an internationally recognized distress signal via radiotelephone
"Mayday! Mayday! This is Cougar 6781 Med-Evac requiring immediate assistance." The frantic voice crackled over the cross country intercom.
"Cougar 6781, this is air control tower 878, please state your emergency."
"Control tower, we've lost power in engine one, require emergency landing!"
"Stand by 6781."
"Standing by…Matthews, localise that power relay, Jenkins warn passengers, get the patients secured this ain't gunna be pretty, Terrenine, you-."
"Cougar 6781 this is control. Come in 6781."
"This is 6781."
"How much longer can you withstand flight, 6781?"
"No more than five minutes, we're loosing power on all frequencies. Repeat, require emergency landing!"
"Stand by, 6781."
"Standing by…again." Frantic activity ripped through the cock-pit. "Matthews, get that back! Terrenine, get back here, strap yourself in and take the mishtink."
"Cougar 6781 you are cleared for landing, co-ordinates 6134.23. Can you make it, 6781?"
"We'll try Control. 6134.23. Care to tell us the final destination?"
"6134.23 Confirmed, 6781. Safe landing at Rhode Island."
"Duly noted, Control. Cougar 6781 out."
Through the dusky skies of the American coastline, the Cougar designated 6781 shot straight through a cloud barrier, the pilot furiously attempting to keep the nose from diving straight into the tarmac of the runway at the speed of sound.
"Air Control Rhode Island, this is Cougar 6781."
"Welcome to Rhode Island Control. Runway two, Cougar. How many crew?"
"Three med passengers, one patient, six crew. Many thanks, R.I. Control."
The plane hit the tarmac with more force than a buffalo in full gallop. The wheels screeched, the pressure snapping the chrome coloured supports. With a spark throwing crunch the entire plane smashed down onto its stomach, tail spinning out across the dead grass of Rhode Island Military Academy's second runway.
The resting place of Cougar 6781 was at the base of Rhode Island Control tower, the wings smashed to pieces, both their engines dead to the world, two passengers dead, four unconscious, one pilot dead, the rest of the crew in intensive care. That made for nine patients, only one of which had been a patient in the first place.
The smell of disinfectant hit his senses first, letting the light burn through his eyelids on a close second. He scrunched his eyes shut tighter, Jesus his head hurt. Swallowing thickly, he weakly attempted to open his eyes. What had woken him….wait what was the last thing he remembered?
The hot, baking sun grilling his skin in an impromptu barbeque, the grit beneath his fingertips as he dragged himself forward. There was no release from the torture, nothing to stem his parched throat or stop the dull throb against the back of his skull. Dark, sticky mass against the base of his neck, quickly dried by the unrelenting blazing fireball. How could something millions of miles away be causing so much suffering? The sand, coming up to meet him as he fell. Hat gone. Water gone. Gun gone. Platoon missing. Pain…no that was present. The only thing left as the darkness closed in like a blessed blanket of cold.
His blue eyes snapped open and he immediately regretted it. The light burned against his retinas, snapping his eyelids shut again.
"You know, you probably shouldn't do that." A quiet voice said from somewhere near his left elbow. With a stupendous effort the marine rolled his head on the soft - was that a pillow beneath his head? – pillow and attempted to squint his eyes open again.
A blurry figure came into focus, sitting back in a chair off to his left.
"Probably shouldn't do that either, doc told me just to let you rest." The voice was unfamiliar and…young. Now, he'd been in the marines for a good few years and there were plenty of youthful voices carried around in the barracks, but this was even more so.
"You really don't look so hot, can I get ya something?" The figure – at least he assumed it was the bleary, swimming figure talking as he couldn't seem to focus – asked.
This was all far, far too confusing. Rest sounding good about now.
He slipped back into rest.
The figure leaned back in his chair with a sigh.
"So much for company." He muttered to himself, drumming long fingers on the wooden arm of his borrowed chair. A figure opened the curtain which had obscured the rest of the ward from this particular bed, glancing over at the chair.
"You still here, DiNozzo?"
The boy shrugged. "Got ordered to make sure he doesn't lapse into a coma."
"Your DI hate you or something? Put you on concussion watch, that's harsh." The young doctor picked up the chart at the end of the bed, flicking through the scribbled notes.
