Saving Corporal Baird
AN: This is set somewhere between GoW1 and GoW 2. There is a fair amount of swearing in here, as there is in the game. I've done my best to get my medical information correct, but I'm not an expert by any means.
Marcus Fenix awoke in a hospital bed and knew immediately that their so-called routine patrol had been anything but. The smell of disinfectant was strong and other Gears lay on both sides of the room in utilitarian metal beds with green blankets spread over them. Most seemed to be injured badly enough that they weren't going to be leaving any time soon, but then these days even walking wounded were sent straight back into the field.
The memories returned slowly to him as he mentally assessed his injuries. He'd been on patrol with Dominic Santiago, Damon Baird and Augustus Cole when they'd hit a series of emergence holes and suddenly all hell had broken loose. They closed the first few with grenades, but by the time the last one opened up, they were all out. Baird had scavenged something to make things go boom, but it required a little tinkering time to make it work. Dom and Cole had gone to flank left while he had maintained covering fire, and Baird pulled together the explosive charge.
Baird shouted that he'd completed his task and was ready to throw, just as Dom and Cole made it to cover and opened fire properly. Marcus was pretty happy that this was going to work as planned, so he gave Baird the go ahead. Unfortunately none of them had seen the group of Diggers that had hidden themselves behind a ruined building. The first clue that they had was the trademark shout of "Dig!" as one of the monsters fired its weapon at them.
Baird threw himself sideways to avoid the impact of the explosion but it clearly dazed him. He was on his knees and the makeshift explosive, primed and about to detonate lay beside him. Marcus lunged for it and threw it at the hole, grabbing Baird and pushing him down and out of the explosion's radius as he did so. The hole was closed but the Diggers were still out there. Baird shook his head to clear it, and began pushing himself to his feet. Marcus got back into firing position, thinking that Baird was fine and back in the game, just as he heard another shout of "Dig!".
Dom and Cole were firing an unrelenting torrent of bullets at the Diggers, and a couple had gone down. The last missile had been fired towards Marcus and Baird though. It flew up and out of the ground, glancing off the side of a building before exploding in some nearby empty imulsion drums. Baird was too close and didn't seem to have got his wits about him enough to get down. Pieces of shredded metal ripped into his armour and exposed flesh. Marcus could already see blood pooling on the dirt beneath him.
"Baird's down," he shouted into his com, and began running towards the blond combat engineer. He was too occupied with getting to Baird to notice that another missile was heading towards their position. It leapt out of the ground and exploded in the air. The shockwave sent Marcus slamming into the wall, his head making contact hard. He stayed conscious just long enough to see the final Digger go down to Cole's bullets, and hear Dom shouting something over his com.
So it wasn't that surprising that he was feeling sore and in the hospital. Nothing seemed broken though, so apparently his armour had protected him. He looked around for a nurse and didn't have to wait long to find one.
"Sergeant Fenix, good to see you awake," said one of the medics as he approached. He was young and dark haired, wearing the uniform of the COG Medical Corps. "I'm Private Dorn and in charge of the ward." He picked up the chart at the end of the bed.
"Where am I?" asked Marcus, his voice even rougher than usual. He looked around him for the first time at the crumbling, ornate building in which he lay.
"Maran Field Hospital, used to be the Midas Casino and Hotel, but we've taken it over and it serves our needs. You had a concussion, bruising and a few scrapes that we've patched up. You should be fine to get back to your unit tomorrow." He barely even looked at Marcus as he spoke.
There was the sound of a far off explosion and the room shook. Some of the soldiers around the room moaned a little, perhaps scared or just in pain from the vibration, he didn't know.
"I came in with a Corporal Baird. Where is he?"
Dorn frowned. "Let me check."
He left the room and returned about fifteen minutes later.
"Still in surgery," said Dorn, as he finally met Marcus' eyes.
"Still?" he asked. "How long have I been out?"
Dorn checked his watch. "The two of you were brought in about six hours ago. I wouldn't hold out much hope for your buddy, he looked pretty bad and he coded once before they even got him into surgery. Plus he's B positive and that's a rare blood type around here. They'll be lucky if they can scrape together enough to finish the operation."
