Disclaimer: a fan did the following fanfic for other fans; not for any kind commercial, tyrannical, or terrorist gains. The rights of the entire cast, characters, original story, for better for worse until death do us part, - do not belong to me. They belong to Sandy Frank (author ducks as squids are pelted at her). I am not a professional writer; I am barely an amateur. I just felt like writing it. Like it, love it, loath it, take it or leave it - that's up to you. Constructive criticism and corrections are welcome. How else am I supposed to learn?
NOTE: The BotP Episode "Strike at Spectra" precedes this story. "G-Force in the Future" and "Conway Tape Tap" take place within. You'll know where.
"Brothers in Arms" was written and performed by Dire Straits. It is the last track on their "Money for Nothing" album. Listen to it, it's worth it.
"MacPherson's Lament" is an old Celtic tune. Rawlins Cross does a nice rendition of it.
This fic is dedicated to Dei Nikoi and a Saturday afternoon at the San Diego Zoo.
Jason waited alone in the small examination room for the doctor to return. He had read all of the posters three times already and had exhausted all the medical pamphlets lying on the counter top. He was now an authority on venereal warts and chronic cystitis. He shivered slightly, and decided to put his shirt back on.
"Five more minutes." he warned out loud.
The doctor returned three minutes and twenty-one seconds later.
"Sorry about the wait," she said sweetly, "I had to take a call."
Jason didn't have a chance to use any of the sarcastic replies he had been toying with.
"These symptoms you've described..." she checked her clip board "head ache, blurred vision... they are classic signs of migraine headaches. Do you drink coffee?"
"Switch to decaf. And no soda either. Do you ever see spots or bursts of light?" she pressed her fingers under each side of his jaw.
"The light triggers it. Always." he resisted the urge to cough.
"Yes. Patients often see stars during a migraine..."
"I don't SEE stars, the light..."
"The numbness confuses me, however. Have you taken any blows to the head? Lost consciousness?"
Jason smiled to himself. If you only knew. His mind went over the last mission. The smile vanished. The team had gone all the way to Spectra for a pre-emptive strike. Unfortunately, Zoltar had found out they were coming. The Phoenix had been blasted with anti-aircraft fire on arrival, and the resulting turbulence had thrown him to the back of the cockpit.
"I did knock my head - but I was wearing a helmet."
"Hmm. You might have suffered a mild concussion. Perhaps it is confounding or even causing the migraine symptoms. I can't really make that diagnosis here; this is only an after-hours clinic. I would like to send you for a CT scan." the doctor began writing on pale pink paper.
Right, Jason thought, and oops - sorry guys! That little chip you found in my skull is a cerebonic implant. Ce-re-bon-ic. You guessed it - I'm a G-forcer - now I have to kill you...
"No thanks. I'd like to check with my regular doctor first."
She cocked an eyebrow at him.
"No insurance." he said with a helpless shrug.
"Alright. I will prescribe you a mild analgesic for the headache pain, but I strongly suggest that you follow up if the signs continue."
"Scouts honour!" he raised two fingers in a mock salute.
She couldn't resist smiling as she scratched out a prescription. She tore of the page and handed to him, then left him alone again. Jason sighed and stuffed it in his pocket. He left the clinic minutes later and relaxed in the comfortable driver's seat of the G-2. He felt the twinge of the healing bruise over his spine as he sat back. A bruise he had received by falling out of the whirlwind pyramid - twice. He winced thinking about the fall and the look on Mark's face the second time it had happened.
"Honest answer - are you all right?" Mark had asked, down on one knee. The look of concern and intense silence that was focused on him was more than Jason could bear. He would have said anything to get out of the situation.
Too bad he had nearly fallen over again if Tiny hadn't caught him in time. Damn, that was embarrassing.
"Must have been a bad space burger." Tiny had said.
"I'm sure you're all perfect, right?" he had spat back.
Of course they're perfect. They are all perfect - except for me. Jason let his forehead rest on his knuckles as they gripped the steering wheel. He had heard the migraine theory before. The first time he had gone to the Chief and was given the same diagnosis. Anderson had also prescribed a concoction to take the edge off, but the headaches kept coming and going on their own. He just wanted things to be back to normal. To be perfect again. He leaded back in his seat and stared at the setting sun. Wondering how late the pharmacy was open until, he started the engine.
Princess drew in a deep breath of clean, cool evening air. The sun was setting and casting a golden hue over everything it touched. She had been enjoying this view from the park bench for over half an hour in silence. She enjoyed moments like these. Quiet times between missions when she could relax and think about anything but Spectra. Wondering if the other members of G-force enjoyed the same tranquility, she looked over at her bench mate and got her answer. Although the dusk had lit up his face in peaceful hues, Mark's features were twisted in deep thought.
