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Can You Swim? by Becky Rock
Can You Swim? by Becky Rock
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Story Notes:
This is a very different retelling of the attack on Research Center. This was written back in 2002. At the time, I hadn't seen the episodes and only had vague knowledge of what had happened. I decided to stick with my version and rewrote to fit it into the Ssacrifice arc. Since I can't stand Zark and they didn't include Zark in the BotP comic (except for a cameo in the Mark comic), there is no Zark in this story. Come on- you all know you're relieved! I want to thank Catherine Rees Lay for beta reading.

            Mark looked out the wall sized window at the fish swimming by and grimaced. It wasn’t the fact he had to wear his Birdstyle for hours on end that was making him uncomfortable. It was the retching sounds coming from the bathroom down the hall that his enhanced hearing picked up even with the door closed. For the first time ever, he was actually glad he had to attend a UN dinner. It was better than having to stick around their quarters right now.


            He could hear the toilet flush and then water running in the sink. A moment later, his door opened and Jason shuffled out slowly. He walked past Mark like a zombie and dropped down on the living room couch, lying down with a groan, covering his eyes with his arm.


            “I’m gonna kill him,” Jason muttered monotone.


            “It’s not his fault,” Mark told him for the hundredth time. Jason raised his arm just enough to glare at him.


            “Yes it is. He should have stayed at the J rather than come back here.” With that, he covered his eyes back up. Mark was debating pursuing the matter further, but then decided not to.


            Keyop had come back after helping for a weekend at the Snack J with the flu and had promptly shared it with the whole base. The virus had spread quickly, but the only other team member to have contracted it was Jason.


It had been five months since Jason’s rescue from Spectra. He’d healed both physically and mentally – at least according to his therapist- but lingering problems still remained. Jason had become more susceptible to illness following what had been done to him during his Spectran captivity. His immune system had been permanently affected and was now more likely to take a look at a germ or virus and run for the hills than fight it.


            Although Keyop had recovered quickly, Jason had spent that last two days throwing up so often the Chief had considered ordering him to Medical, worried he was getting dehydrated again.


            “Maybe you should take Dr. Pandora up on her offer of an IV,” Mark suggested, even though he knew how much Jason disliked the newest member of their support team. Jason raised his arm just enough to give Mark another glare, affording Mark with the view of a very pale and tired-looking teammate. The dark circles under his eyes made them look more gray than blue. He knew Jason had been up most of the last two nights because he had heard him moving around and in and out of the bathroom.

            Keyop entered the living room from his quarters, already in Birdstyle. The boy saw Jason on the couch and headed for him, a look of resignation on his face. Mark shook his head, advising against it, but Keyop mouthed ’I have to’ back at him. Mark moved closer to the couch just in case he had to intervene as Keyop stopped near Jason’s head and started to lean down.


            “What?” Jason snapped. Keyop started and then squirmed in place.


            “Princess… wanted me to … ask if you… needed anything … before we left.” Mark could tell Jason was scowling under his arm and had to wonder how long he planned to stay angry. His temper definitely wasn’t getting better with time.


            “What I need is for all of you to go away and give me some peace and quiet,” he snarled. Keyop backed up a step and gave Mark a ’help me’ look. Mark shook his head and signed, ’Just leave him alone.’


            Tiny walked into the room, grousing about the fact they had to go to the dinner, Princess on his heels.


            “Tell you what,” Jason said from under his arm. “You go worship the Porcelain God and I’ll go to the dinner.”


Tiny’s eyebrows rose as he turned to Mark.   “He must really be feeling horrible if he wants to go to a formal dinner.”


Princess moved around Tiny with a carafe and cup in her hands. She placed them on the coffee table in front of the couch. “Jase, I brought you some tea,” she told him. “You need to keep your liquids up or you’ll get dehydrated.”


            “Been there, done that, got the scars to prove it, but if one more person says that to me, I’m gonna lose it.”


Keyop rolled his eyes and started to mouth he’d already lost it, but stopped when Princess gave him her evil eye.


            “Jeez. Have you … been taking lessons … from him?” Keyop’s head bobbed in Jason’s direction.


            Security Chief Anderson walked in, interrupting them, still fixing the bow tie of his tuxedo, Rachel and Rhiannon were with him. Although they continued working on covert assignments, they had occasionally spent some time on the base and sometimes one them would pose as the Chief’s assistant at official functions.


