Maggie Blodgett shivered as she made her way as quietly as she could down the dark corridor. The lights meant to illuminate the food processing planet had not yet been installed, leaving only the dim emergency lighting to dispel the gloom. As a result, the corridor was mostly shadows and in those shadows, Maggie could barely make out the forms of red uniformed bodies. Not that she was surprised by the body count. The mysterious duo who had so dramatically joined the LA Resistance less then a month ago seemed to have a knack for that sort of thing. Green blood lay thickly on the ground and she swallowed hard, realizing for the first time that the majority of the bodies had their throats cut. One such body lay in the dim light of an emergency light and she moved closer, knowing something was terribly off but not quite able to put her finger on it ...
"Looking for something?" The voice was almost in her ear and she jerked around to see Ham Tyler standing there, dark eyes expressionless, a smear of green blood staining his face. Dark splotches of blood stained his clothes. His associate, Chris Farber, stood behind him, blue eyes dancing with amusement, crossbow cradled in his arms. His clothing, unlike his partner's, was relatively clean of blood. She wasn't surprised that Tyler had snuck up on her but how the stoutly-built Chris managed it, she couldn't even guess at.
"You're going to get yourself shot doing that!" She hissed back.
Tyler's eyes flicked down to her gun, not quite raised level, and then back to her face, a sardonic look in his eyes. She bit back an angry retort. No one had actually won an argument with the enigmatic Tyler, though Donovan had been able to get him to back down when it came to rescuing their captured leader.
"We're done. Charges set."
Tyler nodded. "We're right behind you. Go."
Maggie hesitated, looking down at the corpse at her feet before turning and running back the way she'd come.
"Think she noticed anything?" Chris asked quietly.
Tyler looked at the corpse that had fascinated the woman then down at the blood staining his gloves, scowling darkly. "I don't think so. Let's go."
Chris shook his head as he followed his partner down the corridor. "Ya gotta stop taking these chances, man. Someone's gonna notice something sooner or later."
He knew Tyler heard him but the other man said nothing as they made their way out of the building.
The old army truck was hidden in the shadows of the trees, its engine running, ready to go. Her erstwhile boyfriend, Mark Bradley, was leaning out, offering his hand. She grabbed it and let him pull her into the truck. Caleb Tayler and Sancho Gomez, the last pair involved in this raid, were already there, fingering their weapons and eyeing the darkness nervously.
"They're right behind me." Maggie moved out of the way and looked out over Mark's shoulder.
"They get their charges set?" Caleb asked, not looking away from the trees.
"Yeah. I guess."
"Something wrong?" This time, Caleb did look at her. She chewed her lip nervously.
"I don't know. Just ... something weird I can't put my finger on."
"We're talking about Tyler, right?" Mark asked. "Weird's pretty much a given. Here they come."
The two men appeared out of the darkness, moving at an easy lope toward them. Maggie couldn't help but glance around nervously. This raid had been far too easy ... Before she could finish her thought, a movement caught her eye and she opened her mouth to shout a warning.
Later she would wonder if Tyler had caught the same movement or if he had seen the look on her face. All she knew then was that he was suddenly lunging forward, far quicker then she thought possible. His shoulder struck Chris hard, sending the bigger man to the ground then Tyler was skidding to a halt. His hand darted out to catch the grenade, swinging back then forward, throwing it back the way it had come. Ignoring Chris' cry of "Ham! Get down, damn it!", Tyler threw his arms up to protect his face and throat just as the grenade exploded. He was thrown backwards by the blast, landing in a sprawled heap almost on top of his partner.
Chris' curses blistered the air as the others sprayed the woods with gunfire, covering for Caleb and Sancho as they jumped out of the truck. The big man was already up on one knee, kneeling next to Tyler, his gun in hand as he searched the woods for a target.
"Get him in the truck!" Chris ordered.
