With the light of his headlamp, Garen began surveying the damage. She was crying and sobbing, so her airway was open and she was at least semi-conscious. His first priority was to find the source of all the blood on her.
“Where are you hit? Talk to me, stay with me. Where are you hit?”
She kept crying and trying to move. Every time she tried, she screamed in pain. Her body was contorted awkwardly. There were a few things bent in ways they shouldn’t be and weren’t intended to go. He hated to go this route but he needed to get some semblance of control over her and get data. Reaching in a little armored tube on his med bag, he brought forth a small lollypop.
“Here, Angelique, Angelique, ANGELIQUE! Listen to ME! Put this in your cheek. It will make you feel better and not hurt so much. DO NOT CHEW IT!” He leaned forward and tucked the 800mcg transmucosal fentanyl stick into the cheek. He knew this would take effect quickly and let him better assess her, either before or after she passed out. He just had to keep an eye on her level of consciousness. Time to get back on the radio.
“ATC, this is Rampart 53. Need a fox and some hands.” He went back to work He was unbuckling the gear she had on. The only way to see what was injured and where was to get all the bloody, gooey clothes away from her and see where the wounds were. He barely heard the radio’s reply.
“Rampart 53, help inbound. How is your location marked?”
Shit! He forgot it would be hard to id their location. He stood up and could see the open doorway across the store. He pulled out his strobe, activated it and threw it as hard as he could, aiming for the street. The baseball gods were with him and it actually made it out the door, clattering to the street.
“East of the eagles nest, strobe and bodies, we are under cover.” He turned back to his patient.
She was making less sound now, the drug really starting to take effect. Garen took her head in his hands, looked her squarely in the eyes. Her pupils were just tiny pinpricks in her hazel eyes.
“Angelique. Look at me. We will get you out of here. I will do everything in my power to fix you. To do this, I need you to trust me.”
She weakly tried to nod her head in acknowledgement. Garen took this as a good sign.
“You rest now and let me get to work.” He finished unbuckling her gear. Next was what he needed her trust for, and the drugs. Out came the rescue hook. With skill, knowledge and practice, a medic using a hook can take a fully clothed soldier and make them start raving naked in under a minute and a half. Three and a half if the boots need to be cut rather than just the laces.
The beam of his headlamp bounced off the sheen of her sweat soaked body. His hands were everywhere his eyes went, looking for the source of all the blood. He couldn’t find a source on her of all the blood she was covered with. Serious scrapes, bruises, a couple cuts, but no major holes. He also found her major injuries, and they explained the pain she was in and why any movement was excruciating. She had a potentially broken left radius and ulna, a dislocated left shoulder and a potentially dislocated hip or broken pelvis. That scared the everloving crap out of him. Dislocated, he can work. Pelvic fracture is a much greater issue. If that was the case, he would have to find a way to get her out to a real hospital.
Right about then, he heard running feet outside. He killed his light with one hand and drew his pistol with the other. He still wasn’t sure of the situation. He saw Allyson outside in the street picking up his strobe. Good. He holstered his pistol and turned his headlamp back on, going back to work. Moments later she was next to him.
“Damn, Garen. Did you even buy her a drink first?” was her opening statement as she knelt beside the two of them.
“I did better than that. I gave her one of these.” Garen was pulling the fentanyl stick from Angelique’s unconscious mouth. He put it back in its package and set it next to her ear. Looking over at Allyson, he gave her a quick rundown of what he had found so far. When he finished, he got a puzzled look on his face. “I don’t know how she got these injuries this way. The pattern doesn’t add up to my. What do you make of it?”
“I can guess almost exactly how she got this. She either charged her attacker or braced for his charge. It was a collision. She is lighter than I was so if she’s lucky, the shoulder is just dislocated and not torn and shattered like mine. Then they fell and the torque of the three hundred pounds of assailant did the rest. Where do you want me to start?”
Garen was nodding his head as she spoke, looking back and forth from Angelique to Allyson and back. Things made more sense now, but where did the blood come from? “I’ll get the pelvic stabilizer and you get the IV. I want to keep her snowed for now until we can get better situated. Then we can reset the dislocated shoulder. I want more people before we dig into the pelvis issue. We can reset a dislocation, but I don’t want to open a fracture.”
Kara was tired. She had been running, fighting and hiding for a couple of hours now. One of her earlier tricks was her most dangerous one. She used her belt knife to open up holes in a couple of fuel tanks in some cars. This was after a burst of speed got her around a corner from them. The gas flowed out and downhill. She ran uphill from it. When she heard her pursuers come around the corner, she skipped a penflare along under the car. It set the spilled fuel on fire. This did two things for her. It put a blazing wall of light and heat between her and the bad guys, and cut off their ability to chase her right away.
