“Thirty seconds out from the extraction point. I will- What? Mayday, mayday, mayday, I have been hit! Losing altitude!”
It all happened too fast.
One minute in the sky and the next minute spent spiralling out of control.
Vision slowly began to seep in through the black. The dull ache began to grow into something fiery, forcing his brain to gear into overdrive, jerking up into a sitting position. The strange, reddish-orange fog seemed to haze up his brain, forcing his attention onto what pain he had. He glanced down for only a moment before needing to remove his helmet hastily, pull off his balaclava, and lean out of the broken window, emptying whatever contents remained in his body.
He wheezed, trying to collect himself. You’re fine, you’ve been through worse, you’re fine .
Forcing himself to look again, he choked down the panicky feeling that began building up. His grip tightened around his helmet, checking around, barely able to remember where he was. He looked back down, right at the piece of rebar that tore through his jeans, red stains stretching out of view and soaking just about his entire leg. He steeled himself and reached down, grasping the end of the rebar that stuck through the bottom, relieved to know it hadn’t pierced through his chair, which meant the rebar had broken on both ends. He wasn’t stuck.
He grimaced, attempting to open his door. Realising it wouldn’t budge, he carefully turned himself to not agitate his leg, kicking the door with the working one, gritting his teeth. The door unhinged fairly easily, since having sustained plenty of damage in the crash. He donned his helmet, peering out the side. It wasn’t a far fall but, it would fucking hurt.
He inhaled and dropped down, heavily landing on his good leg and collapsing at the ache that shot through his body. The rebar knocked against the ground, ripping out of his leg with a disgusting sound. He sunk his teeth into his gloved hand in time to muffle the loud screams that tore out of him.
He heaved, resting his head against the floor, exhausted. His voice hoarse and quiet now, he pulled himself up to a sitting position, a feat that took a lot of energy from him.
Dazedly he looked around, trying to figure out whether the others realised he crashed.
A large, spined Rooter stood only a few meters from him, sniffing the air and inspecting the area. It slowly turned, fiery-red eyes directly on him. The Rooter disappeared into the ground, before reappearing in front of him-. It leaned over him, sniffing curiously, and he connected the action to a curious dog of sorts. He stared back at it as it leaned closer, lifting one of those spikes to tap lightly on his visor. It brought back the spine and he brought his arm up, closing his eyes.
His eyes flickered open, slowly dropping his arm down. The Rooter was flat-backed on the ground, a round hole sitting in the centre of its forehead. His arms wobbled and gave out under him, letting him fall back against the hard floor. Unknown words bore through his brain as a blurred figure in a bright yellow hazmat suit kneeled by him. He focused on them, the face slowly registering in his brain.
“Gustave?” his voice was raspy and strained, slurring over every letter.
“Are you alright? Any difficulty breathing?”
“Nnno… my leg,” he gritted his teeth, letting out wheezy breaths. “Rebar… went right t- gh- through.”
“Stay still, you’ll be fine in no time.”
He bit into his lip harshly as Doc carefully moved him into a sitting position. The Frenchman tilted his head to the side, his lips pressing into a thin line. “I’ll need to wrap it as soon as possible, you’ve lost quite a bit of blood.”
He nodded shakily.
“Tachanka, I want your turret in a position where you can see the entire room, as best you can. Lion, keep your gun trained on those front doors, Finka you as well. Buck, put that Skeleton Key to work by targetting anything that comes through those side doors.”
Doc received multiple confirmations from the other operators he didn’t know were there. He bit into his wrist as Doc had to move his leg in order to wrap it properly, his teeth nearly piercing through the fabric. He ignored how wet his face was to attain a little bit of dignity.
The sound of gunfire caught on his ears, looking at the two new CBRN additions. They had opened fire on what seemed to be more of those zombie-like humanoids, of which he hadn’t learned of their new name quite yet. A flash of red crossed his vision, forming into a familiar shape. He grasped Doc’s wrist, stilling him. Doc opened his mouth to speak.
The Apex appeared from practically thin air, a tendril lashing out at Finka, who staggered in response. Lion reached out a hand to steady her, yelling something he couldn’t quite catch.
Doc stared at him for a moment, lifting a hand to his ear. “Finka, focus fire on that Apex!” He dropped his gaze back onto him. “The helicopter is almost here, just a few more seconds.”
The few seconds crawled by in desperate struggle, ammo having been worn dry. The mechanical whir caught his attention.
“Let’s get you back on your feet, shall we?”
Doc draped his arm over his shoulder. He seethed as his leg buckled out, pressing a hand to his side and groaning. They struggled to the helicopter, Doc hurriedly getting him in and strapping him to the seat carefully. He waved in the others, sitting down beside him, shutting the door once Tachanka got in.
“How’s the pilot doing?”
The pilot’s name is… name… my name?
Doc looked over at Lion, responding in a monotone, yet sharp voice he hadn’t heard in years. “Jäger is doing better, but I’ll be able to do more once we reach HQ.”
Jäger... Me? He scrunched up his nose. That’s right. Your name is Marius “Jager” Streicher. You’re a GSG9 operator working under Rainbow.
His head hurt.
