We roared down the road as fast as the Humvee could go. I finally succeeded in making a crude bandage around the embedded knife, and now sprawled in the back gritting my teeth through the pain. Arnold’s driving wasn’t helping.
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. “Arnold . . . darn it. Slow down. You’re killing me back here.”
“Sorry, man,” he said, his eyes not moving from the road, “We have to put some space between us and that gas station.” I rolled my eyes and tried to content myself with a morphine syrette in my arm.
We continued driving at breakneck speed for twenty minutes, and then Arnold slowed down and pulled into the driveway of a small house. He turned off the engine and keyed the radio again.
“Sierra Seven to Guard, mayday, mayday.” The response came back at once.
“Go ahead, Seven.”
Arnold preceded to relate our encounter with Masters at the gas station and my injury. “We need to get some help for Todd, the knife is in there really good, and I don’t know a thing about medicine.”
“Wait one, Seven,” the radio squawked, “Switch to pre-briefed encrypted frequency.” Arnold twirled the dial in response. There were a few moments of silence, and then Colonel Patstone came on.
“Seven, I understand you disguised the battle, correct?”
“That’s right,” Arnold responded, “We pushed their ship into the building after we took some pictures, and then we set the whole thing on fire. It looks kinda like a crash site now.”
“Good work, Seven,” Patstone said, “Although I hope you realize you’ve put us all in a very sticky position now. By engaging the aliens, you’ve alerted them to some serious human activity down here, and you’ve likely ticked them off as well.”
“We’ll just have to lay low,” Arnold shot back, “They can’t comb the entire southwest looking for humans.”
“That’s correct, Seven,” the response came, “We will have to lay low. And unfortunately, that means we cannot send a helicopter out to pick up Niner.”
There was a brief moment of silence in the Humvee. “What?” Arnold asked.
“We cannot risk helicopter activity of any sort after the aliens have been so clearly alerted to our presence,” the colonel responded flatly, “That could endanger the entire population.”
“So you’re just cutting him loose?” Arnold asked, outraged. “You’re just gonna let him die?”
“Seven, there is no easy way out of this situation,” the colonel said coldly, “If we send a helicopter out to pick up Niner, we are risking the entire population. If the aliens detect the helicopter, it will alert them to organized, technical human activity, and that could lead to one shit load of trouble.”
Arnold glared out the windshield. “Fine,” he finally said, picking up the radio again, “Then we’ll come to you. Where are you?”
“I’m not saying, Seven.”
“Why the heck not? This band is encrypted.”
“Seven, the aliens’ technical ability clearly surpasses our own,” came the exasperated response, “If we give you any sort of location, encrypted band or not, they could locate the post.”
“Then what do you propose?” Arnold asked, “You’ve got to help! If you aren’t here to help, then what are you? Nothing!”
“Wait one, Sierra.”
Arnold sighed and turned around in his seat. “Sorry, man.”
“It’s fine,” I responded, injecting the rest of my morphine syrette, “We’ll just have to learn how to do stitches real quick.”
“It’s not that I’m worried about,” Arnold replied, “I learned to sew in high school. I’m worried about that blade having cut some ligaments or something in there, and your arm being crippled without proper medical care. Even worse, I don’t know how we’re going to get it out without you blee-”
The radio interrupted him. “Sierra Seven, you there?”
Arnold snatched it. “We’re here.”
“We can help you. Get on I-20 W/I-59 S and start driving. Keep driving until you meet us, don’t take side roads or we’ll miss each other. We’ll have a mobile surgical unit ready when we meet.”
“We’re on our way,” Arnold responded, “Out.”
“Do you need anything from the house?” I asked as we backed out of the driveway, “I think I’m all set.”
“No. We planned to be gone for a few days, so I’m good. The thing is, we don’t know how long we’ll be gone. Where’s that road go, anyway?”
I managed to drag out a map. The morphine was kicking in, and my arm had gone pleasantly numb and had a blissful floating feeling. “It goes for a while. If we follow it to the end, it’ll go all the way into Texas.”
“That’s too far,” Arnold said ruminatively, “We’ve been to the post and it didn’t look like Texas.”
“Well . . .” I consulted the map again, “It also goes through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. I’ll bet you they’re in there somewhere.”
“Could be. We’ll have to ask them when we meet them. By the way, how much pain medicine do you have?”
I winced. I hadn’t considered that. “I just took one syrette of morphine, and you’ve got yours too. That’s not enough for a few days.”
“No, it’s not,” Arnold agreed, “Check the map for a hospital, and we’ll see what we can find there.”
I located a hospital after a few minute’s scanning, and Arnold took the fastest route there. We screeched into a doctors-only parking space and shut down. I hopped out with Arnold.
“I’m coming,” I said, before he could cut me off, “I’m not letting you go in there without cover.”
He nodded his acquiescence and pulled a large bag out of the back of the truck. “Get some more flashlights and some NVGs out,” he ordered, “I’m going to siphon some gas from these cars.”
While Arnold was topping off the Humvee, I pulled out two carefully boxed sets of NVGs and some Maglites. After testing them all, I dug out more magazines for my handgun; a rifle would be useless in my current state.
We entered through the swinging glass doors at the front, and I consulted a map behind the receptionist’s desk. “Sub-level,” I said, “Spiffy. Nice and dark.”
After some poking around, we found a set of maintenance stairs that led down to the basement area. We donned our goggles and proceeded carefully down the pitch-black hallway, the walls appearing an eerie green. I had never shot one-handed, and was finding the position very awkward.
“Here it is,” Arnold said, stopping in front of a door labeled ‘B-124 – Pharmaceuticals.’ “Give me the axe.” We used a small steel hatchet for breaching situations like these. After a few minutes of hacking, the door lay open, and Arnold and I entered.
“Good stuff,” I said, looking around at the stacks of ghostly green bottles, “Goggles off.”
We flipped our goggles up and I turned on my flashlight. Arnold pulled a large propane lantern off his back and turned that on as well. Within a few moments, the room was flooded with light.
“What’s morphine’s name in Latin?” He called. I racked my brain.
“It’s not Latin, but, uh . . . I’ve seen it called Kadian and Roxanol,” I said, scanning a shelf, “Oramorph are the pills. Or just get anything with ‘opi-’ in the name.”
“Hey, here’s something,” Arnold said after a few moment’s silent searching, “Diacetylmorphine. Hey, wait, isn’t that-?”
“Heroin,” I responded, “Yep. Bring it.”
We continued looking for a few more minutes, and I found a bottle of Propofol and pocketed this as well.
After Arnold found two tiny bottles of Oramorph pills to accompany the heroin, we left the hospital. “Now I’m keeping the drugs,” Arnold said, consulting the instructions on the packages, “You can have a pill every eight hours, and heroin in emergencies. If we don’t find the Guard in three days, I’m chucking these and you’re going to have to hack it with aspirin and the like.”
“Okay,” I grudgingly agreed, “I guess the last thing we need is a drug addiction right now.”
After winding our way down several anonymous back roads, Arnold found the on-ramp. After dodging several stopped cars, we moved off down the interstate towards the Guard and their help.