The two men didn't argue, despite the certainty that they were rescuing a dead man. That certainty vanished when Caleb hauled an arm slicked with blood over his neck and got a sharp cry of pain in response. Sancho jumped and swore but got the other arm over his shoulder and together they dragged him to the truck, handing him up to Mark and Maggie while Chris laid down cover.
Maggie gritted her teeth against a wave of nausea at the feel of blood and torn flesh beneath her hands then she and Mark were laying Tyler down on the floor of the truck. She knelt next to him and almost immediately blood soaked through the knees of her jeans. Chris appeared on Tyler's other side and Caleb was leaning past him to thump the back of the truck hard, signaling the driver to go. Mark and Sancho continued to fire into the woods until they were clear.
"Was it a trap?" Maggie managed to gasp.
"No, I don't think so." Caleb grunted. "They would have stopped us before we set the bombs if it were. Hand me that lantern, will you? Sancho, Mark, keep an eye out for anyone following." Moving to Chris' side, he flipped on the lantern and raised it high, swearing venomously at what he saw.
The shrapnel from the grenade had torn gaping wounds in Tyler's chest and arms, visible through the torn remnants of his clothing. His face was covered with blood from a gash in his temple, another gash ran along the side of his neck. Blood still trickled from the gashes but not nearly enough considering the severity of the wounds. Yet the torn and bloody chest was rising and falling raggedly and they could all hear the harsh, gasping breaths. But the wounds that could be seen were deep and ugly. Too ugly.
"He's still alive." Chris said curtly.
"Even if he makes back to base ..." Caleb didn't finish the sentence. He didn't have to. They all knew their medical situation. Tyler would need a fully equipped hospital and, even then, Caleb doubted he could survive.
Chris didn't answer, just crouched next to his friend, his face an expressionless mask. Tyler's body jerked and Chris rested his hand on a torn shoulder, murmuring words too softly for the others hear. Caleb hesitated, wanting to say something but knowing there wasn't anything he could say. In the short time the duo had been with them, the intense friendship between them had become almost legendary, so close they seemed to be able to read each other's minds. He had even heard crude speculation about the possible extent of the pair's relationship, though no one had yet dared to say anything within the earshot of either man. Setting the lantern down next to Chris, he moved back to sit against the side of the truck, listening to Tyler's labored breathing and feeling a stab of shame at his wish that the sound would stop.
Still kneeling next to Tyler, Maggie reflected that the worst part was that Tyler was conscious. She didn't know if the others realized that but she could see his eyes, see the sharp glint of agony in them and she had to look away. She looked down instead. Tyler's gloved hand rested near her knee and she found herself studying it with a detached air. Red blood slicked the floor but there was green blood on the glove. Not surprising, considering their mission tonight. But something about the placement of the green blood ...
Still feeling strangely detached, Maggie reached down to take Tyler's hand, turning it to look at the blood-stained tips of the glove. Each tip was slit and through the slits she could see a glint of ivory. Realization flooded her. Not fingernails but ...
She gasped in pain and surprise as Chris caught her wrist hard enough to grate bone. Looking up, she saw something surprisingly like panic in his eyes. Panic and a hint of fear.
"What the hell ... Let her go!" Mark jerked Chris back, breaking his grip on Maggie's wrist. "Maggie, what ..."
Maggie didn't bother to answer, she just reached down to peel off the glove, staring at what the move revealed. "That's what was bothering me about those dead Visitors. Their throats weren't cut. They were slashed." She raised Tyler's hand into the light. "By claws." And there were claws, retracted but there. No fingernails, just sharp claws slicked green.
"Clever ... girl." The words came out in bubbling gasps and Maggie almost dropped his hand in surprise. She looked up to meet pain-filled eyes, surprised at the amount of clear awareness in them. "Wondered ... if you ... had noticed."
"You should be dead!" She blurted out.
Tyler choked briefly, blood accompanying his next words. "If I were ... human, I ... would be." His body jerked violently.
