Yellow Haze: Jason

Yellow Haze: Jason

A strange sensation came over Jason. He rubbed at his eyes hard, eager to clear the yellow haze settling in. Suddenly, he was distracted by the chill washing over him as a gust of wind blew in. He looked down at his arm and the goosebumps forming. Something seemed off, but he couldn't quite place it. Regardless, it was freezing outside. He pulled at the collar of his jacket and opened the front door to the house before him and stepped inside.

A moment of confusion flooded over him as he tried to place the room he was in. It was a living room. Television. Sofa. Coffee table. Armchair. A small shelf was opposite of him, picture frames lining the top of it. The pictures were blurry. Out of focus. Jason marched forward, narrowing his eyes as he attempted to clear his vision. A man and a woman with a little girl. They looked happy. They looked-... No. Not just a man and a woman. It was him! He blinked a few times as his eyes adjusted. As if a light had just been turned on, it all came into focus. A small, lopsided smirk tugged at his lips as he focused on the woman in the photo with him. Linda. His arm was around her shoulder, their heads pressed together, big smiles on their faces as they looked at the camera. The little girl was giving a big, toothy smile as well. She had her mother's dark hair and olive skin, which was offset by her bright blue eyes.

He glanced around the room with renewed interest. It was a nice house. Lived-in, but nice. It was his house. "You're really losing it, Jason..." he muttered to himself as he reached up and ran his fingers through his hair with a sigh, "Might be time to cut back on the work hours..."

"Jason? Is that you?" came a voice from the adjacent room. Soon enough Vasquez stepped through the open door to the bathroom, still adjusting the strap of her black, trendy tanktop. Military-style pants traded for jeans. Combat boots replaced with fashionable boots. Jason's smirk widened as he looked her over.

Vasquez stopped in place as she caught his gaze and glanced down at her outfit. A bit of embarassment creeped into her expression. "What do you think...?" she asked as she looked back to him. "Look-..."

"...Hot?" Jason finished before giving a big nod, "Ab-so-lutely." The two exaggerated thumbs up he followed up with was met with an eyeroll from Vasquez. Though, as per usual, she was unable to suppress the small smile hidden somewhere beneath that tough exterior of hers. "What's the occasion?" Jason asked. And, just as soon as it began to manifest, Vasquez' smile disappeared.

She stared at Jason blankly for a moment, but when he remained silent she gave an aggitated tilt of her head, her hand coming to rest on her hip. "You better be fucking with me." she threatened.

Panic. Sheer, absolute panic. It settled in hard and fast as Jason wrestled through the recesses of his mind in a desperate attempt to put an occasion to the date. Birthday? No. Did a holiday just creep up on him? No... Wait, what was the date?! Why couldn't he remem-... Of course! A small snicker escaped him as he winked at her. Their wedding anniversary. Obviously. It's why he's home from work so early. "Eight years." he said, sucking in a deep breath, "Just... flies by."

Vasquez turned on her heels, giving a shake of her head, "How have I put up with your shit for this long?" she called back. Jason chuckled as he stepped through the open archway to the kitchen and took his jacket off. "Can you check on Mel? She's out back." his wife continued, "Make sure she's wearing her jacket. I keep telling her not to take it off but-... I swear, it's like everything I say goes in one ear and out the other with her. She's just like her father."

It got another chuckle out of Jason. "Yeah, right." he called back as he placed his jacket over the back of one of the kitchen chairs. "Because I'm the stubborn one." he teased as he moved over to the kitchen window and leaned forward, pressing his forearms against the window sil. The window was solid black. No, not just black. It was empty, as if all of existence simply ended beyond it. He furrowed his brow and brought one hand up, running it across the window pane. It was cold to the touch, sending a shiver down his arm. As his fingers glided across the glass, they left a trail behind, peeling back the thick emptiness. Filling it in. Replacing the darkness with the world beyond it. His smile widened as he settled back against the sil and looked out into their spaceous backyard.

There she was. Right where she always was. Playing with her toy soldiers under the tree in the backyard. All of the leaves had long abandoned the large tree, swept away by the encroaching Earth winter. "Jacket: On." Jason confirmed as he continued to watch from the window.

"Good." Vasquez shouted back from the bathroom, having to raise her voice to be heard, "You need to start getting ready! Ilyna will be by to Collect us at six on the dot! And make sure you've got a credit chit for Li. We still haven't paid her for the last time she watched Mel."

"Got it." Jason responded, his focus remaining on his daughter as she organized a battlefield at the base of the tree.

"Leah and Nathan can't make it." Vasquez continued to shout as she readied herself, "Leah said she had the dates mixed up for Tara's move so they need to help her get settled into her new apartment."

"Mmhmm." Jason hummed back, only half paying attention. He couldn't shake the feeling that it was like he was seeing his daughter for the first time. That haziness continued to have a presence over him, fogging up his memories. Seven years old already. Time really does just fly by.

Vasquez continued to explain the night's situation, but her voice grew more and more distant with each word until she was barely audible. The black, tar-like emptiness began to run down from the top of the window, once more obscuring Jason's view. Small streaks of nothingness interupted the picture until the window was like a photograph torn in places. Jason tilted his head to the side, his smile persisting as he watched his daughter play with her toys before she disappeared out of view.

