Dust and debris filled the air. Filled his lungs. Filled his sight. Then, a bright shock of red entered his field of vision. As it cleared, he could see that it was hair on the head of a small child. He bent down on his knee to check for signs of life. The boy was unconscious, but breathing.
He had ordered a careful sweep of this village, but some of his subordinates had been... overzealous. He sighed at the recent memory, having already reprimanded some of the soldiers. He dreaded the reports he would have to write up when he returned to base.
He gently lifted to boy out of the rubble, a little acorn surviving a forest blaze. He cradled the boy in his arms and carried him to the convoy. He had a friend in the base, a doctor he could trust. He would have the boy examined and he would... Well, he would figure out the next move when that time came.
"He's got a bit of a concussion, but I think he'll be okay. No fractures, a few cuts and minor contusions. You should let him rest," Colin Redbrook said after the examination.
"Thank you," The Lieutenant replied as he watched the boy sleep.
"Amazing he could survive such a blast," Colin pondered. "What do you think will happen when he wakes up?"
The Lieutenant didn't answer. He could imagine a few possibilities.
"He'll probably be in shock," Colin continued. "May not even remember what happens. Or, maybe he saw which soldier was responsible."
He hoped the boy would not have any memories of what had happened.
"What are you gonna do?"
The Lieutenant looked at Colin's face and read the concern written in the crease of his brow.
"It's not like we have a children's ward in the barracks," Colin was incredulous. "And he'll get bored and lonely cooped up in the infirmary. And, what about once we board the ship to leave this country?"
"I have a large enough room. He can stay with me."
Colin smiled, then frowned.
"This is not going to be easy," Colin reminded him. "He could wake up hating you simply for the emblem on your jacket."
"I am aware of this," The Lieutenant answered, but something about the boy reminded him too much of his own niece and nephew back home.
"What if he's... you know... from the program?"
The Lieutenant shook his head.
"No, I found him at least four miles from the lab. It isn't possible."
"Just, be prepared for that. You're walking into a minefield of unknowns, here, Lieut."
The Lieutenant nodded his head.