I know, I know, its been forever. Thing is, I turned all of my Bourne inspiration towards finishing my other Bourne fanfic, The Bourne Rebellion. (Read the finished product on my profile, and don't forget to send me a review! :D) So now, with Aaron, Marta, Jason, and Nikki's story having come to a close, its this fanfic's time to shine. I'm back for the count, and I plan to get this story up and running, so stick around.
Anyways, hope you enjoy. :)
I didn't bother with excuses. I had learned by now it wouldn't do me any good.
So, though my tongue formed a thousand instant protests against the task that was fast approaching, I didn't allow myself to verbalize them. They just sat there, heavy and trembling inside me. A thousand arguments, a thousand "cant's", and "no's" and a thousand fears.
What if I cant manage to replicate the wire pattern? Hell, I just learned how to swim for the first time! What if I fail?
Again, I heard June's voice in my head, repeating her mantra.
Failure is not an option.
And it wasn't. I told myself that over and over, trying to steel myself for what I was about to do.
Failure is not an option.
I drew strength from it. There was something in the way it left a paved road in the mind—closing off all other side streets of possibility, till there was only a clear-cut route to success.
Failure. Is. Not. An. Option.
The splash as Swift toppled backwards into the pool echoed in the room, the sound coming across as a wet, clammy slap of skin against water. Beside me, June shifted on the balls of her feet. Went up on her toes briefly and squared her shoulders. She offered her hands up willingly to White as he approached with the length of wet chain, holding them out crossed behind her as he wound the thick metal about her slim wrists. The padlock cinched shut, and he went to work on her ankles, crouching down with his head bowed.
June glanced over at me, and our eyes met.
I couldn't tell if I was sweating because my skin was already dripping from the pool water, but I sure felt like I should be.
I couldn't hold back the feeling that she should be the one sweating it out in anxious fear, about to be hurled into the depths with nothing but the slim hope of an idiot who cant even swim, much less unlock a padlock underwater with nothing but a length of wire. From where she was standing, I had nothing to lose. I could always swim to the surface and leave her after a failed attempt.
Leave her to drown.
I got the feeling that White and the other Outcome trainees were either under strict orders not to assist, or didn't feel morally inclined to.
But despite all this, all I saw in June's eyes was a raw faith. A simple don't screw up.
I sure as hell was gonna try not to.
Failure isn't an option.
Before I even knew what was happening, June was toppling over the edge. I had to suppress my first instinct to catch her before she hit the water, as well as my second to dive in immediately after her. I remember in the nick of time that I was supposed to let her settle on the bottom first. Some kind of unspoken rule. So I settled for watching her through the unsteady glass of the water anxiously, not even noticing that my whole body was bobbing up and down in pent up, nervous energy.
But June was moving as she sank. Twisting and rolling in the water, as she plunged deeper and deeper. It wasn't till she touched the bottom that I realized what she had been doing—she had already brought her feet up through the whole of her arms so that her hands were now chained before her.
But now it was my turn. The mark had been set. The metaphorical gun had gone off. I took off of that pool block like any Olympic swimmer, the panic only beginning to swell when I settled under the water, the momentum of my dive gone.
I forced it back. I wouldn't let it consume me. Not this time. This time I needed to focus.
This time I needed to become Aaron Cross.
Move. Swim. Arms out, pull yourself forward through the water. Kick your legs.
Slowly, ungainly, I carved my way through the water down to the bottom. June was looking up at me from the tiled floor, watching my progress. An air bubble escaped her and came up to brush against my face, before scurrying franticly back up to the surface.
At last I reached her, hooking my foot around hers to keep me anchored down. She nodded to the wire I held in my hand and I held it out so that the both of us could see what I was doing. Slowly, meticulously, I replicated the same pattern of twists and kinks June had made in the stretch of wire, while the woman herself looked on, helpless yet surprisingly calm.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I marveled vaguely that the picture of that bent finished product of wire June had showed me underwater, was so clear to me now in my mind's eye. As if I had it before me at the moment for a literal comparison.
