A blog where one NaNoWriMo Seattle Duck posts the chapters of the novels she never wants published for people to enjoy in the literary abandon.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Red Sandstorms Chapter 20

Shells flew over our heads, crashing across the sands behind us. Already I wished to return to the safe haven of my office. Each new explosive flare lit up the sky and our faces. Keeping our eyes on the slow crawl forwards, I watched the mortar crash into a building and almost instantly turning it to rubble in a giant cloud of smoke. Ahead of me both Max and Jade were crawling forwards, hiding behind piles of debris.
            Tugging on my helmet, I trailed them as both at last stopped. They seemed rather nervous about something, as if unsure about the next move. Looking to them I gestured for them to keep going. Max shook her head, a nervous expression on her face. Never had I seen her look so scared or worried.

            Peeking over my pile, I watched as several members of the military were moving forwards. Bullets rained against the rocks I hid behind, occasionally showering me with sparks as a slug clashed with metal.
            “We need to move!” I shouted, gesturing over my shoulder to get them to return to creeping forwards.
            “Marcus! Stop! We can’t go anywhere until it’s clear. I haven’t gotten the signal to continue,” Jade responded, holding out her hand. Max looked around, probably searching for a way out of the shooting. Without notice she suddenly crawled forwards and forced open a small opening in the building nearby. Urging Jade, we followed as Max suddenly slid into the hole. My feet landed in something wet and a very unpleasant odor suddenly hit my—practically killing my nose.
            “…Where did we go?” I said, looking at Max in the light coming from a grating further down the tunnel.
            “The sewer. Just go with it, okay? We needed to get out of the shooting,” she said, standing taller than me.
            “You could have mentioned there was a ledge to land on. Now I have crap on my boots,” I muttered, stepping up to where both Jade and Max were.
            “Look, we’re not getting shot at, okay? So just knock it off,” Max mumbled, heading forwards.
            “It stinks down here,” Jade said, her nose plugged.
            “Hello! It’s a sewer! Of course it’s going to stink,” I heard my sister say, her voice echoing in the channel. Bands of light, coming down from between the grates, showed us at least a bit of a way. Other than that, we were going alone, occasionally stepping on something that made a noise.
            I figured Jade would be more disturbed that we were walking in a sewer, but no. She wasn’t bothered at all. That would be me. Traveling among human waste was not on my “To Do” list. As we made our way along, occasionally all three of us would stop as we heard trucks pass overhead. Yelling and footsteps resounded above us; shots rang out as both sides pressed against each other.
            Max stopped just on the other side of some light streaming from above. She was looking up, figuring out where we were. Climbing up the ladder she pushed up the grate and peered out. Pulling herself the rest of the way up, Max signaled for us to do the same.
            We came out in some alley, the gunfire much farther away. Smoke from the mortars blew in our direction, making it harder to see far away. Our small group felt like we were only inching forwards because of our caution for snipers. Leading us along, Max took a step towards a building and dropped down into the basement via a ground window. Setting down her bag, my sister started to take out spare uniform pants. Jade did the same and I followed suit.
            “We’ll have to leave these here. Replacements are easier to get than healing,” Max said, only changing.
            “My boots stink like crap,” I said, trying to lighten the mood. Both laughed a little, munching on a bit of rations. Stuffing her things back into her bag, Max checked her medic bag before standing once more. Yelling and screaming echoed down to us as the shooting became closer.
            “Shouldn’t you two get to your own assignment?”
            “Our duty is here with you. Medics shouldn’t be left alone in a warzone,” Jade said, shouldering her pack. After having at last made it out of the basement, we continued our search for the injured. Somehow we were able to contact a medical transport and inform them of our location. It seemed the rules of battle changed when medics entered the field. We had managed to help two men who were shot behind enemy lines. Now it was to get them back towards our side and get picked up. Max stopped, seemingly transfixed by something in the distance out of our path. Explosions and gunfire rang out all around us, a cacophony of noise.
            “Jade, take him,” Max said, handing off the man she currently was helping walk. Jade let go of the soldier we were both supporting and did as Max instructed.
            “Max! Wait! Where are you going?!” Jade shrieked, thrown a bit off balance by the larger man’s weight.
            She seemed to duck under several of the rubble piles, keeping low and soon disappearing into the smoke. The both of us stayed rooted to where she had left us behind, watching for her form to return. Together we leaned the men against a wall as we lingered in the alley. I could hear the howling and moaning of the injured and dying. There was nothing we could do to help them as of right now; with our medic gone and fulfilling some other task she saw.
            As the smoke started to clear, I got a hazy view as to what Max was doing. Dodging bullets by diving behind piles of wreckage, she finally seemed to move towards a distant—what appeared to be—apartment building. Just by watching her movements I could tell she had one thing on her mind. That’s what drove her in such a hurried, almost reckless path. My eyes instantly searched the area for what she could possibly be after. Within moments I finally saw a small figure wandering aimlessly around. Squinting to try and get a better picture, my eyes widened seeing it was a child—probably lost in the confusion.
