Home > Rescuing Rex

Rescuing Rex
Author: JM Madden



2nd Lt. Rex Neptune - Afghanistan- July 2012


Rex went still as the dust settled around him. That one had been way too close. What the hell were they doing out there?

The explosions had been coming more and more frequently, which correlated to more injured. They had so many guys already waiting for care, it wasn’t even funny. His bladder had been about to burst, though, and he’d had to take a minute for himself. It gave him a chance to look around and see what they were up against.

FOB Nightshade was under attack. Not the regular, semi-random strafing runs the Taliban liked to do. No, this was a full-focus barrage of bullets and explosives. It was the hardest attack they’d taken since he’d been here.

His nerves were shot. Usually, he could roll with just about anything, and more often than not, other nurses came to him for consolation. Physically, he was a big dude, and he knew that made people feel protected, especially in this setting. Nothing really ruffled his feathers, and his patients responded to the laid-back way he had of doing things. So, he did his best to stay calm in all situations. Other RNs called him for backup all the time when they had unruly or just difficult patients.

The constant thrumming of the explosions that rattled the tents, and the responding machine gun fire, had set his nerves on edge days ago. He couldn’t sleep, even with the earplugs in his ears 24-7. The canals were sore from being plugged for so long.

It wasn’t helping his anxiety. Nothing did. He’d even resorted to sedatives off-shift, just to get some sleep, but he woke up feeling like he’d been drugged, which was worse. He couldn’t operate on two hours of bad sleep at night. Not in this environment.

His team had at least another few weeks here, assuming they weren’t overrun. Nightshade was off the beaten track, and isolated. They didn’t get the same monitoring as a lot of the other bases. They were well-equipped with several Marine platoons, but that didn’t guarantee their safety.

A large explosion detonated just outside the tent. Was that inside the Hesco Bastions? Or had it taken them out? Marines were running everywhere, and his gut was churning. Something was up. Today was different.

The thought had no sooner crossed his mind than another bomb exploded directly behind him, in the recovery tent. The blast sent him spinning to the floor, narrowly dodging another injured patient waiting in the hall. It took him precious seconds to get his breath before he was lurching to his feet. There were so many men stacked in that tent, recovering from surgery. He pushed through the doors and stopped, unable to believe what he was seeing.

Men were on fire. The tent structure had collapsed, and the back corner of the roof was completely engulfed in flames. Rex lunged forward, desperate to pull men out of the fire. Snatching a blanket from the floor, he went to one man and smothered him with the blanket, praying it didn’t set on fire as well. Then he unlocked the gurney and shoved it toward the fire-free hallway.

Other nurses were running in now, their faces horrified at seeing the burning men.

“Turn off the oxygen!” Olivia screamed.

He lunged for the next patient burning on a gurney. He remembered this guy. Ryan Dickson. He had a ventilator tube in, and he was beginning to rouse from the sedative. The surge of adrenalin had obviously been enough to wake him. Rex shoved some debris from his body and reached for a bag. He’d have to ventilate for him because the oxygen was off. He attached the bag to the mouthpiece and began squeezing with one hand while unlocking the wheels of the gurney with his foot. He needed to get him out of here.

Ryan tried to take matters into his own hands. Literally. He began to thrash, grabbing at the mouthpiece and trying to remove the tube from his throat. Rex needed more hands.

“Olivia,” he yelled.

His manager looked over and understood the situation immediately. Baylee took her patient and waved Olivia to Rex.

“His name is Ryan Dickson,” Rex gasped, trying to do everything.

Olivia leaned over the man, looking him in the eye. “Okay, Ryan, we’re going to get this tube out, okay?”

The patient seemed to hear her words, and he settled down. They removed the tube from his throat, then waited to make sure he was breathing okay on his own. He seemed to be okay. “Thanks, Liv.”

She nodded, then turned to help other patients.

Several of the men now had new burns to contend with in their recovery, but they hadn’t lost any of them in the blast. Rex moved from patient to patient, trying to keep them as comfortable as possible, and when things settled down a bit, he sank into an office chair and rested his head on his hand. Within seconds, he had dozed off, exhausted, lulled to sleep by the unnatural quiet.



Rex jerked awake as an explosion rent the air, followed by machine gun fire that was way too close for comfort. More gunfire responded, and it sounded like it was right outside. Had the Taliban broken through?

Pushing up from the chair, he stretched, back cracking, and went to the door of the surgical building. Marines were running helter-skelter, not looking where they were going in an effort to get away from the group racing after them.

The Taliban had broken through.

Even as the words went through his mind, men in native clothing slammed through the doors of the hospital, firing wildly. Rex was stunned and couldn’t move as he watched patients on gurneys be slaughtered, men he’d worked on and joked with and saved. Blood coated the walls, and he just stood there. Then one of the weapons turned his way, and he knew he was going to die.

The man did not shoot him, though. He started yelling at him in Pashti, motioning for him to move with the barrel of his weapon. Rex took a staggering step and tripped, landing hard against a gurney. Ryan Dickson’s bloody face looked back at him, the light fading from his eyes as he bled out.

Fury rose in Rex, and he spun on the attacker, but the man was quicker, expecting retaliation. The rifle barrel swung in his direction, and he saw the man’s finger tighten on the trigger. Rex lifted his hands as he gritted his teeth. The man shifted forward and plowed the rifle butt into his jaw, knocking his ass out.


Rex roused as he was being dragged into a room. He kicked out, but the man had already dropped his leg. He danced away from Rex’s kick, grinning, and leveled the rifle on him.

Jaw aching, he sat up, wiping the blood from his chin, and he saw the destruction around him. Bodies had been shoved into a pile, heaped on one another ignominiously. It was a horrifying sight, and for a moment, his eyes burned with angry heat. There was a moan from somewhere and one of the Taliban turned, firing his weapon into the pile. The moaning stopped. The sheer cold-bloodedness of the situation was surreal.

“You are medical, yes?” A man asked him, stepping into his line of sight.

Rex looked up. The guy could have been one of their interpreters. Jeans and a cream linen shirt. Boots. Dark hair and eyes. And he spoke perfect British English.

“Yes,” Rex said, jaw throbbing with pain.

“A doctor?”

“No. I’m a nurse.”

The man frowned and chuckled. He turned slightly to his men and muttered a few words. The men began to laugh, and Rex knew they were laughing at his choice of profession. Whatever. He’d heard it before.

“Why are you doing this?” he asked, motioning with his hand. “These men were already injured.”

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