Welcome to the world of Jacqueline Saint-Ebène.
Current (119 words):
Hoisting her pregnant older sister, a stroke victim with limited use of her right side, into the cabin of a Falcon jet had proven the most grueling challenge of Jacqueline Saint-Ebène’s career as a military doctor. By the time she cajoled Basilie’s uncooperative body up the stairs, Jacqueline thought her own arms might fall off. Somehow, Jacqueline managed to guide Basilie into the leather chair across from the door and buckle her seatbelt for her. Basilie offered a weak smile, the effort as exhausting for her as it had been for Jacqueline, and muttered ‘maan.’ Jacqueline tucked her shoulder-length hair behind her ears as she met her sister’s gaze.
“You’re welcome,” she said in their native French.
And before that (75 words):
A reverberating boom and the random patter of metallic ran sprang them into action without anyone uttering a word. Limbs that had been packing boxes of bandages and medication immediately froze, dropped what they were doing and redirected their efforts toward prepping a triage area and arming themselves as first responders. Seconds later, the kind of seconds that spanned an eternity, an alarm sounded. Jacqueline Saint-Ebène’s beeper trembled. The message contained three letters:
And before that (65 words):
Limbs that had been packing boxes of bandages and medication immediately froze when a loud boom rocked the area. The noise itself wouldn’t be enough to worry the staff, but the random patter of metallic rain sprung them into action. Like a reflex. Seconds later, the kind of seconds that spanned an eternity, an alarm sounded. Jacqueline’s beeper trembled. The message contained three letters:
And once we get this far back, I’m not even sure what came first (134):
The sun blared across the desert, as the sun always did, a sea of beige hills and valley that extended forever. The din of the men, and the women, faded into white noise. Even the whir of incoming helicopters didn’t phase her. The large transport plane had landed. The wind kicked up a gentle spray of sand. The grunts trekked the crates into the cargo bay. One by one, the boys stacked and secured the pieces of her office into the plane. The transport plane would take the crates to the base in Djibouti where the field hospital would be stored until its next deployment and the staff would disperse for leave.
In Jacqueline’s mind, she hadn’t diagnosed enough STDs or treated enough friendly fire wounds to believe they would be going home soon.
There was this (120):
In the middle of it, when the choppers landed and the victims rolled in, Jacqueline didn’t notice. Clamping arteries, removing shrapnel, bandaging children, she did not notice anything but the wounds. The death toll. The next day, by the bright glare of the Sahara sun, it hit her. She squeezed her eyes shut and blinked, thinking maybe the sleep deprivation had caught up with her. The patient, an Arab male in his early forties, had suffered a concussion and some contusions from the blast, and a broken arm that she had set. He woke as she stared at him, and he offered an uneasy smile, not uncommon for the Algerian natives who woke up in a French military field hospital.
And I still like this (118):
Squinting against the sun glare that transformed the white edge of the target into a blinding mirror, Jacqueline fired the PAMAS-G1 and nailed the black silhouette in the heart. She shot the pistol again, this time striking the head right in the temple. She sighed, fired a third time, and hit the right shoulder. That bastard should stay down. She lowered the gun. Lieutenant Cavan leaned against the wall beside her, a smirk sneaking from his lips. She raised the gun, aimed at the target one last time, and castrated the fake son-of-a-whore for good measure. Cavan no longer smiled.
“Okay, Doc Saint, so you can still shoot.”
“Told you I could,” she replied.
This one was my first try (243):
The sun blared across the desert, as the sun always did, a sea of beige hills and valley that extended forever. The din of the men, and the women, faded into white noise. Even the whir of incoming helicopters didn’t phase her, unless it was a medical transport. Things remained quiet, too quiet for a deployment of this many men. The wind kicked up a gentle spray of sand.
In Jacqueline’s mind, she hadn’t diagnosed enough STDs or treated enough friendly fire wounds to believe they would be going home soon. Sure, she appreciated the end of the ugly stuff: the obliterated skulls, missing limbs and gushing bullet wounds that accompanied this mission. She had two more years left in this tour, and despite eight years in the defense medical corps, she had never seen this kind of violence. She would welcome the end of shipping corpses to the mainland, and the apologetic messages to the families of these perfect specimens of human beauty, men and women bronzed by the sun, toned by the physical demands of soldiering and slim thanks to the activity and the heat.
Yet, Jacqueline dreaded her next assignment. After leave in France, she would report to Réunion where she would handle gyn/ob care on base. She’d rather deal with the ugliness of interfering in a former colony’s civil war than stick her hand inside another vagina. That’s why she joined the health service in the first place.