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Following your dreams is a dangerous thing, because few are ever ready for what lies at the end of that dream.


Some dream of becoming rich, though do not think of those who will try to steal from them, or that wealth will consume them. Some dream of becoming lawyers, but do not think that they may have to defend murderers while the victim's family is present. Some dream of becoming heroes, but do not think of the sacrifices and responsibility that is forced upon them.


Just as she dreamed of becoming a paramedic. To save lives and feel she made a difference at the end of the day. Though she did not think of the regret. The guilt. The pity, the horror, or the blood, the tears, and the death.


The dream ends at 'I became', and from then on begins the nightmare.



Part 1: First impressions


The alarm woke her from an already uneasy sleep, though they were not as bad as before.  Sitting up, she quickly hit the button to return her to the solitude of silence. In self doubt, the collie had to check her clothing. The velvety pajamas confirmed she was not back on base. Not yet. A sigh of relief left her as she checked the time. 0606, 6:06AM. Oddly enough, it was sleeping in for her. Before she joined the Cornerian Army, she would've scoffed at the clock and gone right back to sleep. But she had a new appreciation for getting up early, especially now that she was on leave for the first time in what felt like years. 


After her, in hindsight, foolish self-check to make sure she wasn't back in hell, she had completely forgotten what she was dreaming about. Regardless, she reached for her dream journal out of habit and flipped it open. She always kept it either under the bed or on a nightstand if such a thing was available, so that she could have quick and easy access to it rather than having to dig through her pack. She had the dates and details of each dream, and each one seemed to have a special story to it. Like her first day in the fleet...



When she arrived by shuttle on her first posting at Katina, all she could think about was how sore she was. She had been stuck on a Cornerian Cruiser for what seemed like days, having to confine herself to a small cot, her belongings tucked underneath. Uniforms, hygiene kit, civilian clothing... But now she had to lug it all with her. She wasn't expecting much better in the way of accommodations, but at least she'd have more time to get used to this planet. Which reminded her, new planet! She had never traveled outside of Corneria before! She was so excited and nervous she felt like she could throw up. Anxiety was normal given a new environment, same with everyone else. New school, new job, new neighborhood, anything. But this was different. She was finally going to start helping people! Soldiers even! She had always imagined this sort of romantic experience tending to hardened troops, being their guardian angel. No more training dummies from here on out! She even took a moment to admire her white and yellow jacket she was permitted to wear over her field uniform now. One single chevron on her sleeve marked her a Private in the Army, it's red color revealing her status as a medic. They called them Blood Stripes for obvious reasons, but it made her seem special. Not just your average grunt that earned the typical green or gold chevron. She was a medic. A cut above in responsibility and knowledge. The name tape above her right breast pocket told them all she was one of the few that could rescue them from certain death: Cromwell. Doc Cromwell. She liked the sound of that. But in her egotistical daydreaming she never even noticed that the rest of the shuttle had emptied out! Silently cursing at herself, she picked up her pack and threw it onto her back, carrying what was left in the left hand.


Stepping down the ramp of the shuttle, it was only then that she noticed how dry the air was, the bright sun blinding her a moment. Once she adjusted, a quick look around had her discover a woman in similar uniform as she was. She was shorter, armadillo type. Her jacket was stained a light tan by dust, with a few specks of dark, dried blood here and there. Her rank of Private First Class was marked by that single blood stripe with a red rocker underneath. She seemed very aloof, like she was bored standing there. The sign she was supposed to be holding, having the name 'Cromwell' written in red ink, was hanging around her neck, secured by surgical tubing that had clearly come from her first aid kit. In the woman's muzzle was what appeared to be a white stick. A lollipop. A confusing sight, though attention was quickly drawn to a passive sergeant, saying "Feliz! Get your hands out of your pockets!"


The armadillo girl responded, wearing an innocent smile as she waved her hands in the air. As soon as the sergeant left, Feliz promptly returned her hands to her pockets, and only just now noticed the new arrival who had made her way over to her. 


"Private E. Cromwell?" she asked, putting extra emphasis on the first initial. Getting a suddenly nervous nod in response, Feliz gave the Private an examination before taking the lollipop out of her mouth. "What does the 'E' stand for? I don't know why they don't just write full names on the damn muster sheets here..."


"Elizabeth..." the Collie answered, still holding that bag that seemed to be getting heavier by the minute.


"That sounds regal as fuck... And I lost a bet. I thought it was going to be Elanor or something stupid like that. Anyway, come on, I'll show you the barracks and we need to get you to supply for your kits"


The shorted woman started to walk away as Elizabeth was about to say something, though figured it was probably better to just follow along. Glancing down, she noticed her actual name tape read 'Felizalmanzar'. She was going to ask where the name came from, but for some reason the question that came out of her muzzle was "Where'd you get the lollipop?"

