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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. Boring. Boring. Boring. 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.