Jäger woke up covered in bandages, and an IV tube sticking into his arm. He grimaced, lifting his head, ignoring the headache that mercilessly brought a hammer to his skull over and over. He looked over at the mass of stitchings and bandaging, his breathing increasing slightly.
“... I don’t know if he’s stable, Doc hasn’t kept me up to date with him- yes I know that, alright fine, but if he’s still out, I’m not sorry.”
Kapkan stepped into the whitewashed tent, stopping in his tracks. “I take it back. He’s awake.”
Jäger stared as Kapkan halted near his bed before it clicked that there was something separating them. The Russian donned some sort of mask and gloves, before stepping through the unzipped door.
“Glad to see you up and moving,” he rumbled. Jäger blinked before nodding.
“As am I. Who’s on the phone?”
“Bandit. No clue how he got my number, I suspect Fuse. He wants to talk to you.”
Jäger nodded slowly, carefully sitting up in the bed, pushing himself up enough to prop his back up. Kapkan handed him the phone and stepped out, zipping up the door once more. Jäger lifted the phone to his ear.
“Marius?! Oh, thank fuck, you’re alive!” On the other end, Bandit sounded extremely relieved. “When Ash informed us about you crashing, I didn’t know what to think. Elias had to leave the room, I thought he was about to break something.”
Jäger gave a weak laugh, before grimacing and curling his arm over his chest. Note to self, laughing hurts.
“Well, I’m certainly alright now, just a couple injuries here and there, I’ll be good to go for the next mission, hopefully.”
Kapkan looked over at that.
“Next mission?! No, absolutely not. You were in a helicopter crash, Jäger. You’re not going on another mission until you’re completely healed!”
“Yeah, whatever mom. I’ll listen to you when you’re actually telling me that face-to-face, yeah?”
“Jäger don’t you dare-” Jäger hung up the phone, looking over at Kapkan and held up the phone. He stepped in, holding out a baggy. Jäger snorted quietly, setting the phone in the baggy.
“This quarantine thing is quite extreme, no?”
“Well, it’s to be expected, especially with how quick the contagion spread.”
Jäger nodded and lied back down. Kapkan left without another word, and he fell back into a pitiful sleep.
Horrific imagery plagued his mind throughout his sleep. Sights of his coworkers, his friends, succumbing to the virus, or falling to the virus himself and having to be gunned down by his friends.
He woke up screaming, ripping himself from the bed and knocking down the IV stand, attempting to stay upright. A sob tore through his already strained throat as he buckled under the agonising pain. Shouting sounded from outside his tent, the flaps flying open as Thermite and Ash rushed inside, guns at the ready.
“..ger, Jäger!” Jordan’s voice barely reached out over the white noise that built up into his head. So much sound, too much sound, and he couldn’t hear himself, he couldn’t hear himself screaming.
A hazmat suit appeared in his vision, and he reacted.
He brought a hand back, lashing out at it, the fabric catching in his claws… claws?
Jäger scrambled backward, wrapping his hand around his wrist and holding it close to his chest. He stared down at it, watching as the black claws slowly reverted into the same, pale fingers he was accustomed to. Jäger looked back up to see Thermite staring right at him.
“I… I…” he couldn’t get the words out, why couldn’t he just talk?!
“It’s okay, you’re here, Marius. What happened?” Thermite’s calming voice washed over him, and he relaxed slightly. He motioned to his head.
“Are you able to talk about it?” at that Jäger shook his head, hugging himself.
“What’s wrong… with me?”
Thermite looked over his shoulder toward Ash, who slowly nodded. He slowly turned back around, looking the pilot in the eye.
“Doc suspects you attained some sort of strain of the virus, and it’s apparently slowly affecting you. Doc himself headed out on a mission with a few others to track down a doctor by the name of Mackintosh, saying that she may have a cure.”
Jäger was horrified, staring at Thermite with wide eyes. “In...fected?”
The Texan sighed, helping Jäger back onto the bed. “Doc will find a cure for you, Jäger, you’ll be fine.”
With that, they left him to wallow in the grim news.
Jäger glowered at Doc, crossing his arms. “Why not? I’m able to walk around now, which means I can fly a helicopter!”
“Perhaps you are cleared physically, but that does not mean you are cleared mentally! What if you experience muscle spasms? Panic about crashing again? Besides, we still aren’t done with the cure.”
The pilot turned away, beginning to pace in the quarantine cell. He felt caged in, vulnerable. He tightened his fists, his knuckles going white for a moment.
“Fine. Fine, fine, fine.” Jäger threw his hands into the air, stopping. “At least give me something to do so I’m not bored out of my mind, so I don’t feel like a fucking prisoner.”
“The best I can do is get some radios, maybe an engine, for you to tinker with.”
“That’ll be fine.”
What used to be a rare occurrence of boredom became almost every other hour, where he would sit on his bed and force his hand to go through that transformation of the claw, to hand, over and over. Slowly, but surely, it became easier and easier to do, going as far as to meld the claws together into a single spike, like how the Rooters were. That, however, resulted in a slight panic as Jäger couldn’t undo it for a good twenty or thirty minutes.
