Victim: At Least I'm not the Villain
Chapter One: Sore
Ty closed his small gym locker, slung a towel over his shoulder and stepped into the Star Command fitness center. It had been two weeks since the wirewolf fiasco and the demise of Nos-4-A2, and he still ached from it. Ty stepped towards the stretching mat, dropped the towel and reached for his tennis shoes. His calves pulled when his hands were a foot above the floor. Wow. He needed to stretch more often. Last time he had a serious work out was before the incident on Canis Lunis. Man, that sounded so long ago.
He straightened up. Well, the wirewolf nightmare was over. Ty reached for his toes and a ranger came up beside him and copied his position, except his hands brushed the tops of his shoes.
"Stretching in front of the mirror before weight training," the man said. "Just like the Academy days, huh?"
Ty knew the voice by heart and he sighed. Buzz had mellowed out with regard to references to rescues since the death of Nos-4-A2, and Ty could tell he was truly trying not to be so overbearing. Yet still, he was. Buzz just couldn't help appearing superior to Ty and Ty couldn't help constantly trying to prove him wrong. He no longer hated Buzz as he had before, but he still hated how easy it was for Buzz to flaunt his incredible resume. Again, it wasn't Buzz's fault for being an exemplary ranger, but it sure wouldn't hurt to do a better job at concealing it.
"Hi, Buzz," Ty greeted flatly, trying to keep the bite from his voice. He grabbed the towel and headed for the track. "I was just going jogging."
"Well great!" Buzz laughed, slapping him on the back. "I was going to start my work out with a run as well."
They walked by the strength training equipment and exercising rangers, stepping over hand weights and dodging medicine balls. Ty stepped through the doorway to the track first and slung his towel over the railing as he stepped onto the red rubber path.
Ty glanced at Buzz and made sure to start running before him. Just focus on your run, he told himself. Forget about Buzz. He pumped his arms and turned the first corner, looking back at Buzz as he did so. Blast! He was closing in.
Ty ran faster, leaving Buzz further back. In the Academy, running had been Ty's thing. He didn't often win in hand-to-hand combat, but few recruits could beat him in a race, whether it be sprinting or cross country. It was one of the only activities he dominated in. He glanced back and saw Buzz catching up, so he picked up his feet and pumped his arms harder. Not this time, Buzz, he thought and took deeper breaths. Buzz followed ten yards behind, smiling pleasantly. Ty knew it was just an act. Buzz was terribly competitive and there was no doubt that he was trying to overtake him.
Ty's knees and hips hadn't loosened up yet and began to ache. He breathed heavily and pushed himself faster. A hurdle came into view and Ty switched lanes to line up with it. If Buzz passed him, it would be because Ty had been jumping hurdles: there was no shame in that, especially since Ty was an excellent jumper as well.
As he closed in on the hurdle, he prepared his footing and tensed his muscles. Ty jumped but his legs were too slow in tucking and his foot caught the top of the hurdle, causing him to fall flat on his face. He struggled to his feet just as Buzz slowed to a stop beside him.
"You okay, buddy?" Buzz asked with concern. Was Ty forever doomed to humiliation?
"I'm alright," Ty replied, brushing himself off.
"It's not like you to miss a hurdle," Buzz mentioned. 'You have the fastest feet I know."
Ty's pride was healed a bit by the remark. "Really?"
"Sure," Buzz assured, punching Ty's shoulder.
Buzz was trying, at least.
"I didn't have much breakfast," Ty confessed, attempting to be kind to his old friend. "Maybe I need to eat something else." He flexed his stiff elbows.
"I was just headed to the mess hall myself," Buzz said laying a hand on Ty's shoulder. "We could do breakfast."
Ty shook it off. "I have energy bars in my room. I'll just eat one of those."
Buzz shrugged. "Whatever fuels your rockets, Ty. Call me if you need anything." With that, Buzz slung his towel over his shoulder and went back into the weight room.
