The courtyard by the old carriage house provided a sheltered area for them to reset and prepare for the next push. While things were being squared away, Kara was on a high point, looking back over their route up to this point. She saw no movement except in the far distance, not that she could see much. It was still before dawn and the goggles only stretched so far. There were a few bright spots, but it seemed most people were keeping things dark to avoid attention.
Once they were set, they exited the estate’s other entrance. This required the same unlock and lock procedures. They cautiously moved up onto the roadway. This short cut had enabled them to skip large amounts of more contested routes. The only reason they didn’t plan to use it before was the very restrictive nature of getting through the cables and such. It had left them exposed for a period of time with no good escape route. One good point however, it did let them bypass the area where Terry was ambushed.
In contrast to the coast and listen approach they had used coming into the city, on the way out, they were using a slow and steady approach. The vehicles had enough torque and low gears they could keep moving along without massive injections of throttle. They were hoping to get past the ridgeline without a huge sound signature. They were already making enough noise to alert the local radius, but they didn’t want to wake up all the area.
As the sky lightened in the east, they made it past the switchbacks past the second ridgeline. Dawn saw the approach of the compound gate. Both vehicles went all the way up to the house. They had a casualty to get settled and some immediate elements to address, especially if they were pushing a recon crew out at the end of the night down towards the forest camp. Most of those preps would have to wait however. What the crew needed most of all was sleep and fuel.
“Please tell me Garen wasn’t the one to put it in!”
Allyson was talking with Angelique. Angelique had woken up and was still confused from the earlier drugs and the current load on board. Somewhere in the fog, she knew she should have to pee, but didn’t feel like she had to. This was confusing to her. She also knew it hurt to try and get up. Allyson hear her small protests at trying to move and had come over to check on her. When Angelique told her she wanted to go pee, Allyson informed her she shouldn’t get up just yet, and besides, she didn’t need to pee, they had already taken care of that for her.
When she was told they had put in a catheter, her free hand flew to her crotch, a flush of embarrassment racing to her features.
“Garen is the best Paramedic I have ever worked with, but I actually put it in. Why?”
Angelique’s hand was still down there, trying to feel where the tube was and how it went in. When she realized how in depth and invasive the process must have been, she was even more mortified. When Angelique replied, her tone was a bit angrier out of frustration and embarrassment.
“Because the first time I have some guy poke and paw around my groin, I’d want it to be while I’m awake and wanting it done for pleasure, not roofied on some floor behind a rack of coffee mugs!”
With the sharpness of Angelique’s tone and emotion, Allyson had to replay some of their earlier encounters. She realized Angelique was a lot more shy and body conscious than she let on. This was an element they would need to take into account as the medical treatments for her injuries went on.
“Well, I was the one that put it in, so that should help some.” She needed to talk to Garen and update him on the conversation. Yes, she had put in the Foley, her first in the field. This was with Garen standing right over her shoulder talking her through it. Foleys were not normally in most Paramedics’ training, but were one of the skills needed for Prolonged Field Care and Remote Medicine. This skill, Chest Tubes, Suturing and a host of other skills were part of what the Center taught. She had done the training for many of these, but Angelique was her first in the field patient needing this.
Angelique seemed to get control of herself. She then slumped down into the bed some as if the outburst took a lot of energy out of her. After a few moments, Allyson started talking again.
“You rest for now. We will get you up and moving shortly. We need to figure what you can do, and make sure you don’t push too far too fast. You stretched the ligaments and muscles in your shoulder and hip horrendously. Have you ever sprained your ankle?”
A weak exasperated sigh was followed by her answer.
“Yeah, and it sucked!”
“Well, multiply that by 10, and you get where we are at. When you can get around some, Garen says the Foley can come out. We want you mobile soon, but not so soon you injure yourself and set things back twice as long. Bekka says she has a wheel chair around here somewhere from her foot surgery she will dig out this evening. No real weight bearing on your hip for a few days. We want the muscles and ligaments to tighten back up some so it doesn’t pop back out and you fall on your ass.”
