Returning a Monster

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Backstory on a character in the Were Wars series books 2-4, can be read stand-alone. Lieutenant Commander Julia Jones had a good life. A Thoracic Surgeon, she was deployed to Iraq in support of a Coalition Field Hospital. She had brains, looks, skill, and a man she would marry when her deployment ended. She left for war with everything, and returned a monster.

Fantasy / Action
4.9 7 reviews
Age Rating:


I moved down the supermarket aisle, placing food for the week in my cart. I was moving slowly since the skin on my left side was still stiff and painful from the skin graft procedure. I reached out for the beef pot pie with my good hand, the right one; my left hand was gloved to protect the healing tissues underneath. As I reached up, my hoodie moved back slightly on my head. It was enough to expose the left side of my face to other shoppers.

“Aiiiigh! Mommy! Monster!” The shrill voice of the young girl scared me. Turning my face in her direction, I saw her running away from me in fear. Her mother looked at me, and her face fell before the inevitable revulsion came upon it. Fear, pity, shock, disgust? I saw them all every day. I flipped my hoodie forward and kept my head down as I pushed the cart past the toddler, now clinging to her mother’s fat leg.

“Sorry,” I mumbled as I moved on. Last week, the Store Manager approached me, telling me I couldn’t keep the hood up in the store because it was ‘company policy.’ As soon as I pulled it down, he turned pale and ran away, saying “never mind” as I pulled it back up. I’m pretty sure he was running to the bathroom to throw up.

I completed my shopping as quickly as I could. I ignored the whispers of the other shoppers and pretended not to notice the subtle ways they avoided me. Carts moved farther away, and some even turned around before they got too close. Walking out the door with my bags, I glanced at the mirror over the door.

Scars. Misshapen nose. Discolored and swollen skin. I looked a mess, and I didn’t blame the kid for running away. I looked like a monster in the mirror, and no amount of surgeries will change that.

I had been back home for a month, and nothing had changed. If I didn’t have to buy food, I would never have left the apartment I was renting in the cheap area of El Paso. Officially, I was still on terminal leave from the Navy, with my medical discharge paperwork still in progress. Now that I was out of the hospital, the Veteran’s Administration would calculate my disability, and I’d do further care in their system.

How tough is it to count to a hundred percent? They could look at me once and write “100%” on the form. It wasn’t that simple. Someone had to review that foot-tall stack of papers that constituted my medical record took a while to go through.

I hated my life. There was nothing but pain and rejection, and I didn’t know how long I could continue living this way. I closed my eyes and thought of happier times. It was just last year, but it felt like someone else’s memories.

October 25th, 2005
Camp Bastion, Iraq

I took a quick shower after my shift was over at the Coalition Hospital. Dressed in clean scrubs, I headed back towards the mess hall and grabbed a late dinner. The cooks were used to weird hours among the medical and security personnel, so food was always available. The lasagna wasn’t anything to write home about, but it was better than MRE’s (Meals Rejected by Ethiopians), and it was hot. I sat with a few nurses, gossiping about the latest new people arriving, then headed back towards my housing trailer.

My roommate was working a shift. We were both Thoracic Surgeons, and the only two on base. The hospital scheduled us opposite each other, so I had the place to myself. I pulled the scrub top away from my chest, annoyed at my sweat. It didn’t matter that the air conditioning was on in my quarter or the mess hall; the three-block walk between them was enough for me to sweat through my scrubs. I sat at the desk across from my bed, aiming a fan at my face, and opened my laptop. Bringing up FaceTime, I soon had my fiance’s face onscreen. “Hi, love, how is Iraq?”

I grimaced. “Hot as hell and surprisingly busy. When I got orders, I thought things were settling down over here. It turns out not everyone is happy with the new government. They are voting with car bombs instead. We had five soldiers hit today, one that didn’t make it.” I closed my eyes for a second, remembering the Marine we couldn’t save, trying to focus on how we saved his buddies. “I was in surgery for fourteen hours today.”

