Meanwhile back at the 4077th...

This story takes place while Frank Burns, Hawkeye Pierce, BJ Hunnicut, Radar, and Col. Potter are stranded and lost returning from a medical conference. With all the doctors away, what would the 4077th do if wounded came in? Here's a thought.

Maj. Margaret Houlihan is just finishing up the daily duty roster. She smiled, thinking they should all be fairly pleased with it. Nurse Able got the night off and so did Bigelow. Only Nurse Anderson, Kellye and Baker had anything to do and that was to go back over inventory to double check to see that they were completely stocked on all necessities. The three of them, working together should have it done in no time.

Margaret was quite pleased with herself. Although she would never admit it out loud, she did care deeply about what her nurses thought of her. Maintaining the respect she required to perform her job was a must, but her feelings for the women in her charge went beyond that. They were her responsibility and she was very protective, even if they really wouldn't know that.

Yes, it was true that she worked them hard, no harder than she worked herself though, and she was proud of that fact. Margaret knew she only wanted them to be the best they could be. They would probably never know that any time there was a concern of an enemy ambush, her first thought was of them. She would voice her rather loud concern that the well being and safety of her nurses had better be the top concern of their commanding officer.

She got up and walked out of her tent and across the compound to the bulletin board where she posted it. Trying to act as though she didn't notice, she hardly glanced as all 5 women practically ran over to the board. There was only one last thing to do before heading off to bed. She had to check to see if the men had returned yet or not, she assumed they had since the two 8063rd doctors had just up and left on their own.

Klinger was sitting at Radar's desk writing something down on a clip board, in a nice pink strapless gown. She asked him, "Corporal, have the doctors returned yet?" His outfit was one of the more outlandish ones and she tried to hide her exasperation as she asked, he still caught it though.

He looked up and smiled, "Not yet, Major." Then he went back to writing.

Margaret was concerned at that point. She had assumed they would be back at 1600 hours, or 4pm. That was what they had called to tell them that morning. Trying not to sound upset she said, "What do you mean, not yet? They should have been back 3 hours ago? Where are they? Captains Dudley and Henderson already left to go back to the 8063rd!"

Klinger shrugged and said, "All I know is they aren't back yet. I'm sorry major, but that's all I know."

Margaret wasn't satisfied. She went into major mode then and said, "Well don't just sit there...get on the horn and call around. Find out why they aren't back yet."

Klinger looked at her and could see the concern written all over her face. He just really hadn't thought too hard about it, until that moment. Both of them knew the dangers in traveling so close to the front lines. Heck, even camp wasn't safe all the time with snipers firing and shells going off every once in a while. So he told her, "Yes sir! I mean, ma'am." He tried to salute and then went about trying to call out.

Margaret then went into Potter's office. She took a deep breath and then decided to fill out the daily report in Potter's behalf. It would take her a little bit longer to get to bed, but it was her duty. She was the officer of the day, as the ranking officer in camp and someone must fill these out. She had figured that Potter would fill out today's but he had not returned with enough time to actually be the commanding officer for the day.

After getting it typed out, which took about 30 minutes, two of her nurses came in the office, Kellye and Baker. Kellye told her as Baker handed her the forms, "Ma'am we went through everything and the only thing we are low on is adrenaline..."

Margaret took the form and said, "Ok, so it looks like we need to order a little more. Its not low, low, but not according to regulation. Everything else looks good."

After looking it over she handed the forms back to Baker as Kellye said, "Yes ma'am. Is there anything else you needed from us?"

Margaret then said, "No, Lt. that's all for now. I would like to know if my nurses will be in camp or at Rosie's though."

Baker then said, "Well...I know Able and Bigelow are over there now and Anderson just left. We were thinking of heading over there ourselves..."

Kellye then added, "There are no patients in post op or anywhere else. Are the doctors even back yet?"

Margaret looked down for a second and then said, "No, they aren't." She looked back at the women who looked worried for a second and then said, "Look, I don't mind you girls going over there, but do not get drunk..." The two women looked at her and she continued before they could say anything, "Until the men return, ladies, may I remind you that we are the only ones in camp with medical training. Should we get casualties, we would be their only source of any treatment..."

Baker then said, "Ma'am, we can't treat wounded..."

Margaret shook her head and said, "Now I don't expect wounded, but we must be on our guard. We are only 5 miles from enemy lines!" She was gesturing with her hands again. "The doctors should return any minute now, but Captains Dudley and Henderson have already left. Right now we are the only ones in camp with medical training." Then she relented, "When the doctors do return, I'll be sure to send a couple of them over to Rosie's to let you know they're back, alright? Then, as long as you are able to function in the morning without a hangover, whatever you do is your business."