Allyson was quiet for a few moments before she started up again.
“So, was he running at you, or were you running at him?”
Angelique looked over at her, puzzled.
“The guy who collided with you. Were you running to tackle him or was he running at you and you braced?”
“I was braced and he was running at me. How did you know?”
Allyson pulled down the strap of her tank top on the left side. A fine network of scars was visible.
“Because that’s how I got my shoulder broken and screwed up. Your guy was bigger, so that may have saved you some damage to your shoulder.”
“Oh, yeah? How do you figure that?” Angelique now had a puzzled look on her face and tone in her voice.
“He had so much mass you couldn’t plant hard enough to take the blow solid and he moved you. Me, the girl was closer to my own size and my cleats gave me traction to resist. I ended up with broken bones, a couple of surgeries and months of rehab. You got bounced off your feet and most of the damage was when he landed on where you had been thrown. What I was wondering, why did he end up on top of you instead of falling somewhere else?”
“I made him mad so he ran at me. I tried to slash him in the belly as he got to me but it pissed him off more. I couldn’t let him get away far enough to get his pistol out. I tried to stick on him like a spider monkey, slashing up close where he couldn’t stop me. I don’t know when we fell, but I couldn’t get away. He was too heavy and I couldn’t push him off me.” Her voice started to whine and she burst into tears.
Allyson moved forward to hold her and comfort her. The sobs were deep and wracking her whole body. Allyson tried for a soothing tone.
“It’s ok, we got you out, your safe now. It will be ok.” She repeated this over and over again. Finally Angelique fell back asleep. Allyson pulled the covers back up, tucking her in. She went out to brief Garen and start preparing for the night mission with Bekka.
I stood there for a long time looking in the mirror. How long, I don’t know. I don’t normally do a lot of mirror gazing, but this time I was lost in thought at what I was seeing. I had dressed for the night’s reconnaissance mission. I was back in a uniform. It was surreal. I was watching myself do it. I didn’t notice until I was halfway done. I just tooled along, filling all the pockets, belt, just right, gig line correct, boots bloused, this thing in this pocket, that thing in the other. Name tapes, rank insignia, Aircrew wings, they were all mine. They belonged to me. I earned them. They were right where I left them years ago when I got my blue ID card. I felt both older and younger at the same time. Gloves, multi-tool, flashlight, ranger rag around my neck, everything went back to where it belonged. It all belonged to me. But the bigger question was did I belong to it?
Garen and I had a long conversation. He had come into the bedroom shortly after I had gotten dressed. When he saw me, his normal smile was bigger and more enthusiastic. I love to see the smile and the twinkle in his eyes, but his greeting sent me a little sideways. He said ‘there she is, the girl I first fell in love with.’ The always paranoid streak in the back of my head jumped to the forefront. Had I changed too much when I retired? Was this a building problem? I blurted this out to him. He wrapped my up in an embrace as we sat on the bed. No, he explained. It was more the flood of so many happy memories. Even though there were so many tough times when we were both still active duty, there were also so many good times. He went on about how much we had been forced to learn about each other, and how our bond was even stronger now, our love stronger now. He also said he worried sometimes about me struggling without the military providing a rudder or direction. He reiterated there was no problem with us, he was just basking in the good memories. He also offered to remind me how good it felt to be peeled out of the uniform for further recreation. As tempting as that was, I needed what energy I had to do this evenings mission. Besides, my ribs still hurt and would take some of the fun out.
Allyson is proving to be quite the asset. In some ways, she reminds me of Kara on her first deployment. Both just knew the way something was supposed to be, because that’s what they were taught the rules were. Both were unhinged when they got on their first deployment. That’s what this is in reality. A deployment. Allyson is in the rough adjustment period. I think she will continue to adapt for the better. She will have to, or she will end up destroying herself. Maybe we can talk some on this trip. If we can both keep from igniting our tempers, I may be able to help her.
