Mace mumbled something, and Carter turned him over. He couldn't distinguish between Mace's uniform and his legs; they were all a dark red mess, with just a stretch of skin and bone keeping his left foot attached to his leg.
"Where does it hurt?" Carter asked. "What should I do? Are you OK?"
He applied a tourniquet to Mace's shredded left leg, then used a tree branch he found to splint his ankle. He took out his special "Israeli" bandage --- elasticized and fitted with a pressure bar, the invention of an Israeli medic --- to stanch bleeding from the largest hole in Mace's abdomen, which was roughly the size of a tangerine.
Other cavities were smaller but still gruesome and troubling. One was in the shape of a teardrop, Carter noted. Turning to Mace's bloody right leg, he took out the dagger that'd been a gift from a karaoke buddy back home and cut open Mace's pants.
Using tape and gauze, he then tried to plug the holes in that leg. Mace was in shock and did not seem particularly aware of what was going on. He was pale, and his lips were turning blue.
"Don't worry about your ankle," Carter said. "It will be fine as soon as we can find it."
He thought he could discern the faintest chuckle from Mace.
Carter looked at Gallegos, who was lying facedown next to them.
"Sergeant Gallegos is dead," Mace said.
"I believe you, but I need to check his pulse anyway," Carter replied.
He reached over and felt the carotid artery in the sergeant's neck. There was no pulse.
"OK," Carter told Mace, "you play dead. I'm going to check with Larson about what we should do now."
He ran back to the Humvee.
"I don't think it's safe to take him to the bridge, it's too exposed," Carter explained to Larson. "The truck's the only safe place."
Larson agreed and got out of the truck to provide cover for Carter. Carter scurried back to Mace and reached down to hoist him up. He thought about his lifeguard training and how he would've picked Mace up if instead of being shot up he were drowning in a swimming pool. Carter told Mace to wrap his hands around his neck, and then he slid his left arm around Mace's back and under his arms, and his right arm under his legs.
Cradling him that way, he carried the wounded soldier while bullets flew by them, tripping over ammo cans and pieces of generator wreckage as they went, until at last they reached the Humvee, where Carter carefully placed Mace in the front seat.
Sitting in the Humvee, it became clear Mace's wounds were so serious that Carter knew he would die if he didn't receive medical attention soon.
"That settles it," he told Larson. "I'm going on a recon. If I'm not back in 10 minutes, either I made it or don't worry about me."
So much had happened, but in fact it had been only minutes earlier that the other three men in the truck had jumped into the maelstrom. Gallegos had been killed, Mace gravely wounded, and Martin unaccounted for. Carter hopped out of the Humvee and sprinted to the corner of the latrines, where he took a knee.
He'd made it. He gasped for air.
Carter glimpsed Mace's gun at the corner of the laundry room. That was as far as he'd gotten, Carter figured. He saw Gallegos's radio and snagged it.
"This is Blue Four Golf --- is anyone still alive?" he asked.
He heard some sort of response in English; he wasn't sure exactly what was being said, but it was enough to send him on a sprint back to the Humvee to give the radio to Larson, who dialed up the operations center. At the operations center, (Lt. Andrew) Bundermann got on the radio. "Red Dragon, what's going on?" he asked Larson.
"I'm with Carter," Larson said. "We got Mace. Mace is pretty jacked up. We need to get him to the aid station." And then, with gratitude in his voice, he added, "We didn't know if anyone else was still alive!"
There was a stretcher near their position --- someone had brought it out earlier and leaned it up near the truck. Now Bundermann wanted to know if Larson and Carter could get Mace onto it.