A sudden weightlessness overcame Jason as his wife's voice slipped further and further away. Any and all sensation slowly slipped away as the nothingness ran over the side of the window, spilling off of the sil and onto the floor. As if black paint was being poured into the room, the floor was slowly devoured by this intense void. He felt no fear, however, as the blackness overran the floor beneath him and then he himself. It wasn't something to be feared. It just was. Like a force of nature. It didn't hurt. It was just like going to sleep. Peaceful. It was as if everything just... shut off. Vasquez' voice became a dull droning that may as well have been a mile away. A pinpoint of light in an all-encompassing darkness.

"Jason...?" he suddenly heard, loud and clear as if that pin of light had shot through the darkness like a heat-seeking missile, "...Are you awake?" It was Vasquez. Her voice was a little hoarse, as if having just woken up.

Jason struggled to open his eyes, overcome once more with a yellow haziness that felt like weights on his lids to go with the weight on his chest. "Mmmhmmm." he hummed as he blinked away the confusion. He was in bed, his wife's head pressed against his bare chest. He instinctively looked towards the alarm clock, but the digital readout provided little more than ambiguous shapes and colors no matter how hard he strained to read it. "...What time is it?" he asked, doing his best not to move to keep from disturbing Vasquez as he searched for his voice. His head craned to the side slightly, looking to the windows for any indication of the time. But there was no information to be gleamed. The thick, blackened oil blotted out the bedroom window as well.

"It's still early." she said softly, bringing a hand across to rest on Jason's side. And, as if her words were a key, the window cleared up, giving the slightest of views through the blinds. It was still dark outside. "I just-..." she struggled for a moment, shrugging against his chest, "...I wanted to say I had a really good time last night, Jason. I love you."

Despite the overwhelming heaviness keeping him pressed against the bed, a tired smile manifested. "Love you, too." he said softly, pressing as much of a kiss against the top of Vasquez' head as he could manage without moving. "Here's to eight more." he mumbled through his smile.

Vasquez nodded against him. "Eight more." she agreed. The two simply laid in silence for a moment before a long sigh escaped her. "Time to wake up, Jason." she said, her hand stroking along his side, "Time to work."

Jason's focus once more turned to the window, brow furrowed. "Just-... a little bit longer." he bargained, his right hand searching for hers as it came to a rest on his side.

Vasquez gave a tired snicker. "Jason... You need to wake up. It's time for work, soldier!" she said.

Jason sucked in a deep breath, letting it out slowly in a drawn-out sigh. He nodded his head against the soft, welcoming pillow as his fingers interlocked with hers. "...I know." His gaze moved down to their hands. Flesh-on-flesh. Skin-on-skin. "Few more minutes..." he said in nearly a whisper, fear settling in at what may happen once he releases his grip on her hand.

A small smile spread across Vasquez' lips as she looked up at Jason, cheek still against his chest. "It's gonna be fine, Jason." she said, "Your augmentations show promise."

Jason bit back on the dread that settled in, giving a small nod as his response. "Yeah..." he sighed, continuing to study their hands. He squeezed his wife's hand one last time before releasing his grip.

As if on command, the flesh on his arms began to harden and crack like dried mud the moment their flesh parted ways. Vasquez settled her head back against his chest as the cracks widened, moving through his arms like veins. Through his hands. Up to his shoulder. Jason brought his other arm around Vasquez, giving her one last hug as the flesh flaked, slipping away to reveal a faint, blue glow underneath. The glow started near the shoulders and worked its way down his arms, filtering through the cracks like a beacon. The skin turned to ash as it fell to the bed and, for a moment, he found himself worrying that Vasquez would be upset over the mess he was making. But she didn't say a word. She simply closed her eyes and took in a deep breath as she drifted back to sleep against his chest.

It didn't hurt. There was no pain, only numbness. It was as if he had just shoved both arms into a tub of ice water. And as the skin continued to flake free the glow subsided, leaving behind the cold, unfeeling, grey, synthetic limbs beneath.

"Jason..." came Vasquez' voice once again, though she remained still, lips closed tightly. No, it wasn't Vasquez. It was-...

Jason shot upright. A thick, putrid, yellow fluid filled his throat and his body ejected it onto the floor beside the pod he found himself in. It took him a moment for his eyes to adjust. Halisi was stood above him. That's the voice he heard. His head still swam, the memories of his dreamscape already beginning to slip away. That perfect life. That perfect family. Slowly succumbing to the dark void in the back of his mind. His focus was torn between the two worlds for but a split second.

Collectors. Distant shooting. Overlapping voices wrapped in terror. The sour taste of bile in the back of his throat.

His wife. His daughter. A nice little house back on Earth. Peace. His friends and family. Safety. A normal life.

The dream and the reality intermingled in his mind before he blinked away the cloudiness, and with it went the life that he, for a moment in time, had finally achieved.

"Fuck..." he groaned, "Where's the snooze button?"

No spaceous backyard was waiting for him. No anniversary dinners. Just a whole bunch of big, ugly bugs hellbent on putting him and everyone he cared about in the ground. This life was far from normal, but Ilyna needed him. Li needed him. His team needed him. He had a pregnant wife to get home to.

As his mind drifted to Vasquez he found himself almost feeling sorry for whoever or whatever was waiting for him, because he knew there was nothing they could do to keep him from going home. Nothing they could put in front of him that he wasn't going to tear through.