"Mind the claws!" Chris wrenched his wrist free of Mark's grip and grabbed Tyler's hand from hers just as the hand clenched uncontrollably. The claws appeared briefly then were gone, buried now in the back of Chris' hand. Chris hissed and visibly winced, his face going white but he made no sound as violent spasms wracked the other man's body. The convulsion seemed to last forever but finally it eased, leaving Tyler gasping hoarsely for breath. His hand relaxed and the claws, now covered with red blood as well as green, eased from his friend's now torn flesh, disappearing into their finger-tip sheaths.
"You'd think ... by now ... you'd know not ... to ... do that." Tyler's words came out in jerky gasps.
"You'd think." Chris set the hand down gently, ignoring his own bleeding wounds. "You might wanna move back, kid. Another bad spasm and he might tear your leg open."
Maggie glanced down at the hand resting dangerously close to her leg and hastily moved back. "What the hell are you?"
"Does it ... matter?" Tyler's body spasmed again and there was the sound of tortured metal as claws dug into the floor. Sancho muttered something and crossed himself.
Maggie swallowed hard at the sight of the gashes the claws left behind. "'If I were human' ... Not human." The thought flared in her mind. "No more human then a Visitor." That thought made her sick but overshadowing it was the clear memory of Tyler shoving Chris clear of the grenade and then deliberately standing between him and the sharp shrapnel. She blinked the image away to see Tyler watching her. There was no frigid coldness, no bleak hardness in his eyes now. Just an all consuming pain. "As long as you're not bleeding green, I guess not. At least not for the moment. So what the hell do we do now?" She looked up at Chris. "Is there anything that we can do?"
Chris cradled his injured hand against his chest, studying her coolly. The panic had faded, leaving behind an odd look of relief mixed with a trace of fear. Not fear for himself but for Tyler and she shivered as she realized that Chris was afraid of they might do. "Not human. But not Visitor." She thought firmly. "What can we do to help?"
Chris looked down at his friend. "Not much we can do. He'll heal faster if there wasn't anything in the way ..."
"He can heal this?!" Mark's voice held disbelief.
"Yeah." His voice was firm but there was a clear note of uncertainty. "Right now, his body's trying to work the shrapnel out itself. That's what's causing the convulsions. But I can't do anything about it. At least not easily."
Caleb sighed. "How many of your fingers are broken?"
Chris flushed slightly. "At least two."
"How long before we reach base?" Sancho asked, turning so he could keep an eye out of the back of the truck and yet see what was going on behind him.
"At least 45 minutes." Caleb replied. He looked down at Tyler and winced. "These kind of wounds, he should at least be unconscious."
"High ... threshold ... of pain." Tyler gasped. " ... not ... a blessing." He coughed raggedly, blood oozing from his mouth and nose.
"Damn it." Caleb muttered, wishing he was anywhere but here. He knew the others were looking to him for an idea of how to react to this situation. A part of him wanted nothing to do with Tyler, with someone ... something ... not human but innate common decency was overpowering dislike. Tyler was obviously suffering and he couldn't not do anything about it. "Here, Maggie, take the lantern. Maybe we can at least the jacket and shirt cut off. See how bad it is. I'll need a knife. A sharp knife."
Reaching down, Chris pulled a knife from his boot, offering it to him. Caleb sighed as he gingerly took the knife.
"Man, this is not how I envisioned my life." He muttered as he tried to figure out where to start. They couldn't unzip the jacket, the zipper was twisted by shrapnel. He carefully slid the blade between wrist and sleeve and began to cut, working the cloth free of the wounds. Despite his efforts to be gentle, Tyler jerked, moaning with pain and Caleb almost dropped the knife.
"Look, if he has such a good chance of surviving, couldn't we just wait until we get back to base?" Mark said, sounding queasy. "Put him under ..."