Kellye and Baker smiled at each other, knowing exactly which two doctors would be making the late night house call, saluted and left.

Margaret sat at the desk for a minute and thought to herself, 'What if this were mine?' Her hands ran over the wood and then thought to herself again, 'What if I were the one running this camp, for real.' Klinger then burst in and she thought in that second, 'I'd have to deal with Klinger trying to get a section 8 everyday, no thanks.'

Klinger's almost panic didn't quite register with her right away. He blurted out, "Ma'am...I mean major...I got a hold of I Corps and they said Col Potter and the rest of them left right after lunch. They should have been in 3 hours ago!"

Margaret had to hold her emotions in. This was not good news. Every doctor in camp was missing. Even though she was not terribly close to all of them yet, especially Potter and Hunnicut who had just arrived, she still worried about them. She thought in that second about Frank and Radar, but thought more about Hawkeye. Sure she had been involved romantically with Frank since practically when the war started as they arrived together. He had been so comforting on the plane as she made her way to Korea in the first war she had even been a part of. She was scared and he had been really nice and seemed so courageous and disciplined. He had seemed so that is.

Hawkeye though was who her thoughts lingered on however. They could hardly be called friends that first year, but in the last few months, things had changed. She couldn't pinpoint it, but her feelings for and about him had changed. Margaret still saw him as the most undisciplined army officer she had ever seen, but she had discovered that he did have a sense of discipline and duty, to his patients and life in general. There wasn't anything he wouldn't do for a patient to see him survive, even if he didn't like the person or it was the enemy.

Margaret had to hold herself together now. She told Klinger, "Alert the M.P.s so they can get out patrols. Then I want you to call I Corps just to make sure we won't be getting any wounded. Make sure they understand that our doctors have not arrived yet and we have patrols out looking for them. See if you can't get Dudley or Henderson back." Klinger seemed to gulp as he nodded. Margaret didn't want him to spread fear or panic, she also didn't want him to worry either so she told him, "Don't worry, Klinger. They'll probably come through the door as you are on the phone with the M.P.s"

Klinger then took a deep breath and said, "Yes Ma'am. I'll get on the phone right away and you're probably right." He shrugged and then said with a smirk, "As soon as I get half the army looking for them, they'll come waltzing in with bragging about taking the scenic route on the way back." He then turned and left.

Margaret smiled and decided to leave the office. As she walked past him she said, "Let me know if you hear anything or if they do wander in. I'll be in the Mess Tent choking down some bad coffee." He looked up for a second and she hesitated, "You want me to bring you one back?"

Klinger looked at her surprised for a second. This was more like the Major Houlihan he had worked with at the Aid Station a few months ago, not the bossy major that seemed to reside here. He was grateful and told her, "No thank you, ma'am, but thanks for asking." She nodded and left.

It wasn't terribly cold this time of year, but it wasn't sweltering hot either. She put her hands in her olive drab jacket and headed into the Mess Tent. Igor was gone for the day and she couldn't blame him. After serving what he called dinner, she wouldn't wait around either for the reviews. The coffee container still had coffee in it, albeit cold and several hours old. She took a cup and poured herself enough, then sat down to put obscene amounts of sugar in it to get it down.

As she drank it she thought, 'I'm still the commanding officer.' She shook her head, 'They should have been back hours ago. What if they were hit by shell fire or sniper fire.' She put her head down and found her drink of coffee harder to swallow. Where were they? They could bleeding, dying on the side of the road for all she knew? She thought about each one from Radar, who shouldn't be old enough to see any of this, to Potter who had seen enough of it, to B.J. who should be seeing his daughter growing up, not this place, to Frank who seemed too eager to be here to Hawkeye.

Her feelings for Hawkeye had changed so much in the last few months. She felt herself drifting further and further away from Frank and closer to him. Although she couldn't say exactly when this transformation occurred, she suspected it was most evident when she, Klinger and Hawkeye had gone to the Aid Station. Again, this was one instance when she proudly protected her nurses. When Henry Blake had asked for volunteers, there was no question. No way would she allow one of her nurses to take on so dangerous a task. The others seemed less willing, but once they all arrived, they three worked together so closely that it was like they were a well oiled machine. Even Klinger had been the model of efficiency and caring as he took the role of nurse.

Margaret almost chuckled to herself as she said softly to herself, "I never thought I'd think of Kilinger as such an efficient and dedicated nurse. Although I will say, he tries to pull off the outfit." She then chuckled just a little bit.

Her revelry was broken by that same man as he burst into the tent. "Major, ah, ma'am, I just got off the phone with I Corps..."

Margaret put the cup down and asked as she could see how rattled he was, "Well...out with it."

