The Story Unfolds...
Season Two, Episode Ten..
From Loaves To Fishes
Debut Launch: 1 April 2004.
Date: Thu, 8 Apr 2004 18:56:43 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Jeff Seltun" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Needle In A Haystack..
Chet Kelly took a firm bite into his donut and ambled into
of the station's backyard. He was still sleepy
and rubbed the crusty stones out of his eyes.. Then
rubbed them again.
A strange pickup truck was parked in the usual spot
land rover was usually angled in and
Johnny was perched in the load bed, holding...
pitchfork?.." Chet gaped, then he began to chuckle,
waking up more fully. "Hey guys, come out here
and get a
load of this.. I swear, you aren't gonna believe this one bit."
Johnny just paused
in his assigned chore, knee
deep in sweet smelling straw, spreading the bed evenly
back of the truck..."..wonderful..." he mumbled
sarcastically. "There goes Kelly, always sticking
in things. Maybe I should've waited on doing this until later."
Kelly was soon joined
by coffee wielding firemen fresh
out of bed. Henry's snores, could just be heard through the
screened kitchen window. Chet turned around
at a scuffle of gravel and glanced back towards the shadowy
silhouette of the station.
Stoker was running fingers through sleep matted hair and
already foaming his jawline with a cream brush for
a straight razored shave, a neatly folded white
over a shoulder. Marco was just plain yawning and Roy was
not far behind Lopez, buttoning
into a fresh uniform top.
"Kelly?" Hank asked. "What's the problem? Did you check the
yet like I asked you to?"
"No, Cap. Check this out first. Just take a good look around, ok?
do ya see?" Chet said expansively, gesturing about the yard
with broad spread arms.
Cap said scratching his head. "The rush hour
on the freeway? Sounds like it's backed up over an hour
longer than normal this morning. Odd. It's not even the
weekend. Maybe a crash just occurred. We'll
know about it
in a few minutes if that's the case."
"No, no no.. nothing so obvious, Cap. Now
just open your
eyes bigger for just a second. Look what one of your
paramedics is doing right
over there.." Kelly
sputtered in frustration.
Cap's eye fell on Roy, who was immediately to
left. "..Ok.. uhh, That one of the new uniform shirts, Roy?"
Kelly turned purple. "No..
Gawd. Aww come on, do I
have to spell it out for you fellas? Cap, you
usually aren't this slow.
Don't tell me that
you're tired." Chet bemoaned.
"Chet, at this time of the morning. Yes, I
am. You know
I haven't gotten a hold of Marco's coffee pot yet.
Not until I get myself at least
for day shift do I fire off enough brain cells to
"Yeah, that's right, Chet. He doesn't."
"Stubble and java just don't go well together, Chet.
neither will you and a mop if you don't start
cutting the chaff! It's cold out here.." Captain Stanley
grumbled rubbing the goose bumps erupting out on
his bare T shirt exposed arms.
Chet was cowed,
but only on his face. His voice was
still thoroughly annoyed at his crewmates' lack of
skills. "It's Gage, man. He's up to
something fishy, I know it."
Hank spun his gaze around,
squinting into the darkness
towards Johnny, who was still pitchforking apart a
bale of straw inside
the rental truck. "No, I'd say
he's doing only what I asked him to do.."
And with that,
Cap and the rest of the gang retreated
once more back into the oven warmed kitchen, leaving
behind with his mouth hanging open.
"Better close that real soon or you'll start drawing flies |
in.." Johnny quipped, cracking a crooked
smile while he
worked. Dusting his hands off, Gage gave a satisfied
grunt and leaped down out of
the truck's bed to the ground.
Only then, did Chet see that Gage wasn't in his paramedic's
Johnny ambled slowly towards Chet, swaggering, with his
fingers hooked through his jeans belt
loops. "So, are you
going to ask ME anything here, Chet? You already failed at
getting it out
of them. It would've been easier doing that
instead of harrassing the guys about it in the first place."
Chet made a face and rubbed his nose. "Would you
have answered me?"
Johnny's face fell
into serious lines.. Then his
lip curled up wickedly in a grin and he headed for the
"Nope. Just go ahead and ask now. Won't
hurt you any to give in a little to get what you wanna
Chet paced a full meter behind Johnny for long seconds.
Then he almost whispered.. "You working
"Nope." came Gage's quick reply.
Chet set his hands on his hips.. "Well you answered
question just fine. "
"That's the only question you've PUT to me so far, Chet.
not a mystic, you know."
Kelly groaned and rolled his eyes painfully, accepting
oneupmanship lump with a decent sized shred
Luckily, the lack of sunlight prevented
seeing the meager defeat writing across Kelly's features.