"Ya don't have to remind me, Doctor Preston." DiNozzo muttered, resuming his drumming.
"So, what's changed with Sergeant Gibbs?" The doctor turned to the young RIMA solider, taking a pen out of his top pocket.
"Woke up a few minutes ago, then went back to sleep, done it twice in the past hour. Most interesting thing going on here." The boy sighed, glancing at the sleeping marine with his head bandaged and his beeping machines monotonously telling him that, yes, he was still alive.
"Well, if he wakes up again, properly, give me a shout." Doctor Preston replaced the chart and exited, pulling the curtain closed behind him.
"Looks like it's just you and me again, Sergeant." DiNozzo griped, slouching slightly in the chair. "Well, I guess this is a one sided conversation, but that does mean you can't complain. I'm Tony, Tony DiNozzo, Lance Corporal Tony DiNozzo to be exact, but who's looking on formalities, eh? Oh…kay. So, I'm here to make you keep living or something like that, kinda drew the short straw there, didn't I? I mean, you're like a marine, you don't just lapse into comas and stuff. Nah, too boring for you guys.
So, I bet you're wondering 'why me'. I'm thinkin' that too. See, I'm on my medical rotation, it's my third year here and I gotta learn all the ropes of…life maybe? So…yeah, I got picked. We all got given some invalid from the plane crash. Sweet crash too! We saw it from the barracks, they got you all out before the whole thing went up in this massive fireball. Got told the flight was from the front lines, that true? Why d'you get sent back, well, the head thing of course, how'd you get that? Was it in combat or something, that would be awesome, hand to hand with the enemy and you get conked on the head, or did ya get gun whipped, that can kill ya know, gettin' gun whi-."
"Shut up." A weary voice cut through the monologue, drawing the young mans eyes towards the bedridden individual, the marine'e eyes still closed.
"Uh, does this count as you being awake, 'cos I have to get Doc Preston if you are. Are you awake?"
"No." The reply came.
"Oh…then maybe you should rest? I dunno what you're supposed to do with head traumas, I got my textbook over there but I find it works better as a door stop than actual bedside reading." Tony shrugged, shifting his feet to lean them against the mechanical railing beneath the bed. By the time he'd settled down his patient had fallen asleep.
The next appearance Sergeant Gibbs made to the world of the living was, once again, punctuated by the soft murmur of voices. The boys, the same doctors voices. Same people, he could deal with that.
"Tony, you have a phone call." Preston's voice was barely above a whisper, yet Gibbs couldn't make himself swing his head around and open his eyes, so he just listened.
"A phone call, from whom?" The boy answered his voice just as quiet.
"My…father." Gibbs noted the hesitation with a flex of confusion. "Uhm, d'you know what he's calling about."
"I'm a doctor, kid, not a secretary, if you use that phone press for extension five." The sound of footsteps moving off, the creak of a chair, click of a phone.
"Hello?...I'm well, Father, thank-you….Yes…I understand…Thank-you, Father…Yes, goodnight." The entire conversation took less than two minutes. The click of a phone and the repeated creak of the chair as the boy sat down again.
"Well at least he called in person." Was the only thing the usually overly talkative young man could say, his voice a dull shade of its usual exuberance.
With a sigh, Gibbs shifted his head across, blue eyes cracking open towards the deflated teenager. Tony flicked his eyes towards Gibbs, immediately sitting up.
"Sergeant Gibbs. I'll get a doctor."
But the boy had already scrambled to his feet to fetch the ever around Doctor Preston. He didn't return when the doctor appeared.
"Ah, Sergeant. How are you feeling?"
"Of course you are," Preston mumbled, a doctor's brand of sarcasm.
Preston's examination was quick and thorough, and silent. Preston snapped off a medical glove with a decided click.
"I have a feeling you may be slightly confused, may I explain?"
Gibbs nodded curtly.
"Your Med-Evac lost power from one engine on your way to Bethesda. The nearest place to land was here, at Rhode Island Military Academy. The landing didn't exactly go smoothly and most of the crew either didn't survive or are in here for observation. Here being the medical centre of RIMA, obviously. You have a concussion but you should make a complete recovery. Now, if you need anything ask for me, I'm doctor Preston, but we're more informal here. Jason. Tony, the boy who's been assigned to you, he'll be around if you need something. Does this make sense?"
