As always, if it's canon it doesn't belong to me.
Thanks to Julie Bloss Kelsey and my husband for beta-reading, and to the members of Bird Scramble for their comments.
This is set some way down a long-running story arc. I've tried to make it somewhat standalone - but if you want to know how things got to this stage, I recommend you go back and start with "All Good Things". Canon-wise, it's some time after the end of the series. In terms of my fic, it's after "Return to the Red Planet".Prodigal
Jason hadn't paid more than a flying visit to Team Seven for as long as he could remember. Once, maybe twice, since Mark had walked out on them five long months ago. Today he'd made the effort. He badly needed to do something different, which didn't involve memories of just how much less effective G-Force was these days. He'd never have thought that sifting through intelligence reports could be attractive. It wasn't, but it was better than sitting in the ready room wondering how to take five seconds off their time from this morning's simulation, in the full knowledge that with Mark instead of Rick they'd been forty seconds faster.
Today, then, after an assortment of questions about the Spectran language immersion course he was allegedly taking, there were six of them sitting around the big worktable, scanning through a six inch pile of reports from people who thought they had seen evidence of a Spectran base. Dave O'Leary was regaling them with tales of the time he'd been involved with a real base bust, and Jason was struggling to keep a straight face. He might not have been there at the time, having been engaged in his first, last, and hopefully only encounter with the 'flu, but he had read the report, and he was pretty sure Team Seven hadn't exactly played the pivotal all-action role Dave was claiming. Fortunately, Dave considered himself quite the comic, and Jason wasn't the only one smiling.
"And then the Eagle said -" was cut short by a bleep from the communicator in the centre of the table.
"Lieutenant Alouita to my office, stat."
Jason sighed inwardly. He'd thought Nykinnen had more sense than to ask why the new commander of G-Force hadn't been seen doing his cover job too much recently. Still, maybe it was better for Nykinnen to haul him in, in case the rest of Team Seven wondered why it hadn't happened?
He knocked on the door of the Team Seven commander's office and went in to find Nykinnen looking more flustered than he'd ever seen him.
"Commander? You wanted to see me?"
"The gate guards say they have someone there claiming to be Mark Jarrald."
Jason put out a hand to the doorframe for support, staring wordlessly.
"He wouldn't give an entry code, just asked them to contact you."
Mark figured out Anderson would have blanked his entry code, or more likely set it to call security... "I'll go bring him in. Don't go anywhere - I may need your authorisation to get him through the gate." As Nykinnen nodded, Jason left the office at a run. Just for once, his car was parked out front in one of the very few spaces allocated to Team Seven near to the building, and was far closer than the gate was. He'd drive.
It didn't really hit him until he was in the car and headed for the front gate, half a mile or so distant at the end of a long drive. Mark had come back. But in what state? Was he just going to waltz in, fully recovered, and demand his command back? Maybe he'd found out what was wrong with him and wanted treatment? Maybe he'd simply run out of money. If complex medical treatment was involved, that was far from unlikely.
And then he walked into the gatehouse and it all became completely irrelevant.
An ISO sergeant was crouched on the floor, his back to the door in a way that would have brought him an instant reprimand from anyone checking up on proper procedure. Jason didn't care. The sergeant was bent over a jeans-clad figure who was convulsing on the floor, and there weren't too many candidates for who that figure was.
He was alongside in two strides, and there was no doubt.
The sergeant jumped a mile, and swung round in some semblance of alertness. "You can't be in here."
"I'm Lieutenant Alouita. Get back to your job. I'll see to Mark."
He dropped to his knees at the other's head, going into full paramedic mode. Mark was breathing fine, if raggedly, his colour was good, he wasn't bleeding anywhere. He was just convulsing like there was no tomorrow.
"It's Jason. Come on, Mark, talk to me!"
Mark opened his eyes, choked out, "Jase - help me!" and shut them tight again as the convulsions worsened.
And a car drew up outside, forcing the guard to go out and deal with it. Breathing a prayer of thanks for small mercies, Jason hastily sprawled on the floor alongside his old friend. No time for quiet focus now. He had only seconds to try to pick up what was wrong with Mark, and whether it was safe to move him. Back to back, implant to implant, reach out and feel what the other was feeling.
