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Making the Cut

by Nestra

You're not cut out for this.

The thought flashes through your mind as you duck behind a packing crate and wait for the gunfire to stop. Two years of training on top of five years with your crew in Detroit, and all you can do is hide.

There's a pause. You rise up slowly, risk a glance across the room, and nearly get your head blown off. You drop back down, look left, right. Simmons is flattened against a pillar, his weapon held ready. James and Matheson crouch back-to-back behind another crate. Reyes is bleeding from a bullet graze on his forehead, and as you watch, he wipes the blood out of his eyes with his sleeve.

Your first mission. You didn't expect this. You thought it would be...not easy, but exhilarating. A challenge. Get the blood pumping, recapture some of that reckless energy you used to have. Instead, you're choking, and it's all you can do to keep yourself alive. Reyes and the others return fire, and from across the room, you hear a yell that trails off into a moan and a thud.

"Jackson! Jackson!"

Right, you remember. That's you. Someone's shouting at you over the comm. "I'm here," you say, not noticing how your voice shakes.

Your trainer's voice booms out of the earpiece. "What are you doing? Get your ass over to the switch box!"

Your assignment. You had an assignment. You close your eyes, and you can see the schematic of the warehouse, floating like a disembodied head above the table in the briefing room. There's a red X over the switch box, and it's your job to get there and take out the electricity and the security system. They'd picked you because you'd spent so much time hotwiring and boosting cars. And because it was an easy job for your first mission.

If you don't get over there, the team's dead.

You take a deep breath and send up a prayer, just in case God still cares. You tighten your hands around your gun, and you run for it.

The rest of the team does their best to provide cover. You make it halfway there before you take a bullet through the forearm. You fall, tripping over your own feet and slipping in your blood. Must have hit an artery, you think. You should tie it off. But you don't move. You just lie there, useless, until Matheson fights his way to your side, picks you up, and slings you over his shoulder.

The world doesn't look much different upside down. You see James' body sprawled out like dirty laundry behind the crate he was using for cover. Reyes and Simmons bob in and out of your line of sight as they sprint out of the warehouse and back to the van. When Matheson dumps you on the floor, the impact jars your arm, and the pain reaches up and pulls you down into unconsciousness.

You wake up on a stretcher, with your trainer standing over you. Past her, you can dimly see Section's gray walls, punctuated by people rushing frantically past. The disappointment on her face is obvious.

You want to apologize to her. You wish you'd made a better show for yourself, remembered more of your training, kept your cool under fire. You want to tell her that you'll do better on your next mission. You just need another chance.

You realize that she's holding a gun.

And then you hear a pop, and you feel a new burst of pain in your neck, and you look down at the blood that shimmers blackly as it flows down the front of your vest, and you don't get a second chance.


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