M*A*S*H Fanfiction: Surgeon Down - 3. Chapter 3
Sorry again. I didn’t mean for updating once a year to become a thing. Hopefully the next chapter will come a lot sooner. Thank you to anyone still reading this.
It was midday when Colonel Potter and BJ walked into Radar’s office to find the young clerk crossing the length of the room in strides as wide as his short legs would allow. The frantic corporal stopped by the desk and picked up the phone only to place it back in the bag, unused, and resume his pacing.
“What’s up, Radar? You look like you could use a week’s worth of R&R,” BJ said, bemused by the corporal’s strange behavior.
“It’s been too long. I don’t know who to—” Though he had started off at a normal volume, Radar’s voice gradually picked up, rising steadily with his agitation. He had momentarily paused his pacing to talk to them but soon resumed his original activity as though he’d never stopped. “I mean he could be anywhere!”
Colonel Potter placed a steadying hand on Radar’s shoulder as he drew nearer, effectively rooting the corporal to one spot.
“Calm down,” Potter said. He waited for Radar to steady his breathing, which had gone a bit ragged between the pacing and the sudden outburst, before gently adding, “What’s wrong, son?”
“It’s Captain Pierce,” Radar squawked. His breathing was a bit more sedate than before, however his eyes remained wide with panic behind the dirty lenses of his glasses. “He should have been back over an hour ago!”
“Well? What happened to him?” BJ demanded. His jovial tone had vanished in an instant along with his almost ever-present, good-natured smile. Logically, he knew that he was being unfair to the corporal, who was, clearly, just as worried as he was. He also knew that Radar was not at fault for Hawkeye’s absence, but his worry for his best friend overrode all conscious knowledge, leaving the young clerk to bear the brunt of his anger.
“That’s the problem, sir, I don’t know! I Corps called this morning and said that the aid station was getting a new surgeon. I was gonna call to find out where he is but I’m not sure who to call first—I Corps, the aid station, or the MPs? You don’t think he went AWOL, do you? When Major Burns was late he never came back.”
“Burns was half outta what was left of his mind, and he started off with less brains than my horse. Call the aid station first.” The colonel’s commanding voice made him sound far more calm and collected than he felt. “Pierce wouldn’t desert without a good reason and at least half a temper tantrum to go along with some harebrained scheme. He probably just stayed behind to help with the wounded.”
Radar merely nodded. He looked pale and drawn with his mouth clamped shut as though he suspected he’d vomit if he so much as attempted to open it. He picked up the phone nonetheless but froze before he could test the theory.
“Choppers?” BJ asked, taking note of the motion that everyone in the 4077th grew accustomed to seeing from the company clerk within their first week of arriving at the unit.
Radar nodded again. BJ cursed under his breath and turned on his heel.
“You’ll call after the wounded,” Colonel Potter called over his shoulder, following BJ, who was already out the door. “Figures. It’s like they know I’m down a surgeon,” he muttered to himself.
It didn’t take long for Radar to find his voice because soon it could be heard amplified across the compound. “Attention. Attention all personnel! Choppers! We got wounded!”
Not a minute later, the harsh sound of chopper blades filled the air. The once nearly empty compound was now crawling with people running in every direction, resembling a colony of busy ants to the few people watching from the choppers above.
On the helipad, there were already nurses and corpsmen standing on the sidelines, waiting to assist the doctors as soon as the two choppers landed. BJ arrived on the helipad followed closely by Colonel Potter, both of whom were huffing and puffing from the sudden unexpected exertion. There they met Charles, who would’ve rather modeled the latest of the Klinger Collection while eating yesterday’s hash out of a bedpan before admitting that a Winchester could get winded.
A thick cloud of dirt rose to meet the chopper in the last third of its descent, obscuring both the vehicle and its passengers from view.
“Winchester,” Potter called over the din of the blades, “you take the far chopper. Hunnicutt, you’re with me.” Winchester afforded the colonel with a curt nod before walking towards his assigned chopper. BJ gave no indication that he even heard the colonel. His eyes remained trained on the choppers but his mind was undoubtedly elsewhere.
Together, the captain and colonel approached the nearby chopper, where a soldier with a leg wound lay. He was shifting around though, with his face obscured by the plastic protective cover, they couldn’t tell if it was due to pain or fear. Probably both, Potter’s brain supplied. BJ lifted the cover off the litter to reveal the wounded soldier’s face, young and filled with fear.
“I swear they get younger by the day,” Colonel Potter muttered to BJ. The captain just nodded. He hadn’t uttered a single syllable since leaving Radar’s office. Potter knew that BJ was just scared for his best friend. Hell, he himself was going nuts thinking of all the things that could’ve possibly happened to his chief surgeon, but the fact that the usually cheerful and talkative man had shut down so quickly worried him. He resolved to keep a close eye on the man and talk to him about it after the wounded. He couldn’t allow himself to get sidetracked short of making sure that the young man didn’t go do something rash and stupid. He was in middle of triage and of the people who needed his attention at the moment, BJ would have to wait.
Potter undid the strap securing the wounded soldier to the external litter of the chopper. As soon as the soldier’s hands were free he grabbed on to the nearest thing he could find: Colonel Potter’s arm.
“Easy, easy,” the colonel soothed but the soldier didn’t loosen his grip on the older man’s arm. If anything, he tightened his hold until what could be seen of his knuckles went white beneath the layer of blood and dirt that coated his hands.
“How is he?” the soldier asked. He glanced from one surgeon to the other, searching for the answer on their faces.
“Who?” Potter asked.
“The doctor. He got wounded after helping me, is he alright?”
Potter’s head turned, seemingly of its own accord, to glance at BJ. The captain’s eyes were wide and his face appeared to have gone a shade paler.
“Go ahead Hunnicutt, I got this one.”
BJ didn’t hesitate before running to the other side of the chopper. The pressure bandage knotted around the wounded soldier’s chest was soaked with blood. A medical bag, which the soldier clutched in his right hand rested on the litter beside his legs. Blood soaked the bag, obscuring the Red Cross that BJ knew to be there.
BJ approached the soldier with caution. He wanted to rush over there and identify the soldier but couldn’t help but wish that he never had to lift the cover obscuring the man’s face. He attempted to take a calming breath but the air solidified in his throat, causing him to choke on the exhale.
Though BJ half expected it, his mind having jumped to the worst conclusion when the kid with the leg wound mentioned a doctor, he still found himself unprepared when he removed the cover over the wounded man’s face to reveal his bunkmate.