Finally... the final part to the story of Lifeline! This begins with Lifeline in the midst of the battle in a small town! Sorry for the long wait, but battles are difficult to write, especially when it's about the medic, not a real combat soldier. Since I took so long to get it written, I've posted the last part in entirety, without breaking it into two or more chapters. So this is long, and enjoy.
Warning: Character death. Sorry if this is a spoiler, but I feel I should post the warning.
Lifeline ducked low, running faster than he'd thought was humanly possible at such a low crouch. Rifle fire whined over his head as he dodged around a clump of rocks and dropped to a knee next to a bloodied greenshirt. "It's Medic Lifeline.. where are you hurt?"
He was answered with a groan as the young man clutched at his leg feebly. "Stupid.. I should have moved faster... Sergeant major'll be mad at me..." He watched Lifeline tying a snug bandage into place. "I can walk.. you don't have to evac me or anything."
"Good, I wasn't going to." Lifeline nodded at him. "Try to make your way back to the triage.."
"I can still fight!" The greenshirt protested and began struggling to get to his feet.
Lifeline pointed back towards the rear lines. "You'll be a liability in the front lines.. go to triage, you can provide security to the other wounded. Got it?" He watched the angry expression fade somewhat and his patient nodded. "Trust me.. if I thought you could do it, I'd send you back in. Keep your head low, just because you're headed for the rear with a bandaged leg, there's no guarantee the enemy won't shoot at you anyway."
"Hell Medic Lifeline.. Cobra would shoot you if you were in a coma.. I know that!" Gaining his feet finally, the greenie began hobbling along, taking advantage of any cover when he could. Lifeline tugged his bag shut again and looked out across the battlefield. He was already tired, despite the adrenalin rush of battle. He was supremely tired of tying torn bodies back together in this stupid fruitless fight with the enemy. A nearby explosion sent chunks of sod flying towards him and he put up an arm to block the dirt showering onto his bowed head.
"Geez! This is ridiculous!" A small Joe unit ran forward to his right and he watched them attacking another group of soldiers dressed in bright blue uniforms, the Cobra logo prominently displayed on the fronts. As men shot at each other, the medic shook his head and turned his steps that way. It seemed pointless to attack the enemy only to have them attack the Joes. Nothing was accomplished but making wounded people for him to check and treat and drag to the dubious safety of the rear lines. He scurried up to a limp body and checked for a pulse at the neck. Finding a strong throbbing pulse, he grabbed the straps of the battle harness and began dragging the wounded man backwards out of the fray. A stray bullet pinged off a rock and whined past his head and he winced.
"Medic Lifeline!" Stretcher's welcome voice made Lifeline turn. "Is that Steeler? Injuries?" He bent over the body, making a quick routine check for obvious injuries.
"He's unconscious.. but I don't think he's too badly hurt. Get him out of here." Stretcher nodded and picked the heavy driver up to sling him across his back. "Dang it.. what now?"
"MEDIC!" The shouts came from far to the left near some buildings and Lifeline grabbed his heavy medical pack to run towards the noise. "MEDIC!"
"I'm coming!" Turning slightly to zero in on the shouts, Lifeline spotted the crushed side of a wooden building and several Joes standing nearby exchanging gunfire with Cobra attackers in red. "Who's hurt!"
"HERE!" GungHo waved at him. "There's civies here.. we gotta get these cheries outa here!" Approaching closer, Lifeline found the burly Cajun shepherding three small children away from the fighting. "Take these here kiddos, their mama is trapped, I'm gettin' her.. stop cryin' now cheries, Lifeline will take care of you.." The heavily muscled Joe turned to drag boards off a trapped woman and bent over her.
Lifeline gathered the three kids up and shooed them further away. "Come on kids.. back here.. we'll bring mommy in just a minute.. " Ushering them along the roads as quickly as possible, he looked over his shoulder checking for any enemy forces chasing them. "Come on.. we have to move fast.."
"Stop right there!" A helmeted figure in red with the now-familiar logo across the chest stood in their way, weapon brandished boldly at the three children and unarmed medic. "You're not going anywhere.." As he lifted the rifle at them, Lifeline stepped in front of the kids, blocking the line of fire. "Get out of my way.. you're just going to be first... drop your weapons.."
"I'm a medic! I don't have any weapons.. you can't kill little kids!" Reaching behind him, Lifeline pushed the smallest girl further behind the slight shelter his body would provide. "Come on.. they aren't hurting anyone! Leave them alone!"
"Have it your way, Joe.. you'll just be first.. then.." One red gloved hand came up to touch a little sliver of shiny metal that suddenly sprouted from his throat. "Unng..." A strange wet gurgle and the Crimson Guardsman fell over.
"Don't just stand there, silly gaijin! RUN!" Jinx's tiny form darted up to snatch her throwing blade from the body. "Get those kids out of here.." She ran to the wall of a building and scrambled up the seemingly smooth surface like a squirrel and disappeared.
"I'm scared!" The tiny girl clung to the medic's leg and he bent to lift her to his hip. Pushing the two young boys along as well, Lifeline managed to move them all back along the streets to where the corpsmen were helping wounded Joes and civilians evacuate. "No no! I want you!"
Disentangling her arms from his neck, Lifeline summoned up a reassuring smile. "Well maybe I'll see you in a while.. but right now, you have to go with these guys.. you'll be fine.. take your brother's hand.." He handed the kids off and searched for the supplies. "Give me a fresh medical pack."
"Lifeline!" Doc surged out of the group and grabbed his arm. "Stop.. you're bleeding.." Looking down at his arm where his sleeve was torn, Lifeline poked at his arm and winced when it stung. "Let me check that.. we can use you back here."
"No.. I gotta go.. it's nothing." Lifeline tugged free and snatched up a fresh medical bag. "They need me more out there.. GungHo is bringing in a civilian woman.. possible crush injuries.." He shouted the last words over his shoulder as he ran out of the crowd of medics and support personnel. ".. she's the kids' mom.. get them together!"