Rachel was in sweat pants and a T-shirt, her thigh length blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail folded over itself and resting over her shoulders, dull and lifeless. She looked as pale as Jason was. She immediately headed for the end of the couch where his legs were and lightly tapped his calf.


            “Scoot,” she said with a scratchy voice. Jason raised his arm to glare but then frowned.


            “What are you doing here?” he asked suspiciously. Rachel sighed and tapped his calf again.


            “It’s Rhia’s turn to babysit the Chief. Could you please just move before I fall on you?” Jason continued to glare but then relented by pulling his legs up.


Rachel fell into the corner of the couch with a groan.


            “How’d you … get sick?” Keyop asked. Rachel leaned back into the couch, her eyes closed, dark circles under them.


            “Something’s going around.”


Keyop’s face brightened. “See … not my fault!”


            “No one here had it until you came home with it,” Jason countered. Luckily, he didn’t see Keyop stick his tongue out at him.


            “I want the two of you to take it easy,” the Chief instructed towards the couch. Jason raised his arm again. “Jason, if you’re not feeling any better by morning, I want Pandora to take a look at you.”


            “What about her? If I have to see Pandora, so does she.”


The Chief sighed. He had known mentioning it would elicit that response.


            “I’m not the one with a screwed up immune system,” Rachel said and Jason turned his glare back on her.


            “Hey, Jason, do me a favor?” Rhiannon asked before Jason could say anything. She was in a red form fitting gown with spaghetti straps and a side slit that ran to the top of her right thigh. Her short blonde hair was covered by a long blonde wig to mimic Rachel’s: it was easier than Rachel cutting hers to make them look the same.Long earrings made of silver and what appeared to be diamonds matching the triangular necklace adorning her neck. The stiletto heels on her shoes made her almost as tall as Anderson.


            “What?” Jason asked, suddenly suspicious. Rhiannon's smile was malicious.


            “Stop playing tonsil hockey with my sister? She’s a real bitch when she’s sick.”


            Everyone looked at each other in shock. While Rachel snapped awake, her face turning three shades of red from both anger and embarrassment, Jason’s eyes were becoming chips off a glacier.


            “In her dreams,” he said deadpan. Now Rachel turned towards him, her anger being redirected his way.


            “You mean my nightmares,” she countered. Jason turned his attention to her.

             “No, mine.”

            “Are you inferring kissing me would be a nightmare?” Rachel’s voice was filled with indignation. Jason shook his head and then swallowed hard, regretting it as the pounding increased. He reached for the remote control sitting next to the carafe on the coffee table.


            “No, the nightmare is being sick and now having to spend the evening with you.”


Now Rachel’s blue eyes bugged as her mouth dropped open. “You self-righteous, arrogant-”


            “Come on, time to go,” Seemingly oblivious to the argument she had instigated, Rhiannon turned and sauntered out of the room, Tiny close on her heels. The Chief was frowning at Rachel as she continued to call Jason every derogatory name she could think of. Princess propelled Keyop out as Rachel’s tirade continued. Mark stood waiting for Jason’s comeback, but his second had turned on the big screen plasma television across from the couch and was channel surfing as though it was the most important action on earth. Disappointed, Mark turned and followed the others. Eventually, the Chief did as well.


            “Uh, Rhiannon,” Tiny started as he caught up to her. “You do realize you’re living dangerously?”


            “Jason and Rachel … eewww!” Keyop shuddered as he walked ahead of Princess.


            “Jason and Rachel aren’t doing anything.” Rhiannon stopped in front of the elevator and pressed the up button.


            “Then why did you say they were?” Princess asked, frowning at the taller woman. Rhiannon turned to give her a flippant smile.


            “It got their minds off of being sick for a while. But Rachel really is a bitch when she doesn’t feel well.”


            “I have to agree with Tiny on this one,” Anderson said as they waited for the elevator. He rocked back and forth on his heels, looking up at the floor indicator above the door. “Jason will be looking for revenge.”


            “That’s okay.” Rhiannon shrugged her bare shoulders as the elevator pinged and the doors opened. “So will Rachel. It’ll keep me on my toes.”

  888             Rachel finished her tirade and waited. Jason ignored her and continued to channel surf, hoping to find something to keep his mind off of being nauseous.


            “Aren’t you going to say anything?” Rachel’s voice was deep and low from the throat irritation she had just aggravated. Jason continued to stare at the television, flipping the channels in unison with the pounding in his head.