Gibbs nodded curtly.
"Good. I'll just run through some routine questions. Can you tell me your name?"
"Gunnery Sergeant Jethro Gibbs."
"Good, and the date?"
"Uh, nineteenth? December."
"Hmn, fair enough you have been travelling, it's the twenty third of December."
Christmas eve tomorrow?
"I suggest you rest, Sergeant Gibbs, I'll wake you up for another check soon."
The days went past in the same fashion. Wake up and check, get caught trying to get out of bed by the ever vigilant young man stationed by his bed, sleep. That was it.
By the time the twenty fifth had rolled around the entire ward was surprisingly empty. The only remaining occupants were himself, his 'watcher', Doctor Preston and the injured pilot who seemed still to be in a coma.
Gibbs chose a moment when Tony hadn't arrived in the morning and Preston was scouting about something in his office. He slid out from under the covers, grabbing the scrub pants which had been left clean pressed for Preston by a maid.
The corridor leading out from the ward was short and lead straight to industrial wooden doors. Outside snow was swirling in an endless torrent, a weak winter sun peaking through dense cloud cover. Gibbs took a deep breath, the lad coat he'd also grabbed little protection against the winter onslaught.
Still, it felt so good to be outside again. He did very, very badly when cooped up inside somewhere, it felt like a prison.
The entire place was empty, barren. A long, spreading sports field was covered in a sheet of snow and slipping ice, beyond the outlines of a shadowed assault course iced with laden snow. The concrete paths were hardly touched, only one set of foot prints leading in and out from the building, even the railings leading down the stone steps from the infirmary were topped with a small hedge of the white powdered material.
Steam spread out from Gibbs breath as he took a deep inhale of America. It seemed so long since he'd been here, on this soil. He'd get out of here soon, head back down to Washington, see his girls again. He hadn't called them yet, didn't want them to worry. It was only a small concussion anyway, nothing to make a deal about, but he knew his Shannon, she would.
His musings were cut short by the sound of an engine spoiling the tranquil, quiet settings of the Christmas Eve morning. His blue eyes searched for the source of the noise, one dark eyebrow raising as a slick, shining black car turned the corner of the concrete path, its wheels slowly crunching over the fallen snow. The car was put into park gently, the engine dying in a soft noise.
The driver eyed Gibbs carefully as he stepped out, thick winter coat bundled around his tall frame.
"Sergeant Gibbs? Shouldn't you be resting?"
"Shouldn't you be at home for Christmas?" Gibbs countered easily, his voice vaguely scratchy. Tony considered this for a moment but finaly just shrugged.
"Touché." Gibbs took another breath of the fresh air that surrounded RIMA, watching the young man absentmindedly buff the side of the car with a sleeve.
"Nice ride, yours?" The marine asked casually, descending the steps towards the black car. Tony blinked.
"Yeah, she's mine. Took me three years to save up for her." The boy frowned. "You know you're not wearing any shoes right?"
A smile quirked the side of Gibbs' mouth. "I had noticed."
"Okay, well I'm going inside because I'm normal and therefore cold. You should too in case Doctor Preston has a coronary because you've snuck out. He told me if I did it again he'd tie me to the bed and I don't think he's lying. He's not one for all the jokes and stuff." Gibbs registered that under 'hmm, interesting'. Tony shrugged, locking the elegant muscle car and making his way up the steps. Unexpectedly, Gibbs followed him.
"So, what make of car is she?" The marine struck up a conversation as they made their way along the corridor.
"Jemima? She's a 1971 Dodge Challenger RT."
"…Jemima." Gibbs raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah, Jemima." Tony smiled to himself, "Bought and restored her myself." He shoved his hands in his pockets, pushing the door open with a shoulder.
"DiNozzo!" A voice shouted, causing the boy to wince involuntarily. Another item for the 'hmm, interesting' filing cabinet.
"What the hell were you thinking, taking the Sergeant outside, he's still in recovery. Good Lord, boy, haven't you been taught anything." Doctor Preston stormed out of his office, his face dark.
"Doc, I didn't. I found him out there."
"Yeah, because he escaped. He's not you, Anthony."
"Doctor Preston. I escaped."
This'll just be a little short one, who knows where the ideas come from but, ah well, it's just gunna be a few chapters anyway!