It wasn't until she asked that Elizabeth noticed how hungry she was. Hopefully the mess hall was open after she got her stuff... Wherever it was. She still had to get oriented with where everything was. "Eh. Care packages from home. They help me quit smoking" she answered, "The Captain decided to do something about it since I was going through almost two packs a day when I first got here. So, whenever I want a cig, I eat a lollipop instead..."


It was a silent walk for a few minutes after that. The base was bigger than it seemed... A lot of steel and concrete buildings, tents here and there, and a lot of wires for electrical and communications equipment running along the ground in certain places. "So, where're you from?" the sudden question from Feliz tore Elizabeth's attention back. She noticed Feliz still had her hands in her pockets as they walked. That stuck out for some reason. "Corneria City. My parents-"


She was cut off by a sudden "We're here!" from Feliz, her story cut off as she took a look at her new abode. It was a smaller bunker than the others, though the wall next to the door  was marked with a red cross... So this has to be it. "It's co-ed by the way" Feliz pipes up, "So as long as you're not weirded out by that, that's fine. The Captain sleeps in his own room in the headquarters building, cuz he's special and shit" she said, smiling all the while. 


"Why are we separated from the others...?" she had to ask, recalling having passed a few tents filled with the other men and women. Feliz was quick to answer. "It's so we can keep track of our stuff better and everyone knows where to find us and not have to root through a hundred cots... And so people can't steal our drugs I guess."


"Is that a problem here?'


"Not anymore. The Captain cracked down on that mess damn quick. Someone was taking pain meds, so he camped out by the cabinet himself and caught the guy. Turns out he was selling them around the base to the guys coming back from the field. People looking for an escape and stuff... But you don't need to worry about that."


"What's the Captain like, then...?" Elizabeth had heard him mentioned a few times, so since she had an interview with him later on this evening it could only help to know a little about him. Maybe get an idea of what to expect. Feliz just shrugged, Elizabeth setting her things by the empty cot as she explained. "He's cool, I guess. Short and to the point kind of guy. Foreign, but won't say where from. That kinda mess. The other Officers call him Sarge, cuz he was a Sergeant before he commissioned. Liked it a lot better than being an Officer I guess. Oh, but one thing you need to know-" she noted, her relaxed demeanor suddenly turning grave. "If he asks for your attention, you damn well better listen to what he has to say. Saved our butts more than I want to mention... Oh, and you're done!". Like that she was back to all smiles, "Lets get you to supply and you can meet the rest of the guys!"



The trip to supply was long and tedious. Every individual item of her trauma care kit had to be accounted for and signed for. Every individual item for her airway management kit had to be accounted for and signed for. Her Defibrillator Gloves had to be calibrated and signed for. Her Individual first aid kit had to be accounted for and signed for. Her combat armor had to be signed for.






The supply clerk seemed like a dork, but took his work seriously. He kept adjusting his glasses and heaving a sigh whenever he had to put in a new set of numbers in the gear checkoff list. At the end, he handed Elizabeth a copy of the list as well as a statement of understanding form she had to sign and return. All in all, she was leaving with at least another 100 pounds on her back. Feliz had to stand by for the whole three hour process, making quips at the clerk that only frustrated him and made the process longer. Of course, Elizabeth thought it wasn't her place to say anything. She was new.


After that was done, they had to go to the armory to get a weapons card. Why? Because only guards and outgoing patrols were allowed to carry weapons. A large crocodile stood by the cage in his trousers and undershirt. Jacket and armor were nowhere to be seen... But the other armorers seemed to be dressed like that as well. There was a large concrete vault with all the weapons way behind him, as well as a wooded desk against the wall. The couple of metal tables that were in the room were taken up by the other armorers making repairs to weapons. The croc only took a look at Elizabeth's name before looking for her check sheet at the desk. Coming back, he slipped it through the slot in the cage door, along with two tan little cards, and explained. "You need to sign all three of these and keep the cards with you at all times. No card, no weapon, no exceptions". He had a gruff voice, but it wasn't all harsh. Eventually he came to the cage with a compact submachine gun in his hands. Sleek and shiny, though she knew better than to assume it was new. "Nice, aren't they? We get those cuz they're more maneuverable or something like that. I like it better than the rifles." noted Feliz, finally poking  her head into view of the cage.


"Oh, didn't see you there, Chicky-Boom." the crocodile greeted with a smile.


"Screw you, okay?" was all Feliz could manage to respond with against what must have been an attack against her height, though she was caught in a gigglefit all the while.


The smiling Croc held the weapon away from him, glancing to Elizabeth "I'm going to read off the numbers on your weapon. You need to make sure it matches the one on your card... 10198463..."


"Yes Sir" Elizabeth responded politely, her first words since she had arrived at supply. It almost felt like her muzzle was glued shut before she said anything. 