"I'm gonna go shower. Remember,
I'll kill ya if you grab
that last chocolate donut from the green plate."
"No ya won't,.. because
you're a paramedic.."
"OK, I'll kill ya first, ..THEN... I'll bring ya back....
Chet wasn't too reassured by that subtle change of detail.
He decided to keep on a low profile
to learn what he needed
to learn about the new day's mystery playing out where he
Kelly slunk back inside into a chair next to Henry and
tickled their rotund mascot awake.
Hank was completely
shaven and he had a stack of papers
in front of him, twenty minutes later. "Listen up folks. What
you've all been waiting for.. Details on this year's Fireman's
Marco inflected. "Isn't that this weekend?"
"Where's it gonna be this year?"
Roy asked, wiping crumbs
off his shirt.
"At Bailey's Park in Anaheim."
"That's the new
amusement park off the 405, isn't it?"
"Yep. And the Fireman's Board has already
gotten a hold of two dozen
tickets for us and our families as well as enough for our YMCA
too. Food's already planned, and so's one minor detail.
Gage is kindly providing us with a pony from
Chet looked up eagerly from the newspaper he was pretending
to read. ::Pony? So that's
what all that straw is for..::
"Not a pony, Cap, uh,, sir. A Falabella." Johnny corrected
and full of meek respect.
Lopez reached over and patted Johnny on the back as
he sat down.
" Yeah, Good going. I couldn't remember that term
to tell the rest of the guys. Gracias, Gage. Luis
to simply love you. He says it's his final Make A Wish
request to ride a horse."
Kelly's forehead furrowed more deeply as he listened in.
::Gage is still not dressed in his uniform.
The Picnic isn't
until this weekend... so why isn't he scheduled a shift today?.::
Right then, Johnny spoke around his long ago targetted donut,|
chewing loudly. "I'm gonna go out to
the ranch and pick up Cochise
right after breakfast. I'm sure Henry won't mind him taking over
pad for a few days."
Chet just about choked on his toast, eliciting a few curious
inquiry from Cap and Stoker. :: How the h*ll can
a horse fit in a medium sized doghouse?:: "I'm fine.
Henry just bumped me, stretching. I coughed it all out. " and he
covered his surprise
and puzzlement with a stocks section
again before anyone else noticed him in closer scrutiny.
"Don't forget his grain, Gage. I've already cleared it with
the chief and the city to keep your Falabella
for the two days we'll have him until then." Hank reminded
Johnny. "Provided all
shifts keep up with all his uh,... bodily functions."
"No problem, Cap. Cochise's a stallion but
he's really a
pussycat, in all ways that matter, including that one. And
he does know how to use
a litter box." he said mysteriously.
Chet's frowning expression only deepened behind the
"Say, Cap. On second thought, I can have my foreman
deliver Cochise for me. It's not
too late to send Dwyer
back to his station. They've extra crew with that
rookie paramedic training
Hank looked up from where he was scrubbing Henry's
ears affectionately. "You sure?
You usually detest overtime."
"Not this week. I've a spring hayfield planting to pay for."
"Ok, go get changed, I'll log it into the books later this afternoon."
in from the showers a few minutes later
and he saw Johnny with his uniform shirt on, unbuttoned
shoes not yet tied. "Hey. Hey..." he celebrated.
"Cap, does this mean I get to go to my son's little
practice after all?"
"Sure does. Do you mind?"
"Nope. I don't. Any extra time
with Andy's a treat. He's
growing up so fast, you know?"
Cap nodded. "Have fun Dwyer, thanks."
Right then, the tones went off.. Long ones.
Dwyer said, "I'll do the dishes..." And he
to his feet. "I'll feed Henry, too, before I leave
while I'm at it."
Cap said, trucking out of the door
after his men.
##Station 51, Station 36, Brush Truck 114,
110. Fuel truck overturned on the overpass. 1/2 mile
south of Turner's Peak. Mile marker
226. 1/2 mile south
of Turner's Peak. Mile marker 226. Timeout, 07:14.##
Fifteen minutes later,
they all could see just what
they were heading into..
From : patti keiper <email@example.com>
Sent : Friday, April 16, 2004 1:11 AM
Subject : Quick Silver..
Captain Stanley saw
that he was the first of
high-ish rank on scene. He quickly sized up the
accident while Mike Stoker
took the engine in
a wide C around the fire and the dangerous spreading
ignited fuel streams spidering
from the crash. He
could just see the truck, a heavy barreled tanker, on
its flank, jammed against
the mountain it must have
just passed underneath on the road, before it lost
control. No other
cars were evident.