"You're thinking about the mission, aren't you?" she asked quietly.
"What?" he turned to look at her, and his face melted into a soft smile. "Caught me. I wanted to tell you that you were great. It was a tough mission."
"I wasn't referring to me, but thanks."
Mark sighed. "Right - again." he half turned to face her. "I'm worried. Jason isn't talking about what happened. Has he said anything to you?"
"No, just that it had passed."
"Mark," Princess said, touching his hand, "We have to believe him. Anyone can have a bad day..."
"Prin, it wasn't just a bad day. First, anytime Jason agrees to go back to the Phoenix is a really bad sign. Then there was his voice - you didn't hear him through the communicator. He sounded like ... like he was barely hanging on. He was hardly repeating what I was saying to him. I think he had a really rough ride, and I'm not sure it's over. I wish he'd talk to me about it."
"Did you tell the Chief?" Princess asked, looking at her lap.
Mark didn't answer.
"I had to Prin. For his own good. He's got to talk to someone - I just hope there isn't anything seriously wrong."
Princess sighed, anticipating the melt down that would come when the Chief cornered Jason. Still, she had to admire Mark. Even when it seemed like they weren't going to make it, he kept telling them not to give up. They were trapped in that horrible rocket, plunging at who knows how many feet per second, being torn up by the centrifugal force - and Mark still insisted Jason would come through. Now that it was over, Mark was still worried for his second - a concern that went beyond performance and ability. Although she was also worried about Jason, the feeling of family that was finally beginning to bind the team together brought her great joy.
"You mad at me?" Mark asked, noticing her silence.
"No, silly." she smiled. "I just wanted to tell you - you were pretty great too."
"Ah." he smiled. "Fantastic, I'd say."
"Don't push it, Commander!" she poked Mark's ribs.
"I surrender!" he laughed, throwing his arms in the air. Still smiling, he brought his arms down, making sure to encircle Princess's shoulders with one arm in the process. She leaned her head on his shoulder. Together, they sat that way - saying nothing - until the sun had blinked out on the horizon and the night's chill caught up with them.
Jason entered the Chief's office without knocking. He took up a position on the nearest wall, leaning back with his legs and arms crossed. It was a defensive yet standoffish posture that he was very comfortable with. The Chief was in his chair, spun around so that the back was facing Jason.
"You wanted to see me?" Jason asked
"Yes. Sit down."
Jason hesitated, then resigned himself to a chair, but not the one opposite the Chief's desk. He could afford to lose the lesser battles. The Chief took note as he spun around to face Jason.
"Why don't you tell me what happened." the Chief began.
"Okay..." Jason said sarcastically. "This guy walks into a bar..."
"No games, Jason." the Chief interrupted. "Mark told me he sent you back to the Phoenix. I'd like an explanation."
Jason's spine stiffened. He could feel the blood rushing to his face. The first pang of fear was quickly washed away by red-hot anger. His hands clenched shut.
"Figures. What else did my Commander have to say?"
"He said you fell out of whirlwind pyramid formation. That you were barely cognisant afterwards."
"Nice." Jason retorted.
"What is going on?" the Chief pressed.
"Nothing. I had a bad day, alright? Is that allowed?"
"No. Not when the fate of the Earth is resting in your hands. It is not allowed."
"Give me a break..."
The Chief rose and placed his palms on his desk.
"This is no joke, Jason. If you weren't fit for the mission you should have said so. Your actions endangered not only your own life, but also your teammates' and possibly the life of every citizen on Earth. You have a responsibility to this team..."
"If I HADN'T been back on the Phoenix, NONE of us would be here right now to..."
"That's NOT the point! You are the only member of G-force to consistently be contradictory, late or even fail to show up for missions..."
Jason rose from the chair quickly enough to send it tumbling backward.
"What EXACTLY are you trying to say!?" Jason shouted.
The Chief paused and inhaled deeply. He rubbed the bridge of his nose with two fingers.
"I didn't call you here to fight with you. Please sit down."
"I'll stand." Jason said hotly.
"Fine. I want two things from you. One - you will report to one of our medics and get a complete physical. Two - the next time you are unfit you will immediately report it to Mark. Don't make him try to guess it out of you, and don't play the hero. Is that clear?"
"As crystal, Chief Anderson."
"Are we done?"
"Yes." the Chief sighed. "You may go."
Chief Anderson followed Jason with his eyes until the door shut behind him. The Chief leaned back in his chair. He could feel the tension dissipating from the room, leaving a strange emptiness in its place. He knew his blood pressure was up - the tightness in his chest was a sure indication.
"What is it about that boy?" he wondered aloud.