Taking off and running for the loudest noises of explosions and gunfire, Lifeline tugged the chin strap of his helmet, snugging the protective headgear further forward. By the time he was near the fighting, Flint shouted at him.
"Lifeline! Get down!" The third-in-command waved at him. "Stop running.. get down!" Hefting his gun, he waved again. "Get down!"
"I'm fine! It's my job to go find wounded!" Lifeline continued towards the battle noises and ignored the shouts as he was ordered to stop again. When the ground blew up almost under his feet, he was knocked down and fell almost at Flint's feet. The warrant officer grabbed him by an arm and dragged him to the side, cursing loudly. "Ow.. what was that?"
"You idiot! Next time you LISTEN TO ME!" Flint took the opportunity to shake the slender medic. "Dammit you could have been killed! Stupid green medic!" He dropped Lifeline and stepped away, shouting for Joes to move in from the right side before he turned back to Lifeline again. "Are you okay?"
"Uhh.. yeah..." Getting to his feet shakily, Lifeline checked himself over. "What was that?"
"Bombing run.. I told you to stop! Next time you ignore an order like that, you better hope you're blown up!" Flint stomped away and ordered another unit of men forward, keeping his eyes on the fighting. Lifeline hefted his pack and watched for a few minutes until he saw a Joe go down hard a few hundred yards away. He took off running, ignoring incoming gunfire, and trying to stay out of his fellow troops line of fire where he could. His red uniform made the Joes see him a little easier and he heard a few shouting at him as he ran through the lines.
A greenshirt was already pressing down on the bleeding wound when Lifeline dropped to a knee beside limp body. Some small part of his brain made a note to add kneecop pads to his uniform to save him breaking his kneecaps on the rocky ground and pavement. "How bad?" he asked the young greenie.
"IT'S REALLY BAD!" The shouts made Lifeline wince as the greenshirt continued. "I CAN'T GET IT TO STOP BLEEDING, MEDIC LIFELINE!"
"You don't have to scream, I'm right here!" Lifeline reached to peer into the helpful greenshirt's eyes. "Are you okay? Can you hear me?"
"WHAT?" The obvious blank stare as the greenshirt squinted at him made Lifeline realize he'd been deafened.
Lifeline pulled his hand away from the side of the greenshirt's head and found sticky blood. "Let me see your head.." A quick check showed a trickle of blood from his ear. "Were you too close to an explosion?"
"WHAT?" The greenshirt pointed at the fallen man instead. "HE'S HURT.. HELP HIM, I'M FINE!"
Shaking his head, Lifeline turned his attention to the patient under his hands and quickly located and tied off the torn vein. A snug bandage wrapped the arm and he picked him up to sling the limp body over his shoulders and head out of the firing line on the flank. The gunfire was getting thicker and he tried to hurry faster. When he turned to call to the other greenshirt, he saw him running towards a small group of Joes, rifle firmly held in his hands, despite his partial deafness, he was still determined to go back into battle. "HEY! Come back here!" Realizing even if he could have heard the medic's summons, the greenie wouldn't have listened anyway, Lifeline continued carrying his burden away from danger.
Lifeline crouched beside Dusty, trying not to duck every time a explosion went off or a shot was fired close by. A ten-man unit of Joes were crouched behind a overturned semi-truck, while the men at the ends fired at Cobra troops that had taken cover behind a makeshift barricade. Dusty rubbed the end of his sleeve across his forehead and grinned at the medic. "Doing okay there?"
Lifeline nodded. "Just waiting and hoping I won't be needed, you know?" He winced when a barrage of rifle fire clicked along the upper edge of their cover. "There's been enough fighting today.. this is so useless."
"Got that right. Cobra never wins, you'd think they'd learn and quit attacking." Dusty moved to peek out through a crevice. Lifeline sighed. That wasn't quite what he'd meant. Cobra was only half the combatants after all.
"MAKE A DANGED HOLE!" The bellowed warning made him jump and Lifeline scrambled to the side, hugging the metal truck body as half a dozen greenshirts came piling up behind the truck, BeachHead bringing up the rear, rifle in hand. "Reload, check the action on yer rifles, don't step on the medic, he's hard ta see on accounta he's so short.." Beach walked past Lifeline, using the butt of his rifle to whack the side of the medic's helmet lightly. "Watch out.. yer touchin' mah gun there.. might catch some violent tendencies.. could be like cooties..."
"Very funny BeachHead." Lifeline tugged his helmet straight and rolled his eyes as the Ranger moved up to confer with Stalker. He shook his head and looked over the greenshirts who were field checking their rifles and reloading, swapping ammunition back and forth. None of them looked to have any serious injuries and he moved closer to Dusty out of the way. Beach came back through at a trot, nearly tripping over the medical bag on his way. "Watch it!"
Beach disentangled his foot from the strap and grimaced, giving the medic another slap to his helmet, this time with his hand. "Dang it Lifeline.. keep yer toys out from underfoot." He headed on down to peer around the opposite end of the barrier, taking a few calculated shots before he ducked back and went to have another discussion with Stalker again. "Uban.. take the end of the barrier, shoot at will." The burly Ranger smacked at Lifeline who ducked this time. "Finally.. I was beginnin' to think ya liked gettin' thumped in the head."
"Well I didn't realize we were playing 'duck, duck, goose' Beach!" The sharp laugh only lasted a second before Beach rejoined Stalker. Lifeline looked over at Dusty who was wiping his rifle clip clean of dust and reinserting it. "Why is he like that? It's like life means nothing to him."