Hank thumbed the radio mic, "L.A. Station 51.
We're at mile marker 226 at
the foothill exit
of an interstate bridge by Turner's Pass. We have a
lone 7,000 gallon fuel tanker
on its side with a fully
involved, working fire. We'll need two additional
pumper units with brush
capability in a second
alarm assignment. Tanker cargo is spilling burning
unleaded gasoline into
the river canyon. I'm reconfirming
that air fire support is positively required. Curtail your
response, we're in the open against a
##10-4, 51. Notifying second alarm with
support. Brush stations 19 and 26, are responding.
Helicopters Nine and Twelve are now in
route. Air ETA,
15 minutes. All second-in ground, in 10. Engine 51, your
incident time is 0 plus
two. Time : 07:36. ##
"Noted.." and Stanley tossed his microphone down
onto the engine's seat
as Mike found a safe staging
area 800 feet away from the flaming maelstrom that
was once a metallic
silver fuel truck. He plowed out
of his seat and ordered everyone into SCBA tanks
and gear. "Nobody
goes in there without foam first.
Gang? Be prepared to abandon at any peep of a code
over your HTs, we don't know if the main
payload's gone up yet or not."
"Cap? Any sign of
the driver?" Roy asked donning his
faceplate and connecting his inhalation tube to the connector
his mouth. He flipped up his collar when he felt
the intense heat of the fire blazing, even from their
"No.. Don't think he made it out. There's a spot in the cab
than the rest of it.." Hank replied.
"Oh, I smell it now. Think you're right, Cap.." Johnny said
grimly. "Looks like zone protection duty for us, Roy. Then
rehab backup later after the others get
here." he predicted.
"I'll delegate rehabilitation setup to 36's. They've been on
than we have. We're less tired."
"That's the plan." Hank nodded, then he lifted his head when
he caught sight of Brush Truck 114 and Engine 110 closely
followed by Station 36, all of them
roaring towards them.
They were barely visible in the thick rolling, black smoke.
Cap cast his eyes around long enough to spot a thin white and |
red striped pole sticking out of the
chaparral off the roadway.
"Only one hydrant?"
Stoker affirmed. "So far. It'll take a few
minutes to locate
the rest. Looks like the Highway Department's behind on
brush control again this
Cap sighed. "Kelly, get and install an eductor. Engine 36 will
be your booster tank
Chet nodded. "I'll get out the bins."
"Until 110 lays foam and is set for us, Stoker,
a single line lay.
Lopez, pull Stoker's inch and 3/4's WITH a Gate Valve.. Don't
know where the
other hydrants are in all this brush and no way in
h*ll do we want to tie up 110 one iota."
Cap.." Marco said, hopping into action, with a hydrant
wrench clanging against his air bottle.
"We're not attacking this?" Johnny asked Hank.
"We were first in. I'm Incident Commander until
the chiefs gets here. Somebody has to direct everybody
who's incoming. " Stanley said ruefully.
"In the meantime, you
and Roy, go on a Primary Survey. Case the area on a buddy
line. Get no farther
than fifty feet from any working hose at
all times. We gotta find all the hotspots ..."
started eagerly away but felt Cap's grip on his
arm that halted him solidly. ".....and keep your ever
loving skins intact, Kapeesh? That goes double for you,
Gage. I'm still remembering last month's
"I hear ya.. I hear ya.." Johnny grinned lopsidedly
air mask. "I got Pally here to drag me out
if I do something stupid." he gestured. "Besides, this
isn't a building with a saggy roof. It's on concrete.
What kind of trouble can we get into on that?"
Roy just rolled his eyes. "Grabbing irons.. A lot
of the wreck looks like it's off the road."
Cap gave both his paramedics a gloved thumbs up, but
then turned back to reporting details to
the fire watch
at L.A. Headquarters. "L.A., Engine 51. Send in a
Code K. At least one Code F's
at our location in
##10-4, Engine 51. Investigations has been notified.##
"10-4, Standing by."
"Stoker get a wyed line to 110 through Chet. They're
cue, 110's engineer and pumper man grabbed
Stoker's supply line and laid it into a triple wide,
spill specific foam unit. Slowly, the machine hummed
to life, flooding the road with its cooling
washed over the boiling flames.
"Watch it! Watch it!" shouted 110's captain.
A tongue of ignited flowing fuel was coursing along the curb
edge of the roadway on the outside
turn, narrowly catching
the boots of the advancing foam team.
The men hastily danced out of
the way and smothered
the phalange with foam liberally.
