This story is inspired by Naa-Dei Nikois story Devils Advocate and the fact that I had a miserable day when I wrote it and decided to vent by making someone elses even more miserable. I doubt its exactly what Naa-Dei was referring to with her story, and is entirely my own depressed weirdness acting out. I used Jason for this since Joe strikes me as being a stronger person emotionally. At least, hes less of a wimp. I also wanted to use the multi-species aspect, since its just so cool.
[Disclaimer: None of this is mine.]
Quickly and silenty, Jason pulled small spiked bombs out of his pouch and stuck them into the wall beside the mainframe. Moving down to the next, he stuck a bomb in it as well.
You know youre going to fuck it up, dont you?
He ignored the voice, set the explosive and moved on.
You may as well run now. If youre lucky, they wont find you. Maybe. Theyve probably got a homing beacon implanted right in your butt. They know where you are every second, boy.
"Shut up," Jason hissed, almost fumbling the bomb he was holding.
Oopsie, there. Dont drop it. Unless you want to make it easy for them.
"You dont know anything," he growled, pushing the bomb into the wall with careful savagery. Glancing at a clock on the wall, he saw he had five minutes left to plant the rest of the bombs and get back to the Phoenix.
Didnt it ever occur to you to wonder why theyve got YOU setting bombs? Thats normally Princess job, isnt it? Usually they just push you in the direction of the nearest bodies with orders to kill. That you can handle.
Jason shook his head, wishing the voice would just shut up and let him work. It was getting harder to ignore it though, harder still not to answer back.
"Everyones setting them. Its not just me."
Thats what they tell you. Its a test. To see how well you handle stress, and doing stuff youre not used to. They want to see if you snap under the strain. Better out here than in their nice cushy offices, after all.
Jason bit his lip. "Shut up!" It couldnt be true. Anderson and the others would tell him if he were under observation. They had no reason to question his loyalty.
Sheah, right. Youre a freak. A half breed. Or is multibreed the right term? How many different species DID they mix into your DNA anyway?
Human, Rigan, Spectran... Jason shook his head mournfully. He just wanted to be human. "Leave me alone."
Youre unstable, boy. You know it, I know it, and the eggheads at ISO know it. Theyll be looking to get rid of you soon.
Suddenly, Jasons communicator chimed. "Jason, where are you?! That base is about to blow!"
Jason startled, suddenly realizing that hed been kneeling in front of the mainframe, bomb in hand and unmoving for almost five minutes. He had thirty seconds to get out.
"SHIT!" Slamming the bomb he held against the wall, he turned and raced down the corridor, cerebonic implants in his legs working overtime to give him speed. The area had already been cleared of opponents, and he raced past their bodies without looking, skidded through the blood without slowing. In his head, the voice provided a helpful countdown in a sing-song voice.
Ten... nine... eight...
Jason threw himself down the stairs, ignoring the steps to fly down the shaft they circled around, dropping past whole floors with his wings spread wide, more falling than flying.
Seven... six... five...
Landing hard, he sprinted down a corridor, into a hangar as big as a football stadium, filled with mecha and corpses. The exit loomed on the far side.
Four... three... two...
Jason ran desperately, gasping for breath, his implants threatening to overheat inside him, he moved so fast. He was a blur of indigo, blue and desperation.
"JASON!" Mark screamed over the communicator.
The base exploded.
You still alive, kid?
Jason stirred slightly, a bare breath of movement as consciousness of a sort slowly seeped into him.
Ha! I knew no bomb would be tough enough to take you out. Youre too tough for even ISO and your teammates to kill. They did try to kill you, you realize that.
Every part of him hurt, from his head to his arms to his chest to his... he couldnt feel his legs.
Oops, well, isnt that a kick in the head. Or the spine, as the case may be.
Jason tried to move, to check his injuries, telling himself over and over again that it wasnt that bad, couldnt be that bad, but he couldnt move anything. He couldnt even open his eyes and he felt like his chest was being crushed, making it almost impossible to breathe.
Oh, did I forget to mention? The base fell on top of you. Youve been buried alive. Dont worry though. Im sure your teammates are home at Centre Neptune having burgers right now. Doesnt that make you feel better?
In answer, Jason felt a tear slide down his cheek, and silently wished that he were dead.
Thats it, kid. Thats the attitude!
Time passed. How much he didnt know, but when he woke, Jason found himself still buried where hed fallen, still crushed to near breathlessness, still unable to feel his legs. Still with that damned voice in his head.
What, still alive? Wow, youre stubborn. Give it up, kid. Stay alive and itll only get worse. Either youll be dug out by ISO and sent back to the Cellar as a total washout, or else... Oh, lookie. It seems we get to try door number two.
Jason stirred, hope filling him as he heard voices above him. A rescue squad! Forget the voice, he just knew it was his team. Mark, Princess, Keyop and Tiny had come back for him.
"Hey, the detector shows someones under here," he heard someone say.
"I think so. The readings are kinda funny."
"Well, lets dig him out."
Jason managed a slight smile, feeling the pressure on his chest and body lifting away as the rubble was removed. Clean air rushed into his lungs and he coughed.
"Yup, hes alive. Get the medics."