"I'm a Corporal, but that's alright" he quickly corrected before turning the rifle over to read the second number. "334957...". Spotting the second number on the card, she said "Yes Corporal" before awaiting further instructions. But all she got was "Alright, you're all set." and being released back to Feliz. Well, at least she got to see her gun. That was kindof neat.


"Now I need to get you to the Captain. That supply nerd took his sweet time so you're already late." was the last thing Feliz said before Elizabeth was brought back to the barracks to drop off her gear, and then into the headquarters building. At a door labeled 'Medical CO', all Elizabeth's escort left her with was "Try not to stare" before leaving. She was quick about leaving too. Probably had something more interesting to do. 


So, this was it. Meeting with this fabled Captain at long last. She took a deep breath and gave the door a couple of solid knocks. "Sir, Private Cromwell reporting as ordered!" she announced, hoping he was in there. It'd suck if she had to wait there just to find out he was gone. But she was soon answered with a heavily accented 'come in!'. Sounded Germanic to her. Opening the door, she  could see what Feliz was talking about. 


The Captain was a well-built German Shepard looking man, no hair save for his headfur, and some nasty looking burn scars on the right side of his face. His right eye seemed to have a permanent squint to it, but as far as she could tell he could see fine. His office was surrounded by flags, posters, plaques, and what seemed to be souvenirs and trophies. The Captain had been all over the Lylat system in plenty of combat operations. "Bitte, have a seat" he insisted, sifting through some papers on his desk to find her fairly empty service record. He was pokerfaced the whole time, not showing any genuine pleasure or disgust toward the meeting. Eventually, he took a look again at her training record, which was all she had to her career thus far, and set the file down, looking her in the face. "Vhy are you here...?" he asked, staring as he awaited an answer.


She found her voice suddenly caught in her throat. She didn't know how to  answer that. "I'm... Here to serve, Sir" was the best she could think to say. The Captain rapped his fingers on the polished desk, his gaze unblinking. The silence was almost nerve wracking. "Sir-" she was cut off by hit raising a hand, stopping her thought process. Was she about to correct herself? Apologize? Beg for mercy? Either way, it didn't seem like the Captain was interested. "You vish to serve. Zis is gut. But I don't vant robots in my team. It's bad enough I must deal with one..." he motioned to her file with his hands, a small smile finally breaking on his face. "You score vell. Zis is also gut. All I desire from you ist a vill to vork, a  ill to learn, and a  ill to fight against death himself. Sounds very storybook, no?"


She only nodded, hoping he would continue. Thankfully he did. "Scoring vell in training does not mean you vill score well in ze field. You vill have your chance to serve, and your chance to show zese men zeir lives are in capable hands... Do you know ze five lifesaving steps...?"


"We were only taught four, Sir... Start the breathing, stop the bleeding, protect the wound, treat for shock..." she answered. The Captain nodded. "Gut, but ve have a fifth rule: Seek help. A paramedic who tries to save everyone by zemselves vill only find corpses around zem. Ve are a team, and ve must rely on each other to save zese men and vomen who depend  on us to keep zem alive und healthy. Anyvay, peptalk over!" he concluded with a clap of his hands. "Zat's it. Velcome to ze team. I vould love to talk more, but I must attend ze battalion briefing in ten minutes. You vill be on ze ambulance crew vith myself, PFC Felizalmanzar, und Sergeant Neal. Our surgeons are Lieutenant Cotton and Lieutenant Nelson, und our lab specialist ist Staff Sergeant Roswell, you'll have ze chance to meet all of zem I'm sure..." Getting up from his seat, he grabbed his field cover, and Elizabeth rose with him expecting to be dismissed. Though the Captain stopped to look at her file again. He gave it a tap with hefty fingers and said "Zere is a lot of room for great zings in here. Do not fail me... I trust you can see yourself out" he said before leaving at last, leaving Elizabeth alone in his office.


She was disappointed by the meeting overall. She was expecting a really in-depth interview where she could unravel the mystery of this 'Captain'. But they would be in the ambulance together, so at least this wasn't the last time she was going to see him. All she learned is that he was enthusiastic about teamwork, and not to fail him. About to leave, after taking a look around his decorated office once more, she found his name placard on his desk. 'Capt. Dietz', and "Scarface" inscribed in small letters under that. It seemed mean, but he must not be bothered by it if he kept it and displayed it in his office. 


As she made her way back to the barracks, or at least trying to find it, she had noticed the sun already went down, and it was a lot colder. Normally it wouldn't bother her if it hadn't been so hot and dry before. A lot of things confused her around here. The weather, the barracks, the informal attitude of the medical staff... It wasn't at all what she expected. She thought it was going to be all business all the time... In truth, she thought she'd prefer it that way. No distractions from getting the job done. More work to do, more chances to succeed.


More chances not to fail.


