WARNING: This is a story for adults. If you are under 18, please stop reading immediately.
This story may be archived on free web sites but is not to be distributed without the name of the author, changed in any way, or sold. Please do not re-post without consulting the author. Copyright 1998 by Jane Urquhart.
NOTE: Innocent readers who are not familiar with the authors who post often on the ASSD newsgroup may find parts of this story a bit mystifying. Not a lot of sex, either, but some. So read at your own peril.
DEDICATION: Teresa, one of our gentle reviewers, said she read Sandman's "Aces" to see what women are going to be doing in the future. Her findings: "Let's see--we can cook, wait patiently for our man to arrive home, look good in a bikini or other clothes, smile, and be charming." But my dear! Those are merely a few of our accomplishments. So this story is for Teresa.
For some reason, I was feeling out of sorts a good part of May, and just didn't feel like writing a story. Then I had this dream...
I woke up and tried to turn my head to look around. Couldn't. Looked straight ahead. Hmmm. My left leg appeared to be in a cast, in traction. Kind of hazy, but I figured I must be in a hospital. Yellow walls with grey doors. Machinery. Could be worse, I thought. Tried to move my right arm. Couldn't. But I could move my fingers, and I felt the edge of another cast. Well, damn. It was worse. But still not as bad as it could get. Moved the fingers of my left hand. OK. Moved my left arm down--a little. It seemed to be stuck on something. I moved my left arm up to touch my face. Good; it wouldn't move down, but at least it moved up. Better than nothing. Face OK, something on my head. Thought to wiggle the toes of the leg in traction. They wiggled. I moved my right leg, lifted it off the bed and looked at it. Seemed OK. Good.
Summary: Neck problem of some sort. Right arm in a cast. Face apparently intact. Left arm moved up and a little sideways, but not down. Left leg in traction, but toes move.
Checked for pain. Nothing. Good dope, I guessed. Things still looked a little hazy, and my head kind of buzzed, steadily, but it could be worse. I decided I must have run out of dumb luck.
Now when you find yourself in the hospital all trussed up, you're going to begin to wonder just what put you there. And how soon you're going to get out.
I decided to wonder about those things. I saw a calendar on the wall dead ahead. July 12, 2010. Hadn't been here long, then. Happy birthday. Haaaapy Birth-day toooo Me! Part of me noticed I wasn't thinking at lightning speed, or making much sense.
Just then I heard a door open. I could still hear, despite the buzz. Another plus. Definitely.
A smiling face hung itself in front of me. Cute little nurse. Didn't trust smiles from a nurse.
"You're with us!" she said.
"I think so," I said. But what came out sounded more like, "Uh tink oh." So I tried again.
"I think so." Better.
"How many fingers?"
"Three. What about the rest of the guys?"
"Hey, you really are with us!" she said. "Not bad at all. They tell me you were way out ahead when you got yours. A few of 'em down the hall, kind of shook up, but nobody really hurt."
"You wouldn't lie. I've known nurses to lie."
"Cross my heart," she said, putting herself back in view. "See?" She crossed her heart. "Anyway, I'm not a nurse, I'm an intern--no little hat, right? Interns never lie."
Huh. Maybe I'd trust her a little.
She gave me a glass of water, holding it to my lips. It was good.
"You're a big hero, you know?"
"Naw. I musta made a mistake, or I wouldn't be here, and neither would they."
She poked her face right up against mine.
"Listen here," she said. "You didn't make any mistakes at all. Some asshole dropped a bomb on you. Now what can I do for you?"
I glanced at the machines. One of them had a lot of red LEDs on it.
"What's the reading, over there?" I asked.
"Temp OK, heart OK, respiration OK, and a lot of other things, all OK," she said.
"I remember now," I said. "I heard him coming in. I remember wondering where the hell the air cover was. That's all I remember."
"That's all right," the intern said. "Go to sleep. I'll look in."
I woke up later, feeling better. I looked at the calendar--the haze had gone away. Head still buzzed a little, but maybe not so bad. Can't complain, I guessed. Could have been a who-o-o-ole lot worse.
Then I remembered the whole thing.
I jumped out of the command car.