Klinger then said, "Ma'am they said to expect heavy casualties. Some two star got his men in too deep on a hill about 5 miles from here. They said to expect the first wave in about 3 hours cause its gonna take that long to get them out..."

Margaret got on her feet, "Three hours! Klinger did you tell them we don't have any doctors?!" She had that shrill in her voice.

Klinger then said almost as loud, "Yes, ma'am, I tried to explain, no doctors. But they said Potter and everybody else had signed out at 1300 hours and that meant they would be back here at 1600 hours and that by their math that was 300 hours ago."

Margaret was exasperated, shocked and scared senseless all at the same time. She asked, "Well, did you tell them that they aren't? That we don't have them, we have no surgeons, the ones who perform the operations?" She was gesturing again.

Klinger answered, "I tried, I did, but it was no use! I told them we had reported them missing! That they should have that in their records."

Margaret then asked, "And what did they say to that?!"

Klinger answered, "They asked if I filed at MIP-3356 in triplicate and had it approved by General Clayton and..."

Margaret pushed past him and said, "I know the song, I've heard it before." She kept almost ranting as Klinger followed her, "Listen, round up all my nurses and have them meet me in Potter's office in 20 minutes. They're at Rosie's. Get Igor to get some more coffee on and orange juice on stand by. Get all other enlisted after that and have them meet me in the Mess Tent in 30 minutes. Oh, and get Father Mulcahy and have him meet me in 10..." She turned to him as he seemed to be counting on his fingers, "Got it?"

He nodded his head, "Igor now, the father in 10, the nurses in 20 and everybody else in it!"

She nodded and then told him as he started to walk off, "Klinger... ah...not that I don't love that dress, but given that we could be facing a disaster here...I suggest something a bit shorter and more military, like fatigues?"

He knew what she was saying, trying to be nice but at the same time letting him know they were in for one heck of a night. He smiled and said, "I'm glad you like it and yes ma'am, I'll change right away."

She got back into Potter's office and got on the phone herself. Maybe she could talk some sense to those directing traffic sorta speak. I Corps proved as inept as ever and wouldn't listen to her explanation of doctor shortage. The C.O. at the 8063rd told her they were expecting casualties and couldn't spare anyone and that he just told a corporal the same thing. It seemed lost on him that they were expecting the same. Then she tried a few generals she thought might remember her. She was actively drifting further and further away from that part of her life, but she needed favors now. After talking to 4 of them and realizing that all they wanted was one thing, even as she was trying to relay how desperate the situation was, she slammed the phone down. "Jackass!"

It was at that moment Father Mulcahy walked in. She was startled and said, "Oh, sorry Father, I..."

Mulcahy walked in with his hands in his pockets and said, "No need, major. Klinger explained everything to me before leaving to get the nurses. Are we really going to be getting casualties when they know we have no doctors here to perform the operations?" She could see the concern in his eyes.

Margaret nodded and said, "It looks that way. I've been on the phone with I Corps, Aid Stations and a handful of generals I will never be speaking to again." She exhaled loudly and then said as she sat down in Potter's chair, "Father, if you do have any connections higher up..." She motioned to the ceiling, "I suggest you start calling in a few favors right about now."

Mulcahy took a deep breath and then said as he sat down, "Well..." He took off his hat, "It doesn't exactly work that way, but I will let Him know we could use some back up." He tried to smile and then asked, "So no one has heard from them?"

Margaret shook her head and tried to answer as confidently as possible, "No, they left just after lunch around 1pm and no one has seen them since."

She had to looked down for a second and Mulcahy told her, "Oh dear. Well, I'm sure they'll be alright. You know they could walk right through that door any minute now."

Margaret then said, "You know I told Klinger the same thing."

Mulcahy asked, "And did he believe you when you said it?"

Margaret thought for a second and then said, "Probably about as much as I believe it." She exhaled again. Then she went back into major mode, "Father, as the only two officers left in camp I think we need to plan a strategy for next few hours." He nodded and she continued, "Since we don't know if they're lost or run out of gas or..." She had to swallow hard before she said it, "or were captured, we have to prepare for the worst. I'm going to put my nurses in their tent, mandatory for the next two hours to get as much sleep as they possibly can before the nightmare begins after stocking the OR up good. I'll have Klinger trying to get through to the 8063rd again,hoping he has better luck this time, and 6055th along with the 121st to get any available surgeon here..."

Mulcahy then asked, "But the 121st is so far away. It will take hours for anyone to get here and the 6055th is further..."

