Human Nature

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Human Nature

By Jason Halstead


Chapter 1


Dawn cursed under her breath, proving she could speak as fluently as the soldier who once wore her jacket. She ran, heading in a straight line across the broken pavement until she slid shoulder first into the side of the van the squad hid behind. The echo of gunfire, both near and afar, rang in her ears. The noise made it impossible for her to hear the shouted instructions of the soldier nearby.

He pointed at a fallen man and she nodded, grabbing her kit and moving up to him. The man had a hand to his neck, covered in blood. She fought the urge to grimace; the odds were not good. Blood ran from a cut on his chin as well, trickling down to mix with the blood pooled in the hollow of his throat.

She readied some gauze and pulled the man’s hand away, expecting a spurt of blood to come her way. It did not. With an almost audible sigh of relief she wiped at the blood and saw more well up immediately from the non-fatal hole in the man’s neck.

Smiling at the small miracle, she poured disinfectant powder on it and stitched the wound closed. A bandage and then some tape and she was done.

The ratcheting noise of bullets slamming into the van made her jerk and duck down. She looked up a minute later, breathing fast and hard. The wounded soldier grinned at her and gave her a thumbs up, then said, “Thanks Doc!”

“Don’t make a habit of it,” she replied, talking too loudly because of her partial deafness.

He nodded and rolled back, picking up his rifle to rejoin the fight. Dimly she heard another distant call. It came from behind her, the other side of their force. The other side of the ambush they’d walked into. She dared not close her eyes for the moment she wanted to. Peace and solitude was no longer available to her. None of the human race had the right anymore, it seemed. None of the survivors, at least.

With a grunt she was up and running, the soldiers behind her offering some covering fire. Ammunition was more valuable than gold, but a medic ranked pound for pound like platinum. She made it and found there was nothing for her to do. The woman hissed out her last breath in her arms moments after she arrived. Dawn Vincent moved on as best she could, leaving the body behind and heading for the next victim that needed her help.

By the time the fight ended seventeen people had been injured. Of those, nine were dead. She knew three more would join them soon. Another four were questionable, but she did her best to help them out. Battlefield triage was never what she had in mind; she used to be a physicians’ assistant in a obstetrics ward. Babies. She grew up wanting to help bring babies into the world.

There weren’t many babies anymore, just kids picking up their fathers’ guns and trying to defend themselves. Instead of witnessing the miracle of birth she was struggling to keep people alive.

They were moving through what used to be the southern edges of Chicago. It still was a nice city, if you didn’t mind the destruction and intense radiation the northern edges would bring. She was part of a moving band of survivors. They scavenged and searched for a place to call home. Apparently this time they’d found a dirty little hole somebody else already hung their hat in. She heard the final count was nearly three dozen snipers had been waiting for them and tore them up pretty good. Oh sure, they had almost a hundred people, but these days life was sacred. Their lives, at least. Others too, if they weren’t too busy shooting to listen to offers of peace.

“Hey Doc, how’s it going?”

Dawn jerked out of her private reverie. She tried to smile but failed. “Same old, different day, Mike. The Colonel itching for a report already?”

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