They sounded strange, Jason realized as he heard them more clearly. Their accents sounded strange... no, they werent speaking english, that was it.
The rubble which had been hiding his face lifted away and he blanched, seeing his rescuers clearly for the first time.
Welcome to hell, kid.
They were speaking Spectran.
"Oh, shit," the trooper whispered, staring down at the trapped man.
"What is it?" His partner peered over his shoulder. "By the Luminous One..." He shook himself and turned away. "SIR! SIR, GET OVER HERE NOW!"
Helpless even to move, still buried up to his shoulders, Jason coughed, unable to do anything else as a man in an officers uniform ran up. Under his mask, his face paled as he saw him. "Oh, holy... Wait here!" He ran off.
In your belt pouch. Your poison capsule. Take it, you dont have much time left.
Jason tried, but he couldnt reach it. "No..." he whispered. "Not this..."
One of the troopers leaned in. "Hes saying something..."
The other one yanked him back. "Are you crazy?! Thats a G-Forcer! Hell kill you."
"But hes hurt. I dont think he could fight a galtha."
"You wanna find out youre wrong the hard way?"
Theyd take him back to Spectra. Theyd suck his mind out, dig out every secret he had, use it against the others...
Big deal. Youre screwed either way.
Other soldiers were starting to crowd around, trying to get a look. Jason tried to glare at them, but he felt too weak to do more than just lie there.
Save your strength. When they dig you out, youll have one chance.
Yes, one chance, to do what he had to... He shivered.
After about five minutes, the officer came back, bringing with him a familiar purple figure. The troopers leapt up to attention, leaving Jason alone as the alien knelt down.
"So," Zoltar said evenly. "You didnt outrun your own bombs this time, did you?"
Jason didnt answer, focused on the one second hed have.
Zoltar looked at him intently for a long moment, then snorted and stood up. "Dig him out. Carefully."
Here it comes...
The troopers moved in again, clearing away the rubble, and Jason had to fight back a scream of pain as they lifted the weight away from his crushed legs. Then he was clear, nothing holding him down except gravity. Zoltar stepped into his sight again.
Jasons hand flashed to his belt, popped open a pouch and pulled out a small gel capsule. Every G-Forcer carried one, and on late, dark nights, theyd sometimes huddle together and wondered what it would be like to take one. What it would taste like, how fast it would take to work.
Briefly, Jason wished he could tell them it didnt taste like anything as he popped it into his mouth and tried to swallow with his dry throat. Then Zoltar threw himself over him. "Oh, no, you dont!"
Swallow it, kid! Swallow it!
Jason tried to swallow, his throat almost spasming from the effort. Zoltar stuck his fingers into his mouth, trying to fish it out. Jason bit him, but he cursed and kept his hand in, almost breaking his jaw as he forced it wide. Desperately, Jason hit him, but his arms held no strength, and then there were troopers on them, holding them down.
"You - are - not - going - to - die - on - me!" Zoltar growled.
Break it! Dont let him get it!
In sheer panic, Jason pushed the capsule against the roof of his mouth, past Zoltars reaching fingers, and broke it open. Poison flowed over his tongue and his eyes widened.
Then he was convulsing, strange animal sounds and froth coming out of his mouth as he shuddered, his body trying to tear itself apart with him in it. The poison tasted like death in his mouth, burning his tongue and dripping down his throat to kill his stomach and lungs.
Wahoo! Ride em, cowboy!
Distantly, he was aware of Zoltar lying across his chest to hold him down, screaming for a medic. But he couldnt see him, his eyes rolling up in his head. Everything went dark.
Come here, kid. Youre all mine now.
Helpless to stop himself, Jason went towards the voice.
Then, abruptly, something yanked him back, and his eyes opened to see a medic holding an ampule bending over him. "Hes breathing again, Sire," he said.
No! He was mine!
"Will he live?" Zoltar grated.
"This is only a stop-gap method. Weve got about three minutes to get him into a tank or his heart will stop again. I dont think I could save him then. We know so little about humans."
The last sentence was said in a yell as he leaped to his feet and ran to keep up. Dazed almost beyond understanding, Jason realized that Zoltar had scooped him up in his own arms and was running through the rubble carrying him. Troopers stopped their work of digging out Spectran wounded and dead to stare and he would have laughed if he could at the image. Zoltar, the all-powerful leader of Spectra, hopeful conquorer of Earth, racing at full speed through the devestation, carrying a half-dead G-Forcer cradled to his chest.
Gee, I think hes the first person ever to care. How ironic. Youre still screwed, boy. Unless we get lucky and they stick you with something thats good for humans but will kill you. Of course, we might get unlucky and get mutated even more than we already are. Wont that be fun?
"..shut..." Jason gasped, barely a whisper. "...shut... up..." The voice just laughed.
Zoltar carried him to his own ship, a pointed nose, sleek model. He took him inside and down the corridors to the sick bay, where he laid him down on a table and fumbled with his helmet, trying to get it off.
"Ill prepare the tank, Sire."
Jason tried to fight back. No Spectran had ever seen a G-Forcer out of uniform before, and just knowing what he looked like might lead him to the others. He couldnt even raise a finger though, and the helmet thudded into a corner. Zoltar pulled out an energy blade and the shreds of his uniform started to join it. He cringed, not wanting them to see him naked.
