Running Out
rating: +47+x


"Come on, you tossers! Get to the wall!"

A curious slapping-clapping noise: twenty pairs of running shoes smacking into a gym floor, over and over.


Twenty hands touching a wall, briefly.

Sprinting back to The Line.

BZZZZT. "Get it together, Zhengie! We ain't even started yet!"

Muffled curses. Particularly from Specialist Zheng.


Later, at breakfast, it occurred again to Jane Weiss how unprepared she'd been for Mobile Task Force physical training.

Obviously, MTFs trained a lot. Everyone knew that, right? They had to. Weiss just hadn't realized, at first, that so much of it would involve working out.

She said as much to Alex Petrosyan, who had joined Theta-90 from Site Security and was sent on almost every single Task Force deployment. They grinned, and asked what sort of PT Weiss had done in her old role.

"Uh… none, really. Nothing official." Weiss shrugged.

"But weren't you in Containment before you came here?"

"Yeah. So?"

Petrosyan's grin widened. "Then how'd you train to run away from all them skips you let out?"

"Oh, you know, uh…" Weiss assumed an expression of exaggerated thought. "Like this."

Two middle fingers appeared before Petrosyan's face.

They laughed uproariously. "That's some good trainin', right there! That shit work on Keters, or just Safes?"

"That depends," said Weiss, picking up her cold toast, "on the skip."

Contrary to what she'd been told when she joined, it seemed to Weiss that Mobile Task Force Theta-90 was sent on a lot of deployments. A lot of deployments, more pointedly, that she didn't get to go on. She'd been a member of Theta-90 for almost two years, and hadn't been deployed once.

"This is starting to piss me off, Smithie," she'd said during the next morning's run, straining slightly to catch her breath. "Are - sorry - are they ever gonna send me out, or…?"

Jason Smithson smiled slightly and shook his head, easily keeping pace with Weiss as he talked. "No sense worryin' about it, mate. All them lot" - Smithson waved a hand vaguely upwards as he ran - "decide who goes out and who stays in. We just do what we're told. Besides." His smile vanished. "You're probably best off back here at the minute. Given what the last few run-outs have been like, an' that."

Silence fell between the runners. Weiss knew what she wanted to say, but didn't. She knew it was childish. She knew it'd make her sound like a stupid rookie. So, as they crested the next in a seemingly endless series of hills, she very pointedly didn't say it.

"But I'm not a reeeal Angle Grinder if I've not been sent oooouut! Boo-hoo-hoooo!"

Weiss jerked her head sharply around, almost losing her balance on the rocky slope. Smithson was right behind her, pulling a face.

"I know that's what you're thinkin', girl, so stop pretendin'. Fact is, you need to get all that shite out of your head. And I mean proper out of it. You're not more of a Grinder just 'cause you've been sent out loads of times. Fuckin' hell, look at me! I'm still stuck on Trooper and I've been out a few too many times for my liking, I'll tell you!"

"It's not about promotion, though, Smithie. You know it's not."

Smithson's expression softened slightly. "I know, mate. But it's like we said back in the old lot. You can only take on what they put in front of ya. You ain't any less of a Grinder just 'cause we ain't had to use your skill set yet. Bang!" Leaping over an old river bed, Smithson easily landed where Weiss had stumbled a moment before. "There's just not been that much this last year that was gonna be difficult to contain. It's either been dead easy to deal with, or… the other."

Smithson lapsed into silence, his mind somewhere else, running on autopilot. Weiss knew better than to ask more questions.

"You wanted to see me, sir?"

Paul Dimaccio looked up from his paperwork. "Come in, Weiss. Close the door." He gestured at an empty seat. "Do you know why you're here?"

Weiss sat. "Uh… no, sir. I don't. Is there a problem?"

"No, Weiss, there's not. At least, not with you." Dimaccio looked down, briefly, then back to Weiss. "You're buddies with Alex Petrosyan, right?"

"Uh… yes, sir. I mean, we… we talk some." Weiss swallowed. "You know," she finished lamely.

"Yeah." Dimaccio frowned. "I know a lot of things, Specialist. Like how we ain't supposed to… fraternize, with members of our own Task Force."

"…Yes, sir." Weiss flushed slightly, but didn't look away.

Dimaccio held Weiss' gaze for a few more seconds. Abruptly, he sighed, looked down and rubbed his brows.

"That ain't why you're here. I wish it was." A pause. "Weiss, I've gotta tell you that Trooper Petrosyan was found dead in their room at 0800 this morning. Evidence suggests nobody else was involved."

Weiss opened her mouth. Nothing came out.

Dimaccio looked back up at her, something indefinable in his eyes. "I'm sorry."

Weiss swallowed. "They… how did…"

"I'm not gonna tell you that, Weiss. It's not gonna make you feel any better and it's not gonna help anything. And before you ask, we didn't see it comin'." Theta-90's commander shook his head. "Medical staff, chain of command, not even their own team-mates… not one single person saw this comin'. We shoulda, though." Dimaccio's jaw set. "I shoulda. Petrosyan went out more times than almost anyone, and some of the shit they'd seen in the last year…"

Dimaccio fell silent for a few seconds. "I'm sorry, Weiss."

Weiss felt strangely faint, now, like Dimaccio's words were coming to her from far, far away. Somehow, she heard herself asking if Alex had left a note.

Wordlessly, Dimaccio passed her a piece of paper. She unfolded it. It contained three words.

Tired of running.

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