Margaret then told him as she nodded, "I know, but a surgeon on his way is better than no surgeon at all. We need every available man we can get. I don't care if he's a podiatrist, as long as he's a doctor. In the meantime, I've gotten a loose agreement with the Aid Station to try to divert all serious cases to the 8063rd and the more minor ones to us. We can pack things tight and bind the wounds, administer IVs and whole blood or plasma like we do in triage until the doctors arrive if absolutely necessary. Anything that only requires stitches, we can handle ourselves."

Mulcahy then nodded and said after exhaling, "Well, it sounds like a plan." He then stood up and said, "What do you need from me?"

Margaret got up herself and told him, "I need you and Klinger to be my right hand. Klinger can direct the enlisted and I will need you helping in O.R. I think that's the best place to bind up wounds especially this late at night. We'll then move everyone we can to post op and wait for the doctors to arrive. As of right now, if you could round up all the enlisted personnel and have them in the Mess Tent, I'll be there in 10 minutes to talk to them."

He nodded to her leaving at the same time Klinger was ushering in the nurses. She told Klinger, "Klinger, thank you, now instead of rounding up the enlisted, get on the horn to the 8063rd, the 6055th, the 121st..."

Before she could say anymore he interrupted, "And beg and plead for a surgeon, any surgeon."

She nodded and said, "Right." The nurses looked at her with a growing sense of concern. Margaret started before they could ask, "As I am sure you are all aware, Col. Potter and our other doctors have yet to return from their medical conference. As it stands now, we are the only available ones with medical training, and I Corps has just informed us to expect heavy casualties in the next..." She looked at the clock, "two and a half hours." They started to looked at each other and were on the verge of panicking as she continued to hopefully avoid that, "Now I understand, probably better than all of you, how serious a situation this is. We have no doctors, no surgeons to perform what could be necessary operations."

Nurse Able asked rather shakily, "What are we gonna do? We can't operate?"

Margaret shook her head and then said, "No you can't operate, but you can bind wounds, administer blood and IVs as necessary, but only as necessary. If means a difference between life and death until the surgeons arrive. You can take a wet washcloth and put it to a soldier's head and ease his suffering. You can do anything a medic can do. I want all of you to head over to supply and double stock OR, that's where we'll be assessing patients. I don't want us to have to run to supply for anything. We are beyond short handed. I've made arrangements with the Aid Station to route all serious cases to the 8063rd and minor injuries to us. I'm hoping they won't send us anything we, as nurses, can't handle."

Kellye then asked, "Ma'am, once we get supplies to OR, then what are our orders?"

Margaret then told them, "After the supplies are brought over and everything is stocked, I want you all to report to your quarters to get a minimum of one hour of sleep. That's an order. I have no idea how many wounded to expect and you will need your rest. Dismissed." They all turned and hurried out.

Margaret then walked past Klinger who was shouting on the phone, "I don't care how long it takes, we need a doctor here now! We're gonna be hit with wounded and..."

She didn't need to hear the rest. Confident that Klinger was working hard, and finally in uniform, she went to the mess tent.

Father Mulcahy was standing on a table trying to get their attention. Margaret whistled really loud and then stood beside him. "Men, we are in a difficult situation. Our commanding officer and medical staff have yet to arrive from a medical conference. We have been informed by I Corps to expect wounded in the next two hours. Therefore, we will need all of your help."

Zale then asked, "What can we do? I'm in requisitions, not operations."

Margaret then answered as the others seemed to murmur in agreement, "I understand that sergeant, but we will need to work as a well oiled machine here. I need everyone's cooperation. You, sergeant can be in charge of getting the nurses anything they need either in OR where we will be conducting triage essentially or in post op, all the way down to cups of coffee or orange juice if they are needed. Most of the rest of you will handle the carrying of the soldiers being brought in as usual and transported as myself or my nurses direct. Klinger and Father Mulcahy here are also here to direct you. Any questions?"

They all shook their heads and she proceeded to tell them, "Alright then, outside of the two conducting patrols in camp, the rest of you are ordered to go to quarters and sleep. We could be in for a very long night and you will need all the rest you can get."

The men left, walking past Margaret and Father Mulcahy. He asked her, "Does that also apply to us?"

Margaret answered, "Absolutely, Father, go and get an hour at least. I'll check on Klinger and send him to bed too. If he's called all the surrounding MASHs I don't know who to call next."

Mulcahy then said, "I do hope that hour of sleep order applies to you as well, major."

Margaret patted his shoulder as they walked back out toward the office and told him, "No need to worry about me, Father. You just get some rest."

After informing her that no one could be spared from any unit in the surrounding area and telling her the aid station again promised not to send anything too serious, Klinger was told to sleep. As the camp slept, Margaret sat at Potter's desk with a hot cup of coffee. Igor had just left it after telling her a new batch was in and would be there as he took his hour. She just sat there and said softly, "Where are you guys?"