Transverse: Part 6 – In a Hard Place

        Facing annihilation, Wyatt and his companions consider how to attack an army.         I staunched the bleeding with a hand to my abdomen, raised one of my pistols,

        Facing annihilation, Wyatt and his companions consider how to attack an army.

        I staunched the bleeding with a hand to my abdomen, raised one of my pistols, and grinned at my death as the soldiers came round the truck.

        But before I could raise my weapon, I heard the whine of a needler, shouts, and the thump of bodies. Refaeli emerged, worse for wear—her eye was swollen shut, she had a gash across her forehead, and her pressure suit was torn. But her hand was steady as she swept the area with her weapon.

        “You look like ten miles of bad road,” I quipped.

        “And you look like the road…full of potholes.” She didn’t turn to look as she made one last sweep.

        “Need to work on your comebacks.” I winced. “Where’s Donovan?”

        “Here!” He wheezed around the corner, cradling one arm. “Musset…his head’s at an odd angle.” He then steadied himself with one hand. “I closed his eyes.”

        Refaeli and I exchanged a look. That nixed our chances of contacting his government, if we ever had one. Donovan slumped against the side of the truck.

        Then Refaeli noted my wound with widened eyes and ran for the back of one of the trucks. As quickly, she came back with what looked like an old-fashioned doctor’s bag, emblazoned with a blood-red Maltese cross.

        I hissed out a breath as she pulled my hand away and sat back to let her work as she pulled out gauze and bandages. “I think I might’ve taken a bullet.”

        She looked up from the bag, squinted, and poked around the wound. “It’s a gash, and it’s too wide for a tumbling bullet. Just under your armor.”

        “Debris from the crash?”

        She gave a brief glance over my head at our smashed-up car. “Maybe. Look I’m going to wrap this—”

        I shook my head. “Pull it out.”

        “It could be staunching the blood. Do you want to bleed out?”

        “I don’t want the wound to go septic.” I grunted as I took in a breath. “Does that kit have anything for stitching up wounds?”

        She rummaged through the bag as she mumbled, “Damned stubborn man.” She pulled out a spindle of surgical thread and needle. “Are you going to sow yourself up!?”

        I took them from her and grinned. “After I pull that piece of metal.” I pointed to the bag. “Forceps?”

        She tossed them to me, opened her mouth to say something, but then closed her lips into a line and watched me anxiously.

        After two minutes of searing pain and more blood, I’d pulled out a metal fragment, maybe a piece of chrome. It took another minute to stitch the wound closed.

        Refaeli let out a long breath, nodded as she squinted at the suture, and then tossed me a glass bottle wrapped in bandages. “Don’t want an infection to set in.” 

        It was alcohol. I poured it out over the suture—it felt like a lit match against my skin—and wrapped and cinched the bandage around myself.

        Refaeli had Donovan’s arm quickly splinted and in a sling. She supported him with her shoulder and opened the door to one of the trucks and helped him in.

        I opened the driver’s side door and checked the gauges. The boiler was hot and the pressure was good, or at least it looked that way. Even Donovan hadn’t been too sure about how to read these dials.

        “What do you think you’re doing?” Refaeli stared at me with her hands on her hips.

        I lifted an eyebrow. “Driving.”

        “Not with that hole in you.”

        I growled. “We don’t have time to argue.”

        “No, we don’t.” She tilted her head, as if to catch a distant sound. “Especially since I’m now I’m the only one who knows where to go.” She smiled like a cat with a canary.

        I snorted and stepped aside. “How nice for you.” 

        It was…rough going. Donovan had at least a vague idea of what he was doing, but in a haze of what was probably morphine, he was no help. Still, Refaeli kept the truck on the road, mostly.

        “How far?” I kept my eyes on the horizon, straining for any sign of a plane.

        “We’re about ten minutes away, which is the good news.”

        “I have a feeling that I probably should’ve heard the bad news first.”

        She grimaced. “I’m intercepting signals from what sound like multiple guard posts and patrols. On top of that, it sounds like they have heavy weapons.”

        “That’s just wonderful…” I checked my handguns again.

        The road finally wound into a neighborhood of wealthy homes nestled into the folds of the hills. The local architecture was as off as everything else. It was a riot of eye-watering colors.

        A formation of jets screamed by overhead, heading toward the capital in the distance. 

        I set the pistols on the dashboard. “Drive faster.”

        Without words, the trucked lurched forward as Refaeli increased the speed. Steam billowed behind us.

        I’ve faced death more times than I can count, but with the thought of disappearing in a nuclear fireball, every heartbeat felt like it would my last. The silence between us was deafening.

        Refaeli’s tone was flat as she spoke. “The signals are getting stronger. Just a couple of minutes till we’re there.”

        “Do you have any way to pinpoint the patrols?”

        She was silent for a moment. “Maybe.”

        “If you thread us between those patrols and drive like a bat out of hell, we might be able to make it for cover.”

        “What will you do?’

        I sat with Donovan to my left and the passenger window to my right. I drew my pistols. “I’ll provide cover.”

        The road went from pavement to gravel at the top of a rise. Below, there were glimpses of buildings through a thicket of trees.

        I turned to her. “Remember, like a bat out of hell. Let me handle the rest.”

        To be continued…


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