The Chief shook his head. Jason was so independent. It was his best and worst quality. It had been a source of friction on the team from the start, but added a dimension that had its useful moments. The Chief caught a glimpse of his own reflection in the window that gave him a view of the ocean floor. He had been accused of being independent himself by his peers.
Is that it? Are we too alike? After a moment of pondering, he decided against that theory. As reluctant as he was to admit it, Chief Anderson knew the true source of the doubts he felt about Jason. He crossed the room and touched a small island on his wall map of Riga. A small panel in the wall opened in response. The Chief pulled out a small roll of microfiche and gingerly rolled it around in his hand. The truth was in his hands.
But do I dare give it to him?
The urgent ringing of his desk phone snapped him out of his contemplation.
"Anderson here." he paused. "Go ahead Zark,"
As he listened, his face grew very grave. He slipped the microfiche into his desk drawer.
"I see. I'll speak to President Cane at once."
Replacing the receiver, the Chief could feel the tightness returning to his chest. He felt as if his heart had been torn out his body.
Spectra had infiltrated Galaxy Security. Zoltar was after the Conway code.
Keeyop peered into the whirling red mass in the blender.
"Maybe. But it's good for you." Princess poured the concoction into a tall glass. "It's chalk full of minerals."
Keeyop covered his mouth with both hands and shook his head vigorously.
"It's not for you - this time." she sighed.
Brightening with the prospect of someone else's torture, he topped the glass with a slice of lemon. He followed closely behind Princess as she headed for her intended victim. She crossed the Snack J - Keeyop in tow - and plopped the glass down in front of Jason.
"Here. You look like you need this."
"I don't think so." Jason said, pushing the glass away from him.
"It's full of chalk!" Keeyop piped happily.
"I don't doubt it." Jason squinted at the menacing drink.
"It's a vegetable cocktail!" Princess huffed. "And it's good for you. Especially when you aren't eating properly."
She stood in front of his booth, blocking his escape, with hands on her hips. Jason looked at her dubiously, then at the drink. A moment passed.
"No." he said resolutely.
"Yes." she insisted. "Or else you will do your own laundry from now on."
"That isn't fair." he protested.
"Go ahead!" Keeyop pushed the drink closer to Jason.
The door chimed as Tiny entered. Noticing the commotion in the back corner booth, and Keeyop's obvious glee, Tiny decided to investigate. He plopped down in the seat opposite Jason.
"What's going on?"
"Great. An audience." Jason crossed arms over his chest.
"Tiny!" Keeyop chirped. "Make him drink that!"
Tiny eyed the glass.
"Is it a dare? Or just plain old torture?"
"For crying out loud. It's GOOD for you!" Princess repeated. "Besides, you wouldn't want certain articles of clothing to end up in my display case, would you Jase?"
"Fine." Jason said sourly. He reached over, closed his eyes, and sipped at the glass. His expression sent Keeyop into a fit of hysterics. Tiny laughed openly, and Princess did her best to keep from shaking.
"Happy?" Jason whispered hoarsely, searching for a coffee chaser.
"Very." Princess spun and returned to the bar.
Keeyop stayed long enough to whisper something about chalk in Tiny's ear, then added a stern "All of it!" to Jason before retreating to the kitchen. Princess clipped him with a towel end as he passed by her.
"You'll get your turn sometime," she warned.
She began polishing some glasses with the towel, glancing over to see Tiny pointing at the red drink and Jason with his head in his hands. She stifled a giggle.
Mark sauntered in, and took the stool across from her. He graced Princess with a smile and a nod when she waved hello. He looked over at Jason, who glared back in response.
"Don't pay any attention to Jason, he's just miffed because I'm making him drink something nasty - but good for him." Princess said.
"No, I'm afraid that's a special look just for me." Mark replied.
"Why? What happened?"
"Apparently the Chief and Jason had a little conversation this morning - about the mission. It wouldn't have escaped Jason that I was the one who filled Anderson in. Once again, I am Commander Rat."
"Oh Mark. I was afraid this would happen. But I still think you did the right thing."
"I think so too, but the Chief didn't handle it the way I expected him to. I don't think it went over well."
"Does it ever?" she laughed. "So. You hungry?"
"Famished. What's on the menu?" Mark asked.
"Well, I've got this great vegetable drink..."
"Pass." he said quickly.
"Okay, how about a club sandwich?"
Princess leaned in close to him.
"You know, someday you're going to have to pay me back for all the food you eat here."
"Someday," he said softly, "I'm going to pay you back for a lot of things."
Mark reached across the bar and clasped both her hands in his. He slowly rubbed her palms with his. Princess didn't speak. He traced the scars radiating across both her palms.
"We've come so far," he said softly.