Dusty's head turned to look after the dirty figure. "BeachHead? No.. just human life." He grinned at the medic. "Oh come on.. I'm kidding. BeachHead is just... hmm.. perky. He lives for battle situations. And he's good at leading soldiers into battle and bringing them home again." The desert trooper tucked his rifle next to his thighs and squatted down comfortably. "Can you honestly tell me you'd have been able to do everything you've done today, and be standing here ready to keep going, if BeachHead hadn't been riding you so hard to preform better and better?"
"No. I understand the training. But.. " Lifeline shook his head. "Never mind... I don't know how to phrase it right Dusty... I just wish he took killing a bit more seriously. There's teammates getting shot out there. He doesn't seem to care about it." Scooting further down the line, the medic listened to BeachHead and Stalker talking via a communicator with Flint.
"Destro's on site.. he's coming around towards your position, Stalker.. two troops of Iron Grenadiers escorting some sort of big weapons system or bomb.. Mainframe thinks they want to get it inside the refinery to set it off. We have to keep them out of that refinery." Flint sounded tense.
Lifeline leaned to be able to hear clearly. He'd read about Cobra's main leaders and so remembered Destro as one of the head commanders and thought he was one that wore a shiny mask all the time. He didn't remember hearing the term 'grenadiers' before but could assume they were special troops.
Stalker took a deep breath, looking at their surrounding area. "We can get into position to defend the refinery if we make a dead run through that open field, between those buildings and then go up three blocks." He peered at the map Beach already had out. He pointed at the area streets. "Here and here.. put our guys in here and Flint's forces come in along the south end.. he's almost there already."
Beach tilted his head to listen as a plane passed fairly close overhead, ignoring it when it didn't drop down in a threatening stoop on their position. "Yeah.. Flint ain't got a buncha Cobra troops shooting at his guys from behind a barrier neither. We can get there from here.. but we'll lose half our guys if we just pop out from behind our cover and start racing across open ground." Before Lifeline could consider Beach's words proving he did care about saving the lives of his men, he continued. "Ain't no way we'll be able to hold off a Grenadier unit with only half our guys."
"Figures.. he's just worried he can't win the battle.. not worried about how many guys are dead." Lifeline muttered under his breath. The medic gathered his bag up to get ready for a run.
BeachHead finally turned to the Joes and greenshirts. "Alright.. Uban.. you and me will stay here and keep the Cobra's heads down, the rest of ya'll make the run across. Once under cover, I want Alpine and Hill to give me and Uban cover to make the run ourselves. Then we can head straight fer the refinery behind Stalker." He pushed various troopers into place and checked his own rifle and set out two extra clips. "Lifeline, go with the main force and Stalker." His voice lifted over the noise of battle. "Ya'll remember these are gonna be Grenadiers.. not some cannon fodder troops."
Lifeline moved to the group that lined up to make the all-important sprint across open ground. He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see Leatherneck frowning at him. "Hey medic.. don't run up on no one's heels. Grouping up will make us a bigger target, got it? I don't want no pacifist getting me shot."
"I won't.." Stepping back another foot, Lifeline was shoved forwards abruptly by ShortFuse from the front just as a loud 'spang' came from just over his head.
"Watch your head... there's a gap right there.. I wouldn't suggest you stick your head in that hole.. might catch a bullet in your teeth." Even with the friendly pat on his chest, Lifeline felt uneasy among all the fighters. Somehow he was right in the midst of violence.. and he was supposed to help injured people, not be an injured person.
"Thanks.. sorry." He shifted himself out of the way and hefted the bag up.
Leatherneck poked the bag, making Lifeline stagger slightly off balance. "Maybe you'd better leave some of that stuff behind.. it's gonna slow you down and ain't none of us gonna be stopping to help you carry it." Another poke and he staggered the opposite direction.
"You're right Leatherneck.. so in your infinite wisdom.. will you be getting gut shot or get hit in a major artery? Because I'd need to know which kit to leave behind? I'd hate to have you bleed out on the ground because I left the vein stitching kit back here. I mean.. if you'll promise to hold off on bleeding until I can run back to pick it up.. that's fine." Lifeline gave the Marine a placid smile, nodding with a earnest air of goodwill. "Just let me know.."
"Oh shut up." Leatherneck pushed past the medic, muttering to himself. "Stupid medics.. always gotta act smarter than everyone else.."
Dusty grinned as he moved up closer. "Not smarter than everyone else.. just you Leatherneck!"
"Ha ha.. you dumb desert rat.. isn't there a rock you should be under somewhere?" The Marine turned his back on all of them while Dusty elbowed Lifeline and nodded with a wink. "Stupid.. dumb.. thinking I don't know nothing.."
"Don't mind him.. he's always grumpy." Dusty hefted his rifle up and tucked his arm through the strap. Crouching slightly, he peered through a crack, checking on the enemy fire. "I hope Uban is as good a shot as she says she is.."
"Ya'll shut up that yappin'! Get ready.. go on Stalker's move." BeachHead settled his rifle on the upper edge of the wreckage barrier, taking aim at the Cobra troops.
Dusty yelled at the line. "Yeah, let's grim up guys. No laughing in the face of danger for us!" There was a smattering of chuckles and Beach scowled as Dusty nodded at him. "Keep us covered, Sergeant major!" All of the soldiers settled and became serious as Stalker raised a hand.
Suddenly everyone was moving, racing in zig-zag patterns across the open ground, well apart as rounds snapped through the air around them, kicking up puffs of dust or bits of pavement as the enemy tried to take advantage of their lack of cover. The sudden heavy rifle fire from Uban and Beach kept most of the Crimson guardsmen ducked behind cover. Within seconds of them emerging from cover, the Cobra troops almost ceased firing entirely, preferring to keep from being hit by the two sharpshooters left behind.
Almost ceased wasn't completely ceased. Lifeline saw one of BeachHead's greenshirt troops go down hard up ahead of them. He sped up, passing a startled Dusty and a even more startled Leatherneck. Slinging his medical bag over a shoulder, he reached down as he got to the stunned young man. Grabbing the battle harness in one hand, he twisted himself around to begin dragging the trooper to cover. He was dismayed when Dusty and Leatherneck ran past him without stopping. Once they were behind a building, they set up some cover fire to try to keep the Cobra snipers from being able to shoot at the medic or the downed man.
