Ironhorse was tired. A weariness was biting at his heels, and he knew that his temper was starting to fray. He paused and looked at Harrison Blackwood, his main source of aggravation. The man seemed to have endless energy and was even now pacing back and forth in across the small clearing, wanting to know what they were waiting for.
An alien hideout had been discovered the day before by Norton's Cray computer, which had picked up the radio messages that had passed between the aliens below and their contact base, and while the computer had been unable to pin point the contact aliens, it had been able to locate the small group they were now watching. Because of the urgency and the knowledge that the aliens could disappear with easy, it had been decided that Ironhorse, Blackwood and a small group of soldiers from Fort Streeter would be dispatched as a forward advance group, with Dr McCullough and the rest of the team following up.
Ironhorse looked back at the map and considered his options. Bringing a small team had been a gamble, but they had lost the aliens before because of a needless delay that had been caused by arranging a larger group. This time he planned to use his unit in a delaying action, if the aliens decided to move he would manoeuvre his men to prevent this, and hold the enemy where they stood, until the large contingency arrived. The only problem was Blackwood himself. The soldier had not wanted to bring the Astrophysicist, but the man had refused to budge from in front of his car, and when Suzanne had started making noises about wanting to come as well, Ironhorse had cut his losses and dragged the other man into the car with a snarl.
"If I could just sneak down there... just to see what they are up to." Blackwood said coming to stand beside the army Lt. Colonel, pulling the other man from his thoughts.
Ironhorse shot him another irritated look then glanced back at the map stating firmly, "we will only move in when and if, we have too. The longer they are unaware of our presence the more time the others have to get here."
"I reckon there are only six, maybe nine in the cabin and barn." Harrison offered again, taking off his sunglasses and wiping the bridge of his nose. It had been a hard walk to reach this vantage point.
Ironhorse paused and looked off into the trees that surrounded them, before he answered with an underlying vain of great patience. "There are at least 12 aliens down there... maybe more," seeing Blackwood's look of disbelief he continued slowly as if explaining the manoeuvre to a raw recruit, "there are always three on lookout, and they have changed three times since we've been here" seeing the look of disbelief this earned him he carried on "the original three have only just come back on watch, and we have also seen three different aliens going to and from the barn, that makes12 aliens that we have seen, and there could well be more inside that we don't know about."
"And only eight of us to take them on if the should decide to move." Harrison said slowly, by way of confirming their need for caution. He glanced around at the soldiers who were spaced about the clearing. Only two were in view not counting himself and Ironhorse, the others he knew, were either watching the aliens or guarding their own perimeter.
Ironhorse glared at Blackwood and offered forcibly, "there are only seven of us for that Dr Blackwood ... you are here as a civilian and observer only.... If there is any, and I mean any trouble, I want you to get back under cover and stay hidden until the others arrive."
Blackwood gave Ironhorse a long steadying look, then turning away he headed towards the observation point, that overlooked the area where the aliens were working. The astrophysicist had to admit that the enemy had chosen a beautifully spot to hide. The surrounding countryside was rolling lands of mountain, rivers and trees. The land of America that the settlers had needed to cross to get to the west coast and all the wealth that the land promised.
Turning back to face Ironhorse, Blackwood stated with feeling, "I would give anything to know what there were doing down in that barn.".
"Forget it Blackwood," Ironhorse snarled knowing that the other man was asking of him, and not prepared to even discuss the matter until help arrived as he continued firmly, "we wait for backup."
"But they might destroy whatever it is before we can get to it." Harrison argued, he wanted desperately to climb down the hill and rummage about in the barn below. All morning they had watched as three of the aliens move to and from the cabin, back to the barn, carrying boxes back and forth. None of the other aliens offered to help the three, and Blackwood got the impression that it was because the three carriers didn't want anyone else touching whatever was in the boxes, and Harrison curiosity was about to explode. "We have to get down there." He stated again.
"Not an option Blackwood." came a voice directly behind him. Ironhorse had moved to stand directly behind him.
"There could be vital clues down there." Blackwood began to reason, but one look at the stone faced Indian, that watched him, informed him that he was fighting a losing battle.
"We wait." Ironhorse said, before dismissing the man before him and turning back towards the small camp. They had been airlifted into the area that morning and had trekked the last five miles to the source of the radio signal. So far they had not been spotted, and Ironhorse planned to keep it that way.
"I think that you're wrong." Harrison said as he watched the other man walk away, his frustration almost tangible part of the atmosphere.
"Not your call." Ironhorse shot back coldly.
Blackwood fumed impotently for a few seconds before he retorted, "General Wilson put me in charge of this project..."
Ironhorse span about, the fire in his eyes matching the anger that was written across his handsome face, as he snarled back with force, "and I was put in sole command of the military contingent of this project, and in case you've forgotten with protecting you. So it looks like it's a stale mate, as there is no way in hell that I'm going to let you go down there and be taken over by the aliens." He paused, the memory of his old unit deaths coming to the fore as he continued bitterly, "your considered to important to the project."
