Over the next two hours, Major Carter kept herself busy by barking orders to the other nurses in the OR: correcting errors, scolding their speed, and taking some of their duties. Margaret tried in vain to have Carter back off, but she would have none of it.
"No need to worry, Major Houlihan," Carter replied. "All your nurses need is a little discipline. You concentrate on your work; I'll keep them in line. It's no problem."
Hawkeye had had his fill of the situation. "Look Major Carter, I don't know who you think you are, but we were doing just fine here before you started cracking your whip. Trust me, we can all do a lot better without your babbling."
Carter's eyes widened above her surgical mask. "Colonel Potter, are your surgeons always this rude to a superior officer?"
Hawkeye pointed his scalpel at her. "Nothing is superior about you, Major."
"That's enough, Pierce," Potter snapped from his table. "Forgive his behavior, Major, the long hours here can put anyone on edge."
"Don't worry about it, Colonel," Carter said. "I understand completely. Your staff has simply inherited some rebellious influences. But don't worry, with my help, this will be a regulation military outfit in no time. I'll go observe the Pre-Op area." With that, she turned and left the OR.
Claire shook her head. "The nerve of that woman…"
"You know, Claire," B.J. said. "I never did believe you when you said she was unbearable. Now I see what you're talking about."
"We're just going to have to deal with it for now," Potter said. "A woman like that probably has the attention of more than one general in Tokyo. She could even break us up."
"Break us up?" Hawkeye cried. "Don't worry, Colonel. I'll break her up long before she can break us up."
After an agonizing week, the entire camp was ready to see Major Carter depart. It was the worst for Claire, who was followed by the Major almost 24 hours a day.
Claire walked up to the VIP tent and knocked on the door gently. She was allowed to enter, where she found Carter packing her things.
"You wanted to see me, Major?" Claire asked.
Carter faced her with a smile. "Yes, Captain. Since I'm leaving tomorrow morning, I thought it would be a good time to tell you the real reason I came here."
Claire nodded. "I see. Why me?"
"Because it involves you. Even though your outfit's work is exceptional, I really only came to observe your work."
Carter nodded. "I wanted to see if you were still up to par. You really impressed me. That's why when I leave tomorrow, you should come with me. I want you to be Assistant Head Nurse of my staff in Tokyo."
Claire's eyes widened. "Major, I don't know what to say."
"What is there to say? It's not like you'll need to think about this long," Carter said. "An opportunity to get away from all this fighting is one you won't get often."
This was all too much. Going back to civilization would be a dream come true. "So what would be duties be? How many patients would I be responsible for?"
Carter shrugged. "You would assist me with all my duties. You know: take notes for the nurses, schedule appointments and luncheons, attend lectures for me. That sort of thing. My last assistant was entirely too busy to see any patients, though." She laughed. "Anyway, that's one less burden you'd have to worry about."
The dream had suddenly become less than Claire had hoped for. "But Major, I became a nurse so I could help people. This job sounds more like I'd be your secretary."
"Well, that is a way of putting it, but you would be a big help to watch the other nurses and make sure that they don't make mistakes."
Claire sighed and shook her head. "So the reason you came here was to see if I'd make a good babysitter for your nurses. I see."
Carter took a deep breath. "Captain, remember, this job is in Tokyo, far away from all the violence of this war. The Army would provide everything you need: an apartment, a better wage, and almost any other luxury. Do you really want to spend the rest of this war in this sewer? Captain Morgan, you could get killed here, you know that, don't you?"
Claire didn't bother answering the question. "Have you told Colonel Potter yet?"
The older woman shook her head. "No, I wanted to speak to you first. Frankly, I expected a different reaction than this. Could you actually be considering staying here?" When there was no response, she continued. "Well, you have until tomorrow morning to decide. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll go inform Colonel Potter. Good night." She walked around Claire and left the tent.
Claire sighed and walked outside. How could she possibly leave the 4077th for some cushy job at Tokyo General where she would answer the phone all day? The M*A*S*H was already understaffed at times, and losing another nurse would make the burden on everyone else grow tenfold.
