Sunday, June 15th, 2679
"This is Recon Five. Eyer here. I?ve got a wrecked NATech hov and six bodies. Send a salvage team and burial detail. Out. Harris! You and Mobieki check ?em for identags. Verilli, you take your triteam out on a five-kilometer skim. You two rookies get down there and assist Harris."
I dimly heard skimmers rev up their micron drives and race off. A few moments later, there came the clanging of metal and low tone of voices as they searched the ruined hovercraft.
There was the soft sliding sound of boots on sand coming closer, then I heard a man’s voice. Judging by the jumpiness in his tone, it was one of the rookies.
"Check out this one, Jill! She must have taken a dozen rounds in her back alone. And have you ever seen so much blood?"
"Careful, Manuel! Remember what Sergeant Eyer said about--"
"About what? About dead people? Look at her!" I heard him approach and kneel beside me.
I should have tried moving my hand closer to my holstered gun, but I was too sleepy to even make the attempt. Besides, I was nice and warm where I was. Warm on the outside, and cool on the inside. I could have spent the rest of my life in this lazy, hazy twilight.
But the rookie didn?t know enough to let sleeping dogs lie. I felt his hands on my shoulder, then he rolled me onto my back. I couldn?t reach my gun, but I could still jam the palm of my hand into his nose, shoving the bone into his skull.
My arm jerked and my half clenched hand shot toward his face. It felt incredibly heavy. I wasn?t strong enough to make it more than halfway across my body before it flopped down onto my bloody combat jacket. I looked up at him with half open eyes.
The rookie jumped back and I heard his partner draw her gun.
"Geez! She’s still alive! Get clear, Manuel! I?ll quiet her down." I heard the whine of a charging pistol. I closed my eyes, and waited. If she didn?t hurry and fire, I?d fall asleep for my own execution.
"What the hell are you two doing?" I heard the squad leader shouting.
"We gotta live one, Sergeant. She tried to attack me! Jill was just going to finish her off."
"And just why would you want to do that? Haven?t you heard of the word mercy? She’s no danger to us." I heard her tone change as she spoke into the comlink. "We need a medhov, top priority. There’s one survivor, in critical condition, bleeding heavily." She paused a moment. "Acknowledged."
I heard her approach, and a quiet hand lay on my shoulder. I wanted to retaliate, but couldn?t do more than thrash slightly.
"Hey, settle down, miss. You?ll be fine once the medhov gets here. I need to look at your wound. Don?t worry." She started to fumble with my jacket then noticed I had no blouse on underneath. "Lukens! Turn your back."
I heard the izer open, and she became very still. I heard her swear under her breath, then close my jacket. She rose quickly to her feet.
"Romero, grab the hov’s medkit and bring it here. RUN! You! Lukens! Have you had your medtraining yet?"
"Uh ... yes, Sergeant," he stammered. "Uh, I mean about half. The next class is--"
"Good enough! I need you to assist me. Get over here!"
"But she just tried to kill me!"
"No she didn?t, Lukens," the sergeant’s voice took on a clipped, patient tone. "She tried to defend herself. Now get down here." There was a movement. I tried to open my eyes, but couldn?t. It didn?t matter. I wasn?t all that interested.
There was the sound of running feet coming toward us, and I felt them working on me. My jacket was pulled free and water was splashed on my bloody, sandy skin.
"Look at that cut!" I heard Jill’s voice above me. She sounded like she was going to be sick. "She must have come out second best in a knife fight and these guys were evacuating her when they all got hit." An icy liquid spilled onto my wound and I felt frigid tingles as it cold-cauterized the wound and began soothing the raw nerves.
"Oh Lord, save me from the young," the sergeant said with an exasperated tone. I found the whole exchange mildly interesting, as though it was only background noise. Her hands moved quickly and expertly over my body as she bound the large slash.
"Lukens, give my your shirt."
"Okay, let’s try again. Lukens, give me your shirt and fifty pushups."
She placed the shirt over me. While Lukens grunted nearby, she leaned over close to my ear. I partially opened my heavy, heavy eyelids and saw a blurry face and red hair. Another blurry face stood watching behind her.
"Hang on, kid," she whispered quietly. "I can tell you?re not NATech. Not that it matters; we?d help one of them, too. You?re a dog, just like me. My name is Jody Eyer. I?m the sergeant for Company B, 179th Regiment. The medhov’s just pulling up now. We?ll take care of you."