Recovery by jublke
[Reviews - 8] - Table of Contents - [Report This]

Printer Chapter or Story
- Text Size +

In the end, Jason decided to call a team meeting.  It would be easier than explaining things to each of them individually.  He watched his teammates enter the ready room and he waited impatiently as they fanned around the table and took their seats.  Finally, four expectant faces were staring at him.

Jason had hoped that a straight talk would cut down on gossip and speculation.  Once his staff was assembled, though, he found it hard to speak.  Don’t mince words, he told himself.   Just get right to the point.

Jason cleared his throat.  “I called you in here today …”

“Jason!  Your wrist!” Princess interrupted.  Darien, Tiny, and Keyop joined her in staring at his left arm.

Well, this is going well, Jason thought

He crossed his arms, folding his right arm over his bandaged left one.  He gave Princess a hard look before continuing.  She looked away.

“As I was saying, I called you in here today because I wanted you to hear this from me.  Medical has found another problem with my implant …”

There were three sharp inhalations of breath and one “Oh!” from Princess.

Damn.  I guess I should have said that differently. 

“.. but it’s a minor problem,” he said.  “Emphasis on the word ‘minor’.  Nothing like before.  I’m only telling you because I want to change a few procedures around here.”   And I don’t want you second-guessing my decisions.  Or gossiping about me behind my back.

Keyop cocked an eyebrow.  “Change what?”

“Jason, what’s wrong?” Princess asked.

“The recharge phase of my implant isn’t working as well as it should,” Jason said.  “The Chief thinks that I need more time for ...”  He gritted his teeth.  Do I have to admit this?  “… rest and recovery.”  Jason’s frustration spilled out with every word.  He couldn’t bring himself to look at Princess.

“And your wrist?” she pressed.

“Again,” Jason said, daring to glance at her this time, “it’s nothing serious.  I injured it when that goon slammed into me during the bombing on Riga.  I guess I didn’t rest it long enough.  Medical wants me to keep my wrist immobile for the next few days whenever we’re off-duty to let the implant do its job.  It won’t affect me in the field.”

Princess looked marginally pacified, but her eyes remained riveted on his wrist. 

Darien spoke for the first time.  “You said you wanted to change some procedures, Commander?”

“Yes,” Jason said, thankful for the change of subject.  “I need to alter some of our usual assignments.  I know that normally the Commander goes last through debriefing, but I need to start going first.”

Keyop gave him an odd look.  “Uh, why?”

Jason sighed.  I can do this.  I can ask for help.  I hope you appreciate this, Chief.  “The sooner I get out of debrief, the sooner I can go off-duty.  I’m supposed to be getting more rest, remember?”  He looked around the table.  His team universally looked worried.

Jason shook his head.  “You can talk to the Chief if you have more questions.  I’ve been assured that this isn’t something that will affect my performance on duty.  I’ve been this way since surgery.” 

Jason paused to let the implications of that statement sink in.  Three successful missions.  Other than oversleeping the Bird Scramble when they escorted the transport, he knew he’d performed well in the field. 

“I’ve been training hard in my off-hours, thinking that would help my fitness and speed up my recovery.  Apparently, that’s been keeping the implant from doing its job.  The Chief said that I need to give myself some time after every mission to rest.  I haven’t been doing that.”  Keyop and Darien’s faces began to relax.  Tiny looked thoughtful.  Only Princess still appeared stricken.

Jason placed his one hand on the table, the gesture as open-postured as he could manage.  “The only thing that will be different is that I’m going to try to take it easy for the first couple of hours after we get back from a mission instead of heading straight to the track or the gym.”  He looked at Princess pointedly.

She met his gaze and spoke quietly.  “Do you want me to write up the debriefing memos for you?”

He nodded.  “Yeah.  I think it would make more sense to do it that way.”

“I can fill out the requisition forms, too,” she added. 

Jason nodded again.

“What else?” asked Darien. 

Jason looked around the table at each of them in turn.  “Let me know if you think of something.  I don’t need or want special treatment, but ways to make our procedures more efficient – especially docking and tear down – would be useful.”  He looked at Darien.  “I know you’ve given this a lot of thought, Falcon.  If you’ve got some changes you’d like to suggest for our Standard Operating Procedures, now’s the time.  Send me your report.”

Darien nodded.  “I’d be happy to.”

Tiny ventured a look at Jason.  His tone was hesitant.  “Uh, Jase.  I’m just wondering … does it make sense to keep those 6 a.m. training sessions?”

Jason laughed.  Tiny’s face relaxed completely.   

