Another of those scenes that demanded to be written. This time, the first meeting of two characters from the middle of Damien’s story. Thirty years ago, in the midst of the Brekken war.
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Jan Silber was last in a line of about twenty Brekken who had been sent to augment the staff of their field hospital when their little convoy was taken by the Martagnards. Now they were being marched under guard to a camp north of the battlefield.
As they went Jan realized they were passing a Martagnése camp, one of their field hospitals, and he noted in somewhat desultory fashion the similarities and differences between theirs and his own Brekken hospital laagers.
He watched as two men carried a stretcher up to the main tent. The stretcher held a very young soldier, at most 17 years of age, with a blood-soaked bandage around his mid-section. The two men set the stretcher down, and one of the bearers called into the tent. In a moment, a man in medical white came out, crouched down beside the soldier and checked the wound, sadly shook his head, and rose to go back inside.
At this, Jan stopped in the road and called across to the men. “Zehr,” he called, “M’ser—you do not help him? He will die if you do not!”
One of the soldiers escorting his group came up and tried to move him on, but Jan shrugged him off and took a step across the road toward the tent. The medico turned at his call and answered without thinking. “He will die because we have no one here qualified to do the surgery.” And then he realized who he was talking to, and shook his head angrily. “You’re a Brekken, what do you care if he dies? It was your kind put him here!” Behind him another man stepped out of the tent, a man dressed in Martagnése blue, gold rank insignia catching the light.
Jan again shrugged off the guard’s restraining arm and took another step forward. “I am a surgeon! I can help him!” And then, seeing the second man, “Zehr General! Let me help!”
General Ellery Shepherd put one hand on the medico’s shoulder, quieting the man, and stepped forward. He gestured to the soldier who was trying to shove the young Brekken back into line. “You are a Brekken, an officer,” he said mildly. “Why would you want to help us?”
“Before I am a Brekken,” Jan said earnestly, “I am a man. Before I am an officer, I am a surgeon.” Suddenly his face twisted in anger. “All dis—” he flung a hand out, indicating the young soldier on the stretcher and the battlefield beyond, “—is a waste! Dis boy, he has his whole life before him! Why he must die because I wear a different uniform?”
Ellery met his eyes and the Brekken looked back with neither challenge nor fear, just a level, steady gaze. Ellery glanced over the man’s uniform, noting the Brekken rank insignia of a Capitan in the Medical corps. He looked up and met the man’s eyes again, and nodded once, then glanced back at the medico. “Get him a surgical table,” he said. “Let him work.” The man began a protest, but then faltered to a halt as Ellery’s gaze sharpened on him.
“Yes, General…” the medico said faintly, and ducked back into the tent.
“I need my kit,” Jan said, and Ellery cocked his head in question. “My surgical kit.” Jan gestured back behind himself. “Dese men took from me, and put on de cart. I may get?”
The General caught the guard’s eye and gestured, and the guard stepped back out of the way. Jan quickly dug through the objects on the cart and found his leather case. He pointed to his name where it was embossed on the leather, and the guard nodded and let him take it away.
He carried it back and passed the General, setting the kit down and kneeling next to the young soldier, checking the boy’s pulse and breathing. He looked up and signaled the stretcher bearers to bring the boy inside, but they stood there and stared at him with hostile eyes.
The General snapped his fingers at them twice. “Do as he says,” he growled, and they moved at his orders. He held back the tent flap as Jan took up his case and went inside, and then found the medico. “Get him what he needs—anything he needs. And tell your staff to take his orders the same as any other medico, is that understood?”
“You watch him, and as long as it looks like he knows what he’s doing, let him work.” He nodded at the man. “Keep me informed.”
Ellery watched for a while as the Brekken scrubbed up for surgery, with one pause only when the man turned to him with a serious face.
“I make agreement wit’ you, zehr General. I do surgery for you, for your Martagnése wounded, all. But if dere be Brekken wounded where yours cannot help, dey bring dem here to me, too. We agree?”
“That’s fair,” Ellery said. “Agreed.”
Hours later, Ellery came back through the medical tent to check on his wounded men, and spotted the Brekken sitting backwards on a chair, arms across the back and head pillowed on them, asleep. He recognized exhaustion when he saw it, and called over the medico in charge, a different man than before. “Why is this man not in a proper bed?”
The man gave him a half shrug. “He said beds were for the wounded. That he could sleep on the ground if need be, but a chair was better.” Another half shrug. “He’s worked straight through, whatever we brought him.” He looked at the General. “He’s a wonder, sir. Their methods differ from ours. Their training is better, their results more consistent, we always knew that. Our medicos have been spelling in to help during his surgeries, they’re learning things every moment. He explains what he’s doing and why as he works, so they understand.”
“So he is teaching, as well as saving lives…” Ellery mused on that for a moment, then nodded. “See he’s not disturbed unless it’s for something none of you can do. Or if it gets busy. Let him rest as long as he can, I can see he needs it. When he wakes, send him to me unless something requires his attention.”
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