Taking a look around at the camp, the scene was practically just as Carter described. It was miserable here, but Claire had never felt deep down that she was here for nothing. She could imagine any of the other nurses scrambling for a job out of Korea, but Claire wasn't too sure. She was finally a real part of the 4077th, like one of the family. Even she and Margaret were starting to get back the friendship they'd abandoned years ago. Hawkeye and B.J. had become a light in this dreary place, and she hated to leave them behind.
It was definitely something to think about.
The next morning, Major Carter strode out of her tent to gaze at the rising sun at the horizon. Her driver came up behind her, dragging her heavy suitcase on the ground.
"Don't drag that!" She snapped.
"Yes, ma'am," the scrawny corporal said, heaving the suitcase into the back of the jeep. "Are you ready to leave, Major?"
Carter held up a hand. "Just another minute. I'm just waiting to see-"
Suddenly the door to Claire Morgan's cabin swung open, and out strode the Captain, a filled duffel bag on her back. "You ready Major?"
"Know I am, Captain. Hop in." Carter slid into the passenger seat of their jeep and turned to Claire. "You coming? Our plane won't wait."
Claire was taking one last look around the 4077th compound: the Mess Tent, her tent, the OR, and Hawkeye's tent. As she looked at the words "The Swamp" painted on the door, it swung open, and an angry Hawkeye Pierce stomped out.
"So you're leaving?" He asked as he came up to her. "Just like that?"
"Yeah," she said. "But I-"
"Trust me, you don't have to say anything," Hawkeye snapped. "Radar told me all about your new job. How you're just going to abandon us so you can take the cheap way out. Or the fact that it's a waste of your time and talent."
Claire gasped in shock. She'd never seen him this angry. "Wait just a second, Hawkeye, it's not-"
Hawkeye waved a hand at her. "You know, I really thought you weren't like this. I suppose I was just really stupid to think you actually cared about the work you were doing here. I'd expect Charles to pull something like this, but not you. I must have been wrong."
She wasn't about to stand idly by and let him yell at her. "Well, Hawkeye," she cried. "You're wrong about a lot of things! You never listen to anyone but yourself. I'm glad I'm leaving!"
"So am I!"
Claire was about to explode. "Yeah, well, goodbye!" She spun on her heel and jumped into the back of the jeep.
As the engine roared to life, Hawkeye raised his cries above the noise. "Oh yeah? Well, good riddens! Who needs you?"
The driver thankfully hit the gas and the camp was soon behind her. Claire glanced up to see four choppers flying in front of her towards the 4077th. It looked like a big batch of wounded. Of all the times to leave…
"This is just perfect," Hawkeye was saying to himself as the choppers circled the camp. He barely noticed Colonel Potter walk up beside him.
"You know Pierce," Potter said with forced calmness. "You're very lucky that wounded arrived right after the scream session you just had. Waking up the entire camp for no reason is never appreciated!"
Hawkeye frowned. "It was worth it, Colonel. You had to have known about the way Claire left us."
"Yeah," Potter said, nodding. "It's a real shame. Can't we discuss this on the way to the OR?" He put a hand on Hawkeye's shoulder and nudged him forward.
Hawkeye was barely aware he was walking as he spoke. "Shame? She left us in the dust, even though we're short on staff already. I wouldn't call that shame; I'd call that irresponsible to those kids in there."
"The army never really gives anyone of us a choice," Potter said gently.
"True, but not this time," Hawkeye snapped. "Carter gave her a choice to go, and she took it."
They had stopped just in front of the OR by now. "You got your wires crossed, Pierce," Potter said. "Carter had a chat with Morgan last night and got the impression that she didn't want to go. So she decided to pull a few strings at HQ and give her transfer orders. She didn't have a choice in the matter."
Hawkeye felt like his jaw would hit the ground. Claire was right after all; the only opinion he had bothered to pay attention to was his own. She had probably been trying to explain it to him when he…
"I just told off an angel," he murmured. "What have I done?"
Potter pulled on his arm. "You can't think about that now. We have to save a bunch of kids first. I'll have Radar take care of it later."
Radar had made many attempts over the coming weeks to get in touch with Claire Morgan over the coming weeks, but with no success. She never seemed to be around when a call from the 4077th came through.