Pain, left shoulder. Reocurring every three seconds. Inhalation. Sharp pain in back of right lung and dull, dry pain in throat. Facial muscles, all roughed up, but functional. Left thigh. "Aaaagh!" Shot, definitely shot.
"Oh, you're awake. Magnificent." One more kick to the left shoulder.
"Get up, soldier. There's work for you to do." Raspy voice. His CO? Close. His CO's superior, more like it.
"Aaaaai got shot." Wheezing. "And died."
"Old. Soldiers. NEVER! DIE!" Each word was accented with another kick. "Now. GET UP!"
Memories came flooding. The CO's brain splattering upon his uniform. Ripping off his mags, rifle and sidearm. Bob stepping on a landmine. Scavenging his corpse for spare rounds. Getting surrounded by seven al-Quaeda riflemen. They were low on ammo, too. Managing to shoot four of them dead before catching a bullet in his left thigh, then finishing the rest. Bleeding out on his face in the middle of some Yemenian desert. Being left to die.
But two details didn't quite match up. One, how the fuck was he alive?
He definitely remembered bleeding out through two bullet holes in his left thigh and being able to do naught about it,
not to omit the excruciating pain caused by his shattered left femur.
Now, his thigh was still hurting, but not as excruciatingly as back then, and he was able to put his full body weight on it, which would be rather tricky if his bones were shattered. And it seemed to be getting better by the hour.
"So, what's all this about? Me being back from the dead and all? And before you say something,
I remember bleeding out in the middle of a desert after getting shot."
"You see, mate, you never really died. I mean, you did die, just... Y'know you never committed to being dead, and you've been in the force for numerous years. Can I also assume you didn't want to die? That you wanted to give those motherfuckers what they deserve and finish your mission despite 'bleeding out in the middle of a desert'?"
"Yes, and... Yes. But what does that..."
"You seriously don't get it?" His CO's superior interrupted him. "Your family is soldiers all the way down to six generations back. You've never been told stories of this as a child?"
"Evidently not, so cut to the chase, would ya'? You said there's some work for me."
"'Attaboy! So, as you can see, you're back and kickin'. How's yer leg?"
"Suspiciously not shattered, I can tell you that."
"So that, too, checks out. Neat. It's the first time I've attended the process in person." An unreadable nod and grin. "You're probably asking yourself how this came to transpire. Well, it all began around the thirteenth century before current era when king Menelaus of Sparta prayed to the gods to ask them how he could prevent his best warriors from dying on the battlefield. Since his best men were also the oldest, he phrased it like so. After many a day of negotiations he struck a deal, so old soldiers, when gravely injured on the field of battle, could be brought back to active duty, so long, of course, as you're able to piece the solid pieces back together."
"So I'm guessing that's why both my CO and Bob aren't here?"
"Well, it's hard to put someone back together after they stepped on a landmine, yeah. As for your CO, he was a Russian spy so we wouldn't even try to."
*Sigh.* "Right. But since that was a deal that that Greek guy struck, what's the catch?"
"You can and will die irreversibly of old age and/or when you get out of active service, whichever comes first." Glance at watch. "Your thigh should be fully recovered by now. Come on kick me with your left leg. Give me your best shit." Stumble backwards. "Not bad. How's the output?"
"Within norm, sir." A metallic female voice responded.
"Magnificent. Cheers, Athena. So, if you don't have any questions let's get right to the briefing, shall we?"
"Lead the way."
After the briefing and out on the field once again, he realised what the second detail was.
He should have felt joy when he was told he'd return to active duty and sorrow after Bob and (less so, but still) his CO.
It was too late before he realised that he was turning into an equivalent of a remorseless and feelings-lacking CIA zombie-merc like on the news,
just for the U.S. Military; and that he was surprisingly okay with that.
He smiled and muttered to himself. "Old soldiers never die." That was his last conscious thought.