Jared unbuttoned the grey shirt with white trim that was part of his normal uniform as a member of Grey Snow. It was scratchy, as usual. He wished his healing powers would make his skin adapt to the rough cotton, but it didn’t. At least it didn’t look bad on him. Kind of drab, but it made his blue eyes pop. Definitely better looking on him than the black combat suit he now pulled on in preparation for his first real mission. He knew the Redarctican government was cheap regarding most things, but he could understand why they didn’t waste high quality clothing on them. This was the tenth uniform he was using this week, and it was only Tuesday. Patrick had a tendency to burn holes in them during training.
He was just grateful they hadn’t started having them train naked yet, though Patrick often ended up near enough. If they kept going through so many uniforms, he suspected they might try that soon enough. He flushed at the thought of May seeing him naked and vice versa. He shook his head at the thought, as much to get rid of the sudden heat he was feeling as to dissuade himself from viewing her in that manner.
It would be dangerous to get too hot under the collar lest his collar explode. He could feel it, bubbling beneath the surface all the places Patrick had hit him during training. He could feel the energy there, wanting to come out. It’d taken him a couple of weeks to realize that the nature of his powers was more than just healing. At least to a limited extent, he could copy abilities that were used on him.
Or at least he thought he could. He’d worked hard to suppress any transformation into a form like Patrick’s. If their medical scans didn’t already reveal it, he didn’t want Mirkov to know about his increased potential. It was bad enough they were using him for retrieval missions and he really didn’t fancy being switched to an offensive squad. There were rumors that Redarctica would soon be at war with their neighbor Feezeland and Jared was sure they’d have plenty of use for a human tank that could heal.
It was already pretty iffy whether Patrick would get to stay with their team or whether he would be switched over to an aggression squad. Jared knew he didn’t want to be, but ultimately there would be no use resisting. Better to end up cannon fodder than have the pain chip switched on for a long period. Even a few seconds had taught them how useless resistance was.
But Jared hadn’t given up. He didn’t know the full extent of this new aspect to his powers, but if he could keep them secret then maybe he could figure out how to use them to escape. Patrick’s probably wouldn’t be very useful unless he got really desperate, but maybe they would encounter someone on a mission whose powers could actually help.
If worst came to worst, maybe he could use Patrick’s power to remove the pain chip. But the thought made him nervous. He didn’t know where in his brain the pain chip was. Even if he did, ripping his skull open with Patrick’s powers could be disastrous. The worst he’d recovered from was torn muscles, crushed limbs, and horrible burns. No doubt some of his injuries would have proved fatal under normal circumstances, but none of them would have left him with severe brain damage. He had no idea if he could recover from burning his brain or not and was not eager to test it.
Especially since he didn’t even know if the chip would be resistant to fire or not. He doubted such a sensitive electronic device could withstand molten heat, but Mirkov was quite adept at thinking ahead. He might not have expected Jared’s powers to progress in the manner they did, but he probably thought it possible an opponent could damage the chip while attacking Jared. Most likely he would have taken precautions to minimize that risk.
Jared hated it, but he would have to wait until he could learn more, both about his abilities and about the chip, if the latter was possible. He just hoped he could keep his new ability under wraps until he was able to. Besides, even if I burn up the stick I can’t ignore the carrot.
Doctor Mirkov had made a deal to make him more cooperative. If he served Grey Snow, then Doctor Mirkov would try and cure his sister’s coma. He wasn’t sure Mirkov would honor his word, but he knew that if Mirkov really did try he might be his sister’s best hope. Mirkov was brilliant in multiple fields of research, most of them involving medical science. Even if he couldn’t do it himself, he probably had plenty of contacts who might be able to help. Assuming Lilly’s even in a coma. Not exactly like Mirkov is the most reliable source. He could be lying through his goddamn teeth.
“Are you ready yet?” May asked him. He had to struggle again not to flush as he saw her and returned to the earlier thought of seeing her naked. Immature of him to like the only girl he was stuck with just because she was beautiful, very intelligent, and probably the kindest person he’d met in this horrid country. Just like continuing to hold a grudge for the bus would be immature since she was just as much a slave as he was.
But…she was also beaten. They might not have yet gotten her soul, but she was Grey Snow’s in body and mind. He and Patrick might have accepted they had to follow orders, but their attitudes were resistant in every way that they could get away with. Jared’s resistance was less blatant following Mirkov’s offer of assistance, but no one would be confused about his real opinion of Grey Snow.
May wasn’t resistant at all. She did as was required her with polite meekness, only the slightest of smirks at Jared and Patrick’s constant sarcasm to show she might agree with their attitude. It was with that polite meekness she’d shot Patrick and Isabella, getting Steve and Katherine killed, however unintentionally.