"Yes," she whispered, "We have."
She stared at him a moment longer then backed away. Smiling, she poured him a tall glass of ice water.
Tiny followed the direction of Jason's stare and then took a sip of his soda.
"They look pretty happy, don't they?" Tiny asked.
"Yeah." Jason replied. "I'm glad it worked out."
Tiny paused long enough for Jason to feel uncomfortable. He began to wonder if Tiny suspected there was a tinge of regret in that statement and decided to change the subject - quickly.
"Sorry about snapping at you the other day."
"Which day?" Tiny said with a laugh.
It was said light heartedly, but Jason couldn't help but feel a little guilty. Tiny and Keeyop were all too often the victims of his lashing out. Mark was also on the receiving end, but he deserved most of what he got. Tiny, on the other hand, was usually trying to keep the peace.
"You can make it up to me by doing me a favour." Tiny said without skipping a beat.
"I need a ride tomorrow afternoon."
"That's it? What happened to your van?" Jason asked.
"It's in the shop." Tiny lied. "Gotta warn you though, it's a long drive."
"You should have just asked me to have a look at it." Jason said, puzzled.
Tiny stared at his fiddling fingers, hoping he didn't look too obvious. He wasn't very good at lying, and especially wouldn't be able to pull one over on Jason if it involved auto mechanics.
"I - uh - didn't think of that. Anyway, I'll write down the directions so you don't get lost. Can you pick me up around four?"
"Sure. Whatever. Just remind me again tomorrow."
Jason downed his vegetable cocktail and finished with a sour face. He gave Princess his best "I'll get you" look, and headed for the door.
"You leaving?" Mark asked over his shoulder.
"I'm going to the gym. You wanna report it to Anderson?" Jason snapped.
Mark didn't answer, but also didn't exhale until he heard the door close shut.
"Well." Princess said cheerfully. "All things considered, I'd say that went pretty well."
Tiny sauntered over to the counter, arms clasped behind his back like a wise old man.
"What?" Mark asked, noticing Tiny's beaming expression.
"Oh nothing..." Tiny said innocently.
"WHAT!?" Princess and Mark asked together.
"Just playing a little cupid, that's all." Tiny said happily.
"Oh Tiny." Princess said.
"Oh no." Mark covered his eyes.
"What? Come on! Can't a guy do a nice thing for his friend? The guy is lonely!" Tiny protested.
"Tiny - Jason isn't lonely." Mark said sternly.
"Shows what you know, Mark. You watch. You'll be saying that ol'Tiny was right after all in a few days. Once he meets Jess, I just know he's gonna fall for her. She's a real looker! You'll see - Jason will be whistling a different tune."
"Tiny, nothing would make me happier. But if this blows up..."
"If this doesn't work - I'll drink one of those things." He pointed to the empty glass with red flecks stuck to its sides.
Mark just sighed. Somehow, he knew he was going to be blamed for this.
Jason sipped his decaf from a styrofoam cup as he drove down a long, boring, dusty country road. He consulted the hand-scrawled directions on the passenger seat one more time.
"What the heck is Tiny doing out here anyway?"
A small ranch finally appeared on the horizon. It grew closer and closer, and Jason could make out a small house, three barns and a backdrop of sprawling trees. He pulled up the drive and parked. The place was completely deserted.
"Hello?" he shouted.
Still nothing. He checked the numbers on the small house - they matched. Several rings of the doorbell, however, got him no response. He noticed that some of the barn doors were open.
Jason peered into the darkness of the closest barn. He was about to leave when a few shafts of light caught on some polished chrome. Curious, he opened the barn door further to let in more light. The light streaked across the barn floor coming to rest on a sight that took Jason's breath away. Here in this decrepit old barn, and illuminated in a halo of angelic light, was a classic convertible Shelby Cobra. He rested his hand gently on the dark blue hood that hid a souped up V-8 engine beneath.
"Look at that. My colour, and my size."
Two white stripes raced across her body. Twin chrome exhaust pipes adorned each side in the rear. Jason frowned when he noticed the thin layer of dust inside the pipes.
"Poor baby. You haven't been out for a run in a while."
He admired the car for a few more minutes, then resumed his search for Tiny. There was a chance he could find out who owned that car, and do something about that dust. He checked the second barn, and finding no one but a friendly tabby, headed for the third barn.
Jason was getting mildly frustrated. If Tiny had sent him here on a goose chase, there was going to be hell to pay. Of course, he did get to meet the Shelby...
A bale of hay suddenly came crashing down from above. Jason darted to the side and swore to himself.
"Hey!" he shouted.
"Hello!?" he yelled up into the opening where the bale had come from.
