Walking down the hall to the 9th Squad changing room, Jamadigni Renuka felt utterly exhausted. She ached all over, was covered in slime, muck, ash, dirt, dust, and had the beginnings of a marvelous headache. Her first day as an XSWAT officer and already she'd fought two major Entities, been attacked and bitten by a minor one, and had seen more dead bodies in the last few hours to last her the rest of her life. Her stomach was upset, her eyes smarted, and there was an unpleasant wet feeling on the side of her neck. All-in-all not the best day she'd ever had.
Leaning on the wall for a moment, Jama actually felt glad she was the only woman in the 9th Squad, since it meant she'd have the changing room to herself. Although part of her wished there was another female to talk to, confide in, and possibly cry on the shoulder of, right now she was pretty sure she didn't want to see any of her teammates. Right now she was better off by herself and away from Carpenter's almost single-minded adherence to faith, Hemelshot's adherence to rules and regulations, Burton's adherence to the god of science, or Tyger's adherence to violence as the answer to all problems.
Pushing open the door to the changing room, Jama nearly fell inside. The room was far cooler than the hall, and shone in brilliant white and chrome. Lockers lined the wall on one side, shower stalls the other. Jama almost absently noted the sight of a dozen lockers—someone had been a bit generous with the personnel estimates for the Squad. No matter. Pausing in front of her own, Jama tapped in the locking code, sitting down heavily on the bench as the door swung open.
With a grunt of effort she popped the lock that secured the strap holding the armored plate over her boot. As it fell to the floor with a clatter she pulled the other one free, holding it gingerly in one hand as her nose wrinkled from the smell of mud, slime, and blood. Her boots looked even worse, the formerly pristine white leather now stained and smeared with a mixture of gods-new what-all. Fortunately, she had her gloves on.
Rising, Jama padded across the chill floor in just her socks. There was a bin in a rack on the wall. A bin with her name and ID number labeled on it. Pulling it out, she dropped the boots and armor in, then undid her gunbelt, set it aside, and started to remove the weighty armored jacket. Once that was in the bin, she added the undershirt, trying to ignore the mix of black ichor and red blood spattered across it. Down to just her skinsuit, she finally tugged her gloves off, tossing them into the pile of gear.
Taking a deep breath, Jama started to open the seals on the skinsuit, trying to ignore the stink of sweat, mixed with the coppery tang of blood, that accompanied the act of pealing off the body-hugging garment. While it did an excellent job of keeping such noxious fluids as Entity blood out, it managed to keep her own in, making her desire to take a hot shower that much stronger.
Down now to a sports bra and briefs, Jama suddenly felt as is a great weight had been lifted off of her shoulders. In truth, it had—the XSWAT armored jacket was far heavier than it looked. But having seen Hemelshot's—still whole even after an Entity had torn into him, she didn't mind so much. Feeling better, she made her way to the shower stalls, undoing the knots that held her ponytail together. A shake of her head and the rippling wave of reddish-black hair dropped down her back, ending somewhere past her waist. Pushing a few errant stands out of her face (a constant problem with hair like hers), Jama paused in front of a sink, to take a closer look in the mirror.
The face in the mirror was almost unrecognizable for a moment. Her eyes were bloodshot, her face smeared with ash, dust, and smoke, there was a nasty blue-black mark on the side of her neck, and traces of blood were present around her nose, mouth, and in her teeth. For a few long minutes, Jama simply started at her reflection. Was this to be her fate after every mission? Was this life as an XSWAT officer?
"Grandfather..." she croaked, her throat dry, "what have you gotten me into?"
A frenzy of splashing followed as Jama filled the sink with warm water and bathed her face, rinsed out her mouth, and cleared her nose, studiously ignoring the way the water turned a nasty shade of reddish-brown. There had to be a way to defend against the way Entities caused one to become sick simply by being in close proximity to them. Some protective charm perhaps? She'd have to think on it. Right now, all she wanted to be was clean.
Selecting the first stall she came to, Jama punched in the code for her shower on the outer keypad. With a loud hiss hot water began to spray, bringing a cloud of steam with it. Removing her underwear at last (and idly wondering what the two officers who'd eyed her rinsing off in just her skinsuit at the asylum would say now), Jama stepped inside, a loud sigh of relief accompanying the feel of warm water across her body. There was nothing like a long hot shower to restore a sense of well-being to a person. Nothing at all....