"That's my blood type, asshole," said Marcus, throwing back the covers and pointing to the inscription on his COG tags that gave his blood type. He'd truly never thought to ask what Baird's blood type was and hadn't realised that they shared the same one.
"You're not up to donating blood at the moment, Sergeant," said Dorn. "You certainly shouldn't be on your feet."
"Screw you, take some blood and get it to Baird or I'll find someone who will." Marcus stood and drew himself up to his full height. His imposing presence was enough to make Dorn pale, and he wasn't even wearing his armour.
"Yes, sir," said Dorn.
"Don't call me "sir"," ground out Marcus. "Get going Private."
"Yes, Sergeant." Dorn scuttled out of the room.
Marcus was glad of this because a wave of dizziness and nausea had just washed over him and he sat back down on the metal cot with a thump. He didn't want to lose his advantage and appear weak in front of Dorn. The dizziness stilled after a few moments and the sick feeling in his stomach passed. It was replaced with an understanding of the information which the medic had imparted before he left. Baird was in surgery, suffering from severe blood loss and his condition was critical. It sounded as if he wasn't expected to even survive the surgery to patch him up. Throw in Baird's fairly rare blood type and things weren't looking good.
The blond engineer had irritated him from day one when they met in the House of Sovereigns, but despite that he'd actually begun to regard Baird as a friend. He also had no idea how he'd break the news to Cole that his best friend hadn't made it if Baird died. That reminded him that he didn't know where Cole and Dom were, something else he needed to ask about.
He was cursing himself for not realising that Baird was still dazed from the first explosion and leaving him to protect himself, when Dorn returned. He held a needle and other things that were clearly for taking blood. A tall woman followed him. She was older and greying around the temples.
"I'm Doctor Hayman, I've just finished stitching your friend back together. He'll be out soon and as there's a slot in here, we're going to kill two birds with one stone. Private Dorn here is going to hook up a direct transfusion, assuming you answer these questions for me in the negative." She grabbed Marcus' chart and flipped a page over.
Marcus just gave a shrug and a nod.
"Do you have a cold or flu?" The doctor looked at him with piercing eyes, waiting for her answer.
"Do you suffer from any blood borne diseases, including sexually transmitted diseases?"
"Have you had a new tattoo in the last six months?"
"Have you been exposed to a Rust Lung patient in the last two months?
"What's Rust Lung?" asked Marcus.
"Something that you don't want to get. That's a no, then," said Hayman. "Fine, we'll hook you up to your friend and for his sake I hope you've answered truthfully. He doesn't have the time for me to screen you in the normal way."
Marcus was about to reply but some medics wheeled Baird into the room, and the sight of the usually animated engineer laid out on the gurney stopped him in his tracks. Baird was pale, almost white and wound in a range of medical monitoring devices. The most alarming thing was the tube that was down his throat. Marcus had only ever known ventilators used on the sickest of patients.
"Lie down, please, Sergeant," said Dorn, as he wiped an area of Marcus' skin ready for a needle to be inserted.
Another couple of medics were moving Baird gently onto the bed beside Marcus' own, and then hooking up transfusion equipment. Marcus could see Baird had a large dressing over his abdomen and bandages around his left arm and leg, the side closest to Marcus.
"He's a lucky man," said Hayman. "If you hadn't been here then I doubt he'd have a chance of surviving the recovery from the operation. He still may not make it, but another blood transfusion should help." She started checking over the various tubes and lines that ran into and from Baird's body.
"Yeah, he's had a real lucky day," said Marcus, sarcasm dripping from his words as he lay back to let the medic plug the tube from his vein into Baird's IV port. It took a few seconds for the blood to make its way down the clear plastic tubing, through some sort of pumping device and into the other man's arm.
"I'd advise staying still for a while, Sergeant Fenix," said Hayman. "I'm going to take a couple of pints from you and that isn't going to make you feel terribly good. However, you have the resources to replenish your own stocks at the moment, which Corporal Baird doesn't."
"Take what you need to, Doc," said Marcus.
He couldn't help but stare at Baird. He looked half dead, but the monitors told him, only slightly reassuringly, that he still lived. He'd prefer to check for himself, but that seemed out of the question for the moment. He was used to the sensation of blood loss; he'd had his fair share of battle wounds, so he was quite prepared for the weakness and general wooziness.