"Won't work." Chris said, reaching out to rest his uninjured hand lightly on his friend's head, slipping off the stocking cap Tyler wore. "He'll burn it off faster then you can give it to him. Unless you give him a lot, which could be dangerous. Same with pain-killers. The sooner the fragments are removed, the faster he can start to heal."
"Yeah, that figures." Caleb braced himself and resumed cutting. Luckily, the knife was very sharp and he was able to do it quickly, wincing as he caught sight of the terrible gashes, made even more eerie by the lack of bleeding. "I think this arm is broken. Not that I'm surprised."
"Clean break, I hope?" Chris asked tersely.
"I think so." His eyes flicked to the big man, suddenly realizing that he was taking it for granted that Chris was human. "What about you?"
"What about me?" From his expression, Chris knew exactly what Caleb was asking. He stretched out his hand to show the bleeding wounds caused by the claws, the swollen fingers, and, most importantly, the fingernails on each finger. "I'm as human as you are. And I wouldn't take that damn healing ability if you paid me!"
"I second that. So far." Caleb muttered. "But this doesn't make sense. Ability to heal, okay. Good thing. Maybe. But there must be something for times like this, when he's so badly hurt ..."
Tyler made a sound the others realized was a laugh, broken by the bubbling of blood then a spasm of coughing. Caleb quickly moved the knife away.
"There is. Kinda." Chris moved his hand to Tyler's shoulder. "A real deep sleep. Coma almost. Heals faster. Only thing is, once he's in it, it's almost impossible to get outta."
"Which means he doesn't want to get into it." Caleb frowned.
"More like can't get into. It's complicated."
"Dios Mio." Sancho muttered. Setting his rifle down, he moved to Tyler's other side. "It'll be quicker if there's two of us doing this." He pulled his knife from his belt and started to cut the other sleeve off.
"We better get that hand wrapped, Chris." Maggie had set the lantern down and pulled out their meager first aid kit. Chris didn't protest as she wiped blood from the punctures, marveling that Tyler hadn't torn the flesh even worse. She wrapped it as best she could, trying not to jostle the broken fingers. Chris murmured a quiet 'thanks' as she finished and she started to put the kit away. Hesitating, Maggie glanced at Tyler's bloody face. Pulling a bandana from her pocket, she wetted it thoroughly then shifted to kneel by Tyler's head.
Tyler felt the coolness of wet cloth brush his face, wiping away the blood that clotted his nose and mouth. Thankfully, he took as deep a breath as he could manage, trying to ignore the pain that tore at him. "Pain is a tool; take control of it and make it work for you!" Control ... He closed his eyes, drawing on his training, working to get the pain consuming him under his control. He was only partially successful. There was just too much pain, too many injuries. By all rights, he should be safely in the healing sleep but current circumstances prevented him from entering it. He opened his eyes to stare at the canvas ceiling, dimly aware of the activity around him.
Maggie rinsed the bandana out and re-wet it with alcohol, cleaning the long gash running along the side of Tyler's neck. A little to one side and it would have taken out his jugular. She doubted even he could have survived that. Cleaning away the blood revealed something else as well, an intricate indigo-hued design roughly the size of a half-dollar behind Tyler's left ear. She was surprised no one hadn't mentioned it before then she noticed that part of the design was still covered with flesh-colored makeup. Tyler had obviously worked at keeping it hidden and she wondered what it was. A glance at Chris showed him to be intent on watching Caleb and Sancho and Maggie quelled her curiosity. She could ask later
"This arm's broken too." Sancho said quietly. "Actually, wrist. I think. Maybe both."
"Not surprised." Chris grunted. "Lots of shrapnel flying around."
"Bone can heal?" Caleb gently worked cloth free.
"If it's aligned correctly, it can heal very quickly."
"Ugh. I draw the line at re-aligning bone." Caleb muttered then jerked back as a spasm jerked Tyler's body. Sancho wasn't so quick and his knife carved another bloody gash in Tyler's side.
