Charlotte Hunter - Paris, France
8th November, 2012
Pulling open one of her desk drawers Charlie delved a hand into the gloom and began to feel around, her fingers blindly fumbling over an array of objects. The moans of pain from behind her, only made her fumble more madly until with a triumphant sigh, Charlie withdrew her hand, her fingers encasing a small roll of bandages. She turned on her heel and observed her patient, one of the more accident prone students in the ARF known as Nick, with an eager grin.
“Knew I would find it somewhere!” The petite girl beamed, as using her hip she pushed the drawer closed. Moving back to the boy’s side, she knelt down and inspected the area of need with a quiet focus. This time around, Nick had appeared at the nurse’s door limping at 8:30 that morning, which in Charlie’s opinion was far better than their first meeting’s circumstances, despite the early time.
Nick, whom had been for the most part silent, whimpered slightly as Charlie rotated the injured joint tenderly before sitting back and allowing a satisfied grin.
“How’s it looking then Charl?” Nick asked, as he anxiously rubbed his forehead and stared at Charlie’s warm smile. "Think I'll make it?"
With this Nick then flopped back on the bed where he sat, dramatically reaching up towards the ceiling with one hand. "As you know, I think I can hear them. The angels I mean. They are calling for me to join them."
"Ahuh" Charlie replied, barely evening raising an eyebrow at her friend's dramatics.
Annoyed at this though, Nick continued on, flashing a glance at Charlotte through one slightly opened eye before suddenly gripping his chest and almost gasping.
"Tell my brother I will see him in hell OK?"
"I thought you were going to heaven." Charlie shot back, as without looking at her friend, she reached for her first aid book and consulted the instructions once more for good measure.
Part laughing and part huffing, Nick flopped back into his bed and shook his head, acknowledging his defeat and waiting for the diagnosis from his friend which came shortly afterwards.
“Well it’s not broken, so I think we are just looking at a sprain.” Charlie offered this conclusion with a sudden change in facial expression, as the skin between her brows puckered in a frown. “Though I could have sworn I told you to watch yourself earlier this week.”
To this Nick turned feverishly quiet and shuffled somewhat uncomfortably on the spot, focusing his gaze onto the back of his hand before muttering a reply which was inaudible to any human ear. Sighing at this Charlie shrugged and began work on the injury, wrapping it up firmly in the soft elasticated trips and deciding not to question her company too much. As she worked though, the pair began to chat again the subject only turning serious when Nick questioned Charlie’s use of the bandage.
“So how come you aren’t just…erm…doing your thing?” Nick gestured wildly in the air before signalling down to his ankle with a raised eye brow. Charlie at this, sat back and met the boy’s gaze with her own quizzical look, puzzled at first by what Nick was referring to by ‘Doing your thing’. But at the switch flicked on in her head, Charlie almost chuckled. Her plump lips once again form a perfect ‘o’ as realisation came in floods.
“It’s been suggested that I don’t use my powers for every injury.” Charlie started, as she recommenced her work. “Rather than leaping in and taking on small injuries which are rather bothersome, I have to deal with them practically, hence all of them.” With this, Charlie jutted her head in the direction of a small desk in the far corner of the nurse’s office where a large, leaning tower of thick textbooks loomed over the other paper work in an ominous manor.
Nick studied this spectacle for a few seconds then mockingly shivered. “I’m glad most of my training just means I get to the beat the heck out of things.” He laughed, his strained face lighting a little with his smile as he returned his gaze to the dark haired girl, whom now stood in front of him, her small hands on her hips.
“Are you sure it’s that way round?” Charlotte giggled “As the amount of times I get you and your mates in here, I am starting to think the ‘things’ are beating the heck out of you.”
Nick shrugged at this, leaning forward and rolling down his jogger’s leg before gingerly standing and testing his ankle.
“It’s usually ‘you should have seen the other guy’ visits with me. I swear!” Nick offered with a wink, before letting out a sigh. “This new approach to fixing us up though a little bit of a bummer. How long is it gonna take till it heals Doc?”
Charlie nodded at this and pursed her lips once more as she thought. “Well it’s not a bad sprain, so about a week or two. Just go easy on it ok? No kicking planks, or whatever it is you guys do.”
Nick at this gave a mini salute then placed a large hand on Charlie’s shoulder, as with his free hand he put on his glasses. “I can make no promises that I will not see you again by the end of today.” He smirked. “Thanks Charl. See ya later.”
Charlie nodded then waved off her patient, returning to her desk in a sluggish manor, almost sad that her reason for avoiding her study had limped off down the corridor. In some ways she was almost jealous of the other students’ combat training, though it involved some rather nasty injuries from time to time, it was for now, a lot more fun than sitting in an office or if she was lucky watching one of the combat training session with a few fellow students. Though on those occasions, of which there had only been two so far, she had only been there in case immediate attention was needed.