She huffed, straightening up. She couldn't let this lax behavior around her get to her. She knew her true test was yet to come. She had no idea what kind of threats this planet had, though there were talk of bandit hideouts in the area. Even undertrained criminals could wound, and she'd have to be there to patch these people up. These thoughts were reinforced by the occasional 'evening, doc' from soldiers she passed by on the way. It brought a smile to her face. Like she already belonged. More a reason not to let anyone down...


When she returned to the barracks, she only saw two others, wearing the ranks of Sergeant and Staff Sergeant. The two Lieutenants she heard about must be busy... Or at that meeting. Whatever it was Officers did. The Sergeant, a lithe looking buck, was currently trying to write something while Feliz was bugging him. She just kept saying 'Please please please please' like a child begging for a new toy. The Staff Sergeant, some sort of reptile... Chameleon? Gecko? Salamander? She could never tell. They all looked the same to her. The tanish, brown-speckled reptile in question was laying on his cot, ignoring the scene behind him. He was reading something titled 'The Musicbox', some reading glasses resting on his muzzle. Once in awhile he licked his finger to turn the pages, totally absorbed in whatever sort of story it was. Not wanting to bother him, she went to see if she could pry her guide off the antlered NCO, who seemed to be getting more agitated by the minute. Thought before she could get there, Sergeant Neal just shoves a photo into Feliz' chest. "SHIT, you can look! But I want it back, I mean it!". The Armadillo just tsk'ed at him and looked at the picture.. She got a sultry look on her face, turning the picture this way and that. "Ooooh~! He's cuute!"


"Homewrecker..." was the Sergeant's only response, though he couldn't hide the smirk on his face. 


Feliz finally noticed Elizabeth standing there, and immediately showed her the picture. "Hey, newbie, look at this! What a beefcake, huh?!". Elizabeth took a quick look at the picture. To her, just a nice picture of the Sergeant and a lynx boy. 


"Please don't call my fiance a beefcake... Wait, newbie?" quickly looking behind him at the two girls, he seemed to be disappointed. "Aw. I thought you were gonna be a guy." he said before fishing out 5 credits and setting them on the table. Must be for that bet Feliz had mentioned earlier. "Looks like I'm never going to meet Edward" he chuckled, holding out his hand as he leaned back in his seat. "Sergeant Neal, ambulance driver and battalion substance abuse officer". Elizabeth gladly shook his hand, just happy to see someone a bit more in control of their faculties. 


"That just means he's really boring" Feliz chimes in, holding the picture out for Neal to take back. He swipes it out of her hand, sticking his tongue out in defiance. "There's nothing boring about moderation, Mrs. Iron Lung". Feliz just played with the lollipop in her mouth, pretending to ignore him. Neal motions to the reading Staff Sergeant, apparently to introduce him. "And that's Staff Sergeant Roswell. He's the, uh..." he paused a moment, trying to think of how to put it before the lizard finished it for him, turning the page as he spoke, "Lab technician and battalion psychiatric specialist...". The Sergeant shrugged. "Yeah, that. He's not much of a talker when he's in a good book, but he's pretty much in charge when the Captain isn't around. You might get to see the L-Ts sometime this week but they're usually in the M.A.S.H."


"Oh, that reminds me for some reason..." The Staff Sergeant spoke up, bookmarking his page before sitting up on his cot. "A couple of the guys in the M.A.S.H. are suffering from hallucinations. Apparently from some berries they found out there and, idiots being idiots, they ate them... Sooo the Sergeant Major wants a urinalysis soon. Probably tomorrow."

At this but of news, there came a simultaneous "UUUUUUUUUUGH!" from Neal and Feliz. Elizabeth of course knew what a urinalysis was, and knew it wasn't all that glorious, but if something was putting men in the hospital she wasn't going to object. Feliz, of course, had more to say about it. "Can we get the Comm guys to do it again? There's almost a hundred of them and it's not like they do anything anyway!". This was concurred with Sergeant Neal making a duck face and saying, "Comms 'r still down yew goiz", likely mocking someone in that section. It make Elizabeth chuckle, though she tried to hide it. The rest of the night was fairly quiet for her, just waiting for lights out to come around. She did her best to unpack, putting her things under her cot and making sure her important gear was somewhere out of the way and where she could reach it. When rummaging around her personal  articles she managed to find her dream diary tucked away! Around that moment, 2200 came. 10PM. Lights out! She wasn't going to complain. Between the long shuttle ride, the ordeal with supply, the short meeting with  the Captain, and unpacking, she had a long day. Or what she knew then as a long day. 


With introductions mostly out of the way, tomorrow it was to business at last. With this in mind, she drifted off to sleep, her journal tucked under her pillow.




I was running down a dark road back in the suburbs of Corneria. It was one of those dreams where it felt like my legs were made of concrete, and something moving at the speed of light was chasing me. I looked behind me and saw a pack of feral wolves sprinting at me, getting closer and closer. When I looked back to the road, I had no idea where I was. The neighborhood looked different. I called out for help, but my voice was just a whisper. At the end of the road, I saw a bright light. Every time I looked behind me, it seemed like the wolves were getting closer and closer, but only if I looked back. I just kept trying to run, forcing one foot in front of the other. Before I knew it, I was on someone's brightly lit porch. There was music and streamers... some kind of party. I felt safe, until I looked behind me. The wolves came up on the deck, though instead of attacking me, they stood up on their hind legs and starting dancing.