Harrison turned away from the raw pain he witnessed in Ironhorse's face. He too felt responsible for what had happen to Ironhorse's Delta force. He knew that he should have been able to warn Paul, stress the dangers more forcibly, make the man before him believe what he knew... If he had, then the others of Ironhorse's elite group might still be alive.
Several months had passed since that time, and while the relationship between the other of the group had formed into a working friendship that carried a certain about of trust, it was still missing at times between the project leader and the military arm of his group. At times the magic worked and Harrison thought that he had found the other half of himself that was missing, the brother who could fight and kill when he could not, and yet there were still times when Ironhorse would shut himself behind the stoic wall of Indian-hood and repel all who tried to climb over it. It was a puzzle and a challenge and Blackwood could not resist either. While he saw Ironhorse as a friend, he had not idea as to how the Indian viewed him.
"I've got to go." Harrison suddenly stated, moving firmly towards the shelter of the trees. Ironhorse opened his mouth to inform Blackwood that he was not going anywhere, when Harrison smiled weakly and offered with an apologetic shrug, "no... I mean that I've really got to go... not down there, but in there." He pointed towards the trees and make his intentions clear.
The frown of annoyance cleared and the Indian nodded before he offered in a dry tone, "Try not to get lost." as the astrophysicist walked away from him.
Blackwood moved through the trees until he was well out of sight, then turning he slowly, carefully began to make his way about the camp. Purposely missing the soldier on guard, until he was slipping over the side of the hill, as he began to head towards the aliens and the secrets of the beckoning barn.
Ironhorse watched Blackwood wander into the trees, then turned back to business as he approached the solider who was watching the cabin below. After a few minutes he slipped his attention back to the spot where Harrison had disappeared into too. After a few more minutes he found himself slowly heading in that direction, as he realised that the Astrophysicist had not returned.
A feeling of deep unease began to creep along his spine, as he quickly and efficiently searched the local area, he came upon one of his men guarding their perimeter and question him, he had not see the Astrophysicist, then turning back Ironhorse sped towards the lookout point, knowing in the pit of his stomach what he would find.
Taking the offered glasses he looked towards the barn, then slowly swept the binoculars up the surrounding hill. A movement off to his left caught his attention and he re-sighted the high powered lens upon the movement, then curse fluently in his native tongue as he saw Blackwood slowly making his way down the hill, heading directly towards the back of the barn.
"Wait here." He snarled at the man who stood beside him, "and whatever happens don't move in unless the enemy show signs of leaving the area." He paused as he turned his look upon the battle veteran who stood by his side. "if they do, hold them until the others arrive."
The man saluted briskly and returned the look in his commanders eyes. He pitied the Astrophysicist when Ironhorse caught up with him.
Turning Ironhorse made his way to the edge of the hill where Blackwood must have began his decent. As he moved he checked his weapons. knowing that he had everything necessary he slipped over the edge and began to slip down the mountainside. Wishing that General Wilson hadn't made such a point of insisting that Blackwood be kept alive, as Ironhorse wanted desperately to practice throwing his tomahawk at the man who had gone AWOL on him.
Meanwhile the recipient of Ironhorse's anger was nearing the back of the barn, and began contemplating how he was going to get inside, without the aliens spotting him. As he approached he realised that this was one area that he usually left up to the Colonel.
A sudden noise off to his left sent his scurrying for cover, and he held his breath as an human possessed alien walked casually past. A gun held loosely in his hand as he made his rounds.
Blackwood waited until the man had passed beyond his sight, around the side of the barn, before he slowly eased himself out of his hiding place, and went back to considering his problem. He could see that there was a fairly large section of the barn that appeared to be rotting, near it's base, and wondered if the rot would be enough for him to make a hole, just large enough for him to slip through. He wished that he had brought one of the rather large knifes that Ironhorse always seemed to have secreted about his body.
Realising that wishing for a knife would not make it appear, he decided to attack the rot with his bear hands, and to this end he spent the next few minutes picking at the wood, trying to be a quite as possible and attentively listening for the return of the alien guard.
He was so intent on his actions and listening for any sound from the other side of the barn that he did not hear Ironhorse's approach, and the first he knew of the other man's presence was when a large hand was slapped over his mouth and nose, effectively cutting of his oxygen and he was roughly yanked back into the dense undergrowth.
He struggle frantically for a few seconds before a low tone, very angry Ironhorse hissed in his ear. "Stop it, you'll bring those damn aliens down on us."
The shock of learning that his assailant was Ironhorse was enough to freeze the other man, and slowly, cautiously the Indian removed his hand from Harrisons's mouth, although he was ready to slap it back if Blackwood showed any sign of making a noise. The Astrophysicist had learned his lesson and lay gulping in much needed air, he made no further attempts to break free.
"What the hell do you think you are doing?" Ironhorse snarled in a muted tone as he disentangled himself from the other man.