Cap waved in Marco and Chet on an attack
line off 36's
engine to start washing the fuel byproduct away a few steps
behind the foam crew.
Kelly groaned. "Geez, that was
close. And we're 900 feet away from the truck. Just how
outside of the tank? I'm surprised that creeper
got out this far."
Cap overheard Kelly's complaining
shout to Lopez.
"Most of it, hopefully. " he grinned through his faceplate.
"Roy and Johnny are
in there, checking it out."
Chet and Lopez turned their eyes to the column of midnight
soot looming eerily into the daylit sky.
Roy got as near to the truck as he dared. ::Not much|
of the cab left.:: and he jogged along one side
the tanker while Gage checked the other for leakage
from the mother valve in the undercarriage
the fuel tank. It was intact. ::Great. A slow leak.::
He lifted his HT to his mouth. "Johnny?
your side look? I've got a trickling main valve, but
an arm over his head as a flame flare
shot out from the passenger side of the cab as
a gust of
wind swept through it while it burned.
##I can't tell. I can't see anything. All I know is that
more fuel here than what's accounted for.##
"Let's get back together on the tail end. I'm getting
a little nervous." DeSoto admitted into his talkie.
##You and me both.##
But their plan
never happened. The mountain got
in the way. A raw face of rock and blistering fire
rose up out
of the smoke before both firefighters.
##You seeing rock?##
"Yep. What I can see of it through all the smoke."
##Then why is it so windy over here?##
Right then, the column of smoke twisted away
revealing a yawning mouth of blackness in the shape
of a square, 20 feet high and the width of the road.
In the dimness, Gage could just make out a hotspot.
And it was heating the unmistakable shape of a
chassis. ##Roy hoof it back and follow my route! There's
TUNNEL my side and at least one burning car located
about two hundred feet inside of it. ##
Roy switched over to the command frequency.
"Squad 51, to Engine 51."
##Battalion 14 for
::Ah, change of personnel. Cap will be relieved
to be able to fight this fire
instead of directing it.::
"Chief.. we've found more vehicular involvement.
Gage and I have just
located a tunnel that appears to
go through the mountain. Wasn't clear before
because the truck
and fire were blocking sight of it."
"Still too soon to tell."
Stanley joined in on a side band.
##Get to safe ground and wait for hose
support. Air currents
in tunnels are too tricky
to mess with. Fire could backdraft a lot farther
than you'd expect
if a gas tank or something
else hidden, goes up.##
##Keep me informed, Squad 51. Go
the recovery team once your safety is
"10-4, Battalion. " Roy acknowledged.
Soon, DeSoto had made it over to where
he could see Gage climbing up over
the mouth of the rocky
tunnel and onto a
ledge just above it that was clear of fumes
and flame. He pulled off his mask
feeling the coolness of safe air against
his neck. "What do you think? See anything?"
asked his sweaty partner, who was equally
pleased to pull off his SCBA.
"At least one car...
" he said rubbing grit from
his mouth and cheeks." Roy, it's a raging inferno
only partway down,
that completely fills the tunnel.
I doubt if anyone is alive in there. There can't be
air to breathe."
"Must be something if that fire is burning."
Gage squatted down, watching a hasty hose
foam team advance towards them from the staging
area and the engines that were preconnected to each
other from Stoker's hillside hydrant. On a thought,
he raised the antennae on his handytalkie and
out. "Squad 51 to Battalion 14."
##Battalion 14... Go ahead.##
"Chief.. Do you
know how long this particular tunnel
is? We're seeing active fire and are wondering about
of casualties being on the other side of it."
##Still in the process of I.D.ing the exact specs.
bolted to the rock beneath you has been charred beyond
Johnny looked down the shallow cliff over
his feet. A wall of heat punished him for looking and
coughed, hastily sucking in a restoring breath from
his mask as he fell onto his butt to get away
Roy sighed, "You ok? That wasn't very smart, Junior.
that. I know that.." Johnny coughed defensively.
"I was just.... I don't know..checking it out.. Like
were ordered to do.." he said, wiping streaming tears from
checking out the sign ..."
Johnny didn't dignify his partner with a reply but instead
his radio. "10-4, Battalion 14. Standing by for
details. So far, we've got clean smoke. Ok, for teams
Roy chuckled, parking his butt on a butte right next
to Gage. "Gage, the mine
hole canary. Say, you could
ask Cap for more hazard pay. I think you've just invented
a new job
"Oh would you just shut up." Johnny growled.
Slowly his coughs subsided as the
his mask got rid of the fumes he had inhaled.
Then the mountain started rumbling..