What, afraid theyll be able to spot the vasectomy?
The doctor stepped into his field of vision, carefully inserting a tube down his throat as Zoltar worked on the leathers. Oxygen flowed through that tube, making him realize for the first time how hard itd been to breathe. The tube itself led to a mask that was fitted over his mouth and nose. Now, only the tube gave him air, forcing him to breathe in spite of himself. The doctor then put some kind of blindfold on him to protect his eyes.
Suddenly, to his own surprise, Jason actually felt his heart skip a beat and stop.
"Sire! Hes gone into cardiac arrest!"
"Forget the rest of the connections, get him into the tank now!"
Come here, Jason. Come here...
He was floating, his body slowly loosening its ties on him, dark fingers fumbling to speed the process.
Thats it, just let go...
He was lifted, then his heart jumped as a sudden cold surrounded him, like being immersed in jello. Only this substance was numbing, without the euphoria of the darkness to accompany it.
"We got him, Sire. It was close though."
Jason slept, the curses of the voice following him even into his dreams, ensuring that they could be nothing but nightmares.
"Zark?" Jason mumbled. He felt like he was trying to talk with a pencil in his mouth.
Boy, you are stupid, arent you?
Jason started, trying to open his eyes. They were covered by something though, and he froze, remembering he was a prisoner and hoping no one had realized he was awake. It might be the only advantage he had.
Well, I guess youre safe now. At least until they shoot you.
Where am I? Jason wondered.
In a fish bowl. Enjoy.
As hed been taught by his various sensais as a child, Jason relaxed, letting his body mime sleep as he reached out with his senses, to his body and his surroundings.
He ached. That was apparent right away, but it was a dull ache, numbed by the thick fluid that covered him. It kept him warm as well, and sleepy. He had to struggle to stay awake.
I think youre supposed to be asleep right now. This thing is probably set for humans though. Who knows how its affecting you.
So they wouldnt be expecting an attack. Jason concentrated. Nothing felt broken, or at least not as broken as it had the last time he was awake. Even better, joy of joys, he could feel his legs! He took a deep breath of relief at that, then stilled, hoping that anyone monitoring him would mistake it for dreaming. His cerebonics were also all right, he realized after a moment. Even if his body was weak, theyd be able to give him strength to fight and escape. Too bad his uniform was ripped to shreds. His bracelet was gone.
He tried not to think about the implications of that as he tried to focus outside the tank he lay in. After five minutes of listening, he decided that there was only one person in the room.
I told you. They all think youre asleep. Your readings must be driving them nuts. Theyre probably getting the dissection table ready as we speak.
Jason ignored it. The person in the room was... sitting. Only a few metres away. He waited, fighting the urge to go back to sleep, and finally was aware of the person standing and moving away. Apparently, Spectrans had coffee breaks too.
He sat up. His body almost fell back on him, but he gripped the side of the tank and pulled off the blindfold, blinking in the sudden light.
He was in some kind of hospital ward, lined with tanks like the one he sat in, most holding a sleeping Spectran soldier. It had to be their intensive care ward, he realized, and pulled off the mask, extracting the tube from his throat. Immediately, the air tasted different.
Youre on Spectra, boy.
Jason shuddered, and slowly climbed out of the tank. His body was still healing, his legs wobbly, but with the help of his cerebonics, he was able to stand. Wiping the fluid off his face, he staggered to the door.
And came face to face with the nurse as she came in carrying something that looked like a neon pink cup of coffee.
She screamed, throwing the liquid in his face as she ran. Luckily, it wasnt a hot drink, but it still blinded him as he lunged at her. His fingers clawed her clothes, but she evaded him and ran down the hallway. With nowhere else to go, Jason turned and ran the other way.
Youre butt naked, on an alien world, and youre attempting to escape? Does the term swiss cheese ninja mean anything to you?
Jason ignored him, opening doors as he progressed in the hopes of finding something he could put on, and some way to dry himself off so he wouldnt leave a trail of slime behind him. He found what he needed in a janitors office at the end of the hall.
He was just pulling on the shoes when the alarm sounded.
Run! This is the first place theyll look!
Jason ran. His cerebonics hummed within him as he bolted at full speed down the hall. Everything spun, his heart missed a beat, and the next thing he knew, he was lying on the white, polished floor, staring at his reflection and that of the trooper who stood above him, pointing a gun at his head.
Guess youre not as well as you thought, huh? I thought you were going to have another heart attack for a second there.
"Get up," the trooper ordered.
Jason swallowed, trembling as he pushed himself onto his elbows. Then he spun, cerebonics activating, and swept the troopers feet out from under him. The man fell and he grabbed his leg, holding it as he kicked him under the chin. The Spectrans neck snapped.
Slowly, Jason rose to his feet. He was dizzy, aching, his heart thudding in his chest and pain flaring through his insides. He swayed, reaching for a wall to hold himself up. Distantly, he heard running feet.
Youll never make it. Run and youll just pass out again. Better to find somewhere to finish what you started with the capsule.