There was a sudden increase in incoming fire and Lifeline cursing, trying to crouch lower as he dragged the now struggling soldier. Reaching a crumpled piece of unidentifiable vehicle, Lifeline tugged his patient behind it and dropped to his knees. "Where are you hit?"
"I'm fine.. I think I tripped.." The greenshirt's unfocused eyes and rapidly swelling lump on his head told Lifeline he was in no shape to fight. "Just let me get up.. where's my gun?"
"Stay still..." Checking him over, Lifeline found the bullet wound in his lower leg. "You've been shot in the leg, then you must have hit your head." He wrapped a quick pressure bandage in place to stop the bleeding.
"No.. I just tripped." Sitting upright, the greenshirt blinked in confusion. "I'm fine.." Lifeline tugged at his arm, trying to keep him behind the cover. "Let go.. Sergeant major wants us to get behind the buildings." Lifeline ran his fingers over the rapidly swelling lump on the man's forehead. He must have struck his head badly on the ground when he'd fallen.
Dusty shouted loudly. "Keep down! They're regrouping!" The desert trooper went back to firing again. Lifeline peered out through some cracks, watching the Cobra fighters multiply as reinforcements arrived to help them out. He needed a break in the gunfire to get his patient safely to the more substantial cover behind the buildings.
All of the Joes under cover of the buildings set up to fire on the entrenched Cobras and Lifeline heard Beach yelling at Uban to run for it. He twisted to see Uban sprinting for the buildings, the Ranger two steps behind her taking potshots at the Cobras on the run.
"Sergeant major's coming!" Before Lifeline could grab him, the wounded greenshirt got to his knees trying to raise up. A meaty thunk heralded the shot that hit his patient in the torso and he jerked abruptly and fell over almost on top of the medic.
"No, dammit! Stay down!" Frantically searching for the wound, he found a 'through-and-through' in the poor guy's shoulder. "Great.. now I've got two gunshot wounds to treat on you.." There was a soft groan and he checked to see if they had a clear run to the buildings. Grabbing the man's wrist, he ducked and twisted to heave him over his shoulders and took off, following right behind Uban and listening to Beach's cursing behind him.
"Damn it, Steen! Get under cover!" Before Beach could shout at him again, the bullets whizzing by them ceased, although the rifles were still firing. Screams began to sound loudly in paniced tones instead. "Don't stop.. keep going!" Beach shoved at him when Lifeline would have paused to see what was happening to the Crimson guard troops that had been shooting at them. Once they reached the cover of the brick buildings, Beach immediately turned to begin taking shots at the enemy soldiers who were oddly breaking from cover, tumbling over the concrete wall.
Lifeline set the injured man down and began checking him over carefully. Once he was certain the young greenshirt was stable, he peered around the edge of the building. BeachHead was grinning under the balaclava, shooting down Cobra's elite troops as they struggled to stop a whirling figure from lopping off various limbs or heads. The medic felt his mouth fall open in complete astonishment as he watched his friend Jinx, the tiny dark-eyed sprite of a woman, as she efficiently scythed her way through the enemy soldiers as if she were preforming her daily kata with the straw targets. Only... straw targets never spurted blood, screamed or thrashed about on the ground like these troops did. She wielded a sword in one hand and an odd shaft with a hooked blade on the end of it in the other. He watched her duck a spray of paniced automatic rifle fire, kick a advancing attacker behind her in the throat, swing the wicked hooked blade through a exposed neck and straightened just in time to swing both weapons to neatly decapitate the last man standing near her.
Lifeline suddenly noticed the lack of gunfire and blinked. Beach's voice was a distant roar in his ears as he tried to process the mayhem he'd just witnessed. Jinx's red clothed slender form was racing across the open area as she caught up with them. The noise around him hummed and ebbed in nonsensical tones as he watched the deadly ninja... ninja, which he finally understood was a real term to be used for a certain type of human trained to be beyond a walking death reaper... watched her approaching at a run.
Someone grabbed his shoulder and shook him, shouting in his ear that some corpsmen were taking his patient and he nodded rather numbly. He regained his feet and gathered up the medical supplies to tuck into the bag automatically. A hand grasped his arm and he looked at the red cloth of the sleeve, noting the blood splashes blending into the color. His eyes rose to Jinx's rather pleased expression. She said something to him and he just stared at her for a moment.
Suddenly time rushed in and her words were audible to him again. "Medic Lifeline.. are you okay?"
He nodded at her. "I'm fine... you really... I mean.." His hand came up to wave in the direction of the bodies sprawled on the ground where they'd fallen. Mercifully, they'd all stopped twitching finally. "You.. I didn't think that... that you were really.."
"Ahhh.. the little gaijin believes in ninja, now, does he?" She put a hand on his helmet to wiggle his head around fondly. "We all told you. Now you believe in ninja." She stepped back and finished wiping the sword blade clean before slipping it back into it's sheath on her back.
"There is no person on earth that could be a better fighter than you are, Jinx." Lifeline spoke honestly. "I don't think I've ever seen anything like that.. I won't ever see a fight that is more violent or more graceful in my entire life. I didn't know it was so real."
His praise seemed to both embarrass and please her and she shook her head dismissively. "Ahh.. you flatter me. But I couldn't save people's lives like you do.. only end them... in many varied ways.. but they are all ending. But Sensei SnakeEyes is more of a master than I hope to be." She suddenly straightened up to dart away at a yell from Stalker. The group was moving out and Lifeline grabbed up his bag to follow behind, still shaking his head as he wondered why she was so self-effacing. No matter how good a fighter SnakeEyes was.. he didn't believe he could possibly be better than what he'd just witnessed.