Ty watched Buzz leave and felt ashamed. He didn't want Buzz to take care of him, yet when Buzz didn't, Ty was offended. What was Buzz to do? Ty felt like a needy little kid. It wasn't Buzz's fault that Ty wasn't great relationally, and yet in a way, it was. Ty was the butt of many jokes circulating within Star Command, which Buzz helped pass along – hopefully unintentionally, given how clueless Buzz could be. At least the majority of Star Command had shifted their looks of amusement to disappointment of late: a slight improvement. At least they took him seriously, though it was too bad his name was forever tied to that of Nos-4-A2.
Buzz and his team didn't look on him with scorn. Probably because they had been there, and they knew how little control he had had over himself. Mira had mentioned it to some of the other rangers, but it didn't help Ty's reputation much.
Ty walked through the weight room and spotted Buzz on the bench press. Clearly he hadn't intended on going to breakfast, or maybe he didn't think his pecks were large enough. He entered the locker room and opened his locker, his fingers faintly aching. He rolled his tense shoulders and flexed his knees. He must have hurt himself falling over the hurdle.
As Ty walked down the hallway, his knees nearly buckled. Paranoid as he was about discovering something seriously wrong with himself so soon after being reinstated, Ty figured he should get himself checked out, just to put his mind at ease.
He turned aside and into the medical clinic and stepped up to the receptionist's counter, getting the attention of a green plant-like woman. She tried to conceal it, but Ty could tell she was replaying the wirewolf report in her mind.
"I'd like to see Dr. Gorak," Ty explained leaning on the counter, trying to appear calm.
The woman glanced at his elbow.
"You're bleeding," she noted.
Ty followed her gaze and noticed the scrape on his elbow, wet with blood. He removed it from the counter and quickly wiped away the blood from the plastic surface with his towel.
"It's nothing," he assured her. "I just um… fell." Ty hoped the receptionist wasn't a gossip because that information could easily fuel another batch of jokes. "Which is actually why I wanted to see the doctor. Is he available?"
The receptionist read over the schedule for the day and nodded.
"Dr. Gorak has half an hour before his next appointment. I'll see if he can take you." She stood and disappeared through an automatic door.
Ty glanced around the empty waiting room and stepped towards a nearby chair, easing into it with some trouble. He felt like an old man. No sooner had he gotten comfortable than Dr. Gorak, a large jolly creature with the complexion of a gourd, came through the sliding door beside him.
"Ty Parsec!" he greeted. Ty struggled up from the chair. "I haven't seen you since your examination two weeks ago."
Ty finally made it to his feet and shook the doctor's hand. Dr. Gorak's brow furrowed.
"That's quite a fight you put up to get out of the chair," he mentioned.
"That's what I wanted to ask you about," said Ty as they traveled toward one of the examination rooms. "My joints have been very stiff lately and they hurt when I move them." He sat on the smooth, plastic table. "It's probably just persistently sore muscles, but I wanted to make sure, after… well…"
"Yes, I know," Dr. Gorak replied, pulling gloves over his seven-fingered hands. He removed a scanner from the wall and turned it on. "This will check for lactic acid and scar tissue buildup," he explained. "Please lie down." Ty obeyed and Dr. Gorak shone the beam on Ty's chest, slowly moving it over his arms and down to his feet. The doctor was silent as he read the screen.
"Well," he said as he turned off the scanner and Ty sat back up. "All I can see is a bit of lactic acid buildup. Nothing to worry about."
"Oh," Ty said, relieved.
"However," the doctor continued. "given what your body has gone through lately, I'd suggest spending some time in the physical therapy unit. An hour a day this week, just to be certain."
Ty thanked him and went to the receptionist to get a copy of Dr. Gorak's orders and to set up the first appointment. Physical therapy wouldn't help prove to the other rangers that he was capable. If he had broken his back, it would have been honorable. But who ever heart of going to physical therapy for sore muscles? It made him look like a wimp and Ty didn't need help in that area.