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  1. Lee stumbled into sudden consciousness, guided by the sound of someone calling her name – her current one at any rate – repeatedly. “Ms. Roman”, Lt. Mayne asked her yet again, “are ye alright?” “Lee”, she muttered, sounding a lot less coherent than she meant or wanted to. “What?” “Just call me Lee”, said Lee. It sounded more like a moan than a sentence. “Er… right”, Mayne responded noncommittally. He was still looking pretty worried, but that expression was steadily giving way to one of bemused confusion. After a pause he told her, “Yer ‘chute failed t’open an’ ya hit the ground savage like, aye but you know yerself. We were none too sure you’d be getting’ up again from a fall like that, but tankgodanisolymuther yer still amongst the living.” “The others?” Lee asked, after her still-groggy mind managed to parse Mayne’s Irish accent into a form of English she could understand. She sat up then and started glancing about, taking stock of her situation now that her senses were returning to her and the shapes and colors all around her were starting to make sense again. Rake and Le Chêne were off to one side, standing behind Mayne, and nodded a greeting as she looked their way. “They’re fine, ma’am. Lee”, Mayne answered her, “Plewman landed wrong on his ankle, but he’ll be alright.” There was Plewman, Lee saw, sitting low on a sand dune several yards away with O’Sullivan crouched next to him. Lee nodded her understanding at Mayne, still taking stock, putting the pieces back together. There’d been the training in Egypt – completed only days ago now, but it seemed like years – followed by the rapid journey down to Darfur day before yesterday, the night-flight over Ubangi-Shari, a day of bouncing about in a jeep in Nigeria and, finally, a second night of flying, this time deep into French West Africa. They’d passed entirely over French Sudan and penetrated deep into Mauritania, at which point she and her team were to perform a parachute drop into the desert some 40 kilometers outside of Ouadane. Right, the parachute drop…. Hers hadn’t opened – like parachutes were supposed to – leaving Lee to plummet to her death. Or so she’d thought up until her sudden return to consciousness a moment ago had proved her wrong. Not that she was complaining. Surviving a fall from an airplane. That was a new one she could add to her List of Stuff What Hasn’t Killed Me (yet). And one she wasn’t likely to have put to the test voluntarily, either, so she supposed she should consider the event both fortunate and educational. Lee pulled herself to her feet, brushing aside Lt. Mayne’s attempts to stop her, and realized as she did so that while she may have ‘survived’ a fall from an airplane, she hadn’t done so ‘unscathed’. Yes, those were definitely some broken ribs she could feel scraping about in there, her right knee audibly popped back into joint as she struggled to stand, and she had a sneaking suspicion that there was something seriously wrong with her spine. She brushed at her temple and, upon seeing the clear fluid that was rapidly turning an inky black color clinging to the metal ‘skin’ of her hand when she pulled it away, realized she was also bleeding from a head wound. A benefit of being dynamic: she would almost certainly have recovered mostly or entirely from all of these injuries by this time tomorrow. Which was good, because more than 30 kilometers lay between them and their first objective and they needed to cover it all before this time tomorrow. She would be sore enough without the injuries. Lee accepted a strip of cloth from Mayne to clean her forehead with. She looked around at her five-man motley crew of British and Free French army as they watched her expectantly; Plewman was back up on his feet and appeared to have little or no limp, which was good. Spreading out around them on all sides as far as the eye could see under a night sky that blazed with stars, but no moon, were the low rolling sand dunes of the Sahara. To the east, the horizon was showing the first glimmerings of the rising dawn. “Alright", she told them, turning so that the coming dawn was to her right. "Let's go."
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