"Uh oh.. I don't think I like the sound of that.."
From : Roxy Dee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent : Tuesday, May 18, 2004 2:25 AM
Subject : Heart of the Beast
Their walkie talkies
sprang to life in a treble tone
all call of an electronic heads up, piercing and sharp.
spat only half of Captain Stanley's urgent shout
over the din of the flames and the hillside's new,
deep belching. ## Rockslide! Abandon location!
Gage?! DeSoto?! ##
Roy didn't mince
words. "Move! Johnny, move!"
"Where? The d*mned truck fire's flaring over the
ledge outta here."
Gage angrily said. Fear tinged
more of his face than his voice. Johnny slipped
as the two firefighters
whirled around for an escape
route. He hastily righted his balance using Roy's bigger
grabbing a quick hold of his shoulders.
"Jump straight out!" Roy yelled, ducking as the first
wildly bouncing boulders sliced through the brush
surrounding them. A pine tree near them severed
a rock the size of a car shredded it into an explosion
of dirt , twisted limbs and flying wood
"The tunnel? You must be crazy." Johnny said.
But his feet and hands flew in that
the trembling ground as his slender body skidded
over mesquite and outcroppings.
"You'd rather be flattened than burned to death?
Johnny, I'm surprised at you.." Roy huffed.
Before Gage could think of another rejoinder,
the ground before them ran out. Johnny froze,
Roy gave him a firm push fowards into
the small of his back.
With twin shouts, both men fell
over the lip
of rock over the tunnel's keystone and
down past the licking flames near its roof.
They fell heavily onto their air bottles in a graceless
back flop onto the highway eight feet
of stone smacked onto the pavement in a thick rain,
noisily annihilating themselves
against the burning
road around the fallen firemen.
Roy lifted his HT even as Johnny dragged
through the dust into the very dubious shelter beyond.
His free hand grabbed their
helmets which had been
jolted from their heads when they fell.
"Cap! We're going in!"
the rockslide's quicksilver bulk cut off the outside
and daylight as its bite sealed DeSoto and Gage
the violently burning tunnel.
Gage and Roy dropped to their bellies as the new|
interior fire reached out to grab them.
stunned gasps whistled under his mask
as he fought to regain breath and bearing. "Roy?
"Yeah.." came a reply, just as shaky and strained.
"Did you crack anything? Your regulator?
valve? Your mask's steaming up already." Gage
said as both men clung glove to glove as
maintained contact in the murky superheated black.
"My air's still good. Yours?"
fine. It's ok.." Gage panted.
Both men stayed still until their eyes got used to the
fireglow coming from the flaming ceiling.
Moments later, a furnace blast of heat boiled against
them from the heart of the multi-automobile fire they
could both see a hundred twenty meters away.
atmosphere was no longer the cooling protection it
had been before the mountain caved
"Ahh!" They both snatched their hands under their armpits
as they crawled using knees
and elbows, to a tunnel wall.
"We gotta find an access door before we cook." Gage
"There's one every hundred feet if I remember correctly."
Gage groaned, "Yeah, but which hundred
foot part are
we in? Before or after one? We're at a mouth end."
Bruises made the paramedic lag
Roy grabbed his partner's overcoat collar and pulled
him along with
him as he scraped his shoulder along
the rocky wall as a directional guide. "Don't slow
We're nearly out of time. It's gotta be near
180 F in here already."
"Coming mother.." Gage
Roy risked frying his gloved fingers as he opened
them to feel for the
recess of the maintenance door's
frame from the lumpy wall. Sizzling metal, bit into
of his glove when he found it. "Aghh, here!"
And he pulled out his jacket halligan to break the
emergency key from its glass housing box by
reaching only an arm up into the boiling heat above
Gage winced as glass shattered musically onto
their helmets and a brighter bounce in front
of him showed him where the key was. "I got it."
Roy gave out an involuntary yelp and snatched
air burned arm back down to the much cooler ground
"My turn." Gage said.
"The lock may already be warped." DeSoto panted.
"I'll get us in.." Johnny said fiercely, psyching
up for the punishing pain of heat up near the door's
handle. Blindly, he groped. When one
he traded arms, stubbornly alternating them as he tried
to insert the tiny key into
the lock with his thick gloves.
Then, a subtle click came over the rock echoey fire.
took a breath and got up onto his knees long
enough to snatch the metal door open. ::Don't melt,
don't melt.:: he willed to his faceplate's rubber fittings.