"Lifeline! Move it!" BeachHead sounded annoyed and the medic put on a burst of speed, rushing to catch up. "Don't go fallin' behind, you dang medic... Destro's around here. Cobra would love to pick off a medic. With yer 'please-shoot-here' outfit, ain't like it'd be too hard to spot ya." Lifeline nodded and settled into place just to the side of the Ranger who was the rear guard of the whole group.
"Yes sir.. I'll keep up!" Lifeline was treated to a highly annoyed look from the Sergeant major.
"Ya know.." Beach ducked slightly as they cut through a half destroyed fenceline. "If'n ya weren't so danged useful, I'd trip yer ass fer callin' me sir yet again... ain't ya never gonna learn?"
They rushed through the streets, dodging to keep mostly under cover where they could. When a white figure dropped from seemingly nowhere into their midst, everyone scattered. One of BeachHead's greenshirts was taken down with a blindingly fast attack, and Lifeline turned to head to try to help him. Stalker slammed an arm into his way.
"Look out!... keep out of the way!" The ebony skinned Joe threw his rifle up barely in time to deflect a sword stroke from taking off both their heads. Lifeline whirled trying to keep track of the ninja's movements. Stalker knocked him aside again, yelling loudly. "StormShadow! Surrender now!" He blocked another slice with the stock of his rifle. It split from the force of the blow leaving Stalker with a unusable weapon. Instead of finishing his opponent, the ninja suddenly leapt up onto the brick wall of the building behind them. An instant later bullets impacted where he'd been standing. "Down!" Lifeline was shoved again, tumbling to the side just as a handful of bright ninja stars flickered past his head.
StormShadow was delicately balanced on the thin bit of brick ledge on the building nearly fifteen feet up. More frighteningly, his hands were full of steel blades, a thin katana sword in his right hand, with slender throwing blades between the fingers of his left hand. "Surrender to such a weak group of Joes? More likely for me to forfeit a battle with the local Girl Scouts!"
"Girl Scout this!" BeachHead's growl barely preceded a hail of gunfire as he emptied a full clip of ammunition into where the ninja had been only a millisecond beforehand. Stormshadow dropped from building to ground and then almost on top of BeachHead. He quit firing and dove to the side, rolling desperately to get out of range before the ninja reached him.
"Rolling in the dirt suits you..." StormShadow wasn't even breathing hard. He stabbed once, twice, three times, as the Ranger scrambled out of the way. To Lifeline, it was obvious he was merely toying with his victim. The sword tip penetrated the cloth over a shoulder, making BeachHead yelp in pain. The ninja herded him towards a wall, intent on trapping him.
Stalker leveled his handgun at StormShadow's back cursing loudly. "StormShadow!" Before Lifeline could even blink, the ninja seemed to blur as he twisted to run to the side, stepped up onto the wall then swung around to kick the pistol out of Stalker's hand. He watched the katana's blade swing in a smooth arc towards Stalker's head even as he tried to stumble backwards frantically.
Instead of the expected meaty thunk of the blade chopping through human flesh, there was a loud clang of metal hitting metal and SnakeEyes stepped closer to bind the sword blades together and push his opponent further from his teammates. StormShadow backed off but then stepped forward in a whirling attack on the black-clothed Joe, his sword flickering as it reached for tender flesh, blocked repeatedly by SnakeEyes' own blade.
"You've improved since we last fought." StormShadow suddenly backflipped out of range as SnakeEyes attacked. "Seeing you use the Arashikage techniques against me will only harden my resolve to see you beaten and bleeding under my foot." A flicker of movement and a sharp pointed ninja throwing star was deflected by SnakeEyes' blade. "Am I pressing you too hard? Perhaps I should tie a hand behind my back to make this easier for you... getting slow without a proper sparring partner?"
Lifeline saw quick movement of the Joe ninja's hands as he answered in sign and StormShadow sneered at him. "Yes, apprentice.. I'm just sooo very proud of both of you. It'll make me feel terribly guilty when I kill you both someday." SnakeEyes seemed to leap impossibly high to close with his opponent and they clashed, swords being the least of the attacks they utilized. A stray throwing star impacted the wall over Lifeline's head and some sort of pointy spike thing tumbled aside after StormShadow did something rather uncannily fast with his left hand while trying to strangle SnakeEyes with the other. The two ninja seemed inhumanly quick and bonelessly agile as they swarmed each other, changing position too quickly for anyone to be able to interfere or intervene. StormShadow tumbled backwards turning a fall into controlled roll and popping to his feet into a fighting stance without any apparent effort. Without warning, he turned and sprinted at the brick wall BeachHead was standing against trying to get a bead on the Cobra ninja. The Ranger fell over trying to avoid getting skewered again and cursed as the ninja ran straight up the wall without pausing to disappear over the top edge.
SnakeEyes started towards the building only to be stopped by Stalker's hand on his arm. "Let him go, Snakes.. we have other things to get done." The team leader shouted at them all. "Get up.. let's get moving, we have to get into place to back up Flint or he'll be overrun! BeachHead! You okay?"
The stocky Ranger looked up at the empty roof and swore once more. "Yeah.." He felt at his shoulder and frowned at the blood on his fingers. "It's a flesh wound, I'm fine." He gathered up the greenshirts and jerked his head at Lifeline still sitting on the ground where Stalker had pushed him. "Get up Medic! What's wrong with you?"
"I... they... " Lifeline blinked at him, still trying to process the flashing images of blades and thrown weapons and kicking and murderous efforts to destroy each other he'd just witnessed. "Ninja?"
Dusty gave him a little push to get him moving, a sympathetic smile on his face. "We know how it feels.. just tell yourself how nice it is that we have two ninja on our side. Doesn't help much, but just enough to keep me from hiding under my bed every night, anyway."
