Jason's breathing had become labored again. Mark got up from his pallet on the dusty floor, noted that the fire was nearly out, and sighed. Bone-weary, he stoked the embers as he shivered. He couldn't let the fire go out. He knew that he had to stay awake, had to push on, but he was so tired. It had been nearly three days since the crash, two days since Jason had first admitted how sick he really was. Holed up in an abandoned shack on this desolate, lonely planet, Mark had to keep trying to break his second's fever.
Mark took the now-warm rag from Jason's forehead and replaced it with a fresh, cool one. He was surprised to find Jason's steel grey eyes glittering back at him, reflecting firelight.
"Mark?" Jason hadn't spoken in hours, and Mark startled as he heard his voice now, raspy and uncertain.
"I'm here, Jase." He took his second's hand.
"I feel dizzy," Jason admitted, and with those words, Mark felt his anxiety mount. Jason never voluntarily offered any weakness.
"It's the fever, Jason. You're running a very high fever." Mark squeezed his hand and dabbed the wet rag over his cheeks. "You've got to keep fighting, okay?"
"Where are we?"
This is bad. Jason couldn't have forgotten the mission, could he?
The wild goose chase of a reconnaissance had sent them to the desolate planet of Aroica, only to be ambushed by Spectran forces. They'd been woefully underprepared without the rest of the team, but Anderson had insisted that he and Jason go in order to initiate diplomatic relations with the Aroicans before Spectra did. Little did they know that Aroica actually had no humanoid life of its own and that Spectra was planning to utilize the resources of this planet to fuel its galactic war of terror.
Princess, Tiny, and Keyop, felled by the same virus Jason was suffering through now, had been diagnosed days earlier and were still being treated in Center Neptune's infirmary. At least, that was where they were as far as Mark knew. His wrist communicator only made contact with Jason's - something about this planet's atmosphere blocked long-range transmissions to Earth. Mark only hoped that the homing beacon he'd activated when he had realized they were going down had actually worked prior to impact.
That they'd crash-landed near one of Spectra's abandoned outposts had been a stroke of luck. That he'd only sustained minimal injuries in the crash was lucky too. Mark flexed his wrist, noting that even the paltry amount of rest he'd enjoyed since then had allowed the implant to begin its repair work.
But Jason hadn't fared as well. Mark noted with dismay that his second was no longer waiting for an answer - he had drifted back into a fevered sleep. The antiviral preventative Jason had taken prior to the mission clearly hadn't worked. Mark tried not to dwell on what that implied for his own health. He took the opportunity to check his friend's bandaged left ribs - no changes that he could discern - and studied the bruised swelling of his ankles. How Jason had managed to injure both feet in the crash, Mark didn't remember. Something heavy must have fallen on him. Mark had blacked out right after landing and only vaguely recalled dragging Jason and a paltry stash of supplies out of the ship before it had exploded in a massive fireball. That the explosion scared off the remaining Spectran fighters and that the ship they lost hadn't been the Phoenix were of small consolation - he and Jason were lost and alone on a remote planet with only a few day's worth of rations.
Jason's implant had made little headway on his bruised body, implying that the device was spending all of its time dealing with the virus. Mark knew that he would have to leave his second soon in order to search for food and water - and hope that this planet had something to offer. The abandoned outpost itself was a good sign. If Spectrans had survived here, that suggested that he and Jason could survive too - if only Jason could fight off this fever.