"Thanks, soldier," I said. He was off like a rocket, back to headquarters, where they didn't shoot at you. Much.
Looking around, I saw troops scattered all over the rocks, looking confused. Then I noticed a guy with a flexible terrain map. So I got down low and scuttled over to see if he might have some idea of what was going on. Fancy that! A live officer. In clean BDU's. Shaved. New boy.
"Sergeant Jane MacDonald, Sir," I said. "They sent me to help you straighten out this mess. Can you tell me what's up? Who've we got left?"
"I'm Lieutenant Ivan," he said. "I've been here an hour, and I don't know much more than you do. We've got nineteen soldiers from the First Battalion, mostly from Bravo Company. I thought they were going to send some people from Alfa Company."
"Just me," I said. "I'm all that's left. Any non-coms?"
"Two," he said. "Corporal Kim and Corporal Teresa. A couple of PFCs. I was talking to some of the guys and they told me Kim is tough. Teresa is senior--looks to me like she ought to be decorating a swimming pool, not toting a rifle."
Oh, great. Another sex-mad lieutenant. Where did they get these guys?
"Look, Lieutenant, I guess you haven't been out here too long?"
"You got it," he said. "I graduated from OCS last week and they flew me across."
"Well, I know Kim. I'm surprised she's still with us--figured she'd get fragged for shooting off her mouth. But she's tough, all right. I don't know Teresa, so I'll withhold judgment on that."
"Yeah," he said, smirking. "The guys told me Kim's famous for doing weird things with bottles."
"Only in her spare time, Lieutenant. You have any idea what we're supposed to do once we get organized?"
"Well, what I was told was that we have to take a strong point up high on the side of this hill we're sitting on. A lot of mortars and maybe a two platoons of infantry. Some staff guy told me the colonel wants us to march right up and do it."
"Show me the map, Sir." He handed me the electronic display and I fiddled with it a couple of minutes until I could see the situation.
"That's a very bad idea, Lieutenant. Why don't you get on the phone and explain what we have here? Try to get 'em to give us a little leeway."
"Sure, Sergeant, if you want." He smiled. "I may be dumb, but at least I know I don't know what's going on."
He took the field phone out of its case, and I moved across toward the troops.
"Corporal Teresa?" I said, raising my voice.
"Right here, Sergeant." Cute little thing. I saw what the elltee meant, but that didn't get him promoted up from asshole.
"OK. Get the troops together, will you?"
"Fuckin' A, Sergeant," she said. She put her fingers in her mouth and whistled. I winced. Good soldier, I suspected, but a little rambunctious. Probably just young.
I watched the soldiers shambling over. Sorry-looking lot. Oh, well, you get what you pay for, and Uncle Sam didn't pay for high quality soldiers these days. Besides, I did have to admit they'd had a rough forty-eight hours. I knew several of them. They gathered around.
"OK," I said. "Most of you don't know me. I'm Sergeant Jane MacDonald, second platoon, Alfa Company. What you are, I regret to say, is the First Battalion, all of nineteen strong. Every one of you either has good skills or a lot of dumb luck or you wouldn't be here. Maybe some of you have both, I don't know. But we have the dubious honor of being alive and, I guess you could say, well."
A shout from the rear. "We know you, Sarge!" Private Losgud. Heard he's thinking of getting out. Must talk to him--can't lose good soldiers. If we come out of this talking.
"Shut up, Losgud," I said.
I continued the little speech.
"The U.S. Army hasn't been clobbered this bad since Kasserine Pass. But we'll recover."
I heard somebody in the rear saying, "What the fuck is Kasserine Pass, Bear?"
"Hell, I don't know, DG," Pvt. Bear answered. "You always expect me to know what's going on. It's probably someplace in Mexico that somebody shot up a couple of hundred years ago. I've served with her before--always acts like she's got a military history book shoved up her ass. Crazy broad. But you better not fuck with her. She'll tear you apart."
I decided to ignore this nonsense.