Lifeline nodded and struggled to put the sight out of his mind and run faster. They were close to the refinery and he saw the fenceline. BeachHead looked at it as the group turned a corner and he shouted up to Stalker. "Cut the fences here?"
Stalker turned slightly to shout back, but didn't stop. "No, let's not give Cobra a ready-made opening we'll have to defend. Gates are just up here.." He waved Leatherneck forward, pointing for Uban and Dusty to flank to the side as much as possible. "Keep watch, Destro is around here somewhere."
"Indeed Joes! Destro is here!" The Cobra second-in-command sounded confident and smug. He stood on a squat heavy tank, the sunlight glinting off the strange metal mask covering his entire head. Lifeline stared, getting his first look at one of the Cobra leaders in person. "My Iron Grenadiers will destroy you! You will be crushed underneath the wheels of our Razorbacks!"
Lifeline stared and then was abruptly shoved to the side. Before he could protest the rough treatment, he heard the shots ringing out as they came under fire from snipers up on the top of a nearby building. He ducked down and scrambled to the side just as a ten man unit popped up from behind a low wall to attack them. It was troopers in gray armor and even as he dodged for cover, bullets hit around him with scary accuracy.
"Keep yer head down! Uban! Hill! Short-fuse! We need cover for Stalker and Dusty!" Lifeline twisted himself around behind his scant piece of twisted postal box, staring in horror as BeachHead left his own cover and charged towards a second group of attackers, firing as he ran. To the medic's surprise, the enemy fired at the stocky Ranger but missed hitting him as he ran a twisting path to a better firing position. Uban and Hill took the opportunity to find better cover themselves and began firing on the attackers. With three Joes keeping up a heavy rate of fire, Stalker and Dusty could find themselves proper cover from their precarious hiding spot they'd found when the attack began.
"GO! GO!" Uban shouted as she sighted in on Destro and made him dive for cover with her shots. She glanced to see if the two Joes had made it to cover and abruptly jerked and crumpled to the pavement in a limp heap. Lifeline scrambled up and ran towards her, heedless of the bullets whining and ricocheting around him.
"Uban!" A spray of bits of rock flew up into his face and he dodged and kept heading for her. He could hear the shouting and the gunfire and the rumbling vehicles but it was unimportant next to getting to his friend.
"Get that Joe!" A flurry of shots began to land around him and he raised a hand up to cover his head as if somehow his flesh and bone would block a speeding bullet. He heard BeachHead's angry bellowing and the Joes began firing wildly, trying to pin the Iron Grenadier troops down to prevent them from shooting at their reckless medic.
Destro's voice seemed all too close as some trick of the acoustics brought his angry tones to Lifeline's ears. "Take the Joes out, we need into the refinery now! The explosives have to be set INSIDE the refinery!"
Lifeline reached the slender unmoving body and grabbed her under the arms to drag her backwards as quickly as possible. "Please be okay.. Uban? Come on.. you're tough.. tough it up!" He ignored the lack of response as much as he ignored the gunfire around him. "Come on Uban... " He dragged her behind a bit of collapsed wall and laid her down carefully. "Let me see.. how bad are you hurt?" Tugging her helmet off carefully, he put a hand out, staring at the bloodied hair. "Oh no no..." Peering into her unseeing eyes and feeling for a pulse, he moaned softly. "Uban... no no..." He patted her blond hair gently, trying to think of something he could do to reverse death. He had a whole bag of medical gear.. and nothing in it would help a bullet through the brain. His friend's body lay in his arms and he sat helplessly, staring blankly at her peacefully relaxed face.
"Gawd dammit Lifeline.." BeachHead's arrival behind the cover was accompanied a flurry of bullets and a puff of dirt and dust as he slid to a knee next to the medic. "Whut the hell are ya doin'? Evac Uban and get back.." His eyes fell on the limp body and Lifeline's stricken expression. "Aww hell." He bent and placed rough fingers on her neck to be certain. "She's gone.. leave her.. "
"I'm not leaving her!" Lifeline resisted when Beach grabbed his shoulder and bodily lifted him to his knees. "She was my friend!" He struggled to wrench free of the powerful grip. "Let go!"
"She's dead.. ya can't help her.. we need ya. She don't need ya no more.. go.. GO! Damn ya pogue! Do yer damned job or Ah'll shoot ya mahself!" For an instant, the ingrained obedience and terror of the Sergeant major instructor made Lifeline leap to his feet to rush out into the battle.
He slammed to a stop just shy of exiting the cover. "No! NO!" He turned and stepped into Beach's face, letting the Ranger run into him and standing firm enough that BeachHead staggered back a step rather than plowing over him. "NO Damn you! You bastard! YOU sent her out there! She's dead! DEAD! I can't FIX dead!" He saw the amazing sight of BeachHead flinching back from him just a little bit. With that instant gone, the craggy face bent into a murderous scowl and the medic deflated. "I can't..."
"Gawd damn ya then... sit here." Beach shoved past him, rushing through flying bullets back into the fray, somehow dodging around the fate that claimed the fair-haired Uban only moments before. Lifeline backed up half a step and watched blankly as the Ranger threw himself back into the useless conflict, probably to get wounded for no real reason, so Lifeline could treat him and toss him back out to get wounded again, until he too was killed. The uselessness of the entire effort seemed to sap the medic's energy until he felt a supreme effort just to stay standing.
He watched the Cobra troops arriving to back up the Iron Grenadiers, the combined efforts pressing the Joes back behind the fenceline, although the Joe team was holding them off by sheer willpower, combined with a lot of firepower. Lifeline could see the device strapped onto one of Destro's Razorback vehicles, just waiting to have an opening. The device would cause most of the surrounding town and countryside to be obliterated, and only the GI Joe team stood between Cobra and their objective. Despite being outnumbered, the team was standing firm and even ferociously counter-attacking, putting themselves into the line of fire to prevent an atrocity from happening.