The next thing he knew, he was on his feet at the other side of the guardhouse, gasping in disbelief. That hadn't been pain. That had been pure, unadulterated jagged wrongness pouring through his implant. That wasn't normal, or even caused by illness. The closest analogy he could think of was electronic static, and that meant it was the implant itself malfunctioning. Had to be.
He'd seen enough. Jason put a hand on the other's shoulder, hoping it would be comforting. "Hang in there. I'll get Chris." And turned back to the guard, just coming back into the room. "I need your phone."
The sergeant gestured to it. He was unusually low-ranking for an officer with this posting, in Jason's experience, and also rather older than the average. Senior and with common-sense, rather than high-flying. And with at least some degree of sympathy. "Can I do anything?"
"Just do your job." Jason had already finished dialing. "Come on, Chris, pick up the damn phone!"
There was no response. Jason put the receiver down, considering. "Can you help me get him in the car?"
"Sorry, sir." The sergeant might be sympathetic, but he knew his job. "You don't have the authority to clear him past this point."
Jason glanced at him, at Mark, twitching helplessly on the floor in what looked like the last stages of exhaustion, and picked up the phone again, barely resisting the temptation to pull out his bracelet and ask just how much authority the man thought he needed. If this phone call didn't get answered, he might well be doing it.
"Alouita. I'm in the gatehouse. I need you to get Chris Johnson here, stat."
"You got it."
Nykinnen could put things in motion that Jason couldn't, not without using his bracelet or saying things over the phone which would make it far too clear who he really was. Jason mentally gave him three minutes and went back to Mark's side. Not that there was anything he could do, beyond the hand on the other's shoulder to let him know he wasn't alone. He'd rarely felt so completely helpless.
Two minutes later the phone rang, and the guard quickly passed it down to Jason.
"Mark's here, convulsing like crazy." He'd have liked to add 'it's the implant', but didn't dare, not in public.
"I'm coming." And the phone went dead.
Jason tightened his grip on Mark's shoulder. "You hear that? Chris is on his way. He'll have something to help."
Mark's whimper was so quiet he barely caught it. "...thinks I'm imagining..."
"No way in hell you're imagining this. Hang in there." He knelt up slightly, just enough to see down the road towards the main buildings. Hurry up, Chris. He's a real mess.
The doctor's car screeched to a skidding halt that had Jason wincing in sympathy for the tyres, and Chris Johnson came through the door with a peremptory wave of a badge at the guard, dropping to his knees alongside Jason.
"Mark, it's Chris. Can you talk to me?"
"How long has this been going on?"
Mark just gasped, and the guard offered, "He seemed fine when he came in here. He collapsed right after asking me to call the lieutenant."
"Lieutenant? Ah, yes. Jason, how long?"
"Ten minutes? Fifteen? It was more violent than this when I got here."
Chris nodded, raising his voice again in that clear 'listen to me' tone. "Mark, have you taken any drugs recently?"
"No," he managed, barely. "Chris...I need..."
"It's coming." The doctor turned away to the case that he'd put out of reach of Mark's thrashing form. "Jason, get me an IV injection site, as still as you can get him."
"He needs it now, not in ten minutes."
"Okay." Jason grabbed the guard's arm. "Help me hold him still."
Even with Mark exhausted - and from more than just this one bout of convulsions, if Jason was any judge - it wasn't easy, and it took all of their strength to hold him still in a position where he couldn't hurt himself. Jason thanked heaven for warm weather and short sleeves, as Chris expertly slid the needle into a vein near Mark's elbow and emptied three different syringes into it, followed by applying pressure as the needle was removed.
"Mark, I've given you relaxant, painkiller and anticonvulsant. You're going to feel much better, very soon, and then we'll get you back to ISO, get you rehydrated, and figure out what's going on."
The guard, obviously uncomfortable, cleared his throat. "Sir, I'm so sorry - I still can't let this man in."
Chris simply fumbled his ID badge free with his spare hand, and held it up behind him.
"I apologise, Doctor. You have sufficient authorisation."
By the time the ISO ambulance pulled up a few minutes later, Mark was mostly calm and still, rolled onto his side, eyes shut, still twitching every few seconds. Chris's face was grave, though, and he kept one hand on the other's pulse, even as Mark was lifted onto the gurney and carried to the waiting van.
"I hope he's going to be okay," the guard said as the ambulance doors closed.
"So do I." Jason climbed into his own car and realised his hands were shaking on the wheel. So do I.