Despite Sam's 'foreshadowing', the run home was surprisingly zombie free. It gave Runner Five a good feeling to be out and about and not have to come face to face with a shambling mess. There were a couple of near misses but because Sam had her run mapped out perfectly via the cameras, he could tell her which areas to avoid.
"Janine's gone to have a word with the people on guard at the gate. It's a lot easier to sneak someone out than it is to sneak someone in. Don't want them mistakenly shooting you" Sam told her.
"You really have a way with the ladies, don't you? Telling me that the guards could easily mistake me for the walking dead"
"I meant… I didn't meant that… you know what I meant!" he spluttered.
Five laughed. She could see the gates of Abel from here and they were raising. This meant that there mustn't be anything else in sight, otherwise they wouldn't have raised them. It really had been a good run.
She passed Janine at the gates on her way in, who waved her through. "Go onto the Comms station, I'll meet you there".
As she approached the Comms Shack, she could see Sam peering out of the window for his first glimpse of the returning Runner. It was an endearing quirk of his. Even though he'd just spent the entire Mission talking and monitoring a Runner and had given the orders to raise the gates due to the Runner's safe return, he always checked for them visually as if something might have happened between the Runner coming through the gates and them turning off their headset.
She walked in through the door and slung the backpack off her shoulder.
"Hi Five!" Sam greeted her, holding out his hand for a high five.
"Sam, that's truly, truly terrible" She raised her hand nonetheless. His enthusiasm was catching.
They slapped hands. She took off her headset and handed it to him.
"I can't believe we haven't done that joke before. I thought it up while you were on the way back"
"Good use of your time when you should be watching the monitors" she responded.
Janine walked in and her eyes fastened onto the backpack. She began pulling items out of it and putting them away in what seemed to be pre-arranged spaces. She seemed to be in her own little world which is why it was a surprise when she turned to Five and said "I don't know why you're still standing there. You should be on your way to see the doctor"
"Aw, come on Janine" Sam argued.
"I know it was an unofficial mission but we should still follow protocol. If the Major ever finds out about this mission, and I'm sure she will, I'd like her to know that we followed protocol.There was quite a long period when Runner Five wasn't on camera. Anything could have happened"
Sam looked like he was going to say something else but Five cut him off. "It's ok. Two minutes of awkwardness is worth everyone's peace of mind. And it's really not that bad."
It didn't take long to get to the hospital, nor did it take long to find Maxine. Maxine was frowning at a clipboard and a pile of supplies on a table. She looked up at the person approaching her and changed her facial expression to one of warmth.
"Janine told me earlier that I should be expecting you. Let's go in here" Maxine said, leading the way into an area that had been curtained off. "Ok, you know the drill"
She turned to offer Five some privacy, which was nice but seriously, who were they trying to kid? Once Five was wearing just her underwear, Maxine turned back and began a scrupulous examination of Five's bare skin. The first time she'd had to undergo this examination, she had been horribly embarrassed and was pretty sure her entire body had been blushing. Nowadays, it was just part of the post-run ritual: hand your headset back to Sam, go to Maxine for a check, do some stretches and then have a shower. It helped that it wasn't Maxine her friend doing the examination, it was Maxine the doctor, efficient and professional.
"Unbroken skin all round. Where's the report book?" Maxine asked, looking for the report book that she was supposed to sign after her check of a runner.
"There isn't one" Five answered.
Maxine raised her eyebrows. "Top secret stuff indeed. Janine wasn't lying about the whole 'need to know' bit. So I guess the rumours that have been flying around Abel all afternoon about you and Sam are false then? Too bad. I was going to offer to swap meal rotations with you so you could take your meals together"
"Everyone's been talking about it?" Five grimaced, as she started to put her clothes back on
She didn't particularly have anywhere to be so she automatically headed back to the housing area. She was halfway through a book and that would pass the time until it was her turn for dinner. She passed the Comms Shack, where she saw Sam standing outside, leaning against the wall, his hands stuffed in his pockets and a scowl on his face.
"I'm protesting Janine acting like she's in charge of everything" he said as a way of explanation when he met her questioning look.
"So you walked out of the Comms Shack and basically left Janine in charge of everything..?" she replied.
"It's not the greatest plan I've ever had, I'll give you that, but I had to make a point"
As if on cue, Janine opened the door and looked at Sam. "You didn't get very far, did you? Come on Mr Yao, I'll need someone to help me and since you're the least clueless person here, you'll have to do"
"'Least clueless person here'? That's actually quite high praise coming from you" Sam answered, sounding chuffed and already on his way back inside.
Almost as an afterthought, Sam turned as the door was closing. "See you around, Five. And thanks for your help today"
She raised her hand to wave goodbye but he was gone, back into his world of computer monitors and mics.