Jason stared wistfully out the hospital window. The past several weeks trailing through his mind, like a dream, seemed unreal to him. As if it had happened to someone else, someone he knew, as if the story was told to him. It seemed impossible that something like this had actually happened to him. It was as if any moment he would just get up from his wheelchair and walk out of here.
He brought his eyes into focus, settling his gaze on a group of patients milling around the courtyard, preparing for their morning exercise regimen. His thoughts turned bitter, as the realization slowly crept into his consciousness. 'I am never going to leave this wheelchair.' he thought to himself. 'Might as well get used to it.' His eyes slowly unfocused, as his thoughts once again began to wander.
His mind played out the scenario that put him here, the training exercise that his team was participating in. A HALO jump is never without risks, and this one had been especially hazardous due to the sensitive nature of the equipment being carried in. Jason winced as he replayed the horror of his jump over in his mind. The realization that something was wrong with his chute, opening his emergency chute too late, and with the extra burden of the equipment carried, he knew that his landing was going to be rough. Jason laughed to himself. 'Rough would be the understatement of the year.' He shuddered slightly as he remembered the sickening crunch his spine made as his rapidly plummeting body hit the ground. The backup chute saved his life, but it didn't shed enough speed from his descent to prevent his injuries. Two fractured legs, a cracked pelvis, major spinal damage, massive internal bleeding, a broken arm, and three cracked ribs.
The doctors called him lucky. Jason surely did not feel very lucky at this time. The doctors were very blunt on the whole walking bit. Complete loss of lower motor function, no chance of recovery. A small tear trickled down his cheek, emotion and anger over his loss overwhelming him.
A gentle knock at the door snapped Jason back from his wanderings. Quickly, he wiped the moisture from his eyes, and put on his best good little soldier face. A young nurse slowly peeked her head in the room.
"Mr. Evans? Are you decent?" Her eyes scanned the room slowly, finding Jason sitting by the window. "You have visitors, if you feel up to it."
"Yeah, send them in. I could use the company." Jason replied, smiling faintly at the young nurse. He wheeled himself around to face the doorway.
Her head disappeared for a moment, and then the door swung all the way open. Behind the nurse stood three men, two of which were in full military uniform, while the third was in civilian clothes. As the three men entered, Jason fired off a salute from his wheelchair. "At ease, soldier." the taller of the two military men replied.
Jason mentally grinned at the thought of him being anything other than 'at ease'. The Corporal that had first addressed Jason came forward and sat down on the bed in front of him. The Sergeant, seemed temporarily at a loss, and decided on a chair across the room. The civilian, who stood behind the two, seemed to nonchalantly thumb through a folder that he had carried in.
"We are terribly sorry about your accident, son. The investigation into the incident has been concluded, and the results point to faulty equipment. Thought you would at least like to know that the chute was packed properly." "Terrible shame, such a bright and promising military career cut short in your prime." Jason visibly winced at those words, and the Corporal took note, as he carried on. "I understand that this is a lot to deal with at one time, and we have sympathy for what you must be feeling at this juncture. However, as we here in the Army take care of our own, we have a new project that may be of interest to you."
Jason stared blankly at the Corporal, unsure how to respond. 'A project? How could I possibly participate in any mission in my condition?'
The Sergeant sitting across the room apparently picked up on the fellow soldier's confusion. "If I may interject, I think that it would be a good idea to brief Jason on the particulars of the project, as well as his own condition."
'My condition?' thought Jason, 'As if my condition could get any worse.'
The Sergeant shot a questioning look in the direction of his superior.
"Agreed." replied the Corporal. "Jason, are you familiar with the term X factor?"
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