Prologue

"Fleming, come in," her voice sounded in his comm link.

"Copy," Connor said flatly. He couldn't risk that anyone would hear him, now that he was so close.

"We're out. All clear so far. Now we just have to be quick. We're coming to pick you up."

"Negative, Christie." Carefully, he attached the last charge to the tank in front of him and rolled out the fuse.

"What do you mean, negative, where are you?"

It was kind of nice, having her voice in his ear. That way she was with him and still safe. Connor could hear voices outside. He didn't have much time left, someone was bound to notice what he was doing.

"Fleming?" she persisted.

"Where are you?" he asked.

"We're at the rendezvous. All according to plan. Now where are you?"

"That's good." Connor took a deep breath, eyeing his trusted Zippo in his hands. His fingers were trembling a little. He wasn't as brave as he had been at the start. Still he managed to keep his voice calm. "I need you to get them away from here and run."

"Can you please stop pretending that I'm gonna leave you behind? We're on a schedule, remember?"

"How far away are you?" Footsteps outside, and more voices. Nothing he could understand, but for now he decided that everything would work out. Because it had to. It was the only way he could see to buy her some time.

"Are you still inside?!" She sounded angry. "We don't have time for this!"

"You have to get going. I'm not coming with you."

That was when she understood, he could feel it. It was right there in the silence. Then she started shouting at him, it almost hurt his ear. "No! No, we agreed, we are going to do this together."

"It's okay," Connor said, mentally congratulating himself that he had just said the lamest thing possible.

She continued to shout, "Yes, it's going to be okay once you get your ass back here."

In the corridor someone started running, coming closer rapidly. Connor scrambled back into a corner, rolling out the last length of fuse and hoped there would be enough cover in case someone opened the door after all. He had to do this, now.

"That's an order!" she shouted, and a bit of desperation was sneaking into her voice.

That was sweet, that she tried to pull rank on him now. He wasn't sure if she had ever done that before. "You can set it up as a rescue mission. Just tell them you went back for me," he hurried to say.

"What are you talking about?"

"I know they like to pretend they're all strict about this, but they won't charge you for this, trust me."

"Whatever you think you're doing, stop it."

Connor flipped the lighter open. "You just stay out there. Save the world."

"Don't be ridiculous. Please. Just – come out," she said pleadingly.

That was not what he wanted to hear. "You need to go. Promise me to get out of there. I'm serious. Don't come back."

"Connor!" she finally ditched the codename.

A strange sense of calm washed over him when he saw the small flame in his hand. This was the right thing to do, the only way, and he knew it. A smile appeared on his face. "It's okay."

She said something else, but he wasn't paying attention to the words any more. He simply took comfort in the sound of her voice.

Then, Connor lit the fuse.