"What are his injuries?" asked Marcus.
Hayman wrote something on Baird's chart. "He has extensive internal injuries, that I have just spent several hours repairing, and a number of deep cuts to his extremities. Whatever it was that hit him broke into shards of metal that cut him to ribbons. Some of them were buried deep, but I got them all in the end. The worry is going to be the internal bleeding as the wounds heal, but I've inserted a drain and hopefully we can recycle the blood that we collect. We don't want to drain you dry, Sergeant."
"Yeah, I'd appreciate if you left me enough to keep my heart beating," replied Marcus.
"Don't worry, dead Gears don't look good on our books and the Chairman is adamant that he needs every single one of you alive," replied Hayman, dryly.
"Good to know," said Marcus, settling into his pillows.
Doctor Hayman and her medics left and Marcus found himself getting tired. He fell asleep to the sounds of Baird's heart monitor, the whoosh of his ventilator and the thud of distant explosions from the outside world. When he awoke, the blood transfusion had been disconnected and although he felt as bad as Hayman had predicted, Baird did seem to have a little more colour to him. Nothing else had really changed though, except that it was now morning. The Gears in the other beds were either sleeping or talking in quiet voices.
Marcus asked if there was any way that he could contact his unit, their unit he corrected looking at Baird. Dorn said he'd try to get a communication through to Anya Stroud at HQ, but he couldn't guarantee anything because the coms had been on and off for the last week. Orders for medical supplies came first and lists of personnel second. Dom and Cole would be worried about them if they didn't know what was happening and there had to be a reason why they weren't here. Normally one of them would have waited to see how bad the injuries were, this was by no means their first trip to a field hospital. The difference being that on all the previous occasions the patch up job had been rapid and they'd left the same day.
The extra blood loss meant that Marcus was staying for at least another day and maybe longer if Baird needed another transfusion, which he did. So days passed while Marcus waited to hear something from HQ and was used as a living blood bank for Baird as required. Baird's condition improved enough for him to be taken off the ventilator and he began to breathe on his own. He even showed signs of coming back to consciousness, but so far hadn't deigned to open his eyes. Marcus was actually longing to hear one of Baird's wisecracks, but Hayman had already indicated that Baird was on some heavy pain medication so even when he did come to, probably wouldn't be particularly lucid.
Marcus had also noticed that the thuds of explosions were getting closer to the hospital each night, which was supposed to be well behind COG lines, if such a thing could be said to exist when dealing with the grubs. It was a worry, but a distant one when he was dealing with a critically injured team mate that might still require transfusions to keep him alive. Still, he kept an eye on the situation and listened in to what the hospital staff were saying whenever he could.
Baird moved out of dreamland and into somewhere new within the range of unconsciousness with little enthusiasm. He felt like his brain processes were moving through some thick treacly substance in order to just complete basic functions. Everything was so difficult, even just breathing felt tiresome and heavy. It stayed this way for some time, although keeping track of the passing of time was another thing that caused him difficulty. Slowly he became aware of small noises around him, an annoying beeping sound and voices talking.
"I thought you said he'd be coming out of this soon," said a gruff voice. He recognised that voice and it sounded worried, or perhaps protective. It was one of those but his brain couldn't decide which and was too befuddled to care.
"Everyone takes recovery at their own pace," replied an older female voice. "Give him time, Sergeant, at one point we weren't even certain he'd make it this far."
"Yeah, he's never been a morning person. Any news from HQ?"
"We sent your names through with the last list of wounded, so they know that you're here. We didn't get any orders back for you, but I assume you'd rather wait until your friend is at least conscious before you move out?"
There was a grunt. "There doesn't seem much else for me to do, now that the Grubs have taken the road to Jacinto. We'll all have to wait it out until it's clear again."
Baird frowned at this. Where was he? Why weren't they immediately heading out to retake the road? He tried to prise his eyes open but they wouldn't respond so he made an attempt to lift a hand. An involuntary groan escaped his lips as he realised that movement of any kind was bad. His fingers twitched at the pain, curling into a fist at his side.
"Baird?" asked the gravelly voice, closer now.