"We have to see what they are doing in that barn." Blackwood hissed back, determined to have his way, no matter what the cost.
"And you think it's worth risking the entire project for?" the Indian snapped, crouched upon the ground, his stance one of battle readiness. Even as he spoke he was scanning the area for possible attack. "I said NO Blackwood, and I meant it."
"We need to know..." Harrison began again, but Paul froze him with a glance as he butted in.
"No... we don't need to know..." Suddenly he shot out a hand and roughly prodded the front of the Astrophysicist shirt. "You needed to know... and as far as you are concern the great Dr Blackwood is never wrong.. well this time Blackwood.... This time you are wrong... very wrong..." He tilted his head as a sound reached him, and motioning roughly he forced Harrison even further back into the dense undergrowth, after roughly covering any sign of their presence Ironhorse held up his hand for silence. A few seconds later the Alien who was patrolling the area appeared, and slowly moved about the perimeter as he scanned for intruders.
Seconds ticked by, then minutes as the aliens paused and looked at the back of the barn intently, specifically inspecting the area that Harrison had been working on. He turned and carefully scanned the area, looking for any sign of disruption, as luck would have it a small animal choose that moment to dart out into view, the alien raised his weapon, but the small creature was gone, the Alien waited for a few more moments before he slowly moved on. Five minutes passed before Ironhorse continued his triad. "you didn't give a damn thought for me, my men up there" he pointed towards the top of the hill, "or the Project when you attempted this stupid stunt."
Blackwood opened his mouth to deny the others words, but was stopped again as Ironhorse didn't give him a chance to speak, saying instead. "No... not now...Harrison, we don't have time, just wait until we are back with the others."
"I need to see..." Blackwood hissed, as if he'd not hard one word that Ironhorse had spoken, but then lent back in surprise as Ironhorse again leant into his own personal space and snarled.
"One more word Blackwood, just one more... and I will drag you back up the hill by your butt.... do you understand me..." he spoke the words with total conviction and the astrophysicist leant back even further and swallowed hard at the look in the others eyes. Slowly Ironhorse gained control of his temper as he continued in a more reasonable tone, "You'll see what's in that barn Blackwood once the others arrive, and we have secured the area and not a moment before." Then moving back he rose in one smooth motion, holding out a hand, he roughly pulled the other man to his feet and shoved him in the general direction of the path that they had taken down the hill.
While one part of him wanted to argue the point, deny the accusation, the rational side of Blackwood knew that Ironhorse had been right. He had been so intent on seeing what was in that barn, that he had not given a thought to the consequence of the aliens overpowering him. He swallowed hard as he realised that he'd gambled with not only his own life, but the entire project and even Debi's life.
As they move cautiously through the trees Blackwood began to curse his own stupidly. This was not the first time that his single mindedness had blinded him and endangered the group, his need to learn as much about the aliens had become a dangerous obsession, and he wondered how many times Ironhorse would allow him to get away with it, before he prevented the astrophysicist from accompany him on missions.
Harrison was so intent of his own thoughts and he stumbled over a root that lay across their path, and Ironhorse span about to support him, grabbing at his arm. It was this action that saved the Lt. Colonel's life, as a bullet shattered the air and Ironhorse was tossed backwards in the undergrowth like a rag doll.
Blackwood opened his mouth to call the other man's name, but no sound was issued as two aliens stepped into view. Their human hosts had seen better days and the astrophysicist could tell that the radiation was destroying the bodies from the inside out. If the bodies had been human they would have been dead a few days ago.
One of the aliens motioned for him to stand still, and Blackwood complied slowly, holding up his arms as he did so, manoeuvring himself so that he was standing in front of the crumpled form of his friend.
"Who are you?" the alien asked, motioning with his gun, showing that he would shot Blackwood if he didn't get the answers that he wanted.
The astrophysicist swallowed hard and looked franticly about, there was no help on the way. This he knew. "We're camped over in the next valley." He blurted, not sure if the aliens would believe him, but at the moment his main attention was on the lack of movement behind him. Was the Indian dead? "We were just out walking." He babbled not needing to pretend the fear that he felt.
The two aliens looked at each other and spoke in their own tongue for a few moments. Then the one who had spoken to Blackwood raised his gun, his intention clear, before Harrison could protest the aliens intentions, two shots rang out and both aliens looked at Harrison with shocked surprised before they slumped to the ground and began to dissolve.
"Get moving." Ironhorse gasped from behind Blackwood, his gun still clutch in his shaking hand.
Blackwood didn't spare a look for the bubbling mass, but turned to stoop before the injured man. "Can you walk?" he demanded urgently, going down on one knee as he searched the for other men's for his injury.
Ironhorse weakly fought him off saying instead, "No... get going, the other aliens will think that the shot were from their own," he weakly motioned towards the aliens, "finishing us off. Once they... don't return they will.... send out reinforcements." He paused as weakness overcome him, and he slumped back upon the ground, no longer able to fight the questing fingers of the Astrophysicist as he found the ugly looking wound.