Another bale came crashing down. To his left he noticed a ladder heading up into the loft. In two leaps, he was up in the loft and bearing down on the hay thrower. A medium sized brunette wearing work gloves and a dirty checkered shirt found herself facing a patented condor charge.
"Geez, lady! You nearly took my head off down there!" he fumed.
"Oh! I'm sorry I..." she dropped the bale she was carrying.
"I've only been hollering for the last twenty minutes! You could have at least let me know that you were up here."
Patiently, she waited for him to finish. She picked a few pieces of hay off her shirt. Jason crossed his arms and allowed her to respond.
"I'm sorry I didn't hear you. I'm deaf."
Jason felt his gut twist in a knot. He closed his eyes and cursed himself inwardly. Idiot! Try removing the foot from your mouth THIS time...
"It's ok." she smiled. "You couldn't have known."
"I - I am so sorry." he stammered.
"No, really." she laughed out loud. "I'm not wearing the sign that says 'I'm deaf' on my back today!"
"Apparently I am wearing the one that says 'Complete Ass'."
She clapped her hands together once, and removed a glove. She grabbed Jason's hand and proceeded to shake it.
"I'm Jessica. You're Jason. Nice to meet you. Shall we start over again this way?" she smiled.
"How did you..."
"Tiny told me you were coming. Come on, let's get out of the loft."
Happy to oblige, Jason followed her down the ladder. Jessica reached the bottom, took off the checkered shirt and hung it on a hook.
"So where is..." Jason started.
She turned to face him, and held up her hand.
"Wait until I'm looking at you when you speak to me."
"Don't worry. You're a smart boy - you'll catch on soon enough." she winked at him.
"Sorry - again. So, where is Tiny anyway?"
"He's out in the back field with Tucker. Shall we go get him?"
"Sure." he shrugged.
Jessica led him out of the barn, then ducked back in again herself. She emerged with two saddled horses in tow.
"This one's yours." she said, extending the reigns of a dapple-grey gelding. She proceeded to mount her own dunn mare in a quick, graceful motion. She looked down to see Jason still standing awkwardly beside the grey.
"You haven't ridden before?" she asked with concern.
"I've ridden." he answered, slightly puzzled.
"Then let's go." she clucked her horse forward.
With only her back, and her horse's rear end to protest to, Jason gave up and quickly mounted his horse. He caught up to her with a trot. Soon they were walking side by side.
"So, you have ridden after all." Jessica nodded her approval.
"Yeah, I just wasn't expecting to do so today. I would have brought my lasso." he replied.
Jessica looked puzzled.
"Funny. Tiny said you wanted to come out here for a ride..."
As her sentence trailed off, their situation finally dawned on her. Apparently, Jason had also come to the same conclusion, and was shaking his head.
"That Tiny. I'm going to have to get him for this!" she said wryly. "I'm sorry Jason. I wouldn't have pushed you to ride had I known you didn't want to. I just assumed...."
"Don't worry - I'll get him for both of us." Jason laughed. "And I don't mind the ride. It's actually kind of relaxing."
Jason leaned over and patted his grey on the neck. The horse snorted back in appreciation.
"He likes you." she smiled.
"He's not exactly my type."
"No, I don't think so. You look more like the slinky-blond type."
"Ack. No. No more blondes." Jason said.
"Oh dear. Bad experience?" she asked.
"Let's just say they're bad for my health."
They walked on in silence for a while longer. Jason took a moment to admire the scenery. It had been a while since he was in a forest. The air was clean and sweet smelling. He felt great. He didn't miss the opportunity to admire his companion either. Jessica was older than he was, by at least a couple of years. She looked pretty cute in her jeans and white t-shirt, but Jason had something else on his mind.
"Jessica?" he reached over and touched her arm. "Jessica?"
"Just call me Jess." she said, turning to look at him again.
"Is that your car back there?"
A shadow seemed to cross her face. For a split second she appeared to be weary - older. She blinked and smiled weakly.
"You found the convertible? It belongs to my brother. His pride and joy."
"He should look after it better. You should never let a car sit idle for too long, dust settles in the worst places, the lube gums up and the..."
"You like cars?" she interrupted him.
"Like them? You're talking to a pro." Jason said proudly. "I'm pretty well known on the racing circuit."
"I'm impressed. Tiny said you worked for Galaxy Security."
Jason stiffened in his saddle. Mark would have freaked out if he was here. Tiny had made a major breech in protocol.
"What else did Tiny say?" Jason probed.
"He said the two of you worked together at Galaxy Security." she tilted her head and laughed lightly. "Don't worry about it Jason. A lot of people around here work for Gal Sec. It's a pretty big institution. I know you guys do top secret stuff over there. I won't ask you any hard questions - promise. In fact, I'd rather not know. I'm very content here in my own little world."
