So much pain we
Don't know how to be but angry
Feel infected like we've got gangrene
Please don't let anybody try to change me!

The lyrics flowed into Shade's head as he continued his morning run. One of the advantages of being back home was that the air was thicker and had higher oxygen content. The terrain was also a greater challenge, with shallow but long hills and paths that wound through streets and bush land.

The base drumming is the anthem.
We step to the heartbeats of our granddaughters and grandsons and
Rise together we
Rise together we
Rise together we
Rise together we...

The drum beat and bass guitar in this song helped him set a pace while he walked a section to recover from an uphill sprint. He didn't mind the anti-governmental and protest style lyrics. Tom didn't look for much in lyrics. He just graded on the song on how it set his mood, put him in a rhythm while doing something, or how it sounded in general. He found this particular song to put him into a mood where he just wanted to get shit done.

Roach was lagging behind Shade as he was led on an unusually tough track. For a well trained soldier who could defuse bombs and fight endless waves of enemies, he was struggling on a morning run. Well, maybe the effects from his moderate hangover did not make things easier, but the track itself was tough. He jumped at the chance to go on a run with him this morning, as they both were fighting hangovers, but Shade looked like he was taking it much easier.

"Shade! Wait up!" Roach shouted, out of breath. Shade stopped, jogging in place while he waited for his companion. "How are you still alive?!" Roach took this chance to collapse onto the ground, expelling the contents of his stomach onto the grass beside the concrete.

"Maybe you shouldn't have come for a run just yet. It might be the hangover, or it could be the higher O2 concentration in the air. This isn't the desert back in the States you know." Shade said, stopping finally to help his companion up. He pulled out a small bottle of water he had stowed in his Camelbak. "I had a feeling this, or something like it, would happen this morning. Wash your mouth out and take a few sips. You've just gotta get used to the environment."

"You know, chances are that you're right." Roach said after cleaning his mouth of regurgitated alcohol." After stowing the bottle back in Shade's pack, he looked at the mess he made. Following the grass up, he focused onto the house that the patch of grass belonged to. "Uh, Shade, got another bottle? I'd like to clean this up before the owner sees this."

"Dude, relax. That place is a party house. It wouldn't be a surprise." Shade head off to continue his run, leaving Roach to stand there alone. Roach took a final look at the house, and then set off after Shade.

After the pair had returned home, showered, and ate breakfast, they head out to the city. Shade had planned to meet some of his mates at a cafe along the river, and dragged Roach along. When they finally reached the city, Roach just sat in the car amazed. In Roach's opinion, Brisbane looked amazing. Vibrant, diverse, yet strangely intimidating. Posters were up, informing the public of an event happening later that night.

"Hey Shade, what's Riverfire?" Roach asked, after seeing the tenth poster advertising the same event. "They setting the river alight or something?"

"Well, figuratively, yes. It's been a major event for the last fifteen years now. And every year, it's been getting bigger." Shade explained. "Riverfire is part of Riverfestival, a weeklong festival held along banks of the river, mostly at South Bank. Riverfire is the opening ceremony, and is a huge fireworks display lasting half an hour. Fireworks go off from the banks, the bridges and the river itself, and the reflection from the water gives it the impression that it's on fire."

"So, what's so big and important about this Riverfire then?"

"Well, the Army and Air Force get to do some kick-ass displays. They key event was the F-111C's Dump and Burn flyover, where'd they dump fuel behind the engines and ignite it with their afterburners. The resulting flame is roughly 30m in length. That's roughly 100 feet." Roach did a spittake as soon as he heard that.

"Fuck! That must have been impressive to watch."

"Especially when they have two at the same time. It's like someone just turned the sun back on. Hey, we're here." Shade pulled into a parking space on the side of the road and cut the engine. The second he hit the pavement, he was ambushed yet again by a runner. Only this time, Roach wasn't about to snap their neck. "Hey Kim! Glad to see you too."

"Tom, my god I missed you." The woman who had ambushed Shade stood back and fixed up her hair. "It's been ages!" Kim then shifted her focus onto Roach, dressed in a T-shirt and MTP cargo pants. "And who's this guy?"

"This is my good friend Gary. We call him Roach at work."

"And why's that?"

"Well, he tried killing one stuck behind the fridge in the break room on base, but it got the better of him." Kim laughed loudly at that. Gary looked confused until Shade pulled him aside.

"Do you want me to say that you're just as hard to kill? They don't know I'm 141 either." Roach relaxed and followed Shade into the cafe with his friends.

I'm looking forward to this Riverfire. Still can't figure it out...


Musical influences:

Song 1 - Rise by Flotbots.
Song 2 - Given Up by Linkin Park