Lifeline suddenly gathered up his medical gear and slung his bag over a shoulder. Someone on his team could need him. When he poked his head out, he ducked back quickly as a stray bullet clipped the concrete next to him. Then he sucked in a deep breath and sprinted out towards the heaviest rate of fire. Someone would be bound to get wounded in the fray, he needed to be there when they did.
He crouched as someone lobbed a grenade rather close to him, the explosion sending bits of pavement flying. "Get under cover, Lifeline!" Stalker's yell made him give a wave of acknowledgment as he dodged around to scurry under cover next to the Ranger sergeant. "You're pretty ballsy to be running around out there with no gun."
Lifeline blinked to clear his eyes from the dust. "Well, a gun isn't going to block many bullets from hitting me, is it? I think body armor would be a better bet." His monotone delivery made Stalker give him a glance.
"I recall a few people telling you body armor was a good idea." Stalker fired a few shots off and then pulled out his communicator to call in to Flint. "We're holding, barely.. where's the reinforcements?"
Flint's voice came over the staticy connection. "Incoming in five minutes tops.. hold them back, if they get that thing inside the refinery we're all going to glow in the dark.. "
Stalker grimaced. "Yeah, right up until we disintegrate into our component atoms.. " He shifted to gain a better firing position and unloaded a clip at a oncoming Razorback, his bullets finding the front wheels and then the fuel lines. The explosion caused a short lull in the gunfire.
They both saw Dusty try to take advantage of the slackened firefight and make a run for a slightly better piece of cover. When he spun and went down, Lifeline could actually identify the fine red spray that erupted from his side. Stalker cursed behind him as Lifeline sprinted for the downed trooper. His chest tightened as he got closer until Dusty rolled over slightly, clutching at his chest and letting out a shriek of pain.
"It's okay.. I'm here.." He crouched and put a hand on the bloodied chest and had a flash of memory of preforming these same actions on the obstacle course so very very long ago. "Dusty, you're going to be fine..."
"Can't breathe..." The clutching hands were weak and Lifeline ignored them to search for the wound. The bubbles appearing made him clench his teeth. Dusty wheezed painfully. "Lifeline?"
"You have a sucking chest wound, Dusty.. don't worry, I'll take care of you.." A bullet clipped the heel of Lifeline's boot, making him jump. "First let's get you under some cover.." He bent to scoop both hands under Dusty's arms, dragging him backwards.. again.. reminiscent of the same actions preformed in training. If BeachHead saw him, he'd be certain to have some pithy comments to make sure he was reminded of why training was important. "Shut up BeachHead.."
"Whaa?" Dusty's voice had gone very low and he struggled to cough. Lifeline dragged faster and found some cover for both of them. Once they were safer, he wrenched open his pack and found a chest tube to insert. Each routine step of treatment went without issue, and Dusty was sooner groaning with more vigor as his wound was sealed up to prevent lung collapse. "Is it bad?"
Lifeline gave a reassuring smile. "Of course it's terrible, Dusty. You're so tough, it'd take something really horrible to actually knock you down."
"Shut up.. " Dusty still managed a weak grin. "You're too small to be smarting off at folks..."
"I am NOT short.. and if you don't start being nice to me, I might just forget the pain killers when you're in recovery. How's that for mean? Lie still, I'm going to get you an extrac.." Lifeline shifted to look out, rather astounded to see only a few people still fighting. Somehow the battle had ended without him noticing.. too engrossed in treating Dusty's wound to pay attention. The Joes had routed the Cobras, despite smaller numbers and the Iron Grenadiers with their heavy attack vehicles. Even as he watched, BeachHead directed a handful of greenshirts in capturing and securing the last small Cobra unit. He raised his voice, unsurprised when it cracked partway through. "I need a medical evac! Dusty is serious!"
He received some shouts assuring him that there was incoming transport and went back to check his patient. No one else on the field where he could see was serious enough for him to leave Dusty right now. He seemed stable but Lifeline would feel more comfortable when he saw the Joe soldier into a proper surgery. Dusty was reduced to moaning softly when WildBill arrived in a chopper to pick up the worst of the wounded. Stretcher arrived and the wounded corporal was secured in a litter and carried to the waiting Tomahawk.
Lifeline selected the wounded that needed to be airlifted out immediately, directing the others to be taken to the rear lines to the triage center. As he climbed into the chopper to ride with the worst wounded, he lifted his gaze finally to the tiny crumpled figure in the distance. There was already corpsmen gathering up her body, lifting it to a waiting bag. He knew by now, Joes took care of their own and everyone came home.. even when it was a final trip.
The choppers rotors revved up and the noise seemed to shut everything away from him, a wall protecting him and his charges from the reality of the battlefield. As they lifted off, he watched the figures moving around, taking care of all the details. He could pick out certain Joes as they preformed duties that were second nature to them after so long of living this strange life of battles and strange opponents. He'd been in firefights before, had experienced people shooting at him. Somehow the GI Joe team was different. It was more than following some vague orders. It was about saving... everything.
And he was part of it. His eyes tried to pick out the dark bag containing his friend on the rapidly dwindling field and failed. He'd failed to keep even his best friend safe. Lifeline could picture her grinning at him, some smart comment just fading off her lips as she teased. She'd accepted his beliefs. And.. his eyes widened slightly as realization dawned on him. And she had believed herself in the ideals of the Joe team, believed she could make a difference, and she'd made that difference in giving up her life for the goal of bettering the world.
A groan made him turn from the doorway. "Hey guys.. everyone doing okay?" He bent to check the first of his teammates. "Don't worry, I'll take good care of you..."
Back at the Pit.. many hours later...
Lifeline sighed and walked outside. The motorpool was bustling with people working on the vehicles. Some were tearing apart the damaged ones, others were doing basic checks and maintenance on the intact ones. Clutch was busy kicking a front fender while cursing loudly. His greenshirt assistant was standing off to the side out of the way, wincing at every kick and every curse equally. Lifeline walked through them unnoticed.