"You seem to know exactly what I'm thinking." he said.
"Your body language is pretty obvious - no offence. It's just something you pick up after a while - observation becomes a necessity. Your lips tell me your words, but the rest of you gives your feelings away. It actually makes my life easier - most people can't lie to me."
"I'm that transparent?" Jason asked.
"It's not an insult. Just an observation. Sometimes it's not that obvious either. Subtle movements - a twitch of the cheek, an extra blink - they all mean something too. Hands and eyes, however, those are the biggest clues." she replied.
Jason nodded, suddenly very conscious of every movement he was making. Perhaps overly so. Jessica seemed to pick up on his self-examination and changed the direction of the conversation.
"So how do you find time to race between spying on other planets?" she winked.
"Actually, I'm just the janitor. Tiny carries my bucket."
She laughed aloud, and Jason couldn't help laughing with her. When she looked at him again there were tears in her eyes.
"That - is one hell of a mental image." she snickered.
"Hey, I look great in a mop." he feigned insult.
"I bet." she paused. "So race boy, do you handle horses as well as you supposedly handle cars?"
"The back field is around this bend and over a small ridge. It opens up after that clump of trees on the right. Shall we race? Winner gets to punish Tiny for setting us up."
"You're on, farm girl."
With a shout, they were off. Kicking dust clouds up behind him and whooping encouragement to his horse, Jason plunged ahead. He leaned forward, pumping his reigns and smiling broadly. The adrenaline rush was almost as good as racing. Jess and her dunn thundered past him. She had risen out of her seat and was also leaning forward.
"Come to think of it," he said out loud, "the view isn't bad either."
Tiny rubbed his throbbing arm. He inspected the forming bruise on his triceps from the charlie-horse Jason had given him.
"Man. I'm not doing you any favours again anytime soon." he complained.
Jason looked at him sternly from the driver's seat. The world blurred past in the window behind him.
"Good. I can handle my own love life, thanks. Besides, I think you embarrassed her."
"Are you kidding? Nothing gets to Jess. She's tough as nails." Tiny laughed.
"Yeah." Jason smiled.
"A-HA! See! I knew you liked her!" Tiny snapped his fingers.
"She's nice Tiny, but I didn't say I liked her THAT way."
The streetlights blinked on, warming up for the oncoming evening. The sun was comfortably behind them, but the new lights above him made Jason squint. Grimacing, he anticipated the headache that was coming.
"You should have at least warned me that she was deaf."
"I didn't want you to make any decisions until you met her." Tiny said. "Too many people already act weird around her because of it. I barely even notice."
Jason decided not to tell Tiny about his own disaster. He cringed thinking about it.
"Tiny, reach in the glove compartment and dig me out an aspirin, ok?"
Tiny rummaged in the glove box, and pulled out a little orange bottle. The safety seal was still on it. He read the label quickly.
"This doesn't look like aspirin. Who is Dr. Runyon? I've never met him before."
"Just give me one." Jason ordered. "Make it two."
Tiny obliged, and Jason popped them in his mouth. He accelerated slightly. He was hoping to get back in time to take a quick nap before the training session Mark had set for eight o'clock. They were still a good half-hour away.
"So what does her brother do?" Jason asked, making conversation.
"Her brother?" Tiny asked in astonishment.
"Yeah, her brother. The one that would be related to her. The one that doesn't look after a car that he doesn't deserve."
"Jeez, Jason. Her brother is dead."
"Dead?!" Jason gripped the wheel tighter.
"Yeah, he died on Riga. During the first Spectra attack." Tiny said.
"Riga! She's Rigan?"
"Didn't she tell you? That's when she lost her hearing. The city she lived in was one of the first to be bombed by Spectra. She was one of the few survivors to make it to Earth... The rest of her family wasn't so lucky." Tiny answered.
"Man." Jason whispered.
They continued on without much more conversation. Tiny clicked on the radio and leaned back in his seat. He was snoring in minutes. Jason was slightly jealous. The country air seemed to have sapped his strength. Even his fingertips were beginning to feel numb. He shook his head clear. It wasn't far. Home was only a few minutes away.
When Chief Anderson saw Keeyop standing alone in the hallway outside the rec room, all of his paternal warning bells began to sound. He checked his watch - eight-thirty-six. The team should have been in the training room working on some new combat maneuvers.
"Ch-ch-chIEF!" Keeyop stood up straightly.
"What is going on?" Anderson asked.
"Wha? Nothing, just - just - just - hanging out!" He crossed his legs, and whistled nonchalantly.
"Keeyop. Don't lie to me." the Chief said sternly. "You are obviously guarding the door. Either tell me what's going on, or let me pass."