Blackwood was horrified. His actions had caused this damage. He quickly pulled open the other man's jacket and pulled his shirt open to reveal the nasty looking bullet wound. It was a small hole for such a deadly weapon. With sure movement he dug out the small emergency medical pack that Ironhorse carried, with sure fingers he applied a pressure bandage over the hole, holding the other man tightly as he reared up against the pain. Then Harrison checked the injured man's back, looking for an exit would, to his relief there was none. While in one respect that was no lost of blood from that direction, it also meant that the bullet was still buried deep inside the other man, and that was not good.
"Colonel..." Blackwood spoke as he lent over the other man, pulling his shirt back into place and buttoning up the jacket as he finished, "We've got to move... we can't stay here... the aliens.."
"Can't move..." Ironhorse gasped back, then added as an afterthought, "can't... Pain..."
Blackwood fought against the dizziness that swept over him. He could not afford to panic now. He had to get the other man to safety. Rummaging in the small kit, he pulled out a sceringe filled injection. He knew that it contain a dosage amount of morphine. Without a word he pushed up the Colonels sleeve and made to apply the injection, but Ironhorse's gasping cry prevented him.
"No... will knock me out... no help."
"Colonel...." Blackwood began trying to be reasonable, "I can't move you without giving you this...."
"Leave me..." Ironhorse panted, reaching feebly for his gun. "I'll cover... your...back."
"You can't even lift that gun... let alone fire it." Snapped back Harrison suddenly angry at the man's assumption that he was less important to the project then Blackwood himself was. "Either we both go, or I'll just wait here until the aliens find us."
Ironhorse turned angry, pain-filled eyes upon the other man, but whatever he read in his eyes convinced him that Blackwood meant what he said, because he no longer argued instead he nodded weakly, then lifted an arm for Harrison to help him up he added. "Then.... we'd better... get going." The last was spoke as a gasping croak as Blackwood used his strength to lift the other man to his feet.
The hill suddenly seemed a whole lot larger to Blackwood, as he carefully slipped the injured man's arm across his shoulder, and they began to stagger up it.
A few hundred feet later, Ironhorse gave a whimpering graon and slumped towards the floor conscious, his sudden weight pulled Blackwood to the ground with him. "Paul...Paul" Harrison demanded urgently as he felt feverishly for a pulse. It was sluggish, but there. He let his breath out before moving with care he pulled the other man up and over his shoulder in a fireman's carry, bending under the weight he fought his way back up the steep hillside.
As he struggled onwards he fought the voice in his mind, that kept telling him that this would not have happened if he'd listen to Paul in the first place. He wondered briefly why the others of Ironhorse's small unit had not come to help, but then realised that the Lt. Colonel would have ordered them not to. Their mission was to prevent the aliens from leaving the area and Paul would have made sure that they followed those orders.
Twenty minutes later he reached the rim of the hill, all but exhausted himself. As he reached up for the edge, he felt a hand grab his and he was hauled unceremoniously over the edge. Ironhorse was taken from him and carried a slight distance away, where one of the soldier knelt beside him, a field medical bag within reach.
"He got shot." Blackwood gasped, as the older soldier looked coldly down at him, the astrophysicist realised that the man did not like him very much. "The colonel had to kill two of the aliens, but thy got him first...." He continued as he climbed onto his knees and all but crawled over to the injured man. "How is he?" he asked the younger soldier who doubled as the unit medic. The man didn't spared him a glance as he continued working over his wounded commander.
"You've stirred up a horns nest down there." The first soldier commented dry, moving to stand over Blackwood "they're getting ready to leave," he stated, handing the lens back to the solider who moved back to the ridge edge to watch the scene below, as he finished in a bitter tone, "and the others aren't due to arrive for another twenty, thirty minutes."
Blackwood nodded weakly, he knew what the man was really saying and he had no defence. They were going to have to engage the enemy with no support, and the odds were stacked against them. "What can I do to help?" Harrison asked standing and moving slightly away from the injured man, hoping that the sergeant wouldn't give him a gun and tell him to shoot it.
Before the older solider could answer the young medic fell back on his heels, saying in a tone borne of frustration, "sir... sir... you must remain still...." Even as he spoke the words Ironhorse was in the process of forcing himself into an upright position. The effort left streaks of sweat upon his face, and his teeth were clench into a snarl of agony, yet he still had breath to gasp angrily.
"Harrison you... stay here," Ironhorse glared at Blackwood and added firmly, "and this time... do as you're... told..." he took another steadying breath and continued weakly as if talking to Blackwood had drained his energy, "Sergeant." The man beside Harrison snapped to attention. "You said.... Aliens... on the move... you have... your orders."
"Yes Sir." The man replied about a smart salute. Then as he began to move away Ironhorse attracted his attention again ordering firmly.
"Keep... the men... hidden... don't let... them... too close.... They will....." He never finished as he slumped back on the ground totally exhausted by his efforts. The medic hastily began to check the bandage.
