"The operation is a success," Michael said, removing his gloves.
"Maybe you should stay and see to her reeducation," Florence said.
"I'll have to leave that in your capable hands," Michael said. He bowed. "Pardon me, I have preparations to complete."
"Good luck, Boss," Florence said.
Michael walked away from the operating room. Trojan was waiting outside of the door when he came out.
"Ummm," Trojan began. "Maybe... if it's okay with you... I was, you know, thinking that..."
"Speak clearly, Trojan," Michael said. "Please. I want to hear what you have to say."
"Well, that is..." Trojan took a deep breath. "Take me with you. If we both get caught... Won't the plan have a better chance?"
"I can't do that," Michael said. "They're going to need you here. I'll be fine. Just wait for my signal, okay?" He gave her a slight smile.
Trojan nodded. "I'll wait, definitely. And when you get back maybe... um... never mind."
"You can tell me when I return," Michael said. He tousled her hair and moved along.
He walked in relative silence for a while "What is it, Ryu?"
"My Lord, you knew?"
"I heard you," Michael said. Ryu turned visible. "You want to come with me?"
"Ye, My Lord," Ryu said. "Let me be your guard during this ordeal."
"I appreciate the offer," Michael said. "However, the truth is that you would likely be detected and the ruse would be revealed. I simply can't take that risk."
"I understand, My Lord," Ryu said. "Please, take care of yourself."
"You as well, My Friend," Michael said. He made his way to his main room.
You can't go.
"I have to," Michael said. "It's a logical plan." He grabbed a small leather pouch and started filling it with various items.
It's still wrong! You hold them together. Without you... "What chance do we all have?"
"It's been a while since I've heard your real voice," Michael said.
Don't change the subject!
"If all goes as planned you'll only have to hold out around a month," Michael said. "I know that you can all manage that much. You're more than capable."
And if all doesn't go as planned?
"Then I'll have to trust you all to manage in my stead," Michael said. "Try to work with the others as a team, okay?"
I suppose I can but... you're the only one who understands me.
"That's because you don't let anyone else in," Michael said. "I'm sure they'd see what a wonderful person you are, if you would give them a chance."
"Thank you," Michael said. "Well, it's almost time. I have to meet Sirvanna and the others." He waved behind him on his way out, hoisting the pouch over his shoulder.
Blair approached him on his way out. "I guess..." she sniffled. "I guess I couldn't protect you from the monsters after all."
"It'll be okay, Blair," Michael said. "Have a brave heart." He grabbed a handkerchief from his shirt pocket and wiped her tears.
"I will," Blair nodded. "So come back, okay?"
"I shall do my utmost," Michael said. He handed her the handkerchief and continued on his way.
"General on his way to mission," Jenny called.
"Let's give him a great sendoff," Rose said.
The members of Omega Theta Sigma, Theta, save Blair, and several other gifted soldiers were lining the corridor. They all stood at attention and saluted. Michael passed between them, stopping to shake the occasional hand or give an encouraging comment. He eventually made his way to the hangar, where Omicron was waiting.
"Ready to go?" Sirvanna asked.
"I am at your disposal," Michael said. He started climbing into the craft.
"Wait..." Zhao came running up. She gave Michael a tight hug. "Professor will come back, right? It's a promise to Zhao, isn't it?"
"I can't promise that for certain," Michael said, returning her hug.
"But Professor is the only family Zhao has," Zhao said. "He has to give Zhao away when she marries Jenny."
"Do people still do that tradition?" Katelyn asked.
"Is that a tradition?" Yuni asked. "Ive never heard of it."
"They do!" Zhao cried. "So Professor has to return."
"I'll look forward to it," Michael said. "I'm honoured to be chosen."
Zhao let go of him and watched him board the craft. Which promptly took off.
"That was quite the grandiose exit," Michael said.
"It's because everyone loves you," Yuni said.
"True enough," Michael said. "Some of them may be overly attached."
"It's a good thing your chances are so high," Alena said. "Otherwise they'd have never let you go, and they're not so high that anyone bothered questioning your figures either."
"Wait, what are you saying," Sirvanna asked.
"It just seems a bit fortuitous," Alena said, staring at Michael.
Michael chuckled. "I really must stop under-estimating people with ordinary intelligence."
"I thought so," Alena said.
"What?" Yuni asked. "What is it? I'm lost."
"Basically, his chances aren't as high as he said they were," Ines said.
"You found me out," Michael said. "Well deduced."
"How high are they really?" Sirvanna asked.
"Does it matter?" Michael asked. "We'll be at the target point in less than an hour."
"It matters," Sirvanna said.
"Very well," Michael said. "My chances are more accurately at around forty two point zero seven percent."
"That low?" Ines asked.
"And you plan to go anyway?" Sirvanna asked. "I should have this mission scrubbed right now!"
"I suppose you could," Michael said. "But hear me out first. If I succeed, against the odds, then we win the war. With fairly light casualties. Should I fail, then I become a martyr. Casualties will be higher, but I estimate that, after my loss is known, everyone will come together in my memory. As your friend so keenly observed, they love me. They will be fierce in the act of avenging me. Casualties may be heavier, but the war will still end within a few months of my loss becoming public. Sometimes a martyr and his ideal are more useful for a cause than a living person could hope to be. In either case, this mission will be instrumental."
"Why us?" Alexa asked. "Why do we have to take you to your little suicide?"
"Because we're fairly new to his team," Sirvanna said. "We're probably the only ones who could bring ourselves to leave him behind."
"Precisely," Michael said.
"You want me to tell the pilot to turn around?" Ines asked.
"No," Sirvanna answered. "We'll go through with it."
"Are you serious?" Yuni asked.
"I don't like it," Sirvanna said. "But what he says makes sense and if it'll serve the greater cause, I can bear to lose him."
"Thank you," Michael said.