Laboriously, Jason bent over and picked up the troopers gun. "Why... why do you... want me.. to kill myself... so badly?"
Standing in the centre of the hallway, Jason lifted the gun and pointed it down the length as a dozen armed men ran around the corner, saw him and stopped.
They wont shoot. They want you alive.
Jason grinned, swaying. "Want me, huh?" He waved the gun slowly at them as they tensed, ready to duck or dodge, then turned it around and pointed it towards his open mouth. "Well, tough."
A hand grabbed the gun from over his shoulder, pulling it out of his hand before he could get his fingers to obey him and pull the trigger.
Shit, I really hate that guy!
Dizzy, Jason turned to see Zoltar standing behind him with a dozen more men, holding the gun. Hed completely forgotten that the corridor ran two ways.
"Oh, damn," he muttered, and fainted dead away.
Zoltar, of course, caught him.
He felt like he was in a dentists chair. Slowly, Jason opened his eyes to find himself lying on a chair that was tilted back, conforming to his body in a surprisingly comfortable way. He wasnt in the hospital room anymore, but an empty chamber instead.
Youre about to be interrogated, kid.
From everything hed seen in movies and heard from survivors, Jason had expected to find a brilliant light shining in his eyes. There wasnt one, any more than there were racks of torture equipment or a giggling madman. If he werent tied down, hed have been comfortable. Quickly, he tested his bonds, but they wouldnt give.
Dont even bother. Theyre not stupid enough to underestimate you twice.
"You bonds are too strong for you to break," Zoltar said in concert, stepping around from behind him. "You may as well relax."
"While you torture me?" Jason growled.
Zoltar smiled. "Why would we want to do that? There are other techniques far more effective." He nodded past him.
The voice chuckled as a doctor came into view wheeling a tray covered in needles, even as Jason tried not to cringe.
All right, drugs! Now all we need is something thatll screw with your genetics and kill you. That yellow one looks nice.
Zoltar regarded him. "If youre planning this as another suicide attempt, dont bother. After your escape attempt, we took a closer look at you and discovered you arent human. We adusted the tanks mixture accordingly. Im afraid we had a lot of time to study your genetics during the month youve been asleep. These drugs will be very effective on you."
Jason echoed the thought, and struggled. It didnt do any good.
"How do you feel?"
Jason floated, listening to the voice. It sounded different than the usual one that haunted him, accented oddly. He couldnt quite place it. Nor did he care enough to bother.
"Thats good. What was your name again?"
"Yes, you told me a minute ago, but Ive forgotten. Could you tell me again?"
"Jason. What a nice name. Tell me, Jason, where do you live?"
Tell him fuck you.
"Doctor, I thought he was supposed to be completely suggestable."
"He is, Sire. He shouldnt be able to resist your questions. Maybe the dosage isnt strong enough."
"Then give him another shot."
"Do it. Were running out of time."
Something icy flowed into Jason and he shivered. His eyes opened, but everything was horribly blurred, so he shut them again, dozing.
"Id like to ask you a few questions. Would you like to answer them?"
"What is the location of Centre Neptune?"
Third star to the right and straight on until morning.
"...third star... right... straight until morning..."
"I dont understand, Sire! Honestly!"
Hell, this is fun!
"...hell, this is fun..."
Shit, dont repeat me!
"...shit... dont repeat me..."
Goddamn it, kid, youre a moron!
"...goddamn it... kid... youre a moron..."
"Jason, who are you talking to?"
Dont tell him!
"... don... tell him..."
"Jason, who is it?"
You are the most fucking stupid brat in the universe, you know that? You deserve to get your goddamned throat slit!
Jason stirred, half asleep, but aware he was lying on some sort of table and it was being moved.
Do you know what youve done? Youve told them about me! Now they think youre possessed and theyre taking you straight to the luminous one!
He felt himself wheeled into a great hall that echoed, and heard the man pushing him swallow nervously.
Worst thing is, theyre right...
Someone took his arms, pulling him up, and Jasons eyes opened to blurred vision as he was led stumbling across the floor.
"Behave yourself," Zoltar growled in his ear. "Youre in the presence of divinity."
Thats not the term Id use.
[WHO IS THIS?]
"The G-Forcer we captured, oh Luminous One."
[INTERESTING. I SENSE TWO LIFEFORMS WITHIN HIM.]
"We suspected as much, my Lord.".
Jason shook his head, trying to fight the drug. Two lifeforms? Hed always thought the voice was his own warped conscience. Raising his head, he blinked until his vision cleared.
At the end of the hall he stood in, with its dizzily flowing walls, was a huge window, behind which floated a disembodied head with a beak and cold, dead eyes.
"...looks like a giant chicken..."
Zoltars grip dug into his arm. "Show respect."
The Luminous One regarded him steadily. [I SEE WHAT HAS HAPPENED. ITS GOOD THAT YOU HAVE BROUGHT HIM TO ME, ZOLTAR. WE MAY BE ABLE TO USE THIS TO OUR ADVANTAGE.]
"Yes, Sire." Zoltar bowed deeply, pulling Jason over with him. "May I ask what is happening with him?"
