Bloody, but unbowed
Fire. His entire body was ablaze like a sun and his shoulder was the nuclear reactor at the core of it. The plasma blast he'd taken clung like wet glue, burning through the fabric of his uniform and into his flesh. Pain overflowed from the heart of the blast, licking along his nerve endings all the way out to his extremities. Even his hair seemed to crackle with its fiery touch.
He'd have given his left nut to pass out from the pain, but no such luck. He was aware of every movement, every touch. He saw the uniformed paramedic with the brown-backed half-skull badge on his chest. Felt the cooling blanket that landed on him like lead, smothering the sticky fire but barely dulling the agony. He winced at the hands that lifted him into the med-evac pod and secured him to a berth. Heard the slam of the hatch just before the pressure of acceleration intensified the pain, turning the world grey around the edges once again. He urged unconsciousness to take him and at last was rewarded.
"He's out!" Anderson pressed two fingers against Lestrade's neck, checking his pulse. It was thready and weak. His skin was pale, cold, and clammy beneath a layer of sweat, and his breath came in rapid, shallow gasps.
"The Commander's going into shock! Can you get any more speed?" he shouted over the rumble of the small craft's engine.
"I'm maxed out already," the pilot called back. "But we're in sight of Victoria Encampment now."
Med teams stood waiting at the landing field. Pods were going in and out like shuttles from the docks at Paddington Station on old London Base. The pilot put down where directed and popped the hatch.
Considering who they'd just brought in, Anderson wasn't surprised to see Doc Watson waiting for them. He spit out data on the patient as they unloaded him from the pod onto a grav-gurney, and continued answering any questions Doc had as the pair of them guided the laden gurney across the field and into the medical tent.
"Do you need me to stay, Doc?"
Watson shook his head. "Thanks, no. We'll take him from here. You're needed in the field."
"Yes, sir." Anderson turned and hurried out to catch the next outgoing med-evac pod.
Doc peeled back the cooling blanket from Lestrade's chest, revealing the charred and melted fabric, the bubbled and burned flesh. It was tough to see where one ended and the next began. He started a scan as he called over a nurse. "Williams! Get me a full burn kit, pronto!"
The tall, thin young man hurried over with the kit. "Here you are, Doctor."
Doc examined the results from the hand scanner. "No burn to the bones," he announced in relief. "All damage is to soft tissue."
"They must've got to him quick." Williams handed over scissors without having to be asked. Doc began cutting away what remained of Lestrade's uniform, revealing his arms, chest, and abdomen.
"Yeah. Anderson's a bit of prat, but he knows his job and does it well. All right. I've exposed the area. Let's get burn gel on here and see what we can do to separate the rest of the fabric from what's left of the Commander's skin. Then we'll get into the mess underneath."
Lestrade was surprised to wake up in post-op. It wasn't the location but the fact of waking that was unexpected. He shifted on the cot and groaned. Unexpected and unwelcome.
"Doctor? He's come 'round."
Who was that? He blinked at the nurse with the shaggy, straw-blond hair and the long face, but couldn't put a name to him.
"Thank you, Williams. I'll take it from here."
Ah. Williams. He didn't know Williams.
And then Doc was there, standing over him. "How are you feeling?"
Lestrade licked futilely at parched lips. "Like over-baked shit." He hardly recognized his own voice, it was so rough and deep. Doc sat on the edge of the cot and offered him a sip of liquid, which he gratefully took. It wasn't water. It went down smoother, like drinking chilled silk.
"Well, you haven't lost your charm, so that's a good sign. Your throat got a bit scorched, but it'll heal up quickly if you keep drinking this."
Lestrade took another sip from the straw, and then turned his head away. He'd had enough for the moment. "What's the status?" He was pleased to hear improvement in his voice already, although he didn't expect it to last long.
"Plasma burns across your right chest and shoulder. I'm happy to tell you it didn't get deep enough to reach your bones, although the muscle damage was extensive."
"Not me. The war. What's the status of the battle?"
"Not your concern at the moment."
"I'm the bloody Field Commander. Like hell it's not my concern!" Already his voice was going again. Doc offered the straw, but he refused it.
"It's under control. That's all you need to know right now."
"But Sable One and Agra," he insisted. "Have they completed their objective? How long have I been out?" He tried to sit up, but found himself constrained by the bandages around his upper body.
"Lie still!" Doc barked, and for a change Lestrade obeyed. "That's more than ordinary bind holding your flesh together."
"So I gathered." He settled in despite his irritation. "Come on, Doc. Give me something. I need to know what's going on out there. Those are my troops."
Doc offered him a drink and this time Greg accepted it. He wouldn't admit it aloud, but god it felt brilliant on his stripped throat.
Doc's expression softened, obviously pleased. He took the cup away at Lestrade's signal. "I'll see what I can find out. In the meantime, I expect you to behave. Don't give any of my staff any trouble or I will sedate you."
"Do you need anything more for the pain before I go?"
"I wouldn't say no." He was tough, but he wasn't stupid.
"I'll have Williams get you something." Doc pulled a data pad from his pocket and made a note. "I'll be back with news as soon as I have anything concrete."
Lestrade nodded his head once against the pillow. "Thanks, Doc."
Doc rose as Williams approached them. "Get some rest."
Greg quirked a ghost of a smile. "Yes, sir."