“Not one of my better ideas, huh?   You were right, Tiny.  It was a stupid idea.  It doesn’t make sense to set up any training for the first day back, let alone at the crack of dawn.  I think we should drop training for the entire day after a mission.”

Jason heard murmurings of agreement around the table.  Finally, Keyop spoke.

“How long?” he asked.

“How long what?”  Jason replied.  Tiny cast a sidelong glance at Princess and shook his head. 

“Until you’re better,” Keyop clarified.  Darien winced.

“Keyop!” Princess wailed.

Jason held up his good hand.  “No, it’s okay.  I’d rather you guys ask me directly.”  He looked at Keyop.  “You mean, until my implant is better, Keyop?”   The boy nodded.

Jason shook his head.  “That’s a good question.  Nobody knows.  The Chief says everything’s within specs.”  Jason swallowed.  “So it could keep improving or this could be as good as it gets.”

His teammates looked at each other.  Jason tried to read their minds, without success, while he waited for someone – anyone – to break the silence. 

Finally, Darien smiled at him.  “That’s good enough for me,” he said.

“Me, too,” said Keyop.

“We’re all behind you, Jason,” Tiny said.  “We’ll make it work.”

“Thanks.” Jason hadn’t realized that he was holding his breath until he exhaled.  Only Princess hadn’t spoken. 

“And now, I need to talk to my second.  Alone.  Owl, Falcon, Swallow, you are dismissed.”

***

He wouldn’t look at her.  Didn’t speak a word.  Just walked around the table with that look on his face, the same look he used to stare down Spectran goons and force them to surrender without ever drawing a weapon.  Jason knew his reputation and he often used it to its full advantage.  But she couldn’t remember the last time he had tried to use it on her.

Princess sat back in the chair, folded her arms, and stared ahead resolutely.  Not this time.  Her eyes narrowed into the Condor stare.  Two could play at this game.

“You deliberately went behind my back,” he said, finally.  Almost his command voice, she noted, but she could hear the edge of anger he was trying so desperately to control.  “Your behavior could have cost me my place on the team.”

She stared at him.  Is he serious?   “Your behavior could have landed you in the infirmary.”  She looked pointedly at his wrist.  “Or worse!”   

“You should have come to me first.”  Cold, calculated words. 

Princess stood up.  He was goading her, she knew, hoping his artificial calm would prod her into letting her guard down and reacting to him emotionally.  Mark must use this technique on Jason.  But, even knowing that, she found that she just couldn’t let his comment pass. 

“I did!  I tried!  Every time I came to talk to you, you had some excuse about why it wasn’t a good time.  It’s never a good time to talk to you, Jason.”

He stiffened, just slightly, and she knew her statement had hit its mark.  He glared at her. 

She shook her head.  “You treat me like I’m not even here!”  Now that she had started talking, her frustration spilled over, the words flowing faster and faster.  “You never listen to me, you never consider what I have to say.  You’re trying to run this team all by yourself and you’re going to get yourself killed.”  The words were out of her mouth before she could take them back.

“It’s good to know you have such faith in my command.”  His sarcasm was edged in ice.

Just then, their bracelets pinged in unison.  Bird Scramble.  A series of flashes bespoke the urgency:  Get airborne.  Now. 

And, just like that, Jason’s command face crumbled.  Princess could read the panic in his eyes.  He swore and punched the nearest chair.

Instinctively, she set aside her anger and reached out to him.  “Jason, what’s wrong?”   

He locked his jaw and looked at her warily.  Just when she thought he wasn’t going to answer, he spoke in a whisper.  “I can’t move my wrist.”

She made a face and shook her head at him.  “So?  We’ll cut the bandages off.  You can have Medical re-wrap you when we get back.  The implant will keep you going until then, right?”

He closed his eyes and shook his head.  Something wasn’t right, but he didn’t volunteer the information.

“Jason, Princess, where are you?”  7-Zark-7 sounded worried.

Jason spoke into his wrist com.  “We’ll be right there, Zark.”  Then, he put his unwrapped hand to his face.  “Can this day get any worse?”

Princess tried to stay calm.  It unnerved her to see Jason like this, but at least he was finally talking.  How long had it been between missions?  Just a few hours.  Not long enough for any of them to recover, really.  Certainly not Jason.  He’d gone in to see the Chief, headed down to Medical to have his arm taped, and then he’d met with the team.  She wasn’t even sure if he had eaten. 

Is he exhausted?   Can he handle the mission?  Will he tell me if there’s a problem?   The biggest question loomed large in the corners of her mind:  Can I trust him?