Once she had broken contact, she made her way along the alleys and buildings trying to evade and hunt at the same time. She made several kills this way. She was trying to keep their attention to clear them from Angelique’s area, but she wasn’t sure how successful she was. She did know the ones she suckered into the open for too long got hit by the hammer from above, at least for awhile. The hammer stopped around dawn.
When Garen came over the radio, she was relieved. When she heard positives for Bekka and Allyson, she was happy! This rapidly turned to dread and guilt when Angelique didn’t come up on the net, and was compounded by the later traffic from Garen on finding her. It was all her fault. She had set off the fuse that got Angelique hurt or killed. Just like she might have distracted Christian some so he didn’t catch on to the ambush soon enough. You think she would have learned her lesson. More karmic debt to atone for.
Bekka’s call had sent her over to check out the stadium. It was dark and noiseless in the dawning light. She saw no movement, no sound of generators, nothing. She had seen and felt places like this. She decided to press her investigation a little closer and deeper.
“ATC, Faith 23 going to do some touch and goes on the Punchbowl strip, the pattern appears empty.”
‘Copy Faith 23, be careful and stay in the middle of the air, it gets solid around the edges.”
“Alright, Allyson, lets hit her with the IV fentanyl and Promethazine, backed up with some Versed”
“Isn’t that a bit heavy? Correction, isn’t that a LOT heavy? Are we going for RSI?” the worry was thick in her voice.
“I need her as far out as we can get her short of surgical sedation. I need to reduce the shoulder and assess and reduce the hip as soon as possible to increase her return of function. At her size, we will hit her hard and then when we are done, we can use a Narcan Drip to reduce some of the effect for when we move her back to the house.”
“Narcan Drip? Really? Why don’t we just not snow her as far?”
“Look, the versed, plus pain killer and anti-nausea should all make her into rubber band girl. The versed will make her forget any of the pain we cause that breaks through the other drugs. We don’t know how long she has been in this position, the muscles are pissed and inflamed, I just want to get everything as pliable as possible and get her unbent. We give her a big enough dose to take care of this, we can end up snowing too far. Narcan wears off too quick to just do repeated doses with reliable effects out here. If we hang a drip and titrate to her breathing rate, all should be good.”
This was austere and remote medicine thinking, something she was still new to. It sounded good in theory but it still made her nervous.
“You do the calculations, I’ll draw it up.”
He looked at Allyson, seeing the worry in her face.
“Look Allyson, I’m going to need you on board with this. You know shoulder injuries much better than I do as far as rehab and such, but I need to get it back together first. Trust me.”
They pushed the meds. Afterward, Garen was right. Angelique was like a boneless blob. They were able to position and manipulate without her tensing up or fighting them at all. Garen was able to reduce the dislocated shoulder. After several tense moments, both Allyson and Garen agreed it was a dislocated hip, not a broken pelvis. Together they were able to get things back in place. They also splinted the arm.
As they finished wrapping her up in a hypothermia blanket, Terry’s SUV pulled up outside. Bekka was driving.
Wow, and I thought voting today in the People's Republic of CA was painful!
Urban Dictionary: "Medical slang term for when a person has reached a level of drug intoxication that greatly alters their level of conciousness, usually only orietend to themselves. Why is that patient laughing at the wall? The nursesnowed him out with morphine. He won't be feeling anything for awhile."
Is this what you mean? Awesome "four-parter"--and it's only early afternoon!
“What can we do? No really, what? You heard Kara’s message. The have well over an hour head start leaving here. We would be in a tail chase. Multiple SUVs loaded to the gills with superior firepower. It’s like the toy poodle barking at the window about the mountain lion on the lawn, what does he think he will do if he catches him? We are down one injured, and we have to have another babysit that one. So what are three of us going to do against them right now?” Bekka’s tone was calm but forceful.
“I don’t know, but we have to do something about them. And what about the captives in the forest? Do we just write the whole thing off as ‘oh well’?” Allyson was beat red to match her hair and her temper. They had just finished settling Angelique into the SUV when Kara’s initial survey of the stadium came in. The place was empty of life. She was moving in to get more info and do a better reconnaissance.
While Allyson and Bekka were having their heated discussion, Garen was getting everything situated with his patient in the SUV. They were still ranting back and forth, so Garen went back in to retrieve all the gear he could from inside, both Angelique’s and from the dead bad guys. He didn’t want to leave any usable stuff behind from the battle. He wasn’t there to loot stores and such, but he had no problems collecting weapons and tools from his vanquished foes. This is how he found where the blood came from.
