next to it. I throw on a blanket over us and begin to try and sleep, knowing that no nightmares could ever plague me when my sweetheart is beside me. We are both nice and cozy, when a knock raps at the door.
Figuring that it is either Kim or Ahsoka I say quietly, "Come in."
Kim walks in first and I signal for her to be quiet so she doesn't wake the baby. She smiles at the sight of Artemis and I.
"Any news on our strike team?" I whisper.
"Oh the mission was a success," Tris whispers back as she walks back in the room.
"Tris," I say out loud, almost waking up Artemis. "How are you?"
"Good," she says and sits down on a chair beside the bed. She reaches out and strokes the hair that Artemis is just beginning to grow. I smile as I see the happiness in her eyes.
"I found something for you," Tris says to me.
"What?" I ask baffled.
She pulls out a card and I almost cry when I see it. It is the card that has Artemis's information on it from the nursery.
"How?" I begin before she cuts me off.
"Don't worry about it," she says. "I am just here to give you this. Have a good rest."
The young girl kisses Artemis on the top of the head and gets up to walk out of the room. Kim comes over and kisses Artemis too, and they both exit together. I look down at Artemis and wish that I could freeze this moment forever. Then I succumb to sleep that I desperately need.