M*A*S*H Fanfiction: Surgeon Down - 2. Chapter 2
I’m so sorry. I didn’t think it would take me a year to update this story. Thank you to anyone still reading.
Driving along the endless maze of identical winding dirt roads, Hawkeye sang whatever songs that popped into his head, partly for his own amusement but mostly to keep himself from drifting off. During his stay at the aid station he had gotten, at best, two hours of sleep a night complements of the twenty-four hour enemy ammo orchestra. After four days of equally endless wounded, Hawkeye was informed that I Corps was sending a replacement surgeon and he could finally head back to his own unit. He left, relieved to escape the shelling and to finally get a full night’s sleep- or whatever passed for that in Korea.
He was nearly at the 4077th, about a half an hour away as the jeep flies, when he came across a platoon of American soldiers trudging alongside the road.
“Anyone from Maine?” he asked as he slowed the jeep to talk to them.
“I’m from Vermont.” The reply came from a soldier in the back who looked so young that Hawkeye did a double take to make sure he had seen correctly.
“Close but no cigar. It’s ok kid, you shouldn’t be smoking anyway, it’s bad for your health.”
“Where are you headed?” asked a soldier walking side by side with the engine of the jeep.
“Back to my unit. I’m a doctor with the 40-” Hawkeye started but was interrupted by the all too familiar sound of artillery pounding into the ground.
“Get down!” the platoon leader yelled, trying, but for the most part failing, to be heard over the shelling. “Take cover!”
Hawkeye stopped the jeep and jumped out, grabbing his medical bag instinctively. He dropped down to the ground, for once fully intending to following orders, when he noticed a soldier, not too far from him, who took some shrapnel to the stomach. Hawkeye slithered across the dirt road then the grass, using his elbows to drag himself towards the wounded soldier. Upon reaching him, Hawkeye was quick to reassure the soldier and assess the wound before treating him to the best of his abilities while on the field.
Realizing that the closest unit to them was indeed his own and that sending the wounded to an aid station first would be a waste of time, Hawkeye instructed the platoon’s medic to call in the 4077th’s choppers. He felt a twinge of guilt at sending the wounded to his unit when they were down a surgeon but it made the most sense to send them there. Plus, he reassured himself, I won’t be far behind. I’ll lighten the load when I get there.
As soon as the shelling stopped, the unit started to get up and leave. They seemed to do it automatically, looking remarkably put together for a bunch of people who were just shot at. Hawkeye looked around, scanning the ground for more patients, and spotted two more. He told the medic to take the closer of the two before running off to treat the other soldier, who was lying farther back and panting through the pain of what appeared to be a leg wound. Hawkeye shook his head in disgust when he saw the kid’s face, eyes shut in pain.
He can’t be older than 18! he thought, mentally cursing the war for what must have been the fifth time that day. Hawkeye examined the leg, grateful that the shrapnel had the decency to steer clear of the kid’s femoral artery.
“Doc?” the kid asked, his voice laced with fear and pain. “How bad is it? Am I gonna die?”
Until that moment, Hawkeye hadn’t quite realized the grimace that had settled on his face while he thought about the war and the fact that the kid in front of him should be as far from it as possible. He looked down at the soldier, whose big brown eyes were wide with fear, and plastered what he hoped was a grin on his face.
“What? With this football injury? You’ll be back in the game in time for the next quarter.” Then, seeing that his words failed to drive the nervous look off the kid’s face, he added on a more serious note, “What’s your name kid?”
“Peters. Michael Peters.”
“Don’t worry Michael, you’ll be just fine.” The kid sighed in relief, letting the doctor’s voice soothe him as he tended to the wound. “The choppers are on their way kid, and you’ve just got yourself a first class ticket to the best M*A*S*H unit in the country.”
“Nurses and everything?”
“Especially,” he said with a cheeky grin. “What other reason is there to go?”
Some of the anxiety that had lined Michael’s face dissipated. In its place remained a grin that, though laced with pain, Hawkeye took as a minor victory. He would have to wait until he got back to camp before he could work on relieving the kid’s pain.