Almost as if he could read her thoughts, Jason looked up and said, “I’m an idiot,” and sank into the nearest chair.  He swore again.  “I talked an intern into giving me numbing drops.”

“You did *what*?”  She blinked at him.  Is he serious?   

He looked at her levelly.  “It seemed like a good idea at the time.  If I’m forced to rest right after a mission, I might as well get the most out of it.  How was I supposed to know that Spectra would turn around and attack us again today?”  He shook his head and buried his face in his good hand. 

Princess fought hard not to scream at him.  We’re only supposed to use those when we’re out on Medical leave and inactive!  What were you thinking? 

But she could guess exactly what he had been thinking.  Physically immobilizing an injury helped the implant to speed recovery.  Adding numbing drops cut your recovery time even further.  Jason was desperate to hide any weakness, desperate to recover as soon as possible and be back in control of his life - and his health. 

Well, he’s not in control now, she thought.  And whether he likes it or not, he needs my help.  “How do you feel otherwise?” she asked.

“Apart from the fact that I can’t move my hand?” Jason snapped, but he regarded her question more thoughtfully once he realized that she was waiting for a real answer.  “Tired, but not exhausted.  Other than my arm, I’m fine.”

She crossed the room quickly, opened one of the cabinets in the kitchenette, and pulled out two energy bars and a bottle of water.  Then she checked the everything drawer, the one filled with the random flotsam of their daily life: the spare key to Mark’s apartment, Jason’s half-chewed pens from the track, matches from Tiny’s favorite restaurants, the magnifying glass from Keyop’s insect habitat, even a few of Darien’s drawing pencils.  As soon as she found the scissors, she brought the items over to Jason and handed him the mini-meal.  As he crammed the energy bars down his throat and chugged the water – confirming her suspicion that he hadn’t had a chance to eat - Princess deftly cut off his bandages.  

Both knew that you couldn’t wear medical wraps during transmutation unless they were specially-made and incorporated into your official uniform.  Early in their careers, Tiny had tried once when he had sprained his ankle.  He had split the seams of his leggings right down the middle.  Fortunately, it had only been a training exercise.

Special medical devices were costly.  The Chief and 7-Zark-7 had worked with Engineering to add extra support in Jason’s right boot to protect his newly healed ankle from further injury. Princess knew that the same wasn’t true for Jason’s wrist.  Since this injury was minor, Medical wouldn’t have consulted with Engineering to design a permanent solution. 

As soon as he was done eating, Princess asked, “Can you move your hand to transmute?”

He gave her a sorrowful look in return.   “I think so.” 

“Let’s try it now,” she said, urging him to stand.  Moving in unison, their arms crossed their faces in an arc.  Princess’ fist moved with confidence.  Jason’s fingers remained splayed and immobile.  

“Transmute,” they shouted at the same time, flickers of light crossing their bodies, a joint halo of light dazzling them from top to bottom.  Within seconds, the Condor and Swan were ready for action. 

Almost. 

Jason threw back his wings and conducted a brief series of stretches.  Both shoulders went up and down.  Each arm bent at the elbow.  But only one wrist flexed back and forth.

The Condor looked at the Swan.  “I’m going to need you to cover for me.”

She nodded.  They walked to the door of the ready room; he turned off the lights. 

I’m not telling the others about this was left unspoken. But as they hurried down the hall, Princess broached the subject anyway. 

“Jason, you don’t need to tell anyone about the numbing drops.  The effect only lasts what, three hours at most?  The team knows you’ve hurt your wrist.  So what if you’re favoring it?”

He turned toward her with a pained expression.  “And just how do I explain that I can’t move my wrist at all?”

She smiled at him.  “It’s not going to come up.  Send us out on recon.  You’ll be on the bridge anyway.  We all know that you can fly one-handed.”  She smirked at him, remembering him bragging about that very subject.  Jason rolled his eyes. 

“If anything comes up, I’ll handle it,” she said.  “That’s what the second in command does, right?”

Even through his tinted visor, she could see a brief look of relief pass across his face.  “Thank you.” His words were nearly inaudible, even to her enhanced hearing.

At 7-Zark-7’s insistent squawks, they ran the rest of the way to the Phoenix.  Right before they leapt aboard the big ship, Jason pulled her aside.  He spoke without preamble.  “I’m sorry.  You were right.  I haven’t been treating you fairly.”

She looked at him in surprise and smiled.

 Jason shook his head.  “Being in command is a lot harder than it looks.”

She gave him a quick hug.  “You’re doing fine, Jason.  Now let’s go splat some Spectrans.”

~ Table of Contents ~
[Report This]
You must login (register) to review.