My ankle was a continual reminder that I was really not in prime condition to be moving around like this, and certainly not in a sandstorm. But I’m in the Army, and a tanker on top of that. We’re meant to be in less than prime conditions. Still, even with the crutch, it felt like my ankle would buckle at any moment. On top of that, the headache was back and was throbbing heavily at the point where my head wound surely was. Like an idiot I had forgotten to clean and patch up the area and I would bet sand was leaving a nasty crust of goo over the area.
I got back to the Abrams and clambered into the tank. Okay, Sandlady would have to wait a bit, these wounds needed tending. Painter, the pretty boy, smuggled a decent-size mirror in his pack, so I rifled through his stuff and dug it out. A quick look told me the head wound was indeed crusted with sand and grit. Alright, blood pads to clear out the grit, some iodine to clean out the wound, and gauze over top. Cleaning out the wound hurt like a bitch, but that was a pin prick compared to the iodine. Good Lord, God in Heaven, kill me now! Iodine in a head wound, it felt like someone was going at my scalp with an angle grinder.
And I’m out of gauze bandage. SHIT! I used all of what was left to bind up my ankle, which if I’m being honest, wasn’t doing very well as a splint. Still, I’d rather that than nothing. Well, time for more pain. I reached into the interior tool kit and pulled out the duct tape. A couple swatches over one another would have to do as a wound protector. Now to check the ankle. Yep, it was still burning up my leg, but I couldn’t do anything for it now with what I had. I pulled the gauze tighter, closed my boots around it, and belted them up as tight as I could. In the very least it should keep the ankle stable until I can finish up with Sandlady’s problems, then hopefully get back in my tank and get the hell out of dodge.
I popped a couple more painkillers and pocketed the bottle. I have no idea if human medicine is alright for those things, or how much it would take to have an actual effect on her body. But Motrin cures everything right? If the Army Medical Corps is to be believed, this stuff can cure lost limbs. Alright, time to grab the other tools. I wrestled the tarp out of Painter’s pack. Did I mention this fucker was a pack-rat? I spilled half of New York all over the turret floor just trying to free the damn tarp.
Tarp acquired. Duct Tape? Check. I rooted around in the mess on the floor and came up with Painter’s towel. Blood cleaner? Check. And lastly, the big brush in the exterior tool kit would help to clear the rest of the sand. I wormed my way out of the tank, being extra ginger with my ankle, and acquired the brush. Now to get back to Sandlady, whose outline I could just barely make out through the sandstorm. I got back to where, I’m just going to call it her mouth, was. She had closed the mandibles for protection, so, against my better judgment, I rapped lightly on one of the plates with the butt of my gun. After a bit, the plates opened slightly and Sandlady poked her human head through the opening.
“Alright, miss, I’m going to get work.” I got to the point. My ankle was really starting to protest now. I reached into my pocket and held out the bottle of pills. “Here, ma’am. Eat two of these, they might help with the pain.”
She hit me with that deer-in-headlights stare again, then tentatively reached out her hand to take the medicine bottle. She cocked her head at me questioningly, but I was already grabbing my equipment and moving to where the impact wound was. I need to get this done quick, my ankle is telling me we are well past red alert status right now. Every step was a major effort, especially in this sand. Thankfully, I made it to the impact hole.
First things first, I pulled the tarp up over my head and began to tape the underside of it around the top of the wound. I need a space free of the sand to work in, and trying to keep the duct tape free of sand outside of the tarp was a losing battle. With a sealed space to work in, I piled sand up against the plates of the sandworm until I could rest my knee in it, that would give my ankle some relief while I worked.
I discovered that when Sandlady had broken the surface much of the loose sand had been flung clear of the wound. A light dusting with the brush was all it really needed. Clearing congealed blood and grit was a different story. By the end of it, Painter’s favorite towel was a sticky ball of bio-hazardous waste. Ah well, he wouldn’t be needing it, hopefully. A quick splash of water inside the wound cleared out anything else, and I got to the business of sealing the bottom half of the tarp around the wound. I would have to get the duct tape a bit dirty but that was my luck. I managed a decent seal, and proceed to cut the excess tarp away with my utility knife. It took a good half hour, that’s a guess though, the sun was mostly obscured by the sandstorm.
Alright time to get the leg back up and let Sandlady know she’s good to go. I took one step, and my ankle sent a shock of pain up my leg that almost dropped me to the ground. I flailed around looking for my crutch bar, but it was nowhere to be seen. It had probably fallen over from where I had left it leaning up against the sandworm, and the sandstorm had promptly buried it. I hopped and hobbled my way back up to the front of the sandworm and again rapped on the mandible plating.
The plates opened again, this time large enough for the lady to come through completely. She handed my bottle back to me, and I quickly palmed another two. The pain was starting to make me puff and breath and hard, despite the air being half sand.
“You’re all patched up, ma’am. I’d advise to try and avoid the…little crawling creatures. They do pack a very nasty sting.”
Sandlady actually smiled in thanks. Despite the pain I was in, I had to say, that smile was adorable. It was a smile of genuine gratitude, especially considering I, her enemy, had performed the service without really expecting anything in return. I don’t know what I would have asked for really, safe passage through to Abu Ageila perhaps? That’s when I noticed her smile fade and was replaced with a look of worry and…concern.
She pointed to my leg, which was now so painful, my other foot was sinking in the sand as I tried to keep as little weight on the injured ankle as possible.
“You are hurt as well. I-I can help. Its only fair. You helped me.”
Red Alarms, Red Flags, Drill Sergeant Feathers screaming in my face “Disappear, Scumbag!” All the warnings were going off. I raised my hands defensively, which was a really stupid reaction now that I think about it. I had an MP7 on me, why the hell didn’t I remember that? Oh right, my mind wasn’t exactly keen on trying to brace with a bum ankle. Not that an MP7 requires that much bracing, but the pain plus the blaring sirens in my head had caused both sides of my brain to double down into panic mode.
“No, no that’s quite alright, ma’am. I’ll be alright, I just need to get back to my base.”
Sandlady shook her head. Apparently “no.” was the wrong answer. Her face bore a genuine sense of caring, but everything I had been told was shouting at me that this whole thing had been a trap. I’d taken the bait like a sucker. Now I was the one exposed and nigh-on incapacitated. Yes, I could shoot the lady, but she’d probably just retreat into her armored transport and crush me. And there was absolutely no way I was making it back to my tank in time to avoid her, not in this state. As the panicking trap of my mind was racing through unworkable solutions, Sandlady moved toward me, this time with her arms open and up as if she wanted a hug. To me it looked like the outstretched arms of a zombie. Panic mode increased to the “mode of no return” as a chill ran down my spine, despite Sandlady’s attempt to give me a reassuring smile.
“It’ll be alright. If you’re in pain, I can help. You’re stuck in the same storm too, y’know. We’re both hurt and you helped me. Now let me help you. C’mon.”
My instincts were the Brutus that betrayed me in the end. She moved forward, my natural reaction was to back pedal…with the bad leg. We both heard an audible snap as my ankle, fed up with me ignoring it, broke all of its stuff and stormed out on me. I dropped to the ground with a thud. The shock of pain from the sudden break was so overwhelming that I had already passed out before I hit the sand.
Thanks karma, you’re a real pal.