Michael leaned back, letting out a sigh of relief. He closed his eyes, allowing the faint sound of the approaching choppers to soothe him. Hawkeye bound the wound with a hasty but secure knot. He chanced a glance at Michael’s face, marveling at the kid’s serene expression. He couldn’t help but find the sight slightly bizarre. The fact that the sound that almost never failed to fill his heart with dread, the sound of chopper blades slicing through the air, could provide any level of comfort was unfathomable. To him, along with the other residents of the 4077, it was the sound of violence, almost always accompanied by the sight of butchered bodies. In the darkness of his tent, when the sounds invaded his dreams, it was easy to imagine that the chopper blades themselves were the cause of the ceaseless parade of wounded. However, to these kids out on the front lines, the ones who witnessed too many people getting shot in a day to kid themselves about the source of the violence, the sound that haunted his dreams was the sound of mercy.
“Doctor, I need your help here.” Hawkeye turned towards the voice that was fighting to be heard over the steadily intensifying sound of the nearing choppers. He could see the medic across the field, still crouching beside the soldier he had left him with.
“Sit tight, kid,” he said, patting Michael’s uninjured leg before grabbing his medical bag and running off to assist the medic. Before he could even make it halfway across the field, the world around him exploded in a burst of shelling, drowning out the sound of choppers which were all he could hear a second ago.
He watched his jeep go up in flames a split second before the ground in front of him exploded as well. The impact of the explosion threw Hawkeye off his feet, propelling him to the ground where he landed on his back. Though the landing was rough enough to leave some nasty bruises, Hawkeye barely felt it. All he could feel was the burning pain of shrapnel tearing through his chest with ease. For a minute his vision whited out, the pain overloading his senses. It seemed as though someone had put a muffler on the world; he could hear another shell hit the ground but it sounded miles off. Then nothing.
When he opened his eyes, which he couldn’t remember closing, tears clouded his vision. Whether the tears were a product of the pain or the bits of earth that had taken up residence in his eyes, Hawkeye couldn’t be sure nor could he find it within himself to care. He struggled for breath but every movement ignited a burning sensation in his chest that he was sure could be caused by nothing less than a raging fire. He couldn’t convince his lungs to work, no matter how hard he tried. He could feel every neuron in his brain yelling, Breathe, damn it, but despite his body’s urgent attempts to comply, he couldn’t get any air. Every heaving breath that had once promised oxygen now only brought fire which burned through his lungs.
His hearing slowly restored itself but between the pain, which was far worse than anything he had ever experienced, and the panic of finding himself unable to breathe, his brain refused the extra effort of processing the sounds around him. It didn’t take long for the lack of oxygen to cause his already clouded vision to swim before his eyes, going grey at the edges. The last thing he heard was sound of chopper blades, the sound of home, slicing through the air before he blacked out.
“Doc, are you okay?” The medic yelled across the field but he received no response. The only thing that he could hear was the sound of the choppers as they touched down on the war torn field. The medic could feel his heart pounding in his chest, the sound reverberating in his ears. He had needed help with the soldier’s wound and now it seemed that he had yet another patient to tend to. He had lost sight of the doctor during the second round of shelling and he hadn’t heard from him since. While that wasn’t so surprising, it was practically impossible to hear anything over the sound of the choppers, he yet to see the doctor emerge from the plume of smoke that obscured his vision. The medic let out a sigh when he spotted someone walking towards him through the smoke but his relief was short lived. The figure soon split, revealing two chopper pilots and still no doctor.
The pilots wasted no time sprinting to the medic and assisting him as he finished tending to the wounded soldier. He left them to load the soldier onto one of the choppers, along with the kid with the belly wound, while he ran off to take care of the doctor. The medic choked on the dust filled air, which was starting to clear with the help of the chopper blades. His eyes watered and he shut them briefly only to trip head long over the doctor’s supine form. He immediately felt for a pulse and was relieved to find one, rapid and weak as it was.
Finding it hard to see between the dust flying around the air and the tears streaming down his face as a result, the medic assessed the wound as fast as he could. The doctor’s pulse was weak and his breathing was shallow at best. Wary of the debris and his inability to effectively shield his patient from it, not to mention the copious amount of blood escaping the wound, the medic was quick to apply the pressure bandage. He looked up as he was tightening the bandage, constricting all air and foreign matter from the wound, to see that the two pilots had loaded both patients onto the closer of the two choppers and were heading his way.
“There’s another one back there.” He gestured vaguely in the direction of the doctor’s last patient. “A kid with a leg wound. Take him first then come back for this one.”
The medic waited until they came back for the doctor before heading to board the closer of the two choppers. He climbed in and sat back resigning himself to the dreaded wait, unable to do anything but watch the battlefield fall away as the choppers rose above the field with the fallen of the battle.