I’m standing here, staring at myself in the mirror thinking too much when instead, I could have been naked and giggling in bed with Garen. I wonder what other dumb choices I’m going to make today?
While Bekka and Allyson were getting their gear ready and loaded in the Hyena, Garen and Kara were doing some planning of their own.
“Alright Kara, I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out the best way for us to do QRF for them. With Bekka and Allyson in the buggy, what is the best platform for us to use to go back them up or pull their butts out of a scrape?”
This didn’t sound like a rhetorical question to Kara. Garen was wanting her to help figure between the options. She knew he could get in a logic circle sometimes. Maybe it would be best to hear his ideas first, and then do some pros and cons to get to the best answer.
“So what were you thinking the best options would be?”
“Well, one idea I had was based off of what the quickest response would be. You and I on the dirt bikes could make the fastest run and get there the soonest. Problem is, we would get there very light on assets to bring to bear on a situation and no real transport capability if they can’t be on the back of a bike. It would also be hard to carry additional fuel for them.” He paused and then continued.
“Option two would be Bekka’s Subaru. This could move very fast and carry more, but right now it’s configured as a bug out and we would have to download and upload with a different configuration.” Kara was nodding as he ticked off the options and problems.
“Number four is the HMMWV we just brought back, but my concern there is how wide it is compared to some of the trails we might use. This brings me around to option five, which I am leaning towards. We take Johns truck. It’s fast and can handle the forest, decent range and payload if we have to carry stuff, and worst case, if it gets trashed, we don’t lose too much capability. What do you think?”
Kara thought over the choices he was providing. All were valid points. She weighed the elements again and again, coming to the conclusion he was leaning towards.
“I think you are right in your thought pattern. John’s truck will work best. I do think we should also have one of the dirt bikes set up as an option however. Ideally one of us should stay here. We have a casualty to tend to.”
“Good point. On that topic, Allyson was filling me in on a conversation she had with Angelique. She is evidently a lot more shy than she lets on. We will have to keep that in mind as we do patient care. And I am definitely not the one to do Foley care.”
“Oh, really? OK, spill.”
“Evidently, she told Allyson something to the effect of ‘first guy poking around her nether region better be for fun and her choice’. I’m glad Allyson didn’t tell her I was practically hovering over her shoulder helping ID landmarks and precepting Allyson’s first live Foley. Her comment also confirms my other observation concerning Angelique’s equipment. New and still in the wrapper.”
“Well, I guess that eliminates swapping notes and comparing orgies.” Her hushed tones were in contrast to her flippant sarcasm. Garen knew this was Kara’s reflex defense to unsettling or delicate conversations. He wasn’t sure why Angelique’s virginity would unsettle Kara, though. This puzzled him but he didn’t want to press her in this issue right now. Maybe later.
Kara barely even registered her response to Garen. Her mind was racing back through all the memories and half memories of all the times that coin was so cheaply spent, freely given and forcibly taken. She knew it was part of the thing that made her feel broken sometimes. She had come to realize what a precious thing it was to give when given right and with the right intent. There weren’t that many people she had given and received that gift. Very few. Those few still living meant the world to her. She’s glad Allyson didn’t strip any of the specialness away for Angelique. She didn’t even have to lie. Allyson did the procedure.
This also put some more spin on some earlier events. Checking her chest for bruising and broken bones after she was shot. She was glad she was able to just palpate the sternum and the sides of her ribs. Kara didn’t know how far Angelique had gone with a boyfriend or girlfriend and didn’t want to come off creepy. Speaking of creepy, she wished she had contained herself a little more with her nighttime swim when Angelique got a bit fascinated with her piercings. Not that there was any real problem with what she did, she just might have treated it a bit differently and explained a little more.
Kara was also wondering about other things now. She and Bekka didn’t have to worry about periods or birth control or cramps and such. Did they have the right supplies for Allyson and Angelique? Not that they had anybody they were making babies with around here. Garen wasn’t the wandering type even if it was offered. Besides, Bekka wasn’t about to share some things with them. Kara was snapped out of her train of thought by the sharp tone of Garen’s voice.