Baird tried again to open his eyes. Something so simple really shouldn't take this much effort. Finally he cracked his eyelids open and then quickly shut them again at the brightness of the daylight. He groaned again and moved his head to the side. He could smell the disinfectant and blood that clearly meant he was in a medical establishment of some kind, and that worried him a lot.
"Come on, Baird, you've kept us waiting long enough," said the voice. Marcus. The voice was Marcus Fenix, his squad leader.
He tried to reply with one of his normal quips, but unfortunately just ended up coughing when he discovered how dry and sore his throat was. The shuddering from the cough wracked his whole body with pain and he wondered what he'd done to himself that hurt this much.
"Doc?" asked Marcus.
"Corporal Baird," said the female voice that he didn't recognise. "Slow breaths. I don't want to increase your analgesia unless I have to. You've been out long enough, wouldn't you say?"
He snapped his eyes open as he struggled to calm the cough reflex in his throat. He could see Marcus' concerned face and sharp blue eyes. He persuaded his brain to focus on what was going on in the room around him. The Gear was sat in a chair beside his bed. The thing that struck him most was the lack of his usual do-rag on his head. He very rarely saw Marcus without it, and if he didn't already know how much pain it would probably cause him, he might even have laughed at the spikey dark hair underneath. Then again perhaps the analgesia that the doctor had spoken about was making him loopy.
"Fuck," Baird managed to say, as the coughing subsided. His voice was cracked and gravelly.
He heard the sound of water being poured into a glass and then someone was holding a straw to his lips. He assumed that this woman was the doctor who had spoken before. He drank the water gratefully, but the straw was removed before he could gulp too much. It was already sitting strangely in his stomach and he wondered if even the sip had been too much.
"I feel like I was run over by a 'dil, and then the bastard reversed back over me."
"I'm not surprised," said Marcus. "A Digger hit a bunch of empty imulsion drums right beside you and you got caught by the shrapnel. My fault, I should have made sure you were okay after the first missile hit us."
Baird frowned and searched his mind for any memory of how he'd come to be wounded. "Shit. I don't remember what happened." He grimaced at the pain in his stomach that even simply talking created. He tried to breathe through it, but deep breathing just made it hurt more. He squeezed his eyes shut. "Oh god."
"Can you give him more pain meds?" asked Marcus.
"That depends if you want him addicted to pain meds," replied the doctor. "We're already at the point where we'll have to step down the doses and wean him off as the wounds heal."
Baird didn't like the sound of that. "Give me a minute…" he got out, but he could feel the darkness encroaching on his vision and hear the heart monitor's beeping increase in speed. He closed his eyes and felt welcoming unconsciousness hammer him into darkness again, his body going limp as he lost the fight to stay awake.
Marcus hung his head for just a moment before he looked up at Hayman.
"This is going to be hard on him," said Hayman, putting down the glass and checking Baird's vitals, which appeared to be evening out now that he was asleep again.
"No shit," replied Marcus.
Hayman sighed and spoke quietly. "We don't have the resources that I'd like to take care of a man as badly wounded as Baird is. And we're running low on supplies. There's barely enough antibiotics in the stores to give to every man in this hospital who needs them for three more days."
"The Locust might be on us before that," replied Marcus. "You might want to consider evacuating before they get any closer, Doctor. Head for Jacinto."
"That seems foolhardy with the road being held by Locust," replied Hayman.
"There are other ways to get to Jacinto. How many vehicles can you get hold of? Enough to get everyone out?"
Hayman thought about it for a moment. "Probably, but not everyone can be moved." She looked pointedly at Baird.
"How long before it will be safe to get him out of here?"
"How long is a piece of string, Sergeant? A few days? A week? His injuries need to be healed enough that moving him won't start the bleeding again. You already know how hard we've worked just to get him this far. I think there's more of your blood running through his veins than his own at the moment."
There was the sound of a much closer explosion outside. The room shook and dust fell from the ceiling. Hayman frowned, but hardly batted an eyelid. She had definitely been a battlefield medic for some time.
"I think we may be at the point where we have to call it. Is Baird the only patient that can't be moved?"
"Yes. We haven't had any new admissions since you came in - we sent them all to Jacinto as soon as it was clear which way the Locust were moving. And we lost Jessop this morning."