"Meanwhile, we have a little problem," I said. "But Lt. Ivan is over there talking to Colonel Celeste about it. You see up this little hill we're standing on?" I faced uphill and they turned to see where I was looking. "Well, you probably can't see anything, but there's a mortar position sitting up there overlooking the Second Battalion. The Second is still in pretty good shape, but they can't move an inch until the mortars are gone. So the colonel told the elltee to lead us right up the hill to take that position."
"Sheee-it," said Teresa. "They'll shoot our asses off!"
"I can see that you have the makings of a great tactician, Corporal, but the colonel, unfortunately, doesn't seem to agree with you. Or possibly she doesn't value your ass quite as much as you do. Most likely she doesn't know what the situation is, since she's not generally considered to be stupid, even if she does occasionally pull a howler.
"But the elltee decided to have a little talk with the colonel to see if he can't get things changed a little."
"The elltee doesn't know his ass from second base!" said Private first class Proust. "He just got out of OCS last week. He's a fucking ninety-day wonder!"
"Well," I said, "I think the elltee is pretty smart. He decided to listen to me."
I could hear murmuring in the ranks.
Pvt. Thrope was lecturing some poor bastard from Bravo Company--named Watcher, I thought. "All right, she has lousy taste in men, but she takes good care of her troops, so you better just fuck off!" The guy looked like she'd hit him with an axe. Not a really sweet woman, but I agreed with at least two of her sentiments, so what the hell. Besides, I'd heard she was a hell of a warrior. The word was that they had to transfer a guy named Feldspar out of the battalion to keep her from killing him.
Then I heard Pvt.Watcher whispering to Pvt. Twassel about self-absorbed women. If they didn't shape up soon they'd be doing KP the rest of their lives.
I looked over toward the lieutenant, twenty meters away. He gave me a thumbs up.
"All right, boys and girls," I said, raising my voice to stifle the murmurs. "The elltee has found somebody to give us permission to do it another way. Cpl. Teresa, you'll be pleased to know your prayers are answered. Instead of all of us just walking up there into their guns, you, Corporal, are going to take four soldiers with you, go around the hill to the left, climb up and hit the bastards from the right flank. Teresa, give us a flare when the shooting starts. Naismith, take three others, go up to where you can see the fuckers and hide out. When the flare goes up, just start throwing in everything you can to draw fire. The rest of us will circle around the hill, come up from behind and save your asses. Kim, you stay with me, guard our rear. Any questions?"
Just then I saw a burly major headed my way. I called the troops to attention and saluted him.
"Sgt. MacDonald, Sir, acting exec of the First Battalion," I said.
"I only heard the last part of your op plan, Sergeant," the major said. "Did I understand you to say you were going to send a patrol of only five soldiers to attack from the flank, and four to draw fire?"
"Yessir," I answered. "That seemed to be the best way to handle the problem."
"Well," he said, "it damned well isn't the best way. Don't you read the field manuals? You'll send at least two three-man fire teams on each patrol, like the book says."
"Begging your pardon, Sir, could you tell me who you are?"
"I'm Major M1ke Hunt of the Regimental staff, Sergeant," he replied.
"Yes, Sir, I've heard of you somewhere. Not around here lately, though. Anyhow, I'm afraid I must respectfully refuse your order. You're not in the chain of command as far as I'm concerned, so I think the lieutenant's decision will stand."
"Sergeant, you're under arrest," he said, his eyes narrowing. He turned to Teresa. "Corporal, put the sergeant under arrest. You know who's got the authority here. Me! I'll arrange for a court martial later."
Teresa looked at the major for a moment then spat a wad of ersatz tobacco on the ground about four inches from his left toe. Obviously, I thought, the lieutenant was wrong--this woman liked to fight. But I was going to have to give her a course in self-control if we survived this fiasco.
"I don't think I'll do that, Major," she said. "Maybe after we take the hill. Will that do, sir?"
"We'll see about that," the major said. "I'll find somebody to put you all under arrest." He strode off down the hill, muttering something about "uppity women" and "this man's Army."
"Fuck you, Major," came from the rear ranks. Sounded like Pvt. Nick--I didn't even know he could get mad; he was always trying to pacify things.
"At ease," I shouted. "If I want to be stupid, that's fine. But nobody under my command is going to be stupid, you get me?"
