The Runner Ups

Note: This is a teaser for the next segment of the story The Winners. You should read that first to get some context.

It's not pain, exactly. But it's painful. It's like having a long infected tooth finally pulled. It hurts like a mother fucker for a few seconds; the blood rushes to my face and and I can't stop myself from getting all hot and freaking out and then – suddenly – I'm fine. I hate myself for not handling that better. It doesn't matter that it's the hundredth time that fucking fin has been uninstalled from my spine. It still hurts. Every time.

And I know it's going back in.

The post-mission room is more like some demented hospital than anything military. It's where I land at the end of a run. After the high pressure car wash to get the biological goop off my armour I drop my remaining ammo – yea, right...there's never any remaining ammo – and then onto the operating table I go to get my armour uninstalled from my bones.

The post-mission room is octagonal, for reasons which nobody has been able to discern, and the anti-infection lights that cast the whole place in a sickeningly yellow glow are just a bonus “welcome home”. Yeah, I know those gross yellow lights are somehow preventing my open armour shunts from becoming infected and killing me in the most inglorious of ways. But it's still a gross ass colour of yellow. After a six-week stint of hunting runners and hiders, the last thing I need to be exposed to is artificial yellow. Guts are yellow enough.