Dark Angel and its characters belong to FOX, James Cameron, Charles Eglee, and all those other people who are not me. I'm just borrowing for fun. But my kids belong to me, so don't go kidnapping them without my permission. :) This one's for Megan, for planting ideas in my head... hey, gives me good reason to dick around at work. ;) Enjoy.
Ben was psyched. It was mission time again. After the live ammo runs last week, he couldn't wait to get back out into the field. To capture the flag and save the day. It was how he looked at the missions. They were practice for a bigger playground, one where the flag was a map to the enemy's nuclear weapons bunker or MIA soldiers, or even just regular civilian hostages. Ben treated each mission as such. There was an objective that he had to achieve.
Lydecker had told him the week before he was proud of him, for how he led the others to capturing Ra's command post. He wanted to tell him that it wasn't his leadership, that it was their collective determination to play the game the best they could, but he didn't. He took his praise and tried not to smile. Now he stared up at the front of the line where they were checking their health. Rarely were they deemed unsatisfactory to leave for a mission, but occasionally it happened.
Once Zack caught a cold and the whole place went insane trying to figure out how it'd happened. They get sick, Ben knew, just like anyone else, they just generally recovered quicker. Ben watched them make Jack hold his hands out in front of him. The small boy stood, his body tense and he lifted his hands, watching them remain still. They knew, Ben realized. They knew there was something wrong with Jack. Nomaly, he started to think, but stopped himself, not wanting to label anyone. Eva had already beat the labeling instinct out of him when he'd called Jondy a Nomaly to her face.
The smaller girl was being restrained. They were trying to get information out of her about Max and Maple's location. The three were supposed to infiltrate Ben's location and capture the flag, but Jondy had been captured by Ra and Mage. His eyes drifted ahead to the girl who was dressed in fatigues, just like the rest, whispering something to Max. Those two were going to get in trouble one day for talking, Ben knew. He ignored them, knowing if he tried, he could hear what they were saying. He just watched as Jack's left hand twitched once. The boy's eyes flew up to the man examining him and the man jotted something down on paper with one hand as he raised his other hand to summon a soldier.
The adult soldier escorted Jack back to the Barracks and the line moved forward. Ben watched Jack walk past him, his head held high, but there was something in his eyes. Something shiny. Tears? Ben wondered. His head snapped forward as Brin was let through to collect her weapon and join the others outside. They were being debriefed in groups of ten and three, alternately. Ben knew the mission would be tough. They were always tough when the groups were swayed this way. It means a big team was to protect a fort while the other three had to find the fort and then capture it.
Ben liked those missions. He knew they were Jondy's favorite also. The girl was skilled at sneaking around a base until the inhabitants were as confused as they were annoyed. They shot at anything, birds, leaves, the sun, anything they thought might be her. Then, when they were out of ammo, she jumped in, commanding them to get down on their knees. She'd take them prisoner, shout that the flag had been captured and she'd grin. Ben had grown fearful of her grin. Her serious expression was so dominant than when she let the edges of her lips lift, it made Ben think of the Nomaly they'd seen. The one who'd swung an arm out towards them in that hallway.
He shuddered, watching Max pass inspection and then Jondy. Ben sighed loudly, his legs practically jumping under him and then he felt a small tickle in his nose and he stood straight, his hands falling limp at his sides. He lifted a finger to rub at it and he watched Zane pass inspection and get separated into the group with Jondy and Max. Ben sniffed hard, trying to rid himself of that sensation in his nose and he watched Winny and Tinga get passed through, then Zack and Krit, then Syl and Hawk.
The doctor gave him a half smile as he motioned him to step forward. He touched under his neck and his smile faded as he lifted his stethoscope and listened to his heart. He shrugged, marking something down on the chart and then asked him to raise his hands in front of him and Ben frowned, doing as they asked. Was this a new standard test now? Were we all going to develop the shakes Jack had? Ben wondered, watching his hands remain still in front of him as the doctor watched. He glanced at Lydecker who was already briefing two sets of teams that were loaded onto the first truck. He wanted to ask what this was, but the doctor's pen moved quickly and Ben turned to glance at the man.
"Sir, permission to ask a question, sir," he said softly.
The doctor looked up at him and lowered his eyebrows, "You don't have to ask permission to speak to me son."
Ben nodded his head, "Why the new test? We've never been monitored for shaking hands before."
"We've recently witnessed a few of you with tremors."
Ben licked his lips, then nodded again. Then he sneezed and he watched those who'd just been passed through inspection turn to look at him. He could read the worry on Max and Zack's face, then he saw Jondy's eyebrows drop in confusion as Zane shrugged his shoulders and whispered something in the girl's ear. She shook her head and Ben read her lips, "He's no Nomaly, he's just got a cold."
For that quick moment, he smiled in her direction and she smiled back slightly before turning away from him and shoving Zane towards the second truck. Then the doctor whispered the most horrible word Ben had ever heard, "Unsatisfactory." He turned quickly, staring down as the doctor wrote and raised that arm.
"What?" He asked, looking from the doctor, to the soldier, to Lydecker who'd finished briefing the first truck and was walking towards the second. The older man stared at him, his lips frowning in disapproval. "No, I'm fine, I can do this."
"Soldier!" The man who stood in front of him shouted, "You are to follow me back to the barracks immediately."