Johnny hit his chin on the floor when
he quickly dropped
back down into their safe air afterwards. "Go. You
first. Your mask may be
Gage kicked the door shut behind them and sealed|
them off into total darkness. The cooler air inside
felt like a balm against their seared jackets and pants
legs. "Hah! Not today. " he sneered at the
fire. "Today's not a good day to die.."
Roy smiled as he rested face masked down against
the floor. He could feel sweat turning blessedly cold
against his neck. "Is that more of the
Gage Indian mysticism?"
"Huh? No. I'm not Cherokee. That was 100%
Saxon literal English. I just don't
want to die right now. Do you?" Johnny smiled
"Not if I can help it. Come on, let's find a light switch."
"Think the power's still on?"
"Yeah. That fire out there hasn't been burning long
enough for Rural Station Utilities to deal with
"No problem. I'll just use my innate Seminole tracking
skills to find us a light source."
Johnny's voice laughed.
Roy was big enough not to laugh when he heard the
of a skull bouncing off a
"Owww!" Gage said as he clicked the lights on.
"What? Don't those innate skills of yours extend a bit
of agility into the equation?"
just shot him a dirty look.
"Don't worry. I won't hold it against you. Never have
in the past.
I just keep bailing your butt whenever you
can't get it out of somewhere." Roy replied cheekily.
It took a full minute before their eyes got used
to the bright industrial flourescent purple light
hanging over their heads.
Gage didn't deign to reply as both men rose to their
feet, using the short stairwell's banister for
support. Above their heads, was a wide bright silver
ventilation shaft curving away into the ceiling.
Black smoke was slowly oozing out of the grilling.
"Well, " Gage sighed. "You bought us some time at
least. Thanks for shoving me over a cliff, Roy."
"Anytime." DeSoto suddenly remembered the HT
still strapped around his wrist. He reached up
remove his helmet and mask so he could speak
Johnny's grip suddenly stopped him. "No,
At our feet. Don't you see that?"
Roy looked down. A hazy murk was pooling around
"No man. It's yellowish green. Are you color blind or
something? That's chlorine
gas unless I missed my
Roy was silent behind his mask.
"You are? Oh, geesh.
How did you ever get that
by the fire department qualifiers?"
"It's not a requirement of the
job." Roy shrugged.
"Let's just find out where that gas is coming from.
If there are people still
alive in here, this's gonna
be real bad for them."
Right then, the hissing of Roy's air bottle,
"You were saying.." Gage said with a frown.
"Come on, before you start choking." And
took a deep breath off his own mask before peeling
it off to offer it to Roy. "We gotta find
those tanks in
order to know which direction to go in to get away from
them. Maybe we can shut
off whatever leak's there."
"If we can. The explosion which destroyed those
cars out there
in the tunnel may have damaged the
cooling lines beyond repair."
"Ever the raging optimist.
Come on. My guess is
that we've got six minutes of my tank air left
before that runs out."
Roy stopped in his tracks. "Wait a minute. This is
a rural mountain highway tunnel, isn't it?"
"Yeahhh." he said sarcastically flippant. "We've got lots of
pine trees, a biggish lump that looks
suspiciously like a
mountain. Gee, Roy. What--"
"Hear me out. We're far from any fire station."
brightly in between their mask sharing. "There's gotta be
spare air in here somewhere.
It's all in the Haz mat manuals."
"Junior, " Roy said craftily smart. "How did
get past the fire department qualifiers without
"Oh shush. I just
hit my head buddy boy. I'm allowed to
forget a few things here."
"Uhh.. That one was kinda
"That's what YOU'RE there for. You're my PARTNER.
Firemen partners remember things
for each other."
"Not THAT often." Roy mumbled under his breath.
"I seem to recall that I do
it more for you than you do
Boomm... came a sound only a short distance away
the access tunnel. The lights flickered.
Both firemen ducked against opposite walls and covered
their helmets with their arms.
"Where was that?" Gage asked. "Our tunnel or was
that the fuel
"Don't know. It's too hard to tell in here." Roy said,
peering at the ceiling
to make sure it didn't come down
on top of them.
"We gotta know. If it's one, the blast may
the way out, if it's the other, any folks left in here are dead
and we've no further
reason to go in deeper to check for
survivors. That was too big to live through."
way to find out. But we've got our priorities here."
DeSoto said practically. "If we find those civilian
We can investigate that. If we don't, it's in our best interests to
fix or block off
that chlorine gas. Six minutes, remember?"
"How can I forget that, Roy?"
Head knock assessment."
"Save it for later." Johnny grumbled. "I feel a lump
but it's nothing
big. Let's move."
Linking arms, the two paramedic firefighters moved
deeper into the well
lit tunnel after their goal.