Sighing, Charlie flicked open a one of the text books and thumbed through the pages absentmindedly stopping every once in a while to allow her eyes to soak in a step by step procedure of various different wounds. In some ways this new way of handling injuries sucked, just like Nick had pointed out, but Charlie was beginning to see the upside to it. Time consuming,yes, but it also meant that when the day came to an end, Charlie was able to walk to her own room and lie down without the now familiar twinge of freshly absorbed wounds.
It was just as this thought drifted across her mind that Kieran came stumbling into the room, his familiar kind features flushing to a brilliant scarlet as he panted for air, Austin and Minerva shortly following in his wake. In the short time frame which followed, Charlie had not bothered to ask any questions as to why she had been summoned. The reddened face of Kieran was enough for her and so within 3 minutes of Kieran appearing in the door way to her own ‘classroom’, Charlotte found herself running along with the others towards the helipad, Kim being the last to be picked up along the way.
On arrival at their destination, Charlie, at this point finding it slightly difficult to breath, was greeted by Justin and River. All was then explained in a brief manor, as Justin filled them in on the plan before they were ushered onto the helicopter and whipped away from their new home. As they travelled, the buzzing familiar voice of River sounding over the headsets offered little comfort to Charlie’s nerves as she watched the mansion disappear.
Charlotte had zoned out for the entirety of the journey, her eyes tracked to the back of her hands as she visualised medical procedures, dimly aware of the helicopter as it hummed through the blue expanse of sky. It was only when a tremor shuddered through the metal framework of the vehicle and first violent evasive swerve from River that cracked through Charlotte’s subconscious state of mind. Grabbing the edge of her seat, Charlotte swore loudly into the headset not realising the cause of the disruption until she violently turned her head to the left and looked out over a scene which she had come to know through numerous post cards. Only this time, rather than being meet with blue skies and bustling streets, Paris lay in smouldering ruins. Like razor rain, the meteors tore down through the sky, ripping through buildings, cars and trees, all the while gushing forth hot ash.
Screams could be heard over the loud resounding thunder claps of collision, as more meteors fell from the reddened, swollen bellied heavens. Their helicopter dodged a few close calls as River’s skills came into play, saving them all more than once. On landing however, all horror of first impression was bitten back as everyone washed out of the helicopter and formed into teams. The first team peeled off at River’s command and the second at Justin’s.
“Keep an eye out for the others, in case they get hurt,” Justin ordered, “send as many people as you can to the metro below ground, but don’t get killed!”
Charlotte had nodded and then glanced at Kieran before heading out into the chaos which was now Paris. Everywhere the small girl looked was burning red or smeared with black ash as the screams of the public almost seemed muted over the sheer roaring power of tremors and flaming boulders which tumbling through the sky. She had been told to help those in need and that was exactly what she planned to do.
Charlie helped numerous people get to the metro system, leading them with wild gestures towards the sunken stair cases which lead down to the underground network. She also absorbed a few injuries along the way, helping to animate people and get them safety. Burns, cuts and bruises marred her body under her long sleeved top, but she tried her best to ignore the pain which buzzed over her skin.
Checking each window she passed, Charlie desperately sought out the distressed and the injured, and helped with healing and first aid. She followed the screams which sounded over the on- going percussion of meteorites. When her search began to reveal a distant lack of people however, Charlie began to feel a small glimmer of hope. Perhaps most people had already sought refuge somewhere safe. Yet just as quickly as this glimmer of hope illuminated itself, it was extinguished when Charlie’s foot caught something soft, sending her sprawling to the floor.
Charlie rolled onto her back narrowly avoiding a pile of shattered glass, as she examined the offending object which had caused her to trip and what met her eyes made her stomach twist.
It was a leg, small, bloody and broken. The rest of the body was hidden by rubble but the leg was enough to know what lay beneath the debris.
“Oh god..” Charlie breathed as she wiped ash away from her skin. She could feel tears beginning to brim. The size of that leg… it had to be a child. Charlie’s head began to sway, the world around her oozing in confusion, dismay and horror as slowly, Charlie stood and began to back away. She could feel her stomach turn cold as her eyes remain glued to the small limb which sat motionless on the floor.
The screams and gutters of a crying woman were what pulled Charlie out of her stupefied slump. She had been standing there frozen and horrified, in amongst the rubble and dancing ash in complete silence as her eyes had remained trained to small motionless form which lay on the floor. Beginning to feel bile build up in her throat, Charlie forced herself to swallow, supressing the urge to vomit, as her stomach continued to do summersaults. Her tongue lay thick and heavy in her mouth and her eyes watered. She had known that she would find something like this, after all it was to be expected, yet that had never prepared her for actually seeing it.