"We need to get the colonel out of sight." The Medic said as he finished, Harrison looked about and saw that the other soldier were busy getting ready to engage the enemy. Checking their weapons, and readying themselves for the coming battle.
"Here." He offered, "I'll help." So saying Blackwood carefully took the injured man's legs while the medic bent to clasp the upper body.
"I... don't... need.... Help...." Snarled Ironhorse as he struggled to sit up, fighting his way-out of both men's grips.
"Sir..." began the medic, but wilted under the glare this earned him.
"Give me some Protanac." The injured man demanded. The medic paled, opening his mouth to deny his commanders request, but seeing the look of pure determination in Ironhorse features he slowly reached into his bag and pulled out the requested injection.
"I strongly advise against this sir." The medic began again, but the injured man, just gritted his teeth and nodded in the direction of his exposed vein. Ironhorse winced as the needle was pushed home, then he took a couple of trail breaths, feeling the pain fad into the background, he smiled grimly and held out his hand for assistance to raise. The medic was swift to offer the help.
"What the hell do you think you are doing?" Blackwood asked in shock, not understanding what had just passed between the young man and his friend, but knowing that the medic was worried about giving Ironhorse the injection, and that concerned him greatly, and then seeing Ironhorse forcing himself to stand only convinced Harrison of his insanty.
Ironhorse clutched his arm about his middle, as he answered very slowly, precisely through gritted teeth. "My men.... are about to... engage... the aliens... I'm going to make... damn sure that... they survive.... the encounter."
"By killing yourself, "Blackwood snapped angrily before he added, "You should be resting..."
"I... feel... fine." Snapped back Ironhorse before he carefully turned and made his way over to the sergeant who was just finishing his pep talk.
"What the hell was in that injection?" Harrison demanded of the medic as the man made to walk pass him.
The young soldier hesitated, looking unwilling to answer until finally he stated "Protantac" then seeing the question in the other man's eyes he finished, "It a very powerful pain killer... very heavy duty."
"And what happens when the Protantac wares off?" Blackwood asked, not liking the implications or the worried look the crossed the medic face when he looked over at Ironhorse.
"He'll go down sir... hard... very hard...sir..."
"And..." Harrison insisted, telling from the boys face that there was more.
The medic looked over at his commander again then back at the man who stood beside him, before offering in a hush tone, "the body will demand payment and there are some who believe that Protantac isn't all it's cracked up to be...."
"All it's cracked up to be?" Blackwood was finding it hard to believe what the other man was telling him, and yet he knew that it was just like the army to allow it's men to use a pain killer that had nasty side effects.
"Look sir, it's not really my place to say, it just that we.." the soldier paused, obviously unwilling to continue the conversation, yet his conscious would not allow him to stop now. "Side effects have been reported..." he stopped again before adding in deadly earnest, "very serious side effects,"
"Such as?" Blackwood demanded, feeling anger start to flood his body, as the risk that Ironhorse appeared to be taking.
The medic as if realising that he had said too much already to turn back just shrugged and continued, "Protantac places a tremendous strain upon the main functions of the body... especially the heart. There have been rumours sir, that users have died from a heart attacks that was not related to their initial injury." He hurried to finished as he name was called and he rushed over to stand in line along with the sergeant. "Keep an eye on him, at the first sign of distress give him CPR."
Blackwood watched the boy go with growing fear, then looking over at Ironhorse he was shocked to see that he was looking almost normal. He did not openly display any signs of his injury apart from the bulky bandage wrapped about his lower waist. He's eyes were clear and his tone strong as he informed his men firmly. "Under no circumstances are you to engage the enemy on a one to one bases. This is a harasses operation only." He paused to looked over towards Blackwood before he added, "If possible shoot to wound, but kill if you have too." He stopped while he gathered his breath then ploughed on, "we should have assistance within the half-hour, you each have your orders and assigned areas to cover. Sergeant. you and your group are to head directly for the barn and hold if possible."
"Yes, sir." Came the snap reply. The man was ready for battle, and had fought with Ironhorse before and knew that the colonel didn't give warnings unless they needed to be heeded.
"Keep in touch... I want those headphones to be worn at all times and listen... it just might save your lives" Ironhorse warned, "I will position myself up here on the ridge and give as much information concerning the enemy positions as I can." Ironhorse spoke the last words with distaste, knowing that he really wanted to be in the thick of the fighting, not stuck up on the hill watching the battle play out below him.
"We will make you proud of us sir." The sergeant said with feeling doing his duty of boycestering the courage of his men.
"I already am." Ironhorse whispered, before he coughed and added in a firmer tone, "support will be arriving," he glanced at his watch, "in about twenty-eight minutes.. this should be a short engagement, but try to make it a painless one on our part as well." With that he dismissed his men and walked carefully over to the ridge edge. He gave a heart warming smile as he took the powerful lens from the soldier who moved over to join his companions, who were now ready for battle.