[THIS CREATURE IS NOT HUMAN. NOR SPECTRAN. HE HAS THE POTENTIAL IN HIM FOR GREAT PSYCHIC POWERS, BUT NONE OF THE DEFENSES OR CONTROL. AN ENTITY HAS TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF THIS TO ENTER HIS SOUL.]
Hey, no big deal, eh kid?
"...how... how long...?"
You were about five minutes old at the time. Ive been here a LONG time."
Zoltar looked at him curiously. "What reason would this entity have for doing so, my lord?"
[IT IS A PARASITE. IT FEEDS ON NEGATIVE EMOTION. WHEN THE BOY DIES, IT WILL THEN FEED ON HIS SOUL.]
Immediately, rage filled Jason. No wonder the voice always put him down, always made him doubt himself and his teammates. It wanted him to hate himself, and even more to kill himself, since it didnt seem like the Spectrans were good enough to do the job. He shivered at the thought of how close hed come to being the things meal. How close he still was, since he didnt know how to get rid of it.
"No..." he gasped, shaking his head. "Get out of me..."
"GET OUT!" he screamed, throwing Zoltar away with cerebonic strength. "GET OUT OF MY HEAD!" Turning, he saw Zoltar lying on the ground, pushing himself up, and troopers armed with stun rifles coming towards him at a run. He screamed and rushed them, slamming the heel of his hand against the first ones chin, reaching for his weapon. A second one he kicked solidly in the side even as a stun bolt from his weapon hit him in the side. Charged with adrenaline and horror, he didnt even feel it.
So, where are you going to go, kid? Ill be there no matter where it is.
Jason snarled. "No, you wont."
"Take him alive!" Zoltar was yelling. "Dont kill him!"
Jason dove into the midst of the troopers so they couldnt shoot, kicking and fighting. His body had definately healed in the time hed spent in the tank and he moved like quicksilver, killing ruthlessly. The open door loomed behind them, slowly starting to close. Vaulting over one man as he fell, he bolted for it.
Jason skidded to a halt on his knees, eyes wide. The voice had spoken directly within his mind, locking his body into immovability. Faintly, he saw more guards race in, surrounding him, but he couldnt move.
Zoltar stepped around in front of him, looking surprised under the mask. "Sire?"
[THE PARASITE HAS OPENED A DOORWAY INTO HIS MIND. I CANNOT NORMALLY POSSESS A LIVING BEING, BUT IN THIS CASE I CAN... PIGGYBACK ON THE ENTITY WITHIN HIM.]
Zoltar blanched. "But, Sire! The risk!"
[IT IS ACCEPTABLE. BRING HIM TO ME, AND WHEN I AM DONE, ENSURE THAT HIS COMPANIONS FIND HIM. HE WILL BE OUR WEAPON.]
Jason wanted to scream, wanted to die, even if it meant the voice would have him forever, but everything in him was locked down out of his control. Even the voice whimpered as he was dragged to the Luminous One and his head pulled back so that all he could see was its dead eyes as it thoroughly and completely raped his soul.
"Jason? Jase, come on, wake up."
He was cold, naked. He woke knowing that, his eyes still closed, knowing as well that there were monsters inside him. He just wanted to curl up inside himself, and never move again.
You might as well.
[WHY CANT I FORCE HIM TO MOVE?]
Well, you see, thats the way it works. From this end, all you can do is talk to the boy. He still does whatever the hell he wants, unless you encourage him otherwise.
[THAT IS UNACCEPTABLE!]
Yeah, well, tough shit and all that. No one invited you.
[SILENCE OR BE DESTROYED.]
And then what will keep you here, hmm?
Jason lay still, trying to ignore the voices and the towel he felt drying off his cold body. A blanket was wrapped around him.
"Come on, buddy. Dont do this to us."
That was Marks voice. Jason lay still.
"Jason?" Princess now. "Please wake up. Say something."
Lightly, he felt them slap his face, then harder and winced in spite of himself. "No..." he moaned.
"He spoke! Come on, Jase, thats the way." Mark slapped him again. "Come back to us. Keyop, have you figured out what that junk they had him immersed in was?"
"Um, I think its some kind of stasis fluid. For healing."
"Then they havent been able to interrogate him yet. Thank God for that."
He felt himself lifted up, propped against someones shoulder. Probably Marks. He could hear his heartbeat.
"Let me die..." he murmured.
"No way!" Mark retorted angrily. "What are you talking like this for?"
Jason tried to tell them about the monsters inside him, of how hed betray them if they didnt, but the words wouldnt come.
Youve got a nifty keen mental block in you now, kiddo. You cant tell them about either of us.
Devestated, Jason opened his eyes. He was sitting on the floor below the stasis tank, wrapped in a blanket and leaning against Mark. The nurse hed seen before lay in a bloody heap on the floor. Tiny, Princess and Keyop knelt before him, worried. Then Princess saw him looking at her and her face blossomed into a smile.
"Welcome back, stranger. Weve been going nuts for three months looking for you. We were afraid you were dead."
Jason blinked. "You looked for me?"
"Of course." She stroked his cheek. "Wed never give up on you."
Faintly, Jason smiled, then sagged wearily against Mark again.