            “Yeah. You’d think with five hundred channels, I’d be able to find something to watch.” Rachel huffed and folded her arms over her breasts, her whole body tense with her anger.


            “When I feel better, I’m going to kill her,” she declared. Jason kept flipping channels.


            “Stand in line.”


            “She’s my sister. I get her first.”


            “All I wanted to do was have a quiet, miserable evening without them Mother Henning me.” Jason looked her way. “Now I have to put up with you.”


            “It goes both ways.” She returned his scowl. He stared for a moment but then a smile cracked his lips. Rachel watched him relax as much as he could and became wary.


            “I didn’t know you had a temper. I thought she was the hot head of your duo,” he said. Rachel thought of an angry retort but then deflated. Her head was beginning to pound again.


            “She’s right. I am a bitch when I’m sick.”


Jason’s eyebrows rose in understanding as he stopped on an Italian channel where a topless, well-endowed blonde woman was giving the European weather report.


 “This is degrading. Turn the channel,” Rachel requested.


            “I need to work on my Italian. I never get a chance to use it around here so I keep forgetting it.”


            “Surely, there’s some other Italian channel to watch that doesn‘t use women as sexual play objects.”


            “Yeah, there probably is,” Jason admitted, but he didn’t change the channel, intent on using it to aggravate her. Rachel continued to glare but finally gave up when she realized he wasn’t going to change it. She leaned her head back onto the couch and closed her eyes again.


            Smirking, Jason changed the channel to a soccer game and watched for a while, wondering if he could keep anything down yet. He hadn’t tried since breakfast and his blood sugar had to be dangerously low. He decided to try again.


            He sat up slowly, having to wait for his head to stop spinning and his stomach to settle down. He reached for the carafe Princess had left him and poured a cup of tea. He knew everyone was right about being careful not to get dehydrated, but nothing for the past two days had been staying down.


            He took a sip and waited. So far so good. He looked at Rachel and the table. Princess had only brought one cup, so either she hadn’t known Rachel or Rhiannon were about or didn’t care to serve the Dove. That thought made Jason chuckle. Princess had been used to being the only female on the team. Now she had some competition and hadn’t taken the news well.


When the tea stayed down, he continued to sip until the cup was empty.


            The game reached halftime and he decided to get braver. He rose to his feet, waited for the spinning to stop again and went to the kitchen to make a piece of toast. As he waited, he looked at Rachel again. She appeared to be asleep.


            He hadn’t seen the twins much the last three months, which was probably a good thing. For a while, anything that reminded him of his captivity had set his heart racing and anger flaring. He’d had to work hard on ignoring the triggers while regaining his strength and stamina.


            The first time he had transmuted since that time had been the hardest thing he’d ever done. His fear that the brainwashing Zoltar and Mala had attempted was still there had nearly made him ill just with the thought. The therapist had insisted Mark and the Chief not only be present, but go out of their way to push his buttons and only call him Condor. Much to all of their relief, he’d done fine with the test. He’d had no urge to render them limb from limb, as he had when under the complete influence of the Spectran drug.


            Two weeks later, after passing his fitness test, he’d been reactivated to the team and he had come through the first mission after that with flying colors. Things were finally back to normal.


            The toast popped up and he slowly ate it. Once done, he returned to the couch and poured himself another cup of tea. Maybe the bug had finally worked its way out.


            Rachel stirred as he started channel surfing again. She turned her head to look at him with bleary eyes.


            “What do I smell?” she asked, a look of distaste on her face.


            “Toast and tea,” he said, settling on an old western movie. She shuddered. “You want some tea?” he asked, not as annoyed by her presence as he had been. He could go get her a cup. She sniffled and waved a hand.


            “No thanks. Are there any extra bedrooms?” she asked. “I think I’m just going to crash.”


            “There’s a few down the hall on the left. My bathroom is getting repaired, so I’ve been using the closest one. Just let Security know which one you’re in so the motion detectors and heat sensors don’t send them into apoplexy.”


            Rachel nodded and rose, swaying on her feet. She said a half-hearted good night and wandered off down the opposite hall.


            Jason stayed on the couch, staring at the television, but he really wasn’t seeing it.


            It didn’t take long for his stomach to start grumbling unhappily. He squeezed his eyes closed and tried to convince his stomach it was fine. It didn’t believe him.

             Cursing, Jason rose and walked swiftly towards that first extra bathroom. Could this day get any worse?
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