"That can wait." Chris assured them as they waited for the convulsion to ease.
Sancho and Caleb were finding it was quicker with two of them working at cutting away the bloody cloth but no less messy nor nerve-wracking. Twice more they had to back off and wait out the severe convulsions that wracked Tyler's body and both of them were covered with blood by the time they finished stripping off the ruined cloth. One piece refused to come free and, muttering curses, Sancho gritted his teeth and pulled it hard, literally tearing it free of blood and shrapnel, a move that started another convulsion and almost sent Sancho climbing the side of the truck.
"Hope he doesn't hold a grudge." He said fervently.
"Not ... in this ... case ... slick." Tyler managed to gasp, making the others jump. Maggie steadied herself, reaching down to wipe away the blood that had come with the words. She was surprised to see a flash of gratitude in Tyler's eyes.
"Man, what does it take to put you out?" Sancho dropped back to Tyler's side and pulled away the cloth they had cut from Tyler's body, tossing it to one side.
"You don't wanna know." Chris said sharply. "Trust me, you really don't wanna know."
"There's the base." Mark interrupted.
"Gracias a Dios." Sancho said fervently.
Caleb grunted in agreement. "When we get there, Mark, you run get a stretcher. Maggie, find Donovan and Julie and send them to the infirmary."
"That might not be a good idea." Chris said slowly.
"She's the closest thing to a doctor we got, damn it!" Caleb snapped, not really wanting to defend their leader, just recently rescued from the Visitors. Chris looked ready to argue but Tyler said something in words none of them could understand and the other man subsided, though he didn't look happy about it.
"We all clear?" Caleb asked Mark, jerking his head toward the back of the truck.
"Yep, no one behind us. Or above us."
The truck began to slow and Mark threw the canvas back, swinging out as the truck came to a stop, running for the mock doctor's office that served as the infirmary. Maggie followed, heading for the trailor-dorms. With a sense of relief, Caleb dropped the knife he was still holding and made his way to the opening. Being after midnight, the dirt street of the mock movie ranch was fairly empty, save for the occasional sentry. Returns from raids had become so common that no one came out to see what was happening.
"How's the hand?" He asked Chris.
"Hurts like hell." Chris had slipped off his jacket and draped it over Tyler, covering those horrible wounds.
"Not for the first time, I take it."
Chris hesitated then pulled up the sleeve of his injured hand. Four parallel scars ran the length of his forearm.
Caleb whistled. "Well, at least he's consistent with what arm he takes out."
"Reflex reaction. He can't help it." Chris pulled the sleeve back down.
"What the hell happened?" The driver, Natalie Barnes, appeared around the corner of the truck. "From the sounds of it ... my God! What the hell happened?" She repeated at her first sight of the blood covering Caleb.
Caleb glanced down, shaking his head. "Not mine." He looked past her. "Here comes Mark. Move, Barnes."
"Here." Mark handed up the stretcher.
"Good. Let's get him inside and hope we don't set off another convulsion."
No convulsion started but Tyler's entire body was shuddering uncontrollably by the time they got him shifted onto a metal table. Caleb stepped back, looking at Chris inquiringly. Chris looked away but not before Caleb saw the worry in his eyes.
"He's been awake too long." Chris muttered.
"And that's a problem?"
"Could be. I don't know."
Julie rushed into the room, pausing to get her bearings before moving to Tyler's side. She reached out to pull the jacket away.
"What the hell happened?" Donovan followed Julie in, Maggie right behind him. "Maggie wasn't making much sense ..." Donovan started then he swore as Tyler's hand shot up, closing on Julie's wrist. Sharp claws, already stained red and green, were unsheathed, ready to tear into all too frail flesh. Julie cried out, more with surprise then pain and looked up to meet Tyler's eyes, normally unreadable but now filled with an indescribable agony.