The guy laying on her and pinning her down was gutted like deer season. Evidently when he fell on her, she started working her karambit back and forth below his vest frantically. The shirt and pants were ribbons and he had dumped four of the body’s five liters of blood onto her. With one broken arm and dislocated shoulder and hip on one side, and her arm pinned between them on the other side, Angelique didn’t have enough strength to move the 300 lbs of dead weight off of her. Her radio earpiece was knocked out so she never heard them come back online. Garen shuddered. The thoughts running through his head was she must have thought she would be trapped there until she died or they found her. No wonder she was hysterical. It wasn’t just the pain. He stripped the weapons, tools, radios and anything else he thought would be useful from the dead guy. He started the process on the next one between him and the door, where Bekka and Allyson were still going back and forth. This had gone on far too long.
“Guys, lets strip the dead of the gear, get over to the stadium and see what Kara has found, gather anything else we want to use there. Then we head to the house. We have to take care of Angelique, we need to reset our equipment. We can do nothing for the forest camp before that. Unless rushing to our death is the plan. We are low on ammo, and have wounded. Allyson, after we get these items fixed; ammo, wounded secured, and equipment reset, THEN we can push out a recon to see what can be done. That’s a couple hours at the earliest. We aren’t saying we aren’t doing something. We just have to get prepped. Now start stripping the ones you hit from above. I don’t want to leave all this gear for just anyone.”
Both Bekka and Allyson looked at Garen while he gave his speech. Bekka was thinking she had been saying the exact same thing. In her still pissed state it came across as mansplaining, but she hoped a second version would cut through Allyson’s temper and make her see reason. Allyson didn’t like they couldn’t do something right now to save the people in the forest, but at least Garen said they were going to try as soon as they got reset.
Allyson has to calm down so planning and tactics can be which kept them from being severely harmed or wiped out by the bad guys.... Sometimes you have to slow down so you do not go charging off to death and mayhem....
Kara was openly weeping as she walked down the rows of bunks in the tents. She had spiraled around the building closer and closer during her reconnaissance, finally making penetration once she was fairly sure it was abandoned. The bad guys were using the baby skyboxes for their own control center and sleeping quarters. It was in two of these she found the victims of their earlier handiwork. These bad guys would never trouble anyone ever again. She made note of a great deal of equipment left behind in the rush to escape. It appeared to be quite a panic when they left.
From the viewing windows, she was able to survey the field where the tents were set up. They looked to be hijacked catering tents. She scanned row after row with her binoculars. There was no movement, no signs of activity. The chill in her stomach kept getting worse.
Down at ground level with the parking lot, more things became clear. She found the ‘In Processing Stations”. Some of the things she saw brought her back to images she had never wanted to see in person. There was a room filled with luggage. Another room was for “Medical Processing”. She looked in. There were two doors leading out the back of the room. One was marked “tent assignments. The other one was marked “Pediatric and Women’s health issues medical screening”. This was an easy way they separated their wheat and chaff. She knew she didn’t want to follow the signs taped on the wall from there. She had enough bad images and knew she would collect more.
She walked past stacks of MRE boxes and other bulk food. This was the real bait for their trap. It would take finding a trailer but this stack would be good to take back home. She came across another room where it looked like they were storing any firearms they confiscated from the willing refugees. She started to investigate the pile, mostly as a diversion and a delaying tactic in her attempt to forestall confirmation of what she suspected. Once she realized what she was doing, she swore and cussed herself out for it.
Kara made her way out onto the field. It was time to check the tents. The tents were separated by gender, ostensibly to make things safer for the women, but in reality, it made it harder to for people to keep track of each other. Simple cots were lined up inside each tent. Many of the cots had occupants, but none of them were moving, and hadn’t for anywhere from twelve to twenty four hours. They started killing witnesses and shutting things down as soon as they met active resistance, as near as she could figure. Between what she was looking at in the tents coupled with the stuff from the ops center, there was no way to save these people. All they could do was stop more from falling for the ploy. This also meant there was almost nothing they could do for the people in the forest camp except vengeance. The extraction crew probably already eliminated them.
The people in the tents were dead half a day before she got Angelique hurt. She would be forever weighing her injury or possible death against killing twenty to thirty bad guys and forcing them to move to another town. Only the second half had a direct impact to them. If they had stayed, they could have found Garen and Bekka’s house. If they are still in the forest camp, they still might. She hated this sort of algebra, the gauging of the worth of someone to the mission. It was other people seeing only numbers and treating them as such that caused a lot of her problems in the military, including her early medical retirement. She always vowed to never become one of those. Now here she was with the proverbial pencil in her hand. God! She hated herself so much for so many things right now!
CCG achieves a deft balance between graphic description and mere allusion to unspeakable horror. The "avengers" will be supremely motivated--but will also be challenged to exercise patience, wisdom, and self-restraint in future missions. The author's skill in balancing his descriptions, his plot, and his characters makes this an uncommon, and uncommonly valuable, entry in the genre. We are beneficiaries of CCG's growing experience and art--"it ain't his first rodeo".
