~ Before dawn Takyle was up and banging around camp, packing up the few things that the team had left out the night before.
"Come on guys, rise and shine."
A loud groan answered her.
"What kind of moron volunteers for this kind of competition?" Andrew moaned from his bed.
"The masochistic kind," Jaden responded blearily.
"Yeah well, this masochistic moron wants the two of you set to head out in five," Takyle ordered brusquely.
"Ok, we're up," snapped Andrew, still wrapped in his sleeping bag. As Jaden sat up he heard his back creak.
"Ah frick," Jaden groaned, pulling himself to his feet and stretching, twisting his shoulders from side to side. "Are we going to eat breakfast, Takyle?"
"Nope. We can wait or eat on the way."
"On the way where?" asked Andrew, disentangling his legs from his sleeping bag.
"There." Takyle pointed off to the right, perpendicular to the slope. Above the horizon a dim orange light was suspended, blinking every couple of seconds.
"What is it?" Jaden asked.
"I don't know. But if it was there last night we missed it. I was also thinking that as a general rule we want to be moving up in this race and here we are going downhill."
"Oh," Andrew muttered. "Yeah, I didn't think about that."
"None of us were thinking all that clearly yesterday, for very good reasons. So let's take a quick detour to see what this is and if it's nothing we'll keep doing what we were. Even now I don't know that that is wrong. Technically no decisions we make are supposed to be wrong; just better or worse."
Jaden began to put on his backpack and then stopped.
"Andrew, how long has it been since you changed that bandage on your stomach?"
"Um, a while," Andrew answered. Jaden tightened his lips disapprovingly and turned immediately to Takyle.
"Takyle, I know we're in a hurry, but that is something that he should definitely do, so you need to make time for it right now." Takyle nodded.
"Do it," she ordered. "Oh, and Jaden, you have a few wounds there yourself. Take care of them."
"Ha, you just caught a ricochet," Andrew scoffed as he took off his pack and set it back down.
"Yeah, Andy," Jaden answered skeptically. "I really got the short end of this stick. I have to take care of myself. Obviously I should be more careful when placing requests that could keep you from dying."
"Exactly." Andrew agreed, unbuttoning his overshirt. He pulled up the side of his black t-shirt to expose the bandage that the medic had wrapped around his torso. "Man, seems like this happened a long time ago." He turned away as he unwound it, but he wasn't quick enough.
"Andy, you've been bleeding! What the hell man? Why didn't you say something?"
"Well largely because I didn't realize that it was happening. You know I was captured and interrogated right?"
"Are you in more pain than before?" asked Jaden as Takyle stepped over to look at Andrew.
"Not really. About the same," he said.
"Andrew, that really worries me," Takyle told him, glancing down at the blood soaked bandages.
"Look, the medic never said that it's not normal for a wound like this to bleed some. The stitches seem fine; doesn't look infected to me, so I'm ok. Jay, will you give me some antisep please?"
"Yeah, hang on." Jaden knelt and unzipped his pack to get the medkit out.
"How's the leg, Jaden?" asked Takyle.
"Fine. Doesn't really hurt much more than the rest of me right now."
"Well that's good I suppose."
"Could be a lot worse," he said.
"Yeah," chimed in Andrew. "You could be ugly too." ~