Looking through the powerful lens, Ironhorse could see the aliens down below moving between cabin and the barn. They appeared to be in a hurry and were gathering equipment as they moved, yet he could also make out the perimeters guards as they stood duty on the small road that lead into the homestead below. Swinging his glasses along the ridge he saw his men begin their decent, speaking into the radio he advised, "red leader 1 there are three on perimeter... road covered. One to the left about fifty yards and another is hidden on the right, not sure how far."
"Roger that base 1." Came back the whispered reply.
"Colonel," Blackwood began moving to stand behind his friend, "I really think you should be resting." Even to his own ears he knew that the words sounded force, Ironhorse was acting like a man without a wound to worry about, but Blackwood knew better. He could see the seeping blood leaked through the bandage, and it terrified him.
Ironhorse spared him a quick glance then retorted, "I don't have time to rest," he sneered the words, but even as he spoke Ironhorse knew that his shaking knees were giving him away, but he refused to give into the weakness. The pain might have gone, but the shock to his system was still firmly in place.
"At least sit then..." Harrison argued, "Here." He indicated a boulder near the edge. "you can still see what's going on below." He offered kindly before adding, "It will at least get me off your back for a while." he made the tempting offer with a smile that didn't reach his eyes.
The Colonel quickly spared a look towards the astrophysicist, then the rock he was pointing at, seeing the logic behind the others words and the advantage of not having Blackwood griping at him, he slowly moved over and gingerly sat down. Grunting as agony flared for a few moments before the Protantac washed the pain aside.
"Is there anything that I can do to help?" Harrison asked knowing that they were the only ones to remain at the base camp.
Ironhorse never took his attention off the action below as he answered, "You could contact the main group and get an E.T.A..." he paused, taking a steadying breath before he continued, "and let them know that we are about to engage the enemy."
"Right." Blackwood agreed before moving off. Once on the radio he informed the advancing group of the seriousness of the situation, and advised them to step up their EAT. He also took the opportunity informed them of Ironhorse's condition. The officer in charge, a Sergeant Barlow informed the astrophysicist that they were moving as fast as they could, but he would deploy out a forward unit to intercept the fighting as soon as possible, he estimated about ten - fifteen minutes. Also that with the lost of surprise they would be moving up the helicopters to engage at once.
Suddenly the sound of gun fire filled the mountain air. The battle had began, Ironhorse remain in position, reading out warning and orders, giving direction as he watched the battle below. He felt totally helpless and wanted more then anything to be down there with his men.
The aliens were cleaver and desperate, a deadly combination and they fought with a strength borne of their determination to say alive and serve their masters. Ironhorse watched with a feeling of desperate horror, as he saw a small group of his men converge upon the small compound. He knew that they men would die if they were not careful, and yet once more he felt powerless to stop it.
Surprisingly the aliens began to fall back under the onslaught, and Ironhorse felt hope begin to burn in his chest, until he saw that they were heading towards the barn, moving backwards as if in some sort of lose formation. Like a bolt of lighting the aliens plan struck him and he issued a warning, yelling for his men to back up and secure the ground that they already held. If the aliens wanted them in view before the barn that it could only mean one thing. There was some sort of weapon in the barn and they were prepared to use it against his men.
"What's happening Colonel?" Blackwood asked suddenly afraid, as an eerie silence filtered up from the valley below.
"The aliens have retreated to the barn... the unit has them hold up in there." Ironhorse commented almost under his breath before he added in a tone of warning. "I don't like it.... they are up to something."
"Can your people hold them?" Harrison asked, wishing he knew what the military jargon was for such a situation.
"I don't know," Ironhorse groaned, then added with feeling, "but I... remember the last time... I sent a unit... into the middle of their nest... I'm not about to... risk that again." As Ironhorse spoke, Blackwood witnessed the sweat pouring from his face and body, the eyes that suddenly looked feverishly bright and the slight chattering of his teeth as his body rebelled the treatment it was receiving.
"Colonel..." Blackwood began, noticing for the first time the shocking amount of blood that had seeped through the bandage that the medic had applied.
Paul looked at Harrison, the tone of his voice warning him that something was wrong. Seeing his look he directed his own vision downwards and winced at the sight that met his eyes. "I'm alright doctor." He spoke as if to reassure himself as much as the frightened astrophysicist. "I have to be."
"Are you Colonel...." Blackwood demanded his tone edge with panic, he could Ironhorse's body begin reject the medication, and the Medic had stated quite firmly that taking Protantac has serious side effects."
Ironhorse opened his mouth to retort the others words, but instead he closed it again and shook his head replying instead, "What choice do I have... those are my men down there."
"Let me at least check the wound, re-bandage... loosing all that blood is not going to help either you or your men... is it."
Ironhorse considered the other man words, then slowly he nodded his head saying, "As long as I can continue to advise my men of the situation." Meaning that he didn't want to leave the rock he was seated upon.