Yet as she began to feel utterly depressed over the small body’s lost life, a cry of something living pulsed through her ear drums. The sound was both awful and gut retching, but at the same time, hopeful to Charlie. If there was a cry, there was life. Shaking the dark cobwebs of thought which had swaddled the girl, Charlie turned her head to track the sound.
Further up the street, behind a fractured window, billowing large plumes of smoke were evident. The Café had once been a small quaint looking thing, with polished dark wood window frames and cream coloured walls, completed rows of tables and table cloths. It had been something which belonged in a picture. Yet now the tables lay in splinters, the varnished frames curled up from heat with the flowers trampled, and from within, no dark cool retreat was promised. Instead, red flickers of flames and black smearing clouds of smoke came out in pillars. Regardless of this however, standing in front of the door was one woman. Her clothes would probably be considered fine not too long ago, but now they were torn and dirty. Her hair covered in dust and debris and on each leg clutched a child, no more than the age of 4. Yet despite this woman’s young charges, she continued to shriek and wail at the dark clouds of smoke which emitted from the open door.
Braking into a run and narrowly dodging a falling lamppost, Charlie bolted towards the woman. She knew little of the situation bar that there was something deeply wrong. Drawing nearer, and talking in broken French Charlie called to the woman as she fell to knees and began to cry. The children simply huddled together, their voices coarse from screams. The repeated lines of ‘run to safety’ did little to nothing and on finally arriving beside to the small group, Charlie realised quickly that the woman was not going to be moved.
Kneeling down, Charlie had tugged at the woman to stand, pleading with her to move and save her children. But the more she tried, the more frantic the woman became, slapping off Charlie’s grasp and pointing towards the smoke.
Charlie froze at this then turned to match the woman’s gaze and it was only then, focusing on the open door way, that Charlie heard it. A small yelp came from within, the words were inaudible, however, it was an unmistakable call for help. Suddenly, Charlie knew why the woman would not move. She could not enter the flames without abandoning her two children but neither could she run and abandon her other child to the flames.
Watery streaks of mascara stained the woman’s cheeks as this time, Charlie felt the perfectly manicured nails grasp her arm.
“Au secours” The sentence came staggered and rough, through crimson lips which were now bloody and swollen.
Help. Charlie nodded and slowly pulled the woman’s hand away from her arm. Patting it, she tried to offer a little reassurance, before putting her arm to her mouth and darting forward into the smoke.
Inside, the flicking light and falling plaster created enough obstacles as the girl picked her way through the rubble all the while staying as close as she could to the floor , her arm shielding her nose and mouth. The heat in the small shop was almost intolerable as Charlie began to feel sweat break out over her forehead and her eyes begin to sting. Regardless however, she pushed on, training her ears on the small yelp which sounded near the back of the café.
Beginning to cough now, her lungs burning from a mixture of dry, hot hair and smoke, Charlie began to feel dizzy but once more ignored her body’s pleads for retreat. One child’s remains already lay on the street outside and she was not going to allow another to add to the count.
Weaving cautiously through a few still standing tables Charlie at last found her target huddled under a table and face buried into his knees. From within this small ball of clothes was the source of the yelp. Moving forward again Charlie stepped over more fallen plaster and crouched down at the table, the distinct smell of urine meeting her nostrils as the girl leaned forward and grasped the kid’s arm.
The boy had jumped at first, swinging his head up and staring through the protective slits of eye lashes at Charlie in sheer amazement, however, this startled surprised lasted one fleeting second before the boy scrambled into Charlie’s arms with wild sobs. Charlie, almost pushed over by the child’s speed, allowed the boy to entangle his arms around her neck before she stood and wheeled back towards the entrance, staggering with the added weight of the kid now.
The exit was easy and on stepping out into the open street, Charlie felt the child being instantly peeled away from her by his mother, then, with little more than a hurried thank you, the mother and her children ran off without a backward glance. Charlie simply wheezed as she bent over, grabbing her knees for support as she felt the world around her begin to spin. Her lungs felt burnt and no matter how much she gasped for air, she felt starved of oxygen.
Slowly the world around her began to black out. Her body tingled from various different wounds she had acquired from helping people escape. Cuts marred her arms and legs, a gash on her forehead oozed blood and stung and she could feel a new burn sear into the back of her neck, where the boy had touched her. The child must have been burned in the store, and on contact, her body had instantly transferred the wound to herself. Groaning in pain and a mixture of confusion, Charlie then collapsed. Rib cage heaving as panic set in before everything blacked out.