"Lets get him out of here," Mark said coldly, all business. "Can you walk?"
Jason wasnt sure he could even move. Slowly, he shook his head.
"Tiny, you carry him. The rest of us will cover you."
Tiny picked him up, cradling him against his broad chest like a baby as he followed the others out into the hallway, where more bodies lay scattered. G-Force had swept through with their usual style, it seemed.
Tiny smiled down at him. "Its great to have you back, bud," he whispered. "It hasnt been the same without you."
Jason looked up at him, tears in his eyes. "Tiny, please, youve got to kill me."
[SHUT UP. YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO DIE, YOUNG ONE.]
He ignored them both. "Please, Tiny. Just kill me quick."
The big man blanched. "What are you talking about?" he hissed angrily. "Thats crazy."
"Please, Tiny... you have to."
Jason shook his head, unable to answer.
They took him out of the base, meeting very little resistance. Mark was a little surprised at that, but Jason knew what the reason was. They didnt want to risk hurting their spy, and especially not their sacred Luminous One. A few hills over, hidden under some tree-like plants, they came on the Phoenix and entered. Jason was carried to the Sick Bay as Mark readied the ship for takeoff. Tiny laid him down and went to join him as Princess smiled at him, tucking him into the bunk.
"Lets take a better look at you," she soothed and raised her arm to detransmute.
"NO!" Jason screamed. "No!" Turning away from her, he buried his face in his hands.
[LOOK AT HER! I COMMAND IT!]
"Jason!" Princess gasped. "Whats wrong?"
"No no no no no..." It was all he could say. His eyes he kept tightly closed and hidden. It was the only way he could protect her from the Luminous Ones secret eyes. "Stay in birdstyle, please."
"All, all right." She patted his shoulder and he heard her moving away, whispering in her communicator to Mark that they had a more serious problem than they thought. Jason just wished he could tell her how much more serious it was.
Not in this lifetime, bud.
The only one hed look at was Chief Anderson. Exhausted from lack of sleep even after a week, Jason lay in his bed in the infirmary and tried to smile at the older man.
"Im fine," he assured him. "Really."
The Chief frowned, his arms crossed. "The rest of your team says you dont want to talk to any of them."
Jason looked away, out the window at the brightly coloured fish swimming past. "I guess I feel guilty, for failing them and all."
Ooh, good lie.
"No one blames you for what happened." The Chief sat on the side of the bed. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Jason looked at him helplessly, the mental block holding him back from telling him what he wanted. "The last thing I remember is the bombs going off. The next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor of that Spectran hospital."
"Tiny says you asked him repeatedly to kill you. Why?"
Another weak smile. "I guess I was kinda out of it." The lies came more easily the more he said them. He felt sick.
The Chief peered at him intently, as if trying to read his thoughts.
[CONVINCE HIM OF YOUR HEALTH, BOY. I AM TIRED OF STAYING IN THIS PATHETIC ROOM.]
Jason agreed with that, but for entirely different reasons.
"Im okay, Chief, really. Just going stir crazy." He tried to look innocent. "Can I get out of here? I mean, I feel a lot better. I just want to move around some."
The Chief was silent for a long moment.
Slowly, he nodded. "All right, but youre not to leave Centre Neptune."
Quietly, Jason walked through Centre Neptune, his hands shoved in his pocket and his eyes fixed on the floor, trusting to memory to take him where he wanted. The Luminous One, apparently, didnt have any access to his memories, or it would have just sucked out his mind on Spectra and left again. It was only aware of what he saw and heard, when he experienced it. And Jason had no intention of letting it experience any more than he had to.
[LOOK UP. DO IT. I WANT TO SEE THIS LOCATION.]
"No," he growled. "I wont help you."
Stubborn, isnt he?
[YOU WILL BE PUNISHED UNLESS YOU OBEY.]
How? You planning to sing 99 bottles of beer to him a few hundred times?
Without saying a word to the people he passed, or look at their faces, even when they called out to him, Jason made his way straight to the docking bay for the Centre. There, he had no choice but to look up as he signed out a small submarine boat.
[INTERESTING. VERY INTERESTING.]
Youve seen one boat bay, youve seen them all. What are you up to, kid?
"Oh, youll like this," he muttered dryly.
I can hardly wait.
Hopping into the sub, Jason set the small hangar to flood and the main doors to open.
Zarks voice came over the communicator in the sub. "What are you doing, Jason? You dont have authorization to leave the base."
Jasons lip twisted as the robots face appeared on the small screen. Even without a nose or a mouth, he still managed to look worried.
"Just something that needs doing."
"What is it? Ill call the rest of your team."
He smirked. "Somehow I doubt theyll want to help me with this."
Oh, can it be? Thats my boy!
[WHAT ARE YOU DOING, G-FORCER?]
Zarks antenna quivered. "What are you going to do, Jason?"
He grinned, as much for the voices inside him as for the robot. Hed always enjoyed shocking him. "Actually, I was planning to find someplace quiet to blow my brains out."
[WHAT? NO! YOU WILL DESTROY ME!]
Zark was horrified. "Jason, you cant!"
"Cant I? I think its about the only thing I can do."
"Please, why would you want to do this to yourself?"