Marcus had witnessed the passing of Private Jessop earlier. He'd simply stopped breathing with very little fanfare, and despite everyone's best efforts nothing could be done to help him. His wounds had been very similar to Baird's. He pulled his brain back to the situation at hand.
"Okay, then you take the rest of your patients out of here as soon as you can get them to their transport. You've got enough walking wounded who can handle a gun that you should be able to stay safe if you keep to the back roads. Leave me with whatever you can and I'll get Baird out on my own, when it's safe to move him."
"Did you suddenly earn a medical degree, Sergeant Fenix? He still needs round the clock care, drugs and monitoring. How are you going to know when it's safe to move him?"
There was the sound of another explosion, and more plaster dust rained down on them.
"When it's not safe to stay here any longer. I'll give him as much time as I can," said Marcus, resting his chin on his linked hands, elbows on his knees, looking directly at Hayman.
"And how are you going to keep him alive until then?" Hayman waved her hand to indicate Baird, laid out on his bed.
"I guess you'd better give me a crash course in keeping a critical care patient alive and hope that I'm a fast learner," said Marcus.
Two explosions followed in quick succession, making Marcus' point for him. The grubs weren't that far away.
"You'll have two days at most, and even that might not be enough," said Hayman. "You'd probably just be giving the Locust two easy targets. That makes two dead Gears instead of saving one and giving one at least a chance."
"Yeah, I know, but this gives him a better chance."
"He must have done something pretty amazing to be worth this much loyalty," said Hayman, glancing between Baird and Marcus.
"Actually he's a pain in the ass, but he's Delta and my responsibility. So start talking, Doc. I don't want to kill him by putting the wrong stuff in the wrong tube."
Hayman looked like she might argue for a couple of seconds, but instead she shook her head and began to instruct Marcus on everything that Baird would need to keep him alive and comfortable. She wrote notes for him and attached them to Baird's chart. Luckily Marcus had already been taught how to insert a needle in a vein as part of his basic medical training, and he knew how to find and take a pulse. The rest mostly seemed to be about watching the monitors and taking readings, whilst keeping Baird topped up on pain meds and IV antibiotics. Hayman also gave him a few pointers on what to do in "worst case scenario" situations, which Marcus hoped he wouldn't have to use.
When she'd gone through everything twice, she watched Marcus do a practice run on an IV bag change, followed by a couple of the other more tricky bits of Baird's care plan. Then she left him to read her notes through and went to organise the evacuation. It didn't take long for the hospital to turn into a hive of activity and to start emptying its wards into waiting ambulances and troop transports. The hospital hadn't been anywhere near full capacity or they wouldn't have had a hope in hell of getting everyone onto a vehicle.
Marcus went to see if the Gears assigned to guard the hospital had any spare ammo and weapons. He returned with both his and Baird's lancers, and a crate of ammo. Baird would want his lancer kept safe; he'd made some small modifications to the trigger and loading mechanisms that apparently made it work better, although Marcus had never been able to tell the difference. He also took a snub pistol with the intention that it was something that Baird could wield if worst came to worst, and assuming he woke up again before they were overrun by the Locust.
Then he went to help out with moving patients onto the vehicles, and spent a couple of hours helping the nurses to get all the equipment that they needed packed. Some of the drugs and blood products had to be kept refrigerated for the journey, so this wasn't exactly an easy task as portable refrigeration units were scarce. Hayman made sure that one was left for Baird's medication, despite a loud argument with one of the other doctors about resource management.
Marcus ignored it. He didn't want to hear what the doctor thought about expending resources on one critically ill patient. Not when that patient was a member of his squad. Besides Hayman was being fair in dividing up what they had. She was leaving him with enough medication to see them through to Jacinto and nothing more. If he couldn't get Baird out of here within the week then they'd run of out pain meds before the journey to the capital was complete. That would be very bad for someone with as many injuries as Baird, although Hayman had given him instruction for how to deal with even that.
It took most of the day to get all the medical equipment packed and the patients on board vehicles. The hospital had taken on a distinctly echoing quality as it had emptied, leaving one lone patient in one of the many high ceilinged wards. Marcus wandered back into their ward, looked around at the empty beds and then dropped onto his seat beside Baird's bed. He had a few minutes before he had to do the scheduled vitals check, and he used them to watch the final ambulance leave the hospital grounds.