"Suuuure, Sarge," I heard. I couldn't have this. Then I heard, "Oof!" LeAnna--I thought that was her name--must have poked him in the ribs. Much better. I just hate to have to break people's arms to get their attention.
"OK, Teresa," I said. "We're depending on you. Move out."
She snapped to attention and saluted like she was at West Point. "Yes, Ma'am," she said.
"When you get back, remind me to confine you to quarters, Teresa," I said.
She grinned. "OK, come on you guys, we're outta here." She motioned to Twassel and he lurched after her, trying to say something about not understanding. Then a soldier I hadn't met, some kind of Slavic name and the cleanest, neatest guy I'd seen since the shit hit the fan, came swaggering over. He was followed by Private Sandman and Private EZ.
"OK, Naismith, you, Kristen, Delta and Kitty move out, fast. That's full speed ahead, to you."
"Aye, aye, Sergeant," he said, and he and the rest started scrambling up the hill. Crazy bastard claimed he used to be in the Navy. If he was, I bet he was your typical sea lawyer. But he'd fight.
That left twelve of us, counting me and the elltee.
"We got maybe half an hour to kill," I told them. "Might as well take it easy." It was hot. I sat down where I was and wrestled my canteen out of its shell. Got in the habit of filling it with red wine when we were fighting the Frogs. Tough bastards, and they sure knew their wine. Anyhow, being a little lit at this point was going to be a definite asset. We were just going to take a strong point with nineteen raggedy-ass, worn out losers, that's all. The lieutenant came over and sat down by me.
"I got headquarters," he said, "and I could have sworn some major named Cyrhh was ordering us to charge right up the hill, but they were breaking up so much I couldn't really make out what she said. I think she must have been telling us to do it the best way we could."
"You did good, Lieutenant," I said. "Who taught you to follow the rules so carefully?"
"Oh, there was this old Sergeant Sven--funny name for an Irishman--he taught us tactics at OCS. Said most of the time you have to figure it out for yourself. So I thought if you said this was the way to do it, and he said sometimes you're on your own, this was no time to screw around."
"Well," I said, "sometimes it's better to do it first, then ask permission."
Thirty minutes went by fast. I struggled to my feet, batting forty pounds of equipment into place.
"On your feet, troops," I said. "I'll take the point. The rest of you follow along, and keep an eye on the lieutenant. I don't want anything at all to happen to him, and if it does I'll have your asses. You in particular, See-El, you take care of him. Understand?"
I headed up the hill, to my left. The lieutenant stayed back with the troops, the way he was supposed to. I remember thinking he might do all right after I got him trained. There was enough of a trail to make it an easy walk around, but I figured I'd better avoid that, so I veered about fifteen meters to the left. The rest of the guys let me get about twenty meters ahead, then straggled along after me.
We were about halfway around the hill when I heard the jet coming in. I wondered where the fucking flyboys were this time.
"Down, you assholes," I shouted. Then there was this flash of white light. Next thing I know I'm lying in this fucking bed. Bad scene.
Here came the intern again.
"Hello, sweetie," she said, "how you doin'?"
"Nobody called me sweetie in a hell of a long time," I said. "What's your name, Lieutenant?"
"I'm Lieutenant Taria," she said. "I came to see if you needed anything."
"Yes, Ma'am, I do," I said. "Do you know what happened out there after I got zapped?"
"Skip the Ma'am stuff, Sergeant," she said. "Just call me Taria. OK. The way I understand it you were supposed to get rid of some mortars, right? Well, after you got hit, Cpl. Kim took over and Pvt. Crossgrove picked you up and carried you the rest of the way up the hill. I told him you are NOT the heaviest woman in the universe, you're just right for your height. Anyhow, the attack went off just the way you planned.
"Cpl. Teresa had the place pretty well cleaned out by the time the rest of your troops got there. She's going to get a medal, and naturally Lt. Ivan will get the Silver Star, because he was in charge. Somebody said the colonel's going to get a medal, too, but I don't know that for sure. You're getting a Purple Heart, of course, but I don't know what else. Maybe Dr. Hayden will know. He'll be around pretty soon."
