Nine days after we recovered Don, we sat in debrief after the closest we had come to disaster in three years, and listened to Anderson tell us precisely where the intel had come from which had sent us into a Spectran trap. The entire place had been designed to lure us into a spinning ground-torpedo heading for Spectra's molten core. Only the chance that Jason had been on the Phoenix, concussed and barely able to function, had saved us.
The information had come from Don. The location of Zoltar's secret headquarters, he'd said. He was sure. He was on our side, had been all along.
"That bastard!" spat Mark. "There was nothing there except goons waiting for us. There never had been. He set us up."
"There were a lot of explosives. And maybe he was set up himself," I pointed out, shifting uncomfortably in my chair. I'd never liked centrifuges, and this one had been decidedly short on padded seats.
"So they built their trap in an explosives warehouse. We wouldn't have, but hey! These guys are just nuts." Jason sounded desperately weary, was resting his head on his hand and barely able to keep his eyes open.
Anderson shot him a glance. "You should be lying down."
"What for - so Chris can keep waking me up again? I know the concussion drill. Believe it or not, I'd rather be here."
"Need that in writing," suggested Keyop.
Mark, the veteran of a number of concussions of his own, said nothing. Jason looked only marginally better now than he had right after the second time he'd lost it in the whirlwind pyramid. Struggling even to stand, he'd been a danger to himself and a liability to the team, and Mark had sent him back to the Phoenix.
I hadn't thought twice about any further consequences. Jason hit his head and got concussed, we'd have an irritable Condor with a sore head for a few days, then he'd be back to normal. And then I'd overheard Mark and Tiny talking quietly as they waited for their medical checks.
"How hard did he go down?" Tiny.
"Not hard enough to cause that. And he should never have fallen in the first place." Mark.
Now I was sitting in debrief, empathising with Jason who obviously had the monster headache of all time, and desperately wanting Anderson to dismiss us so I could go and ask Tiny what on earth was really going on.
"Dual use," said Tiny, bringing me back to the matter at hand. "They needed a lot of troops there for a trap to have any chance, but they had no idea when it would be sprung. So they did real stuff there as well."
Anderson considered it. "It's a possibility. Even if Don was primed to tell us at the first opportunity, they had no way of telling when we'd attack. Certainly they don't seem to have been on high alert."
Jason rubbed his temples and winced. "So what other pieces of information has Don let slip?"
"None of any use." Anderson's expression displayed his frustration. "He seems to have been locked up for most of the time, except when he was in a lab. He's confessed to everything we believe he did, and a lot we're fairly sure he didn't, but the only new information he's provided was the whereabouts of your target."
"If you call that information." Mark shifted position again. Evidently I wasn't the only one aching after today's performance.
"Is he sorry?" Keyop asked suddenly.
Anderson looked nonplussed. "Sorry?"
"Wade. Don. Is he making excuses? Has he apologised?"
Anderson sighed. "He's apologised. He's accepted responsibility. But no, no excuses. No protestations of innocence - or, for that matter, declarations of loyalty to Spectra. He seems to have accepted that he is responsible for his actions, at least."
"What will be done with him?" I asked, suspecting I already knew the answer.
"Nothing," Anderson replied. "He'll remain in top security detention indefinitely. He doesn't get a day in court." He regarded us with as close to an air of sympathy as he ever wore. We must have looked a complete mess. Four of us were too uncomfortable to sit still. The fifth looked considerably worse.
"Dismissed. Go take it easy." His eyes fell on Jason. "G-2, even I can tell you should be in Medical. Get some rest, team."
Jason headed off to Medical without so much as a complaint, which was worrying in itself, and once outside the door, Tiny turned to the rest of us and signed 'we need to talk.' I couldn't have agreed more.
We followed him to the ready room, and as Keyop shut the door on the outside world Tiny lost his usual look and displayed some of the tension I was feeling myself. "I'm worried about Jason," he said simply.
Mark's eyebrows went up. "You think I'm not?"
Tiny didn't rise to him, concern written all across his face. "He's not well. I want to believe it's just a concussion, but he should be feeling better by now. The implant should be helping. Something's very wrong. It has been for a while."
"Are you sure? Maybe the implant will kick in once he stops trying to keep going?" I frowned at him in some confusion. "Didn't you have that problem once, Mark?"
"Sort of. Not any more." Mark blinked, and I could see the sudden effort to concentrate. "I'm going to have to leave you to it," he said unexpectedly. Three sets of eyes widened in concern - he did look very white all of a sudden.
"Should you be going to Medical yourself?" Tiny went pale himself. "Mark, we already have one major problem. Don't make it two."
Mark glared, then relented. "I'm fine, or will be. I just need to sleep. Damn this inefficient Russian implant." He yawned, and took himself off, Tiny surreptitiously checking he'd made it to his room a couple of minutes later.
It was nonsense that his implant wasn't as efficient as ours, of course. It was the recharge phase which was less than optimal. The rest of us found ourselves tired, sleeping more than usual, and seriously disinclined to much physical activity for a couple of days. Even Keyop, with a later variant of the Russian implant, reacted that way. Mark was different. He'd likened his reaction to 'running into a brick wall' and all attempts to tune the implant differently had failed. If they set the recharge phase to something like ours, he had an unacceptable decrease in combat efficiency, and eventually he'd been told the crash at the end of mission was something he'd have to live with.
Today was unusual, though. I'd called on the implant extensively in our escape from the ground torpedo and he had to have done the same. It was rare for the recharge phase to hit him this late on. If there was one thing Mark disliked more than having to admit weakness, it was embarrassment. If he'd had any idea this was going to happen, he'd have arranged it so we had our discussion after he'd rested.
My implant might be recharging in a more friendly manner, but I was still starting to feel the effects. I caught myself yawning, thought longingly of bed, and weighed it up against a hot drink and a bath. I'd ache worse if I went straight to sleep now. It was no use, though. I needed the rest too badly for the bath to even be safe.