Then I woke up.

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  • 2 weeks later...

[NOTE: (UPDATE) Minor changes made]


Part 2: White Noise


Elizabeth closed the page of her journal, pausing in reminiscent thought. As far as first days go, it could've been worse. It actually brought a smile to her face, remembering old friends. Even ones who were no longer there. She remembered Feliz, who didn't have the best bedside manner, but was by all accounts a tremendous medic. Sergeant Neal, who even under the most grave circumstances found a reason to smile. And Captain Dietz...


She never found another like him, and she wasn't sure she wanted to. For the others it might have been easy to mistake admiration some other emotion, but she was truly grateful to have the opportunity to serve him. In the Army you always experience good officers and bad officers. She found that the difference between the two was that a good officer realized service was a two-way street. He didn't lord his position over others, he didn't demand his authority be respected, and he didn't get power hungry. His only concern was with the welfare of those under his command. He served his medics as much as they served him, and she had to say she liked that in a leader. Others thought he was taking too much of a personal interest, or he was devaluing chain of command by 'fraternizing'... As far as a professional army goes, they might have been right. But in the end, she didn't really care. Professional was a funny word anyway... More difficult to define than she imagined.


Her thoughts were cut off by the familiar sound of sirens outside, ears perking as she looked to her shaded window. For a moment, she hoped it was close by. She wanted to help. But, unfortunately, the sirens faded off as they wailed down the street. Huffing in slight disappointment, she figured she couldn't just stay in her pjs all day. Looking at the clock, she had a start when she saw it was already 10:24! How long had she been sitting there?! She quickly threw her pajamas off and started thrashing through her closet to find something to wear. In her panic, she had accidentally tugged on something that made her helmet come crashing down on her head. She had forgot she even put it up there. Rubbing her smarting head, she picked up the white helmet and looked at the red cross on the front.



It matched the rest of her field uniform. A lot of white and red, with black boots and armor. The bright colors made them easy to identify for friendly troops, though of course just as easy for the enemy to identify...





She looked up from her helmet at the Captain, having had to fix the liner. Three hours at supply and she couldn't even get the right size. At least only the liner needed adjusting. Quickly, she put it on her head, ears twitching at the metallic 'thunk' as it sat in place. There were people running this way and that, soldiers gearing up, engines of assault vehicles revving. All she knew was they were being mobilized from the outpost, and quickly. The armory was really quick about getting people their weapons, thankfully, though she realized a lot of the infantry guys were allowed to keep their weapons with them at all times. That probably helped. What she found most odd was that she was thinking about that and not what could be going on. Truthfully, she had no idea. Just that she had to quickly get her gear on, grab her weapon and... OH! Get in the ambulance! Or what others would see as an APC. It was armored, but not armed. Honestly, she felt a lot safer in the ambulance than she probably would have in the assault vehicles. Lightly armored, but they made up for it with speed and firepower. Also going with them was a couple of comm trucks and a small troop transport... This seemed like an awful lot.


She quickly mounted up, sitting in the back with Feliz. The armadillo had her game face on, quickly doing her best to set up the ambulance for trauma care. Blood packs on standby, checking to make sure she had plenty of tubing and gauze, the stretcher was anchored in place in case they had to treat someone on the go... As goofy as she was, Feliz knew when the joke was over. The Captain was up front next to the driver seat, monitoring the radio and checking the map screen. There was a single red blip up to the north that he seemed to be ignoring for now, instead studying the routes through the hilly terrain. Sergeant Neal eventually showed up, the only one not wearing a helmet. "Sergeant...?" Elizabeth tried to get his attention as he put himself into his driver's seat. He quickly spoke up, "Yeah, I know, I'm here, the First Sergeant lost my keys...". Elizabeth quickly corrected and said "No, I was gonna ask where your helmet is". All he did was look back, smiling, and say "I have a special head". Right. Antlers.


They quickly took off, the Sergeant driving into line with a convey of light assault vehicles. They only thing Elizabeth could really make sense of on the radio chatter as she set up her own station was 'TIC, TIC, TIC'. She had to learn about this in medical school. Troops In Contact. What sounds like a very general call is really a cry for help. It's reserved for only dire situations where a unit is in danger of being overrun, or taking an operationally unacceptable amount of casualties. Or at least, now it is. During the Aparoid invasion, TIC was incredibly abused, and put in danger troops that really needed the help. To fix this, Cornerian High Command passed down that a TIC is only to be made with the same seriousness as a request for reinforcements or a MEDEVAC. In this case, a TIC seemed to mean whatever unit this was was getting both: reinforcements and medical assistance.


