My eyes snapped open to stare at a dark ceiling. The earliest light of dawn cast gray, pink and pale orange beams on the walls, just barely lighting the room. I rolled to my side and yawned. My wavy, chestnut hair lay in a frizzy cascade over my stark blue eyes. With an exasperated sigh, I flung it over my bare shoulder and sat up. I pulled the loose sleeves of my night gown up over my shoulders and rolled out of bed. Work was awaiting me, and I needed to be ready in less than half of an hour.
As soon as I was dressed, I looked in my mirror to be sure everything looked perfect: my military green uniform blouse, my blue cotton skirt, my white nurse’s cap and my nurse’s cuff around my arm. When I was sure it was all crisp and clean looking, I turned out the door of my barracks.
The medical quarters of Home Base Alpha were buzzing with vraches, each of them gathering medical supplies and tending to the wounded and sick. I grabbed my medical bag and walked up to the Head Master, Aleksi Varshavsky.
“I’m checking in, Aleksi, sir.” I said, trying to sound as upbeat as possible.
He looked over his shoulder at me, narrowing his golden eyes behind his round-rimmed wire glasses. He wasn’t a very young man, perhaps about fifty years old, with ashen-brown hair, streaked with silver on his left side.
“Very good to see you, Rani.” he said coldly. Aleksi was never a very welcoming man, but he was often much more antagonizing to me.
I was quiet for a moment, trying to think of what else I could say to him. I had always noticed him being kinder to the men whom he worked around than the women under his watch, and that made it hard for me to ever decide what to say to him without receiving a harsh or cold answer. “Well... I best be on my way. Where should I work today? P-perhaps I could sew up a few lacerations, or I could take care of some of the men with head injuries...? I did also hear that there was a man who was-”
“Shut up!” he snapped suddenly. I became silent again and waited for his orders; I’d always had a bad habit of offering to work more than wait for tasks. Varshavsky shook his head and turned to me. “Why anyone would even think of hiring you into a medical position for the military is inconceivable. You’d be better off working as a midwife; at last there you would be of good use with your mousey, ever-rambling voice.”
I tried not to feel offended by his words, but even after working with him for nine months it still bothered me. My eyes dropped to the floor without a word.
Aleksi spun open the cap on his tin flask and took a drink. He always claimed it was water, but everyone knew it was vodka. “I need you to check in on Desya Provinsky.” he said after wiping his lips with the back of his wrist.
“The one with the knife wound on his bicep? But I thought Tawnya took care of him.” I said confused.
“He reopened it, moron.” he spat. “Now take care of him, or I’ll dismiss you.”
My hand raised in a salute. “Yes, sir!” I said, and with that, I turned away quickly to find my patient.
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