But I needed to get everything right. June had no time for any mistakes on my part.
Right about the point when Kenneth Kitsom's lung capacity would have died out, I finished my wire, holding it up for June to approve. She glanced over it and gave a brief, hurried nod, and I immediately set to work on the padlock about her ankles.
I don't know what I was expecting in regards to actually picking the lock—a previous, naïve part of me thinking that the hard part would be the wire; getting it just right to act like a key, opening the lock like it was nothing—but as soon as I inserted that wire, reality struck me in the face.
I couldn't work the wire. I could barely feel anything, the water dulling any sense of movement I probably would have had on dry land, and I had no idea which way to turn it or how. All I was doing was scrabbling around with a wire in a metal hole.
The crippling pang of fear began to creep back in.
Until I was suddenly lightly kicked in the face by June.
I looked up at her, surprised at the action, with a look like you aren't helping, but I found her own expression calm and focused. She met my eyes, and again I found I could understand her through them. She spread her fingers, and made two soft downward motions with her chained hands.
She closed her eyes, her fingers gracefully curling and then uncurling again.
I hesitated a second, and then bent down to my task again. I closed my eyes. Concentrated on the wire in my hands.
And then something amazing happened.
It was as if all of my senses, in that moment of pure concentration, were amplified to supernatural levels.
It seemed as if time had suddenly stopped. As if the world had ceased to spin. As if all about me everything was thrown into slow motion—cast into some other realm where time was fragmented, shattering into a thousand shards and quivering in the air.
I heard the throbbing movement as the others swam up to the surface—loud and pulsating. I sensed the sway and caress of each miniscule wave as it gently rocked me about in the water, teasing my clothes and hair. My ears picked up the small, musical clink of the chains as they brushed each other underwater. I felt the gentle touch of the metal mechanisms inside the lock.
Slowly, carefully, I shifted the wire about inside, testing the layout, getting myself familiar with it, finding that the lock was separated into layers, each one needing to be centered along one line before the catch would free.
Slowly, painstakingly, I worked to align the first layer. Felt a tiny click that seemed to tremor through my whole body, announcing my success. Not too long after that, a second click followed, as well as a third.
It was the fourth and final layer that my concentration started to waver.
I could feel the press for air. My lungs were beginning to shrivel, crying out for oxygen. Even with the apparent increase in oxygenation that the Outcome serum gave me, I had long passed my limit. By my estimate, I had been under the water for about five or six minutes now.
Concentrate, I told myself, trying to find my way back to that heightened sense. But the world was beginning to spin again, the shards of time slowly drawing back together and reassembling.
With one last twist, I felt the lock suddenly spring open, the chains about her ankles sagging. With a quick movement, I freed her legs, but June was already suffering from the press of lack of oxygen. She tried to give me an encouraging little smile, but I could see the strain in her eyes, the tension in her body. She had more training than me, but she had been underwater longer than I had. And I guessed there's a limit to how much Outcome can really do for you.
Hurriedly, I went to work on the chain about her wrists.
I knew my way around the lock now, but it was a lot harder. I couldn't concentrate. My lungs were screaming for air, my head starting to pound.
A full minute later, I felt the first slot click into place.
Before me, June closed her eyes, her body going impossibly rigid as if by an effort to keep still. Stars were appearing before my eyes, while the weight on my lungs felt like it was threatening to break my ribcage.
The second layer clicked.
I felt several small spasms shoot through June's body. Some kind of jerk reflex triggered by her brain literally drowning, though it was obvious even then she tried to suppress them. Tried to hold still for me. I was having a hard time seeing. Having a hard time moving.
The third layer aligned.
I felt June go frighteningly limp all at once. All of her built up tension to keep herself in check suddenly releasing in a dismaying admission of defeat as her body shut down in a last ditch effort to save itself. Her mouth sagged open weakly, a single, pathetically small air bubble scrabbling its way out from between her lips and scurrying up through the water towards the surface. Already the blackness was closing in on me.
