From the Log of Mariana Stuart
Day 34 Mean Nautical Sunrise
I slowly edged past the bulk of the rumbler pulling out the flash trying to find where Chris was hiding. It took about five minuets to find the slit at the back of the cave that a teenager might have been able to fit through.
I moved to the mouth of the opening and shone the light in. There curled into the corner sobbing and holding his ears was Chris. His head came up as the light hit him and the terror in those eyes was visible. I tried to talk to him and there was no response.
I thought, “Of course you dummy, he was in the back of this echo chamber when the big guy touched off three fast ones.” I reached inside the jacket and pulled out the small white slate and marker. I block printed:
You can come out
I held up the slate with the light pointed on it into the opening. I did not have to see him to feel the terror seeping out of that brain. He came out slowly like he was not sure if it was really over. When he saw the rear of the rumbler he stopped in his tracks.
Grinning at him I walked over and kicked it right square in the rear end, Chris visibly relaxed and we started out of the cave. When we got to the splayed foreleg that was blocking the path he would not climb over until I did first and reached back for him. It was like he kept waiting on it to wake up, right up till we got to the front of the beast. The great gapping hole the three HE rounds had left gave no doubt that this thing would never wake up.
I motioned for him to sit on a nearby boulder and gave him a quick once over with the field medic kit. Just as I was finishing Andy walked up handed me my expended brass and asked, “How’s the kid doing?”
“Just on the edge of shock and can’t hear. He was caught in the blast wave of that thing and that hole back there is like a natural amphitheater.”
Andy grimaced, “That was not fun I’d bet.”
I had to laugh at the look on his face, “It beats being breakfast for a rumbler. Watch him for a couple will you?”
I went over to the hulk and spent a few minutes taking fluid and tissue samples, then went back to the young man.
“Let’s get Chris down to Hanna’s and get something warm in him. That’s probably this best medical treatment he could get right now.” I wiped the slate on my sleeve and wrote:
Let’s Go Home Chris.
He stood and almost stumbled. I threw the butt of the White Feather on my left hip and reached out with my right hand to his shoulder to steady him. Just as I touched him he steadied and I looked to see Andy, Robar on his right hip and left hand under Chris’s shoulder.
For the first half mile or so we more carried him than he walked. By the time we moved into the town clearing, he was walking pretty much on his own but we left our hands where there were. Karl Nash was just slogging up from the lower bridge area.
“Karl,” I yelled, “could you get word to Harry and Linda Washington that we have Chris up at Hanna’s getting something hot into him.”
He looked pleased, “That would be the first pleasant thing I’ve done this morning. What happened the rumbler run off?”
“No Karl, she’s still laying right where Andy dropped her. We are going to need a bunch of bots to drag her back to the Lab.”
“She?” he exclaimed. “That explains why we have two of them. Dollars to donuts it’s mating season.”
We had Chris in Hanna’s and half a plate of Slizzard bacon, eggs and home fries in him when Harry and Linda burst in the front door. Linda was all over him and asking how he was and Chris was just looking dumbfounded. “Linda, he has some short term hearing loss. He should be fine in a few hours but, right now he can’t hear you.”
Karl looked at Andy with the stovepipe beside him propped against the bar and asked, “How many Andy?”
“Three but I’m not sure the third one was necessary. But after my take no chances speech to the other group, I didn’t think I should either.”
“Let me guess, Chris was down range from that sound storm. No wonder he can’t hear.”
I walked over to Hanna and asked, “Still got that private bottle of ours back there.”
“Of course Col. Stuart, by the way Kurt says he could use Dr. Stuart back real soon,” as she handed across the bottle and two glasses.
I motioned Andy over to a table, “Well, was it never enough this time?”
He grimaced, “Ask me after the other hunter/killer team checks back in.”
I stared him right in the eyes, “Do you know you are depressing as hell when you are in Command Mode?”