"Tyler, don't!" Caleb grabbed Tyler's wrist, squeezing hard in an attempt to loosen his grip. Tyler cried out in pain and Caleb realized that this was the wrist Sancho thought might be broken. "Damn it. Chris ..."
"Convulsion." Sancho said suddenly. "Reflex reaction." Then he began to swear. Chris was next to Tyler's head, talking to him in a low urgent voice. Donovan moved to Caleb's side, trying to get the tightly clenched fingers loose. Julie kept her eyes locked on Tyler's, seeing distrust and agony war with each other then the strong fingers shifted on her arm, sending a sharp pang of fear through her before she realized that he was trying to force his hand to open.
"If he goes into a convulsion holding her arm, he'll tear it open. Or off. Damn it! There!" The fingers were loosening, opening enough for Donovan to jerk Julie's arm free then the hand snapped closed, tearing his own flesh as the convulsion took hold of him. Sancho and Caleb barely managed to keep him on the table.
"Still think I wasn't making sense?" Maggie asked.
"You gotta admit, it's kinda hard to believe." Donovan watched as the convulsion finally eased. "Is anyone else hurt?"
"Chris' hand is torn up. Other then that, all this blood you see is his." Caleb nodded at Tyler. "There's more in the truck. A lot more."
"I take it a blood transfusion would be out of the question." Julie returned to Tyler's side, this time removing the jacket with no interference. She sucked in her breath at the sight of the ghastly wounds.
"Got it in one." Chris replied, taking the jacket from her. "No blood will match."
"And Maggie said no anesthetic would work. But there's something that can be done?"
Chris just nodded.
"I'm going to need help. Maggie, can you send over Robert and Father Andrew? And Harmony, as well."
"Sure. You need us back?" Maggie asked in a tone that hoped she said no.
Julie smiled slightly. "No, I think you guys have done your share. Get some sleep. You too, Caleb, Sancho. And it might be best if we kept this quiet for now."
"That won't ... la ... last long." Tyler's voice grated, startling Donovan. He wouldn't have thought the man would be able to speak.
"I always thought you weren't human ..." Donovan started.
"Gooder, Earth humans are more casually cruel to their own kind then my people could ever be so bugger off!" The fierceness of the last words set off a fit of bloody coughing.
"Ham!" Chris gave Donovan an angry look as he rested his good hand on Tyler's shoulder until the coughing fit eased. "Come on, bro. Better get to sleep."
Ham's next words weren't in English but they obviously didn't make Chris very happy. Nevertheless, he responded curtly in the same language. Ham nodded jerkily then his eyes closed. His breathing slowed so abruptly that Julie hastily grabbed for a wrist, checking for a pulse. She finally found it, very slow and very faint.
"So he's out?" Caleb asked.
"About as out as he's gonna get." Chris grunted.
"Good. 'Cause I've had about as much of this fun as I can stand. You guys get to have your share. Me, I'm gonna take a shower, burn these clothes, and try to get some sleep. And maybe get Sancho turned off before he runs out of cuss words."
Sancho broke off his continuous monologue. "Man, I ran out ten minutes ago! I'm making up words now!"
"Come on, let's go." Caleb steered the other man from the room, passing Robert on his way in, followed by Harmony and Father Andrew, all of whom paused to stare at the two blood-covered men leaving the building.
"What happened?" Robert asked. "Maggie said Tyler's hurt."
Julie looked at Donovan. "You explain. Harmony, help me get set up."
"So what now? More aliens?" Robert said after hearing Donovan out.
Donovan paused, suddenly wondering. He looked at Chris. "'Earth humans.'" He said slowly. "'My people.' Two separate entities, from the sound of it. Am I right?" Chris just looked away.
Robert hesitated then sighed. "Well, at least he bleeds red. That's got to be a plus. What do we do?"
"Harmony, do you think you can take care of Chris' hand? Broken fingers, claw marks." Julie asked.