As they went, the greenish heavy gas rose a little
their ash dusted legs.
A few minutes later, they broke into a cabinet
full of ventilation
apparatus using brute force
and a fire axe.
"What's the yield on these?" Roy asked of
new white and blue air bottles slung over
their arms. Their yellow ones, they had abandoned
"Says.. twenty five minutes."
"How many do we have?"
"Ten." Johnny counted
"Sweet. After we deal with the chlorine, let's
stock pile them along our route.
We may find
"Roy! Look.." Gage pointed.
A sooty maintenance man was slumped
against the wall to their left. Surrounding him was
a cluster of chlorine coolant tanks.
He didn't look
Gage grabbed a spare air bottle and both ran forward.
peeled off a glove and felt for a carotid.
"He's alive." His hand dropped lower. "Breathing."
"Let's get him out of here." Roy said.
"You do that. I'll stay here to see if I can find that
gas leak. We've gotta be close." Gage replied.
"I'll meet you by the place we found the air bottles.|
They may have oxygen in a first aid bag behind
"Try your HT. Maybe that's not so far inside
the mountain there.
Maybe there's a wall phone."
"I'll check it out. Come on, get him up onto me."
He had fitted the air mask of their
third tank over their victim's face.
Gage helped DeSoto
lift the limp man over
a shoulder and wedged him in between Roy's
back and the new air bottle.
He handed Roy
the man's air supply. "Be careful. I don't
like this separating idea one bit. Cap's
gonna like it."
"No other way. He comes first.." DeSoto said,
throwing his helmeted
They parted ways.
Gage was swallowed in silence as Roy retreated
the way they had come.
"Ok.. first tank. What do we have here?" he said,
talking to himself
as he bent down to check the
pressure guage of the chlorine receptacle.
"Full. D*mn. Onto the next.."
There were five tanks in the tiny anteroom. None were
leaking. "Oh, boy. That leaves a coolant
Not gonna be easy finding that."
Johnny found a flashlight in the utility
began using it when the next room he wanted to enter,
didn't light up when he flipped
the light switch. "Bingo.."
he celebrated. "Electrical damage. Bet that pipe's
entered the room.
Roy placed his heavy burden onto the desk itself.|
"Let's keep you away from floor level." He could
see murk drifting around his shoes that he could
only assume to be more chlorine gas.
the man onto his back and used
a stack of files underneath his shoulders piled
high enough so
the unconscious man's head flopped
back and his airway stayed open.
His attempts to awaken
the man failed.
He pulled his walkie talkie out of his jacket pocket.
"Squad 51 to Engine 51.
Static splashed instead of clear radio air after
the talk button's bleep.
51 to Engine 51. We're ok in the south
side maintenance tunnel. We have one casualty.
No voices came through.
"Too deep." Roy sighed.
Right then, the lights went off.
From: "patti keiper" <email@example.com>
Date: Thu May 20, 2004 12:32 am
Gage's retinas burned from lack
He couldn't see four feet in front of his toes.
"This isn't good.. " mumbled
Johnny. "I hope
Roy managed to get a hold of a flashlight.." he
said, clutching tightly to his
He cast his light beam downwards, looking
for the telltale chartreuse fog of chlorine
the floor. He found nothing off color. Moving to a
fusebox, Johnny checked the biggest
breaker that he could see. But it wasn't tripped.
"Now why did the lights go off?"
His eyes glanced down to his wide black strapped
watch. "It's been....twenty three minutes since
arrived on the fire scene. Could it be the Rural Station
Utility Company ending a risk for
our growing disaster
call?" In hindsight, the move got Gage angry and
he began complaining out
loud as he walked.
"Don't they know that there could be motorists still
inside the uneffected
part of this tunnel? We won't
be able to see them well for rescue operations in here,
by firelight and I'm d*mned sure that there isn't
much of anything else that can burn beyond the
still inside those cars on the highway." he reasoned.
"You're forgetting one thing.."
said a voice behind
Gage that was thick with gruffness and fatigue.
"Chlorine's combustible with
metals if it's got
water. And heat. Especially with the copper piping
running through the ceiling
of this maintenance tunnel."
Johnny nearly levitated and whirled around, aiming
his light towards
the open door of the store room.
"Sir.. are you ok?" he finally said when he saw
that the man was
wearing the familiar gray coverall
of the highway department.
"I was just about to ask you
the same thing, mister."
replied the scba masked worker who seemed
near the age sixty to Gage.
"You're on the wrong track,
sonny. A mountain tunnel is always graded to the south.
Any of that
leakage you're looking for will flow in that
direction instead of pooling where you can see it."