He shook his head, tears in his eyes. "Because I HAVE to."
"I cant tell you! Oh, God, Zark, Im sorry! Tell everyone how sorry I am." He turned the sub towards the opening door. "Dont bother trying to stop me. I hotwired the sub so you cant control it."
"I know," Zark said. "But I have disengaged the ships self-destruct sequence."
Shit. "Thats dirty pool, Zark."
"Hangar doors closing. Well get you whatever help you need, Jason. I promise."
Jasons eyes widened as he saw the doors start to close. "No! Didnt you hear me? Nothing can help me! Killing myself is the only way I can save you!"
[YOU CANT. YOUR OWN PEOPLE WILL SAVE YOU AND ENSURE THEIR DESTRUCTION.]
The missles! Blow the door open!
[STOP ENCOURAGING HIM!]
Jason targetted the ships guns on the doors and opened fire. Not designed to wistand such forces from within, they blew outwards, and he drove the sub at full speed through the wall of froth. Setting it to dive, he curled away from the base without looking at it or the subs charts, trusting to memory to lose himself.
"Jason!" Zark cried.
Jason trailed his hand along the screen. "Goodbye, Zark," he said and cut the connection. Disengaging all the communications systems, he sat alone, except for the conflicting voices in his head.
The Phoenix is after you.
"I know," he muttered, looking at the blip on his sonar screen. "Im not surprised."
[THEY WILL STOP THIS FOOLISHNESS.]
"Theyll have to catch me first."
Why dont you just open the hatch? Youll drown pretty quick.
Jason drove the sub down a small canyon. "No. The waters too cold. They might be able to revive me." It was bizarre, discussing ways to kill himself with an entity that wanted to eat his soul. Better than talking to the Luminous One, though. At least when he died, itd die with him.
Dont they stock guns on this ship? Damn it.
Somewhere behind him, the Phoenix cruised through the water, all her sensors searching for him. Guessing which way Tiny would turn, which spots Mark would check first, the very patterns Princess would program into her computers, Jason turned where he hoped they wouldnt go first, across the trading lanes towards the shore. Nothing homed in on him, the Phoenix didnt loom out of the water to cut him off, and he breathed a sigh of relief.
Maybe we lost them.
[STOP THIS. STOP IT NOW.]
"Getting desperate?" he muttered. "Too bad."
The water was getting shallower, too shallow for the sub. Regretting the necessity, he surfaced and drove it right up onto the sandy beach of a small cove. It was midafternoon, but there was no one in sight as he climbed out and made his way towards the forest framing the beach. It lead to a series of nearby cliffs, towering over him. He shivered.
Jason spun as the Phoenix suddenly erupted out of the water behind him, sweeping towards his sub. "Shit!" Turning, he bolted into the woods, cerebonics humming. They werent as effective without the BirdStyle though. Mark and the others would have no real trouble catching up to him. At best guess, he had ten minutes. In that time, though, he should be able to finish it. Terrified, he forced himself to run faster.
Rustling sounded far behind him. "Jason!" he heard Mark yell. "Dont do it!"
He wanted to stop, to explain what and why, but he knew he couldnt. Hating himself, he kept running.
"Jason!" Princess this time, somewhere off to the left.
"Leave me alone," he gasped. "Please."
The bushes to his right moved and suddenly Keyop was there, for a moment looking as surprised as he was. "I found him!" he screamed.
Thank God it wasnt Mark. Hed never be able to defeat him untransmuted. Spinning on one foot, he kicked the small clone in the jaw, where his suit didnt protect him. He dropped.
Quickly, he checked the boys condition. He was fine, just knocked cold. He was pulling enough bombs out of his pouch to kill himself with when Princess leapt out of a bush towards him.
He threw the bombs at her instead, well short but enough to slow her down. She screamed in surprise as the ground in front of her exploded and he bolted in among the trees, her yoyo just falling short of his leg.
"Jason! Come back!"
Dodging in and out of the trees, he ducked under a bush and rolled under a tree trunk. Lying still and breathing slowly and silently, he listened.
Princess ran into the clearing. "Jason! Where are you?"
Mark joined her. "I heard an explosion. What happened?"
"Oh, Mark, it was awful. He hit Keyop and he threw bombs at me. Hes out of his mind!"
"What did Zoltar do to him?!"
[THIS IS A POINTLESS GESTURE. REVEAL YOURSELF.]
In answer, Jason silently crawled away.
With the team hunting him, it took almost an hour to get to the top of one of the nearby cliffs. Standing on the edge, he looked down at a drop of over seventy feet to the rocks below and prayed it would be enough.
Jump. Do it. You want to. It wont hurt for more than a second. I promise.
Jason shuddered. "I dont want to die," he whispered.
"Then dont. Please."
He spun to see Mark standing at the edge of the woods, thirty feet away. His wings glowed in the sunlight.
[AT LAST. FOOLISH BOY.]
"You dont understand..."
Mark cocked his head to one side, not moving towards him. Obviously not wanting to scare him. "Then explain it to me."
"I cant!" he wailed, tearing at his hair.
"Why not?" Mark watched him patiently. "Did Zoltar condition you to do something? And then make it so you couldnt tell anybody?"
