Max moved about the sands, searching, listening. If there was any voice, she’d go to it. Spying over the dune, she seemed to hear something—a voice in the wind or just some noise—I’m not sure. Her sand camouflage uniform helped her keep hidden, but at times was more of a hindrance in this heat. Just as she gazed over a bank, I watched her travel in a definite direction. Almost in a panic she slid over the top mound and down. My eyes followed for a few moments before soon I was darting among the debris right with her.
This little city had been hit by stray mortar fire; that much I could tell. Many of the buildings had collapsed roofs, smashed windows and whole walls in ruin. Gun fire at our heels sent sparks and debris everywhere even as we dodged. I glanced at the structure across from us, questioning if I’d see any of the shooters. Returning my gaze to Max, I suddenly realized she had lunged behind some edifice for protection. Bullets were currently hammering a wall, pointlessly burrowing into the insulation. Forcing my legs to move from the spot they appeared to have rooted themselves to, I tread into the doorway. Dusty footprints covered the floor, in what appeared to be a scuffle. Tracking them, I saw that Max was currently hunkered down in the rear of the room.
A child sat before her, bleeding from her foot. Both tears and fear were evident in the child’s eyes. I observed Max talk calmly, a smile on her face. She dug around in her bag for a few moments, looking for something—anything—that could calm down the scared little girl. At long last, Max pulled out a little stuffed toy. Handing it to her, Max began to carefully clean the cut foot. Her lips moved with each movement, probably explaining exactly what was happening. Just as she started to bandage it up, the little girl’s eyes widened. With a hand raised, the youngster pointed at someone behind her.
My eyes followed the line and stopped at a livid looking man. His gun was aimed at Max, his breathing quick through his clenched teeth. Most soldiers in this situation would draw their own gun, including the medics that carried them. Keeping the bandage in hand, Max faced him and talked. It was hard to tell if she raised her voice, but it appeared that she never once opened her mouth very much. Finishing the dressing on the wound, Max stood with her hands raised.The man shouted something, startling the girl. She jumped up real quick, darting behind his back and up the stairs. Max closed her eyes, probably concentrating on her breathing. Turning her eyes to him, the livid man screamed in her face, spit flying everywhere. Not seeing any reaction, he swung his gun, catching Max in the cheek. Stumbling back against the wall, she turned to look at him. There was no way she could defend herself since she rejected the idea of medics carrying guns. Reaching out to her, I stopped myself. Nothing I could say or do would help her.