"He any good?" I asked. I had already wondered how I was going to stay on the battalion swimming team with a game leg.
"He's an absolutely great surgeon," she said, "but watch out! He flirts with every female patient we get. He'll take a bullet out of your ass at midnight and in the morning he's around to examine your boobs. Can't trust the man at all. He thinks politically correct is to vote Democratic. He's got this real nice grin, and half the women fall for him. Then he's off to the next, of course."
"Sounds like my kind of guy," I said.
"If he gives you any trouble, let me know, and I'll go straight to Gen. Bronwen. When the guys get in trouble with her, they come out of her office looking like they'd been dragged through a knothole, but they're nice as pie for a couple of weeks. They cringe when anybody mentions sex. I don't quite know how she does it. Anyhow, she'll cool him off." She grinned. "One way or another."
"Just for curiosity, how is he with the nurses and interns?"
She turned bright pink.
"He's a perfect gentleman with us. Most of the time."
"Thanks, Taria," I said. "When you see my people, I'd appreciate it if you'd tell 'em for me to start doing pushups. I want 'em in good shape when I get back to duty. Oh, yeah, and tell Teresa I haven't forgotten she owes me, no matter how many medals she gets."
"Sure will," she said. "You just get your rest, and we'll have you out of here as fast as we can." She went through the door; I still couldn't turn my head, but I imagined her switching that little butt.
I felt a lot better the next day.
Captain Hayden didn't show up until around three o'clock that afternoon He stood down at the end of the bed so I could see him. Handsome fellow. California written all over him. Surfer type. I generally prefer the brainy ones, but, on the other hand, I've actually known a couple of Californians with IQs in three figures. Taria's obviously no dummy, I thought, and that blush looked like an endorsement to me. He also looked slightly familiar, but I couldn't place him.
Dr. Taria tells me you're asking questions," he said with a smile. He picked up the chart hanging off a hook and looked at it. He looked up. "You'll live." Bigger smile.
"I figured that out all by myself already, Doctor," I said. "What I had in mind was a little more complex. At the moment, for example, my sex life is seriously inhibited."
"OK," he said, turning serious. "I know all about you--red hot athlete, right? You'll be back in the field pretty soon, in fact." He stuck up his hand and started ticking things off on his fingers. I figured he'd need both hands. "Starting from the top: concussion and a cut on the head, not serious. Strained neck muscle--you'll be seeing your chiropractor regularly for a while. Two simple fractures of right arm, simple healing. Left shoulder, slight separation, already fixed but semi-immobilized until tomorrow. That's why your left arm's restrained. See, you're practically OK."
"You did notice that my left leg is sticking up in the air?"
"Well, yes," he said. "That's where I came in. A few bomb fragments, a compound fracture of the tibia, but all straightened out, by yours truly. It'll be OK in a few weeks. Work out for a month or so and you'll be the scourge of the javelin throwers again. You'll set off all the airport alarms, though.
"By the way," he added, "you look kind of familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?"
Oldest line I could think of, but not all of us can be creative.
"Did you grow up in Texas?" I asked.
"Good God!" he said, "Me? Texas? You have to be kidding. I went to Boston once, but that was plenty. I've lived in California all my life and as soon as I get out of this uniform I'll be back so fast nobody will have missed me. Maybe we met in California?"
My, my, he'd grown. He used to be a skinny little bastard, now he looked like Mr. Universe. I remembered, oh, yes.
"Where are your glasses, Billy?" I asked. I smiled at him. Knowingly.
I watched the light dawn, slowly.
"I wear contacts now," he said. He kept looking at me. "No. Can't be. Oh, yes, oh, my God, Janey!"
"Yeah," I said. "Long time no see."
Blonde men blush ever so nicely, don't you think?
"Uh, how've you been?" he said.
"Fair to middlin', Billy. How about you?"
He pulled himself together. I could see the shoulders come up.
"Look, I can explain..."
"No need, Doctor," I said, "I knew what those little boys were saying: 'Can't score unless you get a ladder, Billy.' Oh, yeah, I heard. I also know more about peer pressure than I did then."
"Janey, what can I say? I'm sorry. I really am. I was at the time--I felt terrible."