"Well, I've little brothers and cats. That should cover it." She unwrapped Chris' hand and took a closer look at the claw marks. "Of course, my cats were regular domestic cats and not ... tigers."
"Not tiger. Jaguar." Donovan said suddenly. He looked at Chris. "I remember, in South America, there was an operative I never nailed down, they called Jaguar." He nodded at Tyler. "Him?"
Chris hesitated. "Yeah. Sometimes."
"Wait a minute." Father Andrew looked up from where he was setting out gauze. "One of my contacts in the church is a missionary in Africa. He told me that the major part of the resistance there, in the jungles, is headed by a man they called "El Simba". The Lion. Maybe one of his people?"
Chris shrugged. "Maybe."
"So there are more of his people here?" Donovan asked sharply.
Chris hesitated, obviously thinking before answering. "I don't know. Most of them left when the Visitors took hold of the planet. Anyone who remained has gone to ground. Ham's probably been in contact with them but I don't know." He caught Donovan's look. "Look, I can tell ya there was a guy named Johnny in New York, a Tom in Mississippi, a William in Switzerland, an Allan in Africa! I don't see how that would be any help! Especially since most of them are probably not here anymore."
"Except maybe for Allan in Africa." Father Andrew said, setting a bowl of hot water on the table.
"Yeah, maybe. He does sound like he'd be called 'The Lion'."
"Maggie said he can heal this?" Julie interrupted.
"Yeah. How long it takes kinda depends on how much work the body has to do. How clean the wounds are. How well the bones are set."
"So we remove the shrapnel." Robert said in a queasy voice.
"And get the wounds clean." Father Andrew didn't sound quite so queasy but he did pale slightly as he got a good look at the injuries.
"How long will it take for him to heal?" Donovan asked.
Chris shrugged. "Week. Maybe two. Depends." He hesitated, worry flashing in his eyes. "I've never seen him hurt this bad though."
"Okay, first we get him cleaned up so we can see what we're doing." Julie reached for a pair of surgical gloves. "Ready, Robert?"
"Don't ask me that! You know I'm not! Give me the damn gloves."
While the majority of the wounds were above Tyler's waist, removing the remainder of his clothing revealed more gashes on his upper thighs, including a nasty one along his left hip. The injuries were even uglier with the blood cleaned away and the visible shrapnel removed. The fact that they didn't bleed momentarily unnerved Julie.
"Why doesn't he bleed?" Robert asked the question on her mind.
She shook her head. "I don't know. Maybe his body's shutting off injured blood vessels. Chris?"
The big man has settled into a nearby chair, watching them. "As good as any explanation." He hesitated. "It would be best if you can avoid stitching the external injuries closed. It'll just gets the way of them healing."
Julie frowned. "Well, we do have that supply of surgical strips. Harmony?"
"I'll get 'em." Harmony vanished into a back room.
"And more of the dissolving thread!" Julie called after her before turning back to her patient. "His left arm is definitely broken, his right arm and wrist probably are. Once we get the shrapnel removed, we can set them both." She paused, visibly bracing herself before reaching for a scalpel.
There was little blood as they removed the remaining shrapnel, just an occasional trickle that slowed quickly. Even when Julie was forced to cut out some pieces and literally dig for others, the blood flow remained at a minimum.
"Has he lost too much blood?" Harmony asked as she handed Julie a fresh scalpel.
"Not much can been done if he has." Chris replied. "Just don't hit anything major."
"And how am I supposed to know if anything's major?" Julie said in frustration, having encountered yet another organ she didn't recognize.
"I don't know! Just don't slice into anything that looks like it's actually doing something!"
"That doesn't help!" Julie literally snarled. "Here! This looks something like a heart only it's smaller and too low in the abdomen. And not beating."
Chris rubbed at his eyes tiredly. "Good. That means his primary heart's wasn't damaged." He half-muttered.
Julie froze, looking at him. "You mean it is a heart? And it ... what? Only works when the main heart can't?"
