When he woke up he was reminded that he wouldn’t live forever.

He blinked fuzzily at the white ceiling, then concentrated. His body changed—muscles thickened, bones reinforced, internal organs shrank, lungs and nerves improved their efficiency and a secondary heart appeared. In minutes he had become stronger, faster and tougher than most people could imagine, much less achieve. His senses were better, his thoughts sharper and the world moved in slow motion.

It was the blessing of being a biopath – an esper who could manipulate organic matter on a cellular level – to have perfect health. Perfect, that is, until he fell asleep. During REM sleep his soul acknowledged the passing of time, and it was that first moment after slumber that he knew he wasn't a young man anymore. And every morning he was reminded that one day he wouldn’t wake up.

Oh, it wasn’t like his biosculpts faded. He could, with some difficulty, ‘convince’ another person’s soul that the new form was the way it had always been – that the lean muscles and tight abs were natural, and sure enough they’d last right up ‘till the next beer-and-twinkie breakfast. But himself? No, his body remembered altogether too well just how long he’d been alive.

That was why he had to leave XSWAT. He could face the horrible things that happened – the ghostly Officer Benedict was sufficient reminder of that – and it wasn’t like he feared dying on the job. His body could endure incredible trauma and scars from bullets and blades faded in hours. Even when he’d fallen prey to the mind control of a mage he’d come to grips with it, and it wasn’t like leaving XSWAT would remove those threats. Angelus was a dangerous place and even as a corporate REMF he'd have to keep his edge.

No. It was the grinding down of the soul he experienced from fighting entities that was forcing him to leave. XSWAT faced monsters, and entities were more than abominations against natural law to him. They were an absolute anathema to his very existence and the few times he'd had to touch one he'd had the shakes for hours. Analyzing their residue was bad enough, and he couldn't imagine what being possessed by one would be like.

He'd managed to mostly avoid combat duty until now, but the paper-pushers had caught up with him and wouldn't approve full pension unless he completed one last rotation. So today he had to hoist a maser and go looking for nightmares.

Just one more before he could leave. He had to leave. Leave before he didn’t wake up.