While Blackwood didn't exactly like the idea, he knew that it was going to be the only compromise that he would get. Moving over he snatched up the medical bag. As he did so a movement caught his attention and turning he spied an alien in human form slipping through the trees, heading in their direction, he opened his mouth to shout a warning, but felt a blinding agony flare up his arm and he was span about by the force of the bullet that caught him in the arm.
Even as he fell, he heard Ironhorse cry his name, this was closely followed by the sound of gun fire which rolled over his other senses as they faded into unconsciousness.
When consciousness returned it was to find Ironhorse standing directly above him, his legs on either side of the prone man, the gun in his hand shaking as he fired again and again into the dense undergrowth, the sound of a helicopter's blades beat at the air making it almost impossible to concentrate of what was happening about him. The colonel was still firing an empty weapon, and Blackwood realised with a start that the man was not even aware that he had run out of ammunition.
Carefully, grunting as pain radiated up from his injured arm, Blackwood clambered out from between the colonel's leg. Once standing he reached over and gently pried the useless gun from the other man's vice like grip. Realising that it was Harrison who wanted the side arm, Ironhorse gave it up with a struggle. Turning shockingly vacant eyes upon Blackwood, he opened his mouth, tried to speak, but crumpled to the ground instead.
Only the astrophysicist quick action prevent him from hitting the hard earth with any force and Blackwood paid for this action as pain flared, but he gritted his teeth against his own agony and felt franticly for a pulse from Ironhorse. He found none. With feverish fingers he felt about the exposed neck, knowing that he was feeling in the right place, but it just wasn't there.
Without conscious thought he pulled the other man's body out straight, and tilting the head back, began to breath air into the lifeless body. One, two, three, four, five. Then he began to pump upon the chest. He continued this action as he counted time under his breath, then went back to breathing air into the body. His arm protested such rough treatment, but he gritted his teeth and pushed his meagre pain aside as he fought for the life of his friend. How long he did this he didn't know. The man beneath his hands became the centre of his universe, and he looked up with shock as another pair of hands reached over his and took over the heart messuage in one fluid motion. He was then gently tugged out of the way. Blackwood didn't want to go, started to fight the action, but the gentle hand were insistent.
With a gasp of pure shock he realised that it was Susanne who was pulling his away from his friend. "I can't..." he began, but then stopped when he saw the amount of blood that was flowing from his own arm. Glancing back at Ironhorse he saw that it had covered the front of the other man's jacket, to mingle with his own.
"Harrison." Suzanne was speaking, slowly, clearing wanting him to understand, "he's in the best hands now... you've got to let them work on him... they know what they are doing."
"I killed him Suzanne." He mumbled suddenly frightened by what his action had done. "I killed him." He stated again his words becoming a mantra, this time the edge of hysteria enter his tone, and he's head snapped back in reaction to the firm slap that she delivered to him.
He glared at her as tears welled, but he forced them aside as she continued, "He saved your life Harrison... I saw it from the chopper... the aliens came out of the trees and they were going too... going too." she stopped as her own shock caught up with her. "He just stood there, over you and kept firing that gun, over and over.... G-d knows how they didn't hit him..."
Their attention was suddenly drawn back to Ironhorse's prone form as a portable defibrillator was set up and administer. Without even been aware, both headed back towards the dead man, each listening as the medic spoke swiftly amongst themselves, making split seconds decisions in an attempt to save the man's life. Suddenly one slumped back, a smile of satisfaction creeping across his face as the other announced with relief. "We have a pulse people.... Now lets get him stable and to a hospital before he zero's on us again."
Harrison suddenly felt weak and light-headed, the emotion slamming into him, as he grabbed hold of Suzanne and held on tight as he saw Ironhorse take a breath on his own.
A body stopped beside them and Blackwood looked at the man and recognised him as the sergeant who had lead the attack upon the homestead. The man was waiting patiently, his relief at Ironhorse's condition plan to read upon his face as he informed Blackwood. "The cabin and barn has been secured sir," he paused, his sorrow evidence as he continued, "unfortunately all the aliens were either killed or committed suicide rather then face capture," he paused again, watching as the paramedic worked upon his commander then finished, "I'm sorry sir, but they managed to destroy most of the equipment they had stashed in the barn, but we were able to retrieve some of it in tact."
"We'll be down in a minute." Suzanne answered when it became evident that Blackwood was not going to. Then pulling gently at Harrison uninjured arm she lead him firmly away from Ironhorse's prone body. "Here.." she advised Harrison, "Sit here, and I'll get a dressing for you arm... your lucky it looks like it went right through."
"I don't feel lucky Suzanne." Harrison shot back, his glance still fixed upon that of his friend, "in fact I feel sick to my stomach."
Suzanne felt her heart go out to this lonely man. He had lost so many people, friends in his life, and now he had nearly lost another. She didn't understand the relationship that rested between Blackwood and Ironhorse. In her opinion they seemed to spend more time at each other throats then as friends, and yet, there were times, just brief glimpses that she saw, that showed how well these two worked together. At times she pictured Blackwood as the Marge who stood upon the hill top watching the battle below while Ironhorse fought with the sword of might. The nutty professor and the Native American who fought just for his place in a white man's society. A part they were just two men trying to survive in a world that really didn't have a place for them. Together they made one of the most effective fighting forces that she had ever beheld. A fighting force that she was glad were on earth's side in the fight against the aliens.