Elizabeth's heart was pounding, holding onto whatever she could as the ambulance bounced along the uneven terrain of the planet. Her first week with the unit had just barely finished, and now she was going into combat. She must've been a lot more visibly shaken than she thought, because Feliz soon seemed to be trying to console her. "Hey! The first time's always the hardest!" she shouted over the revving engine and radio. "Let the grunts handle the enemy, we take care of everything else! They're counting on us!"


An oddly mature thing coming from Feliz, but this was no time for jokes.. No time for celebration, no time for daydreaming and no time for slacking off. Shit was getting real.

The Captain spoke as they started getting close to the call origin, turning in his seat so the ladies in the back could hear him. "Achtung! Ve have Troops In Contact! Small patrol from Cattail Outpost has been ambushed und need bailing out! Our task ist set up Trauma care center in ze rear, while light armor pushes zrough vith ze assault!"


"Assault?!" Elizabeth hadn't even realized she blurted it out until she felt that hard gaze from Captain Dietz. "Ja! Assault! Ze unit must have rooted out one of zere hideouts during ze patrol! Orders are to eliminate it before zey can gain more of a foothold in zis area!" That explained all the vehicles and soldiers... But it certainly didn't make her feel better. "Feliz! You must take Private Cromwell vith you! You vill provide survivors vith aid!". It was followed by a quick "Yes Sir!" before a call on the radio distracted the Captain. Elizabeth listened, if only to try and focus on something other than her own fear.


"Scarface actual, this is Minister one, over!"

"Zis is Scarface, send it, over!"

"Scarface actual be advised, the patrol's medics bought it when they were first hit! You need to have the trauma center ready ASAP and stabilize who you can, over!"

"Understood, Minister one, ve vill be ready! Scarface out!"

"Roger, Minister one out!"


It didn't help. It didn't help at all. Other medics were already dead. She wasn't a soldier, she was a healer! She only had the most basic of combat and marksmanship training... But the couple dozen other troops in this convey had plenty of both. Feliz was right, let the grunts do their job. Those medics had the disadvantage of being surprised. Taking a deep breath, she kept watching the map screen up front. 2500 meters... 2000 meters... They were moving fast. Though she noticed the closer they got, the more and more the radio chatter from the other unit started to die down until it was nothing but static. Once they reached the 1000 meter mark, she noticed a berm they were coming up on. A large, long man made hill. They were going to have to drive over it to be able to see the patrol's position. The convoy commander came on the radio, telling the assault vehicles to get on line. She saw them do just that, watching as they got perfect spacing from each other, the lineup parallel with the berm. Every vehicle sped up, and Elizabeth braced herself as the ambulance followed the assault vehicles over the berm. There was a bump as the ground grinded on the underside of the APC, but they soon forced themselves over and beheld the battlefield... Or what was left of it.


The vehicles had split off into two different assault groups, still maintaining their lines as the turret gunners scanned the area... The first thing Elizabeth noticed was the blood. There was so much of it... The ground was stained. Whatever wasn't scorched or smoldering was covered in crimson. The dirt under the ambulance was like mud as they came to a halt, the Captain quickly looking back to directing a stern finger to the rear door. "Out! Get out!" he barked, and quickly the two obeyed. Hopping down from the rear, Elizabeth held her SMG close, making sure to follow Feliz. What bothered her the most about this whole thing was that there was no fighting. No gunfire, no explosions... Given the circumstances, it didn't put her at ease. Especially since it didn't look like there were friendly survivors. As the infantry started dismounting and splitting up into squads, the first thing to do was secure the area. There were a lot of corpses, but regardless Feliz said they needed to look for survivors. With only a nod, Elizabeth went along and kept her head on a swivel. The devastation was awful. Soldiers with a lot of  holes in them, their vehicles reduced to scrap, and it looked like nearly everything had been set on fire. One particular corpse made her pause, staring slack-jawed. He had been disemboweled, gore laying around him, and it looked like his neck had been bitten into, almost like an attack dog did it, but it looked even more savage. Worse yet was the silent scream on the dead man's face, his pale eyes unblinking.


She hadn't even noticed she vomited until after she came out of a dizzy spell, coughing a moment before steadying herself. Feliz came over to investigate, giving her comrade a couple pats on the back. Though at the corpse itself, all she could manage was a "Yeesh..." before she continued searching. Could it really get that easy? To see such horrendous things and be unphased...? She wasn't sure if she ever wanted to get to that point... She wanted to know that there was something inherently wrong with seeing it, and that it should bother her. To handle something so casually...


She had a moment where she stepped into Feliz' shoes about it. The man is dead, no buts about it. No use worrying about something you can't fix... right? This man might not have survived, but someone else might have. A squad of soldiers nearby started combing through a couple of trucks, probably looking for any intact equipment. She felt a modicum of safety with them nearby, and was able to pull herself from where she was and continue. She just hoped they found someone... Anyone. She could hear gunfire off in the distance, which must be the vehicles conducting that assault. At least for now she wasn't a part of that.