“Damn… sorry to hear that.” My love never knew what to say to me. How do you cheer up someone who couldn’t patch up a shredded liver fast enough to keep the guy from bleeding out? They didn’t have problems like that in the tech world. On the other hand, I couldn’t talk much about killer apps or operating systems. “Still hot over there?”

“Better. It only got to a hundred and ten today. It feels like winter is coming.” We talked for another ten minutes, catching up on family news. His family had visited him over the past weekend; wedding plans were in progress now that we had a date. I was more than happy to let his Mom do the planning, I didn’t have time, and my parents died when I was in high school. I’d treat it like a groom; show up in the proper clothes, walk down the aisle, and repeat the vows. My future mother-in-law vetoed me getting married in my Navy dress uniform, despite it being white. She was always sending me dress ideas.

I heard the Pedros warming up on the airstrip. The medevac helicopters and their crews were crucial for saving Coalition lives; they went out and got our wounded for us. The Air Force ran them. The pilots were highly trained aviators, while the crewmembers were elite Pararescuemen. These commandos can fight their way to the wounded, then fight to save lives the whole way back using advanced medical skills.

I heard an announcement over the PA system. “Commander Jones to Flight. Commander Jones, to Flight.”

No sleep tonight. “Duty calls, my love. I have to go,” I said.

“Love you. Go save some lives.” The window closed right before I closed my laptop and left again.

I walked into the hospital two minutes later. My Commanding Officer, Colonel Abney, was waiting for me. “You’ve got two minutes to be out on Pedro Two,” he said. “An armored patrol got hit, and their medic is injured badly. There are more casualties than we can transport with the alert Pedros. You’ll have to triage and stabilize until we can get more helicopters to you.”

I ran to the small dressing room by the airfield entrance, where I stored my gear when on call for flight duty. I yanked off my scrubs before pulling on the lightweight flight suit. I grabbed my body armor, tossing it down over my torso before putting the helmet on. I grabbed the surgical field kit, a bigger version of the kits medics carried. I exited through the side door, pulling my goggles down with one hand while slinging the bag over my shoulder with the other. The Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters were ready to go. The lead aircraft was taxiing as crewmen on the second helicopter waved for me. I handed one the medical kit, and they pulled me up and into the seat. I hadn’t even buckled in before the pilot was moving. In seconds, we were airborne.

I was quickly plugged into the comm system and did a check. “Welcome aboard, Doc. It sounds like we have a big one,” the pilot said.

“What have you heard?”

“IED hit a convoy. Two Humvees and a troop transport got caught in the blast. Initial reports are two KIA and nineteen wounded, at least six with amputations. They are doing what they can, but their Medic is one of the KIAs. We don’t have much more information. Twenty-two minutes out.”

I processed the information; the helicopters could only take four patients each. With no medic, we would have to triage when we got there. “How do you want to proceed, Major?”

These pilots and crews did this for a living, and I wasn’t going to cramp their style. “Pedro One will circle the landing area, checking it is safe for us to land. We’ll land first, at least a hundred yards away. You and the PJ’s,” meaning the pararescuemen with me, “will unload and start triage. I’ll take off again and cover Pedro One while they land. Send the worst two in the litters and two more that can walk with Pedro One. I’ll land for the next group.” There was a pause. “Next support is thirty minutes out, so I’ll leave you with one of my guys to wait for them.

“Roger that.” When we got close to the ambush site, we all donned our latex gloves, and I put my stethoscope around my neck under my flight suit. Pedro One had already made a circuit, their gunners scanning for threats until we got clearance to land.

“Follow me,” Parker said. As soon as the wheels were down, he was out of the aircraft, backpack on, M-4 rifle up and ready. The pilot was already increasing power so he could take off as soon as we cleared the rotors. I was on Parker’s ass, keeping my head down, when I heard someone yell, “ROCKET!!”

I went to hit the deck, but the missile slammed into the helicopter first. The explosion slammed into me, the shock wave tossing me through the air.

I remember flying. I remember the flames everywhere. I remember pain until it all went dark.

Author’s Note: For more information on Air Force Pedros in Iraq, check out

All events and people are fictional, but the missions and tactics are real life. A tip of the hat to those who put themselves in harm’s way to save others. You are the real heroes.

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