PART FOUR: Never Enough
Razor: a year into the Clone Wars
Blood. The heavy headiness of blood, tang of sweat, stench of urine, staleness of tears, putridity of feces—and more blood.
Such is the life of a medic.
The air is smothering with the aftershocks of a dozen troopers coming off a battle-high, a dozen more wounded or about to die.
Silas is calm, he’s okay, because he’s alive—and that’s enough for him. He breathes. In—and out. He keeps working, coldly calm in his chest, hands precise and efficient, mind on high alert. He’s one ordered piece in a galactic, chaotic war-game.
The trooper beneath his hands thrashes wildly, like an ensnared animal. Silas doesn’t panic. His heartbeat stays level. Automatically he whispers calming words, promises, promises he isn’t sure he can keep. Between the words he injects a sedative.
It is almost guaranteed, their teacher, a former doctor, told them, that not one of your brothers will ever see the Angels of Iego. They will never see them, so you will be those angels for them.
Strange, it is, how an angel can look like this: stony and resilient, armor streaked with blood and carbon-scoring, wielding a blaster in one hand and a scalpel in the other. But that red sigil on their shoulders is a beacon of hope. Hope to all who see it.
Skill like theirs deserves a white lab coat, advanced medical equipment, a coveted university degree, and a million credits a year. Perhaps a luxury apartment on Coruscant, ownership of a private practice, four-day weekends and a wife and children. But their lives are not meant to be that. Their lives are given to the smoking battlefield, to risking their own lives, to discomfort and pain, because they look like a million others, are born and bred in a bottle, and they are called clone troopers. Every day, at all hours, they work, till fatigue or despair or plasma bolt fell them.
Jansel’s brief nap is torn by a scream. It jolts him awake and he immediately reaches for his med-pac with one hand and his blaster-rifle with the other.
Silas blocks his way and gently shoves his brother back. “No—I can handle this. Get some rest.” Noises he didn’t notice before while sleeping now assault his ears. Quiet moans, stifled sobs, gasping pleads for water—or death.
Jansel looks into his brother’s eyes, bloodshot and glassy, rimmed with red. “I’ve rested enough,” he contradicts, and drenches his hands in antiseptic. He takes his place where Silas was before, and begins removing charred armor plates off a trooper. Taking advantage of the extra hands, Silas tastes a few drops of water from his canteen, careful to keep a reservoir at the bottom for when times get worse—and they will, he knows that.
Jansel lifts a particularly stubborn piece of fused armor and bodyglove from the trooper’s body. It rattles in the tray beside him, and Jansel quickly sprays bacta in the burn. His patient groans.
“Is it too much?” Jansel asks, bending an ear down to him. Tears well in his eyes and he murmurs something incoherent, but Jansel knows his response. This man before him is his brother. “Good man.” Jansel pats his shoulder, relieved and worried at the same time. They’re short on painkillers at this moment, but with an injury of this degree there’s supposed to be substantial pain. He fears nerve damage.
Sensing movement behind him but not pausing his work, Jansel orders softly, “Silas, sleep.”
“There’s too many.” Silas’ voice is quietly adamant and he sets to work on another trooper. Jansel hears the clunking of armor and a quiet hiss of a helmet seal undone.
They work till there isn’t any more work. They lose track of hours. Brothers die and the two medics did their best, but still they can’t stop wondering if they only had.
By the time they reach Coruscant, home and rest, it was fifty hours.
Final numbers come through and Silas and Jansel are side by side reading the report. Three KIA, seven later dead. Every name on that list is like a nail through their hearts.
They did their best, they worked their bodies to exhaustion and beyond.
But it’s never enough. No. Never enough.