Eyes wide, Keeyop hesitated only for a second. He hung his head in defeat and stepped away from the door. There were times that he resented being the youngest member of the team, but this wasn't one of them. Even if he had wanted to, he wouldn't have been able to tell the Chief what was going on because he didn't understand it himself. All he knew was that there was no way he could possibly be held responsible for what was happening on the other side of the door. And that was a very good thing.
The door slid open as the Chief approached. The other four members were indeed inside the rec room and hurried into a line-up position to greet him. For some reason, Jason was saluting. Mark elbowed him, and the salute fell away. A pot full of coffee and an overturned cup were on the table that was normally piled with Tiny's space burgers.
"Chief." Mark said, breathing just a little deeper than usual.
"Mark. Why aren't you training? Why is Keeyop guarding the door?"
"We were, ah - just going over some tactical drills, Chief." Mark said.
"That's right!" Princess added. "And we were going to quiz Keeyop when he came back inside."
Jason nodded his head in emphatic agreement, grinning madly.
Chief Anderson frowned, disliking the monkey business that was obviously going on. He was also greatly disturbed by the ease of Mark's ability to boldly lie to him. He decided to focus on the one member of G-Force who couldn't tell a lie and keep a straight face.
"Uh, yes Chief?" Tiny stared at the floor with interest.
"Would you mind filling me in please?"
"Well, um... it's like Mark said...."
"Look at me Tiny." the Chief commanded.
Tiny raised his chin, and a bead of sweat was forming on his brow. His lips were pressed tightly together.
"We - we were drilling some tacs, Chief. And -"
Jason burst out with laughing. Out of the corner of his eye, Chief Anderson saw Princess pinch the side of his pant leg and twist. Jason quit laughing immediately, but he was visibly shaking with the effort to keep it contained. He turned to Princess and stuck his tongue out at her. Anderson decided to let Tiny off the hook and pursue this new avenue.
"Care to share the joke, Jason."
He shook his head vigorously in negative response. Princess was still pinching.
"I'd like an answer."
Again, Jason only shook his head. Mark's cheeks were beginning to flush.
"Jason! Answer me!" the Chief ordered.
Jason leaned closer towards the Chief and then paused. Finally he whispered, "I'm not allowed to talk to you!" And then promptly lost his balance.
Mark covered his eyes with his hand, Princess collapsed onto the couch, and Tiny slunk over to where Keeyop was standing by the door. Jason caught himself before actually falling completely over, but it was an obvious struggle to keep vertical without Mark and Princess on either side of him.
"And why would that be?" the Chief eyed Jason like a hawk eyes a mouse.
"I don't remember." Jason crossed his arms over his chest but it almost caused him to lose his balance again. He shrugged and looked over at Princess. "Oh yes! Because if I don't, she'll pinch me again!"
"Jason!" Princess hissed.
"Hey, I never said I didn't like it!" he laughed.
"Why are you behaving so strangely?" the Chief asked Jason.
"See?" Jason spoke to Mark, "Told ya he wouldn't notice. You worry too much."
"Mark! What the devil is going on?" the Chief was visibly agitated.
"To be honest Chief, I'm not sure myself. We found him this way! He was asleep on the couch when we came in, and has been like this since he woke up!" Mark said.
"We'll discuss your honesty another time Commander..."
"It's true Chief!" Tiny added. "I was with him the whole time before we got here. We were driving back from Jess' place together. Then he came in here to lie down! I don't know when he would have had time to get drunk..."
"He's not drunk." Anderson replied. "Your cybernetic implants won't allow that to happen. Special blood filters kick in if your blood alcohol level gets above a certain point. On top of that, Zark receives a special signal if any one of you happens to actually need the activation of these filters..."
Four pairs of eyebrows went up in surprise.
"So far, that has yet to happen." The Chief grabbed Jason's face in his hands and looked carefully into his eyes.
"Chief!" Jason smiled. "What will the others think?"
"Quiet." the Chief shone his pocket light into both of Jason's eyes. "Hmmm... pupils are still dilated." He held Jason's wrist in one hand. The Chief's eyes widened in surprise. "Your pulse is sky-rocketing! Are you feeling ill?"
"Right as rain!" Jason said, tilting precariously to one side.
"Except for the headache." Tiny added.
"What headache?" Anderson turned to Tony.
"He had a headache on the drive home, so he took an aspirin. Maybe two of them."
"Do you have them? What kind of aspirin were they?" Anderson asked Jason.
Jason dutifully produced the orange bottle out of his pocket. He squinted at the label. "Su-ma...sumatrip-tan."