Chris threw her a startled look and she realized that if he hadn't been so worried and tired, he never would have said what he had just said. At least not loud enough for them to hear. "Pretty much, yeah." He hesitated then added. "Ham once told me his people were built for survival and after seeing some of the shit he's survived, I believe it. Secondary heart, healing ability, claws, some other things thrown in for good measure. Don't ask me what, he didn't go into detail when he didn't need to."
Julie started to ask another question then cut it off. Now was not the time, she reminded herself sternly as she turned her attention back to her patient. "What about bone?"
"Huh?" Chris threw her a startled look.
"Do I remove bone chips or ..."
"If you can figure out where it goes, put it back. It'll get re-absorbed. Otherwise, remove it."
"Damn, this is not how I envisioned my life." Robert muttered. "How much longer?"
"I don't know. What I need is a x-ray machine. Or even a metal detector. There's got to be shrapnel we're missing. What if we don't get all the pieces out?"
"They'll eventually work their way out."
"But he'll stay under until they do?" Donovan asked from he was sprawled on top of a nearby table. Chris threw him a surprised look, obviously thinking he'd been asleep.
"Well, let's get all we can then." Julie muttered.
It was almost dawn when Julie finally admitted defeat. She stepped back, stripping off the gloves and tossing them into the pan with the pile of shrapnel. "Anything that's left I'll do more damage finding and removing then if it worked it's own way out. Let's get the last of those gashes closed and get him onto a bed. I'll send Alice over ..."
"I'll stay." Chris said curtly.
"You need to get some sleep." Julie said and Chris shrugged.
"I've gotten good at sleeping in chairs."
Julie almost argued but the look in Chris' eyes convinced her she'd be wasting her breath. Instead, she helped Robert and Harmony splint the broken arms and apply the last of the surgical strips then stepped back to strip off her gown and mask, letting Mike and Father Andrew shift Tyler onto a regular bed.
"He'll need nutrients, won't he?" Julie asked. "I mean, he'll be replacing not only a lot of lost blood but repairing torn veins. Muscle. Flesh. Plus he'll need liquids. What can we set up?"
"Standard IV drip will do. He can handle pretty much anything a human can."
"Fine. Harmony, you want to help me get it set up? You guys can head back to bed. Thanks for the help."
Robert and Father Andrew didn't argue, just stumbled out the door, looking as worn out as Julie felt. Donovan remained, watching them as they worked.
"What about the IV needle?" Harmony asked. "If his body works out foreign objects, won't it just ... eject it?"
"Damn, that's right. We'll just have to tape it securely and keep an eye on it. Hand me that tape." She taped the needle firmly in place. "I'll check on him later. After I get a few hours sleep." She checked the drip, nodding in satisfaction.
"Yeah. Maybe after a few hours sleep, we can get some more questions answered." Donovan looked pointedly at Chris. "Like who and what he is and why he's here."
"Not my answers to give." He nodded his head toward Tyler. "They're his."
"But you know them."
Chris just looked at him.
"Mike." Julie paused on her way to the door and looked first at Chris and then Donovan. "We can wait until Tyler wakes up."
Donovan obviously wasn't happy with the decision but he followed Julie out of the infirmary. The others were already out of the door so only the Visitor, Willie, listening to the activity through the vent in the floor from above, heard the worry in Chris' voice as he muttered, "If he wakes up."
Author Notes: Brad or Mark? Mark or Brad? I always thought
it was Brad (he even looks like a Brad), he appeared in the script as
both Mark and Brad, and in the books as Brad but general consensus seems
to be that his name is Mark so I went with that. (I've compromised ... his
name is Mark Bradley.)
Also, this is not a crossover of any kind. Some people from other fandoms will be mentioned and/or appear but not enough for it to be considered a crossover.
I don't know Spanish and used an online translator to get the translation for when Sancho says 'My God' and 'Thank God'. If these are not correct, please send me the corrections and I will change it.