"Thanks.." Johnny said appreciatively. "Might I ask
what you're still doing in here? My guess
is that during
any declared emergency, all console operators
should be the first ones to bail
out of this tunnel
for safety reasons at the first sign of trouble."
"Nothing was declared.
There wasn't enough time.
Five of us died when the cars went up. I guess momentum
kept the truck
that started it all skidding long enough to
make it to the tunnel's mouth and past it to the outside."
Gage stepped nearer so that they could share
illumination as he motioned for the man to
him back to the controller's booth where
Roy had taken refuge with the unconscious
"Not physically.." he snorted, wearily rubbing
the back of his neck. "Say, listen.
come across another guy dressed like me?
He's about 5 foot 2. Caucasian, with curly brown
hair styled like Mark Spitz?"
"We found him unconscious. What's his name?"|
"Benny. He's one of the new kids. He was the first
one I told to get the h*ll outta here on account of his
age!" shouted the man angrily. "I guess
doesn't ever listen too well."
Johnny nodded in understanding.
"Looks like the
chlorine got to him before he
could make it out. My partner's with him now.
That's where we're
going." Johnny said matter of
factly. "Hi, I'm Fireman John Gage and I'm with the
County Fire Department."
"Joe Dawson." And the man held out his
gloved hand to Johnny's.
Gage grasped the worker's hand in friendship
as well as in a test assessing the man's health and
strength. Then he pointed back down the hallway he had
used in coming as they walked. "We're
Johnny said. "I know they're this way past these
sealed chlorine tanks."
The lack of illumination that came
was so abrupt
that Roy almost felt himself lose his sense of balance.
Roy Desoto bent low
took off his gloves. One hand went to
the beat in his patient's neck, and the
other slipped under his shirt to pause on the
rapid rise and fall of respirations he still felt
heard coming from the sooty man.
It was inky. Completely. And Roy felt
the darkness press
against his face through the scba mask
He strained to hear
coming from down the corridor. Dimly,
Desoto heard a peculiar hissing. ::Equalizing
pressure?:: he wondered.. ::It's from somewhere
above my head.:: Mentally, he ran through all
possible reasons for pipes in the tunnel.
::Steam pipes? Coolant conduits? Are
air shafts reacting to the fire
out there? Are the waste management pipes
from the wayside rest
up the mountain draining
out because of the rockslide we encountered
seemed definite nor did anything else leap
out suddenly as the most likely answer.
sound drew away Roy's attention
from waist level. A quiet gurgling from Benny
faded into a loud
"Mister?!" Roy shouted, not really expecting an
answer in the pitch blackness.
His left hand still resting
on the man's stomach, fell in height and didn't climb
Roy threw away caution and pulled off his mask
once his lungs were full. Immediately, his eyes
began to burn and water perfusely. ::So, chlorine's
in here after all.:: he decided and Desoto promptly
forgot about the gas. Screwing his eyes protectively
shut, Roy freed the man from his breathing
and listened by his nose and mouth even as he
reconfirmed no movement in the man's chest
under his palms. ::Figured as much.::
Jamming his own mask under an arm, Roy
gave the man a
couple of breaths mouth to
mouth before rechecking the fluttering pulse
in his throat. Then gasping,
Roy took ample good
air from his own gear for himself before he did it
again. And again.
Minutes dragged by and Roy relived some|
self chastisement; kicking himself mentally for
any airways or any other useful stuff
in his turnout's pockets. On a sudden thought,
he drew out
his pen light from his shirt and he
checked for signs of vomit as an explanation
for the bubbling
he was hearing on all his
inhalations. He found nothing abnormal.
::Pulmonary edema? Let's hope
chemically induced.:: Under his anchor hand,
the pulse in his victim's neck was growing
irregular. : That arrythmia must be from the chlorine.
I can't block it all off.::
long stretch of seconds passed
as Roy considered his options, which were
slim to none.
tank ran out and he quickly switched
to the man's still lying abandoned in a pile at
::Now what? I've no epinephrine or
A murky spear of wavering light cut through
the haze inside Roy's midnight colored
room. "Johnny?! Hurry up. He's respiratory
"On the way!" And Johnny's sharp reply was
punctuated with echoing footsteps that
to Roy's ears. Gage's running
sounded like a whole calvary's.
Roy finally glanced up in between
breaths as a second shadow slid in
next to Johnny's. The lanky paramedic
had filed in next
to Roy. DeSoto was
immediately punished, as a new wave of
lances knifed into both of his eyes.
he cried out. "D*mned chlorine gas!"
"Want me to take over?" Gage asked evenly.
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