            A high pitched whistling shot past Jade and I, heading straight for the apartment building. Grabbing the small girl I could see Max suddenly pin her tiny frame to the sand, shielding her as it exploded above them, showering the two with glass shards. The child was bawling, tears streaming down her face as they slowly sat up. Scooping up the little girl, Max ran straight towards us. Stumbling just beyond some rubble, my sister lost her balance and fell at our feet. The child skidded into me, where I picked her up carefully and set her on her feet.
            “Time to go,” Max said, hoisting up the girl in her arms and heading for where the medical transport now sat, some four hundred yards ahead. Aiding our wards, Jade and I followed Max through the bullet spray. Reaching the transport did not take as long as I had thought and soon the injured were loaded on stretchers and stowed on the truck. Helping Jade climb into the truck, we sat with Max and the child. The truck growled beneath us as it shuddered to life and eventually sped off towards our encampment. Looking between those of us sitting, I knew we definitely came out far better than those on the stretchers. Our faces merely held dust, sweat and the occasional cut that could be treated easily.
            Jumping off the truck as we came to a stop at camp, I helped unload the passengers and the hurt into the awaiting doctors’ hands. All the men on the transport were immediately rushed into the surgical tents, leaving the four of us standing there. Jade grabbed Max’s bag and headed for the tent the two of them shared while I headed for my own. The little girl kept her arms locked, so tight around Max her knuckles were turning white, as they walked among the other soldiers. Holding open the flap of the tent, Max entered, trailed by Jade. I stopped at the superiors’ tent to report our return. Yawning after a quick account I headed for my own cot.
            Shouting roused me after a few hours of sleep. The camp was still awake at this late of an hour, everyone keeping to their own business, watching out for number one. Pushing the flap barely aside, I searched for where the angry voice was coming from.
            “You brought a rebel’s child here?! What were you thinking?!” A loud slap seemed to almost quiet those laughing by the fire. Another dull thud before the man spoke again. “You’ve just endangered every man and woman here! Did you even think and realize that if they saw such an action they’d think it was a hostage?! All thanks to you we’re losing men faster than before!” This time the blow sounded like it was much harder as the person cried out.
            “Sir, she was in the middle of the shooting. I couldn’t just leave her!” This voice immediately recognized. Shoving on my boots and fixing my jacket about my shoulders, I headed for where I could hear the current reprimand was going on. Coming around some tents I froze to see Max and a different superior officer—the worst in the unit—Major General Neilsen. His eyes met mine and then glared at me.
            “This is not your fight, Marcus Knight. Get out of here. Your sister reports to me,” he said, his foot pinning Max to the sand. I opened my mouth to retort when he kicked her aside with his foot, instantly walking towards me. Taking a few steps back was probably the biggest mistake I made. Seizing me by my collar, he pulled me so that our faces were mere centimeters apart. “I suggest you return to your tent and act like you saw nothing,” he said, his voice lower and more menacing than any villain anyone could imagine. Shoving me backwards, I stumbled and landed on the sand.
            Looking past his substantially large figure I saw Max now standing again, a determined look on her face. Turning on his heel, the Major General looked down at her. He swung one of his enormous fists at her, only to have it land against a tent pole as Max dodged the strike. She was just teasing him now as he tried to land a hit of some kind and each time she evaded. Getting up, I walked forwards and joined a small crowd now watching the show. Some of the officers started to laugh at his futile attempts, while I just merely crossed my arms and watched him fail miserably. Just as some figured Max would trump him, the Nielsen pulled a clever move and swung both fists at the same time.
            This move definitely surprised her, as Max fell to the sand. Dusting off his hands, Major General Nielsen glared at those around them. Those closest to her helped Max stand up and cleaned her off as the crowd slowly dispersed. The superior officer stalked off to his own tent, not at all pleased at being made a fool. Pushing my way through the leaving soldiers, I looked at my little sister. A few bruises were already starting to appear and her lip was bleeding at the corner.
            “You could have stepped in you know,” she said, wiping off the blood and wincing.
            “I would have but man is that guy intimidating. Weren’t we reporting to the same superior?” Max shook her head.
            “Nope, I found out that medics report to two. Nielsen just wasn’t exactly happy that I had taken in a rebel girl. But you saw! She’s too little to be out there alone. Once I can, I’m going to arrange for a transport for her to take her to where I’ve heard a few of the refugees have been hiding out,” she said, walking towards her tent. Max stopped and turned, facing me. “I’m glad you didn’t help. You shouldn’t be fighting my battles.” With that she continued towards her tent, disappearing among the large amount of small living quarters.

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