No, something inside me screamed. Failure is not an option.
And then all at once, the fourth slot fell into place, and the lock sprung free, and the chains loosened, and the weight fell away from June's body. She lifted up in the water, floating suspended two inches off the tile flooring, eyes closed, body limp and unresponsive.
Some sort of furious burst of energy sparked through me when the last length of chains fell away, the promise of oxygen and freedom spurring me on. In an instant, I snaked an arm about June's waist, pulling her tight to me, kicking and thrashing with my one arm with all my might, leaving the chains where they lay on the pool bottom.
Even by myself it was slow going, but with June's combined weight it felt like I wasn't even moving at all. But I was desperate. The glimmer of light and the promise of air was just above me, tantalizingly close. I was mere feet away from freedom from my watery prison.
Up above, I could dimly make out the faces of White and the others, standing on the pool edge, staring down, their forms made unclear and shaky by the rippling surface of the water. Doing nothing.
Help us! Why don't you do something!
I felt a spasm of rage. That they would but watch as June drowned, and I died trying to save her. That they would do absolutely nothing. It spurred me on. I kicked, I thrashed, I pumped with my arms and with my knees like a desperate worm.
And I at last broke through the surface.
Cool air kissed my face as I broke through the water, gasping, and choking, and greedily sucking in huge lungfuls of air. The sudden change made my brain feel like it exploded within my skull, and I closed my eyes against the pain, rolling over onto my back to float there as I still sucked in air like it was the sweetest thing in the world, still holding June tight against me, her head lying back on my chest with her face above the water.
Concern for her kicked me into action, and I shoved off for the side of the pool.
"MOVE!" I roared at the others gathered there on the ledge, who instinctually scrambled back a step giving me room to hoist June up onto the cement. I quickly followed, coming to sit on my knees over her with my legs straddling her stomach.
If there was one thing Kenneth Kitsom remembered and learned in the Army, it was how to perform CPR. Hastily, I tilted her head back to open up her airways and forced her mouth open, pinching her nose shut with one hand while I stooped to clamp my mouth over hers. I could feel her chest rise as my breath entered her body, before sagging again, just like she was taking a breath of her own.
"Come on, breathe," I muttered under my breath, stooping once more and repeating the action.
Above me, I sensed White watching neutrally. Careless whether she lived or died. Even the others seemed to have nothing more than a dry interest.
"Help her!" I shouted, furious and desperate.
No one moved.
"If she dies, she fails," was White's only answer.
If she fails, she dies, was my mind's morbid, retort.
Failure is not an option.
I placed two fingers on her neck. Felt for a pulse. Closed my eyes. Concentrated. Time slowing, each sense heightened.
I felt a tiny spark of life jump out against my fingers.
Stooping once more, I propped her chin up and pinched her nose, giving her mouth to mouth resuscitation one last time. I felt her chest rise and fall with my breath, sat back on my heels to see if there was any result.
Nothing for a split second, and then she started, turning slightly on her side and vomiting up pool water, gagging, coughing, and gasping for air as I had done. With a breath of relief, I rolled to the side to give her free range of movement, watching closely, my hand lingering on her back as she still retched and coughed.
After a long moment, she lay back on the cement, spent and breathing heavily, suddenly tensing as she saw everyone gathered about and watching. I watched the instant mask come up to hide her expression, watched as her muscles coiled ready to spring into action and defend herself at any moment, weak though she was.
Turning, I too glanced up White, half-curious, half-dreading his response.
He lifted his chin, eyes the same cold, heartless blue, face still a mask.
"Gather your gear," he said, in a harsh tone, already pacing away. "You have thirty minutes at the mess hall, before I want you all assembled back at OTR15."
Beside me, June let out a soft groan, and fell back on the concrete.
I suppose Aaron is just starting to get a taste of his new abilities...
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Till next time,