Out into the heat and the heavy handed breeze of the afternoon, he wandered down near the obstacle course. Not that he wanted to go there without having to, but there just wasn't much elsewhere to go. If he went to the hangers, he'd find the same frantic activity on aircraft as was happening in the motorpool. Everyone was busy taking care of the normal duties after a major operation. He was just off duty, ordered to go rest by Doc. He wasn't sleepy yet, the adrenalin still affecting his body. Downstairs where the rest of the team were trying to unwind and soothe themselves, he was treated to sympathetic looks, and mournful gazes as everyone had heard of Uban's death. Lifeline took the one pleasure he had in letting the team know that Dusty would be fine. The well-liked desert trooper was a favorite for everyone and the relief was palatable as his welcome news was spread around the Pitt.
It wasn't really enough though and he'd gone up to the surface, craving the openness, and unable to deal with the stifling interior of their underground base right this moment. He walked past the heavy wall blocking the obstacle course off from the rest of the field.
"Go away.. dammit."
Lifeline lept up, startled so badly that he stumbled trying to move in two directions at once. "Holy.. BeachHead?"
"Ah said go away.."
The medic spotted BeachHead seated on the top edge of one of his climbing obstacles. "I didn't know you were out here.."
"Where else would Ah be?" The irritation was obvious in the deep accent. Lifeline edged closer, curiosity getting the better of his good sense. Despite the words, the tone wasn't the same commanding bark and the medic took a chance and stepped closer. "Whut do ya want?"
"Nothing.. I just.. I was walking.." BeachHead's face turned away again, as he went back to staring. Lifeline cast about for something to say. "Uhh.. Dusty is going to be fine."
That got the Ranger's attention. "Good. How bad was he?" His shoulders were hunched slightly, almost like he was tired and upset. That was patently ridiculous. This was BeachHead, Sergeant major, Ranger, Badass, Uncaring Unfeeling...
Lifeline cleared his throat. "He took a round through his right lung, but it wasn't damaged much, Doc got him all fixed up. It'll take a while before he's back to full active duty though.. don't think you'll be going to the infirmary at 5am to roust him out for PT or anything." He swallowed as he heard the harsh tone come into his voice. He was trying to make a light comment, not insult the big instructor. "I uhh.. I didn't mean.."
"Ah know whut ya think." BeachHead took a deeper breath and turned to look at him. "Fenicky, Hardwin, Smith and.. dang it.. Uban." He paused, and his face got hard. "That's four more sets of folks Ah gotta contact tomorrow."
Lifeline's sympathy evaporated without warning. "That's it? That's what you're worried about? That you have to be the one to contact the family? It's just another duty for you?" He stepped closer, heedless of the possible anger from the other man. He'd been pushed too far by life today, by death today, by Death. Someone had to be at fault, it couldn't be the uncaring universe. "Everyone on this team is just another tool to you.. just something to use, until they get too broken to use anymore." Frustrated by the lack of response, he experienced a unreasoning desire to push the man. "Why don't you care!"
BeachHead finally turned to look at him directly, reaching to pull off his balaclava, the dirty facemask still showing spatters of someone's blood, the dirt from where he'd taken a dive into a ditch ground into the line along his cheekbone. "Ya know whut Ah did when Ah got back to base?" He waited for Lifeline to shake his head. "Ah watched four a mah greenshirts being loaded onto a trolley to get taken to our morgue. Betcha didn't know we had one, did ya?" This time he didn't wait for a response. "Ah HATE bodybags. Ah trained 'em.. obviously not good enough, or they figured they done got good enough to not bother rememberin' how to act on a battlefield.. or just plain bad luck. Ah taught 'em, Ah led 'em, and damn if'n Ah'll let someone else bring 'em home. Now Ah gotta go write letters to tell their mommas that their kids done gone and got killed, and Ah can't even tell 'em how it happened. It's gotta be all 'in service to their country' crap." His voice roughened until he had to clear his throat.
Lifeline took the moment to speak up quietly. "Isn't there someone else?"
BeachHead snorted. "Yeah.. Duke used to just let the office staff send a notice. Flint took over and started sendin' form letters. Ya think that their families deserve to get a form letter and a box of ashes? Ya think that properly respects yer teammates?"
"No, I guess not."
Beach sighed and suddenly deflated. He didn't look like the impressive drill instructor, or the fearsome Sergeant major. Just a very tired dirty soldier. "Ah figured you'd understand better than most.. considerin' yer line a work." He reached up and scratched at his dirty jaw.
:Actually... I do. I worked really hard... because I guess I felt like if I worked hard enough I could keep all my friends safe on a battlefield." Lifeline sighed.
Snorting loudly, Beach rubbed one hand over his scuffed up hair. "Well now.. that's just stupidity if'n Ah ever heard it."
Bristling, Lifeline clamped his jaw shut on the heated response and walked over to seat himself next to Beachhead to his surprise. "Why is that stupid?"
"Well dang it, Steen." Beach looked down at the smaller man and saw what he'd been hoping for since the first glance he'd taken at a skinny bewildered medic. He saw a strong-willed, driven man willing to put everything on the line for the team. He liked what he saw and felt like this was finally someone he could trust his troops to. "Ya can't save all of them, ya know."
Almost as he expected, the face turned to look at him, a hard gaze and a mature determination gleaming out at him. A finger came up and pushed those ridiculous shaded glasses back into position on his nose. "No? Well..." He looked out across the field where the sun was finally starting to set. "Well... I can damned sure try."
Yes, done. This has been the story of our favorite pacifist medic. I hope that you've enjoyed it and that it's been satisfying. It's been a long time getting it all written, and I feel like I've told the story as best I can, and that I've stayed true to the characters. Who doesn't like the most awesome medic in GI Joe? Lifeline rocks.