Although, he had to hide the… ‘ability’ any time someone came in to check on how he was doing. Doc had made a comment on how the parasite didn’t seem to affect him as much, or as quickly, as all the other cases did. It had been a week and he hadn’t shown any of the usual, rage-inducing symptoms, besides the time he lashed at Thermite.
“You’ll be fine in no time,” Doc had told him, “the Operation is almost over, and then we can get you to a more comfortable quarantine. The cure should be developed much, much faster after that.”
He’ll be fine in no time.
Jäger had realised three things during his stay. One, his irises were beginning to redden, yet his pupils remained the same, pitch-black as always, unlike how most infected had shiny, pale pupils. He had learned this when Buck, ever so patient Buck, came in to chat and play Battleship with him. The Canadian was quick to point out both factors when Jäger began to panic about it.
Two, he could sometimes see through objects, items on the other side being outlined by a light shade of red. Jäger found this out quickly when he realised he could see through the barrier that separated Buck’s moves and him, and although the temptation of cheating came to mind, he quickly brought this up. They experimented with what types of material he could see through, how thick the material needed to be, and how far he could see. Cloth, any type of fabric really, was a no go for Jäger, but a lot of other things they got their hands on was fair game. Anything thicker than three inches wasn’t revealing, and Jäger could see things about twelve metres, or forty feet. Later on, Buck jokingly suggested they got a new game to play.
Three, Jäger had sharp teeth. He’d learned this in a painful manner, for when his gloves refused to come off, he went to bite the fabric to pull it off, only for a tooth to pierce the fabric and the pad of his finger. That was quite a thing to lie about to Doc, who had inspected the entire tent for anything sharp, not able to find anything, Jäger keeping tight-lipped the entire time. As soon as Doc had left, he checked the small mirror, noting that most of his teeth were more pointed, like a canine.
He’ll be fine in no time. Right?
Truth or Consequences had taken a turn for the worse, enough for Thermite to get his wish. Jäger watched from the safe distance as the mushroom cloud rose up, covering the horizon in ash and debris. It wasn’t the first time he’d seen a nuke, but it was the first time he was in person for it. All the documentaries about the testing in New Mexico, yet the black and white film didn’t do it justice, the mushroom cloud all sorts of reds, yellows, and oranges.
They could leave.
As expected, Jäger was moved from one quarantine to the next, the new one having a proper bed, padded floor, and whitewashed walls. Mildly eerie in his opinion, but it was better than nothing. Here he could look out reinforced windows, watch as birds flew by as a calm distraction. Well. It was calm, at least until a specific defender tried kicking down the door.
Key word being tried.
He looked up at the sound of a loud yelp, squinting his eyes. Glass had a weird effect on the enhanced sight, but through the haze, he could see a familiar German storming in and immediately starting a shouting match with Doc.
Jäger carefully got up, hobbling over to the window and knocking a knuckle against it. “Wait until Doc’s had his coffee at least, ja?”
The shouting ceased, Bandit’s head snapping over so fast Jäger half expected him to get whiplash. Doc’s expression turned to one of suppressed relief, sitting back down at his desk, resuming his conversation with Mackintosh, who had wisely stayed out of it.
“How are you doing?” Bandit leaned against the window, keeping eye contact and looking apprehensive. He was likely trying to figure out why his friend had red eyes.
“Good. Better than earlier.” Jäger patted the bandages on his thigh, gently, ignoring how much of an ache it had. He flashed Bandit a thin-lipped smile. “How about you? The others?”
“IQ has been more of a worried mom than usual,” Dominic rolled his eyes, grinning lightly. “Blitz has reached a level that’s worse than IQ, and would not stop calling Ash. She had to block his number!”
Marius barked out a laugh, amused. “As to be expected, at least someone cared,” he teased.
“You can’t say shit, Mr I-hang-up-on-my-friends,” Dominic huffed out, crossing his arms and glaring.
“Well you got your wish anyways, Doc wouldn’t let me anywhere because-” Jäger paused now, his gaze flicking to Doc. The man shook his head slowly. “-I was still hurt.”
Dom’s eyes narrowed slightly. Jäger shrugged helplessly with an expression of, ‘what can you do’.
“When do you think you’ll be done with quarantine?”
The question took him off guard, looking to the GIGN operative for help. Doc gave a shrug when Bandit looked over. “We’re not sure. The injury was deep, and we need to make sure that because of the injury, he wasn’t affected by the virus.”
Bandit frown increased. “He has red eyes.”
“It’s a small affliction. Nothing serious, and possibly permanent.”
I suppose it does up my threatening look? Jäger thoughts, focusing on his reflection with a frown.
“How about you visit tomorrow, Bandit? I’ll keep you, and the rest of the GSG9, updated with his status. It’s quite late.”
Bandit sighed, looking resigned and weary, a look Jäger rarely saw besides when he spoke of the times undercover.
“Make sure he gets better, got it?”
“You have my word, Dominic.”
He turned to Jäger, crossing his arms. “You better get better, you hear me? No bullshit allowed.”
“You’ll be taking all the bullshit with you,” Jäger smiled. “I’ll be fine.”
Bandit turned around and left.
I’ll be fine.