Keeping the infantrymen in the corner of her eye, she went to investigate a vehicle they hadn't  checked yet. It was mostly scrap, still smoking, but looked a lot more intact than some of the others. As she got closer, the jumpy medic beheld something coming up in the door frame... A hand! It was shaking a bit, outstretched from inside the vehicle. She couldn't see the owner, they must be laying on the floor. A pained groan from within confirmed someone was alive in there! All worry seemed to be abandoned as hope took over, Elizabeth making a beeline for this casualty, shouting "I'm coming!" as her feet carried her across what seemed like miles of dusty battlefield. Once she reached it, she quickly took a firm grasp, assuring the hand that everything was going to be alright, fighting back tears of joy. She had found someone in this valley of death! But a slight pull made her heart sink, as the hand came with her, along with a severed arm. Dumbfounded, she almost didn't notice the bandit leaping out of the doorway, screaming like a maniac in a desperate battlecry to take the life of the fly he had lured into his trap.


All she could do was scream when she saw it, the glint of a knife disappearing as she was tackled. Though with her SMG held close, she landed on her back in a way which must have forced the trigger down. The buzz of her weapon was met with the spasming bandit on top of her as the bullets ripped through his torso. He slumped dead on top of her, weighing her down as her weapon clicked. It had run dry. Then, it was as if someone had pulled a switch. Bandit after bandit appeared out of seemingly nowhere, firing wildly on the troops investigating the ambush site. Blurry, tearful eyes watched the scene unfold, trying desperately to roll herself out from under the heavy bandit. Eventually she managed to squirm out, quickly getting back on her feet. Bullets littered the ground by her feet, and she had to run. Where did she come from?! Where was Feliz?! In her blind panic, she didn't notice the crater in front of her and stumbled right into the armadillo in question. For a moment, she was looking down the barrel of an SMG, but was soon picked up by her friend after realizing who it was. "Holy shit, I thought you were dead!" she cried out above the chaos, the explosion of a grenade throwing dirt over them both as they sat in the hole. It made her ears ring, among other things, but she was alive. Not wanting to be caught unprepared, she reloaded her weapon as the two got their bearings.


They were lying in wait for them. Another ambush. They were hiding in some of the vehicles, under corpses, pretending to be dead themselves... Absolutely savage. What were these people even gaining from this? There wasn't any commercial or civilian traffic on this planet... Not that she knew of.


"Hold still, you're bleeding!" Feliz brought Elizabeth's attention to herself as she made a quick self inspection, gasping when she noticed her upper right sleeve was soaked red. "Hey, I said hold still! It's a good slice, but you're gonna be fine!" Feliz said as she cleaned and dressed the wound, wrapping it up and giving Elizabeth a pat on the helmet. Inspecting the  wrap on her arm, she couldn't believe she didn't feel it cut her... Though she did remember seeing the knife. She just thought it missed her. Feliz gave a tug on Elizabeth's gear, making her get up and follow. The infantry still needed support, and calls for aid were already sounding from all over. They went straight to the wounded who had already been gathered nearby, a good point to diagnose adn treat who they could, and they could send the serious ones back to the ambulance. Though once she thought about the Captain and Sergeant Neal, she just hoped they were okay. Feliz shooed the grunts away once they arrived, shaking her head at the medical care they had tried to administer themselves. Some loose wraps, gauze plugs and a makeshift sling or two. "Look at this fucking patch job! We need to get them stabilized and into the ambulance! I got this one, you take that one!"


The victim she directed to in general was a man on his back, taking deep breaths with a puncture wound in his chest. She immediately recognized a sunken chest wound: a chest wound creating a new airway into the chest, which can lead to tension pneumothorax, collapsed lungs, shock, death, and have a risk of high internal bleeding. Quickly going over to him, she set both her airway management kit and trauma care kit next to her and opened them up. Time was critical. She quickly inspected what the infantry had done already. The round had ripped right through his armor, which his comrades had removed. Though what they didn't do was remove his uniform. They had applied a food bag as a seal to try and plug up the hole and had it secured with medical tape. The man was still wheezing, which meant air was still getting in through the puncture. She removed the makeshift seal and quickly cut his blouse open to expose his bare chest. Blood was leaking out of the wound still, which she had to quickly gauze before getting the sterile seal ready. She had to time it right... On the next exhale, she quickly applied the plastic seal and taped all four sides. When he breathed in, it sucked the seal in to now make the wound airtight... But he was still wheezing. Immediately, she checked for an exit would, carefully rolling the patient onto his side. There it was, coming out of his back. Quickly grabbing her scissors, she had to cut through the back of his blouse to expose the wound and dress it as she had done before. Plugging  up the hole, she listened to his breathing. Didn't sound great, but a lot better than it was. He needed advanced care, but for now he was stable. She'd need to keep an eye on him in case pressure builds up. Not long after she was finished with her first patient, another was put in front of her. Leaving her latest work in a recovery position, she went back to work.