Jason stared at him, wishing he could nod.
Bright boy, isnt he?
Mark smiled slightly. "Youre not saying no, so Ill take that as a yes."
[NO! HE CANT BE ALLOWED TO GUESS AT MY PRESENCE. KILL HIM!]
Jason shuddered and took a step back.
Mark looked worried. "Youre afraid youll betray us, arent you? Thats why youre trying to kill yourself. To protect us."
Oh, thank God, he understood. Jason took a deep shuddering breath, feeling a tension release within him.
It doesnt change anything. Unless you die, your uninvited houseguest is going to learn everything he needs to wipe out your whole species.
"Yes, it does," he murmured. "It makes it easier."
Mark reached out towards him. "Come home with us, Jason. Please."
As he did so, Jasons eyes widened, seeing the flashing bird symbol on his communicator. The Bird Scramble. Every member of G-Force would be homing in on him right now. His eyes filled with tears.
"Goodbye, Mark. Im sorry."
He leaned backwards. Thats all it took. A single step back and he was in freefall, plummeting towards the ground so far below. Above him, Mark leaped off the cliff in pursuit, white wings spread wide.
"No," he whispered as his friend dove to catch him. "Please, no..."
Dont worry, youre falling faster than he can with those wings. Hell brain himself if he catches you at this speed.
Something slammed into him from the side. It was Keyop, struggling to hold him up as they both fell. Jason fought, as much to keep the boy from killing himself as to ensure his own death. Then Mark was there, holding him up, along with Princess and then Tiny. Together, they slowed his plummet to a gentle drift downwards, over the rocks and to the safety of the meadow beyond.
Jason met Marks eyes. "No matter what, we wont let you die," he told him.
He smiled slightly, no longer feeling sane. "I know." And then, with all of them in midair, he rolled onto his side, grabbed the boomerang at Marks side and plunged it as deep as he could into his chest.
You know, youre a real botch-up at this suicide thing.
Jason shuddered, stirring.
[YOU FOOL! DO YOU KNOW HOW CLOSE YOU CAME TO DESTROYING ME? THIS WILL NOT BE FORGIVEN.]
Slowly, Jason opened his eyes. He was lying on a table in an empty room, his chest bandaged and aching. Chief Anderson stood over him.
"You glanced the blades off your ribcage and missed your heart," he told him curtly. "It was close though. Princess and Keyop were both hysterical when they brought you in."
Jason didnt answer. He regretted that, though he regretted living more.
Anderson frowned. "Mark told me his suspicions. I share them, especially after what happened. Were going to talk about it."
Oh, sure. Why not? Moron.
Anderson reached down and lifted a needle off a table beside him. Filling it with a vial, he bent down to Jasons arm. "Just relax, Jason."
[NO! TELL THEM NOTHING!]
Jason smiled, never more glad to have a shot in his life.
In the end, he told them everything.
"Hey, buddy, how are you feeling?"
Why did it always feel like he was waking up? Slowly, Jason opened his eyes to see Mark looking down at him, smiling. He was out of BirdStyle.
Jason gasped and rolled away, burying his face in his hands.
"No, its all right! Its okay." Mark caught his shoulders, pulling him onto his back again. "Its over, theyre gone."
Blinking, Jason listened inside himself. There was nothing there, no voice, no presense. For the first time in longer than he could remember, he was alone in his mind. With a gasp, he sat bolt upright, staring at his commander.
"Mark! They caught me, and said I had this entity in me that was trying to get me killed so it could eat my soul. I always thought it was me hating myself, but then the Luminous One said that it could hitch a ride with it in my head and anything I looked at it could see, so that was why I was trying to kill myself and there was a block so I couldnt tell anyone and-"
Mark grinned at him. "We know. We know everything."
Jason sagged against his pillows. "Oh, thank God. How?"
Mark shrugged. "The Chief pumped you with enough truth drugs to bypass the block and you told us."
"How did you get rid of... them?"
He shrugged again. "I dont really understand it. It was some kind of exorcism, is the best way I can describe it. You were knocked out for all of it, since that parasite thing fed off your emotions. So the Chief got you as close to dead as he could without actually killing you, so it was cut off from its food source. Basically it starved to death, since it couldnt leave unless you actually died. It fought pretty hard though. It even got control of your voice at one point." He shuddered. "I think the Chief burned the tapes of what it said. It was pretty awful. He doubts anything like it can get back in you now, but youre going straight to a telepath when youre discharged to learn to put up mental shields to make sure."
"What about the Luminous One?"
"The Chief gave it a choice. Go into a computer like the one on Spectra or die with the parasite. Theyre studying it right now and Zoltar is damn near ready to ransom his whole planet to get it back. You might just have won the war for us."
Jason was nowhere near ready to absorb that. He closed his eyes. "Im tired."
"Im not surprised." Mark stroked his hair. "Ill leave you to rest."
"Wait!" Jason reached out to him, embarassed. "Stay. Im not... used... to being alone."
Mark sat down again. "Sure. No problem." He leaned back, speaking softly, soothing, urging him to rest, to sleep.
Jason listened and dozed off, still listening, for the first time, to the voice of a friend.
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