“Kara! Come back to me! We have work to do. We need to get the vehicle ready, then pull our gear. I’m thinking we could swap the silenced uppers for the AR's we brought back from the Center onto the full auto lowers we got off the extract team. We can test them and work with those for a bit more firepower than the subguns. We take our bolt guns if we need to do a blocking force. Questions? Counter proposals?”
Kara half heard what Garen was saying. She trusted his planning in this aspect.
“Makes sense to me. Do we still do the 10mm for the pistols?”
“No good reason to change them. Check the batteries for the lights and lasers and pull some ammo and mags. I’ll be back down in a few to do the weapons swap around. I’m going to go talk to Angelique first and see what she can do and what we have to help her do.” Garen walked out of the workshop, headed for the stairs.
Kara turned to the tasks at hand, trying to focus her mind on what needed done. Unfortunately, there was still a small part of her brain chasing rabbits down their holes.
Allyson was a little taken back by Bekka’s appearance. Once again, she had transformed herself. Allyson was dressed in a plain camouflaged uniform, just like she had worn countless times as a SWAT member. She was used to seeing her other officers dressed that way. Bekka in her uniform looked different. Not only was seeing Bekka in uniform different, it was also how she wore it. The material wasn’t any different, the cut wasn’t different, but the way it was on her was so different. It was like a second skin. Correction, it was like she had taken a costume off and revealed her real self.
They had gone through their equipment and the vehicle. They discussed their plan, and what they would need. Bekka’s idea was to travel fairly light. It wasn’t supposed to be a long trip. They took long guns, the subguns, and a small quantity of supplies. They were to go down to the forest camp, look and see what was still going on down there. It was not to be a raid, a rescue, an assault. It was a reconnaissance mission. Bekka was fairly forceful in this concept. She didn’t want Allyson rushing into something stupid and told her so. Allyson’s reply was a little jarring to Bekka.
“The last time I was sitting in this seat, someone told me to just sit and watch and do nothing, regardless of what I saw. Well, I saw someone mow down 8 people with a machine gun. Forgive me if I don’t want to sit idlily by for that again. I understand about not rushing in on a suicidal charge, but if it comes to it again, I want to stop them rather than see the results of not doing something play through my head over and over again.”
“I understand. Just don’t rush the play. Let’s look at it and play it out as it comes.”
Bekka wasn’t taking her time on this drive. She was slinging the little buggy down the familiar trails at a rate that made Allyson cringe. They were trying to get to an overwatch position before sun up and needed to cover ground. As they were going along, Bekka kept thinking of things they needed to do and would tell Allyson about it. Things like immediately refilling the fuel tank when they got to the observation point, as well as their water bladders and resetting the stuff in their go kits to top off anything they may have used.
Bekka was also worried about the weather. There was a good chance for rain, and it might be even cold enough for a touch of snow, or at least sleet. If they got that type of weather, it would compound her worry of leaving tracks that were easier to follow them. This could mean they would have to detour a different way to come home, maybe even out onto one of the public roads to break the trail. This came to her mind too late to stock up more on fuel than she had. Fuel might be their Achilles heel for their trip.
After a bit of thinking, Bekka confided her concerns to Allyson, who took it in typical redhead fashion.
“What do you mean, go back out onto the public roads! Wasn’t that the very thing we wanted to avoid? Going back out onto the roads that we just almost got killed in several ambushes on, and barely escaped with the TWO vehicles and four heavily armed people?”
“That pretty much covers it, Allyson. Now, I’m not saying this is going to happen, just that it might. If that happens, we will try to move stealthy or it may come down to a speed run. If we end up having to do that sort of detour, once we get to hardball, I’ll put you in the driver’s seat, and I will navaguess, since I know the roads better and such.”
“When are you going to tell Garen of the change in plan?”
“If and when the weather makes it necessary. Until then, just have the plan in the back of your head.”