"A triptan? WHO gave you this?" Anderson swiped the bottle out of Jason's hands. "Jason, who is Dr. Runyon?" his eyes scanned down to the bottom of the label. "Southport Medical Clinic? You went to an OUTSIDE medical facility? Jason, are you mad?"
"No, I just..."
"My god, boy! Where is your head?" He grabbed Jason's shoulders and shook them. "Do you realise how stupid this was? How dangerous ..." he paused. The four other members of the team were staring at him in wonder. Knowing this lecture would be best done at another time, in another place he decided to address them instead.
"The rest of you should consider this a lesson. I ask you to use our medical facilities for a reason. Only our doctors are familiar with your individual ... requirements. Besides the obvious security reasons, it is for the benefit of your own health. Jason is having an allergic reaction to this medication - something that our doctors are already familiar with."
"Are we all allergic?" Keeyop asked.
"We really should be informed about that sort of thing, Chief." Mark added.
"An oversight, Mark. You can all have access to your medical records if you wish. No, Keeyop. Only Jason is allergic to this particular drug." Anderson answered.
"But Chief..." Princess looked confounded. "Wouldn't he be having an anaphylactic reaction if he was allergic? What mechanism..."
"I don't remember you having an M.D., Princess." the Chief answered.
Princess shrunk from his comment. It had had the desired effect. The Chief hoped she wouldn't dwell on it. She was the sharpest member of the team when it came to scientific knowledge, and she was the hardest to convince when it came to these matters. He looked over at Jason who was sitting sullenly on the couch.
"Someone will have to stay with him tonight, until the drug wears off."
"He can stay at my place Chief." Mark offered.
"Fine. Take him home and make sure he drinks plenty of water." Anderson turned to leave. "And let's all pray that Zoltar stays quiet for the next twelve hours. I'll be right back." The door hissed shut behind him.
"Zark receives a signal?" Mark said quietly to Princess.
"I had no idea." Princess replied. "What other kind of signals does he get, I wonder."
Mark shook his head in amazement. "Let's not even speculate."
"Mark, this is scary." Princess was grasping his forearm.
"I know. We'll work on it." he promised.
Anderson returned armed with a syringe. Before he could raise protest, the Chief grabbed Jason's arm and injected him in the triceps.
"Where's my sucker?" Jason asked with a laugh. Anderson just glared at him. Within seconds Jason slumped back onto the couch, eyes closed.
"A word of advice Mark. I've given him a shot of sodium pentothal to counteract some of the effects of his reaction. It will bring his heart rate and blood pressure down to normal and the giddiness will subside. However, there may be some lingering effects to deal with."
"Like what?" Mark asked.
"For one, he is going to have an incredible headache in the morning. No aspirin. Just water. Second, he may experience some ... lack of inhibition ... for a short time. I suggest you both retire for the evening early and take advantage of some sleep."
"All right Chief. Whatever you say." Mark helped Jason to his feet, throwing an arm over his shoulder. "Ready to go, Sleeping Beauty?"
Jason mumbled some kind of response and the ungainly pair made their exit.
"Sure would like to be a fly on that wall tonight!" Tiny whispered to Keeyop.
"Go to sleep early ... in his dreams!" Keeyop retorted.
The Chief remained behind long enough to give the others a lecture on deception and then left them alone. As soon as he was gone, Princess darted off to catch Mark before he left. She found him in the upper level garage, helping Jason into the passenger seat of his red sports car.
"Don't even think about getting sick." he warned his semi-conscious ward.
"Mark!" Princess called, running up to him.
"Princess. What's up?"
"Mark, there is something really strange about this whole thing."
"Tell me about it." Mark glanced over at a sleeping Jason.
"I'm serious. I don't think the Chief is telling us everything. If Jason was having an allergic reaction to the drug, it should be much more severe than it was - in most cases anyway. But even if we assume he WAS having an allergic reaction, why in the world did the Chief give him sodium pentothal instead of epinephrine or an antihistamine?"
"Princess you've lost me."
"Mark, sodium pentothal is a kind of sedative. It was used in the old days as a kind of truth serum. I've never heard of using it to combat an allergic reaction. I have no idea why it would work against a triptan - they use totally different mechanisms." Princess said.
"Truth serum? Really?" Mark wondered.
"Sort of. It doesn't force you to tell the truth, but it lowers your inhibitions. Makes you more relaxed." she answered. Princess glanced between Jason and Mark. "Do you want me to come with you? You might need a hand."
"No. I don't think that would be a good idea." Mark winked at her. "We'll be fine. Just like a boys' night out! Don't worry." He flashed a beautiful smile at her and crossed to the driver's side. "I'll see you tomorrow. The Chief must have his reasons."
"Good luck!" she shouted over the engine. "You're going to need it."