Rickie felt the cold metal of the floor as he slowly became aware of his surroundings. The fire in his belly flared as he tried to take a deep breath, and he couldn't hold back a gasp.
"He's awake!" He heard someone say, and then a black-clad soldier leaned over and looked him in the eye.
"Don't move. We've secured the area, and are waiting for a litter to bear you to the helipad."
Rickie grimaced and tried to sit up, but the pain was overwhelming and slipped back down to bang his head against the floor. The knife had been secured in place with cravats, but the red stain spreading through the muslin illuminated the severity of the injury.
The soldier put a steadying hand on his chest that nevertheless felt like a stone's weight.
There was a commotion near his feet as several other soldiers brought a metal Stokes basket and carefully loaded him onto it, the jostling causing bolts of pain until he was safely with the basket's edges and secured.
Soon enough, they were at the helipad. Rickie weakly looked around, but it appeared to be intact. His nose detected the acrid smell of hot metal and smoke, but he was unable to see if his rig was damaged. His litter was quickly ushered into the aircraft's hold as they prepared to transport him back to the mainland.
~ ~ ~
Meaghan stood along with Cynthia with a group by the hospital's landing pad as the dark gray helicopter gracefully dropped from the sky. She had received a cryptic phone call from Raine asking her to meet them here. Too distraught to think, she contacted Cynthia, who willingly picked her up and drove to the location, where they had been waiting. Raine had explained that Rickie had been wounded at the gas rig, but she did not know the extent of the injuries.
Like a dragonfly, the aircraft delicately alighted on the concrete pad. At once the blades began slowing down and doors on either side of the canopy rolled open to discharge passengers dressed in fatigues. A dozen or so people walked from the aircraft towards the group waiting at the site, but Meaghan didn't pay attention to them as she searched for the one person she wanted to see.
The ambulance lights behind her strobed the scene as the medical team trotted towards the helo with a yellow stretcher in tow. They disappeared behind the machine, and Meaghan gripped Cynthia's hand as they stood there.
Then, from behind the copter, the medics wheeled the stretcher towards the ambulance, carrying a familiar figure. Meaghan's breath hitched as she realized Rickie was injured enough to need this type of medical attention. She broke away from Cynthia and intercepted the stretcher at a run.
At Meaghan's cry, Rickie said something to the medics, who stopped the stretcher, but clearly were impatient to get him into the vehicle for the short hop to the Emergency Room.
Meaghan swiftly glanced over Rickie's prone figure. He was swathed in white sheets from head to toe, with a strange lump in the middle of his torso. Then she forgot everything as she looked into those cerulean eyes, now glazed with pain, and began crying.
Rickie slowly lifted his hand and used his thumb to carefully wipe away the tears falling from her dark eyes, his own throat tight. Nothing had ever made him happier than her presence here, with her warm hand on his cheek.
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"Hey, beautiful," he managed to say, "I'm glad you're here to welcome me. Thanks to you, we stopped them. Stick around, and I'll tell you all about it."
With that, he reached up and touched the hand on his face and curled his fingers around hers as the stretcher started moving towards the ambulance. Meaghan was forced to let go as they loaded up the stretcher; by then Cynthia had caught up and was holding her shoulders as the doors to the unit shut, and the ambulance pulled away towards the Emergency Room entrance.