This man was conscious and knew plenty of four letter words, a large piece of shrapnel sticking out of his leg. Feliz quickly came over and cradled the shouting half to hold him still. "That needs to come out!" she cried over the screaming patient, though Elizabeth took a look at it. After a short pause, she replied


"What do you mean 'no'?!"

"He isn't bleeding much, removing it will do more damage! No exit wound, so we need to irrigate it and get a loose dressing on it!"


 At first Feliz didn't seem happy about being contradicted, but after looking over the  patient she was restraining, she took a closer look.

"Okay... Okay, you're right! Hurry up then, that shit's gonna get infected!"

As Elizabeth started to get ready to do that, a glance over her shoulder saw that her last patient's  chest was swelling up! "Oh my god! Feliz, you gotta do it!" she quickly directed before turning the man with the chest wound on his side. opening up one side of the seal, she had to release the excess pressure and fluid, letting it drain onto the already bloody ground. She had to reseal it temporarily. No way she was comfortable with moving him with an open wound. Waving down a nearby soldier, she pointed back toward the ambulance. "You need to get him back to the Captain! He needs to get back to the M.A.S.H.! Tell them it's a sunken chest wound and there was a tension pneumothorax!"


The infantryman seemed confused at first, but quickly picked the injured soldier up onto his feet and pulled him away. Going back to help Feliz, it seemed she was already done! The wound was dressed, the piece of metal sticking up from the wrappings. Though they still had to get him back to the ambulance. A call for a medic came from further down the line, and Elizabeth got up to answer it. She was feeling bold now. She didn't have to worry about the horrors around her, she had a job to really focus on now! It helped keep her mind in the right place, actually having patients rather than looking for them. But she was quickly tugged back down by an insistent PFC Felizalmanzar. "No way can I carry this idiot by myself, he's too big for me! I'll get the call, you get him back!"


It didn't seem like she had much of a choice, since Feliz was already off like a shot. Throwing an arm over her shoulder, she helped the shrapnel patient to his feet (foot) and helped him hobble back to the ambulance. The scene wasn't much better when she got there. The Captain and a few others were dealing with a partial amputation in the back of an ambulance while Sergeant Neal was performing CPR on a man hooked up to a blood IV, with a few stabilized patients close by. Elizabeth quickly sat her own patient down near the others and quickly went to help the Sergeant. Looking up, Sergeant Neal's eyes immediately fixed on her AED gloves. "Hey, perfect! Quick, he needs a shock! I haven't been able to get a pulse back!" The Sergeant opened up the man's uniform to his bare chest, and Elizabeth went to work. Powering up the gloves using the controller on her wrist, she put the metallic pads in the palms in the proper places on the man's chest. Having to wait a moment for the gloves to analyze the pulse (or lack there of), it quickly announced "Shock_Advised! Stand_Clear!" in a synthetic voice that, in any other circumstance, would've been torture to listen to. There was a high-pitched whine from the gloves, and a jolt in the patient. The change was immediate, luckily enough, as he started to squirm a bit and groan in pain. Getting a thumbs up from  the Sergeant was all she got before the man was sat against the ambulance with the others.


She wanted to go back out and help, fueled by adrenaline. Though by this point the fighting had died down, the Infantry cutting down the last of the ambushing bandits.  Elizabeth's heart still going a thousand miles an hour as she kept looking for the next patient. Though they never came. Instead a small airship came by, landing on the opposite side of the ambulance that the patients were on. She had noticed the red cross. It likely came from one of the bigger bases to evacuate the wounded. They never would've landed if the area wasn't secure. A feeling of safety washing over her once again, she took a deep breath and removed her helmet. What slight breeze there was felt good, though it wasn't enough to make the event as a whole pleasant. Looking down at the steel, white and red helmet, she noticed for the first time the true marks of her station. Rather than white sleeves of her jacket ending in black, metallic gloves, all she could see was red. Dark red, soaking her sleeves to the elbow on both sides. It was on her legs as well, and her armor was stained with the blood of her ambusher...


She looked like a mess... And no matter the few lives that she had saved that day, the only thing that was burned into her brain, that ate away at her like a constant reminder of some great fault-


She had taken one too.


She didn't get much time to mourn innocence lost, as she was quickly grabbed by Neal, tearing her from her thoughts "We're not done! Jump in the back, we need to pick up Feliz!". She wasn't done? How? The ambush was over! But the echoing machinegun fire and explosions to the North reminded her that misery enjoys company. It was time to aid this assault they were carrying out. Not wanting to leave Feliz hanging, she quickly plopped that helmet back on her head and got in.

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