It was with that polite meekness she had told him his parents were dead and his sister was in a coma when Mirkov found out. She tried to be sympathetic, but even before being taken by Grey Snow she claimed to have had no family for as long as she could remember. Something in her eyes made him doubt the truth of that, but it would make it hard for her to understand the grief he was feeling.
It was also with that polite meekness that she’d broken his bones when they first started training. Jared had to admit he actually kind of enjoyed their sparring sessions now that they were a lot more even. But for the first several days she curb stomped him, snapping limbs with joint locks, crushing his teeth with uppercuts and his windpipe with well-aimed jabs, apologies on her lips and the scarcest of smiles perpetually on her face.
“Yeah, let’s do this.” They made their way to the jet black chopper that would take them to their first mission together. “For someone who likes preparation so much, Mirkov isn’t giving us much time to get ready for this. Any idea what that’s about?”
“Not really. I don’t think this was supposed to be our first mission. Mirkov told me yesterday that we were scheduled for a routine scan op in two days. This is... unexpected.”
“Gee, thanks for sharing,” Patrick said, joining them as they reached the hanger.
“You’re coming as well?” May asked placidly.
“Don’t act so surprised, partner,” Patrick said, appearing offended. Jared knew he was just feigning it, not the least bit perturbed. May had a hard time telling when someone was joking though and Patrick liked to mess with her a bit.
“It’s just… if it requires your assistance then why were we not issued gear? Namely, energy projectors. If whatever we are facing is strong enough to withstand a fight with you then surely it can take an energy blast or two. But we haven’t even been issued the stuff we’ve been training with recently.”
“That’s because it’s already on board,” Mirkov called from within the chopper. “Now get your asses on the copter please, we don’t have all day. Well, technically we do, but the Ministry of Justice won’t be happy if we dilly dally too long. And that’s assuming they don’t run out of patience and get in our way.”
Jared shrugged. “Guess we’ll find out.” Getting on the chopter, blades began whirling up above them, peculiarly quiet. Jared wondered if that was Krieg’s work or if Redarctica’s excessive military spending was responsible. Of course his own nation spent ten times what Redarctica did, so maybe Mirkov was able to get cast off technology.
“Ok kids, here’s the deal. Two hours ago there was a break in at the national museum. According to the police reports, a guard was found with his throat ripped out, as if by a large cat. The second guard who found him called it into the police and then went silent. Upon arriving at the scene, police found a total of three guards eviscerated, including the one believed to have called it in. That’s when they retreated to the museum’s perimeter. Unfortunately for the thief, the police station is right next door and the entire museum was surrounded within minutes. If they didn’t know that then I can only assume they are not the brightest cat burglar in existence.”
Patrick snorted at Mirkov’s pun and Jared fought a smile as well. Even May smirked slightly. Mirkov coughed.
“Right, so they have cornered him in the museum. But unless a jaguar escaped the local zoo and took a very unusual interest in fine art, we’re dealing with a special. The police would like nothing more than to fill him full of holes, but I want him captured and working for us. So make sure he doesn’t get away but don’t rip him apart either.”
“And if he rips us apart?” Jared asked.
“You’ll get over it,” Mirkov said glibly. Jared wasn’t too sure about this. He’d trained against many Redarctica Special Forces members the last couple of months, but his only experience fighting specials was against Patrick and May. And the only thing special about fighting May was that he could use more dangerous techniques with impunity, which greatly offset her ability to use more suicidal ones. Grey Snow had other teams, he knew, but at least for now Mirkov didn’t want them to fraternize or train together. Perhaps he was concerned they could combine their powers in a way to free each other.
Regardless of his reasons, Jared was skeptical about whether the training from hell they’d put him through was still going to be sufficient preparation for a deadly special they had almost no information on. Part of him would be fine with that. He didn’t like the idea of capturing more lackeys for Grey Snow to use. But he also knew failure would have a steep cost, and he wasn’t sure it was a cost worth paying to let someone who’d murdered people for a bit of artwork go free.
“I suggest you three use the next twenty minutes to come up with a plan of action. I have the schematics of the museum here for you to review.” He handed over the museum schematics.
Jared looked at them. What am I supposed to do? I’m not even sure how to read these things. They aren’t even in my language. May was looking at the schematics intently.
“The only way out the police might not have blocked is through the sewage tunnel,” May said. “Even then…it’s unlikely someone with the mass of a jaguar could fit. They would have to revert back to human form, assuming they are any skinnier. But if they figured that out they may already be gone. Even if they aren’t, we’d have to land on the roof. They have a head start on us and if we’re wrong they could ambush us at multiple points while making our way down.”
“Well…” Jared said slowly. “There is one way to go down faster.” This is going to hurt.