Making their way through the tropical vegetation, Razak's Roughnecks paused as they heard the distinct whine of a transport ship in trouble.
As one, they looked up into the sky, and saw a transport on fire, trailing smoke. The ship was in a complete nosedive, and Razak sighed. He was tired of being demoralized.
"Goss, get a reading on that. We're going in after them."
"Place your bets, folks - odds are there will be only one survivor."
Dizzy wrinkled her nose. "Goss, that's cruel."
Doc shrugged. "Why? That's been our record all week."
"I know, but still...it just seems...callous."
Gossard ignored the comment. As he looked at his scanner, they heard the explosion, and knew the transport had crashed.
"Two kliks northeast, El-tee."
"What are you waiting for, Roughnecks, on the bounce. Let's go!"
Doc was the only who moved.
Smoke was quickly filling the cabin, and he closed his eyes. He put on his helmet, and slowly got to his feet. His ribs ached; slamming into the wall of the cabin wasn't the thrill ride anyone expected it to be.
He called out to the squad.
"McNairn! Norman! Calco!"
Doc was forced to use the visor, but found Calco not two feet away, pinned beneath the jump-seats.
Gingerly, Doc removed the crates that had fallen on Calco, and eased him out of there. He swung the trooper over his shoulders, and raced for the cockpit. Flames licking at his heels, he hated himself for getting out of the transport with only one trooper.
He was the squad's medic. He was the ace Marauder driver. He knew these guys in and out.
He also knew, they were dead. And he should be grateful he'd regained consciousness in time to save Calco and himself.
Scrambling out the cockpit window, Doc only glanced at the pilots - they both had been crushed into the panels.
Calco's head pounded, but he knew it was from the blood rushing to his head as he hung over Doc's shoulders. He shuddered at the sight of the pilots as Doc got them out of the transport.
Not twenty feet from the ship, they heard the crackling fire envelope the cockpit.
Doc found a shady spot, and gently lied him on the ground.
Calco winced and began shivering. "This is Hawaii, why is it cold?"
"Let me take a look at you." He connected his line to Calco, and assessed the situation.
It wasn't good.
Calco had quickly earned the squad's respect. Originally just another foot soldier, Calco had soaked up everything Doc had mentioned. From driving Marauders to dispensing field medicine; the lieutenant was seriously thinking of sending Calco back just so he could enter the medical field. Granted, he was the youngest squad member, but he rolled with the punches, and dished it out the way it came. Doc had found it easy to take Calco under his wing, and though they were definitely years apart in age, they had become close friends.
Doc cursed. He liked the kid a lot.
Calco slowly opened his eyes, but the sky was too bright, and he closed them. "Hit me with the bad news, Doc."
Doc hesitated. "Punctured lung, two broken ribs, ruptured spleen."
Calco grimaced. "So, what you're saying is, I'm dead."
Doc's eyes flashed. "Hell, no! What kind of talk is that?"
"You just told me. Ruptured spleen-"
"Kid, just because I give you bad news, does not mean it's the end of the world!"
Calco shivered more. "Then why am I going into shock?"
"Look, we're close enough to base for someone to've seen us. Help will be here shortly."
"Doc," Calco moved his arm down, and found Doc's hand. He squeezed it as hard as he could...which only broke Doc's heart. Calco's fingers had barely moved.
"When you get back, can you look up my girl for me?"
"*We* get back. You mean, when we get back."
"Look her up, and tell her ... I love her. And that...I'm sorry I never told her. And that, all this, the federal service was to prove something to her. And to myself."
Doc was speechless. But only because he was afraid Calco would hear his voice crack. And he dare not let the tears fall, for fear of Calco seeing the truth in his eyes.
Calco's lips were beginning to tint blue, and Doc wanted nothing more than to tell the world off. But Calco had managed to rest his head in Doc's lap, and continued to shiver.
A jeep crashed through the clearing, its occupants already rushing forward to Doc and Calco.
"You the roadside assistance?" Doc asked.
Rico grinned. "You run out of gas, or get a flat?"
Doc's eyes betrayed the fear he felt. "Got room in there for him?"
Rico's gaze fell on the trembling Calco. "Don't worry, he'll be at the hospital in no time."
When Doc lifted Calco, Calco's eyes fluttered open once.
"Doc?" He seemed surprised.
But then his eyes rolled back, and his head fell against Doc's shoulder.
The other troopers made room for Doc and Calco, and the driver shoved the jeep in gear. It wasn't even thirty seconds before the jeep was on the main road. Nearby, a transport landed in order for the inspection crew to check out why Doc's transport had malfunctioned.
Wordlessly, the Roughnecks watched as Doc tried to make Calco as comfortable as possible. They were merely two minutes away, surely Calco would survive.
At the gate, Gossard spurred the jeep faster. Security, already alerted to their arrival, scattered pedestrians as the two vehicles sped for the hospital.
Doc was beginning to relax - almost there. Almost there.
Calco coughed violently, and began to spit up blood.
This time, Doc cursed out loud.
Calco's eyes flew open, and he looked around wildly.
"Doc! Doc!" His terrified scream penetrated Doc's heart.
"Cal, I'm right here."
Calco convulsed, and Doc and the other medic began to work on him, even as the jeep slowed and a gurney was being rushed forward for them.
As Doc checked his pulse, the emergency team easily lifted him off the jeep and onto the gurney.
Somehow...Doc knew it was too late.
Helplessly, silently, he watched as they wheeled Calco into the hospital.
Doc was unaware of the blood that splattered his armor, throat, and arms. He sat in the jeep as the Roughnecks quietly disembarked.
He stared at the doors, unsure of what to do next. He and Calco were the only survivors from their squad.
Someone approached him.
It was the female trooper. "Looks like you've been injured, too. Why don't you go inside and let them look at you."
Slowly, Doc turned to look at her. Then, he stared down at the blood that was on him.
There was a pool of sadness in her eyes. "No. You're not." And she pointed to his head.
Gingerly, he felt above his ear, and was surprised when his fingertips touched the matte of blood. He nodded.
Doc wouldn't remember leaving the jeep, almost stumbling the entire time. He would remember entering the emergency room, and crying out for Calco. And collapsing.