Ben wanted to shout, but he knew he'd only be punished for doing so and he turned, walking behind the soldier, just as Jack had, with his head held high, as if nothing had happened. There was nothing wrong with him, he kept telling himself. Even Zack got a cold, he thought. Zack had been six, it was a whole different deal back then, it meant nothing. Now they were older, shouldn't they have better immune systems now? Ben stopped thinking and clenched his jaw, walking through the doors to the barrack as the soldier held it open.
The doors closed behind him and he heard the key locking it. They wouldn't be let out until the doctor was finished examining the others and then they'd be taken to the medical labs to have tests run. He'd probably get a shot, be put on the machines to test his metabolism, then he'd be sent back to the barracks for rest. It was his assumption, he'd never been sent back.
Ben looked up from where he stood at the door to Jack who was sitting on his bed with his back turned to him. He could see the other boy rubbing his hand and then he heard him sniffle. Ben swallowed hard and took one step forward before asking, "Are you crying?"
Jack turned swiftly, "What are you doing here?"
"Unsatisfactory," Ben mumbled.
Jack started to laugh and Ben took another step forward.
"What are you laughing at?"
"You, unsatisfactory?" Jack asked, growing serious, "What happened?"
"I sneezed," Ben grunted.
"You have a cold," Jack offered.
Ben nodded, moving to sit at his own bed. He watched Jack wipe away his eyes and the two laid down, staring up at the roof. "How many others end up here?"
Jack shrugged, "The few times I've been left behind, it's only been me."
"What do you do?"
"Wait for the doctors to come. They run tests, see if they can fix you."
Ben moved up on his elbows and looked at the other boy, "Is that why you take more meds than the rest of us?"
"Yes, more Tryptophan. Last time they said they were working on a way to fix the DNA, get to the core of the problem so I won't have shakes anymore."
Ben let his head fall back onto the pillow and he sighed, "Now they fix Nomalies,"
Jack jumped out of bed, "I'm not a Nomaly! Stop calling people Nomalies!"
Ben stood slowly, looking at the other boy. "Nomalies are people with something wrong with them. You've got something wrong with you. You're a Nomaly."
Jack bit his bottom lip and spat back, "Then you're a Nomaly too!"
Ben's eyes widened and he took three large steps towards Jack, grabbing him by the throat and lifting him up, slamming him into his bed. "I am NOT a Nomaly!" Ben shouted into his face. Jack kicked Ben's side and Ben released him, falling back onto the bed beside Jack's.
"Call yourself whatever you want, just leave me alone."
Ben stood, moving away from Jack, who gripped his shaking hand and turned onto his side, closing his eyes and trying to sleep. Ben walked slowly back to his bed and sat, watching the other boy. He couldn't sleep, couldn't escape what he was, he knew. Jack had to lie awake, feeling that hand tremor and know there was nothing he could do but remain there waiting for doctors who could do nothing for him. Ben sniffled lightly and sneezed a second time, knowing at least his could be fixed.
He wondered what it was like for Jack when he got a satisfactory rating and was in the field. Did that hand still shake? Did he hide it from others? How long had he had that shaking hand? Ben sat on his bed and then laid down slowly, staring up at the ceiling. What would happen if one day he got the shakes that often. Ben could remember a time when even Zack had gotten those tremors in his body and had to be taken to the doctors for test and more medication.
Ben closed his eyes and remembered Kat and Yuli. They'd been twins, identical boys, something they rarely saw at Manticore. They were always smaller than the rest of them, even smaller than Jondy and Brin, but Zack never worried about them, not one of them did. They were fast, their vision acute and their hearing better. Whoever's command they were under, they'd be sent as the spies for any mission because they couldn't be detected. Then, when they were seven, their hands had started with the tremors until one day they'd collapsed with them, together.
It gave Ben nightmares of the whole squadron dropping in unison with those seizures. They looked like fish out of water, just shaking on the ground as those guards had come and taken them away. Lydecker explained their deaths the next day as soldiers who couldn't cut it. "Take your medication; run your drills. It'll make you a stronger and healthier soldier." That's what he'd told them. He remembered wondering what happened to their bodies. Zack and Eva told him not to worry about it, to concentrate on the tasks at hand, learning to hack central defense missile systems in the computer lab.
He'd stared at that screen and hacked Manticore. He wanted to know where Kat and Yuli had been taken, but Tech had intercepted his commands and had logged him out. Ben had been disciplined for that, he'd been told if he wanted information he should ask and if he's not given the information requested, he should learn to accept it. Ben couldn't just accept it though. He needed to know. Sitting up in his bed he looked at Jack and turned to the door where the doctors were entering. The men smiled as if nothing was wrong, but Ben had fear brewing in the pit of his stomach. He was starting to wonder whether they were all Nomalies.
Lydecker emerged behind them with Zack. The boy stared down in disbelief at his arm which shook despite his best efforts to hold it. The man released Zack and looked at the three doctors, "Take them to med lab, I want a complete work up on all three in an hour, is that understood?"
"Yes, sir," the three said in unison.
Ben locked eyes with Zack and he watched the normally calm leader's face crumpled with the same fear he'd felt. Standing, Ben joined Zack and Jack at the doorway and he marched with the two, feeling his stomach fluttering. He tried his best to shake it, but he couldn't help but wonder if they were all just Nomalies waiting for that moment when they'd fall.
End. Finis. 6/19/2001 Hope you enjoyed.