I know Allyson’s pain and fury. I know she is trying to make sense of the violence we had to deal out. I know. It sickens me to think on all the lives we lost in the last couple of days, including the ones I had to take. She is also having to deal with the reality of what we just experienced. There was a high likelihood we were about to die when we rappelled down into the elevator. The fates had another plan. The elation of surviving and being pulled back from the brink is a hard adjustment. To have that followed with the gut punch of the slaughter in the Stadium, it’s a rollercoaster few are prepared for. She is trying to cope with it by trying to force a happy ending like saving a truck load of trafficking victims. I’m trying to console myself with the small win of killing and dismantling the trap. Garen is refusing to think on any of it. He throws himself into the details and minutia to push back when he has to deal with it. Kara, she is going to brood. She picks it apart and blames herself for every single flaw she can find. Because if she can see the flaw with hindsight, she should have seen it in the first place. A damn perfectionist in her own way.
I have to keep Allyson’s survivor guilt fueled rage from pushing her into bigger mistakes. Oh, and there’s mine. I try to be the flat, analytical voice of reason, trying to deny it affects me at all. I know screaming, crying and punching things doesn’t help. It only gets your hand broke. I have the knuckles to prove it. All we can do is collect the stuff they left we can use, get back to the house, and then, we can see about the forest camp.
They dropped Garen off at the stadium to help Kara start collecting everything they thought they should take. Bekka wanted to keep Allyson out of the stadium as much as possible, and keep her busy to boot. They had two errands to run. First they were going to the Center. With what Kara was indicating they wanted from the Stadium, they needed a trailer or two. Two trailers would need two vehicles. They had Logans truck at the Center they could use. Bekka also knew a place she could get a trailer or two. Hopefully the guy that owned the yard was there.
Bekka’s plan was to drive to the Center and go up to the covered portion where they left Logan’s truck. She would leave Allyson there with the SUV and Angelique. Bekka could then drive Logan’s truck over to the place to see a guy about a trailer. If she could get what they needed, she would swing back by the Center to get Allyson and Angelique. Then back to the Stadium, load up and get out of town. Bekka didn’t anticipate a need to come back into town for quite some time. To her, this meant months or years at this point.
Bekka had thrown this out to Garen and Allyson while they loaded Angelique into the SUV. Garen agreed, but Allyson was still fuming at the delay before they could get to the forest camp. A quick update to Kara, and the crew went into motion.
The drive over to the Center was unremarkable, and quiet. No conversation, just silence. There were no issues with the roll up door, and everything appeared to be untouched. Once in place on the apartment level, Bekka turned to Allyson.
“We need to talk.”
Allyson wasn’t sure she was ready to talk yet. Her father’s temper was still raging in her blood and part of her wanted to lash out, to scream and shout. The more sensible part was barely keeping it in check.
“We need to talk, or you need to tell me something?”
Bekka could hear the effort Allyson was putting in not losing too much control. She really had to defuse this.
“Allyson, we couldn’t save them. We didn’t know what all they were going to do and how soon…..”
“So we killed fifty people and lit the fuse for them to kill two hundred more! What kind of crap is that!” Alyson interjected “We play god and begin killing people. What makes what we did right and what they were doing wrong? Where is the line? You know what’s worse? I was sitting there next to myself on that rooftop with you. I was watching me hunting through the scope, looking for more targets. I saw myself. I was anxious and excited. Excited! I was hunting people and worried I couldn’t find any more. I was wondering as I watched; ‘when did I become a monster?’ I didn’t have a good answer. I didn’t recognize myself. I keep looking for when I wake up and get out of this bizarre world.”
Bekka just waited and listened as Allyson slowly wound down. She felt for her, she really did. Worse, she didn’t have a fix for her. She did have to short circuit the thought train however.
“Are you done? The people who got into the stadium trap were dead, from the moment they walked in. We didn’t kill them. The bad guys did. They were going to all along. The ones we killed were responsible for every innocent life they destroyed, both the ones they killed and the ones they trafficked. We broke the trap. We saved hundreds if not thousands. We are not very far into this crisis. As more got hungry, more would come to the trap. They were just getting started. The hit their forces took may take away some of their ability to do much for quite some time. You did nothing wrong. We were working to save all those not in their trap, no the ones already in it.”
Allyson listened but Bekka wasn’t sure she was convinced. They continued the debate for another few moments, but both knew more pressing issues needed their attention.
Allyson checked and adjusted Angelique’s meds while Bekka selected a couple of the battlefield pick-ups. The Carbines were what she intended to trade for the trailers. First, however, she took the thermal and night vision gear off of the rifles.