A short while later, Blackwood's arm had been efficiently bandaged, and pain killer supplied and he was feeling slightly better. One of the helicopters was back, hovering over the clearing and a harness hoist was being lowered to accept Ironhorse's body, once aboard he would then be transported back to the nearest hospital for further treatment. He's condition had stabilised and for that Harrison was thankful.
"Harrison." Suzanne said moving up to stand beside him again, "do you want to go and look at the barn now?" she asked, not liking his pale features but knowing that he would not be pleased with her suggesting that he go to the hospital to have his arm properly attended. She knew that he would insist on seeing the alien technology that had been discovered in the barn.
Slowly he shook his head, unable to take his eyes from the cradle as Ironhorse was winched up into the air and to the safety of the helicopter. The man had not recovered consciousness but the medic were pleased that he was stable enough for the flight, and had reassured Blackwood that he would live.
"I want to go with him." He said, almost under his breath. Suzanne had to lean forward to capture his words over beating of the helicopter blades.
"Sorry." She said, not sure that she had heard right.
Her words seemed to give Harrison the impetus he needed, as he started forwards with determination and reaching out with his good arm, he grabbed one of the medics and shouted over the noise. "I want to go with Colonel Ironhorse.... To the hospital."
The man was about to refuse, when he noticed the torn sleeve, bloody bandage and pale features. Without a word, he nodded his agreement and then radioed up to the helicopter to prepare for another passenger.
"Harrison." cried Suzanne, as she reached over and grabbed his uninjured arm. "What are you doing... the barn... the alien technology..." she began, but he cut her off saying returning confidence.
"Suzanne... I just had a valuable lesson in perspectives, and I've just realised that man in that helicopter means a damn sight more then whatever those aliens were working on in that barn."
"But... but.. Harrison" she stuttered as she watched him climb into the harness, taking care of his injured arm. "What about the..."
She never got any further as he smiled at her brightly and informed her with his usually flippancy. "Take videos and get samples...Have them transport whatever they can back to Fort Streeter, what you think can't be moved, I'll come back and inspect tomorrow." He compromised then added "I trust you explicitly." As he finished he was winced into the air.
She stood watching open mouthed, as he disappeared into the helicopter and then saw watched as it bank and tilted away from the scene below it. Turning she saw the paramedics who had worked on Ironhorse standing off to one side. Moving carefully over the rough ground she approached him and asked, "How was the colonel... really?" She'd heard what he'd said earlier to Harrison, but she was convinced that he'd only spoken those words to keep the other man calm.
The man shrugged then offered with honestly, "He appeared to be a lot better then he had the right to be."
"Meaning?" she questioned.
He gave her a long steadying look, gauging her reaction to his words then answered with caution. "If Dr Blackwood hadn't began the CPR When he did, then the colonel would never had made it."
She suddenly swallowed about the lump that formed in her throat, as she realised what Harrison had been talking about.
For months she had been guilt of just considering Ironhorse to the their token military officer, a necessary for the continuation of the government funding and their support, but seeing Blackwood's recent reactions and having witnessed the Colonel's own defence of the unconsciousness astrophysicist, she had to admit that Harrison was right it certainly did put things in to perspective, when you realised that the man you had considered to be nothing more then an army trained robot turned out to be a human being who was willing to lay down his life for you.
The hospital was in silence. The night shift had been on duty for many hours, and the nurses had given up all pretence of trying to move the tall lanky man from the seat that he'd taken next to the sleeping Colonel.
The man had been taken directly into surgery, and was now recovering in intensive care. Surrounded by monitors and the usually paraphernalia that went with being in the high tech ward.
Harrison knew that they wanted to kick him out, but he flatly refused to go and the fuss he would make would do more harm then good, so the doctor had finally relented and given his permission to allow the astrophysicist to say. Beside the Doctor had been daunted by the amount of security that had arrived with the injured Colonel and was not sure if he really had the authority in his own hospital where these men were concerned.
A noise from the bed attacked Blackwood's attention and he lent forward, mindful of his arm which had been professional wrapped and now rested within the confines of a crisp white sling.
"Colonel." Harrison asked, not sure if the man was waking or not.
Silence answered him and after a few minuets he settled back, sure that the man had not made the sound. Then Ironhorse spoke, his voice barely above a hushed whisper. "Did we win?" Which was followed by, "My men?"
Blackwood stood so that Ironhorse would see his face as he answered, "Yes Colonel... we won this time, and your men are all accounted for."
Ironhorse opened his eyes wider this time and smiled at his friend, before adding in a battle weakened tone, "next time your going to do as you are told mister."
"Next time I will..." Harrision lied, "I promise." He kept his fingers crossed just in case.
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